The past five years have been a fertile time for reprints of classics from both the comic strip and comic book worlds. This fall, three of the last great uncollected cartoonists get their moment, and two more recent gems get definitive editions. Also looming: what's expected to be a future classic in Craig Thompson's long-awaited Habibi.
Cartoonists Walt Kelly, Carl Barks, and Lynda Barry are all kicking off archival reprints series. Pogo: The Complete Daily & Sunday Comic Strips, Vol. 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder re-presents Walt Kelly's famed swamp-dwelling possum, Pogo, and his whimsy, which fronts for great insights and wisdom, as with his best known line, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
Like Kelly, Carl Barks spent the early part of his career working in Disney's animation department and left to write and draw comics, where his true genius lay. Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes is the first volume in a planned collected works, featuring Barks's wry, sly adventure comics that mix a dark view of human nature with a sweeping sense of adventure. In the title story, Donald discovers a lost Inca civilization that produces square eggs.
Lynda Barry is also getting the career retrospective with the first volume of Everything, gathering her long out-of-print Ernie Pook's Comeek, which explores the childhood world of the unforgettable Marlys, a character so beautifully portrayed as to merit a place in the Sensitive Literary Adolescent Hall of Fame.
Two more recent works are also getting deluxe editions. The Death-Ray reprints Daniel Clowes's literary take on the superhero genre, following teenage wastrel Andy, whose discovery of great power leads only to tragedy and misery.And the long unavailable Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery Deluxe shows writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely at the top of their game with a heady deconstruction of the superhero genre, playing with multiple levels of reality.
This fall offers no shortage of great new work, led by Habibi. Thompson's follow-up to the much-liked Blankets is a dense, swirling dervish of a tale, a love story that unfolds fractally from the curves of the Arabic lettering in the Qur'an. Dealing with matters of religion and Islamic culture, this will be the most talked about graphic novel of the fall.
Nate Powell's Eisner Award–winning Swallow Me Whole was a thoughtful look at two teens dealing with mental illness. In his follow-up, Any Empire, there's a similar focus, but the topic this time is violence, as childhood attitudes about playing with G.I. Joe toys are subjected to the harsh light of adulthood and war.
On the lighter side, Kate Beaton has become a Web comic superstar with her hilarious look at historical and pop culture tropes from Julius Caesar to Gatsby. Hark! A Vagrant is a newly expanded collection of her witty, literate comics. Michael Kupperman's Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910–2010 is an exercise in deadpan drollery as the great American humorist lives well into the 20th century to land on the moon, romance Mamie Eisenhower, and battle the yeti.
Finally, for sheer fun, there's The MAD Fold-In Collection: 1964–2010, reprinting Al Jaffee's intricate trick drawings where the joke only comes clear when you fold the paper just right. It's a journey through nearly 50 years of American culture with a wise, funny guide.
PW's Top 10 Comics & Graphic Novels
Pogo: The Complete Daily & Sunday Comic Strips, Vol. 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder
Walt Kelly, edited by R.C. Harvey. Fantagraphics, Oct.
Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes
Carl Barks. Fantagraphics, Nov.
Everything, Vol. 1
Lynda Barry. Drawn & Quarterly, Oct.
Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery Deluxe
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. DC, Nov.
Daniel Clowes. Drawn & Quarterly, Sept.
Craig Thompson. Pantheon, Sept.
Nate Powell. Top Shelf, Aug.
Hark! A Vagrant
Kate Beaton. Drawn & Quarterly, Sept.
Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010
Michael Kupperman. Fantagraphics, Oct.
The MAD Fold-In Collection: 1964-2010
Al Jaffee. Chronicle, Sept.