Catching up on several days' worth of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List/Plugs: In an article titled "Fantagraphics: The Greatest American Comics Publisher," GUY.com's Rob Gonsalves says "What the Criterion Collection is to DVDs, Fantagraphics is to comics. Any self-respecting collection of graphic novels, any library public or personal, needs to sport at least one Fantagraphics book," and recommends a nicely idiosyncratic top-20 list of our publications which includes some of our more obscure releases
• Review: "While there definitely were some hardships, Clemente’s life was as unique and joyful as his persona and ball playing skills were, and Wilfred Santiago’s 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente reflects this uniqueness and joy through its own unique retelling of Clemente’s life. [...] The simple joy conveyed in this book is universally appealing... Baseball is a game that is full of life and story, and every year the game blooms in the spring with the trees and flowers of the season. 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente celebrates life, and new life, as much as it does baseball." – Andy Frisk, Comic Book Bin
• Interview: Pittsburgh City Paper's David Davis, who says "In his new graphic novel 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente, the author of 2002's In My Darkest Hour uses Clemente's life to explore issues on and off the diamond. These include the thorny politics of Puerto Rico (statehood or commonwealth status?) as well as the racism Clemente faced in America as a dark-skinned Latino. The result is both a superhero cartoon and a lyrical time-machine, rendered in the regal black-gold-and-white of the Bucs' uni," has a brief Q&A with Wilfred Santiago: "I began my career working on superhero cartoons. That's the look I wanted to get -- somewhere between a cartoon and a painting. I wanted to get the camera right there with him and you're experiencing the action up close."
• Review: "Slavishly documenting and lavishly illustrating through band flyers and set lists and rare record sides and marvelous photography, along with first-person textual accounts, this strange, excited dialogue between misfits in America through bands, venues, zines, and lives and how it was all done punk and how punk was done. [...] Taking Punk to the Masses’ gallant bridging of universal punk history with our own in Ecotopia is a reason to celebrate. Your eyes can gnaw on decades of delicious artwork while you read and watch stories you may have heard of, but after this, will never forget." – Chris Estey, The KEXP Blog
• Review: "In Hate Annual #9, Buddy returns to Seattle to meet the dysfunctional family of his wife Lisa who he has never met despite having been with Lisa for close to 20 years. In a tension-filled 72 hours, Buddy is subjected to senile parents, criminals, and drug addicts. Each page is filled with the sardonic humor and high drama that are staples of Bagge's work. [...] Read this issue slowly because once you're done laughing your head off, you are sure to be sad that you'll have to wait another year to check in with one of the best characters of alternative comics." – Rip Ransley, Stray Riffs
• Review: "The particular fascination in this early work [The Arctic Marauder] is seeing one of the unique individual styles in cartooning at a formative stage. [...] As for the subject matter: It’s an example of parody that continues on when the thing parodied has long faded away. [...] Part of the appeal is feeling superior to an earlier age, and another part is being engaged in the traces of the earlier form embedded in the parody, which you would normally feel yourself too sophisticated to enjoy." – R. Fiore, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "At once a parody and a tribute to late 19th, early 20th century mystery/adventure Jules Verne-esque fiction, this gorgeous one-shot [The Arctic Marauder] is masterfully drawn scratchboard style, as to echo the woodcuts of the era. The result is sumptuous, and look at those elegant art-nouveau panels! [...] Fans of concentrated mysteries, steam-operated machines, dramatic adventures and over-the-top vilains should be all over this!" – 211 Bernard (Librairie Drawn & Quarterly)
• Review: "With Woodring’s skill, I never found myself confused, at least, more than you’re supposed to be. I’ve never read a statement by Woodring saying this, but I always got the impression he wanted you to work for the meaning behind his stories. Even if it’s not the case, I highly enjoy the process. In one graphic novel [Weathercraft], I got what I think may have been a love story, a treatise on spiritual enlightenment and sometimes just a whole lot of fun." – Joe Keatinge, Joe Keatinge's Comics & Stories
• Review: "Weathercraft... [is a]nother volume of nightmarishly beautiful wordless comics by the remarkable Mr. Woodring. Even for those accustomed to his work, there is page after page that makes you say, 'I’ve never seen anything like that before!' And then hide under your bed." – M. Ace, Irregular Orbit
• Interview:Book By Its Cover's Jen Rothman, who says "Ray Fenwick has created yet another masterpiece. His second book, Mascots, hit shelves in the beginning of this year and it’s quite a beauty. It’s filled with his signature style that mixes ornate hand lettering and imagery, creating amusing little narratives," has a Q&A with Ray: "I thought of the idea of mascots because they’re these outrageous, often ridiculous figures, but they’re symbolic of something else. The thing they’re there to represent isn’t ridiculous at all. I thought that was similar in a lot of ways to the work in the book."
• Interview:One Two One Two Microphone Check has a cultural Q&A with our own Kim Thompson: "There is no movie I love but would be embarrassed to talk about in a serious, intellectual conversation, because if I love it, it is worth talking about by definition. (I concede this could be taken as arrogant.) That said, I am mildly embarrassed at how much I actually love Love, Actually."
• Interview: Alex Dueben's great interview with Daniel Clowes at Comic Book Resources touches on Dan's design work for our upcoming series of Crockett Johnson's Barnaby collections: "It's probably the best written comic strip of all time. The artwork is disarmingly simple. It's the kind of thing that I would normally not be attracted to. He uses typography instead of hand lettering and very simple diagrammatic drawings, yet they are perfect, and work beautifully in a way that anything added to it would detract from it. My goal with the design of the book is to follow his very severe minimal design style and try to live up to that."
• Interview: At TCJ.com, Sean T. Collins also talks to Clowes: "I was always baffled that people who liked mainstream comics seemed to really gravitate towards [Eightball #22]. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was about that one, specifically, that made them like that so much."
• Commentary:Tim Kreider pens an essay on the state of the cartooning industry for TCJ.com: "When you’re young, it’s exciting and fun just to have your work published in the local alternative weekly, or posted online, “liked” and commented on and linked to; but eventually you turn forty and realize you’ve given away a career’s worth of labor for nothing. What’s happening in comics now is what happened in the music industry in the last decade and what’ll happen to publishing in the next. Soon Don DeLillo will be peddling T-shirts too."
• Commentary:Robot 6 polled Gilbert Hernandez for their weekly "What Are You Reading?" feature: "The new comics I always enjoy are by R. Crumb, Dan Clowes, Richard Sala and Charles Burns. I haven’t seen Burns’ and Sala’s new books yet but I did read The Bible by Crumb, which I found tedious only because of the subject matter and Wilson by Clowes. That was hard to get through because the protagonist is so supremely hateful. Well executed, though."
Drew Weingannounced yesterday that his debut graphic novel Set to Sea was named runner-up for the inaugural Lynd Ward Prize, a new award sponsored by the Penn State University Libraries and administered by the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, presented to the "best graphic novel, fiction or non-fiction, published in the previous calendar year by a living U.S. citizen or resident." We'd been waiting for the official PR to make our announcement, but since Heidi MacDonald has broken the news over at The Beat, anchors aweigh (as it were). Congratulations Drew!
The prize jury also awarded an honor book prize to Drew Weing for Set to Sea, published by Fantagraphics. In this book, small in size but large in vision, the art of storytelling through pure visual image is at its height. Described by jurors as "a small wonder of visual narrative, the book's superbly executed single-panel pages combine iconic cartooning and realistic detail to deliver a quietly moving story that unfolds primarily through image. It epitomizes the whole notion of the graphic novel set forth by Lynd Ward — the illustrations are brilliant and the balance between word and image is spot on. The book encapsulates the power of comics to combine an aesthetic experience with a lovely story with strength and beauty that lies with its simplicity and subtlety." Weing will accept his honor prize at an event co-sponsored by Penn State and the Pennsylvania Humanities Council at 6 pm on May 23 in Foster Auditorium on the Penn State University Park Campus.
