The first Online Commentary & Diversions post of the year might very well end up being the longest:
• List: Humorist and television personality John Hodgman, asked to name his 5 favorite comics in an open Q&A session on his Tumblr blog, says "Love and Rockets: I don’t like to choose between brothers, but Jaime Hernandez is one of the greatest drawers of human faces and human want on the planet."
• List:Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge: Only a Poor Old Man by Carl Barks is #39 on The A.V. Club 's list of "most anticipated entertainments of 2012": "Only a Poor Old Man will bring Scrooge McDuck, possibly Barks’ greatest creation, into the spotlight. The bespectacled miser will dive around in his money bin and burrow through it like a gopher, and his timeless adventures will get the treatment they deserve."
• List: Tucker Stone, whose Best of 2011 previously appeared at comiXology, presents a slightly modified list for Flavorwire's "10 of the Year's Most Buzzed-About Comic Releases":
"Last year’s Love and Rockets was a huge deal, but this year’s installment is arguably even better.... Comics has yet to provide Love and Rockets with anything approximating 'competition,' but it doesn’t appear that the Hernandez brothers have any reason to be concerned about that quite yet. They’re still way better at this than everybody else on the planet."
"The big thing this year was watching all the great young cartoonists of the early 2000s carving out their places in the pantheon. Huizenga’s a perfect example — he’s been regularly turning out excellent comics for years now, and yet Ganges #4 still reads like a revelation.... It’s a fascinating experience reading these comics, and they’re gorgeous to boot."
"The continuing adventures of Johnny Ryan’s most violent fantasies run amuck, [Prison Pit] is rapidly becoming the comic that I look forward to the way a fat kid looks forward to syrup-encrusted cake. There’s no getting around the hoary old cliche — 'these aren’t for everybody' — so God help you if you can’t figure out a way to enjoy these books."
• List: The prolific Sean T. Collins, after having contributed to CBR's Top 100, runs down his personal 20 Best Comics of 2011 on his Attentiondeficitdisorderly blog AND at Robot 6, withGanges #4 by Kevin Huizenga at #15...
"Huizenga wrings a second great book out of his everyman character’s insomnia. It’s quite simple how, really: He makes comics about things you’d never thought comics could be about, by doing things you never thought comics could do to show you them. Best of all, there’s still the sense that his best work is ahead of him, waiting like dawn in the distance."
"...[T]he payoff... feels like a weight has been lifted from Woodring’s strange world, while the route he takes to get there is illustrated so beautifully it’s almost superhuman. It’s the happy ending he’s spent most of his career earning."
"Religious fundamentalism... has worn a thousand faces in a millennia-long carnevale procession of war and weirdness, and David B. paints portraits of three of its masks with bloody brilliance. Focusing on long-forgotten heresies and treating the most outlandish legends about them as fact, B.’s high-contrast linework sets them all alight with their own incandescent madness."
"I picture Gilbert Hernandez approaching his drawing board these days like Lawrence of Arabia approaching a Turkish convoy: 'NO PRISONERS! NO PRISONERS!' In a year suffused with comics funneling pitch-black darkness through a combination of sex and horror, none were blacker, sexier, or more horrific than this gender-bending exploitation flick from Beto's 'Fritz-verse.'"
"...[L]et's add to the chorus praising Jaime's 'The Love Bunglers' as one of the greatest comics of all time, the point to which one of the greatest comics series of all time has been hurtling toward for thirty years.... You can count the number of cartoonists able to wed style to substance, form to function, this seamlessly on one hand with fingers to spare. A masterpiece."
"The hype and acclaim surrounding Xaime Hernandez’s conclusion to his 'Love Bunglers' saga has been overwhelming, and every ounce of it is deserved. This is simply a phenomenal achievement in comics. A moving, thoughtful story of missed opportunities, loss and eventual reconciliation that provides in many ways a fitting conclusion to all of Xaime’s 'Locas' stories. I’d be hard pressed to think of a better comic that came out this year."
"More than the new Carl Barks collection, more than the return of Pogo, the resurrected, re-appreciated comic strip I found myself falling in love the most with this year was Gottfredson’s plunky, adventure-loving mouse, a scrappier version of Disney’s iconic creation. More to the point, I was completely taken with the stunning packaging and background information Fantagraphics and the books editor put together for this series. It’s new benchmark for reprint projects."
"Three volumes into this grand guginol series and it continues to surprise and delight, this time introducing a new character and suggesting via an end sequence that Ryan has been reading a lot of Fort Thunder comics."
"Incredibly inventive, Schrauwen, like Yokoyama, seems intent on pushing the comics medium into new and interesting directions. But where Yokoyama is concerned mainly with motion and exploration, Schrauwen is concerned mainly with perception and the interior world of the mind. This is great, mind-blowing work."
• List: Also on Robot 6's roundup of best-of lists from its writers, Tim O'Shea ranks Pogo Vol. 1 at #9: "Damn if this was not worth the wait... Volume 1 of the complete syndicated daily strips of Pogo would be enough to put this book on my list. But the fact that Fantagraphics has a foreword by Jimmy Breslin; an introduction by Steve Thompson; a piece on the Pogo Sunday Funnies by Mark Evanier; and Swamp Talk (R.H. Harvey annotations on the strips) is just icing on the cake."
• List: David McKean's Celluloid gets a "See Also" shout-out on Cyriaque Lamar's list of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Comics of 2011 at io9: "A decidedly adult erotica graphic novel with no dialogue, this is the famed Sandman cover artist going at page after page of a sexy hallucination, whipped up by a magic porno movie projector. Dreamscapes with boners."
"After 'Browntown' in last year’s installment of New Stories, there was a worry that Jaime might have peaked — how on earth was he going to top that story? The achingly beautiful conclusion to 'The Love Bunglers' in this volume was the answer. Pulling together strands from Maggie’s entire 30-year history in two pages was nothing short of stunning, with his art as cooly confident as ever, making it a real emotional sucker punch. Gilbert’s work developing Fritz’s movie back-catalogue is a real mind-bender, too, weaving inter- and meta-textual strands together that lets his characters say so much, while saying so little. It is terrifying how talented these guys are."
