• List:Only the Cinema's Ed Howard concludes counting down The Best Comics of the Decade: the top 20 includes "The Lute String" (available in Mome Vols. 9 & 10) by Jim Woodring at #16 ("It's moving, funny, and as with all of Woodring's work it demands a close reading"), Alias the Cat (originally The Stuff of Dreams) by Kim Deitch at #14 ("It's funny, goofy, exciting and far-ranging in its imaginative nonsense accumulations, and throughout it all Deitch's fond sense of nostalgia for a world that never quite was lends emotional heft to the story's elaborate twists and turns"), Dash Shaw's Bottomless Belly Button and Mome stories (collected in The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.) at #13 ("Dash Shaw is an utterly brilliant young cartoonist who has, in a few short years, advanced from the academic experiments of his earlier work... into a formalist genius whose skills encompass both a natural gift for color and a feel for subtle, indirect characterization"), Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco at #7 ("Joe Sacco is a unique figure in modern comics: there is no one else who combines sheer cartooning chops with a newspaper reporter's sensibility and instincts in quite the same way. ... Safe Area Gorazde [is] an especially powerful document of the effects of war"), the comics of Kevin Huizenga at #4 ("Kevin Huizenga is the best young artist in comics. It's as simple as that. With his recent Fantagraphics series Ganges (part of the Ignatz line of high-quality pamphlets) Huizenga has matured into one of comics' finest formalists"), Jimbo in Purgatory by Gary Panter at #2 ("The denseness of Panter's references and cross-references makes the experience of reading this book a truly overwhelming experience; every line, every image, spirals into multiple other references and ideas, pulling in the whole wide expanse of world culture as a stomping ground for Jimbo's wanderings through the Purgatory of modern existence towards enlightenment"), and the Love and Rockets Vol. II work of Jaime Hernandez (as collected in Ghost of Hoppers and The Education of Hopey Glass) in the #1 slot ("There is no greater all-around artist in modern comics than Jaime Hernandez, and his recent work builds on his past successes so that his oeuvre as a whole is shaping up to be one of literature's best sustained stories about aging and the shifting of relationships over the course of a life").
• Review: "The best argument that the underground tradition is still alive is Hotwire Comics, edited by Glen Head (one of the most underrated cartoonists around, incidentally). Hotwire Comics is a visual assault, abrasive, confrontational, willing to poke and prod the audience: a real live wire that can shock. Everything a good underground comic book should be." – Jeet Heer, Comics Comics
• Review: "Strange Suspense is a handsome book generally, with a fun front cover and a nice, sturdy, feel. As far as my eye can tell the work is reproduced well; admittedly, I have one of the worst eyes in comics for that sort of thing. It's nice to have a bunch of comics from this time period, particularly the grittier pre-Code or Fear of Code-Like Crackdown work. There are some truly repulsive pieces of throwaway pulp in this book's pages, and Ditko was more than up to the task of illustrating them." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Mother, Come Home is a subtle, dark story about death and madness and fantasy, tied together by symbols and the voice of an older Thomas looking back on his childhood. It's not bleak, though; Thomas survives his traumatic childhood, and perhaps Hornschmeier's lesson is that we all can, if we try — if we step outside our rituals and fantasies and reach out to each other, we can make it through." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent. (via ¡Journalista!)
• List:Only the Cinema's Ed Howard begins counting down The Best Comics of the Decade: part 2 includes Black Hole by Charles Burns at #36 ("Few books do a better job of capturing the fear, and the excitement, of nascent desire and adolescent longing, as these diseased teens are driven mad by hormones and embarrassment"), Epileptic and Babel by David B. at #30 ("With his elegant style, dominated by striking blacks and contrasts, he invents numerous metaphors and visualizations for his brother's disease, treating the fight against the disease as a physical, mortal conflict"), Chimera #1 by Lorenzo Mattotti at #29 ("a rare pleasure from this elusive artist... a powerful work"), and The Squirrel Mother by Megan Kelso at #26 ("Kelso's work can be devastating in the way she pares down the excess to get at the essence of a particular moment or situation").
