• List: Esteemed Washington, DC bookstore Politics & Prose has posted their list of "Favorite Graphic Literature of 2011":
"It seems sort of cruel to celebrate the final issue of Mome, Fantagraphics’ premier anthology of comics. But one can hardly resist such a celebratory finale. As to be expected, Mome Volume 22 packs a wallop, throwing in a mind-bending array of cartoonists, some Mome regulars, some first-time contributors. Some favorites: Joe Kimball’s 'Secret Hand,' Tim Lane’s 'Belly Gunner,' Eleanor Davis’ 'Nita Go Home' and 'Loving Bin Laden' by James Romberger. As always, this is a refreshing and eye-opening anthology. So thank you, Mome, and goodbye."
"Jacques Tardi’s wildly inventive The Arctic Marauder follows Jerome Plumier as he tries to uncover the mystery of why ships keep sinking in the arctic. Written to parody a Victorian and Jules Verne-esque style, Tardi’s illustrations look as if they’re out of a much older book; his seascapes and townscapes are scenic and highly detailed; his creative paneling is fresh and interesting; and the abundance of machinery and wild inventions makes this book a real wonder to read. Ending on a strangely ominous, ironic, and humorous note, this is yet another masterpiece by the French master, finally brought to American audiences."
"Jim Woodring’s little anthropomorph, Frank, has been around for quite some time, and his silent, life altering, universe confusing, epic comics finally get collected into one nice book. Frank has graced the comics page for decades now, and his curiosity, foolishness, but utter innocence leaves one always wishing for more, and to have it collected into one volume is an absolute treasure. There is much to say about The Frank Book, but really, you should just pick it up and wander with Frank and his friends and enemies, into a world that is so different, and yet, so similar to our own."
"Stigmata is one of the greatest virtuoso displays of pen-and-ink work in the history of graphic novels. Illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti’s 'raging fury of intense linework' is mesmerizing on every single page, and drives the novel-length story by Claudio Piersanti set in the hellish world of bars and traveling carnivals (with a final redemptive chapter). Stigmata is a recognized classic in the comics world, and was published in Europe in 1998. It has finally been translated and published here."
"Pogo Possum and the bunch of characters that make up Walt Kelly’s colorful, smart, and witty comic finally get the sort of treatment they deserve. It has taken Fantagraphics a long, long time to find perfect copies of all these fantastic strips, and to make sure Pogo was given its due in the best possible way. So here it is: the first of twelve volumes, complete with dailies and Sunday pages (with absolutely gorgeous color). This is quite possibly one of the best things to come out this year, and one of the best books for any library."
"Hot on the heels of popular Mickey Mouse hardcover comics collections, Fantagraphics puts forth a second Disney classic, Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes. While some readers may have been surprised by Mickey’s exploits in the early days, Donald is exactly as you remember and expect him to be: perpetually frustrated with a heart of gold. What is also not surprising is the level of skill behind the cartooning of Carl Barks, whose knack for expressive figures and attention to detail makes this collection an endlessly entertaining read. So well-loved were these stories, that none other than the great Steven Spielberg paid tribute to them in the famous scene of Indiana Jones versus the boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Sure to please any fan of good-humored Golden Age comics."
"I’ve never quite liked Mickey Mouse. He was always a little too tame, too good. And while he was always the hero, he never seemed to earn it. Fantagraphics recent release of the classic 1930’s comic strips has completely changed my mind. While Mickey’s essential character hasn’t changed, he is certainly more bold, more willing to throw a punch or rush into a haunted house, or even into a brawl with Pegleg Pete and his gang. Floyd Gottfredson’s artwork bears the trademark Disney look (given that it is clear and at times inventive), but the limit on panels and the daily format of the strip forced Gottfredson to tell his stories in intriguing, and always brilliant ways. These comic strips are full of adventure and clever satire. With the usual Fantagraphics treatment, there are over 50 pages of supplemental material, so these books provide a wealth of information on the series and on Gottfredson’s life. Also available in a slipcased set!"
