A new week brings an avalanche of new Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Profile: For the Philadelphia Inquirer, Tirdad Derakhshani looks at the past, present, and future of Prince Valiant: "The release Tuesday 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."
• Review: "...Al [Columbia] decided to dredge up old ghosts, unfinished pieces, trifles he had thrown away then reconsidered and offered them up to us as proof that he hasn’t forgotten us. This 240-page book [Pim and Francie: The Golden Bear Days, Fall 2009]... has certainly filled in some gaps for me as to what goes on in Columbia’s mind... There seems to be something both amazing and horrifying around every corner, in any dark space, in the thick of the forest, in the bulbous eyes of maniacal creatures and the straight realistic lines of buildings that all have a dark window somewhere... It is truly a viscous treat and I am sure this one will never wash off." - Rachael M Rollson, Panel to Panel
• Review: "Though Low Moon doesn’t have the slow-building impact of Jason’s longer works, he’s still one of comics’ best storytellers, and it’s always a treat to spend time in his world of off-brand pulp clichés and not-always-so-funny animals. [Grade] B+" - The A.V. Club
• Review: "Jason is an immensely skilled artist capable of manipulating his self-restricted vocabulary to stretch space and time. Low Moon moves in a slow burn as the two antagonists move closer to their eventual showdown. In what is probably the best story in the book You Are Here, time moves more quickly as a father and son attempt to deal with the alien abduction of the father's wife. The father builds a rocket while the son grows up and has a life of his own. Eventually they pile into the rocket, and things end badly, but perhaps a bit more emotionally than with the other stories." - Michael Buntag, NonSensical Words
• Review: "Rage of a different kind in Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me and Other Astute Observations by Peter Bagge. This collection of satirical rants from the American libertarian magazine Reason... is philosophically more about punk individualism than Ayn Rand, and artistically the heir to 1980s indie comics. Indeed, Bagge is an indie star, famous for his wonderfully elastic cartooning style and punk-inflected comedies." - Roger Sabin, The Observer
• Review: "These are good comics [in Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me and Other Astute Observations], fun to read and definitely funny, definitely searing and when he hits a target he gets it right. Also there’s something to be said for the journalist tone of the writing and the structure of the strips would translate well into a proper newspaper, were he so inclined." - Ibrow
• Review: "For fresh talent in comics, you have to go to the anthologies and there's none better at the moment than Mome... the highlight [of Vol. 15] is Dash Shaw's hallucinatory story about a tidal wave, which uses swaths of colour and elongated panels to create a sense of vertigo." - Roger Sabin, The Observer (same link as above)
• Review: "Schulz had gone from a fairly grounded sense of consensus reality to Snoopy's flights of fancy to outright weirdness... That seems to be the essence of Sparky Schulz to me: even with the pressure of the daily grind and his position as the lynchpin of what had become a vast empire, Schulz wrote to amuse himself... At his best in this volume [The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974], Schulz gave the readers some of the best stories of his career." - Rob Clough
• Review: "Ace cartoonist Jordan Crane makes a curious split comic choice. The first half [of Uptight #3 ], 'Vicissitude,' is the opening chapter of a brooding adult tale of marital dysfunction and deceit, while the second, 'Freeze Out,' is a kid’s story, the further adventures of Simon and his cat Jack, who were featured in Crane’s great graphic novel, The Clouds Above. Miraculously, the pairing works — each is superior in its own genre — but you might want to wait until 'Freeze Out' is collected on its own before showing it to your kids." - John Seven, Worcester Magazine
• Review: "Blazing Combat (Fantagraphics, 2009) collects the entire run in a beautiful, incredibly well-bound hardcover book... The stories' tone is very 1960s, ironic with a cynicism stemming from brokenhearted humanism." - Carol Borden, The Cultural Gutter
• Review: "Needless to say, I love the streak of darkness that permeates [Charles] Burns' work. I mean that both figuratively and literally, as his one-of-a-kind illustration style is at-a-glance recognizable because of his heavy use of black ink... That starkness emphasizes the cruel features on the faces of his characters - deep wrinkles, harsh teeth, beady eyes and unflattering noses, to say nothing of the occasional freak. Like the look of his characters, Burns is one of a kind, and Skin Deep is a good introduction to the man's singular vision - a good way to get your toe wet before diving in." - Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: "[A.B.] Frost looked like he was painting with the line…on a half-dozen cups of coffee. Trust me, that’s hard to do... Also, it looks like Fanta-Graphic Books might have brought Stuff and Nonsense back in print in 2003. [Yes. -Ed.] Pick up and copy and be ready to weep - this work is untouchable." - Tony DiTerlizzi
• Plug: "Carol Tyler's You'll Never Know is my favorite book of the year thus far. This memoir/biography/scrapbook is both formally challenging and emotionally devastating. Any critic serious about compiling a year-end list needs to keep this book under consideration." - Rob Clough, Robot 6 (guest contributor)
• Tweet: "Still, the most beautifully designed bk so far this yr is still IMO Fantagraphics 'The Brinkley Girls': http://bit.ly/CSYpH Swoon-worthy." - bookjones
• Review: "What more can I say about these wonderful [Complete Peanuts] collections? I’ve enjoyed each one immensely so far; they make me laugh and grin and even smirk a little from time to time... Top notch book. You can’t have a much better time than reading these collections. Highly recommended." - Todd Klein (link via Robot 6)
• Review: "[Prison Pit: Book 1] is the best comic Johnny Ryan has ever drawn. And I'm the guy that ranked the last Angry Youth Comix in his Best of 2008... This really needs to be experienced on its own. It's rich, clever, energetic, funny - I don't think I've purely in-my-guts enjoyed another comic so much in 2009... You've gotta see it to believe it." - Joe McCullough, Jog - The Blog
• Plug: "...[O]ur favorite comic book artist is Mr. Johnny Ryan!... Johnny continues his brilliant legacy with an 120 page epic tale named Prison Pit... Next to Jughead, Johnny’s about the best thing going on in comic books these days, so don’t be a chump and wait until they make some perverted documentary about him and he’s some hipster darling! ACT NOW!" - retroCRUSH
• Profile: For the Los Angeles Times, Tobias Carroll profiles artists who straddle music and comics, including Zak Sally, whose "surreal and compelling series Sammy the Mouse, begun in 2007, is a kind of existentialist's Bloom County," plus our pals Archer Prewitt & Ron Regé Jr.
Is July really over already? Hoo-ee, time sure flies when you're compiling Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Based on his research, interviews, and personal experiences in Palastinian Occupied Territories in 1991 and 92, [Joe Sacco]'s comic [Palestine] takes you there and gives you a first-hand account of the atrocities and suffering in the conflict with Israel. He gives you a close up visual rendering of the physical and emotional conditions of the people, who struggle daily for survival... Sacco has rendered the terrible conditions of life into a compelling and sympathetic artistic documentary. It is sad, but most good stories are sad... What’s better, his drawing is detailed and realistic, very approachable and interesting." - American in Auckland
