#1, You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler: "A mash-up of family portrait, generational analysis, autobiography and scrapbook, this book was not only the most emotionally powerful work of the year, it was the most attractively designed. The first part of what will likely be Tyler’s masterwork."
#6, Like a Dog by Zak Sally: "This was a stunningly honest account and collection of early work by one of the most underrated cartoonists working today. While the collected early issues of Recidivist ranged from interesting to astounding, it was Sally’s frank and emotional essay following the collection that really struck me as a statement of purpose — not just as an artist, but as a person."
#10, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman: "The first collection from Kupperman’s surprising hit really helped spread the word about his unique and delightfully warped genius as a gagsmith and artist."
#15, Sublife Vol. 2 by John Pham: "This one-man anthology featured Pham fully harnessing every aspect of his skills as a writer and artist. His use of color dominated and provided a sort of visual through-line for his different narratives. Pham alternately pushed the reader away and then pulled them in, depending on the story, a tension that made this his most successful work to date."
And #17, Ho! by Ivan Brunetti: "It’s fascinating to see the two directions Brunetti was headed in with regard to these gags. First, his gags became ever-more boundary pushing, but always in service to the punchline. Second, his line became more and more simplified to the point of nearly geometric simplicity: squares, circles and triangles wound up creating most of his characters by the end of the book."
• List:Paul Gravett names The Best of 2009: Classic Comic Reprints. At #6, it's The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Nell Brinkley's Cartoons 1913-1940: "Trina [Robbins] follows up her thorough biography of Brinkley with this oversized collection of Sunday 'comics,' often more like ravishing illustrated romantic yarns of big hair, clothes and emotions, but stunning to linger over and revealing in their period mood and concerns. In their time, Brinkley’s spirited, vivacious females were as iconic and inspirational in early 20th century America as the famous Gibson Girls before her. They truly deserve this gorgeous commemoration."
• List: On the annual Fun Fifty countdown at Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun!, at #15, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman: "Without hyperbole, Thrizzle is simply the funniest, most guffaw-out-loud comic book they're going to have to pry out of your cold, dead hands when you die laughing. ... Thrizzle's stuffed from front cover to impressive back page blurbs with Kupperman's splendiferous pulps-meet-woodblock-print artwork and lunatic stories, it's one of those rare humor books that actually is downright hilarious."
• Reviews: Nick Gazin of Vice (link NSFW) weighs in on a number of titles:
"I love Unlovable. Take that, book title. ... Unlovable 2 is a fun and funny read all the way through. ... Girls are gonna like this book and dudes are gonna like this book. It’ll remind you of how stupid you were and also of suburban sadness and realizing that your high school crush will probably never love you back."
"[High Soft Lisp] is incredible... The world in this book is one I wouldn’t want to live in but I can’t stop thinking about the story of Fritz."
"...[Almost Silent] is a really good book and Jason is a strong cartoonist. He does a lot with his simple-but-well-drawn characters and little to no dialogue. ... For $25 you get a nice sampler of what Jason can do. This is entirely worth owning."
• Review: "The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion is the indispensable guide to the strip and a must have for its legions of fans new and old. Fantagraphics has been re-printing these original strips in chronological order in beautiful hardcover volumes and this guide makes the perfect complement. ... No matter how long you’ve been a Prince Valiant fan…one year or seventy years, you’re certain to find this book informative and entertaining. Fantagraphics has produced another spectacular book! Grade A" – Tim Janson, The Gouverneur Times
• Review: "Similar to Charles Addams and Gahan Wilson, Jason relies on the humorous side of horror in these mostly wordless tales. ... Throughout the sublime Almost Silent, Jason examines traditional relationships and social norms via a deliciously warped lens, quite probably one constructed by Dr. Frankenstein himself." – Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica (spoiler alert!)
• Review: "I can’t think of a better single volume of what the period style of fast looked like in practice than last year’s Supermen! anthology. Yes, there’s an added winnowing by genre but that just sharpens the sense of the reductive visual and narrative requirements that were standard for the hot new gravy train that hit the business." – Rich Kreiner, "Yearlong Best of the Year," The Comics Journal
• Review: "As a whole, I like Abstract Comics a lot. I’d say that it works like a good art exhibition, or at least an exhibition unburdened by obligations to teach history, one in which multiple formal and aesthetic connections are there but not shouted out, rather left to be discovered (or not) by the strolling viewer according to his or her inclinations." – Charles Hatfield, Thought Balloonists
• Plug: "[Steven] Weissman's work is very often like a brain-damaged Charles Schulz... His newest book, Chocolate Cheeks, raises the stakes in a really dramatic way. I think this might be his last book in this series, but it goes out with a doozy of a book." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Plug: "Matt’s response to my squeeing over the announced May, 2010 publication date of Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6: 'Yes, as there were so many plots unresolved in the last issue. Who won, blimps or holes??'" – TofuPunk.com (I don't know who Matt is – ed.)
