Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse Comics

Wednesday is New Comics Day

Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse Comics

Every Wednesday, I highlight 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.

1. Itty Bitty Hellboy #1

By Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani
Dark Horse Comics

Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani get "all ages" comics. They've previously won awards for their popular and long-running Tiny Titans series, and a couple of years ago, they opened their own comic book shop in Skokie, Illinois called Aw Yeah Comics where they put on comic book-making parties for kids, serving juice boxes and handing out crayons and paper. Their distinctive "animation" style and kid-friendly sense of humor appeals just as much to adults as it does to kids as evidenced by their recent Kickstarter for a new line of "all-reader friendly" comics also called Aw Yeah Comics! that blew past it's $15,000 goal in just a matter of hours.

Their latest project is their much anticipated Aw Yeah Comics! treatment of Mike Mignola's Hellboy universe. Like with Tiny Titans, their approach is part Muppet Babies, part Cartoon Network, part Sunday comics, delivering child versions of popular characters in a light, gag strip format. Baltazar's cartooning takes the essence of characters like Hellboy, Liz Sherman, and Roger the Homunculus and turns them into cute, angular, candy-colored graphical adaptations of Mignola's dark, brooding, shadow-drenched creations.

Itty Bitty Hellboy is a 5 issue mini-series that, should its popularity spawn more Aw Yeah series, would add an unexpected layer to the ever-growing Mignola-verse of stories Dark Horse publishes about Hellboy and his supporting cast of characters.

Here's a great preview from issue #1 and an interesting interview with the Aw Yeah Comics! duo.

2. TEOTFW (The End of the F**king World)

By Charles Forsman
Fantagraphics

Charles Forsman is quite well known these days within indie comics circles as being a major proponent of the mini-comic (generally low print run, self-made, hand stapled DIY comics). He started his own mini-publishing house, Oily Comics, a few years back and has turned it into a successful subscription-based service where readers can get a new mini-comic in the mail from a variety of creators every month. While Oily Comics publishes works from other artists such as Michael DeForge, Warren Craghead and Melissa Mendes, it was also the vehicle for Forsman to put out a 16-part miniseries called The End of the F**king World. It quickly became the talk of the small press comics world and is now being collected in one volume by Fantagraphics.

TEOTFW (the Safe For Bookstores title) is a meditative drama about teen alienation and violence. James and Alyssa are in love and run off together on a road trip to escape their lives and their parents. James, however, is extremely troubled. He's a bit of a sociopath with violent tendencies and an inability to feel emotion or empathy for others. Soon, Alyssa can no longer deny that something isn't quite right with him. This tale of young love is reminiscent of Terrence Malick's classic film Badlands in both its content and its sparse storytelling style. In fact, Forsman's whole low budget approach to making the comic gives it a mood similar to a low budget film despite the deliberate comic strip feel of his cartooning.

I think I first became aware of Forsman's work a couple of years back when he did this EC Segar style adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark as well as a Charles Schultz version of Jaws. Even TEOTFW shows the influence of the great newspaper strip cartoonists on his work, but with Forsman's modern storytelling sensibilities adding a different context to the style. He began this story aiming to work on it in a simple style that would allow him to easily knock out pages, releasing it in 8 page installments that he sold for $1 each. The immediate attention it received from both readers and interested publishers like Fantagraphics helped turn what started as a simple mini comics project into a 176 page graphic novel and the biggest release of Forsman's career thus far.

Fantagraphics has a good sized preview of the opening pages of the book here. If you want to know more about Forsman there are two recent interviews with him you can read—One by Matt Seneca and another by Tom Spurgeon.

3. She Died in Terrebonne #1

Written by Kevin Church; art by T.J. Kirsch
Agreeable Comics via Comixology Submit

One really nice advantage of Comixology's Submit program for independent publishers is that it becomes a new platform for webcomics creators to repackage their content for new audiences that maybe weren't aware of it previously or just don't enjoy following longform stories through their web browser. A good example of this is Kevin Church and T.J. Kirsch's popular webcomic She Died In Terrebonne. They first began publishing the webcomic back in 2009 and received a good amount of praise as it ran through to its completion. People like myself, who are not as good as they should be at following serialized webcomics, jumped at the chance to pick up the first issue of this when it hit the Comixology storefront recently, to read it in the more comfortable environment of my iPad. That said, Church and Kirsch originally formatted this story to be delivered in strip-sized chunks, perfect for webcomics, but that formatting becomes mostly invisible when read together this way. 

She Died in Terrebonne is a private eye noir starring Sam Kimimura, a Japanese American detective, searching for a missing girl who turns up dead in a small Pacific Northwest town called Terrebonne. Though that is the end of the case he was hired for, he decides to stick around Terrebonne to see how this all turns out. The story draws on a number of influences, primarily 1970s crime dramas that Kirsch invokes in subtle ways (shaggy hairstyles for sure, but also simple, naturalistic lighting and settings that feel like film and TV of that era). Kirsch has a really appealing style, reminiscent in some ways of Cameron Stewart, and his work in this first issue makes this a very appealing read. 

The first issue of She Died in Terrebonne is on sale on the Comixology app for $1.99 with four more issues presumably soon to come.

4. Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever #1


Written by Tom Neely, art by Igloo Tornado
Microcosm Publishing /IWDY Comics

Tom Neely's cult hit Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever has been floating around for a few years in various forms and is actually up to its third issue in this latest iteration. However, the first issue is getting a much wider release through the comic book direct market this week. It even sports a hilarious alternate cover (shown above) by the great Jim Rugg. 

Henry & Glenn consists of one-page comics, single drawings and even diary entries depicting the fictional domestic partnership of real-life tough guy metal heads Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig. They watch TV together, paint the bathroom black, argue with each other and worry about each other. They also fret a lot about their missing dog who may or may not have been kidnapped by their overly nice but Satan-worshipping neighbors Hall & Oates. It's no wonder this book is a hit with most people who've read it (Danzig has not officially acknowledged its existence and Rollins claims to have not read it but is cool enough to sign a book from a fan when one is presented to him). It also seems to be growing in popularity over time. In fact, the book has sold extremely well over the years through distribution channels outside of the normal comic-related ones like record stores. Comic book retailers and Diamond Comic Distributors (which controls all distribution to comic book shops) are only catching on to the phenomenon now.

The book is drawn by an artist collective known as Igloo Tornado which consists of the book's writer Tom Neely. His Popeye-like drawing style actually recently landed him a job drawing the new Popeye series for IDW but even that book may not exceed the popularity Henry & Glenn is hitting.

You can find out more about the book and order a copy here.

5. American Vampire Anthology #1



By Various Writers and artists
DC Vertigo

American Vampire was writer Scott Snyder's breakout hit series about vampires living behind the scenes throughout history in the United States. It's the book that put Snyder's name on the comic book map and led to him to becoming the writer for both DC's Batman and Superman Unchained titles. Hence, being a suddenly-in-demand writer, he's had to put American Vampire on hiatus but plans a return later this year.

In the meantime, Snyder has recruited some pretty big names to contribute to this one-shot anthology comic that builds on the world of American Vampire, featuring stories set throughout different eras in American history. Jason Aaron, Becky Cloonan, Gail Simone, Greg Rucka, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Jeff Lemire and Francesco Francavilla are just some of the people involved. Regular series artist and co-creator Rafael Albuquerque draws one of the stories but also writes a story, working with artist Ivo Milazzo. 

The eight stories contained here range in settings from a "lost" Roanoke colony in the 16th century to 1967, the time period the main series is currently set in. It features some new characters as well as some familiar ones.

You can preview some of the art here and read an interview with Snyder and Albuquerque here.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Why limit myself to just listing 5 comics each week? There's so much else out there.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1
If you're following all the moves the Hollywood division of Marvel is making right now then you're well aware of the risk they're taking putting out a movie based on the little-known property Guardians of the Galaxy. As part of the recent Marvel NOW relaunch of all their titles, Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven bring a level of cinematic polish to the series about an oddball pairing of cosmic heroes (plus Iron Man!) that gets its first collection this week. More here.

Rocket Raccoon: Tales from Half World
In related news, the probable breakout star of the Guardians movie, Rocket Raccoon, gets his early adventures collected here. Featuring art by a pre-Hellboy Mike Mignola. More info here.

Helter Skelter: Fashion Unfriendly
A new English language release of a 2004 manga by Kyoko Okazaki about horrors inherent in the women's fashion industry. Okazki is considered one of the pioneers of josei (women's comics) and often told stories about controversial women's issues. Details here.

Federal Bureau of Physics #2
The new Vertigo comic Collider which I've previously highlighted here had a sudden name change and is now called Federal Bureau of Physics which is a title more directly related to the story and potentially avoids some sort of lawsuit issue for DC Comics. Details here.

