#1, You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler: "A mash-up of family portrait, generational analysis, autobiography and scrapbook, this book was not only the most emotionally powerful work of the year, it was the most attractively designed. The first part of what will likely be Tyler’s masterwork."
#6, Like a Dog by Zak Sally: "This was a stunningly honest account and collection of early work by one of the most underrated cartoonists working today. While the collected early issues of Recidivist ranged from interesting to astounding, it was Sally’s frank and emotional essay following the collection that really struck me as a statement of purpose — not just as an artist, but as a person."
#10, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman: "The first collection from Kupperman’s surprising hit really helped spread the word about his unique and delightfully warped genius as a gagsmith and artist."
#15, Sublife Vol. 2 by John Pham: "This one-man anthology featured Pham fully harnessing every aspect of his skills as a writer and artist. His use of color dominated and provided a sort of visual through-line for his different narratives. Pham alternately pushed the reader away and then pulled them in, depending on the story, a tension that made this his most successful work to date."
And #17, Ho! by Ivan Brunetti: "It’s fascinating to see the two directions Brunetti was headed in with regard to these gags. First, his gags became ever-more boundary pushing, but always in service to the punchline. Second, his line became more and more simplified to the point of nearly geometric simplicity: squares, circles and triangles wound up creating most of his characters by the end of the book."
• List:Paul Gravett names The Best of 2009: Classic Comic Reprints. At #6, it's The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Nell Brinkley's Cartoons 1913-1940: "Trina [Robbins] follows up her thorough biography of Brinkley with this oversized collection of Sunday 'comics,' often more like ravishing illustrated romantic yarns of big hair, clothes and emotions, but stunning to linger over and revealing in their period mood and concerns. In their time, Brinkley’s spirited, vivacious females were as iconic and inspirational in early 20th century America as the famous Gibson Girls before her. They truly deserve this gorgeous commemoration."
• List: On the annual Fun Fifty countdown at Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun!, at #15, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman: "Without hyperbole, Thrizzle is simply the funniest, most guffaw-out-loud comic book they're going to have to pry out of your cold, dead hands when you die laughing. ... Thrizzle's stuffed from front cover to impressive back page blurbs with Kupperman's splendiferous pulps-meet-woodblock-print artwork and lunatic stories, it's one of those rare humor books that actually is downright hilarious."
• Reviews: Nick Gazin of Vice (link NSFW) weighs in on a number of titles:
"I love Unlovable. Take that, book title. ... Unlovable 2 is a fun and funny read all the way through. ... Girls are gonna like this book and dudes are gonna like this book. It’ll remind you of how stupid you were and also of suburban sadness and realizing that your high school crush will probably never love you back."
"[High Soft Lisp] is incredible... The world in this book is one I wouldn’t want to live in but I can’t stop thinking about the story of Fritz."
"...[Almost Silent] is a really good book and Jason is a strong cartoonist. He does a lot with his simple-but-well-drawn characters and little to no dialogue. ... For $25 you get a nice sampler of what Jason can do. This is entirely worth owning."
• Review: "The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion is the indispensable guide to the strip and a must have for its legions of fans new and old. Fantagraphics has been re-printing these original strips in chronological order in beautiful hardcover volumes and this guide makes the perfect complement. ... No matter how long you’ve been a Prince Valiant fan…one year or seventy years, you’re certain to find this book informative and entertaining. Fantagraphics has produced another spectacular book! Grade A" – Tim Janson, The Gouverneur Times
• Review: "Similar to Charles Addams and Gahan Wilson, Jason relies on the humorous side of horror in these mostly wordless tales. ... Throughout the sublime Almost Silent, Jason examines traditional relationships and social norms via a deliciously warped lens, quite probably one constructed by Dr. Frankenstein himself." – Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica (spoiler alert!)
