Big Events, Big Books

2012 was a big year for graphic novels, highlighted by a handful of high-profile releases that should be on every serious comics lover’s wish list. Scott Pilgrim Color Hardcover, Vol. 1: Precious Little Life, the first volume of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s hugely popular Scott Pilgrim series, introduces lovelorn Scott as he begins his quest to win Ramona Flowers’s hand by defeating her seven “evil exes,” now presented in full color for the first time. Comics and classics collide in the Graphic Canon, Vols. 1 and 2 (of three), containing a total of 190 timeless stories from Gilgamesh to Infinite Jest, interpreted by more than a hundred of the best cartoonists in the business. The interstellar exploits that inspired an entire generation come alive in Flash Gordon: On the Planet Mongo, the first collection of the classic comic strip, collecting the work of Alex Raymond. Building Stories, the latest treasure from Chris Ware, is an incredible panoptic celebration of print media, telling the story of a handicapped woman’s life presented in the form of books, newspapers, a board game, and more. One of the most admired and influential comic strips of all time, Krazy & Ignatz is collected in Krazy & Ignatz: Complete Sunday Strips 1916–1924, which contains the first nine years of George Herriman’s masterpiece into one (of three) handsome tomes.

Building Stories
by Chris Ware
Pantheon, $50

Scott Pilgrim Color
Hardcover, Vol. 1: Precious Little Life

by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Oni Press, $24.99

Graphic Canon, Vol. 1–2
by various
Seven Stories Press, $34.95

Flash Gordon:
On the Planet Mongo:
The Complete Flash Gordon Library, Vol.

by Alex Raymond
Titan Books, $39.95

Krazy & Ignatz:
Complete Sunday Strips 1916–1924

by George Herriman
Fantagraphics, $95

DC Comics' New 52

DC Comics’ New 52 relaunch of its entire line was a bold move that allowed the publisher to reintroduce many of its most storied characters to a contemporary audience. Its flagship title, Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin, written by DC chief creative officer Geoff Johns and illustrated by DC copublisher Jim Lee, features blockbuster action and stars DC’s biggest heroes facing the most dangerous threats. In Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo push the Dark Knight to his physical and mental limits as he battles the sinister Court of Owls. Geoff Johns’s intergalactic epic continues in Green Lantern, Vol. 1: Sinestro, which follows perennial villain Sinestro in his new role as a Green Lantern, illustrated by Doug Mahnke. Finally, the King of the Seven Seas is reborn in Aquaman, Vol. 1: The Trench by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis, as he cedes his throne and embarks on a campaign to prove his worth to the world.

Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin
by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee
DC Comics, $24.99

Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls
by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
DC Comics, $24.99

Green Lantern, Vol. 1: Sinestro
by Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke
DC Comics, $22.99

Aquaman, Vol. 1: The Trench
by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis
DC Comics, $22.99

Comics Guides To Living Well

Comics aren’t just for fun—with the growth of nonfiction comics, a few of them even tell you how to get more out of life. In Poorcraft, two creators who have suffered through many days as starving cartoonists inform on basic survival skills like making a budget and cutting up a chicken. Dirt Candy is billed as the first comic book cookbook and provides delicious vegetarian recipes from the trendy East Village restaurant of the same name.

Poorcraft: The Funnybook Fundamentals of Living Well
by C. Spike Trotman and Diana Nock
Iron Circus, $10

Dirt Candy: A Cookbook
by Amanda Cohen, Grady Hendrix,
and Ryan Dunlavy
Potter, $19.99

Good Yarns

There’s nothing like curling up with a good story on a lazy Christmas afternoon, and these graphic novels all present dense, satisfying stories that will fill the postdinner lazy time. For fantasy fans, Hope Larson adapts the classic A Wrinkle in Time into a gorgeous comics version, and Marc Siegel imagines the 19th-century drama that unfolds when a mermaid is found in the Hudson River in Sailor Twain. Chef Anthony Bourdain, writer Joel Rose, and artist Langdon Foss take us on a fanciful journey to a future where celebrity chefs are also mob bosses and assassins in Get Jiro! For more realistic fare, in Glyn Dillon’s The Nao of Brown, a young woman’s OCD gives rise to a fantastic world. For technology fans, the ethos of early computer hackers is absorbingly recreated in Ed Piskor’s Wizzywig. And the little known period of Abraham Lincoln’s early struggles as a young lawyer are recounted in Noah van Sciver’s The Hypo.

