Comix Leaves

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"Dirty Boxes"

Here are some things to look for in the coming months at your friendly, neighborhood comicbook store. Critic's picks are at the end.

Comix Grandmaster Will Eisner continues on a publishing schedule that shames people less than half his age. He has two new books coming out, beginning with "Moby-Dick," (NBM Publishing) in September. Though I wonder about wisdom of turning America's Greatest Novel into a very slim hardcover directed at children, who am I to argue with a man who's been doing comix since the 1930s? His other book, an original graphic novel (a term he invented), "The Name of the Game," comes out in November from DC comics. It sounds like another of his patented tales of urban Jewish families learning to assimilate in the New World.

"Jack Cole and Plastic Man"

Art Spiegelman will also be appearing on bookshelves again. He has two new projects coming out in the next months. "Jack Cole and Plastic Man," co-written with Chip Kidd, will be a softcover published by Chronicle books in September. It reprints the essay Spiegelman wrote about Cole and his creation for the New Yorker, but will be "profusely, wildly, insanely illustrated," according to Kidd.

"Little Lit: Strange Stories for Strange Kids"

Then in October Joanna Cotler books publishes a Spiegelman co-edited (with Francoise Mouly) anthology, "Little Lit: Strange Stories for Strange Kids." This hardcover follows the formula of last year's "Little Lit," a collection of off-kilter kids comix created by noted authors with and without comix experience. The new line-up includes work by Charles Burns, Maurice Sendak, Jules Feiffer, Paul Auster and David Sedaris.

Without having seen any of the work I can bet that certain debuts will be worth reading by virtue of who publishes them. Alternative Comics goes nuts with three new artists in October. "Shpilkes" by Frederick Noland, "Paper Theater," by Ben Catmull, and "Dirty Boxes," by Jacob Weinstein all have the blessing of the Xeric grant, a fund that supports new comix artists. In September watch for the mono-named Jason's "Hey, Wait..." from Fantagraphics. Highwater Books also has some new-comers in October: Mat Brinkman's "Teratoid Heights" promises documentary studies of fictional lifeforms and Brian Chippendale's "Maggots" tears 300 pages out of a 1500-page comix notebook.

"Blab" # 12

Though it amazes me that we have any at all, there are two coffee-table-style anthologies that come out each year. "Drawn & Quarterly Volume 4" arrives in September from Drawn & Quarterly, followed by Fantagraphic's "Blab #12" in October. "D&Q" includes classic reprints like early "Gasoline Alley" strips by Frank King, along with European and American artists. The "Blab" franchise leans on the less-comix, more graphic-arts side, with a greater avant-garde quotient. Frankly they both can feel overblown, but hi-end showcases like these need to exist.

"Peanuts: The Art of Charles Shulz"

Two noteworthy collections of daily strips, one old and one new, appear this fall. "Peanuts: The Art of Charles Schulz" (Pantheon), a softcover edited by Chip Kidd that appears in October, reprints 500 of Schulz's cartoons along with sketchbooks and never-before-published material from his archives. Maybe this book will explain how the word "genius" applies to that crudely-drawn dwarf's repetitious bumblings.

"Zippy Annual" #2

More meaningful to me are the repetitious mumblings of Zippy the Pinhead in the like-titled strip by Bill Griffith. "Zippy Annual" (Fantagraphics Books, October) collects the last year's-worth of this razor-sharp cultural critique and nonsense strip.

Binding chapbooks together into one "graphic novel" is where the real money is for many publishers, so there are lots of them. Fantagraphics has got Dan Clowes' "20th Century Eightball" (September), collecting whatever has never been collected before from his "Eightball" series; Gilbert Hernandez' "Luba in America Book 1," collecting the first five issues of "Luba" (September); and Joe Sacco's "Palestine" (September), which used to be two volumes of this war reporter's groundbreaking work. Also look out for Debbie Dreschler's wonderful coming-of-age story, "Summer of Love," which reprints the "Nowhere" series by Drawn and Quarterly (September).

"From Hell" Movie Poster

"From Hell," the second underground-comix-originated movie in one year (after "Ghost World") comes out in October. Based on Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's deeply creepy Jack-the-Ripper series of the same title, it stars Johnny Depp and Heather Graham. The original creators had nothing to do with the adaptation and it sounds dubious, but we shall see. Meanwhile the original authors are coming out with another single-issue comic, "Snakes and Ladders," self-published by Campbell in September. Apparently it involves Oliver Cromwell and the pre-Raphaelites and the history of the universe.

October will have several European works that sound interesting. Top Shelf publishes "Miniburger," an actual box containing a set of mini-comix selected by the Slovenian editors of "Stripburger," which will include works from Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia, Italy, and France. The Bries publishing company will put out "Louis Armstrong," by Philip Paquet, a Belgian, about Satchmo's early days, and "Tango with Death," by Ulf K., a German, made up of short stories involving ol' Mr. D.

"ACME Novelty Library" #15

Critics Picks There are two must-haves this fall, both from Fantagraphics, both from two of America's top artists, neither of whom has published new material in a year and a half. "Acme Novelty Library" #15 (September) will be Chris Ware's return to the form since the triumphant hardcover collection, "Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth." Lauded even by the mainstream press for his intricate design and sardonic wit, this new issue will be over-sized and full of "gag" pages, rather than part of a continuing story.

"Eightball" #22

Likewise Dan Clowes hasn't been heard from since he started working on the "Ghost World" movie, based on his own comic and now an indy hit. "Eightball" #22 (September) contains all-new, vaguely inter-related stories of one to three pages that will be completely self-contained. Clowes' slightly surreal, mordantly funny stories read like devastating critiques of America's mainstream and fringe cultures. They are not to be missed.