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Daily OCD: 1/4/10
Written by Mike Baehr | Filed under The Comics JournalSupermenSteve DitkoStephen DeStefanoRoger LangridgereviewsPrince ValiantPopeyePeter BaggePeanutsPaul KarasikNoah Van SciverMomeLove and RocketsLos Bros HernandezKevin HuizengaJohnny RyanJoe SaccoJasonJaime HernandezJacques TardiHumbugHotwireHarvey KurtzmanHans RickheitHal FosterGilbert HernandezGabrielle BellFletcher HanksEC SegarDrew WeingDavid LevineDash ShawDaniel ClowesCraig YoecontestsComing AttractionsCharles M SchulzCarol TylerBrian KaneBob LevinBlake BellBest of 2009Arnold RothAbstract Comics 4 Jan 2010 3:33 PM

The first Online Commentary & Diversions of the new year might be the longest one ever, so let's get to it:

List/Review/Interview: As part of The Comics Reporter 's unique series of critical discussions on notable comics of the decade, Tom Spurgeon talks to Tucker Stone about Kevin Huizenga's Ganges: "That's the thing about Ganges #3 that makes it a unique comic -- it cannot be told in another medium and work. How are you going to write that down, that aspect of Glenn chasing his own thoughts and memories about completely personal, mundane life aspects, without drawing the character swimming around in his own head?" Elsewhere, Sean T. Collins responds to some of Stone's points

List: Robot 6 lists The 30 Most Important Comics of the Decade. In part one, Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco is at #19 ("What's more, it showed that comics could handle not only tough subject matters, but deal with timely, true-life subjects in a hard-hitting, journalistic fashion"). In part two, The Complete Peanuts is at #15 ("If you believe, as I do, that we are living in the Golden Age of Reprints, chances are The Complete Peanuts is your Exhibit A")

List: Newsarama 's Michael C. Lorah names his Best of 2009 Comics, including Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938 by Hal Foster and Luba by Gilbert Hernandez

List: Newsarama's J. Caleb Mozzocco names his top 10 comics of the year, with The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book by Joe Daly at #8: "...[W]hat he delivers in the two stories collected in this book are unlike anything else I’ve seen in popular comics."

List: Gil Roth names his Favorite Comics of the Decade, including Ice Haven/Eightball #22 by Daniel Clowes, Eightball #23 by Clowes, The End #1 by Anders Nilsen, Locas II by Jaime Hernandez, Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco, I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason, Kevin Huizenga's work including the Ganges series, and Fred the Clown by Roger Langridge (via The Comics Reporter)

List: Joe McCulloch of Jog - The Blog prefaces his Top Ten Comics of 2009 list with a "Top Five Caveats of 2009" list of reprinted or unread comics which includes Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941: ("Supermen! excited me... for suggesting a burning, manic soul of superhero comics, a reckless freedom differentiated from pulp writing and feature films by gnarled visual style while set apart from newspaper strips by virtue of a restless hunger to entertain quick and hard. It felt like the start of a future, and the comedown only hit when I realized I enjoyed it more than any new superhero comic of 2009") and The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit. On the Top Ten list proper: West Coast Blues by Tardi & Manchette at #8 ("Teeming with fleshy characters prone to bleeding and puking, rippled with burn lines of existential dismay, the story keenly exploits how the thrills promised by bloody adventure outside the law segue into the terror of governmental systems failing to protect their cozy consumer citizens") and Prison Pit: Book 1 by Johnny Ryan at #4 ("as visceral and gory as fantasy throwdowns get, while remaining almost contemplative in its plain-paneled studies of bodily movement").

List: Patrick Montfort, blogging at Articulate Nerd, names his Favorite Comics of 2009: at #10, West Coast Blues by Tardi & Manchette ("A masterfully constructed crime story with an unlikeable protagonist caught in an unlikely circumstance, this very French graphic novel is superior to anything I've seen in the genre from an American cartoonist"); at #9, Abstract Comics: The Anthology ("Handsomely designed and smartly edited... one of the year's most unique releases... thrilling"); at #8, Prison Pit: Book 1 by Johnny Ryan ("Refreshingly devoid of any literary or artistic pretensions, this first of what I hope will be many, many volumes nevertheless comes across as somehow one of the smartest and well crafted books of the year"); at #7, The Complete Peanuts 1971-1972 and The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974 by Charles M. Schulz ("Really strong stuff here, including the 'Charlie Brown wears a sack on his head to summer camp' sequence, surely the 'Poison River' of Peanuts"); and at #2, The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit ("Reminiscent of the best work of David Lynch, there are a lot of powerful themes humming just beneath the surface of the creepy and dreamlike narrative. This one hit hard, and I can't wait to read it again. Really, really impressive")

List: On the Family blog, Sammy Harkham lists 2008's Most Outrageous: The Trials and Trespasses of Dwaine Tinsley and Chester the Molester by Bob Levin as one of his Favorites of 2009