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How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library
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Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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12 Facts About James Joyce
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

June 16, 1904 is the day that James Joyce, the Irish author of Modernist masterpieces like Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and who was described as “a curious mixture of sinister genius and uncertain talent,” set his seminal work, Ulysses. It also thought to be the day that he had his first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle.

He was as mythical as the myths he used as the foundations for his own work. So in honor of that June day in 1904—known to fans worldwide as “Bloomsday,” after one of the book’s protagonists, Leopold Bloom—here are 12 facts about James Joyce.

1. HE WAS ONLY 9 WHEN HIS FIRST PIECE OF WRITING WAS PUBLISHED.

In 1891, shortly after he had to leave Clongowes Wood College when his father lost his job, 9-year-old Joyce wrote a poem called “Et Tu Healy?” It was published by his father John and distributed to friends; the elder Joyce thought so highly of it, he allegedly sent copies to the Pope.

No known complete copies of the poem exist, but the precocious student’s verse allegedly denounced a politician named Tim Healy for abandoning 19th century Irish nationalist politician Charles Stewart Parnell after a sex scandal. Fragments of the ending of the poem, later remembered by James’s brother Stanislaus, showed Parnell looking down on Irish politicians:

His quaint-perched aerie on the crags of Time
Where the rude din of this century
Can trouble him no more

While the poem was seemingly quaint, young Joyce equating Healy as Brutus and Parnell as Caesar marked the first time he’d use old archetypes in a modern context, much in the same way Ulysses is a unique retelling of The Odyssey.

As an adult, Joyce would publish his first book, a collection of poems called Chamber Music, in 1907. It was followed by Dubliners, a collection of short stories, in 1914, and the semi-autobiographical A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (in which Clongowes Wood College is prominently featured) in 1916.

2. HE CAUSED A CONTROVERSY AT HIS COLLEGE’S PAPER.

While attending University College Dublin, Joyce attempted to publish a negative review—titled “The Day of the Rabblement”—of a new local playhouse called the Irish Literary Theatre in the school’s paper, St. Stephen’s. Joyce’s condemnation of the theater’s “parochialism” was allegedly so scathing that the paper’s editors, after seeking consultation from one of the school’s priests, refused to print it.

Incensed about possible censorship, Joyce appealed to the school’s president, who sided with the editors—which prompted Joyce to put up his own money to publish 85 copies to be distributed across campus.

The pamphlet, published alongside a friend’s essay to beef up the page-count, came with the preface: “These two essays were commissioned by the editor of St. Stephen’s for that paper, but were subsequently refused insertion by the censor.” It wouldn’t be the last time Joyce would fight censorship.

3. NORA BARNACLE GHOSTED HIM FOR THEIR PLANNED FIRST DATE.

By the time Nora Barnacle and Joyce finally married in 1931, they had lived together for 27 years, traveled the continent and had two children. The couple first met in Dublin in 1904 when Joyce struck up a conversation with her near the hotel where Nora worked as a chambermaid. She initially mistook him for a Swedish sailor because of his blue eyes and the yachting cap he wore that day, and he charmed her so much that they set a date for June 14—but she didn’t show.

He then wrote her a letter, saying, “I looked for a long time at a head of reddish-brown hair and decided it was not yours. I went home quite dejected. I would like to make an appointment but it might not suit you. I hope you will be kind enough to make one with me—if you have not forgotten me!” This led to their first date, which supposedly took place on June 16, 1904.

She would continue to be his muse throughout their life together in both his published work (the character Molly Bloom in Ulysses is based on her) and their fruitful personal correspondence. Their notably dirty love letters to each other—featuring him saying their love-making reminded him of “a hog riding a sow” and signing off one by saying “Goodnight, my little farting Nora, my dirty littlef**kbird!"—have highlighted the NSFW nature of their relationship. In fact, one of Joyce’s signed erotic letters to Nora fetched a record £240,800 ($446,422) at a London auction in 2004.

