Hello and welcome to Multiversity’s look at the “Best of the Rest” of what’s coming your way in the now-available July 2015 Previews catalog. Having already taken a look at what Marvel, Dark Horse, DC, and Image have lined up for us, it’s now time to check out the other 75% of the catalog. Before we jump into the things you should keep an eye out for, a quick reminder:
And second, as one-half of the Robots From Tomorrow podcast, I go through the whole Previews catalog each and every month with co-host Mike Romeo, talking about things that catch our eye and quicken our pulse. If you listen to those episodes, you should still read this column because there will not be a 100% overlap, and if you don’t listen to those episodes, they are a great way to hear Mike & I go into further detail about some of the things I’ve spotlighted here.
That said, let’s dive in!
10. The War Escalates!
We make value judgments all the time. We judge books by not only covers but (in the case of comics) out-of-context visual excerpts, and those snap decisions can set our minds for or against a book in a way that is very difficult to change. Now, not every snap decision is a bad one, and even ‘bad’ is all up to personal preference, but being aware that we do this and that our tastes can change to something invalidating that initial decision makes it all the more important to keep re-evaluating things from time to time. What you hated yesterday might be your favorite thing in the world tomorrow.
Which brings us to Ben Marra and “Terror Assaulter”.
I never hated his work but I can’t say I ever gave it much thought until recently. I saw a lot of similar cultural touchstones in his work to cartoonists like Jim Rugg, Ed Piskor, or Tom Scioli, but the rendering never seemed up to the ideas. Snap judgment: keep at it, kid, and maybe you’ll get there some day.
But a real benefit of working for a site like Multiversity is that we talk about & cover a lot of different kinds of comics; some smack-dab in my wheelhouse and some completely outside of it. So chances are I’ll keep seeing a book I snap-dismissed again and again and again in a kind of a appeal process that might get that earlier judgment overturned. Doesn’t always happen, but in the case of Marra v. Me, it did. First it was this piece by Mike Romeo (specifically section II) that got me thinking, then some other conversations with Mike and some other cartoonists, and then finally a conversation about other comics with the man himself at HeroesCon a few weeks ago (where, incidentally, I mentioned none of this hesitation) that won the case for re-evaluating his work.
Ben Marra is not for everyone. His Jim-Rugg-meets-Johnny-Ryan sensibility (at least in my mind) isn’t something that’s going to translate into mass appeal or wide critical outpouring, and is probably going to be overlooked by 95% of people who are reading this. But I guarantee there is intelligence and consideration behind every panel and every line he puts down in it. And while that might still not add up to something you find appealing, there’s nothing more we can ask of creators than that they bring a singular voice to their work, and Marra certainly does that.
I can’t wait to see what I’ve been missing!
Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T. (One Man War On Terror)
Written by Benjamin Marra
Illustrated by Benjamin Marra
Published by Fantagraphics Books
Cartoonist Benjamin Marra brilliantly satirizes America’s recent obsession with justice and its disinterest in consequences. Terror Assaulter must defeat Terror at all costs, diverting only for steamy dates with hot chicks. Nothing is spared in this searing and hilarious indictment of American foreign policy over the last decade, whether it be neocon philosophy, the state of American masculinity and sexuality or male power fantasy in escapist entertainment.
9. I Finally Get To Talk About Usagi Yojimbo!Continued below
Since I don’t handle the Dark Horse solicits, you’d think I’d never get a chance to talk about everyone’s favorite samurai rabbit in this column. But that’s not the case! And no, Dark Horse hasn’t given up publishing “Usagi Yojimbo”. Lemme explain…
“Usagi Yojimbo” has been put out by three different publishers over its history: Dark Horse, Mirage, and Fantagraphics (going in reverse order). The Mirage comics run has been grandfathered over to Dark Horse in terms of collecting that material since Mirage went belly up, but Fantagraphics has continued to hold the reprint rights for the first 37 issues of the series and has kept them in print alongside their Dark Horse counterparts. Back in 2009, they released an oversized two-volume hardcover slipcase of that material with some additional material. That edition has gone well out-of-print, so with the resurgence of “Usagi Yojimbo” reprints from Dark Horse, it looks like someone over at Fantagraphics decided to bring that edition back, this time in softcover. Hard cover or soft, it’s a wonderful package either way.
Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition
Written by Stan Sakai
Illustrated by Stan Sakai
Published by Fantagraphics Books
Now In Paperback! Usagi Yojimbo is one of the most iconic modern comics characters and a perennial favorite amongst comics fans. Stan Sakai chronicles the action-packed wanderings of a masterless samurai in feudal Japan as told with funny-animals. This slipcase set collects the first ten years with over 1,000 pages of story along with extras including a gallery of 50 covers, preparatory sketches, two stories co-starring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the rare “How I Draw Usagi Yojimbo” strip plus introductions by Stan Sakai and Stan Lee and a career-spanning interview with Sakai.
