• Review: "[Gilbert] Hernandez's latest solo work The Troublemakers is the second in a series of self-contained graphic novel 'B-movies,' featuring one of his recurring characters, the cannonball-breasted Rosalba 'Fritz' Martinez. Here, Fritz plays Nala, one of a trio of hustlers trying to hook up with 200,000 smackers. Whether the money actually exists and who has it are anyone's guess in this drama-filled thriller — good for folks who like their graphic novels grim, gritty, and sleazy." – Brad Buckner, Portland Mercury
• Review: "Strange Suspense [The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1]... is an absolute treat! ...[T]his book looks amazing. ...[It's] filled with images that will remain seared into your psyche long after you’ve put it down. ... Strange Suspense is an absolute must have for any student of sequential art history... It’s an excellent collection of long lost work from a man whose importance cannot be overstated. There’s really no other grade to give it than an A." – Chad Derdowski, Mania.com
• Review: "Wolverton is helped [in The Wolverton Bible]... by his bold compositional sense, which aids in pushing some of his images beyond the doldrums of camp and into a certain monumentality, a grandeur that retains a shabby earthiness, without being lofty, hollow or pretentious. Without being, in a word, 'churchy.'" – Chris Lanier, The Comics Journal (beta)
• Review: "Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit is probably as close as comics are likely to come to exploitation cinema. Like the best exploitation dreck from Texas Chainsaw to Death Race 2000, Prison Pit is pure, bottom-dwelling schlock... And yet, again as with exploitation fare, the single-minded commitment to vileness is so perversely pure that it goes right past lowest-common-denominator entertainment and on into snooty, fancy-pants art. ... Ryan’s world is essentially Waiting for Godot, from the bleak landscape to the slapstick violence." – Noah Berlatsky, The Comics Journal (beta)
• List: Graphic Novel Reporter begins their Best of 2009 survey of educators and comics pros; so far A Mess of Everything by Miss Lasko-Gross ("Lasko-Gross’ words and pictures felt incredibly authentic") and Luba by Gilbert Hernandez have been named
• Review: "Rolling in like a slow, fuzzed-out guitar line from an Orange-brand amp, The Red Monkey Double Happiness Booklives up to the good vibes promised in its title. ... Having recently finished Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice and Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City, I couldn't help but consider The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book as a distant third-cousin to those titles. ...The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book is a weekend read, best consumed with your feet propped up, opposable digits or not." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon.com)
• Review: "Paul Hornschemeier excels at a sort of cryptic-cute comic that is better read than described. It's a blend of darkness and sharply delineated perfectionism that, whether he likes it or not, sometimes brings to mind his Chicago contemporary Chris Ware What he knows, though, is that he can go places Ware can't — Hornschemeier's style is every style. ... His diversity of styles is most apparent in All and Sundry: Uncollected Work 2004-2009... It's just a stew of stuff that, like the best sketchbooks, offers an intimate invitation to spy on the ramblings of a formidable creative." – Byron Kerman, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "For being a company that puts out the reprints of one of the safest comics of all time, Peanuts, Fantagraphics sure lives on the edge of the comics medium, particularly in the realm of anthologies. Blab! is just such an anthology, featuring a variety of visual quirks that hover closer to straight up art pieces than comics work, but still do not seem out of place with the more narrative pieces that slide between the pictorial pages. ...[T]here's probably someone for everyone in Blab!, if you take the time to look." – Panel Patter
• Review: "Richard Sala’s reinvention of Snow White is a sparkling macabre gem. The 2-color art glows in handsome sepia that is pitch perfect for this delightfully demented tale of a strange land. Sala populates Delphine with cast of horror carnival rejects that is diverse enough to both excite and confound the imagination. This issue [#3]’s creepy locales: dark tunnels, a creepy house, and a gloomy castle are the true stars of this chapter. They make this scary tale an absolute winner. ...[Grade] A" – Leroy Douresseaux, Comic Book Bin
