Time for lots more awkwardly-formatted year-end lists, a review from The Washington Post and much more in what might be the longest Online Commentary & Diversions ever:
• List: For the Las Vegas Weekly, J. Caleb Mozzocco counts down his top 5 comics of 2010:
#3: Temperance by Cathy Malkasian: "Blessed with a Dr. Seuss-like ability to evoke the most serious problems and bleakest emotions in personalized, original, timeless fantasy elements, Malkasian has constructed a graphic epic involving a handful of colorful, tragic characters and their interlocking lives."
#5: Werewolves of Montepellier by Jason: "A successful jewel thief disguises himself as a werewolf during heists, eventually attracting the attention of real, actual werewolves in Jason’s latest deadpan dramedy masterpiece. While that might sound like the protagonist’s most urgent problem, his doomed crush on neighbor-turned-friend Audrey is the only thing truly eating him."
• List: The bloggers at Robot 6 count down their choices for the best comics of 2010:
"7. Set to Sea: The story of a would-be poet who is shanghaied and learns about life at sea the hard way, Set to Sea is drawn in a series of single panels, each of which is a miniature masterpiece on its own. It’s a singularly economical way of telling a story, and Drew Weing makes each of his panels into a tight little world of its own." – Brigid Alverson
"4. You’ll Never Know, Book Two: Collateral Damage: [...] Tyler skillfully handles multiple strands of her story, using a variety of styles and formats for different episodes, slowly building a complete picture from several different sources." – Brigid Alverson
"16. It Was the War of the Trenches, by Jacques Tardi: French master Tardi does to the Great War what the Great War did to the bodies of millions of young soldiers: blow it wide open and root in the mess. Depicted primarily in an unyielding onslaught of widescreen panels, it’s like a slog through the trenches itself. Furious and full of contempt for war and its masters." – Sean T. Collins
"6. It Was the War of the Trenchesby Jacques Tardi: Reading Trenches, you realize just how far afield, just how dead wrong most American (and British) had it in their depiction of war. Even Kurtzman’s war comics (which I love) seem like kiddie sermonizing, an overly sweet, sanitized warning, next to Tardi’s uncompromising depiction of WWI. You want to know how brutal war can be? You want to know how war should be depicted in comics – how to look the utter savagery, inhumanity and square in the eye using only pen and ink? This is how you do it." – Chris Mautner
"15. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, by Moto Hagio: I gasped aloud repeatedly while experiencing the sheer loveliness of this book, a collection of short stories from throughout the decades by shoujo-manga pioneer Moto Hagio. Best of all, there’s a cake beneath all that icing, as Hagio’s stories are frequently sophisticated, moving, and unwilling to pull punches." – Sean T. Collins
"13. Prison Pit Book 2, by Johnny Ryan: Johnny Ryan journeys deeper than ever before into his inner ickiness and returns with an action-horror hybrid it’s almost impossible to 'enjoy' in the traditional sense of the word — and which thereby takes those two genres in stunning new directions." – Sean T. Collins
"11. Artichoke Tales, by Megan Kelso: A war comic like none you’ve ever read, Megan Kelso’s ambitious alt-fantasy is concerned not with conflict’s immediate carnage, but with its lasting effects on the societies engaged in it — economic, cultural, religious, familial, even geographical. I found it humanistic, unsparing, and fascinating." – Sean T. Collins
"10. Weathercraft, by Jim Woodring: It’s always darkest before the dawn, and the psychedelic body-horror of Jim Woodring has never been darker than it gets here. His hapless, villainous Manhog is made to suffer like you’ve seen few comics characters suffer before in any style or genre…only to emerge enlightened and overjoyed on the other side in a final act that feels like that first breath of fresh cool air after you’ve hidden your head under the covers in terror for minutes on end." – Sean T. Collins
"2. Weathercraft by Jim Woodring: [...] It’s a twisting, twisted, often bizarre, often disturbing but always gripping tale of one creature’s self-redemption and ultimate sacrifice told without words and often as enigmatically as possible. If you had any doubt that Woodring could still deliver after laying low for so long, consider them erased." – Chris Mautner
"7. Special Exits, by Joyce Farmer: ...[N]early every meticulously crosshatched panel [is] drawn as if [Farmer's] life depended on it. Maybe it did. This is a magnum opus no one expected to read, a brutally frank depiction of what it’s like for full lives you love to end, and it has the most painfully happy ending of the year. It made me cry. Don’t do what I almost did and ignore one of the year’s most moving comics." – Sean T. Collins
"3. Wally Gropius, by Tim Hensley: The first great comic of the Great Recession. Tim Hensley’s breakout graphic novel, previously serialized in the Mome anthology, seems like a send-up of silly ‘60s teen-comedy and kid-millionaire comics on the surface, but beneath lies as odd and accurate a cri de coeur about capitalism and consumerism as I’ve ever read. It also does things with body language I’ve never seen in comics, and is funny as hell to boot. There’s nothing else out there like it." – Sean T. Collins
"5. Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley: The funniest comic of the year, Gropius is both homage and raised middle finger to the kids comics of yore, chiding them for their superficiality and yet revealing in their sublime shallowness all the same. That Hensley managed to have his cake and eat it too in such a breezy fashion suggests he will be an artist to watch for in the coming years." – Chris Mautner
"2. High Soft Lisp / Love and Rockets: New Stories #3, by Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez: This year I read nearly every comic ever created by Los Bros Hernandez; what a pleasure to discover at the end of my immersion that their two most recent comics are also two of their best, and thus two of the best comics by anyone. Gilbert and Jaime both tear furiously into love and sex in these two collections; what they find inside is ugly; what they do with it is beautiful." – Sean T. Collins
"3. Love and Rockets [New Stories] 3 by Xaime and Gilbert Hernandez: Gilbert’s contributions are great as usual (his work here and in the recently collected High Soft Lisp proves he’s no second banana brother), but it is Xaime’s 'The Love Bunglers/Browntown' that makes this volume so worthy of praise. A harrowing story of abuse, familial neglect and regret masterfully told, I defy anyone not to read this tale and not be devastated by its conclusion. Not a single line goes to waste here. To say it’s the best thing Xaime’s done is a stunning comment considering his lengthy and exemplary body of work, but there’s no question he’s raised the bar once again." – Chris Mautner
• List: The great Washington, DC bookstore Politics & Prose names their 2010 Graphic Novel Favorites, including:
"The Sanctuary by Nate Neal is one of the most adventurous, exciting, complex and beautiful graphic novels. [...] Nate Neal creates a language for the clan, and tells the entire story without any recognizable words, making The Sanctuary a quiet and dark collection of gestures and expressions."
