• Review: "Even though Peanuts's peak was sometime back in the sixties these books are still coming out and you know what? They're still good. I keep waiting for a sharp decline in quality to hit but I'm still enjoying seeing Snoopy blissfully living out his fantasies, Charlie Brown being unable to ever be happy, Lucy being a jerk, etc. [...] This book suddenly made me want to go back in time very, very hard. I want to live in Peanuts so bad. Fuck my life. Someone help get me out of this life." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Jordan Crane has a sweet skinny line and can draw like no one else. He can draw complicated scenes and it's clear that he never uses a ruler. There's something very friendly and reassuring about his drawing style. Jordan Crane is without a doubt one of the best guys in the alt comix game right now and my only criticism of him is that I wish he turned out more work. Jordan's making the comics that everyone else is trying to make but unlike them, he's succeeding at it." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Coming Attractions:Library Journal's Martha Cornog spotlights a couple of our August 2011 releases. First, Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot by Jacques Tardi & Jean-Patrick Manchette: "The fantasy grime of Manchette's noir thrillers may not equal the true-life grime of World War I, but both make pretty darn gripping reading when Tardi gets through with them. It Was the War of the Trenches made numerous 2010 best-of lists, including those of Booklist and Library Journal. Manchette and Tardi's previous collaboration on West Coast Blues didn't do badly either, being nominated for two Eisners. With Sniper, a pro killer wants to nail one last job before retiring to marry his childhood sweetheart. But of course it's no cupcake gig." Second, Cruisin' with the Hound: The Life and Times of Fred Tooté by Spain Rodgriguez: "Here we have tales of the wild 1950s in muscular black and white, some memoir and some just tales, from take-no-prisoners Zap Comix veteran Rodriguez. [...] Expect this one to be adults-only: motorcycles, raunch, and rock 'n' roll and described as the unsentimental and hilarious 'anti-Happy Days.'"
• Commentary:On his blog, our manga editor/translator Matt Thorn weighs in on the damaging legacy left behind by TokyoPop
• Analysis: "Hey, Wait... presents a varied collection of strategies which help express emptiness and lack of meaning; the metaphorical use of silences and visual minimalism are two of these, and will become frequent in the author’s repertory in the following books. Meaninglessness, though, can also be expressed by adopting an aesthetics of visual excess (since both lack and overload can be equally menacing to the production of meaning). In this specific page, this is done at a typographical level." – Greice Schneider, The Comics Grid
• Blood & Thunder: "Why do you continue to publish Maakies? Is it intended to disgust people?" – Kevin Rutkowski, in a Letter to the Editor of The Austin Chronicle
• Review: "Whenever Fantagraphics releases a new Popeye book it's cause for manic joy, but this one is extra special because it introduces the mythical beast known as Eugene the Jeep who was possibly the namesake of the car/jockmobile. It also introduces Popeye's foul-tempered father, Poopdeck Pappy, who dislikes Popeye and punches Olive Oyl in the face. [...] This volume is pretty special." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "I like that Jordan Crane had decided not to play the victim of infidelity/villainous partner dynamic with the story of Leo and Dee. He has stripped them bare, which forces the reader to make his or her own decisions. Of course, the readers cannot do this through a passive reading experience. Being forced to engage isn’t a bad thing, because what we are engaging is a lush graphic narrative told in beautiful greytone art. Believing that Crane is equally good with character drama and kids’ comics may be difficult to accept, but the rollicking Simon & Jack will not only make you a believer, but also an acolyte of Crane. This is an all-ages tale because its sense of wonder and imagination will captivate all ages, and it is not too early to declare Uptight #4 one of the year’s best comics. [Grade:] A" – Leroy Douresseaux, Comic Book Bin
• Profile/Interview (Audio): At ESPN Desportes, Pedro Zayas talks to Wilfred Santiago (en Español) about 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente. An autotranslated clip from the text portion: "Santiago's graphic novel... helps us know more about the mythic history of Puerto Rican child star, before he started playing baseball, right up until his tragic death. It also includes a chapter on Puerto Rico and Clemente's childhood, as well as his life in America. It is an attractive book for all ages. 'When you make a biography the direct and personal life of the person you're writing about is important,' says Santiago. 'But at the same time is very important to the historical context in which that person lives ... It is important to know that when he lived is not the moment in which we live. '"
• Review: "The saga of Roberto Clemente is well known to baseball fans yet it has been given new life in this stunning graphic novel [21: The Story of Roberto Clemente]... Santiago's panels have a sharp, cinematic feel and the compositions and framing give the readers a better sense of how dynamic and explosive the game is than any baseball movie. The wonder of this book is that it will appeal to kids and adults alike. Even non baseball fans will fall under its spell. The national pastime has been virtually untouched by the graphic novel genre but if Santiago's effort is any indication, the marriage of subject and form is nothing short of a grand slam. Santiago has set the bar high, though, and we'll be all the richer if anyone can approach the artistry and emotional resonance of this memorable book." – Alex Belth, Sports Illustrated
• Interview:Wilfred Santiago talks with Sketch Maven about his career and creating 21: "After the previous graphic novel, In My Darkest Hour, I wanted to do a biography. There were many reasons why Clemente was chosen. The richness, purpose-driven life, the inspirational life story are a few among many factors. The relevance of Clemente’s story to a youngster of today also came to mind. Roberto was a great and famous baseball player, and the baseball was a challenging aspect to the story. But, it was great to explore the sport in a comic book format."
