• Review: "[Dan Nadel:] Reading Pim & Francie is an apocalyptic experience — as if Columbia is demolishing both his own work and the idea of 'cartooning' in general. I found it exhilarating and terrifying. ... [Tim Hodler:] ...The fact that so many of these grotesque stories and vignettes don't really resolve contributes to the reader's growing sense of unease. ... Al Columbia's comics... really bring out the surreal terror already buried within cartoon imagery. ... [Frank Santoro:] Pim and Francie's adventure struck a chord in me that's been dormant for a long time. A haunting wonder, perhaps? A curiosity of the unknown that, when found, rattles one to the core?" – Comics Comics critics' roundtable
• Video: Visa denial (for shame!) forced Gene Deitch to deliver his keynote address to China's Xiamen International Animation Festival by video; Cartoon Brew shares the clip along with the text of the speech Gene would have given in person
• Hooray for (the French equivalent of) Hollywood: Comix 411 takes a look at Luc Besson's in-production film adaptation of Jacques Tardi's Adèle Blanc-Sec (which Kim flogged about a few weeks ago); for the Francophones among you, TF1 has some behind-the-scenes video footage
Online Commentary & Diversions with a hockey mask:
• Review: "[Jacques] Boyreau’s new art book, Portable Grindhouse, is more than a stunning collection of VHS box art. Anyone with a sense of nostalgia for cruising the shelves at the local Video Depot will recognize old favorites alongside more than a few bizarre rarities within its pages, and if you don’t feel a sense of loss over the current state of DVD box art, you just don’t have any feelings. ... Like the VHS boxes of old, Boyreau’s introductory essay is less a history of the VHS format and the culture of the rental business than it is a heady evocation of how exciting it was when it first arrived. ...[A] book as lovingly edited as this could only have been put together by someone whose appreciation for these objects is matched by a real love of cinema." – Matthew Caron, Vol. 1 Brooklyn
• Review: "...West Coast Blues... is... a tightly-plotted little crime noir, just the sort of thing that today's discerning comic book readers seem to be interested in... It's noir by way of existential hell, which, let's face it is very French. This is... an admirable book, tightly plotted and full of great cartooning moments. ...You Are There is a heavily dense and convoluted book... presented with a decidedly absurdist and surreal air. ... You Are There constantly skirts the edge of comedy — it knows the language and does the dance — but never becomes the outright farce it so clearly and consistently hints at evolving into. ... Whatever flaws these two books might posses, they and Tardi remain too interesting and rich to be easily dismissed." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Interview: Martha's Vineyard Magazine's Karla Araujo has a Q&A with Jules Feiffer ("Success is nothing to sneeze at, but failure has many possibilities"), followed by an excerpt from Feiffer's upcoming memoir Backing Into Forward
I knew I was getting off too easy! Nick Gazin is trying to kill me. There are also some negative reviews of our books at the links below, but I won't say any more about those:
• Review: "Fantagraphics has come to my foreign comic book rescue and published hardcovered English translations of West Coast Blues, which was good, and [You Are There], which is great. ... Tardi has nice skinny lines and large fields of black. His architecture and cars and landscapes are amazing. Just the idea of Arthur There running up and down the walls and living in this skinny little house are neat ideas. This book talks a lot about what it’s like when you spend your life alone and how nuts a slutty crazy girl can make you. ... Summing up: If you hate everything that isn’t old timey and French and love sluts who are nuts then get this book fast." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "[Portable Grindhouse] presents the most beautiful and lurid VHS boxes ever produced. ... Someone was inevitably going to make this book and Jacques Boyreau made something special that a lot of people are going to love owning. The design is beautiful, the art is reproduced perfectly, and the paper stock feels especially good. It even comes packed in a slipcase that looks like a VHS sleeve spattered in blood. A well-designed book showing off these funny and beautiful examples of a dead medium would be enough, but the introductary essay is a revelatory piece on the importance of VHS and the role it played in cinematic history." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "[Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1] is chock-full of intense faces and monsters and colors. Strong blacks, horror comics, mean revenge, strange surgery, and stuff. It’s all horror comics from before Frederic Wertham illegalized good-time comic books. The cover is really thick and the hardcover is hard as hell." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "This series is awesome, perfect, and essential. I’ll die with my collection of [The Complete Crumb Comics] on my shelf unless there’s a fire or America slips into a Mad Max-style society. ... These should sit on your shelf next to the complete Shakespeare, your Bible, and the complete Sherlock Holmes." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "...[The Troublemakers] is a sweet little book in which a bunch of grifters try to trick each other out of money. It seems to be about love and trust and whether anybody is dependable or if they’re all trying to survive. It’s pretty great." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "[Prison Pit Book 1] is great and an essential read since so few new good comics get made. ... If you love or hate Johnny R. you gotta get this shit. It is important. Buy buy buy." – Nick Gazin, Vice (new link!)
