Graphic Novels Prepub Alert: The A-Bomb, Comics History Month & Chip Kidd’s (In)Glorious Batman

June is about history this year‚ comics history, the revival of historically classic comics, and the history in comics of important things like the atomic bomb and rock ‘n’ roll. Speaking of classic comics, IDW is kicking off an all-new Popeye comic book series this April. Don’t forget the spinach soufflé! A hard-hitting comics luminary himself, Jules Feiffer will do the first cover. Thanks to Steve Raiteri for some of the title suggestions below.

Barks, Carl. Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge: Only a Poor Old Man. Vol. 1. Fantagraphics. Jul. 2012. 240p. ISBN 9781606995358. $28.99. HUMOR
Barks created Disney’s Uncle Scrooge character, and his gleeful, beautifully drawn, chaotic stories are widely recognized for having taught countless kids to read while their parents chuckled along with them. According to the NYT‘s obit for Barks, who died in 2000, no less than George Lucas and Steven Spielberg based sequences for Raiders of the Lost Ark on Uncle Scrooge episodes, and indeed Lucas wrote the introduction to this volume. Not many cartoonists keep this kind of company.

Estren, Mark James. A History of Underground Comics. 20th Anniversary Ed. Ronin Pub. Jun. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781579511562. pap. $29.95. GRAPHIC ARTS
Estren first released this meaty overview in the 1970s, and it’s gone through several editions since then. From The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers to Fritz the Cat to Wimmen’s Comix, from sex through political commentary and feminist issues, the experimental cartoonists whose work is included here broke new ground and influenced countless contemporary creators. Pulitzer winning journalist Estren has recently written music criticism for the Washington Post. Has the book been newly updated? Can’t tell. Either way, a good resource for adult collections if your library doesn’t have it already. Yes, adult, definitely.

Falk, Lee (text) & Phil Davis (illus.). Mandrake the Magician: The Hidden Kingdom of Murderers; The Sundays 1935‚ 1937. Titan. Jun. 2012. 144p. ISBN 9780857685728. $50. F
Mandrake was one of the earliest comics characters to have a superability other than strength: a powerful hypnotic technique that could induce nearly anyone to see whatever illusion the magician wanted. (Obviously, Obi Wan Kenobi took a leaf from Mandrake’s book when he intoned, These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.) Moreover, Mandrake and his sidekick Lothar embodied perhaps the first biracial crime-fighting team, even if Lothar‚ formerly an African prince‚ was portrayed more as a dopey underling than a partner until Falk (The Phantom) modernized the character over the course of the strip. Distributed by King Features, Mandrake still appears in papers. Some of the early stories have been reprinted before but not recently, and few were Sunday strips or collected into bound books.

Gallagher, Michael (text) & Jonathan Fetter-Vorm (illus.). Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb. Hill & Wang. Jun. 2012. 160p. ISBN 9780809094684. $22. HIST
Another of history’s game-changing events, brought to us in comics by the publisher whose opening salvo in its Novel Graphics line was the well-received The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation. Expect to see the scientific complexities of nuclear chain reactions rendered intelligible along with a depiction of the history of the race to build an atomic weapon, the power struggles within in the Manhattan Project, the test explosion code-named Trinity, and the ethical debates during the development of the bomb and afterwards. Fetter-Vorm is skilled at detailed black-and-white linework, as suggested by his Moby Dick excerpt.

Johnson, Crockett. Barnaby. Vol. 1. Fantagraphics. Jun. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9781606995228. $35. HUMOR
David Johnson Leisk, a.k.a. Crockett Johnson, is better known in the library world for Harold and the Purple Crayon and related books, but in the 1940s he penned this quirky all-ages syndicated strip. Little Barnaby Baxter is only five years old, but his crusty fairy godfather, Jackeen J. O’Malley, is much older‚ yet still not too bright. Neither are Barnaby’s parents, who persist in denying that O’Malley exists. This set-up allows for plenty of misadventures, abetted by other characters, among them a ghost, a lion, and Baxter’s kid-pals. Barnaby was last collected in the 1990s. This series of reprint volumes is designed and introduced by Dan Clowes (Ghost World). Satirista Dorothy Parker has been said to be a Barnaby fan, no mean praise.

