Pay attention: there's some must-read stuff in today's Online Commentary & Diversions!
• Review: "Castle Waiting #15 - I love that Linda Medley is completely ignoring what makes her setting so interesting for the D&D set and focusing on the characters." - Kevin Church
• Review: "Although aiming at twenty-somethings also interested in getting laid, getting wasted and getting rich, [in Rocky Vol. 2] Kellerman nonetheless manages to move beyond the ever-fertile grounds of the battle of the sexes, bodily functions and morning-after guilt-trips to produce a lot of work that is truly fresh, funny and uniquely personal." - Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Just like Heartbreak Soup and Locas, Lubais hard to put down, and Beto’s art gets better as it gets more experimental... there’s tons of good material here, and the humongous format can’t be beat in terms of bang for your buck." - The A.V. Club
• Review: "The 'family history' graphic novel subgenre can feel overdone at times... but volume one of Carol Tyler’s autobiographical You’ll Never Knowis the kind of smartly conceived, affectingly personal work that makes comics and memoirs look fresh... Carol Tyler works wonders with colored pencils and offbeat page designs... the breadth of her visual imagination is so impressive that... overreach is excusable. Also impressive: the thematic complexity of You’ll Never Know... [Grade] A-" - The A.V. Club
• Review: "The handsome hardcover collection The Brinkley Girls brings together a generous sampling of [Nell] Brinkley’s work, leaning heavy on her stories of industrious women and the he-men they love... Brinkley’s art is so drop-dead gorgeous that readers may long to razor out every page to hang on the wall. [Grade] A-" - The A.V. Club (same link as above)
• Review: "...the fantastic Brinkley Girls hardcover put out by Fantagraphics... you would be doing yourself a favor by checking it out. Curse you Fantagraphics, I'm trying to save money you bastards." - This Is Why I Hate You
• Review: "Sally gets the cover in this 11th volume of The Complete Peanuts... Schulz is still in top form here in my opinion. There are few books I laugh at more, or enjoy more thoroughly than these fine collections. Highly recommended!" - Todd Klein
• Review: Bookgasm says of Supermen!: "...any self-respecting comics fan is going to eat [these stories] up like a Saturday-morning bowl of sugared cereal … and slurp up any leftover milk. If there’s a better gift of comics history this year… well, I’d no doubt fall in love with that one, too... Fantagraphics has done an amazing job in assembling this unique and colorful curio."
• Review: Comics Worth Reading gives "a big tip of the hat to the fine folks at Fantagraphics for getting Sam's Strip back into print after all these decades. As usual, they have spared no expense in putting together a visually excellent package... If you ever had more than a passing interest in newspaper strips, you owe it to yourself to check out this collection."
• History: In his Savage Critics post about "vaporware" comics projects culled from the pages of mid-1980s Amazing Heroes Preview Specials, Douglas Wolk digs up our never-produced Alan Moore anthology series and a choice quote from Kim Thompson
With our forthcoming opus STRANGE & STRANGE: THE WORLD OF STEVE DITKO hitting in just a few weeks, I thought I would share a brief Steve Ditko story. About ten years ago we had the great fortune of publishing a new series by Mr. Ditko, STEVE DITKO'S STRANGE AVENGING TALES. This was incredibly exciting to me, having been a lifelong Ditko fan. Unfortunately, I did not get to interact much with Mr. Ditko. See, I do all of our promotion, and to say that Mr. Ditko is not big on promotion is like saying the Pope is not big on gay marriage. And, he preferred snail mail to phone. As such, I did not have many opportunities to interact with one of the greatest comic book artists of all-time. Except one.
At the time, the venerable fan publication COMICS BUYERS GUIDE was very excited about Mr. Ditko's new series, and CBG Editor Maggie Thompson was kind enough to offer us the cover of an issue to promote the book, but asked if Mr. Ditko would provide an original cover for CBG. As I recall, Gary Groth ran the idea by Ditko and, somewhat surprisingly, he was game. So, I mailed Mr. Ditko all of the appropriate specifications for creating an original CBG cover. A week or so later, I received the following postcard in the mail:
I have to say, getting a postcard in the mail from Steve Ditko was just about the coolest thing ever. I was jazzed. I of course promptly wrote him back with enthusiasm, hoping to cement our acquaintanceship, telling him that I looked forward to the piece.
Soon thereafter, as promised, Ditko delivered the cover, and it was great -- a beautiful, greytoned wash illustration tying into the new series.
And here's where I made my mistake. As I recall, I wrote him back even more enthusiastically, thanking him for the piece. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, and since we still had some time before CBG's deadline, I reminded him (in case he hadn't seen an issue recently) that CBG had just switched from a B&W newspaper format to a tabloid format with color covers , and so color did remain an option if he was so inclined -- I just wanted to make sure he wasn't limiting himself to B&W because he thought he had to.
Anyway, a week or so later I got this postcard:
Reading the card now, I'm not even sure if he was actually that upset. I mean, he still sent his "regards," so maybe he was just trying to be as clear as possible, but at the time, I was convinced I'd royally pissed him off and felt terrible about it. I still do. Shortly after this, Ditko quit the series over other disagreements with Gary Groth, and only the first issue was published. So I never got the chance to prove to Mr. Ditko that I wasn't a moron.
I suppose, given Mr. Ditko's philosophical worldview, I never should have doubted that B&W cover. Maybe it was the shades of grey that threw me off. Either way, the pure white, economic postcards should have been a reminder that Mr. Ditko knew exactly what he was doing and I never should have questioned him.
If you weren't able to make it to Larry Reid's slide lecture "Weirdos: Seattle’s Alternative Comics Culture in the Context of R. Crumb’s Underground" at the Frye Art Museum last month, or if you were and want to re-live it, we are very pleased to present it here on the website in a nifty interactive format. Stream or download the MP3 audio and follow along with the slides at the "ding," just like back in grade school! (You can also read the text of the lecture and browse the slides at your own pace, if you prefer.) Larry's speech is informative, entertaining and opinionated as always, and the slideshow includes a wealth of seldom-seen imagery like the Rocket cover by the Brothers Hernandez pictured above. Click here to dive on in!