From the Mailbag November 13

Based on the inspiration of Andrew Wheeler, I thought I’d launch a new feature here at I’ve been doing this long enough that I’m grateful to see a variety of books and comics submitted to me for review, although I won’t be able to get to full coverage of all of them. So I thought I’d provide some “sneak peeks” and short thoughts on what I’ve gotten in the mail this past week. Not everything is free, though; I also order various books, so this will show some idea of what I’m planning to read outside of the reviews I’m writing.

Let me know what you think, or whether I should bother continuing.

First Second is bringing Derek Kirk Kim’s Same Difference back into print next month in an attractive hardcover with a distinctive transparent dust jacket. These slice-of-life stories as a young Korean-American are skillfully illustrated. I’m lucky enough to own the older self-published version, and I look forward to comparing the two. I’ve already noticed that this new book has one big improvement over the previous: a readable title on the spine.

I quit getting the Dark Horse Little Lulu reprints after Volume 18 because I was just running out of space for them. I hadn’t realized how long they’d kept going — they’re now up to book 29 in the series! They switched to color reprints just after I quit, it seems, and this book, The Cranky Giant and Other Stories, collects two themed specials from 1958, Marge’s Little Lulu and Tubby at Summer Camp #2 and Marge’s Little Lulu and Tubby Halloween Fun #2 (with Witch Hazel stories). Read over the winter holidays, this’ll provide a reminder of the enjoyment to be had at other times of the year. The kids’ comics are always entertaining and well-told — I think a couple of the stories in here, I’d read as a youngster in digest form.

After a mixup due to a distribution change, I was happy to get the latest batch of Toon Books, including the much-anticipated Nina in That Makes Me Mad! I’m way behind in what was intended to be a monthly Great Graphic Novels for Kids column (that last one was in February), but that means I’ve got a foot-high stack of good reading to tell you about sometime this month. I’ll definitely recommend the Toon line, since their books are always entertaining and sturdy.

Jumping audiences, I appreciate the intent behind Sparkplug’s Gay Genius, an anthology exploring “queer history makers”, but I’ve lost my taste for scratchy, primitive, outsider-style indie art comics. It’s shallow of me, perhaps, but I prefer prettier art, or that with more visible craft. (I also found it a little weird that the review package arrived with a note signed “Dylan Williams” when he passed away two months ago. I’m glad to see the publisher continue, but I would hope they would update their templates.)

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt is an odd but rewarding experiment, a “novel in pictures” that tells its story through captioned vintage images, over 600 pieces of memorabilia in all. The book’s trailer pretends to show the construction of the scrapbook, and the publisher has posted sample pages (PDF). It’s about Frankie Pratt, an 18-year-old New Hampshire village girl in 1920 who wants to be a writer. As she grows up, she attends Vassar, struggles in Greenwich Village, and runs away to Paris to heal a broken heart. It’s great fun to read, with the added thrill of feeling like you’re seeing someone’s diary, with pictures. Author Caroline Preston knows her history, and the glimpses of daily life are illuminating — having to eat only what you grow or raise yourself and making your own clothes in a world that’s beginning to be affected by mass marketing and media-created dreams. Until I read this, I couldn’t imagine what it was like to go to college with a prescribed wardrobe and such restrictive, protective rules. Preston’s next “scrapbook novel” is planned to tell the story of a bride’s first year of marriage from 1959-1960. I’m eager to see it.

Charley’s War: Hitler’s Youth reprints a British war comic from the 1980s. This is volume 8 in the series, but I wanted to check it out because it provides strip commentary from writer Pat Mills, and I’m always interested in hearing creators talk about their work, especially in retrospect.

I thought 60 Ways To Leave Your Mother (Alone) might be cute, since it was described as “an affectionate look at childhood misadventures in suburbia”, but I wasn’t paying enough attention to the details. $21.95 for 32 pages is just too expensive for what this is, memories of more significance to the author than the reader. The colors are lovely, but I lost interest in the content — brother and sister squabble over a chair or eat happy meals — even before the book was over.

Breathe Deeply is a thick single-volume manga from One Peace Books, a “medical thriller” about two men inspired by the loss of the woman they both loved. A flip-through shows lots of hospital scenes, attractively illustrated with a bit more shading and detail than used in the typical manga style.

After Ed’s review of Princess Knight, I knew I needed to read it for myself, so I ordered a copy. I’ve had mixed luck in the past with the work of Osamu Tezuka. I know he’s essential to the history of manga, but that doesn’t make his books good reads for someone today. However, this one sounds like it has enough hooks for me — a girls’ adventure story better suited to Tezuka’s cutesy-pie style than some of his more “meaningful” attempts — that I’ll enjoy it.

I also thought I’d better pick up a couple of the out-of-print Boom! Muppet Show collections before they disappear completely. When my mom and I were at Disney World last month, I got a thrill showing her, on the back of one of them on-sale in the Muppet store, a quote from my website. That one is Family Reunion, so I bought myself a copy. (I think that someone who uses you as a pull-quote should send you a copy of the book, but maybe that’s selfish or greedy of me.) I also picked up the first (and best?) collection, Meet the Muppets.

4 Responses to “From the Mailbag November 13”

  1. Torsten Adair Says:

    Charlie’s War fictionalizes World War I from the viewpoint of a volunteer (who lies about his age). When published in magazines, many veterans praised the historical accuracy and storylines.

    DH is publishing big B&W omnibuses of Little Lulu. Chock full of story!

    Hilary Knight is best know for illustrating the Eloise books.

    And Drops of God is amazing! (The other big book from Vertical)

  2. DeBT Says:

    I have to second support for Charley’s War, since it is highly regarded as “the best WWI comic ever created”. Considering all the other war comics created since then, it easily knocks out any competition off the table. It’s made all the more remarkable that it was only published in three/four-page segments a week. You think writing 22-page comics a month is a daunting task? Try telling a continuing narrative with those kinds of restrictions. It’s a wonder Pat Mills was able to keep that kind of natural suspense up for so long.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Thanks so much for the additional information, guys! I’m looking forward to reading it more now.

  4. Nat Karmichael Says:

    Keep going! The world needs more people reviewing more comic-related product, especially non-mainstream. I may not agree with all you write (I quite liked ’60 Ways’ for example), but the fact you have expressed your opinion is worth celebrating… More!!




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