• Review: "Many books have been written about World War I, but few can truly worm their way into your head like Jacques Tardi’s It Was the War of the Trenches. … The tales here are devastating and heartbreaking, and often disturbing, but readers will nonetheless have a hard time putting it down." – Holly Scudero, Sacramento Book Review
• Review: "Perhaps there is something in Charlie Brown, that the longer I read his adventures, the more I become a fatalist. I look at the history of Europe and I know that there are frequent periods of relative peace, such as the past 60 years in Poland. And since they are rare, sooner or later they can suddenly end." – Konrad Hildebrand, Motyw Drogi (translated from Polish)
• Review: "This, then, was my introduction to the idiosyncratic and fantastically imagined worlds of Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. ... While the stories and art of each Hernandez brother is unique, they shine extra bright by being juxtaposed, one to the other. Altogether: these rambling, lingering tales are bewitching." – Anna Clark, Isak
• Review: "...[In A Mess of Everything, Miss] Lasko-Gross covers the usual Holden Caulfield territory with brevity and an eye for detail. Her cartooning is very expressive and the book is coloured in subdued wash-like tones of brown, grey and blue that enhance the emotional impact of her cringe-worthy struggles for independence and individuality." – Bryan Munn, Sequential
• Plug: "[Roberta] Gregory is the cartoonist responsible for the comic series Naughty Bits, which is one of the best comic series I've ever read. Seriously, Life's a Bitch is one of my favorite comics ever. It's basically a biography of one normal — albeit kinda hateful — woman, and it's insightful, funny, and true." – Paul Constant, The Stranger (previewing an event on Saturday that, alas, we didn't know about in advance)
• Reviewer:Laura Warholic author Alexander Theroux looks at a new biography of Jack London for The Wall Street Journal: "Readers can be pardoned for thinking it seems not improbable that London, given the chance, would punch Mr. Haley in the nose."
Online Commentary & Diversions (through yesterday; we're a bit behind):
• Review: "...[E]ven [Basil Wolverton]'s throwaway work — in this case, half-page gag strips (emphasis on the 'gag') that appeared in Fawcett's Captain Marvel titles during and after World War II — is fully worthy of rediscovery. Like a Bizarro Dr. Seuss, Wolverton packs each Culture Corner with goofy, rhyming advice... While silly and inconsequential, these strips revel in the subversive, surrealist glee that would develop more fully in Wolverton's later output for Mad and others, a style that would help unlock the inner cretin inside everyone from Robert Crumb to Peter Bagge. ...Fantagraphics has to be applauded for tenaciously keeping Wolverton and his eye-gouging, subliminally influential work from slipping through the cracks of comics history. [Grade] B+" — The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Tardi’s [It Was the] War of the Trenches is the most powerful comic I’ve read on World War One since Charley’s War... The black and white art is perfectly suited to the era being covered... while Tardi, not for the first time, proves himself a master of expression, the looks on the faces of the men caught up in the war speaking absolute volumes... It’s a hugely powerful work, both moving and horrific and filled with anger for the suffering and injustices one group of ‘civilised’ humans can visit upon another... [A]s the last voices of those who were actually there are fading into silence works like this are needed to remind us of the monstrous acts we can be capable of in service to the beasts of jingoism and nationalism and hubris, that we should read them and take cautionary lessons from them. Never forget." – Joe Gordon, The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log
• Interview:Avoid the Future has an illuminating talk with Joe Daly: "The environment is surreal, in that it combines the fantastical with the urbane. I try to meld these two sides together into a continuum that supports both the phantasmagoric and the banal, in a naturalistic kind of way. On a conceptual level, I’m also interested in combining extreme stupidity with a bit of cleverness (which the title ‘Dungeon Quest’ is supposed to invoke)." There's also a glimpse of Dungeon Quest Book 2!
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon grills Ben Schwartz, editor of The Best American Comics Criticism, saying "It's the kind of volume that starts fights... but that's okay and it's part of the fun. There's a lot of good work in the book and one or two absolutely inspired choices. Anyone with an interest in comics should at least give it a flip-through, and anyone with an interest in writing about the medium should use it as a springboard to discover a host of excellent new favorites." Schwartz on pitching the book: "Gary was the most skeptical. Early on he asked me if I seriously thought I could fill a whole book with good writing on comics. He sent me his essay 'The Death of Criticism.' Nice to know that's on your publisher's mind!"
