Archive for the ‘Comics Industry’


July 26, 2013 By: Seth Peagler Category: Comics Industry, DISCUSS, Heroes Aren't Hard To Find, HeroesCon, HeroesCon News, NEWS, This Just In


Heroes is proud to welcome Justin Crouse to the position of Store Manager!  Justin has been a valuable staff member for the past three years.  Like many employees over the years, Justin was a customer for some fifteen years before he worked his way up from HeroesCon volunteer to full fledged staff member.  In addition to being an endless source of humor for staff and customers alike, Justin has a wide range of comic tastes – his favorites include  Howard the Duck, Savage Dragon, Bulletproof Coffin, Captain America, Asterios Polyp and Black Hole.  Justin’s also a talented artist, with his work appearing in several anthologies and self-published comics in recent years.  He values the aesthetics of the form, and, like the rest of us, unabashedly loves comics.

As store manager, Justin will handle all comic ordering, which means if you have any requests for specific items or variants, or would like to change your Previews orders, you’ll need to contact him at [email protected].  He will also be helping to coordinate volunteers for HeroesCon 2014.

We are very excited to have Justin as our new store manager, and hope you’ll also welcome him.  After the success of this year’s HeroesCon, we’re all reinvigorated and ready to bring you an even better comic shop and convention in the coming year.  Great things are happening at Heroes, and we hope you’ll continue to join us along the way.




June 13, 2013 By: Seth Peagler Category: Comics Industry, DISCUSS, EVENTS, Heroes Aren't Hard To Find, HeroesCon, HeroesCon Art Auction, HeroesCon News, NEWS, Now Read This!, Other Events, This Just In

This year marked my seventh year as a member of the capable HeroesCon management and organization team.  Every year there are countless little moments that make me (and the rest of the staff) happy to be a part of this incredible comics community.  This year, more than any other year, I was especially heartened and humbled by our 3rd Annual Drink and Draw.  It was at our first Drink and Draw back in 2011 that I met Richard Thompson, the genius cartoonist behind the award winning Cul de Sac comic strip.  It was Richard for whom Team Cul de Sac started, in an effort to raise money for Parkinson’s research.  And it is Richard’s humor, humility and general kindness that made us want to continue to do more to battle this disease.

This year, thanks in part to a spacious new venue (the Hilton), an appropriately Southern soundtrack from Jack the Radio, and the creativity of professional and amateur artists alike, we raised over $7,000 for Team Cul de Sac and the Michael J. Fox foundation!   The combined total from money raised in the first two years was under $3,000, so that alone should let you know the extent to which our fundraising increased this year.

Planning for this year’s Drink and Draw began earlier than ever before.  Team Cul de Sac founder Chris Sparks, my wife (and fellow Drink and Draw organizer) Heather and I had a few meals together in Asheville this past Spring, and talked at length about what we could do to bring even more money and awareness to Team Cul de Sac at HeroesCon’s Drink and Draw event.  Chris took those brainstorming sessions and turned them into original art from Patrick McDonnell (Mutts), Jim Borgman (Zits), Mark Tatulli (Lio), Roger Langridge (Snarked), and more, all for us to auction at the Drink and Draw.  In addition to these pieces, Chris brought an Art Spiegelman signed and sketched edition of Maus, and Bill Watterson signed editions of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes and Team Cul de Sac: Artists Draw the Line at Parkinson’s.

With all the art produced and auctioned off at the Drink and Draw, we not only raised a sizable donation for Parkinson’s research, but sent a strong message that the philanthropic efforts at HeroesCon have never been more vibrant than they were this year.   I look forward to working with Chris to bring even larger things to HeroesCon 2014’s Drink and Draw.

Thanks to all the fine volunteers who continue to come back every year to help us run the event (Heather Peagler, Brian Purvis and the rest), all the artists who still draw for us after a long day on the convention floor, and everyone who donated money for the various pieces produced that night. Thanks to Chris Sparks for his perseverance, Richard Thompson for his ever-present inspiration, and Shelton Drum for giving us so much time and space at HeroesCon to continue to raise money for this worthy cause.

