The eight-time Eisner Award-winning comic book series blending fantasy and humor returns in a historical adventure blending Japanese and Western occult with Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory #1!
An elder member of the occult-battling pack of Wise Dogs recalls a harrowing mission–in U.S-occupied Japan after World War II, a mysterious curse creates an army of crawling, disembodied heads which threatens to overwhelm the region. Emrys and a team of canine companions attempt to solve the mystery, bringing them into conflict with shape-changing tanuki, evil oni, and a horde of vengeful demons.
Beasts Of Burden is one of those series that I was introduced to via my LCS heavily promoting the Neighborhood Watch trade paperback, and the subsequent books. so it is, then, that Beasts Of Burden: Occupied Territory #1 is one of the few entries to the series that I’ve read in single issue form verses the collected edition. While this is a follow up to the previous miniseries, other than the first page or three you don’t need to have read that as Occupied Territory takes places during the Second World War in a flashback told by Emrys.
Written by Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer, with art by Benjamin Dewey and letters by Nate Piekos, the comic is absolutely beautiful. It reminds me of a painting in many ways and the style works incredibly well with the time period the comic is set in, with the art bringing to the fore the sense of dirt and grime and hopelessness you’d expect in a story that mixes World War Two and the occult. Being a flashback story, Emrys takes the time to frame his story for his audience, which has the added benefit of framing it for us, and especially for folks new to the series (which makes this a fairly good entry point to the world of Beasts Of Burden).
With this being the first issue, there’s a bit of a slow build to the inevitable occult madness, but Dorkin and Dyer set the pace of the comic really well – building slowly toward the following chapters where the shit (and probably blood) will surely hit the fan. Beasts Of Burden: Occupied Territory #1 is another fantastic entry into the series lore, and I cannot wait for the next issue.
Story: Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer Art Benjamin Dewey Letters: Nate Piekos Story: 8.6 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy
Dark Horse provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
The eight-time Eisner Award-winning comic series, Beasts of Burden, returns blending fantasy, horror, and humor in a historical adventure written by Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer, illustrated by Benjamin Dewey, and lettered by Nate Pieko, with an issue #1 variant cover by John McCrea, that marries Japanese and Western occult in Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory.
An elder member of the occult-battling pack of Wise Dogs recalls a harrowing mission—in U.S-occupied Japan after World War II, a mysterious curse creates an army of crawling, disembodied heads which threatens to overwhelm the region. Emrys and a team of canine companions attempt to solve the mystery, bringing them into conflict with shape-changing tanuki, evil oni, and a horde of vengeful demons.
Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory #1(of four) will be in comic shops on April 7, 2021.
2020 definitely felt like a year where I embraced comics in all their different formats and genres from the convenient, satisfying graphic novella to the series of loosely connected and curated one shots and even the door stopper of an omnibus/hardcover or that charming webcomic that comes out one or twice a week on Instagram. This was partially due to the Covid-19 pandemic that shut down comics’ traditional direct market for a bit so I started reviewing webcomics, trade paperbacks, graphic novels and nonfiction even after this supply chain re-opened. I also co-hosted and edited two seasons of a podcast about indie comics where we basically read either a trade every week for discussion, and that definitely meant spending more time with that format. However, floppy fans should still be happy because I do have a traditional ongoing series on my list as well as some minis.
Without further ado, here are my favorite comics of 2020.
