It’s the calm before the storm. New York Comic Con is coming, which means a whole lot of news is coming. It picked up this week. It’ll do the same the following one. Prepare yourself. Let’s look at everything that dropped so far, though, in this week’s edition of Comics Disassembled, my column where I look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics, led by a surprising return of an old favorite.
1. The Far Side Returns
Long before the X-Men, Impulse and The Flash, my big three in comics were much, much different. As much as I loved superheroes eventually and The Transformers early on, the comics I read in my youth were all of the comic strip variety, and my big three was Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes, Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County, and Gary Larson’s The Far Side. I was not atypical in any of those regards. Those were immensely popular comic strips, with seemingly every newspaper in the country carrying them for a number of reasons, the largest of which was “they were extremely good,” which was true even if I didn’t totally grasp the humor of Bloom County because I was a child. Each of those comics left a significant footprint in pop culture, creating a lasting memory of what they were and who they were about even if they are long gone.
Or should I say…were long gone. Bloom County returned a few years ago, as Breathed couldn’t resist going after his old target Donald Trump once again. Seemingly, the veteran cartoonist succeeded in his new format, running his comics through social media and a website as well as eventual print editions through IDW. And now, apparently Larson wants to get in on that action, as The Far Side is coming back! I don’t totally understand why now, as The Far Side isn’t exactly a comic built on timeliness as much as it was designed to make well-crafted single image jokes spoken by talking cows, but hey, it’s coming back!
Even more interestingly, it’s coming back online – The Far Side dot com is its home during its “new online era” – and being backed by book publishing giant Andrews McMeel Publishing, a house that doubles as one of the titans of the book market for comics. So Bloom County did it well, and Larson seems to be trying to do it even better, because this roll out seems like it’s rather smart. A nice teaser campaign. An even better partner. This’ll be interesting to watch, especially considering – if I remember correctly – The Far Side was maybe the most popular comic from that era.
Also, quick note: as I googled to confirm its lack of topicality that I mentioned in the second paragraph, I was surprised to notice how scathing that comic really was! Apparently when you’re eight you are there for “oh the cow made a funny joke!” type things rather than what seems to be a whole lot of bits specifically relating to humans and their relationships with animals. Okay, Gary Larson. I see you!
2. Awards, Getting Things Right
Shouts to The Ignatz Awards and The Shuster Awards, both of which seemingly nailed their efforts to find the best and the brightest in their respective sides of the comic book scene (i.e. independent/small press comics and Canadian comics, respectively). The Ignatz earned my love for a near sweep by Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell’s exceptional graphic novel from First Second. It won Outstanding Graphic Novel, Outstanding Artist and Outstanding Story, all of which were much deserved. But that’s not all! Hannah Blumenreich earned a nod for Best Online Comic, Carolyn Nowak took the Outstanding Collection award for Girl Town, Ngozi Ukazu won Outstanding Comic for Check, Please! and more. It’s a phenomenal list, and a great starting point for those looking to jump into that world.
Meanwhile, The Shusters named three of my favorites for their top prizes, as Chip Zdarsky earned Outstanding Writer, my beloved Karl Kerschl took Outstanding Artist, and the outrageously talented Emily Carroll locked in Outstanding Cartoonist. Oh, and the excellent folks at Variant Edition Comics – you might know them from their column at The Beat, The Retailer’s View – were named Outstanding Comic Book Retailer. All great picks, as were the rest, I’m certain. Good job, Canada! I’m proud of you!