The weekend is almost here! What geeky things are you all doing? Sound off in the comments below. While you wait for the weekday to end and the weekend to begin, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web.
If you’ve followed my writing this year, you can definitely tell that 2022 was the year I had serious issues keeping up with new comics even though I opened up my first pull list in six years (Shout out to Rick’s Comic City!) However, I still believe it’s the greatest storytelling medium, and the stray moments I had re-reading old favorites or finding new works were some of the best I had in 2022. I don’t really have the attention span to keep up with crossovers or sprawling shared universes any more, but I love my five issue minis or soft, queer OGNs.
So, without further ado, here are my ten favorite comics of 2022.
10. One-Star Squadron (DC)
Mark Russell and Steve Lieber’s One-Star Squadron follows a group of C and D-list superheroes who are part of an organization called Heroz4U that tries to help find heroes “meaningful” work whether that’s sales for the company, personal appearances, or even actual search and rescue work. The comic satirizes all aspects of modern employment culture, including corporate restructuring, gig work/side hustles, and the cavalier/cutthroat nature of hiring/laying off folks. NFTs and “girlboss culture” even come into play with the Russell’s take on Power Girl. There’s plenty of jokes and comedic beats and visuals from Lieber, but One-Star Squadron also has a strong emotional throughline in the relationship between Red Tornado and his employees as he tries to go to bat for characters like Minuteman and Gangbuster while trying to provide for his family and make the higher-ups at Heroz4U happy. One-Star Squadron is a must-read for fans of David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs, r/antiwork, and obscure DC heroes.
9. Rockstar and Softboy (Image)
Rockstar and Softboy is a breezy, fun one-shot ode to queer friendship from cartoonist Sina Grace and also acts as his triumphant return to doing interior art. Even though they have completely opposite personalities, Rockstar and Softboy have a lovely friendship that survives the ups and downs of the increasingly surreal house party that is the main setpiece of the comic. Beneath the super sentai battles and dick jokes, Grace also explores the nature of creativity, collaboration, and friendship through his two lead characters as the real motivation for the house party is creating great music and video games as well as getting laid. Rockstar and Softboy is definitely one of the more fun and chaotic comics I read in 2022.
8. Sabretooth (Marvel)
As mentioned earlier, I’m a bit behind on the current X-books, but enjoyed a lot of what I read from them in 2022, including the first arcs of X-Men Red and Immortal X-Men. However, my favorite comic from that editorial group was the Sabretooth miniseries from Victor LaValle and Leonard Kirk. It’s basically Paradise Lost with Sabretooth playing the role of Milton’s Satan and trying to make a heaven of hell with his fellow Krakoans that were thrown in the Pit for various reasons. LaValle and Kirk fully explore the dark side of a utopian society and also provide social commentary on the prison system in the United States using various B and C-list mutants. Plus it ends on a killer sequel hook that enhances Victor Creed’s role in the X-books.
7. Doughnuts and Doom (Top Shelf)
Doughnuts and Doom is a (literally at times) sweet and magical queer romance graphic novel by cartoonist Balazs Lorinczi. It’s full of all the fun, relatable tropes like missed signals, enemies to lovers, and most importantly, slow burn with Lorinczi using most of the story to shape the relationship between witch/online potion seller Margot and musician/donut shop employee Elena. I also like how Lorinczi focuses on Margot and Elena’s lives outside their relationship, like Margot struggling to get her magic license, or Elena’s conflict with a local Visually, Doughnuts and Doom has a bubblegum punk aesthetics with plenty of pastels and spot blacks and different panel layouts any time magic, music, or romance happens that makes the comic even more immersive and heartwarming.
6. Spider-Punk (Marvel)
Spider-Verse denizen Hobie Brown aka Spider-Punk gets his first solo miniseries in five issues of anticapitalism, antifascism, antiracism, and head cracking from writer Cody Ziglar and artist Justin Mason. Ziglar and Mason’s passion for classic punk music shines in characters like a Devilock-sporting alternate version of Taskmaster, and they also create memorable riffs on other Marvel characters like Daredevil being a female punk drummer from Philadelphia or Captain America (Renamed Anarchy, of course) being a queer and indigenous man. Mason’s energetic art and Jim Charalamapidis’ colors create spectacular fight scenes as Hobie and his makeshift band cross the United States in a quest to take out the relatably fascist president of the United States. Spider-Punk shows that superhero comics can be subversive and call out the status quo while still being fun as hell, and it’s always interesting to see anti-corporate art being put out by one of the world’s biggest and most smothering corporations.
5. Joe Hill’s Rain (IDW)
Rain is a post-apocalyptic comic miniseries adapted from one of Joe Hill’s short stories in his 2017 Strange Weather collected and is scripted by David Booher with art by Zoe Thorogood. Though originally written years before the COVID-19 pandemic, it captures some of the feelings of fear, terror, and in some cases, coming together as found family of this time period as protagonist Honeysuckle tries to survive and eventually figure out why crystal nails are raining down from the sky. Rain is part road story, part tragic queer romance and a showcase for Thorogood’s skill at conveying character acting and emotions in life and death situations. Rain is definitely a dark read, but has several great moments where humanity shines even at the end of the world.
4. DC Pride 2022 (DC)
DC Pride 2022 was one of my favorite reads of this year, and the most memorable story in the volume was by the late Kevin Conroy and J. Bone that explores Conroy’s life as a gay man in the 1970s and 1980s, how he dealt with discrimination while trying to break into the acting business, and how getting the role of Batman in Batman: The Animated Series changes his life and the lives of millions of folks who enjoyed the show. In addition to this lovely short story, DC Pride 2022 serves as a showcase for interesting LGBTQ+ comic book characters, and more importantly, LGBTQ+ comics creators. There’s Jon Kent’s first Pride done in a beautiful (and sassy when Damian Wayne is involved) way by Devin Grayson and Nick Robles, a Jo Mullein story from Tini Howard and Evan Cagle that explores the nuances of bisexuality in a space detective story, an action-packed Connor Hawke story from Ro Stein and Ted Brandt that digs into his experience as an asexual man, and much more. These big Pride one-shots are starting to be a nice tradition from DC and hope they continue indefinitely.
3. Catwoman: Lonely City (DC)
Cliff Chiang writes, draws, colors, and letters the definitive Selina Kyle story in Catwoman: Lonely City, a Black Label miniseries that wrapped up in 2022. Catwoman: Lonely City is a touching, suspenseful story about legacy, resisting authoritarianism, and finding family in unexpected places that explores an aging Kyle pulling off one last heist in a Batman-less Gotham. It has a colorful cast of supporting characters from all over the DC Universe and is one of the most gorgeous books of 2022 with Chiang nailing everything from romantic banter between Catwoman and Riddler to a color palette that straddles neon and noir as well as some very acrobatic fight choreography. It’s truly the Catwoman book you can recommend to anyone who’s remotely interested in the character and is Cliff Chiang’s magnum opus up to this point.
2. Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands (Drawn and Quarterly)
Ducks is a graphic memoir about cartoonist Kate Beaton’s (Of Hark! A Vagrant fame) experience working various jobs in the oil fields of Alberta to pay back her student loans from art school. Beaton doesn’t shy away from showing the difficult work conditions there and the terrible treatment of women, especially in the work camps and later explores how the oil fields affect the wild life and the indigenous people who originally owned the land. Ducks unpacks the trauma that comes from trying to make money under capitalism and being woman in a field where reports of untoward behavior and even sexual assault get a blind eye. All of this is done in Kate Beaton’s trademark cartooning that punctuates the difficult moments with bits of dark humor and insights into her upbringing in Cape Breton, Canada although she uses a more detailed style for establishing shots and the inner workings of the tool area she works at . Personally, I feel like I learned a lot more about other parts of Canada beyond Ontario and the Vancouver area, and that the country isn’t some kind of Great Northern utopia even though it feels like that some time living in a right to work state where healthcare is dependent on your employer.
1. It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth (Image)
Zoe Thorogood is easily one of the most exciting writer/artists working in comics, and her experimental, brutally honest graphic memoir It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth was my favorite comic of 2022. Thorogood effectively uses anthropomorphization to visually represent different parts of her personality as well as her friends and folks she comes in contact with throughout the memoir and gives an unfiltered look about how she feels about being a comic book artist, the response to her previous comic The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott, and her relationship with her friends, family, and an ex-lover. It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth can definitely be a difficult read at times, especially when Thorogood brings up her inability to connect with other people and negative self-talk. But it’s a masterpiece because it uses the tools and tricks of the comics medium and page to bring her inner world to life and ends with a powerful call to the reader that their existence matters as she dances in the streets of London to a nine panel grid.
