World War I, that awful, gaping wound in the history of Europe, has long been an obsession of Jacques Tardi’s. (His very first — rejected — comics story dealt with the subject, as does his most recent work, the two-volume Putain de Guerre.) But It Was the War of the trenches is Tardi’s defining, masterful statement on the subject, a graphic novel that can stand shoulder to shoulder with Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.
Tardi is not interested in the national politics, the strategies, or the battles. Like Remarque, he focuses on the day to day of the grunts in the trenches, and, with icy, controlled fury and disgust, with sardonic yet deeply sympathetic narration, he brings that existence alive as no one has before or since. Yet he also delves deeply into the underlying causes of the war, the madness, the cynical political exploitation of patriotism. And in a final, heartbreaking coda, Tardi grimly itemizes the ghastly human cost of the war, and lays out the future 20th century conflicts, all of which seem to spring from this global burst of insanity.
Trenches features some of Tardi’s most stunning artwork. Rendered in an inhabitually lush illustrative style, inspired both by abundant photographic documentation and classic American war comics, augmented by a sophisticated, gorgeous use of Craftint tones, Trenches is somehow simultaneously atypical and a perfect encapsulation of Tardi’s mature style. It is the indisputable centerpiece of Tardi’s oeuvre.
It Was the War of the Trenches has been an object of fascination for North American publishers: RAW published a chapter in the early 1980s, and Drawn and Quarterly magazine serialized a few more in the 1990s. But only a small fraction of Trenches has ever been made available to the English speaking public (in now out of print publications); the Fantagraphics edition, the third in an ongoing collection of the works of this great master, finally remedies this situation.
“‘The war to end all wars’ has become a magisterial comic book to end all comic books. I seldom give blurbs, but this book is an essential classic. Among all of Jacques Tardi's towering achievements as a comics artist, nothing looms larger than this devastating crater of a work. It’s a compulsively readable wail of Existential despair, a kaleidoscope of war’s dehumanizing brutality and of Everyman’s suffering, as well as a deadpan masterpiece of the darkest black humor. The richly composed and obsessively researched drawings — perfectly poised between cartoon and illustration — march to the relentless beats of Tardi’s three horizontal panels per page to dig a hole deep inside your brain. This is one Hell of a book.” —Art Spiegelman
"Tardi’s depiction of the First World War is so impassioned and visceral that it can be compared to the work of the artists who actually served in the trenches." – Joe Sacco
144-page black & white 6.5" x 9.75" softcover • $16.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-318-7
At Comics Alliance, Douglas Wolk calls it "The most riveting, chilling graphic novel I've read so far this year" and "a great, shockingly dark piece of work." At Comics Comics, Joe McCulloch describes this correctly as "the newest of Fantagraphics ‘classic’ line of tall(-ish), thin(ner) softcovers, an all-Beto book collecting short stories featuring the character Fritz." The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon calls this and Penny Century below "Some of the best comics in the world..."
240-page black & white 7.5" x 9.25" softcover • $18.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-342-2
This is "another 240-page entry in the short(er), fat(ter) line of catch-up-quick softcovers which you can promise yourself to, body and soul, in the hopes of an eventually comprehensive reading experience," says Comics Comics' Joe McCulloch, who also declares "my heart belongs to the 1996 miniseries Whoa, Nellie!, a leaner-than-usual action piece adoringly dotted with monolithic images of lady wrestlers in action – it’s like a superhero comic of the period, only just perfectly different enough." Douglas Wolk at Comics Alliance says "It's all great — I'm not sure Jaime could draw a bad comic if he tried..."
120-page black & white 7.75" x 10.5" hardcover • $24.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-353-8
At The Comics Reporter Tom Spurgeon declares "I'd say this is the release of the week: one of the great works from one of the great, important cartoonists." Comics Comics' Joe McCulloch says of Tardi "few artists possess dual OG certification with RAW and Heavy Metal" and calls the book "a human patchwork of WWI service, perhaps the artist’s keystone work." At Comics Alliance, Douglas Wolk describes it as "Tardi's ferocious graphic novel about the horrors of war in general and World War I in particular..."