• Review: "I can’t think of a better single volume of what the period style of fast looked like in practice than last year’s Supermen! anthology. Yes, there’s an added winnowing by genre but that just sharpens the sense of the reductive visual and narrative requirements that were standard for the hot new gravy train that hit the business." – Rich Kreiner, "Yearlong Best of the Year," The Comics Journal
• Review: "As a whole, I like Abstract Comics a lot. I’d say that it works like a good art exhibition, or at least an exhibition unburdened by obligations to teach history, one in which multiple formal and aesthetic connections are there but not shouted out, rather left to be discovered (or not) by the strolling viewer according to his or her inclinations." – Charles Hatfield, Thought Balloonists
• Plug: "[Steven] Weissman's work is very often like a brain-damaged Charles Schulz... His newest book, Chocolate Cheeks, raises the stakes in a really dramatic way. I think this might be his last book in this series, but it goes out with a doozy of a book." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Plug: "Matt’s response to my squeeing over the announced May, 2010 publication date of Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6: 'Yes, as there were so many plots unresolved in the last issue. Who won, blimps or holes??'" – TofuPunk.com (I don't know who Matt is – ed.)
• Plug: "With new work by the likes of Johnny Ryan, Max Andersson, Sam Henderson, Stephane Blanquet, Doug Allen, Michael Kupperman, Mack White, and Jeremy Onsmith, Hotwire 3 is certain to deliver the psychic jolt it promises." – Richard Cowdry, Love the Line
• Plug: "Since Beatriz 'Penny Century' Garcia is my favorite Love & Rockets' Locas, I'm very excited to see the advance solicitation for the new soft cover Penny Century... In my opinion, the soft cover collected volumes are the best way to read Love & Rockets. They are the easiest way to follow the reading order, and with the cheap price of $18.99, you can't find a better launching point for one of the most regarded independent comics of all time. " – The Star Clipper Blog
• Analysis:Abstract Comics contributor Derik Badman posts an in-depth email discussion between himself and critic Craig Fischer about the book
• Interview:The Daily Yomiuri's Tom Baker talks Usagi Yojimbo with Stan Sakai: "I think the first few years I really tried to make him cute and cuddly like a stuffed animal, whereas the stories tended to [take] a more dramatic turn. So I think the character has changed. Most of it's unconscious on my part." (via The Comics Reporter )
“Five six. Hundred twenty-eight pounds. Forty-three twenty-two thirty-six. High soft lisp. Genius level I.Q.” That’s how motivational speaker Mark Herrera sums up Rosalba “Fritz” Martinez, bombshell, former punkette, former psychiatrist, “Z” movie star — in this supremely sexy, constantly surprising graphic novel.
And Herrera should know, being only one of many to fall under Fritz’s “lithping” spell — others including slobbish rocker Scott “The Hog” and high school nerd turned obsessive bodybuilder Enrique Escobar (and that’s just her husbands).
Hernandez has taken this suite of stories (including the 48-page graphic novelette “High Soft Lisp”), originally serialized in Luba's Comics and Stories and the second volume of Love and Rockets, and fleshed them out with a dozen brand new pages, creating an original and inventive (and very steamy) volume that, through its connections to his main character Luba (Fritz is Luba’s half sister, and characters from the Luba stories pop up here), works both as a standalone graphic novel and a further exploration of Hernandez’s rich world.
