[In this installment of our series of Editors Notes, Kim Thompson interviews himself (in a format he's dubbed "AutoChat") about The Littlest Pirate King by David B., Fantagraphics' second Franco-Belgian kids' comic release, now available to order from us or at a comics shop near you. – Ed.]
This is Fantagraphics' first full David B. book, right?
Correct. We published the second issue of his Ignatz comic Babel (D+Q published the first one before wimping out on the whole Ignatz deal), and four of his short stories in Zero Zero and MOME (in fact, the three MOME stories will be collected next year), but this is our first David B. release with a spine.
What made you pick this one specifically?
It more or less fell in my lap last year: The French publisher offered it to us, and if I didn't grab it up NBM, which released David's Nocturnal Conspiracies back in 2008, was ready to. I really enjoyed the story, and I thought it would make a nice match-up with Blanquet's Toys in the Basement to launch our Franco-Belgian kids' line. [Ed. Note: You can currently purchase The Littlest Pirate King and Toys in the Basement together for 20% off the cover prices!]
Are you and NBM in competition for books often?
Not really. Terry Nantier's and my tastes are pretty different, as are my tastes and First Second's — and, God knows, Heavy Metal's. But there are so many great European comics still to translate that this kind of collision is rare anyway.
It's David B.'s first color book, too?
In the U.S., yes, but it's about his sixth color book in France, actually; ever since he finished Epileptic and moved from L'Association to more mainstream French publishers like Dargaud and Dupuis — see, the Fantagraphics-to-Random-House alternative-to-corporate pattern isn't unique to the U.S.! — he's been working almost exclusively in color.
Who is this Pierre Mac Orlan who wrote the original story?
At this point I know as much about Pierre Mac Orlan as anyone who's bookmarked Wikipedia.org does. Apparently a French novelist, songwriter, and children's book writer.
For a kid's book, this has got some pretty adult stuff in it. Like the fact that the zombie pirates talk about the prostitutes back on land they miss...
This has been brought up to me by sensitive members of our staff. Well, it's handled pretty delicately. It would fly right over a theoretical young reader's head: He might think the pirate want to spend the money on the women just taking them out on dates or something. If anything, it's far more genteel than the original "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride in Disneyland, which used to have the pirates carrying off serving wenches with the clear intent of rape until it got politically corrected. (Perhaps even worse, they used to have one ugly serving wench who was disconsolate because no pirate would take her.) You could also argue that all the pirates' cursing God in Littlest Pirate King might be problematic for some parents, but they're pirate zombies, they're not role models. And they have a pretty good reason to be ticked off at God.
The ending is very bleak.
That's true. Although most Disney movies have even bleaker moments at one point or another, usually involving the death of a parental character. But I think kids can take it. It's not as bad as Old Yeller getting killed or anything. [Spoiler alert — Ed.]
You mentioned Babel, David's sequel-of-sorts to Epileptic, which delves into his relationship with his brother from a different angle, their shared fantasy life as kids. Will that ever continue?
Well, the whole Ignatz series ran into some rough waters. It was predicated on being published by at least three or four publishers in different countries, and after starting off with six (Holland, Germany, Spain, France, the U.S., and Italy), three of the publishers dropped out almost immediately because they discovered the format didn't work at all for their market, and of the three remaining two ran into financial or structural problems, which meant the books weren't being published and cartoonists weren't getting paid except by us, which wasn't sustainable. So David, like most of the cartoonists, had to move onto actual paid work. The good news is that as the Ignatz stuff gets sorted out it looks like he'll be able to finish the series with a third issue which he'll then be able to sell as a book in some of these markets, including the U.S. where we'll either release it as an Ignatz and then a book, or go straight to book. The funny thing is that we actually published several pages from #3 in our I.G.N.A.T.Z. Free Comic Book Day preview comic a few years ago, and that's literally the only place in the world those pages have been published... In the meantime he just published a really cool sketchbook comic, and I understand he's working on a major historical volume now.
Okay, so I'm confused... What if anything would you say is next for David B. in terms of Fantagraphics releases after the MOME stories collection?
I'm playing it by ear. Could be Babel if/when that's finished, could be this new project, could be one of his earlier L'Association books for that matter. Wait and see!
Thus begins the fourth and final collection of comic strips starring the stupidest, ugliest, stubbliest girl in grade number two. Blecky and her "pals" are back and so are the fountains of blood, urine, and other bodily fluids (not to mention profanity) in these riotously hilarious, eye-poppingly offensive four-panel gag strips. Co-starring the usual cast of Blecky's weirdo friends and enemies, plus douching robots, the Christmas barbarian, the world's most bad-ass Easter basket, the Spamfs, 69-11, sexy murder hunks, ass worship, glory holes, the Pizzazooka, Dizzy the herpes-sniffing dog, Sir Oreo Monocle and oh so much more. Over 100 pages of ridiculous absurdity, over-the-top grossouts, and scathing satire that could only come from the mind and pen of Johnny Ryan.
• List: Deb Aoki of About.com: Manga names A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio the Best New Manga of 2010: "Conjoined twins who share a painful co-existence. A young girl rejected by her mother who can only see her as an iguana. Ill-fated lovers who are doomed to be separated in several lifetimes. These characters came to life in this collection of smart, sensitive and thought-provoking short stories created by master storyteller Moto Hagio."
• Review: "It makes my job as a critic a lot harder when I’ve spent nearly an entire book composing its review in my head only for the final few pages to smash it to smithereens. In that sense, reviewing Luba: The Book of Ofelia is hard work." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Interview (Audio):Destroy All Movies!!! editors Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly appeared on KBOO-FM Community Radio out of Olympia WA on Monday for an interview with host Erin Yanke — listen here
• Plug:Public School's Will Bryant spotlights Ray Fenwick's Mascots
• Commentary: At The Wright Opinion, Brendan Wright shares his thoughts about the longevity of Las Locas: "I’m as excited as anyone that the graphic novel is gradually becoming the standard model of the modern comic book, but among its many virtues, the fact that Love and Rockets has always been presented as a series is important. This is the comic book that elevated the serial format of comics from soap opera to serialized literature. It’s hard to wait between the annual installments, but it’s worth it to check in with old friends, and whatever else he does with the rest of his creativity, I’m happy that Hernandez always finds time to keep up with the 'Locas' world."
"PARTY CRASHERS mashes up comic art and contemporary gallery culture, and features artists who pass back and forth between the two worlds. This massive two venue show results from a crosstown collaboration between AAC Director of Exhibitions Jeffry Cudlin and Artisphere Gallery Director Cynthia Connolly. The show’s two independent halves feature different types of work: Connolly’s show presents fine artists who mimic the appearance of comic art; Cudlin’s show at AAC contains: alternative comic artists who also show their original pages and drawings in art galleries; fine and comic artists working side-by-side on a national curated project (Creative Time Comics); and fine and comic artists creating avante-garde, purely abstract sequential art without words or recognizeable imagery."
The second book from Ray Fenwick, author of 2008’s acclaimed Hall of Best Knowledge. In Mascots, a collection of impressionistic stories combine to create a wildly absurd — yet vaguely familiar — parallel world. Like Fenwick’s previous work, the acclaimed Hall of Best Knowledge (one of Booklist’s “Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2008”), Mascots is driven by lettering and language, part art and part comics, this time taking the form of bright, full color paintings on found book covers. These paintings can be experienced individually, each on their own terms, but together they reveal a surreal world that captures the mood of our times with manic energy.
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new titles. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators are saying about our releases this week, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
384-page black & white 5.75" x 8.25" hardcover • $29.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-405-4
"...[A] second thick (384-page) hardcover compilation of Linda Medley’s well-regarded folkloric/fairy story exploration, now as pertinent a bridge between ’90s comic book self-publishing and current YA comics interest as its former publishing cousin Bone. I presume this includes all of the Fantagraphics-published Vol. II material thus far, totaling 15 issues... [Yes. – Ed.]" – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"You know how some comics seem to be collective community efforts, in that they traffic in styles and ideas that are on the minds and coming out of the fingertips of the art form's chattering class? Linda Medley's quiet, humane fantasy is the opposite of that, a creation wholly her own." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"...[M]y book of this week [is] Castle Waiting Volume 2. The first Castle Waiting book was one of my Best of 2006, and I anticipate similarly great things from the followup. Linda Medley puts out a wonderfully fresh and modern take on fantasy conventions, including the title castle with its exotic and magical inhabitants." – Johanna Draper Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
"The other highlight of the week has to be the second collection of Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting. The publisher describes the comics as 'witty and sublimely drawn fantasy [that] eases into a relaxed comedy of manners,' which is perfectly true. It’s really a treat of a series, one that I bought in pamphlet form and will buy in its collected state, which almost never happens." – David Welsh, The Manga Curmudgeon
"If I had $30… I’d give it all to Fantagraphics in exchange for the second volume of Castle Waiting, the long-awaited continuation of Linda Medley’s story. I’ll confess I haven’t read the first volume yet—maybe that should be my splurge—but my librarian friends strongly recommend it, and their description of an updated fairy tale with a modern sensibility makes me want to give it a try." – Brigid Alverson, Robot 6
"I believe this concludes the parts of this very sweet, very good-natured, apparently open-ended fantasy series that writer/artist Linda Medley has serialized thus far. As with the otherwise entirely different A Hard Day's Night, I started enjoying the series much more when I realized that nothing much was actually going to happen at any point." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
"FACT: I can't stand fantasy. Except for this. This is the real deal. Likable characters, exotic setting that doesn't spend hours wanking the reader for being a nerd that knows their Dungeons and Dragons, and a real story about people." – "Lydia Park," The Rack
120-page black & white 12" x 5" hardcover • $19.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-392-7
"This is neither French nor a comics version of an old children’s book, and yet it seems so of a kind! Maybe it’s the 'Little,' or Tony Millionaire’s affinity for vintage cartooning and illustration, or perhaps Maakies simply goes with everything." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics (see below for context)
"I think Tony Millionaire may be in that slightly-taken-for-granted phase of his career right now, and that's not fair. Sometimes it is, just not with Tony. I can't imagine not owning all of these, even if the rest of my collection is barbarian comics." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"The newest collection of Tony Millionaire’s comic strip. It’s two years worth of drunk comics." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
48-page full-color 8.5" x 11.25" hardcover • $16.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-403-0
"...[O]ne of the highlights of this week’s releases: Fantagraphics’ The Littlest Pirate King, an English edition of the 2009 album Roi Rose by the redoubtable David B., himself working from a Pierre Mac Orlan prose story (from 1921, I believe). It ‘s a lovely presentation..." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics (it's a full review, do go give it a read)
"David B., one of comics' mightiest visual talents, with an adaptation of an all-ages tale full of dream logic and creepy things. How could you walk by and not at the very least hold it in your hands for a time?" – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"I’m a sucker for anything French artist David B does, so I’ll be sure to snatch and grab a copy of The Littlest Pirate King, his latest entry on American shores, an all-ages titles about a young boy who leads a group of undead pirates." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"I’m very tempted by the new volume of Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Castle Waiting, but they’re both trumped by David B and his ghost pirates in The Littlest Pirate King. Still, since I’m splurging, let’s just get all three." – Michael May, Robot 6
"A children's graphic novel — well, older children, anyway — by the great French cartoonist David B., based on a short story by Pierre Mac Orlan about a child commanding a ship of undead pirates. All the best things in one place, basically." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
272-page black & white/duotone 6.5" x 8.75" hardcover • $24.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-414-6
"Being another of the week’s Fanta hardcover collections, an omnibus edition of the publisher’s first three translated books by Jason. Hey, Wait… almost certainly requires no introduction... Sshhhh! took the form of wordless seriocomic vignettes relating to one of Jason’s silent clown-type wanderer characters, while The Iron Wagon spun around for a dialogue-heavy adaptation of a formative Scandinavian mystery novel… oh wow, maybe that should be on the cover these days." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"The comics here are pretty great, although I greatly prefer the individual books to these omnibus collections. They're first class and everything, but I think those individual Jason book are about as perfect as they come production-wise. Still: Jason, and the comics that put him on the North American alt-comics map." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter (Please note that, even if you agree with Tom, several of the original books are out of print.)
"Fantagraphics collects another trio of Jason stories in the trilogy format they’ve been re-releasing some of his work in. This $25, 270-page hardcover includes Hey, Wait, Sshhhh! and the long out-of-print The Iron Wagon." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
"Reprints of three of the Norwegian cartoonist Jason's early books: 'Hey, Wait...,' 'Sshhhh!' and 'The Iron Wagon.' The first of those is particularly terrific, and maybe the first instance of Jason's habit of creating books that midway through abruptly turn into very different sorts of stories." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
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