Friday, January 16, 2009

General updates for January 2009

I don't have one of my newer-styled updates for you this month (and after I went to all the trouble of designing a format for it, too!), but I have collected a little reprint news which I think my readers might enjoy, and here it is...

The publisher Drawn & Quarterly won some plaudits last year with the announcement of a plan for a major reprinting of John Stanley's work. The first of these has been solicited for March:

(W/A) John Stanley
John Stanley is celebrated as one of the great children's comics writers for his work on the Little Lulu series. In fact, the Lulu work is a small part of his output; he drew and continued to write many other comics-notably his work on the 1960s teen comics from Dell and his monster comedy strip, Melvin Monster. Drawn & Quarterly is launching an extensive reprinting of Stanley's work in handsome volumes designed by Seth. The first in this series is the two-volume Melvin Monster collection featuring all ten issues about the oddball monster boy who just wants to be good, go to school, and do as he's told. Stanley's reputation as a great storyteller and visual comedian is richly deserved; few Golden or Silver Age comics stand the test of time the way these comics do.
HC, 8x11, 184pgs, FC SRP: $19.95

You can enjoy a PDF preview of Melvin Monster over at D&Q's site.

While there is no formal solicitation yet, the second volume, planned for the summer, will reprint Stanley's work on the Nancy comic book. Both volumes feature gorgeous design by Seth. Speaking of Seth, D&Q also has a collection of his strip George Sprott, 1894-1975 planned for May.

Also, Fantagraphics has released its spring and summer catalog, and you can see it here. More Peanuts, Popeye, Hernandez Brothers, Fletcher Hanks and the Peter Bagge strips from Reason? Yes, please!

Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter has the story/non-story of a possible delay in a forthcoming collection of Brian Sendelbach's Smell of Steve.

Rebellion hasn't formally announced them yet, but it looks like August will see the first collection of 2000 AD's Defoe by Pat Mills and Leigh Gallagher, in which a 17th Century tough guy defends Charles II's England from the zombie hordes of Oliver Cromwell, as well as the 1970s classic Flesh, in which cattle ranchers from the future set up shop in prehistoric Earth to harvest dinosaurs and things spiral spectacularly out of control. Mills wrote a fair chunk of Flesh, with art chores by a number of creators, including Carlos Pino and Massimo Belardinelli.

Finally, here's something very interesting coming in June from Dark Horse:

Written and art by Harvey Kurtzman and various.
Launched in January 1957 by Harvey Kurtzman and Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, Trump partnered Kurtzman with many of his "usual gang of idiots" from his time at Mad -- famous humor artists such as Jack Davis, Al Jaffee, and Wally Wood. They were joined by such dynamic humorists as Arnold Roth, comedians Mel Brooks and Doodles Weaver, and TV writer and novelist Max Shulman (creator of the character Dobie Gillis, who appeared in dozens of stories, a movie, and the popular TV series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis). Though it lasted only two issues, this first effort after Kurtzman's historic split from Mad was the breeding ground for the magazines Humbug and Help!, and would ultimately lead to the more than thirty-year run of Kurtzman and Will Elder's landmark character Little Annie Fanny in the pages of Playboy magazine.

Trump! reprints the only two issues of the magazine, released in January and March of 1957. Trump! features the contributions of the following artists and writers: Harvey Kurtzman, Harry Chester, Jack Davis, Will Elder, Al Jaffee, Wally Wood, Arnold Roth, Russ Heath, Mel Brooks, Doodles Weaver, Max Shulman, and many others.
144 pages, $19.95, in stores on June 17.

That's all for this time. I'll try to do a better job of remembering my features instead of spending all my blog time revising old entries, and we'll see what's new... in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Reprint This! The New Adventures of Hitler

Reprint This! is a periodic feature where I talk about some out-of-print comic book gems that are not available in collected form for readers to enjoy. This is hoping to let rights owners know that, yes, readers are out here, and we'd like to buy the things we can't get at this time!

Despite such an enormous variety of books available these days, and genuine efforts to present the material in reasonably-priced, archival volumes, there are still countless fabulous series from the US, Britain and Japan which are overdue for new editions. I've selected several titles which should be on bookshelves, but at this time are not.

One missing gem is THE NEW ADVENTURES OF HITLER by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell. This instantly-controversial 48-page story, set in 1912 Liverpool and featuring the luckless painter who'd later become the planet's most infamous man slowly losing his mind in a strange adventure with bicycles, bulldogs and 1980s pop stars, has been serialized twice. Each time it prompted an outcry from journalists on slow news days and commentators who thought little of Morrison using controversial topics to get his own name in the press.

The New Adventures of Hitler was an incredibly surreal story set in the early 1910s in which Hitler, then an aspiring painter, lodged in a Liverpool bed & breakfast for a few months. There, he lost his mind amid a torrent of 20th Century British iconography, with strange cameos by Morrissey and Margaret Thatcher, as he was ordered to search for the Holy Grail. The use of real characters to tell a story about a magical, fairytale Britain populated by some of its most iconic faces and names would have only been slightly eyebrow-raising, but using Hitler as the protagonist was a bold, risky move. It infuriated many readers, along with plenty of people who would have never purchased the magazines where the serial ran anyway, but who read stories about the controversy, fueled by certain British newspapers. These were interesting examples of how the late '80s trend of media reporting on "adult graphic novels," led by the mainstream success of Maus or Watchmen, would occasionally be sidetracked by reporters looking for a sexy angle to spice up stories.

Grant Morrison had already made a name for himself as one of the most popular and celebrated writers in American and British comics when the series premiered. With ongoing mainstream work for DC and for 2000 AD, he undertook some experimental work for smaller publishers in the late 1980s, including the similarly controversial St. Swithin's Day, in which an unemployed kid goes to London to assassinate the prime minister, for the now-defunct Trident Comics. Steve Yeowell had previously worked with Morrison on Zoids, Zenith and a one-issue fill-in on Doom Patrol. Here. his artwork is given a remarkable sheen with some really novel coloring that incorporates patterns, mosaics and other cut-out images, heightening the dreamlike, haunting feel of the series.

The series first appeared as twelve weekly four-page episodes in the Scottish magazine Cut in 1989. Cut was an arts and culture magazine of some notoreity, although there appears to be little information about it online today apart from references to the ensuing controversy. The next year, the story was reprinted across four issues of 2000 AD's twice-monthly sister title Crisis, each compiling three of the original weekly episodes.

At only 48 pages, the work is a little slim, but it occurs to me that St. Swithin's Day is similarly out of print - it was last collected by Oni in 1998 (and somebody who borrowed my copy of that never returned it) - and the two of those would make a nice edition together. Round it out with a decent essay or two, and some notes about the two series' controversial appearances, along with an interview with the writer and some sketches from Yeowell and Swithin's artist, Paul Grist, and you've probably got a pretty good 120-page book. I recall that Yeowell drew the young Hitler again in a 1990 cover illustration for Amazing Heroes which featured a Morrison interview, so that could be included. I'm not sure who could tackle such a project, nor whether Morrison, who (I'm totally guessing) might own the rights to both series, would back it, but I do feel strongly that the work of major writers in comics should remain in print for new readers to enjoy, so I certainly hope that some publisher looks into such a project. How about it, somebody?

(Originally posted January 01, 2009, 12:19 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)