Your latest batch of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Sometimes... an issue [of Mome] manages to hit perfectly, striking the ideal balance between new blood and Fantagraphics mainstays. It’s a standard that Volume 16 meets and exceeds, making for the best addition to the quarterly series in recent memory. ... Taken together, it’s a vital and vibrant sign of life for both the series and the indie comics community at large." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Review: "The aptly titled From Wonderland With Love features the best of contemporary Danish comics––and with weather like they have up there, you can bet that a lot of drawing gets done. If we had to generalize, we’d say that Danish comics specialize in a clean visual style, deadpan humor and a fidelity to revealing strange truths." – Molly Young, We Love You So
• Review: "The tenor of the dialogue and the methodical pacing are evidence of the story's early 20th century origins, yet Jason still makes the story entirely his own. As with other comics of his that I've read, Jason's The Iron Wagon moves very quickly, remains slightly absurd in even the most dire of situations — largely due to Jason's peculiar anthropomorphic characters and deadpan delivery — and simply doesn't take itself so damn seriously." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Interview: At Newsarama, Michael C. Lorah has an in-depth chat with This Side of Jordan author Monte Schulz: "Dad exposed me to books and movies, comics ... I was thinking about this the other day; I think he pushed me into books and away from his work. One, of course, I can’t draw. Two, he actually felt that book writing was a higher art form than cartooning, and he thought that he couldn’t really do that. And he thought that maybe I could."
Holy smokes, there's no shortage of Online Commentary & Diversions today:
• Review: "...Prison Pit... is nothing less than a continuous, no-holds barred, violent assault on the eyes. It is literally one god damned, bloody fight scene after another... The book's genius lies in Ryan's sheer nerve and imagination in setting up these battles; he constantly ups the ante in the most bizarre and inventive ways possible. ... Ryan's love of body functions goes into full gonzo mode here. ...you've got a book where body horror extends far beyond the repulsive into the truly sublime and inspired. ... Despite the gore, or perhaps, because of it, Prison Pit is a fantastic, accomplished work." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "Page after page [of The Squirrel Machine] features one of the brothers traversing through some odd, off-kilter landscape, either out in the woods, or, more often, in their home. Between the floorboards and walls seem to exist an endless array of paths and rooms, each cluttered with an endless array of junk, machines and the occasional disturbing, inexplicable oddity. The end result resembles more of an old-style adventure video game than a comic. It's Myst, directed by David Cronenberg." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6 (same link as above)
• Review: "Perhaps what makes West Coast Blues so captivating is how well it highlights the similarities between film and comics, while simultaneously showcasing its own unique ability as a graphic novel to capture the noir aesthetic through word and image. ... Not unlike many noir films, West Coast Blues is replete with car chases, hit-men, drinking, guns, and the occasional salacious scene. All of this is set in Tardi’s straightforward drawing style which is a good fit for the almost matter-of-fact, unsentimental manner in which violence, sex, and life in general are met with during the course of the book." – Sara Cole, PopMatters
• Review: "Most comic strips today, especially those that are humor strips, often avoid topical subjects. Schulz embraced the topics of the era. They may date the strip, but it never leaves them outdated. ... Schulz was also not afraid to carry on-going storylines for several days or in some cases, even a couple of weeks. ... [The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974 ] also features all the favorite subjects like Linus’ annual wait for the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’s trip to Summer camp, and Sally’s letters to Santa Claus. This is why Peanuts is the greatest strip ever!" – Tim Janson, Newsarama
• Review: "Jason seems to delight in building firm plots, only to swiftly tug them out of sync. The resulting offbeat dynamic is punctuated with deadpan verbal, narrative and graphic punch lines, which pin the stories down at the same time that they suggest grander meanings. 'Where am I?' asks a prisoner. 'I think I'll do some gardening,' says a murdered man. 'Which way?' a son asks his father in 'You Are Here' — the heartrending emotional core of the collection [Low Moon] — as they search for his mother on a barren planet. Each line and frame could mean nothing or could mean everything in this quiet, gripping book." – Becky Ferreira, The L Magazine
• Interview: Jason speaks frankly about Low Moon with Becky Ferreira of The L Magazine (different link than above): "Low Moon, the story, wasn't long enough for a book of its own, so I had to include some other stories to fill it out. They were just ideas for shorter stories I had lying around. There wasn't meant to be any thematic unity. Death, I guess, is a repeating theme. People die a lot."
• Interview: Tommy Hill of the Columbia Daily Spectator talks to The Comics Journal assistant editor Kristy Valenti about comics criticism and The Importance of Comics: "I teach my interns that nobody cares about them and their feelings and their dog when they were 8; while their experience and perspective is valuable, it’s just a jumping off point to get at bigger things."
• Plug: "You Are There...: More beautiful Jacques Tardi, a seminal work in comics for adults in the French-language market and a first-paragraph mention work for both Tardi and writer Jean-Claude Forest." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Plug: "[You Are There] is a strange, wordy, spicy satire, seeing a man struggle to live on the walls surrounding land stolen from him; maybe it's best to see for yourself." - Joe McCulloch, Jog - The Blog (read the rest of his blurb for some interesting background info on the book)
Left: Ajax Wood IS Ardent Vein IS Cannibal Fuckface. Right: man of the hour Johnny Ryan. Saturday night will definitely go down as one of the most memorable events in the history of Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery thanks to Ardent Vein's incredible performance/reading of Chapter 1 of Johnny's Prison Pit Book 1. If you weren't one of the lucky people who witnessed it in person, behold, we've put it on YouTube in two parts!
