Captain Orion’s bestest comic book, graphic novel picks of 2020!

Oh 2020, what an unusual year for the comic book industry.

Sadly, there are less comic book stores, less retail book outlets, and those left are mostly now struggling to survive through the ongoing global pandemic. There’s also the freeze on comic cons, potential book signings, promotions. 2020 was a troublesome year for creators, merchants, publishers, and readers.

Yet, the sequential arts shall survive. Graphic novels sales are up by 29% since 2019! Also, there are many fresh reads throughout the year, and more time among the masses to catch up on these and past work with with the quarantines and lockdowns. Also, buying comics supports the industry, among the struggling creators, publishers, distributers, small business dealers.

So below, are my bestest picks released for 2020, based on what I have checked out.

BEST NEW SERIES of 2020

Inkblot

Writer: Emma Kubert Artist: Rusty Gadd
Publisher: Image Comics (monthly series)

It’s a fun little series about a mischievous magical over-powerful cat. I love the worlds, characters, art, writing, and excited to see where it’s all going!

BEST ONGOING STORYLINE of 2020

Excellence

Writer: Brandom Thomas Artist: Emilio Lopez, Khary Randolph
Publisher: Image Comics (monthly series)

This series keeps on surprising, with twists and turns while presenting a secret world of Black magic that feels more intricate and responsible than your typical Hogwarts melodrama.

BEST COMIC BOOK COVER of 2020

Amazing Spider-Man #55 (latest series)

Artist: Patrick Gleason
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I don’t know if the story is good, but the cover is just too awesome to ignore!

BEST COLORING of 2020

MTSYRY: Octobriana 1976

Writer/Artist: Jim Rugg
Publisher: AdHouse Books

The black light colors are truly eye-popping, with this modern take on an old Russian superhero from the early Bronze Age. To further the color even more, Jim Rugg also put out a 1970s style coloring issue, and colorless version as well. Masterful stuff!

BEST INSANITY of 2020

Dark Nights: Death Metal

Writer: Scott Snyder and others Artist: Greg Capullo and others
Publisher: DC Comics (monthly mini -eries and crossover one-shots)

Also the best guilty pleasure of 2020. As a big DC fan since the late 1980s, the is the most ridiculous and over-the top crossover event yet. Everything has gone wrong in the DCU as an army evil Batman from the Dark Multiverse take over, and things just get crazier from there.

BEST SUSPENSE SERIES of 2020

Something is Killing the Children

Writer: James Tynion IV Artist: Werther Dell’Edera
Publisher: DC Comics (monthly series

If you enjoy horror, mystery, stronger and darker content than Stranger Things, than Something is Killing the Children is waiting for you to turn its pages. It’s different, not as spoon fed in pacing, full of mystery, and has a unique protagonist.

BEST SCIENCE FICTION of 2020

Planet Paradise

Writer/Artist: Jesse Lonergan
Publisher: Image Comics (Short graphic novel)

I love this story, which feels like a mix of old fashioned pulp, mixed with grit and light campy elements. Great survival story revolving around adventure, danger, friendship. Also love the alien landscapes, designs, and space tech – simple yet escapist pleasure for sure!

BEST CHARACTER STUDY of 2020

DARTH VADER Vol. 1 – Dark Heart Of The Sith

Writer/Artist: Greg Pack, Raffaele Ienco
Publisher: Marvel Comics (#1-5 of the latest series, collected in trade paperback form)

This is an interesting read as it delves deeper into the inner conflict of Darth Vader since the events of Empire Strikes Back (but before Return of the Jedi), searching his feelings. This leads to a startling revelation, that you should read to find out. The result, gives more sense to his transition and actions in Return of the Jedi, yet also plays upon his cruel, corrupted nature.

BEST WRITTEN SERIES in 2020

John Constantine: Hellblazer

Writer: Simon Spurrier Artist: Matias Bergara, Arron Campbell, Marcio Takara 
Publisher: DC Comics (Black Label) (monthly series)

I freakin love Simon Spurrier’s writing from past work and here, also with great respect back to the Vertigo socio-political days of Delano and Ennis!

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL of 2020

Under Earth

Writer/Artist: Chris Gooch
Publisher: Top Shelf (graphic novel)

This was really, really good, and fitting for a pandemic time for themes of lonliness and isolation turning to friendships and communications through restrictive times. In this case, a prison system in a surreal future or alternate present. The artwork is perfect, with a masterful use of blacks and whites…check it out!

BEST REPRINTING OF CLASSIC COMICS of 2020

Mermaid Saga Collector’s Edition, Vol. 1

Writer/Artist: Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Viz

Many fans of Rumiko Takahashi will know her best for the grander Inu-Yasha anime and manga series. But for me in my older days of when manga felt more fresh to comic books stores, Mermaid’s Saga captured my heart way more. Seeing it all complete, but this time better edited and and presented, is a treasure to behold.

BEST COMICS HISTORY BOOK of 2020

Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books

Writer: Ken Quatro
Publisher: Yoe Books

An large book full of lost history detailing the stories and lives of many obscure Black cartoonists and comic creators during comics Golden Age around the Second World War. Full of rare panels, pictures, fascinating facts on multiple genre contributions (some are very surprising!) what would have been lost if not for this book.

And, that’s all my favorites for the 2020 year. I probably missed or overlooked that might have been better. Please if so, let me know in the comments. I don’t want to feel left out on your best books.

YALSA reveals its best of graphic novels, comics vols for 2021

The Young Adult Library Association (YALSA) of the ALA (American Library Association) recently revealed its own list of “Great Graphic Novels for Teens,” for the 2021 year ahead.

