Presidents Day does not stop the Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "In Hernandez’s hands, [The Troublemakers] unspools on the page like a Russ Meyer production, from the in-your-face nudity, right down to the cartoony violence played for laughs. ...[I]t sure is fun." — Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: "Even if I finally accepted that [Sublife Vol. 2] did not answer any of my questions from the first volume... I still admired the growth in Pham’s work on display between the two volumes. Volume 2 shows a terrific range, beginning a Clowes-like opening series of strips about a murderous blogger with an under-read blog that shows a biting wit not on display in the first volume. The tour de force of the volume is the second piece, which picks up (for those paying incredibly scrupulous attention) on a deep space adventure from the inside covers of Volume 1. Here Pham lets his instincts for architectural design sense take off in a trippy sequence that is pure pleasure to look at. ... In some ways — in many ways actually — the first two volumes of Sublife evoke memories of the early volumes of Acme Novelty Warehouse [sic]. And that could be a very good thing." – Jared Gardner, The Comics Journal
• Review: "...I am delighted to report that The Great Anti-War Cartoons offers an impressive showcase of political cartooning. Many of its contributors have never had their work reprinted with as much care. Even the most well-informed reader will stumble across pieces they have never seen or names they have never heard of." – Kent Worcester, The Comics Journal
• Review: "[There are] ...a number of strong stories to be found here [in Mome Vol. 17], and a number of rewards to be gained by those who were following serials like Paul Hornschemeier’s 'Life With Mr. Dangerous' or the second chapters of the stories done by Renee French and Ted Stearn." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Interview:Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s editor Michael Dowers talks to Robot 6's Tim O'Shea: "I want people to see that if you believe in something hard enough and never give up that you can get somewhere in life. Here is a group of creative types who couldn’t take no for an answer and made their own world of comics."
• List: At The Comics Journal, the back half of Rob Clough's Top 50 Comics of 2009 includes:
#29, The Complete Peanuts 1971-1972 by Charles Schulz: "Twenty-two years into his run on this strip, Schulz was still at his peak even as Peanuts was moving into a new phase."
#31, Mome Vol. 14: "The most consistently excellent anthology in comics, issue after issue."
#39, Uptight #3 (misidentified as #2) by Jordan Crane: "Both [stories] were perfectly suited for this lo-fi yet gorgeously designed comic..."
#43, The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book by Joe Daly: "Daly didn’t create just a story or a set of characters, but an entire community for readers to wander around in and become comfortable with. Equal parts Tintin and The Big Lebowski, this was a stoner detective story, with all sorts of absurd events popping up in everyday life and eventually making a kind of sense."
#46, Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me by Peter Bagge: "This is Bagge-as-Mencken, trenchantly tearing apart stupid ideas from both the left and the right and doing it while actually going out into the field, gathering facts, and talking to people. His hyper-expressive style was a perfect fit for his over-the-top political commentary."
And finally, #50, Love and Rockets: New Stories #2 by Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez: "Jaime’s conclusion to 'Ti-Girls Adventures' managed to combine rip-snorting action and compelling character work. Gilbert’s 'Hypnotwist' was both a callback to his New Love-style weirdness and yet another entry in his 'pulp movie' adaptations. ...[I]t’s clear both brothers were having such a good time following their impulses."
• Review: "Abstract Comics: The title is, in itself, a manifesto. It makes official the existence of these strange objects that some will reject as a contradiction in terms: 'abstract comics.' ... In the abstract comics gathered by Molotiu, sequential ordering produces nothing on the order of a story; but solidarity between the panels is established (in more or less convincing and seducing fashions) in another mode — plastic, rhythmic and so to speak musical. Personally, I do not refuse to make a place for these creations in the field of comics, because I wish that field to be as open and as diversified in its expressions as possible, without excluding anything a priori. Nevertheless, I still note that they have closer affinities with the operating modes of contemporary art that with the ordinary ambitions of drawn literatures." – Thierry Groensteen, Neuvieme Art (excerpt and translation by Andrei Molotiu at the Abstract Comics Blog)
• Review: "Perhaps the best adjective I could employ to describe Castle Waiting would be 'homey.' It’s all about the pleasures of home and the relief of being amongst family who accept you, even if they don’t happen to be related to you or even entirely human. ... Taken on the surface, it’s a perfectly cozy and enjoyable story. If one decides to delve more deeply, themes of tolerance and equality can be found gently at work, though by no means do they take precedence over the characters. Lest all of this sound a bit too quaintly domestic, let me assure you that the story is also quite funny." – Michelle Smith, Soliloquy in Blue
#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.