• Review: "...[T]he cartoons in Willie & Joe: Back Home capture Mauldin at a low ebb personally, and ferociously inspired professionally.... The material in Back Home is bitter but witty, and remarkable for its courage. Given the platform of a major syndicate, Mauldin used his moral authority — as a firsthand observer of atrocity, venality, and want — to try and make his complacent countrymen feel a little shame. Where his wartime cartoons had said, 'I am one of you' to grunts in the trenches, his post-war work said, 'What the hell happened to you?' to the people who stayed home. At the time, the public rejected Mauldin’s lectures. Today they’re a blistering reminder that life after WWII wasn’t all suburban bliss and baby boom." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Told with humor and a great depth of sensitivity, these comics offer a human lens to an epic more often expressed in grandiose terms. Over the past couple of years Fantagraphics has amazed me consistently with its archival releases of seminal cartoonists' work, and Willie and Joe: The WWII Years is yet another fine example." – David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy
• Review: "Toth brought clarity and drama to the page — the equivalent of a top Hollywood director elevating rote material through elegant framing and camera moves.... Nearly every drawing in this book is purposeful and exciting, and they flow together to tell stories so clearly that the words are often superfluous. Setting the Standard is a treasure trove..." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Jacques Tardi is certainly in Toth’s league when it comes to rendering seamy genre fare with real artistry. Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot ... is a wonderfully wicked piece of work, tracking a hitman as he tries to sever all ties with his past and retire with his childhood sweetheart. The story’s a familiar one... but Manchette’s approach is especially violent and gory, with a tough twist ending. And Tardi picks up on the sadness underlying the brutality, sketching a black-and-white world where the choice to go to the dark side is irrevocable, no matter how hard characters work to wrest control of their fates." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Belgian artist Olivier Schrauwen does a fine job of approximating the high weirdness of early-20th-century newspaper comics in The Man Who Grew His Beard, a collection of seven deeply strange short stories.... Schrauwen mixes ink and paint in ways that blur the distinctions between comics and fine art, and he brings back certain themes — instruction and erotica, primarily — that suggest how men try and fail to place parameters on the primal. But The Man Who Grew His Beard isn’t meant to be 'understood' so much as it is to be entered and experienced, in all its wildness." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Kevin Huizenga’s Ganges #4 continues the artist’s increasingly masterful hybrid of direct storytelling and experimental abstraction.... The story suits Huizenga’s style, since he can document both 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. In short: This is another terrific installment of a series that’s fast becoming a classic." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Mr. Twee Deedle, Raggedy Ann’s Sprightly Cousin: The Forgotten Fantasy Masterpieces of Johnny Gruelle... collects the strip that illustrator Gruelle created to fill the void left by Little Nemo when Winsor McKay departed The New York Herald. Though not as imaginative as McKay, Gruelle’s Mr. Twee Deedle was every bit as colorful and lavishly rendered, telling gentle fairy stories that explore a rich fantasy world existing in tandem with our own, like children having elaborate playtimes mere feet away from their parents’ more prosaic lives." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club (NOTE: This review was based on samples of the strip provided to the reviewer; the book itself is incomplete and still in production.)
• Review: "...Drawing Power... brings together an eclectic set of examples of comics being used to sell products. The pages are fun to look at — from Mickey Mouse pitching Post Toasties to Dr. Seuss illustrating ads for Esso Marine Products — but the topic is a little too large for a 120-page book, especially one so loosely organized. Then again, maybe that’s the point: to create a reading experience as chaotic and laced with odd beauty as cartooning itself." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "I have long admired Woodring’s brilliant, hallucinatory, and bizarre Frank comics. But his work has taken a leap forward with last year’s Weathercraft and this year’s Congress of the Animals. The Frank world is one the reader benefits by being immersed in. What might seem a bit incomprehensible in a short strip blossoms into a dark Dionysian dream in these two graphic novels.... If I keep mention them together, it is because I believe they beg to be read together. They show different but complimentary sides of Woodring’s vision. And also because these two books combine to form, I believe, one of the greatest achievements in recent comics. If you are a fan of the strange, the uncanny, the bizarre, the hallucinatory, and the fantastic, I can’t recommend them enough." – Lincoln Michel, The Faster Times
• Review: For Magnet, Marc Bianchi of the band Her Space Holiday (they're good!) pens an appreciation of Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts, adding "A good place to rediscover the Peanuts is through the retrospective that Fantagraphics started releasing in 2004. They are complete and total masterpieces, from the elegant layouts provided by famed comic-book artist Seth to the wonderful guest introductions each volume has... If you are ever in a shop that carries these books, I highly suggest thumbing through one of them. Especially the earliest works (1950-1952 or 1953-1954). You are guaranteed to find something that in one panel can tear your heart apart and, in the next, put it back together again."
• Review: "To say that Wandering Son isn't a manga for everyone is perhaps stating the obvious, but despite the potential to make light of its cross-dressing, coming of age tale it proves itself to be an impressively subtle and considered take on growing up within this opening volume. ...[G]ive it time and you'll find an impressive, character-driven series beneath its simplistic surface that will both charm and fascinate you, leaving you rooting for its characters and wanting to follow them through to (you hope) eventual happiness." – Andy Hanley, UK Anime Network
• Review: "Supermen!: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes, 1936-1941 promises to fill gaps in 'the origins and early development of superheroes and the comic book form.' Editor Greg Sadwoski has assembled an eye-catching collection of stories, magazine covers, and house ads showing unfamiliar faces from the first years of American adventures comics. ...Supermen! is most interesting for what didn’t lead anywhere.... Seeing what didn’t work or become the norm can be as illuminating as seeing what did." – J.L. Bell, Oz and Ends (via Robot 6)
• Plug: "...[D]espite his undeniable gift for crafting elegant and vibrant storytelling that transcends all genres, sadly there has never before been a comprehensive, affordably priced reprinting of Carl Barks' Disney work…until now. Fantagraphics Books recently announced that it will begin reprinting the entire catalog of the master’s Disney material, beginning with the release of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: 'Lost in the Andes' by Carl Barks in October, 2011." – Bill Baker, The Morton Report
• Interview (Audio): The hosts of Comics Alliance's "War Rocket Ajax" podcast talk to Michael Kupperman about his new book Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010, crafting his brand of humor and sundry other topics (such as bleu cheese): "It's about things taking the turn that you don't expect, the ball taking the bounce you don't expect. That for me is an example of trying to make the sentence end up in a place that's different from where it started."
• Tribute: At The Comics Journal, Kim Thompson's obituary of Francisco Solano López: "Argentina’s Francisco Solano López was a titan of South American comics, on a level with the great Alberto Breccia, the temporary honorary Argentinean (during the 1950s) Hugo Pratt, and the hugely influential writer Hector Oesterheld (who collaborated with all three)." (Excerpt courtesy TCJ's Tim Hodler)
Comic-Con keeps rolling out their 2011 programming schedule — today they've posted Saturday's lineup and it features our can't-miss 35th Anniversary panel which will include a couple of announcements that will knock your socks off. Here's what Fanta fans will want to catch:
10:00-11:30 50 Years of Comic Fandom: The Founders— It's hard to believe but it's been fifty years (more or less) since that peculiar institution called Comic Book Fandom was born. Meet some of those who were there at the inception, including Jean Bails, Paul Levitz, Dick and Pat Lupoff, Richard Kyle, Bill Schelly, Roy Thomas, and Maggie Thompson along with moderator Mark Evanier, as they discuss how fandom came to be and just what it was. Room 24ABC
11:30-12:30 Bill Blackbeard: The Man Who Saved Comics— In the 1960s, while writing a history of the American comic strip, Bill Blackbeard learned that most of the nation's libraries were discarding their newspaper archives in favor of microfilm, destroying countless pages of comics in the process. Over the course of the next three decades, Blackbeard and his volunteers at the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art amassed a collection of more than 2.5 million comics, including virtually every comic strip ever syndicated in U.S. newspapers. When he passed away earlier this year, Blackbeard had contributed to more than 200 comic strip collections, including the beloved Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics, and his work had inspired generations of cartoonists, historians and fans. Cartoon Art Museum curator Andrew Farago, publishers Gary Groth and Dean Mullaney, editor and herstorian Trina Robbins, and Jenny Robb, curator/assistant professor from Ohio State University's Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum celebrate Blackbeard's life and legacy. Room 24ABC
12:30-1:30 Fantagraphics 35th Anniversary— Fantagraphics Books was founded in 1976 with the launch of their first publication, The Comics Journal. Since then, they've grown to become one of the world's foremost publishers of literary comix and comic strips. Publishers Gary Groth and Kim Thompson offer a multimedia presentation highlighting their favorite works from the past 35 years, as well as previewing some of their upcoming favorites. Expect a major announcement or two, as well! Room 24ABC
1:00-2:00 Spotlight on Anders Nilsen— Comic-Con special guest Anders Nilsen debuts his magnum opus, the 800+-page Big Questions, which he began self-publishing over 10 years ago and which quickly placed Nilsen at the forefront of alternative cartoonists. He is part of the Chicago comics collective The Holy Consumption with Jeffrey Brown, John Hankiewicz, and Paul Horsnchemeier and was recently featured in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Join him as he presents a slideshow of his work from his haunting postmodern fable. Room 4
2:30-3:30 The Art of the Graphic Novel—Andrew Farago (curator, Cartoon Art Museum) talks with graphic novelists Chester Brown (Paying for It), Seymour Chwast (Dante's Divine Comedy), Eric Drooker (Blood Song), Joyce Farmer (Special Exits, A Memoir), Joëlle Jones (Troublemaker), Jason Shiga (Empire State: A Love Story (Or Not)), and Craig Thompson (Habibi) about their work in the genre that has elevated comics to mainstream bookstores all over the world. Room 24ABC
Ran out of time on Friday's Online Commentary & Diversions, so it's combined with links from the weekend:
