You can add one more posthumous laurel to Hal Foster's already-impressive pile of achievements: New York Times Best Selling Author. Prince Valiant Vol. 4: 1943-1944 shows up at #8 on this week's Hardcover Graphic Books top 10 list. It comes as no surprise to us: we've been selling out multiple printings of the series as fans old and new have been snapping the books up. What else would you expect from one of the greatest comics of the last (or any) century?
• Review: "One of the greatest comic strips of all time and a peak in visual splendor and breath-taking adventure, the story of Prince Valiant's 30+ year odyssey is getting a marvelous presentation in Fantagraphics' series of books, which just reached Volume 4.... What might surprise modern readers is the relative complexity of Valiant, who grows and matures subtly over the years. The strip is violent, sexy, serious, droll and above all eye-catching.... The pleasure of how solidly and carefully [these volumes] are made is part of the pleasure of reading them. You feel like a little kid as you prop the giant volume up and literally dive into the tale that fills your vision, much as kids and adults did more than 70 years ago. It's a worthy presentation for one of the most important and entertaining works in comic strip history." – Michael Giltz, The Huffington Post
• Interview:Vice's Liz Armstrong talks with Ron Regé Jr. about his upcoming book The Cartoon Utopia: "I'm not interested in making a bunch of storyboards or writing a script. Comics are the visual representation of language. So comics are the most ancient and the most vital and most important art form that humanity has ever known. It's also the oldest. Cave paintings, having the form of an image that represents an idea, is what comics are. I wrote an essay called, 'Fuck Other Forms of Art.'"
• Interview (Audio): Speaking of Mike Dawson-hosted podcasts, John Kerschbaum sits in on the new episode of The Ink Panthers with Dawson and co-host Alex Robinson
• Culture: Jeet Heer reports on the Iowa Comics Conference at The Comics Journal, featuring the Hernandez Brothers, Joe Sacco, Gary Groth and others. On the new issue of Love and Rockets: New Stories: "Everyone, of course, has been raving about Jaime’s story in this issue, which like the magnificent 'Browntown' in L&R #3 is one of best comics ever done. I’ll freely confess that at the end of the new issue when I saw how Jaime had tied together the fates of Hopey, Maggie, and Ray I started crying like a baby. ...Gilbert’s recent comics have the protean energy and relentless will to reinvention that rivals the Crumb of Weirdo and Hup."
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins spotlights Heer's article and adds his own thoughts: "The only thing more striking than the fact that Jaime set this career-defining hurdle for himself is that he freaking cleared it.... It's worth noting that in his contribution to New Stories #4, Gilbert takes Fritz to a place of potential finality not unlike the one that his brother Jaime's leading players occupy at the end of 'The Love Bunglers.' Yeah, it’s really quite a comic."
• Analysis: At Robot 6, Matt Seneca examines page 89, by Jaime Hernandez, from Love and Rockets: New Stories #4: "It’s a wonderful meeting of form and content: a completely unified page on the subject of unification, a single unit made up of eight perfectly chosen, gorgeously cartooned panels, each one complete in itself as a composed single drawings. This is comics at the highest level, with nothing wasted and everything on the page done as well as it possibly could be."
• Plug: Kim Thompson points out that ActuaBD "referred to our Gil Jordan edition as 'très beau,' which is nice."
• Commentary:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon responds to The Comics Journal's Love and Rocketslove-fest yesterday with some thoughts of his own: "I agree with Nadel, Santoro, Tomine and many of the comment-makers that Jaime Hernandez's new work represents a phenomenal achievement. I'm maybe not as interested in finding its place in the pantheon right this second. There's plenty of time for that down the road. One thing that's exciting and should never be denied about a creative achievement on the level of what Hernandez seems to have given us here is what that work might say to us in the future that it doesn't say right now."
