• Review: "Barks, the artist, is a master cartoonist, drawing lively, expressive characters with a graceful sense of movement. His beautiful, detailed backgrounds plant the ducks in a fully realized world that adds weight to his storytelling.... But besides the entertaining plots, Barks’ appeal is in his characters. He gives his ducks many human frailties and while they usually try to do the right thing, they make mistakes, get angry, frustrated, and even fail. Fantagraphics Books... does its usual high quality work here as well. The design and layout of the book is a handy comic-book size hardcover with bright, colorful reproductions of the comics. Besides the comics, there are articles on Barks and analysis on each story... For both newcomers to Barks' work and diehard fans, [Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes] is a book that any comic book reader would love to find under the Christmas tree." – Rich Clabaugh, The Christian Science Monitor
• Interview: At The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon talks with Rich Tommaso about his coloring work on our Carl Barks Library series — "[Disney] said we didn't have to be so religious about it. They wanted to make sure the color for the ducks, the reds and blues and the yellows, that those were pretty much bang-on. But they agreed that there was a little bit of leeway. If something looked like a bad color choice, you could find something in the ballpark range of that color. So that's what I would do." — and about his own comics work
• Review: "All aspects of Kubert's career are touched on in this tome, which is loaded with beautiful colour reproductions of its subject's artwork and complemented by a lengthy and insightful critical commentary by comic book historian Bill Schelly. Over the course of the book's 224 pages, you can see quite clearly how Kubert's art evolved and how his storytelling skills developed, but also how his unique style, those striking touch and sinewy images that could have been rendered by no one else, has remained intact. As with Fantagraphics' previous coffee table comic art books, The Art of Joe Kubert makes you want to see more — all! — of the artist's work." – Miles Fielder, The List
• Review: "Frank Zappa once said 'most rock journalism is people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t talk, for people who can’t read.' However true that might be, Paul Nelson was one who most definitely could write. And he interviewed people who could talk, and plenty of people read what he wrote. Kevin Avery certainly read what Nelson wrote, and has now written Everything Is an Afterthought, which is both a biography of Nelson and a collection of his work, including some pieces that have never been published.... Like the best critics, Nelson was primarily a fan of what he wrote about, subjects that struck a chord with him. And here’s a bio and a collection of his work written by a fan of his." – Robert O'Connor, Spike Magazine
• Plug: Proud contributor to our first Walt Kelly Pogo volume Mark Evanier talks up the book on his blog: "It's a wonderful book and though I am a Consulting Editor — I think that's my title — I can rave about it because I deserve very little credit for its wonderfulness. Any book that properly presents the work of Mr. Kelly is going to be, by definition, wonderful...and Carolyn Kelly (daughter of Walt, companion of mine) and Fantagraphics Books made sure it was properly presented."
Plug: "...Michael Kupperman's new book [Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010]... has everything a boy could want, including Mark Twain on the track of the elusive yeti!... Albert Einstein is a major supporting player in the book (he and Twain open a detective agency, natch) and somehow it behooves me to remind everyone that in real life for really real, Einstein's granddaughter married a renowned bigfoot hunter. That is a fact you can look up on your computer!" – Jack Pendarvis
• Interview:Robot 6's Tim O'Shea talks with Shannon Wheeler, with a couple of revealing behind-the-scenes tidbits about Oil and Water in the second half: "Steve [Duin] understands a scene really well. When all the characters visited the bird cleaning facility there was a large storytelling arc with multiple subplots. I would have been afraid to juggle so many elements. I would have focused on the single note of the horror of the facility. Steve isn’t afraid to trust the reader to understand. I’m a lot less trusting of the reader. Steve showed me how to have more faith in the narrative."
The new Diamond Previews catalog came out recently and in it you'll find our usual 2-page spread (download the PDF) with our releases scheduled to arrive in your local comic shop in January 2012 (give or take — some release dates may have changed since the issue went to press). We're pleased to offer additional and updated information about these upcoming releases here on our website, to help shops and customers alike make more informed ordering decisions.
• List: Thus beginneth the Best of 2011 links, as Publishers Weekly names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 by Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez one of their top 10 Best Comics of 2011: "Even in a long career of masterpieces, Jaime's story about missed opportunities for happiness is a revelation, while Gilbert continues to cement his place as the Jorodowsky of comics with a vampire tale."
• Review: "Another great issue, with the continuation and ending of 'The Love Bunglers,' from Jaime Hernandez. It's a real knockout and quite touching for those that have followed the strip and these characters since the eighties. You almost have to remind yourself that, yes, these are characters, not real people! Apparently, nobody told Jaime that the quality of one's work is supposed to go down after working on a strip that long." – Jason, at his Cats Without Dogs blog
• Commentary: "I've been thinking a lot about Jaime Hernandez's conclusion to his Locas story 'The Love Bunglers' (from L&R New Stories vol. 4) -- mainly b/c it was such an incredible piece that I cry every time I read it. I even recently threatened to force a friend to read all the Locas stuff, because it's so freaking good. But then I started wondering -- is it as awesome if you read it all at once?" – Alicia K., Wordnerdy
• Review: "Readers and admirers, myself included, often think of Gilbert as the better writer of the two brothers and Jaime as the better artist. With only a few exceptions, Gilbert has been the best writer in American comic books over a three decade period. No one has produced more beautiful art for black and white comics the way Jaime has over that same period, a period in which he has been the best comic book artist in North America. 'Browntown' is one of the stories in which Jaime shows that he can write as well as draw comic books better than most and as good as the very best.... 'Browntown' is an incredible story with a sense of realism and gravity unseen in most comic books. 'Browntown' alone makes Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 one of the best comic books of 2010." – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "Love and Rockets: New Stories #2 reminds us, as the first issue did, that comic books from the Hernandez Brothers are always a welcome thing. A year may be a long wait, but when it comes to Los Bros’ coolness and greatness, time is neutral. I can always reread this and enjoy it just as much as I did the first time." – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "...Nuts, which ran in National Lampoon throughout the ’70s, ...offered a largely autobiographical look at the way childhood actually is: a perpetually confusing state of existence, in which kids are jostled to and fro by adults who don’t seem to know what they’re doing (but want to make sure that their offspring are parked somewhere out of the way while they do it).... They’re wonderful pieces of comic art..., applying Wilson’s usual sense of the grotesque and macabre to phenomena like summer camp and sick days. And they’re not all bitter either... He mixes the sour and the sweet exceptionally well." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Plug: "I’ve written at length about this strip [Nuts] before, but it’s worth reiterating I think just how goddamn wonderful this comic is, and how great it is to have a decent collection available after lying fallow for so long. Wilson captures the anxieties and traumas of childhood as few cartoonists have before or since." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6 (for their weekly "What Are You Reading?" column which features our own Jacq Cohen this week)
• Review: "Again, stunning drawings. And quite bloody! Valiant is being tortured, people are killed left and right [in Prince Valiant Vol. 4]. There's a strange sequence in the book involving another knight, Tristram, who I don't think has been introduced earlier, that looks like a double of Valiant, but with a mustache! He is killed by a jealous king, but instead of Valiant and Gawain, who are there, seeking vengeance they just ride off. Not quite sure what was going on in Foster's mind there." – Jason, at his Cats Without Dogs blog
• Plugs: At The Beat, Torsten Adair spotlights a whole mess of our recent and upcoming releases, declaring "If you’re going to ship your book bucks to Washington, it’s better to send them to Fantagraphics than Amazon!"
• Plug: "Carl Barks was a genius when it came to turning Donald Duck and company into comic book characters, and his creation of Uncle Scrooge continues to delight and amuse countless generations. Thankfully, that trend will continue thanks to Fantagraphics’ release of Carl Barks’ Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes." – Kevin Kelly, Wizard World
Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1 went to the printer today and series editor Blake Bell celebrates by revealing the final cover art for the book — a snappy number designed by Alexa Koenings in our art department. At Blake's blog you can see the entire cover spread (front, back and spine) and read Blake's thoughts and background info on the book, which is due in December.
The new Diamond Previews catalog is out today and in it you'll find our usual 2-page spread with our releases scheduled to arrive in your local comic shop in November 2011 (give or take — some release dates may have changed since the issue went to press). We're pleased to offer additional and updated information about these upcoming releases here on our website, to help shops and customers alike make more informed ordering decisions.
• Review: "Fantagraphics, always a publisher you can count on to rescue classic comic material from oblivion, has published a gorgeous 288 page hardcover archive edition of Mickey [Mouse]'s earliest serialized comic strip adventures and he's quite a different character than we know today...a little rambunctious, a little mischievous, and a whole lot of fun. This book takes readers on a glorious ride through depression-era adventures as Mickey battles villains, becomes a fireman, visits a circus, and meets his faithful pup Pluto for the first time. Besides the many great comic strips, Fantagraphics has filled the book with a ton of supplemental material... This is an absolute must-have for any Mickey Mouse fan. Grade A" – Tim Janson, Mania
Burgas: "McKean’s art is astounding, as it always is. He moves from his very rough pencil work that he used on Cages and moves quickly into a multimedia extravaganza, with photographs interspersed with film reels (more photographs, of course, but used in a different way) and paintings and more detailed pencil work. The colors are magnificent, too... It’s an astonishing work of art, to be sure..."
Thompson: "I agree that the success of this book is in that it is beautiful from cover to cover. As a rule I tend to prefer McKean’s very rough pencil work, though I very much appreciate the layering mixed media styles he uses, and I found all of it very beautiful and successful in that way. I was impressed with the color choices and the really wonderful cubist look he achieved for some of the work, and some of the mixed media he used toward the end was some of my favorite in the book period.... After discussing it, I feel more pleased with the book as a whole because I’ve been forced to admit that I don’t recall seeing many more effective executions of erotic subject matter as a legitimate work of art in this way..."
Burgas: "What is compelling about Celluloid is that McKean tackles a difficult subject and elevates it beyond a simple porn comic. I think the very fact that Celluloid makes you wonder about sex in many of its iterations is impressive. As you can see, both Kelly and I had our issues with it, but it’s a gorgeous comic nevertheless. It’s definitely something that you don’t see every day!"
• Review: "I have the impression that Lewis Trondheim is the most important European artist of his generation. Such is the creativity and productivity and so the breadth of his work that, for me at least, wins the title deservedly. Approximate Continuum Comics... is the first part of Trondheim's autobiographical adventures.... The brilliant humour of Trondheim, his sharp-tongued reason, the way with which it shows the mix of imagination with reality. Equally impressive is the effortless way in which the most espressive artwork works serving the story." – Aristides Kotsis, Comicdom (translated from Greek)
• Review: "Bell does the best job of any attempt I've ever seen to bring together everything we know about Ditko's life and work. The result [Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko] is fascinating, frustrating and eventually presents a sad portrait of an immense talent that withdrew from the world and denied it of his work and himself of the audience, acclaim and success that was easily within his grasp." – Tom McLean, Bags and Boards
• Preview: At Flavorwire, Emily Temple shares some glimpses of the cartoons to be included in Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons, saying "Her style is distinctive — the charmingly brusque drawings are cut from linoleum and then essentially stamped when she applied ink to the ridges, and while the content is largely related to her experience as a student, you can still feel the slightly skewed, individualistic perspective that appears in O’Connor’s short stories.... Lovers of her work will doubtless find joy and meaning in her cartoons, and other people will probably like them too."
• Preview: Jamie Frevele of The Mary Sue picks up on the preview of Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons, saying "...while not as demented as some of her writing, the dark humor is still there, even in the short span of a single panel."
• Plug: "Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons is the first compilation of her graphic work in pen-and-ink and linoleum cuts. Before her writing career the young student aspired to be a cartoonist, and she developed a visually bold and eye-catching style. The results are witty and acid comments on campus life and American culture that show O'Connor developing her own acerbic point-of-view." – M. Bromberg, BellemeadeBooks
• Interview (Audio): Kevin Avery, author/editor of Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson, is a guest on the Rockcritics Podcast. Host Scott Woods says "I’ve mentioned a few times here already Kevin Avery’s wonderful book, Everything is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson. Half a personal biography of Nelson, half a compilation of select Nelson reviews and essays, it’s one of the finest books I’ve ever read about a writer — and, needless to say, about rock criticism."
