The first Online Commentary & Diversions post of the year might very well end up being the longest:
• List: Humorist and television personality John Hodgman, asked to name his 5 favorite comics in an open Q&A session on his Tumblr blog, says "Love and Rockets: I don’t like to choose between brothers, but Jaime Hernandez is one of the greatest drawers of human faces and human want on the planet."
• List:Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge: Only a Poor Old Man by Carl Barks is #39 on The A.V. Club 's list of "most anticipated entertainments of 2012": "Only a Poor Old Man will bring Scrooge McDuck, possibly Barks’ greatest creation, into the spotlight. The bespectacled miser will dive around in his money bin and burrow through it like a gopher, and his timeless adventures will get the treatment they deserve."
• List: Tucker Stone, whose Best of 2011 previously appeared at comiXology, presents a slightly modified list for Flavorwire's "10 of the Year's Most Buzzed-About Comic Releases":
"Last year’s Love and Rockets was a huge deal, but this year’s installment is arguably even better.... Comics has yet to provide Love and Rockets with anything approximating 'competition,' but it doesn’t appear that the Hernandez brothers have any reason to be concerned about that quite yet. They’re still way better at this than everybody else on the planet."
"The big thing this year was watching all the great young cartoonists of the early 2000s carving out their places in the pantheon. Huizenga’s a perfect example — he’s been regularly turning out excellent comics for years now, and yet Ganges #4 still reads like a revelation.... It’s a fascinating experience reading these comics, and they’re gorgeous to boot."
"The continuing adventures of Johnny Ryan’s most violent fantasies run amuck, [Prison Pit] is rapidly becoming the comic that I look forward to the way a fat kid looks forward to syrup-encrusted cake. There’s no getting around the hoary old cliche — 'these aren’t for everybody' — so God help you if you can’t figure out a way to enjoy these books."
• List: The prolific Sean T. Collins, after having contributed to CBR's Top 100, runs down his personal 20 Best Comics of 2011 on his Attentiondeficitdisorderly blog AND at Robot 6, withGanges #4 by Kevin Huizenga at #15...
"Huizenga wrings a second great book out of his everyman character’s insomnia. It’s quite simple how, really: He makes comics about things you’d never thought comics could be about, by doing things you never thought comics could do to show you them. Best of all, there’s still the sense that his best work is ahead of him, waiting like dawn in the distance."
"...[T]he payoff... feels like a weight has been lifted from Woodring’s strange world, while the route he takes to get there is illustrated so beautifully it’s almost superhuman. It’s the happy ending he’s spent most of his career earning."
"Religious fundamentalism... has worn a thousand faces in a millennia-long carnevale procession of war and weirdness, and David B. paints portraits of three of its masks with bloody brilliance. Focusing on long-forgotten heresies and treating the most outlandish legends about them as fact, B.’s high-contrast linework sets them all alight with their own incandescent madness."
"I picture Gilbert Hernandez approaching his drawing board these days like Lawrence of Arabia approaching a Turkish convoy: 'NO PRISONERS! NO PRISONERS!' In a year suffused with comics funneling pitch-black darkness through a combination of sex and horror, none were blacker, sexier, or more horrific than this gender-bending exploitation flick from Beto's 'Fritz-verse.'"
"...[L]et's add to the chorus praising Jaime's 'The Love Bunglers' as one of the greatest comics of all time, the point to which one of the greatest comics series of all time has been hurtling toward for thirty years.... You can count the number of cartoonists able to wed style to substance, form to function, this seamlessly on one hand with fingers to spare. A masterpiece."
"The hype and acclaim surrounding Xaime Hernandez’s conclusion to his 'Love Bunglers' saga has been overwhelming, and every ounce of it is deserved. This is simply a phenomenal achievement in comics. A moving, thoughtful story of missed opportunities, loss and eventual reconciliation that provides in many ways a fitting conclusion to all of Xaime’s 'Locas' stories. I’d be hard pressed to think of a better comic that came out this year."
"More than the new Carl Barks collection, more than the return of Pogo, the resurrected, re-appreciated comic strip I found myself falling in love the most with this year was Gottfredson’s plunky, adventure-loving mouse, a scrappier version of Disney’s iconic creation. More to the point, I was completely taken with the stunning packaging and background information Fantagraphics and the books editor put together for this series. It’s new benchmark for reprint projects."
"Three volumes into this grand guginol series and it continues to surprise and delight, this time introducing a new character and suggesting via an end sequence that Ryan has been reading a lot of Fort Thunder comics."