"Pirus and Mezzo’s King of the Flies is a dark romp through a strange drug filled, sex crazed world of small town Europe. [...] Pirus and Mezzo aren’t afraid to tell a story full of our darkest desires and needs, but they’re also startlingly poetic."
"Weathercraft, by Jim Woodring, is a beautiful dream and a beautiful nightmare. [...] Weathercraft is page after page of utterly original, outrageous, wordless thrills. Somehow, in a place where confusion and chaos seem to reign, Woodring creates sense. The challenge and beauty of Weathercraft is taking hold of that sense, and letting it go when the dream becomes too beautiful to pass up."
"C. Tyler continues her inquiry into the true story of her father’s WWII experience with You’ll Never Know Book Two: Collateral Damage. Tyler’s colorful panels and line work is a welcome relief to the usual comics format; and her creative shifting of perspective and story... offer just the right amount of energy and relevance to make this book (and the previous volume) one of the best of the year."
"Hinging on one supernatural occurrence after another, the misadventures of Adele Blanc-Sec are surely one of the most welcome events this year. [...] This is a classic which should not be missed."
"...Moto Hagio’s story collection, A Drunken Dream, is a welcome and celebrated relief to the mainstream, translated Japanese comics, giving the reader a meaningful and deeply felt experience. ...Hagio’s exploration of loss... and identity... is equal to the best that any literature offers."
• List: Brazilian site Ambrosia names The Best Comics Published in the U.S. in 2010 — Alternatives and Classics, including:
It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "The French Tardi is a versatile artist, a thorough storyteller of historical fact and fiction. The clean lines and light of his drawings refer to the style of another Frenchman, the revered Moebius."
The Littlest Pirate King by David B.: "Accustomed to living with sea monsters, plundering ships and murdering sailors, a group of scary undead pirates has its routine radically transformed when they are forced to care for a child. David B.... uses his beautiful and dark art to adapt a fun text by Orlan."
• List: At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson names Castle Waiting Vol. 2 by Linda Medley the Best Graphic Novel of 2010: "Exceptionally illustrated fantasy revolving around everyday life among a stunning cast of unusual characters who make their own unusual family in an abandoned castle."
• Review: "Saucy, bold, enigmatic, gently funny, reassuringly romantic; brimming with human warmth and just the right edge of hidden danger Castle Waiting [Vol. 2] is a masterpiece of subtly ironic, perfectly paced storytelling that any kid over ten can and will adore. Moreover, if you’re long in the tooth or have been around the block a time or two, this fantastic place can’t help but look like home." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• List: At The Casual Optimist, Dan Wagstaff names Jason's Werewolves of Montpellier one of his Favourite New Books of 2010: "Ostensibly the book is about a thief called Sven who disguises himself as werewolf to rob people’s apartments and incurs the wrath of the town’s actual werewolves. It is, however, as much about friendship, identity, loneliness, and, ultimately, Sven’s unrequited love for his neighbour Audrey. [...] The whole book is achingly brief, but Werewolves of Montpellier is possibly my favourite Jason book to date." (Via Robot 6)
"14. Artichoke Tales(Megan Kelso) [...] Kelso's simple lines beautifully capture the emotional turmoil of the characters and move the action along fluidly. This title caught me by surprise with how much I enjoyed it — it looks deceptively simple, but there's a lot going on in this ambitious book."
"10. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (Volume 1) (Jacques Tardi) [...] This story is full of broad characters and is really silly, but it's a really riveting, often funny book that you can't help but love to spend time with, featuring some of Tardi's best art period. Plus pterodactyls in Paris!"
"6. Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 [...] The Hernandez Brothers' third annual release of Love and Rockets is their best yet. Gilbert Hernandez has long been a favorite artist of mine and he offers some pretty dynamic stories this time around as well... Jaime develops his characters effortlessly as he produces what may be one of the best offerings of his career."
"4. Castle Waiting (Volume 2)(Linda Medley) [...] This book is overflowing with great characters, the story unfolding cinematically to Medley's beautiful cartoony art. The domestic life that readers glimpse with these volumes is an absolute pleasure to behold, and I really enjoy the time I spend with the people in this title, as they explore the castle and unlock some of its mysteries while settling in. A real treasure."
"1. The Littlest Pirate King(David B. & Pierre Mac Orlan) – My favorite comic that I read this year is David B.'s comic adaptation of the prose story by French writer Pierre Mac Orlan. ...David B. elaborately illustrates this world with amazing mastery of the craft. The coloring, the pacing and panel arrangements, and the world of these pirates pillaging ships and being general menaces all make for a fun, engaging experience. This book contains some of the most beautiful panels that I've seen in years, and confidently sits at the top of my list for best of the year."
• List: On his MadInkBeard blog, Derik Badman lists Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 as one of the Best Print Comics of 2010: "This is Jaime doing what he does best, advancing the lives of his characters, adding to their histories, introducing side characters, and generating an emotional impact." (Via Robot 6)
• List: On The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, Martin Steenton of Avoid the Future names his top 3 Best of the Year: "...Drew Weing’s Set to Sea is one of the most beautifully-rendered graphic novels you could hope to see ever, let alone from within the past twelve months. [...] From start to finish, Set to Sea feels like a true classic; the graphic novel equivalent of Treasure Island, if you will. If you’re the sort of parent that doesn’t mind exposing your children to a few gory moments, I like to imagine that this is the book you’ll give them to usher them into their lives as comic readers. Think what a cool mum/dad you’d be."
