Today's Online Commentary & Diversions from Publishers Weekly, John Porcellino and other sources:
• List:Publishers Weekly Comics Week posts the results of their Fifth Annual Critics Poll, with 5 of our titles placing with 2 votes each (and a bunch of honorable mentions):
"Castle Waiting Volume 2by Linda Medley... The simplest actions — moving into another room, raising a child — are enlivened by being placed in an exceptionally illustrated fantasy environment, full of unusual outcasts who've formed a family. The cast is immensely appealing, both visually and through well-written dialogue. [...] Always a pleasurable read underlined by a genius level of artistic skill." – Johanna Draper Carlson
"A Drunken Dream, Moto Hagio [...] Beautiful, gripping and delightfully weird, reading this book you can see her fingerprints all over shojo manga as we know it. At the same time it works as a solid refutation of the old canard that shojo is nothing but sparkly 14 year-olds with love-angst and magical powers." – Kate Fitzsimons
"High Soft Lisp, Gilbert Hernandez... Rosalba 'Fritz' Martinez is one of the loopier characters from Hernandez's expansive Love and Rockets universe, but her ditzy, oversexed antics are peppered with poignant moments of loneliness and longing. As always, Hernandez sticks a beating heart at the center of his raunchy pulp adventures." – Jason Persse
"Love and Rockets: New Stories #3, The Hernandez Brothers... Los Bros. Hernandez show they are still at the peak of their cartooning form. In 'Browntown' Jaime mines family history, cruelty and the hinted-at pasts of his well known cast for an unforgettable story of innocence lost." – Heidi MacDonald
"Weathercraft, Jim Woodring... Jim Woodring first hit his bullseye so long ago, and has been splitting his own arrow right down the middle so many times, that he's easy to take for granted. Don't. Weathercraft is a magnificent and slightly wicked little book: a whimsical farce about some of the nastiest, darkest metaphysical stuff there is, a banquet for the eyes that starts growing tendrils once it's inside you." – Douglas Wolk
• List: Also at Publishers Weekly, Moto Hagio's A Drunken Dream and Other Stories is selected by Kai-Ming Cha for Critic's Picks: Manga in 2010: "Most of shojo manga today are derivative of Hagio and her contemporaries — and pale in comparison. This collection of stories takes from the oeuvre of Hagio, one of the first in a pioneering generation of manga to be created by women."
• List:John Porcellino's Favorite Comics of 2010 include some of our older books:
"Supermen!: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1939-41 ... What happens when you throw a bunch of sometimes-talented, always-desperate cartoonists in a room and force them to churn out page after page after page of comics at a deviously inhuman rate? [...] Oh my Lord. This sooper-fun and enjoyably bizarre collection of early 'Pre-Code' superhero comics features work by Jack Kirby, Basil Wolverton, Will Eisner, Fletcher Hanks, and Jack Cole, among many more lesser-known artists..."
"Abandoned Cars by Tim Lane... [Lane's] excellent, down and out, Beat-inspired tales of post-war/modern day America are unique to the form, and his grappling with what he calls the 'Great American Mythological Drama' yields some of the most literate, stark, and surreal comics I've ever read. [...] Great book."
"Where Demented Wented: the Art and Comics of Rory Hayes... The comics themselves, though undeniably crude in the early years, have a rock solid EC-inspired prose style, which when combined with the brutal/cute drawings makes for some compelling reading. As time goes on, Hayes' imagery becomes more and more refined, and there are pages in here that are just simply beautiful. A real surprise, and a book that kept me thinking for days afterward."
"Caricature by Dan Clowes... Reading [these stories], I was immediately taken back to the good old glory days of Alternative American Comics. I remember reading stories like 'Immortal, Invisible' and 'Blue Italian Shit' with my jaw hanging open... you could feel the boundaries of comics expanding with each panel. These particular comics remain some of my favorites of all time."
• Review: "The story itself is absolutely insane. [...] There's no real rhyme or reason to the proceedings, and that's a big part of the fun. You don't know what outrageous scenario will greet you at the end of the next page. [...] Millionaire keeps his foot on the gas and writes with the spirit of Chuck Jones and the rest of Termite Terrace lurking in his pen. [...] If you're looking for madcap action, Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird should be right up your alley. It certainly was for me." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Plug: Illustrator Eric Orchard shares his love for the work of Jaime Hernandez: "There's an unbelievable charm to his characters and an intoxicating rhythm to his panels. They are some of the best, most enjoyable comics to come out in the last thirty years."
• Anecdote: At Gapers Block, Ruthie Kott presents a funny story told to her by Paul Hornschemeier: "On two separate occasions I've had people argue with me that I am not me. There is apparently some existential comedian writing the script of my life for moments like these..." (Via Robot 6)
• Survey:The Beat's year-end/looking-forward survey of comics pros (part two) includes input from Megan Kelso and Shaenon Garrity calling our publication of Moto Hagio "the biggest story in comics in 2010"
• Coming Attractions: More reporting & commentary on our Carl Barks news from ICv2, Augie De Blieck Jr. at Comic Book Resources, and Graeme McMillan at Robot 6
Time for lots more awkwardly-formatted year-end lists, a review from The Washington Post and much more in what might be the longest Online Commentary & Diversions ever:
• List: For the Las Vegas Weekly, J. Caleb Mozzocco counts down his top 5 comics of 2010:
#3: Temperance by Cathy Malkasian: "Blessed with a Dr. Seuss-like ability to evoke the most serious problems and bleakest emotions in personalized, original, timeless fantasy elements, Malkasian has constructed a graphic epic involving a handful of colorful, tragic characters and their interlocking lives."
