The Online Commentary & Diversions hamster wheel started spinning a little too fast, but I think I've got it back under control now:
• Feature: For Largehearted Boy's "Book Notes" feature, Wilfred Santiago creates a musical playlist for 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente: "Golden age animation has been a big influence on my work and the graphic novel itself is very musical. It would be interesting to see the shape that it would take as a feature film. So here is what the 21 soundtrack would sound like."
(The following links are via the Largehearted Boy link above:)
• Review: "The graphic novel  is a beautifully wrought Clemente collage, following the hitter from the impactful events of childhood through his career as a Pirate and up to his untimely death. While there were several poignant dramatic through lines, the book’s strength lies in its brilliant visuals, which far outweigh its strictly biographical content. In addition to his many other notable qualities, like his humanitarianism and his greatness as a player, Clemente was a beautiful man, with a striking physicality. Drawing on this aesthetic truth, Santiago stuns and heightens it, with an imaginative and dramatic illustrative style, with its palette of Pirates yellow, and orange and black. The oral tradition of myth-making is put into visual form here." – Ted Walker, Pitchers & Poets
• Review: "The comic book biography is alive and well in 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente... In 21, Wilfred Santiago, who was also born in Puerto Rico, uses the language of comic books to tell the story of Clemente’s life as something like the arc of the hero’s journey or as a heroic epic.... 21 captures what made Clemente unique. However, Santiago uses the medium of the comic book in a unique way to tell the story of man who represents the best of us. [Grade] A-" – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "...I love a good graphic novel biography. Well as those of you who are familiar with the great baseball player and humanitarian that Roberto Clemente was already know, it would be hard to tell his story in any media and for that story not to be powerful. ...21 ... is a handsome production... [and] an... EXCELLENT graphic novel." – Ralph Mathieu, Ich Liebe Comics!
• Plug: "21: The Story of Roberto Clementeby Wilfred Santiago, a graphic novel by an illustrator and writer from Puerto Rico, received a nice write up in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated (linked here)... If we could only have found it at the book store. Sports shelves? Graphic novels? You give it a shot." – Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Daily News
• Review: "...Mattotti is an artist who is equally concerned with complex imagery and sharp storytelling — attention to that combination leads us to what makes Mattotti so great. Claudio Piersanti wrote a very crisp script for Stigmata, and Mattotti illuminates the story deftly, probably because he has a real appreciation for well told stories.... If one’s standard for great cartooning is drawing that tells a story without a shred of vagueness, Mattotti’s work on the events described above is thrilling in its virtuosity. But this is a work of art far more potent than a simple story well-told. Mattotti’s two extremes — that of high level storytelling and drawing that suggests unique emotions — exist side by side without any fuss." – Austin English, The Comics Journal
• Review: "While the core timeline of Freeway is only a few hours of frustration spent in traffic, Alex’s mind wanders through past fiction and reality, present fact, and fantasy. Kalesniko, who himself worked at Disney as an animator, designed his main character as an anthropomorphic dog. The result is a wistful, innocent, and somewhat naive protagonist who is coming to the realization that his childhood dreams aren’t quite turning out as he planned.... It is definitely worth the challenge of meandering through the crammed vehicles to reach those poignant moments of Alex’s life, moments many of us share in our own versions of our adult selves." – Ashley Cook, Giant Fire Breathing Robot
• Review: "Less able graphic novelists might scare themselves silly with the scope of this book, but Mark Kalesniko’s attention to detail in all aspects of his craft — the backgrounds, the emotional ranges of the characters and the slow but steady-paced urbane drama — blends the components together masterfully.... [Freeway] is deeply sophisticated and literary. It deals with humanity’s big questions – love, death, life, and what we do with our time. It’s funny, touching, heart-warming, tragic and very engaging." – Andy Shaw, Grovel
• Review: "Gilbert’s sketches actually give an insight into how he feels about his characters, and as a reader, I found myself understanding the characters a bit more, just by looking at his drawings.... The work in the ‘Jaime’ section is quite beautiful and well drawn, however, it does not give further insights into the ways in which Jaime sees his characters, or what he has planned for them... To sum up, Love and Rockets Sketchbook Volume 2 is pretty awesome." – Lisa Polifroni, lisaloves2read
• Interview: At Inkstuds, a 2008 conversation with Johnny Ryan conducted and with illustations by Josh Bayer: "It’s interesting that you bring it up because people always demand that artists deliver some sort of meaning and truth, and when that truth’s hideous they throw up their arms and get upset and have hurt feelings and it’s 'you’re ruining people’s lives.' There’s conflict; you want the art to be true, but don’t want to be shown stuff that makes you feel bad, you can’t make people feel good all the time, it's not true, the object is to make people feel something. There’s no rule that it has to be something good."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch wraps up their serialization of the transcript of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Peter Bagge: "I used to worry about what my peers thought. That’s a big mistake. Never worry about what your peers think, because then you always find out that they would have done it in a heartbeat. [Laughter] If you take anything away from this conversation, it should be 'fuck Dan Clowes.'"
