On the occasion of our impending release of Nancy Is Happy: Complete Dailies 1943-1945 by Ernie Bushmiller, our pal and colleague Ben Schwartz has penned an excellent essay on the strip for the current issue of Bookforum. Do get a copy if you can; click the scan above for a larger, legible version and we've taken the liberty of excerpting the parts where he heaps praise on the book below:
"In this, the reading public has a rare opportunity. No, make that a rare challenge — to read Bushmiller without the benefit of recontextualization of any sort. The fact that you laugh at a Nancy gag — and you will — is all on you. There will be no downtown doyenne to comfort you in the know ledge that the gag about, oh, bathroom plungers, or cotton candy, or squirt guns, is an ironically loaded statement on anything at all. No, you'll be stuck in a room alone with Ernie Bushmiller, who will force you to confront your inner stoopid like no other American artist. Indeed, it is genuine, nonironic praise to say of Bushmiller that if you don't get a Nancy joke, you are a moron.... Now, Nancy Is Happy arrives after three decades of pro-Nancy revival and mainstream humor often as archly silly and unreal as Bushmiller's — Letterman, Conan, Pee-wee Herman, The Mighty Boosh, or the grown-up fan base of Yo Gabba Gabba! It bodes well for Bushmiller's legacy that there's finally an audience educated enough to appreciate his brand of dumb."
So apparently every year there's "The Black List" of the most buzzed-about unproduced Hollywood screenplays and this year's new list (published at Nikki Finke's Deadline) has Ben Schwartz, editor of The Best American Comics Criticism, and his script Home by Christmas on it. The script, which tells the story of a young Larry Gelbart (who went on to bring M*A*S*H to television) going on the USO tour with Bob Hope during the Korean War, was inspired by interviews Schwartz did for The Lost Laugh, a book of comedy history which Ben is writing for us (release TBD). Anyone want to start the casting speculation? And do we get a cut of the B.O.?
• List/Coming Attractions: On Publishers Weekly's "Spring 2011 Adult Announcements" preview, the following upcoming titles rank on The Top 10: Comics & Graphic Novels:
"Many recent comics biographies have been presented as educational material, but Wilfred Santiago's 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente uses a more expressionist style to tell the story of the baseball superstar who rose from poverty to the top of the game and died a hero's death. Long in the making, it arrives just in time for opening day."
"The comic strip gets a much needed new edition of the first volume of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse, Vol. 1: Race to Death Valley. While perhaps an unexpected gem, Floyd Gottfredson's tough, bold mouse is a seasoned adventurer and these are driving, hard-boiled tales. After reading this volume, you'll never look at Mickey, the tuxedo-clad corporate spokesmouse, the same again."
• List:Carve Your Name Comics' Greg Townley (a.k.a. "Johnny") names his top 20 favorite comics and graphic novels of 2010:
"14) Werewolves of Montpellier by Jason — Jason’s work is haunting and surreal. I love all his books, but this one earns high points for including a character based on Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. [...] Jason’s allusion to the complex film icon really elevates this book."
"17) Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley — This book is like Richie Rich on acid – one of the most original, visually exciting books I’ve read this year."
"20) King of the Flies- 1. Hallorave by Mezzo and Pirus — King of the Flies, the first part of a proposed trilogy, is surreal and unsettling. It requires repeat readings to unearth the interwoven secrets at play."
• List: At his X-Ray Spex blog Will Pfeifer names Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 one of his Graphic Novels of the Year: "Gilbert's stuff is a lot of fun (and a lot of weird, too), but it's Jaime's shattering look back at Maggie's troubled past that elevates this book above even Love and Rockets' normally stellar standards. 'Browntown' is one of the best stories ever to appear in Love and Rockets, and if you know how brilliant the book is — easily one of the best comic series ever — you know that's high praise indeed."
• List: Also at X-Ray Spex, Pfeifer lists his best Books About Comics of the Year, including:
From Shadow to Light: The Life and Art of Mort Meskin by Steven Brower: "...[W]hen I started collecting in the late 1970s[,] Meskin's art stood out, mostly because his figures and compositions always seemed to explode off the page. And now there's an elaborate book that (a) examines his whole life (b) reprints lots of vintage art and (c) includes plenty of originals? Tell me this isn't the best time — ever — to be a comic book fan."
Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s: "...[T]his is a great collection, with vintage work from Basil Wolverton, Joe Kubert, Howard Nostrand, Bob Powell and especially Jack Cole, who delivers a couple of twisted masterpieces here. Also, there are fascinating, detailed end notes and a lurid collection of covers in the middle."
