New Comics: Melody, Cartozia Tales, Dark Corridor, and John Flood

Sylvie Rancourt/Drawn & Quarterly
Sylvie Rancourt/Drawn & Quarterly / Sylvie Rancourt/Drawn & Quarterly

Every week I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, and the web. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about or an upcoming comic that you'd like me to consider highlighting.

Melody: Story of a Nude Dancer

By Sylvie Rancourt
Drawn & Quarterly 

In the early 1980s, Sylvie Rancourt worked as a nude dancer in Montreal and, in a move that would make her a sensation in the underground and autobiographical comics scene, began making mini-comic memoirs about her experience. She started by selling hand-stapled copies of Melody in the club where she danced and before long had more professional editions for sale on Quebec newsstands.  

With its explicit subject matter drawn in Rancourt’s “naive” style, Melody found itself in a weird place between erotica and literature and was considered unmarketable to American audiences for years. Now, esteemed Montreal publisher Drawn & Quarterly has collected all of Rancourt’s comics together into one volume, translated into English for the first time. There is even an excellent introduction by famed cartoonist Chris Ware who astutely explains how deceptively good Rancourt’s childlike cartooning actually is. The intro also notes that comic historians have called Melody “the first autobiographical Canadian comic,” and in terms of the chronology of modern female cartoonists, Rancourt is a pioneer in that respect as well.

Each chapter begins with the caption “This isn’t the beginning and it’s not the end, but somewhere in the middle,” which sets the stage for Rancourt’s cartoon verité approach to storytelling. She depicts Melody’s job, her customers, and her frustratingly dysfunctional relationship with her drug-dealing boyfriend in a matter-of-fact way that never sensationalizes or editorializes but instead attempts to convey life with a simple, plain honesty. D&Q has more info about the book here.

Cartozia Tales

By various 

Cartozia Tales is a black-and-white, all-ages anthology set in a fantasy world with fairies, witches, frog people, giants, and more. The series was conceived around a quaint, hand-drawn map of a fictional world called Cartozia, and as the name implies, maps play a key role here. What makes it clever is how series editor Isaac Cates sliced up the map into nine pieces and, for each installment, has assigned a different section of it to his stable of regular cartoonists and guest creators.

Rotating the cartoonists around the map allows for a cross-pollination of ideas, as a creator can choose to pick up the pieces of a previous story or start something new. It’s a great, abbreviated example of the shared-universe aspect of comics and the collaboration of multiple creators that have made Marvel and DC so popular over the years.

While this series is geared toward young readers and has some extras like custom games and activities (my own 7-year-old daughter was quite taken with this book and began drawing her own maps right away), it’s also appealing to fans of indie comics. Each issue has seen fine indie comic stalwarts like James Kolchaka, Dylan Horrocks, Kevin Cannon, and Luke Pearson step in to help out with the Cartozia world-building. The newest issue, out this week, follows suit with Meredith Gran and Ben Towle each writing and drawing a story. Meanwhile, the permanent crew is made up of up-and-coming talent like Lucy Bellwood, Mike Wenthe, Sarah Becan, and more. If you’ve been following since issue one you can see how they’ve all grown as cartoonists while working on the series.

The seventh issue of the ten-issue series hits online this week. Cates and company are celebrating by offering a pretty great digital sale for new readers including a free PDF of the first issue. Browse their order page for a number of options including buying individual issues, the full bundle, or a partial subscription.

Dark Corridor #1

By Rich Tommaso
Image Comics 

RIch Tommaso has been making comics since the early ‘90s, most recently high-quality, pamphlet-sized comics under his own imprint, Recoil Comics. He’s a familiar name to those who frequent the Study Group Comics website or have read his early graphic novels like Clover Honey. But Tommaso’s new book, Dark Corridor, will be his first ongoing series and his first through Image Comics, which will likely mean his introduction to a whole new comics audience. While Image has become a hot spot for today’s most popular mainstream comics talent to publish their big ideas, the recent revival of David Lapham’s Stray Bullets and Bob Fingerman’s Minimum Wage has made it a very friendly place for veteran self-publishers looking to launch the second wave of their creator-owned comics career. 

Dark Corridor is a one-man anthology comic that initially unfolds as one large crime noir story over a series of issues. Tomasso’s drawing style—a little bit Dan Clowes, a little bit Paul Grist—gives this a classic crime noir feel with some modern storytelling flourishes. Although the story begins with the introduction of a killer named Pete who has ties to the mob, we soon find ourselves propelled towards a story about the old, male-dominated mafia being taken down by a group of women who call themselves “The 7 Deadly Daughters". Here’s a preview.

John Flood #1

By Justin Jordan, Jorge Coelho, Tamra Bonvillain and Ed Dukeshire
Boom! Studios 

John Flood is a man who, thanks to government experimentation, has not slept in over a decade. He has used all that extra free time to enjoy a number of hobbies and catch up on a lot of reading but he’s also become something of a detective. The lack of sleep has done weird things to his brain that allow him to see patterns that others cannot, which makes him extra helpful in solving difficult crimes. However, it has also partially disconnected him from reality, so he needs help in the form of a more grounded partner, disgraced ex-cop Alexander Berry.

Writer Justin Jordan of the fan-favorite series Luthor Strode brings a TV-friendly weird crime-procedural feel to this new six-issue mini-series. He teams with newcomer Jorge Coelho whose only other previous comic was another Boom! Studios book, Polarity. Coelho’s exaggerated, expressive facial features and willingness to get obsessive about the details of a gory crime scene give this promising concept a real shot at being a hit with fans of trippy and gruesome (yet not too dark) crime dramas. Here’s a preview