King of the Flies Vol. 1: Hallorave was named one of Amazon's Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2010. Now, here is the second installment in Mezzo and Pirus’s creepily sexy suburban soap opera — a French Twin Peaks graphic novel as written by Stephen King and drawn by Charles Burns.
Eric the fly-head-wearing teenager is back (as well as his hapless mother and her “fiancé”), as are not-quite-ingénue Marie, the worldly Sal, Denis the drug dealer and his now one-handed father, and of course the loopy retro bowling thug Ringo... plus several new cast members, including one who died at the very beginning of the first volume and has now returned to roam the earth.
Once again, the story is told through a series of seemingly unrelated short stories which eventually become intricately braided into one sprawling tale of a community haunted by obsession, rage, regret and despair — in sum, a graphic novel for the 21st century.
King of the Flies is designed as a trilogy of albums, which will combine to form a single graphic novel of stunning intricacy and intensity. (The concluding chapter will appear in late 2011/early 2012.)
Download an EXCLUSIVE 7-page PDF excerpt containing the entire first chapter (2.3 MB).
• Review: "By the 1980s, however, the anti-establishment sensibility of the underground comix had been replaced by a faith in just 'do-it-yourself' — making your own 'zines,' and that sense of independence is what [editor Michael] Dowers praises [in Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s]." – George Elliott Clarke, The Chronicle Herald
• Review: "...Jim Woodring's Weathercraft creates a fantastic alternative universe. ...Woodring constructs a nightmarish tale in which Manhog falls victim to the villainous depredations of the all-too-aptly named Whim and the spells of the witchy pair Betty and Veronica. Those unfamiliar with the Woodring dreamscape may want to pick up The Frank Book collection as a primer, but the stand-alone Weathercraft requires no real prep work — just an openness to disturbing, id-derived imagery." – Cliff Froehlich, St. Louis Post-Dipatch
• Review: "Although King of the Flies... is anchored in a sharply delineated but deliberately generic suburbia, the book plunges us into an often violent, always profane environment that recalls David Lynch's Blue Velvet. Using multiple narrators, the book is an intricately constructed series of interlocking short stories that acidly etch a disquieting portrait of modern alienation and unease." – Cliff Froehlich, St. Louis Post-Dipatch
• Review: "French master Tardi gives an infantry-level view of World War I's meat-grinder carnage in grim vignettes that primarily keep tight, telling focus on the stories of individual soldiers. ...[It Was the War of the Trenches] deserves a place on the top shelf of graphic lit." – Cliff Froehlich, St. Louis Post-Dipatch
• Review: "Reading Jacques Tardi's It Was the War of the Trenches, I realized just how short most American war comics fall in portraying the reality and horror of war. ... Tardi brings every ounce of his talent to the task of trying to articulate the sheer horror of this war. And while he doesn't flinch once, neither does he resort to trite 'war is bad' or 'good versus evil' oversimplifications. He merely puts you directly in the soldiers' viewpoint and then tries to relate their experiences to you. ... It's a raw, uncompromising, devastating book, and, I'm kind of sad to say, unlike anything that's been published on these shores." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "...St. Louisan Tim Lane's Abandoned Cars, one of 2008's essential comics, has recently been reissued in paperback with two variant covers that vividly recall the lurid pulps of the 1930s." – Cliff Froehlich, St. Louis Post-Dipatch
• Review: "It can sometimes be hard to get a grip on what Jason is going for in his stories, since even when he approaches a familiar subject, he takes a strange angle and dwells on the types of moments that wouldn’t normally receive focus in these sorts of tales. Werewolves of Montpellier goes even further afield... Leave it to Jason to dwell on the awkwardness of the 29 non-full-moon days of the month in which the werewolf has to pass as a normal human." – Matthew J. Brady, Indie Pulp
• Review: "What I think is most interesting about [The Best American Comics Criticism] is that in his choices of pieces, [editor] Schwartz is laying out a theory of lit comics. It's a theory that rings very true to me. Part of this theory goes that as literary comics grew, they made necessary a reevaluation and relearning of certain classic comics." – Robert Boyd, The Great God Pan Is Dead (via The Comics Reporter)
• Profile: Steve Duin of The Oregonian talks to Patrick Rosenkranz about assembling The Artist Himself: A Rand Holmes Retrospective: "With rare access to Holmes' journals and sketchbooks, Rosenkranz succeeds in giving readers access to the cartoonist that Holmes denied his closest friends. And he succeeds because of a compulsion, born 45 years ago, to understand the world in which these artists moved 'and how what happened in their lives affected their work.'"
• Comic-Con: At About.com: Manga, Deb Aoki gives a quick report from the Moto Hagio Spotlight Panel at Comic-Con 2010, with a promise of more to come: "...Hagio-sensei charmed the audience with her self-effacing wit and matter-of-fact responses to questions..."
