• Review: "Fantagraphics, always a publisher you can count on to rescue classic comic material from oblivion, has published a gorgeous 288 page hardcover archive edition of Mickey [Mouse]'s earliest serialized comic strip adventures and he's quite a different character than we know today...a little rambunctious, a little mischievous, and a whole lot of fun. This book takes readers on a glorious ride through depression-era adventures as Mickey battles villains, becomes a fireman, visits a circus, and meets his faithful pup Pluto for the first time. Besides the many great comic strips, Fantagraphics has filled the book with a ton of supplemental material... This is an absolute must-have for any Mickey Mouse fan. Grade A" – Tim Janson, Mania
Burgas: "McKean’s art is astounding, as it always is. He moves from his very rough pencil work that he used on Cages and moves quickly into a multimedia extravaganza, with photographs interspersed with film reels (more photographs, of course, but used in a different way) and paintings and more detailed pencil work. The colors are magnificent, too... It’s an astonishing work of art, to be sure..."
Thompson: "I agree that the success of this book is in that it is beautiful from cover to cover. As a rule I tend to prefer McKean’s very rough pencil work, though I very much appreciate the layering mixed media styles he uses, and I found all of it very beautiful and successful in that way. I was impressed with the color choices and the really wonderful cubist look he achieved for some of the work, and some of the mixed media he used toward the end was some of my favorite in the book period.... After discussing it, I feel more pleased with the book as a whole because I’ve been forced to admit that I don’t recall seeing many more effective executions of erotic subject matter as a legitimate work of art in this way..."
Burgas: "What is compelling about Celluloid is that McKean tackles a difficult subject and elevates it beyond a simple porn comic. I think the very fact that Celluloid makes you wonder about sex in many of its iterations is impressive. As you can see, both Kelly and I had our issues with it, but it’s a gorgeous comic nevertheless. It’s definitely something that you don’t see every day!"
• Review: "I have the impression that Lewis Trondheim is the most important European artist of his generation. Such is the creativity and productivity and so the breadth of his work that, for me at least, wins the title deservedly. Approximate Continuum Comics... is the first part of Trondheim's autobiographical adventures.... The brilliant humour of Trondheim, his sharp-tongued reason, the way with which it shows the mix of imagination with reality. Equally impressive is the effortless way in which the most espressive artwork works serving the story." – Aristides Kotsis, Comicdom (translated from Greek)
• Review: "Bell does the best job of any attempt I've ever seen to bring together everything we know about Ditko's life and work. The result [Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko] is fascinating, frustrating and eventually presents a sad portrait of an immense talent that withdrew from the world and denied it of his work and himself of the audience, acclaim and success that was easily within his grasp." – Tom McLean, Bags and Boards
• Preview: At Flavorwire, Emily Temple shares some glimpses of the cartoons to be included in Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons, saying "Her style is distinctive — the charmingly brusque drawings are cut from linoleum and then essentially stamped when she applied ink to the ridges, and while the content is largely related to her experience as a student, you can still feel the slightly skewed, individualistic perspective that appears in O’Connor’s short stories.... Lovers of her work will doubtless find joy and meaning in her cartoons, and other people will probably like them too."
• Preview: Jamie Frevele of The Mary Sue picks up on the preview of Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons, saying "...while not as demented as some of her writing, the dark humor is still there, even in the short span of a single panel."
• Plug: "Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons is the first compilation of her graphic work in pen-and-ink and linoleum cuts. Before her writing career the young student aspired to be a cartoonist, and she developed a visually bold and eye-catching style. The results are witty and acid comments on campus life and American culture that show O'Connor developing her own acerbic point-of-view." – M. Bromberg, BellemeadeBooks
• Interview (Audio): Kevin Avery, author/editor of Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson, is a guest on the Rockcritics Podcast. Host Scott Woods says "I’ve mentioned a few times here already Kevin Avery’s wonderful book, Everything is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson. Half a personal biography of Nelson, half a compilation of select Nelson reviews and essays, it’s one of the finest books I’ve ever read about a writer — and, needless to say, about rock criticism."
