• List: On the Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, guest critic Chris Marshall's top 10 graphic novels of 2009 places Blazing Combat in a tie for 4th place: "There was a time when War Comics told War Fact. They showed us the blood, death, camaraderie and horror. [This] series did just that and didn’t hold back."
• Review: "Fantagraphics has truly pulled out all the stops on the production of [Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons], giving it such marvelous style and pizzazz. ... But it’s the content, of course, that is truly king. If the 20th century was indeed the American century, then Wilson is a cartoonist who had a hell of a time chronicling it, mocking it, signifying it, and holding it up to the light—albeit through his own twisted lens... The work is tremendous and witty and, as always with an excellent retrospective, it offers the reader an excellent chance to walk back in time through decades of experiences, memories, turbulences and triumphs, and just plain old human oddities. What’s truly amazing is how, for more than 50 years, Wilson rarely misses a witty beat." – John Hogan, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Plug: At Comic Book Galaxy, Johnny Bacardi, a Jaime Hernandez partisan when it comes to Love and Rockets, says "But this upcoming Troublemakers looks kinda interesting... despite my preference for Jaime, I think I'll pick this up when I see it..."
Whew, what a year! Online Commentary & Diversions returns next week.
• List:Comic Book Resources continues listing their Top 100 Comics of 2009, with Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit: Book 1 at #75 ("A huge kick to the solar plexus, not just in terms of the way-beyond-NC-17 level of gore and bodily fluids on display, but also the sheer wealth of no-holds barred imagination and utter sense of play that's on every page. The craftsmanship on display is just as striking as the violence." – Chris Mautner) and The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit at #56 ("Few artists in comics can tell surreal stories with the level of clarity and precision that Hans Rickheit achieves... In the same way that David Lynch squeezes compelling characters and memorable scenes onto film amid dark and obscured circumstances, Rickheit renders a feeling portrait of a young mad scientist named Edmund in one of the 2009's most inimitable reads." – Brian Warmoth)
• List:Jeff Smith names his favorite comics of the decade, including The Complete Peanuts ("Revolutionary.") and Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw ("I was also impressed by the mysteries in the story — and really impressed by Shaw’s restraint in revealing only what he had to — leaving much for the imagination, and keeping my thoughts on the book and its meaning for days afterward.")
• List:Comics Alliance's thematic Best of 2009 list names You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! "Best Indie Reprint Volume" ("The utterly insane adventures of the space wizard Stardust continue to be some of the most brilliantly surrealist comics around."), Pim & Francie by Al Columbia "Best Glimpse into a Terrifying Universe that will Haunt my Dreams for Years to Come," and Ganges #3 by Kevin Huizenga "Best comic to read when you can't sleep"
• List: Brian Gibson of Edmonton's Vue Weekly lists Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco as one of the Best Graphic Novels of the 2000s: "Sacco’s made comics a serious and messily truthful place for journalism."
• List:Living Between Wednesdays lists The Best of 2009: Original Graphic Novels and Collections, including Blazing Combat ("Each panel of Blazing Combat is a stunning work of art, and they are beautifully preserved on heavy paper in this hardcover book. Just as relevant now as when they were first published, these stories should still draw an emotional reaction from anyone who reads them.") and Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman ("It’s just something that you have to sit down and read, and when you do you’ll laugh your ass off.")
• Review: "In ambition, breadth and heft, this far-ranging compilation is the worthy companion to Gilbert’s formidable Palomar volume. While capable of standing on its own, Luba is very much the continuing story of several characters now fully transplanted, unfettered and haunted, from their celebrated Mexican town to the Greater Metropolitan Land of Opportunity. Their histories grow longer, broader, more complex and richer as Hernandez’s rollicking, remorseless social comedy rolls on." – Rich Kreiner, The Comics Journal
A nice short Online Commentary & Diversions update:
• List:Comicdom continues their Top 100 of the 00s with Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library at #3: "Whatever the format, or content of the story, each issue of Acme Novelty Library is a special 'objet d'art,' which is part of the vision of an author who redefined what can be considered 'comics' and provided us new ways of storytelling." (from Google translation)
• Review: "The list of excellent graphic novels released in 2009 seems to grow with every other book read, and [You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man]... stands out even in its crowded field. Carol Tyler really makes a name for herself with this 'graphic memoir,' as the cover calls it, demonstrating an incredible grasp of storytelling structure and a layering of personal and historical incident into a complex, cohesive whole that illuminates her own life along with her subject's. It's an impressive achievement, and as the first volume of a projected trilogy, it's indicative of the quality to come." – Matthew J. Brady
• Lists: The Comics Reporter asked its readers to "Name Five Comics You Enjoyed This Year" — spot the Fantagraphics releases in the results
• Gift Guide/List/Plug: At Comic Book Resources, Kelly Thompson's "Awesome Women in Comics Holiday Gift List 2009" includes Ghost World by Daniel Clowes: "This tale of smart alternative teens just never gets old... Enid and Becky are both incredibly savvy teens that I think women can both relate and aspire to."