List: Cartoonist David Lasky's Best Graphic Novels of the Decade include Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco at #8 ("More haunting and harrowing than any TV news report on the subject") and The Frank Book by Jim Woodring at #10 ("Jim Woodring's cartoon animal, Frank, learns about life (the hard way) in an odd, visually lush, surreal world")

List: At the Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, Richard Cowdry's Best of the Year picks include E.C. Segar's Popeye ("beautiful Depression era comics") and Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit: Book 1 ("Johnny Ryan takes ideas and styles that have been knocking around the art comics scene for the last few years, and injects them with gallons of fun, attitude and humour. My favourite new comic of the year!"); he also names Noah Van Sciver as a talent to watch; for favorites of the decade he names Love and Rockets ("jaw-droppingly amazing"), Eightball #22, Hotwire Comics, and various issues of Mome ("REALLY good")

List: At Comic Book Galaxy, Marc Sobel declares You'll Never Know, Book One: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler to be Book of the Year: "Although this is only the first volume..., You’ll Never Know feels like Tyler’s masterpiece, the crowning achievement that she’s been building toward." (We also racked up 5 Honorable Mentions.)

List: Newsarama's Henry Chamberlain names the comics he was most intrigued by in 2009, including The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit ("Hans Rickheit has been producing work like this for years and he has perfected a certain haunted and exquisite comics style. Take it from me, this story of two very strange brothers is the real deal.")

List: Matthew Price of The Oklahoman names his top 10 graphic novels of the decade, with Joe Sacco's Safe Area Gorazde at #9 ("Joe Sacco's nonfiction account of the war in Bosnia was among the best ever examples of graphic novel journalism.")

List: Norwegian journalist Bente Kalsnes mentions Joe Sacco's Safe Area Gorazde as one of her favorite political comics

List: Edward Kaye of Hypergeek selects The Best Graphic Novels of 2009, including Low Moon by Jason ("At times both bleak and humorous, these beautifully absurd stories will leave you as speechless as one of Jason’s silent characters."), Love and Rockets: New Stories #2 by the Hernandez Brothers ("Los Bros. Hernandez continue to blaze trails with their originality, and the comic industry is better for it. This essential collection should be on every fan’s shelf."), Luba by Gilbert Hernandez ("It’s an astounding collection of stories about family, life, love, and heartbreak... [W]hen you read all of these powerful tales together in one place, you realise that Beto has created an epic here, unrivaled in its scale and depth. Words fail to express just how wonderful this collection is."), Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me by Peter Bagge ("It’s a brilliant piece of work, and perhaps Bagge’s finest achievement to date."), Locas II by Jaime Hernandez ("These tales of the lives of Maggie, Hopey, and Ray, are some of the most enthralling, and sometimes bizarre, stories ever told in the comic medium.") and You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! by Fletcher Hanks ("...[T]hese surreal tales from the dawn of the super hero are uncompromisingly vivid, brutal, and at times, completely insane!")

List/Coming Attractions/Plugs: Hypergeek lists The Essential Comics and Graphic Novels of 2010, including Almost Silent by Jason ("Jason is one of the greatest cartoonists in the world") and the year's books from the Hernandez Brothers: The Troublemakers ("I loved Chance in Hell, so this follow-up is a must for me. Beto is a wonderful storyteller, and an astonishing artist, so you can't go wrong picking this up, even if you've never read any L&R!"), High Soft Lisp ("This collection is essential for all L&R fans, as it collects together many of Beto's stories from the second L&R series, for the first time."), Penny Century ("Another essential collection for fans of L&R, collection Xamie's Penny Century stories from the Penny Century series and from Love & Rockets Volume II."), and Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 ("If it's a tenth as good as the first two volumes, we're in for a treat!")

Review: "...[G]oofy fun... Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941... is worth it for Fletcher Hanks’ 'Fantomah' and 'Stardust' strips and Basil Wolverton’s Spacehawk. The fact that you also get stuff like 'Yarko the Great' and 'Rex Dexter of Mars' can only be counted as a bonus." – Jeff Kapalka, The Post-Standard

Review: "Magnificent art. Panels that range from three or so across medium-sized panels and the occasional painfully detailed and colored super-sized panel. An ongoing story...with blood and gore even! Dooming predictions, wounds, loss and death. Fantagraphics is to be thanked for working so hard to produce a book [Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938] that shows Foster's artwork in a decent size and with the colors corrected." – Fred Kiesche, The Lensman's Children

Review: "For a change of pace, it's nice to delve into some work from the great Steve Ditko and find nary a spider-man nor a strange doctor among them. Fantagraphics provides the ideal venue for doing so in Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1... With the Fantagraphics logo on the sturdy spine, readers can expect — and receive — a top-quality package with crisp pages and handsome design. It's certainly attractive for some stories Ditko dismissed as 'junk,' but we all know there's treasure buried in trash." – Rod Lott, Bookgasm

