DC Comics: The 75th Anniversary Poster Book

Compiled by Robert Schnakenberg
208 pages, color
Published by Quirk Books

If you’re like me, you might have secretly hoped that Santa Claus would bring you Paul Levitz’s 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking coffee table book (suggested retail price: $200) and came up empty-handed. If that’s the case, I’m happy that there’s a much lower cost alternative available: the DC Comics: The 75th Anniversary Poster Book. Sure, it’s not quite the same thing, but there are some similarities. At its 11×15" dimensions, it’s going to look beautiful sitting on your coffee table, and it shows off 100 classic covers from the past 75 years, as well as providing commentary to explain either the significance of the cover, or some words about the artist. Needless to say, all of the obvious ones are there: Superman #1, Action Comics #1, Detective Comics #27, Flash Comics #1, Green Lantern #1, Adventure Comics #247, The Flash #123… but so many more are present, too.

I appreciate that the book goes for some of the more oddball comics early on, like Superman beating up a lion (Action Comics #27), a superhero baseball game (World’s Finest Comics #3), a Wonder Woman Christmas cover (Sensation Comics #38), Zebra Batman (Detective Comics #275), or ones you might have never even heard of (Mr. District Attorney #12 or Leave it to Binky #60). We’ve also got iconic covers like Joe Orlando’s beckoning hand on The House of Mystery #174, or the first Diana Prince: Wonder Woman cover (Wonder Woman #178). The commentary from Robert Schnakenberg is just a paragraph or so, but it’s still informative and fun reading. And of course, depending on when you first started reading comics, you’ll start seeing covers you’re familiar with (perhaps The Killing Joke, or Ronin #1, or if you’re even newer to comics there’s always Batman #608 and All-Star Superman #10) but at a larger size than you’re used to. Plus, of course, the pages are all detachable should you wish to make them into actual posters. Sure, it’s not Levitz’s coffee table book, but it’s a fun romp through DC’s history, and it’s nice to see covers like Hellblazer #1 alongside Superman #14. It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon, or even just flipping through during a commercial break.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

Francis Sharp in the Grip of the Uncanny!: Chapter 1

Written by Brittney Sabo and Anna Bratton
Art by Brittney Sabo
96 pages, black and white

I get a little excited every time I find myself looking at a new comic funded by the Xeric Grant. For those unfamiliar with the Xeric Grant, it’s a fund set up by Peter Laird that chooses comic book projects and gives them money to actually publish their comic. It’s an extremely competitive field, and the end result is a lot of worthy, interesting comics that we might have otherwise never seen. Brittney Sabo and Anna Bratton’s book Francis Sharp in the Grip of the Uncanny!: Chapter 1 is part of the latest batch of Xeric-powered books to appear, and it’s such a fun book that I’m thankful yet again that Laird set the grant up.

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X’ed Out

By Charles Burns
56 pages, color
Published by Pantheon Books

Charles Burns is a comic creator whose art is easy to recognize, but hard to categorize save that it appears to exist to try and make the reader uncomfortable. From my first experience with Burns’s work as a live-action adaptation of his story "Dog Boy" on Liquid Television, to his collections of short stories from Fantagraphics, and his most recent magnum opus Black Hole (which took years in the making but was utterly worth the wait), each piece has inspired a strange combination of wanting to see more and feeling the need to turn away from the view. With Burns’s new book, X’ed Out, he’s carefully stepped away from the "mutation as venereal disease" metaphor of Black Hole into a strange narrative that shifts back and forth between dream and reality.

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Super Crazy Cat Dance

By Aron Nels Steinke
40 pages, color
Published by Blue Apple Books

Around this time last year I got to read Aron Nels Steinke’s excellent graphic novel Neptune, an all-ages adventure involving a mysterious dog and a massive flood. I was pretty excited, needless to say, to receive a copy in the mail of his new children’s graphic novel The Super Crazy Cat Dance, part of Blue Apple Books’s new "Balloon Toons" line of comics for younger readers. Just like the Toon Books line, this is the kind of comic for kids that you’ll want to start buying your own children, nieces, nephews, and friends.

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Kobato Vol. 3

160 pages, black and white
Published by Yen Press

Several months ago, I reviewed the first two volumes of the new CLAMP series Kobato. At the time I felt that I was glad I had read them back-to-back, because after a slightly underwhelming first volume, things had picked up a great deal in the second and made me feel much more confident about the series. Now that the third volume is out, though? I feel like I’m left back in limbo on the series in general, and that this new installment isn’t a positive step forward.

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Johnny Wander Vol. 1: Don’t Burn the House Down

Written by Ananth Panagariya
Art by Yuko Ota
128 pages, black and white

One of my favorite webcomics at the moment is Johnny Wander by Ananth Panagariya and Yuko Ota. It’s a simple enough strip, short one-pagers based on recent events in the life of Panagariya, Ota, and their housemates. When they announced their first print collection of Johnny Wander, though, I jumped at the chance to buy it. By boiling their comic down to singular moments in their life, Johnny Wander is consistently funny and sweet.

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Drinking at the Movies

By Julia Wertz
192 pages, black and white
Published by Three Rivers Press

Most autobiographical comics are boring. This usually has little to do with the actual lives of the people creating the comics, and more to do with that there’s no particular hook to make their own story interesting. Joe Matt is a prime example of someone who can create comics about an intensely boring (and slightly creepy) life and still make them enthralling, even while other cartoonists could go on a trip to Brazil and somehow make a boring comic. (Although let’s face it, the majority of boring autobiographical comics involve them wishing they were Joe Matt, not going to Brazil.) With all of that in mind, I wish to assure you that Julia Wertz’s Drinking at the Movies is the good kind of autobiographical comic, and it’s been a while since I laughed this much at a comic.

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Flesh and Bone

By Julia Gfrörer
40 pages, black and white
Published by Sparkplug Comic Books

I’m cutting right to the chase here: Julia Gfrörer’s Flesh and Bone is a creepy, disturbing, comic. I mean that in a good way; Gfrörer mixes love, death, occult, and betrayal into a fascinating story that takes a simple starting point and then moves it down a dark and twisty road. If I had to try and compare Flesh and Bone to an existing comic, it would probably be Hellboy, but a story in which Hellboy himself never comes to save the day.

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Pang: The Wandering Shaolin Monk Vol. 1: Refuge of the Heart

By Ben Costa
192 pages, color
Published by Iron Crotch University Press

I like when surprises appear in my mailbox, and Pang: The Wandering Shaolin Monk Vol. 1: Refuge of the Heart certainly applies to that category. A collection of Ben Costa’s webcomic, Pang is something I’d never heard of before, but the cover reminded me of artists like Darwyn Cooke and Bruce Timm and coupled with Shaolin monks? Well, add in that this is a beautiful, slick hardcover and I was pushing it towards the top of the to-be-read pile.

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Smurfs Vol. 1: The Purple Smurfs

Written by Peyo and Yvan Delporte
Art by Peyo
56 pages, color
Published by Papercutz

I have a confession to make: I was never a big Smurfs fan. It’s not that I disliked them, but rather that I never got swept up in Smurfmania when they made their big splash in the United States. So I watched the occasional episode of their show, and I remember flipping through some of the earlier printings of the Smurfs comic albums at my local bookstore. But I’d certainly never sat down and read one of the books until now, so with Papercutz’s low-priced reissues it seemed a good a chance as any. And you know what? Forget the insipid "la la la la la la" theme song from the animated show, this was a lot of fun.

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