(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!
It's time for your Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "[Editor Andrei] Molotiu has created a fun and accessible anthology here, one that’s smart and well-researched but not in the slightest bit obtuse. You don’t need to be an art snob to appreciate it; you just need an open mind. With that, the reward for Abstract Comics is quite lovely. And quite possibly a good opportunity for you to increase your appreciation for the comics format exponentially." - John Hogan, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Review: "...Giraffes in My Hair is a pleasure to read. The insights are genuine and the humanity is quite bare. Once I started reading, I didn’t stop until the book was over. This survivor’s tales were well worth the journey, once again, through two well-trodden decades." - John Hogan, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Review: "West Coast Blues... gets under your skin and remains impossible to resist from start to finish... Darkly amusing and undeniably entertaining, West Coast Blues keeps the mystery and interest alive by carefully doling out pieces of the story and introducing intriguing characters with loads of personality... Tardi does an excellent job of adapting what must be a massively entertaining book into a graphic novel form for all who seek a slightly different but no less thrilling mystery/adventure story to enjoy." - Avril Brown, Comics Waiting Room
• Review: "The Squirrel Machine should be called nothing less than a masterpiece: a true culmination and maturation of illustrative style and story. The atmosphere portrayed in black and white is meticulous and unsettling. Even the banal moments of the story have depth and direction... [a] lovely and blasphemous affair." - R.M. Rollston, Panel to Panel
A UNIQUE TAKE ON THE SUMMER OF LOVE GENERATION, THROUGH THE EYES OF AN ACCLAIMED GRAPHIC NOVELIST AND HER PARTNER, WHO LIVED IT
Bruce Paley turned 18 in 1967 during the Summer of Love, putting him on the front lines of the late-1960s youth movement. Paley’s tumultuous journey took him from being a Jack Kerouac-loving hippie in the 1960s, on the road with his 17-year-old girlfriend, dropping acid at Disneyland, living in a car, and crashing with armed Black Panthers at the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention, to hanging out at Max’s Kansas City, shooting heroin and cocaine with the likes of rock star Johnny Thunders, and frequenting Times Square’s seedy brothels — a journey that mirrored the changing times as the optimism of the ’60s gave way to the nihilism of the punk years. Over a dozen years, Bruce crossed paths with hippies, violent cops, rednecks, rock stars, and Black Panthers... and ended up a heroin addict for much of the 1970s.
These stories are vividly brought to life in Giraffes in My Hair (A Rock ’N’ Roll Life) by the compelling visual storytelling of Bruce’s partner, the cartoonist Carol Swain.
Swain’s trademark visual approach to comics, typified by exquisitely composed panels that vividly capture both anomie and pathos, is perfectly suited to dramatizing Paley’s life during that confusing, tumultuous period of American history — a life lived in the countercultural margins, amidst personal chaos and social dissolution. Swain’s storytelling rhythms are contemplative and breathes inner life into Paley’s turbulent stories, creating a perceptive prism to view the vast possibilities and endless pitfalls as experienced by a kid growing up in America in the late 1960s and early ’70s.