8. Puma Back!
There are certain series that always get name-checked when we talk about 1980’s independent comics: “American Flagg”, “Nexus”, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, “Grimjack”. But one of the deep cuts of that era has to be “Puma Blues”. I’ve heard it mentioned in whispers on message boards, vaguely recall seeing ads for it in the back of Mirage-era “TMNT” books. Michael Zulli did an arc of “TMNT” (“Soul’s Winter”) that blew my 13-year-old mind enough that I tried tracking down issues of “Puma Blues” but could never find them. Even if I had, I don’t think indy comics at the time had access to the type of printing repro technology you would need to do justice to Zulli’s delicate linework.
But all that is about to change, as Dover Graphic Novels looks to bring back the entire series in hardcover, with words both fore and after by creators who do quite well at that sort of thing. Seriously, a Stephen Bissette afterword is worth the price of admission alone! Looks like 38-year-old me is going to finally finish the journey 13-year-old me started…
The Puma Blues
Written by Stephen Murphy
Illustrated by Michael Zulli
Published by Dover Graphic Novels
“Intelligent and urgent mythology for the end of the millennium.” — Neil Gaiman
Out of print for nearly 25 years and one of Rolling Stone’s Top 50 Non-Super Hero graphic novels of all time, The Puma Blues is a series of interrelated stories that visualize life at the turn of the 21st century as a world of mutated animals, in which a lone government agent investigates the truth behind environmental degradation. Written by Stephen Murphy, the most prolific Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles author of all-time, and illustrated by Michael Zulli, artist on many of the most popular Sandman comics, this deluxe hardcover edition unveils “a near-future world kissed by terrorist assaults…and the threat of ecological ruin. Zulli’s wildlife art is utterly breathtaking.” —The Comics Journal
Exclusive Bonus Material:
- Never-before-seen ending by original creators
- Hard-to-find The Puma Blues mini-comic
- New Foreword by Dave Sim, legendary creator of Cerebus
- New Afterword by Stephen R. Bissette, acclaimed artist on Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing
7. One From The Heart
Man, it’s a big month for Fantagraphics!
This book, collecting Liz Suburbia’s webcomic of the same name, is something I’m unfamiliar with but has been recommended by people whose taste & opinion I trust so I’m giving it a signal boost (How’s THAT for truth in advertising!). I’d look up the webcomic to get a better feel for it, but it appears the hosting site is having difficulties, so all I can see are low-res Google Images captures. But what I can see from them looks good, and again, word of mouth.Continued below
Written by Liz Suburbia
Illustrated by Liz Suburbia
Published by Fantagraphics Books
There’s an absence of authority in the town of Alexandria, and the teens are trying to keep their makeshift society together until their parents return. But students keep dying mysteriously, local band The Crotchmen rock the nights away, freshmen palm readers and seers have lines out the door, and Ben Schiller has had it up to HERE with her sister Empathy’s disappearing act. It’s a punk summer vacation that might not make it to fall.
6. “Diesel” Punk is the new Steam Punk!
I’m just going to go ahead and link to Tyson Hesse’s “Boxer Hockey” right now and save you the trouble Googling it in a few minutes cuz I’m a giver. But there’s a hell of a leap from the solid work you see there and the ‘I want to jump through my screen and into that world’ work from that “Diesel” cover.
A good publisher is one that finds a voice for its output. A great publisher is one that finds many voices for its output. With all the books they are putting out, including ones like this, BOOM! is letting people know it is a great publisher. Pretty soon, they’re going to be telling everyone that boom is from the mic dropping.
Tyson Hesse’s Diesel #1 (of 4)
Written by Tyson Hesse
Illustrated by Tyson Hesse
Published by BOOM! Studios
What’s to Love: We’ve been big fans of Tyson Hesse ever since we first discovered his webcomic Boxer Hockey. After cover stints on Adventure Time and Bravest Warriors, we put him to the test with the tricky mixed-media art style of The Amazing World of Gumball and he just crushed it. Now, we’re excited to be working with him on his first original series, a coming-of-age story with a cool fantasy airship twist that fans of Tank Girl, Rocket Girl, or Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle are sure to enjoy!
What It Is: Diandra Diesel isn’t very good at anything. The daughter of the late Tungston Diesel, she has yet to live up to her father’s great reputation. Her childhood rival has inherited control of her family’s airship and left Diandra the only job she’s qualified for: picking up the trash. But all that changes when a mysterious flying engine crashes into Diesel’s life and takes her on a journey through the skies.
