• Review: "Any new work from Norwegian cartoonist Jason is worthy of a comics fan’s full attention, but the new, all-original short-story collection Athos in America is one of the best books of Jason’s career, which automatically makes it one of the best books of this year." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Joost Swarte... brought a nose-thumbing avant-garde sensibility to 'ligne claire' style Eurocomics in the ’70s and ’80s, even before he landed stories in the seminal art-comics anthology Raw. Is That All There Is? collects nearly 150 pages of Swarte’s most groundbreaking work... With his architectural sense of design and his punk-rock attitude, Swarte fused craft and nihilistic flippancy in stories about adventurers, harlots, musicians, and scientists, creating true 'modern art.'" – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "About all that was missing from Blake Bell’s 2010 Bill Everett biography Fire & Waterwas extended samples of Everett’s artist’s actual comics. Bell now remedies that by serving as editor on Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1... These publications rode the superhero wave initiated by the companies that would later become DC and Marvel, and while they didn’t withstand the test of time, they’re still a kick to read, buoyed by their no-nonsense action plots and by Everett’s propensity for drawing narrow figures poised to commit acts of violence." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "This collection is the ultimate love letter to all those 1960s kid comic books, but with a modern twist.... Each person is a well-defined character with strong flaws and backgrounds. With so much diversity, there is bound to be at least one character you will like.... If you are looking for a kid-friendly book with some charm, go ahead and pick [Yeah!] up." – Kevin Brown, City Book Review
• Profile:Steve Appleford of the Los Angeles Times (via a few of their suburban affiliates like the Glendale News Press) visits Tony Millionaire in his garage studio: "In his introduction to 500 Portraits, Millionaire writes that life experience has taught him that 85% of all people are 'bogus' or worse. In the garage, he describes himself as misanthropic, but admits his drawings often suggest otherwise. 'As it turns out, you can tell by looking at these portraits, I obviously love people — even the [jerks]. Hitler's done very lovingly,' he says. 'I think it's nice to have the juxtaposition of my disgust for humanity mixed with my obvious love for humanity. You can't draw like that if you really hate something.'"
• Profile: The Ottawa Citizen's Bruce Deachman catches up with Dave Cooper: "'There are different facets of my creative mind,' he says. 'I feel I need a lot of contrast, so I have all these things happening, but they’re all necessary to make me feel satisfied. It’s got to be this big pot happening, with everything boiling at once. It’s therapy for me,' he adds. 'I don’t see ever wanting to retire from the thing that I love to death.'" There's a short video, too, which Dave has posted on his blog
• Plug:Robot 6's Brigid Alverson is partway through Jim Woodring's Congress of the Animals: "Woodring’s art has a real solidity to it and like the best surrealists, he creates unreal shapes and figures that seem real—he has figured out how to make new bodily orifices that mimic the old and yet are totally different. Like visions in a dream, they are convincing and false at the same time."
"Jason teams up with Fabien Vehlmann to craft a dark comedy about someone following a mysterious map in a bottle to and island where something strange is happening. The premise itself is a spoiler, as it’s a laugh-out-loud moment when the reader finds out what is going on. Jason’s work is as stellar as ever, just with a lot more dialogue this time around."
"Safe Area Goražde wasn’t a new book in 2011, but the special edition it got last year was enough to earn it a spot on this list. Joe Sacco reigns as the preeminent comics journalist, and Safe Area Goražde is another great reason why."
