Teaser time! Just last week Gahan Wilson sent us the new original art for the cover of our forthcoming definitive collection of his National Lampoon strip Nuts (it's looking like a 2012 release) — here's a scan courtesy of our production wiz Paul Baresh. This one's high on my personal list of projects I'm looking forward to!
• List: On WFMU's Beware of the Blog, WFMU DJ Nat Roe's multi-media Top 15 includes Jim Woodring's Weathercraft at #5: "Stick a straw in my brain and suck until there's nothing left but that gurgling sound of air, the remnants of carbonation gathered like patrons in a bar on a Tuesday night 'last call' at the other end of the straw; that's how Jim Woodring makes me feel."
• List:Drawn contrubutor John Martz picks 3 of our titles among his Favourite Books of 2010:
"Bent is the latest coffee-table art book from Canadian cartoonist-turned-painter Dave Cooper. We get to drill further into Cooper’s psyche in this book, which continues the celebration of his singular, artistic vision — an alien landscape of writhing, female figures and strange vegetation."
"What Charles Addams is to the New Yorker, Gahan Wilson is to Playboy. And here we have three gorgeous hardcover volumes of his work - page after page of full-colour cartoons celebrating the macabre and the twisted. Perfect for the creep or the creepy in your life."
"Jim Woodring’s masterful cartooning is showcased in this latest graphic novel featuring his familiar cast of characters including Frank, Manhog, Pupshaw, and Pushpaw. It’s never easy to discern what Woodring’s comics are about, but there is never any question as to what is happening in each panel. Such is the control and understanding he has of both the medium and his tools. Weathercraft is a silent movie governed by dream logic and the id."
• Review: "I know that it’s still December 2010 – and not even the end of December, the point where we all make our lists of the best of the year – but it’s possible that I’ve already read my favorite book of 2011. Its name? Stigmata. [...] It’s a smart, beautifully written book that refuses to offer easy answers... But, as good as Piersanti’s story is, what made the book a classic for me is definitely Mattotti’s artwork. [...] Mattotti’s line is amazing, so filled with personality and intensity, at once angry and fiercely controlled, and used in the service of some amazing draughtsmanship and visionary visuals. [...] It’s breathtakingly good, no exaggeration." – Grame McMillan, Robot 6
• Review: "Not only does this issue of cartoonist and designer Jordan Crane's series feature a pair of quality comics from his two established areas of strength..., it carries with it all the joys of the format. ...Uptight #4 stings then pleases like a jump for effect off of a swimming pool's high-dive. [...] All in all, this a fine little read, a delectable peek of lasting hand-held value into what one of the really good cartoonists is up to." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Admittedly, these are not special stories in the sense that they represent anything unusual from the norm, but that is certainly at the center of their power. This is something that if we have not faced yet, we know we will, and Farmer’s ability to capture it all is clear-eyed. It’s a remarkable achievement considering the situation, and Farmer has a way of uniting the readership in one collective deep breathing session that lets us know we are not alone in the wider scope of coping with loss. ...Special Exits exists as a graphic novel of considerable depth and meaning." – John Seven, Archive 7
• Review: "Dixon... is a master of the short story, and this handsome volume [What Is All This?] gathers 26 pieces that hadn’t previously been published in book form. An indispensable addition to a formidable body of work, which also includes 14 novels and a pair of National Book Award nominations, it’s classic Dixon. His prose is so taut it would make Hemingway blush, and Dixon’s brutal honesty figures to redden the faces of some readers. He never shies from exploring common neuroses through characters who can be unsympathetic, or worse, contemptible, but his prodigious skill as a storyteller overrides any unease he generates. Wringing meaning from the mundane, Dixon gets beyond mere personality to the interior lives of the people he fleshes out, warts and all." – John Lewis, Baltimore Magazine
• Review: "Delivered in monochrome and a selection of muted paint wash and crayon effects, the compellingly inviting blend of cartoon styles (reminiscent of our own Posy Simmonds but with a gleeful openness all her own) captures heartbreak, horror, humour, angst and tragedy in a beguiling, seductive manner which is simultaneously charming and devastatingly effective, whilst the book and narrative itself is constructed like a photo album depicting the eternal question 'How and Why Do Families Work?' Enticing, disturbing and genuinely moving, [You'll Never Know, Book 2:] Collateral Damage is a powerful and affecting second stage in Tyler’s triptych of discovery and one no student of the human condition will care to miss." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Andrei Molotiu has compiled an incredible anthology of non-narrativity and abstraction in his Abstract Comics: The Anthology 1967-2009. [...] Covering 43 different artists, Abstract Comics opens with a exemplary discussion of abstraction in comics books and its overlap with contemporary art... The book is an incredible resource of potentiality...; I can't recommend it higher." – Derek Beaulieu, Lemon Hound
