• List: The National Post's David Berry names The Best Graphic Novels of 2011, saying of his #3 choice "This does feel somewhat like cheating, since there’s only a few sequences of proper graphic work here, but why quibble about format: Mark Twain’s Autobiography 1910-2010 is, quite simply, one of the funniest things you’ll read in any genre. Kupperman has a child’s free-ranging imagination and an aging intellectual’s dry wit... This supposed telling of Mark Twain’s 20th-century life... would be an awe-inspiring work of imagination if it wasn’t so absurdly hilarious. Somewhere between John Hodgman and Graham Roumieu, Kupperman has found stark comic brilliance."
• List:Comic Book Resources continues their Top 100 comics of 2011 countdown, with Ganges #4 by Kevin Huizenga coming in at #48 and Brian Cronin calling it "mind-boggling" and "remarkable. Absolute top notch sequential work."
• List:Comic Book Resources columnist Sonia Harris lists "My Top 10 Comics (for ANY Year)" with Love and Rockets taking the #2 spot: "Read Love & Rockets, all of them, both brothers, everything you can find. Your life will be richer."
• List:Bookgasm's J.T. Lindroos, running down the Best Euro Comics as part of the Best Books of 2011, writes "Fantagraphics continued its Jacques Tardi lineup, and I was particularly delighted by the proto-steampunk The Arctic Marauder, although I think one should own every single book in the series. I was also happy to see some less well-known artists get their chance, and both Sibyl-Anne Vs. Ratticus by R. Macherot and Murder by High Tide by Maurice Tilleux were wonderful surprises in the classic Franco-Belgian 'bigfoot' style. Fantagraphics is quickly becoming the Criterion Collection of comics publishing."
• List: Richmond VA comic shop Velocity Comics counts down their top ten Best Graphic Novels 2011, with Jim Woodring's Congress of the Animals at #9: "There are few artists’ work I can endlessly stare at with as much feverish perplexitude as Jim Woodring’s. Yes, I just made that word up."
• List: Vancouver BC culture site The Snipe surveys local comics industry folks for their favorite comics of the year. The Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse series by Floyd Gottfredson is named Best Collected Edition or Reprint by cartoonist Steve LeCouiliard...
"Floyd Gottfredson is one of the overlooked masters of the comic strip. Like Carl Barks, his work was always signed 'Walt Disney' but his craft and storytelling brilliance shone through. Comic strips really don’t provide much more pure joy than Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse."
...and by VanCAF organizer Shannon Campbell...
"The two-volume collection of Floyd Gottfredson’s run of Mickey Mouse, hands down! These books chronicle the glory days of the old-school Mickey Mouse comics when Gottfredson did both art and story (from 1930-1934)."
...while the staff of Lucky's Comics can't pick just one:
"This has been a boon year reprint editions, but take your pick from Fantagraphics Books’ amazing editions of Pogo by Walt Kelly, Donald Duck by Carl Barks, Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson, and Prince Valiant by Hal Foster. Fantagraphics has done such an incredible job on book designs, colors, paper… all of the details that make these editions glow."
"It’s not just the subject matter that’s a winner here. Santiago has a knack for simplicity in his storytelling approach, and in a medium that’s often beset by needless complexity, that’s a rare gift."
"...[P]robably the best pure horror comic I read this year... and one that quite frankly shocked the hell out of me. Sala’s expressionist art style might not be the most obvious choice for telling blood-curdling horror stories, but its innocent cartoony quality somehow makes a perfect (and terrible) fit with the horrible, almost nihilistic story that Sala is telling."
