• List:Multiversity Comics' David Harper counts down the Best Graphic Novels of 2011, with Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010 by Michael Kupperman — "Part prose, part two color comic, this beautiful hardcover is a fanciful romp through history the way I wish it really was. I can hardly wait for the next hundred years to pass so we ca get the next installment" — and Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit Book 3 — "If it doesn't make you sick, you shouldn't be allowed to walk among the public in the first place. If it doesn't make you giddy for the next one, you don't deserve comics" — tied for 5th place
• List:ComicsAttack ranks Gil Jordan, Private Detective: Murder by High Tide by M. Tillieux at #6 on their Top 15 All-Ages Titles of 2011: "Fantagraphics has put out some amazing work this year... Gil Jordan sticks out to us in all of its splendor. Yes, it can be compared to a gritty version of Tintin, but at the same time is so much more and its world so much deeper in crime. The adult tones make adults pick it up, and the colors and action give it an appeal to kids, making it an all-ages gem for anyone who picks it up."
• Review: "Barks' duck stories have been reprinted several times over the years, in different formats of varying quality. Now, Fantagraphics has published the first volume of its new series of hardcover reprints (Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes), and there's much to be heartened by.... Even the silliest premise, when executed by an artist in perfect control of his gifts, can land with deftness and grace — that's something that strikes you again and again as you read Barks' work. And it's a lesson that won't get lost on any kid with whom you might choose to share it, which is convenient, as this collection makes a perfect introduction to one of the greatest all-ages comics artists of all time." – Glen Weldon, NPR - Monkey See
• Plug: "Though I have many contemporary cartoonists and comics writers whose work I admire, there is one artist whose work defies my critical ability to write about it intelligently. This artist is Kevin Huizenga. Mixing a disarmingly simple style with narrative complexity rarely achieved in comics, Huizenga has consistently turned out some of the most interesting and perplexing works of the early 21st century." – Rob Vollmar, LitStack
• Plug: "A definite contender for music book of the year, Kevin Avery's Everything Is an Afterthought is the biography of pioneering rock critic Paul Nelson... It's a fascinating story of an important writer and recommended to anyone who has an interest in sixties and seventies rock 'n roll and music writing in general." – 211 Bernard (Librairie Drawn & Quarterly)
I don't think anything I can say could quite do this justice: the Hey Oscar Wilde! Tumblr dug up this holiday greeting card sent from the great manga creator Osamu Tezuka to the great Carl Barks with a sketch by Tezuka showing his best-known character Astro Boy greeting Barks's Donald Duck. When giants collide — and hug adorably! (Originally posted at comicartfans.com. Via a Twitter trail of Forbidden Planet International retweeting Eric Orchard.)
The Silver Comic Books for Free Comic Book Day 2012 were announced today and we're pleased to be able to reveal that we'll be bringing you TWO wonderful all-ages titles! (We don't have cover art to show you yet (the ones on the FCBD website are just placeholders) but we'll be sure to post 'em here as soon as we can.)
Walt Disney’s Donald Duck Family Comics
Three amazingly adventurous, thrillingly stupendous, wonderfully wondrous comics by one of the greatest cartoonists of all time, Carl Barks! CARL BARKS! The biggest name in cartoons, second to only Walt Disney! Find out what happens to Donald, Daisy, Uncle Scrooge, Gyro Gearloose, and the Nephews in these extremely entertaining and wonderfully told full-color comics!
Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby Sampler
Before Harold and the Purple Crayon there was Barnaby. Created by Crockett Johnson, Barnaby ran in newspapers for over ten years (1942-52). Its subtle ironies and playful allusions won many passionate readers as they followed the adventures of 5-year-old Barnaby Baxter and his cigar-chomping fairy godfather, Jackeen J. O'Malley.
• Plug: At The Huffington Post, Dave Scheidt's "2011 Holiday Gift Guide Comic Books" include Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman: "The funniest comic you've never read. Laugh out loud funny. Spastic, bizarre and gut busting. Fans of Saturday Night Live, Mad Magazine and just anyone who likes to laugh will love this book. A fair warning, if you read this book in public, you will laugh like a mad man and most likely frighten people like I did."
"Kelly's Pogo is a masterclass in wordsmithing, satire, and relatable art. Although this collection apparently doesn't get to the more overtly political satire that made Pogo so famous, it does promise to be a great look at the start of an important and quintessential comic strip. The statements Kelly makes in these early stories are about character relationships, design, and humor as well as use of the English language in surprising and touching ways. This is the surely the ground floor of what looks to be the next great collection series in comics literature."
"Charles M. Schulz's relatable characters are literally part of the fabric of my being. Peanuts helped forge my earliest appreciation for sequential art and, funny as it seems, philosophy. I can't wait until the day I have a shelf filled with every strip ever starring Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Pig-Pen and the rest of the Peanuts gang."
• Plugs:iFanboy's "2011 Holiday Gift Guide: Lost Treasures," written by Paul Montgomery, includes:
"Mickey’s grown soft in his old age, but back in the day he was my kind of bastard. Dude’s a straight up rascal, and launches headlong into danger, starting with the seminal 'Race to Death Valley.' Floyd Gottfredson’s wily take on the character is revered by the best cartoonists, and Fantagraphics has packaged these earliest serial strips from the 30s in some truly handsome volumes. Take advantage of the two volume slipcover edition for a great value and the publisher’s now signature excellence in presentation."
"Every year, the top item on my own Christmas list is the annual box-set collecting Fantagraphics’ latest volumes of Charles Schulz’s Complete Peanuts.... Watching Chuck and Snoopy evolve from their original designs of the early 50s to the more familiar iterations I grew up with in the Funnies is an incredible experience."
"Turns out it wasn’t that easy navigating the Arctic Ocean from Russian to France at the turn of the 20th century. If you dig on Poe and Verne and antique diving helmets, this woodcut melodrama is just for you."
"Years in the making, this new collection of Walt Kelly’s Pogo dailies and weekend strips does due justice to a comic that ought to be as much a household name as Peanuts or Doonesbury.... Mix in Kelly’s whimsical, lyrical 'Swamp speak' and you’ve got some real poetry on your hands."
"This is as beautiful a book as I’ve purchased this year, and the stories within have much to offer both children and adult fans of visual storytelling and even comedy. Barks knew how to contract a joke, and this is a masterclass."
• Plug:Robot 6's Michael May makes an unexpected choice when spotlighting upcoming titles listed in the current issue of Previews: "The Big Town- Charles Schulz’ son wrote this novel (the last in his jazz-age trilogy) about the end of the Roaring Twenties and 'the role of business, crime, morality, and love in our lives.' It’s not comics, but it sounds ambitious and transporting."
• List:About.com Manga's 2011 Best New Manga, as selected by Deb Aoki, includes Shimura Takako's Wandering Son Vol. 1 as Best New Seinen/Josei: Slice of Life: "Gender-bending is not unusual in manga, but it's rare to see transgender identity issues depicted realistically, not just as a plot gimmick. With her spare, elegant art and slice-of-life storytelling, Shimura tells a sweet and sensitive coming-of-age tale that opens your eyes and your heart to these kids and their unusual, but very real desires to be the boy/girl they know they really meant to be."
• Review: "This giant gift-book portfolio of [Jack] Davis' work reflects the high standard of design and archival presentation that is Fantagraphics' specialty.... There is a brief, punchy, informative introduction by fellow illustrator and conceptual designer William Stout, as well as a longer biographical essay at the end of the book by The Comics Journal's Gary Groth. Between these two helpful pieces are nearly 200 pages of uninterrupted artwork. The reproductions are assisted by the book's large 10-by-13-inch trim size. The size is indicative of Davis' influence, and it affords readers a panoramic view of the evolution and contributions of one of this country's most recognizable and influential cartoonists." – Casey Burchby, SF Weekly
• Review: "One thing that stories in Belgian cartoonist Olivier Schrauwen’s The Man Who Grew His Beard share is that they question their own form — and they usually feature bearded men who draw — but otherwise resist association.... So many storytellers are lauded for creating worlds so believable that they cause readers to forget. Presumably, readers forget their own realities, and become absorbed in the author’s imagined product. Schrauwen creates new worlds in every story, and these worlds envelope us, but he never allows us to forget. He doesn’t let us forget that he’s an artist, and that we are readers, and that those are his pencil lines and paint strokes on the page we’re reading. And this reminder of the form and experience is exactly what makes his stories seem so real. They refuse to deny the process with which we all struggle if rarely acknowledge, and that is the process of continually framing and creating the world in which we live." – John Dermot Woods, The Faster Times
• Review: "Accompanied by cheeky illustrations, Twain's narrative traipses from Gatsbyesque Jazz Age parties to hanging out with space robots to shrinking and befriending sentient ants. The tone is authoritative yet absurd, like your father telling you that he was definitely in an acid-induced threesome with Jessica Lange in the '70s. It's a silly and ironic romp..." – Grace Bello, Bookslut
• Review: "The material has been referred to by some as 'dark,' but I disagree. It’s not cute. It’s not really intended for kids. There are big laughs in Nuts, but they come from the reality of being a kid in America, and how disillusionment came with the territory when you embarked on the road to adulthood." – Rob Bradfield, Examiner.com
• Feature: Comics Alliance's Chris Sims has a fun spotlight on a seasonal Carl Barks story in Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes: "...'The Golden Christmas Tree' might just take the fruitcake. After all, most of the other Christmas stories I've read don't involve a harvest of tears or someone turning into a woodchipper."
