Time for lots more awkwardly-formatted year-end lists, a review from The Washington Post and much more in what might be the longest Online Commentary & Diversions ever:
• List: For the Las Vegas Weekly, J. Caleb Mozzocco counts down his top 5 comics of 2010:
#3: Temperance by Cathy Malkasian: "Blessed with a Dr. Seuss-like ability to evoke the most serious problems and bleakest emotions in personalized, original, timeless fantasy elements, Malkasian has constructed a graphic epic involving a handful of colorful, tragic characters and their interlocking lives."
#5: Werewolves of Montepellier by Jason: "A successful jewel thief disguises himself as a werewolf during heists, eventually attracting the attention of real, actual werewolves in Jason’s latest deadpan dramedy masterpiece. While that might sound like the protagonist’s most urgent problem, his doomed crush on neighbor-turned-friend Audrey is the only thing truly eating him."
• List: The bloggers at Robot 6 count down their choices for the best comics of 2010:
"7. Set to Sea: The story of a would-be poet who is shanghaied and learns about life at sea the hard way, Set to Sea is drawn in a series of single panels, each of which is a miniature masterpiece on its own. It’s a singularly economical way of telling a story, and Drew Weing makes each of his panels into a tight little world of its own." – Brigid Alverson
"4. You’ll Never Know, Book Two: Collateral Damage: [...] Tyler skillfully handles multiple strands of her story, using a variety of styles and formats for different episodes, slowly building a complete picture from several different sources." – Brigid Alverson
"16. It Was the War of the Trenches, by Jacques Tardi: French master Tardi does to the Great War what the Great War did to the bodies of millions of young soldiers: blow it wide open and root in the mess. Depicted primarily in an unyielding onslaught of widescreen panels, it’s like a slog through the trenches itself. Furious and full of contempt for war and its masters." – Sean T. Collins
"6. It Was the War of the Trenchesby Jacques Tardi: Reading Trenches, you realize just how far afield, just how dead wrong most American (and British) had it in their depiction of war. Even Kurtzman’s war comics (which I love) seem like kiddie sermonizing, an overly sweet, sanitized warning, next to Tardi’s uncompromising depiction of WWI. You want to know how brutal war can be? You want to know how war should be depicted in comics – how to look the utter savagery, inhumanity and square in the eye using only pen and ink? This is how you do it." – Chris Mautner
"15. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, by Moto Hagio: I gasped aloud repeatedly while experiencing the sheer loveliness of this book, a collection of short stories from throughout the decades by shoujo-manga pioneer Moto Hagio. Best of all, there’s a cake beneath all that icing, as Hagio’s stories are frequently sophisticated, moving, and unwilling to pull punches." – Sean T. Collins
"13. Prison Pit Book 2, by Johnny Ryan: Johnny Ryan journeys deeper than ever before into his inner ickiness and returns with an action-horror hybrid it’s almost impossible to 'enjoy' in the traditional sense of the word — and which thereby takes those two genres in stunning new directions." – Sean T. Collins
"11. Artichoke Tales, by Megan Kelso: A war comic like none you’ve ever read, Megan Kelso’s ambitious alt-fantasy is concerned not with conflict’s immediate carnage, but with its lasting effects on the societies engaged in it — economic, cultural, religious, familial, even geographical. I found it humanistic, unsparing, and fascinating." – Sean T. Collins
"10. Weathercraft, by Jim Woodring: It’s always darkest before the dawn, and the psychedelic body-horror of Jim Woodring has never been darker than it gets here. His hapless, villainous Manhog is made to suffer like you’ve seen few comics characters suffer before in any style or genre…only to emerge enlightened and overjoyed on the other side in a final act that feels like that first breath of fresh cool air after you’ve hidden your head under the covers in terror for minutes on end." – Sean T. Collins
"2. Weathercraft by Jim Woodring: [...] It’s a twisting, twisted, often bizarre, often disturbing but always gripping tale of one creature’s self-redemption and ultimate sacrifice told without words and often as enigmatically as possible. If you had any doubt that Woodring could still deliver after laying low for so long, consider them erased." – Chris Mautner
"7. Special Exits, by Joyce Farmer: ...[N]early every meticulously crosshatched panel [is] drawn as if [Farmer's] life depended on it. Maybe it did. This is a magnum opus no one expected to read, a brutally frank depiction of what it’s like for full lives you love to end, and it has the most painfully happy ending of the year. It made me cry. Don’t do what I almost did and ignore one of the year’s most moving comics." – Sean T. Collins