"Incredibly inventive, Schrauwen, like Yokoyama, seems intent on pushing the comics medium into new and interesting directions. But where Yokoyama is concerned mainly with motion and exploration, Schrauwen is concerned mainly with perception and the interior world of the mind. This is great, mind-blowing work."
• List: Also on Robot 6's roundup of best-of lists from its writers, Tim O'Shea ranks Pogo Vol. 1 at #9: "Damn if this was not worth the wait... Volume 1 of the complete syndicated daily strips of Pogo would be enough to put this book on my list. But the fact that Fantagraphics has a foreword by Jimmy Breslin; an introduction by Steve Thompson; a piece on the Pogo Sunday Funnies by Mark Evanier; and Swamp Talk (R.H. Harvey annotations on the strips) is just icing on the cake."
• List: David McKean's Celluloid gets a "See Also" shout-out on Cyriaque Lamar's list of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Comics of 2011 at io9: "A decidedly adult erotica graphic novel with no dialogue, this is the famed Sandman cover artist going at page after page of a sexy hallucination, whipped up by a magic porno movie projector. Dreamscapes with boners."
"After 'Browntown' in last year’s installment of New Stories, there was a worry that Jaime might have peaked — how on earth was he going to top that story? The achingly beautiful conclusion to 'The Love Bunglers' in this volume was the answer. Pulling together strands from Maggie’s entire 30-year history in two pages was nothing short of stunning, with his art as cooly confident as ever, making it a real emotional sucker punch. Gilbert’s work developing Fritz’s movie back-catalogue is a real mind-bender, too, weaving inter- and meta-textual strands together that lets his characters say so much, while saying so little. It is terrifying how talented these guys are."
"Forget Pogo and Carl Barks — we already knew they were classics — the real reprint revelation of 2011 was good ole' Mickey Mouse.... To read these strips is to rediscover a love for Mickey and marvel at Gottfredson's amazing grasp of storytelling and humour, as well as his flawless artwork. Naturally, with Fantagraphics overseeing the reprints, the design, packaging and presentation is gorgeous — a real worthy successor to their Peanuts series."
• Plug: "I’m a little mortified to admit that Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes is my first exposure to Carl Barks (after decades of being interested in finally seeing why he’s so revered as a comic creator), but it definitely won’t be my last. Fantagraphics’ first volume of Barks material is a great place to start; a mixture of epic quests, short stories, and gag strips that are all impressively funny and awesome." – Greg McElhatton, Robot 6
• List: On his Domino Books blog, Austin English explains why Joyce Farmer's Special Exits is his favorite comic of 2011: "Farmer's cartooning allows for her characters to act out their illness and struggles in front of the reader. Farmer's drawing of her aging father is something to behold — it's not Farmer saying 'here is what my sick father went through.' Instead we see a drawing age and wither in front of us, and speak to us with both intelligence and dementia. I’ve never seen anything in comics done with such skill — let alone see a graphic novel (often the territory of poorly conceived topical heart wrenchers) speak about tragedy with so much depth and clarity."
• List: Comics writer Vito Delsante declares Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 the Best Single Issue of 2011 on his Best of 2011 blog post: "The Hernandez Brothers, since New Stories 3, have really created the most important mythology in comics since Stan and Jack (and Steve).... Jaime Hernandez should win every single award in comics in 2012."
• List: We rank 4 entries on Renee Lott's Top 10 Comics of 2011 at her Blogwithfeet
• Review: "I've been digging the new Fantagraphics release Jason Conquers America which commemorates ten years of the venerable publisher's relationship with the Norewegian artist.... My favorite story in the collection revolves around a crow who naps in a bed in a field and wakes up obliviously in an entirely new life. (Telling any more would spoil the revelation.) In 23 short wordless panels, Jason creates a powerful and compelling commentary that proves how powerfully expressive comics can be." – Stray Riffs
• Review: "A new comic from the top humorist in comics is always welcome. This issue [of Tales Designed to Thrizzle] is the usual combination of dada and surprisingly tightly-wrapped narrative gags surrounding the sort of cultural detritus mined by Drew Friedman & Mark Newgarden.... 'Quincy, M.E.'... is one of Kupperman's best strips because he keeps adding new layers of plot to an already-ridiculous story.... I still miss the sheer density of detail in Kupperman's older work that made reading it almost exhausting, but the avalanche of ideas remains intact, as does his ability to elicit laughs." – Rob Clough, High-Low
• Review: "...Prison Pit... [is] a marriage of pro wrestling, manga, bromance and filth.... Johnny Ryan has an almost Kirbyesque level of character design, but with obviously more genitalia, and it can at times be a joy just to see what is going to come on the next page.... Johnny Ryan is a cartoonist at the top of his game right now and he may just be the closest thing the comic world has to marmite." – Taylor Pithers, The Weekly Crisis
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks with Todd DePastino, biographer of Bill Mauldin and editor of our Willie & Joe books. Spurgeon says Willie & Joe: Back Home is "one of my three favorite comics-related books from 2011, and, I think, one of the year's best." From DePastino: "When I look at these cartoons, I think of literary critic Dominic LaCapra's claim that some books are good to think about and a very few are good to think with. Mauldin's postwar cartoons are good to think with. They not only provide a window to the times, like, say, good photographs or reporting might, but they also raise fundamental questions and issues that are with us still."
• Review: "These comics are beautiful. Each single-panel comic is blown up to a full page, so that Mauldin’s artistry can truly (and easily) be admired without squinting. The sentiments expressed are astonishing and bravely progressive for the time.... I’d never thought or heard about the poor reception combat vets received after WWII. (I mistakenly thought that only happened to our soldiers after the Vietnam War.) I wish I knew what they experienced. I’ll settle for giving [Willie & Joe: Back Home] to the next WWII vet I meet and hope that it sparks a conversation." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• List:Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 is ComicsAlliance's Best Comic of 2011, with Jason Michelitch saying "The final 15 pages of 'The Love Bunglers' isn't just the end of a great new issue of a Bros. Hernanadez comic book. It isn't just the sixth part of a fantastic serialized graphic novel that's run since last year. It is the culmination of nearly thirty years worth of nuance, gesture, shading, pacing and dialogue — of angst, mania, fear, friendship, anger, and love. It is the finale to an epic of human scale feeling and drama. It is heart-stopping."
• List: Matthew Price of The Oklahoman names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 the Best Graphic Novel of 2011: "The Brothers Hernandez are some of the best cartoonists in comics' history, and Jamie Hernandez has one of the high points of his career in Vol. 4 of 'New Stories.'... Gilbert's visceral tale satirizes a societal obsession with vampires by showing their messy, unforgiving side."
• List:The A.V. Club's Noel Murray names The Best Comics of 2011: Graphic Novels & Art Comics in several subcategories. In Original Graphic Novels Mark Kalesniko's Freeway comes in at #4...
"Kalesniko’s animation-influenced style makes Freeway a fluid read, as he emphasizes motion, in striking compositions that guide the eye across the page smoothly. The plot moves just as freely, as Kalesniko renders both the exterior and interior spaces of his protagonist with a mix of loving care and impassioned disgust."
"Farmer jumps between matter-of-fact details and amusing anecdotes about the grind of end-of-life care, while turning the book into a celebration of two people: her father, a cheerful man so determined not to complain that he let serious health problems slide for months; and her stepmother, a steadfast woman whose pragmatism warred with her vanity. The book depicts old age as a wild, lurching ride: from medical crises to euphoric nostalgia to an eerie calm as the end draws near."
"Anyone who’s alive in the world should be moved by this story’s depiction of life as a series of accidents, miscommunications, and embarrassments, which sometimes work out okay regardless. 'The Love Bunglers' is rich with hidden meanings, complicated ideas and superior artistry."
...and Kevin Huizenga's Ganges #4 in the #2 spot...
"The fourth issue of Kevin Huizenga’s Gangescontinues the artist’s increasingly masterful hybrid of direct storytelling and experimental abstraction... The story suits Huizenga’s style, because he can both document the familiar minutiae of daily life and the sense of unreality that takes hold whenever someone is up half the night. Huizenga works in visual motifs of endlessly branching possibilities and spiraling shapes, showing how becoming 'lost in thought' can be terrifying."
"...Lost in the Andes encourages both fannish and intellectual approaches to the material. There are scholarly analyses and bibliographies, but also more than 200 pages of some of the best-written comics ever published, full of square eggs, rubber bricks, golden Christmas trees, and races around the world."
"The early Pogos aren’t as topical as what would come later, when Kelly would become a hero to the counterculture for taking on McCarthyism and promoting ecology. Mostly, these strips establish the world of the Okefenokee Swamp and the animals who dwell there, with Pogo the possum standing as the calm center of a cast that includes the dim Albert Alligator, the not-as-bright-as-he-thinks Howland Owl and the misanthropic, hilariously humorless Porkypine."
