July 2020 Reading List

Here’s a list of all the indie comics and graphic novels that I read in July 2020 with brief descriptions and information on where I found each publication.

Graphic Novels

Always Punch Nazis, vols. 1 & 2 *
Ben Ferrari (ed.)
Awesome anthologies about fighting fascism, which are a welcome reprieve from news about people being abducted by government agents in unmarked vans in the US. Each story ranges from one to six pages and addresses issues of solidarity, movement building, and fighting back. In fact, much of each anthology features folks of all races, ages, and various other walks of life beating nazi assholes. Some of my favorite pieces include the “How to Punch a Nazi” instruction set in volume 1, the Jack Kirby and Liberty and Justice stories in vol. 2. There’s a Kickstarter campaign for vol. 3 that ends August 3. It will likely have ended by the time you read this, but it should be available to order later this year. Look for it.

Big Black: Stand at Attica @
Frank “Big Black” Smith and Jared Reinmuth (w) & Ameziane (a)
This graphic novel recounts the 1961 Attica prison uprising from the perspective of one of the inmates, Frank “Big Black” Smith. It does a great job balancing a historical recounting of events with autobiographical touches. Really excellent work.

BTTM FDRS @
Ezra Claytan Daniels (w) & Ben Passmore (a)
An affected story about gentrification and monsters that seems to be inspired by the Blob and Candyman. Highly recommended.

Drawing the Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Voting in America !
Tommy Jenkins (w) & Kati Lacker (a)
A very informative historical look at voting in the U.S. from the nation’s earliest days to the present. There’s a lot of text, and at times it feels more like an advanced picture book than sequential art. Still, it’s extremely informative and reads quickly. As we move closer to the 2020 U.S. elections, everyone should read this book, especially folks who consider not voting at all. Too many people fought their whole lives and many died to be able to vote. Don’t take the responsibility and opportunity for granted. 

Farmhand, vols. 1 & 2 @
Rob Guillory (w/a)
Rob was the artist on the Eisner and Harvey Award winning Chew. Some folks describe Rob’s artwork as an acquired taste, I love it. Part sci-fi, part horror, and part family melodrama: Farmhand deals with a Black family reconciling with one another on their farm in the Deep South. Their farm just happens to be a massive company that grows organs used for human transplant on trees and plants.

Heavy Liquid @
Paul Pope (w/a)
This is the first work by Paul Pope that I have checked out. I’ve been meaning to for a while. I was not disappointed, but I wasn’t bowled over either. Still, it’s solid work. Set in an ambiguous future, the story deals with a lowlife courier named S, a futuristic compound turned into a drug (the heavy liquid), and a lost love. 

Incognegro @
Mat Johnson (w) & Warren Pleece (a)
Incognegro is historical fiction based loosely on real people and events. Set in the 1930s, this mystery focuses on a white-passing Black reporter for a Harlem newspaper named Zane Pinchback. Zane travels around the South, infiltrates the KKK and white Citizens’ Councils in various areas, and exposes their racist, murderous attacks on Black folks through the newspaper. Much of the graphic novel deals with Zane returning home to Mississippi to save his brother from being lynched; his brother is accused of murdering a white woman. 

Incognegro: Renaissance @
Mat Johnson (w) & Warren Pleece (a)
A prequel to the first graphic novel, Renaissance is another whodunnit. This time it’s set against the Harlem Renaissance. I don’t want to give too much away about the plot, so I’ll just say that it’s interesting to consider the stark contrast between the settings of the two books, and using the same main characters really sets up these differences between the rural Deep South and Jim Crow to how Black culture flourished in Harlem.

Little Bird: The Fight for Elder’s Hope @
Darcy Van Poelgeest (w) & Ian Bertram (a) 
This book won an Eisner Award this year for “Best Limited Series,” and I understand why. The artwork is distinct and compelling–some mix of manga and outsider art. The story is about family, resistance, and redemption set in a post-apocalyptic future where the U.S. has become a religious dictatorship. Yet, the writing doesn’t get too heavy handed by presenting a ham-fisted allegory about the U.S. today.

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies @
Ed Brubaker (w) & Sean Phillips (a) 
I think the creators thought this story about addiction had something important to say. I’m not sure anyone else feels that way. The story relies on a twist that is neither well developed or particularly compelling. 

Prince of Cats @
Ronald Wimberley (w/a) 
A modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” where the youngsters of both houses are ninjas and graffiti artists. I appreciate the art. I didn’t find the story compelling or particularly interesting, though describing it briefly might make it seem so. 

