...and doin' the (coo coo) pigeon in this week's Barack Hussein Obama by Steven Weissman. By the way, Seattlites can now catch reruns of Barack Hussein Obama in The Stranger starting with the current issue!
Esther Pearl Watson has a solo art show of her paintings, with an adjoining exhibit of work by her fella/partner in crime Mark Todd, June 1-26, 2010 at Sandra Lee Gallery in San Francisco, with an opening reception on Thursday, June 10. More info at Happenstand.
• Review: "There's no cartoonist out there that makes better use of expanding canvasses than Kim Deitch. Literally and figuratively. The rhapsodic spreads — one, two, even four pages — he drops into his narratives are one of comics' finest stand-alone effects, and he creates short stories that are perfectly enjoyable as discrete units but somehow defy those idiosyncratic qualities to work just as effectively as building blocks in his grander books, like this new one [The Search for Smilin' Ed!] from Fantagraphics." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Like Weirdo, Raw, and Drawn And Quarterly before it, Fantagraphics’ Mome has been the go-to showcase of its time for emerging alt-comics visionaries. Mome #18is another excellent installment of the anthology series — so excellent, in fact, that it’s hard to single out a highlight. ... [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "At this point, no one should need any convincing that Krazy Kat is one of the greatest works of comic art ever created, and that it should form the foundation of any good collection. All that’s needed is the knowledge of where to start and what format to choose. With that in mind, Fantagraphics has outdone itself with Krazy And Ignatz 1916-1918: Love In A Kestle Or Love In A Hut. ... Herriman’s work probably hasn’t looked this good since it first appeared in newspapers more than 90 years ago. ... [Grade] A" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6 looks great. The script hits all the right marks. If you’re the type of reader who enjoys self-referential nods to the comics of yesteryear, Kupperman’s title sets the standard all such titles should shoot for." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "R.I.P. Best of 1985-2004 is a nicely timed reminder that Thomas Ott has been one of the world's most interesting cartoonists for a quarter century now. ... As juvenilia goes, this stuff is ridiculously good. ... Ott's work seems both old-fashioned and completely fresh at the same time. ... As a reminder of where he's come from, the impeccably produced R.I.P. is a very valuable collection, and deserves to be on the bookshelf of any serious horror comics fan." – Bart Beaty, The Comics Reporter [Fantagraphics' edition of this book is due in early 2011 - Ed.]
• Interview:Tony Millionaire talks to Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning about continuing the adventures of Billy Hazelnuts: "I'm not sure exactly how it will roll out, because I love to make concrete plans for a story and then as it goes along, learn something and then change the storyline a little."
Tony Millionaire: The reason it took so long between Billy books was not that I didn't have an idea. I actually have the first three books generally laid out as a trilogy and maybe I'll keep it going from there. The problem was The Drinky Crow Show, which gobbled up huge buckets of time. I shouldn't really call it a problem, I loved doing the show and though the first few episodes were kind of awkward, by the time we got to the last few we were really running along. My favorite is the second-to-last episode, which takes place mainly inside Mme. Duboursay's uterus and Uncle Gabby's rectum. I also did the Elvis Costello record album and a few one-offs like the Iron Man piece for Marvel, and of course, the weekly Maakies. There was also about 80 pages of Sock Monkey squeezed in there somewhere. I hope to get Billy Hazelnuts 3 out much quicker.
JA: Have you read any comics lately that you enjoyed?
TM: Yes, Wilson by Dan Clowes. It's the funniest thing I've read in a long time. I love the switcheroo of styles all through the book, and I love the way you think at first that it's just a collection of one-offs about an annoying loser who you can identify with because he's blurting out all the things you'd blurt out but you didn't want your ass kicked. I've read his more serious stuff, it's refreshing to see this accessible, funny version of his earlier work, I really love this book. I've also been reading Fletcher Hanks, this guy was totally out of his mind, you can see his insanity in his drawings even more than in the writing, strange peculiar man, I am crazy about his work. I've been going over the Popeye books, the hamburger jokes never get old. "Come up to the house for duck dinner, YOU BRING THE DUCKS." Also, I check American Elf every day for my dose of regular family life, and while I could stomach the Pasadena Star-News I loved reading Drabble, Family Circus and Tina's Groove by Rina Piccolo with my kids.
