Fully half of this latest volume of Hal Foster’s epic masterpiece — again scanned from superb syndicate proofs — is devoted to the remaining chapters of “The Winning of Aleta,” a 20-month (!) epic in which Valiant obsessively pursues his bride to be. Not surprisingly this is followed by a sequence called “Matrimony,” which ends with a newly wed queen adjusting to the luxurious, exciting court life at Camelot.
But Val’s marriage does not signal an end to his adventures, quite the contrary. In “War in the Forest” Val is sent out to spy on encroaching Saxons — unknowingly aided by Aleta, who, disguised as a small knight (and dubbed “Sir Puny”) helps prevent disaster. But the 1946 strips end with Val and Aleta unable to return to Camelot and the displaced couple journeying to Thule…
Half the strips in this volume also include the delightful “The Medieval Castle,” Foster’s chronicle of two young boys growing up during the time of the First Crusade — but by the end of the 1945 strips this series has ended and the Valiant portion resume its full-page glory.
This volume also features a Foreword by P. Craig Russell, a gallery of Hal Foster's commercial illustration work and an essay titled "Aleta: Water Nymph of the Misty Isles" by Brian M. Kane.
With stunning art reproduced directly from pristine printer’s proofs, Fantagraphics has introduced a new generation to Foster’s masterpiece, while providing long-time fans with the ultimate, definitive version of the strip.
Read editor Kim Thompson's Afterword from Vol. 1, detailing the production and restoration of these new editions, right here on our website.
Richard Sala is unlocking the vaults with "Skeleton Key," a career-spanning retrospective dramatis personæ featuring new artwork of characters from his books throughout the years with a short bio in a trading card-esque format. He's posting them in batches on his blog and one by one on his Tumblr, with more to come. It's a real treat for Sala fans (like me)!
In this month's issue of Booklist you can find reviews of two of our recent releases, excerpted below:
Cruisin' with the Hound: The Life and Times of Fred Tooté by Spain Rodriguez: "Rodriguez... had the perfect youth for reality comics. He grew up in an ethnically mixed working- and lower-middle-class neighborhood of Buffalo, and he was self-directed from early on. He went to religious instruction on his own initiative (his parents were indifferent) until a boozy priest chewed him out without hearing his story. He attended public school, discovered EC Comics, turned teenager just as R & B turned to rock ’n’ roll, went to art school after high school, dropped out to do factory work, and, most important, hot-rodded around to dance bars with his friends and then joined a motorcycle club. How cool is that? Answer: extremely, especially since all that time he was honing his drawing skills into the thick-outlined, carefully detailed style (like R. Crumb’s but without broad caricature) for which he is universally envied and beloved. This collection of autobiographical stories, accompanied by a long excerpt from a biographical interview with him, is one of Fantagraphics’ best production jobs as well as a helluva satisfying window on an era — the fifties — that American culture can’t let go of." – Ray Olson (Starred Review)
Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now by various artists, edited by Matthias Wivel: "Like many regions of the world, Scandinavia has a vibrant alternative-comics scene that’s essentially unknown to even the most well-informed American comics fan. This eye-opening collection of recent work from some two dozen artists is a welcome step toward rectifying that ignorance. As with any anthology, the lineup is uneven and the wide range of approaches, from dauntingly experimental to borderline mainstream, makes for an eclectic bunch.... The strips contain few Nordic signifiers, making them eloquent testaments to the universal language of comics." — Gordon Flagg
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new titles. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators and web-savvy comic shops are saying about them (more to be added as they appear), check out our previews at the links, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
144-page full-color 7.75" x 10.25" softcover • $19.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-559-4
"...I already have the four Ignatz issues, but I won’t let that stop me from recommending Interiorae, Gabriella Giandelli’s dark and occasionally surreal look at the drab lives of various people living in an apartment complex. This new version of the atmospheric – downright moody even – book allegedly is an improvement on the color printing [in that it is full color whereas the series was sepiatone — Ed.], so newcomers may be getting the better deal here." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"If you go to comics shops looking for unique voices doing beautifully-presented work, this is the one for you today." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"This looks odd. Good, but odd. It takes place inside an apartment building in Milan, where strange things are afoot. There’s a giant talking rabbit, for instance. Oh, those wacky Europeans!" – Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
240-page full-color 7.25" x 10" hardcover • $39.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-498-6
"This $40, Blake Bell-edited volume reprints horror stories drawn by Ditko in the late '50s for Charlton Comics titles including Tales of the Mysterious Traveler and This Magazine Is Haunted." – Douglas Wolk, "Don't Ask! Just Buy It!", ComicsAlliance
"More Steve Ditko? Why, certainly! Courtesy of Mysterious Traveler, the third volume in editor Blake Bell’s ongoing collection of early Ditko work, this one largely taken from Tales from the Mysterious Traveler and This Magazine is Haunted." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"The belle of the ball... -- concentrated, early, yet by this volume prime-time Steve Ditko." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: What? Ditko? Reprints? Yeah, there’s more of those in Mysterious Traveler: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 3, another 240-page hardcover from editor Blake Bell; $39.99. And another Ignatz series finds itself collected as Gabriella Giandelli’s Interiorae is seen, for the first time in English, in its original muted full-color state; $19.99." – Joe McCulloch, The Comics Journal
From our Marschall Books imprint comes this magnificent collection of Mr. Twee Deedle, Johnny Gruelle’s masterpiece, unjustly forgotten by history and never before reprinted since its first appearance in America’s newspapers from 1911 to 1914.
The title character in the Sunday color page, Mr. Twee Deedle, is a magical wood sprite who befriends the strip’s two human children, Dickie and Dolly. Gruelle depicted a charming, fantastical child’s world, filled with light whimsy and outlandish surrealism. The artwork is among the most stunning ever to grace an American newspaper page, and Gruelle’s painterly color makes every page look like it was created on a canvas.
Gruelle’s creation was the winning entry out of 1500 submissions to succeed Little Nemo, which the New York Herald was losing at the time to the rival Hearst papers. With such import, the Herald added a $2000 prize, a long contract, and arguably the most care devoted to the reproduction of any color newspaper comic strip before or since.
Yet the wood sprite and his fanciful world have been strangely overlooked, partly because Gruelle created Raggedy Ann immediately after the strip’s run, eclipsing not only Mr. Twee Deedle but almost everything else the cartoonist ever did.
Mr. Twee Deedle stands as a bizarre time-warp: at a time when most children's literature and kids' comic strips were somewhat violent or starkly moralistic (the Brothers Grimm; The Katzenjammer Kids; and even Little Nemo itself, which often depicted nightmares, fears, and dangers), Twee Deedle was sensitive and whimsical. Instead of stark moralizing, it presented gentle lessons. It reads today like a work for the 21st century… indeed for all times, all ages.
Mr. Twee Deedle is edited and includes an introduction by comics historian Rick Marschall. The volume presents the first year of the forgotten masterpiece and selected episodes from later years, as well as special drawings, promotional material, and related artwork.
The days are ticking down to the arrival of Ron Regé Jr.'s The Cartoon Utopia this November. If, like me, you're eagerly looking forward to the book and you're a fan of Ron's hand-lettering (seriously, he doesn't get enough credit for it), you'll be happy to see this Table of Contents Ron's just posted.
• Review: "Known to her classmates at Georgia State College for Women as 'the cartoon girl,' Flannery O'Connor provided satirical illustrations GSCW's student newspaper, The Colonnade, and other school publications while earning a social sciences degree and planning a career in journalism. Executed in the high-contrast technique of linoleum cut from the fall of 1942 until her graduation in 1945, her cartoons skewering the denizens of the Milledgeville campus — roughly drawn but formally dynamic, and often accompanied by punchy, dialogue-driven captions — are the subject of a revelatory new book by O'Connor scholar Kelly Gerald.... While her cartoons only hint at the fully drawn grotesques of O'Connor's mature fiction, they foreshadow her vividly imagistic prose and close observation of her characters' quirks and foibles-and, in their own right, they are delightful." – Stephen Maine, Art in America
• Commentary: At Bleeding Cool, Cameron Hatheway gives his picks for the 2012 Eisner Awards, selecting our Prince Valiant collections for the win in Best Archival Collection/Project – Strips: "If it’s one thing Fantagraphics knows how to do, it’s superb high quality hardcovers of collected works. ...Fantagraphics continues to give you the most bang for your buck with this Hal Foster classic series. One of the reasons the art looks much cleaner than previous softcover collections is because Fantagraphics obtained access to Foster’s own collection of the pristine art proofs, housed at Syracuse University. It’s that attention to detail and commitment that just scream ‘Eisner worthy’ in my opinion."
"This book is considered a pioneering example of shonen-ai (boys’ love), often referred to as yaoi in the United States. In a German boarding school, young Thomas Werner kills himself because of unrequited love for a schoolmate, who is in fact in love with Thomas, but secretly. Unpacking the emotional threads among the boys and their fellows leads to a sophisticated and beautifully drawn melodrama."
"Herewith a color and black-and-white sampler from a less-recognized underground of gay comics from the past four decades, including Bechdel and Cruse, Europe’s Ralf Koenig, and 2011 ALA keynote speaker Dan Savage (Savage Love; The Kid; It Gets Better). Fantagraphics promises 'smart, funny, and profound' — and uncensored."
"A serious yet sweet fifth-grade drama about several boys and girls who want to change their gender. Unlike many manga involving boy/girl reversals, this one does not play gender issues for laughs, even if gentle comedy enters the picture along with serious emotional drama."
• Review: "The seventeenth volume of this great series from Fantagraphics [The Compete Peanuts] is just as delightful as all the rest. Yes, the ink line of Charles Schulz is a little wobbly at times, but his humor is just as sharp as ever.... I’ve said it before, but if you want reading material that will make you smile and laugh it’s hard to beat this series. And I’m continuing to admire the subtle and classy cover designs by Seth. Highly recommended." – Todd Klein
• Interview: At The Art Newspaper, Sarah Douglas chats with Robert Crumb about his museum retrospective show in Paris: "The contemporary fine art world has never particularly interested me. They started to embrace me and have big fancy gallery shows and museum shows. I’m one of the few cartoonists who mainly work for print who is now finding their way into the fine art world, and it’s the choice of the fine art world; it’s not my choice. I haven’t consciously promoted myself in that world."
• Commentary: At The Comics Journal, R. Fiore uses Mark Kalesniko's graphic novel Freeway as a springboard to discuss the history of American animation: "The eponymous metaphor of Mark Kalesniko’s Freeway is almost too easy: A transportation network that once granted free and effortless mobility that’s become a morass of stagnation and frustration to symbolize an animation business that promised personal expression amid camaraderie but delivers forced mediocrity in an atmosphere of Machiavellian backbiting. Condemned to a purgatorial traffic jam, Kalesniko’s dog-headed alter ego Alex grinds his teeth to reminiscences about his thwarted career, potentially idyllic but presently in-law plagued romance, and his abortive first expedition into Los Angeles, intermixed with idealized visions of animation’s golden age and premonitions of [SPOILER REDACTED – Ed.]."
• Commentary: "I’d love to see Locas become a well-made animated television series, because I feel like Jaime Hernandez’ work deserves the widest-possible audience. But is such an idea messing with a classic that doesn’t need such 'help'?" – Graeme McMillan, Spinoff Online
This book spotlights over 100 comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels to feature black characters from all over the world over the last century, and the result is a fascinating journey to, if not enlightenment, then at least away from the horrendous caricatures of yore.
The book begins with the habitually appalling images of blacks as ignorant “coons” in the earliest syndicated strips (Happy Hooligan, Moon Mullins, and The Katzenjammer Kids); continues with the almost-quaint colonialist images of the often-suppressed Tintin album Tintin in the Congo and such ambiguous figures as Mandrake the Magician’s “noble savage” assistant Lothar in the ’30s (not to mention Torchy Brown, the first syndicated black character), moving on to such oddities as the offensive Ebony character in Will Eisner’s otherwise classic The Spirit from the ’40s and ’50s.