• Feature:The Seattle Times' Marian Liu previews our Charles Peterson: Taking Punk to the Masses exhibit at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery: "'I was wondering why this kid was bothering to take photos,' said Larry Reid, curator of the Fantagraphics show, of Peterson. Now, flipping through the photos, Reid remembers each scene as if it happened yesterday. Drawn to the energy of the music, Reid was a good decade older than many in the scene then. He shepherded the artists by promoting their shows and allowing them to play in his gallery's basement. 'I can recognize the artists by their shoes,' said Reid, looking through the photos."
• Plug: "For a reality check, I turned to a former Rolling Stone colleague and friend who always seemed to have a better line on all things cultural than anyone else around and a way of stating his position in a manner that set him apart, way apart, from other music writers — make that writers, period — of his time, and boy does he put today’s snarky music press to shame. This would be the late Paul Nelson... (Nelson’s life and work are getting their just due in September with the publication of a long-awaited, diligently researched biography by Kevin Avery, Everything Is An Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson. Full disclosure: Yours truly was among those Avery interviewed. But buy the book anyway.)" – David McGee, The Bluegrass Special
• Plug: "I’m in the process of reading an advance of Everything Is An Afterthought, Kevin Avery’s biography and selected works of the music critic Paul Nelson. Reading Nelson’s writing reminds me how of the role that he and other music critics of the time — our own John Swenson included — played in creating the myth of New York City for me." – Alex Rawls, OffBeat
• Plug: "Back in 2003, Lou Reed paid tribute to poet Edgar Allen Poe with his sprawling The Raven, which didn't exactly strike a positive chord with the many critics and fans at the time. Nevertheless, Reed will now be revisiting that album with a new illustrated book. The book, also titled The Raven, was made in collaboration with Italian illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti.... We originally called The Raven 'bizarre and thoroughly uneven.' We'll have to see if this new illustrated spin helps to make the entire album a bit more rewarding." – Alex Hudson, exclaim.ca
Catching up on our Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "...Fantagraphics Books’ new Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: “Race to Death Valley” contains all you need to know to revel in the very different, deeply pleasurable work of [Floyd] Gottfredson. Working with one of the most famous — and most anodyne — cartoon characters in the world, Gottfredson turned the grinning, goody-goody Mouse into a plucky, even reckless adventurer, his smile transformed from a people-pleasing smirk into a challenge to the world.... Gottfredson drew Mickey with a nosy snout and the bright eyes of an adrenalin junkie. The mouse’s diminutive size inspired Gottfredson to have the character attempt daredevil races, leaping stunts, and develop a flurry-fisted fighting style.... This beautiful volume gives the Great Rodent his humanity." – Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly
• Review: "Fantagraphics does a very smart thing with [Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Vol. 1], packing it full of historical materials to set the story for the comic strip. Having David Gerstein edit it is, of course, the smartest thing they could have done.... Simply put, it's the most extensive collection of 'extras' I've ever seen in one of these comic strip reprint series to date.... Reproductions are as great as you could ever hope for from material that's 80 years old and originally printed in the inkiest of newspapers you could imagine.... It's a kick to see this more interesting version of Mickey running around, saying and doing politically incorrect things. It's amazing to see how much detail an artist could pack into a small series of panels like this. But, most of all, it's a whole lot of fun." – Augie De Blieck Jr., Comic Book Resources
• Review: "This is, first of all, superb material.... Way back when, [Mickey Mouse] had a continuity and some darn good stories, illustrated with dynamic and expressive art. It was everything you could have wanted a newspaper strip to be, including being quite funny at times...and even suspenseful. The book itself is perfect and by that I mean I can't think of a single way it could have been improved. The reproduction is sharp. The editorial material fills you in nicely about the history of the strip, plus there are articles that discuss its merits and significance. The volume itself is handsome and will look good on your shelf." – Mark Evanier
• Plugs: Some great press mentions for our Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Free Comic Book Day comic, including the AP's Matt Moore and Whitney Matheson of USA Today Pop Candy, who says "This is sort of what FCBD is about, isn't it? Fantagraphics presents Floyd Gottfredson's amazing old Mickey strips from 1935 that are still entertaining today. Perfect for all ages..." The Wright Opinion's Brendan Wright says "The line work is beautiful and fluid, with plenty of panels that are funny to look at without reading the words. Thorough as always with this type of project, Fantagraphics has provided both an intro by David Gerstein an an appreciation of Gottfredson by classic Disney animator and official Disney Legend Floyd Norman."
