#71: Werewolves of Montpellier by Jason: "Every time Jason dives into an age-old genre he finds a way to make it seem alien. His cast of animal characters feel like an emotionally suppressed oven full of loaded guns. His expedition into werewolf tales brings all of these elements together throughout its rooftop chases and playful approach to the supernatural." – Brian Warmoth
#67: It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "You want to know how brutal war can be? You want to know how war should be depicted in comics — how to look the utter savagery, inhumanity and square in the eye using only pen and ink? This is how you do it." – Chris Mautner
• List: Comics writer/commentator Kevin Church selects Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 for his "Not A Best Of: Comics in 2010" list: "I’ll just add my voice to the chorus: 'Browntown' is likely the best comic that Jaime Hernandez has done, period. The fact that it’s bookended by Gilbert’s masterfully bleak sociosexual sci-fi story of first contact, 'The Love Bunglers' makes this possibly the highest-potency dosage of quality comics that came out this year. Like the Coen Brothers are for film, I am pretty convinced that I could read just comics by Los Bros Hernandez and feel immensely satisfied."
• List: In MTV Geek's poll "Comic Book Creators Pick Their Favorite Top 3 Comic Stories of 2010," Michael Fiffe chooses Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit Book 2 ("This may be one of the most romantic stories I've ever read. The entire world should read this book") and the Hernandez Bros.' Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 ("I'll never get tired of saying that if you don't like this comic, then you hate comics and thus, you hate life")
• List: Matthew Rosenberg of Ashcan Press ranks Prison Pit Book 2 at #15 on his Best of 2010 list: "Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit may be everything a 12 year old me liked about comics boiled down to its essence and then pumped full of crystal meth. The book reads like hitting someone in the face… in a good way."
• Review: "Written with impressive empathy and obviously heartfelt, angry frustration even years later, this memoir confronts issues that will affect every single one of us whether or not we have the guts to face it, and the light airy art and terrific supporting cast — especially Ching the cat — keeps the tone hopeful and ultimately upbeat even through the worst of all times. This is a book you must read. Like Robert Crumb, I too found tears in my eyes at the book’s end — and so will you. [...] Unsentimental, educational and inspirational Special Exits is a tale no rational mortal can afford to miss." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Coming Attractions/Commentary: At Robot 6, Graeme McMillan uses the occasion of our forthcoming Summer 2011 publication of "what might be, for me, the most eagerly-anticipated book of 2011, Dave McKean’s Celluloid" to ruminate on the subject of pornographic comics
#87:Prison Pit Book 2 by Johnny Ryan: "Absurd, crude, lewd, funny, entertaining, twelve kinds of wrong, one of the most effed-up books I've ever read. It's burned into my brain and I can't get it out. And I love it." – Chad Nevett
#99:A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio: "I'd never heard of Moto Hagio until Fantagraphics published this best-of collection of her stories, and it's easy to see why Hagio is one of the queens of shojo manga in Japan. The short story 'Iguana Girl' (about a girl who grows up with her mother treating her like she is an iguana) is strong enough to make you feel like you've gotten your money's worth, but the remaining nine stories are also all excellent to boot." – Greg McElhatton
• List: Dave Ferraro of Comics-and-More ranks Moto Hagio's A Drunken Dream and Other Stories at #6 on his 10 Best Manga of 2010: "Moto Hagio's artwork is stunning. Her storytelling is fluid, her characters expressive, and her drawings in general are beautifully arranged and look effortless. Each and every one of the ten stories in this 'best of' collection of short stories... are enchanting, full of warmth and wonderful characters, and brimming with emotion. [...] A very necessary project, done right."
• Review: "Uptight #4 is an example of that increasingly-rare animal: a satisfying alt-comic book. [...] It speaks to Crane’s versatility that he can pull off a slice-of-life relationship story and a fable in the same comic book." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Review: "...[J]ust about the sweetest graphic novel imaginable... it's a lovely, positive collection, with fine drawing and characters that are well worth spending some time with. ...[T]his is a story about people and how they live together and support each other. That kind of story is so vanishingly rare in comics that it should be treasured when we do find it — particularly when it's as lovely and engaging as Castle Waiting." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Review: "Deitch's mad brew of semi-psychedelic farce and skewed reality takes the actual (and factual) short-lived tenure of an obscure 1950s-era kiddie-show host as source material and extrapolates a fantastical set of circumstances with humans, demons, not-so-funny animals and other characters — including Deitch himself. Reading this book [The Search for Smilin' Ed] is a wild ride; Deitch's prodigious storytelling talents and graphic craftsmanship keep things moving — and compelling." – Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Plugs: At Comics Comics, Jeet Heer singles out The Artist Himself: A Rand Holmes Retrospective and The Search for Smilin' Ed by Kim Deitch as two recent books deserving of more attention from critics and readers, calling the latter book "a delight not just because it gives us one of Deitch’s most deranged meandering tall tales but also because the whole handsome package was designed to highlight the cohesiveness of Deitch’s world-making project, the way his fictional universe and its large cast make up a single unfolding story."
• Opinion: At TIME.com – Techland, Douglas Wolk's "What I'm Grateful For in Comics, 2010" includes "Lots of long-gone creators have been returning to the new-comics trenches, and many of them are as limber and powerful as ever. [...] I... wouldn't have imagined that Joyce Farmer would be doing the best work of her career in 2010, but Special Exits knocked me flat," and "The fact that Jason puts out a book every nine months or so and has a substantical, enthusiastic readership makes me proud of the entire economic structure that makes that possible."
• Coming Attractions: More Douglas Wolk at TIME.com – Techland, this time listing "What We're Looking Forward To in 2011," including Love from the Shadows by Gilbert Hernandez ("the most twisted, perverse book he's ever created, which is saying something. It's lurid, hypersexual, violent, incredibly disturbing, and totally fun") and The Armed Garden and Other Stories by David B. ("gorgeous work, and unlike anything else in contemporary comics")
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions from NPR, Techland–TIME.com, HTMLGIANT, Woot!, and elsewhere:
• List: At Techland–TIME.com, Douglas Wolk names his top 10 Best Graphic Novels of 2010:
#6: Weathercraft: "The first standalone Frank book from Jim Woodring is as gloriously mind-expanding as anything he's drawn. It's a wordless Hieronymous Bosch-via-Chuck Jones parable about cartoon animals in a cruel, psychedelic landscape, in which the wicked Manhog attains enlightenment, then sacrifices it again."
#5: Artichoke Tales: "Megan Kelso's magnum opus is technically a fantasy — her characters live in an imaginary country, riven by a civil war between foragers and canners, and have artichoke leaves instead of hair on their heads. It's also a set of meditations on the way cultures establish their identities through stories, and how both political violence and personal connections can damage or repair those identities."
#3: You'll Never Know, Book 2: Collateral Damage: "The second volume of C. Tyler's trilogy of family stories that crystallized around the revelation of her father's experiences in World War II turns personal tragedy into universal art. Everyone's stories deepen; everything is more complicated and sadder than it seems at first. And Tyler's incredible sense of design and color makes even her quietest images linger."
• List:Comics Alliance also ranks Weathercraft on their Top 10 Best Comics of 2010. Jason Michelitch writes: "Woodring is a cartoonist of frightening power, and Weathercraft is him performing at full strength, a high note sustained for every panel on 100 pages. His work is of a caliber where it's hard to know what to say about it, so struck dumb are you by the immensity of the rendering and storytelling skill on the page. [...] There is no other comic this year that so successfully creates such a viscerally compelling and hermetically individual fictional world, or which displays such a thorough mastery of visual storytelling, provoking complex thoughts and feelings with simple, beautiful strokes. Weathercraft is essential."
• List: Oh mercy, it's The Daily Cross Hatch's epic and essential end-of-year top-five survey The Best Damn Comics of 2010 Chosen by the Artists. Below, in order of appearance, the books chosen, who chose them and how/if they ranked them; click over for any commentary:
Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso: Ellen Abramowitz (MoCCA Executive Director), #3; Darryl Ayo Brathwaite (Little Garden Comics), unranked;
Weathercraftby Jim Woodring: Brian Heater (The Daily Cross Hatch), #4; Gabby Schulz/Ken Dahl (Monsters), #4
• List: At Four Colours and the Truth, Tim Reinert names Drew Weing's Set to Sea one of his Favourite Comics of 2010: Best Original Graphic Novels: "A unique adventure story that skirts the line between high concept art book and ribald adventure tale quite well. Weing’s patient pacing, and unerring knack for maximizing panel space make him an interesting talent to watch out for."
• List: At The SF Site: Nexus Graphica, Mark London Williams and Rick Klaw each count down their Ten Best Comics of 2010 in tandem, in two parts covering #10-6 and #5-1 (with additional commentary from Mark at Guys Lit Wire):
• List: At Comikaze, Mauricio Matamores names Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 one of Los Mejores Cómics de 2010: "Published by Fantagraphics, this title presented top-notch storytelling by the Hernándezes and perfection with Xaime, specifically." (Translated from Spanish.)
• List: Also at Comikaze, Santiago Fernández names Yo maté a Adolf Hitler (I Killed Adolf Hitler) one of Los Mejores Cómics de 2010: "This [Norwegian] author seems to tell his story of time travel, Nazis and romance as though he were a 10 year old child, proof that this is a fun story even though it really is rather complex, complete with a message that provides sweetness. Great gift for the girlfriend." (Translated from Spanish.)
• Interview (Audio): Mark Herz of Connecticut NPR affilliate WSHU visits with Bill Griffith in his studio to talk all things Zippy
• Interview: Jason Toon of Woot! talks to Zack Carlson & Bryan Connolly about Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film: "We can't stop even now. It's become a depressing compulsion. We can't enjoy a movie the way you would. Actually, it went beyond watching movies. We got so immersed in what we were doing, when we'd take a break to go get a pizza and see a kid riding by on a skateboard with blue hair, we'd try to pause reality."
• List/Review:Critical Mob names Jim Woodring's Weathercraft one of the Top 10 Books of 2010. As a reminder, their review called it "the kind of Pilgrim's Progress tale that David Lynch might have conjured up if he were a cartoonist" (Lynch was a cartoonist, in fact) and "Woodring's best work yet. And for an artist of his caliber, that's saying something."
• List: At Flavorwire, Desert Island's Gabe Fowler names Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 #9 of 10 of the Year's Most Buzzed About Comic Releases: "Lots of people were blown away by this — it’s a comic that epitomizes 20 years worth of work in 50 pages. Jamie Hernandez has just been doing it so long that he’s a natural. Comics just seem to flow out of this guy."
• List: Julien from Librairie Drawn & Quarterly names A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio one of "Les 5 livres indispensables de l'année" (the 5 essential books of the year): "With coming of age stories that are sentimental, dramatic, poetic, offbeat and not mawkish..., A Drunken Dream and Other Stories showcases trailblazing manga has forged its own way since the '70s." (Translated from French.)
• Plug: "In typical Fantagraphics fashion, A Drunken Dream is presented in a gorgeous, golden-hued, and hardbound package. From the front to end papers, it is packed with stories, artwork — both black and white and in color — and an interview with the influential artist that’s just as engaging as her stories. For me, 'Iguana Girl' was the standout tale, full of emotional and psychological twists. It’s sophisticated and defies expectations." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious "Graphic Novel Friday: Holiday Gift Guide"
• Review/Profile: A feature on Joyce Farmer and Special Exits by Paul Gallagher at The Huffington Post: "Farmer's beautiful, moving and truly exceptional book deals with the very real closing down age brings, and its problems. Rarely have I read such an honest, heart-breaking, yet darkly humorous tale."
