Late nite link blogging for your Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "You wanna talk about a gateway comic? How 'bout handing this sucker [Ganges #3] to anyone who's ever had trouble falling asleep? The whole thing is dedicated to nothing more or less than reproducing the mental and physical sensations of insomnia. Ironically it's Huizenga's most action-driven comic this side of Fight or Run or the video-game bits in Ganges #2. ... Combine it with one of the most effective uses yet of the Ignatz series' two-tone color palette--here a cool small-hours blue--and the experience is almost tactile, as though you're physically tunneling through the mysteries of your own mind." – Sean T. Collins [ed. note: I swear I'll have the issue up for presale on the website next week]
• Review: "No one is safe in Al Columbia’s world. Not the kittens (they get decapitated) nor the children (they get baked into pies) nor the bunnies (they carry scythes). Correspondingly, no one is innocent. Grandmothers are evil, grandfathers are greedy, and trees grow baby heads instead of apples and oranges. What a wonderful world it is. That’s not an entirely ironic evaluation of Pim & Francie, a collection of sketches, strips, stills and other valuable ephemera from the mind of Columbia (creator of the 1990s cult classic Biologic Show). The twisted narratives and characters are presented so deftly — with such humor and visual panache — that their wrongness becomes right; and thus is the singular charm of Al Columbia." – Molly Young, We Love You So
• Review/Profile: "Earlier this year, Fantagraphics gave readers the opportunity to encounter [Harvey] Kurtzman’s creative energy in complete form by reissuing a boxed collection of Humbug, his short-lived but monumental periodical that began publication in summer of 1957. It’s Humbug that functions as the spiritual father for magazines such as National Lampoon, Spy and The Onion, among many others, but there’s something invigorating about it because of its vantage point in the supposedly stodgy and bland 1950s. Coming out of that decade, Humbug really did break new ground." – John Mitchell, North Adams Transcript
• Review: "Even though Woodstock casts a large shadow on the cover of Fantagraphics’ The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974, it’s Peppermint Patty who should get star billing. Not to take anything away from Snoopy’s yellow-feathered avian sidekick – who does make several appearances through the hardcover tome – it’s just that Patty eventually gets the brunt of character development attention, while Woodstock exists as the perfect foil for Snoopy. ... Also of note is Schulz’s repeated use of standard gags (Lucy pulling the football from Charlie) along with a few new ones, including the consoling 'Poor, sweet baby.' Because of his tendency to keep running gags contained within a year’s span, it makes a trade collection work better than with most comic strips." – Christopher Irving, Graphic NYC
• Review: "What quickly becomes clear is that the graphic novel is a particularly apt form for inhabiting unconventional characters, and very few do this as well as The Squirrel Machine. Wielded skilfully, images are as expressive as words, and occasionally more so. Rickheit's drawings convey the boys' tortured feelings of persecution, elation and curiosity — as well as their uncouth creative urges — in a succinct and often gruesome way. Rickheit's frames vary from the cluttered to the stark, and his ability to pack detail into four square inches is rivalled only by his ingenious use of white space. ...The Squirrel Machine convinces anew that a picture is worth a thousand words." – Molly Young, Intelligent Life
• Interview: For Marvel.com, Sean T. Collins talks to Strange Tales contributor Tony Millionaire: "Just as you called, I was reading an old collection of THOR... It's funny: 'I say thee nay'? I didn't realize that was such a popular phrase."