• Plug: "With new work by the likes of Johnny Ryan, Max Andersson, Sam Henderson, Stephane Blanquet, Doug Allen, Michael Kupperman, Mack White, and Jeremy Onsmith, Hotwire 3 is certain to deliver the psychic jolt it promises." – Richard Cowdry, Love the Line
• Plug: "Since Beatriz 'Penny Century' Garcia is my favorite Love & Rockets' Locas, I'm very excited to see the advance solicitation for the new soft cover Penny Century... In my opinion, the soft cover collected volumes are the best way to read Love & Rockets. They are the easiest way to follow the reading order, and with the cheap price of $18.99, you can't find a better launching point for one of the most regarded independent comics of all time. " – The Star Clipper Blog
• Analysis:Abstract Comics contributor Derik Badman posts an in-depth email discussion between himself and critic Craig Fischer about the book
• Interview:The Daily Yomiuri's Tom Baker talks Usagi Yojimbo with Stan Sakai: "I think the first few years I really tried to make him cute and cuddly like a stuffed animal, whereas the stories tended to [take] a more dramatic turn. So I think the character has changed. Most of it's unconscious on my part." (via The Comics Reporter )
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions starts with a rave:
• Review: "This is a fascinating book on a lot of levels. For one, it's distinguished by Adam Grano's design work to a degree I think noteworthy: on many levels, Newave! represents better than any book I've seen the clash of comics publishing impulses now and then. ... It says something about Grano's increasingly compelling body of work with Fantagraphics that he provides the work with much of the energy that helps the reader through nearly 900 pages. It's Michael Dowers that makes that trip worthwhile. By avoiding a summary statement and roping in so many cartoonists, presenting 700 pages of their work in doing so..., Dowers lets the reader come to the material rather than shoving it into their face. His confidence is justified: a lot of these comics are fascinating-looking, and the sheer handsomeness of many of the pages, this wall of better-than-expected craft, will probably be the biggest shock to those that kind of dismissed this kind of work whenever one encountered it along the way." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "...[Like a Dog] makes for a compelling scrapbook collection — and a beautifully-bound one at that. ... There’s an inspiring breadth of themes and styles on display here, although ultimately they all point to an artist in the depths of an existential crisis." – Will Fitzpatrick, Bookmunch
• Interview:Bookmunch's Will Fitzpatrick, whose review of Zak Sally's Like a Dog is linked above, has a good long email interview with Zak: "I actually enjoy reading comics so much that it’s slightly embarrassing. The stylistic diversity you mention was, again, not that conscious on my part: it was, again, just having this thing or idea and having to find a way to come at it that made sense, to me; and strangely enough, that often meant I had to experiment with what I thought comics were or weren’t to get there. I was just searching for a way to make comics."
Oh no, I had this Online Commentary & Diversions update all set to go and then I forgot to post it... Earth to Mike!
• List: At Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun!, our favorite little stuffed bull continues the annual Fun Fifty countown. At #36, Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1: "Ditko expert Blake Bell collects several dozen of Steve's 1950s work from Charlton and other publishers, plus plenty of amazing covers, in a thick, hardy collection with glorious gory and ghoulish Ditko comics from front to back. This thing's a gold mine!"
• Review: "...T. Edward Bak's almost comically named 'Wild Man, Chapter 2 -- A Bavarian Botanist in St. Petersburg, Part One'... is the story to which I kept returning long after the publication entire [Mome Vol. 17] should have been swapped off of my end table for something less worked over. ... I hope there's more." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Next to Scott Pilgrim [Prison Pit: Book 1] felt to me like the western comic that’s got closest to properly understanding the energy of manga, rather than simply aping the surface elements. ... It’s the best art I’ve seen Ryan do in his career, more focused and while it mainly maintains a four-panel-a-page rhythm, when he breaks from that to do a splash page or change the panel rhythm, he does to great effect. If you’re going to do a splash page, it might as well be of a monster made of sperm or a barbed penis." – Brian Smith, Awesome Engine
• Coming Attractions:ICv2 previews our upcoming August release of Buz Sawyer Vol. 1: The War in the Pacific by Roy Crane
• Interview:Inkstuds host Robin McConnell says "I really enjoyed this chat with Zak Sally. If you are not already reading his work, you will want to after listening to this."
• Events: For Comics Comics, Dash Shaw reports from Angoulême: "At festivals like this you find yourself jetlagged in a taxi with José Muñoz and you’re thinking 'holy shit, what do I ask José Muñoz? What do I ask José Muñoz?!' and you end up just bugging him about random things. Try to milk those ten minutes for as much as you can."
“Five six. Hundred twenty-eight pounds. Forty-three twenty-two thirty-six. High soft lisp. Genius level I.Q.” That’s how motivational speaker Mark Herrera sums up Rosalba “Fritz” Martinez, bombshell, former punkette, former psychiatrist, “Z” movie star — in this supremely sexy, constantly surprising graphic novel.
And Herrera should know, being only one of many to fall under Fritz’s “lithping” spell — others including slobbish rocker Scott “The Hog” and high school nerd turned obsessive bodybuilder Enrique Escobar (and that’s just her husbands).
Hernandez has taken this suite of stories (including the 48-page graphic novelette “High Soft Lisp”), originally serialized in Luba's Comics and Stories and the second volume of Love and Rockets, and fleshed them out with a dozen brand new pages, creating an original and inventive (and very steamy) volume that, through its connections to his main character Luba (Fritz is Luba’s half sister, and characters from the Luba stories pop up here), works both as a standalone graphic novel and a further exploration of Hernandez’s rich world.
Picking up right after Perla La Loca, the third volume of the definitive “Maggie” series repackaging, this compilation of stories from Jaime Hernandez’s solo comic Penny Century and his subsequent return to Love and Rockets (Volume II) charts the further lives of his beloved “Locas.”
But first... wrestling! Penny Century starts off with a blast with “Whoa, Nellie!,” a unique graphic novelette in which Maggie, who has settled in with her pro-wrestler aunt for a while, experiences that wild and woolly world first-hand.
Then it’s back to chills and spills with the old cast of Hopey, Ray Dominguez, and Izzy Ortiz — including Maggie’s romantic dream fantasia “The Race” and the definitive Ray story, “Everybody Loves Me, Baby.”
Penny Century also features two major “flashback” stories: “Bay of Threes” finally reveals the full back story behind Beatriz “Penny Century” Garcia, Maggie’s long-time, bleached-blonde bombshell friend (who gives this volume its name and can be seen as a super-villainess in the first two issues of Love and Rockets: New Stories), while “Home School” is one of Hernandez’s popular looks at his characters’ lives from when they were little kids, drawn in an adorable simplified Dennis the Menace type style. This volume also includes the Maggie & Hopey Color Fun one-shot, reproduced here in glorious black and white.
• Review: "The third volume of this comics anthology is a whirl-a-gig of vivid color, giddy fun, black angst, and hauntingly disturbing images... The volume brings together carefully crafted stories with eye-searing artwork, packed with scatological humor, violence, and disquieting sexual acts... Hotwire Comics 3 is not for the faint of heart, but those who love underground comics or want an introduction to that world as it stands today, will embrace the volume." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Classic kid comics are evoked with a weird, horror-inspired twist in [Chocolate Cheeks]... Weissman has a knack for combining the cute with the eerie and the unsettling, and the art—presented in both b&w and color—is outstanding." – Publishers Weekly (same link as above)
• Review: "But even Jaime devotees should be paying attention to Gilberto’s recent work; since he closed the books on Luba, he’s been flexing his muscles with some astonishingly effective genre exercises, the latest of which is The Troublemakers. A lurid pulp excursion featuring an appropriately leering cover by Rick Altergott, the book uses peripheral characters from Beto’s other works to craft a story about missing cash, hot sex, and two-timing that combines equal parts neo-noir and sleazy ’70s-throwback exploitation. But what elevates it from being a simple mélange of clever genre riffs is Beto’s determination to load it with uneasy surrealist images and clever symbolic elements. The Troublemakers doesn’t read entirely like anything he’s done before, but it may be his best work in years. [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "[The] Troublemakers follows a cast of conmen as they double-cross one another until they run out of rope and hang themselves. It too features amazing cartooning. It’s very cinematic, but it’s not drawn with attention to realism like cinematic comics frequently tend to be... Instead, the storytelling relies on Hernandez’s masterful use of staging and talent with composition. His ability to spot blacks, place textures, and overall cartooning/drawing skills made this crime story a delight to read." – guest contributor Jim Rugg, Robot 6
• Review: "If you are a student of the history of sequential art, Newave! feels like a must-have for your collection. It seems to be as perfect of a collection of mini-comix as you could ever find and it is informative as well as entertaining. It’s also the type of book that challenges your artistic side as well so that’s another bonus." – Chad Derdowski, Mania
• Interview:Publicola's Heidi Broadhead talks to Michael Dowers about the Newave! book and exhibit: "Well, there are still a handful of us who are completely driven. It is in the very cell walls of our mind, body, and soul. Some of these guys are about to hit 60 years old, me included, and we don’t know how to stop."
• Plugs:The Precocious/Manga Curmudgeon, David Welsh, recommends some Gilbert Hernandez books in recognition of Beto's birthday today: "For those of you who aren’t familiar with Palomar, it’s a small Central American town populated with interesting, complex people. It’s also populated with a variety of kinds of stories and tones, gritty realism one moment, magical realism the next. Hernandez really builds that web of community in these stories, exploring ties of family and friendship, lingering grudges, outside influences, sex, love and death."
