Can you tell we've been rooting around in our warehouse a lot lately? Our most recent find: vintage copies of two thought-to-be-lost issues of the seminal magazine on classic comic strips (edited by Rosebud Archives' Rick Marschall):
Nemo: The Classic Comics Library #2 dates from 1983 and includes an exclusive interview with Siegel & Shuster and their early pre-Superman "Superman" story; a history of William Randolph Hearst; early Western funnies by Fred Harman; a history of superhero strips; a Caniff Terry and the Pirates tale; and a profile of Art Young.
Nemo: The Classic Comics Library #30 from 1989 features an introduction to Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland; the evolution of Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy; a biography excerpt of Puck founder Joseph Keppler; and (20 years before our book collection) a selection of Sam's Strip by Mort Walker & Jerry Dumas.
We also still have copies of the final double issue, #31/32, with a rare long interview with Charles Schulz, a feature by R.C. Harvey on Milton Caniff (dealing with Vietnam), Edward Sorel on Krazy Kat, and 16 pages of Polly and Her Pals Sundays, shot from crisp black & white syndicate proofs. Supplies are limited, so get them while you can!
• Review: "Anyone coming to this volume [of The Complete Peanuts] looking for the rumored decline that is supposed to have happened in the second half of the 1970s might shut the book after its last page slightly confused. Energized by the Peppermint Patty/Marcie duo's emergence into the prime of their own vitality as characters and as a classic comic-strip team (I'd never thought of it before, but there are obviously elements of Easy and Tubbs there), Schulz's dailies were as strong and funny as ever." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "...[N]ot being a big manga reader, I didn’t expect to like the stories nearly as much as I did. But then smartly done genre tales make for some of the best literature, comics, film, etc. What I liked most about the different pieces in A Drunken Dream is the psychological form of sci-fi she employs (strictly speaking, the title story is the only sci-fi one, but I think a looser definition that incorporates the social aspects of the genre also applies here). I thought often of Tarkovsky’s Solaris." – Nicole Rudick, Comics Comics
• Feature: "When historians compile lists of the stuff that helped make America America, they don’t even rank the DeMoulin’s Patent Lung Tester alongside even relatively minor inventions like the cotton gin, the telegraph, and the automobile, much less epic game-changers such as instant coffee and air conditioning. Surely this is an oversight. [...] Along with hundreds of similar devices, the Lung Tester appears in Catalog No. 439: Burlesque Paraphernalia and Side Degree Specialties and Costumes. Originally published in 1930 by DeMoulin Bros. & Co., this strange volume has been newly reprinted by Fantagraphics Books. Like the more iconic Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog, it illuminates its moment in American history as deftly and instructively as any novelist has ever done." – Greg Beato, The Smart Set
• Plug: "Are you a fan of pop culture-related art? Or possibly just of distorted human features? Well run don't walk... to purchase [Too Soon?,] the new book by Drew Friedman, longtime illustrator for The Observer, Mad Magazine and other publications." – Dan Duray, The New York Observer
• Profile: At Il Sole 24 Ore, Luca Boschi looks at the work of Mort Walker & Jerry Dumas, calling our collection of Sam's Strip "an exceptional volume of comic strips... As always, Fantagraphics' presentation is superb and worth sharing." (Translated from Italian)
By the way, multiple belated hat tips to Robot 6, whose roundups of end-of-year links have been invaluable to the last few installments of Online Commentary & Diversions. On with the links:
• List:Publishers Weekly announced the results of their 2009 Comics Week Critic's Poll; among the top vote-getters are You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler ("I love this autobiographical family story as much for the way Tyler weaves between her own life and her father's, as for its painterly, illustrative panoramas of suburban neighborhoods and army scenes." – Sasha Watson) and Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman ("Milk and other liquids may come out your nose as you read one of the funniest comics ever put to paper. Kupperman's droll absurdism is matched by a stiff, woodcut-like art style that underplays the sometimes outre concepts. A comedy diamond." – Heidi MacDonald). Humbug by Harvey Kurtzman et al, Low Moon by Jason, Luba by Gilbert Hernandez, Supermen!: The First Wave Of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941, West Coast Blues Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jacques Tardi, and You Are There by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Claude Forest all received single votes in the poll
• List: At comiXology, Tucker Stone counts down his top 25 Best Comics of 2009, with Grotesque #3 by Sergio Ponchione at #23 ("...every once in a while, I get a reminder how vast the world of comics really is. Grotesque — European, unusual, brilliant — was one of those, an experimental passport to another universe"), Ganges #3 by Kevin Huizenga at #7 ("...Ganges captured the thing that all of us spend a lifetime doing — thinking — and turned it into something deserving of examination") and, in the top spot, Prison Pit: Book 1 by Johnny Ryan ("Aggro, obscene, hilarious, compulsive: Prison Pit. It wasn't just the greatest comic of the year, it was one of those comics that operated like the end result of a math equation, a definitive answer to the question of what comics are, and what they should be...")
