• List: At Entertainment Weekly, Ken Tucker names The 10 Best Graphic Novels and Comics of 2010, including:
"Ostensibly Japanese comics aimed at the adolescent-girl market, these so-called Ten Stories of the Human Heart are lush mixtures of dreamlike imagery and realistic depictions of young people’s yearnings, hopes, reveries, and fears. Gathering representative work from four decades of publication, A Drunken Dream [and Other Stories]exerts a hypnotic pull on the reader, Moto Hagio knows both her commercial audience and her ideal audience — which is to say, the world."
"A long-form narrative about the decline of her parents’ health, Special Exits avoids cheap pity and piousness by doing what any good art should: focusing on specifics — the ways in which Farmer’s parents slide into old age and ill health; the care they require and receive. That this is also a portrait of a strong marriage is an added benefit. Frank, never shying away from the awkward indignities of aging, Special Exits illuminates two lives, as well as that of the author’s."
"The best volume since Los Bros went with this yearly anthology, New Stories #3 has exemplary work from both, but Jamie's story of the young Hoppers is one of his best comics ever." – Timothy Callahan
"Love and Rockets properly hits its stride and the two brothers use their unique approach to do something quite insane. Surrealism and realism in equal doses." – Sonia Harris
"This year, I read nearly every comic ever created by Los Bros Hernandez; what a pleasure to discover at the end of my immersion that their two most recent comics are also two of their best, and thus two of the best comics by anyone. Gilbert and Jaime both tear furiously into love and sex; what they find inside is ugly; what they do with it is beautiful. I'll never forget that panel." – Sean T. Collins
• Review: "Is there a comic that's run longer than Love and Rockets and maintained the same level of quality? ...[T]his year's annual is as good or better than anything Los Bros. have yet produced. It starts off with a strange sci-fi story — fans will recognize this as one of Rosalba 'Fritz' Martinez's many B-movies, but you don't have to be in on the gag to find Gilbert's story weird and funny and disturbing. Jaime's contribution to the volume is a story about would-be couple Maggie and Ray having a first date, with an interstitial tale about Maggie's childhood that sheds heartbreaking light on her relationship with her brother. ...Los Bros. are plain-spoken and sympathetic, finding pathos in even the grimiest character." – Sam Thielman, Newsday
• Interview: At The Comics Journal, part 2 of Chris Mautner's Q&A with Mome editor Eric Reynolds (part 1): "I’m not a real ballbuster when it comes to deadlines from issue to issue, so I’ll invite people to contribute and they’ll take their time, whether they hit the next issue or the following issue. They’re just juggling all these things, and it happens to come together every issue."
• Analysis: At Cinematical, John Gholson examines the role of Dash Shaw's comic artwork in John Cameron Mitchell's new film Rabbit Hole
A pair of interviews with our staff have gone up today. First, The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon chats with Jason T. Miles about his job here, his own comics, and his zine distro Profanity Hill. Next, at The Comics Journal, check out the first part of Chris Mautner's chat with Eric Reynolds about editing our quarterly anthology Mome. Good job, fellas!
UPDATE: Part 2 of the interview with Eric is up now.
• List:Flashlight Worthy polls various online critics for The Best Graphic Novels of 2010:
"Moto Hagio is to shojo manga what Will Eisner is to American comics, a seminal creator whose distinctive style and sensibility profoundly changed the medium. Though Hagio has been actively publishing stories since the late 1960s, very little of her work has been translated into English. A Drunken Dream, published by Fantagraphics, is an excellent corrective — a handsomely produced, meticulously edited collection of Hagio's short stories that span her career from 1970 to 2007." – Katherine Dacey (The Manga Critic)
"Truly the most welcome English translation of the year, this collection of aching vignettes from the mud and blood of WWI [It Was the War of the Trenches] forms a unique human patchwork, fitting for a time and place where bodies and souls went to pieces. Tardi is a skilled artist, placing his soft, eminently fragile human forms against natural scenes so dense and thick (and buildings so heavy and broken) you'd swear that the entire Earthly organism has been put to bed by war's viral infection, but the true power here comes from his accumulation of carefully detailed narratives, ringing sadly as the greater accumulation of corpses remains painfully implicit." – Joe McCulloch (Comics Comics, Jog – The Blog)
"Packed to the gills, surprising, and unabashedly ambitious, MOME 19 isn't just the best volume the series has seen, it's a shot across the bow to a format that's been ceded to fans and friends-only collectives. Anthologies, said Fantagraphics. They're still at their best when there's an adult behind the wheel." – Tucker Stone (The Factual Opinion)
Werewolves of Montpellier by Jason: "One of comics' most inventive and offbeat practitioners of the art returned this year with a story that was not exactly groundbreaking for him but still wildly fun and different from most other stories out there. Jason's books are always hard to classify exactly, but this tale of a thief who dresses up as a werewolf (it helps scare people, which helps him pull off his crimes) is one of his most intriguing." – John Hogan
A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio: "Few creators in the 60-year history of Japanese manga are more important than Moto Hagio, one of the cohorts of the so-called 'Magnificent Forty-Niners' who revolutionized the shoujo genre in the 1970s. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories features a thoughtfully chosen selection of 10 short tales translated by Matt Thorn and published in lavish, oversized hardcover. The title story in particular offers a rare treat, its implacable, mythological cruelty rendered in soft-focus color." – Casey Brienza
• Review: "I finally read Special Exits last weekend. And I am here to tell you: It was tough. It was not fun. But it was truthful. It was specific. And it ... helped. In this, it was utterly unlike the book on grieving that a well-meaning relative pressed into my hands. That book's blandishments felt feathery and abstract; they had nothing to do with Pop, or with how I felt about him. Special Exits, on the other hand, is all about specificity. Farmer captures the tiniest, most mundane — and at times ugliest — details of caring for someone you love, and watching them pass from you. It's bracingly clear-eyed and unsentimental... Her pages and panels seem crowded with detail — deliberately and effectively so, to mirror the way her parents' house, and their lives, fall steadily into clutter and disrepair." – Glen Weldon, NPR
• Plug: "The latest from Fantagraphics... is Special Exits, a graphic novel from 71-year-old Joyce Farmer. Debut book it may be but she’s no newbie: Farmer was part of the whole underground comix scene in the time of R. Crumb... It’s the kind of memoir you can sit alongside Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, or anything Harvey Pekar: a story about her elderly parents’ slow decline." – The Gosh! Comics Blog
• Review: "Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition... is the perfect collection for neophytes to the series — it starts from the top, and introduces many of Sakai’s running cast, including the titular wandering samurai rabbit and a selection of his friends, enemies, and allies-of-convenience. The high-glossy, bright-white pages make Sakai’s finely detailed, heavily Japanese-inspired black-and-white art pop off the page, and the collection covers enough of his work to show how he’s evolved as an artist, from the early days when he was finding his feet to art that looks much like what he’s producing today." – The A.V. Club 2010 Holiday Gift Guide
• Plug: "Stan Sakai has been drawing his funny-animal samurai series Usagi Yojimbo for upwards of 25 years now. Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition collects the first 38 issues of Usagi's own comics and various other early stories in which he appeared, along with a ton of bonus features and an extensive interview with Sakai — 1200 pages of ronin rabbit action in all, presented as a two-volume hardcover set in a slipcase." – Douglas Wolk, TIME/Techland "Comics Geek Gift Guide 2010"
• Review: "[Jason's] comics are consistently funny and heartfelt, but tinged with a particular brand of melancholy. [...] The new collection, What I Did, takes the first three albums Fantagraphics translated and published in English. The first piece, 'Hey Wait...' is a real heartbreaker. [...] The second album, 'Sshhhh!' is a collection of wordless strips about a bird in a tweed jacket, and his tribulations as a character through life. [...] The strips delicately and comically depict the absurdities of modern existence... The last story, 'The Iron Wagon,' is an adaptation of a Norwegian mystery novel. [...] It’s great stuff, and like all of Jason’s stuff it’s deeply humanist." – Ao Meng, The Daily Texan
• Plug: "Jason's silent comics are so great. The monster ones in Almost Silent and 'Hey Wait' in What I Did especially. They are funny and sad and those are the two things a person wants." – Atomic Books "Holiday Picks"
• Review: "...[Four Color Fear] will... blow your fucking head up. [...] Trying to describe what makes many of these comics strange would take too long. Weird characters, odd behavior, no real logic, the list is endless. What makes this shit gold is the art. [...] Flipping through this it's hard not to think to yourself, 'How did I not know about this until now? Why didn't anyone tell me?' There's a gallery of glossy cover art in the center that is flat out some of the best art I've ever seen." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Overall, the experience of joining this large fellow on his life’s journey is a delight, if a fairly short one. [Set to Sea]’s a small book in length as well as size, able to be read in a single sitting, but it’s good enough that it invites multiple journeys through its pages, allowing explorers to marvel at the fluid movement of the characters, the chaos of an inter-ship battle, the choppy waves and calm harbors, the joys of a life lived and savored." – Matthew J. Brady, Warren Peace Sings the Blues