• Review: "...[T]he first volume of Mezzo and Pirus’s stunning King of the Flies [was] published earlier this year by Fantagraphics. ... Over just 64 pages, the team known as Mezzo and Pirus tell an impressively complex collection of ten interlinked short stories. ...Mezzo and Pirus are remarkably skillful, and create a deep and believable world. It’s meant as a compliment to say that by the end of this book, it feels as if twice as many pages have passed. ... With its bold style and thick lines, dark hues with splashes of garish colour, Pascal (Mezzo) Mesenburg’s forceful art is absorbing and weird." – Oliver Ho, PopMatters
• Review: "Woodring's wild and wordless story [Weathercraft] seems awfully lysergic, but his stunning symbolism and amazing line work is clever and crafty. Manhog, the creature starring in the strange story, is hardly sympathetic, but Woodring's imagery evokes amusement, bemusement and wonder." – Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Review: "Regular, rectangular panels are the only thing conventional about Weathercraft, which follows the metaphysical mishaps of Manhog, a blank-eyed, snout-nosed creature who wanders naked through Woodring's pages, on a journey of self-realization disguised as a vivid, botanically inventive acid trip. ... But while the creatures and scenarios in Woodring's world are fantastical, they're drawn with the precision of a woodcarving, black-and-white space shaded with ever-present wavy lines. This precision is crucial, with no words to guide the story — as an exercise in purely visual storytelling, Weathercraft is both challenge and reward." – Alison Hallett, The Portland Mercury
• Plug: "Trying to explain Jim Woodring’s art is like describing an acid trip: One never gets the feeling across and inevitably sounds like a crazy person while doing it. ... His work is like Carl Barks’ Donald Duck comics twisted inside out by a black hole. Terrifying, disgusting, funny, silent and beautifully illustrated. See? It sounds crazy." – Casey Jarman, Willamette Week
• Profile: "Jason is perhaps the most unique visual stylists working in comics today. Each individual panel is a work of ligne claire pop art: flat, beautifully coloured and amplified for effect. The deceptively simple stories — often thrillers and off-beat romances — feature anti-heroes, guns, girls, historical figures, b-movie monsters, robots, and aliens. They’re a brilliant mix of silent pictures, film noir, La Nouvelle Vague, classic literature, crime fiction, sci-fi and pulp magazines." – Dan Wagstaff, The Casual Optimist
• Interview: At The Comics Journal, Marc Librescu talks to Gahan Wilson: "When you read about whatever the hell is going on in the art field, whatever the hell the 'art field' is, it’s written by critics and scholars — they’re both sort of the same thing. They’re commentaries, so they tend to emphasize definition and placement: This is chapter 3 of paragraph 7 of Book A. But that’s not the point. The point is that this thing is there and there’s this interaction that occurs, and [the viewer] is analyzing it. As far as the description thing goes, that’s for critics and that’s for teachers. It’s not for artists."
• Review: "The graphic novel King of the Flies: Hallorave... gives us a glimpse of internal mayhem inside a controlled environment, executed with elegance and a touch of mystery. ... King of the Flies has been compared to the work of Charles Burns for its graceful depiction of adolescent suburban horror. This is a weird tale that’s easy to get drawn into..." – Irina Ivanova, The Indypendent
• Plugs: At Largehearted Boy, Atomic Books owner Benn Ray lists his picks of the week, including Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso ("Beautiful, expansive, lyrical") and The Book of Mr. Natural by Robert Crumb ("Did reading R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis leave you now craving more? The Book of Mr. Natural is your natural (heh-heh) next step").
• Plugs: Douglas Wolk includes a goodly number of Fantagraphics releases on his Summer Comics Preview list at TIME / Techland.
• Interview: At TCJ.com's Guttergeek, Chris Reilly says "Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird is a tie for best graphic novel of the year with Jim Woodring’s Weathercraft" and proceeds to talk to Tony Millionaire: "Sometimes the story will present opportunities I hadn’t thought of (the personality of the cat for instance), and I’ll go with it if it feels right. Then I jam it all into an ending and hope it doesn’t all end up in a big pile of shit. I’m often nervous that I’m writing a crappy book. I’ve done it before and you can’t tell till it’s done and it is disappointing. So far I’m very happy with the Billy Hazelnuts books, but I’ll have to give the Crazy Bird one more read before I’m convinced of its greatness."
