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."
It's been a while since we've had a one-item Online Commentary & Diversions post:
• Review:On Twitter, Avoid the Future is posting daily capsule reviews of every story in Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s. The latest three: "'The Book of Falling' visually expresses the joy & ambiguity of falling objects. Favourite so far! ... 'Night Beat'- The low-down on a city's least important events. Really fun; excellent use of the format. ... 'Nart' #1- Thought-bubble pierced with dagger: Gags framed by truely appealing thick-line 'toon style."
• Plug: "New in this week from Fantagraphics is Almost Silent, a collection of four earlier original graphic novels by the brilliant Jason. Regulars will know we love Jason’s work and if you’ve been meaning to read some and somehow never quite got round to grabbing the earlier works then this lovely little hardback is the perfect introduction (and it even looks pretty on your shelf)." – The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log
• Interview: At Super I.T.C.H., Beth Davies-Stofka, who says "Fantagraphics’ The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Nell Brinkley’s Cartoons from 1913-1940 is seductive and spell-binding, a siren call of exploding color and really, really pretty girls," talks to the editor of the book, Trina Robbins, who says "If you see Nell out of context, all you see is beautiful art, but the writing that goes with it is necessary in order to really understand what she was doing."
• 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."