• List: Johnny Bacardi's Personal Best of the Decade includes Eightball #22 by Daniel Clowes
• Review: "Each [panel] almost vibrates with the frenetic, desperate energy of the characters as they try to pull off their cons. That energy explodes in the final pages, as the story comes to a dramatic but ambiguous conclusion. In the end, the work offers an homage to B-movies while standing out as a graphic novel. The Troublemakers will please long-term Hernandez fans. It also should serve as a good introduction to newcomers looking to jump into the Love and Rockets universe." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "...Giraffes [in My Hair], a collection of anecdotes from Bruce Paley's teens and twenties on America's countercultural fringe, is a breezy read. ... Swain's art rarely calls attention to or gets in the way of itself, and in that it meshes seamlessly with Paley's deadpan 'here's what happened' narrative style, his reluctance to overstate or oversell the import of the anecdote reminiscent of Harvey Pekar's." – Sean T. Collins
• Review: "...[The Comics Journal] has reached issue 300 and is celebrating with a fascinating collection of creator-chats as industry tyros and giants come together to interview, share, bitch and generally shoot the breeze about graphic narrative: a tactic that makes this the most compelling read of the year for anyone truly interested in what we all do and why." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Fantagraphics Books continues its series devoted to chronologically packaging [Peanuts] and has not missed a step along the way. ... I’m pleased to inform that the latest edition, the twelfth in the series, is as lovingly curated as the first... [I]t is nice to know that one of the form’s greatest achievements is being held up as the accomplishment it really is." – Dw. Dunphy, Popdose
• Review: "[In Sam's Strip] Walker and Dumas clearly take pleasure in working in callbacks to classic comic strips... [and] many of the metatextual gags are funny and fun. ... Dumas’s drawings of classic comic-strip characters are excellent... The result is a frustrating, compelling curiosity: the soul of an underground comic trapped in the mortal coil of a Hi and Lois." – Shaenon Garrity, The Comics Journal
• Events:Star Clipper is sponsoring a screening of Ghost World at Schlafly Bottleworks in St. Louis tonight — oh jeez, in like half an hour! — and copies of the graphic novel and other Clowes books will be on sale
• List: Joe Gross of the Austin American-Statesman names notable comics of 2009, including Pim & Francie by Al Columbia ("It's a bit like peeking at J.D. Salinger's notebooks, if his notebooks were pure nightmare fuel") and You'll Never Know, Book 1 by C. Tyler ("A terrific addition to the canon of literature about baby boomers, their parents and their children")
• List: Greek site Comicdom names Ivan Brunetti's Schizo #4 to the #4 spot on their Top 100 of the 00s countdown. From the Google translation: "With words or silence, with an excellent sequence between the panels and embroidered with punchlines, reading this comic becomes a personal matter, even though the association, the painfully honest confession, is more or less familiar to everyone."
• List:Fústar awards The Clanging Gong of Doom for "Weirdest & Most Brain-Searingly Wonderful Book of the Year" to You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! by Fletcher Hanks, which "might be testament to rage-filled, borderline psychosis – but it's thrillingly vital and magnificently (uniquely) strange for all that."