#5: Werewolves of Montepellier by Jason: "A successful jewel thief disguises himself as a werewolf during heists, eventually attracting the attention of real, actual werewolves in Jason’s latest deadpan dramedy masterpiece. While that might sound like the protagonist’s most urgent problem, his doomed crush on neighbor-turned-friend Audrey is the only thing truly eating him."
• List: The bloggers at Robot 6 count down their choices for the best comics of 2010:
"7. Set to Sea: The story of a would-be poet who is shanghaied and learns about life at sea the hard way, Set to Sea is drawn in a series of single panels, each of which is a miniature masterpiece on its own. It’s a singularly economical way of telling a story, and Drew Weing makes each of his panels into a tight little world of its own." – Brigid Alverson
"4. You’ll Never Know, Book Two: Collateral Damage: [...] Tyler skillfully handles multiple strands of her story, using a variety of styles and formats for different episodes, slowly building a complete picture from several different sources." – Brigid Alverson
"16. It Was the War of the Trenches, by Jacques Tardi: French master Tardi does to the Great War what the Great War did to the bodies of millions of young soldiers: blow it wide open and root in the mess. Depicted primarily in an unyielding onslaught of widescreen panels, it’s like a slog through the trenches itself. Furious and full of contempt for war and its masters." – Sean T. Collins
"6. It Was the War of the Trenchesby Jacques Tardi: Reading Trenches, you realize just how far afield, just how dead wrong most American (and British) had it in their depiction of war. Even Kurtzman’s war comics (which I love) seem like kiddie sermonizing, an overly sweet, sanitized warning, next to Tardi’s uncompromising depiction of WWI. You want to know how brutal war can be? You want to know how war should be depicted in comics – how to look the utter savagery, inhumanity and square in the eye using only pen and ink? This is how you do it." – Chris Mautner
"15. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, by Moto Hagio: I gasped aloud repeatedly while experiencing the sheer loveliness of this book, a collection of short stories from throughout the decades by shoujo-manga pioneer Moto Hagio. Best of all, there’s a cake beneath all that icing, as Hagio’s stories are frequently sophisticated, moving, and unwilling to pull punches." – Sean T. Collins
"13. Prison Pit Book 2, by Johnny Ryan: Johnny Ryan journeys deeper than ever before into his inner ickiness and returns with an action-horror hybrid it’s almost impossible to 'enjoy' in the traditional sense of the word — and which thereby takes those two genres in stunning new directions." – Sean T. Collins
"11. Artichoke Tales, by Megan Kelso: A war comic like none you’ve ever read, Megan Kelso’s ambitious alt-fantasy is concerned not with conflict’s immediate carnage, but with its lasting effects on the societies engaged in it — economic, cultural, religious, familial, even geographical. I found it humanistic, unsparing, and fascinating." – Sean T. Collins
"10. Weathercraft, by Jim Woodring: It’s always darkest before the dawn, and the psychedelic body-horror of Jim Woodring has never been darker than it gets here. His hapless, villainous Manhog is made to suffer like you’ve seen few comics characters suffer before in any style or genre…only to emerge enlightened and overjoyed on the other side in a final act that feels like that first breath of fresh cool air after you’ve hidden your head under the covers in terror for minutes on end." – Sean T. Collins
"2. Weathercraft by Jim Woodring: [...] It’s a twisting, twisted, often bizarre, often disturbing but always gripping tale of one creature’s self-redemption and ultimate sacrifice told without words and often as enigmatically as possible. If you had any doubt that Woodring could still deliver after laying low for so long, consider them erased." – Chris Mautner
"7. Special Exits, by Joyce Farmer: ...[N]early every meticulously crosshatched panel [is] drawn as if [Farmer's] life depended on it. Maybe it did. This is a magnum opus no one expected to read, a brutally frank depiction of what it’s like for full lives you love to end, and it has the most painfully happy ending of the year. It made me cry. Don’t do what I almost did and ignore one of the year’s most moving comics." – Sean T. Collins
"3. Wally Gropius, by Tim Hensley: The first great comic of the Great Recession. Tim Hensley’s breakout graphic novel, previously serialized in the Mome anthology, seems like a send-up of silly ‘60s teen-comedy and kid-millionaire comics on the surface, but beneath lies as odd and accurate a cri de coeur about capitalism and consumerism as I’ve ever read. It also does things with body language I’ve never seen in comics, and is funny as hell to boot. There’s nothing else out there like it." – Sean T. Collins
"5. Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley: The funniest comic of the year, Gropius is both homage and raised middle finger to the kids comics of yore, chiding them for their superficiality and yet revealing in their sublime shallowness all the same. That Hensley managed to have his cake and eat it too in such a breezy fashion suggests he will be an artist to watch for in the coming years." – Chris Mautner
"2. High Soft Lisp / Love and Rockets: New Stories #3, by Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez: This year I read nearly every comic ever created by Los Bros Hernandez; what a pleasure to discover at the end of my immersion that their two most recent comics are also two of their best, and thus two of the best comics by anyone. Gilbert and Jaime both tear furiously into love and sex in these two collections; what they find inside is ugly; what they do with it is beautiful." – Sean T. Collins
"3. Love and Rockets [New Stories] 3 by Xaime and Gilbert Hernandez: Gilbert’s contributions are great as usual (his work here and in the recently collected High Soft Lisp proves he’s no second banana brother), but it is Xaime’s 'The Love Bunglers/Browntown' that makes this volume so worthy of praise. A harrowing story of abuse, familial neglect and regret masterfully told, I defy anyone not to read this tale and not be devastated by its conclusion. Not a single line goes to waste here. To say it’s the best thing Xaime’s done is a stunning comment considering his lengthy and exemplary body of work, but there’s no question he’s raised the bar once again." – Chris Mautner
• List: The great Washington, DC bookstore Politics & Prose names their 2010 Graphic Novel Favorites, including:
"The Sanctuary by Nate Neal is one of the most adventurous, exciting, complex and beautiful graphic novels. [...] Nate Neal creates a language for the clan, and tells the entire story without any recognizable words, making The Sanctuary a quiet and dark collection of gestures and expressions."
