Today's Online Commentary & Diversions (with one carried over from yesterday's post-less day):
• Review: "Normally I wouldn’t put in a spoiler warning for a few blog notes, but this is a special case. I’m going to be talking about Love and Rockets: New Stories #3, which contains what is arguably one of the best comics stories ever... It’s so easy to take the Hernandez Bros. for granted: they’ve been around so long, put out work regularly, and often use the same characters. So the temptation is to just think that they’re a stable public resource, like the library or a museum: they’ll always be there and we can ignore them for years, checking in on them only when we need to. But really, these guys are among the best cartoonists who have ever lived. Like Seth, Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, and Kim Deitch, they are constantly pushing themselves to do better work, and are now at a career peak. We need to give thanks for this, loudly and publicly." – Jeet Heer, Comics Comics
• Review: "Really, it’s hard to know what to make of [Norman Pettingill:] Backwoods Humorist, the first time you flip through its lovingly-curated pages. [...] I fell in love with it almost immediately, first caught completely off guard by the amateurish art in a book compiled by Fantagraphics. Why, precisely had the publisher chosen to compile these works in such a beautiful volume? There is, however, something disarmingly bewitching amongst Pettingill’s grotesque caricatures of country life. [...] In the great scheme of 20th century art, it’s difficult to imagine that Pettingill’s work will ever be regarded as much more than a somewhat high profile curiosity. For those seeking to discover an utterly fascinating body of work, however, that curiosity is certainly worth the price of admission." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Review: "Greg Sadowski and John Benson did a superb job on this collection of early 1950s horror stories [Four Color Fear]... In addition to Greg's attractive design throughout, he delivers meticulous, pixel-perfect restorations... There are 25 pages of fascinating, informative notes by both Greg and John. [...] This book is like time-traveling, a document of an era. [...] This will stand as an important reference work that should be shelved alongside David Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague." – Bhob Stewart, Potrzebie
• Review: "...Mome 19... is the best volume of the series so far. [...] Josh Simmons' 'White Rhinocerous Part 1'... is short, makes sense, is funny: great comic. The rest of Mome 19 doesn't fall apart on the job either... But the real prize here is DJ Bryant... Alongside a group of contemporaries who possess some of comic's most innovative talents, he chose refinement. It fucking worked." – Tucker Stone, The Factual Opinion
• Plugs: "Fire & Water... is a look at the life and body of work created by Bill Everett, the man who created the Sub-Mariner - the character upon which Marvel Comics would be built. [... In] The Sanctuary [Nate] Neal uses a cave-dwelling tribe to explore themes of communication and language and reveals himself to be a master storyteller. [...] Ding Dong Daddy from Dingburg... is the newest collection of comics legend Bill Griffith's Zippy the Pinhead comic strip. In this volume — Joan Rivers, Charles Bukowski, God, riboflavin, and more! Surreal and absurd yuks abound." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
• Plug: "...[I]f you’re in the mood for some dazzling, filthy violence then perhaps Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit Volume 2 is... up your alley. It’s got CF the barbarian from outer space on the cover, dripping in blood and wearing nowt but pants." – The Gosh! Comics Blog
• Plug: At Comix 411, Tom Mason, profiling Leslie Turner, Roy Crane's successor on Captain Easy, notes "For those interested in the origins of Captain Easy, you can’t do better than Fantagraphics Books which is reprinting Roy Crane’s classic strip, starting at the beginning."
• Almost Plug: The 1930s "Human Centipede" image that Mark Frauenfelder Boing Boinged today happens to be found in our book Catalog No. 439: Burlesque Paraphernalia and Side Degree Specialties and Costumes
• Review: "Remember that kid in school? The one with the pen sketchings on the back of his Trapper Keeper full of wicked violence and jagged lines? Ever wonder what happened to him? Well, he's Johnny Ryan and he's all grown up and making some of the most in your face comics today. Prison Pit is something you have to experience to believe. An artistic achievement in storytelling (most of the pages are wordless) on a pure guttural and simplistic level. Highly recommended for those of you who like a bit of dirt and grit with your comics." – Mark L. Miller, Ain't It Cool News
• Commentary: "My sit-down read of this Captain Easy volume is really the first time I’ve devoted much time to actually digesting the narrative of Crane’s work — and the first time I’ve really read and enjoyed an 'adventure' strip (unless you count Segar’s Popeye)." – Ben Towle
• Analysis: At The Manga Curmudgeon, David Welsh uses a sampling of critical reaction to Moto Hagio's A Drunken Dream and Other Stories to examine "the notion that the creative work of women, particularly when that work is created for women, is critically undervalued."
• Reviews: At Vice, it's time for another installment of "Nick Gazin's Comic Book Witch Hunt":
"Name a funnier comic than Popeye. Wrong, idiot, there isn’t one. Not only is Popeye the best ever, but this volume of Fantagraphics Popeye series is the best one yet. Oh yeah? Name a better one. Wrong. ... Like most great strips, Popeye has a strong philosophy. That philosophy is the world’s full of crooks. I wish there was a real Popeye to enforce some sort of rough fist-justice but I’m pretty sure there’s no justice and there’s certainly no Popeye, just crooks."
"The original [Prince Valiant] was a giant Sunday page with some of the greatest illustrations ever done. The colors in the latest reprint series are so superior to those in the previous printings that the old ones might as well have been in black and white. This shit is tremendous. ... Get this book or I’ll get you."
"I keep waiting for the quality of the comics in these [Complete Peanuts] books to take a sharp downturn but it hasn’t hit yet. ... So many personality types that I find in adult life were first found in these comics."
"Jason returns with another really good comic [Werewolves of Montpellier]... Jason uses just a few lines but his aesthetics are super superior and he can express intense emotions with simplicity."
"...[T]he art and colors [in Captain Easy Vol. 1] are mind bogglingly beautiful. It’s like Darger. Beautiful candy-colored lunacy."
• Review: "Dungeon Quest: Book One offers an interesting and amusing read, full of lots of laughs about youth and nerd culture, with a surprising layers of sardonic social commentary folded in for good measure." – Jordan Magill, San Francisco Book Review
• Review: "By the 1980s, however, the anti-establishment sensibility of the underground comix had been replaced by a faith in just 'do-it-yourself' — making your own 'zines,' and that sense of independence is what [editor Michael] Dowers praises [in Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s]." – George Elliott Clarke, The Chronicle Herald
• Review: "...Jim Woodring's Weathercraft creates a fantastic alternative universe. ...Woodring constructs a nightmarish tale in which Manhog falls victim to the villainous depredations of the all-too-aptly named Whim and the spells of the witchy pair Betty and Veronica. Those unfamiliar with the Woodring dreamscape may want to pick up The Frank Book collection as a primer, but the stand-alone Weathercraft requires no real prep work — just an openness to disturbing, id-derived imagery." – Cliff Froehlich, St. Louis Post-Dipatch
• Review: "Although King of the Flies... is anchored in a sharply delineated but deliberately generic suburbia, the book plunges us into an often violent, always profane environment that recalls David Lynch's Blue Velvet. Using multiple narrators, the book is an intricately constructed series of interlocking short stories that acidly etch a disquieting portrait of modern alienation and unease." – Cliff Froehlich, St. Louis Post-Dipatch
• Review: "French master Tardi gives an infantry-level view of World War I's meat-grinder carnage in grim vignettes that primarily keep tight, telling focus on the stories of individual soldiers. ...[It Was the War of the Trenches] deserves a place on the top shelf of graphic lit." – Cliff Froehlich, St. Louis Post-Dipatch
• Review: "Reading Jacques Tardi's It Was the War of the Trenches, I realized just how short most American war comics fall in portraying the reality and horror of war. ... Tardi brings every ounce of his talent to the task of trying to articulate the sheer horror of this war. And while he doesn't flinch once, neither does he resort to trite 'war is bad' or 'good versus evil' oversimplifications. He merely puts you directly in the soldiers' viewpoint and then tries to relate their experiences to you. ... It's a raw, uncompromising, devastating book, and, I'm kind of sad to say, unlike anything that's been published on these shores." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "...St. Louisan Tim Lane's Abandoned Cars, one of 2008's essential comics, has recently been reissued in paperback with two variant covers that vividly recall the lurid pulps of the 1930s." – Cliff Froehlich, St. Louis Post-Dipatch
• Review: "It can sometimes be hard to get a grip on what Jason is going for in his stories, since even when he approaches a familiar subject, he takes a strange angle and dwells on the types of moments that wouldn’t normally receive focus in these sorts of tales. Werewolves of Montpellier goes even further afield... Leave it to Jason to dwell on the awkwardness of the 29 non-full-moon days of the month in which the werewolf has to pass as a normal human." – Matthew J. Brady, Indie Pulp
• Review: "What I think is most interesting about [The Best American Comics Criticism] is that in his choices of pieces, [editor] Schwartz is laying out a theory of lit comics. It's a theory that rings very true to me. Part of this theory goes that as literary comics grew, they made necessary a reevaluation and relearning of certain classic comics." – Robert Boyd, The Great God Pan Is Dead (via The Comics Reporter)
• Profile: Steve Duin of The Oregonian talks to Patrick Rosenkranz about assembling The Artist Himself: A Rand Holmes Retrospective: "With rare access to Holmes' journals and sketchbooks, Rosenkranz succeeds in giving readers access to the cartoonist that Holmes denied his closest friends. And he succeeds because of a compulsion, born 45 years ago, to understand the world in which these artists moved 'and how what happened in their lives affected their work.'"
• Comic-Con: At About.com: Manga, Deb Aoki gives a quick report from the Moto Hagio Spotlight Panel at Comic-Con 2010, with a promise of more to come: "...Hagio-sensei charmed the audience with her self-effacing wit and matter-of-fact responses to questions..."
• Review: "Of course, the Bradleys story remains the best reason to pick up any of these Hate Annuals, and this time Bagge doesn’t disappoint; even though I still can’t stand Buddy in his Popeye the Sailor look, this story of wife Lisa wanting to get out of the house (since the kid is in school) and do something for herself, eventually ending up in a two-woman rock band playing in a strip club, is consistently funny and sharply observed." – Johnny Bacardi, Popdose
• Plug: In the Portland Mercury, Floating World's Jason Leivian recommends Mezzo & Pirus's King of the Flies for fans of Paul Verhoeven's 1980 film Spetters: "Similar stories of fucked up youngsters spiraling into a black hole of self destruction with incredibly rendered artwork that will appeal to fans of Charles Burns."
• Plug: "If you've not checked out Luba by Gilbert Hernandez, you should. Especially if you live in LA. ... Luba is as funny and delightful as ever in these stories (some super short one-pagers, others much longer, over a hundred stories in this collection) of her and her family and the play between their work lives and personal lives is comical and poignant and over the top in classic Hernandez style." – Callie Miller, LAist (via Robot 6)
• Plug: "I've spent most of this week reading "Plunder Island," the fourth and latest collection of classic Popeye comics from Fantagraphics. This is the third time I've read this material... and it still never fails to enthrall me. In fact, I think Popeye has knocked Peanuts and Krazy Kat out of my personal canon to become my MOST FAVORITE COMIC EVER at the moment. There's just something about E.C. Segar's blend of melodrama, adventure and unrestrained, big-footed comedy that really knocks my socks off." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Profile: "Other comics publishers have fallen all over themselves trying to leverage a hoped-for crossover appeal into the mainstream of culture in the last twenty or so years. Meanwhile, Fantagraphics has hung surprisingly tight to their mission statement. But the bigger surprise for me came from learning that Fantagraphics still runs its publishing operation out of the same full-to-bursting house in Maple Leaf where they first planted their Seattle roots in 1989." – E. Magnuson, In North Seattle (Seattle P-I)
• Contest: One lucky person will win a free copy of The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit from Kevin Church, who describes the book as "beautifully drawn, disturbing and sad"