Ninth Art - For the Discerning Reader - http://www.ninthart.org
Things To Come: Previews June for comics shipping August 2006
At a glance, they're words that strike dread and fear into the heart of many a comic book reader. Sometimes it's because the creators have decided to end a title, other times it's because the economics of the book are keeping it from continuing. When the former happens, well, there's not much you can do. But for the latter, well... sometimes you can shoulder a little bit of the blame yourself.
The number of comic book readers who won't 'pre-order' (or subscribe, or whatever you want to call it) the titles they buy on a regular basis surprise me. Not only is it a nice guarantee that you'll have a copy of the book waiting for you (well, unless your store isn't so good), but it's also a way for the store manager to better gauge how many copies to order. It's a rough estimate of copies that they know they can sell before having walk-ins or curious browsers buy, meaning that ordering a higher number of a book is less of a gamble and more of a certainty of profit. And, of course, higher numbers of a book being ordered means the greater chance of the book continuing.
Additionally, if there's a book you like and want to see around, you can always talk it up; let people know how much you love it. It might convince other people that they want to read it, and who knows? Your favourite comic might have many good years ahead of it, instead of having a few scant years in which it never found an audience.
In essence, letting you know about the comics I love is what I've been trying to do with this little column for the past two years. But now, alas, it's time for Things to Come's very own final issue extravaganza. As you've no doubt heard, Ninth Art is coming to a close after five years in the trenches, and I've been honoured to be a part of the site. But at the same time... after two years I find myself wondering if people are really listening. Are people seeking out new books? Are they telling their stores that, yes, they want these comics? I have no idea. I hope so. I like to think that some books are getting sales they might not've otherwise.
None the less, Things to Come is over for now. I've been asked if I'll continue the column elsewhere and my immediate answer is, "Not for now". That's not to say that I wouldn't entertain the thought of writing this elsewhere (so if any publishers are listening, I'll certainly listen to offers) but rather it will be nice to not have to scour the Top Cow section of Previews for at least one month, if you know what I mean. Until then, though, it's not too hard to do this yourself on an individual level. It takes me maybe an hour to read Previews's comic section through, looking for projects that sound interesting. It's a small amount of time for a potentially huge amount of enjoyment that you could get down the line. Give it a try. Check out the advertisements. Scan projects for interesting creator names, or heck, even interesting titles. You might be surprised with what you find.
Until then, though, I do hope you've enjoyed my little column. Big thanks go out to my predecessor, the amazingly talented Chris Ekman, who wrote more than his fair share of Things to Come columns before setting fire to a stack of Previews that was two feet tall, as well as my extremely patient editors and publishers at Ninth Art.
And congratulations, Marvel. You won. I quit before you got rid of your stupid separate solicitation catalogue. Are you happy now? (And if so, could you please take this moment of victory to also back down and return your books back to the main catalogue? You have no idea how many times I've lost that stupid book while writing this column. Drives me crazy, it does...)
All right! A few final picks before I ride off for now into the sunset.
DORK #11 by Evan Dorkin
I honestly can't tell you what to expect with a new issue of DORK. Sometimes Evan Dorkin creates a series of strips so funny you'll almost be crying because it hurts to laugh so much. Sometimes it's an intensely serious, autobiographical story about himself that might actually bring tears to your eyes for a more serious reason. Most likely we'll end up with a combination of the two. Either way, Dorkin's the sort of creator who puts a great deal of thought and care into every panel, be it the perfect punchline or perhaps the right way to phrase exactly what's running through his head. His one-man anthologies are a real joy to read, and he's a real master of the medium (even though he'd self-effacingly tell you otherwise).
OHIKKOSHI TPB by Hiroaki Samura
When I think of Hiroaki Samura, I think of his outstanding series BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL, the samurai epic with a punk rock mentality. What I don't think of, though, are stories of twenty-something art students, virginal comic creators, and Samura's bar-hopping experiences. I love that Dark Horse is collecting and translating these Samura short stories; Samura's an amazingly talented creator, and seeing him do something other than a violent samurai epic is intriguing.
