• Review: "This slim volume is finely edited, and its narrative tone resides on the border between fairy stories and unbowdlerized folk tales. In other words, it is suffused with equal dismay and delight at the nature of the world. The drawings, printed in two crisp colors, would be worth the price of the book if it were stripped of words. Like Craig Thompson’s Habibi (which it precedes in its original publication date, pre-translation) and Umberto Eco’s Baudolino, it has a great deal of wonder in it, which it conveys in a surprisingly matter-of-fact way. Do note that the book is full of penises and violence (and I mean full), so you may not want to buy it for your ten-year-old niece, but if you are still under the spell of story, The Armed Garden will delight you." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Reviews:Cosmic Treadmill begins their survey of the complete works of Jason with Hey, Wait... ("What starts out as a series of cute and fun moments of the protagonist’s childhood turns into one of the most memorable comic book moments I can think of.... This should be on everyone’s to-read list"), Sshhhh! ("utterly engrossing... another quite memorable book"), and The Iron Wagon ("Full of deceit, paranoia and some great characterisation, The Iron Wagon won’t soon be forgotten") — all of which are collected in What I Did
• Plug: "I loved [Mascots], and if you're the kind of person that this kind of thing might appeal to, I highly recommend it. It lands a tricky acrobatic mix of poetry, graphic design, painting, and general sketchbook goofballery." – Kevin Huizenga\
Ray Fenwick is all up on and in the current issue of Canadian literary magazine Grain. "The spectacular full-of-words-and-questions artwork is by Ray Fenwick, this issue’s Featured Artist — Ray’s gorgeous jealousy-inducing cover alone is reason enough to pick up this issue!" says they, and who are we to disagree?
• Review: "...[T]he [Comics] Journal returns in a new bricklike bookshelf format (seriously, this thing has like 600 pages!), anchored by a massive Robert Crumb interview, and a whole freakin’ lot of really strong criticism. I most especially liked the Cerebus retrospective by Tim Krieder.... Great great great read!" – Brian Hibbs, The Savage Critics
• Review: "The artists that create worlds that start with the alphabet — these are the ones who have been getting in my head lately, motivating me to sort through my response to their art and settle my own ideas on alphabets. Mascots by Ray Fenwick is a great place to start. The book announces itself boldly — it is small, but its hot pink cloth cover is difficult to ignore. The title breaks across a few lines, so it is less a word than a jumble of letters — a mascot for the word 'Mascot,' so to speak. The book is appropriately titled: from the very beginning, everything announces itself as something else – forms are always changing, names are invented 'mercifully' (to use one of the narrators’ parlance) for things that are unnamable, faces that smile when the book is held in one direction are revealed as faces that frown when the book is flipped. The book conveys a sense of being stuck just outside of where everything makes sense and fits together." – Jordan Hurder, Chance Press
• Opinion: I don't think Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle knew about our upcoming series of Pogo collections when he wrote his reminiscences about the strip — "Pogo had it all: love, fear, friendship, ambivalence, pails of water, morality, plus a love of high-flown language and, not incidentally, wonderful draftsmanship" — and bemoaned the scarcity and high prices of past collections (via The Daily Cartoonist)
• Review: "As with Chun's earlier volumes in the series, it is fantastic to see this work brought back. The original digests were pervasive and invasive...they once arrived by the pallet to newsstands all over the country, but because of their risque and sexist slant, they've been Orwelled right out of our world. It is nice to see them presented here as the art they were. Other than their super-busty raunch (and the occasional spanking) the girly gags of Humorama have aged well because they were hidden for some fifty years. They are also harmless, sometimes woman-friendly and FUNNY." – Jim Linderman, Vintage Sleaze
