At The Beat, Brady Russell reports and shares photos from a recent exhibit of never-before-seen sketches and correspondence by Charles M. Schulz at SPACE 1026 in Philadelphia. I have mixed feelings about sharing this link: it's fascinating, but also a bit voyeuristic, as the material is highly personal in nature and was obviously never intended for public consumption, and I can't imagine Sparky would consent to having it displayed if he were alive.
Dept. of "Whoa": Robot 6 reports on this auction for a piece of never-before-seen artwork by Charles M. Schulz, a "try-out" strip thought to have been done during the transition from Li'l Folks to Peanuts, circa 1949-1950. Click our image above to see it a bit larger (if it looks strangely patched together, that's an artifact of the Flash-based image viewer on the auction page, from which we took screen-grabs).
(Our post title is a reference to Unseen Peanuts, our 2007 Free Comic Book Day offering which we are currently sending out free with orders, with some restrictions, while supplies last — see here for details.)
• Review: "Exuberantly expressive..., Santiago imbues his biography of famed Puerto Rican baseballer Roberto Clemente  with the furious energy of a Clemente triple. [...] Santiago evokes the world Clemente lived in, from the dusty Puerto Rican streets where he played baseball with bottle caps and tree branches to his years as a perennial All-Star. The art is scratchy and abstract when it’s dealing with home and homesickness, and then hardens into the stuff of superhero comics whenever Clemente steps to the plate." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "…The Complete Peanuts: 1979-1980… features a touching intro by Al Roker — who conducted the one of the last interviews with Schulz — along with two years’ worth of strips that find Schulz still going strong as a documentarian of life’s simple pleasures and overwhelming anxieties." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Jacques Tardi’s 1972 graphic novella The Arctic Marauder... is a fine example of the French artist’s early work, which combines turn-of-the-century adventure stories with deadpan zaniness. It’s recommended for those who like submarines disguised as icebergs, world-domination plots, detailed schematics of bizarre inventions, heroic dowagers, and sudden reversals, as well as for those who’d like to see all of the above rendered in Tardi’s typically detailed linework, which looks amazing even when obscured by ice and snow." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks at length with Dungeon Quest creator Joe Daly: "I want to develop a dedicated fan base, even if it's a small fan base, and reward their dedication with my best efforts to entertain them. More than a 'comics guy' or a 'writer' or 'artist' I want to build a reputation as an entertainer. I feel that the value of sheer entertainment is often overlooked or dismissed in today's sophisticated and occasionally pretentious comics world."
• Interview: At TCM's Classic Movie Blog Movie Morlocks, Paul Gaita talks to Drew Friedman: "I’m going from freaks back to Old Jewish Comedians for the third and final book — and again, I had to leave some comedians out. I feel bad about that, but I’m not going to do a fourth book. That’s it. I’m done with the Jews. I’m becoming an old Jew myself — I don’t need to draw them anymore." (via The Comics Reporter)
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater begins serializing a transcription of his MoCCA panel conversation with Peter Bagge: "I’m slowly turning [Buddy Bradley] into the crazy old guy who works at the dump. That’s why I gave him the Popeye look. Though I’m always on the verge of having him get rid of it. I keep thinking that I’ll have another character make fun of him for it. He doesn’t need the eyepatch, he doesn’t need to shave his head, and there’s no reason for him to be wearing a captain’s hat."