"3. Wally Gropius, by Tim Hensley: The first great comic of the Great Recession. Tim Hensley’s breakout graphic novel, previously serialized in the Mome anthology, seems like a send-up of silly ‘60s teen-comedy and kid-millionaire comics on the surface, but beneath lies as odd and accurate a cri de coeur about capitalism and consumerism as I’ve ever read. It also does things with body language I’ve never seen in comics, and is funny as hell to boot. There’s nothing else out there like it." – Sean T. Collins
"5. Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley: The funniest comic of the year, Gropius is both homage and raised middle finger to the kids comics of yore, chiding them for their superficiality and yet revealing in their sublime shallowness all the same. That Hensley managed to have his cake and eat it too in such a breezy fashion suggests he will be an artist to watch for in the coming years." – Chris Mautner
"2. High Soft Lisp / Love and Rockets: New Stories #3, by Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez: This year I read nearly every comic ever created by Los Bros Hernandez; what a pleasure to discover at the end of my immersion that their two most recent comics are also two of their best, and thus two of the best comics by anyone. Gilbert and Jaime both tear furiously into love and sex in these two collections; what they find inside is ugly; what they do with it is beautiful." – Sean T. Collins
"3. Love and Rockets [New Stories] 3 by Xaime and Gilbert Hernandez: Gilbert’s contributions are great as usual (his work here and in the recently collected High Soft Lisp proves he’s no second banana brother), but it is Xaime’s 'The Love Bunglers/Browntown' that makes this volume so worthy of praise. A harrowing story of abuse, familial neglect and regret masterfully told, I defy anyone not to read this tale and not be devastated by its conclusion. Not a single line goes to waste here. To say it’s the best thing Xaime’s done is a stunning comment considering his lengthy and exemplary body of work, but there’s no question he’s raised the bar once again." – Chris Mautner
• List: The great Washington, DC bookstore Politics & Prose names their 2010 Graphic Novel Favorites, including:
"The Sanctuary by Nate Neal is one of the most adventurous, exciting, complex and beautiful graphic novels. [...] Nate Neal creates a language for the clan, and tells the entire story without any recognizable words, making The Sanctuary a quiet and dark collection of gestures and expressions."
"Pirus and Mezzo’s King of the Flies is a dark romp through a strange drug filled, sex crazed world of small town Europe. [...] Pirus and Mezzo aren’t afraid to tell a story full of our darkest desires and needs, but they’re also startlingly poetic."
"Weathercraft, by Jim Woodring, is a beautiful dream and a beautiful nightmare. [...] Weathercraft is page after page of utterly original, outrageous, wordless thrills. Somehow, in a place where confusion and chaos seem to reign, Woodring creates sense. The challenge and beauty of Weathercraft is taking hold of that sense, and letting it go when the dream becomes too beautiful to pass up."
"C. Tyler continues her inquiry into the true story of her father’s WWII experience with You’ll Never Know Book Two: Collateral Damage. Tyler’s colorful panels and line work is a welcome relief to the usual comics format; and her creative shifting of perspective and story... offer just the right amount of energy and relevance to make this book (and the previous volume) one of the best of the year."
"Hinging on one supernatural occurrence after another, the misadventures of Adele Blanc-Sec are surely one of the most welcome events this year. [...] This is a classic which should not be missed."
"...Moto Hagio’s story collection, A Drunken Dream, is a welcome and celebrated relief to the mainstream, translated Japanese comics, giving the reader a meaningful and deeply felt experience. ...Hagio’s exploration of loss... and identity... is equal to the best that any literature offers."
• List: Brazilian site Ambrosia names The Best Comics Published in the U.S. in 2010 — Alternatives and Classics, including:
It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "The French Tardi is a versatile artist, a thorough storyteller of historical fact and fiction. The clean lines and light of his drawings refer to the style of another Frenchman, the revered Moebius."
The Littlest Pirate King by David B.: "Accustomed to living with sea monsters, plundering ships and murdering sailors, a group of scary undead pirates has its routine radically transformed when they are forced to care for a child. David B.... uses his beautiful and dark art to adapt a fun text by Orlan."
