Today's (and yesterday's when it was slow) Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "The Dutch artist and designer Joost Swarte has a tremendous reputation among cartoon-art aficionados, given his tiny body of comics work. The answer to the title of his 40-year retrospective, Is That All There Is?, is: 'Pretty much, yeah.'... Plot is beside the point. Swarte is more concerned with formal purity, and with making the deep structures of cartooning visible. He pares his art to mechanical, hard-edged vectors and curves: caricature triple-distilled into symbolic visual shorthand, with every line canted just so. His geometrically precise, nearly architectural drawings are the bridge between the Tintin creator Hergé and contemporary artists like Chris Ware, who wrote this volume’s foreword." – Douglas Wolk, The New York Times
• Review: "Now we're talkin'! The first two volumes in Fantagraphics' Steve Ditko Archives (edited by Blake Bell) were rewarding collections of the offbeat auteur's early work, and among the best archival books of horror comics published in the last several years. But in volume 3, a.k.a. Mysterious Traveler, we see Ditko's lunacy reach its full maturation... The bold dynamism and moody linework that would characterize Ditko's Spider-Man and Dr. Strange work just a few years later, as well as his horror tales for Creepy and Eerie, is in evident throughout.... Volume 3 is essential for classic horror comics fans, and further cements Ditko's reputation as an artist without peer." – Joseph McCabe, FearNet
• Review: "Kevin Avery has compiled an incredibly thorough account of one of folk and rock music’s most important critics of the 20th Century: Paul Nelson. Avery reveals Paul Nelson as not just a music critic, but also a true writer who loved his subject matter possibly more than anything else. After reading, I felt that I knew more about Nelson than simply his life’s accomplishments—I knew him as the man he was: an observer who secluded himself with his books, film and music." – SLUG Magazine
• Review: "Madcap university mystery. Girl detective Judy Drood, with the hapless Kasper Keene, investigates the disappearances of girls on campus. Beautiful young women (some dressed like pirates), monstrous old men (some of them professors), photography, a puppet, and a misguided quest for eternal youth all figure in.... The dark edge in Sala’s other work is fully expressed here [in Mad Night]. The book is incredibly violent (though the dark, woodcut-like art makes it feel absurd). Here’s a body count by how victims meet their end..." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• Plug: "Published three years ago in an indie porn comic, Josh Simmons’ 'Cockbone' remains a high water mark for today’s horror comic.... The Furry Trap will collect that story, along with ten others being described by the publisher as 'hard-edged horror.' You already know if you can handle this stuff, so if you can, it’s time to start counting days. Eli is, most definitely, coming." – Tucker Stone, "Flavorpill's 10 Most Anticipated Comics Releases, April-July 2012"
• Plug: "While it’s a bit of an exaggeration to call Dal Tokyo Panter’s lost masterpiece, it certainly hasn’t been the easiest thing to come by. That’s to be the case for anything that’s serialized over the course of multiple years, multiple publications, and two different continents. Thankfully, the entire book has finally found a home at Fantagraphics, and those of us without access to early-’80s copies of the LA Reader can finally experience 'a future Mars that is terraformed by Texan and Japanese workers' as only Gary Panter — one of the most influential cartoonists alive — can provide. For some of us, this book has been a long time coming." – Tucker Stone, "Flavorpill's 10 Most Anticipated Comics Releases, April-July 2012"
• Interview (Audio): Yesterday's Pat Thomas radio guest spot to discuss and spin Listen, Whitey! on The Hear and Now on Berkeley's listener-powered KPFA can be streamed from their website for another couple of weeks
• Analysis (Video):At his blog, Paul Hornschemeier shares video of two "talks given during my recent graphic novelist's residency at Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Tammy Birk (Professor of English, Otterbein University) discusses themes in Mother, Come Home while Ryan Jordan (Department of Philosophy, The Ohio State University) examines the nature of paradoxes in general, using Zeno's paradoxes in The Three Paradoxes as a launching point."