• Profile: "[Basil] Wolverton was one of the pioneers who made today’s highbrow comics scene what it is; his twisted abstract portraiture, all sweatbeads and pleading eyes, floated like a buoy in a sea of banal comic art, influencing kindred spirits like Robert Williams and Big Daddy Roth. Though best known for his nightmare caricatures in the vein of Lena Hyena, his sf and horror work — jewels like the 'Brain Bats of Venus' — is equally disturbing (or invigorating). God knows what brain bat attached itself to Wolverton’s fertile grey matter, but it certainly wasn’t of this atmosphere." – Joe Alterio, HighLobrow
• Review: "Like Saturday morning cartoons, Yeah! was about a kind of science fiction that embraced weirdo aliens rather than science fact. From alt-comix came characters that were outcasts, lived on the margins of society, or had outsider personalities. Instead of being offensive and edgy, this unusual comic book series was imaginative and inventive. ...[I]t was an all-ages gem, and I’m glad that it's back..." – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "How does Peter Bagge stay so good after all these years? Hate Annual #9 was as good as any of the previous issues of Hate (possibly better?). I guess that's why he's one of the all time greats. He just stays good year after year, issue after issue. This latest offering involving Buddy and his wife Lisa and son Harold visiting Lisa's parents in Seattle was hilarious, awkward and sublime! It's a hell of an issue and I want to see what happens next..." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Review: "I was not familiar with Leila Marzocchi's work before [Niger #3], so the subtlety and nuance of her scratchy dark art entranced me right away. It's spooky yet tame enough to remind me of top notch children's book style illustration.... The art is so lovely [that] even when I wasn't sure what exactly was happening story wise, the work on the page was enough to keep me involved." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Coming Attractions: In the latest "Graphic Novel Prepub Alert" from Library Journal, Martha Cornog spotlights a bunch of our upcoming Fall releases:
Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture: A Career Retrospective: "Boomer veterans of Mad magazine will remember Davis's exuberant caricatures, windows into the 1950s and 1960s. Davis also worked extensively on horror, war, and Western titles for EC Comics and other publishers, and his mangier version of the Crypt-Keeper became the character's portrait. Known as a super-fast worker, Davis turned out a huge amount of work, and this collection brings together a variety of comics and commercial art from every stage of his checkered career."
Oil & Water by Steve Duin & Shannon Wheeler: "In 2010, Duin and Wheeler joined a group from Oregon touring the environs of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. And, it appears, theirs is the first graphic novel reportage on the devastating BP blowout.... You will buy this."
The Hidden by Richard Sala: "Classic setup: a bunch of strangers stranded in a diner during a snowstorm, with a killer on the loose outside. And just for extra fun, maybe a global catastrophe in the works.... Clean line color drawings with a tongue-in-cheek feel."
Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010 by Michael Kupperman: "The recent publication of Twain's real autobiography sets the stage for mocking the master of mockery, who surely would have chortled at the homage. This Twain tells of hunting the Yeti ('Come out here and face me, you snow-covered coward!'), meeting the Six Million Dollar Man, having a love affair with Mamie Eisenhower ('Boy oh boy, this lady was one hot dish'), and accidentally becoming involved in X-rated films. Proceed at your own risk!"
• Plug: "From his musings on Hamlet to his thoughts on the TV show Married..with Children, Alexander Theroux covers pop culture, literature, and high art while he takes us on a rambling tour of this tiny Baltic country. Theroux examines Estonia’s language and customs in order to get a larger view of a land which holds a population of less than two million. As he states, 'Seeing Estonia — disrobing her — was my focus.'" – Kathleen Massara, Flavorpill "10 Most Anticipated Summer Reads"
The Online Commentary & Diversions hamster wheel started spinning a little too fast, but I think I've got it back under control now:
• Feature: For Largehearted Boy's "Book Notes" feature, Wilfred Santiago creates a musical playlist for 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente: "Golden age animation has been a big influence on my work and the graphic novel itself is very musical. It would be interesting to see the shape that it would take as a feature film. So here is what the 21 soundtrack would sound like."
(The following links are via the Largehearted Boy link above:)
• Review: "The graphic novel  is a beautifully wrought Clemente collage, following the hitter from the impactful events of childhood through his career as a Pirate and up to his untimely death. While there were several poignant dramatic through lines, the book’s strength lies in its brilliant visuals, which far outweigh its strictly biographical content. In addition to his many other notable qualities, like his humanitarianism and his greatness as a player, Clemente was a beautiful man, with a striking physicality. Drawing on this aesthetic truth, Santiago stuns and heightens it, with an imaginative and dramatic illustrative style, with its palette of Pirates yellow, and orange and black. The oral tradition of myth-making is put into visual form here." – Ted Walker, Pitchers & Poets
• Review: "The comic book biography is alive and well in 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente... In 21, Wilfred Santiago, who was also born in Puerto Rico, uses the language of comic books to tell the story of Clemente’s life as something like the arc of the hero’s journey or as a heroic epic.... 21 captures what made Clemente unique. However, Santiago uses the medium of the comic book in a unique way to tell the story of man who represents the best of us. [Grade] A-" – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "...I love a good graphic novel biography. Well as those of you who are familiar with the great baseball player and humanitarian that Roberto Clemente was already know, it would be hard to tell his story in any media and for that story not to be powerful. ...21 ... is a handsome production... [and] an... EXCELLENT graphic novel." – Ralph Mathieu, Ich Liebe Comics!