• List: At Imprint, Michael Dooley names the Best American Comics Criticism panel at Skylight Books one of "the best speaker events that involved comics and graphic design" in L.A. last year
• Review: "Four Color Fear is editor Greg Sadowski's commemoration of horror publishers other than dominant Entertaining Comics ... [T]his volume contains many... complete tales, giving the reader a sense of how hard it was to meet the genre's three main requirements: sudden fear, ample gore and twist endings, all in the space of six to 10 pages. [...] One leads off with this fraught question: 'Have you ever heard a strange voice whisper, "Come with me into the Blackest depths of evil"?' To which I would have answered in the 1950s, 'What took you so long to ask?'" – Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post (via Newsarama)
• Review: "Johnny Ryan is in my mind is one of the best modern humorists in comics today. It's not the kind of humor that's gonna get him invited to lots of prestigious awards ceremonies, but you can not deny that this shit [is] funny! Seriously for all those people who have not read a Johnny Ryan book for whatever stupid reason, pick [FUC_ __U _SS __LE] up. There's gonna be something in here that will make you laugh or puke or laugh and puke at the same time. It's an awesome awesome book. Loved it all the way through." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Review: "Taking quotes from people who met King, journeyed with him, and experienced his teachings and shortcomings firsthand, the book gives readers an honest and refreshing take on the man that became a legend. The art in King is a sight to behold... While some will undoubtedly walk away with the impression that this take on King’s life somehow lessens his impact on society, others will hopefully find that the humanistic aspect enhances the appreciation of his determination to make a change. Rating: ★★★★1/2" – Matt Peters, Pads & Panels
• Plug: "Mascots is a beautiful new book by Ray Fenwick collecting a series of color paintings on found book covers. [...] You must all surely concur that this new book establishes Ray Fenwick as the foremost satirist-illustrator-typographer-poet-designer of our time." – Matt Forsythe, Drawn
• Plugs: At The Moviefone Blog, David Brothers recommends "Comic Books for Movie Buffs"; his picks for war movie fans and samurai movie fans, respectively:
"...It Was the War of the Trenches shows how war simultaneously dehumanizes and strengthens our connection to life. The dehumanization derives from the fact that soldiers who die in this book tend to do so alone, or by surprise, and life just goes on. The strengthening point, however, is due to how the soldiers eagerly grasp what life they have left, despite their situation. It Was the War of the Trenches is heartbreaking and maybe a little funny, but more than anything, it's fulfilling."
"...Usagi Yojimbo is not only deadly serious, but a fantastic read. Sakai clearly knows the era he's writing stories about very well, and his research shows. If not for the funny talking animals, this series would be fantastically realistic. With them, though, it's a series that hits many of the same high points as classic Kurosawa, but often from a fresh angle."
• Survey:The Beat's year-end/looking-forward survey of comics pros (part one) includes a classic Peter Bagge quip ("What was the biggest story in comics in 2010?" "No one has any money") plus input from Noah Van Sciver
• Analysis: In an academic paper published in the University of Florida's interdisciplinary comics studies journal ImageTexT, Joel Simundich examines "Translation, Transparency, and Genre" in Jason's The Iron Wagon (recently reprinted in What I Did)
• Interview: On his Princess Sparkle Pony blog, Peter Huestis presents a transcription of his 1995 interview with Jim Woodring which was published in Hypno Magazine: "I never use any of my dreams in the Frank stories. I've evolved a way of writing those stories that I adhere to pretty much all the time. I go down into this ravine near my house and hide in the bushes and write in my notebook. I write the stories out in words. I'll write an opening line like, 'Frank has a heavy heart.' If I like that for an opener, I will ask why he has a heavy heart. Sometimes I get an answer and sometimes I don't."
• List/Plug/Coming Attractions:The Millions names among their Most Anticipated books of 2011 two by Alexander Theroux: this month's The Strange Case of Edward Gorey ("Part biography, part artistic analysis, and part memoir of a long friendship, with exclusive interviews conducted shortly before Gorey’s death, this book is generally accepted as the most comprehensive portrait of Gorey ever written") and July's Estonia ("The book emerges from Theroux’s time spent in the former Soviet republic while his wife was on a Fulbright Scholarship. Ever observant, Theroux uses Estonia and its people as a lens through which to look back at America"); elsewhere at The Millions, Theroux himself weighs in on his Year in Reading
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions gets crazy with the Best-Of lists:
• List: At comiXology, Tucker Stone counts down the top 20 Best Comics of 2010:
#19: Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley: "In a more unstable world, Wally Gropius would end up shelved alongside the Harvey/Dell comics it's so visually reminiscent of, working like a diabolical physical delivery device for absurdism: Dick and Jane couldn't ask for better."
#8: Prison Pit Book 2 by Johnny Ryan: "...Ryan's nasty tech-mammal beatdown looked like baby's first cyberpunk Kamandi, and it ably maintained the promise of this comic's initial volume. This, as they should say, is what we all should be getting down with: pure comics."
#5: It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "Trenches was the angriest comic released this year, and while the specifics of its subject matter may be historical, its philosophy hasn't aged a day. War is a brutal, ugly thing, and while some may excel at depicting its horrors with excited doses of adrenaline, Tardi's tale never allows for a moment of escape. For him, political extermination destroys us all, and there's no reason why the bystander should be permitted to participate merely as casual audience."
#3: Weathercraft by Jim Woodring: "It's a comic that stays behind when it's closed, twisting in memory until you're not sure you caught what it said, a demanding experience that's unusual and unique. There's no other medium that could tell the kinds of stories that Woodring prefers; luckily, he's come back to stay."
#2: Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 by the Hernandez Bros.: "An incomparable installment in their storied career, New Stories 3 saw Gilbert attacking his oldest obsessions with more humor than ever before, while Jaimie shocked a legion of fans with the most refined (and masterful) chapter in his Locas saga to date..."
• List:NPR's Glen Weldon lists "The Most Memorable Comics and Graphic Novels of 2010," including (with links to his past reviews):
Werewolves of Montpelier by Jason: "The deadest of deadpan cartoonists returns with a meditation on relationships, burglary and lycanthropy. In France."
It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "Tardi constructs a series of vignettes around World War I, inspired by battlefield photographs. Finally available in English, the work is harrowing and ruthlessly affecting."
#36: Weathercraft by Jim Woodring: "It's a twisting, twisted, often bizarre, often disturbing but always gripping tale of one creature's self-redemption and ultimate sacrifice told without words and often as enigmatically as possible. If you had any doubt that Woodring could still deliver after laying low for so long, consider them erased." – Chris Mautner
#29: Special Exits byJoyce Farmer: "This is a magnum opus no one expected to read, a brutally frank depiction of what it's like for full lives you love to end, and it has the most painfully happy ending of the year. It made me cry. Don't do what I almost did and ignore one of the year's most moving comics." – Sean T. Collins
#28: Set to Sea by Drew Weing: "Weing strapped the heart-rending quest of a simple poet onto a book sporting the energy of a Popeye cartoon and the beastly human proportions of an R. Crumb comic. It's a book that manages to read with the lightness of a feather while simultaneously keeping its audience keenly aware of mortality and the fickle nature of fate on the high seas." – Brian Warmoth
#26: Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley: "The first great comic of the Great Recession. Tim Hensley's breakout graphic novel, previously serialized in the Mome anthology, seems like a send-up of silly '60s teen-comedy and kid-millionaire comics on the surface, but beneath lies as odd and accurate a cri de coeur about capitalism and consumerism as I've ever read. It also does things with body language I've never seen in comics, and is funny as hell to boot. There's nothing else out there like it." – Sean T. Collins
• Review: "The Littlest Pirate King is easily one of the best comics of 2010. [...] What sells it — what sells the whole tale, really — is David B’s superb art. These are overwhelmingly colorful pages, with scenes from strange angles in compressed perspective." – Joshua Malbin
• List/Review: "A brutal guts-and-all look at the short life of the average French soldier in the trenches, with gritty artwork that straddles the fence between cartooning and illustration perfectly, It Was the War of the Trenches ranks up there with All Quiet on the Western Front in the ranks of WWI literature." – ranked #3 on The Best Comics of 2010 by Brad Manfully at Memories Fade
• List:Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 tops The Institute of Idle Time's Top 5 Comics of 2010 list: "Thank god for the Hernandez brothers. Anytime I need to convert someone to the medium, I pull out a volume from the longest-running and most successful alternative comic series of all time. [...] These two cartoonists embody everything comics fans love about the medium. They are master storytellers first and foremost, and the language of comics is never more beautiful." – Mike DiGino
• List: Alicia K. of Wordnerdy includes Castle Waiting Vol. 2 by Linda Medley ("...Castle Waiting is a great look at... I don't know, the lighter side of fairy tales? It's very character based...") and Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 ("Jaime Hernandez's stories in this are his best work ever, and since he's one of my top-two all-time-favorite comics dudes, that is saying a lot") on her Best Comics of 2010 list
• Review: "The chief reason to recommend [The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec] is Tardi’s art. ...[H]is photorealistic vistas of early 20th Century Paris are lovely, especially in the pastels and autumnual hues used here, and his cartoonish characters with their bulbous noses and waxed moustaches are a treat. Best yet is the design of Adele, with her period pulled-up hair, slit eyes and only top lip visible, which makes her appear more business-like and asexual, yet somehow more alluring because of the barriers presented." – Christopher Allen, Trouble with Comics
• Review: "Created as a light-hearted and wittily arch tribute to Jack Kirby’s majestic pantheon of cosmic comic deities Young GODS and Friends... slowly builds and spreads into a mythico-graphic Waiting for Godot... On a purely artistic level this collection and extrapolation is a sheer delight; with superb art, splendid writing and all sorts of added extras, but the story-consumer in me can’t help but yearn for what might have been and how much has been lost. Beautiful wry, witty and completely enchanting — and tragically disappointing because of that." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview: In the intro to Alex Dueben's talk with Joyce Farmer about Special Exits at Comic Book Resources, he says of the book "It’s a story told without the fake, heartwarming nonsense that colors so many stories about this topic. The book is both funny and heartbreaking, sometimes on the same page, dealing with the quiet hopeful moments and the nerve-wracking agony that come from a situation that is all too common and spoken of far too little." Joyce goes in depth about the process of the book: "I had wanted to do a big project for a long time. A few months before, I had realized that maybe my parents’ story was a worthwhile project. I was on vacation and I decided to write out the various stories that I remembered. This was three years after they died, so I’d had some time for some stories to die away and other stories to stick in my mind. I had one hundred stories, approximately, and I thought well, this is a book."
• List: "For giving us context, for showing us beautiful stories, and for delving into the work of a woman that changed girls comics forever, A Drunken Dream reaches #2 on my list." – Alexander Hoffman, Manga Widget "Top 10 of 2010"
• Plug: "The Prettiest, Shiniest Thing You Can Buy For That Special Someone Who Likes Pretty, Shiny Things: [...] It makes a fantastic read and an excellent coffee table book for someone who loves manga." – Daniella Orihuela-Gruber, All About Manga
• Plug: "This collection of short stories spanning the career of shoujo pioneer Moto Hagio offers a poignant look into the author’s mind, both as a young artist and an established creator, focusing especially on themes of family and personal identity." – Melinda Beasi, Manga Bookshelf
#10: A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio: "Ten spooky, perceptive stories of girls and ghosts in trouble from one of the masters of shojo manga, who has her work translated into English for the first time."
#5: Set to Sea by Drew Weing: "He may look like a big lug, but he’s got dreams of the ocean and the heart of a poet. The hero of Weing’s salty debut sails off to adventure in this pocket-size sea-shanty of a graphic novel."
#1: Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley: "A candy-colored absurdist comedy about a teen so wealthy he barfs $100 bills, this ridiculously enjoyable book reads like Richie Rich on LSD."
