• List: At their The SF Site: Nexus Graphica column, Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams name their top 5 comics of the year. For Williams it's West Coast Blues by Tardi & Manchette at #5 ("one of the year's best crime fiction reads, at least in comics"); for Klaw it's Humbug at #4 ("The slipcased set wisely includes several insightful and interesting extras") and Tardi's West Coast Blues and You Are There tied at #3 ("one of the best crime graphic novels ever produced" and "masterfully satirizes French society and politics unlike any comic before or since" respectively)
• List:Comic Book Resources' Brian Cronin lists his Top Ten Comics of 2009, including Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle #5 in the 10th spot ("continues to be a brilliantly absurd comic book every time out") and Ganges #3 by Kevin Huizenga in 4th place ("The first story is mind-boggling... Absolute top notch sequential work")
• Guide: If you've always wondered what part of R. Crumb's enormous oeuvre was the best place to start, Robot 6's Chris Mautner takes you to "Comics College" with some solid advice
• Review: "Few cartoonists ever had as lavish a tribute as a three-volume-slipcased collection, but few are as deserving as [Gahan] Wilson. Collecting 50 years worth of his monthly single page gag cartoons from Playboy, [Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons] is a definitive overview of a remarkable talent and viewpoint. ... Beautifully designed and printed, the books contain cut-out pages, and the slipcase itself becomes a window for a trapped photo of Wilson. Text extras include Wilson's prose short stories and an appreciation by Neil Gaiman. If these three volumes are a bit much for one sitting, periodic dipping in will always satisfy." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "[You Are There] is an absurdist satire,... and a pretty terrific one. ... It's easy to picture it as one of those long-form fourth-season Monty Python episodes... [I]t's seriously a master class on creating a sense not just of place but of a claustrophobic, chaotic, unsustainable state of mind. ... Killer stuff, and more fun than you remember it from French class." – Sean T. Collins
• Review: "This time around, we get Strange Suspense by Steve Ditko, whom you may have heard of. ...[and] man! are these some cool comics. ... Ditko... had no restraints, and the stories show it. This is pretty wild stuff. ... We really get a sense of a master at work in this book, even though it was so early in Ditko's career. ... It's totally worth the price!" – Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "...Tyler’s sensitive 'voice' remains easily recognizable in her latest book, You’ll Never Know. ... This book is to be savored slowly and on its own terms." – Ng Suat Tong, The Comics Journal
• Review: "...[F]or a cartoonist like Dash Shaw, who revels in drawing’s fluidity and expressive imperfections, the transition between comics and animation is a natural one. His splendid four-part animated web series for IFC.com, The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D., underscores what’s best about all of his work—its eclecticism and intimate drama." – Nicole Rudick, Artforum
• Plug: "The Complete Peanuts 1971-1974... This collection of the 11th and 12th volumes of a planned 25-book set, designed by Canadian cartoonist and designer Seth, shows Schulz's staggering talent in the prime of his career and even introduces Linus and Lucy's little brother, Rerun." – Jonathan Kuehlein, Toronto Star
• Interview:Big Shiny Robot! talks to Dash Shaw: "I’ve never sold a treatment and then executed something with the expectations of the publisher looming over my shoulder. ... These comics were going to exist in some form anyway. It’s all been a combination of drawing a ridiculous amount and total luck."
Out of print for over a decade, The Prince Valiant Companion has become a Holy Grail for collectors of the series. Now, in anticipation of the seventy-fifth anniversary of comics’ longest-running adventure strip, and to celebrate our own just-launched reprinting of the strip’s classic earliest years, Fantagraphics is proud to present an expanded version of this hard-to-find collector’s item. Compiled by award-winning Foster biographer Brian M. Kane, The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion beautifully showcases the careers of artists Hal Foster, John Cullen Murphy, and Gary Gianni.
In addition to updating the original version’s story synopsis section with over thirty years of material, The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion also contains rare and new articles. Included in this volume is a never before reprinted newspaper feature from 1949, Foster’s final interview conducted by Arn Saba, an extensive interview with John Cullen Murphy, and a new interview with the current Prince Valiant creative team of Gary Gianni and Mark Schultz. The Companion also contains a new, in-depth article by Kane on Foster’s artistic influences, as well as a Foreword by comics historian Brian Walker, and an Introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ray Bradbury.
A special feature of the Companion is a sixteen-page color section of carefully selected strips from the entire run of the comic. Showcasing this section are eight pages by Foster, scanned and digitally restored from original color engraver’s proofs that had been carefully stored and preserved for over forty years. For the first time ever, collectors will be able to see Prince Valiant as Foster intended it to be seen, with all of his fine inked line work intact. Rounding out this section are four John Cullen Murphy pages from the Murphy family’s collection of proofs, and four Gary Gianni pages that were selected by the artist and digitally recolored under his supervision.
