So said the mighty and wonderful David Gedge (leader of one of my all-time favorite bands, The Wedding Present) leafing through the copy of Michel Gagné's Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby's Romance Comics I gave him at their Seattle gig on Friday night. He opened right up to that page — I swear I didn't plan this moment! Being able to present our books to folks I admire is one of the best parts of my job. What an absolute thrill.
By the way, David is not only an avid comics reader, he's published a comic book of tour stories, Tales of the Wedding Present, and his songs have inspired an anthology of comics short stories titled Snapshots.
Jack Kirby is among the most influential American artists of the last century, but a substantial body of Kirby’s work has been largely overlooked until recently. In the post-war years, with the popularity of superhero comic books fading, Kirby teamed with writer Joe Simon to create the new genre of romance comics.Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery celebrates these forgotten works with “Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics.” The interpretive exhibition opens on Saturday, April 14 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM with a discussion by Michel Gagné, author of a recent collection of the same title from Fantagraphics Books.
At the end of World War II, with soldiers returning from long deployments, romance was in the air. The superhero comics that served to instill a sense of patriotic heroism leading up to the global conflict had lost their appeal. Simon and Kirby seized on these emerging sensibilities to create one of the most popular comic book series of all time. Unlike previous comic book genres, the work appealed largely to women readers. The stories and imagery reflected mid-century American society while discretely challenging the conventional morality of the era. Kirby’s work from this period was mimicked by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein and others, and is emblematic of post-war American aesthetics.
Curator Michel Gagné will discuss his delicate restoration process at the opening reception on Saturday, April 14. An exhibition will display enlarged examples of Simon and Kirby’s romance comics and examine the creative process of these American masters. Gagné has worked as an animator and cartoonist for Pixar, Disney, DC Comics and the Cartoon Network. He won the 2011 Annie Award for Best Animated Video Game and the 2012 BAFTA GAME Award for Best Debut Game for his independent creation Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is located at 1201 S. Vale St. (at Airport Way S.) just minutes from downtown Seattle. Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00. Phone 206.658.0110. This event coincides with the colorful Georgetown Art Attack featuring visual and performing arts presentations throughout the historic arts community.
YOUNG ROMANCE: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics Curated by Michel Gagné
Opening reception and curator discussion Saturday, April 14, 6:00 to 9:00 PM. Exhibition continues through May 9, 2012.
When MAD became a surprise hit as a comic book in 1953 (after the early issues lost money!) other comics publishers were quick to jump onto the bandwagon, eventually bringing out a dozen imitations with titles like FLIP, WHACK, NUTS, CRAZY, WILD, RIOT, EH, UNSANE, BUGHOUSE, and GET LOST. The Sincerest Form of Parody collects the best and the funniest material from these comics, including parodies of movies (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, From Here To Eternity), TV shows (What's My Line, The Late Show), comic strips (Little Orphan Annie, Rex Morgan), novels (I, the Jury), plays (Come Back, Little Sheba), advertisements (Rheingold Beer, Charles Atlas), classic literature ("The Lady or the Tiger"), and history (Pancho Villa). Some didn't even try for parody, but instead published odd, goofy, off-the-wall stories.
These earnest copiers of MAD realized that Will Elder's cluttered "chicken fat" art was a good part of MAD’s success, and these pages are densely packed with all sorts of outlandish and bizarre gags that make for hours of amusing reading. The "parody comics" are uniquely "'50s," catching the popular culture zeitgeist through a dual lens: not only reflecting fifties culture through parody but also being themselves typical examples of that culture (in a way that Harvey Kurtzman’s MAD was not).
This unprecedented volume collects over 30 of the best of these crazy, undisciplined stories, all reprinted from the original comics in full color. Editor John Benson (who wrote the annotations for the first complete MAD reprints, and interviewed MAD editor Harvey Kurtzman in depth several times over the years) also provides expert, profusely illustrated commentary and background, including comparisons of how different companies parodied the same subject.
Artists represented include Jack Davis, Will Elder, Norman Maurer, Carl Hubbell, William Overgard, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Bill Everett, Al Hartley, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, Hy Fleischman, Jay Disbrow, Howard Nostrand, and Bob Powell.
Casual comics readers are probably familiar with the later satirical magazines that continued to be published in the '60s and '70s, such as Cracked and Sick, but the comics collected in this volume were imitations of the MAD comic book, not the magazine, and virtually unknown among all but the most die-hard collectors. For the first time, Fantagraphics is collecting the best of these comics in a single, outrageously funny volume.
Download and read a 14-page PDF excerpt (6.1 MB) which includes the Table of Contents.
• History: If you'd like to know more about the late Dale Yarger's tenure as Fantagraphics Art Director, this tribute by another erstwhile Fanta staffer Robert Boyd is a great place to start
• Review: "Bill Griffith, the one prominent figure of underground comix to reach the daily comic page mainstream, has delivered again with a phone book-sized volume both odd and pleasing.... Griffith, with his Zippy the Pinhead cartoon, which has been carried in dozens of daily newspapers since 1984, has had numerous reprint books, but none so exhaustive as Lost and Found. Day by day, week by week, year by year, Zippy reveals the oddness of post-modernity and opens up a large view of civilization both berserk and humorous, when viewed from what has been called 'the Zen of stupidity.' Nor has any previous collection contained such a substantial memoir as the artist’s introduction to this volume, 'Inside the Box.' Not even Griffophiles (or is it Zippophiles?) like this reviewer knew most of the details offered here..." – Paul Buhle, The Jewish Daily Forward
• Profile:Jim Woodring's in Homer, Alaska again for another residency at the Bunnell Street Arts Center; Michael Armstrong at HomerNews.com finds out what Jim's up to up there: "Sit down before him, and he might draw you. Hang with him, and he'll talk about art and cartooning. Walk around town on a nice day, and you can join him on an sketch tour, looking for cool things to draw."
• Review: "Michel Gagné... worked with Fantagraphics to produce this beautiful volume [Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby's Romance Comics].... Clearly, Simon and Kirby tried to bring as much excitement to primarily psychological and interpersonal goings on as to punching and flying, but the action can’t help but be more grounded and, therefore, limited. It’s impressive that any of the stories manage to sweep one up, and a few do, pulling the reader in rather than leaving him/her assessing art and writing from an appreciative distance. The variety on display here is impressive as well." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Review: "There are strange things going on in Nordic comics. And when I say 'strange,' what I really mean is bug-eyed gibbering crazy. And when I say 'bug-eyed gibbering crazy,' I mean shit verging either on lurid incomprehensibility or sweet unfathomable genius.... If you're tired of traditional comic book fare and are looking to expand your horizons in your comic reading, Kolor Klimax is a pretty good place to go. After all, I can't imagine that your local comic shop stocks too many Nordic comic books on its shelves, and this anthology may be your only available on-ramp to a whole different world of comic book possibilities." – Daniel Elkin, Comics Bulletin
• Review: "The 'autobio' strip in [Athos in America] is my hands-down full-stop favorite thing Jason has ever done, earning this book the EXCELLENT rating for that reason alone. The rest of the book is totally satisfying, but I can’t pretend I didn’t read all of it with my brain obsessing over all the little beats in 'A Cat From Heaven.' There isn’t a dead moment in the thing. 'Hey, Fuckface'…so funny, this thing." – Tucker Stone, The Savage Critics
• Review: "Everything I feel comfortable saying about [Is That All There Is?] right now already came stumbling out on this Inkstuds podcast I did..., but it deserves some kind of Savage rating. How about EXCELLENT? There’s stuff in here that I wish was bigger in size, but…so what? I hope every single person who complains about the size of this book gets buried in shit after being murdered by their family, and I hope they get murdered with Lou Gehrig’s disease. If they’re a cartoonist, I hope it happens to them twice." – Tucker Stone, The Savage Critics
Can you spot the questionable coloring choice on this Kirby-illustrated cover of a 1984 issue of Amazing Heroes? A couple of years ago, Andrew Wahl of Comics Bronze Age sure did. (This was being passed around Facebook a couple days ago and our own Jason T. Miles brought it to our attention.)
"Gilbert's stories are typically excellent in this issue, as he manages a certain luridness in one story that brings sexuality to the fore, and goes the other direction in a more oblique, subtle story. Of course, the story that got everyone buzzing was the second half of Jaime's "The Love Bunglers", which is an ending for this thirty-year cycle of stories--and one where Jaime sticks the landing with authority."
"This was Bagge's first feature-length Buddy Bradley story in years, and it's a doozy. Buddy, Lisa and young Harold visit Lisa's parents in a story called 'Hell,' and Bagge truly pulls out all the stops in depicting extreme familial weirdness. His dialogue is as sharp as ever, his line is quite lively and his uncanny ability to depict the creeping weirdness of suburbia is even more disturbing than in the initial run of New Jersey stories in Hate."
"Kupperman's 'Quincy, M.E.' story in this issue is a tour-de-force of twisting narrative structures and just plain crazy silliness. Kupperman's art has become increasingly bland as his aesthetic references have changed from 1920s comic strips to 1950s comic books, forcing the reader to perform double-takes at the crazy juxtapositions he creates. If his comics aren't as visually exhausting and exciting as they once were, he still provides an avalanche of ideas and jokes for the reader to sort through."
