It couldn't be a finer time to be a Fantagraphics fan as we have three major book releases scheduled to land in comic shops this week (with scuttlebutt that some shops may have received them last week). Read on for blogospheric descriptions and reaction:
104-page black & white 7" x 9.75" hardcover • $19.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-340-8
"Anecdotal as this is, I’ve heard absolutely nothing but good things about this new Jim Woodring project, a 104-page return to his signature Frank character, although the story itself focuses on damned, slovenly humanoid swine thingy Manhog as he taps into strange cosmic powers. As it was before, expect Woodring’s excellent command of physical comedy (and his story pacing, which always seems to denote improvisation but never dawdles or rambles) to segue from the pliable bodies of cartoon figures into something mythic and transformative about mysteries lurking just behind the atmosphere." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"The all-new Weathercraft is my book of the week and would be my book for most weeks, frankly." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
64-page full-color 10" x 12.5" hardcover • $18.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-355-2
"...Tim Hensley... mix[es] and sampl[es] elements in a self-evident way for a gleeful result, though this artist takes it so far that individual character poses seem exclusively isolated from long-forgotten humor comics and pressed into the service of a patchwork ideal of a ‘teenage’ comic (teenage-as-a-genre), possibly going down as the most striking of the original MOME serials once the goats are culled from the sheep. Here’s the collected edition, a 10″ x 12.5″ hardcover album, 64 color pages, almost all of them pretty to very funny. Yet it’s oddly difficult to describe Wally Gropius in more specific terms, but know that it’s about a rich boy and a determined girl and their courtship, and how prolix borrowed comic devices can build into something distressing indeed." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"Tim Hensley’s sly satire of silly ‘60s kids comics is an amazingly accomplished, spot-on imitation of the look and feel of those books, but with a sharper edged and heavier weight. One-part Archie Andrews, two-parts Richie Rich, Wally Gropius isn’t the German architect (although he’s often confused for him), but is rather a teen rock star bazillionaire." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
114-page 10.5" x 14.75" full-color hardcover • $39.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-161-9
"...an anticipated-by-many contemporary reprint project collecting Roy Crane’s influential Sunday spin-off from the comedic daily strip titled Wash Tubbs back when it started in 1924, but had since itself become an adventure-toned showcase for the Captain Easy character. Edited by Rick Norwood, with a vintage (1974) foreword by Charles Schulz and a new introduction by Jeet Heer..." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"The best adventure comic everywhere; Crane's clean, thought-out action scenes are a tonic for all those confused superhero fight scenes out there today." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
As always, complete details and extensive previews of each book can be found at their respective links. Bug your local comic shop to make sure they have them in stock before smashing open your piggy bank.
• Review: "Operating in the territory of Rube Goldberg, Wolverton's convoluted plans for achieving his ludicrous goals [in The Culture Corner] rely less on mousetrap-like technical gewgaws than the artist's signature grotesques, which are laugh-out-loud joy. While a must-have for Wolverton completists, even newcomers will find the humor readily accessible." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Just what is Dash Shaw on? And may I please have some? ...The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D. [is] an anything-goes anthology quite attractively packaged by Fantagraphics Books, right down to the transparent, animation-cel-esque jacket. ... Yeah, [the title story] is different. Yeah, it’s awesome. ... Much of Unclothed Man is stunning..." – Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: Thanks to our Twitter follower Tim Leng for the following alert: "Awesomely positive review of The Art of Jaime Hernandez (and L&R in general) on BBC 6music this afternoon!" For a limited time the show is streaming here (click on Tuesday)
• Plug: At EarlyWord, Robin Brenner singles out Weathercraft by Jim Woodring as one of "the most artful finds" at TCAF
• Interview: Greek site Comicdom presents a brief Q&A, in Engish, with Peter Bagge: "Almost all my story ideas are based on people and events from real life. Truth is always stranger than fiction."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch presents the first of a 4-part talk with Gene Deitch: "It’s really bad to look back on the communist time with nostalgia [laughs]. There was a downside. But the animation studio here was kind of a Shangri-La. First of all, nobody in the communist hierarchy had any idea what we were doing or how, but they knew it was popular and they left us alone."