Proceeds from the sale of The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion will go to The Friends of Hal Foster Society to aid in the creation of the Prince Valiant statue in Foster’s birthplace of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Download an EXCLUSIVE 9-page PDF excerpt containing Brian Kane's new essay "Of Mead, Whiskey, and Brandywine: The Artistic Bloodline of Prince Valiant" (7.2 MB).
Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons. 3 volumes. Deluxe presentation. 11 pounds. The ultimate holiday gift for any lover of good cartooning. Chris Mautner of Robot 6 makes it his Pick of the Week and says "I've been perusing the thing over the past week and it's really a sumptuous package, exquisitely designed and full of great, great work from one of the finest (and sadly, often ignored) cartoonists of the modern era." Jog sums it up more succinctly: "I mean, c'mon." Couldn't have said it better myself.
And last but not least two freshly reprinted volumes of The Complete Crumb Comics.Vol. 7: "Hot 'n' Heavy!" features several Mr. Natural tales and some of Crumb's wildest sex comix and much more; and Vol. 12: "We're Livin' in the Lap o' Luxury!" spotlights Crumb's American Splendor collaborations with Harvey Pekar (as seen in the movie) and other diverse works. Classics!
As always we have informative and entertaining previews and other information about these books at the links above, so you can look before you leap.
• List:Details magazine names Ghost World #10 on The 25 Greatest Gen X Books of All Time: "This caustically funny duo-tone tale follows the iconic cat-eyed adolescent Enid Coleslaw in her quest to find meaning, or at least cruel humor, in an age where everything's disposable."
• Review: "Strange Suspense collects dozens of Ditko stories from the 1950’s... Almost a decade before Ditko moved to Marvel, these stories bear his unmistakable style. His fine line work and flair for the abstract that would serve him so well on Doctor Strange particularly, is on full display. ... If you only know Ditko for his work at Marvel or later at DC, here is the chance to explore Early Ditko, unconstrained by editors or the Comics Code. While all of this work is marvelous, clearly Ditko is best at home in horror where he could let his imagination run wild, creating monsters and demons and the things that go bump in the night. Rediscover Ditko today!" – Tim Janson, Newsarama
• Review: "Brian Kane, author of the [Definitive Prince Valiant] Companion and surely the world’s foremost authority on the strip and its creator, Hal Foster, has once again done a herculean amount of work, and Fantagraphics has once again clothed that work in a sturdy, pretty volume. Prince Valiant hasn’t been treated this well since the ersatz King of England sang his praises. Those unfamiliar with the character – a young man who finds adventure, fame, and even love at the court of the legendary King Arthur – will find here all the background information they could ever want... But even long-time Prince Valiant fans will find plenty to fascinate them in this volume." – Khalid Ponte, Open Letters
• Review: "Delphine is a morbid interpretation of the symbology of fairy tales resounding with echoes of unrequited love and abandonment. This is perhaps Sala’s darkest and most intricate story ever – impressive in its nuance and ever shifting emotions. One can only hope that it is not ignored." – Ng Suat Tong, The Comics Journal
• Interview: From TCJ.com: "Every weekday from now until December 25, we’ll be posting a conversation between cartoonists from The Comics Journal #300, complete and online! In today’s installment, it’s a chat between L’Association publisher Jean-Christophe Menu and Kramers Ergot publisher Sammy Harkham."
Starting with today's Online Commentary & Diversions, some minor formatting changes to hopefully make it easier to scan all that text:
• Review: "Published in the oversize Sunday page format ala the Fantagraphics’ Popeye collection (also, brilliant), Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938 collects the earliest of Foster’s tales of the exiled Prince of Thule. ... The colors are warm and vibrant, and the line art pristine. The stories themselves are a delight. ... The art is consistently stunning... each page is spectacular to behold. ... The strips in Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938 are merely the first installment of a massive, groundbreaking, and thoroughly exciting adventure saga that was better than nearly anything during its time, and remains better than nearly anything on the shelves today." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• List: The Village Voice 's R.C. Baker names 2009's Best Comics and Graphic Novels. Among the choices: "A lucid nightmare, Al Columbia's dazzlingly well-drawn Pim & Francie features vignettes of its young protagonists menaced by creepy relatives or starring in exceedingly grim fairy tales. These inky visions seem unearthed from the deepest vaults of Uncle Walt's id. ... Anything but Victorian, Nell Brinkley (1886–1944) celebrated the Roaring '20s with sinuous lines and colors as lurid as William Randolph Hearst's presses could muster. Author Trina Robbins notes, in the lavishly oversize The Brinkley Girls, that the illustrator 'closely resembled the girls she drew.' But Brinkley, with her thrilling fantasias of pirate abductions and aviatrix romances, remains an inspiration beyond flapper flamboyance to any young lady seeking to break into the boys' club of high-end illustration."
