The most checked-out book of Online Commentaries & Diversions:
• Review: Prison Pit Book 4 by Johnny Ryan is getting the hits this week. Gene Ambaum of Unshelved writes,"This reminds me of nothing as much as the violent, disturbed drawings I’ve seen in some middle-school boys’ notebooks. Next year, I’m going to tell [my daughter] it’s like a mind-map for her male classmates. If she believes me, I hope we can put off conversations about her dating for a few extra years."
• Review: Mark L. Miller of Ain't It Cool News enjoysJohnny Ryan's latest Prison Pit Book 4. "This is the kind of sick shit that would warrant a trip to the school counselor if you found this crudely etched into the back of your child’s Trapper Keeper. Johnny Ryan once again taps into something primal and pure with his crude drawings of gore, sex, and violence."
• Review:The Quietus and Mat Colgate leaf through some of the best books of 2012 including Prison Pit Book 4 by Johnny Ryan. "Every second spent reading 'Prison Pit' is a joy. A violent, scatological, faecal matter, blood and pus smeared hoot.…There's something brilliantly subversive about 'Prison Pit'," chuckles Colgate.
• Review: The AV Club checks out some new releases like The Comics Journal 302, co-edited by Kristy Valenti and Mike Dean. Noel Murray states, "Business as usual for a publication that was treating the cultural significance of comics as a known fact decades before graphic novels were making the bestseller list."
• Review:The Quietus and Mat Colgate leaf through some of the January releases including 7 Miles a Second by David Wojnarowicz, James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook. Colgate states, "Wojnarowicz was fearless about his artistry and aware that the mere facts of a life are barely a percent of the whole, preferring to reveal the truth through dreams, violent fantasy and allusion. 7 Miles a Second is a shocking book, but for all the right reasons."
• Review: Forbidden Planet's Daily Planet looks at some new releases from Fantagraphics like 7 Miles a Second by David Wojnarowicz, James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook. Matthew Rosenbery states, "The stories serve as beautiful and brutal snapshots of a brilliant life lived too hard and extinguished too soon. It is not too much to say that we all owe a great cultural debt to Mr. Wojnarowicz and picking up this book and trying to understanding his life is a good first step toward understanding that debt."
• Review: Comics Bulletin looks at Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 2 by Michael Kupperman. Daniel Elkin finds it smirk-worthy: "Tales Designed to Thrizzle Volume Two has its place in the construct. It is 'silver and exact' like Sylvia Plath's Mirror and reflects the 'terrible fish' that has become our understandings of the world."
• Review: The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio gets the a full styling by Manga Bookshelf. Melinda Beasi writes "…teens and pre-teens who go to regular, modern public schools essentially live in their own society that is very much separate from the rest of the world, and it’s a society that is, frankly, terrifying…it views that kind of sacrifice as… well, ultimately pointless…Hagio makes it clear that running away is not the answer." Melinda continues on the book as a whole, "I also expected it to be very dated and I thought the story might not appeal to my tastes as a modern fan. Instead, I found it to be both beautiful and emotionally resonant to an extent I’ve rarely experienced—especially in [Boy's Love] manga. This is a book I’d wholeheartedly recommend to any comics fan, without reservation. It’s an absolute treasure."
• Review: The AV Club checks out some new releases like The Heart of Thomasby Moto Hagio. "with small cliffhangers at the end of each chapter to pull readers deeper into Hagio’s fantasyland. The intrigue deepens page by page (and this is a 500-page novel, mind), while Hagio develops her bracingly radical vision of a mini-society where homosexual attraction is so commonplace as to be the norm…" writes Noel Murray.
• Review:You'll Never Know Book Three: A Soldier's Heart by Carol Tyler gets a thorough and thoughtful review from Rob Clough on High-Low. "…this sounds a bit all over the map, that's because it is, but Tyler slowly pulls the strings of her narrative taut in some astonishing ways, especially in the third volume…It's a remarkable example of an artist being totally honest about their own feelings of grief and joy in a manner that provokes growth and fully embraces the relationship between the two."
• Review: Dylan Thomas of Minneapolis' Southwest Journal looks at Tom Kaczynski's Best Testing the Apocalypse. "Kaczynski uses science fiction as a microscope, poking at contemporary anxieties like blooming bacteria in a Petri dish. The genre provides the room he needs to examine the systems that shape our lives, whether they be architecture, urban design or capitalism."
• Review: Hillary Brown of Pasteenjoys the dark ride of Delphine by Richard Sala. "Sala’s rules; like testing gravity by dropping a penny from a building, the coin’s never going to fall up. Delphine is worth reading at least twice. Sala’s spell is strong."
• Review: SF Signal looks at Ralph Azham Volume 1: "Why Would You Lie to Someone You Love?" by Lewis Trondheim. "His humanoid animals, a staple of his work, place the story squarely into fantasy – along with the medieval-esque village and the magic – but the wry humor gives the story a modern feel" says Carrie Cuinn.
• Plug:Paste Magazine looks forward to the most anticipated books of 2013. These include Lost Cat by Jason. "The cranky Norwegian has seemed to soften a bit as he’s aged, and the description (detective searches for potential soulmate) goes along with that impression," write Hillary Brown. On Dash Shaw'sNew Schooland 3 New Stories. "In a few short years, Dash Shaw has proven himself a restless artist, committed to pushing what comics can do and what his own talents can accomplish… it’s nice to see him return with two works, no less."