• Review: "Now Fantagraphics has risen to the fore with [Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 1:] Race to Death Valley... It’s a pretty spiffy package, sharply designed and full of smart, well-written essays that provide a rich portrait of the artist and his times, as well as some great comics.... As impressive as Gottfredson's work is, it's in the ancillary materials or 'special features' that makes this book really shine. Editors Gary Groth and David Gerstein have gone the extra mile here... With its shameless abundance of riches, Mickey Mouse Vol. 1 sets a new standard in reprint publication." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "Only a small handful of Gottfredson's collected works have been published and most are out of print. He pioneered a trendsetting style of adventure comics, though in his lifetime remained largely unrecognized.... Fantagraphics has kindly republished a bit of the Gottfredson Mickey run in their new book [Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 1:] Race to Death Valley, beautifully restored [and] repackaged..." – Green Apple Books
• Review: "The latest volume of The Complete Peanuts: 1979-1980 continues with Charles Schulz’s herculean output of his beloved comic strip. Schulz supplies the customary laughs in stand-alone gag strips and some short 'continuing' storylines.... As I have said in previous reviews, Fantagraphics does such a marvelous job with these hardcover Peanuts volumes. From the cover by designer Seth, to the crisp black-and-white reprinting (3 dailies per page, 1 Sunday per page), to the handy index to help you find your favorite strip, Fantagraphics takes creating a permanent archive of this beloved humor strip very seriously. Children of all ages should all get their hands on this American treasure." – Rich Clabaugh, The Christian Science Monitor
• Commentary: Mike Sterling makes a few observations about The Complete Peanuts 1979-1980: "SPOILER ALERT: Peppermint Patty gathers evidence and uses skeptical, critical thinking to resolve her particular issue here."
• Review: "Some of the very first autobiographical works on the French bande dessinée scene, these little gems were a genuine game-changer for cartoonists and storytellers... Superbly skilled at switching imperceptibly from broad self-parody to cripplingly painful personal revelation, wild surrealism to powerful reportage and from clever humorous observation to howling existentialist inquisition, Trondheim’s cartoon interior catalogue is always a supremely rewarding and enjoyable experience and, as these ancient texts [Approximate Continuum Comics] prove, always has been." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "[Blake] Bell is our guide into this rich history of Bill Everett... Bell includes several pieces of artwork and comics that has rarely been seen. A true testament to a man who lived comics throughout his entire life and loved it with a passion...[I]t’s important not only to remember the characters, but the men behind them. Bell’s book here on the life and times of Bill Everett [Fire & Water], and his other biographical material on Steve Ditko, is a testament to that." – Chris Marshall, Collected Comics Library
• Interview: Hillary Chute talks to Joe Sacco for The Believer; I'll use their pullquote: "When you draw, you can always capture that moment. You can always have that exact, precise moment when someone’s got the club raised, when someone’s going down. I realize now there’s a lot of power in that."
• Interview:The A.V. Club's Sam Adams talks to Joe Sacco: "I think if I hadn’t studied journalism I might have taken a different approach, and I’m not saying my approach is the only way you can tell a story journalistically. But because I actually studied it, detail is important and accuracy is really important, so it’s not just about having an accurate quote. The problem with doing things the way I try to do them is that it’s not just an accurate quote, it’s an accurate image of what a place looks like. An absolute literal group of images? You might as well go to a photographer for that. But whatever interpretation I do of it, it has to be informed by reality."
• Profile:HiLobrow's Joshua Glenn on Dame Darcy: "If she sounds like too much to handle, that’s because she is; now you know why her comic is called Meat Cake — they’re two decadent foods, so why not combine them? Darcy’s world is a child’s garden of verses overrun by drunken mermaids, grave-robbing French maids, and Vitalis-groomed cads. If this sort of thing sounds like your cup of spooky-kooky tea, read Meat Cake..."
• Profile: "I made my quarterly pilgrimage down to the Fantagraphics store in Seattle yesterday, and that store never ceases to amaze anyone who walks into it. From the curator/owner to the punk rock pictures on the wall, to the awesome collection of Fantagraphics titles, traditional comics, underground comics, and some adult stuff tucked away in the back room under the stairs, the entire store is a place to go explore the darker side of comic books." – Dan Morrill, Comics Forge
I had a great time at OCX last weekend. I'm too caught up in catching up to write any kind of report, except to say that the convention is tiny and splendidly run, Norwegians are all wonderful people, the weather was exactly like Seattle except the days were longer (the shots outside Jason's gallery opening were at something like nine o'clock at night as I recall) and any cartoonist who gets invited by OCX, go, just go!
All photos by Lynn Emmert except as noted.
Jason had a small art show opening during the convention, featuring priceless original art elegantly hung from a clothesline, a little selection of cool new paintings (zombies, Hitler, the usual) on corrugated cardboard featuring several of his characters, and Jason animations.
Outside the Jason opening. From left to right, Steffen Kverneland, the back of Dash Shaw's head, me, unknown, Lars Fiske, Jason. Fiske and Kverneland are the co-creators of the great graphic novel/biography Olaf G., about which you will be hearing much more soon.
