• Review: "This thing [The Furry Trap] is a nightmarish monster. It's pretty great. ...[W]hat Simmons does so well -- without peer, honestly -- is smash together sweetness and nightmare. Innocence and the most vile corruption imaginable. The stories are unsettling, but Simmons takes it three steps further than many other creators in this vein and then pushes the events into exceedingly horrific territory and then shows how unsettled even the characters are, when they realize the kind of world they live in.... Yeah, this stuff is really good, in surprisingly different ways from story to story. It's a reprint collection that feels like a wonderfully terrible, vibrantly new manifesto on what comics are capable of." – Tim Callahan, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "Popeye Vol. 6: Me Li’l Swee’ Pea... is the last of the real, 'classic' Popeye volumes, meaning it’s the last batch of Popeye comics E.C. Segar did before dying of leukemia in 1938. Underscoring the tragedy is the fact that Segar’s skills hadn’t dimmed at despite his illness. The final daily storyline, King Swee’ Pea, is as strong and hilarious as Segar’s best material... This volume is also special as it contains one of the saddest sequences I’ve ever read in comics, wherein Swee’ Pea is taken from a distraught Popeye. ...I think it speaks to Segar’s genius about how verklempt this sequence still makes me." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "Krazy & Ignatz 1922-24: At Last My Drim of Life Has Come True... is the final volume in Fantagraphics’ Krazy Kat collection, though for roundabout publishing reasons, it catches the strip midway through its run. Reading this latest collection, I feel like I have a deeper appreciation for Herriman’s narration, which I always kind of saw as entertaining, but secondary to the dialogue and situations. I’m not sure why, but I feel like something 'clicked' here and another piece of the Herriman puzzle has fallen into place for me. Another great thing about this book: A whole run of Herriman’s 'Us Husbands' strip as well as some really early stuff." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "[Pogo: Vol. 1 of the Complete Syndicated Comic Strips:] Through the Wild Blue Wonder is an absolute peach of a collection; it features the typically handsome deluxe binding we’re used to from Fantagraphics and a beautiful cover, and the non-strip material within is more than enough to justify the double-sawbuck price tag.... Of course, any such collection lives and dies by the quality, readability and durability of the strips inside... [Pogo's] art... is simply breathtaking; the facial expressions and body language in these strips are often deceptively simple, but they offer a master class in how to communicate emotion and expression in cartooning.... [Kelly's] backgrounds are lovely and provide a perfect balance to the detail in the character illustrations... But what puts Pogo way, way over the top in terms of sheer audacious greatness isn’t its art, great as that is. It’s Kelly’s remarkably eclectic writing and inventive use of language that makes the strip." – Leonard Pierce, A Schediastic Hootenanny
• Commentary: "...Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Coincidental... is a beautiful book, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently. There’s a certain brand of mean-spirited, petty humor that’s been pretty popular over the last few decades, in which the main point seems to be laughing at some celebrity or another who no longer has a thriving career. As if failing to maintain A-list status in as fickle and luck-dependent as Hollywood was a valid reason to be mocked. At first glance, some of Friedman’s work, with its cast of has-beens and never-weres, can seem to be another example of this kind of comedy, but it isn’t — most of these strips cut a lot deeper than that. The reader feels the sting and pain of failure and despair too strongly to feel superior. In other words, we’re all Rondo Hatton." – Tim Hodler, The Comics Journal
It's no coincidence that the fabulous Drew Friedmanwill be joined by esteemed film historian Leonard Maltin this Saturday, May 19th in Los Angeles!
Drew states, they'll be in conversation about "all things Shemp, Old Jewish Comedians, Joe Franklin, Wheezer, Al Kilgore, Shemp, Woim, Officer Joe Bolton, Shemp, Darla, Gene Baylos, Gummo Marx, Buckwheat, Jerry Ohlinger, Shemp and so much more" at Book Soup [ 8818 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood ].
Starting to catch up on Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "The frighteningly hilarious world of Rickheit’s graphic novel is a deranged cabinet of curiosities, full of biomechanical tanks, writhing organic matter, amorphous monsters birthing adorable kittens, men and women in animal masks, and countless tubes, gas masks, sex toys, and pseudo-Victorian apocalyptic landscapes. It would all be too oppressive if Rickheit’s sense of humor weren’t so addictive.... This juxtaposition of dry humor undercuts the richly drawn horror of Folly, simultaneously adding to its strangeness and making it bearable for a casual read... The result is a narrative mosaic that pairs sumptuous, horrific imagery against a strange but lighthearted sense of humor." – Publishers Weekly
• Review:Walter Wehus looks at Kolor Klimax; key quote as translated by Kolor Klimax editor Matthias Wivel: "the common aspect is quality"
• Review: "While exploring this collection, I found myself enjoying the various challenges it presented. It did dare me to eschew my 'western' values of linear, results oriented thinking and simply give way to my intuitive understanding of the art before me. I can’t honestly say I 'get' every comic contained withing this anthology [Abstract Comics]... nor can I truly say I learned something about the medium that I didn’t already know. But to see comics stripped of their representational elements does amplify certain things that are so unique about the medium and probably reveals its potential even more fully. These are comics to be experienced." – Jason Newcomb, StashMyComics
• Preview:The Beat's Jessica Lee presents a 6-page preview of Nicolas Mahler's Angelman, saying "If you’ve noticed yourself to be a comic enthusiast who has become more and more disillusioned with the corporate transformation of super-hero comics, Angelman could well be the fresh breath of illustrated air you’ve been yearning for. What could easily be one of the most comedic releases thus far this year, Fantagraphics is releasing (in hardcover no less!) a new graphic commentary of the often-times outrageous and unbelievable trends in the comic industry."
• Profile:The Wall Street Journal's Ralph Gardner Jr. on the work and career of Drew Friedman: "Mr. Friedman's genius is that, on some level, his work is never utterly absent affection, or his subjects black and white, even when they're literally drawn in black and white. It might be a stretch to say that the artist captures their underlying humanity. What he does provide is a picture window onto their troubled psyches so that they and their moral afflictions, whatever they are, must be taken seriously."
• Interview: I don't think we've previously linked to Ted Widmer's career-spanning interview with Robert Crumb from the Summer 2010 issue of The Paris Review: "I was so eccentric when I was seventeen, eighteen, I used to walk around town wearing an Abe Lincoln frock coat and a stovepipe hat that I’d found in some junk store, defying people to ridicule me or think me eccentric. I was a teenage social outcast. At the time it made me feel very depressed, and rejected by girls. Later I realized I was actually quite lucky because it freed me. I was free to develop and explore on my own all these byways of the culture that, if you’re accepted, you just don’t do. I was free to explore the things that interested me."
• Interview (Audio): The Daniel Clowes victory lap continues with an appearance Monday on NPR's Morning Edition: "Clowes never aimed to be the kind of artist museums collect. But now, the walls of the Oakland Museum of California are covered with his drawings. It's 'quite embarrassing,' he laughs. After a stint as an art student at Brooklyn's Pratt Institute in the 1970s, Clowes tried unsuccessfully to get work as an illustrator. Sitting around drawing comics on his own, he decided to send a strip to underground publisher Fantagraphics. He was expecting rejection. Instead, 'they called me up and offered me a monthly comic book, and I felt like I hadn't earned anything,' he says. 'You know, it's like all of a sudden, you're being made president after you've been like, you know, on the city council in Cleveland.'" KQED also posts a couple of outtakes from the interview
• Interview: At The Comics Journal, Nicole Rudick talks with Diane Noomin about her new collection of DiDi Glitz stories, Glitz-2-Go: "In 1974, I did a full-fledged DiDi story for Wimmen’s Comix. It was four pages and was called “She Chose Crime”, and when I was putting this book together I realized that DiDi came out almost fully developed. She hasn’t changed, she hasn’t grown or anything like that. If I look at that first story, the drawing has changed and I’d like to think that certain things have gotten better, but in that story, DiDi’s persona is it. I don’t think I’d realized that."
To celebrate the re-release of Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead Is Purely Coincidental, Josh Alan Friedman presents a behind-the-scenes look at one of the strips from the book, discussing his creative process with his brother Drew, with rare art not included in the book, seldom-seen photos and his full typewritten script for the strip.
• Review: "Since its 1996 Olio Press inception with The Curse of Brambly Hedge, writer/artist Linda Medley’s sweetly Grimm magnum opus has sometimes appeared fitfully, and this week, Castle Waiting Vol. II #16 continues that trend. More specifically, as her publishers note in a one-page introduction, three years have passed since last the black-and-white Fantagraphics Books neofable graced comics shops. Still, those same publishers — Gary Groth and Kim Thompson, not exactly gentlemen known for lavishing praise profligately — also characterize the series as 'one of the greatest and most beautifully drawn fantasy comic books of all time,' and the verity of that characterization, even after so long a hiatus, earns Castle Waiting this column’s most heartfelt recommendation, as does the series’ gentle humor. Regarding its visuals, by way of example, a two-page view of Jain’s new quarters sparks astonishment for the impeccability of its draftsmanship; regarding its wit, meanwhile, a gentle chuckle should greet Rackham’s comment about the castle’s three handmaidens: 'They’ve been old biddies for so long, it’s hard to imagine that they were once young biddies…'" – Bryan A. Hollerbach, PLAYBACK:stl
• List:Time Out New York names the "50 Funniest New Yorkers," and coming in at #16: "Cartoonist Michael Kupperman transports his readers to another world altogether. In the recurring comic Tales Designed to Thrizzle and book-length parody Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910–2010, Kupperman perverts antiquated cultural signifiers into a jungle of foreplay robots, nut bras and absurd character concoctions such as the Mannister (a man whose superpower is turning into a bannister). Even in his live appearances — during which he occasionally appears as Twain — Kupperman has the same sort of folksy okey-doke quality as his pulpy '50s source material; but make no mistake, there's an uncanny comedy brain teeming underneath his cool exterior." – Matthew Love
• Review: "...Swarte’s work does have that free-wheeling and even irreverent feel that you’ll find in the best work of Gilbert Sheldon and Robert Crumb. Chris Ware writes the introduction to this book, and he does a good job of setting up the collection. As he points out, Is That All There Is?contains most of Swarte’s work, which has me wondering what comics were left out, and why. Regardless, this is an incredible collection that spans Swarte’s career from the early 1970s to today." – Derek Parker Royal, Ph.D.
