In recent years Scandinavia has become a hotbed of cartooning activity, from the internationally acclaimed funny-animal stylings of Norway’s Jason to the hilarious slacker romps of Sweden’s Martin Kellerman and Dane Nikoline Werdelin’s Eisner-Award-nominated urban slice-of-life stories. This anthology of comics — many of them created especially for this book — offers an intoxicating and compelling sampling of current works from these countries. Skaal!
Jenni Rope [Finland] tells a minimalist tale of heartbreak in “The Island”; Peter Kielland’s [Denmark] Mr. Pig has an eventful day; Joanna Rubin Drang- er [Sweden] is “Always Prepared to Die for My Child”; Crumb-esque satirist Christopher Nielsen [Norway] boils down all of life to an eternal journey up the “Escalator”; Tommi Musturi [Finland] provides two full-color Jim Woodring-esque romps featuring his “Samuel” character; Johan F. Krarup [Denmark] visits a compulsive comics collector in “Nostalgia”; plus Bendik Kaltenborn’s [Norway] “The Great Underneath,” a dazzling wordless piece from Mardøn Smet [Denmark], the legendary Swedish cartoonist Joakim Pirinen’s ultra-virtuoso “My Life,” Drawn & Quarterly-published Amanda Vähämäki’s [Finland] pencil-smudged stylings, and much more.
• Review: "Michel Gagné... worked with Fantagraphics to produce this beautiful volume [Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby's Romance Comics].... Clearly, Simon and Kirby tried to bring as much excitement to primarily psychological and interpersonal goings on as to punching and flying, but the action can’t help but be more grounded and, therefore, limited. It’s impressive that any of the stories manage to sweep one up, and a few do, pulling the reader in rather than leaving him/her assessing art and writing from an appreciative distance. The variety on display here is impressive as well." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Review: "There are strange things going on in Nordic comics. And when I say 'strange,' what I really mean is bug-eyed gibbering crazy. And when I say 'bug-eyed gibbering crazy,' I mean shit verging either on lurid incomprehensibility or sweet unfathomable genius.... If you're tired of traditional comic book fare and are looking to expand your horizons in your comic reading, Kolor Klimax is a pretty good place to go. After all, I can't imagine that your local comic shop stocks too many Nordic comic books on its shelves, and this anthology may be your only available on-ramp to a whole different world of comic book possibilities." – Daniel Elkin, Comics Bulletin
• Review: "The 'autobio' strip in [Athos in America] is my hands-down full-stop favorite thing Jason has ever done, earning this book the EXCELLENT rating for that reason alone. The rest of the book is totally satisfying, but I can’t pretend I didn’t read all of it with my brain obsessing over all the little beats in 'A Cat From Heaven.' There isn’t a dead moment in the thing. 'Hey, Fuckface'…so funny, this thing." – Tucker Stone, The Savage Critics
• Review: "Everything I feel comfortable saying about [Is That All There Is?] right now already came stumbling out on this Inkstuds podcast I did..., but it deserves some kind of Savage rating. How about EXCELLENT? There’s stuff in here that I wish was bigger in size, but…so what? I hope every single person who complains about the size of this book gets buried in shit after being murdered by their family, and I hope they get murdered with Lou Gehrig’s disease. If they’re a cartoonist, I hope it happens to them twice." – Tucker Stone, The Savage Critics
• Interview: Our own Eric Buckler talks to Wilfred Santiago at our own The Comics Journal: "Unlike working with someone else’s script, there’s no linear method when I work on my own. That is to say I write while I ‘toon, and I ‘toon while I write. So the most important step is editing–what’s left on the page before going to the printer and into the sweaty hands of readers. I do believe writing has improved my cartooning. I don’t think it’s an accident that some of the best cartoonists are writers. I’m not putting myself in that group but I strive for it."
