Today's (and yesterday's when it was slow) Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "The Dutch artist and designer Joost Swarte has a tremendous reputation among cartoon-art aficionados, given his tiny body of comics work. The answer to the title of his 40-year retrospective, Is That All There Is?, is: 'Pretty much, yeah.'... Plot is beside the point. Swarte is more concerned with formal purity, and with making the deep structures of cartooning visible. He pares his art to mechanical, hard-edged vectors and curves: caricature triple-distilled into symbolic visual shorthand, with every line canted just so. His geometrically precise, nearly architectural drawings are the bridge between the Tintin creator Hergé and contemporary artists like Chris Ware, who wrote this volume’s foreword." – Douglas Wolk, The New York Times
• Review: "Now we're talkin'! The first two volumes in Fantagraphics' Steve Ditko Archives (edited by Blake Bell) were rewarding collections of the offbeat auteur's early work, and among the best archival books of horror comics published in the last several years. But in volume 3, a.k.a. Mysterious Traveler, we see Ditko's lunacy reach its full maturation... The bold dynamism and moody linework that would characterize Ditko's Spider-Man and Dr. Strange work just a few years later, as well as his horror tales for Creepy and Eerie, is in evident throughout.... Volume 3 is essential for classic horror comics fans, and further cements Ditko's reputation as an artist without peer." – Joseph McCabe, FearNet
• Review: "Kevin Avery has compiled an incredibly thorough account of one of folk and rock music’s most important critics of the 20th Century: Paul Nelson. Avery reveals Paul Nelson as not just a music critic, but also a true writer who loved his subject matter possibly more than anything else. After reading, I felt that I knew more about Nelson than simply his life’s accomplishments—I knew him as the man he was: an observer who secluded himself with his books, film and music." – SLUG Magazine
• Review: "Madcap university mystery. Girl detective Judy Drood, with the hapless Kasper Keene, investigates the disappearances of girls on campus. Beautiful young women (some dressed like pirates), monstrous old men (some of them professors), photography, a puppet, and a misguided quest for eternal youth all figure in.... The dark edge in Sala’s other work is fully expressed here [in Mad Night]. The book is incredibly violent (though the dark, woodcut-like art makes it feel absurd). Here’s a body count by how victims meet their end..." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• Plug: "Published three years ago in an indie porn comic, Josh Simmons’ 'Cockbone' remains a high water mark for today’s horror comic.... The Furry Trap will collect that story, along with ten others being described by the publisher as 'hard-edged horror.' You already know if you can handle this stuff, so if you can, it’s time to start counting days. Eli is, most definitely, coming." – Tucker Stone, "Flavorpill's 10 Most Anticipated Comics Releases, April-July 2012"
• Plug: "While it’s a bit of an exaggeration to call Dal Tokyo Panter’s lost masterpiece, it certainly hasn’t been the easiest thing to come by. That’s to be the case for anything that’s serialized over the course of multiple years, multiple publications, and two different continents. Thankfully, the entire book has finally found a home at Fantagraphics, and those of us without access to early-’80s copies of the LA Reader can finally experience 'a future Mars that is terraformed by Texan and Japanese workers' as only Gary Panter — one of the most influential cartoonists alive — can provide. For some of us, this book has been a long time coming." – Tucker Stone, "Flavorpill's 10 Most Anticipated Comics Releases, April-July 2012"
• Interview (Audio): Yesterday's Pat Thomas radio guest spot to discuss and spin Listen, Whitey! on The Hear and Now on Berkeley's listener-powered KPFA can be streamed from their website for another couple of weeks
• Analysis (Video):At his blog, Paul Hornschemeier shares video of two "talks given during my recent graphic novelist's residency at Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Tammy Birk (Professor of English, Otterbein University) discusses themes in Mother, Come Home while Ryan Jordan (Department of Philosophy, The Ohio State University) examines the nature of paradoxes in general, using Zeno's paradoxes in The Three Paradoxes as a launching point."
• Analysis: At where else but The Hooded Utilitarian: "'Lightning Only Strikes Twice Once, Y'Know': Phallic Mothers, Fetishism, and Replacement in the Comics of Los Bros Hernandez," Part I (focusing on Gilbert's work) and Part II (focusing on Jaime), by Eric Berlatsky
• Review/Plug:City Weekly's Scott Renshaw previews Kevin Avery's appearance at The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City on Friday to sign Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson, saying "Avery crafts a biography of a largely self-taught thinker who immersed himself in his passions, whether that meant classic film, the detective fiction of Ross Macdonald or folk music. The author allows his subject to develop primarily through oral history, as his friends and contemporaries recall a quirky iconoclast who disappeared into obscurity and a lonely death in 2006. But the book is most compelling simply by bringing Nelson’s own distinctive writing voice to a new generation, a voice that burned with intelligence, unabashed pimping of the work he loved and a commitment to understanding what artists were trying to accomplish."
