Online Commentary & Diversions returns after a post-APE hiatus and subsequent sick day:
• Review: "Good Jaime Hernandez comics are always just about the most satisfying books that money can buy, and I was so impressed with how the pleasure of seeing contemporary Maggie again for the first time in far too long [in Love and Rockets: New Stories #3] gave way to the satisfaction of seeing another building block in her curious history, and then everything turned unpleasant in a way that was equally bleak and fascinating. Watching Jaime fit everything together the way he does is breathtaking. Recommended for adult readers." – Grant Goggans, The Hipster Dad's Bookshelf
• Review: It's still "Love and Rocktober" at Sean T. Collins's Attentiondeficitdisorderly: "If Ghost of Hoppers was Maggie's confrontation with adulthood, The Education of Hopey Glass serves up the equivalent for Hopey and Ray. It's fascinating to me to see where their lives have taken them versus where they were — and more importantly, what they represented to Maggie — when they were first juxtaposed. [...] What makes these two stories compelling and connects them to one another beyond the basic idea of the characters coming to terms with their age is how much the stories rely on the kinds of things only an artist of Jaime's caliber can pull off for their telling."
• Review: "Man’s oldest gynophobic horrors and most simplistic delight in sheer physical dominance are savagely delineated in this primitive, appalling, cathartic and blackly funny campaign of cartoon horror. Resplendent, triumphant juvenilia is adroitly shoved beyond all ethical limits into the darkest depths of absurdist comedy. Not for children, the faint-hearted or weak-stomached, [Prison Pit Book 2] is another non-stop rollercoaster of extreme violence, profanity and cartoon shock and awe at its most visceral and compelling. ...[T]his book is all-out over the top and flat out hilarious. Buy and see if you’re broad-minded, fundamentally honest and purely in need of ultra-adult silliness." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Bitter, haunting stories [by Zak Sally] like 'The Man Who Killed Wally Wood' and 'The War Back Home' show a striking willingness to ask uncomfortable questions about himself and the world around him. His account of Dostoyevsky’s time in prison is a real highlight and I think marks a turning point in his storytelling ability. And the fearless, self-lacerating essay he provides at the end brings the book to a near-perfect close. Really, [Like a Dog] is a tight little collection." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "There’s fourteen stories in all in this anthology, beautifully scanned, restored, and reproduced in all their four-color glory. [...] There’s a lot of fun to be had in these pages. [...] Boody properly showcases a sizeable enough collection of complete comics stories by the wildman inkslinger from Texas, finally elevating Rogers into the pantheon he’s always been part of — if only enough folks had been able to access his work. At last, they can!" – Steve Bissette, The Schulz Library Blog
• Review: "The publication of Rebel Visions was a vital riposte to [a] tide of apathy, a vast and authoritative work built for the clear purpose of documenting the entire history of the US underground revolution in a definitive fashion: a not inconsiderable task given the various tributaries that have spewed forth since the early 1960s. [...] Rosenkranz diligently weaves a number of divergent themes using the oral histories of most of the major participants." – Kevin McCaighy, Exquisite Things (via ¡Journalista!)
• Interview: Kat Engh of Geek Girl on the Street chatted with Megan Kelso at APE over the weekend: "I like writing and movies and music and art forms that are about more than one thing. I’m really fascinated by that, and I think that comics really lend themselves to that kind of layering and layers in conflict, because you’ve literally got two tracks of information with pictures and words, and because they’re so separate from each other, they lend themselves to doing different things at the same time. I’ve always thought that if a comic’s not doing more than one thing, it’s not taking advantage of what is, so yeah, I’d say I actively strive for that."
• Interview: At Comic Book Resources, Chris Mautner talks to Fire & Water author Blake Bell at length about Bill Everett — "I think Everett is as unique a stylist as Ditko is. When you see Everett's work, you automatically know who it is if you have any inkling about any of the Silver or Golden Age artists. Secondly, in his own way he's as influential as Ditko. Without question, Everett created the antihero in superhero comics back in 1939 when he introduced the Sub-Mariner. There was no other comic book character like him." — and upcoming volumes of The Steve Ditko Archives.
• Interview: It's the second part of Brian Heater's conversation with Drew Weing at The Daily Cross Hatch: "It’s such a weird time where so much stuff is available online, though I went out of my way to make the book a nice little object. And I feel like it does read better in book form, because it’s a format that you can more lovingly pore over the detail."