This list was comprised by a committee of librarians from across the U.S. and one from the American Library in Paris. This selection of 126 titles narrowed down from 145 nominations. Each book is considered suitable for readers aged 12 to 18, and selected to “meet the criteria of both good quality literature and appealing reading for teens.” That list can be viewed on their website at www.ala.org/yalsa/2021-great-graphic-novels-teens.

Also for YALSA, a team of librarian bloggers handpicked a top Ten list of graphic novel reads for young adults. That list is as follows…

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha. Balzer and Bray (HarperCollins) – Ha discusses the challenges of moving to America from her childhood home in South Korea, providing an honest and thoughtful perspective on being an outsider, finding your community, and how it feels to return to a home you’ve left behind.

Blue Flag (volume 1-5) manga by Kaito (Viz Media) – An unexpected love quadrangle forms when Taichi agrees to help Futaba pursue her crush, Toma, while friend Mami looks on. But Toma has feelings for someone else, and as friendships and romantic relationships develop, nothing is as clear cut as it seems.

Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence by Joel Christian Gill (Oni Press) – Joel Christian Gill narrates what it was like for him to grow up in a single-parent household in the 1980s, from childhood to young adulthood—Black, broke, and surrounded by uncertainty.

Go With the Flow by Karen Schneemann, art by Lily Williams (First Second / Macmillan) – Fed up with the empty tampon and pad dispensers at Hazelton High School, sophomores Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha decide to start a “menstruation revolution.” Through blog posts, letter-writing campaigns, and online fundraisers, the girls work together to make change.

Guantánamo Voices: True Accounts from the World’s Most Infamous Prison by Sarah Mirk, art by Gerardo Alba, Kasia Babis, Alex Beguez, Tracy Chahwan, Nomi Kane, et al. Abrams (ComicsArts / Abrams Books) – 2 Narratives about the infamous Guantánamo prison are illuminated in this anthology by multimedia journalist Sarah Mirk and a team of talented artists.

The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado, art by DaNi. (Hill House Comics / DC Comics) – El and Vee black out and lose time in a movie theater. While trying to figure out what happened, the girls uncover horrifying secrets about their community that span generations.

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen. (Random House Graphic / Penguin Random House) – Tiến is a first-generation Vietnamese American who struggles with coming out of the closet to his parents. Will Tiến find a way to connect in the fairytales he shares with his mother?

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh. (First Second / Macmillan. 2020) – Snap knows witches aren’t real, but when her dog goes missing, she checks at the local witch’s house just in case. From there, an unlikely friendship begins, and Snap discovers that witches may be real after all.

Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang, art by Gurihiru. (DC Comics) – In 1946, Lan-Shin (Roberta) Lee and her family move from Chinatown to central Metropolis and attempt to fit in with their neighbors. But when the Klan begins harassing the Lees, Roberta must team up with new friends to help Superman take down the Klan in this smart, action-packed adventure.

Wonder Twins, Volume 1 and 2) by Mark Russell, art by Stephen Byrne (DC Comics) – In this humorous and satirical reboot, alien twins Zan and Jayna have to balance their lives as high schoolers in Metropolis while trying to figure out if their actions as heroes are actually helping to solve any of the world’s real issues.

..

Overall, both lists are great with a nice look back at the best of 2020. But, also important is that much on this list holds a variety of genres, a mix of non-fiction and fiction, and full of ethnic and cultural diversity in both the art and creators involved. This list can be useful at all comic stores as a well, while we wait for the libraries to reopen.

New Comic Series Preview: Luna #1

Luna #1

Creator: Maria Llovet (writer/artist)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios Release Date: February 3, 2021
Format: Monthly comic mini-series (with a mature readers label)

When Teresa fatefully crosses paths with the Family of the Sun, she believes them to be exactly what anyone else in the late ‘60s would expect – a hippie cult whose leader claims to have met the divine. But secret blood rituals, powerful drugs and sex runneth amok will bring Teresa face-to-face with the truth about the Family, herself and the dark secret behind her dreams.

BOOM! Studios presents its first look at LUNA #1, the premiere issue of a new original five-issue series by comics creator Maria Llovet (FaithlessHeartbeat). In this darkly erotic series, an innocent young woman finds herself drawn to a mysterious commune where the search for immortality collides with the true power of enduring love, available in February 2021.

LUNA #1 features main cover art by series artist Maria Llovet and variant covers by fan favorite artist Jenny Frison (Something is Killing the Children).

Check your local and online comic book stores for availability and order options. Digital version is available at the BOOM! Studios webstore or purchased from content providers, including comiXology, iBooks, Google Play, and Madefire.

Huge thanks to BOOM @ Studios for the following. For more, visit www.boom-studios.com.

On Dec. 20, 1940 – Captain America makes his debut, punching Hitler and becoming an icon

On this day, 80 years ago, Captain America introduced himself, punching Adolf Hitler in the face on his premiere comic book first issue on newsstands everywhere!

With a publication date of March 1941, Captain America #1 hit newsstands earlier on December 20th, 1940, by Timely Comics (later reborn as Marvel Comics). The book sold nearly a million copies, as part of the remarkable Golden Age era of comic books hitting its prime for the decade to come.

Two Jewish New Yorker cartoonists, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Captain America. Joe Simon originally sketched the concept for the character as “Super American” but then felt there were enough Supers already on the newsstand and not enough Captains. So, he thought it sounded cool and catchy, and so Captain America was born. From there, he gave the pitch to his editor Martin Goodman at Timely Comics, who approved. Then, Joe wrote the initial story and gave concepts, sketches, cover art to Jack Kirby to take over as the sequential artist for the breakout issue. Jack Kirby fully brought out the character in full comic book form, with the help of Al Lieberman as the inker and Howard Ferguson as the letterer.

