The Man Who Grew His Beard is Belgian cartoonist Olivier Schrauwen’s first American book after having staked a reputation over the last decade as one of Europe’s most talented storytellers. It collects seven short stories, each a head-spinning display of craft and storytelling that mixes early twentieth-century comics influences like Winsor McCay with a thoroughly contemporary voice that provokes and entertains with subversively surreal humor and subtle criticism of twentieth-century tropes and images. The stories themselves, though each stands alone, are intertwined thematically, offering peeks into the minds of semi-autistic, achingly isolated men and their feverish inner worlds and how they interact and contrast with their real environment. Though Schrauwen taps "surrealist" or "absurdist" impulses in his work, you will not read a more careful and precise collection of stories this year.
The stories included are: “Hair Types,” a hilarious piece that on the surface explores the pseudoscientific classification of personality as a function of hair but becomes something more akin to a fable about self-fulfilling prophecy; “Chromo Congo,” a silent story about two men on safari who meet a corpulent and obnoxious hunter; as well as “The Task,” “The Man Who Grew His Beard,” “The Lock,” “The Cave,” and “The Imaginist.”
Though this is Schrauwen’s first U.S. edition of comics, he has wowed American fans with his appearances in the anthology MOME over the last few years, and one of his MOME stories was one of three comics selected for the 2009 edition of Dave Eggers's influential Best American Nonrequired Reading.
“I don’t know much about Olivier Schrauwen, [but I] know that he’s some sort of postmodern comics genius.” — Eisner Award-winning comics critic Tom Spurgeon
Download and read an 11-page PDF excerpt (2.6 MB) with the complete story "The Assignment."
• Review: "...[T]he cartoons in Willie & Joe: Back Home capture Mauldin at a low ebb personally, and ferociously inspired professionally.... The material in Back Home is bitter but witty, and remarkable for its courage. Given the platform of a major syndicate, Mauldin used his moral authority — as a firsthand observer of atrocity, venality, and want — to try and make his complacent countrymen feel a little shame. Where his wartime cartoons had said, 'I am one of you' to grunts in the trenches, his post-war work said, 'What the hell happened to you?' to the people who stayed home. At the time, the public rejected Mauldin’s lectures. Today they’re a blistering reminder that life after WWII wasn’t all suburban bliss and baby boom." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Told with humor and a great depth of sensitivity, these comics offer a human lens to an epic more often expressed in grandiose terms. Over the past couple of years Fantagraphics has amazed me consistently with its archival releases of seminal cartoonists' work, and Willie and Joe: The WWII Years is yet another fine example." – David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy
• Review: "Toth brought clarity and drama to the page — the equivalent of a top Hollywood director elevating rote material through elegant framing and camera moves.... Nearly every drawing in this book is purposeful and exciting, and they flow together to tell stories so clearly that the words are often superfluous. Setting the Standard is a treasure trove..." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Jacques Tardi is certainly in Toth’s league when it comes to rendering seamy genre fare with real artistry. Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot ... is a wonderfully wicked piece of work, tracking a hitman as he tries to sever all ties with his past and retire with his childhood sweetheart. The story’s a familiar one... but Manchette’s approach is especially violent and gory, with a tough twist ending. And Tardi picks up on the sadness underlying the brutality, sketching a black-and-white world where the choice to go to the dark side is irrevocable, no matter how hard characters work to wrest control of their fates." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Belgian artist Olivier Schrauwen does a fine job of approximating the high weirdness of early-20th-century newspaper comics in The Man Who Grew His Beard, a collection of seven deeply strange short stories.... Schrauwen mixes ink and paint in ways that blur the distinctions between comics and fine art, and he brings back certain themes — instruction and erotica, primarily — that suggest how men try and fail to place parameters on the primal. But The Man Who Grew His Beard isn’t meant to be 'understood' so much as it is to be entered and experienced, in all its wildness." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Kevin Huizenga’s Ganges #4 continues the artist’s increasingly masterful hybrid of direct storytelling and experimental abstraction.... The story suits Huizenga’s style, since he can document both the familiar minutiae of daily life and the sense of unreality that takes hold whenever someone is up half the night. Huizenga works in visual motifs of endlessly branching possibilities and spiraling shapes, showing how becoming 'lost in thought' can be terrifying. In short: This is another terrific installment of a series that’s fast becoming a classic." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Mr. Twee Deedle, Raggedy Ann’s Sprightly Cousin: The Forgotten Fantasy Masterpieces of Johnny Gruelle... collects the strip that illustrator Gruelle created to fill the void left by Little Nemo when Winsor McKay departed The New York Herald. Though not as imaginative as McKay, Gruelle’s Mr. Twee Deedle was every bit as colorful and lavishly rendered, telling gentle fairy stories that explore a rich fantasy world existing in tandem with our own, like children having elaborate playtimes mere feet away from their parents’ more prosaic lives." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club (NOTE: This review was based on samples of the strip provided to the reviewer; the book itself is incomplete and still in production.)
• Review: "...Drawing Power... brings together an eclectic set of examples of comics being used to sell products. The pages are fun to look at — from Mickey Mouse pitching Post Toasties to Dr. Seuss illustrating ads for Esso Marine Products — but the topic is a little too large for a 120-page book, especially one so loosely organized. Then again, maybe that’s the point: to create a reading experience as chaotic and laced with odd beauty as cartooning itself." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "I have long admired Woodring’s brilliant, hallucinatory, and bizarre Frank comics. But his work has taken a leap forward with last year’s Weathercraft and this year’s Congress of the Animals. The Frank world is one the reader benefits by being immersed in. What might seem a bit incomprehensible in a short strip blossoms into a dark Dionysian dream in these two graphic novels.... If I keep mention them together, it is because I believe they beg to be read together. They show different but complimentary sides of Woodring’s vision. And also because these two books combine to form, I believe, one of the greatest achievements in recent comics. If you are a fan of the strange, the uncanny, the bizarre, the hallucinatory, and the fantastic, I can’t recommend them enough." – Lincoln Michel, The Faster Times
• Review: For Magnet, Marc Bianchi of the band Her Space Holiday (they're good!) pens an appreciation of Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts, adding "A good place to rediscover the Peanuts is through the retrospective that Fantagraphics started releasing in 2004. They are complete and total masterpieces, from the elegant layouts provided by famed comic-book artist Seth to the wonderful guest introductions each volume has... If you are ever in a shop that carries these books, I highly suggest thumbing through one of them. Especially the earliest works (1950-1952 or 1953-1954). You are guaranteed to find something that in one panel can tear your heart apart and, in the next, put it back together again."
• Review: "To say that Wandering Son isn't a manga for everyone is perhaps stating the obvious, but despite the potential to make light of its cross-dressing, coming of age tale it proves itself to be an impressively subtle and considered take on growing up within this opening volume. ...[G]ive it time and you'll find an impressive, character-driven series beneath its simplistic surface that will both charm and fascinate you, leaving you rooting for its characters and wanting to follow them through to (you hope) eventual happiness." – Andy Hanley, UK Anime Network
• Review: "Supermen!: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes, 1936-1941 promises to fill gaps in 'the origins and early development of superheroes and the comic book form.' Editor Greg Sadwoski has assembled an eye-catching collection of stories, magazine covers, and house ads showing unfamiliar faces from the first years of American adventures comics. ...Supermen! is most interesting for what didn’t lead anywhere.... Seeing what didn’t work or become the norm can be as illuminating as seeing what did." – J.L. Bell, Oz and Ends (via Robot 6)
• Plug: "...[D]espite his undeniable gift for crafting elegant and vibrant storytelling that transcends all genres, sadly there has never before been a comprehensive, affordably priced reprinting of Carl Barks' Disney work…until now. Fantagraphics Books recently announced that it will begin reprinting the entire catalog of the master’s Disney material, beginning with the release of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: 'Lost in the Andes' by Carl Barks in October, 2011." – Bill Baker, The Morton Report
• Interview (Audio): The hosts of Comics Alliance's "War Rocket Ajax" podcast talk to Michael Kupperman about his new book Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010, crafting his brand of humor and sundry other topics (such as bleu cheese): "It's about things taking the turn that you don't expect, the ball taking the bounce you don't expect. That for me is an example of trying to make the sentence end up in a place that's different from where it started."
• Tribute: At The Comics Journal, Kim Thompson's obituary of Francisco Solano López: "Argentina’s Francisco Solano López was a titan of South American comics, on a level with the great Alberto Breccia, the temporary honorary Argentinean (during the 1950s) Hugo Pratt, and the hugely influential writer Hector Oesterheld (who collaborated with all three)." (Excerpt courtesy TCJ's Tim Hodler)
In a hilarious concept devised by fellow Mome artist Robert Goodin, Fantagraphics artists, employees and friends celebrated the SDCC debut of Belgian cartoonist Olivier Schrauwen’s first American book The Man Who Grew His Beard by adding their own chins to the cover! (But, hey, where's Rob's beard in all of this?)
Okay, we can't offer you the ninety-minute wait in ninety-degree weather outside the convention center, the greasy ten-dollar pizzas, the terrifying crush of Saturday afternoon attendees here to get an autograph from a Battlestar: Galactica co-star, or the sight of costumed attendees who apparently only chose the Flash costume because their more appropriate pick, Jabba the Hutt, was out. But what we can do is this!
SORRY YOU WON'T GET THE EARLY BOOKS?
The following books will have their world premiere in San Diego. If you order them directly from us we will have them sent to you directly from our main U.S. distributor's warehouse where they land on their journey from overseas in August, which means you will be getting your copy a few days before even the first of our distributors get them. (Note: U.S. orders only. Rush shipping not available — choose Media Mail from the shipping options to avoid being overcharged.) To this list we will even add The Armed Garden, The Cabbie, and Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson Volume 2, three books that for various reasons will miss San Diego and thus you will really be the first customers to get!
You can preview many of those books right now here on our website, and the rest of them shortly after our web guy comes back from San Diego! Just hit those links above and you'll see links to download PDF excerpts, and stay tuned for our usual photo and video previews.
Part of everyone's San Diego experience is to ask the Fantagraphics moguls penetrating questions such as "Where the hell is Pogo?" and "Why don't you publish XXXX??" and "Which Jacques Tardi album should I buy first?" For this weekend only, if you have a question for Gary Groth, Kim Thompson, or Eric Reynolds, add your question to your order and whoever you're addressing will personally answer it!
SORRY YOU CAN'T TAKE ADVANTAGE OF DESPERATION SALES?
On the last day of the convention, as Gary, Kim, and Eric survey the piles of unsold books and "God, do we have to lug all these back home?" panic sets in, suddenly fantastic sales deals begin to materialize faster than you can say "HOW MUCH for that Box Set?" Therefore we are not only offering 20% OFF EVERYTHING on our website — use coupon code FANTACON11 at checkout — but a whopping 50% OFF ALL our biggest and heaviest books (see them all here — note that items are discounted 40%, which works out to 50% when the coupon discount is applied) during the convention and beyond, from Thursday, July 21 (that's today!) through Monday, July 25 — and you won't even have to lug them home or pay all those extra baggage fees! We'll send them to you!
Fantagraphics is puttin' the "comics" back in Comic-Con as we head to San Diego this week with a slew of scintillating signings, almost two-dozen dynamite debuts, and a collection of comics sure to please any comics fan... and fill those enormous free tote bags they give away at the door.
Friday, July 22nd: • 10:30-11:30 Comics Arts Conference Session #5: Critical Approaches to Comics: An Introduction to Theories and Methods— Matthew J. Smith and Randy Duncan with panelist, Andrei Molotiu. [Room 26AB] • 1:00-2:00 Comics Arts Conference Session #6: Wordless Comicswith Andrei Molotiu. [Room 26AB] • 12:00-1:00 CBLDF Master Session 3: Jaime Hernandez [Room 30CDE] • 1:00-2:00 Publishing Queer: Producing LGBT Comics and Graphic Novels with moderator Justin Hall [Room 9] • 1:00-2:30 The Golden Age of the Fanzine moderated by Bill Schelly. [Room 24ABC] • 10:30-11:30 Cartoon Network Comedy: Regular Show/The Problem Solverz and More! The Problem Solverz talent includes Ben Jones, John Pham, and Jon Vermilyea. [Room 6A]
• Review: "The main thing I kept thinking about while reading Wandering Son— beyond the continuous undercurrent of general squee — is how things that seem insignificant to one person can be secretly, intensely significant to someone else. [...] The story is subtle, simple, poignant, and innocent. The tone is matched by Shimura’s uncluttered artwork, which features big panels, little screentone, and extremely minimal backgrounds." – Michelle Smith, Soliloquy in Blue
• Interview:The A.V. Club Denver talks to "arguably Denver’s premier underground comic artist" Noah Van Sciver: "People e-mail me to ask if they can send me a comic. They’re sending me these hand-stapled comics and asking me what I think. It’s great. If you’re not going to be paid a lot, you might as well meet like-minded people and start a gang." (Via Robot 6)
• Profile: "Olivier Schrauwen is not the first Belgian cartoonist that I would have pegged for success in the United States, but I'm certainly not going to complain about the opportunities that he is receiving. Since the publication of his book My Boy in English translation, he has published short pieces in Mome and elsewhere, generating a solid buzz for his idiosyncratic take on human disconnectedness. His new book, L'Homme qui se laissait pousser la barbe (Actes Sud/L'An 02) collects a number of short works that have been anthologized around the world, and was nominated for a prize at this year's Angouleme Festival. It will be published later this year in English as The Man Who Grew His Beard by Fantagraphics. [...] L'Homme is a collection of seven short pieces that can be read very quickly or studied for days." – Bart Beaty, The Comics Reporter
• Profile:iFanboy's Chris Arrant profiles Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery as part of their "Publishers Who Have Their Own Comic Book Stores" feature: "Opening in late 2006, this Seattle store acts as defacto gift shop and gallery extension of the long-time publisher's comics line. The store boasts a complete repository of everything Fantagraphics has in print — as well as a number of rarities you wouldn't find most anywhere else."
