• Preview/Interview: At Print Magazine, Michael Dooley presents a bunch of pages of The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s Mad-Inspired Satirical Comics and has a quick Q&A with editor John Benson: "When Isaac Asimov edited his massive Before the Golden Age anthology of 1930s science fiction... he relied entirely on his memories of reading the stories when they first appeared, and that's how he made his selections. Similarly, Jules Feiffer largely relied on his memories of the stories from his original reading when making selections for his seminal The Great Comic Book Heroes in 1965. Like the Asimov and Feiffer books, The Sincerest Form of Parody is partly an exercise in nostalgia, so in making my selections, I think it's fair to give some consideration to my reaction to the material when I first saw it."
• Review: "...Fantagraphics recently unlocked whatever crate must have been used to house Mr. Twee Deedle: Raggedy Ann's Sprightly Cousin: The Forgotten Fantasy Masterpieces of Johnny Gruelle. Over a foot long and over a foot-and-a-half tall, the hardcover features the most beautiful endpapers in recent memory. Gruelle’s artwork is full of whimsy, presented in both the richest nostalgic color and black and white. The narrative involves two children on a journey through a magical land as guided by a wood sprite, but this is truthfully an art book. It’s meant to be read sprawled out on the floor, the only surface in an average reader’s home that is likely large enough to properly balance this fine luxury. Rick Marschall provides a lengthy, informative essay that is lavishly accompanied by further illustrations." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious
• Review: "In an age of indie-comics dependent upon the banality of the everyday, a hesitant realism, Rickheit eschews reality in favor of the impossible, a state of existence that is truly fantastical. But this is not a utopia, this is a world entirely of the body, though not only the body of human beings, but the body of all living meat, of anything that breathes and shits. This is a world of pure imagination, of subconscious desires let loose with an acutely detailed drawing style. And ultimately, [Folly]’s a perfect work for those who refuse to float away from their bodies but are ready to let their heads go where-ever one can find the new." – Invisible Mike, HTMLGIANT
• Tweet of the Day: "I just read The Furry Trap by Josh Simmons; I'll be on the Internet the rest of the day looking for instructions on how to boil my eyes." – Tom Spurgeon (@comicsreporter)
• Review: "Josh Simmons' book The Furry Trap is truly disturbing in its depravity. Makes Ultra Gash Inferno look cute. An inspiring & exhilarating read! How many comics can you honestly say made you sick or upset when you read them? Furry Trap made me question the First Amendment at times." – Sammy Harkham
• Review: "By this point, the reader will know if [Dungeon Quest] is their cup of tea; anyone who enjoys alt-comics takes on fantasy and/or stoner humor will find this a sheer delight. I'd say the sheer level of craftsmanship and the way Daly shifts storytelling modes so quickly would at least interest other readers, especially those who enjoy deadpan absurdism, since that's the core of Daly's sense of humor. For the continuing fan of this series, Daly continues to raise the stakes in each volume and adds richness and depth for those who are looking for more detail. Above all else, he does for the reader what he does with his party: he keeps things moving even when his characters are navel-gazing." – Rob Clough, High-Low
• Review: "...Moto Hagio has more on her agenda than simply trotting out tired 'girly' storylines. Her protagonists struggle with loss, rejection, and insecurity in a manner sure to strike readers as honest and familiar, never reductive or patronizing.... The stories collected here [in A Drunken Dream] span 31 years of Hagio’s career and, while the later stories do seem a bit looser and more confident, the earlier stories certainly don’t suffer by comparison." – Andrew Fuerste-Henry, No Flying No Tights
• Review: "Boasting [Fantagraphics'] usual high-production values and showcasing the genesis of the indie comics icon, [Usagi Yojimbo, Book 1:] The Ronin is a meticulously curated artifact of comics history.... The book is worth buying for the art alone. Sharply reproduced on gratifyingly durable stock, the quality of the lines leap out from the page even in these early stories." – Abhimanyu Das, Slant Magazine
• Profile: At Comic Book Resources, Shaun Manning talks to Nicolas Mahler about his superhero spoof Angelman: "Mahler said he does not have an in-depth knowledge of the major events and storylines [in superhero comics] of recent years, but said he is still familiar with the culture. 'I think my point of view is very '80s, that is when I stopped reading them,' he said. 'After that, I only have very superficial information. I know more about the fanboys, actually. I enjoy the scene around superheroes more than the stories themselves. I like it when people take this very seriously, and can debate endlessly about little faults in a superhero's universe."'
