As expected, a Huizenga-heavy Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days is a downright sadistic journey through the lives of its titular characters, playing out like fragments of a fairytale, had the rawer stories of yesteryear from the likes of the Brothers Grimm been followed to their logical conclusions in the context of our hyper-graphic society, rather than having been hijacked by the likes of Walt Disney. ... The book succeeds rather well as both an introduction to the artist’s work and as a standalone art book. It’s simultaneously lush and sparse and terrifying and wonderful." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Plug: "Ganges #3... [is] a journey through what's still adding up to be considerably less than a day in the life of observant Glenn Ganges, the narrative eye diving in and out of memories and perceptions and impressions and all the stuff that makes up human experience, serving to summarize all of Huizenga's experiments in comics storytelling so far. It's not what happens here but how it happens, the 'how' alone revealing the complexities of the person, a biography of craft-as-occasion, the hundred revelations to a man remaining still. Jokes too, and real police action." – Joe McCulloch, Jog - The Blog
• Plug: "Ganges #3:... Kevin Huizenga is just a terrific creator. I'd not be too far off comparing him to someone like Paul Grist, a real master of the page and composition, even if the styles and tones are wildly different. Grist is bombast and insanity and Huizenga is meditative and beatific." – "Lydia Park," The Rack (she's fictional, but that has to be someone's opinion, at least partly, right?)
• Plug: "Ganges #3... The likely book of the week in a very, very, very strong week overall. I don't think people will fall in love with this Kevin Huizenga effort the way they did the first two (and particularly the first one) in this great-looking Ignatz series, but it's as challenging and rewarding a read as those two initial books." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Plug: "Kevin Huizenga knocks it out of the park once more in this third issue of his ongoing Ignatz series from Fantagraphics. ...Huizenga manages to make the most mundane material come alive with his ingenious layouts and penetrating insight. I've never seen insomnia portrayed so agonizingly accurately or inventively. Seriously, to try to capture these kinds of everyday emotions and experiences in prose as well as he does here would be nigh-impossible." – Chris Mautner's "Pick of the Week," Robot 6
• Plug: "Ganges #3... [is] deliciously inventive... if you doubt that a story about someone trying to fall asleep could be fascinating to read and look at, do yourself a favor and have a look at it." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
Now available from Desert Island, this signed screenprint featuring Pim & Francie artwork by Al Columbia is limited to an edition of 60. Each print is individually hand-dyed in tea and oven-baked (seriously) for that aged look and unique textural variations on each print. Only 30 bucks!
• Review: "[Pim & Francie]'s spine calls its contents 'artifacts and bone fragments,' as if they're what's left for a forensic scientist to identify after a brutal murderer has had his way with them; Columbia obsessively returns to images of 'bloody bloody killers.' ... Many of the pieces are just one or two drawings, as if they've been reduced to the moment when an idyllic piece of entertainment goes hideously awry. But they're also showcases for Columbia's self-frustrating mastery: his absolute command of the idiom of lush, old-fashioned cartooning, and the unshakable eeriness of his visions of horror." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "With [Pim & Francie], Al Columbia has created not only one of the more unsettling works of horror in the medium of comics, but it also happens to be one of the greatest myth-making objects... Whether Columbia planned more complete stories for any of the efforts collected here is an interesting question, but for my money he has instead come up with dozens of nightmarish scenarios that have a greater cumulative effect by skipping set-ups or endings. The ending, one suspects, is always going to be a variation of horrific death and dismemberment." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
• Review: "[Dan Nadel:] Reading Pim & Francie is an apocalyptic experience — as if Columbia is demolishing both his own work and the idea of 'cartooning' in general. I found it exhilarating and terrifying. ... [Tim Hodler:] ...The fact that so many of these grotesque stories and vignettes don't really resolve contributes to the reader's growing sense of unease. ... Al Columbia's comics... really bring out the surreal terror already buried within cartoon imagery. ... [Frank Santoro:] Pim and Francie's adventure struck a chord in me that's been dormant for a long time. A haunting wonder, perhaps? A curiosity of the unknown that, when found, rattles one to the core?" – Comics Comics critics' roundtable
• Video: Visa denial (for shame!) forced Gene Deitch to deliver his keynote address to China's Xiamen International Animation Festival by video; Cartoon Brew shares the clip along with the text of the speech Gene would have given in person
• Hooray for (the French equivalent of) Hollywood: Comix 411 takes a look at Luc Besson's in-production film adaptation of Jacques Tardi's Adèle Blanc-Sec (which Kim flogged about a few weeks ago); for the Francophones among you, TF1 has some behind-the-scenes video footage
Al’s always working on something new and amazing, whether it’s music, filmmaking, comics, or in this case, painting. Al showed me a photo of this new painting he was working on and I became immersed in the labyrinth of frayed facade and haunting beauty. We were proud to feature it as the centerpiece of the new issue of Diamond Comics.