• Review: "Jacques Tardi’s It Was the War of the Trenches is pretty brutal. [...] It’s one thing to read about the brutality of trench warfare, another entirely to experience it in the way Tardi details it here. This wasn’t an easy read — I alternated between anger and horror the whole time — but it was a good one." – Brigid Alverson, Robot 6
• Review: "It's all very well told, with realistic details coming through even when the art takes such a cartoony style, but being the first half of a two-volume series, [Lucky in Love Book 1] is somewhat incomplete, setting up themes that will presumably be dealt with later. Still, it's quite good. However, there was one scene that I thought was excellent on its own and stood out in the memory the most. [...] War is hell, with effects reaching far outside and long beyond the actual conflict, and this scene manages to illustrate that rather effectively." – Matthew J. Brady, Warren Peace Sings the Blues
• Plug: "Ray Fenwick's Mascots is... narrated by Cthulu... I think. [...] What Fenwick paints is funny and punny, but also unexpectedly observant with just a little bit of metaphysical musing thrown in. I know that doesn't make too much sense as a combination, so just read these pages and maybe you'll understand." – Julia Pohl-Miranda, 211 Bernard (Librairie Drawn & Quarterly)
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
Online Commentary & Diversions returns from a sick day:
• Review: "With elegant simplicity, this comic-book fable [Set to Sea] unfurls the tale of a life cast on an unexpected course and the melancholy wisdom accrued upon the waves. First-time graphic-novelist Weing has produced a beautiful gem here, with minimal dialogue, one jolting battle scene, and each small page owned by a single panel filled with art whose figures have a comfortable roundness dredged up from the cartoon landscapes of our childhood unconscious, even as the intensely crosshatched shadings suggest the darkness that sometimes traces the edges of our lives. [...] Weing’s debut is playful, atmospheric, dark, wistful, and wise." – Jesse Karp, Booklist (Starred Review)
• Review: "...[A]n absolutely stunning [book], collecting some of the best and most trenchantly funny illustrations by a contender for the title of America’s Greatest Living Caricaturist in a lavish, full-colour hardback. [...] Friedman is a master craftsman who can draw and paint with breathtaking power, and his work is intrinsically funny. [...] His caricatures are powerful, resonant and joyful, but without ever really descending to the level of graphic malice preferred by such luminaries as Ralph Steadman or Gerald Scarfe. Too Soon? is a book for art lovers, celebrity stalkers and anyone who enjoys a pretty, good laugh." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "...A Drunken Dream showcases the full range of Hagio’s short stories, while also granting readers insight into the themes of lost innocence, family dysfunction and perseverance in the face of abuse that underscore much of her work. [...] With distinct character designs, detailed backgrounds and emotive character acting, Hagio’s artwork conveys the full emotional range of her stories, with dollops of humor mixed into sagas of sadness, survival and hard-won contentment. [...] A Drunken Dream and Other Stories finds another important voice in Japanese comics history washing up on American shores. One hopes that Hagio, whose work manages to be both stark and beautiful, finds a welcoming and receptive audience." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: Sean T. Collins looks at "La Maggie La Loca" and "Gold Diggers of 1969" from Love and Rockets Vol. II #20 as part of his "Love and Rocktober" series at Attentiondeficitdisorderly: "Maggie may just be an apartment manager anymore, she may now get in way over her head (literally) when she attempts to have a fun island adventure like she used to, but the way Rena sneaks into her room at night just to watch her sleep reveals that the aging heroine could use a dose of the community and camaraderie that's part and parcel of Maggie's dayjob."
• List: Sam Costello of iFanboy names House by Josh Simmons as one of "13 Great Horror Comics for Halloween": "Josh Simmons is some kind of horror savant. There are few really, truly, deeply disturbing comics out there. If you’re willing to take the risk of reading a comic that you’ll literally want to cover your eyes while you read, Simmons’ work is for you. House, his nearly wordless tale of a trio of friends exploring a dilapidated, cavernous mansion, is less explicit, but worth a look. Its suffocating, despairing loneliness is affecting." (Via Robot 6)
• Commentary: "It was like the sky: pleasant, visually appealing, reliable. Peanuts had a Picture of Dorian Gray quality; you kept getting older and more decrepit and more cynical, but it didn't. By the time you started reading it, you were already older than the characters in the strip, so it immediately made you nostalgic for childhood. Not necessarily for your childhood, but for the childhood Lucy and Charlie and Linus were having." – Joe Queenan, The Guardian
• Interview: At Comic Book Resources, Chris Mautner talks to Johnny Ryan about Prison Pit: "I think in a strange way the book(s) are very revealing about myself. I felt as if I was really exposing myself here. I was very anxious about that."