• Interview: Canada's National Post has a Q&A with TCAF special guest Jim Woodring: "My name is Jim Woodring and I’m a cartoonist. I’m going to TCAF by invitation, with an assist from Fantagraphics Books, my publisher. I have a new book out called Weathercraft and I’m going to answer questions about it.
• Plugs: At The Cool Kids Table, Rickey Purdin runs down some recent acquisitions, including a couple volumes of Mome ("constantly entertaining") and the Weathercraft and Other Unusual Tales free comic ("...this free sample is PROBABLY about to set me on a path of Woodring fanaticism. Well played, Fantagraphics.")
• Plug: "Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle is that rarest of comic books: It's actually, genuinely a comic experience, with several guaranteed laugh-out-loud moments per issue." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
Residents of California will soon be able to have a beagle doing a happy dance on their bumpers. The State of California, United Media, the Charles M. Schulz Museum and the California Association of Museums have teamed up to create this Snoopy license plate, with proceeds going toward supporting California museums. You can get more info, and California drivers can pre-register, at snoopyplate.com.
• Review: "The latest (13th) volume of Fantagraphics BooksThe Complete Peanuts: 1975 - 1976 is a delightful visit with that 'round headed kid' and his friends. ... The cartoons Schulz produced in 1975 and 1976 feature more lighthearted and sillier touches than usual; we are even privy to the thoughts of inanimate objects such as the school building and the pitcher’s mound. Some highlights include Charlie Brown meeting his idol, Joe Shlabotnik; sister Sally’s trials in the classroom; Peppermint Patty enrolling in a private school (not knowing it’s a dog obedience school); and the gang’s continuing efforts to play a baseball game. ... Fantagraphics has won numerous awards for this series and they deserve them all for creating such a wonderful archive of this American treasure. This series is a must have for any Peanuts fan and can be enjoyed by the whole family. I wouldn’t miss a volume." – Rich Clabaugh, The Christian Science Monitor
• Review: "Despite a slow start through [You Are There] grows in absurd outcomes of the last chapters, and the script of Forest serves as a humorous critique the excessive attachment to material things of people. Jacques Tardi draws so realistic objects and scenes while portraying the characters so cartoonish and fun. This combination of caricature and realism, though not anything groundbreaking, is executed with great talent by Tardi." – Gustavo Guimarães, Top Comics (forgive the slightly awkward autotranslation)
• Plugs: At Robot 6 Chris Mautner takes you to "Comics College" and schools you on the comics oeuvre of the prolific Lewis Trondheim, saying "both Harum Scarum and The Hoodoodad remain supremely entertaining tales featuring McConey, Trondheim's shy, nonplussed, anthropomorphic rabbit and his friends," and saying of The Nimrod "It's a great hodge-podge of some classic Trondheim material... including autobio stories, McConey tales and the great wordless piece, Diablotus (found in issue #2). The back issues are available at dirt cheap prices too."
• Reviewer: Your must-read of the day: Guest writer C. Tyler reviews her husband Justin Green's seminal comic Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary for Comic Book Galaxy
• Interview: Talking to Allen Brooks at DCist, Daniel Clowes explains the influence of The Complete Peanuts on his new graphic novel Wilson: "So I thought, what if you took that conceit of these kind of daily moments, daily jokes or just kind of emotional moments and put them together in a sequence that actually had a narrative implied. As you say, in-between the strips, that's where the story's told."