• Review: "The third volume of this comics anthology is a whirl-a-gig of vivid color, giddy fun, black angst, and hauntingly disturbing images... The volume brings together carefully crafted stories with eye-searing artwork, packed with scatological humor, violence, and disquieting sexual acts... Hotwire Comics 3 is not for the faint of heart, but those who love underground comics or want an introduction to that world as it stands today, will embrace the volume." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Classic kid comics are evoked with a weird, horror-inspired twist in [Chocolate Cheeks]... Weissman has a knack for combining the cute with the eerie and the unsettling, and the art—presented in both b&w and color—is outstanding." – Publishers Weekly (same link as above)
• Review: "But even Jaime devotees should be paying attention to Gilberto’s recent work; since he closed the books on Luba, he’s been flexing his muscles with some astonishingly effective genre exercises, the latest of which is The Troublemakers. A lurid pulp excursion featuring an appropriately leering cover by Rick Altergott, the book uses peripheral characters from Beto’s other works to craft a story about missing cash, hot sex, and two-timing that combines equal parts neo-noir and sleazy ’70s-throwback exploitation. But what elevates it from being a simple mélange of clever genre riffs is Beto’s determination to load it with uneasy surrealist images and clever symbolic elements. The Troublemakers doesn’t read entirely like anything he’s done before, but it may be his best work in years. [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "[The] Troublemakers follows a cast of conmen as they double-cross one another until they run out of rope and hang themselves. It too features amazing cartooning. It’s very cinematic, but it’s not drawn with attention to realism like cinematic comics frequently tend to be... Instead, the storytelling relies on Hernandez’s masterful use of staging and talent with composition. His ability to spot blacks, place textures, and overall cartooning/drawing skills made this crime story a delight to read." – guest contributor Jim Rugg, Robot 6
• Review: "If you are a student of the history of sequential art, Newave! feels like a must-have for your collection. It seems to be as perfect of a collection of mini-comix as you could ever find and it is informative as well as entertaining. It’s also the type of book that challenges your artistic side as well so that’s another bonus." – Chad Derdowski, Mania
• Interview:Publicola's Heidi Broadhead talks to Michael Dowers about the Newave! book and exhibit: "Well, there are still a handful of us who are completely driven. It is in the very cell walls of our mind, body, and soul. Some of these guys are about to hit 60 years old, me included, and we don’t know how to stop."
• Plugs:The Precocious/Manga Curmudgeon, David Welsh, recommends some Gilbert Hernandez books in recognition of Beto's birthday today: "For those of you who aren’t familiar with Palomar, it’s a small Central American town populated with interesting, complex people. It’s also populated with a variety of kinds of stories and tones, gritty realism one moment, magical realism the next. Hernandez really builds that web of community in these stories, exploring ties of family and friendship, lingering grudges, outside influences, sex, love and death."
• Plug: "...[Almost Silent] is all stellar material for the most part, especially [Tell Me] Something and You Can't [Get There from Here], which trade on Jason's perennial theme of love found and lost in rather odd settings. So if you weren't able to get these books when they first came out, I highly recommend doing so when this new edition comes out..." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
A quick Online Commentary & Diversions update to close out the week:
• List:Popmatters names Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box one of The Best of Books 2009: Non-Fiction: "This awesome picture book... [is] filled with a delightfully odd array of vintage video covers... VHS cassettes may be treated like toxic waste in the age of the Blu-ray, but Portable Grindhouse offers that micro minority who still remain faithful to their trusty VCR a long overdue reprieve." – Ronald Hart
• Review: "Half the fun of [The Troublemakers] is trying to figure out just who is getting conned the worst? I zipped through this fun read, filled with backstabbing, double-crosses, and the spectacular art of Gilbert Hernandez. There is enough sex, violence, and treachery for any fan of pulp fiction. ... This offshoot of the Love and Rockets series is too much fun to miss." – Joseph Jay Franco, Bookrastination
• Plug: The Geeks of Doom flip through January's issue of Previews: "The next item I’ll definitely be picking up is It Was the War in the Trenches [by Jacques Tardi] from Fantagraphics. You know how I said before that I’m a fan of military history; well this book will scratch that same itch. This book takes a look at World War I from the eyes of the soldiers in the trenches. I’m very excited to read this one."
Dig this scene! Low-life drug dealer Dewey Booth has $200,000 that even-lower-lifes want. BLING! Wes is a rock and roll loser that only wants to buy a club where nobody can tell him he can't sing or perform. WAILIN'! He's known Dewey for years, but that isn't enough to get his dough. Wes needs help. Nala is an über-stacked bombshell whose pleasure in life is to seduce and then humiliate men dumb enough to fall for her. HUSH HUSH! For half the dough, she agrees to help Wes get Dewey's ill-gotten goods. Things don't go so well when a wily grifter from Wes's past shows up to complicate things. GULP! Vincene is another troublemaker who enjoys wrecking people's plans and wants the Dewey dough, too. In the end, deadly fires ignite, heads literally roll, eyes are shot out — and all Wes wants to do is sing in a rock and roll club.
The Troublemakers is the second volume in a series of original graphic novels in which Gilbert Hernandez creates comics adaptations of movies starring or co-starring Luba's half-sister Rosalba "Fritz" Martinez from Love and Rockets. The first, the dystopian Chance in Hell (in which Fritz has only a bit part), was released in 2007. This hard boiled, pulp graphic novel will delight longtime Hernandez fans as well as provide a perfect introduction to newcomers to Hernandez's work.
• List: On Random House's Suvudu blog, Dallas Middaugh selects 2008's Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw as #3 on the Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2009: "This book came from out of nowhere to great critical acclaim, and it pushed young Mr. Shaw in the spotlight as one of the most exciting new cartoonists in the field. ... This haunting story of a dysfunctional family twists and turns and stuck with me long after I read it."
• List: At Comic Book Galaxy, Marc Sobel counts down "The 15 Best Back Issues I Read Last Year," including Birdland by Gilbert Hernandez ("vastly underappreciated") and the entire run of Hate by Peter Bagge ("This series gets better with age")
• Review: "Dreams are probably the second most popular subject for autobiographical comics, however distantly they lag behind the events of waking life. But no one, to my knowledge, has attempted to create comics arising from the hypnagogic netherworld that lies between the sleeping and the wakeful states. Until now. Or maybe not. It’s hard to say precisely, which is what gives Kevin Huizenga’s Ganges #3 so much of its unique charm." – Rich Kreiner, The Comics Journal
• Review: "What the hell is going on here? What is this book, anyway? ...[Pim and Francie] is like the inexplicable artifact of a deranged mind... Columbia has a flair for the grotesque, which, when mixed with such cute cartooniness reminiscent of old-school Disney, makes for an especially creepy juxtaposition. ... It's a cascade of horror, page after page of mostly-unfinished nastiness, enough to stick in the mind and cause nightmares for weeks." – Matthew J. Brady
• Review: "At long last, a handsome, two-volume, slipcased set [of Humbug] brings back into print a pivotal, neglected portion of the oeuvre of Harvey Kurtzman and that of a cadre of gifted pranksters bent on smart satire." – Rich Kreiner, The Comics Journal
• Review: "With a new exhibition currently on view at Tony Shafrazi Gallery in Chelsea and his remarkable inclusion in the 2010 Whitney Biennial, Robert Williams seems more than ever the most likely candidate to represent the ways that late decadent American culture will be remembered by history. ... This is a late career artist at the top of his game, a shamefully overdue entry into still meaningful discourse of what art can be when it refuses to play by the rules, a monster of the imagination whose time has finally come." – Carlo McCormick, artnet
• Review: "Portable Grindhouse celebrates the sleazy kick of killing time in a slightly crappy video rental store, minus the inevitable arguments about what to rent or the possibility of your VCR eating the tape." – Dave Howlett, Living Between Wednesdays
• Plug:Robot 6's Chris Mautner is reading his stack of Comics Journal back issues "starting with #291, which features interviews with Tim Sale and Josh Simmons, as well as a great critical thinkpiece by Gary Groth on Ralph Steadman and Hunter S. Thompson. That alone was worth the cover price."
• Plugs: Some fun and appreciated name-drops from Tom Neely and Charles Bernstein in the 5th part of The Beat's year-end survey of comics pros
• Plug/Coming Attractions:Comic Book Resources' Greg Burgas comments on the January issue of Previews (our listings from which can be seen here): "Jacques Tardi's It Was the War of the Trenches, from Fantagraphics on page 256, sounds keen. It's a World War I book, so I'm sure it will be utterly depressing, but it still sounds worthwhile!"
• Interview: The final part of Brian Heater's interview with C. Tyler at The Daily Cross Hatch: "To me, it’s underground, and there’s other people who think, 'no way, it’s Mad Magazine.' Everyone has their place where it starts. There’s people now who say, 'Kramer’s Ergot is when it started for me.' Everyone has their place when they jumped off the diving board, into the pool of comics. The fact is, it’s continual."
• Profile: Gurldoggie takes a quick look at Joe Sacco in advance of his appearance in Seattle this week
• Events: The Covered blog celebrates its 1st anniversary and announces an art show at Secret Headquarters in L.A. in March
• List: On the Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, guest critic Chris Marshall's top 10 graphic novels of 2009 places Blazing Combat in a tie for 4th place: "There was a time when War Comics told War Fact. They showed us the blood, death, camaraderie and horror. [This] series did just that and didn’t hold back."
• Review: "Fantagraphics has truly pulled out all the stops on the production of [Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons], giving it such marvelous style and pizzazz. ... But it’s the content, of course, that is truly king. If the 20th century was indeed the American century, then Wilson is a cartoonist who had a hell of a time chronicling it, mocking it, signifying it, and holding it up to the light—albeit through his own twisted lens... The work is tremendous and witty and, as always with an excellent retrospective, it offers the reader an excellent chance to walk back in time through decades of experiences, memories, turbulences and triumphs, and just plain old human oddities. What’s truly amazing is how, for more than 50 years, Wilson rarely misses a witty beat." – John Hogan, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Plug: At Comic Book Galaxy, Johnny Bacardi, a Jaime Hernandez partisan when it comes to Love and Rockets, says "But this upcoming Troublemakers looks kinda interesting... despite my preference for Jaime, I think I'll pick this up when I see it..."
Don't miss an opportunity to get a sneak peek at some of the great books you'll be reading later this year at the FANTAGRAPHICS 2010 PREVIEW event this Saturday, January 9 at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery in Seattle.
The opening from 6:00 to 9:00 PM coincides with the colorful Georgetown Art Attack featuring visual and performing arts presentations at several locations throughout the historic neighborhood. For details and a map visit www.georgetownartattack.com.
Fantagraphics Bookstore is located at 1201 S. Vale Street (at Airport Way S.) only minutes south of downtown Seattle. Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM. Phone 206.658.0110.
By the way, multiple belated hat tips to Robot 6, whose roundups of end-of-year links have been invaluable to the last few installments of Online Commentary & Diversions. On with the links:
• List:Publishers Weekly announced the results of their 2009 Comics Week Critic's Poll; among the top vote-getters are You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler ("I love this autobiographical family story as much for the way Tyler weaves between her own life and her father's, as for its painterly, illustrative panoramas of suburban neighborhoods and army scenes." – Sasha Watson) and Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman ("Milk and other liquids may come out your nose as you read one of the funniest comics ever put to paper. Kupperman's droll absurdism is matched by a stiff, woodcut-like art style that underplays the sometimes outre concepts. A comedy diamond." – Heidi MacDonald). Humbug by Harvey Kurtzman et al, Low Moon by Jason, Luba by Gilbert Hernandez, Supermen!: The First Wave Of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941, West Coast Blues Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jacques Tardi, and You Are There by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Claude Forest all received single votes in the poll
• List: At comiXology, Tucker Stone counts down his top 25 Best Comics of 2009, with Grotesque #3 by Sergio Ponchione at #23 ("...every once in a while, I get a reminder how vast the world of comics really is. Grotesque — European, unusual, brilliant — was one of those, an experimental passport to another universe"), Ganges #3 by Kevin Huizenga at #7 ("...Ganges captured the thing that all of us spend a lifetime doing — thinking — and turned it into something deserving of examination") and, in the top spot, Prison Pit: Book 1 by Johnny Ryan ("Aggro, obscene, hilarious, compulsive: Prison Pit. It wasn't just the greatest comic of the year, it was one of those comics that operated like the end result of a math equation, a definitive answer to the question of what comics are, and what they should be...")
• List: Johnny Bacardi's Personal Best of the Decade includes Eightball #22 by Daniel Clowes
• Review: "Each [panel] almost vibrates with the frenetic, desperate energy of the characters as they try to pull off their cons. That energy explodes in the final pages, as the story comes to a dramatic but ambiguous conclusion. In the end, the work offers an homage to B-movies while standing out as a graphic novel. The Troublemakers will please long-term Hernandez fans. It also should serve as a good introduction to newcomers looking to jump into the Love and Rockets universe." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "...Giraffes [in My Hair], a collection of anecdotes from Bruce Paley's teens and twenties on America's countercultural fringe, is a breezy read. ... Swain's art rarely calls attention to or gets in the way of itself, and in that it meshes seamlessly with Paley's deadpan 'here's what happened' narrative style, his reluctance to overstate or oversell the import of the anecdote reminiscent of Harvey Pekar's." – Sean T. Collins
• Review: "...[The Comics Journal] has reached issue 300 and is celebrating with a fascinating collection of creator-chats as industry tyros and giants come together to interview, share, bitch and generally shoot the breeze about graphic narrative: a tactic that makes this the most compelling read of the year for anyone truly interested in what we all do and why." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Fantagraphics Books continues its series devoted to chronologically packaging [Peanuts] and has not missed a step along the way. ... I’m pleased to inform that the latest edition, the twelfth in the series, is as lovingly curated as the first... [I]t is nice to know that one of the form’s greatest achievements is being held up as the accomplishment it really is." – Dw. Dunphy, Popdose
• Review: "[In Sam's Strip] Walker and Dumas clearly take pleasure in working in callbacks to classic comic strips... [and] many of the metatextual gags are funny and fun. ... Dumas’s drawings of classic comic-strip characters are excellent... The result is a frustrating, compelling curiosity: the soul of an underground comic trapped in the mortal coil of a Hi and Lois." – Shaenon Garrity, The Comics Journal
• Events:Star Clipper is sponsoring a screening of Ghost World at Schlafly Bottleworks in St. Louis tonight — oh jeez, in like half an hour! — and copies of the graphic novel and other Clowes books will be on sale
Apologies for the late late Online Commentary & Diversions update:
• List:Comic Book Resources continues listing their Top 100 Comics of 2009, with Pim & Francie by Al Columbia at #33 ("A totally creepy homage to the ink blot stylings of the early animation era, the book works as part horror comic, part abstract tour de force, part satire and all face melter, cementing Columbia's place as one of the most unique and mysterious voices in comics." – Kiel Phegley) and Ganges #3 by Kevin Huizenga at #20 ("a brilliant, insightful comic with inventive layouts and dead-on emotion" – John Parkin)
• List: Don MacPherson of Eye on Comics names the short list for the 2009 Glass Eye Awards for Best Original Graphic Novel: "Gilbert Hernandez’s The Troublemakers was no doubt a delight for fans of the Love and Rockets writer/artist, but as an only casual reader of his work, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The quirky combination of slice-of-life elements and a crime drama worked incredibly well, and while The Troublemakers boasts a connection to the world of L&R, one needn’t be aware of it or versed in those other comics to appreciate this graphic novel."
• Review: "[Hal] Foster’s classic tales of knightly derring-do are a beloved part of the newspaper comics section. It’s difficult to laud Foster too excessively; he was one of the undisputed masters of the craft. A new effort to reprint the Valiant epic in sequential order is off to a roaring start with Prince Valiant, Vol. 1: 1937-1938, a handsome oversize volume reprinting the first two years’ worth of the Arthurian saga’s Sunday strips. Despite its creation in the late 1930s..., the comic strip’s otherworldly setting and taut characterization keep this an evergreen favorite for readers of all ages, an American epic born of a tale of European romance." – Aaron Ragan-Fore, Eugene Weekly
• Plug: Jason Pettigrew, editor-in-chief of Alternative Press magazine, lists our forthcoming Joost Swarte collection as one of the 5 things he's most looking forward to in 2010 — except that the book is now on tap for 2011 and the title has changed from Modern Swarte to Is That All There Is?
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