• List: At their The SF Site: Nexus Graphica column, Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams name their top 5 comics of the year. For Williams it's West Coast Blues by Tardi & Manchette at #5 ("one of the year's best crime fiction reads, at least in comics"); for Klaw it's Humbug at #4 ("The slipcased set wisely includes several insightful and interesting extras") and Tardi's West Coast Blues and You Are There tied at #3 ("one of the best crime graphic novels ever produced" and "masterfully satirizes French society and politics unlike any comic before or since" respectively)
• List:Comic Book Resources' Brian Cronin lists his Top Ten Comics of 2009, including Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle #5 in the 10th spot ("continues to be a brilliantly absurd comic book every time out") and Ganges #3 by Kevin Huizenga in 4th place ("The first story is mind-boggling... Absolute top notch sequential work")
• Guide: If you've always wondered what part of R. Crumb's enormous oeuvre was the best place to start, Robot 6's Chris Mautner takes you to "Comics College" with some solid advice
• Review: "Few cartoonists ever had as lavish a tribute as a three-volume-slipcased collection, but few are as deserving as [Gahan] Wilson. Collecting 50 years worth of his monthly single page gag cartoons from Playboy, [Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons] is a definitive overview of a remarkable talent and viewpoint. ... Beautifully designed and printed, the books contain cut-out pages, and the slipcase itself becomes a window for a trapped photo of Wilson. Text extras include Wilson's prose short stories and an appreciation by Neil Gaiman. If these three volumes are a bit much for one sitting, periodic dipping in will always satisfy." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "[You Are There] is an absurdist satire,... and a pretty terrific one. ... It's easy to picture it as one of those long-form fourth-season Monty Python episodes... [I]t's seriously a master class on creating a sense not just of place but of a claustrophobic, chaotic, unsustainable state of mind. ... Killer stuff, and more fun than you remember it from French class." – Sean T. Collins
• Review: "This time around, we get Strange Suspense by Steve Ditko, whom you may have heard of. ...[and] man! are these some cool comics. ... Ditko... had no restraints, and the stories show it. This is pretty wild stuff. ... We really get a sense of a master at work in this book, even though it was so early in Ditko's career. ... It's totally worth the price!" – Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "...Tyler’s sensitive 'voice' remains easily recognizable in her latest book, You’ll Never Know. ... This book is to be savored slowly and on its own terms." – Ng Suat Tong, The Comics Journal
• Review: "...[F]or a cartoonist like Dash Shaw, who revels in drawing’s fluidity and expressive imperfections, the transition between comics and animation is a natural one. His splendid four-part animated web series for IFC.com, The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D., underscores what’s best about all of his work—its eclecticism and intimate drama." – Nicole Rudick, Artforum
• Plug: "The Complete Peanuts 1971-1974... This collection of the 11th and 12th volumes of a planned 25-book set, designed by Canadian cartoonist and designer Seth, shows Schulz's staggering talent in the prime of his career and even introduces Linus and Lucy's little brother, Rerun." – Jonathan Kuehlein, Toronto Star
• Interview:Big Shiny Robot! talks to Dash Shaw: "I’ve never sold a treatment and then executed something with the expectations of the publisher looming over my shoulder. ... These comics were going to exist in some form anyway. It’s all been a combination of drawing a ridiculous amount and total luck."
• List: Matthew Price of The Oklahoman gives Ganges #3 the 9th position on his 10 Best Periodical Comic Books of 2009: "Kevin Huizenga continues to be one of comics' brightest indie creators... Huizenga uses his talents to immerse the reader inside Ganges' head."
• List/reviews/analysis: On the Inkstuds radio program, a roundtable of prominent critics (Sean T. Collins, Tim Hodler, & Chris Mautner) join host Robin McConnell for a discussion of 2009's standout books, including our two "You" books, You Are There by Tardi & Forest and You'll Never Know, Book 1 by C. Tyler
• Review: "What's better than a new story by Jason? Why, several in one volume, of course! ...[T]he more of Jason's weird energy and quirky, poignant storytelling that I can consume at one time, the better. ... It's kind of a mystery how well he's able to do it, crafting easy-to-follow stories in such a minimalist style, but luckily, they're incredibly enjoyable, so one can easily get lost in them, forgetting questions of craft and technique because those aspects become all but invisible. ... [Low Moon] is another great example of the strange alchemy that Jason has mastered, drawing readers in to compelling tales of people caught up in oddly familiar situations, even when they're dealing with something that's off-kilter from reality as we know it. That's the Jason touch, and long may it continue to grace our pages." – Matthew J. Brady
• Plug: In Richard Metzger's profile of Steve Ditko for Dangerous Minds, he says "I may be a little late to the game on this one, but I recently got a copy of Blake Bell’s Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, a coffeetable book published by Fantagraphics last year and it is a wonderful and fascinating look at Ditko’s life and work. Kudos to Bell for putting together such a volume which was clearly a labor of love and unique erudition."
• List: On her Pop Candy blog, USA Today's Whitney Matheson gives The Brinkley Girls the #10 spot on her Top 10 comics/graphic novels of 2009, saying "this beautiful book introduced me to a new heroine: Nell Brinkley, an early 20th century newspaper cartoonist. Her drawings of flappers and glamour gals are sexy, strong and ahead of their time. I can't believe I hadn't seen her work before, but I'm so thrilled to know it now." Matheson also lavishes praise on Lilli Carré, who "continued making must-see work" and lands at #69 on Matheson's Top 100 People list, and whose book from Little Otsu lands at the #2 spot on the comics Top 10.
• Review: "The Wolverton Bible... is -- no pun intended -- a revelation. Though his serious work is a bit stiffer and more restrained than the Wolverton art you might be used to, it's more powerful. ... What sets [the drawings in] The Wolveton Bible apart from Crumb's Genesis... is that they come from a true believer. ...Wolverton's drawings have an intensity and sincerity that reveal something connecting him to those stories in a way Crumb just can't duplicate." – Will Pfeifer, "Books of the Year"
• Review: "...[Supermen! is] magical, memorable [and] just plain wonky... The stories range from action-packed to barely-sensible, but they all have a crazed energy you just can't fake. ... They read like the sort of stories imaginative kids would think up -- which might be why they appealed so much to kids in the first place." – Will Pfeifer, "Books of the Year"
• Review:The Hooded Utilitarian's critical roundtable on Ghost World continues with Richard Cook: "The most appealing aspect of Ghost World was the main characters, Enid and Rebecca. And much of their appeal is due to how effectively Daniel Clowes panders to a specific demographic that I belong to: geeks."
• Plug:The Beat's Heidi MacDonald, picking up on Tony Millionaire's Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Birdsneak peek, comments "In all the talk about comics for kids recently, we’re probably very bad for not mentioning Millionaire’s non-child-averse work more prominently. His work is not for the faint-hearted, but children generally prefer tales that are not faint-hearted." Right on.
• Plug: "Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box... is a fetishized art object/coffee table-style compendium of great VHS jackets, ranging from the campy to the sleazy to the so-bad-it's-good. Highly recommended as a gift idea for the B-movie lover on your holiday shopping list." – Audrey Hendrickson, The SunBreak
• Interview:Walrus Comix, who say "Not only is [The Pain — When Will It End?] the funniest comic strip ever, but, well, that’s it: it’s the funniest comic strip ever," talk to the strip's creator, Tim Kreider, who says, among many things, "I don’t know why you’d want to be a cartoonist if you didn’t enjoy drawing funny, cool things. If I had to draw an entire graphic novel of people sitting around talking I think I’d hang myself." (Via Journalista)
• Things to buy: Folks in Portland this weekend can purchase handmade arts-n-crafts from Andrice Arp and a bunch of other Portland artists at the Creative Creatures Bazaar at Cosmic Monkey Comics, reports Andrice on her blog
Hot on the heels of IFC.com's debut of The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D. and our imminent release of the companion book, the Sundance Institute has announced that creator Dash Shaw is one of twelve aspiring filmmakers to be selected for the Institute's annual January Screenwriters Lab. Dash is developing a feature-length animated film titled Slobs and Nags: "Told with hand-drawn animation, a disconnected family is thrown into chaos when the scientist father loses the test subject of his experiment with appearance-altering technology." Congrats Dash!
• List:Politics and Prose, perhaps the most graphic novel-friendly bookstore in Washington DC, lists their Favorite Graphic Literature of the Year:
"Every few years a graphic novel comes around that is so good you have to stop reading for a while, because if you read anything else you'd only be disappointed. ... The Squirrel Machine... is a masterpiece of comic fantasy. When I finished this book, I immediately returned to the introduction and read the whole book again, and again. Read this book to see what heights serial art can achieve in narrative and in the creation of worlds that exist in one character's mind. Read it if you think you can handle it, for it abandons the typical narrative structure and accomplishes its ends as only serial art of the highest quality can. This is a fine, gut-wrenching book, written and drawn by a true master." – Thad Ellerbe
"West Coast Blues is an unflinching story, perfect for any fan of the thriller." – Adam Waterreus
"C. Tyler's You'll Never Know, Book One: A Good and Decent Man... is also an impressive and beautiful history of the era; Tyler creates a panorama of images that sweep across the page as she documents her father's childhood, her parent's engagement, and her own young life. Her pen, ink, and color transform her creative panels (at times evoking a scrapbook) into vibrant memories intertwined by her restless imagination." – Adam Waterreus
"[With Abstract Comics] it becomes a treat to take a page of art — or a simple panel — and consider how the shapes, texture, depth, and color interact with one another; to reflect on how, when one takes the time, the enjoyment one ordinarily finds in reading a purely textually-oriented, narrative-driven written story can — with the graphic form — be translated into something completely different." – Adam Waterreus
"From Wonderland with Love: Danish Comics in the Third Millennium... is fantastic! This amazing collection just blew me away. There was not one moment when reading this book — in one sitting, slouched and unblinking on my couch, coffee going cold — that I did not completely love. ... Mythic and dreamlike, meditative and fantastical, this is a superb and surprising collection." – Adam Waterreus
• Review: "...[F]rom the moment he showed up [Michael] Kupperman was a master of stomping around the living room of modern reality and shoving pieces of conceptual furniture next to one another to awesome, knees-out-from-under effect. Kupperman's work has always had that charge that the really good stuff has... Kupperman doesn't get enough credit for building a comic book vehicle in Tales Designed To Thrizzle that serves to facilitate those skills. ...I'm not certain anything under heaven or earth could make something greater than Kupperman's peerless ability to craft funny moments." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Unclothed Man delivers just the right amounts of story, whimsy, art, and heft for four two-minute entries. It offers actual nutritive cultural substance, as opposed to so much web filler one often gets. And you’ll want to go back and watch them a few more times. There’s a lot of variety behind the series’ simple elegance." – Michael Shaw (no relation), Tubefilter
• Plug: "Compiled by Portland, Oregon-based trash cinema expert Jacques Boyreau, Portable Grindhouse honors the pulp video era that inspired Quentin Tarantino." – Hugh Hart, Wired
Starting with today's Online Commentary & Diversions, some minor formatting changes to hopefully make it easier to scan all that text:
• Review: "Published in the oversize Sunday page format ala the Fantagraphics’ Popeye collection (also, brilliant), Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938 collects the earliest of Foster’s tales of the exiled Prince of Thule. ... The colors are warm and vibrant, and the line art pristine. The stories themselves are a delight. ... The art is consistently stunning... each page is spectacular to behold. ... The strips in Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938 are merely the first installment of a massive, groundbreaking, and thoroughly exciting adventure saga that was better than nearly anything during its time, and remains better than nearly anything on the shelves today." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama