While Fantagraphics goes to Comic-Con every year, they also have a little something for those of us who can’t be there: Their annual Comic-Con weekend sale. Any books you buy through the Fantagraphics Store are 20% off with the promo code SDCC. As they say in the ad, “It’s all the excitement of Comic-Con, without the sweaty cosplayers!”
OK, that was hyperbole, but there are some pretty good deals here, whether you’re interested in something new or catching up with a classic. Here are some of our top picks.
BTTM FDRS: I confess I haven’t read this yet, but it’s at the top of my “Do Want!” list. It’s by two rising stars, Ezra Claytan Daniels (Upgrade Soul) and Ben Passmore (Your Black Friend), it’s set in Chicago, and Victor Lavalle describes it as “Gentrification horror at its finest.” So much to love here!
Dementia 21: To be honest, I can get my fill of Japanese horror rather quickly, but Shintaro Kago kicks it up to the next level in this collection of short stories about a cheery home health aide moving through a series of increasingly weirder patients. Just as an infection can start with a little nick and take over the entire body, each of Kago’s stories starts with some ordinary thing—a relative being dropped off at a patient’s home, wrinkle cream, cars—then hops on the crazy train and jams the throttle. The stories don’t so much end as collapse from exhaustion, and this is a good book to read a story at a time. It’s definitely not to be missed, especially for lovers of surrealistic body horror.
Set to Sea: Drew Weing’s tale of a poet who is shanghaied and pressed into the life of a sailor is stunningly beautiful, and the book itself is a small gem. Each page is a single panel, often wordless but rich in detail and narrative elements. Weing’s art brings an old-fashioned pen-and-ink feel reminiscent of bigfoot cartooning to a delightfully original story. This book is a small gem, one to be savored over and over again.
Soldier’s Heart: Quite simply, I regard Carol Tyler’s family memoir as the single greatest graphic work of the 21st century. Tyler has a superb ability to weave the words and action of a story into a visual whole, often bringing layers of meaning into a single image. She also has an impeccable ear for late 20th century dialogue. The heart of the book is the darkness her father experienced in World War II, and she uses his old photos and letters, images of wartime and the postwar years and her superb ability to not just draw the elements of her story but arrange them on the page to show how the trauma of war affected her whole family, even those who, like her, were not even born until long afterward. Seriously, if you only buy one book, this is the one.
The Kurdles: This all-ages story starts with an unwanted teddy bear being tossed from a car. Instead of finding her way home, Sally ends up in a strange community of odd animal-like characters and helps them face a crisis: Their house is growing hair, eyes, and a moutn, and will grow legs and run away if they get out the shears and trimmers and give it a massive haircut. Imaginative and beautifully drawn, The Kurdles has a lot for kids and adults alike to enjoy.
Kramers Ergot 10: The legendary, oversized, alt.comix anthology recently returned with a new edition edited by Sammy Harkham, and it’s loaded with talent: R. Crumb, Dash Shaw, David Collier, Anouk Ricard, C.F., Jason Murphy, Blutch, Shary Flenniken, Johnny Ryan, John Pham, Ron Regé Jr., Simon Hanselmann, Anna Haifisch, Ivan Brunetti, David Amram, Helge Reumann, Frank King, Steve Weissman, Aisha Franz, Leon Sadler, Adam Buttrick, Archer Prewitt, Connor Willumsen, Bendik Kaltenborn, Will Sweeney, Rick Altergott, Kim Deitch and Marc Bell. It features a cover by Lale Westvind, and no doubt has plenty to enjoy within its 168 pages.
O Josephine!: You can see where my head’s at; when you’re not at Comic-Con, you want all the new books publishers no doubt have stacked on their tables. For instance, the new graphic novel from one of my favorites, Jason, which collects four short stories. His minimalist artwork is a comfort food to me, so I’ll be adding it to my shopping cart in the very near future.
Hobo Mom and Bastard: OK, for my last two picks, I’ll go with some books I have read. I picked Bastard by Max de Radiguès as one of my favorite books of 2018, so obviously I feel strongly about that one. Hobo Mom, which is by Radiguès and Charles Forsman, has a similar feel and themes, as they explore the ideas of parenthood and responsibility in a unique way. And I love how they tell it. Either of these would be fine additions to anyone’s bookshelves.
My Favorite Thing is Monsters: My Favorite Thing is Monsters is a unique murder mystery, taking place in 1960s Chicago but mixing in elements of pulp monster magazines and B-movie horror in the perspective of a 10 year old girl. Emil Ferris took home the Eisners for Best Graphic Album, Best Writer/Artist, and Best Coloring for one of the most decorated comics of 2018.
How to Read Nancy: When we think about textbooks examining the structure of comics, we often default to Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics or Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art. Both of these books are excellent educational references and staples for an English literature library, but a surprising new ‘must get’ in my eyes is How to Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels. Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden can deconstruct methodically a single classic Nancy comic down to its basic elements to present how visual storytelling in comics works, and does so in a fun way. This is another 2018 Eisner Award winner, for Best Comics-Related Book.