"For those who still think that Prince Valiant is simply an illustrated version of your boring high school history textbook, it is time to take heed. Fantagraphics continues to release these gorgeous remastered editions of one of America’s most beloved and enduring comics. This is a story steeped in family and tradition, with a dash of fantasy. Hal Foster’s professionalism shines in every painstakingly-researched and well-composed page of Prince Valiant Volumes 3and4. Each panel’s composition immediately draws you in and invites you to linger in a world of romance and adventure, in which you may spend many Sunday afternoons. Previously released editions were high-contrast, lurid affairs that seemed determined to destroy the good name of the original color artist; however, the impeccable restoration of the comic’s original colors makes it enjoyable for the modern audiences and almost a brand new experience for fans lucky enough to have read it in their youth."
• List/Review: "Finally starting to be collected, Gottfredson's masterful first year was released by Fantagraphics, publisher of all good things, in a wonderful hardbound... Aside from the subject matter, the most striking thing about this volume is Gottfredson's art. He demonstrates a supernatural knack for detail and fluidity that remains largely unchallenged in his representation of Mickey, as well as in animation/ cartooning/ sequential art.... As a longtime appreciator of Gottfredson and proponent for his legacy, Race to Death Valley was the best comic release of 2011 — a feat, considering the material is 70 years old. Take that, modern literature!" – Rafael Gaitan, Spectrum Culture "Best Books of the Year"
• Review: "The fact is that Paul Nelson was one of the handful of people who have scribbled about rock-and-roll over the years who might be described as a genuinely important writer, regardless of the (some would say) transience of much of his subject matter. In that regard, while re-reading Everything [Is an Afterthought] I was struck by how little any of it has dated; the various reviews and think pieces Avery has anthologized are as passionate, perceptive and hilarious as they seemed back in the day, and given that most of them have been out of print since forever (in fact, almost all the work collected here has never been between hardcovers) this is a major piece of cultural exhumation at the very least." – Steve Simels, PowerPop
• Review: "The gender orientations of eleven-year-olds just isn’t the stuff of stories here. In fact, it is the stuff of reality. Shimura balances a full plate in this story, all the while offering it with the kind of easy grace that makes the balance appear to be almost magical.... In Shimura’s sympathetic hands, this manga is neither gag nor message heavy: both main characters, their peers, and their family members are credible and developed with enough depth that readers can think about them beyond the bounds of the book. ...[Wandering Son Vol. 1] belongs in every high school library, as well as in public collections that are accessible to both youth and adults." – Francisca Goldsmith, School Library Journal
• Review: "But upon reflection, I wonder if these terrible people’s wholly alien way of interacting with the world isn’t just the writing equivalent of Tardi’s nimble, scribbled line and sooty blacks — a heightened reality in which things are rendered at their loosest, darkest, ugliest, and weirdest at all times. God knows both creators can rigorously focus when they want... Tardi’s backgrounds and lighting effects are a realist’s dream and his action sequences and set-pieces are choreographed tighter than a drum. The absurdist demeanors may prevent everything from gelling as well as they might have done, but overall [Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot] delivers a fastball to your face so hard that you barely have time to notice that some of the stitches need straightening." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
The new Diamond Previews catalog is out today and in it you'll find our usual 2-page spread (download the PDF) with our releases scheduled to arrive in your local comic shop in February 2012 (give or take — some release dates may have changed since the issue went to press). We're pleased to offer additional and updated information about these upcoming releases here on our website, to help shops and customers alike make more informed ordering decisions.
• List: Thus beginneth the Best of 2011 links, as Publishers Weekly names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 by Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez one of their top 10 Best Comics of 2011: "Even in a long career of masterpieces, Jaime's story about missed opportunities for happiness is a revelation, while Gilbert continues to cement his place as the Jorodowsky of comics with a vampire tale."