• List: At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson names Castle Waiting Vol. 2 by Linda Medley the Best Graphic Novel of 2010: "Exceptionally illustrated fantasy revolving around everyday life among a stunning cast of unusual characters who make their own unusual family in an abandoned castle."
• Review: "Saucy, bold, enigmatic, gently funny, reassuringly romantic; brimming with human warmth and just the right edge of hidden danger Castle Waiting [Vol. 2] is a masterpiece of subtly ironic, perfectly paced storytelling that any kid over ten can and will adore. Moreover, if you’re long in the tooth or have been around the block a time or two, this fantastic place can’t help but look like home." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• List: At The Casual Optimist, Dan Wagstaff names Jason's Werewolves of Montpellier one of his Favourite New Books of 2010: "Ostensibly the book is about a thief called Sven who disguises himself as werewolf to rob people’s apartments and incurs the wrath of the town’s actual werewolves. It is, however, as much about friendship, identity, loneliness, and, ultimately, Sven’s unrequited love for his neighbour Audrey. [...] The whole book is achingly brief, but Werewolves of Montpellier is possibly my favourite Jason book to date." (Via Robot 6)
"14. Artichoke Tales(Megan Kelso) [...] Kelso's simple lines beautifully capture the emotional turmoil of the characters and move the action along fluidly. This title caught me by surprise with how much I enjoyed it — it looks deceptively simple, but there's a lot going on in this ambitious book."
"10. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (Volume 1) (Jacques Tardi) [...] This story is full of broad characters and is really silly, but it's a really riveting, often funny book that you can't help but love to spend time with, featuring some of Tardi's best art period. Plus pterodactyls in Paris!"
"6. Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 [...] The Hernandez Brothers' third annual release of Love and Rockets is their best yet. Gilbert Hernandez has long been a favorite artist of mine and he offers some pretty dynamic stories this time around as well... Jaime develops his characters effortlessly as he produces what may be one of the best offerings of his career."
"4. Castle Waiting (Volume 2)(Linda Medley) [...] This book is overflowing with great characters, the story unfolding cinematically to Medley's beautiful cartoony art. The domestic life that readers glimpse with these volumes is an absolute pleasure to behold, and I really enjoy the time I spend with the people in this title, as they explore the castle and unlock some of its mysteries while settling in. A real treasure."
"1. The Littlest Pirate King(David B. & Pierre Mac Orlan) – My favorite comic that I read this year is David B.'s comic adaptation of the prose story by French writer Pierre Mac Orlan. ...David B. elaborately illustrates this world with amazing mastery of the craft. The coloring, the pacing and panel arrangements, and the world of these pirates pillaging ships and being general menaces all make for a fun, engaging experience. This book contains some of the most beautiful panels that I've seen in years, and confidently sits at the top of my list for best of the year."
• List: On his MadInkBeard blog, Derik Badman lists Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 as one of the Best Print Comics of 2010: "This is Jaime doing what he does best, advancing the lives of his characters, adding to their histories, introducing side characters, and generating an emotional impact." (Via Robot 6)
• List: On The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, Martin Steenton of Avoid the Future names his top 3 Best of the Year: "...Drew Weing’s Set to Sea is one of the most beautifully-rendered graphic novels you could hope to see ever, let alone from within the past twelve months. [...] From start to finish, Set to Sea feels like a true classic; the graphic novel equivalent of Treasure Island, if you will. If you’re the sort of parent that doesn’t mind exposing your children to a few gory moments, I like to imagine that this is the book you’ll give them to usher them into their lives as comic readers. Think what a cool mum/dad you’d be."