104-page b&w/color 7.5" x 10.25" softcover • $18.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-284-5
Joe McCulloch sums it up at Comics Comics: "You may have missed this too, when Fantagraphics released it as a hardcover in 2004 – now these 104 pages of vintage Humorama digest illustrations won’t run you $78.99 new, if you believe Amazon sellers." Tom Spurgeon recalls that the original hardcover edition of this "was a really nice book" in his Comics Reporter recommendation.
Previews and information a-plenty can be had at the links above so you can gather knowledge before you gather your wallet and head out to your local shop.
• List:Booklist's Ray Olson names the Top 10 Graphic Novels of the past 12 months, including You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler ("Alt-comics veteran Tyler fully demonstrates her artistry in a book about her father’s WWII experiences, her childhood and present struggles raising her daughter, and her growing realization of war’s long-term effects on soldiers and their families.") and A Mess of Everything by Miss Lasko-Gross ("With washed and faded and wildly varied artwork and writing that sounds utterly like a teen’s voice, Lasko-Gross makes high-schooler Melissa’s late-teen experience real enough to nip incipient nostalgia in the bud.")
• Review: "This charming collection of stories from the long-running and much acclaimed Love and Rockets explores friendship and romance through the interconnected experiences of several characters over many years. ... What's impressive about Hernandez's work isn't so much each story on its own as it is how all the pieces fit together into a whole world that's almost but not quite like our own. ... Hernandez's gorgeous art is both expressive and simple... It all comes together to construct a world and people easy to relate to." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Tardi's work which is distinguished by an unstinting attention to locale and detail, captures the true horror of war in a way that no other artist has been quite able to achieve. ... [It Was the War of the Trenches] is the story of man against the system, with the system as the ultimate winner. This is a story for our times." – Peter Richardson (via ¡Journalista!)
• Profile: Benjamin Ivry of Forward looks at the career of Jules Feiffer, who says "From my earliest cartoons, I’ve tried to work in front of audiences who may not be happy with what I’m saying. In the then left-wing Village Voice, I criticized the student left and they weren’t happy. I don’t find it fun to work before audiences who would agree with me; I prefer to challenge their preconceptions. My role is to push and prod and challenge, and I try to do it pleasantly rather than otherwise."
• Interview:Robot 6's Chris Mautner talks to Matt Thorn about editing our upcoming manga line: "My goal is to make a line that will appeal to the twenty-something Sailor Moon/Pokémon generation that feel they've outgrown the bulk of what is currently available, and that will also appeal to intelligent grown-ups who just enjoy a good read, but have never seen themselves as readers of manga, or even comics. I'd like to provide these people with smart, high-quality, accessible manga."