"Forget Pogo and Carl Barks — we already knew they were classics — the real reprint revelation of 2011 was good ole' Mickey Mouse.... To read these strips is to rediscover a love for Mickey and marvel at Gottfredson's amazing grasp of storytelling and humour, as well as his flawless artwork. Naturally, with Fantagraphics overseeing the reprints, the design, packaging and presentation is gorgeous — a real worthy successor to their Peanuts series."
• Plug: "I’m a little mortified to admit that Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes is my first exposure to Carl Barks (after decades of being interested in finally seeing why he’s so revered as a comic creator), but it definitely won’t be my last. Fantagraphics’ first volume of Barks material is a great place to start; a mixture of epic quests, short stories, and gag strips that are all impressively funny and awesome." – Greg McElhatton, Robot 6
• List: On his Domino Books blog, Austin English explains why Joyce Farmer's Special Exits is his favorite comic of 2011: "Farmer's cartooning allows for her characters to act out their illness and struggles in front of the reader. Farmer's drawing of her aging father is something to behold — it's not Farmer saying 'here is what my sick father went through.' Instead we see a drawing age and wither in front of us, and speak to us with both intelligence and dementia. I’ve never seen anything in comics done with such skill — let alone see a graphic novel (often the territory of poorly conceived topical heart wrenchers) speak about tragedy with so much depth and clarity."
• List: Comics writer Vito Delsante declares Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 the Best Single Issue of 2011 on his Best of 2011 blog post: "The Hernandez Brothers, since New Stories 3, have really created the most important mythology in comics since Stan and Jack (and Steve).... Jaime Hernandez should win every single award in comics in 2012."
• List: We rank 4 entries on Renee Lott's Top 10 Comics of 2011 at her Blogwithfeet
• Review: "I've been digging the new Fantagraphics release Jason Conquers America which commemorates ten years of the venerable publisher's relationship with the Norewegian artist.... My favorite story in the collection revolves around a crow who naps in a bed in a field and wakes up obliviously in an entirely new life. (Telling any more would spoil the revelation.) In 23 short wordless panels, Jason creates a powerful and compelling commentary that proves how powerfully expressive comics can be." – Stray Riffs
• Review: "A new comic from the top humorist in comics is always welcome. This issue [of Tales Designed to Thrizzle] is the usual combination of dada and surprisingly tightly-wrapped narrative gags surrounding the sort of cultural detritus mined by Drew Friedman & Mark Newgarden.... 'Quincy, M.E.'... is one of Kupperman's best strips because he keeps adding new layers of plot to an already-ridiculous story.... I still miss the sheer density of detail in Kupperman's older work that made reading it almost exhausting, but the avalanche of ideas remains intact, as does his ability to elicit laughs." – Rob Clough, High-Low
• Review: "...Prison Pit... [is] a marriage of pro wrestling, manga, bromance and filth.... Johnny Ryan has an almost Kirbyesque level of character design, but with obviously more genitalia, and it can at times be a joy just to see what is going to come on the next page.... Johnny Ryan is a cartoonist at the top of his game right now and he may just be the closest thing the comic world has to marmite." – Taylor Pithers, The Weekly Crisis
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks with Todd DePastino, biographer of Bill Mauldin and editor of our Willie & Joe books. Spurgeon says Willie & Joe: Back Home is "one of my three favorite comics-related books from 2011, and, I think, one of the year's best." From DePastino: "When I look at these cartoons, I think of literary critic Dominic LaCapra's claim that some books are good to think about and a very few are good to think with. Mauldin's postwar cartoons are good to think with. They not only provide a window to the times, like, say, good photographs or reporting might, but they also raise fundamental questions and issues that are with us still."
• Review: "These comics are beautiful. Each single-panel comic is blown up to a full page, so that Mauldin’s artistry can truly (and easily) be admired without squinting. The sentiments expressed are astonishing and bravely progressive for the time.... I’d never thought or heard about the poor reception combat vets received after WWII. (I mistakenly thought that only happened to our soldiers after the Vietnam War.) I wish I knew what they experienced. I’ll settle for giving [Willie & Joe: Back Home] to the next WWII vet I meet and hope that it sparks a conversation." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
"Through war, animal make-out sessions and film writing, Kupperman takes Twain through the ringer in a hilariously catastrophic epic that the real-life 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' author would surely have appreciated. Although reading it won't score you any points on a history-class term paper, the book will certainly open your eyes to one of the funniest writers working in comics right now." – Brian Warmoth
"The excessive violence is still here, more refined, more imaginative, more disturbing. Ryan pushes himself artistically in the second half of the book, delivering a stunning sequence that still haunts me." – Chad Nevett
"I picture Gilbert Hernandez approaching his drawing board these days like Lawrence of Arabia approaching a Turkish convoy: 'NO PRISONERS! NO PRISONERS!' In a year suffused with comics funneling pitch-black darkness through a combination of sex and horror, none were blacker, sexier, or more horrific than this gender-bending exploitation flick from Beto's 'Fritz-verse.'" – Sean T. Collins
"Leslie Stein burst onto the comics scene this year when Fantagraphics published the collection of four of her self-published comics... The comic is both surreal and mundane, the story of a young woman who moves to a New York complete with humanoid animals and talking musical instruments. ...Stein [is] one of the best independent creators to emerge in recent years." – Alex Dueben
• List:Robot 6's Graeme McMillan picks his 5 favorite books of 2011, including Stigmata by Lorenzo Mattotti & Claudio Piersanti...
"Way back at the end of last year, I called this the best graphic novel of 2011, and if I’m now a little more reticent to make that claim, it has more to do with the high quality of a lot of other releases this year than anything else because this is still a masterpiece that, were I some kind of unlikely comics czar, I’d make compulsory reading for everyone interested in the medium. Just a breathtaking book."
"Another book that I raved about earlier this year, and another one that I’m still raving about as strongly months later. A tour-de-force of cartooning from a creator who just continually improves, and pushes at the medium in almost everything he does."
"It’s a disturbing book in many ways – questions about exploitation and power are very present in the text – but also a beautiful, seductive one. It’s a book that sticks with you for a long time afterwards, and for that alone, it’s one I’ve returned to many times since first reading it."
• List:Panel Patter's Rob McMonigal names his Best of 2011: Manga Edition, with Wandering Son Vol. 1 by Shimura Takako in the #5 spot: "This is one of the most serious manga series I've ever read, and I finished it unable to come to grips with the best way to review it. Dealing with two children who come to realize they are trapped in the wrong gender, it's a story of secrets, revelations, understandings, and occasional cruelty. The book handles the topic with care and respect, however, which is part of why it is so good."
• List: Another top-10 from Panel Patter's Rob McMonigal, whose Best of 2011: Indie Comics, is topped by 3 of our titles: Jason & Fabien Vehlmann's Isle of 100,000 Graves...
"Isle of 100,000 Graves has Jason's trademark deadpan humor, resolute protagonist, and ending that leaves the reader thinking."
"At first, The Hidden feels like a typical apocalyptic story, albeit one painted amazingly well by Sala. But as things progress, the tale morphs and twists into one of the best horror comics I've read, with a twist towards the end that I never saw coming. That's what makes a comic stand out, and puts it near the top of my best of list."
• Review: "I found myself turning back and re-examining the pages often, digging through the many details that the words and images delivered. The story unfolds in earth tone – sepia illustrations, not gaudy, in keeping with the artist’s respect for the story and the subject. Clemente’s early life is here and one gets a real feel for his family and friends, and not without humor.... [21: The Story of Roberto Clemente] should appeal to graphic novel fans, baseball fans, anyone who likes a great 'bigger then fiction' story, and many others." – Mark Hodgens, Skyscraper Magazine
• Review: "Fantagraphics is now giving Barks’ Duck comics a whirl, and based off this first volume alone if there’s any justice in the comics world, fame should finally (belatedly) be coming for the late, great Barks.... The reproduction on these strips are beautiful; Fantagraphics hired cartoonist Rich Tommaso to re-color the works, and Tommaso wisely uses gentle flat tones to keep with the overall feel of Barks’ crisp, classic art. I also appreciated the essays about the different stories in the back of the book.... Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes is a handsome looking book, and trust me when I say it’s just the first of many I plan on reading by Barks." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Review: "So cue the squeals, and scan the racks at your friendly neighborhood comics retailer for writer/artist Michael Kupperman’s Tales Designed to Thrizzle #7. Beyond a cover whose hilarity strangely if successfully depends on its all-day-sucker coloring — tangerine, lemon, lime — this dadaistic offering opens with a six-page excerpt from Scary Bathtub Stories, a faux-Golden Age comic, and thereafter spirals further and further into neo-psychedelic weirdness." – Bryan Hollerbach, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "I like to imagine [Michael Kupperman] sitting in some tiny hellhole of a studio apartment packed deep into the bowels of New York -- these noble creatures lose their mystique when they own homes -- doing mutant Thrizzle pages until they stop paying him or until he gets a gig in the back pages of Vice. Some feminine if not female voice of reason hovers next to his desk, thumbing through the newest set as he leans back in his chair, wondering if Fantagraphics paid him enough to afford blowing the budget on a beer, wiping entirely imaginary sweat from his brow." – Patrick Tobin, Multiversity Comics
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks to Oil and Water writer Steve Duin: "I'm too new to all of this to fully grasp how the perfect union of writer and artist is formed... and there were times when Shannon [Wheeler] and I struggled to find common ground. But a great deal of my understanding of what we were dealing with in the Gulf owes to Shannon's perceptions and his sketchbook. He was refreshingly aggressive in dealing with the BP clean-up teams disinclined to give us access. His original poster for the group -- a naked woman starring incredulously at the oil derrick in her bed, and saying 'What do you mean, it broke?' -- is brilliant."
• Interview:Bookforum's John Madeira, who says "...Alexander Theroux’s writing... is grandiloquently lyrical, dizzyingly erudite, and often acerbic," talks with Theroux about The Strange Case of Edward Gorey ("a smart, engaging, and insightful monograph asking as many questions about the quirky artist as attempts at answers") and other topics: "Edward Gorey was very ornate — Corinthian! — in his love of language, and when he was in a chatty mood his conversation, crackling with allusions, was rich and often rare, exaggerated, campy to a degree, invariably tinctured with lots of movie-love, sarcasm, irony. Mind you, it was not that the man was trying to be something, contriving, say, to appear a cavalcade of wit, merely that, rather like Dr. Samuel Johnson, he happened to have sharp, remarkable 'views' on all sorts of subjects, almost all worthy of note."
• List: The Austin American-Statesman's Joe Gross names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 the best comic of 2011: "One of the wonderful things about seeing a masterpiece in the making is the mysterious feeling, the racing of the soul that takes place when it hits you that you are, in fact, seeing a masterpiece in the making.... Symphonic, tragic, revelatory, exciting and devastating as only great art can be, 'The Love Bunglers' is one of the best comics ever made."
• List:Paste ranks Dave McKean's Celluloid at #5 on The 10 Best New Comics of 2011: "The visionary art director behind The Sandman’s covers creates a coital masterwork that elicits beauty and excitement in equal measure.... Celluloid is a treasure of technical finesse and sensual mystique that transcends its potential controversy."
• List:Paste's list of The Ten Best Reissues/Collections of 2011 includes Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 1: Race to Death Valley by Floyd Gottfredson at #9 ("Gottfredson had an animator’s knack for storytelling, and his layouts remain clear no matter how busy they get. Much of the humor is stilted by modern standards, but you’ll be too enthralled by the exciting plots and likable characters to care"), Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture – A Career Retrospective at #7 ("Fantagraphics has finally given him the grand and serious treatment he deserves, without minimizing his goofy sense of humor"), and Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes in the #1 spot ("Barks’ strips combine high adventure with humor and subtle cultural commentaries, but they remain grounded in character... Lost in the Andes is a gorgeously packaged collection of some of the finest comics ever made.")