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins responds, in turn, to Tom Spurgeon's response linked above: "If you’re looking for realistic and well-rendered women characters, or for women creators operating on an equal playing field, or for a serious examination of issues of gender and sexuality in all their glory and misery, then yeah, you can kick against the pricks and hope that someday an issue of Captain Copyright or the Teen Trademarks will deliver these things. Or you can put those comics down, walk a few aisles over or click on a different website, and discover things like Jaime’s 'Browntown'/'The Love Bunglers' suite, which over the course of two issues of Love and Rockets packs in more quality fiction about love, aging, motherhood, fatherhood, marriage, divorce, adultery, sexual assault, queerness, mental illness, adolescence, friendship, and sex than the last half-dozen comics-internet contretemps-causing comics combined."
• Review: "The conventional wisdom surrounding Prince Valiant these days characterizes it as a fussily drawn, belabored relic of the past. Of course, critical judgments of a comic stop mattering once you read it. A few pages into the fourth of Fantagraphics’ beautifully reprinted new editions of Hal Foster’s masterpiece and it’s difficult indeed to remember that this isn’t the greatest comic ever.... And the mastery Foster brings to bear on his every panel may have been equaled both before and since his prime, but it’s never been surpassed." – Matt Seneca, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "I could easily write a whole post about the brilliance of Barks (and probably WILL, at some point down the road!) but for now I will just say that this December Fantagraphics is releasing the first volume of a NEW Carl Barks Library, which is going to finally, finally, FINALLY put Barks's work back into print in America, in an accessible full-color format.... So please, if you have a kid in your life, PLEASE, for ME, buy them this book! And if you have never read any Barks and you don't understand why I'm being so crazy about this, buy one for yourself. I can personally guarantee that you won't regret it!" – Alec Longstreth
• Review: "Rendered in a simply stunning panorama of glowing visual passion and precision,Prince Valiant is a non-stop rollercoaster of stirring action, exotic adventure and grand romance; blending human-scaled fantasy with dry wit and broad humour with shatteringly dark violence. Beautiful, captivating and utterly awe-inspiring the strip is a World Classic of fiction and something no fan can afford to miss. If you have never experienced the intoxicating grandeur of Foster’s magnum opus these magnificent, lavishly substantial deluxe editions are the best way possible to do so and will be your gateway to an eye-opening world of wonder and imagination." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Feature: At SF Weekly, Alan Scherstuhl provides you with "10 Reasons Why Prince Valiant Bests All 2011's Adventure Heroes" (starting with "He lances giant crocodiles"), saying "Sure, those glossy lips and that pageboy bob makes him look something like ye olde Ramona Quimby, but don't let that fool you. The star of what is arguably the twentieth century's best-drawn newspaper comic strip, Hal Foster's Prince Valiant is all hero, through and through, for his age and ours. The first four volumes of Fantagraphics' collected Prince Valiant reveal young Foster's creation as both the sum total of the heroic ideals that preceded his debut in 1937 as well as a source of serious inspiration for all the heroes that have followed him, in all media formats, in the decades since."
• Review: "War and disorder [in The Armed Garden and Other Stories] from the creator of the much-admired Epileptic and, more recently, Black Paths, visually styled to each story’s setting. The first was my favourite to look at: a forest of spears, a torrent of arrows and a swirling sandstorm of bleached bones and skulls against a velvety, light mushroom brown — a tremendous sense of space.... So there you have it: religion, jealousy, conflict and a great deal of transmogrification. Oh yes, death; a great deal of death too." – Stephen L. Holland, Page 45
• Review: "It helps if you can illustrate your fever dreams as well as Sala can — lavishly watercolored in brown, saturated orange and yellow, punctuated by bright blue and (especially later) red, [The Hidden] is beautiful to look at, and as usual, he gives us memorable grotesques and lovely girls in equal measure. Those who are fans of the artist’s previous work will find more of what they like here, and will be gratified by the deviation from his usual norm. Those who are new to his efforts will be entertained, I think, by the story, which is a bit of a page-turner, and will like his beautifully colored art. His best since he wrapped up Evil Eye a few years ago." – Johnny Bacardi, Popdose
• Review: "Dense, claustrophobic, intense and trenchantly funny, the self-contained [Nuts] strips ranged from satire to slapstick to agonising irony, linking up over the years to form a fascinating catalogue of growing older in the USA: a fearfully faithful alternate view of childhood and most importantly, of how we adults choose to recall those distant days." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Analysis:Robot 6's Matt Seneca performs a close analysis of a page from Al Columbia's Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days: "The genius of the page above is almost too simple: in four panels that follow the minimalist logic of the gag-strip format, it speaks to both the artificial nature of drawings and to the nature of sequence as something that breaks comics apart as much as pieces them together."
3:15-4:15 PM // Preservation and Presentation: The Art and Business of Comics Publishing: Join our fearless leader Gary Groth in panel with Peggy Burns (Drawn and Quarterly) and Craig Yoe (YOE! Books). [ University Capitol Centre 2520D ]
7:30 PM // Joe Sacco: Keynote Lecture and UI Lecture Committee Featured Speaker [ Shambaugh Auditorium ]
1:30-3:30 PM // Editing Comics Criticism and Scholarship: This round table discussion features Gary Groth, along with John Lent (Editor, The International Journal of Comic Art) and Frenchy Lunning (Editor, Mechademia) [ University Capitol Centre 2520D ]
7:30 PM // Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez: Keynote Lecture and UI Lecture Committee Featured Speaker [ Shambaugh Auditorium ]
You can view the entire schedule of events at the University of Iowa website. If you read this FLOG and live in Iowa, you better be there!
As this fourth volume begins, Prince Valiant, haunted by the lovely Aleta, seeks Merlin’s wise counsel. This brief episode segues into one of Hal Foster’s patented epics, “The Long Voyage to Thule,” which ran for seven straight months and featured Valiant’s return to his birthplace and reunion with his father. Of course, Foster’s astonishingly detailed and evocative depictions of Val’s home- land contribute greatly to this sprawling epic.
After a series of shorter adventures including “The Seductress,” “The Call of the Sea,” and “The Jealous Cripple,” Val finally decides he can stand it no more and sets out to find his long-lost love. Long-time fans know that his quest will eventually be successful, but Foster throws so many obstacles in the way of true love that the saga “The Winning of Aleta” would end up stretching a full year and a half, well into the next volume.
This volume also features the debut of Foster’s charming "The Mediæval Castle" strip, and an introductory essay by Foster scholar Brian M. Kane.
With stunning art reproduced directly from pristine printer’s proofs, Fantagraphics has introduced a new generation to Foster’s masterpiece, while providing long-time fans with the ultimate, definitive version of the strip.
We've got a gorilla-sized weekend coming up at APE: the Alternative Press Expo in beautiful San Francisco, CA! Come see us on Saturday, October 1st and Sunday, October 2nd at the Concourse Exhibition Center, and be among the first to get your mitts on these hot numbers:
You can find us in our usual spot at tables 112-115. (Right by our good friends Jim Blanchard and J.R. Williams at table 116!)
[ Please note: this is a chopped-up map, just to give you an idea where you can find us! The Concourse Exhibition Center is too wide to fit on the FLOG, so check out a PDF map here. ]
And panels! Boy, do we have panels!
Saturday, October 1st
2:00 PM // The Comix Claptrap . . . LIVE! Co-hosts Rina Ayuyang and Thien Pham record an episode of their enlightening, riotous, and controversial podcast, The Comix Claptrap LIVE at APE! For four seasons, Rina and Thien have interviewed comics artists in the indie comics scene about their work, creative processes, and experiences in the industry. Each show has included New Comics Wednesday beat reportage from fellow cartoonist Josh Frankel, and new favorite segment, The Comix Cranktrap, where they crank-call a well-known cartoonist listed in their Rolodex. Also featured on the panel: Mike Dawson, Scott Campbell, Levon Jihanian, and Esther Pearl Watson. This panel promises to be total mayhem!
