• 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")
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions from NPR, Techland–TIME.com, HTMLGIANT, Woot!, and elsewhere:
• List: At Techland–TIME.com, Douglas Wolk names his top 10 Best Graphic Novels of 2010:
#6: Weathercraft: "The first standalone Frank book from Jim Woodring is as gloriously mind-expanding as anything he's drawn. It's a wordless Hieronymous Bosch-via-Chuck Jones parable about cartoon animals in a cruel, psychedelic landscape, in which the wicked Manhog attains enlightenment, then sacrifices it again."
#5: Artichoke Tales: "Megan Kelso's magnum opus is technically a fantasy — her characters live in an imaginary country, riven by a civil war between foragers and canners, and have artichoke leaves instead of hair on their heads. It's also a set of meditations on the way cultures establish their identities through stories, and how both political violence and personal connections can damage or repair those identities."
#3: You'll Never Know, Book 2: Collateral Damage: "The second volume of C. Tyler's trilogy of family stories that crystallized around the revelation of her father's experiences in World War II turns personal tragedy into universal art. Everyone's stories deepen; everything is more complicated and sadder than it seems at first. And Tyler's incredible sense of design and color makes even her quietest images linger."
• List:Comics Alliance also ranks Weathercraft on their Top 10 Best Comics of 2010. Jason Michelitch writes: "Woodring is a cartoonist of frightening power, and Weathercraft is him performing at full strength, a high note sustained for every panel on 100 pages. His work is of a caliber where it's hard to know what to say about it, so struck dumb are you by the immensity of the rendering and storytelling skill on the page. [...] There is no other comic this year that so successfully creates such a viscerally compelling and hermetically individual fictional world, or which displays such a thorough mastery of visual storytelling, provoking complex thoughts and feelings with simple, beautiful strokes. Weathercraft is essential."
• List: Oh mercy, it's The Daily Cross Hatch's epic and essential end-of-year top-five survey The Best Damn Comics of 2010 Chosen by the Artists. Below, in order of appearance, the books chosen, who chose them and how/if they ranked them; click over for any commentary:
Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso: Ellen Abramowitz (MoCCA Executive Director), #3; Darryl Ayo Brathwaite (Little Garden Comics), unranked;
Weathercraftby Jim Woodring: Brian Heater (The Daily Cross Hatch), #4; Gabby Schulz/Ken Dahl (Monsters), #4
• List: At Four Colours and the Truth, Tim Reinert names Drew Weing's Set to Sea one of his Favourite Comics of 2010: Best Original Graphic Novels: "A unique adventure story that skirts the line between high concept art book and ribald adventure tale quite well. Weing’s patient pacing, and unerring knack for maximizing panel space make him an interesting talent to watch out for."
• List: At The SF Site: Nexus Graphica, Mark London Williams and Rick Klaw each count down their Ten Best Comics of 2010 in tandem, in two parts covering #10-6 and #5-1 (with additional commentary from Mark at Guys Lit Wire):
• List: At Comikaze, Mauricio Matamores names Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 one of Los Mejores Cómics de 2010: "Published by Fantagraphics, this title presented top-notch storytelling by the Hernándezes and perfection with Xaime, specifically." (Translated from Spanish.)
• List: Also at Comikaze, Santiago Fernández names Yo maté a Adolf Hitler (I Killed Adolf Hitler) one of Los Mejores Cómics de 2010: "This [Norwegian] author seems to tell his story of time travel, Nazis and romance as though he were a 10 year old child, proof that this is a fun story even though it really is rather complex, complete with a message that provides sweetness. Great gift for the girlfriend." (Translated from Spanish.)
• Interview (Audio): Mark Herz of Connecticut NPR affilliate WSHU visits with Bill Griffith in his studio to talk all things Zippy
• Interview: Jason Toon of Woot! talks to Zack Carlson & Bryan Connolly about Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film: "We can't stop even now. It's become a depressing compulsion. We can't enjoy a movie the way you would. Actually, it went beyond watching movies. We got so immersed in what we were doing, when we'd take a break to go get a pizza and see a kid riding by on a skateboard with blue hair, we'd try to pause reality."
Ships in: January 2011 (subject to change) — this item will be available for order simultaneous with its release to comic shops. Stay tuned for updates.
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.
• List: On WFMU's Beware of the Blog, WFMU DJ Nat Roe's multi-media Top 15 includes Jim Woodring's Weathercraft at #5: "Stick a straw in my brain and suck until there's nothing left but that gurgling sound of air, the remnants of carbonation gathered like patrons in a bar on a Tuesday night 'last call' at the other end of the straw; that's how Jim Woodring makes me feel."
• List:Drawn contrubutor John Martz picks 3 of our titles among his Favourite Books of 2010:
"Bent is the latest coffee-table art book from Canadian cartoonist-turned-painter Dave Cooper. We get to drill further into Cooper’s psyche in this book, which continues the celebration of his singular, artistic vision — an alien landscape of writhing, female figures and strange vegetation."
