• Review: "Anderson’s King is most definitely NOT your feel-good, sanctifying version of King’s life that most readers are probably used to. ...[T]he MLK presented here is a multi-dimensional, gifted man … but still very much a man, nevertheless, filled with doubt, frustration, anger, arrogance, and even deceit. ... While Anderson starkly presents King’s less-than-saintly episodes... the final reaction is a fuller understanding of a great man, with inspiring ideals, and an unshakeable dedication to equality through nonviolent, loving means. ... MLK’s legacy undeniably lives on in Anderson’s King." – Terry Hong, Bookdragon (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program)
• Review: "Dash Shaw was praised to the skies for his hefty 2008 graphic novel Bottomless Belly Button, but the 26-year-old cartoonist’s real strength so far in his career has been his short strips, which have displayed a diversity of subject matter and style that make each piece feel like something wholly new. The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.... does reveal a future master in his formative stages, working to find a balance between his interest in subtle adult relationships—teacher/pupil, flirter/flirtee, etc.—and his yen to try out new approaches to drawing and coloring. Shaw may be the cartoonist of the rising generation most capable of delivering a long-form work with the formal daring and humanity of a David Mazzucchelli or an Art Spiegelman. Consider The Unclothed Man a document of his baby steps… B+" – The A.V. Club
• Plug: "The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976 comes out in March, meaning we'll be halfway through this amazing, historical publication. I can't say enough about these collections. It's not only remarkable in its simple, truthful capturing of the human condition, but a beautiful historical document of the second half of the 20th Century." – Rob Kozlowski
• Interview: On the Inkstuds radio programme, Jordan Crane and Sammy Harkham have a feisty conversation with host Robin McConnell about their webcomics concern, What Things Do
• Commentary:NPR 's Glen Weldon, surveying some of the connections between comics and pop music, says "Love and Rockets, by Los Bros Hernandez, wasn't just about a punk band, it was a book steeped in an anarchic punk sensibility that even today, 30 years later, still seems bracing and unapologetic."
• List: At The Comics Journal, the back half of Rob Clough's Top 50 Comics of 2009 includes:
#29, The Complete Peanuts 1971-1972 by Charles Schulz: "Twenty-two years into his run on this strip, Schulz was still at his peak even as Peanuts was moving into a new phase."
#31, Mome Vol. 14: "The most consistently excellent anthology in comics, issue after issue."
#39, Uptight #3 (misidentified as #2) by Jordan Crane: "Both [stories] were perfectly suited for this lo-fi yet gorgeously designed comic..."
#43, The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book by Joe Daly: "Daly didn’t create just a story or a set of characters, but an entire community for readers to wander around in and become comfortable with. Equal parts Tintin and The Big Lebowski, this was a stoner detective story, with all sorts of absurd events popping up in everyday life and eventually making a kind of sense."
#46, Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me by Peter Bagge: "This is Bagge-as-Mencken, trenchantly tearing apart stupid ideas from both the left and the right and doing it while actually going out into the field, gathering facts, and talking to people. His hyper-expressive style was a perfect fit for his over-the-top political commentary."
And finally, #50, Love and Rockets: New Stories #2 by Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez: "Jaime’s conclusion to 'Ti-Girls Adventures' managed to combine rip-snorting action and compelling character work. Gilbert’s 'Hypnotwist' was both a callback to his New Love-style weirdness and yet another entry in his 'pulp movie' adaptations. ...[I]t’s clear both brothers were having such a good time following their impulses."
• Review: "Abstract Comics: The title is, in itself, a manifesto. It makes official the existence of these strange objects that some will reject as a contradiction in terms: 'abstract comics.' ... In the abstract comics gathered by Molotiu, sequential ordering produces nothing on the order of a story; but solidarity between the panels is established (in more or less convincing and seducing fashions) in another mode — plastic, rhythmic and so to speak musical. Personally, I do not refuse to make a place for these creations in the field of comics, because I wish that field to be as open and as diversified in its expressions as possible, without excluding anything a priori. Nevertheless, I still note that they have closer affinities with the operating modes of contemporary art that with the ordinary ambitions of drawn literatures." – Thierry Groensteen, Neuvieme Art (excerpt and translation by Andrei Molotiu at the Abstract Comics Blog)
• Review: "Perhaps the best adjective I could employ to describe Castle Waiting would be 'homey.' It’s all about the pleasures of home and the relief of being amongst family who accept you, even if they don’t happen to be related to you or even entirely human. ... Taken on the surface, it’s a perfectly cozy and enjoyable story. If one decides to delve more deeply, themes of tolerance and equality can be found gently at work, though by no means do they take precedence over the characters. Lest all of this sound a bit too quaintly domestic, let me assure you that the story is also quite funny." – Michelle Smith, Soliloquy in Blue
In the spirit of "show don't tell" (and making my workday ever more complicated), I've decided to break the "Things to see" category (comprising artwork and other visual goodies from the Fantagraphics roster of artists) from our Daily OCD posts out into their own posts, with images. Links will take you to original sources where full/larger images can be seen. These posts may not be daily depending on what's out there — for now they may be somewhat irregular until I figure out a good rhythm. Enough of my yammerin'...
• List: On the Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, guest critic Chris Marshall's top 10 graphic novels of 2009 places Blazing Combat in a tie for 4th place: "There was a time when War Comics told War Fact. They showed us the blood, death, camaraderie and horror. [This] series did just that and didn’t hold back."
• Review: "Fantagraphics has truly pulled out all the stops on the production of [Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons], giving it such marvelous style and pizzazz. ... But it’s the content, of course, that is truly king. If the 20th century was indeed the American century, then Wilson is a cartoonist who had a hell of a time chronicling it, mocking it, signifying it, and holding it up to the light—albeit through his own twisted lens... The work is tremendous and witty and, as always with an excellent retrospective, it offers the reader an excellent chance to walk back in time through decades of experiences, memories, turbulences and triumphs, and just plain old human oddities. What’s truly amazing is how, for more than 50 years, Wilson rarely misses a witty beat." – John Hogan, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Plug: At Comic Book Galaxy, Johnny Bacardi, a Jaime Hernandez partisan when it comes to Love and Rockets, says "But this upcoming Troublemakers looks kinda interesting... despite my preference for Jaime, I think I'll pick this up when I see it..."
• List: Any best-of list that leads off with a Maria Bamford reference is all right with me. NPR's Glen Weldon rounds up his best graphic novels of 2009, including You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler ("...Tyler lets her warm, fluid art draw the parallels between herself and her father, and hint at a darker story behind it all") and Low Moon by Jason ("The deadest of deadpan humor. Jason's cartoony, utterly affectless characters interact is ways that are horrible, hilarious and sad — often at the same time.")
• List: Josh Flanagan of iFanboy names The Best Comics of the Decade, including Palestine by Joe Sacco: "More than any of the documentaries or news stories I've seen, Palestine shaped my view about what things are like in the Palestinean territories. Joe Sacco spent time with the people who live there, and explored the sticky, nearly untenable situation that persists today. Sacco's cartoons put a human face on the people involved, and it's a stunning work, comics or otherwise."
• List:Library Journal knows that no list of 24 Graphic Novels for African American History Month would be complete without King: The Special Edition by Ho Che Anderson: "Widely acknowledged as a masterpiece, this award-winning biography invokes King’s flaws, tragedies, and triumphs."
Whew, what a year! Online Commentary & Diversions returns next week.
• List:Comic Book Resources continues listing their Top 100 Comics of 2009, with Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit: Book 1 at #75 ("A huge kick to the solar plexus, not just in terms of the way-beyond-NC-17 level of gore and bodily fluids on display, but also the sheer wealth of no-holds barred imagination and utter sense of play that's on every page. The craftsmanship on display is just as striking as the violence." – Chris Mautner) and The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit at #56 ("Few artists in comics can tell surreal stories with the level of clarity and precision that Hans Rickheit achieves... In the same way that David Lynch squeezes compelling characters and memorable scenes onto film amid dark and obscured circumstances, Rickheit renders a feeling portrait of a young mad scientist named Edmund in one of the 2009's most inimitable reads." – Brian Warmoth)
• List:Jeff Smith names his favorite comics of the decade, including The Complete Peanuts ("Revolutionary.") and Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw ("I was also impressed by the mysteries in the story — and really impressed by Shaw’s restraint in revealing only what he had to — leaving much for the imagination, and keeping my thoughts on the book and its meaning for days afterward.")
• List:Comics Alliance's thematic Best of 2009 list names You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! "Best Indie Reprint Volume" ("The utterly insane adventures of the space wizard Stardust continue to be some of the most brilliantly surrealist comics around."), Pim & Francie by Al Columbia "Best Glimpse into a Terrifying Universe that will Haunt my Dreams for Years to Come," and Ganges #3 by Kevin Huizenga "Best comic to read when you can't sleep"
• List: Brian Gibson of Edmonton's Vue Weekly lists Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco as one of the Best Graphic Novels of the 2000s: "Sacco’s made comics a serious and messily truthful place for journalism."
• List:Living Between Wednesdays lists The Best of 2009: Original Graphic Novels and Collections, including Blazing Combat ("Each panel of Blazing Combat is a stunning work of art, and they are beautifully preserved on heavy paper in this hardcover book. Just as relevant now as when they were first published, these stories should still draw an emotional reaction from anyone who reads them.") and Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman ("It’s just something that you have to sit down and read, and when you do you’ll laugh your ass off.")