• Review: "This is a wonderful collection of golden age material from Bill Everett, all never before reprinted.... For fans of golden age material or Bill Everett Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives, Vol. 1 is a must have look at early comics from lesser known publishers... At $40 it’s an investment into rarely seen material." – Scott VanderPloeg, Comic Book Daily
• Review: At Danish comics website Nummer9, Nikolaj Mangurten Rubin looks at Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now, calling it "A many-headed troll monster of a book" and giving it a 4 out of 5 rating
• Review: "Not many music writers warrant a biography. Lester Bangs was one. Maybe Tosches or Kent. But Everything Is an Afterthought, by Kevin Avery, is a singular piece of work, a hybrid bio and anthology. Nelson was the Orson Welles of rock letterdom, a man whose profiles of Springsteen and Zevon were masterpieces of the form. A slow stone-cutter of a writer, a cinephile and a noir buff (and an inveterate deadline-misser), he shot himself in the foot many times, but Avery’s book makes the reader misty-eyed for a time when music journalism was populated by hard-nosed evangelists, not suck-ups or career snarks." – Peter Murphy, "Blog of Revelations," Hot Press
• Review: As part of ComicsAlliance's series focusing on sex in comics, Douglas Wolk looks at Gilbert Hernandez's Birdland: "Birdland has been out of print for a while, which is a pity. It's witty, eccentric, bursting with joy, and utterly, cheerfully smutty.... And the whole thing is drawn in a style that's the erotic equivalent of Jack Kirby's fight scenes: grounded in the way actual bodies interact, but pumped up to an imaginative intensity way beyond anything the naked eye has ever seen. On top of that, Birdland is funny -- not corny-funny or nudge/wink-funny, but absurd and sly, with a terrific sense for what can make the overfamiliar language of pornography fresh again."
Dear sweet mercy this week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following truckload of new titles. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators and web-savvy comic shops are saying about them (more to be added as they appear), check out our previews at the links, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
144-page full-color 7" x 9.5" hardcover • $35.00 ISBN: 978-1-60699-510-5
"The semi-complete comics works of the remarkable Dutch cartoonist (and designer, and architect, and Tintin aficionado, and the guy who came up with the term 'ligne claire') Joost Swarte. Fantagraphics originally announced this project for 2007 (under the name Modern Swarte), and its scope has gradually expanded since then. There are, in fact, some deliberate omissions--this volume doesn't include his kids' book series 'Katoen en Pinbal,' and mail-order copies from Fantagraphics come with an extra 12-page minicomic of early material called 'Actually, That Wasn't All There Was.'" – Douglas Wolk, ComicsAlliance
"A whole lot of Fantagraphics books are dropping... this week — if you see a book of Joost Swarte: no, it’s not a mirage..." – Joe McCulloch, The Comics Journal
"The... long-anticipated collection of Joost Swarte's comics work... is one of those things you're grateful to see finally come out even if you can't afford to buy it right away." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"...Fantagraphics must have sat down and designated this Scandinavian Comics Week… Adding a touch of influential Denmark [sic] work for good measure. Besides Kolor Klimax... the publisher has also released the first English language translation from Dutch alternative comics master Joost Swarte, entitled Is That All There Is? ...[T]hat’s one company betting on a lot of 'love' from fans of European alternative work in the same week." – "Insideman's Pull List," Inveterate Media Junkies
"[This] is one of those anthologies with tons of cartoonists you've never heard of but probably wish you had." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
204-page full-color 10" x 10" hardcover • $39.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-507-5
"Not comics, by any stretch of the imagination; I'm listing it here because it's a Fantagraphics book and might be showing up in comics shops, and because it looks fantastic. This is Pat Thomas's long, extensively researched photo-and-essay book about where the Black Power movement intersected with the recording industry." – Douglas Wolk, ComicsAlliance
240-page full-color 7.25" x 10" hardcover • 39.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-488-7
"I'm a huge fiend for Bill Everett, one of the romantic figures of 20th Century comic book making for the fact that when his comics hit on a certain popular notion they contributed to the general development of that form as much as anyone's comics ever did, but when they didn't quite conform to the most popular efforts they super stuck out." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
180-page black & white/color 8" x 10" softcover • $19.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-481-8
"It's wonderful that Diane Noomin has a new collection out. I'm reading it right now as the book I keep in the back seat of the car as I wait for people to leave buildings where I'm picking them up.... I hope this one doesn't get lost in the flood of new material out. We desperately need to come to grips with more of the underground comix work, if only because so much of it was deeply compelling. I liked the support material in here, too, particularly Noomin's walking us through her career." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"My splurge for the week would likely be one of the several books out from Fantagraphics. First up is Amazing Mysteries, a collection of early work by Bill Everett (reviewed here). Then there’s Glitz 2 Go, a collection of comics by underground-era cartoonist Diane Noomin, whom I simply don’t know enough about. The obvious choice though is the wittily titled Is That All There Is?, a kitchen-sink collection of the mighty Joost Swarte’s comic stories from the 1970s onward. You can never have enough Swarte." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: There’s a pretty enormous amount of Fantagraphics stuff out this week, with nothing more anticipated I suspect than Is That All There Is?, a 144-page collection of almost all of Joost Swarte’s work in alternative comics, including eye-catching bits from RAW, Heavy Metal and elsewhere; $35.00. Then you can keep up your international airs with Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now, a 250-page anthology of Scandinavian works edited by the Journal’s Matthias Wivel; $29.99. Editor Blake Bell returns with Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1, a 240-page collection of Golden Age superhero comics from the titular artist; $39.99. Diane Noomin (of the Twisted Sisters anthology, the second volume of which I attribute to changing my entire perception of how the comics form could work at a crucial age) gets a 180-page anthology of her various works with Glitz-2-Go; $19.99. And finally, in case comics are just too much for ya, Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 finds music producer and writer Pat Thomas tracking the recorded output of various black power groups of the designated time span, in glorious prose; $39.99." – Joe McCulloch, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Athos in America is a tour de force that showcases Jason’s immense talents as both an artist and a storyteller. These haunting stories will stick with you long after you’ve turned the last page. Rating: 10 out of 10" – Edward Kaye, Newsarama
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning gets the inside scoop about the I Killed Adolf Hitler film project from Jason ("I hope it will be good. Or really bad. One of those. The disappointment would be if it's a mediocre film") and screenwriter D.C. Walker ("I viewed 'IKAH' as a jewel like the french short film 'La Jetee.' All the key themes were in place, it was just a matter of expanding on them like they did in 12 Monkeys (the film 'IKAH' will most resemble).")
• Plug: "I gotta say I'm not a big fan of the illustration on this [Kolor Klimax] cover, but the design, color, and font choice made me stand up and take notice. I 'klimaxed' a little when I first saw it. Uggh, sorry, that was too much information." – Dave Johnson, Johnson's Cover Hi-lo
• Reviews:Robot 6's Chris Mautner looks at our 3 newest Golden Age collections:
"...[W]hile I enjoyed [Action! Mystery!] Thrills[!] (I’m especially grateful for being exposed to the neon-color stylings of L.B. Cole, who seems to prefigure the era of black velvet paintings), it’s definitely the slightest — the most coffee tableish — of Sadowski’s books so far. It feels like a book designed more to flip through than to mull over.... That’s not necessarily a bad thing — there’s certainly pleasures to be had in re-examining these covers..."
"What’s exciting for me about this book is watching Everett develop as an artist and storyteller and figure out the medium in relatively rapid fashion.... The material in Amazing [Mysteries] in no way represents Everett’s strongest work, though they do point to his potential — those thrilling Sub Mariner stories were just around the corner. What you see here are the glimmers of an artist struggling to comprehend the potential of this relatively new medium [and] how he can push it to match his own interests."
"Though modern readers may wince at some of the sexual stereotypes on display, not to mention the occasional forced happy ending, Young Romance underscores Simon and Kirby’s keen storytelling skills. Adhering to a mostly six-panel grid, the duo manage to produce work that is visually arresting and dramatic... It’s also worth mentioning that editor Michel Gagne’s [restoration] work is stellar... For Kirby fans and those who just love to explore comics from generations past, it’s a rather essential read."
• Review: "It’s hard to imagine a comic that’s more ambitious and less pretentious; it’s reader-immersive and reader-friendly. Huizenga’s style recalls the 'big nose' school of cartooning — Glenn Ganges' schnoz is one of the comic’s stars. This unaffected old-timey style lends the narrative a sense of charm and elegance... Perhaps we should judge 2012’s comics according the standard set by Ganges #4." – Ken Parille, The Comics Journal
• Plugs: Martha Cornog of Library Journal Reviews spotlights a few of our upcoming releases in the latest "Graphic Novels Prepub Alert":
Buz Sawyer, Vol. 2: Sultry’s Tiger by Roy Crane: "World War II has ended, and flying ace Buz Sawyer has snagged a civilian job at last: troubleshooter for International Airways, which has him traveling to hotspots all over the world. Of course, he always flies into adventure, here visiting a dangerous woman he first met during the war, taking on the Mad Baron, discovering Mayan treasure, and being kidnapped by mysterious thugs. But whatever the adventure, somehow Buz always gets mixed up with a pretty girl. This volume includes both daily and full-color Sunday strips, originally published between 1945 and 1947, drawn in Crane’s clean, realistic style that in retrospect looks remarkably European."
Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now, ed. by Matthias Wivel: "This lavish sampler of work from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden offers a wide variety of artistic styles and short plots, some with a more adult focus. See samples here; click 'Expand' for the wonderful cover plus 20 pages. Wivel is a veteran of the Danish comics scene who currently lives in New York."
Black Images in the Comics by Fredrik Strömberg: "First published by Fantagraphics in 2003 and nominated for an Eisner Award, this history of racial depictions in comics has been updated in both its content and its source list. Over 100 entries, each featuring a representative illustration and an instructive short essay, cover an international range of comics, from Moon Mullins through Tintin, Will Eisner, R. Crumb, Peanuts, Boondocks, and beyond. Strömberg is a Swedish comics journalist, editor, and educator who has published numerous books in several languages."
Jewish Images in the Comics by Fredrik Strömberg: "Another of Strömberg’s books, in a similar format: over 150 entries from internationally-originating comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels stretching back 'over the last five centuries' that feature Jewish characters and Jewish themes. The works of Art Spiegelman and Will Eisner are well known to comics aficionados in the United States, but many of the other examples, some 'far less savory,' may not be."
• Review: "...Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics isn’t just a book of some minor historical interest; it’s a genuinely entertaining and artful set of comics, and in some ways more readable than Simon and Kirby’s adventure stories.... Simon’s plots deal with jealousy, class conflict, mistaken identity, selfishness, and selflessness — the romance staples — while Kirby’s art makes these tales of passion and deceit especially dynamic, with deep shadows and a mix of the glamorous and the lumpen. ...Simon and Kirby... depict[ed] a world of darkness and heavy emotion, inhabited by clean-looking people in pretty clothes." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Though not a novel per se, The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat does tell a story of sorts, about Crumb’s evolution as an artist, from the mild-mannered greeting-card designer who drew cheeky doodles in his spare time, to the prickly satirist who’d use Fritz as a way to comment on the sick soul of the ’60s and his own at-times-unwieldy success." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Nuts wasn't action-packed or boldly satirical. Just the opposite, in fact -- it was subtle and thoughtful, with what I'm guessing was a heavy autobiographical element on the part of Mr.Wilson.... You might not have grown up when Wilson did, or when the [National Lampoon] was published, or when I first read these strips years ago, so the details have changed. But I'm willing to bet the emotions our hero felt remain almost exactly the same, no matter what generation is reading about him. And, of course, Gahan Wilson's cartooning is what makes the strips special." – Will Pfeifer, X-Ray Spex
• Review: "There are few collections of comics that you can truly describe as 'beautiful art'; however, Fantagraphics’ series of Prince Valiant trades is absolutely stunning to look at and is easy to write flattering things about, because it is so flattering for a reader’s eyes to behold Foster’s artwork crisp, clear, and huge in all its splendor. The fourth volume of Prince Valiant, which collects all the Sunday pages in full color from 1943 to 1944, is just wonderful, whether you are 4 or 94; it is a totally engrossing experience to dive into the world of the adventurous prince on these pages." – Drew McCabe, ComicAttack.net
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks with Zak Sally about his new self-published, self-printed collection of Sammy the Mouse: "I've gotten out three issues of Sammy in five years, and in that five years I've had two kids, I've been married. My life has changed extraordinarily. That's just the way art works, you know. I was doing issue #2 -- maybe #3, I can't remember -- and there was stuff going on in my life. Six months later I look at that issue and I was like, 'Oh my sweet God.' It was absolutely reflective of what had been going on at the time, and I was completely unaware of it. I just think that's part of it, and that's the way it works."
• Interview: At Nummer 9, Erik Barkman has a Q&A (in Danish) with Johan F. Krarups (editor Matthias Wivel describes it as a "commentary track") about his contribution to the Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now anthology
• Plug: Heidi MacDonald of The Beat looks forward to Jaime Hernandez's God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls: "We can’t help but think that all of the people calling for great superhero stories featuring women will find Ti-Girls a masterpiece, as well, an entire superhero universe made up of nothing but superheroines of various shapes and sizes. It’s jaunty Jaime to be sure, but even so probably one of the best superhero stories of the last decade."
• Plug: "Fantagraphics is still the gold standard for classy newspaper strip collections. I’m afraid people are getting jaded now about how the wonderful Peanuts volumes are chugging right along year after year, but it’s worth pointing out that they continue to be everything anyone could ever want from an archive edition. What’s more, Fantagraphics followed it up with these new Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse collections." – Greg Hatcher, Comic Book Resources
• Plug: Found this nice nugget in Laura Hudson's interview with Chris Onstad at ComicsAlliance: "Jim Woodring is great, and is one of those people who will honestly admit to you that, 'Yeah, my brain's a little f**ked up.' His comics are sort of a manifestation of his brain. It works for him. He's a really wonderful guy. He has this big three-story place with big, gothic abbey rope hanging in front of the front door. The rope rings a little bell to let you know that someone's at the door. One time it rings in the foyer so his wife opens the door, and there's this little cat there that came in from the road. So they let the cat in, shut the door, and we all go about our night. Then we watched Popeye for two hours. That's Jim. And he does all of his work based on hallucination. None of it's set in reality. Uncanny things that make me feel strange happen [in his comics]."
• Analysis: Jordan Hurder, Chance Press examines the collaborations between Jacques Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette: "Tardi is a fantastically celebrated cartoonist who has been at the forefront of the industry in France for 35 years. In contrast to his slow burn, Manchette shot out ten crime novels over the course of ten years, redefined and reinvigorated the French crime novel, became hugely influential, and died of cancer in the 1990s.... The compatibility between the two artists is uncanny; maybe a better critic could point out exactly why in just a few words, or maybe it’s one of those matchups that works without needing explanation." – Jordan Hurder, Chance Press
• Commentary:Gary Groth remembers Christopher Hitchens in "My Dinner with Hitch" at The Comics Journal
• History: Speaking of our dear leader, David Hine presents some scans from an issue of Gary's pre-Fantagraphics fanzine, Fantastic Fanzine (hat tip to Dan Nadel at TCJ.com)
The new Diamond Previews catalog is out today and in it you'll find our usual 2-page spread (download the PDF) with our releases scheduled to arrive in your local comic shop in February 2012 (give or take — some release dates may have changed since the issue went to press). We're pleased to offer additional and updated information about these upcoming releases here on our website, to help shops and customers alike make more informed ordering decisions.
This coming March, Fantagraphics releases the comics collection Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now... and when the Nords say "now" they mean it, as editor Matthias Wivel has already thrown a "Pre-Release Party" for the book last week in Copenhagen! You can view more pictures from the party here.
And the fun doesn't stop, as today Friday, November 25th, there will be (was?) a signing at the comic book store Fantask [ St. Pedersstræde 18, Copenhagen ]. Wivel will be (was?) joined by artists Peter Kielland, Johan F. Krarup, Mårdøn Smet and Thomas Thorhauge.
Nordic Comics NOW, indeed!
[Ed. note: Edited to reflect the fact that we may have gotten this posted a little late -- sorry!]