• List: Gustavo Guimaraes of Brazilian culture & entertainment site Ambrosia names "The best comics published in the U.S. in 2011 - Alternative and classic," including Congress of the Animals by Jim Woodring (all quotes translated from Portuguese)...
"The world created by Woodring is unique, beautiful and scary. His stories can be incomprehensible at times, but always intriguing and charming."
"Sala's characters look like something out of old horror and mystery movies, and his plots possess a rare levity for narratives of the genre. The colorful art makes the his twisted drawings even more attractive."
"Walt Kelly was a complete artist, his drawings were graceful, his stories were simple and fun while at the same time provoking the reader with hints of metalanguage and political content. His writing was faceted with the sensibility of a great satirist."
"A masterpiece of old adventure comics continues today thanks largely to Foster's fantastic realistic art. Landscapes and epic battles are played to perfection by the author, turning the limited space of each panel into a window to a world where historical characters live with mythological beings. Careful printing in oversize hardcover as well as meticulous reproduction of the beautiful original colors make this collection from Fantagraphics a model for classic comics publishing."
"Even if you already have all of Carl Barks' comics of you will want to buy this book. It is the first time that these comics are being reissued with the original colors, digitally restored. This deluxe edition, with hard covers and high-quality paper, includes articles on all the comics collected in the volume."
• Review: "To say that it has been worth the wait is wild understatement. Pogo Through the Wild Blue Wonder is beautifully produced — no surprise to anyone familiar with the work of Fantagraphics Books in Seattle — and a joy to read. It comes as a genuine gift to anyone who loved Pogo and, it is to be hoped, as an introduction for younger readers to what many people believe was the best comic strip ever drawn in this country." – Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
• Review: "Wilson's genuine bravery, as this strip makes clear, is not that he set himself up as a rival to Charles Schulz but rather the directness with which Nuts confronts genuinely painful and baffling topics like sickness, mental illness, and death. When dealing with master artists, any ranking becomes absurd because each creator is memorable by the individual mark he or she leaves. So let’s leave Peanuts comparisons aside and say that Nuts is one of the major American comic strips and we’re lucky to have the complete run in this handsome, compact volume." – Jeet Heer, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Jacques Tardi’s interpretation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s book [Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot] is an intense and shocking thriller.... Dark, brutal and uterly compelling, classic thriller fans should lap this up. Put a few hours aside before picking it up though, because you won’t want to put it down and it’s a feast worth savouring." – Grovel
• Review: "I gave Roy Crane’s Captain Easy, Solder Of Fortune: The Complete Sunday Newspaper Strips Volume 1 1933-1935 a good thumbing many, many times before picking it up. The artwork was too simple, the stories silly. One day in my local comic shop with nothing new to read I picked it up. What I failed to comprehend as I stood in the comic shop flipping pages in this book is that Crane chose the elements of his strip carefully, especially those I dismissed it for. Simple character design, bright colours, fictional locations and action with a sense of humour. After finishing the volume I applaud his choices." – Scott VanderPloeg, Comic Book Daily
• Interview (Audio):The Comics Journal presents a recording of the Jack Davis interview conducted by Gary Groth and Drew Friedman at last month's Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival (posted here after a slight delay due to technical audio issues)
• Interview:Culture Brats has "Seven Questions in Heaven" with Esther Pearl Watson: "Even though now I have a huge collection of mini-comics, I try not to look at other comic artists as influences. They draw too nice, or have their thing down. Comic storytelling styles can be as individual as fingerprints. We spend years creating our own narrative language. Instead I look at naive drawing and self-taught artists to de-skill."
• Conflict of Interest: Our own Larry Reid names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 one of his favorite comics of 2011 in a guest column at Graphic Eye: "The conclusion of Jaime’s poignant 'Love Bunglers' story alone made this book essential reading in 2011. Almost unfathomably, Love & Rockets keeps getting better with age."
• List:Comics Bulletin names Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes the Best Archival Reprint of 2011, with Jason Sacks saying "Universally acclaimed as one of the finest reprints of Barks's works by even the most exacting Duckophiles, Lost in the Andes finally presents an English-language collection of Duck stores behind two hard covers and with the typical exacting standards for which Fantagraphics is justifiably famous. The good people at Fantagraphics outdid themselves with this reprint, which will undoubtedly be a treasure enjoyed by fans for many years."
...and they also name Dave McKean's Celluloid the Best Erotic Graphic Novel of 2011, with Daniel Elkin saying "Dave McKean is a tremendous artist. He creates work of enormous emotional impact with a deftness and subtlety that is so often missing in modern art. McKean can tell an entire novel's story in a single picture. He's that good.... Celluloid is beautiful and it is powerful and it is mysterious and engaging. It is art as defined by every iteration of the word. It is also another example of what comics can do that no other form of media can match."
• List:Forbidden Planet International's Joe Gordon names The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec Vol. 2 one of his Best of the Year: "For my money Jacques Tardi is one of Europe’s great comics creators, a true maestro... This second helping collects two of the original French albums and serves up a heady cocktail of conspiracies, secret societies, black magic practicioners, mad scientists (and boy does Tardi do a great, cackling mad scientist – he even brings in some from his brilliant The Arctic Maruader into this) and all set against a beautifully realised backdrop of Belle Epoque, pre-war Paris. Fantagraphics are translating a huge swathe of Tardi’s work and in fact I’d recommend and and everything they have so far translated and republished, but for the sake of this piece I’ll go with the wonderful Adèle."
