See Magazine talks upcoming comics

Here Come the Comics

See Magazine    |    See Magazine    |    February 18, 2011

The long-overdue death of the Comics Code Authority is quite a note to kick off a new year in comics.

Comics publishers established the CAA, similar to the former Hayes or Motion Pictures Production Code, after Congressional hearings on comic’s supposedly harmful effects. Now that Archie Comics has abandoned the code, it’s been rendered defunct.

What a marvelous signifier that the comics medium isn’t — and never was — mere pabulum for supposedly overly impressionable cherubs. Too bad men in tights are still looming; Google “most anticipated comics 2011,” and you get no shortage of articles touting the “Most Anticipated Superhero Movies of 2011.”

But enough bitching, this particular article is all sunshine. And the list it presents ignores superheroes altogether. Rather, the next several hundred words detail this nobody writer’s completely subjective picks for 2011’s most notable comics releases. If any books will make the diversity and potential of the medium shine this year, it’ll be these.

Scenes from an Impending Marriage (February)

Anything by the gifted Adrian Tomine should be trumpeted: his haunting 2007 Shortcomings was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book for that year. Perhaps no one, however, expected this lighthearted, loosely drawn collection of comic episodes concerning the artist’s own wedding.

In fact, Tomine’s fiancée suggests within the book that the project be a memento for guests. “I originally assumed that no one else would see the comic,” the cartoonist told this writer via email. Lucky us.

Mid-Life (March)

Montrealer Joe Ollmann’s 2007 This Will All End in Tears won best book at the Doug Wright Awards, the top honours for Canadian comics. Now comes his first book with perhaps the world’s premiere literary comics publisher, Montreal-based Drawn & Quarterly.

Mid-Life concerns the titular crisis of 40-year-old John, who becomes a father again with his much-younger second wife. Viewable at D&Q’s website, Ollmann’s arch drawing style conveys the sense of pins-and-needles stress that can accompany aging — both naturally, and prematurely.

Reunion (April)

The third book from the Quebec City artist, Pascal Girard, is behind the spare, emotionally direct Nicolas, which also comes directly on the heels of his recent Bigfoot. The semi-autobiographical Reunion recounts an invitation for Girard to attend his ten-year high-school reunion — and be the date of an old crush.

Two problems: Girard already has a girlfriend. And he needs to drop some weight.

“He’s at his peak, style-wise,” says Frederic Gauthier, co-owner of Montreal-based La Pasteque, Girard’s francophone publisher. “And he’s gonna be a star very soon.”

Here’s your chance to like him before he’s too popular.

Paying For It (May)

It’s been awhile, but acclaimed Canadian artist Chester Brown is back with his first original graphic novel since 2003’s Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography.

Flipping up the lid of Brown’s sex life, Paying For It shares his misadventures as a former john. It’s also billed as an argument for the sex trade itself. And in the wake of this past fall’s landmark Ontario court decision striking down prostitution laws, its timeliness couldn’t be better.

Hark! A Vagrant (Fall, TBA)

Beaton’s comics have appeared in Harpers and The New Yorker, but she’s almost certainly best known for her comics website — the recipient of over a million monthly hits — that lampoons famous literary and (Canadian) historic figures.

D&Q has acquired the rights to her next collection. Thou be on lookout.

Carl Barks’ Donald Duck (Fall TBA)

The blog Robot 6 at calls it “what is sure to be one of the most acclaimed comics events of 2011.”

As the blog explains, “the Barks library has been one of the great missing links in a time that many have dubbed the ‘golden age of reprints.’…Barks has long been regarded as one of the great cartoonists of the 20th century.”

Some have demurred, mind: in a 2008 blog entry at Sans Everything, in anticipation of the first D&Q reprint of Barks contemporary John Stanley’s Melvin Monster, comics historian/journalist Jeet Heer concluded “that Stanley was a much greater writer than Barks.” The debate took off from there in the comments.

Now any interested readers will have a better chance to decide for themselves.

Xerxes (Release date TBA)

One of comics’ biggest names returns in 2011: Frank Miller’s Xerxes, a prequel to the adapted-to-film-by-Zack Snyder 300, looks back to the rise of ancient Persian emperor Xerxes.

Never mind the criticism of 300, with no less than Hugo Award-winning comics writer/ demigod Alan Moore (Watchmen) attacking its historical accuracy. And forget that fans can’t decide whether it’s Miller or Moore who’s crazier (as per a forum poll).

This is a comics event that can’t be ignored.

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas: Old Growth (TBA)

From the artist behind 2009’s comics and indigenous art-bending Red: A Haida Manga, this is a new collection of thirty years’ of pre-Haida manga political cartoons. Published through Vancouver’s Grunt Gallery, the volume should interest anyone with admiration for Yahgulanaas’s inimitable output (also presently showing at Edmonton’s Douglas Udell Gallery).

“The appetite for my haida manga and comics has proven quite broad,” Yahgulanaas says.

And there’s no question he’s presently in great demand: he’s speaking at Bard College in New York state in April, with Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman (Maus).

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