• Profile: Scott Iwasaki of The Park Record talks to Kevin Avery in advance of his signing at Dolly's Bookstore in Park City, UT on Saturday: "'Even though it started out as an anthology of Paul's work, as I started learning more about him and his life, I found there was a lot of Paul between the lines of the reviews and I knew the book I needed to do had to also be a biography,' Avery said. 'I thought it would be a great way to present his work and tell his story.'"
• Review: "...I like comics to be really crazy. Luckily there are people out there who share my deranged concept of what comics should be. One is Johnny Ryan, who understands comics at odds with artistic correctness and had already demonstrated his lack of respect towards his fellow artists in particular, and everything in general... The level of violence reaches insane levels of pure abstraction; the figures in Prison Pit cannibalize, maim, tear, break, eat and shit with such enthusiasm and rawness, it's like watching some amoebas evolving through the microscope.... A Stan Lee for the new millennium." – Alfonso Garcia, C (translated from Spanish)
• Interview: There's a seemingly-slightly-out-of-date but still fun Q&A (with acrostic Qs!) with Steven Weissman at Wall Drawing: "Nice colors help a lot. Black and white is tough, you know, I have to think more. Even when I’m drawing for fun I like to use markers, screentones and so forth."
• Review: "Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson by Salt Lake City native Kevin Avery is a fitting testimonial to a man who pioneered rock 'n' roll criticism. Those familiar and unfamiliar with the culture of the '60s will appreciate this finely written tribute.... Overall, Everything Is an Afterthought will break your heart and inspire you to be a better person. It is a wonderful story of a man who deserves his chance in the spotlight." – Shelby Scoffield, Deseret News
• Review: "A little impenetrable in that wordless story kind of way, even when there are words. I like the stories – actually read them – but I’m more interested in studying the way each page sports a new texture or approach. The art is simply fantastic. Some stories retain a color scheme for their entirety and some switch up the limited palette within the story itself. Totally my kind of thing. I like the coloring, the line drawing, the combination of both. The graphic, printmaking quality of it and the 'classical' drawing are also attractive to me. I found myself just flipping through this collection for a long time.... High class stuff. Also, this book gets an award for best endpapers. Check it out." – Frank Santoro, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Lost and Found is the sort of retrospective project that begs summary statements. The introduction reads like a compressed memoir. The book, while extremely dense and a bit overwhelming to read, testifies to Griffith’s heroic output of underground comics, and his commitment to a lifetime of making work that is challenging, inventive, and beautifully drawn. His signature narrative discombobulation and linguistic elasticity unite all these disparate pieces into a cohesive statement of surprise and protest. It is ridiculously quotable. Also, it is very funny. Lost and Found delivers wholesale entertainment value with a socially redeeming dose of satire." – Matthew Thurber & Rebecca Bird, The Comics Journal
• Interview (Audio):Inkstuds host Robin McConnell says of his latest episode, "One of the most prolific cartoonists of the underground generation, Bill Griffith, joined me to chat about his new collection, Lost and Found. It is an interesting conversation that touches on a number of different topics, ranging from his Zippy the Pinhead work, to discussing his contemporaries like Rory Hayes."
• Interview: Paul Gravett chatted with Robert Crumb for Art Review magazine; he presents an unexpurgated version at his blog: "In the last few years, I’ve got so deeply involved investigating scandalous shit that goes on in modern business and culture. It’s very difficult to interpret in comics, I’m trying to figure it out. There’s not a lot of action or humour, it’s serious, grim shit. You could get your ass in trouble doing that, too. I remember when I did this thing in the Seventies, ‘Frosty the Snowman’, where I had him being this revolutionary who throws bombs at the Rockefeller mansion and shortly after that was published, the Internal Revenue Service came after me."
• Interview: Chris Mautner's Q&A with Zak Sally at Robot 6 is a must read: "I’m no Pollyanna, nor am I a hippie; the world is NOT cut and dried with stuff like this, nor do I view it that way — if, for instance, Fantagraphics (who I love dearly) decided to print all their stuff over here, they’d probably have to kill important books by artists who don’t sell as well to ameliorate that extra cost. Or, hell, i don’t know — maybe they’d go under. Do i want either of those things? Heck no. I want Noah van Sciver and Chris Wright’s new books to get out in the world, and to reach their audience. I want Fantagraphics to be around for … forever. BUT: let’s also not fool ourselves that this 'lowest cost' imperative isn’t fucking up our world significantly, all day every day, as an economic paradigm. It’s a real thing, and that can’t be ignored either."
• Profile: At HiLobrow, Norman Hathaway puts the spotlight on Guy Peellaert: "Years later I realized that Peellaert had also been responsible for one of my favorite pieces of power-pop comic art; Jodelle (and later Pravda), which plastered hip, mid-’60s fashion drawing into a dystopian landscape of the future, done in a completely different linear graphic design-based style."
• Profile: Dan Taylor of The Press Democrat chats with Monte Schulz: "'My dad is actually mentioned in a very subtle way in The Big Town,' Schulz said. 'The main character, Harry, is in a barber shop. It says, "Back in St. Paul, he'd gotten his hair cut in the Family Barbershop on North Snelling Avenue by a cigar-smoking German fellow, whose young son drew funny little pictures."'"
• Profile (Video): Enjoy a brief video spotlight on the great Kim Deitch presented by Seth Kushner at Trip City
• Tribute/History: From last week, at The Stranger, rememberances of our former art director, the late Dale Yarger
Just beginning to catch up on Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Profile: With his big new art book out and his museum retrospective on the way, Daniel Clowes gets the New York Times profile treatment from Carol Kino: "Mr. Clowes can create a striking face with a few deftly placed lines or brush strokes, often seizing on some specific characteristic that summons up an indelible personality. Think of Enid Coleslaw, the snarky teenage anti-heroine of Ghost World, and her big, black nerdy-hip glasses; they cover most of her face, but they can’t conceal the tiny shifts in expression that loudly telegraph her mood."
• List:Daniel Clowes may be headed for a museum retrospective, but he is neither dead nor retired — but that doesn't stop Flavorwire's Elona Jones from naming 10 candidates to carry the torch of "his storytelling skills, interest in surrealism, and eye for biting observations," including Jason, who "receives international acclaim for his brilliant storytelling."
• Review: "The John Benson-edited anthology The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s MAD-Inspired Satirical Comics assembles largely forgotten work by the likes of Jack Davis, Will Elder, Ross Andru, and Jack Kirby, parodying everything from Mickey Spillane novels to Rex Morgan, M.D. Some of these pieces can stand up to the best of Mad (or at least match the magazine’s average), but even the stories that are clunky and unfunny are fascinating for the way they rip off Mad shamelessly, including all the asides and mini-gags that Will Elder once labeled Mad’s 'chicken fat.' It’s a testament to how quickly the innovative and subversive can become mainstream." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Next to Pogo, the newspaper comics collection that fans have been most anticipating would be Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy, which over the past few decades has garnered a reputation as the purest distillation of the gag cartoon, a triumph of minimalism... Nancy Is Happy: Dailies 1943-1945 joins Bushmiller’s magnum opus in full swing ... Bushmiller’s genius [was] to make everything in his strip so basic that anyone, anywhere, at any time, could get the joke." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review (Video): Video blogger Robert Crayola looks at Nancy Is Happy: "If you like comics or comic strips especially and you haven't read Nancy or if you have and you just want more, I think you'll enjoy this.... Hopefully we can get many more volumes of this. I hope you support it. It's a great book."