• Review: "Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko by Blake Bell... [is] fantastic! ... It’s part biography, part art book - an amazing recap of Steve Ditko’s entire career in comics, from the early days with Charlton to the present. ... It’s also one of the best designed books I’ve read recently, including lots of rare pencil pages, out-of-print rarities, and full color scans on virtually every page. There’s a lot more to Steve Ditko than just Doctor Strange and Spider-Man." – Marc Sobel, Comic Book Galaxy
• Review: "Vitally, Anderson draws an earthy King, one who likes soul food and soulful women, but who is also capable of inspiring and challenging oratory, theological radicalism and courageous leadership, even when faced with fists, firebombs, and F.B.I. persecution. Anderson reminds one of U.S. poet Walt Whitman: He keeps publishing the same book, in different editions. But what a book!" – George Elliott Clarke, The Halifax Herald
• Review: "This is a very strange comic... You Are There works best as an absurdist critique of society and politics. ... The absurdity of Forest's script is brought to amazing life... It's a tremendous work of art, heightening the weirdness of the narrative very well. ... I would recommend You Are There because it's a thoughtful look at the pressure of conformity and what drives a man mad. ... Tardi is fantastic and makes the book even wackier, which isn't a bad thing." – Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "It is hard to convey how much of the joy of Unlovable comes not only from the wandering plotline (if there is any in this book) but also from the accompanying visuals. Tammy's attentions, interests and emotions are all scattered. The author's style of drawing lends to the feeling of chaos and scatteredness; the reader senses it in the erratic lines and messy fonts of various sizes. An erratic view of an erratic time of life." – Julia Eussen, AnnArbor.com
• Review: "Johnny Ryan’sPrison Pit is something I keep coming back to — and not just because it’s the only comic book I’ve ever seen that can actively liven up a party. It’s a hilarious, visceral and quick read... for really dumb fun, this is pretty much unbeatable. I’ve considered that maybe the fun isn’t as dumb — that maybe Cannibal Fuckface’s journey through the wastes of the prison pit are a Bunyan-style metaphor for, I don’t know, man coming to terms with the restrictions of modern life, but then I remember it’s a comic that features the term 'burnt jizz,' and I stop thinking and laugh." – David Uzumeri, Robot 6
• Review: "I'd ignored Hal Foster's knights-and-adventure strip until Fantagraphics remastered, recolored and repackaged the first two years of [Prince] Valiant (1937-38) into one of the loveliest reprint volumes of 2009. I became a Foster fan immediately, and bought Brian Kane's Definitive Prince Valiant Companion to learn more about Foster and the other talents (John Cullen Murphy, Gary Gianni and Mark Schultz) who'd worked on the comic during its 70+ years." – Craig Fischer, Thought Balloonists; the remainder of Fischer's take on the Companion is mixed-to-unfavorable, but we still recommend checking it out for his insights and some additional commentary he brings to the table
• Awards: Congratulations to Steve Brodner, nominated for a National Cartoonist Society Division Award (a.k.a. the Reubens) for Advertising Illustration (as reported by The Comics Reporter)
• List/Review: Shannon Smith of File Under Other names Michael Kupperman a favorite cartoonist of 2009 and comments briefly on Mome Vol. 13: "Open letter to comics publishers: If you put Josh Simmons in your book I will buy or steal a copy." (Good news Shannon: be on the lookout for Vol. 19. But please don't steal it.)
• Review: "West Coast Blues is a cracking good crime comic, not really noir but definitely a tale of bad people doing bad things to each other. It's also, oddly enough, very wryly humorous, in a way we don't often see in crime comics here in the States. ... Tardi's art is quite stellar, as well. He's amazingly detailed, but he doesn't pull any tricks on the reader — his work is very straight forward. ...Tardi matches Manchette with panels that demand a great deal of attention - this is a visual feast as well as a literary one." – Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
Not sure exactly what the provenance of this clip is [ed. note: it's an official promotional behind-the-scenes video; Kim came across an unauthorized re-posting on YouTube, hence the mystery], but it starts off with some clever juxtapositions of ADELE BLANC-SEC panels and pages with clips from the movie version, and segues into some nifty behind-the-scenes shots, including a set visit by Jacques Tardi (you see him first at 0:48 watching as his wife Dominique Grange chats with Adele).
I can report that I have finished the translation of ADELE BLANC-SEC VOLUME 1 (which comprises the first two books in the series) and am just waiting to get the digital files from the publisher so we can start lettering. Sell your copies of the NBM version on eBay and reserve your copy at San Diego Comic-Con now!
Here's the new trailer for Luc Besson's movie adaptation of Jacques Tardi's Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adele Blanc-Sec (hat tip to Boing Boing). Man that looks like a fun movie. As we've teased a bit in the past, our new translated editions of the Adele stories start coming out later this year. No U.S. release for the film has been announced yet, unfortunately.
A healthy helping of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List: At The Manga Curmudgeon, David Welsh writes "So you’re among the legion of people who are grateful to Fantagraphics for their recently announced manga initiative, to be curated by Matt Thorn. Who isn’t? I know I am. And you may want to express that gratitude by buying something that Fantagraphics has published. If your comics interests rest primarily in titles from Japan, you may not have sampled other works published by Fantagraphics, so here are some books for your consideration."
• Review: "Amazingly, I was sucked in by the whole enterprise, laughing and groaning and shaking my head. ... It’s scarcely what I would call 'elegant in its simplicity' but with subject matter like this photo-realistic art and emotional weight aren’t called for. These are ugly characters in a gross situation, and Prison Pit treats them with all the indulgence and nastiness needed." – Mark Hale, The Bureau Chiefs
• Review: "Taken as a whole, Newave presents a portrait of an era that might otherwise be overlooked as a vital link between, say, Zap and Eightball. ... [T]he book is a veritable treasure trove of material that would otherwise have been lost to the ages. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s a hell of fun read." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Pre-review: At Trouble with Comics, Alan David Doane takes a look at our preview sampler galley of the forthcoming Stephen Dixon story collection: "What Is All This, based on my reading of this short and enticing preview, looks to be one of the most exciting and intriguing fiction releases of the decade. That I’ve only had a chance to read less than a quarter of its 450 pages is maddening, and thrilling. I can’t wait to read the rest of what Dixon has in store."
• Opinion: At The Comics Journal, Shaenon Garrity's reaction to our manga publishing news and appreciation of Moto Hagio is a must-read: "Is there an animated gif of a unicorn with the head of Jason Shiga devouring the universe and exploding? Because that might just about express the awesomeness of this development."
• Staff: Selections from the forthcoming anthology The Last Vispo, co-edited by our own Nico Vassilakis, will be on exhibit at the Common Ground Art Gallery in Windsor, Ontario, opening this Saturday, March 13 — more info from Crg Hill or on the Facebook event invitation (above example by Dirk Krecker)
• Review: "Dash Shaw seems set to become a name to be reckoned with in comics... [The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.] is a wonderful introduction to Shaw’s work, and should certainly find its way into the hands of those craving more." – Grovel
• Review: "I'm so glad I started reading this series and can't wait to catch up. Usagi Yojimbo is that rare breed of animal comic that works for me, blending Sakai's cartoon style with a story that would not be out of place in Lone Wolf and Cub. Fans of comics set in historical Japan should definitely check this out. You'll be glad you did. I think it would also be a good fit for manga fans looking to try a non-Japanese comic. I enjoyed this book a lot, and look forward to reading more." – Panel Patter
• Review: "Yet another reason to love Fantagraphics is their meticulous sequential collections of classic newspaper strips such as... Hank Ketcham’s Dennis the Menace. This volume collects the strips from 1961 - 1962 in a huge 654-page volume. What has always stood out about the Dennis the Menace strips is that they were single panel cartoons. It takes an incredible level of talent write a single panel cartoon and Ketcham was one of the best. ... Truly a delight that has lost none of its humor in fifty years. Grade A" – Tim Janson, The Gouverneur Times
• Review: "...Ho Che Anderson's Sand & Fury... [is] a slightly twisty tale of sex, serial killers, and the supernatural, told very stylishly in black, white, and red. Blood and shadows therefore get a lot of play across Anderson's desolate southwestern landscapes; and although his lines can be thick and blocky, his figures evoke a good bit of emotion. There's a lot of nudity, a whole lot of violence, and so the plot can be boiled down to a very simple level: revenge, good vs. evil, etc. However, Anderson's anonymous main character, and the people she befriends, are more than just nominally sympathetic. I feel like I'm not doing the book justice, because it is a very raw tale, full of death and sex, and I liked it a lot." – Tom Bondurant, Robot 6
• Plug: "King creator Ho Che Anderson has a brand new Scream Queen book, Sand & Fury. Ho's work always looks good, and I'm personally pretty happy to see this one..." – Chris Butcher, The Beguiling
• Interview: At Robot 6, Tim O'Shea talks to Ho Che Anderson about the new Special Edition of King ("That’s one thing I wish I could have done more of, slashing dialog, rewriting more of it, but at a certain point you gotta let it go. (Yes, George Lucas, I am talking about you.)") and his new graphic novel Sand & Fury ("To me, sex and horror or sex and violence seem to go naturally together. They seem to stem from the same twisted areas of our psyches. What scares us can often arouse us, sometimes despite ourselves, and vice versa.")
• Profile:CNN's Bob Greene pays tribute to Bill Mauldin on the occasion of the release of Mauldin's commemorative US postage stamp this month: "Mauldin, and his work, meant so much to the millions of Americans who fought in World War II, and to those who had waited for them to come home. He was a kid cartoonist for Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper; Mauldin's drawings of his muddy, exhausted, whisker-stubbled infantrymen Willie and Joe were the voice of truth about what it was like on the front lines." (hat tip to Walt Simonson)
Win big in today's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List:Only the Cinema's Ed Howard begins counting down The Best Comics of the Decade: part 1 includes Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle at #52 ("...absurd scenarios proliferate throughout each issue of Kupperman's series, as he follows each loony premise through to its (il)logical end result. He's a versatile stylist as well..."), Eleanor Davis's Mome stories at #51 ("The short stories of Eleanor Davis draw on myth and horror to craft succinct, mysteriously moving little parables, like Grimm fairy tales where the "monsters" are almost always infused with pathos and feeling"), Eightball #23 by Daniel Clowes at #47 ("a self-contained epic in miniature, poking at superhero archetypes, with their ideas about 'responsibility' and 'right,' in order to tell a quiet, maudlin story of loneliness and self-isolation"), and Abstract Comics: The Anthology at #42 ("What's best about the book is how open its territory ultimately is, how much room it leaves for artists to come up with their own ideas about abstraction and sequence. It is a truly groundbreaking book that points the way towards a whole new conception of comics and challenges readers and artists alike to explore this new area.")
• Reviews: "Manchette’s brand of punk noir bears an existential, leftist tinge, with traces of Ballardian anomie. ... Opening Tardi’s adaptation [of West Coast Blues], one is quickly reassured by the faithfulness to the original novel. ... Tardi seems to have read Manchette’s mind when it came to visualizing the characters, scenery and action of the novel.... [and] his superior drafting skills are always in service to a tight rendering of the real world, from trains to forests to city streets. ... Turning to Tardi ‘s earlier work, You Are There, scripted by Forest..., we encounter a looser, sketchier style, admirably suited to the baggy-pants, fabulistic story and exhibiting similarities to the work of such artists as Moebius, Rick Geary, Aubrey Beardsley and Edward Gorey. Outbursts of calculated surrealism complement his unswerving attention to the quotidian. The beautiful and sensitive architectural renderings, as well as shots of nature — fields, a lake, birds, trees — contrast with the goofiness of our protagonist to good effect. ... Forest’s 1979 tale exudes a fin de Sixties, fey whimsicality. Think The Mouse That Roared crossed with Gormenghast and The Prisoner. Beckett-like soliloquies and Pinteresque dialogue round out the ambiance." – Paul Di Filippo, The Barnes & Noble Review
• Review: "This generous volume reprints Maakies strips beginning early in this decade. ... As such, [Drinky Crow's Maakies] Treasury really does represent an overflowing bounty of absolutely primo Millionaire and stands as an invaluable, one–stop companion to Pre-Millennial Maakies for devotees. Newcomers, however, should understand that their sense of humor will be expanded, pulled… actually, think of a medieval rack where subjects were strapped in and stretched to shocking, heretofore inconceivable lengths." – Rich Kreiner, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Jason is a painfully good comic creator – the man has a phenomenal knowledge of pacing, a sense of humour that’s darker than Darth Vader in a mine at midnight and deceptively simple figurework that says a shitload with very little. The stories collected in Low Moon are mostly full of that black, black humour. ... If you’re not reading Jason’s stuff, then you don’t really like comics, because this shit is as pure as it gets." – Bob Temuka, The Tearoom of Despair