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
#10: A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio: "Ten spooky, perceptive stories of girls and ghosts in trouble from one of the masters of shojo manga, who has her work translated into English for the first time."
#5: Set to Sea by Drew Weing: "He may look like a big lug, but he’s got dreams of the ocean and the heart of a poet. The hero of Weing’s salty debut sails off to adventure in this pocket-size sea-shanty of a graphic novel."
#1: Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley: "A candy-colored absurdist comedy about a teen so wealthy he barfs $100 bills, this ridiculously enjoyable book reads like Richie Rich on LSD."
• List:NPR's Glen Weldon names Cathy Malkasian's Temperance one of "The Year's Most Transporting Books": "Amnesia also plays a role in Cathy Malkasian's huge, haunting — and hauntingly beautiful — graphic novel Temperance. [...] Malkasian's plot is loose and elliptical, and she pokes at many of the same salty psychological truths that made the Brothers Grimm so grim; lies, guilt and violence buffet her characters about like gale-force winds. You won't know where the story's going, but Malkasian's pages are gorgeous, sweetly melancholic things, and you'll enjoy the trip."
• Review: "...[One of the] Books of the Year... An expansive allegorical fable, ...Temperance speaks to our times with prophetic pointedness. [...] A uniquely imaginative book, Temperance is an example of how a sepia-toned pencil can sing." – Neel Mukherjee, The Times
• List: At Attentiondeficitdisorderly, Sean T. Collins names Prison Pit Book 2 by Johnny Ryan one of his Comics of the Year of the Day, saying "take how you felt during the baseball-bat scene in Casino, then make a book out of it."
• List: British cartoonist Matt Brooker offers up his Best of the Year at the Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, including 2009's You Are There by Jacques Tardi & Jean-Claude Forest: "Alongside Mœbius’ The Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius, this is the defining classic of 1970’s Bande Dessinee, but unlike The Airtight Garage you really need to be able to read the dialogue to make it worth owning… this first English translation has been much too long coming, so I was delighted to be able to read You Are There at last. It was originally conceived as a screenplay, and reads like one of those particularly mad Sixties films (like Peter Sellers’ Casino Royale or The Magic Christian) of which I’m so unreasonably fond."
• Review: "The always-superb Jason too has a book out this year: Werewolves of Montpellier. Droll, laconic as always, dry as drought, and hilarious and sympathetic in equal measures... A mad, lovely and bright book." – Neel Mukherjee, The Times
• Review: "While we’re on the subject of Jason, it wouldn’t do to leave out a mention of Almost Silent, a deluxe collection of four of his earlier books... The book is worth searching out for [You Can’t Get There From Here] alone. It’s the longest story in the book and is a retelling of the Frankenstein story as a love triangle without words, set off by a Greek chorus-type duet between two hunchbacks." – Neel Mukherjee, The Times
• Review: "Destroy All Movies is a product of the tireless DIY work ethic: It is one of the most painstaking books ever written on punk rock. As such, it stands in the rarified league of Banned in DC, Fucked Up & Photocopied, and the long out-of-print masterpiece Loud 3D. Carlson and Connolly have managed to make a volume with both intellectual relevance and deep entertainment value. And if you don't have time to actually read through all 1,000 entries, it's still a blast just to look at." – Sam McPheeters, Bookforum
• Plug: On the Matablog, Matador Records co-founder Gerard Cosloy says "If I celebrated Xmas and/or hadn’t already purchased a copy, I’d be asking Satan Santa for the newly published Destroy All Movies!!!..." and calls it an "amazing tome" (link via our own Janice Headley)
• Plug: "This book is out of control. [...] The research that went into [Destroy All Movies!!!] is unfathomable. They even tracked down every instance of a punk in a made-for-TV movie. The mind boggles. And then the mind puts on a Crass album and head butts some prep in the face." – Kyle Olson, The Hipster Book Club "2010 Holiday Gift Guide"
