• List: Look out, it's Tom Spurgeon's Best of 2009 list at The Comics Reporter. Fantagraphics category rankings are listed below, with complete lists and Tom's commentary to be found at the link above:
• Review: "Somehow, some way, Jamie Hernandez is getting better and better. ...Locas, the first gigantic hardcover compilation of Jamie’s 'Maggie and Hopey' stories, stands as one of the highlights of my life as a reader. Now, unbelievably, Locas II exceeds the original’s standard. ... In Locas II: Maggie, Hopey and Ray, he’s crafted perhaps his most universal work to date, a saga of three people who’ve left behind the postures of their youth to stumble, unsure and hesitant, across the landscape of their adult lives. It’s strange and scary, funny and sweet, confused and enlightening. Locas II is a master as the top of his game, and a true comic book classic." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "It is interesting to see the rapid evolution of the graphics and drawings [in Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938], a little reticent and schematic at first, but soon becoming highly detailed and expressive. Adventure prevailed in the stories, but there was room for humor, romance and tragedy." – Top Comics (translated from Portuguese)
• Review: "OK sure but trust me it's not for those who just want to look at dumbed down pictures and drool on themselves as anorexic telepathic women parade in wonder bras nor is this Babar's color by number. [The Portable] Frank is engaging on all levels and asks the reader to not just lose themselves but to participate fully and that's why this is my pick of the week!!" – Coast City Comics
• Plug: "This book is amazing and bat%$#* crazy. There are no words, just check it out of the library asap." – Cold Bullets
• List:Booklist's Ray Olson names the Top 10 Graphic Novels of the past 12 months, including You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler ("Alt-comics veteran Tyler fully demonstrates her artistry in a book about her father’s WWII experiences, her childhood and present struggles raising her daughter, and her growing realization of war’s long-term effects on soldiers and their families.") and A Mess of Everything by Miss Lasko-Gross ("With washed and faded and wildly varied artwork and writing that sounds utterly like a teen’s voice, Lasko-Gross makes high-schooler Melissa’s late-teen experience real enough to nip incipient nostalgia in the bud.")
• Review: "This charming collection of stories from the long-running and much acclaimed Love and Rockets explores friendship and romance through the interconnected experiences of several characters over many years. ... What's impressive about Hernandez's work isn't so much each story on its own as it is how all the pieces fit together into a whole world that's almost but not quite like our own. ... Hernandez's gorgeous art is both expressive and simple... It all comes together to construct a world and people easy to relate to." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Tardi's work which is distinguished by an unstinting attention to locale and detail, captures the true horror of war in a way that no other artist has been quite able to achieve. ... [It Was the War of the Trenches] is the story of man against the system, with the system as the ultimate winner. This is a story for our times." – Peter Richardson (via ¡Journalista!)
• Profile: Benjamin Ivry of Forward looks at the career of Jules Feiffer, who says "From my earliest cartoons, I’ve tried to work in front of audiences who may not be happy with what I’m saying. In the then left-wing Village Voice, I criticized the student left and they weren’t happy. I don’t find it fun to work before audiences who would agree with me; I prefer to challenge their preconceptions. My role is to push and prod and challenge, and I try to do it pleasantly rather than otherwise."
• Interview:Robot 6's Chris Mautner talks to Matt Thorn about editing our upcoming manga line: "My goal is to make a line that will appeal to the twenty-something Sailor Moon/Pokémon generation that feel they've outgrown the bulk of what is currently available, and that will also appeal to intelligent grown-ups who just enjoy a good read, but have never seen themselves as readers of manga, or even comics. I'd like to provide these people with smart, high-quality, accessible manga."
Spot the common thread in today's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List: At The Truth About Comics Mario Z. Alipio (aka MZA) posts his top 11 comics of 2009, including You'll Never Know Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler at #6 ("A brilliant and disarmingly vulnerable historical memoir that converts a family's personal anguish into adult wisdom and grace. Part documentarian and part emotional wreck, Tyler examines her secretive father's WWII past and her own disintegrating marriage w/ an enviable balance between sensitivity and fearlessness"), Pim & Francie by Al Columbia at #9 ("Gorgeously reproduced — rough pencil marks, taped edges, discolourations, and all — this might be the sweetest thing to stare at, dumbly, in my whole library"), and Ganges #3 by Kevin Huizenga at #10 ("Huizenga conceives brilliant new methods of shorthand comix communication the way monkeys learn sign language to get the banana") (via The Comics Reporter)
#1, You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler: "A mash-up of family portrait, generational analysis, autobiography and scrapbook, this book was not only the most emotionally powerful work of the year, it was the most attractively designed. The first part of what will likely be Tyler’s masterwork."
#6, Like a Dog by Zak Sally: "This was a stunningly honest account and collection of early work by one of the most underrated cartoonists working today. While the collected early issues of Recidivist ranged from interesting to astounding, it was Sally’s frank and emotional essay following the collection that really struck me as a statement of purpose — not just as an artist, but as a person."
#10, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman: "The first collection from Kupperman’s surprising hit really helped spread the word about his unique and delightfully warped genius as a gagsmith and artist."
#15, Sublife Vol. 2 by John Pham: "This one-man anthology featured Pham fully harnessing every aspect of his skills as a writer and artist. His use of color dominated and provided a sort of visual through-line for his different narratives. Pham alternately pushed the reader away and then pulled them in, depending on the story, a tension that made this his most successful work to date."
And #17, Ho! by Ivan Brunetti: "It’s fascinating to see the two directions Brunetti was headed in with regard to these gags. First, his gags became ever-more boundary pushing, but always in service to the punchline. Second, his line became more and more simplified to the point of nearly geometric simplicity: squares, circles and triangles wound up creating most of his characters by the end of the book."
• List:Paul Gravett names The Best of 2009: Classic Comic Reprints. At #6, it's The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Nell Brinkley's Cartoons 1913-1940: "Trina [Robbins] follows up her thorough biography of Brinkley with this oversized collection of Sunday 'comics,' often more like ravishing illustrated romantic yarns of big hair, clothes and emotions, but stunning to linger over and revealing in their period mood and concerns. In their time, Brinkley’s spirited, vivacious females were as iconic and inspirational in early 20th century America as the famous Gibson Girls before her. They truly deserve this gorgeous commemoration."
• List: On the annual Fun Fifty countdown at Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun!, at #15, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman: "Without hyperbole, Thrizzle is simply the funniest, most guffaw-out-loud comic book they're going to have to pry out of your cold, dead hands when you die laughing. ... Thrizzle's stuffed from front cover to impressive back page blurbs with Kupperman's splendiferous pulps-meet-woodblock-print artwork and lunatic stories, it's one of those rare humor books that actually is downright hilarious."
• Reviews: Nick Gazin of Vice (link NSFW) weighs in on a number of titles:
"I love Unlovable. Take that, book title. ... Unlovable 2 is a fun and funny read all the way through. ... Girls are gonna like this book and dudes are gonna like this book. It’ll remind you of how stupid you were and also of suburban sadness and realizing that your high school crush will probably never love you back."
"[High Soft Lisp] is incredible... The world in this book is one I wouldn’t want to live in but I can’t stop thinking about the story of Fritz."
"...[Almost Silent] is a really good book and Jason is a strong cartoonist. He does a lot with his simple-but-well-drawn characters and little to no dialogue. ... For $25 you get a nice sampler of what Jason can do. This is entirely worth owning."
• Review: "The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion is the indispensable guide to the strip and a must have for its legions of fans new and old. Fantagraphics has been re-printing these original strips in chronological order in beautiful hardcover volumes and this guide makes the perfect complement. ... No matter how long you’ve been a Prince Valiant fan…one year or seventy years, you’re certain to find this book informative and entertaining. Fantagraphics has produced another spectacular book! Grade A" – Tim Janson, The Gouverneur Times
• Review: "Similar to Charles Addams and Gahan Wilson, Jason relies on the humorous side of horror in these mostly wordless tales. ... Throughout the sublime Almost Silent, Jason examines traditional relationships and social norms via a deliciously warped lens, quite probably one constructed by Dr. Frankenstein himself." – Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica (spoiler alert!)
