Any journey with Alexander Theroux is an education. Possessed of a razor-sharp and hyperliterate mind, he stands beside Thomas Pynchon as one of the sharpest cultural commentators of our time. So when he decided to accompany his wife — the artist Sarah Son-Theroux — on her Fulbright Scholarship to Estonia, it occasioned this penetrating examination of a country that, for many, seems alien and distanced from the modern world.
For Theroux, the country and its people become a puzzle. His fascination with their language, manners, and legacy of occupation and subordination lead him to a revelatory examination of Estonia’s peculiar place in European history. All the while, his trademark acrobatic allusions, quotations, and digressions — which take us from Hamlet through Jean Cocteau to Married… with Children — render his travels as much internal and psychical as they are external and physical. Through these obsessive references to Western culture, we come to appreciate how insular the country has become, yet also marvel at its fierce individuality and preternatural beauty — such is the skill of Theroux’s gaze.
This travelogue of his nine months abroad also brims with anecdotes of Theroux’s encounters with Estonian people and — in some of its most bitterly comedic episodes — his fellow Americans whom he at times feels more alienated from than the frosty, humorless Europeans.
Estonia: A Ramble Through the Periphery is as biting and satirical as it is witty and urbane; as curious and lyrical as it is brash and irreverent. It marks a new highlight in an already stellar career and a book that continues Fantagraphics’ exceptional line of prose works.
• Review: "Artists of vision toiling within the gears of a vision-suppressing machine, Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson drew and wrote great swathes of the best popular art of the twentieth century, mostly in the least auspicious venues available: comic books and comic strips credited to Walt Disney.... Fantagraphics is currently collecting the work of both artists: Barks's transcendent Donald and Scrooge McDuck comics, and Gottfredson's sprightly Mickey Mouse serials. To the publisher's credit, the books are gorgeous but designed for readability rather than coffee-table displaying. This is great art you can feel guilt-free perusing in the bathtub....
"The initial volume in the Barks series is... all pleasure, a treasury of deceptively simple gag and adventure stories that fashioned with wit, irony, and impeccable craftmanship.... The longer stories here... are suspenseful, surprising, funny, and fresh... These kids' comics are far from kids' stuff -- this is for everyone....
"Like the goofy, violent, darker-than-expected cliffhangers of the second Indiana Jones flick, Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse -- especially in in its second volume, covering 1932 and '33 -- is an exhausting achievement in can-you-top-this adventure storytelling.... This kids' stuff isn't for kids, either. But it's revealing and thrilling, both a guide to what's long been wrong with this country -- and guide to what's great in its imagination." – Alan Scherstuhl, SF Weekly
• Review: "...I’d been looking forward to the Fantagraphics [Carl Barks Library] series, and I’m happy to say it’s being done right.... I like to think that Carl Barks, an unpretentious storyteller who created for an audience of children whose intelligence, ingenuity and decency he never doubted, would approve and be gladdened by how his work, this time around, is being put back out into the world." – Tom De Haven, The Comics Journal
• Review: "...[I]n this insightful and riveting biography, Avery has brought the flat-capped, sunglassed, mustachioed, Nat Sherman-smoking, hamburger eating, and Coca-Cola guzzling wordsmith back to life; a writer as fascinating -- and frustrating -- as many of his interview subjects.... Thankfully, more than half of the books pages are given over to reprints of Nelson's own work... And while Everything Is an Afterthought will bring renewed attention to the work of Paul Nelson, it's the work of Kevin Avery that resonates most as he tries -- and succeeds as much as possible -- to unravel the enigma of Paul Nelson's mind." – Bob Ruggiero, Houston Press
• Review: "Michael Kupperman’s Tales Designed to Thrizzle #7 has many more laughs than it does pages. It’s jokes that build on jokes that lead to more jokes through left turns, fakes, surprises, and nerdy pop culture references.... One premise leads to the next, like one of the better episodes of Monty Python or Mr Show... – this book is funny enough to make you crack up on a crowded bus." – Tom Mohrman, CultureMob
• Interview: David Fernández of Zona Negativa has a career-spanning Q&A (in English and Spanish) with Jason: "You don’t do comics for the money. You do it for love of the medium, for the need to tell stories in images. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. You feel a connection to other struggling cartoonists. It’s something you have in common. There some humility in it. So there are very few cartoonist assholes. I haven’t met any."
