Some major comics writing out there over the holiday weekend making for an extra-beefy (and late) Online Commentary & Diversions update:
•Review/Profile: "Sure I'd read [Hal] Foster before, but I'd never found a way in. Fortunately, Fantagraphics recently released Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-38, and I was able to absorb the material in a wholly new way.... I found this first book completely engrossing. Prince Valiant opens up a world that I wanted to stay in -- a wide-eyed early 20th century approach to fantasy with a now-vanished sincerity and wholesomeness. It's an all too rare pleasure in comics." - Dan Nadel, Comics Comics
• Review: "Medieval swordplay and adventure have never been as glorious as in Foster's Sunday-only comic strip. Although much reprinted (including an earlier version from the same publisher), this edition has been reproduced from pristine printer's proofs to give the gorgeous artwork its crispest version ever.... Foster's script is literate and full of vivid characterizations, like the headstrong but cunning Val and carefree Sir Gawain. But nothing surpasses his artwork—rich with details of armor, weapons and dress, the story comes to life with a palpable sense of magic and danger. Each drawing is a flawless illustration, perfectly composed; even a battle of 20 men comes alive in a tiny panel, with every action clearly delineated. Prince Valiant is one of the best-drawn comics ever, and this new edition does ample justice to its achievement." - Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "Underneath the screaming and plagues, the giddy joy that [Basil Wolverton] seems to take in his art radiates off the page, just like it does in his secular work.... His creatures from sci-fi and horror, his fascination with grotesque bodily exaggeration, his devout Christian faith -- here it all comes together into an operatic and apocalyptic peak.... The Wolverton Bible might seem like a paradox to its religious audience and its alt-comics fans -- even if Wolverton himself never saw the contradiction." - Martyn Pedler, Bookslut
• Review: "As an historical object, sure, great. I think it should be in print. Kurtzman was a very important figure in comics, and the art and design of the pieces here are of an exceedingly high quality. I'm glad I can see more examples of Jaffee's, Elder's and Davis' work." Otherwise, Chris Allen gives up on Humbug
• Review: Joe McCulloch of Jog - The Blog has a major review of Tardi & Manchette's West Coast Blues -- I've read through it three times and it's too complex for a simple pull quote
• History/preview/profile/analysis: "The 300th issue of The Comics Journal is soon to hit the stands, and the magazine everyone in comics loves to hate rattles on, chugging and sputtering and picking up disreputable beardy guys like a Toonerville Trolley of spite.... In some Inglourious Basterds-like alternate history, the 1990s ended with the twisted faces of Kim Thompson and Gary Groth hovering, laughing maniacally, over the charred and bullet-riddled corpse of Wizard magazine." - Shaenon K. Garrity, comiXology
• Analysis: du9 presents a new translation by Derik Badman of a 2006 piece by David Turgeon on Poison River by Gilbert Hernandez: "What first strikes the reader about this work is its narrative density. It isn’t uncommon for a single page to show as many places, times, and situations as there are panels." (Via Journalista)
• Interview: Jason Thibault of Optimum Wound talks to Tim Lane as part of their "Masters of Ink" series: "You do what seems the impossible and most absurd: you learn to breathe underwater, and revel in it. Get drunk on the water in your lungs. Cultivate a functional level of positive insanity. And develop tough skin. Stick with it if only because your reasons are inexplicable."
• Interview: The Daily Cross Hatch wraps up presenting Brian Heater's chat with Jordan Crane: "I was in Portugal and I saw a really tiny kid with a really giant cat. He looked exactly like the kid in The Clouds Above. The kid was so small that the cat was the same size as him — it’s not a big cat, but next to him, he was huge. And then I just kind of went from there."
• Plug: At Super I.T.C.H., Steven Johnston takes note of Humbug ("much of it is prime satire from the creators of MAD!") and The Wolverton Bible ("particularly including some genuinely horrific scenes from the Book of Revelations").
• Review: "From Wonderland with Love collects some of the last decade's best Danish comics in one big beautiful book.… You'll happily leave the book 'accidentally' lying around on your coffee table, as it is exquisitely designed and invites being leafed through and studied.… From Wonderland with Love at times is very avant-garde and goes where we are talking less comics and more comics-inspired art. But if you are ready to be challenged, it is hard not to be seduced by this work.… From Wonderland with Love might be a bit of an advertisement, but this exposure certainly is deserved, because why should the rest of the world be cheated out of such an assured demonstration of comic's many forms of expression and artistic potential?" - Christian Rasmussen, Litteraturnu (translated from Danish)
The Hernandez Brothers are back with the second eye-popping volume of Love and Rockets: New Stories, your annual 100-page dollop of all-new L&R material.