4. HE HAD REALLY BAD EYES.

While Joyce’s persistent money problems caused him to lead a life of what could be categorized as creative discomfort, he had to deal with a near lifetime of medical discomfort as well. Joyce suffered from anterior uveitis, which led to a series of around 12 eye surgeries over his lifetime. (Due to the relatively unsophisticated state of ophthalmology at the time, and his decision not to listen to contemporary medical advice, scholars speculate that his iritis, glaucoma, and cataracts could have been caused by sarcoidosis, syphilis, tuberculosis, or any number of congenital problems.) His vision issues caused Joyce to wear an eye patch for years and forced him to do his writing on large white sheets of paper using only red crayon. The persistent eye struggles even inspired him to name his daughter Lucia, after St. Lucia, patron saint of the blind.

5. HE TAUGHT ENGLISH AT A BERLITZ LANGUAGE SCHOOL.

In 1904, Joyce—eager to get out of Ireland—responded to an ad for a teaching position in Europe. Evelyn Gilford, a job agent based in the British town of Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, notified Joyce that a job was reserved for him and, for two guineas, he would be told exactly where the position was. Joyce sent the money, and by the end of 1904, he and his future wife, Nora, had left Dublin for the job at a Berlitz language school in Zurich, Switzerland—but when they got there, the pair learned there was no open position. But they did hear a position was open at a Berlitz school in Trieste, Italy. The pair packed up and moved on to Italy only to find out they’d been swindled again.

Joyce eventually found a Berlitz teaching job in Pola in Austria-Hungary (now Pula, Croatia). English was one of 17 languages Joyce could speak; others included Arabic, Sanskrit, Greek, and Italian (which eventually became his preferred language, and one that he exclusively spoke at home with his family). He also loved playwright Henrik Ibsen so much that he learned Norwegian so that he could read Ibsen's works in their original form—and send the writer a fan letter in his native tongue.

6. HE INVESTED IN A MOVIE THEATER.

There are about 400 movie theaters in Ireland today, but they trace their history back to 1909, when Joyce helped open the Volta Cinematograph, which is considered “the first full-time, continuous, dedicated cinema” in Ireland.

More a money-making scheme than a product of a love of cinema, Joyce first got the idea when he was having trouble getting Dubliners published and noticed the abundance of cinemas while living in Trieste. When his sister, Eva, told him Ireland didn’t have any movie theaters, Joyce joined up with four Italian investors (he’d get 10 percent of the profits) to open up the Volta on Dublin’s Mary Street.

The venture fizzled as quickly as Joyce’s involvement. After not attracting audiences due to mostly showing only Italian and European movies unpopular with everyday Dubliners, Joyce cut his losses and pulled out of the venture after only seven months.

The cinema itself didn’t close until 1919, during the time Joyce was hard at work on Ulysses. (It reopened with a different name in 1921 and didn’t fully close until 1948.)

7. HE TURNED TO A COMPLETELY INEXPERIENCED PUBLISHER TO RELEASE HIS MOST WELL-KNOWN BOOK.

The publishing history of Ulysses is itself its own odyssey. Joyce began writing the work in 1914, and by 1918 he had begun serializing the novel in the American magazine Little Review with the help of poet Ezra Pound.

But by 1921, Little Review was in financial trouble. The published version of Episode 13 of Ulysses, “Nausicaa,” resulted in a costly obscenity lawsuit against its publishers, Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, and the book was banned in the United States. Joyce appealed to different publishers for help—including Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press—but none agreed to take on a project with such legal implications (and in Virginia Woolf’s case, length), no matter how supposedly groundbreaking it was.

Joyce, then based in Paris, made friends with Sylvia Beach, whose bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, was a gathering hub for the post-war expatriate creative community. In her autobiography, Beach wrote:

All hope of publication in the English-speaking countries, at least for a long time to come, was gone. And here in my little bookshop sat James Joyce, sighing deeply.

It occurred to me that something might be done, and I asked : “Would you let Shakespeare and Company have the honour of bringing out your Ulysses?”

He accepted my offer immediately and joyfully. I thought it rash of him to entrust his great Ulysses to such a funny little publisher. But he seemed delighted, and so was I. ... Undeterred by lack of capital, experience, and all the other requisites of a publisher, I went right ahead with Ulysses.

Beach planned a first edition of 1000 copies (with 100 signed by the author), while the book would continue to be banned in a number of countries throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Eventually it was allowed to be published in the United States in 1933 after the case United States v. One Book Called Ulysses deemed the book not obscene and allowed it in the United States.

8. ERNEST HEMINGWAY WAS HIS DRINKING BUDDY—AND SOMETIMES HIS BODYGUARD.

Ernest Hemingway—who was major champion of Ulysses—met Joyce at Shakespeare and Company, and was later a frequent companion among the bars of Paris with writers like Wyndham Lewis and Valery Larbaud.

