I thought I could keep up with Online Commentary & Diversions while at Comic-Con. Ha ha ha ha ha.
• Coming Attractions: At Robot 6, Chris Mautner takes a look through the 46 (!!!) upcoming books listed in our Fall/Winter catalog (note: listed release dates may no longer be accurate and are all subject to change)
• History/Profile/Review: "What A Drunken Dream reveals is an author whose childhood passion for Frances Hodgson Burnett, L.M. Montgomery, and Isaac Asimov profoundly influenced the kind of stories she chose to tell as an adult. ... For those new to Hagio’s work, Fantagraphics has prefaced A Drunken Dream with two indispensable articles by noted manga scholar Matt Thorn. ... Taken together with the stories in A Drunken Dream, these essays make an excellent introduction to one of the most literary and original voices working in comics today. Highly recommended." – Katherine Dacey, The Manga Critic
• Review: "Anyone interested in the historical development of manga and the women who’ve contributed to the art form should read this book. I hope A Drunken Dream sells well enough for Fantagraphics or other publishers to consider putting out some of Hagio’s longer works. Her short stories are great, but I’d love to see what she does with a longer storyline." – Anna Neatrour, TangognaT
• Plug: "What Osamu Tezuka is to shonen and seinen manga, Moto Hagio is to shojo manga -- a true innovator who challenged and stretched the conventions of the medium by created touching, memorable and truly artistic comics stories. ... Fantagraphics had copies of the absolutely gorgeous hardcover edition of A Drunken Dream available for sale at their [Comic-Con] booth..." – Deb Aoki, About.com: Manga
• Interview:The Comics Journal's Shaenon Garrity sat down with Moto Hagio & translator Matt Thorn for a conversation at Comic-Con International: "I find it very embarrassing to read my very early work, but when you see the stories arranged chronologically it gives a good overall impression of my career. In Japanese, too, it’s common to present an author’s works in a sample spanning his or her whole career, so it’s turned out very much like that."
• Review: "Deadpan dialogue, drawings that move from panel to panel with the strange and deliberate force of kung fu performance art, and a subtle interweaving of humor and angst come together to make [Werewolves of Montpellier] a brief knockout of a book." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "...[T]his cartwheeling shaggy-dog story begins, like a lot of metafiction, with the semblance of reality... But by the time a frog demon reanimates a 19th-century French peasant whose brains it has eaten, it’s fairly clear that Deitch is making stuff up. The fun of [The Search for Smilin' Ed] is the way it constantly darts back and forth across the line between genuine show-business lore (a favorite Deitch theme) and delirious whole-cloth invention. There are stories within stories, unreliable explainers, secret passageways that lead from one part of the tale to another." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "Wally Gropius is a book that’s constantly lying to the reader, with a terrifying chaos roiling just immediately below its surface. The book is a flood of visual and textual information, but the information itself is near constantly false. ... For me, it’s a book that lies constantly, that lies at its very core, but that nevertheless ends up getting at a greater truth of things. And so, yeah: I thought that was pretty neat." – Abhay Kholsa, The Savage Critics
• Review: "There’s more derring-do [in Prince Valiant Vol. 2: 1939-1940] than you can shake a sword at! Foster’s stories are filled with vivid, colorful characters, none more engaging than the aptly named Valiant and his never-ending quest for adventure. The artwork is breathtaking. Foster’s figures are handsome and graceful whether eating a sumptuous feast or fighting on a crowded battlefield. ... Even if the age of chivalry is not your flask of ale, Foster’s art and storytelling will win you over." — Rich Clabaugh, The Christian Science Monitor
• Review: "This book is why Fantagraphics is one of the best and most important comic publishers in the business today. [Blazing Combat] is a series that could have easily been forgotten to the ages but Fantagraphics always is at the forefront of making sure important works of sequential art are remembered. ... This is a brilliant collection of stories that should be required reading. Intelligent, gripping stories and fantastic art! Grade A +" – Tim Janson, Mania and Newsarama
• Review: "Formally inventive and emotionally acute, Bottomless Belly Button indeed proves to be all those things: as fascinating and affecting a depiction of family ties as Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections or Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums." – Ed Park, Los Angeles Times
• Plugs: Alex Carr of Amazon's Omnivoracious blog has Weathercraft by Jim Woodring ("I am woefully ignorant when it comes to Woodring’s Frank comics, and this looks like the weirdest place to start") and Dungeon Quest Book 1 ("After The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, I will read anything Joe Daly produces") on his summer vacation reading list
• History: For the Los Angeles Times, Ben Schwartz compiles an oral history of the 1980s heyday of L.A. alternative comics with Matt Groening, Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez, David Lynch (!), and Gary Panter
