I thought I could keep up with Online Commentary & Diversions while at Comic-Con. Ha ha ha ha ha.
• Coming Attractions: At Robot 6, Chris Mautner takes a look through the 46 (!!!) upcoming books listed in our Fall/Winter catalog (note: listed release dates may no longer be accurate and are all subject to change)
• History/Profile/Review: "What A Drunken Dream reveals is an author whose childhood passion for Frances Hodgson Burnett, L.M. Montgomery, and Isaac Asimov profoundly influenced the kind of stories she chose to tell as an adult. ... For those new to Hagio’s work, Fantagraphics has prefaced A Drunken Dream with two indispensable articles by noted manga scholar Matt Thorn. ... Taken together with the stories in A Drunken Dream, these essays make an excellent introduction to one of the most literary and original voices working in comics today. Highly recommended." – Katherine Dacey, The Manga Critic
• Review: "Anyone interested in the historical development of manga and the women who’ve contributed to the art form should read this book. I hope A Drunken Dream sells well enough for Fantagraphics or other publishers to consider putting out some of Hagio’s longer works. Her short stories are great, but I’d love to see what she does with a longer storyline." – Anna Neatrour, TangognaT
• Plug: "What Osamu Tezuka is to shonen and seinen manga, Moto Hagio is to shojo manga -- a true innovator who challenged and stretched the conventions of the medium by created touching, memorable and truly artistic comics stories. ... Fantagraphics had copies of the absolutely gorgeous hardcover edition of A Drunken Dream available for sale at their [Comic-Con] booth..." – Deb Aoki, About.com: Manga
• Interview:The Comics Journal's Shaenon Garrity sat down with Moto Hagio & translator Matt Thorn for a conversation at Comic-Con International: "I find it very embarrassing to read my very early work, but when you see the stories arranged chronologically it gives a good overall impression of my career. In Japanese, too, it’s common to present an author’s works in a sample spanning his or her whole career, so it’s turned out very much like that."
• Review: "Deadpan dialogue, drawings that move from panel to panel with the strange and deliberate force of kung fu performance art, and a subtle interweaving of humor and angst come together to make [Werewolves of Montpellier] a brief knockout of a book." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "...[T]his cartwheeling shaggy-dog story begins, like a lot of metafiction, with the semblance of reality... But by the time a frog demon reanimates a 19th-century French peasant whose brains it has eaten, it’s fairly clear that Deitch is making stuff up. The fun of [The Search for Smilin' Ed] is the way it constantly darts back and forth across the line between genuine show-business lore (a favorite Deitch theme) and delirious whole-cloth invention. There are stories within stories, unreliable explainers, secret passageways that lead from one part of the tale to another." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "Wally Gropius is a book that’s constantly lying to the reader, with a terrifying chaos roiling just immediately below its surface. The book is a flood of visual and textual information, but the information itself is near constantly false. ... For me, it’s a book that lies constantly, that lies at its very core, but that nevertheless ends up getting at a greater truth of things. And so, yeah: I thought that was pretty neat." – Abhay Kholsa, The Savage Critics
• Review: "There’s more derring-do [in Prince Valiant Vol. 2: 1939-1940] than you can shake a sword at! Foster’s stories are filled with vivid, colorful characters, none more engaging than the aptly named Valiant and his never-ending quest for adventure. The artwork is breathtaking. Foster’s figures are handsome and graceful whether eating a sumptuous feast or fighting on a crowded battlefield. ... Even if the age of chivalry is not your flask of ale, Foster’s art and storytelling will win you over." — Rich Clabaugh, The Christian Science Monitor
• Review: "This book is why Fantagraphics is one of the best and most important comic publishers in the business today. [Blazing Combat] is a series that could have easily been forgotten to the ages but Fantagraphics always is at the forefront of making sure important works of sequential art are remembered. ... This is a brilliant collection of stories that should be required reading. Intelligent, gripping stories and fantastic art! Grade A +" – Tim Janson, Mania and Newsarama
• Review: "Formally inventive and emotionally acute, Bottomless Belly Button indeed proves to be all those things: as fascinating and affecting a depiction of family ties as Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections or Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums." – Ed Park, Los Angeles Times
• Plugs: Alex Carr of Amazon's Omnivoracious blog has Weathercraft by Jim Woodring ("I am woefully ignorant when it comes to Woodring’s Frank comics, and this looks like the weirdest place to start") and Dungeon Quest Book 1 ("After The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, I will read anything Joe Daly produces") on his summer vacation reading list
• History: For the Los Angeles Times, Ben Schwartz compiles an oral history of the 1980s heyday of L.A. alternative comics with Matt Groening, Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez, David Lynch (!), and Gary Panter
Just announced over the weekend, the Saturday and Sunday programming for Comic-Con international. Our official PR goes out this week but we figure some of you might not want to wait to find out about the Fantagraphics-related panels. See here for Friday's FBI-ish panels.