• Review: "The bewildering events of this fourth volume [of Delphine] race towards a stunning conclusion, one that is quietly horrifying, yet terrifying in its sadness. ... The fourth book is a must for those who have read earlier issues, but it will make the uninitiated really want Delphine." – Leroy Douresseaux, Comic Book Bin
• Review: "Fortunately for today’s readers, Blazing Combat — nearly impossible to find for over a generation — is now conveniently available and immaculately produced in hardcover from Fantagraphics. Anybody who wants to read great great comics, war stories, or a superb tutorial in short form comics writing and unsurpassed comics illustration needs to read this one." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "It was, frankly, a nostalgic blast of fresh air to be able to read a graphic novel of Peter [Bagge]’s again, even if this is a series of unconnected pieces instead of a coherent narrative. ... Anybody who read Hate back in the day already knows to pick [Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me] up just because it’s Peter, and for you kids today who never read Hate, this is a good place to start with the guy." – Kevin Bramer, Optical Sloth
• Plug: "This is an uber-cool title by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette... you can add this graphic novel West Coast Blues to the list of greats by this total fab (and late) French author." – Book Soup Blog
• Profile: Possibly apropos of the above-mentioned nomination, French blog Beware looks at the work of Daniel Clowes in an article titled "Cynisme et Comic Books" (autotranslation)
• Plugs: Robot 6's Chris Mautner and guest columnist Charles Hatfield are both reading The Comics Journal #300; the former says "regardless of what kind of comics reader you are, there's something in here you're going to want to read," while the latter says "in good Journal fashion, [it] contains a lot to chew on and some stuff that I emphatically disagree with. It’s a great issue that leaves me with both a nostalgic wistfulness... and a keen desire to write about comics into the unforeseeable future!"
• Review: "[Gilbert] Hernandez's latest solo work The Troublemakers is the second in a series of self-contained graphic novel 'B-movies,' featuring one of his recurring characters, the cannonball-breasted Rosalba 'Fritz' Martinez. Here, Fritz plays Nala, one of a trio of hustlers trying to hook up with 200,000 smackers. Whether the money actually exists and who has it are anyone's guess in this drama-filled thriller — good for folks who like their graphic novels grim, gritty, and sleazy." – Brad Buckner, Portland Mercury
• Review: "Strange Suspense [The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1]... is an absolute treat! ...[T]his book looks amazing. ...[It's] filled with images that will remain seared into your psyche long after you’ve put it down. ... Strange Suspense is an absolute must have for any student of sequential art history... It’s an excellent collection of long lost work from a man whose importance cannot be overstated. There’s really no other grade to give it than an A." – Chad Derdowski, Mania.com
• Review: "Wolverton is helped [in The Wolverton Bible]... by his bold compositional sense, which aids in pushing some of his images beyond the doldrums of camp and into a certain monumentality, a grandeur that retains a shabby earthiness, without being lofty, hollow or pretentious. Without being, in a word, 'churchy.'" – Chris Lanier, The Comics Journal (beta)
• Review: "Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit is probably as close as comics are likely to come to exploitation cinema. Like the best exploitation dreck from Texas Chainsaw to Death Race 2000, Prison Pit is pure, bottom-dwelling schlock... And yet, again as with exploitation fare, the single-minded commitment to vileness is so perversely pure that it goes right past lowest-common-denominator entertainment and on into snooty, fancy-pants art. ... Ryan’s world is essentially Waiting for Godot, from the bleak landscape to the slapstick violence." – Noah Berlatsky, The Comics Journal (beta)
Once again we're bringing you an advance sneak peek at our listings for the next issue of Previews, this time with our releases scheduled for February 2010. It's going to be a big month for us with 8 new books, including two new Love and Rockets collections (one from Gilbert & one from Jaime), a great Kim Deitch yarn, horror noir from Ho Che Anderson, Captain Easy Vol. 1 (resolicited from August), a new softcover edition of the almost-out-of-print Blazing Combat, The Best American Comics Criticism of the 21st Century, and, pictured above, the breathtaking new graphic novel from Eisner Award winner Cathy Malkasian! Check it all out right here.