• Review: "One of the signature achievements of ’80s alt-comics, Drew and Josh Alan Freidman’s Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead Is Purely Coincidental: An Anthology of Comic Art, 1979-1985 is now back in print in a spiffy new edition that doesn’t really add anything to the original, but is still a necessary addition to any library that doesn’t already have a copy.... Drew Friedman’s stipple-heavy photo-realism and his brother Josh’s gleefully cruel humor combine to craft an alternate history of American entertainment that’s preposterous and yet feels true. Even now, decades after other cartoonists and comedians have tapped this well, the Friedmans’ pioneering work in the field of 'brattily dicking around with icons' remains unparalleled." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Folly... serve[s] as a good introduction to Rickheit’s beautifully ugly visions, of a world where cute girls and humanoid stuffed animals commit atrocities against oozing flesh. With a drawing style that resembles Jason Lutes and Charles Burns, and a storytelling style similar to Jim Woodring and Al Columbia, Rickheit excels in making nightmares lucid. Some characters recur from story to story in Folly, but really this book is just page after page of beautiful images juxtaposed with wounds and excreta. The single-mindedness of Rickheit’s approach — and the level of detail he applies to it — is impressively horrifying." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "The existence of serious rock criticism became central to the transformation of rock into art in the '60s; [Paul ]Nelson's artful criticism permitted this music to assume a high-culture position with swift ease.... His personal story defies alignment with the brilliance of the writings presented in this gorgeously designed book [Everything Is an Afterthought]. Nick Tosches writes in the foreword that Nelson 'never wrote about anything he didn't know to the full of its depths…' This book clearly supports what Tosches says. Avery has captured the mysterious life Nelson wound up living without compromising the productive and innovative one he led while creating what we think of today as rock criticism." – Martin Jack Rosenblum, The Shepherd Express
• Review: "Everett worked on numerous comics throughout his lengthy career and this book explores his key contributions during the early Golden Age (1938-42)... Bell not only reprints several of the stories featuring the largely forgotten creations Skyrocket Steele, Amazing-Man, Hydro-Man, Sub-Zero Man, and others, but places Everett within the proper context of history through a brief bio of the artist during this period and notes about the individual pieces. Deserving a place in most graphic libraries, the handsome Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1 successfully re-introduces the talented Everett to a new generation of readers." – Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Interview: Our own Eric Buckler talks to Wilfred Santiago at our own The Comics Journal: "Unlike working with someone else’s script, there’s no linear method when I work on my own. That is to say I write while I ‘toon, and I ‘toon while I write. So the most important step is editing–what’s left on the page before going to the printer and into the sweaty hands of readers. I do believe writing has improved my cartooning. I don’t think it’s an accident that some of the best cartoonists are writers. I’m not putting myself in that group but I strive for it."
• Review: "This is a wonderful collection of golden age material from Bill Everett, all never before reprinted.... For fans of golden age material or Bill Everett Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives, Vol. 1 is a must have look at early comics from lesser known publishers... At $40 it’s an investment into rarely seen material." – Scott VanderPloeg, Comic Book Daily
• Review: At Danish comics website Nummer9, Nikolaj Mangurten Rubin looks at Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now, calling it "A many-headed troll monster of a book" and giving it a 4 out of 5 rating
• Review: "Not many music writers warrant a biography. Lester Bangs was one. Maybe Tosches or Kent. But Everything Is an Afterthought, by Kevin Avery, is a singular piece of work, a hybrid bio and anthology. Nelson was the Orson Welles of rock letterdom, a man whose profiles of Springsteen and Zevon were masterpieces of the form. A slow stone-cutter of a writer, a cinephile and a noir buff (and an inveterate deadline-misser), he shot himself in the foot many times, but Avery’s book makes the reader misty-eyed for a time when music journalism was populated by hard-nosed evangelists, not suck-ups or career snarks." – Peter Murphy, "Blog of Revelations," Hot Press
• Review: As part of ComicsAlliance's series focusing on sex in comics, Douglas Wolk looks at Gilbert Hernandez's Birdland: "Birdland has been out of print for a while, which is a pity. It's witty, eccentric, bursting with joy, and utterly, cheerfully smutty.... And the whole thing is drawn in a style that's the erotic equivalent of Jack Kirby's fight scenes: grounded in the way actual bodies interact, but pumped up to an imaginative intensity way beyond anything the naked eye has ever seen. On top of that, Birdland is funny -- not corny-funny or nudge/wink-funny, but absurd and sly, with a terrific sense for what can make the overfamiliar language of pornography fresh again."
• Review: "Athos in America is a tour de force that showcases Jason’s immense talents as both an artist and a storyteller. These haunting stories will stick with you long after you’ve turned the last page. Rating: 10 out of 10" – Edward Kaye, Newsarama
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning gets the inside scoop about the I Killed Adolf Hitler film project from Jason ("I hope it will be good. Or really bad. One of those. The disappointment would be if it's a mediocre film") and screenwriter D.C. Walker ("I viewed 'IKAH' as a jewel like the french short film 'La Jetee.' All the key themes were in place, it was just a matter of expanding on them like they did in 12 Monkeys (the film 'IKAH' will most resemble).")
• Plug: "I gotta say I'm not a big fan of the illustration on this [Kolor Klimax] cover, but the design, color, and font choice made me stand up and take notice. I 'klimaxed' a little when I first saw it. Uggh, sorry, that was too much information." – Dave Johnson, Johnson's Cover Hi-lo
• Review: "And indeed, [Carl Barks's] work of c. 1948–54 ranks amongst the most consistently inspired, inventive, touching, and plain fun in the history of comics. Fantagraphics’ inaugural volume in their complete edition of Barks’s Disney comics [Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes] drops the reader in right at the onset of this creative surge, covering the years 1948–49. ...[T]his is a series that finally promises Barks done right, promising a major revival of one of our greatest cartoonists." – Matthias Wivel, The Comics Journal
• Interview:The Believer blog presents part 1 of an interview with Jim Woodring conducted in 2008 by Ross Simonini: "There’s a Robinson Jeffers poem about a guy who has made wounds on the back of his hands and keeps them fresh by cutting them over and over again with a sharp piece of clean metal. That always struck me as being akin to what I do. I wouldn’t let those childhood wounds heal. The tunnel kept trying to close behind me, and I kept forcing it open so I could remember those primordial things, the way that the world seemed to me as a child. It’s been a vocation for me to keep that view intact."
• Interview (Audio): Matt Smith-Lahrman of New Books Network talks to Kevin Avery about Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson; in Smith-Lahrman's written introduction he says "In Avery’s biography, Nelson is a man who deeply believed in the idea of the American hero as a maverick: tough, brave, in touch with the essence of what it means to be human, and, importantly, alone. Nelson died in 2006, just as Avery was beginning to write this book. He died alone.... Nelson’s writing is deeply personal, inviting readers into the relationships he had with the people he wrote about. Avery’s biography similarly invites readers into Paul Nelson’s life, lonely as it was."
• Plug: "New from Fantagraphics, a decade spanning comics anthology from icon maker Bill Griffith. Griffith is surely best known as the creator of the polka-dot robe wearing daily strip character, Zippy the Pinhead, but Griffith's productivity reaches far beyond Zippy. Lost and Foundis a collection of comics, handpicked by the artist, many rare and out of print, from 1969-2003 (but with the first third of that time period, the heyday of the underground, occupying the majority of the book). Though most of the comics in Lost and Found aren't about Zippy, there are some unique and important Zippy moments included, like the icon's first appearance..." – 211 Bernard (Librairie Drawn & Quarterly)
• Plugs:Robot 6's Michael May & Graeme McMillan look ahead to a couple of our upcoming releases:
Angelman – I’ve not read much by Austrian cartoonist Nicolas Mahler, but I think I’m won over just by the idea of his new book, which satirizes not just superheroes, but the business behind them. [Graeme]
Interiorae – Lovely, lovely art by Gabriella Giandelli in this collection of his Ignatz series. (It’s also in full-color, unlike the original serialization, which is another win.) [Graeme]
I don’t know why it’s taken this long for Fantagraphics to collect the comics that got their cool Ignatz format a few years ago, but I’ll shut up and be grateful. I greatly enjoyed Giandelli’s creepy tale of an apartment building, its residents, the large rabbit who roams its halls, and the creature the rabbit seems to serve. What’s also exciting though is that this means Richard Sala’s Delphine will get a collection too. [Michael]
• Plug: "Malcolm McNeill was just finishing art school when he began his seven year collaboration with the author, William S. Burroughs. This work, which has never been published, is finally going to see the light of day. Fantagraphics has two books coming out this Spring by McNeill: one with his lost drawings and paintings, and the other a reflection on the relationship between word and image which has made an indelible mark on the artist and master draftsman." – Laura Williams, Lost at E Minor
• List: On the Inkstuds radio programme's "Best of 2011 with the Cartoonists" episode, Aaron Costain, Dustin Harbin and John Martz discuss their favorite comics of 2011 with host Robin McConnell, including:
• Review: "You know who’s great? Lewis Trondheim, the incredibly prolific French cartoonist. Evidence comes in... Approximate Continuum Comics, an English translation of a six-part series Trondheim published in the 1990s concerning his struggles in the comics industry, desire for success and acclaim and just general angst, anxiety and feelings of self-doubt. It sounds all terribly self-involved to the point of tedium, but Trondheim is simply too skilled a storyteller to allow his own ego to override the quality of his work. Approximate is filled with wonderful visual inventions, like an early daydream about dealing with obnoxious passangers on the subway. More to the point, Trondheim’s self-effacing sense of humor is so charming and revealing that the book never becomes too solipsistic or insufferable." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review (Audio):Extra Sequential Podcast hosts Kris Bather and Mladen Luketin examine Young Romance: "Legendary creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby effectively created the romance comics genre which was surprisingly dominant during the 1940s and 50s. We look at Fantagraphics’ entertaining new collection of some of their work."
• Review: "Paul Nelson's life narrative is too good and too tragic.... The painful thing about reading this book [Everything Is an Afterthought], beautifully written and edited by Kevin Avery, is a lot of people are going to identify with Nelson's love for culture and what it means to him/us/them.... A very sad book. But the interviews with his fellow critics and friends (most love him to bits) [are] quite moving and a tribute to those who write to expose how 'their' feelings are attached to the shine or the mirror-like image of pop culture." – Book Soup Blog
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