As if you might need more of an excuse to go, Drew Friedman and Irwin Chusid will be at the WFMU Record Fair in NYC this coming Saturday from 2-5 PM hawking their respective wares: "My new prints will be on display and available to order, along with Old Jewish Comedian books, Jim Flora prints and calendars, and bottles and bottles of Durkee Sauce. Come one come all," says Drew.
• Review: "The graphic novel, it turns out, is a form especially well-suited to the noir genre. Maybe this isn’t surprising — comics have always run the gamut of moods from goofy to autobiographical to just plain smutty. But it still gives a shiver of pleasure to stumble upon a graphic novel that captures the hardboiled tone of classic noir as perfectly as West Coast Blues, Jacques Tardi’s adaptation of a 1976 crime novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette. ... The plot includes bursts of bruality, dark realizations, alluring women and grizzled observations from its antihero — all the best conventions of noir, in other words, preserved and reborn in a fresh new medium. File it next to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler." – Molly Young, We Love You So
• Review: "I had a significant crush on The Death Of Speedy Ortiz the summer I was 20 years old, reading and re-reading the serialized story with a passion I had never brought to a single comic story before then. ... I thought it was wonderful that summer I read it 10,000 times, and I remain convinced it's a special story every time I've picked it up since." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "One of the many, many things I like about Kevin Huizenga's work is that a lot of his comics are about things that are not likely candidates for visual representation, and he manages to make them fascinating to look at anyway. Most of [Ganges #3] is about the process of perceiving one's own consciousness--the sort of hyperconsciousness of your own mind that happens when you're trying to get to sleep and can't--which is potentially the least interesting thing anybody could draw. And it looks fantastic..." – Douglas Wolk, The Savage Critics
• Review: "[Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938] is gorgeous. ... [Hal] Foster is frequently cited as an influence on other great cartoonists, and part of it is his precise line and the way he builds a convincing world from authentic architecture, clothing and armaments. That's part of the appeal, but Foster also excels at staging. ... Unlike daily strip collections, the full, weekly Prince Valiant page ends up a brisk, headlong read... Prince Valiant is something I picked up expecting to admire. I had no idea I would love it. – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
• Review: "Although far from all the artists represented in the new anthology From Wonderland with Love are so experimental with form and content that you must ask yourself if this can really still be termed comics, it is truly the cream of the crop who are assembled here. This collection offers a great perspective on how broad and versatile the talent pool is in Denmark." – Torben Rølmer Bille, Kulturkapellet (translated from Danish)
• Interview: At Largehearted Boy, author Jami Attenberg talks to Ellen Forney, saying "This mixture of openness and strength makes her work... extremely powerful and relatable, and probably very necessary for your bookshelf." From Ellen: "Sometimes I have to reflect and remind myself that I do have many more skills and more experience in my repertoire at this point, and to appreciate that the challenges don't freak me out so much. Still, some challenges are exhilarating and some are a pain in the ass."
• Commentary: At Comics Comics, Dash Shaw comments on and posts a transcript of a panel he was on at TCAF earlier this year
• Review: "Monte Schulz proves that his father was not the only talented storyteller in the family.... Monte has carved out his own stake with This Side of Jordan, the first novel of a planned trilogy.... Even though there are moments of brutal violence in the vein of Cormac McCarthy, Jordan is more about the young man facing his future with uncertain terms.... You’ll find yourself enraptured by his style, fittingly written in honor of his father." - Bruce Grossman, Bookgasm
• Review: "Overall, I liked West Coast Blues quite a bit, enough so that it makes me want to search out Manchette's novels that have been translated into English. If you enjoy hardboiled crime graphic novels, you should certainly give this one a try." - James Reasoner
• Review: "Boody’s absurdism is patently blue-collar. There is nothing heady or cynical or mean-spirited in these strips. They owe far more to the tradition of wives tales and folk legends than Kafka. As their syndication would likely demand, Boody’s bizarre comics are Golden Age nuggets of an off-kilter author who found a particular release in his medium." - Erik Hinton, PopMatters
• Review: "Chusid and Economon once again prove to be wise stewards of the Flora archives. [The] Sweetly Diabolic [Art of Jim Flora] reveals many largely unknown aspects of his work, but also fruitfully revisits his classic Columbia-era work. Thanks to the quality of the reproductions and design of the book itself, the vitality of Flora's art comes through on each page. An effective introduction to Flora's art and a satisfying crowd-pleaser for his established fans, Diabolic is another richly entertaining treasury of Flora's 'baroque and subversive' art." - Joe Bendel, J.B. Spins
• Profile: John Mesjak of my3books looks at the works of Jason, with a focus on his "beautiful" new book Low Moon
• Review: "An eye-opening cornucopia of visual storytelling styles traversing a wide variety of narrative avenues, this anthology [From Wonderland with Love] gives a strong representation of contemporary Danish comics as a thriving comics culture. Largely surreal, the work is tough to nail down, but much of it is lighthearted even when dealing with very dark issues; it's devoid of the self-conscious self-referentialism that so often dogs American comics both genre and literary... An essential volume for those interested in comics' global development and newest voices." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)
• Review: "...[R]idiculously imaginative... Grotesque is a comic book that might sound the 'more of these' alarm... An inhalation and reformatting of a classic trope here and there, that's not something the shelves are lacking, what's lacking is the skill with which Ponchione ejects them, creating something wholly his own." - Tucker Stone, The Factual Opinion
• Interview: Robot 6's Tim O'Shea talks with Carol Tyler. On the positive reviews for You'll Never Know: "I would like to kiss the reviewers because those comments uplift me during the weed pulling, wheelchair pushing, dog poop picking up moments that pepper my life."