• List: At Poopsheet Foundation, Justin Giampaoli names Kevin Huizenga's Ganges #4 one of the "Best Mini-Comics & Small Press Titles of 2011": "It’s the continuing adventures of Glenn Ganges and his latest nocturnal outing, as he navigates his sleepless existence on a seemingly endless night. With the degree of interactivity occurring between the page and the readers, there’s as much technique on display here as there is original storytelling."
• List: Leeds, UK comic shop OK Comics posts their Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2011: "9. Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot by Jaques Tardi published by @fantagraphics. A hitman's reluctance to perform one last job leads to an emotional breakdown. Legendary French comics artist Jacques Tardi on fine form."
• List:The Globe and Mail includes Pogo - The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips Volume 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder by Walt Kelly in their "2011 gift book guide": "Fans of what for many is the greatest of all comic strips have waited a long time for this, the first of a projected 12 volumes (1949-1950) from the brilliant Walt Kelly. The congenial Pogo Possum and his swampland friends... spring to life in this collection of daily and Sunday comics, filled with Kelly’s characteristic wordplay. One hopes this will introduce a new generation to this comic, satiric masterwork."
• Review: "Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips: Volume 1—Through the Wild Blue Wonder proves to be worth the wait.... Overall, the package serves Pogo well.... The biggest revelation of reading the first two years of Pogo is how polished and funny the strip was right from the start, and also how nearly every Pogo panel is a delight unto itself. Kelly didn’t necessarily build to big punchlines; he’d slip funny sight gags and memorable lines everywhere there was room. ...[T]here’s a classic Pogo moment on just about every page of this book." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Even now, Barks’ stories are clever and funny, as he leads the ducks into impossible situations and then gives them unexpected ways out. And they’re poignant in their own way, too.... What’s impressive about Fantagraphics’ Lost in the Andes is that it encourages both a fannish and an intellectual approach to the material. For those who want to skew highbrow, the book includes an appendix with scholarly analysis of each story.... And for those who just want to curl up with more than 200 pages of some of the best-written comics ever published, Lost in the Andes has all the square eggs, rubber bricks, golden Christmas trees, and races around the world that any kid or grown-up could ever want." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Fantagraphics’ initial release of its new series of Carl Barks books is titled, Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes and reprints one of the most famous, and most BELOVED, comic book stories which Carl ever wrote and drew! ...I’m impressed with the quality of the publication. In my estimation, the coloring is excellent and the format engaging…. The critical essays composed by a number of Barks scholars are also insightful and well written.... In my opinion, as a Carl Barks fan, this initial volume is well worth acquiring!" – Carl Barks Fan Club Newsletter
• Reviews: "Two... giants of American illustration get the handsome coffee-table-book treatment with Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture and The Art of Joe Kubert... The Kubert book — edited by Bill Schelly — is more text-heavy, covering Kubert’s early years as a journeyman penciler and inker on a slew of indistinct superhero and adventure comics, then exploring how Kubert developed the fine shading and gritty realism he’d become famed for starting in the late ’50s. The Davis book saves most of its biographical detail and critical analysis for the intro and appendix, filling the intervening 200 pages with full-sized examples of the half-cartoony/half-photographic approach that Davis brought to Mad magazine and countless movie posters. Both offer ample visual evidence of how two men found the 'art' in commercial art, turning work-for-hire assignments into opportunities to express their particular visions of the world." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "To (re-)discover a first-rate critic, and read about a life that went wrong in a harrowing way, you must read Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson, by Kevin Avery.... This volume is exhilarating. Avery tells with great energy Nelson’s tale, with copious details about the active period of his subject’s life, and in so doing limns a portrait of a certain kind of pop-culture/bohemian existence in the late-70s. And Avery’s generous selection of Nelson’s writings are certainly among Paul’s best..." – Ken Tucker (Entertainment Weekly), The Best American Poetry
• Review: "What makes Wandering Son work is its slow-burn pace and calm atmosphere. It takes a delicate subject – transgender children- and explores it slowly and carefully. Much like its characters, it moves at its own pace, easing the reader into the characters’ lives.... I am really eager to read volume two of Wandering Son, though a little hesitant as well. I know that the road in front of Shu and Yoshino isn’t going to be an easy one and I don’t want to see them get hurt. But the fact that I’m talking about the characters as though they’re real people just shows how deep this manga has gotten under my skin." – Shannon Fay, Kuriousity
• Review: "Richard Sala is one of those creators that holds a fairly unique voice in comics. Many people have tried to replicate his off-beat brand of horror, but ultimately nothing out there quite like his. So with a new graphic novel called The Hidden out, the question for most people won’t be, 'Should I read it?' but 'When should I read it?'... The Hidden isn’t perfect... but what Sala does well, he does very well indeed. There’s quite a lot to love in The Hidden, with some scenes in particular that will stick with the reader for a long time." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Plug: "Have you ever wondered what happened after 'Happily Ever After'? This graphic novel [Castle Waiting] is a modern tale that incorporates fairytale characters and settings. Funny, thoughtful and not at all what you'd expect." – The Victoria Times Colonist
• Interview:Wall Street Journal subscribers can read a Q&A with Jack Davis conducted last week in NYC by Bruce Bennett here: "Every time you went in to see Bill Gaines, he would write you a check when you brought in a story. You didn't have to put in a bill or anything. I was very, very hungry and I was thinking about getting married. So I kept the road pretty hot between home and Canal Street. I would go in for that almighty check, go home and do the work, bring it in and get another check and pick up another story." [Update: A clever reader has pointed out that non-subscribers can read the article in Google's cache]
• Profile:CNN's Todd Leopold profiles the great Al Jaffee: "After a bumpy several years in which he bounced like a pinball between his parents -- moving from Savannah, Georgia, to Lithuania, to one borough and then another of New York City, back to Lithuania and back again to New York -- art was something to hold on to, a way to establish an identity. He had no idea it would lead anywhere."
