September is a-cumen in with Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "[The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book], about a monkey-footed man who muddles around a beach community in South Africa, is amazing... Both stories are laid-back, funny, and entertaining... Totally [recommended]. [Joe] Daly is one of my favorite new talents in comics, and... this is... one of my top five comics to be released this year so far." - Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Review: "You'll Never Know... is a daughter's pursuit of her father's untold war story as she seeks to recover what he has wilfully held back from her... [Carol] Tyler manages to unravel the saga brilliantly at every level of narrative and artistic execution. Basic training for the war, courtship of her mother that happens almost simultaneously, the invasion of north Africa and conflicted events in the artist's own life with husband, daughter and father in turmoil emerge seamlessly. Memory and the present flow together, make sense together... After all this time, the second world war has grown closer to comic art in the best sense." - Paul Buhle, Morning Star
• Interview: At The Daily Cross Hatch, Brian Heater begins a multi-part Q&A with The Squirrel Machine creator Hans Rickheit: "I kind of live in my own insular world. The notion that anyone reads my comics other than myself is kind of weird and mystical."
Going to Burning Man this year? You might be able to hitch a ride around the site from our pal Jeannie Schulz in the H.M.S. Beagle here, reports Dan Taylor of The Press Democrat (via The Daily Cartoonist).
• List: An old link that just popped up in my search feed: ComicCritique.com's Adam McGovern gives out some best-of-2008 awards, with The Lagoon by Lilli Carré tied for Graphic Novel of the Year ("Carré’s artisanal eccentricity carves intricate patterns and masklike faces into pages that stand like the folk-art furnishings of vanished but vivid earlier societies") and Carré tied with Grant Morrison for the M.C. Escher Prize for Non-Sequential Art ("Morrison and Carré are two creators at the cutting edge of both storytelling craft and conversational physics who make us uncommonly aware of the presence of time.")
• Review: "Love and Rockets: New Stories #2. The Hernandez Brothers have been producing such consistently good comics for such a long time that I often feel they get taken for granted. But their recent comics [don't] just maintain their high level of previous achievement, they also have a freshness and liveliness that any young artist would envy." - Jeet Heer, Robot 6
• Review: "More than anything, [Peter] Bagge's work does what it always does with perfection, which is capture people doing exactly what people really do, and how they often think when they think that nobody else thinks that they are thinking it (sorry). His art is constantly moving, perpetually fluid, and instantly recognizable to a 21st century American culture raised on Tex Avery and Bob Clampett cartoons. Whether you agree with his politics or not, Everybody Is Stupid [Except for Me] is thought-provoking and, most importantly, hilarious." - Monster on a Rope
• Interview: The Daily Cross Hatch posts the second of three parts of Brian Heater's interview with Jordan Crane: "The art—those are the tools I use to transfer the story. Pictures, words—those are the conveyance of the story. The important thing is the story, so once I get my tools there, I convey the story in a way I want to."
• Profile: Amy Stewart visited Ellen Forney in her studio: "There are only certain kinds of comics that interest me: I prefer the true-to-life ones that are well-drawn, have stories I can relate to, and make me laugh, cry, or think. Ellen does all three, in spades."
A new week brings an avalanche of new Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Profile: For the Philadelphia Inquirer, Tirdad Derakhshani looks at the past, present, and future of Prince Valiant: "The release Tuesday of Prince Valiant, Vol. 1: 1937-1938, the first in a new series of gorgeously printed, hardcover Valiant collections from Fantagraphics Books, served as a bittersweet reminder of the century-long rise and eventual decline of a great American art form, the comic strip."
