Another never-before-translated classic from the Golden Age of Franco-Belgian comics, finally brought to American readers. Imagine the beautifully crisp images of Hergé (Tintin) put in service of a series of wise-cracking, fast-paced detective stories — punctuated with scenes of spectacular vehicular mayhem (including in this volume a dockside pursuit via car and bulldozer) — and you’ll see why 50 years later Gil Jordan is still considered a masterpiece in Europe.
Gil Jordan is a nattily-dressed but tough-as-nails private eye, seconded by his trusty ex-burglar assistant Crackerjack and his eccentric friend Inspector Crouton (as well as the invaluable Miss Midge).
Fantagraphics’ first Gil Jordan book combines two of Gil’s finest yarns in one splendid hardcover. In “Murder by High Tide,” Gil and his associates are hired to investigate the suspicious disappearance (death?) of an antiques dealer, while in “Leap of Faith” they get involved in trying to protect an attorney from Joe the Needle, a mysteriously escaped convict with apparent superhuman powers who has sworn vengeance.
As we've been working on M. Tillieux's Murder by High Tide I've become gripped by Tillieux's cartooning, especially his panel composition and pitch-perfect, push-pull blend of "naturalist" and "cartoony" figure work. What follows are a series of panels from Catch as Catch Can (the second story featured in Murder by High Tide) that I've been particularly struck by. Note: these panels, in their finished form, will be colored and lettered.
This panel reminds me of Toth or Xaime, what with how the acting, lighting and composition leads the eye to read Gil Jordan's darkened face and arm as he slowly creeps the door open to… what???
That's Gil Jordan dashing into the shadows as he's hot on the heels of Joe The Syringe. This panel stopped me cold.
I love this panel. I half expect to see my reflection in the rearview mirror. I used to think panels like this didn't work… or that you had to be Xaime to make them work, but time and time again Tilleux subtly or overtly places the reader's sightline in such a way to immerse your eye into Gil Jordan's four color world.
What could've easily been a throwaway panel graciously offers Tillieux's masterful drawing as acting equals cartooning!
Bonus! Six panel action sequence from Catch as Catch Can. (Click to see bigger.)
Tillieux's best work stands tensely between Hergé's ligne claire and Franquin's reverent bounce. It's the hearing-the-ice-crack tension of Tillieux's ink that brings it for me as it flawlessly meets the gestalt of the mystery thriller genre. And if that weren't enough, Tillieux, like American film director Howard Hawks, is a master of characterization and letting the scene play out. As a fan of the comfortable character interaction of Hawks' Rio Bravo and Hatari, I could spend all day hanging out with Gil Jordan and his assistant, Crackerjack!
• Review: "Working in frenetic black and white, Eisner-award-winning Italian cartoonist Lorenzo Mattotti illustrates screenwriter Claudio Piersanti’s Stigmata with powerful art that drives a timeless fable of existential dreams. [...] Thanks to Piersanti’s workable script, Stigmata comes across as naturalistic and modernist in an old-school Hemingway style. [...] It’s an old story, but the heart that Mattotti and Piersanti bring to their comic keeps the work interesting.Mattotti’s character designs are as incredibly idiosyncratic as they are intense — their bodies are hulking masses, with exaggerated proportions and faces that don’t feel drawn so much as sculpted." – Ao Meng, The Daily Texan
• Review: "Segar's Thimble Theater was a nearly perfect blend of humor and adventure, with a cast of interesting oddballs (led by Popeye himself, of course) and a tone that could veer from high drama to low comedy within a couple of panels. And this Fantagraphics series is even closer to perfection, presenting Segar's work gorgeously on great big pages — it would be a much better world if all our artistic treasures were treated this well." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Interview (Audio): I haven't yet but you can bet I'll be listening to the entire 2 hours of the Inkstuds interview with the great Carol Tyler
• Interview:Robot 6's Brigid Alverson gets the behind-the-scenes scoop from Rich Tommaso about his work recoloring the Carl Barks ducks comics for our forthcoming collections
• Coming Attractions: The latest "Graphic Novels Prepub Alert" from Library Journal's Martha Cornog spotlights Murder by High Tide: "Belgian artist Tillieux (1921-78) is well known in Europe for tightly plotted mystery-comedies, churning with action and spectacular roadway mayhem. Never before translated for Americans, his work suggests Hergé's Tintin but in moodier, Will Eisner-grimy settings."
• Review: "This debut graphic novel [The Sanctuary] ambitiously imagines the purposes of prehistoric art within the context of an imagined precivilization. Most strikingly, his tale is expressed entirely through the actions of his characters — their dialogue is written in an invented, phonetic language. [...] Neal’s dark pen work suggests texture, detail, and light effectively, and shoulders the burden of his almost-wordless storytelling. Despite some occasionally unclear moments, the broad sweep of the book’s action and ideas unmistakably raises thoughtful questions, marking Neal as an artist to watch." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "A Drunken Dream is America's long overdue introduction to Moto Hagio, in a volume worthy of the honor. [...] Hardbound with gold foil on the cover, A Drunken Dream seems part textbook, and part holy book. [...] It's a demanding read, but one in which your enjoyment will be proportionate to your emotional investment. [...] It's hard to imagine a better release for a manga, or a more deserving artist than Hagio. [...] Very recommended. Grade: A" – Thomas Zoth, Mania
• Interview: At Robot 6, Sean T. Collins talks to Mome editor Eric Reynolds on the occasion of the anthology's 5th anniversary and 20th issue: "There were always anthologies, even when the periodical market was thriving, but I think they’re even more valuable now. There are just not enough publishers to support all the good cartoonists out there. I am constantly having to reject some pretty good work because we just have a ceiling of how many books we can publish a year. It’s my least favorite part of the job. Mome is at least a small way to help offset that reality."
• Coming Attractions: At The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, Wim Lockefeer picks up on our scheduled June 2011 release of Murder by High Tide: Gil Jordan, Private Eye by Maurice Tillieux, saying "Gil Jourdan is one of the most essential BD series ever produced," and that the volume will be "the perfect book to get acquainted with this graphic genius, whose stories, in terms of timing and speed, every aspiring comics writer should read and study."
Online Commentary & Diversions, back from a short vacation:
• Review: "In the first volume of Tyler's planned trilogy of graphic memoirs [You'll Never Know], she dug into the eruptive, violent memories of her father's WWII experiences while simultaneously dealing with a husband who decided to go find himself and leave her with a daughter to raise. This second volume is no less rich and overwhelming. [...] While the language of Chicago-raised and Cincinnati-based Tyler has a winningly self-deprecating Midwestern spareness to it, her art is a lavishly prepared kaleidoscope of watercolors and finely etched drawings, all composed to look like the greatest family photo album of all time. The story's honest self-revelations and humane evocations of family dramas are tremendously moving." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "Friedman's hyper-realistic pen-and-ink and water-color portraits of show business and political luminaries have made their way into the likes of Entertainment Weekly, The New Yorker and Rolling Stone over the years, and a stunning new collection has just been published by Fantagraphics Books — Too Soon?: Famous/Infamous Faces 1995-2010. [...] To say that Friedman's drawings are unsentimental or unsparing is just to scratch the surface. Known for depicting every last liver spot, burst capillary and wrinkle, his work is truly a Warts and All procedure. [...] You might say the super-realistic portraits are loving ones, but only in the sense that you love your own family members, whose soft spots and selfishness one is forced to forgive. Drew Friedman's heart is as big as his capacious eye for the telling detail. Seek him out or forever hold your peace." – David Weiss, Life Goes Strong
• Review: "...Four Color Fear offers some of the finest pre-code comic book horror tales ever produced. Extensively researched, complete with story notes, editor Sadowski compiled a superior collection of non-EC tales, many of which rarely reprinted in color. A 30-page cover art section and a fascinating article by historian John Benson, who also supplied the book's intro, about the little remembered, but prolific Ruth Roche, round out this sensational historical tour of the Golden Age of Horror Comics. Highly recommended!" – Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Review: "The wait [for Love and Rockets: New Stories #3] has been long, no doubt, but I dare say that it was not only worthwhile, but it has proved an inspiration to continue to have faith in mankind, because with artists like these, it is worth living. For the third annual issue..., Beto gets really wild and Xaime creates a stunning tapestry of memories and narrative levels." – Mauricio Matamoros, Iconoctlán (translated from Spanish)
• Interview: As part of his ongoing "Love and Rocktoberfest," Sean T. Collins posts his 2007 Wizard interview with Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez at Attentiondeficitdisorderly: "I liked drawing rockets and robots, as well as girls. [Laughs] It really was no big game plan. It was almost like, 'Okay, I'll give you rockets and robots, but I'll show you how it's done. I'm gonna do it, and this is how it's supposed to be done!' I went in with that kind of attitude." (Jaime)
• Review: "Like much of Hernandez’s work, there’s light amongst all this darkness, particularly later in this section of Fritz’s story. But [High Soft Lisp] remains a bleak book, with Fritz’s own cheerful optimism one of the few beacons of hope amongst a cast of incidental characters whose main purpose seems only to exploit her. Hernandez rarely performs below his best and this is no exception..." – Andy Shaw, Grovel
• Review: "Vast swaths of Wally Gropius appear — at least to my eye — to be visual homages to images that Hensley particularly loves. (The alternative is that he lays his panels out in his static, staccato rhythm just for that feeling, which is close to the same impulse.) It's all very loud and manic and bright and bizarre, veering towards and away from coherence often within the same panel. [...] The end result has that go-go energy and restless heat of the authentic products of the era Hensley sets his story in..." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Interview:Illustration Friday talks to Jim Woodring: "Names and labels don’t matter much. Besides, there are things that cannot be said in words. So if you say them in pictures, are they not things being said? If I draw a hill that looks like a woman, it works differently that if i write 'there’s a hill that looks like a woman.' Also there are clues that one doesn’t want discovered too quickly, or not at all. Because one wants the emanations to proceed from an unknown source."
• Plug: "Nate Neal's first graphic novel [The Sanctuary] is dumbfoundingly ambitious: it takes as its subject nothing less than the invention of comics, in the sense of narrative-in-pictures, meaning that its cast is a bunch of cave-people. Cave-people who speak a cave-person language that Neal has invented himself (he offers the translation of a few key words on its jacket copy, but that's it). The working title of the book was a drawing of a bison. A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance