• Review: "Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko by Blake Bell... [is] fantastic! ... It’s part biography, part art book - an amazing recap of Steve Ditko’s entire career in comics, from the early days with Charlton to the present. ... It’s also one of the best designed books I’ve read recently, including lots of rare pencil pages, out-of-print rarities, and full color scans on virtually every page. There’s a lot more to Steve Ditko than just Doctor Strange and Spider-Man." – Marc Sobel, Comic Book Galaxy
• Review: "Vitally, Anderson draws an earthy King, one who likes soul food and soulful women, but who is also capable of inspiring and challenging oratory, theological radicalism and courageous leadership, even when faced with fists, firebombs, and F.B.I. persecution. Anderson reminds one of U.S. poet Walt Whitman: He keeps publishing the same book, in different editions. But what a book!" – George Elliott Clarke, The Halifax Herald
• Review: "This is a very strange comic... You Are There works best as an absurdist critique of society and politics. ... The absurdity of Forest's script is brought to amazing life... It's a tremendous work of art, heightening the weirdness of the narrative very well. ... I would recommend You Are There because it's a thoughtful look at the pressure of conformity and what drives a man mad. ... Tardi is fantastic and makes the book even wackier, which isn't a bad thing." – Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "It is hard to convey how much of the joy of Unlovable comes not only from the wandering plotline (if there is any in this book) but also from the accompanying visuals. Tammy's attentions, interests and emotions are all scattered. The author's style of drawing lends to the feeling of chaos and scatteredness; the reader senses it in the erratic lines and messy fonts of various sizes. An erratic view of an erratic time of life." – Julia Eussen, AnnArbor.com
• Review: "Johnny Ryan’sPrison Pit is something I keep coming back to — and not just because it’s the only comic book I’ve ever seen that can actively liven up a party. It’s a hilarious, visceral and quick read... for really dumb fun, this is pretty much unbeatable. I’ve considered that maybe the fun isn’t as dumb — that maybe Cannibal Fuckface’s journey through the wastes of the prison pit are a Bunyan-style metaphor for, I don’t know, man coming to terms with the restrictions of modern life, but then I remember it’s a comic that features the term 'burnt jizz,' and I stop thinking and laugh." – David Uzumeri, Robot 6
• Review: "I'd ignored Hal Foster's knights-and-adventure strip until Fantagraphics remastered, recolored and repackaged the first two years of [Prince] Valiant (1937-38) into one of the loveliest reprint volumes of 2009. I became a Foster fan immediately, and bought Brian Kane's Definitive Prince Valiant Companion to learn more about Foster and the other talents (John Cullen Murphy, Gary Gianni and Mark Schultz) who'd worked on the comic during its 70+ years." – Craig Fischer, Thought Balloonists; the remainder of Fischer's take on the Companion is mixed-to-unfavorable, but we still recommend checking it out for his insights and some additional commentary he brings to the table
Loosely based on a teenager’s diary from the 1980s found in a gas-station bathroom, Unlovable is the remarkable story of Tammy Pierce, as filtered through the pen of Los Angeles artist Esther Pearl Watson. This second and concluding volume picks up where the first volume left off (winter break) and finishes Tammy’s tragicomic sophomore year of high school in 1985.
Tammy has built a devoted following over the last several years in the pages of Bust magazine, where Unlovable continues to be serialized on the magazine’s back page, and this beautifully produced, dayglo-orange and sparkly pink hardcover presents over 400 pages of her sometimes ordinary, sometimes humiliating, often poignant and always hilarious exploits. Her hopes, dreams, agonies and defeats are brought to vivid, comedic life by Watson’s lovingly grotesque drawings, filled with all the ’80s essentials — too much mascara, leg warmers with heels and huge hair, etc. — as well as timeless teen concerns like acne, dandruff, and the opposite sex (or same sex, in some cases).
Unlovable is about the rawness of trying to figure out who you are in a very public and humiliating way. Unlovable addresses these mysteries of adolescence through Tammy’s naiveté; girls and women in particular will find much that resonates, but men will also relate to Unlovable’s universal humor and wide cast of characters.
In the epic saga that is Unlovable, Tammy finds herself dealing with: tampons, teasing, crushes, The Smiths, tube socks, facial hair, lice, celibacy, fantasy dream proms, gym showers, skid marks, a secret admirer, prank calls, backstabbers, winter ball, barfing, narcs, breakdancing, hot wheels, glamour shots, roller coasters, Halloween costumes, boogers, boys, boy crazy feelings, biker babes, and even some butt cracks. Tammy’s life isn’t pretty, but it is endlessly charming and hilarious.
Another day's worth of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "...[Portable Grindhouse] is a nice book to have on the shelf, particularly for folks who love movies and are interested in how design has changed over the years. If you still spend time wandering around video stores looking for the weird and wonderful, check this book out." – Syung Myung Me, Kittysneezes
• Review: "I love this book. I'm probably biased because I was a newave cartoonist and I was lucky enough to have two pages included (78 & 79) in this little slice of comix history. ... The overall quality of the material is very high. ... It's a beautiful volume with production values far more impressive than the original comix it reprints. ... Newave! is a wonderful sampler of what the mini comix of the 1980s where all about. ... Now, at last, Michael Dowers and Fantagraphics have brought those little-known 8-pagers out into the light and given them an appropriate place in comix history." – Richard Krauss, Comic Related
• Review: "Esther Pearl Watson's Unlovable leaves me breathless and with sore abs from laughter. What a great work out." – Brett Von Schlosser, via Facebook
• Interview: On The Comix Claptrap podcast, hosts "Thien and Rina get to talk to Harvey Award-winning and Ignatz-nominated, Steven 'Ribs' Weissmanwho has a new book out with Fantagraphics Books called Chocolate Cheeks. In this interview, Steven talks about the origin of the Yikes! gang, shares his insight on juggling comics-making with having a family, and discusses his web comics "Barack Hussein Obama" and his contributions to the 'What Things Do' comics website. We also try, in vain, to get more LA cartoonist gossip."
• Do-gooding: Once again Michael Kupperman is lending his talents to the annual WFMU pledge drive; Robot 6's Sean T. Collins has all the details
Spot the common thread in today's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List: At The Truth About Comics Mario Z. Alipio (aka MZA) posts his top 11 comics of 2009, including You'll Never Know Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler at #6 ("A brilliant and disarmingly vulnerable historical memoir that converts a family's personal anguish into adult wisdom and grace. Part documentarian and part emotional wreck, Tyler examines her secretive father's WWII past and her own disintegrating marriage w/ an enviable balance between sensitivity and fearlessness"), Pim & Francie by Al Columbia at #9 ("Gorgeously reproduced — rough pencil marks, taped edges, discolourations, and all — this might be the sweetest thing to stare at, dumbly, in my whole library"), and Ganges #3 by Kevin Huizenga at #10 ("Huizenga conceives brilliant new methods of shorthand comix communication the way monkeys learn sign language to get the banana") (via The Comics Reporter)
Slow-news-day all-square edition of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "The book reminds me a bit of my childhood memories, where one gives nicknames to everyone and everything, and the smallest events become epic journeys. Chocolate Cheeks is a fun read, recommended to anyone who is interested in art prints or comic books." – Steven Swigart
• Review: "Esther Pearl Watson’s Unlovable is a rude, crude and frequently hilarious portrait of suburban teenage life in the 1980s. The book’s narrator, Tammy Pierce, is probably the most hapless 15-year-old girl imaginable. ... Her life is miserable, but she is anything but depressed. Every moment has urgency for her. She’s crazy-giddy when she’s in a good mood, and drama-queen petulant when upset. Watson makes Tammy comedy gold." – Robert Martin, The Comics Journal
416-page two-color 5.75" x 5.75" hardcover • $22.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-314-9
Being the second and final installment of the hilarious and humiliating adventures of high school misfit Tammy Pierce. In their weekly recommendations new Comics Comics correspondent Joe McCulloch admits "I didn’t read the first one, but it seems to have been well-received for its gangling verisimilitude" and Robot 6's Chris Mautner calls it "Poignant, cringe-inducing comics, to be sure."