And so, Captain America was released a year into World War II, in a difficult time for the U.S still recovering from the Great Depression and dealing with its racist attitudes. Captain America was viewed by many as Jewish propaganda as many Americans were sadly not yet on board against Hitler’s rising fascism and attempted takeover of Europe.

Joe Simon later noted “When the first issue came out we got a lot of … threatening letters and hate mail. Some people really opposed what Cap stood for.” The threats, which included menacing groups of people loitering out on the street outside of the offices, proved so serious that police protection was posted with New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia personally contacting Simon and Kirby to give his support.”

Captain America arrived as a fictional champion against Hitler and his Nazi Third Reich. He fitted America’s rising position and eventually entry into World War II, with the Pearl Harbor bombing pushing the U.S. forward to act a year later after the comic book release. Captain America would continue to punch Nazis in comics and other symbols of its fascism and ideology for the rest of the war through Timely Comics. Soon, Stanley Lieber, A fresh 19-year old editor, would contribute with editing and writing under the pseudonym and later legal name, Stan Lee.

The character of Captain America became a significant pop-culture icon, mostly from Stan Lee’s revival (with the help of Cap co-creator Jack Kirby) of Marvel Comics much later. His new look and updated origin of the 1940’s release would become iconic, appearing further in cartoons, live TV, toys, and movies. The later MCU produced movies featuring Cap portrayed by Chris Evans would boost the iconic fighter of Nazis and other evils to an inspirational status further beyond the failed visions of Hitler’s Third Reich.

After 80 years, Captain America remains a symbol for what’s supposed to be right with America, standing up to evil and fighting for good and preservation of better ideals. Now, Captain America is currently owned by Disney and used to support a monopolistic entity that many consider part of a bigger problem with modern America. Yet, there remains something wholesome and wonderful about the Star-Spangled First Avenger’s humble roots through his comic book introduction, as a colorful champion boldly leads against evil in dark times.

Captain America inspired real life people to dress-up and take on issues of the real world (while some sadly misuse him as a patriotic symbol). A personal favorite is Sikh Captain America, a bearded turban-wearing version cosplayed by cartoonist Vishavjit Singh. He promotes, educates on what he feels Captain America should be about in the modern era, going beyond the super hero theatrics and melodrama of the Marvel Comic and MCU stories. Many challenge him and his appearance going against the white male American ideal. But he fights on, with the ballsy spirit of Captain America’s Jewish creators.

So, Captain America didn’t just punch Hitler in the face 80 years ago. Along with many other comic book super-heroes, he led the fight for generations to come and stand up (perhaps punch if that’s what it takes) evil in all forms. And the fight will continue, often holding on to what we want the righteous symbols to press on to and keep on representing as better patriotism.

Give a graphic novel, big comics TP with our 2020 Holiday Gift Guide!

2020 Holiday Season is here!!

Tis season shall not to be stopped by the ongoing global pandemic. Many will shop, yet find ways to best stay safe and minimalize risks of infection. Online or local, there are ways to continue the joyous gift giving tradition of our Xmas and winter holiday season!

So, that’s where you come in reaching out to a local bookseller or comic shop, hopefully still open or have a pickup thing going on. Online also works, if local options are too inconvenient. Either way, The book-sellers, publishers, artists, writers, and creative souls that drive the sequential arts need your help! And they can help you in return, by helping to put something new in the hands of someone awesome in your life, most deserving!

But choosing can be tough, especially in this tough time of social distancing and quarantining So, I put together a shortlist of awesome, fresh current shelf reads that I know of, or heard of, or recommended by a respected peers. Much of this is fresh, creator-driven material. Some things are just fresh formats for older. more obscure material now reprinted.

These are mostly currently obtainable through major retail book chains, comic book stores, and wherever new books can be at least ordered. NOTE: Book info below is for the US and Canada retail shelves release.

So, dig in and consider perhaps gifting any of these for yourself as well.

The World of Black Hammer: Volume 1

Writer / Artist: Jeff Lemire / Dean Ormston (Illustrator), David RubÌn (Illustrator), Max Fiumara (Illustrator)
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Format: 256-hardcover
ISBN: 978-1506719955

An expanded look at the world of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Eisner Award-winning Black Hammer universe, with two complete series drawn by David Rubín and Max Fiumara. Sherlock Frankenstein lies at the heart of the mystery of what happened to Black Hammer, Spiral City’s greatest hero, and Black Hammer’s daughter is determined to uncover his role. Doctor Andromeda, an aged crime fighter, desperately struggles to reconnect with his estranged son as he takes on personal demons and interstellar battles.

Collects Sherlock Frankenstein & the Legion of Evil: From the World of Black Hammer and Doctor Andromeda and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows in a deluxe, oversized hardcover format with a new cover, sketchbook extras, and more!

Get this for… Black Hammer fans of course, or someone who enjoys comics and perhaps super hero movies on a more intellectual level. The Black Hammer stories can often be enjoyed as self-contained, but also a celebration of the long-standing contributions of super-hero storytelling as literary, character building devices!

Under-Earth

Writer / Artist: Chris Gooch
Published by: Top Shelf Productions
Format: 560-page softcover paperback
ISBN: 9781603094771

The inmates of an extensive underground prison struggle to build meaningful lives in a broken system, in the most ambitious graphic novel to date from rising indie star Chris Gooch (Bottled and Deep Breaths).Under-Earth takes place in a subterranean landfill, hollowed out to serve as a massive improvised prison. Sunken into the trash and debris of the past — gameboys, iphones, coffee cups, old cars — we follow two parallel stories.

In the first, a new arrival struggles to adapt to the everyday violence, physical labour, and poverty of the prison city. Overwhelmed and alone, he finds a connection with a fellow inmate through an old, beat-up novel. While these two silent and uncommunicative men grow closer thanks to their book, the stress of their environment will test their new bond. Meanwhile, a pair of thieves pull off a risky job in exchange for the prisons’ schematics and the promise of escape — only to be betrayed by their employer. On the run with their hope for escape now gone, the two women set their minds to revenge. Yet as they lay their plans, their focus shifts from an obsession with the outside world to the life they have with each other.

Equal parts sincerity and violence, Under-Earth explores humanity’s inextinguishable drive to find meaning, connection, and even family — and how fragile such constructions can be.

Get this for… A good friend, someone looking for new positives in these tough times, and enjoys a good long read! Also, Chris Gooch’s art is awesome, with an modern tone that feels both expressive yet beautifully simple.

Accidents and Old Lace and Other Stories

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Writer / Artist:  A; Feldstein / Graham Ingels
Published by: Fantagraphics
Format: 232-page Hardcover
ISBN: 9781683963806

This volume collects short horror comics stories from Tales From the Crypt, Vault of Horror, Haunt of Fear, Crime SuspenStories, and Impact ― including a rare EC gem that hasn’t been seen since its original publication more than 65 years ago! These stories, which “Ghastly” Graham Ingels drew while he was at the pinnacle of his powers, include tales such as “Accidents and Old Lace.” Three sweet, little old ladies weave tapestries depicting the gruesome deaths of real people, but when an art dealer commits murder to get a tapestry of his own, he discovers just how closely art imitates … death. In “Marriage Vow,” a woman returns from the grave to fulfill her wifely duty to her murderous husband, until death does them … together; and in “The Sliceman Cometh,” an executioner during the French Revolution can’t escape the severed head of an innocent man.

Get this for… someone who loves good short horror stories from yesterday, lost but now found treasure in a book ol book. Some who loves scary movies, and needs to know where some of that stuff probably came from.

Lois Lane: Enemy of the People

Lois Lane Enemy of the People

Writer / Artist:  Greg Rucka / Mike Perkins
Published by: DC Comics
Format: 304-page softcover
ISBN: 1770463690

She uncovered the most dangerous secret in the DC Universe…now she just has to prove it! After a press briefing at the White House-and carrying a secret that could disrupt Superman’s life-Lois Lane embarks on a harrowing journey to uncover a threat to her husband and a plot that reaches the highest levels of international power brokers and world leaders. Bestselling writer Greg Rucka and acclaimed artist Mike Perkins team up for a tale of conspiracy, intrigue, and murder that tests the limits of tough-as-nails investigative journalist Lois Lane. As the mystery deepens, the Question hunts the people responsible for an attempt on the reporter’s life. But do they want her dead because of what she knows or to stop her from finding out more? Collects Lois Lane #1-12.

Get this for someone who loves journalism, or feels Lois Lane deserves better than how she is written in the movies. Someone who also enjoyed the Lois Lane comics in the 70s (daring reporter!) more than the 60s (Superman’s crazy girlfriend!).

Planet Paradise, Volume 1

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Writer / Artist:  Jesse Lonergan
Published by: Image Comics
Format: 128-page softcover
ISBN: 978-1534316980

To survive after crash landing on an alien planet, a vacationer must battle against a hostile environment, killer lizards, corporate bureaucracy, and the pessimism of her sole companion, the drug-addled captain of the ship.

Get this for… who loves a good hearted story filled with friendship and danger, with some surprise twists. Personal note: I absolutely loved this, and you should at least buy this for yourself.

Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics

Writer / Artist:  Tom Scioli
Published by: Ten Speed Press
Format: 208-page hardcover
ISBN: 1984856901

Told in vivid graphic novel form by a groundbreaking Eisner-nominated comics creator, the long-overdue biography of the legend who co-created Captain America, Iron Man, Black Panther, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and many more superhero favorites.

Get this for…someone who really loves comic books and loves the history that Jack Kirby has helped greatly shaped and influenced on. Tom Scioli brings a special storytelling style with his art, very detailed and stylized through each page!

Transformers/Ghostbusters: Ghosts of Cybertron

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Writer / Artist:  Erik Burnham / Dan Schoening
Published by: IDW
Format: 126-page softcover paperback
ISBN: 978-1684056200

Prime gets slimed! Crossing streams after 35 years, this action-packed graphic novel combines two of the most popular franchises in pop-culture history. After years of civil war, the Autobots fled Cybertron, leaving their home planet in the evil clutches of Megatron and his Decepticons. Years later and millions of miles away, the Autobots pick up a Cybertronian distress signal from a mysterious planet called Earth. The ghostly signal shouldn’t exist, and it’ll bring Optimus Prime and his team—including brand-new Autobot ECTOTRON—face-to-face with… the GHOSTBUSTERS!

Get this for…anyone who loves the golden age of 80s nostalgia through cartoons, movies, and toys.

Titan

Titan

Writer / Artist:  François Vigneault
Published by: Lion Forge Comics
Format: 208-page softcover paperback
ISBN: 1620107791

When MNGR First Class João da Silva arrives on the moon of Titan to take charge of Homestead Station, he finds the massive mining colony plagued by tensions between the giant, genetically-engineered Titan workers and the Terran management. As anger mounts, what began as a routine posting quickly turns into something far more dangerous.

Phoebe Mackintosh thought she left her fighting days behind her when she turned her back on the “mixing” circuit. Now, she finds herself caught between a past she’d rather forget and a future she can’t predict. Together, they must find a way to pull Homestead back from the brink of disaster… Or Titan might be the spark that sets the entire solar system ablaze.

Get this for… someone looking for something a little different in science fiction, probably watches Star Trek for the social commentary.

The Sacrifice of Darkness

Sacrifice of Darkness

Writer / Artist: Roxane Gay, Tracy Lynne / Rebecca Kirby
Published by: Archaia (Imprint of BOOM!)
Format: 128-page hardcover
ISBN: 1684156246

New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay (World of Wakanda, Difficult Women) adapts her short story “We Are the Sacrifice of Darkness” as a full-length graphic novel with writer Tracy Lynne Oliver (This Weekend), and artist Rebecca Kirby (Biopsy.) Expanding an unforgettable world where a tragic event forever bathes the world in darkness, The Sacrifice of Darkness follows one woman’s powerful journey through this new landscape as she discovers love, family, and the true light in a world seemingly robbed of any. This young adult drama challenges notions of identity, guilt, and survival in a graphic novel for fans of On A Sunbeam and Are You Listening?

Get this for… someone who loves beautiful art mixed with thoughtful storytelling. Also, those into fresh young adult section finds!

Shuri: Wakanda Forever

Shuri

Writers:  Vita Ayala, Nnedi Okorafor
Artists: Leonardo Romero, Paul Davidson, Rachael Stott
Published by: Marvel Comics
Format: 224-page softcover paperback
ISBN: 1302923692

The Black Panther’s techno-genius sister stars in her own incredible adventures! T’Challa has disappeared, and Wakanda expects Shuri to lead their great nation in his absence! But she’s happiest in a lab surrounded by her inventions. She’d rather be testing gauntlets than throwing them down! So it’s time for Shuri to rescue her brother yet again — with a little help from Storm, Rocket Raccoon and Groot! But what happens when her outer-space adventure puts Africa at risk from an energy-sapping alien threat? Then, Shuri heads to America to investigate a lead, with Ms. Marvel and Miles “Spider-Man” Morales along for the ride! But with her people in peril, will Shuri embrace her reluctant destiny and become the Black Panther once more? Prepare for a hero like you’ve never seen before!

Collects Shuri (2018) monthly single issue comic series #1-10.

Get this for… for Black Panther fans and MCU of course, but further more, a fresh superhero journey that feels classic in its own way and stays with the reader longer after the last page.

Remina

Writer / Artist:  Junji Ito
Published by: Viz Media LLC
Format: 256-page Hardcover
ISBN: 197471747X

(note: due out on December 15th)

Another of Junji Ito’s classics, the sci-fi masterwork Remina tells the chilling tale of a hell star. An unknown planet emerges from inside a wormhole, and its discoverer, Dr. Oguro, christens the body “Remina” after his own daughter. His finding is met with great fanfare, and Remina herself rises to fame. However, the object picks up speed as it moves along in its curious course, eliminating planets and stars one after another, until finally Earth itself faces extinction… Is the girl Remina the true cause of the catastrophe? A masterwork of horror from Junji Ito, unfolding on a universal scale.

Get this forfans of Junji Ito! Also, someone who loves Japanese horror and science fiction on a much grander, cosmic scale. I haven’t check this one out, but the work of Junji Ito always breaks though and the imagination, and opens the reader to new and eerie dimensions.

Plutocracy

Writer / Artist: Abraham Martinez
Published by: NBM Graphic Novels
Format: 144-page hardcover
ISBN: 9781681122687

2051. The world’s largest company, The Company, has seized power on a planetary scale and runs the world as if it were a business. In a plutocracy, the richer one is, the more powerful one is. In this context, an anonymous citizen becomes compelled to uncover how the world came to this situation, without paying any attention to the official version. Several members of the government end up encouraging him to carry out this investigation by giving him access to all information. He decides to discover the true history of The Company and the various interests that are trying to influence his investigation.

Get this for someone who loves to talk about politics a bit too much.


That’s all for now. I tried for a wide variety, yet not beyond my own reading interests. After all, it’s my personal list. But, if you have something you would like to add to that list, post it in the comments below.

Skyward’s Joe Henderson and Lee Garbett return in 2021 for Shadecraft horror series

Image Comics recently announced a new upcoming teen horror series, Shadecraft, with writer and Lucifer showrunner Joe Henderson teaming up with Captain Marvel artist Lee Garbett to bring some scary freshness for 2021. The creative duo was recently known for the Eisner nominated and awesome series (and personal favorite) Skyward, which ended in 2019. Now, on to something new…

In Shadecraft, readers meet Zadie Lu. She’s afraid of her own shadow. She’s also a teenager, so she really should have grown out of it by now… But something weird is happening in her small town—it’s as if the shadows are actually coming to life. Watching her. Maybe even trying to kill her. But how do you fight something you can’t even touch? And why is she the target they’re after?

“To me, shadows are the perfect mixture of horror and fun. One minute, they seem to come to dangerous life out of the corner of my eye. The next, I’m making silly shadow puppets with my son,” Henderson told Comic Book Resources in an exclusive scoop of the announcement. “I love that cocktail of genuine scares and playful adventure, and we’ve infused it into this book. I’ve been wanting to tell a story with shadows coming to life for years, but it took finding the right emotional heart—finding Zadie’s story—for it to finally come together. Welcome to Shadecraft—let’s hope Zadie Lu survives the experience…”

Garbett also told Comic Book Resources: “With Shadecraft we get to play with a darker, more ominous tone than Skyward without losing that vital heart and warmth that’s so important to us. This book presented a whole new set of artistic challenges in bringing the shadows to life. I tried to keep things as organic as possible, letting the ink move and grow on the paper to find its own form. I can’t wait for everyone to check it out.”

Shadecraft #1 will be available at comic book shops, and also across digital platforms, including Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, ComiXology, and Google Play, on Wednesday, March 31

Here’s a little preview provided by Image Comics in the meantime…

And now, The 2020 Harvey Award Comics Industry Winners are…

As part the New York Comic Con and MCM Comic Con 2020 (both online as part of the “Metaverse,” because of the pandemic), the unveiling of the winners of the 2018 Harvey Awards commenced, carrying its annual tradition through a virtual ceremony.

The Harvey Awards remain part of the comic industry’s most prestigious awards. Since 1988, the Harvey Awards have highlighted significant achievements in the sequential arts industry, named after named in honor of legendary writer-artist Harvey Kurtzman.

But this year, a new change from the category of Best European Book to Best International Book. This amend, many will agree is long overdue.

Also among the winners announced, seven recipients were also honored for their outstanding contributions and important work done for the comic arts industry:  Osamu Tezuka (Astro BoyBuddha), award-winning illustrator Jill Thompson (Scary GodmotherBeasts of Burden), and the core members of the groundbreaking Milestone Media imprint, Dwayne McDuffieDerek T. Dingle, Denys CowanMichael Davis.

Voting was done by eligible industry professionals, currently headlined by the ReedPOP Exhibitions company.

Here below, the winners highlighted among the nominees are…

Book of the Year

  • Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden (First Second)
  • Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang (First Second) (WINNER!)
  • Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim (Drawn and Quarterly)
  • The Hard Tomorrow by Eleanor Davis (Drawn and Quarterly)
  • Invisible Kingdom Vol. 1 by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward (Dark Horse Books/Berger Books)
  • Little Bird: The Fight for Elder’s Hope by Darcy Van Poelgeest and Ian Bertram (Image Comics)
  • Making Comics by Lynda Barry (Drawn and Quarterly)
  • Reincarnation Stories by Kim Deitch (Fantagraphics)
  • Rusty Brown by Chris Ware (Pantheon Graphic Library)
  • Something is Killing the Children Vol. 1 by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera (BOOM! Studios)

Digital Book of the Year

Best Children or Young Adult Book

  • Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir by Robin Ha (HarperCollins / Balzer + Bray)
  • Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang (First Second)
  • Guts by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic Graphix)
  • Stargazing by Jen Wang (First Second)
  • Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru (DC Comics) (WINNER!)

Best Adaptation from a Comic Book/Graphic Novel

  • Blacksad: Under the Skin video game by Microïds, based on Blacksad (Dark Horse Comics)
  • I Am Not Okay With This by Netlfix, based on I Am Not Okay With This (Fantagraphics)
  • Joker by Warner Bros. Pictures, based on Batman (DC Comics)
  • Legion: Season 3 by FX Productions and Marvel Television, based on X-Men (Marvel Comics0
  • Locke & Key: Season 1 by Netflix, based on Locke & Key (IDW Publishing)
  • The Old Guard by Netflix, based on The Old Guard (Image Comics)
  • The Sandman audio drama by Audible, based on The Sandman (DC Comics/Vertigo)
  • Stumptown: Season 1 by ABC, based on Stumptown (Oni Press)
  • The Umbrella Academy: Season 2, by Netflix, based on The Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Watchmen by HBO, based on Watchmen (DC Comics) (WINNER!)

Best Manga

  • H.P. Lovecraft’s At Mountains of Madness by Gou Tanabe (Dark Horse Manga)
  • The Man Without Talent by Yoshiharu Tsuge (New York Review Comics)
  • The Poe Clan by Moto Hagio (Fantagraphics)
  • The Way of the Househusband by Kousuke Oono (VIZ Media)
  • Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama (Kodansha Comics) (WINNER!)

Best International Book

(Note: This category has been wisely changed from the former catagory “Best European Book” for a more global perspective and inclusion)

  • Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim (Drawn and Quarterly) (WINNER)
  • The House Paco Roca (Fantagraphics)
  • Portrait of a Drunk by Olivier Schrauwen, Florent Ruppert and Jérôme Mulot (Fantagraphics)
  • Stay by Lewis Trondheim and Hubert Chevillard (Magnetic Press)
  • Year of the Rabbit by Tian Veasna (Drawn and Quarterly)

For more information on the awards, its judges, and new Hall of Fame nominations, visit www.harveyawards.com.

Our Fall fresh big comics and graphic novels reading list for 2020

What a year it’s been, with just a few more months to go. A fun escape into new comic worlds might really help with that.

The global pandemic and related problems will likely stretch the anxieties and effects of social isolation further down for many. It’s a strange time for comic book fans, with shipping schedules interrupted and companies thrown into turmoil with comic stores and retail book outlets struggling.

But the sequential arts are still out there, waiting to be discovered and pushed. Many creators, artists, writers, and publishers have not quite backed down. They push and promote through “virtual” comic conventions, and still have fresh and exciting stuff to share.

So, give the digital screens and social media a break soon. Check your local new comics outlet, be it near or mail order online. Seek what’s new and exciting for whatever money you may have. Finding a fresh read has a wonderful joy that can take you away to a more thrilling place.

So, I have a guide below of some hand-picked comic volume trade paperbacks and graphic novels, either recently released or set for the next few weeks of October. Each is based on peer reviews, personal anticipations, celebrated creative talent, interesting interpretations, awesome art, and storytelling worthy of your attention.

So here we go (keep in mind, the following info is for tailored for United States releases).

(Orion T, aka Captain Stranger notes – Also, I am adding in personal commentary highlighted in blue).

Olympia

Writer: Curt Pires
Artist: Alex Diotto, Dee Cunniffe, Christian Ward
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: October 6th, 2020
Retail Price: $16.99 Age Rating: 16+ Format: softcover 176 pages

Elon is a latchkey kid who spends his days alone reading comic books-until his favorite superhero, Olympian, comes crashing off the page and into reality! But as he nurses his wounded and delirious hero back to health, he discovers Olympian isn’t the only thing that came through… something evil followed him. A comedic yet heartfelt love letter to the comics medium, Olympia is also a meditation on hope and loss, conceived by Curt Pires (Wyrd) and his father, Tony Pires, while Tony was undergoing treatment for cancer. Collects OLYMPIA 1-5 and Bonus Material.

I love this series, and also the main reason I put this on the top of my recommend list here. It’s got humor, action, twists, and a whole lot of heart. It’s just a fun little serialized story that honors the joys of escapism, while dealing with harsh realities. It’s got a lot of fun nods to comics past (especially Jack Kirby), and where it should be in the future. Also, love the coloring and art.

Victory Point

Writer/Artist: Owen Pomery
Publisher:  Avery Hill Publishing
Release Date: October 14th, 2020
Retail Price: $18.95 Format: paperback 80 pages

On a summer’s day, Ellen returns to the coastal town she grew up in, the picturesque, yet architecturally strange, Victory Point. Revisiting old haunts and people from her past, she feels increasingly disconnected from her previous life, and exhausted by the constant struggle of trying to forge the path ahead. Exploring a town, which itself is an experiment in how to live, Ellen searches for some comfort in her own history that might just give her the strength to move forward.

Victory Point quietly explores the idea of how we choose to live and be remembered, asking whether we should strive for a higher calling, or if a simple, domestic legacy is the most honest and admirable achievement we can hope for.  And if the land from which we disembark feels as alien as the one we hope to reach, how does anyone make their peace with a life amongst the ever-changing  ocean waves?

I love the art and style. And there is something oddly appealing about its approach, which also involves my love of travel and exploration.

Gunning For Ramirez, Volume 1

Writer/Artist: Nicolas Petrimaux
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: September 30 2020
Retail Price: $16.99 Age Rating: 16+ Format: paperback , 144 pages

Falcon City, Arizona. Jacques Ramirez works at Robotop, the leading home appliance company in the Southwest United States. Jacques is efficient, thorough, and discreet. That last one is easy: he’s also mute. But everything changes when two members of one of Paso del Rio’s largest drug cartels stumble upon Jacques and believe him to be the deadly hitman who betrayed them in the past: the ruthless Ramirez. Could it be that the cartel’s legendary clean-up man is really a legendary vacuum cleaner expert?

Nicolas Petrimaux presents the first in a trilogy—a tribute to the action thrillers of the 1980s and ’90s, a brutal narrative with never a dull moment. Gunning for Ramirez is as much a descendant of Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A. as it is Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction or Rodriguez’s Mexico Trilogy.

It’s got style, with some awesome layouts and coloring. Some of the odd elements makes appeal as something fresh and different, rather than a usual drug cartel drama with the usual expectations. I am looking forward to reading this soon.

Heartbeat

Writer/Artist: Maria Llovet
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Release Date: October 6, 2020
Retail Price: $16.99 Age Rating: 15+ Format: softcover 184 page

IF NO ONE IS INNOCENT, IS ANYONE TRULY GUILTY? Eva, a high school outcast, finds herself witness to a horrible secret: the most popular boy in school enjoys the taste of blood and will kill to get his hands on it. Horrified and intrigued, Eva lets herself be pulled into Donatien’s macabre world. He offers the escape she has been looking for…but how much is Eva willing to betray her moral code in order to find something that gives her life meaning? And will she—or Donatien—ever find redemption? Acclaimed writer and artist Maria Llovet (Faithless) presents a dark, violent, decadent, and disturbing story in which life and death, blood and love are inextricably intertwined. Collects Heartbeat #1-5 for mature audiences.

High school based horror is always fun. I heard great things about this, and I need some fresh horror for October. Definitely worth checking out!

I Hope This Helps: Comics and Cures for 21st Century Panic

Writer/Artist: Tommy Siegel
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Release Date: October 6th, 2020
Retail Price: $16.99 Format: softcover, 208 pages

Tommy Siegel’s debut book collection includes 200+ pages of comics, essays, and extremely helpful guides to coping with 21st-century panic. With comics titled “Choose your social anxiety coping mechanism” and “What your coffee drink of choice says about you,” I Hope This Helps offers clever and sardonic commentary on our phone-obsessed, social media-driven culture, as well as a series of devastatingly funny relationship comics starring his popular Candy Hearts characters.

Tommy Siegel’s comics began as doodles in the back of a van as a touring rock musician, and quickly earned a viral global fanbase and shout-outs from cultural heavyweights ranging from Ringo Starr to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. With a perfect balance of absurd humor and insightful writing, I Hope This Helps outlines the journey from the author’s earliest “van doodles” all the way to the socially-distanced awkwardness of the present day.

With every little bit of suffering, that needs to be some humor and satire to help with the hard time. I love the cartoon style and humor of Tommy Siegel, especially from his Twitter feed, @TommySiegel.

Tartarus, Volume 1

Writer: Johnny Christmas
Artist: Jack T. Cole
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: October 6th, 2020
Retail Price: $16.99 Age Rating: all ages Format: paperback 176 pages

When Surka, a ruthless criminal warlord, escapes her prison pit, she unleashes a wave of destruction that ripples across Tartarus, a vital colony in an everlasting galactic war. Years later when Tilde, a young cadet, learns that she’s Surka’s daughter, will she continue to fight on the side of galactic order or reclaim her mother’s dark crown?

I just started reading this recently, and I really love the world-building and epic grand story going on here. It’s a got a fresh space opera feel to it, with a mix of what I missed from great science fiction space stories – grit, action, and some well-paced character development.

