By the way, multiple belated hat tips to Robot 6, whose roundups of end-of-year links have been invaluable to the last few installments of Online Commentary & Diversions. On with the links:
• List:Publishers Weekly announced the results of their 2009 Comics Week Critic's Poll; among the top vote-getters are You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler ("I love this autobiographical family story as much for the way Tyler weaves between her own life and her father's, as for its painterly, illustrative panoramas of suburban neighborhoods and army scenes." – Sasha Watson) and Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman ("Milk and other liquids may come out your nose as you read one of the funniest comics ever put to paper. Kupperman's droll absurdism is matched by a stiff, woodcut-like art style that underplays the sometimes outre concepts. A comedy diamond." – Heidi MacDonald). Humbug by Harvey Kurtzman et al, Low Moon by Jason, Luba by Gilbert Hernandez, Supermen!: The First Wave Of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941, West Coast Blues Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jacques Tardi, and You Are There by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Claude Forest all received single votes in the poll
• List: At comiXology, Tucker Stone counts down his top 25 Best Comics of 2009, with Grotesque #3 by Sergio Ponchione at #23 ("...every once in a while, I get a reminder how vast the world of comics really is. Grotesque — European, unusual, brilliant — was one of those, an experimental passport to another universe"), Ganges #3 by Kevin Huizenga at #7 ("...Ganges captured the thing that all of us spend a lifetime doing — thinking — and turned it into something deserving of examination") and, in the top spot, Prison Pit: Book 1 by Johnny Ryan ("Aggro, obscene, hilarious, compulsive: Prison Pit. It wasn't just the greatest comic of the year, it was one of those comics that operated like the end result of a math equation, a definitive answer to the question of what comics are, and what they should be...")
• List: Johnny Bacardi's Personal Best of the Decade includes Eightball #22 by Daniel Clowes
• Review: "Each [panel] almost vibrates with the frenetic, desperate energy of the characters as they try to pull off their cons. That energy explodes in the final pages, as the story comes to a dramatic but ambiguous conclusion. In the end, the work offers an homage to B-movies while standing out as a graphic novel. The Troublemakers will please long-term Hernandez fans. It also should serve as a good introduction to newcomers looking to jump into the Love and Rockets universe." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "...Giraffes [in My Hair], a collection of anecdotes from Bruce Paley's teens and twenties on America's countercultural fringe, is a breezy read. ... Swain's art rarely calls attention to or gets in the way of itself, and in that it meshes seamlessly with Paley's deadpan 'here's what happened' narrative style, his reluctance to overstate or oversell the import of the anecdote reminiscent of Harvey Pekar's." – Sean T. Collins
• Review: "...[The Comics Journal] has reached issue 300 and is celebrating with a fascinating collection of creator-chats as industry tyros and giants come together to interview, share, bitch and generally shoot the breeze about graphic narrative: a tactic that makes this the most compelling read of the year for anyone truly interested in what we all do and why." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Fantagraphics Books continues its series devoted to chronologically packaging [Peanuts] and has not missed a step along the way. ... I’m pleased to inform that the latest edition, the twelfth in the series, is as lovingly curated as the first... [I]t is nice to know that one of the form’s greatest achievements is being held up as the accomplishment it really is." – Dw. Dunphy, Popdose
• Review: "[In Sam's Strip] Walker and Dumas clearly take pleasure in working in callbacks to classic comic strips... [and] many of the metatextual gags are funny and fun. ... Dumas’s drawings of classic comic-strip characters are excellent... The result is a frustrating, compelling curiosity: the soul of an underground comic trapped in the mortal coil of a Hi and Lois." – Shaenon Garrity, The Comics Journal
• Events:Star Clipper is sponsoring a screening of Ghost World at Schlafly Bottleworks in St. Louis tonight — oh jeez, in like half an hour! — and copies of the graphic novel and other Clowes books will be on sale
• List:Design Observer's recommended Holiday Books 2009 includes Abstract Comics: "...[T]his arresting book is like a scoop of primordial narrative, representational mud. Which is to say, it has vitaminic powers."