• List: At Imprint, Michael Dooley names the Best American Comics Criticism panel at Skylight Books one of "the best speaker events that involved comics and graphic design" in L.A. last year
• Review: "Four Color Fear is editor Greg Sadowski's commemoration of horror publishers other than dominant Entertaining Comics ... [T]his volume contains many... complete tales, giving the reader a sense of how hard it was to meet the genre's three main requirements: sudden fear, ample gore and twist endings, all in the space of six to 10 pages. [...] One leads off with this fraught question: 'Have you ever heard a strange voice whisper, "Come with me into the Blackest depths of evil"?' To which I would have answered in the 1950s, 'What took you so long to ask?'" – Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post (via Newsarama)
• Review: "Johnny Ryan is in my mind is one of the best modern humorists in comics today. It's not the kind of humor that's gonna get him invited to lots of prestigious awards ceremonies, but you can not deny that this shit [is] funny! Seriously for all those people who have not read a Johnny Ryan book for whatever stupid reason, pick [FUC_ __U _SS __LE] up. There's gonna be something in here that will make you laugh or puke or laugh and puke at the same time. It's an awesome awesome book. Loved it all the way through." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Review: "Taking quotes from people who met King, journeyed with him, and experienced his teachings and shortcomings firsthand, the book gives readers an honest and refreshing take on the man that became a legend. The art in King is a sight to behold... While some will undoubtedly walk away with the impression that this take on King’s life somehow lessens his impact on society, others will hopefully find that the humanistic aspect enhances the appreciation of his determination to make a change. Rating: ★★★★1/2" – Matt Peters, Pads & Panels
• Plug: "Mascots is a beautiful new book by Ray Fenwick collecting a series of color paintings on found book covers. [...] You must all surely concur that this new book establishes Ray Fenwick as the foremost satirist-illustrator-typographer-poet-designer of our time." – Matt Forsythe, Drawn
• Plugs: At The Moviefone Blog, David Brothers recommends "Comic Books for Movie Buffs"; his picks for war movie fans and samurai movie fans, respectively:
"...It Was the War of the Trenches shows how war simultaneously dehumanizes and strengthens our connection to life. The dehumanization derives from the fact that soldiers who die in this book tend to do so alone, or by surprise, and life just goes on. The strengthening point, however, is due to how the soldiers eagerly grasp what life they have left, despite their situation. It Was the War of the Trenches is heartbreaking and maybe a little funny, but more than anything, it's fulfilling."
"...Usagi Yojimbo is not only deadly serious, but a fantastic read. Sakai clearly knows the era he's writing stories about very well, and his research shows. If not for the funny talking animals, this series would be fantastically realistic. With them, though, it's a series that hits many of the same high points as classic Kurosawa, but often from a fresh angle."
• Survey:The Beat's year-end/looking-forward survey of comics pros (part one) includes a classic Peter Bagge quip ("What was the biggest story in comics in 2010?" "No one has any money") plus input from Noah Van Sciver
• Analysis: In an academic paper published in the University of Florida's interdisciplinary comics studies journal ImageTexT, Joel Simundich examines "Translation, Transparency, and Genre" in Jason's The Iron Wagon (recently reprinted in What I Did)
• Interview: On his Princess Sparkle Pony blog, Peter Huestis presents a transcription of his 1995 interview with Jim Woodring which was published in Hypno Magazine: "I never use any of my dreams in the Frank stories. I've evolved a way of writing those stories that I adhere to pretty much all the time. I go down into this ravine near my house and hide in the bushes and write in my notebook. I write the stories out in words. I'll write an opening line like, 'Frank has a heavy heart.' If I like that for an opener, I will ask why he has a heavy heart. Sometimes I get an answer and sometimes I don't."
• List/Plug/Coming Attractions:The Millions names among their Most Anticipated books of 2011 two by Alexander Theroux: this month's The Strange Case of Edward Gorey ("Part biography, part artistic analysis, and part memoir of a long friendship, with exclusive interviews conducted shortly before Gorey’s death, this book is generally accepted as the most comprehensive portrait of Gorey ever written") and July's Estonia ("The book emerges from Theroux’s time spent in the former Soviet republic while his wife was on a Fulbright Scholarship. Ever observant, Theroux uses Estonia and its people as a lens through which to look back at America"); elsewhere at The Millions, Theroux himself weighs in on his Year in Reading
The Strange Case of Edward Gorey is the most authentic portrait yet of this truly enigmatic American artist and writer of macabre, ghoulish illustrated books. It is a respectful and insightful consideration not only of the intriguing pen-and-ink drawings but of the inventive, opinionated and eccentric person himself. A balletomane, cat-lover, unbelievably wide reader, collector of many and surprising objects, and mad filmgoer, Gorey had many selves. In this in-depth study of the man he had come to know over thirty years, Alexander Theroux, the novelist who has a literary genius all his own, examines every facet of this mysterious artist who left New York City to live year-round on Cape Cod for the last third of his life where for years, along with producing book after book, he found time to write and direct numerous evening-length entertainments, often featuring his own papier-mâché puppets in an ensemble known as La Theatricule Stoique.