• Review: "...[T]hese extraordinary visions from a different, four-colour era [in You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation!] are as bold and striking as they are violent and strange.... Classic comics from a different age." - Grovel
• Review: "This new book from Fantagraphics of Femke Hiemstra’s work [Rock Candy] is gorgeous. The cloth hardbound book has a nice die-cut cover and the inside is jam packed with Femke’s works including tons of paintings and drawings alongside loose sketches.... The way the sketches are juxtaposed with the finished work in the book makes me feel like I’m getting an insider’s view. If you're a fan of 'pop surrealism,' this is a book for you." - Julia Rothman, Book By Its Cover
• Review: "I said, 'It seems to me that when comics become abstract, they really cease to be comics and become, for all effective purposes, simply abstract art.' But this anthology [Abstract Comics], in its best work as well as in its not-best, shows that that's not true. Comics really are a coherent enough medium to support their own tradition of abstraction. That tradition doesn't quite exist yet. But, in this anthology, [editor] Andrei [Molotiu] shows conclusively that it could." - Noah Berlatsky, The Hooded Utilitarian
• Review: "...magnificent reproductions, done in a sturdy hardcover [Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938] with oversized pages and entirely restored colors and shadings (indeed, those of us who’ve seen Prince Valiant reprint editions in the past will need some mental time to adjust to how much we’ve been missing)." - Steven Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly (via Steven Hart)
• Interview: Adrian Kinnaird of From Earth's End talks to Abstract Comics contributor Draw: "I had an epiphany. The gutter is where all the action in a comic takes place, it's where the reader creates the comic reading experience.... I wasn't trying to create effects, I was trying to create a visual representation of what happens in the gutter of a comic."
• Preview: Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool looks ahead to our February '10 release King of the Flies: Hallorave by Pirus & Mezzo: "King Of The Flies looks like it should disturb and entertain on an equal basis."
A new week brings an avalanche of new Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Profile: For the Philadelphia Inquirer, Tirdad Derakhshani looks at the past, present, and future of Prince Valiant: "The release Tuesday of Prince Valiant, Vol. 1: 1937-1938, the first in a new series of gorgeously printed, hardcover Valiant collections from Fantagraphics Books, served as a bittersweet reminder of the century-long rise and eventual decline of a great American art form, the comic strip."
• Review: "...Al [Columbia] decided to dredge up old ghosts, unfinished pieces, trifles he had thrown away then reconsidered and offered them up to us as proof that he hasn’t forgotten us. This 240-page book [Pim and Francie: The Golden Bear Days, Fall 2009]... has certainly filled in some gaps for me as to what goes on in Columbia’s mind... There seems to be something both amazing and horrifying around every corner, in any dark space, in the thick of the forest, in the bulbous eyes of maniacal creatures and the straight realistic lines of buildings that all have a dark window somewhere... It is truly a viscous treat and I am sure this one will never wash off." - Rachael M Rollson, Panel to Panel
• Review: "Though Low Moon doesn’t have the slow-building impact of Jason’s longer works, he’s still one of comics’ best storytellers, and it’s always a treat to spend time in his world of off-brand pulp clichés and not-always-so-funny animals. [Grade] B+" - The A.V. Club
• Review: "Jason is an immensely skilled artist capable of manipulating his self-restricted vocabulary to stretch space and time. Low Moon moves in a slow burn as the two antagonists move closer to their eventual showdown. In what is probably the best story in the book You Are Here, time moves more quickly as a father and son attempt to deal with the alien abduction of the father's wife. The father builds a rocket while the son grows up and has a life of his own. Eventually they pile into the rocket, and things end badly, but perhaps a bit more emotionally than with the other stories." - Michael Buntag, NonSensical Words
