Yesterday's and today's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Sala consistently introduces red-cheeked, innocent characters and then puts them through the meat-grinder, and in The Hidden he plays with mad science. ...Sala’s novel features plenty of 'tell,' because if it’s one thing mad scientists enjoy, it’s expository dialogue. There are gorgeous single-panel pages filled with huge dialogue balloons, and it’s to the author and illustrator’s credit that it’s always a hoot; Sala is a professional when it comes to tongue-in-cheek visuals (the friendly looking characters with spilled intestines) and storytelling.... Its ending is... abrupt..., but it leaves ample room for a welcome continuation. The lushly colored package is vintage Fantagraphics, of course." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon.com)
• Review: "Relaunching in a book-sized format, Comics Journal #301 came out from Fantagraphics this summer, and has already gone through a second printing. The magazine is dense, with over three hundred pages, containing enough essays, interviews, reviews, and art pages to easily fill 2-4 of the old issues.... Where else in comics journalism are you going to find a viewpoint of comics encompassing enough to put so many different realms of the artform under the same microscope and give it all due consideration? The drastic shift in format indicates a willingness of Fantagraphics to take risks with its flagship publication." – Greg Baldino, Bleeding Cool
• Review: "...[T]his gentle, inviting series about two transgendered elementary school students... has truly captured my attention.... Wandering Son feels at times more like a series of character sketches that all connect together than a narrative-driven book, but it’s a structure that makes me that much more intrigued... Takako’s art is beautiful here, delicate line drawings that fit well with her story.... Last but not least, props need to go to Fantagraphics for a great physical design of the book.... This isn’t quite like anything else on the market right now, and I’m thrilled to see Fantagraphics exposing it to a wider audience." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Interview: The normally Love and Rockets-focused Love & Maggie blog steps out of their usual purview to hit up Gary Groth for more information about our forthcoming series Jack Jackson's American History (starting next year with Los Tejanos/Lost Cause) — if you're at all interested in these books, definitely check this out
• Lore: "Before resuming I should say this: Drug taking, by myself and others, really peaks in this chapter. It isn’t something I’m proud of or a thing I endorse. But it is the way it all happened." So begins the ninth installment of Kim Deitch's epic memoir-in-music "Mad About Music: My Life in Records" at TCJ.com
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.
Download and read a 12-page PDF excerpt which includes Brian Kane's Foreword and 9 strips (6.6 MB). Also, read editor Kim Thompson's Afterword from Vol. 1, detailing the production and restoration of these new editions, right here on our website.
Prince Valiant chronicler (and fine cartoonist in his own right) Brian Kane presented Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai with this fantastic fan-art mashup of Val and Usagi at the Baltimore Comic Con this past weekend and forwarded it along to us, and now he's given us permission to share it with you! (Click the image for a slightly larger version.)
Inspired by this artwork, we had the idea to offer free standard domestic shipping on orders that include at least one Usagi book and at least one Prince Valiant book for the rest of the week! This offer is not available for online orders, so call 1-800-657-1100 to take advantage. (Offer applies only to in-stock Usagi and Valiant books and expires at 5PM Pacific time on Friday August 26, 2011.)