• Review: "Another great issue, with the continuation and ending of 'The Love Bunglers,' from Jaime Hernandez. It's a real knockout and quite touching for those that have followed the strip and these characters since the eighties. You almost have to remind yourself that, yes, these are characters, not real people! Apparently, nobody told Jaime that the quality of one's work is supposed to go down after working on a strip that long." – Jason, at his Cats Without Dogs blog
• Commentary: "I've been thinking a lot about Jaime Hernandez's conclusion to his Locas story 'The Love Bunglers' (from L&R New Stories vol. 4) -- mainly b/c it was such an incredible piece that I cry every time I read it. I even recently threatened to force a friend to read all the Locas stuff, because it's so freaking good. But then I started wondering -- is it as awesome if you read it all at once?" – Alicia K., Wordnerdy
• Review: "Readers and admirers, myself included, often think of Gilbert as the better writer of the two brothers and Jaime as the better artist. With only a few exceptions, Gilbert has been the best writer in American comic books over a three decade period. No one has produced more beautiful art for black and white comics the way Jaime has over that same period, a period in which he has been the best comic book artist in North America. 'Browntown' is one of the stories in which Jaime shows that he can write as well as draw comic books better than most and as good as the very best.... 'Browntown' is an incredible story with a sense of realism and gravity unseen in most comic books. 'Browntown' alone makes Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 one of the best comic books of 2010." – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "Love and Rockets: New Stories #2 reminds us, as the first issue did, that comic books from the Hernandez Brothers are always a welcome thing. A year may be a long wait, but when it comes to Los Bros’ coolness and greatness, time is neutral. I can always reread this and enjoy it just as much as I did the first time." – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "...Nuts, which ran in National Lampoon throughout the ’70s, ...offered a largely autobiographical look at the way childhood actually is: a perpetually confusing state of existence, in which kids are jostled to and fro by adults who don’t seem to know what they’re doing (but want to make sure that their offspring are parked somewhere out of the way while they do it).... They’re wonderful pieces of comic art..., applying Wilson’s usual sense of the grotesque and macabre to phenomena like summer camp and sick days. And they’re not all bitter either... He mixes the sour and the sweet exceptionally well." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Plug: "I’ve written at length about this strip [Nuts] before, but it’s worth reiterating I think just how goddamn wonderful this comic is, and how great it is to have a decent collection available after lying fallow for so long. Wilson captures the anxieties and traumas of childhood as few cartoonists have before or since." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6 (for their weekly "What Are You Reading?" column which features our own Jacq Cohen this week)
• Review: "Again, stunning drawings. And quite bloody! Valiant is being tortured, people are killed left and right [in Prince Valiant Vol. 4]. There's a strange sequence in the book involving another knight, Tristram, who I don't think has been introduced earlier, that looks like a double of Valiant, but with a mustache! He is killed by a jealous king, but instead of Valiant and Gawain, who are there, seeking vengeance they just ride off. Not quite sure what was going on in Foster's mind there." – Jason, at his Cats Without Dogs blog
• Plugs: At The Beat, Torsten Adair spotlights a whole mess of our recent and upcoming releases, declaring "If you’re going to ship your book bucks to Washington, it’s better to send them to Fantagraphics than Amazon!"
• Plug: "Carl Barks was a genius when it came to turning Donald Duck and company into comic book characters, and his creation of Uncle Scrooge continues to delight and amuse countless generations. Thankfully, that trend will continue thanks to Fantagraphics’ release of Carl Barks’ Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes." – Kevin Kelly, Wizard World
You can add one more posthumous laurel to Hal Foster's already-impressive pile of achievements: New York Times Best Selling Author. Prince Valiant Vol. 4: 1943-1944 shows up at #8 on this week's Hardcover Graphic Books top 10 list. It comes as no surprise to us: we've been selling out multiple printings of the series as fans old and new have been snapping the books up. What else would you expect from one of the greatest comics of the last (or any) century?