• Analysis: At where else but The Hooded Utilitarian: "'Lightning Only Strikes Twice Once, Y'Know': Phallic Mothers, Fetishism, and Replacement in the Comics of Los Bros Hernandez," Part I (focusing on Gilbert's work) and Part II (focusing on Jaime), by Eric Berlatsky
Yet another honor for Wilfred Santiago's 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente — now it's been named one of Booklist's "Top 10 Graphic Novels: 2012" (so named even though it's all 2011 books), with Ian Chipman saying "Kinetic compositions washed with Pirate-yellow hues and a narrative that traces both Clemente’s personal and athletic triumphs combine in this biography of the pioneering Puerto Rican baseball great." We know it leads of the list because it's alphabetical, but we like the way it's part of the header graphic:
The list appears in print in the new issue (cover dated March 15), which also contains Gordon Flagg's review of Is That All There Is? by Joost Swarte:
"In the early ’70s, when American underground-comic artists like R. Crumb were drawing subversive stories in styles derived from the comic strips they grew up with, Dutch cartoonist Swarte was similarly warping the graphic approach of Europe’s most famous comics artist, Tintin creator Hergé. It was Swarte who coined the term ligne claire, or 'clear line,' for the distinctive, meticulous style marked by the use of unvarying, evenly inked lines. Swarte applied that technique to significantly more grown-up fare than Hergé’s rousing adventure tales, as shown in this collection of nearly all of his adult comics work, much of it featuring Jopo de Pojo, an oversized naïf with a Tintinesque quiff, and the pompous intellectual Anton Makassar. Some are globe-spanning escapades that are clearly inspired by Tintin’s exploits, albeit with sex, drugs, and gore; others are shorter satirical or humorous pieces. Since the main attraction is Swarte’s alluring visuals, a larger page size would have showcased the intricate illustrations to better advantage; but considering the previous unavailability of his work in English translation, that’s an ungrateful quibble."
• Review (Video): On G4's Fresh Ink Online video podcast, host Blair Butler and guest Sam Humphries look at Is That All There Is? by Joost Swarte; at the 7:50 mark Humphries makes it his #2 pick of the week, saying "I've literally been waiting for this book for 20 years... so my hopes were pretty high and this book does not disappoint at all.... You gotta pick up this book."
• Review: "While [Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975] looks like a typical coffee table book, this book does not have the coffee table lightness when it comes to content. It is dense.... The imagery in this book is fantastic with a ton of photos of old album jackets, flyers and magazine advertisements and of course the record itself. I admit, I want to blow up a lot of the posters and frame them. You will too.... You should buy this book. Fantagraphics outdid themselves this time." – David Baker, 410 Media
• Review: "Undead pirates roam the seas. They want to die and find eternal peace. But when that doesn’t work, they pray for a living creature to torment. They find a baby boy amidst the wreckage of a ship and decide to raise him until he’s ten. Then they plan to kill him so they can have a cabin-boy.... David B.’s Epileptic made me a fan of his work. But the cover [of The Littlest Pirate King], featuring ghastly pirates behind a little boy, would have caught my attention anyway.... It’s a kid’s book with an edge." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• Review: "Originally published in 1974, ...[The Arctic Marauder] finds social criticism wrapped up in sarcastic satire, but outfitted in some great designs of Victorian science.... Tardi’s story is one thing, but his beautiful renderings give it a depth that brings it far beyond satire. The attention given to the Victoriana -- in technology, fashion and graphic layout -- functions as a love letter to that bygone world, which keeps the book from ever seeming cartoonish, and that [is] its major strength." – John Seven, North Adams Transcript
• Tunes:Michael Kupperman is among the cartoonists who put together a playlist of music that inspires their process for Huffington Post columnist Dave Scheidt — a taste: "'Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep,' Middle of the Road: This is just the oddest song. It's upbeat, and bubblegum, and catchy, and sad, and kind of incomprehensible. It was written by a French composer and recorded by a Scottish group, and was one of the highest-selling singles worldwide of all time." (That song's popular with funny cartoonists: Peter Bagge's band Can You Imagine? covers it)
• Review: "Perhaps confusion is the probable reaction upon finding the complete works of a great cartoonist taking up such a small package, but the likely thought after finishing Is That All There Is? is absentmindedly wondering why there haven’t been more like Swarte, cartoonists who said their bit in no more than a few pages at a time. And of course, there have been. But... Swarte stands alone as the one who pulled off an entire fantastic career in something the length of a film screenplay or a longer novella. This book is a document of a true original’s contribution to comics, one that well outweighs its fifteen ounces and outstrips its 144 pages. Yes, that’s all there is, and it’s all you could possibly need." – Matt Seneca, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Michel Gagné... worked with Fantagraphics to produce this beautiful volume [Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby's Romance Comics].... Clearly, Simon and Kirby tried to bring as much excitement to primarily psychological and interpersonal goings on as to punching and flying, but the action can’t help but be more grounded and, therefore, limited. It’s impressive that any of the stories manage to sweep one up, and a few do, pulling the reader in rather than leaving him/her assessing art and writing from an appreciative distance. The variety on display here is impressive as well." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Review: "There are strange things going on in Nordic comics. And when I say 'strange,' what I really mean is bug-eyed gibbering crazy. And when I say 'bug-eyed gibbering crazy,' I mean shit verging either on lurid incomprehensibility or sweet unfathomable genius.... If you're tired of traditional comic book fare and are looking to expand your horizons in your comic reading, Kolor Klimax is a pretty good place to go. After all, I can't imagine that your local comic shop stocks too many Nordic comic books on its shelves, and this anthology may be your only available on-ramp to a whole different world of comic book possibilities." – Daniel Elkin, Comics Bulletin
• Review: "The 'autobio' strip in [Athos in America] is my hands-down full-stop favorite thing Jason has ever done, earning this book the EXCELLENT rating for that reason alone. The rest of the book is totally satisfying, but I can’t pretend I didn’t read all of it with my brain obsessing over all the little beats in 'A Cat From Heaven.' There isn’t a dead moment in the thing. 'Hey, Fuckface'…so funny, this thing." – Tucker Stone, The Savage Critics
• Review: "Everything I feel comfortable saying about [Is That All There Is?] right now already came stumbling out on this Inkstuds podcast I did..., but it deserves some kind of Savage rating. How about EXCELLENT? There’s stuff in here that I wish was bigger in size, but…so what? I hope every single person who complains about the size of this book gets buried in shit after being murdered by their family, and I hope they get murdered with Lou Gehrig’s disease. If they’re a cartoonist, I hope it happens to them twice." – Tucker Stone, The Savage Critics
• Review: "Any new work from Norwegian cartoonist Jason is worthy of a comics fan’s full attention, but the new, all-original short-story collection Athos in America is one of the best books of Jason’s career, which automatically makes it one of the best books of this year." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Joost Swarte... brought a nose-thumbing avant-garde sensibility to 'ligne claire' style Eurocomics in the ’70s and ’80s, even before he landed stories in the seminal art-comics anthology Raw. Is That All There Is? collects nearly 150 pages of Swarte’s most groundbreaking work... With his architectural sense of design and his punk-rock attitude, Swarte fused craft and nihilistic flippancy in stories about adventurers, harlots, musicians, and scientists, creating true 'modern art.'" – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "About all that was missing from Blake Bell’s 2010 Bill Everett biography Fire & Waterwas extended samples of Everett’s artist’s actual comics. Bell now remedies that by serving as editor on Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1... These publications rode the superhero wave initiated by the companies that would later become DC and Marvel, and while they didn’t withstand the test of time, they’re still a kick to read, buoyed by their no-nonsense action plots and by Everett’s propensity for drawing narrow figures poised to commit acts of violence." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "This collection is the ultimate love letter to all those 1960s kid comic books, but with a modern twist.... Each person is a well-defined character with strong flaws and backgrounds. With so much diversity, there is bound to be at least one character you will like.... If you are looking for a kid-friendly book with some charm, go ahead and pick [Yeah!] up." – Kevin Brown, City Book Review
• Profile:Steve Appleford of the Los Angeles Times (via a few of their suburban affiliates like the Glendale News Press) visits Tony Millionaire in his garage studio: "In his introduction to 500 Portraits, Millionaire writes that life experience has taught him that 85% of all people are 'bogus' or worse. In the garage, he describes himself as misanthropic, but admits his drawings often suggest otherwise. 'As it turns out, you can tell by looking at these portraits, I obviously love people — even the [jerks]. Hitler's done very lovingly,' he says. 'I think it's nice to have the juxtaposition of my disgust for humanity mixed with my obvious love for humanity. You can't draw like that if you really hate something.'"
• Profile: The Ottawa Citizen's Bruce Deachman catches up with Dave Cooper: "'There are different facets of my creative mind,' he says. 'I feel I need a lot of contrast, so I have all these things happening, but they’re all necessary to make me feel satisfied. It’s got to be this big pot happening, with everything boiling at once. It’s therapy for me,' he adds. 'I don’t see ever wanting to retire from the thing that I love to death.'" There's a short video, too, which Dave has posted on his blog
• Plug:Robot 6's Brigid Alverson is partway through Jim Woodring's Congress of the Animals: "Woodring’s art has a real solidity to it and like the best surrealists, he creates unreal shapes and figures that seem real—he has figured out how to make new bodily orifices that mimic the old and yet are totally different. Like visions in a dream, they are convincing and false at the same time."