Review: "Issue #2 [of Sublife] saw a lot of [the] promise [of the first issue] fulfilled in a group of stories that ranged across both genres and visual styles... What connected each story was a common theme: the desire for family and the ways in which that need either created surrogate families or metastasized into something darker." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal

Plug: "What better way to celebrate the season of peace than [The Great Anti-War Cartoons]?... Pretty fascinating." – Corey Blake

Plug: Filipino blogger Randy Valiente looks at The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion

Plug: Robot 6 guest contributor Shaenon Garrity got Humbug for Christmas: "I love Harvey Kurtzman's failed magazine projects... Kurtzman never had much success in all his long career, but he had a talent for making smart people want to give him a hand... fun stuff. It's got a lot of work by Arnold Roth, whom I love."

Coming Attractions: Robot 6 surveys numerous comics pros as to what they're looking forward to in 2010: in part 1, Evan Dorkin mentions several of our upcoming reprint collections; in part 2, Chris Schweitzer mentions Drew Weing's Set to Sea (July); in part 3, Jamie S. Rich mentions Lucky in Love by Chieffet & DeStefano

Interview: The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater continues (in part 3 of 4) his conversation with Carol Tyler: "I thought I could knock it out really quickly. That’s not case. But that’s not really stopping me, or anything. It’s just that, if it takes another six months to make this nicer, sweeter, and more wonderful, I want to. At first I thought I could get it all out in one package. I had it ready. But I’m not person who can write a script and then go illustrate it. I’m intuitive and I’m intuiting my way into this huge subject matter that hits me like a rock. There’s times when I can’t work because it makes me cry."

Profile: Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning talks to Dash Shaw about The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.: "I realize that some people think of comics as being storyboards, or as some kind of preliminary work for a movie, and that's very funny to me. But usually the people who think that are film-industry people who think EVERYTHING is preliminary work for a future film! A book, play, whatever! Ha!"

Survey: The Beat's year-end survey of comics pros includes the following responses. From Jay Lynch: "When I think of comics in the 00s I think of: Johnny Ryan." From Mike Dawson: "What was the biggest story in comics in 2009? The Comics Journal moving almost exclusively online."

Essay: At conservative entertainment site Big Hollywood, a new 90-point think piece from Steve Ditko (via Journalista)

Tribute: Robert Birnbaum of The Morning News remembers David Levine; Robot 6 has a good list of more remembrances

Contest: Kevin Church is giving away a copy of West Coast Blues by Tardi & Manchette to one lucky blog commenter

Things to see: Kevin Huizenga's "Postcard from Fielder," part 5

Things to see: Hans Rickheit's Ectopiary, page 5

Things to see: Gabrielle Bell's quest for Crumb consummated

Come on, people: One of my rare editorial comments: Why the hell haven't any "best covers of 2009" lists included Jordan Crane's Uptight #3? Critics: Get with the program!

Daily OCD: 12/29/09
Written by Mike Baehr | Filed under Steve DitkoreviewsPaul KarasikJosh SimmonsFletcher HanksComing AttractionsChris WareCarol TylerBlazing CombatBlake BellBest of 2009 29 Dec 2009 1:28 PM

A nice short Online Commentary & Diversions update:

List: Comicdom continues their Top 100 of the 00s with Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library at #3: "Whatever the format, or content of the story, each issue of Acme Novelty Library is a special 'objet d'art,' which is part of the vision of an author who redefined what can be considered 'comics' and provided us new ways of storytelling." (from Google translation)

List: At ComicsDC, Mike Rhode John Judy reviews the year in comics, with nods to Blazing Combat ("Kudos to Fantagraphics for putting this together"), Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1 ("You must have this"), and You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! ("Highly recommended")

Review: "The list of excellent graphic novels released in 2009 seems to grow with every other book read, and [You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man]... stands out even in its crowded field. Carol Tyler really makes a name for herself with this 'graphic memoir,' as the cover calls it, demonstrating an incredible grasp of storytelling structure and a layering of personal and historical incident into a complex, cohesive whole that illuminates her own life along with her subject's. It's an impressive achievement, and as the first volume of a projected trilogy, it's indicative of the quality to come." – Matthew J. Brady

Coming Attractions: The bloggers at Comics And... Other Imaginary Tales comment thoughtfully on a couple of titles from our February solicitations

Things to see: Josh Simmons has compiled a handy list of his comics that are available to read for free online

Daily OCD: 12/28/09
Written by Mike Baehr | Filed under Willie and JoeThe Comics JournalSupermenSteve DitkoStan SakaiRobert GoodinreviewsPrince ValiantPopeyePeter BaggePeanutsPaul KarasikPaul HornschemeierMort WalkerMichael KuppermanLove and RocketsLos Bros HernandezKevin HuizengaJohn PhamJoe SaccoJoe DalyJerry DumasJaime HernandezJacques TardiIvan BrunettiHumbugHans RickheitHal FosterGahan WilsonGabrielle BellFletcher HanksEC SegarCharles M SchulzCarol TylerBlake BellBill MauldinBest of 2009Anders NilsenAl ColumbiaAbstract Comics 28 Dec 2009 3:20 PM

Gird yourself for an epic installment of Online Commentary & Diversions:

List: Critic Robert Boyd names his top 15 Best Comics of 2009, with You Are There by Tardi & Forest at #2, Popeye Vol. 4 at #7 ("top-notch, Segar at his greatest"), Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me by Peter Bagge at #12 ("very, very funny") and You'll Never Know, Book 1 by C. Tyler at #13 ("a glorious mess, but a moving and beautiful one")

List: Comic Book Resources columnist Greg Hatcher names his Best Reprint Collections of 2009, including The Complete Peanuts ("truly wonderful... not to be missed")

List: Joe Gross of the Austin American-Statesman names notable comics of 2009, including Pim & Francie by Al Columbia ("It's a bit like peeking at J.D. Salinger's notebooks, if his notebooks were pure nightmare fuel") and You'll Never Know, Book 1 by C. Tyler ("A terrific addition to the canon of literature about baby boomers, their parents and their children")

List: Hillary Brown and Garrett Martin of SHAZHMMM... both include Tales Designed to Thrizzle by Michael Kupperman in their top 5 comics of the year

List: On the Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, comics writer Mike Carey (Unwritten) names Boody: The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers one of his favorite comics of 2009 ("utterly fantastic")

List: The Oregonian's Steve Duin places The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book by Joe Daly  at #6 on his top-10 list of The Best of 2009: Comics and Graphic Novels

List: Greek site Comicdom names Ivan Brunetti's Schizo #4 to the #4 spot on their Top 100 of the 00s countdown. From the Google translation: "With words or silence, with an excellent sequence between the panels and embroidered with punchlines, reading this comic becomes a personal matter, even though the association, the painfully honest confession, is more or less familiar to everyone."

List: Fústar awards The Clanging Gong of Doom for "Weirdest & Most Brain-Searingly Wonderful Book of the Year" to You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! by Fletcher Hanks, which "might be testament to rage-filled, borderline psychosis – but it's thrillingly vital and magnificently (uniquely) strange for all that."

List: Christopher Allen of Comic Book Galaxy informally lists some Best of 2009 choices, including the year's Love and Rockets releases, Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1, and Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938

Review: "...[T]he great pleasures of each story [in The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book] are the odd, idiosyncratic details Daly includes, and the way in which he reveals them. ... I’ve never read anything like it—and now I want nothing more than to read more of it." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama

Review: "Sublife Vol. 2... is John Pham’s gorgeously designed one-man anthology book, including about a half-dozen stories of various genres, formats, sensibilities and even art styles, each impeccably laid out on longer-than-it-is-high, 8.5-by-7-inch rectangular pages. ... They’re all pretty great on their own, and taken all together, they make up a downright remarkable book." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama (same link as above)

Review: "...[C. Tyler's] autobiographical comics display a shocking, unruly wholesomeness: they are visually and morally beautiful, suffused with a scrap-doodle amateurism and palpable maternal love... You’ll Never Know, Tyler’s newest book, is modeled on a scrapbook and is a tribute to craftsmanship, much like the home repair and plumbing we see her father, the 'good and decent man' of the title, often undertaking. ... Tyler mitigates this directness of heart with a dynamically pesky drawing style, splattering each panel with the democratic debris of life." – Ken Chen, Rain Taxi

Review: "While we’re torturing geeks, I have to put in a good word for Andrei Molotiu’s Abstract Comics: The Anthology... The collection has a wealth of rewarding material, some of it awkward, some groundbreaking — on the whole, it is a significant historical document that may jump-start an actual new genre." – Doug Harvey, LA Weekly

Review: "Some of the writing [in Humbug] may seem a bit quaint in our ‘irony coming out our asses’ present day, but the artwork is uniformly mind-blowing. ... This collects the whole ill-fated run in a luxurious hardbound package including top-notch background material. Worth it for the mammoth Arnold Roth & Al Jaffee interview alone." – M. Ace, Irregular Orbit

Review: "The Education of Hopey Glass... [is t]he proverbial artist at the peak of his powers — except he keeps taking that peak higher every time." – M. Ace, Irregular Orbit

Plug: "...Willie & Joe: The WWII Years... might make a veteran in your life very happy." – David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Plugs: In an interview with Newsarama, Chris Ureta Casos of Seattle comic shop Comics Dungeon gives a nice shout-out to our recent reprint efforts and names Paul Hornschemeier's Mother, Come Home as a personal all-time favorite