• Review: "Swarte’s visuals are always gorgeous and distinctive, with a strong influence from Hergé but an even more rigidly mapped out structure. The more you look at them, especially the large ones, the more you see, as in a one-panel, one-pager that lays out a parodic vision of comics production as if it resulted from a Roger Corman-esque movie studio. His eye is careful and his line even more so. ...[Is That All There Is?] is a real pleasure to read and to look at, and it makes a case for Swarte as a real comics guy, not just an illustrator." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Profile: At City Journal, an essay by Stefan Kanfer with a history of Walt Kelly and Pogo: "He frequently quoted a line that he had written for Porky Pine: 'Don’t take life so serious, it ain’t nohow permanent.' No, it ain’t. But art — even comic art — can be, in the hands of a master. Every book, every comic, every panel verifies the claims of Kelly’s fervent cheering squad: after 63 ever-lovin’ blue-eyed years, Pogo is still incomparabobble." (Via The Comics Reporter)
• Plug:Seattlest's Heather Logue spotlights Tony Millionaire's upcoming appearance and art show at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery: "Aside from the fact that he has an amazing superhero name, Tony Millionaire also has the extraordinary talent to back it up. The cartoonist will be at Fantagraphics with his latest book 500 Portraits-- a collection of portraits (duh) of everything from the very famous face, to the very small bug. All meticulously crafted in his beautiful, yet grotesque way -- you're not going to want to miss Tony's take on portraiture."
• Scene:At his blog, Drew Friedman recounts his experience as keynote speaker at the International Society of Caricature Artists' annual convention last month, with lots of photos, a couple video clips and a transcription of a Q&A session
• List:Multiversity Comics' David Harper counts down the Best Graphic Novels of 2011, with Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010 by Michael Kupperman — "Part prose, part two color comic, this beautiful hardcover is a fanciful romp through history the way I wish it really was. I can hardly wait for the next hundred years to pass so we ca get the next installment" — and Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit Book 3 — "If it doesn't make you sick, you shouldn't be allowed to walk among the public in the first place. If it doesn't make you giddy for the next one, you don't deserve comics" — tied for 5th place
• List:ComicsAttack ranks Gil Jordan, Private Detective: Murder by High Tide by M. Tillieux at #6 on their Top 15 All-Ages Titles of 2011: "Fantagraphics has put out some amazing work this year... Gil Jordan sticks out to us in all of its splendor. Yes, it can be compared to a gritty version of Tintin, but at the same time is so much more and its world so much deeper in crime. The adult tones make adults pick it up, and the colors and action give it an appeal to kids, making it an all-ages gem for anyone who picks it up."
• Review: "Barks' duck stories have been reprinted several times over the years, in different formats of varying quality. Now, Fantagraphics has published the first volume of its new series of hardcover reprints (Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes), and there's much to be heartened by.... Even the silliest premise, when executed by an artist in perfect control of his gifts, can land with deftness and grace — that's something that strikes you again and again as you read Barks' work. And it's a lesson that won't get lost on any kid with whom you might choose to share it, which is convenient, as this collection makes a perfect introduction to one of the greatest all-ages comics artists of all time." – Glen Weldon, NPR - Monkey See
• Plug: "Though I have many contemporary cartoonists and comics writers whose work I admire, there is one artist whose work defies my critical ability to write about it intelligently. This artist is Kevin Huizenga. Mixing a disarmingly simple style with narrative complexity rarely achieved in comics, Huizenga has consistently turned out some of the most interesting and perplexing works of the early 21st century." – Rob Vollmar, LitStack
• Plug: "A definite contender for music book of the year, Kevin Avery's Everything Is an Afterthought is the biography of pioneering rock critic Paul Nelson... It's a fascinating story of an important writer and recommended to anyone who has an interest in sixties and seventies rock 'n roll and music writing in general." – 211 Bernard (Librairie Drawn & Quarterly)
