Out in the world of beautiful stories, digital art, and ironclad contracts with Scholastic exists a beautiful man, in every sense of the word, named Kazu Kibuishi. For years, Kazu has worked on, collected, and made nothing but monumentally gorgeous comics for mostly younger readers that surpass all expectations of what one can expect from a colorful kids comic. I’ve been following Kazu’s career relatively unconsciously for over a decade now, buying his books, reading his web-based comics, going to the booth he resides behind at San Diego Comic-Con annually for brief conversations and signatures/sketches. Kibuishi is nothing short of a soft-spoken miracle-making machine in handsome graphic tees and well-fitting glasses. Here’s why Kazu’s work is hands down some of the best modern work in comics available:
Daisy Cutter: The Last Train
This slim book, originally published in the fall of 2004 (and recently re-released in color) was probably my first experience with the interesting genre-blend known as Steampunk. Mixing terrifyingly dangerous humanoid automatons with the frontier of Sheriff vs. Outlaw Western backdrop, Daisy Cutter was, and to this day, is a standalone testament that with a careful story, wonderful characters, and picture-perfect worlds – pretty much any archetypal story set in any overused genre can still be enjoyable and fresh. The character of Daisy is one definitely one of the best female protagonists I’ve read and I’m very thankful such a fantastic depiction appears in a story aimed at a younger audience (let’s be honest, there needs to be more three-dimensional female protagonists in younger readers’ lives), but it saddens me that this 150-page story is all there is. Selected as one of 2005’s ALA Best Books for Young Adults, Daisy Cutter can be found on Kazu’s studio/publishing house website Bolt City.
The Amulet Series
It’s no secret that mysterious realms of fantasy thrust upon young characters is a premise that is wildly popular with readers all across the age and interest spectrum – but the story has been told many times before and the otherworldly backdrop is steadily becoming almost a prerequisite for any work of fiction targeted at young adult readers. In the swarms of similar tales, Amulet rises not only above the rest but also a half-step to the side, placing itself in harder-to-define genre grounds. The books (6th slated to be released in September of this year) follow siblings Emily and Navin who, after moving with their mother to their great-grandfather’s abandoned house, discover a parallel world filled with destiny for the children. A solid and intricate plot holds even younger readers attention through the series and the illustrations are stunning beyond comparison. This is Kazu’s latest work and his maturation as a creator shines with beautiful colors and extraordinary designs for the fantastical other world. Amulet is available through Scholastic in five volumes in pretty much any store that sells books. More information is available at Bolt City.
A boy and his dog is a description that does about as much justice to this wonderful comic as saying Calvin & Hobbes is about a boy and his stuffed tiger. Copper, releasing page by page online between 2002 and 2005 is a series of self-contained stories featuring the boy Copper and his talking dog friend, Fred as they discover, invent, and learn together. Like their more rambunctious counterparts, Copper and Fred are written to appeal to a younger audience – all the while showcasing themes that could, at times, be considered problematic to expose such an adolescent audience – but skating by on charm and knowing when to not go too far down the darker paths. The stories appear in a wide range of settings, some bleak and sparse; others surreal and hyper-chromatic – all of them beautiful. The little adventures often address thoughts children could have, approaching the bravery overcoming the fear of being so small and new to a world. It’s a perfect book for children. Copper, nominated in 2006 for the Eisner Award for Best Digital Book is available in print through Scholastic. Copper is also available online on Bolt City, as it was originally released.
Many people consider the act of artistic creation akin to letting one’s mind “fly” into some proverbial hidden world in the clouds, unseen by our eyes, but understood by the piece of us that strives to make new things. Flight is an anthology series that Kibuishi collects, edits, and contributes to spanning eight volumes that absolutely exemplifies the notion of beauty just out of our vision in the piercing blue sky. Each volume contains at least two-dozen (except Volume 1 which is shy that amount by one) short comics – often experimental. There is no real theme spanning all the stories, though there are stories that proceed through each volume like chapters, except each is very memorable and gorgeously illustrated, though each strongly in the artists’ specific style. Unless two stories are made by the same creator, all the shorts will be wildly different from each other. Originally published through Image Comics in 2004, Flight, originally conceptualized as the best way for Kibuishi to showcase his friends’ and colleagues’ work, completed releasing after Volume 8 in 2011, Volumes 3-8 releasing through Ballantine Books. Over 100 unique creators have contributed to the maelstrom of colors and words that makes Flight unlike anything else. Some notable individuals who gave some of themselves to this series are: Hope Larson (A Wrinkle in Time), Enrico Casarosa (La Luna), Vera Brosgol (Anya’s Ghost), Doug TenNapel (Earthworm Jim), Don Hertzfeldt (Rejected), Becky Cloonan (Demo), Jeff Smith (Bone), and Scott Campbell (Psychonauts). Flight is available in just about every major bookstore all over. For a full list of contributors, take a look at the series’ wiki page.
If you still don’t believe me about how amazing Kazu Kibuishi is: here’s a cover he created for the re-release of a fairly prominent fantasy series:Yeah, that’s what I thought.
My pulls for 5/1 are:
- Mister X Eviction #1 by Dean R. Motter
- Action Comics #20 by Andy Diggle, Tony S. Daniel & Matt Batt Banning
- Animal Man #20 by Jeff Lemire, Steve Pugh & John Paul Leon
- Fairest #15 by Sean Williams, Stephen Sadowski & Phil Jimenez
- Snapshot #4 by Andy Diggle & Jock
- Ten Grand #1 by J. Michael Straczynski & Ben Templesmith
- Cyborg 009 Chapter 000 One Shot by F.J. Desanto, Bradley Cramp & Marcus To