Oh nuts, I'm about to start today's Online Commentary & Diversions and noticed I never published yesterday's in my APE prep frenzy. Here it is:
• Review: "Rip M.D. is near perfect. ...[T]he art is fantastic; with original and distinct designs that border realistic and cartoony, with the best qualities of both carrying a jovial wit, which never balking on making the subject matter truly scary. And the story by Mitch Schauer is told in a clear and concise manner, taking on a sort of fairy tale tone in the beginning that sort of fades by the end. The book on the whole is kid-like in tone, but told with sophistication that one used to see in old Loony Tunes." – Mark L. Miller, Ain't It Cool News
• Review: "Rip M.D. is very sweet all-ages graphic novel... For those... looking for something to share with the family, Rip is an excellent choice. The writer, Mitch Schauer, is clearly a fan of classic monsters and has really had some fun with these characters. The real gem in Rip M.D. is the artwork. Beautiful, beautiful panels that you may want to tear out of the book and put up on your walls. [...] And the colors in this book are just stunning. This is a book that warrants some extra time to just enjoy each page. [...] Ultimately, this is a book that anyone can read and enjoy that would also make an excellent gift to a young reader as a Halloween treat. Score: ★★★★★" – Stephanie Shamblin G, Comic Monsters
• Interview:Squee! talks to Carol Tyler about You'll Never Know in an interview which will run in edited form in the new issue of Ghettoblaster Magazine: "Hardest thing I've ever taken on. So much to juggle: the storyline, the art. The mechanics of making a comic page/book. Oy! I've been at this for four years and I'm still not done! I love it, though. I've had to wrap my life around getting pages done. [...] It's an epic struggle, although worth it a thousand times over."
• Interview (audio):Inkstuds host Robin McConnell chatted with fellow Canadian Dave Cooper while Dave was in Vancouver on his West Coast book tour
• Interview: For Suicide Girls, Alex Dueben, who says "Dame Darcy is a renaissance woman. The Idaho-born artist has crafted a broad and powerful body of work. [...] She is an artist in the finest sense of the word," gets the full scoop from the artist herself: "I come from a family of cowboy poets in Idaho who played music, painted and wrote. So I was always exposed to art as a normal part of life. I began drawing sequential stories when I was two. My great Grandma Marler was a cowgirl and a school teacher, she taught me to read and write at an early age, which I am thankful for because without her help dyslexia would have made it even harder for me to be a writer than it already is. I think my will to tell stories got me through it, and I can remember wanting so badly to be able to write the words over the pictures."
• Commentary: At Amazon's Omnivoracious books blog, Alex Carr examines Ken Parille's essay on Daniel Clowes in The Best American Comics Criticism
• 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..."
• Reviews: "Both of these books — Blake Bell's Fire and Water: Bill Everett, The Sub-Mariner, and the Birth of Marvel Comics and Steven Brower's From Shadow to Light: The Life and Art of Mort Meskin — do fine jobs of chronicling the artists' lives and careers. [...] The Everett book... is beautifully designed by Adam Grano and as much an art book as biography. Filled with great examples of Everett art — some of which is from the Everett family's own archives — this book opens up a whole new arena for appreciation of this almost lost seminal artist. The Mort Meskin book is fascinating, too. Brower and the Meskin sons do a great job in capturing what the artist was really like, both in his career and his home life. [...] Again, it's an impressive package (something I think Fantagraphics has become famous for) and a welcome addition to any comics fan's library." – Gary Sassaman, Innocent Bystander
• Review: "Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s is... a cool collection of stories that definitely would have given me nightmares if I read them as a kid. ...Fantagraphics... puts together a wonderful package once again. Some of these stories are almost unreadable, but all of them are enjoyable and strange and wonderful in their own way." – Gary Sassaman, Innocent Bystander
• Review: "The Best American Comics Criticism, edited by Ben Schwartz, is a fascinating collection of assertion, appraisals, debate, reconsiderations, and recollections about comics. This thick, superbly-selected anthology features extremely well informed, exceptional voices... With a fantastically rendered cover by Drew Friedman (spot the critic!), this is a huge assortment of fantastic writing about a field that has had many parallels with and tendrils in rock and pop. If you’re yearning to own a non-music comics book of criticism that isn’t something from the academe yet still creates an alternate world of popular culture magic to teach how to rail and rave and expose and detail, The Best American Comics Criticism is the book to buy." – Chris Estey, The KEXP Blog
• Review: "Fantagraphics always produces beautiful books, but this is one of my favorites they have ever published. [...] A few weeks ago, I carefully slid You’ll Never Know off the shelf. I was ready for it. It was time. It was a deeply emotional read. [...] The art and lettering is stellar in You’ll Never Know, filled with little details that make every page - especially full page panels. [...] You’ll Never Know is excellent example of autobiographical/biographical non-fiction sequential art, and has made my short list of favorite graphic non-fiction..." – Syndicate Product Covert HQ
• Plug: "Norman Pettingill is an underground cartoonist's underground cartoonist. His obsessive linework, his out-of-control hillbilly wonderland — and even his medium — wood, all make for a fascinating experience. And yes, the cover of this book is plywood." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
• Feature:Seattle Weekly's Brian Miller previews the "Counterculture Comix" exhibit at Bumbershoot and talks to curator Larry Reid
• Coming Attractions: "For me, and I admit I have specialized taste, the best news coming out San Diego was the announcement that Fantagraphics is going to reprinting Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mousecomic strips, which really was during the 1930s one of the great adventure strips. This will be hard for anyone who hasn’t read Gottfredson’s work to believe, but his Mickey Mouse was as rousing as Roy Crane’s Captain Easy and as rich in invention as Barks’ longer Duck stories." – Jeet Heer, Comics Comics