• Review: "Ganges #4 is the Godfather Part II of comics about insomnia: the rare sequel that tops the already excellent original.... Here he returns to the sleeplessness well, but this time around Glenn’s mental avatar remains relatively stationary (though Glenn himself does plenty of wandering around the Ganges family manse), allowing Huizenga to instead burrow down deep into some of the most unpleasant sensations a bored and overtired brain is able to conjure. Folks, he does this so well.... The... comic maintains [a] dizzying blend of writing and drawing power, with alarmingly familiar sensations reproduced, and stop-and-marvel visual effects created, on nearly every page." – Sean T. Collins, The Comics Journal
• Review: "When did The Comics Journal get so freakin' fat? Weighing in at one and a half pounds, this 624 page sucker features more of what you love (or hate) about comics criticism: long, detailed interviews and reviews that will take you days to read." – Chris Auman, Reglar Wiglar
• Review: "Dave McKean’s art never fails to amaze me... At one point, as she goes deeper and deeper into the film, the woman encounters a fourteen-breasted being, and they have sex. McKean mixes images of real fruit with his drawings and color to create sexual images that are as fresh as they are startling. I’ll never look at a fig, a pear, or a red tomatillo the same way again. ...I think [Celluloid] would make a good paper anniversary gift." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• Review: "In Ghost World, Daniel Clowes doesn’t romanticize the teenage experience or show teenage girls as sweet and idealistic. His portrayal is raw, cynical, and honest, often hitting the nail on the head.... It’s an excellent portrayal of alienation, especially teenage alienation. Even when Enid and Rebecca aren’t being nice, they’re still understandable. This graphic novel is very funny, but it’s also very sad, and sometimes it’s both at the same time.... Though it’s only 80 pages long, this graphic novel still manages to leave a deep impression." – Danica Davidson, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Review: "Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: Race To Death Valley by Floyd Gottfredson will be warmly received by comics aficionados but should also intrigue Disney animation buffs who aren't necessarily plugged into comic strip history. Editors David Gerstein and Gary Groth have not only scoured the planet for the best surviving artwork on Gottfredson's first epic continuity, which ran in newspapers from April to September of 1930; they've provided background essays (by a raft of experts), vintage press materials and artwork to put it into the context of Walt Disney's burgeoning career, and Mickey Mouse's budding stardom.... I have a feeling that this book, crafted with such obvious care, will earn Gottfredson a new legion of admirers." – Leonard Maltin
• Review: "Popeye hawking newspapers? Donald Duck selling gasoline? You'll find them and a whole cavalcade of comic strip characters in Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising, edited by Rick Marschall and Warren Bernard. In a hundred-plus pages you are treated to a sampling of cartoon print ads from the 1890s to 1940s. There are short informative blurbs about the cartoonists (some of whom were featured in ads themselves) and the history behind the ads. A great treat for fans of comic strips, Americana, and ephemera." – The Christian Science Monitor "Top Picks"
• Review: "Not long ago a very interesting book was released which aims precisely to investigate and chronicle the parallel paths of comics and advertising from 1870 until 1940 entitled Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising. Fantagraphics Books offers a hearty volume... which is our guide with text and images to the 'commercial' roots of the comic strip and the amazing work that resulted from comics creators who worked in advertising.... Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising is a book that will surely pique the interest of those involved in the communication sector, but also all who are drawn to pop culture. An excellent edition from Fantagraphics..." – Lida Tsene, Comicdom (translated from Greek)
• Review: "Richard Sala’s The Hidden is yet another undead saga, though it’s more ambitious than most.... As the backstory deepens, Sala ties The Hidden to older literary traditions, weaving in pieces of folktales and the legend of Frankenstein. Because Sala has had a career-long fascination with B-movies, gothic illustrations, and general ghoulishness, this plot is right in his wheelhouse. But The Hidden isn’t just an entertaining riff on well-worn horror concepts. Taking his cues from Mary Shelley, Sala explores human vanity and arrogance as a way of showing how everything can go so wrong so fast." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Mome 22 concludes the run of one of alt-comics' longest-running and most essential anthologies. Like Weirdo before it, Mome bridged the gap between veteran cartoonists and the new breed... Here’s hoping that as with Zap, Raw, Arcade, and so many that have gone before, another anthology will rise to take Mome’s place. And soon." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Shimura Takako is a master at portraying subtle events in a slice of life story about adolescence that never feels didactic.... One of the things I like about Wandering Son is the way many of the events in the book are simultaneously safe and filled with dramatic tension.... Like the storyline, Shimura’s art is simple but nuanced.... As you’d expect from Fantagraphics, the production quality for Wandering Son is excellent. I hope that more manga is on the horizon from them. While I’ll happily read more cheaply produced manga, it is nice to have a variety of options. Carefully curated manga like Wandering Son is a treat." – Anna Neatrour, Manga Report