• Profile: "[Basil] Wolverton was one of the pioneers who made today’s highbrow comics scene what it is; his twisted abstract portraiture, all sweatbeads and pleading eyes, floated like a buoy in a sea of banal comic art, influencing kindred spirits like Robert Williams and Big Daddy Roth. Though best known for his nightmare caricatures in the vein of Lena Hyena, his sf and horror work — jewels like the 'Brain Bats of Venus' — is equally disturbing (or invigorating). God knows what brain bat attached itself to Wolverton’s fertile grey matter, but it certainly wasn’t of this atmosphere." – Joe Alterio, HighLobrow
• List:Castle Waiting Vols. 1 & 2 take two spots on Nancy Pearl's "10 Terrific Summer Reads" list at NPR.org: "The black-and-white drawings are precisely crafted, with small, endearing touches that render each character entirely unique. The dialogue is clever and filled with subtle grace notes of drollness and humor. The set will be especially appealing to readers of all ages who enjoy seeing and reading traditional fairy tale tropes teased and played with, all with a sense of good-humored fun."
• Review: "...Congress of the Animals finds twisted fabulist Woodring at the top of his darkly delightful game: Open the book at random and the odds are very good that your gaze will alight upon something that stings, bites, drips, oozes or squelches. Tentacled plant-beasts threaten the unwary, factories powered by crushed blackbirds produce who-knows-what, slimy amphibians enact bizarre rituals and a tribe of naked, faceless men whom the jacket copy refers to as "blind gut-worshippers" — easily the most potent nightmare fuel Woodring has ever produced — drug passersby for mysterious purposes of their own. You certainly won't want to live inside the covers of Congress of the Animals, but it's a fascinating and thrilling feat of imagination, and one hell of a place to visit." – Glen Weldon, NPR.org
• Review: "This book does something I love. It takes me inside a world I’ve never known.... Shimura’s writing does a good job of exposing the readers to the realities of being transgender. Wandering Son ignited my imagination and got me trying to relate to and understand these characters as deeply as possible.... Shimura has crafted an excellent opening volume.... The quiet pace and subject matter make this series a perfect read for the alternative comics crowd. Fans of shoujo and josei manga will enjoy it too. I’d love for everyone to at least give the first volume of Wandering Son a try. It’s a rare gem of emotional honesty and complexity that rewards those willing to take the risk and move outside their typical reading habits." – Ed Sizemore, Comics Worth Reading
• Review: "Monologues for Calculating the Density of Black Holes by Anders Nilsen... touched a special spot that I strive towards in my reading; it created atmosphere. There’s a weight to the unhinged timeline and nonsensical dialogue. It feels calculated, even as it touches on topics such as 'Godzilla vs. Richard Simmons.' The drawings are simple, yet they effortlessly convey time and feel appropriate for the content. It was a quick read, but one that I’ll be revisiting. Check it out." – Au Yeah!
• Interview:Newsarama's Michael Lorah talks to Wilfred Santiago about the creation of 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente: "A baseball sequence is all about interpretation; there are cold, unchangeable facts. If the batter hits a home run to left field in the second inning, etc., then those are unchangeable facts about that scene. So it’s about the reading of the particulars. I mean, if you are saying sad things while laughing maniacally, it’s different than if you are saying them while sobbing and in tears. Therefore, it’s all about what role that particular game sequence plays in the story as a whole. It’s not a book about baseball, even though there’s baseball in it."
• Interview (Audio):Inkstuds host Robin McConnell rang up Dave McKean (on Skype presumably) for a conversation about his latest book: "Celluloid, fresh out from Fantagraphics, is a remarkable work exploring pornography through a very particular lens. Needless to say, it is fantastic."