• Review: "Rage of a different kind in Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me and Other Astute Observations by Peter Bagge. This collection of satirical rants from the American libertarian magazine Reason... is philosophically more about punk individualism than Ayn Rand, and artistically the heir to 1980s indie comics. Indeed, Bagge is an indie star, famous for his wonderfully elastic cartooning style and punk-inflected comedies." - Roger Sabin, The Observer
• Review: "These are good comics [in Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me and Other Astute Observations], fun to read and definitely funny, definitely searing and when he hits a target he gets it right. Also there’s something to be said for the journalist tone of the writing and the structure of the strips would translate well into a proper newspaper, were he so inclined." - Ibrow
• Review: "For fresh talent in comics, you have to go to the anthologies and there's none better at the moment than Mome... the highlight [of Vol. 15] is Dash Shaw's hallucinatory story about a tidal wave, which uses swaths of colour and elongated panels to create a sense of vertigo." - Roger Sabin, The Observer (same link as above)
• Review: "Schulz had gone from a fairly grounded sense of consensus reality to Snoopy's flights of fancy to outright weirdness... That seems to be the essence of Sparky Schulz to me: even with the pressure of the daily grind and his position as the lynchpin of what had become a vast empire, Schulz wrote to amuse himself... At his best in this volume [The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974], Schulz gave the readers some of the best stories of his career." - Rob Clough
• Review: "Ace cartoonist Jordan Crane makes a curious split comic choice. The first half [of Uptight #3 ], 'Vicissitude,' is the opening chapter of a brooding adult tale of marital dysfunction and deceit, while the second, 'Freeze Out,' is a kid’s story, the further adventures of Simon and his cat Jack, who were featured in Crane’s great graphic novel, The Clouds Above. Miraculously, the pairing works — each is superior in its own genre — but you might want to wait until 'Freeze Out' is collected on its own before showing it to your kids." - John Seven, Worcester Magazine
• Review: "Blazing Combat (Fantagraphics, 2009) collects the entire run in a beautiful, incredibly well-bound hardcover book... The stories' tone is very 1960s, ironic with a cynicism stemming from brokenhearted humanism." - Carol Borden, The Cultural Gutter
• Review: "Needless to say, I love the streak of darkness that permeates [Charles] Burns' work. I mean that both figuratively and literally, as his one-of-a-kind illustration style is at-a-glance recognizable because of his heavy use of black ink... That starkness emphasizes the cruel features on the faces of his characters - deep wrinkles, harsh teeth, beady eyes and unflattering noses, to say nothing of the occasional freak. Like the look of his characters, Burns is one of a kind, and Skin Deep is a good introduction to the man's singular vision - a good way to get your toe wet before diving in." - Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: "[A.B.] Frost looked like he was painting with the line…on a half-dozen cups of coffee. Trust me, that’s hard to do... Also, it looks like Fanta-Graphic Books might have brought Stuff and Nonsense back in print in 2003. [Yes. -Ed.] Pick up and copy and be ready to weep - this work is untouchable." - Tony DiTerlizzi
• Plug: "Carol Tyler's You'll Never Know is my favorite book of the year thus far. This memoir/biography/scrapbook is both formally challenging and emotionally devastating. Any critic serious about compiling a year-end list needs to keep this book under consideration." - Rob Clough, Robot 6 (guest contributor)
• Tweet: "Still, the most beautifully designed bk so far this yr is still IMO Fantagraphics 'The Brinkley Girls': http://bit.ly/CSYpH Swoon-worthy." - bookjones
Online Commentary & Diversions will return Monday. Have a great holiday in the US of A.