• Review: "...[T]he great pleasures of each story [in The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book] are the odd, idiosyncratic details Daly includes, and the way in which he reveals them. ... I’ve never read anything like it—and now I want nothing more than to read more of it." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
• Review: "Sublife Vol. 2... is John Pham’s gorgeously designed one-man anthology book, including about a half-dozen stories of various genres, formats, sensibilities and even art styles, each impeccably laid out on longer-than-it-is-high, 8.5-by-7-inch rectangular pages. ... They’re all pretty great on their own, and taken all together, they make up a downright remarkable book." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama (same link as above)
• Review: "...[C. Tyler's] autobiographical comics display a shocking, unruly wholesomeness: they are visually and morally beautiful, suffused with a scrap-doodle amateurism and palpable maternal love... You’ll Never Know, Tyler’s newest book, is modeled on a scrapbook and is a tribute to craftsmanship, much like the home repair and plumbing we see her father, the 'good and decent man' of the title, often undertaking. ... Tyler mitigates this directness of heart with a dynamically pesky drawing style, splattering each panel with the democratic debris of life." – Ken Chen, Rain Taxi
• Review: "While we’re torturing geeks, I have to put in a good word for Andrei Molotiu’s Abstract Comics: The Anthology... The collection has a wealth of rewarding material, some of it awkward, some groundbreaking — on the whole, it is a significant historical document that may jump-start an actual new genre." – Doug Harvey, LA Weekly
• Review: "Some of the writing [in Humbug] may seem a bit quaint in our ‘irony coming out our asses’ present day, but the artwork is uniformly mind-blowing. ... This collects the whole ill-fated run in a luxurious hardbound package including top-notch background material. Worth it for the mammoth Arnold Roth & Al Jaffee interview alone." – M. Ace, Irregular Orbit
• Plugs: In an interview with Newsarama, Chris Ureta Casos of Seattle comic shop Comics Dungeon gives a nice shout-out to our recent reprint efforts and names Paul Hornschemeier's Mother, Come Home as a personal all-time favorite
• Plug:Robot 6's Chris Mautner got our collection of Jerry Dumas and Mort Walker's Sam's Strip for Christmas ("you can sense the two of them having fun")
• Interview:The Wall Street Journal's Jamin Brophy-Warren has a brief Q&A with Gahan Wilson: "The other thing that dawned on me was we were destroying the planet or at least we were destroying it as a feasible environment. There’s a little grandiosity in saying we’re destroying the earth — we’re just screwing it up so we can’t live. For one, that was hilarious that we’d be determined to continue and it keeps getting worse and worse."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater continues his conversation with Carol Tyler: "I…can’t…the secret of life? I’m not giving away the secret! I’ll just tell you this — it’s funny around here, because I have to go and pick up dog poop or something. And I’ve heard something like, 'Robert and Aline [Crumb] are in the New Yorker, this week. Oh, they’ve got ten pages.' And I’m just picking up dog poop, but I’m happy, for some reason. I’m happy!"
When we were putting together our current holiday catalog, somehow Sam's Strip: The Comic About Comics ended up being accidentally left out. This innovative strip is a clever and funny slice of comics history which deserves its place in our roster and on your bookshelf — read more about it here, and for the next week (through next Friday) you can order it at 20% off! Plus read more about the strip and the rest of co-creator Mort Walker's storied career in The Comics Journal #297 from earlier this year, also on sale at 20% off through next week!
• Review: "Issue #3 of Jordan Crane's Uptight serves as a wonderful example of just how good pamphlet format comics can be... Uptight #3 delivers 24 pages of beautifully focused storytelling... If you like Crane's work or simply want to try something a little different, do go out and buy this. Uptight represents everything single issue comics should be but so very rarely are. Fact is, we need more comics like this, so vote with your wallets and support the fine folks at Fantagraphics..." - Matthew Dick, Exquisite Things
• Review/Profile: "...[Boody Rogers's] command of dream-state narrative logic and language-mangling dialogue remains unnerving and uproarious in about equal measure... Now comes the Fantagraphics edition of Boody: The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers — a 144-page whopper, rich in humor and dreamlike oddities..." - Michael H. Price of the Fort Worth Business Press recounts meeting Rogers in the 1980s and also reviews Rogers's memoir, Homeless Bound
• Review: "For his latest... book [Low Moon], Jason has decided to try something a bit different... In attempting to stretch himself, though, he offers some of his weakest work to date, but some of his strongest and emotionally wrenching as well... Longtime readers... will definitely want to pick it up..." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "Literally jam-packed with strips that constantly vary in sizes, [Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1] shines with [Michael] Kupperman's earth-shattering wit, his excellent vintage-comics-inspired draftsmanship and his genius comedic timing. Thanks Fantagraphics!" - Librarie D+Q
• Plug: "You'll Never Know[Book 1: A Good and Decent Man] by C. Tyler arrived this week... it is funny, moving, sad -- highly recommended." - Librarie D+Q
• Plug: "The Comics Journal #298: Lotsa good interviews in this issue... For me though, the meat of the issue is the wealth of daily Skippy strips by Percy Crosby reproduced in the gallery section." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Interview: Publishers Weekly has a Q&A with Peter Bagge about his new collection Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me. Money quote: "I could have taken the Doonesbury route and pandered to my fellow libertarians by pretending I (and they) had all the answers, but that would have been both too easy and dishonest."
• Interview: Newsarama's Zack Smith talks to Sam's Strip creators Mort Walker and Jerry Dumas about the creation of the strip and the new Fantagraphics collection. Sample quote from Walker: "You always put something personal in every strip, so it’s wonderful to see all these old strips again."
• Charity: ComicList reports that Jaime Hernandez will participate in Comic Book Legal Defense Fund fundraising at Comic Con with an autograph card and original art auction
• Oddity: What does Popeye have in common with Michael Jackson? Well, now they're both subjects of Jeff Koons artwork, according to this Reuters story
• Review: "Petey & Pussy is surreal, rude, crass, crude with studied obnoxiousness, and bitterly, bitingly funny in a perfect post-modern manner... an utterly captivating world of bawdy, grown-up laughs that only the most po-faced conservative could resist. Adult fun for slacker smart-asses of all ages guaranteed to make your beer spurt out of your nose so read carefully..." - Win Wiaceck, Now Read This!
• Review: "The Humbug set from Fantagraphics is out and it's great. Fine printing and binding will keep this slipcased two-volume set looking good long after the rest of us are gone." - Harry Lee Green, Hairy Green Eyeball
• Review: "Maybe the business was too young, or maybe these characters were just a warm-up for what was to come so they didn't quite stick, but they are just as cool as any early Superman or Batman comic. The comics are all really neat to read, crude and unfiltered... So if you’re a comics fan, especially of the early stuff, this book is a must-have... [Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941] is gritty and exciting, so definitely go check it out!" - Tom Hardej, CC2K
• Review: "A fantastic companion to 2007’s Fletcher Hanks retrospective I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets!, [Supermen!] is pure pop culture heaven... While it’s easy to see why these characters have been been consigned to the dustbin of history, there’s an undeniable charm to practically every story in here... The only problem with this book is that it leaves you wanting more..." - Kevin Church
• Review: "...Sam's Strip was an interesting comic in its own right. The phrase 'ahead of its own time' is one that's bandied about frequently when discussing it, and even now the juxtapositions within it are occasionally surreal enough to cause amusement through their sheer audacity... As small a fact as it may be, the near-flawless execution of the book helps to make it feel like more of a prestige package, a celebration of the series rather than just a cheap cash-in... [T]his straightforward but well-made collection is a thoroughly worthy purchase." - Andrew Williams, Den of Geek
• Preview: "Illustrator Nell Brinkley's women were the Roaring Twenties' answer to the aloof Gibson Girl. Curly-haired, rambunctious and more than a bit naughty, the Brinkley Girls were a national sensation..." - She's a Betty
• Preview: "For those of you familiar only with [Peter] Bagge’s Gen X tales of angry, lost youth in Hate, the realisation that Bagge has developed into an opinionated, curmudgeonly middle aged man may seem as disturbing as seeing your favourite band of your teens back on stage now they’re all 40 somethings. But there’s no need to fear -- Bagge’s middle age self displays all the angry, hilarious energy of his younger self, just with more direction and purpose. [Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me is] definitely one to look forward to." - Richard Bruton, The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log
• Interview: Amazon.com's Omnivoracious blog sat down for a chat with Jaime Hernandez at Emerald City ComiCon. Sample quote: "I like to get goofy, off-the-wall [comics], just to have a box of 50s or 60s stuff that doesn’t really make sense. You know, I like to open the box once in a while to look at it for fun stuff, inspiration. Looking at an old comic gets me excited to do comics sometimes."
• Review: "Riveting... Fingerman [is] one of the meatiest cartoonists going... Fingerman makes [Connective Tissue protagonist] Darla so smart and funny and draws so distinctively, like Daumier might for Playboy..." - Booklist (no link; from print)
• Review: "Boody... is a compilation of the wonky comics work of that overlooked genius, Boody Rogers... Rogers' quirky cartooning style is faintly reminiscent of Al Capp crossed with Basil Wolverton, and his creations are wild and strange to say the least. This is an attractive compilation, wonderfully designed by Jacob Covey, that captures the charm and feel of 1940s-era comic books." - Gary Sassaman, Innocent Bystander
• Review: "Humbug is... sumptuous... It is quite possibly the best designed book I've ever seen come out of any comics company, clean and attractive and perfectly suiting its late 1950s time period. ...[I]t's a perfect little time capsule by five cartoonists and humorists at the top of their respective games." - Gary Sassaman, Innocent Bystander (same link as above)
• Review: "Sam's Strip is a whimsical little humor strip... It's a giant in-joke, charming in its inception and invention... and again, it's one damn fine-looking book." - Gary Sassaman, Innocent Bystander (same link as above)
• Review: "Supermen! [is]... in a format (designed by the editor) that perfectly complements its source material... I'm hoping for a second volume." - Gary Sassaman, Innocent Bystander (same link as above)
• Plug: Decider previews our FCBD Love and Rockets comic: "While this teaser doesn’t feature any of the series’ most beloved characters (save superhero wannabe Penny Century), it’s still a good introduction to Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez’s blend of magical realism, goofy wit, and surprising poignancy."
• Review: Poopsheet praises Petey & Pussy by John Kerschbaum, noting the "deeply weird cast" of characters, the "unpredictable plots in which everybody winds up humiliated and covered in one horrible substance or other, which is just what they all deserve. All this is, of course, very, very funny. John is a ninja of comedy timing," and a story moment that "makes you happy to read comics."
• Reviews: Andrew Wheeler rounds up a lot of books, including Willie & Joe: The WWII Years by Bill Mauldin ("Not just one of the best books of comics to come out last year, not even one of the best books to come out in 2008, but an excellent, essential, carefully-designed work of real historical importance and vital art... a great monument to one of the best cartoonists of the 20th century"; Petey & Pussy by John Kerschbaum ("Another one of those books that makes me laugh out loud and then feel guilty about it; this is probably offensive to many people, disgusting to more, but uncomfortably funny for nearly all of us... The stories are drawn in a tight, clean style, and are full of things I don't want to describe on the open Internet. I laughed a lot; I'll admit that"); Fuzz & Pluck: Splitsville by Ted Stearn ("...like Mark Beyer's Amy + Jordan, only much better drawn and with a coherent story"); The Maakies with the Wrinkled Knees by Tony Millionaire ("grotesquely gorgeous art"); and The Last Musketeer by Jason ("a wry and very entertaining story")
• Review: Stripper's Guide on Jerry Dumas & Mort Walker's Sam's Strip: "...one of the most delightful and intellectually daring strips that ever appeared in newspapers... And Fantagraphics has done it up in a perfect package. The reproduction quality is top-notch, and they've given us a superb bonus -- a section of annotations by Jerry Dumas and Brian Walker... if you are a comic strip fan and you don't have this book on your shelf then there is something really wrong with you. Seriously. Go buy the book."
• List: Ben Towle names some favorites from 2008 including Most Outrageous by Bob Levin ("...fascinating... a fantastic book..."); Petey & Pussy by John Kerschbaum ("What more can I say? This book’s #%&*in’ hilarious. Oh, I guess this: it’s also beautifully drawn."); and Fuzz & Pluck: Splitsville by Ted Stearn ("beautiful")