• Review: "...[T]hese comics are among the best in their genre without a doubt. ...[This] period was certainly the period of Jack Kirby’s greatest commercial success, and also the period of work which posterity has most neglected. For that this book [Young Romance ] is to be cheered, though there is much else to be happy about in it. There is the excellence of Gagné’s restoration work. It’s of a kind of cleanness which in the past, in archival projects by others, has often resulted in garishness. ...[I]t appears that Fantagraphics, perhaps by accident more than planning, is the only publisher to give us any coverage of the long neglected and just about forgotten 1950s genre of romance comics." – Eddie Campbell, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "Activist/musician/writer Pat Thomas has been busy the past five years compiling music, speeches and photos from the height of the Black Power movement, spending much of that time in Oakland, California, the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. The result is Thomas’ forthcoming book, Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975(out March 5 through Fantagraphics Books), which entrenches us in one of the most politically and culturally explosive times in America..." – Mark Lore, The Days of Lore
• Interview:Casey Burchby presents a brief excerpt of an interview with Daniel Clowes conducted last Fall in which Clowes discusses how his collection of Ernie Bushmiller Nancy comic strips became the backbone of Nancy Is Happy: Complete Dailies 1943-1945: "I found it baffling that I had the best collection of Nancy strips. I bought a bunch of them off eBay in like 1998. It didn’t take any special effort. I just found some dealer that had a whole bunch of them, and I bought all of them I could get my hands on. And when it came time to do the book, they were looking all over and they couldn’t find them anywhere. And I had almost all of them."
• Feature: Jill Russell of KOMO TV's Seattle Pulp blog spotlights Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 and talks to author Pat Thomas: "The main lesson Thomas takes away from this project is that young people are a forced to be reckoned with. The average age of a Black Panther was just 22. 'How many young people do you know are leading national movements?' he asked. 'When people have been stripped of their pride or ostracized too much, they will eventually fight back.'"
• Review: "For fans of comics from the dawn of the comic book era, this book [Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1] is an indispensable gift from Blake Bell and Fantagraphics. For those who love to read great stories from the Golden Age, however, this volume isn't as great as the ones that will follow. Kudos to Fantagraphics for re-presenting these stories after all these years, but this book does prove the truism that when reading archival reprints, the first volume will often be the hardest to get through. I give this book three and a half stars for the fact that it exists, for the exhaustive research by Bell and his friends, and because some people will find this material fascinating. As for the comics themselves in this book, well, your mileage may vary." – Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
• Plug:Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby's Romance Comics leads off the L.A. Times Hero Complex Valentine's Day gift guide: "The creators of Captain America also helped create a softer comics genre: romance comics. In the late ’40s and ’50s, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby captivated girls and women with their 'Young Romance' tales of star-crossed lovers. This 208-page hardbound volume includes 21 of those stories."
• Review: "And now, Fantagraphics has packaged some of the best movie parodies in this ripely-colored book [The Sincerest Form of Parody]. But these aren't Mad comics. They're the imitators which popped up on newsstands in the 1950s -- comic books like Whack, Nuts!, Crazy, Bughouse and Unsane.... Most of the comics in the pages of this book are understandably dated for today's web-weaned generation who may have never heard of I, Jury ('My Gun Is the Jury by Melvie Splane'), What's My Line? ('What's My Crime?'), or Come Back, Little Sheba ('Come Back Bathsheba'), but that doesn't drain these parodies of their punch." – David Abrams, The Quivering Pen
• Plug: "Most of the 21 stories in this great new book collection [Young Romance] haven't been compiled before, and if you're not familiar with them, you're in for thrill after melodramatic thrill. My favorite: 'Norma, Queen of the Hot Dogs.'" – Michael Galucci, Cleveland Scene
• Interview:Mark Kalesniko talks about his latest graphic novel Freeway at the FLIP animation blog; that site's Steve Moore says "Mark Kalesniko’s graphic novel Freeway is a truly brilliant, hilarious look at the hunched and goofy lifestyle in our industry's ground zero. His humor is wickedly honest, his storytelling unflinching."
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new titles. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators and web-savvy comic shops are saying about them (more to be added as they appear), check out our previews at the links, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
208-page full-color 7.75" x 10" hardcover • $29.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-502-0
"Usually the splurge category is where I go for thick, colorful books of classic comics, and... this looks like a Fantagraphics week, with two compilations that span opposite ends of the love spectrum: Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics ($29.99), and The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat ($19.99). That’s a whole lotta reading for $50." – Brigid Alverson, Robot 6
"On the historical front, Fantagraphics continues its excellent classic reprints with Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics. Jack Kirby and Joe Simon created the genre, and this book is reported to include 21 stories, 200 pages of 'never-before reprinted material.'" – Johanna Draper Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
"Joe Simon and Jack Kirby invented the romance comic book with 1947's Young Romance #1, and cranked them out together for the next twelve years. This collection, edited by Michael Gagné, surveys stories from Young Romance, Young Love and the shorter-lived genre-hybrid titles Western Love and Real West Romances. (Gagné notes that he deliberately didn't include any material that would have overlapped with the 1988 collection Real Love: The Best of the Simon and Kirby Romance Comics.)" – Douglas Wolk, ComicsAlliance
"Casual Robert Crumb fans might be interested in The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat. Jack Kirby fans will definitely be interested in Young Romance, a collection of heartthrob tales from Simon and Kirby (see my review)." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"...The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat returns one the artist’s best-known creations to the comprehensive format, now in hardcover; $19.99. Also hard as nails is Young Romance: The Best of Simon and Kirby’s Romance Comics, a 208-page Michel Gagné-edited compilation of turmoil and ecstasy from the pre- and post-Code eras by a pair of genre architects you might recognize; $29.99." – Joe McCulloch, The Comics Journal
"Work you probably have in one form or another. If you don't have [it], you should probably want [it]. The Fritz book is handsome; I haven't cracked my copy yet.... I have a decided lack of reading experience with romance comics, so I'm hoping the Young Romance book is effectively curated." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"Joe Simon and Jack Kirby doing romance comics. That’s all you need to know. ...Simon and Kirby redefined comics with their tales of romance which opened up the audience far beyond young boys who wanted to wear towels and punch each other. With talents like these on any comics, you are guaranteed that they are going to be well written and beautifully drawn." – Geeks of Doom
Together, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created such classic two-fisted comic series as Captain America, Boys' Ranch, The Newsboy Legion, and The Boy Commandos. But few people realize that one of their greatest successes — from 1947, when they singlehandedly created the genre, to the end of the 1950s — was... romance comics!
In such best-selling titles as Young Love and Real Western Romances, Simon and Kirby delighted a generation of girls and women (and probably a fair number of boys and men as well) with hundreds of charming and endlessly inventive stories of love and heartbreak.
And now, for the first time since their original publication in the 1940s and 1950s, 21 of these classics have been meticulously restored and are printed herein — in full, glorious color. So get out your handkerchiefs and enjoy the trials, tribulations, tragedies and triumphs of Suzi, Marjorie, Annaliese, Toni, Kathy, Sari... and 15 other star-crossed young lovers from half a century ago.
• List: On the Inkstuds radio programme's "Best of 2011 with the Cartoonists" episode, Aaron Costain, Dustin Harbin and John Martz discuss their favorite comics of 2011 with host Robin McConnell, including:
• Review: "You know who’s great? Lewis Trondheim, the incredibly prolific French cartoonist. Evidence comes in... Approximate Continuum Comics, an English translation of a six-part series Trondheim published in the 1990s concerning his struggles in the comics industry, desire for success and acclaim and just general angst, anxiety and feelings of self-doubt. It sounds all terribly self-involved to the point of tedium, but Trondheim is simply too skilled a storyteller to allow his own ego to override the quality of his work. Approximate is filled with wonderful visual inventions, like an early daydream about dealing with obnoxious passangers on the subway. More to the point, Trondheim’s self-effacing sense of humor is so charming and revealing that the book never becomes too solipsistic or insufferable." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review (Audio):Extra Sequential Podcast hosts Kris Bather and Mladen Luketin examine Young Romance: "Legendary creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby effectively created the romance comics genre which was surprisingly dominant during the 1940s and 50s. We look at Fantagraphics’ entertaining new collection of some of their work."
