• List: For Library Journal, Tom Batten recommends a handful of recent "Classic Graphic Novels," including The Left Bank Gang by Jason: "Supporting his highly imaginative and quirky storytelling, Jason's deceptively simple cartooning carries a great deal of intensity in each line."
• Review: "Winning a coveted Jury prize at the 2010 Angouleme festival, Dungeon Quest succeeds on so many levels: the art and character design are superb, the dialogue is acerbic yet measured, the page construction has a flow to it that verges on perfection, the meter of the storytelling is spot-on, and, most importantly, it’s actually really funny. ... As the first volume in a series projected to last for a good few books yet, readers are advised to party-up with the cast of Dungeon Quest immediately." – Martin Steenton, Avoid the Future
• Review: "The series only lasted four issues, but it is among the high points of 1960s comics, and this handsome collection is one of the most welcome reprint volumes of the last few years. ... Blazing Combat showed comics readers the gritty downside of war..." – Robert Martin, The Comics Journal
• Review: "...[S]ome books just leave a reviewer pointing and jabbering, unable to coherently explain what he's just been through or to find any words that will adequately explain what he has seen.The Squirrel Machine is a book of [this] kind... Reading The Squirrel Machine is very much like watching some German Expressionist movie: it's a series of alternately wondrous and appalling scenes, clearly connected by some kind of logic, the true meaning of which resolutely remains beyond the knowledge of the viewer." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Plug: The fine folks at Librairie D&Q say "Now in store is this little jewel just published by Fantagraphics Books. On top of being a well-researched collection of underground mini-comix of the 1980's, this book compiles pages and pages of interviews and commentary on the creative, edgy, weird and free-spirited post-Crumb scene. While it may not necessarily represent the global landscape of underground comix in the 80's (one could argue it needs more wemin-ahtists, for example), Newave! is definitely a praise-worthy sampler of work most often hidden in the shadows of the underground comix movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s."
• Plug: Roberto C. Madruga of Evolve Happy on Luba by Gilbert Hernandez: "The story is Hernandez at his best and the artwork is simplistically gorgeous."
• Plugs: The latest Robot 6 "What Are You Reading?" roundup includes several Fantagraphics mentions, and guest contributor Ng Suat Tong on the black & white Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938 from Libri Impressi, available in the U.S. exclusively from us: "The new Fantagraphics and Portugese books are the only way one should read Foster's masterwork."
• Review: "[High Soft] Lisp has its share of tender moments and tragic ones, although it’s relatively buoyant with humor throughout. ... This is the stuff of soap operas, minus the melodrama. Lisp comes loaded with palpable emotions and heaps of honesty, even amid a cartoony backdrop." – Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: "Part one of a proposed trilogy, King Of The Flies Vol. 1: Halloraveis an extremely promising title from French crime comics artists Pascal “Mezzo” Mesenburg and Michel Pirus. ... Its approach to violence and turmoil is surprisingly fresh, although the story bears obvious debts to David Lynch, and the art just as obvious ones to Charles Burns; it all combines in surprising, powerful ways. ...King Of The Flies is a fascinating new take on the nearly exhausted subject of youthful alienation… B+" – The A.V. Club
A healthy helping of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List: At The Manga Curmudgeon, David Welsh writes "So you’re among the legion of people who are grateful to Fantagraphics for their recently announced manga initiative, to be curated by Matt Thorn. Who isn’t? I know I am. And you may want to express that gratitude by buying something that Fantagraphics has published. If your comics interests rest primarily in titles from Japan, you may not have sampled other works published by Fantagraphics, so here are some books for your consideration."
• Review: "Amazingly, I was sucked in by the whole enterprise, laughing and groaning and shaking my head. ... It’s scarcely what I would call 'elegant in its simplicity' but with subject matter like this photo-realistic art and emotional weight aren’t called for. These are ugly characters in a gross situation, and Prison Pit treats them with all the indulgence and nastiness needed." – Mark Hale, The Bureau Chiefs
• Review: "Taken as a whole, Newave presents a portrait of an era that might otherwise be overlooked as a vital link between, say, Zap and Eightball. ... [T]he book is a veritable treasure trove of material that would otherwise have been lost to the ages. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s a hell of fun read." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Pre-review: At Trouble with Comics, Alan David Doane takes a look at our preview sampler galley of the forthcoming Stephen Dixon story collection: "What Is All This, based on my reading of this short and enticing preview, looks to be one of the most exciting and intriguing fiction releases of the decade. That I’ve only had a chance to read less than a quarter of its 450 pages is maddening, and thrilling. I can’t wait to read the rest of what Dixon has in store."
