Last week, I mentioned that Lost in the Andes, Fantagraphics' amazing new book Donald Duck stories by Carl Barks, had one of the weirdest Christmas stories I've ever read. And for me, that's saying something: Christmas comics are one of the few things I go out of my way to collect regardless of who the creators are and who puts them out. I love the darn things, and over the years, I've read hundreds of 'em, going back through my favorites every year.
And even with all that, The Golden Christmas Tree might just take the fruitcake. After alll, most of the other Christmas stories I've read don't involve a harvest of tears or someone turning into a woodchipper.
If you're a regular ComicsAlliance reader, then you already know that I'm pretty fascinated by the weirder comics of the past, but at Christmastime, my thoughts turn to more heartwarming tales. As soon as that calendar flips over to December, 'tis the season for Santa Claus, presents, the occasional talking Christmas tree that Wonder Woman rescued from the Nazis by holding a door shut and talking about how it felt like being spanked. I mean, yeah, they're still pretty weird, but they've got that Christmas spirit!
Case in point: "A Christmas For Shacktown," the title story in the latest Fantagraphics collection of Disney Duck tales by the legendary Carl Barks. At 32 pages, it's a sprawling epic (By Barks' standards, anyway) that hits those beautiful Holiday themes of altruism and the spirit of giving. Although to be fair, it does get a little closer to cannibalism than most other Christmas comics.Our story begins as Donald Duck's three nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, are taking a shortcut home from school through Shacktown, the hard-luck side of Duckburg where Calisota's poor gather together in sub-Dickensian poverty. Now, you'd think that a city built around the most successful businessman in the history of the world would be prosperous enough that even the bad neighborhoods would be doing all right, but apparently McDuck industries isn't the proven job creator that you might expect. If I had to guess, I'd say it's probably because its owner keeps three cubic acres of cash in a gigantic bin on top of a nearby hill, but I'm no economist. That's a different Chris Sims.
In mid-September of 2011, cartoonist Lucy Knisley and her friend Jane, who worked in the wine business in France, were at a tasting after-party when their host observed they both had unconventional careers. He put this down to the fact that they were in their "age of license," that time in your life when you're young and free enough to experiment.
Knisley took the phrase for the title of her next book, one of the two travelogues that Fantagraphics will be publishing. An Age of License, due this fall, chronicles a 2011 trip to attend a Norwegian comics convention, which Knisley uses to visit friends and family in Europe, and spend an extremely intense time with Henrik, a Swedish boy she had just met in New York. The second book, Displacement, is scheduled for summer of next year, and tells the story of a 2012 cruise with her elderly grandparents.
Both trips took place between the time she had completed Relish, her acclaimed, three-years-in-the-making memoir about food and growing up, but before First Second had published it in 2013, which seemingly catapulted the young, not-yet-thirty artist into a whole new level of cartooning success than she had been able to achieve with her previous work, like the 2008 travelogue French Milk and her mini-comics and anthology contributions.
The two new travelogues obviously aren't due in comics shops any time soon, but that doesn't mean the announcement didn't get a lot of folks excited, us included. We took the opportunity to talk to Knisley about the books, how they compare to her previously published work and what we can look forward to from them.
When Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson died earlier this year, the company suffered more than just the loss of one of its key figures. As an editor, Thompson was responsible for a great deal of the translation and distribution of European comics, and with his sudden, unexpected diagnosis of lung cancer and his death just four months later, the publisher had to delay a third of their line. As you might expect, this caused a pretty significant financial shortfall.
Now, the company is turning to its readers to make up the difference. In order to support their Spring line of titles, including work by Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Floyd Gottfredson, Don Rosa, Dan Clowes, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez and more, they're attempting to raise $150,000 via Kickstarter. Check out more information, as well as a very, very strange Kickstarter video, below.
Charles Forsman’s recently concluded 16-part miniseries The End of the F**king World(or TEOTFW in Fantagraphics’s upcoming bookstore-friendly collection) is a rare bird, especially in today’s near-completely Balkanized comic book market; a genuine crowd pleaser. I’ve worked in comic book shops since before I started high school, and what pains me the most consistently about the otherwise delightful years I’ve put in is how little comics communicates with itself. The way so many comic book readers retrace their footsteps every Wednesday to the same superhero comics they bought last week, or the same mini comics they bought last week, or the same “indie” comics, or whatever is most familiar. As a fan of comics the medium more than any one set of stylistic gestures, I always just wish that everyone would reach across the aisles and try a little bit of everything. Of course, the reading public is hardly to blame for walking around in the blinders clapped on by an industry more comfortable with rehashing the stories that played five years ago or cannibalizing the signifiers of so-called “nerd culture” than creating books that honestly appeal to a wide group of people.
For the past year and change, though, TEOTFW did exactly what I wish every comic had the ability to do: grabbed anyone who took a look and forced them into a deeply compelling story much easier to stay inside of than leave.
When it comes to San Diego Comic-Con, every publisher approaches the show a little bit differently. Whether they house cosplay contests, interactive displays, photo ops with talent, creator signings and/or a whole lot of purchasable product, SDCC booths are an opportunity for the publishers that can attend to make a big impression on one of the most attended pop culture gatherings of the year. You can get a sampling of what publishers like Marvel, DC, Archie, Boom!, IDW, 2000 AD, Dark Horse, Image, Fantagraphics, Oni and others were up to on the show floor of this year's SDCC after the cut.
There was almost no way I wasn't going to enjoy Lost Cat. The latest Fantagraphics book from Norwegian cartoonist Jason, it was billed as a crime noir tale with a nod to Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. Essentially, this was one of my favorite cartoonists telling a story in one of my favorite genres. So while my enjoying it seemed almost assured, it ended up being more than I expected. A commentary on longing and isolation with a twist that should seem out of place yet somehow works perfectly, Lost Cat isn't just my favorite comic of 2013 so far, but it's now my favorite work by one of the greatest cartoonist working in comics today.
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