• Plug: Publishers Weekly also released a list of the most anticipated books of 2013 which included Dash Shaw's New School. "The art disorients the reader and brings you right inside the troubled protagonists’ mind."
• Interview (video): Speaking of Dash, he recently spent a few days at Sundance for his Sigur Ros animated music video. A very short interview awaits you.
• Interview: Alexander Theroux is interviewed on Rain Taxi by Paul Maliszewski. Theroux, author of Estonia , The Strange Case of Edward Gorey , Laura Warholic and more states, "Revenge—I have written about this somewhere before—is the main subject of the modern novel, if it isn’t that of literature in general."
• Review:The Los Angeles Review of Books looks at Gary Panter's Dal Tokyo. Nicole Rudick writes "Panter’s medium is comics rather than architecture, but the effect of his work is the same: Dal Tokyo questions accepted notions of structure and meaning — taking them not as truth but as convention — and, taking Brecht’s advice, builds not 'on the good old days, but on the bad new ones.' "
• Review:The Weekly Crisis dissects the first panel of "Landscape!" a comic within Blazing Combat and how it contributed to the end of the series coinciding with the Vietnam War. Dan Hill states "At a time when an anti-war stance was tantamount to being a traitor to your country, it was also the beginning of comics beginning to tackle the uglier aspects of war, telling us exactly ‘how it is’. It showed us that comics could discuss and show issues more related to the real world than capes, tights and outlandish fantasy."
• Review:Paste Magazine looks at Linda Medley's Castle Waiting Vol. 1 (softcover). Sean Edgar writes, "Ultimately, Castle Waiting is an elegantly-written, uplifting take on European folklore supported by sterling art. As long as voices as talented and creative as Medley’s are around, stories like this will always be timeless."
• Interview: Robin McConnell of Inkstuds interviews Chris Wright for a second time, this time on his most recent graphic novel, Blacklung.
• Plug:The GLBT Roundtable's Rainbow Project lists best books for teens that encapsulate the GLBT-community issues. The Rainbow Project lists Shimura Takako's Wandering Son series as part of the Top Ten Books of 2012 as the characters "tackle problems such as gender identity, love, social acceptance, and puberty."
• Plug: The GLBT Roundtable also released a list of the best books for adults, Over the Rainbow, and the comics anthology No Straight Lines, edited by Justin Hall,was listed in the top ten.
• Interview: Tim O'Shea interviews Lilli Carré for Comic Book Resources on her process with Heads or Tails. "I went through all my stuff and arranged them not chronologically, but by how they each fed into each other… I don’t know if the dialogue I write or the way I draw is particularly well-crafted or not, but with both the art and dialogue I go with my gut and do what feels natural to me."
• Review: New York Journal of Books takes a turn around the room with The Complete Syndicated Pogo Vol 2 "Bona Fide Balderdash" by Walt Kelly. Mark Squirek writes, "Like the greatest of myths and fables, Pogo travels across time and ages. It is a world much like that of Aesop and trickster tales. It is a world capable of making a six year old smile with glee, a hipster smirk whether they want to or not, and a college professor laugh out loud… So graceful is his work with pencil and pen that you could loose yourself for hours in shear artistry of the panels he constructs."
• Plug:Westfield Blog suggests some books for you likeThe Complete Syndicated Pogo Vol 2 "Bona Fide Balderdash" by Walt Kelly."Walt Kelly’s art is a joy to look at and his dialogue and word play is just stunning. Pogo is a strip that you get more and more out of the more you read it," states Wayne Markley. And for Basil Wolverton's Spacehawk, "In the history of comics, there are very few, if any, that had such a unique style as Wolverton which, while as far away as you can get from classic illustrators like Raymond or Foster, it is every bit as good in its own unique way."
• Review: HeroesOnline looks at the latest Prince Valiant Vol. 6: 1947-1948. Andy writes "…the pace is fast, the action and intrigue are plenty and the violence is un-apologetically bloody. In addition, Foster was a stickler for historical accuracy in depicting everyday life in the 6th century."
• Review: Ryan Sands of Same Hat writes his 'belated' best of list which inludes Nancy Likes Christmas by Ernie Bushmiller and The End of the Fucking World by Charles Foresman.
• Plug: Tom Spurgeon announced the Peanuts Every Sunday book on Comics Reporter. More information tomorrow.
• Plug: Robot6 talks about Great but Forgotten anthologies. Fantagraphics' "Zero Zero ran for 27 issues, a longer run than most of the anthologies on this list received, but I don’t think it’s ever gotten its due as the truly great anthology of the ’90s." Chris Mautner continues with Blab, "I do think people have forgotten how cutting edge and exemplary an anthology Blab was, at least initially. For a while there it was running some seriously incredible work, like Al Columbia’s apocalyptic The Trumpets They Played, and the Jimmy Corrigan story that eventually became Acme Novelty #10, easily the most harrowing and darkest material Ware has produced to date." And finally Blood Orange, "Lasting a mere four issues, Blood Orange offered a mind-bending array of cutting-edge comics." WORRY NOT, we still have issues from someofthese.
