It is with a heavy heart that we must report that Dale Yarger, a beloved and influential figure on the Seattle alternative-press and design scene with whom we had the pleasure of working for a number of years in the 1990s (he was Fantagraphics' senior designer for the first half of the decade, as well as on a later occasion), has passed away after a long, courageous battle with cancer.
Dale was a man of uncommon skill, grace, and sweetness and his premature departure leaves a hole in the world and in our hearts. Our sympathy goes out to all the people who knew and loved Dale, of which which there are -- as you can tell from the steady stream of updates to this Facebook tribute page to Dale -- many.
• List:Publishers Weekly announces the results of their 2011 Comics World Critics Poll, with these titles garnering 2 votes each...
"Love and Rockets: New Stories Vol. 4, Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez: Jaime Hernandez tops his 30 years of peerless storytelling with the conclusion to 'The Love Bunglers' in which two characters we’ve watched stumble through life make a final lurch — that may bring happiness or doom. Heartbreaking yet without a trace of manipulation." – Heidi MacDonald
"The Man Who Grew His Beard, Olivier Schrauwen: This graphic novel is exceptionally inventive, with each story being so very different from the one before." – Glen Downey
...and the following books receiving an Honorable Mention with one vote each:
• Review: "As [Wandering Son] volume 2 closes, the idyllic childhood Shuichi and Nitori have shared thus far, surrounded by exceptionally supportive family and friends, is showing signs of being breached by thoughtless outsiders.... In the insightful, not-to-be-skipped final essay, 'Transgendered in Japan,' translator (and manga scholar) Matt Thorn writes, 'Shuichi and Yoshino are coming of age, not in an idealized fantasy world, but in a contemporary Japan that poses unique challenges to children such as these.' Indeed, to quote a popular film, 'reality bites,' but in creator Shimura Takako's sensitive world, Shuichi and Nitori have better than a fighting chance at becoming strong, confident adults." – Terry Hong, BookDragon (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program)
• Review: "In spite of its depressive mood (you know, with it being about the end of the world and such), The Hidden exemplifies the effectiveness of Sala's application of a 'less is more' visual style to broad, complex stories.... I can't recommend Sala's books enough, and The Hidden is one of his best works to date. Be sure to pick up a copy if you're looking for something more than global plagues and cannibalistic zombies in your world-ending entertainment." – Tim Mitchell, Titans Terrors & Toys
• List/Plugs: Andy Mansell of Heroes Aren't Hard to Find names a handful of "creme de la creme," "must-have" classic comic strip collections from 2011: "Do yourself a favor – next time you are in the store take a few moments and pick up a copy of Lost in the Andes or Pogo, either Mickey Mouse collection, ...[and] flip through it. Read a few strips.... These are rich, beautiful books and they deserve to be read by everyone."
• Plug:The A.V. Club's Oliver Sava provides a guide to "What makes a good all-ages comic," saying "Animation-inspired art remains the most popular choice for an all-ages series... Carl Barks’ work with Disney’s duck characters is the pinnacle of this school: Barks’ experience as a Disney animator honed his talent for creating sprawling environments and distinct characters that are instantly charming and incredibly rich. Fantagraphics just published its first hardcover collection of Barks’ classic stories, Donald Duck: Lost In The Andes, a beautiful package collecting some of Barks’ most memorable duck tales."
• Review: "...Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics isn’t just a book of some minor historical interest; it’s a genuinely entertaining and artful set of comics, and in some ways more readable than Simon and Kirby’s adventure stories.... Simon’s plots deal with jealousy, class conflict, mistaken identity, selfishness, and selflessness — the romance staples — while Kirby’s art makes these tales of passion and deceit especially dynamic, with deep shadows and a mix of the glamorous and the lumpen. ...Simon and Kirby... depict[ed] a world of darkness and heavy emotion, inhabited by clean-looking people in pretty clothes." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Though not a novel per se, The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat does tell a story of sorts, about Crumb’s evolution as an artist, from the mild-mannered greeting-card designer who drew cheeky doodles in his spare time, to the prickly satirist who’d use Fritz as a way to comment on the sick soul of the ’60s and his own at-times-unwieldy success." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Nuts wasn't action-packed or boldly satirical. Just the opposite, in fact -- it was subtle and thoughtful, with what I'm guessing was a heavy autobiographical element on the part of Mr.Wilson.... You might not have grown up when Wilson did, or when the [National Lampoon] was published, or when I first read these strips years ago, so the details have changed. But I'm willing to bet the emotions our hero felt remain almost exactly the same, no matter what generation is reading about him. And, of course, Gahan Wilson's cartooning is what makes the strips special." – Will Pfeifer, X-Ray Spex
• Review: "There are few collections of comics that you can truly describe as 'beautiful art'; however, Fantagraphics’ series of Prince Valiant trades is absolutely stunning to look at and is easy to write flattering things about, because it is so flattering for a reader’s eyes to behold Foster’s artwork crisp, clear, and huge in all its splendor. The fourth volume of Prince Valiant, which collects all the Sunday pages in full color from 1943 to 1944, is just wonderful, whether you are 4 or 94; it is a totally engrossing experience to dive into the world of the adventurous prince on these pages." – Drew McCabe, ComicAttack.net
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks with Zak Sally about his new self-published, self-printed collection of Sammy the Mouse: "I've gotten out three issues of Sammy in five years, and in that five years I've had two kids, I've been married. My life has changed extraordinarily. That's just the way art works, you know. I was doing issue #2 -- maybe #3, I can't remember -- and there was stuff going on in my life. Six months later I look at that issue and I was like, 'Oh my sweet God.' It was absolutely reflective of what had been going on at the time, and I was completely unaware of it. I just think that's part of it, and that's the way it works."