[Note: this post is updated as we get more information.]
12:00-1:00 Spotlight on Peter Bagge — Comic-Con special guest Peter Bagge talks to Fantagraphics' Jason T. Miles about his work, including the legendary Buddy Bradley stories in Hate and his new graphic novels, Apocalypse Nerd and Other Lives. Room 3
1:00-2:00 Spotlight on Gabrielle Bell— Join Comic-Con special guest Gabrielle Bell (Cecil and Jordan in New York, Lucky). Gabrielle Bell has been featured in McSweeneys, Vice and the Believer. The title story of her most recent book, Cecil and Jordan in New York has been adapted for the screen by Michel Gondry in the triptych Tokyo! She is currently serializing her Ignatz award-winning autobiographcal comics Lucky online. Gabrielle Bell will present a slideshow and discuss her work with Tom Spurgeon (www.thecomicsreporter) Room 3
1:30-2:30 Comics Criticism— Comics are a staple of the arts and book review sections of everything from The New York Times and Publishers Weekly to a current golden age of published biography and history, such as Gerard Jones's Men of Tomorrow, R. C. Harvey's Meanwhile..., and David Michaelis's Schulz and Peanuts. Some of the nation's leading critics discuss the state of the art and the state of its journalism, 2010. Panelists include Gary Groth (The Comics Journal), Douglas Wolk (Reading Comics), Brian Doherty (Radicals for Capitalism), Ben Schwartz (editor, Best American Comics Criticism), R. C. Harvey (Meanwhile...) and R. Fiore (Funnybook Roulette). Room 4
3:00-4:00 Comics Reprint Revolution— For comics fans, the vintage reprint revolution keeps getting bigger and better! Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks with Craig Yoe (Krazy Kat, Popeye, Jetta), Dean Mullaney (editor of Library of American Comics for IDW: Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, Secret Agent Corrigan), Daniel Herman (Hermes Press: Buck Rogers, The Phantom), Gary Groth (Fantagraphics: Peanuts, Prince Valiant, Captain Easy), Peggy Burns (Drawn and Quarterly: John Stanley Library, Walt & Skeezix), Steve Saffel (Titan Books, Beetle Bailey, Simon & Kirby Library) and Charles Pelto (Classic Comics Press: Mary Perkins, On Stage, The Heart of Juliet Jones, Big Ben Bolt) about their publications reprinting some of the very best of comic books and comic strips. Room 8
3:30-4:30 International Comics and Graphic Novels— Comics are popular the world over and Comic-Con always includes an impressive gathering of worldwide talent. Journalist Tom Spurgeon talks with special guests Moto Hagio (Japan: A Drunken Dream), Émile Bravo (France: My Mommy is in America and she Met Buffalo Bill), Milo Manara (Italy: Click!), and Kathryn and Stuart Immonen (Canada: Moving Pictures, Russian Olive to Red King) about graphic novels with a more international flavor. Room 4
12:30-1:30 The Funny Stuff: Humor in Comics and Graphic Novels— The world of comics isn't just about dark and mysterious superheroes. There are a lot of great funny books out there. The Cartoon Art Museum's Andrew Farago talks to Comic-Con special guests Peter Bagge (Hate), Howard Cruse (Wendel), Nicholas Gurewitch (The Perry Bible Fellowship), Keith Knight (The K Chronicles), Larry Marder (Beanworld), and Doug TenNapel (Monster Zoo) about the humorous side of comics. Room 8
• Review: "...[O]ne of the collection’s great strengths [is that] it offers an extremely wide range of writing produced over eight years. ... While there’s a great deal to be learned by reading any such collection, Schwartz’s editorial approach makes The Best American Comics Criticism far more entertaining than I would have thought a collection of criticism could be." – Ken Parille, Blog Flume
• Review: "Giraffes [in My Hair]... is a personal lesson in history, love, redemption and all that other crap we look for in a good story — all that, and it's a lovingly illustrated graphic novel that breathes characterization and intrigue from the first page to the last. ... When you toss in Carol Swain's trademark pencil-scratch panels, the whole thing comes together as a great piece of art and story. Sure, it's about sex, drugs and rock and roll, but it's somehow still a new and fresh experience. I wish I'd come across it sooner." – Thorin Klosowski, Denver Westword
