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.
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new title. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators are saying about our release this week, check out our previews at the link, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
240-page full-color 7.25" x 10" hardcover • $39.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-380-4
"The second volume of Fantagraphics' Blake Bell-edited reprints of Ditko's early material collects the pieces he banged out for Charlton Comics in 1957, and I do mean banged out: that year alone, he drew around 450 pages for them (as well as a few pieces elsewhere, some of which appear here too). Ayn Rand's acolytes always seem to have a curious relationship with the idea of a work ethic." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
"I already have a copy, but if you’re a Steve Ditko fan then your splurge item for the week should be Unexplored Worlds, the second volume in Fantagraphics and editor Blake Bell’s ongoing attempt to collect his pre-Code and pre-Spider-Man material." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"Unexplored Worlds: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 2 (Fantagraphics) examines a ton of the legendary creator's pre-Marvel work from the 1950s..." – Cyriaque Lamar, io9
"Deluxe reprint! More from editor Blake Bell and Fantagraphics, compiling early stuff in hardcover, 1954-55, 240 pages." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
• List: Erich Redson of LA TACO ("Celebrating the Taco Lifestyle in Los Angeles, California") names their Comic of the Year: "Johnny Ryan is a long-time TACO favorite, but he has really outdone himself this year with the release of Prison Pit Book 2. Pure, unmitigated ultra-violent filth has never been drawn so cleanly. This comic makes an excellent Christmas gift for that special sadist in your life."
• List: Tim Hensley's Wally Gropius is one of Blog Flume's Ken Parille's top 3 "Books I Really Liked and Wrote About Twice in 2010"
• Review: "With The Littlest Pirate King, David B. applies the same skills and angle of attack that served him so well in a naturalistic, personal mode to a highly fantastical tale, one in fact penned by another writer. [...] The story... is weird, gory, mythic, transgressive, surreal, satirical, anti-bourgeoise and nihilistic. It is also cute, sentimental, cheery and heartening. [...] What makes the book an enjoyable success are David B.'s pinwheeling, vibrant, colorful drawings. Echoing elements from the allied work of Richard Sala and Tony Millionaire, he creates both intimate moments and big dramas with eye-catching color, character design and composition. [...] The true king of these manic, antic pirates is David B." – Paul DiFilippo, The Barnes & Noble Review
• Review: "...The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec... is quite fun... A large dose of whimsy is injected into the proceedings, making the dashing also daft. Tardi has the feel of old-school French funnies down pat; if you didn’t know any better... you might think they originated several generations ago, rather than one (they were first published in France in 1976). As is, with its cerebral gags and secret tunnels, the work carries a slight burst steampunk in a knowing, winking vein of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. [...] The book makes me look forward to seeing Luc Besson’s forthcoming film adaptation, but even more forward to Volume 2." – Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: "Fantagraphics and editor Matt Thorn have ably stepped up to the plate here, compiling a career-spanning collection of Hagio's short stories [A Drunken Dream], one which demonstrates her acumen with stunning visuals and deft characterization, and especially a nice grasp of human relationships. It's like a quick class in what we've been missing out on for all these years. [...] While much of her work remains to be revealed to Western audiences, this book makes for a wonderful primer on what she has accomplished throughout her career. Hopefully it will be far from the extent of what we will get to experience." – Matthew J. Brady, Warren Peace Sings the Blues
• Review: "Front and center [in Low Moon] is [Jason's] quirky subversiveness, the beguiling, eccentric perspective on whatever his subject might be. Delivery is an irresistible syncopation of narrative stresses and visual beats further enlivened by the double take: 'Wait. Did I really see what I just saw?' Whatever a story’s content, era, tone or genre, the narrative is always built up from observed human nature, pared and mounted for easy identification. [...] The book Low Moon contains three more tales, not a clunker in the bunch. They all are ripe with Jason’s sublime nonsense, deadpan hilarity, laconic (if not completely silent) expressiveness and brazen commandeering of genre devices." – Rich Kreiner, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Whether in romantic stories or stories of the West, and especially in the horror, Ditko continuously breaks new ground... Despite all the limitations that Ditko first evidences in these stories, despite the distance in time and the nearly six decades that could be moth-eaten stories, reading Strange Suspense is, at least for the writer, a morbid and pleasurable enjoyment..." – Álvaro Pons, La Cárcel de Papel (translated from Spanish)