No ordinary account could ever do justice to such an anomalous character, but Theroux with his depth of understanding, keen eye, literary gifts, and astonishing intelligence, never flinches and this loving but analytical account in its sympathy and range of one of America’s most complicated artists is unsparingly brilliant.
“Just read a few weeks ago your book on Gorey and enjoyed it very much.” – Cormac McCarthy, April, 2010
• List:East Bay Express's Anneli Rufus names Jim Woodring's Weathercraft one of the Best Books of 2010: "It's a wordless masterpiece from a Harvey Award-winning autodidact who executes his rhapsodically weird yet somehow relatable surrealistic visions with a lush, lifelike, retro-tinged precision that recalls Edward Lear and Winsor McCay. In an age when too many cartoonists draw with a lazy, defiantly fuckoffish lack of skill, Woodring's museum-quality mastery puts most of his colleagues to shame."
• Review: "Comic book historians Greg Sadowski and John Benson edited this fun time capsule [Four Color Fear], compiling over three dozen spine-tingling tales from the likes of Frank Frazetta, Al Williamson, Iger Studio, Joe Kubert, Basil Wolverton and others. Also included is a beautiful cover section, plus background commentary on each entry and an introduction by John Benson. Grade: A-" – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle Newspaper
• Plug: "Bent... is more beautiful red and black ink drawings and hazy, lush, desaturated oil paintings of mostly pillowy girls." – Matt Forsythe, Drawn
• Plug: "Castle Waiting Vols. 1 and 2 HCs (Fantagraphics) — These two huge hardcovers can currently be had for less than 50 bucks, and offer up a whole new world of wonder. Perfect for anyone who loves to be transported to another place and time." – Alan David Doane's Holiday Gift Guide, Trouble with Comics
• Plug: "Some reference books will tell you all about movies that won Oscars or about movies that come from certain countries. Who needs that? Destroy All Movies is the only book in the world that will tell you all about every single movie that contains a punk. And I mean every single movie. Editors Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly have done exhaustive years of research, and they’ve located every liberty spike wearing extra, every mohawked background actor and every safety pinned day player in cinema history. And then they wrote a whole bunch of funny, interesting stuff about those movies, and did some interviews with filmmakers and punks for good measure." – Dennis Faraci, Badass Digest "Badass Gift Guide"
Over the past week I've had the distinct pleasure to proofread the newly edited and exceptionally expanded The Strange Case of Edward Gorey by scribe extrodinare Alexander Theroux . When Gary first told me we would be publishing an expanded 2nd edition I was more than curious not only because I'm a student of Gorey but because I consider Theroux's first edition to be the definite prose representation of Figbash's father, Ogdred Weary. While you wait for the 2nd edition of The Strange Case of Edward Gorey (completely redesigned by Jacob Covey and presented as a hardcover!) I implore you to peruse Chris Seufert's amazing photographs documenting O. Müde's house.
