Monday, November 30, 2020

Comics Commentary: Introduction to Previews and Recommendations for January 2021


This is a Media Diet Comics Commentary video introduction to Previews, as well as my recommendations for comics to be released in January 2021. Unscripted, unedited. Just a guy talking about comics.

Audio only.

Recommendations for January 2021

Find a comic shop near you, and ask for the following titles by name!


Batvark XXXXX One-Shot second printing (Dave Sim)

Cerebus in Hell 2021 Preview One-Shot (Dave Sim)

Ablaze The Cimmerian: The Frost-Giant’s Daughter #2

Abstract Studios Serial #1 (Terry Moore)

Albatross Funnybooks ‘King Tank Girl #4

AWA Studios American Ronin #4-5 (Peter Milligan)

Behemoth Comics The Strange Disappearance of Barnabas Jones GN

Boom Dune: House Atreides #4 Girlsplaining HC

Comicmix Whisper Omnibus Vol. 2 TP

Dark Horse Barbalien: Red Planet #3 (Jeff Lemire) Colonel Weird: Cosmagog #4 (Jeff Lemire) Dark Horse Face Masks ElfQuest: Stargazer’s Hunt TP (Wendy and Richard Pini) Spy Island TP (Chelsea Cain) Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons #3 The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem #4 (Gerard Way)

Drawn & Quarterly Everything. Seriously.

Dynamite Red Sonja #23 Red Sonja:The  Superpowers #1 Vampirella: The Dark Powers #2

Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. ERB Universe Book 1: Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds (novel)

Fantagraphics Peepers HC Psychodrama #4 (Gilbert Hernandez)

Hermes Press The Dark Shadows Paperback Library #18: Barnabas, Quentin, and the Nightmare Assassin SC (novel)

IDW Dungeons & Dragons: At the Spine of the World #4 Korgi Book 5 (a Top Shelf joint!) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Best of Leonardo Usagi Yojimbo: Wanderer’s Road #3

Image Family Tree #12 (Jeff Lemire) Rain Like Hammers #1 (Brandon Graham, ex-Meathaus!) Savage Dragon #256 (Erik Larsen) Spawn #314 (Todd McFarlane) Undiscovered Country #12 (Charles Soule)

It’s Alive Breathers #5 Kona #1-2

Kenzer & Company Knights of the Dinner Table #284

NBM The Silent Invasion Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and Vol. 3 GN's

Silver Sprocket The Cruising Diaries One-Shot (Brontez Purnell)

Titan Sunday’s Fun Day Charlie Brown TP

TwoMorrows Comic Book Creator #25 magazine (Barry Windsor-Smith!)

Warrant Publishing Company The Creeps #29 magazine


Fanfare Presents Ponent Mon A Distant Neighborhood Complete HC

Square Enix Manga A Man and His Cat Vol. 3 GN

Viz Media Asadora! Vol. 1

Transcript below...

It's the end of the month in November, and it's a Monday after a week off vacation so we're going to try something a little bit new and different to see if it makes sense or if it works. This is one of two things. This is an introduction to the idea of Previews, if you are new to the concept, but it's also a guide to the comics that I recommend for January 2021, so as you do your pull or your order with your local comic book shop based on what's in Previews, you can check out some of the things that I'm going to be checking out—or that I recommend that you check out.

For those of you that are new, Previews is a relatively thick tome you used to be able to get it free at some shops if you did a pull service with them. Some places, you have to pay now, but the basic idea is that it is Diamond Distributors’s consumer-facing distribution catalog that consumers can use to see what comics are coming out in a given month, see what books, magazines, clothing, accessories, toys, anything and everything that might be distributed to comic shops.

How it works is that you've got the issue date of the actual magalog or catalog here: November 2020. This one's been out a while. But the thing that matters is this: It is stuff that's going to be in shops in January 2021. If you're not used to doing this, if you don't already have a pull service with your local comic shop, this part is for you—and then the back half of this will be for everybody: the comics I recommend for January 2021. 

This is the catalog. There's also a sister volume that's just specific to Marvel, and this comes with it. I believe there's also one that's available for Image, though I do not have a copy of that for this. Again, just a reminder: It’s dated November 2020, but it's for stuff coming out in January 2021. Usually your store will want you to turn in your order to them either using PreviewsWorld Pullbox, which is this online pull service, or just keeping a list with them. Some have a little worksheet or checklist that you can check to get started by the end of the month. I think the date for my shop here in Culver City was something like Nov. 28 to get the order in to get the books for January 2021. What the stores do is they the pre-order and take what they want to have on their shelves, combine them, and that's what their book order is to the distributor for the month at hand.

This is Previews. It's kind of fun. When I first got into this, it was a bit of a mind-blowing experience because there's so much stuff in here—but to tell the truth, there's actually not that much in here that I'm personally interested in. I mostly use it to see what I'm missing, to think about trends and developments in the industry generally, to see what creators that I might follow or be interested in generally are doing that I'm not already aware of or following, and otherwise.

There's two parts to it. There's the main part. This is the cover for the comic book part. Then there's the toy part. This is another cover that they use for the toy catalog. The toy catalog is smaller. If you take a look at the toy catalog—it also includes trading card games, games, and other stuff like that—it is only this much of this issue of Previews. Whereas books, comics, manga, magazines is this much. It's still mostly printed material, though. The stuff is a good-sized portion of it. I don't look much on this side because I don't buy the toys. Even the games or trading cards, there's another publication called Game Trade Magazine that does a better job looking at games than this does. Trading cards? I actually don't spend too much time looking at this, so I haven't necessarily assessed that.

Let's take a look at what is coming out in January 2021. Before we do that, the front matter has some things in it that are that are worthwhile. One, there will be ads from publishers throughout in addition to the retail listing writeup. This is one that I've dogeared. It's for an event that's happening, coming to us from Dynamite; it's a Red Sonja miniseries focused on super powers. It's written by Dan Abnett, and it seems to be a crossover series bringing together a superhero team, which may or may not be an actual superhero team, and Red Sonja. Either she discovers that she has superpowers or she falls in with these people who do. The miniseries explores that.

Something else I've dogeared—this is exciting. This is a fellow whose work I've seen in the past and whose stuff I've picked up in the past. His name is Brandon Graham. He's just a few years younger than me, 44 years old, grandson of pinup artist Bill Randall. He grew up in Seattle around graffiti and comics, and he used to be part of the arts collective Meathaus. Meathaus actually did an anthology comic or minis called Meat Haus, but he's also done a number of books for mostly Image. This is an interview with him focusing on his new series for Image, Rain Like Hammers, which will start in January. He's also done other books, including Prophet and Island. I think Island is the book that I might have picked up from Image in the past. I'm remembering a slightly different trim size, slightly taller than your standard-sized comic. It's neat to see a creator like him—even though he's with a larger mainstream publisher like Image—relatively indie creator coming out of minicomics, coming out of self-publishing. Meathaus was a wonderful, wonderful collective. It's an article and interview with him to all the readers of Previews and hopefully will bring his work to a broader audience. It also asks him about some other things that he's working on and what fun titles he's reading. This is kind of neat: He's reading the manga series Gold Digger, as well as Megahex from Simon Hanselmann and Herge’s Tintin. You get to learn a little bit more about Brandon, a little bit more about the title that he's going to be working on that's coming out in January, and a little bit more about what he's reading and finding inspiration from.

Also in the front matter we've got a couple of write ups. Here, Terry Moore has a new series called Serial. Terry Moore is a creator that I follow often. And if you're not reading Comic Book Creator, it's one of TwoMorrows's magazines along with Alter Ego and Back Issue, focused a little more on the creative side versus the reading and collecting side. The forthcoming issue of Comic Book Creator is going to feature Barry Windsor-Smith, who is a creator worth following for sure.

This is another ad from Dynamite for the Vampirella portion of that superpowers crossover event. Just an example of some of the ads up front as well as entry points to series, in addition to the editorial write ups. Then you get some more catalog matter on Rain Like Hammers, as well as some larger format art from Brandon Graham. He actually gets quite a bit of a preview in in this issue of Previews, just those two pages. I would include his book Rain Like Hammers on my list of books to check out for January.

This I haven't been reading and I don't know anything about, but Jeff Lemire is a creator and writer who I quite like. This is for Family Tree #12, another Image book. I haven't been reading the series and don't know anything about it, but I was struck by the name Jeff Lemire. I would actually check out anything that he does, even his mainstream stuff.

You'll see in a forthcoming Media Diet Comics Commentary that I still read, follow, and enjoy Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon, as well as Todd McFarlane's Spawn. Spawn is a slightly more challenging book in that McFarlane, while writing it, is no longer drawing it. His drawing is actually what pulled me into his work, rather than his writing, but I still like the story of Spawn, the story of Savage Dragon, as far as contributors to the earliest days of Image and a creator-owned publishing company. I do still read Spawn with some attention.

This is another comic that I haven't been reading: Undiscovered Country. I marked this because Charles Soule is another writer whose writing I've enjoyed. I've enjoyed not just his comics work, but also his fiction. He's written a couple of science fiction novels that have been worth reading and quite enjoyable.

This also struck me—The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem.  It's a Gerard Way book. This comes out from Dark Horse. Gerard Way was in an emo band, My Chemical Romance. He has been writing, outlining, and otherwise involved in comics for some time now, particularly for DC's Young Animal line, of which i've read absolutely nothing. He's recently on my radar in a new way because I saw a video with him actually in a comic shop shopping—and it turns out that he is quite the comic book reader and fan. So I’m slightly more interested in work that his name is attached to than I have been in the past. I haven't read any of it, don't know what I'll think of it, but this book National Anthem reminded me a little bit of Shade the Changing Man from the early days of Vertigo, just the art and the vibe—and also the use of the word “psychedelic” in the write-up, so you know. Forgive me for being shallow. I might check that out: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem.

I’m going to be following the Stranger Things Dungeons & Dragons comic—you might remember a recent Media Diet Comics Commentary—to see where it goes. The first issue of this—this is for the third issue, so there's another one in between—but the first issue of this was just a story about how people discover and play D&D with each other, and what it means for their friendship. It'll be interesting to see what they can do with three more issues.

Also from Dark Horse, this is another Jeff Lemire comic, Colonel Weird: Cosmagog. It's one of his Black Hammer spin-off series. I haven't kept up with all the Black Hammer spin-offs. Here's another one: Barbalien: Red Planet. He's also writing this. There's a co-writer; sometimes when that happens, if the person I like continues writing or drawing the book, that's awesome. But I often find that if they start co-writing or hand the writing off to someone else—or if they're just outlining it—I'm less interested. Barbalien is another Black Hammer spin-off.

Those of you who enjoyed the Bill & Ted review recently, that'll be collected and available in January. This book... in response to one of my reviews a friend on Facebook recommended this: Spy Island.  It's written by Chelsea Cain, who did Man-Eaters. It was about women who turn into feral cats, a science fiction story about gender and puberty, maturation and so forth. I hadn't heard anything about Spy Island. He's been enjoying it thoroughly, and it's collected—and will be available in January.

Also available in January is a collection of a new ElfQuest volume. Wendy and Richard Pini are wonderful creators with a long storied history and comics. ElfQuest is a wonderful property and title. I don't really enjoy it as much as I did in the early days. They are slightly different. The story has wandered a little bit. I’m still intensely supportive of the book and a big, big fan. Their recent Stargazer's Hunt storyline is being collected.

Let's see what else is coming out in January. You can get Dark Horse face masks. This is actually one of those products that might be worth getting even if you're not into getting toys. The neat one here I think, just based on what we've already been talking about is the Umbrella Academy face mask because of the Gerard Way tie-in. He did the independent comic The Umbrella Academy, which has since been adapted into a TV program.

This is IDW now. It's organized by publisher. You get all the big publishers up front, and then smaller publishers get less space later, back in the book. If you've enjoyed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reviews lately, this Leonardo book is going to be worth getting in January. It's going to be a collection of reprints, some including Eastman and Laird work, the best stories of Leonardo over the character set’s history. If you like the Turtles, if you like old Turtles, if you like Leonardo in specific, be sure to collect to pick that up, that collection. We've got a new miniseries from Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo: Wanderer's Road. If I'm not mistaken, this is a continuation of a series that just started. It's replacing the Color Classics title. Color Classics used to be what they called the old reprints of Usagi Yojimbo that are newly colored. What I think they're starting to do now is instead of continuing to call that Color Classics, they're going to be doing these miniseries where they colorize it and reprint it, but it's not under the name Color Classics; it's more standalone miniseries. That'll be coming out in January from IDW, as well.

A couple other books from IDW: This is a Dracula reprint volume from the ‘90s written by Roy Thomas that might be worth checking out, and the continuation of Dungeons & Dragons: At the Spine of the World. That miniseries is continuing by IDW as well. This looked interesting. This might be a good Christmas gift if you've got a younger reader or someone who's not really into comics but likes children's movies or children's books. This IDW collection of Korgi wordless comics, relatively fantastically drawn—looks like a beautiful fantasy. That title caught my eye as a gift idea for somebody even though it's not something that I would normally be drawn to as a reader myself.

