By Sergio Ponchione
Fantagraphics Books
Italian cartoonist Ponchione has concocted a unique hybrid designed to highlight his own creative strengths while honoring those who have influenced him. Less a story than a meditation, Ponchione chronicles snatches of his working life that involve creating short comics about the comics legends that mean the most to him — Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Wally Wood, Will Eisner, and Richard Corben — fashioning each one in the visual style of the subject and offering a narrative that captures something about the mood of their career.

Ponchione’s art is consistently skillful throughout, whichever master he mimics, though it varies in style as to whether the particular appears to be a complete masquerade of his influences or wears Ponchione’s personal style on his influences sleeve. Both results create a hybrid presentation that inserts Ponchione in there while evoking what is unique about the subjects. What their individual personalities lend to the stories creates the most contrast, from the frankly claustrophobic depiction of Ditko’s later life to the joyous insanity of Kirby’s afterlife in outer space. This is a fun book that fills a dual purpose well, functioning as a worthy introduction to those who don’t know the masters of comics, but also giving some insight to anyone who already loves the work, but wants more.

Nate the Nonconformist Has A Rival!
By Stephanie Mannheim
Birdcage Bottom Books
Taking place in 2006, Nate the Nonconformist and his girlfriend Charlotte have broken up, and he is out to prove himself, especially when a kid with green hair shows up in school. Convinced the kid thinks he is the punkest punk that ever punked, Nate and his buddy Pete set out to prove him wrong by enlisting Jenna to give them bad-ass tattoos. Meanwhile, Charlotte finds herself partnered with the green-haired kid in biology class, and two set out on a cheating scam together. This is all going to collide by the end, no doubt, and Mannheim does not disappoint. She channels old-school Archie in her cartooning style, which keeps it light and energetic, but her story is like a darker, more skillful riff on that world. She excels at the high school dialogue and maneuvering her characters into absurd pathways for a punchline that brings it all together hilariously. And her portrayal of self-aware teenage rebellion and the idea of punk as rebellious motif 25 years after the original form of it was dead but was being kept alive in Hot Topics around the country is spot on and actually rather affectionate.


On Vinyl: First Hand Tales From A Second Hand Record Shop
By Lorenz Peter
Conundrum Press
What begins as an amusing memoir of running a record store in Toronto — and in the presentation ticking all the boxes for those of us who don’t run a record store but who can imagine the reality to versus our fantasies — turns into a rumination on both nostalgia and the collector mania of discovering the record that no one else has heard of. Lenny’s business is one of ups and downs and constant worries, coupled with a genuine love for its products, but things change when he finds an address in an old record that sends him on a chase for a forgotten musician whose releases are mostly the stuff of legend.

Peter definitely captures the excitement behind the obsession, and in the parts that revolve around the forgotten musician, he evokes that feeling when an object can provide a detail that sends you on a mission to find solutions to the questions it raises. For some, collecting vinyl can be a lot like being a detective. For others, it’s part archaeology, part treasure hunt. But as Peter makes plain, it will also break your heart if you give yourself to it too much. At least in this document of the process, it’s accompanied by some good laughs at the expense of customers, sure to be funny to anyone who has worked in any sort of collectibles retail store.