It’s summertime again and the living is gelatinous and humid at least for me. Maybe you’re planning a vacation or are relieved to get your place to yourself as you wave good-bye to friends, family, your partner. Maybe you’re going to the beach or on a camping trip. Maybe you’re shut in your room with the blinds drawn hiding from the accursed sun. Maybe you, too, are increasingly worried that the humidity will set and you will be trapped forever–a piece of pineapple, a mini-marshmallow or even a cloud of artificial whip cream embedded inside a jello salad* for all eternity.
Whatever you are doing this summer, wherever you might be frolicking or trapped, here is a list of comics for your reading pleasure. This year’s list features science fiction, black and white comics, tea parties, Gothic tea parties and gorgeous collections. It also features liberated women, tweens, one little girl and a cat traveling far from home to solve problems with love rather than fisticuffs (when they can).
Barbarella (Humanoids Press, 2014). Jean-Claude Forest, writing and art. Adapted by Kelly Sue DeConnick.
I am partial to space opera, especially groovy space opera with galactic jellyfish, a space angel, mole machines and cities built on ancient evils. And so, it is unsurprising that I am partial to Barbarella, a space opera about an earth woman who travels the galaxy having adventures. Sometimes she has sex. Sometimes she fights, but she’s never really out of her element. Humanoids has collected two of Jean-Claude Forest’s Barbarella storylines into two volumes**. The volume collects comic strips from 1964 and concerns her adventures on the planet Lythion. And, felicitiously enough, these very adventures were adapted into Roger Vadim’s campy, fun and fashionable classic film, Barbarella (1968). The late Sixties were a fun time for comic book movies, what with Barbarella, Danger: Diabolik (1968), Modesty Blaise (1966) and good ol’ Batman: The Movie (1966). I had seen the film many times before reading this collection and it was interesting to see how a serial was condensed into a film. This is a mature book in the sense that Barbarella’s boobs are revealed quite often and there is an “excessive machine” that kills with “pleasure.” I imagine Barbarella was quite racy in its day, but now it is mostly charming fun.
Hawkeye, Vol. 1: Anchor Points (Marvel, 2017). Kelly Thompson, writer; Leonardo Romero, art; Michael Walsh, art; Jordie Bellaire, colors; VC’s Joe Sabino, letters.
Hawkeye, Vol. 1: Anchor Points features another young woman heading out to find adventure while wearing an outfit that Barbarella would probably not mind—a purple jumpsuit with cut-outs at the hips and cute boots. Though Young Avenger and superior Hawkeye Kate Bishop does not have any problems keeping it on. Her bow and aviators packed up, Kate heads out west to start a new life and a new detective agency in Venice Beach, California. She’s had enough of cosmic battles with creepy interdimensional parents and Civil Wars. Now she struggles with new battles like seeing cute abs everywhere getting into a university library and the horror of Brad. I liked this book from issue one, but Hawkeye really hits its stride with the entry of super secret special guest Jessica Jones. The lessons Kate learns from ace private detective Jessica Jones are hilarious.
Great dialogue, clean and expressive art, neat panel layout. I dig that Kate wears purple and green together-claiming the traditional color palette of the Marvel villain for the good guys. I wish this were a longer piece so I could talk a whole lot about the ending because Thompson, Walsh and Bellaire totally land that ending.
Krazy and Ignatz in Tiger Tea (Yoe Books/IDW Publishing, 2010). George Herriman, writing and art. Craig Yoe, ed. and designer. Introductions by Paul Krassner and Craig Yoe.
Krazy and Ignatz in Tiger Tea collects the longest continuous Krazy Kat and Ignatz storyline, running from 1936 to 1937. The local catnip market has collapsed, catnip tycoon Mr. Meeyowl is bankrupt and Krazy kindly goes off to find more. But what Krazy discovers is not our mundane catnip that renders cats either crazed or torpid. Nossir, Krazy Kat discovers catnip in its most potent form: “tiger tea.”*** The tea disrupts the entire area as previously meek critters become “poiminint tidal wave[s]” who talk amazing smack and back it up. The book itself is very easy to tote, a hardcover 9 x 9” or so square. The paper is lovely and thick.And it’s a long Krazy Kat narrative with all the word play and skritchy lines you would expect from Messr. Herriman. It’s just so much fun when all the critters get into the tea.
