The Comics Journal has been, for almost 35 years, the standard bearer of critical inquiry, discrimination, debate, and serious discussion of comics as art, and the object of love and devotion among the comics cognescenti — and hate and scorn among the philistines, natch. We published our 300th issue in late 2009 and spent the ensuing year-plus re- conceptualizing the institution as an annual book-length “magazine” — over 600 pages long, chock full of the kinds of criticism, interviews, commentary, and history that has made it the most award-winning and critically lauded magazine in the history of comics.
This volume features a focus on R. Crumb’s most commercially successful project of his career, his comics adaptation of Genesis, including the most extensive interview he’s given on the subject as well as a long critical roundtable among six comics critics reviewing the book and debating each other over its merits; plus:
• An interview with Joe Sacco about his recent journalistic masterpiece, Footnotes in Gaza;
• A peek into the private sketchbooks of (and accompanying interviews with) Jim Woodring, Tim Hensley, and the novelist Stephen Dixon;
• A conversation between Mad Fold-Out creator Al Jaffee and Thrizzle auteur Michael Kupperman;
• A complete full-color reprinting of the 1950s "Gerald McBoing Boing" comic;
• The first significant biographical essay charting the turn-of-the-century cartoonist and illustrator John T. McCutcheon;
• A critical re-assessment of Dave Sim's Cerebus by Tim Kreider
and essays and reviews by R. Fiore, R.C. Harvey, Chris Lanier, Rob Clough, and others.
Over 600 pages long, this is a year's worth of The Comics Journal rolled into one extraordinary objet d'art. As a special treat, this volume is guest designed by internationally respected Criterion art director Eric Skillman. The Comics Journal #301 is no mere magazine but a gigantic compendium covering comics past and present that will shock and delight every truly curious comics reader.
Catching up on our Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "...Fantagraphics Books’ new Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: “Race to Death Valley” contains all you need to know to revel in the very different, deeply pleasurable work of [Floyd] Gottfredson. Working with one of the most famous — and most anodyne — cartoon characters in the world, Gottfredson turned the grinning, goody-goody Mouse into a plucky, even reckless adventurer, his smile transformed from a people-pleasing smirk into a challenge to the world.... Gottfredson drew Mickey with a nosy snout and the bright eyes of an adrenalin junkie. The mouse’s diminutive size inspired Gottfredson to have the character attempt daredevil races, leaping stunts, and develop a flurry-fisted fighting style.... This beautiful volume gives the Great Rodent his humanity." – Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly
• Review: "Fantagraphics does a very smart thing with [Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Vol. 1], packing it full of historical materials to set the story for the comic strip. Having David Gerstein edit it is, of course, the smartest thing they could have done.... Simply put, it's the most extensive collection of 'extras' I've ever seen in one of these comic strip reprint series to date.... Reproductions are as great as you could ever hope for from material that's 80 years old and originally printed in the inkiest of newspapers you could imagine.... It's a kick to see this more interesting version of Mickey running around, saying and doing politically incorrect things. It's amazing to see how much detail an artist could pack into a small series of panels like this. But, most of all, it's a whole lot of fun." – Augie De Blieck Jr., Comic Book Resources
• Review: "This is, first of all, superb material.... Way back when, [Mickey Mouse] had a continuity and some darn good stories, illustrated with dynamic and expressive art. It was everything you could have wanted a newspaper strip to be, including being quite funny at times...and even suspenseful. The book itself is perfect and by that I mean I can't think of a single way it could have been improved. The reproduction is sharp. The editorial material fills you in nicely about the history of the strip, plus there are articles that discuss its merits and significance. The volume itself is handsome and will look good on your shelf." – Mark Evanier
• Plugs: Some great press mentions for our Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Free Comic Book Day comic, including the AP's Matt Moore and Whitney Matheson of USA Today Pop Candy, who says "This is sort of what FCBD is about, isn't it? Fantagraphics presents Floyd Gottfredson's amazing old Mickey strips from 1935 that are still entertaining today. Perfect for all ages..." The Wright Opinion's Brendan Wright says "The line work is beautiful and fluid, with plenty of panels that are funny to look at without reading the words. Thorough as always with this type of project, Fantagraphics has provided both an intro by David Gerstein an an appreciation of Gottfredson by classic Disney animator and official Disney Legend Floyd Norman."
