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18 posts from January 2011

January 31, 2011

Angoulême, mon amour

So there's this dinky little comics convention that happens in a horribly unattractive town in France every now and then. Hardly anyone attends. I mean, the French just hate comics -- I never met a nation less interested in the medium.

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And the food, guys, the food is awful.

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Oh, ha ha ha, I'm so funny! It's opposites day! Or possibly I'm just really jet lagged and still a little bit hung over!

BIEN ALORS:

The organizers of the mighty Angoulême International Comics Festival very kindly invited a number of American, Canadian, and British editors to attend this year's show, to see what all the fuss is about and meet our European counterparts. 

It's a remarkable show.

The festival takes over this cute little southern town completely -- tents are set up throughout the public spaces of the city and local institutions like the city hall and pretty much every bar and restaurant are co-opted by the fans and professionals attending the event.

The obvious question on everyone's minds was "how does it compare?" How does the French comics scene compare to the English-language comics scene? How does Angoulême compare to San Diego? Everyone has a different answer to this, but I guess as far as I can tell, it's mostly a question of scale. The ratio of dreck to the sublime seems to be about the same in both industries; but there's so much MORE of everything in the Franco-Belgian scene. More dreck, but also more -- and a greater variety -- of the really good stuff.

There are certain respects in which Angoulême and San Diego are eerily similar, however:

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Like the big shows that I've been to in the US, this show was a lot of work: many, many meetings; lots of running around; technology always malfunctioning; constantly being late or lost; lots of social events; lots of booze; almost no sleep. And like the big shows in the US, it was exhilirating. What a pleasure, always, to be surrounded by enthusiastic hoards who share your idiosyncratic passions.

And let's not forget the nightlife. Ben Hatke, this one's for you:

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Stumbling through town at about midnight on Saturday, we came across this young lady fire-dancing and fire-breathing to an accompaniment of charming French accordians and drunken hollering from the crowd. Nobody got incinerated, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

I would have been more impressed, but I had just spent the evening in the company of a group of wonderfully talented cartoonists, editors, artists, and writers, including two First Second creators, Molly Crabapple and Tanitoc.

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First Second has always had a strong emphasis on the global aspect of our list: bringing great graphic novels from all over the world to American readers. To me, now, that mission seems both more vital and more daunting: having experienced firsthand the enormous wealth and richness of the comics culture in Europe, I feel a little lost in the abundance of beauty.

Also, I met Moebius.

!!!

Well, no post about a trip to a charming European town would be complete without some gratuitous "look at how charmingly European everything is!" photos, so here are two for your delectation.

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~fin~

A Numerical Meditation on Five

Demuth-Figure5InGold

(this is Charles Demuth's painting 'The Figure 5 in Gold')

It's our fifth anniversary this year (which you might've noticed from Mark's post last week).  I thought I'd commemorate by writing a post about significant numbers for First Second. 

As of right now, we have:

63 books in print by 53 authors and illustrators

15 YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens

4 staff members

3 Eisner Awards

850,000 books sold*

15 books TK in 2011

4 webcomics

1 magical cartooning elf

AIC_Elf_Spot
(our number of 63 books by 53 creators goes up to 64/54 tomorrow with the publication of Ben Hatke's delightful Zita the Spacegirl!)

*this is an approximate number

January 28, 2011

Extraterrestrial Limericks

ALIEEEN

There once was an aliens' picnic

Here on earth, not very cosmic

They left this book

(Please take a look)

I think aliens are possibly brainsick.

January 27, 2011

Adventuretime Comics!

(This is not actually a post about Adventure Time.  Would that it were!  Alas, no ancient vampires are contained within today's missive from the :01 offices.)

I got an e-mail from a librarian at MUHS this past week asking about comics with adventures in them.  It is a good theme, thus: list!

The Quest for the Missing Girl

This book!  It is so good!  Also it is difficult to decide whether it's a pastoral meditation or a police drama, but that is easily resolved.  And the cover is just wonderful.

Conan 1

Anything Kurt Busiek writes is pretty much awesome by definition, and Dark Horse's Conan series is no exception.

Aaron Renier spiral-bound

The cutest book on this list!  We all heart Aaron Renier over here at First Second.

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One of our books!  Guaranteed containing swordfights, evil plans, and history!

North World

This book is super-fun: it's got a clever premise, accountants, and talking bears!  What more do you need?

Crogan 1

Chris' Crogan series has all of the elements that good adventures need.  And he keeps writing more!  Soon there will be nothing but adventure!

Lone Wolf and Cub 1

This is the classic Japanese samurai adventure series.  Read it.  Love it. 

Bone-One-Volume-Edition

If you haven't heard about this comics adventure series, I don't think you have been paying attention very well.  The one-volume edition is the best, and I hear there is a color version coming soon!

Northwest Passage

North America at its most historical adventuresque!  All contained within the pages of this book

January 25, 2011

:01 and Spring 2011

Hey guys!

We're putting out some books in this coming spring!  It's always exciting for us to put out new books, because we spend an average of three years working on something before you see it -- before it gets any public feedback -- and at the point when the book is done and at the printer, it's difficult to contain our anticipation.  Because: the books are ready!  We just have to get them out there so you can be as excited about them as we are!

Spring-flowers

(this photo of the spring-to-come is from the US National Archives)

So: we have a spring catalog.  It's full of books, and they are all lovely and anticipation-worthy.  You should check them out!

And here's my every-seasonal offer: if you're a teacher or a librarian or a bookseller or a media person who needs to have additional information, review copies, etc., then you should get in touch with me and let me know, so I can get you the things you need.  I'm at [email protected] 

Happy spring!

(just fyi: it is even more exciting than usual to write about how spring is coming when we are having our weekly snowstorm outside.)

January 24, 2011

Popcorn Fiction

Popcorn_EdwardKimuk

(this popcorn is off flickr somewhere; I have lost the link, so no attribution. sorry!)

Last week I read a book about a girl who learned that she was immortal and then spent many centuries partying and wearing excellent clothes, only to discover that she was tired of that life and therefore went into seclusion at a farm and worked at a convenience store and also discovered her mysterious magical heritage and skills.  (It's this book, in case anyone is interested.)

It was complete and utter popcorn fiction.  And it was lovely.

In this very book-loving, literary-exalting publishingland that we live, there is a general negative (or at best, not-as-positive) reaction to books that are not stuffed to the gills with deeper meaning, significance, discussion of ethics and integral relevance to the world today.  (This is presumably why Freedom is tagged as the best of last year, and not something like Troubled Waters.) 

This seems to spring from a commonly-held general idea of what reading's MO should be:

Reading: it's for learning!  (The corollary here is: learning: it's not fun at all!)

People solemnly (and frequently) tell me things like, "I wouldn't want to spend my time reading books if I wasn't going to get something out of it," presumably meaning that after reading Kant's Critque of Practical Reason, you are more informed of the underlying motivation for your conscious moral experience, and therefore every ethical choice you make has excellent deeper resonance.  And: yay, about that!  It's always good to have increased knowledge and awareness of your ethical state.

But if every single thing I read was supposed to provide my life enhancement on that level, it is entirely possible that my head would now be in a state of explodedness.  Or I would be a cyborg-library.  You can see (from the non-exploded head) that I have a different idea of what reading is for:

Reading: it's for fun!  And also sometimes there is interesting learning involved.

Books take lots of time and energy to write, and publishing them takes a good amount of labor and money, and the distribution process adds yet another of layer of complication on to that -- but do you know what?  Doing all of that to provide people with entertainment is great.  That's why Whales on Stilts is popular, and the novels of Georgette Heyer, and Agatha Christie's murder mysteries, and books like Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer. (Those are very popcorn-y novels; interesting and educational books like Homicide and The Age of Wonder are also excellent things, and partially because they are fun to read as well as being full of knowledge.)

Culturally, we seem to project a stigma onto doing things that are just fun -- whether it's eating dessert, sky-diving, or reading romance novels.  (Possibly this is caused by our bizarre national Puritan heritage; the less said of that, the better.)  And this seems to be especially the case for books, because -- you read them in school!  There are years and years of ingrained established experience that tells you this is not supposed to be fun. 

But you know what?  If reading was just edifying and enlightening and also was as enjoyable as getting your mouth washed out with soap, no one would do it.

So the next time you sit down with a book (by your roaring fire, because that's the kind of weather we're having), take a minute to realize: that's fun you're having. 

January 21, 2011

Limericks at War

Alans War_rgb

After being drafted into Word War II

Alan became a soldier, brave and true

But later in life

He had hardship and strife

And gave up the world that he knew.

 

(Possibly my limericks are getting better?  It is difficult to tell.  But nonetheless!  Alan's War is a really good book, and the way Emmanuel does art is fascinating; there's a video here.)

January 20, 2011

FIRST SECOND is turning *5* this year!

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FIVE YEARS!

And what a way to celebrate! Get a glimpse of the 2011 crop—the quality is dizzying across the list. Have a peek at these covers!

And the line-up! Nick Bertozzi, Ben Hatke, Jim Ottaviani, Leland Myrick, Gene Yang, Thien Pham, Vera Brosgol, Carla Jablonski, Leland Purvis, George O'Connor, Dave Roman, Sara Varon, Derek Kirk Kim, Stan Nicholls, Joe Flood, MK Reed, Jonathan Hill, Glenn Eichler, Joe Infurnari, Amir & Khalil—

It's too much! My little heart cannot bear so much brilliance heaped upon genius!

Oh, and there's our Nursery Rhymes book in the mix! By 50 of the world's most beloved cartoonists, including Roz Chast, Jaime Hernandez, Richard Thompson, Mike Mignola, and the list goes on and on. Can you stand this much mouth-watering excellence in one short blog post?

Well, 2009 and a painful recession taught us humility, but now it's time for hubris and arrogance again. What, with a year of offerings like these?

Seriously, though: presenting you with First Second's 2011 offerings, this year of our fifth anniversary—is making us all incredibly proud and happy. Please share this with everyone you know?

 

January 19, 2011

Magical Teenagers

(a book recommendation list)

Here is a list of books that we like that contain magical teenagers.  Magical teenagers are especially interesting because it's generally felt that teenagehood is difficult enough without having special magic you have to deal with on top of it!  Such trauma we put these kids through!  It makes excellent fiction.

So without further ado: books!

Courtney Crumrin

This series has an amazing and adorable protagonist who has no nose but is nonetheless excellent in every other way.  She has an excellent grandfather, a creepy house, and many, many adventures. 

Death Note

Evil magical teenagers!  This series is so popular in the US that schools started banning kids from bringing notebooks to class, in case they were using them to psychically cause the deaths of other students.  That's just crazy.

Runaways1

This series has magical teenagers with evil parents.  And also there is a dinosaur.  And, astoundingly enough for a superhero series, there are adventures that are contained within a single hardcover volume!

War_at_ellsmere

This book has magical boarding school!  Also there are unicorns.  You can't go wrong.

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Brian's writing and Becky's art are just lovely, and this collaboration is one of my favorite things either of them have done.  Any time you put teenagers with surprise magical powers in the real world, it doesn't work out quite so well as anyone images.

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It is difficult to find something to say about this series because there is so much in it, and all good!  Steampunk!  Dead parents!  Racial prejudice!  Secret evil running the government!  Excellently portrayed brotherly love!  Girls who are mechanics!  Yay all of this. 

Books of Magic

When Harry Potter came out, there was a general comics community outcry that JKR had stolen her plot from this book, because -- bespectacled teen hero in modern-day England who learns he has magical powers?  Check, check, check.  But Tim is excellent in an entirely different way than Harry is. 

January 17, 2011

2011 Is Exciting, Other Non-Related Things Edition

There are other things to look forward to in 2011 that do not have to do with books!  I know that this is very surprising (it certainly shocked me), but it appears to be true. 

Thing #1: Robots!

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(from the Library of Congress)

Everyone loves robots!  One of the cool things that is happening in 2011 is that NASA is having a National Robotics Competition.  I think that this is especially interesting because it's for kids.  Working in comics I get to know a lot of artists, and they generally say things like, 'yes, I always drew ever since I was a kid.'  Writers (not shockingly) report similar backstories for their writing.  But who do you know who ever got a chance to build robots every day ever since they were three?  I feel that we are possibly stunting a lot of robotics genuises by not giving them the tools early and consistently enough; maybe this'll help.

Thing 2: Bifocals!

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I guess bifocals are not exactly new.  But the internet told me about this version the other day; they're bifocals that don't have that bottom panel of glass but instead have a switch that you turn on or off depending which way you want to see!  I have no idea how this works (except apparently with batteries), but nonetheless: super-cool.

Thing #3: Privatized Space Travel!

Rocket

(image from the NASA Collection)

My knowledge of the inner workings of Virgin Galactic are slim to none (besides that all of their promotional pictures look like someone rendered them in CGI -- I can't tell if I'm having an uncanny valley moment or if their spaceships just look that weird), but in 2009, they said they're starting to take people to space in 2011, which is . . . NOW!  I can't wait to see peoples' reactions to space, and whatever comes next -- privatized moon landings?  Mars?  Europa?

Thing #4: the use of new media in college education

College Students

(image from the New York Public Library)

A little drier than the last topic, but -- Calvin wrote this article for PW after this year's CES, which got me thinking about what I would do if I was going to college now and the college required me to have multiple forms of computers just to do the base level of attendance/participation.  The best I could come up with was, 'beg my parents for money and hope it worked,' or alternative b, 'see about working thirty hours a week instead of twenty while simultaneously going to school.'  Both options seemed less than optional (and not available to everyone).  I hope this works out in a way where college education remains accessible to everyone, not just the upper middle class and up, and the few scholarship students.

Thing #5: 4-D

Abstract

(by Thomas Smilie, from the Smithsonian collection, for no other reason than 4-D is difficult to illustrate and this was pretty)

Apparently in 2011 movies are going to exist in 4-D!  This is something the internet told me too, so I could very well be wrong about it, and it is technically wrong anyways, because the fourth dimension is time, and when you watch movies they exist in time by the very nature of their existance, and I suppose that the film reels and dvds and whatever automatically exist in time as well. 

Regardless! 

Not being satisfied with making perfectly good movies have bits that pop out at you for no particular reason, the film industry has now decided that your films should be enhanced with things like smells and tastes and perhaps sprays of water!  Clearly this will all end fascinatingly; I look forward to seeing how it works. 

Extra: The thing that I am looking forward to especially today (given that it is freezing and just post-snowstorming) is City Bakery's hot chocolate festival!

Hot chocolate

(this image is not of City Bakery and was taken from here)

Every February, City Bakery does a month of specialty hot chocolate flavors, with a new one every day.  My favorite so far ever has been ginger (because I am a traditionalist when it comes to hot chocolate, apparently), but interesting ones of last year included a white hot chocolate and a beer hot chocolate!  The last day they cycle through all the flavors and do a new hot chocolate every hour, or something completely crazy like that; it is highly recommended to all with New York City access. 

In conclusion: Any year is a good year when there are robots in it, and 2011 looks to at least live up to that.  It makes me shudder to think what people did in the robotless years before 1495!  Probably there was chaos. 

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