• Profile: David Berry of Canada's National Post profiles the Toronto-bound Jason: "'I guess I’m not the most talkative person myself, so most of my characters end up the same way,' says Jason (a.k.a. John Arne Sæterøy) who, true to form, conducted our interview over email from his current home in France. 'I just think silence can be more effective than a lot of words.' The truth of that is in the book he’ll be showing off at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Athos in America. The collection of short stories is in a lot of ways a quintessential distillation of his themes and tendencies, blending together his cast of mostly melancholy (and quiet) anthropomorphized characters, dryly existential humour, sparse but careful composition and plots borrowed but tweaked from Hollywood genres such as crime, science fiction and, in the case of the titular musketeer, historical derring-do."
• Review: "...Mauldin created great art. His illustrative skill still catches our eye. His depth of thought and feeling still draw us in. We ponder Willie and Joe. We weigh their posture. We stare into their ravaged eyes. Who are these men, we ask? Where did they come from? Where will their paths lead?... Mauldin’s creations are as isolated and as awaiting-of-an-unknown-fate as Vladimir and Estragon. Their foxhole encapsulates their existence with the totality of Nagg and Nell’s garbage cans. Day-by-day, Willie and Joe confronted their readers, making no progress but enduring.... Fantagraphics has honored... the survivors and the fallen, while enriching the rest of us with this collection." – Bob Levin, First of the Month (via TCJ.com)
• Plugs: Lawrence Ferber of Next Magazine mentions a few of our titles in his MoCCA Fest report: "Batman received a subversive skewing in Josh Simmons’ gleefully un-PC The Furry Trap(another of its screwy adults-only tales involves a rape-happy elf). Trap's publisher, Fantagraphics Books, will release volume three of excellent gender-bending coming-of-age Manga series, Wandering Son, this summer, along with a queer comics compilation edited by San Francisco’s Justin Hall, No Straight Lines."
• Plug: "I loved Nancy in childhood, and I love Nancy now. The accuracy and economy of Ernie Bushmiller’s art and the genial simplemindedness of his humor make an irresistible combination. So I am happy that Fantagraphics at last has published Nancy Is Happy: Complete Dailies 1943–1945." – Michael Leddy, Orange Crate Art
Stéphane Blanquet (France) Ivan Brunetti (USA- Chicago) Lilli Carré (USA- Chicago) Max Clotfelter (USA- Seattle) Al Columbia (USA) Ludovic Debeurme (France) Olivier Deprez (France) Nikki DeSautelle (USA- Detroit) Brecht Evens (Belgium) Andy Gabrysiak (USA- Detroit) Robert Goodin (USA- Pasadena) Dav Guedin (France) Gnot Guedin (France) Glenn Head (USA- New York City) Danny Hellman (USA- New York City) Paul Hornschemeier (USA- Chicago) Ian Huebert (USA- San Francisco) Kaz (USA- Los Angeles) Michael Kupperman (USA- New York City) Mats!? (USA- Oakland, CA) Fanny Michaëlis (France) James Moore (USA- New York City) Tom Neely (USA- Los Angeles) Mark Newgarden (USA- New York City) Paul Nudd (USA- Chicago) Onsmith (USA- Chicago) Emelie Östergren (Sweden) Paul Paetzel (Germany) David Paleo (Argentina) Bruno Richard (France) Martin Rowson (United Kingdom) Olivier Schrauwen (Belgium) Stephen Schudlich (USA- Detroit) Robert Sikoryak (USA- New York City) Brecht Vandenbroucke (Belgium) Wouter Vanhaelemeesch (Belgium) Jon Vermilyea (USA- New York City)
And original essays by: -Jeet Heer (Canada), on S. Clay Wilson -Bob Levin (USA- Berkeley, CA), on The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-Geist by Michael O’Donoghue and Frank Springer -Ken Parille (USA- Greenville, NC), on humor in the work of Steve Ditko -Ryan Standfest (USA- Detroit), on Al Feldstein and “sick” humor at E.C. + interview with Al Feldstein
And a text by: Roland Topor (France), 100 Good Reasons To Kill Myself Right Now, translated into English for the first time by Edward Gauvin
• Review: "This mammoth collection [What Is All This?] presents five decades of Dixon: sex, frustration, and attempts at deeper communication, mostly missed. The 62 stories evoke neuroses, delusion, banality, and everyday absurdities in deceptively simple sentences... There are echoes of Ernest Hemingway and prefigurings of Raymond Carver's lower-middle-class minimalism infusing tales of scrappers and scrapers... Usually sublime, sometimes sloppy, and occasionally bewildering, these stories are a testament to an impressive career spent too much under the radar." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) [Temporary link]
• Review: "With its mix of sci-fi, romance, tragedy and comedy, A Drunken Dream is a memorable manga journey that shouldn't be missed or dismissed. [...] Drawing from deeply-felt personal experiences, Hagio draws stories for every person who has felt like an outsider, who has regretted past actions that can never be erased, or who has longed to be accepted for being who they are, not what people want them to be. These ideas sound so simple — but when touched by Hagio's pen, this is punch-in-the-gut powerful. [...] ★★★★1/2" – Deb Aoki, About.com: Manga