• Interview: Following an introduction in his native Greek, Comicdom's Tomas Papadimitropoulos posts his untranslated (i.e. English) Q&A with Hans Rickheit: "I am compelled to draw these comics.... These stories follow a certain pattern of logic that makes sense to me. I don’t have the vocabulary to explain how it works, that is why I draw them as comic strips."
• Interview:The A.V. Club's Keith Phipps has a great Q&A with Daniel Clowes: "I can look at my early work and see what a pained struggle it was to draw what I was drawing. I was trying so hard to get this specific look that was in my head, and always falling short. I could see the frustration in the lines, and I remember my hand being tensed and redrawing things a thousand times until I finally inked it, and just having this general tense anxiety about every drawing. I think that comes through in the artwork, and gives it this certain kind of manic energy, this kind of repressed energy, so you feel like it’s sort of bursting at the seams or something."
• Interview (Audio):Daniel Clowes sits down for a chat on Bay Area NPR station KQED's Forum with host Michael Krasny
• Video: Via Meltdown Comics and Boing Boing, a charming short film by Rocío Mesa about a couple of dedicated Daniel Clowes fans
• Plug: "...[W]e recommend checking out Love and Rockets Library: The Complete Vol. 1 from Fantagraphics, which collects every issue of the landmark alt-comic series between 1982 and 1996. In Love and Rockets, Gilbert and his brother Jaime Hernandez wrote stories ranging from satire to political intrigue, and introduced such noteworthy characters as Luba, the temperamental, full-figured mayor of a Central American village, and Maggie Chascarrillo, a punk rock-loving Mexican girl who becomes a solar mechanic. ...[T]here's no better time to become a Los Bros Hernandez zombie than right now." – Phil Guie, Critical Mob
• Feature: At Print magazine, Michael Dooley spotlights the new 13th issue of Squa Tront — "...Squa Tront has set itself out to explore every facet of EC's history, through stimulating, in-depth journalism, scholarly analyses, critiques, bios, interviews, and, of course, illustrations. Under the supervision of its current editor, John Benson, it has established a high standard for fanzine professionalism, in both literary content and production values." — with a generous sampling of images and an interview with Benson: "But really, as far as Squa Tront goes, what sustains my interest most is probably my love of print media and the pleasure of creating a physical package."
• Review: "Oftentimes the first volume of an archival project gets greeted with a lot of ballyhoo while later volumes fail to get any ink, even though the later books represent the subject in question better than the earlier, more fumbling work. So let this serve as notice that the third volume of the Blake Bell-edited series [The Steve Ditko Archives] is the best one yet, showing Ditko in 1957, about to turn 30 and learning to deploy his distinctive faces and abstract shapes in the service of stories with real flow. ...[T]he nightmarish visions of stories like 'The Man Who Lost His Face' and 'The Last One' are classic Ditko, with off-kilter panel designs and anguished figures conveying a sense of sanity slipping away." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Blood of Palomar is a thrilling book... Hernández’s writing and artwork are excellent. The black-and-white pen work is perfect — there are a vividness and richness to the action, story, and scenes already that would likely be drowned in color. With 34 characters and multiple story threads, a first read can be dizzying, yet all is exquisitely kept in balance. Though certainly most characters are not given much depth, the large cast gives the sense of a real community. The main characters are complex, flawed, and fascinating.... Blood of Palomar haunted my thoughts long after I finished reading." – Michael Stock, The Capeless Crusader
• Plug: "How to best demonstrate the awesome might of Fantagraphics' new Johnny Gruelle collection, Mr. Twee Deedle?... It's more akin to flipping the pages of a wallpaper sampler than a collection of historic comics.... It dominates the largest clear surface in my house — the kitchen island — like a B-52 bomber somehow parked astride an aircraft carrier's deck. And then you open it up. ...[T]he art on the page is massive, but filled with delicate details.... Many of the strips are illustrated from eye-level of small children, and the natural world around the characters seems almost life-sized." – John Mesjak, My 3 Books
• Plug: "Comics have long been home to a variety of races, be it alien or underground or from an alternate dimension. But in the 100-plus year history of comics, one of the toughest for creators to portray accurately is that of black characters. And now Fantagraphics is putting back in print a key work examining that strained relationship, Fredrik Strömberg‘s Eisner-nominated Black Images in the Comics: A Visual History." – Chris Arrant, Robot 6
• Review: "Certainly, the comic’s self-contained gag-a-day format, along with the clarity and force of Bushmiller’s compositions, can often make each strip seem like an instance of emphatic singularity, a totem to be worshipped in dumb awe. But Nancy Is Happy returns to this gag-a-day strip precisely its daily qualities, so often overlooked. There is, we rediscover, an aspect of the quotidian to Nancy, a rhythmic unfolding in time, an ordinariness repeated with such unrelenting frequency that we’ve opted to shunt it into the sublime. Reading Nancy in continuity, rather than in isolation, may be an unfamiliar experience, but it is one which reveals the strip’s patient and inquisitive reaction to the bric-a-brac and ins-and-outs of everyday life—an attentive curiosity whose effect is diminished by removing the comics from their daily or weekly contexts." – Sean Rogers, The Comics Journal [Disclosure: I stole the pull-quote from TCJ.com editor Dan Nadel – Ed.]
• Interview:Inkstuds podcast host says "Sammy the Mouse cartoonist/publisher/printer Zak Sally joined me for a comics talk that goes into some interesting directions. We cover his latest book, as well as variety of funny book topics."
• Hooray for Hollywood:Screen Daily reports that the in-development film adaptation of Jason's I Killed Adolf Hitler has a director attached, a cult-fave actor in casting talks, and a CGI Hitler
In this month's issue of Booklist you can find reviews of two of our recent releases, excerpted below:
Cruisin' with the Hound: The Life and Times of Fred Tooté by Spain Rodriguez: "Rodriguez... had the perfect youth for reality comics. He grew up in an ethnically mixed working- and lower-middle-class neighborhood of Buffalo, and he was self-directed from early on. He went to religious instruction on his own initiative (his parents were indifferent) until a boozy priest chewed him out without hearing his story. He attended public school, discovered EC Comics, turned teenager just as R & B turned to rock ’n’ roll, went to art school after high school, dropped out to do factory work, and, most important, hot-rodded around to dance bars with his friends and then joined a motorcycle club. How cool is that? Answer: extremely, especially since all that time he was honing his drawing skills into the thick-outlined, carefully detailed style (like R. Crumb’s but without broad caricature) for which he is universally envied and beloved. This collection of autobiographical stories, accompanied by a long excerpt from a biographical interview with him, is one of Fantagraphics’ best production jobs as well as a helluva satisfying window on an era — the fifties — that American culture can’t let go of." – Ray Olson (Starred Review)
Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now by various artists, edited by Matthias Wivel: "Like many regions of the world, Scandinavia has a vibrant alternative-comics scene that’s essentially unknown to even the most well-informed American comics fan. This eye-opening collection of recent work from some two dozen artists is a welcome step toward rectifying that ignorance. As with any anthology, the lineup is uneven and the wide range of approaches, from dauntingly experimental to borderline mainstream, makes for an eclectic bunch.... The strips contain few Nordic signifiers, making them eloquent testaments to the universal language of comics." — Gordon Flagg
• Review: "Known to her classmates at Georgia State College for Women as 'the cartoon girl,' Flannery O'Connor provided satirical illustrations GSCW's student newspaper, The Colonnade, and other school publications while earning a social sciences degree and planning a career in journalism. Executed in the high-contrast technique of linoleum cut from the fall of 1942 until her graduation in 1945, her cartoons skewering the denizens of the Milledgeville campus — roughly drawn but formally dynamic, and often accompanied by punchy, dialogue-driven captions — are the subject of a revelatory new book by O'Connor scholar Kelly Gerald.... While her cartoons only hint at the fully drawn grotesques of O'Connor's mature fiction, they foreshadow her vividly imagistic prose and close observation of her characters' quirks and foibles-and, in their own right, they are delightful." – Stephen Maine, Art in America
• Commentary: At Bleeding Cool, Cameron Hatheway gives his picks for the 2012 Eisner Awards, selecting our Prince Valiant collections for the win in Best Archival Collection/Project – Strips: "If it’s one thing Fantagraphics knows how to do, it’s superb high quality hardcovers of collected works. ...Fantagraphics continues to give you the most bang for your buck with this Hal Foster classic series. One of the reasons the art looks much cleaner than previous softcover collections is because Fantagraphics obtained access to Foster’s own collection of the pristine art proofs, housed at Syracuse University. It’s that attention to detail and commitment that just scream ‘Eisner worthy’ in my opinion."
"This book is considered a pioneering example of shonen-ai (boys’ love), often referred to as yaoi in the United States. In a German boarding school, young Thomas Werner kills himself because of unrequited love for a schoolmate, who is in fact in love with Thomas, but secretly. Unpacking the emotional threads among the boys and their fellows leads to a sophisticated and beautifully drawn melodrama."
"Herewith a color and black-and-white sampler from a less-recognized underground of gay comics from the past four decades, including Bechdel and Cruse, Europe’s Ralf Koenig, and 2011 ALA keynote speaker Dan Savage (Savage Love; The Kid; It Gets Better). Fantagraphics promises 'smart, funny, and profound' — and uncensored."
"A serious yet sweet fifth-grade drama about several boys and girls who want to change their gender. Unlike many manga involving boy/girl reversals, this one does not play gender issues for laughs, even if gentle comedy enters the picture along with serious emotional drama."
• Review: "The seventeenth volume of this great series from Fantagraphics [The Compete Peanuts] is just as delightful as all the rest. Yes, the ink line of Charles Schulz is a little wobbly at times, but his humor is just as sharp as ever.... I’ve said it before, but if you want reading material that will make you smile and laugh it’s hard to beat this series. And I’m continuing to admire the subtle and classy cover designs by Seth. Highly recommended." – Todd Klein
• Interview: At The Art Newspaper, Sarah Douglas chats with Robert Crumb about his museum retrospective show in Paris: "The contemporary fine art world has never particularly interested me. They started to embrace me and have big fancy gallery shows and museum shows. I’m one of the few cartoonists who mainly work for print who is now finding their way into the fine art world, and it’s the choice of the fine art world; it’s not my choice. I haven’t consciously promoted myself in that world."
• Commentary: At The Comics Journal, R. Fiore uses Mark Kalesniko's graphic novel Freeway as a springboard to discuss the history of American animation: "The eponymous metaphor of Mark Kalesniko’s Freeway is almost too easy: A transportation network that once granted free and effortless mobility that’s become a morass of stagnation and frustration to symbolize an animation business that promised personal expression amid camaraderie but delivers forced mediocrity in an atmosphere of Machiavellian backbiting. Condemned to a purgatorial traffic jam, Kalesniko’s dog-headed alter ego Alex grinds his teeth to reminiscences about his thwarted career, potentially idyllic but presently in-law plagued romance, and his abortive first expedition into Los Angeles, intermixed with idealized visions of animation’s golden age and premonitions of [SPOILER REDACTED – Ed.]."
