Our acclaimed art-comics anthology forges into its 6th year with another diverse and wonderful volume full of returning favorites and a few surprises.
On the cover, a detail from Sara Edward-Corbett's haunting, Gorey-esque tale of nocturnally animate objects. Also in this issue: Steven "Ribs" Weissman's freewheeling, sometimes-satirical, sometimes-deeply-weird webcomic "Barack Hussein Obama" (starring the President of the United States and his associates) makes its print debut; Sergio Ponchione provides another full-color prequel story to his acclaimed series Grotesque (translated from its appearance in Italy's Linus magazine); Josh Simmons is back with more "White Rhinoceros" and one of his unparalleled standalone horror stories; Nate Neal takes us back to the world of his graphic novel The Sanctuary; and we welcome Nick Thorburn, cartoonist and frontman of the acclaimed indie bands Unicorns and Islands.
All this plus: a one-pager from Dash Shaw; a blackly comic fable from Jon Adams; a typically trenchant strip from Tom Kaczynski; new chapters of T. Edward Bak's "Wild Man," Derek Van Gieson's "Devil Doll," and Kurt Wolfgang's "Nothing Eve" serials; a dreamlike tale from Lilli Carré; and more autobiographical vignettes by Nicolas Mahler.
Download an EXCLUSIVE 15-page PDF excerpt (2.4 MB) with pages from every contributor.
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions. Today's reviews come directly or indirectly via Hans Rickheit:
• Review: "Simmons’ artwork [in House] masterfully cranks up the tension and tightens the suspense as the ill-fated explorers descend into the building’s subterranean depths; as his characters enter the house, his dark frames thicken, becoming the walls of the house. The comic is wordless, but the characters have no trouble expressing themselves as they go from the heights of youthful elation to sheer terror as the house swallows them whole." – Ao Meng, The Daily Texan
• Review: "As both an anthology and as a survey of the times, [Four Color] Fear is incredibly successful, with nary a dud in the whole bunch. Each fun story offers its own brand of chill, thrills and maniacal laughter. [...] But the real disquieting aspect of these comics were probably not intended as such — chauvinistic behavior is rampant among the men, and women are portrayed as either damsels in distress or cold-hearted femme-fatales. These are artifacts of a simpler age." – Ao Meng, The Daily Texan
• Review: "The Squirrel Machine is not for the faint of heart, and features quite disturbing and grotesque imagery — H. R. Giger has nothing on Rickheit’s psychosexual nightmares. [...] Existing on the crossroad of creativity and madness, The Squirrel Machine is a nightmare in a series of gristly tableaus. The psychedelic rooms full of machinery, sex and death are an inward exploration as much as Jim Woodring’s ('Frank') comics are outwardly allegorical. An exploration of an artist’s mind, it uncovers the obscene, the things that were never meant to be brought to light." – Ao Meng, The Daily Texan
• Review: "Blimey, [The Squirrel Machine] is a weird one. Imagine a steampunk version of the last ten minutes of Eraserhead. [...] Its design and tone is indebted to Little Nemo in Slumberland, although far more disturbing. [...] The book is full of strange scenes which accurately convey the claustrophobic atmosphere and slight off-ness of a powerful dream. In no way is it fluffy around the edges. The detail is unflinching, with a refreshing lack of explanation... Is it all a dream? Who can tell?" – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Review: "Another excellent debut graphic novel, another webcomic-printed-as-book, another beautiful Fantagraphics book-as-object, and another rollicking seafaring adventure. [...] What distinguishes [Set to Sea] from a merely average graphic novel is the excellent pacing, the thoughtfulness of the (unnamed) protagonist, and the minimal use of words in a book about writing poetry!" – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Review: "A luxurious collection of Moto Hagio’s influential comics, ...[A Drunken Dream and Other Stories] is a valuable sampler of her long career, a compilation of short stories from 1970 to 2007 which feature her innovative panel layouts and expressive characters, and include many of her favourite themes, such as sibling rivalry, postnatal depression and ghosts. [...] This is yet another beautiful book-as-object-of-desire..." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Review: "An utter nightmare. [...] Over a hundred densely-drawn pages [of Weathercraft], filled with Woodring’s bejewelled creatures and salamandric hallucinations, Manhog achieves a kind of enlightenment. A great if unsettling work." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Review: "The first of Norwegian cartoonist Jason’s books to be published in translation, and one of his neatest and most satisfying stories. [...] If it were a film, Hey, Wait… would melodramatically labour the childhood tragedy it features, but in a Jason book it’s an understated pivot for the two halves of the story." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Coming Attractions: "The Arctic Marauder [by Jacques Tardi] – A steampunk story with mad scientists, sea monsters, and futuristic machines at the North Pole. In a 'faux woodcut style.' Fantagraphics continues to be the most consistently innovative publisher of adventure comics around." – Michael May, Robot 6
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.
Another two-day Online Commentary & Diversions (running a little off schedule, sorry):
• Review: "Hollywood is probably the most likely to misrepresent any culture, but their casting of punks as Neolithic, abusive, drug addicts with candy-colored hair and an inexplicable amount of chains is far too amusing to turn away from. [Destroy All Movies!!!] editors Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly seem to have noticed this trend, and their commentary about each of these films borders on hilarious at several points. [...] In the end, you get both a compendium of thoughtful ruminations on punk culture and a hilarious collection of movie missteps..." – Thorin Klosowski, Denver Westword
• Review: "[Jason] is without immediate peer, and perhaps the closest I can get to him is Jim Jarmusch, the indie film director... Werewolves of Montpellier is less about the grand sweep of its pseudo-horror set-up (which is utterly demolished by a delicious final page denouement), and more about its mundane aspects, which resonate further than the book's forty-odd pages. ★★★★ [out of 5]" – Michael Leader, Den of Geek
• Review: "...Blake Bell has crafted an excellent look at one of comics' most underappreciated creators: compelling, well paced and entertaining. [...] Bell kept Fire & Water moving at an excellent pace, never dwelling too long on any details but giving us Everett's life in relation to his comic career. And that's the key: Bell is a comic fan and knows his audience is as well so that's the focus. [...] While the tale of Everett's life held my attention the art is the real star. Covering everything from early doodles to his last published page we get to see thirty plus years of material. [...] The fit and finish for Fire & Water is exceptional. A heavy matt paper is used that really shows off the material and gives it an almost period feel. The size is perfect for admiring the art and is easy to read; a new perfect package. I can't get enough of the dust jacket image and its design is stunning: a real eye catcher. At $40 it's a great value." – Scott VanderPloeg, Comic Book Daily
• Review: Sean T. Collins's "Love and Rocktober" review series at Attentiondeficitdisorderly moves on to Gilbert Hernandez's oeuvre, starting with Heartbreak Soup: "Whether in terms of family, sexuality, physicality, or deformity, biology is destiny for the people of Palomar... And although biology is obviously among Beto's primary concerns, destiny is the operative word. I don't think the Palomarians have the ability to escape the way the Locas do. Not all of them need to escape, mind you — there's a lot of really warm and adorable and hilarious and awesome stuff going down in Palomar — but whatever walks alongside them in their lives is gonna walk alongside them till the very end."
• List: At Robot 6, guest contributor Van Jensen names Josh Simmons's House as one of his "six favorite horror comics & movies" (and, by reduction, one of his three favorite horror comics): "Simmons uses no words through the entire story, but his real accomplishment is utilizing the design of the pages to deliver an increasingly claustrophobic, disorienting and terrifying story."
• Plug: At Robot 6, Sean T. Collins highlights our duo of creepy all-ages releases, David B.'s The Littlest Pirate King and Stéphane Blanquet's Toys in the Basement
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater concludes his 3-part chat with Drew Weing: "What’s funny is, I’ve got Google Alerts for my name, so if somebody says it on the Internet, I show up like Beetlejuice. I click on it, like, 'ooh, this guy just dissed me.'" [Hi, Drew.]
We have reached the landmark 20th volume of Mome. For those of you who read the box scores, that’s 5 years, 20 volumes, 72 artists, and 2,352 pages of comics.
Much is new in this anniversary volume. Fantagraphics' flagship anthology now boasts a new design courtesy of art director Adam Grano (who also chips in a few pages of art), and we have 4 other artists making their Mome debuts: Steven "Ribs" Weissman's haunting story "This Already Happened" makes its first appearance in print after being serialized at What Things Do; Sergio Ponchione provides a full-color prequel story to his acclaimed series Grotesque (translated from its appearance in Italy's Linus magazine); and we welcome Chicago stalwart Jeremy Tinder and Portland illustrator Aidan Koch to the fold with their new stories.