• Plug: "Fantagraphics have released two books in the last few years of Fletcher Hanks's fantastically strange comics. His work was around in the early twentieth century and it’s brimming with personality and energy. The books bring together some amazing stories and I can’t recommend them enough. Prepare to have your mind blown." – Jack Teagle, Lost at E Minor
• 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: "Uncut, uncensored and politically incorrect – these tales are from an alternate Disney universe, where Mickey is a red-blooded, two-fisted adventurer; they are fun to read and a delight to view. Gottfredson’s comics are as classy, funny and as slick as the Disney shorts from the same period. And as usual, co-editor David Gerstein provides a plethora of 'bonus materials'... A fine package, a full meal, and a perfect follow-up to volume 1, Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Vol. 2: Trapped on Treasure Island fills a gap long-neglected in animation history. Buy it." – Jerry Beck, Cartoon Brew
• Review: "I think I’ve been waiting for this book my entire life.... At long last the complete Pogo has been compiled, lovingly, ...in the miraculous new hardcover, Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips, Vol. 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder. Buy this book.... Kelly’s drawings are just magnificent, and his sophisticated writing style was far ahead of its time. Its time has come – and Fantagraphics has gone out of its way to ensure the best possible copies of these rare strips were found, restored and preserved perfectly here for all time... A great gift for anyone – especially you." – Jerry Beck, Cartoon Brew
• Review: "Walt Kelly’s Pogo... is justifiably hailed as one of the great achievements of the postwar comic strip. In theory, it belongs to the 'funny animal' genre; in practice, it was a personal, whimsical combination of comedy and mood, dressed in linguistic wordplay and laced with sociopolitical satire.... This wonderful first volume of a projected 12-volume series contains the strip’s first two official years (plus its early pre-syndication stint in a single New York paper), with the Sundays reproduced in color, and with Kelly’s topical references annotated by scholar R.C. Harvey.... I salute this launch... [Rating] 9/10" – Michael Barrett, PopMatters
• Review: "Small wonder that Jonathan Lethem modeled Chronic City’s protagonist on [Paul] Nelson: Nelson’s bohemian eccentricities... make his biography a more gripping read than the criticism that makes up [Everything Is an Afterthought]’s second half.... In the end, Nelson’s best epitaph comes from a sprawling essay that portrays the writer as a hermeneutic gumshoe hired to suss out the meaning of Dylan’s oeuvre: 'I know we need people like you because a world filled with romantics would be a disaster, but a world without them would be worse.'" – Jonah Wolf, The College Hill Independent
• Review: At The Factual Opinion, Tucker Stone examines The Comics Journal #38 (from 1978). A highlight: "Kim Thompson gets to review the Spider-Man television special and one of the Hulk television movies. He likes the Hulk one more than the Spider-man one, but then, he doesn't like the Spider-man one at all. (It sounds really fucking weird.) He's also really ticked off about Stan Lee re-writing the comic strip Spider-man's origin to better match the television show. Fists are shaken!" (Incidentally, this seminal issue is considered one of the magazine's historic best by both Kim Thompson and the bloggers of Love & Maggie.)
• Profile: Alec Berry of West Virginia University's The Daily Athenaeum introduces its readers to Fantagraphics in an article on independent comics publishers: "These innovative works could be characterized as dramatic, journalistic or satirical. Really, what happened was Fantagraphics stepped up and presented the thoughtful analysis that could be done on comics by publishing the trade magazine The Comics Journal, and Fantagraphics published the actual work that inspired the thought."
• Review: "In an historical moment when a cross-section of the population is waking up to the reality of brutal inequalities and the limited set of levers by which that might be expected to change, being reminded of past permutations of those same societal ills may prove hopeful or unbearable. It's hard to say. Either way, these are effective comics. The Road to Wigan Pier never manages the dead-on power inherent in much of Sacco's best work, but it's certainly worth any comics fan's time." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "...[I]t is thrilling to see such a vital, and nearly forgotten, work of comics coming back into print, cleaned up and reorganized and ready to surprise a new generation of former kids.... Nuts is one of the best works, and one of the few single book-length works, by one of our time's best and most idiosyncratic cartoonists -- ...it is for everyone who really remembers how terrible and lonely and infuriating it can be to be a child." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Plugs:Robot 6's ongoing "Holiday Gift-Giving Guide" survey of comics creators rolls on, with Joey Weiser suggesting "For the comic strip enthusiast: Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson – Super engaging strips that are full of life and very funny. I’m very glad that Fantagraphics is publishing these." Caanan Grall also recommends "Fantagraphics’s Floyd Gottfriedson Mickey Mouse and Carl Barks Donald Duck libraries."
• Plug:Heroes Aren't Hard to Find's Andy Mansell rounds up some gift ideas for their upcoming holiday sale this weekend, including Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons: "This is one of the best books of the past year (or so). Gahan Wilson is the true heir apparent to New Yorker comic weirdo Charles Addams. His comics are twisted, macabre, beautifully rendered and above all–laugh out loud funny. This 3 volume set belongs in every serious comic fan’s library."
Comics Alliance kicks off their Holiday Gift Guide this year with a preview and recommendation of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes. CA's Chris Sims says "with its beautiful design, interesting bonus material and masterful all-ages storytelling, it’s one of the few comics that I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone.... The hardcover's packed full of feature-length stories, shorts, and even one-page gag strips, with the blend adventure and comedy that made Carl Barks so legendary -- and it's even got one of the craziest Christmas stories I've ever read -- all wrapped up in Fantagraphics' usual incredible design. It's hands-down one of the best gifts of the year..." Who are we to disagree!