• Reviewer: A new book review from Laura Warholic author Alexander Theroux for The Wall Street Journal, this time of an interesting-sounding collection of "literary invective" called Poison Pens
• Plug: "I grew up in the video age and I’m still in awe of the technology that first allowed me to watch thousands of movies in the privacy of my own home. Call me sentimental and nostalgic, but when I first got wind of Jacques Boyreau’s upcoming book Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box it made me giddy with excitement." – Kimberly Lindbergs, Cinebeats
• Review: "I really love comics. Reading a collection like Joe Daly's Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, I'm reminded of just why. ... It's drawn like a combination of Tintin, Dilbert, and King of the Hill. It's hilarious, both in terms of the plot and the one-liners. So, like so many other great comics, it's sui generis. ... Daly's plots move at a breezy pace, but his art is sharply detailed, and drawn expertly from a variety of perspective points. The palette is vibrant and fun. ...[T]his is some seriously funny shit." – Byron Kerman, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "Rickheit’s artwork [in The Squirrel Machine] is stunning, from the beautifully disgusting instruments to the ornate architecture. It’s like steampunk crossed with the animal-appropriating art of Damien Hirst or Ebony Andrews, with complicated machines adorned with the heads and torsos of unfortunate livestock." – Garrett Martin, The Boston Herald
• Review: "It's like a great adaptation of an old 1990s straight-to-video erotic thriller made unpredictable with a touch of magical realism. Hernandez's strength remains his depictions of women; like Love and Rockets, the female leads of The Troublemakers are both strong and believable, no matter how atypical their situations and dimensions may seem. – Garrett Martin, The Boston Herald (same link as above)
(Ed. note: As more end-of-year lists come in, we will collect the listed titles in a 2009 Critics' Picks category in our online shop, as we did for the 2008 Critics' Picks, in addition to noting them here on Flog.)
Today brings some big-deal Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: At Comics Comics, Frank Santoro declares The Troublemakers by Gilbert Hernandez "Best in Show" at APE and gives it a wordless review that says it all
• Review: "Translated into English for the first time since it was written, more than 25 years ago, Jacques Tardi & Jean-Claude Forest’s You Are Thereproves well worth the wait. Forest’s satirical, minimalist writing lampoons French society and human greed with equal skill, and Tardi has never done better art: It’s all deep, dark pools of blackness that perfectly match the pitch-dark humor of the writing. Equal parts Beckett and Kafka, the story explores the conflict between greedy speculators and the last heir of an aristocratic family whose land has been reduced to a series of precarious walls and towers. Tardi’s intricate, gorgeous art gets better and better until the book’s spectacular ending. It’s an absolute must-read for anyone interested in how European comics got to where they are today. Had this been translated earlier, it likely would be counted as one of the masterpieces of the rich period of the mid-’80s… [Grade:] A" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "One of the best things about Mome is that, as a reader, I feel like I'm getting work from each artist that's their 'A' material. [Lilli] Carré and [Dash] Shaw have many other outlets for publication, but it's clear that they take a special delight in having an outlet for their short story ideas. [Nate] Neal and Kurt Wolfgang have Mome as their primary outlet for publication, and clearly go all-out in every story. ... I'd like to see young artists like [Conor] O'Keefe and [Sara] Edward-Corbett grow more ambitious and perhaps even serialize a story in the anthology. Of course, seeing outstanding work from old favorites along with translated short stories of European artists has been another welcome trend for what continues to be a must-read book, issue after issue." – Rob Clough
• Profile: Robot 6's Chris Mautner, undoubtedly echoing the sentiments of many, makes his plea for a collection of the early work of Al Columbia
• Interview: Art historian and critic Catherine Spaeth talks to Abstract Comics editor Andrei Molotiu: "One thing that is interesting to me about abstract comics is exactly that they contain no preexisting narrative and therefore no excuse for a sense of diegetic time. You’re not following a story, so what you are left with are the actual visual elements on the page (panels, shapes) that move your eye from panel to panel but outside of a fictional time frame."
• Events: Vince Keenan has a brief recap of the Fantagraphics-sponsored comics panel at Seattle Bookfest
Your daily dose of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Maybe it’s because blood and brain matter look somewhat more disturbing in the chunky, primitive black and white favored by famed French cartoonist Tardi, but there’s something particularly creepy about his adaptation of the late Manchette’s crime novel [West Coast Blues] that wouldn’t have been well served by color. ... Manchette’s plot is pure pulp, with a driving engine for a plot and a Lee Marvin-like inclination toward swift and unreflective action. Tardi’s art delivers the action with admirable punch and attitude to spare." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Rock Candy is a wonderful book. [Femke] Hiemstra's work is a tribute to folk tales and surreal nightmares.It could not be better portrayed than how designer Jacob Covey of Fantagraphics has done it.This compact book, in style with Hiemstra's art, depicts her imaginative work in a playful way.Sketches, examples and inspirations then give a look behind the scenes how Hiemstra's childhood dreams and nightmares are established.An absolute must!" – Cadoc.nl (translated from Dutch)
• Plugs: At Robot 6, Sean T. Collins runs down his SPX haul, including a bunch of our Ignatz Series titles
• (Wild) Things to see: Vice magazine has a series of strips they commissioned to tie in with the Where the Wild Things Are movie by some of our favorite cartoonists selected by Johnny Ryan; Josh Simmons contributed this strip and reveals a different one that was rejected (for PG-13 gore)
It's my pleasure to share the following announcement from C. Tyler:
Two things this Fall:
Saturday, October 17 from 10 - 4 come see me at the Duke Energy Center in downtown Cincinnati. "Books By the Banks" is the name of the event and I will be there signing my newest book You'll Never Know.
Miami International Book Fair , November 8 - 15. I'll be signing all weekend as part of the "Comix Galaxy" and on Friday afternoon giving a talk to education professionals: "What's So Funny About Teaching Comics." I will be hauling all those corny thrift store props that I use to jump start creativity in my classroom at UC's DAAP down to sunny Fla. (Including "The Motivator" and "The Lamp of Inspiration". This year's new additions: action items like a 1960s world globe that lights up/spins and a mechanical hamster running like hell on a wheel.) I hope the talk goes over with this crowd (!). Regardless, I can't wait to put my toes in the ocean.
Book II: Collateral Damage is due out this time next year (Fall 2010), so stay tuned!
If you've got pictures of Fantagraphics at SPX, let us know! Here's a few that we've found on our own or have been sent to us. Con reports abound on the web: Rob Clough has a good one to start with, and Sean T. Collins has audio from the Critics Roundtable panel featuring our own Gary Groth.
Gary Groth and Kim Thompson will be at next weekend's SMALL PRESS EXPO in Bethesda, MD, debuting a slew of new books, including:
• Zak Sally's LIKE A DOG
• Al Columbia's PIM & FRANCIE
• E.C. Segar's POPEYE Vol. 4
• Steve Ditko's STRANGE SUSPENSE
• Kevin Huizenga's GANGES #3
• Hans Rickheit's THE SQUIRREL MACHINE
• MOME Vol. 16
• Jacques Tardi and Jean-Claude Forest's YOU ARE THERE
... and more.
We have some very exciting signings as well. To wit:
KEVIN HUIZENGA: 12PM to 2PM
C. TYLER: 12PM to 2PM
GAHAN WILSON: 2PM to 4PM
HANS RICKHEIT: 2PM to 4PM
ZAK SALLY: 2PM to 4PM
MISS LASKO-GROSS: 4PM to 5PM
AL COLUMBIA: 5PM to 7PM
PAUL KARASIK: 5PM to 7PM
GAHAN WILSON: 12PM to 2PM
ZAK SALLY: 12PM to 2PM
KEVIN HUIZENGA: 12PM to 2PM
HANS RICKHEIT: 2PM to 4PM
C. TYLER: 2PM to 4PM
AL COLUMBIA: 2PM to 4PM
PAUL KARASIK: 4PM to 6PM
MISS LASKO-GROSS: 4PM to 5PM
Plus, several FANTAGRAPHICS-related panels:
Saturday, 12:30PM: Debut Cartoonists
Hans Rickheit (The Squirrel Machine) and Zak Sally (Like A Dog) join Ken Dahl and Eleanor Davis to discuss their new books debuting at SPX. Brookside Conf. Rm.