• Review: "Paul Nelson's life narrative is too good and too tragic.... The painful thing about reading this book [Everything Is an Afterthought], beautifully written and edited by Kevin Avery, is a lot of people are going to identify with Nelson's love for culture and what it means to him/us/them.... A very sad book. But the interviews with his fellow critics and friends (most love him to bits) [are] quite moving and a tribute to those who write to expose how 'their' feelings are attached to the shine or the mirror-like image of pop culture." – Book Soup Blog
• Reviews:Robot 6's Chris Mautner looks at our 3 newest Golden Age collections:
"...[W]hile I enjoyed [Action! Mystery!] Thrills[!] (I’m especially grateful for being exposed to the neon-color stylings of L.B. Cole, who seems to prefigure the era of black velvet paintings), it’s definitely the slightest — the most coffee tableish — of Sadowski’s books so far. It feels like a book designed more to flip through than to mull over.... That’s not necessarily a bad thing — there’s certainly pleasures to be had in re-examining these covers..."
"What’s exciting for me about this book is watching Everett develop as an artist and storyteller and figure out the medium in relatively rapid fashion.... The material in Amazing [Mysteries] in no way represents Everett’s strongest work, though they do point to his potential — those thrilling Sub Mariner stories were just around the corner. What you see here are the glimmers of an artist struggling to comprehend the potential of this relatively new medium [and] how he can push it to match his own interests."
"Though modern readers may wince at some of the sexual stereotypes on display, not to mention the occasional forced happy ending, Young Romance underscores Simon and Kirby’s keen storytelling skills. Adhering to a mostly six-panel grid, the duo manage to produce work that is visually arresting and dramatic... It’s also worth mentioning that editor Michel Gagne’s [restoration] work is stellar... For Kirby fans and those who just love to explore comics from generations past, it’s a rather essential read."
• Review: "It’s hard to imagine a comic that’s more ambitious and less pretentious; it’s reader-immersive and reader-friendly. Huizenga’s style recalls the 'big nose' school of cartooning — Glenn Ganges' schnoz is one of the comic’s stars. This unaffected old-timey style lends the narrative a sense of charm and elegance... Perhaps we should judge 2012’s comics according the standard set by Ganges #4." – Ken Parille, The Comics Journal
• Plugs: Martha Cornog of Library Journal Reviews spotlights a few of our upcoming releases in the latest "Graphic Novels Prepub Alert":
Buz Sawyer, Vol. 2: Sultry’s Tiger by Roy Crane: "World War II has ended, and flying ace Buz Sawyer has snagged a civilian job at last: troubleshooter for International Airways, which has him traveling to hotspots all over the world. Of course, he always flies into adventure, here visiting a dangerous woman he first met during the war, taking on the Mad Baron, discovering Mayan treasure, and being kidnapped by mysterious thugs. But whatever the adventure, somehow Buz always gets mixed up with a pretty girl. This volume includes both daily and full-color Sunday strips, originally published between 1945 and 1947, drawn in Crane’s clean, realistic style that in retrospect looks remarkably European."
Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now, ed. by Matthias Wivel: "This lavish sampler of work from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden offers a wide variety of artistic styles and short plots, some with a more adult focus. See samples here; click 'Expand' for the wonderful cover plus 20 pages. Wivel is a veteran of the Danish comics scene who currently lives in New York."
Black Images in the Comics by Fredrik Strömberg: "First published by Fantagraphics in 2003 and nominated for an Eisner Award, this history of racial depictions in comics has been updated in both its content and its source list. Over 100 entries, each featuring a representative illustration and an instructive short essay, cover an international range of comics, from Moon Mullins through Tintin, Will Eisner, R. Crumb, Peanuts, Boondocks, and beyond. Strömberg is a Swedish comics journalist, editor, and educator who has published numerous books in several languages."
Jewish Images in the Comics by Fredrik Strömberg: "Another of Strömberg’s books, in a similar format: over 150 entries from internationally-originating comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels stretching back 'over the last five centuries' that feature Jewish characters and Jewish themes. The works of Art Spiegelman and Will Eisner are well known to comics aficionados in the United States, but many of the other examples, some 'far less savory,' may not be."
• List:Comics Bulletin names Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes the Best Archival Reprint of 2011, with Jason Sacks saying "Universally acclaimed as one of the finest reprints of Barks's works by even the most exacting Duckophiles, Lost in the Andes finally presents an English-language collection of Duck stores behind two hard covers and with the typical exacting standards for which Fantagraphics is justifiably famous. The good people at Fantagraphics outdid themselves with this reprint, which will undoubtedly be a treasure enjoyed by fans for many years."
...and they also name Dave McKean's Celluloid the Best Erotic Graphic Novel of 2011, with Daniel Elkin saying "Dave McKean is a tremendous artist. He creates work of enormous emotional impact with a deftness and subtlety that is so often missing in modern art. McKean can tell an entire novel's story in a single picture. He's that good.... Celluloid is beautiful and it is powerful and it is mysterious and engaging. It is art as defined by every iteration of the word. It is also another example of what comics can do that no other form of media can match."
• List:Forbidden Planet International's Joe Gordon names The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec Vol. 2 one of his Best of the Year: "For my money Jacques Tardi is one of Europe’s great comics creators, a true maestro... This second helping collects two of the original French albums and serves up a heady cocktail of conspiracies, secret societies, black magic practicioners, mad scientists (and boy does Tardi do a great, cackling mad scientist – he even brings in some from his brilliant The Arctic Maruader into this) and all set against a beautifully realised backdrop of Belle Epoque, pre-war Paris. Fantagraphics are translating a huge swathe of Tardi’s work and in fact I’d recommend and and everything they have so far translated and republished, but for the sake of this piece I’ll go with the wonderful Adèle."
• List: One more Best of the Year list at Forbidden Planet International, with festival organizer Clark Burscough putting Joe Daly's Dungeon Quest Book 2 at the top of his Graphic Novels list: "Childish, purile, hilarious, brilliant. I am completely in love with Joe Daly’s series at this point, and the second volume continues in the same vein as the first; namely, silly stoner-esque humour, with a love for RPGs at its heart."
• Review: "...[Young Romance] is a real treat, an inexpensive way to read a nice sampling of some Kirby comics that any Kirby fanatic has to be curious about. Michael Gagne did a great job assembling a fun cross-section of stories, and noted romance comics historian Michelle Nolan provides an insightful introduction. These might not be the first classic Kirby comics that you would choose to pick up, but they are a lot of fun to read. Rating: ★★★★★" – Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
• Review: "The art is evocative and detailed, still in a very Ub Iwerks-ian rubber-hose style... The character of Mickey [Mouse] -- and the simple fact that he has a character, and isn't just the waving silent mascot of the last couple of decades of Disney -- will be surprising to most readers, but this mouse was a tough little guy, ready for both adventures and fun at any minute, and he's deeply enjoyable to read about." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Profile:The Portland Mercury's Matt Stangel catches up with Tony Millionaire on working the illustrator's beat (as documented in 500 Portraits): "'Making a living off comics is almost impossible,' says Millionaire, musing on the illustration work that's kept him fed through the years."
• Review: "...Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics isn’t just a book of some minor historical interest; it’s a genuinely entertaining and artful set of comics, and in some ways more readable than Simon and Kirby’s adventure stories.... Simon’s plots deal with jealousy, class conflict, mistaken identity, selfishness, and selflessness — the romance staples — while Kirby’s art makes these tales of passion and deceit especially dynamic, with deep shadows and a mix of the glamorous and the lumpen. ...Simon and Kirby... depict[ed] a world of darkness and heavy emotion, inhabited by clean-looking people in pretty clothes." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Though not a novel per se, The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat does tell a story of sorts, about Crumb’s evolution as an artist, from the mild-mannered greeting-card designer who drew cheeky doodles in his spare time, to the prickly satirist who’d use Fritz as a way to comment on the sick soul of the ’60s and his own at-times-unwieldy success." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Nuts wasn't action-packed or boldly satirical. Just the opposite, in fact -- it was subtle and thoughtful, with what I'm guessing was a heavy autobiographical element on the part of Mr.Wilson.... You might not have grown up when Wilson did, or when the [National Lampoon] was published, or when I first read these strips years ago, so the details have changed. But I'm willing to bet the emotions our hero felt remain almost exactly the same, no matter what generation is reading about him. And, of course, Gahan Wilson's cartooning is what makes the strips special." – Will Pfeifer, X-Ray Spex
• Review: "There are few collections of comics that you can truly describe as 'beautiful art'; however, Fantagraphics’ series of Prince Valiant trades is absolutely stunning to look at and is easy to write flattering things about, because it is so flattering for a reader’s eyes to behold Foster’s artwork crisp, clear, and huge in all its splendor. The fourth volume of Prince Valiant, which collects all the Sunday pages in full color from 1943 to 1944, is just wonderful, whether you are 4 or 94; it is a totally engrossing experience to dive into the world of the adventurous prince on these pages." – Drew McCabe, ComicAttack.net
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks with Zak Sally about his new self-published, self-printed collection of Sammy the Mouse: "I've gotten out three issues of Sammy in five years, and in that five years I've had two kids, I've been married. My life has changed extraordinarily. That's just the way art works, you know. I was doing issue #2 -- maybe #3, I can't remember -- and there was stuff going on in my life. Six months later I look at that issue and I was like, 'Oh my sweet God.' It was absolutely reflective of what had been going on at the time, and I was completely unaware of it. I just think that's part of it, and that's the way it works."
• Interview: At Nummer 9, Erik Barkman has a Q&A (in Danish) with Johan F. Krarups (editor Matthias Wivel describes it as a "commentary track") about his contribution to the Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now anthology
• Plug: Heidi MacDonald of The Beat looks forward to Jaime Hernandez's God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls: "We can’t help but think that all of the people calling for great superhero stories featuring women will find Ti-Girls a masterpiece, as well, an entire superhero universe made up of nothing but superheroines of various shapes and sizes. It’s jaunty Jaime to be sure, but even so probably one of the best superhero stories of the last decade."
• Plug: "Fantagraphics is still the gold standard for classy newspaper strip collections. I’m afraid people are getting jaded now about how the wonderful Peanuts volumes are chugging right along year after year, but it’s worth pointing out that they continue to be everything anyone could ever want from an archive edition. What’s more, Fantagraphics followed it up with these new Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse collections." – Greg Hatcher, Comic Book Resources
• Plug: Found this nice nugget in Laura Hudson's interview with Chris Onstad at ComicsAlliance: "Jim Woodring is great, and is one of those people who will honestly admit to you that, 'Yeah, my brain's a little f**ked up.' His comics are sort of a manifestation of his brain. It works for him. He's a really wonderful guy. He has this big three-story place with big, gothic abbey rope hanging in front of the front door. The rope rings a little bell to let you know that someone's at the door. One time it rings in the foyer so his wife opens the door, and there's this little cat there that came in from the road. So they let the cat in, shut the door, and we all go about our night. Then we watched Popeye for two hours. That's Jim. And he does all of his work based on hallucination. None of it's set in reality. Uncanny things that make me feel strange happen [in his comics]."
• Analysis: Jordan Hurder, Chance Press examines the collaborations between Jacques Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette: "Tardi is a fantastically celebrated cartoonist who has been at the forefront of the industry in France for 35 years. In contrast to his slow burn, Manchette shot out ten crime novels over the course of ten years, redefined and reinvigorated the French crime novel, became hugely influential, and died of cancer in the 1990s.... The compatibility between the two artists is uncanny; maybe a better critic could point out exactly why in just a few words, or maybe it’s one of those matchups that works without needing explanation." – Jordan Hurder, Chance Press
• Commentary:Gary Groth remembers Christopher Hitchens in "My Dinner with Hitch" at The Comics Journal
• History: Speaking of our dear leader, David Hine presents some scans from an issue of Gary's pre-Fantagraphics fanzine, Fantastic Fanzine (hat tip to Dan Nadel at TCJ.com)