Attention critics, bloggers, and pundits! If you are putting together your own Best of 2009 list and need to be reminded which of your favorite Fantagraphics releases were released this year, by all means use our complete and up-to-date 2009 Releases section as your guide. And then when your list is posted we will include it in a future installment of Online Commentary & Diversions such as below:
• List: At Chicago Now, Marissa Meli names her top 8 Worthiest Comics and Graphic Novels of 2009; at #8: "Besides having a title worthy of naming your hipster band after, You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! was way before its time; a freak-out in the middle of the white bread Golden Age. ... With a magical space wizard, the Leopard Women of Venus, and Zomax, the Demonized Marine Scientist on your shelf, you may not buy another comic book."
• Review: "...[The Great Anti-War Cartoons] offer[s]... a feast of great early 20th century illustration. There are a few recognizable names here, like Winsor McCay and Art Young, but a number of great discoveries as well..." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "[Weathercraft] is a wordless story about strange creatures in a strange world. ... With an open mind you are sucked into a surreal world that is both a dream and a nightmare of geometric chickens, tornadoes of eyes, harp-playing frogs... It is an immense mental gut-punch. 6 out of 6 stars" – Lærke Pickering Thomasen, Geek Culture (translated from Danish)
• Review: It's rare for me to editorialize here, but I found Alan Bisbort's comments on The Wolverton Bible in the Hartford Advocate to be seemingly disregardful of the actual contents of the book
• Review:The Hooded Ultilitarian's critical roundtable of Ghost World continues, this time with guest writer Charles Reece: "If I’m correctly following Žižek’s Lacanese, this wide-scale commercial co-optation of not just the aesthetic Sublime, but pretty much anything that once gave off a sense of 'authenticity,' has resulted in our no longer being able to identify ourselves in relation to these (formerly) Master Signifiers."
• Plug: At Comics Alliance, Douglas Wolk declares Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons "Your high-end gift item of the week... It's extraordinarily nicely designed (by Jacob Covey) — three hardcover, full-color volumes in a slipcase with a few other ingenious design fillips inspired by the macabre comedy of Wilson's cartoons."
• List:Details magazine names Ghost World #10 on The 25 Greatest Gen X Books of All Time: "This caustically funny duo-tone tale follows the iconic cat-eyed adolescent Enid Coleslaw in her quest to find meaning, or at least cruel humor, in an age where everything's disposable."
• Review: "Strange Suspense collects dozens of Ditko stories from the 1950’s... Almost a decade before Ditko moved to Marvel, these stories bear his unmistakable style. His fine line work and flair for the abstract that would serve him so well on Doctor Strange particularly, is on full display. ... If you only know Ditko for his work at Marvel or later at DC, here is the chance to explore Early Ditko, unconstrained by editors or the Comics Code. While all of this work is marvelous, clearly Ditko is best at home in horror where he could let his imagination run wild, creating monsters and demons and the things that go bump in the night. Rediscover Ditko today!" – Tim Janson, Newsarama
• Review: "Brian Kane, author of the [Definitive Prince Valiant] Companion and surely the world’s foremost authority on the strip and its creator, Hal Foster, has once again done a herculean amount of work, and Fantagraphics has once again clothed that work in a sturdy, pretty volume. Prince Valiant hasn’t been treated this well since the ersatz King of England sang his praises. Those unfamiliar with the character – a young man who finds adventure, fame, and even love at the court of the legendary King Arthur – will find here all the background information they could ever want... But even long-time Prince Valiant fans will find plenty to fascinate them in this volume." – Khalid Ponte, Open Letters
• Review: "Delphine is a morbid interpretation of the symbology of fairy tales resounding with echoes of unrequited love and abandonment. This is perhaps Sala’s darkest and most intricate story ever – impressive in its nuance and ever shifting emotions. One can only hope that it is not ignored." – Ng Suat Tong, The Comics Journal
• Interview: From TCJ.com: "Every weekday from now until December 25, we’ll be posting a conversation between cartoonists from The Comics Journal #300, complete and online! In today’s installment, it’s a chat between L’Association publisher Jean-Christophe Menu and Kramers Ergot publisher Sammy Harkham."