"Pirus and Mezzo’s King of the Flies is a dark romp through a strange drug filled, sex crazed world of small town Europe. [...] Pirus and Mezzo aren’t afraid to tell a story full of our darkest desires and needs, but they’re also startlingly poetic."
"Weathercraft, by Jim Woodring, is a beautiful dream and a beautiful nightmare. [...] Weathercraft is page after page of utterly original, outrageous, wordless thrills. Somehow, in a place where confusion and chaos seem to reign, Woodring creates sense. The challenge and beauty of Weathercraft is taking hold of that sense, and letting it go when the dream becomes too beautiful to pass up."
"C. Tyler continues her inquiry into the true story of her father’s WWII experience with You’ll Never Know Book Two: Collateral Damage. Tyler’s colorful panels and line work is a welcome relief to the usual comics format; and her creative shifting of perspective and story... offer just the right amount of energy and relevance to make this book (and the previous volume) one of the best of the year."
"Hinging on one supernatural occurrence after another, the misadventures of Adele Blanc-Sec are surely one of the most welcome events this year. [...] This is a classic which should not be missed."
"...Moto Hagio’s story collection, A Drunken Dream, is a welcome and celebrated relief to the mainstream, translated Japanese comics, giving the reader a meaningful and deeply felt experience. ...Hagio’s exploration of loss... and identity... is equal to the best that any literature offers."
• List: Brazilian site Ambrosia names The Best Comics Published in the U.S. in 2010 — Alternatives and Classics, including:
It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "The French Tardi is a versatile artist, a thorough storyteller of historical fact and fiction. The clean lines and light of his drawings refer to the style of another Frenchman, the revered Moebius."
The Littlest Pirate King by David B.: "Accustomed to living with sea monsters, plundering ships and murdering sailors, a group of scary undead pirates has its routine radically transformed when they are forced to care for a child. David B.... uses his beautiful and dark art to adapt a fun text by Orlan."
• List: At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson names Castle Waiting Vol. 2 by Linda Medley the Best Graphic Novel of 2010: "Exceptionally illustrated fantasy revolving around everyday life among a stunning cast of unusual characters who make their own unusual family in an abandoned castle."
• Review: "Saucy, bold, enigmatic, gently funny, reassuringly romantic; brimming with human warmth and just the right edge of hidden danger Castle Waiting [Vol. 2] is a masterpiece of subtly ironic, perfectly paced storytelling that any kid over ten can and will adore. Moreover, if you’re long in the tooth or have been around the block a time or two, this fantastic place can’t help but look like home." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• List: At The Casual Optimist, Dan Wagstaff names Jason's Werewolves of Montpellier one of his Favourite New Books of 2010: "Ostensibly the book is about a thief called Sven who disguises himself as werewolf to rob people’s apartments and incurs the wrath of the town’s actual werewolves. It is, however, as much about friendship, identity, loneliness, and, ultimately, Sven’s unrequited love for his neighbour Audrey. [...] The whole book is achingly brief, but Werewolves of Montpellier is possibly my favourite Jason book to date." (Via Robot 6)
"14. Artichoke Tales(Megan Kelso) [...] Kelso's simple lines beautifully capture the emotional turmoil of the characters and move the action along fluidly. This title caught me by surprise with how much I enjoyed it — it looks deceptively simple, but there's a lot going on in this ambitious book."
"10. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (Volume 1) (Jacques Tardi) [...] This story is full of broad characters and is really silly, but it's a really riveting, often funny book that you can't help but love to spend time with, featuring some of Tardi's best art period. Plus pterodactyls in Paris!"
