• Review: For Robot 6's "What Are You Reading?" column, guest contributor Kevin Church says of Sam's Strip, "It was either going to be the biggest success in the world or end within two years. Since it’s all collected in one volume now, you can likely work out how it went down."
• Review: Las Vegas Weekly gives Sam's Strip 4 stars: "How on earth did Sam's Strip... fail to set the funny pages on fire back in 1961...? The answer -- provided through this complete collection of 500 strips -- is that the time just wasn't right. Well, it's certainly right now."
• Review: Thought Balloonist Charles W. Hatfield examines Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw: "Shaw is very good and getting better... With Bottomless Belly Button he has pulled off something remarkable: a 700-plus page book that doesn't feel like a stunt but rather is perfectly proportioned, intimate, and subtle, a privileged entryway into a private world that nonetheless feels universal in its emotive resonance and applicability... Bottomless Belly Button has depths. It evokes the power of memory and the phenomenal richness of ordinary experience with the sort of Proustian precision of observation and recall that alternative comics have been chasing since Spiegelman."
• Review: The title of The Washington Post's Express Night Out review of The Complete Peanuts 1971-1972 makes what is surely the first reference to Spin¨al Tap in a Peanuts review. From the review: "[These] volumes... are a spectacular tribute to Schulz's work... References to Bob Dylan's age aside (one strip mentions his 30th birthday — yikes!), Peanuts remains surprisingly fresh and timeless. Although Charles Schulz wrote these strips over 20 years ago, the ongoing popularity of the made-for-TV holiday specials... means that the Peanuts gang continue to remain relevant in popular culture. It would be a pity, however, to relegate Peanuts to special occasions only — Schulz's work should and can be enjoyed all year round."
• Review: Sacha Peet says "I finally read Unlovable by Esther Pearl Watson the other day. I love it. The drawings are great, and the life of Tammy Pierce is enthralling."
I don't buy many serial comics these days. Okay, to be perfectly honest, I don't buy any. Omega the Unknown was the only ongoing mainstream comic I've "collected" more than one or two issues of over the last several years. And even that I probably would have enjoyed it more in collected form, but it was actually kind of fun to get into the habit of buying a serial comic again. Unfortunately, once that ended, nothing else caught my eye. I have a neighborhood comic shop that I stop into fairly often when I'm out walking my daughter, and more often than not I come out empty-handed, even when I have money burning a hole in my pocket. To the point where it's almost amazing to me that, as a die-hard comics fan, there's virtually nothing for me that I want to read in floppy form. Or at least buy in floppy form. Is it comics, or is it me? I truly have no idea at this point, I just know I keep leaving the store empty-handed. But it's hard to indulge in a random superhero comic for a bit of brief, escapist fun even if I wanted to, when the comic costs more than than the lunch I'm gonna eat while reading it, and the lunch will last longer (even tho' I'm a pretty fast eater).
Which brings me to last week, when I kept hearing about this Muppets comic that Roger Langridge did. I like the Muppets just fine, but have no abiding affection for them. But I do think Langridge is a phenomenally talented cartoonist, and after seeing it pop up on blog after blog last week, on Friday I was happy to have an excuse to visit my local shop.
It's a very well done comic. I can't say I flipped over it. I mean, it's a Muppets comic. But it's the goddamn best motherfucking licensed Muppets comic you could ever imagine (though I could easily imagine a totally bitchin' unlicensed version by someone like Matt Furie). It plays to the strengths of the creator and the creation. Hell, it's not just well-done, it's impeccably well done.
Which brings me to two thoughts:
(1) Why aren't there more comics like this? What does is say about modern comics that the closest thing I can find to something I want to buy is a licensed comic featuring characters I haven't watched on TV in 20 years and have no abiding nostalgia for? By a cartoonist I'd rather ultimately read doing his own stuff, if he could afford to? Why are the editorial departments of mainstream comics so stultified that in 20+ years of Star Comics, Cartoon Network Comics, Archie Comics, etc., I've rarely seen anything as unimpeachably professional as this?
(2) Why does Boom comics (whom I know almost nothing about except that they've launched this kids line of Muppets and Incredibles comics), despite clearly having the editorial awareness to put together some solid storytelling, engage in the practice of multiple cover variants?
Maybe these are two wildly disjointed questions. But I almost don't want to buy the second issue of the Muppets because I know that Boom is publishing these (and the Incredibles) in multiple, variant editions. They're free to do this, of course, and I would expect nothing less from the vast majority of fly-by-night snake-oil salesmen that have made up the bread and butter of the mainstream comic book industry for the last 20 years (not to be confused with the fly-by-night snake-oil salesmen that made up the industry for the 60 years prior to that). But I'd like to think that a company smart enough to hire a talented cartoonist like Roger Langridge and publish a very solid comic is also conscious enough to not want to engage in the kind of confidence schemes that almost ruined the industry in the 1990s and continues to paint comics in the eyes of some as more Bernie Madoff than Art Spiegelman.
I'm a day late and a dollar short to this soapbox, it's true, like your grandpa complaining about those damn "kids today". Variant covers have been a reality for over a decade and I've rarely given a shit. But they're usually associated with shitty, desperate money-grabs (Marvel owes you an apology, Mr. President). It's depressing to see them associated with exactly the kind of comics that this industry needs: solid, professional comics for kids that don't cater to the usual genres/demographics.
At any rate, it is a pretty good comic, and a great one for the young 'uns.
A preview of Miss Lasko-Gross' new graphic novel, A MESS OF EVERYTHING, is up now at ACT-I-VATE. I recently visited my parents in California and took this book with me to read. I accidentally left it there, and this weekend my mom told me how much she liked it. "Poor Melissa!," she said. Go read the preview and pre-order, already!
"Special Nice Cosmic Hyperdeath" is the name of the show, at Secret Headquarters this Friday, new and newish drawings and paintings, also, very small run minicomics of Josh Simmons' recent stories: "In a Land of Magic," "Cockbone," and "Batman."
Between being a father myself and having a preternatural predilection for nostalgia, I can relate to this short piece in the New Yorker all too well, although unlike that writer, it's no surprise to me that the great Gene Deitch is the missing link uniting it all.
• Review: The A.V. Club gives Humbug an A-minus: "Fans of vintage Mad will immediately be at home thanks to familiar artists and attitudes, although Humbug ultimately feels a bit like an alternate-universe Mad, one 1950s grown-ups could stack between Playboy and Harper’s on the coffee table... Humbug remains a fascinating showcase for a group of artists operating at the height of their powers and inspiration. The lovingly assembled package — beautifully reprinted and filled out with extras like a long Roth and Jaffee interview — doesn’t hurt either."
• Review: The A.V. Club says "The Wolverton Bible shows the often-surprising result of [the] collaboration between a pulpit-pounding televangelist organization and one of the loopiest cartoonists of his era.... it features some of [Basil] Wolverton's most breathtaking art, and he finds plenty of opportunities in Bible stories and end-times predictions for his sense of the grotesque and horrific... for Wolverton fans, it's a must-see, and a look at a truly surprising chapter of the man's career."
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