Our old friend Dale Yarger has a new website that I wanted to point out as an excuse to sing his praises as someone who was instrumental in Fantagraphics' history as the first proper designer/art director the company ever employed on staff, shortly after Fantagraphics moved to Seattle from Los Angeles in 1989. Dale was a pillar of good taste and professionalism in the office when I first came to Fantagraphics in 1993 and I will always look back with fondness on my time working with him (along with other art dept. stalwarts at the time, notably Jim Blanchard and Pat Moriarity).
Dale is a Seattle design legend (although he now lives in the Bay Area), having served as as Art Director for both Fantagraphics and our friends at The Stranger, as well as having had a hand in creating iconic logos for both Fantagraphics and SubPop. Check out his portfolio, there's some iconic stuff there for fans of Grunge Era counterculture from the great Pacific Northwest.
• History: At Comics Comics, Jeet Heer gives a brief overview and critical commentary on Fantagraphics anthologies throughout the years: "Any complete history of Fantagraphics will have to tell the story of how they slowly learned to put together interesting anthologies."
One of the funnest parts of editing the CRITTERS anthology lo these many years ago (1985 to 1990 if you're counting -- gah, two, two and a half decades ago!) was working on the great "Gnuff" stories by my old buddy Freddy Milton. I was always sorry that there was not enough demand for these charming, neo-Barksian adventures to graduate to their own books, and of course by now those original CRITTERS comics are nigh impossible for find.
Well, thank God for the internet! Freddy, who is now a respectable retired gentleman of leisure (although he still cartoons up a storm), has been amusing himself by combining the original CRITTERS translations with color art files done for the Danish edition, and if you go here you can read the entire 46-page epic "introductory" "Gnuff" story -- as Freddy points out not the first one he did, but the earliest in the Gnuff chronology and the first to be printed in CRITTERS.
Freddy has also put up the only "Gnuff" story to be printed in full color in English, "Double Star" from the out of print USAGI YOJIMBO COLOR SPECIAL #1. Lettered by Bill Spicer, incidentally.
As if that weren't enough, Freddy has commissioned another old buddy of mine, Dwight Decker (who actually translated most of the CRITTERS "Gnuff" stories back when) to translate a classic Woody Woodpecker story of his, "Happy Water," and that can be found here -- and here's yet another Woody story, "The Coming of the Blot."
In fact, if you go to the main page and cruise down the menu bar you'll see a huge amount of great stuff, including (down toward the bottom) video interviews with Freddy and Daan Jippes in English.
For those of you unfamiliar with Freddy's work, he hit upon a pretty great racket: He'd do stories for European Disney and/or Woody Woodpecker, keep the copyrights for the work itself but not the characters, so he was able to later convert, say, a Woody Woodpecker story to a Gnuff story. If I remember correctly one particular story he did was re-purposed something like three additional times, changing characters from ducks to woodpeckers to dinosaurs (and as needed removing or adding one of the three kids, as Donald had three dependents and Woody and Gnuff only two).
I always thought Freddy's work was absolutely charming and felt bad that none of it has been available to English-speaking fans for many years. Well, now there's three full graphic novel length stories available for your reading pleasure, and for free. Enjoy!
• List:Details magazine names Ghost World #10 on The 25 Greatest Gen X Books of All Time: "This caustically funny duo-tone tale follows the iconic cat-eyed adolescent Enid Coleslaw in her quest to find meaning, or at least cruel humor, in an age where everything's disposable."