Barbarella

Writer/Artist: Jean-Claude Forest
Publisher: Humanoids
Release Date: October 20th, 2020
Retail Price: $22.99 Format: paperback 160 pages

Jean-Claude Forest’s timeless Erotic Sci-Fi series recounting the spatial adventures of the beautiful titular character is now available in a brand new English-language adaptation. In Book 1 (first collected in 1964), Barbarella’s spaceship breaks down, she finds herself trapped on the planet Lythion. There, she has a series of adventurous, and bawdy, encounters with a variety of strange beings, from robots to angels. In Book 2, “Wrath of the Minute-Eater” (first published in 1974), Barbarella’s traveling Circus Delirium enters another dimension, led by the mysterious and alluring aquaman, Narval, whose machinations catapult Barbarella & Co. into a complex battle for the planet Spectra. Featuring a brand new, contemporary English-language adaptation by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick.

I had no idea that the more famous film starring Jane Fonda was based on a French comic series of the same name. This is makes a lot more sense, in recalling the epic weirdness yet awesome style of the movie. And given that based movie adaptations are often watered down versions of original comic stores, this could be an interesting read and interesting treasure.

Henchgirl (Expanded Edition)

Writer: Kristen Gudsnuk
Artist: Kristen Gudsnuk
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: September 29th, 2020
Retail Price: $19.99 Age: 12+ Format: paperback 337 pages

Mary Posa hates her job. She works long hours for little pay, no insurance, and worst of all, no respect. Her coworkers are jerks and her boss doesn’t appreciate her. He’s also a supervillain. Cursed with a conscience, Mary would give anything to be something other than a Henchgirl. This second edition offers the humor and henching you love, along with an extra new Henchgirl story!

I read an older edition some rears ago, and found myself enjoying it more than expected, even laughing out loud at some parts. The art, style, colors are fantastic, and the story has a mix of satire, slapstick, and heart. Highly recommended!

He-Man and the Masters of the Multiverse

Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Dan Fraaga, Tom Derenick
Publisher: DC Comics 
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Retail Price: $17.99 Format: paperback 144 pages

The scourge of Anti-Eternia is unleashed on the Multiverse! Blazing a trail across the dimensions, he’s devastating each version of Eternia and stealing its power. Now it’s up to a ragtag team of surviving He-Men to recruit the one man in existence who might save them: Prince Keldor, the man who would be Skeletor! This series brings together the many various iterations of the fan-favorite franchise, including the 1980s Filmation cartoon series and the 2002 animated series and toy line-as the fate of Eternia is at stake! Collects He-Man and the Masters of the Multiverse #1-6.

I am definitely putting this on my list. I am an original fan, and recall some screenshots revealing some fun surprises and expected fan service. I’m a also a fan of any story that merges alternate realities crossing over TV, comics, games, movies. Plus, Tim Seeley is a huge fan of MOTU, so it’s going to be a lot of heartful fun for sure!

Did I miss anything that should be on this list that’s fresh and exciting with sequential art? Have you checked any of these out, and like to share your thoughts? Or has anything here piqued your interest? Let us know in the comments!

Home Sick Pilots adds new punks and horror to comic stores this Fall

Recently announced by Image Comics, Home Sick Pilots, a new ongoing horror comic from bestselling writer Dan Watters (Coffin Bound, Lucifer) and artist Caspar Wijngaard (Star Wars, Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt) is set for launch this December.

In Home Sick Pilots, in the summer of 1994, a haunted house walks across California. Inside is Ami, lead singer of a high school punk band—who’s been missing for weeks. How did she get there, and what do these ghosts want? Expect three-chord songs and big bloody action that’s Power Rangers meets The Shining (!!).

Home Sick Pilots mars the reunification of writer/artist team of Watters and Wijngaard since their work debut at Image with their critically acclaimed, day-glo drenched miniseries Limbo, back in 2015.

“They say write what you know—well what I know is a teenage hellscape filled with pitfalls and secret etiquettes and beautiful broken people,” Watters told The Hollywood Reporter in an exclusive feature. “We’re about to send the Home Sick Pilots—the power trio of Ami, Buzz and Rip—out of that same hellscape into another, and hope that they survive.”

“We’ve all had at least one unforgettable summer as teens, late nights, parties, gigs, stolen booze, heartbreak and most importantly friendships. Except in this instance the teens are causing chaos in ectoplasmic power suits whilst haunted houses are fist fighting on the horizon,” added Wijngaard in the THR piece.

Home Sick Pilots #1 will be available at comic book shops, and online via popular and direct digital comic apps on Wednesday, December 9.

Here’s a sweet four-page preview in the meantime, with a huge special thanks to Image Comics!

The Walking Dead comics rises again for a new “Deluxe” color series release

The original Walking Dead comic series is coming back to comic stores as the Walking Dead: Deluxe revival, with more for fans new and old to take, to really appreciate the original work by Robert Kirkman. All issues will remixed in color, with extras and new variant covers, and set for October release from Skybound Entertainment via Image Comics.

Each new Walking Dead: Deluxe issue will be newly, fully colored issues, instead of the original black and white presentations. The coloring will be done by Canadian artist Dave McCaig, who work spans comics and animation for over two decades. Creator Robert Kirkman recently announced the fully colored issues during Skybound Xpo, Skybound’s virtual pop-culture convention.

This deluxe revival of the series will have variant covers—by such artists as David Finch, Tony Moore, Julian Totino Tedesco, and Arthur Adams—commemorating major character introductions and the series’ most memorable twists and turns. Each issue will include a new installment of “The Cutting Room Floor,” featuring Kirkman’s original handwritten plots along with commentary on abandoned storylines and plot points that may have changed along the way.

This definitive presentation of the story will NOT be collected into trade paperback any time soon, so fans and new readers should not trade-wait to experience this fully colored edition of the popular survival horror series. Issue #1 will be available on October 7. Each following month two issues will be released.

Here’s a little preview of the colored pages for the first issue of Walking Dead: Deluxe..