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).
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
Ooo-wee! Richard Sala posted this cover art for the 4th issue of his Ignatz series Delphine on his MySpace page yesterday. Kim's not here so I can't tell you when the issue's coming out... this summer, I'm guessing. I'll update tomorrow when I find out because I wanna know too (or maybe Kim will leave a comment), but I couldn't wait to share this.
Tony Millionaire's Maakies is one of the best and most popular weekly comic strips in America, running in over a dozen of the largest U.S. weekly newspapers including the Village Voice, L.A. Weekly and Seattle's The Stranger. The strip has also been adapted into the hit animated series The Drinky Crow Show on the Cartoon Network's popular Adult Swim. Designed by publishing's foremost graphic designer, Chip Kidd, Drinky Crow's Maakies Treasury collects the second five years of the strip (previously reprinted in the volumes When We Were Very Maakies, The House at Maakies Corner and Der Struwwelmaakies) in a beautiful, deluxe, landscape hardcover format that complements the strip's elegant and classical style.
Maakies features the comical high-seas adventures of a booze-soaked corvid (Drinky Crow) and his equally-soused simian pal (Uncle Gabby), blending vaudeville-style humor and a breathtaking line that hearkens back to the glory days of the American comic strip. The twosome also sometimes makes room for their stuffed-toy alter egos, a clockwork alligator, various other land-, air-, and sea-borne fauna, the Author and his Editor, the heavens, architecture, and occasional guest strips (by Kaz, Renee French, Eric Reynolds and others) and fumetti.
Maakies suggests a contemporary collaboration between E.C. Segar, creator of Popeye, and seafaring novelist Patrick O'Brian (Master and Commander). Millionaire has won multiple Harvey and Eisner Awards and is also the creator of the popular Sock Monkey and Billy Hazelnuts books.
• Review: Dutch blog Koen says of Dash Shaw's Bottomless Belly Button (according to the Google translation) that "Shaw proves himself a master of the portrayal of inner pain and dysfunctional relationships without being depressing, with the addition of humor and mystery... This book is one of the best comics of 2008."
• Preview: Introducing an exlusive 7-page excerpt from Unlovable Vol. 1 by Esther Pearl Watson, New York Magazine says "Tammy [Pierce]'s hopes, dreams, and humiliations are brought vividly to life in Watson's grotesque-but-touching book Unlovable. Even if you never wore leg warmers with high heels, you'll still recognize your teenage self in Tammy Pierce's unguarded, most secret thoughts. And if you did wear leg warmers with heels, well, maybe this was your diary."
• Blurb: Italian blog Nuvole Parlanti, looking at Birdland, calls Gilbert Hernandez "the king of American erotic comics"
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