Were it not for the 3D -- a concept I am yet to be sold on in any medium -- it would appear that Study Group head honcho Zack Soto gazed into the musty abyss that is my head-space and fashioned the new Study Group anthology accordingly. At 96 pages, it contains comics by some of the artists I'm most excited by right now: Connor Willumsen, Sophie Franz, Mia Schwarz, Benjamin Urkowitz, Pete Toms, David King, Julia Gfrorer & Sean T. Collins, and more.
It's always the way isn't it? The very day I put in my order for a Spanish edition of Belgian artist Olivier Schrauwen's Mowgli's Mirror, Retrofit announce they'll be publishing it in English next year, as part of their 2015 line-up. That's a really nice acquisition for Retrofit, who have been going from strength to strength since their inception, with their slate for next year looking especially strong with books from Andrew Lorenzi, Kate Leth, Laura Knetzger, Laura Lannes, Maré Odomo, Matt Madden, Sophie Franz, Yumi Sakugawa, and Steven Weissmann.
Meka took me by surprise. Admittedly, this state of affairs was, in significant part, was derived from the previous JD Morvan/Bengal collaboration I'd read: Naja, and a blurb that pitched it as "giant robot vehicle crashes in war-zone leaving human pilots stranded and fighting for survival," causing my expectations of this title to veer from "very excited" to "considerably neutral." And to a point, that's an accurate summation, but a superficial one, a starting point, because what Meka essentially is, is a thoughtful treatise on the "in-between" of war, lifted into exceptional territory by the sheer, stunning power of Bengal's art.
Breakdown Press, currently the most interesting outfit operating in UK comics, continues apace with the publication of exciting book after exciting book. Earlier this year, in June, it announced the launch of a new line of translations of classic and avant garde Japanese comics in association with manga scholar and translator Ryan Holmberg (who previously worked with PictureBox in a similar capacity), the first of which was Seiichi Hayashi 1969 'blues manga,' Flowering Harbour.
The second book in the publisher's alternative manga line will be Masahiko Matsumoto's The Man Next Door, collecting four gekiga stories from the 1950s. The book will be released to coincide with the London Cartoon Museum’s Gekiga exhibition, which begins on September 23rd, and will be available online at the Breakdown Press store shortly after.
Tony Millionaire's Sock Monkey stories are a superb example of the unparalleled story-telling that only the medium of comics can offer, so the announcement of a new book featuring Uncle Gabby, Mr. Crow, and Inches the doll is exciting news. For those unfamiliar with Sock Monkey, it's a strange but satisfying amalgamation of traditional, old school children's books (particularly in terms of narrative style), ostensibly following the escapades of a monkey made from a a sock, a stuffed crow, and a creepy porcelain doll, but crossing into darker themes and horror, as the eccentric, superficial innocence of the set-up meets a very human realism.
Written in collaboration with animation director Matt Danners, Into The Woods finds the toys convinced that their human owner, Ann-Louise, has been kidnapped by a vicious monster dubbed the Amarok, and so they embark on a mission into the Haunted Woods to rescue her and bring her home.
The 2014 Ignatz Awards took place on Saturday evening, and were, by all accounts, a lively affair, topped off with a wedding in which Australian comics star Simon Hanselmann was betrothed to the medium itself! While what's referred to as the independent/small press comics scenes is by no means perfect, it is certainly more progressive, with the changes, representation, and greater equality that's rallied for in mainstream comics already present here to a significant degree, as can be seen reflected in the comics nominated, the nominees themselves, and the winners.
One of the difficulties in keeping up with small press comics -- particularly with readers newly interested in the area -- is that it can be so bitty: a plethora of artists self-publishing with their individual websites and stores, independent imprints releasing books which aren't listed in Diamond's catalogue, and so forth. Comic readers are used to dates shifting around, but this puts the more of an onus on the reader to search out what titles are releasing when -- and that's if they're aware of the publications in the first place. So the launch of Small Press Previews, a website that brings together over 40 small press publishers, allowing them to upload information about what they're releasing each month: information, previews, where-to-purchase deatils, is a very welcome and useful resource.
In celebration of her Ignatz nomination for 'Outstanding Mini-comic,' the fantastic Yumi Sakugawa has made the whole comic, titled Never Forgets, available to read for free -- but you only have until the 14th of September to take advantage of the offer, after which the link will be taken down. And take advantage you should. Sakugawa's a fine, fine illustrator and cartoonist, best known for her comic book, I Think I Am In Friend Love With You, and If you haven't come across Sakugawa's work before, Never Forgets is a great introduction.
As everybody keeps saying in a rather dazed manner, it's stunning the amount of good to very good to excellent comics being produced at the moment, and I have a litany of fantastic and favorite people working in comics right now; a good portion of whom I've discovered via work published online. One of these is ace Swedish artist Hanna K., who you may know of her via her excellent Legend of Zelda comic which blew up Tumblr. Her Tumblr is the best place to acquaint yourself with her work: she makes wonderful, giffed comics, like this one, called Owl Cafe. She's also published a couple of books with Swedish publishers, Peow! Studio; Third Wheel, a beautiful, fluro-blue riso-graph tale about a couple of kids encountering a strange being in a ruined future, is due for a September re-stock. I recommend keeping an eye out for that re-print so you can nab yourself a copy. If you need further convincing, you can see a gorgeous eight-page preview of it here.
Here's another reason to love Hannah K.- this week she tweeted some pictures of her notebook showing off an adorable, ultra-modern, and very comfy-looking teen Catwoman re-design.
Geof Darrow made a welcome return to the pages of the Dark Horse Presents anthology recently, in the first issue of its latest relaunch, with a new Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot story. Missing was Darrow's collaborator on the original 1995 comic, Frank Miller; in an interview prior to the release of the new short story, Darrow said he'd talked to Miller and hoped he would still come on board to write some dialogue, but it didn't read as overly convincing, so it wasn't a surprise to see him listed as the sole author in this edition. Needless to say, a Miller-less Big Guy makes for a very different reading experience.