"The cartoons in Willie & Joe: Back Home capture Mauldin at a low ebb personally, but ferociously inspired professionally. Over the objections of his editors, Mauldin drew cartoons about estranged wives, limited employment opportunities, heartless fatcats, and an America more petty, materialistic, and xenophobic than the one they’d left behind... Today they’re a blistering reminder that life after WWII wasn’t all suburban bliss and baby boom."
"The highlight of the volumes are the strips themselves which are a lot of fun and show an adventurous side to Mickey that may come as a surprise to those who only know the modern Mickey. It’s also fun watching Gottfredson develop as an artist and storyteller as the strips progress. In addition to the comics there are essays examining the stories, the creators involved (the comics were often inked and scripted by others), and the characters themselves. This series is a long overdue look at one of comics legendary creators and their work."
"...[T]his book is so great and contains all the things you would want from a career retrospective from Jack Davis. Jack Davis is one of America's great illustrators whose career started in the late 1930s and continues to this day. That's fucking insane to think about.... Like I said, this book delivers the goods in a big way. It's 13 inches tall so you can really sink your eyeballs' teeth into the images."
"This issue of Tales Designed to Thrizzle starts out with stories based around the idea that bathtubs are evil or haunted, possibly based on childhood fears of getting sucked down the drain or something. Doesn't matter, it's hilarious even if it's based in absurdity. After that there are comics with funny dialogue about Quincy and St. Peter and Reservior Dogs II that all keep referencing back to the previous comics and have a dreamy feel, but if your dreams were hilarious.... A bunch of stuff is thrown your way in this issue and when it's over you think, 'I liked that. I feel satisfied. Mmm-MM!'"
• Review: "[Wandering Son] has a very well-thought, carefully paced narrative that allows us to explore what goes on inside each character’s head and to watch them develop as people. It’s much more a quiet slice of life affair than it is an over-the-top comedy and/or drama, which might be something you’d expect from a manga featuring cross-dressing... [T]his hardcover book... represents a sophisticated side of literary manga. Translated with rare skill and sensitivity by veteran translator and comics scholar Matt Thorn, much of the story’s original flavour remains intact. Shimura Takako’s gender-bending story has a very quiet, introspective touch to it, and her artwork – with its clean lines, minimal backgrounds and sparse dialogue – beautifully reflects this." – Sean A. Noordin, The Star (Malaysia)
• Review: "Fantagraphics here in the states once again has begun to unearth [Tardi's] body of work into the North American light, the first volume of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec being another fine edition produced in the best quality possible.... Does it sound a little crazy, imaginative, and probably addicting to read? Yes, yes it is. Which is why you need to read this series." – Drew McCabe, Comic Attack
• Plug: "You can’t start the new year without the end of times. Sala’s new book [The Hidden] features his recognizable palette and quirky, gothic font in an adult tale... The post-apocalyptic tale starts with a man waking up to find that everything has gone wrong; sorta a Rip Van Screwed. Great for those who enjoy zombie movies and dystopian books like 1984 or The Hunger Games." – Jen Vaughn, CCS Schulz Library Blog
• List:FEARnet's Joseph McCabe names Richard Sala's The Hidden to their Best of 2011: Books and Comics: "Sala's unique brand of creepy quirk combines Edward Gorey, Chester Gould, and Charles Adams with his own unclassifiable magic. The Hidden, from Fantagraphics Books, is his most ambitious work -- an intimate apocalypse."
• List:The SF Site's Rick Klaw ranks 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente at #4 on his top graphic novels of 2011: "In this emotionally moving biography, the Puerto Rican Wilfred Santiago magnificently chronicles the often tragic life of this icon.... Santiago expertly traverses Clemente's tribulations, losses, and success with ease and skill. His portrayal of the baseball games rank among the finest ever attempted in this medium. Under the masterful hands of Santiago, 21 evolves into far more than just a biography of a sports figure. It showcases a life worth emulating."
• Review: "I’ve been eagerly anticipating Wilfred Santiago’s graphic biography 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente since I first heard it was the works... Santiago uses black and white and some yellow-orange fill-ins, but really that’s all he needs. His style is clean, ranging in depiction of Clemente throughout the years to religious leaders to baseball action scenes, which he often depicts in a seemingly photo-realistic style with ballplayers drawn against what appears to be a collaged photo background of a baseball setting but is instead a note perfect drawing. ...Santiago does Clemente proud with 21." – David A. Kirschenbaum, Boog City (PDF download)
• Review: "Looking for someone to turn lemons into lemonade? In his own distinctive way, Alexander Theroux might be your man.... In Estonia: A Ramble Through the Periphery, he mines his disappointment and catalogs his discontents to impressively crotchety effect. ...[L]ike the country's many invaders—Russians and Germans, and, before them, Swedes and Danes—Mr. Theroux largely uses Estonia as a space for his own purposes, transforming this admirable country into a grotesque but clever caricature perfect for use as... a stage for Mr. Theroux's verbal pyrotechnics and some fine jokes... I laughed a lot, but guiltily." – Andrew Stuttaford, The Wall Street Journal
• Review: "After years and years and years, Fantagraphics has finally started their deluxe reprint series of Walt Kelly's comic strip Pogo. The first volume is available right now, and it's absolutely beautiful, a big comic book with real heft and majesty.... Pogo always felt, to me, like a strip you should read like a novel, a continuing sitcom about the personality-heavy critters who live in a swamp. This collection proves that I was right. This isn't a book you read so much as sink into: Kelly's brilliant ear for dialect and voice lulls you along, and then you're lost in his beautiful artwork.... The whole book is... a series of packed — but crystal clear — panels that grow together to establish a world of curious characters whose misunderstandings lead to great adventures. If I had to make one complaint about this Pogo collection, it'd be that it ends too soon.... If you like comics, or if you know any kids who read comic strip collections, this is the Christmas book for you." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Review: "[My] gripes are minor in relation to the beauty and quality of this book presentation, as well as the stories themselves.... The stories, of course, are outstanding. Most of the long adventure tales are classics in their own right.... Plus, Barks comes up with some of the most brilliant schemes and swindles — most perpetrated against Donald for comedic effect. The super-compressed plotting makes everything more frenetic — and more funny! Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes is an excellent start to Fantagraphics’ Carl Barks Library." – K.C. Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
• Review: "It was the best of Momes, it was the worst of Momes. Alright, that’s not quite accurate, and not quite fair, either. But this unwittingly penultimate issue of Fantagraphics’ long-running alternative-comics anthology — page for page the longest-running such enterprise in American history! — is a hit-or-miss affair in the mighty Mome manner. ...[T]he hits... are strong enough to make the book worth checking out.... You gotta take the rough to find the diamonds." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Review: "The ability to make me cry is not generally something I praise in a book.... But in Special Exits Joyce Farmer pulls off something much more difficult — she takes a true story and plays it straight without any overly dramatic embellishment. Her frank honesty lays bare the emotional core of the story.... Farmer’s black and white line drawings are detailed and expressive, but never flashy. Her art is straightforward, as befits the story.... The end product is as honest and unembellished as a personal journal and we’re lucky Farmer’s chosen to share it with us." – Andrew Fuerste-Henry, No Flying No Tights
• Review: "Despite [Taking Punk to the Masses'] coffee table book appearance, McMurray tries to keep the punk rock do-it-yourself ethic by letting the artifacts and punk denizens speak for themselves.... The quotes from the publisher/artists who created them and musicians who were featured weave together nicely to give a sense of moment. And sometimes the creator and object merge, such as the Nirvana show posters hand-drawn by Kurt Cobain." – Ian S. Wilder, Boog City (PDF download)
• Interview: At Heeb, Eli Valley chats with Drew Friedman about old Jewish comedians and Old Jewish Comedians: "A lot of these guys, they get to a point where they’re angry they’re not getting the attention they used to get. I guess that’s true for anybody getting old who used to be in the limelight. I wanted to capture that. 'Pay attention to me, I’m old but I’m still funny and I want you to pay attention to me.' These guys are still in your face, they never slow down, but basically it’s over. There’s no more work. A lot of them would just be happy to receive an award for their work. You just don’t want to be forgotten."
• Review/Interview: Marc Campbell of Dangerous Minds calls Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson "music book of the year," saying "the thing I really appreciate in reading Paul’s writings is you get to a place where even if you disagree with him you want to really explore why. He challenges you, not outrightly, but through the sheer force of his own enthusiasm and the particulars of why he digs what he digs. That’s what great rock writers do - they send you to the music. Of all the books I’ve read this year, Everything Is an Afterthought is the one that has meant the most to me." Campbell also talks to the book's author/editor, Kevin Avery: "You could tell it was important for him to accurately convey how he heard the work he was writing about; how it made him feel. At the same time, there was often the suggestion that whatever he wrote about was in some way part of his own story. Though it was never overt. There was an ongoing mystery to it."