• Review: "For Isle of 100,000 Graves, the cartoonist Jason works with a writer, Fabien Vehlmann, for what is at least the first time in his strong North American publishing run. It's a fun collaboration over which to muse because it's hard to tell exactly what Vehlmann brings to the table. The writer has grasped onto Jason's use of deadpan humor and wistful character moments to an uncanny degree.... Because of this deliberate care in both building their personalities and working from them in terms of how they react to certain story moments, both leads come across as incredibly endearing. A story-ending plot twist almost gets lost in a by-that-point hilarious one-liner about the methods used in bringing it about." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Underground-influenced comics fall into certain patterns — idiosyncratic art, rambling tales of daily life, copious use of mood-altering substances — but [Leslie] Stein makes hers [Eye of the Majestic Creature] fresh with the addition of a talking guitar.... Stein’s style is very readable, with sparse linework and a lead character that resembles a more tripped-out Little Orphan Annie, with huge blank buttons for eyes. Stein’s settings and other characters show more detail, especially in the complex stippling, demonstrating her outward focus.... Her world is full, even if it’s one that’s a bit off-kilter..." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Peter Bagge continues the saga of Lisa and Buddy Bradley and their son Harold in Hate Annual #9.... Peter Bagge has always made you care for these characters no matter what crazy problems they had. He has this rare gift of getting his readers to empathize with the drawings on the page and realizing them as real people.... Bagge shows us a very human side to the characters he creates and mirrors life in a sometimes painful way.... As we live our lives, we can look at these pages and see a little bit of ourselves in the drawn panels. This is what makes this series, and all previous ones, stand the test of time and remain a great read. Rating: 8.5" – The Comic Book Critic
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch continues serializing the transcript of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Peter Bagge: "I started drawing Buddy in 1980, when he was a member of The Bradleys. He was always 10 years younger than me. He started out as an adolescent — not always exactly 10 years. That’s on purpose, because that 10 years gives me space. When you’re going through a crisis or a rough time, it’s not funny, but 10 years later, you can look at the whole situation more objectively and find the humor in it."
• Review: "[Joe Daly's] latest, award-winning, on-going project Dungeon Quest is a delightful combination of nerdy discipline and pharmaceutical excess... Happily marrying the sensibilities of post-grunge, teenaged waste-lads... with the meticulous and finicky obsessions of role-playing gamers and the raw thrill of primal myths, this captivating and wittily indulgent yarn is enchantingly rendered in solid, blocky friendly black and white and garnished with lashings of smart-ass attitude. Strength: vulgar. Intelligence: witty. Dexterity: compelling. Mana: absolutely. Status: unmissable." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch begins serializing another of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversations, this time with Gahan Wilson: "The people who do horror stories and grim stuff are remarkably sweet people.... It was very odd. Why are horror writers like this? And it suddenly occurred to me — of course, what horror writers are writing about is the vulnerability of themselves and their readers and everybody and how fragile everything is.... They’re experts at being scared. If they weren’t experts at being scared, they wouldn’t write about being scared and scare other people."
• Interview: If you read Japanese, enjoy excerpts from a conversation between Moto Hagio and her colleague Ryoko Yamagishi from Otome Continue Vol. 6 presented at Poco Poco
• Feature:Eye of the Majestic Creature creator Leslie Stein is the guest contributor in the latest installment of "What Are You Reading?" at Robot 6. Among her picks: Yeah! by Peter Bagge & Gilbert Hernandez: "Gilbert’s illustrations are excellent and Bagge’s writing is funny, as per usual."
• Review: "More than anything, ...21 is a book of huge ambition and formal daring. The storytelling is kaleidoscopic, leaping from Clemente’s final game in 1972 to his childhood to his 1960s heyday and back again, with time out for portraits of both the steel city and the Caribbean island that he loved so much. But for all his overt displays of (admittedly dazzling) technique, Santiago never loses track of his story. Though it’s not an ideal starting point for readers unfamiliar with Clemente’s life and significance — the treatment is far too idiosyncratic and personal for that, though newcomers will find the extensive bibliography useful — it hangs on strong narrative threads. [...] 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente is a mammoth achievement..." – Jack Feerick, Kirkus Reviews
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning talks to Jim Woodring about the Nibbus Maximus and his new graphic novel: "'The story Congress of the Animals is one I've wanted to tell for a long time. In a lot of ways it's the most personal of the Frank stories and it breaks some aspects of the Frank mold,' Woodring said. 'There's a lot going on that may not be apparent, but I operate on the theory that is, there is something there people will pick up on it even if they don't see it directly. And that if they are sufficiently interested in puzzling it out, the meaning will become apparent.'"