• Plug: "21: The Story of Roberto Clementeby Wilfred Santiago, a graphic novel by an illustrator and writer from Puerto Rico, received a nice write up in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated (linked here)... If we could only have found it at the book store. Sports shelves? Graphic novels? You give it a shot." – Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Daily News
• Review: "...Mattotti is an artist who is equally concerned with complex imagery and sharp storytelling — attention to that combination leads us to what makes Mattotti so great. Claudio Piersanti wrote a very crisp script for Stigmata, and Mattotti illuminates the story deftly, probably because he has a real appreciation for well told stories.... If one’s standard for great cartooning is drawing that tells a story without a shred of vagueness, Mattotti’s work on the events described above is thrilling in its virtuosity. But this is a work of art far more potent than a simple story well-told. Mattotti’s two extremes — that of high level storytelling and drawing that suggests unique emotions — exist side by side without any fuss." – Austin English, The Comics Journal
• Review: "While the core timeline of Freeway is only a few hours of frustration spent in traffic, Alex’s mind wanders through past fiction and reality, present fact, and fantasy. Kalesniko, who himself worked at Disney as an animator, designed his main character as an anthropomorphic dog. The result is a wistful, innocent, and somewhat naive protagonist who is coming to the realization that his childhood dreams aren’t quite turning out as he planned.... It is definitely worth the challenge of meandering through the crammed vehicles to reach those poignant moments of Alex’s life, moments many of us share in our own versions of our adult selves." – Ashley Cook, Giant Fire Breathing Robot
• Review: "Less able graphic novelists might scare themselves silly with the scope of this book, but Mark Kalesniko’s attention to detail in all aspects of his craft — the backgrounds, the emotional ranges of the characters and the slow but steady-paced urbane drama — blends the components together masterfully.... [Freeway] is deeply sophisticated and literary. It deals with humanity’s big questions – love, death, life, and what we do with our time. It’s funny, touching, heart-warming, tragic and very engaging." – Andy Shaw, Grovel
• Review: "Gilbert’s sketches actually give an insight into how he feels about his characters, and as a reader, I found myself understanding the characters a bit more, just by looking at his drawings.... The work in the ‘Jaime’ section is quite beautiful and well drawn, however, it does not give further insights into the ways in which Jaime sees his characters, or what he has planned for them... To sum up, Love and Rockets Sketchbook Volume 2 is pretty awesome." – Lisa Polifroni, lisaloves2read
• Interview: At Inkstuds, a 2008 conversation with Johnny Ryan conducted and with illustations by Josh Bayer: "It’s interesting that you bring it up because people always demand that artists deliver some sort of meaning and truth, and when that truth’s hideous they throw up their arms and get upset and have hurt feelings and it’s 'you’re ruining people’s lives.' There’s conflict; you want the art to be true, but don’t want to be shown stuff that makes you feel bad, you can’t make people feel good all the time, it's not true, the object is to make people feel something. There’s no rule that it has to be something good."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch wraps up their serialization of the transcript of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Peter Bagge: "I used to worry about what my peers thought. That’s a big mistake. Never worry about what your peers think, because then you always find out that they would have done it in a heartbeat. [Laughter] If you take anything away from this conversation, it should be 'fuck Dan Clowes.'"
• Feature:The Seattle Times' Marian Liu previews our Charles Peterson: Taking Punk to the Masses exhibit at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery: "'I was wondering why this kid was bothering to take photos,' said Larry Reid, curator of the Fantagraphics show, of Peterson. Now, flipping through the photos, Reid remembers each scene as if it happened yesterday. Drawn to the energy of the music, Reid was a good decade older than many in the scene then. He shepherded the artists by promoting their shows and allowing them to play in his gallery's basement. 'I can recognize the artists by their shoes,' said Reid, looking through the photos."