Your daily dose of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Maybe it’s because blood and brain matter look somewhat more disturbing in the chunky, primitive black and white favored by famed French cartoonist Tardi, but there’s something particularly creepy about his adaptation of the late Manchette’s crime novel [West Coast Blues] that wouldn’t have been well served by color. ... Manchette’s plot is pure pulp, with a driving engine for a plot and a Lee Marvin-like inclination toward swift and unreflective action. Tardi’s art delivers the action with admirable punch and attitude to spare." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Rock Candy is a wonderful book. [Femke] Hiemstra's work is a tribute to folk tales and surreal nightmares.It could not be better portrayed than how designer Jacob Covey of Fantagraphics has done it.This compact book, in style with Hiemstra's art, depicts her imaginative work in a playful way.Sketches, examples and inspirations then give a look behind the scenes how Hiemstra's childhood dreams and nightmares are established.An absolute must!" – Cadoc.nl (translated from Dutch)
• Plugs: At Robot 6, Sean T. Collins runs down his SPX haul, including a bunch of our Ignatz Series titles
• (Wild) Things to see: Vice magazine has a series of strips they commissioned to tie in with the Where the Wild Things Are movie by some of our favorite cartoonists selected by Johnny Ryan; Josh Simmons contributed this strip and reveals a different one that was rejected (for PG-13 gore)
• Review: "The graphic novel, it turns out, is a form especially well-suited to the noir genre. Maybe this isn’t surprising — comics have always run the gamut of moods from goofy to autobiographical to just plain smutty. But it still gives a shiver of pleasure to stumble upon a graphic novel that captures the hardboiled tone of classic noir as perfectly as West Coast Blues, Jacques Tardi’s adaptation of a 1976 crime novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette. ... The plot includes bursts of bruality, dark realizations, alluring women and grizzled observations from its antihero — all the best conventions of noir, in other words, preserved and reborn in a fresh new medium. File it next to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler." – Molly Young, We Love You So
• Review: "I had a significant crush on The Death Of Speedy Ortiz the summer I was 20 years old, reading and re-reading the serialized story with a passion I had never brought to a single comic story before then. ... I thought it was wonderful that summer I read it 10,000 times, and I remain convinced it's a special story every time I've picked it up since." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "One of the many, many things I like about Kevin Huizenga's work is that a lot of his comics are about things that are not likely candidates for visual representation, and he manages to make them fascinating to look at anyway. Most of [Ganges #3] is about the process of perceiving one's own consciousness--the sort of hyperconsciousness of your own mind that happens when you're trying to get to sleep and can't--which is potentially the least interesting thing anybody could draw. And it looks fantastic..." – Douglas Wolk, The Savage Critics
• Review: "[Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938] is gorgeous. ... [Hal] Foster is frequently cited as an influence on other great cartoonists, and part of it is his precise line and the way he builds a convincing world from authentic architecture, clothing and armaments. That's part of the appeal, but Foster also excels at staging. ... Unlike daily strip collections, the full, weekly Prince Valiant page ends up a brisk, headlong read... Prince Valiant is something I picked up expecting to admire. I had no idea I would love it. – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
• Review: "Although far from all the artists represented in the new anthology From Wonderland with Love are so experimental with form and content that you must ask yourself if this can really still be termed comics, it is truly the cream of the crop who are assembled here. This collection offers a great perspective on how broad and versatile the talent pool is in Denmark." – Torben Rølmer Bille, Kulturkapellet (translated from Danish)
• Interview: At Largehearted Boy, author Jami Attenberg talks to Ellen Forney, saying "This mixture of openness and strength makes her work... extremely powerful and relatable, and probably very necessary for your bookshelf." From Ellen: "Sometimes I have to reflect and remind myself that I do have many more skills and more experience in my repertoire at this point, and to appreciate that the challenges don't freak me out so much. Still, some challenges are exhilarating and some are a pain in the ass."