• Review: "It's fascinating to see the great intentions of good people of liberal Oregon run aground on the slick and complicated story on the ground... Duin and Wheeler spend much of [Oil and Water] showing the kind of cultural imperialism or Liberal Guilt that the Oregonians feel when trying to help their brethren from the South, and the resentment that the Southerners feel back at them. ...Shannon Wheeler's calm, quiet and almost abstract images capture the story in a way that allows the story to stray from straight reportage to a quieter meditation on the events that happen.... The story lives in the present and the past, both itself and something more." – Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
• Review: "The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec are extraordinary indeed.... The amazing Jacques Tardi creates a fully realized world in the two stories contained in this book, stories in which strange, almost mythological, creatures live right next to the Eiffel Tower, famous French cemeteries and the Louvre.... Tardi delivers an ending to the second half of this book that is thoroughly shocking. Adele and her friends aren't Doctor Who and his companions, gallivanting across space and time and always emerging unscathed. The adventures that occur in this book are real and terrible in their consequences. They may seem a bit outlandish... but they are real in a way that feels oddly intense for American readers." – Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
• Review: "This isn't your father's Mickey Mouse (it's more likely your great-grandfather's), and it's a shame we don't see him this way as much anymore. Floyd Gottfredson is one of the most talented artist/gag writers in comics history and it is wonderful to see his talent recognized in a medium and a manner so deserving of preservation. This giant-sized book is only mildly unwieldy, but it is the perfect size to replicate and do justice to every single panel of such a singularly perfect work.... Mickey Mouse is one of the most important and revered characters in pop culture, and no other creator has written him so human, so interestingly, so uniquely fun and vibrant as Floyd Gottfredson has. The cover price is too little to ask, as the stories in this book are a treasury of the highs sequential art can hit." – Rafael Gaitan, Comics Bulletin
• Review: "The Hidden is ridiculously good, silly fun... A great big orgy of schlocky gore and cartoon deaths, the plot is every old horror film rolled into one glorious genre cliché... and Richard Sala’s absurd humour bleeds through the lot like red ink on a crisp white collar.... As ever, the true joy here is seeing Sala in brilliant colour. Layer upon layer of masterfully applied paint creates every shadow, shade and unlikely bright pajama in the cartoon horror. Undead eyes stare from blue and green sunken sockets, blood splashes across the page in spurts of dark crimson. It is, to hammer it home with a bloody mallet, an absolute demented joy." – Hayley Campbell, The Comics Journal
• Interview (Translated): Gerardo Vilches of The Watcher and the Tower says of Joyce Farmer's Special Exits, which was just published in Spain by Astiberri, "I read this comic a few months ago and I think it is not only one of the comics of the year but the last decade" translates Alex Dueben's December 2010 Comic Book Resources interview with Farmer into Spanish, adding "I also wanted to do my bit to raise awareness of an awesome comic I hope has the impact it deserves."
• Review: "David B.'s newest, The Armed Garden and Other Stories, finds the creator turning his gifts to the world of historical legend. The subject may be different but the artist's mysterious and melancholy style saturates every panel; what's more, the three graphic novellas collected in The Armed Garden provide him with plenty of opportunities to draw the epic battle scenes he so loves.... The Armed Garden and Other Stories is the witty, finely executed work of an artist uniquely capable of capturing both the fervid ecstasy of belief and the dull, heartsick ache left behind once it cools." – Glen Weldon, NPR.org
• Review: "In Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010, Adult Swim contributor and comics creator Michael Kupperman (Snake 'n' Bacon) reworks [Hal] Holbrook's Twain as a Zelig-like immortal cruising through a century of life after his 1910 death.... Some of the tales are hilarious koans of absurdist comedy — Twain as the unknown fourth astronaut on the Apollo 11 mission is fabulous. Although it sometimes has the feel of a Saturday Night Live skit stretched into a feature film — perfect in small doses but unsustainable over a longer haul — the premise is too good to abandon." –Andy Lewis, The Hollywood Reporter (reviewing the book in tandem with Holbrook's memoir Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain)
• Review: "Kupperman is a comedic genius. Filled with deliberately odd syntax, wizards, snarky dialog, vampires, outer space adventures, car UFO chasing, and nearly every significant event of the past one hundred years Mark Twain’sAutobiography [1910-2010] is easily the funniest thing that I have read in a very, very long time. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever read anything funnier. Nearly every page had me rolling. It wasn’t just a chuckle or even a hearty guffaw, either. It was maniacal hysterical, snorting, crying, temporarily not breathing, and contorting my body into uncomfortable shapes type of laughing. It’s that goddamn funny. So funny, in fact, that I would be entirely satisfied if Kupperman went ahead and decided to write the biographies of everyone else, ever." – Zack Kruse, A Little Nonsense
• Review: "Love And Rockets: New Stories Vol. 4 contains the conclusion to the recent run of 'The Love Bunglers' stories — again with a heartbreaking digression into the past.... This is incandescent work. At this point, Jaime Hernandez draws comics better than maybe anyone's ever drawn comics. The story is beautifully paced, there are at least two stop and stare sequences in there..., the characters are warm and human and funny, one of the subplots addresses with significant insight and potency Jaime's long-time fascination with the power of memory in providing life with meaning and the ending made me choke up both as a moment with resonance across decades of comics but also for the thematic twist it provides on something we've seen in the last few appearances of Jaime's best character... I don't know that it's something you can pick up out of the blue, but my God, what a remarkable comic. I'm so grateful to have read it." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Congress of the Animals might be my least favorite Woodring book, but it’s still overall strong and compelling. I love the fact that Woodring has made a huge, fundamental change to the world of Frank, and that in doing so it still feels like an old familiar friend. I’m not sure just anyone could have pulled this off so late in the game, but with Woodring it feels like a natural extension of everything we’ve seen up until now. There’s no other comics quite like Woodring’s out there, and I’m forever thankful that we get these amazing, disturbing, wonderful creations from him. After all, a 'merely good' comic from Woodring is still better than most other comics out there." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Interview: If you read one interview with Johnny Ryan, make it Jesse Pearson's epic, revealing talk with Johnny at The Comics Journal: "When I was first doing book one of Prison Pit, I felt like even though it was about monster men and fighting and all that shit, it was revealing more about myself than any of my earlier works. I removed a lot of that aggressive humor that was working as my armor."
• Interview:Panel Bound's Matthew Manarino talks to Freeway creator Mark Kalesniko: "I like doing comics, as you saw in Freeway, I like doing some comics with detail, I like to go in and show people a world and paint it and draw it. With Freeway I can take you to downtown Los Angeles and really give you a tour.... With Freeway and even Mail Order Bride I wanted to give you something where it’s not a crude drawing but give you a layout so you really feel like you're there. There is also a joy with that kind of work were you can come back to it over and over again and always find something new." (Mark's advice for submitting work to publishers is great, by the way.)
• Feature: In "Graphic Medicine" at Comics Forum, M.K. Czerwiek (RN) spotlights Joyce Farmer's Special Exits in an article on comics dealing with hospice care issues
Natalia Hernandez, more adorable than three Zooey Deschanels, next to one of her daddy's comics.
Speaking of whom... Partying like it's 1982 (San Diego Comic-Con premiere of Love and Rockets #1, if you'll recall).
It's always sad to see older cartoonists who have become so jaded they can't muster up any enthusiasm when meeting their fans.
Mark Kalesniko, happy to be finally off the FREEWAY (notice clever integration of book title into caption). Also visible, right to left, paying customer, Conrad Groth, Mike Baehr, Eric Buckler, Gilbert Hernandez.
"Well, hello there, do you come here often?" Frank Stack hits on Joyce Farmer by (almost literally) showing her his etchings.
The nominees for the 2011 Ignatz Awards were announced today and we're happy to share that our artists and publications received 5 nominations in 4 categories! We're celebrating in our usual way, by offering them to you our customers for 25% off for a limited time! Winners will be announced on Saturday, September 10 at SPX. And our nominees are...
• Profile: At GALO Magazine, Emily Crawford Misztal talks to Nate Neal and looks at his debut graphic novel The Sanctuary: "While the language and the ways of the characters in the book will be unfamiliar to readers, the motives that drive them are as old and familiar as the sun. Neal sees the ancient setting as a way to get at the core of what it means to be human—in any era. 'It is a chance for me to examine human behavior on a more universal level,' Neal said. 'Sex, power, revenge, the primal stuff, is underneath everything that we do. There’s more covering over what we do now. With the cavemen, I can strip everything away and get right down to it.'"
• Feature: Rob Lammle of mental_floss posts an entertaining list of "10 Peanuts Characters You've Probaby Forgotten" — devotees of our The Complete Peanuts series will be familiar with some of them, and some of them give hints as to what to expect in future volumes!
• Analysis: At Taking Its Time, Jeff Hayes writes on the use of Jacques Tardi's It Was the War of the Trenches in an academic setting, specifically the high school English classroom: "In using a text like It Was the War of the Trenches, democratic education is being practiced. It is not just because of how the book is constructed visually; we must look at it also as an artifact of importance in presenting how another culture views historical events-how those events may or may not have affected the lives of others we do not think of in the rush of war and the aftermaths that follow as we choose what is important in history and what is not."
