Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip Vol. 5

Written by Lars Jansson
Art by Tove Jansson
88 pages, black and white
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

I picked up the first volume of Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip solely due to a friend of mine (also named Greg), who grew up reading Tove Jansson’s Moomin books and had utterly fallen in love with them. His descriptions over the years had intrigued me, with promises of whimsy and silliness mixed in with satire and cleverness. That’s exactly what I found in these collections of comic strips drawn for London’s The Evening News. The fourth volume, however, was the first to feature some strips written by Tove Jansson’s brother Lars Jansson, and this fifth volume published the final collaborations between Tove and Lars before Tove quit the strip entirely. This book, then, was a test. Would Lars be able to grow into the strip enough to make me want to read it once Tove was gone?

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Black Blizzard

By Yoshihiro Tatsumi
136 pages, black and white
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Drawn & Quarterly, over the past few years, has dipped its toe into translating manga into English, primarily the works of creator Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Books like Tatsumi’s autobiography A Drifting Life and short story collections Abandon the Old in Tokyo have proven to be fascinating, looking at his attempts to break free of genre and industry constraints at the time. So when Drawn & Quarterly announced Black Blizzard, Tatsumi’s debut graphic novel, I was intrigued. (And not just because the creation of Black Blizzard is part of the time period retold in A Drifting Life.) What I found, though, was a creator that shows talent but was still beginning to learn his craft.

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Wilson

By Daniel Clowes
80 pages, color
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

It was in 2004 that Daniel Clowes released the last (and at this point, presumably final) issue of Eightball, and with his work in the past decade on movies like Ghost World and Art-School Confidential it was a reasonable assumption that Clowes might have been giving up on the comics art form entirely. With Wilson, though, Clowes makes a full-fledged return to the comics format, in his first original graphic novel. And perhaps because he’s been gone a while, Wilson seems designed to try and see how far it can get under the reader’s skin.

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A Drifting Life

By Yoshihiro Tatsumi
856 pages, black and white
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

I really have to commend Drawn & Quarterly for bringing Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s comics into English. They’ve already released three collections of his short stories, ones which reek of discomfort and alienation among every day, real people. I was a little wary, though, when I heard that their next Tatsumi project was an autobiography that ran over 800 pages long and only tackled a small fraction of his life. Could Tatsumi really have that much to say? As it turned out, I was very wrong for doubting; A Drifting Life may be set in the 1940s and 1950s, but it has quite a bit to say about here and now.

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Burma Chronicles

By Guy Delisle
272 pages, black and white
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

One of my favorite travel books from the past couple of years has got to be Guy Delisle’s Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. Traveling to the capitol of perhaps the most notoriously isolationist country in the world, Delisle shared his experiences in a graphic novel that was both fascinating and informative. When I heard that his latest book, Burma Chronicles, was about his living in the a foreign country for an entire year, I was more than a little excited. His stay wouldn’t be just for a month or two, but for such an extended period of time that it held many more possibilities. What I found? Not entirely what I expected.

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Abandon the Old in Tokyo

By Yoshihiro Tatsumi
224 pages, black and white
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

While cleaning house, I recently uncovered a copy of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s Abandon the Old in Tokyo. I’d read his first collection in English, The Push Man and Other Stories, and thought it was good enough to buy the second one. And then, somehow, I’d lost and forgotten about the book. Determined to read the book that I’d misplaced for so long, I sat down and started reading it—and couldn’t stop until I was done. I certainly won’t be misplacing Tatsumi’s books again.

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What It Is

By Lynda Barry
208 pages, color
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

One of my favorite books published in 2002 was Lynda Barry’s One Hundred Demons, as Barry told stories of her past in an attempt to exorcise those demons. In doing so, her observations on a lot of parts of life had really resonated with me, bringing up those emotions and ideas that I’d been carrying around for years as well. In her first original graphic novel, What It Is, Barry plumbs her early life again as she tries to understand imagination and creativity and how it works. The end result is perhaps one of the most necessary books of 2008.

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Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

By Guy Delisle
184 pages, black and white
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Some places in the world are mysterious because they’re physically remote; places covered by jungle, or amidst treacherous mountainous terrain, or perhaps isolated islands within the Pacific Ocean. It was thinking along those lines that initially drew me to Guy Delisle’s graphic novel Pyongyang; it’s an incredibly remote place not through physicality, but rather because of a policy of isolationism. I expected to find a vague idea of what it’s like to live in North Korea through Delisle’s book. What I ended up with was so much more.

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Vernacular Drawings

By Seth
208 pages, color
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

You have to be patient if you’re a fan of the cartoonist Seth. Seth’s comic Palookaville (collected into graphic novels as It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken and Clyde Fans) is published once, maybe twice a year… but it’s always clear that each issue is a labor of love. I think that’s why when Drawn & Quarterly first published Seth’s sketchbook compilation Vernacular Drawings I was so excited, and why I keep coming back to it years later—the amount of time and passion that went into each one is always apparent.

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Fixer

By Joe Sacco
112 pages, black and white
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Savvy comic readers know all about Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Gorazde, his look at the United Nations designated “safe area” enclave for Muslim Bosnians in the heart of Serbian-controlled Bosnia. What they might not know about is before Safe Area Gorazde, Sacco released Soba, the first in a series of planned stories about Bosnia to be published by Drawn & Quarterly. It’s been a while, but the second Bosnia comic at Drawn & Quartelry has finally arrived in the form of The Fixer, Sacco’s new graphic novel.

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