Reverse angle: From left to right, the back of Jason's head, Fiske, Kverneland, Shaw, me. I don't know why the store sign in the background apparently says "Bugger." Which is almost as funny as the sign my wife and I saw on a Danish ferry once, since "Have a Good Trip" in Danish is "God Fart."
The banner-festooned entrance to the library, the upper floor of which is entirely taken up by the comics library,"Serieteket." Picturesque Scandinavian blonde woman on bicycle in foreground. (They're just everywhere.)
Me being interviewed on stage by journalist Erle Sřrheim. [Photo provided by OCX]
The Drinky Crow bar is open for business. Patrons include Dash Shaw and Dave Cooper to the left; the bartender was from Oregon, oddly enough.
Close-up of the counter, advertising "Beer -- wine -- sodas."
Tony Millionaire, me, and a couple of Finns, one bearing a Drinky Crow tote bag with the Scandinavian equivalent of DOOK DOOK DOOK.
Now the joint is hopping! I can't identify most of these people but the tall dude in the group on the left is dashing No Lo Comprendo Press publisher Espen Holtestaul (publisher of Olaf G., Daniel Clowes, Persepolis, and the Norwegian edition of Jimmy Corrigan, which deservedly won the "best Norwegian edition of a foreign comic" Sproing award the following day), and you can see Lars Fiske next to him.
Yes, let's visit that library! Kverneland and the blurry back of my head.
The "Serieteket" library. Please, lock me in here and throw away the key. [Photo provided by OCX]
Look at all those comics! And hey, there's our own MOME! "Gorilla" is the name of an anthology, by the way, not a thematic grouping (which if so would have had a lot of 1960s DC comics).
Dash Shaw art display at the convention, studied closely by female fans -- perhaps lured by the amazing glam photo of Dash that led off his introduction to convention-goers earlier that day, much to Dash's consternation.
The convention tent. It was lovely until the cold snap hit late in the afternoon. Eventually they had to bring the guy at the door a shawl and mittens. [Photo provided by OCX]
Actually, this picture is in perfect focus: It's Tony who's blurry.
The Fantagraphics panels: Dash Shaw, Dave Cooper, Dave Cooper's dad me, Jason, and Tony Millionaire. We all love Oslo and hope to come back soon!
Like the Patterson-Gimlin film, here is your blurry evidence of the Fantagraphics panel at this past weekend's Oslo Comics Expo, showing (left to right) Dash Shaw, Dave Cooper and Kim Thompson, uploaded by Twitter user @Iselin_Evensen. (Not pictured: fellow panelists Tony Millionaire and Jason.) You can tell from the refreshments on the table there (presumably served from the festival's on-site bar, The Drinky Crow) that this was a European festival. We're hoping to wangle a show report and some photos out of Kim for Flog, and we're keeping our eye on the OCX site for more photos & media, so stay tuned.
THE ADVENTURES OF JODELLE Written by: Pierre Bartier; Drawn by: Guy Peellaert Hardcover • Full-Color Release: May 2012
PRAVDA Written by: Pascal Thomas; Drawn by: Guy Peellaert Hardcover • Full-Color Release: November 2012
FANTAGRAPHICS ACQUIRES RIGHTS TO TWO LEGENDARY BELGIAN CLASSICS: PEELLAERT'S THE ADVENTURES OF JODELLE AND PRAVDA
Fantagraphics Books has signed a deal to release two groundbreaking graphic novels from cult Belgian artist Guy Peellaert (1934-2008): The Adventures of Jodelle (1966) and Pravda (1967). The remastered editions will be produced in collaboration with the late artist's estate, which will contribute previously unseen material for extensive archival supplements.
Both albums were originally released in France by Eric Losfeld, the controversial publisher who passionately defied censorship in the lead-up to the cultural revolution of 1968; along with Jean-Claude Forest's Barbarella, Peellaert's Jodelle and Pravda were among the earliest of European adult-oriented graphic novels.
The Adventures of Jodelle, whose voluptuous title heroine was modeled after French teen idol Sylvie Vartan, is a satirical spy story set in a Space Age Roman-Empire fantasy world. Its then-revolutionary clashing of high and low culture references, borrowing as much from Renaissance painting as from a fetishized American consumer culture, marked the advent of the Pop movement within the nascent "9th art" of comic books, not yet dignified as "graphic novels" but already a source of great influence in avant-garde artistic circles. Visually, Jodelle was a major aesthetic shock. According to New York magazine, its "lusciously designed, flat color patterns and dizzy forced perspective reminiscent of Matisse and Japanese prints set a new record in comic-strip sophistication."
Released a year later and first serialized in the French counter-culture bible Hara-Kiri, Pravda follows the surreal travels of an all-female motorcycle gang across a mythical American landscape, led by a mesmerizing cold-blooded heroine whose hyper-sexualized elastic anatomy was this time inspired by quintessential Gallic chanteuse Françoise Hardy. Pravda's eye-popping graphics pushed the psychedelic edge of Jodelle to dazzling new heights, further liberating the story from narrative conventions to focus the reader's attention on the stunning composition and glaring acid colors of the strips, with each frame functioning as a stand-alone cinematic picture.
From Pravda — click to enlarge
Pravda, with its themes of female empowerment and beauty emerging from chaos, became an instant sensation on the European underground scene, inspiring various tributes and appropriations from the worlds of film, literature, fashion, music, live arts, advertising or graphic design. Over the years, it has acquired a rarefied status as a unique and timeless piece of Pop Art defying categorization or trends, and has found itself exhibited in such unlikely "high culture" institutions as the Musée d'Orsay or the Centre Pompidou. An early admirer of Peellaert's radical vision — along with luminaries as diverse as Jean-Luc Godard (who optioned the film rights to Pravda) and Mick Jagger — Frederico Fellini praised Jodelle and Pravda as "the literature of intelligence, imagination and romanticism."
The Adventures of Jodelle was published in the United States in 1967 by Grove Press, whose legendary editor-in-chief Richard Seaver (the man credited with introducing Samuel Beckett, William Burroughs and Henry Miller to America) also provided the translation; Pravda has never been released in English, despite its lead character transcending the long out-of-print book where she originated to become a peculiar iconic figure, the maverick muse of a few "au courant" art and design aficionados from Paris to Tokyo.
Refusing to cash in on the phenomenal success of Jodelle and Pravda (he viewed the former as a one-time graphic "experiment" of which the latter marked the accomplishment) the reclusive Peellaert abruptly left cartoons behind after only two albums at the dawn of the 1970s to pursue an obsessive kind of image-making which painstakingly combined photography, airbrush painting and collage in the pre-computer age. His best-known achievement in America remains the seminal 1973 book Rock Dreams, a collection of portraits which resulted from this distinctive technique and was hailed as "the Sistine Chapel of the Seventies" by Andy Warhol's Interview magazine, eventually selling over a million copies worldwide, influencing a generation of photographers and earning its place in the pantheon of rock culture. Other well-known creations include the iconic artwork for David Bowie's Diamond Dogs album cover (1974) as well as The Rolling Stones' It's Only Rock ‘N' Roll the same year. Peellaert also created the indelible original poster for Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver (1978), the first of many commissions from renowned auteurs including Wim Wenders, Robert Altman, Stephen Frears, Alain Resnais and Robert Bresson.
As the original negatives and color separations for Jodelle and Pravda are long lost (interestingly, Peellaert never reclaimed the original ink-on-paper pages from Losfeld) Fantagraphics will be re-coloring both books digitally. "The original books were colored via hand-cut separations from Peellaert's detailed color indications," said Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson, who will be editing and translating the new editions. "Since the Losfeld editions were printed quite well and Peellaert's linework is thick and simple, we're going to be able to generate crisp black-and-white versions of the line art to start from which should duplicate the original ‘look' exactly. Although actually our edition of Pravda should be better than the original, which had some pretty erratic color registration."
The Adventures of Jodelle is scheduled for release in May 2012, and Pravda in November 2012, both in deluxe oversized hardcover editions. Each will feature an extensive original essay discussing the works and their historical context, accompanied by numerous archival illustrations and photographs.
"I am terrifically excited to bring these two landmark books to American audiences — especially Pravda, which has never been published in English," said Thompson. "They are some of the most graphically jaw-dropping comics ever put to paper. They remain both quintessentially 1960s in attitude and look, and utterly timeless."
Catching up on several days' worth of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List/Plugs: In an article titled "Fantagraphics: The Greatest American Comics Publisher," GUY.com's Rob Gonsalves says "What the Criterion Collection is to DVDs, Fantagraphics is to comics. Any self-respecting collection of graphic novels, any library public or personal, needs to sport at least one Fantagraphics book," and recommends a nicely idiosyncratic top-20 list of our publications which includes some of our more obscure releases
• Review: "While there definitely were some hardships, Clemente’s life was as unique and joyful as his persona and ball playing skills were, and Wilfred Santiago’s 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente reflects this uniqueness and joy through its own unique retelling of Clemente’s life. [...] The simple joy conveyed in this book is universally appealing... Baseball is a game that is full of life and story, and every year the game blooms in the spring with the trees and flowers of the season. 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente celebrates life, and new life, as much as it does baseball." – Andy Frisk, Comic Book Bin
• Interview: Pittsburgh City Paper's David Davis, who says "In his new graphic novel 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente, the author of 2002's In My Darkest Hour uses Clemente's life to explore issues on and off the diamond. These include the thorny politics of Puerto Rico (statehood or commonwealth status?) as well as the racism Clemente faced in America as a dark-skinned Latino. The result is both a superhero cartoon and a lyrical time-machine, rendered in the regal black-gold-and-white of the Bucs' uni," has a brief Q&A with Wilfred Santiago: "I began my career working on superhero cartoons. That's the look I wanted to get -- somewhere between a cartoon and a painting. I wanted to get the camera right there with him and you're experiencing the action up close."
• Review: "Slavishly documenting and lavishly illustrating through band flyers and set lists and rare record sides and marvelous photography, along with first-person textual accounts, this strange, excited dialogue between misfits in America through bands, venues, zines, and lives and how it was all done punk and how punk was done. [...] Taking Punk to the Masses’ gallant bridging of universal punk history with our own in Ecotopia is a reason to celebrate. Your eyes can gnaw on decades of delicious artwork while you read and watch stories you may have heard of, but after this, will never forget." – Chris Estey, The KEXP Blog
• Review: "In Hate Annual #9, Buddy returns to Seattle to meet the dysfunctional family of his wife Lisa who he has never met despite having been with Lisa for close to 20 years. In a tension-filled 72 hours, Buddy is subjected to senile parents, criminals, and drug addicts. Each page is filled with the sardonic humor and high drama that are staples of Bagge's work. [...] Read this issue slowly because once you're done laughing your head off, you are sure to be sad that you'll have to wait another year to check in with one of the best characters of alternative comics." – Rip Ransley, Stray Riffs
• Review: "The particular fascination in this early work [The Arctic Marauder] is seeing one of the unique individual styles in cartooning at a formative stage. [...] As for the subject matter: It’s an example of parody that continues on when the thing parodied has long faded away. [...] Part of the appeal is feeling superior to an earlier age, and another part is being engaged in the traces of the earlier form embedded in the parody, which you would normally feel yourself too sophisticated to enjoy." – R. Fiore, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "At once a parody and a tribute to late 19th, early 20th century mystery/adventure Jules Verne-esque fiction, this gorgeous one-shot [The Arctic Marauder] is masterfully drawn scratchboard style, as to echo the woodcuts of the era. The result is sumptuous, and look at those elegant art-nouveau panels! [...] Fans of concentrated mysteries, steam-operated machines, dramatic adventures and over-the-top vilains should be all over this!" – 211 Bernard (Librairie Drawn & Quarterly)
• Review: "With Woodring’s skill, I never found myself confused, at least, more than you’re supposed to be. I’ve never read a statement by Woodring saying this, but I always got the impression he wanted you to work for the meaning behind his stories. Even if it’s not the case, I highly enjoy the process. In one graphic novel [Weathercraft], I got what I think may have been a love story, a treatise on spiritual enlightenment and sometimes just a whole lot of fun." – Joe Keatinge, Joe Keatinge's Comics & Stories
• Review: "Weathercraft... [is a]nother volume of nightmarishly beautiful wordless comics by the remarkable Mr. Woodring. Even for those accustomed to his work, there is page after page that makes you say, 'I’ve never seen anything like that before!' And then hide under your bed." – M. Ace, Irregular Orbit
• Interview:Book By Its Cover's Jen Rothman, who says "Ray Fenwick has created yet another masterpiece. His second book, Mascots, hit shelves in the beginning of this year and it’s quite a beauty. It’s filled with his signature style that mixes ornate hand lettering and imagery, creating amusing little narratives," has a Q&A with Ray: "I thought of the idea of mascots because they’re these outrageous, often ridiculous figures, but they’re symbolic of something else. The thing they’re there to represent isn’t ridiculous at all. I thought that was similar in a lot of ways to the work in the book."
• Interview:One Two One Two Microphone Check has a cultural Q&A with our own Kim Thompson: "There is no movie I love but would be embarrassed to talk about in a serious, intellectual conversation, because if I love it, it is worth talking about by definition. (I concede this could be taken as arrogant.) That said, I am mildly embarrassed at how much I actually love Love, Actually."
• Interview: Alex Dueben's great interview with Daniel Clowes at Comic Book Resources touches on Dan's design work for our upcoming series of Crockett Johnson's Barnaby collections: "It's probably the best written comic strip of all time. The artwork is disarmingly simple. It's the kind of thing that I would normally not be attracted to. He uses typography instead of hand lettering and very simple diagrammatic drawings, yet they are perfect, and work beautifully in a way that anything added to it would detract from it. My goal with the design of the book is to follow his very severe minimal design style and try to live up to that."
• Interview: At TCJ.com, Sean T. Collins also talks to Clowes: "I was always baffled that people who liked mainstream comics seemed to really gravitate towards [Eightball #22]. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was about that one, specifically, that made them like that so much."
• Commentary:Tim Kreider pens an essay on the state of the cartooning industry for TCJ.com: "When you’re young, it’s exciting and fun just to have your work published in the local alternative weekly, or posted online, “liked” and commented on and linked to; but eventually you turn forty and realize you’ve given away a career’s worth of labor for nothing. What’s happening in comics now is what happened in the music industry in the last decade and what’ll happen to publishing in the next. Soon Don DeLillo will be peddling T-shirts too."
• Commentary:Robot 6 polled Gilbert Hernandez for their weekly "What Are You Reading?" feature: "The new comics I always enjoy are by R. Crumb, Dan Clowes, Richard Sala and Charles Burns. I haven’t seen Burns’ and Sala’s new books yet but I did read The Bible by Crumb, which I found tedious only because of the subject matter and Wilson by Clowes. That was hard to get through because the protagonist is so supremely hateful. Well executed, though."
• Review: "Last year, Fantagraphics reproduced Catalog No. 439 of the DeMoulin Brothers – the most extensive depiction of initiation contraptions and ritual outfits used by Freemasons and other fraternal orders, like the Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, and E. Clampus Vitus. Bearing the title Burlesque Paraphernalia and Side Degree Specialties and Costumes, this wacky book may shed a shred of light into the outer sanctum of these associations – unless, of course, it is actually a hoax disseminated to lead us astray. [...] Even if Enlightenment should, as always, prove ever elusive, the illustrated designs of Edmund DeMoulin and the handiwork of his brothers Ulysses and Erastus, as reproduced in Burlesque Paraphernalia, will still deliver amusing, if sadistic, anthropology. [...] Book lovers... will fall for its hundred and fifty full-page plates of machines of untold mischief. " – Jeffrey Wengrofsky, Coilhouse
• Review/Commentary: "...I end up seeing Ditko’s work arc from earliest 'dependent work' as he calls it, the charming, imaginative comics collected in Unexplored Worlds, the rockets, superintelligent monkeys, green insect aliens seeking earthling wives, paintings that lead to another world, angelic visitors and poetically just twist endings, to his later work created entirely on his own terms and for his own purpose, but less effective as his characters become 'ciphers' and his design, text-heavy." – Carol Borden, The Cultural Gutter
• Commentary:David Chelsea posts his email debate with Kim Thompson re: Joost Swarte's use of perspective. Kim: "Maybe you aren’t seeing the forest for the trees — or the ground below the trees that comprises the forest because you’re looking at it from a horizontal-oblique perspective." Zing!
• Craft: At TCJ.com, Frank Santoro applies his lessons in page proportion and layout to a Tintin page by Hergé
• Review: "Wilfred Santiago’s reverent comic biography 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente respectfully portrays both the player and the humanitarian without ever devolving into hagiography. [...] Santiago’s pleasantly cartoonish art defuses the sort of stifling sincerity that often turns well-intentioned works like this into ponderous bores. His dynamic layouts during the excellently rendered game scenes are tremendous, amazingly capturing the tension and euphoric release of a successful at-bat. [...] Santiago makes the sport exciting for even the most die-hard anti-baseball lout, but more importantly reminds us of the man behind one of the most inspirational figures in sports." – Garrett Martin, Paste
• Review: "...Jacques Tardi is one of the world’s greatest living cartoonists... [The Arctic] Marauder's standout attraction is Tardi’s art, particularly the complex ways Tardi combines black ink, gray tones and white space to delineate the frozen Atlantic Ocean expanses that open and close the book. ...Marauder‘s story is a pleasure to read. [...] Tardi’s handling of this milieu is perfect." – Craig Fischer, The Panelists
• Review: "Here [in Krazy & Ignatz 1919-1921] you’ll find Krazy moved to tears by the plight of a caged canary denied all the joys of free-flying fowl which he demonstrates one by one… outside of his cage. You’ll see him creep around on behalf of a pig begging for pennies after Ignatz dobs him in, the sneak. You’ll witness the sublime stupidity of Pupp and Ignatz investigating a dark cave with eyes, right under (or above) Krazy’s nose. But most of all, there’s them thar bricks aflyin’. [...] Regardless of gender, it’s probably the strangest love triangle in the world." – Page 45 (via The Comics Reporter)
• Review: "Krazy and Ignatz, as it is dubbed in these lovely collected tomes from Fantagraphics, is not and never has been a strip for dull, slow or unimaginative people who simply won’t or can’t appreciate the complex multilayered verbal and pictorial whimsy, absurdist philosophy or seamless blending of sardonic slapstick with arcane joshing. It is the closest thing to pure poesy that narrative art has ever produced." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview (Audio): Your must-listen of the day: our own Kim Thompson joins Inkstuds host Robin McConnell and Dr. Bart Beaty for a discussion of all things Euro-comics
• Feature: At the Drawing Words & Writing Pictures blog, Best American Comics series co-editor Jessica Abel spotlights Nate Neal's "Delia's Love" from Mome Vol. 15 as a 2010 Notable Comic: "Clearly structured, despite somewhat-complex flashbacks, 'Delia’s Love' is a story of down-and-outness and complicated romantic and sexual history. It’s told sensitively, and with subtlety, despite the sometimes harsh subject matter. No character comes off as either entirely hero or victim, and that’s how I like it."
• Plug: "This collection [Take a Joke] will feature some of the longer humor pieces from Johnny Ryan's Angry Youth Comix and, while it is NOT family friendly, it is funny as shit. [...] REMEMBER THAT THIS IS NOT FAMILY FRIENDLY ENTERTAINMENT." – Forces of Geek
Now this is the material that was serialized in The Nimrod, right?
Yes and no. The Nimrod #1, 6, and 7 featured the first three installments (out of six). So if you have all the Nimrods, sorry, you'll be buying half of it all over again. But the translation's been reworked and it's been re-lettered from scratch.
Why re-letter? I thought whoever did the comics did a really nice job.
I agree, but Jeremy Eaton's no longer interested in lettering, which means that the second half would've looked different from the first half. Also, in the intervening years, someone created a fantastic Trondheim font. And re-lettering allowed me to tighten up my translation. Turns out I've gotten better in the intervening years, I look at the Nimrod version and go "I can do better than that."
Is that the Trondheim font you used for his MOME story? That is a good font.
It's such a good font that the Eisner Awards jury nominated that story for "Best Lettering," which amused me.
Call me old school but I feel translations should be hand-lettered.
The problem is, if you hand letter translations you lose the infinite-tweaking capability that font lettering gives you. I tweak my translations endlessly, and if I were to do that with a hand-letterer every book would cost us ten thousand dollars to letter. And of course font lettering is far, far cheaper even setting aside my own undisciplined idiosyncracies. But I also think we've tipped over to the point where in many cases the font lettering actually looks better than the hand lettering, partly because it's in the artist's hand, partly because even the best letterer tends to tense up when trying to copy-fit, particularly when lettering those artists who in the original did their lettering and then drew the balloons around them to fit, like Trondheim and Tardi. The hand-lettered chapters of "It Was the War of the Trenches" in Raw and Drawn and Quarterly were done about as well as you could imagine, and I miss the irregularities of hand lettering that font lettering eliminates, but ultimately I think our font-lettered version is better.
One exception: Céline Merrien, who letters our Mahler translations for MOME and will letter our next Mahler project (not announced yet, you heard it here first), can do utterly flawless impressions of pretty much anybody and make it work so it looks like the original. But she's superhuman (and not cheap). If it wasn't for the flexibility/cheapness issues above, I'd hire her to re-letter every foreign book we do... I mean, except for the ones that were font-lettered to begin with, like King of the Flies and the Mattotti stuff.
So, getting away from the lettering nerd-talk, this is all autobiographical comics from the 1990s, right?
Right. Although as Lewis explains in his endnotes, it almost happened by accident. He was writing and drawing a comic in the U.S. "pamphlet" format which was intended to be a combination of fiction and little autobio vignettes, and the latter completely took over. The vogue for autobio comics didn't hit France nearly as hard as it hit the U.S., but Lewis is one of the few who really got into it — and still is, in his "Little Nothings" series. (Others would be Jean-Christophe Menu, Fabrice Néaud, and Guy Delisle.) What's funny is that Lewis is in person quite shy, but utterly willing to expose himself in his comics. He writes with extreme candor about his shyness!
Any juicy gossip about other cartoonists?
No. Several other cartoonists figure prominently, particularly his studio mates at the time (Émile Bravo, Charles Berbérian), and his L'Association compadres (David B., Jean-Christophe Menu, Killoffer), but no real dirt - unless it comes as a surprise to you that Menu is quite the lush! Mostly just mildly embarrassing anecdotes about things like Émile Bravo's annoying humming habits, and Lewis (who hits himself 100 times harder than he hits anyone else) lets the cartoonists set the record straight in a "Rebuttals" section at the end. Oh, there's a wordless cameo by Moebius, too, watching Lewis nearly throwing up.
Why did you stop publishing Trondheim? Fantagraphics was out front with both The Nimrod and the McConey books, then you just quit.
Because both series tanked! American readers rejected the European album format of McConey, and The Nimrod was caught in the death spiral of alternative comic books. Tom Spurgeon wrote a very nice little essay a few weeks ago about how if a great book like The Nimrod couldn't work that signaled the doom of the "pamphlet" form. On the other hand we'd kind of run out of Trondheim material that worked in that format, all we had left was to run more chapters of Approximate and that sort of seemed to be cheating; I'd started to resent the use of the pamphlets as just being double-dipping pre-graphic-novel content providers, and I'm sort of pleased two thirds of the Nimrod material did not fit that definition. (It does also mean that Trondheim fans who missed the now sold out issues are shit out of luck.)
Anyway, NBM and First Second have been doing a pretty stellar job of cranking out Trondheim stuff. NBM has been putting out three Trondheim books a year for a while, and when you consider their Dungeon books collect two of the French editions, the amount of Trondheim albums available in the U.S. has got to be pushing 40. Which is only about a third of his output, but still.
That said, I would like to get back into the Trondheim business and actually plan to start putting out two of Lewis's books a year.
That would be telling. It would make sense to put out La Mouche as a "pendant" to Approximate Continuum, of course. But wait and see. No matter what, I think he can still write and draw them faster than Terry Nantier and I combined can translate them.
Is Approximate Continuum some of your favorite Trondheim work?
Yes. Why else would I pick that since he's got a zillion other books to choose from? Check.
Because you already had it half translated, it was easier doing a new one from scratch, and you're lazy. Check.
Good point. But back then I picked it because it was some of my favorite Trondheim work too. Checkmate.
Well played, sir! And you're right, it is a great comic.