• Review: "...[L]ike the best coming-of-age stories — comics or otherwise —Wandering Son is meticulously accurate in its details, but universal in its emotions. Gay or not, readers shouldn’t find it too difficult to identify with kids who feel like their bodies and their friends are equally culpable in the worst kind of betrayal, preventing them from realizing the potential they see in themselves." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "The tone of each book is very different, with the Gil Jordan collection favoring clever mysteries, narrow escapes, and broad comic relief, while the Sibyl-Anne book is subtler, dissecting the way miniature societies work, together and in opposition. Both are excellent, though, showing off the strengths of the Eurocomics tradition, with its sprawling narratives spread across small panels, mixing cartoony characters and elaborate backgrounds." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Reminiscent of the classic Michael Winner-helmed and Charles Bronson-starred The Mechanic, Tardi's follow up to his acclaimed adaptation of a Manchette crime novel West Coast Blues, Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot... delivers a superior sequential thriller. Violent, sexy, and littered with enough shocks to excite the most hardened crime fiction fan, Tardi once again produces one of the finest examples of the genre." – Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Review: "McKean has long been established as a master of multimedia imagery and Celluloid represents possibly his finest work. The clarity and seamlessness with which he combines photography with drawings and paintings makes every scene entirely convincing. It’s this hyper-reality that encourages us to submit to the dream-logic of the story." – Gavin Lees, Graphic Eye
• Review: "[Celluloid] is a story of sexual growth and empowerment. ...McKean's artwork gains greater dimensionality as his central character grows more assertive.... The pace of the story is left up to the reader, but McKean has created such lush visuals that many will want to linger and examine the intricacies of the imagery presented....Many of the pages are so well crafted in their surrealistic imagery that they could easily hang beside Picasso. McKean has boldly stepped away from the confines of mainstream comic books with this endeavor, and the result is a masterpiece of eroticism that relies heavily on intellect and emotion, rather than just mere arousal or titillation." – Michael Hicks, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Review: "If Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins exploded inside a Victorian tea shop, it would look something like [Meat Cake]... The humour is perverse, like an alt-universe Kate Bush who grew up reading penny dreadfuls instead of Brontë, the drawings are obsessively crammed with fever-dream detail, and the author has the advantage of being able to make publicity appearances dressed as her own characters, which is not something most cartoonists should attempt." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon is Brunswick
• Profile: Rosalie Higson of The Australian talks to Robert Crumb in anticipation of his visit to Sydney next month for the GRAPHIC festival: "There's a unique timing and way of telling a story with comic panels, different to writing novels or a film script. And there are seasons in the life of any artist. Crumb has dropped all his ongoing characters. 'I'm sick of them all. I'm very critical of my own work, when I look back on it I'm not especially proud, I wasn't really serious enough about it. I'm not sure what it all means for posterity, I have no idea. You can be the world's most favourite artist, and be totally forgotten a few years later,' he says."
• Interview:At Print magazine's Imprint blog, Michael Dooley chats with Trina Robbins. Dooley: "Trina's 2009 The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Nell Brinkley's Cartoons from 1913-1940 is a stunning collection as well as a detailed pictorial chronicle of the evolution of fashion and style, from Nouveau to Deco." Robbins: "I love clothes. I love lipstick. I love glamor. And obviously, so have many other women, if you look at the large readership of artists like Nell Brinkley and Brenda Starr's Dale Messick. And in the case of younger readers, at all the girls who loved Katy Keene. There probably are still some women who might want to see me, if not guillotined, then at least sent off to a gulag for promoting such work."
• Review: "I held off buying the new hardback series collecting Hal Foster's Prince Valiant because I already have complete reprint collections of that groundbreaking comic strip. But I finally broke down and bought Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-38, and I'm glad I did. The reproduction is crisp, and the strips are presented in the size they originally ran, that of a newspaper broadsheet. This is how Foster's gorgeous artwork was meant to be seen, and I have to be careful not to drool on the pages." – Andrew A. Smith, Scripps Howard News Service
Good grief! We just received another shipment of Prince Valiant books and once again some of them got slightly marred in transit. Thus we are continuing to offer them to you at half off the cover price! This includes Vol. 1 (1937-1938), Vol. 2 (1939-1940) and the new Vol. 3 (1941-1942). As before they're perfectly readable — just cosmetically less than perfect. They're so cheap! Please help us get rid of them once and for all! Click the links above to order.