A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L’Engle and Hope Larson
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $19.99

Get Jiro!
by Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose,
and Langdon Foss
DC/Vertigo, $24.99

Sailor Twain or the Mermaid in the Hudson
by Marc Siegel
Roaring Book/First Second, $24.99

The Nao of Brown
by Glyn Dillon
Abrams/SelfMadeHero, $24.95

by Ed Piskor
Top Shelf, $19.95

The Hypo
by Noah Van Sciver
Fantagraphics, $24.99

Visual Splendor

Comics’ traditional strength is visual impact, and all these books deliver great art—sometimes with laughs, and sometimes with tears. Although aimed at the younger set, Rutu Modan’s Maya Makes a Mess is as lovely as it is hilarious in the story of a girl who teaches the queen how to eat without a napkin. Carol Lay’s Illiterature collects her Story Minute minisagas, pitch-perfect 12-panel fables of jealousy, fate, and misunderstanding. In Abelard, French artist Renaud Dillies sends a little chick named Abelard and a grumpy bear named Gaston on a lovely, picaresque adventure to America. For opposites, you can’t get much more different than these: punk icon Gary Panter’s angular world of neon brutalism is collected in the deluxe Dal Tokyo, while Adrian Tomine’s New York Drawings from the New Yorker and elsewhere paints a nuanced picture of urban life in the 21st century. Finally, Brian Haberlin’s Anomaly is a spectacular, fully painted science fiction story that uses augmented reality and other storytelling tricks straight out of SF. It’s also big enough to use as a coffee table in a pinch.

Maya Makes a Mess
by Rutu Modan
Candlewick/Toon Books, $12.95

by Carol Lay,
Boom! $14.99

by Renaud Dillies and Regis Hautiere,
NBM, $23.99

Dal Tokyo
by Gary Panter
Fantagraphics, $35

New York Drawings
by Adrian Tomine
Drawn & Quarterly, $29.95

by Skip Bittemham and Brian Haberlin
Anomaly Publishing, $75

Manga & More

This year’s manga spotlights two creative giants in Japan—one hugely popular around the world and the other one of the medium’s most revered innovators whose work has only recently begun to earn him international acclaim—and a new telling of a modern horror classic by an exciting young talent. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind Box Set collects filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece, about a young girl’s fight for peace between man and nature, into two slipcased hardcover editions. Renowned cartoonist Shigeru Mizuki’s NonNonBa, an award-winning memoir about the relationship between the author, his grandmother, and Japanese spirits known as “yokai,” is available for the first time in English. And Interview with a Vampire: Claudia’s Story offers Anne Rice’s vampire saga retold from the perspective of the eternally young Claudia, adapted and illustrated by rising star Ashley Witter.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Box Set
by Hayao Miyazaki
Viz Media, $60

by Shigeru Mizuki,
Drawn & Quarterly, $26.95

Interview with a Vampire:
Claudia’s Story

by Anne Rice and Ashley Witter
Yen Press, $19.99

Biography & Memoir

Over the past decade, memoirs and biographies have become a staple in the comics industry, spanning a wide breadth of topics often at the cutting edge of popular culture. Both The Zen of Steve Jobs and Steve Jobs: Genius by Design explore the life of one of the digital age’s most celebrated figures, from Jobs’s early days at the dawn of the personal computer to his years of spiritual exploration, and finally as the face and mind of Apple. Comics break cultural boundaries in No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics, which collects more than 40 years of stories celebrating LGBT lifestyles, and features work from creators such as Alison Bechdel and Howard Cruse. The progenitor of underground comics, R. Crumb, teams up with his wife and collaborator, Aline, for Drawn Together: The Collected Works of R. and A. Crumb, a crash course in their unforgettable marriage and life. One of the industry’s most unusual voices is Gabrielle Bell, whose latest work, The Voyeurs, is an account of her worldwide travels while creating her award-winning minicomic, Lucky. Chinese life is explored in two distinct memoirs: A Chinese Life, the tale of an artist surviving through Chairman Mao’s turbulent social upheaval, and Little White Duck: A Childhood in China, the recollections of a girl growing up in post-Mao China, during the country’s rapid industrial development in recent years.

The Zen of Steve Jobs
by Caleb Melby
Wiley, $19.95

Steve Jobs: Genius by Design
by Jason Quinn and Amit Tayal
Campfire, $12.99

No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics
edited by Justin Hall
Fantagraphics, $35

Drawn Together:
The Collected Works of R. and A. Crumb

by R. Crumb and Aline Kominsky Crumb
Liveright, $29.95

The Voyeurs
by Gabrielle Bell
Uncivilized Books, $24.95

A Chinese Life
by Philippe Otie and Li Kunwu,
SelfMadeHero, $27.50

Little White Duck: A Childhood in China
by Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez
Lerner Graphic Universe, $9.95