• Review: "One of my favorite presents from last year’s holiday season was Fantagraphics’ Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition... The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy... rivals just about any epic fantasy (novel or film) in the last 25 years for its narrative complexity and powerful action sequences. [...] Reading these stories will help you understand why, when we talk about the success stories of independent comics publishing, Usagi Yojimbo should be one of the first titles that gets mentioned." – Ron Hogan, Beatrice
• Review: "Crane’s work is highly, emotionally charged, but in a quiet way. Illustrated in a lush, enveloping, greytone, 'Vicissitude' has a Film-Noir quality that adds an air of mystery to this story of melancholy and rotting love. It is so engaging and enthralling that its ending is jarring. 'Freeze Out,' the Simon & Jack tale, is fantastic. It’s all-ages comic book magic. Reading it made me feel like a kid again, reading stories of adventure, fantasy, and magic for the first time on my own. If there were any doubts about Crane’s prodigious talent, Uptight #3 is the spell to dispel those doubts. [Grade] A+" – Leroy Douresseaux, Comic Book Bin
• Profile: The Toronto Star's Vit Wagner on the work and career of Joe Sacco: "'The drive is there,' says Sacco. 'I have a desire to go there and see things and talk to people. It’s invigorating and exciting. But my work involves a slower process. It takes me time to report. I like to sink into the situation. But beyond that, it takes a long time to write and draw my stuff, especially the drawing. You can report that there are 200,000 people in Tahrir Square, but if you want to draw the scene it takes a lot of effort.'"
• Interview:Sequential's David Hains talks to Joe Sacco: "I find more than half of my readers are from schools, in classes where they read my work. People have been to the regions and they’ll see, oh this medium has taken this on, I’ll pick that up. It’s sort of more book people than comics people. Although some of those are the same people, and thank God."
"Described as a Spanish Dick Tracy on steroids, the titular cabbie here is involved in a hunt for his father's stolen coffin, which contains his full inheritance. Art Spiegelman wrote the introduction, so we're not talking warmed-over liver."
"Wilson drew these linked one-pagers in the National Lampoon throughout the 1970s. His hero in a hunting cap is Everykid, who braves the daily awfulness of a child's world: school irrelevancies, getting sick, strange old relatives, department store Santas, going to camp, and death, for starters. No monsters and ghoulies — just real-life quimsies. Don't you wish you could have seen Gahan Wilson comics when you were a kid?"
"What a lavish show-and-tell: a DVD of nonprint media appearances of Krazy Kat, including videos of a 1921 'jazz pantomime' ballet and rare animated cartoons, plus two booklets collecting drawings, designs, strips, and background relating to Krazy in music and dance. [...] Clearly a shining star for popular culture and film collections."
