Today's (and yesterday's — sorry for the interruption) Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Yes, [Special Exits] is a heartbreaking — even harrowing — tale, one made all the more moving and immediate by the creator’s nuanced gift for capturing the essence of her parents on the page. But it’s also a tale told with consummate skill, filled with mordant humor and real compassion, an almost embarrassing amount of candor, and a deep abiding love and respect for its subjects. [...] Ultimately, it’s these simple and true moments of mundane magic which marks Special Exits as more than just one of the best books released this year. It is, without a doubt, also one of the most significant contributions to the comics medium this side of the millennium, a modern masterpiece which celebrates the human condition." – Bill Baker, ForeWord Reviews
• Review: "Ultimately, ...the book churns itself into a seething sludge of psychic toxicity that’s less a shockfest and more a satire of existence itself. Mercilessly graphic and superbly unspooled, Prison Pit funnels the fantastic, violent notebook sketches of the middle-school miscreant into a funny, pulsing, disgustingly purgative eruption. [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "Prison Pit Two is one of the most gruesome and beautiful new comics I've seen. It's the comics equivalent of Voivod's Rrröööaaarrr. Buy buy buy. Die die die." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "There have been plenty of comic-book memoirs, but few with the complex structure of You’ll Never Know, which seems at times to be rambling from topic to topic with no clear direction, until it unexpectedly circles back to an earlier point and makes the purpose of one tiny anecdote clear. Because this is still a work-in-progress — and an idiosyncratic one at that — it’s too early to tag it as a masterpiece. But damned if it isn’t well on its way. [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "With each passing year, Bill Griffith’s venerable comic strip Zippy the Pinhead gets weirder, moving away from direct social commentary and toward a more abstract expression of Griffith’s worldview. The latest Zippy collection, Ding Dong Daddy from Dingburg, is dominated by a long tour through a town run by pinheads — an absurdist spin on consumer utopia that rivals Superman comics’ Bizarro World for its down-is-up jargon and attitudes. The joke? That this is more or less the America of the early 21st century... [Grade] B" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "The Hernandez Brothers have... been on a constant incline. They never treaded water or plateau'd. In fact this issue, the third issue of the third volume [of Love and Rockets], is one of the very best things they've ever done. [...] This is a perfect volume by guys who've been getting perfecter all the time. [...] At their worst the Hernandez Brothers make work that's merely good and entertaining. At their best they make this." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Adele Blanc-Sec is a sort of actiony, science fictiony comic for people who aren't retarded. It's like a Europeaner Hellboy or Indiana Jones. [...] This isn't my absolute favorite Tardi book — there's slightly too much dialogue and slightly too many characters with mustaches to keep up with — but it's still a fucking masterpiece. Everything he draws and the moods he conveys are worth the price of admission alone." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "In [Mome] Vol. 19, [editor Eric] Reynolds shifted gears and used fewer but longer entries to put together perhaps the single best issue of the entire series (only Vol. 12 surpasses it in my estimation). Beyond its quality, Mome Vol. 19 also seems to be the issue that best reflects Reynolds’ taste as an editor. Reynolds has always been more on the underground side of the fence than in the literary fiction camp when it comes to comics. This issue’s mix of the transgressively funny, pulpish noir, surrealism, scatology and innovation was sequenced in such a way that every transition from story to story was nearly seamless. More importantly, the stories frequently complemented each other in a way that acted as a form of editorial storytelling on its own. [...] Secrets and mysteries are at the core of every story in this volume, and Reynolds expertly put together this jigsaw puzzle of styles and visual approaches to create a coherent, deeply affecting book. It’s certainly on my short list of best comics of the year." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Mome... is where the smart kids with the sharpest pencils, shiniest pens, biggest brushes and best software go to play before they blow your minds in great big award-winning graphic novels. It is intense, sometimes hard to read and crafted to the highest production standards. Considered by most to be the successor to Art Spiegelman’s Raw, it doesn’t come out nearly often enough. [...] This volume is perfect for newcomers to jump aboard... Whether you’re new to comics, currently searching beyond the mainstream or just want something fresh; these strips and this publication will always offer a decidedly different read. You may not like all of it but Mome will always have something you can’t help but respond to. Why haven’t you tried it yet?" – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Jacques Tardi's masterful It Was the War of the Trenches was originally published in Europe in 1993, and thanks to Fantagraphics it has finally made it to the U.S. It was worth the wait. [...] I was nauseated. I was horrified. I was transfixed. Everyone should read this book and relearn the lesson that war is not diplomacy by other means, but the most hellish, useless and destructive tool at our disposal, and should be found somewhere past the last resort." – Andrew A. Smith, Scripps Howard News Service