• Review: "The good news: it’s here, it’s real. The better news: it’s incredible. Walt Kelly’s lively, robust, and poetic world is faithfully and lovingly produced in this, the first of a proposed twelve volume series. The hardcover is printed horizontally, maintaining the integrity of the 'strip' format, with ample margins to avoid any gutter-loss. Fantagraphics knew this first volume would be scrutinized by hardcore Pogofans, and they’ve outdone expectations, dating each strip, providing historical context for the more esoteric 1940s references, and even reproducing the color Sunday strips.... Through the Wild Blue Wonder is one of our Best Comics and Graphic Novels of 2011, and there might not be a better gift this holiday for the historical and literary comics fan." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon.com)
• Review: "The usually tight-gripped Disney empire agreed to turn over their most treasured property to Fantagraphics (yes, again!). The results are eye-opening, featuring a Mickey that might be unfamiliar to most present-day fans. The stories are dense, packing plenty of dialogue into the strips — and the themes are darker than the bright-eyed, factory-sealed tales of today. Mickey is multi-dimensional in the first volume, Race to Death Valley, making rash decisions without much concern for everyone’s safety. Thankfully, Minnie is by his side to both reign him in and sometimes encourage his recklessness. The reproduction is crisp — the black inks are meticulous in their separation, and the book is augmented with over 50 pages of essays and Mickey esoterica. Volume 2, Trapped on Treasure Island, published last month, and Fantagraphics has a gift edition slipcase that contains both volumes. This dynamic look is a revelation in the life of the character who started it all for Disney." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon.com)
• Plug: At Comic Book Resources' "Black Friday Comics Shopping Guide": "Fantagraphics is all over the legacies of some of the best artists ever to work for the Walt Disney company with Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse, vol. 1 ($29.99) and Carl Barks' Donald Duck ($24.99). Disney's most famous characters need no introduction, but their modern incarnations are so far from their roots that these collections will surprise anyone seeing these strips for the first time. Any of these volumes is a guaranteed smile."
• Plug: Deb Aoki's Manga Gift Guide at About.com Manga includes Wandering Son Vols. 1 & 2 by Shimura Takako: "This critically acclaimed series is available as over-sized hardcovers, which makes them especially gift-worthy, but the story is also charming and sensitive in a way that doesn't bash the reader over the head with a preachy agenda. Volume 2 is due out soon, so get that too if you can."
I always was very fond of the mini-comics format -- take two to four 8 1/2 x 11 sheets, fold them once, staple, and voilà! You have an adorable little 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 comic book for mere pennies. But I could never really figure out what to do with this old-school, low-tech format.
For this catalog season, we have created 21 "FBI•MINI" booklets (most in this format, although there are a few oddities), as premiums for customers who order books directly from us. They are available free with the purchase of their "matching" book or books -- or for those customers who've already bought those books but are desperate to get the FBI•MINI, free with the purchase of $50 worth of any other Fantagraphics mail-order merchandise.
If any of these catch your interest (and if you're reading this blog surely at least one of them will) you can click right on any of them to a more detailed listing on our website -- or just click right here and all 21 will pop up for you to peruse.
• Review: "One of the greatest comic strips of all time and a peak in visual splendor and breath-taking adventure, the story of Prince Valiant's 30+ year odyssey is getting a marvelous presentation in Fantagraphics' series of books, which just reached Volume 4.... What might surprise modern readers is the relative complexity of Valiant, who grows and matures subtly over the years. The strip is violent, sexy, serious, droll and above all eye-catching.... The pleasure of how solidly and carefully [these volumes] are made is part of the pleasure of reading them. You feel like a little kid as you prop the giant volume up and literally dive into the tale that fills your vision, much as kids and adults did more than 70 years ago. It's a worthy presentation for one of the most important and entertaining works in comic strip history." – Michael Giltz, The Huffington Post
• Interview:Vice's Liz Armstrong talks with Ron Regé Jr. about his upcoming book The Cartoon Utopia: "I'm not interested in making a bunch of storyboards or writing a script. Comics are the visual representation of language. So comics are the most ancient and the most vital and most important art form that humanity has ever known. It's also the oldest. Cave paintings, having the form of an image that represents an idea, is what comics are. I wrote an essay called, 'Fuck Other Forms of Art.'"
• Interview (Audio): Speaking of Mike Dawson-hosted podcasts, John Kerschbaum sits in on the new episode of The Ink Panthers with Dawson and co-host Alex Robinson
• Culture: Jeet Heer reports on the Iowa Comics Conference at The Comics Journal, featuring the Hernandez Brothers, Joe Sacco, Gary Groth and others. On the new issue of Love and Rockets: New Stories: "Everyone, of course, has been raving about Jaime’s story in this issue, which like the magnificent 'Browntown' in L&R #3 is one of best comics ever done. I’ll freely confess that at the end of the new issue when I saw how Jaime had tied together the fates of Hopey, Maggie, and Ray I started crying like a baby. ...Gilbert’s recent comics have the protean energy and relentless will to reinvention that rivals the Crumb of Weirdo and Hup."
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins spotlights Heer's article and adds his own thoughts: "The only thing more striking than the fact that Jaime set this career-defining hurdle for himself is that he freaking cleared it.... It's worth noting that in his contribution to New Stories #4, Gilbert takes Fritz to a place of potential finality not unlike the one that his brother Jaime's leading players occupy at the end of 'The Love Bunglers.' Yeah, it’s really quite a comic."
• Analysis: At Robot 6, Matt Seneca examines page 89, by Jaime Hernandez, from Love and Rockets: New Stories #4: "It’s a wonderful meeting of form and content: a completely unified page on the subject of unification, a single unit made up of eight perfectly chosen, gorgeously cartooned panels, each one complete in itself as a composed single drawings. This is comics at the highest level, with nothing wasted and everything on the page done as well as it possibly could be."
• Plug: Kim Thompson points out that ActuaBD "referred to our Gil Jordan edition as 'très beau,' which is nice."
• Review: "Into the '80s and no sign of the much-feared and long-rumored decline in quality in Charles Schulz's life's work that was supposed to come about 10 years earlier. The strips in this volume of Fantagraphics' series are stronger than ever. If there's a different quality to them it's because Peanuts is a mature strip now instead of a precocious, sometimes-astonishing one.... Schulz at this point still puts on frequent display his nearly unequaled ability to return to core character elements for a gag without seeming repetitive or didactic. Part of the richness of the characters is their largely unchanging nature is part of the cross each bears." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot is an EXCELLENT new hardcover graphic novel written by crime fiction novelist Jean-Patrick Manchette and illustrated by one of the masters of sequential art illustration, Jacques Tardi. The central character of Like a Sniper... is a mercenary turned contract killer, named Martin Terrier, who is forced out of retirement, and the way his return to his line of work unfolds ranks at the top with any hard-boiled crime fiction I've ever read. Anyone who had enjoyed Tardi's adaptation of Manchette's West Coast Blues will definitely love Like a Sniper... and if this is your introduction to Tardi and Manchette, you're in for a treat!" – Ralph Mathieu, Ich Liebe Comics
• Review: "Fantagraphics has chosen to start with books 3 & 4 in the series, skipping the stories where the reader (and the creator) gets to know the title character, Gil Jordan, and going right for the good stuff. And these books are good stuff, the writing as well as the art.... There is something in this story for every reader: mystery, adventure, humor, bad jokes and a real sense of menace.... This is absolutely the kind of book that I would hand to someone who has expressed an interest in comics." – R.M. Rhodes, Forces of Geek
• Review: "Fantagraphics is very nearly finished with their complete reprint of E.C. Segar's run on Popeye, with just one more volume to go after this. It's a breathless, surreal and ridiculous collection of fisticuffs and wonderfully funny violence, and every home should own it.... Highly recommended." – Grant Goggans, The Hipster Dad's Bookshelf
• Review: "I’m using the past tense here because tragically the amazing anthological compendium [Mome] closes with this bonanza-sized final edition after six eye-popping, parameter-expanding years ... [T]he experiment ends but even though gone this superb, bold endeavour mustn’t be forgotten. There are plenty of places to still find back issues and these tomes – especially this double-sized delight – would make captivating Christmas presents." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
