Ran out of time to finish yesterday's Online Commentary & Diversions so here's a two-fer:
• Review: "With skill, restraint and a deep sensitivity to the roiling emotions involved, Shimura relates the tale of fifth-grade boy Shuichi, who wants to be a girl, and his classmate Yoshino, a girl who wants to be a boy. This is the first volume of the Japanese saga [Wandering Son] to be published in English, and translator Thorn does great work parsing the complex gender honorifics of the Japanese language. We only just begin to get to know our two leads, but Shimura's approach allows us to feel their confusion, their heartache and — when a perceptive mutual friend orchestrates a plan that starts them down the road to self-acceptance — their quiet, nervous joy." – Glen Weldon, NPR - Monkey See
• Review: "Gender roles and cross-dressing are often fodder for laughs in anime and manga, but this is the most serious and thoughtful take I've seen on the subject. And I love how Shimura doesn't make things too angsty for the characters. Maybe that will come later, but for now it's more of a quiet discomfort -- the reader is finding out at the same time as the characters, and it's quite touching. ...Wandering Son is a tender take on a taboo subject. I wish it success in the American market." – Eric Henrickson, The Detroit News - Geek Watch
• Review: "Wandering Son by Shimura Takako is a heartfelt story of two people who I desperately feel for and for their families and friends.... The main thing that drew me to this book was the fact that unlike a lot of western media that plays off the fact that a transgender teenager would have to deal with their friends and peers ostracising or bullying them for being different, Wandering Son goes straight for the heart, tackling the more important idea of how the person in the story feels. Reading the first volume, I can feel their awkwardness at them coming to the decision that they are different from other people and that they need to do something about it.... I want to be alongside these characters as they discover who and how they are. I want to see them triumph in ways that many of us never get to. Most of all, I want to be there at the end even if it ends in failure." – Eeeper's Choice
• Review (Audio): Phillip of Eeper's Choice, Erica Friedman, and David Welsh (The Manga Curmudgeon) discuss Wandering Son Vol. 1 with hosts Ed Sizemore and Johanna Draper Carlson on the Manga Out Loud podcast. At Manga Worth Reading, Carlson notes "We talk about the value of translation/cultural end notes (which inspired a followup post by David) and the pacing of the series in light of Takako Shimura’s career. It’s a wonderful read that we all enjoyed and recommend."
• Review: "Collected in oversize hardbacks that present the pages at their original size, these beautiful books restore one of the original adventure heroes of the strips -- the affable (albeit two-fisted) mercenary who was much more interested in excitement than money or women, which is what he was supposedly after. [Captain] Easy moved through a more innocent — and largely unexplored — world, and there's no better word for this adventure strip than 'charming.'" – Andrew A. Smith, Scripps Howard News
• Review: "...Leslie Stein is a young lady out of Brooklyn, NY who has been crafting literary/illustrative dub versions of her tastes and trials and laying them out in meticulously crafted yet still oodles-of-eye-fun anecdotes and tall tales. Fanta has collected them all into Eye of the Majestic Creature, a big-sized anthology of her work, with color covers and B&W insides and a whole lot of heart reproduced superbly for proper long-term keeping.... Stein's easy-on-the-eyes drawing style shows an affinity for the same greatly defined, goofy universe Pete Bagge's youthful wanderers once trolled though Seattle in... I found it irresistible, and will come back to its gentle humor and delightful glimpses into woozy alt-country gal delights again and again." – Chris Estey, Three Imaginary Girls
• Review: "Growing up to this era of punk rock, I feel an initial offense taken to McMurray’s collection of punk rock relics. It seems strange and kitschy to run across a book like Taking Punk to the Masseswhen you lived it. My first reaction was that we are not a novelty, punk was defined from a purpose and we are that purpose, not an exploitation. But the curious person that I am, I skimmed through it. Then I skimmed through it again. Then I read it. And then I fell in love with it." – Andrew Duncan, ZapTown
• Commentary: At Robot 6, Sean T. Collins comments on the Jim Woodring letter to Hans Rickheit we shared here yesterday: "Woodring, an intrepid chronicler of the underbrain in his own right, clearly recognized a kindred spirit in Rickheit when the younger cartoonist sent him a copy of his elaborate and powerful Fantagraphics graphic novel The Squirrel Machine."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater continues his conversation with Mome editor Eric Reynolds: "My two passions in comics are old strips like Popeyeand the great cartoonists that I came of age reading, like Clowes and Charles Burns and the Hernandez Brothers. But, as much as that’s the stuff I dearly love, it’s the new stuff we’re publishing, the new artists, the sort of unexpected things that, on a day to day basis, keep me motivated and keep my interest in publishing, from day to day."
