• Review: "It’s weird and it’s different and it immediately showed me that Ganges #2 is not what I thought it was. I was expecting mopey autobio, a distant cousin of Blankets with better artwork, and instead got something that was well worth the hype. ...It’s a comic about people and how they interact, held high by shockingly good art. The first ten pages show that Huizenga can do some amazing things with storytelling and the rest of the book shows his strong grasp of body language and how to make talking heads interesting." – David Brothers, 4thletter!
• Tunes:Zak Sally provides a soundtrack playlist for Like a Dog to Largehearted Boy, who says of the book "Sally is incredibly inventive, these cartoons differ in theme greatly, but all come together through his dark, foreboding illustrations. This volume is worthwhile alone for the two editions of Sally's Eisner Award nominated comic, The Recidivist, but the additional works offer a glimpse into this talented artist's evolution (as do the copious notes included in the collection)."
The first Online Commentary & Diversions of the new year might be the longest one ever, so let's get to it:
• List/Review/Interview: As part of The Comics Reporter 's unique series of critical discussions on notable comics of the decade, Tom Spurgeon talks to Tucker Stone about Kevin Huizenga's Ganges: "That's the thing about Ganges #3 that makes it a unique comic -- it cannot be told in another medium and work. How are you going to write that down, that aspect of Glenn chasing his own thoughts and memories about completely personal, mundane life aspects, without drawing the character swimming around in his own head?" Elsewhere, Sean T. Collins responds to some of Stone's points
• List:Robot 6 lists The 30 Most Important Comics of the Decade. In part one, Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco is at #19 ("What's more, it showed that comics could handle not only tough subject matters, but deal with timely, true-life subjects in a hard-hitting, journalistic fashion"). In part two, The Complete Peanuts is at #15 ("If you believe, as I do, that we are living in the Golden Age of Reprints, chances are The Complete Peanuts is your Exhibit A")
• List:Newsarama's J. Caleb Mozzocco names his top 10 comics of the year, with The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book by Joe Daly at #8: "...[W]hat he delivers in the two stories collected in this book are unlike anything else I’ve seen in popular comics."
• List: Joe McCulloch of Jog - The Blog prefaces his Top Ten Comics of 2009 list with a "Top Five Caveats of 2009" list of reprinted or unread comics which includes Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941: ("Supermen!excited me... for suggesting a burning, manic soul of superhero comics, a reckless freedom differentiated from pulp writing and feature films by gnarled visual style while set apart from newspaper strips by virtue of a restless hunger to entertain quick and hard. It felt like the start of a future, and the comedown only hit when I realized I enjoyed it more than any new superhero comic of 2009") and The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit. On the Top Ten list proper: West Coast Blues by Tardi & Manchette at #8 ("Teeming with fleshy characters prone to bleeding and puking, rippled with burn lines of existential dismay, the story keenly exploits how the thrills promised by bloody adventure outside the law segue into the terror of governmental systems failing to protect their cozy consumer citizens") and Prison Pit: Book 1 by Johnny Ryan at #4 ("as visceral and gory as fantasy throwdowns get, while remaining almost contemplative in its plain-paneled studies of bodily movement").
• List: Patrick Montfort, blogging at Articulate Nerd, names his Favorite Comics of 2009: at #10, West Coast Blues by Tardi & Manchette ("A masterfully constructed crime story with an unlikeable protagonist caught in an unlikely circumstance, this very French graphic novel is superior to anything I've seen in the genre from an American cartoonist"); at #9, Abstract Comics: The Anthology ("Handsomely designed and smartly edited... one of the year's most unique releases... thrilling"); at #8, Prison Pit: Book 1 by Johnny Ryan ("Refreshingly devoid of any literary or artistic pretensions, this first of what I hope will be many, many volumes nevertheless comes across as somehow one of the smartest and well crafted books of the year"); at #7, The Complete Peanuts 1971-1972 and The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974 by Charles M. Schulz ("Really strong stuff here, including the 'Charlie Brown wears a sack on his head to summer camp' sequence, surely the 'Poison River' of Peanuts"); and at #2, The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit ("Reminiscent of the best work of David Lynch, there are a lot of powerful themes humming just beneath the surface of the creepy and dreamlike narrative. This one hit hard, and I can't wait to read it again. Really, really impressive")
• List: Cartoonist David Lasky's Best Graphic Novels of the Decade include Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco at #8 ("More haunting and harrowing than any TV news report on the subject") and The Frank Book by Jim Woodring at #10 ("Jim Woodring's cartoon animal, Frank, learns about life (the hard way) in an odd, visually lush, surreal world")
• List:Newsarama's Henry Chamberlain names the comics he was most intrigued by in 2009, including The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit ("Hans Rickheit has been producing work like this for years and he has perfected a certain haunted and exquisite comics style. Take it from me, this story of two very strange brothers is the real deal.")
• List: Matthew Price of The Oklahoman names his top 10 graphic novels of the decade, with Joe Sacco's Safe Area Gorazde at #9 ("Joe Sacco's nonfiction account of the war in Bosnia was among the best ever examples of graphic novel journalism.")
• List: Edward Kaye of Hypergeek selects The Best Graphic Novels of 2009, including Low Moon by Jason ("At times both bleak and humorous, these beautifully absurd stories will leave you as speechless as one of Jason’s silent characters."), Love and Rockets: New Stories #2 by the Hernandez Brothers ("Los Bros. Hernandez continue to blaze trails with their originality, and the comic industry is better for it. This essential collection should be on every fan’s shelf."), Luba by Gilbert Hernandez ("It’s an astounding collection of stories about family, life, love, and heartbreak... [W]hen you read all of these powerful tales together in one place, you realise that Beto has created an epic here, unrivaled in its scale and depth. Words fail to express just how wonderful this collection is."), Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me by Peter Bagge ("It’s a brilliant piece of work, and perhaps Bagge’s finest achievement to date."), Locas II by Jaime Hernandez ("These tales of the lives of Maggie, Hopey, and Ray, are some of the most enthralling, and sometimes bizarre, stories ever told in the comic medium.") and You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! by Fletcher Hanks ("...[T]hese surreal tales from the dawn of the super hero are uncompromisingly vivid, brutal, and at times, completely insane!")
• List/Coming Attractions/Plugs:Hypergeek lists The Essential Comics and Graphic Novels of 2010, including Almost Silent by Jason ("Jason is one of the greatest cartoonists in the world") and the year's books from the Hernandez Brothers: The Troublemakers ("I loved Chance in Hell, so this follow-up is a must for me. Beto is a wonderful storyteller, and an astonishing artist, so you can't go wrong picking this up, even if you've never read any L&R!"), High Soft Lisp ("This collection is essential for all L&R fans, as it collects together many of Beto's stories from the second L&R series, for the first time."), Penny Century ("Another essential collection for fans of L&R, collection Xamie's Penny Century stories from the Penny Century series and from Love & Rockets Volume II."), and Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 ("If it's a tenth as good as the first two volumes, we're in for a treat!")
• Review: "Magnificent art. Panels that range from three or so across medium-sized panels and the occasional painfully detailed and colored super-sized panel. An ongoing story...with blood and gore even! Dooming predictions, wounds, loss and death. Fantagraphics is to be thanked for working so hard to produce a book [Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938] that shows Foster's artwork in a decent size and with the colors corrected." – Fred Kiesche, The Lensman's Children
• Review: "For a change of pace, it's nice to delve into some work from the great Steve Ditko and find nary a spider-man nor a strange doctor among them. Fantagraphics provides the ideal venue for doing so in Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1... With the Fantagraphics logo on the sturdy spine, readers can expect — and receive — a top-quality package with crisp pages and handsome design. It's certainly attractive for some stories Ditko dismissed as 'junk,' but we all know there's treasure buried in trash." – Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: "Issue #2 [of Sublife] saw a lot of [the] promise [of the first issue] fulfilled in a group of stories that ranged across both genres and visual styles... What connected each story was a common theme: the desire for family and the ways in which that need either created surrogate families or metastasized into something darker." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Plug:Robot 6 guest contributor Shaenon Garrity got Humbug for Christmas: "I love Harvey Kurtzman's failed magazine projects... Kurtzman never had much success in all his long career, but he had a talent for making smart people want to give him a hand... fun stuff. It's got a lot of work by Arnold Roth, whom I love."