• Commentary: At Attentiondeficitdisorderly, Sean T. Collins posts an index and acknowledgments for his now-completed "Love and Rocktober" review series and adds his suggestions for where to start reading the series (not too different from ours)
• Review: "A snapshot of Jason's career from 1997-2001, the stories in What I Did are also loosely thematically collected, circling around guilt as their central emotion. [...] There are many pleasures to be had from Jason's work, among them a wealth of clever cartoon metaphors and a impressively economic storytelling tricks. [...] At his best, Jason pieces together representations of complex thoughts and emotions through simple visual building blocks." – David Michelitch, Comics Alliance
• Review: "Somebody up there likes us. You need Destroy All Movies!!! in your life. It’s heartening to know that there’s people out there who are truly sick with it. Like, really, really obsessed with a single niche. Like cinematic punkers. [... Like] the very best books on cinema, ...this one will make you realise that you’ve only just scratched the surface of b-movies and provide a comprehensive education on some total rarities. [...] Fantagraphics have been sating a personal taste for the esoteric since my childhood, but this one really has blown me away." – Gary Warnett, Gwarizm
• Review: "...Lucky in Love is a very good book with an outstanding story and stellar art. The story is incredibly well written and Lucky, as a person, practically leaps off the page at you. His characterization was spot on... It’s hard to create a character that is so rich that anyone can relate to him, or her, but Chieffet and DeStefano have done it. [...] The influence of animation is evident and the images on the pages practically jump out at you. The book is predominantly 6 or 9 panel pages that are stuffed with detail. It's just fantastic." – Comics And...Other Imaginary Tales
• Review: "Moto Hagio’s stories are... masterful largely because she did not set out to be so. She wrote from the heart, stories that girls could understand, enjoy, identify with. [...] Moto Hagio is a woman, who draws stories for girls. She is a Master of her Craft. She is a groundbreaker in her field. None of these statements are contradictory.A Drunken Dream is a must-read for any serious student of manga. While you’re getting a copy, buy one for a niece or friend – and don’t tell them it’s 'important.' This way they’ll be free to just enjoy it, tropes and all." – Erica Friedman, The Manga Curmudgeon
• Plug: "[Fire & Water] is an incredibly well designed book chock full of amazing artwork. It’s a great biography of comics legend Bill Everett (who was descended from William Blake!) and his journey through the early days of the comic book industry." – A.G. Pasquella, Advent Book Blog
• Plug: "The elusive Golden Age cartoonist Fletcher Hanks achieved a level of surrealism that few comic book creators today can match. The man made simply the medium extremely strange on his own terms (see: Fantomah, his skull-faced jungle heroine). Words don't do his work justice..." – Cyriaque Lamar, "10 Graphic Novels That Make Great Gifts (for People Who Don't Read Comics," io9
• Profile: "Joyce Farmer is a surprise. The gentle, white-haired 71-year-old, whom you’d half expect to greet you at the door with a pan of steaming muffins, recently has emerged as one of the most provocative voices in the comics and graphic-literature landscape. Her debut book, the 208-page illustrated memoir Special Exits, chronicling the slow, freaky decline and ultimate death of her elderly parents, comes out next week from Fantagraphicscarrying the enthusiastic endorsement of no less than R. Crumb. 'It’s a completely unique work,' he says. 'Nobody else will ever do anything like that again.' [...] The book... is an almost uncomfortably honest memoir that’s dense with details. It’s also layered with meaning and sub-themes. [...] Like many memoirists, Farmer wrestled with guilt over airing her family’s stories; she even changed all the names in the book, including her own. 'I felt like I was really invading their privacy.' But she’s since come to terms with it. 'I just worked through it. I know what I did, and I take responsibility for it.'" – Deborah Vankin, The Los Angeles Times
• Review: "Destroy All Movies!!!is that very rare thing in publishing, a book you didn’t know you needed until someone wrote it. I certainly didn’t, and now I’m finding it indispensable. It’s an absolute must-have for cult-movie fans, movie trivia buffs, aspiring filmmakers and everyone who feels that punk never got its fair due for revolutionizing music and shaking up the status quo." – John G. Nettles, Flagpole