• Review: "While they may not be standard children’s books, they are fun and entertaining and full of stuff kids would like, without being obscene or intended for mature audiences. They are the kind of books you would want your kid reading if your kid wasn’t a total dork. [...] You get the feeling of reading old fairy tales, where the Prince wasn’t always charming, the villains would erect down right disturbing and evil plots against the characters and the story, or just the world in general was presented as a harsh reminder of reality. [...] Tony [Millionaire]... really lets his imagination run with his latest book, Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird. [...] With or without children, you can feel good about reading this book." – Brian Jones, Flash Flood Media
• Review: "Artichoke Tales is by any definition a remarkable book — the first graphic novel by Megan Kelso, who has so far worked largely in the short story form, and a book that displays at every page Kelso’s unique voice as a graphic storyteller and the care and attention she lavished on this project over the past several years. [...] This is a beautiful book, at times a heartbreaking book. One feels the precision and thought behind every word, every line, all of it edited down and arranged to a spareness that is paradoxically lush and textured." – Jared Gardner, Guttergeek
• Plug: "[Rip M.D.] seems to be a comic more geared to a juvenile public, but should be pretty cool because there are a lot of monsters, really violent werewolves, zombies, and best of all, vampires that do not sparkle!" – Submundo Mamão (translated from Portuguese)
• Profile: "Some artists seem to have had greatness as their destination as surely as if a tracking device had been implanted in their genes. Some veer toward it capriciously like a demon had seized the wheel. They start with a talent — to which they feed — in bites and gulps — their times; and, once expressed, the result is… YOWL! One of these was the underground cartoonist Greg Irons, the subject of Patrick Rosenkranz’s overlooked — and fascinating — retrospective You Call This Art?!!" – Bob Levin, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Peter Bagge’s not-so-yearly update on the life and times of his signature character Buddy Bradley takes up about half of Hate Annual #8... It’s a funny story with a confident, natural progression and some keen observations to make... [T]his is... a welcome renewal of one of alt-comics’ most treasured series… [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "The mid-’70s found Schulz pushing the strip further and further into the oddball, mixing fantasy and reality in extended storylines... The strip as a whole feels less scrappy and more settled in this era, though it’s no less inspired, and Schulz was clever enough to keep working his own state of mind into the finished product. The Complete Peanuts: 1975 - 1976 collects comics clearly drawn by a successful man still nagged by feelings of inadequacy not easily explained away… [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "Don’t be misled by High Soft Lisp’s cover. This isn’t just comic book smut or an adult version of Archie. Gilbert Hernandez has created some of the most fleshed-out and memorable women in comics since launching Love and Rockets with his brother Jaime in 1981. Their breasts might be outsized, but so are their minds and souls." – Garrett Martin, Boston Herald
• Review: "Fantagraphics’ fourth oversized collection of Elzie Segar’s legendary Thimble Theatre strips, famous as the birth place of Segar’s notorious Popeye the Sailor, continues the winning standard set by earlier editions. ... Fantagraphics’ enormous format remains among the best-looking strip reprints available." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Levin’s is not often a forceful tone; he digs up information and can deliver it in a scholarly enough manner, but also will follow his muse, digressing into dry humor and even an admitted Faulknerian flight of fancy. He’s fully engaged, grappling with the facts and the issues as he uncovers them, and the reader grapples right along with him. [Most Outrageous] is a much more compelling book for the fact that Levin doesn’t try to wrap it all up in a bow." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
The first Online Commentary & Diversions of the new year might be the longest one ever, so let's get to it:
• List/Review/Interview: As part of The Comics Reporter 's unique series of critical discussions on notable comics of the decade, Tom Spurgeon talks to Tucker Stone about Kevin Huizenga's Ganges: "That's the thing about Ganges #3 that makes it a unique comic -- it cannot be told in another medium and work. How are you going to write that down, that aspect of Glenn chasing his own thoughts and memories about completely personal, mundane life aspects, without drawing the character swimming around in his own head?" Elsewhere, Sean T. Collins responds to some of Stone's points
• List:Robot 6 lists The 30 Most Important Comics of the Decade. In part one, Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco is at #19 ("What's more, it showed that comics could handle not only tough subject matters, but deal with timely, true-life subjects in a hard-hitting, journalistic fashion"). In part two, The Complete Peanuts is at #15 ("If you believe, as I do, that we are living in the Golden Age of Reprints, chances are The Complete Peanuts is your Exhibit A")
• List:Newsarama's J. Caleb Mozzocco names his top 10 comics of the year, with The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book by Joe Daly at #8: "...[W]hat he delivers in the two stories collected in this book are unlike anything else I’ve seen in popular comics."
• List: Joe McCulloch of Jog - The Blog prefaces his Top Ten Comics of 2009 list with a "Top Five Caveats of 2009" list of reprinted or unread comics which includes Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941: ("Supermen!excited me... for suggesting a burning, manic soul of superhero comics, a reckless freedom differentiated from pulp writing and feature films by gnarled visual style while set apart from newspaper strips by virtue of a restless hunger to entertain quick and hard. It felt like the start of a future, and the comedown only hit when I realized I enjoyed it more than any new superhero comic of 2009") and The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit. On the Top Ten list proper: West Coast Blues by Tardi & Manchette at #8 ("Teeming with fleshy characters prone to bleeding and puking, rippled with burn lines of existential dismay, the story keenly exploits how the thrills promised by bloody adventure outside the law segue into the terror of governmental systems failing to protect their cozy consumer citizens") and Prison Pit: Book 1 by Johnny Ryan at #4 ("as visceral and gory as fantasy throwdowns get, while remaining almost contemplative in its plain-paneled studies of bodily movement").
• List: Patrick Montfort, blogging at Articulate Nerd, names his Favorite Comics of 2009: at #10, West Coast Blues by Tardi & Manchette ("A masterfully constructed crime story with an unlikeable protagonist caught in an unlikely circumstance, this very French graphic novel is superior to anything I've seen in the genre from an American cartoonist"); at #9, Abstract Comics: The Anthology ("Handsomely designed and smartly edited... one of the year's most unique releases... thrilling"); at #8, Prison Pit: Book 1 by Johnny Ryan ("Refreshingly devoid of any literary or artistic pretensions, this first of what I hope will be many, many volumes nevertheless comes across as somehow one of the smartest and well crafted books of the year"); at #7, The Complete Peanuts 1971-1972 and The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974 by Charles M. Schulz ("Really strong stuff here, including the 'Charlie Brown wears a sack on his head to summer camp' sequence, surely the 'Poison River' of Peanuts"); and at #2, The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit ("Reminiscent of the best work of David Lynch, there are a lot of powerful themes humming just beneath the surface of the creepy and dreamlike narrative. This one hit hard, and I can't wait to read it again. Really, really impressive")
• List: Cartoonist David Lasky's Best Graphic Novels of the Decade include Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco at #8 ("More haunting and harrowing than any TV news report on the subject") and The Frank Book by Jim Woodring at #10 ("Jim Woodring's cartoon animal, Frank, learns about life (the hard way) in an odd, visually lush, surreal world")
• List:Newsarama's Henry Chamberlain names the comics he was most intrigued by in 2009, including The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit ("Hans Rickheit has been producing work like this for years and he has perfected a certain haunted and exquisite comics style. Take it from me, this story of two very strange brothers is the real deal.")
• List: Matthew Price of The Oklahoman names his top 10 graphic novels of the decade, with Joe Sacco's Safe Area Gorazde at #9 ("Joe Sacco's nonfiction account of the war in Bosnia was among the best ever examples of graphic novel journalism.")
• List: Edward Kaye of Hypergeek selects The Best Graphic Novels of 2009, including Low Moon by Jason ("At times both bleak and humorous, these beautifully absurd stories will leave you as speechless as one of Jason’s silent characters."), Love and Rockets: New Stories #2 by the Hernandez Brothers ("Los Bros. Hernandez continue to blaze trails with their originality, and the comic industry is better for it. This essential collection should be on every fan’s shelf."), Luba by Gilbert Hernandez ("It’s an astounding collection of stories about family, life, love, and heartbreak... [W]hen you read all of these powerful tales together in one place, you realise that Beto has created an epic here, unrivaled in its scale and depth. Words fail to express just how wonderful this collection is."), Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me by Peter Bagge ("It’s a brilliant piece of work, and perhaps Bagge’s finest achievement to date."), Locas II by Jaime Hernandez ("These tales of the lives of Maggie, Hopey, and Ray, are some of the most enthralling, and sometimes bizarre, stories ever told in the comic medium.") and You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! by Fletcher Hanks ("...[T]hese surreal tales from the dawn of the super hero are uncompromisingly vivid, brutal, and at times, completely insane!")
• List/Coming Attractions/Plugs:Hypergeek lists The Essential Comics and Graphic Novels of 2010, including Almost Silent by Jason ("Jason is one of the greatest cartoonists in the world") and the year's books from the Hernandez Brothers: The Troublemakers ("I loved Chance in Hell, so this follow-up is a must for me. Beto is a wonderful storyteller, and an astonishing artist, so you can't go wrong picking this up, even if you've never read any L&R!"), High Soft Lisp ("This collection is essential for all L&R fans, as it collects together many of Beto's stories from the second L&R series, for the first time."), Penny Century ("Another essential collection for fans of L&R, collection Xamie's Penny Century stories from the Penny Century series and from Love & Rockets Volume II."), and Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 ("If it's a tenth as good as the first two volumes, we're in for a treat!")
• Review: "Magnificent art. Panels that range from three or so across medium-sized panels and the occasional painfully detailed and colored super-sized panel. An ongoing story...with blood and gore even! Dooming predictions, wounds, loss and death. Fantagraphics is to be thanked for working so hard to produce a book [Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938] that shows Foster's artwork in a decent size and with the colors corrected." – Fred Kiesche, The Lensman's Children
• Review: "For a change of pace, it's nice to delve into some work from the great Steve Ditko and find nary a spider-man nor a strange doctor among them. Fantagraphics provides the ideal venue for doing so in Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1... With the Fantagraphics logo on the sturdy spine, readers can expect — and receive — a top-quality package with crisp pages and handsome design. It's certainly attractive for some stories Ditko dismissed as 'junk,' but we all know there's treasure buried in trash." – Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: "Issue #2 [of Sublife] saw a lot of [the] promise [of the first issue] fulfilled in a group of stories that ranged across both genres and visual styles... What connected each story was a common theme: the desire for family and the ways in which that need either created surrogate families or metastasized into something darker." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Plug:Robot 6 guest contributor Shaenon Garrity got Humbug for Christmas: "I love Harvey Kurtzman's failed magazine projects... Kurtzman never had much success in all his long career, but he had a talent for making smart people want to give him a hand... fun stuff. It's got a lot of work by Arnold Roth, whom I love."
• Coming Attractions:Robot 6 surveys numerous comics pros as to what they're looking forward to in 2010: in part 1, Evan Dorkin mentions several of our upcoming reprint collections; in part 2, Chris Schweitzer mentions Drew Weing's Set to Sea (July); in part 3, Jamie S. Rich mentions Lucky in Love by Chieffet & DeStefano
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater continues (in part 3 of 4) his conversation with Carol Tyler: "I thought I could knock it out really quickly. That’s not case. But that’s not really stopping me, or anything. It’s just that, if it takes another six months to make this nicer, sweeter, and more wonderful, I want to. At first I thought I could get it all out in one package. I had it ready. But I’m not person who can write a script and then go illustrate it. I’m intuitive and I’m intuiting my way into this huge subject matter that hits me like a rock. There’s times when I can’t work because it makes me cry."
• Profile:Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning talks to Dash Shaw about The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.: "I realize that some people think of comics as being storyboards, or as some kind of preliminary work for a movie, and that's very funny to me. But usually the people who think that are film-industry people who think EVERYTHING is preliminary work for a future film! A book, play, whatever! Ha!"
• Survey:The Beat's year-end survey of comics pros includes the following responses. From Jay Lynch: "When I think of comics in the 00s I think of: Johnny Ryan." From Mike Dawson: "What was the biggest story in comics in 2009? The Comics Journal moving almost exclusively online."
• Reviews: "Locas ll collects a huge amount of comics featuring a more mature Maggie, finding and losing romance with people like Ray (one part Chandler victim, another part mod hobo), 'Frogmouth' (painfully sexy but achingly annoying), and reunions with Hopey and others in a strange relational ballet set in SW America. It’s a weird, flat plain of bizarre sex and twisted circumstance that would be the first collection of comics I would recommend for any adult wanting to get a handle on the aesthetics of the art form since it became culturally relevant to do so.... Meanwhile, Fantagraphics has also just put out a new issue of the Comics Journal #299, which has an incredible narrative by lawyer-outsider art-underground advocate Bob Levin... Levin is the writer of several books on the struggle of comics and the counter-culture and transgressive fringes, and because of him #299 of TCJ is THE book about comic art to buy this year.... Mome... is the current multi-artist series that has critics in the comics world and outside of it regularly amped.... The last few issues of Mome have really hit a hot-run of quality, and though some stories are more straightforward and others are expressionistic, all the art is always sweet." - Chris Estey, KEXP
• Review: "Comics journalism is mostly an oxymoron, but The Comics Journal, on the eve of its 300th issue, is a scholarly, intellectual publication.... [F]or intelligent discussion of current and past graphic storytelling and its creators (the current issue features an incredible story of an ahead-of-its-time genre-spanning anthology from the seventies that was never published), this is indeed an oasis of comics journalism." - Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Review: "...[A]wesome to behold.... When life and love, of a sort, finally do reassert themselves at [The Squirrel Machine]'s end, it's horrifying and drawn in a fashion that makes it look less like a natural thing and more like a terrible apparition, or a special effect." - Sean T. Collins