Not sure what books to pick up during the sale? Browse our staff picks for suggestions:
Before tackling the emotional and political quagmire that is Palestine, Joe Sacco hit the really hard topics in the early ‘90s – punk bands. While on European tour with the Portland based band, Miracle Workers, Sacco skewers fans, musicians, and critics with his classic hard-hitting wit and skillful cartooning. Music is my second life, which means I love watching the industry and people who take themselves too seriously get made fun of. Sacco never misses an opportunity to turn the pen on himself though, and throws in some great auto-bio pieces of his time living in Germany. This is a great collection, full of world-class cartooning by a master, and a great read for anyone who enjoys reminiscing about their own poorly planned band days.
I unconsciously decided to talk about two music books, but The Raven is a spectacular amalgamation of poetry, theater, and music. Lou Reed took upon himself the ambitious project of teaming up with musicians and actors to rewrite famous Edgar Allen Poe stories and poems into musical performances that were performed on stage. Reworked into a CD and then reinterpreted into a book, and illustrated by Italian artist Lorenzo Mattotti, the songs, poetry, visuals all combine to create one of the most energetic, engaging, and dynamic tributes to the work of Poe.
Esther Pearl Watson delivers a painfully funny and relatable story of adolescence, doused with Aquanet, sprinkled with glitter and adorned with Lisa Frank stickers. Unlovable is based on a found diary the author discovered in a gas station restroom. The inside cover proclaimed the owner to be Tammy Pierce, and the author created a fictionalized graphic version of the teenager who is something of a spiritual cousin to Dawn Wiener (Welcome to the Dollhouse) and Tina Belcher (Bob’s Burgers), with all the boy-crazy awkwardness you’d expect.
Volume One begins in the Fall of 1988 and follows Tammy as she embarks upon her Sophomore year of High School in the suburbans of North Texas. It is a landscape filled with embarrassing parents, annoying little brothers and an unforgiving social hierarchy. Tammy spends her afternoons getting chili-fries at the local Sonic, daydreaming about cuties asking her to the big dance and longing for someone to call; made all the more painful in the era of landline phones. She sometimes tags along with an older, cooler couple and experiments with mild acts of rebellion: cutting class, shoplifting from the mall, drinking wine coolers, toilet papering frenemy lawns and knocking over mailboxes. These hijinks often land her in detention at school, grounded at home and frequently getting used by friends who don’t have her best interest. Watson places you directly back into the mortification, boredom and powerlessness of teenage life and it would be a total bummer if it wasn’t drawn in such a cringe-worthy but hilarious way.
Watson’s art style perfectly captures the hormonal body horror inherent in coming of age. Tammy’s attempts at beautification- from home perms to blue mascara and home-made face masks and hair removal gone awry- rarely have the magical makeover montage effect intended and are rendered in delightfully squiggly, grotesque linework. Being a teen can be brutal. Tammy fears that her breath smells like butts and her crotch smells like fish tacos. It’s a time when guys in detention ask to see your boobs and then call you a slut when you actually do it. When people whisper about girls liking girls as if that was an insult.
Despite all the trauma and drama, a sweetly endearing, naive optimism still shines through Watson’s work. Collectively, the book reads like a yearbook message from the author that says that even through all the heartbreak, this could really be the best year ever. Unloveable was first published on the back page of Bust magazine and has continued for over a decade. Fantagraphics has collected the strips in three volumes- all available now at an awesomely discounted price. So after adding them all to your cart, throw on a pair of a high-waisted acid wash jeans, put your hair in a scrunchie, spritz yourself with Love’s Baby Soft and get ready for the ultimate slumber party with your new BFF.
Photographers aren’t allowed inside the U.S. military’s Guantanamo detention camp; but courtroom artist Janet Hamlin is, and she provides the public one of the very few glimpses inside it. In her humanizing drawings, child soldier Omar Khadr becomes a man, unseen even to himself; and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, beard dyed with berries, confesses to 9/11, among a multitude of terrorist acts, post-waterboarding. The workaday environment of the reporters is juxtaposed with the prisoners’ cells, and chairs with restraints. This collection of Hamlin’s work is a powerful visual record of one of the darkest chapters of American history.
Irreverent Texan Frank Stack arguably created the first underground comic, in which Jesus confronts the venality of 1960s America. Over the next half-century, the teacher and cartoonist’s fine-lined pen created nostalgia pieces; scathing satires of whitebread neuroses; fine artist biographies; and set down an Amazonian battle of the sexes, among many others tales and topics. This book collects the “best of the rest,” and, taken as a whole, lampoons the strange world of men.
Virgil Partch is a comedic mad scientist constantly mixing a concoction of equal parts wonky surrealism and truthful introspection. VIP: The Mad World of Virgil Partch collects comic strips, original art, personal notes, photographs, and everything you need to do the deep dive into the dome of a straight-up frantic “gag-man.”VIP is also a coffee table book that serves as the lightly-treaded trailhead that connects classic screwballs like Basil Wolverton and Will Elder to derisive contemporaries like Joan Cornellà. Partch’s work is outlandish, cutting, and flamboyant. This fun, fitting tribute is worth every penny.