• Review: "It’s vaudevillian and it’s Old Hollywood. It’s rock n’ roll and beat poetry. It’s introspective and depressing and quite often funny, and depicts a world that exists on the fringes of society where the American Dream meets the cold, harsh reality of life as viewed through a grimy windshield. ... When you put all the pieces together, you don’t simply get a story or a group of stories, you get a book that pulls back the curtain on the collective unconscious of a nation. ... Like the myths that it is inspired by, Abandoned Cars lingers long after reading and grows in stature as you re-live and re-tell it." – Chad Derdowski, Mania
• Review: "Part of Pim & Francie’s disconcerting effect is that it confounds easy categorization, leaving the reader uncertain what exactly this book is, or how to approach it. It doesn’t contain discrete, coherent stories, but it’s also more unified and linear than a sketchbook; there are continuing characters, recurring images and situations, even a discernable arc. It’s possible to piece together narratives from the fragments here, the way you might reconstruct a crime scene from bits of evidence, or a nightmare from fading details. These stories may even be all the more potent for having to be inferred, like the phantasms we imagine when we listen to horror stories on the radio." – Tim Kreider, The Comics Journal
•Profile/Review:Thought Balloonists' Charles W. Hatfield has a doozy of a report from Robert Williams's March 10 lecture at Cal. State Northridge, with plenty of insight into the artist, the talk, and the Conceptual Realism exhibit at the CSUN gallery: "Williams and his academic audience met halfway; the bracing, not to say ass-kicking, potency of the paintings seemed to wow most of the crowd. This was a fine performance, enlivened from the start by Williams' genuine gratitude and enthusiasm for being there."
• Plug:Library Journal spotlights Jason's Werewolves of Montpellier among notable July graphic novel releases: "Having subjected zombies to the witty vagaries of his goofy, humanized animals, Eisner Award winner Jason tackles werewolves mixed up in re-creational burglary and romance. It’s the pretender vs. the professionals — who are not happy about amateur competition."
• Television:Adult Swim will start re-running The Drinky Crow Show starting March 30, so mark your calendars and set your DVRs now. Even if you caught it the first time, it merits repeat viewings
By the way, multiple belated hat tips to Robot 6, whose roundups of end-of-year links have been invaluable to the last few installments of Online Commentary & Diversions. On with the links:
• List:Publishers Weekly announced the results of their 2009 Comics Week Critic's Poll; among the top vote-getters are You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler ("I love this autobiographical family story as much for the way Tyler weaves between her own life and her father's, as for its painterly, illustrative panoramas of suburban neighborhoods and army scenes." – Sasha Watson) and Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman ("Milk and other liquids may come out your nose as you read one of the funniest comics ever put to paper. Kupperman's droll absurdism is matched by a stiff, woodcut-like art style that underplays the sometimes outre concepts. A comedy diamond." – Heidi MacDonald). Humbug by Harvey Kurtzman et al, Low Moon by Jason, Luba by Gilbert Hernandez, Supermen!: The First Wave Of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941, West Coast Blues Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jacques Tardi, and You Are There by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Claude Forest all received single votes in the poll
• List: At comiXology, Tucker Stone counts down his top 25 Best Comics of 2009, with Grotesque #3 by Sergio Ponchione at #23 ("...every once in a while, I get a reminder how vast the world of comics really is. Grotesque — European, unusual, brilliant — was one of those, an experimental passport to another universe"), Ganges #3 by Kevin Huizenga at #7 ("...Ganges captured the thing that all of us spend a lifetime doing — thinking — and turned it into something deserving of examination") and, in the top spot, Prison Pit: Book 1 by Johnny Ryan ("Aggro, obscene, hilarious, compulsive: Prison Pit. It wasn't just the greatest comic of the year, it was one of those comics that operated like the end result of a math equation, a definitive answer to the question of what comics are, and what they should be...")
• List: Johnny Bacardi's Personal Best of the Decade includes Eightball #22 by Daniel Clowes
• Review: "Each [panel] almost vibrates with the frenetic, desperate energy of the characters as they try to pull off their cons. That energy explodes in the final pages, as the story comes to a dramatic but ambiguous conclusion. In the end, the work offers an homage to B-movies while standing out as a graphic novel. The Troublemakers will please long-term Hernandez fans. It also should serve as a good introduction to newcomers looking to jump into the Love and Rockets universe." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "...Giraffes [in My Hair], a collection of anecdotes from Bruce Paley's teens and twenties on America's countercultural fringe, is a breezy read. ... Swain's art rarely calls attention to or gets in the way of itself, and in that it meshes seamlessly with Paley's deadpan 'here's what happened' narrative style, his reluctance to overstate or oversell the import of the anecdote reminiscent of Harvey Pekar's." – Sean T. Collins
• Review: "...[The Comics Journal] has reached issue 300 and is celebrating with a fascinating collection of creator-chats as industry tyros and giants come together to interview, share, bitch and generally shoot the breeze about graphic narrative: a tactic that makes this the most compelling read of the year for anyone truly interested in what we all do and why." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Fantagraphics Books continues its series devoted to chronologically packaging [Peanuts] and has not missed a step along the way. ... I’m pleased to inform that the latest edition, the twelfth in the series, is as lovingly curated as the first... [I]t is nice to know that one of the form’s greatest achievements is being held up as the accomplishment it really is." – Dw. Dunphy, Popdose
• Review: "[In Sam's Strip] Walker and Dumas clearly take pleasure in working in callbacks to classic comic strips... [and] many of the metatextual gags are funny and fun. ... Dumas’s drawings of classic comic-strip characters are excellent... The result is a frustrating, compelling curiosity: the soul of an underground comic trapped in the mortal coil of a Hi and Lois." – Shaenon Garrity, The Comics Journal
• Events:Star Clipper is sponsoring a screening of Ghost World at Schlafly Bottleworks in St. Louis tonight — oh jeez, in like half an hour! — and copies of the graphic novel and other Clowes books will be on sale
Seattle's great Northwest Film Forum will be screening the documentary NEW BROW from Jan. 15 thru Jan. 17. View the trailer here. The film features a number of folks close to Fantagraphics' heart, notably Robert Williams and our own Larry Reid.
Conceptual Realism: In the Service of the Hypothetical is a catalog accompanying Robert Williams’ Fall 2009 solo exhibition of new work at New York City’s prestigious Tony Shafrazi Gallery; the show will continue on in 2010 to galleries in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and elsewhere. (See photos of the NYC opening reception and exhibit at the Arrested Motion blog.) The book features approximately 25 new paintings, complete with essays on each piece by the artist, insights into the process behind each painting (including sketches, underpaintings, etc.), photos of sculptures in progress, and other surprises, including an introduction by painter, tattoo artist and international tattoo cultural advocate Don Ed Hardy.
The alternative art movement of the late 20th Century found its most congealing participant in one of America’s most opprobrious and maligned underground artists, the painter, Robert Williams. It was Williams who brought the term “lowbrow” into the fine arts lexicon, with his groundbreaking 1979 book, The Lowbrow Art of Robt. Williams. It was from this point that the seminal elements of West Coast Outlaw culture slowly started to aggregate.
Williams pursued a career as a fine arts painter years before joining the art studio of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth in the mid-1960s. And in this position as the famous custom car builder’s art director, he moved into the rebellious, anti-war circles of early underground comix. In 1968, Williams linked up with the infamous San Francisco group that piloted the flagship of the miscreant cartoon world, Zap Comix. Along with Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, S. Clay Wilson, Spain Rodriguez, Victor Moscoso and Rick Griffin, Williams learned to function as an artist outside the walls of conventional art.
Known as the “artist’s artist,” in early punk rock art shows held in after-hours clubs, Williams soon pioneered the first break-away art movement in California since the Eucalyptus School’s estrangement from Impressionism in the late 1920s. His bold use of underground cartoon figuration, paired with harshly contrasted psychedelic colors set a style that was an easily recognizable hallmark throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Williams’ new paintings, on display in Conceptual Realism, take the viewer into the world of subjective theory — a mock realm of violated graphic physics, and the next logical step into abstract thought.
• 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."
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that we've had Robert Williams's new art book/exhibit catalog Conceptual Realism: In the Service of the Hypothetical (both softcover and signed hardcover editions) available for pre-order for a couple of weeks; we've postponed our announcement until we had all of our previews in place. So here you go! Download an exclusive 8-page PDF excerpt 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 a couple of weeks (both editions will be released simultaneously) and in stores right around the same time (subject to change).