Craig Thompson's <i>Habibi</i> due out on Sept. 20

It sounds like some of his blog's readers found this out before he did, but Blankets author Craig Thompson has revealed that his looooooooong-awaited fantasy graphic novel Habibi will be released on Sept. 20 by Pantheon. "The book will be $29.95 — 672 b&w pages — clothbound hardcover with stamped gold foil, and look something like the mock-up above," Thompson writes. It will come out just one day before Thompson's 36th birthday.

It's difficult to describe the impact of Thompson's last bona fide graphic novel, the 2003 memoir Blankets, to people who weren't there to feel it. (Though God knows I've tried.) This is hard to imagine in a world where your bookshelves can groan under the weight of Bottomless Belly Button, A Drifting Life, If 'n Oof et al, but at the time this Top Shelf release was the longest original graphic novel ever published; its mere existence was a statement about the future of the medium. And it's equally difficult to describe just how hard its story of finding and losing first love and religious faith while growing up amid the snows of the conservative upper-Midwest hit with readers, many of whom had never cracked open a comic without being harangued by true believers. My wife, whose prior experience with comics was pretty much limited to stuff I'd force her to read, started flipping through it on the kitchen table one day, read it in one sitting, and eventually got a picture from it tattooed on her person, let's put it that way. Thompson followed the book up with Carnet de Voyage, a 2004 travelogue recounting his experiences touring Europe in support of Blankets and Northern Africa as research for his already nascent next project Habibi, but Habibi itself is really the "next Craig Thompson book" for which fans have been waiting. And God help us all, but its long-discussed filtering of Middle Eastern and Muslim culture through an epic fantasy lens remains as timely as it was when Thompson concocted the idea during the first term of the Bush Administration. I can't wait to read it.

Anyway, click the link to see a whole bunch of cover designs that didn't make the cut over at Thompson's blog.

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