• Review: "I can’t think of a better single volume of what the period style of fast looked like in practice than last year’s Supermen! anthology. Yes, there’s an added winnowing by genre but that just sharpens the sense of the reductive visual and narrative requirements that were standard for the hot new gravy train that hit the business." – Rich Kreiner, "Yearlong Best of the Year," The Comics Journal
• Review: "As a whole, I like Abstract Comics a lot. I’d say that it works like a good art exhibition, or at least an exhibition unburdened by obligations to teach history, one in which multiple formal and aesthetic connections are there but not shouted out, rather left to be discovered (or not) by the strolling viewer according to his or her inclinations." – Charles Hatfield, Thought Balloonists
• Plug: "[Steven] Weissman's work is very often like a brain-damaged Charles Schulz... His newest book, Chocolate Cheeks, raises the stakes in a really dramatic way. I think this might be his last book in this series, but it goes out with a doozy of a book." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Plug: "Matt’s response to my squeeing over the announced May, 2010 publication date of Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6: 'Yes, as there were so many plots unresolved in the last issue. Who won, blimps or holes??'" – TofuPunk.com (I don't know who Matt is – ed.)
• Plug: "With new work by the likes of Johnny Ryan, Max Andersson, Sam Henderson, Stephane Blanquet, Doug Allen, Michael Kupperman, Mack White, and Jeremy Onsmith, Hotwire 3 is certain to deliver the psychic jolt it promises." – Richard Cowdry, Love the Line
• Plug: "Since Beatriz 'Penny Century' Garcia is my favorite Love & Rockets' Locas, I'm very excited to see the advance solicitation for the new soft cover Penny Century... In my opinion, the soft cover collected volumes are the best way to read Love & Rockets. They are the easiest way to follow the reading order, and with the cheap price of $18.99, you can't find a better launching point for one of the most regarded independent comics of all time. " – The Star Clipper Blog
• Analysis:Abstract Comics contributor Derik Badman posts an in-depth email discussion between himself and critic Craig Fischer about the book
• Interview:The Daily Yomiuri's Tom Baker talks Usagi Yojimbo with Stan Sakai: "I think the first few years I really tried to make him cute and cuddly like a stuffed animal, whereas the stories tended to [take] a more dramatic turn. So I think the character has changed. Most of it's unconscious on my part." (via The Comics Reporter )
Not many Online Commentary & Diversions links today but they're high-powered:
• List:Matthew J. Brady posts his top-20 Best Comics of 2009, with You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler at #10 ("It's an artful mix, matching a biographer's insight for detail with beautifully-flowing art and real emotions. If the next two volumes are this good, Tyler's work will be a modern classic, one for others to study for years.") and Low Moon by Jason at #8 ("It's funny, poignant, and, as always, full of insight about humanity, even though everyone is a strange animal creature. There can never be enough Jason.")
• Interview:Newsarama's Michael C. Lorah chats with Jason about his upcoming collection Almost Silent: "I'm grateful the books seem to have found an audience and are selling. It's not something I take for granted. There are better European cartoonits than me who have had problems finding an audience in America. I don't have a website or a blog so I don't have that much contact with readers except at signings and conventions. It's always good for the ego when some pretty girl says she's a fan."