• Review: "An effective biography and a great showcase of classic comics artwork, [Fire and Water: Bill Everett, the Sub-Mariner and the Birth of Marvel Comics] provides an intriguing look into the life of a man who played an important role in the shaping of the creative side of the comics industry. [...] Abetted by plentiful examples of Everett’s illustrative prowess (both at his peak and when in the depths of addiction), it’s a valuable tool for anybody interested in the history of the medium or the men behind their favorite stories and characters. And it’s fortunate that men like Blake Bell and publishers like Fantagraphics are committed to telling these stories so that we don’t lose sight of our roots." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Do you ever stop to think that David Lynch's work doesn't make sense? No, not in that way — I don't mean in terms of story logic, I mean in terms of his aesthetic/generic approach. [...] Something about what Lynch does, the confidence with which he does it, makes it feel seamless, like 'of course' rather than 'what the?'. Looking at the cover for The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S., I realized the same is true of Jaime Hernandez's comics. [...] He created his own kind of story." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Review: "To call it 'comic book as nightmare' would certainly sound too glib by half and too cliche by whole orders of magnitude, and yet nothing else provides so apt a model for the kind of experience Columbia has crafted here. [...] In short, Pim & Francie is a monumental achievement. Columbia's brilliance is on full display... to some of the most truly dreadful effect I've ever experienced." – Curt Purcell, The Groovy Age of Horror (via Sean T. Collins)
• Plug: "Stephen DeStefano and George Chieffet's new book Lucky in Love was recently released by Fantagraphics Books and I just received a copy courtesy of the artist so I want to plug one of my favorite artists working in comics and animation. As always Stephen's art is amazing. Pick up a copy today!" – Kevin Langley, Cartoons, Model Sheets, & Stuff
• Plug: "I escaped LA for a week and spent time relaxing in Seattle with some of my favorite people. On the way to the airport, we made a spontaneous stop at Fantagraphics Books, a place I never heard of before. They describe themselves as a publisher of 'comics for thinking readers – readers who like to put their minds to work, who have a sophisticated understanding of art and culture, and appreciate personal expression unfettered by uncritical use of cliché.' So, if you’re looking to read bland, mainstream superhero comics, you won’t find them there. [...] If you ever find yourself in Seattle, you won’t regret stopping at the store. A bonus is the record store that shares the same space with the bookstore." – What's Good With It
• Profile: "Jason is a Norwegian graphic novelist/comic book artist who makes the finest short stories. [...] It’s beautiful to see how Jason has refined everything; stripping away anything that could be considered filigree, cutting out any words that don’t need saying. He has mastered the barely story, telling imperceptible narratives vaguely inferred, and a crispness of drawing that ignores unnecessary fill. All that remains is a wry sociopathy you can’t help but fall in love with. Jason is the best thing I’ve come across in the last couple of years." – Gregory Povey, Mount Analogue
• Interview:Comics Comics' Dan Nadel, who says "As a [Mort] Meskin admirer (I put a Golden Lad story in Art in Time) I am thrilled to have a beautifully made book that showcases his thoughtful, vividly executed and highly influential work," talks to the author of that book, From Shadow to Light, Steven Brower: "There were two things that drew me to his story. The first was the mystery of why someone who began so strong, influencing his peers, faded so quickly from view. The second attraction: his personal story. Mort was someone who suffered greatly at times emotionally and overcame his struggles. I felt there was a larger story to tell than just someone who was a very good artist."
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Kiel Phegley talks to Jean Schulz about the Peanuts 60th Anniversary: "I say I'm 'condemned' to keep learning more about the comic strip because I didn't take it seriously enough when Sparky was alive. That's sort of a joke, but it's true. You can go back over them again and again and look at them in different thematic settings."