• Review: "This is too much of an event to ignore: Fantagraphics, Seattle’s eclectic and prolific comics publisher,... is publishing its first volume of manga — comics that may be Japan’s most popular and influential art form. [...] A Drunken Dream and Other Stories is a four-decade anthology of graphic short stories by Moto Hagio, the 'founding mother' and premiere creator of shojo manga... Does Hagio’s work justify the hype? Her visual storytelling and graphic invention, by turns fluid, crisp, and stately, certainly do. ...Moto’s other later [stories] do indeed raise manga to literature." – Eric Scigliano, Seattle Met
• Review: "...[F]ew comics fans should have difficulty getting into A Drunken Dream and Other Stories... The stories in A Drunken Dream range from weird, powerful allegories... to dreamy tales of love and loss... But the best pieces here focus on memories of childhood, of playmates treated cruelly or parents and children misunderstanding each other. [...] Few stories in the entire history of the medium have been more overwhelming than 'Hanshin: Half-God,' a tale of conjoined twins — one haggard, one gorgeous — and their spiteful, symbiotic relationship. It’s a potent metaphor rendered with the intensity of an EC comic. [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "Blake Bell’s Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko set the recent standard for how to put together a coffee-table book about a legendary comics artist, and Bell takes on another innovator of the medium with Fire & Water: Bill Everett, the Sub-Mariner, and the Birth of Marvel Comics... Because Everett didn’t have as long or as consistent a career as Ditko, Bell doesn’t subject Everett’s work to the keen analysis he brought to Strange and Stranger. But he makes up for the diminished insight with page after page of Everett’s vivid, varied work, showing how it all emanated from a man who was a lot like his most famous creation: a destructive antihero, always a little angry at the puny humans around him. [Grade] B" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "...The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 14: 1977 - 1978... shows just how much Schulz was all over the map during that time. [...] This is still a worthwhile volume of Complete Peanuts, though; it has a charming introduction by Alec Baldwin, the usual top-quality production of the whole Fantagraphics reprint library, and some fun story arcs..." – The A.V. Club
• Review: "Only a brain incubated in the warm, nourishing goo of Looney Tunes and vintage Disney cartoons could have produced Sammy the Mouse. [...] As always, Sally’s use of silent panels and dynamic perspectives guide readers’ eyes toward nightmarish horizons and grotesque situations... A grimy, metaphysical malaise drips from every line of Sally’s lush yet unwholesome artwork, especially when he’s plundering the iconography of innocence and youth in the service of disorienting discomfort. [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: At What Things Do, Jordan Crane writes "In the new issue of Love and Rockets (New Stories, no.3), Jaime has a story called Browntown. It just might be the best thing he’s ever done. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, it just might be the best comic I’ve ever read. Its construction is durable yet intricate, a bunch of simple parts working together flawlessly. It’s put together like a watch."
• Review:Guttersnipe's Shawn Conner on the "Counterculture Comix" exhibit at Bumbershoot last weekend, with photos by Robyn Hanson: "Curated by Larry Reid of Fantagraphics Books, it was an eye-popping display, even if you were familiar, as I was, with most of the work..."
• Comic-Con: For MTV IGGY, Deb Aoki covers Moto Hagio's appearance at Comic-Con: "Besides signing copies of her new book and sketching for fans, Hagio also talked about her work at two panels, charming the crowd with her wit and honesty."
• Review: "...[T]he first volume of Mezzo and Pirus’s stunning King of the Flies [was] published earlier this year by Fantagraphics. ... Over just 64 pages, the team known as Mezzo and Pirus tell an impressively complex collection of ten interlinked short stories. ...Mezzo and Pirus are remarkably skillful, and create a deep and believable world. It’s meant as a compliment to say that by the end of this book, it feels as if twice as many pages have passed. ... With its bold style and thick lines, dark hues with splashes of garish colour, Pascal (Mezzo) Mesenburg’s forceful art is absorbing and weird." – Oliver Ho, PopMatters
• Review: "Woodring's wild and wordless story [Weathercraft] seems awfully lysergic, but his stunning symbolism and amazing line work is clever and crafty. Manhog, the creature starring in the strange story, is hardly sympathetic, but Woodring's imagery evokes amusement, bemusement and wonder." – Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Review: "Regular, rectangular panels are the only thing conventional about Weathercraft, which follows the metaphysical mishaps of Manhog, a blank-eyed, snout-nosed creature who wanders naked through Woodring's pages, on a journey of self-realization disguised as a vivid, botanically inventive acid trip. ... But while the creatures and scenarios in Woodring's world are fantastical, they're drawn with the precision of a woodcarving, black-and-white space shaded with ever-present wavy lines. This precision is crucial, with no words to guide the story — as an exercise in purely visual storytelling, Weathercraft is both challenge and reward." – Alison Hallett, The Portland Mercury
• Plug: "Trying to explain Jim Woodring’s art is like describing an acid trip: One never gets the feeling across and inevitably sounds like a crazy person while doing it. ... His work is like Carl Barks’ Donald Duck comics twisted inside out by a black hole. Terrifying, disgusting, funny, silent and beautifully illustrated. See? It sounds crazy." – Casey Jarman, Willamette Week
• Profile: "Jason is perhaps the most unique visual stylists working in comics today. Each individual panel is a work of ligne claire pop art: flat, beautifully coloured and amplified for effect. The deceptively simple stories — often thrillers and off-beat romances — feature anti-heroes, guns, girls, historical figures, b-movie monsters, robots, and aliens. They’re a brilliant mix of silent pictures, film noir, La Nouvelle Vague, classic literature, crime fiction, sci-fi and pulp magazines." – Dan Wagstaff, The Casual Optimist
• Interview: At The Comics Journal, Marc Librescu talks to Gahan Wilson: "When you read about whatever the hell is going on in the art field, whatever the hell the 'art field' is, it’s written by critics and scholars — they’re both sort of the same thing. They’re commentaries, so they tend to emphasize definition and placement: This is chapter 3 of paragraph 7 of Book A. But that’s not the point. The point is that this thing is there and there’s this interaction that occurs, and [the viewer] is analyzing it. As far as the description thing goes, that’s for critics and that’s for teachers. It’s not for artists."