• Review: "For Isle of 100,000 Graves, the cartoonist Jason works with a writer, Fabien Vehlmann, for what is at least the first time in his strong North American publishing run. It's a fun collaboration over which to muse because it's hard to tell exactly what Vehlmann brings to the table. The writer has grasped onto Jason's use of deadpan humor and wistful character moments to an uncanny degree.... Because of this deliberate care in both building their personalities and working from them in terms of how they react to certain story moments, both leads come across as incredibly endearing. A story-ending plot twist almost gets lost in a by-that-point hilarious one-liner about the methods used in bringing it about." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Underground-influenced comics fall into certain patterns — idiosyncratic art, rambling tales of daily life, copious use of mood-altering substances — but [Leslie] Stein makes hers [Eye of the Majestic Creature] fresh with the addition of a talking guitar.... Stein’s style is very readable, with sparse linework and a lead character that resembles a more tripped-out Little Orphan Annie, with huge blank buttons for eyes. Stein’s settings and other characters show more detail, especially in the complex stippling, demonstrating her outward focus.... Her world is full, even if it’s one that’s a bit off-kilter..." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Peter Bagge continues the saga of Lisa and Buddy Bradley and their son Harold in Hate Annual #9.... Peter Bagge has always made you care for these characters no matter what crazy problems they had. He has this rare gift of getting his readers to empathize with the drawings on the page and realizing them as real people.... Bagge shows us a very human side to the characters he creates and mirrors life in a sometimes painful way.... As we live our lives, we can look at these pages and see a little bit of ourselves in the drawn panels. This is what makes this series, and all previous ones, stand the test of time and remain a great read. Rating: 8.5" – The Comic Book Critic
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch continues serializing the transcript of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Peter Bagge: "I started drawing Buddy in 1980, when he was a member of The Bradleys. He was always 10 years younger than me. He started out as an adolescent — not always exactly 10 years. That’s on purpose, because that 10 years gives me space. When you’re going through a crisis or a rough time, it’s not funny, but 10 years later, you can look at the whole situation more objectively and find the humor in it."
• Review: "[Joe Daly's] latest, award-winning, on-going project Dungeon Quest is a delightful combination of nerdy discipline and pharmaceutical excess... Happily marrying the sensibilities of post-grunge, teenaged waste-lads... with the meticulous and finicky obsessions of role-playing gamers and the raw thrill of primal myths, this captivating and wittily indulgent yarn is enchantingly rendered in solid, blocky friendly black and white and garnished with lashings of smart-ass attitude. Strength: vulgar. Intelligence: witty. Dexterity: compelling. Mana: absolutely. Status: unmissable." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch begins serializing another of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversations, this time with Gahan Wilson: "The people who do horror stories and grim stuff are remarkably sweet people.... It was very odd. Why are horror writers like this? And it suddenly occurred to me — of course, what horror writers are writing about is the vulnerability of themselves and their readers and everybody and how fragile everything is.... They’re experts at being scared. If they weren’t experts at being scared, they wouldn’t write about being scared and scare other people."