• Review: "One of the greatest comic strips of all time and a peak in visual splendor and breath-taking adventure, the story of Prince Valiant's 30+ year odyssey is getting a marvelous presentation in Fantagraphics' series of books, which just reached Volume 4.... What might surprise modern readers is the relative complexity of Valiant, who grows and matures subtly over the years. The strip is violent, sexy, serious, droll and above all eye-catching.... The pleasure of how solidly and carefully [these volumes] are made is part of the pleasure of reading them. You feel like a little kid as you prop the giant volume up and literally dive into the tale that fills your vision, much as kids and adults did more than 70 years ago. It's a worthy presentation for one of the most important and entertaining works in comic strip history." – Michael Giltz, The Huffington Post
• Interview:Vice's Liz Armstrong talks with Ron Regé Jr. about his upcoming book The Cartoon Utopia: "I'm not interested in making a bunch of storyboards or writing a script. Comics are the visual representation of language. So comics are the most ancient and the most vital and most important art form that humanity has ever known. It's also the oldest. Cave paintings, having the form of an image that represents an idea, is what comics are. I wrote an essay called, 'Fuck Other Forms of Art.'"
• Interview (Audio): Speaking of Mike Dawson-hosted podcasts, John Kerschbaum sits in on the new episode of The Ink Panthers with Dawson and co-host Alex Robinson
• Culture: Jeet Heer reports on the Iowa Comics Conference at The Comics Journal, featuring the Hernandez Brothers, Joe Sacco, Gary Groth and others. On the new issue of Love and Rockets: New Stories: "Everyone, of course, has been raving about Jaime’s story in this issue, which like the magnificent 'Browntown' in L&R #3 is one of best comics ever done. I’ll freely confess that at the end of the new issue when I saw how Jaime had tied together the fates of Hopey, Maggie, and Ray I started crying like a baby. ...Gilbert’s recent comics have the protean energy and relentless will to reinvention that rivals the Crumb of Weirdo and Hup."
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins spotlights Heer's article and adds his own thoughts: "The only thing more striking than the fact that Jaime set this career-defining hurdle for himself is that he freaking cleared it.... It's worth noting that in his contribution to New Stories #4, Gilbert takes Fritz to a place of potential finality not unlike the one that his brother Jaime's leading players occupy at the end of 'The Love Bunglers.' Yeah, it’s really quite a comic."
• Analysis: At Robot 6, Matt Seneca examines page 89, by Jaime Hernandez, from Love and Rockets: New Stories #4: "It’s a wonderful meeting of form and content: a completely unified page on the subject of unification, a single unit made up of eight perfectly chosen, gorgeously cartooned panels, each one complete in itself as a composed single drawings. This is comics at the highest level, with nothing wasted and everything on the page done as well as it possibly could be."
• Plug: Kim Thompson points out that ActuaBD "referred to our Gil Jordan edition as 'très beau,' which is nice."
• Commentary:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon responds to The Comics Journal's Love and Rocketslove-fest yesterday with some thoughts of his own: "I agree with Nadel, Santoro, Tomine and many of the comment-makers that Jaime Hernandez's new work represents a phenomenal achievement. I'm maybe not as interested in finding its place in the pantheon right this second. There's plenty of time for that down the road. One thing that's exciting and should never be denied about a creative achievement on the level of what Hernandez seems to have given us here is what that work might say to us in the future that it doesn't say right now."
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins responds, in turn, to Tom Spurgeon's response linked above: "If you’re looking for realistic and well-rendered women characters, or for women creators operating on an equal playing field, or for a serious examination of issues of gender and sexuality in all their glory and misery, then yeah, you can kick against the pricks and hope that someday an issue of Captain Copyright or the Teen Trademarks will deliver these things. Or you can put those comics down, walk a few aisles over or click on a different website, and discover things like Jaime’s 'Browntown'/'The Love Bunglers' suite, which over the course of two issues of Love and Rockets packs in more quality fiction about love, aging, motherhood, fatherhood, marriage, divorce, adultery, sexual assault, queerness, mental illness, adolescence, friendship, and sex than the last half-dozen comics-internet contretemps-causing comics combined."