• Commentary: "I’d love to see Locas become a well-made animated television series, because I feel like Jaime Hernandez’ work deserves the widest-possible audience. But is such an idea messing with a classic that doesn’t need such 'help'?" – Graeme McMillan, Spinoff Online
• Commentary: "The completion of Fantagraphics's Krazy [Kat] Sunday series also means, quite possibly, the end of Krazy Kriticism — a brand of writing that, as far as I can tell, only the Kat engenders. Critic Gilbert Seldes first articulated its credo in the 1924 article 'The Krazy Kat That Walks by Himself.' After comparing Herriman to Dickens, Cervantes, and Charlie Chaplin, Seldes threw up his hands: 'It isn't possible to retell these pictures; but that is the only way, until they are collected and published, that I can give the impression of Herriman's gentle irony, of his understanding of tragedy, of the sancta simplicitas, the innocent loveliness in the heart of a creature more like Pan than any other creation of our time.' Thus did the gates open to a flood of ecstatic, mimetic writing in which every critical impulse was mercilessly drowned in gushing praise and fervent prayers to put the comics between covers." – Sarah Boxer, Los Angeles Review of Books
• Commentary: At Print magazine, Steven Brower looks at different ways comics publishers restore and present vintage comics material, including his own compilation of Mort Meskin comics, Out of the Shadows: "For the Mort Meskin collection, we hoped that a contemporary audience would rediscover him; Fantagraphic’s fresh, newly minted approach goes a long way toward achieving that."
• Review: "I mean this in the nicest possible way but self-confessed obscurist Hans Rickheit is clearly not all there in the head. ...[Folly: The Consequences of Indiscretion] is a collection of shorts from over the years, frequently featuring the same characters, in particular identical twins Cochlea & Eustachia, who inevitably get themselves into all sorts of unpleasant bother. Definitely the type of read to make you wary of opening doors when you’re not entirely sure what’s on the other side, as Hans frequently surprises his characters, and us readers, by taking you somewhere you’d never expect, nor probably want to go to." – Jonathan Rigby, Page 45
• Review: "‘Plunder Island’ is the fourth of six oversized volumes collecting all of E.C. Segar’s Popeye-era Thimble Theatre strips.... The Segar book is every bit as good as the three volumes that preceded it – brilliant cartooning and laugh-out-loud funny gags. The only difference this time around is that the Sunday strips fill the first half of the book and the dailies fill the second half (it’s usually the other way around) but otherwise it’s business as usual. I don’t have a single bad thing to say about Segar’s Popeye, and the whole book was thoroughly enjoyable..." – Rob Wells, Comics – On The Ration
• Profile: Andrew Dansby of the Houston Chronicle profiles Daniel Clowes: "Clowes describes an eerie but common sight in his studio. Since eyes are the last thing he draws when he's working, the room is full of characters without them. 'I've had other cartoonists come over, and they've told me it's pretty creepy to see all these faces with no eyes staring back,' he says. 'But that's where I can get the last 10 percent of the emotion on the page. If I get it just right, you can subtly influence any expression through the eyes more than any other feature. They're where the character comes to life.'"