• Review: "Giraffes In My Hair: A Rock ‘N’ Roll Life... is my favorite graphic novel of the year, and it is marinated in a life lived through real rock and roll delivered via stories as wide-open and lung-puncturing as a two minute Ramones rant. Artist Swain is an alternative comics’ veteran... with an attractively scruffy style; storyteller Paley has an author-blessed background in the margins of the freak milieu... This comic book adaptation of a real life shows the biggest bruises and the smallest scars, but cuts out all the heroic flab. Again, one of the best graphic novels of the year, as well as one of the best rock books too." – Chris Estey, KEXP
• Review: "ThePlayboy cartoons collected [in Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons] demonstrate above all Wilson's phenomenal range in subject, style, and inspiration. ... The menace in domestic relations, the evil that kids are capable of, the outright nastiness that man inflicts on man: it's all here, drawn in Wilson's inimitable comic style. ... And Fantagraphics has also served Wilson well. This collection is a wonder of book design, with die-cut boards, marvelous color reproduction, and a fantastic slipcase. The clear plastic panel on one side reveals the laminated back board of the books, each one a different headshot photo of Wilson himself, his face smashed against the plastic, a prisoner in his own collection. It's a perfect expression of all the inspired madness within." – Thomas DePietro, The Barnes & Noble Review
• Review: "The comics [in Abstract Comics] resemble IQ quizzes that test the ability to recognise patterns. But they are more difficult here — insanely difficult — as they replace simple geometric shapes with abstract comic lines, colours and collage. Solving them will no doubt provide tremendous pleasure but there are no answers given, of course." – Parka Blogs, who also have very nice photos and video of the book (also via the Abstract Comics Blog)
• Reviews: Érico Assis of Brazilian site Omelete has the rundown on the recently released Brazilian edition of The Complete Peanuts 1950-1952 (Vol. 1): "But of course, the interest here is the historical value. Maybe time to recover, at least you remember the pop culture, were much simpler. If you like to do time travel, at least with the brain, Complete Peanuts gives you several hours of escapism for a past environment of children, a bit silly. And perhaps so happy." Also: "If Tales Designed to Thrizzle does not please a dedicated fan of Monty Python, I like my stuffed parrot. ... With the collection, it's time to conquer the world. At least the world of smart people who recognize the genius of Monty Python." (slightly broken English from Google translation)
• Review: "In The Great Anti-War Cartoons, Craig Yoe has gathered an amazing assembly of peaceful protests that seeks to prove that the pen is truly mightier than the sword. ... All of it is thought-provoking and deserves a look. And where else will you see a collection like this? Art Spiegelman, Robert Crumb, Rube Goldberg, Honore Daumier… my god. Even if you don’t dig the message, you gotta dig the art. In the end, it’s obviously a book that’ll stick with me and would make a worthy addition to your collection. ... Grade: A" – Chad Derdowski, Mania
• Review: "War sucks, and [in The Great Anti-War Cartoons] Yoe has selected a wide range of cartoons that make the point with elegance and grim wit. ...[I]n terms of craft, vision, and passion, political cartoons simply don't get much better." – Noah Berlatsky, Chicago Reader
• Review: Noah Berlatsky is the 4th writer at The Hooded Utilitarian to take a crack at Ghost World in their critical roundtable: "I’ve never been able to quite wrap my head around what about the book so thoroughly irritates me."
• Metacommentary:TCJ.com's Shaenon Garrity comments on the (TCJ-hosted) Hooded Utilitarian's critical roundtable on Ghost World: "...the other reason I like Ghost World: like it or hate it, you can talk about it endlessly."
• Profile: Turkish cartoonist Adem Mermerkaya looks at the work of Joe Sacco (autotranslation is little help I'm afraid but it looks fairly substantive if you read the language)
(Also out this week and highly coveted by me: Dark Horse's collection of Carol Swain short stories Crossing the Empty Quarter — if you haven't picked up Giraffes in My Hair yet, why not make it a Swain two-fer?)