Hemingway recalled the Irish writer would start to get into drunken fights and leave Hemingway to deal with the consequences. "Once, in one of those casual conversations you have when you're drinking," Hemingway said, "Joyce said to me he was afraid his writing was too suburban and that maybe he should get around a bit and see the world. He was afraid of some things, lightning and things, but a wonderful man. He was under great discipline—his wife, his work and his bad eyes. His wife was there and she said, yes, his work was too suburban--'Jim could do with a spot of that lion hunting.' We would go out to drink and Joyce would fall into a fight. He couldn't even see the man so he'd say, 'Deal with him, Hemingway! Deal with him!'"

9. HE MET ANOTHER MODERNIST TITAN—AND HAD A TERRIBLE TIME.

Marcel Proust’s gargantuan, seven-volume masterpiece, À la recherche du temps perdu, is perhaps the other most important Modernist work of the early 20th century besides Ulysses. In May 1922, the authors met at a party for composer Igor Stravinsky and ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev in Paris. The Dubliners author arrived late, was drunk, and wasn’t wearing formal clothes because he was too poor to afford them. Proust arrived even later than Joyce, and though there are varying accounts of what was actually said between the two, every known version points to a very anticlimactic meeting of the minds.

According to author William Carlos Williams, Joyce said, “I’ve headaches every day. My eyes are terrible,” to which the ailing Proust replied, “My poor stomach. What am I going to do? It’s killing me. In fact, I must leave at once.”

Publisher Margaret Anderson claimed that Proust admitted, “I regret that I don’t know Mr. Joyce’s work,” while Joyce replied, “I have never read Mr. Proust.”

Art reviewer Arthur Power said both writers simply talked about liking truffles. Joyce later told painter Frank Budgen, “Our talk consisted solely of the word ‘No.’”

10. HE CREATED A 100-LETTER WORD TO DESCRIBE HIS FEAR OF THUNDER AND LIGHTNING.

Joyce had a childhood fear of thunder and lightning, which sprang from his Catholic governess’s pious warnings that such meteorological occurrences were actually God manifesting his anger at him. The fear haunted the writer all his life, though Joyce recognized the beginnings of his phobia. When asked by a friend why he was so afraid of rough weather, Joyce responded, “You were not brought up in Catholic Ireland.”

The fear also manifested itself in Joyce’s writing. In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the autobiographical protagonist Stephen Dedalus says he fears “dogs, horses, firearms, the sea, thunderstorms, [and] machinery.”

But the most fascinating manifestation of his astraphobia is in his stream of consciousness swan song, Finnegans Wake, where he created the 100-letter word Bababadalgharaghtaka-mminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk to represent a symbolic biblical thunderclap. The mouthful is actually made up of different words for “thunder” in French (tonnerre), Italian (tuono), Greek (bronte), and Japanese (kaminari).

11. HE’S THOUGHT OF AS A LITERARY GENIUS, BUT NOT EVERYONE WAS A FAN.

Fellow Modernist Virginia Woolf didn't much care for Joyce or his work. She compared his writing to "a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples," and said that "one hopes he’ll grow out of it; but as Joyce is 40 this scarcely seems likely."

She wasn't the only one. In a letter, D.H. Lawrence—who wrote such classics as Women in Love and Lady Chatterley’s Loversaid of Joyce: “My God, what a clumsy olla putrida James Joyce is! Nothing but old fags and cabbage stumps of quotations from the Bible and the rest stewed in the juice of deliberate, journalistic dirty-mindedness.”

“Do I get much pleasure from this work? No," author H.G. Wells wrote in his review of Finnegans Wake. “ ... Who the hell is this Joyce who demands so many waking hours of the few thousand I have still to live for a proper appreciation of his quirks and fancies and flashes of rendering?”

Even his partner Nora had a difficult time with his work, saying after the publication of Ulysses, “Why don’t you write sensible books that people can understand?”

12. HIS SUPPOSED FINAL WORDS WERE AS ABSTRACT AS HIS WRITING.

Joyce was admitted to a Zurich hospital in January 1941 for a perforated duodenal ulcer, but slipped into a coma after surgery and died on January 13. His last words were befitting his notoriously difficult works—they're said to have been, "Does nobody understand?"

Additional Source: James Joyce

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