• Portland, OR: Come hear Joe Sacco speak at the Portland Central Library from 2:00 to 4:00 PM. Tickets for this event are free, and will be available 30 minutes prior to the program. Space at programs is limited, and seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. (more info)
• Review: "Nearly every cover in this collection [Action! Mystery! Thrills! Comic Book Covers of the Golden Age 1933-45] sizzles like a good slice of breakfast bacon. Pop art and the peculiar modernist aesthetic that defined postwar American culture really started here, with the liberation of comics from the funny pages and their metamorphosis into this most dynamic and demented of mediums. As a result, every deli and newsstand in America became its own peculiar gallery exhibit, a nexus of transient mass culture. This magical and immersive communion is now a thing of the past, but flipping through the gory, scary, and often beautiful pages of this discerning and honest anthology is an intoxicating experience." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "If you think you've seen all the best early comic covers, this'll make you think again.... I have a bias here myself...I helped Greg put parts of this together, with rare and fun covers from my own collection. Here you find the really cool and offbeat stuff... And Greg writes a concise bio of every cover and cover artist, putting each in perspective. I can't wait to show this to my Golden Age collecting buddies, it's a must-have book. You have my word on it." – Bud Plant
• Review: "...[N]o publisher has done more to preserve the Great American Newspaper Strip than the Seattle-based Fantagraphics, which has undertaken an audacious program of reprints in the last decade.... The most recent addition to the Fantagraphics line is the most anticipated: Walt Kelly’s unassailable funny-animal strip about Pogo the possum and his cadre of friends and antagonists in the Okefenokee Swamp. ...[I]f the company can pull off a complete edition of Kelly’s masterpiece — especially a full series as lovely as the first volume promises — ...it will be a publishing masterpiece of its own." – Matthew Everett, MetroPulse
• Review: "Is Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 the coolest book ever published? Yes, it is. Just out from the stellar Seattle publisher Fantagraphics, Listen, Whitey! is a gorgeously designed and smartly written coffee table book... Author Pat Thomas has done major archeological work to unearth albums from the era; for people like me who love classic record designs from the 1960s and ’70s, it’s heaven.... The book is a joy to leaf through.... Black music, art, and culture has been assimilated, and it’s made America a better, stronger place. Listen, Whitey! is an archival project, not a modern one. To which I, a white guy, can only say: Right on!" – Mark Judge, The Daily Caller
• Review: "The page in [The Cabbie Vol. 1] where the cabbie brings his father’s sewage covered remains home and puts them in what’s left of the coffin and then puts the coffin on top of his mother’s recently deceased body tells you everything you need to know. Unless you’re a Prince Valiant dude, this is the best reprint of the year. Impregnable would be the best word, EXCELLENT! will have to do." – Tucker Stone, Savage Critics
• Review: "Prince Valiant Vol. 4: 1943-1944 is not only a great book, I think it could also serve well as a good jumping-on point for those curious about the strip. By this point Foster has gotten a strong grip on his characters and the format of the strip, and with a new storyline beginning so early on in this volume you don’t have to worry about being lost. And while this volume doesn’t end at a conclusion for the last storyline (running a whopping 20 months in all, as it turns out, only the first 7 months are present here), there’s so much meat here that you’ll be eager for Prince Valiant Vol. 5 so you can find out how it ends. I, for one, can’t wait." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Review: "Are you a fan of Ghost World? You might not have noticed that Seattle-based Fantagraphics has reduced the price of their Ghost World: Special Edition to a bargain-priced $25.... The Special Edition is packed with goodies sure to thrill the Ghost World geek.... It’s a great item to add to your Ghost World collection — or to get it started." – Gillian Gaar, Examiner.com
Joe Sacco traveled to India in 2010 to report on rural poverty there for a French magazine; now New Delhi-based magazine The Caravan presents the story in English for the first time. (Via The Comics Reporter, who rightly warns of the former site's unwieldy reading interface.)
For perhaps obvious reasons, I invariably find myself re-reading Palestine this time of year. Twenty years ago, cartoonist Joe Sacco visited the biblical lands of the Middle East and reported his observations in a groundbreaking series of comic books that would help change our perceptions of the troubled occupied territories. It's a sad commentary that reading this book twenty years later, it seems like it could have been written yesterday. With every read — going on a dozen now — I find something new in Sacco's brilliant tale.
I recall not long after beginning work as Fantagraphics marketing and promotions director, co-publisher Kim Thompson handed me a blue-line copy of the first issue of Palestine. "This is amazing," I responded, "but you can't seriously expect me to sell this thing. It's not very funny at all!" (I believe I said something similar when Kim showed me the first issue of Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library.) Well, after 10 printings of the collection and a special edition hardcover, Palestine seems to have found a readership.
If you haven't done so already, please get a copy of this book. Now's a perfect time to peruse its pages. Sacco visits Bethlehem and finds little evidence of the promise of peace we will celebrate this Sunday. But he does discover humanity amid the turmoil of the region. And with it — hope for a peaceful resolution.
If you find yourself in Seattle anytime soon, drop by Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery. We have a limited quantity of Palestine #1 first edition comic books signed by Sacco for only $2.95, as well as a large selection of his more recent works. Happy holidays.