• Review: "Carol Tyler has chosen a scrapbook format for her memoir series You'll Never Know, but the editing is the reverse of the usual—instead of airbrushing over her family's troubles, she focuses on them. [...] Tyler has a good ear; her conversations, whether it's the grownups kidding around when she was a child or the grown daughters trying to figure out how to negotiate their parents' illnesses, always ring true. Her art is sketchy and expressive, changing to fit the story, often deliberately breaking borders as she transitions from one setting to another." – Brigid Alverson, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Review: "...Rip M.D. is a bit silly, but it’s offbeat and funny too. It’s got the kind of gross-out humor that kids will love... While the book has its own somewhat silly logic, it also has a tremendously engaging look and feel that’s all its own." – John Hogan, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Review: "Stark and vivid, scary and heartbreakingly sad as only a children’s tale can be, this darkly swashbuckling romp [The Littlest Pirate King] is a classy act with echoes of Pirates of the Caribbean (which it predates by nearly a century) that will charm, inspire and probably cause a tear or two to well up." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Plug: "While I’ve yet to see a copy, Fantagraphics’ Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition finally released this December, and it clocks in at 1,200 pages. The 25th Anniversary of Stan Sakai’s rabbit ronin is celebrated across two hardcovers housed in a slipcase. The set promises plenty of extras, and its delayed publication has been lamented loudly enough to make this holiday publication cause for plenty of raised glasses of eggnog." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious "Graphic Novel Friday: Holiday Gift Guide"
• Awards:ActuaBD reports on the nominees for the Prix Artémisia, including Gabriella Giandelli's Interiorae (in its French edition). "This is an award directed towards female creators from an association bearing the same name as the prize," reports The Comics Reporter.
• Interview (Audio): Host Robin McConnell chats with Nate Neal about Nate's new graphic novel The Sanctuary and other topics on the Inkstuds radio programme; in his blog post Robin says "Sanctuary has a really great language all to itself, and his work in Mome utilizes a while different skill set. Good comics."
• Review: "[Megan Kelso's] first full-length graphic novel, Artichoke Tales, raises the stakes seen in her short stories and makes the relationships between three generations of characters one of simultaneous longing and resentment. [...] This story is entirely about relationships, both familial and romantic. At the same time, it’s also about one’s relationship to one’s country, one’s religion, and one’s ethnicity, and the ways in which resorting to war to solve conflicts changes all of these relationships irrevocably." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Jason’s work always jumps directly into the reader’s brain and heart, using the beastly and unnatural to gently pose eternal questions about basic human needs in a soft but relentless quest for answers. That you don’t ever notice the deep stuff because of the clever gags and safe, familiar 'funny-animal' characters should indicate just how good a cartoonist he is… This collection [What I Did], despite being early works resonates with the artist’s preferred themes and shines with his visual dexterity. It’s one of Jason’s very best and will warm the cockles of any fan’s heart." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview:Newsarama's Chris Arrant talks to Stan Sakai about the past and future of Usagi Yojimbo: "When did I hit my stride? Well, I think Usagi really started to come together with the first four Fantagraphics issues – before that he’d appeared in short stories and anthologies, but I was able to devote a lot of attention to detail and characterization with that first story-arc. For me as a writer and artist, I think it would be 'The Kite Story.' That was the first story that I did a lot of research on, and it really came together smoothly."
• Profile: The Tulsa World's Matt Gleason talks to Rip M.D. creator Mitch Schauer: "A young Mitch Schauer often sympathized with the classic movie monsters that populated late-night TV. 'They were never really bad on purpose,' the longtime Tulsan said from his home in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Schauer particularly sympathized with Boris Karloff's Frankenstein. 'He didn't want to be created,' said the 54-year-old. 'Then he gets created, and everybody wants to throw rocks at him, crucify him or burn him. Frankenstein was just misunderstood.'"
#10: A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio: "Ten spooky, perceptive stories of girls and ghosts in trouble from one of the masters of shojo manga, who has her work translated into English for the first time."
#5: Set to Sea by Drew Weing: "He may look like a big lug, but he’s got dreams of the ocean and the heart of a poet. The hero of Weing’s salty debut sails off to adventure in this pocket-size sea-shanty of a graphic novel."
#1: Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley: "A candy-colored absurdist comedy about a teen so wealthy he barfs $100 bills, this ridiculously enjoyable book reads like Richie Rich on LSD."
