2020 started out strong at Andrews McMeel Publishing, but once COVID hit we quickly had to abandon the office and adapt to coordinating deadlines, projects, and acquisitions from home. It was chaotic at first, and at times very stressful, but fortunately the books and authors themselves made the whole experience worthwhile and fun. Instead of hiding out in a conference room or stairwell, I could take phone calls openly, go for walks in the park every lunch break to get some fresh air/ideas, and dig out a previously unused corner of the basement to carve out a 24/7 editorial bunker. I was also named a Publisher’s Weekly Star Watch honoree, which led to some introductions to other early or mid-career publishing professionals across the country. But most of the time I was somewhere buried in the process of putting the following books together. I encourage you to check them out. There’s something here for everyone.
Fangs is a love story between a werewolf and a vampire, who on the surface appear to be normal (if strange) twenty- or thirtysomethings, but who live dark, secretive lives. Their monstrous elements are played here for laughs, but the dry sense of humor barely conceals this couple’s genuine vulnerability and care for one another. The book itself is beautiful, a small, red cloth-bound hardcover volume that Sarah wanted to look “like a satanic bible.” We did a lot of experimenting with different cloth material, foil stamping, and even black dye on the edge of the pages to get the look and feel right. The book made the New York Times bestseller list and was nominated for an Eisner award.
Dbury@50 – The Complete Digital Doonesbury
by Garry Trudeau
This 50th-anniversary omnibus was the most elaborate and demanding project I ever worked on, and fortunately there was a whole talented team of people on hand to do it. Garry himself, of course, his longtime editorial deputy/historian David Stanford (who wrote several pages of summary text for each year of the strip’s history), and design team George and Susan Corsillo (Design Monsters), as well as in-house colleagues at AMP. We had to go back through physical archives and scan literally thousands of strips that had never been digitized, and design a program (included on a flash drive) that contained every strip in existence, along with a book, poster, and packaging. Garry also wrote a sentence summary for each week of daily strips and each Sunday in his catalog. Dbury@50 also was nominated for an Eisner award.
I Hope This Helps – Comics and Cures for 21st-century Panic
by Tommy Siegel
I once commented to someone in New York radio that Tommy’s comics were like New Yorker cartoons on psychedelics, a line that popped up on a few of the virtual book signing introductions. Talking with Tommy almost daily during the early days of the pandemic helped keep a lot of humor and lightness in those times, and we often traded off musical recommendations (usually Grateful Dead) between arranging comics, editing the essays he wrote on various topics, and working on the book design. It’s a brilliant and hilarious book that skewers capitalism, millennial consumer trends, phone addictions, doomscrolling, news overload, and just about everything else making us all go crazy right now. And there are also drawings of birds with big butts.
100 Ways Your 2-year-old Can Hurt You – Comics to Ease the Stress of Parenting
by Weng Chen
Chen Weng is a video game designer turned cartoonist in Seattle who studied art and illustration in Beijing, China. She has been writing and illustrating long-form comics in Chinese for years, and once her kids became toddlers she started posting short, hilarious comic views of parenting that I (along with tens of thousands of other parents) instantly. It’s a brilliant and lighthearted book that I highly recommend to any parents of young children.
When Sharks Attack With Kindness
by Andrés J. Colmenares
Andrés is one of the most clever cartoonists I know, and also one of the sweetest. Rather than apply his creative genius to making political statements or creating witty, relatable human characters, his Wawawiwa comics give life to inanimate objects and animals, including a whole caste of aquatic species that cheer each other up in ingenious ways throughout the course of this book. Following the foibles of a kindly shark who just wants to make a friend, the sea life in this book come up with all kinds of ingenious ways to cheer up each other and anyone who reads this book.
Vulnerability is my Superpower
by Jackie Davis (Underpants and Overbites)
Jackie Davis’s Underpants and Overbites colorful diary comics bring you into the cozy inner world and imagination of an extraordinarily observant, funny, sensitive, kind young writer and artist. She finds delight in the smallest things, making lists of the things that keep her happy, even during the pandemic, telling autobiographical stories with a great eye for detail and an extraordinary sense of wonder. If Rilke advised the young poet to “try to love the questions” that remain unsolved in his own heart, Jackie chooses to bring those big (and tiny) questions to life in her wonderful watercolor-and-ink comics.
Living With Mochi
by Gemma Gené
Mochi is one of the most popular pugs on the internet, which is saying something. Gemma’s international readership follows her work for her art and humor, and also to get a glimpse at the comic dramatizations of living with Mochi, her real-life pet pug. Mochi can be clumsy and steps on people’s toes (or faces) sometimes, but with an innocence and charm you won’t find in, say, Garfield or Snoopy. He’s all id and no artifice, and he’s adorable and hilarious. If you’re a pet owner who especially loves small dogs and dog humor, you’re in good hands with Mochi.
On A Roll! – A JumpStart Treasury
by Robb Armstrong
I used to edit JumpStart when it was in syndication, and love the enthusiasm Robb has for his characters, who to him are all real people with lives of their own. It was a lot of fun going back through his 30-year catalog to put this retrospective together. Including over 500 comics, original paintings, and an intro by the author, this deluxe JumpStart treasury celebrates 30 years of one of the most beloved African-American family comic strips in history.
Wicked Epic Adventures
by Will Henry (Wallace The Brave)
I remember seeing the sign for “Snug Harbor” while on a visit to Rhode Island to see Will Henry and a few other cartoonist friends, and being shocked that it’s a real place. I only knew the name from the visually dazzling imaginative comic strip, Wallace The Brave, which appears in newspapers all over the country and won the Reuben Award for Best Newspaper Comic strip a couple years ago. This is the third book in this middle-grade graphic novel series. Will’s characters are adventurous, fun, and refreshingly unusual. And the book includes some cool “more to explore” activities and crafts for kids.
by Tommy Siegel
When I first talked to Tommy a few years ago he had just started the candy hearts series as part of his “500 comics a day” series. I think it was to help create somethign humorous out of a breakup, and it quickly took on a life of its own. Tommy used it to reflect the ways couples are often not on the same page, and since the book was being pulled together in the summer of 2020, quite a few quarantine-themed gags made it into this book, along with a whole online dating series. The book was hugely popular and even made it on an end cap display in Target when it came out a few weeks ahead of Valentine’s Day, 2021. He’s still writing new ones, too, up on his Instagram and site.
Mutts Go Green
by Patrick McDonnell
In addition to illustrating Mutts for several decades, Patrick McDonnell is deeply dedicated to environmental causes and pet shelters. He collaborated with Jane Goodall on a book about her life, and is currently on sabbatical from the strip while he works on something not-yet-announced with (checks notes) His Holiness the Dalai Llama. This book is a collection of comics about nature and animals, featuring earth-friendly tips on how kids can take care of the planet and make their neighborhoods better places to live. Like all of his books, its printed on fully recycled paper. A great read for kids ages 7-12.
by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman
Zits has been around for decades now, and the teenager/boomer parent dynamic is never short on charm and relatability. I love the cover treatment on this one, where we used some spot gloss and blur to make the title look like its actually glowing.
by Jerry Scott and Rick Kirkman
BB3X is a special Baby Blues treasury that celebrates three decades of one of the most heartwarming, funny, and true-to-life depictions of raising children ever seen in the funny pages. In addition to a year’s worth of Baby Blues comics, this special collection sheds light on the unique collaborative process of Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott, whose cartooning magic has helped transform some of the most stressful moments in life into some of the most hilarious. The book includes a forward from Rick, a reflection by Jerry, and a special “scrapbook” section of archival photographs, memorabilia, and illustrations from the duo’s three decades of Baby Blues collaboration.
Phoebe and Her Unicorn (various)
by Dana Simpson
One of my favorite moments in this job is when, after batting around title and cover ideas for a few weeks, I get an email from Dana (usually around 2 in the morning my time) with the new cover art for her next Phoebe and Her Unicorn collection. Dana’s graphic novels are aimed toward kids, but don’t at all sell short the complexity of social relationships, joys, and insecurities faced by a 10-year-old girl and her best friend, the unicorn Marigold Heavenly Nostrils.
Ozy and Millie: Perfectly Normal
by Dana Simpson
Dana’s other series, which she wrote for a decade before starting Phoebe, is a whimsical, philosophical, and imaginative exploration of the friendship between two foxes and the other animals around them. And Ozy’s dad, Llewellyn, a red dragon with an extraordinary knowledge of history, politics, and all varieties of arcane arts. A great read for upper middle grade readers.
Big Nate (various)
by Lincoln Peirce
Big Nate turned 30 this year, too, and with style. Lincoln Peirce’s comic about friendship, school pranks, and one 11-year-old’s comically oversized ego is now in development for a new TV show on Paramount+ and Nickelodeon that will launch next year. I’ve only seen the briefest of previews, and I can’t wait.
The Spirit of Botany
by Jill McKeever (For Strange Women)
This book by our friend Jill McKeever was beautifully edited by my friend and colleague Melissa Rhodes Zahorsky, but I’m including it here since I first introduced Jill to AMP. After seeing how many submissions we get for books about essential oils and such I mentioned to Jill that I’d love to publish a book of her own botanical recipes instead, since her own work with all-natural fragrances, creams, and salves is a refreshing, no-bullshit counterpart to the new age mysticism of social media and consumer marketing. Jill is a true visionary and a polymath of the botanical arts, and in this book she generously shares not just her recipes her but also her personal philosophies on her craft, and on creativity in general.