Plug: Robot 6's Chris Mautner got our collection of Jerry Dumas and Mort Walker's Sam's Strip for Christmas ("you can sense the two of them having fun")

Plugs: "Fantagraphics (again) certainly delivered big-time on the second (and probably final) collection of primitive comic savant Fletcher Hanks’ You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!, as well as with the almost-as-weird Supermen!: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941." – Doug Harvey, LA Weekly 

Interview: The Wall Street Journal's Jamin Brophy-Warren has a brief Q&A with Gahan Wilson: "The other thing that dawned on me was we were destroying the planet or at least we were destroying it as a feasible environment. There’s a little grandiosity in saying we’re destroying the earth — we’re just screwing it up so we can’t live. For one, that was hilarious that we’d be determined to continue and it keeps getting worse and worse."

Interview: The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater continues his conversation with Carol Tyler: "I…can’t…the secret of life? I’m not giving away the secret! I’ll just tell you this — it’s funny around here, because I have to go and pick up dog poop or something. And I’ve heard something like, 'Robert and Aline [Crumb] are in the New Yorker, this week. Oh, they’ve got ten pages.' And I’m just picking up dog poop, but I’m happy, for some reason. I’m happy!"

Interview: It's the Comics Journal #300 conversation between Stan Sakai and Chris Switzer at TCJ.com

News: Polish blog Kolorowe Zeszyty reports that Joe Sacco's Safe Area Gorazde is about to be published in their country by Mroja Press

Things to see: Gabrielle Bell's latest strip co-stars Anders Nilsen and Barack Obama

Things to see: Kevin Huizenga's "Postcard from Fielder" part 4; also, a kitty!

Things to see: Hans Rickheit's Ectopiary page 4 (with commentary)

Things to see: Robert Goodin's first-ever record-cover art

Things to see: Anders Nilsen, still killing it in his sketchbook

Daily OCD: 12/24/09
Written by Mike Baehr | Filed under Steve DitkoreviewsPeanutsMichael KuppermanJim WoodringDash ShawCharles M SchulzBlake BellBest of 2009Abstract Comics 24 Dec 2009 3:41 PM

Online Commentary & Diversions will return next week. Have a great holiday!

List: From Alan David Doane of Comic Book Galaxy's not-technically-a-best-of end-of-year roundup: "...[O]f course Fantagraphics continued to make life better with its ongoing Complete Peanuts collections, and their Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1 was also one of the treasures of the year, filled with tons of the master's weird and wonky comics."

Review: "...I enjoyed the hell out of this book. ... Not only did Portable Grindhouse remind me of ye olden days, it also gave me quite a laugh. You won’t believe some of the ridiculously schlocky movies that are included in this book. I honestly can’t recommend it enough. It’s the perfect book for anyone who understands the art of the guilty pleasure and the joy in a terrifically bad movie, as well as those who took great joy in the hunt for home video entertainment. Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box gets two thumbs WAY up!" – Chad Derdowski, Mania

Review: "...Tales Designed to Thrizzle, whose first four issues have just been anthologized as a hardcover... bring[s] a slick, hyperreal illustrative consistency that amplifies the already dreamlike mixture of familiarity and strangeness, which permeates [Kupperman's] deadpan surrealist slapstick." – Doug Harvey, LA Weekly

Interview: The latest in this week's series of Dash Shaw interviews is with Entertainment Weekly. Interviewer Darren Franich calls Bottomless Belly Button "a genuine masterpiece" and says the stories in The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D. are "gut-punchingly wondrous." Teaser quote from Dash: "Unclothed Man, to me, is about figure drawing and figure drawing classes and what it’s like to be a figure drawing model. If you pick up an old How to Draw the Figure Book, it’s always Pin-Up girls. Like, How to Draw This Reclining Hot Chick. The sexual undertones are obviously there in the drawing, but the classroom is such a weird academic repressed environment."

Profile: Wider Screenings presents a video profile of Australian artist and Abstract Comics contributor Tim Gaze (link updated 12/29)

Things to see: Good heavens, what has Jim Woodring done to Manhog this time?

Daily OCD: 12/22/09
Written by Mike Baehr | Filed under Zak SallyThe Comics JournalSteve DitkoreviewsJoe DalyJim BlanchardJaime HernandezHans RickheitGabrielle BellDash ShawBlake BellBest of 2009 22 Dec 2009 3:01 PM

Online Commentary & Diversions for you:

List: FEARnet names Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1 one of the Top 9 Comic Books and Graphic Novels of '09: "Shunning the spotlight of fans and the press, the artist has chosen instead to let his books speak for themselves. They continue to speak loudly, and with a weird grace lacking in much of his contemporaries' work."