3:00 PM // A Discussion with Daniel Clowes and Adrian Tomine Critically acclaimed, award-winning, bestselling cartoonists -- and APE special guests -- Daniel Clowes (The Death-Ray, Ghost World, Wilson) and Adrian Tomine (Optic Nerve, Shortcomings) are both professional peers and friends, having met over a decade ago when both lived in the East Bay. TheComicsJournal.com editor and PictureBox publisher Dan Nadel talks to the two artists about their work, their friendship, and the comics medium.
4:00 PM // Spotlight on Shannon Wheeler From stapling 21,000 minicomics, to shooting comic books with a .22, to creating operas, to publishing cartoons with The New Yorker, APE special guest Shannon Wheeler must be drinking too much coffee, man. Recently, his collection of rejected cartoons I Thought You Would Be Funnier won the Eisner Award for Best Humor Publication. Wheeler and his trusty sidekick BOOM! Studios marketing director Chip Mosher talk about the best ammunition to use on a comic, Japanese bootleg shirts, and drawing dead granddads in fishnet stockings with swastika panties. Shannon Wheeler once also created Too Much Coffee Man, so they'll probably talk about that, too.
6:00 PM // Drawing Inspiration: The Secrets of Comics Creativity Ever wonder where your favorite author or artist gets his or her inspiration? Now you can find out as moderator Charles Brownstein (executive director, CBLDF) joins APE special guests Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant!), Craig Thompson (Habibi), Matthew Thurber (1-800 MICE), and Shannon Wheeler (Oil and Water), plus Tom Neely (The Wolf) for an in-depth discussion of what gets their creative juices flowing and the secrets of what inspires them.
Sunday, October 2nd
12:00 PM // Indie Cartoonist Survival Guide: Part 3 Cartoonist Keith Knight moderates this panel (in its third appearance at APE), featuring a lineup of successful independent creators who share their stories, methods, techniques, trials, and tribulations concerning making a living as a so-called Indie Cartoonist. Shannon Wheeler (I Thought You Would Be Funnier), Dan Cooney (Dan Cooney Art), Andy Ristaino (Adventure Time), and Rebecca Sugar (Pug Davis) all chime in.
The great Eric Reynolds will be manning the table, so come by and come buy! We'll see you at APE!
• Review: "As journalist Avery documents in this cohesive biography-cum-first anthology of the onetime Rolling Stone record review editor’s oeuvre [Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson], Nelson was a gifted early practitioner of new journalism and, though a child of the Sixties folk and rock counterculture, one of its most vocal critics.... Reading his inconceivably insightful profiles of Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, Warren Zevon, and Rod Stewart helps make sense of a needlessly guilt- and disappointment-laden life — here was a hyper-romantic Midwesterner by birth but a New Yorker by necessity who thought he could transcend mundane cruelties by dedicating himself to the popular arts. Seamlessly incorporating the perspectives of Nick Tosches, Robert Christgau, and Jann Wenner, Avery has crafted both a cautionary tale and a celebration of a noir-influenced writer who deserves a place alongside Lester Bangs for his ability to live, always, in the music. Devotees of folk, establishment rock ’n’ roll, and pulp fiction will rue not having discovered Nelson sooner." – Heather McCormack, Library Journal (Starred Review)
• Review: "[Richard Sala's] latest appetising shocker The Hidden returns to the seamy, scary underbelly of un-life with an enigmatic quest tale... Clever, compelling and staggeringly engaging, this fabulous full-colour hardback is a wonderfully nostalgic escape hatch back to those days when unruly children scared themselves silly under the bedcovers at night and will therefore make an ideal gift for the big kid in your life — whether he/she’s just you, imaginary or even relatively real." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This