We were sorry to hear yesterday of the death of Christopher Hitchens, who wrote an excellent introduction to Joe Sacco's Safe Area Gorazde. Tom Spurgeon pointed out at The Comics Reporter this morning that the introduction (which also appeared as an essay in the Los Angeles Times) is posted online in its entirety at the Gorazde Info website. (I don't think we granted permission, but we'll let it slide.) I'm hoping to get Gary to write a little something on his encounter with Hitchens.
• Review: "In an historical moment when a cross-section of the population is waking up to the reality of brutal inequalities and the limited set of levers by which that might be expected to change, being reminded of past permutations of those same societal ills may prove hopeful or unbearable. It's hard to say. Either way, these are effective comics. The Road to Wigan Pier never manages the dead-on power inherent in much of Sacco's best work, but it's certainly worth any comics fan's time." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "...[I]t is thrilling to see such a vital, and nearly forgotten, work of comics coming back into print, cleaned up and reorganized and ready to surprise a new generation of former kids.... Nuts is one of the best works, and one of the few single book-length works, by one of our time's best and most idiosyncratic cartoonists -- ...it is for everyone who really remembers how terrible and lonely and infuriating it can be to be a child." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Plugs:Robot 6's ongoing "Holiday Gift-Giving Guide" survey of comics creators rolls on, with Joey Weiser suggesting "For the comic strip enthusiast: Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson – Super engaging strips that are full of life and very funny. I’m very glad that Fantagraphics is publishing these." Caanan Grall also recommends "Fantagraphics’s Floyd Gottfriedson Mickey Mouse and Carl Barks Donald Duck libraries."
• Plug:Heroes Aren't Hard to Find's Andy Mansell rounds up some gift ideas for their upcoming holiday sale this weekend, including Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons: "This is one of the best books of the past year (or so). Gahan Wilson is the true heir apparent to New Yorker comic weirdo Charles Addams. His comics are twisted, macabre, beautifully rendered and above all–laugh out loud funny. This 3 volume set belongs in every serious comic fan’s library."
• Review: "Shimura Takako’s story of two adolescents—a boy who wants to be a girl and a girl who wants to be a boy—isn’t exactly fast-paced in terms of plot, but [Wandering Son] book 2 continues the excellent work of book 1 and raises the emotional stakes a bit.... There’s... a slowly unfolding pleasure to Shimura’s story. Sensitive to the plight of young teenagers and potentially transgender youth alike, she’s managed to create a compelling story without including much that, considered in isolation, is particularly dramatic, which speaks to the realism of her efforts." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Review: "This is really fantastic storytelling. Another review of this volume [Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes] compared it to Tintin, and I think that’s very apt. There’s the adventures in foreign lands, the constant peril, the occasional wacky gags thrown in to alleviate said peril, and of course good old American ingenuity that, thankfully, never verges on jingoism quite as much as Tintin sometimes did.... I picked this up thinking it’d be a good chance to see if I liked Carl Barks and what the fuss was all about. Well, now I get it – and I’m hooked. ...[T]his is well worth the purchase for any fan of classic comics." – Sean Gaffney, Manga Bookshelf
• Review: "Kelly’s genius was the ability to beautifully, vivaciously draw comedic, tragic, pompous, sympathetic characters of any shape or breed and make them inescapably human and he used that gift to blend hard-hitting observation of our crimes, foibles and peccadilloes with rampaging whimsy, poesy and sheer exuberant joie de vivre. The hairy, scaly, feathered slimy folk here are inescapably us, elevated by burlesque, slapstick, absurdism and all the glorious joys of wordplay from puns to malapropisms to raucous accent humour into a multi-layered hodge-podge of all-ages accessible delight.... Timeless and magical, Pogo is a giant of world literature, not simply comics, and this magnificent edition should be the pride of every home’s bookshelf." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "...I was extremely impressed by Santiago's artistic abilities. He manages to shift the comic page in ways you'd never think of for a biography, using all sorts of layouts, from jagged panels to Family Circus ovals to standard grid formats. His characters wiggle their way through when in motion, show their feelings on faces that are slightly oversized and full of expression, and sometimes contort themselves into shapes that aren't quite natural. It's an artistic tour de force and shows that bio comics do not have to be the stolid, one step at a time narrative that we often see. ...21 is an excellent book... Clemente is every bit the important figure in baseball history that Robinson was, and more people need to know his story. 21 is an excellent place to start, either for you or the baseball fan in your life." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
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