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In what is sure to be one of the more anticipated releases of 2022, Drawn & Quarterly has revealed Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands by Kate Beaton. Ducks is Beaton’s first full length graphic narrative and describes itself as an “untold story of Canada: a country that prides itself on its egalitarian ethos and natural beauty while simultaneously exploiting both the riches of its land and the humanity of its people.”
Before there was Kate Beaton, New York Times bestselling cartoonist of Hark A Vagrant fame, there was Katie Beaton of the Cape Breton Beatons, specifically Mabou, a tight-knit seaside community where the lobster is as abundant as beaches, fiddles and gaelic folk songs. After university, Katie heads out west to take advantage of Alberta’s oil rush, part of the long tradition of East Coasters who seek gainful employment elsewhere when they can’t find it in the homeland they love so much. With the singular goal of paying off her student loans, what the journey will actually cost Katie will be far more than she anticipates.
Arriving in Fort McMurray, Katie finds work in the lucrative camps owned and operated by the world’s largest oil companies. Being one of the few women among thousands of men, the culture shock is palpable. It does not hit home until she moves to a spartan, isolated worksite for higher pay. Katie encounters the harsh reality of life in the oil sands where trauma is an everyday occurrence yet never discussed. For young Katie, her wounds may never heal.
Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands will be published by Drawn and Quarterly on September 13, 2022.
Toronto’s Papergirl Press has launched The Pushpin, a curated website of collectible, high-quality giclée prints for sale by acclaimed graphic novel artists — including Kate Beaton, Johnnie Christmas, Michael Cho, Valentine De Landro, and Jeff Lemire — and acclaimed editorial illustrators Julia Breckenreid, Dani Crosby, Chloe Cushman, Jay Dart (as his alter-ego Granduncle Jiggs), Sarah Lazarovic, and Christian Northeast. The site will also launch with Pushpin Originals — prints of new and never-before-seen art created specifically for The Pushpin by Kagan McLeod, Ryan North, and Chip Zdarsky. Prints currently available from the Pushpin range in price from $25 to $150.
The Pushpin is a project of Papergirl Press, a small printing company in Toronto committed to working exclusively with independent artists, run by former journalist Jessica Johnston.
At launch, The Pushpin will feature more than 40 prints including:
King Baby by Kate Beaton;
2 Pisces prints by Johnnie Christmas;
Pee Wee Herman’s loafers, rendered by Sarah Lazarovic
A Sweet Tooth and an Essex County print by Jeff Lemire;
3 Kagan McLeod prints including a portrait of Prince and a Pushpin Original History of Hip Hop;
2 Pushpin Original prints by Ryan North;
3 Chip Zdarsky pieces, including a Sex Criminals print and a Pushpin Original print entitled The Solar System: The Graphic Guide to Our Universe.
Artists who will have work on the Pushpin in the coming months include Bryan Lee O’Malley, Marguerite Sauvage, and illustrator Gordon Wiebe.
Photo credit: Steve Murray
We got a chance to ask Johnston about the launch and what we can expect and you can see the art below!
Graphic Policy: So how did the idea of The Pushpin come about?
Jessica Johnston: The idea came about late last year, after I left my job as a newspaper editor. (Print media is a bit of a freaky place to be in 2016.) I planned to freelance and do contract work, which I did, but I also started doing prints for my husband, comic creator Chip Zdarsky. He wanted to start doing regular prints, and the first was called “Bat-Hero,” a kind of meta joke about knock-off action figures of copyrighted characters. I bought a professional printer, and started making Bat-Heroes from our dining room. And I really loved doing it. The prints looked so good, I wanted to keep making more. But of course, there’s only so much one Chip can do. That’s when I decided I wanted to build a website for more artists to make work available for sale. So I guess the whole thing started with a bat-joke!
GP: How long have you been working on this project?
