January 2011 Previews: Indie Month, DC and IDW Recommendations, and Snark

Starting With Snark

This month is “Indie Edge Month” in Previews. As they describe it, it’s “our annual tribute to comics independent spirit” — missing apostrophe and all. I love the idea of highlighting excellent non-branded works, but the way it’s executed, there are a number of problems:

* The name. “Edge” implies that these books are in no way important to the center of the comic market — they’re out on the border, safely ignored most of the time.

* They can’t count. They promote a later spread in the catalog “featuring six of today’s most important small press publishers.” Those six? AdHouse Books, SLG Publishing, NBM Publishing, Sparkplug, and Fantagraphics. Those are all wonderful publishers putting out great books, but someone must have pulled out of the promotion at the last moment, or Previews ran out of space. I’d also quibble with calling Fantagraphics, successful publisher of the Peanuts reprints, “small press”, but that debate leads to lexicographical madness.

* Their sidebar. “The Majors Go Indie!” blares the headline, followed by this explanation: “Even the biggest publishers can embrace the indie spirit and produce works that are both cutting edge and not necessarily for your average readers.” That’s both sucking up and derogatory to those who would prefer to read works owned by people instead of corporations. Each of the premiere publishers then gets a book listed — for Marvel, it’s Strange Tales, in which notable creators played with the superheroes. That’s our Previews, constantly getting back to pushing the few publishers who prop up the direct market.

Free Comic Book Day t-shirt by Darwyn Cooke

It’s time to order for Free Comic Book Day, May 7 this year, but I wonder — of all the many pictures shown throughout the catalog of happy people enjoying comics at previous events, there are only three that don’t feature a child, and the majority of them show people in superhero costumes. As comics’ unofficial yearly holiday, is that the image people have? That comics are for kids and people who dress like idiots? The commemorative T-shirt, attractive as Darwyn Cooke’s work is, supports that idea, showing only DC superheroes. I support a more inclusive FCBD, but as I said before, the companies seem to be depending on brands already known elsewhere.

Back in 2006, DC sued Andrea Grant over a comic called the Minx. At the time, I thought it was because DC had put out a 1998 series of that name — but now we know it was because of the company’s short-lived girl-focused imprint. Now that that’s gone by the wayside, Grant is relaunching her title from Ardden Entertainment. It sounds atrociously derivative, an alternate reality dream warrior vigilante.

It’s a pleasant surprise to see Marvel bring back CrossGen, although I have to wonder about the strategy — two four-issue miniseries hardly seem worth the trouble. By the time anyone gets interested, the stories are over. Sigil seems to be continuing the prior company universe, while Ruse carries the flag for their more diverse genre series. I’m curious about checking out the latter, just to see how good the mystery is. I hope there is some mystery, anyway, since it’s about a Victorian detective.

DC Worth Reading

Finals cover

When Xombi first came out from Milestone in 1994, I was too young for it — it creeped me out too much for me to appreciate the science fiction behind it. Now, I’m looking forward to trying it again. #1 is due out March 16 from DC (JAN11 0259, $2.99 US); it’s by original writer John Rozum with art by Frazer Irving. I like the description of “contemporary urban horror” with technological undertones, although the “Super Hero twist” the catalog writer is so excited about seems unnecessary.

Woo hoo! Finally! DC is collecting the darkly funny Finals, a satiric look at college involving time travel, armed robbery, and cults by Will Pfeifer and Jill Thompson, as a Vertigo Resurrected (JAN11 0317, $7.99 US, March 9) book. I wish they’d include the alternate splash page and some background by the writer on the time period it was written, but I suspect this is just a straight reprint.

Also on my “this has been requested FOREVER, I can’t believe they’re finally publishing it” list — the first Sugar and Spike Archives (JAN11 0334, $59.99 US, August 31). Now, I do wish that they’d chosen the much cheaper Showcase paperback format for these charming tales, but maybe they thought color reprinting was necessary. (Does DC have a cheaper color reprint line than the Archives for older comics?) It’s just a shame that the younger audience that might enjoy these hilarious stories probably won’t have a chance to sample them in a 60-dollar hardcover. But at least this means we’re 1) getting to read these stories, at last and 2) the Archives aren’t dead yet.

IDW Worth Reading

There’s a second Best of Dan DeCarlo volume (JAN11 0543, $24.99 US, March 23), and the first of three Alex Toth books is resolicited. Genius, Isolated (JAN11 0542, $49.99 US, March 23) will cover Toth’s life and work through the early 1960s, including “the complete Jon Fury stories” (I’m assuming that’s important to his fans), with the next book, scheduled for October, continuing from that point.

Here’s what creator ownership means: IDW is publishing a Danger Girl collection of stories originally published by WildStorm. Or turning a 52-page $6 comic from 2001 — Superstar by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen — into an 80-page $15 paperback by adding never-before-seen development art.

Graphic Novels Worth Reading

Empire State cover
Empire State
Buy this book

The uniquely individual Jason Shiga (Bookhunter — which is available again from Sparkplug in this catalog, so avoid those jacked-up used prices) returns with Empire State: A Love Story (or Not) (Abrams ComicArts, JAN11 0881, $17.95 US, May 4). Jimmy travels cross-country to New York to finally reveal how he feels to Sara, but she’s involved with someone else. Sounds tortured, but I’d like to see Shiga’s take on the Big Apple.

Matt Howarth presents The Downsized (AdHouse Books, JAN11 0893, $6.95 US, March 30), the story of old friends reuniting at a 50th wedding party to look at where their lives have taken them. It’s described as “The Big Chill for the new millennium”, a tagline I love even though it’s also code for “old hippies didn’t expect to wind up where they are.” A preview’s available at the link.