"What Charles Addams is to the New Yorker, Gahan Wilson is to Playboy. And here we have three gorgeous hardcover volumes of his work - page after page of full-colour cartoons celebrating the macabre and the twisted. Perfect for the creep or the creepy in your life."
"Jim Woodring’s masterful cartooning is showcased in this latest graphic novel featuring his familiar cast of characters including Frank, Manhog, Pupshaw, and Pushpaw. It’s never easy to discern what Woodring’s comics are about, but there is never any question as to what is happening in each panel. Such is the control and understanding he has of both the medium and his tools. Weathercraft is a silent movie governed by dream logic and the id."
• Review: "I know that it’s still December 2010 – and not even the end of December, the point where we all make our lists of the best of the year – but it’s possible that I’ve already read my favorite book of 2011. Its name? Stigmata. [...] It’s a smart, beautifully written book that refuses to offer easy answers... But, as good as Piersanti’s story is, what made the book a classic for me is definitely Mattotti’s artwork. [...] Mattotti’s line is amazing, so filled with personality and intensity, at once angry and fiercely controlled, and used in the service of some amazing draughtsmanship and visionary visuals. [...] It’s breathtakingly good, no exaggeration." – Grame McMillan, Robot 6
• Review: "Not only does this issue of cartoonist and designer Jordan Crane's series feature a pair of quality comics from his two established areas of strength..., it carries with it all the joys of the format. ...Uptight #4 stings then pleases like a jump for effect off of a swimming pool's high-dive. [...] All in all, this a fine little read, a delectable peek of lasting hand-held value into what one of the really good cartoonists is up to." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Admittedly, these are not special stories in the sense that they represent anything unusual from the norm, but that is certainly at the center of their power. This is something that if we have not faced yet, we know we will, and Farmer’s ability to capture it all is clear-eyed. It’s a remarkable achievement considering the situation, and Farmer has a way of uniting the readership in one collective deep breathing session that lets us know we are not alone in the wider scope of coping with loss. ...Special Exits exists as a graphic novel of considerable depth and meaning." – John Seven, Archive 7
• Review: "Dixon... is a master of the short story, and this handsome volume [What Is All This?] gathers 26 pieces that hadn’t previously been published in book form. An indispensable addition to a formidable body of work, which also includes 14 novels and a pair of National Book Award nominations, it’s classic Dixon. His prose is so taut it would make Hemingway blush, and Dixon’s brutal honesty figures to redden the faces of some readers. He never shies from exploring common neuroses through characters who can be unsympathetic, or worse, contemptible, but his prodigious skill as a storyteller overrides any unease he generates. Wringing meaning from the mundane, Dixon gets beyond mere personality to the interior lives of the people he fleshes out, warts and all." – John Lewis, Baltimore Magazine
• Review: "Delivered in monochrome and a selection of muted paint wash and crayon effects, the compellingly inviting blend of cartoon styles (reminiscent of our own Posy Simmonds but with a gleeful openness all her own) captures heartbreak, horror, humour, angst and tragedy in a beguiling, seductive manner which is simultaneously charming and devastatingly effective, whilst the book and narrative itself is constructed like a photo album depicting the eternal question 'How and Why Do Families Work?' Enticing, disturbing and genuinely moving, [You'll Never Know, Book 2:] Collateral Damage is a powerful and affecting second stage in Tyler’s triptych of discovery and one no student of the human condition will care to miss." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Andrei Molotiu has compiled an incredible anthology of non-narrativity and abstraction in his Abstract Comics: The Anthology 1967-2009. [...] Covering 43 different artists, Abstract Comics opens with a exemplary discussion of abstraction in comics books and its overlap with contemporary art... The book is an incredible resource of potentiality...; I can't recommend it higher." – Derek Beaulieu, Lemon Hound
If you've somehow missed Post-It Shows 1 through 5, basically these shows collect tiny 3X3" masterpieces on a Post-It note from an array of awesome artists. Each piece is one-of-a-kind, and cash-and-carry, so hit the ATM on the way to GR2, and maybe bring some cardboard to sandwich your Post-It, if you're fussy about those kinds of things. (I am.) Oh, and did I mention that each Post-It is only $20 BUCKS??? 'Cause, yeah.
Here's a sneak peek at some of the post-its from our fine artists:
[ clockwise from the top left: Jon Vermilyea, Andrice Arp, Lilli Carre, and Jeremy Tinder ]
Post-It Show 6 at GR2 (2062 Sawtelle Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90025) runs from December 11 - January 12, 2011, with an opening reception featuring many of the artists taking place from 6:30 - 10:00 pm this Saturday, December 11. I mentioned each Post-It was only $20 right? You're welcome.
This post has been in progress for nearly a month now... with so much to catch up on, I'll just be highlighting a few selected items and then giving you links to the regularly-updated stuff. As always, click for better viewing and possible commentary at the sources.