• Review: "...Al [Columbia] decided to dredge up old ghosts, unfinished pieces, trifles he had thrown away then reconsidered and offered them up to us as proof that he hasn’t forgotten us. This 240-page book [Pim and Francie: The Golden Bear Days, Fall 2009]... has certainly filled in some gaps for me as to what goes on in Columbia’s mind... There seems to be something both amazing and horrifying around every corner, in any dark space, in the thick of the forest, in the bulbous eyes of maniacal creatures and the straight realistic lines of buildings that all have a dark window somewhere... It is truly a viscous treat and I am sure this one will never wash off." - Rachael M Rollson, Panel to Panel
• Review: "Though Low Moon doesn’t have the slow-building impact of Jason’s longer works, he’s still one of comics’ best storytellers, and it’s always a treat to spend time in his world of off-brand pulp clichés and not-always-so-funny animals. [Grade] B+" - The A.V. Club
• Review: "Jason is an immensely skilled artist capable of manipulating his self-restricted vocabulary to stretch space and time. Low Moon moves in a slow burn as the two antagonists move closer to their eventual showdown. In what is probably the best story in the book You Are Here, time moves more quickly as a father and son attempt to deal with the alien abduction of the father's wife. The father builds a rocket while the son grows up and has a life of his own. Eventually they pile into the rocket, and things end badly, but perhaps a bit more emotionally than with the other stories." - Michael Buntag, NonSensical Words
• Review: "Rage of a different kind in Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me and Other Astute Observations by Peter Bagge. This collection of satirical rants from the American libertarian magazine Reason... is philosophically more about punk individualism than Ayn Rand, and artistically the heir to 1980s indie comics. Indeed, Bagge is an indie star, famous for his wonderfully elastic cartooning style and punk-inflected comedies." - Roger Sabin, The Observer
• Review: "These are good comics [in Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me and Other Astute Observations], fun to read and definitely funny, definitely searing and when he hits a target he gets it right. Also there’s something to be said for the journalist tone of the writing and the structure of the strips would translate well into a proper newspaper, were he so inclined." - Ibrow
• Review: "For fresh talent in comics, you have to go to the anthologies and there's none better at the moment than Mome... the highlight [of Vol. 15] is Dash Shaw's hallucinatory story about a tidal wave, which uses swaths of colour and elongated panels to create a sense of vertigo." - Roger Sabin, The Observer (same link as above)
• Review: "Schulz had gone from a fairly grounded sense of consensus reality to Snoopy's flights of fancy to outright weirdness... That seems to be the essence of Sparky Schulz to me: even with the pressure of the daily grind and his position as the lynchpin of what had become a vast empire, Schulz wrote to amuse himself... At his best in this volume [The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974], Schulz gave the readers some of the best stories of his career." - Rob Clough
• Review: "Ace cartoonist Jordan Crane makes a curious split comic choice. The first half [of Uptight #3 ], 'Vicissitude,' is the opening chapter of a brooding adult tale of marital dysfunction and deceit, while the second, 'Freeze Out,' is a kid’s story, the further adventures of Simon and his cat Jack, who were featured in Crane’s great graphic novel, The Clouds Above. Miraculously, the pairing works — each is superior in its own genre — but you might want to wait until 'Freeze Out' is collected on its own before showing it to your kids." - John Seven, Worcester Magazine
• Review: "Blazing Combat (Fantagraphics, 2009) collects the entire run in a beautiful, incredibly well-bound hardcover book... The stories' tone is very 1960s, ironic with a cynicism stemming from brokenhearted humanism." - Carol Borden, The Cultural Gutter
• Review: "Needless to say, I love the streak of darkness that permeates [Charles] Burns' work. I mean that both figuratively and literally, as his one-of-a-kind illustration style is at-a-glance recognizable because of his heavy use of black ink... That starkness emphasizes the cruel features on the faces of his characters - deep wrinkles, harsh teeth, beady eyes and unflattering noses, to say nothing of the occasional freak. Like the look of his characters, Burns is one of a kind, and Skin Deep is a good introduction to the man's singular vision - a good way to get your toe wet before diving in." - Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: "[A.B.] Frost looked like he was painting with the line…on a half-dozen cups of coffee. Trust me, that’s hard to do... Also, it looks like Fanta-Graphic Books might have brought Stuff and Nonsense back in print in 2003. [Yes. -Ed.] Pick up and copy and be ready to weep - this work is untouchable." - Tony DiTerlizzi
• Plug: "Carol Tyler's You'll Never Know is my favorite book of the year thus far. This memoir/biography/scrapbook is both formally challenging and emotionally devastating. Any critic serious about compiling a year-end list needs to keep this book under consideration." - Rob Clough, Robot 6 (guest contributor)
• Tweet: "Still, the most beautifully designed bk so far this yr is still IMO Fantagraphics 'The Brinkley Girls': http://bit.ly/CSYpH Swoon-worthy." - bookjones
• Analysis: For Comics Comics, Dash Shaw pens an appreciation of the work of Tim Hensley: "It’s like what he chooses to draw in the environment (and what he chooses not to draw) is determined by some graphic Feng Shui. When his comics are at their most beautiful, these environments function both as the story’s world and abstractly... With his best dialogue, a line that you first read as being surreally disconnected on a second reading is funny and on a third reading reveals a wider scope of the story."
