Yesterday's and today's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Sala consistently introduces red-cheeked, innocent characters and then puts them through the meat-grinder, and in The Hidden he plays with mad science. ...Sala’s novel features plenty of 'tell,' because if it’s one thing mad scientists enjoy, it’s expository dialogue. There are gorgeous single-panel pages filled with huge dialogue balloons, and it’s to the author and illustrator’s credit that it’s always a hoot; Sala is a professional when it comes to tongue-in-cheek visuals (the friendly looking characters with spilled intestines) and storytelling.... Its ending is... abrupt..., but it leaves ample room for a welcome continuation. The lushly colored package is vintage Fantagraphics, of course." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon.com)
• Review: "Relaunching in a book-sized format, Comics Journal #301 came out from Fantagraphics this summer, and has already gone through a second printing. The magazine is dense, with over three hundred pages, containing enough essays, interviews, reviews, and art pages to easily fill 2-4 of the old issues.... Where else in comics journalism are you going to find a viewpoint of comics encompassing enough to put so many different realms of the artform under the same microscope and give it all due consideration? The drastic shift in format indicates a willingness of Fantagraphics to take risks with its flagship publication." – Greg Baldino, Bleeding Cool
• Review: "...[T]his gentle, inviting series about two transgendered elementary school students... has truly captured my attention.... Wandering Son feels at times more like a series of character sketches that all connect together than a narrative-driven book, but it’s a structure that makes me that much more intrigued... Takako’s art is beautiful here, delicate line drawings that fit well with her story.... Last but not least, props need to go to Fantagraphics for a great physical design of the book.... This isn’t quite like anything else on the market right now, and I’m thrilled to see Fantagraphics exposing it to a wider audience." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Interview: The normally Love and Rockets-focused Love & Maggie blog steps out of their usual purview to hit up Gary Groth for more information about our forthcoming series Jack Jackson's American History (starting next year with Los Tejanos/Lost Cause) — if you're at all interested in these books, definitely check this out
• Lore: "Before resuming I should say this: Drug taking, by myself and others, really peaks in this chapter. It isn’t something I’m proud of or a thing I endorse. But it is the way it all happened." So begins the ninth installment of Kim Deitch's epic memoir-in-music "Mad About Music: My Life in Records" at TCJ.com
• Review: "...[T]he cartoons in Willie & Joe: Back Home capture Mauldin at a low ebb personally, and ferociously inspired professionally.... The material in Back Home is bitter but witty, and remarkable for its courage. Given the platform of a major syndicate, Mauldin used his moral authority — as a firsthand observer of atrocity, venality, and want — to try and make his complacent countrymen feel a little shame. Where his wartime cartoons had said, 'I am one of you' to grunts in the trenches, his post-war work said, 'What the hell happened to you?' to the people who stayed home. At the time, the public rejected Mauldin’s lectures. Today they’re a blistering reminder that life after WWII wasn’t all suburban bliss and baby boom." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Told with humor and a great depth of sensitivity, these comics offer a human lens to an epic more often expressed in grandiose terms. Over the past couple of years Fantagraphics has amazed me consistently with its archival releases of seminal cartoonists' work, and Willie and Joe: The WWII Years is yet another fine example." – David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy
• Review: "Toth brought clarity and drama to the page — the equivalent of a top Hollywood director elevating rote material through elegant framing and camera moves.... Nearly every drawing in this book is purposeful and exciting, and they flow together to tell stories so clearly that the words are often superfluous. Setting the Standard is a treasure trove..." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Jacques Tardi is certainly in Toth’s league when it comes to rendering seamy genre fare with real artistry. Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot ... is a wonderfully wicked piece of work, tracking a hitman as he tries to sever all ties with his past and retire with his childhood sweetheart. The story’s a familiar one... but Manchette’s approach is especially violent and gory, with a tough twist ending. And Tardi picks up on the sadness underlying the brutality, sketching a black-and-white world where the choice to go to the dark side is irrevocable, no matter how hard characters work to wrest control of their fates." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Belgian artist Olivier Schrauwen does a fine job of approximating the high weirdness of early-20th-century newspaper comics in The Man Who Grew His Beard, a collection of seven deeply strange short stories.... Schrauwen mixes ink and paint in ways that blur the distinctions between comics and fine art, and he brings back certain themes — instruction and erotica, primarily — that suggest how men try and fail to place parameters on the primal. But The Man Who Grew His Beard isn’t meant to be 'understood' so much as it is to be entered and experienced, in all its wildness." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Kevin Huizenga’s Ganges #4 continues the artist’s increasingly masterful hybrid of direct storytelling and experimental abstraction.... The story suits Huizenga’s style, since he can document both the familiar minutiae of daily life and the sense of unreality that takes hold whenever someone is up half the night. Huizenga works in visual motifs of endlessly branching possibilities and spiraling shapes, showing how becoming 'lost in thought' can be terrifying. In short: This is another terrific installment of a series that’s fast becoming a classic." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Mr. Twee Deedle, Raggedy Ann’s Sprightly Cousin: The Forgotten Fantasy Masterpieces of Johnny Gruelle... collects the strip that illustrator Gruelle created to fill the void left by Little Nemo when Winsor McKay departed The New York Herald. Though not as imaginative as McKay, Gruelle’s Mr. Twee Deedle was every bit as colorful and lavishly rendered, telling gentle fairy stories that explore a rich fantasy world existing in tandem with our own, like children having elaborate playtimes mere feet away from their parents’ more prosaic lives." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club (NOTE: This review was based on samples of the strip provided to the reviewer; the book itself is incomplete and still in production.)