• List:NPR's Glen Weldon names Cathy Malkasian's Temperance one of "The Year's Most Transporting Books": "Amnesia also plays a role in Cathy Malkasian's huge, haunting — and hauntingly beautiful — graphic novel Temperance. [...] Malkasian's plot is loose and elliptical, and she pokes at many of the same salty psychological truths that made the Brothers Grimm so grim; lies, guilt and violence buffet her characters about like gale-force winds. You won't know where the story's going, but Malkasian's pages are gorgeous, sweetly melancholic things, and you'll enjoy the trip."
• Review: "...[One of the] Books of the Year... An expansive allegorical fable, ...Temperance speaks to our times with prophetic pointedness. [...] A uniquely imaginative book, Temperance is an example of how a sepia-toned pencil can sing." – Neel Mukherjee, The Times
• List: At Attentiondeficitdisorderly, Sean T. Collins names Prison Pit Book 2 by Johnny Ryan one of his Comics of the Year of the Day, saying "take how you felt during the baseball-bat scene in Casino, then make a book out of it."
• List: British cartoonist Matt Brooker offers up his Best of the Year at the Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, including 2009's You Are There by Jacques Tardi & Jean-Claude Forest: "Alongside Mœbius’ The Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius, this is the defining classic of 1970’s Bande Dessinee, but unlike The Airtight Garage you really need to be able to read the dialogue to make it worth owning… this first English translation has been much too long coming, so I was delighted to be able to read You Are There at last. It was originally conceived as a screenplay, and reads like one of those particularly mad Sixties films (like Peter Sellers’ Casino Royale or The Magic Christian) of which I’m so unreasonably fond."
• Review: "The always-superb Jason too has a book out this year: Werewolves of Montpellier. Droll, laconic as always, dry as drought, and hilarious and sympathetic in equal measures... A mad, lovely and bright book." – Neel Mukherjee, The Times
• Review: "While we’re on the subject of Jason, it wouldn’t do to leave out a mention of Almost Silent, a deluxe collection of four of his earlier books... The book is worth searching out for [You Can’t Get There From Here] alone. It’s the longest story in the book and is a retelling of the Frankenstein story as a love triangle without words, set off by a Greek chorus-type duet between two hunchbacks." – Neel Mukherjee, The Times
• Review: "Destroy All Movies is a product of the tireless DIY work ethic: It is one of the most painstaking books ever written on punk rock. As such, it stands in the rarified league of Banned in DC, Fucked Up & Photocopied, and the long out-of-print masterpiece Loud 3D. Carlson and Connolly have managed to make a volume with both intellectual relevance and deep entertainment value. And if you don't have time to actually read through all 1,000 entries, it's still a blast just to look at." – Sam McPheeters, Bookforum
• Plug: On the Matablog, Matador Records co-founder Gerard Cosloy says "If I celebrated Xmas and/or hadn’t already purchased a copy, I’d be asking Satan Santa for the newly published Destroy All Movies!!!..." and calls it an "amazing tome" (link via our own Janice Headley)
• Plug: "This book is out of control. [...] The research that went into [Destroy All Movies!!!] is unfathomable. They even tracked down every instance of a punk in a made-for-TV movie. The mind boggles. And then the mind puts on a Crass album and head butts some prep in the face." – Kyle Olson, The Hipster Book Club "2010 Holiday Gift Guide"
• Review: "Castle Waiting’s a pleasant, upbeat series, a great way to spend a quiet afternoon. If you’re looking for high adventure and action, it’s not here. This series is exploring the quiet places and the emotional beats that exist just beyond the screaming and bloodshed, and it’s doing so with style and wit. Castle Waiting comes highly recommended." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "EC was not the only company putting out good horror comics in the 1950s. Fantagraphics’ Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s shines the spotlight on some of the other comic publishers who were putting out great horror comics back then. [...] As great as the stories are perhaps the best feature is the 20 page note section that provides details behind each of the 40 stories in the book with fantastic anecdotes. There is also an index to all the companies publishing horror comics with a listing of titles and issue numbers making this a fantastic resource. Grade A+" – Tim Janson, Mania
• Review: "Since continuity usually plays second fiddle to the avalanche of inventive ideas, the strips can be read in almost any order and the debauched drunkenness, manic ultra-violence in the manner of the best Tom & Jerry or Itchy & Scratchy cartoons, acerbic view of sexuality and deep core of existentialist angst (like Sartre ghostwriting The Office or perhaps The Simpsons) still finds a welcome with Slackers, Laggards, the un-Christian and all those scurrilous, lost Generations after X. [...] If you’re the kind of fan who thrives on gorge-rousing gags and mind-bending rumination this is a fantastic and rewarding strip, one of the most constantly creative and entertaining on the market today and this latest collection [Little Maakies on the Prairie] is one of the very best yet. If you’re not a fan of Maakies this is the ideal chance to become one and if you’re already converted it’s the perfect gift for someone what ain’t…" – Win Wiaceck, Now Read This!
• Review: "This series is a non-stop rollercoaster of action and romance, blending realistic fantasy with sardonic wit and broad humour with unbelievably stirring violence, all rendered in an incomprehensibly lovely panorama of glowing art. Beautiful, captivating and utterly awe-inspiring Prince Valiant is a World Classic of storytelling, and this magnificent deluxe [Volume 2] is something no fan can afford to be without. If you have never experienced the majesty and grandeur of the strip this astounding and enchanting premium collection is the best way possible to start and will be your gateway to a life-changing world of wonder and imagination." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "One could easily spend hours thinking of the hard concepts Kelso brings into the book without ever hitting the reader over the head with any of them. It's a sign of her storytelling ability that we get all of this without it ever feeling like she's preaching to me. [...] Artichoke Tales, at its heart, is about how complex the world is, with no one quite able to figure things out. ...I thought this was a well-crafted book that shows the human side of a conflict. It's a sad tale, but one worth reading." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Chris Mautner has a very informative chat with our own Kim Thompson about our new line of all-ages Eurocomics books: "Well, to be honest, I’m not sure how many kids will actually be reading this. It’s hard to get kids interested in comics, and foreign comics are even tougher. I’d welcome kids reading it but I’m assuming 98% of the audience will be grown-ups who dig this particular material. That said, I’m always a little baffled by how sensitive grown-ups are about kids’ material."
• Interview: At AfterEllen, Ariel Schrag talks to Gabrielle Bell: "I definitely prefer reading fiction to reading comics, except for a very small percentage of comics. And when I was a teenager I wanted to be a fiction writer. I’m much more interested in films, too. I feel like I’m more interested in the potential of comics, rather than what they’ve already accomplished, whereas with films and novels I’m interested in what they’ve already accomplished."
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions. Today's reviews come directly or indirectly via Hans Rickheit:
• Review: "Simmons’ artwork [in House] masterfully cranks up the tension and tightens the suspense as the ill-fated explorers descend into the building’s subterranean depths; as his characters enter the house, his dark frames thicken, becoming the walls of the house. The comic is wordless, but the characters have no trouble expressing themselves as they go from the heights of youthful elation to sheer terror as the house swallows them whole." – Ao Meng, The Daily Texan
• Review: "As both an anthology and as a survey of the times, [Four Color] Fear is incredibly successful, with nary a dud in the whole bunch. Each fun story offers its own brand of chill, thrills and maniacal laughter. [...] But the real disquieting aspect of these comics were probably not intended as such — chauvinistic behavior is rampant among the men, and women are portrayed as either damsels in distress or cold-hearted femme-fatales. These are artifacts of a simpler age." – Ao Meng, The Daily Texan
• Review: "The Squirrel Machine is not for the faint of heart, and features quite disturbing and grotesque imagery — H. R. Giger has nothing on Rickheit’s psychosexual nightmares. [...] Existing on the crossroad of creativity and madness, The Squirrel Machine is a nightmare in a series of gristly tableaus. The psychedelic rooms full of machinery, sex and death are an inward exploration as much as Jim Woodring’s ('Frank') comics are outwardly allegorical. An exploration of an artist’s mind, it uncovers the obscene, the things that were never meant to be brought to light." – Ao Meng, The Daily Texan
• Review: "Blimey, [The Squirrel Machine] is a weird one. Imagine a steampunk version of the last ten minutes of Eraserhead. [...] Its design and tone is indebted to Little Nemo in Slumberland, although far more disturbing. [...] The book is full of strange scenes which accurately convey the claustrophobic atmosphere and slight off-ness of a powerful dream. In no way is it fluffy around the edges. The detail is unflinching, with a refreshing lack of explanation... Is it all a dream? Who can tell?" – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Review: "Another excellent debut graphic novel, another webcomic-printed-as-book, another beautiful Fantagraphics book-as-object, and another rollicking seafaring adventure. [...] What distinguishes [Set to Sea] from a merely average graphic novel is the excellent pacing, the thoughtfulness of the (unnamed) protagonist, and the minimal use of words in a book about writing poetry!" – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Review: "A luxurious collection of Moto Hagio’s influential comics, ...[A Drunken Dream and Other Stories] is a valuable sampler of her long career, a compilation of short stories from 1970 to 2007 which feature her innovative panel layouts and expressive characters, and include many of her favourite themes, such as sibling rivalry, postnatal depression and ghosts. [...] This is yet another beautiful book-as-object-of-desire..." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Review: "An utter nightmare. [...] Over a hundred densely-drawn pages [of Weathercraft], filled with Woodring’s bejewelled creatures and salamandric hallucinations, Manhog achieves a kind of enlightenment. A great if unsettling work." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Review: "The first of Norwegian cartoonist Jason’s books to be published in translation, and one of his neatest and most satisfying stories. [...] If it were a film, Hey, Wait… would melodramatically labour the childhood tragedy it features, but in a Jason book it’s an understated pivot for the two halves of the story." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Coming Attractions: "The Arctic Marauder [by Jacques Tardi] – A steampunk story with mad scientists, sea monsters, and futuristic machines at the North Pole. In a 'faux woodcut style.' Fantagraphics continues to be the most consistently innovative publisher of adventure comics around." – Michael May, Robot 6
• List:Flashlight Worthy polls various online critics for The Best Graphic Novels of 2010:
"Moto Hagio is to shojo manga what Will Eisner is to American comics, a seminal creator whose distinctive style and sensibility profoundly changed the medium. Though Hagio has been actively publishing stories since the late 1960s, very little of her work has been translated into English. A Drunken Dream, published by Fantagraphics, is an excellent corrective — a handsomely produced, meticulously edited collection of Hagio's short stories that span her career from 1970 to 2007." – Katherine Dacey (The Manga Critic)
"Truly the most welcome English translation of the year, this collection of aching vignettes from the mud and blood of WWI [It Was the War of the Trenches] forms a unique human patchwork, fitting for a time and place where bodies and souls went to pieces. Tardi is a skilled artist, placing his soft, eminently fragile human forms against natural scenes so dense and thick (and buildings so heavy and broken) you'd swear that the entire Earthly organism has been put to bed by war's viral infection, but the true power here comes from his accumulation of carefully detailed narratives, ringing sadly as the greater accumulation of corpses remains painfully implicit." – Joe McCulloch (Comics Comics, Jog – The Blog)
"Packed to the gills, surprising, and unabashedly ambitious, MOME 19 isn't just the best volume the series has seen, it's a shot across the bow to a format that's been ceded to fans and friends-only collectives. Anthologies, said Fantagraphics. They're still at their best when there's an adult behind the wheel." – Tucker Stone (The Factual Opinion)
Werewolves of Montpellier by Jason: "One of comics' most inventive and offbeat practitioners of the art returned this year with a story that was not exactly groundbreaking for him but still wildly fun and different from most other stories out there. Jason's books are always hard to classify exactly, but this tale of a thief who dresses up as a werewolf (it helps scare people, which helps him pull off his crimes) is one of his most intriguing." – John Hogan
A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio: "Few creators in the 60-year history of Japanese manga are more important than Moto Hagio, one of the cohorts of the so-called 'Magnificent Forty-Niners' who revolutionized the shoujo genre in the 1970s. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories features a thoughtfully chosen selection of 10 short tales translated by Matt Thorn and published in lavish, oversized hardcover. The title story in particular offers a rare treat, its implacable, mythological cruelty rendered in soft-focus color." – Casey Brienza
• Review: "I finally read Special Exits last weekend. And I am here to tell you: It was tough. It was not fun. But it was truthful. It was specific. And it ... helped. In this, it was utterly unlike the book on grieving that a well-meaning relative pressed into my hands. That book's blandishments felt feathery and abstract; they had nothing to do with Pop, or with how I felt about him. Special Exits, on the other hand, is all about specificity. Farmer captures the tiniest, most mundane — and at times ugliest — details of caring for someone you love, and watching them pass from you. It's bracingly clear-eyed and unsentimental... Her pages and panels seem crowded with detail — deliberately and effectively so, to mirror the way her parents' house, and their lives, fall steadily into clutter and disrepair." – Glen Weldon, NPR
• Plug: "The latest from Fantagraphics... is Special Exits, a graphic novel from 71-year-old Joyce Farmer. Debut book it may be but she’s no newbie: Farmer was part of the whole underground comix scene in the time of R. Crumb... It’s the kind of memoir you can sit alongside Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, or anything Harvey Pekar: a story about her elderly parents’ slow decline." – The Gosh! Comics Blog
• Review: "Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition... is the perfect collection for neophytes to the series — it starts from the top, and introduces many of Sakai’s running cast, including the titular wandering samurai rabbit and a selection of his friends, enemies, and allies-of-convenience. The high-glossy, bright-white pages make Sakai’s finely detailed, heavily Japanese-inspired black-and-white art pop off the page, and the collection covers enough of his work to show how he’s evolved as an artist, from the early days when he was finding his feet to art that looks much like what he’s producing today." – The A.V. Club 2010 Holiday Gift Guide
• Plug: "Stan Sakai has been drawing his funny-animal samurai series Usagi Yojimbo for upwards of 25 years now. Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition collects the first 38 issues of Usagi's own comics and various other early stories in which he appeared, along with a ton of bonus features and an extensive interview with Sakai — 1200 pages of ronin rabbit action in all, presented as a two-volume hardcover set in a slipcase." – Douglas Wolk, TIME/Techland "Comics Geek Gift Guide 2010"
• Review: "[Jason's] comics are consistently funny and heartfelt, but tinged with a particular brand of melancholy. [...] The new collection, What I Did, takes the first three albums Fantagraphics translated and published in English. The first piece, 'Hey Wait...' is a real heartbreaker. [...] The second album, 'Sshhhh!' is a collection of wordless strips about a bird in a tweed jacket, and his tribulations as a character through life. [...] The strips delicately and comically depict the absurdities of modern existence... The last story, 'The Iron Wagon,' is an adaptation of a Norwegian mystery novel. [...] It’s great stuff, and like all of Jason’s stuff it’s deeply humanist." – Ao Meng, The Daily Texan
• Plug: "Jason's silent comics are so great. The monster ones in Almost Silent and 'Hey Wait' in What I Did especially. They are funny and sad and those are the two things a person wants." – Atomic Books "Holiday Picks"
• Review: "...[Four Color Fear] will... blow your fucking head up. [...] Trying to describe what makes many of these comics strange would take too long. Weird characters, odd behavior, no real logic, the list is endless. What makes this shit gold is the art. [...] Flipping through this it's hard not to think to yourself, 'How did I not know about this until now? Why didn't anyone tell me?' There's a gallery of glossy cover art in the center that is flat out some of the best art I've ever seen." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Overall, the experience of joining this large fellow on his life’s journey is a delight, if a fairly short one. [Set to Sea]’s a small book in length as well as size, able to be read in a single sitting, but it’s good enough that it invites multiple journeys through its pages, allowing explorers to marvel at the fluid movement of the characters, the chaos of an inter-ship battle, the choppy waves and calm harbors, the joys of a life lived and savored." – Matthew J. Brady, Warren Peace Sings the Blues
• Plug: "Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons is as mammoth and daunting a career retrospective as anyone could wish for: a gorgeous three-volume set encompassing a thousand-plus of the macabre cartoonist's drawings, as well as additional features including a handful of short stories he also wrote for Playboy. It's beautifully designed, too — the slipcase itself involves a perfectly Wilsonian gag." – Douglas Wolk, TIME/Techland "Comics Geek Gift Guide 2010"
• Profile: "Throughout the 1990s [Peter] Bagge devoted himself almost completely to a comic book called HATE, the success of which brought him other opportunities, as well as a key choice: 'If I really wanted to play it safe after achieving a modicum of success I would have devoted myself to doing the same thing for life.' Instead, Bagge chose to take on new subjects and continued to experiment. [...] Bagge taught a course at Seattle University last winter. He recommends that students interested in comics and graphic novels visit Fantagraphics Bookstore in Georgetown, as their selection is interesting and outside the mainstream." – Cambray Provo, The Spectator (via The Comics Reporter)
Since opening in December 2006, Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery has become a treasured civic asset. In addition to feeding Northwest residents' insatiable appetite for challenging contemporary culture, the space has attracted visitors from across the country and around the world. Saturday, December 11 marks the bookstore's 4th anniversary, and to celebrate the occasion we're once again hosting the season's most festive party featuring amazing music, comix, art, and more!
The evening includes solo music sets by Zak Sally and Mark Pickerel. Zak was a founding member of alternative music legends Low and continues solo music endeavors while publishing great comics with Fantagraphics as well as producing exquisitely crafted small press projects on his own La Mano 21 imprint. This event will mark the debut of his ambitious Kim Deitch File portfolio project, among other recent La Mano offerings. Zak will be joined by Fantagraphics friend Mark Pickerel, who began his musical career with the highly acclaimed Screaming Trees and now fronts Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands, in addition to being the proprietor of Seattle pop culture emporium Damaged Goods.
An exhibition of comix art curated by Jason T. Miles and Max Clotfelter, in association with Friends of the Nib, features promising emerging cartoonists. together with masters of the medium. "Medieval Thinkers" includes original works by Peter Bagge, Bruce Bickford, D. J. Bryant, Chris Cilla, Max Clotfelter, Eleanor Davis, Kim Deitch, Heidi Estey, Kelly Froh, Justin Green, Gerald Jablonski, Megan Kelso, Jason T. Miles, Nate Neal, Bob Rini, Zak Sally, Dash Shaw, Matt Tamaru, Drew Weing, Jim Woodring, Mary Woodring, Max Woodring, Martine Workman, and Chris Wright. According to Friends of the Nib co-curator Miles, "Many of these artists work with antiquated materials most commonly associated with 19th and 20th century cartooning, specifically the metal dip pen or crowquill pen nibs, although use of these tools was not a requisite for inclusion. What brings these artists together is an imagist approach to picture-making and a willful ignorance of the aesthetics, fashion, and politics of the fine art industry. Medieval thinkers organize their experience by executing lessons in perspective, balance, humor and alchemy."
All this plus screaming deals on comix, celebrity guests, holiday libations, demented Christmas platters spun by DJ Russ Fallout, and a few surprises makes Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery's 4th anniversary party the place to be on Saturday, December 11. This event coincides with the colorful holiday version of the Georgetown Art Attack with amazing visual and performing arts presentations throughout the historic arts community.
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery's 4th Anniversary Celebration Music, Comix, Art and More!
Saturday, December 11, 6:00 to 9:00 PM
Music by ZAK SALLY and MARK PICKEREL
Medieval Thinkers original comix exhibition featuring Peter Bagge, Bruce Bickford, D. J. Bryant, Chris Cilla, Max Clotfelter, Eleanor Davis, Kim Deitch, Heidi Estey, Kelly Froh, Justin Green, Gerald Jablonski, Megan Kelso, Jason T. Miles, Nate Neal, Bob Rini, Zak Sally, Dash Shaw, Matt Tamaru, Drew Weing, Jim Woodring, Mary Woodring, Max Woodring, Martine Workman, and Chris Wright. Curated for Friends of the Nib by Jason T. Miles and Max Clotfelter.
Exhibition continues through February 8, 2011.
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery 1201 S. Vale Street, Seattle, WA 98108 206.658.0110 Open daily 11:30 - 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM
• Review: "Drew Weing's slender, hand-sized debut graphic novel Set to Sea is a crosshatched masterpiece. [...] Weing draws in an elaborate, crosshatched style that's half Popeye, half Maakies, and it meshes brilliantly with the subject matter and the storytelling. Set to Sea is so lovely in places that I found myself exclaiming aloud -- it's got a naive-but-self-conscious grace that is impossible to describe and that few have ever mastered. This one is highly recommended." – Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
• Review: "In the first and the second volume [of Mome] there are a lot of things to enjoy. Stories differ both in length (there are one-page strips, too) and in narrative technique. [...] In these two books there [is] a lot [that is] interesting and confusing, enjoyable and intriguing. Do not be a mome, read these first-rate collections of comics." – Ray Garraty, Endless Falls Up
• Review:Attentiondeficitdisorderly's Sean T. Collins looks at Gilbert Hernandez's half of Love and Rockets Vol. II #20 (as reprinted in the Luba hardcover) in his ongoing "Love and Rocktober" series: "At long last he returns to Venus, Petra’s daughter and one of the least damaged, most well-adjusted, most self-assured characters in the whole post-Palomar oeuvre. [...] It’s an uplifting note to end on after all this darkness."
• Plug:NPR's Glen Weldon recommends "Five Tomes to See You Through Your Turkey Coma": "In honor of the 25th anniversary of this classic all-ages 'funny animals' tale of Miyaomoto Usagi, a stoic samurai rabbit who roams 17th-century Japan, Fantagraphics has collected the first seven trades in a sumptuous 2-book, 1200-page hardcover edition [Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition]. Which, uh ... won't be out until December. Until then, you can pick up a couple volumes and get a taste of Sakai's masterful, action-packed, richly detailed storytelling, and see why it's become such a beloved series."
• Plug: "Mascots, [Ray] Fenwick's forthcoming follow-up [to Hall of Best Knowledge], is similarly a series of episodes told through inventive typography and absurd yet hilarious text. But integrating these elements with brightly colored paintings, the book depicts a more surreal, frenzied world that is strangely resonant with today's super speedy internet age." – Space 15 Twenty
• List: Deb Aoki of About.com: Manga names A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio the Best New Manga of 2010: "Conjoined twins who share a painful co-existence. A young girl rejected by her mother who can only see her as an iguana. Ill-fated lovers who are doomed to be separated in several lifetimes. These characters came to life in this collection of smart, sensitive and thought-provoking short stories created by master storyteller Moto Hagio."
• Review: "It makes my job as a critic a lot harder when I’ve spent nearly an entire book composing its review in my head only for the final few pages to smash it to smithereens. In that sense, reviewing Luba: The Book of Ofelia is hard work." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Interview (Audio):Destroy All Movies!!! editors Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly appeared on KBOO-FM Community Radio out of Olympia WA on Monday for an interview with host Erin Yanke — listen here
• Plug:Public School's Will Bryant spotlights Ray Fenwick's Mascots
• Commentary: At The Wright Opinion, Brendan Wright shares his thoughts about the longevity of Las Locas: "I’m as excited as anyone that the graphic novel is gradually becoming the standard model of the modern comic book, but among its many virtues, the fact that Love and Rockets has always been presented as a series is important. This is the comic book that elevated the serial format of comics from soap opera to serialized literature. It’s hard to wait between the annual installments, but it’s worth it to check in with old friends, and whatever else he does with the rest of his creativity, I’m happy that Hernandez always finds time to keep up with the 'Locas' world."