Today we’re going to branch out from SFF comics and talk about a Boston-based artist who chronicles fans of mainstream SFF comics, movies, and TV shows with his black and white, single-panel, web comic, Our Valued Customers.
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Amazon has announced that they are launching a new imprint called Jet City Comics to publish original comics. Their flagship titles include adaptations of works by George R.R. Martin, Hugh Howey, and the authors of the bestselling Foreworld Saga (Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, Nicole Galland, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey and Cooper Moo).

Press Release follows…

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As a paid up member of the geek squad, there are two animation studios that I naturally revere above all others: Pixar and Studio Ghibli.

Studio Ghibli is, I don’t suppose many folks round here need telling, the spring from which such wonders as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and (personal favourite coming up) My Neighbor Totoro have flowed. As I understand it, its origins can be traced to the success of a much earlier film, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, which was an adaptation by Hayao Miyazaki (subsequently one of Ghibli’s co-founders) of his own manga.

I’ve never seen the film version of Nausicaa (I’d quite like to now – I assume it’s worth a watch, but maybe someone can confirm?), but I gather it’s a somewhat slimmed down version of the story told in the manga. That’s easy to believe, as said manga covers a lot of ground. Ground that’s so strewn with the themes, preoccupations and tropes that pervade Studio Ghibli’s later output that it feels completely convincing as the seed from which that great tree has grown. It almost feels as if all Miyazaki’s subsequent filmic output is hidden here in the pages of Nausicaa, in embryonic form.
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Tony Millionaire’s Billy Hazelnuts is a child-like fantasy, at once impossible but also intricately detailed. The story focuses on the love triangle between two children — a young girl inventor and scientist, and a literary boy who first tries to woo her with poetry — and a boy-type creature the mice made out of trash. The mice are hoping for a hero to save them from the woman with the rolling pin. The boy is hoping to learn enough science to make his love poetry more appealing to the object of his affections. The girl mainly wants to be left alone with her work.

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Higher Earth: An Epic SciFi Comic

Over on the Kirkus Reviews Blog today, I have a new post up on Boom Studio’s Higher Earth, written by Sam Humphries.

From the post:

Heidi lives on a trash planet. Bright circles in the sky open up and dump trash everywhere. People fight over the scraps dumped on them. Heidi lives alone and fights hard to keep what little she has. Rex is a soldier. He travels from Earth to Earth. Is he running from something or to it? When he finds Heidi, everything changes for them both. Rex convinces Hedi she needs to come with him, and drags her first to a Sunshine Earth full of refugees, then to an Earth that never had an extinction level event and is full of dinosaurs. Everywhere they go, they are pursued and attacked by the agents of Higher Earth. When Rex is badly wounded, Heidi learns the truth about who she is, why she was living on that trash planet, and has to make a choice to either trust Rex and embrace her destiny, or run for her life. Forever.

Click over to the Kirkus Reviews Blog to read the rest of the review.

Andrew P. Mayer‘s third steampunk superhero novel — a fantastic and fun read called Power Under Pressure  — came out from PYR Books in January. It’s the third book of his Society of Steam trilogy, following The Falling Machine and Hearts of Smoke & Steam. These stories capture the feel of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells while being set in Victorian New York City, where Mayer was born. Mayer is a game designer who has also has written comic books and short stories. You can find Andrew online at societyofsteam.com, andrewpmayer.com/, and on Twitter as @AndrewMayer.


SFFWRTCHT: Andrew, congrats on the completion of your trilogy. What’s it like to have that complete cycle under your belt?

Andrew P. Mayer: I’m still breathing the same sigh of relief that I started when I handed in the book.  It’s nice to have the completed story out in the world after six years of work.
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In 2005, Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo published the first Trese comic. Not a cop, but working with them, Alexandra Trese and her faithful assistants solve the crimes that can’t be brought before a judge. Manila is her city, left to her by her father and his father before him, and she’s going to protect the people in it by whatever means necessary. When you live in a Manila where all of the old Filipino folklore is true, that involves making deals with some monsters, and destroying others.

Originally the Trese komiks were photocopied ashcans, passed around through fans and sold whenever you could find the author or artist to buy one. The graphic novels are published by Visual Print Enteprises, a small press in the Philippines. Their financial success, popularity, and awards led Tan and Baldisimo to sign with Flipside Publishing Services Inc., which is currently releasing the individual issues as eBooks. But even now, as huge as the komik’s creators are at home, they’re still considered outsiders, unknown by most US readers.