• Review: "Strange Suspense collects dozens of Ditko stories from the 1950’s... Almost a decade before Ditko moved to Marvel, these stories bear his unmistakable style. His fine line work and flair for the abstract that would serve him so well on Doctor Strange particularly, is on full display. ... If you only know Ditko for his work at Marvel or later at DC, here is the chance to explore Early Ditko, unconstrained by editors or the Comics Code. While all of this work is marvelous, clearly Ditko is best at home in horror where he could let his imagination run wild, creating monsters and demons and the things that go bump in the night. Rediscover Ditko today!" – Tim Janson, Newsarama
• Review: "Brian Kane, author of the [Definitive Prince Valiant] Companion and surely the world’s foremost authority on the strip and its creator, Hal Foster, has once again done a herculean amount of work, and Fantagraphics has once again clothed that work in a sturdy, pretty volume. Prince Valiant hasn’t been treated this well since the ersatz King of England sang his praises. Those unfamiliar with the character – a young man who finds adventure, fame, and even love at the court of the legendary King Arthur – will find here all the background information they could ever want... But even long-time Prince Valiant fans will find plenty to fascinate them in this volume." – Khalid Ponte, Open Letters
• Review: "Delphine is a morbid interpretation of the symbology of fairy tales resounding with echoes of unrequited love and abandonment. This is perhaps Sala’s darkest and most intricate story ever – impressive in its nuance and ever shifting emotions. One can only hope that it is not ignored." – Ng Suat Tong, The Comics Journal
• Interview: From TCJ.com: "Every weekday from now until December 25, we’ll be posting a conversation between cartoonists from The Comics Journal #300, complete and online! In today’s installment, it’s a chat between L’Association publisher Jean-Christophe Menu and Kramers Ergot publisher Sammy Harkham."
• Gift Guide: At RevolutionSF, Rick Klaw includes Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons in his "Geek Gift Guide": "The incredible three hardcover boxed set celebrates one of art's funniest and most disturbing cartoonists. ... I promise every geek would be thrilled to find this under the tree. I just hope Santa doesn't throw out his back out delivering this massive collection."
• Gift Guide: Love & Maggie presents a "Los Bros Hernandez Chistmas Shopping Guide"
• Review: "[Gilbert] Hernandez is one of the four or five greatest cartoonists in the world, and it's satisfying to see him work through any plot with any restriction he'd like to place on it. The Troublemakers feels like a movie for more than its story: it's either all exterior information or nearly so, it has opening credits, it has a three-act structure, it uses a wide-panel 'shot' throughout. ... Attaching a world of significance to forms recognizable to most of us as pulp isn't a new thing, but I don't think any of the filmmakers famous for it have done it any better than Hernandez." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Plug: "Popeye Vol 4: Plunder Island: Prior to Fantagraphics’ awesome collections of E.C. Segar’s awesome comic strip, this was the only storyline from Thimble Theater I’d ever read before…in The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics. Does that mean it’s some sort of classic? It should be; it’s fantastic. Anyway, the latest collection is $30 and 170 pages, and, like the first three volumes, it’s beautifully designed and so big and sturdy that it’s practically seaworthy." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
• Plug: "This is it. The crown jewel in the Popeye crown. If you only buy one volume in the series, blah blah blah. Seriously, hopefully you've been collecting all the Popeye books, because it's one of the greatest comics ever, but this volume contains what must surely be E.C. Segar's finest hour, namely, the 'Plunder Island' storyline, where in Popeye and friends search for treasure and come afoul of the Sea Hag." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "I've been in long time love with Femke Hiemstra. Her smoky and detailed fantasy landscapes are often coupled with outrageous characters, from vegetables to the floating head of Marie Antoinette. ... [Y]ou can pick up a copy of her splendid book, Rock Candy, which would make a perfect Christmas gift for the art lover or art lover to be." – J.L. Schnabel
• Mutual Appreciation: We love comedy genius Graham Linehan, and he loves us, as evidenced by the set dressing on The IT Crowd (not to mention interviews he's given); apparently he makes it explicit again in the bonus features to the 3rd season DVD set of the show, which we've yet to see, according to the DVD review at Den of Geek
• Things to see: Eric Reynolds comments on this link forwarded by Jason T. Miles: "I love knowing that there was a day in Fanta's past when they could call Kevin Nowlan on the phone for a last minute design job!"
