Welcome to our weekly round of “What would you buy if your budget was limited?” — or, as we call it, Food or Comics? Every week we set certain hypothetical spending limits on ourselves and go through the agony of trying to determine which comics come home and which ones stay on the shelves. So join Brigid Alverson, Chris Mautner and me as we run down what comics we’d buy if we only had $15 and $30 to spend, as well as what we’d get if we had some “mad” money to splurge with.
Check out Diamond’s full release list if you’d like to play along in our comments section.
If I had $15:
During the height of the 1980s Smurf craze, when the Saturday morning cartoon was sweeping the nation and there was Smurf-related merchandise everywhere, I distinctly remember walking into a stationary store and seeing an English adaptation of King Smurf, which I immediately purchased. I was aware at the time that the little blue characters had begun in France as comic book characters but was completely unprepared for how funny and delightful the original material was in comparison to the TV show. Sadly, it seemed like that book was the only entry way into that world for a long time.
All of which brings me to the point that this week sees the debut release of two new Smurf books from NBM's Papercutz line -- The Smurfs and The Magic Flute and The Purple Smurfs ($5.99 each). The first is a rather traditional band dessine comic starring medieval adventurers Johann and Peewit, and is mainly noticeable for being the first appearance of the Smurfs. The Purple Smurfs is more in the classic vein, an all-ages zombie tale in which a strange bug bite starts turning smurfs purple (black in the original French version) and hunting down the uncontaminated smurfs, all the while uttering a fearsome "Gnap!" It's great stuff, and I'm very happy NBM is getting these classic tales by Yvan Delporte and Peyo out in the hands of kids (and grown-up kids like me) who can truly appreciate them.
If I had $30:
That new collection of Zippy strips, Ding Dong Daddy ($20) looks interesting, but so does Harvey, a children's book by French creators Herve Bouchard and Janice Nadeau about a young boy whose life is turned around when his father abruptly dies of a heart attack. The premise is interesting and the little art I could find suggests something profoundly thoughtful and moving. This is one of those books that could easily slip through the direct market cracks, so if I saw a copy at my shop I'd be sure to pick it up.
Oh man, it's a good week for reprints, starting off with Four Color Fear, a collection of classic pre-code horror tales edited by Greg Sadowski ($29.99). Then there's Fire & Water: Bill Everett, the Sub Mariner and the Birth of Marvel Comics by Blake Bell, about the long-forgotten artist (and Daredevil co-creator) that I just finished reading and heartily recommend ($39.99). Drawn and Quarterly has unleashed a collection of Tubby comics in their ongoing John Stanley Library ($29.95), Dark Horse has a new reprinting of Dave McKean's Cages which really should be on every studious comic lover's shelf ($29.99) and -- of all things -- Howard Chaykin's big x-rated (for the day anyway) pulp thriller Black Kiss is out and about once more in a big $50 volume. Will wonders never cease?
If I had $15…
I'd get Broadcast ($13.99), by Eric Hobbs and Noel Tuazon. I love the idea—a community takes shelter during the panic caused by Orson Welles's broadcast of The War of the Worlds, but the real menace turns out to be from within. The characters are memorable, and Tuazon's wispy artwork, vague and expressive by turns, is perfect for the story.
If I had $30…
I'd add some manga. I'm torn between the first volume of The House of Five Leaves ($12.99), Natsume Ono's story of a not-very-intimidating samurai who ends up working for a gangster, and the second volume of Bunny Drop ($12.99), a comedy about a single, thirty-something salaryman who takes in a five-year-old orphan. It's a tough call, but I think House of Five Leaves wins on the art; this is a book I will read more than once, while Bunny Drop is strictly for the laughs.
If I could splurge…
I'd buy all three books, and to really stimulate the economy, I'd throw in Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s ($29.99), from Fantagraphics, because I love good vintage comics—and bad vintage comics, for that matter.
If I had $15:
Fantastic Four #583 ($2.99) and Thor #615 ($3.99) kick off two storylines I've been anticipating for awhile. First, Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting start the war of the Four Cities that Hickman has been building up to almost since he started on the title, the same storyline that will take the FF's numbers down to three. And Thor #615 sees the long-awaited debut of Matt Fraction and Pasqual Ferry on the book. I'd also pick up the new Image series Skullkickers ($2.99); it's a simple premise, but Image has been impressing me lately (Chew, Morning Glories, Orc Stain) by putting out a lot of titles I like to read. Lastly, the only episode of the Simpsons I tend to watch anymore is the yearly "Treehouse of Horror," which for whatever reason usually airs after Halloween. But the yearly Treehouse of Horror comic, thankfully, is out this week. This year's anthology features the work of Evan Dorkin, Peter Kuper, Kelley Jones, Lemmy from Motorhead and many others. It's $4.99 and usually well worth the price.
If I had $30:
Legion of Super Heroes #5 ($3.99) and Justice League Generation Lost #10 ($2.99) both contain solid superhero storytelling. On top of that I'd add the latest issues of Walking Dead ($2.99) and Fables ($2.99), both of which are building up to something big. And since I've got a couple of bucks left over, I'd grab I Kill Giants #1 for a buck.
I think I own the first issue of Cages, but haven't ever read the whole thing. So that's a potential splurge item. I also never read Joe Casey's Wildcats 3.0, which I understand is supposed to be pretty awesome stuff ... I have a review copy at home I plan to take on vacation with me next week, so I'll find out for sure.