• List: One more Best of the Year list at Forbidden Planet International, with festival organizer Clark Burscough putting Joe Daly's Dungeon Quest Book 2 at the top of his Graphic Novels list: "Childish, purile, hilarious, brilliant. I am completely in love with Joe Daly’s series at this point, and the second volume continues in the same vein as the first; namely, silly stoner-esque humour, with a love for RPGs at its heart."
• Review: "...[Young Romance] is a real treat, an inexpensive way to read a nice sampling of some Kirby comics that any Kirby fanatic has to be curious about. Michael Gagne did a great job assembling a fun cross-section of stories, and noted romance comics historian Michelle Nolan provides an insightful introduction. These might not be the first classic Kirby comics that you would choose to pick up, but they are a lot of fun to read. Rating: ★★★★★" – Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
• Review: "The art is evocative and detailed, still in a very Ub Iwerks-ian rubber-hose style... The character of Mickey [Mouse] -- and the simple fact that he has a character, and isn't just the waving silent mascot of the last couple of decades of Disney -- will be surprising to most readers, but this mouse was a tough little guy, ready for both adventures and fun at any minute, and he's deeply enjoyable to read about." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Profile:The Portland Mercury's Matt Stangel catches up with Tony Millionaire on working the illustrator's beat (as documented in 500 Portraits): "'Making a living off comics is almost impossible,' says Millionaire, musing on the illustration work that's kept him fed through the years."
• Review: "...Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics isn’t just a book of some minor historical interest; it’s a genuinely entertaining and artful set of comics, and in some ways more readable than Simon and Kirby’s adventure stories.... Simon’s plots deal with jealousy, class conflict, mistaken identity, selfishness, and selflessness — the romance staples — while Kirby’s art makes these tales of passion and deceit especially dynamic, with deep shadows and a mix of the glamorous and the lumpen. ...Simon and Kirby... depict[ed] a world of darkness and heavy emotion, inhabited by clean-looking people in pretty clothes." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Though not a novel per se, The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat does tell a story of sorts, about Crumb’s evolution as an artist, from the mild-mannered greeting-card designer who drew cheeky doodles in his spare time, to the prickly satirist who’d use Fritz as a way to comment on the sick soul of the ’60s and his own at-times-unwieldy success." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Nuts wasn't action-packed or boldly satirical. Just the opposite, in fact -- it was subtle and thoughtful, with what I'm guessing was a heavy autobiographical element on the part of Mr.Wilson.... You might not have grown up when Wilson did, or when the [National Lampoon] was published, or when I first read these strips years ago, so the details have changed. But I'm willing to bet the emotions our hero felt remain almost exactly the same, no matter what generation is reading about him. And, of course, Gahan Wilson's cartooning is what makes the strips special." – Will Pfeifer, X-Ray Spex
• Review: "There are few collections of comics that you can truly describe as 'beautiful art'; however, Fantagraphics’ series of Prince Valiant trades is absolutely stunning to look at and is easy to write flattering things about, because it is so flattering for a reader’s eyes to behold Foster’s artwork crisp, clear, and huge in all its splendor. The fourth volume of Prince Valiant, which collects all the Sunday pages in full color from 1943 to 1944, is just wonderful, whether you are 4 or 94; it is a totally engrossing experience to dive into the world of the adventurous prince on these pages." – Drew McCabe, ComicAttack.net
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks with Zak Sally about his new self-published, self-printed collection of Sammy the Mouse: "I've gotten out three issues of Sammy in five years, and in that five years I've had two kids, I've been married. My life has changed extraordinarily. That's just the way art works, you know. I was doing issue #2 -- maybe #3, I can't remember -- and there was stuff going on in my life. Six months later I look at that issue and I was like, 'Oh my sweet God.' It was absolutely reflective of what had been going on at the time, and I was completely unaware of it. I just think that's part of it, and that's the way it works."
• Interview: At Nummer 9, Erik Barkman has a Q&A (in Danish) with Johan F. Krarups (editor Matthias Wivel describes it as a "commentary track") about his contribution to the Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now anthology
• Plug: Heidi MacDonald of The Beat looks forward to Jaime Hernandez's God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls: "We can’t help but think that all of the people calling for great superhero stories featuring women will find Ti-Girls a masterpiece, as well, an entire superhero universe made up of nothing but superheroines of various shapes and sizes. It’s jaunty Jaime to be sure, but even so probably one of the best superhero stories of the last decade."
• Plug: "Fantagraphics is still the gold standard for classy newspaper strip collections. I’m afraid people are getting jaded now about how the wonderful Peanuts volumes are chugging right along year after year, but it’s worth pointing out that they continue to be everything anyone could ever want from an archive edition. What’s more, Fantagraphics followed it up with these new Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse collections." – Greg Hatcher, Comic Book Resources
• Plug: Found this nice nugget in Laura Hudson's interview with Chris Onstad at ComicsAlliance: "Jim Woodring is great, and is one of those people who will honestly admit to you that, 'Yeah, my brain's a little f**ked up.' His comics are sort of a manifestation of his brain. It works for him. He's a really wonderful guy. He has this big three-story place with big, gothic abbey rope hanging in front of the front door. The rope rings a little bell to let you know that someone's at the door. One time it rings in the foyer so his wife opens the door, and there's this little cat there that came in from the road. So they let the cat in, shut the door, and we all go about our night. Then we watched Popeye for two hours. That's Jim. And he does all of his work based on hallucination. None of it's set in reality. Uncanny things that make me feel strange happen [in his comics]."