From our returning champions: another "Blind Date" from Dash Shaw; a forest fable from Sara Edward-Corbett; part 2 of "The White Rhinoceros" from Josh Simmons and The Partridge in the Pear Tree; the continuation of T. Edward Bak's "Wild Man," Derek Van Gieson's "Devil Doll," and cover-boy Ted Stearn's "Fuzz and Pluck in: The Moolah Tree" serials; another atmospheric Conor O'Keefe story; a star-studded story in verse from Nate Neal; and more autobiographical vignettes by Nicolas Mahler. It all adds up to another diverse and rewarding volume of this literary comics juggernaut.
Online Commentary & Diversions returns from a sick day:
• Review: "With elegant simplicity, this comic-book fable [Set to Sea] unfurls the tale of a life cast on an unexpected course and the melancholy wisdom accrued upon the waves. First-time graphic-novelist Weing has produced a beautiful gem here, with minimal dialogue, one jolting battle scene, and each small page owned by a single panel filled with art whose figures have a comfortable roundness dredged up from the cartoon landscapes of our childhood unconscious, even as the intensely crosshatched shadings suggest the darkness that sometimes traces the edges of our lives. [...] Weing’s debut is playful, atmospheric, dark, wistful, and wise." – Jesse Karp, Booklist (Starred Review)
• Review: "...[A]n absolutely stunning [book], collecting some of the best and most trenchantly funny illustrations by a contender for the title of America’s Greatest Living Caricaturist in a lavish, full-colour hardback. [...] Friedman is a master craftsman who can draw and paint with breathtaking power, and his work is intrinsically funny. [...] His caricatures are powerful, resonant and joyful, but without ever really descending to the level of graphic malice preferred by such luminaries as Ralph Steadman or Gerald Scarfe. Too Soon? is a book for art lovers, celebrity stalkers and anyone who enjoys a pretty, good laugh." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "...A Drunken Dream showcases the full range of Hagio’s short stories, while also granting readers insight into the themes of lost innocence, family dysfunction and perseverance in the face of abuse that underscore much of her work. [...] With distinct character designs, detailed backgrounds and emotive character acting, Hagio’s artwork conveys the full emotional range of her stories, with dollops of humor mixed into sagas of sadness, survival and hard-won contentment. [...] A Drunken Dream and Other Stories finds another important voice in Japanese comics history washing up on American shores. One hopes that Hagio, whose work manages to be both stark and beautiful, finds a welcoming and receptive audience." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: Sean T. Collins looks at "La Maggie La Loca" and "Gold Diggers of 1969" from Love and Rockets Vol. II #20 as part of his "Love and Rocktober" series at Attentiondeficitdisorderly: "Maggie may just be an apartment manager anymore, she may now get in way over her head (literally) when she attempts to have a fun island adventure like she used to, but the way Rena sneaks into her room at night just to watch her sleep reveals that the aging heroine could use a dose of the community and camaraderie that's part and parcel of Maggie's dayjob."
• List: Sam Costello of iFanboy names House by Josh Simmons as one of "13 Great Horror Comics for Halloween": "Josh Simmons is some kind of horror savant. There are few really, truly, deeply disturbing comics out there. If you’re willing to take the risk of reading a comic that you’ll literally want to cover your eyes while you read, Simmons’ work is for you. House, his nearly wordless tale of a trio of friends exploring a dilapidated, cavernous mansion, is less explicit, but worth a look. Its suffocating, despairing loneliness is affecting." (Via Robot 6)
• Commentary: "It was like the sky: pleasant, visually appealing, reliable. Peanuts had a Picture of Dorian Gray quality; you kept getting older and more decrepit and more cynical, but it didn't. By the time you started reading it, you were already older than the characters in the strip, so it immediately made you nostalgic for childhood. Not necessarily for your childhood, but for the childhood Lucy and Charlie and Linus were having." – Joe Queenan, The Guardian
• Interview: At Comic Book Resources, Chris Mautner talks to Johnny Ryan about Prison Pit: "I think in a strange way the book(s) are very revealing about myself. I felt as if I was really exposing myself here. I was very anxious about that."
Register and Login to receive full member benefits, including members-only special offers, commenting privileges on Flog! The Fantagraphics Blog, newsletters and special announcements via email, and stuff we haven't even thought of yet. Membership is free and spam-free, so Sign Up Today!