• Review: "Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the marquee team of the early days of comics, pioneered the romance genre in 1947 with this title, and, as you'd expect from the creators of Captain America, Young Romance wasn't bad. It had its fair share of melodramatic tear-jerkers, and occasional forays into misogyny (stupid women who need a man to teach them how to live), but Simon & Kirby also flirted with social issues like class distinctions and religious conflicts. And they didn't restrict themselves to small towns or big cities, like most romance stories, finding romance out West or in the Korean War. Young Romance offers 21 of the best of Simon & Kirby's romance stories, and that's probably just the right amount." – Andrew A. Smith, Scripps Howard News Service
• Analysis: At The Hooded Utilitarian, Robert Stanley Martin presents "one comics critic’s analysis and judgments of [Robert] Crumb’s career. I hope it’s of more interest than a pronouncement that his work is a single big project and one should just read all of it. Breaking his work down into distinct periods does, I think, help one to get a better handle on Crumb, no matter what one’s opinion of this or that individual effort. I certainly don’t think this essay is the last word. With Crumb, no essay ever is."
• Review: "Here’s the thing about Pogo. There’s never been anything like it. It’s utterly unique and individual in the same fashion that Peanuts, or Calvin and Hobbes or Little Nemo or any other of the great 20th century comic strips are.... It’s a much weirder strip than I think most people give it credit for and that is certainly something worth both recognizing and admiring." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "I highly recommend anyone who has an interest in LGBT issues to pick up Wandering Son, regardless of whether or not you read a lot of manga. It is, in many ways, distinctly Japanese, but its straightforward and honest deception of gender issues is rare in any medium, and it shines equally as a coming-of-age tale, especially for anyone who's ever felt they never quite fit in." – Anne Lee, Chic Pixel
• Review: "Prior to 1947, romance existed in comics but primarily as the humorous teenage variety for young readers, typified by the gang from Riverdale in Archie Comics. Simon and Kirby re-imagined the concept with mature stories aimed at adults, primarily women.... Fantagraphics recently collected many of these stories in the handsome hardcover Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby's Romance Comics. Within the true artistic mastery of Kirby becomes evident. The same man, well known at the time for his bombastic stories, delivers these subtle, very human tales of angst, betrayal, and of course love. The volume's essays place these tales within the proper historical context. The beautiful reproductions were completely restored and unlike some of the Marvel Kirby reprints, nothing was recolored." – Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Interview:Drew Friedman writes us: "I wanted to share. This is the new online issue of INK, SVA's Student run comics mag, featuring an interview with me, also an article about WFMU radio's connection to cartoonists. This is pretty impressive I think. Enjoy!"
• Interview:Robot 6's Tim O'Shea has a Q&A with Kevin Huizenga: "Seems to me like you’re doing something wrong as a writer if you’re not affected or surprised by your own work. But it’s not something to talk about. You’re not supposed to laugh at your own jokes. The author at his desk, deeply moved by his own work is a pretty funny image."
• Scene: "In the exhibition, titled, 'Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes,' we find the artist revealing the weird underbelly of America through quick and methodical strokes of a pen. Furrowed brows, sneers, and nervous beads of sweat accompany many of Clowes' odes to anxiety, causing us to acknowledge the strange and desperately sad state of his characters, who are striving to fit in." – Kathleen Massara, The Huffington Post
Finally back in print, Any Similarity... is a collection of Drew Friedman’s earliest comic strips and illustrations, featuring his most obsessively stippled black-and-white panels and his most hilarious wise-guy takes on the stars and demi-stars and never-quite-stars of that swamp we like to call showbiz.
In these strips, many of them written by his brother Josh Alan Friedman (both are sons of the legendary Bruce Jay Friedman: humor genes will tell!), the artist works out his obsession with such celebrities as Jim Nabors, Frank Sinatra Jr., Joe Franklin, Bob Hope, Andy Griffith... and Ed Wood, Jr. film star Tor Johnson, whom Friedman actually catapulted back into some sort of semi-fame when these strips were first published in the 1980s.
Friedman is the kind of pop-culture aficionado whose Three Stooges worship is focused not on Moe, Larry or Curly but on Shemp (whose unmistakable mug graces the new cover of this edition), and whose teasing adoration can often be mistaken for mockery or contempt. But who but a worshipful fan would lavish quite so many dots on the loving delineation of these greats’ every pimple and wrinkle?
“I stand in awe of Drew Friedman’s technique and the certain flavor of sad old America he captures.” – R. Crumb
I gotta say, Drew Friedman can do no wrong in my book, but there's something about this portrait of blues legend Muddy Waters that is especially electrifying. The expression, the black and muted green pallette, the evocative landscape... well done, Drew. And you can own it in the form of a limited-edition archival print.