• Review: "Isle of 100,000 Graves represents his first true collaboration, with writer Fabien Vehlmann providing a template that is a remarkable complement to Jason’s deadpan style.... At a crisp 57 pages, Vehlmann and Jason cram a surprising amount of plot and character development into this graphic novella, yet the book has a pleasantly unhurried pace and plenty of room for gags.... The secret hero of this book’s success is the colorist Hubert, who brings a vivid richness to the book that gives it a quality not unlike that of Carl Barks’ work.... The result is pure storytelling pleasure, a kind of narrative eye-candy that is doubly attractive for its sense of restraint and Vehlmann’s deadpan story beats." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Review: "I never thought I could look at Poe in a way that was fresh. Poe has been done a thousand times and, while it’s always fun to watch someone else do their thing with Poe’s work, it tends to all go pretty much the same. [The Raven] is different, though. This is scaling back layers of dead flesh — Poe’s, Reed’s and Mattotti’s — and then grafting all of the raw, naked skin together to make a creature that is both disturbing and beautiful.... Knowing that this work came from a musical, I thought perhaps I might be missing a large piece of it, experiencing it through only one sense. I was wrong, however — Mattotti’s art combined with the inherent lyrical quality of the writing to make a more beautiful song than anyone could sing." – Lyndsey Holder, Innsmouth Free Press
• Review: "Fenwick's use of fonts is fascinating, as he seems obsessed with their aesthetic and decorative qualities as a way of eliciting a certain kind of reaction.... Fenwick slips between the absurd, the thoughtful, the existential and the sublime from page to page, keeping the reader off-balance but engaged.... Mascots flips from image to image with a dream logic that's sometimes whimsical, sometimes creepy, sometimes weird and always vivid. It's that vividness that gives the book its energy and an almost hallucinatory quality. Readers should not expect a coherent narrative but rather simply enjoy the ride." – Rob Clough, High-Low
• Review: "Josh Simmons picked an interesting way to write a graphic novel... Jessica seems to be a child in an abusive situation but either she’s found how to stay sane within her own imaginary world with a host of friends or she’s found a way to fight back. I’m not sure if her courage is a shield or a weapon. [Jessica Farm is a]n interesting life project and I think, well worth a read." – Terry Grignon, Golbing
• Quote of the Week: At The Comics Journal, R. Fiore's review of Luc Besson's film adaptation of Tardi's The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec contains this bon mot: "My rule of thumb is that making a movie out of a comic strip is like making a love song out of a blowjob: You may well make a perfectly decent love song out of it, but it will lack the characteristics one values in the original experience."
Are you kidding me?! One of the few things I love as much as comics is fashion, so a dress featuring a print designed by artist Ray Fenwick is almost too much for me to handle.
Titled "Toothpick Swarm," this cotton jersey dress from Threadless.com features Fenwick's immediately-identifiable illustration work in a bold tomato-red print.
And fellas, Fenwick has you covered, too, with the "S.S. Aimless" tee, also available through Threadless.com. Um... I kinda want this, too.
Of course, if you'd rather read it than wear it, just click here to get your copy of Mascots, if it's not on your bookshelf already. More of Fenwick's energetic work in his signature surrealistic style, and less laundry.
Catching up on several days' worth of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List/Plugs: In an article titled "Fantagraphics: The Greatest American Comics Publisher," GUY.com's Rob Gonsalves says "What the Criterion Collection is to DVDs, Fantagraphics is to comics. Any self-respecting collection of graphic novels, any library public or personal, needs to sport at least one Fantagraphics book," and recommends a nicely idiosyncratic top-20 list of our publications which includes some of our more obscure releases
• Review: "While there definitely were some hardships, Clemente’s life was as unique and joyful as his persona and ball playing skills were, and Wilfred Santiago’s 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente reflects this uniqueness and joy through its own unique retelling of Clemente’s life. [...] The simple joy conveyed in this book is universally appealing... Baseball is a game that is full of life and story, and every year the game blooms in the spring with the trees and flowers of the season. 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente celebrates life, and new life, as much as it does baseball." – Andy Frisk, Comic Book Bin
• Interview: Pittsburgh City Paper's David Davis, who says "In his new graphic novel 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente, the author of 2002's In My Darkest Hour uses Clemente's life to explore issues on and off the diamond. These include the thorny politics of Puerto Rico (statehood or commonwealth status?) as well as the racism Clemente faced in America as a dark-skinned Latino. The result is both a superhero cartoon and a lyrical time-machine, rendered in the regal black-gold-and-white of the Bucs' uni," has a brief Q&A with Wilfred Santiago: "I began my career working on superhero cartoons. That's the look I wanted to get -- somewhere between a cartoon and a painting. I wanted to get the camera right there with him and you're experiencing the action up close."