Then we get into the more super stuff. You saw the ads for the Red Sonja event. You saw the ads for the Vampirella event. Here's their actual catalog listing. You get all the variant covers there. Boy, howdy, variant covers. You can get the Vampirella ongoing series. The Red Sonja ongoing series, a collection of The Children's Crusade, which I reviewed not too long ago with that run of Red Sonja #16-21

We move into Boom Studios. This book looked interesting to me, just tying into the Man-Eaters commentary before. It's called Girlsplaining, and it's an irreverent and personal take on puberty, growing up, and the changing bodies of women. If you've got a young female in your life—young woman, teen girl, tween—that you think would be interested in a book like that... It’s supposed to be a little irreverent. “For mature readers,” but it might be a good stretch book for a younger reader. We've got the continuation of Dune: House of Atreides, which was mentioned in a recent review, also coming out by Boom.

Then we're back into editorial matter. The theme of this month, as far as the magazine is considered, is DIY, and there's not a lot of DIY in here in terms of self-publishing, independent comics, alternative comics—the Meathaus profile ties into it given their connection to minicomics. But what they do do, is they focus on the trade, craft, and practice of comics creation, recommending a bunch of great books on how to make comics, drawing them, writing them, drawing in perspective.

Ablaze! Ablaze was a new publishing company to me, if you remember the recent Conan review. Here we get the Conan Frost-Giant's Daughter solicitation. You can also see some of the other stuff that Ablaze is publishing, a title called Gung-Ho: Sexy Beast, looks like another title called A Sister and Un/Sacred. It seems to be a mix of animation-derived material or comics by animators, which are sometimes interesting and sometimes not, as well as translation. This A Sister book seems to be a bandes dessinées published by Bastien Vives originally in another country. That's been translated and issued here. That might be worth checking out.

Here's a full-page ad for that new Terry Moore series. Terry Moore is awesome. If you haven't read Terry Moore's work, be sure to check that out. Then we get into the smaller publishers. This is where the fun is. The big publishers you probably know about, you see on the stands. The smaller publishers are going to be the publishers that your store might not stock, or they'll only order copies enough to satisfy people who place orders through Previews and have their pull service. Publishers like Aardvark-Vanaheim will list here, recent single issues and one shots as well as collected volumes. There's going to be a Cerebus review coming up soon here on Media Diet. Here’s the actual solicitation for Terry Moore's Serial, which I've now mentioned a couple of times.

This is where the real fun of Previews is. So if you're new to Previews, spend a lot of time in in this section because you'll not just see and come across comic books that you might not ever see in your actual comic shop, but you're going to learn about publishers that you might not know about otherwise. Coming to us from Albatross Funnybooks, which I haven't heard about, there's a new Tank Girl book and series, no longer done by Jamie Hewlett. That runs hot and cold with me. Hewlett's early stuff was awesome. Tank Girl's still a fun character but just not as good without Hewlett's hand on it. 

Let's see what else is in here... Speaking of Shade the Changing Man, a series called American Ronin by Peter Milligan. Peter Milligan wrote that series for Vertigo early, early on, and wonderful comics: smart, savvy, surreal. I was struck by and inspired by that Gerard Way series that reminded me of Shade the Changing Man. Then Peter Milligan's name caught my eye, so I might check out American Ronin in January.

This art struck me. I don't know anything about the publishing company, Behemoth Comics, or the creators Damian Connelly and Kundo Krunch, but this art for Barnabas Jones struck me as something that might be worth checking out. I just love this part of Previews. We've got a Whisper Omnibus Vol. 2 coming from ComicMix. This is a reprint of an early comic published by Capital City Comics in the ‘80s out of Wisconsin. Written by Steven Grant and drawn by Rich Larson and others, it’s the story of a female ninja back when ninjas were kind of hot and popular in the ‘80s.

Then we get into Drawn & Quarterly’s section. Everything that Drawn & Quarterly publishes is worth checking out. I can't keep up with it. I can't afford it. But whether they're doing new work from North American creators or translated work from Japan, translated work from the Nordic countries, Scandinavia, it's just wonderful stuff. A highlight here might be just in the theme of the DIY month, Lynda Barry's Making Comics book. A wonderful publisher worth checking out, everything that they do. Tom Devlin and Peggy do a great great job with Drawn & Quarterly.

