“I grew to sympathize with Ice-T”
Andy and Derek are back with another special Publisher Spotlight episode of the podcast, and this time they turn their gaze to SelfMadeHero. The guys have reviewed a variety of SelfMadeHero books in the past, but this week they decided to devote an entire episode to the publisher’s fall releases. They begin with Jörg Tittel and John Aggs’s Ricky Rouse Has a Gun, a satiric look at copyright and corporate ownership, especially as it relates to Chinese appropriation of Western icons. At least, that’s what the Two Guys assumed the book would be about. Although this premise is teased out in the setup, they read Ricky Rouse more like a Die Hard shoot-em-up set in an amusement park. Next, they turn to Rob Davis’s Motherless Oven, a coming-of-age narrative set in a world that is both familiar yet fantastic. The book’s protagonist, Scarper Lee, attempts to come to terms with his deathday (as opposed to his birthday), with the help of rebellious school companions. Think of The Wall and Quadrophenia with a bit of sci-fi mixed in. The guys also discuss two new graphic novel adaptations from the publisher, Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs (written and adapted by David Hine, with art by Mark Stafford) and H. P. Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (adapted and illustrated by I. N. J. Culbard). The Man Who Laughs is truly outstanding, and it’s one of the guys’ favorites of the week. Hine does a great job of distilling the main story from Hugo’s sprawling novel, and Stafford’s illustrations help bring out the grotesque, and tragic, qualities of the narrative. Culbard, known for his work in horror — and especially for his recent adaptations of Lovecraft’s fiction — is in prime form with Dream-Quest, adapting the story in ways that retain its dream-like tone. Sense and coherency in the narrative is always, and intentionally, just out of reach. Derek and Andy then discuss two other new books from SelfMadeHero, both of them second volumes or parts of earlier stories. In Aama 2: The Invisible Throng, Frederik Peeters continues the story of Verloc Nim, his brother Conrad, and their robot ape companion, Churchill, in their quest on the desert planet Ona(ji). (The first volume was reviewed on Episode 77 back in April.) And in Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations, Part Two: 1953-1984, historian Jean-Pierre Filiu and David B. pick up from their earlier graphic history, published in 2012, and cover events that take place between the Six-Day War and the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The guys pack a lot into this Publisher Spotlight episode, demonstrating the impressive variety of books coming out from one of their favorite publishers.