As I noted in the first part, Random House distributes a variety of large and smaller publishers, from National Geographic to Vertical Books.
Here are some of the many graphic novels available this season, sorted by publisher. Quite a diverse list! How diverse? How about:
Superman versus the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate
This book tells a group of intertwining stories that culminate in the historic 1947 collision of the Superman Radio Show and the Ku Klux Klan. It is the story of the two Cleveland teenagers who invented Superman as a defender of the little guy and the New York wheeler-dealers who made him a major media force. It is the story Ku Klux Klan’s development from a club to a huge money-making machine powered by fear and hate and of the folklorist who—along with many other activists—took on the Klan by wielding the power of words. Above all, it tells the story of Superman himself—a modern mythical hero and an embodiment of the cultural reality of his times—from the Great Depression to the present.
There’s even an ebook!
Or perhaps you’d like some inspiration of real world superheroes? Campfire Graphic Novels, of India, offers three biographies this season:
Then there are the fictional books…
Titan Books has been publishing an eclectic variety of titles for thirty years, and this season’s books are quite amazing! Comic strip collections! Reprints of British and American comics! Hard-boiled crime novels! Movies! Rock and Roll! Artists retrospectives!
Blue Apple Books is a publisher of stylish kids books. They have a strong how-to and activity book catalog, as well as their new Balloon Toons books, which are aimed at ages 6-9, beginning readers.
In addition to archival titles licensed to Dark Horse Comics and IDW, Archie also publishes a strong list of contemporary graphic novels themselves!
Vertical has been publishing some of the best manga and Japanese fiction in the U. S. in the past ten years, and just last February, were acquired by Kodansha (see below) and Dai Nippon Printing. This season, they are publishing two highly anticipated series (interesting enough to interest me, who doesn’t read much manga), and starting two other series. (As a general rule, I don’t mention on-going series here in the new releases, since most readers will have already have heard of them, and because there are so many new volumes these series being produced, and I have only so much time and sanity available for this reality.)
The most anticipated manga title of the year, in my estimation, is The Drops of God, written by the sibling team Tadashi Agi, and illustrated by Shu Okimoto. This series, about the estranged son of a Japanese wine critic and his competition with his father’s selected heir to find the twelve greatest wines and describe them in detail, as well as locate “The Drops of God”, the quintessential wine.
Since being published in Japan and Korea, this series has been cited as the main reason for the explosive popularity of wine in both countries. Some French vineyards have even stopped offering their varietals for sale internationally, after a mention in the series caused sales to skyrocket. The reader learns about wine along with our protagonist, making the series enjoyable as well as educational. (The first volume introduces the technique of decanting, as well as describing how terroir can influence the character of a wine.)
Most fans of manga and literary comics know that Vertical publishes books by Osamu Tezuka, the grandmaster of Japanese comics and animation. This season, Vertical offers TWO new series, one a well-known classic, the other a disturbing tale of baby boomers in post-war Japan.
Princess Knight tells the tale of a princess who is given two hearts at birth by a mischievous angel. Both male and female, Sapphire is raised as a prince, so that she may ascend the throne. Will her secret be discovered by those who seek to thwart the king?
The other book, The Book of Human Insects, is from Tezuka’s later period. Let me quote from the website:
Flitting like a butterfly from one field to another, never tied to any single one, absorbing influences with rapacity, Toshiko Tomura’s metamorphoses are all the more intriguing set against the ongoing transformation of the author himself, who famously included the character for “insect” in his pen name. Despite being serialized only at the dawn of postmodernity, what The Book of Human Insects captures with bravura conviction—and some visceral fear—is the progressively protean and neotenic nature of man- and womankind.
No Longer Human, Volume 1, a left-to-right manga adapting the novel by Osamu Dazai.
Velveteen & Mandala by Jiro Matsumoto, a disturbing graphic novel.
Kodansha… They are the Japanese equivalent of Random House. A large publisher of books, with some of the most popular manga titles. I’m going to just list the titles, and let fans gush in the comments. Me, I’m eager to read the Sailor titles, just so I can recommend them to my nieces!
Around the World
by Matt Phelan, award-winning author of The Storm in the Barn. This book chronicles three real-world circumnavigators of the 1890s: Thomas Stevens, Nellie Bly, and Joshua Slocum! There are also lots of extras at the above link, include previews, a teacher’s guide, and notes from the author!
Candlewick also publishes Toon Books, and this season, they offer Nina in That Makes Me Mad, written by Steven Kroll and illustrated by Hilary Knight, best known as the illustrator of the Eloise books.
McClelland & Stewart is one of preeminent Canadian publishers, with a long and strong tradition of publishing Canadian authors (as well as importing notable authors from around the world). While not known for their graphic novels (I only found ten), they do have some quality titles, such as Stitches and Alison Dare.
This season, they publish the paperback edition of a hardcover from October 2010: Two Generals, written by Scott Chantler.
Available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book, the book chronicles the experiences of his grandfather, Law Chantler, who shipped out in 1943 as part of the Highland Light Infantry of Canada, and who participated in the invasion of Normandy.
The book is part of the curriculum in Ontario schools, and was a Top 40 finalist (one of three graphic novels!) in the 2011 edition of Canda Reads.
And finally, the last publisher, Universe Publishing, a division of Rizzoli USA. Rizzoli, an Italian publisher of lavish art books, uses their Universe imprint for pop cultural titles.
While not as serious as some of the high brow titles, Universe does have the same great design, and this season’s graphic novel title continues that tradition.
1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die: The Ultimate Guide to Comic Books, Graphic Novels and Manga, edited by Paul Gravett with a foreword by Terry Gilliam, does what it says. Arranged by decade (there’s an alphabetical list in the front of the volume, with a creator index in back), it gives lots of recommendations. (If you visit the link above, there’s a preview, which includes four incomplete pages of listings, if you wish to judge his selection before buying.) Of course, the best way to judge a book like this is to see how many titles you have already read and/or own, which you disagree with, and then see what his crack team recommends of the unkonwn.
The first page (page 940) of the index shows many creators which I am familiar with, but I would say about a third are new to me. (And I’ve been actively reading great comics for over twenty-five years!)
(And speaking of which… Universe will be publishing Corto Maltese in March!)
So, if you read this far, you got the secret info about Corto Maltese, and my gratitude! What caught your eye? Is there an older series from these publishers you like and recommend? Anything that made you consider tossing the book in the shredder, so no one else would suffer as you had? Let us know!
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!