"6. Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 [...] The Hernandez Brothers' third annual release of Love and Rockets is their best yet. Gilbert Hernandez has long been a favorite artist of mine and he offers some pretty dynamic stories this time around as well... Jaime develops his characters effortlessly as he produces what may be one of the best offerings of his career."
"4. Castle Waiting (Volume 2)(Linda Medley) [...] This book is overflowing with great characters, the story unfolding cinematically to Medley's beautiful cartoony art. The domestic life that readers glimpse with these volumes is an absolute pleasure to behold, and I really enjoy the time I spend with the people in this title, as they explore the castle and unlock some of its mysteries while settling in. A real treasure."
"1. The Littlest Pirate King(David B. & Pierre Mac Orlan) – My favorite comic that I read this year is David B.'s comic adaptation of the prose story by French writer Pierre Mac Orlan. ...David B. elaborately illustrates this world with amazing mastery of the craft. The coloring, the pacing and panel arrangements, and the world of these pirates pillaging ships and being general menaces all make for a fun, engaging experience. This book contains some of the most beautiful panels that I've seen in years, and confidently sits at the top of my list for best of the year."
• List: On his MadInkBeard blog, Derik Badman lists Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 as one of the Best Print Comics of 2010: "This is Jaime doing what he does best, advancing the lives of his characters, adding to their histories, introducing side characters, and generating an emotional impact." (Via Robot 6)
• List: On The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, Martin Steenton of Avoid the Future names his top 3 Best of the Year: "...Drew Weing’s Set to Sea is one of the most beautifully-rendered graphic novels you could hope to see ever, let alone from within the past twelve months. [...] From start to finish, Set to Sea feels like a true classic; the graphic novel equivalent of Treasure Island, if you will. If you’re the sort of parent that doesn’t mind exposing your children to a few gory moments, I like to imagine that this is the book you’ll give them to usher them into their lives as comic readers. Think what a cool mum/dad you’d be."
• List: At Imprint, Michael Dooley names the Best American Comics Criticism panel at Skylight Books one of "the best speaker events that involved comics and graphic design" in L.A. last year
• Review: "Four Color Fear is editor Greg Sadowski's commemoration of horror publishers other than dominant Entertaining Comics ... [T]his volume contains many... complete tales, giving the reader a sense of how hard it was to meet the genre's three main requirements: sudden fear, ample gore and twist endings, all in the space of six to 10 pages. [...] One leads off with this fraught question: 'Have you ever heard a strange voice whisper, "Come with me into the Blackest depths of evil"?' To which I would have answered in the 1950s, 'What took you so long to ask?'" – Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post (via Newsarama)
• Review: "Johnny Ryan is in my mind is one of the best modern humorists in comics today. It's not the kind of humor that's gonna get him invited to lots of prestigious awards ceremonies, but you can not deny that this shit [is] funny! Seriously for all those people who have not read a Johnny Ryan book for whatever stupid reason, pick [FUC_ __U _SS __LE] up. There's gonna be something in here that will make you laugh or puke or laugh and puke at the same time. It's an awesome awesome book. Loved it all the way through." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Review: "Taking quotes from people who met King, journeyed with him, and experienced his teachings and shortcomings firsthand, the book gives readers an honest and refreshing take on the man that became a legend. The art in King is a sight to behold... While some will undoubtedly walk away with the impression that this take on King’s life somehow lessens his impact on society, others will hopefully find that the humanistic aspect enhances the appreciation of his determination to make a change. Rating: ★★★★1/2" – Matt Peters, Pads & Panels
• Plug: "Mascots is a beautiful new book by Ray Fenwick collecting a series of color paintings on found book covers. [...] You must all surely concur that this new book establishes Ray Fenwick as the foremost satirist-illustrator-typographer-poet-designer of our time." – Matt Forsythe, Drawn
• Plugs: At The Moviefone Blog, David Brothers recommends "Comic Books for Movie Buffs"; his picks for war movie fans and samurai movie fans, respectively:
"...It Was the War of the Trenches shows how war simultaneously dehumanizes and strengthens our connection to life. The dehumanization derives from the fact that soldiers who die in this book tend to do so alone, or by surprise, and life just goes on. The strengthening point, however, is due to how the soldiers eagerly grasp what life they have left, despite their situation. It Was the War of the Trenches is heartbreaking and maybe a little funny, but more than anything, it's fulfilling."
"...Usagi Yojimbo is not only deadly serious, but a fantastic read. Sakai clearly knows the era he's writing stories about very well, and his research shows. If not for the funny talking animals, this series would be fantastically realistic. With them, though, it's a series that hits many of the same high points as classic Kurosawa, but often from a fresh angle."
• Survey:The Beat's year-end/looking-forward survey of comics pros (part one) includes a classic Peter Bagge quip ("What was the biggest story in comics in 2010?" "No one has any money") plus input from Noah Van Sciver
• Analysis: In an academic paper published in the University of Florida's interdisciplinary comics studies journal ImageTexT, Joel Simundich examines "Translation, Transparency, and Genre" in Jason's The Iron Wagon (recently reprinted in What I Did)
• Interview: On his Princess Sparkle Pony blog, Peter Huestis presents a transcription of his 1995 interview with Jim Woodring which was published in Hypno Magazine: "I never use any of my dreams in the Frank stories. I've evolved a way of writing those stories that I adhere to pretty much all the time. I go down into this ravine near my house and hide in the bushes and write in my notebook. I write the stories out in words. I'll write an opening line like, 'Frank has a heavy heart.' If I like that for an opener, I will ask why he has a heavy heart. Sometimes I get an answer and sometimes I don't."
• List/Plug/Coming Attractions:The Millions names among their Most Anticipated books of 2011 two by Alexander Theroux: this month's The Strange Case of Edward Gorey ("Part biography, part artistic analysis, and part memoir of a long friendship, with exclusive interviews conducted shortly before Gorey’s death, this book is generally accepted as the most comprehensive portrait of Gorey ever written") and July's Estonia ("The book emerges from Theroux’s time spent in the former Soviet republic while his wife was on a Fulbright Scholarship. Ever observant, Theroux uses Estonia and its people as a lens through which to look back at America"); elsewhere at The Millions, Theroux himself weighs in on his Year in Reading
#87:Prison Pit Book 2 by Johnny Ryan: "Absurd, crude, lewd, funny, entertaining, twelve kinds of wrong, one of the most effed-up books I've ever read. It's burned into my brain and I can't get it out. And I love it." – Chad Nevett
#99:A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio: "I'd never heard of Moto Hagio until Fantagraphics published this best-of collection of her stories, and it's easy to see why Hagio is one of the queens of shojo manga in Japan. The short story 'Iguana Girl' (about a girl who grows up with her mother treating her like she is an iguana) is strong enough to make you feel like you've gotten your money's worth, but the remaining nine stories are also all excellent to boot." – Greg McElhatton
• List: Dave Ferraro of Comics-and-More ranks Moto Hagio's A Drunken Dream and Other Stories at #6 on his 10 Best Manga of 2010: "Moto Hagio's artwork is stunning. Her storytelling is fluid, her characters expressive, and her drawings in general are beautifully arranged and look effortless. Each and every one of the ten stories in this 'best of' collection of short stories... are enchanting, full of warmth and wonderful characters, and brimming with emotion. [...] A very necessary project, done right."
• Review: "Uptight #4 is an example of that increasingly-rare animal: a satisfying alt-comic book. [...] It speaks to Crane’s versatility that he can pull off a slice-of-life relationship story and a fable in the same comic book." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Review: "...[J]ust about the sweetest graphic novel imaginable... it's a lovely, positive collection, with fine drawing and characters that are well worth spending some time with. ...[T]his is a story about people and how they live together and support each other. That kind of story is so vanishingly rare in comics that it should be treasured when we do find it — particularly when it's as lovely and engaging as Castle Waiting." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Review: "Deitch's mad brew of semi-psychedelic farce and skewed reality takes the actual (and factual) short-lived tenure of an obscure 1950s-era kiddie-show host as source material and extrapolates a fantastical set of circumstances with humans, demons, not-so-funny animals and other characters — including Deitch himself. Reading this book [The Search for Smilin' Ed] is a wild ride; Deitch's prodigious storytelling talents and graphic craftsmanship keep things moving — and compelling." – Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Plugs: At Comics Comics, Jeet Heer singles out The Artist Himself: A Rand Holmes Retrospective and The Search for Smilin' Ed by Kim Deitch as two recent books deserving of more attention from critics and readers, calling the latter book "a delight not just because it gives us one of Deitch’s most deranged meandering tall tales but also because the whole handsome package was designed to highlight the cohesiveness of Deitch’s world-making project, the way his fictional universe and its large cast make up a single unfolding story."
• Opinion: At TIME.com – Techland, Douglas Wolk's "What I'm Grateful For in Comics, 2010" includes "Lots of long-gone creators have been returning to the new-comics trenches, and many of them are as limber and powerful as ever. [...] I... wouldn't have imagined that Joyce Farmer would be doing the best work of her career in 2010, but Special Exits knocked me flat," and "The fact that Jason puts out a book every nine months or so and has a substantical, enthusiastic readership makes me proud of the entire economic structure that makes that possible."
• Coming Attractions: More Douglas Wolk at TIME.com – Techland, this time listing "What We're Looking Forward To in 2011," including Love from the Shadows by Gilbert Hernandez ("the most twisted, perverse book he's ever created, which is saying something. It's lurid, hypersexual, violent, incredibly disturbing, and totally fun") and The Armed Garden and Other Stories by David B. ("gorgeous work, and unlike anything else in contemporary comics")
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions from NPR, Techland–TIME.com, HTMLGIANT, Woot!, and elsewhere:
• List: At Techland–TIME.com, Douglas Wolk names his top 10 Best Graphic Novels of 2010:
#6: Weathercraft: "The first standalone Frank book from Jim Woodring is as gloriously mind-expanding as anything he's drawn. It's a wordless Hieronymous Bosch-via-Chuck Jones parable about cartoon animals in a cruel, psychedelic landscape, in which the wicked Manhog attains enlightenment, then sacrifices it again."
#5: Artichoke Tales: "Megan Kelso's magnum opus is technically a fantasy — her characters live in an imaginary country, riven by a civil war between foragers and canners, and have artichoke leaves instead of hair on their heads. It's also a set of meditations on the way cultures establish their identities through stories, and how both political violence and personal connections can damage or repair those identities."