• Review: "Stephen DeStefano is nominated for the 2011 Eisner Awards for his artwork on this book [Lucky in Love Book 1] and understandably so. [...] His style on this book works so well, the feel and mood of the 1940's is dutifully established. The exaggeration in his cartoony style on this book especially with the characters is both hilarious and beautiful. From the linework, to the panel and page design, DeStefano just did an amazing job. Simply beautiful work here. The kind of work that leaves you lingering over every little line or design." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Plug: "After I read and loved Footnotes in Gaza, I had to get [Safe Area Gorazde: The Special Edition], right? It looks pretty flippin’ awesome, plus for this edition, there’s a lot of frontmatter by Sacco in which he discusses the circumstances in Bosnia in the early 1990s." – Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
• Plugs: "It’s an embarrassment of riches from the fine folks at Fantagraphics as they deliver not one, but two fantastic comic collections for aficionados to dive into. Not only do we get the 15th volume of The Complete Peanuts covering the years 1979-1980 and featuring an intro from Al Roker, but we also get the 5th volume of EC Segar’s Popeye, Wha’s A Jeep, which introduces us to the magical Jeep. Both volumes? Brilliant." – Ken Plume, FRED Entertainment
• Review: "Even though Peanuts's peak was sometime back in the sixties these books are still coming out and you know what? They're still good. I keep waiting for a sharp decline in quality to hit but I'm still enjoying seeing Snoopy blissfully living out his fantasies, Charlie Brown being unable to ever be happy, Lucy being a jerk, etc. [...] This book suddenly made me want to go back in time very, very hard. I want to live in Peanuts so bad. Fuck my life. Someone help get me out of this life." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Jordan Crane has a sweet skinny line and can draw like no one else. He can draw complicated scenes and it's clear that he never uses a ruler. There's something very friendly and reassuring about his drawing style. Jordan Crane is without a doubt one of the best guys in the alt comix game right now and my only criticism of him is that I wish he turned out more work. Jordan's making the comics that everyone else is trying to make but unlike them, he's succeeding at it." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Coming Attractions:Library Journal's Martha Cornog spotlights a couple of our August 2011 releases. First, Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot by Jacques Tardi & Jean-Patrick Manchette: "The fantasy grime of Manchette's noir thrillers may not equal the true-life grime of World War I, but both make pretty darn gripping reading when Tardi gets through with them. It Was the War of the Trenches made numerous 2010 best-of lists, including those of Booklist and Library Journal. Manchette and Tardi's previous collaboration on West Coast Blues didn't do badly either, being nominated for two Eisners. With Sniper, a pro killer wants to nail one last job before retiring to marry his childhood sweetheart. But of course it's no cupcake gig." Second, Cruisin' with the Hound: The Life and Times of Fred Tooté by Spain Rodgriguez: "Here we have tales of the wild 1950s in muscular black and white, some memoir and some just tales, from take-no-prisoners Zap Comix veteran Rodriguez. [...] Expect this one to be adults-only: motorcycles, raunch, and rock 'n' roll and described as the unsentimental and hilarious 'anti-Happy Days.'"
• Commentary:On his blog, our manga editor/translator Matt Thorn weighs in on the damaging legacy left behind by TokyoPop
• Analysis: "Hey, Wait... presents a varied collection of strategies which help express emptiness and lack of meaning; the metaphorical use of silences and visual minimalism are two of these, and will become frequent in the author’s repertory in the following books. Meaninglessness, though, can also be expressed by adopting an aesthetics of visual excess (since both lack and overload can be equally menacing to the production of meaning). In this specific page, this is done at a typographical level." – Greice Schneider, The Comics Grid
• Blood & Thunder: "Why do you continue to publish Maakies? Is it intended to disgust people?" – Kevin Rutkowski, in a Letter to the Editor of The Austin Chronicle
An unexpected technical glitch has necessitated the splitting of today's Online Commentary & Diversions in twain, so part 2 follows immediately:
• Review: "Fantagraphics Books rolls on with their hardcover library collection The Complete Peanuts, with the latest installment spotlighting 1979 and 1980. [...] In Charlie Brown, one sees a character with life still left ahead of him, so the myriad indignities he suffers are tempered by the thought that things could only get better. Had it been an adult character, the question would have been, 'Why hasn’t this guy drank himself to death by now?' ...[T]he Complete Peanuts collection is highly recommended to anyone who is in love with not just this format, but to anyone who can appreciate the highest level of achievement." – Dw. Dunphy, Kirkus Reviews
• Review: "I always look forward to the latest collection of Peanuts strips from Fantagraphics and with the newest offering, the [Complete] Peanuts [series] moves into the 1980s. In general, Charles Schulz' strips can fit in any era. [...] There's something so simple and yet so complex about Peanuts strips. Not matter how many you read you can never tire of them. Grade A" – Tim Janson, Mania
• Review:iFanboy's Ron Richards selects 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente as their Book of the Month: "Filled with emotion and heart, this story presents what it meant to the world, to Pittsburgh, to Puerto Rico and ultimately to his family. A great baseball biography is filled not only with on field accomplishments but with off field heart and relationships and Wilfred Santiago captured that perfectly... Santiago's artwork is stunning, at times completely breathtaking... Santiago is able to paint a picture of raw emotion, both good and bad, with his illustrations that one cannot help but get lost in the tale. [...] I don't think there is a higher praise I can give to this book other than I wish I could go back in time and give the 9 year old version of me this book to delight over. [...] I can't think of a better way to start the baseball season this April than by enjoying this beautiful graphic novel achievement by Wilfred Santiago."
• Review: "In this emotionally moving biography, the Puerto Rican Wilfred Santiago magnificently chronicles the often tragic life of this icon. [...] Santiago expertly traverses Clemente's tribulations, losses, and success with ease and skill. His portrayal of the baseball games rank among the finest ever attempted in this medium. Under the masterful hands of Santiago, 21 evolves into far more than just a biography of a sports figure. It showcases a life worth emulating." – Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Interview (Audio): Author Monte Schulz appears on the MarketingOurMuse program on BlogTalkRadio to talk with host Marla Miller about marketing novels in 2011
Catching up on several days' worth of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List/Plugs: In an article titled "Fantagraphics: The Greatest American Comics Publisher," GUY.com's Rob Gonsalves says "What the Criterion Collection is to DVDs, Fantagraphics is to comics. Any self-respecting collection of graphic novels, any library public or personal, needs to sport at least one Fantagraphics book," and recommends a nicely idiosyncratic top-20 list of our publications which includes some of our more obscure releases
• Review: "While there definitely were some hardships, Clemente’s life was as unique and joyful as his persona and ball playing skills were, and Wilfred Santiago’s 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente reflects this uniqueness and joy through its own unique retelling of Clemente’s life. [...] The simple joy conveyed in this book is universally appealing... Baseball is a game that is full of life and story, and every year the game blooms in the spring with the trees and flowers of the season. 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente celebrates life, and new life, as much as it does baseball." – Andy Frisk, Comic Book Bin
• Interview: Pittsburgh City Paper's David Davis, who says "In his new graphic novel 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente, the author of 2002's In My Darkest Hour uses Clemente's life to explore issues on and off the diamond. These include the thorny politics of Puerto Rico (statehood or commonwealth status?) as well as the racism Clemente faced in America as a dark-skinned Latino. The result is both a superhero cartoon and a lyrical time-machine, rendered in the regal black-gold-and-white of the Bucs' uni," has a brief Q&A with Wilfred Santiago: "I began my career working on superhero cartoons. That's the look I wanted to get -- somewhere between a cartoon and a painting. I wanted to get the camera right there with him and you're experiencing the action up close."
• Review: "Slavishly documenting and lavishly illustrating through band flyers and set lists and rare record sides and marvelous photography, along with first-person textual accounts, this strange, excited dialogue between misfits in America through bands, venues, zines, and lives and how it was all done punk and how punk was done. [...] Taking Punk to the Masses’ gallant bridging of universal punk history with our own in Ecotopia is a reason to celebrate. Your eyes can gnaw on decades of delicious artwork while you read and watch stories you may have heard of, but after this, will never forget." – Chris Estey, The KEXP Blog
• Review: "In Hate Annual #9, Buddy returns to Seattle to meet the dysfunctional family of his wife Lisa who he has never met despite having been with Lisa for close to 20 years. In a tension-filled 72 hours, Buddy is subjected to senile parents, criminals, and drug addicts. Each page is filled with the sardonic humor and high drama that are staples of Bagge's work. [...] Read this issue slowly because once you're done laughing your head off, you are sure to be sad that you'll have to wait another year to check in with one of the best characters of alternative comics." – Rip Ransley, Stray Riffs
• Review: "The particular fascination in this early work [The Arctic Marauder] is seeing one of the unique individual styles in cartooning at a formative stage. [...] As for the subject matter: It’s an example of parody that continues on when the thing parodied has long faded away. [...] Part of the appeal is feeling superior to an earlier age, and another part is being engaged in the traces of the earlier form embedded in the parody, which you would normally feel yourself too sophisticated to enjoy." – R. Fiore, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "At once a parody and a tribute to late 19th, early 20th century mystery/adventure Jules Verne-esque fiction, this gorgeous one-shot [The Arctic Marauder] is masterfully drawn scratchboard style, as to echo the woodcuts of the era. The result is sumptuous, and look at those elegant art-nouveau panels! [...] Fans of concentrated mysteries, steam-operated machines, dramatic adventures and over-the-top vilains should be all over this!" – 211 Bernard (Librairie Drawn & Quarterly)
• Review: "With Woodring’s skill, I never found myself confused, at least, more than you’re supposed to be. I’ve never read a statement by Woodring saying this, but I always got the impression he wanted you to work for the meaning behind his stories. Even if it’s not the case, I highly enjoy the process. In one graphic novel [Weathercraft], I got what I think may have been a love story, a treatise on spiritual enlightenment and sometimes just a whole lot of fun." – Joe Keatinge, Joe Keatinge's Comics & Stories
• Review: "Weathercraft... [is a]nother volume of nightmarishly beautiful wordless comics by the remarkable Mr. Woodring. Even for those accustomed to his work, there is page after page that makes you say, 'I’ve never seen anything like that before!' And then hide under your bed." – M. Ace, Irregular Orbit
• Interview:Book By Its Cover's Jen Rothman, who says "Ray Fenwick has created yet another masterpiece. His second book, Mascots, hit shelves in the beginning of this year and it’s quite a beauty. It’s filled with his signature style that mixes ornate hand lettering and imagery, creating amusing little narratives," has a Q&A with Ray: "I thought of the idea of mascots because they’re these outrageous, often ridiculous figures, but they’re symbolic of something else. The thing they’re there to represent isn’t ridiculous at all. I thought that was similar in a lot of ways to the work in the book."
• Interview:One Two One Two Microphone Check has a cultural Q&A with our own Kim Thompson: "There is no movie I love but would be embarrassed to talk about in a serious, intellectual conversation, because if I love it, it is worth talking about by definition. (I concede this could be taken as arrogant.) That said, I am mildly embarrassed at how much I actually love Love, Actually."
• Interview: Alex Dueben's great interview with Daniel Clowes at Comic Book Resources touches on Dan's design work for our upcoming series of Crockett Johnson's Barnaby collections: "It's probably the best written comic strip of all time. The artwork is disarmingly simple. It's the kind of thing that I would normally not be attracted to. He uses typography instead of hand lettering and very simple diagrammatic drawings, yet they are perfect, and work beautifully in a way that anything added to it would detract from it. My goal with the design of the book is to follow his very severe minimal design style and try to live up to that."
• Interview: At TCJ.com, Sean T. Collins also talks to Clowes: "I was always baffled that people who liked mainstream comics seemed to really gravitate towards [Eightball #22]. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was about that one, specifically, that made them like that so much."
• Commentary:Tim Kreider pens an essay on the state of the cartooning industry for TCJ.com: "When you’re young, it’s exciting and fun just to have your work published in the local alternative weekly, or posted online, “liked” and commented on and linked to; but eventually you turn forty and realize you’ve given away a career’s worth of labor for nothing. What’s happening in comics now is what happened in the music industry in the last decade and what’ll happen to publishing in the next. Soon Don DeLillo will be peddling T-shirts too."
• Commentary:Robot 6 polled Gilbert Hernandez for their weekly "What Are You Reading?" feature: "The new comics I always enjoy are by R. Crumb, Dan Clowes, Richard Sala and Charles Burns. I haven’t seen Burns’ and Sala’s new books yet but I did read The Bible by Crumb, which I found tedious only because of the subject matter and Wilson by Clowes. That was hard to get through because the protagonist is so supremely hateful. Well executed, though."
This month's issue of Booklist brings a starred review for 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago and additional favorable reviews of 5 more of our recent releases, excerpted below:
"Nearly every page brings a new compositional marvel, setting energetic, limber figures against stylized photographic backgrounds washed in sepia tones and Pirate-yellow highlights. The in-game sequences, though, are show-stoppers, taking advantage of dizzying perspective shifts to capture the fluid, whirling nature of the game as it moves in fits and starts through huge moments of pause into cracking shots of sizzling drama. It’s not a comprehensive biography by any means, nor does it try to be one. But for a book that matches the pure athleticism, unshakable compassion, and towering legacy of its subject, look no further." — Ian Chipman (Starred Review)
Popeye Vol. 5: "Wha's a Jeep?" by E.C. Segar: "The fifth oversize volume collecting Segar’s vintage 1930s newspaper strip sees two particularly notable events, the introduction of Popeye’s lovable pet from the fourth dimension, Eugene the Jeep, who can foretell the future — a talent that Olive Oyl and Wimpy predictably exploit at the racetrack — and the seafaring quest to find Popeye’s long-lost father, Poopdeck Pappy, who turns out to be even more irascible than his cantankerous son. The out-of-continuity Sunday pages are more humor-driven, allowing Segar’s most brilliant comic creation, the rotundly roguish J. Wellington Wimpy, to take the fore." – Gordon Flagg
Prince Valiant Vol. 3: 1941-1942 by Hal Foster: "This period, with its far-flung story lines and lavishly detailed artwork, is arguably the acme of Foster’s four decades chronicling the bold exploits of his medieval hero. While the oversize pages don’t approach the expanse of the bygone broadsheet newspapers that were Valiant’s original home, this is the best showcase Foster’s epic creation has had since its original appearance more than 70 years ago." — Gordon Flagg
Krazy & Ignatz 1919-1921: A Kind, Belevolent and Amiable Brick by George Herriman: "Although nearly a century has elapsed since these episodes first saw print, nothing that’s appeared on newspaper comics pages in the intervening years has approached their graphic and linguistic sophistication, let alone their brazenly idiosyncratic singularity. The bounty of Herriman’s fanciful masterwork is enhanced by a pair of informative supplemental essays and Chris Ware’s strikingly stark cover design." – Gordon Flagg
The Complete Peanuts 1979-1980 (Vol. 15) by Charles M. Schulz: "Although Schulz’s much-loved comic strip is considered timeless — the continued reprinting of decades- old episodes in today’s newspapers attests to its perennial appeal — it wasn’t immune to contemporary trends. In these episodes, Peppermint Patty advocates for women’s equity in sports and gets Bo Derek-inspired cornrows. In other anomalous sequences, Charlie Brown’s pals express uncharacteristic affection for him when he’s hospitalized, and Peppermint Patty falls in love with — of all people — Pig-Pen. But most of the strips here display the comfortable tropes, from Snoopy as a WWI flying ace to Linus awaiting the Great Pumpkin, that Peanuts fans grew to love during its five-decade run." – Gordon Flagg
R.I.P.: Best of 1985-2004 by Thomas Ott: "With Ott’s trademark scratchboard style affording the highest possible contrast, this is some of the most stunningly crafted work in comics today." – Ray Olson
• Review: "Former Haligonian and Coast contributor Ray Fenwick’s latest book [Mascots] extends the work that he began in this city: typography-heavy painting on found book covers. The books’ loose cloth weave is clearly visible through the paintings, and even though Fenwick’s lettering skills should be studied by scientists, there’s a refreshing sense of the typographer’s hand and thought. Using the traditional idea of mascots as symbolic figures, Fenwick’s collected creatures, characters, mantras and messages, some of which are connected through broken narratives, and others just appear like a slap to the head. Not for those with an aversion to weirdos or absurdity, Fenwick is hands-down one of the most clever contemporary artists and illustrators working in Canada." – Sue Carter Flinn, The Coast
• Review: "Kalesniko is a deft, widescreen storyteller... The final chapters [of Freeway] are paced like an action film, drawing Alex ever closer to his destination/destiny, and Kalesniko does skillfully edit his storytelling at a breathless clip. But the conclusion raises more questions than it answers..." – Brian Winkeler, Bookgasm
• Review: "There’s no doubt that Schulz lost his way in the 80s. But his strip was always about losing its way. As he grew doddering and inconsistent, he moved closer to the doddering inconsistency at the core of his art. The pleasures in this volume [The Complete Peanuts 1979-1980] are fewer, but, for fans at least, when they come they have a special bonk." – Noah Berlatsky, Splice Today
• Review: "Another hardboiled French thriller which violently riffs on the energy of New Wave cinema, Hitchcock and classic James Bond. ...[West Coast Blues] is a bit like The Bourne Identity, except on a lower budget and without anyone half as organised as the CIA involved. The captions are a bit wordy, as you’d expect with something adapted from a novel, but thankfully it’s in black and white — the constant spray of blood and bone fragments might be a bit off-putting otherwise." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Profile: The Hartford Advocate's Christopher Arnott talks to Allan Greenier and Tom Hosier, creator of "The Purple Warp" minicomic included in Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s, saying of the book "Newave!, which has the same small size, but hundreds more pages than the miniature comics it celebrates, is a handy overview of this largely overlooked subgenre," and getting a frank account of the book's success from our own Eric Reynolds
In a recent spring cleaning at Casa Reynolds, I unearthed these original PEANUTS strips I created in the late-1970s at the tender age of 8 or 9. I apparently thought I was really onto something with the no pants gag. Or perhaps it just reveals something about my id that I'd rather not consider. Either way, I bet the folks at BOOM! are now kicking themselves for not adding me to the creative team of their new PEANUTS graphic novel.
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