• Review: "Castle Waiting’s a pleasant, upbeat series, a great way to spend a quiet afternoon. If you’re looking for high adventure and action, it’s not here. This series is exploring the quiet places and the emotional beats that exist just beyond the screaming and bloodshed, and it’s doing so with style and wit. Castle Waiting comes highly recommended." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "EC was not the only company putting out good horror comics in the 1950s. Fantagraphics’ Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s shines the spotlight on some of the other comic publishers who were putting out great horror comics back then. [...] As great as the stories are perhaps the best feature is the 20 page note section that provides details behind each of the 40 stories in the book with fantastic anecdotes. There is also an index to all the companies publishing horror comics with a listing of titles and issue numbers making this a fantastic resource. Grade A+" – Tim Janson, Mania
• Review: "Since continuity usually plays second fiddle to the avalanche of inventive ideas, the strips can be read in almost any order and the debauched drunkenness, manic ultra-violence in the manner of the best Tom & Jerry or Itchy & Scratchy cartoons, acerbic view of sexuality and deep core of existentialist angst (like Sartre ghostwriting The Office or perhaps The Simpsons) still finds a welcome with Slackers, Laggards, the un-Christian and all those scurrilous, lost Generations after X. [...] If you’re the kind of fan who thrives on gorge-rousing gags and mind-bending rumination this is a fantastic and rewarding strip, one of the most constantly creative and entertaining on the market today and this latest collection [Little Maakies on the Prairie] is one of the very best yet. If you’re not a fan of Maakies this is the ideal chance to become one and if you’re already converted it’s the perfect gift for someone what ain’t…" – Win Wiaceck, Now Read This!
• Review: "This series is a non-stop rollercoaster of action and romance, blending realistic fantasy with sardonic wit and broad humour with unbelievably stirring violence, all rendered in an incomprehensibly lovely panorama of glowing art. Beautiful, captivating and utterly awe-inspiring Prince Valiant is a World Classic of storytelling, and this magnificent deluxe [Volume 2] is something no fan can afford to be without. If you have never experienced the majesty and grandeur of the strip this astounding and enchanting premium collection is the best way possible to start and will be your gateway to a life-changing world of wonder and imagination." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "One could easily spend hours thinking of the hard concepts Kelso brings into the book without ever hitting the reader over the head with any of them. It's a sign of her storytelling ability that we get all of this without it ever feeling like she's preaching to me. [...] Artichoke Tales, at its heart, is about how complex the world is, with no one quite able to figure things out. ...I thought this was a well-crafted book that shows the human side of a conflict. It's a sad tale, but one worth reading." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Chris Mautner has a very informative chat with our own Kim Thompson about our new line of all-ages Eurocomics books: "Well, to be honest, I’m not sure how many kids will actually be reading this. It’s hard to get kids interested in comics, and foreign comics are even tougher. I’d welcome kids reading it but I’m assuming 98% of the audience will be grown-ups who dig this particular material. That said, I’m always a little baffled by how sensitive grown-ups are about kids’ material."
• Interview: At AfterEllen, Ariel Schrag talks to Gabrielle Bell: "I definitely prefer reading fiction to reading comics, except for a very small percentage of comics. And when I was a teenager I wanted to be a fiction writer. I’m much more interested in films, too. I feel like I’m more interested in the potential of comics, rather than what they’ve already accomplished, whereas with films and novels I’m interested in what they’ve already accomplished."
Our own Kim Thompson was interviewed about our Prince Valiant series this morning by host Patrick Neas on Kansas City's classical station KXTR, who provided us with an MP3 of the session (5.26 MB) to share with you! (Note that the contest mentioned at the end of the interview is over.)
(Above: the cover to Volume 3, coming in February/March 2011!)
• Review: "Greg Sadowski‘s excellent Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s (Fantagraphics Books) was the first of a quartet of books on horror comics to surface this fall, and for my money, it’s arguably the most invaluable of the bunch. [...] There are some real revelations here, and I can tell you that this hardcore horror comics scholar/collector/creator is eternally grateful for all that Sadowski and Benson have added herein to a richer knowledge of these unique comics and this grossly misrepresented and misunderstood period in comics history. With an eye toward entertaining fully as well as curating, Sadowski’s greatest accomplishment here is making Four Color Fear such a fun and engaging read, cover-to-cover. [...] In this, Sadowski brings far more care to his anthology than any of the original editors of these comics seemed to; the cumulative effect, at times, is intoxicating, and the ways in which both the individual art styles and the narrative content are woven into a satisfying tapestry are often witty, sly and insidious. There’s a lot of smart work, here, and as a result it’s a super read for everyone, whether you’ve never before sampled this era’s strange fruit or are (like me) a long-time fan and collector." – Steve Bissette, The Schulz Library Blog
• Review/Interview: "That meeting place between responsible parenting and letting your kids love monsters is at the heart of the new graphic novel Rip M.D.... The parental dilemma (just how much horrific stuff should we let our kid get into?) is mined as a story point, while the book itself serves as a family-friendly gateway to gruesomeness. ..[T]the story focuses on Ripley’s personal growth as he accepts responsibility for these monstrous misfits. It’s a legitimately positive message delivered via a story about creatures, all of which sits close to Schauer’s heart. 'I grew up an only child, predominantly surrounded by adults,' Schauer recalls. 'I had to find something to entertain myself. It turned out to be monsters. [...] I’m trying to pull from the emotion I felt when I first saw those classic monsters, not as something to fear but something that was misunderstood.' [...] Rip M.D. doesn’t skimp on the macabre while reinforcing the ideal of an understanding family and the importance of not passing judgment on society’s outcasts…at least until you know them well enough to deliver an informed diagnosis." – Jack Bennett, Fangoria
• Review: "In High Soft Lisp, Gilbert traces the relationship history of Fritz Martinez, the ultimate sex goddess in a career full of them, and in so doing reveals that her every fetish outfit and sexual free-for-all is fruit from the poisoned tree. Lots of characters in this book enjoy the living shit out of Fritz’s sexuality, not least Fritz herself, but to a man and woman they’re revealed to be creepily predatory about it, embracing the worst in themselves and encouraging the worst in Fritz. And here’s the thing: What have we been doing over the hundreds of pages we’ve spent watching Fritz adorably and kinkily fuck her way through the post-Palomar cast of Beto’s comics? What has Beto been doing? What does that say about all of us?" – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Review: "Mome... is where the smart kids with the sharpest pencils, shiniest pens, biggest brushes and best software go to play before they blow your minds in great big award-winning graphic novels. It is intense, sometimes hard to read and crafted to the highest production standards. This volume signals five incredibly impressive years and the eclectic graphic mix presented here augurs well for the next fifty… Whether you’re new to comics, fresh from the mainstream ghettos or just need something new, Mome always promises — and delivers — a decidedly different read." – Win Wiaceck, Now Read This
• Interview:Bef got two minutes with Jaime Hernandez
• Plug: In the head-scratchingest gift guide ever, Tom Mason of Comix 411 suggests our Prince Valiant volumes as a wedding gift for Prince William: "One or two volumes would be nice for the royal couple. They can pretend it’s history."
• Review: "Tardi's art [in The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec Vol. 1] well deserves the praise that he's a grandmaster of comics. It's detailed, expressive, authentic, and distinctive. His world-building is thorough, the setting established through both background art and scene selection. Frequent recaps keep the reader up to speed, while emphasizing how amusingly convoluted everything quickly becomes. Tardi knows the conventions of this kind of rollicking, complicated adventure, and the story points out how ridiculous they are at the same time it's engaging in them." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "Jason is a Norwegian living in France; the Montpellier of the title [Werewolves of Montpellier] is his adopted home. This biographical trivia might suggest that this is his most personal work yet, but if it is, it’s only in the sense that his personal vision of comics is running on all cylinders here; while nothing he’s put out (in English, anyway) has been bad, he’s continually refining his sensibility, and this is Jason at his most Jason." – Jonathan Bogart, FA
• Review: "Fantagraphics has always been the industry leader in getting old comic strips back into print..., and while their Prince Valiant reprints from the 1990s were wonderful at the time, this new edition is the best the strip has looked since it was originally printed on Sunday broadsheets in the 1930s and 40s. With Foster’s original colors — and he was as brilliant and forward-thinking in his use of color as he was brilliant and medium-changing in his black-and-white drawing — and a strong, heavy binding, these are archival editions, the sort of books that should be passed down to the next generation." – Jonathan Bogart, FA
• Interview: At The Daily Cross Hatch, it's the penultimate installment of Brian Heater's chat with Jaime Hernandez: "It’s very difficult for me when people ask me to do a talk or an example of a page—how I break down a page and stuff like that. It’s not that easy for me. There are teachers and there are doers—I’m a doer. I don’t know how this stuff happens, it just spills out of me, it’s that kind of thing. [...] I don’t want to fight that, because I’m afraid it will ruin it and it will change it, or my art won’t be that distinctive. I’d rather just leave that to the gods."
