ALA: Crappy pictures of awesome comics

OK, I'm not going to be winning any photography awards anytime soon, but I picked up a lot of interesting comics at the American Library Association midsummer meeting, and I wanted to write about them while they were still fresh.

Hit the jump for details.

I picked up a handful of Advance Review Copies (ARCs), and this one was intriguing; it's a black-and-white ARC of Charles Burns's X'ed Out, which is due out from Pantheon in October. I believe the finished book will be in full color, but this actually looks pretty good in grayscale. It's a surrealistic graphic novel that switches back and forth a lot between real life and a dreamlike reality, with lots of allusions (there's a serious Tintin thing going on there, and shout-outs to Lucas Samaras, William Burroughs, and Patti Smith) and a storyline and imagery that keep doubling back on themselves. I came to the end not sure whether it was deeply meaningful or a clever puzzle, but it was an interesting ride. On the other hand, at 56 pages for $19.99, I'm not sure how good a deal it will be. This is the first volume of a series, and by the end of the book the story has been launched but plenty of questions remain.

These are the four comic samples that IDW had at their display in the Diamond Books booth, and the one that grabbed me is the one on the far left: The Man with the Getaway Face, Darwyn Cooke's abbreviated adaptation of the novel by Richard Stark. It's oversize (8 x 12), 24 pages long, and gorgeous, very stylish in a 1950s noir kind of way. I hadn't realized that Richard Stark was really Donald Westlake, whose other novels I have enjoyed, but now I want to pick up the rest of the series. Here's a preview, although the coloring in my book is gold, not blue.

Dan DeCarlo's Jetta, edited by Craig Yoe, is an amazing package. Back in the 1950s, before The Jetsons were a gleam in Hanna and Barbera's eye, Dan DeCarlo started imagining what the teenagers of the future would be like—a lot like the teenagers of the 1950s, it turns out, but with more references to science and modern art. The comic only survived for three issues, and Craig Yoe has collected them all in this colorful book and surrounded them with background material, DeCarlo sketches from his own collection, and pin-up pictures of Jetta and her friends by a variety of different artists. Could this short-lived comic have inspired The Jetsons? It's a long shot, but that streamlined, super-atomic vision of the future was very much of its time. Where's my jet pack, dammit?

When Gene Luen Yang spoke about his career in comics, he had to explain to the librarians that comics people regard it as a good thing if you self-publish your own comic, and positively badass if you make your own mini-comics. While librarians regard self-published books as too weak to merit the attentions of a publisher, comics creators see self-publishing as a way to be true to your own vision. So I was super psyched when Jerzy Drozd dropped by after my panel and gave me one of his self-published comics and two minicomics he and his wife had put together. Jerzy runs the kids' webcomic site Sugary Serials and the Kids Read Comics con in Michigan, and he's a super guy, plus (bonus!) his wife is a librarian, which is how he got to ALA. And now I know he's a badass mini-comics creator as well.

Speaking of badass, The Sons of Liberty is a comic about two total badasses, runaway slaves who develop super powers, sort of, after Benjamin Franklin's son does some electricity experiments on them, and who hone their powers under the watchful eye of a wily abolitionist, who not only converts the Quakers to his cause but also teaches them a traditional African martial art. The story is quite complicated, and there are a few missteps, but it keeps moving right along, helped by colorful, very loose watercolor-style art. The book is pitched at teens, but it's a good read for us older folk too, and while there is nothing on the jacket to indicate it, this feels very much like the first volume of a series—it's mainly an origin story, with the bad guys getting rounded up fairly abruptly towards the end. I would certainly like to see more.

I got the Smurfs comic too, but let's save that for another day.

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