• Interview: At Gapers Block, Rose Lannin talks to Jeremy Tinder, who makes his Fantagraphics debut in Mome Vol. 20. This quote is relevant to the Mome story: "I grew up reading newspaper strips, like Garfield. I think it was around age 5 when I really started getting into Garfield and tracing it out of the paper every day. [...] Garfield was my focus in life for six years, I was so into it."
• Coming Attractions:Bleeding Cool's Rich Johnston reports here that "...[I]t seems that Fantagraphics, as part of their current attemp to to translate every French comic book in existence, has seized upon [David B.'s] book, Le Jardin armé et autres histoires or The Armed Garden and are to publish it in August next year," and here about our translation of Tardi & Manchette's Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot, "...planned for August next year. Which, in terms of European-to-American translation is light speed."
Oh nuts, I'm about to start today's Online Commentary & Diversions and noticed I never published yesterday's in my APE prep frenzy. Here it is:
• Review: "Rip M.D. is near perfect. ...[T]he art is fantastic; with original and distinct designs that border realistic and cartoony, with the best qualities of both carrying a jovial wit, which never balking on making the subject matter truly scary. And the story by Mitch Schauer is told in a clear and concise manner, taking on a sort of fairy tale tone in the beginning that sort of fades by the end. The book on the whole is kid-like in tone, but told with sophistication that one used to see in old Loony Tunes." – Mark L. Miller, Ain't It Cool News
• Review: "Rip M.D. is very sweet all-ages graphic novel... For those... looking for something to share with the family, Rip is an excellent choice. The writer, Mitch Schauer, is clearly a fan of classic monsters and has really had some fun with these characters. The real gem in Rip M.D. is the artwork. Beautiful, beautiful panels that you may want to tear out of the book and put up on your walls. [...] And the colors in this book are just stunning. This is a book that warrants some extra time to just enjoy each page. [...] Ultimately, this is a book that anyone can read and enjoy that would also make an excellent gift to a young reader as a Halloween treat. Score: ★★★★★" – Stephanie Shamblin G, Comic Monsters
• Interview:Squee! talks to Carol Tyler about You'll Never Know in an interview which will run in edited form in the new issue of Ghettoblaster Magazine: "Hardest thing I've ever taken on. So much to juggle: the storyline, the art. The mechanics of making a comic page/book. Oy! I've been at this for four years and I'm still not done! I love it, though. I've had to wrap my life around getting pages done. [...] It's an epic struggle, although worth it a thousand times over."
• Interview (audio):Inkstuds host Robin McConnell chatted with fellow Canadian Dave Cooper while Dave was in Vancouver on his West Coast book tour
Join us at the Alternative Press Expo at the Concourse exhibit hall in San Francisco this weekend! You can find us at tables 113-116 (a different location than the past couple of years, for you APE vets out there). Myself and our Ambassador of Awesomeness Janice Headley will be staffing the table. Our signing and panel schedule is as follows:
12:00 - 1:00PM Spotlight on Megan Kelso, moderated by Marc Weidenbaum
• Review: "This mammoth collection [What Is All This?] presents five decades of Dixon: sex, frustration, and attempts at deeper communication, mostly missed. The 62 stories evoke neuroses, delusion, banality, and everyday absurdities in deceptively simple sentences... There are echoes of Ernest Hemingway and prefigurings of Raymond Carver's lower-middle-class minimalism infusing tales of scrappers and scrapers... Usually sublime, sometimes sloppy, and occasionally bewildering, these stories are a testament to an impressive career spent too much under the radar." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) [Temporary link]
• Review: "With its mix of sci-fi, romance, tragedy and comedy, A Drunken Dream is a memorable manga journey that shouldn't be missed or dismissed. [...] Drawing from deeply-felt personal experiences, Hagio draws stories for every person who has felt like an outsider, who has regretted past actions that can never be erased, or who has longed to be accepted for being who they are, not what people want them to be. These ideas sound so simple — but when touched by Hagio's pen, this is punch-in-the-gut powerful. [...] ★★★★1/2" – Deb Aoki, About.com: Manga
• Review: "While they may not be standard children’s books, they are fun and entertaining and full of stuff kids would like, without being obscene or intended for mature audiences. They are the kind of books you would want your kid reading if your kid wasn’t a total dork. [...] You get the feeling of reading old fairy tales, where the Prince wasn’t always charming, the villains would erect down right disturbing and evil plots against the characters and the story, or just the world in general was presented as a harsh reminder of reality. [...] Tony [Millionaire]... really lets his imagination run with his latest book, Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird. [...] With or without children, you can feel good about reading this book." – Brian Jones, Flash Flood Media
• Review: "Artichoke Tales is by any definition a remarkable book — the first graphic novel by Megan Kelso, who has so far worked largely in the short story form, and a book that displays at every page Kelso’s unique voice as a graphic storyteller and the care and attention she lavished on this project over the past several years. [...] This is a beautiful book, at times a heartbreaking book. One feels the precision and thought behind every word, every line, all of it edited down and arranged to a spareness that is paradoxically lush and textured." – Jared Gardner, Guttergeek
• Plug: "[Rip M.D.] seems to be a comic more geared to a juvenile public, but should be pretty cool because there are a lot of monsters, really violent werewolves, zombies, and best of all, vampires that do not sparkle!" – Submundo Mamão (translated from Portuguese)
• Profile: "Some artists seem to have had greatness as their destination as surely as if a tracking device had been implanted in their genes. Some veer toward it capriciously like a demon had seized the wheel. They start with a talent — to which they feed — in bites and gulps — their times; and, once expressed, the result is… YOWL! One of these was the underground cartoonist Greg Irons, the subject of Patrick Rosenkranz’s overlooked — and fascinating — retrospective You Call This Art?!!" – Bob Levin, The Comics Journal
Right Thing the Wrong Way: The Story of Highwater Books
October 1st-October 24th
Opening Reception October 1st 6-9pm
Fourth Wall Project 132 Brookline Ave Boston, MA 02215
For seven years (and one miscounted eighth anniversary party) Highwater Books was snobby, high-concept, iconoclastic, poorly-business modeled publishing company that ran itself into the ground. Highwater published books late, promised them and never published them at all and even withheld its books from distributors on principle. The company asked its artists to fold mini-comics and stand behind convention tables and sell their wares to a public that did not know what to make of them. It hatched plans, plots and schemes, and it may have been the most important comic publisher of the early part of the century. Over those seven or so years, Highwater elevated the concept of design in the comics world; It emphasized independent and DIY attitudes in an increasingly corporate society, and it published some of the most important artists in comics. In October, Fourth Wall Project celebrates Highwater and a selection of its artists with a group art exhibition: Right Thing the Wrong Way: The Story of Highwater Books.
Starting with the opening party on October 1st and on view for three weeks, Right Thing the Wrong Way will display new and archival works by the artists central to Highwater Books: Brian Ralph, Greg Cook, Jef Czekaj, Jordan Crane, Kurt Wolfgang, Marc Bell, Megan Kelso, and Ron Rege. Along with the artists work, there will be an installation celebrating the strange history of the company. The organizers (TD Sidell, Emily Arkin, Brooke Corey, Jef Czekaj, and Greg Cook) will construct a mini-museum within the gallery, displaying ephemera (both finished and unfinished), half formed concept pieces, and plain old junk that made Highwater special. In lieu of a traditional catalog the organizers, in conjunction with Bodega Distribution, have put together an oral history of the company that will manifest in a short-run publication (natch!) for the show. Compiled and edited by Highwater artist and Phoenix art critic Greg Cook, the oral history will act as a companion to the show with the artists and "employees" of Highwater telling the story themselves.
• Review: "What to say about Catalog 439? It's a crazy-arse thing, full of richly illustrated intricate drawings of smartly dressed men torturing each other with ridiculous devices. [...] What you get with this book then is not just a fascinating glimpse into a little known corner of American social history, but the template for many of the ad pages from the silver and bronze age comics that so many of us comic collectors love. I really enjoyed it and, although it isn't about comics, I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the history of comic book advertising." – Dom Sutton, London Loves Comics
• Review: "At this point, I don’t know what else there is to say about Jamie Hernandez or Love and Rockets. I suspect that one day he’s going to make a truly terrible comic, if only because he must feel at least a little bit bad about showing nearly every other creator up so often. ...Penny Century is yet another masterpiece from a guy who turns them out seemingly like clockwork. If you haven’t read it, you need to. ...Jamie Hernandez’s exploration of life continues as an unimpeachable standard for comic book mastery." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "[Artichoke Tales] is far and away the best comic I've ever read from Megan Kelso, succeeding on almost every level. Her clear-line style gives an airy ease to her often detail-heavy drawings of nature and the people who inhabit it; similarly, her complex exercise in fantasy worldbuilding — and I don't mean detailed maps with funny names, I mean real worldbuilding, constructing cultural and religious and economic structures rooted in environment and history and exerting macro and micro influence across the lives of all the characters involved — is subsumed into an absorbing, briskly moving house-divided family soap opera. [...] I dug this book to a degree that surprised me and look forward to returning to it. It's a rich vein of alt-fantasy being tapped here." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Review: "Kelso's simple line and rounded forms belie the seriousness of the story. [...] Ultimately, Artichoke Tales is not so much a story about conflict as a story about the people reacting to the conflict, doing their best to live lives of integrity in a land of constant unrest. Although good intentions are often thwarted, it ends on a note of hope." – Brigid Alverson, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Plug: "I picked [A Drunken Dream and Other Stories] up at San Diego and it's one of those 'seminal' manga works that actually lives up to its hype. If you like Tatsumi, this is a good bet." Lydia Park, Ask Yavin IV (Funny, we don't remember seeing her at San Diego... That's a joke because she's a cartoon character.)
• Plug: "This is amazing news — one of my favourite cartoonists finally receives his due. I was starting to think that he had slipped through the cracks of cartoon history. ...[Rand Holmes] was a fantastic draftsman, surprisingly old-school, and his meticulous inking something that I could only ever hope to dream to aspire to." – Rod Filbrandt
• Plug: "...[T]he second volume of [Johnny Ryan's] battle epic Prison Pit... is amazing, nasty, and Lovecraftian." – Ryan Sands, Same Hat!
• Interview: "Newsarama: Billy Hazlenuts is like a children’s fable gone wrong, reminiscent in way of the old, dark Grimm Brothers tales with a modern, high-octane approach. Is that what you’re going for? Tony Millionaire: Take a closer look at those Grimm's Fairy tales, or even better, Hans Christian Anderson, and you'll tell me my stories are chocolate milk sopped on toast compared to that stuff."
• Review: "From the start, Cathy Malkasian's turbulent fantasy Temperance reels you in... It is not hard to spot allegories in this to today’s war on terror, and to the Cold War, in Temperance‘s portrait of siege mentality and the exaggeration of external threats. ... No Shrek or Toy Story, Temperance confounds fairy-tale expectations with a disturbing, resonant parable about propaganda, memories and other lies." – Paul Gravett, The Times Literary Supplement
• Review: "First of all, I have to say how much I enjoy the format. Fantagraphics has done a fine job with this book, with a striking cover, sturdy spine, and essentially giving me everything I want in my comic books in terms of collected treatment. ... Jason’s simple, elegant artwork... allows any reader to dive right in. ... He’s a master of pacing out a gag, and he appreciates the fun of genre entertainment while still acknowledging the absurdity of it all. If I had to sum up Jason’s comics in one word, that word would be silly. They’re funny, and absurd, tinged with sadness and loneliness, outrageously goofy, slapstick, human and just plain pretty to look at. But mostly, they’re delightfully, delightfully silly. It’s a treat to enjoy a comic like Almost Silent." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Prison Pit is fucking awesome and you really need to read it. It’s a kids book, in the sense that it very likely was something Johnny Ryan created when he was 12 years old, assuming the man was sniffing a lot of glue and simultaneously watching Cannibal Holocaust and WWF wrestling as a pre-teen. ... Grade: A" – Chad Derdowski, Mania
• Review: "Prison Pit 2 is mental, obscene, and grotesque... But the book is also pretty astonishing and at least several parts awesome... I'm dazzled by the bloody chutzpah and dirty bravado of Ryan's fight comic, the sheer devotion he shows to violence for violence's sake, thoroughly removed from any hollow 'redeeming values' or 'character development.' ...[T]o anyone wondering if Prison Pit 2 really delivers all the weird, filthy violence it promises, the answer is a resounding yes." – Jason Michelitch, Comics Alliance
• Review: "I read Megan Kelso's Artichoke Tales almost in a single sitting, which is probably a good way to do it. ... This book deals with some standard themes — strong women and intellectual, impractical men, the impulse that leads to war, technology vs. rural simplicity — but none is treated in a standard way. Kelso definitely has a point of view, but she doesn't insult the reader's intelligence, and there's plenty of nuance; she's telling a story, not making a point. Also, it's beautiful just to look at." – Bridgid Alverson, Robot 6
• Review: "Honestly, I’m still not sure how I ultimately feel about Artichoke Tales. I was put off by the book’s downbeat, resigned demeanor, yet at the same time impressed by Kelso’s ability to handle such a multi-layered story so effectively. Perhaps my feelings toward the book can be best summed up by the same word that one would use to describe both the political and personal relationships found in the book, and the real-life relationships she no doubt hoped to evoke: complicated." – Chris Mautner, The Comics Journal
• Interview:Robot 6's Tim O'Shea talks to Megan Kelso about Artichoke Tales: "The artichoke people started as a casual doodle. I think I was riffing on The Jolly Green Giant's sidekick, Sprout. So I just started drawing these people whenever I was on the telephone, or just playing around in my sketchbook. The more I drew them, the more ideas I had about their world, and I just slowly started to build a story about them. This was the first time since starting to make comics, that I generated a story from a drawing rather than from an idea, or from something I'd written. It was excitng to me because it seemed more like 'pure comics' to me, coming from a drawing."
