• 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.
• Review: "It’s probably not fair to expect Hernandez to issue another creative virtuoso like Palomar, but in the pages of Luba, he comes closer than might be expected. ... Although Luba doesn’t hit as hard as Palomar, it remains a compelling portrait of family in all its messy glory. Alternately sexy and vulgar, beautiful and mean, optimistic and intolerant, Luba and her family encompass all the ugliness and amazement that comes with being part of the human entity." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Profile: "Cartoonist Bill Mauldin was a genius at bringing the experiences of World War II home to the moms and dads, kids, wives or girlfriends of the GIs on the front lines in a very human way. ... To my knowledge, none of our wars since has produced a chronicler anywhere near the greatness of Mauldin." – Wesley G. Hughes, San Bernadino County Sun (via Newsarama)
• Video: A massive Peanuts ice sculpture depicting A Charlie Brown Christmas is being constructed in Nashville; The Daily Cartoonist has the PR and a promo video featuring members of the Schulz family
• Industry: Our own Eric Reynolds takes part in a roundtable on the topic of "Comics in the Age of Digital Piracy" at Graphic Novel Reporter
Holy smokes, there's no shortage of Online Commentary & Diversions today:
• Review: "...Prison Pit... is nothing less than a continuous, no-holds barred, violent assault on the eyes. It is literally one god damned, bloody fight scene after another... The book's genius lies in Ryan's sheer nerve and imagination in setting up these battles; he constantly ups the ante in the most bizarre and inventive ways possible. ... Ryan's love of body functions goes into full gonzo mode here. ...you've got a book where body horror extends far beyond the repulsive into the truly sublime and inspired. ... Despite the gore, or perhaps, because of it, Prison Pit is a fantastic, accomplished work." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "Page after page [of The Squirrel Machine] features one of the brothers traversing through some odd, off-kilter landscape, either out in the woods, or, more often, in their home. Between the floorboards and walls seem to exist an endless array of paths and rooms, each cluttered with an endless array of junk, machines and the occasional disturbing, inexplicable oddity. The end result resembles more of an old-style adventure video game than a comic. It's Myst, directed by David Cronenberg." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6 (same link as above)
• Review: "Perhaps what makes West Coast Blues so captivating is how well it highlights the similarities between film and comics, while simultaneously showcasing its own unique ability as a graphic novel to capture the noir aesthetic through word and image. ... Not unlike many noir films, West Coast Blues is replete with car chases, hit-men, drinking, guns, and the occasional salacious scene. All of this is set in Tardi’s straightforward drawing style which is a good fit for the almost matter-of-fact, unsentimental manner in which violence, sex, and life in general are met with during the course of the book." – Sara Cole, PopMatters
• Review: "Most comic strips today, especially those that are humor strips, often avoid topical subjects. Schulz embraced the topics of the era. They may date the strip, but it never leaves them outdated. ... Schulz was also not afraid to carry on-going storylines for several days or in some cases, even a couple of weeks. ... [The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974 ] also features all the favorite subjects like Linus’ annual wait for the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’s trip to Summer camp, and Sally’s letters to Santa Claus. This is why Peanuts is the greatest strip ever!" – Tim Janson, Newsarama
• Review: "Jason seems to delight in building firm plots, only to swiftly tug them out of sync. The resulting offbeat dynamic is punctuated with deadpan verbal, narrative and graphic punch lines, which pin the stories down at the same time that they suggest grander meanings. 'Where am I?' asks a prisoner. 'I think I'll do some gardening,' says a murdered man. 'Which way?' a son asks his father in 'You Are Here' — the heartrending emotional core of the collection [Low Moon] — as they search for his mother on a barren planet. Each line and frame could mean nothing or could mean everything in this quiet, gripping book." – Becky Ferreira, The L Magazine
• Interview: Jason speaks frankly about Low Moon with Becky Ferreira of The L Magazine (different link than above): "Low Moon, the story, wasn't long enough for a book of its own, so I had to include some other stories to fill it out. They were just ideas for shorter stories I had lying around. There wasn't meant to be any thematic unity. Death, I guess, is a repeating theme. People die a lot."
• Interview: Tommy Hill of the Columbia Daily Spectator talks to The Comics Journal assistant editor Kristy Valenti about comics criticism and The Importance of Comics: "I teach my interns that nobody cares about them and their feelings and their dog when they were 8; while their experience and perspective is valuable, it’s just a jumping off point to get at bigger things."
• Plug: "You Are There...: More beautiful Jacques Tardi, a seminal work in comics for adults in the French-language market and a first-paragraph mention work for both Tardi and writer Jean-Claude Forest." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Plug: "[You Are There] is a strange, wordy, spicy satire, seeing a man struggle to live on the walls surrounding land stolen from him; maybe it's best to see for yourself." - Joe McCulloch, Jog - The Blog (read the rest of his blurb for some interesting background info on the book)
• Review: "Where has Joe Daly been hiding? ... The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book... brings us... a tasty blend of cleanly detailed art straight out of Herge, hipster stoner humor and a couple of mysteries that work just as well in Cape Town as they would in the Los Angeles of Robert Towne's Chinatown or Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer stories." – John Mesjak, my3books
• Review: At Robot 6, Tom Bondurant gives his impressions partway through The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book: "So far I've gotten through the relatively-short first story, 'The Leaky Cello Case,' and found it to be nice and laid-back, if a little talky. ...Daly's style is quite appealing, and his use of color really brings his panels to life."
• Review: "[Kevin] Huizenga uses cartoon language to diagram the fuzzy chaos of mental insomnia with absolute clarity and precision [in Ganges #3]. He’s also really made the Ignatz format his own, with stunning use of limited color." – Bill Kartalopoulos, Robot 6 (same link as above)