• Commentary: At Trouble with Comics, Alan David Doane imagines a Peanuts spin-off strip called Shells, sort of a Rosenkranz & Guilderstern Are Dead to the Hamlet of Peanuts
Online Commentary & Diversions, back from a short vacation:
• Review: "In the first volume of Tyler's planned trilogy of graphic memoirs [You'll Never Know], she dug into the eruptive, violent memories of her father's WWII experiences while simultaneously dealing with a husband who decided to go find himself and leave her with a daughter to raise. This second volume is no less rich and overwhelming. [...] While the language of Chicago-raised and Cincinnati-based Tyler has a winningly self-deprecating Midwestern spareness to it, her art is a lavishly prepared kaleidoscope of watercolors and finely etched drawings, all composed to look like the greatest family photo album of all time. The story's honest self-revelations and humane evocations of family dramas are tremendously moving." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "Friedman's hyper-realistic pen-and-ink and water-color portraits of show business and political luminaries have made their way into the likes of Entertainment Weekly, The New Yorker and Rolling Stone over the years, and a stunning new collection has just been published by Fantagraphics Books — Too Soon?: Famous/Infamous Faces 1995-2010. [...] To say that Friedman's drawings are unsentimental or unsparing is just to scratch the surface. Known for depicting every last liver spot, burst capillary and wrinkle, his work is truly a Warts and All procedure. [...] You might say the super-realistic portraits are loving ones, but only in the sense that you love your own family members, whose soft spots and selfishness one is forced to forgive. Drew Friedman's heart is as big as his capacious eye for the telling detail. Seek him out or forever hold your peace." – David Weiss, Life Goes Strong
• Review: "...Four Color Fear offers some of the finest pre-code comic book horror tales ever produced. Extensively researched, complete with story notes, editor Sadowski compiled a superior collection of non-EC tales, many of which rarely reprinted in color. A 30-page cover art section and a fascinating article by historian John Benson, who also supplied the book's intro, about the little remembered, but prolific Ruth Roche, round out this sensational historical tour of the Golden Age of Horror Comics. Highly recommended!" – Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Review: "The wait [for Love and Rockets: New Stories #3] has been long, no doubt, but I dare say that it was not only worthwhile, but it has proved an inspiration to continue to have faith in mankind, because with artists like these, it is worth living. For the third annual issue..., Beto gets really wild and Xaime creates a stunning tapestry of memories and narrative levels." – Mauricio Matamoros, Iconoctlán (translated from Spanish)
• Interview: As part of his ongoing "Love and Rocktoberfest," Sean T. Collins posts his 2007 Wizard interview with Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez at Attentiondeficitdisorderly: "I liked drawing rockets and robots, as well as girls. [Laughs] It really was no big game plan. It was almost like, 'Okay, I'll give you rockets and robots, but I'll show you how it's done. I'm gonna do it, and this is how it's supposed to be done!' I went in with that kind of attitude." (Jaime)
• Review: "Like much of Hernandez’s work, there’s light amongst all this darkness, particularly later in this section of Fritz’s story. But [High Soft Lisp] remains a bleak book, with Fritz’s own cheerful optimism one of the few beacons of hope amongst a cast of incidental characters whose main purpose seems only to exploit her. Hernandez rarely performs below his best and this is no exception..." – Andy Shaw, Grovel
• Review: "Vast swaths of Wally Gropius appear — at least to my eye — to be visual homages to images that Hensley particularly loves. (The alternative is that he lays his panels out in his static, staccato rhythm just for that feeling, which is close to the same impulse.) It's all very loud and manic and bright and bizarre, veering towards and away from coherence often within the same panel. [...] The end result has that go-go energy and restless heat of the authentic products of the era Hensley sets his story in..." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Interview:Illustration Friday talks to Jim Woodring: "Names and labels don’t matter much. Besides, there are things that cannot be said in words. So if you say them in pictures, are they not things being said? If I draw a hill that looks like a woman, it works differently that if i write 'there’s a hill that looks like a woman.' Also there are clues that one doesn’t want discovered too quickly, or not at all. Because one wants the emanations to proceed from an unknown source."
• Plug: "Nate Neal's first graphic novel [The Sanctuary] is dumbfoundingly ambitious: it takes as its subject nothing less than the invention of comics, in the sense of narrative-in-pictures, meaning that its cast is a bunch of cave-people. Cave-people who speak a cave-person language that Neal has invented himself (he offers the translation of a few key words on its jacket copy, but that's it). The working title of the book was a drawing of a bison. A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
The very first Peanuts strip ran on October 2nd, 1950, which means that tomorrow is the 60th Anniversary of the strip! It's been our honor and privilege to continue publishing the definitive collected edition of Charles M. Schulz's immortal masterwork, The Complete Peanuts, and we're joining in the celebration by offering every volume and box set of the series (to date) for 20% OFF from now through the end of October. Treat yourself and your loved ones (I hear there's some kind of gift-giving season coming up) to these beautifully designed and universally acclaimed collections of America's most beloved comic strip. And hooray for Peanuts!
Periodic clips & strips — click for improved/additional viewing and possible artist commentary at the sources:
• Jason presents two cover illustrations: one for a biography of Henrik Ibsen, the other for a 1989 issue of a Norwegian fanzine (oh yeah, and the cover for his next Fanta collection What I Did is in there too)
"Greetings, stranger of the future. If you are reading this, it means the written word has survived, that the world of tomorrow still exists, and that for some reason my ramblings are still considered worth reading. My name is Mark Twain, and I write these words to you in the good old days of August 2010."