• Review: "Yes, both of these books are like kryptonite to good taste. But there are a couple of big differences between what Johnny Ryan is doing in Comics Are for Idiots!, his latest Blecky Yuckerella strip collection, and what he's doing in Prison Pit, his ultraviolent action-comic debut... The four-panel Blecky strips often feel like a breakneck race to the punchline through some kind of bizarre obstacle course requiring the basic premise of the gag to get more ridiculous with each panel... Ryan's rep as altcomix's premier overgrown juvenile delinquent is well deserved--and don't get me wrong, you can absolutely enjoy Prison Pit on that level--but the poetic savagery he depicts here is the work of a grown-ass man." - Sean T. Collins
• Review: "[Delphine], Richard Sala's contribution to Fantagraphics's prestigious Ignatz Series, is some of his strongest and most personal work yet... He sets his pop-cultural influences aside this time to lead us down a grimmer path... As for the art -- well, what can I say? It's recognizably Sala's, and at the top of his game, but taken to the next level, in that the usual precision of his black-and-white work is here inflected with sepia washes that give an added visual dimension to the murkiness of the hero's experience... The heavy dustjackets, with such gorgeous full-color art not only front and back but on both big inside flaps, deliver a lush visual and tactile experience that no bonus gallery in a collection will be able to duplicate... By whatever route you get here, I highly recommend this." - Curt Purcell, The Groovy Age of Horror
• Review: "Even when she's not especially inspired, Dame Darcy creates superior goth comics: cheerfully mean-spirited, idiosyncratically stylish, and oozing with surreal ichor... In [Meat Cake #17], Darcy indulges her goth tropes and her feminism: men are tormented, sisterhood is affirmed, and light-hearted squick is relished by all. And, as always, Darcy's eccentric drawing is a joy, with perspective, proportion, and visual logic all flattened out to fit into geometrically obscure but oddly elegant patterns." - Noah Berlatsky, The Comics Journal (reprinted at The Hooded Utilitarian)
• Plug: "The big story here [in The Comics Journal #299] is Bob Levin's spectacular essay on Michel Choquette and his never-completed comics anthology... Sadly, the project never got off the ground, and Levin details in his typical stellar fashion why and how. It's a fascinating tale, one well worth your $12." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "This is a particularly excellent issue of TCJ, thanks to Bob Levin's magnificent 50-page... history of 'The Someday Funnies'... You really need to read it." - Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
• Interview: Seth continues discussing his design work for The Complete Peanuts in the final part of Brian Heater's interview at The Daily Cross Hatch: "Schulz’s work is right there in the book. Every line in those strips is his. But the design stuff is just design stuff. It’s a setting to put a gem in. The setting is not the gem."
• Things to see: At the Covered blog, Anthony Vukojevich does a Gilbert Hernandez Birdland cover
• Review: "What more can I say about these wonderful [Complete Peanuts] collections? I’ve enjoyed each one immensely so far; they make me laugh and grin and even smirk a little from time to time... Top notch book. You can’t have a much better time than reading these collections. Highly recommended." - Todd Klein (link via Robot 6)
• Review: "[Prison Pit: Book 1] is the best comic Johnny Ryan has ever drawn. And I'm the guy that ranked the last Angry Youth Comix in his Best of 2008... This really needs to be experienced on its own. It's rich, clever, energetic, funny - I don't think I've purely in-my-guts enjoyed another comic so much in 2009... You've gotta see it to believe it." - Joe McCullough, Jog - The Blog
• Plug: "...[O]ur favorite comic book artist is Mr. Johnny Ryan!... Johnny continues his brilliant legacy with an 120 page epic tale named Prison Pit... Next to Jughead, Johnny’s about the best thing going on in comic books these days, so don’t be a chump and wait until they make some perverted documentary about him and he’s some hipster darling! ACT NOW!" - retroCRUSH
• Profile: For the Los Angeles Times, Tobias Carroll profiles artists who straddle music and comics, including Zak Sally, whose "surreal and compelling series Sammy the Mouse, begun in 2007, is a kind of existentialist's Bloom County," plus our pals Archer Prewitt & Ron Regé Jr.