• Analysis: Jordan Hurder, Chance Press examines the collaborations between Jacques Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette: "Tardi is a fantastically celebrated cartoonist who has been at the forefront of the industry in France for 35 years. In contrast to his slow burn, Manchette shot out ten crime novels over the course of ten years, redefined and reinvigorated the French crime novel, became hugely influential, and died of cancer in the 1990s.... The compatibility between the two artists is uncanny; maybe a better critic could point out exactly why in just a few words, or maybe it’s one of those matchups that works without needing explanation." – Jordan Hurder, Chance Press
• Commentary:Gary Groth remembers Christopher Hitchens in "My Dinner with Hitch" at The Comics Journal
• History: Speaking of our dear leader, David Hine presents some scans from an issue of Gary's pre-Fantagraphics fanzine, Fantastic Fanzine (hat tip to Dan Nadel at TCJ.com)
• List:Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 is ComicsAlliance's Best Comic of 2011, with Jason Michelitch saying "The final 15 pages of 'The Love Bunglers' isn't just the end of a great new issue of a Bros. Hernanadez comic book. It isn't just the sixth part of a fantastic serialized graphic novel that's run since last year. It is the culmination of nearly thirty years worth of nuance, gesture, shading, pacing and dialogue — of angst, mania, fear, friendship, anger, and love. It is the finale to an epic of human scale feeling and drama. It is heart-stopping."
• List: Matthew Price of The Oklahoman names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 the Best Graphic Novel of 2011: "The Brothers Hernandez are some of the best cartoonists in comics' history, and Jamie Hernandez has one of the high points of his career in Vol. 4 of 'New Stories.'... Gilbert's visceral tale satirizes a societal obsession with vampires by showing their messy, unforgiving side."
• List:The A.V. Club's Noel Murray names The Best Comics of 2011: Graphic Novels & Art Comics in several subcategories. In Original Graphic Novels Mark Kalesniko's Freeway comes in at #4...
"Kalesniko’s animation-influenced style makes Freeway a fluid read, as he emphasizes motion, in striking compositions that guide the eye across the page smoothly. The plot moves just as freely, as Kalesniko renders both the exterior and interior spaces of his protagonist with a mix of loving care and impassioned disgust."
"Farmer jumps between matter-of-fact details and amusing anecdotes about the grind of end-of-life care, while turning the book into a celebration of two people: her father, a cheerful man so determined not to complain that he let serious health problems slide for months; and her stepmother, a steadfast woman whose pragmatism warred with her vanity. The book depicts old age as a wild, lurching ride: from medical crises to euphoric nostalgia to an eerie calm as the end draws near."
"Anyone who’s alive in the world should be moved by this story’s depiction of life as a series of accidents, miscommunications, and embarrassments, which sometimes work out okay regardless. 'The Love Bunglers' is rich with hidden meanings, complicated ideas and superior artistry."
...and Kevin Huizenga's Ganges #4 in the #2 spot...
"The fourth issue of Kevin Huizenga’s Gangescontinues the artist’s increasingly masterful hybrid of direct storytelling and experimental abstraction... The story suits Huizenga’s style, because he can both document the familiar minutiae of daily life and the sense of unreality that takes hold whenever someone is up half the night. Huizenga works in visual motifs of endlessly branching possibilities and spiraling shapes, showing how becoming 'lost in thought' can be terrifying."
"...Lost in the Andes encourages both fannish and intellectual approaches to the material. There are scholarly analyses and bibliographies, but also more than 200 pages of some of the best-written comics ever published, full of square eggs, rubber bricks, golden Christmas trees, and races around the world."
"The early Pogos aren’t as topical as what would come later, when Kelly would become a hero to the counterculture for taking on McCarthyism and promoting ecology. Mostly, these strips establish the world of the Okefenokee Swamp and the animals who dwell there, with Pogo the possum standing as the calm center of a cast that includes the dim Albert Alligator, the not-as-bright-as-he-thinks Howland Owl and the misanthropic, hilariously humorless Porkypine."
"The cartoons in Willie & Joe: Back Home capture Mauldin at a low ebb personally, but ferociously inspired professionally. Over the objections of his editors, Mauldin drew cartoons about estranged wives, limited employment opportunities, heartless fatcats, and an America more petty, materialistic, and xenophobic than the one they’d left behind... Today they’re a blistering reminder that life after WWII wasn’t all suburban bliss and baby boom."
"The highlight of the volumes are the strips themselves which are a lot of fun and show an adventurous side to Mickey that may come as a surprise to those who only know the modern Mickey. It’s also fun watching Gottfredson develop as an artist and storyteller as the strips progress. In addition to the comics there are essays examining the stories, the creators involved (the comics were often inked and scripted by others), and the characters themselves. This series is a long overdue look at one of comics legendary creators and their work."
"...[T]his book is so great and contains all the things you would want from a career retrospective from Jack Davis. Jack Davis is one of America's great illustrators whose career started in the late 1930s and continues to this day. That's fucking insane to think about.... Like I said, this book delivers the goods in a big way. It's 13 inches tall so you can really sink your eyeballs' teeth into the images."