• List: Greek site Comicdom is halfway through counting down the top 100 comics of the '00s. On the list so far: Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman at #99 ("Following at a discreet distance from the legacy of Monty Python, Michael Kupperman should be considered a genius by any man who has laughed with the group of Britons"), Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire at #67 ("In the surrealist vein of Krazy Kat and the otherworldly, oneiric atmosphere of Little Nemo... misanthropy and almond sweetness"), Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco at #60 ("The shock was, however, not an end in itself, since what actually manages to come across is the sense of pain and loss that each of the interviewees had experienced"), and Fred the Clown by Roger Langridge at #53 ("Ingenious comics by an equally intelligent designer who not only knows the history of the instrument and understand what makes it work"). [Quotes cobbled from autotranslation.]
• Review: "There have been a lot of great comic book releases this year, but none has the beauty and melancholy resonance of Fantagraphics' Prince Valiant: Volume 1-1937-1938. ... As for Hal Foster, Fantagraphics has given this artist his due and helped place him in his proper context as a great American artist and master of the comics form." – Mark Rhodes, Omnicomic
• Review: "Employing a storytelling dynamic not unlike that of Serling’s science fiction classic, Thomas Ott’s The Number 73304-23-4153-6-96-8 is itself a visit... to a dimension not of sound, but of sight and mind that at once both rewards and confuses. ... Ott’s hyper-meticulous attention to how detail relates to used space and negative space is at once both unsettling and captivating, utilizing a form of technical, pen-like cross-hatching for essentially every line that can only be described as Robert Crumb on Adderall. ... The Number is a universally literate work of fiction that is a quick first read with potential for longer lasting examination." – C.R. Stemple, Pads & Panels
• Review: "The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D. is a fascinating first animated work [third, actually — ed.] from one of today's most original and unusual artists. Shaw adapts well from the comics page to the cinematic form. ... Almost as well as his comics, this film expresses Shaw's ongoing desire to look at the world from a slightly askew perspective, to express his fascination with the complexity of people's inner universes. ...[T]he film... [is] a probing, emotional examination of what it means to make art and to forge meaningful human interactions..." – Ed Howard, Only the Cinema
• Plug: In an interview with IFC found by our own Janice Headley, musician Chuck Prophet names Ghost World as a favorite movie: "A coming-of-age teen flick movie that pivots around Skip James’ 'Devil Got My Woman' can do no wrong with me. And shouldn’t with anyone else."
• Interview: At Comics Comics, Dan Nadel presents audio of the panel with Gary Panter & Peter Saul at the Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival last weekend
• Review: "[Gilbert] Hernandez's latest solo work The Troublemakers is the second in a series of self-contained graphic novel 'B-movies,' featuring one of his recurring characters, the cannonball-breasted Rosalba 'Fritz' Martinez. Here, Fritz plays Nala, one of a trio of hustlers trying to hook up with 200,000 smackers. Whether the money actually exists and who has it are anyone's guess in this drama-filled thriller — good for folks who like their graphic novels grim, gritty, and sleazy." – Brad Buckner, Portland Mercury
• Review: "Strange Suspense [The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1]... is an absolute treat! ...[T]his book looks amazing. ...[It's] filled with images that will remain seared into your psyche long after you’ve put it down. ... Strange Suspense is an absolute must have for any student of sequential art history... It’s an excellent collection of long lost work from a man whose importance cannot be overstated. There’s really no other grade to give it than an A." – Chad Derdowski, Mania.com
• Review: "Wolverton is helped [in The Wolverton Bible]... by his bold compositional sense, which aids in pushing some of his images beyond the doldrums of camp and into a certain monumentality, a grandeur that retains a shabby earthiness, without being lofty, hollow or pretentious. Without being, in a word, 'churchy.'" – Chris Lanier, The Comics Journal (beta)
• Review: "Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit is probably as close as comics are likely to come to exploitation cinema. Like the best exploitation dreck from Texas Chainsaw to Death Race 2000, Prison Pit is pure, bottom-dwelling schlock... And yet, again as with exploitation fare, the single-minded commitment to vileness is so perversely pure that it goes right past lowest-common-denominator entertainment and on into snooty, fancy-pants art. ... Ryan’s world is essentially Waiting for Godot, from the bleak landscape to the slapstick violence." – Noah Berlatsky, The Comics Journal (beta)
Online Commentary & Diversions, first of the week, last of the month:
• Coming Attractions: Chris Mautner of Robot 6 got his hands on our Spring/Summer 2010 catalog and runs it all down for you
• Review: "Of all the comics published in 2009, none has deserved more acclaim... than You Are There. ... Tardi's art, which combines the liveliness and simplicity of the best cartooning with a well-observed realism is perfect for this kind of surreal tale. ... His work deserves to be read and will endlessly reward readers who seek it out." – Robert Boyd
• Review: "[Like a Dog] is a gloriously rough-hewn and hands-on collection from a compulsive cartoonist and storyteller packaged with the flair and imagination that has become a trademark of the world’s leading publisher of fascinating comics. ...Sally’s dedication to innovation, exploration and imagination will astound and entrance anyone who knows capital A Art when they see it." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "[Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1] is a cracking collection in its own right but as an examination of one of the art-form’s greatest stylists it is also an invaluable insight into the very nature of comics. This is a book true fans would happily kill or die for." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Columbia's book [Pim & Francie] is positively festooned with frightening moments and tableaux... Any single upsetting image is a rosette on a much more ambitious and awesome-to-behold cake. Al Columbia has progressed to the point where he can haunt my nightmares for three days as an aside." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "...The Complete Iron Devil is a humorous adult fantasy book with great art. However, it wouldn't be nearly as good if it weren't for the excellent Devil's Angel story, which points out the craziness of 'morality police.'" – Bernard C. Cormier, [here] (CanadaEast)
• Plug: Polish blog kg looks forward to our next two CompleteCrumb reprints (perfectly broken English courtesy Google): "And you need to know that to find and collect all the works of Crumb is as hard as winning for best player of the world, being Polish football player."