• Analysis: At Comics Comics, Jeet Heer looks back on the history and formative influences of The Comics Journal: "It’s difficult for anyone now to understand how baffling and upsetting the Journal was in its early years."
• Plug: "Jaime Hernandez, as far as I'm concerned most days, is the best cartoonist in America. I know a few people who've been scared off exploring his work by the amount of stuff he's published, but part of the beauty of it is that you can jump in almost anywhere. Like, say, this volume [Locas II]... I envy anyone getting to read this for the first time, either way." - Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
• Plug: "Some serious coffee-table-book action here: an Andrei Molotiu-edited anthology of comics [Abstract Comics] that are just abstract images in sequence, by people from the fine-art and art-comics world, as well as some people I wouldn't have expected: Patrick McDonnell? Mark Badger? Of course, a lot of the fun of reading this is noticing your mind automatically trying to impose narrative on these abstractions." - Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance (same link as above)
• Plug: "Abstract Comics: The Anthology: You wanted this. You may not have known it, and you probably didn't say it, but your heart was read, your soul scoured, your eyes met to understand what your mind could only scream in silence. Abstract comics. Wednesday is almost here. Let them in...; your $39.99 gets you what's looking like the most intriguing comics anthology of 2009." - Joe McCullough, Jog - The Blog
• Plug: "Making [Abstract Comics] my pick of the week isn’t going to do anything to alleviate my reputation as Snooty McSnootenstein, mayor of Snobville, but this is one hell of a gorgeous book... I liked this book very, very much." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "[Locas II] is a lot of really, really great comics for a pretty decent price. [Ghost of] Hoppers in particular is one of the best things Hernandez has ever done." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6 (same link as above)
Let's see what kind of Online Commentary & Diversions the weekend held for us... a lot, apparently:
• Review: "Carol Tyler is a unique figure in the world of comics... She's now put together the first volume of what promises to be her masterwork, a 'graphic memoir' about her father's experiences in World War II that effortlessly mixes media in a charming, affecting, and devastating package. You'll Never Know goes beyond biography, autobiography and even as a means a therapy to ask a number of deeper questions that may well not have ready answers. It's a stunning achievement, a perfect marriage of form and content, and is my early contender for not only comic of the year, but comic of the decade." - Rob Clough
• Review: "Jordan Crane's Uptight series is a lo-fi throwback of a series... Crane's line is elegant but unfussy, with slightly scratchy character designs that have a grace and fluidity to them reminiscent of Jaime Hernandez." - Rob Clough
• Review: "Grotesque has been one of the most playful entries in the underappreciated Ignatz line. Sergio Ponchione has a very 'American' quality to his line in terms of his line (thick and rubbery) and character design (a series of homages to masters like EC Segar and more contemporary figures like Charles Burns)... Ponchione's sight gags in this issue were something to behold, like a dead baron's tombstone growing arms and legs and coming after his brothers." - Rob Clough (same link as above)
• Review: "Issue #4 of Delphine was the conclusion of the series, and it certainly did not disappoint... Delphine benefitted from the Ignatz format: big pages that let the backgrounds breathe, nice paper, and creepy one-tone color. It was a perfect format for a fairy tale gone horribly wrong." - Rob Clough (same link as above)
• Review: "When life is on the skids, there are those who just lean into it and those who try to drive their way out. Some get run over, some step on the gas. In Pop. 666 [by Francesca Ghermandi, serialized in Zero Zero], fortunes change at moment’s notice, and events are never anything short of bizarre... This weird and creepy sci-fi horror crime comic is a loopy piece of work, and it deserves to be experienced by more readers..." - Jamie S. Rich, Robot 6
• Review: "I realize as I was reading the book that I’d previously thought of Val as a bit of a wimp due to his hairstyle, but nothing could be farther from the truth. In the first volume he kills a giant crocodile, wears a false mustache, scares an ogre to death, enters a jousting tournament in disguise, gets drunk, falls in love with a girl who already has a fiance, pursues girl with said fiance when she is kidnapped by vikings, and fights off a horde of vikings single-handed. That Prince Valiant is a busy guy!... It is really great seeing an essential part of comics history like Prince Valiant being treated so respectfully in this new edition." - TangognaT
• Review: "Imagine a book publisher had released a retrospective on 'The Graphic Novel' in 1976, or that a cinema hosted a look back at France’s nouvelle vague in 1957, or that a gallery exhibit somewhere spotlighted American Abstract Expressionism in, say, 1946. The experience would have been not unlike reading Abstract Comics: The Anthology today." - Sean Rogers, The Walrus
• Review: "[The Wolverton Bible] is a fascinating testimony to the peculiar vision of the life of an original artist and a somewhat unorthodox view of the 'holy book' by a faithful believer." - Iconoctlán (translation from Google)
• Review: "Popeye Vol. 1 would be enthralling if only for the change in the Thimble Theatre order of things, letting the reader watch as a new character takes over and reshapes the strip into his own image. Fortunately, what it's turned into is a thoroughly fun adventure strip that made me eager for more... There are so many fun newspaper reprint projects going on right now that it's easy to miss a lot of them. Now that I know how good Popeye is, I'm making it a priority to read the rest." - Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Review: "[Bottomless Belly Button is a] wonderful book that I strongly recommend for every comic fan... Dash Shaw is a name to remember." - Laurent De Maertelaer, freaky.be (translation from Google)
• Plugs: "Abstract Comics: ...[I]t's fascinating to see what you can do with comics when you're dealing with non-representational, non-narrative imagery, stretching the limits of the medium... Locas II: Oh man, it's another huge collection of Jaime Hernandez's amazing stories from Love and Rockets... Greatness." - Matthew J. Brady
• Plug: "Nobody else’s comics read like these [in You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!]. They’re savage and brutal but have moments of eerie and unexpected beauty... And don’t read this stuff right before bed: strange dreams are a documented side-effect." - Matt Maxwell, Robot 6 (same link as above)
• Preview: Hans Rickheit has a peek at the hardcover of The Squirrel Machine
• Profile: "Michael Kupperman does funny very well... 'Right now, I'm working on two more short pieces for Marvel, one featuring the Avengers, and I'm going to try to get some of that Marvel spirit of the '70s, with the explosive, sound-effect laden fight scenes.'" - Gary C.W. Chun catches up with Kupperman in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin
• Interview: "I've greatly enjoyed Chicago-based cartoonist, artist and animator Lilli Carré's first few forays into the world of comics. Longer works such as Tales of Woodsman Pete and especially The Lagoon were stuffed with undeniably interesting formal techniques... There's a soulful element to Carré's writing that helps greatly to involve the reader in the surface narratives..." - Tom Spurgeon, introducing his Q&A with Lilli at The Comics Reporter
• Comic-Con Rhetorical Question of the Day: "...[H]ow many members of the 501st Stormtrooper Legion do you see at the Fantagraphics booth?" - Sean T. Collins (The Unneeded Answer: we had maybe 2 cosplayers, period, in the booth all week, and no Stormtroopers, although they are more than welcome.)
• Comic-Con: Looks like Kelly Kilmer scored a bunch of great stuff at our booth on Sunday
• Review: "The first four issues of Michael Kupperman's awesome comedy comics zine Tales Designed to Thrizzle have been collected into a single hardcover volume that is a superdense wad of funny, surreal, bent humor... This is weird, funny, Subgenius-esque toilet reading that will keep you very regular." - Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
• Review: "Thomas Ott's Dead End, & Tales of Error, (Fantagraphics Books) - This Swiss artist's comics are a moody blend of irony, horror and silence. (Most of his stories have no dialogue or captions.) The stark black-and-white pages - thanks to Ott's use of scratchboard - bring to mind such German Expressionist films as Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu. Like those films, Ott knows how to build suspense and maintain a sense of looming dread as each story reaches its foregone and tragic ending." - Steven Kwan, "Your new textbooks: Comics you need to read," University of Arizona Daily Wildcat
• Review: "The key to [Mome]'s continued success has been flexibility regarding its mission. It's still a place where young artists are sought out and spotlighted... It's also a place where key foreign comics can find a home... Lastly, it's a place where great American cartoonists can publish their short stories... This variety of approaches... positions it as a sort of descendant of Weirdo and RAW. It may not represent the absolute cutting edge of comics the way that Kramer's Ergot does, but it's still the widest available survey of alt-comics in publication and will be increasingly valuable in that regard as it continues to evolve." - Rob Clough
• Preview: The Comics Reporter reports: "I saw John Pham briefly at his studio on Monday. He's a little bit late -- although nowhere near comics-late -- with the second issue of his Sublife series from Fantagraphics, and the original art he showed me was really, really pretty."
• Plug: Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder hypes The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora, relating the following: "Tim Biskup told me the the first time he saw Flora's work (when he was in a used record store) he felt his brain rewiring on the spot, forever changing his approach to art."
• Plugs: Jog looks at some of our new releases arriving in comic shops today
• Plugs: "If you picked up I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! and delighted in the surreal mayhem therein (and who didn’t) you’re going to have to grab a copy of You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! to make your life complete... It’s completely insane and very funny and will probably encourage you to indulge in a spot of unnecessary exclamation pointing... The Summer 2009 edition of MOME has arrived and, as usual, it's packed... Sergio Ponchione's Grotesque #3... is one of those lovely-looking Ignatz books... If you're a fan of weird Lynchian fantasy you should definitely check it out." - Gosh! Comics Blog
• Plugs: "The Complete Crumb Comics, Vol. 9...: Classic Crumb from 1972 and ‘73, reprinted once again. Lots of great politically incorrect material, including Crumb's assault (of sorts) on feminism. All in good fun, of course... The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 12: 1973-1974...: This one contains what I sincerely think is one of the greatest extended stories in the history of comics, where Charlie Brown starts seeing baseballs everywhere and gets a baseball-shaped rash on the back of his head. Hopefully you're buying the whole series, but if you only want one volume, I'd suggest this one. If you want more, though, you can buy the box set with Vol. 11 included... Mome, Vol. 15 (Summer 2009): ...[T]his one looks intriguing if only because it features both the debut of up-and-coming artist T. Edward Bak and a 16-page story by the Spanish artist Max, who we don't nearly get enough of in these parts." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
While we were at Comic-Con, where Irwin Chusid's brother coincidentally works and stopped by to say hi, Irwin sent the following announcement about a new Jim Flora fine art print:
Jim Flora Art has released a limited edition fine art print of a 1960 tempera titled BIG EVENING. The hyperactive tableau depicts a cavalcade of misshapen, multi-eyed mutants with bonus body parts. People just like you!
Only 25 prints were produced for this edition. Details:
A third collection of amusing nightmares from the demonic wand of Jim Flora
Jim Flora (1914-1998), long admired for boisterous 1940s and '50s record cover illustrations and a later series of best-selling children's books, has been rediscovered in recent years as an alchemist of bizarre and politely disturbing imagery. The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora burnishes the reputation of one of the great overlooked paintbox fantasists of the twentieth century.
Like its two predecessors (The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora and The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora), this anthology celebrates a visionary whose work is steeped in vari-hued paradox. Flora's figures are fun while threatening; playful yet dangerous; humorous but deadly. His helter-skelter arabesques are clustered with strangely contorted critters of no identifiable species, juxtaposed amid toothpick towers and trombones twisted into stevedore knots. Down his streets lurch demonic mutants sporting fried-egg eyes, dagger noses, and bonus limbs. Yet, despite the raucous energy projected in these hyperactive mosaics, a typical Flora freak circus often projects harmony and balance — an ordered chaos.
Like the first two volumes of Floriana, The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora features paintings, drawings, and sketches from the 1940s through the 1990s — many never previously published or exhibited; more artifacts from the artist's 1940s tenure in the Columbia Records art department; and vintage newspaper and magazine illustrations.
This collection also heralds the first publication of an early, abandoned book for youngsters, "The X-Ray Eye of Wallingford Hume," which Flora drafted in 1943. Equally fascinating are original roughs, overlays, and concept images for his 1950s and '60s published kid-lit. In a curious inversion from art to objet d'art, these partial illustrations — intended to be layered for a printer's composite — are impressive, in their curious minimalism, as stand-alone masterpieces.
A gallery of 1940s pen and pencil sketches invokes a catacomb of nightmarish apparitions and inscrutable petroglyphs. Sweetly Diabolic also collects for the first time between covers a sideshow of science widgetry from a short-lived, now-obscure mid-1950s monthly, Research & Engineering, for which Flora served as art director. Chronicles of Flora's career, personal vignettes, and mementos from the family archives augment the images.
Although a lot of his work appears cartoonish, Flora didn't draw comics. He always projected a veneer of sophistication that elevated his images to the level of fine art, even when grinding out topical illustrations for newsstand weeklies. Flora deftly merged the well mannered with the maniacal — eyeball jazz that bops and bounces in unfathomable meters.
BONUS! Download an EXCLUSIVE 14-page PDF excerpt (2.7 MB) comprising the heavily illustrated Introduction, "The Flora Aura."