KICKBACK HC by David Lloyd
I like to think that a whole new generation of comic book readers just recently dipped into V FOR VENDETTA and became David Lloyd fans. If that's the case, or for that matter if you've always liked Lloyd's work, it's definitely worth noting that he's got a hardcover graphic novel published by Dark Horse this month, about crooked cops whose lives are falling apart. I know very little about KICKBACK, but based on the pedigree of creator it's certainly well worth my (and your) time to take a look.
SOLO #12 by Brendan McCarthy
It saddens me that a lot of the big names that were planned for issues of SOLO never got their contributions finished before... you guessed it... the dreaded final issue axe fell. That said, I'm thrilled that we're still getting Brendan McCarthy's creations. McCarthy's probably best known for his work on books like ROGAN GOSH, JUDGE DREDD, or his crazy SHADE THE CHANGING MAN covers. But when I say 'known' I really should say 'known to only a few lucky people.'
McCarthy's creations are insane, and I mean that in the most positive, big-thumbs-up way possible. He's brilliant, there's no two ways around it, and this is going to be one of the most stunning books published in 2006. SOLO is going to, if nothing else, leave with a bang... and then some.
TRIALS OF SHAZAM! #1 by Judd Winick and Howard Porter
I must admit, if you told me five years ago that Howard Porter would redefine his art style to look more like Dan Brereton's work on THE NOCTURNALS, I'd have called you crazy. But by golly, that's exactly what we've got here. I'm not entirely convinced that's what a Captain Marvel Family comic needs, but I'll let Porter and Judd Winick prove me wrong.
ES: ETERNAL SABBATH VOL. 2 by Fuyumi Sorya
Hey, I missed this the first time around, but I'm happy that the second volume's being solicited before the column goes away. It's a book about an un-aging man who has immense telepathic powers that allow him to insert himself into the lives of others, and just as easily slip away when he gets bored. What's nice is that the first chapter is from his perspective, but then it shifts to a scientist who is partially immune to his powers and whose discovery of the eternal man may have just endangered her life. I like that it doesn't make either party 'good' or 'bad' and that it manages to build up suspense at a good rate. I just finished reading the first volume, and based on this I want to check out more.
In general, I also really have to praise Del Rey's manga line. It's got some good, solid translations, they've picked a lot of interesting books (even if a lot don't appeal to me personally), there are cultural notes as an appendix, and the production values are high. For a publisher that until recently had never really dabbled in comics, they're doing an excellent job.
DELPHINE #1 by Richard Sala
I adore Richard Sala's art; his work on books like EVIL EYE, THE CHUCKLING WHATSIT, and PECULIA is a beautiful, odd-looking creation, with sharp angles and a strange vision that is almost like a Disneyworld ride gone horribly wrong and slowly invading your home. Maybe that's why Sala's working on his own version of Sleeping Beauty, told from the prince's perspective as he wanders through a strange, abandoned town with only a scrawled note to lead him towards the mysterious Delphine. The solicitation promises this to be creepy and not sweet at all, and I'd believe it. Even better, it's part of the Ignatz line of comics, which means it's printed in an oversized 8x11' edition with a dust jacket and high production values all around. DELPHINE, I'm yours.
PHONOGRAM #1 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
The idea of a world where music and magic are one and the same is a fun one, and I can know that numerous writers have used it to great success over the years. What's grabbing me about PHONOGRAM, though, is the little eight-panel advertisement that Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie created to promote it. I laughed when one character (when asked what they think of the protagonist) replied with, "He once ground up and snorted all my Sebadoh vinyl. It wasn't even for a spell". It was around the time that the line, "David Kohl reviewed my band so hard the drummer's legs fell off", showed up, though, that I was utterly hooked.
It's a sharp little piece that gives you the feel for the book instantly; to be honest, it's the sort of promotion/advertisement/solicitation that more creators should be creating. I've loved McKelvie's work in books like FOUR LETTER WORLDS and NEGATIVE BURN in the past, and this looks to be another good pairing of his art with an appropriate writer. Definitely check it out.
TOUGH LOVE: HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL GN by Abby Denson
I must admit that I've never read any of Abby Denson's comics. I've seen the band she's in (Mz. Pakman) play before, though, and creators like Tim Fish (CAVALCADE OF BOYS) have given her big props. So her inspired-by-shounen-ai story about high school romance between Brian and Chris, with a touch of soap opera and drama? All right, I'll check it out. The cover's cute enough that I want to see more.
THE EVERLASTING by Jamie S Rich
I was going to joke that Jamie S Rich was holding me captive if I didn't mention THE EVERLASTING, but I don't want to give him any ideas. (He'd probably make me alphabetically sort his hair gel collection.) For people who've read his first novel (also published by Oni Press), CUT MY HAIR, the wait for a follow-up is over. I'm not normally one to mention novels in Things to Come, but with the number of fans of Rich's works in both comics and prose, plus a cover by Chynna Clugston, I think this is well worth the shout out.
SOMETHING FISHY THIS WAY COMES TP by Tim Fish
Also offered this month by Tim Fish is a collection of all three volumes of CAVALCADE OF BOYS, but that's not what I'm excited about, because I already bought all three. (But if you haven't... it's grand. Imagine a gay romance soap opera drawn by Walt Simonson's twin.) This is a collection of all of Fish's short stories and mini-comics, and based on the couple of shorts that I've seen of Fish's already it'll be a great addition to anyone's bookshelves.
His 'The Cupcakes' stories about a rock 'n roll band being torn apart by inter-band-member romance are worth the price of admission, but that's only a small part of this 256-page omnibus. I'm delighted to see Fish getting the attention and success that he really deserves, and more Fish collections and graphic novels are ultimately a good thing for us all.
BUZZBOY: SIDEKICKS RULE! #1-2 by John Gallagher
Evil robot wiener-dogs.
Do I even have to tell you anything else to make you understand why this book is so much fun?
GERARD & JACQUES VOL 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga
'Gerard frees Jacques from a high-class brothel in order to teach the boy how to make his living as a commoner, only to end up hiring him to be his footman. But when Jacques discovers that Gerard really does indeed want him to be a footman, a friendship - and possibly something more - begins to form between the two.'
This is by the creator of ANTIQUE BAKERY, which I've heard lots of great things about (and am planning to sit down and read very soon!) and I'm sure it's good. But based on the cover with Gerard hugging an uncomfortable looking Jacques... my first instinct was to shout, 'Mace him!' What can I say, a cover is the first impression you get.
LOST GIRLS HC by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie
A lot of attention is being paid to LOST GIRLS in the comics media as of late, the long-awaited 264-page story of three familiar characters of literature (Alice from ALICE IN WONDERLAND, Dorothy from THE WIZARD OF OZ, and Wendy from PETER PAN) and their sexual awakenings and discoveries, finally prepares to ship.
Now, I'll admit that I was a fan of those early chapters that ran in the TABOO anthology, and that I've been slowly working my way through a black and white proof copy of the book itself. But honestly, I don't see what all the freaking out is about. From what I've read so far, this is a very thoughtful exploration into sexuality that uses literary characters that the readers are familiar with in order to help pull the audience in. It provides Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie a chance to not only give us a common ground with which to begin, but to playfully use the histories of these characters as actual plot points as their story unfolds, even as World War II threatens to begin just off-stage.
LOST GIRLS is a real tour deforce, a book that I think those who read it will find is worth the wait. Is it for everyone? No, probably not. Is it worth the $75 price tag as a three-volume, hardback slip covered edition? I think it actually is. Despite what others are trying to sensationalize it as being (and if it gets more people interested, bully for them), LOST GIRLS is a work of art that I'd be proud to show off to people who came by and asked about it. I'm looking forward to it sitting on my bookshelf. So should you.
(But if the idea of something that depicts sexuality is a little too unnerving, Moore and Eddie Campbell's FROM HELL finally returns to print this month as well. Funny how explicit vivisections of prostitutes didn't cause nearly the same amount of hubbub.)
Greg McElhatton writes reviews for iComics.com, and has also written for anthologies, magazines, web sites, and technical manuals.
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