Catch up with more info and extensive previews here, and verify availability with your local shop.
Win big in today's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List:Only the Cinema's Ed Howard begins counting down The Best Comics of the Decade: part 1 includes Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle at #52 ("...absurd scenarios proliferate throughout each issue of Kupperman's series, as he follows each loony premise through to its (il)logical end result. He's a versatile stylist as well..."), Eleanor Davis's Mome stories at #51 ("The short stories of Eleanor Davis draw on myth and horror to craft succinct, mysteriously moving little parables, like Grimm fairy tales where the "monsters" are almost always infused with pathos and feeling"), Eightball #23 by Daniel Clowes at #47 ("a self-contained epic in miniature, poking at superhero archetypes, with their ideas about 'responsibility' and 'right,' in order to tell a quiet, maudlin story of loneliness and self-isolation"), and Abstract Comics: The Anthology at #42 ("What's best about the book is how open its territory ultimately is, how much room it leaves for artists to come up with their own ideas about abstraction and sequence. It is a truly groundbreaking book that points the way towards a whole new conception of comics and challenges readers and artists alike to explore this new area.")
• Reviews: "Manchette’s brand of punk noir bears an existential, leftist tinge, with traces of Ballardian anomie. ... Opening Tardi’s adaptation [of West Coast Blues], one is quickly reassured by the faithfulness to the original novel. ... Tardi seems to have read Manchette’s mind when it came to visualizing the characters, scenery and action of the novel.... [and] his superior drafting skills are always in service to a tight rendering of the real world, from trains to forests to city streets. ... Turning to Tardi ‘s earlier work, You Are There, scripted by Forest..., we encounter a looser, sketchier style, admirably suited to the baggy-pants, fabulistic story and exhibiting similarities to the work of such artists as Moebius, Rick Geary, Aubrey Beardsley and Edward Gorey. Outbursts of calculated surrealism complement his unswerving attention to the quotidian. The beautiful and sensitive architectural renderings, as well as shots of nature — fields, a lake, birds, trees — contrast with the goofiness of our protagonist to good effect. ... Forest’s 1979 tale exudes a fin de Sixties, fey whimsicality. Think The Mouse That Roared crossed with Gormenghast and The Prisoner. Beckett-like soliloquies and Pinteresque dialogue round out the ambiance." – Paul Di Filippo, The Barnes & Noble Review
• Review: "This generous volume reprints Maakies strips beginning early in this decade. ... As such, [Drinky Crow's Maakies] Treasury really does represent an overflowing bounty of absolutely primo Millionaire and stands as an invaluable, one–stop companion to Pre-Millennial Maakies for devotees. Newcomers, however, should understand that their sense of humor will be expanded, pulled… actually, think of a medieval rack where subjects were strapped in and stretched to shocking, heretofore inconceivable lengths." – Rich Kreiner, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Jason is a painfully good comic creator – the man has a phenomenal knowledge of pacing, a sense of humour that’s darker than Darth Vader in a mine at midnight and deceptively simple figurework that says a shitload with very little. The stories collected in Low Moon are mostly full of that black, black humour. ... If you’re not reading Jason’s stuff, then you don’t really like comics, because this shit is as pure as it gets." – Bob Temuka, The Tearoom of Despair
#1, You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler: "A mash-up of family portrait, generational analysis, autobiography and scrapbook, this book was not only the most emotionally powerful work of the year, it was the most attractively designed. The first part of what will likely be Tyler’s masterwork."
#6, Like a Dog by Zak Sally: "This was a stunningly honest account and collection of early work by one of the most underrated cartoonists working today. While the collected early issues of Recidivist ranged from interesting to astounding, it was Sally’s frank and emotional essay following the collection that really struck me as a statement of purpose — not just as an artist, but as a person."
#10, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman: "The first collection from Kupperman’s surprising hit really helped spread the word about his unique and delightfully warped genius as a gagsmith and artist."
#15, Sublife Vol. 2 by John Pham: "This one-man anthology featured Pham fully harnessing every aspect of his skills as a writer and artist. His use of color dominated and provided a sort of visual through-line for his different narratives. Pham alternately pushed the reader away and then pulled them in, depending on the story, a tension that made this his most successful work to date."
And #17, Ho! by Ivan Brunetti: "It’s fascinating to see the two directions Brunetti was headed in with regard to these gags. First, his gags became ever-more boundary pushing, but always in service to the punchline. Second, his line became more and more simplified to the point of nearly geometric simplicity: squares, circles and triangles wound up creating most of his characters by the end of the book."
• List:Paul Gravett names The Best of 2009: Classic Comic Reprints. At #6, it's The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Nell Brinkley's Cartoons 1913-1940: "Trina [Robbins] follows up her thorough biography of Brinkley with this oversized collection of Sunday 'comics,' often more like ravishing illustrated romantic yarns of big hair, clothes and emotions, but stunning to linger over and revealing in their period mood and concerns. In their time, Brinkley’s spirited, vivacious females were as iconic and inspirational in early 20th century America as the famous Gibson Girls before her. They truly deserve this gorgeous commemoration."
• List: On the annual Fun Fifty countdown at Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun!, at #15, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman: "Without hyperbole, Thrizzle is simply the funniest, most guffaw-out-loud comic book they're going to have to pry out of your cold, dead hands when you die laughing. ... Thrizzle's stuffed from front cover to impressive back page blurbs with Kupperman's splendiferous pulps-meet-woodblock-print artwork and lunatic stories, it's one of those rare humor books that actually is downright hilarious."
• Reviews: Nick Gazin of Vice (link NSFW) weighs in on a number of titles:
"I love Unlovable. Take that, book title. ... Unlovable 2 is a fun and funny read all the way through. ... Girls are gonna like this book and dudes are gonna like this book. It’ll remind you of how stupid you were and also of suburban sadness and realizing that your high school crush will probably never love you back."
"[High Soft Lisp] is incredible... The world in this book is one I wouldn’t want to live in but I can’t stop thinking about the story of Fritz."
"...[Almost Silent] is a really good book and Jason is a strong cartoonist. He does a lot with his simple-but-well-drawn characters and little to no dialogue. ... For $25 you get a nice sampler of what Jason can do. This is entirely worth owning."
• Review: "The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion is the indispensable guide to the strip and a must have for its legions of fans new and old. Fantagraphics has been re-printing these original strips in chronological order in beautiful hardcover volumes and this guide makes the perfect complement. ... No matter how long you’ve been a Prince Valiant fan…one year or seventy years, you’re certain to find this book informative and entertaining. Fantagraphics has produced another spectacular book! Grade A" – Tim Janson, The Gouverneur Times
• Review: "Similar to Charles Addams and Gahan Wilson, Jason relies on the humorous side of horror in these mostly wordless tales. ... Throughout the sublime Almost Silent, Jason examines traditional relationships and social norms via a deliciously warped lens, quite probably one constructed by Dr. Frankenstein himself." – Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica (spoiler alert!)
• Review: "I can’t think of a better single volume of what the period style of fast looked like in practice than last year’s Supermen! anthology. Yes, there’s an added winnowing by genre but that just sharpens the sense of the reductive visual and narrative requirements that were standard for the hot new gravy train that hit the business." – Rich Kreiner, "Yearlong Best of the Year," The Comics Journal
• Review: "As a whole, I like Abstract Comics a lot. I’d say that it works like a good art exhibition, or at least an exhibition unburdened by obligations to teach history, one in which multiple formal and aesthetic connections are there but not shouted out, rather left to be discovered (or not) by the strolling viewer according to his or her inclinations." – Charles Hatfield, Thought Balloonists
• Plug: "[Steven] Weissman's work is very often like a brain-damaged Charles Schulz... His newest book, Chocolate Cheeks, raises the stakes in a really dramatic way. I think this might be his last book in this series, but it goes out with a doozy of a book." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Plug: "Matt’s response to my squeeing over the announced May, 2010 publication date of Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6: 'Yes, as there were so many plots unresolved in the last issue. Who won, blimps or holes??'" – TofuPunk.com (I don't know who Matt is – ed.)
• Plug: "With new work by the likes of Johnny Ryan, Max Andersson, Sam Henderson, Stephane Blanquet, Doug Allen, Michael Kupperman, Mack White, and Jeremy Onsmith, Hotwire 3 is certain to deliver the psychic jolt it promises." – Richard Cowdry, Love the Line
• Plug: "Since Beatriz 'Penny Century' Garcia is my favorite Love & Rockets' Locas, I'm very excited to see the advance solicitation for the new soft cover Penny Century... In my opinion, the soft cover collected volumes are the best way to read Love & Rockets. They are the easiest way to follow the reading order, and with the cheap price of $18.99, you can't find a better launching point for one of the most regarded independent comics of all time. " – The Star Clipper Blog
• Analysis:Abstract Comics contributor Derik Badman posts an in-depth email discussion between himself and critic Craig Fischer about the book
• Interview:The Daily Yomiuri's Tom Baker talks Usagi Yojimbo with Stan Sakai: "I think the first few years I really tried to make him cute and cuddly like a stuffed animal, whereas the stories tended to [take] a more dramatic turn. So I think the character has changed. Most of it's unconscious on my part." (via The Comics Reporter )
Online Commentary & Diversions have seen their shadow:
• List: Our pal Bully the Little Stuffed Bull has started his annual Fun Fifty countdown. In the first installment, coming in at #46, Blazing Combat: "War, huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothin'... aside from bringing us this gorgeous archive edition of a classic comic every war comics fan oughta have in their library."
• Review: "Back in the days of Factsheet Five, I used to order tons of minicomix. Most were mediocre, but a few were terrifically good and that made it worth the risk to send in the fifty cents or so that they cost. ... Fantagraphics just released a massively thick (900 pages!) anthology of minicomix called Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s , and it's a treat." – Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing
• Review: "In Strange Suspense, Ditko already shines as a masterful designer of sinister mansions, ornate gateways and demonic doors and furnishings... And finally, there’s no mistaking those trademark Ditko faces, leering with evil or sweating and wide-eyed with terror, often lit or looking up from below. ... It is a pleasure to follow Ditko’s youthful artistic progression and there is a noticeable refining and streamlining of his drawing, going for greater clarity and impact. ... These morality fables are seldom subtle or surprising... but it’s Ditko’s artistry that elevates these mostly standard comic book nasties. ...[T]he $39.99 ticket is good value, and this is a weighty, hard-packed, deluxe package..." – Paul Gravett
• Review: "Successful art engenders powerful emotion in its observers. How do I know that Al Columbia's Pim & Francie is an amazing work of art? Because it seriously made me feel ill. Uncomfortable. It made me question my sense of aesthetics; played havoc with my expectations. It's unquestionably an amazing book. ... Rating: 8/10" – Jeremy Nisen, Under the Radar
• Commentary: At The Daily Cross Hatch, Box Brown reproduces the epochal letters page from Ivan Brunetti's Schizo #2 (reprinted in Misery Loves Comedy) as part of a new column on cartoonists' letters to cartoonists