• Plug: "...[Almost Silent] is all stellar material for the most part, especially [Tell Me] Something and You Can't [Get There from Here], which trade on Jason's perennial theme of love found and lost in rather odd settings. So if you weren't able to get these books when they first came out, I highly recommend doing so when this new edition comes out..." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
During our recent inventory count at our storied and labyrinthine warehouse, we discovered additional copies of several items thought to be sold out and unavailable for weeks, months — or years! Grab these gems while you can before they run out again — quantities are limited!
• Review: "Imagine then what yesterday — or today's — right wingers would say about The Great Anti-War Cartoons... Sadly... what these cartoons have made us 'see' is how little things have changed 'round the planet, or within our species. ... And while being the spark for various brilliant cartoons over the decades doesn't justify the institutional addiction to war (or its always-looming threat), these cartoons can at least provide some solace. Or good fallout shelter reading." – Mark London Williams, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Review: "Jaime Hernandez’s side of the Love and Rockets anthology may have started in a world of futuristic fantasy, but [The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S.] is the volume where he finds his feet and hits a groove. ... Jaime’s illustration is beautiful and effortless. His characters mix a near perfect clear-line style with cartoonish expression, used with particular aplomb when emotions are running high. It’s a masterclass in comic illustration." – Grovel
• Plug:Library Journal features May 2010's Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso in their inaugural Graphic Novels Prepub Alert: "A coming-of-age story about a young girl from a family caught between sides in a civil war, set in a world similar to ours but where people have artichoke leaves instead of hair. ... Its delicate, rather impish black-and-white line work comes from the creator of the subtle and poignant Squirrel Mother."
• Review: "Strange Suspense offers page after lurid four-color page of Ditko’s weird monsters, rubber-faced crooks, and abstracted landscapes... The book is a white-knuckle trip through Ditko’s fevered imagination. [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club (same link as above)
• Review: "[Al] Columbia’s book Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days strings together 200-odd (very odd) pages of sketches, strips, panels, and spot illustrations, assembled into one long nightmare-narrative about two loose-limbed tots wandering through a village of lusty killers and bleeding trees. There are no explanations here, and few conventional payoffs — just images designed to remind readers what it was like to be a panicked, paranoid child, convinced that every nighttime shadow contained a beast more menacing and repulsive than any grown-up could conceive. [Grade] B+" – The A.V. Club (same link as above)
• Review: "Like A Dog — a collection of [Zak] Sally’s self-published Recidivist comics, plus odds and ends — drips warped fantasy, bleak humor, and experimentation. Dynamically, the book also veers from being text-heavy to eerily wordless, even as it maintains the integrity of Sally’s stunning, stark-yet-lush linework. ...Like A Dog is a compelling slab of graphic narrative. As a warts-and-then-some chronicle of one man’s navigation through the world of underground comics (not to mention his own self-sabotaging psyche), it’s downright mesmerizing. [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club (same link as above)
• Review: "Packaged in an ingenious VHS-like format, [Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box] comes complete with lofty intro... But the fun is paging through these lurid examples of videos you kind of forget you remember, like Streets of Fire or The Legend of Hell House." – Kristi Turnquist, The Oregonian
• Review: "[Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons is] a monster production, a slipcased behemoth, nearly 1000 pages in three volumes, with deliciously wicked humor on every page. ... Open the box, free the three volumes, and dive in anywhere. You will not be disappointed." – John Mesjak, my3books
• Review: "I opened [West Coast Blues], got sucked in and blew through it in one sitting. Then I went back a few weeks later, in preparation for this review, and re-read it. I found that I liked it even better the second time around, as I was able to spend a little more time with it and take in the subtleties of the work. I suspect I will read it again soon and I would definitely recommend it. Fans of great artwork and crime stories should give this book a shot." – Chad Derdowski, Mania
• Review: "Now, as a teacher and father, I see that Schulz' reflections on childhood were more accurate than I could have understood from a younger perspective. Some characters I either didn't like or didn't understand when I was a kid are much more sympathetic now, and I still love Schulz' clean cartooning style. ... The most recent [Complete Peanuts] release covers the years 1973 and 1974, which are good years for Peanuts." – Quinn Rollins, Epinions.com
• List: Sandy Bilus of I Love Rob Liefeld names Ganges #3 by Kevin Huizenga #7 on his top 10 Best Comics of 2009: "Huizenga's comics are just really enjoyable to read. The full page image of Glenn inside his own head is really something else."
• List: Our own Eric Reynolds (and some other small press folks) tells The Morning News's Robert Birnbaum 4 books he wishes we'd published last year