"Jason teams up with Fabien Vehlmann to craft a dark comedy about someone following a mysterious map in a bottle to and island where something strange is happening. The premise itself is a spoiler, as it’s a laugh-out-loud moment when the reader finds out what is going on. Jason’s work is as stellar as ever, just with a lot more dialogue this time around."
"Safe Area Goražde wasn’t a new book in 2011, but the special edition it got last year was enough to earn it a spot on this list. Joe Sacco reigns as the preeminent comics journalist, and Safe Area Goražde is another great reason why."
This coming Thursday, March 8th, they get to go to the opening of a Joost Swarte art show, with Swarte himself in attendance signing copies of his new book Total Swarte (i.e. the French edition of what we just released as Is That All There Is?).
Then, they will all head off to various cafés, with baguettes under their arms and berets on their heads, to drink wine, eat cheese, smoke, and argue until the wee hours of the morning. For they are French, and that is what the French do.
The Joost Swarte art show runs through May 5, 2012 at Galerie Martel [ 17 Rue Martel, Paris ].
• Paris, France: Joost Swarte debuts an art show at the Bienvenue à la Galerie Martel, and will be in attendance signing copies of Is That All There Is? (or as it is known in France, Total Swarte). More information about this event is coming to the FLOG soon!
Saturday, March 10th
• Seattle, WA: The Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery celebrates the legacy of local arts activist Cathy Hillenbrand with “Real Comet Press: A Retrospective.” This exhibition features art, graphics and book works by regional artists nurtured by Real Comet Press including Lynda Barry, Michael Dougan, Art Chantry, and Ruth Hayes, among others. A limited number of out-of-print Real Comet Press titles will be available for sale (including the iconic Lynda Barry poster “Poodle with a Mohawk”). (more info)
• List: YALSA's blog The Hub spotlights their previously-announced Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten 2012: "Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son Volume 1 rounds out the Top Ten list for 2012 with a sensitive look at two fifth grade students struggling with gender identity: Shuichi Natori is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino Takatsuki is a girl who wants to be a boy. This is a complex and sensitive subject, but Takako handles it very gently, allowing the story to unfold in a way that is not only natural but sympathetic. Takako’s artwork is spare and evocative, supporting the story but never getting in the way of its telling. This one is for teens who like contemporary stories about real world problems."
• List: At LitReactor, Kelly Thompson runs down 10 Graphic Novels for the Literary Minded, with Castle Waiting Vol. 1 by Linda Medley recommended "for fans of fantasy": "Castle Waiting, a brutally funny book with a giant heart, has a new spin on fairy tales with a feminist bent that will draw you in and keep you reading from page one.... Medley’s world is expertly crafted and completely believable, while her black and white artwork is clean and highly detailed with an emphasis on character design and acting."
• Interview: At SF Weekly, J Poet talks to Pat Thomas about Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975: "As you can see from the scope of the book, there were hundreds of recordings connected to the Black Power movement. At Fred Hampton's funeral, they blasted The Supremes' 'Someday We'll Be Together' from loudspeakers. Huey Newton loved Bob Dylan's line, 'Something's happening and you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?' The movement was inspired by music and the movement inspired many people, especially jazz musicians, to refocus their sound and energy."
• Review: "Buddy Does Seattle collects the first 15 issues of Hate, in which the protagonist has relocated to the Pacific Northwest and become the consummate slacker.... First published when Seattle was exploding in popularity due to the rise of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and various grunge bands, Hate offered a decidedly un-romanticized take on a particular time and place. ...Bagge's artwork took the public's perception of '90s youth as angry and volatile and pushed it to hysterical levels. Heavily influenced by late-'60s counterculture cartoonists like Crumb, Bagge's drawings are fluid and grimy-looking, with frequent use of exaggerated facial expressions helping to cultivate an atmosphere of chaos. As a work of cultural commentary it's brash and invigorating, and remains so years later." – Phil Guie, Critical Mob
• Interview:Nick Thorburn's tour with his band Islands brings him to Seattle next week and the Seattle Weekly's Dave Lake asks him about his connections to the city: "...I had a comic strip in the last couple issues of Mome, which is a Fantagraphics anthology, which is a Seattle-based comics publisher. I love Fantagraphics. I got a check from them recently for being in those comics and it would have made the 13-year-old me die with joy, seeing a check with my name on it from Fantagraphics. That's beyond my wildest teenage fantasy."