Meat Cake Bible (Fantagraphics, 2016). Dame Darcy, writing and art. Design by Keeli McCarthy
So pretty! So. Pretty. If you didn’t read Meat Cake the first time around, now’s your chance to read them in a gorgeous collection created by “a cartoonist mermaid in this landlubber world,” Dame Darcy. Show off on the beach, while under a parasol to protect your delicate skin or prevent the accursed sun from destroying you. My collection of individual issues. is spotty in that way that collections of ephemeral curiosities can be. I bought an issue when I came across one and each one felt like a unicorn or a fairy I had glimpsed among the trees of a dark forest. But Queer fairies and unicorns who really liked Joy Division, Grimm, Pez, Edward Gorey and hilariously gloomy Victorian fiction. And now, all seventeen issues are available between the covers of one beautifully designed book. And it includes an unpublished 18th issue as well as her collaboration with Alan Moore, “Hungry is the Heart.” Enjoy the adventures of femme fatale named Richard Dirt; Stregapez, who speaks through the pez she dispenses from a gash in her throat; the Louise Brooks-ish Friend the Girl; Effluvia the mermaid; Hindrance and Perfidia the conjoined twins; and Wax Wolf, the besuited werewolf who is almost always unwelcome. Dame Darcy also sold her music and hand made dolls in hand-lettered ads her comic.
Sadly, her ads are not collected in Meat Cake Bible. Meat Cake is very Goth, but it’s style and personal nature also felt so much a part of the Riot Grrrl zine culture back in the day.
Paper Girls, Vol 2 (Image, 2016). Brian K. Vaughan, writing; Cliff Chiang, art; Matt Wilson, colors; Jared K. Fletcher, letters.
Okay, here’s a secret about me. (Don’t tell). When watching a new tv show, I will often skip the pilot or even the whole first season and then go back later. The thing is, the pilot—and sometimes the first season—is often the weakest the show will be. Actors and writers haven’t quite found their rhythm yet. Maybe the look of the show or the chemistry between actors is a little shaky. So I hope that will give you some perspective when you see that I am recommending volume two of Paper Girls. Volume one is good, you can totally start there, but volume two is when I really started feeling it. A group of Cleveland tween girls are out on their paper route one day back in the 1980s when everything goes all Twilight Zone on them. Time, space and sizes become relative. My god, there are giant tardigrades! And one of my favorite artists, Cliff Chiang, draws them! And look at those colors! Look at them!
Siúil a Rún / The Girl from the Other Side, Vol. 1 (Seven Seas Entertainment, 2017). Nagabe, writing and art; Adrienne Beck, translation; Lys Blakeslee, letters and retouching; adapted by Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane.
Named after a traditional Irish folk song, “Siúil a Rún,”**** that roughly translates as, “Go, My Love,” The Girl from the Other Side evokes a time when fairies were feared. A young girl named Shiva lives in a house in the woods with “Teacher,” a horned and very dapper Outsider. Shiva is an Insider by birth, she can be cursed by the touch of an Outsider like Teacher. She is waiting for her aunt to come and take her home. While they wait, Shiva and Teacher have tea parties and forage in empty houses. And Teacher never, ever touches Shiva, even when tucking her in at night, maintaining the boundaries between light and dark, day and night, Inside and Outside. But, as always, there are other forces at work, armed forces—Insiders like Shiva who want to destroy creatures like Teacher. The Girl from the Other Side is a lovely, melancholy book with moments of quiet humor and a beautiful study in light and dark. Nagabe’s Shiva is small and round, all innocence and vulnerability. Teacher is all shadowy, long, lean angles and has a rack of horns Black Phillip himself would be proud of. And that’s more than fine by me.
Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Strip, 1944-1945 (The Library of American Comics / IDW Publishing, 2014). William Moulton Marston, writing; H. G. Peter, art. Ed. and designed by Dean Mullaney; Lorraine Turner, art direction; introduction by Bruce Canwell.
So this is the book I specifically got to read this summer. I haven’t finished it. In fact, I’ve barely started it because I’m trying to make it last. It is a really interesting book to read right after finishing Barbarella, who is also a woman traveling far from home and tries to solve problems with something other than fisticuffs. Barbarella is more less a daughter of Aphrodite than Eros, however. The introductory essay has a nice history of Wonder Woman and mentions Marston’s polyamory and Olive Byrne without getting overheated and salacious. And at 175 pages Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Strip is a collection of classic comics that isn’t unwieldy–in fact it is eminently wieldy– and doesn’t take too long to read and become research rather than pleasure. (Not that research isn’t pleasure, it’s just not necessarily Summer Fun Time). The book features many of the wonders of Wonder Woman: Cheetah and in her best, round-eared costumed form; kangaroos for riding; Aphrodite creating the Amazons and Hippolyta creating Diana from clay; mole men; old time newspaper men bellowing, “Blue blazes!”; a “flesh magnet”; the Amazonia mental television network; the telepathic radio; and Peter’s Berlin Painter muscular accents on Diana.
*Not an aspic. I would never suggest an aspic. I’m not a monster. Well, at least not that kind of monster.
**The second volume, Barbarella: Barbarella and the Wrath of the Minute Eater (Humanoids, 2015), reprints work from 1974.
***No, I am not going to get into whether “tiger tea” is an analog for marijuana. (Besides Krazy and the other animals don’t mellow out. They get hopped up and start bragging, which sounds much more like some other drugs to me).
****Kokia performs, “Siúil a Rún.”
Carol Borden hopes to take a trip to Paradise Island this summer. She assumes there is no jello salad on Paradise Island.