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch continues serializing the transcript of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Peter Bagge: "I still have ideas for [Buddy] and Lisa. I always have ideas for them. But what I also told myself is that I never want to just do the same character forever. You’re fortunate if you wind up doing something that’s popular. It’s rare for a cartoonist to land on something that’s popular enough that you could do it forever. Maybe I’m projecting, but I always felt sorry for daily strip cartoonists, who — you think up the Lockhorns, and you have to do the Lockhorns forever. They must always be on the verge of suicide."
• Commentary:Robot 6's Chris Mautner takes you to "Comics College" with a reader's guide to the work of Joe Sacco: "The novelty of Sacco’s particular niche tends to obscure some of his rather significant qualities as an artist and storyteller. He’s an endlessly inventive cartoonist, capable of creating incredible detailed vistas that give readers a definitive sense of place and time. He’s capable of moving from near-photo-like realism to a Basil Wolverton-ish exaggeration that can perfectly capture, say, a sweaty, crowded night club. In short, he’s an amazingly gifted craftsman, one of the best people making comics out there today."
• Analysis: "...Prince Valiant is so lush, so rich on a panel by panel basis that I often find a nine-grid of it is just enough for the day, something that unfolds and unfolds in your head long after you've set it aside. Foster makes a world with his artwork, layering in meticulous details that are never arbitrary or belabored, always enhancing the impact of the pictures' content." – Matt Seneca, Death to the Universe
• Review: "Stephen DeStefano is nominated for the 2011 Eisner Awards for his artwork on this book [Lucky in Love Book 1] and understandably so. [...] His style on this book works so well, the feel and mood of the 1940's is dutifully established. The exaggeration in his cartoony style on this book especially with the characters is both hilarious and beautiful. From the linework, to the panel and page design, DeStefano just did an amazing job. Simply beautiful work here. The kind of work that leaves you lingering over every little line or design." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Plug: "After I read and loved Footnotes in Gaza, I had to get [Safe Area Gorazde: The Special Edition], right? It looks pretty flippin’ awesome, plus for this edition, there’s a lot of frontmatter by Sacco in which he discusses the circumstances in Bosnia in the early 1990s." – Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
• Plugs: "It’s an embarrassment of riches from the fine folks at Fantagraphics as they deliver not one, but two fantastic comic collections for aficionados to dive into. Not only do we get the 15th volume of The Complete Peanuts covering the years 1979-1980 and featuring an intro from Al Roker, but we also get the 5th volume of EC Segar’s Popeye, Wha’s A Jeep, which introduces us to the magical Jeep. Both volumes? Brilliant." – Ken Plume, FRED Entertainment
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new titles. (We're also seeing reports that Peter Bagge's Hate Annual #9 may be showing up in some comic shops in the East & Midwest, though it's not on this week's list.) See more about each book at the links, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
128-page black & white/color 8.5" x 11" softcover • $19.99 ISBN: 978-1-56097-413-0
"It’s not a splurge for me since I already own them, but if you want to dip your toe into Robert Crumb waters, Fantagraphics has new editions of Vol. 13 and 15 ($19.99 each) in their Complete Crumb line. Both feature some really great works by the master." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"Those two Crumb volumes might actually be under-appreciated for as good as they are and for what people have decided is most valuable within Crumb's overall oeuvre." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
First released in 2000, Safe Area Gorazde confirmed Sacco as one of the pre-eminent journalists of his time, and earned him a 2001 Guggenheim Fellowship. Now for its 10th anniversary, Fantagraphics is releasing an expanded hardcover edition which, much like 2007’s Palestine: The Special Edition, supplements the original work with page after page of special features, listed below.
In the wake of his acclaimed Palestine, Joe Sacco spent four months in Bosnia in 1995-1996, immersing himself in the human side of life during wartime, researching stories rarely found in conventional news coverage. The book focuses on the Muslim enclave of Gorazde, which was besieged by Bosnian Serbs during the war; Sacco spent four weeks in Gorazde, entering before the Muslims trapped inside had access to the outside world, electricity or running water.
Features of this special deluxe edition include:
• A lengthy illustrated essay by Joe Sacco on how the project came together.
• A side-by-side comparison of Sacco's reference photos and the final comics panels drawn from them.
• A "Where Are they Now?" update on Gorazde's most colorful characters.
• A long interview with Sacco on Safe Area Gorazde from The Comics Journal.
• Plus of course the complete Safe Area Gorazde including Christopher Hitchens's introduction from the first edition.
Praise for the original edition:
2001 Eisner Award Winner: Best Graphic Album — New
"Of the myriad of books that have appeared about Bosnia, few have told the truth more bravely than Sacco's. He is an immense talent." – The New York Times Book Review
"Harrowing and bleakly humorous, Sacco's account of life during the Balkan conflict is a timeless portrait of ordinary people caught in desperate circumstances. It's also a work of genius in an unlikely genre: journalism in comic book form." – Utne Reader
"Sacco's detailed, personal reporting captures his subject matter more convincingly than photographs or Christiane Amanpour." – Time
"Graphic in every sense of the term, Sacco’s account of everyday life in a city under siege puts one of the twentieth century’s least understood catastrophes in perspective; it’s the best argument around for comics as a journalistic medium." – GQ
Free Bonus: This book is available with an exclusive signed bookplate (pictured above) at no extra charge! See product description for details.
• Review: "The saga of Roberto Clemente is well known to baseball fans yet it has been given new life in this stunning graphic novel [21: The Story of Roberto Clemente]... Santiago's panels have a sharp, cinematic feel and the compositions and framing give the readers a better sense of how dynamic and explosive the game is than any baseball movie. The wonder of this book is that it will appeal to kids and adults alike. Even non baseball fans will fall under its spell. The national pastime has been virtually untouched by the graphic novel genre but if Santiago's effort is any indication, the marriage of subject and form is nothing short of a grand slam. Santiago has set the bar high, though, and we'll be all the richer if anyone can approach the artistry and emotional resonance of this memorable book." – Alex Belth, Sports Illustrated
• Interview:Wilfred Santiago talks with Sketch Maven about his career and creating 21: "After the previous graphic novel, In My Darkest Hour, I wanted to do a biography. There were many reasons why Clemente was chosen. The richness, purpose-driven life, the inspirational life story are a few among many factors. The relevance of Clemente’s story to a youngster of today also came to mind. Roberto was a great and famous baseball player, and the baseball was a challenging aspect to the story. But, it was great to explore the sport in a comic book format."
• Review: "One of my favorite presents from last year’s holiday season was Fantagraphics’ Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition... The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy... rivals just about any epic fantasy (novel or film) in the last 25 years for its narrative complexity and powerful action sequences. [...] Reading these stories will help you understand why, when we talk about the success stories of independent comics publishing, Usagi Yojimbo should be one of the first titles that gets mentioned." – Ron Hogan, Beatrice
• Review: "Crane’s work is highly, emotionally charged, but in a quiet way. Illustrated in a lush, enveloping, greytone, 'Vicissitude' has a Film-Noir quality that adds an air of mystery to this story of melancholy and rotting love. It is so engaging and enthralling that its ending is jarring. 'Freeze Out,' the Simon & Jack tale, is fantastic. It’s all-ages comic book magic. Reading it made me feel like a kid again, reading stories of adventure, fantasy, and magic for the first time on my own. If there were any doubts about Crane’s prodigious talent, Uptight #3 is the spell to dispel those doubts. [Grade] A+" – Leroy Douresseaux, Comic Book Bin
• Profile: The Toronto Star's Vit Wagner on the work and career of Joe Sacco: "'The drive is there,' says Sacco. 'I have a desire to go there and see things and talk to people. It’s invigorating and exciting. But my work involves a slower process. It takes me time to report. I like to sink into the situation. But beyond that, it takes a long time to write and draw my stuff, especially the drawing. You can report that there are 200,000 people in Tahrir Square, but if you want to draw the scene it takes a lot of effort.'"
• Interview:Sequential's David Hains talks to Joe Sacco: "I find more than half of my readers are from schools, in classes where they read my work. People have been to the regions and they’ll see, oh this medium has taken this on, I’ll pick that up. It’s sort of more book people than comics people. Although some of those are the same people, and thank God."
"Described as a Spanish Dick Tracy on steroids, the titular cabbie here is involved in a hunt for his father's stolen coffin, which contains his full inheritance. Art Spiegelman wrote the introduction, so we're not talking warmed-over liver."
"Wilson drew these linked one-pagers in the National Lampoon throughout the 1970s. His hero in a hunting cap is Everykid, who braves the daily awfulness of a child's world: school irrelevancies, getting sick, strange old relatives, department store Santas, going to camp, and death, for starters. No monsters and ghoulies — just real-life quimsies. Don't you wish you could have seen Gahan Wilson comics when you were a kid?"
"What a lavish show-and-tell: a DVD of nonprint media appearances of Krazy Kat, including videos of a 1921 'jazz pantomime' ballet and rare animated cartoons, plus two booklets collecting drawings, designs, strips, and background relating to Krazy in music and dance. [...] Clearly a shining star for popular culture and film collections."
• Review: "The main thing I kept thinking about while reading Wandering Son— beyond the continuous undercurrent of general squee — is how things that seem insignificant to one person can be secretly, intensely significant to someone else. [...] The story is subtle, simple, poignant, and innocent. The tone is matched by Shimura’s uncluttered artwork, which features big panels, little screentone, and extremely minimal backgrounds." – Michelle Smith, Soliloquy in Blue
• Interview:The A.V. Club Denver talks to "arguably Denver’s premier underground comic artist" Noah Van Sciver: "People e-mail me to ask if they can send me a comic. They’re sending me these hand-stapled comics and asking me what I think. It’s great. If you’re not going to be paid a lot, you might as well meet like-minded people and start a gang." (Via Robot 6)
• Profile: "Olivier Schrauwen is not the first Belgian cartoonist that I would have pegged for success in the United States, but I'm certainly not going to complain about the opportunities that he is receiving. Since the publication of his book My Boy in English translation, he has published short pieces in Mome and elsewhere, generating a solid buzz for his idiosyncratic take on human disconnectedness. His new book, L'Homme qui se laissait pousser la barbe (Actes Sud/L'An 02) collects a number of short works that have been anthologized around the world, and was nominated for a prize at this year's Angouleme Festival. It will be published later this year in English as The Man Who Grew His Beard by Fantagraphics. [...] L'Homme is a collection of seven short pieces that can be read very quickly or studied for days." – Bart Beaty, The Comics Reporter
• Profile:iFanboy's Chris Arrant profiles Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery as part of their "Publishers Who Have Their Own Comic Book Stores" feature: "Opening in late 2006, this Seattle store acts as defacto gift shop and gallery extension of the long-time publisher's comics line. The store boasts a complete repository of everything Fantagraphics has in print — as well as a number of rarities you wouldn't find most anywhere else."
• Plug: "It really is amazing that there are generations growing up, only knowing the Disney characters from the theme parks. Thankfully, Fantagraphics is doing something about it, restoring and publishing a complete archive of the Mickey Mouse comic strip by cartooning legend Floyd Gottfredson." – Stefan Blitz, Forces of Geek
• Plug: "Fantagraphics' collection of Floyd Gottfredson's complete run on the Mickey Mouse comic strip of the 30s and 40s is one of the most exciting things on upcoming comics collection list (although I'm most excited about the same publisher's announced reprinting of Carl Barks' complete run of Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge comics)." – Pop Culture Safari
• Plug: "I've been looking forward to Wilfred Santiago's Roberto Clemente biography 21 for what seems like years now, maybe because it's actually been a couple of years. But you wait for the good ones." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "This book kills. It’s well worth the price of admission just to gawk at the artwork, which, had I not read the back cover, I would have guessed was the work of a master cartoonist who had honed his craft for decades. [...] Drew Weing does to Set to Sea what Quentin Tarantino did with Pulp Fiction. He (Tarantino) took the done-to-death stories of the fighter who decides not to throw the fight, the mob hit gone bad, and the goon messing with the mob boss’s wife — all fairly clichéd bits — and takes up the challenge of smashing together a brutally entertaining piece of work. That is exactly what Set to Sea is — but without all the gangsters and boxers and dancing." – Chris Reilly, The Panelists
• Review: "It’s like Let the Right One In — the horror of the supernatural is set against a dull and mundane urban background, without the lights and glamour of an American city, just miles of concrete, drainpipes and bannisters. Many of the stories [in Pocket Full of Rain ] share Steig Larsson’s sense of Scandinavian unease, and reek of Doc Martens, subtitled pop culture and Automatic for the People-era R.E.M. The title story was first published in 1995, and feels like Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron by Dan Clowes." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Review: "I’m in love. With the town of Palomar. How could you not? You’d have to have a heart of stone not to fall in love with Hernandez’s creations. The characters [in Heartbreak Soup] are so warm, and lifelike, that even the ones that are supposed to be annoying (like Tonantzin and Toco) are just so loveable, you can’t help but sigh and say, 'Oh you!' under your breath, even though you don’t even really know the character too well yet!" – Lisa Pollifroni, lisaloves2read