• Tribute: In the Sun-Journal, Andy Rooney remembers his friend Bill Mauldin: "He was one of the great cartoonists who has ever been — in and out of the Army. I’ve looked at hundreds of cartoons he drew in my Stars and Stripes files, and he was a genius. His cartoons are still funny and perceptive." (via Journalista)
• List: At his blog Supervillain, Sean Witzke posts a massive Comics of the Decade roundup which includes Ganges by Kevin Huizenga ("The third one fucking rules"), I Killed Adolf Hitler ("I read this sitting in the train station in Philadelphia that they shot part of 12 Monkeys in, laughing very loudly") and The Last Musketeer ("Pompous blowhard saves the universe from Ming the Merciless by stabbing and chivalry. Stabbing and chivalry solve everything.") by Jason, and Prison Pit: Book 1 by Johnny Ryan ("Book of ‘09... If the point of comics is fucked up shit happening, this is the best fucking comic ever made.") (via Robot 6)
• Review: "Family histories isn’t a series of isolated events, in Tyler’s mind, but fluid — and sometimes jarring — tapestries of facts, memories, half-truths, and emotional resonances. Her father clearly doesn’t see things that way, and this first part of You’ll Never Know shows a potential rift in how father and daughter understand their lives, and how they think a war should be remembered. I can’t wait to read how this fracture develops, deepens, and perhaps closes up." – Walter Biggins, Quiet Bubble
• Review: "There's much to like here. I sort of assumed MOME would be more like Raw, in terms of pushing the envelope and extreme artiness and so on, but it's much more readable than that. ... Anthologies are always uneven, but this contains fewer stinkers than most, clearly a testament to Fantagraphics's editorial eye." – Hillary Brown, Shazhmmm...
• Review: "Few artistic creations merit the adjective 'lurid.' Strange Suspense leers confidently from the shadows of that small crowd. ... If the infected, deformed teens of Black Hole inspired the reader to linger on each page of that magnificent book, Strange Suspense is worth a look. And for the Ditko-curious, this isn't a bad place to start." – The Typing Monkey
• Review: "The Squirrel Mother is a compilation of stories created by Megan Kelso between 2000 and 2005, that Fantagraphics Books, faithful to its tradition, made a beautiful object, which delights the eye before the mind." – Pedro Cleto (translated from Portuguese)
• List:Paul Gravett names "The Best of 2009: Graphic Novels": No. 9 is Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock 'n' Roll Life by Bruce Paley & Carol Swain ("Paley combines so perfectly with his partner Carol Swain to capture Paley’s walks on the wild side as he journeys through sex, drugs and rock’n'roll, from hippy to punk. ... Hers has always been an utterly singular approach."); No. 13 is (appropriately) Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days by Al Columbia ("These distressed, distressing comics and illustrations repeat and escalate like a stuck record or never waking from a recurring nightmare."); and No. 14 is You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler ("A tender, bittersweet tribute from a daughter to a father and his military service in a beautifully crafted, tactile memoir.") (via The Comics Reporter)
• List/Review: At The HeroesOnline Blog, Dustin Harbin explains why Popeye Vol 4: Plunder Island is #5 on his Fave 5 of 2009: "These Popeye books are made with the kind of love and care and attention to detail that’s rare in comics — it’s clear that their publishers treat this material with reverence, and it makes it even more pleasurable to crack a new volume open each year."
• Review: "Though [Like a Dog] may seem like a hodgepodge of bits of [Zak] Sally’s work, there is consistency in the overall feeling. Much of his work is a collection of personal demons -- his insecurities, self-doubt, anger, pain, sadness and darkness -- that are exposed in obvious and subtle ways. ... The grit of this collection lies in the sense that one has had a sideline view of an intensely cathartic therapy session." – Janday Wilson, two.one.five Magazine
• Review: "This is warts and all stuff, a young artist learning with every six pager. ... There is some juvenile pleasure to be had in the fact that these stories [in Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1] all predate the Wertham/Comics Code era, so there's quite a bit of blood, some severed limbs, and grisly comeuppance. And although still oscillating between styles and influences here, there is substantial growth... [E]ven in its infancy, Ditko's art is increasingly potent." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
• List: On Random House's Suvudu blog, Dallas Middaugh selects 2008's Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw as #3 on the Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2009: "This book came from out of nowhere to great critical acclaim, and it pushed young Mr. Shaw in the spotlight as one of the most exciting new cartoonists in the field. ... This haunting story of a dysfunctional family twists and turns and stuck with me long after I read it."