• Plug: "The Comics Journal: long known as a magazine where you can look at never before released sketches from R. Crumb next to essays about Wonder Woman’s bondage past next to in-depth interviews with superhero comics auteurs next to oral histories of underground dudes you didn’t even know you were interested in until you read about their entire lives. We could go on that tangent forever, but instead we’ll just direct you here to pre-order." – Sam Hockley-Smith, The Fader
• Plug: "In Mezzo and Pirus’ King of the Flies, characters who die in the first volume... come back to watch over the still-living – lovers, friends, mothers. Mezzo and Pirus’ undead are able to travel to Mars in the blink of an eye, and then back to the David Lynchian small-town that is the story’s main setting. Liberated from physical constraints, they are frustrated, morose, angry, holding onto grudges. ...Mezzo and Prius... have created a darkly erotic and blackly humoured book that, days after finishing, I’m still thinking about." – Shawn Conner, Guttersnipe
• Plug:Los Angeles magazine features Freeway by Mark Kalesniko in their latest roundup of books of local interest
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater continues his conversation with Stan Sakai: "Originally, I had wanted to do a series inspired by the life of a 17th century samurai named Miyamoto Musashi, but — he’s regarded as one of the great swordsmen in Japanese history, but one day I just drew a rabbit and Musashi became a rabbit. Instead of Miyamoto Musashi, my charcter was Miyamoto Usagi — 'usagi' means 'rabbit' in Japanese. The 'Miyamoto' part I kept as an homage to the original Musahi, but everything else is pretty much original."
• Profile:Variety recently talked to Dash Shaw about his artwork in the feature film Rabbit Hole — here's a scan, uploaded by Dash
Jordan Crane continues to display his mastery of adult drama and rollicking all-ages adventure equally in this issue of his acclaimed comic book series. This issue features the second chapters of Jordan's currently-ongoing, as-yet-untitled (as far as we know) stories introduced in the last issue. "Chapter 2: Trash Night" returns to the troubled relationship of Dee and Leo. Tensions continue to mount as Leo's suspicions about Dee reach a boiling point. Meanwhile, Simon & Jack, the boy and cat heroes from Jordan's classic tale The Clouds Above, are joined in their continuing adventure by Simon's intrepid classmate Rosalyn, who runs afoul of the sinister Principal Codswallop while Simon faces peril in the school cafeteria freezer in "Dark Day"!
Preview "Trash Night" (under its original title "Unraveling") and "Dark Day" at Jordan's webcomics site what things do.
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new titles. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators are saying about our releases this week, check out our previews at the links, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
"Jordan Crane's entry into the 'Last Alt-Comic Standing' sweepstakes is as gorgeous and affecting as past issues, and I can't imagine any fan of those kinds of works not wanting to at least try it out." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"...[F]or me the must-grab item of the week is the fourth issue of Jordan Crane’s always excellent Uptight from Fantagraphics. It’s kind of fascinating to me how Crane has become one of the few indie guys to still be plugging away at the semi-regular pamphlet series, when so many of his peers and direct influences have given up on that format. I’m not sure what, if anything, it means, but he’s cranking out some of the best stuff of his career in these pages, let me tell you." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"The newest issue of Jordan Crane’s Fantagraphics comic book, continuing the serials that started off last issue. A guy tries to cope with a woman he possibly only imagines is cheating on him — ambiguity in the visual presentation, I think — while the kid/animal characters from Crane’s The Clouds Above have an adventure in and out of the cooler at school." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"We last saw an issue of this one-man anthology series two (gah!) years ago. [...] It doesn’t really matter what Crane does from here on out – he’s already got a lifelong fan in me thanks to The Last Lonely Saturday, that weird little book about an old man going to visit his wife’s grave – so I’ll pretty much recommend everything he does. Uptight #4 looks amazing though... Thirty-six ad-free black and white pages of indie comics excellence to look forward to this Wednesday." – The Gosh! Comics Blog
288-page black & white 8" x 9.5" softcover • $28.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-398-9
"A self-explanatory book of works by Tim Kreider..." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"Twilight of the Assholes is the latest collection of Tim Kreider’s political cartoons... in which he is even more apocalyptic and deranged than usual. [...] It’s getting a mention here almost purely because of the quote on the press release from the late, great David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest) who said 'These cartoons are extremely, extremely f*cking good.'" – The Gosh! Comics Blog
