Graphic Novels Prepub Alert: A New Life for Peanuts, Jeff Smith’s Series for Adults & Tezuka’s Final Work

This March saw the debut of IDW’s Womanthology: Heroic, known already for having raised more than $100,000 through Kickstarter. The collection rated good words from Publishers Weekly, which noted the wide variety of talent on display in its pages: The reader is left wanting a lot more from the contributors‚Ķand that was undoubtedly the goal. Now IDW has announced an ongoing Womanthology: Space! comic book series. The first issue is coming out in September, and the series will presumably be collected into a companion volume. As with Heroic, submissions from female creators of all ages and experience levels are welcome.

Libraries that buy comic books or have girl-friendly comics clubs should take note. Speaking of space, for more sf graphic novels involving women creators, consider Laddertop, Girl Genius, and the forthcoming The Clockwork Sky, all from sf mainstay Tor. Thanks to Steve Raiteri for suggesting some of the titles below.

Bluewater Productions (text) & James Boulton (illus.). Killing Geronimo: The Hunt for Osama Bin Laden. S. & S.: Gallery Bks. Aug. 2012. 96p. ISBN 9781451667462. pap. $15. HIST
Last year’s Code Word: Geronimo from IDW focused on the search-and-grab mission that ended the life of Osama bin Laden. This new chronicle depicts the same subject matter through a wider historical lens, starting with the 9/11 tragedy and covering the multimodal manhunt through several countries during the decade following. This could be a valuable addition to the relatively few nonfiction graphic novels documenting the War on Terror.

Hagio, Moto. The Heart of Thomas. Fantagraphics. Aug. 2012. 480p. tr. from Japanese & ed. by Matt Thorn. ISBN 9781606995518. $35. F
Hagio is a founding mother of shojo manga (girls’ manga), but her work had only rarely been made accessible to English speakers until Fantagraphics published the 2010 collection Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. The forthcoming title is considered a pioneering work in the shonen ai (boys’ love) subgenre, which is often referred to as yaoi in the United States. In a German boys’ boarding school, young Thomas Werner kills himself because of his unrequited love for a schoolmate, who is in fact in love with Thomas, but secretly. Hagio traces the emotional threads among the boys and their fellows in this sophisticated and beautifully drawn melodrama. See an art sample and interview with Hagio here.

Geary, Rick. Lovers’ Lane: The Hall-Mills Mystery. NBM. (A Treasury of XXth Century Murder.) Aug. 2012. 80p. ISBN 9781561636280. $15.99. TRUE CRIME
With a track record for 19th-century crime drama, Geary started in on the 20th century in 2010 and is now releasing another installment. A juicy scandal erupted in 1922 when an ostensibly upstanding reverend and his supposed acquaintance were found dead in a park, love letters strewn around them. Double suicide? Murder? An affair certainly seemed likely, but there was insufficient evidence to accuse anyone of the killings‚ even the reverend’s wife, who steadfastly denied that her beloved husband had ever strayed. Black-and-white art in Geary’s trademark period style.

Herriman, George. George Herriman’s Stumble Inn. Fantagraphics. Aug. 2012. 240p. ISBN 9781606995549. pap. $39.99. HUMOR
Renowned for his surrealistic masterpiece Krazy Kat, Herriman created other, lesser-known strips, including this one about the antics of a crew of misfits associated with a seedy hotel. In rather more of a Mutt and Jeff vein, the strip still exhibits Herriman’s characteristic charm and his slangy/poetic dialogue. The collection includes historical essays. See a character intro and a sample strip here.

Hickman, Jonathan (text) & Dustin Weaver (illus.). S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Human Machine. Marvel. Aug. 2012. 168p. ISBN 9780785152491. $19.99. F
S.H.I.E.L.D. is a secret espionage and law-enforcement organization that has surfaced in the Marvel Universe on and off since the 1960s. While the organization has appeared in a number of series, this plot arc from 2010 is the only one named simply S.H.I.E.L.D. The story tracks S.H.I.E.L.D.’s history back to the occult Brotherhood of the Shield, founded in Ancient Egypt by Imhotep. Intellectual heavy-hitters mixed up with the Brotherhood throughout its history are said to have included, ta-da: Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Michelangelo, Nostradamus, and Nikola Tesla.

