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)
Tiny Showcase has their "10 Beasts!" print set on sale for the holidays (along with most of their many other prints). At half price, it's a steal for ten pieces from ten great artists.* It should be noted that unlike most of the TS prints, these are letterpressed and done so in many colors.
Heck, if you don't mind breaking up the set you can give a print out to ten lucky pals for the holidays or, if you're one of those "prepared" people, you could always have ten gifts on hand for those birthday announcements that pop up on your Facebook page, right?
Artists who made new work for this set include Souther Salazar, S. britt, Jesse LeDoux, Saelee Oh, Josh Cochran, Meg Hunt, Kenneth Lavallee, Keith Shore, Tony Millionaire and Jordan Crane.
*Note: I curated it but I do not have any monetary interest in this collection.
• Review: "Charles Burns offers a glimpse of what might happen if EC Comics existed today with three tales of intrigue and absurdity in this softcover reissue... [of Skin Deep]. A master of the unearthly atmosphere — David Lynch has nothing on him — Burns unleashes tales of a man transplanted with a dog’s heart, a failing marriage with an alarming secret, and, best of all, an evangelist’s son’s encounter with God and his path to millions because of it. At once cautionary, creepy and curious, Burns is consistently one of comics’ deepest thinkers." – John Seven, Worcester Magazine
• Review: "The Troublemakers is the second in a series of graphic novels adapting movies starring or co-starring Rosalba 'Fritz' Martinez from the popular Love and Rockets series. An adaptation of a fictional movie starring a fictional character… I can totally dig that. ... Well, Hernandez has totally captured the look and feel of a B-movie with this one. You’d swear that Roger Corman, Russ Meyer or Samuel Z. Arkoff had a hand in it somewhere… only it’s a whole lot prettier because the guy is a hell of an artist. ... The characters are all very distinct and memorable and the story keeps you intrigued from page one to 120. It actually feels like you’re watching a movie while reading it. ... One can imagine a young Quentin Tarantino taking in a Saturday afternoon viewing of The Troublemakers and being quite inspired." – Chad Derdowski, Mania.com
• Review: "...[A] phallic-galactic odyssey of epic proportions...Prison Pit, the latest [Johnny] Ryan work published by Fantagraphics, is just that, an apologia for sidereal 'poor taste' able to shake the guts of the average reader of comics... Yes, he has hit the target with a homemade bomb and high destructive capacity. Ryan, bastard, you've nailed it." – Alita Comics blog (from mangled Google translation)
• Review: "Jordan Crane is a pretty incredible cartoonist, and this issue of his anthology series [Uptight] demonstrates that wonderfully, with two stories that are different enough that it's impressive that they came from the same creator, but both beautifully drawn and well-told." – Matthew J. Brady
Here comes your Online Commentary & Diversions for today:
• Interview: We Love You So, the blog of Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are movie, talks to newly-minted Ignatz winner Jordan Crane, saying "Presenting melancholy tales of workaday worries and broken relationships right alongside whimsical, child-friendly fare, Uptightprovides a fascinating peek inside Crane’s constantly shifting thoughts, and never fails to entertain." From Jordan: "When I’m writing something I usually have a particular person in mind that I’m writing it for. Not a general thing like 'I’m writing for someone between the ages of 25 and 50' but rather an actual person."
• Plug: "Oh yes, it's finally here — Johnny Ryan's bloody sexual fight comic [Prison Pit Book 1], ...a two-fisted smash-up of international comics influence and the universal joy of tight-wound one-on-one combat, so tight that everything that comes out of a body becomes a weapon, and doesn't that have a way of mixing pleasure and pain? ... I liked this a hell of a lot." – Joe McCulloch, Jog - The Blog
We just turned in our listings for the October issue of Previews, for our releases scheduled for December. The issue won't be out for a few more weeks, but you can get a first look at what's on tap right here! Spoiler alert: it includes King: The Special Edition by Ho Che Anderson, the Newave! anthology of 1980s underground minicomix, the new volume of Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace, a new edition of the out-of-print 12th volume of The Complete Crumb Comics, Uptight #4 by Jordan Crane, and Chocolate Cheeks by Steven Weissman! Another great month full of great comics -- the Fantagraphics juggernaut juggers on!