Catching up on our Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "...Fantagraphics Books’ new Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: “Race to Death Valley” contains all you need to know to revel in the very different, deeply pleasurable work of [Floyd] Gottfredson. Working with one of the most famous — and most anodyne — cartoon characters in the world, Gottfredson turned the grinning, goody-goody Mouse into a plucky, even reckless adventurer, his smile transformed from a people-pleasing smirk into a challenge to the world.... Gottfredson drew Mickey with a nosy snout and the bright eyes of an adrenalin junkie. The mouse’s diminutive size inspired Gottfredson to have the character attempt daredevil races, leaping stunts, and develop a flurry-fisted fighting style.... This beautiful volume gives the Great Rodent his humanity." – Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly
• Review: "Fantagraphics does a very smart thing with [Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Vol. 1], packing it full of historical materials to set the story for the comic strip. Having David Gerstein edit it is, of course, the smartest thing they could have done.... Simply put, it's the most extensive collection of 'extras' I've ever seen in one of these comic strip reprint series to date.... Reproductions are as great as you could ever hope for from material that's 80 years old and originally printed in the inkiest of newspapers you could imagine.... It's a kick to see this more interesting version of Mickey running around, saying and doing politically incorrect things. It's amazing to see how much detail an artist could pack into a small series of panels like this. But, most of all, it's a whole lot of fun." – Augie De Blieck Jr., Comic Book Resources
• Review: "This is, first of all, superb material.... Way back when, [Mickey Mouse] had a continuity and some darn good stories, illustrated with dynamic and expressive art. It was everything you could have wanted a newspaper strip to be, including being quite funny at times...and even suspenseful. The book itself is perfect and by that I mean I can't think of a single way it could have been improved. The reproduction is sharp. The editorial material fills you in nicely about the history of the strip, plus there are articles that discuss its merits and significance. The volume itself is handsome and will look good on your shelf." – Mark Evanier
• Plugs: Some great press mentions for our Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Free Comic Book Day comic, including the AP's Matt Moore and Whitney Matheson of USA Today Pop Candy, who says "This is sort of what FCBD is about, isn't it? Fantagraphics presents Floyd Gottfredson's amazing old Mickey strips from 1935 that are still entertaining today. Perfect for all ages..." The Wright Opinion's Brendan Wright says "The line work is beautiful and fluid, with plenty of panels that are funny to look at without reading the words. Thorough as always with this type of project, Fantagraphics has provided both an intro by David Gerstein an an appreciation of Gottfredson by classic Disney animator and official Disney Legend Floyd Norman."
• Review: "For Isle of 100,000 Graves, the cartoonist Jason works with a writer, Fabien Vehlmann, for what is at least the first time in his strong North American publishing run. It's a fun collaboration over which to muse because it's hard to tell exactly what Vehlmann brings to the table. The writer has grasped onto Jason's use of deadpan humor and wistful character moments to an uncanny degree.... Because of this deliberate care in both building their personalities and working from them in terms of how they react to certain story moments, both leads come across as incredibly endearing. A story-ending plot twist almost gets lost in a by-that-point hilarious one-liner about the methods used in bringing it about." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Underground-influenced comics fall into certain patterns — idiosyncratic art, rambling tales of daily life, copious use of mood-altering substances — but [Leslie] Stein makes hers [Eye of the Majestic Creature] fresh with the addition of a talking guitar.... Stein’s style is very readable, with sparse linework and a lead character that resembles a more tripped-out Little Orphan Annie, with huge blank buttons for eyes. Stein’s settings and other characters show more detail, especially in the complex stippling, demonstrating her outward focus.... Her world is full, even if it’s one that’s a bit off-kilter..." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Peter Bagge continues the saga of Lisa and Buddy Bradley and their son Harold in Hate Annual #9.... Peter Bagge has always made you care for these characters no matter what crazy problems they had. He has this rare gift of getting his readers to empathize with the drawings on the page and realizing them as real people.... Bagge shows us a very human side to the characters he creates and mirrors life in a sometimes painful way.... As we live our lives, we can look at these pages and see a little bit of ourselves in the drawn panels. This is what makes this series, and all previous ones, stand the test of time and remain a great read. Rating: 8.5" – The Comic Book Critic
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch continues serializing the transcript of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Peter Bagge: "I started drawing Buddy in 1980, when he was a member of The Bradleys. He was always 10 years younger than me. He started out as an adolescent — not always exactly 10 years. That’s on purpose, because that 10 years gives me space. When you’re going through a crisis or a rough time, it’s not funny, but 10 years later, you can look at the whole situation more objectively and find the humor in it."
• Review: "[Joe Daly's] latest, award-winning, on-going project Dungeon Quest is a delightful combination of nerdy discipline and pharmaceutical excess... Happily marrying the sensibilities of post-grunge, teenaged waste-lads... with the meticulous and finicky obsessions of role-playing gamers and the raw thrill of primal myths, this captivating and wittily indulgent yarn is enchantingly rendered in solid, blocky friendly black and white and garnished with lashings of smart-ass attitude. Strength: vulgar. Intelligence: witty. Dexterity: compelling. Mana: absolutely. Status: unmissable." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch begins serializing another of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversations, this time with Gahan Wilson: "The people who do horror stories and grim stuff are remarkably sweet people.... It was very odd. Why are horror writers like this? And it suddenly occurred to me — of course, what horror writers are writing about is the vulnerability of themselves and their readers and everybody and how fragile everything is.... They’re experts at being scared. If they weren’t experts at being scared, they wouldn’t write about being scared and scare other people."