Those of you who are just hearing about Trese for the first time have been missing out on something amazing.

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[Outside the Frame] Strange Attractors by Charles Soule (Archaia)

Archaia Entertainment has a promising new comic on the horizon with Charles Soule’s Strange Attractors. The book is a love letter – partly to New York city, object of affection for so many writers and artists, and partly to math, which Soule credits with the power to keep chaos at bay. From the publisher:

A young graduate student discovers that his aging professor has been saving New York City from collapse by a series of “adjustments,” ala the Butterfly Effect, only to be informed that he must be the one to take over keeping the city alive. A grounded sci-fi thriller in the vein of Source Code and The Adjustment Bureau.

Strange Attractors (no, not this one) is written by Soule with art by Greg Scott, colors by Art Lyon and Matthew Perez, and includes beautifully intricate maps by Rob Saywitz. The story ventures into urban fantasy, in the sense that it needs the city to be its own character, another living, breathing, part of the tale. Without New York City being so intrinsically New York, there’s no story here. There’s otherwise little “fantasy” in the plot, which is very nearly science fiction. It must be, because of course such events couldn’t be occurring at this moment, keeping the greatest city in the nation alive and running… though, it could be true. Very nearly true, anyway.

It’s that doubt which puts the story into the realm of science fiction. Call it a potential future, and leave it at that.

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Daniel Clowes is an American cartoonist most well known for his book Ghostworld, which was made into a movie starring Steve Buscemi and Thora Birch, and Art School Confidential, a movie based on some of his comic strips. Clowes co-wrote the screenplays for both movies. He’s also created advertising campaigns, movie posters, and several covers for the New York Times.

Fans of his cartooning know him as the creator of Wilson, Mister Wonderful, and the long-running series Eightball, where half of his  comics first appeared (including Ice HavenArt School Confidential and The Death Ray). His work is solidly in the camp of the independent – small press, off-kilter, strange, and decidedly not mainstream. He got his start drawing for Cracked and then scored space in an issue of Love & Rockets, before finding a home for his first series Lloyd Llewellyn with Fantagraphics. They also published the original Eightball issues, though other companies later reprinted portions of them.
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When I started writing this column, I had a handful of comics I knew wanted to talk about. Stories that had affected me so much I wanted to tell the world about them. Elmer is one of those books I couldn’t forget.

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Over on the Kirkus Reviews Blog today, I have a post about the three-volume set of graphic novels based on Charlaine Harris’ Grave Sight.

Charlaine Harris is probably best known for her Sookie Stackhouse books, which serve as the foundation for HBO’s popular True Blood television show.  But another fan favorite is the Harper Connelly series (four books) that follow title character Harper Connelly and her stepbrother, Tolliver Lang.  Harper has the power to find the dead and see their last moments, revealing how they died.  She uses that power to eek out a living by sharing the information with the living.

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French cartoonist Lewis Trondheim brings a darkly humorous book to Fantagraphics with the publication of Ralph Azham 1: Why Would You Lie to Someone You Love? Trondheim previously worked Bourbon Island 1730 with co-writer Appollo, on the long-running series Dungeon with Joann Sfar, and has a number of other titles not yet available in English. Ralph Azham was previously published in French, and Book 1 translates the first two issues of the original series into a landscape-style 8.5″ x 6.625″ hardback.


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As I’ve mentioned before, Archaia Entertainment continues to publish some of the most beautiful work in indie comics today. Produced under the direct supervision of The Jim Henson company, Tale of Sand illustrates some of Henson’s most surreal moments of imagination. It’s a gorgeous book, combining a lost screenplay (written by Henson and his long-time writing partner Jerry Juhl between 1967 and 1974) with the art of Ramón K. Pérez. The complex visuals and recursive chronology add layer after layer to the tale.


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[Outside the Frame] My Favorite Comics of 2012

The holidays are a time to be thankful, to remember what was good about the year, and to give to others. Personally, I am thankful that I get to read ground-breaking comic books and talk about them every week on a Hugo-award winning fan site. While fans of mainstream comics had several reasons to be disappointed with the decisions made by the DC and Marvel – Before Watchmen, the New 52Marvel Now!, and the Batgirl firing/rehiring of Gail Simone are just a few of the controversial choices - 2012 was a great year for independent and small press comics. I looked back over my notes and put together a list of my favorite comics in case you missed something you’d love.