• Review: "Gilbert Hernandez is one of the great craftsmen of modern comics... Hernandez’s new Fritz book, Love from the Shadows, is as bracing as a slug of bottom-shelf rotgut.... Hernandez artfully approximates the broad, thrilling badness of late-night movies and their inept special effects, and uses it as an excuse to show off some of his gifts: spacious compositions built around texture as well as forms, pauses heavy with foreboding, a sense of body language and facial expressions so acute that we can recognize both the story’s characters and the 'actors' playing those characters." – Douglas Wolk, The New York Times Sunday Book Review
• Review: At CBR's Comics Should Be Good, Sonia Harris looks at Gilbert Hernandez's trilogy (so far) of "Fritz Films" graphic novels: "Filled with the longing of unfulfilled desire and lost innocence, these stories are the kind of schlock film that is accidentally life-alteringly great and I suspect Hernandez might have missed his calling as a screenwriter in the early ’60′s… That’s the thing, this kind of movie doesn’t really happen any more which is why Hernandez’ use of the comic book medium to tell Fritz’ movie roles is particularly delightful."
• Review: "In her debut release, Leslie Stein proves that comic strips are so much more than those old Cathy cartoons you'd read around the kitchen table on Sunday mornings. Instead, this semi-autobiographical tale,Eye of the Majestic Creature, follows protagonist Larrybear on a trippy journey throughout Chicago, San Francisco, and NYC in hopes of figuring out her life.... Drawn in a totally out-there Surrealist style, this quick page-turner is proof that while you might be too old for Garfield and Friends, there are cartoons you can still relate to...and love." – Liza Darwin, Nylon
• Review: "...Eye of the Majestic Creature... blend[s] autobiographical self-discovery, surreal free-association, philosophical ruminations, nostalgic reminiscences and devastatingly dry wit to describe life filtered through a seductive meta-fictional interior landscape. This lady laconically tans under vastly different suns and the results are enchanting and entrancing." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "There’s precious little around for kids and especially girl readers in American funnybooks... so this intriguing and wildly imaginative series [Yeah!] which seamlessly combined fantasy, science fiction, fashion, pop and school cultures in a wild blend of frantic fun and thoroughly deserves another chance to shine." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Commentary: The anecdote and photo of a little girl and Yeah! that lead off Sonia Harris's latest "Committed" column for Comic Book Resources' Comics Should Be Good are beyond adorable
• Review: "Alex’s days are punctuated by alcoholic constipation, artist’s block, trashing his flat and avoiding childhood friends and his favourite teacher from high school, now a raving dipsomaniac surrounded by cats. He is also tormented by a rather good expressionist painting he apparently produced during a bender, and impure thoughts about his Asian neighbour and a beautiful former classmate... In short, a very good but not at all cheerful study of the consequences of achieving your ambitions when you’re a self-loathing dog-headed cartoonist." – Grant Buist, The Name of this Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Interview (Audio):Inkstuds host Robin McConnell and his cohort Colin Upton talk with fellow British Columbian Mark Kalesniko about his new graphic novel Freeway
• Commentary: Our own Eric Reynolds has become ESPN.com's go-to expert on baseball cartooning — the article also discusses Jack Davis's work for Topps
• Review/Interview: "When Leslie Stein’s Eye of the Majestic Creature is summarized, it sounds too precious and odd for human consumption, like some horrible blend of Ziggy and Zippy. That’s far from the case, however. The first four issues of Eye, now collected in book form by Fantagraphics, never tip over into cutesy treacle or become mired in faux hipsterism. Far from it — there’s a sense of melancholy and awareness that, while never overwhelming the book, grounds it in a recognizable reality. Adopting a simple, rubbery style, Stein manages to create both a likeable, sympathetic main character and maintain a tone of reflected grace. It’s a surprisingly strong and self-assured comic for such a relatively young creator." – Chris Mautner, The Comics Journal
"I try not to consciously draw upon any artist or movement in the creation of my work, I do not want to be derivative of anyone or thing in particular. I’m influenced by almost everything, though. I love music and film and literature and art. I take it all in and try to forget about it, knowing that some of it will come out unconsciously." – Leslie Stein, interviewed by Mautner
• Review/Interview: "With a meandering tone and structure reminiscent of Eddie Campbell's Alec stories, Stein depicts a relatable (but not necessarily realistic) slice of life tale, and the fact that the stranger, more colorful elements of her story — from a female protagonist named Larrybear to anthropomorphic musical instruments to characters drawn as animals — never overwhelm the realistic elements. It's a fun and thoughtful book that has its own tone and rhythm in a way that's a triumph for the talented, young cartoonist." – Alex Dueben, Comic Book Resources
"I think the unfortunate thing with a lot of autobiographical comics is that they're all done by the same kind of people with the same kind of mentality. For me, what would be interesting would be to get an autobiographical comic done by the popular girl in high school. What her comic would be like would be way interesting to me." – Leslie Stein, interviewed by Dueben
• Review: "Stein's cartooning is broad and trippy, and if she occasionally becomes intoxicated with her own gimlet-eyed sensibility, she's never afraid to turn that dark wit on herself. Eye of the Majestic Creature... is ultimately the tale of a young woman rejecting the things that shaped her and attempting to figure out what comes next for her. Thanks to Stein's loose, amiable approach, you'll want to know that, too." – Glen Weldon, NPR Monkey See
• Review: "Readers needing their Peter Bagge and/or Hate fix will always get it, to some degree, in the Hate Annual. Hate Annual #9, however, is one of the better editions, and that’s probably because of what Bagge presents here. 'Heaven' and 'Hell' appeases by giving us a peek at what’s going on in Buddy’s life right now, but we also get a hefty narrative that gives us something akin to the classic madness that was Buddy and Lisa’s life in Seattle." – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Profile: Brian Hoag of the McCook Daily Gazette has a Memorial Day tribute to Bill Mauldin: "During WWII, Bill Mauldin's cartoons appeared in the military Stars and Stripes newpaper, and showed a sarcastic humor side of war that the combat troops could relate to. Not one to shy away from pointing a finger at the top brass, General Patton tried to get Mauldin censored as George thought the 'humor' wasn't so funny." (Via Mike Lynch)
• Review: "Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: Race To Death Valley kicks off Fantagraphics’ latest series of vintage newspaper strips... About halfway through the [first story] arc, ...Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse begins to develop the characteristics that would sustain it for decades to come: a fast pace, frequent narrow escapes, and an industrious hero who throws himself fully into every endeavor, in ways that both get him into trouble and help get him out. ...Gottfredson... took the broad idea of a good-natured mouse and sketched in his own attitudes about hard work, courage, and the importance of having reliable friends when the jams get especially sticky." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "[Gilbert] Hernandez’s latest book Love from the Shadows is a confounding hybrid, inserting Love And Rockets’ watermelon-chested, lisping Fritz into a violent dream-novel that combines the fluid reality of Luis Buñuel with the two-fisted crime sagas of Jim Thompson. ...[T]he beauty of comics as a medium is that it invites re-reading; and Hernandez’s mastery makes Love from the Shadows easy to pore back over, savoring how its meaning shifts from page to page." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "There’s fiction, there’s Meta-fiction and then there is Gilbert Hernandez.... Now he returns to his eccentric sideline to translate the wildly experimental independent/exploitation/sexploitation tale Love from the Shadows into a stunning graphic rollercoaster ride of broken families, counter-culture angst, embezzlement, greed madness, obsession, charlatanry, psychics and mysterious aliens in possibly the greatest tribute to scurrilous lowbrow movie maestro Russ Meyer ever seen." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Speaking of confounding comics, Leslie Stein’s bizarre Eye of the Majestic Creature collects the first four issues of Stein’s self-published comic.... Stein riffs on loneliness, relationships, creativity, family, and intoxication via cutely psychedelic art and short vignettes that are heavy on fancy and light on explanation. At times the book comes from so deep inside Stein’s head that it reads almost like notes for a comic, not a finished work. But then Stein pivots into a moment or image of deep emotional resonance and beauty... and the loose narrative style pays off. These four issues do get better as they go, so consider this a promising introduction to a potentially major new talent." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Peter Bagge is back... with Hate Annual #9, the latest in his yearly reports on the life of his slacker-turned-entrepreneur character Buddy Bradley. Usually Bagge fills out the Hate annuals with strips he’s drawn for other publications throughout the year, but #9 is nearly all Buddy, and it’s one of the best Bradley stories in years... The story is wonderfully digressive in the best Bagge tradition, too..." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "An overt attempt to bring back the silly rock-’n’-roll fun of Josie & The Pussycats and Jem & The Holograms, Yeah! follows the adventures of a girl-group that’s wildly popular on other planets, but can’t get any attention on Earth. ...Yeah! is... a pleasure to read, with an anything-goes storytelling style and an infectious affection for pop music, as well as for pop culture about pop music." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...[T]he comics in Approximate Continuum constitute a highly amusing portrait of that mostly under-explored time in a person's life when things become more important and more ridiculous in equal measure and we find ourselves constantly and even quietly adjusting to wholesale changes in life and attitude and orientation that we once had hopes to master. It speaks to how well-observed the book is that you could pick it up sans context of any kind and find much to enjoy. ...Approximate Continuum Comics consistently hits the pleasure points afforded by great cartooning and a wicked sense of humor, and should be fair comfort to anyone that feels they're at a point in their life when they need to give themselves a good talking-to." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Even if you’ve read the first volume [of The Steve Ditko Archives], Unexplored Worlds offers plenty more surprises.... While the 'twists' rarely match up to the initial imagination of any given piece, Ditko’s art is solid throughout. As always, Fantagraphics’ top-notch presentation makes the publisher the go-to stop for comics preservation." – Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Interview:At the official R. Crumb website, Alex Wood quizzes Crumb on various historical and pop-cultural figures, from Obama to Tommy James and the Shondells to his underground comix contemporaries to Mozart: "I love the movie Amedeus about him, but the actual music, nnnaaaah."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch continues serializing Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Gahan Wilson: "...[T]he world for a kid is often very scary. It’s a huge challenge, and it is often scary. I mean, people die, and what the hell is that all about? I explore that sort of thing in Nuts. The stuff that happens to grownups happens to kids, too — these amazing, awful things. And these often terrific things. And they have to somehow wrap themselves around it."