• List:Politics and Prose, perhaps the most graphic novel-friendly bookstore in Washington DC, lists their Favorite Graphic Literature of the Year:
"Every few years a graphic novel comes around that is so good you have to stop reading for a while, because if you read anything else you'd only be disappointed. ... The Squirrel Machine... is a masterpiece of comic fantasy. When I finished this book, I immediately returned to the introduction and read the whole book again, and again. Read this book to see what heights serial art can achieve in narrative and in the creation of worlds that exist in one character's mind. Read it if you think you can handle it, for it abandons the typical narrative structure and accomplishes its ends as only serial art of the highest quality can. This is a fine, gut-wrenching book, written and drawn by a true master." – Thad Ellerbe
"West Coast Blues is an unflinching story, perfect for any fan of the thriller." – Adam Waterreus
"C. Tyler's You'll Never Know, Book One: A Good and Decent Man... is also an impressive and beautiful history of the era; Tyler creates a panorama of images that sweep across the page as she documents her father's childhood, her parent's engagement, and her own young life. Her pen, ink, and color transform her creative panels (at times evoking a scrapbook) into vibrant memories intertwined by her restless imagination." – Adam Waterreus
"[With Abstract Comics] it becomes a treat to take a page of art — or a simple panel — and consider how the shapes, texture, depth, and color interact with one another; to reflect on how, when one takes the time, the enjoyment one ordinarily finds in reading a purely textually-oriented, narrative-driven written story can — with the graphic form — be translated into something completely different." – Adam Waterreus
"From Wonderland with Love: Danish Comics in the Third Millennium... is fantastic! This amazing collection just blew me away. There was not one moment when reading this book — in one sitting, slouched and unblinking on my couch, coffee going cold — that I did not completely love. ... Mythic and dreamlike, meditative and fantastical, this is a superb and surprising collection." – Adam Waterreus
• Review: "...[F]rom the moment he showed up [Michael] Kupperman was a master of stomping around the living room of modern reality and shoving pieces of conceptual furniture next to one another to awesome, knees-out-from-under effect. Kupperman's work has always had that charge that the really good stuff has... Kupperman doesn't get enough credit for building a comic book vehicle in Tales Designed To Thrizzle that serves to facilitate those skills. ...I'm not certain anything under heaven or earth could make something greater than Kupperman's peerless ability to craft funny moments." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Unclothed Man delivers just the right amounts of story, whimsy, art, and heft for four two-minute entries. It offers actual nutritive cultural substance, as opposed to so much web filler one often gets. And you’ll want to go back and watch them a few more times. There’s a lot of variety behind the series’ simple elegance." – Michael Shaw (no relation), Tubefilter
• Plug: "Compiled by Portland, Oregon-based trash cinema expert Jacques Boyreau, Portable Grindhouse honors the pulp video era that inspired Quentin Tarantino." – Hugh Hart, Wired
• List: The Village Voice 's R.C. Baker names 2009's Best Comics and Graphic Novels. Among the choices: "A lucid nightmare, Al Columbia's dazzlingly well-drawn Pim & Francie features vignettes of its young protagonists menaced by creepy relatives or starring in exceedingly grim fairy tales. These inky visions seem unearthed from the deepest vaults of Uncle Walt's id. ... Anything but Victorian, Nell Brinkley (1886–1944) celebrated the Roaring '20s with sinuous lines and colors as lurid as William Randolph Hearst's presses could muster. Author Trina Robbins notes, in the lavishly oversize The Brinkley Girls, that the illustrator 'closely resembled the girls she drew.' But Brinkley, with her thrilling fantasias of pirate abductions and aviatrix romances, remains an inspiration beyond flapper flamboyance to any young lady seeking to break into the boys' club of high-end illustration."
• List: Greek site Comicdom is halfway through counting down the top 100 comics of the '00s. On the list so far: Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman at #99 ("Following at a discreet distance from the legacy of Monty Python, Michael Kupperman should be considered a genius by any man who has laughed with the group of Britons"), Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire at #67 ("In the surrealist vein of Krazy Kat and the otherworldly, oneiric atmosphere of Little Nemo... misanthropy and almond sweetness"), Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco at #60 ("The shock was, however, not an end in itself, since what actually manages to come across is the sense of pain and loss that each of the interviewees had experienced"), and Fred the Clown by Roger Langridge at #53 ("Ingenious comics by an equally intelligent designer who not only knows the history of the instrument and understand what makes it work"). [Quotes cobbled from autotranslation.]