What else is going on in January? Previews is a bit ungainly, so forgive me for this longer review. This is Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe Book 1: Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds. It's a new series of Burroughs Universe novels. There's going to be a Carson novel. There’s going to be a Tarzan novel. If you're interested in Burroughs’s writing, you might be interested in those new novels.

Fantagraphics is another publisher that's worth checking out absolutely everything they do. Here we've got Patrick Keck's Peepers coming out. We've got Gilbert Hernandez's Psychodrama Illustrated, which is a weird but very fun comic. I've been enjoying it since it started. It’s worth checking out everything that Fantagraphics does to see if any of it trips your trigger. 

Continuing on, we’ve got reprints of Dark Shadow novelizations and novels, slightly larger format than they were originally. I think they were just mass-market paperbacks back in the day, but original cover art, I believe, and reprinting the text. It's Alive—they did, if you remember, Holler. So it is a publishing company. They've also done this comic called Breathers, which I have an issue of but haven't actually read in full. I'm going to be pulling this from a recent box to revisit and perhaps review here for you. It's Alive, which did Holler, also did this comic Breathers, which is a dystopian science fiction futuristic tale about atmosphere gone wrong and how people survive and thrive when they have to wear breathers, which are basically gas masks.

Other stuff that you'll see in Previews: Knights of the Dinner Table is a comic book/roleplaying game magazine. The comic portion is about a group of friends that play D&D. I mentioned this in the recent Dungeons & Dragons review. There's also a lot of gaming content. There's adventure ideas, character ideas. It's tied into Kenzer & Co., which publishes Hackmaster, so there's some Hackmaster game content in there. 

Captain Canuck archives, that might be of interest to people. Let's see, what else: some magazines that you might be interested in... Non-Sport Update is about non-sport trading cards. But this is really why I did this. The Silent Invasion was a comic that was published by Renegade Press. That was when Deni Loubert and Dave Sim of Aardvark-Vanaheim separated. Renegade Press was the offshoot. Dave continued Aadvark-Vanaheim, and Deni continued Renegade. The Silent Invasion was a book that was published from that time from Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock. It was just a wonderful, very simply drawn, noir—a bit of an ‘80s European flair—UFO mystery. Really, really worth checking out. There's three collections that that are available as of January.

Some Peanuts reprints coming out in January struck me. Here is a magazine I've reviewed in text before but haven't yet done a video review of. The Creeps does what Creepy and Eerie did.  It's actually published by something called Warrant Publishing. The Creeps is a good magazine if you like monsters and stuff.

Now we’re back in the manga. I usually don't look at too much manga, but a couple of things struck me. Mob Psycho 100, I actually picked up in Tokyo in Japanese when we were there not too long ago, a couple of years ago, a few years ago. It's now been translated and brought to the States. That's an interesting comic or manga. Asadora! also appears to be interesting. I believe these both come from Viz. There's a lot of manga. It's not all my bag. This collection of Jiro Taniguchi A Distant Neighborhood struck me as potentially interesting, and Umi Sakurai's A Man and His Cat Vol. 3 struck me as perhaps worth checking out. As you can tell, I tend to like older style manga.

So that's what I would recommend for January 2021. If you don't already get a pull service at your local shop, consider it. You may or may not decide that Previews is worth the money. The PullBox service is available online, as well. But I really enjoy occasionally going through this and just seeing what's going on, trends in the industry, come across creators that I wasn't familiar with, creators that I was familiar with seeing what they're doing—like all the Jeff Lemire stuff I saw in here, the new Peter Milligan book that I saw in here, the Black Hammer spinoffs, the Gerard Way connections. You're able to of get a view of the industry and comics writ large in a way that you might not depending on your comic shop.

Awesome comic shops, you'll see it all on the shelf. They'll have multiple copies of everything. I do recommend checking out Previews. Doing a pull service with your local comic shop is also generally a good idea because not only does it guarantee you getting what you want—you don't have to see if they get it, you don't have to see if someone else buys it—but depending on how your shop does it, you usually get a little bit of a discount based on how many titles you have them pull in general.

For those of you who are new to Previews, I hope that was interesting and informative. To those of you who already were [familiar with it], those are the books that I recommend for January 2021. I'll put them in list form for the blog entry. Let me know what you think of this. I might do it every month if people like the recommendations. I certainly won't do the introductory stuff anymore. I might do my recommendations every month, but if people don't like it or want it, I'm not going to do it. Let me know what you think. Let me know if you think my recommendations on a monthly basis are worth knowing about!

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