• Review: "There’s a certain exuberance in this book, a zaniness that Schulz follows with fewer excursions into pure melancholia. ... Each new volume [of The Complete Peanuts] adds a new layer of complexity to the work as a whole, and certainly puts the lie to the notion that Schulz had run out of ideas by this point. Indeed, Schulz had nothing left to prove and allowed himself to follow every flight of fancy that struck him, while never completely abandoning the core emotions of his characters." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Peter Bagge’s not-so-yearly update on the life and times of his signature character Buddy Bradley takes up about half of Hate Annual #8... It’s a funny story with a confident, natural progression and some keen observations to make... [T]his is... a welcome renewal of one of alt-comics’ most treasured series… [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "The mid-’70s found Schulz pushing the strip further and further into the oddball, mixing fantasy and reality in extended storylines... The strip as a whole feels less scrappy and more settled in this era, though it’s no less inspired, and Schulz was clever enough to keep working his own state of mind into the finished product. The Complete Peanuts: 1975 - 1976 collects comics clearly drawn by a successful man still nagged by feelings of inadequacy not easily explained away… [Grade] A-" – The A.V. Club
• Review: "Don’t be misled by High Soft Lisp’s cover. This isn’t just comic book smut or an adult version of Archie. Gilbert Hernandez has created some of the most fleshed-out and memorable women in comics since launching Love and Rockets with his brother Jaime in 1981. Their breasts might be outsized, but so are their minds and souls." – Garrett Martin, Boston Herald
• Review: "Fantagraphics’ fourth oversized collection of Elzie Segar’s legendary Thimble Theatre strips, famous as the birth place of Segar’s notorious Popeye the Sailor, continues the winning standard set by earlier editions. ... Fantagraphics’ enormous format remains among the best-looking strip reprints available." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Levin’s is not often a forceful tone; he digs up information and can deliver it in a scholarly enough manner, but also will follow his muse, digressing into dry humor and even an admitted Faulknerian flight of fancy. He’s fully engaged, grappling with the facts and the issues as he uncovers them, and the reader grapples right along with him. [Most Outrageous] is a much more compelling book for the fact that Levin doesn’t try to wrap it all up in a bow." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
• Review: "Of course, the Bradleys story remains the best reason to pick up any of these Hate Annuals, and this time Bagge doesn’t disappoint; even though I still can’t stand Buddy in his Popeye the Sailor look, this story of wife Lisa wanting to get out of the house (since the kid is in school) and do something for herself, eventually ending up in a two-woman rock band playing in a strip club, is consistently funny and sharply observed." – Johnny Bacardi, Popdose
• Plug: In the Portland Mercury, Floating World's Jason Leivian recommends Mezzo & Pirus's King of the Flies for fans of Paul Verhoeven's 1980 film Spetters: "Similar stories of fucked up youngsters spiraling into a black hole of self destruction with incredibly rendered artwork that will appeal to fans of Charles Burns."
• Plug: "If you've not checked out Luba by Gilbert Hernandez, you should. Especially if you live in LA. ... Luba is as funny and delightful as ever in these stories (some super short one-pagers, others much longer, over a hundred stories in this collection) of her and her family and the play between their work lives and personal lives is comical and poignant and over the top in classic Hernandez style." – Callie Miller, LAist (via Robot 6)
• Plug: "I've spent most of this week reading "Plunder Island," the fourth and latest collection of classic Popeye comics from Fantagraphics. This is the third time I've read this material... and it still never fails to enthrall me. In fact, I think Popeye has knocked Peanuts and Krazy Kat out of my personal canon to become my MOST FAVORITE COMIC EVER at the moment. There's just something about E.C. Segar's blend of melodrama, adventure and unrestrained, big-footed comedy that really knocks my socks off." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Profile: "Other comics publishers have fallen all over themselves trying to leverage a hoped-for crossover appeal into the mainstream of culture in the last twenty or so years. Meanwhile, Fantagraphics has hung surprisingly tight to their mission statement. But the bigger surprise for me came from learning that Fantagraphics still runs its publishing operation out of the same full-to-bursting house in Maple Leaf where they first planted their Seattle roots in 1989." – E. Magnuson, In North Seattle (Seattle P-I)
• Contest: One lucky person will win a free copy of The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit from Kevin Church, who describes the book as "beautifully drawn, disturbing and sad"
Every six months I get to read a full two years' worth of Peanuts strips in preparation for writing blurbs for our next Complete Peanuts edition, beginning with the "In our next volume" telegraph-style paragraph for the one headed off to the printer. And even though I thought I'd read pretty much every Peanuts strip ever done I always come across something previously unseen, or surprising, or jaw-droppingly weird. Like, who knew there was a recurring Peanuts character called "Crybaby" Boobie? Not I, until last year!
Well, this time around, prepping our 15th volume (covering 1979 and 1980), I may have been startled at the sequence in which Peppermint Patty gets her hair cornrowed, Bo-Derek-in-"10" style (with a shout-out to Ms. Derek, no less)... and the daily strip (not Sunday strip, which itself is odd) where Charlie Brown tries to kick the football and Lucy doesn't pull it away (he doesn't get to kick it anyway, but you'll have to read the book to find out why)... and the strip where Marcie takes off her glasses and we see her eyes... but this is what really made my jaw drop this time.
Yes, Charles Schulz brought back the mostly-retired Pig-Pen for a Valentine's Day blind-date romance...with Peppermint Patty! Even weirder for a Peanuts romance (at least the human ones), it did not go unrequited. It doesn't last long (although there's a nice little "sequel" to it a couple of months later)... but still.
The Complete Peanuts 1979-1980 will be released in March 2011. Mark your calendar.