Late nite link blogging for your Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "You wanna talk about a gateway comic? How 'bout handing this sucker [Ganges #3] to anyone who's ever had trouble falling asleep? The whole thing is dedicated to nothing more or less than reproducing the mental and physical sensations of insomnia. Ironically it's Huizenga's most action-driven comic this side of Fight or Run or the video-game bits in Ganges #2. ... Combine it with one of the most effective uses yet of the Ignatz series' two-tone color palette--here a cool small-hours blue--and the experience is almost tactile, as though you're physically tunneling through the mysteries of your own mind." – Sean T. Collins [ed. note: I swear I'll have the issue up for presale on the website next week]
• Review: "No one is safe in Al Columbia’s world. Not the kittens (they get decapitated) nor the children (they get baked into pies) nor the bunnies (they carry scythes). Correspondingly, no one is innocent. Grandmothers are evil, grandfathers are greedy, and trees grow baby heads instead of apples and oranges. What a wonderful world it is. That’s not an entirely ironic evaluation of Pim & Francie, a collection of sketches, strips, stills and other valuable ephemera from the mind of Columbia (creator of the 1990s cult classic Biologic Show). The twisted narratives and characters are presented so deftly — with such humor and visual panache — that their wrongness becomes right; and thus is the singular charm of Al Columbia." – Molly Young, We Love You So
• Review/Profile: "Earlier this year, Fantagraphics gave readers the opportunity to encounter [Harvey] Kurtzman’s creative energy in complete form by reissuing a boxed collection of Humbug, his short-lived but monumental periodical that began publication in summer of 1957. It’s Humbug that functions as the spiritual father for magazines such as National Lampoon, Spy and The Onion, among many others, but there’s something invigorating about it because of its vantage point in the supposedly stodgy and bland 1950s. Coming out of that decade, Humbug really did break new ground." – John Mitchell, North Adams Transcript
• Review: "Even though Woodstock casts a large shadow on the cover of Fantagraphics’ The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974, it’s Peppermint Patty who should get star billing. Not to take anything away from Snoopy’s yellow-feathered avian sidekick – who does make several appearances through the hardcover tome – it’s just that Patty eventually gets the brunt of character development attention, while Woodstock exists as the perfect foil for Snoopy. ... Also of note is Schulz’s repeated use of standard gags (Lucy pulling the football from Charlie) along with a few new ones, including the consoling 'Poor, sweet baby.' Because of his tendency to keep running gags contained within a year’s span, it makes a trade collection work better than with most comic strips." – Christopher Irving, Graphic NYC
• Review: "What quickly becomes clear is that the graphic novel is a particularly apt form for inhabiting unconventional characters, and very few do this as well as The Squirrel Machine. Wielded skilfully, images are as expressive as words, and occasionally more so. Rickheit's drawings convey the boys' tortured feelings of persecution, elation and curiosity — as well as their uncouth creative urges — in a succinct and often gruesome way. Rickheit's frames vary from the cluttered to the stark, and his ability to pack detail into four square inches is rivalled only by his ingenious use of white space. ...The Squirrel Machine convinces anew that a picture is worth a thousand words." – Molly Young, Intelligent Life
• Interview: For Marvel.com, Sean T. Collins talks to Strange Tales contributor Tony Millionaire: "Just as you called, I was reading an old collection of THOR... It's funny: 'I say thee nay'? I didn't realize that was such a popular phrase."
An action packed evening of comix craziness with Johnny Ryan is in store this Saturday, October 10 at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery. A show of original art from Ryan’s wild new graphic novel Prison Pit will be on display, along with colorful silkscreen prints and figurines.
The event will feature a Ryan-inspired performance piece by Fantagraphics’ own Ardent Vein in full Prison Pit character. (Yeah, we can’t wait to see this either.) So join us this Saturday from 6:00 and 9:00 PM for beverages and meet the extraordinary artist behind Angry Youth Comix, Blecky Yuckerella and other unforgettable comics. This promises to be great fun, and coincides with the Georgetown Art Attack featuring festive arts events throughout the historic cultural community.
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is located at 1201 S. Vale St. (at Airport Way S.) only minutes south of downtown. Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM. Phone (206) 658-0110. See you soon.
So I brought Al Columbia's astonishing new book PIM & FRANCIE to Jim Woodring's "Friends of the Nib" salon last week. A crowd of cartoonists gathered around and Jim immediately proclaimed it "the book of the year" among other superlatives. Words simply fail to communicate the breathtaking originality of Columbia's visionary renderings. Really.
Speaking of amazing art: Ryan's PRISON PIT pages were a delightful surprise. I suppose I expected something more primitive. But his original art and colorful silkscreen prints are wonderful. Come see for yourself and meet this provocative cartoonist this Saturday at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, natch.