• Opinion: At The Comics Journal, Shaenon Garrity's reaction to our manga publishing news and appreciation of Moto Hagio is a must-read: "Is there an animated gif of a unicorn with the head of Jason Shiga devouring the universe and exploding? Because that might just about express the awesomeness of this development."
• Staff: Selections from the forthcoming anthology The Last Vispo, co-edited by our own Nico Vassilakis, will be on exhibit at the Common Ground Art Gallery in Windsor, Ontario, opening this Saturday, March 13 — more info from Crg Hill or on the Facebook event invitation (above example by Dirk Krecker)
Another day's worth of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "...[Portable Grindhouse] is a nice book to have on the shelf, particularly for folks who love movies and are interested in how design has changed over the years. If you still spend time wandering around video stores looking for the weird and wonderful, check this book out." – Syung Myung Me, Kittysneezes
• Review: "I love this book. I'm probably biased because I was a newave cartoonist and I was lucky enough to have two pages included (78 & 79) in this little slice of comix history. ... The overall quality of the material is very high. ... It's a beautiful volume with production values far more impressive than the original comix it reprints. ... Newave! is a wonderful sampler of what the mini comix of the 1980s where all about. ... Now, at last, Michael Dowers and Fantagraphics have brought those little-known 8-pagers out into the light and given them an appropriate place in comix history." – Richard Krauss, Comic Related
• Review: "Esther Pearl Watson's Unlovable leaves me breathless and with sore abs from laughter. What a great work out." – Brett Von Schlosser, via Facebook
• Interview: On The Comix Claptrap podcast, hosts "Thien and Rina get to talk to Harvey Award-winning and Ignatz-nominated, Steven 'Ribs' Weissmanwho has a new book out with Fantagraphics Books called Chocolate Cheeks. In this interview, Steven talks about the origin of the Yikes! gang, shares his insight on juggling comics-making with having a family, and discusses his web comics "Barack Hussein Obama" and his contributions to the 'What Things Do' comics website. We also try, in vain, to get more LA cartoonist gossip."
• Do-gooding: Once again Michael Kupperman is lending his talents to the annual WFMU pledge drive; Robot 6's Sean T. Collins has all the details
• Review: "Dash Shaw seems set to become a name to be reckoned with in comics... [The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.] is a wonderful introduction to Shaw’s work, and should certainly find its way into the hands of those craving more." – Grovel
• Review: "I'm so glad I started reading this series and can't wait to catch up. Usagi Yojimbo is that rare breed of animal comic that works for me, blending Sakai's cartoon style with a story that would not be out of place in Lone Wolf and Cub. Fans of comics set in historical Japan should definitely check this out. You'll be glad you did. I think it would also be a good fit for manga fans looking to try a non-Japanese comic. I enjoyed this book a lot, and look forward to reading more." – Panel Patter
• Review: "Yet another reason to love Fantagraphics is their meticulous sequential collections of classic newspaper strips such as... Hank Ketcham’s Dennis the Menace. This volume collects the strips from 1961 - 1962 in a huge 654-page volume. What has always stood out about the Dennis the Menace strips is that they were single panel cartoons. It takes an incredible level of talent write a single panel cartoon and Ketcham was one of the best. ... Truly a delight that has lost none of its humor in fifty years. Grade A" – Tim Janson, The Gouverneur Times
• Review: "...Ho Che Anderson's Sand & Fury... [is] a slightly twisty tale of sex, serial killers, and the supernatural, told very stylishly in black, white, and red. Blood and shadows therefore get a lot of play across Anderson's desolate southwestern landscapes; and although his lines can be thick and blocky, his figures evoke a good bit of emotion. There's a lot of nudity, a whole lot of violence, and so the plot can be boiled down to a very simple level: revenge, good vs. evil, etc. However, Anderson's anonymous main character, and the people she befriends, are more than just nominally sympathetic. I feel like I'm not doing the book justice, because it is a very raw tale, full of death and sex, and I liked it a lot." – Tom Bondurant, Robot 6
• Plug: "King creator Ho Che Anderson has a brand new Scream Queen book, Sand & Fury. Ho's work always looks good, and I'm personally pretty happy to see this one..." – Chris Butcher, The Beguiling
• Interview: At Robot 6, Tim O'Shea talks to Ho Che Anderson about the new Special Edition of King ("That’s one thing I wish I could have done more of, slashing dialog, rewriting more of it, but at a certain point you gotta let it go. (Yes, George Lucas, I am talking about you.)") and his new graphic novel Sand & Fury ("To me, sex and horror or sex and violence seem to go naturally together. They seem to stem from the same twisted areas of our psyches. What scares us can often arouse us, sometimes despite ourselves, and vice versa.")