• Reviews: At Vice, it's time for another installment of "Nick Gazin's Comic Book Witch Hunt":
"Name a funnier comic than Popeye. Wrong, idiot, there isn’t one. Not only is Popeye the best ever, but this volume of Fantagraphics Popeye series is the best one yet. Oh yeah? Name a better one. Wrong. ... Like most great strips, Popeye has a strong philosophy. That philosophy is the world’s full of crooks. I wish there was a real Popeye to enforce some sort of rough fist-justice but I’m pretty sure there’s no justice and there’s certainly no Popeye, just crooks."
"The original [Prince Valiant] was a giant Sunday page with some of the greatest illustrations ever done. The colors in the latest reprint series are so superior to those in the previous printings that the old ones might as well have been in black and white. This shit is tremendous. ... Get this book or I’ll get you."
"I keep waiting for the quality of the comics in these [Complete Peanuts] books to take a sharp downturn but it hasn’t hit yet. ... So many personality types that I find in adult life were first found in these comics."
"Jason returns with another really good comic [Werewolves of Montpellier]... Jason uses just a few lines but his aesthetics are super superior and he can express intense emotions with simplicity."
"...[T]he art and colors [in Captain Easy Vol. 1] are mind bogglingly beautiful. It’s like Darger. Beautiful candy-colored lunacy."
• Review: "Dungeon Quest: Book One offers an interesting and amusing read, full of lots of laughs about youth and nerd culture, with a surprising layers of sardonic social commentary folded in for good measure." – Jordan Magill, San Francisco Book Review
• Review: "...I had more fun reading this book than just about any other comic I’ve read so far this year. ... There’s a sort of Hergé-like mechanical perfection to his artwork; not only is it super-clean and super-crisp, but the panel-to-panel consistency is so strong that his characters sometimes don’t look drawn so much as stamped out by some sort of automatic drawing machine. ... Steve and Millennium Boy are funny — sometimes on purpose, sometimes not — and it’s a pleasure to walk around with them. ... I haven’t played an RPG since I was a teenager, but I think I’d play a Dungeon Quest one in a heartbeat." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
• Review: "This amazing, sweeping epic... spans decades of time and hundreds of miles of geography, and it deals with no less than war, fear, religion, trust, memory, violence and the mysterious, barely understood ways in which these broad, vague emotions are used to form communities and society, and/or how they can tear them apart. ... I can’t recommend Temperance highly enough. It’s a book that everyone should read, and then reread." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
• Review: "If the message and method of delivery seem simple, the artwork is anything but. In that regard, Set to Sea is the comics equivalent of good poetry. It’s not what’s being said so much as how beautifully Weing’s saying it." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Las Vegas Weekly
• Review: "Combining the utterly irresistible power of nostalgia and insatiable curiosity with science-fiction, conspiracy theory, urban history, fact and legend, show-biz razzmatazz, supernatural horror, Film Noir and a highly developed sense of the meta-real, [in The Search for Smilin' Ed] Deitch once more weaves an irresistible spell that charms, thrills and disturbs whilst his meticulous drawing holds the reader in a deceptively fluffy, yet inescapable grip." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This! (via Bill Kartalopoulos)
• Review: "Widely acknowledged as the greatest adventure strip ever created, Prince Valiant is also arguably the best comic strip in that medium’s history. However, reprint collections have failed to truly capture the beauty and consummate artistry of Hal Foster’s creation…until now, that is. ...[T]his new Fantagraphics edition goes beyond simply correcting the shortcomings of past reprints — in truth, it is more of a revelation than a mere restoration. ... Ultimately, Prince Valiant is much more than a series of fantastic adventures in some legendary era; rather, it is a depiction of the making of a fully rounded and realized human being. ... Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant is a story to be read and cherished — today, tomorrow, always." – ForeWord Reviews