• Interview: If you read Japanese, enjoy excerpts from a conversation between Moto Hagio and her colleague Ryoko Yamagishi from Otome Continue Vol. 6 presented at Poco Poco
• Feature:Eye of the Majestic Creature creator Leslie Stein is the guest contributor in the latest installment of "What Are You Reading?" at Robot 6. Among her picks: Yeah! by Peter Bagge & Gilbert Hernandez: "Gilbert’s illustrations are excellent and Bagge’s writing is funny, as per usual."
• Review: "More than anything, ...21 is a book of huge ambition and formal daring. The storytelling is kaleidoscopic, leaping from Clemente’s final game in 1972 to his childhood to his 1960s heyday and back again, with time out for portraits of both the steel city and the Caribbean island that he loved so much. But for all his overt displays of (admittedly dazzling) technique, Santiago never loses track of his story. Though it’s not an ideal starting point for readers unfamiliar with Clemente’s life and significance — the treatment is far too idiosyncratic and personal for that, though newcomers will find the extensive bibliography useful — it hangs on strong narrative threads. [...] 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente is a mammoth achievement..." – Jack Feerick, Kirkus Reviews
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning talks to Jim Woodring about the Nibbus Maximus and his new graphic novel: "'The story Congress of the Animals is one I've wanted to tell for a long time. In a lot of ways it's the most personal of the Frank stories and it breaks some aspects of the Frank mold,' Woodring said. 'There's a lot going on that may not be apparent, but I operate on the theory that is, there is something there people will pick up on it even if they don't see it directly. And that if they are sufficiently interested in puzzling it out, the meaning will become apparent.'"
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch continues serializing the transcript of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Peter Bagge: "I still have ideas for [Buddy] and Lisa. I always have ideas for them. But what I also told myself is that I never want to just do the same character forever. You’re fortunate if you wind up doing something that’s popular. It’s rare for a cartoonist to land on something that’s popular enough that you could do it forever. Maybe I’m projecting, but I always felt sorry for daily strip cartoonists, who — you think up the Lockhorns, and you have to do the Lockhorns forever. They must always be on the verge of suicide."
• Commentary:Robot 6's Chris Mautner takes you to "Comics College" with a reader's guide to the work of Joe Sacco: "The novelty of Sacco’s particular niche tends to obscure some of his rather significant qualities as an artist and storyteller. He’s an endlessly inventive cartoonist, capable of creating incredible detailed vistas that give readers a definitive sense of place and time. He’s capable of moving from near-photo-like realism to a Basil Wolverton-ish exaggeration that can perfectly capture, say, a sweaty, crowded night club. In short, he’s an amazingly gifted craftsman, one of the best people making comics out there today."
• Analysis: "...Prince Valiant is so lush, so rich on a panel by panel basis that I often find a nine-grid of it is just enough for the day, something that unfolds and unfolds in your head long after you've set it aside. Foster makes a world with his artwork, layering in meticulous details that are never arbitrary or belabored, always enhancing the impact of the pictures' content." – Matt Seneca, Death to the Universe
• Review: "Erotic, harrowing, graphically violent, and astonishingly grim, Love from the Shadows sees Hernandez plunging ever further into his own heart of darkness. [...] Every line is heavy with sadness, with the desire of the character, and the character within the character, and the artist, and the audience, to escape. But if there’s one message you can draw from Gilbert Hernandez’s comics, it’s that once you enter that cave, there’s no going back. Christ, what a fucking book." – Sean T. Collins, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Clearly Taking Punk to the Masses will appeal first and foremost to fans of Kurt Cobain, Nevermind, and everything Nirvana — but by placing this groundbreaking band within a cultural and historical context it becomes more than just another Nirvana book. In fact, you’ll be surprised at how much more there is between its covers, and the Nirvana artifacts are kept to a minimum. Instead, it tells the tale of underground American punk, the Seattle scene, and the grunge phenomenon. [...] Even if you haven’t had the chance to check out the EMP’s exhibit, ...Taking Punk to the Masses provides an intriguing visual and oral history of the generation that changed music — and the Northwest — for good." – Dan Coxon, CultureMob