• Coming Attractions:Robot 6 surveys numerous comics pros as to what they're looking forward to in 2010: in part 1, Evan Dorkin mentions several of our upcoming reprint collections; in part 2, Chris Schweitzer mentions Drew Weing's Set to Sea (July); in part 3, Jamie S. Rich mentions Lucky in Love by Chieffet & DeStefano
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater continues (in part 3 of 4) his conversation with Carol Tyler: "I thought I could knock it out really quickly. That’s not case. But that’s not really stopping me, or anything. It’s just that, if it takes another six months to make this nicer, sweeter, and more wonderful, I want to. At first I thought I could get it all out in one package. I had it ready. But I’m not person who can write a script and then go illustrate it. I’m intuitive and I’m intuiting my way into this huge subject matter that hits me like a rock. There’s times when I can’t work because it makes me cry."
• Profile:Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning talks to Dash Shaw about The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.: "I realize that some people think of comics as being storyboards, or as some kind of preliminary work for a movie, and that's very funny to me. But usually the people who think that are film-industry people who think EVERYTHING is preliminary work for a future film! A book, play, whatever! Ha!"
• Survey:The Beat's year-end survey of comics pros includes the following responses. From Jay Lynch: "When I think of comics in the 00s I think of: Johnny Ryan." From Mike Dawson: "What was the biggest story in comics in 2009? The Comics Journal moving almost exclusively online."
Whew, what a year! Online Commentary & Diversions returns next week.
• List:Comic Book Resources continues listing their Top 100 Comics of 2009, with Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit: Book 1 at #75 ("A huge kick to the solar plexus, not just in terms of the way-beyond-NC-17 level of gore and bodily fluids on display, but also the sheer wealth of no-holds barred imagination and utter sense of play that's on every page. The craftsmanship on display is just as striking as the violence." – Chris Mautner) and The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit at #56 ("Few artists in comics can tell surreal stories with the level of clarity and precision that Hans Rickheit achieves... In the same way that David Lynch squeezes compelling characters and memorable scenes onto film amid dark and obscured circumstances, Rickheit renders a feeling portrait of a young mad scientist named Edmund in one of the 2009's most inimitable reads." – Brian Warmoth)
• List:Jeff Smith names his favorite comics of the decade, including The Complete Peanuts ("Revolutionary.") and Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw ("I was also impressed by the mysteries in the story — and really impressed by Shaw’s restraint in revealing only what he had to — leaving much for the imagination, and keeping my thoughts on the book and its meaning for days afterward.")
• List:Comics Alliance's thematic Best of 2009 list names You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! "Best Indie Reprint Volume" ("The utterly insane adventures of the space wizard Stardust continue to be some of the most brilliantly surrealist comics around."), Pim & Francie by Al Columbia "Best Glimpse into a Terrifying Universe that will Haunt my Dreams for Years to Come," and Ganges #3 by Kevin Huizenga "Best comic to read when you can't sleep"
• List: Brian Gibson of Edmonton's Vue Weekly lists Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco as one of the Best Graphic Novels of the 2000s: "Sacco’s made comics a serious and messily truthful place for journalism."
• List:Living Between Wednesdays lists The Best of 2009: Original Graphic Novels and Collections, including Blazing Combat ("Each panel of Blazing Combat is a stunning work of art, and they are beautifully preserved on heavy paper in this hardcover book. Just as relevant now as when they were first published, these stories should still draw an emotional reaction from anyone who reads them.") and Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman ("It’s just something that you have to sit down and read, and when you do you’ll laugh your ass off.")
• Review: "In ambition, breadth and heft, this far-ranging compilation is the worthy companion to Gilbert’s formidable Palomar volume. While capable of standing on its own, Luba is very much the continuing story of several characters now fully transplanted, unfettered and haunted, from their celebrated Mexican town to the Greater Metropolitan Land of Opportunity. Their histories grow longer, broader, more complex and richer as Hernandez’s rollicking, remorseless social comedy rolls on." – Rich Kreiner, The Comics Journal
The year's penultimate Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List:Comic Book Resources begins their countdown of the Top 100 Comics of 2009. At #82, "Because I Love You So Much" by Nikoline Wedelin: "Found in the pages of the recent anthology of Danish comics, From Wonderland with Love, this collection of strips about a mother who discovers that her daughter is being sexually abused by her dad is one of the most harrowing and utterly stunning stories about a difficult subject matter I've ever read and easily equal to the works of, say, Phoebe Gloeckner or Debbie Dreschler." (Chris Mautner)
• List: Robin McConnell of Inkstuds re-posts his Best of 2009 and Best of the 2000s lists previously run at The Daily Cross Hatch
• List:Comicdom continues their Top 100 of the 00s with Black Hole by Charles Burns at #2: "I start, taking for granted that with Black Hole, Burns played the blues of the pelvis with unparalleled mastery."
• Review: "...[A] love letter to 70s exploitation movies. Beto being Beto, there’s a depth of visual symbolism and complexity of character that provides an emotional structure to the narrative not seen in the source material that inspired these stories. ...Elmore Leonard meets Roger Corman. ... There’s a wonderful luridness to the story that Hernandez revels in... The Troublemakers... shows the artist at the height of his powers, capable of crafting characters with surprising depth even in the basest of genre stories." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Interview:Comic Book Galaxy's Alan David Doane presents an exactly-decade-old chat with Barry Windsor-Smith, conducted on the occasion of the release of OPUS Vol. 1: "I mean, if I'd really wanted to sell it, I could have called it 'Tits Galore' or something like that." (I pulled the goofiest quote, but really, it's a substantive read.)
I was very sorry to read this morning that the great David Levine passed away yesterday. Fantagraphics was fortunate to publish Levine's AMERICAN PRESIDENTS last year, and it's a wonderful showcase of his singular talent. Our heart goes out to Mr. Levine's family. For more on Mr. Levine, I highly recommend this excellent VANITY FAIR feature from last fall.
• Review: "You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!... collects all the [Fletcher] Hanks material not included in the first book. Hanks' hyperactive, colorful, robust, and crazily disproportionate art is perfectly matched to his over-the-top storytelling... There are few artists, from the Golden Age to today, that so deftly blended goofy dialogue with terrifying violence and surreal situations; for better or worse, Hanks was a real original. [Grade] B+" - The A.V. Club
• Review: "[Ho! The Morally Questionable Cartoons of Ivan Brunetti] is a brutally funny and disturbing attempt to push some buttons, either uncomfortably or comfortably mired in taboo. The aesthetic of freaks, geeks, nerds and ugly men and women, all with dark pasts, dirty fetishes, sociopathic tendencies, and murderous habits all play out over 120 odd pages of frenetic cartoon violence, sometimes sexual, sometimes suicidal, sometimes offensive, but always funny." - Geek Pie
• Review: "Explainers [is] a veritable Bible of middle class American dysfunction... [Jules] Feiffer reveals the depths of his subject not only through the dialogue — which are filled with psychological, social and politic depths that few cartoonists have ever plumbed — but also through an amazing skill to capture the body language so crucial to human communication... Explainers is 500 pages of startling truth captured in sequential squiggles on paper, a real masterpiece worth delving into." - John E. Mitchell, North Adams Transcript
• Profile/Review: Robert Birnbaum of The Morning News proposes "a Mount Rushmore of American illustration" consisting of Bill Mauldin, Jules Feiffer, Ed Sorel, Seymour Chwast, and David Levine, adding "American Presidents is a 128-page compilation that assembles Levine’s survey of American leaders and their coteries and skewers them with delightful results. It should be a required text in American history courses—Levine’s images powerfully expose the venality, duplicity, and hypocrisy of the upper reaches of our government."
• Interviews: Inkstuds presents a two-fer of audio talks with newly-minted Mome contributors: first up, it's Noah Van Sciver (whose comics "read like they came from the mind of a crazed hobo. Seriously, they are great"); up second, it's T. Edward Bak (described simply as "great")
• We haven't had a chance to listen to this ourselves yet, but we are told that British comedy genius and known Fantagraphics fan Graham Linehan (Big Train, The IT Crowd, Father Ted) sings our praises in this interview with The Sound of Young America
Also: other publishers have new stuff coming out from our pals Chris Ware, Gilbert Hernandez and Kevin Huizenga, so this is definitely a good week to hit the shops. As customary, we've got previews of our releases that you can check out at the links above to help maximize your shopping time.