If you’d like to continue to support Team Cul de Sac throughout the year, please visit them HERE.  The battle against Parkinson’s disease needs more than just our annual event to help fight it.  We hope to see you next year at Drink and Draw.  We’ve already started planning, so trust me when I tell you – HeroesCon 2014 is going to be bigger and better than ever!



January 30, 2013 By: Seth Peagler Category: Charlotte Minicon, Comics Industry, DISCUSS, EVENTS, Guest List, Heroes Aren't Hard To Find, HeroesCon, NEWS, Special Offers, Store Signings

In case you missed hearing about this at our recent Charlotte MiniCon, Heroes is teaming with writer Matt Fraction for a special offer benefiting the American Red Cross and their Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.  Fraction wrote a special stand alone issue for Hawkeye #7 that directly deals with the hurricane.  In addition to writing the story, Fraction is donating all of his royalties from the issue to the Red Cross.  That means the more copies people buy, the more money the Red Cross will make.

In conjunction with Fraction and the Red Cross, Heroes is offering a special signed copy of Hawkeye #7 for $10.  As of this writing, there are less than 100 copies still available.  You can stop by the store and reserve your copy today.  All of the money we receive for this book will go entirely to the Red Cross, and each transaction will be kept separate from other store purchases.  Our costs for the book, shipping, and Matt’s time are all being handled by us and aren’t included in the $10 price of the book.  That means all of the money will go straight to the Red Cross and their relief efforts.  We’d also encourage you to donate more than $10 for the book if you’re able.

We applaud Fraction and his work to maintain awareness of the Red Cross and their work helping those afflicted by Hurricane Sandy.  Reserve your copy of Hawkeye #7 today and help us raise money for those who desperately need it.  



December 04, 2012 By: Rico Renzi Category: Comics Industry, DISCUSS, Guest List, Heroes Aren't Hard To Find, HeroesCon, HeroesCon News, NEWS

Are you ready for some HeroesCon 2013 news? Let’s get to it! HeroesCon 2013 will be our biggest and best show yet. We’ve announced a few of our fantastic guests here.

3-Day Passes are on sale now. If you order before the end of 2012 you will save almost 50% off the regular price for daily admission at the door. So order today to make sure you get that sweet discount!


We’ve also made Artists Alley tables available, these are first-come-first-served and they usually go fast! Reserve your space today!


Sign up for the Heroes Hotline (our twice-a-week newsletter) and check our blog frequently for more announcements and details about HeroesCon 2013! Follow on Twitter and like us on Facebook and we will make sure you are in the loop!  Thanks!


Hail Richard Thompson and Cul de Sac!

August 17, 2012 By: Craig Fischer Category: Comics Industry, DISCUSS, NEWS, Now Read This!

Today, cartoonist Richard Thompson announced that because of his ongoing struggle with Parkinson’s Disease, he’ll be ending his newspaper comic strip Cul de Sac on September 23rd.

It’s no exaggeration to call Cul de Sac the finest comic strip of this generation. Thompson began the strip in the Washington Post in 2004, but its distribution remained regional until 2007, when Universal executive Lee Salem fell in love with the strip (and with Thompson’s work on another Post feature, Richard’s Poor Almanac) and offered Thompson national syndication.

