Online Commentary & Diversions, back after a short respite:
• Review: "Almost to a story, the bits and pieces of Mome [Vol. 18] just suck the careful reader in. Indeed, almost every contribution practically begs for critical examination, not to mention a different frame of mind. ... Some of the individual stories are just stunning. ... This is great art, good comics, and, in my opinion, odd when taken as a collection." – Jeremy Nisen, Under the Radar
• Review: "Right up front let’s admit this: Wally Gropius is a terrifying comic book and everyone reading this should buy it immediately. Tim Henlsey has crammed more horror into these 64 pages than any comic in recent memory. ... It is also a terrifying book to talk about, because its level of craft is so high, its surface so impenetrable, that it’s like trying to write about Kubrick or something: You know it’s all in there, but it’s hard to find a foothold. ... Hensley’s drawings... and are so fluid and articulate that it’s hard to believe he could or does draw or even hand write any other way. ... In his hands [the book's aesthetic] is a complete language. It’s a bracing, enervating way of making comics because there’s so much dissonance between what I want to read the lines as and what the drawings those lines form actually mean." – Dan Nadel, Comics Comics
• Review: "[Jim Woodring] has been called one of the great cartoonists of his generation and at this point, there’s little doubt of his visual storytelling prowess. But it’s the intense, visionary images and worlds that spring from his mind and on to his pages that truly separates him from his peers. ... Weathercraft, like all his Unifactor stories, is absolutely wordless. It’s a quiet, cosmic adventure that relies on Woodring’s extraordinary control of visual language and blends his understanding of Vedantic beliefs with stylized, Max Fleischer nightmares to explore ideas about the evolution of consciousness." – Paul Rios
• Review: "Read [Weathercraft] a third time, thinking about Woodring’s video commentary, and recognize how cohesive it is. There’s a real clarity to the plot and to Woodring’s character designs and panel compositions. You will think that, in some way, the key to much of this is the artist's omnipresent wavy line, but will be unsure." – Ken Parille, Blog Flume
• Review: "Kupperman’s all over the map, and manages to amuse with all the non sequiturs more often as not... If you have a soft spot for this sort of shenanigans, kinda like much of Adult Swim but smarter than the run of that mill, you could do worse than to pick [Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6] up..." – Johnny Bacardi, Popdose
• Review: "...Sand & Fury: A Scream Queen Adventure... is a romp concocted of homage to the weird horrors of filmmakers David Lynch and Dario Argento, with a shout out even to Roman Polanski’s Repulsion. But it also features the signature Anderson political subtlety. ... A graphic text is, by nature, more explicit — graphic — than it can be subtle. So, Anderson’s love scenes verge on kink, while the death scenes owe much to the gore of recent vampire flicks and George Romero’s Zombie franchise. ... Sand & Fury is not classic literature, but it is fine pop art. Check it out." – George Elliott Clarke, The Chronicle Herald
• Review: "The story booms with Deitch's explosive composition techniques and the narrative recoil — somehow even the genetically modified beavers here make perfect sense — is no less compelling. The Search For Smilin’ Ed! offers perhaps not as discrete a narrative as those found in Alias the Cat (2002) and The Boulevard of Broken Dreams (2007), but the joy of Deitch is that his work is almost impossible to tug apart. And who doesn't want their demons, time travelers, midgets and voyeuristic aliens in one oily melee?" – John Reed, Los Angeles Times
• Review: "Did you know the Earth is honeycombed with tunnels containing archives of the entire history of popular culture, as recorded on alien-designed microchips by a council of pygmies? Leave it to underground-comics legend Kim Deitch to make that concept simultaneously deeply attractive and deeply creepy in The Search For Smilin’ Ed... The story gets more twisted with every page, though it always makes sense in a Deitch-ian way. Deitch has trod this ground many times before... but he retains an astonishing ability to tap into the deepest desires of pop-culture junkies, and to show how the satisfaction we seek from nostalgia can lead us to some dark corners of our collective showbiz past. [Grade] B+" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "The second in the proposed Billy Hazelnuts trilogy by Tony Millionaire finds the Popeye-strong, sentient cake fed up with the 'filthy world of beasts,' made up as they are from 'disgusting blobs of meat.' The first Billy was about his origins; Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird is about the responsibilities of parenthood, and how they don’t necessarily sync up with maturity." – The A.V. Club
• Review: "Everybody dies in [It Was the War of the Trenches]. It's sad, gory, brutal, depressing, visceral, and overwhelming. It brings those poor soldiers back to life and, instead of celebrating any victories or glorifying any heroic acts, just shoots them in the gut all over again and leaves them to die in the mud and filth of no man's land. It's an impressive work of art that floods the reader with a feeling of hopelessness. How Tardi managed this feat without having participated in the first world war is really quite amazing. It is worth reading." – Sandy Bilus, I Love Rob Liefeld