• List:Flashlight Worthy polls various online critics for The Best Graphic Novels of 2010:
"Moto Hagio is to shojo manga what Will Eisner is to American comics, a seminal creator whose distinctive style and sensibility profoundly changed the medium. Though Hagio has been actively publishing stories since the late 1960s, very little of her work has been translated into English. A Drunken Dream, published by Fantagraphics, is an excellent corrective — a handsomely produced, meticulously edited collection of Hagio's short stories that span her career from 1970 to 2007." – Katherine Dacey (The Manga Critic)
"Truly the most welcome English translation of the year, this collection of aching vignettes from the mud and blood of WWI [It Was the War of the Trenches] forms a unique human patchwork, fitting for a time and place where bodies and souls went to pieces. Tardi is a skilled artist, placing his soft, eminently fragile human forms against natural scenes so dense and thick (and buildings so heavy and broken) you'd swear that the entire Earthly organism has been put to bed by war's viral infection, but the true power here comes from his accumulation of carefully detailed narratives, ringing sadly as the greater accumulation of corpses remains painfully implicit." – Joe McCulloch (Comics Comics, Jog – The Blog)
"Packed to the gills, surprising, and unabashedly ambitious, MOME 19 isn't just the best volume the series has seen, it's a shot across the bow to a format that's been ceded to fans and friends-only collectives. Anthologies, said Fantagraphics. They're still at their best when there's an adult behind the wheel." – Tucker Stone (The Factual Opinion)
Werewolves of Montpellier by Jason: "One of comics' most inventive and offbeat practitioners of the art returned this year with a story that was not exactly groundbreaking for him but still wildly fun and different from most other stories out there. Jason's books are always hard to classify exactly, but this tale of a thief who dresses up as a werewolf (it helps scare people, which helps him pull off his crimes) is one of his most intriguing." – John Hogan
A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio: "Few creators in the 60-year history of Japanese manga are more important than Moto Hagio, one of the cohorts of the so-called 'Magnificent Forty-Niners' who revolutionized the shoujo genre in the 1970s. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories features a thoughtfully chosen selection of 10 short tales translated by Matt Thorn and published in lavish, oversized hardcover. The title story in particular offers a rare treat, its implacable, mythological cruelty rendered in soft-focus color." – Casey Brienza
• Review: "I finally read Special Exits last weekend. And I am here to tell you: It was tough. It was not fun. But it was truthful. It was specific. And it ... helped. In this, it was utterly unlike the book on grieving that a well-meaning relative pressed into my hands. That book's blandishments felt feathery and abstract; they had nothing to do with Pop, or with how I felt about him. Special Exits, on the other hand, is all about specificity. Farmer captures the tiniest, most mundane — and at times ugliest — details of caring for someone you love, and watching them pass from you. It's bracingly clear-eyed and unsentimental... Her pages and panels seem crowded with detail — deliberately and effectively so, to mirror the way her parents' house, and their lives, fall steadily into clutter and disrepair." – Glen Weldon, NPR
• Plug: "The latest from Fantagraphics... is Special Exits, a graphic novel from 71-year-old Joyce Farmer. Debut book it may be but she’s no newbie: Farmer was part of the whole underground comix scene in the time of R. Crumb... It’s the kind of memoir you can sit alongside Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, or anything Harvey Pekar: a story about her elderly parents’ slow decline." – The Gosh! Comics Blog
• Review: "Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition... is the perfect collection for neophytes to the series — it starts from the top, and introduces many of Sakai’s running cast, including the titular wandering samurai rabbit and a selection of his friends, enemies, and allies-of-convenience. The high-glossy, bright-white pages make Sakai’s finely detailed, heavily Japanese-inspired black-and-white art pop off the page, and the collection covers enough of his work to show how he’s evolved as an artist, from the early days when he was finding his feet to art that looks much like what he’s producing today." – The A.V. Club 2010 Holiday Gift Guide
• Plug: "Stan Sakai has been drawing his funny-animal samurai series Usagi Yojimbo for upwards of 25 years now. Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition collects the first 38 issues of Usagi's own comics and various other early stories in which he appeared, along with a ton of bonus features and an extensive interview with Sakai — 1200 pages of ronin rabbit action in all, presented as a two-volume hardcover set in a slipcase." – Douglas Wolk, TIME/Techland "Comics Geek Gift Guide 2010"
• Review: "[Jason's] comics are consistently funny and heartfelt, but tinged with a particular brand of melancholy. [...] The new collection, What I Did, takes the first three albums Fantagraphics translated and published in English. The first piece, 'Hey Wait...' is a real heartbreaker. [...] The second album, 'Sshhhh!' is a collection of wordless strips about a bird in a tweed jacket, and his tribulations as a character through life. [...] The strips delicately and comically depict the absurdities of modern existence... The last story, 'The Iron Wagon,' is an adaptation of a Norwegian mystery novel. [...] It’s great stuff, and like all of Jason’s stuff it’s deeply humanist." – Ao Meng, The Daily Texan
• Plug: "Jason's silent comics are so great. The monster ones in Almost Silent and 'Hey Wait' in What I Did especially. They are funny and sad and those are the two things a person wants." – Atomic Books "Holiday Picks"
• Review: "...[Four Color Fear] will... blow your fucking head up. [...] Trying to describe what makes many of these comics strange would take too long. Weird characters, odd behavior, no real logic, the list is endless. What makes this shit gold is the art. [...] Flipping through this it's hard not to think to yourself, 'How did I not know about this until now? Why didn't anyone tell me?' There's a gallery of glossy cover art in the center that is flat out some of the best art I've ever seen." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Overall, the experience of joining this large fellow on his life’s journey is a delight, if a fairly short one. [Set to Sea]’s a small book in length as well as size, able to be read in a single sitting, but it’s good enough that it invites multiple journeys through its pages, allowing explorers to marvel at the fluid movement of the characters, the chaos of an inter-ship battle, the choppy waves and calm harbors, the joys of a life lived and savored." – Matthew J. Brady, Warren Peace Sings the Blues
• Plug: "Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons is as mammoth and daunting a career retrospective as anyone could wish for: a gorgeous three-volume set encompassing a thousand-plus of the macabre cartoonist's drawings, as well as additional features including a handful of short stories he also wrote for Playboy. It's beautifully designed, too — the slipcase itself involves a perfectly Wilsonian gag." – Douglas Wolk, TIME/Techland "Comics Geek Gift Guide 2010"
• Profile: "Throughout the 1990s [Peter] Bagge devoted himself almost completely to a comic book called HATE, the success of which brought him other opportunities, as well as a key choice: 'If I really wanted to play it safe after achieving a modicum of success I would have devoted myself to doing the same thing for life.' Instead, Bagge chose to take on new subjects and continued to experiment. [...] Bagge taught a course at Seattle University last winter. He recommends that students interested in comics and graphic novels visit Fantagraphics Bookstore in Georgetown, as their selection is interesting and outside the mainstream." – Cambray Provo, The Spectator (via The Comics Reporter)
The Comics Journal's Tom Crippen presents some samples of Gahan Wilson's National Lampoon strip "Nuts" (to be released in a complete collected edition by your pals here at Fantagraphics in the not-too-distant future).
• Review: "...[T]his [is] a good-looking book as well as a good reading one. ... [T]his is a wonderfully informative read from where I’m sitting. Fire & Water is a long-overdue chance for today’s readers to get a good idea of what made Everett so special and so revered by older fans." – Johnny Bacardi, Popdose
• Review: "Richie Rich by way of Archie by way of Tippy Teen by way of, oh, I don’t know — The Grifters meets Tao Te Ching and airing at 10:30 CST on Adult Swim; ...it’s easy to admire [Wally Gropius's] all-over-the-place, random ingenuity..." – Johnny Bacardi, Popdose
• Review: "Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso is a strange, other-worldly story about birth and death, coming of age, dealing with war, finding love, accepting tragedy. ... The simple, comic-strip-like illustrations in teal and white express movement beautifully with a minimum of lines." – Mary Louise Ruehr, Ravenna Record-Courier
• Interview:Avoid the Future calls Set to Sea "One of the most visually breathtaking comics we’ve ever had the pleasure of reading" and talks to creator Drew Weing: "I'm very happy with the final results, but I've got to work differently in the future — if I plan on having finished more than a handful of comics in my lifetime! There's so much fussy crosshatching and detail in Set to Sea. I'm trying to work much quicker and looser in my next projects."
