Online Commentary & Diversions returns after a post-APE hiatus and subsequent sick day:
• Review: "Good Jaime Hernandez comics are always just about the most satisfying books that money can buy, and I was so impressed with how the pleasure of seeing contemporary Maggie again for the first time in far too long [in Love and Rockets: New Stories #3] gave way to the satisfaction of seeing another building block in her curious history, and then everything turned unpleasant in a way that was equally bleak and fascinating. Watching Jaime fit everything together the way he does is breathtaking. Recommended for adult readers." – Grant Goggans, The Hipster Dad's Bookshelf
• Review: It's still "Love and Rocktober" at Sean T. Collins's Attentiondeficitdisorderly: "If Ghost of Hoppers was Maggie's confrontation with adulthood, The Education of Hopey Glass serves up the equivalent for Hopey and Ray. It's fascinating to me to see where their lives have taken them versus where they were — and more importantly, what they represented to Maggie — when they were first juxtaposed. [...] What makes these two stories compelling and connects them to one another beyond the basic idea of the characters coming to terms with their age is how much the stories rely on the kinds of things only an artist of Jaime's caliber can pull off for their telling."
• Review: "Man’s oldest gynophobic horrors and most simplistic delight in sheer physical dominance are savagely delineated in this primitive, appalling, cathartic and blackly funny campaign of cartoon horror. Resplendent, triumphant juvenilia is adroitly shoved beyond all ethical limits into the darkest depths of absurdist comedy. Not for children, the faint-hearted or weak-stomached, [Prison Pit Book 2] is another non-stop rollercoaster of extreme violence, profanity and cartoon shock and awe at its most visceral and compelling. ...[T]his book is all-out over the top and flat out hilarious. Buy and see if you’re broad-minded, fundamentally honest and purely in need of ultra-adult silliness." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Bitter, haunting stories [by Zak Sally] like 'The Man Who Killed Wally Wood' and 'The War Back Home' show a striking willingness to ask uncomfortable questions about himself and the world around him. His account of Dostoyevsky’s time in prison is a real highlight and I think marks a turning point in his storytelling ability. And the fearless, self-lacerating essay he provides at the end brings the book to a near-perfect close. Really, [Like a Dog] is a tight little collection." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "There’s fourteen stories in all in this anthology, beautifully scanned, restored, and reproduced in all their four-color glory. [...] There’s a lot of fun to be had in these pages. [...] Boody properly showcases a sizeable enough collection of complete comics stories by the wildman inkslinger from Texas, finally elevating Rogers into the pantheon he’s always been part of — if only enough folks had been able to access his work. At last, they can!" – Steve Bissette, The Schulz Library Blog
• Review: "The publication of Rebel Visions was a vital riposte to [a] tide of apathy, a vast and authoritative work built for the clear purpose of documenting the entire history of the US underground revolution in a definitive fashion: a not inconsiderable task given the various tributaries that have spewed forth since the early 1960s. [...] Rosenkranz diligently weaves a number of divergent themes using the oral histories of most of the major participants." – Kevin McCaighy, Exquisite Things (via ¡Journalista!)
• Interview: Kat Engh of Geek Girl on the Street chatted with Megan Kelso at APE over the weekend: "I like writing and movies and music and art forms that are about more than one thing. I’m really fascinated by that, and I think that comics really lend themselves to that kind of layering and layers in conflict, because you’ve literally got two tracks of information with pictures and words, and because they’re so separate from each other, they lend themselves to doing different things at the same time. I’ve always thought that if a comic’s not doing more than one thing, it’s not taking advantage of what is, so yeah, I’d say I actively strive for that."
• Interview: At Comic Book Resources, Chris Mautner talks to Fire & Water author Blake Bell at length about Bill Everett — "I think Everett is as unique a stylist as Ditko is. When you see Everett's work, you automatically know who it is if you have any inkling about any of the Silver or Golden Age artists. Secondly, in his own way he's as influential as Ditko. Without question, Everett created the antihero in superhero comics back in 1939 when he introduced the Sub-Mariner. There was no other comic book character like him." — and upcoming volumes of The Steve Ditko Archives.
• Interview: It's the second part of Brian Heater's conversation with Drew Weing at The Daily Cross Hatch: "It’s such a weird time where so much stuff is available online, though I went out of my way to make the book a nice little object. And I feel like it does read better in book form, because it’s a format that you can more lovingly pore over the detail."
• Interview: At Gapers Block, Rose Lannin talks to Jeremy Tinder, who makes his Fantagraphics debut in Mome Vol. 20. This quote is relevant to the Mome story: "I grew up reading newspaper strips, like Garfield. I think it was around age 5 when I really started getting into Garfield and tracing it out of the paper every day. [...] Garfield was my focus in life for six years, I was so into it."
• Coming Attractions:Bleeding Cool's Rich Johnston reports here that "...[I]t seems that Fantagraphics, as part of their current attemp to to translate every French comic book in existence, has seized upon [David B.'s] book, Le Jardin armé et autres histoires or The Armed Garden and are to publish it in August next year," and here about our translation of Tardi & Manchette's Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot, "...planned for August next year. Which, in terms of European-to-American translation is light speed."
• Review: "Love and Rocktober" continues with Sean T. Collins at Attentiondeficitdisorderly: "...[T]he comics in Penny Century look less dense and read that way, too. Maggie and Hopey seem to have settled down, somewhat — no longer careening from adventure to adventure or disaster to disaster, still involved in the lives and schemes of their eccentric friends but no longer completely swept up by them, still romantically (or at least sexually) entangled with one another but not to the all-or-nothing extremes of the past."
• Review: "Released at last, Blake Bell's biography [Fire & Water] devoted to Bill Everett... helps correct an injustice: Giving an author whose importance and personality are not recognized at their fair values a shot at the spotlight. [...] This is not a book that exhausts, by itself, Everett as a subject. But the book is moving (without falling into whining), documented and rich as Blake Bell restores a lot of truths about an author who did not 'merely' create Sub-Mariner and Daredevil." – Xavier Fournier, Comic Box [translated from French]
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions (with one carried over from yesterday's post-less day):
• Review: "Normally I wouldn’t put in a spoiler warning for a few blog notes, but this is a special case. I’m going to be talking about Love and Rockets: New Stories #3, which contains what is arguably one of the best comics stories ever... It’s so easy to take the Hernandez Bros. for granted: they’ve been around so long, put out work regularly, and often use the same characters. So the temptation is to just think that they’re a stable public resource, like the library or a museum: they’ll always be there and we can ignore them for years, checking in on them only when we need to. But really, these guys are among the best cartoonists who have ever lived. Like Seth, Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, and Kim Deitch, they are constantly pushing themselves to do better work, and are now at a career peak. We need to give thanks for this, loudly and publicly." – Jeet Heer, Comics Comics
• Review: "Really, it’s hard to know what to make of [Norman Pettingill:] Backwoods Humorist, the first time you flip through its lovingly-curated pages. [...] I fell in love with it almost immediately, first caught completely off guard by the amateurish art in a book compiled by Fantagraphics. Why, precisely had the publisher chosen to compile these works in such a beautiful volume? There is, however, something disarmingly bewitching amongst Pettingill’s grotesque caricatures of country life. [...] In the great scheme of 20th century art, it’s difficult to imagine that Pettingill’s work will ever be regarded as much more than a somewhat high profile curiosity. For those seeking to discover an utterly fascinating body of work, however, that curiosity is certainly worth the price of admission." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Review: "Greg Sadowski and John Benson did a superb job on this collection of early 1950s horror stories [Four Color Fear]... In addition to Greg's attractive design throughout, he delivers meticulous, pixel-perfect restorations... There are 25 pages of fascinating, informative notes by both Greg and John. [...] This book is like time-traveling, a document of an era. [...] This will stand as an important reference work that should be shelved alongside David Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague." – Bhob Stewart, Potrzebie
• Review: "...Mome 19... is the best volume of the series so far. [...] Josh Simmons' 'White Rhinocerous Part 1'... is short, makes sense, is funny: great comic. The rest of Mome 19 doesn't fall apart on the job either... But the real prize here is DJ Bryant... Alongside a group of contemporaries who possess some of comic's most innovative talents, he chose refinement. It fucking worked." – Tucker Stone, The Factual Opinion
• Plugs: "Fire & Water... is a look at the life and body of work created by Bill Everett, the man who created the Sub-Mariner - the character upon which Marvel Comics would be built. [... In] The Sanctuary [Nate] Neal uses a cave-dwelling tribe to explore themes of communication and language and reveals himself to be a master storyteller. [...] Ding Dong Daddy from Dingburg... is the newest collection of comics legend Bill Griffith's Zippy the Pinhead comic strip. In this volume — Joan Rivers, Charles Bukowski, God, riboflavin, and more! Surreal and absurd yuks abound." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
• Plug: "...[I]f you’re in the mood for some dazzling, filthy violence then perhaps Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit Volume 2 is... up your alley. It’s got CF the barbarian from outer space on the cover, dripping in blood and wearing nowt but pants." – The Gosh! Comics Blog
• Plug: At Comix 411, Tom Mason, profiling Leslie Turner, Roy Crane's successor on Captain Easy, notes "For those interested in the origins of Captain Easy, you can’t do better than Fantagraphics Books which is reprinting Roy Crane’s classic strip, starting at the beginning."
• Almost Plug: The 1930s "Human Centipede" image that Mark Frauenfelder Boing Boinged today happens to be found in our book Catalog No. 439: Burlesque Paraphernalia and Side Degree Specialties and Costumes
• Review: "This mammoth collection [What Is All This?] presents five decades of Dixon: sex, frustration, and attempts at deeper communication, mostly missed. The 62 stories evoke neuroses, delusion, banality, and everyday absurdities in deceptively simple sentences... There are echoes of Ernest Hemingway and prefigurings of Raymond Carver's lower-middle-class minimalism infusing tales of scrappers and scrapers... Usually sublime, sometimes sloppy, and occasionally bewildering, these stories are a testament to an impressive career spent too much under the radar." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) [Temporary link]
• Review: "With its mix of sci-fi, romance, tragedy and comedy, A Drunken Dream is a memorable manga journey that shouldn't be missed or dismissed. [...] Drawing from deeply-felt personal experiences, Hagio draws stories for every person who has felt like an outsider, who has regretted past actions that can never be erased, or who has longed to be accepted for being who they are, not what people want them to be. These ideas sound so simple — but when touched by Hagio's pen, this is punch-in-the-gut powerful. [...] ★★★★1/2" – Deb Aoki, About.com: Manga
• Review: "While they may not be standard children’s books, they are fun and entertaining and full of stuff kids would like, without being obscene or intended for mature audiences. They are the kind of books you would want your kid reading if your kid wasn’t a total dork. [...] You get the feeling of reading old fairy tales, where the Prince wasn’t always charming, the villains would erect down right disturbing and evil plots against the characters and the story, or just the world in general was presented as a harsh reminder of reality. [...] Tony [Millionaire]... really lets his imagination run with his latest book, Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird. [...] With or without children, you can feel good about reading this book." – Brian Jones, Flash Flood Media
• Review: "Artichoke Tales is by any definition a remarkable book — the first graphic novel by Megan Kelso, who has so far worked largely in the short story form, and a book that displays at every page Kelso’s unique voice as a graphic storyteller and the care and attention she lavished on this project over the past several years. [...] This is a beautiful book, at times a heartbreaking book. One feels the precision and thought behind every word, every line, all of it edited down and arranged to a spareness that is paradoxically lush and textured." – Jared Gardner, Guttergeek
• Plug: "[Rip M.D.] seems to be a comic more geared to a juvenile public, but should be pretty cool because there are a lot of monsters, really violent werewolves, zombies, and best of all, vampires that do not sparkle!" – Submundo Mamão (translated from Portuguese)
• Profile: "Some artists seem to have had greatness as their destination as surely as if a tracking device had been implanted in their genes. Some veer toward it capriciously like a demon had seized the wheel. They start with a talent — to which they feed — in bites and gulps — their times; and, once expressed, the result is… YOWL! One of these was the underground cartoonist Greg Irons, the subject of Patrick Rosenkranz’s overlooked — and fascinating — retrospective You Call This Art?!!" – Bob Levin, The Comics Journal
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new titles. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators are saying about our releases this week, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
192-page full-color 9" x 12" hardcover • $39.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-166-4
"This hardcover book by Strange and Stranger author Blake Bell features what looks to be substantial prose biography and appreciation, along with plenty of artwork from an artist who helped build the foundation for Marvel as both a publishing powerhouse and a fictional universe." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
"This is the next deluxe Fantagraphics hardcover/art book/biographical thingy by Blake Bell, of 2008′s Strange & Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko. The title suggests some focus on a specific period in the artist’s development and comic book history." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"A new one from comics historian Blake Bell; haven't read it yet, but it sure sounds interesting." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
"Bill Everett is one of my top three all-time mainstream comics industry figures, if not number one, and I can't wait to dig into this book." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"Then there’s Fire & Water: Bill Everett, the Sub Mariner and the Birth of Marvel Comics by Blake Bell, about the long-forgotten artist (and Daredevil co-creator) that I just finished reading and heartily recommend..." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
320-page full-color 7.5" x 10.5" softcover • $29.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-343-9
"Oh man, it’s a good week for reprints, starting off with Four Color Fear, a collection of classic pre-code horror tales..." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"Editors Greg Sadowski and John Benson have collected 320-pages of horror comics and covers from the likes of Jack Cole, Reed Crandall, George Evans, Frank Frazetta, Jack Katz, Al Williamson, Basil Wolverton, and Wallace Wood, casting their net far wider than iconic horror comic purveyor EC for a wide variety of scary stuff." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
"...[A] collection of smaller-house scary comics from the glorious, mainstream past..." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"One of the more promising retro books this week... — this softcover selects lost books from the golden age of horror comics that had unique aesthetic merits." – Cyriaque Lamar, io9
"If I could splurge… to really stimulate the economy, I’d throw in Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s, from Fantagraphics, because I love good vintage comics—and bad vintage comics, for that matter." – Brigid Alverson, Robot 6
This book is available with a signed bookplate as a FREE premium! The bookplate has been uniquely designed for this book, and each bookplate is printed on acid-free cardstock and hand-signed by the author Blake Bell and Bill Everett's daughter, Wendy Everett! (Click here for more books available with signed bookplates.) Please select your preference above before adding the item to your shopping cart. Note: Signature plates are VERY limited in quantity and available only WHILE SUPPLIES LAST.
In 1939, decades before it would become the powerhouse behind such famous super-heroes as Spider-Man, The X-Men, and Iron Man, Marvel Comics launched its comics line with a four-color magazine starring a daring new antihero: The Sub-Mariner.
As created and rendered by the great Bill Everett, the Sub-Mariner was an angry half-breed (half-man, half sea-creature) who loathed and fought against all mankind — until he joined the Allied Forces to defeat the Nazis during World War II. Seventy years later, Everett’s aquatic creation remains one of the pinnacles of the Marvel super-hero universe (as attested to by the character’s recent option for a major motion picture).
The Sub-Mariner alone, and his status as the original Marvel (anti-)hero, would have insured any cartoonist’s place in comics history. But Everett was a master of many kinds of comics: romance, crime, humor, and the often brutal horror comics genre (before it was defanged by the Comics Code Authority in the 1950s), for which he produced work of such stylish and horrifi c beauty that he ranks with the artists who kept the legendary EC comics line awash in blood and guts.
Written by Blake Bell (the author of the best-selling critical biography of Steve Ditko, Strange and Stranger) and compiled with the aid and assistance of Everett’s family, friends, and cartoonist peers, Fire and Water: Bill Everett, the Sub-Mariner & the Birth of Marvel Comics is an intimate biography of a troubled man; an eye-popping collection of Everett’s comics, sketchbook drawings, and illustration art (including spectacular samples from his greatest published work as well as never-before-seen private drawings); and an in-depth look at his involvement in the birth of the company that would revolutionize pop culture forever: Marvel Comics!
• 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