• Review: "The undisputed king of the adventure comic strip was Roy Crane. [...] Suddenly faced with a whole new audience and a world newly at war, Crane created a new strip for Hearst, the exploits of a daring Navy pilot named Buz Sawyer, beginning in 1943. The result was one of the greatest adventure strips ever, the first two years of which have been collected in Buz Sawyer: The War in the Pacific. [...] The bright-eyed, steely resolve of Crane's generation shines in every panel, making it a refreshing bit of nostalgia as well as an exemplar of sequential art. [...] For history buffs and comic fans alike, Roy Crane's flyboy provides a great escape from 21st-century cynicism." – John G. Nettles, Flagpole Magazine
• Review: "It's called Popeye, Vol. 4: "Plunder Island"... and it's just as good and thrilling a mixture of low humor, high adventure, running gags, populist sentiment, brawling action, expressive drawing, and unforgettable characters as ever. [...] This is great stuff, and it's just as funny and enthralling as it was in the mid-30s when Segar was spinning it out, day by day, in the funny papers. Someone who can read Popeye and doesn't has no advantages to speak of over the mule, who cannot read Popeye." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
This month's issue of Booklist brings a starred review for 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago and additional favorable reviews of 5 more of our recent releases, excerpted below:
"Nearly every page brings a new compositional marvel, setting energetic, limber figures against stylized photographic backgrounds washed in sepia tones and Pirate-yellow highlights. The in-game sequences, though, are show-stoppers, taking advantage of dizzying perspective shifts to capture the fluid, whirling nature of the game as it moves in fits and starts through huge moments of pause into cracking shots of sizzling drama. It’s not a comprehensive biography by any means, nor does it try to be one. But for a book that matches the pure athleticism, unshakable compassion, and towering legacy of its subject, look no further." — Ian Chipman (Starred Review)
Popeye Vol. 5: "Wha's a Jeep?" by E.C. Segar: "The fifth oversize volume collecting Segar’s vintage 1930s newspaper strip sees two particularly notable events, the introduction of Popeye’s lovable pet from the fourth dimension, Eugene the Jeep, who can foretell the future — a talent that Olive Oyl and Wimpy predictably exploit at the racetrack — and the seafaring quest to find Popeye’s long-lost father, Poopdeck Pappy, who turns out to be even more irascible than his cantankerous son. The out-of-continuity Sunday pages are more humor-driven, allowing Segar’s most brilliant comic creation, the rotundly roguish J. Wellington Wimpy, to take the fore." – Gordon Flagg
Prince Valiant Vol. 3: 1941-1942 by Hal Foster: "This period, with its far-flung story lines and lavishly detailed artwork, is arguably the acme of Foster’s four decades chronicling the bold exploits of his medieval hero. While the oversize pages don’t approach the expanse of the bygone broadsheet newspapers that were Valiant’s original home, this is the best showcase Foster’s epic creation has had since its original appearance more than 70 years ago." — Gordon Flagg
Krazy & Ignatz 1919-1921: A Kind, Belevolent and Amiable Brick by George Herriman: "Although nearly a century has elapsed since these episodes first saw print, nothing that’s appeared on newspaper comics pages in the intervening years has approached their graphic and linguistic sophistication, let alone their brazenly idiosyncratic singularity. The bounty of Herriman’s fanciful masterwork is enhanced by a pair of informative supplemental essays and Chris Ware’s strikingly stark cover design." – Gordon Flagg
The Complete Peanuts 1979-1980 (Vol. 15) by Charles M. Schulz: "Although Schulz’s much-loved comic strip is considered timeless — the continued reprinting of decades- old episodes in today’s newspapers attests to its perennial appeal — it wasn’t immune to contemporary trends. In these episodes, Peppermint Patty advocates for women’s equity in sports and gets Bo Derek-inspired cornrows. In other anomalous sequences, Charlie Brown’s pals express uncharacteristic affection for him when he’s hospitalized, and Peppermint Patty falls in love with — of all people — Pig-Pen. But most of the strips here display the comfortable tropes, from Snoopy as a WWI flying ace to Linus awaiting the Great Pumpkin, that Peanuts fans grew to love during its five-decade run." – Gordon Flagg
R.I.P.: Best of 1985-2004 by Thomas Ott: "With Ott’s trademark scratchboard style affording the highest possible contrast, this is some of the most stunningly crafted work in comics today." – Ray Olson