• Review: "Shimura Takako’s story of two adolescents—a boy who wants to be a girl and a girl who wants to be a boy—isn’t exactly fast-paced in terms of plot, but [Wandering Son] book 2 continues the excellent work of book 1 and raises the emotional stakes a bit.... There’s... a slowly unfolding pleasure to Shimura’s story. Sensitive to the plight of young teenagers and potentially transgender youth alike, she’s managed to create a compelling story without including much that, considered in isolation, is particularly dramatic, which speaks to the realism of her efforts." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Review: "This is really fantastic storytelling. Another review of this volume [Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes] compared it to Tintin, and I think that’s very apt. There’s the adventures in foreign lands, the constant peril, the occasional wacky gags thrown in to alleviate said peril, and of course good old American ingenuity that, thankfully, never verges on jingoism quite as much as Tintin sometimes did.... I picked this up thinking it’d be a good chance to see if I liked Carl Barks and what the fuss was all about. Well, now I get it – and I’m hooked. ...[T]his is well worth the purchase for any fan of classic comics." – Sean Gaffney, Manga Bookshelf
• Review: "Kelly’s genius was the ability to beautifully, vivaciously draw comedic, tragic, pompous, sympathetic characters of any shape or breed and make them inescapably human and he used that gift to blend hard-hitting observation of our crimes, foibles and peccadilloes with rampaging whimsy, poesy and sheer exuberant joie de vivre. The hairy, scaly, feathered slimy folk here are inescapably us, elevated by burlesque, slapstick, absurdism and all the glorious joys of wordplay from puns to malapropisms to raucous accent humour into a multi-layered hodge-podge of all-ages accessible delight.... Timeless and magical, Pogo is a giant of world literature, not simply comics, and this magnificent edition should be the pride of every home’s bookshelf." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "...I was extremely impressed by Santiago's artistic abilities. He manages to shift the comic page in ways you'd never think of for a biography, using all sorts of layouts, from jagged panels to Family Circus ovals to standard grid formats. His characters wiggle their way through when in motion, show their feelings on faces that are slightly oversized and full of expression, and sometimes contort themselves into shapes that aren't quite natural. It's an artistic tour de force and shows that bio comics do not have to be the stolid, one step at a time narrative that we often see. ...21 is an excellent book... Clemente is every bit the important figure in baseball history that Robinson was, and more people need to know his story. 21 is an excellent place to start, either for you or the baseball fan in your life." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Review: "Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: Race To Death Valley by Floyd Gottfredson will be warmly received by comics aficionados but should also intrigue Disney animation buffs who aren't necessarily plugged into comic strip history. Editors David Gerstein and Gary Groth have not only scoured the planet for the best surviving artwork on Gottfredson's first epic continuity, which ran in newspapers from April to September of 1930; they've provided background essays (by a raft of experts), vintage press materials and artwork to put it into the context of Walt Disney's burgeoning career, and Mickey Mouse's budding stardom.... I have a feeling that this book, crafted with such obvious care, will earn Gottfredson a new legion of admirers." – Leonard Maltin
• Review: "Popeye hawking newspapers? Donald Duck selling gasoline? You'll find them and a whole cavalcade of comic strip characters in Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising, edited by Rick Marschall and Warren Bernard. In a hundred-plus pages you are treated to a sampling of cartoon print ads from the 1890s to 1940s. There are short informative blurbs about the cartoonists (some of whom were featured in ads themselves) and the history behind the ads. A great treat for fans of comic strips, Americana, and ephemera." – The Christian Science Monitor "Top Picks"
• Review: "Not long ago a very interesting book was released which aims precisely to investigate and chronicle the parallel paths of comics and advertising from 1870 until 1940 entitled Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising. Fantagraphics Books offers a hearty volume... which is our guide with text and images to the 'commercial' roots of the comic strip and the amazing work that resulted from comics creators who worked in advertising.... Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising is a book that will surely pique the interest of those involved in the communication sector, but also all who are drawn to pop culture. An excellent edition from Fantagraphics..." – Lida Tsene, Comicdom (translated from Greek)
• Review: "Richard Sala’s The Hidden is yet another undead saga, though it’s more ambitious than most.... As the backstory deepens, Sala ties The Hidden to older literary traditions, weaving in pieces of folktales and the legend of Frankenstein. Because Sala has had a career-long fascination with B-movies, gothic illustrations, and general ghoulishness, this plot is right in his wheelhouse. But The Hidden isn’t just an entertaining riff on well-worn horror concepts. Taking his cues from Mary Shelley, Sala explores human vanity and arrogance as a way of showing how everything can go so wrong so fast." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Mome 22 concludes the run of one of alt-comics' longest-running and most essential anthologies. Like Weirdo before it, Mome bridged the gap between veteran cartoonists and the new breed... Here’s hoping that as with Zap, Raw, Arcade, and so many that have gone before, another anthology will rise to take Mome’s place. And soon." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Shimura Takako is a master at portraying subtle events in a slice of life story about adolescence that never feels didactic.... One of the things I like about Wandering Son is the way many of the events in the book are simultaneously safe and filled with dramatic tension.... Like the storyline, Shimura’s art is simple but nuanced.... As you’d expect from Fantagraphics, the production quality for Wandering Son is excellent. I hope that more manga is on the horizon from them. While I’ll happily read more cheaply produced manga, it is nice to have a variety of options. Carefully curated manga like Wandering Son is a treat." – Anna Neatrour, Manga Report
• Review: "Jason’s deadpan, anthropomorphic characters make his books must-reads for me.... I'd give [Isle of 100,000 Graves] to my daughter... and my wife... in hopes that, after laughing at the Hangman’s Academy’s students, teachers, and administrators, they’ll agree to dress up in multi-colored hoods and carry instruments of torture next Halloween." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• Review: "Chun fills his collections with the best cartoons – the ones that can still delight readers, and Covey uses his lively and inventive design sense to make these old cartoons fresh and vital. With The Pin-Up Art of Humorama, Chun and Covey will once again make you believe that the art of Humorama is still alive and kicking – although the line ceased to exist decades ago. [Grade:] A" – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "This Fantagraphics edition collects the first two French albums of Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec (Pterror Over Paris and The Eiffel Tower Demon) in a large format hardback edition, and it’s beautifully presented. First released in 1976, Jacques Tardi’s story has a timeless quality, set in an alternative, steam-punk universe, shortly before World War I.... Tardi’s art recreates the scenery beautifully, with stunning backdrops bringing the architecture and beauty of Paris to life. ...[A] compelling and enjoyable mystery story with an alternative Victorian feel." – Grovel
• Review: "Comic fanboys have read Sgt. Rock or The Howling Commandos which are realistic in many ways, but there was a time when a comic mag got down right truthful. I’m speaking of Blazing Combat #1-4 (1965-66, Warren) and recently Fantagraphics collected the run in both hardcover and softcover. Blazing Combat was an anthology comic that showed the very dark and very real side of war. A loose followup to the EC Comics War genre books, it showed US G.I.’s dying in terrible ways, commanders giving orders with little regard for consequences and the militaristic definition of collateral damage. Jim Warren let it all hang out when it came to editing Archie Goodwin’s writing... Of course Goodwin is a genius and I’m usually more of a word-man when it comes to comics, but this time it’s the art that captured my attention. It’s a who’s-who of monster talent..." – Chris Marshall, Collected Comics Library
• Review: "Fred [the Clown] is a figure of innocence, a lovelorn sad sack who keeps getting hit by custard pies — and, even harder, by life — over and over again, but keeps standing back up to go on. Langridge mostly tells his story in short wordless comics stories... in his usual style, a crisp modern interpretation of the classic '20s animation look... They're slapsticky stories of a sad clown, using the accouterments of vaudeville and early Hollywood, that nonetheless feel entirely new and fresh and funny. I don't know how Langridge does it, but he does it very very well." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Plug: "You must buy @DaveMcKean's NSFW book 'CELLULOID' at your local comics or book store. Or in a plain brown wrapper..." – Neil Gaiman
• Preview/Plug:Comicsphere re-formats and re-presents one of our previews of Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit Book 3 to their readers, with Josh West saying "This is set to be 120 pages of ‘once you see it, it can’t ever be unseen’ scenarios and, honestly, Comicsphere couldn’t be more excited! Unbelievably unpredictable, violent, satirical and likely to entertain more than anything else on the shelves through September, the Prison Pit makes Hell look like nothing more than a relaxing Sunday morning stroll through a (really hot) meadow."
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Tim Callahan has a wide-ranging conversation with Johnny Ryan about Prison Pit and other topics: "I guess I have this fascination with stories where the 'hero' is not a hero at all. He's a loser or an idiot or a scumbag, but somehow the author makes us give a shit about him or her.... I think this is a strain that also runs through my work. It's about bad people, doing bad things, but I try and trick people into caring about or liking these people."
• Preview/Plug:Comicsphere gives the same treatment as above to our excerpt of Jacques Tardi & Jean-Patrick Manchette's Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot, with Josh West saying "...Jacques Tardi returns to the world of guns, crime, betrayal and bloodshed with this stunning, grisly, and remarkably faithful interpretation of Manchette’s last completed crime thriller."
"Athos in America – Jason returns to The Last Musketeer and includes other Jasony stories like 'The Brain That Wouldn’t Virginia Woolf.'"
• Plugs:Graphic Novel Reporter includes almost everything we have coming out over the next 3 months in their "Great Graphic Novels of Fall 2011" roundup, particularly the Adult Fiction and Nonfiction categories (though we feel we should point out that Alexander Theroux's Estonia is neither fiction nor a graphic novel)
• Plug: "We’re over halfway done, and have moved into the last 20 years of the strip with the release of The Complete Peanuts: 1981 to 1982. Can you believe how fast time is flying? Kudos to Fantagraphics for maintaining the incredibly high standard of quality and presentation they established at the outset, with this entry featuring an introduction from cartoonist Lynn Johnston. More!" – Ken Plume, FRED
• Interview:Newsarama's Albert Ching talks to Michael Kupperman about his new book Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010: "One other character I frequently think of when doing Twain — writing that book, or doing him in Thrizzle — is Dave Thomas from SCTV doing Walter Cronkite. Which in some ways is very similar — this kind of roguish, semi-self-befuddled character, roaming around having adventures."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater begins a multi-part chat with Drew Friedman: "Basically when Monte Beauchamp who edits those books invited me to do a book, I thought about what I like to draw the most. I like to draw comedians and old Jews. So I put those two together and started working on them between assignments over a year. I just got pleasure in drawing them. I could put aside any annoying assignment I had and just get down to drawing those old Jewish faces. That’s what it came down to."