• List:NPR's Glen Weldon names Cathy Malkasian's Temperance one of "The Year's Most Transporting Books": "Amnesia also plays a role in Cathy Malkasian's huge, haunting — and hauntingly beautiful — graphic novel Temperance. [...] Malkasian's plot is loose and elliptical, and she pokes at many of the same salty psychological truths that made the Brothers Grimm so grim; lies, guilt and violence buffet her characters about like gale-force winds. You won't know where the story's going, but Malkasian's pages are gorgeous, sweetly melancholic things, and you'll enjoy the trip."
• Review: "...[One of the] Books of the Year... An expansive allegorical fable, ...Temperance speaks to our times with prophetic pointedness. [...] A uniquely imaginative book, Temperance is an example of how a sepia-toned pencil can sing." – Neel Mukherjee, The Times
• List: At Attentiondeficitdisorderly, Sean T. Collins names Prison Pit Book 2 by Johnny Ryan one of his Comics of the Year of the Day, saying "take how you felt during the baseball-bat scene in Casino, then make a book out of it."
• List: British cartoonist Matt Brooker offers up his Best of the Year at the Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, including 2009's You Are There by Jacques Tardi & Jean-Claude Forest: "Alongside Mœbius’ The Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius, this is the defining classic of 1970’s Bande Dessinee, but unlike The Airtight Garage you really need to be able to read the dialogue to make it worth owning… this first English translation has been much too long coming, so I was delighted to be able to read You Are There at last. It was originally conceived as a screenplay, and reads like one of those particularly mad Sixties films (like Peter Sellers’ Casino Royale or The Magic Christian) of which I’m so unreasonably fond."
• Review: "The always-superb Jason too has a book out this year: Werewolves of Montpellier. Droll, laconic as always, dry as drought, and hilarious and sympathetic in equal measures... A mad, lovely and bright book." – Neel Mukherjee, The Times
• Review: "While we’re on the subject of Jason, it wouldn’t do to leave out a mention of Almost Silent, a deluxe collection of four of his earlier books... The book is worth searching out for [You Can’t Get There From Here] alone. It’s the longest story in the book and is a retelling of the Frankenstein story as a love triangle without words, set off by a Greek chorus-type duet between two hunchbacks." – Neel Mukherjee, The Times
• Review: "Destroy All Movies is a product of the tireless DIY work ethic: It is one of the most painstaking books ever written on punk rock. As such, it stands in the rarified league of Banned in DC, Fucked Up & Photocopied, and the long out-of-print masterpiece Loud 3D. Carlson and Connolly have managed to make a volume with both intellectual relevance and deep entertainment value. And if you don't have time to actually read through all 1,000 entries, it's still a blast just to look at." – Sam McPheeters, Bookforum
• Plug: On the Matablog, Matador Records co-founder Gerard Cosloy says "If I celebrated Xmas and/or hadn’t already purchased a copy, I’d be asking Satan Santa for the newly published Destroy All Movies!!!..." and calls it an "amazing tome" (link via our own Janice Headley)
• Plug: "This book is out of control. [...] The research that went into [Destroy All Movies!!!] is unfathomable. They even tracked down every instance of a punk in a made-for-TV movie. The mind boggles. And then the mind puts on a Crass album and head butts some prep in the face." – Kyle Olson, The Hipster Book Club "2010 Holiday Gift Guide"
• Review: "Castle Waiting’s a pleasant, upbeat series, a great way to spend a quiet afternoon. If you’re looking for high adventure and action, it’s not here. This series is exploring the quiet places and the emotional beats that exist just beyond the screaming and bloodshed, and it’s doing so with style and wit. Castle Waiting comes highly recommended." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "EC was not the only company putting out good horror comics in the 1950s. Fantagraphics’ Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s shines the spotlight on some of the other comic publishers who were putting out great horror comics back then. [...] As great as the stories are perhaps the best feature is the 20 page note section that provides details behind each of the 40 stories in the book with fantastic anecdotes. There is also an index to all the companies publishing horror comics with a listing of titles and issue numbers making this a fantastic resource. Grade A+" – Tim Janson, Mania
• Review: "Since continuity usually plays second fiddle to the avalanche of inventive ideas, the strips can be read in almost any order and the debauched drunkenness, manic ultra-violence in the manner of the best Tom & Jerry or Itchy & Scratchy cartoons, acerbic view of sexuality and deep core of existentialist angst (like Sartre ghostwriting The Office or perhaps The Simpsons) still finds a welcome with Slackers, Laggards, the un-Christian and all those scurrilous, lost Generations after X. [...] If you’re the kind of fan who thrives on gorge-rousing gags and mind-bending rumination this is a fantastic and rewarding strip, one of the most constantly creative and entertaining on the market today and this latest collection [Little Maakies on the Prairie] is one of the very best yet. If you’re not a fan of Maakies this is the ideal chance to become one and if you’re already converted it’s the perfect gift for someone what ain’t…" – Win Wiaceck, Now Read This!
• Review: "This series is a non-stop rollercoaster of action and romance, blending realistic fantasy with sardonic wit and broad humour with unbelievably stirring violence, all rendered in an incomprehensibly lovely panorama of glowing art. Beautiful, captivating and utterly awe-inspiring Prince Valiant is a World Classic of storytelling, and this magnificent deluxe [Volume 2] is something no fan can afford to be without. If you have never experienced the majesty and grandeur of the strip this astounding and enchanting premium collection is the best way possible to start and will be your gateway to a life-changing world of wonder and imagination." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "One could easily spend hours thinking of the hard concepts Kelso brings into the book without ever hitting the reader over the head with any of them. It's a sign of her storytelling ability that we get all of this without it ever feeling like she's preaching to me. [...] Artichoke Tales, at its heart, is about how complex the world is, with no one quite able to figure things out. ...I thought this was a well-crafted book that shows the human side of a conflict. It's a sad tale, but one worth reading." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Chris Mautner has a very informative chat with our own Kim Thompson about our new line of all-ages Eurocomics books: "Well, to be honest, I’m not sure how many kids will actually be reading this. It’s hard to get kids interested in comics, and foreign comics are even tougher. I’d welcome kids reading it but I’m assuming 98% of the audience will be grown-ups who dig this particular material. That said, I’m always a little baffled by how sensitive grown-ups are about kids’ material."
• Interview: At AfterEllen, Ariel Schrag talks to Gabrielle Bell: "I definitely prefer reading fiction to reading comics, except for a very small percentage of comics. And when I was a teenager I wanted to be a fiction writer. I’m much more interested in films, too. I feel like I’m more interested in the potential of comics, rather than what they’ve already accomplished, whereas with films and novels I’m interested in what they’ve already accomplished."
• List: Erich Redson of LA TACO ("Celebrating the Taco Lifestyle in Los Angeles, California") names their Comic of the Year: "Johnny Ryan is a long-time TACO favorite, but he has really outdone himself this year with the release of Prison Pit Book 2. Pure, unmitigated ultra-violent filth has never been drawn so cleanly. This comic makes an excellent Christmas gift for that special sadist in your life."
• List: Tim Hensley's Wally Gropius is one of Blog Flume's Ken Parille's top 3 "Books I Really Liked and Wrote About Twice in 2010"
• Review: "With The Littlest Pirate King, David B. applies the same skills and angle of attack that served him so well in a naturalistic, personal mode to a highly fantastical tale, one in fact penned by another writer. [...] The story... is weird, gory, mythic, transgressive, surreal, satirical, anti-bourgeoise and nihilistic. It is also cute, sentimental, cheery and heartening. [...] What makes the book an enjoyable success are David B.'s pinwheeling, vibrant, colorful drawings. Echoing elements from the allied work of Richard Sala and Tony Millionaire, he creates both intimate moments and big dramas with eye-catching color, character design and composition. [...] The true king of these manic, antic pirates is David B." – Paul DiFilippo, The Barnes & Noble Review
• Review: "...The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec... is quite fun... A large dose of whimsy is injected into the proceedings, making the dashing also daft. Tardi has the feel of old-school French funnies down pat; if you didn’t know any better... you might think they originated several generations ago, rather than one (they were first published in France in 1976). As is, with its cerebral gags and secret tunnels, the work carries a slight burst steampunk in a knowing, winking vein of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. [...] The book makes me look forward to seeing Luc Besson’s forthcoming film adaptation, but even more forward to Volume 2." – Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: "Fantagraphics and editor Matt Thorn have ably stepped up to the plate here, compiling a career-spanning collection of Hagio's short stories [A Drunken Dream], one which demonstrates her acumen with stunning visuals and deft characterization, and especially a nice grasp of human relationships. It's like a quick class in what we've been missing out on for all these years. [...] While much of her work remains to be revealed to Western audiences, this book makes for a wonderful primer on what she has accomplished throughout her career. Hopefully it will be far from the extent of what we will get to experience." – Matthew J. Brady, Warren Peace Sings the Blues
• Review: "Front and center [in Low Moon] is [Jason's] quirky subversiveness, the beguiling, eccentric perspective on whatever his subject might be. Delivery is an irresistible syncopation of narrative stresses and visual beats further enlivened by the double take: 'Wait. Did I really see what I just saw?' Whatever a story’s content, era, tone or genre, the narrative is always built up from observed human nature, pared and mounted for easy identification. [...] The book Low Moon contains three more tales, not a clunker in the bunch. They all are ripe with Jason’s sublime nonsense, deadpan hilarity, laconic (if not completely silent) expressiveness and brazen commandeering of genre devices." – Rich Kreiner, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Whether in romantic stories or stories of the West, and especially in the horror, Ditko continuously breaks new ground... Despite all the limitations that Ditko first evidences in these stories, despite the distance in time and the nearly six decades that could be moth-eaten stories, reading Strange Suspense is, at least for the writer, a morbid and pleasurable enjoyment..." – Álvaro Pons, La Cárcel de Papel (translated from Spanish)
• Commentary: At Attentiondeficitdisorderly, Sean T. Collins posts an index and acknowledgments for his now-completed "Love and Rocktober" review series and adds his suggestions for where to start reading the series (not too different from ours)
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions. Today's reviews come directly or indirectly via Hans Rickheit:
• Review: "Simmons’ artwork [in House] masterfully cranks up the tension and tightens the suspense as the ill-fated explorers descend into the building’s subterranean depths; as his characters enter the house, his dark frames thicken, becoming the walls of the house. The comic is wordless, but the characters have no trouble expressing themselves as they go from the heights of youthful elation to sheer terror as the house swallows them whole." – Ao Meng, The Daily Texan
• Review: "As both an anthology and as a survey of the times, [Four Color] Fear is incredibly successful, with nary a dud in the whole bunch. Each fun story offers its own brand of chill, thrills and maniacal laughter. [...] But the real disquieting aspect of these comics were probably not intended as such — chauvinistic behavior is rampant among the men, and women are portrayed as either damsels in distress or cold-hearted femme-fatales. These are artifacts of a simpler age." – Ao Meng, The Daily Texan
• Review: "The Squirrel Machine is not for the faint of heart, and features quite disturbing and grotesque imagery — H. R. Giger has nothing on Rickheit’s psychosexual nightmares. [...] Existing on the crossroad of creativity and madness, The Squirrel Machine is a nightmare in a series of gristly tableaus. The psychedelic rooms full of machinery, sex and death are an inward exploration as much as Jim Woodring’s ('Frank') comics are outwardly allegorical. An exploration of an artist’s mind, it uncovers the obscene, the things that were never meant to be brought to light." – Ao Meng, The Daily Texan