Dear sweet mercy this week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following truckload of 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.
144-page full-color 7" x 9.5" hardcover • $35.00 ISBN: 978-1-60699-510-5
"The semi-complete comics works of the remarkable Dutch cartoonist (and designer, and architect, and Tintin aficionado, and the guy who came up with the term 'ligne claire') Joost Swarte. Fantagraphics originally announced this project for 2007 (under the name Modern Swarte), and its scope has gradually expanded since then. There are, in fact, some deliberate omissions--this volume doesn't include his kids' book series 'Katoen en Pinbal,' and mail-order copies from Fantagraphics come with an extra 12-page minicomic of early material called 'Actually, That Wasn't All There Was.'" – Douglas Wolk, ComicsAlliance
"A whole lot of Fantagraphics books are dropping... this week — if you see a book of Joost Swarte: no, it’s not a mirage..." – Joe McCulloch, The Comics Journal
"The... long-anticipated collection of Joost Swarte's comics work... is one of those things you're grateful to see finally come out even if you can't afford to buy it right away." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"...Fantagraphics must have sat down and designated this Scandinavian Comics Week… Adding a touch of influential Denmark [sic] work for good measure. Besides Kolor Klimax... the publisher has also released the first English language translation from Dutch alternative comics master Joost Swarte, entitled Is That All There Is? ...[T]hat’s one company betting on a lot of 'love' from fans of European alternative work in the same week." – "Insideman's Pull List," Inveterate Media Junkies
"[This] is one of those anthologies with tons of cartoonists you've never heard of but probably wish you had." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
204-page full-color 10" x 10" hardcover • $39.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-507-5
"Not comics, by any stretch of the imagination; I'm listing it here because it's a Fantagraphics book and might be showing up in comics shops, and because it looks fantastic. This is Pat Thomas's long, extensively researched photo-and-essay book about where the Black Power movement intersected with the recording industry." – Douglas Wolk, ComicsAlliance
240-page full-color 7.25" x 10" hardcover • 39.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-488-7
"I'm a huge fiend for Bill Everett, one of the romantic figures of 20th Century comic book making for the fact that when his comics hit on a certain popular notion they contributed to the general development of that form as much as anyone's comics ever did, but when they didn't quite conform to the most popular efforts they super stuck out." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
180-page black & white/color 8" x 10" softcover • $19.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-481-8
"It's wonderful that Diane Noomin has a new collection out. I'm reading it right now as the book I keep in the back seat of the car as I wait for people to leave buildings where I'm picking them up.... I hope this one doesn't get lost in the flood of new material out. We desperately need to come to grips with more of the underground comix work, if only because so much of it was deeply compelling. I liked the support material in here, too, particularly Noomin's walking us through her career." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"My splurge for the week would likely be one of the several books out from Fantagraphics. First up is Amazing Mysteries, a collection of early work by Bill Everett (reviewed here). Then there’s Glitz 2 Go, a collection of comics by underground-era cartoonist Diane Noomin, whom I simply don’t know enough about. The obvious choice though is the wittily titled Is That All There Is?, a kitchen-sink collection of the mighty Joost Swarte’s comic stories from the 1970s onward. You can never have enough Swarte." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: There’s a pretty enormous amount of Fantagraphics stuff out this week, with nothing more anticipated I suspect than Is That All There Is?, a 144-page collection of almost all of Joost Swarte’s work in alternative comics, including eye-catching bits from RAW, Heavy Metal and elsewhere; $35.00. Then you can keep up your international airs with Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now, a 250-page anthology of Scandinavian works edited by the Journal’s Matthias Wivel; $29.99. Editor Blake Bell returns with Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1, a 240-page collection of Golden Age superhero comics from the titular artist; $39.99. Diane Noomin (of the Twisted Sisters anthology, the second volume of which I attribute to changing my entire perception of how the comics form could work at a crucial age) gets a 180-page anthology of her various works with Glitz-2-Go; $19.99. And finally, in case comics are just too much for ya, Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 finds music producer and writer Pat Thomas tracking the recorded output of various black power groups of the designated time span, in glorious prose; $39.99." – Joe McCulloch, The Comics Journal