• Interview:Washington City Paper's Mike Rhode had a little pre-SPX Q&A with Noah Van Sciver: "I'm excited to stop by the Fantagraphics table and say hello to those guys and see what's new." Well shucks!
• Lore: "’71 was a weird year for me. I never had quite so many women coming and going, as I did that year in the apartment I shared with Gary. But I was still drinking too much and just overdoing it in general, hedonistically speaking. I was getting very little good work done (gosh, I wonder why?) and was generally pretty miserable." – Kim Deitch's epic memoir-in-music "Mad About Music: My Life in Records" at TCJ.com forges into the 1970s
• Staff picks: Our own Ambassador of Awesome (and funniest Flogger) Janice Headley is the guest contributor to this week's Robot 6 "What Are You Reading?" column
Brazilian publisher Gal Editora put together this spiffy trailer for their translated edition of our Blazing Combat collection (Combate Inglório). It works pretty well as an advertisement for our edition too, even if you don't read Portuguese. Perhaps someday I'll teach myself how to make trailers like this; in the meantime you can check out our video preview too. (Via Bleeding Cool.)
• Review: "21: The Story of Roberto Clemente brings together comics and baseball, two of America's most popular conveyers of epic mythology. Author Wilfred Santiago also incorporates elements of classical and avant-garde jazz in his sinuously illustrated narrative of Clemente's life. It takes an imagination as rich as Mr. Santiago's to tap into various mythological languages to tell the Pittsburgh Pirate's iconic story... Instead of dwelling on sources of obvious resentment, Mr. Santiago defaults to illustrating Clemente's humanity. We're treated to close-ups of his most noble and ignoble moments. The artist refuses to treat him like a plastic saint, because a perfect Clemente would make boring reading, indeed. ...Wilfred Santiago has done as good a job as anyone ever has in reintroducing the longtime Pittsburgh Pirate to a new generation." – Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
• Review: "You’d be hard-pressed to find a more downright affable character than blithely blitzed Larrybear, the young female focus of Leslie Stein’s ongoing semiautobiographical comic [Eye of the Majestic Creature ], whose first four issues are collected here.... Stein gives us the slackerly, star-eyed alternative to a cadre of 'misanthropic, self-pitying comics about unappreciated cartoonists,' as Tom De Haven characterized it... But where the aforementioned Crumb-descended misanthropes have all more or less grown up, Stein’s Larrybear is a naïve woman on the verge of Whatever, a cute Candide floundering about in an increasingly complicated world. ...[T]his book [is] such a pleasure..." – Richard Gehr, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Lewis Trondheim is one of the world’s best cartoonists.... Approximate Continuum Comics is some of Trondheim’s earliest autobiographical work, dating mostly from 1993 and 1996. If you’re read his more recent slivers of life observations... then you already know the sublime wit and casual self-deprecation of Trondheim’s cartooning. Approximate Continuum Comics is where that [tack] begins." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Love from the Shadows is a very strange story. Surreal is such an overused word, but it is the best description I can come up with to describe the tone of the work. There is a disjointed, dream-like progression to the narrative.... As with so much of Hernandez's work, it is beautifully illustrated. The art is suffused with emotion and atmosphere and eroticism. The work Hernandez does is a critical component to his examining all of the societal, psychological, and sexual issues. …Love from the Shadows [is] an intriguing, offbeat story that is open to examination and interpretation. …Love from the Shadows is an intellectually stimulating read. And the artwork is magnificent." – Benjamin Herman, Associated Content
• Review: "The Littlest Pirate King is a wonderful phantasmagoria, as likely to entertain a ten year old as a thirty year eight year old (and I say this having had the book pulled off my lap and spirited away by my own ten year old). There is a lovely innocence to proceedings, a seemingly uncalculated desire to thrill and chill and transport... that has had me flicking back through the book a good dozen times since I’ve read it. This is the kind of book that got me reading books when I was a wee nipper, and it’s the kind of book that keeps me reading now that I’m the furthest possible thing from a wee nipper." – Bookmunch
• Review: "Blazing Combat is a book I'm quite proud to have in my collection. It's a work of art, has a message that's strong even over 40 years after the material was first created, and I'll come back to this at least once every few years." – Philip Reed, BattleGrip
• List:Library Journal's Martha Cornog gathers recommended graphic novels dealing with themes of Health & Medicine, including:
Special Exits by Joyce Farmer: "An excellent alert for those new to the path (for themselves or for relatives) and a validation for those already familiar with this normal yet seemly so abnormal life stage."
Alex by Mark Kalesniko: "This exploration of depression, futile escapism, and the healing power of art has been described as a difficult read but very funny."
Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock 'n' Roll Life by Bruce Paley & Carol Swain: "Hanging out here and crashing there, Paley narrates vignettes of debauchery and daily life in a Woodstock version of American Splendor. Partner Swain's smudgy, black-and-white drawings carry his grimy, nostalgic account."
Mother, Come Home by Paul Hornschemeier: "An exquisitely written and beautifully drawn exploration of grief."
Rip M.D. by Mitch Shauer, Mike Vosburg et al.: "A 'full-color, all-ages adventure' with an animated cartoon series in development, and a promising bet for reluctant readers."
• List:Robot 6's Chris Mautner names "Six noteworthy debut comics," saying of R. Kikuo Johnson's Night Fisher "this tale of disaffected adolescence and drug dealing in Hawaii is certainly compelling and suggests that Johnson is an artist capable of producing great work. Unfortunately, he has yet to follow up on that initial promise. But Night Fisher still marks him as an artist to watch out for."
• Profile:Time Out Chicago's Web Behrens catches up with Paul Hornschemeier: "'It is one of those names: You’re destined to either be a writer or scientist,' says local author-artist Paul, the man both blessed and saddled with the brainy surname. 'You’re not going to be a rock star with a name like Hornschemeier.'"
I'm frequently invited to conduct workshops on comix as an educational tool at regional conferences of K-12 librarians, teachers, and administrators. These educators appreciate the appeal of graphic novels but sometimes lack the familiarity to employ them effectively. Here are some of the conclusions we've reached on the judicious use of comix in school.
Comix are extremely useful as a tool to address students struggling with limited literacy or English as a second language (ESL.) In remedial situations, students are reluctant to be assigned material substantially below grade level. With many comix, the age level is ambiguous, which removes the social stigma associated with reading challenges. Additionally, the illustrations assist with word identification and drive the story in an accessible fashion. Comix are considered cool in school, and can engage students at all literacy levels.
The Usagi Yojimbo series is particularly appealing in teaching both ESL and remedial readers. It's a smart, well-paced adventure story about samurai culture in 17th century feudal Japan. These books are attractive to readers of all ages without respect to gender. For adolescents in higher grades, I often suggest Blazing Combat. This anthology contains compelling war stories throughout history, including the American Revolution, Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Viet Nam and others. The stories have historical value and many focus on the futility of armed conflict. In addition, they feature some of the most remarkable artists in comics.
Fantagraphics Bookstore stocks dozens of comix and graphic novels suitable to students of all ages. Many of these books concern history, race and social justice, geopolitics, philosophy and other subjects common to K-12 curricula. To arrange an individual consultation or group visit to the bookstore please call Larry Reid at 206.658.0110. Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is located at 1201 S. Vale Street, minutes south of downtown Seattle. Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM. See you all soon.
• List:David Wolkin names some memorable comics he read this year:
"It hurts to read [It Was the War of the Trenches], but Jacques Tardi’s renderings are still quite beautiful as far as I’m concerned, which makes the whole thing that much more painful."
"Blazing Combat blew my mind. [...] The only thing this book has to say is that war is always terrible and people always die... Most of the stories are written by Archie Goodwin, but are duties are handled by a whole mess of the greats, including John Severin, Gene Colan, Wally Wood and Alex Toth, Goddamn Alex Toth. This book is worth buying just for the 3-4 Toth stories."
• List/Review: "Notable shoujo mention: A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio... There is fantastic imagery, and fantastic stories. [...] As a translation and publishing choice, I commend Fantagraphics. For anyone who wants to read what is considered to be a classic gem of shojo then this is it." – Anime Diet (see also their review)
• List: Melinda Beasi of Manga Bookshelf names A Drunken Dream and Other Stories one of the two Best Classic Manga of 2010: "...Moto Hagio’s collection of short manga... focus[es] particularly on issues of family, delving deep into some of the ugliest impulses of our biological tribes and the damage they can do to their least valued members..."
• List: Patrick Markfort of Articulate Nerd counts down his top 10 Favorite Comics of 2010:
"7. The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976, The Complete Peanuts 1977-1978, by Charles M. Schulz... After the fascinating early years of the strip in the 50's and its evolution and refinement into one of the all-time great strips in the 60's, it was a delight to rediscover these wonderful 70's strips, which to my mind strike a perfect balance between the ever present serious and silly sensibilities of Peanuts. Schulz's life's work is all things to all people, with a cuteness and sweetness on the surface, a razor sharp wit just underneath, and depths of poetry and sadness at its heart. The Platonic ideal of a comic strip."
"5. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, by Moto Hagio – I've been waiting years for someone to publish something by Moto Hagio, and I was not disappointed in the slightest by this book. In fact, I loved everything about it, from the drop-dead gorgeous design work by Adam Grano, to the fine selection of stories by editor Matt Thorn, to the reprint of Thorn's definitive interview with Moto Hagio... None of this would mean much if the stories weren't any good, of course. Fortunately, they're exceptional. These exquisitely drawn short narratives across a variety of genres spanning Hagio's decades-long career are terrific reads in and of themselves, and provide a fascinating glimpse into a tradition of comics-making we've still seen very little of. More like this, please."
"1. 'Browntown' and 'The Love Bunglers, Parts One and Two,' by Jaime Hernandez, from Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 - Jaime Hernandez is my favorite living cartoonist, and these short stories, which MUST be read in conjunction with each other, are my favorite thing he's ever done. What a thrill to witness first hand the publication of a certain All Time Great Comics Work from an artist whose place in the canon is secured ten times over. [...] Read my full review of Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 here."