• Review: "…[A] fascinating treasure trove of an anthology... In addition to work by greats like Artie Romero, Rick Geary, and Mary Fleener, and 50 or so others, [Newave!] serves as the history of a movement." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Taken as a book that records a history, it’s pretty awesome. ... Newave! does include essays about minicomics and interviews with some of the creators. These are fun and provide a great look at how all of this came about." – Eden Miller, Comicsgirl (via Wow Cool)
• Review: "[Newave!] is really cool. ... It's great to see the kind of passion that was going on... when there was this explosion where people just wanted to do comics because they had a passion for drawing, for telling stories... It's just a book full of passionate comics... I definitely recommend checking it out..." – Steampunk Willy's Mad Comix Ride - The Comic Book Podcast (via Wow Cool)
• Review: "[I Killed Adolf] Hitler mixes elements of classic time travel science fiction fare with personal melodrama and a strange sense of humor that's unlike anything else in comics today. ... Jason pulls off some nice storytelling tricks when you aren't looking. ... The pacing of his story is refreshing, never getting bogged down, never moving too fast." – Augie De Blieck Jr., Comic Book Resources
• Interview: At Fatally Yours, Sarah Jahier has an enlightening Q&A with Dame Darcy: "My Dad is an artist, so is my uncle, brother, and a lot of my family. We are related to John Wilkes Booth and many of the guys in my family look like him (like a handsome villain). I [attribute] a lot of my family’s talent and good looks to Booth but also the craziness." I did not know that! (via The Beat)
• Profile: At Comix 411, Tom Mason profiles E.C. Segar's Popeye protegé, Bud Sagendorf
Win big in today's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List:Only the Cinema's Ed Howard begins counting down The Best Comics of the Decade: part 1 includes Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle at #52 ("...absurd scenarios proliferate throughout each issue of Kupperman's series, as he follows each loony premise through to its (il)logical end result. He's a versatile stylist as well..."), Eleanor Davis's Mome stories at #51 ("The short stories of Eleanor Davis draw on myth and horror to craft succinct, mysteriously moving little parables, like Grimm fairy tales where the "monsters" are almost always infused with pathos and feeling"), Eightball #23 by Daniel Clowes at #47 ("a self-contained epic in miniature, poking at superhero archetypes, with their ideas about 'responsibility' and 'right,' in order to tell a quiet, maudlin story of loneliness and self-isolation"), and Abstract Comics: The Anthology at #42 ("What's best about the book is how open its territory ultimately is, how much room it leaves for artists to come up with their own ideas about abstraction and sequence. It is a truly groundbreaking book that points the way towards a whole new conception of comics and challenges readers and artists alike to explore this new area.")
• Reviews: "Manchette’s brand of punk noir bears an existential, leftist tinge, with traces of Ballardian anomie. ... Opening Tardi’s adaptation [of West Coast Blues], one is quickly reassured by the faithfulness to the original novel. ... Tardi seems to have read Manchette’s mind when it came to visualizing the characters, scenery and action of the novel.... [and] his superior drafting skills are always in service to a tight rendering of the real world, from trains to forests to city streets. ... Turning to Tardi ‘s earlier work, You Are There, scripted by Forest..., we encounter a looser, sketchier style, admirably suited to the baggy-pants, fabulistic story and exhibiting similarities to the work of such artists as Moebius, Rick Geary, Aubrey Beardsley and Edward Gorey. Outbursts of calculated surrealism complement his unswerving attention to the quotidian. The beautiful and sensitive architectural renderings, as well as shots of nature — fields, a lake, birds, trees — contrast with the goofiness of our protagonist to good effect. ... Forest’s 1979 tale exudes a fin de Sixties, fey whimsicality. Think The Mouse That Roared crossed with Gormenghast and The Prisoner. Beckett-like soliloquies and Pinteresque dialogue round out the ambiance." – Paul Di Filippo, The Barnes & Noble Review
• Review: "This generous volume reprints Maakies strips beginning early in this decade. ... As such, [Drinky Crow's Maakies] Treasury really does represent an overflowing bounty of absolutely primo Millionaire and stands as an invaluable, one–stop companion to Pre-Millennial Maakies for devotees. Newcomers, however, should understand that their sense of humor will be expanded, pulled… actually, think of a medieval rack where subjects were strapped in and stretched to shocking, heretofore inconceivable lengths." – Rich Kreiner, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Jason is a painfully good comic creator – the man has a phenomenal knowledge of pacing, a sense of humour that’s darker than Darth Vader in a mine at midnight and deceptively simple figurework that says a shitload with very little. The stories collected in Low Moon are mostly full of that black, black humour. ... If you’re not reading Jason’s stuff, then you don’t really like comics, because this shit is as pure as it gets." – Bob Temuka, The Tearoom of Despair
Online Commentary & Diversions, now with images... what am I, nuts?? At least it's a short one:
• Review: "If sound effects like 'SNEEZEBLOOD!!' or prayer fights make you laugh, Chocolate Cheeks by Steven Weissman is definitely up your alley. More than that, Weissman’s fantastic art is worth giving this collection a look even if you haven’t read previous 'Yikes' books." (Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars) – Chad Nevett, Comic Book Resources
• Interview:Paul Hornschemeier reports on his blog: "I sat down with Brandon Wetherbee of the You, Me, Them, Everybody podcast to skip across topics such as mystery novels, crayons, Curt Swan, Robert Crumb, District 9, sock garters, Pixar, syndicated cartoons, Spider-Man, touring with bands, and facial moisturizer. A good time was had by all in a tiny room."
Let's see what Online Commentary & Diversions are in store for us today:
• Review: "The Troublemakers is something of a titular understatement. These guys aren’t trouble, they’re a disaster waiting to happen. ... It’s an exquisite story. With the characters locked in a tussle of greed and deceit, Hernandez makes his writing craft look effortless. The script is low-key and natural, the characters three-dimensional and interesting." – Grovel
• Review: "...[T]here seemed to be something dangerous, something man was not meant to trifle with, something unnatural, in concentrating all that uncut hilarity in one place [in Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1]... At its basal level, Kupperman’s sense of humor starts with a susceptible contemporary sensibility driven into survival mode by the open floodgates of mass culture, a modern consciousness threatened by amusement and diversion. The strategic response is one of aggressive accretion, grasping at straws and flotsam and winding up with some very odd however buoyant accumulations." – Rich Kreiner, "Yearlong Best of the Year," The Comics Journal
• List:The Browser's Roland Chambers talks to comics scholar and junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows Hillary Chute about her top five graphic narratives, including Aline Kominsky-Crumb's Love That Bunch: "To me, Aline is one of the most important figures in comics, which isn’t to say that she’s one of the most well-known. She’s not. But her comics have inspired a legion of cartoonists working in comics autobiography: specifically women cartoonists, because Aline published the first ever autobiographical comic from a woman’s point of view."
• Review: "King has long been a figure so ubiquitous in American culture that little of his true self remains in his frequently invoked image and words. Anderson does the man a favor by taking a spiky, fractured approach to his subject and refusing to plant a halo on his troubled head. ... Though all the great moments of his civil rights battle are here (from the March on Washington to his less-successful housing campaign in Chicago), Anderson doesn't resort to the cheap cinematic trick of success and fadeout. There is more disappointment here than celebration, suffused with the sorrowful sense of a long, long battle just barely begun. A crowning achievement, like the man it portrays." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "...Columbia's most disturbing material yet. ... he remains one of the finest horrorists (if such a word exists and I may be allowed to use it) working in comics today, far exceeding what is generally held to be the standard of excellence in the genre, via his ability to convey a terrible sense of dread and foreboding. ... As disjointed and narratively frustrating as Pim and Francie can be at times, it remains a stunning and haunting work that preys on your mind long after you've finished it. The successive wave upon wave of unsettling imagery builds upon subsequent page to suggest a world of constant pain and surreal terror, where hiding places are few and far between. ... The sheer level of craftsmanship and imagination on display makes this a book well worth reading for those who can bear its mordant message." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
Presidents Day does not stop the Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "In Hernandez’s hands, [The Troublemakers] unspools on the page like a Russ Meyer production, from the in-your-face nudity, right down to the cartoony violence played for laughs. ...[I]t sure is fun." — Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: "Even if I finally accepted that [Sublife Vol. 2] did not answer any of my questions from the first volume... I still admired the growth in Pham’s work on display between the two volumes. Volume 2 shows a terrific range, beginning a Clowes-like opening series of strips about a murderous blogger with an under-read blog that shows a biting wit not on display in the first volume. The tour de force of the volume is the second piece, which picks up (for those paying incredibly scrupulous attention) on a deep space adventure from the inside covers of Volume 1. Here Pham lets his instincts for architectural design sense take off in a trippy sequence that is pure pleasure to look at. ... In some ways — in many ways actually — the first two volumes of Sublife evoke memories of the early volumes of Acme Novelty Warehouse [sic]. And that could be a very good thing." – Jared Gardner, The Comics Journal
• Review: "...I am delighted to report that The Great Anti-War Cartoons offers an impressive showcase of political cartooning. Many of its contributors have never had their work reprinted with as much care. Even the most well-informed reader will stumble across pieces they have never seen or names they have never heard of." – Kent Worcester, The Comics Journal
• Review: "[There are] ...a number of strong stories to be found here [in Mome Vol. 17], and a number of rewards to be gained by those who were following serials like Paul Hornschemeier’s 'Life With Mr. Dangerous' or the second chapters of the stories done by Renee French and Ted Stearn." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Interview:Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s editor Michael Dowers talks to Robot 6's Tim O'Shea: "I want people to see that if you believe in something hard enough and never give up that you can get somewhere in life. Here is a group of creative types who couldn’t take no for an answer and made their own world of comics."
• Review: "Anderson’s King is most definitely NOT your feel-good, sanctifying version of King’s life that most readers are probably used to. ...[T]he MLK presented here is a multi-dimensional, gifted man … but still very much a man, nevertheless, filled with doubt, frustration, anger, arrogance, and even deceit. ... While Anderson starkly presents King’s less-than-saintly episodes... the final reaction is a fuller understanding of a great man, with inspiring ideals, and an unshakeable dedication to equality through nonviolent, loving means. ... MLK’s legacy undeniably lives on in Anderson’s King." – Terry Hong, Bookdragon (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program)
• Review: "Dash Shaw was praised to the skies for his hefty 2008 graphic novel Bottomless Belly Button, but the 26-year-old cartoonist’s real strength so far in his career has been his short strips, which have displayed a diversity of subject matter and style that make each piece feel like something wholly new. The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.... does reveal a future master in his formative stages, working to find a balance between his interest in subtle adult relationships—teacher/pupil, flirter/flirtee, etc.—and his yen to try out new approaches to drawing and coloring. Shaw may be the cartoonist of the rising generation most capable of delivering a long-form work with the formal daring and humanity of a David Mazzucchelli or an Art Spiegelman. Consider The Unclothed Man a document of his baby steps… B+" – The A.V. Club
• Plug: "The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976 comes out in March, meaning we'll be halfway through this amazing, historical publication. I can't say enough about these collections. It's not only remarkable in its simple, truthful capturing of the human condition, but a beautiful historical document of the second half of the 20th Century." – Rob Kozlowski
• Interview: On the Inkstuds radio programme, Jordan Crane and Sammy Harkham have a feisty conversation with host Robin McConnell about their webcomics concern, What Things Do
• Commentary:NPR 's Glen Weldon, surveying some of the connections between comics and pop music, says "Love and Rockets, by Los Bros Hernandez, wasn't just about a punk band, it was a book steeped in an anarchic punk sensibility that even today, 30 years later, still seems bracing and unapologetic."
• List: Rob Clough's Top 100 Comics of the '00s Part Two (of Two) at The Comics Journal is chock full o' Fantagraphics
• Review: "Fantagraphics' panties-to-the-floor handsome English-language version [of Ici Même], You Are There , may blow its own share of minds some three decades after the work's initial publication. Most modern comics readers are not used to material that functions and frustrates this way. It's great work, though, well worth any effort extended in its direction. I think the key is to take the book for what it is: the kind of general satire where the beauty isn't in watching one specific thing dissected but rather several ideas and concepts collide into another in a way that makes for loud noises and then a satisfying pile of rubble. It's a lost episode of Ripping Yarns in comics form by two in-their-prime masters, the French turned up to dix." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "...[A]t some point in the years between the release of Schizo #3 and #4, Brunetti matured into one of our best living cartoonists, an artist with an absolutely impeccable understanding of the craft and construction of comic strips. His timing is perfect; his lines are perfect; it doesn't feel stifling or over-thought or too precious. His strips breathe and choke and swoon in all the right places." – Tim O'Neil, "The Ten Best Comics of the Aughts," The Hurting
• Plug: Jill Pantozzi of SF Weekly's Heartless Doll blog recommends Castle Waiting Vol. 1 to Twilight fans: "Anyone who thinks damsels are meant to be in distress hasn't visited the right castle. Bella and Edward may live happily ever after, staring into each other's eyes for all eternity, but what happens to everyone else in the story once theirs ends? Castle Waiting is a look at all the minor players in the tale of Sleeping Beauty and some you've probably never heard of (the bearded nun, perhaps?) following her exit with Prince Charming. It's a smart, humorous story about strong women helping others and daily life at a castle that was meant for more than just love stories." (via Robot 6)
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