Some major comics writing out there over the holiday weekend making for an extra-beefy (and late) Online Commentary & Diversions update:
•Review/Profile: "Sure I'd read [Hal] Foster before, but I'd never found a way in. Fortunately, Fantagraphics recently released Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-38, and I was able to absorb the material in a wholly new way.... I found this first book completely engrossing. Prince Valiant opens up a world that I wanted to stay in -- a wide-eyed early 20th century approach to fantasy with a now-vanished sincerity and wholesomeness. It's an all too rare pleasure in comics." - Dan Nadel, Comics Comics
• Review: "Medieval swordplay and adventure have never been as glorious as in Foster's Sunday-only comic strip. Although much reprinted (including an earlier version from the same publisher), this edition has been reproduced from pristine printer's proofs to give the gorgeous artwork its crispest version ever.... Foster's script is literate and full of vivid characterizations, like the headstrong but cunning Val and carefree Sir Gawain. But nothing surpasses his artwork—rich with details of armor, weapons and dress, the story comes to life with a palpable sense of magic and danger. Each drawing is a flawless illustration, perfectly composed; even a battle of 20 men comes alive in a tiny panel, with every action clearly delineated. Prince Valiant is one of the best-drawn comics ever, and this new edition does ample justice to its achievement." - Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "Underneath the screaming and plagues, the giddy joy that [Basil Wolverton] seems to take in his art radiates off the page, just like it does in his secular work.... His creatures from sci-fi and horror, his fascination with grotesque bodily exaggeration, his devout Christian faith -- here it all comes together into an operatic and apocalyptic peak.... The Wolverton Bible might seem like a paradox to its religious audience and its alt-comics fans -- even if Wolverton himself never saw the contradiction." - Martyn Pedler, Bookslut
• Review: "As an historical object, sure, great. I think it should be in print. Kurtzman was a very important figure in comics, and the art and design of the pieces here are of an exceedingly high quality. I'm glad I can see more examples of Jaffee's, Elder's and Davis' work." Otherwise, Chris Allen gives up on Humbug
• Review: Joe McCulloch of Jog - The Blog has a major review of Tardi & Manchette's West Coast Blues -- I've read through it three times and it's too complex for a simple pull quote
• History/preview/profile/analysis: "The 300th issue of The Comics Journal is soon to hit the stands, and the magazine everyone in comics loves to hate rattles on, chugging and sputtering and picking up disreputable beardy guys like a Toonerville Trolley of spite.... In some Inglourious Basterds-like alternate history, the 1990s ended with the twisted faces of Kim Thompson and Gary Groth hovering, laughing maniacally, over the charred and bullet-riddled corpse of Wizard magazine." - Shaenon K. Garrity, comiXology
• Analysis: du9 presents a new translation by Derik Badman of a 2006 piece by David Turgeon on Poison River by Gilbert Hernandez: "What first strikes the reader about this work is its narrative density. It isn’t uncommon for a single page to show as many places, times, and situations as there are panels." (Via Journalista)
• Interview: Jason Thibault of Optimum Wound talks to Tim Lane as part of their "Masters of Ink" series: "You do what seems the impossible and most absurd: you learn to breathe underwater, and revel in it. Get drunk on the water in your lungs. Cultivate a functional level of positive insanity. And develop tough skin. Stick with it if only because your reasons are inexplicable."
• Interview: The Daily Cross Hatch wraps up presenting Brian Heater's chat with Jordan Crane: "I was in Portugal and I saw a really tiny kid with a really giant cat. He looked exactly like the kid in The Clouds Above. The kid was so small that the cat was the same size as him — it’s not a big cat, but next to him, he was huge. And then I just kind of went from there."
• Plug: At Super I.T.C.H., Steven Johnston takes note of Humbug ("much of it is prime satire from the creators of MAD!") and The Wolverton Bible ("particularly including some genuinely horrific scenes from the Book of Revelations").
• List: An old link that just popped up in my search feed: ComicCritique.com's Adam McGovern gives out some best-of-2008 awards, with The Lagoon by Lilli Carré tied for Graphic Novel of the Year ("Carré’s artisanal eccentricity carves intricate patterns and masklike faces into pages that stand like the folk-art furnishings of vanished but vivid earlier societies") and Carré tied with Grant Morrison for the M.C. Escher Prize for Non-Sequential Art ("Morrison and Carré are two creators at the cutting edge of both storytelling craft and conversational physics who make us uncommonly aware of the presence of time.")
• Review: "Love and Rockets: New Stories #2. The Hernandez Brothers have been producing such consistently good comics for such a long time that I often feel they get taken for granted. But their recent comics [don't] just maintain their high level of previous achievement, they also have a freshness and liveliness that any young artist would envy." - Jeet Heer, Robot 6
• Review: "More than anything, [Peter] Bagge's work does what it always does with perfection, which is capture people doing exactly what people really do, and how they often think when they think that nobody else thinks that they are thinking it (sorry). His art is constantly moving, perpetually fluid, and instantly recognizable to a 21st century American culture raised on Tex Avery and Bob Clampett cartoons. Whether you agree with his politics or not, Everybody Is Stupid [Except for Me] is thought-provoking and, most importantly, hilarious." - Monster on a Rope
• Interview: The Daily Cross Hatch posts the second of three parts of Brian Heater's interview with Jordan Crane: "The art—those are the tools I use to transfer the story. Pictures, words—those are the conveyance of the story. The important thing is the story, so once I get my tools there, I convey the story in a way I want to."
• Profile: Amy Stewart visited Ellen Forney in her studio: "There are only certain kinds of comics that interest me: I prefer the true-to-life ones that are well-drawn, have stories I can relate to, and make me laugh, cry, or think. Ellen does all three, in spades."