• Review: "The packaging... is brilliant and the actual product is no less magnificent. The quality that Fantagraphics put into [Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box] is top-notch. The card and paper stock could not be more perfect. The high resolution pictures and scans of each of the films are almost like you are holding the original. ... This is a 'must-have' for genre fans, collectors and art lovers alike." – Cinesploitation
• Review: "Huizenga delivers a quiet tour de force [in Ganges #3] that shows confident cartooning that thrills through its ease and craftsmanship,... documenting a normal life with a sharp eye and a penchant for gentle revelation." – John Seven, Worcester Magazine
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater has a wonderful chat with Carol Tyler (part 1 of 4): "Everything is more complicated. Everything is layered. I think as you grow older, you have this experience, but then you also, exponentially, have all of these others, due to the fact that you’ve just lived longer. You’ve met more people, and you’ve been around, and done all of these things. I try to boil it down and try to figure out the best way to do this. A collection of symbols and the right words—I really try to be a wordsmith, but I’m not! Argh! I try to pick the right words and the right way to get an idea across. Sometimes you just have to shoot it out there like bullshit and other times you have to make it more poetic. You have to balance that."
• List: On her Pop Candy blog, USA Today's Whitney Matheson gives The Brinkley Girls the #10 spot on her Top 10 comics/graphic novels of 2009, saying "this beautiful book introduced me to a new heroine: Nell Brinkley, an early 20th century newspaper cartoonist. Her drawings of flappers and glamour gals are sexy, strong and ahead of their time. I can't believe I hadn't seen her work before, but I'm so thrilled to know it now." Matheson also lavishes praise on Lilli Carré, who "continued making must-see work" and lands at #69 on Matheson's Top 100 People list, and whose book from Little Otsu lands at the #2 spot on the comics Top 10.
• Review: "The Wolverton Bible... is -- no pun intended -- a revelation. Though his serious work is a bit stiffer and more restrained than the Wolverton art you might be used to, it's more powerful. ... What sets [the drawings in] The Wolveton Bible apart from Crumb's Genesis... is that they come from a true believer. ...Wolverton's drawings have an intensity and sincerity that reveal something connecting him to those stories in a way Crumb just can't duplicate." – Will Pfeifer, "Books of the Year"
• Review: "...[Supermen! is] magical, memorable [and] just plain wonky... The stories range from action-packed to barely-sensible, but they all have a crazed energy you just can't fake. ... They read like the sort of stories imaginative kids would think up -- which might be why they appealed so much to kids in the first place." – Will Pfeifer, "Books of the Year"
• Review:The Hooded Utilitarian's critical roundtable on Ghost World continues with Richard Cook: "The most appealing aspect of Ghost World was the main characters, Enid and Rebecca. And much of their appeal is due to how effectively Daniel Clowes panders to a specific demographic that I belong to: geeks."
• Plug:The Beat's Heidi MacDonald, picking up on Tony Millionaire's Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Birdsneak peek, comments "In all the talk about comics for kids recently, we’re probably very bad for not mentioning Millionaire’s non-child-averse work more prominently. His work is not for the faint-hearted, but children generally prefer tales that are not faint-hearted." Right on.
• Plug: "Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box... is a fetishized art object/coffee table-style compendium of great VHS jackets, ranging from the campy to the sleazy to the so-bad-it's-good. Highly recommended as a gift idea for the B-movie lover on your holiday shopping list." – Audrey Hendrickson, The SunBreak
• Interview:Walrus Comix, who say "Not only is [The Pain — When Will It End?] the funniest comic strip ever, but, well, that’s it: it’s the funniest comic strip ever," talk to the strip's creator, Tim Kreider, who says, among many things, "I don’t know why you’d want to be a cartoonist if you didn’t enjoy drawing funny, cool things. If I had to draw an entire graphic novel of people sitting around talking I think I’d hang myself." (Via Journalista)
• Things to buy: Folks in Portland this weekend can purchase handmade arts-n-crafts from Andrice Arp and a bunch of other Portland artists at the Creative Creatures Bazaar at Cosmic Monkey Comics, reports Andrice on her blog
• List:Details magazine names Ghost World #10 on The 25 Greatest Gen X Books of All Time: "This caustically funny duo-tone tale follows the iconic cat-eyed adolescent Enid Coleslaw in her quest to find meaning, or at least cruel humor, in an age where everything's disposable."
• Review: "Strange Suspense collects dozens of Ditko stories from the 1950’s... Almost a decade before Ditko moved to Marvel, these stories bear his unmistakable style. His fine line work and flair for the abstract that would serve him so well on Doctor Strange particularly, is on full display. ... If you only know Ditko for his work at Marvel or later at DC, here is the chance to explore Early Ditko, unconstrained by editors or the Comics Code. While all of this work is marvelous, clearly Ditko is best at home in horror where he could let his imagination run wild, creating monsters and demons and the things that go bump in the night. Rediscover Ditko today!" – Tim Janson, Newsarama
• Review: "Brian Kane, author of the [Definitive Prince Valiant] Companion and surely the world’s foremost authority on the strip and its creator, Hal Foster, has once again done a herculean amount of work, and Fantagraphics has once again clothed that work in a sturdy, pretty volume. Prince Valiant hasn’t been treated this well since the ersatz King of England sang his praises. Those unfamiliar with the character – a young man who finds adventure, fame, and even love at the court of the legendary King Arthur – will find here all the background information they could ever want... But even long-time Prince Valiant fans will find plenty to fascinate them in this volume." – Khalid Ponte, Open Letters
• Review: "Delphine is a morbid interpretation of the symbology of fairy tales resounding with echoes of unrequited love and abandonment. This is perhaps Sala’s darkest and most intricate story ever – impressive in its nuance and ever shifting emotions. One can only hope that it is not ignored." – Ng Suat Tong, The Comics Journal
• Interview: From TCJ.com: "Every weekday from now until December 25, we’ll be posting a conversation between cartoonists from The Comics Journal #300, complete and online! In today’s installment, it’s a chat between L’Association publisher Jean-Christophe Menu and Kramers Ergot publisher Sammy Harkham."
• List:Politics and Prose, perhaps the most graphic novel-friendly bookstore in Washington DC, lists their Favorite Graphic Literature of the Year:
"Every few years a graphic novel comes around that is so good you have to stop reading for a while, because if you read anything else you'd only be disappointed. ... The Squirrel Machine... is a masterpiece of comic fantasy. When I finished this book, I immediately returned to the introduction and read the whole book again, and again. Read this book to see what heights serial art can achieve in narrative and in the creation of worlds that exist in one character's mind. Read it if you think you can handle it, for it abandons the typical narrative structure and accomplishes its ends as only serial art of the highest quality can. This is a fine, gut-wrenching book, written and drawn by a true master." – Thad Ellerbe
"West Coast Blues is an unflinching story, perfect for any fan of the thriller." – Adam Waterreus
"C. Tyler's You'll Never Know, Book One: A Good and Decent Man... is also an impressive and beautiful history of the era; Tyler creates a panorama of images that sweep across the page as she documents her father's childhood, her parent's engagement, and her own young life. Her pen, ink, and color transform her creative panels (at times evoking a scrapbook) into vibrant memories intertwined by her restless imagination." – Adam Waterreus
"[With Abstract Comics] it becomes a treat to take a page of art — or a simple panel — and consider how the shapes, texture, depth, and color interact with one another; to reflect on how, when one takes the time, the enjoyment one ordinarily finds in reading a purely textually-oriented, narrative-driven written story can — with the graphic form — be translated into something completely different." – Adam Waterreus
"From Wonderland with Love: Danish Comics in the Third Millennium... is fantastic! This amazing collection just blew me away. There was not one moment when reading this book — in one sitting, slouched and unblinking on my couch, coffee going cold — that I did not completely love. ... Mythic and dreamlike, meditative and fantastical, this is a superb and surprising collection." – Adam Waterreus
• Review: "...[F]rom the moment he showed up [Michael] Kupperman was a master of stomping around the living room of modern reality and shoving pieces of conceptual furniture next to one another to awesome, knees-out-from-under effect. Kupperman's work has always had that charge that the really good stuff has... Kupperman doesn't get enough credit for building a comic book vehicle in Tales Designed To Thrizzle that serves to facilitate those skills. ...I'm not certain anything under heaven or earth could make something greater than Kupperman's peerless ability to craft funny moments." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Unclothed Man delivers just the right amounts of story, whimsy, art, and heft for four two-minute entries. It offers actual nutritive cultural substance, as opposed to so much web filler one often gets. And you’ll want to go back and watch them a few more times. There’s a lot of variety behind the series’ simple elegance." – Michael Shaw (no relation), Tubefilter
• Plug: "Compiled by Portland, Oregon-based trash cinema expert Jacques Boyreau, Portable Grindhouse honors the pulp video era that inspired Quentin Tarantino." – Hugh Hart, Wired
Participants include artist Lisa Petrucci of Something Weird, the world's premier purveyor of psychotronic film (and the subject of a new art book KICKASS KUTIES from Dark Horse); cartoonist Marc Palm of the exalted Scarecrow Video; Seattle Times pop culture correspondent Mark Rahner and Robert Horton, movie critic at KUOW-FM and film curator for the Frye Art Museum, who together write the acclaimed horror comic ROTTEN. The panel will be moderated by PORTABLE GRINDHOUSE editor Jacques Boyreau. The panel will be followed by a reception and book signing.
