• 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.)
Eric sent this to me to post, and I don't know where or how he found it, but it's a pretty great little slice of history: Sam Klemke documents his encounter with Ivan Brunetti at our booth at the 1999 San Diego Comic-Con and gets a good look at Ivan's convention sketchbook of unflattering caricatures (NSFW, needless to say). Dan Clowes, Jaime Hernandez and Richard Sala all make cameo appearances. And Batman. (YouTube link)
• Review: "[Abstract Comics: The Anthology] is designed beautifully... The content serves as a great introduction to a genre of comics that few people knew existed. [Editor Andrei] Molotiu takes somewhat of a scholarly approach to the content, placing the concept of abstract comics within art history in his introduction. He makes a good case... Overall, this is a cool concept and I was surprised by it. I think it’s definitely going to cause some debates about what comics are and are not, and that’s a good thing." - Eden Miller, Comicsgirl
• Review: "The status of [Ivan] Brunetti's... gag-cartoon collections... as trailblazers in the realm of going-way-too-far comic-book comedy is unquestioned... Brunetti's impeccable line looks like it'd be more at home in the pages of The New Yorker than Sleazy Slice, which I imagine is the point, but for me at least, this just neuters all but the most vicious jokes -- otherwise it's just a litany of beautifully drawn dick/poop/pedo jokes." - Sean T. Collins
• Interview: For Marvel.com, Sean T. Collins talks to Dash Shaw about his Dr. Strange story in the upcoming Marvel Strange Tales MAX. "The title is 'Dr. Strange Vs. Nightmare.' 'Nuff said!"
• History: Kevin Nowlan and Jan Strnad talk to Shaun Manning of Comic Book Resources about the creation of "Grimwood's Daughter," their backup feature in our long-ago series Dalgoda (being newly collected by IDW -- someone want to send me a copy?)
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."