To commemorate the release of Al Columbia’s new book, Floating World has teamed with the artist to produce a limited edition series of archival prints of this latest painting, Toyland. The giclee prints are just $200 each, printed on museum quality paper measuring 18″x24″; the artwork is 15″x20″.
We only made 25 copies of this incredible image, and each was signed and numbered by the artist at his recent book release party at the Fantagraphics store. Orders will be filled in numerical order starting with number 3 of 25 (#1 and #2 already sold). They will be shipped securely in a tube. Click on the paypal link below to place your order."
• Review: "Monte Schulz has proven that his father isn’t the only Schulz with considerable storytelling talent. This Side of Jordan is a strong vision of the American Heartland at a time when America was a little less jaded, yet many in the country had already developed a malaise of directionlessness. Schulz manages to capture a moment in history, a piece of humanity in transition. It’s bleak, but funny, and smartly written. It may not have any pictures, but readers of good fiction should appreciate what Schulz has accomplished." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Hans Rickheit’s The Squirrel Machine, published by Fantagraphics Books, is a beautiful 179 page hard cover graphic novel. ... Much is left to mystery in this book. We can let Rickheit’s exquisite drawings, with their ornate detail and patterning, speak for themselves. ... This is for mature readers as well as discriminating ones. And it’s also for those who love a good coming-of-age story. ... Very romantic and strange at the same time, like any good coming-of-age tale. Primarily, this is adult, dark and disturbing work provided to you in healthy doses." – Henry Chamberlain, Newsarama
• Review: "Johnny Ryan draws the bad pictures. Unapologetically and lots of ‘em and I hope to god he never stops. He has consistently put out pure and uncensored strips, cartoons, and books that defy every politically correct bone in your body. Drawings that cock-slap America. His new book is out. It’s called Prison Pit and it kinda’ sorta’ kicks serious ass. ... The story definitely puts the GORE in phantasmagorical as characters twist and mutated into strange new forms while pounding the stuffing out of each other. ... Put plain, in Prison Pit, Ryan creates art out of the steaming piles of human waste that litter our cultural landscape. The bodies and excrement are grist for his mill. He erects mountains of shit and semen, carving the faces of sacred cows in them, and then sets them afire so even if you can’t see the work… you can smell it from miles away." – Jared Gniewek, Graphic NYC
• Review: "[Pim & Francie] isn't a collection of [Al Columbia's] work up till now..., but more a collection of what 'might have been' — it's uncompleted stories and art featuring Columbia's two naif-child characters, forever hurtling into one dangerous situation after another but never reaching any conclusion. It's probably worth noting that a good deal of the pages are torn or pasted back together, the victims, no doubt, of Columbia's perfectionism. It's the sort of thing that will frustrate some, but it does offer an elliptical, sideways path into Columbia's world, which perhaps makes the journey all that more frightening." – Chris Mautner, "Pick of the Week," Robot 6
• Interview: Tim O'Shea talks to Monte Schulz about the latter's novel This Side of Jordan: "Taken all together, no single element was the most critical because I believe everything had to work together, all forms of language, for instance: poetic, lyrical, narrative, dialogue. The way the characters speak in This Side of Jordan was especially important, given that I mix ordinary dialogue with lyrical exposition and both rural and Jazz Age slang."
• History: At Bleeding Cool, Rich Johnston offers up the groundbreaking "Gays in Comics" article by Andy Mangels from Amazing Heroes #143 (June 15, 1988) as a 2-part PDF download, with commentary
• Film: Lilli Carré's animated short Head Garden plays at the San Francisco International Animation Festival this weekend; more info at Lilli's blog
• Theory in action: At Blog Flume, Ken Parille applies an Ivan Brunetti cartooning principle to a 1970s issue of The Avengers
...and Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days by Al Columbia, which critics call "a fractured masterpiece," "stunning," and "messed up," and Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter declares "the book of the week"!
Visit the links above to check out descriptions, previews and reviews, contact your local comickery to confirm availability, and then hie thee thither!