Online Commentary & Diversions, back after a short respite:
• Review: "Almost to a story, the bits and pieces of Mome [Vol. 18] just suck the careful reader in. Indeed, almost every contribution practically begs for critical examination, not to mention a different frame of mind. ... Some of the individual stories are just stunning. ... This is great art, good comics, and, in my opinion, odd when taken as a collection." – Jeremy Nisen, Under the Radar
• Review: "Right up front let’s admit this: Wally Gropius is a terrifying comic book and everyone reading this should buy it immediately. Tim Henlsey has crammed more horror into these 64 pages than any comic in recent memory. ... It is also a terrifying book to talk about, because its level of craft is so high, its surface so impenetrable, that it’s like trying to write about Kubrick or something: You know it’s all in there, but it’s hard to find a foothold. ... Hensley’s drawings... and are so fluid and articulate that it’s hard to believe he could or does draw or even hand write any other way. ... In his hands [the book's aesthetic] is a complete language. It’s a bracing, enervating way of making comics because there’s so much dissonance between what I want to read the lines as and what the drawings those lines form actually mean." – Dan Nadel, Comics Comics
• Review: "[Jim Woodring] has been called one of the great cartoonists of his generation and at this point, there’s little doubt of his visual storytelling prowess. But it’s the intense, visionary images and worlds that spring from his mind and on to his pages that truly separates him from his peers. ... Weathercraft, like all his Unifactor stories, is absolutely wordless. It’s a quiet, cosmic adventure that relies on Woodring’s extraordinary control of visual language and blends his understanding of Vedantic beliefs with stylized, Max Fleischer nightmares to explore ideas about the evolution of consciousness." – Paul Rios
• Review: "Read [Weathercraft] a third time, thinking about Woodring’s video commentary, and recognize how cohesive it is. There’s a real clarity to the plot and to Woodring’s character designs and panel compositions. You will think that, in some way, the key to much of this is the artist's omnipresent wavy line, but will be unsure." – Ken Parille, Blog Flume
• Review: "Kupperman’s all over the map, and manages to amuse with all the non sequiturs more often as not... If you have a soft spot for this sort of shenanigans, kinda like much of Adult Swim but smarter than the run of that mill, you could do worse than to pick [Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6] up..." – Johnny Bacardi, Popdose
• Review: "...Sand & Fury: A Scream Queen Adventure... is a romp concocted of homage to the weird horrors of filmmakers David Lynch and Dario Argento, with a shout out even to Roman Polanski’s Repulsion. But it also features the signature Anderson political subtlety. ... A graphic text is, by nature, more explicit — graphic — than it can be subtle. So, Anderson’s love scenes verge on kink, while the death scenes owe much to the gore of recent vampire flicks and George Romero’s Zombie franchise. ... Sand & Fury is not classic literature, but it is fine pop art. Check it out." – George Elliott Clarke, The Chronicle Herald
• Review: "The story booms with Deitch's explosive composition techniques and the narrative recoil — somehow even the genetically modified beavers here make perfect sense — is no less compelling. The Search For Smilin’ Ed! offers perhaps not as discrete a narrative as those found in Alias the Cat (2002) and The Boulevard of Broken Dreams (2007), but the joy of Deitch is that his work is almost impossible to tug apart. And who doesn't want their demons, time travelers, midgets and voyeuristic aliens in one oily melee?" – John Reed, Los Angeles Times
• Review: "Did you know the Earth is honeycombed with tunnels containing archives of the entire history of popular culture, as recorded on alien-designed microchips by a council of pygmies? Leave it to underground-comics legend Kim Deitch to make that concept simultaneously deeply attractive and deeply creepy in The Search For Smilin’ Ed... The story gets more twisted with every page, though it always makes sense in a Deitch-ian way. Deitch has trod this ground many times before... but he retains an astonishing ability to tap into the deepest desires of pop-culture junkies, and to show how the satisfaction we seek from nostalgia can lead us to some dark corners of our collective showbiz past. [Grade] B+" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "The second in the proposed Billy Hazelnuts trilogy by Tony Millionaire finds the Popeye-strong, sentient cake fed up with the 'filthy world of beasts,' made up as they are from 'disgusting blobs of meat.' The first Billy was about his origins; Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird is about the responsibilities of parenthood, and how they don’t necessarily sync up with maturity." – The A.V. Club