10. Marvels Snapshots (Marvel)
Curated by original Marvels writer Kurt Busiek and with cover art by original Marvels artist Alex Ross, Marvels Snapshots collects seven perspectives on on the “major” events of the Marvel Universe from the perspectives of ordinary people from The Golden Age of the 1940s to 2006’s Civil War. It’s cool to get a more character-driven and human POV on the ol’ corporate IP toy box from Alan Brennert and Jerry Ordway exploring Namor the Submariner’s PTSD to Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, and Benjamin Dewey showing the real reason behind Johnny Storm’s airhead celebrity act. There’s also Mark Russell and Ramon Perez’s take on the classic Captain America “Madbomb” storyline, Barbara Kesel’s and Staz Johnson’s sweet, Bronze Age-era romance between two first responders as the Avengers battle a threat against the city, and Saladin Ahmed and Ryan Kelly add nuance to the superhuman Civil War by showing how the Registration Act affects a Cape-Killer agent as well as a young elemental protector of Toledo, Ohio, who just wants to help his community and do things like purify water. However, the main reason Marvels Snapshots made my “favorite” list was Jay Edidin and Tom Reilly‘s character-defining work showing the pre-X-Men life of Cyclops as he struggles with orphan life, is inspired by heroes like Reed Richards, and lays the groundwork for the strategist, leader, and even revolutionary that appears in later comics.
Fangs is cartoonist Sarah Andersen’s entry into the Gothic romance genre and was a light, funny, and occasionally sexy series that got me through a difficult year. Simply put, it follows the relationship of a vampire named Elsie and a werewolf named Jimmy, both how they met and their life together. Andersen plays with vampire and werewolf fiction tropes and sets up humorous situations like a date night featuring a bloody rare steak and a glass of blood instead of wine, Jimmy having an unspoken animosity against mail carriers, and just generally working around things like lycanthropy every 28 days and an aversion to sunlight. As well as being hilarious and cute, Fangs shows Sarah Andersen leveling up as an artist as she works with deep blacks, different eye shapes and textures, and more detailed backgrounds to match the tone of her story while not skimping on the relatable content that made Sarah’s Scribbles an online phenomenon.
I really got into Vault Comics this year. (I retroactively make These Savage Shores my favorite comic of 2019.) As far as prose, I mainly read SF, and Vault nicely fills that niche in the comics landscape and features talented, idiosyncratic creative teams. Heavy is no exception as Max Bemis, Eryk Donovan, and Cris Peter tell the story of Bill, who was gunned down by some mobsters, and now is separated from his wife in a place called “The Wait” where he has to set right enough multiversal wrongs via violence to be reunited with her in Heaven. This series is a glorious grab bag of hyperviolence, psychological examinations of toxic masculinity, and moral philosophy. Heavy also has a filthy and non-heteronormative sense of humor. Donovan and Peter bring a high level of chaotic energy to the book’s visuals and are game for both tenderhearted flashbacks as well as brawls with literal cum monsters. In addition to all this, Bemis and Donovan aren’t afraid to play with and deconstruct their series’ premise, which is what makes Heavy my ongoing monthly comic.
Writer/artist Katie Skelly puts her own spin on the true crime genre inMaids, a highly stylized account of Christine and Lea Papin murdering their employers in France during the 1930s. Skelly’s linework and eye popping colors expertly convey the trauma and isolation that the Papins go through as they are at the beck and call of the family they work almost 24/7. Flashbacks add depth and context to Christine and Lea’s characters and provide fuel to the fire of the class warfare that they end up engaging in. Skelly’s simple, yet iconic approach character design really allowed me to connect with the Papins and empathize with them during the build-up from a new job to murder and mayhem. Maids is truly a showcase for a gifted cartoonist and not just a summary of historical events.
In her webcomic Grind Like A Girl, cartoonist Veronica Casson tells the story of growing up trans in 1990s New Jersey. The memoir recently came to a beautiful conclusion with Casson showing her first forays into New York, meeting other trans women, and finding a sense of community with them that was almost the polar opposite of her experiences in high school. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the evolution of Veronica Casson’s art style during different periods of her life from an almost Peanuts vibe for her childhood to using more flowing lines, bright colors, and ambitious panel layouts as an older teen and finally an adult. She also does a good job using the Instagram platform to give readers a true “guided view” experience and point out certain details before putting it all together in a single page so one can appreciate the comic at both a macro/micro levels. All in all, Grind Like A Girl is a personal and stylish coming of age memoir from Veronica Casson, and I look forward to seeing more of her work.
Thai/Italian cartoonist Elisa Macellari tells an unconventional World War II story in Papaya Salad, a recently translated history comic about her great uncle Sompong, who just wanted to see the world. However, he ended up serving with the Thai diplomatic corps in Italy, Germany, and Austria during World War II. Macellari uses a recipe for her great uncle’s favorite dish, papaya salad, to structure the comic, and her work has a warm, dreamlike quality to go with the reality of the places that Sampong visits and works at. Also, it’s very refreshing to get a non-American or British perspective on this time in history as Sampong grapples with the shifting status of Thailand during the war as well as the racism of American soldiers, who celebrate the atomic bomb and lump him and his colleagues with the Japanese officers, and are not shown in a very positive light. However, deep down, Papaya Salad is a love story filled with small human moments that make life worth living, like appetizing meals, jokes during dark times, and faith in something beyond ourselves. It’s a real showcase of the comics medium’s ability to tell stories from a unique point of view.
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (with colorist Jacob Phillips) are two creators whose work has graced my “favorite comics” list many times. And this time they really outdid themselves with the graphic novella Pulpabout the final days of Max Winters, a gunslinger-turned-Western dime novelist. It’s a character study peppered with flashbacks as Phillips and Phillips use changes in body posture and color palette to show Max getting older while his passion for resisting those who would exploit others is still intact. Basically, he can shoot and rob fascists just like he shot and robbed cattle barons back in the day. Brubaker and Phillips understand that genre fiction doesn’t exist in a vacuum and is informed by the historical context around it, which is what makes Pulp such a compelling read. If you like your explorations of the banality of evil and creeping specter of fascism with heists, gun battles, and plenty of introspection, then this is the comic for you.
Music is my next favorite interest after comics so My Riot was an easy pick for my favorite comics list. The book is a coming of age story filtered through 1990s riot girl music from writer Rick Spears and artist Emmett Helen. It follows the life of Valerie, who goes from doing ballet and living a fairly conservative suburban life to being the frontwoman and songwriter for a cult riot girl band. Much of this transformation happens through Helen’s art and colors as his palette comes to life just as Valerie does when she successfully calls out some audience members/her boyfriend for being sexist and patronizing. The comic itself also takes on a much more DIY quality with its layouts and storytelling design as well as how the characters look and act. My Riot is about the power of music to find one’s identify and true self and build a community like The Proper Ladies do throughout the book. Valerie’s arc is definitely empowering and relatable for any queer kid, who was forced to conform to way of life and thinking that wasn’t their own.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: slice of life is my all-time favorite comic book genre. So, I was overjoyed when writers Sina Grace and Omar Spahi, artist Jenny D. Fine, and colorist Mx. Struble announced that they were doing a monthly slice of life comic about a brother, sister, and their best friend/ex-boyfriend (respectively) set in San Francisco that also touched on the gay and indie music scene. And Getting It Together definitely has lifted up to my pre-release hype as Grace and Spahi have fleshed out a complex web of relationships and drama with gorgeous and occasionally hilarious art by Fine and Struble. There are gay and bisexual characters all over the book with different personalities and approaches to life, dating, and relationships, which is refreshing too. Grace, Spahi, and Fine also take some time away from the drama to let us know about the ensemble cast’s passions and struggles like indie musician Lauren’s lifelong love for songwriting even if her band has a joke name (Nipslip), or her ex-boyfriend Sam’s issues with mental health. I would definitely love to spend more than four issues with these folks.
My favorite comic of 2020 was The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott , a debut graphic novel by cartoonist Zoe Thorogood.The premise of the comic is that Billie is an artist who is going blind in two weeks, and she must come up with some paintings for her debut gallery show during that time period. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott boasts an adorably idiosyncratic cast of characters that Thorogood lovingly brings to life with warm visuals and naturalistic dialogue as Billie goes from making art alone in her room to making connections with the people around her, especially Rachel, a passionate folk punk musician. The book also acts as a powerful advocate for the inspirational quality of art and the act of creation. Zoe Thorogood even creates “art within the art” and concludes the story with the different portraits that Billie painted throughout her travels. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott was the hopeful comic that I needed in a dark year and one I will cherish for quite some time as I ooh and aah over Thorogood’s skill with everything from drawing different hair styles to crafting horrific dream sequences featuring eyeballs.
Experience Black Hammer like never before in this exciting reimagining of the Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston created, Eisner-award winning series! Black Hammer: Visions is a series of one-shots bringing some of comic’s most exciting talent into the Black Hammer Universe including Patton Oswalt, Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder, Dean Kotz, Scott Kolins, Chip Zdarsky, Johnnie Christmas, Cullen Bunn, Malachi Ward, Matt Sheean, Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero, Mariko Tamaki, Diego Olortegui, Cecil Castellucci, and Melissa Duffy, with colors by Jason Wordie, Bill Crabtree, Jordie Bellaire, and Dave Stewart and letters by Nate Piekos!
Kicking off Black Hammer: Visions, Patton Oswalt joins artists Dean Kotz and Jason Wordie to explore the life of youthful super heroine Golden Gail on the Black Hammer Farm before the beginning of Black Hammer#1, and her struggle to maintain sanity as a middle-aged woman trapped in the unchanging body of a superpowered grade-schooler. This 32-page issue also features variant covers by Evan Dorkin with Sarah Dyer, and Gilbert Hernandez with Dave Stewart!
Black Hammer: Visions #1 (of eight) will hit comic shops on February 10, 2021.
The manga megahit Attack on Titan, reinterpreted by some of comics’ top talent! Featuring original stories by a long roster of comic superstars such as Scott Snyder, Gail Simone, Faith Erin Hicks, Michael Avon Oeming, Paolo Rivera, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr!
This unprecedented, full-colour collaboration between East and West will be released first in English, making it indispensable for Attack on Titan fans and curious comic fans.
When it comes to Attack on Titan my only real exposure to the series was watching the horrendous live action film that came out. I haven’t watched the anime and I haven’t read the manga, but when I heard the Attack on Titan Anthology was coming out, I made sure to grab a copy during New York Comic Con. If I was going to buy it, might as well go with the limited edition cover.
While this anthology isn’t a traditional way to be introduced, it was an interesting one as a who’s who of Western creators tackle this manga phenomenon. And what’s nicer is that each creator gave it their own spin sticking to their style of storytelling and moving the settings of the stories around for different situations and locations.
This is an eclectic mix in a good way with stories that seem to stick to a setting and story that you’d see in the manga series while other creators went with a complete break. There’s horror. There’s humor. There’s action. There’s a little of everything and it’s all enjoyable in its own way.
What’s really interesting to me is recognizing the creators based on their entries. I read the entire graphic novel in one sitting and played guess the creator as I went along creating a fun little game and each creator really does bring their own style. So, if you’re a fan of the folks’ work, you’re probably going to enjoy this.
I knew so little about the world and what to expect going in other than the creative talent lined up, but coming out of it, I want to check out more. If you’re interested in finding out a bit about Attack on Titan, but don’t want to take the chance on manga, this is a solid way to go to find out a bit more about what it’s all about.
Story and Art: Ray Fawkes, Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, John Rauch, Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Bill Murdon, Afua Richardson, Genevieve Valentine, David Lopez, Faith Erin Hicks, Cris Peter, Michael Avon Oeming, Taki Soma, Paolo Rivera, Gail Simone, Phil Jimenez, Alonso Nunez, Elmer Santos, Sam Humphries, Damion Scott, Sigmund Torre, Rhianna Pratchett, Jorge Corona, Jen Hickman, Ben Applegate, Ronald Wimberly, Kevin Wada, Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr, Jiji Knight, Si Spurrier, Kate Brown, Paul Duffield, Dee Cunniffe, Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka, Kate Leth, Jeremy Lambert Story: 8.35 Art: 8.35 Overall: 8.35 Recommendation: Buy
Dark Horse has announced further collaborations with Eisner Award–winning creator Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer. Dorkin and Dyer have been a major creative team in the comics industry for years, and Dark Horse is proud to present new projects with them. In 2017, Dark Horse will publish a trade paperback of Calla Cthulhu and a hardcover collection of Dork!
Calla Cthulhu, originally published by Stela, is a modern twist on Lovecraft’s mythos. Calla Cthulhu tells the story of Calla Tafali, a teenager of the Great Old Ones’ bloodline, as she battles supernatural monsters, human assassins, and her uncle, the King in Yellow. Calla must resist her uncle’s call to embrace her dark heritage while also preventing the awakening of the R’lyeh—the Dread One. Co-creator Erin Humiston (Calla Cthulhu, BAND) pencils, Mario A. Gonzalez (Calla Cthulhu, Wyliman) inks, and Bill Mudron (Dark Horse Presents, Star Trek: The Next Generation Adult Coloring Book) colors this graphic novel.
Dark Horse will also collect Evan Dorkin’s beloved series Dork! into a beautiful hardcover edition. The Dork! hardcover collects material from Dork! #1–#11 and miscellaneous odds, ends, and extras. Includes the Devil Puppet, the Murder Family, hundreds of Fun Strips, and the Eisner Award–nominated story “Cluttered Like My Head.”
Calla Cthulhu goes on sale August 16, 2017. Dork! will be available for purchase in late 2017.
After months of anticipation, Stela: Comics For Your Phone has announced that Calla Cthulhu—the Lovecraftian-inspired adventure by Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, and Erin Humiston—is now available on the Stela app.
Being a teenager isn’t easy. Even more so when you’re Calla, a girl who carries the bloodline of the Great Old Ones in her veins. Instead of normal teen activities, Calla spends her time battling supernatural threats like her Uncle, the King in Yellow. She must resist his call to embrace her own chaotic heritage as well as prevent him from awakening the terrible deity asleep and dreaming in the corpse city of R’lyeh—the Dread Dead One!
Dyer said in the announcement release that while learning to work with the vertical scroll was a challenge, it offers benefits to as storytellers such as controlling pacing, preventing accident peeks ahead, and refining how they reveal things through the movement of the panels on the device.
Perfect for fans of H.P. Lovecraft lore, and the action and adventure of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Calla Cthulhu presents an incredible feat of storytelling from Dorkin, Dyer, and Humiston, presented in Stela’s distinctive vertical scrolling format.
A six chapter series, Stela will release a new Calla Cthulhu installment every Thursday until the end of June.
Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer and Jill Thompson return to the characters that won them the Eisner Awards for Best Short Story and Best Publication for Teens with a new one-shot comic: Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged In!
This standalone adventure is a perfect entry point for readers new to the award-winning series. When curiosity gets the best of Burden Hill’s cats (and one reluctant raccoon), sleeping demons are awakened and black magic is unleashed on the town of Burden Hill.
Multiple award-winning comics creators Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson first introduced these very special investigators in The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings and the other Dark Horse Book of . . . anthologies, for which they won coveted Eisner Awards for Best Short Story and Best Painter.
In 2009, the beasts of Burden Hill received their own miniseries, Animal Rites, which garnered widespread critical acclaim. In 2010, they met up with Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, cementing these unlikely heroes in the pages of Dark Horse history.
The one-shot Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged In (MAR160030) is in stores May 4, 2016.
There’s been a lot of recent news about digital comics, and one of the more interesting (and unexpected) is the announcement of the launch of a new mobile comics platform in 2016.
Stela is the “premiere mobile comics platform” designed from the ground up with original content by award-winning writers and illustrators. Whether at home or on the go, Stela is the only app that delivers comics designed and optimized for your smartphone, all in the palm of your hand with new content every weekday.
The Stela library includes work from acclaimed creators including Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Joe Casey, Irene Koh, Brian Wood, Ron Wimberly, Stuart Moore, and many more.
The app promises new content every day optimized for the mobile platform. More interesting, the app also mentions the focus on community whether it’s interacting with authors, illustrators, or fellow readers. You’ll be able to post your reactions and comments in real-time, and discuss the latest chapters in the Stela library.
ONI PRESS CONTINUES ITS TRADITION OF RELEASING ISSUE #1 ON FCBD WITH BAD MEDICINE
On Saturday May 5, 2012, Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) will be returning for its tenth year running, and Oni Press is proud to have been a participant since its inception. This year, Oni Press is pleased to have been selected as both a Gold and Silver sponsor. Oni will be continuing its tradition of launching a brand new series with an issue #1, and with bringing family friendly comics to kids of all ages!
In keeping with their tradition of launching a brand new series on FCBD, Oni Press is giving away issue #1 of their new ongoing series Bad Medicine. Written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir (New X-Men: Academy X, Batman Confidential) and artist Christopher Mitten (Wasteland, Criminal Macabre), Bad Medicine is a full color comic book about a doctor working on the fringes of the medical industry. When unexplainable illnesses strike and regular medical procedures can’t handle the treatment, Dr. Randal Horne is called in to take over.
Oni Press will be releasing issue #1 as a freebie for Free Comic Book Day, and then offering the second issue of the monthly series—alongside a retail version of #1— the following month. Both will go on sale June 13.
“This is not a zero issue, it’s not a preview or an advanced look, this is the actual issue #1 of Bad Medicine. This follows the model that we used to launch The Sixth Gun two years ago and Spontaneous last year,” Oni marketing director Cory Casoni explained. “At Oni Press, we believe that Free Comic Book Day is about Free Comics! By launching a brand new series on FCBD, we’re creating a no-risk situation for new readers to try out a new monthly comic book, and the best part is, they only have to wait a few weeks to read the next installment! For those who miss Bad Medicine #1 on Free Comic Book Day but hear from their friends how awesome the series is, they get a second chance to start from the beginning when we issue a re-release of Bad Medicine #1 on the same day Bad Medicine #2 is released in June!”
For the next generation of comic readers and the kids at heart, Oni Press is pleased to present a younger reader title, suitable for all ages, with Yo Gabba Gabba! Based on the popular Nickelodeon television show created by W!ldbrain, this 32-page, full-color comic book offers a sample of stories featured in the Oni Press hardcover anthology Yo Gabba Gabba! Comic Book Time. Oni will also be offering discounted pricing on the anthology so that retailers and fans who really love the Yo Gabba Gabba Free Comic Book Day sampler can take pickup the Yo Gabba Gabba! Comic Book Time hardcover!
Creators featured in this sample include: Michael Allred, Jamie S. Rich, Jarrett Williams, Kali Fontecchio, Frank Pittarese, Evan Dorkin, and Sarah Dyer. The entire Gabbaland gang is featured: Muno, Brobee, Foofa, Toodee, Plex, and the ever-awesome DJ Lance Rock. There is also an extra-special Super Martian Robot Girl adventure by Dorkin and Dyer.
Yo Gabba Gabba! is one of the select “Gold Titles” being offered for Free Comic Book Day. The Gold Titles are the most widely distributed of the giveaways and appear in every participating comic book shop world wide.
Fans can read previews of both comics at the Free Comic Book Day Website:
Free Comic Book Day is an international happening in which comic book and specialty shops around the world give away select comic books at no cost to any customer, new or old, that comes through their doors. Every major publisher has titles available on Free Comic Book Day, making for a massive celebration of the sequential art form. Past entries from Oni Press have included Scott Pilgrim, Hopeless Savages, and The Sixth Gun.
Retailers interested in Free Comic Book Day can order all available titles through Diamond Comics Distributors. For more information on the event itself, visit http://freecomicbookday.com.