• 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
Unfortunately, the Al Columbia event at Desert Island this Friday has been cancelled. We apologize for any inconvenience. That said, pick up PIM & FRANCIE this week at Desert Island or your local comic book store / bookstore of choice! It's a killer.
See a slideshow of the entire exhibit (and more photos) here (or just browse here). Mike Allred was there but I missed him; hopefully more photos will turn up and we'll share those when we get them. Much fun was had by all; thanks to everybody who came out, and to Al for making the trip (and for kicking off volume 3 of my Yoda sketchbook). The show's up through December 9, so even if you missed the opening, come on down and check it out. Good pieces remain at very reasonable prices!
Online Commentary & Diversions, now with more Tonya Harding than ever:
• Review: "Occasionally, there are works of art or literature that defy simple classification. The brain breaks upon them like waves and they give up different secrets with each tide but never all the secrets and never all at once. These creations challenge as much as they entertain and ask for obsession as toll on the road to understanding. The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit is just such an enigma. ... Surreal, gorgeous, and both satisfying and confounding, The Squirrel Machine is a hypnotic, occasionally repulsive, always entertaining, and wildly creative graphic novel. It does not invite rereading so much as demands it, and each encounter reveals new and different details and interpretations. This book is a wonderful mystery, a basket of questions, a wealth of enigmas, and it looks utterly arresting every step of the way." – Christian Zabriskie, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Opinion: At Comics Comics, Dash Shaw has an interesting proposal for colleges that teach comics: "Instead of hiring teachers based on their achievements (and many of the current teachers are geniuses, no doubt about it), hire people who previously worked for many years in a now-defunct house style. Someone who drew Archie for years and is now selling their originals at Comic Con? Hire them."
This gorgeous grimoire is part alchemy, part art book, part storybook, part comic book, and part conceptual art from the pen of Al Columbia, a longtime fan favorite contributor to comics anthologies like Zero Zero, Blab!, and more recently, Mome. Collecting over a decade’s worth of ‘artifacts,’ excavations, comic strips, animation stills, storybook covers, and much more, this broken jigsaw puzzle of a book tells the story of Pim & Francie, a pair of childlike, male and female imps whose irresponsible antics get them into horrific, fantastic trouble. Their loosely defined relationship only contributes to the existential fear that lingers underneath the various perils they are subjected to. Columbia’s brilliant, fairytale-like backdrops hint at further layers of reality lurking under every gingerbread house or behind every sunny afternoon. Never have such colorful, imaginative vistas instilled such an atmosphere of dread, and with such a wicked sense of humor.
This is a comprehensive collection of Columbia’s Pim & Francie work, including paintings, comics, character designs, and much more, all woven into something greater than the sum of its parts, with Pim & Francie careening from danger to danger, threaded together through text and notes by the artist.
This is the first book collection by Columbia, a well-regarded talent amongst longtime fans of the alternative comic book scene, and one who will thrill an entirely new audience with the singular, inspired, fully-realized fantasies within Pim & Francie.
"The comics definition of gestalt, Pim & Francie may appear to be a book of random jottings, but don't let that fool you. Treat this barbed landmine like a book and you will be richly rewarded. Treat it like a sketchbook and end up with your hands lopped off and your mind empty. You have been warned." – Paul Karasik
(NOTE: The special limited Collectors Edition of this book, which will include an original sketch by Al Columbia, is still available for pre-order. Al will sign copies of the book on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery in Seattle: more info here.)
Al Columbia is widely regarded among his peers as one of the most accomplished and influential artists working in comics today. PIM & FRANCIE represents a breathtaking vision of contemporary American art. Collecting over a decade’s worth of artifacts, excavations, comic strips, storybook covers, and much more, this book tells the story of title characters Pim and Francie, a pair of childlike imps whose irresponsible antics get them into horrific, fantastic trouble... sort of. You just gotta see it for yourself.
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is located at 1201 S. Vale Street at the corner of Airport Way S. in the heart of Seattle’s historic Georgetown arts community. Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00. Phone 206.658.0110. Hope to see you all Saturday.