If you didn’t happen to find these great titles under the tree, you can always get them for yourself now (I won’t tell).

They’re listed in alphabetical order because all of these books are amazing, and it’d be difficult to rank them any other way. I’ve already reviewed a couple here at SF Signal (Click on the links to read my full reviews):

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The Wheel of Time Turns, and Ages Come and Pass

With A Memory of Light bringing The Wheel of Time to a close this month, over on the Kirkus Reviews Blog today I take a look at four volumes of the Wheel of Time Graphic Novels out from TOR and Dynamite.  Adapted by Chuck Dixon and illustrated by Mike S. Miller,  Chase Conley,  Andie Tong,  Marcio Fiorito and Francis Nuguit, these books take us from New Spring to the mid-point of The Eye of the World.

Click here to read more….

In episode 170 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester recaps your favorite SF&F:

  • Podcasts
  • Book Bloggers
  • News Websites
  • Publishers
  • Comics

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Archaia Entertainment not only produces some of the most beautiful work in comics today, but they helpfully allow you to search their titles by genre (see the list here) so you can pick out a new book based on what you’re in the mood to read, even if you’ve never heard of the creators. Fantasy, Noir, SciFi/Adventure, Horror, and even Historical Fiction comics are neatly organized for your reading pleasure. That their catalog includes works from Jim Henson, Alethea Kontis, and a guy who wrote about a missing shoggoth tells me they’ve got a good sense of what genre fandom wants to read.

A prime example is volume one of Rust, by Royden Lepp.

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[Outside the Frame] A Wombat, A Dead God, and A Hugo: Ursula Vernon’s “Digger”

This past August, Digger by Ursula Vernon won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story, beating out comics published by Vertigo and IDW, including such heavyweights of genre comics as Fables, Locke & Key, and The Unwritten. Before that, Digger had won the Web Cartoonists’ Choice Awards in the categories of Outstanding Black and White Art (2005, 2006) and Outstanding Anthropomorphic Comic (2006). It was also nominated for the 2006 Will Eisner Comics Industry Award for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition.

Now available as six trade paperbacks from Sofawolf Press, the series began first as a collection of illustrations, then as a webcomic through the Graphic Smash website, before Vernon started her own website to host the comic online. Digger has evolved, over the last several years, both in how the comic was presented to its readers and in Vernon’s drawing style.

But how does a comic that first became popular six years ago end up winning the Hugo in 2012?

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[Outside the Frame] Interview with “Tails” creator Ethan Young

Ethan Young, whose comic Tails I reviewed in my last column, is a Chinese-American artist born and raised in NYC. He’s worked on a wide array of illustration projects, including: comics books, storyboards, t-shirt designs, video games, character designs, print ads, book covers, album covers, logos, and much more. Thought there are similarities between himself and his cartoon namesake “Ethan” – who takes his work at an animal shelter, relationship troubles, and veganism from Young’s own background – the two are different enough that you can’t know the artist simply from reading his work.

Young was kind enough to sit down and answer a few of my questions via email…

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[Outside the Frame] The Best of Both Worlds: Tails, by Ethan Young

When you buy a comic from a mainstream publisher, a single issue or graphic novel produced by a team of big-name writers, artists, colorists, letterers, editors, and so on, you can generally expect that the book won’t be terrible. You may not like the style of art or you might feel the story was weak – or, worse, sends the characters off in a direction that doesn’t feel true to who you think they are – but you can usually agree that some effort was put into producing it. As you venture into the land of alternative and small press comics, you can’t always be sure of what you’ll get. Will the art look like it was done by a small child who’s only recently been allowed to play with sharpened pencils? Will the story feel like it was written by someone who’s never actually read a book before?

You take chances with independent comics because that’s the best place to find something new.  There are brilliantly written but poorly drawn web comics, and beautiful but weakly-scripted art comics, and a range of titles in between. Some creators make stylistic choices, to be sure, and there are many comics by first time creators who will certainly get better. There is, above all, potential. It’s huge field. Anything could be out there.

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