"This issue of Tales Designed to Thrizzle starts out with stories based around the idea that bathtubs are evil or haunted, possibly based on childhood fears of getting sucked down the drain or something. Doesn't matter, it's hilarious even if it's based in absurdity. After that there are comics with funny dialogue about Quincy and St. Peter and Reservior Dogs II that all keep referencing back to the previous comics and have a dreamy feel, but if your dreams were hilarious.... A bunch of stuff is thrown your way in this issue and when it's over you think, 'I liked that. I feel satisfied. Mmm-MM!'"
• Review: "[Wandering Son] has a very well-thought, carefully paced narrative that allows us to explore what goes on inside each character’s head and to watch them develop as people. It’s much more a quiet slice of life affair than it is an over-the-top comedy and/or drama, which might be something you’d expect from a manga featuring cross-dressing... [T]his hardcover book... represents a sophisticated side of literary manga. Translated with rare skill and sensitivity by veteran translator and comics scholar Matt Thorn, much of the story’s original flavour remains intact. Shimura Takako’s gender-bending story has a very quiet, introspective touch to it, and her artwork – with its clean lines, minimal backgrounds and sparse dialogue – beautifully reflects this." – Sean A. Noordin, The Star (Malaysia)
• Review: "Fantagraphics here in the states once again has begun to unearth [Tardi's] body of work into the North American light, the first volume of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec being another fine edition produced in the best quality possible.... Does it sound a little crazy, imaginative, and probably addicting to read? Yes, yes it is. Which is why you need to read this series." – Drew McCabe, Comic Attack
• Plug: "You can’t start the new year without the end of times. Sala’s new book [The Hidden] features his recognizable palette and quirky, gothic font in an adult tale... The post-apocalyptic tale starts with a man waking up to find that everything has gone wrong; sorta a Rip Van Screwed. Great for those who enjoy zombie movies and dystopian books like 1984 or The Hunger Games." – Jen Vaughn, CCS Schulz Library Blog
• List: The National Post's David Berry names The Best Graphic Novels of 2011, saying of his #3 choice "This does feel somewhat like cheating, since there’s only a few sequences of proper graphic work here, but why quibble about format: Mark Twain’s Autobiography 1910-2010 is, quite simply, one of the funniest things you’ll read in any genre. Kupperman has a child’s free-ranging imagination and an aging intellectual’s dry wit... This supposed telling of Mark Twain’s 20th-century life... would be an awe-inspiring work of imagination if it wasn’t so absurdly hilarious. Somewhere between John Hodgman and Graham Roumieu, Kupperman has found stark comic brilliance."
• List:Comic Book Resources continues their Top 100 comics of 2011 countdown, with Ganges #4 by Kevin Huizenga coming in at #48 and Brian Cronin calling it "mind-boggling" and "remarkable. Absolute top notch sequential work."
• List:Comic Book Resources columnist Sonia Harris lists "My Top 10 Comics (for ANY Year)" with Love and Rockets taking the #2 spot: "Read Love & Rockets, all of them, both brothers, everything you can find. Your life will be richer."
• List:Bookgasm's J.T. Lindroos, running down the Best Euro Comics as part of the Best Books of 2011, writes "Fantagraphics continued its Jacques Tardi lineup, and I was particularly delighted by the proto-steampunk The Arctic Marauder, although I think one should own every single book in the series. I was also happy to see some less well-known artists get their chance, and both Sibyl-Anne Vs. Ratticus by R. Macherot and Murder by High Tide by Maurice Tilleux were wonderful surprises in the classic Franco-Belgian 'bigfoot' style. Fantagraphics is quickly becoming the Criterion Collection of comics publishing."
• List: Richmond VA comic shop Velocity Comics counts down their top ten Best Graphic Novels 2011, with Jim Woodring's Congress of the Animals at #9: "There are few artists’ work I can endlessly stare at with as much feverish perplexitude as Jim Woodring’s. Yes, I just made that word up."
• List: Vancouver BC culture site The Snipe surveys local comics industry folks for their favorite comics of the year. The Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse series by Floyd Gottfredson is named Best Collected Edition or Reprint by cartoonist Steve LeCouiliard...
"Floyd Gottfredson is one of the overlooked masters of the comic strip. Like Carl Barks, his work was always signed 'Walt Disney' but his craft and storytelling brilliance shone through. Comic strips really don’t provide much more pure joy than Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse."
...and by VanCAF organizer Shannon Campbell...
"The two-volume collection of Floyd Gottfredson’s run of Mickey Mouse, hands down! These books chronicle the glory days of the old-school Mickey Mouse comics when Gottfredson did both art and story (from 1930-1934)."
...while the staff of Lucky's Comics can't pick just one:
"This has been a boon year reprint editions, but take your pick from Fantagraphics Books’ amazing editions of Pogo by Walt Kelly, Donald Duck by Carl Barks, Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson, and Prince Valiant by Hal Foster. Fantagraphics has done such an incredible job on book designs, colors, paper… all of the details that make these editions glow."
"It’s not just the subject matter that’s a winner here. Santiago has a knack for simplicity in his storytelling approach, and in a medium that’s often beset by needless complexity, that’s a rare gift."