• Review: "Either you think Michael Kupperman's stuff is hilarious or you don't. And if you don't, well, that's sad, because you suck and you have no friends... Kupperman has created a world with its own humor/"Dadaist" vibe, as he puts it in one meta-strip, and no critical breakdown can really relate its LOL-charm... Much of the charm resides in his art, heavily hatched, shadowed, stippled, and Benday-dotted in an old-fashioned style. He slams the retro up against his postmodern wisecracks, and it works nearly every time... This new omnibus of all four of his can't-miss gems from Fantagraphics not only makes it easy to get his out-of-print stuff, it's the only way to go—that's because the reprints are in color for the first time, and it just looks really nice." - Byron Kerman, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "The Wolverton Bible is a collection of drawings that Basil Wolverton did for Herbert Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God. I've been hoping for a collection of these drawings for ages... What a great collection. The drawings are nicely printed, very black, on nice white paper... The book is sturdy and feels good... This is a windfall. It's a wonderful additon to any art collection." - Garth Danielson, Primitive Screwheads
• Interview: "[Craig] Yoe revels in the hidden histories of comics, and not just because they’re money at the movies. In Boody: The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers, published by Fantagraphics earlier this year, the historian has helped uncover one of comics’ left-field treasures. 'Boody’s comics could survive a nuclear holocaust,' Yoe wisecracked. 'Silliness, sex and surrealism. Why can’t all so-called comic books be like this?'" - Scott Thill, Wired
• Things to see: Tom Kaczynski draws Zak Sally (and reports from the release party for Zak's new album Fear of Song)
• Comic-Con/Things to see: Rickey Purdin's Watchmen con sketchbook filled up with FBI artists (Johnny Ryan, Esther Pearl Watson, Jordan Crane) and friends (Mark Todd, Sammy Harkham & more) at San Diego (via Sean T. Collins)
Rest in peace to Walter Cronkite, who graciously embraced our Complete Peanuts series and provided the introduction to our second volume, and a man who could stand amongst Schulz as one of the great icons of 20th Century America.
TENNIS, ANYONE? BILLIE JEAN KING SERVES UP AN INTRODUCTION... AND WE CELEBRATE WOODSTOCK!
The 12th volume of Peanuts features a number of tennis strips and several extended sequences involving Peppermint Patty’s friend Marcie (including a riotous, rarely seen sequence in which Marcie’s costume-making and hairstyling skills utterly spoil a skating competition for PP), so it seems only right that this volume’s introduction should be served up by Schulz’s longtime friend, tennis champion Billie Jean King.
This volume also picks up on a few loose threads from the previous year, as the mysterious “Poochie” shows up in the flesh; Linus and Lucy’s new kid brother “Rerun” makes his first appearance, is almost immediately drafted onto the baseball team (where, thanks to his tiny strike zone, he wins a game), and embarks on his first terrifying journey on the back of his mom’s bike; and, in one of Peanuts’ oddest recurring storylines, the schoolhouse Sally used to talk to starts talking, or at least thinking, back at her!
The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974 also includes one of the all-time classic Peanuts sequences, in which Charlie Brown’s baseball-oriented hallucinations finally manifest themselves in a baseball-shaped rash on his head. Forced to conceal the embarrassing discoloration with a bag worn over his head, Charlie Brown goes to camp as “Mister Sack” and discovers that, shorn of his identity, he’s suddenly well liked and successful.
NOTE: BECAUSE OF OUR CONTRACT WITH THE LICENSOR THESE ITEMS CANNOT BE SOLD OUTSIDE OF NORTH AMERICA. IF YOU RESIDE ANYWHERE OTHER THAN THE U.S. OR CANADA PLEASE DO NOT TRY TO ORDER THEM FROM OUR WEBSITE; YOUR ORDER WILL NOT BE PROCESSED.
A boxed set of the eleventh and twelfth volumes of The Complete Peanuts, designed by the award-winning graphic novelist, Seth. Shipping shrinkwrapped, with volumes 1971-1972 and 1973-1974 packed in a sturdy custom box designed especially for this set, it's the perfect gift book item. (For more information on the contents of each volume, see the individual product listings linked above.)
two 344-page black & white 8.5" x 7" hardcovers in a custom slipcase • $49.99 Add to Cart • More Info
Even if you purchased the fifth pair of volumes of The Complete Peanuts (1971-1972 and 1973-1974) separately rather than in the two-volume set, you can still have this handsome, durable two-volume slipcase designed by Complete Peanuts series designer Seth. This item is exclusively available directly from Fantagraphics. (Books not included.)
