• Review: "I really love comics. Reading a collection like Joe Daly's Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, I'm reminded of just why. ... It's drawn like a combination of Tintin, Dilbert, and King of the Hill. It's hilarious, both in terms of the plot and the one-liners. So, like so many other great comics, it's sui generis. ... Daly's plots move at a breezy pace, but his art is sharply detailed, and drawn expertly from a variety of perspective points. The palette is vibrant and fun. ...[T]his is some seriously funny shit." – Byron Kerman, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "Rickheit’s artwork [in The Squirrel Machine] is stunning, from the beautifully disgusting instruments to the ornate architecture. It’s like steampunk crossed with the animal-appropriating art of Damien Hirst or Ebony Andrews, with complicated machines adorned with the heads and torsos of unfortunate livestock." – Garrett Martin, The Boston Herald
• Review: "It's like a great adaptation of an old 1990s straight-to-video erotic thriller made unpredictable with a touch of magical realism. Hernandez's strength remains his depictions of women; like Love and Rockets, the female leads of The Troublemakers are both strong and believable, no matter how atypical their situations and dimensions may seem. – Garrett Martin, The Boston Herald (same link as above)
Online Commentary & Diversions, now with more Tonya Harding than ever:
• Review: "Occasionally, there are works of art or literature that defy simple classification. The brain breaks upon them like waves and they give up different secrets with each tide but never all the secrets and never all at once. These creations challenge as much as they entertain and ask for obsession as toll on the road to understanding. The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit is just such an enigma. ... Surreal, gorgeous, and both satisfying and confounding, The Squirrel Machine is a hypnotic, occasionally repulsive, always entertaining, and wildly creative graphic novel. It does not invite rereading so much as demands it, and each encounter reveals new and different details and interpretations. This book is a wonderful mystery, a basket of questions, a wealth of enigmas, and it looks utterly arresting every step of the way." – Christian Zabriskie, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Opinion: At Comics Comics, Dash Shaw has an interesting proposal for colleges that teach comics: "Instead of hiring teachers based on their achievements (and many of the current teachers are geniuses, no doubt about it), hire people who previously worked for many years in a now-defunct house style. Someone who drew Archie for years and is now selling their originals at Comic Con? Hire them."
Last month I was in L.A. and visited by ol' pal Johnny Ryan and he showed me the first 30 or so pages from PRISON PIT Vol. 2. They were as sensory-assaulting as you'd expect if you've read Vol. 1. I immediately reached in my pocket for my camera, to take a few pics for Flog, only to discover that in my morning pre-coffee fog, I'd inadvertently grabbed my power plug for my laptop and put that in my pocket instead of my camera. I am an idiot. So instead of seeing a few sample pages, you'll have to whet your whistle with this:
• Review: "Reproducing unfinished roughs, penciled-in and scribbled-out dialogue, half-inked panels, torn-up and taped-together pages, even cropping what look like finished comics so that you can't see the whole thing, Columbia and his partners in the production of this book, Paul Baresh and Adam Grano, have produced a fractured masterpiece, a glimpse of the forbidden, an objet d'art noir. ... The horror of Columbia's sickly-cute Pim & Francie vignettes--a zombie story, a serial-killer story, a witch-in-the-woods story, a haunted-forest story, a trio of chase sequences--is extraordinarily effective. ... [T]hese scary stories and disturbing images are all so gorgeously awful that they appear to have corrupted the book itself... — an inherently horrific object. Bravo." – Sean T. Collins
• Review: "...[I]n these pages [of The Troublemakers] lies a challenging, meticulously crafted story of grifters in the middle of a con. Not surprisingly, [Gilbert] Hernandez populates his story with some thoroughly grounded and intriguing figures, but what’s fascinating about the plot is how it criss-crossed over on itself so that not only do the characters remain unaware of who’s conning who but so does the reader. The plot is an intricately woven web of lies and truths, and it’s peppered, of course, with Hernandez’s trademark touch of raw sexuality. Fans of such crime comics as Criminal and 100 Bullets would be well advised to give this graphic novel a chance; they won’t be disappointed. ... [Rating] 9/10" – Don MacPherson, Eye on Comics [Ed. note: I get a big "attack site" warning at that link, so click at your own risk]
• Review: "...[W]ith their crashing planes, erupting volcanoes, boil-stricken sufferers, and monstrous whirlwinds[,] Wolverton’s literalist depictions of Revelation are powerful, shocking, and above all grotesquely beautiful. ... Though Wolverton’s approach to [the Old Testament] stories was somewhat more matter-of-fact than his apocalyptic panoramas, there is still a passion for the bizarre evident in the Bible Story illustrations. ... Wolverton’s Bible illustrations sit on the border between sacred and profane, and that unique placement is what gives them such power." – Gabriel Mckee, Religion Dispatches (hat tip: Kevin Church)
• Review: "...'The Hasty Smear of My Smile'..., which ran as a backup feature in the final issue of Peter Bagge’s Hate (#30) , is a mini-masterpiece. It’s a capsule version of [Alan] Moore’s considerable skill, the epitome of everything that makes him fascinating as a writer." – Marc Sobel, Comic Book Galaxy
• Interview: At Hypergeek, The Comics Journal editor Mike Dean answers Edward Kaye's questions about the changes to his TCJ subscription
• Opinion: Future Comics Journal blogger Noah Berlatsky of The Hooded Utilitarian offers a critical counterpoint to Jeet Heer's previous comments on the Journal
The blogosphere never rests — it's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Boyreau laments how digital phased out analog when it comes to our movie viewing; has the Internet done the same with his book [Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box] commemorating the losing side of that battle? I say no. It's not just because of the tremendous job Boyreau and Covey did with the cover reproductions, or the lovely, solid paper stock, or the cutesy slipcase. It's because Boyreau is right: the aura of the object is irreplaceable. A book collection of VHS box art contains preserves what was special about them in a way a Flickr gallery just can't. Next time you have a trashy movie marathon, pass this around between movies--unlike your laptop, you won't even need to worry that much about spilling beer on it." – Sean T. Collins
We are pleased to debut a brand new weekly strip in this week's webcomics update:
The House of No by Mome contributor Derek Van Gieson! These are Derek's rejected New Yorker cartoons, and we'll be adding a new one every week. We'll leave it up to you to guess why they were turned down — for our money, they're pretty damn funny.
• Profile: Newcity's Beatrice Smigasiewicz talks to Paul Hornschemeier about the conclusion of his Mome serial "Life with Mr. Dangerous" and other topics: “People are routinely surprised to find that in person I joke around all the time and am obsessed with comedy: they think that I must walk around in a constant fog of philosophical conundrums and Weltschmerz.”
• Things to see: It's getting to be time for Giant Robot's annual Post-It Show, with artists such as Johnny Ryan and Tim Hensley revealing their entries
• Things to see: Speaking of Tim, I want this to be a real thing so badly I can feel the flocking on my fingertips
• Things to see: Speaking of Johnny, he reveals that the final (sniff) issue of Nickelodeon magazine includes a strip written by him and drawn by Hector Mumbly (Dave Cooper) — !
Here you go, today's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Locas II, by Jaime Hernandez, combines lush artwork with vivid, heart-in-mouth storytelling. ...[I]f you haven’t encountered its two heroines before, you might find yourself a little lost in the ongoing magic realist soap opera that is Hernandez’s stock-in-trade. It would be a bit like dropping in on Coronation Street for the first time — albeit a Corrie soundtracked by The Germs and Big Black. ... [But] even if you find yourself lost somewhere in the middle of Locas II, the lostness makes a kind of sense. The lives Hernandez chronicles are a little lost. ... Best of all, there's the creamy out-and-out gorgeousness of Hernandez's cartooning, with its echoes of Peanuts, the old Archie comics and 'good girl' art (never, outwith [Russ] Meyer's movies, have so many worn so little so often). Can you fancy a drawing? Look at the portrait of Frogmouth on page 405 and tell me it's not possible." – Teddy Jamieson, The Herald
• Review: "The Good: Prison Pit reminded me a lot of Gwar, professional wrestling and the comic strips my friends and I used to draw in junior high. ... It was gross as hell and filled with blood and gore and just straight-up repulsive juvenile humor. It was a lot of fun. The Bad: It’s probably too awesome for a lot of people to handle. ... The Bottom Line: Dude, it’s great. Just shut up and buy it. ...I’m giving Prison Pit anA and as soon as I’m done writing this review, I’m going to sit down and re-read it." – Chad Derdowski, Mania
• Review: "It's a surprisingly rare thing to find the great comic artist who can not only draw with poetry and beauty, but write like a demon as well. In this lavish scrapbook of uncollected ads, posters, covers, ephemera and one-offs [All and Sundry], [Paul] Hornschemeier's skills are nearly as verbal as they are visual, his art encompassing many different styles, from richly layered classical surrealism to densely structured and primary color-heavy McSweeney's-style illustrations. But taken together, the work exhibits an instantly recognizable and distinctive panache. The depth of his art truly comes to life in the melancholic squibs of text and short fictions studding this collection. For all his talents, Hornschemeier is a working artist who clearly takes on all kinds of assignments, from bookstore ads and bookmarks to a quirky little piece on Anderson Cooper commissioned by CNN. Perhaps the intrusion of the journeyman keeps an exquisite volume like this so rewarding and yet grounded." – Publishers Weekly (starred review)
• Review: "What I liked [in Abstract Comics], I liked for more than just the strips themselves--I liked them for the proof they offer that comics really is still a Wild West medium in which one's bliss can be followed even beyond the boundaries of what many or even most readers would care to define as 'comics.' That an entire deluxe hardcover collection of such comics now exists is, I think, one of the great triumphs for the medium in a decade full to bursting with them." – Sean T. Collins
• Review: "Hallelujah... for Michael Kupperman! He returns with his second collection, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1, which brings under one cover the first four issues of the same-named comic. And comic it sure as hell is. I'm not entirely certain when I've read anything that made me laugh out loud as often as this volume, with the possible exception of Kupperman's debut Snake 'n' Bacon's Cartoon Caberet. Women who've given birth to multiple children and older readers are advised to secure some kind of adult diaper." – Late Reviews and Latest Obsessions
• Review: "Willie & Joe is an extraordinarily compiled and presented tribute to Bill Mauldin, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist who chronicled life in the U.S. Army from 1940 to 1945. The set is bound in army green canvas and typeset in the font of an old manual typewriter, the kind an army clerk might have used during the Second World War. The collection is a sensory delight, pleasing to touch and beautiful to see. ... There are many scholarly works written on the topic of World War II, and those books can teach us a lot about the war, but anyone who wants to feel what American soldiers felt during the Second World War should seek out Willie & Joe. ... For the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, for the man who was once America’s most celebrated enlisted man, Willie & Joe is a fitting, and wonderful, tribute." – David Mitchell, BiblioBuffet
• Review: "[Prison Pit Book 1 by Johnny Ryan is an] over-the-top, ultra-violent, gross-out, juvenile, yet fun and hilarious book... The dialogue that does exist retains his comic sense of disjunction and fights are as demented as you’d expect. This is not a jokey book, but his humor is retained in subtle ways—if you can envision subtle Johnny Ryan humor. ... This is just a balls-out, funny, sicko, good time. My only complaint with Prison Pit is how quickly the story ends, but hopefully the subtitle (Book One) is a promise and not a joke." – Lincoln Michel, The Faster Times [Ed. note: Book Two is in progress and due next year.]
• Review: "Longtime [Richard] Sala readers will recognize some familiar tropes right away [in Delphine]: strange surroundings, shady characters who seem to hold malevolent secrets. And Sala's art is familiar as well, but taken to a new level — lovely watercolors on the covers and moody washes on the gray interiors. The creamy paper that's typical of the Ignatz releases lends additional otherworldly, othertimely atmosphere to the story. And the logo itself is so good it deserved to be used for a long-running series. But it's the story that departs from Sala's work in some major ways... so resonant and unsettling that... it has to rank as one of Sala's major works." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
• Plug: "Reading [The Complete Peanuts 1971-72 and 1973-74] in one fell swoop, I've kind of come to the conclusion that this period is really the apex of Schulz's career. ...he was never as consistently hilarious or as poignant as he was in the early to mid-70s. If you're only buying two volumes of this series, it should be these two." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Profile: Dan Taylor of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat catches up with Monte Schulz on his book tour for This Side of Jordan: "'It’s weird doing this,' Schulz said by phone from Nevada City during a break between book shop dates. 'It makes me nervous, at every single stop. I just realized I’m not a very public person.'"
• Interview: At Marvel.com, Sean T. Collins' series of chats with Strange Tales contributors continues with Stan Sakai talking about the creation of Samurai Hulk: "Actually, I tried to make it as much of a parallel to the modern Hulk as possible. Such as his name-he is referred to asSashimono, which means 'banner.' It's a samurai banner. And obviously there's no gamma rays, so he's cursed into turning into the Hulk by a witch called Gama, which is Japanese for 'toad' — she kinda looks like a toad." Oh man I can't wait for that.
• History: Steve Duin at The Oregonian digs up a nugget: Gary Groth on the 50th anniversary of Superman in Amazing Heroes, 1988: "My only interest in Superman, marginal at that, stems from his continuing presence as a symbol of banality and infantilism in the history of the American comic book." And it goes on!
• Random quote of the day: "Guido Crepax: popular enough to have an entire half-shelf in the Fantagraphics library, circa mid-1990s; not popular enough to have his books stolen by the interns." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter