• 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."
• Also on Facebook, Bill Griffith posts this one-page story (excerpted above) which was recently published in a new book about Levittown, Second Suburb, edited by Dianne Harris (link goes straight to the image file, since I don't know Bill's Facebook privacy settings, but he posts cool stuff all the time)
• T. Edward Bak is posting several pages from his current serialized Mome story "Wild Man" — for 50 bucks you can purchase an original page and help fund his impending trip to Alaska for field research for the story, so hit that Paypal link on his blog
• Review: "Peter Bagge’s not-so-yearly update on the life and times of his signature character Buddy Bradley takes up about half of Hate Annual #8... It’s a funny story with a confident, natural progression and some keen observations to make... [T]his is... a welcome renewal of one of alt-comics’ most treasured series… [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "The mid-’70s found Schulz pushing the strip further and further into the oddball, mixing fantasy and reality in extended storylines... The strip as a whole feels less scrappy and more settled in this era, though it’s no less inspired, and Schulz was clever enough to keep working his own state of mind into the finished product. The Complete Peanuts: 1975 - 1976 collects comics clearly drawn by a successful man still nagged by feelings of inadequacy not easily explained away… [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "Don’t be misled by High Soft Lisp’s cover. This isn’t just comic book smut or an adult version of Archie. Gilbert Hernandez has created some of the most fleshed-out and memorable women in comics since launching Love and Rockets with his brother Jaime in 1981. Their breasts might be outsized, but so are their minds and souls." – Garrett Martin, Boston Herald
• Review: "Fantagraphics’ fourth oversized collection of Elzie Segar’s legendary Thimble Theatre strips, famous as the birth place of Segar’s notorious Popeye the Sailor, continues the winning standard set by earlier editions. ... Fantagraphics’ enormous format remains among the best-looking strip reprints available." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Levin’s is not often a forceful tone; he digs up information and can deliver it in a scholarly enough manner, but also will follow his muse, digressing into dry humor and even an admitted Faulknerian flight of fancy. He’s fully engaged, grappling with the facts and the issues as he uncovers them, and the reader grapples right along with him. [Most Outrageous] is a much more compelling book for the fact that Levin doesn’t try to wrap it all up in a bow." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
I love this playlist of some of Joe Sacco's favorite songs that he put together for the New York Times. For one, Joe cites Wings' "Magneto & Titanium Man," describing it as a song about "made-up superheroes." Joe has to be the only comic book artist in America whom I could believe loves this song yet doesn't recognize Magento and Titanium Man as the iconic Marvel super-villains that they are. Joe, your FOOM card is revoked. I also love it because Joe cites Charlie Patton's "Down the Dirt Road Blues." Around the time Joe was working on Safe Area Gorazde, after one of our hundreds of conversations about music that we've had over the years, Joe gave me a mix tape of classic delta blues that he titled, Feels Like Murder Here. It's a phrase that routinely flitters through my mind...
In like a lion with Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Thank God then for Almost Silent, a new collection repackaging some of Fanta’s older Jason books — some of which are no longer in print in their original format — as an anthology the same size, shape and design as Low Moon. ... Buy it to read the stories, keep it to restore order and balance to your bookshelf." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
• Review:Avoid the Future collects and expands on their first 10 Twitter micro-reviews of Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s: "More than just a collection of mini-comics, the book features interviews and insightful commentary from some of the creators as well as the lovingly-reproduced source material."
• List:Only the Cinema's Ed Howard concludes counting down The Best Comics of the Decade: the top 20 includes "The Lute String" (available in Mome Vols. 9 & 10) by Jim Woodring at #16 ("It's moving, funny, and as with all of Woodring's work it demands a close reading"), Alias the Cat (originally The Stuff of Dreams) by Kim Deitch at #14 ("It's funny, goofy, exciting and far-ranging in its imaginative nonsense accumulations, and throughout it all Deitch's fond sense of nostalgia for a world that never quite was lends emotional heft to the story's elaborate twists and turns"), Dash Shaw's Bottomless Belly Button and Mome stories (collected in The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.) at #13 ("Dash Shaw is an utterly brilliant young cartoonist who has, in a few short years, advanced from the academic experiments of his earlier work... into a formalist genius whose skills encompass both a natural gift for color and a feel for subtle, indirect characterization"), Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco at #7 ("Joe Sacco is a unique figure in modern comics: there is no one else who combines sheer cartooning chops with a newspaper reporter's sensibility and instincts in quite the same way. ... Safe Area Gorazde [is] an especially powerful document of the effects of war"), the comics of Kevin Huizenga at #4 ("Kevin Huizenga is the best young artist in comics. It's as simple as that. With his recent Fantagraphics series Ganges (part of the Ignatz line of high-quality pamphlets) Huizenga has matured into one of comics' finest formalists"), Jimbo in Purgatory by Gary Panter at #2 ("The denseness of Panter's references and cross-references makes the experience of reading this book a truly overwhelming experience; every line, every image, spirals into multiple other references and ideas, pulling in the whole wide expanse of world culture as a stomping ground for Jimbo's wanderings through the Purgatory of modern existence towards enlightenment"), and the Love and Rockets Vol. II work of Jaime Hernandez (as collected in Ghost of Hoppers and The Education of Hopey Glass) in the #1 slot ("There is no greater all-around artist in modern comics than Jaime Hernandez, and his recent work builds on his past successes so that his oeuvre as a whole is shaping up to be one of literature's best sustained stories about aging and the shifting of relationships over the course of a life").
• Review: "The best argument that the underground tradition is still alive is Hotwire Comics, edited by Glen Head (one of the most underrated cartoonists around, incidentally). Hotwire Comics is a visual assault, abrasive, confrontational, willing to poke and prod the audience: a real live wire that can shock. Everything a good underground comic book should be." – Jeet Heer, Comics Comics
• Review: "Strange Suspense is a handsome book generally, with a fun front cover and a nice, sturdy, feel. As far as my eye can tell the work is reproduced well; admittedly, I have one of the worst eyes in comics for that sort of thing. It's nice to have a bunch of comics from this time period, particularly the grittier pre-Code or Fear of Code-Like Crackdown work. There are some truly repulsive pieces of throwaway pulp in this book's pages, and Ditko was more than up to the task of illustrating them." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Mother, Come Home is a subtle, dark story about death and madness and fantasy, tied together by symbols and the voice of an older Thomas looking back on his childhood. It's not bleak, though; Thomas survives his traumatic childhood, and perhaps Hornschmeier's lesson is that we all can, if we try — if we step outside our rituals and fantasies and reach out to each other, we can make it through." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent. (via ¡Journalista!)
One of my favorite books I've received lately is this handsome, considered little tome from Spain's Blur Ediciones, Rotulando in Spanish • Lettering en Español, collecting something that on the face of it might sound a bit loopy: lettering by the cartoonist Nono Kadáver created for the Spanish editions of work by American greats R. Crumb, Daniel Clowes, Joe Sacco, Johnny Ryan, Peter Bagge and Gilbert Shelton.
Nono worked throughout most of the 1990s at Barcelona's Ediciones La Cúpula, one of Spain's leading comics publishers, and was one of the last of an era when book production was done largely by hand, not computers. Nowadays, most publishers get fonts created for an artist, but thru the 1990s, Nono spent many of his days mimic-ing the lettering styles of Bagge, Crumb, etc. the old fashioned way, with a pen and paper (and maybe a lightbox). He was a real master at trying to maintain the integrity of the original artwork, putting his ego aside in an effort to seamlessly blend the Spanish text into the artist's page compositions as unnoticeably as possible. Kind of like the old saw that the best movie soundtrack is the one you don't notice, Nono's work could probably make you forget that Daniel Clowes wasn't Spanish when you're reading Bola Ocho.
I am a lettering nerd and it makes me a bit sad that hand-lettering like this is becoming a dying craft, because it can make or break a translated foreign book and typeset fonts are rarely as effective. Kadáver likens his work to a forger in the excellent introductory text:
"I feel a great admiration and respect for counterfeiters... I think that even falsifying, we leave our mark... What you have to do is forget your personal style and adapt to the artist's. This is accomplished by reading a lot, dissecting his work, and learning from it; in the end the only thing that matters is as close a possible resemblance to the author's style."
A bit late with the Online Commentary & Diversions today due to being a touch under the weather:
• Review: "OK, [Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons] is very expensive, but Wilson's a lot cheaper than Zoloft. Some people fly their inner freak flags as a sign of liberation. This strange dude isn't sure there's another type of flag out there. In his world, there's always something over the horizon ready to eat you, blow you up or turn you into a homicidal maniac. Sounds a lot like life." – Laurel Maury, San Francisco Chronicle
• Review: "...[An] exemplary republishing of Wilson’s Playboy cartoons... One of the many nice features of the new Fantagraphics book is that it is chronological and dated, so we can see Wilson responding to the changing social and political landscapes. ... As a physical object Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons cannot be praised highly enough. ...[L]ooking at Wilson’s work at length, eating it up with my eyes, I came to love his work. He is, in fact, a master. ...[F]or all their morbidity and ghoulishness, Wilson’s cartoons affirm the value of cherishing life. As inhuman as his characters often are, Wilson is a deeply humane cartoonist." – Jeet Heer, Comics Comics
• Review: "Published soon after the conflict that it documents, Safe Area Goradze is an intense reading experience and an active call for the condemnation of tribal and international leaders who put politics ahead of humanity." – Suzette Chan, Sequential Tart
• Review: "There’s a remarkably spare and lean quality to the plot and characterization cooked up by Jean-Patrick Manchette’s West Coast Blues. ... It’s a story that’s both grim and strangely detached (or at least restrained), eschewing the sort of cliches that an American might expect from a crime story. ... If the text felt a bit detached, then Jacques Tardi added muscle, bone and fat to it with his delightfully chunky line. ... It’s the first quotidian crime story that I’ve ever read, and Tardi’s commitment to the depiction of the everyday and the way nightmares crashed into daily life are what made this book work so well." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal (warning: spoilers)
• Feature:Comic Book Resources' Brian Cronin spotlights Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle as part of "A Year of Cool Comics": "Tales Designed to Thrizzle is one of those books where you might really need to see it to believe it. Michael Kupperman delivers thirty-odd pages of the most delightfully absurd ideas that you can imagine, to the point where I don't know if simply describing the comic would do it justice... I, for one, think it's one of the very best comics currently made."
• Interview:Graphic Novel Reporter's John Hogan has a Q&A about Sublife with John Pham: "I hope to have established a sort of model for the upcoming issues with Volumes 1 and 2. So basically, continuing serializations of either Sycamore St. or Deep Space, accompanied by various, shorter strips where I can experiment and joke around."
I attended Joe Sacco's Town Hall event last night in Seattle, and it was, as expected, a great talk. Is there a more charming, erudite, and intelligent soul in this racket? I tend to think not. Anyway, I'm not even going to begin to write a recap -- too many foreign sects, races and historical events to keep track of -- except to say that the talk focused on the social and political events from about 1949 to 1956 that led to the massacre investigated and reported on in his new new book, FOOTNOTES IN GAZA, followed by an excellent Q&A session. When one woman asked Joe if it was true that he was planning on following up FOOTNOTES with some lighter, funnier comics and he confirmed it, she asked him if he could elaborate. He simply replied, "I have some very good ideas." We have no doubt about that, Mr. Sacco.
Above photo: Joe Sacco contemplates some of his great ideas before his event at Seattle's Town Hall, 01.13.10.
• List: On Random House's Suvudu blog, Dallas Middaugh selects 2008's Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw as #3 on the Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2009: "This book came from out of nowhere to great critical acclaim, and it pushed young Mr. Shaw in the spotlight as one of the most exciting new cartoonists in the field. ... This haunting story of a dysfunctional family twists and turns and stuck with me long after I read it."
• List: At Comic Book Galaxy, Marc Sobel counts down "The 15 Best Back Issues I Read Last Year," including Birdland by Gilbert Hernandez ("vastly underappreciated") and the entire run of Hate by Peter Bagge ("This series gets better with age")
• Review: "Dreams are probably the second most popular subject for autobiographical comics, however distantly they lag behind the events of waking life. But no one, to my knowledge, has attempted to create comics arising from the hypnagogic netherworld that lies between the sleeping and the wakeful states. Until now. Or maybe not. It’s hard to say precisely, which is what gives Kevin Huizenga’s Ganges #3 so much of its unique charm." – Rich Kreiner, The Comics Journal
• Review: "What the hell is going on here? What is this book, anyway? ...[Pim and Francie] is like the inexplicable artifact of a deranged mind... Columbia has a flair for the grotesque, which, when mixed with such cute cartooniness reminiscent of old-school Disney, makes for an especially creepy juxtaposition. ... It's a cascade of horror, page after page of mostly-unfinished nastiness, enough to stick in the mind and cause nightmares for weeks." – Matthew J. Brady
• Review: "At long last, a handsome, two-volume, slipcased set [of Humbug] brings back into print a pivotal, neglected portion of the oeuvre of Harvey Kurtzman and that of a cadre of gifted pranksters bent on smart satire." – Rich Kreiner, The Comics Journal
• Review: "With a new exhibition currently on view at Tony Shafrazi Gallery in Chelsea and his remarkable inclusion in the 2010 Whitney Biennial, Robert Williams seems more than ever the most likely candidate to represent the ways that late decadent American culture will be remembered by history. ... This is a late career artist at the top of his game, a shamefully overdue entry into still meaningful discourse of what art can be when it refuses to play by the rules, a monster of the imagination whose time has finally come." – Carlo McCormick, artnet
• Review: "Portable Grindhouse celebrates the sleazy kick of killing time in a slightly crappy video rental store, minus the inevitable arguments about what to rent or the possibility of your VCR eating the tape." – Dave Howlett, Living Between Wednesdays
• Plug:Robot 6's Chris Mautner is reading his stack of Comics Journal back issues "starting with #291, which features interviews with Tim Sale and Josh Simmons, as well as a great critical thinkpiece by Gary Groth on Ralph Steadman and Hunter S. Thompson. That alone was worth the cover price."
• Plugs: Some fun and appreciated name-drops from Tom Neely and Charles Bernstein in the 5th part of The Beat's year-end survey of comics pros
• Plug/Coming Attractions:Comic Book Resources' Greg Burgas comments on the January issue of Previews (our listings from which can be seen here): "Jacques Tardi's It Was the War of the Trenches, from Fantagraphics on page 256, sounds keen. It's a World War I book, so I'm sure it will be utterly depressing, but it still sounds worthwhile!"
• Interview: The final part of Brian Heater's interview with C. Tyler at The Daily Cross Hatch: "To me, it’s underground, and there’s other people who think, 'no way, it’s Mad Magazine.' Everyone has their place where it starts. There’s people now who say, 'Kramer’s Ergot is when it started for me.' Everyone has their place when they jumped off the diving board, into the pool of comics. The fact is, it’s continual."
• Profile: Gurldoggie takes a quick look at Joe Sacco in advance of his appearance in Seattle this week
• Events: The Covered blog celebrates its 1st anniversary and announces an art show at Secret Headquarters in L.A. in March