• List:FEARnet names Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1 one of the Top 9 Comic Books and Graphic Novels of '09: "Shunning the spotlight of fans and the press, the artist has chosen instead to let his books speak for themselves. They continue to speak loudly, and with a weird grace lacking in much of his contemporaries' work."
• List/Review: "Druggy noir vividly told, [The] Red Monkey [Double Happiness Book] is like watching Jim Rockford take a monster bong-hit before getting bashed in the jaw by some muscle of a rich guy in a bar bathroom. 'The Leaking Cello Case' and 'John Wesley Harding' are both contenders for short graphic fiction of the year, with pellucid plotting distorted by strange times and scary surprises. The artwork is like the more story-based finely crafted alternative comics of the 90s, and the sense of distorted place and identity as creative as fiction by Thomas Pynchon. If that seems lofty, start here and wait for Daly to one day unveil his Gravity's Rainbow." – Chris Estey, Three Imaginary Girls "Great Reads of 2009"
• Review: "Thank you, Fantagraphics, for compiling 15 years of the Love and Rockets comic series into 700 pages of punk rock, heartbreak, and self-discovery. Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories presents Jaime Hernandez's indie masterpiece in the entirety of its run between 1981 to 1996... a serious contender for the American comic canon." - Aysha Pamukcu, Plasma Pool
• Review: "OK, first, my initial impression of cartoonist Hans Rickheit’s new book The Squirrel Machine was one of amazement (a word I don’t bandy about indulgently) and bafflement. I am clear I am not grasping something — not an unpleasant feeling in this circumstance. ... As usual for Fanatagraphics, this book is well-designed and well-printed. Let me know if you figure out what it’s about, though not knowing made it no less fun for me." – Robert Birnbaum, The Morning News
• Interview: Alice Parker of Comics Alliance gets a whole lot of info out of Dash Shaw: "As for me, I like a lot of different things. I'm not a discriminating reader of comics, which is a problem, I think. I can read just about any comic, but I definitely wouldn't read any all-word book."
• Interview: And in your second Dash Shaw interview of the day, with Tim Needles of Short and Sweet NYC, some advice for aspiring artists: "The other thing is it’s probably going to be touch and go forever and you are going to have to do an absurd amount of work before you get a penny for it and even when you get that penny, it’s probably just going to be a penny. On the other hand it is really awesome to draw all the time and devote your life to it."
• List:Details magazine names Ghost World #10 on The 25 Greatest Gen X Books of All Time: "This caustically funny duo-tone tale follows the iconic cat-eyed adolescent Enid Coleslaw in her quest to find meaning, or at least cruel humor, in an age where everything's disposable."
• Review: "Strange Suspense collects dozens of Ditko stories from the 1950’s... Almost a decade before Ditko moved to Marvel, these stories bear his unmistakable style. His fine line work and flair for the abstract that would serve him so well on Doctor Strange particularly, is on full display. ... If you only know Ditko for his work at Marvel or later at DC, here is the chance to explore Early Ditko, unconstrained by editors or the Comics Code. While all of this work is marvelous, clearly Ditko is best at home in horror where he could let his imagination run wild, creating monsters and demons and the things that go bump in the night. Rediscover Ditko today!" – Tim Janson, Newsarama
• Review: "Brian Kane, author of the [Definitive Prince Valiant] Companion and surely the world’s foremost authority on the strip and its creator, Hal Foster, has once again done a herculean amount of work, and Fantagraphics has once again clothed that work in a sturdy, pretty volume. Prince Valiant hasn’t been treated this well since the ersatz King of England sang his praises. Those unfamiliar with the character – a young man who finds adventure, fame, and even love at the court of the legendary King Arthur – will find here all the background information they could ever want... But even long-time Prince Valiant fans will find plenty to fascinate them in this volume." – Khalid Ponte, Open Letters
• Review: "Delphine is a morbid interpretation of the symbology of fairy tales resounding with echoes of unrequited love and abandonment. This is perhaps Sala’s darkest and most intricate story ever – impressive in its nuance and ever shifting emotions. One can only hope that it is not ignored." – Ng Suat Tong, The Comics Journal
• Interview: From TCJ.com: "Every weekday from now until December 25, we’ll be posting a conversation between cartoonists from The Comics Journal #300, complete and online! In today’s installment, it’s a chat between L’Association publisher Jean-Christophe Menu and Kramers Ergot publisher Sammy Harkham."
