• List:Only the Cinema's Ed Howard concludes counting down The Best Comics of the Decade: the top 20 includes "The Lute String" (available in Mome Vols. 9 & 10) by Jim Woodring at #16 ("It's moving, funny, and as with all of Woodring's work it demands a close reading"), Alias the Cat (originally The Stuff of Dreams) by Kim Deitch at #14 ("It's funny, goofy, exciting and far-ranging in its imaginative nonsense accumulations, and throughout it all Deitch's fond sense of nostalgia for a world that never quite was lends emotional heft to the story's elaborate twists and turns"), Dash Shaw's Bottomless Belly Button and Mome stories (collected in The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.) at #13 ("Dash Shaw is an utterly brilliant young cartoonist who has, in a few short years, advanced from the academic experiments of his earlier work... into a formalist genius whose skills encompass both a natural gift for color and a feel for subtle, indirect characterization"), Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco at #7 ("Joe Sacco is a unique figure in modern comics: there is no one else who combines sheer cartooning chops with a newspaper reporter's sensibility and instincts in quite the same way. ... Safe Area Gorazde [is] an especially powerful document of the effects of war"), the comics of Kevin Huizenga at #4 ("Kevin Huizenga is the best young artist in comics. It's as simple as that. With his recent Fantagraphics series Ganges (part of the Ignatz line of high-quality pamphlets) Huizenga has matured into one of comics' finest formalists"), Jimbo in Purgatory by Gary Panter at #2 ("The denseness of Panter's references and cross-references makes the experience of reading this book a truly overwhelming experience; every line, every image, spirals into multiple other references and ideas, pulling in the whole wide expanse of world culture as a stomping ground for Jimbo's wanderings through the Purgatory of modern existence towards enlightenment"), and the Love and Rockets Vol. II work of Jaime Hernandez (as collected in Ghost of Hoppers and The Education of Hopey Glass) in the #1 slot ("There is no greater all-around artist in modern comics than Jaime Hernandez, and his recent work builds on his past successes so that his oeuvre as a whole is shaping up to be one of literature's best sustained stories about aging and the shifting of relationships over the course of a life").
• Review: "The best argument that the underground tradition is still alive is Hotwire Comics, edited by Glen Head (one of the most underrated cartoonists around, incidentally). Hotwire Comics is a visual assault, abrasive, confrontational, willing to poke and prod the audience: a real live wire that can shock. Everything a good underground comic book should be." – Jeet Heer, Comics Comics
• Review: "Strange Suspense is a handsome book generally, with a fun front cover and a nice, sturdy, feel. As far as my eye can tell the work is reproduced well; admittedly, I have one of the worst eyes in comics for that sort of thing. It's nice to have a bunch of comics from this time period, particularly the grittier pre-Code or Fear of Code-Like Crackdown work. There are some truly repulsive pieces of throwaway pulp in this book's pages, and Ditko was more than up to the task of illustrating them." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Mother, Come Home is a subtle, dark story about death and madness and fantasy, tied together by symbols and the voice of an older Thomas looking back on his childhood. It's not bleak, though; Thomas survives his traumatic childhood, and perhaps Hornschmeier's lesson is that we all can, if we try — if we step outside our rituals and fantasies and reach out to each other, we can make it through." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent. (via ¡Journalista!)
• List: At The Comics Journal, the back half of Rob Clough's Top 50 Comics of 2009 includes:
#29, The Complete Peanuts 1971-1972 by Charles Schulz: "Twenty-two years into his run on this strip, Schulz was still at his peak even as Peanuts was moving into a new phase."
#31, Mome Vol. 14: "The most consistently excellent anthology in comics, issue after issue."
#39, Uptight #3 (misidentified as #2) by Jordan Crane: "Both [stories] were perfectly suited for this lo-fi yet gorgeously designed comic..."
#43, The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book by Joe Daly: "Daly didn’t create just a story or a set of characters, but an entire community for readers to wander around in and become comfortable with. Equal parts Tintin and The Big Lebowski, this was a stoner detective story, with all sorts of absurd events popping up in everyday life and eventually making a kind of sense."
#46, Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me by Peter Bagge: "This is Bagge-as-Mencken, trenchantly tearing apart stupid ideas from both the left and the right and doing it while actually going out into the field, gathering facts, and talking to people. His hyper-expressive style was a perfect fit for his over-the-top political commentary."
And finally, #50, Love and Rockets: New Stories #2 by Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez: "Jaime’s conclusion to 'Ti-Girls Adventures' managed to combine rip-snorting action and compelling character work. Gilbert’s 'Hypnotwist' was both a callback to his New Love-style weirdness and yet another entry in his 'pulp movie' adaptations. ...[I]t’s clear both brothers were having such a good time following their impulses."
• Review: "Abstract Comics: The title is, in itself, a manifesto. It makes official the existence of these strange objects that some will reject as a contradiction in terms: 'abstract comics.' ... In the abstract comics gathered by Molotiu, sequential ordering produces nothing on the order of a story; but solidarity between the panels is established (in more or less convincing and seducing fashions) in another mode — plastic, rhythmic and so to speak musical. Personally, I do not refuse to make a place for these creations in the field of comics, because I wish that field to be as open and as diversified in its expressions as possible, without excluding anything a priori. Nevertheless, I still note that they have closer affinities with the operating modes of contemporary art that with the ordinary ambitions of drawn literatures." – Thierry Groensteen, Neuvieme Art (excerpt and translation by Andrei Molotiu at the Abstract Comics Blog)
• Review: "Perhaps the best adjective I could employ to describe Castle Waiting would be 'homey.' It’s all about the pleasures of home and the relief of being amongst family who accept you, even if they don’t happen to be related to you or even entirely human. ... Taken on the surface, it’s a perfectly cozy and enjoyable story. If one decides to delve more deeply, themes of tolerance and equality can be found gently at work, though by no means do they take precedence over the characters. Lest all of this sound a bit too quaintly domestic, let me assure you that the story is also quite funny." – Michelle Smith, Soliloquy in Blue
#1, You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler: "A mash-up of family portrait, generational analysis, autobiography and scrapbook, this book was not only the most emotionally powerful work of the year, it was the most attractively designed. The first part of what will likely be Tyler’s masterwork."
#6, Like a Dog by Zak Sally: "This was a stunningly honest account and collection of early work by one of the most underrated cartoonists working today. While the collected early issues of Recidivist ranged from interesting to astounding, it was Sally’s frank and emotional essay following the collection that really struck me as a statement of purpose — not just as an artist, but as a person."
#10, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman: "The first collection from Kupperman’s surprising hit really helped spread the word about his unique and delightfully warped genius as a gagsmith and artist."
#15, Sublife Vol. 2 by John Pham: "This one-man anthology featured Pham fully harnessing every aspect of his skills as a writer and artist. His use of color dominated and provided a sort of visual through-line for his different narratives. Pham alternately pushed the reader away and then pulled them in, depending on the story, a tension that made this his most successful work to date."
And #17, Ho! by Ivan Brunetti: "It’s fascinating to see the two directions Brunetti was headed in with regard to these gags. First, his gags became ever-more boundary pushing, but always in service to the punchline. Second, his line became more and more simplified to the point of nearly geometric simplicity: squares, circles and triangles wound up creating most of his characters by the end of the book."
• List:Paul Gravett names The Best of 2009: Classic Comic Reprints. At #6, it's The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Nell Brinkley's Cartoons 1913-1940: "Trina [Robbins] follows up her thorough biography of Brinkley with this oversized collection of Sunday 'comics,' often more like ravishing illustrated romantic yarns of big hair, clothes and emotions, but stunning to linger over and revealing in their period mood and concerns. In their time, Brinkley’s spirited, vivacious females were as iconic and inspirational in early 20th century America as the famous Gibson Girls before her. They truly deserve this gorgeous commemoration."
• List: On the annual Fun Fifty countdown at Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun!, at #15, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman: "Without hyperbole, Thrizzle is simply the funniest, most guffaw-out-loud comic book they're going to have to pry out of your cold, dead hands when you die laughing. ... Thrizzle's stuffed from front cover to impressive back page blurbs with Kupperman's splendiferous pulps-meet-woodblock-print artwork and lunatic stories, it's one of those rare humor books that actually is downright hilarious."
• Reviews: Nick Gazin of Vice (link NSFW) weighs in on a number of titles:
"I love Unlovable. Take that, book title. ... Unlovable 2 is a fun and funny read all the way through. ... Girls are gonna like this book and dudes are gonna like this book. It’ll remind you of how stupid you were and also of suburban sadness and realizing that your high school crush will probably never love you back."
"[High Soft Lisp] is incredible... The world in this book is one I wouldn’t want to live in but I can’t stop thinking about the story of Fritz."
"...[Almost Silent] is a really good book and Jason is a strong cartoonist. He does a lot with his simple-but-well-drawn characters and little to no dialogue. ... For $25 you get a nice sampler of what Jason can do. This is entirely worth owning."
• Review: "The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion is the indispensable guide to the strip and a must have for its legions of fans new and old. Fantagraphics has been re-printing these original strips in chronological order in beautiful hardcover volumes and this guide makes the perfect complement. ... No matter how long you’ve been a Prince Valiant fan…one year or seventy years, you’re certain to find this book informative and entertaining. Fantagraphics has produced another spectacular book! Grade A" – Tim Janson, The Gouverneur Times
• Review: "Similar to Charles Addams and Gahan Wilson, Jason relies on the humorous side of horror in these mostly wordless tales. ... Throughout the sublime Almost Silent, Jason examines traditional relationships and social norms via a deliciously warped lens, quite probably one constructed by Dr. Frankenstein himself." – Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica (spoiler alert!)
• Review: "I can’t think of a better single volume of what the period style of fast looked like in practice than last year’s Supermen! anthology. Yes, there’s an added winnowing by genre but that just sharpens the sense of the reductive visual and narrative requirements that were standard for the hot new gravy train that hit the business." – Rich Kreiner, "Yearlong Best of the Year," The Comics Journal
• Review: "As a whole, I like Abstract Comics a lot. I’d say that it works like a good art exhibition, or at least an exhibition unburdened by obligations to teach history, one in which multiple formal and aesthetic connections are there but not shouted out, rather left to be discovered (or not) by the strolling viewer according to his or her inclinations." – Charles Hatfield, Thought Balloonists
• Plug: "[Steven] Weissman's work is very often like a brain-damaged Charles Schulz... His newest book, Chocolate Cheeks, raises the stakes in a really dramatic way. I think this might be his last book in this series, but it goes out with a doozy of a book." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Plug: "Matt’s response to my squeeing over the announced May, 2010 publication date of Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6: 'Yes, as there were so many plots unresolved in the last issue. Who won, blimps or holes??'" – TofuPunk.com (I don't know who Matt is – ed.)
• Plug: "With new work by the likes of Johnny Ryan, Max Andersson, Sam Henderson, Stephane Blanquet, Doug Allen, Michael Kupperman, Mack White, and Jeremy Onsmith, Hotwire 3 is certain to deliver the psychic jolt it promises." – Richard Cowdry, Love the Line
• Plug: "Since Beatriz 'Penny Century' Garcia is my favorite Love & Rockets' Locas, I'm very excited to see the advance solicitation for the new soft cover Penny Century... In my opinion, the soft cover collected volumes are the best way to read Love & Rockets. They are the easiest way to follow the reading order, and with the cheap price of $18.99, you can't find a better launching point for one of the most regarded independent comics of all time. " – The Star Clipper Blog
• Analysis:Abstract Comics contributor Derik Badman posts an in-depth email discussion between himself and critic Craig Fischer about the book
• Interview:The Daily Yomiuri's Tom Baker talks Usagi Yojimbo with Stan Sakai: "I think the first few years I really tried to make him cute and cuddly like a stuffed animal, whereas the stories tended to [take] a more dramatic turn. So I think the character has changed. Most of it's unconscious on my part." (via The Comics Reporter )
• Comic Book Resources presents a nice, juicy 5-page sample of Adastra in Africa by Barry Windsor-Smith and discusses the origin of the book as part of their series of posts on "Comic Book Legends"
• Look forward to Laura Park's entries to Picture Book Report, where a variety of artists will be posting illustrations inspired by their favorite books — looks like there's going to be a lot of great stuff, gonna bookmark that site
Oh no, I had this Online Commentary & Diversions update all set to go and then I forgot to post it... Earth to Mike!
• List: At Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun!, our favorite little stuffed bull continues the annual Fun Fifty countown. At #36, Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1: "Ditko expert Blake Bell collects several dozen of Steve's 1950s work from Charlton and other publishers, plus plenty of amazing covers, in a thick, hardy collection with glorious gory and ghoulish Ditko comics from front to back. This thing's a gold mine!"
• Review: "...T. Edward Bak's almost comically named 'Wild Man, Chapter 2 -- A Bavarian Botanist in St. Petersburg, Part One'... is the story to which I kept returning long after the publication entire [Mome Vol. 17] should have been swapped off of my end table for something less worked over. ... I hope there's more." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Next to Scott Pilgrim [Prison Pit: Book 1] felt to me like the western comic that’s got closest to properly understanding the energy of manga, rather than simply aping the surface elements. ... It’s the best art I’ve seen Ryan do in his career, more focused and while it mainly maintains a four-panel-a-page rhythm, when he breaks from that to do a splash page or change the panel rhythm, he does to great effect. If you’re going to do a splash page, it might as well be of a monster made of sperm or a barbed penis." – Brian Smith, Awesome Engine
• Coming Attractions:ICv2 previews our upcoming August release of Buz Sawyer Vol. 1: The War in the Pacific by Roy Crane
• Interview:Inkstuds host Robin McConnell says "I really enjoyed this chat with Zak Sally. If you are not already reading his work, you will want to after listening to this."
• Events: For Comics Comics, Dash Shaw reports from Angoulême: "At festivals like this you find yourself jetlagged in a taxi with José Muñoz and you’re thinking 'holy shit, what do I ask José Muñoz? What do I ask José Muñoz?!' and you end up just bugging him about random things. Try to milk those ten minutes for as much as you can."
Picking up right after Perla La Loca, the third volume of the definitive “Maggie” series repackaging, this compilation of stories from Jaime Hernandez’s solo comic Penny Century and his subsequent return to Love and Rockets (Volume II) charts the further lives of his beloved “Locas.”
But first... wrestling! Penny Century starts off with a blast with “Whoa, Nellie!,” a unique graphic novelette in which Maggie, who has settled in with her pro-wrestler aunt for a while, experiences that wild and woolly world first-hand.
Then it’s back to chills and spills with the old cast of Hopey, Ray Dominguez, and Izzy Ortiz — including Maggie’s romantic dream fantasia “The Race” and the definitive Ray story, “Everybody Loves Me, Baby.”
Penny Century also features two major “flashback” stories: “Bay of Threes” finally reveals the full back story behind Beatriz “Penny Century” Garcia, Maggie’s long-time, bleached-blonde bombshell friend (who gives this volume its name and can be seen as a super-villainess in the first two issues of Love and Rockets: New Stories), while “Home School” is one of Hernandez’s popular looks at his characters’ lives from when they were little kids, drawn in an adorable simplified Dennis the Menace type style. This volume also includes the Maggie & Hopey Color Fun one-shot, reproduced here in glorious black and white.
During our recent inventory count at our storied and labyrinthine warehouse, we discovered additional copies of several items thought to be sold out and unavailable for weeks, months — or years! Grab these gems while you can before they run out again — quantities are limited!
• Review: "Imagine then what yesterday — or today's — right wingers would say about The Great Anti-War Cartoons... Sadly... what these cartoons have made us 'see' is how little things have changed 'round the planet, or within our species. ... And while being the spark for various brilliant cartoons over the decades doesn't justify the institutional addiction to war (or its always-looming threat), these cartoons can at least provide some solace. Or good fallout shelter reading." – Mark London Williams, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Review: "Jaime Hernandez’s side of the Love and Rockets anthology may have started in a world of futuristic fantasy, but [The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S.] is the volume where he finds his feet and hits a groove. ... Jaime’s illustration is beautiful and effortless. His characters mix a near perfect clear-line style with cartoonish expression, used with particular aplomb when emotions are running high. It’s a masterclass in comic illustration." – Grovel
• Plug:Library Journal features May 2010's Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso in their inaugural Graphic Novels Prepub Alert: "A coming-of-age story about a young girl from a family caught between sides in a civil war, set in a world similar to ours but where people have artichoke leaves instead of hair. ... Its delicate, rather impish black-and-white line work comes from the creator of the subtle and poignant Squirrel Mother."