Jeon, Hey-Jin (text) & Ki-ha Lee (illus.). Lizzie Newton: Victorian Mysteries. Vol. 1. Seven Seas. Aug. 2012. 192p. ISBN 9781935934806. pap. $11.99. F
Simply lovely manga Victoriana wraps this story about a sweet young marriageable thing making a go of it as a writer. Her papa wants her to marry a handsome lawyer, but Lizzie would rather write mysteries, at least for now. And since there’s been an unexpected death at the manor, she just may have a shot at solving one: her first real murder case.

Johnson, Mat (text) & Andrea Mutti (illus.). Right State. Vertigo. Aug. 2012. 144p. ISBN 9781401229436. $24.99. F
The United States has its second African American president, and at least one extremist militia group is not happy. Fortunately, the Secret Service learns of their assassination plot and sends an undercover agent to infiltrate the group. But though the agent is an ex-Special Forces war hero, he’s turned conservative and become a hero to the right-wing fringe. Can he‚ and will he‚ keep the president alive? An all-too-timely graphic novel for the upcoming election. Johnson is known for the graphic novels Incognegro and Dark Rain; Mutti has done a good deal of work for Marvel and is the artist for the forthcoming graphic novel adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Keery, Paul (text) & Michael Wyatt (illus.). Canada at War: A Graphic History of World War Two. Douglas & McIntyre. Aug. 2012. 176p. bibliog. ISBN 9781553655961. pap. $24.95. HIST
Canada declared war against Germany in 1939, two years before the United States did, and became a major force for the Allies by contributing supplies and materiel as well as troops. By D-Day, over 1.1 million Canadian men and women had served in uniform. This account emphasizes the human dimension of the struggle and features clean, realistic color art with ample text blocks as well as dialog. Intended for both adults and young adults, this should be useful in history classes throughout North America in addition to appealing to WWII buffs and aficionados of war comics.

Lust, Ulli. Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life. Fantagraphics. Aug. 2012. 460p. tr. from German by Kim Thompson. ISBN 9781606995570. $35. MEMOIR
Originally from Austria, Lust hitchhiked her way across Europe as a 1980s punker teen with devil-may-care sidekick Edi. Now, more than two decades later, the cartoonist views her summer of adventure through emotionally mature eyes. Sounds like a darkly funny rebel-without-a-clue memoir. See a sample of her playful, satiric black-and-white line art here.

Morrison, Grant (text) & Rags Morales (illus.). Superman: Action Comics. Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel. DC. (The New 52). Aug. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781401235468. $24.99. F
Superman debuted in Action Comics, and for the New 52 reboot of all DC’s superhero series, Morrison reaches back for the authentic character while making him younger, edgier, and more into social justice. Oh, and his Clark Kent glasses look like Harry Potter’s. Morrison won several Eisner Awards for his earlier work on All-Star Superman. This collects issues 1‚ 8 of the monthly comic books for the New 52 Action Comics.

Pauwels, Dave (text) & Nicolas Giacondo (illus.). Free Mars: Riot Girls Graphic Novel. Ape Entertainment. Aug. 2012. 112p. ISBN 9781401229436. pap. $14.99. F
As civil war clouds gather on the Red Planet in the year 2339, a rebel girl band decides to rock the revolution. Described by the publisher as a gritty sci-fi rock opera, this webcomic looks the way the music is supposed to sound, no doubt: wild, punk, unconventional, and simply smashing. Just the thing for libraries where the rocker CDs circulate like crazy. Looks adultish, so heads up.

Richter, Carl. The Crumb Compendium. Fantagraphics. Aug. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781606995013. pap. $29.99. GRAPHIC ARTS
Fantagraphics is billing this as a comprehensive guide to everything Crumb has published during his 45-year career in cartooning. The range of formats alone boggles the brain: comics, books, catalogs, posters, records and CDs, statues and shirts, and more. Also included are lists of articles, interviews, characters, comic strip titles, and published photographs. Richter compiled the earlier Crumb-Ology: The Works of R. Crumb 1981‚ 1994, and Crumb himself served as consultant on this new reference work.