• Plug: "Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons is as mammoth and daunting a career retrospective as anyone could wish for: a gorgeous three-volume set encompassing a thousand-plus of the macabre cartoonist's drawings, as well as additional features including a handful of short stories he also wrote for Playboy. It's beautifully designed, too — the slipcase itself involves a perfectly Wilsonian gag." – Douglas Wolk, TIME/Techland "Comics Geek Gift Guide 2010"
• Profile: "Throughout the 1990s [Peter] Bagge devoted himself almost completely to a comic book called HATE, the success of which brought him other opportunities, as well as a key choice: 'If I really wanted to play it safe after achieving a modicum of success I would have devoted myself to doing the same thing for life.' Instead, Bagge chose to take on new subjects and continued to experiment. [...] Bagge taught a course at Seattle University last winter. He recommends that students interested in comics and graphic novels visit Fantagraphics Bookstore in Georgetown, as their selection is interesting and outside the mainstream." – Cambray Provo, The Spectator (via The Comics Reporter)
• Review: "Drew Weing's slender, hand-sized debut graphic novel Set to Sea is a crosshatched masterpiece. [...] Weing draws in an elaborate, crosshatched style that's half Popeye, half Maakies, and it meshes brilliantly with the subject matter and the storytelling. Set to Sea is so lovely in places that I found myself exclaiming aloud -- it's got a naive-but-self-conscious grace that is impossible to describe and that few have ever mastered. This one is highly recommended." – Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
• Review: "In the first and the second volume [of Mome] there are a lot of things to enjoy. Stories differ both in length (there are one-page strips, too) and in narrative technique. [...] In these two books there [is] a lot [that is] interesting and confusing, enjoyable and intriguing. Do not be a mome, read these first-rate collections of comics." – Ray Garraty, Endless Falls Up
• Review:Attentiondeficitdisorderly's Sean T. Collins looks at Gilbert Hernandez's half of Love and Rockets Vol. II #20 (as reprinted in the Luba hardcover) in his ongoing "Love and Rocktober" series: "At long last he returns to Venus, Petra’s daughter and one of the least damaged, most well-adjusted, most self-assured characters in the whole post-Palomar oeuvre. [...] It’s an uplifting note to end on after all this darkness."
• Plug:NPR's Glen Weldon recommends "Five Tomes to See You Through Your Turkey Coma": "In honor of the 25th anniversary of this classic all-ages 'funny animals' tale of Miyaomoto Usagi, a stoic samurai rabbit who roams 17th-century Japan, Fantagraphics has collected the first seven trades in a sumptuous 2-book, 1200-page hardcover edition [Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition]. Which, uh ... won't be out until December. Until then, you can pick up a couple volumes and get a taste of Sakai's masterful, action-packed, richly detailed storytelling, and see why it's become such a beloved series."
• Plug: "Mascots, [Ray] Fenwick's forthcoming follow-up [to Hall of Best Knowledge], is similarly a series of episodes told through inventive typography and absurd yet hilarious text. But integrating these elements with brightly colored paintings, the book depicts a more surreal, frenzied world that is strangely resonant with today's super speedy internet age." – Space 15 Twenty
• Review: "Greg Sadowski‘s excellent Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s (Fantagraphics Books) was the first of a quartet of books on horror comics to surface this fall, and for my money, it’s arguably the most invaluable of the bunch. [...] There are some real revelations here, and I can tell you that this hardcore horror comics scholar/collector/creator is eternally grateful for all that Sadowski and Benson have added herein to a richer knowledge of these unique comics and this grossly misrepresented and misunderstood period in comics history. With an eye toward entertaining fully as well as curating, Sadowski’s greatest accomplishment here is making Four Color Fear such a fun and engaging read, cover-to-cover. [...] In this, Sadowski brings far more care to his anthology than any of the original editors of these comics seemed to; the cumulative effect, at times, is intoxicating, and the ways in which both the individual art styles and the narrative content are woven into a satisfying tapestry are often witty, sly and insidious. There’s a lot of smart work, here, and as a result it’s a super read for everyone, whether you’ve never before sampled this era’s strange fruit or are (like me) a long-time fan and collector." – Steve Bissette, The Schulz Library Blog
• Review/Interview: "That meeting place between responsible parenting and letting your kids love monsters is at the heart of the new graphic novel Rip M.D.... The parental dilemma (just how much horrific stuff should we let our kid get into?) is mined as a story point, while the book itself serves as a family-friendly gateway to gruesomeness. ..[T]the story focuses on Ripley’s personal growth as he accepts responsibility for these monstrous misfits. It’s a legitimately positive message delivered via a story about creatures, all of which sits close to Schauer’s heart. 'I grew up an only child, predominantly surrounded by adults,' Schauer recalls. 'I had to find something to entertain myself. It turned out to be monsters. [...] I’m trying to pull from the emotion I felt when I first saw those classic monsters, not as something to fear but something that was misunderstood.' [...] Rip M.D. doesn’t skimp on the macabre while reinforcing the ideal of an understanding family and the importance of not passing judgment on society’s outcasts…at least until you know them well enough to deliver an informed diagnosis." – Jack Bennett, Fangoria
• Review: "In High Soft Lisp, Gilbert traces the relationship history of Fritz Martinez, the ultimate sex goddess in a career full of them, and in so doing reveals that her every fetish outfit and sexual free-for-all is fruit from the poisoned tree. Lots of characters in this book enjoy the living shit out of Fritz’s sexuality, not least Fritz herself, but to a man and woman they’re revealed to be creepily predatory about it, embracing the worst in themselves and encouraging the worst in Fritz. And here’s the thing: What have we been doing over the hundreds of pages we’ve spent watching Fritz adorably and kinkily fuck her way through the post-Palomar cast of Beto’s comics? What has Beto been doing? What does that say about all of us?" – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• 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. This volume signals five incredibly impressive years and the eclectic graphic mix presented here augurs well for the next fifty… Whether you’re new to comics, fresh from the mainstream ghettos or just need something new, Mome always promises — and delivers — a decidedly different read." – Win Wiaceck, Now Read This
• Interview:Bef got two minutes with Jaime Hernandez
• Plug: In the head-scratchingest gift guide ever, Tom Mason of Comix 411 suggests our Prince Valiant volumes as a wedding gift for Prince William: "One or two volumes would be nice for the royal couple. They can pretend it’s history."
• Review: "So, big shit poppin’ in Mome 20. Good thing it’s also pretty good! ...[W]hat works works really well thanks mostly to bravura cartooning. [...] Here’s to 20 more volumes of this occasionally frustrating, occasionally fascinating, always worth reading series." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Review: "Time travel is impossible but a good anthology can sometimes be ordered in such a way that we can get a better sense of how works of art looked to their earliest audience. That’s something Supermen! achieves, so it’s a book I’m holding on to." – Jeet Heer, Comics Comics
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater talked to Jaime Hernandez at SPX — from Part 1: "I guess I was pretty good at copying. When I got older, I thought it was bad to copy, because you weren’t a real artist. That’s bull, because I found that when I would copy something, I could draw it for the rest of my life. Let’s say I copied a car or a cart or a certain kind of chair. If I copied it, I could say, 'oh, hey, that turned out pretty good, and, oh hey, I know how to draw it for the next twenty years.'"
• Interview (Audio): Mark E. Hayes of the Passing Notes radio show/podcast talks to Jaime Hernandez "about the latest Love and Rockets, comics-to-movies, and Archie. Yes, that Archie."
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new titles. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators are saying about our releases this week, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
80-page full-color 10.25" x 9" hardcover • $22.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-378-1
"And on the other side of things, barring a continuation of Weasel (which by the end had basically turned into this), Fantagraphics brings a new 80-page, 10.25″ x 9″ hardcover collection of the best of Dave Cooper’s most recent paintings, drawings and photographs." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"Bent is a new one from Dave Cooper collecting the past five years’ worth of paintings, ink drawings, pencil sketches, and photographs all as bizarre and as strange as you’d expect." – Gosh! Comics
120-page color/b&w 7" x 9" softcover • $14.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-365-1
"In which the now-well-established Fantagraphics house anthology celebrates a nice round number with a spanking new cover design..." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"Your $15 will get you 120 pages of work from Steven Weissman, Sergio Ponchione, Jeremy Teinder, Aidan Koch, Dash Shaw, Sara Edward-Corbett, Josh Simmons, T. Edward Bak, Derek Van Gieson, Ted Stearn and more." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
"Also from Fantagraphics is the latest in their flagship anthology, MOME, the landmark 20th volume so they’ve done their maths and provided us with the following facts: 5 years, 20 volumes, 72 artists, and 2,352 pages of comics. Blimey." – Gosh! Comics
"Congratulations to Eric Reynolds on a mighty run of books, and let's hope it continues until it's a undeniable all-timer in the very tough room that is the comics anthology." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
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.
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."