• List: Matthew J. Brady posts his picks for the best comics of 2010 on his Warren Peace Sings the Blues blog (where there are links to his past reviews), including:
"25. Temperance... is a confounding work, and a fascinating one, with some excellently moody art. I still don't know if I really understand it, but it's a strange, unforgettable book."
"23.Set to Sea... is lovely to look at, full of beautiful seascapes and cartoony movement. It may be a small and quick read, but it doesn't seem that way in subsequent memory."
"18. Wally Gropius... is a deeply weird comic, but one that is not easily forgettable, starting with an off-kilter take on old teen comics and throwing in a sort of dada energy, social commentary that isn't always easy to decipher, some startling sex and violence, and an angry attitude toward the idly manipulative rich and their disdain for the rest of humanity. It's also really funny, and what seems like random incidents eventually cohere into an actual story, but the crazy contortions of the characters, the financial imagery and sound effects, and the bizarre dialogue and actions from the characters are what will haunt the mind for some time to come."
"10. It Was the War of the Trenches... is one of the most incredible books of the year, an ugly, grimy, angry look at the devastation of war on everything it touches, an endless cascade of horrors that are all the more effective due to their reality. This is arresting work, something everyone should read, lest we forget how easy it is to get caught up in the killing once again."
"7. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories [...] From the beautiful artistic filigrees that fill panels throughout, to the firm grasp of character and complex emotional examinations, every page of this book is an essential bit of reading for manga fans."
"3. Love and Rockets: New Stories #3... is an amazing example of how great these creators are, and the way comics can be used for maximum effectiveness to tell emotional, realistic, beautifully real stories."
• Interview: Sean O'Toole of South African culture mag Mahala talks to Joe Daly: "Whatever other influences effect my comics worldview, I always end up coming back to Tintin. It’s an impeccable foundation text in terms of characters, story telling and artwork. I also appreciate the fact that it’s written and drawn by one person, George Remi aka Hergé (although I know he had studio assistance later in the series). It’s a complete creation, in that way, there’s a deep level of cohesion between the drawing and the narrative."
• Interview: At Comicdom, Thomas Papadimitropoulos talks to Jim Woodring (interview in English follows introduction in Greek): "I write all my stories out in words, describing the action. After a lot of rejecting of alternatives I end up with something that feels meaningful to me, even if I don't know why. In fact I prefer it if I don't know why. If I can tell there is some significant meaning respiring in the depths of the proposed action, I don't worry about what that meaning might be; I draw the story up and allow the meaning to occur to me and to readers whenever the time is right." (via The Comics Reporter)
The issue also includes the reviews excerpted below:
The Arctic Marauder by Jacques Tardi: "A strong Jules Verne flavor dominates the story’s stew of mystery farce and sci-fi adventure, from the ship named the Jules Vernez to the assortment of just-plausibly-outlandish vehicles and deep-sea mechanical apparatuses. But the real fun comes from marveling at it all in Tardi’s expansive, ice-blasted scratchboard tableaus that feature one breath-stealing scene after another, all the way through to the cheerfully villainous finale. A devious bit of far-fetched fun." – Ian Chipman
Freeway by Mark Kalesniko: "Kalesniko reprises his alter ego, Alex Kalienka, for his most ambitious and accomplished graphic novel yet. [...] Although Kalesniko’s formal storytelling devices, particularly his deft panel arrangements and intelligent compositions, are largely responsible for Freeway’s impressive effectiveness, it’s his distinctive and delicate drawing style that supplies the emotional component, best displayed in the economical character design and in the painstakingly researched, lovingly depicted scenes of a bygone Los Angeles." – Gordon Flagg (Starred Review)
Stigmata by Lorenzo Mattotti & Claudio Piersanti: "Obviously but never verbally a parable of Christian redemption, Piersanti’s story becomes extremely compelling in Mattotti’s hands. ...[H]is swirling realization of atmosphere, the protagonist’s states of mind, and human figures conjures the raw power and compassion of such great Italian neorealist films as Bicycle Thieves and La Strada." – Ray Olson