• Review: "...Drawing Power... brings together an eclectic set of examples of comics being used to sell products. The pages are fun to look at — from Mickey Mouse pitching Post Toasties to Dr. Seuss illustrating ads for Esso Marine Products — but the topic is a little too large for a 120-page book, especially one so loosely organized. Then again, maybe that’s the point: to create a reading experience as chaotic and laced with odd beauty as cartooning itself." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "I have long admired Woodring’s brilliant, hallucinatory, and bizarre Frank comics. But his work has taken a leap forward with last year’s Weathercraft and this year’s Congress of the Animals. The Frank world is one the reader benefits by being immersed in. What might seem a bit incomprehensible in a short strip blossoms into a dark Dionysian dream in these two graphic novels.... If I keep mention them together, it is because I believe they beg to be read together. They show different but complimentary sides of Woodring’s vision. And also because these two books combine to form, I believe, one of the greatest achievements in recent comics. If you are a fan of the strange, the uncanny, the bizarre, the hallucinatory, and the fantastic, I can’t recommend them enough." – Lincoln Michel, The Faster Times
• Review: For Magnet, Marc Bianchi of the band Her Space Holiday (they're good!) pens an appreciation of Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts, adding "A good place to rediscover the Peanuts is through the retrospective that Fantagraphics started releasing in 2004. They are complete and total masterpieces, from the elegant layouts provided by famed comic-book artist Seth to the wonderful guest introductions each volume has... If you are ever in a shop that carries these books, I highly suggest thumbing through one of them. Especially the earliest works (1950-1952 or 1953-1954). You are guaranteed to find something that in one panel can tear your heart apart and, in the next, put it back together again."
• Review: "To say that Wandering Son isn't a manga for everyone is perhaps stating the obvious, but despite the potential to make light of its cross-dressing, coming of age tale it proves itself to be an impressively subtle and considered take on growing up within this opening volume. ...[G]ive it time and you'll find an impressive, character-driven series beneath its simplistic surface that will both charm and fascinate you, leaving you rooting for its characters and wanting to follow them through to (you hope) eventual happiness." – Andy Hanley, UK Anime Network
• Review: "Supermen!: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes, 1936-1941 promises to fill gaps in 'the origins and early development of superheroes and the comic book form.' Editor Greg Sadwoski has assembled an eye-catching collection of stories, magazine covers, and house ads showing unfamiliar faces from the first years of American adventures comics. ...Supermen! is most interesting for what didn’t lead anywhere.... Seeing what didn’t work or become the norm can be as illuminating as seeing what did." – J.L. Bell, Oz and Ends (via Robot 6)
• Plug: "...[D]espite his undeniable gift for crafting elegant and vibrant storytelling that transcends all genres, sadly there has never before been a comprehensive, affordably priced reprinting of Carl Barks' Disney work…until now. Fantagraphics Books recently announced that it will begin reprinting the entire catalog of the master’s Disney material, beginning with the release of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: 'Lost in the Andes' by Carl Barks in October, 2011." – Bill Baker, The Morton Report
• Interview (Audio): The hosts of Comics Alliance's "War Rocket Ajax" podcast talk to Michael Kupperman about his new book Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010, crafting his brand of humor and sundry other topics (such as bleu cheese): "It's about things taking the turn that you don't expect, the ball taking the bounce you don't expect. That for me is an example of trying to make the sentence end up in a place that's different from where it started."