• List: At Robot 6, Sean T. Collins's top 6 "deeply creepy 'alt-horror' cartoonists" includes Renee French ("her frequently deformed (more like unformed) characters and hazy, dreamlike, soft-focus pencils recall [David] Lynch's unnerving debut Eraserhead with its dust-mote cinematography and mewling infant thing"), Hans Rickheit ("It just so happens that his 'normal' is grotesque and harrowing to the rest of us"), Al Columbia ("It's as though a team of expert [animation] craftsmen became trapped in their office sometime during the Depression and were forgotten about for decades, reduced to inbreeding, feeding on their own dead, and making human sacrifices to the mimeograph machine, and when the authorities finally stumbled across their charnel-house lair, this stuff is what they were working on in the darkness") and Josh Simmons ("one of a very few comics creators still capable of shocking... doing serious, dangerous work")
• Review: "West Coast Blues is a brilliant story, and Manchette was a phenomenal writer of the modern world, putting others to shame at times. Just that simple, really. This is a book that can’t be reduced to familiar genre markers." – Brian Lindenmuth, BSCreview
• Review: "Bruce Paley tells his tale with no frills and no holds barred. ... The book is at times quite funny and other times terribly depressing, but it is never dull and I found it hard to put down. Carol Swain’s artwork fits the mood of the book well. It’s fairly simple but it hits all the right notes and evokes the right emotions. I was completely unfamiliar with her work prior to this book, but I’ll keep an eye out for her in the future. ... I found this book to be incredibly compelling in its own laid back sort of way. ... There’s no shortage of books out there about the 1960’s and ‘70s, but this one felt a lot more personal than most. Paley’s words mingled with Swain’s artwork so perfectly that you almost felt like the guy was sitting across the table from you, sharing a beer or two and swapping stories. If you’re interested in that era or you just like a good autobiography, I’d give Giraffes in my Hair: A Rock 'n' Roll Life a shot." – Chad Derdowski, Mania.com
Some Online Commentary & Diversions to wrap up your week:
• Review: "Artist Carol Swain brings a sober British reserve to her husband Bruce Paley's tales of hippie and punk excess for a nostalgic feel with the winning Giraffes In My Hair: A Rock ‘n' Roll Life. ...[F]rom the late ‘60s through the early ‘80s, his peripatetic adventures with drugs, women, and punker Johnny Thunders make for a series of fun, roguish vignettes. ... Swain uses pencil to understated effect, and works up a lyrical, nostalgic vibe. Her simple scenes arrange a loose chronological narrative into a warm experience conveyed as in a film or a song—at its best, Giraffes plays like Dylan's'Tangled Up in Blue,' if you will. ... Highly recommended." – Byron Kerman, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "West Coast Blues is just the right mixture of action, suspense, and surprise to keep just about any reader’s attention. ... It’s hard to ignore the strength of Tardi’s art in making West Coast Blues such a strong graphic novel. ... West Coast Blues is a sharp, beautiful book. ... For people looking for a noir thriller, you’ve come to the right place." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Review: "Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock ‘N' Roll Life... is deeply personal but doesn't get bogged down with self service or making a Titan out of a man. I love that here we have a view of some of the seedier sides of counterculture that doesn't have an agenda beyond the act of sharing...of storytelling. It feels like a recounting, almost a journalistic telling of the facts of his personal history. But it also feels like you're having a great dinner with an old friend. ... As a graphic novel it is very strong. Carol Swain’s rough-layered pencils are distinct and complex with texture. ... Giraffes achieves a fusion of art and story where each serves the other in a mutually empowering way. An ideal comic. It is sharp and witty visual commentary on sharp and witty writing. There is a great eye for details at play with Swain's artwork. ... It is as though the story and memory of the story are more important than the teller himself. Brilliant." – Jared Gniewek, Graphic NYC