In the concluding 50-page half of Jaime’s outrageous, acclaimed, full-on superhero mash-up “Ti-Girls Adventures,” our protagonist, rookie do-gooder Boot Angel, learns more hard lessons about becoming a superheroine. Eventually, just about the entire cast gets together in a big family reunion that unexpectedly takes place in Maggie’s tiny, messy one-bedroom apartment.
Sandwiched between the concluding chapters of Jaime's story, Gilbert turns in two mind-benders of his own. “Hypnotwist” is Gilbert’s 39-page epic story of a beautiful, leggy redhead’s surreal journey into a night filled with mysterious shady characters, dreamlike violence, and sparkling retro spike heels. But is it real, or something else? For readers trying to parse the truth, Gilbert ups the ante by telling the whole story without using a single word. And "Sad Girl" (previewed in our 2009 Free Comic Book Day offering) is the tale of a disaffected young bombshell actress nicknamed "Killer" and the web of jealousy, gossip, notoriety and mystery that surrounds her.
A few Online Commentary & Diversions links, all killer no filler:
• Feature: Chris Mautner of Robot 6 kicks off that site's new "Comics College" column by giving an introduction to Love and Rockets, "one of the seminal titles... in shaping the sensibilities of the nascent indie scene." This article is a great complement to our own "How to Read Love and Rockets" feature
• Review: "It's been awhile since I've seen Gilbert do a story as deliberately oblique and enigmatic as this, given that much of what he's done of late has been either wrapping up the fates of his American-based Palomar characters or whipping up over-the-top noir/pulp thrillers. For Jaime, his first stories in the new version of L&R have been a return of sorts to his early Mechanics roots, only even more steeped in the fantastic. At the same time, his commanding storytelling prowess and greater subtlety directly inform this story, leading to some surprisingly poignant moments amidst sci-fi twists and costumed mayhem." - Rob Clough
• Review: "...West Coast Blues is a tight, economical and forceful thriller shorn of the self-consciousness that frequently comes when American comics mosey into the same territory... It's a wicked little book." - Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Analysis: "Besides being a beautifully done work of artistry and imagination, among particular crowds [Abstract Comics: The Anthology] spurs the question 'If these are comics, then what "are comics"?'" - Neil Cohn
• Analysis: For Comics Comics, Dash Shaw pens an appreciation of the work of Tim Hensley: "It’s like what he chooses to draw in the environment (and what he chooses not to draw) is determined by some graphic Feng Shui. When his comics are at their most beautiful, these environments function both as the story’s world and abstractly... With his best dialogue, a line that you first read as being surreally disconnected on a second reading is funny and on a third reading reveals a wider scope of the story."
• Review: "Yes, both of these books are like kryptonite to good taste. But there are a couple of big differences between what Johnny Ryan is doing in Comics Are for Idiots!, his latest Blecky Yuckerella strip collection, and what he's doing in Prison Pit, his ultraviolent action-comic debut... The four-panel Blecky strips often feel like a breakneck race to the punchline through some kind of bizarre obstacle course requiring the basic premise of the gag to get more ridiculous with each panel... Ryan's rep as altcomix's premier overgrown juvenile delinquent is well deserved--and don't get me wrong, you can absolutely enjoy Prison Pit on that level--but the poetic savagery he depicts here is the work of a grown-ass man." - Sean T. Collins
• Review: "[Delphine], Richard Sala's contribution to Fantagraphics's prestigious Ignatz Series, is some of his strongest and most personal work yet... He sets his pop-cultural influences aside this time to lead us down a grimmer path... As for the art -- well, what can I say? It's recognizably Sala's, and at the top of his game, but taken to the next level, in that the usual precision of his black-and-white work is here inflected with sepia washes that give an added visual dimension to the murkiness of the hero's experience... The heavy dustjackets, with such gorgeous full-color art not only front and back but on both big inside flaps, deliver a lush visual and tactile experience that no bonus gallery in a collection will be able to duplicate... By whatever route you get here, I highly recommend this." - Curt Purcell, The Groovy Age of Horror
• Review: "Even when she's not especially inspired, Dame Darcy creates superior goth comics: cheerfully mean-spirited, idiosyncratically stylish, and oozing with surreal ichor... In [Meat Cake #17], Darcy indulges her goth tropes and her feminism: men are tormented, sisterhood is affirmed, and light-hearted squick is relished by all. And, as always, Darcy's eccentric drawing is a joy, with perspective, proportion, and visual logic all flattened out to fit into geometrically obscure but oddly elegant patterns." - Noah Berlatsky, The Comics Journal (reprinted at The Hooded Utilitarian)
• Plug: "The big story here [in The Comics Journal #299] is Bob Levin's spectacular essay on Michel Choquette and his never-completed comics anthology... Sadly, the project never got off the ground, and Levin details in his typical stellar fashion why and how. It's a fascinating tale, one well worth your $12." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "This is a particularly excellent issue of TCJ, thanks to Bob Levin's magnificent 50-page... history of 'The Someday Funnies'... You really need to read it." - Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
• Interview: Seth continues discussing his design work for The Complete Peanuts in the final part of Brian Heater's interview at The Daily Cross Hatch: "Schulz’s work is right there in the book. Every line in those strips is his. But the design stuff is just design stuff. It’s a setting to put a gem in. The setting is not the gem."
• Things to see: At the Covered blog, Anthony Vukojevich does a Gilbert Hernandez Birdland cover
• Interview: Sean T. Collins's series of interviews with Marvel Strange Tales MAX contributors at Marvel.com continues with Johnny Ryan. The imagination reels: "Well, there was one joke, now that I think of it, with Galactus that had to be altered a little bit. I don't know if I should reveal the joke—it might ruin the experience. But it was this little detail for that joke that I initially put there, and they were like, 'Eh, can you change that a bit?'"
• Review: "...Tales Designed to Thrizzle... is not all tradition; it's largely a satire, a satire of a pulp fiction oeuvre that didn't take itself that seriously to begin with. Kupperman's humor — a mix of genre, non-sequitur and nonsense — is a kind of laughter in the void, wonderfully lucid and slightly sickening... That Kupperman so masterfully plays to and upsets expectation makes Thrizzle that much funnier and finer. With stunts such as a Twain & Einstein crime-fighting partnership, Kupperman is all goofball, all the time. But Kupperman's line, even in shaping locomotive-sized garden snails, is weighty. And the weight of five years of Thrizzle, is, well, as formidable as a locomotive-sized garden snail." - John Reed, Art in America
• Review: "The story [in Delphine] surrounded me and carried me away to a very real world. It's a cartooned, exaggerated world, but a real world nonetheless... The layouts are impeccable: very clear and superbly paced... I noticed that the story GREW in my mind when I took breaks from reading, allowing me to immerse myself in the story like a dream." - Frank Santoro, Comics Comics
• Review: "...Fletcher Hanks [was] one of the greatest comic book talents you’ve never heard of. Working in the earliest years of comics (1939-1941) Hanks’ contributions walked on the darker side of comic books in a way that managed to take on a timeless quality... In this collection is the work that makes Hanks so incredibly special to the world of comic books. The physiognomics of his evildoers, the strange retributions they suffer at the hands of the heroes, is all really powerful stuff... You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! is an incredible testament to what comic books were once capable of... If you want to understand the essence of comic books in their purest form then pick up You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! and learn." - Iann Robinson, Crave Online
• Plug: "The pieces in The Bradleys are broadly satirical and funny, marked by Bagge’s rubbery art style and a sarcastic tone that should appeal immediately to anyone with a prior awareness of The Simpsons or Looney Tunes. They’re also good stories, full of sharp observations about the impossible expectations that govern the dynamics of a nuclear family, as well as the way a good used Yardbirds record can make a crappy day better." - Noel Murray, The A.V. Club "Recommended First Comics"
• Plug: "All my exploration of the Moon/Ba axis came out of reading their pretty great Comics Journal interview in [#298]. I love it when an interview is so well-done that it convinces me to sample writers and artists whose work I haven't read before." - Alan David Doane, Comic Book Galaxy
...when FedEx drops off a big stack of Gilbert Hernandez artwork. Behold, the entirety of his next book, the "Fritz film adaptation" The Troublemakers. Drawn at size. Amazing. Our production maestro Paul Baresh will be scanning this tonight. Probably a late Fall/early Winter release. Cover painting by Rick Altergott.
The wait is over! Love and Rockets: New Stories #2, which debuted to a sell-out response at Comic-Con, is now available for pre-order. The second issue of L&R's new annual 100-page format features the conclusion of "Ti-Girls Adventures" by Jaime and two brand new stories, "Hypnotwist" and "Sad Girl," by Gilbert. You can download a 10-page PDF sneak peek, featuring 5 pages from each brother, at our product page, which also has all the other info you need to know about the book. Pre-order now for late-August delivery; it will be in stores in September (subject to change).
PLUS! We've reformatted Gilbert's striking cover image into a desktop & mobile wallpaper for your FREE enjoyment -- choose your size below!
San Diego hosts Comic Con International this week and every comics "insider" has an opinion about CCI and most of the opinions I hear are exasperated ones, heavy with a burned-out tone. Granted, I've only been to one year of Comic Con-- 2007-- but I loved it. I'm a guy who hates crowds but still I LOVE COMIC CON. Comic Con is filled wall-to-wall with people who are SO FUCKING EXCITED to be THERE. Everyone is excited just to be among comics and people who also like comics. Not that they know what to do with that energy-- it's still largely poorly-socialized individuals-- but they are EXCITED.
In fact, literally 10% or better of them are so excited that they even made a costume to show everyone how excited they are to be in this place. Probably more than that. I mean, some people you see and their queer pastiche of street clothes and odd baubles makes you wonder if they maybe started off at 5 in the morning donning a fantastically curated getup and then slowly, over breakfast and the drive down, began to question their confidence about walking around as a superhero so now they just have the appearance of someone who got off work, went to the gym, then a disco bar, and got too drunk to remember which clothes were for what. AND IT DOESN'T MATTER. The saggy guy still gets to walk among the throngs as Superman in public for a day, which is more than Clark Kent ever got to do.
Anyway, I love that energy. Even guys like Eric Reynolds, third arm at Fantagraphics, has gone to Comic Con every year for something like twenty years (except the one year his daughter was born) and he gets weary but, still, he loves it. He loves any opportunity to see masters of the medium, like the Hernandez Brothers. Here he is enjoying Gilbert's and Mario's company:
Of course, he'd say he loves all the Bros. equally but he clearly REALLY enjoys Jaime best:
The point is Eric's just another guy who loves comics in a sea of people who seriously love comics. And everybody there has the chance to talk with a hero.
In 2007 I got to meet Kevin Eastman, who was a ridiculously nice guy. He was supposed to contribute to BEASTS2 but I guess he didn't get my emails:
Even Steven Weissman got the chance to meet a hero. Here he is with Gwar or maybe it's just an S&M community theatre troop. I guess I'm not sure but he and the guy in underpants were both pretty happy to see each other:
But, alas, this year the Art Department of Fantagraphics Books (Adam Grano and I) are just too busy to trek down to The Con. Besides having too much work to do, we are spearheading the first ever Fantacon, which is mostly just him and me drinking a beer at lunch. But crowds are welcome.
NOTE: Thanks to Mike and Janice for the photo of the TMNT bus rolling into SD09.
This coming week Kevin Huizenga will be delivering the hotly-anticipated Ganges #3, featuring insomnia and cops. Expect this one to be released just in time to premiere at SPX in late September, and then show up in stores in late October/early November. Here is a preview!
Next up, likely to be released toward the end of the year, is a double whammy of Niger #3 by Leila Marzocchi (check out the cover of this wild ecological fable), and the fourth and concluding installment of Ponchione's Grotesque (with another standalone story). Then Spring 2010 will, if everything goes well, see the release of the fourth issue of Igort's cartoonist-graphic-novel-a-clef Baobab; the fourth (and concluding) issue of Gabriella Giandelli's hard-to-pronounce magical apartment building story Interiorae; and the third issue of Zak Sally's otherworldly picaresque Sammy the Mouse.
Missing in action at this point, alas, are new issues of the Gipi series Wish You Were Here and Marti 's Calvario Hills, as both cartoonists are focusing on other work at this time, but we're keeping our fingers crossed there will be a new issue of David B.'s Babel sometime in 2010.
Of course, if you've missed picking up any of these issues in the past (including the already concluded three-issue series New Tales of Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez, Reflections by Marco Corona, and Insomnia by Matt Broersma), remember, any comic you haven't read yet is a new comic...