• List: "Love and Rockets New Stories #3 – [...] Jaime has this wonderful gift to make his characters seem real and natural. It’s been almost 30 years that he’s been writing and drawing the stories of Maggie and Hopey but they feel more like old friends now than ever before." – Scott Cederlund, Wednesday's Haul, "The Best of 2010"
• List: "A giant, two volume hardcover edition with a solid slipcase, this excellent collection [Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition] features the first seven volumes of the series and a ton of extra content. Probably the most beautiful book on this list." – Aaron Colter, Fearing Americans, "The Best Comics of 2010"
• List: "Best Pop Culture Satire: [...] An award winning comic that made me laugh out loud a little too much while reading at the local cafe. [...] Full of shamans, reanimated pirate skeletons and hysterical pop culture nods, Dungeon Quest Book Oneis one of my favorite pieces of comic satire to come out in a long time." – Ian Gonzales, Unwinnable, "The Best Comic Books of 2010"
• List: At The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, the contributor identified only as Michael places Jason's Werewolves of Montpellier on his top 3 Best of the Year: "...[A]s usual Jason’s art is beautiful in its very unusual style with super thick line work and flat and bright colouring. The story is more of a drama, which again is a change from the usual comedy route and the addition of a romance sub-plot makes this book one of Jason’s most complex and best."
• Review: "Jacques Tardi's Adèle Blanc-Sec is a longtime favorite French anti-heroine... The over-the-top parody of the monster-hunting adventurer, combined with a whiff of innate French superiority to the source material, ...may appeal to the extremely casual reader of comics, or one with deep knowledge and interest, but probably not to a reader who enjoys picking up the latest zombie comic." – Mike Rhode, Washington City Paper
• Survey:The Beat's year-end/looking-forward survey of comics pros (part three) includes incisive commentary from our own Eric Reynolds
• Coming Attractions: More reporting & commentary on our Carl Barks news from MTV Geek and Ambrosia (in Portuguese)
I thought I could keep up with Online Commentary & Diversions while at Comic-Con. Ha ha ha ha ha.
• Coming Attractions: At Robot 6, Chris Mautner takes a look through the 46 (!!!) upcoming books listed in our Fall/Winter catalog (note: listed release dates may no longer be accurate and are all subject to change)
• History/Profile/Review: "What A Drunken Dream reveals is an author whose childhood passion for Frances Hodgson Burnett, L.M. Montgomery, and Isaac Asimov profoundly influenced the kind of stories she chose to tell as an adult. ... For those new to Hagio’s work, Fantagraphics has prefaced A Drunken Dream with two indispensable articles by noted manga scholar Matt Thorn. ... Taken together with the stories in A Drunken Dream, these essays make an excellent introduction to one of the most literary and original voices working in comics today. Highly recommended." – Katherine Dacey, The Manga Critic
• Review: "Anyone interested in the historical development of manga and the women who’ve contributed to the art form should read this book. I hope A Drunken Dream sells well enough for Fantagraphics or other publishers to consider putting out some of Hagio’s longer works. Her short stories are great, but I’d love to see what she does with a longer storyline." – Anna Neatrour, TangognaT
• Plug: "What Osamu Tezuka is to shonen and seinen manga, Moto Hagio is to shojo manga -- a true innovator who challenged and stretched the conventions of the medium by created touching, memorable and truly artistic comics stories. ... Fantagraphics had copies of the absolutely gorgeous hardcover edition of A Drunken Dream available for sale at their [Comic-Con] booth..." – Deb Aoki, About.com: Manga
• Interview:The Comics Journal's Shaenon Garrity sat down with Moto Hagio & translator Matt Thorn for a conversation at Comic-Con International: "I find it very embarrassing to read my very early work, but when you see the stories arranged chronologically it gives a good overall impression of my career. In Japanese, too, it’s common to present an author’s works in a sample spanning his or her whole career, so it’s turned out very much like that."
