Trying to keep up with Online Commentary & Diversions while also at Comic-Con may be foolhardy, but I'll be giving it a go:
• Plug: "Reviewers will compare [Everything Is an Afterthought] to Lester Bangs’s Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, but Avery’s palpable esteem for his subject elevates the book above anthology to research-rooted valentine; indeed, the book is partly a biography of a Minnesota-grown rock journalist whose lean style recalls the film noir he adored." – Heather McCormack, Library Journal
• Interview: At Comicdom, Thomas Papadimitropoulos talks to Michael Kupperman (interview in English follows introduction in Greek): "Despite having some enchanted associations, I still very much feel I'm an outsider, and I need very much to prove myself every day. This is one of the simplest rules of life - creativity is at it's strongest when it comes from necessity. I sincerely hope that at some point in the future I will be more successful and then I will not be as funny. That's how it works."
Publishers Weekly just posted their comics reviews for July and we thought they'd make a nice post all on their own. Excerpts follow:
Celluloid by Dave McKean: "McKean’s ability to master many artistic styles and use them to present an ever-changing surreal visual narrative is on full display.... The work has a dreamlike quality throughout, sometimes confusing, sometimes nightmarish, sometimes bizarre, as shapes and people meld and twist into one another. Nothing is ever really explained or resolved, putting the burden on reader to take their own meaning away from the night’s events."
Queen of the Black Black by Megan Kelso: "This long-out-of-print collection of short stories by Kelso is an intriguing and evocative look into her early work, quiet little tales filled with realistic emotion and more than a little narrative ambiguity.... Kelso’s art is simple and somewhat 'cartoony,' but the style meshes perfectly with the book’s thoughtful narrative qualities. Kelso’s strength is a gentle understanding of the various undercurrents of longing and memory that motivate us, and these stories show that in abundance."
Isle of 100,000 Graves by Jason & Fabien Vehlmann: "Jason and Vehlmann’s story of a young girl seeking the help of pirates to track down her lost father mixes elements of grim family drama with light and dark comedy to create an engrossing story that keeps readers surprised with sudden twists in both plot and mood.... Jason’s characteristic style of animal people with minimal expressions conveys a surprisingly wide array of emotions, even when one wears a hangman’s hood showing only eye holes and a thin mouth. Short and yet complex, it’s a strong story with unexpected laughs."
Willie & Joe: Back Home by Bill Mauldin: "This time capsule is the second collection of Mauldin’s cartoons from Fantagraphics, this time covering the post-World War II period of 1945-1946.... The linework and chiaroscuro are amazing... Editor Todd DePastino’s introduction, covering key events in Mauldin’s life during the creation of these cartoons, is essential to comprehending some of the content, but other cartoons — such as those featuring forgotten veterans, lying politicians, or creeping consumerism—are universal."
• Review: "...[L]ike the best coming-of-age stories — comics or otherwise —Wandering Son is meticulously accurate in its details, but universal in its emotions. Gay or not, readers shouldn’t find it too difficult to identify with kids who feel like their bodies and their friends are equally culpable in the worst kind of betrayal, preventing them from realizing the potential they see in themselves." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "The tone of each book is very different, with the Gil Jordan collection favoring clever mysteries, narrow escapes, and broad comic relief, while the Sibyl-Anne book is subtler, dissecting the way miniature societies work, together and in opposition. Both are excellent, though, showing off the strengths of the Eurocomics tradition, with its sprawling narratives spread across small panels, mixing cartoony characters and elaborate backgrounds." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Reminiscent of the classic Michael Winner-helmed and Charles Bronson-starred The Mechanic, Tardi's follow up to his acclaimed adaptation of a Manchette crime novel West Coast Blues, Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot... delivers a superior sequential thriller. Violent, sexy, and littered with enough shocks to excite the most hardened crime fiction fan, Tardi once again produces one of the finest examples of the genre." – Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Review: "McKean has long been established as a master of multimedia imagery and Celluloid represents possibly his finest work. The clarity and seamlessness with which he combines photography with drawings and paintings makes every scene entirely convincing. It’s this hyper-reality that encourages us to submit to the dream-logic of the story." – Gavin Lees, Graphic Eye
• Review: "[Celluloid] is a story of sexual growth and empowerment. ...McKean's artwork gains greater dimensionality as his central character grows more assertive.... The pace of the story is left up to the reader, but McKean has created such lush visuals that many will want to linger and examine the intricacies of the imagery presented....Many of the pages are so well crafted in their surrealistic imagery that they could easily hang beside Picasso. McKean has boldly stepped away from the confines of mainstream comic books with this endeavor, and the result is a masterpiece of eroticism that relies heavily on intellect and emotion, rather than just mere arousal or titillation." – Michael Hicks, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Review: "If Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins exploded inside a Victorian tea shop, it would look something like [Meat Cake]... The humour is perverse, like an alt-universe Kate Bush who grew up reading penny dreadfuls instead of Brontë, the drawings are obsessively crammed with fever-dream detail, and the author has the advantage of being able to make publicity appearances dressed as her own characters, which is not something most cartoonists should attempt." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon is Brunswick
• Profile: Rosalie Higson of The Australian talks to Robert Crumb in anticipation of his visit to Sydney next month for the GRAPHIC festival: "There's a unique timing and way of telling a story with comic panels, different to writing novels or a film script. And there are seasons in the life of any artist. Crumb has dropped all his ongoing characters. 'I'm sick of them all. I'm very critical of my own work, when I look back on it I'm not especially proud, I wasn't really serious enough about it. I'm not sure what it all means for posterity, I have no idea. You can be the world's most favourite artist, and be totally forgotten a few years later,' he says."