JJ: I began seriously planning The Pushpin at the beginning of this year. I knew a lot of incredible illustrators from my work in journalism, so I approached them first. I found people were pretty enthusiastic about the idea of having a trusted venue for producing high-quality prints of their work.
GP: It’s an impressive list of creators to launch. How’d they come to be involved?
JJ: I already revealed the secret to landing my first creator client, and that’s a decade of common-law marriage. Compared with that, the others were a breeze. All of the artists on board for the launch are from Canada, and most of those are from Toronto, which is where I live. There’s a lot of talent here, and it’s a small enough place that you just get to know people just through moving in media and arts circles. Some of the creators, like Ryan North, were already pals, and others, like Jeff Lemire, I introduced myself to because of this project.
GP: You previously worked in journalism at a newspaper as an editor. What has surprised you the most in working within the comic world?
JJ: Nobody lines up to meet journalists at conventions!
GP: The site includes comic artists and editorial illustrators. Do you notice anything different in what they’ve contributed?
JJ: There’s a surprising amount of overlap between comic work and editorial illustration — many artists do both. I love that we have comic work and illustration side by side, and we are giving both the fine-art treatment. I think there are more commonalities between the two forms than differences. Both tend to be pretty playful, and much of the work on The Pushpin has a good sense of fun. Where else can you find a high-quality giclée print of Pee Wee Herman’s white loafers? Sarah Lazarovic, who did that piece, is a genius of simple, lovable work, with just the right amount quirkiness. Then you have an incredible comics pro like Michael Cho, whose work on the site is mostly personal stuff, which is quiet and beautiful. He does these lovingly rendered portraits of Toronto’s back alleys that I can’t get enough of.
GP: How does the contributions work? Do you suggest ideas or is this all the artists?
JJ: It’s the all the artists. Once I’ve determined that someone is a good fit for The Pushpin, they have creative freedom. I like to think of myself as a kind of artistic matchmaker – connecting artists and the people who respond to their work to each other. And a big part of that is letting the artist be the artist. I trust that whatever they come up with, there are people out there who are going to love it.
GP: Seven decades plus and it feels like comics are still debated as legit art (video games suffer from the same issue). Do you see things like this raising that debate at all?
JJ: I like to think we’re past that, even though I know it’s still a challenge. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be treating comic art and illustration with the respect they deserve. There is so much incredible work happening in both areas, it’s crazy to ignore or dismiss it. Kagan McLeod is a great example of someone who does both illustration and comic work, and his stuff is mind-blowing, it’s so good. He has a piece on The Pushpin called Herc — a portrait of the guy often credited with inventing hip hop, and he’s made up of smaller portraits of famous rappers. You have to see it to believe it — it’s amazing. So ambitious, and perfectly executed. Any of the individual portraits could be in a gallery.
GP: The initial artists are all Canadian and you’ll be expanding from there. Is there any particular reason you started with just Canadians?
JJ: I decided to start near home when approaching artists, and work my way out. I am pretty lucky that felt in no way limiting. Jeff Lemire, Kagan McLeod, Ryan North, Sarah Lazarovic, Julia Breckenreid, Valentine de Landro, Michael Cho… they are all basically neighbours. I do look forward to expanding The Pushpin’s borders, though, because, really, there’s so much great talent everywhere.
GP: Do you know what the release schedule will be like for future releases? Is it a set schedule? And will any of these go out of print?
JJ: I have some artists lined up to come on board in the coming months, Bryan Lee O’Malley and Marguerite Sauvage among them, but I’ll be adding people on a rolling basis. Like the work itself, the number of prints is up to the artist. Some are unlimited, and some are capped. Jeff Lemire, for instance, has two prints on The Pushpin, a Sweet Tooth and an Essex County one. There will only be 100 of each of those, so if that’s what you’re after, you better get one quick!
GP: Thanks so much! And check out some of the art below!
Earlier today, Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl) revealed the cover for his collaborative choose-your-own-adventure book titled Romeo and/or Juliet. The book is based on the classic Shakespeare play, but, in choose-your-own-adventure fashion, has more than 100 possible outcomes. Romeo and/or Juliet features cover art by Noelle Stevenson, and interior art by nearly a hundred artists, including Joe Quinones, Kate Beaton, Emily Carroll, Chip Zdarsky, and more.