• Appreciation: "Even though a variety of comics initially got me interested in graphic novels (or comics for grown ups), the Hernandez brothers created a world which intrigued me the most. ...[W]ith Love and Rockets Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez struck a chord with me. Life, love, sex, action, punk, weirdness, sci-fi, death, art etc it’s all there. ... Overall all of the characters and stories are highly 'recognizable' from real life, in the way that they are human. Some stories are simple and some are surreal, just like life itself." – Matto Fredriksson, Music for Mechanics
• Interviewer:Johnny Ryan's already-legendary onstage interview with Lawrence "Real Deal" Hubbard (along with Dan Nadel's Art in Time panel) is now available for audio download at Comics Comics
• Review: "Over the last few decades, Jim Woodring has been drawing a series of wordless, blissfully cruel slapstick fables, set in a world of grotesque entities and psychedelic minarets: half unshakable nightmare, half Chuck Jones cartoon filtered through the Bhagavad Gita. Weathercraft... flows so smoothly and delightfully from each image to the next that it’s easy to ignore that it has its own idea of sense, which may not jibe with anybody else’s." – Douglas Wolk, The New York Times
• Review: "For those who find the work involving enough, Weathercraft will resonate with them on some emotional level — there's moments that unnerve, moments that touch — and while it is an immersive experience, the comic, especially in its hardcover form, operates most like a testimony of events. It's a comic, through and through, but it hews closer to a religious tome than it does a Love & Rockets installment." – Tucker Stone, comiXology
• Review: "It’s better to experience Woodring’s work than to try and understand it. Weathercraft focuses on Frank’s frequent nemesis Manhog — a representative of humanity at its morally weakest — as he goes through multiple stages of degradation on his way to almost achieving a higher consciousness. The humanoid mongrel Frank hangs around the edges of the story with his loyal pets, but Weathercraft is mainly about how Manhog — and by extension the reader — sees how sick, freaky, and beautiful the world can be… [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "Megan Kelso is best known for elegant, small-scale comics... with a historical or memoiristic bent. So it’s surprising and wonderful that Artichoke Tales, her first novel-length work, is the sort of world-building fantasy story that comes with a family tree and a map on its endpapers. ... Kelso’s ligne claire artwork is consistently sweet and airy, depicting blobby, dot-eyed characters whose body language says as much as their words. The approach provides a likable surface for a story with much darker and stickier depths, about a land whose cultural heritage is rotting away in the aftermath of a civil war." – Douglas Wolk, The New York Times
• Review: "South African comic book writer/artist Joe Daly’s Dungeon Quest: Book One takes a hilariously askew look at the madness of fantasy quest games. ...[R]eaders with a high tolerance for absurdity and a healthy sense of humor about the subject matter will probably love what's on offer here." – Matt Staggs, Suvudu
• Review: "Watching [Wally] and his equally gangly, geometric cohorts stretch and sprint and smash their way across Hensley's brighly colored backgrounds and block-lettered sound effects is like reading your favorite poem — or even... Wally Gropius itself — as translated into a language with a totally different alphabet. ... And wonder of wonders, the book finds its own way to be really funny amid all these highfalutin hijinks..." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Review: "[Wally Gropius] has quickly become one of my favorite graphic novels. ... The comic is too odd to be described as 'commentary.' It seems far more synthetic than parodic: it blends recognizable influences into something truly new... The plot of Wally Gropius has been described as surreal or random, but it’s coherent and far more complex than I first thought... The book is an encyclopedia of cartoony facial expressions and bodily gestures, and should be studied at the CCS as such. WG radiates a real sense of joy, of 'cartooning unfettered.' ... Hensley is one of the best, and most idiosyncratic, writers of text in comics." – Ken Parille, Blog Flume
