• Review: "Like a Dog compiles several of [Zak Sally's] stories from the last 15 years in one sweet, annotated hardcover. I'm amazed by how the styles vary -- one minute Sally can talk about working in a punk-rock T-shirt shop, the next he's going on about Dostoevsky -- but most stories are quite compelling and, man, the guy is just so cool. Sally is an intensely personal writer, and I appreciate how much he reveals about himself within these pages. His work can get a little messy sometimes, but I say that's just another reason to like it." – Whitney Matheson, USA TODAY Pop Candy
• Review: "...[T]he work contained in [Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1] (and kudos to Fantagraphics on the excellent and handsome production work) constantly reminds you of just how stellar an artist Ditko would prove to be. ... For historians, both amateur and otherwise, who thrill to the prospect of seeing that maturity take place, this is the book for you." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
Huffington Post contributor Michael Giltz writes: "The best way to celebrate Schulz and his work is the ongoing series being published by Fantagraphics. The latest volume -- The Complete Peanuts, 1973-1974 ($28.99; Fantagraphics) -- is a lovingly produced volume that includes every strip from those two years in a handsome hardcover book designed by Seth. Like earlier editions, it's a thrill to read the strip chronologically and in one fell swoop. You get a far better sense of Schulz's creative zig-zagging as he suddenly and unexpectedly finds himself at the tip of a pop culture juggernaut." Read the rest here.
Online Commentary & Diversions observes the U.S. holiday tomorrow and returns on Friday:
• Review: "Children of the early Cold War who grew up with a pre-Spider-Man Ditko will find plenty to love in these restorations... Contemporary fans will no doubt find a lot to like in this volume, as well, both as a piece of mid-century pop-art, and as a first-hand look at the singularly warped sensibilities of one of the artists that would go on to shape the modern superhero book as we know it. Ditko clearly revels in his pre-Code world, constructing giant man-eating worms, and serial killers, and goblins. The artist draws on a broad scope of genre, demonstrating diverse artistic and storytelling talents... Strange Suspense is a treasure trove of weird excitement from one of the mavericks of mid-century comics." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Plug: "I want to marry this comic book: ...John Pham’s Sublife Vol. 2... is so lovely. I have a preview copy on my nightstand, and I just can’t keep my eyes — and hands! — off it." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
• Plug: The Brazilian edition of the first volume of The Complete Peanuts was released earlier this year; Diário do Barão says of it "Definitely, this was the best gift that I gave this year. It is even better than the Transformers Collection Megatron."
• Review: "[Pim & Francie]'s spine calls its contents 'artifacts and bone fragments,' as if they're what's left for a forensic scientist to identify after a brutal murderer has had his way with them; Columbia obsessively returns to images of 'bloody bloody killers.' ... Many of the pieces are just one or two drawings, as if they've been reduced to the moment when an idyllic piece of entertainment goes hideously awry. But they're also showcases for Columbia's self-frustrating mastery: his absolute command of the idiom of lush, old-fashioned cartooning, and the unshakable eeriness of his visions of horror." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "With [Pim & Francie], Al Columbia has created not only one of the more unsettling works of horror in the medium of comics, but it also happens to be one of the greatest myth-making objects... Whether Columbia planned more complete stories for any of the efforts collected here is an interesting question, but for my money he has instead come up with dozens of nightmarish scenarios that have a greater cumulative effect by skipping set-ups or endings. The ending, one suspects, is always going to be a variation of horrific death and dismemberment." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
I knew I was getting off too easy! Nick Gazin is trying to kill me. There are also some negative reviews of our books at the links below, but I won't say any more about those:
• Review: "Fantagraphics has come to my foreign comic book rescue and published hardcovered English translations of West Coast Blues, which was good, and [You Are There], which is great. ... Tardi has nice skinny lines and large fields of black. His architecture and cars and landscapes are amazing. Just the idea of Arthur There running up and down the walls and living in this skinny little house are neat ideas. This book talks a lot about what it’s like when you spend your life alone and how nuts a slutty crazy girl can make you. ... Summing up: If you hate everything that isn’t old timey and French and love sluts who are nuts then get this book fast." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "[Portable Grindhouse] presents the most beautiful and lurid VHS boxes ever produced. ... Someone was inevitably going to make this book and Jacques Boyreau made something special that a lot of people are going to love owning. The design is beautiful, the art is reproduced perfectly, and the paper stock feels especially good. It even comes packed in a slipcase that looks like a VHS sleeve spattered in blood. A well-designed book showing off these funny and beautiful examples of a dead medium would be enough, but the introductary essay is a revelatory piece on the importance of VHS and the role it played in cinematic history." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "[Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1] is chock-full of intense faces and monsters and colors. Strong blacks, horror comics, mean revenge, strange surgery, and stuff. It’s all horror comics from before Frederic Wertham illegalized good-time comic books. The cover is really thick and the hardcover is hard as hell." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "This series is awesome, perfect, and essential. I’ll die with my collection of [The Complete Crumb Comics] on my shelf unless there’s a fire or America slips into a Mad Max-style society. ... These should sit on your shelf next to the complete Shakespeare, your Bible, and the complete Sherlock Holmes." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "...[The Troublemakers] is a sweet little book in which a bunch of grifters try to trick each other out of money. It seems to be about love and trust and whether anybody is dependable or if they’re all trying to survive. It’s pretty great." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "[Prison Pit Book 1] is great and an essential read since so few new good comics get made. ... If you love or hate Johnny R. you gotta get this shit. It is important. Buy buy buy." – Nick Gazin, Vice (new link!)