#3: You'll Never Know, Book 2: Collateral Damage: "The second volume of C. Tyler's trilogy of family stories that crystallized around the revelation of her father's experiences in World War II turns personal tragedy into universal art. Everyone's stories deepen; everything is more complicated and sadder than it seems at first. And Tyler's incredible sense of design and color makes even her quietest images linger."
• List:Comics Alliance also ranks Weathercraft on their Top 10 Best Comics of 2010. Jason Michelitch writes: "Woodring is a cartoonist of frightening power, and Weathercraft is him performing at full strength, a high note sustained for every panel on 100 pages. His work is of a caliber where it's hard to know what to say about it, so struck dumb are you by the immensity of the rendering and storytelling skill on the page. [...] There is no other comic this year that so successfully creates such a viscerally compelling and hermetically individual fictional world, or which displays such a thorough mastery of visual storytelling, provoking complex thoughts and feelings with simple, beautiful strokes. Weathercraft is essential."
• List: Oh mercy, it's The Daily Cross Hatch's epic and essential end-of-year top-five survey The Best Damn Comics of 2010 Chosen by the Artists. Below, in order of appearance, the books chosen, who chose them and how/if they ranked them; click over for any commentary:
Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso: Ellen Abramowitz (MoCCA Executive Director), #3; Darryl Ayo Brathwaite (Little Garden Comics), unranked;
Weathercraftby Jim Woodring: Brian Heater (The Daily Cross Hatch), #4; Gabby Schulz/Ken Dahl (Monsters), #4
• List: At Four Colours and the Truth, Tim Reinert names Drew Weing's Set to Sea one of his Favourite Comics of 2010: Best Original Graphic Novels: "A unique adventure story that skirts the line between high concept art book and ribald adventure tale quite well. Weing’s patient pacing, and unerring knack for maximizing panel space make him an interesting talent to watch out for."
• List: At The SF Site: Nexus Graphica, Mark London Williams and Rick Klaw each count down their Ten Best Comics of 2010 in tandem, in two parts covering #10-6 and #5-1 (with additional commentary from Mark at Guys Lit Wire):
• List: At Comikaze, Mauricio Matamores names Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 one of Los Mejores Cómics de 2010: "Published by Fantagraphics, this title presented top-notch storytelling by the Hernándezes and perfection with Xaime, specifically." (Translated from Spanish.)
• List: Also at Comikaze, Santiago Fernández names Yo maté a Adolf Hitler (I Killed Adolf Hitler) one of Los Mejores Cómics de 2010: "This [Norwegian] author seems to tell his story of time travel, Nazis and romance as though he were a 10 year old child, proof that this is a fun story even though it really is rather complex, complete with a message that provides sweetness. Great gift for the girlfriend." (Translated from Spanish.)
• Interview (Audio): Mark Herz of Connecticut NPR affilliate WSHU visits with Bill Griffith in his studio to talk all things Zippy
• Interview: Jason Toon of Woot! talks to Zack Carlson & Bryan Connolly about Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film: "We can't stop even now. It's become a depressing compulsion. We can't enjoy a movie the way you would. Actually, it went beyond watching movies. We got so immersed in what we were doing, when we'd take a break to go get a pizza and see a kid riding by on a skateboard with blue hair, we'd try to pause reality."
#4 - You'll Never Know, Book 2: Collateral Damage by C. Tyler: "The first volume of Tyler's planned trilogy appeared on this list last year, and she hasn't missed a step, fleshing out her father's time in World War II with fresh details about its long-term aftershocks on the home front."
#3 - It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "...French cartoonist Tardi's pitch-black World War I masterpiece, available in English for the first time. This is war as hourly apocalypse, Expressionist and agonizing."
#1 - Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 by the Hernandez Brothers: "The first two [issues] were typically excellent, but the third was jaw-dropping, largely because of 'Browntown,' a story by Jaime Hernandez. Like his brother Gilbert, Jaime has been so good for so long that it's become very easy to take his obvious genius for granted. 'Browntown' brought that skill into brutal relief, a devastating story of a secret left to fester. Expertly paced, with not a line wasted, it was one of the year's best stories in any medium, a stunner from a guy who keeps finding new peaks."
• List:Popdose's Johnny Bacardi (né David Allen Jones) names Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 one of his Best of 2010: "Featuring Jaime Hernandez's remarkable 'Browntown,' perhaps the best thing he's ever done. Which makes this absolutely essential."
• Review: "...The Littlest Pirate King is gorgeously illustrated and quite intriguing. David B. has an unusual style which tempers the creepiness of undead pirates with an almost goofy look; but then those cartoony characters grin as they run swords through people. It’s a very odd juxtaposition that matches the story well..." – Jonathan Liu, Wired – GeekDad
• Review: "...[Usagi Yojimbo] is probably one of the best comic stories ever made. The epic scope expected from historical fiction is there as are some of the most finely drawn characters in the medium. [...] While even the stories that are not particularly noteworthy are highly readable, the good stories in this collection are amazing. [...] I give this book the highest possible praises for quality." – J.A. Crestmere, Renderwrx Productions
• Review: "Destroy All Movies!!!, edited by Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly, not only gives an great anthology-like overview... but provides a strong focus on the talent and punk-brains behind the art. [...] It’s the perfect summation of a 1980s American society that didn’t know how to handle the punk uprising, and a film industry that capitalized on it." – Dave McKendry, Fangoria
• Review: "Fantagraphics has finally presented the work of one of comics' greatest mystery men in dignity with beautiful color reproduction and informative introductions. [... Unexplored Worlds] shows off Ditko's work after the Comics Code Authority came onto the scene and turned every lurid story of horror and 'the macabre' into some lame morality tale in which everyone has a nice time. Still there's some strong content in this book..." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Johnny's new book [FUC_ __U, _SS __LE] is full of the yucky yuks, barfy larfs, and gags-that-make-you-gag that have made this shock comicker the Artie Lange of drawn funnies! [...] Do you like comics where dangling nutsacks are mistaken for pinatas and rich people shove DVDs into midgets' butt cleavage which causes them to act out the movies? A comic where summoning a Garfield Satan is possible by using the Lasagnanomicon? A comic where a little girl shoots the homelees in the brain, grinds them up, and feeds them to skunks for Thanksgiving? You don't? Neither does anybody else. Eat my balls, JR." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "As with Ryan’s more recent work... the jokes [in FUC_ __U, _SS __LE] become have become more outrageous, absurd, disturbing and just plain odd. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends upon your appreciation for Prison Pit, not to mention your appreciation for Johnny Ryan’s comics in general. Me, I thought it was swell." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "Here’s another best of 2010 comics entry for you. Cathy Malkasian’s Temperance is like Franz Kafka’s The Castle meets Little House on the Prairie and goes drinking. No, it’s like rewriting Pinocchio as several Flannery O’Connor short stories, including (but not limited to) 'A Good Man Is Hard To Find' and 'Good Country People.' No, that’s not it either. [...] Anyway, it’s weird as hell. This stuff." – John Holbo, Crooked Timber
• Review: "Dosed with dry, mordant wit and just the right tone of macabre Ghost Train suspense Toys in the Basement is a simply terrific goose-bumpy thriller rendered magical by the wildly eccentric, brilliantly imaginative and creepily fluid artwork of Blanquet. This dark delight also has the perfect moral message for loot-hungry, attention-deprived youngsters – and their kids and grandchildren too." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview:The Daily War Drum talks to Stephen DeStefano about his Disney comics work and other topics: "I'm currently working on storyboards for Disney TV Animation, on a show called Kick Buttowski. I'm also drawing Spongebob Squarepants comic books, as well as drawing the second volume of my graphic novel (Volume One was published this past September) called Lucky in Love."
• KEXP's Chris Estey names 3 of our books among the Most Rocking Comix 2010:
"King of the Flies: 2. The Origin of the World... is the second volume in a three-book series on the creepy doings of a Twin Peaks-like small city seriously doped and boozed, thrashed by random violence and impulsive sexuality, the old deforming the desires of the young, and unfulfilled ghosts melt through everyday lives. [...] It is a multi-leveled, wide expanse of delicate things falling apart and souls keeping it together somehow, full of... sexy, damaged, freaky people. That you somehow care deeply for, even if they can’t help but hurt themselves, stalk each other, and screw with the universe itself."
"Illustrative Ibogaine, Woodring’s own cartoon-streamlined use of false world-obliviating imagery makes God’s invention of time seem like a quaint abstraction. [Weathercraft] is as necessary as Genesis by Robert Crumb, the Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, Philip K. Dick’s UBIK, The Art of War by Sun Tzu, and 2001: A Space Odyssey."
"A fantastical study in a Civil War, this exquisite graphic novel [Artichoke Tales] shows how wide-spread political conflict tears at the very fibers of our families and ourselves, the loops of antagonism between loyalties cursing generation after generation. Like the very best indie pop/rock (Bright Eyes, the National), its mastery is in seeming transcendent but revealing immense pain beneath every battle and rejection."
• Review: "It isn’t often that a reference book succeeds at being as entertaining as it is informative, but Destroy All Movies juggles both with masterful ease. The lengths they’ve gone to in order to identify any and all reference to punks or punk rock culture in film is staggering and makes the book the end-all-be-all of its esoteric subject matter. Even if you feel at arms length with the source material, I can assure you there is no shortage of insight and laughter to be gleaned from this glorious time capsule of sociological film knowledge." – Brian Salisbury, Hollywood.com
• Review: "By the time the narrative concludes (sadly in some respects, asking the big questions – ‘why do people leave?’ – thereby combining the lightness and comedy we’ve come to expect with that gradually darkening thoughtfulness that has been apparent even from the days of Sssshh! and Hey, Wait...) all you want to do is flick back to the start and start over again. So you do. [...] All told, Werewolves of Montpellier is easily as good as everything else Jason has produced. [...] You should check out Werewolves of Montpellier. In fact you should hastily work your way through Jason’s back catalogue... Consider it medicine for your soul." – Peter Wild, Bookmunch
• Review: "The suite of stories Gilbert Hernandez contributed to the relaunched, graphic-novel-format Love and Rockets: New Stories might be his most complex work yet. [...] It was only in reading Beto’s stories in all three volumes that the Chinese puzzle-box intricacy of what he’s doing here revealed itself to me. [...] All told, you could wrap these stories up between two covers and come up with a book of absolutely crushing intelligence, emotional heft, and visual power — a book among the best of Gilbert’s career." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Plug: "Seattle-based, world-slobbered, excellent comics and dazzling-arts publisher Fantagraphics is really going all out for their 4th Anniversary Party this Saturday, December 11, 2010. It will be thrown at their awesome store in Georgetown, and promises 'the season’s most festive party featuring amazing music, comix, art, and more!'" – Chris Estey, Three Imaginary Girls
• Plug: "The cartoonist and illustrator Rand Holmes, who died at Lasqueti Island eight years ago, created hippie hero Harold Hedd, one of the more memorable fictional characters of the 1960s. Among the cognoscenti, Mr. Holmes is a peer of R. (Mr. Natural) Crumb and Gilbert (Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers) Shelton. A 328-page retrospective [The Artist Himself] was released this summer by Fantagraphics Books." – Tom Hawthorn, The Globe and Mail
• List: Emily Pullen of fave L.A. bookstore Skylight Books names Stephen Dixon's What Is All This? as one of her Favorites from 2010: "I have a crush on this book: the cover, the paper, the heavy ink. Touch it. Read two stories. Try not to bring it home with you. Fail."
• Review: "The Complete Peanuts 1977-1978 showcases an era when Schulz's drawing was still at its peak, and his story-making skills were perhaps greater than ever before — there are many long continuities, and Schulz had developed a pleasing knack of segueing from one storyline to another, in the vein of the great adventure strips of his youth." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Review: "In The Troublemakers, Hernandez plays with notions of trust and betrayal, naïveté and suspicion. [...] Ultimately, The Troublemakers is a con-movie in comic-book form, well aware of itself, and quite enjoyable in its context. [...] If it were a film, it would be a schlocky guilty pleasure; but in Hernandez’s hands, The Troublemakers ascends to become a stylized and quirky mindtrip, a mishmash of betrayals and surprises, with many more twists than you’ll see coming." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Everything Burns draws seems molded from the same dark and shiny matter. [...] The climate of horror creeps in from the beginning of the narrative, but the author knows the exact time to surprise the reader. Violence is used in a measured way, unlike the majority of comics and films of the genre. Through works such as Skin Deep, Big Baby and Black Hole, Charles Burns is already regarded as one of the principal authors of horror comics of all time." – Gustavo Guimaraes, Ambrosia (translated from Portuguese)
• Review: "[The Littlest Pirate King]'s an engrossing story which is marred somewhat by another of those inconclusive endings which please some but only irritate me. The story's not really the show here anyway, though there is a lot of intellectual grist to mill in it — the quest to know and understand the whims and whys and wherefores of the divine being but one example. B's art is really something to see here; while cartoonish in a superficial sense, he displays a masterful command of composition and visual whimsy and many pages and panels adopt an expressionistic, almost Escher-like, complexity which thankfully does not hinder reading comprehension but rather enhances and illuminates, like all 'good' art should do. While I do wish it had a more definitive conclusion, this is still a visual treat and well worth checking out." – Johnny Bacardi, Popdose
• Review: "Tyler’s portrait of her family [in You'll Never Know, Book 2: Collateral Damage] is at once warm and unsparing; they have awful moments — drinking, bitterness, just plain cussedness (on everyone’s part — there are no saints here), but they also have the in-jokes and little celebrations that are such an important part of happy family life. She has a good ear for the way daughters talk about their mothers and the goofy humor of her parents’ generation — humor that even in real life, sometimes struck me as papering over something painful. Tyler shifts styles and points of view often, telling old and more recent stories in parallel, focusing on different family members, and changing her drawing and paneling styles to fit the topic." – Brigid Alverson, Robot 6
• Interview: At Bookslut, Sean P. Carroll, who writes "What Is All This?: Uncollected Stories... offers a fascinating perspective on [Dixon's] long dialogue with the short form. ...Dixon’s unmistakable style and experimentalism draws not only on his familiar New York City locale, but also includes unexpected digressions that offer ample evidence why he is one of our foremost practitioners of fiction. It is a masterful tome that exemplifies Dixon’s ability to transform the vagaries of the everyday into a lasting work of art," questions Dixon about the book: "Why did I rewrite all 62 stories? Originally there were about 80. I threw out about 20 of the stories of mine never in book form as not being worth republishing in book form. The 62 I did rewrite or finish, I thought worthy of book form, and I just wanted to either complete them as stories (the incomplete ones) or improve on the ones that had been in magazines."
• Plug: "Jason is still one of the comics medium’s leading artists, with a fantastic knack for visual storytelling before words. Continuing in the hardcover tradition of Almost Silent, What I Did collects three Jason favorites – 'Hey, Wait…' 'Sshhhh!' and 'The Iron Wagon' – into one elegantly bound book that will match perfectly on the shelf with the other omnibus-style compilations Fantagraphics has released for Jason." – Pads & Panels