• Interview: At Nummer 9, Erik Barkman has a Q&A (in Danish) with Johan F. Krarups (editor Matthias Wivel describes it as a "commentary track") about his contribution to the Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now anthology
• Plug: Heidi MacDonald of The Beat looks forward to Jaime Hernandez's God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls: "We can’t help but think that all of the people calling for great superhero stories featuring women will find Ti-Girls a masterpiece, as well, an entire superhero universe made up of nothing but superheroines of various shapes and sizes. It’s jaunty Jaime to be sure, but even so probably one of the best superhero stories of the last decade."
• Plug: "Fantagraphics is still the gold standard for classy newspaper strip collections. I’m afraid people are getting jaded now about how the wonderful Peanuts volumes are chugging right along year after year, but it’s worth pointing out that they continue to be everything anyone could ever want from an archive edition. What’s more, Fantagraphics followed it up with these new Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse collections." – Greg Hatcher, Comic Book Resources
• Plug: Found this nice nugget in Laura Hudson's interview with Chris Onstad at ComicsAlliance: "Jim Woodring is great, and is one of those people who will honestly admit to you that, 'Yeah, my brain's a little f**ked up.' His comics are sort of a manifestation of his brain. It works for him. He's a really wonderful guy. He has this big three-story place with big, gothic abbey rope hanging in front of the front door. The rope rings a little bell to let you know that someone's at the door. One time it rings in the foyer so his wife opens the door, and there's this little cat there that came in from the road. So they let the cat in, shut the door, and we all go about our night. Then we watched Popeye for two hours. That's Jim. And he does all of his work based on hallucination. None of it's set in reality. Uncanny things that make me feel strange happen [in his comics]."
• Analysis: Jordan Hurder, Chance Press examines the collaborations between Jacques Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette: "Tardi is a fantastically celebrated cartoonist who has been at the forefront of the industry in France for 35 years. In contrast to his slow burn, Manchette shot out ten crime novels over the course of ten years, redefined and reinvigorated the French crime novel, became hugely influential, and died of cancer in the 1990s.... The compatibility between the two artists is uncanny; maybe a better critic could point out exactly why in just a few words, or maybe it’s one of those matchups that works without needing explanation." – Jordan Hurder, Chance Press
• Commentary:Gary Groth remembers Christopher Hitchens in "My Dinner with Hitch" at The Comics Journal
• History: Speaking of our dear leader, David Hine presents some scans from an issue of Gary's pre-Fantagraphics fanzine, Fantastic Fanzine (hat tip to Dan Nadel at TCJ.com)
For perhaps obvious reasons, I invariably find myself re-reading Palestine this time of year. Twenty years ago, cartoonist Joe Sacco visited the biblical lands of the Middle East and reported his observations in a groundbreaking series of comic books that would help change our perceptions of the troubled occupied territories. It's a sad commentary that reading this book twenty years later, it seems like it could have been written yesterday. With every read — going on a dozen now — I find something new in Sacco's brilliant tale.
I recall not long after beginning work as Fantagraphics marketing and promotions director, co-publisher Kim Thompson handed me a blue-line copy of the first issue of Palestine. "This is amazing," I responded, "but you can't seriously expect me to sell this thing. It's not very funny at all!" (I believe I said something similar when Kim showed me the first issue of Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library.) Well, after 10 printings of the collection and a special edition hardcover, Palestine seems to have found a readership.
If you haven't done so already, please get a copy of this book. Now's a perfect time to peruse its pages. Sacco visits Bethlehem and finds little evidence of the promise of peace we will celebrate this Sunday. But he does discover humanity amid the turmoil of the region. And with it — hope for a peaceful resolution.