• Review: "Every issue of Love and Rockets is a winner and I am never bored by anything the Hernandez Brothers do. The comics have been so consistently good since the first one came out in 1981 that there's almost no point in reviewing [New Stories #2] other than to say, 'Hey, it came out so go to the store and you can buy it now.'" – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "Tardi is a legend of European comics and it's wonderful to have hardbound English translations of his work. [West Coast Blues] is full of beautiful drawings of Paris, people, cars, fights, and rural life. The story deals with the human condition and what it means to be a man and civilization versus nature while the main character hides from hit men in the mountains. This book feels... like an updated Tintin..." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "Back in the Golden Age of comics there were few comic auteurs but Fletcher Hanks was one of the few. ... The stories [in You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation!] are weird and grim. The art is unprofessional and beautiful." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "Peanuts was an amazing comic. Charles Schulz was an amazing artist. Fantagraphics' Complete Peanuts series are great and [1973-1974] is the best one yet. The humor is unparalleled and the stories are great. ... Charles Schulz was a sad and funny guy and this book features him at his saddest and funniest. If you bought some of the earlier volumes in this series and then forgot about it, then it's time to catch up." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
Online Commentary & Diversions, now with more Tonya Harding than ever:
• Review: "Occasionally, there are works of art or literature that defy simple classification. The brain breaks upon them like waves and they give up different secrets with each tide but never all the secrets and never all at once. These creations challenge as much as they entertain and ask for obsession as toll on the road to understanding. The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit is just such an enigma. ... Surreal, gorgeous, and both satisfying and confounding, The Squirrel Machine is a hypnotic, occasionally repulsive, always entertaining, and wildly creative graphic novel. It does not invite rereading so much as demands it, and each encounter reveals new and different details and interpretations. This book is a wonderful mystery, a basket of questions, a wealth of enigmas, and it looks utterly arresting every step of the way." – Christian Zabriskie, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Opinion: At Comics Comics, Dash Shaw has an interesting proposal for colleges that teach comics: "Instead of hiring teachers based on their achievements (and many of the current teachers are geniuses, no doubt about it), hire people who previously worked for many years in a now-defunct house style. Someone who drew Archie for years and is now selling their originals at Comic Con? Hire them."
Your Online Commentary & Diversions-style goodies for today:
• Review: "...[F]or fans of off-beat crime..., I give you Jacques Tardi’s no-shit brilliant adaptation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s West Coast Blues. ... [W]hat starts out as something straight out of a Hitchcock classic like North by Northwest soon escalates into something more savage, more profound, and utterly wonderful... It succeeds brilliantly in good old-fashioned crime thrills, for sure. The violence is brutal, the story exciting and surprising, and the characters are brilliantly rendered. But then there’s that extra little layer, those subtle themes, those strange details, the lyrical narration passages — let’s just stop and cut to the fucking chase: you should just pick this shit up and be floored. This is about as good as comics get, dear readers." – BSCreview
• Review: "The rape of the innocent. The callousness of the machine. The girth of the profiteers. The threat of the bomb. The hollowness of the victories. [Craig] Yoe has collected more than 220 of those anti-war cartoons in [The Great Anti-War Cartoons,] a book of indelible images that remind us those confrontations aren't what they used to be." – Steve Duin, The Oregonian
• Plug: "[Zak] Sally's one of those artists who can convey a sense of dread or horror out of seeming thin air, and he's really been on the periphery for far too long now. Hopefully [Like a Dog] will thrust him into the limelight." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Interview: At Marvel.com, Sean T. Collins talks to Paul Hornschemeier about his Strange Tales contribution: "I think this story is far more cerebral than the typical mainstream comics, for better or worse. But it will be brightly colored, so hopefully that will get everyone though the awful philosophical ranting I'm about to unleash. Get ready for more shots from my boredom gun." (Paul offers a couple of corrections at his blog)
• Interview: Lauren McKinley of [^]LAND talks to Fantagraphics art director Jacob Covey: "I'd say my style is heavily influenced by where I first learned how to design — making photocopied black and white flyers for rock shows. I feel like that, far more than anything else, taught me most of what I've learned about how to make type and image work."
• Analysis: More commentary on the future of The Comics Journal, this time from CBR's Augie De Blieck Jr.