• Review: "I had the opportunity to do a Q&A panel with Johnny Ryan at SPX last weekend. One of the more interesting parts of discussion was when Ryan said how each volume of Prison Pit had to have a different vibe or theme so that the different books didn’t feel interchangable. That’s certainly true in volume three, as we see the inclusion of a new character, who, while just as violent and vicious as CF, is completely different in attitude and demeanor. Plus, he has one of the most amazing (and utterly grotesque) resurrection scenes I’ve ever seen. There’s also a neat little bit toward the end where it seems like Ryan is heavily drawing upon the Fort Thunder crowd, particularly Mat Brinkman. All in all, it’s another excellent volume." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "This [fourth] volume [of Prince Valiant] covers the most of the WWII years, 1943-44, when the paper shortage was at its highest. As Brian Kane notes in the introduction, this meant creator Hal Foster had to format the strip so parts could be cut for papers that had been forced to shrink their page count.... Still, while no doubt hampered by this new situation, it did nothing to harm his storytelling skills, and Valiant remains a hugely enjoyable action strip, as Valiant battles a variety of ne’r do wells on a quest to find his true love, Aleta." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "I’ve talked at length before about how good the Mome anthology has been, and while I’m sad to see it come to a close, it’s nice to see it end on such a high note. Seriously, this is the best volume of Mome yet, with standout contributions by Chuck Forsman, Eleanor Davis, Laura Park, Dash Shaw, Jesse Moynihan and Sara Edward-Corbett. But really, there’s not a bad story in this entire book. It might seem weird recommending the last book of a series, but if you gotta only read one of these things, this would be the one." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Interview: Brian Heater's conversation with Drew Friedman at The Daily Cross Hatch continues: "But a couple of guys claimed that I didn’t get their names right, like Don Rickles. His PR guy contacted us and said, 'he’s really angry. His name is not Archibald, it’s Donald Rickles.' So, we said in the second book 'Don Rickles says his name is not Archibald, so that will be corrected in a future volume.' Sid Caesar was annoyed. He called Fantagraphics and started yelling at Kim Thompson, because he claimed his name is not Isaac. He was on the phone with him for half an hour. He was doing Jewish schtick and German dialect. Kim was amazed."
Yesterday's and today's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Sala consistently introduces red-cheeked, innocent characters and then puts them through the meat-grinder, and in The Hidden he plays with mad science. ...Sala’s novel features plenty of 'tell,' because if it’s one thing mad scientists enjoy, it’s expository dialogue. There are gorgeous single-panel pages filled with huge dialogue balloons, and it’s to the author and illustrator’s credit that it’s always a hoot; Sala is a professional when it comes to tongue-in-cheek visuals (the friendly looking characters with spilled intestines) and storytelling.... Its ending is... abrupt..., but it leaves ample room for a welcome continuation. The lushly colored package is vintage Fantagraphics, of course." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon.com)
• Review: "Relaunching in a book-sized format, Comics Journal #301 came out from Fantagraphics this summer, and has already gone through a second printing. The magazine is dense, with over three hundred pages, containing enough essays, interviews, reviews, and art pages to easily fill 2-4 of the old issues.... Where else in comics journalism are you going to find a viewpoint of comics encompassing enough to put so many different realms of the artform under the same microscope and give it all due consideration? The drastic shift in format indicates a willingness of Fantagraphics to take risks with its flagship publication." – Greg Baldino, Bleeding Cool
• Review: "...[T]his gentle, inviting series about two transgendered elementary school students... has truly captured my attention.... Wandering Son feels at times more like a series of character sketches that all connect together than a narrative-driven book, but it’s a structure that makes me that much more intrigued... Takako’s art is beautiful here, delicate line drawings that fit well with her story.... Last but not least, props need to go to Fantagraphics for a great physical design of the book.... This isn’t quite like anything else on the market right now, and I’m thrilled to see Fantagraphics exposing it to a wider audience." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Interview: The normally Love and Rockets-focused Love & Maggie blog steps out of their usual purview to hit up Gary Groth for more information about our forthcoming series Jack Jackson's American History (starting next year with Los Tejanos/Lost Cause) — if you're at all interested in these books, definitely check this out
• Lore: "Before resuming I should say this: Drug taking, by myself and others, really peaks in this chapter. It isn’t something I’m proud of or a thing I endorse. But it is the way it all happened." So begins the ninth installment of Kim Deitch's epic memoir-in-music "Mad About Music: My Life in Records" at TCJ.com