• 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.'"
128-page black & white 7.5" x 11" softcover • $18.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-413-9
"This is probably the release I’m most excited to see this week." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
"...let me suggest Eye of the Majestic Creature, a lovely little collection of comics by relative newcomer Leslie Stein... I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked this up, but Stein quickly won me over with her charm and good humor." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"Leslie Stein's comics are a blend of the autobiographical and the fantastic, with a wonderfully psychedelic style that binds the two together delightfully. And early entry for one of the best graphic novels of the year." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
"I was surprised how much I enjoyed my first reading of this very odd series of real-life/fantastically-flavored vignettes from Leslie Anne Mackenzie Stein, although I'm not certain how much of my reaction is "it has a quality" and how much is "it's quality." Not yet, anyway. I'm going to read it again soon." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
And as ever, from Joe McCulloch at The Comics Journal: "CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: ...Adding to the mystery, a whole bunch of Fantagraphics releases imminent to Midtown Comics are not listed — Johnny Ryan, Lewis Trondheim stuff — save for Eye of the Majestic Creature, a 128-page collection of stories by Leslie Stein..."
• Review: "This book [Eye of the Majestic Creature] isn't easy to describe, and that's exactly why I love it. Leslie's surreal, funny style is a welcome addition to comics; her world includes a talking guitar and thrift-shop treasures. Though sometimes it's a compliment for me to say I read a book in one sitting, I'll be honest and say this one took me weeks — and that's because my eyes lingered over the detailed panels for perhaps much longer than the author intended. I envy her worldview, though I'm thrilled to have 128 pages of it." – Whitney Matheson, USA Today Pop Candy
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch continues serializing Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Gahan Wilson: "I fit right in [at the National Lampoon]. The minute I walked in and we started talking, I knew 'this is wonderful!' They would egg you on. You would do something that was distasteful or you would attack something, and they’d say, 'oh, you can do worse than that, can’t you?' That sort of thing."
• Plug: "After decades of continually breaking new ground and pushing the boundaries of music, Lou Reed is still as much of a sonic innovator as he ever was. But in the coming months, the Velvet Underground legend is setting aside that aspect of his career in favor of revisiting a couple points in his illustrious career in some rather interesting ways. ...Reed is... readying a collection of drawings that re-interprets his 2003 concept album, The Raven. The 188-page hardcover book, done as a collaboration with Italian illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti, will add another layer to Reed’s reworking of Edgar Allan Poe’s words by giving the songs 'vivid, abstracted and enigmatic paintings.'" – Chris Coplan, Consequence of Sound
Catching up on our Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "...Fantagraphics Books’ new Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: “Race to Death Valley” contains all you need to know to revel in the very different, deeply pleasurable work of [Floyd] Gottfredson. Working with one of the most famous — and most anodyne — cartoon characters in the world, Gottfredson turned the grinning, goody-goody Mouse into a plucky, even reckless adventurer, his smile transformed from a people-pleasing smirk into a challenge to the world.... Gottfredson drew Mickey with a nosy snout and the bright eyes of an adrenalin junkie. The mouse’s diminutive size inspired Gottfredson to have the character attempt daredevil races, leaping stunts, and develop a flurry-fisted fighting style.... This beautiful volume gives the Great Rodent his humanity." – Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly
• Review: "Fantagraphics does a very smart thing with [Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Vol. 1], packing it full of historical materials to set the story for the comic strip. Having David Gerstein edit it is, of course, the smartest thing they could have done.... Simply put, it's the most extensive collection of 'extras' I've ever seen in one of these comic strip reprint series to date.... Reproductions are as great as you could ever hope for from material that's 80 years old and originally printed in the inkiest of newspapers you could imagine.... It's a kick to see this more interesting version of Mickey running around, saying and doing politically incorrect things. It's amazing to see how much detail an artist could pack into a small series of panels like this. But, most of all, it's a whole lot of fun." – Augie De Blieck Jr., Comic Book Resources
• Review: "This is, first of all, superb material.... Way back when, [Mickey Mouse] had a continuity and some darn good stories, illustrated with dynamic and expressive art. It was everything you could have wanted a newspaper strip to be, including being quite funny at times...and even suspenseful. The book itself is perfect and by that I mean I can't think of a single way it could have been improved. The reproduction is sharp. The editorial material fills you in nicely about the history of the strip, plus there are articles that discuss its merits and significance. The volume itself is handsome and will look good on your shelf." – Mark Evanier
• Plugs: Some great press mentions for our Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Free Comic Book Day comic, including the AP's Matt Moore and Whitney Matheson of USA Today Pop Candy, who says "This is sort of what FCBD is about, isn't it? Fantagraphics presents Floyd Gottfredson's amazing old Mickey strips from 1935 that are still entertaining today. Perfect for all ages..." The Wright Opinion's Brendan Wright says "The line work is beautiful and fluid, with plenty of panels that are funny to look at without reading the words. Thorough as always with this type of project, Fantagraphics has provided both an intro by David Gerstein an an appreciation of Gottfredson by classic Disney animator and official Disney Legend Floyd Norman."
• Review: "For Isle of 100,000 Graves, the cartoonist Jason works with a writer, Fabien Vehlmann, for what is at least the first time in his strong North American publishing run. It's a fun collaboration over which to muse because it's hard to tell exactly what Vehlmann brings to the table. The writer has grasped onto Jason's use of deadpan humor and wistful character moments to an uncanny degree.... Because of this deliberate care in both building their personalities and working from them in terms of how they react to certain story moments, both leads come across as incredibly endearing. A story-ending plot twist almost gets lost in a by-that-point hilarious one-liner about the methods used in bringing it about." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Underground-influenced comics fall into certain patterns — idiosyncratic art, rambling tales of daily life, copious use of mood-altering substances — but [Leslie] Stein makes hers [Eye of the Majestic Creature] fresh with the addition of a talking guitar.... Stein’s style is very readable, with sparse linework and a lead character that resembles a more tripped-out Little Orphan Annie, with huge blank buttons for eyes. Stein’s settings and other characters show more detail, especially in the complex stippling, demonstrating her outward focus.... Her world is full, even if it’s one that’s a bit off-kilter..." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Peter Bagge continues the saga of Lisa and Buddy Bradley and their son Harold in Hate Annual #9.... Peter Bagge has always made you care for these characters no matter what crazy problems they had. He has this rare gift of getting his readers to empathize with the drawings on the page and realizing them as real people.... Bagge shows us a very human side to the characters he creates and mirrors life in a sometimes painful way.... As we live our lives, we can look at these pages and see a little bit of ourselves in the drawn panels. This is what makes this series, and all previous ones, stand the test of time and remain a great read. Rating: 8.5" – The Comic Book Critic
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch continues serializing the transcript of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Peter Bagge: "I started drawing Buddy in 1980, when he was a member of The Bradleys. He was always 10 years younger than me. He started out as an adolescent — not always exactly 10 years. That’s on purpose, because that 10 years gives me space. When you’re going through a crisis or a rough time, it’s not funny, but 10 years later, you can look at the whole situation more objectively and find the humor in it."
• Review: "[Joe Daly's] latest, award-winning, on-going project Dungeon Quest is a delightful combination of nerdy discipline and pharmaceutical excess... Happily marrying the sensibilities of post-grunge, teenaged waste-lads... with the meticulous and finicky obsessions of role-playing gamers and the raw thrill of primal myths, this captivating and wittily indulgent yarn is enchantingly rendered in solid, blocky friendly black and white and garnished with lashings of smart-ass attitude. Strength: vulgar. Intelligence: witty. Dexterity: compelling. Mana: absolutely. Status: unmissable." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch begins serializing another of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversations, this time with Gahan Wilson: "The people who do horror stories and grim stuff are remarkably sweet people.... It was very odd. Why are horror writers like this? And it suddenly occurred to me — of course, what horror writers are writing about is the vulnerability of themselves and their readers and everybody and how fragile everything is.... They’re experts at being scared. If they weren’t experts at being scared, they wouldn’t write about being scared and scare other people."
• Interview: If you read Japanese, enjoy excerpts from a conversation between Moto Hagio and her colleague Ryoko Yamagishi from Otome Continue Vol. 6 presented at Poco Poco
• Feature:Eye of the Majestic Creature creator Leslie Stein is the guest contributor in the latest installment of "What Are You Reading?" at Robot 6. Among her picks: Yeah! by Peter Bagge & Gilbert Hernandez: "Gilbert’s illustrations are excellent and Bagge’s writing is funny, as per usual."
• Review: "This book in particular reprints a run where Mickey Mouse enters Pluto in a dog race and ends up getting mixed up with a banker who wants to foreclose on a friendly old couple, snooty society types, high-stakes gamblers and the mob. The mob, people. It's really great stuff, with a ton of adventure and action balanced out with the humor I was expecting, which really holds up even here in the next century, right down to the fun Vaudeville-style wordplay. I would've devoured this thing if I was a kid, and while it's ostensibly a teaser for the bigger reprint volumes -- which, at $30 for 300 pages are looking like an even better deal than I thought -- it's awesome for all ages." – Chris Sims, Comics Alliance
• Review: "Joe Daly's comics are an unequivocal delight. The second volume of his role playing/video game send-up and tribute, Dungeon Quest, is a visual feast from beginning to end. Of course, this feast may be mere junk food, but his sheer commitment to the adventurous reality that his characters encounter makes the reader care about the most ridiculous of scenarios.... While there are a number of alt-comics fantasy series being published these days (with Trondheim & Sfar's Dungeon the best), Daly's fusion of underground comics sensibilities with the blunt directness of the video game playing experience is unique and leaves the reader wanting more." – Rob Clough, High-Low
• Interview: At Under the Radar, Jeremy Nisen talks to Eye of the Majestic Creature creator Leslie Stein: "Right now I pretty much write out the comic like a movie script and then just attack the page. As I go along I change some of the dialogue or add different sequences I've thought of to enhance the story, like if there's something I draw in a background on a whim, I might like it and incorporate it into the story. This way it's exciting as I go along, and not just laborious drawing. As for the concept, it just pops into the old bean. Magic!"
• Plug: In a pre-TCAF Q&A at the National Post, comic artist Niki Smith talks about her most-anticipated comic of the year: "Wandering Son is debuting at TCAF (from Fantagraphics) and I absolutely cannot wait to add it to my collection and push it on everyone I know. It’s a wonderful story of gender and sexuality and growing up."
Eye of the Majestic Creature is a collection of semi-autobiographical and fantasy-based comics that combine dry humor, psychedelia, and emotion to show the viewpoint of one person’s world internally and externally. The story follows a young girl, Larrybear, and her talking acoustic guitar Marshmallow on their adventures through the countryside, Chicago, San Francisco and New York. While Larrybear struggles to connect with strangers, her friends, and her family to various degrees of success, her growing population of anthropomorphic friends have adventures of their own.
Larrybear is in a constant struggle between the desire to connect with those around her and to be left to her own devices. You get a glimpse of her past life when she visits her home town of Chicago, trying to relate to old friends who have not matured since high school, as well as her family (which includes her Hippopotamus father and his harem of ex-wives, two brothers, and Salsa-dancing mom). In the present, she moves to New York to find work for a time, resulting in many hilarious and drunken adventures with her new coworkers at a cell phone decorating shop, and her old friend Boris, who shares with her his P.G. Wodehouse books, as well as his “Incredible Hulk” weed. Drawn in shades of gray using the near-deceased practice of stippling, Stein’s imagery draws you into her world for a complete and engrossing experience.
Praise for Leslie Stein:
“Leslie Stein’s comics inhabit a charming and semi-autobiographical (in the most ‘semi’ sense of the word) yet surreal, insular world where her best friend and closest confidant is an acoustic guitar. What’s not to relate to?” — Peter Bagge
“Early in the 20th Century, a beautiful cartoonist, Marcel Duchamp, pretended to be a marginally attractive woman and spent considerable time watching dust accumulate. Early in the 21st Century a beautiful cartoonist, Leslie Stein, pretended to be a funky dweeb and spent considerable time counting sand. Catch my drift?” — Gary Panter
• Review/Interview:ESPN.com's Jim Caple looks at 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente — "Santiago has a stunning, cinematic style, and 21 is filled with gorgeous illustrations that capture the power and grace of Clemente as no standard book of black and white type ever has or could. […] By appealing to all ages, 21 is a wonderful way to introduce younger readers to one of baseball's most important players and a great way to introduce older readers to the story-telling power and sophistication of graphic novels." — and talks to its creator, Wilfred Santiago: "Clemente's appeal is exactly what you see in 21. He had many sides but the story of a young person from a humble background going against the odds, overcoming obstacles and challenges, the struggles, anger, injustice, the loneliness, while not losing himself in the process, was compelling. On top of it, he did not conform to being an average athlete or human being but excelling as both. And he did it during one of the most volatile times in America. This is a story that spoke to me, and I couldn't pass. I also got to dip into baseball; it was a great experience dissecting the sport."
• Review: "While there was clearly a lot on his mind, Trondheim is still first and foremost a gag man. He imbues every page with his dry wit, creating an authorial voice that allows him to get away with all sorts of slapstick and nonsense (without seeming too silly), while also allowing him to write about personal and serious matters (without seeming too ponderous). In later years, Trondheim would return to autobio comics as a way to revive his interest in drawing, but he’s truly at the height of his powers in Approximate Continuum Comics." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Plugs: At Comic Book Resources, Alex Dueben's report from last weekend's MoCCA Festival includes praise for Peter Bagge & Gilbert Hernandez's Yeah! ("The book isn’t on sale yet, but this should be in demand by anyone who like all-ages comics and those who, when they read that it features a section penciled by Gilbert and inked by Jaime, know they need to own it") and Leslie Stein's Eye of the Majestic Creature ("charming and fabulous") as well as mentions of some of our other debuts
Leslie Stein hardly needs an introduction… because it’s late and I’m tired and I have to get up at 4am tomorrow. So, I’m going to make this short.
Stein’s work appeals to me because it contains pseudo-biography, anthropomorphic silliness and impeccable craftsmanship into one delightful package. Her work is traditional yet fresh, drawing from comic strip history’s rich library of gestures, expressions and fantastical characters while presenting innovative ideas in composition and texture.
I like it a lot.
Thank you. Good night.
IAN BURNS: You grew up in Evanston, Illinois. Could you describe the town and what it was like for you growing up there?
LESLIE STEIN: Evanston is a large suburb of Chicago. It’s a college town that Northwestern University is in. It’s a nice suburb. I lived on the southern side near Rogers Park so I was really close to the city, so as I grew older I could go into the city easily and explore and go to punk rock shows when I was a teenager. Stuff like that.
BURNS: Where did you go to high school?
STEIN: I went to Evanston Township High School. It’s the public school there.
BURNS: You did not enjoy high school very much.
STEIN: (Laughs) Right. I was an odd duck there. I was like a punk rocker and most of the other people who went to school there didn’t look that kindly upon that. So I didn’t have many friends, and I mostly made friends from other schools when I went to shows in the city. I couldn’t wait to get out of high school, so I actually took double classes my senior year and graduated early.
BURNS: So what year would that have been when you were kind of getting into the punk scene?
BURNS: So it would have been well on the wane of the big time punk scene, but you got in with a fairly big punk community?
STEIN: At the time all the kids went to the Fireside Bowl in Chicago. So I went there to shows every weekend. And yeah, it wasn’t as cool as it was, but it was what we had at the time.
BURNS: You were drawing at a fairly early age.
STEIN: I started when I was two. The story my mom likes to tell, that I came home from a pre-kindergarten kind of class, preschool, and I guess I got in the car and I told her, “Mommy, I’m an artist!” I guess someone at school must have told me I was an artist because of the way I was drawing so intently. So yeah I was really focused on drawing for my whole childhood.
BURNS: Were your parents encouraging?
STEIN: They were neither discouraging nor encouraging. They bought me art supplies and they let me draw, which is what most kids do, but I definitely wasn’t encouraged to pursue it seriously.
BURNS: As you grew up did you pursue any academic training in the arts?
STEIN: No, I attempted… I was so unhappy at my high school that I attempted to go to an arts high school, I applied. And I went through the whole process of applying for the school, and I got in. What they told me upon accepting me was that I couldn’t draw what they considered the cartoons I had shown them to get in. That was stuff I had to do on the side and I would have to do “real” art there. Because I thought my cartoons were real art, I didn’t understand what they were talking about, and I didn’t like being talked to like that ’cause I was already a little rebel. So I decided not to go to school there. I really blocked out most of high school. If I see people on the train from high school… they remember me and I have no idea who they are.
BURNS: Did you move to Brooklyn before you attended college?
STEIN: No, actually I went to school… I got accepted to the San Francisco Art Institute, and I went there for a year and a half; my major was interdisciplinary, so I figured I could get away with doing whatever I wanted to do. I took painting classes, drawing classes and print making classes, but what I ended up doing, I was just trying to draw comics, that’s what I wanted to do, because it was a conceptual art school, people really looked down upon that. I actually had someone in a critique ask me why I was even going to school there. (Burns laughs) So I transferred to the cartooning department at SVA as a sophomore, and that’s when I moved to Brooklyn.
BURNS: Ok. And that’s where you were the only girl in your department, correct?
STEIN: (Laughs) Right, right. Actually, when I first started as a sophomore there were two other women in the department and they both dropped out by the end of the year, so for the last two years I was the only woman in the department.
BURNS: You’ve got to tell the story about the Wolverine bust. I made a special note about that.
STEIN: (Laughs) So… (Laughter) I was thinking, I don’t know why I was thinking this, but I was thinking, “I’m gonna go and I’m going to find all these kindred spirits doing really really interesting comic work,” but it turned out that most of everyone in the department was drawing superhero comics. I don’t know why I didn’t assume that would be the case. So a lot of times I’d be sitting in class, and I’d be sitting behind a guy who I noticed would be drawing Wolverine over and over and over again. (Burns laughs) In different… He would draw him like a character study: From the side, claws out; from the front, claws in; from the side, claws out. Now, it wasn’t the same guy, but during one class, I actually was, I guess, forced to critique a bust of Wolverine.
BURNS: So he was a popular character at that school.
STEIN: (Laughs) Yeah, everyone liked Wolverine! I guess he’s probably one of the most popular superheroes, but yeah people REALLY loved drawing Wolverine. So yeah the bust was a full bust of Wolverine, and it was really quite impressive, it was a very nice piece of sculpture. It was, you know, him looking very muscular with his arms out to his sides and his claws out. But it was cut off right mid thigh, and the funniest thing about it was that he had the hugest package I’ve ever seen on a bust (Laughter), and the whole time, you know we’re trying to critique this, and I’m sitting there with my hands over my face just laughing so hard. And I think I actually raised my hand and said it was a beautiful piece of art.