Somebody brought an old Who's Who in the DC Universe for Trina to sign the page with her Cheetah illustration. That lady's done it all!
Another DC character also made an appearance at the No Straight Lines signing. (At least I think that's Poison Ivy.)
Matt Groening showed off his pal Gary Panter's Dal Tokyo while Akbar & Jeff walked past in the background. Matt recounted for us how he helped save the strip from being dumped at the L.A. Weekly back in the 1980s by arguing that it's one of the greatest works of art of the 20th century.
Eric shows off Johnny Gruelle's Mr. Twee Deedle to Matt, who was particularly taken with Gruelle's "birds-eye view" strips in the book and walked away with it under his arm.
Shannon Wheeler was signing Oil and Water before he even had a chance to sit down.
We're thrilled to announce the Fantagraphics signing schedule for San Diego Comic-Con 2012!
We're also extra-excited to announce our first-ever Preview Night signing!!! That's right! Last year, we met a lot of customers who lamented that they were only able to score a pass for Preview Night and they were missing out on all the signings. So, we've got the great Gilbert Hernandez, Mario Hernandez, and Gilbert's talented daughter Natalia signing at our booth that evening! You complained; we listened! Yeah, don't get too used to that.
Who's ready for some Comic-Con?! Fantagraphics is getting ready to head to San Diego ourselves, and over the next week, we'll be rolling out our list of debuts and our signing schedule right here on the FLOG.
How about a list of panels featuring our fabulous Fantagraphics artists? See you there!
Thursday, July 12th
• 1:00-2:00 PM //CBLDF Master Session: Gilbert Shelton: With his creations The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Fat Freddy's Cat, and Wonder Warthog among others, Comic-Con special guest Gilbert Shelton is a master of establishing iconic characters and presenting them in scenarios that underscore his expressive cartooning abilities. Get a rare glimpse into the drawing process of this master of the Underground Comix movement, hosted by Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter. The pieces created in this Master Session will be auctioned off at CBLDF's Art Auction on Saturday night. Room 11AB
• 4:00-5:00 PM //Womanthology: One woman's (Renae De Liz) question on Twitter became a fully realized all-female graphic novel anthology in under a year. A legion of supporters helped fund Womanthology: Heroic through a considerably successful Kickstarter campaign, and recently IDW announced the continuation of Womanthology as an ongoing series, starting with Womanthology: Space. Meet some of the more than 170 creators who made the book happen, including our own Trina Robbins (The Brinkley Girls). Moderated by Womanthology contributor Barbara Kesel. Room 25ABC
• 8:00-9:00 PM //Artist As Brand, Rise of the Artist Entrepreneur: Greg Spalenka moderates a panel discussion on art career sustainability. Learn strategies on how to create an income off your talent on your own terms. Panelists include Dave McKean (an icon of popular art culture, professional artist, photographer, graphic designer, director, musician, Arkham Asylum, The Sandman, MirrorMask),Craig Elliott, Shiflett Brothers, Miss Mindy, and Daniel and Dawna Davis. Room 8
Friday, July 13th
• 2:00-3:00 PM //No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics: Queer cartooning has been one of the most vibrant artistic and countercultural movements of the past 40 years, tackling complex issues of identity and changing social mores with intelligence, humor, and an irreverent imagination. No Straight Lines, a massive anthology published by Fantagraphics Books, is the most definitive collection to date of this material, showcasing everything from lesbian underground comix, to gay newspaper strips, bi punk zines, and trans webcomics. The editor of the book, Justin Hall moderates an all-star panel of some of the true greats of LGBTQ comics: Alison Bechdel, Paige Braddock, Ed Luce, Trina Robbins, and Eric Shanower. Room 25ABC
• 2:30-3:30 PM // Dave McKean: My Two Years with Dawkins, Christ, and a Small Crab Called Eric:Dave McKean, illustrator of many books with Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, John Cale, Heston Blumenthal, Grant Morrison, and occasional artist,photographer, director, musician, writer, and singer of forgotten songs, talks about two intense years spent exploring both sides of the theological divide. Room 5AB
• 2:30-3:30 PM // Comics Arts Conference Session #8: Jack Kirby, Modernism, and Abstraction: Jack Kirby is increasingly emerging as an important 20th century American artist even beyond the realm of the comics world. This panel will discuss the relationship of Kirby with abstract art, his deeply modernist artistic achievement, and his influence on art and abstract comics. Andrei Molotiu (Indiana University, Bloomington; Abstract Comics: The Anthology) will give a presentation on the topic, then will discuss the subject with artist Mark Badger (Batman: Jazz, Martian Manhunter) and other surprise guests. Room 26AB
• 5:30-6:30 PM //D+Q & Fantagraphics: North America's two most influential independent comics publishers, which have defined the literary comics medium for the past 25 years, preview their upcoming lists. Jacq Cohen (publicity director) and Eric Reynolds (associate publisher) of Fantagraphics, and Julia Pohl-Miranda (editorial marketing manager) and Tom Devlin (creative director) for D+Q present their 2012 and 2013 lists, with a few surprises. Room 26AB
Saturday, July 14th
• 11:30-12:30 PM //Save the Date: Your New Favorite Film: This may be the first comic book film that isn't based on an actual comic book; instead, Save the Date uses the style and sensibility of indie comics by renowned graphic novelist Jeffrey Brown as a jumping off point to tell a contemporary story of the trials, pain, and happiness of modern love. Explore the challenges and advantages of working in film versus comics with cartoonist/screenplay co-writer Jeffrey Brown, director Michael Mohan, and producers Jordan Horowitz and Michael Roiff, and the cast.Room 5AB
• 1:30-3:00 PM //30th Anniversary of Love and Rockets: For 30 years Los Bros Hernandez have entranced comics readers around the world with their adventures of Maggie, Hopey, Luba, and the entire Love and Rockets cast of characters. Comic-Con special guests Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, and Mario Hernandez join with Fantagraphics Books co-publisher Gary Groth to talk about this award-winning series of comics and its decades-spanning durability. Room 24ABC
• 4:30-6:00 PM //Spotlight on Gilbert Shelton: Underground comix legend and Comic-Con special guest Gilbert Shelton makes a rare U.S. appearance to discuss his career (including The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Wonder Warthog) with moderator Fantagraphics Books co-publisher Gary Groth, plus Ron Turner (publisher, Last Gasp San Francisco), and Shelton's literary agent, Manfred Mroczkowski (Interlicense Ltd., Mill Valley, CA). Room 5AB
• 5:30-8:00 PM //Gays in Comics: 25th Year Celebration!: This year, founding moderator and best-selling author Andy Mangels, chairs a new form of panel, a live documentary that will unfold for the audience, featuring a mixture of commentary, images, music and other surprises! Showcased with live appearances and video messages will be an army of awesome creators who have appeared on the previous 24 panels, including Roberta Gregory, creator of Naughty Bits and Bitchy Bitch and the godmother of the gay comic movement; Trina Robbins, remarkable writer and artist whose work on behalf of women in comics has helped redefine the industry; Justin Hall, author of No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics, creator of Glamazonia, and Prism Comics talent chair; and much more! Room 6A
• Review: "The Complete Crumb Comics Volume One: The Early Years of Bitter Struggle, a 1987 book now republished in an expanded edition, gathers together the earliest surviving examples of the great cartoonist’s juvenilia taking him from age 14 or 15 to 18 years old. The high school scribbler that we meet in these pages is a very callow Crumb indeed: Crumb before he had sex, Crumb before he dropped acid, Crumb before he was adopted as a hero of the counterculture, Crumb before he honed his satirical stance on modern life, Crumb before he became the most radical, polarizing and influential cartoonist of the late 20th century. Yet in the lanky and awkward body of the teenage Crumb we can see the outlines of the substantial artist he would become.... There are very few cartoonists whose entire body of work demands to be read and Crumb belongs near the very top of that short list." – Jeet Heer, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Has Jason become more embittered and misanthropic as he’s aged, or do those tendencies just become more evident as one reads more of his work? Athos in America is up to his usual standards, full of stories that build slowly, with plenty of subtle detail in its stone-faced panels.... Mostly, we wait for things to end badly, which they almost always do, although never with much overt expression of drama.... The execution, as it always is with both Jason and Fantagraphics, is stellar." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Review: "Fantagraphics Books is doing a good job of preserving and publishing important cartoons. A good example is Willie and Joe: The WWII Years.... These cartoons about World War II provide the reader with a glimpse of what army life was like. Willie and Joe: The WWII Years is more than a book of cartoons by a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, it is a significant history book." – Glenn Perrett, Simcoe.com
• Review: "Fantagraphics Books continues to make available Charles M. Schulz's wonderful Peanuts cartoons in attractive books that make nice keepsakes. The latest volume covers the years 1983 and 1984. Lots of fun things are happening with the Peanuts gang including Snoopy's brother Spike requiring help from attacks by coyotes in the desert (they're attacking him with rubber bands), Lucy is still pursuing Schroeder, Charlie Brown is still in a "love triangle" with Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown joins Peppermint Patty's baseball team...as a mascot. This volume includes a Foreword by Leonard Maltin. As with other Peanuts books, The Complete Peanuts 1983-1984 would make a nice gift for those who enjoy Peanuts and the work of Charles M. Schulz." – Glenn Perrett, Simcoe.com
• Interview: Geoff Boucher of The Los Angeles Times has a Q&A with Daniel Clowes about looking back on his career: "One thing that really shocked me was to go through some of the fan mail I used to get in the pre-Internet days. Lots of people — like a truly surprising number of complete strangers — would write me 10- or 15-page letters, telling me all about the most mundane details of their twitterless existence. Pretty much inconceivable nowadays."
• Opinion:Newsarama's Graeme McMillan counts down "The 10 Most Glaring Eisner Nomination Omissions," placing Dave McKean at #9 ("With 2011 seeing the release of Celluloid, the erotic graphic novel that not only marked the return of the much-loved multimedia creator... to comics but also his first full-length graphic novel ever, you would've been forgiven for thinking he would've been given some kind of nomination nod...") and Jaime Herandez at #1 ("A heartbreaking story that not only showed Jaime on top form after a 20+ year career in comics -- and definitely in a class of his own as modern-day storyteller -- 'Love Bunglers' topped many year-end lists for 2011 and was the rare comic that, it seemed, was loved and appreciated by everyone that read it.")
Just beginning to catch up on Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Profile: With his big new art book out and his museum retrospective on the way, Daniel Clowes gets the New York Times profile treatment from Carol Kino: "Mr. Clowes can create a striking face with a few deftly placed lines or brush strokes, often seizing on some specific characteristic that summons up an indelible personality. Think of Enid Coleslaw, the snarky teenage anti-heroine of Ghost World, and her big, black nerdy-hip glasses; they cover most of her face, but they can’t conceal the tiny shifts in expression that loudly telegraph her mood."
• List:Daniel Clowes may be headed for a museum retrospective, but he is neither dead nor retired — but that doesn't stop Flavorwire's Elona Jones from naming 10 candidates to carry the torch of "his storytelling skills, interest in surrealism, and eye for biting observations," including Jason, who "receives international acclaim for his brilliant storytelling."
• Review: "The John Benson-edited anthology The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s MAD-Inspired Satirical Comics assembles largely forgotten work by the likes of Jack Davis, Will Elder, Ross Andru, and Jack Kirby, parodying everything from Mickey Spillane novels to Rex Morgan, M.D. Some of these pieces can stand up to the best of Mad (or at least match the magazine’s average), but even the stories that are clunky and unfunny are fascinating for the way they rip off Mad shamelessly, including all the asides and mini-gags that Will Elder once labeled Mad’s 'chicken fat.' It’s a testament to how quickly the innovative and subversive can become mainstream." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Next to Pogo, the newspaper comics collection that fans have been most anticipating would be Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy, which over the past few decades has garnered a reputation as the purest distillation of the gag cartoon, a triumph of minimalism... Nancy Is Happy: Dailies 1943-1945 joins Bushmiller’s magnum opus in full swing ... Bushmiller’s genius [was] to make everything in his strip so basic that anyone, anywhere, at any time, could get the joke." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review (Video): Video blogger Robert Crayola looks at Nancy Is Happy: "If you like comics or comic strips especially and you haven't read Nancy or if you have and you just want more, I think you'll enjoy this.... Hopefully we can get many more volumes of this. I hope you support it. It's a great book."