• Review: "[Gilbert] Hernandez's latest solo work The Troublemakers is the second in a series of self-contained graphic novel 'B-movies,' featuring one of his recurring characters, the cannonball-breasted Rosalba 'Fritz' Martinez. Here, Fritz plays Nala, one of a trio of hustlers trying to hook up with 200,000 smackers. Whether the money actually exists and who has it are anyone's guess in this drama-filled thriller — good for folks who like their graphic novels grim, gritty, and sleazy." – Brad Buckner, Portland Mercury
• Review: "Strange Suspense [The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1]... is an absolute treat! ...[T]his book looks amazing. ...[It's] filled with images that will remain seared into your psyche long after you’ve put it down. ... Strange Suspense is an absolute must have for any student of sequential art history... It’s an excellent collection of long lost work from a man whose importance cannot be overstated. There’s really no other grade to give it than an A." – Chad Derdowski, Mania.com
• Review: "Wolverton is helped [in The Wolverton Bible]... by his bold compositional sense, which aids in pushing some of his images beyond the doldrums of camp and into a certain monumentality, a grandeur that retains a shabby earthiness, without being lofty, hollow or pretentious. Without being, in a word, 'churchy.'" – Chris Lanier, The Comics Journal (beta)
• Review: "Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit is probably as close as comics are likely to come to exploitation cinema. Like the best exploitation dreck from Texas Chainsaw to Death Race 2000, Prison Pit is pure, bottom-dwelling schlock... And yet, again as with exploitation fare, the single-minded commitment to vileness is so perversely pure that it goes right past lowest-common-denominator entertainment and on into snooty, fancy-pants art. ... Ryan’s world is essentially Waiting for Godot, from the bleak landscape to the slapstick violence." – Noah Berlatsky, The Comics Journal (beta)
• Gift Guide: At RevolutionSF, Rick Klaw includes Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons in his "Geek Gift Guide": "The incredible three hardcover boxed set celebrates one of art's funniest and most disturbing cartoonists. ... I promise every geek would be thrilled to find this under the tree. I just hope Santa doesn't throw out his back out delivering this massive collection."
• Gift Guide: Love & Maggie presents a "Los Bros Hernandez Chistmas Shopping Guide"
• Review: "[Gilbert] Hernandez is one of the four or five greatest cartoonists in the world, and it's satisfying to see him work through any plot with any restriction he'd like to place on it. The Troublemakers feels like a movie for more than its story: it's either all exterior information or nearly so, it has opening credits, it has a three-act structure, it uses a wide-panel 'shot' throughout. ... Attaching a world of significance to forms recognizable to most of us as pulp isn't a new thing, but I don't think any of the filmmakers famous for it have done it any better than Hernandez." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Plug: "Popeye Vol 4: Plunder Island: Prior to Fantagraphics’ awesome collections of E.C. Segar’s awesome comic strip, this was the only storyline from Thimble Theater I’d ever read before…in The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics. Does that mean it’s some sort of classic? It should be; it’s fantastic. Anyway, the latest collection is $30 and 170 pages, and, like the first three volumes, it’s beautifully designed and so big and sturdy that it’s practically seaworthy." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
• Plug: "This is it. The crown jewel in the Popeye crown. If you only buy one volume in the series, blah blah blah. Seriously, hopefully you've been collecting all the Popeye books, because it's one of the greatest comics ever, but this volume contains what must surely be E.C. Segar's finest hour, namely, the 'Plunder Island' storyline, where in Popeye and friends search for treasure and come afoul of the Sea Hag." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "I've been in long time love with Femke Hiemstra. Her smoky and detailed fantasy landscapes are often coupled with outrageous characters, from vegetables to the floating head of Marie Antoinette. ... [Y]ou can pick up a copy of her splendid book, Rock Candy, which would make a perfect Christmas gift for the art lover or art lover to be." – J.L. Schnabel
• Mutual Appreciation: We love comedy genius Graham Linehan, and he loves us, as evidenced by the set dressing on The IT Crowd (not to mention interviews he's given); apparently he makes it explicit again in the bonus features to the 3rd season DVD set of the show, which we've yet to see, according to the DVD review at Den of Geek
• Things to see: Eric Reynolds comments on this link forwarded by Jason T. Miles: "I love knowing that there was a day in Fanta's past when they could call Kevin Nowlan on the phone for a last minute design job!"
• Review: "[Pim & Francie]'s spine calls its contents 'artifacts and bone fragments,' as if they're what's left for a forensic scientist to identify after a brutal murderer has had his way with them; Columbia obsessively returns to images of 'bloody bloody killers.' ... Many of the pieces are just one or two drawings, as if they've been reduced to the moment when an idyllic piece of entertainment goes hideously awry. But they're also showcases for Columbia's self-frustrating mastery: his absolute command of the idiom of lush, old-fashioned cartooning, and the unshakable eeriness of his visions of horror." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "With [Pim & Francie], Al Columbia has created not only one of the more unsettling works of horror in the medium of comics, but it also happens to be one of the greatest myth-making objects... Whether Columbia planned more complete stories for any of the efforts collected here is an interesting question, but for my money he has instead come up with dozens of nightmarish scenarios that have a greater cumulative effect by skipping set-ups or endings. The ending, one suspects, is always going to be a variation of horrific death and dismemberment." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
Once again we're bringing you an advance sneak peek at our listings for the next issue of Previews, this time with our releases scheduled for February 2010. It's going to be a big month for us with 8 new books, including two new Love and Rockets collections (one from Gilbert & one from Jaime), a great Kim Deitch yarn, horror noir from Ho Che Anderson, Captain Easy Vol. 1 (resolicited from August), a new softcover edition of the almost-out-of-print Blazing Combat, The Best American Comics Criticism of the 21st Century, and, pictured above, the breathtaking new graphic novel from Eisner Award winner Cathy Malkasian! Check it all out right here.
(Ed. note: As more end-of-year lists come in, we will collect the listed titles in a 2009 Critics' Picks category in our online shop, as we did for the 2008 Critics' Picks, in addition to noting them here on Flog.)
Here you go, today's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Locas II, by Jaime Hernandez, combines lush artwork with vivid, heart-in-mouth storytelling. ...[I]f you haven’t encountered its two heroines before, you might find yourself a little lost in the ongoing magic realist soap opera that is Hernandez’s stock-in-trade. It would be a bit like dropping in on Coronation Street for the first time — albeit a Corrie soundtracked by The Germs and Big Black. ... [But] even if you find yourself lost somewhere in the middle of Locas II, the lostness makes a kind of sense. The lives Hernandez chronicles are a little lost. ... Best of all, there's the creamy out-and-out gorgeousness of Hernandez's cartooning, with its echoes of Peanuts, the old Archie comics and 'good girl' art (never, outwith [Russ] Meyer's movies, have so many worn so little so often). Can you fancy a drawing? Look at the portrait of Frogmouth on page 405 and tell me it's not possible." – Teddy Jamieson, The Herald
• Review: "The Good: Prison Pit reminded me a lot of Gwar, professional wrestling and the comic strips my friends and I used to draw in junior high. ... It was gross as hell and filled with blood and gore and just straight-up repulsive juvenile humor. It was a lot of fun. The Bad: It’s probably too awesome for a lot of people to handle. ... The Bottom Line: Dude, it’s great. Just shut up and buy it. ...I’m giving Prison Pit anA and as soon as I’m done writing this review, I’m going to sit down and re-read it." – Chad Derdowski, Mania