• Review: "The conventional wisdom surrounding Prince Valiant these days characterizes it as a fussily drawn, belabored relic of the past. Of course, critical judgments of a comic stop mattering once you read it. A few pages into the fourth of Fantagraphics’ beautifully reprinted new editions of Hal Foster’s masterpiece and it’s difficult indeed to remember that this isn’t the greatest comic ever.... And the mastery Foster brings to bear on his every panel may have been equaled both before and since his prime, but it’s never been surpassed." – Matt Seneca, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "I could easily write a whole post about the brilliance of Barks (and probably WILL, at some point down the road!) but for now I will just say that this December Fantagraphics is releasing the first volume of a NEW Carl Barks Library, which is going to finally, finally, FINALLY put Barks's work back into print in America, in an accessible full-color format.... So please, if you have a kid in your life, PLEASE, for ME, buy them this book! And if you have never read any Barks and you don't understand why I'm being so crazy about this, buy one for yourself. I can personally guarantee that you won't regret it!" – Alec Longstreth
• Review: "Rendered in a simply stunning panorama of glowing visual passion and precision,Prince Valiant is a non-stop rollercoaster of stirring action, exotic adventure and grand romance; blending human-scaled fantasy with dry wit and broad humour with shatteringly dark violence. Beautiful, captivating and utterly awe-inspiring the strip is a World Classic of fiction and something no fan can afford to miss. If you have never experienced the intoxicating grandeur of Foster’s magnum opus these magnificent, lavishly substantial deluxe editions are the best way possible to do so and will be your gateway to an eye-opening world of wonder and imagination." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Feature: At SF Weekly, Alan Scherstuhl provides you with "10 Reasons Why Prince Valiant Bests All 2011's Adventure Heroes" (starting with "He lances giant crocodiles"), saying "Sure, those glossy lips and that pageboy bob makes him look something like ye olde Ramona Quimby, but don't let that fool you. The star of what is arguably the twentieth century's best-drawn newspaper comic strip, Hal Foster's Prince Valiant is all hero, through and through, for his age and ours. The first four volumes of Fantagraphics' collected Prince Valiant reveal young Foster's creation as both the sum total of the heroic ideals that preceded his debut in 1937 as well as a source of serious inspiration for all the heroes that have followed him, in all media formats, in the decades since."
• Review: "War and disorder [in The Armed Garden and Other Stories] from the creator of the much-admired Epileptic and, more recently, Black Paths, visually styled to each story’s setting. The first was my favourite to look at: a forest of spears, a torrent of arrows and a swirling sandstorm of bleached bones and skulls against a velvety, light mushroom brown — a tremendous sense of space.... So there you have it: religion, jealousy, conflict and a great deal of transmogrification. Oh yes, death; a great deal of death too." – Stephen L. Holland, Page 45
• Review: "It helps if you can illustrate your fever dreams as well as Sala can — lavishly watercolored in brown, saturated orange and yellow, punctuated by bright blue and (especially later) red, [The Hidden] is beautiful to look at, and as usual, he gives us memorable grotesques and lovely girls in equal measure. Those who are fans of the artist’s previous work will find more of what they like here, and will be gratified by the deviation from his usual norm. Those who are new to his efforts will be entertained, I think, by the story, which is a bit of a page-turner, and will like his beautifully colored art. His best since he wrapped up Evil Eye a few years ago." – Johnny Bacardi, Popdose
• Review: "Dense, claustrophobic, intense and trenchantly funny, the self-contained [Nuts] strips ranged from satire to slapstick to agonising irony, linking up over the years to form a fascinating catalogue of growing older in the USA: a fearfully faithful alternate view of childhood and most importantly, of how we adults choose to recall those distant days." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Analysis:Robot 6's Matt Seneca performs a close analysis of a page from Al Columbia's Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days: "The genius of the page above is almost too simple: in four panels that follow the minimalist logic of the gag-strip format, it speaks to both the artificial nature of drawings and to the nature of sequence as something that breaks comics apart as much as pieces them together."
As this fourth volume begins, Prince Valiant, haunted by the lovely Aleta, seeks Merlin’s wise counsel. This brief episode segues into one of Hal Foster’s patented epics, “The Long Voyage to Thule,” which ran for seven straight months and featured Valiant’s return to his birthplace and reunion with his father. Of course, Foster’s astonishingly detailed and evocative depictions of Val’s home- land contribute greatly to this sprawling epic.
After a series of shorter adventures including “The Seductress,” “The Call of the Sea,” and “The Jealous Cripple,” Val finally decides he can stand it no more and sets out to find his long-lost love. Long-time fans know that his quest will eventually be successful, but Foster throws so many obstacles in the way of true love that the saga “The Winning of Aleta” would end up stretching a full year and a half, well into the next volume.
