• List: At his High-Low blog Rob Clough posts his belated Top 50 Books of 2010 list, with Megan Kelso's Artichoke Tales at #1, 4 of our books in the top 5, 5 in the top 10, 8 in the top 20, and 14 overall in the top 50 — it's a long but worthwhile read
• Review: "Calling Congress of the Animals recommended reading is a bit misleading. It’s definitely recommended, but it doesn’t technically involve reading. The entire book doesn’t feature a single word bubble. The only words are on the book jacket. What this is is a story told entirely through pictures — delightful pictures at that.... This was really an entertaining book. It was visually different from anything I’ve ever seen in a comic, the story was unique, and some parts were laugh out loud funny..." – Corey Pung, Panel Discussions (via Americaware)
• Review: "...Skin Deep by Charles Burns... [is a] true masterpiece in which Burns returns to choose the mechanisms and the language of grade-B horror films, crime fiction, pulp, the aesthetics of the 50's and Robert Crumb's comics to make a harsh social criticism.... Stories in which Burns continues to explore the darkest corners of the human condition while keeping us on edge vignette to vignette." – Jesús Jiménez, Radio y Televisión Española (translated from Spanish)
• Review: "...[T]he adventures of a group of twenty-something New York residents, like Friends but with ethnic variation and far more realistic apartments, and, you know, actual problems. The characters of Beg the Question are surrounded by ugliness and idiocy in one of the most complicated cities in the world, yet they are decent human beings who support each other. It’s not supposed to be autobiographical, but you can tell that Fingerman has lived through many of the situations and knows the characters well." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Commentary: "So I just finished reading Fantagraphics’ The Complete Peanuts 1981-1982, and... the vast majority of this book was new to me, having not read previous reprintings of the strips from this period (as opposed to the near-memorization of the reprint books from the late ’70s and earlier). One of the great new features of this particular reprint series, aside from, y’know, the whole completeness of the strips reprints and all, is the index in each volume." – Mike Sterling, Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin
• Plug: "Walt Kelly’s Pogo is one of the greatest comic strips I’ve ever read. It’s simply brilliant; quaint and sweet on the surface but deeper readings reveals layers of very smart political and social satire. And as you can clearly see, Walt Kelly’s artwork is magnificent.... Fantagraphics are presenting the entire strip, including the beautiful full colour Sunday strips for the very first time, in a series of 12 hardcover volumes that reprint approximately 2 years worth of material at a time. I guarantee that if you get Volume 1, you’ll be signing up for the remaining 11." – Richard Cowdry, The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log
Drew Weingannounced yesterday that his debut graphic novel Set to Sea was named runner-up for the inaugural Lynd Ward Prize, a new award sponsored by the Penn State University Libraries and administered by the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, presented to the "best graphic novel, fiction or non-fiction, published in the previous calendar year by a living U.S. citizen or resident." We'd been waiting for the official PR to make our announcement, but since Heidi MacDonald has broken the news over at The Beat, anchors aweigh (as it were). Congratulations Drew!
The prize jury also awarded an honor book prize to Drew Weing for Set to Sea, published by Fantagraphics. In this book, small in size but large in vision, the art of storytelling through pure visual image is at its height. Described by jurors as "a small wonder of visual narrative, the book's superbly executed single-panel pages combine iconic cartooning and realistic detail to deliver a quietly moving story that unfolds primarily through image. It epitomizes the whole notion of the graphic novel set forth by Lynd Ward — the illustrations are brilliant and the balance between word and image is spot on. The book encapsulates the power of comics to combine an aesthetic experience with a lovely story with strength and beauty that lies with its simplicity and subtlety." Weing will accept his honor prize at an event co-sponsored by Penn State and the Pennsylvania Humanities Council at 6 pm on May 23 in Foster Auditorium on the Penn State University Park Campus.
