When I clicked though our editors' Best of July selections, I was humbled by one pick in Comics and Graphic Novels: Nobrow 8. What was this book with a number in its title, nestled between big releases like the latest Saga volume and Big Two-published, mainstream superhero books? I began investigating.
Nobrow 8, subtitled "Hysteria" for the issue's theme, has a minimal detail page on Amazon.com. Two editors, Alex Spiro and Sam Arthur, are listed and the description cryptically reads:
The world seems to be taking a turn for the worse . . . so we let sixteen of the world's leading comic creators and more than thirty of the very best illustrators take the theme for a whirl, hoping they would shed some light.
The publisher is Nobrow Press (naturally), and a web search led me to their website and the UK-based publisher's mission statement:
Given that the company started both in the midst of the financial crisis (Nov 2008) and in the supposed 'dying days of print', our books had to be somehow different. It wouldn't be enough to champion new artists and content alone, the books themselves had to stand out, to 'deserve to be printed'.
Love it, and then a copy arrived in the mail. Readers, this is a gem. It is magazine-sized, four-colored, and as manic as its subtitle states. The first half (60+ pages) is filled with stories by comics creators"”involving robots, monsters, and humdrum life"”and then the book and reader take a turn. By flipping the book, the second half (another 60+ pages plus another cover) opens with mostly text-free double-page spreads by various illustrators; again, the layouts are impressive and range from the abstract to hellfire-fueled. Both halves challenge and subvert storytelling, with tales involving monsters, aliens, robots, the banal, and the spiraling. It's worth noting that the themes are adult, as are several of the images (in fact, I've substituted the more "mainstream" of its two covers for this feature). I haven't come close to absorbing either half of Nobrow 8, but I'm impressed enough to seek out the previous seven installments.
The design alone is a marvel"”French flaps, full bleeds, gorgeous endpapers, mixed media, and more await any reader brave enough to try a book beyond his or her comfort zone. No matter how voracious or avid the literary appetite, quality rare finds do still exist. Take a chance.
P.S. To give readers a sense of scope, here is a list of contributors from Nobrow:
Forty-five artists have risen above (or maybe plunged even deeper into) their hysterical minds to produce double page illustrations or four-page-long comics. Jim Rugg, Emmanuelle Walker, Sam Bosma, Marta Monteiro, David Lucas, Kenard Pak, Bob Flynn, Keith Negley, Carmen Segovia, Gwendal Le Bec, Robin Davey, Andrea Kalfas, William Grill, Luke Pearson, Dustin Harbin, JosÃ© Domingo, Matteo Farinella and Dilraj Mann are just some of the illustrious names who have let their hysterical drawings loose on Nobrow 8's pages.