Heading into the weekend, here's your Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Carol Tyler’s You’ll Never Know [Book 1: A Good and Decent Man] mines similar territory to women graphic novelists before her -- the life of her father and its relationship to her own foibles -- and manages to make a work entirely her own, neither derivative nor overly familiar... with genuinely gorgeous illustration... It’s a gripping mix of biography and autobiography... There’s more for Tyler to explore in another volume, and she manages to make this one immensely satisfying on its own terms while alternately leaving you with anticipation for the next." - John E. Mitchell, North Adams Transcript
• Review: "...[Y]ou could do much, much, much, much, much, much worse than to spend 25 bucks and an inch on your bookshelf on yet agoddamnnother collection of murderously bleak and astonishingly well-executed high-concept existentialism [Low Moon], drawn with an unimpeachable clean line and colored like unto a thing of beauty. Time and time again during these five stories I was almost physically impacted by Jason's skill as a storyteller ...his skill and his bravado left me shaking my head with amusement and/or amazement time and time again. He's one of the best, as is this book." - Sean T. Collins
• Interview: Seth talks a bit about his design work for The Complete Peanuts in an interview with Alex Carr at Amazon's Omnivoracious blog. Sample quote: "The series was meant to be a setting for the jewel that is Schulz's masterpiece. I wanted to make sure that Schulz's work was treated with the utmost seriousness and dignity."
• Plug: In an interview with Robot 6, MoCCA Festival organizer Karl Erickson singles out Humbug's Arnold Roth & Al Jaffee and Mome's Derek Van Gieson & Sara Edward-Corbett as highlights of the 2009 festival
• Review: "Low Moon, the latest collection from this Norwegian-born graphic novelist [Jason], is certainly as funny as his previous books, but the humor is quieter, more mature. It balances the awkward sexuality and cynical humor of a teenage boy with the disillusionment and longing of an old man... Basically, it's been a while since I read a book and thought, 'This is changing the way I think about short fiction.' So, I've been carrying the book around, like a buddy, trying to understand out what makes Low Moon so perfect." - Heidi Broadhead, Publicola
• Review: "You’ll Never Knowis, for good or ill, going to elicit a lot of comparisons to Maus... Yet while Tyler’s work... certainly deserves any accolades it receives, it’s a much different book — warmer, more overtly affectionate and more personal to a certain extent as well... Tyler’s art is constantly inventive and alive throughout the book. full of color and energy yet incredibly lyrical and graceful when need be... Tyler has long been a cartoonist’s cartoonist, which basically translates as 'Why is no one paying attention to the awesome stuff Carol Tyler is doing?' Both in subject matter and in delivery, she seems poised to finally break free of that term." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me and Other Astute Observations: Damn it Peter Bagge, now what am I going to call my autobiography? This is a nice-looking collection of a decade's worth of the master cartoonist's cartoons from Reason magazine. I'm working my way through a preview copy at the moment, but I can personally attest to the first two chapters being pretty great." - J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
• Plug: "Peter Bagge has become quite the comics pundit in recent years, sounding off on a variety of issues like drugs, gun control and abortion in the pages of Reason magazine. This book [Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me] — love the title, by the way — collects most of them... [I]t’s really funny and you should buy it." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "Bigger, harder, thicker and better colors. Fantagraphics has decided to repackage Hal Foster’s seminal 'knights and text' once again, this time in a hardcover format [Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938] and with improved production values... I was quite surprised how entertaining this strip was back in the day." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6 (same link as above)
• Things to see: On the Covered blog, Steven Weissman has some alternate choices for new Avengers members in re Avengers #221
To celebrate, our nominated titles, except Peanuts (for contractual reasons), are now 15% off for a limited time! First buy, then (if you're a comics professional) vote!
Congratulations to all of our nominated colleagues, with special shouts-out to Al Jaffee for his Abrams book Tall Tales (multiple nominations), Chris Ware for Acme Novelty Library #19 (Best Single Issue or Story), and Jay Lynch & the Mineshaft folks for Mineshaft #23 (Best Cover Artist).
We sent this press release out this morning, and I thought I should share it with Flog readers as well:
FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS ANNOUNCES THE ACQUISITION OF THIS SIDE OF JORDAN, A NOVEL BY MONTE SCHULZ
THIS SIDE OF JORDAN, by MONTE SCHULZ, will be unveiled at the 2009 Book Expo America in New York City, May 29-31, with an appearance by the author on Saturday, May 30, at 2:30PM in the Autographing Area.
SEATTLE, WA, MAY 20, 2009 --- This September, Fantagraphics Books is proud to publish This Side of Jordan, by Monte Schulz, only the second original prose novel (following 2007's Laura Warholic by Alexander Theroux) in the company's 33-year history.
This Side of Jordan is a tapestry of American life in the summer before the economic crash of 1929, and a quintessential novel of the rural Midwest offered unexpectedly as a crime thriller. Full of American landscapes and totems, images and notions, foibles and fables, beasts and the blessed, it follows the experiences of 19-year-old tubercular farm boy Alvin Pendergast. The novel begins with an ill-fated dance marathon and a chance encounter with a slick con artist and gangster named Chester Burke. Fearing relapse of his consumption and a return to the sanitarium that had already stolen a year of his life, Alvin imprudently follows Chester across the Mississippi River only to enter a vortex of criminal violence and deceit.
With Alvin in tow, Chester's insouciant disregard for life serves him well during a series of bank robberies and senseless murders, the sociopathic gangster assuming the role of a dark angel on Judgment Day, cleansing the scrolls of those whose sad fortune draws them across his path. Too ill to flee, too morally weak to object, Alvin resigns himself to what seems like certain doom. Fortunately, Alvin finds another companion on the road, a lonely, eccentric, and grandiloquent dwarf named Rascal, whose own infirmity binds their destinies together. Eventually, the young farm boy must make a decision: stick with Chester, who will surely kill him at the slightest hint of betrayal, or muster the courage to stake his life on faith in Rascal's clever plan to save them both.
Monte Schulz is the son of Charles M. Schulz, creator of Peanuts, and in This Side of Jordan one of his ambitions was to recreate the time of his mother's and father's Jazz Age childhood, when America was making the irresistible transition from rural to urban life.
"When I was in my early twenties, and Dad saw that I was developing an interest in writing, he showed me some of the beautiful passages of Thomas Wolfe and John Steinbeck, and lent me his copies of Complete Poems by Carl Sandburg and Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, and Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem. He told me the writer's gift is to be able to express for people certain ideas and emotions they cannot express for themselves," says Schulz.
Told in the voice of a lost generation hurtling toward the Great Depression, This Side of Jordan evokes crowded Main Streets and tourist camps, miles of cornfields, rural churches and musty parlors, with the momentum of a freight train, but delivered in the seductive, rhythmic tradition of Southern lyricism reminiscent of Flannery O'Connor and Truman Capote.
Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth said he was leery when Schulz asked him to read the novel "because, after all, how does the publisher of The Complete Peanuts reject a novel by Charles Schulz's son?" After reading it, however, he was "bowled over by the beauty of the prose and Monte's command over every aspect of the form. It isn't hyperbolic to say that Monte is as good a writer as his father is a cartoonist. That's why we wanted to publish it."
This Side of Jordan is Schulz's second novel. His first, Down by the River, was published by Viking in 1991. Library Journal raved that it compared to Stand by Me and Twin Peaks, and seemed "ready-made for Hollywood." He spent ten years writing Crossing Eden, from which This Side Of Jordan is drawn as the first of three interconnected novels; the second and third, Fields of Eden and The Big Town, will be published in 2010 and 2011. This Side of Jordan will be published as a jacketed hardcover this September by Fantagraphics Books, with a painted cover by noted cartoonist Al Columbia. Schulz will make his first public appearance promoting the novel at the 2009 Book Expo America, signing galleys on Saturday, May 30, at 2:30PM in the convention's autographing area. A West Coast tour will follow in the Fall (dates and locations t.b.a.).
Schulz received his M.A. in American Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He lives in Northern California.