• Interview: Robin McConnell, host of the Inkstuds radio program, calls up Dash Shaw to catch up on his latest projects
• Review: "There's no cartoonist out there that makes better use of expanding canvasses than Kim Deitch. Literally and figuratively. The rhapsodic spreads — one, two, even four pages — he drops into his narratives are one of comics' finest stand-alone effects, and he creates short stories that are perfectly enjoyable as discrete units but somehow defy those idiosyncratic qualities to work just as effectively as building blocks in his grander books, like this new one [The Search for Smilin' Ed!] from Fantagraphics." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Like Weirdo, Raw, and Drawn And Quarterly before it, Fantagraphics’ Mome has been the go-to showcase of its time for emerging alt-comics visionaries. Mome #18is another excellent installment of the anthology series — so excellent, in fact, that it’s hard to single out a highlight. ... [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "At this point, no one should need any convincing that Krazy Kat is one of the greatest works of comic art ever created, and that it should form the foundation of any good collection. All that’s needed is the knowledge of where to start and what format to choose. With that in mind, Fantagraphics has outdone itself with Krazy And Ignatz 1916-1918: Love In A Kestle Or Love In A Hut. ... Herriman’s work probably hasn’t looked this good since it first appeared in newspapers more than 90 years ago. ... [Grade] A" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6 looks great. The script hits all the right marks. If you’re the type of reader who enjoys self-referential nods to the comics of yesteryear, Kupperman’s title sets the standard all such titles should shoot for." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "R.I.P. Best of 1985-2004 is a nicely timed reminder that Thomas Ott has been one of the world's most interesting cartoonists for a quarter century now. ... As juvenilia goes, this stuff is ridiculously good. ... Ott's work seems both old-fashioned and completely fresh at the same time. ... As a reminder of where he's come from, the impeccably produced R.I.P. is a very valuable collection, and deserves to be on the bookshelf of any serious horror comics fan." – Bart Beaty, The Comics Reporter [Fantagraphics' edition of this book is due in early 2011 - Ed.]
• Interview:Tony Millionaire talks to Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning about continuing the adventures of Billy Hazelnuts: "I'm not sure exactly how it will roll out, because I love to make concrete plans for a story and then as it goes along, learn something and then change the storyline a little."
We've reported on T. Edward Bak's previous efforts to raise funds for his Alaska research expedition for his graphic novel Wild Man, currently serialized in Mome; he's now set up an account with Kickstarter to further assist with the project. Check out the video and the awesome pledge gifts and pledge pledge pledge!
Online Commentary & Diversions (through yesterday; we're a bit behind):
• Review: "...[E]ven [Basil Wolverton]'s throwaway work — in this case, half-page gag strips (emphasis on the 'gag') that appeared in Fawcett's Captain Marvel titles during and after World War II — is fully worthy of rediscovery. Like a Bizarro Dr. Seuss, Wolverton packs each Culture Corner with goofy, rhyming advice... While silly and inconsequential, these strips revel in the subversive, surrealist glee that would develop more fully in Wolverton's later output for Mad and others, a style that would help unlock the inner cretin inside everyone from Robert Crumb to Peter Bagge. ...Fantagraphics has to be applauded for tenaciously keeping Wolverton and his eye-gouging, subliminally influential work from slipping through the cracks of comics history. [Grade] B+" — The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Tardi’s [It Was the] War of the Trenches is the most powerful comic I’ve read on World War One since Charley’s War... The black and white art is perfectly suited to the era being covered... while Tardi, not for the first time, proves himself a master of expression, the looks on the faces of the men caught up in the war speaking absolute volumes... It’s a hugely powerful work, both moving and horrific and filled with anger for the suffering and injustices one group of ‘civilised’ humans can visit upon another... [A]s the last voices of those who were actually there are fading into silence works like this are needed to remind us of the monstrous acts we can be capable of in service to the beasts of jingoism and nationalism and hubris, that we should read them and take cautionary lessons from them. Never forget." – Joe Gordon, The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log
• Interview:Avoid the Future has an illuminating talk with Joe Daly: "The environment is surreal, in that it combines the fantastical with the urbane. I try to meld these two sides together into a continuum that supports both the phantasmagoric and the banal, in a naturalistic kind of way. On a conceptual level, I’m also interested in combining extreme stupidity with a bit of cleverness (which the title ‘Dungeon Quest’ is supposed to invoke)." There's also a glimpse of Dungeon Quest Book 2!
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon grills Ben Schwartz, editor of The Best American Comics Criticism, saying "It's the kind of volume that starts fights... but that's okay and it's part of the fun. There's a lot of good work in the book and one or two absolutely inspired choices. Anyone with an interest in comics should at least give it a flip-through, and anyone with an interest in writing about the medium should use it as a springboard to discover a host of excellent new favorites." Schwartz on pitching the book: "Gary was the most skeptical. Early on he asked me if I seriously thought I could fill a whole book with good writing on comics. He sent me his essay 'The Death of Criticism.' Nice to know that's on your publisher's mind!"
• Interview: Canada's National Post has a Q&A with TCAF special guest Jim Woodring: "My name is Jim Woodring and I’m a cartoonist. I’m going to TCAF by invitation, with an assist from Fantagraphics Books, my publisher. I have a new book out called Weathercraft and I’m going to answer questions about it.
• Plugs: At The Cool Kids Table, Rickey Purdin runs down some recent acquisitions, including a couple volumes of Mome ("constantly entertaining") and the Weathercraft and Other Unusual Tales free comic ("...this free sample is PROBABLY about to set me on a path of Woodring fanaticism. Well played, Fantagraphics.")
• Plug: "Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle is that rarest of comic books: It's actually, genuinely a comic experience, with several guaranteed laugh-out-loud moments per issue." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Review: "Is your brain drained? Is your soul cold? Does your ticker need a snicker? Then arrange your face with a grin in place. Read The Culture Corner by Basil Wolverton. Fantagraphics has just published this comprehensive collection of a rare and genuinely silly strip by a great cartoonist. ... The collection will crack you up, especially if you enjoy goofy phrases. Wolverton was a master of the craft.... It’s a must-have for any fan of cartooning." – Beth Davies-Stofka, Super I.T.C.H.
• Review: "If someone tries to tell you Fletcher Hanks was a genius, don’t believe them. If someone tries to tell you Fletcher Hanks was an important figure in the development of superhero comics, don’t believe them. But if someone tries to tell you Fletcher Hanks was one strange, f-ed up bastard who created some of the weirdest, creepiest, and (entirely by accident) most revealing comics of the Golden Era, that you can take to the bank." – Steve Hockensmith (author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), Comic Book Galaxy
• Review: "Redressing a sad literary situation — the prior unavailability of this full masterpiece in English — Fantagraphics finally brings Tardi's wrenching tales of trench warfare during WWI [It Was the War of the Trenches] to American audiences. ... From the living hell of combat to the ghostlike calm of bombed-out villages, each panel radiates with the fear and hopelessness of hapless conscripts who strive only to retain their limbs and their sanity. Calling the war 'a gigantic, anonymous scream of agony,' Tardi skewers the concept of nationalism and drives home the banality of death. Dark, densely packed backgrounds and heavy wedges of solid black recall the dramatic shading effects of European expressionism, as do the characters' black, fearful eyes. Nearly a century after the fact, Tardi's outrage and compassion make the First World War sting like a fresh wound." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
I made brief mention of this in yesterday's "Things to see" but it deserves better notice than that. Congratulations to Mome contributor T. Edward Bak on being awarded a residency in Alaska (our second artist headed up there this year, hot on the heels of Jim Woodring)! He needs your help in covering his expenses and is selling original pages (I've seen them and they're beautiful) to raise funds. Here's his plea in his own words:
"So, last week, I was awarded this artist residency in Talkeetna, Alaska, through Seattle's La Familia gallery. I'm planning on being up there through the month of July, and am currently raising funds through the sale of original drawings from the work to help cover supplies, travel expenses, and a field drawing expedition into the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands (Dutch Harbor, specifically). I have Paypal set up and details listed on my blog http://antizerogravity.blogspot.com. My deadline for raising $ is July 1. Thanks for your support!"
160-page full-color 9" x 6.75" hardcover • $22.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-308-8
Joe McCulloch at Comics Comics describes it aptly: "An interesting experiment in Golden Age of Reprints presentational engineering, this new 160-page landscape-format Fantagraphics hardcover collects all of the great Basil Wolverton’s crackpot daily advice strips as seen in the pages of Fawcett’s Whiz Comics, 1945-52, presented in comparison with Wolverton’s original pencil roughs for what looks like every installment." The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon brings the basketball metaphor: "Who doesn't want to read as much Basil Wolverton as they can? He's not in the starting all-time five, but he gets a lot of playing time off the bench." At Comics Alliance Douglas Wolk declaims "Goofiness, history and process!"