5. Another Thrill!
“2000 AD” is notoriously hard to get in US comic shops (although easy to read through day&date digital release) so a lot of American readers are unfamiliar with the quality of Thrills that Tharg & the droids pack into that comic each week. One way to stay up-to-date would be to follow along with the Multiver-City One column this site provides each and every week (shameless shameless plug).
Another is to check out the direct-to-US releases that 2000 AD the publisher has started putting out. Titles like “Brass Sun”, “Aquila”, and “Ichabod Azrael” have made solo appearances to rave reviews. Even some “Jaegir” material was released as a one-shot last year. But now you’re getting a whole slab of “Jaegir” to enjoy, and enjoy it you will. You can check out some of the Multiver-City One coverage of that material here and here.
PS: You don’t need to know anything about ‘Rogue Trooper’ or the mythology to enjoy this comic. Seriously, it’s that self-contained.
Jaegir: The Beast Within TPB
Written by Gordon Rennie
Illustrated by Simon Coleby and Carl Critchlow
Published by 2000 AD/Rebellion
From the Rogue Trooper universe comes a brand new heroine with a incredible new adventure.
While war rages across the galaxy between the Great Nordland Republic and their Souther enemies, Kapiten-Inspector Atalia Jaegir of the Nordland State Security is charged with investigating and tracking down war criminals. It’s a thankless task – viewed with suspicion and hatred by her own people. Jaegir is no stranger to conflict and betrayal…but her work is interupted when she is recruited by another arm of the state to hunt down a monster afflicted with a genetic disorder sown into their ranks by the Southers.
4. Where There’s Benton, There’s “Smoke”
Maybe it’s because SPX is held in September, but a lot of indy publishers are bringing their A-game this month. Between Fantagraphics and Alternative Comics alone, there are six or seven books I could put on here without missing a beat. As it is, they managed to take up half this month’s list, but I’m not complaining because they are good comic-booking. And out of that solid bloc is a few showings from Brooklyn’s own Hang Dai Studios (via Alternative Comics). First up: the newest from Gregory Benton.
Have you read “B+F”? Have you read “Forces of Nature”? If not, then you definitely should. And when you’re done with those, this new book will be out and you can roll right on over to it, having used those other books to get you into the Benton mindset. It moves at a different pace, that mindset; it zags where others zig. It lures you in with soft colors that glove the punches waiting for you. But if you’re spending precious time out of your day, you want something that punches you, right? In the heart, the head, the adrenal gland… it should touch you somewhere, somehow. Otherwise, what’s the point?
I’m looking forward to where “Smoke” touches me. I think…
Written by Gregory Benton
Illustrated by Gregory Benton
Published by Alternative Comics
After an accident on an industrial farm unhinges two young brothers from reality, they are guided through a weird and wonderful journey by Xolo, the Aztec’s mythological protector of souls. Follow the brothers through a typical day, from their arrival at an industrial tobacco farm bussed in with others early in the morning, throughout their grueling chores and ultimately to the accident that drops them into the realm of the Xolo.
Smoke is inspired by journalistic accounts of underaged workers in the tobacco industry. These children often suffer neurological and physical effects from exposure to the raw nicotine found in the plants they harvest, as well as from the hazardous conditions they endure to complete this hard labor.
3. When Is A Schmuck Not A Schmuck
Seth Kushner was not a schmuck. Schmucks don’t get eulogies like this written about them. But if we look at the word with more of an emphasis on the ‘foolish’ definition than the ‘contemptible’ one, then yeah, I can see how calling this semi-autobio comic “Schmuck” would be appropriate. Because it deals with a guy looking for love, and there’s never ever been someone in that position that hasn’t been a foolish schmuck at one point or another. Fortunately, the lucky schmuck got a slew of insanely talented cartoonists to help tell his tale of bumbling romance, so while he may be bumbling and stumbling over the love landscape, the readers won’t be.
Written by Seth Kushner
Illustrated by Josh Neufeld, Nick Bertozzi, Dean Haspiel, Gregory Benton, Noah Van Sciver, Stephan DeStefano, Christa Cassano, and others
Published by XXXXXXXXX
Schmuck drips with self-loathing, near-sightedness, and sexually frustrated Ashkenazi goodness. In Schmuck, Kushner tells “true” stories based on his own mishaps and mortifying memories, which are energetically illustrated by the cream of the indie comix crop.”—Megan Sass, Heeb Magazine
One man’s awkward coming-of-age-quest to find love in New York City, illustrated by twenty-two artists, whose individual short stories together tell a complete narrative. Artists include Josh Neufeld, Nick Bertozzi, Dean Haspiel, Gregory Benton, Noah Van Sciver, Stephan DeStefano, and Christa Cassano. Cover art by Joseph Remnant. Book design by Eisner award-winner Eric Skillman. Forward by Jonathan Ames.