• Review: "Every issue of Love and Rockets is a winner and I am never bored by anything the Hernandez Brothers do. The comics have been so consistently good since the first one came out in 1981 that there's almost no point in reviewing [New Stories #2] other than to say, 'Hey, it came out so go to the store and you can buy it now.'" – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "Tardi is a legend of European comics and it's wonderful to have hardbound English translations of his work. [West Coast Blues] is full of beautiful drawings of Paris, people, cars, fights, and rural life. The story deals with the human condition and what it means to be a man and civilization versus nature while the main character hides from hit men in the mountains. This book feels... like an updated Tintin..." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "Back in the Golden Age of comics there were few comic auteurs but Fletcher Hanks was one of the few. ... The stories [in You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation!] are weird and grim. The art is unprofessional and beautiful." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "Peanuts was an amazing comic. Charles Schulz was an amazing artist. Fantagraphics' Complete Peanuts series are great and [1973-1974] is the best one yet. The humor is unparalleled and the stories are great. ... Charles Schulz was a sad and funny guy and this book features him at his saddest and funniest. If you bought some of the earlier volumes in this series and then forgot about it, then it's time to catch up." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
Your Online Commentary & Diversions-style goodies for today:
• Review: "...[F]or fans of off-beat crime..., I give you Jacques Tardi’s no-shit brilliant adaptation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s West Coast Blues. ... [W]hat starts out as something straight out of a Hitchcock classic like North by Northwest soon escalates into something more savage, more profound, and utterly wonderful... It succeeds brilliantly in good old-fashioned crime thrills, for sure. The violence is brutal, the story exciting and surprising, and the characters are brilliantly rendered. But then there’s that extra little layer, those subtle themes, those strange details, the lyrical narration passages — let’s just stop and cut to the fucking chase: you should just pick this shit up and be floored. This is about as good as comics get, dear readers." – BSCreview
• Review: "The rape of the innocent. The callousness of the machine. The girth of the profiteers. The threat of the bomb. The hollowness of the victories. [Craig] Yoe has collected more than 220 of those anti-war cartoons in [The Great Anti-War Cartoons,] a book of indelible images that remind us those confrontations aren't what they used to be." – Steve Duin, The Oregonian
• Plug: "[Zak] Sally's one of those artists who can convey a sense of dread or horror out of seeming thin air, and he's really been on the periphery for far too long now. Hopefully [Like a Dog] will thrust him into the limelight." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Interview: At Marvel.com, Sean T. Collins talks to Paul Hornschemeier about his Strange Tales contribution: "I think this story is far more cerebral than the typical mainstream comics, for better or worse. But it will be brightly colored, so hopefully that will get everyone though the awful philosophical ranting I'm about to unleash. Get ready for more shots from my boredom gun." (Paul offers a couple of corrections at his blog)
• Interview: Lauren McKinley of [^]LAND talks to Fantagraphics art director Jacob Covey: "I'd say my style is heavily influenced by where I first learned how to design — making photocopied black and white flyers for rock shows. I feel like that, far more than anything else, taught me most of what I've learned about how to make type and image work."
• Analysis: More commentary on the future of The Comics Journal, this time from CBR's Augie De Blieck Jr.
