SPECIAL EXITS is a remarkable book, one that none other than R. Crumb calls "One of the best long-narrative comics I've ever read, right up there with Gen of Hiroshima and Maus. It had a powerful effect on me... towards the end I actually found myself moved to tears."
Tom Spurgeon at the Comics Reporter has the scoop: Fantagraphics will begin publishing Crockett Johnson's BARNABY in April 2012, almost 70 years to the day that the strip premiered in the leftist newspaper PM. Yours truly will edit the series, in close coordination with Philip Nel, whose biography of Johnson, The Purple Crayon And A Hole To Dig: The Lives Of Crockett Johnson And Ruth Krauss, will be published by the University Press Of Mississippi the same month. The series will be designed by none other than massive Barnaby fan and master cartoonist Daniel Clowes. Nel will provide essays for each volume, and each volume will feature an introduction from a rotating cast of Barnaby superfans.
This is a dream come true for us at Fantagraphics; Barnaby has literally been at the top of our wish list (or mine, personally, at least) for over a decade. The series will collect the strip's original run of dailies (, from April 1942 through February 1952, including the Ted Ferro and Jack Morley run from January 1946 to September 1947, for which Johnson consulted on before coming back to the strip for good until it's end in 1952.
To learn more about Johnson and Barnaby, check out Philip Nel's fantastic Crockett Johnson site here. Nel also has a wonderful blog where he routinely features Johnson and Barnaby; he posted his own excited announcement about the series here. What can I say? We are all EXCITED, I tell you!
UPDATE: I should mention that we are, as of now, looking for the best possible reproductions of the first two years of Barnaby, specifically April 1942 thru December 1943. If you are a collector with high quality tearsheets from this period (or later) and would like to be involved with Barnaby's production, drop me a line at reynolds [at] fantagraphics [dot] com.
JASON T. MILES: Sammy The Mouse is one of the funnest comics I've read.
I think it's hilarious, it makes me laugh out loud and I find myself happier after reading and re-reading each issue to date. How much fun is it for you to make these comics? Is the process as excruciating as you describe in Like A Dog?
ZAK SALLY: Yeah, Sammy is a totally different deal; I really and truly enjoy writing and drawing the thing. I won't say that it's all roses, there's always still the problem solving and running up against your own limitations and inevitable crises of faith, but, you know: that's COMICS! There definitely is a feeling of "holy crap this is great there's nothing I'd rather be doing" more often than not while working on Sammy.
And yeah, in a lot of ways Sammy was a reaction to the whole thing I had going on with comics up until the Like A Dog and Recidivist material; by the time I finished Recidivist #3 I just thought – this is ridiculous. If I can't find some way to get some kind of happiness through this then I ought to just give up, for real. I'm supposed to LOVE comics, not hate them. I wasn't sure it'd work at the time, but it did, somehow.
I think I'd gotten too wrapped up in that "comics are SERIOUS" thing, and forgotten what a great medium comics are for just...telling a story. That writing an entertaining, engaging comic is... as big a deal as some snooty-assed art comic. Like those old issues of Hate ... man, each one came out and it was JAM PACKED-- after reading it you felt like you'd been to the free buffet at the casino but all the food was GOOD: more story than you could handle, at least a couple for-real-laugh-out-loud moments, great characters and art, a LETTERS PAGE... GOD that was a great comic book. Pete Bagge is an AMERICAN TREASURE!!
Sammy is still pretty slow and boring compared to that stuff, but what you wrote there at the top makes me feel really good; I want it to be fun, and funny.
I think it's funny, and it makes ME happy, so...
My only problem is that I can't find more time to work on them, get out at least a couple a year or something.
MILES: As you know, I'm also a big Bagge fan and similar to his work Sammy possesses a real sense of terror and consequence. In Sammy I think the hardest laffs quiver shoulder to shoulder with disaster. Can you speak a little more to how you're making comedy with dread and horror in Sammy? I mean, the skeletal bastard is simply awful! and when Pat the rabbit bartender hammers a nail into Feekes forehead...!!!
SALLY: Actually, I'm not entirely sure I can speak to that. Again, sort of in response to how I used to make comics, I really consciously set out with Sammy to not... over-think too much (as that hadn't got me anywhere all that useful in the past). I mean, yeah-- I've got a tendency to take stuff too seriously in real life, but I don't really walk around all day in a haze of existential dread, you know? I'm a FUNNY GUY, and... I think really hard about the story, and the structure and the mood and all that; I really do sweat the details but when I'm writing and drawing the thing, a lot of it is really, "Does this feel right?" If it does you nail it to the ground and if not you burn it off (note: this is harder than it sounds).
If something makes ME laugh, then... it's right, period. Thinking TOO much about it will kill it dead (I know this from experience).
And, you know: the "terror" of life is so subjective, and so is humor.
some folks will say that ALL humor is based on suffering... but all those people are pretentious, insufferable windbags, and can go get fucked.
With that said, I think when Sammy's all said and done, what it might be "about" is consequence. Maybe. We'll see I guess.
I need to work on being more inscrutable and mysterious: it increases sales.
How am i doing so far?
MILES: I think you're doing good-- wait! Do you mean "how am I doing at being inscrutable and mysterious?" or "how am I doing sales-wise?"
• List:Flashlight Worthy polls various online critics for The Best Graphic Novels of 2010:
"Moto Hagio is to shojo manga what Will Eisner is to American comics, a seminal creator whose distinctive style and sensibility profoundly changed the medium. Though Hagio has been actively publishing stories since the late 1960s, very little of her work has been translated into English. A Drunken Dream, published by Fantagraphics, is an excellent corrective — a handsomely produced, meticulously edited collection of Hagio's short stories that span her career from 1970 to 2007." – Katherine Dacey (The Manga Critic)
"Truly the most welcome English translation of the year, this collection of aching vignettes from the mud and blood of WWI [It Was the War of the Trenches] forms a unique human patchwork, fitting for a time and place where bodies and souls went to pieces. Tardi is a skilled artist, placing his soft, eminently fragile human forms against natural scenes so dense and thick (and buildings so heavy and broken) you'd swear that the entire Earthly organism has been put to bed by war's viral infection, but the true power here comes from his accumulation of carefully detailed narratives, ringing sadly as the greater accumulation of corpses remains painfully implicit." – Joe McCulloch (Comics Comics, Jog – The Blog)
"Packed to the gills, surprising, and unabashedly ambitious, MOME 19 isn't just the best volume the series has seen, it's a shot across the bow to a format that's been ceded to fans and friends-only collectives. Anthologies, said Fantagraphics. They're still at their best when there's an adult behind the wheel." – Tucker Stone (The Factual Opinion)
Werewolves of Montpellier by Jason: "One of comics' most inventive and offbeat practitioners of the art returned this year with a story that was not exactly groundbreaking for him but still wildly fun and different from most other stories out there. Jason's books are always hard to classify exactly, but this tale of a thief who dresses up as a werewolf (it helps scare people, which helps him pull off his crimes) is one of his most intriguing." – John Hogan
A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio: "Few creators in the 60-year history of Japanese manga are more important than Moto Hagio, one of the cohorts of the so-called 'Magnificent Forty-Niners' who revolutionized the shoujo genre in the 1970s. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories features a thoughtfully chosen selection of 10 short tales translated by Matt Thorn and published in lavish, oversized hardcover. The title story in particular offers a rare treat, its implacable, mythological cruelty rendered in soft-focus color." – Casey Brienza
• Review: "I finally read Special Exits last weekend. And I am here to tell you: It was tough. It was not fun. But it was truthful. It was specific. And it ... helped. In this, it was utterly unlike the book on grieving that a well-meaning relative pressed into my hands. That book's blandishments felt feathery and abstract; they had nothing to do with Pop, or with how I felt about him. Special Exits, on the other hand, is all about specificity. Farmer captures the tiniest, most mundane — and at times ugliest — details of caring for someone you love, and watching them pass from you. It's bracingly clear-eyed and unsentimental... Her pages and panels seem crowded with detail — deliberately and effectively so, to mirror the way her parents' house, and their lives, fall steadily into clutter and disrepair." – Glen Weldon, NPR
• Plug: "The latest from Fantagraphics... is Special Exits, a graphic novel from 71-year-old Joyce Farmer. Debut book it may be but she’s no newbie: Farmer was part of the whole underground comix scene in the time of R. Crumb... It’s the kind of memoir you can sit alongside Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, or anything Harvey Pekar: a story about her elderly parents’ slow decline." – The Gosh! Comics Blog
• Review: "Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition... is the perfect collection for neophytes to the series — it starts from the top, and introduces many of Sakai’s running cast, including the titular wandering samurai rabbit and a selection of his friends, enemies, and allies-of-convenience. The high-glossy, bright-white pages make Sakai’s finely detailed, heavily Japanese-inspired black-and-white art pop off the page, and the collection covers enough of his work to show how he’s evolved as an artist, from the early days when he was finding his feet to art that looks much like what he’s producing today." – The A.V. Club 2010 Holiday Gift Guide
• Plug: "Stan Sakai has been drawing his funny-animal samurai series Usagi Yojimbo for upwards of 25 years now. Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition collects the first 38 issues of Usagi's own comics and various other early stories in which he appeared, along with a ton of bonus features and an extensive interview with Sakai — 1200 pages of ronin rabbit action in all, presented as a two-volume hardcover set in a slipcase." – Douglas Wolk, TIME/Techland "Comics Geek Gift Guide 2010"
• Review: "[Jason's] comics are consistently funny and heartfelt, but tinged with a particular brand of melancholy. [...] The new collection, What I Did, takes the first three albums Fantagraphics translated and published in English. The first piece, 'Hey Wait...' is a real heartbreaker. [...] The second album, 'Sshhhh!' is a collection of wordless strips about a bird in a tweed jacket, and his tribulations as a character through life. [...] The strips delicately and comically depict the absurdities of modern existence... The last story, 'The Iron Wagon,' is an adaptation of a Norwegian mystery novel. [...] It’s great stuff, and like all of Jason’s stuff it’s deeply humanist." – Ao Meng, The Daily Texan
• Plug: "Jason's silent comics are so great. The monster ones in Almost Silent and 'Hey Wait' in What I Did especially. They are funny and sad and those are the two things a person wants." – Atomic Books "Holiday Picks"
• Review: "...[Four Color Fear] will... blow your fucking head up. [...] Trying to describe what makes many of these comics strange would take too long. Weird characters, odd behavior, no real logic, the list is endless. What makes this shit gold is the art. [...] Flipping through this it's hard not to think to yourself, 'How did I not know about this until now? Why didn't anyone tell me?' There's a gallery of glossy cover art in the center that is flat out some of the best art I've ever seen." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Overall, the experience of joining this large fellow on his life’s journey is a delight, if a fairly short one. [Set to Sea]’s a small book in length as well as size, able to be read in a single sitting, but it’s good enough that it invites multiple journeys through its pages, allowing explorers to marvel at the fluid movement of the characters, the chaos of an inter-ship battle, the choppy waves and calm harbors, the joys of a life lived and savored." – Matthew J. Brady, Warren Peace Sings the Blues
• Plug: "Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons is as mammoth and daunting a career retrospective as anyone could wish for: a gorgeous three-volume set encompassing a thousand-plus of the macabre cartoonist's drawings, as well as additional features including a handful of short stories he also wrote for Playboy. It's beautifully designed, too — the slipcase itself involves a perfectly Wilsonian gag." – Douglas Wolk, TIME/Techland "Comics Geek Gift Guide 2010"
• Profile: "Throughout the 1990s [Peter] Bagge devoted himself almost completely to a comic book called HATE, the success of which brought him other opportunities, as well as a key choice: 'If I really wanted to play it safe after achieving a modicum of success I would have devoted myself to doing the same thing for life.' Instead, Bagge chose to take on new subjects and continued to experiment. [...] Bagge taught a course at Seattle University last winter. He recommends that students interested in comics and graphic novels visit Fantagraphics Bookstore in Georgetown, as their selection is interesting and outside the mainstream." – Cambray Provo, The Spectator (via The Comics Reporter)
CYI is playing a show this Friday, Dec. 4, at the Sunset Tavern in Seattle to celebrate. Also on the bill: the great singer-songwriter (and known comics fan) Barbara Manning (playing her first Seattle show in almost 10 years!) and Seattle's Midday Veil. Get more info on the show and RSVP on Facebook. Don't miss it!
We paid tribute to the sudden death of our friend and Sub Pop executive Andy Kotowicz in October, and those of you who live in Seattle know how much Andy's story has reverberated throughout the community. This Saturday night, the Showbox at the Market is hosting an all-star benefit show that reflects how much Andy meant to the community. In addition to appearances by legendary SubPop mainstays Mudhoney (featuring Rock God and former longtime Fanta employee Mark Arm) and recent signees Shabazz Palaces, many acts that Kotowicz was instrumental in signing are stepping up, including Pissed Jeans, Wolf Eyes, Michael Yonkers, A-Frames/AFCGT, Fruit Bats, and Vetiver. At $20 (with all proceeds to benefit the Andy Kotowicz Family Foundation), you can't ask for a better deal for a better cause. Check it out.
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