• List:Design Observer's recommended Holiday Books 2009 includes Abstract Comics: "...[T]his arresting book is like a scoop of primordial narrative, representational mud. Which is to say, it has vitaminic powers."
• Review: "Giraffes In My Hair: A Rock ‘N’ Roll Life... is my favorite graphic novel of the year, and it is marinated in a life lived through real rock and roll delivered via stories as wide-open and lung-puncturing as a two minute Ramones rant. Artist Swain is an alternative comics’ veteran... with an attractively scruffy style; storyteller Paley has an author-blessed background in the margins of the freak milieu... This comic book adaptation of a real life shows the biggest bruises and the smallest scars, but cuts out all the heroic flab. Again, one of the best graphic novels of the year, as well as one of the best rock books too." – Chris Estey, KEXP
• Review: "ThePlayboy cartoons collected [in Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons] demonstrate above all Wilson's phenomenal range in subject, style, and inspiration. ... The menace in domestic relations, the evil that kids are capable of, the outright nastiness that man inflicts on man: it's all here, drawn in Wilson's inimitable comic style. ... And Fantagraphics has also served Wilson well. This collection is a wonder of book design, with die-cut boards, marvelous color reproduction, and a fantastic slipcase. The clear plastic panel on one side reveals the laminated back board of the books, each one a different headshot photo of Wilson himself, his face smashed against the plastic, a prisoner in his own collection. It's a perfect expression of all the inspired madness within." – Thomas DePietro, The Barnes & Noble Review
• Review: "The comics [in Abstract Comics] resemble IQ quizzes that test the ability to recognise patterns. But they are more difficult here — insanely difficult — as they replace simple geometric shapes with abstract comic lines, colours and collage. Solving them will no doubt provide tremendous pleasure but there are no answers given, of course." – Parka Blogs, who also have very nice photos and video of the book (also via the Abstract Comics Blog)
• Reviews: Érico Assis of Brazilian site Omelete has the rundown on the recently released Brazilian edition of The Complete Peanuts 1950-1952 (Vol. 1): "But of course, the interest here is the historical value. Maybe time to recover, at least you remember the pop culture, were much simpler. If you like to do time travel, at least with the brain, Complete Peanuts gives you several hours of escapism for a past environment of children, a bit silly. And perhaps so happy." Also: "If Tales Designed to Thrizzle does not please a dedicated fan of Monty Python, I like my stuffed parrot. ... With the collection, it's time to conquer the world. At least the world of smart people who recognize the genius of Monty Python." (slightly broken English from Google translation)
• Review: "In The Great Anti-War Cartoons, Craig Yoe has gathered an amazing assembly of peaceful protests that seeks to prove that the pen is truly mightier than the sword. ... All of it is thought-provoking and deserves a look. And where else will you see a collection like this? Art Spiegelman, Robert Crumb, Rube Goldberg, Honore Daumier… my god. Even if you don’t dig the message, you gotta dig the art. In the end, it’s obviously a book that’ll stick with me and would make a worthy addition to your collection. ... Grade: A" – Chad Derdowski, Mania
• Review: "War sucks, and [in The Great Anti-War Cartoons] Yoe has selected a wide range of cartoons that make the point with elegance and grim wit. ...[I]n terms of craft, vision, and passion, political cartoons simply don't get much better." – Noah Berlatsky, Chicago Reader
• Review: Noah Berlatsky is the 4th writer at The Hooded Utilitarian to take a crack at Ghost World in their critical roundtable: "I’ve never been able to quite wrap my head around what about the book so thoroughly irritates me."
• Metacommentary:TCJ.com's Shaenon Garrity comments on the (TCJ-hosted) Hooded Utilitarian's critical roundtable on Ghost World: "...the other reason I like Ghost World: like it or hate it, you can talk about it endlessly."
• Profile: Turkish cartoonist Adem Mermerkaya looks at the work of Joe Sacco (autotranslation is little help I'm afraid but it looks fairly substantive if you read the language)
• List: The Village Voice 's R.C. Baker names 2009's Best Comics and Graphic Novels. Among the choices: "A lucid nightmare, Al Columbia's dazzlingly well-drawn Pim & Francie features vignettes of its young protagonists menaced by creepy relatives or starring in exceedingly grim fairy tales. These inky visions seem unearthed from the deepest vaults of Uncle Walt's id. ... Anything but Victorian, Nell Brinkley (1886–1944) celebrated the Roaring '20s with sinuous lines and colors as lurid as William Randolph Hearst's presses could muster. Author Trina Robbins notes, in the lavishly oversize The Brinkley Girls, that the illustrator 'closely resembled the girls she drew.' But Brinkley, with her thrilling fantasias of pirate abductions and aviatrix romances, remains an inspiration beyond flapper flamboyance to any young lady seeking to break into the boys' club of high-end illustration."
• List: Greek site Comicdom is halfway through counting down the top 100 comics of the '00s. On the list so far: Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman at #99 ("Following at a discreet distance from the legacy of Monty Python, Michael Kupperman should be considered a genius by any man who has laughed with the group of Britons"), Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire at #67 ("In the surrealist vein of Krazy Kat and the otherworldly, oneiric atmosphere of Little Nemo... misanthropy and almond sweetness"), Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco at #60 ("The shock was, however, not an end in itself, since what actually manages to come across is the sense of pain and loss that each of the interviewees had experienced"), and Fred the Clown by Roger Langridge at #53 ("Ingenious comics by an equally intelligent designer who not only knows the history of the instrument and understand what makes it work"). [Quotes cobbled from autotranslation.]
• Review: "There have been a lot of great comic book releases this year, but none has the beauty and melancholy resonance of Fantagraphics' Prince Valiant: Volume 1-1937-1938. ... As for Hal Foster, Fantagraphics has given this artist his due and helped place him in his proper context as a great American artist and master of the comics form." – Mark Rhodes, Omnicomic
• Review: "Employing a storytelling dynamic not unlike that of Serling’s science fiction classic, Thomas Ott’s The Number 73304-23-4153-6-96-8 is itself a visit... to a dimension not of sound, but of sight and mind that at once both rewards and confuses. ... Ott’s hyper-meticulous attention to how detail relates to used space and negative space is at once both unsettling and captivating, utilizing a form of technical, pen-like cross-hatching for essentially every line that can only be described as Robert Crumb on Adderall. ... The Number is a universally literate work of fiction that is a quick first read with potential for longer lasting examination." – C.R. Stemple, Pads & Panels
• Review: "The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D. is a fascinating first animated work [third, actually — ed.] from one of today's most original and unusual artists. Shaw adapts well from the comics page to the cinematic form. ... Almost as well as his comics, this film expresses Shaw's ongoing desire to look at the world from a slightly askew perspective, to express his fascination with the complexity of people's inner universes. ...[T]he film... [is] a probing, emotional examination of what it means to make art and to forge meaningful human interactions..." – Ed Howard, Only the Cinema
• Plug: In an interview with IFC found by our own Janice Headley, musician Chuck Prophet names Ghost World as a favorite movie: "A coming-of-age teen flick movie that pivots around Skip James’ 'Devil Got My Woman' can do no wrong with me. And shouldn’t with anyone else."
• Interview: At Comics Comics, Dan Nadel presents audio of the panel with Gary Panter & Peter Saul at the Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival last weekend
• Review: "...[T]here’s one reason why Pim & Francie pulls off the unlikely feat of being more than the sum of its fragmented, disconnected, half-inked parts: it’s terrifying. ... The book... hangs in your head long after you close your eyes." – Martyn Pedler, Bookslut
• Plug: "If you ever skipped school to zone out to stacks of rented VHS tapes, or exhausted the wealth of movies at your local video store by 1995, then this is the perfect item for you, or someone like you. Packaged lovingly to resemble an VHS tape from days gone by, the book Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box contains some of the greatest crap-rack video covers of all time." – The Incubator
Online Commentary & Diversions observes the U.S. holiday tomorrow and returns on Friday:
• Review: "Children of the early Cold War who grew up with a pre-Spider-Man Ditko will find plenty to love in these restorations... Contemporary fans will no doubt find a lot to like in this volume, as well, both as a piece of mid-century pop-art, and as a first-hand look at the singularly warped sensibilities of one of the artists that would go on to shape the modern superhero book as we know it. Ditko clearly revels in his pre-Code world, constructing giant man-eating worms, and serial killers, and goblins. The artist draws on a broad scope of genre, demonstrating diverse artistic and storytelling talents... Strange Suspense is a treasure trove of weird excitement from one of the mavericks of mid-century comics." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Plug: "I want to marry this comic book: ...John Pham’s Sublife Vol. 2... is so lovely. I have a preview copy on my nightstand, and I just can’t keep my eyes — and hands! — off it." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
• Plug: The Brazilian edition of the first volume of The Complete Peanuts was released earlier this year; Diário do Barão says of it "Definitely, this was the best gift that I gave this year. It is even better than the Transformers Collection Megatron."
Is July really over already? Hoo-ee, time sure flies when you're compiling Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Based on his research, interviews, and personal experiences in Palastinian Occupied Territories in 1991 and 92, [Joe Sacco]'s comic [Palestine] takes you there and gives you a first-hand account of the atrocities and suffering in the conflict with Israel. He gives you a close up visual rendering of the physical and emotional conditions of the people, who struggle daily for survival... Sacco has rendered the terrible conditions of life into a compelling and sympathetic artistic documentary. It is sad, but most good stories are sad... What’s better, his drawing is detailed and realistic, very approachable and interesting." - American in Auckland
• Review: "Either you think Michael Kupperman's stuff is hilarious or you don't. And if you don't, well, that's sad, because you suck and you have no friends... Kupperman has created a world with its own humor/"Dadaist" vibe, as he puts it in one meta-strip, and no critical breakdown can really relate its LOL-charm... Much of the charm resides in his art, heavily hatched, shadowed, stippled, and Benday-dotted in an old-fashioned style. He slams the retro up against his postmodern wisecracks, and it works nearly every time... This new omnibus of all four of his can't-miss gems from Fantagraphics not only makes it easy to get his out-of-print stuff, it's the only way to go—that's because the reprints are in color for the first time, and it just looks really nice." - Byron Kerman, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "The Wolverton Bible is a collection of drawings that Basil Wolverton did for Herbert Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God. I've been hoping for a collection of these drawings for ages... What a great collection. The drawings are nicely printed, very black, on nice white paper... The book is sturdy and feels good... This is a windfall. It's a wonderful additon to any art collection." - Garth Danielson, Primitive Screwheads
• Interview: "[Craig] Yoe revels in the hidden histories of comics, and not just because they’re money at the movies. In Boody: The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers, published by Fantagraphics earlier this year, the historian has helped uncover one of comics’ left-field treasures. 'Boody’s comics could survive a nuclear holocaust,' Yoe wisecracked. 'Silliness, sex and surrealism. Why can’t all so-called comic books be like this?'" - Scott Thill, Wired
• Things to see: Tom Kaczynski draws Zak Sally (and reports from the release party for Zak's new album Fear of Song)
• Comic-Con/Things to see: Rickey Purdin's Watchmen con sketchbook filled up with FBI artists (Johnny Ryan, Esther Pearl Watson, Jordan Crane) and friends (Mark Todd, Sammy Harkham & more) at San Diego (via Sean T. Collins)
Latest con report ever... And the most anticlimactic one, too.
Our last day at BEA 2009 in NYC was a fairly uneventful one, but one simple pleasure was seeing Abrams' preview of the forthcoming Art of Jaime Hernandez book, edited by Todd Hignite and designed by Jordan Crane. Here's a couple sample shots:
After the BEA, Jason Miles and I traipsed around Manhattan a bit, including a stop at two of NYC's finest bookstores, The Strand and Forbidden Planet. Was pleased to see Jason's Dead Ringer (from La Mano) proudly on display at FP:
You should go buy this now.
At the Strand, it was a thrill to see Fantagraphics widely represented in the store, including a few books in the window, and more. Here's a few samples:
But the absolute highlight of my trip was Sunday evening, connecting with two of my oldest and dearest comic pals, Joe Sacco and Thom Powers. Thom invited me to a barbeque at a friend's house, and texted me the directions. "Tell the doorman you're there for Leslie and Shoba's party," he wrote. I assumed Leslie and Shoba were two female pals of Thom's. I was half-right. Lo and behold, the barbeque was actually at the apartment of none other than Soba, star of Joe Sacco's fantastic graphic novel of the same name. Turns out "Shoba" is the new, Americanised spelling of his name. We had a great time and consumed a lot of beer. The details are hazy. But here's a pic a Joe and Shoba, together again for the first time in awhile:
Let me tell you, Shoba is a mean chef.
That's it for BEA 2009, a full month after it ended. It's beautiful here and summer is in the air, Flogging goes better when it's cold and wet out. I'm outta here! Happy 4th, all!
Still catching up with Online Commentary & Diversions. There's more, but I'm out of time, so more catch-up tomorrow!
• Review: "The backbone of the family, and also its Achilles heel, Luba is a larger-than-life personality who jumps off every page, whether she's the focus of the segment or just a background player. [Gilbert] Hernandez collects over 100 stories here, ranging from graphic novellas to single-page episodes, with his usual dizzying cocktail of sexual intrigue, humor and soap opera-style angst." - Publishers Weekly (Starred Review - near end of page)
• Review: "There are two excellent interviews in the back of [Blazing Combat]... The interviews are part of what makes the comic so fascinating. Of course, it wouldn’t matter if the stories weren’t good, and they are... [Archie] Goodwin does a fine job keeping each story fresh and even getting into the heads of the characters... It’s a testament to Goodwin’s ability that he manages to write 28 (generally) anti-war stories, but never feels like he’s simply repeating himself... The art helps the book shine, as well... There’s not a poorly-illustrated story in the entire book, and some are eerily beautiful... These are both excellent comics and fascinating historical documents, and Blazing Combat is totally worth a read." - Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
• Profile: I don't think I would have guessed that Joost Swarte was influenced by Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, but so says he: The Walrus spotlights Swarte, who provides a cover illustration for the current issue, and whose long-gestating Fantagraphics collection Modern Swarte is still in the works
• Interview: At Newsarama, Zack Smith enjoys a lengthy chat with Jules Feiffer (and breaks the news to him that Explainers is nominated for an Eisner Award... oops, sorry Jules)
• List: Moolies posts his/her (?) "Top 10 graphic novels," including Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco ("It's truly appalling reading, and the reason is because he's such a great artist, and a great listener too"), Peter Bagge's Buddy Bradley saga ("There's so much painful and embarrassing truth in Bagge's work, and it's carried along by a sharp, wisecracking sense of humour"), and Love and Rockets ("A stunning, extraordinary, even feminist (or humanist) body of work... It's always a joy, and I'm so glad they're still writing these stories")
• Plug: "We should all learn about Nell Brinkley in college. So if you’re currently in college, go check out The Brinkley Girls already. And if you’re out of college already, well go check it out anyway, because everyone seriously needs to see this book—Brinkley was that good." - J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
• News: Publishers Weekly has the scoop on RIP, MD, a new series of youth-oriented graphic novels we plan to start publishing next year in collaboration with animation studio Lincoln Butterfield
• Review: "[Miss] Lasko-Gross... us[es] a dark and biting humor that both self-deprecates and pokes fun at alterna-teens along the way... The art pulls everything together wonderfully, ...and each section receives a beautiful splash page or panel with an embedded title to welcome you into the vignette... Though Fantagraphics has billed A Mess of Everything as the second part of a trilogy, it stands well alone for new readers of Lasko-Gross’ work, like myself, who want to skip straight to the unique uneasiness of the teen problems we carry through adulthood. [Grade] 8/10" - Zane Austin Grant, PopMatters
• Review: "This lovingly restored collection of Humbug's five [sic - it's eleven] issues is accompanied by essays, interviews and annotations, providing a glimpse into what Mad had wrought." - Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Plug: Socio-political blog Third Rate in the Tropics, prefacing a video examining the Israeli/Palestinian divide, says "One of the best works I've ever come across on the topic is Palestine, a graphic novel by Joe Sacco."