• Plug: "For a reality check, I turned to a former Rolling Stone colleague and friend who always seemed to have a better line on all things cultural than anyone else around and a way of stating his position in a manner that set him apart, way apart, from other music writers — make that writers, period — of his time, and boy does he put today’s snarky music press to shame. This would be the late Paul Nelson... (Nelson’s life and work are getting their just due in September with the publication of a long-awaited, diligently researched biography by Kevin Avery, Everything Is An Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson. Full disclosure: Yours truly was among those Avery interviewed. But buy the book anyway.)" – David McGee, The Bluegrass Special
• Plug: "I’m in the process of reading an advance of Everything Is An Afterthought, Kevin Avery’s biography and selected works of the music critic Paul Nelson. Reading Nelson’s writing reminds me how of the role that he and other music critics of the time — our own John Swenson included — played in creating the myth of New York City for me." – Alex Rawls, OffBeat
• Plug: "Back in 2003, Lou Reed paid tribute to poet Edgar Allen Poe with his sprawling The Raven, which didn't exactly strike a positive chord with the many critics and fans at the time. Nevertheless, Reed will now be revisiting that album with a new illustrated book. The book, also titled The Raven, was made in collaboration with Italian illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti.... We originally called The Raven 'bizarre and thoroughly uneven.' We'll have to see if this new illustrated spin helps to make the entire album a bit more rewarding." – Alex Hudson, exclaim.ca
• Review: "Clemente blazed trails and provided a role model to millions who needed one. Santiago's work here manages to capture the magic and mystery of that position by putting Clemente on something of a pedestal, but it all hangs together very well. It's exciting and incredibly easy to read. Santiago's art is fantastic. [...] Santiago's 21 is a treat. Its 200 pages fly by, the visuals are great, and the dialogue dead-on. The last few pages are heartbreaking and effective." – David Brothers, Comics Alliance
• Review: "Unlovable by Esther Pearl Watson has to be the best contemporary comic strip. [...] One would think the story of some suburban high school girl in the eighties has been done before. And, yes, it has been done before time and time again. Yet, what Watson does is somehow find a strange world that has yet to be traversed, regardless of time period: it crosses the lines Ghost World drew and that Freaks & Geeks clarified, but it views it through the eyes of a more confident Anaïs from Fat Girl. The result is a brilliant and 'Ain’t Too Proud To Beg' account from a high school wannabe who thought she was — and wanted to be — it all. It’s brilliant: the comic anthology is the best piece of literature that I have read since the last time I read any sort of book in its entirety..." – Kyle Fitzpatrick, The Fox Is Black
• Interview: The subject of Richard Gehr's latest "Know Your New Yorker Cartoonists" column for The Comics Journal is Gahan Wilson: "But the outfit I fit in with instantly, was National Lampoon. That was a remarkable assemblage of brilliant sons of bitches. Its spirit was insidious. It was like being part of a pirate crew. We were like some kind of religious sect. We were out to show the bastards, by God, and we did, very effectively. I just wish something like that would happen again. But there’s no sign of it whatsoever, even though things are much worse now than they were then."
• Review: "...Everything is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson by Kevin Avery — due out this November from Fantagraphic Books — is an absolutely riveting and (I think) important read. ...I'm only halfway through the book at the moment, but I can tell you that Avery has done an absolutely smashing job of research and that there's a lot to chew on here about all sorts of issues... I'll have more to say about it later in the year, when it's actually in print, but rest assured that this would be an important book if Avery had done nothing more than get some of Nelson's brilliant essays and reviews between hardcovers, where they clearly belong, at last." – Steve Simels, PowerPop
• Review: "Ott’s psychobilly sensibilities litter his narrative world with pimps, thugs and geeks; desperate chancers, deadly beloveds and down and outs on the edge of reality as well as society, so if jaded comics fans might feel they’ve been here before, the wider world are still only curious first-timers into a dismal dimension of vice, spice and bad advice. Graphic, violent funny and unforgettable [R.I.P.: Best of 1985-2004] is a special treat for thrill-starved adults in search of something a little beyond the norm." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Commentary: "It's fascinating to see the history of comics play out in real time by reading these 30-year-old 'fanzines' (which is what The Comics Journal was called by pretty much everyone who refers to the magazine within its pages, even though it was already much more than that within the first few years of its existence) and reflect on how much the industry has changed and yet how the same questions and concerns from 1980 still pop up in conversations around the comic book water cooler today." – Timothy Callahan, Comic Book Resources
In the '60s, Paul Nelson pioneered rock & roll criticism with a first-person style of writing later coined "New Journalism." During a five-year detour at Mercury Records, he signed the New York Dolls to their first recording contract, and then settled back down to music criticism at Rolling Stone. Through his writing, Nelson championed the early careers of artists like Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Rod Stewart, Neil Young, Warren Zevon, The Sex Pistols, and The Ramones.
But in 1982, he walked away from it all. By the time Nelson died in his New York City apartment in 2006, everything he'd written had been relegated to back issues of old music magazines.
"My original idea for this book was simply to anthologize Paul Nelson's best work so that today's readers could discover, as I had in my youth, his elegant and brilliant writings," explains author Kevin Avery. "But I soon realized that, in doing these pieces, Paul was ultimately telling his own story. And his story was so damn compelling it was impossible for me not to write about it."
American journalist, biographer, and poet Nick Tosches wrote the foreword to this landmark work of cultural revival, which stands as a tribute to and collection of one of the unsung critical champions of popular music.