• Review: "The fact is that comics have always had an abstract artistic potential — and as far as my memory goes, one that is accepted by all worthwhile theoretical definitions of comics. But, until now, its role was secondary, relegated to isolated experiments. It is here that the anthology does its job: presenting an overview and organizing it, Abstract Comics creates a movement. From it, abstraction in comics can move beyond an experiment and become a legitimate possibility — a process that began in the visual arts years ago." – Eduardo Nasi, Universo HQ (translated from Portuguese on the Abstract Comics Blog)
• Review: "West Coast Blues is Fantagraphics' first offering in what one hopes will be am ambitious Tardi reprint project... It's an elegant, somewhat unorthodox set-up, at least with Tardi's narration, and indeed Tardi makes a number of creative, idiosyncratic choices in adapting the novel. ... The '70s milieu shouldn't put anyone off, and in fact that's one of the book's charms, with Tardi's clean line depicting classic old Mercedes and Citroens, and plenty of legwork and driving rather than digital assistance. Tardi has a really appealing style, clear and photorealistic in the details and yet messy with life. ... Tardi doesn't shy away from the violence of the story, but he doesn't revel in it, either, his pages all varying grids, many with tall, narrow panels that keep the pace brisk." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
• Plug: "As Orson Welles and Terry Gilliam have film adaptations of Don Quixote as their great incomplete masterworks; Al Columbia has Pim and Francie. A work over 15 years in the making, and never now likely to be ‘finished', the pieces of it have been assembled as Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days." – Marc Arsenault, Wow Cool
• Review: "[The Squirrel Machine is a] darkly disturbing, brilliantly drawn story... B&W pen and ink drawings elucidate complex machines and Victorian-era architecture in baroque detail, while surrealist imaginings take turns for the truly repugnant. Sexual perversion, putrefaction and serial-killer style artworks are all ornately portrayed, as are the buildings, shops, horse-drawn carriages and crumbling mansions of a 19th-century small town. The story, while told primarily in pictures, includes a stilted and formal dialogue that only adds to the perversity. ... Though not for the faint of heart, this obscure tale will offer rich rewards to the right kind of reader, one who appreciates grotesque horror, angry mobs and the creative explosion of a repressed Victorian sexuality." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "In this memoir [Giraffes in My Hair], [Bruce] Paley openly shares his stories of the '60s and '70s, and by the end you'll feel like he's a long-lost uncle. ... At some point, this book will probably become a movie, but I suggest you check out the uncensored version with [Carol] Swain's great artwork, which sets the scene perfectly. It's a miracle Paley survived to tell these anecdotes, but I'm glad he did." – Whitney Matheson, USA Today Pop Candy
• Profile: Joe Heller, editorial cartoonist for the Green Bay Post-Gazette, talks to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Tirdad Derakhshani in a syndicated article about the influence of Prince Valiant ("The release 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"), with accompanying video
• Onomatopœia: Stephen Worth at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive Project Blog presents a great Basil Wolverton rarity: an article Wolverton wrote for the Daily Oregonian in 1948 titled "Acoustics in the Comics." Learn the difference between "SCHALAMPF!" and "PFWUMPFPH!" (It's a re-run, but still worth a look)
• Things to see: Is Steven Weissman (a) prepping for Halloween, (b) inventing a new superhero, or (c) hoping to get cast on the next season of Project Runway? Whatever it is, I like it
• Review: "These latest tales from the art comics trailblazers are sure to draw readers in with their melancholic tone and the adventurous comic art that has enthralled readers for decades. ...[W]e see Jaime's superheroes going wild, both narratively and visually.... 'Sad Girl' is... classic character-driven storytelling from Gilbert and will be welcomed by all the Luba fans out there. His second story, 'Hypnotwist,' is the cherry on top of this volume... The narrative's dreamlike quality and its rich and mesmerizing imagery make it a surreal tour de force." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "...Brunetti [knows] that for shock art to have any value behind it at all, you have to have some degree of conscience as the engine. As readers we’re required to know and agree that this sort of thing is untenable, in order for us to constantly re-evaluate and come to terms with our own morals. Which would make the title of this book [Ho! The Morally Questionable Cartoons of Ivan Brunetti] rather appropriate. So you should read this book and make your mind up. But be warned, it will play with your disgust and your chuckle muscle in ways you might not have imagined beforehand." – Will Fitzpatrick, Bookmunch