• Review: "Monte Schulz has proven that his father isn’t the only Schulz with considerable storytelling talent. This Side of Jordan is a strong vision of the American Heartland at a time when America was a little less jaded, yet many in the country had already developed a malaise of directionlessness. Schulz manages to capture a moment in history, a piece of humanity in transition. It’s bleak, but funny, and smartly written. It may not have any pictures, but readers of good fiction should appreciate what Schulz has accomplished." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Hans Rickheit’s The Squirrel Machine, published by Fantagraphics Books, is a beautiful 179 page hard cover graphic novel. ... Much is left to mystery in this book. We can let Rickheit’s exquisite drawings, with their ornate detail and patterning, speak for themselves. ... This is for mature readers as well as discriminating ones. And it’s also for those who love a good coming-of-age story. ... Very romantic and strange at the same time, like any good coming-of-age tale. Primarily, this is adult, dark and disturbing work provided to you in healthy doses." – Henry Chamberlain, Newsarama
• Review: "Johnny Ryan draws the bad pictures. Unapologetically and lots of ‘em and I hope to god he never stops. He has consistently put out pure and uncensored strips, cartoons, and books that defy every politically correct bone in your body. Drawings that cock-slap America. His new book is out. It’s called Prison Pit and it kinda’ sorta’ kicks serious ass. ... The story definitely puts the GORE in phantasmagorical as characters twist and mutated into strange new forms while pounding the stuffing out of each other. ... Put plain, in Prison Pit, Ryan creates art out of the steaming piles of human waste that litter our cultural landscape. The bodies and excrement are grist for his mill. He erects mountains of shit and semen, carving the faces of sacred cows in them, and then sets them afire so even if you can’t see the work… you can smell it from miles away." – Jared Gniewek, Graphic NYC
• Review: "[Pim & Francie] isn't a collection of [Al Columbia's] work up till now..., but more a collection of what 'might have been' — it's uncompleted stories and art featuring Columbia's two naif-child characters, forever hurtling into one dangerous situation after another but never reaching any conclusion. It's probably worth noting that a good deal of the pages are torn or pasted back together, the victims, no doubt, of Columbia's perfectionism. It's the sort of thing that will frustrate some, but it does offer an elliptical, sideways path into Columbia's world, which perhaps makes the journey all that more frightening." – Chris Mautner, "Pick of the Week," Robot 6
• Interview: Tim O'Shea talks to Monte Schulz about the latter's novel This Side of Jordan: "Taken all together, no single element was the most critical because I believe everything had to work together, all forms of language, for instance: poetic, lyrical, narrative, dialogue. The way the characters speak in This Side of Jordan was especially important, given that I mix ordinary dialogue with lyrical exposition and both rural and Jazz Age slang."
• History: At Bleeding Cool, Rich Johnston offers up the groundbreaking "Gays in Comics" article by Andy Mangels from Amazing Heroes #143 (June 15, 1988) as a 2-part PDF download, with commentary
• Film: Lilli Carré's animated short Head Garden plays at the San Francisco International Animation Festival this weekend; more info at Lilli's blog
• Theory in action: At Blog Flume, Ken Parille applies an Ivan Brunetti cartooning principle to a 1970s issue of The Avengers
• Review: "It's a surprisingly rare thing to find the great comic artist who can not only draw with poetry and beauty, but write like a demon as well. In this lavish scrapbook of uncollected ads, posters, covers, ephemera and one-offs [All and Sundry], [Paul] Hornschemeier's skills are nearly as verbal as they are visual, his art encompassing many different styles, from richly layered classical surrealism to densely structured and primary color-heavy McSweeney's-style illustrations. But taken together, the work exhibits an instantly recognizable and distinctive panache. The depth of his art truly comes to life in the melancholic squibs of text and short fictions studding this collection. For all his talents, Hornschemeier is a working artist who clearly takes on all kinds of assignments, from bookstore ads and bookmarks to a quirky little piece on Anderson Cooper commissioned by CNN. Perhaps the intrusion of the journeyman keeps an exquisite volume like this so rewarding and yet grounded." – Publishers Weekly (starred review)
• Review: "What I liked [in Abstract Comics], I liked for more than just the strips themselves--I liked them for the proof they offer that comics really is still a Wild West medium in which one's bliss can be followed even beyond the boundaries of what many or even most readers would care to define as 'comics.' That an entire deluxe hardcover collection of such comics now exists is, I think, one of the great triumphs for the medium in a decade full to bursting with them." – Sean T. Collins
• Review: "Hallelujah... for Michael Kupperman! He returns with his second collection, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1, which brings under one cover the first four issues of the same-named comic. And comic it sure as hell is. I'm not entirely certain when I've read anything that made me laugh out loud as often as this volume, with the possible exception of Kupperman's debut Snake 'n' Bacon's Cartoon Caberet. Women who've given birth to multiple children and older readers are advised to secure some kind of adult diaper." – Late Reviews and Latest Obsessions
• Review: "Willie & Joe is an extraordinarily compiled and presented tribute to Bill Mauldin, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist who chronicled life in the U.S. Army from 1940 to 1945. The set is bound in army green canvas and typeset in the font of an old manual typewriter, the kind an army clerk might have used during the Second World War. The collection is a sensory delight, pleasing to touch and beautiful to see. ... There are many scholarly works written on the topic of World War II, and those books can teach us a lot about the war, but anyone who wants to feel what American soldiers felt during the Second World War should seek out Willie & Joe. ... For the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, for the man who was once America’s most celebrated enlisted man, Willie & Joe is a fitting, and wonderful, tribute." – David Mitchell, BiblioBuffet
• Review: "[Prison Pit Book 1 by Johnny Ryan is an] over-the-top, ultra-violent, gross-out, juvenile, yet fun and hilarious book... The dialogue that does exist retains his comic sense of disjunction and fights are as demented as you’d expect. This is not a jokey book, but his humor is retained in subtle ways—if you can envision subtle Johnny Ryan humor. ... This is just a balls-out, funny, sicko, good time. My only complaint with Prison Pit is how quickly the story ends, but hopefully the subtitle (Book One) is a promise and not a joke." – Lincoln Michel, The Faster Times [Ed. note: Book Two is in progress and due next year.]
• Review: "Longtime [Richard] Sala readers will recognize some familiar tropes right away [in Delphine]: strange surroundings, shady characters who seem to hold malevolent secrets. And Sala's art is familiar as well, but taken to a new level — lovely watercolors on the covers and moody washes on the gray interiors. The creamy paper that's typical of the Ignatz releases lends additional otherworldly, othertimely atmosphere to the story. And the logo itself is so good it deserved to be used for a long-running series. But it's the story that departs from Sala's work in some major ways... so resonant and unsettling that... it has to rank as one of Sala's major works." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
• Plug: "Reading [The Complete Peanuts 1971-72 and 1973-74] in one fell swoop, I've kind of come to the conclusion that this period is really the apex of Schulz's career. ...he was never as consistently hilarious or as poignant as he was in the early to mid-70s. If you're only buying two volumes of this series, it should be these two." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Profile: Dan Taylor of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat catches up with Monte Schulz on his book tour for This Side of Jordan: "'It’s weird doing this,' Schulz said by phone from Nevada City during a break between book shop dates. 'It makes me nervous, at every single stop. I just realized I’m not a very public person.'"
• Interview: At Marvel.com, Sean T. Collins' series of chats with Strange Tales contributors continues with Stan Sakai talking about the creation of Samurai Hulk: "Actually, I tried to make it as much of a parallel to the modern Hulk as possible. Such as his name-he is referred to asSashimono, which means 'banner.' It's a samurai banner. And obviously there's no gamma rays, so he's cursed into turning into the Hulk by a witch called Gama, which is Japanese for 'toad' — she kinda looks like a toad." Oh man I can't wait for that.
• History: Steve Duin at The Oregonian digs up a nugget: Gary Groth on the 50th anniversary of Superman in Amazing Heroes, 1988: "My only interest in Superman, marginal at that, stems from his continuing presence as a symbol of banality and infantilism in the history of the American comic book." And it goes on!
• Random quote of the day: "Guido Crepax: popular enough to have an entire half-shelf in the Fantagraphics library, circa mid-1990s; not popular enough to have his books stolen by the interns." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
Unofficial Gary Groth History Week continues, this time at ComicAttack.net, where Ken Meyer Jr. looks back at Gary's pre-Fantagraphics Fantastic Fanzine, specifically issue #10, with lots of background and commentary from Gary and a PDF download of the full issue. Looks like Ken will be looking at more issues of FF in the future, too, so we'll be sure to alert you when that happens.
Your must-read link of the day: at Comics Comics, Jeet Heer presents a scan of a 1972 Washington Post profile of 17-year-old Gary Groth. Plus ça change: Gary still types with two fingers, and still forgets to close the door. (Also: evidence that the cliché of using sound effects in comics-story headlines dates back at least 37 years.)