• Review: "Like many mysteries, there's something initially frustrating about the end of 'Emily Says Hello,' but it's the best by Jason for a while... it's in the new Low Moon collection... Worth it for 'Emily' alone." - Graham Linehan (The IT Crowd, Father Ted), via Twitter (part 1, part 2)
• Review: "A thin line exists between [Basil] Wolverton’s jokey grotesqueries and the horrors of disfigurement and mutilation that appear in his postwar illustrations of the Book of Revelations (recently published in The Wolverton Bible)... Wolverton’s unsparing depictions of nightmarish prophecies are relentlessly grim but absorbingly so. There are hints of Goya’s crazed, melancholic Saturn and predictions of Charles Burns’s brooding mutant teens." - Nicole Rudick, Artforum (reviewing the Wolverton exhibit currently on view at Gladstone Gallery; hat tip to Drew Friedman)
• Review: "Oh my god.It’s like someone wheeled my senile, racist grandfather onto a metropolitan sidewalk and let him free associate.Unfortunately, my grandfather’s psychosis might have more acuity and humor than Everyone is Stupid [Except for Me]." - Ashley Cardiff, CC2K (via Reason link below; don't say we never post negative reviews)
• Review: "Michael Kupperman is the funniest cartoonist alive, and Tales Designed to Thrizzle is his funniest comic book... Thrizzle has the manic joy of a really good sketch-comedy series... Thrizzle was originally published as four comics, and Kupperman has recolored the series for its hardcover release... [It] should amuse just about anyone who can read." - Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Review: "[Fletcher] Hanks's stuff burns itself into and onto the brain like a giant scalding iron of dementedness." - fústar
• Review: "Certainly nobody takes umbrage with the claim that these are four awesome comics, collected in one hardcover edition [Blazing Combat]... Fantagraphics have done us a big favor by reprinting them all." - The Comic Book Haters (streaming video)
• Plug: "...Reason's own beloved Peter Bagge has a fantastic collection of a near-decade's worth of political cartooning coming out from Fantagraphics [Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me]. The content is king but the actual production is nothing short of stunning, filled with the bright, bright colors that Paul Simon used to sing about back when Kodak was still making film." - Nick Gillespie, Reason
• Interview: At comiXology, Tucker Stone interviews The Comics Journal online editor, the ista! in ¡Journalista!, my comrade-in-linkblogging-arms, Dirk Deppey. Pull quote of all pull quotes: "I got the job at Fantagraphics by making fun of The Comics Journal's website on its message board, basically."
Still catching up with Online Commentary & Diversions. There's more, but I'm out of time, so more catch-up tomorrow!
• Review: "The backbone of the family, and also its Achilles heel, Luba is a larger-than-life personality who jumps off every page, whether she's the focus of the segment or just a background player. [Gilbert] Hernandez collects over 100 stories here, ranging from graphic novellas to single-page episodes, with his usual dizzying cocktail of sexual intrigue, humor and soap opera-style angst." - Publishers Weekly (Starred Review - near end of page)
• Review: "There are two excellent interviews in the back of [Blazing Combat]... The interviews are part of what makes the comic so fascinating. Of course, it wouldn’t matter if the stories weren’t good, and they are... [Archie] Goodwin does a fine job keeping each story fresh and even getting into the heads of the characters... It’s a testament to Goodwin’s ability that he manages to write 28 (generally) anti-war stories, but never feels like he’s simply repeating himself... The art helps the book shine, as well... There’s not a poorly-illustrated story in the entire book, and some are eerily beautiful... These are both excellent comics and fascinating historical documents, and Blazing Combat is totally worth a read." - Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
• Profile: I don't think I would have guessed that Joost Swarte was influenced by Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, but so says he: The Walrus spotlights Swarte, who provides a cover illustration for the current issue, and whose long-gestating Fantagraphics collection Modern Swarte is still in the works
• Interview: At Newsarama, Zack Smith enjoys a lengthy chat with Jules Feiffer (and breaks the news to him that Explainers is nominated for an Eisner Award... oops, sorry Jules)
• List: Moolies posts his/her (?) "Top 10 graphic novels," including Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco ("It's truly appalling reading, and the reason is because he's such a great artist, and a great listener too"), Peter Bagge's Buddy Bradley saga ("There's so much painful and embarrassing truth in Bagge's work, and it's carried along by a sharp, wisecracking sense of humour"), and Love and Rockets ("A stunning, extraordinary, even feminist (or humanist) body of work... It's always a joy, and I'm so glad they're still writing these stories")
• Plug: "We should all learn about Nell Brinkley in college. So if you’re currently in college, go check out The Brinkley Girls already. And if you’re out of college already, well go check it out anyway, because everyone seriously needs to see this book—Brinkley was that good." - J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
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