Every Wednesday, I'll be highlighting the five most exciting comic releases of the week. The list may include comic books, graphic novels, digital comics and webcomics. I'll even highlight some Kickstarter comics projects on occasion. There's more variety and availability in comics than there has ever been, and I hope to point out just some of the cool stuff that's out there. If there's a release you're excited about, let's talk about it in the comments.
By Jim Rugg
Jim Rugg is a prolific comics experimenter; he seems to always be poking around and trying new things. Whether it's putting together a zine for the hell of it, pushing the boundaries of what is possible with a ballpoint pen, or making a 32 page black and white sequel to the Rambo films, Rugg's next move is always surprising and never not interesting.
This week, the design-friendly publisher AdHouse Books puts out a magazine format collection of some of Rugg's recent experimentations: beautifully rendered drawings, hilarious humor strips, writings, explorations in typography, and comics drawn in a variety of styles. Rugg seeks to combine his love of both the magazine and comic book formats here, and the result is something akin to a one-man anthology. This will be a must-have for Rugg fans and a good introduction to his work for those who might be curious about him.
2. Astro City #1
Written by Kurt Busiek, art by Brent Anderson, covers by Alex Ross
Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson's much loved Astro City series was one of those books that brought back hope to a creatively and financially bankrupt comics industry when it debuted in the mid-90s. Busiek is an unabashed fan of the great "Silver Age" of comics in which superheroes were sincere symbols of truth and justice, wielding out-of-this-world (and bordering on silly) powers. With this book, he and Anderson sought to tell modern and sophisticated stories within this Silver Age motif. Anderson's artwork (not to mention Alex Ross' painted covers) has a realist bent to it that grounds these stories somewhere between the real and the fantastic.
Astro City has been on hiatus for a number of years and since that time has now moved under DC's Vertigo imprint where it debuts with a new #1 issue. It will tell "done-in-one" single issue stories that will introduce some new characters and re-introduce many that are familiar to fans of the book. The overall story has been moving in real time and 17 years have now passed within the book since these characters were first introduced. Now, in this first issue, we get to check back in with Ben Pullam, a non-superpowered character, and his now grown up children, and see how the passage of time has changed them.
3. Solo Deluxe
The long-awaited hardcover collection of DC Comics' creatively-driven 12-issue anthology series, Solo, which originally ran from 2004 to 2006, is finally hitting bookstores and comics shops this week. This book represented something you don't see often enough in comics published by DC and Marvel: A-list creators at the top of their game being given free rein to do whatever they want with the company's vast library of characters. Each issue was devoted to a single artist and contained numerous short stories from each. There were some amazing contributions: Paul Pope's Eisner Award-winning Robin story "Teenage Sidekick"; Michael Allred's groovy '60s-era Teen Titans story, Teddy Kristiansen and Neil Gaiman collaborating on Deadman; Darwyn Cooke doing a Steve Ditko-inspired Question homage; and much more.
Fans of the series, or those who missed it the first time around, have been asking for years to see it back in print. This new hardcover collects it all in one nice package. Hopefully it will sell really well (as much as a book with a $50 price tag will sell these days) and inspire DC to do something like this again.
By Saman Bemel-Benrud
See it on GitHub
Webcomics come in all forms and delivery methods these days. Although a blog-based system like Wordpress is probably still the preferred method for longer, narratively driven comics, more and more we're seeing other ways of doing it. Long, scrolling pages displaying each page of a strip. Tumblr comics. Flickr comics. Twitpic comics delivered via Twitter. There are even a few comics that live solely on Instagram. One thing that I've never seen before is a comic that you can follow on GitHub.
If you've never heard of GitHub that's okay. That probably just means you don't work in a field that involves coding for web or app development. It is basically a social network of its own that allows you to post progress on a source code project to share it for feedback, collaboration, testing or just to give it away for free to others who might have use for it.
Saman Bemel-Benrud (or Trashmoon as he goes by on GitHub and other places) is a cartoonist working on a webcomic called Abyss and has decided to share his progress on GitHub. You can track not only when he adds a new page to the comic but when he makes structural or design changes to the comic's website itself. To those who don't speak in code, checking in on the comic this way is like looking at the source code for a website and trying to figure out where the navigation is. But there's something about webcomics in general that give you a peek inside the artistic process, and following along with a comic this way really makes you focus on the behind-the-scenes effort (even though there's no real artistic process information to glean here). For the rest of us, you can follow Abyss in a variety of other more reasonable places like Tumblr or Saman's website, Trashmoon.
The real reason I'm mentioning Abyss here, though, is because it's really good. Only a few pages have been posted so far, but it's a weird, hypnotic and funny tale of two people looking for a burrito and running into the changing urban landscape of the modern world. Bemel-Benrud drawings are seemingly quickly laid down on paper, but his sense of pacing and the cold emptiness of the environment his characters find themselves in are perfect for the story he is telling.
5. Kick Ass 3 #1
Written by Mark Millar, art by John Romita, Jr.
Mark Millar and John Romita's popular Kick Ass series, which has spawned a film and an impending sequel, begins the third and final chapter of its trilogy this week. This may not be the place to begin for the uninitiated (or the squeamish for that matter; this book can be pretty violent) but fans of the books and the movie will be excited to see the characters Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl back in action again.
The story begins with pint-size Hit-Girl in jail and Kick-Ass leading a team of superheroes to break her out. The hook to the Kick-Ass books is that it imagines what it would be like if real people took to donning superhero costumes and fighting crime in the real world, particularly kids that are roughly the same age as many of the younger comic book heroes like Spider-man who—we take for granted—can handle themselves in these situations. Millar approaches it with a dark sense of humor and a shocking use of violence that is meant to draw a stark comparison to the bloodless fighting of most superhero comics. Though, when it comes to that, a lot of comics from DC and Marvel have gotten increasingly gruesome themselves over the past few years, so maybe that comparison is not that starkly defined anymore.
MEANWHILE, IN COMICS NEWS THIS PAST WEEK:
- AOL sold the popular comics blog, Comics Alliance, that it had recently shut down to Townsquare Media, and now it is back like nothing ever happened.
- The long lost and never reprinted early Grant Morrison comic Zenith will finally see print in a collected edition from Rebellion. The Complete Zenith will arrive this December.
- DC's next big crossover event will involve villains taking over and renaming each book for the month of September. To promote it, they've released these weird and dizzying animated "3D" covers.
- HeroesCon is this weekend in Charlotte, NC. It is the biggest comic book convention in the Southern US and is an extremely popular show with families, fans and creators alike. In a shameless bit of self-promotion I should mention that I will have a table there in the "Indie Island" section selling my own comic, Nathan Sorry. I'll also be moderating a panel discussion about design in comics.