Do you know a history buff with a sense of humor? That person should already have a copy of Kate Beaton’s first book, Hark! A Vagrant! Now Beaton brings us Step Aside, Pops (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95) with all new strips featuring The Black Prince, Ida B. Wells, Emperor Maximilian, racist suffragettes, and a highly disgruntled Wonder Woman. Beaton is a master of three-panel cartoons: her drawing is loose and expressive, and her humor as silly, surreal, and angry as ever. Anyone who can read Step Aside, Pops without laughing out loud at least eight times is more to be pitied than censured. Plus, most of her characters have crazy eyes—who doesn’t like crazy eyes? If you want to sit on the sofa and chortle until it’s time to catch the plane back home—you see the holidays rollin’ up, you Step Aside, Pops. (Spoiler alert: Pops doesn’t step aside; he gets run over by an insolent velocipedestrienne.)
Zachary Thomas Dodson’s first novel is a bibliophile’s dream: gilded pages, cut edges, thick paper, hand-drawn maps, natural history illustrations, and beguiling other-worldly diagrams introduce a narrative equally rich and ingenious. Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel (Doubleday, $27.95), starts in 1843 with Zadock Thomas leaving Chicago on a mission to deliver a letter to a general in Texas. But he is sidetracked—literally—by a sudden flock of bats. Then it’s three hundred years later. Paranoia rules the Earth and another Thomas, Zeke, has inherited a letter and many mysteries . . . By turns adventure, science fiction, and epic—or maybe all at once—this novel is riveting to read, gorgeous to hold.
We live in a golden age of comics. Graphic memoirs, novels, histories, literary criticism, and good old-fashioned comic strips are thriving like never before, and this fascinating collection features examples of each. Running the gamut of notable cartoonists from Scott McCloud to Alison Bechdel to Chris Ware and many others, Outside the Box (Univ. of Chicago, $26) contains twelve interviews, three of them not previously published, between Hillary Chute and these innovative artists. The conversations let you in on the stories behind the stories; you earn about the artists’ different perspectives, glimpse the rich graphics community, and come to understand the past, present, and future of graphics. Each chapter features several examples of a cartoonist’s work or inspirations, adding up to seventy illustrations altogether. Tracking the ascent of comics from the 1940s to today, this anthology is great for comics buffs and novices alike.