"Many fans have long known that there’s more to Franco-Belgian comics than Tintin and Asterix — and those who didn’t know will be delighted to learn it.... Dapper private detective Gil Jordan is the star of these funny adventure stories, aided by ex-burglar assistant Crackerjack, eccentric friend Inspector Crouton, and no-nonsense secretary Miss Midge. 'Murder by High Tide' sets an antiques dealer’s death at an irresistible location, on a tidal causeway leading to the decrepit Tower of the Merrie Knight. And in 'Leap of Faith,' escaped convict Joe the Syringe stays one leap ahead of the good guys as he seeks revenge on his attorney. Plausibility may not be the watchword here, but no matter: these are a ton of fun and the full-color art, beautifully produced and fairly bursting with sweat beads, stink lines, and other emanata, is an animated delight." – Keir Graff, Booklist
• Review: "It would take Gottfredson a few years to hit his stride: Many of his best Mickey stories appeared in the later ’30s and ’40s. But the basic characteristics that would make the print version of Mickey popular after the studio curtailed his animated antics can clearly be seen in these first installments.... Race to Death Valley is the latest entry in Fantagraphics’ reprints of classic comic strips, and is sure to delight fans of Mickey Mouse as well as comic strip aficionados. The strips are clearly printed in a readable size, and editors Gerstein and Groth carefully document the origins of the strip." – Charles Solomon, Los Angeles Times Hero Complex
• Review: "A new book from Fantagraphics helps restore the balance to Toth's broader reputation. In Setting the Standard: Comics by Alex Toth, 1952-1954, editor Greg Sadowski has assembled all of the crime, war, science-fiction, horror, and romance titles that Toth produced during his two years working for Standard Comics.... Setting the Standard pays tribute to Toth... by collecting genre-bound stories that the artist made fascinating through the sheer force of his talent." – Casey Burchby, L.A. Weekly
• Review: "Setting the Standard is chock full of stories... Lovers of good retro stories that support heroic warriors and the emotional problems of young women whose heart is between two men will be delighted." – Le Blog de Li-An (translated from French)
• Review: "For anyone with an interest in the Seattle music scene of the 1980s and ‘90s, the subgenre that became known as grunge, Taking Punk to the Masses: From Nowhere to Nevermind is essential reading.... If you can’t make it out to Seattle to visit Experience Music Project’s Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses exhibit, this book is a suitable substitute. Tons of gig posters, set lists, and album artwork provide further context. These visuals, accompanied by McMurray’s straightforward commentary and the extensive DVD interviews, create a compelling document of a unique era of music history." – Blogcritics
• Review: "Celluloid is a challenging work, not so much in how it is read, but in how it pushes at the boundaries of what we call a graphic novel and what we consider erotica.... Considered as a visual ode to the erotic imagination, Celluloid is a powerful work of grace and deviance in its explorations. McKean has crafted a new grammar for comic book storytelling, bringing the printed page as close to a live performance as possible while still using the graphic narrative form to accomplish what no other medium can." – Greg Baldino, Rain Taxi
• Review: "The story of baseball great Roberto Clemente is now in graphic novel form. After reading it, I would recommend it to everyone, especially to young readers. I plan to have my son read it one day, because Clemente's tale is an interesting one. The official title of the graphic novel is 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente. It chronicles the former Pittsburgh Pirates' life growing up in Puerto Rico, his great baseball career, his humanitarian missions and tragic end to his life on Sept. 18, 1972. ...Clemente remains a bit of a mystery to those who never saw him play, but Santiago's graphic novel brings Clemente to life in glorious fashion, and is not be missed." – Mark Podolski, The News-Herald
• Review: "Murder By High Tide is by a the terrific French cartoonist Maurice Tilleux (a new discovery for me). Republished by Fantagraphics, this edition features two Gil Jordan detective stories. The artwork is amazing and Tilleux is clearly a master of the 'comic-dynamic' style... I really hope Fantagraphics makes a habit of reproducing these types of stories for an English-speaking market!" – Alexis E. Fajardo (Kid Beowulf)
• Profile: Italian blog Coca Colla has an art-packed survey of the work of Dave Cooper — even if you don't read Italian (or can't be bothered to autotranslate) there's tons of eye candy to ogle