• Review: "...[T]he velvety ease of the narrative and the facile blend of sexual, familial and natural intimacies on display suggest one of those steps forward with which the comics medium has been blessed over and over again this past decade. One falls through The Squirrel Machine as much as reads it, and the collection of feelings it imparts is as much due to the clarity of its narrative as it is the horror show that occasionally surges toward the reader from some deep place in Rickheit's mind, righteous and angry and wet." - Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Throughout all 179 pages of The Squirrel Machine [Hans] Rickheit tells a rich, fluid tale, all the while approaching, but not quite revealing any implicit meaning the story itself might have. The result, a daring, surreal, often grotesque work, is more visceral than it is cognitive." - Paul DeBenedetto, Wednesday's Child
• Review: "Though far from savage, at its heart, [Tales Designed to] Thrizzle has some rather pointed things to say about the crap we consume on a daily basis. Plus, it's really, really, really funny.... [The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book] is basically Herge by way of the Big Lebowski with a little bit of Repo Man thrown in for good measure.... very funny..." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plugs: The gang at Robot 6 (really just Chris Mautner) looks at some of the titles coming out in our New Comics Day bonanza today (along with the week's other notable releases)
Some major comics writing out there over the holiday weekend making for an extra-beefy (and late) Online Commentary & Diversions update:
•Review/Profile: "Sure I'd read [Hal] Foster before, but I'd never found a way in. Fortunately, Fantagraphics recently released Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-38, and I was able to absorb the material in a wholly new way.... I found this first book completely engrossing. Prince Valiant opens up a world that I wanted to stay in -- a wide-eyed early 20th century approach to fantasy with a now-vanished sincerity and wholesomeness. It's an all too rare pleasure in comics." - Dan Nadel, Comics Comics
• Review: "Medieval swordplay and adventure have never been as glorious as in Foster's Sunday-only comic strip. Although much reprinted (including an earlier version from the same publisher), this edition has been reproduced from pristine printer's proofs to give the gorgeous artwork its crispest version ever.... Foster's script is literate and full of vivid characterizations, like the headstrong but cunning Val and carefree Sir Gawain. But nothing surpasses his artwork—rich with details of armor, weapons and dress, the story comes to life with a palpable sense of magic and danger. Each drawing is a flawless illustration, perfectly composed; even a battle of 20 men comes alive in a tiny panel, with every action clearly delineated. Prince Valiant is one of the best-drawn comics ever, and this new edition does ample justice to its achievement." - Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "Underneath the screaming and plagues, the giddy joy that [Basil Wolverton] seems to take in his art radiates off the page, just like it does in his secular work.... His creatures from sci-fi and horror, his fascination with grotesque bodily exaggeration, his devout Christian faith -- here it all comes together into an operatic and apocalyptic peak.... The Wolverton Bible might seem like a paradox to its religious audience and its alt-comics fans -- even if Wolverton himself never saw the contradiction." - Martyn Pedler, Bookslut
• Review: "As an historical object, sure, great. I think it should be in print. Kurtzman was a very important figure in comics, and the art and design of the pieces here are of an exceedingly high quality. I'm glad I can see more examples of Jaffee's, Elder's and Davis' work." Otherwise, Chris Allen gives up on Humbug
• Review: Joe McCulloch of Jog - The Blog has a major review of Tardi & Manchette's West Coast Blues -- I've read through it three times and it's too complex for a simple pull quote
• History/preview/profile/analysis: "The 300th issue of The Comics Journal is soon to hit the stands, and the magazine everyone in comics loves to hate rattles on, chugging and sputtering and picking up disreputable beardy guys like a Toonerville Trolley of spite.... In some Inglourious Basterds-like alternate history, the 1990s ended with the twisted faces of Kim Thompson and Gary Groth hovering, laughing maniacally, over the charred and bullet-riddled corpse of Wizard magazine." - Shaenon K. Garrity, comiXology
• Analysis: du9 presents a new translation by Derik Badman of a 2006 piece by David Turgeon on Poison River by Gilbert Hernandez: "What first strikes the reader about this work is its narrative density. It isn’t uncommon for a single page to show as many places, times, and situations as there are panels." (Via Journalista)
• Interview: Jason Thibault of Optimum Wound talks to Tim Lane as part of their "Masters of Ink" series: "You do what seems the impossible and most absurd: you learn to breathe underwater, and revel in it. Get drunk on the water in your lungs. Cultivate a functional level of positive insanity. And develop tough skin. Stick with it if only because your reasons are inexplicable."
• Interview: The Daily Cross Hatch wraps up presenting Brian Heater's chat with Jordan Crane: "I was in Portugal and I saw a really tiny kid with a really giant cat. He looked exactly like the kid in The Clouds Above. The kid was so small that the cat was the same size as him — it’s not a big cat, but next to him, he was huge. And then I just kind of went from there."
• Plug: At Super I.T.C.H., Steven Johnston takes note of Humbug ("much of it is prime satire from the creators of MAD!") and The Wolverton Bible ("particularly including some genuinely horrific scenes from the Book of Revelations").
The first issue of Marvel's new 3 part anthology mini-series, STRANGE TALES, is in comic shops this week. It features my long-delayed "Incorrigible Hulk" story, which has been broken up into 3 parts, with one part in each issue. My original cover will also serve as the cover of ST #2 (see above).
This mini-series also features many indy comics superstars,all of whom get to interpret one or more of Marvel's well known characters in their own style. Each issue is also 48 pages long and only $3.99. Quite a deal!
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions starts with a bang:
• Review: "...[A]n astonishingly rich and convincing picture of uncertain, developing human relationships. Besides the masterful storytelling, [Locas II: Maggie, Hopey & Ray] is notable for superb black and white artwork. Panel by panel and page by page, it's a delight to watch darkness crowding into open space, while supple linework dances freely in its allotted territory. This is a landmark in comics literature." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)
• Review: "From Wonderland with Loveis anexcellent introduction to the part of the Danish comics scene that tries to push the boundaries of the medium – and in particular to the “wild bunch” that emerged at the beginning of this millennium. If you’re an open-minded reader, there’s no getting past this book, even if it – as a Dane – at times feels a bit odd to read Danish comics in English. […] If you love the place where art challenges the status quo and moves the fence posts, gaining new land in the process, you’ll feel right at home here." - Ulf Reese Næsborg, tegneseriesiden (updated with new translation from the author - thanks Ulf)
• Review: "[From Wonderland with Love] is a beautiful book, full of very different temperaments and different styles. All comics are from the 21st century and together they show both the great width and breadth of Danish comics. There are quiet, direct, hard hitting stories... And there are more poetic, allegorical, dreamy stories... And if you want new, interesting and strange, look no further." - Fredrik Strömberg, Sekventiellt (books by Strömberg)
• Interview: At Marvel.com, Sean T. Collins continues his series of Strange Tales MAX contributor interviews with Michael Kupperman: "People are going to be very interested in the changes I've made to the Marvel canon. They're probably going to have to scrap everything they've ever published and start over. The new version of SECRET WARS is going to be called OVERT WARS."
• Interview: The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater kicks off a 3-part talk with Jordan Crane: "Well, I’m trying to make [Uptight] less sporadic. I want to do it two times a year, solid. It’s been kind of a chaotic last couple of years. So now I’m focusing everything I can on it."
A nice batch of reviews in today's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Starstudded. The comics medium merges with pictorial art into a groundbreaking narrative form in a new gorgeous anthology [From Wonderland with Love] with the Danish highlights of the last ten years.… jam-packed with cherry-picked quality material which is guaranteed to find happy readers far beyond the circle who consider themselves comics fans." - Nikolaj M. Lassen, Weekendavisen (translated from Danish)
• Review: "..[T]his brilliant, anarchic collection of errant dips into the cultural gestalt is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Like stuff that's fearless, brilliant and non-linear? Thrizzle is for shizzle." - Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Review: "Fantagraphics continues on its quest to reprint and repackage history’s greatest and most influential comics in glorious, high-quality collections. This first collection of Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant strips has to be seen to be believed – it’s a lovingly crafted, tabloid-sized book with the highest production values. The artwork has been recreated from Foster’s own engraver’s proofs, providing better quality than even the original newspaper run would have got. Prince Valiant is widely regarded as one of the best adventure comics ever created, and there’s two years worth of material here – a real treat for fans of the original or new readers looking for some classic medieval adventure." - Grovel
• Review: "I certainly prefer Norwegian cartoonist Jason to Hemingway. For one thing, Jason doesn't hate women, as far as I can tell. And for another, his new book of short graphic stories, Low Moon, has a bunch of clever touches that made me chuckle out loud." - Noah Berlatsky, comiXology
• Review: "...[E]ven if the very mention of the word 'abstract' makes you poke your fingers in your ears and go 'La la la la,' I’d strongly recommend the book, as it contains a number of strikingly beautiful images and sequences... I found Abstract Comics to be a revealing, thought-provoking and genuinely lovely book that I’ll be sure to be rereading in the months to come." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "MILFs on Mars, by the artist known as Rebecca... is a collection of black and white pin-up drawings of naked (or mostly naked) women posing in spacey science fiction Martian environments... The drawings are well done and almost tame enough to not be called hard core. However, that cannot be said (or written) because some of the poses consist of inquisitive homosexual women physically probing other people. Need I say more?" - Bernard C. Cormier, Brunswick News
• Things to see: Not enough artists exploit the animated GIF as a medium; Lilli Carré has done it twice recently, to wondeful effect
• Review: "What more can I say about these wonderful [Complete Peanuts] collections? I’ve enjoyed each one immensely so far; they make me laugh and grin and even smirk a little from time to time... Top notch book. You can’t have a much better time than reading these collections. Highly recommended." - Todd Klein (link via Robot 6)
• Review: "[Prison Pit: Book 1] is the best comic Johnny Ryan has ever drawn. And I'm the guy that ranked the last Angry Youth Comix in his Best of 2008... This really needs to be experienced on its own. It's rich, clever, energetic, funny - I don't think I've purely in-my-guts enjoyed another comic so much in 2009... You've gotta see it to believe it." - Joe McCullough, Jog - The Blog
• Plug: "...[O]ur favorite comic book artist is Mr. Johnny Ryan!... Johnny continues his brilliant legacy with an 120 page epic tale named Prison Pit... Next to Jughead, Johnny’s about the best thing going on in comic books these days, so don’t be a chump and wait until they make some perverted documentary about him and he’s some hipster darling! ACT NOW!" - retroCRUSH
• Profile: For the Los Angeles Times, Tobias Carroll profiles artists who straddle music and comics, including Zak Sally, whose "surreal and compelling series Sammy the Mouse, begun in 2007, is a kind of existentialist's Bloom County," plus our pals Archer Prewitt & Ron Regé Jr.
• Interview: Sean T. Collins's series of interviews with Marvel Strange Tales MAX contributors at Marvel.com continues with Johnny Ryan. The imagination reels: "Well, there was one joke, now that I think of it, with Galactus that had to be altered a little bit. I don't know if I should reveal the joke—it might ruin the experience. But it was this little detail for that joke that I initially put there, and they were like, 'Eh, can you change that a bit?'"
• Review: "...Tales Designed to Thrizzle... is not all tradition; it's largely a satire, a satire of a pulp fiction oeuvre that didn't take itself that seriously to begin with. Kupperman's humor — a mix of genre, non-sequitur and nonsense — is a kind of laughter in the void, wonderfully lucid and slightly sickening... That Kupperman so masterfully plays to and upsets expectation makes Thrizzle that much funnier and finer. With stunts such as a Twain & Einstein crime-fighting partnership, Kupperman is all goofball, all the time. But Kupperman's line, even in shaping locomotive-sized garden snails, is weighty. And the weight of five years of Thrizzle, is, well, as formidable as a locomotive-sized garden snail." - John Reed, Art in America
• Review: "The story [in Delphine] surrounded me and carried me away to a very real world. It's a cartooned, exaggerated world, but a real world nonetheless... The layouts are impeccable: very clear and superbly paced... I noticed that the story GREW in my mind when I took breaks from reading, allowing me to immerse myself in the story like a dream." - Frank Santoro, Comics Comics
• Review: "...Fletcher Hanks [was] one of the greatest comic book talents you’ve never heard of. Working in the earliest years of comics (1939-1941) Hanks’ contributions walked on the darker side of comic books in a way that managed to take on a timeless quality... In this collection is the work that makes Hanks so incredibly special to the world of comic books. The physiognomics of his evildoers, the strange retributions they suffer at the hands of the heroes, is all really powerful stuff... You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! is an incredible testament to what comic books were once capable of... If you want to understand the essence of comic books in their purest form then pick up You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! and learn." - Iann Robinson, Crave Online
• Plug: "The pieces in The Bradleys are broadly satirical and funny, marked by Bagge’s rubbery art style and a sarcastic tone that should appeal immediately to anyone with a prior awareness of The Simpsons or Looney Tunes. They’re also good stories, full of sharp observations about the impossible expectations that govern the dynamics of a nuclear family, as well as the way a good used Yardbirds record can make a crappy day better." - Noel Murray, The A.V. Club "Recommended First Comics"
• Plug: "All my exploration of the Moon/Ba axis came out of reading their pretty great Comics Journal interview in [#298]. I love it when an interview is so well-done that it convinces me to sample writers and artists whose work I haven't read before." - Alan David Doane, Comic Book Galaxy