Stéphane Blanquet (France) Ivan Brunetti (USA- Chicago) Lilli Carré (USA- Chicago) Max Clotfelter (USA- Seattle) Al Columbia (USA) Ludovic Debeurme (France) Olivier Deprez (France) Nikki DeSautelle (USA- Detroit) Brecht Evens (Belgium) Andy Gabrysiak (USA- Detroit) Robert Goodin (USA- Pasadena) Dav Guedin (France) Gnot Guedin (France) Glenn Head (USA- New York City) Danny Hellman (USA- New York City) Paul Hornschemeier (USA- Chicago) Ian Huebert (USA- San Francisco) Kaz (USA- Los Angeles) Michael Kupperman (USA- New York City) Mats!? (USA- Oakland, CA) Fanny Michaëlis (France) James Moore (USA- New York City) Tom Neely (USA- Los Angeles) Mark Newgarden (USA- New York City) Paul Nudd (USA- Chicago) Onsmith (USA- Chicago) Emelie Östergren (Sweden) Paul Paetzel (Germany) David Paleo (Argentina) Bruno Richard (France) Martin Rowson (United Kingdom) Olivier Schrauwen (Belgium) Stephen Schudlich (USA- Detroit) Robert Sikoryak (USA- New York City) Brecht Vandenbroucke (Belgium) Wouter Vanhaelemeesch (Belgium) Jon Vermilyea (USA- New York City)
And original essays by: -Jeet Heer (Canada), on S. Clay Wilson -Bob Levin (USA- Berkeley, CA), on The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-Geist by Michael O’Donoghue and Frank Springer -Ken Parille (USA- Greenville, NC), on humor in the work of Steve Ditko -Ryan Standfest (USA- Detroit), on Al Feldstein and “sick” humor at E.C. + interview with Al Feldstein
And a text by: Roland Topor (France), 100 Good Reasons To Kill Myself Right Now, translated into English for the first time by Edward Gauvin
Here's video in two parts of a 2009 screening of Olivier Schrauwen's animated short film "Der Hipster" with live musical introduction and accompaniment by Bram Devens. I think there might be some cultural humor that went over my head, but there are some funny visual jokes and the punchline is really great. Via Dash Shaw at his The Ruined Cast blog.
• List (Audio): On the Inkstuds radio programme, listen to Chris Butcher, Bill Kartalopoulos, Tucker Stone and host Robin McConnell discuss the Best of 2010, including Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 by the Hernandez Brothers — we haven't had a chance yet to listen ourselves but Robot 6 reports that Stone in particular has good comments on L&R
• List: At TIME.com – Techland, Douglas Wolk lists "15 Excellent Things Happening in Comics Right Now." First on the list: Jim Woodring's Nibbus Maximus and the coming of his Congress of the Animals ("If you are wise, you will not miss it"). Third on the list: "Cathy Malkasian's Temperance came out in the middle of last year, and I still don't know quite what to make of it, which is probably a good sign. [...] It's lovely to behold, rather difficult, terribly sad, very frustrating in some ways, and absolutely worth looking at."
• Review: "Since the appearance of Hey Wait…, Jason's first book to be translated into English, the Norwegian-born cartoonist has remained one of the most distinctive voices in comics. What I Did is the latest omnibus collection of Jason's work… into a beautiful hardcover volume… Grade: A" – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle
• Review: "Stacked with surprising twists and intricate plotting, [The Search for] Smilin’ Ed revels in Deitch’s increasingly complex personal universe, threading new characters into the established histories of his previous protagonists. Densely detailed and creatively laid out, the art can absorb a reader’s eye for days, with tons of nods, winks and subtle touches embedded in nearly every scene." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Steve Ditko has produced a disproportionate amount of my favourite, formative fiction over the decades. His is a unique voice wedded to an honest heart blessed with the captivating genius of a graphic master. The tales [in The Ditko Collection Vol. 2] have seldom been seen elsewhere; never often enough and always with little fanfare. If you can find this volume and its predecessor you’ll see a lot of his best work, undiluted by colour, and on lovely large white pages. Even if you can’t find these, find something – because Steve Ditko is pure comics." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Coming Attractions: At Robot 6, Chris Mautner looks at "Six potentially great 2011 comics you haven't heard of," leading off with The Man Who Grew His Beard by Olivier Schrauwen (coming in late Summer): "If you’ve had the lucky opportunity to read Schrauwen’s My Boy, or perused his work in the anthology Mome, then you’ll know this Belgian artist is the real deal — a true, utterly unique and frequently inspired cartoonist who draws upon century-old cartooning styles (McCay, Outcault) to create something contemporary and frequently bizarre."
• Coming Attractions: At Examiner.com, Richard Lipski looks ahead to our Fall 2011 publication of Oil & Water, a chronicle of the Gulf Coast post-Deepwater Horizon oil spill, written by Steve Duin and drawn by Shannon Wheeler