• Review: "Blimey, [The Squirrel Machine] is a weird one. Imagine a steampunk version of the last ten minutes of Eraserhead. [...] Its design and tone is indebted to Little Nemo in Slumberland, although far more disturbing. [...] The book is full of strange scenes which accurately convey the claustrophobic atmosphere and slight off-ness of a powerful dream. In no way is it fluffy around the edges. The detail is unflinching, with a refreshing lack of explanation... Is it all a dream? Who can tell?" – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Review: "Another excellent debut graphic novel, another webcomic-printed-as-book, another beautiful Fantagraphics book-as-object, and another rollicking seafaring adventure. [...] What distinguishes [Set to Sea] from a merely average graphic novel is the excellent pacing, the thoughtfulness of the (unnamed) protagonist, and the minimal use of words in a book about writing poetry!" – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Review: "A luxurious collection of Moto Hagio’s influential comics, ...[A Drunken Dream and Other Stories] is a valuable sampler of her long career, a compilation of short stories from 1970 to 2007 which feature her innovative panel layouts and expressive characters, and include many of her favourite themes, such as sibling rivalry, postnatal depression and ghosts. [...] This is yet another beautiful book-as-object-of-desire..." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Review: "An utter nightmare. [...] Over a hundred densely-drawn pages [of Weathercraft], filled with Woodring’s bejewelled creatures and salamandric hallucinations, Manhog achieves a kind of enlightenment. A great if unsettling work." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Review: "The first of Norwegian cartoonist Jason’s books to be published in translation, and one of his neatest and most satisfying stories. [...] If it were a film, Hey, Wait… would melodramatically labour the childhood tragedy it features, but in a Jason book it’s an understated pivot for the two halves of the story." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Coming Attractions: "The Arctic Marauder [by Jacques Tardi] – A steampunk story with mad scientists, sea monsters, and futuristic machines at the North Pole. In a 'faux woodcut style.' Fantagraphics continues to be the most consistently innovative publisher of adventure comics around." – Michael May, Robot 6
• Review: "A snapshot of Jason's career from 1997-2001, the stories in What I Did are also loosely thematically collected, circling around guilt as their central emotion. [...] There are many pleasures to be had from Jason's work, among them a wealth of clever cartoon metaphors and a impressively economic storytelling tricks. [...] At his best, Jason pieces together representations of complex thoughts and emotions through simple visual building blocks." – David Michelitch, Comics Alliance
• Review: "Somebody up there likes us. You need Destroy All Movies!!! in your life. It’s heartening to know that there’s people out there who are truly sick with it. Like, really, really obsessed with a single niche. Like cinematic punkers. [... Like] the very best books on cinema, ...this one will make you realise that you’ve only just scratched the surface of b-movies and provide a comprehensive education on some total rarities. [...] Fantagraphics have been sating a personal taste for the esoteric since my childhood, but this one really has blown me away." – Gary Warnett, Gwarizm
• Review: "...Lucky in Love is a very good book with an outstanding story and stellar art. The story is incredibly well written and Lucky, as a person, practically leaps off the page at you. His characterization was spot on... It’s hard to create a character that is so rich that anyone can relate to him, or her, but Chieffet and DeStefano have done it. [...] The influence of animation is evident and the images on the pages practically jump out at you. The book is predominantly 6 or 9 panel pages that are stuffed with detail. It's just fantastic." – Comics And...Other Imaginary Tales
• Review: "Moto Hagio’s stories are... masterful largely because she did not set out to be so. She wrote from the heart, stories that girls could understand, enjoy, identify with. [...] Moto Hagio is a woman, who draws stories for girls. She is a Master of her Craft. She is a groundbreaker in her field. None of these statements are contradictory.A Drunken Dream is a must-read for any serious student of manga. While you’re getting a copy, buy one for a niece or friend – and don’t tell them it’s 'important.' This way they’ll be free to just enjoy it, tropes and all." – Erica Friedman, The Manga Curmudgeon
• Plug: "[Fire & Water] is an incredibly well designed book chock full of amazing artwork. It’s a great biography of comics legend Bill Everett (who was descended from William Blake!) and his journey through the early days of the comic book industry." – A.G. Pasquella, Advent Book Blog
• Plug: "The elusive Golden Age cartoonist Fletcher Hanks achieved a level of surrealism that few comic book creators today can match. The man made simply the medium extremely strange on his own terms (see: Fantomah, his skull-faced jungle heroine). Words don't do his work justice..." – Cyriaque Lamar, "10 Graphic Novels That Make Great Gifts (for People Who Don't Read Comics," io9
• 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)