Kidd, Chip (text) & Dave Taylor (illus.). Batman: Death by Design. DC. Jun. 2012. 112p. ISBN 9781401234539. $24.99. F
What if Fritz Lang had made a Batman movie in the 1930s? That’s the visual effect Taylor was after in his eerie, luminescent realism for this original graphic novel by writer, graphic designer, and editor Kidd (The Cheese Monkeys; Batman Animated). As chairman of the Gotham Landmarks Commission, Bruce Wayne has endorsed a massive construction boom to herald a golden age of architectural ingenuity for the entire city. But then Challenger-type catastrophes start derailing every building project, and the cascading malfunctions threaten everyone and everything. Naturally, it’s up to Batman to find whatever and whoever is behind this.

McCarthy, Jim (text) & Steve Parkhouse (illus.). Sex Pistols: The Graphic Novel. Omnibus Pr. Jun. 2012. 95p. ISBN 9781780381787. pap. $15.95. MUSIC
McCarthy, Jim (text) & Brian Williamson (illus.). Neverland: The Life and Death of Michael Jackson. Omnibus Pr. Aug. 2012. 96p. ISBN 9781849387019. pap. $19.95. MUSIC
The Sex Pistols weren’t the first punk band, but they came to define the genre by inspiring legions of performers in the UK and elsewhere. The McCarthy-Parkhouse history in appealingly colorful scratchy art first came out in 2008 but is out of print. The British edition was marked Parental Advisory, quite appropriate given the band’s persona and message. The Jackson volume, new this year, features striking black-and-white cover art and follows the late singer’s career from childhood to death. These vivid portrayals of two iconic musical phenoms should be in demand in most libraries. Another Michael Jackson bio is coming in February from Bluewater, which is also doing one for Lucille Ball in June.

Mann, Mathias (text) & Ash Jackson (illus.). Cindy the Demon Hunter. Arcana. Jun. 2012. 96p. ISBN 9781926914589. pap. $14.95. F
She’s curvaceous, she’s sassy, and she’s the only one who can get Nick and Seth out of a jam. The two high-schoolers watch Cindy the Demon Hunter on television, but they thought it was just a show. That is, until a magical artifact drops into their laps. It’s something that sets demons on their tail, and now they’re in big trouble. This should appeal to fans of similarly themed manga.

McDaniel, Scott & John Rozum (text) & Chris Brunner (illus.). Static Shock. Vol. 1: Supercharged. DC. Jun. 2012. 192p. ISBN 9781401234843. pap. $16.99. F
Young Virgil Ovid Hawkins, a.k.a. Static, has a rich history originating in the Dakota-verse of the now-defunct Milestone Comics, plus an animated incarnation. Now relocated to a New York City high school, Virgil reenters as a dreadlocked teen nerd, spouting almost plausible tech-speak to explain his electromagnetic powers and the supercool gadgets in his toolbox as he takes on new villains in the Big Apple. Browse the schedule for all the DC New 52 trade collections here. Unfortunately, Static’s new series is being cancelled after its eighth issue. As an African American teen superhero, perhaps he will rejoin the Teen Titans.

Millar, Mark (text) & John Romita (illus.). Kick-Ass 2. Marvel. Jun. 2012. 208p. ISBN 9780785152453. $24.99. F
In the original Kick-Ass series, comics-obsessed teen Dave Lizewski decides to be a real-life superhero and teams up with the similarly DIYs preteen Hit-Girl and her father, Big Daddy, to take down the local mob boss. Wildly violent and busting with edgy content, the film version did well with audiences and critics. Now the story continues: Dave/Kick-Ass joins the larger Justice Forever superteam, but the mobster’s son has set up his own team of supervillains and the fight is on. This should be popular with the many fans of the movie as well as people interested in the real-life superhero movement.

Naked Cartoonists. Fantagraphics. Jun. 2012. 144p. ed. Gary Groth. ISBN 9781606995389. $22.99. AUTOBIOG/HUMOR
Yep, it’s cartoonists drawing themselves naked. Over 70 cartoonists, from Will Eisner through Charles Schulz, Mort Walker, Trina Robbins, and Lynn Johnston, created starkers self-portraits in honor of beloved art agent Mark Cohen, who died in 1999. Each self-portrait comes with a short bio, and the collection sports an introduction by underground cartoonist Frank Stack (The New Adventures of Jesus). Expect deliriously outlandish or humiliating situations and…self-deprecating anatomical features. Looks like lots of fun, if not for the fainthearted. Don’t put this with reference books.