• Plug: "It’s like a bomb went off in the subconscious of Max Fleischer and Columbia was around to collect the pieces years later when they fell to earth. In this time of safe substitution power fantasies, Columbia’s work is truly provocative stuff. Funny, dark, and impeccably executed." – The Synesthetic Fugue Incident
Brand new on our website and available for pre-order: The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion, in both softcover and hardcover editions. This ultimate book for Valiant fans has been long out of print; Hal Foster biographer Brian M. Kane has completely updated the book with over 30 years of material, new interviews & articles, rare archival material, and a special color section of strips from every era. Download an exclusive 9-page PDF excerpt containing a new essay by Kane right here, and view a photo & video slideshow preview of the hardcover edition embedded below. Click here if it is not visible, and/or to view it larger in a new window (recommended — and we also have a slideshow of the softcover). This book is scheduled to be in stock and ready to ship in about 3 weeks (both editions will be released simultaneously) and in stores right around the same time (subject to change).
• Review: "The different techniques — ink on paper, watercolor, pencil, black or color, collage, digital manipulation, minimalist drawing, patchwork, cartoony lines... — associated to the different strategies and presences of 'comics' elements in these variations will make us wonder, on the one hand, on a progressive dilution of any formal determination in relation to this art (bringing it closer, thus, to freer or more conceptual artistic disciplines, in which the gesture is more important than, say, talent, virtuosity, technical prowess), and, on the other hand, in the phantasmatical emergence of an unifying idea (a name: 'abstract comics'), but which is, in the last instance, irreducible to something directly analyzable." – Pedro Vieira de Moura, SuccoAcido
• Review: "I wish to add my voice to the chorus of those who really, really like Johnny Ryan's left-hand turn into violent fantasy with the promise of more to come, Prison Pit. ... Prison Pit should help anyone paying attention to appreciate how carefully Ryan designs and executes his work. You could not achieve the gruesome effects and consistent energy Ryan does here without being absolutely on top of that style... Ryan's general intelligence — I think he's one of the smartest cartoonists — is also on display in how quickly he picks up the rhythms of the kind of sprawling manga and art-comics fantasies that this book frequently recalls. ... Crucially, I never knew exactly where Ryan was headed but every scene in Prison Pit seemed to flow naturally from the previous one right up to the brutally funny, icky and appropriate ending. I hope there are ten more." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Unlike anything Ryan's done thematically, or really, unlike anything Fantagraphics has published before, Prison Pit is a non-stop action comic. It's pretty successful in that regard, with imaginative character designs and some surprising battles, full of many odd transformations and characters surviving the loss of limbs, even a head. And although the genre is different, Ryan can't seem to deviate from a fascinating mix of sex and violence and bodily fluids." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
• Plug: "[Pim & Francie] is an arrangement of drawings — sometimes preparations for drawings — generally honed in on the journey of two old-timey animation-looking kids. Sometimes there's dialogue, sometimes there's 'scenes,' but most of the work's interest comes from wrenching you though time and space as the narrative stretches just thin enough to part in spots, only to gum together again for a little while, until it's pulled again." – Joe McCulloch, Jog - The Blog
• Things to see: Several vintage Jim Flora illustrations (including possibly some previously unpublished ones) ran in last Sunday's UK Telegraph Sunday jazz supplement — the Jim Flora Art blog has a link to a PDF