Cul de Sac focuses on the Otterloop family: father Peter, mother Madeleine, and especially their two kids, world-class neurotic Petey and pre-school troublemaker Alice. Like many other comic strips, Cul de Sac is a domestic comedy, but Thompson’s artistry elevates it into the canon of great comics, cheek-to-jowl with Charles Schulz’s Peanuts. Thompson’s skills are many: he has an uncanny ability to milk endless gags out of Petey and Alice’s diametrically opposed personalities, and he stuffs the Cul de Sac neighborhood with a joyous cast of supporting players. If you haven’t read the strip, names like Dill, Nara, Big Shirley, Beni, Viola, Miss Bliss, Ernesto, Mr. Danders, Andre and the Uh-Oh Baby mean nothing to you, but if you’re already a fan, I bet every single one of those names made you smile.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Cul de Sac is Thompson’s art, a sublime hybrid of Schulz, Ronald Searle and Thompson’s own whimsy, expressed through jittery pen lines and bold, expressive lettering. In today’s newspapers, where comic strip are printed at the size of a postage stamp, Thompson still delivered his daily laugh and wry observation, and earned the praise of his peers: in 2011, he won the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, the highest honor given by the National Cartoonists Society.

Richard is part of the Heroes family. He’s been to several HeroesCons, participating in panels about Cul de Sac, humor in comics, and other subjects. I became friends with Richard in 2008, when Ben Towle and I asked Richard (and Roger Langridge) to be on a panel where we’d collectively interview EC comics legend and Mad editor Al Feldstein. It turned out that Feldstein didn’t need our questions–without prompting from us, Al told one amazing story after another–but afterwards, Richard thanked me for the opportunity to meet Feldstein, I bought some original Cul de Sac art, and we became pals. It’s impossible to meet Richard and not become pals with him.

Me, Richard, Roger Langridge, Al Feldstein and Ben Towle, Heroes 2008. Photo by Mike Rhode.

Richard told his readers that he had Parkinson’s Disease in 2009, and in the years since has handled his increasing difficulties–with drawing, and with mobility in general–with heroic good humor. The last time I saw him in person, at last year’s Small Press Expo, he was frail and walking with a cane, but the first thing he said to me was a blue joke. His blog posts about his struggles with Parkinson’s are a study in grace under adversity. Read, for example, his farewell to Cul de Sac.

There are a couple of ways you can honor Richard and his strip. With Richard’s blessing, the tirelessly generous Chris Sparks has established Team Cul de Sac, a fundraising initiative (and division of the Michael J. Fox Foundation) that encourages the comics community to donate money to support Parkinson’s research. You can donate directly to Team Cul de Sac here. If you buy Chris’ lavish Team Cul de Sac art book (featuring contributions from Sergio Aragones, Evan Dorkin, Cathy Guisewite, Bill Watterson and literally dozens of other cartoonists), and/or Favorites, a home-grown zine of comics criticism I assembled last year, money will again funnel into Team Cul de Sac. Order these goodies here.

Most importantly: if you haven’t already, please read one of the Cul de Sac strip collections. A good place to start is The Cul de Sac Golden Treasury: A Keepsake Garland of Classics (2010), a fat sample of the first two years of the strip. It’s beautiful, charming–and, I think, a blast of Cartoon Nirvana, one for the Ages.


A Tribute to Joe Kubert (1926-2012)

August 14, 2012 By: Heroes Online Category: Comics Industry, DISCUSS, NEWS

We lost one comics’ greatest creators this past Sunday. Joe Kubert not only touched the lives of those who saw his beautiful work on books like Sgt. Rock, Tarzan and Enemy Ace but one that will continue to shape young comic artists by founding the Kubert School in 1976. RIP and thank you Mr. Kubert for all you did in your amazing time with us. We extend our condolences to his family, friends, students and countless fans.

What follows are a few remembrances of the man and his work.

Andy Smith:

I first met Joe in 1987 when I had to show a portfolio to get into The Kubert School. To say I was nervous is an understatement. I wasn’t nervous because I thought I wouldn’t get into the school or over what was in my portfolio. I was nervous because Joe was the one reviewing my work. To me at that time of my life and even now I looked at Joe like a god. He could do no wrong when he put pencil/pen to paper. All I knew of him at the time was his work. Now I was finally meeting the man himself. He had very gracious things to say about my work. I was in his large office at the front of the school where the walls were adorned with his work: just spectacular!
The memories I have from him during my time at the school are all good. I can’t forget his stern handshake or when I would see him in the halls where he would always pat me on the back and have something nice to say. I vividly remember the pat on the back because it was so strong I felt like I was going to go flying into the wall nearby.
I took to heart every comment about my work he said in class.  Who wouldn’t? They were coming from a true master of the craft! Just looking through one of the many comics he produced is an education all to itself.
I would see Joe at conventions once or twice a year and he always remembered me and we’d have a nice chat catching up. That is what I’ll miss, seeing him at cons. And of course not being able to see any new work from him as well.


STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES #148 (December 1969-January 1970).

Craig Fischer:

I read the story when I was a child, and found it unutterably sad. The “hero” was Baron Hans Von Hammer, a World War I German fighter pilot, and I was surprised that American comics could be published about an honorable German warrior. Von Hammer was noble, troubled, and–because of his reputation as an emotionless killing machine–isolated from his fellow aviators. In the story, however, Von Hammer befriends a hapless, wounded puppy he names Schatzi, taking the dog in his plane on bombing raids as a good luck charm. At the conclusion of the story, Schatzi barks to warn Von Hammer of the imminent attack of a UK Sopwith Camel, and in the process of dodging the British plane, Von Hammer tilts his own aircraft enough to spill Schatzi out of the cockpit. The little dog falls to his death. Von Hammer channels his grief into a murderous rampage.

The story is “Luck is a Puppy Named Schatzi!” from Star Spangled War Stories #148 (December 1969-January 1970), written by Robert Kanigher and drawn by Joe Kubert. On the occasion of Kubert’s passing, I’ve re-read “Luck” and discovered, predictably, that the story has less of an impact on me now. Because Kanigher yanks at our heartstrings so ferociously, the entire tale threatens to tip into self-parody. In fact, J. Caleb Mozzocco has posted a hilarious retelling of “Luck” on his Every Day is Like Wednesday blog, here.

Despite my misgivings with Kanigher’s script, I love Kubert’s art. His cartooning brings grace and ingenuity to perfect and imperfect scripts. Consider the moment in “Luck” when Schatzi tumbles out of Von Hammer’s plane.

On the most basic level, the verticality of the panel’s shape emphasizes Schatzi’s fall, and Kubert uses line width to establish the vast distance between Von Hammer in the air and the buildings and rivers on the ground. The shapes at the top of the panel, including Von Hammer and the plane firing behind him, are rendered with spot blacks and thick brush strokes, while the checkerboards on the earth below are delineated with slight, wispy pen lines. Between high and low is Schatzi, weightier–more present–than the ground, but descending into white space, swallowed up by the rapid fall. Von Hammer’s hand desperately reaches out to Schatzi; his index finger is bending at the first joint in an attempt to hook the dog into his grasp. (Like Ditko, Kubert is a master at drawing hands that express character emotion.) Kubert transmutes Kanigher’s scene into an example of graphic virtuosity. Kubert was this good all the time.

For Schatzi’s fall and for a thousand other moments: Thank you, Joe.

Andy Mansell:

It’s all Joe Kubert’s fault you know.  Allow me to explain.  The man has had a legendary career in comics as bothcreator, father and educator. Trying to select the best or most representative piece created by Joe Kubert would beimpossible for most folks, but not for me.
It was the 1972– the greatest time for Comics in history (at least for me).  Marvel was still flying high and DC had Jack Kirby running rampant in his Fourth World tetralogy, and Neal Adams on Batman and Superman by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson and all the DC comics were HUGE–$.25 Bigger and Better!! Life was good…. And then it got better… with issue #207 (??!??) DC began to publish Tarzan and it was beautifully written and gorgeously drawn by this guy named Joe Kubert.  And thanks to him and that fabulous adaptation of the first two Tarzan novels, I was hooked. Before Kubert, I thought Tarzan was kind of dumb and I thought the Tarzan movies were both old and dumb.  But once Kubert took charge, I got it.  Tarzan was a hero like Batman and Orion and I wanted more Tarzan.  That desire for more Tarzan never left–it directed me toward Russ Manning’s incredible Tarzan comic strip.  This left me wanting even moreso I ended up collecting the entire Hal (Prince Valiant) Foster and Burne Hogarth Sunday page comic runs of ol’ Lord Greystoke.  To this very day, I still love Tarzan and always will and it is because of Joe and for that alone, I am eternally grateful.  RIP and thanks Joe!!

