• 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.
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