The enduring cultural phenomenon of comic book heroes was invented in the late 1930s by a talented and hungry group of artists and writers barely out of their teens, flying by the seat of their pants to create something new, exciting, and above all profitable. The iconography and mythology they created flourishes to this day in comic books, video, movies, fine art, advertising, and practically all other media. Supermen! collects the best and the brightest of this first generation, including Jack Cole, Will Eisner, Bill Everett, Lou Fine, Fletcher Hanks, Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and Basil Wolverton. If the reader is expecting to find an All-American group of altruistic do-gooders, he in for quite a jolt. As Jonathan Lethem writes in his Foreword, “A collection like Supermen! works like a reverse-neutron bomb to assumptions about the birth of the superhero image: it tears down the orderly structures of theory and history and leaves the figures standing in full view, staring back at us in all their defiant disorienting particularity, their blazing strangeness.” Beautifully designed and produced in full color, Supermen! contains twenty full-length stories, ten full-sized covers, a generous selection of vintage promotional ads, and comprehensive end notations by editor Greg Sadowski, making it indispensable to anyone interested in the origins of superheroes and the history of the comic book form.
Mother, Come Home is Paul Hornschemeier’s piercing graphic-novel debut, long out of print and now available for the first time in hardcover. It secured the cartoonist’s place as one of his generation’s most skillful and ambitious practitioners, and proved a harbinger of the subject matter that the artist would go on to explore most consistently in later work: the nuclear family.
Mother, Come Home quietly studies the inner lives of recently widowed David and his 7-year-old son, Thomas; both are unable to deal with their grief directly. Thomas, protected by a lion’s mask that his mother gave him, constructs an identity for himself as “the groundskeeper”: ritual and routine, already important to children that age, become paramount to him. He struggles desperately to keep up appearances while his father, a professor of symbolic logic, becomes lost in abstractions. Father and son begin to retreat into their fantasies, but only one emerges.
Mother, Come Home is masterfully drawn: Eisner-, Harvey-, and Ignatz-Award-nominated Hornschemeier’s controlled brushwork is clean, and his nine-panel page layouts pace David’s inexorable descent into utter despair. Hornschemeier is equally precise when it comes to Mother, Come Home’s color palette: subdued but warm, which suits the story’s melancholy and contemplative mode. Mother, Come Home is a powerful work with universal themes of anguish and loss.
Hoping to further increase his irrelevance to the esteemed world of graphic novels and thus cement his status as “former cartoonist,” the saturnine Ivan Brunetti (author of the acclaimed Misery Loves Comedy and editor of Yale Press’s two essential Anthologies of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories) has compiled HO!, which collects the vast majority of his morally questionable, aesthetically confused — and absolutely gut-busting — “gag” cartoons.
Culled mostly from out-of-print work (Hee! and Haw!) and other anthologies, the contents are discreetly presented in an uninviting, funereal package of unglamorous black and white. Hopefully, this will keep the impressionable, young, and faint-of-heart unintrigued and at a distance, while those who appreciate a touch of the gallows in their humor can enjoy an uncomfortable chuckle or two before the merciless thumb of oblivion grinds us all into less than dust.
HO! further cements Brunetti’s reputation as the contemporary king of the gag cartoon, a sentiment echoed by noted comedian Patton Oswalt (The King of Queens, Comedians of Comedy) in his introduction.
Bizarre, wacky, weird, wild and sexy — these are just a few of the adjectives that describe the cartooning of Boody Rogers. Before there were underground comics, Boody Rogers dug deep into breaking the rules; before their was low-brow art, Boody created art that hit hard below the brow. Rogers’s pen and ink outré raucousness was wrapped into great stories, beautifully drawn art, and hilarious gags. Fans of Boody Rogers’s Golden age comic book stories span generations of cartoonists, from Robert Williams to Art Spiegelman to Johnny Ryan. Spiegelman printed Rogers’s work in RAW magazine and recently it also appeared in the anthology book Art Out of Time: Unknown Comic Visionaries (Abrams). Here at last is a single book devoted to this cult comics hero, collecting Rogers's best Sparky Watts, Babe and Dudley stories, as well as much more. This beautifully designed tome also includes an introduction and comic-strip appreciation by editor Craig Yoe (Arf).
I had a great time at San Diego Comic Con 2008! I've been going for about 6 years in a row and each new year it swells and festers, expands and quivers like a giant quivering zit. I love it! Here are some photos...
I really like this photo of Jim Woodring. Raconteur of Blue Collar Surrealism and Cartoon Mysticism, Jim Woodring is a hero of mine, and has been since I was twelve! He is a constant source of sage wisdom, a profitable dawning of understanding and articulating human as well as immortal folly; Jim's work continues to alter my experience.
This is the last book I would've imagined finding at Comic-Con. I highly recommend you find a copy of Kenneth Patchen's The Walking-Away World and Jim's introduction nails it.
(L to R: Dan Nadel, Paul Karasik & Jordan Crane)
Like his work, Paul is replete with useful information... it's the kind of information that escapes most folks... and if you don't know what I'm talking about you need to track down a copy of Bad News #2. I like this photo because it looks like he's giving a lesson.
(L to R: Jordan Crane, Paul Karasik, Dan Nadel & Jim Woodring)
Isn't this great!? Maybe it's just me, but I love how impassioned Dan looks, how considerate Paul looks, how mischievous Jordan looks and then there's Jim to the far right, hard at work drawing another PERFECT Frank head.
The new plan is debated in this week's installment of Steven Weissman's in-progress pages from "Blue Jay," an epic 50-page story from Chocolate Cheeks, the next collection of the Yikes! gang's adventures.
• Review: The A.V. Club "Comics Panel" likes Mome Vol. 14, saying of two featured stories, "Both [Dash Shaw and Lilli Carré] combine striking illustration with a nuanced sense of place and character for a winning mix of the classic and the progressive."
• Review: Italian site Il Sole 24 Ore says our collection of Mort Walker & Jerry Dumas's Sam's Strip is "exceptional... As always, the presentation of Fantagraphics is superb and worth sharing," according to the Google translation
Another great book that we have going to press this week, Low Moon collects the titular New York Times Magazine "Funny Pages" story but that's not even the half of it. In fact, it's about 1/5 of it as you can see from the Table of Contents below. This hefty book is the first hardcover collection of Jason work (for the U.S. anyway) and I think the back cover quote says it all.
Okay, so there you have it. This summer we are releasing two Tardi graphic novels, You Are There and West Coast Blues. Next summer, It Was the War of the Trenches.
Should these find favor with the fickle American public, I plan to keep on translating and publishing Tardi books, working my way through the Nestor Burma books, the Adèle Blanc-Sec books, and all the one-shots, until, as with Jason, American readers will be able to enjoy the entire oeuvre of one of comics' grandmasters.
If not, if we crash and burn, we'll still have made available three masterpieces of modern Eurocomics, and it'll be up to the next Tardi fan turned publisher to take another running leap at this hard-to-crack marketplace — following in the now well-worn path created by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly, Terry Nantier of NBM, Mike Richardson of Dark Horse Comics, Chris Oliveros, the late Byron Preiss of iBooks, and now Gary Groth and me. We love Tardi and we want you to love him too. When you see his books on the bookshelf in a few months, take a chance. You won't regret it, I promise.
And here, to whet your appetite, the first five pages of You Are There. The typesetting isn't quite right yet, we haven't gotten the effects lettering done, but basically, there you have it.
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