• 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
• Review: "...[T]here’s one reason why Pim & Francie pulls off the unlikely feat of being more than the sum of its fragmented, disconnected, half-inked parts: it’s terrifying. ... The book... hangs in your head long after you close your eyes." – Martyn Pedler, Bookslut
• Plug: "If you ever skipped school to zone out to stacks of rented VHS tapes, or exhausted the wealth of movies at your local video store by 1995, then this is the perfect item for you, or someone like you. Packaged lovingly to resemble an VHS tape from days gone by, the book Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box contains some of the greatest crap-rack video covers of all time." – The Incubator
• List: Graphic Novel Reporter begins their Best of 2009 survey of educators and comics pros; so far A Mess of Everything by Miss Lasko-Gross ("Lasko-Gross’ words and pictures felt incredibly authentic") and Luba by Gilbert Hernandez have been named
• Review: "Rolling in like a slow, fuzzed-out guitar line from an Orange-brand amp, The Red Monkey Double Happiness Booklives up to the good vibes promised in its title. ... Having recently finished Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice and Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City, I couldn't help but consider The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book as a distant third-cousin to those titles. ...The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book is a weekend read, best consumed with your feet propped up, opposable digits or not." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon.com)
• Review: "Paul Hornschemeier excels at a sort of cryptic-cute comic that is better read than described. It's a blend of darkness and sharply delineated perfectionism that, whether he likes it or not, sometimes brings to mind his Chicago contemporary Chris Ware What he knows, though, is that he can go places Ware can't — Hornschemeier's style is every style. ... His diversity of styles is most apparent in All and Sundry: Uncollected Work 2004-2009... It's just a stew of stuff that, like the best sketchbooks, offers an intimate invitation to spy on the ramblings of a formidable creative." – Byron Kerman, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "For being a company that puts out the reprints of one of the safest comics of all time, Peanuts, Fantagraphics sure lives on the edge of the comics medium, particularly in the realm of anthologies. Blab! is just such an anthology, featuring a variety of visual quirks that hover closer to straight up art pieces than comics work, but still do not seem out of place with the more narrative pieces that slide between the pictorial pages. ...[T]here's probably someone for everyone in Blab!, if you take the time to look." – Panel Patter
• Review: "Richard Sala’s reinvention of Snow White is a sparkling macabre gem. The 2-color art glows in handsome sepia that is pitch perfect for this delightfully demented tale of a strange land. Sala populates Delphine with cast of horror carnival rejects that is diverse enough to both excite and confound the imagination. This issue [#3]’s creepy locales: dark tunnels, a creepy house, and a gloomy castle are the true stars of this chapter. They make this scary tale an absolute winner. ...[Grade] A" – Leroy Douresseaux, Comic Book Bin
• Reviewer: A new book review from Laura Warholic author Alexander Theroux for The Wall Street Journal, this time of an interesting-sounding collection of "literary invective" called Poison Pens
• Plug: "I grew up in the video age and I’m still in awe of the technology that first allowed me to watch thousands of movies in the privacy of my own home. Call me sentimental and nostalgic, but when I first got wind of Jacques Boyreau’s upcoming book Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box it made me giddy with excitement." – Kimberly Lindbergs, Cinebeats
Online Commentary & Diversions with a hockey mask:
• Review: "[Jacques] Boyreau’s new art book, Portable Grindhouse, is more than a stunning collection of VHS box art. Anyone with a sense of nostalgia for cruising the shelves at the local Video Depot will recognize old favorites alongside more than a few bizarre rarities within its pages, and if you don’t feel a sense of loss over the current state of DVD box art, you just don’t have any feelings. ... Like the VHS boxes of old, Boyreau’s introductory essay is less a history of the VHS format and the culture of the rental business than it is a heady evocation of how exciting it was when it first arrived. ...[A] book as lovingly edited as this could only have been put together by someone whose appreciation for these objects is matched by a real love of cinema." – Matthew Caron, Vol. 1 Brooklyn
• Review: "...West Coast Blues... is... a tightly-plotted little crime noir, just the sort of thing that today's discerning comic book readers seem to be interested in... It's noir by way of existential hell, which, let's face it is very French. This is... an admirable book, tightly plotted and full of great cartooning moments. ...You Are There is a heavily dense and convoluted book... presented with a decidedly absurdist and surreal air. ... You Are There constantly skirts the edge of comedy — it knows the language and does the dance — but never becomes the outright farce it so clearly and consistently hints at evolving into. ... Whatever flaws these two books might posses, they and Tardi remain too interesting and rich to be easily dismissed." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Interview: Martha's Vineyard Magazine's Karla Araujo has a Q&A with Jules Feiffer ("Success is nothing to sneeze at, but failure has many possibilities"), followed by an excerpt from Feiffer's upcoming memoir Backing Into Forward
Your latest batch of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Sometimes... an issue [of Mome] manages to hit perfectly, striking the ideal balance between new blood and Fantagraphics mainstays. It’s a standard that Volume 16 meets and exceeds, making for the best addition to the quarterly series in recent memory. ... Taken together, it’s a vital and vibrant sign of life for both the series and the indie comics community at large." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Review: "The aptly titled From Wonderland With Love features the best of contemporary Danish comics––and with weather like they have up there, you can bet that a lot of drawing gets done. If we had to generalize, we’d say that Danish comics specialize in a clean visual style, deadpan humor and a fidelity to revealing strange truths." – Molly Young, We Love You So
• Review: "The tenor of the dialogue and the methodical pacing are evidence of the story's early 20th century origins, yet Jason still makes the story entirely his own. As with other comics of his that I've read, Jason's The Iron Wagon moves very quickly, remains slightly absurd in even the most dire of situations — largely due to Jason's peculiar anthropomorphic characters and deadpan delivery — and simply doesn't take itself so damn seriously." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Interview: At Newsarama, Michael C. Lorah has an in-depth chat with This Side of Jordan author Monte Schulz: "Dad exposed me to books and movies, comics ... I was thinking about this the other day; I think he pushed me into books and away from his work. One, of course, I can’t draw. Two, he actually felt that book writing was a higher art form than cartooning, and he thought that he couldn’t really do that. And he thought that maybe I could."