• Review: "With this second hardcover collection, Fantagraphics allows gives fans of the character much reason to rejoice. Thanks to the use of the original proof sheets (and the marvels of modern printing technology), these strips look better than they did when originally published. ... Wherever Prince Valiant goes, adventure follows and every bit of it is breathtakingly beautiful thanks to the work of the legendary Hal Foster. ... I don’t know that I can put into words what I have witnessed on the printed page, but I do know this: If you have any interest in this medium we call sequential art, whether as a fan, a historian or someone who hopes to make a living as an artist, you probably ought to pick up some of Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant. ... There are not enough words in the English language to describe how stunningly beautiful the artwork is in these comics. If there was ever any doubt about whether or not comics are art, an afternoon spent with Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant should put those doubts to rest to anyone with a functioning pair of eyeballs. ... I couldn’t put the thing down and had to tear myself away from it, as I quickly found myself carrying the book around with me and devouring it during every moment of free time. If you like adventure and you like art, you gotta pick yourself up some Prince Valiant. It sets the standard for both. Grade: A" – Chad Derdowski, Mania
• Interview:Anime News Network's Carlo Santos talked with Moto Hagio at Comic-Con International: "For true manga connoisseurs, the real highlight of Comic-Con 2010 was not a movie preview or a celebrity sighting, but simply being in the presence of a living legend. In this interview, Hagio sits down to share the wisdom of her years as an artist, with renowned manga scholar Matt Thorn interpreting." Sample quote: "In any generation, there's only a limited number of artists who can do science fiction well. The biggest challenge of doing science fiction is that, since it's not based in reality ... in order to bring readers into it, you need to have sufficient vision to create an attractive story."
I thought I could keep up with Online Commentary & Diversions while at Comic-Con. Ha ha ha ha ha.
• Coming Attractions: At Robot 6, Chris Mautner takes a look through the 46 (!!!) upcoming books listed in our Fall/Winter catalog (note: listed release dates may no longer be accurate and are all subject to change)
• History/Profile/Review: "What A Drunken Dream reveals is an author whose childhood passion for Frances Hodgson Burnett, L.M. Montgomery, and Isaac Asimov profoundly influenced the kind of stories she chose to tell as an adult. ... For those new to Hagio’s work, Fantagraphics has prefaced A Drunken Dream with two indispensable articles by noted manga scholar Matt Thorn. ... Taken together with the stories in A Drunken Dream, these essays make an excellent introduction to one of the most literary and original voices working in comics today. Highly recommended." – Katherine Dacey, The Manga Critic
• Review: "Anyone interested in the historical development of manga and the women who’ve contributed to the art form should read this book. I hope A Drunken Dream sells well enough for Fantagraphics or other publishers to consider putting out some of Hagio’s longer works. Her short stories are great, but I’d love to see what she does with a longer storyline." – Anna Neatrour, TangognaT
• Plug: "What Osamu Tezuka is to shonen and seinen manga, Moto Hagio is to shojo manga -- a true innovator who challenged and stretched the conventions of the medium by created touching, memorable and truly artistic comics stories. ... Fantagraphics had copies of the absolutely gorgeous hardcover edition of A Drunken Dream available for sale at their [Comic-Con] booth..." – Deb Aoki, About.com: Manga
• Interview:The Comics Journal's Shaenon Garrity sat down with Moto Hagio & translator Matt Thorn for a conversation at Comic-Con International: "I find it very embarrassing to read my very early work, but when you see the stories arranged chronologically it gives a good overall impression of my career. In Japanese, too, it’s common to present an author’s works in a sample spanning his or her whole career, so it’s turned out very much like that."