• List: At Robot 6, Sean T. Collins's top 6 "deeply creepy 'alt-horror' cartoonists" includes Renee French ("her frequently deformed (more like unformed) characters and hazy, dreamlike, soft-focus pencils recall [David] Lynch's unnerving debut Eraserhead with its dust-mote cinematography and mewling infant thing"), Hans Rickheit ("It just so happens that his 'normal' is grotesque and harrowing to the rest of us"), Al Columbia ("It's as though a team of expert [animation] craftsmen became trapped in their office sometime during the Depression and were forgotten about for decades, reduced to inbreeding, feeding on their own dead, and making human sacrifices to the mimeograph machine, and when the authorities finally stumbled across their charnel-house lair, this stuff is what they were working on in the darkness") and Josh Simmons ("one of a very few comics creators still capable of shocking... doing serious, dangerous work")
• Review: "West Coast Blues is a brilliant story, and Manchette was a phenomenal writer of the modern world, putting others to shame at times. Just that simple, really. This is a book that can’t be reduced to familiar genre markers." – Brian Lindenmuth, BSCreview
• Review: "Bruce Paley tells his tale with no frills and no holds barred. ... The book is at times quite funny and other times terribly depressing, but it is never dull and I found it hard to put down. Carol Swain’s artwork fits the mood of the book well. It’s fairly simple but it hits all the right notes and evokes the right emotions. I was completely unfamiliar with her work prior to this book, but I’ll keep an eye out for her in the future. ... I found this book to be incredibly compelling in its own laid back sort of way. ... There’s no shortage of books out there about the 1960’s and ‘70s, but this one felt a lot more personal than most. Paley’s words mingled with Swain’s artwork so perfectly that you almost felt like the guy was sitting across the table from you, sharing a beer or two and swapping stories. If you’re interested in that era or you just like a good autobiography, I’d give Giraffes in my Hair: A Rock 'n' Roll Life a shot." – Chad Derdowski, Mania.com
This has been a bit under the radar for American fans (I don't remember seeing a peep about it on such sites as aint-it-cool) but Luc Besson is well underway filming his adaptation of what looks like the first two or three Adèle Blanc-Sec albums by Jacques Tardi , and the movie is supposed to premiere in France next Spring and open throughout Europe during the Spring and Summer. (No American distributor yet, but it's hard to believe a Besson movie wouldn't find a Stateside berth.) It's intended as the first of a trilogy, too, presumably adapting the whole series.
With a cast that includes Bond villain (and, for the art-cinema crowd, Diving Bell and Butterfly star) Mathieu Almaric and go-to psychotic Philippe Nahon (of I Stand Alone, Irreversible, and High Tension infamy), as well as a relatively unknown but mighty pretty young woman as Adèle (although it's a pity that Isabelle Huppert, who was born to play Adèle just as much as Shelley Duvall was born to play Olive Oyl, is too old for the part by now), Adèle looks like it could be a lot of fun; the plot description suggests that Besson is hewing very closely to the original. (And the "Indiana Jones meets Amélie" description is inspired.) It's Besson's first all-out action/adventure movie since The Fifth Element 12 years ago.
Here's the poster, and click here for a scan of the PR one-sheet:
Today brings some big-deal Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: At Comics Comics, Frank Santoro declares The Troublemakers by Gilbert Hernandez "Best in Show" at APE and gives it a wordless review that says it all
• Review: "Translated into English for the first time since it was written, more than 25 years ago, Jacques Tardi & Jean-Claude Forest’s You Are Thereproves well worth the wait. Forest’s satirical, minimalist writing lampoons French society and human greed with equal skill, and Tardi has never done better art: It’s all deep, dark pools of blackness that perfectly match the pitch-dark humor of the writing. Equal parts Beckett and Kafka, the story explores the conflict between greedy speculators and the last heir of an aristocratic family whose land has been reduced to a series of precarious walls and towers. Tardi’s intricate, gorgeous art gets better and better until the book’s spectacular ending. It’s an absolute must-read for anyone interested in how European comics got to where they are today. Had this been translated earlier, it likely would be counted as one of the masterpieces of the rich period of the mid-’80s… [Grade:] A" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "One of the best things about Mome is that, as a reader, I feel like I'm getting work from each artist that's their 'A' material. [Lilli] Carré and [Dash] Shaw have many other outlets for publication, but it's clear that they take a special delight in having an outlet for their short story ideas. [Nate] Neal and Kurt Wolfgang have Mome as their primary outlet for publication, and clearly go all-out in every story. ... I'd like to see young artists like [Conor] O'Keefe and [Sara] Edward-Corbett grow more ambitious and perhaps even serialize a story in the anthology. Of course, seeing outstanding work from old favorites along with translated short stories of European artists has been another welcome trend for what continues to be a must-read book, issue after issue." – Rob Clough
• Profile: Robot 6's Chris Mautner, undoubtedly echoing the sentiments of many, makes his plea for a collection of the early work of Al Columbia
• Interview: Art historian and critic Catherine Spaeth talks to Abstract Comics editor Andrei Molotiu: "One thing that is interesting to me about abstract comics is exactly that they contain no preexisting narrative and therefore no excuse for a sense of diegetic time. You’re not following a story, so what you are left with are the actual visual elements on the page (panels, shapes) that move your eye from panel to panel but outside of a fictional time frame."