• List: At Comic Book Galaxy, Marc Sobel counts down "The 15 Best Back Issues I Read Last Year," including Birdland by Gilbert Hernandez ("vastly underappreciated") and the entire run of Hate by Peter Bagge ("This series gets better with age")
• Review: "Dreams are probably the second most popular subject for autobiographical comics, however distantly they lag behind the events of waking life. But no one, to my knowledge, has attempted to create comics arising from the hypnagogic netherworld that lies between the sleeping and the wakeful states. Until now. Or maybe not. It’s hard to say precisely, which is what gives Kevin Huizenga’s Ganges #3 so much of its unique charm." – Rich Kreiner, The Comics Journal
• Review: "What the hell is going on here? What is this book, anyway? ...[Pim and Francie] is like the inexplicable artifact of a deranged mind... Columbia has a flair for the grotesque, which, when mixed with such cute cartooniness reminiscent of old-school Disney, makes for an especially creepy juxtaposition. ... It's a cascade of horror, page after page of mostly-unfinished nastiness, enough to stick in the mind and cause nightmares for weeks." – Matthew J. Brady
• Review: "At long last, a handsome, two-volume, slipcased set [of Humbug] brings back into print a pivotal, neglected portion of the oeuvre of Harvey Kurtzman and that of a cadre of gifted pranksters bent on smart satire." – Rich Kreiner, The Comics Journal
• Review: "With a new exhibition currently on view at Tony Shafrazi Gallery in Chelsea and his remarkable inclusion in the 2010 Whitney Biennial, Robert Williams seems more than ever the most likely candidate to represent the ways that late decadent American culture will be remembered by history. ... This is a late career artist at the top of his game, a shamefully overdue entry into still meaningful discourse of what art can be when it refuses to play by the rules, a monster of the imagination whose time has finally come." – Carlo McCormick, artnet
• Review: "Portable Grindhouse celebrates the sleazy kick of killing time in a slightly crappy video rental store, minus the inevitable arguments about what to rent or the possibility of your VCR eating the tape." – Dave Howlett, Living Between Wednesdays
• Plug:Robot 6's Chris Mautner is reading his stack of Comics Journal back issues "starting with #291, which features interviews with Tim Sale and Josh Simmons, as well as a great critical thinkpiece by Gary Groth on Ralph Steadman and Hunter S. Thompson. That alone was worth the cover price."
• Plugs: Some fun and appreciated name-drops from Tom Neely and Charles Bernstein in the 5th part of The Beat's year-end survey of comics pros
• Plug/Coming Attractions:Comic Book Resources' Greg Burgas comments on the January issue of Previews (our listings from which can be seen here): "Jacques Tardi's It Was the War of the Trenches, from Fantagraphics on page 256, sounds keen. It's a World War I book, so I'm sure it will be utterly depressing, but it still sounds worthwhile!"
• Interview: The final part of Brian Heater's interview with C. Tyler at The Daily Cross Hatch: "To me, it’s underground, and there’s other people who think, 'no way, it’s Mad Magazine.' Everyone has their place where it starts. There’s people now who say, 'Kramer’s Ergot is when it started for me.' Everyone has their place when they jumped off the diving board, into the pool of comics. The fact is, it’s continual."
• Profile: Gurldoggie takes a quick look at Joe Sacco in advance of his appearance in Seattle this week
• Events: The Covered blog celebrates its 1st anniversary and announces an art show at Secret Headquarters in L.A. in March
• List: Any best-of list that leads off with a Maria Bamford reference is all right with me. NPR's Glen Weldon rounds up his best graphic novels of 2009, including You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler ("...Tyler lets her warm, fluid art draw the parallels between herself and her father, and hint at a darker story behind it all") and Low Moon by Jason ("The deadest of deadpan humor. Jason's cartoony, utterly affectless characters interact is ways that are horrible, hilarious and sad — often at the same time.")
• List: Josh Flanagan of iFanboy names The Best Comics of the Decade, including Palestine by Joe Sacco: "More than any of the documentaries or news stories I've seen, Palestine shaped my view about what things are like in the Palestinean territories. Joe Sacco spent time with the people who live there, and explored the sticky, nearly untenable situation that persists today. Sacco's cartoons put a human face on the people involved, and it's a stunning work, comics or otherwise."
• List:Library Journal knows that no list of 24 Graphic Novels for African American History Month would be complete without King: The Special Edition by Ho Che Anderson: "Widely acknowledged as a masterpiece, this award-winning biography invokes King’s flaws, tragedies, and triumphs."