Is July really over already? Hoo-ee, time sure flies when you're compiling Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Based on his research, interviews, and personal experiences in Palastinian Occupied Territories in 1991 and 92, [Joe Sacco]'s comic [Palestine] takes you there and gives you a first-hand account of the atrocities and suffering in the conflict with Israel. He gives you a close up visual rendering of the physical and emotional conditions of the people, who struggle daily for survival... Sacco has rendered the terrible conditions of life into a compelling and sympathetic artistic documentary. It is sad, but most good stories are sad... What’s better, his drawing is detailed and realistic, very approachable and interesting." - American in Auckland
• Review: "Either you think Michael Kupperman's stuff is hilarious or you don't. And if you don't, well, that's sad, because you suck and you have no friends... Kupperman has created a world with its own humor/"Dadaist" vibe, as he puts it in one meta-strip, and no critical breakdown can really relate its LOL-charm... Much of the charm resides in his art, heavily hatched, shadowed, stippled, and Benday-dotted in an old-fashioned style. He slams the retro up against his postmodern wisecracks, and it works nearly every time... This new omnibus of all four of his can't-miss gems from Fantagraphics not only makes it easy to get his out-of-print stuff, it's the only way to go—that's because the reprints are in color for the first time, and it just looks really nice." - Byron Kerman, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "The Wolverton Bible is a collection of drawings that Basil Wolverton did for Herbert Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God. I've been hoping for a collection of these drawings for ages... What a great collection. The drawings are nicely printed, very black, on nice white paper... The book is sturdy and feels good... This is a windfall. It's a wonderful additon to any art collection." - Garth Danielson, Primitive Screwheads
• Interview: "[Craig] Yoe revels in the hidden histories of comics, and not just because they’re money at the movies. In Boody: The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers, published by Fantagraphics earlier this year, the historian has helped uncover one of comics’ left-field treasures. 'Boody’s comics could survive a nuclear holocaust,' Yoe wisecracked. 'Silliness, sex and surrealism. Why can’t all so-called comic books be like this?'" - Scott Thill, Wired
• Things to see: Tom Kaczynski draws Zak Sally (and reports from the release party for Zak's new album Fear of Song)
• Comic-Con/Things to see: Rickey Purdin's Watchmen con sketchbook filled up with FBI artists (Johnny Ryan, Esther Pearl Watson, Jordan Crane) and friends (Mark Todd, Sammy Harkham & more) at San Diego (via Sean T. Collins)
• Comic-Con: Looks like Kelly Kilmer scored a bunch of great stuff at our booth on Sunday
• Review: "The first four issues of Michael Kupperman's awesome comedy comics zine Tales Designed to Thrizzle have been collected into a single hardcover volume that is a superdense wad of funny, surreal, bent humor... This is weird, funny, Subgenius-esque toilet reading that will keep you very regular." - Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
• Review: "Thomas Ott's Dead End, & Tales of Error, (Fantagraphics Books) - This Swiss artist's comics are a moody blend of irony, horror and silence. (Most of his stories have no dialogue or captions.) The stark black-and-white pages - thanks to Ott's use of scratchboard - bring to mind such German Expressionist films as Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu. Like those films, Ott knows how to build suspense and maintain a sense of looming dread as each story reaches its foregone and tragic ending." - Steven Kwan, "Your new textbooks: Comics you need to read," University of Arizona Daily Wildcat
• Review: "The key to [Mome]'s continued success has been flexibility regarding its mission. It's still a place where young artists are sought out and spotlighted... It's also a place where key foreign comics can find a home... Lastly, it's a place where great American cartoonists can publish their short stories... This variety of approaches... positions it as a sort of descendant of Weirdo and RAW. It may not represent the absolute cutting edge of comics the way that Kramer's Ergot does, but it's still the widest available survey of alt-comics in publication and will be increasingly valuable in that regard as it continues to evolve." - Rob Clough
• Preview: The Comics Reporter reports: "I saw John Pham briefly at his studio on Monday. He's a little bit late -- although nowhere near comics-late -- with the second issue of his Sublife series from Fantagraphics, and the original art he showed me was really, really pretty."
• Plug: Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder hypes The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora, relating the following: "Tim Biskup told me the the first time he saw Flora's work (when he was in a used record store) he felt his brain rewiring on the spot, forever changing his approach to art."
• Plugs: Jog looks at some of our new releases arriving in comic shops today
• Plugs: "If you picked up I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! and delighted in the surreal mayhem therein (and who didn’t) you’re going to have to grab a copy of You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! to make your life complete... It’s completely insane and very funny and will probably encourage you to indulge in a spot of unnecessary exclamation pointing... The Summer 2009 edition of MOME has arrived and, as usual, it's packed... Sergio Ponchione's Grotesque #3... is one of those lovely-looking Ignatz books... If you're a fan of weird Lynchian fantasy you should definitely check it out." - Gosh! Comics Blog
• Plugs: "The Complete Crumb Comics, Vol. 9...: Classic Crumb from 1972 and ‘73, reprinted once again. Lots of great politically incorrect material, including Crumb's assault (of sorts) on feminism. All in good fun, of course... The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 12: 1973-1974...: This one contains what I sincerely think is one of the greatest extended stories in the history of comics, where Charlie Brown starts seeing baseballs everywhere and gets a baseball-shaped rash on the back of his head. Hopefully you're buying the whole series, but if you only want one volume, I'd suggest this one. If you want more, though, you can buy the box set with Vol. 11 included... Mome, Vol. 15 (Summer 2009): ...[T]his one looks intriguing if only because it features both the debut of up-and-coming artist T. Edward Bak and a 16-page story by the Spanish artist Max, who we don't nearly get enough of in these parts." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
Rest in peace to Walter Cronkite, who graciously embraced our Complete Peanuts series and provided the introduction to our second volume, and a man who could stand amongst Schulz as one of the great icons of 20th Century America.
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