• Review: "Jason’s deadpan, anthropomorphic characters make his books must-reads for me.... I'd give [Isle of 100,000 Graves] to my daughter... and my wife... in hopes that, after laughing at the Hangman’s Academy’s students, teachers, and administrators, they’ll agree to dress up in multi-colored hoods and carry instruments of torture next Halloween." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• Review: "Chun fills his collections with the best cartoons – the ones that can still delight readers, and Covey uses his lively and inventive design sense to make these old cartoons fresh and vital. With The Pin-Up Art of Humorama, Chun and Covey will once again make you believe that the art of Humorama is still alive and kicking – although the line ceased to exist decades ago. [Grade:] A" – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "This Fantagraphics edition collects the first two French albums of Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec (Pterror Over Paris and The Eiffel Tower Demon) in a large format hardback edition, and it’s beautifully presented. First released in 1976, Jacques Tardi’s story has a timeless quality, set in an alternative, steam-punk universe, shortly before World War I.... Tardi’s art recreates the scenery beautifully, with stunning backdrops bringing the architecture and beauty of Paris to life. ...[A] compelling and enjoyable mystery story with an alternative Victorian feel." – Grovel
• Review: "Comic fanboys have read Sgt. Rock or The Howling Commandos which are realistic in many ways, but there was a time when a comic mag got down right truthful. I’m speaking of Blazing Combat #1-4 (1965-66, Warren) and recently Fantagraphics collected the run in both hardcover and softcover. Blazing Combat was an anthology comic that showed the very dark and very real side of war. A loose followup to the EC Comics War genre books, it showed US G.I.’s dying in terrible ways, commanders giving orders with little regard for consequences and the militaristic definition of collateral damage. Jim Warren let it all hang out when it came to editing Archie Goodwin’s writing... Of course Goodwin is a genius and I’m usually more of a word-man when it comes to comics, but this time it’s the art that captured my attention. It’s a who’s-who of monster talent..." – Chris Marshall, Collected Comics Library
• Review: "Fred [the Clown] is a figure of innocence, a lovelorn sad sack who keeps getting hit by custard pies — and, even harder, by life — over and over again, but keeps standing back up to go on. Langridge mostly tells his story in short wordless comics stories... in his usual style, a crisp modern interpretation of the classic '20s animation look... They're slapsticky stories of a sad clown, using the accouterments of vaudeville and early Hollywood, that nonetheless feel entirely new and fresh and funny. I don't know how Langridge does it, but he does it very very well." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Plug: "You must buy @DaveMcKean's NSFW book 'CELLULOID' at your local comics or book store. Or in a plain brown wrapper..." – Neil Gaiman
• Preview/Plug:Comicsphere re-formats and re-presents one of our previews of Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit Book 3 to their readers, with Josh West saying "This is set to be 120 pages of ‘once you see it, it can’t ever be unseen’ scenarios and, honestly, Comicsphere couldn’t be more excited! Unbelievably unpredictable, violent, satirical and likely to entertain more than anything else on the shelves through September, the Prison Pit makes Hell look like nothing more than a relaxing Sunday morning stroll through a (really hot) meadow."
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Tim Callahan has a wide-ranging conversation with Johnny Ryan about Prison Pit and other topics: "I guess I have this fascination with stories where the 'hero' is not a hero at all. He's a loser or an idiot or a scumbag, but somehow the author makes us give a shit about him or her.... I think this is a strain that also runs through my work. It's about bad people, doing bad things, but I try and trick people into caring about or liking these people."
• Preview/Plug:Comicsphere gives the same treatment as above to our excerpt of Jacques Tardi & Jean-Patrick Manchette's Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot, with Josh West saying "...Jacques Tardi returns to the world of guns, crime, betrayal and bloodshed with this stunning, grisly, and remarkably faithful interpretation of Manchette’s last completed crime thriller."
"Athos in America – Jason returns to The Last Musketeer and includes other Jasony stories like 'The Brain That Wouldn’t Virginia Woolf.'"
• Plugs:Graphic Novel Reporter includes almost everything we have coming out over the next 3 months in their "Great Graphic Novels of Fall 2011" roundup, particularly the Adult Fiction and Nonfiction categories (though we feel we should point out that Alexander Theroux's Estonia is neither fiction nor a graphic novel)
• Plug: "We’re over halfway done, and have moved into the last 20 years of the strip with the release of The Complete Peanuts: 1981 to 1982. Can you believe how fast time is flying? Kudos to Fantagraphics for maintaining the incredibly high standard of quality and presentation they established at the outset, with this entry featuring an introduction from cartoonist Lynn Johnston. More!" – Ken Plume, FRED
• Interview:Newsarama's Albert Ching talks to Michael Kupperman about his new book Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010: "One other character I frequently think of when doing Twain — writing that book, or doing him in Thrizzle — is Dave Thomas from SCTV doing Walter Cronkite. Which in some ways is very similar — this kind of roguish, semi-self-befuddled character, roaming around having adventures."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater begins a multi-part chat with Drew Friedman: "Basically when Monte Beauchamp who edits those books invited me to do a book, I thought about what I like to draw the most. I like to draw comedians and old Jews. So I put those two together and started working on them between assignments over a year. I just got pleasure in drawing them. I could put aside any annoying assignment I had and just get down to drawing those old Jewish faces. That’s what it came down to."
• Interview:Washington City Paper's Mike Rhode had a little pre-SPX Q&A with Noah Van Sciver: "I'm excited to stop by the Fantagraphics table and say hello to those guys and see what's new." Well shucks!
• Lore: "’71 was a weird year for me. I never had quite so many women coming and going, as I did that year in the apartment I shared with Gary. But I was still drinking too much and just overdoing it in general, hedonistically speaking. I was getting very little good work done (gosh, I wonder why?) and was generally pretty miserable." – Kim Deitch's epic memoir-in-music "Mad About Music: My Life in Records" at TCJ.com forges into the 1970s
• Staff picks: Our own Ambassador of Awesome (and funniest Flogger) Janice Headley is the guest contributor to this week's Robot 6 "What Are You Reading?" column
• Review: "After far too long a hiatus the new incarnation of The Comics Journal is available and as inspired as ever. The Journal is the paramount English-language publication dedicated to the Art of graphic narrative, covering comics, cartooning and related fields domestic and global; interviewing creators, disseminating the facts and even advertising the best and most challenging product. They’ve done it competently, passionately and proudly for decades. You won’t always agree with the opinions expressed — editorial or from the many and various insiders and cognoscenti who have been featured — but you’d be an idiot to ignore or dismiss them if you care at all about the industry or the medium.... This is a superb uber-magazine for comics lovers: it won’t ever tell you where and when to buy but it will certainly make you wonder why you do or don’t." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Plug: "...I heartily recommend Dave McKean’s new 'erotic graphic novel' Celluloid. Mixing paint, photography, ink, and charcoal — and eschewing dialogue altogether — McKean creates a comic book version of one of Radley Metzger’s erotic art films, in which lustful impulses lead otherwise civilized people on a dark, surreal journey." – Noel Murray, in a thought-provoking essay on erotica in comics and beyond at The A.V. Club
• List: At his High-Low blog Rob Clough posts his belated Top 50 Books of 2010 list, with Megan Kelso's Artichoke Tales at #1, 4 of our books in the top 5, 5 in the top 10, 8 in the top 20, and 14 overall in the top 50 — it's a long but worthwhile read
• Review: "Calling Congress of the Animals recommended reading is a bit misleading. It’s definitely recommended, but it doesn’t technically involve reading. The entire book doesn’t feature a single word bubble. The only words are on the book jacket. What this is is a story told entirely through pictures — delightful pictures at that.... This was really an entertaining book. It was visually different from anything I’ve ever seen in a comic, the story was unique, and some parts were laugh out loud funny..." – Corey Pung, Panel Discussions (via Americaware)
• Review: "...Skin Deep by Charles Burns... [is a] true masterpiece in which Burns returns to choose the mechanisms and the language of grade-B horror films, crime fiction, pulp, the aesthetics of the 50's and Robert Crumb's comics to make a harsh social criticism.... Stories in which Burns continues to explore the darkest corners of the human condition while keeping us on edge vignette to vignette." – Jesús Jiménez, Radio y Televisión Española (translated from Spanish)
• Review: "...[T]he adventures of a group of twenty-something New York residents, like Friends but with ethnic variation and far more realistic apartments, and, you know, actual problems. The characters of Beg the Question are surrounded by ugliness and idiocy in one of the most complicated cities in the world, yet they are decent human beings who support each other. It’s not supposed to be autobiographical, but you can tell that Fingerman has lived through many of the situations and knows the characters well." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Commentary: "So I just finished reading Fantagraphics’ The Complete Peanuts 1981-1982, and... the vast majority of this book was new to me, having not read previous reprintings of the strips from this period (as opposed to the near-memorization of the reprint books from the late ’70s and earlier). One of the great new features of this particular reprint series, aside from, y’know, the whole completeness of the strips reprints and all, is the index in each volume." – Mike Sterling, Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin
• Plug: "Walt Kelly’s Pogo is one of the greatest comic strips I’ve ever read. It’s simply brilliant; quaint and sweet on the surface but deeper readings reveals layers of very smart political and social satire. And as you can clearly see, Walt Kelly’s artwork is magnificent.... Fantagraphics are presenting the entire strip, including the beautiful full colour Sunday strips for the very first time, in a series of 12 hardcover volumes that reprint approximately 2 years worth of material at a time. I guarantee that if you get Volume 1, you’ll be signing up for the remaining 11." – Richard Cowdry, The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log
• Review: "Celluloid is a challenging work, not so much in how it is read, but in how it pushes at the boundaries of what we call a graphic novel and what we consider erotica.... Considered as a visual ode to the erotic imagination, Celluloid is a powerful work of grace and deviance in its explorations. McKean has crafted a new grammar for comic book storytelling, bringing the printed page as close to a live performance as possible while still using the graphic narrative form to accomplish what no other medium can." – Greg Baldino, Rain Taxi
• Review: "The story of baseball great Roberto Clemente is now in graphic novel form. After reading it, I would recommend it to everyone, especially to young readers. I plan to have my son read it one day, because Clemente's tale is an interesting one. The official title of the graphic novel is 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente. It chronicles the former Pittsburgh Pirates' life growing up in Puerto Rico, his great baseball career, his humanitarian missions and tragic end to his life on Sept. 18, 1972. ...Clemente remains a bit of a mystery to those who never saw him play, but Santiago's graphic novel brings Clemente to life in glorious fashion, and is not be missed." – Mark Podolski, The News-Herald
• Review: "Murder By High Tide is by a the terrific French cartoonist Maurice Tilleux (a new discovery for me). Republished by Fantagraphics, this edition features two Gil Jordan detective stories. The artwork is amazing and Tilleux is clearly a master of the 'comic-dynamic' style... I really hope Fantagraphics makes a habit of reproducing these types of stories for an English-speaking market!" – Alexis E. Fajardo (Kid Beowulf)
• Profile: Italian blog Coca Colla has an art-packed survey of the work of Dave Cooper — even if you don't read Italian (or can't be bothered to autotranslate) there's tons of eye candy to ogle
It's big enough news that landmark London shop Gosh! Comics is moving into a new location for the first time in 25 years...
But the news gets even bigger because they'll be inaugurating the space with an exhibition and signing with noneother than Dave McKean!
The exhibit will feature paintings, sculptures, and drawings -- some of which have never been shown in public before, and some of which will even be for sale! McKean will be on hand to sign copies of his latest Fantagraphics book, Celluloid.
The opening gala is this Saturday, August 6th, and McKean will be signing from 2:00 - 4:00 PM. If you're in the Soho area, pop by 1 Berwick Street and check out their new digs!