• Review: "Birdland is a rare venture into the world of folly and fetish by award winning Gilbert Hernandez. ... [L]ocate a copy of Birdland yourself and enjoy and marvel at the bewildering release of limbs, torsos and groins in a madcap sexual adventure. The term 'graphic novel' will never mean the same again!" – partikal7
• Plug: "Rip M.D. is a creepy, fun-filled all-ages adventure saga... [Mitch] Schauer told ICv2 that the inspiration for Rip M.D. was all those horror and monster movies he saw as a child — movies that made him care more about the fate of the colorful monsters and fiends than the B movies' human characters who always seemed to triumph in the end. Rip M.D. is the logical emotional outgrowth of those accumulated cinematic disappointments, the story of a boy who is able to help the horror and monster movie characters that he loves the most." – ICv2
• Analysis: At Techland, Douglas Wolk looks at The Troublemakers by Gilbert Hernandez as an example of the successful use of a "widescreen" panel layout: "Aside from its title page, the entire thing is laid out as four identically shaped wide horizontal panels on each page, and the movie-screen shape is formally appropriate — the book is supposedly a kind of comics translation of a (nonexistent) B-movie. The Troublemakers is brutally effective as cartooning, though: Hernandez has designed it so that something's happening horizontally in almost every panel, and there's usually a different kind of motion from each panel to the next."
• Analysis:Love & Maggie continue their series of detailed, annotated rundowns of their Top 10 Issues of The Comics Journal with the first part of their examination of issue #71
• Commentary:The Hooded Utilitarian's critical roundtable on Popeye continues with Andrew Farago's look at the character's various multimedia incarnations
• Review: "...[T]his [is] a good-looking book as well as a good reading one. ... [T]his is a wonderfully informative read from where I’m sitting. Fire & Water is a long-overdue chance for today’s readers to get a good idea of what made Everett so special and so revered by older fans." – Johnny Bacardi, Popdose
• Review: "Richie Rich by way of Archie by way of Tippy Teen by way of, oh, I don’t know — The Grifters meets Tao Te Ching and airing at 10:30 CST on Adult Swim; ...it’s easy to admire [Wally Gropius's] all-over-the-place, random ingenuity..." – Johnny Bacardi, Popdose
• Review: "Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso is a strange, other-worldly story about birth and death, coming of age, dealing with war, finding love, accepting tragedy. ... The simple, comic-strip-like illustrations in teal and white express movement beautifully with a minimum of lines." – Mary Louise Ruehr, Ravenna Record-Courier
• Interview:Avoid the Future calls Set to Sea "One of the most visually breathtaking comics we’ve ever had the pleasure of reading" and talks to creator Drew Weing: "I'm very happy with the final results, but I've got to work differently in the future — if I plan on having finished more than a handful of comics in my lifetime! There's so much fussy crosshatching and detail in Set to Sea. I'm trying to work much quicker and looser in my next projects."
• Coming Attractions: "Oh. Oh yes. Oh yes, yes, yes… Herriman’s wonderful Krazy and Ignatz, facsimile style reproduction of original, unpublished sketches he’d use before finalising his strips, in a big, beautiful hardback, and it’s from Fantagraphics so you know it’s going to be given the love and attention to detail and quality it deserves." – Forbidden Planet International Blog Log on Krazy & Ignatz: The Sketchbook Strips 1910-1913, coming this Fall
• Comic-Con: For MTV IGGY, Deb Aoki covers Moto Hagio's appearance at Comic-Con: "Besides signing copies of her new book and sketching for fans, Hagio also talked about her work at two panels, charming the crowd with her wit and honesty."