• Awards: Congratulations to the great Joost Swarte, awarded the 2012 Marten Toonder Prize and its concomitant fat cash prize by the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture, as reported by Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter
• Review (Audio):Inkstuds host Robin McConnell is joined by Paul Gravett, Joe McCulloch and Tom Spurgeon for a roundtable discussion of Cruisin' with the Hound by Spain Rodriguez and other books
• Review: "Here are the early ejaculations from the primordial form of what was to become one of the great American writers. Here is Flannery O'Connor as she is formulating her unique vision of America and all that it entails.... What value does Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons have inherently? I think the answer to that question is entirely subjective. ...I personally wish to thank Fantagraphics for going out on a limb and publishing this book, if for no other reason than to put Flannery O'Connor back into the pop culture discussion for however briefly it may be." – Daniel Elkin, Comics Bulletin
• Review: "Anyone can be grotesque and horrifying. To truly get under the skin of the audience is an ability not many have. Someone who does is Thomas Ott, and he uses his ability to the highest effect in Cinema Panopticum. ...[I]f you are looking for an unsettling horror story rendered beautifully by an expert craftsman there is no doubt this should be in your collection." – Taylor Pithers, The Weekly Crisis
• Interview (Audio): Spend 3 minutes with Michael Kupperman as Tom Gambino of Pronto Comics talks to Michael from the floor of last April's MoCCA Fest on the ProntoCast podcast
• Film Studies: At Boing Boing, Jim Woodring writes about the 1931 Fleischer Bros. short that expanded his young mind: "I might have come to grips with the overwhelming mystery of life in a rational, organic manner if it weren't for a cartoon I saw on my family's old black and white TV in the mid '50s when I was three or four years old. This cartoon rang a bell so loud that I can still feel its reverberations.... Whatever [the creators'] motivation and intent, 'Bimbo's Initiation' became my prime symbolic interpreter, the foundation of my life's path and endlessly exploding bomb at the core of my creative output."
• List:Time Out New York names the "50 Funniest New Yorkers," and coming in at #16: "Cartoonist Michael Kupperman transports his readers to another world altogether. In the recurring comic Tales Designed to Thrizzle and book-length parody Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910–2010, Kupperman perverts antiquated cultural signifiers into a jungle of foreplay robots, nut bras and absurd character concoctions such as the Mannister (a man whose superpower is turning into a bannister). Even in his live appearances — during which he occasionally appears as Twain — Kupperman has the same sort of folksy okey-doke quality as his pulpy '50s source material; but make no mistake, there's an uncanny comedy brain teeming underneath his cool exterior." – Matthew Love
• Review: "...Swarte’s work does have that free-wheeling and even irreverent feel that you’ll find in the best work of Gilbert Sheldon and Robert Crumb. Chris Ware writes the introduction to this book, and he does a good job of setting up the collection. As he points out, Is That All There Is?contains most of Swarte’s work, which has me wondering what comics were left out, and why. Regardless, this is an incredible collection that spans Swarte’s career from the early 1970s to today." – Derek Parker Royal, Ph.D.
• Review: "Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the marquee team of the early days of comics, pioneered the romance genre in 1947 with this title, and, as you'd expect from the creators of Captain America, Young Romance wasn't bad. It had its fair share of melodramatic tear-jerkers, and occasional forays into misogyny (stupid women who need a man to teach them how to live), but Simon & Kirby also flirted with social issues like class distinctions and religious conflicts. And they didn't restrict themselves to small towns or big cities, like most romance stories, finding romance out West or in the Korean War. Young Romance offers 21 of the best of Simon & Kirby's romance stories, and that's probably just the right amount." – Andrew A. Smith, Scripps Howard News Service
• Analysis: At The Hooded Utilitarian, Robert Stanley Martin presents "one comics critic’s analysis and judgments of [Robert] Crumb’s career. I hope it’s of more interest than a pronouncement that his work is a single big project and one should just read all of it. Breaking his work down into distinct periods does, I think, help one to get a better handle on Crumb, no matter what one’s opinion of this or that individual effort. I certainly don’t think this essay is the last word. With Crumb, no essay ever is."
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)