Quinrose & Soumei Hoshino (illus.). Alice in the Country of Hearts. Vol. 1. Yen Pr. Jun. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9780316212694. pap. $18.99. F
Vol. 2. 368p. ISBN 9780316212724.
Vol. 3. 352p. ISBN 9780316212687.
This Wonderland is a big reverse harem dating game, filled with beautiful young men all in love with the discomfited Alice. And a violent power struggle is going on among three factions: the Mad Hatter’s Mafia, the Queen of Hearts, and a man named Merry-go-Round who’s boss of an amusement park. Alice wants to go home, of course, but she has to figure out the rules and refill that vial of magical potion the White Rabbit made her drink. Yen Press has picked up the series from the now-defunct Tokyopop and seems to be releasing the entire run in three volumes.

Robins, Scott & Snow Wildsmith. A Parent’s Guide to the Best Kids’ Comics: Choosing Titles Your Children Will Love. Krause. Jun. 2012. 256p. illus. ISBN 9781440229947. pap. $16.99. PARENTING
Librarians know that comics are great for kids, but are parents getting the message? Maybe this fab-sounding guide will convince the snarkmeisters who kvetch, They’re not real books! Librarians Robins and Wildsmith are both veteran writers for SLJ‘s Good Comics for Kids blog, and they load in the titles and details of comics appropriate for different age levels. Plenty of good words, too, about why comics are important for kids, plus a list of resources and even a few titles for parents, like Bunny Drop. A must buy for all public libraries. Keep a desk copy on hand for emergency readers advisory.

Sacco, Joe. Journalism. Holt: Metropolitan. Jun. 2012. 208p. ISBN 9780805094862. $27. INTERNATIONAL/CURRENT EVENTS
Short-form comics journalism from the multi-award-winning creator of Footnotes in Gaza and Safe Area Goražde. This war reportage originally published in a variety of magazines ranges over the Caucasus through India, Gaza, Bosnia, The Hague, Abu Ghraib, and the recent conflicts in Iraq. Indispensible for nonfiction graphic novel collections.

Slate, Barbara. Getting Married and Other Mistakes. Other Pr. Jun. 2012. 160p. ISBN 9781590515358. $14.95. MEMOIR/HUMOR
She’s drawn Barbie, Betty & Veronica, Scooby-Doo, and Disney fairy tales. But real life ain’t like that. Slate’s two-dimensional persona Jo, a successful wedding photographer, gets dumped by her husband after an unblissful union and jumps on the self-awareness rollercoaster. Gets laid, sees a shrink, dates up a storm‚Ķnothing works until she figures out how to wield her own drumsticks. Slate’s fictionalized memoir is billed as savagely funny and emotionally honest. The cover says it all.

Toppi, Sergio. Sharaz-de. Archaia. Jun. 2012. 208p. ISBN 9781936393480. $29.95. F
New tales based on the Arabian Nights frame, in which a beautiful captive must spin exotic stories to her master every night to save her own head from the executioner. Italian artist Toppi shows striking command of line and design; see more about this collection plus preview art here.

Wilde, Oscar (text) & P. Craig Russell (illus. & adapt.). Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde: The Happy Prince. NBM. Jun. 2012. 32p. ISBN 9781561636266. $16.99. F
The soul of a youthful prince lives on in his gold leaf-covered statue, which observes from its pedestal the misery of the city’s poor. Now with no power to help them by decree, the statue enlists a bird to detach flakes of gold from its person and give them to the impoverished. Long before Occupy Wall Street was formed to protest the income gap, the titular prince was born in Wilde’s parable about giving what one has, to do what really matters. Volume 5 in Russell’s beautiful color adaptations of the classic Wilde stories.

Wood, Brian (text & illus.) & Becky Cloonan (illus.). Channel Zero. Dark Horse. Jun. 2012. 296p. ISBN 9781595829368. pap. $19.99. F
Another perfect graphic novel for an Occupy Wall Street display. Originally published from 1997 through 2003, this techno-thriller stars an art student who decides to fight the fascist, repressive system in a dystopian New York of the future. Looks like this volume includes the original Channel Zero plot arc plus the Jennie One prequel about the student Jennifer Havel. Take-no-prisoners black-and-white art.

Martha Cornog About Martha Cornog

Martha Cornog is a longtime reviewer for LJ and, with Timothy Perper, edited Graphic Novels Beyond the Basics: Insights and Issues for Libraries (Libraries Unlimited, 2009).