• Richard Sala presents a whole bunch of production, concept, and storyboard art from his animated serial "Invisible Hands" from MTV's Liquid Television, in 4 installments (so far) hereherehere and here, with commentary
• Profile:The Stranger's Paul Constant profiles the newsweekly's 2010 Literature Genius, Jim Woodring: "There are only a small number of medium-changing geniuses in the history of cartooning who have managed to develop a singular visual language, and Jim Woodring is one of them."
• Review: "...[D]amned if [Prison Pit: Book 2] isn’t one of the most entertaining, hilarious, and addictively fun comics I’ve read all year. [...] The violence itself is both brutish and ugly, but is direct and unapologetic, and drawn with such passion and beauty by Ryan. [...] It’s over-the-top, extreme, uncompromising, and very, very funny. It’s the sort of book you can’t put down even after you’re done; you just keep jumping around and admiring the stark viciousness that jumps off the page." – Chad Nevett, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "...[Mort] Meskin was and is one of the unsung greats of the Golden and Silver Ages, was influential on many of the later legends such as Joe Kubert and (especially) Steve Ditko (Ditko's style, especially early on, is VERY reminiscent of Meskin), and is definitely someone any right-thinking comics and/or illustration fan should get better acquainted with. [From Shadow to Light] is a very good place to start. It also works wonderfully as a snapshot of a time and a way of life in the comics industry that is gone, never to return." – Johnny Bacardi, Popdose
• Roundtable:Techland's panel of critics (Douglas Wolk, Evan Narcisse, Mike Williams, Lev Grossman and Graeme McMillan) has an opinionated (and spoiler-filled) discussion about Love and Rockets: New Stories #3
• Coming Attractions:Library Journal's Martha Cornog spotlights Stigmata by Lorenzo Mattotti & Claudio Piersanti in the latest Graphic Novel Prepub Alert: "A hand-to-mouth lowlife makes do day to day, and then his palms begin to bleed. This apparent gift of sainthood brings certain benefits, but tragedy as well. The original Italian comic inspired a 2009 Spanish live-action film and was one of British comics guru Paul Gravett's 2004 picks for the 'twenty best untranslated European graphic novels you haven't read' and only the fifth to be translated since. Intense, swirly black-and-white linework."
• Interview: The San Francisco Chronicle's Peter Hartlaub talks to Jean Schulz about the Peanuts legacy and other topics: "I don't want to say the last 10 years have been an awakening, because I always felt that he was a genius. But the last 10 years have been a really wonderful experience for me. And without me realizing it, this museum has been the forum for me to explore all these things." (Via The Daily Cartoonist)
• Review: "...A Drunken Dream and Other Stories... is a deeply impressive — and immersive — piece of work that's full of complex emotional truths. And deep weirdness. [...] I dug this, and I think many, many people not conversant with manga will, too. Stylistically, it's a curious mix: Her linework gives each page a sense of openness, conjuring a world of light breezes, flowers and sunshine, even as her characters struggle with inner darkness. This darkness can take many forms: doomed eternal love, grief, guilt or — in the collection's most satisfyingly creepy/affecting tale — a parasitic conjoined twin. It’s not overwrought or melodramatic – Hagio's got too good an eye for locating the emotional center of her work for that. But it is sincere, and often abashedly poignant." – Glen Weldon, NPR.org
• Plugs: "It’s a relatively smallish week but Fantagraphics have beefed it up with two brilliant looking books. Lucky in Love: A Poor Man’s History is the first of a two-part story written by George Chieffet about Lucky Testatuda, a rascally teen from New Jersey’s Little Italy and his experiences before, during, and after the war. But it’s not your usual take on the old familiar when-I-went-to-war tale... The other offering from Fantagraphics is From Shadow to Light: The Life & Art of Mort Meskin, a coffee table art book, biography and critique of a highly influential Golden Age artist... This book not only looks at his entire comics career which spanned for about 30 years from the 40’s but also goes on to include stuff from 1965 and onwards, when he went on to become some sort of Don Draper character (one cheerily imagines) in an advertising firm in 1965." – The Gosh! Comics Blog
• Plugs: "A beautiful retrospective on the 30 year career and work of an under-appreciated comics legend. From Shadow to Light makes an excellent argument that [Mort] Meskin has a home in the comics pantheon next to the likes of Jack Kirby and Alex Toth. [...] Both visually stunning and gripping narrative-wise, Lucky [in Love] is like an epic feature length classic cartoon with a modern sensibility — in book format." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
• Profile: At The Metabunker, Matthias Wivel profiles Nikoline Werdelin, creator of the Eisner-nominated story "Because I Love You So Much" from From Wonderland with Love, on the occasion of her 50th birthday: "And she is indeed merciless. A borderline if not full-blown cynic, her coldness is tempered by an exacting sense of humor that betrays her involvement. Plus it brings a rare clarity to her vision — she is a diagnostician rather than a nihilist. [...] A cartoonist for our age."