Savage Town @
Declan Shalvey (w) & Philip Barrett, (w/a)
Savage Town follows the titular character’s ascendance to Kingpin of organized crime in Limerick City, Ireland. The art has an indie or outsider feel somewhere between Dan Clowes and Ben Marra. 

Stray Bullets, vols. 1 & 2 @
David Lapham (w/a)
One of the few books that I was excited to read this month where the hype lived up to the work. Stray Bullets slowly weaves together stories about various characters all embroiled in shady dealings (murder, drugs, etc.). Each volume is broken up into multiple story threads. Sometimes it takes a while to get back to a thread, but Lapham eventually does, and after a while they come together to form something greater. I highly recommend this title.

This Nightmare Kills Fascists !
Eric Palicki & Matt Miner (eds)
A black and white horror anthology where creators weave contemporary political and social issues into the story lines. Some stand outs include “Devil Daddy” about demon seed and abortion and “Thank God,” which deals with religious bigotry and conformity.

They’re Not Like Us, vol. 1 @
Eric Stephenson (w) & Simon Gane (a)
Bratty, super powered hipsters. Aside from the art being well done, there’s nothing to see here. There’s nothing compelling to drive the art. You can appreciate the style without taking the journey. Stephenson needs to drop this title and get back to Nowhere Men.

Upgrade Soul @
Ezra Claytan Daniels (w/a)
One of my favorite books that I read this month. Daniels weaves a tale about cloning into an extended rumination about the nature of existence, and he does it in an unpretentious and plot-driven way. His art has sort of ugly, more than human edge to it, like when you’re watching a hi-res video and seeing more detail and texture than you really need or want to see. 

Vindication @
MD Marie (w) & Carlos Miko/Dema Jr. (a)
A story about murder, racist profiling by police, and redemption. Not particularly groundbreaking, and the story feels cut short. 

Warlock 5 Omnibus >
Gordon Derry (w) & Denis Beauvais (a)
This omnibus includes all 15 issues of the series, including two that were never published. The artwork is consistently awesome and, as I have said before, it features some of the best black and white work from the 1980s. That said, the series ends just as the story really gets off the ground and begins to move beyond being simply a collection of 1980s pop cultural tropes.

Yo, Miss; A Graphic Look at High School @
Lisa Wilde (w/a)
An autobio graphic novel where Wilde tells the stories of her students from Wildcat Academy, a second chance high school for students at high risk of dropping out. The book follows a number of students throughout one school year. While the artwork is a bit remedial, Lisa does an excellent job getting the reader invested in the students’ stories (and back stories). It’s definitely worth checking out.

Floppies & Mincomics

Three Dollar Riot *
Sasha Velour (w/a)
The first part of a series recounting the Stonewall Riots from perspectives of folks who were involved or were in the Village querr/trans political and social scenes at the time. This issue presents Sylvia Rivera’s perspective, and Sasha does a great job documenting sources in order to make her depictions as accurate as possible while also noting it that Rivera was not even present at the riots on the first night. Velour also notes that history represents the composite of the stories people tell about an event afterward and that Rivera has an important perspective that needs to be included. Unfortunately, Sasha hasn’t made other issues featuring other perspectives.

Stores & Distros Supported

! Amazon
I try to avoid them as much as possible, but it was the only place where I could find this.

@ Humble Bundle
I purchased two Humble Bundles recently; one called “Be the Change” features over 80 books–fiction and nonfiction–about race and racism or by creators of color. As you may know, each Humble Bundle campaign supports particular nonprofit organizations. “Be the Change” supported the Urban League, the Carl Brandon Society, and the Bail Project. The second bundle I purchased featured all Image books and supported the Book Industry Charitable Fund and the Hero Initiative. In future posts, I intend to write about different nonprofits that support creators and the comics community. 

> Kickstarter 
I’m finally dipping my toes in supporting Kickstarter campaigns. There are so many comics that seem to only print enough copies to satisfy supporters that you’ll miss out on some great work if you ignore Kickstarter fundraisers.

* Ordered directly from the creator
Sasha Velour
Three Dollar Riot is only available digitally from Sasha’s online store. Print copies are sold out.

Micah Myers (Always Punch Nazis)
Micah lettered some stories in the anthologies. He sells them on Store Envy. He included all the Kickstarter prints from past campaigns along with the comics. 

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