• Feature: The guest contributor to this week's "What Are You Reading?" column at Robot 6 is Dave McKean (who, with his erotic graphic novel Celluloid coming out, weighs in with his thoughts on the erotic work of his sometime-collaborator Alan Moore, Lost Girls)
• Review: "21: The Story of Roberto Clemente brings together comics and baseball, two of America's most popular conveyers of epic mythology. Author Wilfred Santiago also incorporates elements of classical and avant-garde jazz in his sinuously illustrated narrative of Clemente's life. It takes an imagination as rich as Mr. Santiago's to tap into various mythological languages to tell the Pittsburgh Pirate's iconic story... Instead of dwelling on sources of obvious resentment, Mr. Santiago defaults to illustrating Clemente's humanity. We're treated to close-ups of his most noble and ignoble moments. The artist refuses to treat him like a plastic saint, because a perfect Clemente would make boring reading, indeed. ...Wilfred Santiago has done as good a job as anyone ever has in reintroducing the longtime Pittsburgh Pirate to a new generation." – Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
• Review: "You’d be hard-pressed to find a more downright affable character than blithely blitzed Larrybear, the young female focus of Leslie Stein’s ongoing semiautobiographical comic [Eye of the Majestic Creature ], whose first four issues are collected here.... Stein gives us the slackerly, star-eyed alternative to a cadre of 'misanthropic, self-pitying comics about unappreciated cartoonists,' as Tom De Haven characterized it... But where the aforementioned Crumb-descended misanthropes have all more or less grown up, Stein’s Larrybear is a naïve woman on the verge of Whatever, a cute Candide floundering about in an increasingly complicated world. ...[T]his book [is] such a pleasure..." – Richard Gehr, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Lewis Trondheim is one of the world’s best cartoonists.... Approximate Continuum Comics is some of Trondheim’s earliest autobiographical work, dating mostly from 1993 and 1996. If you’re read his more recent slivers of life observations... then you already know the sublime wit and casual self-deprecation of Trondheim’s cartooning. Approximate Continuum Comics is where that [tack] begins." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Love from the Shadows is a very strange story. Surreal is such an overused word, but it is the best description I can come up with to describe the tone of the work. There is a disjointed, dream-like progression to the narrative.... As with so much of Hernandez's work, it is beautifully illustrated. The art is suffused with emotion and atmosphere and eroticism. The work Hernandez does is a critical component to his examining all of the societal, psychological, and sexual issues. …Love from the Shadows [is] an intriguing, offbeat story that is open to examination and interpretation. …Love from the Shadows is an intellectually stimulating read. And the artwork is magnificent." – Benjamin Herman, Associated Content
• Review: "The Littlest Pirate King is a wonderful phantasmagoria, as likely to entertain a ten year old as a thirty year eight year old (and I say this having had the book pulled off my lap and spirited away by my own ten year old). There is a lovely innocence to proceedings, a seemingly uncalculated desire to thrill and chill and transport... that has had me flicking back through the book a good dozen times since I’ve read it. This is the kind of book that got me reading books when I was a wee nipper, and it’s the kind of book that keeps me reading now that I’m the furthest possible thing from a wee nipper." – Bookmunch
• Review: "Blazing Combat is a book I'm quite proud to have in my collection. It's a work of art, has a message that's strong even over 40 years after the material was first created, and I'll come back to this at least once every few years." – Philip Reed, BattleGrip
• List:Library Journal's Martha Cornog gathers recommended graphic novels dealing with themes of Health & Medicine, including:
Special Exits by Joyce Farmer: "An excellent alert for those new to the path (for themselves or for relatives) and a validation for those already familiar with this normal yet seemly so abnormal life stage."
Alex by Mark Kalesniko: "This exploration of depression, futile escapism, and the healing power of art has been described as a difficult read but very funny."
Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock 'n' Roll Life by Bruce Paley & Carol Swain: "Hanging out here and crashing there, Paley narrates vignettes of debauchery and daily life in a Woodstock version of American Splendor. Partner Swain's smudgy, black-and-white drawings carry his grimy, nostalgic account."
Mother, Come Home by Paul Hornschemeier: "An exquisitely written and beautifully drawn exploration of grief."
Rip M.D. by Mitch Shauer, Mike Vosburg et al.: "A 'full-color, all-ages adventure' with an animated cartoon series in development, and a promising bet for reluctant readers."
• List:Robot 6's Chris Mautner names "Six noteworthy debut comics," saying of R. Kikuo Johnson's Night Fisher "this tale of disaffected adolescence and drug dealing in Hawaii is certainly compelling and suggests that Johnson is an artist capable of producing great work. Unfortunately, he has yet to follow up on that initial promise. But Night Fisher still marks him as an artist to watch out for."
• Profile:Time Out Chicago's Web Behrens catches up with Paul Hornschemeier: "'It is one of those names: You’re destined to either be a writer or scientist,' says local author-artist Paul, the man both blessed and saddled with the brainy surname. 'You’re not going to be a rock star with a name like Hornschemeier.'"
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