• Commentary: At Comics Comics, Dash Shaw comments on and posts a transcript of a panel he was on at TCAF earlier this year
• Quote of the week: "Right at the outset of the show, the con's lasting image was burned in my brain: Kim Thompson and Gary Groth carrying a wooden palette piled high with empty boxes to the exit door by our table. They weren't fucking around. No interns, no 'assistants.' Now that's what I call, 'Keeping it Real'." – from Frank Santoro's SPX report at Comics Comics
• Review: "I've gone on record several times here saying how much I love [Jaime Hernandez's] Ti-Girls saga [in Love and Rockets: New Stories] and how it seems to 'get' the superhero genre in ways that the Big Two just don't seem to anymore. All that holds true here [in issue #2] and more, with a wonderful, fitting ending for our heroines. I wonder what he'll do for an encore." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "...[M]oreso than any continuing comic I can think of, Ganges places maximum emphasis on how events don't matter so much in a life as how they're processed, by means ranging from simple moment-to-moment experience to fleeting reflections on whole segments of a guy's youth gone by. ... Literalization of funnybook iconography powers the book's wit -- I mean, word balloons that literally float, ok? -- but it's how Huizenga builds on these ideas that matters, stacking images of thought streams and leaping licks of heartburn and disembodied heads with eyes closed to convey the enormity of a night passing, of conscious thought retreating, like a terrible shift in life itself. ... Totally assured work, supremely technical so as to address the personal. Kevin Huizenga is this reading generation's Chris Ware, and his work cannot be ignored." – Joe McCulloch, Jog - The Blog
• Plug: "...[Mome Vol. 16] verily brims with Renée French, Archer Prewitt, T. Edward Bak, Dash Shaw and new Fuzz & Pluck from Ted Stearn. And it includes two exclusive Cold Heat stories..." – Joe McCulloch, Jog - The Blog (same link as above)
• Review: "West Coast Blues is an adaptation of a 70s crime novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette (Le Petit Bleu de la Côte Ouest), and it is a reminder of how good they did paranoid crime thrillers in the 70s. It is also a reminder of how good Tardi has done comics for forty years. ...Tardi's remarkable energy and range as a visual storyteller... will have you gobbling this book up in one gigantic gulp and then going back to appreciate the details and the nuance." – Jared Gardner, Guttergeek
• Reviews/Preview: The Abstract Comics blog has links to several reviews of the anthology from around the world (and their translations), plus a video preview of the book which accompanies one of the reviews
• Profile: For the AIGA website, Michael Dooley casts a spotlight on Harvey Kurtzman: "Either directly or indirectly, he’s had an effect on everything and everybody: from Saturday Night Live to The Daily Show, from the Zucker brothers to the Wayans brothers, from National Lampoon to The Onion, and from John Kricfalusi to Matt Groening."
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions is a potpourri:
• Guide: Alex Carr of Amazon's Omnivoracious blog provides a fourth opinion (after ours, the A.V. Club's, and Comic Book Resources') on How to Read Love and Rockets, offering these opinions on new L&R collections: "...pick up the recent Locas II: Maggie, Hopey, & Ray and Luba collections. These round up all the stories from Volume Two's respective creators and make for a superb reading experience.... [W]hat keeps me returning to Jaime's stories [is] the affectionate realism in contrast with disparate narratives, characters, and tones. Not to mention his unmatched artwork. And it's all here in the oversized Locas II.... Gilbert's ability to weave the most implausible and bawdy moments (a busty, lisping therapist named Fritz who conceals a gun-play fetish?) into affectionate fiction is matched only by his frank, playful pencils [in Luba]."
• Review: "It’s all classic Hernandez material, but this volume’s key element that really makes the book sing louder than ever is the amount of focus placed upon Ray Dominguez.... Some of the richest material Jaime has ever produced focuses on Ray’s pursuit of Vivian, a former stripper and wannabe actress that leaves nothing but pain and suffering in her wake.... There’s so much good stuff in Locas II, though, that I could talk about it until my fingers bleed.... Locas stands alone. I highly recommend you read it and see why." - Marc Mason, Comics Waiting Room
• Interview: At The Daily Cross Hatch , part 2 of Brian Heater's Q&A with Hans Rickheit: "I guess it’s sort of a digestive process of the brain where you have the end product on paper and the end product sometimes resembles fecal matter."
• Plugs/Oddity: Jog runs down a bunch of our new books arriving in comic shops tomorrow; also, the issue of The Comics Journal with his favorite ad in it is still available if you want to see it with your own eyes
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