Welcome to 2016. I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions per se, but I do hope to continue to recommend great comic books, graphic novels and collections to you. I’d also like to do fewer negative reviews this year, but sometimes I just gotta let you know when an item isn’t worth your hard-earner cash.
My first pick of the week for 2016 is Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz [BOOM! Studios; $34.99]. In celebration of the launch of the Peanuts newspaper strip 65 years ago, editor Shannon Watters gathered over 40 of today’s best cartoonists to honor, arguably, the greatest cartoonist of them all.
Schulz changed comic strips forever. He created a new kind of comic strip, introducing characters who are beloved to this day, and he did it all by himself. Every story, every gag, every drawing, every word balloon, every sound effect…all the work of one phenomenally talented individual. No one has ever equaled his achievement and I seriously doubt anyone ever will.
Peanuts is pretty much a touchstone for all comics creators, even those whose work appears in comic books and graphic novels instead of newspaper strips. In his introduction, Lincoln Pierce writes of how Peanuts shaped his career. In her afterword, the great Paige Braddock relates the ongoing efforts to bring new Peanuts comics to modern readers while keeping them faithful to the Bible according to Schulz. In between, we get cartoonists bringing their talents to Peanuts characters and talking about how much Schulz means to them. You can feel the love on every page of this book.
I risk being churlish by mentioning just a few of the many talented contributors to this book, but I can’t resist. Stan Sakai and Julie Fujii take Charlie Brown on a delightful “Escapade in Tokyo.” Terry Moore does a rock-solid Schulz riff. Jimmy Gownley had me getting a little misty. I kind of feel I should hug Jeremy Sorese, Hilary Price, Shaenon K. Garrity, Melanie Gillman and Molly Ostertag for the joy their pieces brought me.
I don’t choose my picks of the week lightly. When I designate some book that way, it signifies a book I can’t imaging any comics fan or library being without. Maybe we can get a sequel for Peanuts’ 70th anniversary. Or sooner.
Having enjoyed greatly the occasional issue of the Garfield comic books published by Kaboom/Boom, I resolved to collect the series in trade paperback. Garfield Volume One [$13.99] hit the bookstores in December of 2012, but it’s as fresh as a just-cooked lasagna in the microsecond before my favorite comics cat devours it.
This first volume collects Garfield #1-4. All the stories in those issues were written by Mark Evanier. Full disclaimer: Mark has been one of my dearest friends for half a century and one of the finest men I know. But, as long as we’re being honest, if I didn’t enjoy this book, I would have just not reviewed it.
I love the way Mark’s mind works. He can do the Garfield go-to gags with the best of them, but he can also get laughs from discovering a valuable old comic book or an alien power rod or a “truly magic wishbone.” He can also tug at your heartstrings with his tale of a very smart little girl. His stories are suitable for all ages and accessible on multiple levels. His words and the art by such spiffy drawers as Gary Barker, Dan Davis and Mike DeCarlo are just right. Not too much, not too little, just right.
Books like Garfield Volume 1 are a joy to me on two levels. First and foremost, I get a kick out of reading them. Second and almost as important to me, I can learn from them. The day I stop trying to add new techniques to my writing is the day I stop writing.
There have been six volumes of the Garfield books to date. I plan to savor them all.
Garfield Volume One:
Jack the Ripper, that legendary slayer of women in the Whitechapel of 1888, is immortal in fact and fiction. His actual identity has never been proved conclusively, which has led to speculation that ranges from insane to insightful. There’s a thin line between fact and fiction when it comes to the Ripper.
Jack the Ripper by writer Francois Debois and artist Jean-Charles Poupard [Dark Horse; $17.99] collects the French comics classic in English. The story is largely set after the Whitechapel slaughter. Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline is obsessed with solving the crimes, but madly unfolding events suggest there is so much more to Jack the Ripper than Abberline ever dreamed. Each new lead carries Abberline further into darkness.
Debois builds the horror over the hundred pages of this frightening story. Poupard’s art captures the era and the sinister mood of the situation. Color artist Guillaume Lopez enhances the work. The book is a fine addition to Ripper fiction and well worth checking out.
In the weeks and months to come, I’ll be reading and reviewing many of Marvel’s post-Secret Wars relaunches as well as new comics from other publishers. I’ll also be reading and reviewing collections of classic comics, graphic novels, manga and even the odd movies and TV series. I’ll even be taking your requests on comics you’d like me to review and comics industry issues you’d like me to discuss. Don’t be shy about posting your comments and requests at the end of this and future columns. Your thoughts mean a lot to me.
I’ll be back next week with more reviews.
© 2016 Tony Isabella