• Review: "The different techniques — ink on paper, watercolor, pencil, black or color, collage, digital manipulation, minimalist drawing, patchwork, cartoony lines... — associated to the different strategies and presences of 'comics' elements in these variations will make us wonder, on the one hand, on a progressive dilution of any formal determination in relation to this art (bringing it closer, thus, to freer or more conceptual artistic disciplines, in which the gesture is more important than, say, talent, virtuosity, technical prowess), and, on the other hand, in the phantasmatical emergence of an unifying idea (a name: 'abstract comics'), but which is, in the last instance, irreducible to something directly analyzable." – Pedro Vieira de Moura, SuccoAcido
• Review: "I wish to add my voice to the chorus of those who really, really like Johnny Ryan's left-hand turn into violent fantasy with the promise of more to come, Prison Pit. ... Prison Pit should help anyone paying attention to appreciate how carefully Ryan designs and executes his work. You could not achieve the gruesome effects and consistent energy Ryan does here without being absolutely on top of that style... Ryan's general intelligence — I think he's one of the smartest cartoonists — is also on display in how quickly he picks up the rhythms of the kind of sprawling manga and art-comics fantasies that this book frequently recalls. ... Crucially, I never knew exactly where Ryan was headed but every scene in Prison Pit seemed to flow naturally from the previous one right up to the brutally funny, icky and appropriate ending. I hope there are ten more." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Unlike anything Ryan's done thematically, or really, unlike anything Fantagraphics has published before, Prison Pit is a non-stop action comic. It's pretty successful in that regard, with imaginative character designs and some surprising battles, full of many odd transformations and characters surviving the loss of limbs, even a head. And although the genre is different, Ryan can't seem to deviate from a fascinating mix of sex and violence and bodily fluids." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
• Plug: "[Pim & Francie] is an arrangement of drawings — sometimes preparations for drawings — generally honed in on the journey of two old-timey animation-looking kids. Sometimes there's dialogue, sometimes there's 'scenes,' but most of the work's interest comes from wrenching you though time and space as the narrative stretches just thin enough to part in spots, only to gum together again for a little while, until it's pulled again." – Joe McCulloch, Jog - The Blog
• Things to see: Several vintage Jim Flora illustrations (including possibly some previously unpublished ones) ran in last Sunday's UK Telegraph Sunday jazz supplement — the Jim Flora Art blog has a link to a PDF
A piping hot dish of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "...[T]his shaggy-haired collection of 15 years’ worth of artful zines and comics [Like a Dog]... reads at times like a history of psychological warfare. [Zak] Sally... tends toward richly dark, semiautobiographical, and tightly etched tales of tension and self-recrimination. Creepy dreams and images of anatomical self-analysis are recurring themes, along with the general sense of transience that marked Sally’s life while relentlessly touring with Low... At times the book... breaks out of that shell to address topics that are usually no lighter in tone though, as with his excellent retelling of Dostoyevski’s imprisonment, they benefit from the change in perspective. The art is equally claustrophobic when not downright disturbing. Revealing and witty, even when mired in darkness." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "The Cold Heat material from Jones, Santoro, and Vermilyea is... imaginative and, particularly with Vermilyea at the drawing table, sharply delineated, as is Vermilyea's delightfully sick solo material. Josh Simmons impresses with his blackly comic strips... Tim Hensley kills it as always with the concluding chapters in his Wally Gropius saga, featuring peerlessly communicated body language perhaps the greatest anti-climax in comics history. I think this is some of the tightest material we've seen yet from Sara Edward-Corbett... Lilli Carré is alarmingly good at depicting male lust. Nate Neal's not-so-instant-karma piece in Vol. 16 is explicit and haunting. Dash Shaw is a restless talent, albeit so restless he never seems to settle down even in the middle of any given strip." – Sean T. Collins on Mome Vols. 14, 15 & 16
• Review: Lene Taylor of the I Read Comics podcast wonders if the humor in Jason's Low Moon exists in an alternate world (beware of spoilers)
• Review: Google Translate creates poetry out of this Portuguese review of Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron by Daniel Clowes at O Recíproco Inverso: "The art that is what Daniel Clowes you do best: people ugly. All the characters are people from day to day, dark circles, old-fashioned clothes, hair loss... out the freaks that appear, like the girl in the form of potato or the dog itself without holes, op. You see, the Daniel Clowes does not draw badly, he draws very well what he wants to show. That is, ugly people. I will not give star ratings do not pro book, this is very scrotum. Just know that it's cool."
• Plug: "One hell of a messed-up book. ... Pim & Francie are Columbia's pet subjects — a pair of cute kids who are always stumbling into horrific nightmare scenarios. This isn't quite a collection of stories about them: it's a collection of Columbia's rough and finished materials concerning them that keeps veering toward storyhood, then jerking the steering wheel and plunging over the nearest cliff." — Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
• Plug: Chris Mautner of Robot 6 rediscovers Zero Zero by way of our 99 Cent Comics sale (issues are selling out fast): "Re-reading this stuff, it really startles me just how good and how ignored this series was and continues to be. I mean, the level of talent in these pages is staggering. Kim Deitch's Search for Smilin' Ed! Dave Cooper's Crumple! Richard Sala's The Chuckling Whatsit! Joe Sacco's Christmas with Karadsic! Not to mention Max Andersson, Skip Williamson, Mack White, Sam Henderson, Michael Kupperman, David Mazzuchelli and so many more. This really was the best anthology of the 90s, bar none."
• Preview: The Comics Reporter spills the beans on one of our 2010 releases: Drew Weing's Set to Sea