If you find yourself in Seattle anytime soon, drop by Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery. We have a limited quantity of Palestine #1 first edition comic books signed by Sacco for only $2.95, as well as a large selection of his more recent works. Happy holidays.
Every so often I'm asked whatever became of Fantagraphics old delivery van, which was vandalized — I mean decorated — by masters of alternative comix during a 1991 signing at Fallout. (Crumb, Clowes, Bagge, Bros., Mavrides, Woodring, etc.) We spoke to the Georgetown owner last summer and he assured us restoration was underway. On Friday, Georgetown Records unearthed a cache of vintage Rocket magazines. The April '91 issue contained a sidebar on this rolling masterpiece.
Oh, you know, just Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez doing a signing with their pal Matt Groening at Golden Apple Comics in L.A. in 1984 when Dave Stevens stopped by to say hi to them and Gilbert's hotcha gal Carol. ¡Ay carumba! (And is that a turntable under the V poster? Even cooler!) This got posted over at the Love and Rockets/Hernandez Brothers Facebook page way back in March and I've been too flabbergasted for the last 8 months to post it until now.
But lo! Via a Tumblr blog called One-Chair Barbershop comes, unattributed and without context, this vintage photo of Peter Bagge from his NYC street-art stickering days, to pair up and kick the dust off this old Flog draft. Flex those guns, Pete!
Ah yes, I remember that. 1976 or 1977. My family had just moved from Munich, Germany to Montpellier, France, and my Mother, my brother, and I were cooling our heels in our usual summer vacation spot of Copenhagen, Denmark while my Father was setting up our new Montpellier digs. (That would be the same Montpellier that currently serves as home base for Lewis Trondheim and Jason.) WIth ample time on his hands, my Father, who was (and is) an avid photographer, had just discovered the age-old trick of photographing someone multiple times in front of a black backdrop to create the illusion of multiple iterations of the same person (no, kids, there was no Photoshop then), and had sent us some hilarious fumetti of himself in various goofy disguises interacting with himself.
Around the same time, future Marvel Editor-in-Chief Mark Gruenwald (whom I knew well through correspondence) — at the time still a fan, of course — had self-published his TREATISE ON REALITY, one of the central tenets of which was that the Marvel and DC universes contained an infinite amount of "realities" each of which was created by an individual human decision (a kind of sci-fi version of chaos theory in which the butterfly does AND doesn't flap its wings). So in one reality Peter Parker decided not to go to that science exhibit and didn't get bitten by that spider, or Bruce Wayne's parents didn't duck down that dark alleyway, etc. Those reality-creating "decision points" he dubbed "nexuses" (or "nexi"?). Somehow in my geeky mind this combined with the technique my father had been playing around with and the whole family got together (note my Mother's credit for "flying cucumber" effect) and created this illustration of what would happen if, as I was reading Mark's treatise, I found myself having to decide among continuing to read it, going for a snack, or going to bed (the trifecta of choices pretty much anyone faces when reading late at night).
Everyone got a kick out of it (including Dean Mullaney, who was very much the "nexus" of that group) and I've been lugging around that set of Xeroxes for three and a half decades — until some wisenheimer in the Fantagraphics offices found it in a box and slapped it up on Flog.
Tom Spurgeon's recollection on his comicsreporter.com blog that this ties into a group of round-robin fan correspondents that included Rob Rodi and Jo Duffy (also Ralph Macchio — the future Marvel editor, not the Karate Kid star) is on the nose.
I don't even want to think about how many of this blog's readers weren't even born when I did this.
Rest in peace Mark Gruenwald, a good guy who died far too young. Hopefully there are thousands of other alternate realities where he's still happily editing Marvel comics.
Every time I visit Fantagraphics office I damn near trip over Julie Doucet's cat carrier, which has been at the foot of the back stairs since she resided in the apartment upstairs in 1993. I worked as Fantagraphics beer tech back then - the "Summer of Hate" in Seattle. A blur of rock shows, cartoonist signings, art events, and parties. This was before the grunge movement had been corrupted by corporations and devastated by drugs. Great fun! I wish I could remember it. Occupational hazard, I suppose. I wonder what happened to Julie's cat. (Has anybody looked inside the carrier?)
It's safe to say that Fantagraphics, and indeed the entire comics landscape, would not exist as we know it today without the efforts of comics scholar and archivist Bill Blackbeard. I never had the honor of interacting with the man, but his importance and influence reverberates throughout everything we do here, and not just the projects we had the good fortune to work on directly with him, such as the Krazy & Ignatz series he spearheaded. We are saddened by the loss and will strive to be worthy of his legacy.