• Review: "Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson by Salt Lake City native Kevin Avery is a fitting testimonial to a man who pioneered rock 'n' roll criticism. Those familiar and unfamiliar with the culture of the '60s will appreciate this finely written tribute.... Overall, Everything Is an Afterthought will break your heart and inspire you to be a better person. It is a wonderful story of a man who deserves his chance in the spotlight." – Shelby Scoffield, Deseret News
• Review: "A little impenetrable in that wordless story kind of way, even when there are words. I like the stories – actually read them – but I’m more interested in studying the way each page sports a new texture or approach. The art is simply fantastic. Some stories retain a color scheme for their entirety and some switch up the limited palette within the story itself. Totally my kind of thing. I like the coloring, the line drawing, the combination of both. The graphic, printmaking quality of it and the 'classical' drawing are also attractive to me. I found myself just flipping through this collection for a long time.... High class stuff. Also, this book gets an award for best endpapers. Check it out." – Frank Santoro, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Lost and Found is the sort of retrospective project that begs summary statements. The introduction reads like a compressed memoir. The book, while extremely dense and a bit overwhelming to read, testifies to Griffith’s heroic output of underground comics, and his commitment to a lifetime of making work that is challenging, inventive, and beautifully drawn. His signature narrative discombobulation and linguistic elasticity unite all these disparate pieces into a cohesive statement of surprise and protest. It is ridiculously quotable. Also, it is very funny. Lost and Found delivers wholesale entertainment value with a socially redeeming dose of satire." – Matthew Thurber & Rebecca Bird, The Comics Journal
• Interview (Audio):Inkstuds host Robin McConnell says of his latest episode, "One of the most prolific cartoonists of the underground generation, Bill Griffith, joined me to chat about his new collection, Lost and Found. It is an interesting conversation that touches on a number of different topics, ranging from his Zippy the Pinhead work, to discussing his contemporaries like Rory Hayes."
• Interview: Paul Gravett chatted with Robert Crumb for Art Review magazine; he presents an unexpurgated version at his blog: "In the last few years, I’ve got so deeply involved investigating scandalous shit that goes on in modern business and culture. It’s very difficult to interpret in comics, I’m trying to figure it out. There’s not a lot of action or humour, it’s serious, grim shit. You could get your ass in trouble doing that, too. I remember when I did this thing in the Seventies, ‘Frosty the Snowman’, where I had him being this revolutionary who throws bombs at the Rockefeller mansion and shortly after that was published, the Internal Revenue Service came after me."
• Interview: Chris Mautner's Q&A with Zak Sally at Robot 6 is a must read: "I’m no Pollyanna, nor am I a hippie; the world is NOT cut and dried with stuff like this, nor do I view it that way — if, for instance, Fantagraphics (who I love dearly) decided to print all their stuff over here, they’d probably have to kill important books by artists who don’t sell as well to ameliorate that extra cost. Or, hell, i don’t know — maybe they’d go under. Do i want either of those things? Heck no. I want Noah van Sciver and Chris Wright’s new books to get out in the world, and to reach their audience. I want Fantagraphics to be around for … forever. BUT: let’s also not fool ourselves that this 'lowest cost' imperative isn’t fucking up our world significantly, all day every day, as an economic paradigm. It’s a real thing, and that can’t be ignored either."
• Profile: At HiLobrow, Norman Hathaway puts the spotlight on Guy Peellaert: "Years later I realized that Peellaert had also been responsible for one of my favorite pieces of power-pop comic art; Jodelle (and later Pravda), which plastered hip, mid-’60s fashion drawing into a dystopian landscape of the future, done in a completely different linear graphic design-based style."
• Profile: Dan Taylor of The Press Democrat chats with Monte Schulz: "'My dad is actually mentioned in a very subtle way in The Big Town,' Schulz said. 'The main character, Harry, is in a barber shop. It says, "Back in St. Paul, he'd gotten his hair cut in the Family Barbershop on North Snelling Avenue by a cigar-smoking German fellow, whose young son drew funny little pictures."'"
• Profile (Video): Enjoy a brief video spotlight on the great Kim Deitch presented by Seth Kushner at Trip City
• Tribute/History: From last week, at The Stranger, rememberances of our former art director, the late Dale Yarger
What happens when you have to miss a couple of days of the comics internet is that it takes you almost the whole rest of the week to get fully caught up on Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List:Library Journal's Martha Cornog gives a nice shout-out to Carl Barks and recommends Oil and Water by Steve Duin & Shannon Wheeler as one of "30 Graphic Novels for Earth Day 2012": "Wheeler’s atmospheric, ink-washed greys capture eccentric residents from crabbers to a pelican-rescue team, and Duin’s script catches the ironic resiliency of people exploited by the very industry that feeds them.... Valuable for high schoolers and adults as a glimpse into the crisis, and for general sensitization to environmental issues."
• Review: "When I brought Pogo home from the bookstore on a Sunday afternoon, I called my daughters over, and we lay on the floor in the living room and read it together. I read it aloud, because half of the fun of Pogo is hearing the fantastic dialogue penned by Kelly, and my daughters loved it. I’m sure there were things that went over their heads — jokes that rely on experiences they haven’t had, references to past events, wordplay that’s a little too sophisticated. But the beauty of the strip is that does work on so many levels. There’s slapstick humor, cute little talking animals, and keen observations on the human condition — the last made easier to swallow perhaps because the characters aren’t people, as human as they may be." – Jonathan Liu, Wired – GeekDad
• Review: "[Jason] populates his tales with brightly clad cats and dogs and ducks, but their misbehavior is unmistakably human.... [Athos in America] is... consummately worth reading for its three gems: the lovely title story, the self-portrait 'A Cat From Heaven' and the wonderful 'Tom Waits on the Moon,' in which Jason carefully maps the crossed paths of four lonely people." – Sam Thielman, Newsday
• Review: "Despair threatens to overwhelm the creator’s usual tales of longing [in Athos in America]. In 'A Cat From Heaven,' his characteristic unrequited love story gives way to a somewhat depressing look at a self-absorbed cartoonist named Jason’s bitter relationship. Mercifully, the rest of the collection is a little more playful, from a couple noir parodies to the highlight, 'Tom Waits on the Moon,' in which four solipsistic stories converge in a tragic act." – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle
• Review: "The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s MAD-Inspired Satirical Comics is a wonderful book collecting the best stories of the beginnings of a favorite comic book genre — and I can’t emphasize this enough — it’s put together by people who know what they’re doing. Plus, it’s designed to fit on your bookshelf right next to your MAD Archives volumes. I can’t believe that you haven’t already picked this up! Are you unsane?!?" – K.C. Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
• Review: "If [Wandering Son] Vol. 1 was a masterclass in people not wanting to accept the status quo within their own minds, Vol. 2 shows the uncertainty of the waiting world. The way that Nitori and Takatsuki fumble forward with no plan is painful and endearing. They know the two of them are better together but there’s the problem of dealing with classmates, family and teachers. It’s not easy and well done to Takako for not short-circuiting the process. It’s not easy writing characters in distress but it’s wonderful to read it. If you can recognise the character’s pain and sympathise despite your differences, it proves you’re human and so is the author.... So much of what we read is a kind of literary false economy. We put in so much and get so little out of it. Wandering Son asks so little of you and you get so much out of it.... It is a wonderful, sweet, heartbreaking window into being different, young, unsure, afraid and human." – Eeeper's Choice
• Review: "[The Man Who Grew His Beard]’s a big batch of critic-friendly comic strips, comics which resemble curios excavated from some none-too-defined European past and more often than not have all the daring shallow-space visual syntax of a Garfield strip. They’re less stories than contraptions that wear their artifice and structure on their sleeve, like those medieval homunculi which transparently show their cogs and mechanisms while making their programmed movements." – Rich Baez, It's Like When a Cowboy Becomes a Butterfly
• Review: "Action! Mystery! Thrills!... beautifully resurrects all the Golden Age favorites, from superheroes to killer robots to cowboys and occult Nazis. This time capsule collection of cover art spans from 1933-45... An index in the back gives the fascinating stories behind the covers, while the full-page, color reproductions reveal them for what they are: works of art." – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle
• Review: "Primarily known for his ghoulish comic strips in Playboy and The New Yorker, Gahan Wilson showed his tender side (kind of) with Nuts. Originally a series of one-page vignettes running in National Lampoon, Nuts is presented here in its entirety as a classic warts-and-all reminiscence of childhood, from sick days to family gatherings, the joys of candy to the terrors of the dark basement." – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle
• Review: "R. Crumb hit it big in the ‘60s alternative Comix scene with his creation of Fritz the Cat (originally conceived as an adolescent). The feline protagonist remained Crumb’s avatar for lambasting American culture until a lackluster film adaptation prompted some divine retribution from his creator. The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat collects all of Fritz’s essential stories." – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle
• Awards:GalleyCat reports that Author Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, contributor to Significant Objects, has won the $1,000 Sidney Prize, which rewards "the author of the best new American story," and has a link to an excerpt from the winning story
• Opinions:Robert Crumb's got 'em! In the third installment of the "Crumb On Others" series, he lets you know exactly what he thinks of a bunch of prominent personalities, from Hitler to Ghandi (in whose homeland Crumb can be seen above) and from Kurtzman to Van Gogh
• Interview: When The Comics Journal posted the Q&A with Bill Griffith conducted by Gary Panter, I called it the must-read of the day, and it still stands as your must-read of the week: "I’ve only taken LSD twice in my life. Once on the beach in Martha’s Vineyard in 1967, which was pleasant, but not ego-shattering or anything. And once in New York after I’d started doing comics. All I remember about the second time was, I got hemorrhoids."
• Interview: Who better to talk to Matthias Wivel, editor of our Scandinavian comics anthology Kolor Klimax, than Steffen Maarup, editor of our Danish comics anthology From Wonderland with Love? A taste: "Putting together a good anthology is similar to making a good mixtape. Whatever the individual merits of a piece, it won’t do to include it if it doesn’t somehow work for the anthology as a whole. There has to be a consistent idea or tone to the book, which doesn’t mean that there can’t be dissonance — there’s some of that in Kolor Klimax, and I think for the better — but the individual parts still have to generate something greater than their sum. It’s incredibly difficult to achieve, but also a lot of fun." Read more at The Metabunker
The Toronto Comics Art Festival has announced the first batch of special guests for the 2012 fest, and we're excited to reveal that we'll be hosting the following global guests on May 5th and 6th:
Jason: You asked for him, you got him! Jason was, hands-down, the most asked-about artist at TCAF 2011. See? Don't say we don't ever listen to you, Toronto. He will be signing his latest, Athos in America, along with many, many other books.
Gabriella Giandelli: We are absolutely delighted to be hosting Gabriella, all the way from Italy! This is a rare treat to meet this wonderful artist, and we'll be debuting the collection of her Ignatz comic Interiorae!
"You want a great book that places you directly inside the psyche of a small boy confronting an insane adult world? This is it."
• List:Graphic Eye asks comics creator Ed Luce (Wuvable Oaf) for his Best of 2011, which includes Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit Book 3 at #2: "The Prison Pit series has produced some of the best gay erotic comics in recent memory (particularly Book One), without consciously setting out to do so. It could easily be subtitled 'A Complex Cycle of Penetration and Regeneration.' Johnny pumps this hyper-masculine orgy of violence and sex so far beyond bursting, it can't help but tip over to the queer side. It is a prison, after all."
• List:Publishers Weekly announces the results of their 2011 Comics World Critics Poll, with these titles garnering 2 votes each...
"Love and Rockets: New Stories Vol. 4, Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez: Jaime Hernandez tops his 30 years of peerless storytelling with the conclusion to 'The Love Bunglers' in which two characters we’ve watched stumble through life make a final lurch — that may bring happiness or doom. Heartbreaking yet without a trace of manipulation." – Heidi MacDonald
"The Man Who Grew His Beard, Olivier Schrauwen: This graphic novel is exceptionally inventive, with each story being so very different from the one before." – Glen Downey
...and the following books receiving an Honorable Mention with one vote each:
• Review: "As [Wandering Son] volume 2 closes, the idyllic childhood Shuichi and Nitori have shared thus far, surrounded by exceptionally supportive family and friends, is showing signs of being breached by thoughtless outsiders.... In the insightful, not-to-be-skipped final essay, 'Transgendered in Japan,' translator (and manga scholar) Matt Thorn writes, 'Shuichi and Yoshino are coming of age, not in an idealized fantasy world, but in a contemporary Japan that poses unique challenges to children such as these.' Indeed, to quote a popular film, 'reality bites,' but in creator Shimura Takako's sensitive world, Shuichi and Nitori have better than a fighting chance at becoming strong, confident adults." – Terry Hong, BookDragon (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program)
• Review: "In spite of its depressive mood (you know, with it being about the end of the world and such), The Hidden exemplifies the effectiveness of Sala's application of a 'less is more' visual style to broad, complex stories.... I can't recommend Sala's books enough, and The Hidden is one of his best works to date. Be sure to pick up a copy if you're looking for something more than global plagues and cannibalistic zombies in your world-ending entertainment." – Tim Mitchell, Titans Terrors & Toys
• List/Plugs: Andy Mansell of Heroes Aren't Hard to Find names a handful of "creme de la creme," "must-have" classic comic strip collections from 2011: "Do yourself a favor – next time you are in the store take a few moments and pick up a copy of Lost in the Andes or Pogo, either Mickey Mouse collection, ...[and] flip through it. Read a few strips.... These are rich, beautiful books and they deserve to be read by everyone."
• Plug:The A.V. Club's Oliver Sava provides a guide to "What makes a good all-ages comic," saying "Animation-inspired art remains the most popular choice for an all-ages series... Carl Barks’ work with Disney’s duck characters is the pinnacle of this school: Barks’ experience as a Disney animator honed his talent for creating sprawling environments and distinct characters that are instantly charming and incredibly rich. Fantagraphics just published its first hardcover collection of Barks’ classic stories, Donald Duck: Lost In The Andes, a beautiful package collecting some of Barks’ most memorable duck tales."
"...[T]his dark, disjointed story about an assortment of misfit suburban characters plagued by bad luck and their own poor choices is a compelling, bitterly funny read... Despite its obvious influences King never feels like a pale imitation, especially in the second volume, where the ante is upped considerably, both on an aesthetic and narrative level."
"Color Engineering author Yuichi Yokoyama got all the attention this year, but to my eyes Schrauwen is just as innovative and wholly original a cartoonist as Yokoyama. The main difference between the two is that where Yokoyama is focused on expressing motion, machinery and discovery, Schrauwen prefers to explore differences in perception, especially between reality and that of the imagination.... Incredibly inventive and at times darkly funny, Beard is the work of a master cartoonist worth more attention."
• List: Carol Borden of The Cultural Gutter names The Hidden by Richard Sala as one of "10 Comics I Liked in 2011": "The world is ending in madness and blood, as a bearded man flees to the countryside. But what does he know about the end and why is it mostly nubile young women who are being killed? Another tale of mayhem, mystery and mad science from Richard Sala."
• Review: "This volume [of Wandering Son] is absolutely wonderful. It has an overall very gentle feel to it, but it’s punctuated by moments of cruelty and sadness.... It’s a rare thing to get such simple realism in a manga, and Takako handles it exquisitely.... This series can be really harsh at times, but there are some great heartwarming moments, as well. That’s what makes it great." – Kristin Bomba, ComicAttack.net
The first Online Commentary & Diversions post of the year might very well end up being the longest:
• List: Humorist and television personality John Hodgman, asked to name his 5 favorite comics in an open Q&A session on his Tumblr blog, says "Love and Rockets: I don’t like to choose between brothers, but Jaime Hernandez is one of the greatest drawers of human faces and human want on the planet."
• List:Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge: Only a Poor Old Man by Carl Barks is #39 on The A.V. Club 's list of "most anticipated entertainments of 2012": "Only a Poor Old Man will bring Scrooge McDuck, possibly Barks’ greatest creation, into the spotlight. The bespectacled miser will dive around in his money bin and burrow through it like a gopher, and his timeless adventures will get the treatment they deserve."
• List: Tucker Stone, whose Best of 2011 previously appeared at comiXology, presents a slightly modified list for Flavorwire's "10 of the Year's Most Buzzed-About Comic Releases":
"Last year’s Love and Rockets was a huge deal, but this year’s installment is arguably even better.... Comics has yet to provide Love and Rockets with anything approximating 'competition,' but it doesn’t appear that the Hernandez brothers have any reason to be concerned about that quite yet. They’re still way better at this than everybody else on the planet."
"The big thing this year was watching all the great young cartoonists of the early 2000s carving out their places in the pantheon. Huizenga’s a perfect example — he’s been regularly turning out excellent comics for years now, and yet Ganges #4 still reads like a revelation.... It’s a fascinating experience reading these comics, and they’re gorgeous to boot."
"The continuing adventures of Johnny Ryan’s most violent fantasies run amuck, [Prison Pit] is rapidly becoming the comic that I look forward to the way a fat kid looks forward to syrup-encrusted cake. There’s no getting around the hoary old cliche — 'these aren’t for everybody' — so God help you if you can’t figure out a way to enjoy these books."
• List: The prolific Sean T. Collins, after having contributed to CBR's Top 100, runs down his personal 20 Best Comics of 2011 on his Attentiondeficitdisorderly blog AND at Robot 6, withGanges #4 by Kevin Huizenga at #15...
"Huizenga wrings a second great book out of his everyman character’s insomnia. It’s quite simple how, really: He makes comics about things you’d never thought comics could be about, by doing things you never thought comics could do to show you them. Best of all, there’s still the sense that his best work is ahead of him, waiting like dawn in the distance."
"...[T]he payoff... feels like a weight has been lifted from Woodring’s strange world, while the route he takes to get there is illustrated so beautifully it’s almost superhuman. It’s the happy ending he’s spent most of his career earning."
"Religious fundamentalism... has worn a thousand faces in a millennia-long carnevale procession of war and weirdness, and David B. paints portraits of three of its masks with bloody brilliance. Focusing on long-forgotten heresies and treating the most outlandish legends about them as fact, B.’s high-contrast linework sets them all alight with their own incandescent madness."
"I picture Gilbert Hernandez approaching his drawing board these days like Lawrence of Arabia approaching a Turkish convoy: 'NO PRISONERS! NO PRISONERS!' In a year suffused with comics funneling pitch-black darkness through a combination of sex and horror, none were blacker, sexier, or more horrific than this gender-bending exploitation flick from Beto's 'Fritz-verse.'"
"...[L]et's add to the chorus praising Jaime's 'The Love Bunglers' as one of the greatest comics of all time, the point to which one of the greatest comics series of all time has been hurtling toward for thirty years.... You can count the number of cartoonists able to wed style to substance, form to function, this seamlessly on one hand with fingers to spare. A masterpiece."
"The hype and acclaim surrounding Xaime Hernandez’s conclusion to his 'Love Bunglers' saga has been overwhelming, and every ounce of it is deserved. This is simply a phenomenal achievement in comics. A moving, thoughtful story of missed opportunities, loss and eventual reconciliation that provides in many ways a fitting conclusion to all of Xaime’s 'Locas' stories. I’d be hard pressed to think of a better comic that came out this year."
"More than the new Carl Barks collection, more than the return of Pogo, the resurrected, re-appreciated comic strip I found myself falling in love the most with this year was Gottfredson’s plunky, adventure-loving mouse, a scrappier version of Disney’s iconic creation. More to the point, I was completely taken with the stunning packaging and background information Fantagraphics and the books editor put together for this series. It’s new benchmark for reprint projects."
"Three volumes into this grand guginol series and it continues to surprise and delight, this time introducing a new character and suggesting via an end sequence that Ryan has been reading a lot of Fort Thunder comics."
"Incredibly inventive, Schrauwen, like Yokoyama, seems intent on pushing the comics medium into new and interesting directions. But where Yokoyama is concerned mainly with motion and exploration, Schrauwen is concerned mainly with perception and the interior world of the mind. This is great, mind-blowing work."
• List: Also on Robot 6's roundup of best-of lists from its writers, Tim O'Shea ranks Pogo Vol. 1 at #9: "Damn if this was not worth the wait... Volume 1 of the complete syndicated daily strips of Pogo would be enough to put this book on my list. But the fact that Fantagraphics has a foreword by Jimmy Breslin; an introduction by Steve Thompson; a piece on the Pogo Sunday Funnies by Mark Evanier; and Swamp Talk (R.H. Harvey annotations on the strips) is just icing on the cake."
• List: David McKean's Celluloid gets a "See Also" shout-out on Cyriaque Lamar's list of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Comics of 2011 at io9: "A decidedly adult erotica graphic novel with no dialogue, this is the famed Sandman cover artist going at page after page of a sexy hallucination, whipped up by a magic porno movie projector. Dreamscapes with boners."
"After 'Browntown' in last year’s installment of New Stories, there was a worry that Jaime might have peaked — how on earth was he going to top that story? The achingly beautiful conclusion to 'The Love Bunglers' in this volume was the answer. Pulling together strands from Maggie’s entire 30-year history in two pages was nothing short of stunning, with his art as cooly confident as ever, making it a real emotional sucker punch. Gilbert’s work developing Fritz’s movie back-catalogue is a real mind-bender, too, weaving inter- and meta-textual strands together that lets his characters say so much, while saying so little. It is terrifying how talented these guys are."
"Forget Pogo and Carl Barks — we already knew they were classics — the real reprint revelation of 2011 was good ole' Mickey Mouse.... To read these strips is to rediscover a love for Mickey and marvel at Gottfredson's amazing grasp of storytelling and humour, as well as his flawless artwork. Naturally, with Fantagraphics overseeing the reprints, the design, packaging and presentation is gorgeous — a real worthy successor to their Peanuts series."
• Plug: "I’m a little mortified to admit that Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes is my first exposure to Carl Barks (after decades of being interested in finally seeing why he’s so revered as a comic creator), but it definitely won’t be my last. Fantagraphics’ first volume of Barks material is a great place to start; a mixture of epic quests, short stories, and gag strips that are all impressively funny and awesome." – Greg McElhatton, Robot 6
• List: On his Domino Books blog, Austin English explains why Joyce Farmer's Special Exits is his favorite comic of 2011: "Farmer's cartooning allows for her characters to act out their illness and struggles in front of the reader. Farmer's drawing of her aging father is something to behold — it's not Farmer saying 'here is what my sick father went through.' Instead we see a drawing age and wither in front of us, and speak to us with both intelligence and dementia. I’ve never seen anything in comics done with such skill — let alone see a graphic novel (often the territory of poorly conceived topical heart wrenchers) speak about tragedy with so much depth and clarity."
• List: Comics writer Vito Delsante declares Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 the Best Single Issue of 2011 on his Best of 2011 blog post: "The Hernandez Brothers, since New Stories 3, have really created the most important mythology in comics since Stan and Jack (and Steve).... Jaime Hernandez should win every single award in comics in 2012."
• List: We rank 4 entries on Renee Lott's Top 10 Comics of 2011 at her Blogwithfeet
• Review: "I've been digging the new Fantagraphics release Jason Conquers America which commemorates ten years of the venerable publisher's relationship with the Norewegian artist.... My favorite story in the collection revolves around a crow who naps in a bed in a field and wakes up obliviously in an entirely new life. (Telling any more would spoil the revelation.) In 23 short wordless panels, Jason creates a powerful and compelling commentary that proves how powerfully expressive comics can be." – Stray Riffs
• Review: "A new comic from the top humorist in comics is always welcome. This issue [of Tales Designed to Thrizzle] is the usual combination of dada and surprisingly tightly-wrapped narrative gags surrounding the sort of cultural detritus mined by Drew Friedman & Mark Newgarden.... 'Quincy, M.E.'... is one of Kupperman's best strips because he keeps adding new layers of plot to an already-ridiculous story.... I still miss the sheer density of detail in Kupperman's older work that made reading it almost exhausting, but the avalanche of ideas remains intact, as does his ability to elicit laughs." – Rob Clough, High-Low
• Review: "...Prison Pit... [is] a marriage of pro wrestling, manga, bromance and filth.... Johnny Ryan has an almost Kirbyesque level of character design, but with obviously more genitalia, and it can at times be a joy just to see what is going to come on the next page.... Johnny Ryan is a cartoonist at the top of his game right now and he may just be the closest thing the comic world has to marmite." – Taylor Pithers, The Weekly Crisis
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks with Todd DePastino, biographer of Bill Mauldin and editor of our Willie & Joe books. Spurgeon says Willie & Joe: Back Home is "one of my three favorite comics-related books from 2011, and, I think, one of the year's best." From DePastino: "When I look at these cartoons, I think of literary critic Dominic LaCapra's claim that some books are good to think about and a very few are good to think with. Mauldin's postwar cartoons are good to think with. They not only provide a window to the times, like, say, good photographs or reporting might, but they also raise fundamental questions and issues that are with us still."
• Review: "These comics are beautiful. Each single-panel comic is blown up to a full page, so that Mauldin’s artistry can truly (and easily) be admired without squinting. The sentiments expressed are astonishing and bravely progressive for the time.... I’d never thought or heard about the poor reception combat vets received after WWII. (I mistakenly thought that only happened to our soldiers after the Vietnam War.) I wish I knew what they experienced. I’ll settle for giving [Willie & Joe: Back Home] to the next WWII vet I meet and hope that it sparks a conversation." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• List:USA Today's pop culture maven Whitney Matheson starts counting down her People of the Year at Pop Candy, with Jim Woodring kicking things off at #100 ("This year the artist constructed a seven-foot-long fountain pen that even Lloyd Dobler would be proud to own") and Leslie Stein coming in at #78 ("She had me at the talking guitar: The Brooklyn-based cartoonist's Eye of the Majestic Creatureprovided a joyous reading experience")
• List (Audio): Jim Woodring's Congress of the Animals and Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit Book 3 are among the books discussed by Inkstuds host Robin McConnell and his guests Tim Hodler, Joe McCulloch and Matt Seneca for his "Best of 2011 with the Critics" episode
• List: Librairie Drawn & Quarterly's Jade names her Top 5 Books of 2011 on the 211 Bernard blog: "Thirty years after the first Love and Rockets issue, the Hernandez Brothers continue to impress with some of their best work to date in Love and Rockets: New Stories #4. Both brothers produce storylines that are absolutely amazing... I can’t even begin to imagine what these guys will come up with next."
• Review:The Seattle Times' Mary Ann Gwinn looks at Pogo Vol. 1 and the "Playing Possum" exhibit at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery: "Kelly had an uneasy relationship with the newspapers that ran the strip. Though Pogo was hilarious, it could also be extremely pointed. Fantagraphics curator Larry Reid says the Hoover strips, featuring a bulldog with an uncanny resemblance to the FBI director, aggravated Hoover no end. 'He was driven to distraction' by the notion that the strips had hidden messages embedded in them, says Reid. 'He had cryptographers trying to decipher swamp talk.'"
• Review: At Artdish, Gary Faigin also looks at "Playing Possum": "Kelly was both famous and honored in his lifetime (over 50 collections of Pogo were published, and the strip appeared in most major newspapers), but just enough time has passed since his demise in 1973 that many people, younger ones especially, are not familiar with his work. While that’s a good reason to celebrate the Pogo show and book launch at the Fantagraphics Gallery this month, an even better reason is the opportunity to be reminded how fresh, lively, and relevant his work is, decades after it first appeared."
• Review: "These are deeply strange short stories [in The Man Who Grew His Beard], centered on ideas and effects I’m not sure I’d have come up with even with the proverbial infinite number of monkeys at my disposal; even in this short-story-saturated alternative comics climate, there’s nothing else like his gestalt of finely calibrated nonsense. It’s good to see that comics can do things you’d never think to ask of them in the first place." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Review: "Although Barks didn’t create Donald Duck, it is his interpretation that probably resides in most people’s memories.... Donald in the animated shorts was a hot-headed buffoon. Barks’ Donald was an actor called upon to play whatever role Barks needed: from exasperated parent to worldly adventurer. It was Barks’ duck comics that spurred my early interest in sequential storytelling, and probably my love of reading in general." Norman Cook, Axolotlburg News
• Review: "Love & Rockets is the only series that I don't mind purchasing and repurchasing in multiple editions... I like the way that Jaime Hernandez's stories read in different configurations. Approaching his little slices of life through flashback or in different sequences lets little details, the sort of which most readers probably miss the first time around, take new shapes and new levels of importance. I really love these paperback editions... As ever, there's just a tiny hint of extra-normal fantasy at work in the stories [in Penny Century], just enough for readers to accept that there's something very strange over the horizon or in Izzy's psyche, but never enough to overwhelm the wonderful, human reality of these beloved characters. Highly recommended for older readers." – Grant Goggans, The Hipster Dad's Bookshelf (via The Comics Reporter)
• List:About.com Manga's 2011 Best New Manga, as selected by Deb Aoki, includes Shimura Takako's Wandering Son Vol. 1 as Best New Seinen/Josei: Slice of Life: "Gender-bending is not unusual in manga, but it's rare to see transgender identity issues depicted realistically, not just as a plot gimmick. With her spare, elegant art and slice-of-life storytelling, Shimura tells a sweet and sensitive coming-of-age tale that opens your eyes and your heart to these kids and their unusual, but very real desires to be the boy/girl they know they really meant to be."
• Review: "This giant gift-book portfolio of [Jack] Davis' work reflects the high standard of design and archival presentation that is Fantagraphics' specialty.... There is a brief, punchy, informative introduction by fellow illustrator and conceptual designer William Stout, as well as a longer biographical essay at the end of the book by The Comics Journal's Gary Groth. Between these two helpful pieces are nearly 200 pages of uninterrupted artwork. The reproductions are assisted by the book's large 10-by-13-inch trim size. The size is indicative of Davis' influence, and it affords readers a panoramic view of the evolution and contributions of one of this country's most recognizable and influential cartoonists." – Casey Burchby, SF Weekly
• Review: "One thing that stories in Belgian cartoonist Olivier Schrauwen’s The Man Who Grew His Beard share is that they question their own form — and they usually feature bearded men who draw — but otherwise resist association.... So many storytellers are lauded for creating worlds so believable that they cause readers to forget. Presumably, readers forget their own realities, and become absorbed in the author’s imagined product. Schrauwen creates new worlds in every story, and these worlds envelope us, but he never allows us to forget. He doesn’t let us forget that he’s an artist, and that we are readers, and that those are his pencil lines and paint strokes on the page we’re reading. And this reminder of the form and experience is exactly what makes his stories seem so real. They refuse to deny the process with which we all struggle if rarely acknowledge, and that is the process of continually framing and creating the world in which we live." – John Dermot Woods, The Faster Times
• Review: "Accompanied by cheeky illustrations, Twain's narrative traipses from Gatsbyesque Jazz Age parties to hanging out with space robots to shrinking and befriending sentient ants. The tone is authoritative yet absurd, like your father telling you that he was definitely in an acid-induced threesome with Jessica Lange in the '70s. It's a silly and ironic romp..." – Grace Bello, Bookslut
• Review: "The material has been referred to by some as 'dark,' but I disagree. It’s not cute. It’s not really intended for kids. There are big laughs in Nuts, but they come from the reality of being a kid in America, and how disillusionment came with the territory when you embarked on the road to adulthood." – Rob Bradfield, Examiner.com
• Feature: Comics Alliance's Chris Sims has a fun spotlight on a seasonal Carl Barks story in Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes: "...'The Golden Christmas Tree' might just take the fruitcake. After all, most of the other Christmas stories I've read don't involve a harvest of tears or someone turning into a woodchipper."
• Plug: "Fantagraphics have released two books in the last few years of Fletcher Hanks's fantastically strange comics. His work was around in the early twentieth century and it’s brimming with personality and energy. The books bring together some amazing stories and I can’t recommend them enough. Prepare to have your mind blown." – Jack Teagle, Lost at E Minor