• Review: "[Daniel] Clowes isn’t as zany as he used to be, so there’s a void to be filled here, and Wally Gropius does that ably: The hardcover collects Hensley’s Gropius stories from the anthology seriesMome (with a little extra material thrown in), and his immaculate, vaguely ’50s style owes as much to Mort Walker, Archie Comics, and other vintage teen-humor strips as it does to Clowes. ... [Grade] B" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Captain Easy follows a mysterious agent-for-hire as he travels exotic lands, battling bad guys. ...Crane’s art is stunning, combining simple cartoony figures with richly detailed backgrounds in clever, colorful layouts. It isn’t even necessary to read the dialogue or captions to follow the action; just scan Crane’s dynamic lines, which make every panel look like a unique work of pop art… [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "I was pretty excited when I found out that Fantagraphics was publishing an anthology of The Best American Comics Criticism. ... Editor Ben Schwartz did a great job selecting pieces that comprise a vibrant narrative of the industry. From graphic novels with literary aspirations to comics about capes, the breadth of content in here is really fantastic. ... But of all the essays in the book, only one is written by a woman. That’s a big let down." – Erin Polgreen, Attackerman
• Plug: "Drew Friedman is the master American caricaturist of our time. Not only are his portraits of the famous so realistic, they induce double takes, but he also captures truths about personality and draws out (pun intended) the funny in everyone." – Michael Simmons, LA Weekly
• Plug:G4 drops a nice mention of "the ongoing and lovingly assembled Complete Peanuts series" in their review of the Snoopy Flying Ace game for Xbox 360
• Interview:Comics Comics' Nicole Rudick sat Al Columbia down for his most candid and revealing interview ever: "So, yeah, I can still draw Pim and Francie. They’re a lot of fun to draw. Almost too much fun. You start to get intoxicated working on them. It’s like, 'This is too much fun. This shouldn’t be allowed. This shouldn’t be legal.' I always put it aside because it just gets me too . . . they’re very intense and fun and maybe fun upsets me."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater concludes his conversation with Gene Deitch: "I hate the term '2D.' That’s bullshit. They put us in that category. They say they’re making 3D. They’re not 3D. What Pixar does is not 3D because it’s shaded. The screen is flat. It’s a flat picture. It’s just an illusion."
• Profile: Taylor Dungjen of University of Cincinnati student newspaper The News Record profiles U of C faculty member C. Tyler: "You might say Tyler is a proud American. You might even call her a patriot. She says she is a liberal hippie chick who supports American troops."
Whether you choose to call them “comics lit,” “graphic novels,” or just “thick comic books,” book-length narratives told in words and pictures confidently elbowed their way into the cultural spotlight in the first decade of this new millennium — beginning with the simultaneous 2001 release of Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth and Daniel Clowes’ David Boring, and continuing on through ground-breaking and best-selling works such as Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Robert Crumb’s Genesis, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, and Joe Sacco’s Palestine.
This renaissance in turn brought forth a chorus of critical commentary that not only addressed these recent works, but also initiated a much-needed look back at the previous century’s neglected and forgotten masterpieces.
This chorus, as presented in The Best American Comics Criticism, comprises both criticism (Douglas Wolk on Frank Miller and Will Eisner, Robert C. Harvey on Fun Home, Donald Phelps on Steve Ditko and Phoebe Gloeckner) and history (David Hajdu on the 1950s comic-book burnings, Jeet Heer on Gasoline Alley, Ben Schwartz on Little Orphan Annie, Gerard Jones on the birth of the comic-book business), as well as revelatory peer-on-peer essays by novelists (Jonathan Franzen on Peanuts, John Updike on James Thurber) and cartoonists (Chris Ware on Rodolphe Töpffer, Clowes on Mad’s Will Elder, and Seth on John Stanley).
Add in still more voices (The Daily Show’s John Hodgman on Jack Kirby, Sarah Boxer on Krazy Kat, Ken Parille with a meticulous deconstruction of Clowes’s David Boring), and a selection of revelatory interviews with comics masters (Kim Deitch, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Marjane Satrapi, Will Elder, Chester Brown) and cartoonist tête-à-têtes (Eisner/Miller, Jonatham Lethem/Clowes, Dan Nadel/Sammy Harkham), and The Best American Comics Criticism offers a riveting and comprehensive look at a medium finally come into its own—not just creatively, but in terms of the respect and prominence within American culture it has so long deserved.
The Best American Comics Criticism is edited by Ben Schwartz, a contributor to The New York Times, The Washington Post, Salon, The Atlantic On-Line, and Bookforum.
See the full Table of Contents and read Ben Schwartz's Introduction in this EXCLUSIVE 15-page PDF download (193 KB).
Three new compact softcovers wending their way into comic shops this week. Plentiful previews, bonus downloads, and more information about each book await you at the links below. Your local comic shop can divulge availability at their particular establishment if contacted in advance. Read on to see descriptions and comments from the comics bloggers:
"Definitive title notwithstanding, this 360-page Ben Schwartz-edited volume actually concerns itself with writing pertinent to (though not exclusively concerned with) the maturation and rise in public consciousness of North American ‘literary’ comics..." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"Disclaimer: I've got an essay in this Ben Schwartz-edited anthology, which features criticism as well as interviews and historical pieces." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon refers you to his interview with Ben Schwartz, which he prefaced by saying "It's the kind of volume that starts fights... — but that's okay and it's part of the fun. There's a lot of good work in the book and one or two absolutely inspired choices. Anyone with an interest in comics should at least give it a flip-through, and anyone with an interest in writing about the medium should use it as a springboard to discover a host of excellent new favorites."
"...[N]othing but transcriptions of Twitter feeds, message boards and comics blogs, mostly dealing with Stephanie Brown and how messed up Identity Crisis was. Oh wait a minute, I’m thinking of The Worst American Comics Criticism, the volume of comics writing I’m editing, in my mind." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
136-page black & white 6" x 8.25" softcover • $12.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-347-7
"...[T]he 136-page latest from the always-fun Joe Daly..., a hugely vulgar quest adventure imposing video game RPG tropes on the aggressive banality of suburban navigation..." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"Joe Daly's latest, an Angouleme Festival essential book this year in its French-language iteration, is so deeply weird it makes his oddball Hergé pastiche in his last work look like actual, straight-forward Hergé." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"I’m not doing a very good job of describing it, I know, but that’s only because it’s so damn weird. Hopefully I’ll do a better job when I sit down to write a formal review. In the mean time, give it a flip-through tomorrow! It has a character named Lash Penis in it!" – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
162-page black & white 6" x 8.75" softcover (with full-color foldout) • $16.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-324-8
"Nice – a spankin’ new Fantagraphics collection of one of the major ’stray’ Kim Deitch works, a 1997-98 serial from the pages of the publisher’s old funnybook anthology series Zero Zero. Join your humble artist/narrator and Waldo the cat as they explore the demon-visited world of children’s programming..." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"A major collection from an A-List comics talent. This time out the great Kim Deitch examines the nature of entertainment through the ways audiences encounter, process and recall it. The joyful image-making couldn't be more entertaining to drink in." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
Drew Friedman will be making a (medium) rare appearance/book signing in Hollywood to discuss, along with journalist/pop culture historian Ben Schwartz, (who's new book, The Best American Comics Criticism, from Fantagraphics sports an adorable cover by Friedman), his new hardcover anthology, "TOO SOON?", a collection of political and Showbiz illustrations covering the last delightful 15 years, and featuring a foreword by Jimmy Kimmel. As Howard Stern says "Everything he does is insanely great!"
Also to be discussed will of course be Old Jewish Comedians, (Family is located conveniently across the Steet from Old Jewish Comedian Jack Carter's favorite deli, Cantor's!) and the third and final in the trilogy, "Even MORE Old Jewish Comedians", due out in early 2011. Other topics surely to arise will include Milton Berle's appendage, Danny Thomas's love of Coffee tables, Bingo the Chimp, Joe Franklin, Abe Vigoda, Side Show Freaks, meeting Groucho and of course Shemp.
The PERFECT father's day gift for Dad!!
WHERE: Family Books 436 N. Fairfax Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90036 USA 323.782.9221
• 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."