Schulz, Charles M., Vicki Scott & Shane Houghton. Peanuts. Vol. 1. KaBOOM!: BOOM! Studios. Aug. 2012. 112p. ISBN 9781608862603. pap. $13.99. F
Under its kids’ imprint KaBOOM!, BOOM started putting out Peanuts comic books this January, featuring original, new stories alongside reprinted classic Sunday strips. Schulz decreed upon retiring that the newspaper strip would cease, but apparently his edict didn’t extend to comic books and graphic novels. Certainly, these new stories can be enjoyed by lovers of the original strip together with their children, who are meeting these quirky characters for the first time. Since BOOM announced the series, the web has been vibrating with praise for Schulz and how Peanuts inspired fans to want to draw comics themselves. Says poster Trevor Reece: My wish for the new Peanuts comic books is that they can mean to someone what the Peanuts comic strip meant to me and millions others.

Smith, Jeff. RASL: The Lost Journals of Nikola Tesla. Vol. 4. Cartoon Bks. Aug. 2012. 144p. ISBN 9781888963328. pap. $16. F
RASL is an art thief who steals paintings across parallel universes. Comprising at least 14 comic books and several collections, the gritty, sf noir series combines corruption and cutting-edge physics. Smith is known for his all-ages Bone, but this decidedly adult series establishes his mastery of storytelling for mature audiences. This volume may be the last in the series, which has been reported to end with issue 15.

Sumerak, Marc (text) & Mike Hawthorne (illus.). Machine Teen: History 101001. Marvel. Aug. 2012. 120p. ISBN 9780785164869. pap. $14.99. F
Straight-A student, successful football jock, and the object of girls’ crushes, Adam Aaronson finds out to his shock that he’s a robot. And pretty quickly he’s got more problems than acing his next test or picking a prom date. This is a reprint of the first five issues of a 2005 series, previously collected that year. Perhaps Marvel is planning a new series or planning to drop Adam into an ongoing series.

Tezuka, Osamu. Message to Adolf. Vol. 1. Vertical. Aug. 2012. 592p. ISBN 9781935654438. $26.95. F
God of Manga Tezuka received a Kodansha Award in 1986 for this mature, provocative work, his last major manga before his death. A Japanese reporter assigned to cover the Berlin Olympics finds that his brother living there has been killed, somehow in connection with a secret message sent to Japan. The message, as it turns out, contains evidence that Hitler had Jewish blood, and so Nazi official Wolfgang Kaufman, living in Japan with his half-Japanese son Adolf, is charged with recovering the dangerous document. This Adolf’s best friend is a Jewish lad, Adolf Kamil, so he has no interest in Nazi anti-Semitism. As the reporter searches for clues about his brother and Kaufman searches for the document, the two young Adolfs become involved. For this seven-volume manga, Tezuka used a style more realistic than cartoony, with frighteningly good renditions of the third Adolf: Hitler. A real treat for lovers of historical fiction.

Van Lente, Fred (text) & Tom Fowler (illus.). Hulk. Marvel. (Season One.) Aug. 2012. 136p. ISBN 9780785163886. $24.99. F
Marvel’s Season One titles are original graphic novels offering modern retellings of superhero origin stories for the 21st century. Van Lente told Comic Book Resources that the military/Gamma Bomb element will be retained for Bruce Banner’s transformation into the Hulk. But he stressed that women’s roles are getting a makeover: We’ve given Betty [Ross] a new role. She’s still General Ross’ daughter…but we’ve made her an active member of the military, which sort of reflects how now the U.S. Military more actively recruits women and how they have a more active role in the military now then they did in the ’60s…. She’s very integral to the plot and is kind of a kick ass character in her own right. She’s not just the girl that Banner is pining after.

Yorifuji, Bunpei. Wonderful Life with the Elements: An Adventure Through the Periodic Table. No Starch Pr. Aug. 2012. 208p. ISBN 9781593274238. $16.95. CHEMISTRY
Who knew Scandium was a greedy industrialist or that Nitrogen wears a mohawk? Belly up to the periodic table and meet the elements, depicted as goofy cartoon humans. All the heavy elements are fat, of course, while the synthetic elements are robots. See the page for Potassium in this Japanese blog. As in Action Philosophers, serious intellectual material goes down more memorably when served with lighthearted irreverence. In Japan, Yorifuji is known for his Do It at Home ads on the Tokyo metro, reminding riders what not to do on the subway.

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).