• Review: "It’s the details that distinguish what Jordan Crane does. He’s not breaking any conceptual or thematic or formal ground in the two stories comprising this fourth issue of his old-school solo-anthology alternative-comic-book series [Uptight]... ["Dark Day"] is part of your basic “kid explores a magical world beyond the watchful eyes of adults” set-up, while ["Trash Night"] presents love and sex through a sordid, hate-fucky lens, an approach I’ll always associate with the 1990s filmography of Jeremy Irons. But none of that accounts for the sticky, unexpected images he pours into these familiar templates. [...] At this stage in his career it’s quite clear how impeccable Crane’s technique is, both as an artist and as a designer; I think it’s equally important to note that what he does with that technique is just as considered and just as well-executed." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Plug: "...Fantagraphics are offering up a preview of Joe Daly’s Dungeon Quest 2. I’d actually forgotten that this book was coming out, otherwise I’d probably have included it in my list of essential purchases for 2011. The first Dungeon Questbook was a hell of a fun read, and contained a heady blend of stoner philosophy and hardcore roleplaying action. It’s a bit like what you’d get if Kevin Smith reinvented Dungeons & Dragons!" – Edward Kaye, Hypergeek
• Plug: "...Fantagraphics are offering up a preview of The Arctic Marauder, a reprint of one of Jacques Tardi’s earliest and most distinctive graphic novels. From the preview, the book looks pretty damn fantastic! I’m a real sucker for a steampunk story, and this looks right up my alley!" – Edward Kaye, Hypergeek
#87:Prison Pit Book 2 by Johnny Ryan: "Absurd, crude, lewd, funny, entertaining, twelve kinds of wrong, one of the most effed-up books I've ever read. It's burned into my brain and I can't get it out. And I love it." – Chad Nevett
#99:A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio: "I'd never heard of Moto Hagio until Fantagraphics published this best-of collection of her stories, and it's easy to see why Hagio is one of the queens of shojo manga in Japan. The short story 'Iguana Girl' (about a girl who grows up with her mother treating her like she is an iguana) is strong enough to make you feel like you've gotten your money's worth, but the remaining nine stories are also all excellent to boot." – Greg McElhatton
• List: Dave Ferraro of Comics-and-More ranks Moto Hagio's A Drunken Dream and Other Stories at #6 on his 10 Best Manga of 2010: "Moto Hagio's artwork is stunning. Her storytelling is fluid, her characters expressive, and her drawings in general are beautifully arranged and look effortless. Each and every one of the ten stories in this 'best of' collection of short stories... are enchanting, full of warmth and wonderful characters, and brimming with emotion. [...] A very necessary project, done right."
• Review: "Uptight #4 is an example of that increasingly-rare animal: a satisfying alt-comic book. [...] It speaks to Crane’s versatility that he can pull off a slice-of-life relationship story and a fable in the same comic book." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Review: "...[J]ust about the sweetest graphic novel imaginable... it's a lovely, positive collection, with fine drawing and characters that are well worth spending some time with. ...[T]his is a story about people and how they live together and support each other. That kind of story is so vanishingly rare in comics that it should be treasured when we do find it — particularly when it's as lovely and engaging as Castle Waiting." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Review: "Deitch's mad brew of semi-psychedelic farce and skewed reality takes the actual (and factual) short-lived tenure of an obscure 1950s-era kiddie-show host as source material and extrapolates a fantastical set of circumstances with humans, demons, not-so-funny animals and other characters — including Deitch himself. Reading this book [The Search for Smilin' Ed] is a wild ride; Deitch's prodigious storytelling talents and graphic craftsmanship keep things moving — and compelling." – Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Plugs: At Comics Comics, Jeet Heer singles out The Artist Himself: A Rand Holmes Retrospective and The Search for Smilin' Ed by Kim Deitch as two recent books deserving of more attention from critics and readers, calling the latter book "a delight not just because it gives us one of Deitch’s most deranged meandering tall tales but also because the whole handsome package was designed to highlight the cohesiveness of Deitch’s world-making project, the way his fictional universe and its large cast make up a single unfolding story."
• Opinion: At TIME.com – Techland, Douglas Wolk's "What I'm Grateful For in Comics, 2010" includes "Lots of long-gone creators have been returning to the new-comics trenches, and many of them are as limber and powerful as ever. [...] I... wouldn't have imagined that Joyce Farmer would be doing the best work of her career in 2010, but Special Exits knocked me flat," and "The fact that Jason puts out a book every nine months or so and has a substantical, enthusiastic readership makes me proud of the entire economic structure that makes that possible."
• Coming Attractions: More Douglas Wolk at TIME.com – Techland, this time listing "What We're Looking Forward To in 2011," including Love from the Shadows by Gilbert Hernandez ("the most twisted, perverse book he's ever created, which is saying something. It's lurid, hypersexual, violent, incredibly disturbing, and totally fun") and The Armed Garden and Other Stories by David B. ("gorgeous work, and unlike anything else in contemporary comics")