Online Commentary & Diversions returns from a sick day:
• Review: "With elegant simplicity, this comic-book fable [Set to Sea] unfurls the tale of a life cast on an unexpected course and the melancholy wisdom accrued upon the waves. First-time graphic-novelist Weing has produced a beautiful gem here, with minimal dialogue, one jolting battle scene, and each small page owned by a single panel filled with art whose figures have a comfortable roundness dredged up from the cartoon landscapes of our childhood unconscious, even as the intensely crosshatched shadings suggest the darkness that sometimes traces the edges of our lives. [...] Weing’s debut is playful, atmospheric, dark, wistful, and wise." – Jesse Karp, Booklist (Starred Review)
• Review: "...[A]n absolutely stunning [book], collecting some of the best and most trenchantly funny illustrations by a contender for the title of America’s Greatest Living Caricaturist in a lavish, full-colour hardback. [...] Friedman is a master craftsman who can draw and paint with breathtaking power, and his work is intrinsically funny. [...] His caricatures are powerful, resonant and joyful, but without ever really descending to the level of graphic malice preferred by such luminaries as Ralph Steadman or Gerald Scarfe. Too Soon? is a book for art lovers, celebrity stalkers and anyone who enjoys a pretty, good laugh." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "...A Drunken Dream showcases the full range of Hagio’s short stories, while also granting readers insight into the themes of lost innocence, family dysfunction and perseverance in the face of abuse that underscore much of her work. [...] With distinct character designs, detailed backgrounds and emotive character acting, Hagio’s artwork conveys the full emotional range of her stories, with dollops of humor mixed into sagas of sadness, survival and hard-won contentment. [...] A Drunken Dream and Other Stories finds another important voice in Japanese comics history washing up on American shores. One hopes that Hagio, whose work manages to be both stark and beautiful, finds a welcoming and receptive audience." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: Sean T. Collins looks at "La Maggie La Loca" and "Gold Diggers of 1969" from Love and Rockets Vol. II #20 as part of his "Love and Rocktober" series at Attentiondeficitdisorderly: "Maggie may just be an apartment manager anymore, she may now get in way over her head (literally) when she attempts to have a fun island adventure like she used to, but the way Rena sneaks into her room at night just to watch her sleep reveals that the aging heroine could use a dose of the community and camaraderie that's part and parcel of Maggie's dayjob."
• List: Sam Costello of iFanboy names House by Josh Simmons as one of "13 Great Horror Comics for Halloween": "Josh Simmons is some kind of horror savant. There are few really, truly, deeply disturbing comics out there. If you’re willing to take the risk of reading a comic that you’ll literally want to cover your eyes while you read, Simmons’ work is for you. House, his nearly wordless tale of a trio of friends exploring a dilapidated, cavernous mansion, is less explicit, but worth a look. Its suffocating, despairing loneliness is affecting." (Via Robot 6)
• Commentary: "It was like the sky: pleasant, visually appealing, reliable. Peanuts had a Picture of Dorian Gray quality; you kept getting older and more decrepit and more cynical, but it didn't. By the time you started reading it, you were already older than the characters in the strip, so it immediately made you nostalgic for childhood. Not necessarily for your childhood, but for the childhood Lucy and Charlie and Linus were having." – Joe Queenan, The Guardian
• Interview: At Comic Book Resources, Chris Mautner talks to Johnny Ryan about Prison Pit: "I think in a strange way the book(s) are very revealing about myself. I felt as if I was really exposing myself here. I was very anxious about that."
From über-fan Chris Diaz comes this all-star montage of clips filmed at last year's Alternative Press Expo, just in time for this year's show! Among others you'll see Dash Shaw, Frank Santoro & Jon Vermilyea showing off Mome Vol. 16 at our table, Esther Pearl Watson & Mark Todd at their Funchicken setup, and our very own expo expert extraordinaire Janice Headley rocking her Jad Fair glasses.
• 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."
Today's (and yesterday's — sorry for the interruption) Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Yes, [Special Exits] is a heartbreaking — even harrowing — tale, one made all the more moving and immediate by the creator’s nuanced gift for capturing the essence of her parents on the page. But it’s also a tale told with consummate skill, filled with mordant humor and real compassion, an almost embarrassing amount of candor, and a deep abiding love and respect for its subjects. [...] Ultimately, it’s these simple and true moments of mundane magic which marks Special Exits as more than just one of the best books released this year. It is, without a doubt, also one of the most significant contributions to the comics medium this side of the millennium, a modern masterpiece which celebrates the human condition." – Bill Baker, ForeWord Reviews
• Review: "Ultimately, ...the book churns itself into a seething sludge of psychic toxicity that’s less a shockfest and more a satire of existence itself. Mercilessly graphic and superbly unspooled, Prison Pit funnels the fantastic, violent notebook sketches of the middle-school miscreant into a funny, pulsing, disgustingly purgative eruption. [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "Prison Pit Two is one of the most gruesome and beautiful new comics I've seen. It's the comics equivalent of Voivod's Rrröööaaarrr. Buy buy buy. Die die die." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "There have been plenty of comic-book memoirs, but few with the complex structure of You’ll Never Know, which seems at times to be rambling from topic to topic with no clear direction, until it unexpectedly circles back to an earlier point and makes the purpose of one tiny anecdote clear. Because this is still a work-in-progress — and an idiosyncratic one at that — it’s too early to tag it as a masterpiece. But damned if it isn’t well on its way. [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "With each passing year, Bill Griffith’s venerable comic strip Zippy the Pinhead gets weirder, moving away from direct social commentary and toward a more abstract expression of Griffith’s worldview. The latest Zippy collection, Ding Dong Daddy from Dingburg, is dominated by a long tour through a town run by pinheads — an absurdist spin on consumer utopia that rivals Superman comics’ Bizarro World for its down-is-up jargon and attitudes. The joke? That this is more or less the America of the early 21st century... [Grade] B" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "The Hernandez Brothers have... been on a constant incline. They never treaded water or plateau'd. In fact this issue, the third issue of the third volume [of Love and Rockets], is one of the very best things they've ever done. [...] This is a perfect volume by guys who've been getting perfecter all the time. [...] At their worst the Hernandez Brothers make work that's merely good and entertaining. At their best they make this." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Adele Blanc-Sec is a sort of actiony, science fictiony comic for people who aren't retarded. It's like a Europeaner Hellboy or Indiana Jones. [...] This isn't my absolute favorite Tardi book — there's slightly too much dialogue and slightly too many characters with mustaches to keep up with — but it's still a fucking masterpiece. Everything he draws and the moods he conveys are worth the price of admission alone." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "In [Mome] Vol. 19, [editor Eric] Reynolds shifted gears and used fewer but longer entries to put together perhaps the single best issue of the entire series (only Vol. 12 surpasses it in my estimation). Beyond its quality, Mome Vol. 19 also seems to be the issue that best reflects Reynolds’ taste as an editor. Reynolds has always been more on the underground side of the fence than in the literary fiction camp when it comes to comics. This issue’s mix of the transgressively funny, pulpish noir, surrealism, scatology and innovation was sequenced in such a way that every transition from story to story was nearly seamless. More importantly, the stories frequently complemented each other in a way that acted as a form of editorial storytelling on its own. [...] Secrets and mysteries are at the core of every story in this volume, and Reynolds expertly put together this jigsaw puzzle of styles and visual approaches to create a coherent, deeply affecting book. It’s certainly on my short list of best comics of the year." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Mome... is where the smart kids with the sharpest pencils, shiniest pens, biggest brushes and best software go to play before they blow your minds in great big award-winning graphic novels. It is intense, sometimes hard to read and crafted to the highest production standards. Considered by most to be the successor to Art Spiegelman’s Raw, it doesn’t come out nearly often enough. [...] This volume is perfect for newcomers to jump aboard... Whether you’re new to comics, currently searching beyond the mainstream or just want something fresh; these strips and this publication will always offer a decidedly different read. You may not like all of it but Mome will always have something you can’t help but respond to. Why haven’t you tried it yet?" – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Jacques Tardi's masterful It Was the War of the Trenches was originally published in Europe in 1993, and thanks to Fantagraphics it has finally made it to the U.S. It was worth the wait. [...] I was nauseated. I was horrified. I was transfixed. Everyone should read this book and relearn the lesson that war is not diplomacy by other means, but the most hellish, useless and destructive tool at our disposal, and should be found somewhere past the last resort." – Andrew A. Smith, Scripps Howard News Service
• Review: "An effective biography and a great showcase of classic comics artwork, [Fire and Water: Bill Everett, the Sub-Mariner and the Birth of Marvel Comics] provides an intriguing look into the life of a man who played an important role in the shaping of the creative side of the comics industry. [...] Abetted by plentiful examples of Everett’s illustrative prowess (both at his peak and when in the depths of addiction), it’s a valuable tool for anybody interested in the history of the medium or the men behind their favorite stories and characters. And it’s fortunate that men like Blake Bell and publishers like Fantagraphics are committed to telling these stories so that we don’t lose sight of our roots." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Do you ever stop to think that David Lynch's work doesn't make sense? No, not in that way — I don't mean in terms of story logic, I mean in terms of his aesthetic/generic approach. [...] Something about what Lynch does, the confidence with which he does it, makes it feel seamless, like 'of course' rather than 'what the?'. Looking at the cover for The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S., I realized the same is true of Jaime Hernandez's comics. [...] He created his own kind of story." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Review: "To call it 'comic book as nightmare' would certainly sound too glib by half and too cliche by whole orders of magnitude, and yet nothing else provides so apt a model for the kind of experience Columbia has crafted here. [...] In short, Pim & Francie is a monumental achievement. Columbia's brilliance is on full display... to some of the most truly dreadful effect I've ever experienced." – Curt Purcell, The Groovy Age of Horror (via Sean T. Collins)
• Plug: "Stephen DeStefano and George Chieffet's new book Lucky in Love was recently released by Fantagraphics Books and I just received a copy courtesy of the artist so I want to plug one of my favorite artists working in comics and animation. As always Stephen's art is amazing. Pick up a copy today!" – Kevin Langley, Cartoons, Model Sheets, & Stuff
• Plug: "I escaped LA for a week and spent time relaxing in Seattle with some of my favorite people. On the way to the airport, we made a spontaneous stop at Fantagraphics Books, a place I never heard of before. They describe themselves as a publisher of 'comics for thinking readers – readers who like to put their minds to work, who have a sophisticated understanding of art and culture, and appreciate personal expression unfettered by uncritical use of cliché.' So, if you’re looking to read bland, mainstream superhero comics, you won’t find them there. [...] If you ever find yourself in Seattle, you won’t regret stopping at the store. A bonus is the record store that shares the same space with the bookstore." – What's Good With It
• Profile: "Jason is a Norwegian graphic novelist/comic book artist who makes the finest short stories. [...] It’s beautiful to see how Jason has refined everything; stripping away anything that could be considered filigree, cutting out any words that don’t need saying. He has mastered the barely story, telling imperceptible narratives vaguely inferred, and a crispness of drawing that ignores unnecessary fill. All that remains is a wry sociopathy you can’t help but fall in love with. Jason is the best thing I’ve come across in the last couple of years." – Gregory Povey, Mount Analogue
• Interview:Comics Comics' Dan Nadel, who says "As a [Mort] Meskin admirer (I put a Golden Lad story in Art in Time) I am thrilled to have a beautifully made book that showcases his thoughtful, vividly executed and highly influential work," talks to the author of that book, From Shadow to Light, Steven Brower: "There were two things that drew me to his story. The first was the mystery of why someone who began so strong, influencing his peers, faded so quickly from view. The second attraction: his personal story. Mort was someone who suffered greatly at times emotionally and overcame his struggles. I felt there was a larger story to tell than just someone who was a very good artist."
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Kiel Phegley talks to Jean Schulz about the Peanuts 60th Anniversary: "I say I'm 'condemned' to keep learning more about the comic strip because I didn't take it seriously enough when Sparky was alive. That's sort of a joke, but it's true. You can go back over them again and again and look at them in different thematic settings."
• Commentary: At Trouble with Comics, Alan David Doane imagines a Peanuts spin-off strip called Shells, sort of a Rosenkranz & Guilderstern Are Dead to the Hamlet of Peanuts
If you're interested in what's "happening" and "now" in comics, there's one place to turn: Mome, our quarterly anthology of the best in contemporary, cutting-edge cartooning from around the world. With so many volumes in print, it can be difficult to know where to start... so we've made it easy for you by offering these convenient, affordable multi-packs. They also make an amazing gift. Don't miss out on this incredible deal.
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions (with one carried over from yesterday's post-less day):
• Review: "Normally I wouldn’t put in a spoiler warning for a few blog notes, but this is a special case. I’m going to be talking about Love and Rockets: New Stories #3, which contains what is arguably one of the best comics stories ever... It’s so easy to take the Hernandez Bros. for granted: they’ve been around so long, put out work regularly, and often use the same characters. So the temptation is to just think that they’re a stable public resource, like the library or a museum: they’ll always be there and we can ignore them for years, checking in on them only when we need to. But really, these guys are among the best cartoonists who have ever lived. Like Seth, Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, and Kim Deitch, they are constantly pushing themselves to do better work, and are now at a career peak. We need to give thanks for this, loudly and publicly." – Jeet Heer, Comics Comics
• Review: "Really, it’s hard to know what to make of [Norman Pettingill:] Backwoods Humorist, the first time you flip through its lovingly-curated pages. [...] I fell in love with it almost immediately, first caught completely off guard by the amateurish art in a book compiled by Fantagraphics. Why, precisely had the publisher chosen to compile these works in such a beautiful volume? There is, however, something disarmingly bewitching amongst Pettingill’s grotesque caricatures of country life. [...] In the great scheme of 20th century art, it’s difficult to imagine that Pettingill’s work will ever be regarded as much more than a somewhat high profile curiosity. For those seeking to discover an utterly fascinating body of work, however, that curiosity is certainly worth the price of admission." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Review: "Greg Sadowski and John Benson did a superb job on this collection of early 1950s horror stories [Four Color Fear]... In addition to Greg's attractive design throughout, he delivers meticulous, pixel-perfect restorations... There are 25 pages of fascinating, informative notes by both Greg and John. [...] This book is like time-traveling, a document of an era. [...] This will stand as an important reference work that should be shelved alongside David Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague." – Bhob Stewart, Potrzebie
• Review: "...Mome 19... is the best volume of the series so far. [...] Josh Simmons' 'White Rhinocerous Part 1'... is short, makes sense, is funny: great comic. The rest of Mome 19 doesn't fall apart on the job either... But the real prize here is DJ Bryant... Alongside a group of contemporaries who possess some of comic's most innovative talents, he chose refinement. It fucking worked." – Tucker Stone, The Factual Opinion
• Plugs: "Fire & Water... is a look at the life and body of work created by Bill Everett, the man who created the Sub-Mariner - the character upon which Marvel Comics would be built. [... In] The Sanctuary [Nate] Neal uses a cave-dwelling tribe to explore themes of communication and language and reveals himself to be a master storyteller. [...] Ding Dong Daddy from Dingburg... is the newest collection of comics legend Bill Griffith's Zippy the Pinhead comic strip. In this volume — Joan Rivers, Charles Bukowski, God, riboflavin, and more! Surreal and absurd yuks abound." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
• Plug: "...[I]f you’re in the mood for some dazzling, filthy violence then perhaps Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit Volume 2 is... up your alley. It’s got CF the barbarian from outer space on the cover, dripping in blood and wearing nowt but pants." – The Gosh! Comics Blog
• Plug: At Comix 411, Tom Mason, profiling Leslie Turner, Roy Crane's successor on Captain Easy, notes "For those interested in the origins of Captain Easy, you can’t do better than Fantagraphics Books which is reprinting Roy Crane’s classic strip, starting at the beginning."
• Almost Plug: The 1930s "Human Centipede" image that Mark Frauenfelder Boing Boinged today happens to be found in our book Catalog No. 439: Burlesque Paraphernalia and Side Degree Specialties and Costumes
We have reached the landmark 20th volume of Mome. For those of you who read the box scores, that’s 5 years, 20 volumes, 72 artists, and 2,352 pages of comics.
Much is new in this anniversary volume. Fantagraphics' flagship anthology now boasts a new design courtesy of art director Adam Grano (who also chips in a few pages of art), and we have 4 other artists making their Mome debuts: Steven "Ribs" Weissman's haunting story "This Already Happened" makes its first appearance in print after being serialized at What Things Do; Sergio Ponchione provides a full-color prequel story to his acclaimed series Grotesque (translated from its appearance in Italy's Linus magazine); and we welcome Chicago stalwart Jeremy Tinder and Portland illustrator Aidan Koch to the fold with their new stories.
From our returning champions: another "Blind Date" from Dash Shaw; a forest fable from Sara Edward-Corbett; part 2 of "The White Rhinoceros" from Josh Simmons and The Partridge in the Pear Tree; the continuation of T. Edward Bak's "Wild Man," Derek Van Gieson's "Devil Doll," and cover-boy Ted Stearn's "Fuzz and Pluck in: The Moolah Tree" serials; another atmospheric Conor O'Keefe story; a star-studded story in verse from Nate Neal; and more autobiographical vignettes by Nicolas Mahler. It all adds up to another diverse and rewarding volume of this literary comics juggernaut.
Download an EXCLUSIVE 15-page PDF excerpt (4.3 MB) with a page from every artist in the issue, plus the Table of Contents.
• Review: "Rip M.D. is like the marriage of Cartoon Network and horror comics (perhaps an EC title or something from Warren Publications), because it is nonsensical and kooky like an old Scooby-Doo cartoon, but also steeped in monsters, both of the supernatural and human variety, like a pre-code horror comic book. The best thing about Rip M.D. is the lead character, Ripley Plimpt. [...] This is the perfect set-up: a curious, brave kid and a world of monsters. Hopefully, there is more to come, but our first appointment with Rip M.D. is pure fun." – Leroy Douresseaux, Comic Book Bin
• Review: "Fantagraphics' ongoing quarterly anthology continues here in this third edition ... One of the things I like about Mome is that artists can do almost anything, and sometimes do. ... [I]f you are fond of anthologies and like to be on the edge of indie comics while still being given the comfort of a larger publisher who can exert quality control, then pick up a copy of Mome. I'd recommend this one, if you can find it." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Review: "A Schulz library favorite and avid patron, Evan Dorkin, recently donated Alex Chun and Jacob Covey’s retrospective book of The Glamor Girls of Don Flowers... This thick beauty of a book features work spanning several decades (1940s-1960s) and Flowers's dual pen and brush captured all the fashion that lied therein. Flowers gained popularity in newspapers for his gorgeous women, their cutting edge fashion and high-class life. Part of the appeal of this strip lies in the fact that just as many jokes are made by women at the expense of men, Flowers made sure of that." – Jen Vaughn, the Schulz Library blog
• Plug:Funnybook Babylon's Jamaal Thomas gives a "Brief Recommendation" to Jason's The Left Bank Gang: "F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce as cartoonists that pull a heist. Go read this now."
• Coming Attractions: Luca Boschi of Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore reports on our forthcoming editions of Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse