Stand Up Comics is a regular column by Adan Jimenez. These titles need no introduction: just read the column, then read some good comics!
The Complete Eightball 1-18 by Daniel Clowes (Fantagraphics, $119.99, 9781606997574)
This collector's set contains every Eightball comic up to issue 18 (which means no David Boring, Ice Haven, or The Death Ray; as Clowes himself says in the introduction to the first volume: "they represent a distinct shift in size, format and style from the anthology comics collected herein"). The collection feels like all the individual issues were bound together into two hardcovers, with original paper quality, cover stock and mistakes intact. There's even a small Modern Cartoonist that was originally packaged with issue 18!
Clowes's work is a bit raw in the first volume, with a lot of short gag pieces (including most of the "Dan Pussey" stories and the final "Lloyd Llewellyn" strips), and the nearly incomprehensible Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. It's in the second half of the collection where Clowes really hits his stride, with the excellent Ghost World as well as more refined shorter pieces, including "Gynecology," "Caricature" and "Like a Weed, Joe." The stories in the second half are no longer screeds against the many people and things that Clowes personally dislikes (though those are quite funny), and are more thought-provoking pieces about facets of lives many of us will never experience.
Handselling Opportunities: Fans of early '90s North American alternative comics and historians or collectors who want the tactile feeling of the same.
The Oven by Sophie Goldstein (AdHouse Books, $12.95, 9781935233336)
In the bubbled city, only the perfect are allowed to have children. But if you leave the safe and air-conditioned utopia for the hot and harsh wilderness known as the Oven, where the sun can kill you if you're not careful, you can have as many kids as you like. Sydney and Eric try to start a new life in the Oven, filled with farming, laundry and a lot of hard work. It's not the paradise of freedom Syd and Eric were expecting.
This is a short story that explores a lot of themes and subjects, but it's ultimately the tale of one couple, and their occasionally overlapping and often contradictory desires. Sydney and Eric both seem to want a baby together, evident by the fact that they've left utopia to have one. But as the days in the Oven grow longer and hotter (which the reader can feel thanks to all the reds and oranges Goldstein uses in her palette), will they still feel the same way, or will they want to go back to their easier life, even if they can't have children?
Goldstein's loose and cartoony art belies heavy subject matter, including relationship dynamics, drug use, the trade-offs between living a life without oppressive control and living a life without technological amenities, and what freedom might mean to different people.
Handselling Opportunities: Fans of philosophical musings that are nicely wrapped around a love story.
Mother, Come Home by Paul Hornschemeier (Fantagraphics, $22.99, 9781560979739)
Mother, Come Home is Hornschemeier's first long-form comic, originally published in 2003. It has since changed publishers and been out of print a few times, but it's now available again thanks to Fantagraphics. First, a warning: this comic is quietly devastating, and beautifully so, in the same way that Grave of the Fireflies is, so make sure you have a suitable My Neighbor Totoro-like chaser to lift your spirits back up once you've finished.
Thomas Tennant's mother has died from cancer, and he and his father go on their new existence as normally as they can. But Thomas's father doesn't sleep in their room, and even though he's moved their bed into the attic, he sleeps on the floor. Thomas looks after the "grounds" that were formerly his mother's domain, and he rarely takes off his lion mask, which was one of the last presents his mother gave him. They go through the motions, but Thomas's father is slipping away, and Thomas knows it.
Told from the perspective of a grown-up Thomas who is looking back, the reader knows this story will not end well, but is inexorably drawn to believe otherwise by Hornschemeier's cartoony art and almost lackadaisical yet precise narration, as if the older Thomas is uninterested in telling you his story but cannot stop. Never have peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches meant so much.
Handselling Opportunities: Anybody who needs a good cry.
Drawn and Quarterly: Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels, edited by Tom Devlin, Chris Oliveros, Peggy Burns, Tracy Hurren and Julia Pohl-Miranda (Drawn & Quarterly, $49.95, 9781770461994)
D+Q 25 is an anthology full of new and reprinted comics (including the first new Joe Matt comics in more than a decade), a collection of appreciations, photographs, interviews and critical essays, plus an amazing history of D+Q itself by Sean Rogers and Jeet Heer. I thought the 700-plus pages would be daunting, but this is actually an incredibly fun and quick read. It features never-before-seen art and comics by Kate Beaton, Chester Brown, Tom Gauld, the aforementioned Joe Matt, Rutu Modan, Jillian Tamaki, Yoshihiro Tatsumi and many more.
I couldn't possibly talk about everything, so let me just pick out some of my favorite bits: a preview of the second part of Yoshihiro Tatsumi's autobiography A Drifting Life; the interview with Helge Dascher, D+Q's main translator for comics originally in French and German (as well as translator of D+Q's English comics for French and German audiences); the two new hilarious Kate Beaton strips and new Seth art (even if it's not a comic).
This is everything you've ever wanted to know about D+Q, including who's taking over as publisher from Chris Oliveros.
Handselling Opportunities: Comics lovers in general and D+Q fans in particular.