The last twelve months offered comic book readers a wide variety of work ranging from the most crowd-pleasing superhero epics to the most idiosyncratic of indies, and the return of old favorites to the emergence of exciting new talent. It was a busy and productive year for the industry, and one we’re pleased to celebrate with what we’re certain will be an uncontroversial, unenumerated list of awards that will prompt only resounding agreement and unbroken fellowship amongst our readers in the comments below.
Earlier this year, First Second released Box Brown's Andre The Giant: Life And Legend – a graphic novel biography of the wrestling legend that immediately jumped onto the New York Times bestseller list, and has been met with great acclaim from wrestling fans and comics critics alike. Our own Chris Sims described the book thusly:
"It shows Andre as a person. Not the giant with a dubious fifteen-year undefeated streak, not as the monster who was bodyslammed by Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III, not as the absent father that was put on blast by A Current Affair shortly before his death, and not even as the drinker and prankster behind the scenes in the world of wrestling. It shows him as all of those, as a person whose life was larger than everyone’s, but whose flaws were no bigger or smaller than anyone else’s. It makes the Giant relatable without ever undermining him. There’s a love in this book, but there’s an honesty, too, and it comes through in every scene..."
Recently, we got the chance to sit down and speak with Brown about the culture of professional wrestling, his artistic approach to comics, and how he went about adapting Andre's outsized life for a graphic novel.
Writer/artist Ben Hatke caught the attention of readers with his Zita The Spacegirl series, a trio of YA graphic novels from First Second that tell the story of an average earth girl who tries to save her best friend from an alien invasion -- and in the process becomes a spacefaring superhero. His latest project, Julia's House For Lost Creatures, is a picture book featuring a strange young girl who opens her home to goblins, faeries, mermaids, and all manner of fantastical monsters. ComicsAlliance sat down with him to discuss his approach to storytelling, and his upcoming projects.
Jen Wang first came to the notice of many comics fans with her incredibly assured 2010 debut, Koko Be Good, a grounded but beautiful tale of young adulthood set in contemporary San Francisco. Her follow-up, In Real Life, presents a younger protagonist and a more fantastical setting -- albeit one that's meant to be an escape from "real life," and proves to be an extension of it.
Based on Cory Doctorow's short story Anda's Game, In Real Life is the story of a young woman who learns about the world and herself through her interactions in the massive multiplayer online game Coarsegold Online. It's a story that showcases Wang's gift for emotional reality, and also to create the lavish fantasy of the game world. The result is one of the most resonant and compelling books of 2014. After speaking to Doctorow at New York Comic-Con, ComicsAlliance talked to Wang to learn what this story means to her.
If you’re like some of the ComicsAlliance staff, you have a great affection for deluxe edition books that offer historical overviews of various pop culture topics, reprint the great works of the comics medium, and/or collect classic storylines (and supplement them with all kinds of bonus material)… And with the gift-giving season now in full swing, you're likely looking for the perfect gifts for your follow geeks (or possibly, wanting to give your relations some suggestions for things you'd like this year, in lieu of another ill-fitting sweater). So as a public service, we've compiled this list of some of the best expensive, large, and mind-blowingly ornate titles that you can find at your local comic shop or from online booksellers.
Over the last few years, First Second's Adventures In Cartooning books have become something of a sensation. Created by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost, the at once entertaining, educational and even hilarious series follows the deeds of a magical cartooning elf and a knight as they help a princess to literally draw her way out of an encounter with a dragon and other harrowing scenarios; help Santa Claus inspire kids to trade their video games for books; assist an eccentric director in making a crazy movie; and go camping. Their blend of humor and clarity, welded to straightforward lessons on storytelling techniques, have met with acclaim from librarians and educators, and have inspired a generation of kids to start making their own comics with the drawing lessons and other activities built into the narratives.
We spoke to AIC co-creator Andrew Arnold about how he and his collaborators achieve the series' signature mix of smart, silly, and scholarly.
In Real Life tells the story of Anda, a young girl who discovers that video games aren't always an escape from the problems of everyday life. Immersed in the fictional world of massive multiplayer roleplaying game Coarsegold Online, she learns that her life inside the game can influence and shape her life outside it, and vice versa.
Published by First Second in October, In Real Life is adapted by Jen Wang from a 2004 short story by Cory Doctorow. ComicsAlliance recently sat down with Doctorow to discuss the feeling of seeing his work adapted to comic form, the ever-shrinking divide between virtual and real worlds, and the unconscious elements of design and storytelling.
In the overwhelmingly male comic book industry, it has been a challenge for some editors and readers to see the ever growing number of talented women currently trying to make a name for themselves. With that in mind, ComicsAlliance offers Hire This Woman, a recurring feature designed for comics readers as well as editors and other professionals, where we shine the spotlight on a female comics pro on the ascendance. Some of these women will be at the very beginning of their careers, while others will be more experienced but not yet “household names.”
Heidi Arnhold is a comic book artist (pencils, inks and colors) and illustrator whose work has included contributions to Archaia's Fraggle Rock comics and Tokyopop's Legends of the Dark Crystal and Star Trek: The Manga. A student of Savannah College of Art and Design's prestigious comic book training program, Arnhold's next work is an original graphic novel from First Second.
First Second is that rare thing in comics: a savvy publisher that is incredibly on the ball with future releases, announcing books up to two years in advance, and getting people excited about titles via promotion that's thorough, yet not in-your-face and bothersome. In that vein, I'm happy to share another of their upcoming books for 2015; Human Body Theater, a non-fiction biology guide by Maris Wicks (Primates), in which she acts as a master of ceremonies, leading readers through a theatrical revue of each and every biological system of the human body.
Starting out as a skeleton, the MC in Human Body Theater puts on a new layer of her costume (her body) with each "act." Wicks has long been passionate about science, having worked as as a science educator for elementary and middle-school students; a fact that's clearly evident when she talks about the book and its subject in our chat below -- and now that interest has combined with her artistic credentials to create this comics-format tour of the human body.
Jillian Tamaki’s work is a triumph of contradiction. It is lush, yet spare. Emotional, yet understated. Detailed, yet intriguingly simple. It is, at all times, astonishingly good. While reading This One Summer, which she created with her cousin, writer Mariko Tamaki, I found myself regularly putting the book down to better absorb the power of her pen. “Look at this!” I said, thrusting the book at nearby friends. “Look at that ocean! Look at those hands! Look at this part, where she does that flowy thing with the hair!” And my friends would look, and nod, and ask where I’d bought my copy so they could get one too.
As I strolled the aisles of the 2014 Small Press Expo, talk of Tamaki’s work was everywhere. Other creators I interviewed name-dropped This One Summer. Fans referenced Super Mutant Magic Academy, her soon-to-be-print-published webcomic, as a favorite. Aspiring artists called her an inspiration. She became, over the course of the weekend, an Ignatz Award winner. In the midst of this well-earned celebration, ComicsAlliance sat down with her to talk success, adolescence, and what’s coming next.