JA: With all the attention and care you give to draftsmanship, it seems surprising that you're as prolific as you are. How long does it take you to make a single page of Billy Hazelnuts, from blank page to inks?
TM: Once I sit down, it's all work, I just crank it out. The problem is getting down to my table. When people say I'm prolific I have to disagree, I procrastinate a lot. Then again, walking around or doing nothing is a good way to come up with ideas, so I guess I'm always working. When I'm feeling good I get between one and two pages per night drawn from pencil to ink. I found a nice technique to speed it up, I work at a size which is just barely larger than the print size. That way, they shrink it down and it looks crisp, but I don't have to use a huge illustration board. With pens you don't need all that space, but if you work with a brush you do. I don't.
JA: Part of what makes your art so fascinating is the way you combine the grotesque with more classic illustration in the vein of Herriman or Winnie the Pooh. Do you ever feel conflicted between these two different aesthetics when you are drawing, or does it all come out very naturally?
TM: Sometimes I consciously try to draw more like Herriman or Ernest Shepard, but my hand always twists back to itself after a little while. Drawing is like handwriting, which is why you can tell a fake Pollock from the real thing. I can't, but I guess somebody could.
JA: Baby birds in your works seem to be connected to themes of life and what it means to be a living creature. It plays a big part in this Billy story, and it also came up in Sock Monkey too, when Uncle Gabby accidentally kills a baby bird. What do these baby birds represent in your work?
TM: Most baby animals are adorable; kittens, bears, horses, even alligators. But the poor baby bird, even with its giant eyes and wobbly head, is usually quite ugly. The grotesque pig-like skin, sticky feathers, ugly open screeching mouth. The curled up shitty feet and bumpy head, it really looks like a malformed earthworm. But it also exudes this charming sort of helplessness, you have to help the little guys, and when you see a dead baby pigeon on a city sidewalk it makes you tear up like a blubbering waif, pity mixed with nausea. There you lie, you hideous mass of garbage, if you'd gotten past this awful part of your life, you could have soared in the sunlight on a cold February morning! But look at you now, you look like the worst dish in a bad Chinese restaurant.
JA: Why does Billy feel such a responsibility to help this baby bird if he finds animals to be "disgusting bags of meat"? What motivates Billy?
TM: Billy's story in Book One was about him being made, going through changes which depended upon who was cutting his scalp off and stuffing his head. First he's a fighting monster, then a friend to Becky, a demon influenced by that crazy Gator built by Eugene, etc etc. It was about Billy's journey to figure out who he was. In Book Two he is still a tough guy, fighting the animals in the farm, full of self-hatred because he realizes he is close to becoming one of them. In his rage he harms this little bird by driving away its mommy, he is driven by guilt to help it. Being a very passionate person, he takes this new responsibility very seriously, it becomes his duty to assist the bird, even though the bird is eating his "flesh" (suet, bread dough, mold, molasses etc) all through the adventure. It's the second stage of life, see? 1. Getting alive. 2. Having a duty. 3. Attaining enlightenment.
Our Aunt Judy embroidered a pillow for us: "Raising children is like being pecked to death by a duck."
So there you have it, I've spilled the beans about the whole book and series. Now I just have to figure out how to deal with Book Three, the whole Old Man Enlightenment volume. Coming soon!
JA: In this book, Becky assumes a much smaller role than in the first. Does she have her own adventures when Billy's away?
TM: Maybe, I haven't figured that out yet, but I want her to have a major role in Book Three. She's a very strong character and means a lot to Billy, just as all guiding angelic scientifical motherly saints do. Her presence means everything. She's the one who gave him the hazelnuts, she's an agnostical Goddess!
JA: Ann-Louise/Uncle Gabby seems to be almost the same as Becky/Billy, except of course with Becky being sassier and more involved than Ann-Louise. Do you think the relationships would be the same if genders were swapped around? Like if Ann-Louise or Becky were little boys or Gabby and Billy were girls? Would the stories still work? Or is there something about the mother/child relationship that is necessary for these stories?
TM: I think the mother/child relationship works for both genders, like me and my little dog "Whisky."
Even with me and my little girls, and vice versa. It just depends on the story.
JA: Have you received any feedback on the first Billy Hazelnuts from either children or their parents?
TM: Moms love the book, Daddies love the book, kids love the book.
When I presented my idea to Gary Groth at Fantagraphics he said, "Well, we don't really publish children's books." I said, "This is not a children's book! It appeals to the same audience that the Sock Monkey books appeal to!" He said, "I thought the Sock Monkey books were children's books..." I said, "No, they're great for kids, no swearing, but they're for people who remember being kids. Have you ever read an old favorite children's book and found it kind of lame compared to how magical it was when you were a kid? Well, Billy Hazelnuts is for that person!"
JA: Do you think there will be many more Billy Hazelnuts books?
TM: Yes, very many. I love these characters. I will always produce Maakies weekly, Sock Monkey now and then, and Billy Hazelnuts now and then. I don't like regular schedules, but I love continuation of character.
JA: Is there anything I've missed? Is there anything else you'd like to talk about?
• Plugs:Library Journal's "Graphic Novels Prepub Alert" for September 2010 releases features A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio ("When Fantagraphics jumps into magna, they splash big: with the 'founding mother' of modern shojo manga and a pioneer of the BL (boys love) genre. These four decades of short stories feature gorgeous art—some in color — and intellectually subtle plotting"); Pogo: The Complete Daily & Sunday Comic Strips. Vol. 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder by Walt Kelly ("As THE pioneering humor-satire strip inspiring countless other cartoonists, Kelly and Pogo should need no introduction"); and The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec. Vol. 1 by Jacques Tardi ("A pterodactyl loose in Paris! A fetching young reporter off to tackle mummies! And that’s just the first of ten volumes. ... Wonderful for Indiana Jones fans hankering for even more over-the-top plots.")
Now in FULL COLOR! This issue includes Jungle Princess battling rhino traders, a story of Broadway theatrics in “All About Drainage,” more of America’s favorite physicist/writer duo, Twain & Einstein, plus slightly cursed merchandise, Cockney grave robbers, and Cowboy Oscar Wilde.
Download an EXCLUSIVE 4-page PDF excerpt (4.7 MB) starring Jungle Princess!
Also available now:
Order the Thoroughly Thrizzled Pack containing Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 (collecting issues 1-4 in a deluxe hardcover) plus issues 5 and 6 all together for a discounted price of $27.49 (a savings of about 7 bucks)!
One day Millennium Boy decided to grab his hobo stick, his bandanna, and his Swiss Army knife, bid his mom goodbye, and head off on a quest for adventure. Joined by his best friend Steve (weapon: baseball bat; clothing: wife beater, cargo pants and sandals), they soon find themselves in a violent altercation with two other adventure seekers. It ends badly for their antagonists (“Whoa, check it out, dude! You actually knocked this dude’s brain right out of his cranium!”) and Millennium Boy and Steve become the proud owners of fancy weapons upgrades (a crowbar and a steel chain). So on they trek, and the next inductee to their group is the muscle-bound Lash Penis.
And then things start getting weird!
Readers of 2009’s Red Monkey Double Happiness Book will recognize Joe Daly’s delightfully unique stoner/philosopher dialogue and distinctive character designs, but the hilarious over-the-top Role Playing Game action (complete with periodic updates for each character’s status in ten criteria, including “dexterity,” “intelligence,” and “money”) propel this new story into a heretofore unachieved action-comedy realm. By the end of this book (the first chapter of a projected four-part epic), the trio has been joined by Nerdgirl the Archer, Lash Penis has nearly had his arm cut off, they’ve acquired a whole new nifty bag of tricks, and the menaces have become increasingly surreal and lethal. Where will it end?
Winner, Prix special du Jury (Jury Prize), 2010 Festival International de la Bande Desinée d'Angoulême
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