I spent some time in May at Book Expo America, the annual trade show for the retail book business, checking out the graphic novel offerings. BEA is light duty for a comics blogger, as graphic novels are a tiny part of the retail book universe, but it’s a good way to get an advance look at the books that publishers are promoting for this summer and fall, as well as what they think will have appeal for mainstream bookstores.
Here are a half-dozen books you’re likely to hear about in the coming months:
Space Dumplins, by Craig Thompson: In this all-ages space opera, Violet Marlocke is a lively girl who lives with her father, who is sort of a space scavenger, and her mother, a designer, in outer space. When her father disappears on the job, Violet heads out to find him. This is Thompson’s first children’s book, and I hope he does more. He creates a wonderfully imaginative world and his characters are quirky and likable, so there’s a lot here for adults as well as children to enjoy. (Scholastic, August)
Little Nemo’s Big New Dreams: Locust Moon made a big splash with its broadsheet-size anthology of tributes to Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo comics, titled Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream, which won two Eisner Awards last week. This is a scaled-down version in regular book size, featuring 31 Little Nemo-inspired comics by Roger Langridge, Carla Speed McNeill, Art Spiegelman, Yuko Shimuzu and a host of other talented creators. As with all the books in the TOON line, it’s kid-friendly but sophisticated, so adults can enjoy it too, and it’s a wallet-friendly alternative to the big book. (TOON Books, September)
The Story of My Tits, by Jennifer Hayden: Jennifer Hayden’s memoir is about breast cancer in the same way that Raina Telgemeier’s Smile is about orthodontia — it’s not a disease memoir, it’s a family drama and a story of growing up and growing wiser, with breasts as the organizing principle. Hayden is not afraid to go deep when it comes to depicting love and loss, but she’s also not afraid to laugh at herself — and everyone else. When I first picked up this book, I was afraid her loose style was too light for the subject matter, but in fact it perfectly balances the seriousness of the subject matter. (Top Shelf, September)
Long Walk to Valhalla: It takes a little while to figure out where this story is going. It starts with a girl claiming she’s bringing a young man to Valhalla, the heaven of the Norse gods, but that turns out to be a framing tale for a Southern Gothic story about two brothers, one who sees things that aren’t there, the other who protects him — at a high cost. This is human drama in the tradition of Craig Thompson’s Blankets and Nate Powell’s Swallow Me Whole, with a bit of mystery and a truly wrenching climax. (BOOM! Studios, July)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson, adapted by Troy Little: Hunter S. Thompson’s novel/memoir of a drug-enhanced road trip was originally published as an illustrated novel, so it’s appropriate that it will get the graphic novel treatment. (Top Shelf, October)
Trashed, by Derf Backderf: Backderf follows up My Friend Dahmer, his memoir of going to high school with mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, with something completely different. Trashed follows the day-to-day life of two garbage men; although it’s fiction, it’s based on Backderf’s real-life experiences. Sandwiched in between these vignettes of life on the back of the truck are informational spreads about where trash comes from and what we do with it, including diagrams of trash trucks, landfill and transfer stations. With these complementary narratives, Backderf shows us both the big picture — the business of garbage, basically — and the human side, the lives of those who collect and transport it. (Abrams ComicArts, November)
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