• Review: "Deadpan dialogue, drawings that move from panel to panel with the strange and deliberate force of kung fu performance art, and a subtle interweaving of humor and angst come together to make [Werewolves of Montpellier] a brief knockout of a book." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "...[T]his cartwheeling shaggy-dog story begins, like a lot of metafiction, with the semblance of reality... But by the time a frog demon reanimates a 19th-century French peasant whose brains it has eaten, it’s fairly clear that Deitch is making stuff up. The fun of [The Search for Smilin' Ed] is the way it constantly darts back and forth across the line between genuine show-business lore (a favorite Deitch theme) and delirious whole-cloth invention. There are stories within stories, unreliable explainers, secret passageways that lead from one part of the tale to another." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "Wally Gropius is a book that’s constantly lying to the reader, with a terrifying chaos roiling just immediately below its surface. The book is a flood of visual and textual information, but the information itself is near constantly false. ... For me, it’s a book that lies constantly, that lies at its very core, but that nevertheless ends up getting at a greater truth of things. And so, yeah: I thought that was pretty neat." – Abhay Kholsa, The Savage Critics
• Review: "There’s more derring-do [in Prince Valiant Vol. 2: 1939-1940] than you can shake a sword at! Foster’s stories are filled with vivid, colorful characters, none more engaging than the aptly named Valiant and his never-ending quest for adventure. The artwork is breathtaking. Foster’s figures are handsome and graceful whether eating a sumptuous feast or fighting on a crowded battlefield. ... Even if the age of chivalry is not your flask of ale, Foster’s art and storytelling will win you over." — Rich Clabaugh, The Christian Science Monitor
• Review: "This book is why Fantagraphics is one of the best and most important comic publishers in the business today. [Blazing Combat] is a series that could have easily been forgotten to the ages but Fantagraphics always is at the forefront of making sure important works of sequential art are remembered. ... This is a brilliant collection of stories that should be required reading. Intelligent, gripping stories and fantastic art! Grade A +" – Tim Janson, Mania and Newsarama
• Review: "Formally inventive and emotionally acute, Bottomless Belly Button indeed proves to be all those things: as fascinating and affecting a depiction of family ties as Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections or Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums." – Ed Park, Los Angeles Times
• Plugs: Alex Carr of Amazon's Omnivoracious blog has Weathercraft by Jim Woodring ("I am woefully ignorant when it comes to Woodring’s Frank comics, and this looks like the weirdest place to start") and Dungeon Quest Book 1 ("After The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, I will read anything Joe Daly produces") on his summer vacation reading list
• History: For the Los Angeles Times, Ben Schwartz compiles an oral history of the 1980s heyday of L.A. alternative comics with Matt Groening, Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez, David Lynch (!), and Gary Panter
• List: "A new, superb Frank book called Weathercraft came out a few weeks ago, but I treasured Frank as a periodical, and I'd love to sit down with a few hundred issues of it when I'm an old man. ... I think it's healthy for adolescent boys to have access to well-written, well-drawn comics about war, as long as the comics in question [like Blazing Combat] constantly pound home the message that war is futile, stupid and contemptible." – Douglas Wolk, "Ten Comics That Should Run Forever," TIME/Techland
• Review: "If you are in search for fresh ideas or even tried and true ideas presented in a fresh light, this is the book you've been yearning for. Werewolves of Montpellier is one of those true indie gems that make me glad I took a chance reading something outside of the mainstream. ... Werewolves of Montpellier is by far my favorite Indie Book of the Year so far. ... If you're a fan of the Coen Brothers or David Lynch, it's a safe bet that any work by Jason is going to be right up your alley. ...[I]n Werewolves of Montpellier, Jason takes his style of irreverence and perfects it. I guarantee if you take a chance with this book you will not forget it and seek out more Jason. It's one of those stories that sits with you long after page last comes to pass. Hilarious, profound, fun, and meaningful. Werewolves of Montpellier is filled with indie goodness." – Mark L. Miller, Ain't It Cool News
• Review: "Eisner Award winner Kim Deitch has been weaving a complex universe of ghosts, aliens, demons, puppets, spiritual leaders, and complicated animal characters for over 40 years, and in the tradition of Vonnegut, Deitch occasionally places himself in the middle of his own madness. If that sounds a bit meta, that’s only the barest tip of the squirmy, lascivious iceberg that Deitch has planned for you [in The Search for Smilin' Ed]. ... The lines between fiction and fact are so effectively blurred and made bizarre that I still retain a bit of paranoia and doubt about the veracity of any evidence that Smilin’ Ed was ever on TV... The images are so dense that it’s amazing they retain the clarity that they do, but it’s an amazing and unexpected study in the principles of positive and negative space." – Collin David, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Review: "By being both foreboding and accessible, menacing and friendly — and doing so without suffering from sort of comic book schizophrenia, Hensley manages to create something rather unique and deeply rewarding in Wally Gropius. This is a comic that rewards multiple readings and contemplation. It's also one of the best — and funniest — books of the year." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "Speaking of strange, what an oddly delightful little book [Dungeon Quest Book 1] is, a mash-up of Dungeons & Dragons-type adventuring and stoner attitude... To some degree, this book is a distant cousin to Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit. The main difference being that Daly is more concerned with pot jokes than gore. Both though, are part of this seemingly new try to find ways to give the familiar fantasy genre a clever twist. And both are concerned with exploring different ways to portray action and violence in comics. ... Based on the strengths of this introductory volume... I'm willing to go where the adventure leads to." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "Saving the best for last, there’s Blazing Combat, an amazing collection of the stories from the short-lived cutting-edge mid-1960s Warren Publications series. ... They’re all written by the outstanding Archie Goodwin, with a few assists, which for most fans would be reason enough to buy this comic all by itself. But then you throw in some of the most amazing art, all of it sharply and expertly reproduced, and you’ve got some real dynamite here. ... And there’s fantastic bonus features... If all that doesn’t sell you on this as a must-buy, then you may need professional help." – Tom McLean, Bags and Boards
• Interview: Andrea Queirolo of Conversazioni sul Fumetto has a twopart Q&A with Paul Hornschemeier: "Both of my parents have degrees in Philosophy, and I’ve always been sort of a lonely kid, so I think spending lots of time thinking about things just came naturally to me as a child, for better or worse (probably for worse). Over-thinking things was something I could never get rid of, so I decided to go ahead and get a Bachelor’s Degree in it."
• Education:Ellen Forney will be teaching summer comics courses for teens and adults at Cornish College in Seattle — see her blog for more info and enrollment links