• Review: "Everybody dies in [It Was the War of the Trenches]. It's sad, gory, brutal, depressing, visceral, and overwhelming. It brings those poor soldiers back to life and, instead of celebrating any victories or glorifying any heroic acts, just shoots them in the gut all over again and leaves them to die in the mud and filth of no man's land. It's an impressive work of art that floods the reader with a feeling of hopelessness. How Tardi managed this feat without having participated in the first world war is really quite amazing. It is worth reading." – Sandy Bilus, I Love Rob Liefeld
• Interview: Robin McConnell, host of the Inkstuds radio program, calls up Dash Shaw to catch up on his latest projects
• Review: "Many books have been written about World War I, but few can truly worm their way into your head like Jacques Tardi’s It Was the War of the Trenches. … The tales here are devastating and heartbreaking, and often disturbing, but readers will nonetheless have a hard time putting it down." – Holly Scudero, Sacramento Book Review
• Review: "Perhaps there is something in Charlie Brown, that the longer I read his adventures, the more I become a fatalist. I look at the history of Europe and I know that there are frequent periods of relative peace, such as the past 60 years in Poland. And since they are rare, sooner or later they can suddenly end." – Konrad Hildebrand, Motyw Drogi (translated from Polish)
• Review: "This, then, was my introduction to the idiosyncratic and fantastically imagined worlds of Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. ... While the stories and art of each Hernandez brother is unique, they shine extra bright by being juxtaposed, one to the other. Altogether: these rambling, lingering tales are bewitching." – Anna Clark, Isak
• Review: "...[In A Mess of Everything, Miss] Lasko-Gross covers the usual Holden Caulfield territory with brevity and an eye for detail. Her cartooning is very expressive and the book is coloured in subdued wash-like tones of brown, grey and blue that enhance the emotional impact of her cringe-worthy struggles for independence and individuality." – Bryan Munn, Sequential
• Plug: "[Roberta] Gregory is the cartoonist responsible for the comic series Naughty Bits, which is one of the best comic series I've ever read. Seriously, Life's a Bitch is one of my favorite comics ever. It's basically a biography of one normal — albeit kinda hateful — woman, and it's insightful, funny, and true." – Paul Constant, The Stranger (previewing an event on Saturday that, alas, we didn't know about in advance)
• Reviewer:Laura Warholic author Alexander Theroux looks at a new biography of Jack London for The Wall Street Journal: "Readers can be pardoned for thinking it seems not improbable that London, given the chance, would punch Mr. Haley in the nose."
Is this it for Online Commentary & Diversions today? I guess so:
• Review: "Jacques Boyreau’s book [Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box] pays tribute to... imperfection. Not only is its cover — well, the cover of the book’s slipcase, at least, designed to look like a videocassette — but the photos inside showcase boxes in far from mint condition... All of this helped take me back to my VHS days, but it’s mostly the garish art that did it — lurid snatches of visual salesmanship, many of which have been burned in the back of my mind for 25 years. ... If you own only one art book featuring a back-cover illustration of Don 'The Dragon' Wilson, make it this one. And be sure to rewind, or I’ll have to charge a dollar to your account." – Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• List: Looking at where we stand on Sandy Bilus's Best Comics of 2009 Meta-List (compiling all the year-end best-of lists) at I Love Rob Liefeld, we've got 2 in the top 20, 6 in the top 50, and 12 in the top 100 — not too shabby
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