• Coming Attractions: "Oh. Oh yes. Oh yes, yes, yes… Herriman’s wonderful Krazy and Ignatz, facsimile style reproduction of original, unpublished sketches he’d use before finalising his strips, in a big, beautiful hardback, and it’s from Fantagraphics so you know it’s going to be given the love and attention to detail and quality it deserves." – Forbidden Planet International Blog Log on Krazy & Ignatz: The Sketchbook Strips 1910-1913, coming this Fall
Online Commentary & Diversions returns after a slow news day yesterday:
• Review: "Hensley’s clean art, drawn in a 1960s cartoon style (and complete with bright color pallete) is a bizarre mish-mash of the best in ‘60s teen book cartooning with the absurdity of an episode of The Monkees and the severity of indy comics. ...Hensley’s biting humor [is] either as spontaneous on the final page…or so well timed and planned that you don’t see it coming. In all honesty, I had trouble figuring Wally [Gropius] out — I expected a nostalgic pastiche with an edge, but what I got was an unpredictable and sometimes unsettling reading experience, literally not knowing what to expect from page to page. And that’s where Hensley excels, with a narrative sleight of hand, his seemingly innocent characters hiding more base and sinister motivations, using classic cartooning techniques to conceal a darker underbelly." – Christopher Irving, Graphic NYC
• Review: "...[W]hat really defines Billy Hazelnuts [and the Crazy Bird] is a genuine sense of excitement on the part of the author, as though, like the daughters he’ll eventually read the book to, Millionaire seems eager to discover what sort of adventures await his hero on the next page. ... Billy Hazelnuts is dark and weird and funny and strangely warm — it’s a book you wish you could have discovered at a much younger age. Thankfully, it’s pretty fun as an adult, too." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Plugs: "This gorgeous softcover collection of Dame Darcy's Meat Cake comic series is a thick slice of delicious Victorian romantic, horror, humor with just a hint of Southern gothic. ... So beautifully drawn and entertaining, Werewolves of Montpellier should make members of Team Jacob consider changing their name to Team Jason." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
• Interview: At The Comics Journal, Marc Librescu continues his talk with Gahan Wilson: "A lot of the reasons that [today’s] horror movies are so not entertaining or not much fun, and leave you with a very yuck taste, is that they’re brutal. And I think they’re brutal because the people who are making them are brutalized, basically, putting it right smack down there on the table. And they’re kind of a little fuggy, and that’s not good for an artist."
• Review: "...[T]he first volume of Mezzo and Pirus’s stunning King of the Flies [was] published earlier this year by Fantagraphics. ... Over just 64 pages, the team known as Mezzo and Pirus tell an impressively complex collection of ten interlinked short stories. ...Mezzo and Pirus are remarkably skillful, and create a deep and believable world. It’s meant as a compliment to say that by the end of this book, it feels as if twice as many pages have passed. ... With its bold style and thick lines, dark hues with splashes of garish colour, Pascal (Mezzo) Mesenburg’s forceful art is absorbing and weird." – Oliver Ho, PopMatters
• Review: "Woodring's wild and wordless story [Weathercraft] seems awfully lysergic, but his stunning symbolism and amazing line work is clever and crafty. Manhog, the creature starring in the strange story, is hardly sympathetic, but Woodring's imagery evokes amusement, bemusement and wonder." – Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Review: "Regular, rectangular panels are the only thing conventional about Weathercraft, which follows the metaphysical mishaps of Manhog, a blank-eyed, snout-nosed creature who wanders naked through Woodring's pages, on a journey of self-realization disguised as a vivid, botanically inventive acid trip. ... But while the creatures and scenarios in Woodring's world are fantastical, they're drawn with the precision of a woodcarving, black-and-white space shaded with ever-present wavy lines. This precision is crucial, with no words to guide the story — as an exercise in purely visual storytelling, Weathercraft is both challenge and reward." – Alison Hallett, The Portland Mercury
• Plug: "Trying to explain Jim Woodring’s art is like describing an acid trip: One never gets the feeling across and inevitably sounds like a crazy person while doing it. ... His work is like Carl Barks’ Donald Duck comics twisted inside out by a black hole. Terrifying, disgusting, funny, silent and beautifully illustrated. See? It sounds crazy." – Casey Jarman, Willamette Week
• Profile: "Jason is perhaps the most unique visual stylists working in comics today. Each individual panel is a work of ligne claire pop art: flat, beautifully coloured and amplified for effect. The deceptively simple stories — often thrillers and off-beat romances — feature anti-heroes, guns, girls, historical figures, b-movie monsters, robots, and aliens. They’re a brilliant mix of silent pictures, film noir, La Nouvelle Vague, classic literature, crime fiction, sci-fi and pulp magazines." – Dan Wagstaff, The Casual Optimist
• Interview: At The Comics Journal, Marc Librescu talks to Gahan Wilson: "When you read about whatever the hell is going on in the art field, whatever the hell the 'art field' is, it’s written by critics and scholars — they’re both sort of the same thing. They’re commentaries, so they tend to emphasize definition and placement: This is chapter 3 of paragraph 7 of Book A. But that’s not the point. The point is that this thing is there and there’s this interaction that occurs, and [the viewer] is analyzing it. As far as the description thing goes, that’s for critics and that’s for teachers. It’s not for artists."