• Review: "This thing [The Furry Trap] is a nightmarish monster. It's pretty great. ...[W]hat Simmons does so well -- without peer, honestly -- is smash together sweetness and nightmare. Innocence and the most vile corruption imaginable. The stories are unsettling, but Simmons takes it three steps further than many other creators in this vein and then pushes the events into exceedingly horrific territory and then shows how unsettled even the characters are, when they realize the kind of world they live in.... Yeah, this stuff is really good, in surprisingly different ways from story to story. It's a reprint collection that feels like a wonderfully terrible, vibrantly new manifesto on what comics are capable of." – Tim Callahan, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "Popeye Vol. 6: Me Li’l Swee’ Pea... is the last of the real, 'classic' Popeye volumes, meaning it’s the last batch of Popeye comics E.C. Segar did before dying of leukemia in 1938. Underscoring the tragedy is the fact that Segar’s skills hadn’t dimmed at despite his illness. The final daily storyline, King Swee’ Pea, is as strong and hilarious as Segar’s best material... This volume is also special as it contains one of the saddest sequences I’ve ever read in comics, wherein Swee’ Pea is taken from a distraught Popeye. ...I think it speaks to Segar’s genius about how verklempt this sequence still makes me." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "Krazy & Ignatz 1922-24: At Last My Drim of Life Has Come True... is the final volume in Fantagraphics’ Krazy Kat collection, though for roundabout publishing reasons, it catches the strip midway through its run. Reading this latest collection, I feel like I have a deeper appreciation for Herriman’s narration, which I always kind of saw as entertaining, but secondary to the dialogue and situations. I’m not sure why, but I feel like something 'clicked' here and another piece of the Herriman puzzle has fallen into place for me. Another great thing about this book: A whole run of Herriman’s 'Us Husbands' strip as well as some really early stuff." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "[Pogo: Vol. 1 of the Complete Syndicated Comic Strips:] Through the Wild Blue Wonder is an absolute peach of a collection; it features the typically handsome deluxe binding we’re used to from Fantagraphics and a beautiful cover, and the non-strip material within is more than enough to justify the double-sawbuck price tag.... Of course, any such collection lives and dies by the quality, readability and durability of the strips inside... [Pogo's] art... is simply breathtaking; the facial expressions and body language in these strips are often deceptively simple, but they offer a master class in how to communicate emotion and expression in cartooning.... [Kelly's] backgrounds are lovely and provide a perfect balance to the detail in the character illustrations... But what puts Pogo way, way over the top in terms of sheer audacious greatness isn’t its art, great as that is. It’s Kelly’s remarkably eclectic writing and inventive use of language that makes the strip." – Leonard Pierce, A Schediastic Hootenanny
• Commentary: "...Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Coincidental... is a beautiful book, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently. There’s a certain brand of mean-spirited, petty humor that’s been pretty popular over the last few decades, in which the main point seems to be laughing at some celebrity or another who no longer has a thriving career. As if failing to maintain A-list status in as fickle and luck-dependent as Hollywood was a valid reason to be mocked. At first glance, some of Friedman’s work, with its cast of has-beens and never-weres, can seem to be another example of this kind of comedy, but it isn’t — most of these strips cut a lot deeper than that. The reader feels the sting and pain of failure and despair too strongly to feel superior. In other words, we’re all Rondo Hatton." – Tim Hodler, The Comics Journal
• Review: "In Athos in America , the ideas behind the first three stories are so clever and punchy that they carry the rest of the anthology. Furthermore, the stories are constructed such that, due to their structure alone, any further padding would be impossible. In many ways, Athos In America feels like the artist looking back at his body of work to date... Despite his style, Jason is quite effective in modulating emotion from story to story, going from gags to violence to tragedy, sometimes all in the same story. Jason is in total control of all aspects of his storytelling, and, even after a decade straight of ambitious publishing, it seems as if he’s just getting warmed up." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Isle of 100,000 Graves was even better than I expected, and that’s saying a lot about a pirate comic by one of my favorite cartoonists. I’ve only ever read Jason’s short story collections before now, so this was my first introduction to his long-form work. It’s funny, adventurous, and totally had me rooting for wily little Gwenny and her unlucky pirate companion as they searched for Gwenny’s missing dad in an island school for executioners." – Michael May, Robot 6
• Review: At The Comics Journal it's Tucker Stone on Love and Rockets Vol. I No. 2: "There’s so much to love in here, and Gary Groth’s overly excited, Gaddis-quoting essay really sets a wonderful tone. This thing stinks of comics, it’s wet and messy."