• List: The number ten original graphic novel on Greg Burgas's "Best Ten of 'Ten" at Comic Book Resources is Cathy Malkasian's Temperance: "Malkasian’s odd fable is a haunting book about hiding your true self, coming to grips with deceit, and the necessity of striking out from the safety of home to discover new and possibly dangerous things. [...] Temperance is an amazing comic, always a bit oblique but never impenetrable... It’s a weird book that feels like a dream, which allows Malkasian to use metaphor to reveal fundamental truths. Malkasian is a superb creator, and this is a good example of what she’s capable of."
• Review: "Most of the content [in Unexplored Worlds] is in the Sci-Fi genre that features unexplored worlds, alien attacks...standard stuff of the era but in Ditko’s talented hands nothing is ever standard. When Ditko steps away from the science fiction material he comes up with some truly unusual stories... Besides the stories there are over a dozen Ditko covers reprinted and a fascinating introduction by Blake Bell. Bell provides an outstanding overview of this period of Ditko’s career." – Tim Janson, Newsarama
• Review: "This isn't a book of men achieving medals and glory, rather it is a book of men trying to live to see the next sunrise. With a book so realistically downbeat full marks must go to Fantagraphics for translating and publishing it in an American market that it so fixated on the generally upbeat fantasy of superheroes. For all its depressing tone It Was the War of the Trenches leaves you with a sense of accomplishment of getting to the end and of having read something worthwhile, and that perhaps is what sets it apart from so many other war stories." – Jeremy Briggs, downthetubes.net
• List: At Seen, Sam Humphries names Love and Rockets: New Stories #3The Best Comic of 2010: "While it’s astonishing to see Los Bros Hernandez deliver some of their greatest work at this stage in their careers, at the same time, it should be no surprise at all. They’ve been killing it for nearly 30 years. [...] Both brothers are digging deep into the psyche and hearts of the human condition. The results are powerfully moving."
• List: "[It Was the War of the Trenches] burns with a sense of outrage at the meaningless slaughter and sheer injustice of the events of almost a century ago. A century ago, perhaps, but we should never, ever forget and works like Trenches serve both as a fascinating piece of comics work and also an accessible reminder of history that has now all but passed from living memory and relies on books, film and other media to remind us." – Joe Gordon, "Best of the Year," The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log
• Plug: "It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi (Fantagraphics) – Tardi is, simply put, one of the most important and influential French comic artists of the last 30 years. This welcome translation of his harrowing and haunting first World War narrative is as good a place as any to start." – John Byrne, The Irish Times (via Robot 6)
• Review: "Several artists have the ability to capture some physical element of a city or a time; Tardi summons all of that with a fealty to detail and a consistency that eventually yields a more rounded, complete experience. Go all in, and by [The Extraordinary Adventures of Adéle Blanc-Sec Vol. 1]'s final 20 pages one can feel the air hit people in the face when they stumble out of doors, sense the temperature, smell the panoply of city-borne scents. ...[B]oth stories reprinted here with Kim Thompson's droll translation positively whip at the notion of competence in higher places, the rationality of power, that anyone rich ever pays for anything, and the law-driven society generally, all until the skin shows, raw and bleeding. It's a gas... I could personally read 10,000 pages of this material, stopping to stare at the prettier parts, returning to such a book over an entire summer. [...] It's a rare work that makes you like it and wish others would, too, that's for sure." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "...Castle Waiting has been one of the most joyous comics discoveries for me of the last couple years. ...[D]espite this volume clocking in at 375 pages I read the whole thing in one sitting…and enjoyed every freaking second of it. I laughed repeatedly and more often than not was caught just smiling like an idiot as I read about these beautifully crafted characters and their completely boring but somehow also completely fascinating lives. It doesn’t hurt that Medley is truly an incredible illustrator." – Kelly Thompson, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "I frequently gasped, out loud, at the beauty of this goddamn thing. [...] Most of [the stories in A Drunken Dream] remind me of Jaime Hernandez, of all people, in that the force of the narrative is toward the protagonists coming to terms — with the damage done by a cruel mother, with the inspiration that arose unexpectedly from a childhood tragedy, with the sudden loss of a friendship through a shared mistake in judgment, with the death of a hated rival, with a necessary but traumatic decision, with the death of a parent. Or not! [...] Each story’s big narrative and emotional moments seem to swell within and explode out of these textures and lines, like they’ve actualized the potential energy there all along. [...] Reads like a dream, looks like a dream." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Review: "The back cover of Unexplored Worlds loudly proclaims, 'This is where Steve Ditko became Steve Ditko.' Indeed, in this second chronological volume of the Steve Ditko Archives, collecting 39 stories from 1956-57, we see the influential American cartoonist come into his voice. ...[I]t's fascinating to witness Ditko grow as a storyteller, to see the first hints of the layouts and compositions that would make his 1960s work on Spider-Man and Doctor Strange set the standard for decades to come." – Claude LaLumiere, The Montreal Gazette
• Review: "I think what ultimately struck me the most about The Littlest Pirate King (which B. adapted from a story by Pierre Mac Orlan) was how it weaves back and forth between innocent and grim. ...[I]t’s a gorgeous book. Even at its most nightmarish, there’s always something to admire within The Littlest Pirate King." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Review: "[Rip M.D.] ...will delight monster-fans of all ages and signals a welcome return to upbeat and clever kids’ fiction. ...[T]his spectacular, spooktacular romp is a fabulously punchy, action-packed, wickedly funny treat for kids of all ages that will leave every reader voraciously hungry for more." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
Blake Bell (who brings us The Steve Ditko Archves and his recent bios of Ditko and Bill Everett) needs your help with his new project, The Bill Everett Archives! Blake is seeking collectors in possession of the original Golden Age comics which printed Everett's artwork so we can include scans of the stories in the books. You could get free copies of the books out of the deal (not to mention our eternal gratitude), and a portion of Blake's royalties goes to The Hero Initiative, so you'll be indirectly helping a good cause too. See Blake's blog for the list of comics needed and all the other details!
• List/Review: At Seen, Sam Humphries ranks Special Exits by Joyce Farmer #6 on the Best of 2010: "Sure, Special Exits is sad. But it’s also funny, touching, thought-provoking, and life-affirming. It’s never trite, cheap, or hokey, like, say, Patch Adams. This is the raw, unvarnished truth about the end of life, elegantly put to page by Farmer’s lyrical drawings, a welcome, thoughtful evolution of the raucous underground style of the 60s and 70s. Most of all, Special Exits is powerful. It’s vital; almost essential. [...] It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s one that everyone can benefit from reading. Your future self will thank you."
• List:Fangoria's Michael Koopmans puts two of our classic reprints on their list of the 10 Best Horror Comic Releases of 2010:
"If you asked me to make a list of my all-time favorite comic artists, I’d just hand you [Four Color Fear], because all the greats are present in this terror tome... This is a truly amazing, thick collection of rare treats, as well as a nice reminder that EC wasn’t the only ones churning out the goods back in the 1950’s."
"A companion piece to last year's Strange Suspense (Vol. 1), this volume [Unexplored Worlds] continues to showcase the goods from one of my all-time favorite artists. And by 'goods' I mean the most unique and disturbing horror and sci-fi comics you will ever come across! As is the case with all Fantagraphics releases, the original works are untainted and scanned perfectly."
"Set to Sea, by Drew Weing, is actually the unqualified top of my list. My absolute favourite of the year, just for the sheer pleasure of it. It’s the deceptively simple life story of a struggling young poet who finds a life for himself at sea, and it’s a proper misty-eyed treat."
"Weathercraft, by Jim Woodring, is my tip to the old hands that brought out work this year. As much as I love the others..., Woodring is for me in a class of his own. Reading an extended work by the man, you find yourself falling into a different state of mind, a world of sickly, queasy imaginings. [...] Few are as adept at drawing you so deeply into worlds which are so utterly alien, yet so incredibly personal."
• Review: "If this is your first encounter with The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, I feel I should warn you about the faint regret you'll feel for not having a chance to read these earlier in your life. These comics feel lost in time; they are reminiscent of Victorian adventure novels but maintain a strong contemporary cultural relevance. [...] Whatever your age, this is escapist reading of the finest sort — readers will get lost in Tardi's breathtaking ornamental artwork and marvel at how captivating an old-fashioned yarn can really be." – Jeff Alford, About.com: Contemporary Literature
• Review: "Action action action. Balls to the wall and guts to the ground action. And sick sick drawings. That's what you will find in this book. [...] Is this an evolution of Johnny Ryan we are witnessing with this series? Is he taking his unique manner of storytelling to another level with Prison Pit? Whatever, but there's obviously more to come with this series and I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Review: "Seattle-based publisher Fantagraphics' second volume of the collected Prince Valiant by series creator Hal Foster is a sumptuous package bringing together the Sunday strips that were published during 1939-40. ...[T]his restoration of one of the most influential comic strips of all time... [is] an essential purchase for anyone interested in the history of the American comic strip." – James Peaty, Den of Geek
• Review: "Throughout it all, Segar's art is energetic and expressive, the printed-page equivalent of the black-and-white cartoons of the '20s, and his characters are broad and exciting but always identifiable. Popeye in particular has depths that later stories rarely dealt with... Segar's Thimble Theatre stories are great American originals, and they suffered the fate of every other great American original: to be watered down and redone a thousand times by a thousand hacks in search of a quick buck and a sure thing. But the original endures to be rediscovered, as often as necessary, and that's no small thing." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Review: "Coming in at nearly 1,000 pages, [Meanwhile...] was done with the late Caniff’s full cooperation and benefits from the fact that he and Harvey were friends. [...] Any storyteller as influential as Caniff was and is deserves a biography of this caliber." – Tim O'Shea, Robot 6
• Review: "As biographer and historian, Bell excels. He is able to really understand the cartoonist he is documenting and boil it down to the essentials. [...] The production on [Fire & Water] is amazing. Bell is able to reproduce a good amount of original artwork that allows you to see just how skilled a draftsman Everett was." – Robin McConnell (Inkstuds), Robot 6
• Review: At The Panelists, a "One-Panel Review" from Jim Woodring's The Book of Jim by Charles Hatfield: "Something I miss in Jim Woodring‘s current work is a sense of fear being enacted directly through his drawing, through his handiwork—in other words, a sense that the drawings themselves are shivering and smearing and decomposing out of sheer, gut terror."
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks to Daniel Clowes: "I can't say that I would never do another comic and call it Eightball. I say there's actually a very high probability that I would do that some day. Kind of for old time's sake, or something. Or just to kind of rethink what a comic book means at some point. But right now it sure doesn't feel like the thing to do."
• Interview: And another great interview from Tom at The Comics Reporter, this time with Jaime Hernandez: "Gilbert and me always ask each other, 'So, what do you got in the new issue? What's coming up?' And I go, 'Well, I got this one story about Maggie, blah blah blah...' and I called it 'Maggie in Palomar.' I kind of aimed it that way, where I'm like, 'Oh, boy. A place where nothing happened.' It gives them room to do everything, because there's nothing there."
• Interview:The Los Angeles Times asks Drew Friedman for his thoughts on the Academy Awards: "The Social Network gets my vote for best film. Aside from it being the only film I've seen this year, I always support films with Jewish leading men playing Jews, even if the Jew is Mark Zuckerberg via Jesse Eisenberg. Good for the Jews!"