• Profile:CNN's Bob Greene pays tribute to Bill Mauldin on the occasion of the release of Mauldin's commemorative US postage stamp this month: "Mauldin, and his work, meant so much to the millions of Americans who fought in World War II, and to those who had waited for them to come home. He was a kid cartoonist for Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper; Mauldin's drawings of his muddy, exhausted, whisker-stubbled infantrymen Willie and Joe were the voice of truth about what it was like on the front lines." (hat tip to Walt Simonson)
Wrapping up another week of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Fantagraphics sets a high standard for quality in all of their products, and [Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons] does not disappoint. ... It's just amazing...this is a product with a real 'wow' factor. ... If you're an admirer of Wilson's work like I am then this will be a must-have, something you'll want to look at again and again." – Matt Staggs, Suvudu (Random House)
Spot the common thread in today's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List: At The Truth About Comics Mario Z. Alipio (aka MZA) posts his top 11 comics of 2009, including You'll Never Know Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler at #6 ("A brilliant and disarmingly vulnerable historical memoir that converts a family's personal anguish into adult wisdom and grace. Part documentarian and part emotional wreck, Tyler examines her secretive father's WWII past and her own disintegrating marriage w/ an enviable balance between sensitivity and fearlessness"), Pim & Francie by Al Columbia at #9 ("Gorgeously reproduced — rough pencil marks, taped edges, discolourations, and all — this might be the sweetest thing to stare at, dumbly, in my whole library"), and Ganges #3 by Kevin Huizenga at #10 ("Huizenga conceives brilliant new methods of shorthand comix communication the way monkeys learn sign language to get the banana") (via The Comics Reporter)
Slow-news-day all-square edition of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "The book reminds me a bit of my childhood memories, where one gives nicknames to everyone and everything, and the smallest events become epic journeys. Chocolate Cheeks is a fun read, recommended to anyone who is interested in art prints or comic books." – Steven Swigart
• Review: "Esther Pearl Watson’s Unlovable is a rude, crude and frequently hilarious portrait of suburban teenage life in the 1980s. The book’s narrator, Tammy Pierce, is probably the most hapless 15-year-old girl imaginable. ... Her life is miserable, but she is anything but depressed. Every moment has urgency for her. She’s crazy-giddy when she’s in a good mood, and drama-queen petulant when upset. Watson makes Tammy comedy gold." – Robert Martin, The Comics Journal
• List: The great John Porcellino names Zak Sally's Like a Dog as one of his favorite comics of 2009 (unsurprising, since he wrote the introduction): "It's impossible for me to be objective about this book, as Zak is one of my closest friends, but this is a really powerful, fascinating collection of comics. Very dark, and even brutal sometimes, but bracing, and highly original."
• Interview:Blogcritics' Michael Jones talks to Femke Hiemstra about her art book Rock Candy: "I do not deliberately strive for a 'childlike' feel or a 'children's book gone wrong' atmosphere in my work. But I'm aware that that's what's in me and therefore in my work, so a vibe like that will of course be a part of it. It's a funny thing, now that I think about it."
• Plug:School Library Journal's "Good Comics for Kids" column recommends some snow-day reading, including The Complete Peanuts ("The volumes from the mid-1960s onward... feature the gang that younger readers know from the numerous TV specials, newspaper strips, and products, and would be a great way to occupy an eight or ten-year-old for a few hours on a snowy day") and Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace ("his penchant for mischief has enduring appeal")
In like a lion with Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Thank God then for Almost Silent, a new collection repackaging some of Fanta’s older Jason books — some of which are no longer in print in their original format — as an anthology the same size, shape and design as Low Moon. ... Buy it to read the stories, keep it to restore order and balance to your bookshelf." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
• Review:Avoid the Future collects and expands on their first 10 Twitter micro-reviews of Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s: "More than just a collection of mini-comics, the book features interviews and insightful commentary from some of the creators as well as the lovingly-reproduced source material."