• Review: "In ambition, breadth and heft, this far-ranging compilation is the worthy companion to Gilbert’s formidable Palomar volume. While capable of standing on its own, Luba is very much the continuing story of several characters now fully transplanted, unfettered and haunted, from their celebrated Mexican town to the Greater Metropolitan Land of Opportunity. Their histories grow longer, broader, more complex and richer as Hernandez’s rollicking, remorseless social comedy rolls on." – Rich Kreiner, The Comics Journal
Your first order of business is to head to whatthingsdo.com right now and gape at the jaw-dropping array of entirely free comics on view from Jordan Crane (including all 3 issues of Uptight in their entirety, The Last Lonely Saturday and much much more), Sammy Harkham, and Ted May. Oh heavens this is BIG, people.
• List:Design Observer's recommended Holiday Books 2009 includes Abstract Comics: "...[T]his arresting book is like a scoop of primordial narrative, representational mud. Which is to say, it has vitaminic powers."
• Review: "Giraffes In My Hair: A Rock ‘N’ Roll Life... is my favorite graphic novel of the year, and it is marinated in a life lived through real rock and roll delivered via stories as wide-open and lung-puncturing as a two minute Ramones rant. Artist Swain is an alternative comics’ veteran... with an attractively scruffy style; storyteller Paley has an author-blessed background in the margins of the freak milieu... This comic book adaptation of a real life shows the biggest bruises and the smallest scars, but cuts out all the heroic flab. Again, one of the best graphic novels of the year, as well as one of the best rock books too." – Chris Estey, KEXP
• Review: "ThePlayboy cartoons collected [in Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons] demonstrate above all Wilson's phenomenal range in subject, style, and inspiration. ... The menace in domestic relations, the evil that kids are capable of, the outright nastiness that man inflicts on man: it's all here, drawn in Wilson's inimitable comic style. ... And Fantagraphics has also served Wilson well. This collection is a wonder of book design, with die-cut boards, marvelous color reproduction, and a fantastic slipcase. The clear plastic panel on one side reveals the laminated back board of the books, each one a different headshot photo of Wilson himself, his face smashed against the plastic, a prisoner in his own collection. It's a perfect expression of all the inspired madness within." – Thomas DePietro, The Barnes & Noble Review
• Review: "The comics [in Abstract Comics] resemble IQ quizzes that test the ability to recognise patterns. But they are more difficult here — insanely difficult — as they replace simple geometric shapes with abstract comic lines, colours and collage. Solving them will no doubt provide tremendous pleasure but there are no answers given, of course." – Parka Blogs, who also have very nice photos and video of the book (also via the Abstract Comics Blog)
• Reviews: Érico Assis of Brazilian site Omelete has the rundown on the recently released Brazilian edition of The Complete Peanuts 1950-1952 (Vol. 1): "But of course, the interest here is the historical value. Maybe time to recover, at least you remember the pop culture, were much simpler. If you like to do time travel, at least with the brain, Complete Peanuts gives you several hours of escapism for a past environment of children, a bit silly. And perhaps so happy." Also: "If Tales Designed to Thrizzle does not please a dedicated fan of Monty Python, I like my stuffed parrot. ... With the collection, it's time to conquer the world. At least the world of smart people who recognize the genius of Monty Python." (slightly broken English from Google translation)
• Review: "In The Great Anti-War Cartoons, Craig Yoe has gathered an amazing assembly of peaceful protests that seeks to prove that the pen is truly mightier than the sword. ... All of it is thought-provoking and deserves a look. And where else will you see a collection like this? Art Spiegelman, Robert Crumb, Rube Goldberg, Honore Daumier… my god. Even if you don’t dig the message, you gotta dig the art. In the end, it’s obviously a book that’ll stick with me and would make a worthy addition to your collection. ... Grade: A" – Chad Derdowski, Mania
• Review: "War sucks, and [in The Great Anti-War Cartoons] Yoe has selected a wide range of cartoons that make the point with elegance and grim wit. ...[I]n terms of craft, vision, and passion, political cartoons simply don't get much better." – Noah Berlatsky, Chicago Reader
• Review: Noah Berlatsky is the 4th writer at The Hooded Utilitarian to take a crack at Ghost World in their critical roundtable: "I’ve never been able to quite wrap my head around what about the book so thoroughly irritates me."
• Metacommentary:TCJ.com's Shaenon Garrity comments on the (TCJ-hosted) Hooded Utilitarian's critical roundtable on Ghost World: "...the other reason I like Ghost World: like it or hate it, you can talk about it endlessly."
• Profile: Turkish cartoonist Adem Mermerkaya looks at the work of Joe Sacco (autotranslation is little help I'm afraid but it looks fairly substantive if you read the language)