• List: To the surprise of few, The Hooded Utilitarian's International Best Comics Poll tops out with Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts in the #1 spot. HU editor Noah Berlatsky writes, "If you like charming, Peanuts is charming, and if you like dark, it’s dark, but it isn’t just charming, or just dark, or even just charming and dark. There are countless ways to like Peanuts, which is no doubt why it — deservedly, inevitably — tops this poll."
• Review: "The squeaky-voiced character from the animated shorts was especially bold in his daily newspaper comic strip [Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse]. Its memorable continuities were largely the responsibility of one man: Floyd Gottfredson. ...Gottfredson and his collaborators crafted two-fisted tales that remain entertaining, thrilling and funny up to 80 years on.... This inaugural issue in a planned Gottfredson library is a handsome hardback, prepared with the same care as Fantagraphics's archive of Charles Schulz's Peanuts." – Owen Heittman, The Australian
• Review: "Sibyl-Anne vs. Ratticus is a wonderful time and read!... The writing and art are grade A for this, and I cannot recommend it enough. It does have a feeling much like Peyo’s Smurfs, but I prefer Macherot’s Sibyl-Anne over it. His story telling is a bit more better put together, and action scenes are more exciting (if one has to compare to something, that is). Plus Sibyl-Anne is just cute.... Sibyl-Anne vs. Ratticus has something every comic lover can enjoy." – Drew McCabe, ComicAttack.net
• Review: "Knowing me, if I wait until I’ve finished all 624 pages of [The Comics Journal #301], I’ll never get around to reviewing it, so I figured I’d just do it in parts. After a solid Introduction by Editor-in-Chief Gary Groth, in which he extols Crumb’s virtues as a cartoonist, and explains the reason Genesis deserved TCJ’s lengthiest critical symposium ever (the reason is that Groth thinks the book deserves it), we get a long and surprisingly warm and easygoing chat between Groth and Crumb. Neither has ever come off this…normal." – Christopher Allen, Trouble with Comics
• Review: "The harmony of words and illustration strengthen Kelso’s voice as a narrator of stories that appeal to women of all ages.... This collection of short stories is a fantastic starting point for those of you who still view comics as Marvel/DC, or as ‘kiddie’ entertainment. (Shame!!) While playing with fantasy elements we all loved reading as little kids, Kelso incorporates today’s real life issues — STDs, pregnancy, being broke, infidelity — into her comics. Raw, yet refined, Queen of the Black Black is an enjoyable, meaty read that left me pumped to experiment with my own comics style." – Erina Davidson, Bust
• Review: "The book itself is stunning.... Fantagraphics is well-known for their quality book projects and this may be one of their best yet.... The Mickey Mouse strip itself is a hoot — especially in these early days. Mickey’s a feisty little guy in the strips, more so than in most of his animated appearances. He frequently packs heat (gasp!), knows all kinds of dirty tricks, and isn’t afraid to get into some real fisticuffs.... Even if you don’t care much for Mickey or the whole Disney mouse machine, this book should be on your bookshelf just for the slice of 1930s Depression-era Americana and the amazing joy of Mickey’s flinty 'can-do' attitude.... Watch for this wonderful series to do very well in various comics awards next year. This is important stuff." – K.C. Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
• Review: "There's still an agreeable edge to the series at this point [The Complete Peanuts 1979-1980] — Peppermint Patty's resigned acceptance to a life of D-minuses is really kind of savage — but Charles Schulz was relaxed enough to enjoy a few in-jokes and celebrity shout-outs to the likes of Bill Mauldin and various tennis stars.... Each time that Schulz started one of his longer, weirder stories..., readers will find themselves wondering how in the world he resolved it. He succeeded every single time." – Grant Goggans, The Hipster Dad's Bookshelf (via Spurge)
• Review: "Like crisps, chocolate and bad puns; once you get the taste of Robert Crumb on your palate, it’s almost impossible to shift the craving for more. Here’s another re-released edition [Vol. 13] from the superb and multi-award winning Complete Crumb Comics series that will tickle the bad-taste-buds of discerning comics cognoscenti and is bound to make a whole new generation of fans among the cool kids..." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Scene/Plug:Comic Book Resources' Sonia Harris shares a charming Hernandez Bros. anecdote from Comic-Con and plugs the new Love and Rockets: "I won’t spoil it for you, but I can tell you that it is even better than the 3 that have come before it (and they were fantastic.) Seriously, Love and Rockets is just getting better and better."