• Interview: If you read Japanese, enjoy excerpts from a conversation between Moto Hagio and her colleague Ryoko Yamagishi from Otome Continue Vol. 6 presented at Poco Poco
• Feature:Eye of the Majestic Creature creator Leslie Stein is the guest contributor in the latest installment of "What Are You Reading?" at Robot 6. Among her picks: Yeah! by Peter Bagge & Gilbert Hernandez: "Gilbert’s illustrations are excellent and Bagge’s writing is funny, as per usual."
We are pleased to share the news that Joyce Farmer's graphic memoir Special Exits has been nominated for the 2010 NCS Division Award for Graphic Novels! The winner will be announced at the 65th Annual NCS Reuben Awards banquet on May 28, 2011 in Boston, MA. Congratulations Joyce!
(We're also rooting for Stan Sakai, nominated in the Comic Books division for his ongoing (formerly-Fantagraphics) Usagi Yojimbo series!)
• Review: "Does this make Special Exits seem like a downer? Good. It is a downer. It's also funny and touching, and gratifyingly cleareyed about the messy emotions involved in caring for aging parents. [...] It's no spoiler to reveal that Special Exits doesn't have a happy ending. After all, no one gets a happy ending. But thanks to the hard work and loving care of Laura — and some heaven-sent hospice workers — her parents die more gracefully than many. And thanks to the thoughtful writing and art of Joyce Farmer, their lives and deaths will be a comfort to readers beginning to consider the end of their parents' lives — or their own." – Dan Kois, The Washington Post
• Review: "...Joyce Farmer’s Special Exits depicts old age as a wild, lurching ride from medical crises to euphoric nostalgia to an eerie calm as the end draws near. [...] Aging and dying are rare topics in literature and cinema, let alone in comics, which makes Special Exits an automatic standout. But it would be an excellent book even if the shelves were full of fictionalized memoirs about elder care." – The A.V. Club
• Review: "...[W]ith Special Exits, Farmer delivers a wonderful memoir about her aging parents and their aging process. [...] This is no quick read, nor is it an easy one. It’s intentionally difficult at times, because it’s unflinching. This story will resonate and it will haunt you. But it will also impress you. Farmer doesn’t pull punches, but she doesn’t go for self-pity either. Special Exits is a loving tribute to life’s final moments, and the love that is left behind after we leave." – John Hogan, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Review: "Buz Sawyer: The War in the Pacific covers the first couple of years of the strip... [and] damned if these early Buz Sawyers aren’t still a blast to read, with lots of gorgeous drawings of aircraft and a devil-may-care hero who somehow finds women to snuggle up to and joy to be had even in the Pacific Theater of WWII." – The A.V. Club
• Review: "[21: The Story of Roberto Clemente] is a reverent, yet sometimes playful look at the man and what he had to go through to get where he did. [...] The scenes with the various family members remind me a bit of what Gilbert Hernandez gets up to in Love and Rockets, that same sort of close-knit relationship thing. [...] Santiago’s art is cartoonish, yet expressionistic and appealingly loose. [...] He does a great job, and even the best of the best often have trouble with this, of drawing baseball players that actually look like baseball players — at bat, in the field, running, catching the ball. [...] He really captures the action of the game very well, and it’s kinda hard to describe — it’s really some daredevil storytelling at times." – Johnny Bacardi, Popdose
• Review: "After reading the first volume of Fantagraphics excellent reprinting of Hal Foster’s creation [Prince Valiant], I’m surprised at the life within this antique. It’s no surprise that the art is beautiful. Foster’s figures have a fine, illustrated detail — rarely seen on the comics page — but they’re full of energy as they joust, dive and play at swords." – James Seidler, Ape Mind Transcripts
• Profile: "[Special Exits] was fueled by Farmer's personal outrage at the unacceptable treatment of her elderly parents at the hands of medical and nursing home establishments. And she'll pooh-pooh the idea that making the book was psychological therapy of any sort. 'It was in no way cathartic. It was really, really depressing,' she told me any number of times. This is classic Joyce Farmer, drawing, writing, and satirizing taboo and socially risky subjects." – Kathleen Vanesian, Phoenix New Times
• Interview: Leah Berkenwald of Jewesses with Attitude (the blog of the Jewish Women's Archive) talks to Miss Lasko-Gross about her participation in the Graphic Details exhibit: "Q: How does your Jewish identity influence your work? L-G: I don't know that it does, but in the auto-bio game having a genetic predisposition to being a neurotic mess doesn't hurt." (Via Heeb)