Seth Peagler:

If there’s a single thing about Joe Kubert’s art that will continue to persevere throughout comics history, it must be his versatility.  While he’ll probably always be most regarded for his war comics like Sgt. Rock and Enemy Ace, it’s hard to deny his presence in adventure comics (like Tor and Tarzan) and super hero comics as well.

While many recognize Kubert’s role in defining the Silver Age Hawkman, it’s worth noting that Joe consistently pushed the boundaries of the medium.  Though the character has never been as popular as any of aforementioned ones, Kubert’s Ragman was and still is a relevant figure in the DC Universe.  Drawing from his own experiences, Joe created a character that shared many similarities with his own life and upbringing.  There were elements of Jewish mysticism and mythology, but also the idea that a hero could emerge from the humblest of origins.

Joe later went on to create Yossel, showing that he was also more than capable of exploring autobiographical comics.  Comics creators and fans the world over are all thinking about Joe Kubert and his family this week.  Let’s all take time to celebrate the man, his versatility and the indelible legacy he has left on our industry.


Funeral information (via Kubert School)

Tuttle Funeral Home
272 Highway 10
Randolph NJ 07869

August 14th, 2012
Visitation – 10:00am to 12:00pm
Service – 12:00pm
Internment to follow at:

The Dover Mount Sinai Cemetery
237 Chrystal Street, Randolph, NJ 07869

If you prefer to donate by mail, please send your contribution to:

Multiple Myloma Research Foundation (MMRF)
383 Main Avenue 5th floor
Norwalk CT 06851



January 02, 2012 By: Seth Peagler Category: Comics Industry, DISCUSS, Looking Ahead, Opinion, Reviews

It recently dawned on me that I’ve written almost every Spotlight on New Releases column since July of 2010.  That’s almost a year and 1/2 of writing about new comics every week for readers of our Heroes Blog.  The biggest lesson I’ve gleaned from this experience is the idea that as a comics reader and critic it’s really important to maintain one’s joy and passion for our industry and hopefully encourage the same in our readers and customers.

Every week there are hundreds of books released, and there won’t always be something groundbreaking or revolutionary hitting the stands.  However, there are always books throughout a given month that entertain us or encourage us to think beyond the scope of our personal experience.  As readers it’s no crime to comment on things we wish were better in comics.  In fact, if you’ve been reading a title or following a character for a few decades, you have a lot invested in comics and should speak your mind.  Let’s remember that we all participate in a truly unique medium where on a weekly basis the opportunity still exists for us to be reminded of the inherent joy that exists within the pages of a comic book.  So with that thought, here are a few things about DC and Marvel comics in 2011 that I believe warrant reflection.

It would be wrong to talk about 2011 without first mentioning the DC reboot.  A gamble on many fronts, DC really took a chance when they decided to restart all of their titles.  The reality of the situation is that DC needed to do something different to try to increase their sales after years of turning in numbers behind Marvel.  They did garner lots of national media coverage for their event, and we did see many new faces excited about comics find their way into our store.  There have already been some concerns about how DC would be maintaining the quality and regularity of creative teams and storylines, but that’s to be expected.  Like it or not, the company did manage to refurbish some of their properties, and whether or not you agree with the strategy or enjoy some of the books, some really entertaining comics were produced.  In Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, Justice League brought two fan favorite creators to the biggest of books and did so with a wide-reaching effect. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman reminded many of us that this is a character who deserves to have talented creators working hard to tell her stories, and that when they do, good comics are inevitable.  Other books like Animal Man and Swamp Thing found a nice balance between horror and mainstream comics, and continue to build toward memorable stories.  The goal for everyone is to see DC do well, have strong creators on titles, and bring in new readership.  If this happens, everyone can benefit.

Marvel Comics had a bit of an unusual year.  DC clearly grabbed the most headlines for their reboot, but Marvel always seems to have a longterm plan, and certainly has multiple film properties to capitalize upon.  Like DC they offered up several new #1 issues with the goal of reaching new readership.  In some cases, as with Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera, and Marcos Martin’s Daredevil #1, Marvel found a solid creative team who managed to tell some great stories by steering the character away from his typical grim and gritty fare, and back toward some of his more swashbuckling roots.  No, this isn’t a reinvention of the wheel, but it is a good, fun comic that more and more readers are starting to enjoy.

Marvel probably grabbed their biggest headlines with their controversial decision to kill of the Ultimate version of Peter Parker/Spider-man.  Regardless of what you think of this decision, the idea that they then introduced a new Spider-man who might reach a wider range of readers is an exciting prospect.  If comics can’t reach a new, young readership base then the industry will continue to change in increasingly dramatic ways over the next decade.  The effort to gain new readers is also a reason for this year’s breaking of the X-men into two separate schools of thought.  With a lineup in Uncanny X-men consisting of darker, more villainous characters like Magneto, Namor, Emma Frost, and a Juggernaut-powered Colossus, and a younger, more lively bunch of mutants being headmastered by Wolverine in Wolverine and the X-men, Marvel has offered up two distinct X books for readers with very different sensibilities.  The latter has also given us some of the year’s most entertaining superhero comics, and has offered writer Jason Aaron an opportunity to explore a different kind of book than he has previously written.  By the same token, with Uncanny X-force Marvel has maintained and grown a steadfast audience for a mutant-centric book that doesn’t quite read or look like X-titles of the past.

Whatever you might take away from comics in 2011, it’s worth noting that like with almost anything in art there can be strong, entertaining possibilities if you look hard enough.  If you find a comic that moves you or offers up great escapism, support it by buying it and encouraging your friends to give it a try.  If you’re unhappy with a book you might have read for a long time, don’t be afraid to put it down for awhile and look for something new.  There are plenty of  books well worth your time and money.  The important thing to me is that we all do our best to try to be positive about our industry, encourage new readership, and support writers and artists who are focused on producing quality comics.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg.  Both companies had plenty more worth mentioning this year, and we’d like to hear from you about what you think.  What DC or Marvel books really impressed you this year?  What book did you buyon a whim and then proceed to pick up every month thereafter?  What are some things in 2012 that you’d like to see, or might be looking forward to?


AVENGERS X-SANCTION #1 :: Heroes Convention 2012 Variant

December 08, 2011 By: Rico Renzi Category: Comics Industry, Heroes Aren't Hard To Find, NEWS, Special Offers

Check out our sweet HeroesCon Variant cover for Avengers X-Sanction #1! It was announced this week that 2012’s big Marvel event will be Avengers vs X-Men (I loved that Marc Silvestri mini-series when I was a kid!) and this is where it starts! You can get yours at the store next Wednesday!

We’ve also created a listing on our eBay store for pre-sales.

Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find and Marvel Comics are offering a HeroesCon 2012 variant cover of this book that kicks off 2012’s Avengers VS X-Men Crossover!

This book is extremely limited and by ordering today you ensure you will have a copy of this book when it comes out next week.

All orders will ship Wednesday, December 14 when this book hits stands!

(W) Jeph Loeb (A/CA) Ed McGuinness
  • How has Cable been reborn? Where has he been since “Second Coming”? And what dark event has driven him to destroy the Avengers? The answers are just the tip of an iceberg that threatens to smash the Marvel Universe to smithereens!
  • A crucial new series by the creators behind SUPERMAN/BATMAN and HULK, Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness
  • 32 PGS./Rating T+



Heroes Sponsors CBLDF’s Fall Comics Grab Bag! Debut at NYCC!

October 13, 2011 By: Rico Renzi Category: Comics Industry, EVENTS, HeroesCon, HeroesCon News, NEWS, On the Road

Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find is seeking to raise $10,000 for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund by sponsoring its Fall Comics Grab Bag! Debuting this weekend at New York Comic-Con, the CBLDF Fall Comics Grab Bag includes 10 comics for a $20 donation, with rare and signed comics guaranteed in every bag!

We have contributed a vast array of rare comics from the Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age to support the Fund. Comics guaranteed to be included in the Fall Comics Grab Bag include Avengers #57 (1st Appearance of the Vision), X-Men #46, X-Men #48, Batman #185, Luke Cage #1, Nick Fury: Agent of Shield #3, Sub-Mariner #5, and dozens more. Signed comics were contributed directly from their artists, including Amanda Conner, Garth Ennis, Neil Gaiman, Jim Lee, Frank Miller, Jill Thompson, Gail Simone, and many more!

“We’re extremely grateful to Shelton and the HeroesCon team for supporting the CBLDF with this fundraiser,” says CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein. “On top of being a great fundraiser, this grab bag is a little taste of what HeroesCon is like, with a fun diversity of great comics from across the decades, autographs from incredible creators, and a pile of great stories you want to take home and read. We’re glad to reward our donors with this cool new item.”

HeroesCon 2012 30th Anniversary show will be June 22 – 24.  A coupon for $10 off a 3-day pass to the show is available in the CBLDF Fall Comics Grab Bag and can be redeemed at Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find’s NYCC booth, #1369.

Get your CBLDF Fall Comics Grab Bag and check out the huge range of donation incentives available from the CBLDF’s Booth #1158 at New York Comic-Con! See you there!





September 19, 2011 By: Seth Peagler Category: Comics Industry, DISCUSS, Reviews

As part of our recent trip to this year’s Small Press Expo in Maryland, I had an opportunity to pick up an advanced copy of Craig Thompson’s eight years in the making new book, Habibi.  Thompson has had something of a meteoric rise to fame, with an acclaimed first book Goodbye, Chunky Rice, and his next book Blankets becoming a nationwide phenomenon and Eisner Award winner.  Blankets was a rare comic, a 500+ page original graphic novel memoir that went on to sell thousands of copies and inadvertently become a gateway comic for countless new readers.  Thompson followed Blankets with Carnet De Voyage, a much shorter work that was more travel journal than distinct narrative.  It has been known that Thompson’s newest book Habibi was being worked on for the better part of a decade.  Fans and critics alike have been curious about what kind of book Habibi will be, and whether or not it could live up to the subsequent hype created by the success of Blankets.  Once we got back from Maryland I took it upon myself to read Habibi and post some thoughts about it here on the Heroes blog in hopes of giving you all some idea about what you might expect from this massive book.

The first and most obvious aspect of Habibi is that it represents Thompson’s continued interest in creating long form graphic novels as opposed to serializing longer stories in the same way that creators like Adrian Tomine or Chris Ware typically might.  Thompson admits that there are positives and negatives to this publishing ideology, but the fact that he now has two 500+ page original graphic novels in his catalog is indeed an impressive feat, especially when you remember he’s only in his mid thirties.  These hefty works demand a great investment from readers, but if you see that a creator has put so much time and energy into a work, the book seems to offer a substantial potential for gravity, depth, and hopefully a high degree of entertainment.

While large comics do signify the creator’s dedication to story and craft, they don’t necessarily mean they are always good, entertaining comics.  How does Habibi stand on its own merit?  Habibi is quite an accomplishment because, if anything, it clearly shows how much Thompson wanted to grow and progress in his art after Blankets.  It might’ve been tempting to churn out a follow up to that story and tell another autobiographical story, but Thompson went to an entirely different well for Habibi.  It’s a Middle Eastern story that owes as much to Islamic history, poetry, art, and symbology as Blankets did to Thompson’s own Christian upbringing. Thompson isn’t Muslim, and didn’t necessarily grow up with an understanding or appreciation for cultures outside of his own, but his attention to detail is beyond meticulous.  Every pattern and example of calligraphy, though based on existing examples of Islamic art and history, was painstakingly reproduced by Thompson’s brush.  The fine adornments, chapter fronts, and panel frames weren’t cut and pasted from a computer, but drawn by hand.  To me this exemplifies that Thompson not only wanted to push himself as a cartoonist, but wanted to be very respectful to the traditions and forms that inspired this book.

Beyond Thompson’s clear motivation to make Habibi an accurate and appropriate Middle Eastern tale, it’s worth noting that there are several entertaining chase scenes and action sequences in the book.  I’ve heard from some who didn’t like Blankets that they thought it was too emotional, and not necessarily a story that demanded a visual interpretation.  Habibi reminds us that Thompson is acutely aware that comics are a visual medium, and that he understands and enjoys crafting pages filled not just with fine adornment, but with fluid movement.  The characters of Zam and Dodola are often in life-threatening situations, and that sense of danger is clearly evident, especially in the way Thompson depicts their faces and body language.  While Blankets was very much about individuals growing up in a strict fundamentalist environment, Habibi deals with characters maturing and changing amid a place of relegated status where their lives are often threatened.  For that reason the stakes seem dramatically higher in Habibi, and thus considerably more heavy in their global sense of relevance.

Somehow amid all the danger, Thompson maintains the thread of Habibi’s love story.  Blankets also had a love story, but while its focus was on young people still discovering their identities, Habibi’s love story exists between two very scarred individuals who allow themselves to know love in spite of their tremendous personal struggles.  While we see the characters age from young children to adulthood and witness their individual tragedies, we see them come to terms with their respective scars and still accept love in spite of their pasts.  The characters truly seem to need each other in order to fully realize their own true selves, and that necessity doesn’t come across as contrived or forced.  This feels like a story that could have already or may yet happen.

Habibi gives us plenty of evidence that Thompson has matured in his storytelling and his cartooning.  There is perhaps no better example of that than by simply noting that Habibi is a comic of layers, where symbolism and parallels exist amid the characters and scenes, but are also made more resonant by their reflection of Middle Eastern numerology, spirituality, and philosophy.  Blankets was in part about Thompson’s struggle to accept his fundamentalist upbringing and find his own voice amid that belief system.  Habibi is set in an equally fundamentalist culture, but here faith and the hope it brings act as a buoy for the characters.  Faith is something that the characters have even when everything else is against them.  The characters’ understanding and use of their faith is exemplified by the numerous inclusions of Islamic symbology, and while they give us a better sense of the characters’ identities, they are also a smart method Thompson uses to incorporate themes and symbology he wanted to illustrate in this story.

As with any creator who has a huge commercial and critical success, all their subsequent works will inevitably be measured against that previous work.  It wasn’t hard for me to read Habibi as its own story, but it is hard for me to talk about it now that I’ve read it without noting that this was made by the same guy who created Blankets.  While the stories have some similarities between them, Habibi stands out as a much denser, detailed, adult story reflective of an older, wiser cartoonist at work.  There certainly are some darker, more mature elements to Habibi, but they aren’t included gratuitously.  Thompson carefully researched Middle Eastern history, art, literature, and spirituality, and with Habibi adds his own mark to those centuries old stories.  Regardless of how you react to Habibi, I doubt anyone who reads this book can experience it without at least respecting the continually refining craftsmanship of Craig Thompson as a writer, cartoonist, and storyteller.