• Interview:At Print magazine's Imprint blog, Michael Dooley chats with Trina Robbins. Dooley: "Trina's 2009 The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Nell Brinkley's Cartoons from 1913-1940 is a stunning collection as well as a detailed pictorial chronicle of the evolution of fashion and style, from Nouveau to Deco." Robbins: "I love clothes. I love lipstick. I love glamor. And obviously, so have many other women, if you look at the large readership of artists like Nell Brinkley and Brenda Starr's Dale Messick. And in the case of younger readers, at all the girls who loved Katy Keene. There probably are still some women who might want to see me, if not guillotined, then at least sent off to a gulag for promoting such work."
Hokey smokes, look at these gorgeous pages from the tribute to Johnny Gruelle that Tony Millionaire is penning for our upcoming collection of Gruelle's Mr. Twee Deedle. Be sure to head over to Tony's blog for a slightly larger view and some lovely correspondence between Tony and HIS MOM!
In the summer of 1945, a great tide of battered soldiers began flowing back to the united States from around the globe. Though victorious, these exhausted men were nevertheless too grief-stricken over the loss of comrades, too guilt-ridden that they had survived, and too numbed by trauma to share in the country’s euphoria. Most never saw a ticker-tape parade, or stole a Times Square kiss. All they wanted was to settle back into quiet workaday lives without fear. How tragic that the forces unleashed by World War II made this simple wish impossible.
Willie & Joe: Back Home brilliantly chronicles the struggles and disillusionments of these early postwar years and, in doing so, tells Bill Mauldin’s own extraordinary story of his journey home to a wife he barely knew and a son he had only seen in pictures. The drawings capture the texture and feel, the warp and woof, of this confusing time: the ubiquitous hats and cigarettes, the domestic rubs, the rising fear of another war, and new conflicts over Civil Rights, civil liberties, and free speech. This second volume of Fantagraphics’ series reprinting Mauldin’s greatest work identifies and restores the dozens of cartoons censored by Mauldin’s syndicate for their attacks on racial segregation and McCarthy-style “witch hunts.” Mauldin pleaded with his syndicate to let him out of his contract so that he could return to the simple quiet life so desired by Willie & Joe. The syndicate refused, so Mauldin did battle, as always, through pen and ink.
"More than anyone else, save only Ernie Pyle, he caught the trials and travails of the GI. For anyone who wants to know what it was like to be an infantryman in World War II, this is the place to start — and finish." – Stephen Ambrose
"He was one of the great cartoonists who has ever been — in and out of the Army... he was a genius. His cartoons are still funny and perceptive. Bill was a sergeant, but no general officer in WWII had more power than Sgt. Bill Mauldin." – Andy Rooney
During WW II, the closest most Americans ever came to combat was through the cartoons of Bill Mauldin, the most beloved enlisted man in the U.S. Army.
This new paperback edition of the 2008 two-volume, deluxe hardcover set brings together Mauldin’s complete works from 1940 through the end of the war under one cover. This collection of over 600 cartoons, most never before reprinted, is more than the record of a great artist: it is an essential chronicle of America’s citizen-soldiers from peace through war to victory.
Bill Mauldin knew war because he was in it. He had created his characters, Willie and Joe, at age 18, before Pearl Harbor, while training with the 45th Infantry Division and cartooning part-time for the camp newspaper. His brilliant send-ups of officers were pure infantry, and the men loved it. Mauldin’s cartoons and captions recreated on paper the fully realized world of the American combat soldier.
Willie & Joe is edited by Todd DePastino, Mauldin’s official biographer. Willie & Joe contains an introduction and running commentary by DePastino, providing context for the drawings, pertinent biographical details of Mauldin’s life, and occasional background on specific cartoons (such as the ones that made Patton howl).
Twentieth Century Eightball collects the very best humor strips from Eightball, written and drawn between 1988 and 1996. Included within are such seminal strips/rants as "I Hate You Deeply," "Sexual Frustration," "Ugly Girls," "Why I Hate Christians," "Message to the People of the Future," "Paranoid," "My Suicide," "Chicago," and over three dozen more. Other favorites include "Art School Confidential," one of Clowes' most popular strips of all time, which was adapted into a major motion picture that re-teamed Clowes with Ghost World director Terry Zwigoff. Also included is Clowes' hilariously Freudian deconstruction of professional athletes, "On Sports," which caused a stir in San Antonio when reprinted in the city's most popular weekly paper, prompting an advertising boycott and demands for the paper to be destroyed by local sports fans. Also on display is Clowes' absurdist sense of humor, from strips like "Zubrick and Pogeybait" and "Hippypants and Peace-Bear" to "Grip Glutz," "The Sensual Santa," and "Feldman."