Saturday, 3:30PM: Critics' Roundtable
Fantagraphics Publisher Gary Groth joins Rob Clough, Sean Collins, Chris Mautner, Joe McCulloch, Tucker Stone and Douglas Wolk to share acute critical insights. Brookside Conf. Rm.
Saturday, 4PM: Paul Karasik's Fletcher Hanks Experience
Cartoonist, editor and educator Paul Karasik presents "The Fletcher Hanks Experience," an illustrated tour over the brutally surreal Hanks mindscape narrated by the late Fletcher Hanks, Jr. White Flint Ampitheater.
Saturday, 5PM: Gahan Wilson Spotlight
This year, Fantagraphics publishes Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons. Mr. Wilson will be joined onstage by publisher and editor Gary Groth to discuss his life and work. White Flint Ampitheater.
Sunday, 1PM: Carol Tyler Q & A
Carol will discuss her new book You'll Never Know: A Good and Decent Man with comics critic Douglas Wolk. White Flint Ampitheater.
Sunday, 1:30PM: Source-Based Comics
Kate Beaton, Paul Karasik, Ed Piskor, and R. Sikoryak discuss what it means to make creative works of adaptation, parody, and historical fiction. Brookside Conf. Rm.
Sunday, 3:30PM: Future of the Comic Book
Discuss the future of the comic book format with publisher Alvin Buenaventura, and cartoonists Kevin Huizenga, Matthew Thurber, Hellen Jo and Noah Van Sciver. Brookside Conf. Rm.COMING IN EARLY 2010:
BUT WAIT, THAT'S NOT ALL!
To celebrate the great Gahan Wilson's rare convention appearance at SPX 2009, we have a very special offer for SPX attendees. In early 2010, we will be publishing GAHAN WILSON: 50 years of Playboy Cartoons, a massive, three-volume hardcover collection of his work. Designed by Jacob Covey, it's going to be absolutely STUNNING:
SPX attendees will have the opportunity to PRE-ORDER the book at the show get a limited edition (150 copies) silkscreen print signed by Mr. Wilson at the show! Even better, we are going to include FREE SHIPPING for the book (and believe me, you'll be happy you didn't have to lug this thing around SPX, it's HUGE) when it ships and knock $25 off the $125 retail price!
For $100, you will get the book, an exclusive signed print, free shipping, and the chance to meet one of the great cartoonists of the 20th Century! Here's what the print looks like:
These will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Don't miss out!
September is a-cumen in with Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "[The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book], about a monkey-footed man who muddles around a beach community in South Africa, is amazing... Both stories are laid-back, funny, and entertaining... Totally [recommended]. [Joe] Daly is one of my favorite new talents in comics, and... this is... one of my top five comics to be released this year so far." - Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Review: "You'll Never Know... is a daughter's pursuit of her father's untold war story as she seeks to recover what he has wilfully held back from her... [Carol] Tyler manages to unravel the saga brilliantly at every level of narrative and artistic execution. Basic training for the war, courtship of her mother that happens almost simultaneously, the invasion of north Africa and conflicted events in the artist's own life with husband, daughter and father in turmoil emerge seamlessly. Memory and the present flow together, make sense together... After all this time, the second world war has grown closer to comic art in the best sense." - Paul Buhle, Morning Star
• Interview: At The Daily Cross Hatch, Brian Heater begins a multi-part Q&A with The Squirrel Machine creator Hans Rickheit: "I kind of live in my own insular world. The notion that anyone reads my comics other than myself is kind of weird and mystical."