• Review: "I read this volume over two nights, and it spoiled both evenings in the best way. It is grotesque and nihilistic, punctuated by moments of thrashing violence. ... Attempts at humor are only steeped in gallows. ... There is a pulse drumming in [King of the Flies Vol. 1:] Hallorave. By the time the second volume arrives in November (just in time for the holidays, kids!), it might very well morph into a low buzzing." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon)
• Review: "If you’re looking for a light-hearted pick-me-up, King of the Flies Vol. 1: Hallorave is not it. If, however, you’re looking for a darkly compelling, twisted, beautifully illustrated account of the broken souls and self-absorbed nihilism, Pirus and Mezzo’s album is about as good as you’ll find in the comics field. It’s a stunning piece of fiction, beautifully crafted in its prose, pacing, artistry and crushing understanding of humanity’s ugliness." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "...[Like a Dog] manages to capture the angst and anomie of a then-confused twentysomething who also just happens to be a semi-famous musician. ... His sturm und drang is filtered through a series of self-released strips and compilation projects... sometimes, as in 'You Won’t Let Yourself Be Touched,' from his self-published Recidivist comic, they transmit the otherworldly power of a vivid dream to the reader with lyrical effect. ... 'At the Scaffold'... in particular demonstrates Sally’s knack for chopping up a story into different configurations of panels, choosing points of view, and rendering architecture, shadows, odd characters, etc." – Byron Kerman, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "Once again, Hotwire returns to attempt to fill in that edgy alt-comix niche that was so prominent in the 80s and early 90s and has seemingly been eclipsed by the more literary, rarefied indie comics of today (sort of). If for no other reason, this anthology should be lauded for giving folks like Mary Fleener and Mack White the opportunity to showcase their work... [and] the stellar work by folks like Michael Kupperman, R. Sikoryak, Onsmith, Johnny Ryan, Tim Lane and Mats!? make this well worth your time." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Comparison: "...I was of course really excited to hear that Fantagraphics was doing a series of translated Tardi books, including C’était la Guerre des Tranchées — now titled It Was the War of the Trenches. I’ve had the French Casterman edition for a while, but I got my new Fantagraphics copy last week and just for fun I thought I’d take a look at the two side by side." – Ben Towle
• Profile: Another NBC New York article on Dash Shaw & Frank Santoro, this time from Edward Carr (who also gets photo credit): "Speaking at the McNally Jackson Bookstore on Prince Street in Soho, Santoro, along with critically acclaimed artist Dash Shaw, spoke about their work and the techniques they used to keep them unique."
• 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"
• List: Adam McGovern of ComicCritique.Com declares Miss Lasko-Gross to be Writer/Artist of the Year ("Vividly imaginative in tricky layouts, intricate patterns and hallucinatory neverlands yet starkly perceptive of everyday details and personality, immune to art-star mythology while stockpiling stuff of legend, Lasko-Gross is capable of anything — but can’t help doing right") and her A Mess of Everything the #3 Graphic Novel of the Year ("Lasko-Gross creates the least wholesome and most healthy youth memoirs you’re likely to read. Tales of adolescent insight, creativity, trauma and folly for those who like to learn their lessons with minds of their own"); Gilbert Shelton's "Last Gig in Shnagrlig" from Mome Vols. 13-15 to be Strip of the Year ("With a style that seems strung from spider-webs, popping veins, worried brow-wrinkles and tangled vines and an eye for absurd posturing, both undiminished by five decades and whatever art-supplies he’s been sniffing, Shelton’s dystopian vaudeville is a vision you can never predict of species-wide misbehavior which remains, alas, just like you remembered it"); and Lilli Carré's "The Carnival" from Mome Vol. 14 to be Short Story of the Year ("A bittersweet, tragicfunny story of the luminous, enchanting worlds just beyond the outskirts of nowhere")
• Review: "I spent most of this week reading the new, paperback edition of Blazing Combat ... [T]he artistry on display is so mind-boggling, particularly in the case of Crandall, Heath and Severin, that it seems churlish of me to not recommend this book simply because of a few overly and obviously ironic twists. The creators clearly had a real love for this kind of material, so much so that [I] wish things had tipped slightly in their favor a bit more, and that the market had made at least a little more room for war comics when as the silver age gave way to the bronze." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "...I love the art, with great layouts, nice thick lines, and coloring that's somehow both rich and muted. Even when I don't like the characters or find their actions believable I still love the way everything looks. And the elliptical structure was a smart choice because it adds at least a little bit of mystery; instead of just reading to see what happens next you keep going to better understand what's already happened. I don't know if the stories were published individually anywhere, but Hallorave is basically the first book of King of the Flies, with two more on the way. I'm interested to see how closely they intersect with each other." – Garrett Martin, Shazhmmm...