Don't you dare miss either of these events or you'll regret it to the day you die and we'll be forced to taunt you with the infantile chant "Neener, neener, neener - we told you so." Sure, it's unbecoming, but sometimes we can't help ourselves.
[Ed. note: Click on the mural image above to download a high-res version you can use as a desktop background or what-have-you!]
(Also out this week and highly coveted by me: Dark Horse's collection of Carol Swain short stories Crossing the Empty Quarter — if you haven't picked up Giraffes in My Hair yet, why not make it a Swain two-fer?)
Harken back to those thrilling days of yesteryear when the advent of rental videos astonished the movie-going consumer who could only feed his addiction by going to the theater or watching chopped up movies in between commercials on TV. Like vinyl, here is the revenge of another analog cast-off: the VHS is once again insinuating itself into American culture, and this book celebrates the anarchic design art of those early VHS boxes.
Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box is a feast for exploitation cognoscenti, reprinting some of the most louche, decadent, minimo-pervo artwork to ever grace a VHS box, featuring such movies as From Beyond, Penitentiary II, Beast of the Yellow Night, Cop Killers, Bay of Blood, Escape from Death Row, and Cocaine Wars. Readers will be agog at the plethora of supertrash movie titles, and then move on to rediscover the anarchic box designs. Throughout, editor and cultural historian Jacques Boyreau succinctly narrates the household-piercing story of VHS: “On par with the jukebox, disco, and neon, VHS reformatted the world’s product-intake and boosted a libertarian aesthetic that conquered TV in the same way TV conquered comic books in the 1950s, and allowed us to hold movies in our hands. Posters in the lobby could advertise, even fetishize a movie; credit sequences could identify the participants, but somehow, VHS box-art ‘became’ the iconic equivalent of the movie.”
Portable Grindhouse is published in a VHS “format,” slyly packaged inside a facsimile VHS box, and contains almost a hundred reproductions of VHS art with commentary.
Download an EXCLUSIVE PDF excerpt (3.6 MB) featuring seven 2-page spreads from the book.
• Review: "Like a Dog compiles several of [Zak Sally's] stories from the last 15 years in one sweet, annotated hardcover. I'm amazed by how the styles vary -- one minute Sally can talk about working in a punk-rock T-shirt shop, the next he's going on about Dostoevsky -- but most stories are quite compelling and, man, the guy is just so cool. Sally is an intensely personal writer, and I appreciate how much he reveals about himself within these pages. His work can get a little messy sometimes, but I say that's just another reason to like it." – Whitney Matheson, USA TODAY Pop Candy
• Review: "...[T]he work contained in [Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1] (and kudos to Fantagraphics on the excellent and handsome production work) constantly reminds you of just how stellar an artist Ditko would prove to be. ... For historians, both amateur and otherwise, who thrill to the prospect of seeing that maturity take place, this is the book for you." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "[Gilbert] Hernandez's latest solo work The Troublemakers is the second in a series of self-contained graphic novel 'B-movies,' featuring one of his recurring characters, the cannonball-breasted Rosalba 'Fritz' Martinez. Here, Fritz plays Nala, one of a trio of hustlers trying to hook up with 200,000 smackers. Whether the money actually exists and who has it are anyone's guess in this drama-filled thriller — good for folks who like their graphic novels grim, gritty, and sleazy." – Brad Buckner, Portland Mercury
• Review: "Strange Suspense [The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1]... is an absolute treat! ...[T]his book looks amazing. ...[It's] filled with images that will remain seared into your psyche long after you’ve put it down. ... Strange Suspense is an absolute must have for any student of sequential art history... It’s an excellent collection of long lost work from a man whose importance cannot be overstated. There’s really no other grade to give it than an A." – Chad Derdowski, Mania.com
• Review: "Wolverton is helped [in The Wolverton Bible]... by his bold compositional sense, which aids in pushing some of his images beyond the doldrums of camp and into a certain monumentality, a grandeur that retains a shabby earthiness, without being lofty, hollow or pretentious. Without being, in a word, 'churchy.'" – Chris Lanier, The Comics Journal (beta)
• Review: "Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit is probably as close as comics are likely to come to exploitation cinema. Like the best exploitation dreck from Texas Chainsaw to Death Race 2000, Prison Pit is pure, bottom-dwelling schlock... And yet, again as with exploitation fare, the single-minded commitment to vileness is so perversely pure that it goes right past lowest-common-denominator entertainment and on into snooty, fancy-pants art. ... Ryan’s world is essentially Waiting for Godot, from the bleak landscape to the slapstick violence." – Noah Berlatsky, The Comics Journal (beta)