Page by Paige cover
Page by Paige
Buy this book

I haven’t heard of Laura Lee Gulledge before, but this preview post has gotten me excited about her new book, Page by Paige (Amulet Books, JAN11 0911, $9.95 US, May 4). It’s about learning to become an artist in the big city (another New York-set volume) and growing into yourself.

I’m glad to see that The Comics Journal isn’t completely dead — with issue #301 (Fantagraphics, JAN11 1193, $30 US, March 30), they debut their book format. But at $30 for 600+ pages, I can’t help but think that smaller publications more often than annually would be friendlier to their customers. That’s a huge chunk of journalism to get through.

Matthew Loux’s Salt Water Taffy series is promising its fourth volume, and the first to start a continuing story. Jack and Benny go whaling this time, as suited to their distinctive Maine setting, in Caldera’s Revenge (Oni Press, JAN11 1275, $5.99 US, April 13).

Reviews of Titles Offered Again

If you’re curious about some of the indie books available again to order in this catalog, here are previous reviews:

Similar Posts: Fantagraphics Pushes More Retail Boundaries § January 2013 Previews § Why Isn’t Previews Online? § January 2012 Previews: Recommendations, Reminders, and Ramblings § Fantagraphics Goes Digital With ComiXology — All Major Pubs Now Available


7 Responses to “January 2011 Previews: Indie Month, DC and IDW Recommendations, and Snark”

  1. Anthony Says:

    DC offers the “Chronicles” line, a series of trade paeprbacks that reprint old stories in chronological order and in color, though they only seem restricted to the most popular superheroes (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash). Otherwise, there doesn’t seem to be any branded line of cheap color reprints.

    I’m surprised as well they’re releasing “Sugar and Spike,” given DC’s pretty thoroughly ignored their older humor comics in recent years (save what they did to the Zoo Crew in that miniseries), and their only modern humor books are the Johnny DC ones (and those mostly corporate-sibling licensed ones—Looney Tunes and Scooby-Doo). Maybe they’ll start to take a stronger interest in their older humor material (imagine Golden Age animation fans would be interested in reprints of “The Fox and the Crow”)?

    As for younger readers, wonder what they’d make of S&S given its similar premise to that of “Rugrats”… :-p

  2. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for the reprint info. It seems a hole in their line that might have an audience, to do more of those kinds of works. I’m all for more humor comics, from whatever era.

  3. James Schee Says:

    Antony beat me to the Chronicles line name, I’m honestly just surprised to see an Archive period though. I thought they had been replaced by the Omnibuses(saw a GL one, that collects the first 2 or 3 archives) Absolutes and DC Classics lines.

    Sure would be nice to see a new Legion of Superheroes one, its been 12 or 13 years since the last volume. Maybe if Levitz’s curent run gets super popular? Since I think the archives were getting close to his first run.

    I’m curious to see how the CrossGen books do, its been so long and the direct market has gotten even harsher towards things that “don’t count.”

    SIGIL was probably the least popular of their titles, so that’s an odd choice. Though the only thing this seems to have to do with the older series, is the lead has the same last name of the previous lead. So its probably the easiest to have a fresh take on, given that it never had a run that lasted long.

    I found some Ruse issues the other day for cheap. It was up and down for me in quality. When good it was really good, but there were some head scratchers too. I hope they can make it more than just a fake Sherlock Holmes with a female sidekick though. Good to use the arch type, but at times I wanted a little more departure so it didn’t seem like copying.

    That Finals link you did, was actually to an alternate opening page, not ending. Its a solid series, it along with My Faith In Frankie (a title in need of a better collection, not the microscopic one it had) were two Vertigo series that were great, but got overlooked in the general flood of books.

    Odd, for some reason the name Superstar by Busiek and Immonen sounds familiar, but I don’t remember anything about the book at all. Seems pricey for $15 though, but I’m sure Amazon will have it cheaper.

    I love that cover for Page by Paige, if I saw it on the cover I’d pick it up.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for the Finals correction; I updated the reference above. Superstar was the first Gorilla title, if anyone remembers that imprint.

    As for Sigil, it’s a great title in itself, because it sums up what people remember about CrossGen. I’m not sure I ever read the actual comic.

  5. James Schee Says:

    Oh yeah I was at Heroes Con for the Gorllla Launch party! You got a signed banana! lol

    SIGIL was the outer space one originally written by Barbara Kesel. I think it may have been the first CrossGen series release, but I don’t recall. For me it missed because the run started with a death of a female character (who was the most interesting of the cast) by one of the stupidest means I’ve ever seen. (in the middle of a fight she stops to hug a scared lizard and gets stabbed through the back)

  6. BobH Says:

    The hardcover format that started with the Kirby FOURTH WORLD reprints, and has been used for subsequent books by Kirby (OMAC, LOSERS, DEMON, the golden age S&K reprints), and the Ditko CREEPER, Kubert VIKING PRINCE and others, that’s cheaper than the Archives. Books longer than the Sugar&Spike reprint run about $40 in that format, instead of $60. It’s also a much more attractive format overall (I’ve bought a dozen books in that format during a stretch where I’ve bought none of the Archives published), and I’ve seen some of those books in stores, both direct-market and mass-market, that never carry any Archives. Of the formats DC currently publishes in, that’s the one I’d have picked for the Sugar&Spike book.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Yes, I agree, that sounds like a better choice, at least from a customer perspective.

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