• Review: "Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko by Blake Bell... [is] fantastic! ... It’s part biography, part art book - an amazing recap of Steve Ditko’s entire career in comics, from the early days with Charlton to the present. ... It’s also one of the best designed books I’ve read recently, including lots of rare pencil pages, out-of-print rarities, and full color scans on virtually every page. There’s a lot more to Steve Ditko than just Doctor Strange and Spider-Man." – Marc Sobel, Comic Book Galaxy
• Review: "Vitally, Anderson draws an earthy King, one who likes soul food and soulful women, but who is also capable of inspiring and challenging oratory, theological radicalism and courageous leadership, even when faced with fists, firebombs, and F.B.I. persecution. Anderson reminds one of U.S. poet Walt Whitman: He keeps publishing the same book, in different editions. But what a book!" – George Elliott Clarke, The Halifax Herald
• Review: "This is a very strange comic... You Are There works best as an absurdist critique of society and politics. ... The absurdity of Forest's script is brought to amazing life... It's a tremendous work of art, heightening the weirdness of the narrative very well. ... I would recommend You Are There because it's a thoughtful look at the pressure of conformity and what drives a man mad. ... Tardi is fantastic and makes the book even wackier, which isn't a bad thing." – Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "It is hard to convey how much of the joy of Unlovable comes not only from the wandering plotline (if there is any in this book) but also from the accompanying visuals. Tammy's attentions, interests and emotions are all scattered. The author's style of drawing lends to the feeling of chaos and scatteredness; the reader senses it in the erratic lines and messy fonts of various sizes. An erratic view of an erratic time of life." – Julia Eussen, AnnArbor.com
• Review: "Johnny Ryan’sPrison Pit is something I keep coming back to — and not just because it’s the only comic book I’ve ever seen that can actively liven up a party. It’s a hilarious, visceral and quick read... for really dumb fun, this is pretty much unbeatable. I’ve considered that maybe the fun isn’t as dumb — that maybe Cannibal Fuckface’s journey through the wastes of the prison pit are a Bunyan-style metaphor for, I don’t know, man coming to terms with the restrictions of modern life, but then I remember it’s a comic that features the term 'burnt jizz,' and I stop thinking and laugh." – David Uzumeri, Robot 6
• Review: "I'd ignored Hal Foster's knights-and-adventure strip until Fantagraphics remastered, recolored and repackaged the first two years of [Prince] Valiant (1937-38) into one of the loveliest reprint volumes of 2009. I became a Foster fan immediately, and bought Brian Kane's Definitive Prince Valiant Companion to learn more about Foster and the other talents (John Cullen Murphy, Gary Gianni and Mark Schultz) who'd worked on the comic during its 70+ years." – Craig Fischer, Thought Balloonists; the remainder of Fischer's take on the Companion is mixed-to-unfavorable, but we still recommend checking it out for his insights and some additional commentary he brings to the table
• Awards: Congratulations to Steve Brodner, nominated for a National Cartoonist Society Division Award (a.k.a. the Reubens) for Advertising Illustration (as reported by The Comics Reporter)
• List/Review: Shannon Smith of File Under Other names Michael Kupperman a favorite cartoonist of 2009 and comments briefly on Mome Vol. 13: "Open letter to comics publishers: If you put Josh Simmons in your book I will buy or steal a copy." (Good news Shannon: be on the lookout for Vol. 19. But please don't steal it.)
• Review: "West Coast Blues is a cracking good crime comic, not really noir but definitely a tale of bad people doing bad things to each other. It's also, oddly enough, very wryly humorous, in a way we don't often see in crime comics here in the States. ... Tardi's art is quite stellar, as well. He's amazingly detailed, but he doesn't pull any tricks on the reader — his work is very straight forward. ...Tardi matches Manchette with panels that demand a great deal of attention - this is a visual feast as well as a literary one." – Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "It’s vaudevillian and it’s Old Hollywood. It’s rock n’ roll and beat poetry. It’s introspective and depressing and quite often funny, and depicts a world that exists on the fringes of society where the American Dream meets the cold, harsh reality of life as viewed through a grimy windshield. ... When you put all the pieces together, you don’t simply get a story or a group of stories, you get a book that pulls back the curtain on the collective unconscious of a nation. ... Like the myths that it is inspired by, Abandoned Cars lingers long after reading and grows in stature as you re-live and re-tell it." – Chad Derdowski, Mania
• Review: "Part of Pim & Francie’s disconcerting effect is that it confounds easy categorization, leaving the reader uncertain what exactly this book is, or how to approach it. It doesn’t contain discrete, coherent stories, but it’s also more unified and linear than a sketchbook; there are continuing characters, recurring images and situations, even a discernable arc. It’s possible to piece together narratives from the fragments here, the way you might reconstruct a crime scene from bits of evidence, or a nightmare from fading details. These stories may even be all the more potent for having to be inferred, like the phantasms we imagine when we listen to horror stories on the radio." – Tim Kreider, The Comics Journal
•Profile/Review:Thought Balloonists' Charles W. Hatfield has a doozy of a report from Robert Williams's March 10 lecture at Cal. State Northridge, with plenty of insight into the artist, the talk, and the Conceptual Realism exhibit at the CSUN gallery: "Williams and his academic audience met halfway; the bracing, not to say ass-kicking, potency of the paintings seemed to wow most of the crowd. This was a fine performance, enlivened from the start by Williams' genuine gratitude and enthusiasm for being there."
• Plug:Library Journal spotlights Jason's Werewolves of Montpellier among notable July graphic novel releases: "Having subjected zombies to the witty vagaries of his goofy, humanized animals, Eisner Award winner Jason tackles werewolves mixed up in re-creational burglary and romance. It’s the pretender vs. the professionals — who are not happy about amateur competition."
• Television:Adult Swim will start re-running The Drinky Crow Show starting March 30, so mark your calendars and set your DVRs now. Even if you caught it the first time, it merits repeat viewings
• Review: "[Sand & Fury] is a dark, violent horror story that provides a contemporary update on a folklore standard. ... It's a good comic..." – Tucker Stone, The Factual Opinion
• Review: "There’s an immediate laugh to be had with the extended title of Ho! The Morally Questionable Cartoons of Ivan Brunetti. This is a slyly hilarious understatement, a clever counterpoint to contents as there’s nothing “questionable” about these jokes. That’s their strength, although I say that within the clinically quarantined confines of a cartoon laboratory. They are as unconscionable, uninhibited and unimpeded as can be imagined and the fact that you couldn’t have imagined them unaided only adds to their stature (and yours)." – Rich Kreiner, "Yearlong Best of the Year," The Comics Journal
"That doesn’t mean you should ignore the intermittently excellent Mome Vol. 17. [Paul] Hornschmeier’s understated character piece resembles a less deadpan Dan Clowes. It might confuse first-timers, but it’ll also probably make them want to pick up the previous installments. The beautiful 'Congo Chromo,' Olivier Schrauwen’s surreal goof on European colonialism, is like a Thomas Nast cartoon remade by Andre Breton."
"Hotwire is an anarchic blitz of inspired absurdity that somehow avoids collapsing into nonsense. It preserves the spirit of such earlier underground comic anthologies as Zap and Raw... Hotwire can be crude, even offensive, but it’s almost always fun. It also features some amazing artwork blown up to an impressive 12 by 9 inches. ...Hotwire Comics Vol. 3 is about as entertaining as comics get. It also might provoke a thought or three."
"Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s... celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit and youthful energy of the early days of self-publishing. These obscure creators mostly eschew a linear narrative in favor of artistic exploration and freeform expression. ... Newave is a valuable overview of an overlooked era."
• Feature:Publishers Weekly manga editor Kai Ming Cha covers our recent manga publishing news and talks to editor/translator Matt Thorn about the line: "'My approach is to publish smart, artistic, but accessible work that is well translated and has high production values,' Thorn said. Thorn said he has grown weary of manga's current place in the U.S. market as disposable entertainment. The manga line will follow in Fantagraphics's tradition of publishing comics with literary merit."
• 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)