Year in Review In 2012, both comics shops and digital comics distributors reported increased sales: the pop-culture news site ICv2 announced nearly 15 percent growth for both comics and graphic novels, simultaneous with an explosion of e-comics purchased. The popular The Walking Dead franchise now encompasses a TV show, game series, and huge sales of both print and e-comics—creator Robert Kirkman told Comic Book Resources that print and digital “seem to be feeding off each other.” Librarians eager to increase the availability of e-comics will be thrilled to know that iVerse Media’s Comics Plus: Library Edition rolls out this April. Announced in 2012, the service offers libraries access on a per-checkout fee basis to thousands of titles from Cartoon Books, VIZ Media, Archie Comics, and many other publishers. Two trends are helping hype comics, one “pull” and one “push.” The “pull” is the under-the-radar propagation of small comics conventions and festivals in libraries, schools, and colleges. These smaller gatherings pair a familiar location and chummy ambience with many of the big-time draws of larger conventions: displays showcasing local creators and vendors, workshops in drawing and crafts, costumes/cosplay, presentations, and takeaway “swag.” Special features might include a maid café or a Super Art Fight, where artists edit and add to each other’s drawings in front of an audience. The “push” is the more noticeable explosion of diverse and self-driven publishing by creators themselves. Kickstarter has become the new frontier for comics projects. Numerous artists and writers get their work out through self-publishers like CreateSpace and Lulu.com. Diversity in content continues, with growth in nonfiction/educational titles and in celebrity character spin-offs, whether the celebrity is real, like Darwin, or fictional, like Tybalt. Formats diversify also: Chris Ware’s 14-piece Building Stories topped numerous “best of 2012” lists. One respondent to ALA’s 2011-12 survey about ebooks in libraries noted that, “There is no past tense for a system that is constantly evolving.” For comics, both format and content sit on a vast plain of the infinite present, infinite possibility.—M.C.
Jones, Sabrina & Marc Mauer. Race To Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling. New Pr. 2013. 128p. ISBN 9781595585417. pap. $17.95. CRIMINAL JUSTICE
Mauer (executive director, The Sentencing Project) penned two reference-heavy text editions of Race To Incarcerate. The work has become a classic for understanding the disparities and toxic effects of U.S. imprisonment practices since the 1970s. The authors explain that the number of prisoners and sentence lengths has greatly increased, yet imprisonment may be an unjust and ineffective remedy in many cases. Moreover, Mauer and Jones (Isadora Duncan; contributor to The Real Cost of Prisons and Studs Terkel’s Working) continue, an “us vs. them” vision has contributed to racial inequalities throughout the law enforcement and correctional systems and current trends suggest a promising shift towards better sentencing plus increased programs in crime prevention and reentry counseling. This adaptation is designed for younger people and cuts to the main points, updating developments since 2006. VERDICT Its political and cultural immediacy makes this an excellent title for adults interested in social issues as well as for college students, teens, and tweens. It also serves as a bridge to Mauer’s original, since skillful black-and-white visuals from Jones add clarity and vividness to complex issues. Back matter includes resources for donating books to prisoners and connecting with prisoner penpals.—M.C.
Forney, Ellen. Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir. Gotham. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781592407323. pap. $20. MEMOIR
Forney, who is known for her illustrations in Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her late twenties. Marbles takes us through her life before, during, and after diagnosis, addressing her ecstatic manic episodes, their obsessive/angry component, and intermittent deep depressions. Fortunately, Forney finds a good therapist who walks her through the lengthy process of finding the just-right drug combo that will restore psychic balance without interfering with creativity. It’s Forney’s art that makes her journey memorable and instructive. Mania: riding on a carousel unicorn on a high pole, throwing off stars and glitter. Obsession: clinging terrified to an unstable steed that won’t stop running. Depression: a bandaged hand with tiny faces peering out from under the bandages. As part of treatment, she pictures her head sprouting five smaller heads, each nagging her to pay attention to a different symptom. VERDICT Readers interested in bipolar disorder, mania, or depression will find these pages helpful and entertaining. Highly recommended for all libraries, high-school and up. Some nudity and simulated sex; nothing graphic.—M.C.
Davodeau, Étienne. The Initiates: A Comic Artist and a Wine Artisan Exchange Jobs. NBM. 2013. 272p. tr. from French by Joe Johnson. ISBN 9781561637034. $29.99. MEMOIR
Award-winning cartoonist Davodeau and winemaker Richard Leroy decide to educate each other about their respective professions. For more than a year, Davodeau works in the vineyards and tags along to visit barrel-makers and other wine professionals. Leroy in turn does “assigned reading,” visits Davodeau’s studio and his publisher, meets cartoonists, and goes to a comics festival. All the while they talk about wine and comics and life and philosophy, deciding that both wine and comics bring people together. Realistic yet pleasantly tongue in cheek, the book finishes with two lists: wines drunk by Davodeau and comics read by Leroy, each under the other’s tutelage. VERDICT The excellent writing, characterizations, and tranquil-yet-stimulating vibe make this a treat to savor slowly, like wine. Davodeau’s smoky realism, though black-and-white, manages to suggest the full range of wine-growing climate shifts. Oenophiles will love this and the merely curious will be plenty satisfied. Unfortunately, Davodeau is not as forthcoming about how he personally creates comics as Leroy is about the vintner’s craft.—M.C.
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The following titles are reviewed in the March 1 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.
Goodwin, Archie (text) & Walter Simonson (illus.). Alien: The Illustrated Story. Titan. 2012. 64p. ISBN 9781781161296. pap. $14.95. HORROR
Grell, Mike & others. Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters. DC. 2012. 160p. ISBN 9781401238629. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401240660. SUPERHERO
Harris, Dwayne. John Henry: The Steam Age. Arcana. 2012. 129p. (Steampunk Originals) ISBN 9781927424643. pap. $14.95. F
LaBan, Terry. Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hard Boiled Shaman: The Spirit of Boo. CreateSpace. 2012. 124p. ISBN 9781475026511. pap. $18.99. F
Yamazaki, Mari. Thermae Romae. Vol. 1. Yen Pr. 2012. 368p. tr. from Japanese by Stephen Paul. ISBN 9780316229197. $34.99; ebk. ISBN 9780316232227. F