2. Atomic Robo & Johnny Cash Team-Up!
DISCLAIMER #1: Atomic Robo does not actually team up with Johnny Cash.
DISCLAIMER #2: That is not the final cover. Scott Wegener will come up with something more dynamic than that still-admittedly-cool shot of Robo charging forward into some unseen danger to save us all.
DISCLAIMER #3: I am completely in the tank for this series. I think “Atomic Robo” has consistently been one of, if not THE, best action/comedy comics of the last decade. And if you think I’m talking pure applesauce, then you can start reading the whole series online for free and see that I am not steering you wrong, no way no how.Continued below
Atomic Robo & The Ring of Fire #1 (of 5)
Written by Brian Clevinger
Illustrated by Scott Wegener
Published by IDW
Atomic Robo disappeared two years ago when Tesladyne was invaded by Majestic 12 and transformed into ULTRA, a task force leveraging the U.S. surveillance and military industries against scientific pursuits deemed to be hazardous. Now, the few remaining Action Scientists finally have a plan to find Robo, but they’ve got to dive deep into ULTRA territory to do it! (And meanwhile, giant monsters from the sea might destroy all of civilization.)
1. Can’t Think Of Anything Better Than “Where Beagles Dare”
A “Peanuts” OGN about Snoopy on a top-secret WWI mission against the Red Baron? With that title? I didn’t know this could be a thing. But now that I do know, I must have it. Yes, I must. If only to help mend the hurt in my heart that no one has thought to do a mash-up video between Snoopy’s dogfight scenes and Iron Maiden’s “Where Eagles Dare”. Seriously, someone needs to do that immediately.
I know “Where Beagles Dare” is still going to be kid-friendly and not go into “Weapon Brown” territory, but I’m still psyched for it!
Peanuts: Where Beagles Dare OGN
Written by Jason Cooper
Illustrated by Vicki Scott
Published by BOOM! Studios
What’s to Love: Remember those seasonal Peanuts animated specials that’d air during the holidays? Those long-form stories are the same satisfaction we get from our Peanuts original graphic novels, which feature full-length stories. We’ve got a brand-new one in Peanuts: Where Beagles Dare, and it comes out just in time for The Peanuts Movie!
What It Is: Snoopy, the World War I Flying Ace, is on holiday in France but his leave is cut short when he’s recruited for a top-secret mission. Snoopy must dodge his way through no-man’s land, go deep behind enemy territory, and battle the Red Baron in the blackened skies above. Will Snoopy ever return home to quaff a few Root Beers with Woodstock and have dinner with Charlie Brown? Find out in this original graphic novel featuring Charles M. Schulz’s beloved Peanuts characters and starring Snoopy!
It’s a bit of a cheat this month, but while we’re on the subject of “Peanuts”…
Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Shulz
Illustrated by Mike Allred, Art Baltazar, Paige Braddock, Megan Brennan, Frank Cammuso, Colleen Coover, Evan Dorkin, Chynna Flores, Julie Fujii, Shaenon K. Garrity, Melanie Gillman, Jimmy Gownley, Matt Groening, Dan Hipp, Dave Kellett, Keith Knight, Mike Kunkel, Roger Langridge, Jeff Lemire, Jonathan Lemon, Patrick McDonnell, Terry Moore, Dustin Nguyen, Molly Ostertag, Lincoln Peirce, Paul Pope, Hilary Price, Stan Sakai, Chris Schweizer, Ryan Sook, Jeremy Sorese, Raina Telgemeier, Richard Thompson, Lucas Turnbloom, Jen Wang, Mo Willems, Caleb Monroe, and more
Published by BOOM! Studios
What’s To Love: No one can deny the cultural impact of Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts, and it has been a singular honor for us to be able to continue his legacy. In 2015, Peanuts celebrates its 65th anniversary, so we thought there was no better way to recognize Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the rest of the gang than to invite some of the world’s best-known names in comics, children’s books, comic strips, cartoons, and webcomics to come together and show their love for Schulz.
What It Is: Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz is a giant love letter from creators new and old from comic strips to webcomics, children’s books to comic books. Unprecedented at this scale, it is very rare for the Schulz estate to allow other cartoonists to illustrate the Peanuts gang in their own signature styles. This collection of original stories, pin-ups, and strips pay tribute to Schulz and the world of Peanuts, and includes contributions from Matt Groening (The Simpsons), Raina Telgemeier (Smile), Jen Wang (In Real Life), Patrick McDonnell (Mutts), Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo), Terry Moore (Rachel Rising), Mike Allred (Silver Surfer), Paul Pope (Battling Boy), and many more. Features an introduction by Lincoln Peirce (Big Nate).
Well, that was fun! Be sure to check out the September Previews episode of Robots From Tomorrow later this week and hear us talk about these books and a whole lot more. And let me know what books YOU’RE excited for in the comments section.