The bookis now available for preorder, and will be released on June 7, 2016. According to the website, preorderers will receive the book at a guaranteed price of $20 and “MYSTERY PERKS??”. Ryan North’s work on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl means it will probably be hilarious and make for far more fun summer reading than Shakespeare’s version.
Step Aside, Pops is Kate Beaton‘s sequel to the hit comic collection Hark! A Vagrant, which appeared on best of lists from Time, NPR, and USA Today; spent five months on the New York Times bestseller list; and won Harvey, Ignatz, and Doug Wright awards.
Beaton returns with all-new sidesplitting comics that showcase her irreverent love of history, pop culture, and literature. Collected from her wildly popular website, readers will guffaw over “Strong Female Characters”, the wicked yet chivalrous Black Prince, “Straw Feminists in the Closet,” and a disgruntled Heathcliff. Delight in what the internet has long known—Beaton’s humour is as sharp and dangerous as a velocipedestrienne, so watch out!
She’s hitting the road to promote the new release. Meet Kate and have your book signed at these fine shops and festivals in Canada and the US in the coming months:
BETHESDA, MD • Saturday, September 19 + Sunday, September 20
Special guest of Small Press Expo
Bethesda North Marriott Hotel, 5701 Marinelli Road
Signing and panel schedule to come.
SPX admission is $15 Saturday, $10 Sunday, or $20 for a weekend pass; available on-site.
MONTREAL, QC • Sunday, September 27 at 7pm Librairie Drawn & Quarterly at Rialto Hall, 5723 avenue du Parc Purchase your ticket here or in store beginning August 21 at 11am, at which time the book will be available for pre-purchase.
Tickets are 5$, or free with the purchase of Step Aside, Pops.
CAMBRIDGE, MA • Monday, September 28 at 6pm Harvard Bookstore at the Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle Street Purchase your ticket here or in store beginning August 25 at 9am
Tickets are $22 and include a copy of Step Aside, Pops.
COLUMBUS, OH • Special guest of Cartoon Crossroads Columbus Friday, October 2nd, at 7pm, The Wexner Center for the Arts
in conversation with Craig Thomspon, moderated by Jeff Smith
What a year 2015 is shaping up to be, Drawn & Quarterly‘s 25th anniversary is bringing new work this spring from Jillian Tamaki, Michael DeForge, Marc Bell, Anders Nilsen, and more, not to mention their mammoth 25th anniversary tome itself, which they will be previewing in due time.
Check out some of the books we’ll be seeing this year.
STEP ASIDE, POPS: A HARK! A VAGRANT COLLECTION
In stores September 15, 2015! $19.95 / 5.5″ x 8.75″ / 160 pages / b+w / hardcover / 9781770462083
KILLING AND DYING
In stores October 6, 2015! $22.95 / 6.25″ x 9.25″ / 128 pages / full color / hardcover / 9781770462090
SHIGERU MIZUKI’S HITLER
Shigeru Mizuki, translated by Zack Davisson
In stores November 2015! $24.95 / 6.5″ x 8.75″ / 296 pages / b+w / paperback / 9781770462106
In stores October 2015! $22.95 / 10.875″ x 8.025″ / 120 pages / b+w / hardcover / 9781770462199
RED COLORED ELEGY
Seiichi Hayashi, translated by Taro Nettleton
New paperback edition!
In stores August 2015! $19.95 / 6.875″ x 8.25″ / 240 pages / b+w / paperback / 9781770462120
THE NATIVE TREES OF CANADA: A POSTCARD SET
In stores August 2015! $14.95 / 4″ x 5.75″ / 30 postcards / full color / 9781770462137
PIPPI LONGSTOCKING: THE STRONGEST IN THE WORLD!
Astrid Lindgren & Ingrid Vang Nyman
translated by Tiina Nunnally
In stores October 2015! $22.95 / 7.5″ x 9.5″ / 160 pages / full color / paperback / 9781770462151
THE OWNER’S MANUAL TO TERRIBLE PARENTING
Guy Delisle, translated by Helge Dascher
In stores August 2015! $12.95 / 5″ x 7″ / 204 pages / b+w / paperback / 9781770462144
In stores November 2015! $9.95 / 8.5″ x 6″ / 64 pages / full color / flexicover / 9781770462168