• Tribute: At The Comics Journal, Kim Thompson's obituary of Francisco Solano López: "Argentina’s Francisco Solano López was a titan of South American comics, on a level with the great Alberto Breccia, the temporary honorary Argentinean (during the 1950s) Hugo Pratt, and the hugely influential writer Hector Oesterheld (who collaborated with all three)." (Excerpt courtesy TCJ's Tim Hodler)
• Profile: At GALO Magazine, Emily Crawford Misztal talks to Nate Neal and looks at his debut graphic novel The Sanctuary: "While the language and the ways of the characters in the book will be unfamiliar to readers, the motives that drive them are as old and familiar as the sun. Neal sees the ancient setting as a way to get at the core of what it means to be human—in any era. 'It is a chance for me to examine human behavior on a more universal level,' Neal said. 'Sex, power, revenge, the primal stuff, is underneath everything that we do. There’s more covering over what we do now. With the cavemen, I can strip everything away and get right down to it.'"
• Feature: Rob Lammle of mental_floss posts an entertaining list of "10 Peanuts Characters You've Probaby Forgotten" — devotees of our The Complete Peanuts series will be familiar with some of them, and some of them give hints as to what to expect in future volumes!
• Analysis: At Taking Its Time, Jeff Hayes writes on the use of Jacques Tardi's It Was the War of the Trenches in an academic setting, specifically the high school English classroom: "In using a text like It Was the War of the Trenches, democratic education is being practiced. It is not just because of how the book is constructed visually; we must look at it also as an artifact of importance in presenting how another culture views historical events-how those events may or may not have affected the lives of others we do not think of in the rush of war and the aftermaths that follow as we choose what is important in history and what is not."
Comic-Con keeps rolling out their 2011 programming schedule — today they've posted Saturday's lineup and it features our can't-miss 35th Anniversary panel which will include a couple of announcements that will knock your socks off. Here's what Fanta fans will want to catch:
10:00-11:30 50 Years of Comic Fandom: The Founders— It's hard to believe but it's been fifty years (more or less) since that peculiar institution called Comic Book Fandom was born. Meet some of those who were there at the inception, including Jean Bails, Paul Levitz, Dick and Pat Lupoff, Richard Kyle, Bill Schelly, Roy Thomas, and Maggie Thompson along with moderator Mark Evanier, as they discuss how fandom came to be and just what it was. Room 24ABC
11:30-12:30 Bill Blackbeard: The Man Who Saved Comics— In the 1960s, while writing a history of the American comic strip, Bill Blackbeard learned that most of the nation's libraries were discarding their newspaper archives in favor of microfilm, destroying countless pages of comics in the process. Over the course of the next three decades, Blackbeard and his volunteers at the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art amassed a collection of more than 2.5 million comics, including virtually every comic strip ever syndicated in U.S. newspapers. When he passed away earlier this year, Blackbeard had contributed to more than 200 comic strip collections, including the beloved Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics, and his work had inspired generations of cartoonists, historians and fans. Cartoon Art Museum curator Andrew Farago, publishers Gary Groth and Dean Mullaney, editor and herstorian Trina Robbins, and Jenny Robb, curator/assistant professor from Ohio State University's Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum celebrate Blackbeard's life and legacy. Room 24ABC
12:30-1:30 Fantagraphics 35th Anniversary— Fantagraphics Books was founded in 1976 with the launch of their first publication, The Comics Journal. Since then, they've grown to become one of the world's foremost publishers of literary comix and comic strips. Publishers Gary Groth and Kim Thompson offer a multimedia presentation highlighting their favorite works from the past 35 years, as well as previewing some of their upcoming favorites. Expect a major announcement or two, as well! Room 24ABC
1:00-2:00 Spotlight on Anders Nilsen— Comic-Con special guest Anders Nilsen debuts his magnum opus, the 800+-page Big Questions, which he began self-publishing over 10 years ago and which quickly placed Nilsen at the forefront of alternative cartoonists. He is part of the Chicago comics collective The Holy Consumption with Jeffrey Brown, John Hankiewicz, and Paul Horsnchemeier and was recently featured in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Join him as he presents a slideshow of his work from his haunting postmodern fable. Room 4
2:30-3:30 The Art of the Graphic Novel—Andrew Farago (curator, Cartoon Art Museum) talks with graphic novelists Chester Brown (Paying for It), Seymour Chwast (Dante's Divine Comedy), Eric Drooker (Blood Song), Joyce Farmer (Special Exits, A Memoir), Joëlle Jones (Troublemaker), Jason Shiga (Empire State: A Love Story (Or Not)), and Craig Thompson (Habibi) about their work in the genre that has elevated comics to mainstream bookstores all over the world. Room 24ABC
Comic-Con has announced their programming for Thursday July 21, the first full day of the convention, and here are the panels to circle in your program or plug into your smartphone app or scribble on the back of your hand (we will, of course, give a complete run-down along with our signing schedule and more info in the near future):
12:30-1:30 Spotlight on Bill Schelly— Comic-Con special guest Bill Schelly (The Golden Age of Comic Fandom, The DC Archives) is a leading fandom and comics historian. Moderator Gary Brown interviews Bill about his work, with special emphasis on his latest books The Art of Joe Kubert (debuting at Comic-Con 2011) and Founders of Comic Fandom, followed by a Q&A session. Room 8
1:00-2:00 CBLDF Master Session 2: Shannon Wheeler— From DIY zine making to the pages of the New Yorker and every flavor of independent press in between, Shannon Wheeler has distinguished himself for an ability to craft humor strips that are equal parts sardonic and existential. Take a close-up look at his approach to creating cartoons and gain insight into the nuts and bolts of making cartoons that connect with editors and readers at this CBLDF Master Session! The pieces created during this event will be available for bidding in Saturday's CBLDF Benefit Auction! Room 30CDE (Recommended by The Washington Post's Michael Cavna: "From zines to New Yorker magazine, Portland’s own has much knowledge to share with the aspiring.")
2:00-3:00 Love and Rockets —Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez converse with Gary Groth about 30 years of creating their landmark comic book series, Love & Rockets. Since 1982, Love & Rockets has virtually defined alternative comics and culture, launching from the punk rock scene in Los Angeles and growing into one of the most mature bodies of work ever produced in the medium. Room 9 (Recommended by The Washington Post's Michael Cavna: "The Brothers Hernandez talk with Gary Groth about three glorious decades of L&R.")
2:30-3:30 Joyce Farmer: Special Exits, A Memoir — Can graphic work become serious literature through excellent artwork, writing ,and subject matter? Where does graphic work belong in bookstores and libraries? This Q&A with Comic-Con special guest Joyce Farmer examines her Eisner Award-nominated book Special Exits, A Memoir (Fantagraphics) in this spotlight panel. Room 4 (Recommended by The Washington Post's Michael Cavna: "Her Eisner-nominated Fantagraphics graphic-novel memoir is a must-read. Which makes Farmer a must-see.")
3:30-4:30 Spotlight on Frank Stack— Comic-Con special guest Frank Stack, pioneer of underground comix in the 1960s with such titles as New Adventures of Jesus, Feelgood Funnies, Amazons, and Dorman's Doggie, remains active as a fine artist and cartoonist. His Jesus stories were recently reprinted as The Second Coming by Fantagraphics. Frank will present a visual presentation and Q&A. Room 4
6:00-7:00 Comics for Social Justice: The Making of Oil and Water —Oil and Water is a book-length comic (Fantagraphics, Summer 2011) that is a partly fictionalized account of a 10-day trip that 22 Oregonians (activists, teachers, business owners, scientists, and artists) took last summer to "bear witness" to the BP oil spill on the Gulf Coast. Shannon Wheeler will briefly present the historic impact of comics on issues of contemporary social relevance and give a quick overview of why this project was conceived and what it hopes to accomplish. He'll then present his sketches from the Gulf Coast and show how he and collaborator Steve Duin transformed them into a compelling portrait of what hope and challenges remain along a ravaged coastline, one awash in both seafood and oil, that will be changed as irrevocably as those Oregonians that chose to bear witness to the tragedy. Q&A session to follow. Room 9
Whew! Get ready for a lot of running from room to room. Why, you'll barely have time to hit our booth and buy books!
If you've always wanted to get a behind-the-scenes look inside our glamorous offices and see what things are like around here on a day-to-day basis, this segment that The A.V. Club came by to film for their "Pop Pilgrims" series should give you a pretty good idea. Host Dan Telfer and his crew got the grand tour from Gary Groth, and we had Peter Bagge stop by to give his perspective and insights. My favorite parts are the bits that show my co-workers just going about their day and getting shit done. (I missed all the hubbub that day because I was on my way to... oh, some darn convention or other.) They wrote up a nice profile of us too — be sure to check it out.
Comic Book Resources' Alex Dueben rang up our fearless leader, Gary Groth, for a wide-ranging chat about the state of Fantagraphics and the comics industry in general. It's chock full of ever-so-juicy tidbits and Gary's trademark unvarnished opinions on topics like the comics market, Pogo, digital, The Comics Journal, the DC "renumbering gambit," working with Disney, copyright battles... just go read it already!
With the much-anticipated arrival of The Comics Journal #301 about a month away, TCJ.com gives you your first real taste of the issue beyond our photo & video teasers: an excerpt from Gary Groth's interview with Joe Sacco about Footnotes in Gaza. Go, read!