Hilda and the Bird Parade

By Luke Pearson
40 pages, color
Published by Nobrow Press

In the past couple of years, you might have noticed a small British publisher named Nobrow Press starting to make an impression on the comics market. Their books are impeccably designed and printed with extremely high quality, making owning them not only pleasurable for their contents but also their presentation. And while I’ve sampled several different books of theirs and made mental notes to try more, it’s Luke Pearson’s books starring Hilda that have grabbed me the most. Hilda and the Bird Parade is the third and latest one in this series, and in many ways it’s not only the most relatable but also the most charming.

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Beach Girls

By Box Brown and James Kochalka
44 pages, black and white
Published by Retrofit Comics and Big Planet Comics

Beach Girls is the first comic I’ve picked up from Box Brown’s Retrofit Comics, a small boutique line of individual comic books by a wide variety of alternative comic creators. I’ll admit that I felt a little drawn to the comic almost immediately off the bat thanks to its larger dimensions; running at 7 7/8"x10 1/2", this magazine-sized comic immediately brought to mind the indy comics of the ’80s and ’90s that I’d bought in great numbers. And now that I’ve read Beach Girls? I feel like that initial impression was not misplaced.

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Big Plans: The Collected Mini-Comics and More

By Aron Nels Steinke
360 pages, black and white
Published by Bridge City Comics

I’ve read and enjoyed Aron Nels Steinke’s books in the past, but I was especially excited to read Big Plans: The Collected Mini-Comics and More. His graphic novel Neptune is an all-ages book, and The Super Crazy Cat Dance is for very young readers. So in reading Big Plans, it would be a jump to lots of comics that weren’t necessarily created with the younger audience in mind. What I found was a collection of memories, reflections, and struggles in getting through life. And ultimately, this is a collection where I think having all of these stories together gives you a stronger overall experience.

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Avery Fatbottom: Renaissance Fair Detective #1

By Jen Vaughn
24 pages, black and white
Published by Monkeybrain Comics

I will freely admit that while you can’t judge a book by its cover, sometimes a book’s title is more than enough to get me to buy a copy. That was the case with Jen Vaughn’s new comic Avery Fatbottom: Renaissance Fair Detective #1. And while the end result might not be exactly in line with what you’d imagine with a title like that, there’s more than enough to amuse in this whirlwind tour of life at a Renaissance fair.

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Darkroom: A Memoir in Black & White

By Lila Quintero Weaver
264 pages, black and white
Published by University of Alabama Press

I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little surprised when I heard that the University of Alabama Press published a graphic novel. It’s not the usual suspect for this sort of thing, but within a handful of pages of Lila Quintero Weaver’s Darkroom: A Memoir of Black & White, it was easy to see why they’d stepped up to the plate. Latina in 1960s Alabama where everything was viewed as either black or white, Weaver’s memoir offers a perspective from someone unclaimed by either side in a racial struggle.

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By Jon J Muth
Based on the screenplay by Thea Von Harbou and Fritz Lang
192 pages, color
Published by Abrams Books

I remember when the first issue of Jon J Muth’s adaptation of Fritz Lang’s film M was originally published as a joint venture by Arcane Comics and Eclipse Comics, back in 1990. I was instantly taken by the strange style of painted art—something that is much more common now, but wasn’t at the time—and was intrigued by the idea that it had adapted a film that I’d heard of but never seen. And then, inexplicably, I never bought any of the four-issue adaptation. Fast forward to the present, and the original had long gone out of print, but was rescued a few years ago in a new hardback collection. Picking it up, I found myself wondering if those glimpses that I’d long held in my head could compare to the reality of what I was about to finally buy and read.

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Passion of Gengoroh Tagame

By Gengoroh Tagame
256 pages, black and white
Published by PictureBox

There’s no mistaking what you’re going to get with The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame. Subtitled "The Master of Gay Erotic Manga" and with "Adult Content for Mature Readers" emblazoned on the side, as soon as you open the book you’re greeted with skillful drawings of naked men. After having encountered so many volumes of the yaoi manga genre in years past—in which the gay male characters more often than not barely do more than kiss—I couldn’t help but wonder what a book like this would look like. What I found was a volume that actually had a lot more to offer than just drawings of men having sex.

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By Becky Cloonan
31 pages, black and white
Published by ComiXology

If you asked me what I buy every year at the Small Press Expo above all else, the answer would be easy: mini-comics. Because they don’t go through the distribution channels the way that bigger publishers’ books do, finding them can be difficult at best more often than not. That’s one of the things for which I’m especially thankful for when it comes to digital comics; the idea that finally there’s an easy way to get hold of comics that otherwise might be out of reach, between distance and limited print runs. Take, for instance, Becky Cloonan’s Demeter. This dark and spooky comic is one that I almost certainly never would have seen otherwise. But now? I can’t get enough of it.

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By Dylan Edwards
128 pages, black and white
Published by Northwest Press

Dylan Edwards’ Transposes is, on the surface, a book that you might think you’ve seen before. The story of seven different female-to-male transmen, you probably think that it treads the same ground that so many other books on the subject have tackled. But as soon as you read Edwards’ introduction, where he deftly takes all of the well-meaning questions that are normally asked and explains that this isn’t about any of them, you’ll realize that Transposes is in fact something much better. In taking away the biological questions and just focusing on these men’s lives, Transposes separates the people from science, and that’s why it’s a winner.

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Polterguys Vol. 1

Written by Laurianne Uy and Nathan Go
Art by Laurianne Uy
192 pages, black and white
Published by Mumo Press

Laurianne Uy and Nathan Go’s Polterguys Volume 1 was one of those books that randomly showed up in my mailbox one day. I’m always a sucker for a book that won a Xeric Grant, and with the foundation having handed out its final publishing grants, getting hold of one of those books was a pleasant surprise. What I found was a book that clearly gets its main inspiration from certain manga tropes, but also adds enough of its own twist to keep it from being too predictable.

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