"...[P]robably the best pure horror comic I read this year... and one that quite frankly shocked the hell out of me. Sala’s expressionist art style might not be the most obvious choice for telling blood-curdling horror stories, but its innocent cartoony quality somehow makes a perfect (and terrible) fit with the horrible, almost nihilistic story that Sala is telling."
• Review: "Swarte’s visuals are always gorgeous and distinctive, with a strong influence from Hergé but an even more rigidly mapped out structure. The more you look at them, especially the large ones, the more you see, as in a one-panel, one-pager that lays out a parodic vision of comics production as if it resulted from a Roger Corman-esque movie studio. His eye is careful and his line even more so. ...[Is That All There Is?] is a real pleasure to read and to look at, and it makes a case for Swarte as a real comics guy, not just an illustrator." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Profile: At City Journal, an essay by Stefan Kanfer with a history of Walt Kelly and Pogo: "He frequently quoted a line that he had written for Porky Pine: 'Don’t take life so serious, it ain’t nohow permanent.' No, it ain’t. But art — even comic art — can be, in the hands of a master. Every book, every comic, every panel verifies the claims of Kelly’s fervent cheering squad: after 63 ever-lovin’ blue-eyed years, Pogo is still incomparabobble." (Via The Comics Reporter)
• Plug:Seattlest's Heather Logue spotlights Tony Millionaire's upcoming appearance and art show at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery: "Aside from the fact that he has an amazing superhero name, Tony Millionaire also has the extraordinary talent to back it up. The cartoonist will be at Fantagraphics with his latest book 500 Portraits-- a collection of portraits (duh) of everything from the very famous face, to the very small bug. All meticulously crafted in his beautiful, yet grotesque way -- you're not going to want to miss Tony's take on portraiture."
• Scene:At his blog, Drew Friedman recounts his experience as keynote speaker at the International Society of Caricature Artists' annual convention last month, with lots of photos, a couple video clips and a transcription of a Q&A session
• List: Tucker Stone counts down The Best of 2011 at comiXology. and we sure like the looks of his top 5:
At #5, Jim Woodring's Congress of the Animals: "Deftly exploring the individual's relationship with labor, consequence and love, Congress of the Animals might be Woodring's least nightmarish work yet. (Although there's still a decent portion of it involving face-robbed humanoids that you shouldn't leave lying open if you have junkies visiting.)"
At #4, Prison Pit Book 3 by Johnny Ryan: "Back in 2009, when Ryan began Prison Pit, it was a revelation; a bone-crushing giant, born fully clothed.... Make no mistake: if Jack Kirby was born today, these are the kinds of comics he'd be drawing."
At #2, Ganges #4 by Kevin Huizenga: "While it has been two years since the release of Ganges #3, the only thing that could possibly have dulled would be the audience's memory of how extraordinary the series can be.... As with Yokoyama's Color Engineering, the audience becomes participatory witness, buried head to toe alongside Glenn, living and dying by his attempts to conquer. The shaggy dog ending -- weirder than the last one -- only seems cruel for the length of time it takes you to remember: being broken out of a trance is supposed to hurt."
And in the #1 spot, Love and Rockets: New Stories #4: "...Love and Rockets 4 saw Jaime Hernandez making good on the promise of decades. Resolving with as much finality as one could ask the question of 'how's this gonna end,' the final passage of this issue's Maggie story was without comparison. There was absolutely nothing else like reading those pages for the first time -- the gasp held tight in your throat, the 8 panel grids giving way only once, for a two page silent recap of the last 30 years of a life only we seem to know was well-lived."
• Review: "...[The Armed Garden] is absolutely marvelous, a gorgeous and searing series of comics from an artist who earns the description 'freakishly talented' as completely as anyone this side of his trans-Atlantic fellow in crafting dreamy/nightmarish parables of violent spirituality, Jim Woodring. These comics are just as lovely and just as frightening, and just as singularly the work of their creator and no other." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• List: Esteemed Washington, DC bookstore Politics & Prose has posted their list of "Favorite Graphic Literature of 2011":
"It seems sort of cruel to celebrate the final issue of Mome, Fantagraphics’ premier anthology of comics. But one can hardly resist such a celebratory finale. As to be expected, Mome Volume 22 packs a wallop, throwing in a mind-bending array of cartoonists, some Mome regulars, some first-time contributors. Some favorites: Joe Kimball’s 'Secret Hand,' Tim Lane’s 'Belly Gunner,' Eleanor Davis’ 'Nita Go Home' and 'Loving Bin Laden' by James Romberger. As always, this is a refreshing and eye-opening anthology. So thank you, Mome, and goodbye."
"Jacques Tardi’s wildly inventive The Arctic Marauder follows Jerome Plumier as he tries to uncover the mystery of why ships keep sinking in the arctic. Written to parody a Victorian and Jules Verne-esque style, Tardi’s illustrations look as if they’re out of a much older book; his seascapes and townscapes are scenic and highly detailed; his creative paneling is fresh and interesting; and the abundance of machinery and wild inventions makes this book a real wonder to read. Ending on a strangely ominous, ironic, and humorous note, this is yet another masterpiece by the French master, finally brought to American audiences."