• Review: "Deadpan dialogue, drawings that move from panel to panel with the strange and deliberate force of kung fu performance art, and a subtle interweaving of humor and angst come together to make [Werewolves of Montpellier] a brief knockout of a book." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "...[T]his cartwheeling shaggy-dog story begins, like a lot of metafiction, with the semblance of reality... But by the time a frog demon reanimates a 19th-century French peasant whose brains it has eaten, it’s fairly clear that Deitch is making stuff up. The fun of [The Search for Smilin' Ed] is the way it constantly darts back and forth across the line between genuine show-business lore (a favorite Deitch theme) and delirious whole-cloth invention. There are stories within stories, unreliable explainers, secret passageways that lead from one part of the tale to another." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "Wally Gropius is a book that’s constantly lying to the reader, with a terrifying chaos roiling just immediately below its surface. The book is a flood of visual and textual information, but the information itself is near constantly false. ... For me, it’s a book that lies constantly, that lies at its very core, but that nevertheless ends up getting at a greater truth of things. And so, yeah: I thought that was pretty neat." – Abhay Kholsa, The Savage Critics
• Review: "There’s more derring-do [in Prince Valiant Vol. 2: 1939-1940] than you can shake a sword at! Foster’s stories are filled with vivid, colorful characters, none more engaging than the aptly named Valiant and his never-ending quest for adventure. The artwork is breathtaking. Foster’s figures are handsome and graceful whether eating a sumptuous feast or fighting on a crowded battlefield. ... Even if the age of chivalry is not your flask of ale, Foster’s art and storytelling will win you over." — Rich Clabaugh, The Christian Science Monitor
• Review: "This book is why Fantagraphics is one of the best and most important comic publishers in the business today. [Blazing Combat] is a series that could have easily been forgotten to the ages but Fantagraphics always is at the forefront of making sure important works of sequential art are remembered. ... This is a brilliant collection of stories that should be required reading. Intelligent, gripping stories and fantastic art! Grade A +" – Tim Janson, Mania and Newsarama
• Review: "Formally inventive and emotionally acute, Bottomless Belly Button indeed proves to be all those things: as fascinating and affecting a depiction of family ties as Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections or Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums." – Ed Park, Los Angeles Times
• Plugs: Alex Carr of Amazon's Omnivoracious blog has Weathercraft by Jim Woodring ("I am woefully ignorant when it comes to Woodring’s Frank comics, and this looks like the weirdest place to start") and Dungeon Quest Book 1 ("After The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, I will read anything Joe Daly produces") on his summer vacation reading list
• History: For the Los Angeles Times, Ben Schwartz compiles an oral history of the 1980s heyday of L.A. alternative comics with Matt Groening, Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez, David Lynch (!), and Gary Panter
• Review: "Exploration, thankfully, is precisely what Weathercraft is all about. Woodring’s latest graphic novel is a deep exploration of Unifactor, through looking glasses, behind tears in the world’s fabric, under sea and into space, this time all experienced through the beady eyes of Frank’s principle antagonist, Manhog." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Interview: At Newsarama, Michael C. Lorah discusses Weathercraft with Jim Woodring: "This is Manhog’s book. He’s a more interesting character than Frank in a lot of ways. He’s deep, whereas Frank is bottomless."
• Review: "Fantagraphics has done the world the great service of reprinting Basil Wolverton's Culture Corner... [T]hese strips will delight any Wolverton fan with their characteristic doggerel, gratuitous violence, and slapstick humor that pokes fun at the American self-improvement genre. ... [T]he Fantagraphics edition is well worth the price: it's a handsomely bound item, augmented with the sketches and a nice essay by Wolverton's son." – Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
• Review: "Foster’s humorous, quick-moving stories charge relentlessly forward. ... Whether Val is plotting a way to upend a larger force or enjoying good times with old friends, Foster’s twist-laden narrative comes across with a casual warmth, as if telling of merry adventures around a campfire. Similarly, Foster’s detailed renderings enforce the earthy grounding of Prince Valiant and his cohorts. ... The artistry, the witty and creative plot twists, and the evocative and charming characters all make for a truly timeless, and utterly enjoyable adventure comic strip experience. Any reader who appreciates the innocent high adventure of yore needs to get on board with Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant." - Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Interview: Mark L. Miller of Ain't It Cool News discusses Werewolves of Montpellier with Jason: "The opening concept, the guy who dresses up as a werewolf and then is chased by real werewolves, I had in my mind a long time. I thought it was a fun, silly concept. But something was missing. It was only when I got the idea to mix it with an Audrey Hepburn movie that the story really took off."
• Interview in the future:Matt Thorn wants to know what you'd like him to ask Moto Hagio at her spotlight panel at Comic-Con