"For their first new manga release in years, Fantagraphics pulled out the stops with their deluxe hardcover edition of this collection of short stories by shojo manga pioneer Moto Hagio. Elegant, thought-provoking and sensitive, the stories in A Drunken Dream offer a tantalizing retrospective of the forty-plus years of Hagio's career."
• List: Matthew J. Brady posts his picks for the best comics of 2010 on his Warren Peace Sings the Blues blog (where there are links to his past reviews), including:
"25. Temperance... is a confounding work, and a fascinating one, with some excellently moody art. I still don't know if I really understand it, but it's a strange, unforgettable book."
"23.Set to Sea... is lovely to look at, full of beautiful seascapes and cartoony movement. It may be a small and quick read, but it doesn't seem that way in subsequent memory."
"18. Wally Gropius... is a deeply weird comic, but one that is not easily forgettable, starting with an off-kilter take on old teen comics and throwing in a sort of dada energy, social commentary that isn't always easy to decipher, some startling sex and violence, and an angry attitude toward the idly manipulative rich and their disdain for the rest of humanity. It's also really funny, and what seems like random incidents eventually cohere into an actual story, but the crazy contortions of the characters, the financial imagery and sound effects, and the bizarre dialogue and actions from the characters are what will haunt the mind for some time to come."
"10. It Was the War of the Trenches... is one of the most incredible books of the year, an ugly, grimy, angry look at the devastation of war on everything it touches, an endless cascade of horrors that are all the more effective due to their reality. This is arresting work, something everyone should read, lest we forget how easy it is to get caught up in the killing once again."
"7. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories [...] From the beautiful artistic filigrees that fill panels throughout, to the firm grasp of character and complex emotional examinations, every page of this book is an essential bit of reading for manga fans."
"3. Love and Rockets: New Stories #3... is an amazing example of how great these creators are, and the way comics can be used for maximum effectiveness to tell emotional, realistic, beautifully real stories."
• Interview: Sean O'Toole of South African culture mag Mahala talks to Joe Daly: "Whatever other influences effect my comics worldview, I always end up coming back to Tintin. It’s an impeccable foundation text in terms of characters, story telling and artwork. I also appreciate the fact that it’s written and drawn by one person, George Remi aka Hergé (although I know he had studio assistance later in the series). It’s a complete creation, in that way, there’s a deep level of cohesion between the drawing and the narrative."
• Interview: At Comicdom, Thomas Papadimitropoulos talks to Jim Woodring (interview in English follows introduction in Greek): "I write all my stories out in words, describing the action. After a lot of rejecting of alternatives I end up with something that feels meaningful to me, even if I don't know why. In fact I prefer it if I don't know why. If I can tell there is some significant meaning respiring in the depths of the proposed action, I don't worry about what that meaning might be; I draw the story up and allow the meaning to occur to me and to readers whenever the time is right." (via The Comics Reporter)
The issue also includes the reviews excerpted below:
The Arctic Marauder by Jacques Tardi: "A strong Jules Verne flavor dominates the story’s stew of mystery farce and sci-fi adventure, from the ship named the Jules Vernez to the assortment of just-plausibly-outlandish vehicles and deep-sea mechanical apparatuses. But the real fun comes from marveling at it all in Tardi’s expansive, ice-blasted scratchboard tableaus that feature one breath-stealing scene after another, all the way through to the cheerfully villainous finale. A devious bit of far-fetched fun." – Ian Chipman
Freeway by Mark Kalesniko: "Kalesniko reprises his alter ego, Alex Kalienka, for his most ambitious and accomplished graphic novel yet. [...] Although Kalesniko’s formal storytelling devices, particularly his deft panel arrangements and intelligent compositions, are largely responsible for Freeway’s impressive effectiveness, it’s his distinctive and delicate drawing style that supplies the emotional component, best displayed in the economical character design and in the painstakingly researched, lovingly depicted scenes of a bygone Los Angeles." – Gordon Flagg (Starred Review)
Stigmata by Lorenzo Mattotti & Claudio Piersanti: "Obviously but never verbally a parable of Christian redemption, Piersanti’s story becomes extremely compelling in Mattotti’s hands. ...[H]is swirling realization of atmosphere, the protagonist’s states of mind, and human figures conjures the raw power and compassion of such great Italian neorealist films as Bicycle Thieves and La Strada." – Ray Olson
• List:PLAYBACK:stl's Steve Higgins puts What I Did by Jason on his Top Graphic Novels of 2010: "In my recent review of What I Did, I stated, 'Each story on its own is unquestionably superb, and readers will delight in the moods Jason evokes and the artistic techniques he employs. Together the stories in What I Did are sterling examples of Jason’s fantastic skill as both an illustrator and a storyteller that are well worth the purchase in spite of their vast differences in tone, style, and content.' And it’s still true."
"Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 — [...] While shocking scenes gave Gilbert's stories of cultural and commercial exploitation a fresh horror, the emotional aftershocks of Jamie's stories of personal loneliness, loss and violation haunted me all summer." – Suzette Chan
"The second hardcover volume in Linda Medley's Castle Waiting series is a fantasyish, girl power fairy tale — and so much more." – Rebecca Buchanan
• Review: "Each change, each mutation is the beginning of a thought without a defined path that will take the reader into the recesses of his mind. It can be simple aesthetic sensory enjoyment, perhaps of ravishing beauty, perhaps creepy horror; it can be a profound reflection on the significance of humanity or a simple gag in the purest tradition of slapstick. Either option is good: the silent Frank stories are surely a shock that spins the reader's neurons at high speed, a total reset of the system of established reality that leaves the mind in a renewed state of equilibrium. A masterpiece..." – Álvaro Pons, El País (translated from Spanish)
• Review: "[King of the] Flies is essentially about moments, one strange moment after the other. It brings to mind David Lynch but it should also bring to mind Alfred Hitchcock. Rigorously planned out ahead of time, his best work retains the freshness and kinetic energy of so many strange moments perfectly timed. Undoubtedly, Flies will be more than a string of moments and will have an ending as poetic as its best scenes." – Henry Chamberlain, Geekweek
• Review: "Prince Valiant comics are constantly being reissued around the world, but this collection began in 2009, published by Fantagraphics, is special for its concern with restoring Foster's work with the utmost fidelity. The original art was respected and carefully reconstructed from the original proofs and other sources of high quality. The publication in color, in hardcover and on luxurious opaque paper is just right. It is a definitive edition and a fitting tribute to the art of Hal Foster." – Gustavo Guimaraes, Ambrosia (translated from Portuguese)
• Review: "Jason’s tales of the distracted and listless existences of dog-faced Europeans are so consistently excellent that it’s almost predictable, but while [Werewolves of Montpellier] has his usual skilled construction and subdued colour palette, there’s also some rather good characterisation." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Review: "These strips can be a comfort, an amusement, can provide a moment to stop and think. Here [in The Complete Peanuts 1950-1952] you see Charlie Brown before his shirt gets the zig-zaggy stripe; how Linus was introduced as a baby as was Schroeder. You see the small common things that set the groundwork for what would become a life’s work." – Jenny Spadafora, 12frogs
• Profile: Sean O'Toole of Johannesburg's The Times tracks down Joe Daly: "I'm partly curious to see if he looks like his character Steve, described by Millennium Boy as an 'old orangutan mama.' The thin, bearded, slightly awkward man I meet in Observatory isn't apish, nor does he wear a bathrobe à la Jeff Lebowski. He also doesn't have lactating boobs, which Steve briefly grew in a strip appearing in Scrublands, Daly's first US book from 2006." (The Comics Reporter has additional commentary on the article.)
• Profile:Mania's Niko Silvester puts Moto Hagio in the "Creator Spotlight" with a brief overview of her career
• Interview (Audio): Get ready for an epic Inkstuds interview as Al Columbia joins host Robin McConnell for a 2-hour chat
• Plug: "If you’ve not been checking out Fantagraphics’ Complete Peanuts series, I would highly recommend that you start doing so! They are archiving Peanuts every story that Shulz ever wrote, in gorgeous hardcover collections, that contain one to two years of the strip, starting from 1950. It’s one of the best archive projects out there, and I can’t recommend collecting them highly enough!" – Edward Kaye, Hypergeek
• List:X-Ray Spex's Will Pfeifer names his Pop Culture Books of the Year for 2010:
"This is the sort of book I love more than any other. It reveals a world I never knew existed — in this case, the bizarre world of elaborate, mean-spirited, downright dangerous lodge initiations — and does so with a real affection for and appreciation of the past. [Catalog No. 439:] Burlesque Paraphernalia is... the sort of book that makes you think life might've been tougher a long time ago, but it was probably a hell of a lot more interesting, too."
"All you need to know about Destroy All Movies is that it's such a complete guide to 'punks on film' (as the subtitle promises) that not only does it include Star Trek IV because of the scene with the punk on the bus, it interviews that guy. Also, the pink-and-black-and-white design theme of the book deserves some sort of award."
• List: The number ten original graphic novel on Greg Burgas's "Best Ten of 'Ten" at Comic Book Resources is Cathy Malkasian's Temperance: "Malkasian’s odd fable is a haunting book about hiding your true self, coming to grips with deceit, and the necessity of striking out from the safety of home to discover new and possibly dangerous things. [...] Temperance is an amazing comic, always a bit oblique but never impenetrable... It’s a weird book that feels like a dream, which allows Malkasian to use metaphor to reveal fundamental truths. Malkasian is a superb creator, and this is a good example of what she’s capable of."
• Review: "Most of the content [in Unexplored Worlds] is in the Sci-Fi genre that features unexplored worlds, alien attacks...standard stuff of the era but in Ditko’s talented hands nothing is ever standard. When Ditko steps away from the science fiction material he comes up with some truly unusual stories... Besides the stories there are over a dozen Ditko covers reprinted and a fascinating introduction by Blake Bell. Bell provides an outstanding overview of this period of Ditko’s career." – Tim Janson, Newsarama
• Review: "This isn't a book of men achieving medals and glory, rather it is a book of men trying to live to see the next sunrise. With a book so realistically downbeat full marks must go to Fantagraphics for translating and publishing it in an American market that it so fixated on the generally upbeat fantasy of superheroes. For all its depressing tone It Was the War of the Trenches leaves you with a sense of accomplishment of getting to the end and of having read something worthwhile, and that perhaps is what sets it apart from so many other war stories." – Jeremy Briggs, downthetubes.net
• List:PopMatters names Four Color Fear to their Best Fiction of 2010 list. David Maine writes: "Four Color Fear is a lovingly accumulated and organized collection of... stories starring ghosts, ghouls, zombies, demons, and monsters of all stripes. [...] Some of the writers and artists are well known names from the era... Others are not as famous, but overall, the consistency of art and story is impressive. Four Color Fear offers some nice bonus features too, which elevate it from being a simple compilation of reprinted stories."
• List: On the Best Non-Fiction of 2010 side, PopMatters lists Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film. Chris Barsanti writes: "...Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly’s insanely genius and improbably comprehensive guidebook... include[s] every film even remotely punk ever produced. While authentically underground creations... are given some pride of place..., the authors have a special love for straight-to-VHS exploitation trash of yore, where mohawked gutterpunks (sometimes postapocalyptic) terrorized the citizenry."
• Review: "When a man living a hardscrabble life suddenly exhibits signs of stigmata, his tumultuous journey to find — and accept — redemption is beautifully evoked by Italian screenwriter and novelist Piersanti... and graphic novelist Mattotti... With Mattotti's furious black and white illustrations perfectly reflecting the man's growing inner turmoil, Piersanti's morality tale is haunting yet hopeful." – Publishers Weekly