• Review: "Carol Swain... portray[s] Paley’s excursions (Giraffes in my Hair: A Rock’n’Roll Life is a sort of anecdotal graphic short story collection in many ways, albeit a graphic short story collection with a bunch of recurring characters) in a scratchy, pencil, black and white style that somehow perfectly sums up the stories – just as Bruce scratches around for money, so Swain’s pencil scratches around at the background detail.... [I]f you’re a fan of rock’n’roll, if you dig the Beats, if you like grimey tales of excess and the underbelly of success, this is for you." – Bookmunch
• Review: "[Joe] Daly's art is interesting, earthy pastel tones helping to create a sort of sun-kissed backdrop against which his figure work recalls Joe Spent (albeit Joe Spent by way of Cheech & Chong or Harold & Kumar). There are some great effects..., some great chuckle-out-loud writing and the sort of page-turning graphic novel that'll have you filing the name Joe Daly away for future reference, with a wee Post-It note saying, ‘Make sure to check out anything else this guy gets up to' attached. [The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book is] a real breath of fresh air, an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours, the kind of graphic novel you'll want to pass on to your buddies who dig that kind of thing — what more can you ask?" – Bookmunch
• Review: "I still think of Hey, Wait as [Jason's] best work, the most nuanced, the most beguiling. Even rereading it before writing this, there are so many things I feel like I only half-understand, images that hint at something I can never grasp all the way.... If you haven’t read Hey, Wait yet, mm-mm you’ve got some good reading ahead of you." – Dustin Harbin, The HeroesOnline Blog
• Review: "...[Our Gang Vol. 3] is excellent. You need no knowledge of the films to follow the action, and each issue was self-contained, so you can read it in chunks.... An essay at the beginning of the book puts the stories into the context of their times, very important for any comic book from that era.... Definitely worth a read if you are a fan of old comics that don't involve superheroes." – Laura Gjovaag
• Analysis: At Bleeding Cool, Adisakdi Tantimedh looks at Jaime Hernandez's "Ti-Girl Adventures" from Love and Rockets: New Stories in the context of superhero crossover events: "It really is his Final Crisis, only he effortlessly and breezily beats Grant Morrison at his own game.... 'Ti-Girl Adventures' is pretty much a testament to why we like superhero stories as kids and look back on them with fondness and might continue to like them."
• Analysis: Splinter's Reviews offers a slightly different take on "Ti-Girl Adventures": "It's very difficult to actually compare this Love and Rockets offering to the revisionist tales of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison that have memorably tackled some of the similar themes. Jamie Hernandez may tackle the same subjects of scientific and magical origins of the superhero characters, their eternal youth, and the sexism in comics, but he does it in a completely different way." (via The Comics Reporter)
• Interview: The Daily Cross Hatch talks to Hans Rickheit about his upcoming book tour in the last part of their 4-part interview: "I’ve actually pondered the idea of hiring a good looking actor—or actress—to be me. I’ll do a rubber life mask of my face and have them wear it, and they can be friendly and say all of the right things."
New comics arrive in comics shops on Thursday this week due to the U.S. holiday. That gives you an extra day to count up your nickels because HOO BOY do we have a ton of stuff scheduled to land in shops this week! Such as:
Get yourself educated on all of the above titles by clicking their links and checking out the descriptions and previews. Check with your local shop to make sure they'll have what you're looking for, then take the hammer to the ol' piggy bank and load up on all these beautiful books!
Register and Login to receive full member benefits, including members-only special offers, commenting privileges on Flog! The Fantagraphics Blog, newsletters and special announcements via email, and stuff we haven't even thought of yet. Membership is free and spam-free, so Sign Up Today!