Drawn & Quarterly have released the first two books in their John Stanley Library, a planned multi-volume series reprinting much of the beloved cartoonist's work for Dell in the 1960s. Drawn & Quarterly have apparently obtained the rights to all of Stanley's Dell work except for Little Lulu (a multi-volume collection of which has been in stores for some years now), and the first two books in the series are available now.
Finances have forced me to leave the first of the Nancy books on the shelf for now, but I did pick up the first collection of Melvin Monster, which was released in the summer. It's a $20 hardcover which collects all the stories from the first three issues of the title. The series is sort of the spiritual antecedent of Akira Toriyama's Cowa, set in a small suburban town populated by monsters and beasties, but just next door to an oblivious middle American city. Melvin is the exasperating son of two gruesome parents, Mummy and Baddy, who wish only the worst for their offspring, but he confounds them by wanting to do insensible things like go to school and not get eaten by his pet crocodile.
The strip would be huge fun in anybody's hands, but Drawn & Quarterly has really made this book shine. It's designed by Hipster Pad fave Seth, who was apparently looking to emulate those half-forgotten books you used to find on odd old relatives' shelves. I think he really tapped into a something neat here. The book looks a little more, shall we say, prestigious than the material might warrant, but it really evokes its time all the same. The plan is to reprint Melvin in three $20 editions, each collecting three issues of the original comic. The slightly larger Nancy book lists for $25 and the 336-page first volume of Thirteen Going On Eighteen, due later this month, retails for $35. Second volumes for each of these titles are expected in 2010.
Normally, I suggest that you read more of what I've written about the creator or character or publisher at A Journal of Zarjaz Things, but in this case I have not.
Read other reviews of the Melvin Monster book:
KC Carlson at Westfield Comics
Rod Lott at Bookgasm
Jason Sacks at Comics Bulletin
Frank M. Young at Stanley Stories
In other news from the last month, following the success of recent hardcover repackagings, DC has added an annual collection of Bill Willingham's Fables to their lineup, with the first edition released earlier this month. The six-issue trade paperbacks have been perennial sellers for Vertigo, so going the deluxe hardcover route has been a foregone conclusion. You can read Willingham's introduction to the new collection at Vertigo's blog. Although, I honestly have to say that DC could easily release two or three a year to get started. With close to 90 issues of this ongoing series, it will be a long, long while before this line of hardcovers gets concluded.
Webcomics! There are far too many out there for me to keep up with what might, or might not, ever get a collected edition, but when something as entertaining as Randall Munroe's xkcd gets a bookshelf treatment, it's a given that I'll be telling you about it. Here you go, eighteen bucks, with a portion of the sale going to charity.
A very strong rumor from last month's Anime Weekend Atlanta: Vertical, who've been publishing all those lovely editions of Osamu Tezuka comics, are planning a 2010 release of Ayako, a dark, if not downright depressingly bleak, postwar family drama which originally ran in 1972-73.
Meanwhile, Dark Horse, who proved with their three Herbie Archives that they know how to manage the repackaging of somebody else's old comic books very well indeed, have struck a nifty-sounding deal with Archie Comics. 2010 will bring you the first in a series of nice leather-bound $50 volumes reprinting every story, chronologically, across four lines, one each for Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica. And here's the wild part: they're planning to release a new book every month. I'm sure that's the best way to get all this old stuff republished quickly, but I also think that I don't have $600 a year to spend on old Archie Comics.
I was either ignorant of or dismissive towards the superhero titles from Marvel UK in the late '80s and early '90s, but with a creative team like Dan Abnett, John Tomlinson and Gary Erskine, I think Knights of Pendragon, the story of a present-day incarnation of the knights of the round table, might turn out to be interesting. The series ran for 33 issues from 1990-93, and John Freeman has reported that Panini's releasing a collected edition of the first nine later this month. It has a new cover by Erskine, and you can read more about his contributions over at Scotch Corner.
Rumor has it that the "Skinny Showcase" line from DC has been successful enough to warrant a third volume. The sixties feature Dial H for Hero is tentatively scheduled for the spring. Fans of the line have probably noticed by now that the cover price for the regular Showcase Presents editions has gone up by a buck. 500-odd pages for $18 is still a pretty good price. Marvel has been a little tight-lipped about their similar Essential line. Surely the third Moon Knight collection, due in December, won't be the last, but the company does not seem to have announced anything definite.
Comics Reporter Tom Spurgeon found this fascinating one: WW Norton is publishing a mammoth collection of Herblock's editorial cartoons. The $35 hardcover will contain 250 images in print, with a more expansive collection of 18,000 on an accompanying DVD. Wowza. Paging Mike Luckovich, get your originals cleaned up...
I discovered Erika Moen's delightful webcomic DAR last month. The artist assembled a collected edition of the work earlier in the year, but it was delayed several times thanks to problems with bluenosed printers who didn't appreciate the sometimes explicit nature of the bawdy, no-holds-barred comic. Joanna Draper Carlson has a full interview with Moen at her website this week; you can order the book direct from Moen at DAR's site.
Lastly this time, Rebellion has had some disappointments this year in actually getting Diamond to solicit their wonderful collected editions of 2000 AD, so we are pleased as punch to see that two have made it into the distributor's latest catalog, and could be in US stores by the end of the year. Continuing their line of popular "phone book" reprints of 300 or more black-and-white pages, these are the first volumes of my all-time favorite comic Robo-Hunter by John Wagner, Alan Grant and Ian Gibson, and Anderson: Psi Division, written by Wagner and Grant, and with several artists including Gibson, Brett Ewins and Barry Kitson. Rebellion has shown with their complete, warts-and-all collections of Ace Trucking and Ro-Busters that they can really do a great job of collecting both the main series along with ephemera and easily-forgotten one-offs, so I'm hoping that the Anderson book contains the remarkably weird and wonderful "Mind of Edward Bottlebum," which previous collections of the character have routinely skipped.
That's all for this month! See you in November!