This volume also features the debut of Foster’s charming "The Mediæval Castle" strip, and an introductory essay by Foster scholar Brian M. Kane.
With stunning art reproduced directly from pristine printer’s proofs, Fantagraphics has introduced a new generation to Foster’s masterpiece, while providing long-time fans with the ultimate, definitive version of the strip.
• Review: "As journalist Avery documents in this cohesive biography-cum-first anthology of the onetime Rolling Stone record review editor’s oeuvre [Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson], Nelson was a gifted early practitioner of new journalism and, though a child of the Sixties folk and rock counterculture, one of its most vocal critics.... Reading his inconceivably insightful profiles of Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, Warren Zevon, and Rod Stewart helps make sense of a needlessly guilt- and disappointment-laden life — here was a hyper-romantic Midwesterner by birth but a New Yorker by necessity who thought he could transcend mundane cruelties by dedicating himself to the popular arts. Seamlessly incorporating the perspectives of Nick Tosches, Robert Christgau, and Jann Wenner, Avery has crafted both a cautionary tale and a celebration of a noir-influenced writer who deserves a place alongside Lester Bangs for his ability to live, always, in the music. Devotees of folk, establishment rock ’n’ roll, and pulp fiction will rue not having discovered Nelson sooner." – Heather McCormack, Library Journal (Starred Review)
• Review: "[Richard Sala's] latest appetising shocker The Hidden returns to the seamy, scary underbelly of un-life with an enigmatic quest tale... Clever, compelling and staggeringly engaging, this fabulous full-colour hardback is a wonderfully nostalgic escape hatch back to those days when unruly children scared themselves silly under the bedcovers at night and will therefore make an ideal gift for the big kid in your life — whether he/she’s just you, imaginary or even relatively real." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This
• Review: "I had the opportunity to do a Q&A panel with Johnny Ryan at SPX last weekend. One of the more interesting parts of discussion was when Ryan said how each volume of Prison Pit had to have a different vibe or theme so that the different books didn’t feel interchangable. That’s certainly true in volume three, as we see the inclusion of a new character, who, while just as violent and vicious as CF, is completely different in attitude and demeanor. Plus, he has one of the most amazing (and utterly grotesque) resurrection scenes I’ve ever seen. There’s also a neat little bit toward the end where it seems like Ryan is heavily drawing upon the Fort Thunder crowd, particularly Mat Brinkman. All in all, it’s another excellent volume." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "This [fourth] volume [of Prince Valiant] covers the most of the WWII years, 1943-44, when the paper shortage was at its highest. As Brian Kane notes in the introduction, this meant creator Hal Foster had to format the strip so parts could be cut for papers that had been forced to shrink their page count.... Still, while no doubt hampered by this new situation, it did nothing to harm his storytelling skills, and Valiant remains a hugely enjoyable action strip, as Valiant battles a variety of ne’r do wells on a quest to find his true love, Aleta." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "I’ve talked at length before about how good the Mome anthology has been, and while I’m sad to see it come to a close, it’s nice to see it end on such a high note. Seriously, this is the best volume of Mome yet, with standout contributions by Chuck Forsman, Eleanor Davis, Laura Park, Dash Shaw, Jesse Moynihan and Sara Edward-Corbett. But really, there’s not a bad story in this entire book. It might seem weird recommending the last book of a series, but if you gotta only read one of these things, this would be the one." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Interview: Brian Heater's conversation with Drew Friedman at The Daily Cross Hatch continues: "But a couple of guys claimed that I didn’t get their names right, like Don Rickles. His PR guy contacted us and said, 'he’s really angry. His name is not Archibald, it’s Donald Rickles.' So, we said in the second book 'Don Rickles says his name is not Archibald, so that will be corrected in a future volume.' Sid Caesar was annoyed. He called Fantagraphics and started yelling at Kim Thompson, because he claimed his name is not Isaac. He was on the phone with him for half an hour. He was doing Jewish schtick and German dialect. Kim was amazed."