• Review: "There have been a lot of great comic book releases this year, but none has the beauty and melancholy resonance of Fantagraphics' Prince Valiant: Volume 1-1937-1938. ... As for Hal Foster, Fantagraphics has given this artist his due and helped place him in his proper context as a great American artist and master of the comics form." – Mark Rhodes, Omnicomic
• Review: "Employing a storytelling dynamic not unlike that of Serling’s science fiction classic, Thomas Ott’s The Number 73304-23-4153-6-96-8 is itself a visit... to a dimension not of sound, but of sight and mind that at once both rewards and confuses. ... Ott’s hyper-meticulous attention to how detail relates to used space and negative space is at once both unsettling and captivating, utilizing a form of technical, pen-like cross-hatching for essentially every line that can only be described as Robert Crumb on Adderall. ... The Number is a universally literate work of fiction that is a quick first read with potential for longer lasting examination." – C.R. Stemple, Pads & Panels
• Review: "The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D. is a fascinating first animated work [third, actually — ed.] from one of today's most original and unusual artists. Shaw adapts well from the comics page to the cinematic form. ... Almost as well as his comics, this film expresses Shaw's ongoing desire to look at the world from a slightly askew perspective, to express his fascination with the complexity of people's inner universes. ...[T]he film... [is] a probing, emotional examination of what it means to make art and to forge meaningful human interactions..." – Ed Howard, Only the Cinema
• Plug: In an interview with IFC found by our own Janice Headley, musician Chuck Prophet names Ghost World as a favorite movie: "A coming-of-age teen flick movie that pivots around Skip James’ 'Devil Got My Woman' can do no wrong with me. And shouldn’t with anyone else."
• Interview: At Comics Comics, Dan Nadel presents audio of the panel with Gary Panter & Peter Saul at the Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival last weekend
• 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
• Lists: The Comics Reporter asked its readers to "Name Five Comics You Enjoyed This Year" — spot the Fantagraphics releases in the results
• Gift Guide/List/Plug: At Comic Book Resources, Kelly Thompson's "Awesome Women in Comics Holiday Gift List 2009" includes Ghost World by Daniel Clowes: "This tale of smart alternative teens just never gets old... Enid and Becky are both incredibly savvy teens that I think women can both relate and aspire to."
• Review: "The bewildering events of this fourth volume [of Delphine] race towards a stunning conclusion, one that is quietly horrifying, yet terrifying in its sadness. ... The fourth book is a must for those who have read earlier issues, but it will make the uninitiated really want Delphine." – Leroy Douresseaux, Comic Book Bin
• Review: "Fortunately for today’s readers, Blazing Combat — nearly impossible to find for over a generation — is now conveniently available and immaculately produced in hardcover from Fantagraphics. Anybody who wants to read great great comics, war stories, or a superb tutorial in short form comics writing and unsurpassed comics illustration needs to read this one." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "It was, frankly, a nostalgic blast of fresh air to be able to read a graphic novel of Peter [Bagge]’s again, even if this is a series of unconnected pieces instead of a coherent narrative. ... Anybody who read Hate back in the day already knows to pick [Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me] up just because it’s Peter, and for you kids today who never read Hate, this is a good place to start with the guy." – Kevin Bramer, Optical Sloth
• Plug: "This is an uber-cool title by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette... you can add this graphic novel West Coast Blues to the list of greats by this total fab (and late) French author." – Book Soup Blog
• Profile: Possibly apropos of the above-mentioned nomination, French blog Beware looks at the work of Daniel Clowes in an article titled "Cynisme et Comic Books" (autotranslation)
• Plugs: Robot 6's Chris Mautner and guest columnist Charles Hatfield are both reading The Comics Journal #300; the former says "regardless of what kind of comics reader you are, there's something in here you're going to want to read," while the latter says "in good Journal fashion, [it] contains a lot to chew on and some stuff that I emphatically disagree with. It’s a great issue that leaves me with both a nostalgic wistfulness... and a keen desire to write about comics into the unforeseeable future!"