"Jim Woodring’s little anthropomorph, Frank, has been around for quite some time, and his silent, life altering, universe confusing, epic comics finally get collected into one nice book. Frank has graced the comics page for decades now, and his curiosity, foolishness, but utter innocence leaves one always wishing for more, and to have it collected into one volume is an absolute treasure. There is much to say about The Frank Book, but really, you should just pick it up and wander with Frank and his friends and enemies, into a world that is so different, and yet, so similar to our own."
"Stigmata is one of the greatest virtuoso displays of pen-and-ink work in the history of graphic novels. Illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti’s 'raging fury of intense linework' is mesmerizing on every single page, and drives the novel-length story by Claudio Piersanti set in the hellish world of bars and traveling carnivals (with a final redemptive chapter). Stigmata is a recognized classic in the comics world, and was published in Europe in 1998. It has finally been translated and published here."
"Pogo Possum and the bunch of characters that make up Walt Kelly’s colorful, smart, and witty comic finally get the sort of treatment they deserve. It has taken Fantagraphics a long, long time to find perfect copies of all these fantastic strips, and to make sure Pogo was given its due in the best possible way. So here it is: the first of twelve volumes, complete with dailies and Sunday pages (with absolutely gorgeous color). This is quite possibly one of the best things to come out this year, and one of the best books for any library."
"Hot on the heels of popular Mickey Mouse hardcover comics collections, Fantagraphics puts forth a second Disney classic, Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes. While some readers may have been surprised by Mickey’s exploits in the early days, Donald is exactly as you remember and expect him to be: perpetually frustrated with a heart of gold. What is also not surprising is the level of skill behind the cartooning of Carl Barks, whose knack for expressive figures and attention to detail makes this collection an endlessly entertaining read. So well-loved were these stories, that none other than the great Steven Spielberg paid tribute to them in the famous scene of Indiana Jones versus the boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Sure to please any fan of good-humored Golden Age comics."
"I’ve never quite liked Mickey Mouse. He was always a little too tame, too good. And while he was always the hero, he never seemed to earn it. Fantagraphics recent release of the classic 1930’s comic strips has completely changed my mind. While Mickey’s essential character hasn’t changed, he is certainly more bold, more willing to throw a punch or rush into a haunted house, or even into a brawl with Pegleg Pete and his gang. Floyd Gottfredson’s artwork bears the trademark Disney look (given that it is clear and at times inventive), but the limit on panels and the daily format of the strip forced Gottfredson to tell his stories in intriguing, and always brilliant ways. These comic strips are full of adventure and clever satire. With the usual Fantagraphics treatment, there are over 50 pages of supplemental material, so these books provide a wealth of information on the series and on Gottfredson’s life. Also available in a slipcased set!"
"For those who still think that Prince Valiant is simply an illustrated version of your boring high school history textbook, it is time to take heed. Fantagraphics continues to release these gorgeous remastered editions of one of America’s most beloved and enduring comics. This is a story steeped in family and tradition, with a dash of fantasy. Hal Foster’s professionalism shines in every painstakingly-researched and well-composed page of Prince Valiant Volumes 3and4. Each panel’s composition immediately draws you in and invites you to linger in a world of romance and adventure, in which you may spend many Sunday afternoons. Previously released editions were high-contrast, lurid affairs that seemed determined to destroy the good name of the original color artist; however, the impeccable restoration of the comic’s original colors makes it enjoyable for the modern audiences and almost a brand new experience for fans lucky enough to have read it in their youth."
• List/Review: "Finally starting to be collected, Gottfredson's masterful first year was released by Fantagraphics, publisher of all good things, in a wonderful hardbound... Aside from the subject matter, the most striking thing about this volume is Gottfredson's art. He demonstrates a supernatural knack for detail and fluidity that remains largely unchallenged in his representation of Mickey, as well as in animation/ cartooning/ sequential art.... As a longtime appreciator of Gottfredson and proponent for his legacy, Race to Death Valley was the best comic release of 2011 — a feat, considering the material is 70 years old. Take that, modern literature!" – Rafael Gaitan, Spectrum Culture "Best Books of the Year"
• Review: "The fact is that Paul Nelson was one of the handful of people who have scribbled about rock-and-roll over the years who might be described as a genuinely important writer, regardless of the (some would say) transience of much of his subject matter. In that regard, while re-reading Everything [Is an Afterthought] I was struck by how little any of it has dated; the various reviews and think pieces Avery has anthologized are as passionate, perceptive and hilarious as they seemed back in the day, and given that most of them have been out of print since forever (in fact, almost all the work collected here has never been between hardcovers) this is a major piece of cultural exhumation at the very least." – Steve Simels, PowerPop
• Review: "The gender orientations of eleven-year-olds just isn’t the stuff of stories here. In fact, it is the stuff of reality. Shimura balances a full plate in this story, all the while offering it with the kind of easy grace that makes the balance appear to be almost magical.... In Shimura’s sympathetic hands, this manga is neither gag nor message heavy: both main characters, their peers, and their family members are credible and developed with enough depth that readers can think about them beyond the bounds of the book. ...[Wandering Son Vol. 1] belongs in every high school library, as well as in public collections that are accessible to both youth and adults." – Francisca Goldsmith, School Library Journal
• Review: "But upon reflection, I wonder if these terrible people’s wholly alien way of interacting with the world isn’t just the writing equivalent of Tardi’s nimble, scribbled line and sooty blacks — a heightened reality in which things are rendered at their loosest, darkest, ugliest, and weirdest at all times. God knows both creators can rigorously focus when they want... Tardi’s backgrounds and lighting effects are a realist’s dream and his action sequences and set-pieces are choreographed tighter than a drum. The absurdist demeanors may prevent everything from gelling as well as they might have done, but overall [Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot] delivers a fastball to your face so hard that you barely have time to notice that some of the stitches need straightening." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Plug: At The Huffington Post, Dave Scheidt's "2011 Holiday Gift Guide Comic Books" include Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman: "The funniest comic you've never read. Laugh out loud funny. Spastic, bizarre and gut busting. Fans of Saturday Night Live, Mad Magazine and just anyone who likes to laugh will love this book. A fair warning, if you read this book in public, you will laugh like a mad man and most likely frighten people like I did."
"Kelly's Pogo is a masterclass in wordsmithing, satire, and relatable art. Although this collection apparently doesn't get to the more overtly political satire that made Pogo so famous, it does promise to be a great look at the start of an important and quintessential comic strip. The statements Kelly makes in these early stories are about character relationships, design, and humor as well as use of the English language in surprising and touching ways. This is the surely the ground floor of what looks to be the next great collection series in comics literature."
"Charles M. Schulz's relatable characters are literally part of the fabric of my being. Peanuts helped forge my earliest appreciation for sequential art and, funny as it seems, philosophy. I can't wait until the day I have a shelf filled with every strip ever starring Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Pig-Pen and the rest of the Peanuts gang."
• Plugs:iFanboy's "2011 Holiday Gift Guide: Lost Treasures," written by Paul Montgomery, includes:
"Mickey’s grown soft in his old age, but back in the day he was my kind of bastard. Dude’s a straight up rascal, and launches headlong into danger, starting with the seminal 'Race to Death Valley.' Floyd Gottfredson’s wily take on the character is revered by the best cartoonists, and Fantagraphics has packaged these earliest serial strips from the 30s in some truly handsome volumes. Take advantage of the two volume slipcover edition for a great value and the publisher’s now signature excellence in presentation."
"Every year, the top item on my own Christmas list is the annual box-set collecting Fantagraphics’ latest volumes of Charles Schulz’s Complete Peanuts.... Watching Chuck and Snoopy evolve from their original designs of the early 50s to the more familiar iterations I grew up with in the Funnies is an incredible experience."
"Turns out it wasn’t that easy navigating the Arctic Ocean from Russian to France at the turn of the 20th century. If you dig on Poe and Verne and antique diving helmets, this woodcut melodrama is just for you."
"Years in the making, this new collection of Walt Kelly’s Pogo dailies and weekend strips does due justice to a comic that ought to be as much a household name as Peanuts or Doonesbury.... Mix in Kelly’s whimsical, lyrical 'Swamp speak' and you’ve got some real poetry on your hands."
"This is as beautiful a book as I’ve purchased this year, and the stories within have much to offer both children and adult fans of visual storytelling and even comedy. Barks knew how to contract a joke, and this is a masterclass."
• Plug:Robot 6's Michael May makes an unexpected choice when spotlighting upcoming titles listed in the current issue of Previews: "The Big Town- Charles Schulz’ son wrote this novel (the last in his jazz-age trilogy) about the end of the Roaring Twenties and 'the role of business, crime, morality, and love in our lives.' It’s not comics, but it sounds ambitious and transporting."
• List: The Austin American-Statesman's Joe Gross names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 the best comic of 2011: "One of the wonderful things about seeing a masterpiece in the making is the mysterious feeling, the racing of the soul that takes place when it hits you that you are, in fact, seeing a masterpiece in the making.... Symphonic, tragic, revelatory, exciting and devastating as only great art can be, 'The Love Bunglers' is one of the best comics ever made."
• List:Paste ranks Dave McKean's Celluloid at #5 on The 10 Best New Comics of 2011: "The visionary art director behind The Sandman’s covers creates a coital masterwork that elicits beauty and excitement in equal measure.... Celluloid is a treasure of technical finesse and sensual mystique that transcends its potential controversy."
• List:Paste's list of The Ten Best Reissues/Collections of 2011 includes Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 1: Race to Death Valley by Floyd Gottfredson at #9 ("Gottfredson had an animator’s knack for storytelling, and his layouts remain clear no matter how busy they get. Much of the humor is stilted by modern standards, but you’ll be too enthralled by the exciting plots and likable characters to care"), Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture – A Career Retrospective at #7 ("Fantagraphics has finally given him the grand and serious treatment he deserves, without minimizing his goofy sense of humor"), and Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes in the #1 spot ("Barks’ strips combine high adventure with humor and subtle cultural commentaries, but they remain grounded in character... Lost in the Andes is a gorgeously packaged collection of some of the finest comics ever made.")
• List: At Poopsheet Foundation, Justin Giampaoli names Kevin Huizenga's Ganges #4 one of the "Best Mini-Comics & Small Press Titles of 2011": "It’s the continuing adventures of Glenn Ganges and his latest nocturnal outing, as he navigates his sleepless existence on a seemingly endless night. With the degree of interactivity occurring between the page and the readers, there’s as much technique on display here as there is original storytelling."
• List: Leeds, UK comic shop OK Comics posts their Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2011: "9. Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot by Jaques Tardi published by @fantagraphics. A hitman's reluctance to perform one last job leads to an emotional breakdown. Legendary French comics artist Jacques Tardi on fine form."