• Review: "Originally appearing from 1958 to 1960, these insouciant, stylish, and thrilling dramas should appeal to readers of all ages. If they don't hook a whole new batch of bande dessinée fans, France needs to take back the Statue of Liberty in a huff.... Both stories zip by with nary a dull patch. Confections lacking in gravitas, they nevertheless own the supreme virtues of lightness and panache. Tillieux's art is always easy on the eye.... If Spielberg is looking for a second franchise after Tintin, he couldn't go wrong with Gil Jordan." – Paul Di Filippo, The Barnes & Noble Review
• Review: "Thanks to well known translator Matt Thorn, this volume is a very smooth read. I don’t often comment on such things, but Thorn took great care in interpreting and presenting this book, and it pays off in a very pleasing flow of text. The art is also quite lovely, very simplistic, and flows well from panel to panel. The color pages in the beginning have a beautiful, water color look to them. Fantagraphics has put out a gorgeous hardcover book with Wandering Son." – Kristin Bomba, ComicAttack.net
• Review: "Fantagraphics’ The Pin-Up Art of Humorama collects hundreds of racy cartoons from the once-ubiquitous tasteless humor mag.... The Fantagraphics edition, edited by Alex Chun and Jacob Covey, 'remasters' these toons with a two-color treatment that really captures the graphic feel of the mouldering pulps that still grace the ends of yard-sale tables in cities across America. It must be said that none of these are very funny, but they’re often quite beautiful and nostalgic." – Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
• Review: "Every once in a while, a book comes along that is simply spectacular. This collection of [Mickey Mouse] comic strips by Floyd Gottfredson is a perfect example of how to present, analyze and reconstruct subject matter that is viewed differently today. The series editors (David Gerstein and Gary Groth) pull no punches in discussing why Mickey was carrying a gun or the use of slang that is noticeably offensive by today's standards. This is a wonderful vehicle for presenting historically accurate art. Other companies should take notice.... This is a stunning work. The historical presentation is flawless, as is the artwork." – George Taylor, Imaginerding
• Review: "[In Celluloid], McKean is attempting to subvert hardened notions of both comics and pornography. It's a book that gets the blood racing just as it raises questions that just won't go away about the nature of art, porn, and the male gaze.... By painting an erotic sequence with a surrealist's brush, McKean reveals the raw sexual current that underscores all pornography." – Peter Bebergal, Bookslut
• Review: "An unapologetically hard-core hardcover, Celluloid follows a young woman’s sexual epiphany... and feels almost like a silent, erotic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with the White Rabbit and the rabbit-hole replaced by an ancient movie camera and a doorway to…somewhere else. By itself, typically, McKean’s technical mastery (beginning with pen and ink and finishing with photography) steals the breath away; ditto his visual motifs — involving fruit, say, or eyes. A bravura performance, Celluloid (which ends, by the way, with signal wit) constitutes an astounding fusion of the Dionysiac and the Apolline, in Nietzschean terms, and less invites reading than demands rereading." – Bryan A. Hollerbach, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "In the oneiric power of his work as a writer/artist, Jim Woodring enjoys few rivals in contemporary comics... Within the first ten pages of Congress of the Animals, calamity literally descends on poor Frank in the form of a wood-boxed croquet set. In the next ten, our bucktoothed, bobtail boyo suffers both a labor dispute and a credit crisis, and thereafter, in the U.S. in 2011, it should come as no surprise that things fast go from bad to worse; just for starters, Frank has to enter the working world. Ameliorating all of his tribulations, at least from readers’ vantage, are his creator’s nonpareil pen and undulant line — a quivery visual seduction courtesy of Higgins. Moreover, by the finale, Frank’s [spoiler redacted – Ed.] — so the little guy ain’t doin’ too bad, y’know?" – Bryan A. Hollerbach, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "LikeWeathercraft, this new work [Congress of the Animals] is completely silent, showcasing Woodring's amazing talent to convey a story without a word, with seemingly little effort. It's just an eye-popping visual feast of amazing illustrations in this crazy world where Woodring can put whatever he wants on the page, to a stunning end result." – Dave Ferraro, Comics-and-More (via the SPX Tumblr)
• Review: "How wrong I was to underestimate the powerful storytelling medium of the emerging graphic novel platform, especially when masterfully rendered by an author and artist as remarkably talented as Santiago. I expected an exciting visual presentation, and was not disappointed, as Santiago’s heavy-lined, representational graphic style was, in turn whimsical, arresting, quirky, and most of all, emotional. But I wasn’t prepared for the wonderfully passionate portrayal of the human side of Clemente’s legendary journey from Puerto Rico into baseball immortality.... Captivating, revealing, and dramatic, 21 accomplished through art, creative use of informed imagination, and pure passion, far more than I thought possible from a graphic novel. I believe I now have a more complete picture of Roberto Clemente, but not of his statistics, or even his style of play, or of his place in baseball history. I have a truer sense of his heart." – Mark W. Schraf, Spitball
Gracie: Charlie Brown! He's the one who thinks, "Life is going bad... I'm an awful person... Nothing good ever happens to me..." Dad: Would you be friends with him? Gracie: I would. I love him. My love for him goes to the ceiling of a skyscraper. But nothing good ever happens to him ever. Once he won a race -- that's probably the only thing he's ever won. And the prize was 5 free haircuts... Dad: Ha! Gracie: He's only got a twist of hair in front. And he's like, "Five free hair cuts? I don't have much hair to cut! And even if I did... my dad is a barber!" Dad: Poor Charlie Brown. Gracie: Yeah, nothing good ever happens to him. He's always getting teased for his perfectly round head.
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks with Stan Sakai: "Usagi was first published 27 years ago, and that time I just concentrated on the next story. It was around maybe... I would say with book four, The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy. That was the first major storyline. It took maybe 10 issues or something, I'm not exactly sure. Maybe eight issues.... Before then, I was thinking, 'Usagi's going to be canceled any month.' [laughter] 'I can't spend too much time devoting myself to a long storyline.' But once I did that and got over that hurdle, that's when I realized that hey, this could go on for a long time."
• List:The Hooded Utilitarian begins revealing the top 10 results in their International Best Comics Poll, with Walt Kelly's Pogo coming in at #8
• Plug: "A trip to the comics shop yesterday netted me a copy of Drew Weing’s Set to Sea. It’s pure indulgence, because I have already read the story online, but Fantagraphics’ small, almost jewel-like presentation is really beautiful. Weing tells his story one panel at a time, and each panel could be framed as a work of art in itself, so having it in a book, without the clutter of the web, is a worthy investment." – Brigid Alverson, Robot 6
• Scene:Comic Book Resources' Marlan Harris gives a recap of our 35th Anniversary panel at Comic-Con — unfortunately it contains several factual errors, some of which I have endeavored to correct in the comments thread
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