• Review: "Among the highlights of [Usagi Yojimbo:] The Special Edition is the ease of witnessing Sakai’s growth as a writer, artist and storyteller. While the illustration in the earliest chapters is already solid, Sakai’s linework grows visibly more assured and looser, giving the pages a liveliness not seen in many comics. Similarly, the layouts evolve to capture the quiet elegance of the Japanese countryside, the gut-turned terror of Jei (comics’ best villain) or the kinetic ballet of a samurai duel in pitch-perfect fashion. ...Fantagraphics makes Usagi look great with this collection. ...[F]or [hardcore] Usagi fans, The Special Edition is everything you could want. And anyway, with this series, everyone should be hardcore." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• List/Plugs/Coming Attractions: At Hypergeek, Edward Kaye highlights no fewer than 7 of our 2011 releases in his roundup of "Comics, Graphic Novels, and More Worth Looking Forward to in 2011"
• Commentary: At Robot 6, Chris Arrant lists the major Daniel Clowes stories that haven't been adapted for film yet and speculates on what those hypothetical films might be like
• Coming Attractions: Library Journal's "Graphic Novels Prepub Alert" spotlights Isle of 100,000 Graves by Jason & Fabien Vehlmann ("Looks like a peg-leg captain and his mates have to fight aliens on a desert island-it's a trap. [...] Jason specializes in droll yet melancholy stories with a cast of goofy, anthropomorphic animals...") and Mr. Twee Deedle: Raggedy Ann's Sprightly Cousin: The Forgotten Fantasy Masterpieces of Johnny Gruelle ("This second in [a] line overseen by [Rick] Marschall, a historian of popular culture, reprints a beautiful and whimsical-surrealistic color strip about a wood sprite who befriends two human children. Gruelle is known for his Raggedy Ann illustrated children's books.")
The Strange Case of Edward Gorey is the most authentic portrait yet of this truly enigmatic American artist and writer of macabre, ghoulish illustrated books. It is a respectful and insightful consideration not only of the intriguing pen-and-ink drawings but of the inventive, opinionated and eccentric person himself. A balletomane, cat-lover, unbelievably wide reader, collector of many and surprising objects, and mad filmgoer, Gorey had many selves. In this in-depth study of the man he had come to know over thirty years, Alexander Theroux, the novelist who has a literary genius all his own, examines every facet of this mysterious artist who left New York City to live year-round on Cape Cod for the last third of his life where for years, along with producing book after book, he found time to write and direct numerous evening-length entertainments, often featuring his own papier-mâché puppets in an ensemble known as La Theatricule Stoique.
No ordinary account could ever do justice to such an anomalous character, but Theroux with his depth of understanding, keen eye, literary gifts, and astonishing intelligence, never flinches and this loving but analytical account in its sympathy and range of one of America’s most complicated artists is unsparingly brilliant.
“Just read a few weeks ago your book on Gorey and enjoyed it very much.” – Cormac McCarthy, April, 2010
With this volume, Foster reaches (by common critical consensus) the peak of his drawing and storytelling prowess – a peak at which he will remain for most of the run of this glorious strip.
Almost the entirety of 1941’s strips feature a single ten-month epic entitled “Fights for the Singing Sword,” a globetrotting adventure fueled by Valiant’s obsessive search for his bride-to-be Aleta throughout Northern Africa, with stops in Jerusalem, the Arabic deserts, and, inevitably, a harem which Val must infiltrate. Then finally, in “The Misty Isles” Valiant meets Aleta face to face but upon learning that she has had his crew killed (deservedly so, actually, but still), he flees in anger, vowing never to see her again.
“Homeward Bound,” Valiant continues his travels, with stops in Athens (where he meets the boisterous Viking Boltar, who will become his friend for life), North Africa, and Gaul (where Valiant liberates Gawain), before finally returning to Camelot. But his joyous return is short-lived as an alliance of Picts and Vikings threatens Britain’s security, and thus Valiant must journey forth with, as his ultimate destination, “The Roman Wall.”
The final pages of this volume boast a special feature: a gallery of images that were censored for being too sexy or violent (or subject to other editorial interference) prior to publication, plus another gruesome example of Foster's art being altered for publication, all with commentary by series editor Kim Thompson.
Download an EXCLUSIVE 12-page PDF excerpt which includes Dan Nadel's Foreword and 10 strips (9.5 MB). Also, read editor Kim Thompson's Afterword from Vol. 1, detailing the production and restoration of these new editions, right here on our website.
[In this installment of our series of Editors Notes, Kim Thompson interviews himself (in a format he's dubbed "AutoChat") about Stigmata by Lorenzo Mattotti, now available to order from us and at a comics shop near you. – Ed.]
So... Mattotti, eh?
Yeah. I've long wanted to do a book by Lorenzo. For my money he's one of the most brilliant cartoonists in terms of sheer virtuoso draftsmanship who ever lived. I think among the current breed of Europeans he's rivaled only by Moebius and Blutch and I'd still rank him first. I was just biding my time.
It's been a while since anyone last published a Mattotti book in English, hasn't it?
Yeah. NBM published his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde adaptation back in 2003, but before that you have to go all the way back to the early 1990s, when Catalan and Penguin U.K., probably spurred on by his appearances in RAW, published several of his 1980s graphic novels: Fires, Labyrinths, and Murmur. I should note that Mattotti is also a prolific illustrator (you've probably seen his covers on The New Yorker; there was one just two weeks ago), and hasn't published any new comics in something like seven years.
Is he retired from comics?
No, no, in fact, he's working on some sort of huge magnum opus which we're in line to publish when he finishes it, but who knows when that will be?
So what made you pick Stigmata?
I just really liked it. His "Ignatz" comic, Chimera, did pretty well for us, it was one of the few Ignatzes we had to reprint due to demand, and Stigmata is drawn very much in that style, wild, swirly, expressionistic black pen lines. And I responded to the story, about this hopeless miserable drunken lump of a guy who ultimately finds salvation. It's very dramatic and emotional without being hokey. In its own way it's a little reminiscent one of my favorite movies, Breaking the Waves.
Why, are you religious?
Ha! Not at all, I'm a stone cold Bill Maher/Ricky Gervais "religious-people-are-wack" atheist. But there are elements of Christian faith that I find admirable, and the Bible is fascinating, if not as history, then as allegory, and of course for its language. And I think the book's themes of suffering and redemption, of good and evil, even if they're communicated through the prism of Christian thought, are universal. It's a good read no matter what your spiritual inclination, although it may hit home the most with Catholics.
The last third of the book is mostly a long prayer; is that from the Bible? I thought I recognized some Job in there.
Yes and no. It's sort of a mix-tape of religious writing that includes, as you say, a passage from the Book of Job, as well as some lines from a couple of Psalms, and excerpts from the writing of two saints, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Theresa of Lisieux. Some of which I tracked down through the modern secular miracle of Google, some of which the author told me about.
Has the writer, Claudio Piersanti, written other comics?
Not that I know of, he's a novelist and screenwriter. In fact, from what I understand Stigmata was written as a movie script which never got produced. Piersanti and Mattotti knew one another, had a little bit of a mutual admiration society going on, and somehow Mattotti ended up with the script and decided to do it as a comic. Ironically, after it was published as a comic — a decade and a half later, in fact — a Spanish film director decided to make a movie out of it and adapted the comic.
Have you seen it?
I have a DVD of it which I haven't got around to watching, or rather I've only watched a bit of it, but it sure looks beautiful, and very faithful to the book based on the trailer. It's interesting, in order to find someone with the gargantuan physique required for the main role, they didn't even try to cast an actor but hired a world champion shot-putter, who is of course enormous. If you watch the movie it's kind of clear that he's a non-actor, but given the character he's playing it seems to work OK. If it had been done in the U.S. it might have been another great comeback role for Mickey Rourke.
Do you have any more Mattotti projects lined up after that?
Comics, no, not right away, but next year we're releasing an English language edition of his collaboration with Lou Reed on an illustrated edition or Reed's The Raven song cycle, itself of course a posthumous collaboration with Edgar Allan Poe. That'll be pretty cool. And I would like to release one of his color books, either the classic Fires, which was released by Catalan Communications a long time ago, or El rumor de la escarcha (The Sound of Frost), which is his most recent graphic novel and which is just stunning.
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