• Plug: "Destroy All Movies is a book on cult cinema... that is kind of the end all be all of ridiculous B-movies involving punks in any way, shape or form. It's at once a collection of titles, a love letter and a historical document. [...] It's a hell of an off beat and quite brilliant gift for the movie nerd or punk in your family!" – Quint, Ain't It Cool News
• Review: "...[Fire & Water,] Blake Bell's biography of Bill Everett (among other things the father of the Sub-Mariner but also the co-creator of Daredevil) helps to rectify an injustice by shining a spotlight on a cartoonist those importance and personality have never been properly recognized. A book which, without going into excessive detail, begins to clear the ground and, in particular, focuses heavily on the human element..." – Xavier Fournier, Comic Box (this is an improved translation by Kim Thompson of a previously-posted link)
• Review: "So, does it all mean anything? Who knows? But [Weathercraft] is certainly a fascinating read, full of arresting images that seem like they are triggering some deep impulse in our lizard brains, and that’s a pretty significant achievement in itself. If nothing else, it’s often quite funny... If you can accept that as something entertaining and play along with its dreamlike logic, you should be able to enjoy the book at the very least, and maybe you’ll even feel like you get something out of it. I know I did, and even if it was just confusion, it was worth it." – Matthew J. Brady, Warren Peace Sings the Blues
• Review: "The absence of words is matched by the most crazy drawings that depict surreal, unbelievable moments that make us stop to look again — and again. It's all so wacky and unusual that not infrequently we find ourselves laughing, reflecting on the silliness that we keep inside us all. For large and small, Weathercraft is sure to [bring] multiple pleasures." – Gilberto Custódio Junior, Soma (translated from Portuguese)
• Review: "Peanuts wasn't in its first flowering in the mid-70s... but it was still a smart, perceptive, deeply funny and humanistic strip. [...] The Complete Peanuts: 1975-1976 is the lucky thirteenth volume in Fantagraphics' reprinting of the entirely of Schulz's great strip; it's also the halfway point between 1950 and 2000. And the more interesting question about Peanuts circa 1975 isn't 'How come it wasn't as good then as in 1952 or 1967,' but instead 'How come Peanuts was still this good after twenty-five years?'" – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Review: "Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez are not just two of the best and most consistent comics creators of their generation, they're so far out in front that the only question is which of the two is preeminent. [...] Year after year, they keep expanding and deepening their worlds, telling new stories as powerful as they've ever done — they're our Balzacs, our Trollopes. Besides their various sidebar projects... they're still providing a yearly dose of the mothership, in the annual Love and Rockets: New Stories trade paperback." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Review: "I originally posted this review on January 18, 2008. This was before I’d read much, if any, of Gilbert’s Fritz material from Love and Rockets. I think the review holds up, which is why I’m re-running it; but with all of Beto’s post-Palomar Palomar-verse work under my belt now, if anything I find Chance in Hell, both its content and its very existence, even more disturbing." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Interview:Robot 6's Tim O'Shea talks to Nate Neal: "Even in the conceptual stage, I knew The Sanctuary didn’t need any words to get the story across. With a made up language the words would take on a symbolic stance that they otherwise wouldn’t have. That helps get across one of the important ideas of the book: how things get fucked up when a society thinks too symbolically. Or at least thinks too symbolically without being aware that that’s what they’re doing. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the world we live in now!"
• Plug: "I finally cracked What Is All This?, Stephen Dixon’s mammoth collection of previously unpublished stories — and it’s terrific stuff. The book itself is also quite pleasing. Dixon still composes his stories on a typewriter (a Hermes Standard, the same brand Douglas Adams used), and Fantagraphics’ whiz art director, Jacob Covey, has mimicked the unevenness and smudges of typewritten text on the cover and section pages. It’s great design porn." – Nicole Rudick, The Paris Review
• Plug: "Thanks to the arrival this week of Castle Waiting 2, Linda Medley's second subversive collection of fairy tales, I'm on yet another kick of traditional fairy tales retold." – Nathalie Atkinson, National Post
• Plug: "...Mark Kalesniko’s Freeway is still a book I’m really, really looking forward to. It’s the continuing adventures of Kalesniko’s semi-autobiographical character Alex. I loved that book, I reckon I’m going to love Freeway just as much." – Richard Cowdry, The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log