Your Online Commentary & Diversions for the first day of June '09:
• Review: "Holy cats!... Wolverton's illustrations [in The Wolverton Bible], done in the same unmistakable, stippled style that characterized his grotesqueries, show off the grim, the violent, and the destructive in the Old Testament, putting the blood and guts in the spotlight. The result is like no illustrated Bible you've ever seen... This is a side of Wolverton I never suspected, but it is perfectly him, humorous, grisly, mad and wonderful." - Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
• Review/Profile: "...Unlovable by Esther Pearl Watson... was for me like discovering a nugget of gold in a sieve! ...really original and fun." - Lezinfo (translated from French)
• Review: "With great candor and wit, [Peter] Bagge tackles [the] issues... in Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me, a collection of his strips from Reason Magazine. As in his previous works like Hate and The Bradleys, Bagge deftly manages to simultaneously anger and amuse the reader with his intensely personal stories about larger topical issues." - Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Review: "...[T]he comics in this collection [of Blazing Combat] are astounding... The art is reproduced from 'the original printer’s films,' so the work is clear and detailed, with the washes and shading providing depth and a feeling of realism... The stories are still timely." - Johanna Draper Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
• Interview: The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks to Bob Fingerman about his latest projects, including Connective Tissue. Sample quote: "I think if I did nothing but comics, I would end up hating comics. For a while there I was actually beginning to hate comics."
• Interview: Robot 6's Tim O'Shea talks to Supermen! editor Greg Sadowski about the collection of Golden Age hero stories. Sample quote: "I never liked those 'Archive' editions where they bleach out the old colors and replace them with modern coloring methods printed on glossy paper. That whitewashes all the distinction out of those vintage books and transforms them into a cloyingly slick and artificial product."
• Video: From Paul Hornschemeier's blog: "Via Tuono Pettinato on Facebook: A Peanuts documentary (broken into 5 parts on YouTube) where Charles Schulz discusses the making of the animated Peanuts and the role of music. It's great footage, and makes me miss Schulz's genius all the more."
Due to the somewhat obsessive nature of my link gathering, I had the idea to start calling these posts "Daily OCD: Online Commentary & Diversions." What do you think, readers? Too cutesy-poo? Offensive to sufferers of real OCD?
• List: The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon names "The Ten All-Time Best Long-Running Comics Series," with Love and Rockets Vol. I at #2 ("The best long-running and organic artistic achievement in serial comic book form... The Hernandez Brothers inspired and outworked a greatest generation of comics auteurs. Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez are each among that handful of artists who must be given serious consideration when talking about the best cartoonists working. In Love & Rockets each created fictional worlds for the ages and used them as a vehicle for enormous artistic development, lapping the majority of their peer group. One so inclined could argue with seriousness a top 25 of American graphic novels where 1/3 of the titles listed came from this series") and Acme Novelty Library at #8 ("...a mind-bending achievement... ACME punched right in the scrotum the notion that every issue of a single comic book series had to look like the others... Its primary value is that it presented [Chris] Ware's giant talent to enough of an audience to bring him thousands of hardcore fans... Ware can dream up a single-page that if it were the only thing he ever published people might still know his name")
• List: The A.V. Club's Noel Murray offers commentary on Spurge's list ("There’s no one definitive L&R storyline; it’s just story after amazing story, accumulating over the past three decades like personal correspondence. [...] Ware... turn[ed] comic books into a kind of readable sculpture...") and lobbies for the inclusion of Johnny Ryan's Angry Youth Comix
• Review: "Miss Lasko-Gross' self-caricature in her autobio stories [in A Mess of Everything] is an interesting mash-up of a typical teen with low self-esteem and that of an indignant outsider determined to make her increasingly confident voice heard -- and loudly. [...] Lasko-Gross' greatest strengths as an artist are her character design, gesture and use of body language. It's the way she stages her characters that makes looking at each page interesting... I love the touch of the exaggerated and the grotesque that she injects into her drawings, distorting faces and bodies to reflect emotional tumult." - Rob Clough
• Review: "Formerly-suppressed, entirely classic, these stories [in Blazing Combat] are all solid examples of comic storytelling and craftsmanship... [T]he teams here make things look too easy. Not surprising since we’re talking about master artists like Toth, Frazetta, Severin, Crandall and others. The stories have all aged surprisingly well... Highly recommended..." - Matt Maxwell, Robot 6
• Events: Portland, your Free Comic Book Day cup runneth over, as Andrice Arp and the other contributors to the excellent free anthology comic Bird Hurdler will be appearing at various locations throughout town -- Andrice has the full itinerary and details on her blog
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