• Review: "Based on a crime novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette, West Coast Blues is an existential comic by master cartoonist Jacques Tardi. It's colorless crime as only the French can do it, with despicable characters waxing philosophical on film and high-risk sex even while on the run from clumsy assassins. ... Plenty of crime stories revolve around the bizarre preoccupations of its characters and just as many are centered around the plight of the common man thrust into extraordinary circumstances. But Tardi really brings it home, offering a messed up story about messed up people who do some truly messed up things. While only 80 pages, it's a robust read. ... As compelling as this short yarn is in terms of the writing, the real draw here is Tardi. ... His style is comparable to Herge's, if not quite as clean. His characters are expressive and his architecture's pretty damn impressive. ... Big ups to Fantagraphics and editor/translator Kim Thompson for assembling a really lovely English language edition of this book." – Paul Montgomery, iFanboy
• Commentary: "You would think I'd have more to say about teaching 'Human Diastrophism,' one of my favorite comics in the classroom, but this was my fourth pass at the story and most of the classroom surprises have been played out. The greatest remaining challenge is just the problem of extracting one storyline from Gilbert Hernandez's long-running Palomar setting and fitting it into a single week of class discussion." – Marc Singer, I Am NOT the Beastmaster
• Interview:In this video, Vito Delsante talks to Jaime Hernandez at Jaime's appearance at Jim Hanley's Universe in NYC last Friday, April 9 (via ¡Journalista!)
• Interview: "'Digital vs. paper? That’s a totally bogus debate,' [Peter] Bagge told Wired.com in an e-mail interview. 'There will always be both. Whichever one you want, you got it!'" Well that solves that!
Online Commentary & Diversions — catching up from MoCCA weekend, with more catch-up tomorrow:
• Award: Congratulations to David Sandlin for receiving a 2010-2011 fellowship from the New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. "The fellowship lasts from September to May. Each fellow gets an office in the library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, full access to the library’s research collections, and a stipend, which last year was $60,000," reports Kate Taylor of The New York Times. Not too shabby!
• Review: "Few people alive today are old enough to remember World War I, and as it recedes into the past, the 'war to end all wars' becomes more abstract. But French cartoonist Jacques Tardi's graphic novel, It Was The War of the Trenches..., brings the Great War to life in all its mud- and blood-soaked misery. Without a trace of sentimentality, Tardi's richly detailed and grimly rendered vignettes depict the horror, illness, cruel manipulations, and stupidity of this giant black spot in human history." – Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing
• Review: "Long-lost astronauts, homicidal bloggers, baseball legends and wayward skaters all find a home in John Pham’s captivating comic series Sublife. With only two issues on the street, Sublife has already established an achingly familiar universe in all of its disparate ongoing narratives. Deftly juggling the melancholy of Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve with some Cormac McCarthy-inspired apocalyptic action and plenty of skillfully subdued deadpan humor, Pham proves himself a master of multifarious emotions and artist stylings." – We Love You So
• Review: "While I enjoyed Sakai's artwork in the first volume, this second trade collection is even stronger. ... I'm so glad I'm finally sitting down and reading this series, and my only regret is that I didn't do it sooner. Usagi Yojimbo is a great addition to the canon of samurai stories, and is definitely highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of wandering ronin or just good storytelling." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Review: "Culture Corner remains a curiosity in comic book history, rarely remembered, rarely seen, but Basil Wolverton’s status as an important figure in humor cartooning is unimpeachable. Thus, anybody wanting to understand the development of the medium and the evolution of comedy cartooning should pick up Culture Corner to see how Wolverton began the road to comic book legend. Most of the strips have never been seen by today’s readers, and the sheer number of unpublished penciled sketches makes this book a true rarity and a must-have." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "I can honestly say that the further we dive into the murky depths of Newave!, the better it gets. Hot on the heels of all the anarchic fun of the first thirty mini comics, come ten more that show, in various ways, a little extra sophistication in content or execution." – Avoid the Future continues their mini-reviews of the contents of Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s; this is from part 4, and I think we may have missed linking to part 2 and part 3
• Plug: At IdeaFixa, Claudio Yuge says that reading Love and Rockets "was one of the best things I ever did in life and I recommend it for anyone who likes comics and graphic arts in general." (translated from Portuguese)
• Commentary:Comic Book Galaxy's Christopher Allen & Alan David Doane comment on this year's Eisner nominees, of which we have several; there's too much for me to quote from here
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning talks to Jim Woodring about Weathercraft: "In a lot of ways, Manhog is the most interesting character in the Unifactor. He has the most potential for change and the widest range of dramatic possibilities. Besides, it's fun to put him in awful circumstances and watch him suffer. There's something about a big fat guy screaming in terror that's just naturally funny. Oliver Hardy got a lot of mileage out of that formula."
• Interview: The Inkstuds radio programme talks with Mome contributor (and, now, kids-comics superstar) Eleanor Davis
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