• Review: "Slavishly documenting and lavishly illustrating through band flyers and set lists and rare record sides and marvelous photography, along with first-person textual accounts, this strange, excited dialogue between misfits in America through bands, venues, zines, and lives and how it was all done punk and how punk was done. [...] Taking Punk to the Masses’ gallant bridging of universal punk history with our own in Ecotopia is a reason to celebrate. Your eyes can gnaw on decades of delicious artwork while you read and watch stories you may have heard of, but after this, will never forget." – Chris Estey, The KEXP Blog
• Review: "In Hate Annual #9, Buddy returns to Seattle to meet the dysfunctional family of his wife Lisa who he has never met despite having been with Lisa for close to 20 years. In a tension-filled 72 hours, Buddy is subjected to senile parents, criminals, and drug addicts. Each page is filled with the sardonic humor and high drama that are staples of Bagge's work. [...] Read this issue slowly because once you're done laughing your head off, you are sure to be sad that you'll have to wait another year to check in with one of the best characters of alternative comics." – Rip Ransley, Stray Riffs
• Review: "The particular fascination in this early work [The Arctic Marauder] is seeing one of the unique individual styles in cartooning at a formative stage. [...] As for the subject matter: It’s an example of parody that continues on when the thing parodied has long faded away. [...] Part of the appeal is feeling superior to an earlier age, and another part is being engaged in the traces of the earlier form embedded in the parody, which you would normally feel yourself too sophisticated to enjoy." – R. Fiore, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "At once a parody and a tribute to late 19th, early 20th century mystery/adventure Jules Verne-esque fiction, this gorgeous one-shot [The Arctic Marauder] is masterfully drawn scratchboard style, as to echo the woodcuts of the era. The result is sumptuous, and look at those elegant art-nouveau panels! [...] Fans of concentrated mysteries, steam-operated machines, dramatic adventures and over-the-top vilains should be all over this!" – 211 Bernard (Librairie Drawn & Quarterly)
• Review: "With Woodring’s skill, I never found myself confused, at least, more than you’re supposed to be. I’ve never read a statement by Woodring saying this, but I always got the impression he wanted you to work for the meaning behind his stories. Even if it’s not the case, I highly enjoy the process. In one graphic novel [Weathercraft], I got what I think may have been a love story, a treatise on spiritual enlightenment and sometimes just a whole lot of fun." – Joe Keatinge, Joe Keatinge's Comics & Stories
• Review: "Weathercraft... [is a]nother volume of nightmarishly beautiful wordless comics by the remarkable Mr. Woodring. Even for those accustomed to his work, there is page after page that makes you say, 'I’ve never seen anything like that before!' And then hide under your bed." – M. Ace, Irregular Orbit
• Interview:Book By Its Cover's Jen Rothman, who says "Ray Fenwick has created yet another masterpiece. His second book, Mascots, hit shelves in the beginning of this year and it’s quite a beauty. It’s filled with his signature style that mixes ornate hand lettering and imagery, creating amusing little narratives," has a Q&A with Ray: "I thought of the idea of mascots because they’re these outrageous, often ridiculous figures, but they’re symbolic of something else. The thing they’re there to represent isn’t ridiculous at all. I thought that was similar in a lot of ways to the work in the book."
• Interview:One Two One Two Microphone Check has a cultural Q&A with our own Kim Thompson: "There is no movie I love but would be embarrassed to talk about in a serious, intellectual conversation, because if I love it, it is worth talking about by definition. (I concede this could be taken as arrogant.) That said, I am mildly embarrassed at how much I actually love Love, Actually."
• Interview: Alex Dueben's great interview with Daniel Clowes at Comic Book Resources touches on Dan's design work for our upcoming series of Crockett Johnson's Barnaby collections: "It's probably the best written comic strip of all time. The artwork is disarmingly simple. It's the kind of thing that I would normally not be attracted to. He uses typography instead of hand lettering and very simple diagrammatic drawings, yet they are perfect, and work beautifully in a way that anything added to it would detract from it. My goal with the design of the book is to follow his very severe minimal design style and try to live up to that."
• Interview: At TCJ.com, Sean T. Collins also talks to Clowes: "I was always baffled that people who liked mainstream comics seemed to really gravitate towards [Eightball #22]. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was about that one, specifically, that made them like that so much."
• Commentary:Tim Kreider pens an essay on the state of the cartooning industry for TCJ.com: "When you’re young, it’s exciting and fun just to have your work published in the local alternative weekly, or posted online, “liked” and commented on and linked to; but eventually you turn forty and realize you’ve given away a career’s worth of labor for nothing. What’s happening in comics now is what happened in the music industry in the last decade and what’ll happen to publishing in the next. Soon Don DeLillo will be peddling T-shirts too."
• Commentary:Robot 6 polled Gilbert Hernandez for their weekly "What Are You Reading?" feature: "The new comics I always enjoy are by R. Crumb, Dan Clowes, Richard Sala and Charles Burns. I haven’t seen Burns’ and Sala’s new books yet but I did read The Bible by Crumb, which I found tedious only because of the subject matter and Wilson by Clowes. That was hard to get through because the protagonist is so supremely hateful. Well executed, though."
• Review: "Former Haligonian and Coast contributor Ray Fenwick’s latest book [Mascots] extends the work that he began in this city: typography-heavy painting on found book covers. The books’ loose cloth weave is clearly visible through the paintings, and even though Fenwick’s lettering skills should be studied by scientists, there’s a refreshing sense of the typographer’s hand and thought. Using the traditional idea of mascots as symbolic figures, Fenwick’s collected creatures, characters, mantras and messages, some of which are connected through broken narratives, and others just appear like a slap to the head. Not for those with an aversion to weirdos or absurdity, Fenwick is hands-down one of the most clever contemporary artists and illustrators working in Canada." – Sue Carter Flinn, The Coast
• Review: "Kalesniko is a deft, widescreen storyteller... The final chapters [of Freeway] are paced like an action film, drawing Alex ever closer to his destination/destiny, and Kalesniko does skillfully edit his storytelling at a breathless clip. But the conclusion raises more questions than it answers..." – Brian Winkeler, Bookgasm
• Review: "There’s no doubt that Schulz lost his way in the 80s. But his strip was always about losing its way. As he grew doddering and inconsistent, he moved closer to the doddering inconsistency at the core of his art. The pleasures in this volume [The Complete Peanuts 1979-1980] are fewer, but, for fans at least, when they come they have a special bonk." – Noah Berlatsky, Splice Today
• Review: "Another hardboiled French thriller which violently riffs on the energy of New Wave cinema, Hitchcock and classic James Bond. ...[West Coast Blues] is a bit like The Bourne Identity, except on a lower budget and without anyone half as organised as the CIA involved. The captions are a bit wordy, as you’d expect with something adapted from a novel, but thankfully it’s in black and white — the constant spray of blood and bone fragments might be a bit off-putting otherwise." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Profile: The Hartford Advocate's Christopher Arnott talks to Allan Greenier and Tom Hosier, creator of "The Purple Warp" minicomic included in Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s, saying of the book "Newave!, which has the same small size, but hundreds more pages than the miniature comics it celebrates, is a handy overview of this largely overlooked subgenre," and getting a frank account of the book's success from our own Eric Reynolds