• Review: "In Weathercraft, his first foray into graphic-novel territory, Seattle denizen Jim Woodring employs his repertory troupe of ambiguous, liminal characters — Frank, Manhog, Pupshaw, and Pushpaw — to tell the kind of Pilgrim's Progress tale that David Lynch might have conjured up if he were a cartoonist. ... Impermanence, the conundrum of physical senses that guide and ensnare at the same time, the challenge of a rational response to an irrational universe — all this and more await the returning fan or the open-minded acolyte in Woodring's best work yet. And for an artist of his caliber, that's saying something." – Damian Van Denburgh, Critical Mob
• Review: "Loaded with hipster irony, profanity and long digressive conversations, it’s a loving tribute to half-repudiated childhood pleasures. ... At times, Dungeon Quest captures the anything-goes wanderlust of Calvin & Hobbes — if Calvin’s fantasies were real, set in rundown Los Angeles neighborhoods and loaded with swearing." – Jason Thompson, The Comics Journal
• Review: "The relationship stuff all rings true, and when it gets weird at the end, it doesn’t seem random and arbitrary, and that’s a difficult trick to pull off. ... I found Werewolves [of Montpellier] to be a delightful read; no profound life lessons were learned, but Jason’s storytelling is first-rate and life lessons are overrated anyway." – Johnny Bacardi, Popdose
• Reviewer:On his blog, Jason reviews the film Léon Morin, prêtre
• Review: "Deep within the barroom psychosis, Lane looks into the abyss and thinks about spitting into it. The drive that leads to destruction can also be a powerful and satisfying personal experience. While each story in Abandoned Cars ties together in a thick knot of dread, the best story sees Lane go on a blatantly autobiographical adventure, and head out for an adventure by jumping on trains." – Bob Temuka, The Tearoom of Despair
• Review: "So Fantagraphics recently released The Search for Smilin' Ed, which was serialized a while back but also contains a brand-new story as well. ...Deitch really puts a lot on the page. And, for the most part, it's pretty fascinating. But I was struck by something in the book, and I must ask: Is this comic racist? ... Deitch has a grand time twisting the way reality presents itself, bringing together his entire career in cartooning so that it all exists in the same odd universe. Deitch's intricate artwork completes this surreal adventure — it's an astonishing piece of detailed work, with monsters lurking in panels and scenes shown from different viewpoints to add interesting nuances. Deitch mixes his own, 'real' world skillfully with Waldo's imaginative one into a haunting phantasmagoria, with strange creatures flitting through our consciousness and then disappearing. It's a very wild comic that asks the reader to enter this topsy-turvy world and accept what's going on. For the most part, we do." – Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "Kelso's... thin lines, empty figures, expressive curves and powerful shading are a delight to look at... I also think that the scope of the story has a lot of appeal, and the persistent theme of every character finding themselves incapable of staying anywhere near their closest family is probably a relatable one to many. ... Artichoke Tales is at its finest when it delivers the banality of life from the pretense of grandeur..." – Jason Michelitch, Comics Alliance
• Review: "At its core, [Set to Sea] is imbued with appropriately romantic notions of what living one’s life truly means. ... Weing is something of a classicist in his artistic approach, from the E.C. Segar influence he clearly wears on his anchored sleeve to his garish use of hatching—but the style suits the subject matter quite well. Much care has clearly gone into every page. And the result is a satisfying, if brief read." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Review: "Joe Daly’s Dungeon Quest is at once the most self-aware and metatextual of the recent spate of fantasy-inspired alt-comics, as well as the one most devoted to the sheer fun of exploring a space and dealing with its inhabitants. ... Above all else, Daly is funny, and never pursues cheap laughs. His line mixes clear-line simplicity with occasional psychedelic weirdness; bending the borders of reality is a trademark of his narratives. When Daly lays down a genre story over this template, the resulting stories are enjoyable on several levels." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Read 2 pages a day [of The Kat Who Walked in Beauty], every so often, for 6+ months to get through this. I was very inspired by it...the world of it, the forms. The world has changed a lot since Mr. Herriman drew these strips. Some real groaners in here, but some good jokes too." – Kevin Huizenga, Husband vs. Wife
• Interview:Newsarama's Michael C. Lorah talks to Cathy Malkasian about her new graphic novel Temperance: "What I wanted to touch upon was our current state of engaging in distant wars and how these have altered the lives of returning soldiers and their loved ones. This and the increasing taste for violence in our cultural palette. Do these currents rise together? Is the latter a reaction to the former? I still don’t know, but I have a feeling we’re seriously rearranging the role of violence in our collective mind."
• List: "A new, superb Frank book called Weathercraft came out a few weeks ago, but I treasured Frank as a periodical, and I'd love to sit down with a few hundred issues of it when I'm an old man. ... I think it's healthy for adolescent boys to have access to well-written, well-drawn comics about war, as long as the comics in question [like Blazing Combat] constantly pound home the message that war is futile, stupid and contemptible." – Douglas Wolk, "Ten Comics That Should Run Forever," TIME/Techland
• Review: "If you are in search for fresh ideas or even tried and true ideas presented in a fresh light, this is the book you've been yearning for. Werewolves of Montpellier is one of those true indie gems that make me glad I took a chance reading something outside of the mainstream. ... Werewolves of Montpellier is by far my favorite Indie Book of the Year so far. ... If you're a fan of the Coen Brothers or David Lynch, it's a safe bet that any work by Jason is going to be right up your alley. ...[I]n Werewolves of Montpellier, Jason takes his style of irreverence and perfects it. I guarantee if you take a chance with this book you will not forget it and seek out more Jason. It's one of those stories that sits with you long after page last comes to pass. Hilarious, profound, fun, and meaningful. Werewolves of Montpellier is filled with indie goodness." – Mark L. Miller, Ain't It Cool News
• Review: "Eisner Award winner Kim Deitch has been weaving a complex universe of ghosts, aliens, demons, puppets, spiritual leaders, and complicated animal characters for over 40 years, and in the tradition of Vonnegut, Deitch occasionally places himself in the middle of his own madness. If that sounds a bit meta, that’s only the barest tip of the squirmy, lascivious iceberg that Deitch has planned for you [in The Search for Smilin' Ed]. ... The lines between fiction and fact are so effectively blurred and made bizarre that I still retain a bit of paranoia and doubt about the veracity of any evidence that Smilin’ Ed was ever on TV... The images are so dense that it’s amazing they retain the clarity that they do, but it’s an amazing and unexpected study in the principles of positive and negative space." – Collin David, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Review: "By being both foreboding and accessible, menacing and friendly — and doing so without suffering from sort of comic book schizophrenia, Hensley manages to create something rather unique and deeply rewarding in Wally Gropius. This is a comic that rewards multiple readings and contemplation. It's also one of the best — and funniest — books of the year." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "Speaking of strange, what an oddly delightful little book [Dungeon Quest Book 1] is, a mash-up of Dungeons & Dragons-type adventuring and stoner attitude... To some degree, this book is a distant cousin to Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit. The main difference being that Daly is more concerned with pot jokes than gore. Both though, are part of this seemingly new try to find ways to give the familiar fantasy genre a clever twist. And both are concerned with exploring different ways to portray action and violence in comics. ... Based on the strengths of this introductory volume... I'm willing to go where the adventure leads to." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "In reviewing Jaime Hernandez's Penny Century, I could point to the frenetic pace of many of the stories; the cute, odd, and endearing sort of strangeness spawned in this lightly magical universe; or even the beautiful art, which is truly the mark of this master cartoonist. But, no, I am going to hype the very first story, 'Whoa Nellie,' beyond anything else in this fantastic volume. ... Such a wonderful, and grounded, story is a nice start-off point for the still compelling, yet far stranger and sexier, tales that follow. Soup to nuts, this is a great book." – Jeremy Nisen, Under the Radar
• Reviews: The new episode of Easy Rider, the radio show for "rock, punk rock, country, power pop, garage and comics" from Radio PFM out of Arras in northern France, features High Soft Lisp by Gilbert Hernandez and Penny Century by Jaime Hernandez among their Comics of the Week
• Review: "R. Kikuo Johnson's debut graphic novel, Night Fisher, is a compelling yet unsentimental coming of age story. It’s a portrait of awkward adolescence on the cusp of adulthood illustrated with the darker, more realistic tones of teenage life. Night Fisher is filled with bold artwork, psychological intricacies, and mature depictions of immature actions. ... R. Kikuo Johnson has proven himself as a masterful storyteller in his first graphic novel." – Steve Ponzo, Multiversity Comics (via ¡Journalista!)
• Interview: The Los Angeles Times' Noelene Clark questions Tim Hensley about Wally Gropius: "I did grow up in sort of a show business family, so I was continually in an environment of going places where a lot of people were famous, and I was sort of tagging along. I had the idea of somebody who is continually mistaken for someone really famous, but actually has nothing to do with that."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater continues his conversation with Gene Deitch: "Terr’ble Thompson was a style I adapted for that comics strip. I wanted something that looked like a comic strip, was a little ahead—something that had the UPA influence. ... Of course, if you’ve seen my other book, The Cat on a Hot Tin Groove, my jazz cartoons, that’s a completely different style. I’m used to working in all different styles. I don’t want people to say, 'this is in Gene Deitch’s style.' I want to do everything."
Three new compact softcovers wending their way into comic shops this week. Plentiful previews, bonus downloads, and more information about each book await you at the links below. Your local comic shop can divulge availability at their particular establishment if contacted in advance. Read on to see descriptions and comments from the comics bloggers:
"Definitive title notwithstanding, this 360-page Ben Schwartz-edited volume actually concerns itself with writing pertinent to (though not exclusively concerned with) the maturation and rise in public consciousness of North American ‘literary’ comics..." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"Disclaimer: I've got an essay in this Ben Schwartz-edited anthology, which features criticism as well as interviews and historical pieces." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon refers you to his interview with Ben Schwartz, which he prefaced by 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."
"...[N]othing but transcriptions of Twitter feeds, message boards and comics blogs, mostly dealing with Stephanie Brown and how messed up Identity Crisis was. Oh wait a minute, I’m thinking of The Worst American Comics Criticism, the volume of comics writing I’m editing, in my mind." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
136-page black & white 6" x 8.25" softcover • $12.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-347-7
"...[T]he 136-page latest from the always-fun Joe Daly..., a hugely vulgar quest adventure imposing video game RPG tropes on the aggressive banality of suburban navigation..." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"Joe Daly's latest, an Angouleme Festival essential book this year in its French-language iteration, is so deeply weird it makes his oddball Hergé pastiche in his last work look like actual, straight-forward Hergé." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"I’m not doing a very good job of describing it, I know, but that’s only because it’s so damn weird. Hopefully I’ll do a better job when I sit down to write a formal review. In the mean time, give it a flip-through tomorrow! It has a character named Lash Penis in it!" – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
162-page black & white 6" x 8.75" softcover (with full-color foldout) • $16.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-324-8
"Nice – a spankin’ new Fantagraphics collection of one of the major ’stray’ Kim Deitch works, a 1997-98 serial from the pages of the publisher’s old funnybook anthology series Zero Zero. Join your humble artist/narrator and Waldo the cat as they explore the demon-visited world of children’s programming..." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"A major collection from an A-List comics talent. This time out the great Kim Deitch examines the nature of entertainment through the ways audiences encounter, process and recall it. The joyful image-making couldn't be more entertaining to drink in." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
One day Millennium Boy decided to grab his hobo stick, his bandanna, and his Swiss Army knife, bid his mom goodbye, and head off on a quest for adventure. Joined by his best friend Steve (weapon: baseball bat; clothing: wife beater, cargo pants and sandals), they soon find themselves in a violent altercation with two other adventure seekers. It ends badly for their antagonists (“Whoa, check it out, dude! You actually knocked this dude’s brain right out of his cranium!”) and Millennium Boy and Steve become the proud owners of fancy weapons upgrades (a crowbar and a steel chain). So on they trek, and the next inductee to their group is the muscle-bound Lash Penis.
And then things start getting weird!
Readers of 2009’s Red Monkey Double Happiness Book will recognize Joe Daly’s delightfully unique stoner/philosopher dialogue and distinctive character designs, but the hilarious over-the-top Role Playing Game action (complete with periodic updates for each character’s status in ten criteria, including “dexterity,” “intelligence,” and “money”) propel this new story into a heretofore unachieved action-comedy realm. By the end of this book (the first chapter of a projected four-part epic), the trio has been joined by Nerdgirl the Archer, Lash Penis has nearly had his arm cut off, they’ve acquired a whole new nifty bag of tricks, and the menaces have become increasingly surreal and lethal. Where will it end?
Winner, Prix special du Jury (Jury Prize), 2010 Festival International de la Bande Desinée d'Angoulême
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
160-page full-color 9" x 6.75" hardcover • $22.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-308-8
Joe McCulloch at Comics Comics describes it aptly: "An interesting experiment in Golden Age of Reprints presentational engineering, this new 160-page landscape-format Fantagraphics hardcover collects all of the great Basil Wolverton’s crackpot daily advice strips as seen in the pages of Fawcett’s Whiz Comics, 1945-52, presented in comparison with Wolverton’s original pencil roughs for what looks like every installment." The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon brings the basketball metaphor: "Who doesn't want to read as much Basil Wolverton as they can? He's not in the starting all-time five, but he gets a lot of playing time off the bench." At Comics Alliance Douglas Wolk declaims "Goofiness, history and process!"
128-page color/b&w 7" x 9" softcover • $14.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-303-3
Joe McCulloch at Comics Comics opines "The centerpiece of this Spring 2010 edition of the Fantagraphics house anthology is, without question, the return of Dave Cooper to comics" and of the other contributors says "That really is a nice lineup"; Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter agrees that it "offers a super-strong line-up of creators." We can't disagree — you can see the full table of contents and samples from each contributor as part of our PDF excerpt.
So head on down to your local comic shop, but not before checking out the bountiful information and sneak peeks at the links above, and it's always a good idea to confirm availability beforehand.
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