• Review: "Many books have been written about World War I, but few can truly worm their way into your head like Jacques Tardi’s It Was the War of the Trenches. … The tales here are devastating and heartbreaking, and often disturbing, but readers will nonetheless have a hard time putting it down." – Holly Scudero, Sacramento Book Review
• Review: "Perhaps there is something in Charlie Brown, that the longer I read his adventures, the more I become a fatalist. I look at the history of Europe and I know that there are frequent periods of relative peace, such as the past 60 years in Poland. And since they are rare, sooner or later they can suddenly end." – Konrad Hildebrand, Motyw Drogi (translated from Polish)
• Review: "This, then, was my introduction to the idiosyncratic and fantastically imagined worlds of Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. ... While the stories and art of each Hernandez brother is unique, they shine extra bright by being juxtaposed, one to the other. Altogether: these rambling, lingering tales are bewitching." – Anna Clark, Isak
• Review: "...[In A Mess of Everything, Miss] Lasko-Gross covers the usual Holden Caulfield territory with brevity and an eye for detail. Her cartooning is very expressive and the book is coloured in subdued wash-like tones of brown, grey and blue that enhance the emotional impact of her cringe-worthy struggles for independence and individuality." – Bryan Munn, Sequential
• Plug: "[Roberta] Gregory is the cartoonist responsible for the comic series Naughty Bits, which is one of the best comic series I've ever read. Seriously, Life's a Bitch is one of my favorite comics ever. It's basically a biography of one normal — albeit kinda hateful — woman, and it's insightful, funny, and true." – Paul Constant, The Stranger (previewing an event on Saturday that, alas, we didn't know about in advance)
• Reviewer:Laura Warholic author Alexander Theroux looks at a new biography of Jack London for The Wall Street Journal: "Readers can be pardoned for thinking it seems not improbable that London, given the chance, would punch Mr. Haley in the nose."
An exhibit of original pages from Jim Woodring's Weathercraft (as seen above in our office last August) will open at Scott Eder Gallery in Brooklyn on June 18, 2010, with an opening reception 6-9 PM. Jim will be in attendance — mark your calendars! This is one of several NYC appearances for Jim, about which we'll be announcing full details in the near future.
Jim Woodring just dropped by the office to drop off the first 36 pages of his in-progress follow-up to Weathercraft, titled Congress of the Animals. We don't have a release date set for it but I'm guessing it will probably be about a year from now. Click the photos for bigger images.
Jim Woodring’s idiosyncratic aesthetic has earned him an international following as both a cartoonist and visual artist. He was a recipient of the prestigious United States Artist Fellowship in 2006 (with frequent collaborator Bill Frisell) and was an Artist Trust-Washington State Artist fellow in 2008. His work is published and exhibited worldwide, finding him traveling to exhibitions in France and Australia last year, a residency in Alaska last month, and to Sweden next month.
Though Fantagraphics Books has published several wonderful Woodring comic book series and collections, WEATHERCRAFT represents his first full-length graphic novel. Employing mystical motifs and enigmatic characters, the book continues the artist’s tradition of imaginative narratives allowing subjective responses from the reader. In a recent review in Vice magazine, Nick Gazin observes, “There’s not much point in trying to sum up the story of this comic. There’s no text, the art is beautiful, and you’re totally consumed by the world he’s created and you exist inside it while you’re reading it."
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is located at 1201 S. Vale Street, minutes south of downtown Seattle in the center of the historic Georgetown arts community. Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM. Phone 206.658.0110.
For over 20 years now, Jim Woodring has delighted, touched, and puzzled readers around the world with his lush, wordless tales of “Frank.”
Weathercraft is Woodring’s first full-length graphic novel set in this world — indeed, Woodring’s first graphic novel, period! — and it features the same hypnotically gorgeous linework and mystical iconography.
As it happens, Frank has only a brief supporting appearance in Weathercraft, which actually stars Manhog, Woodring’s pathetic, brutish everyman (or everyhog), who had previously made several appearances in “Frank” stories (as well as a stunning solo turn in the short story “Gentlemanhog”).