• Review: "Norwegian cartoonist Jason has returned with more full-color stories populated by lonely, and at times sociopathic, anthropomorphic characters. Cats, dogs, and ducks steal, fight, murder, and drink themselves into oblivion. Although brimming with black humor, the tales are far from ridiculous; the disjunction between the cute creatures and their actions often serves to highlight the despair inherent in their lives. Text is light, as the images drive the narratives. In these spare, mute panels, infused with flat oranges, greens, and browns, small movements covey great meaning and emotion.... Visually exciting, at times hilarious and at times devastating, Athos in America will only add to Jason’s well-deserved reputation as a star of the graphic novel world." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "This volume [Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1] provides an illuminating look at the artist’s numerous attempts at catching Sub-Marineresque lightning in a bottle for a second time, a task that mostly eluded him. The comics studios of the golden age were product mills that threw any idea against the wall in hope it would stick, and Everett did much the same. Forgotten sci-fi and superhero creations, as well as forays into westerns, historical retellings, and crime comics, populate this loaded volume, which reads like it fell straight out of some four-color twilight zone." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Over 150 pages of reprints, a brilliant back-of-the-book by Benson running 26 pages, and an introduction by my old buddy, cartoonist/historian Jay Lynch..., this book is a welcome addition to any comics library.... [I]f nothing else, The Sincerest Form of Parody saves you a lot of time separating the wheat from the chaff. But in and of itself, it is a very worthy book – entertaining on his own, and critical from a historical point of view. You should check this one out..." – Mike Gold, ComicMix
• Review: "[Jordan] Crane’s comic, The Last Lonely Saturday, explores the trials and release of life after loss. Crane’s story beautifully follows a husband’s weekly ritual to pay respect to his wife. In no more than a few pages, Crane retells the husband and wife’s entire history. From the comic’s meticulous book design, with its quaint size and the rounded, hand-lettered type in the first pages, readers can expect the story to be heart-warming. But Crane pulls at readers’ heartstrings with surprising grace. While the story is rooted in the traditional American cliché of lovers reunited in the afterlife, the story is told deftly." – Juan Fernandez, The Tartan (via Robot 6)
• Review: "[Freeway] captures the frustration of being stuck in traffic, particularly the array of images (violent and otherwise) that traffic brings to my mind (even better than Falling Down). Like me, Alex also relieves his frustrations with a lot of swearing." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• Plug: "I ran into animator Michel Gagné at the Annie Awards last week (where he picked up an Annie for Best Video Game, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet) and asked him about his next project. Turns out Gagne had been toiling on a labor of love (literally) that has just gone on sale this week.... That book, Young Romance: the Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics, is not the usual thing we endorse here at Cartoon Brew – but as a life-long Jack Kirby fan and oddball comic book buff, this project is right up my alley.... I’ve ordered my copy and highly recommend it, sight unseen. Thanks, Michel!" – Jerry Beck, Cartoon Brew
• Plug: "Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Captain America but they literally created the romance comic genre. The pages [of Young Romance] were packed with dialogue and dramatic art as women fought for love." – Will Harris, KOMO News
• Review: "...[T]hese comics are among the best in their genre without a doubt. ...[This] period was certainly the period of Jack Kirby’s greatest commercial success, and also the period of work which posterity has most neglected. For that this book [Young Romance ] is to be cheered, though there is much else to be happy about in it. There is the excellence of Gagné’s restoration work. It’s of a kind of cleanness which in the past, in archival projects by others, has often resulted in garishness. ...[I]t appears that Fantagraphics, perhaps by accident more than planning, is the only publisher to give us any coverage of the long neglected and just about forgotten 1950s genre of romance comics." – Eddie Campbell, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "Activist/musician/writer Pat Thomas has been busy the past five years compiling music, speeches and photos from the height of the Black Power movement, spending much of that time in Oakland, California, the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. The result is Thomas’ forthcoming book, Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975(out March 5 through Fantagraphics Books), which entrenches us in one of the most politically and culturally explosive times in America..." – Mark Lore, The Days of Lore
• Interview:Casey Burchby presents a brief excerpt of an interview with Daniel Clowes conducted last Fall in which Clowes discusses how his collection of Ernie Bushmiller Nancy comic strips became the backbone of Nancy Is Happy: Complete Dailies 1943-1945: "I found it baffling that I had the best collection of Nancy strips. I bought a bunch of them off eBay in like 1998. It didn’t take any special effort. I just found some dealer that had a whole bunch of them, and I bought all of them I could get my hands on. And when it came time to do the book, they were looking all over and they couldn’t find them anywhere. And I had almost all of them."
• Feature: Jill Russell of KOMO TV's Seattle Pulp blog spotlights Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 and talks to author Pat Thomas: "The main lesson Thomas takes away from this project is that young people are a forced to be reckoned with. The average age of a Black Panther was just 22. 'How many young people do you know are leading national movements?' he asked. 'When people have been stripped of their pride or ostracized too much, they will eventually fight back.'"
• Review: "For fans of comics from the dawn of the comic book era, this book [Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1] is an indispensable gift from Blake Bell and Fantagraphics. For those who love to read great stories from the Golden Age, however, this volume isn't as great as the ones that will follow. Kudos to Fantagraphics for re-presenting these stories after all these years, but this book does prove the truism that when reading archival reprints, the first volume will often be the hardest to get through. I give this book three and a half stars for the fact that it exists, for the exhaustive research by Bell and his friends, and because some people will find this material fascinating. As for the comics themselves in this book, well, your mileage may vary." – Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
• Plug:Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby's Romance Comics leads off the L.A. Times Hero Complex Valentine's Day gift guide: "The creators of Captain America also helped create a softer comics genre: romance comics. In the late ’40s and ’50s, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby captivated girls and women with their 'Young Romance' tales of star-crossed lovers. This 208-page hardbound volume includes 21 of those stories."