• List:The Globe and Mail includes Pogo - The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips Volume 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder by Walt Kelly in their "2011 gift book guide": "Fans of what for many is the greatest of all comic strips have waited a long time for this, the first of a projected 12 volumes (1949-1950) from the brilliant Walt Kelly. The congenial Pogo Possum and his swampland friends... spring to life in this collection of daily and Sunday comics, filled with Kelly’s characteristic wordplay. One hopes this will introduce a new generation to this comic, satiric masterwork."
• Review: "Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips: Volume 1—Through the Wild Blue Wonder proves to be worth the wait.... Overall, the package serves Pogo well.... The biggest revelation of reading the first two years of Pogo is how polished and funny the strip was right from the start, and also how nearly every Pogo panel is a delight unto itself. Kelly didn’t necessarily build to big punchlines; he’d slip funny sight gags and memorable lines everywhere there was room. ...[T]here’s a classic Pogo moment on just about every page of this book." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Even now, Barks’ stories are clever and funny, as he leads the ducks into impossible situations and then gives them unexpected ways out. And they’re poignant in their own way, too.... What’s impressive about Fantagraphics’ Lost in the Andes is that it encourages both a fannish and an intellectual approach to the material. For those who want to skew highbrow, the book includes an appendix with scholarly analysis of each story.... And for those who just want to curl up with more than 200 pages of some of the best-written comics ever published, Lost in the Andes has all the square eggs, rubber bricks, golden Christmas trees, and races around the world that any kid or grown-up could ever want." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Fantagraphics’ initial release of its new series of Carl Barks books is titled, Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes and reprints one of the most famous, and most BELOVED, comic book stories which Carl ever wrote and drew! ...I’m impressed with the quality of the publication. In my estimation, the coloring is excellent and the format engaging…. The critical essays composed by a number of Barks scholars are also insightful and well written.... In my opinion, as a Carl Barks fan, this initial volume is well worth acquiring!" – Carl Barks Fan Club Newsletter
• Reviews: "Two... giants of American illustration get the handsome coffee-table-book treatment with Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture and The Art of Joe Kubert... The Kubert book — edited by Bill Schelly — is more text-heavy, covering Kubert’s early years as a journeyman penciler and inker on a slew of indistinct superhero and adventure comics, then exploring how Kubert developed the fine shading and gritty realism he’d become famed for starting in the late ’50s. The Davis book saves most of its biographical detail and critical analysis for the intro and appendix, filling the intervening 200 pages with full-sized examples of the half-cartoony/half-photographic approach that Davis brought to Mad magazine and countless movie posters. Both offer ample visual evidence of how two men found the 'art' in commercial art, turning work-for-hire assignments into opportunities to express their particular visions of the world." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "To (re-)discover a first-rate critic, and read about a life that went wrong in a harrowing way, you must read Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson, by Kevin Avery.... This volume is exhilarating. Avery tells with great energy Nelson’s tale, with copious details about the active period of his subject’s life, and in so doing limns a portrait of a certain kind of pop-culture/bohemian existence in the late-70s. And Avery’s generous selection of Nelson’s writings are certainly among Paul’s best..." – Ken Tucker (Entertainment Weekly), The Best American Poetry
• Review: "What makes Wandering Son work is its slow-burn pace and calm atmosphere. It takes a delicate subject – transgender children- and explores it slowly and carefully. Much like its characters, it moves at its own pace, easing the reader into the characters’ lives.... I am really eager to read volume two of Wandering Son, though a little hesitant as well. I know that the road in front of Shu and Yoshino isn’t going to be an easy one and I don’t want to see them get hurt. But the fact that I’m talking about the characters as though they’re real people just shows how deep this manga has gotten under my skin." – Shannon Fay, Kuriousity
• Review: "Richard Sala is one of those creators that holds a fairly unique voice in comics. Many people have tried to replicate his off-beat brand of horror, but ultimately nothing out there quite like his. So with a new graphic novel called The Hidden out, the question for most people won’t be, 'Should I read it?' but 'When should I read it?'... The Hidden isn’t perfect... but what Sala does well, he does very well indeed. There’s quite a lot to love in The Hidden, with some scenes in particular that will stick with the reader for a long time." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Plug: "Have you ever wondered what happened after 'Happily Ever After'? This graphic novel [Castle Waiting] is a modern tale that incorporates fairytale characters and settings. Funny, thoughtful and not at all what you'd expect." – The Victoria Times Colonist
• Interview:Wall Street Journal subscribers can read a Q&A with Jack Davis conducted last week in NYC by Bruce Bennett here: "Every time you went in to see Bill Gaines, he would write you a check when you brought in a story. You didn't have to put in a bill or anything. I was very, very hungry and I was thinking about getting married. So I kept the road pretty hot between home and Canal Street. I would go in for that almighty check, go home and do the work, bring it in and get another check and pick up another story." [Update: A clever reader has pointed out that non-subscribers can read the article in Google's cache]
• Profile:CNN's Todd Leopold profiles the great Al Jaffee: "After a bumpy several years in which he bounced like a pinball between his parents -- moving from Savannah, Georgia, to Lithuania, to one borough and then another of New York City, back to Lithuania and back again to New York -- art was something to hold on to, a way to establish an identity. He had no idea it would lead anywhere."