128-page color/b&w 7" x 9" softcover • $14.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-303-3
Joe McCulloch at Comics Comics opines "The centerpiece of this Spring 2010 edition of the Fantagraphics house anthology is, without question, the return of Dave Cooper to comics" and of the other contributors says "That really is a nice lineup"; Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter agrees that it "offers a super-strong line-up of creators." We can't disagree — you can see the full table of contents and samples from each contributor as part of our PDF excerpt.
So head on down to your local comic shop, but not before checking out the bountiful information and sneak peeks at the links above, and it's always a good idea to confirm availability beforehand.
• List: Adam McGovern of ComicCritique.Com declares Miss Lasko-Gross to be Writer/Artist of the Year ("Vividly imaginative in tricky layouts, intricate patterns and hallucinatory neverlands yet starkly perceptive of everyday details and personality, immune to art-star mythology while stockpiling stuff of legend, Lasko-Gross is capable of anything — but can’t help doing right") and her A Mess of Everything the #3 Graphic Novel of the Year ("Lasko-Gross creates the least wholesome and most healthy youth memoirs you’re likely to read. Tales of adolescent insight, creativity, trauma and folly for those who like to learn their lessons with minds of their own"); Gilbert Shelton's "Last Gig in Shnagrlig" from Mome Vols. 13-15 to be Strip of the Year ("With a style that seems strung from spider-webs, popping veins, worried brow-wrinkles and tangled vines and an eye for absurd posturing, both undiminished by five decades and whatever art-supplies he’s been sniffing, Shelton’s dystopian vaudeville is a vision you can never predict of species-wide misbehavior which remains, alas, just like you remembered it"); and Lilli Carré's "The Carnival" from Mome Vol. 14 to be Short Story of the Year ("A bittersweet, tragicfunny story of the luminous, enchanting worlds just beyond the outskirts of nowhere")
• Review: "I spent most of this week reading the new, paperback edition of Blazing Combat ... [T]he artistry on display is so mind-boggling, particularly in the case of Crandall, Heath and Severin, that it seems churlish of me to not recommend this book simply because of a few overly and obviously ironic twists. The creators clearly had a real love for this kind of material, so much so that [I] wish things had tipped slightly in their favor a bit more, and that the market had made at least a little more room for war comics when as the silver age gave way to the bronze." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "...I love the art, with great layouts, nice thick lines, and coloring that's somehow both rich and muted. Even when I don't like the characters or find their actions believable I still love the way everything looks. And the elliptical structure was a smart choice because it adds at least a little bit of mystery; instead of just reading to see what happens next you keep going to better understand what's already happened. I don't know if the stories were published individually anywhere, but Hallorave is basically the first book of King of the Flies, with two more on the way. I'm interested to see how closely they intersect with each other." – Garrett Martin, Shazhmmm...
• Review: "Based on a crime novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette, West Coast Blues is an existential comic by master cartoonist Jacques Tardi. It's colorless crime as only the French can do it, with despicable characters waxing philosophical on film and high-risk sex even while on the run from clumsy assassins. ... Plenty of crime stories revolve around the bizarre preoccupations of its characters and just as many are centered around the plight of the common man thrust into extraordinary circumstances. But Tardi really brings it home, offering a messed up story about messed up people who do some truly messed up things. While only 80 pages, it's a robust read. ... As compelling as this short yarn is in terms of the writing, the real draw here is Tardi. ... His style is comparable to Herge's, if not quite as clean. His characters are expressive and his architecture's pretty damn impressive. ... Big ups to Fantagraphics and editor/translator Kim Thompson for assembling a really lovely English language edition of this book." – Paul Montgomery, iFanboy
• Commentary: "You would think I'd have more to say about teaching 'Human Diastrophism,' one of my favorite comics in the classroom, but this was my fourth pass at the story and most of the classroom surprises have been played out. The greatest remaining challenge is just the problem of extracting one storyline from Gilbert Hernandez's long-running Palomar setting and fitting it into a single week of class discussion." – Marc Singer, I Am NOT the Beastmaster
• Interview:In this video, Vito Delsante talks to Jaime Hernandez at Jaime's appearance at Jim Hanley's Universe in NYC last Friday, April 9 (via ¡Journalista!)
• Interview: "'Digital vs. paper? That’s a totally bogus debate,' [Peter] Bagge told Wired.com in an e-mail interview. 'There will always be both. Whichever one you want, you got it!'" Well that solves that!