Indie comics

April 03, 2014 | 3:47 p.m.

‘The Undertaking of Lily Chen’ weaves a tale of ghostly love

'The Undertaking of Lily Chen' (featured image)
The Chinese tradition of ghost marriages — weddings performed for deceased bachelors — serves as the inspiration for “The Undertaking of Lily Chen,” the latest graphic novel from author Danica Novgorodoff. The ancient practice sought to partner recently deceased singletons for their journeys into the afterlife, but a modern resurgence of the macabre tradition in contemporary China has led to grave-robbings and even killings — setting the stage for Novgorodoff’s tale. “Lily Chen,” from First Second Books, follows a young man named Deshi whose elder (and more favored) brother dies in an accident. Deshi’s parents hold him responsible and send him on a quest to find a corpse bride so his brother won’t have to enter the afterlife alone. When he meets the eponymous Lily Chen, a sharp-tongued and impulsive young woman trying to escape an arranged marriage, he sees […]
Feb. 12, 2014 | 12:52 p.m.

Exclusive: ‘Beautiful Darkness’ a bizarre fairy tale about brutality

'Beautiful Darkness' (featured image)
Don’t let the whimsically water-colored fairy world in “Beautiful Darkness” fool you; this graphic novel, out today from Drawn and Quarterly, is not a happily-ever-after sort of story. In “Beautiful Darkness,” French comics writer Fabien Vehlmann (“Isle of 100,000 Graves”) and husband-and-wife cartooning team Kerascoët (“Miss Don’t Touch Me”) present the story of Aurora, a cheery and resourceful heroine whose tea party with a prince is interrupted by a deluge of what appears to be blood. Aurora escapes, emerging from the skull of a dead girl, along with dozens of other tiny people. In the coming days and months, they try to survive in the face of hunger, woodland animals and, most terrifyingly, their own capacity for cruelty. It’s a twisted tale that draws from the likes of “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Borrowers,” only “Beautiful Darkness” presents a much […]
Feb. 12, 2014 | 11:08 a.m.

Valentine’s Day: ‘Alone Forever’ comic finds humor in heartbreak

"Alone Forever" by Liz Prince (featured image)
If you find yourself among the lovelorn this Valentine’s Day, Liz Prince’s graphic novel “Alone Forever: The Singles Collection” might prove a perfect remedy. “Alone Forever,” out this month from Top Shelf Productions, collects 104 pages of Prince’s autobiographical comic strip — a self-deprecating look at relationships, love and the lack thereof. The Boston-based comics creator chronicles her experiences with online dating, awkward first encounters and (questionably) flirty interactions with bearded strangers, not to mention tender moments with her constant true loves — her cats and her punk rock music. Prince, whose previous titles include the Ignatz Award-winning “Will You Still Love Me If I Wet The Bed?” and “Delayed Replays,” will be in the Los Angeles area on Sunday for L.A. Zine Fest at Helms Bakery in Culver City. Hero Complex: How did this project come about? I understand […]
Jan. 23, 2014 | 5:00 a.m.

Exclusive: Farel Dalrymple’s ‘The Wrenchies’ cover revealed

'The Wrenchies' cover (featured image)
Imagine a world in which children brutally slay demons in order to survive, knowing that when they grow up, they’ll become demons too. “The Wrenchies,” an upcoming YA graphic novel from alternative comics star Farel Dalrymple, chronicles the adventures of the toughest gang of those children, the so-called Wrenchies. The book is due out this fall from First Second, and Hero Complex readers get a first look at the book’s cover, which shows the eponymous gang clad for battle. Dalrymple is best known for his award-winning comic series “Pop Gun War,” an urban fantasy about a boy who acquires a pair of angel wings and uses them to fly off on adventures. He also co-founded the comic anthology “Meathaus,” illustrated the Marvel limited series “Omega the Unknown,” written by novelist Jonathan Lethem, and authors the ongoing Web comic “It Will […]
Dec. 12, 2013 | 2:48 p.m.

Sage Stossel’s ‘Starling’ juggles superheroics, ordinary life

Sage Stossel's "Starling" (featured image)
The most difficult part of being a superhero might not be the superheroics. For caped heroine Starling (civilian name Amy Sturgess), catching criminals is no less stressful than dealing with her conniving co-worker, her delinquent brother or her cat-hoarding mother. “Starling,” out this month from Penguin, is Sage Stossel’s first graphic novel, though she is no stranger to the form. A longtime political cartoonist, Stossel draws “Sage, Ink” for the Atlantic, where she is also a contributing editor. Her children’s books include “On the Loose in Boston” and “On the Loose in Washington, D.C.“ In “Starling,” Stossel introduces a heroine who blames an imaginary case of irritable bowel syndrome for her frequent missed meetings at her high-pressure marketing job. Her love life is hampered by her superpowers, including the ability to generate electric bolts from her hands. And though she […]
Oct. 22, 2013 | 9:58 a.m.

‘This One Summer’: Mariko and Jillian Tamaki bottle up adolescence

"This One Summer," by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki. (First Second)
Illustrator Jillian Tamaki and writer Mariko Tamaki remember what it feels like to be on the cusp of growing up, that moment in life where adult problems start to seep into summer days of bicycle-riding and seashell collecting. The Tamaki cousins open a window to that stage of life in “This One Summer” — initially titled “Awago Beach Babies.” Their much-anticipated graphic novel follows Rose and Windy, two girls whose families have always spent lazy summers swimming and building sand castles together in a sleepy cottage town by the beach. But this summer is different as they become wrapped up in the drama of the town’s teenagers, not to mention their own families. The book is due out in May. The cousins first collaborated on “Skim,” their 2008 graphic novel about a Wiccan, Gothic, Japanese-Canadian teenager grappling with depression and sexuality […]
Oct. 10, 2013 | 12:17 p.m.

‘Battling Boy’: Paul Pope pits boy-god hero against monster siege

Paul Pope's "Battling Boy" (featured image)
“Battling Boy,” by alternative comics creator Paul Pope, follows the self-dubbed Battling Boy, the son of a warrior god sent to save a city under siege by deadly monsters. The young hero arrives in Arcopolis with a magic credit card, a book called “The Encyclopedia Monstrosity,” and a dozen enchanted T-shirts, each bearing a different animal totem, which allow him to become clever as a fox, strong as a Tyrannosaurus rex, powerful as a gryphon, etc. Meanwhile in Arcopolis, a girl named Aurora mourns the death of her father, the city’s jetpack-wearing hero Haggard West, and makes plans to take up his quest. “Battling Boy,” out this week from First Second Books, is filled with secret science laboratories, sci-fi ray-blasters, bandage-wrapped monsters and plenty of beast-bashing action. For Pope, the project is a mash-up of everything he loved as a child. […]
Sept. 10, 2013 | 5:05 p.m.

‘Boxers & Saints’: Gene Yang blends Chinese history, magical realism

'Boxers & Saints' (featured image)
It’s hard to know whom to root for in Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel diptych “Boxers & Saints.” At once humorous and heartbreaking, the books’ 500 combined pages examine both sides of the Boxer Rebellion in turn-of-the-century China, seamlessly weaving magic and history to tell two interconnected stories. “Boxers” follows Little Bao, a peasant boy who learns kung fu and harnesses the power of the Opera gods to free China from the “foreign devils” — Western soldiers and Christian missionaries. “Saints” tells the tale of Four-Girl, an unwanted daughter who finds acceptance (and a proper name — Vibiana) among the Christian missionaries and their Chinese converts. Both protagonists are haunted and inspired by visions of historical figures — Joan of Arc for Vibiana and Ch’in Shih-huang, China’s first emperor, for Little Bao. “Boxers & Saints,” out today from First Second […]
Aug. 28, 2013 | 1:49 p.m.

‘Delilah Dirk & the Turkish Lieutenant’: Tony Cliff inks an adventure

'Delilah Dirk' (featured image)
Tony Cliff’s swashbuckling heroine Delilah Dirk finally has a graphic novel of her own. “Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant,” out this week from First Second Books, follows the globe-trotting, sword-swinging, treasure-stealing character across early 19th century Turkey, where she meets Erdemoglu Selim, a timid tea aficionado who finds himself unexpectedly caught up in Delilah’s misadventures (not to mention her flying sailboat). Cliff first introduced the character in 2007 in the 28-page short story “Delilah Dirk and the Treasure of Constantinople,” which earned an Eisner nod. Another installment found itself in the “Flight: Vol. 5” anthology. Delilah may remind readers of such adventure heroes as Indiana Jones, Lara Croft and even Adele Blanc-Sec. The daughter of a famous Greek artisan and a British ambassador, Delilah’s worldly childhood was filled with sword-fighting, archery and a dash of aristocracy — skills she puts […]
May 08, 2013 | 5:13 p.m.

‘Odd Duck’: Cecil Castellucci’s quirky tale celebrates strangeness

'Odd Duck' (featured image)
“Odd Duck,” by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon, chronicles the quirky friendship between two ducks — Theodora, who swims with a teacup balanced on her head, and her scruffy neighbor Chad, who loves astronomy and snow angels. The tale is a celebration of strangeness, says Castellucci, who admits to being a bit of an odd duck herself. Castellucci has made a name for herself across media as former indie rocker (then known as Nerdy Girl and Cecil Seaskull), filmmaker, opera libretto writer and award-winning author of books and graphic novels, including “The Plain Janes,” “The Year of the Beasts” and “First Day on Earth.” For “Odd Duck,” the Canadian writer teamed up with artist Sara Varon (“Robot Dreams”) to create the story’s whimsical format — a sort of hybrid between comic and picture book (take a peek in the gallery […]
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