Noted comics historian Roger Sabin, author of Phaidon's Comics, Comix and Graphic Novels, calls Eightball a "corrosively satirical vision of an America cracking apart, and confirms Clowes as a worthy successor to the underground greats of the 1960s." While Clowes' legion of admirers continues to grow along with the author's maturity as an artist, many longtime fans frequently cite Clowes' bitterly humorous work to be amongst his very best. With over 40 pages in color and many of these strips having been out-of-print for years, Twentieth Century Eightball has proven to be one of Clowes' most popular books of the twenty-first century.
2003 Harvey Award Winner, Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work
Download and read a 12-page PDF excerpt (2.2 MB) including "Art School Confidential," "Cool Your Jets," "Ectomorph," "The Truth" and "Ink Studs."
Our weekly strips from Kupperman & Weissman, plus links to other strips from around the web. Running a bit late this week; apologies if you've been hunched over your browser clicking "refresh" since last night.
• Review: "In Joyce Farmer’s powerful Special Exits the people are more people-like than I have encountered in comics in a long time.... It is moving without being sentimental. Real without being pedantic; a solid graphic novel that reads, well, like a novel! ...Special Exits is packed with details that can only come from observation and experience. Farmer is a close observer.... Special Exits is one of the most engrossingly human comics and, ultimately, one of the most moving... Joyce Famer has brilliantly conveyed what it is to be human. To live, to die. To ripe, to rot. And thereby hangs her tale." – Paul Karasik, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Here is Volume One of Roy Crane's Captain Easy, a wonderfully colorful and nicely designed Sunday page from 1933-35. Crane’s style is a wonderful paradox: broadly cartoony characters against nice filigrees of background illustration. The eye is lost in the pastel colors, the bold crossword puzzle layouts, the simple lines, and the breathless breezy action. The adventures never let up, and no scrape is too tight for this impossibly ingratiating and resourceful hero.... This book is more than a historically interesting sociological artifact; it’s a delight. Rating 9/10" – Michael Barrett, Popmatters
• Review: "[In Isle of 100,000 Graves] Vehlmann seamlessly takes on Jason's laconic style and deadpan irony for a genre-blending adventure with all the subversive wit one would expect from a Jason tale…. This light, entertaining take on 19th century adventure stories is sheer enjoyment. Grade: A" – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle
• Plug:Comics Alliance's Caleb Goellner recommends Thursday's Love and Rockets panel at Comic-Con: "Even if you haven't had a chance to delve into the admittedly dense (in a very good way) Love & Rockets stories by Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez, you can soak up some serious inspiration from this panel and L&R's 30 years of history. Fantagraphics co-founder and The Comics Journal EiC Gary Groth is moderating, which means the book's cultural significance should resonate beyond the fan speak usually associated with these kinds of things. If you've got a free hour, we recommend investing in this panel and checking out L&R on the floor afterward."
Alex Toth’s influence on the art of comic books is incalculable. As his generation was the first to grow up with the new 10-cent full-color pamphlets, he came to the medium with a fresh eye, and enough talent and discipline to graphically strip it down its to its bare essentials. His efforts reached fruition at Standard Comics, creating an entire school of imitators and establishing Toth as the “comic book artist’s artist.” Setting the Standard collects the entirety of this highly influential body of work in one substantial volume.
Toth began his professional career at fifteen in 1945 for Heroic Comics, but quickly advanced to superhero work for DC. Responding to the endless criticism of editor Sheldon Mayer and production chief Sol Harrison, the young artist strove toward a technique free of “showoff surface tricks, clutter, and distracting picture elements.” Simply put, he learned “how to tell a story, to the exclusion of all else.”
After falling out with DC in 1952, Toth moved west. He freelanced almost exclusively for Standard over the next two years, contributing classic work for its crime, horror, science fiction, and war titles. But perhaps most revelatory to the reader will be the romance collaborations with writer Kim Ammodt, Toth’s personal favorites. “I came to prefer them for the quieter, more credible, natural human equations they dealt with — emotions, subtleties of gesture, expression, attitude.”
To explain his take on comics, Toth would quote such proverbs as “To add to truth distracts from it,” or “The beauty of the simple thing.” He employed these axioms “to make clear how universal this pursuit of truth, clarity, simplicity, economy, in all the arts and many other disciplines really is — and has been for 6,000 years.” These and other observations regarding the comic book form will be collected in an essay based on Toth’s published and unpublished letters and interviews.
Every page of Setting the Standard is restored to bring Toth’s unsurpassed graphics and page designs into full clarity, making this an essential edition for anyone with an appreciation of the art of graphic storytelling.
Download and read a 38-page PDF excerpt (17.7 MB) with 6 complete stories.
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