Column Editor: Jerry Spiller (Art Institute of Charleston)
When my friend and colleague Jolanda van Arnhem returned from ALA Annual in Orlando in June, I was gifted with an amazing bag of goodies from indie comics publishers big and small. How did I get so lucky?
There was some great stuff from Oni and Action Labs, but I’ll focus this issue on a treasure trove from Image Comics. Image was smart enough to start a $1 line of reprints of first issues they call “Image Firsts” back in 2010. This is a really great idea for folks who missed a promising series start and want to see at least the first issue before moving on to current issues or collections. The haul I’ve been gifted has many Image Firsts. I’ll try to limit myself to three recommendations (this is very hard), all with collections available as we move into fall.
First off is Skottie Young’s I Hate Fairyland. Young’s loose lines and expressive forms are alive with frenetic energy. Readers will likely remember how Young really put his artistic stamp on a series of eight-issue adaptations of Frank Baum’s Oz books (through the sixth, The Emerald City of Oz) with Marvel, working with writer Eric Shanower, colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu, letterer Jeff Eckleberry, and editors Nathan Cosby, Lauren Sankovitch, Ralph Macchio, and Joe Quesada. He also lent his skills to the American version of Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, the Milk from Harper Collins (the British edition, from Bloomsbury Children’s, featured artwork by Chris Riddell). Though Young has worked as an illustrator at Marvel since 2000, he added writing to his art duties on 2014’s Rocket Raccoon title.
Young continued to fulfill both writer and illustrator roles, with help from colorist Beaulieu and letterer extraordinaire Nate Piekos (whose font site Blambot has helped launch a million Web comics), for his own I Hate Fairyland:
In I Hate Fairyland, Riddling Slugs, Giants made of Pillows in the Quiltlands, and camping out on Ice Cream Island may seem like fun when you’re eight years old. But to Gert, a forty-year-old trapped in a child’s body, it just makes her want to take a giant battle axe and chop up anyone or thing that tries to keep her from finding the way home.1
Issue #9 of the title, “Splat in the Hat,” hits the stands in late September 2016.
Next up is The Wicked + The Divine from writer Kieron Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, colorist Matt Wilson, letterer Clayton Coyles, and editor Chrissy Williams. The series features the intrigues of The Pantheon, a group of feuding figures from various world mythologies who are periodically reincarnated as bright but fast fading musical stars.
Gillen began conceiving this mix of mythology and pop rivalry after his father was diagnosed with cancer. The result is equally sumptuous and wistful, dealing with themes of life, death, impermanence, and recurrence. McKelvie’s clean lines and Coyle’s careful palettes perfectly create a world of crafted performances that threaten to be overtaken by swells of unseen power. The series has been ongoing since November 2014, with three collected trade paperbacks in print. A hardcover edition collecting issues 1-11 was published this past April, and the fourth paperback is due in October 2016. Universal has purchased television options for The Wicked + The Divine, so you may see it on your set top box or the current iteration thereof.
Finally, I highly recommend Monstress from writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda. Liu has a law degree and writes urban fantasy novels and short stories as well as comics. Her work for Marvel includes runs on Black Widow, Dark Wolverine, X-23, and Astonishing X-Men. She has also written for indie publishers Archaia and Dynamite. Takeda started out doing art for video and card games in Japan, doing work for Sega and others. She illustrated Marvel’s Ms. Marvel series, and collaborated with Liu on X-23.
Monstress follows the adventures of a young woman named Maika in an alternate early 20th Century Asia. In describing the concept for book to Newsarama, Liu notes that Maika’s struggles are much like her own, or any young woman’s:
Every single girl in the world has had to fight to have herself heard, to have space, and to have a self in societies that try their best to deny them all three. Every single girl, whether we want to recognize it or not, is a warrior. And me writing about a young warrior woman is less a fantasy than a reflection of what it means to grow up a woman in societies like ours.2
In the context of how hard the world can be to a young woman, Liu also notes “I found myself lounging against a statue of Godzilla in front of Toho Studios in Tokyo. And I’m standing there thinking, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be cool to have Godzilla as your friend?’”3 Maika’s otherworldly companion is more Lovecraftian than Toho, but the idea for a young person’s need for a powerful big buddy remains. Takeda’s art really brings out an atmosphere of seething magical energy in a steampunky, Art Deco world that’s much larger than the protagonist. The first six issues of Monstress were collected in trade in July 2016, and Issue #7 is out in September.
There’s three great ongoing titles you might have glimpsed at ALA. If you didn’t, now’s your chance. Get on it, true believers!
- Salazar, Kat. “Readers Will Love Skottie Young’s I Hate Fairlyand,” Image Comics. January 8, 2016. Accessed July 11, 2016. https://imagecomics.com/content/view/readers-will-love-skottie-youngs-i-hate-fairyland.
- Smith, Zack. “Marjorie Liu Readies ‘Dark Fantastic Adventure’ MONSTRESS at Image.” Newsarama. January 8, 2015. Accessed July 14, 2015. http://www.newsarama.com/23169-exclusive-marjorie-lius-dark-fantastic-adventure-at-image-monstress.html.