• Coming Attractions: More reporting and commenting on our Carl Barks news from Matthias Wivel at The Metabunker
This month's issue of Booklist includes reviews of four of our recent publications, excerpted below:
The Littlest Pirate King: "David B.’s swirly touches and jolting figures have the unnerving quality of a not-quite nightmare, and the sometimes frank bloodiness and scary passages are probably right in line with the reality of kids’ unwhitewashed imaginations. What’s most refreshing is how well this maintains a sense of subversiveness while ending on an oddly touching, though definitely vexing, note." – Ian Chipman
Special Exits: "Emotional and physical crises are depicted naturalistically, never hyped up to tug the heartstrings or extort pity, and the parents’ personalities are convincingly and lovingly evoked. The end-of-life literature is vast and mostly practical and advisory. Though not without value as counsel, Farmer’s contribution is primarily a work of art, moving and beautiful." — Ray Olson (Starred Review)
Unexplored Worlds: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 2: "Even though he’d only been working in comics for a couple of years when he drew these 1956 tales, they already display Ditko’s distinctively cockeyed style and his characteristically powerful compositions. [...] As Bell remarks in his insightful introduction, what makes Ditko's early work notable is 'the dichotomy between what he was given and what he was able to accomplish.'" – Gordon Flagg
What I Did: "While all the pieces postdate the time when Jason decided to give the long, lean characters in his stories dog, bird, and cat heads, these tales are less fantastic, less parodic, and more poignant than his later stories... The Iron Wagon, an adaptation of a classic Norwegian crime novel, is the grimmest, starkest thing Jason has ever done, as powerful as a dark Ingmar Bergman film, despite those animal heads." – Ray Olson
1954 and 1955 were tough years for the fledgling cartoonist: A life-threatening bout with tuberculosis sidelined him for almost a year, and his main client, Charlton Comics, suffered a devastating flood that forced it to shut its doors temporarily. Yet Ditko's enforced time off and subsequent need to seek out new clients (most particularly Marvel Comics, for whom he would go on to create Spider-Man), as well as his stubborn devotion to his craft, brought about an astonishing series of quantum leaps in his work — as displayed in this volume (following the best-selling Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1) of more than 200 pages' worth of never-before-collected horror and science-fiction stories from the early career of a comics great. Introduction by series editor Blake Bell.
#4 - You'll Never Know, Book 2: Collateral Damage by C. Tyler: "The first volume of Tyler's planned trilogy appeared on this list last year, and she hasn't missed a step, fleshing out her father's time in World War II with fresh details about its long-term aftershocks on the home front."
#3 - It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "...French cartoonist Tardi's pitch-black World War I masterpiece, available in English for the first time. This is war as hourly apocalypse, Expressionist and agonizing."
#1 - Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 by the Hernandez Brothers: "The first two [issues] were typically excellent, but the third was jaw-dropping, largely because of 'Browntown,' a story by Jaime Hernandez. Like his brother Gilbert, Jaime has been so good for so long that it's become very easy to take his obvious genius for granted. 'Browntown' brought that skill into brutal relief, a devastating story of a secret left to fester. Expertly paced, with not a line wasted, it was one of the year's best stories in any medium, a stunner from a guy who keeps finding new peaks."
• List:Popdose's Johnny Bacardi (né David Allen Jones) names Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 one of his Best of 2010: "Featuring Jaime Hernandez's remarkable 'Browntown,' perhaps the best thing he's ever done. Which makes this absolutely essential."