Our new Ultimate Catalog, arriving in mailboxes soon! Dig that glorious Floyd Gottfredson artwork. If you’re not already on our mailing list and like getting cool stuff in the mail, contact us to request your free copy. And if you want a tree-free version (although they're already all printed, so you wouldn't really be saving anything) we'll be making it available as a PDF download soon too.
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new title. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators and web-savvy comic shops are saying about it (more to be added as they appear), check out our previews at the link, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
"Jacques Tardi's deadpan, slightly tongue-in-cheek turn-of-the-previous-century adventure series continues: this volume contains two of the French volumes, rendered here as 'The Mad Scientist' and 'Mummies on Parade.'" – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
"Again, an easy choice for me — the second volume of Jacques Tardi’s Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec from Fantagraphics. I’m on a big Tardi kick right now, having just recently read the first Adele collection, and am eager to experience more." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: It’s been out for a while on the comics show circuit, but now Diamond-serviced retailers will have The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec Vol. 2: The Mad Scientist and Mummies on Parade, a new pair of albums from Jacques Tardi’s ongoing adventure series, sporting maybe the most bracingly downbeat ending imaginable in this particular installment; $24.99." – Joe McCulloch, The Comics Journal
• Review: "This collection of stories [The Man Who Grew His Beard] is a wonderful example of how an animator’s eye, artist’s hand, and storyteller’s vision can combine in a series of stylistic experiments that harken to a previous age of comics, but speak to the contemporary world we live in.... What’s impressive is the ease with which Schrauwen moves among various styles, affording him an extraordinarily wide range of visual tools... Sometimes looking like a throwback to vintage comics and sometimes like a clever homage to the Kama Sutra, this collection is, at all times, the work of a master storyteller." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: At Robot 6, Graeme McMillan compares and contrasts Kevin Huizenga's Ganges with the work of Eddie Campbell, concluding "Ganges #4 isn’t a quick read, and it isn’t necessarily an easy read. But it’s a great one, and it’s something that everyone should be picking up and reading. It’ll keep you awake at nights." McMillan also discusses Ganges #4 with co-host Jeff Lester on the new episode of the Wait, What? podcast
• Interview: At Publishers Weekly, James Romberger (who also happens to be a contributor to Mome) talks with Gary Groth about our series of Carl Barks collections and all things Barks: "Barks’ comics somehow flourished within the strictures he was given. His imagination allowed him to either use or ignore those boundaries to his advantage, just as, in a more interior way, [Charles] Schulz’s imagination allowed him so much play within the strictures he chose. Barks’ work could be absurdist, satirical, or farcical within an adventure setting, a travelogue, a domestic comedy while maintaining those small, innate human values that reposed within his characters."
• Profile: At Publishers Weekly, Steve Bunche, who says "Fantagraphics has done readers a great favor by releasing the first full collection of Nuts, the hilarious cult strip by famed Playboy and National Lampoon cartoonist Gahan Wilson," chats with Wilson about the strip: "...[P]eople seal off as they become adults and are no longer open to understanding. It's really sad to see happening. They get to take in less and less of what's around them and become more isolated. I mean, you go to your high school reunion and see the once-alive faces of the people you grew up with and you say, 'My god! What happened to Bob and Susan!' and whomever and it's just incredibly sad. Neil Gaiman's phrase, 'being surrounded by mad giants,' pretty succinctly sums it all up."
• Plug: "A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the comic strip Pogo. I lamented the lack of current Pogo anthologies — the old ones are practically rare books, and priced to match. Well, dog my cats, now comes a brand-new book, a compilation of the entire first year of strips, daily and Sunday, from Fantagraphics Books. Pogo: Through the Wild Blue Wonder by Walt Kelly may not be available in bookstores yet, but your friendly neighborhood bookseller would be happy to order it for you. It's a hefty volume, and will leave even the most dyspeptic Pogo fan wide-eyed with wonder and gratitude." – Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle
• Plug: Last night when John Hodgman was in town on his current book tour we presented him with a copy of Tony Millionaire's 500 Portraits, in which a drawing of him appears and about which he subsequently had this to say in part: "This makes me astonished and happy and embarrassed, for Tony Millionaire is one of our true genii. And too, look, right there on the same page is my old friend John Sellers! And Borges! And you were there, too, Cthulhu! I don’t know how those other guys crashed our party, though. In any case, you should go out and get this book. It’s absolutely beautiful, painstaking, and weird, inside and out, just like I imagine Tony is himself: the ORIGINAL deranged millionaire."
• Commentary: At Comic Book Resources, Laura Sneddon, who is documenting her experiences in the postgraduate Comic Studies program at the University of Dundee in Scotland, looks at Joe Sacco's Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde as the course turns its focus to "Documentary Comics"
At his Here Lies Richard Sala blog, Richard Sala (natch) explains this page created for his new graphic novel The Hidden which wound up on the cutting room floor and the scene it was to have been part of. He also hints at a possible sequel to the book!
Wilfred Santiago's graphic biography 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente has been named a finalist for the CASEY Award for Best Baseball Book by Spitball: The Literary Baseball Magazine! 21 is, as near as I can tell, the first comic to be nominated in the 29-year history of the award, and the trophy is a genuine Louisville Slugger — how cool is that? Congratulations and good luck Wilfred!
• List: Thus beginneth the Best of 2011 links, as Publishers Weekly names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 by Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez one of their top 10 Best Comics of 2011: "Even in a long career of masterpieces, Jaime's story about missed opportunities for happiness is a revelation, while Gilbert continues to cement his place as the Jorodowsky of comics with a vampire tale."
• Review: "Another great issue, with the continuation and ending of 'The Love Bunglers,' from Jaime Hernandez. It's a real knockout and quite touching for those that have followed the strip and these characters since the eighties. You almost have to remind yourself that, yes, these are characters, not real people! Apparently, nobody told Jaime that the quality of one's work is supposed to go down after working on a strip that long." – Jason, at his Cats Without Dogs blog
• Commentary: "I've been thinking a lot about Jaime Hernandez's conclusion to his Locas story 'The Love Bunglers' (from L&R New Stories vol. 4) -- mainly b/c it was such an incredible piece that I cry every time I read it. I even recently threatened to force a friend to read all the Locas stuff, because it's so freaking good. But then I started wondering -- is it as awesome if you read it all at once?" – Alicia K., Wordnerdy
• Review: "Readers and admirers, myself included, often think of Gilbert as the better writer of the two brothers and Jaime as the better artist. With only a few exceptions, Gilbert has been the best writer in American comic books over a three decade period. No one has produced more beautiful art for black and white comics the way Jaime has over that same period, a period in which he has been the best comic book artist in North America. 'Browntown' is one of the stories in which Jaime shows that he can write as well as draw comic books better than most and as good as the very best.... 'Browntown' is an incredible story with a sense of realism and gravity unseen in most comic books. 'Browntown' alone makes Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 one of the best comic books of 2010." – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "Love and Rockets: New Stories #2 reminds us, as the first issue did, that comic books from the Hernandez Brothers are always a welcome thing. A year may be a long wait, but when it comes to Los Bros’ coolness and greatness, time is neutral. I can always reread this and enjoy it just as much as I did the first time." – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "...Nuts, which ran in National Lampoon throughout the ’70s, ...offered a largely autobiographical look at the way childhood actually is: a perpetually confusing state of existence, in which kids are jostled to and fro by adults who don’t seem to know what they’re doing (but want to make sure that their offspring are parked somewhere out of the way while they do it).... They’re wonderful pieces of comic art..., applying Wilson’s usual sense of the grotesque and macabre to phenomena like summer camp and sick days. And they’re not all bitter either... He mixes the sour and the sweet exceptionally well." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Plug: "I’ve written at length about this strip [Nuts] before, but it’s worth reiterating I think just how goddamn wonderful this comic is, and how great it is to have a decent collection available after lying fallow for so long. Wilson captures the anxieties and traumas of childhood as few cartoonists have before or since." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6 (for their weekly "What Are You Reading?" column which features our own Jacq Cohen this week)
• Review: "Again, stunning drawings. And quite bloody! Valiant is being tortured, people are killed left and right [in Prince Valiant Vol. 4]. There's a strange sequence in the book involving another knight, Tristram, who I don't think has been introduced earlier, that looks like a double of Valiant, but with a mustache! He is killed by a jealous king, but instead of Valiant and Gawain, who are there, seeking vengeance they just ride off. Not quite sure what was going on in Foster's mind there." – Jason, at his Cats Without Dogs blog
• Plugs: At The Beat, Torsten Adair spotlights a whole mess of our recent and upcoming releases, declaring "If you’re going to ship your book bucks to Washington, it’s better to send them to Fantagraphics than Amazon!"
• Plug: "Carl Barks was a genius when it came to turning Donald Duck and company into comic book characters, and his creation of Uncle Scrooge continues to delight and amuse countless generations. Thankfully, that trend will continue thanks to Fantagraphics’ release of Carl Barks’ Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes." – Kevin Kelly, Wizard World
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