We then continue into the often earnest attempts at ’60s integration in such strips as Peanuts (and comic books such as the Fantastic Four), as well as the first wave of “black strips” like Wee Pals, juxtaposed with the shocking satire of underground comics such as R. Crumb’s incendiary Angefood McSpade. Also investigated is the increased use of blacks in super-hero comic books as well as syndicated strips. Black Images in the Comics wraps up from the ’80s to now, with the increased visibility of blacks, often in works actually produced by blacks, all the way to the South African strip Madam & Eve, Aaron McGruder’s pointed daily The Boondocks, and more — including over a dozen new entries added to the out-of-print hardcover edition.
Each strip, comic, or graphic novel is spotlighted via a compact but instructive 200-word essay and a representative illustration. The book is augmented by a context-setting introduction, an extensive source list and bibliography, and a foreword by Charles R. Johnson, the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship and winner of the National Book Award for his 1990 novel Middle Passage.
• Commentary: "The completion of Fantagraphics's Krazy [Kat] Sunday series also means, quite possibly, the end of Krazy Kriticism — a brand of writing that, as far as I can tell, only the Kat engenders. Critic Gilbert Seldes first articulated its credo in the 1924 article 'The Krazy Kat That Walks by Himself.' After comparing Herriman to Dickens, Cervantes, and Charlie Chaplin, Seldes threw up his hands: 'It isn't possible to retell these pictures; but that is the only way, until they are collected and published, that I can give the impression of Herriman's gentle irony, of his understanding of tragedy, of the sancta simplicitas, the innocent loveliness in the heart of a creature more like Pan than any other creation of our time.' Thus did the gates open to a flood of ecstatic, mimetic writing in which every critical impulse was mercilessly drowned in gushing praise and fervent prayers to put the comics between covers." – Sarah Boxer, Los Angeles Review of Books
• Commentary: At Print magazine, Steven Brower looks at different ways comics publishers restore and present vintage comics material, including his own compilation of Mort Meskin comics, Out of the Shadows: "For the Mort Meskin collection, we hoped that a contemporary audience would rediscover him; Fantagraphic’s fresh, newly minted approach goes a long way toward achieving that."
• Review: "I mean this in the nicest possible way but self-confessed obscurist Hans Rickheit is clearly not all there in the head. ...[Folly: The Consequences of Indiscretion] is a collection of shorts from over the years, frequently featuring the same characters, in particular identical twins Cochlea & Eustachia, who inevitably get themselves into all sorts of unpleasant bother. Definitely the type of read to make you wary of opening doors when you’re not entirely sure what’s on the other side, as Hans frequently surprises his characters, and us readers, by taking you somewhere you’d never expect, nor probably want to go to." – Jonathan Rigby, Page 45
• Review: "‘Plunder Island’ is the fourth of six oversized volumes collecting all of E.C. Segar’s Popeye-era Thimble Theatre strips.... The Segar book is every bit as good as the three volumes that preceded it – brilliant cartooning and laugh-out-loud funny gags. The only difference this time around is that the Sunday strips fill the first half of the book and the dailies fill the second half (it’s usually the other way around) but otherwise it’s business as usual. I don’t have a single bad thing to say about Segar’s Popeye, and the whole book was thoroughly enjoyable..." – Rob Wells, Comics – On The Ration
• Profile: Andrew Dansby of the Houston Chronicle profiles Daniel Clowes: "Clowes describes an eerie but common sight in his studio. Since eyes are the last thing he draws when he's working, the room is full of characters without them. 'I've had other cartoonists come over, and they've told me it's pretty creepy to see all these faces with no eyes staring back,' he says. 'But that's where I can get the last 10 percent of the emotion on the page. If I get it just right, you can subtly influence any expression through the eyes more than any other feature. They're where the character comes to life.'"
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