List/Review: "Druggy noir vividly told, [The] Red Monkey [Double Happiness Book] is like watching Jim Rockford take a monster bong-hit before getting bashed in the jaw by some muscle of a rich guy in a bar bathroom. 'The Leaking Cello Case' and 'John Wesley Harding' are both contenders for short graphic fiction of the year, with pellucid plotting distorted by strange times and scary surprises. The artwork is like the more story-based finely crafted alternative comics of the 90s, and the sense of distorted place and identity as creative as fiction by Thomas Pynchon. If that seems lofty, start here and wait for Daly to one day unveil his Gravity's Rainbow." – Chris Estey, Three Imaginary Girls "Great Reads of 2009"

Review: "Thank you, Fantagraphics, for compiling 15 years of the Love and Rockets comic series into 700 pages of punk rock, heartbreak, and self-discovery. Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories presents Jaime Hernandez's indie masterpiece in the entirety of its run between 1981 to 1996... a serious contender for the American comic canon." - Aysha Pamukcu, Plasma Pool

Review: "OK, first, my initial impression of cartoonist Hans Rickheit’s new book The Squirrel Machine was one of amazement (a word I don’t bandy about indulgently) and bafflement. I am clear I am not grasping something — not an unpleasant feeling in this circumstance. ... As usual for Fanatagraphics, this book is well-designed and well-printed. Let me know if you figure out what it’s about, though not knowing made it no less fun for me." – Robert Birnbaum, The Morning News

Interview: Alice Parker of Comics Alliance gets a whole lot of info out of Dash Shaw: "As for me, I like a lot of different things. I'm not a discriminating reader of comics, which is a problem, I think. I can read just about any comic, but I definitely wouldn't read any all-word book."

Interview: And in your second Dash Shaw interview of the day, with Tim Needles of Short and Sweet NYC, some advice for aspiring artists: "The other thing is it’s probably going to be touch and go forever and you are going to have to do an absurd amount of work before you get a penny for it and even when you get that penny, it’s probably just going to be a penny. On the other hand it is really awesome to draw all the time and devote your life to it."

Interview: Jaime Hernandez and Zak Sally's must-read chat from The Comics Journal #300 is now online at TCJ.com

Things to see: In Gabrielle Bell's latest strip, more adventures with Kim Deitch and the search for Crumb

Things to see: A portrait of the great Harry Dean Stanton by the great Jim Blanchard

Daily OCD: 12/18/09
Written by Mike Baehr | Filed under Tim LaneThe Comics JournalSteve DitkoRoy CraneNoah Van SciverJoe SaccoJasonJacques TardiHo Che AndersonDrew FriedmanDash ShawDaniel ClowesCarol TylerBlake BellBest of 2009audioAnders Nilsen 18 Dec 2009 4:05 PM

Online Commentary & Diversions:

List: Critic John Seven names Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco one of the Decade's Best Graphic Novels, in a list focused on "graphic novels for people who don’t want to read comics." (via The Comics Reporter)

List: Matthew Price of The Oklahoman gives Ganges #3 the 9th position on his 10 Best Periodical Comic Books of 2009: "Kevin Huizenga continues to be one of comics' brightest indie creators... Huizenga uses his talents to immerse the reader inside Ganges' head."

List/reviews/analysis: On the Inkstuds radio program, a roundtable of prominent critics (Sean T. Collins, Tim Hodler, & Chris Mautner) join host Robin McConnell for a discussion of 2009's standout books, including our two "You" books, You Are There by Tardi & Forest and You'll Never Know, Book 1 by C. Tyler

Reviews/analysis: The Hooded Utilitarian's contrarian critical roundtable of Ghost World marches on with Ng Suat Tong, Vom Marlowe, Kinukitty again, and more Noah Berlatsky, who also points out that you can follow the whole thing here

Review: "What's better than a new story by Jason? Why, several in one volume, of course! ...[T]he more of Jason's weird energy and quirky, poignant storytelling that I can consume at one time, the better. ... It's kind of a mystery how well he's able to do it, crafting easy-to-follow stories in such a minimalist style, but luckily, they're incredibly enjoyable, so one can easily get lost in them, forgetting questions of craft and technique because those aspects become all but invisible. ... [Low Moon] is another great example of the strange alchemy that Jason has mastered, drawing readers in to compelling tales of people caught up in oddly familiar situations, even when they're dealing with something that's off-kilter from reality as we know it. That's the Jason touch, and long may it continue to grace our pages." – Matthew J. Brady

Plug: In Richard Metzger's profile of Steve Ditko for Dangerous Minds, he says "I may be a little late to the game on this one, but I recently got a copy of Blake Bell’s Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, a coffeetable book published by Fantagraphics last year and it is a wonderful and fascinating look at Ditko’s life and work. Kudos to Bell for putting together such a volume which was clearly a labor of love and unique erudition."

Interview: Excerpted in its entirety from The Comics Journal #300, the conversation between Ho Che Anderson and Howard Chaykin

Things to see: What's this, another "Blind Date" strip from Dash Shaw?

Things to see: Drew Friedman revisits a Sports Illustrated illo of Tiger Woods and Mike Tyson he did a while ago and ponders their subsequent role reversal

Things to see: If you haven't seen the comics section in the San Francisco Panorama from McSweeney's yet (featuring Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, Kim Deitch, Seth, Art Spiegelman etc.), Flickr user Steve Rhodes has a mess of photos of the whole dang paper

Things to see: Paul Pope draws Captain Easy in action (our Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune: The Complete Sunday Newspaper Strips Vol. 1 is currently scheduled for February) (via The Comics Reporter)

Things to see: More cut-outs (older ones this time) from Tim Lane

Things to see: More Post-its from Anders Nilsen

Things to see: I'm happy to report that Noah Van Sciver's cartoon interviews for The Comics Journal continue at TCJ.com, kicking off with David Heatley

Daily OCD: 12/14/09
Written by Mike Baehr | Filed under Zak SallyTim LaneThe Comics JournalSteve DitkoRobert WilliamsRobert CrumbPrince ValiantPortable GrindhousePopeyePeter BaggeMomeMiss Lasko-GrossMichael KuppermanLove and RocketsLos Bros HernandezLilli Carrélife imitates comicsKim DeitchKevin HuizengaJohnny RyanJohn PhamJim WoodringJim BlanchardJasonJaime HernandezJacques TardiJacques BoyreauHumbugHans RickheitGabrielle BellFemke HiemstraFantagraphics historyFantagraphics BookstoreEC SegarDrew FriedmanDaniel ClowesCarol TylerBrian KaneBlake BellBest of 2009Basil WolvertonAnders NilsenAl Columbia 14 Dec 2009 6:04 PM

Oh man these Online Commentary & Diversions links really pile up:

List: The Daily Cross Hatch presents The Best Damned Comics of 2009 Chosen by the Artists, this year's edition of their essential annual survey of comics pros' top 5 comics. I won't quote all the lists' commentary here since that would steal some of their thunder (not to mention take me all night), but Pim & Francie by Al Columbia merits 5 mentions; You'll Never Know, Book 1 by C. Tyler is on 3 lists; The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman, Like a Dog by Zak Sally, Prison Pit Book 1 by Johnny Ryan, Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me by Peter Bagge are all mentioned twice; and The Wolverton Bible, Locas II by Jaime Hernandez, Humbug, Popeye Vol. 4, Low Moon by Jason, You Are There by Tardi & Forest, A Mess of Everything by Miss Lasko-Gross, Prince Valiant Vol. 1, Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1, and Lilli Carré's work in Mome all show up once each (plus a couple of 2008 releases like Zak Sally's Sammy the Mouse #2 and Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw sneak in there)

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

Review: At The Hooded Utilitarian (a TCJ.com-hosted blog), reviewer Kinukitty kicks off a critical roundtable on Daniel Clowes's Ghost World on a contrarian note

Plug: "Just got Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol 1. Faaaaantastic! ... Raw and grotesque and beautifully drawn and presented." – Dave Gibbons (via consecutive Twitter posts)

Plug: Los Angeles Magazine highlights Conceptual Realism by Robert Williams and Sublife Vol. 2 by John Pham in their monthly roundup of books of local interest

Plug: Mike Sterling presents a brilliant panel from Popeye Vol. 4 and declares re: the book "Comics don't get much better than this."

Plug: Alison Nastasi of Horror Squad calls Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box "a tasty opus" and plugs last weekend's Fantagraphics Bookstore events

Plug: Boing Boing "Boing Boings" the Femke Hiemstra exhibit at Roq la Rue

Events: The Seattle Times' Christy Karras talks to participants in yesterday's Portable Grindhouse panel discussion at Fantagraphics Bookstore and makes the case for Seattle as Zombie City U.S.A.

Analysis: Hypergeek crunches direct market sales data and declares Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1 the top small-press trade for November 2009, with Pim & Francie by Al Columbia ranking at #12

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."

History: Love & Maggie rounds up the history of Love and Rockets 1979-1982 — even Gary Groth is impressed!

Things to see: Tim Lane's Temptations diorama... completed? Oops, no, there's an audience in progress

* Things to see: Johnny Ryan did some gag cartoons for a girlie calendar from streetwear purveyors Mishka

Things to see: An advertisement from Anders Nilsen

Things to see: At his blog, Drew Friedman pays birthday tribute to old Jewish comedian Morey Amsterdam

Things to see: The Huffington Post has a previously unseen 1968 photo of R. Crumb by photojournalist Harry Benson

Things to see: Vince Lombardi by Jim Blanchard (for his pa, aw!)

Things to see: The newest strip from Gabrielle Bell guest-stars Kim Deitch & Pam Butler

Things to see: Kevin Huizenga's "Postcard from Fielder" part 2

Life imitates comics: Failed Russian missile test or event from Jim Woodring's Weathercraft? You decide

Daily OCD: 12/11/09
Written by Mike Baehr | Filed under Steve DitkoPortable GrindhouseMichael KuppermanLove and RocketsJim WoodringJacques TardiJacques BoyreauHans RickheitGahan WilsonFrom Wonderland with LoveDerek Van GiesonDash ShawCarol TylerBlake BellBest of 2009Abstract Comics 11 Dec 2009 4:54 PM

Online Commentary & Diversions:

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: The Oregonian's Steve Duin, while professing "I am not on the board of directors of the Gahan Wilson fan club," nonetheless finds some pleasures in Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons, declaring "This is a stunning collection, gloriously presented."

Review: superhumanoids writes of Dash Shaw's "eccentric little Animated Web Series That Could" The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D., "Disparate animation styles and simple, hand drawn production value is the perfect vessel for a world where future-artists hone their still life sketches on rigid, unmoving droids."

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

Plug: Clicky Overload reminds us "By the way, world's best comic publisher Fantagraphics has a collection of Krampus postcards called The Devil in Design: The Krampus Postcards."

Gift guide: Comics Alliance recommends Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1 for the recluse in your life in their snarky "Holiday Shopping Guide for the Unemployed Comics Fan" (sorry Steve, I just reports 'em)

Links: Time for another awe-inspiring Love and Rockets mega link roundup post from Love & Maggie

Things to see: Actually, Derek, I kinda like it

Things to see: In Jim Woodring's latest blog posting, Frank faces terror from the deep! Yow!

Daily OCD: Special NYT/EW Edition
Written by Mike Baehr | Filed under Steve DitkoreviewsMichael KuppermanLilli CarréBlake BellAbstract Comics 6 Dec 2009 3:38 PM

In today's New York Times Sunday Book Review, Douglas Wolk turns in some short reviews of recommended comics for the holidays, including:

Tales Designed to Thrizzle Volume One by Michael Kupperman

"The blandly didactic sobriety of old educational comics and earnest advertisements... is Michael Kupper­man’s default tone for the deranged, gaspingly funny work collected in Tales Designed to Thrizzle: Volume One. Kupperman has a stiff, deadpan drawing style that suggests the textures of woodcuts, clip-art and old 'Mary Worth' strips; his writing, on the other hand, jumps the rails at every opportunity."

Abstract Comics

 "The artists assembled by Andrei Molotiu for his anthology Abstract Comics push 'cartooning' to its limits: the selections have few if any words, no characters or plot, and very few clearly identifiable representations — just abstract images in sequence. ... It’s a fascinating book to stare at, and as with other kinds of abstract art, half the fun is observing your own reactions..."

(Edited to add: There's also a very nice review of Lilli Carré's new Little Otsu book Nine Ways to Disappear.)

Meanwhile, over at Entertainment Weekly, Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1 is #9 on this week's "Must List":

Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1

"This exhilarating collection of stories by the comic-book artist who co-created Spider-Man captures all the glorious chills and blood spills from the first two years of his career."

Daily OCD: 12/3/09
Written by Mike Baehr | Filed under The Comics JournalSteve DitkoreviewsPrince ValiantPortable GrindhouseOlivier SchrauwenLove and RocketsJohnny RyanJaime HernandezJacques TardiJacques BoyreauGilbert HernandezFantagraphics BookstoreCarol TylerBlazing CombatBlake BellBest of 2009Basil Wolverton 3 Dec 2009 5:24 PM

Online Commentary & Diversions:

• List: For The Barnes & Noble Review, Douglas Wolk picks his 5 "Best Graphic Novels of 2009," including You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler ("...indelible, majestically composed images. Compassionate but unsparing...") and Luba by Gilbert Hernandez ("Fiery, wildly raunchy, deliriously complicated, and bubbling over with life")

• Gift Guide: At Comic Book Resources, Steven Grant's holiday recommendations are Fantagraphics-heavy, heaping praise on West Coast Blues, Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol., Blazing Combat, Locas II, and The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion: "Don't mean to be a shill for Fantagraphics, but they really do produce splendid looking books, gift-worthy in appearance as well as content."

• 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)

• Plug: Shock Till You Drop calls Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box "a must-have for any horror nut this holiday."

• Plug: Heather Buckley of Dread Central says of Portable Grindhouse, "This 200-page soft cover tome documents our ghoulish favorites from video stores past in full splatterific detail... I can’t even begin to tell you my excitement," and says of our Bookstore's 3rd Anniversary/Portable Grindhouse book launch and panel discussion, "So, my Pacific Northwest Monsters Kids, this could be fun. Heck, I wish I were out there to go myself."

• Commentary: Sparkplug's Dylan Williams presents a brief excerpt from and comments on the Gary Arlington interview in "one of the best issues of The Comics Journal ever," #264

• Things to see: Is this page by Olivier Schrauwen for a future Mome story? Man I hope so!


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