Ran out of time on Friday's Online Commentary & Diversions, so it's combined with links from the weekend:
• Review: "Now Fantagraphics has risen to the fore with [Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 1:] Race to Death Valley... It’s a pretty spiffy package, sharply designed and full of smart, well-written essays that provide a rich portrait of the artist and his times, as well as some great comics.... As impressive as Gottfredson's work is, it's in the ancillary materials or 'special features' that makes this book really shine. Editors Gary Groth and David Gerstein have gone the extra mile here... With its shameless abundance of riches, Mickey Mouse Vol. 1 sets a new standard in reprint publication." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "Only a small handful of Gottfredson's collected works have been published and most are out of print. He pioneered a trendsetting style of adventure comics, though in his lifetime remained largely unrecognized.... Fantagraphics has kindly republished a bit of the Gottfredson Mickey run in their new book [Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 1:] Race to Death Valley, beautifully restored [and] repackaged..." – Green Apple Books
• Review: "The latest volume of The Complete Peanuts: 1979-1980 continues with Charles Schulz’s herculean output of his beloved comic strip. Schulz supplies the customary laughs in stand-alone gag strips and some short 'continuing' storylines.... As I have said in previous reviews, Fantagraphics does such a marvelous job with these hardcover Peanuts volumes. From the cover by designer Seth, to the crisp black-and-white reprinting (3 dailies per page, 1 Sunday per page), to the handy index to help you find your favorite strip, Fantagraphics takes creating a permanent archive of this beloved humor strip very seriously. Children of all ages should all get their hands on this American treasure." – Rich Clabaugh, The Christian Science Monitor
• Commentary: Mike Sterling makes a few observations about The Complete Peanuts 1979-1980: "SPOILER ALERT: Peppermint Patty gathers evidence and uses skeptical, critical thinking to resolve her particular issue here."
• Review: "Some of the very first autobiographical works on the French bande dessinée scene, these little gems were a genuine game-changer for cartoonists and storytellers... Superbly skilled at switching imperceptibly from broad self-parody to cripplingly painful personal revelation, wild surrealism to powerful reportage and from clever humorous observation to howling existentialist inquisition, Trondheim’s cartoon interior catalogue is always a supremely rewarding and enjoyable experience and, as these ancient texts [Approximate Continuum Comics] prove, always has been." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "[Blake] Bell is our guide into this rich history of Bill Everett... Bell includes several pieces of artwork and comics that has rarely been seen. A true testament to a man who lived comics throughout his entire life and loved it with a passion...[I]t’s important not only to remember the characters, but the men behind them. Bell’s book here on the life and times of Bill Everett [Fire & Water], and his other biographical material on Steve Ditko, is a testament to that." – Chris Marshall, Collected Comics Library
• Interview: Hillary Chute talks to Joe Sacco for The Believer; I'll use their pullquote: "When you draw, you can always capture that moment. You can always have that exact, precise moment when someone’s got the club raised, when someone’s going down. I realize now there’s a lot of power in that."
• Interview:The A.V. Club's Sam Adams talks to Joe Sacco: "I think if I hadn’t studied journalism I might have taken a different approach, and I’m not saying my approach is the only way you can tell a story journalistically. But because I actually studied it, detail is important and accuracy is really important, so it’s not just about having an accurate quote. The problem with doing things the way I try to do them is that it’s not just an accurate quote, it’s an accurate image of what a place looks like. An absolute literal group of images? You might as well go to a photographer for that. But whatever interpretation I do of it, it has to be informed by reality."
• Profile:HiLobrow's Joshua Glenn on Dame Darcy: "If she sounds like too much to handle, that’s because she is; now you know why her comic is called Meat Cake — they’re two decadent foods, so why not combine them? Darcy’s world is a child’s garden of verses overrun by drunken mermaids, grave-robbing French maids, and Vitalis-groomed cads. If this sort of thing sounds like your cup of spooky-kooky tea, read Meat Cake..."
• Profile: "I made my quarterly pilgrimage down to the Fantagraphics store in Seattle yesterday, and that store never ceases to amaze anyone who walks into it. From the curator/owner to the punk rock pictures on the wall, to the awesome collection of Fantagraphics titles, traditional comics, underground comics, and some adult stuff tucked away in the back room under the stairs, the entire store is a place to go explore the darker side of comic books." – Dan Morrill, Comics Forge
"What makes this volume so special," says Blake, "is that meteoric improvement in Ditko’s work as he toils in obscurity for a company that treated their comic books like toilet paper for their more profitable magazine and song books. Such is the irony of one of the great living artists of the 20th century – working with stories churned out for an audience of children, Ditko produced the highest quality material in the industry with no editorial oversight at an amazing pace (all the stories within were produced in 1957 alone)."