• Review: "One of the signature achievements of ’80s alt-comics, Drew and Josh Alan Freidman’s Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead Is Purely Coincidental: An Anthology of Comic Art, 1979-1985 is now back in print in a spiffy new edition that doesn’t really add anything to the original, but is still a necessary addition to any library that doesn’t already have a copy.... Drew Friedman’s stipple-heavy photo-realism and his brother Josh’s gleefully cruel humor combine to craft an alternate history of American entertainment that’s preposterous and yet feels true. Even now, decades after other cartoonists and comedians have tapped this well, the Friedmans’ pioneering work in the field of 'brattily dicking around with icons' remains unparalleled." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Folly... serve[s] as a good introduction to Rickheit’s beautifully ugly visions, of a world where cute girls and humanoid stuffed animals commit atrocities against oozing flesh. With a drawing style that resembles Jason Lutes and Charles Burns, and a storytelling style similar to Jim Woodring and Al Columbia, Rickheit excels in making nightmares lucid. Some characters recur from story to story in Folly, but really this book is just page after page of beautiful images juxtaposed with wounds and excreta. The single-mindedness of Rickheit’s approach — and the level of detail he applies to it — is impressively horrifying." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
It gives us great pleasure to reveal that Celluloid by Dave McKean and Congress of the Animals by Jim Woodring are two of the five finalists for the 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes in the Graphic Novels category. (It's Jim's second nomination in a row, following last year's for Weathercraft, for those of you keeping score.) Congratulations Dave and Jim! This is a high honor for these two bold, visionary and coincidentally wordless books. See the complete list of finalists here. (Additional congrats to Mome contributor Joseph Lambert for his nomination for his debut collection I Will Bite You!) Winners will be announced on Friday, April 20, 2012.
• List:Comics Bulletin names Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes the Best Archival Reprint of 2011, with Jason Sacks saying "Universally acclaimed as one of the finest reprints of Barks's works by even the most exacting Duckophiles, Lost in the Andes finally presents an English-language collection of Duck stores behind two hard covers and with the typical exacting standards for which Fantagraphics is justifiably famous. The good people at Fantagraphics outdid themselves with this reprint, which will undoubtedly be a treasure enjoyed by fans for many years."
...and they also name Dave McKean's Celluloid the Best Erotic Graphic Novel of 2011, with Daniel Elkin saying "Dave McKean is a tremendous artist. He creates work of enormous emotional impact with a deftness and subtlety that is so often missing in modern art. McKean can tell an entire novel's story in a single picture. He's that good.... Celluloid is beautiful and it is powerful and it is mysterious and engaging. It is art as defined by every iteration of the word. It is also another example of what comics can do that no other form of media can match."
• List:Forbidden Planet International's Joe Gordon names The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec Vol. 2 one of his Best of the Year: "For my money Jacques Tardi is one of Europe’s great comics creators, a true maestro... This second helping collects two of the original French albums and serves up a heady cocktail of conspiracies, secret societies, black magic practicioners, mad scientists (and boy does Tardi do a great, cackling mad scientist – he even brings in some from his brilliant The Arctic Maruader into this) and all set against a beautifully realised backdrop of Belle Epoque, pre-war Paris. Fantagraphics are translating a huge swathe of Tardi’s work and in fact I’d recommend and and everything they have so far translated and republished, but for the sake of this piece I’ll go with the wonderful Adèle."
• List: One more Best of the Year list at Forbidden Planet International, with festival organizer Clark Burscough putting Joe Daly's Dungeon Quest Book 2 at the top of his Graphic Novels list: "Childish, purile, hilarious, brilliant. I am completely in love with Joe Daly’s series at this point, and the second volume continues in the same vein as the first; namely, silly stoner-esque humour, with a love for RPGs at its heart."
• Review: "...[Young Romance] is a real treat, an inexpensive way to read a nice sampling of some Kirby comics that any Kirby fanatic has to be curious about. Michael Gagne did a great job assembling a fun cross-section of stories, and noted romance comics historian Michelle Nolan provides an insightful introduction. These might not be the first classic Kirby comics that you would choose to pick up, but they are a lot of fun to read. Rating: ★★★★★" – Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
• Review: "The art is evocative and detailed, still in a very Ub Iwerks-ian rubber-hose style... The character of Mickey [Mouse] -- and the simple fact that he has a character, and isn't just the waving silent mascot of the last couple of decades of Disney -- will be surprising to most readers, but this mouse was a tough little guy, ready for both adventures and fun at any minute, and he's deeply enjoyable to read about." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Profile:The Portland Mercury's Matt Stangel catches up with Tony Millionaire on working the illustrator's beat (as documented in 500 Portraits): "'Making a living off comics is almost impossible,' says Millionaire, musing on the illustration work that's kept him fed through the years."
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."