• Review: "[Gilbert] Hernandez's latest solo work The Troublemakers is the second in a series of self-contained graphic novel 'B-movies,' featuring one of his recurring characters, the cannonball-breasted Rosalba 'Fritz' Martinez. Here, Fritz plays Nala, one of a trio of hustlers trying to hook up with 200,000 smackers. Whether the money actually exists and who has it are anyone's guess in this drama-filled thriller — good for folks who like their graphic novels grim, gritty, and sleazy." – Brad Buckner, Portland Mercury
• Review: "Strange Suspense [The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1]... is an absolute treat! ...[T]his book looks amazing. ...[It's] filled with images that will remain seared into your psyche long after you’ve put it down. ... Strange Suspense is an absolute must have for any student of sequential art history... It’s an excellent collection of long lost work from a man whose importance cannot be overstated. There’s really no other grade to give it than an A." – Chad Derdowski, Mania.com
• Review: "Wolverton is helped [in The Wolverton Bible]... by his bold compositional sense, which aids in pushing some of his images beyond the doldrums of camp and into a certain monumentality, a grandeur that retains a shabby earthiness, without being lofty, hollow or pretentious. Without being, in a word, 'churchy.'" – Chris Lanier, The Comics Journal (beta)
• Review: "Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit is probably as close as comics are likely to come to exploitation cinema. Like the best exploitation dreck from Texas Chainsaw to Death Race 2000, Prison Pit is pure, bottom-dwelling schlock... And yet, again as with exploitation fare, the single-minded commitment to vileness is so perversely pure that it goes right past lowest-common-denominator entertainment and on into snooty, fancy-pants art. ... Ryan’s world is essentially Waiting for Godot, from the bleak landscape to the slapstick violence." – Noah Berlatsky, The Comics Journal (beta)
• Gift Guide: At RevolutionSF, Rick Klaw includes Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons in his "Geek Gift Guide": "The incredible three hardcover boxed set celebrates one of art's funniest and most disturbing cartoonists. ... I promise every geek would be thrilled to find this under the tree. I just hope Santa doesn't throw out his back out delivering this massive collection."
• Gift Guide: Love & Maggie presents a "Los Bros Hernandez Chistmas Shopping Guide"
• Review: "[Gilbert] Hernandez is one of the four or five greatest cartoonists in the world, and it's satisfying to see him work through any plot with any restriction he'd like to place on it. The Troublemakers feels like a movie for more than its story: it's either all exterior information or nearly so, it has opening credits, it has a three-act structure, it uses a wide-panel 'shot' throughout. ... Attaching a world of significance to forms recognizable to most of us as pulp isn't a new thing, but I don't think any of the filmmakers famous for it have done it any better than Hernandez." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Plug: "Popeye Vol 4: Plunder Island: Prior to Fantagraphics’ awesome collections of E.C. Segar’s awesome comic strip, this was the only storyline from Thimble Theater I’d ever read before…in The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics. Does that mean it’s some sort of classic? It should be; it’s fantastic. Anyway, the latest collection is $30 and 170 pages, and, like the first three volumes, it’s beautifully designed and so big and sturdy that it’s practically seaworthy." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
• Plug: "This is it. The crown jewel in the Popeye crown. If you only buy one volume in the series, blah blah blah. Seriously, hopefully you've been collecting all the Popeye books, because it's one of the greatest comics ever, but this volume contains what must surely be E.C. Segar's finest hour, namely, the 'Plunder Island' storyline, where in Popeye and friends search for treasure and come afoul of the Sea Hag." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "I've been in long time love with Femke Hiemstra. Her smoky and detailed fantasy landscapes are often coupled with outrageous characters, from vegetables to the floating head of Marie Antoinette. ... [Y]ou can pick up a copy of her splendid book, Rock Candy, which would make a perfect Christmas gift for the art lover or art lover to be." – J.L. Schnabel
• Mutual Appreciation: We love comedy genius Graham Linehan, and he loves us, as evidenced by the set dressing on The IT Crowd (not to mention interviews he's given); apparently he makes it explicit again in the bonus features to the 3rd season DVD set of the show, which we've yet to see, according to the DVD review at Den of Geek
• Things to see: Eric Reynolds comments on this link forwarded by Jason T. Miles: "I love knowing that there was a day in Fanta's past when they could call Kevin Nowlan on the phone for a last minute design job!"
• Review: "[Pim & Francie]'s spine calls its contents 'artifacts and bone fragments,' as if they're what's left for a forensic scientist to identify after a brutal murderer has had his way with them; Columbia obsessively returns to images of 'bloody bloody killers.' ... Many of the pieces are just one or two drawings, as if they've been reduced to the moment when an idyllic piece of entertainment goes hideously awry. But they're also showcases for Columbia's self-frustrating mastery: his absolute command of the idiom of lush, old-fashioned cartooning, and the unshakable eeriness of his visions of horror." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "With [Pim & Francie], Al Columbia has created not only one of the more unsettling works of horror in the medium of comics, but it also happens to be one of the greatest myth-making objects... Whether Columbia planned more complete stories for any of the efforts collected here is an interesting question, but for my money he has instead come up with dozens of nightmarish scenarios that have a greater cumulative effect by skipping set-ups or endings. The ending, one suspects, is always going to be a variation of horrific death and dismemberment." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy