Above: cover of Amazing Heroes #117, published by Fantagraphics Books, May 1987 (artwork by Tom Yeates, I think; scan from Comic Collectors Live). Below: MJ strip by Paul Hornschemeier from the Wall Street Journal, 2008, as collected in the forthcoming book All and Sundry. Yes, Jackson's cultural influence extends all the way to Fantagraphics.
Let's catch up on our Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "...Monologues [for Calculating the Density of Black Holes is] spare and scratchy where [Anders Nilsen's] other work was detailed; loose and spontaneous where his other work was considered; and funny where his other work was melancholy. It's interesting to see the many influences that inform Monologues; there's a bit of absurdists like Ionesco, elements of Tom Stoppard's wit and philosophical musings, stream of consciousness dada in the style of Tristan Tzara, and oblique New Yorker type gags with the scratchy looseness of James Thurber and Saul Steinberg." - Rob Clough
• Review: "...[O]nce again, I’m engaged in Blazing Combat. What a thrill! And the art!... Highly recommended. Don’t argue! Just buy it!" - David McDonnell, Starlog
• Review: "This collection of the 1965-66 Blazing Combat war comic magazine is a stellar publication... It's a master class on how to tell a short story, and I highly recommend checking it out." - Sandy Bilus, I Love Rob Liefeld
• Review: "Blazing Combat, a new hardcover collection from Fantagraphics, showcases some truly fantastic work from a multitude of comics greats... The collection itself is sharp as a tack... Fantagraphics really packages it nicely..." - Litany of Schist
• Review: "This omnibus of all 11 issues of Humbug is equal parts giddy genius and period piece. The satire is razor-sharp... [T]here are such subtleties here and such rapier wit that the line is clearly visible from the Algonquin Round Table to Kurtzman to Crumb to Ralph Bakshi to Mr. Show to The Colbert Report." - Byron Kerman, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "In his way, [Michael] Kupperman's just as concerned with making comics' formal aspects work for him as Chris Ware. In his way he's every bit as effective. Goddammit this book [Tales Designed to Thrizzle #5] is funny." - Sean T. Collins
• Review: "[Beasts! Book 1] is captivating, wistful, funny and truly extraordinary - a Bestiary of the traditionally fantastic for the dreary 21st century where imagination and wonder have been formularised as crypto-zoology... a vivid package of sheer fantasy and artistic excellence..." - Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Now, with Low Moon, [Jason] has clenched his fist around me and won’t let me go - this is easily my favorite of his works to date... Top to bottom, I enjoyed Low Moon very much... A worthy addition to one’s bookshelf." - Marc Mason, Comics Waiting Room
• Review: "[In Abandoned Cars] Tim Lane presents a personal study of what he calls 'The Great American Mythological Drama,' a fog of events / thoughts / dreams / disappointments in music / literature / North American life... Lane leads to something more introspective and extremely sad." - Churrasco la Naje (from Google translation)
• Review: "...[A]lmost nothing is casual in Bottomless Belly Button and almost nothing is superficial in its narrative structure, nor its authorial intentions... [Dash] Shaw's work delves into the interior of the personal relationships of its protagonists, but also in the basic foundations of linear narrative... Shaw transcends the sphere of intellectual narrative to enter the much more epidermal level of physical sensations... Dash Shaw has composed a monumental work, sometimes puzzling, sometimes bordering on melodrama, but always strong and brave, a work full of qualities and findings that will, we believe, be a reference for future comics. His experimentation, his daring and his solutions can't help but remind us of an equally ambitious and dense work, Jimmy Corrigan... Do not miss this." - Little Nemo's Kat (from Google translation)
• Plug: Jonathan Ross gives us ("the company that flies the flag for independent, ground-breaking comics"), and The Comics Journal ("the only widely read and serious publication of comic-book criticism"), a nice shout-out in The Times
• Interview: The Daily Cross Hatch continues their conversation with Michael Kupperman. Sample quote: "I think the artist I feel closest with is Tony Millionaire, because he really lives in those comics. He could never be anything else."
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!