• Review: "...The Littlest Pirate King is gorgeously illustrated and quite intriguing. David B. has an unusual style which tempers the creepiness of undead pirates with an almost goofy look; but then those cartoony characters grin as they run swords through people. It’s a very odd juxtaposition that matches the story well..." – Jonathan Liu, Wired – GeekDad
• Review: "...[Usagi Yojimbo] is probably one of the best comic stories ever made. The epic scope expected from historical fiction is there as are some of the most finely drawn characters in the medium. [...] While even the stories that are not particularly noteworthy are highly readable, the good stories in this collection are amazing. [...] I give this book the highest possible praises for quality." – J.A. Crestmere, Renderwrx Productions
• Review: "Destroy All Movies!!!, edited by Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly, not only gives an great anthology-like overview... but provides a strong focus on the talent and punk-brains behind the art. [...] It’s the perfect summation of a 1980s American society that didn’t know how to handle the punk uprising, and a film industry that capitalized on it." – Dave McKendry, Fangoria
• Review: "Fantagraphics has finally presented the work of one of comics' greatest mystery men in dignity with beautiful color reproduction and informative introductions. [... Unexplored Worlds] shows off Ditko's work after the Comics Code Authority came onto the scene and turned every lurid story of horror and 'the macabre' into some lame morality tale in which everyone has a nice time. Still there's some strong content in this book..." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Johnny's new book [FUC_ __U, _SS __LE] is full of the yucky yuks, barfy larfs, and gags-that-make-you-gag that have made this shock comicker the Artie Lange of drawn funnies! [...] Do you like comics where dangling nutsacks are mistaken for pinatas and rich people shove DVDs into midgets' butt cleavage which causes them to act out the movies? A comic where summoning a Garfield Satan is possible by using the Lasagnanomicon? A comic where a little girl shoots the homelees in the brain, grinds them up, and feeds them to skunks for Thanksgiving? You don't? Neither does anybody else. Eat my balls, JR." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "As with Ryan’s more recent work... the jokes [in FUC_ __U, _SS __LE] become have become more outrageous, absurd, disturbing and just plain odd. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends upon your appreciation for Prison Pit, not to mention your appreciation for Johnny Ryan’s comics in general. Me, I thought it was swell." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "Here’s another best of 2010 comics entry for you. Cathy Malkasian’s Temperance is like Franz Kafka’s The Castle meets Little House on the Prairie and goes drinking. No, it’s like rewriting Pinocchio as several Flannery O’Connor short stories, including (but not limited to) 'A Good Man Is Hard To Find' and 'Good Country People.' No, that’s not it either. [...] Anyway, it’s weird as hell. This stuff." – John Holbo, Crooked Timber
• Review: "Dosed with dry, mordant wit and just the right tone of macabre Ghost Train suspense Toys in the Basement is a simply terrific goose-bumpy thriller rendered magical by the wildly eccentric, brilliantly imaginative and creepily fluid artwork of Blanquet. This dark delight also has the perfect moral message for loot-hungry, attention-deprived youngsters – and their kids and grandchildren too." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview:The Daily War Drum talks to Stephen DeStefano about his Disney comics work and other topics: "I'm currently working on storyboards for Disney TV Animation, on a show called Kick Buttowski. I'm also drawing Spongebob Squarepants comic books, as well as drawing the second volume of my graphic novel (Volume One was published this past September) called Lucky in Love."
Blake Bell wants your input in choosing the artwork to feature on the cover of The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1 — see the 10 candidates on Blake's blog and then cast your vote on his Bill Everett facebook page. One randomly selected voter who selects the image that eventually goes on the book will win a free copy of the book when it's published! My vote is pictured above, though obviously I recuse myself from the contest.
It's not exactly a huge surprise, but welcome news nonetheless: Blake Bell has announced on his blog that following his biography of Bill Everett Fire & Water (seen above), we'll be publishing a series of Bill Everett Archives books that he'll be editing, in an exact repeat of his Steve Ditko bio Strange & Stranger and subsequent volumes of The Steve Ditko Archives. The first Everett Archives volume will be out in the second half of 2011 and Blake needs your help coming up with a title for it! Just as the first two volumes of The Steve Ditko Archives are Strange Suspense and Unexplored Worlds, Blake's looking for a "Something Something: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1" sort of thing. If Blake uses your suggestion, you win a free copy of the book when it comes out! Leave your suggestion on Blake's blog (where you'll find more information) or on his Bill Everett Facebook page.