After enduring 32 pages of almost incomprehensible suffering, Manhog embarks upon a transformative journey and attains enlightenment. He wants to go to celestial realms but instead altruistically returns to the unifactor to undo a wrong he has inadvertently brought about: The transformation of the evil politician Whim into a mind-destroying plant-demon who distorts and enslaves Frank and his friends. The new and metaphysically expanded Manhog sets out for a final battle with Whim...
Weathercraft also co-stars Frank’s cast of beloved supporting characters, including Frank’s Faux Pa and the diminutive, mailbox-like Pupshaw and Pushpaw; it is both a fully independent story that is a great introduction to Woodring’s world, and a sublime addition to, and extension of, the Frank stories.
Online Commentary & Diversions (through yesterday; we're a bit behind):
• Review: "...[E]ven [Basil Wolverton]'s throwaway work — in this case, half-page gag strips (emphasis on the 'gag') that appeared in Fawcett's Captain Marvel titles during and after World War II — is fully worthy of rediscovery. Like a Bizarro Dr. Seuss, Wolverton packs each Culture Corner with goofy, rhyming advice... While silly and inconsequential, these strips revel in the subversive, surrealist glee that would develop more fully in Wolverton's later output for Mad and others, a style that would help unlock the inner cretin inside everyone from Robert Crumb to Peter Bagge. ...Fantagraphics has to be applauded for tenaciously keeping Wolverton and his eye-gouging, subliminally influential work from slipping through the cracks of comics history. [Grade] B+" — The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Tardi’s [It Was the] War of the Trenches is the most powerful comic I’ve read on World War One since Charley’s War... The black and white art is perfectly suited to the era being covered... while Tardi, not for the first time, proves himself a master of expression, the looks on the faces of the men caught up in the war speaking absolute volumes... It’s a hugely powerful work, both moving and horrific and filled with anger for the suffering and injustices one group of ‘civilised’ humans can visit upon another... [A]s the last voices of those who were actually there are fading into silence works like this are needed to remind us of the monstrous acts we can be capable of in service to the beasts of jingoism and nationalism and hubris, that we should read them and take cautionary lessons from them. Never forget." – Joe Gordon, The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log
• Interview:Avoid the Future has an illuminating talk with Joe Daly: "The environment is surreal, in that it combines the fantastical with the urbane. I try to meld these two sides together into a continuum that supports both the phantasmagoric and the banal, in a naturalistic kind of way. On a conceptual level, I’m also interested in combining extreme stupidity with a bit of cleverness (which the title ‘Dungeon Quest’ is supposed to invoke)." There's also a glimpse of Dungeon Quest Book 2!
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon grills Ben Schwartz, editor of The Best American Comics Criticism, saying "It's the kind of volume that starts fights... but that's okay and it's part of the fun. There's a lot of good work in the book and one or two absolutely inspired choices. Anyone with an interest in comics should at least give it a flip-through, and anyone with an interest in writing about the medium should use it as a springboard to discover a host of excellent new favorites." Schwartz on pitching the book: "Gary was the most skeptical. Early on he asked me if I seriously thought I could fill a whole book with good writing on comics. He sent me his essay 'The Death of Criticism.' Nice to know that's on your publisher's mind!"
• Interview: Canada's National Post has a Q&A with TCAF special guest Jim Woodring: "My name is Jim Woodring and I’m a cartoonist. I’m going to TCAF by invitation, with an assist from Fantagraphics Books, my publisher. I have a new book out called Weathercraft and I’m going to answer questions about it.
• Plugs: At The Cool Kids Table, Rickey Purdin runs down some recent acquisitions, including a couple volumes of Mome ("constantly entertaining") and the Weathercraft and Other Unusual Tales free comic ("...this free sample is PROBABLY about to set me on a path of Woodring fanaticism. Well played, Fantagraphics.")
• Plug: "Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle is that rarest of comic books: It's actually, genuinely a comic experience, with several guaranteed laugh-out-loud moments per issue." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
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