• Events: Vince Keenan has a brief recap of the Fantagraphics-sponsored comics panel at Seattle Bookfest
Some Online Commentary & Diversions to wrap up your week:
• Review: "Artist Carol Swain brings a sober British reserve to her husband Bruce Paley's tales of hippie and punk excess for a nostalgic feel with the winning Giraffes In My Hair: A Rock ‘n' Roll Life. ...[F]rom the late ‘60s through the early ‘80s, his peripatetic adventures with drugs, women, and punker Johnny Thunders make for a series of fun, roguish vignettes. ... Swain uses pencil to understated effect, and works up a lyrical, nostalgic vibe. Her simple scenes arrange a loose chronological narrative into a warm experience conveyed as in a film or a song—at its best, Giraffes plays like Dylan's'Tangled Up in Blue,' if you will. ... Highly recommended." – Byron Kerman, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "West Coast Blues is just the right mixture of action, suspense, and surprise to keep just about any reader’s attention. ... It’s hard to ignore the strength of Tardi’s art in making West Coast Blues such a strong graphic novel. ... West Coast Blues is a sharp, beautiful book. ... For people looking for a noir thriller, you’ve come to the right place." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Review: "Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock ‘N' Roll Life... is deeply personal but doesn't get bogged down with self service or making a Titan out of a man. I love that here we have a view of some of the seedier sides of counterculture that doesn't have an agenda beyond the act of sharing...of storytelling. It feels like a recounting, almost a journalistic telling of the facts of his personal history. But it also feels like you're having a great dinner with an old friend. ... As a graphic novel it is very strong. Carol Swain’s rough-layered pencils are distinct and complex with texture. ... Giraffes achieves a fusion of art and story where each serves the other in a mutually empowering way. An ideal comic. It is sharp and witty visual commentary on sharp and witty writing. There is a great eye for details at play with Swain's artwork. ... It is as though the story and memory of the story are more important than the teller himself. Brilliant." – Jared Gniewek, Graphic NYC
• Review: "The fact is that comics have always had an abstract artistic potential — and as far as my memory goes, one that is accepted by all worthwhile theoretical definitions of comics. But, until now, its role was secondary, relegated to isolated experiments. It is here that the anthology does its job: presenting an overview and organizing it, Abstract Comics creates a movement. From it, abstraction in comics can move beyond an experiment and become a legitimate possibility — a process that began in the visual arts years ago." – Eduardo Nasi, Universo HQ (translated from Portuguese on the Abstract Comics Blog)
• Review: "West Coast Blues is Fantagraphics' first offering in what one hopes will be am ambitious Tardi reprint project... It's an elegant, somewhat unorthodox set-up, at least with Tardi's narration, and indeed Tardi makes a number of creative, idiosyncratic choices in adapting the novel. ... The '70s milieu shouldn't put anyone off, and in fact that's one of the book's charms, with Tardi's clean line depicting classic old Mercedes and Citroens, and plenty of legwork and driving rather than digital assistance. Tardi has a really appealing style, clear and photorealistic in the details and yet messy with life. ... Tardi doesn't shy away from the violence of the story, but he doesn't revel in it, either, his pages all varying grids, many with tall, narrow panels that keep the pace brisk." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
• Plug: "As Orson Welles and Terry Gilliam have film adaptations of Don Quixote as their great incomplete masterworks; Al Columbia has Pim and Francie. A work over 15 years in the making, and never now likely to be ‘finished', the pieces of it have been assembled as Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days." – Marc Arsenault, Wow Cool
Scheduled to make their way to comics shops this week:
Mome Vol. 16 - Fall 2009 (note: mistakenly listed as Summer 2009 on Diamond's shipping list) - with the Mome debuts of cover artist Renee French, Nicolas Mahler, Archer Prewitt, & Ted Stearn, plus the usual mess of other great stuff.
You Are There by Jacques Tardi & Jean-Claude Forest - the landmark Eurocomics graphic novel, newly translated and presented for North American audiences for the first time.
More info and previews can, of course, be seen at the links above, so have a look-see, confirm availability with your local shop, and buy buy buy.