• Review/Interview: "Leslie Stein is a pretty lady who made a comic [Eye of the Majestic Creature] in which she is a cute/gross little humanoid with eyes that are like coins and a best friend who is a guitar. Her comical alter ego is named Larry Bear and her guitar's name is Marshy. They live in a house in a field, but it's pretty clear that almost everything they experience is some joked-up fantasized autobiographical story. It's hard to know what's based on reality and what isn't, and which characters are based on real folks and which are just supposed to be Leslie's internal feelings personified.... Leslie's work communicates an urban loneliness that I relate to a lot, seeing as we live in the same place. It's cute and sad and familiar, especially if you're 30 or under." – Nick Gazin, who also talks to Leslie at Vice: "I think for the most part she represents the lighter side of my personality. I'm happy when I'm drawing and I hope that comes across through her on the page, in whatever situation she is in. She dresses a bit weirder than I do, so that's fun. I'm not really a shy person, but I feel like I'm constantly embarrassing myself. She doesn't have that self-consciousness."
• Review: "Post-apocalyptic stories tend to be grim, but The Hidden is very dark indeed.... The book feels like a modern-day gothic horror. The survivors are metaphors for humanity, with a heroic few battling an onslaught of monsters, human or otherwise. Humanity is on the brink of extinction, and still people bring out the worst in one another.... Sala’s illustration is compelling... ★★★★ [out of 5]" – Grovel
• Review: "[Kevin] Avery’s book, Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson, is an admirably unorthodox construction that starts with a bracing 180-page biography of Paul followed by a 265 page collection of Nelson’s music writing, primarily that from the seventies focusing on the artists he was particularly drawn to.... What’s impressive about Avery’s biographic half of the book is that he’s produced both an intimate personal bio and a comprehensive professional bio as well. He’s talked to virtually everyone who Nelson inspired or mentored in rock criticism starting in the latter half of the sixties and into the Rolling Stone years. These knuckleheads are a who’s who of American rock criticism, God help us." – Joe Carducci (SST Records, Rock and the Pop Narcotic), The New Vulgate
• Review: "I was looking forward to this new book [Setting the Standard] a/ because it's Alex Toth and b/ because it reprints 60 stories, Toth's entire contribution to the catalogue of a long defunct publisher whose material we rarely see reprinted.... Toth's work has long been admired for its distilled simplicity of black and white design, but these early pages fizz and bubble with life.... The book under discussion is from Fantagraphics, with the original printed pages restored in all their colours by Greg Sadowski, who put the whole package together with extensive notes..." – Eddie Campbell (via The Comics Reporter)
• Plugs: Brian Ralph's choices for his guest contribution to Robot 6's weekly "What Are You Reading?" column include Captain Easy Vol. 2 by Roy Crane ("It’s a fun combination of action and laughs. Sometimes very serious and other times very cartoony, in both story and art style. I just love the way Roy Crane draws these goons. And the colors! The palettes are unusual and beautiful.") and Setting the Standard: Comics by Alex Toth 1952-1954 ("I’ll read one of these [stories] before I go to bed. I like that in a short page count he quickly develops a rich story and twilight zoney twist. Sometimes it’s a bizarre romance or horror story with a stunning conclusion. They’re a fun read.")
• Review: "Brief but witty dialogue and black humor come together in a brutal satire of deception, torture and the death penalty. This comic is a good comedy that combines the sense of adventure and intrigue of Jason's comics, his 'tempo' and narrative tone, with a trio of protagonists who I came to appreciate in very few pages. Emotion, gags, surprises, and an ending that you do not expect. Isle of 100,000 Graves is an original and very enjoyable read that keeps Jason as a safe bet in the shopping cart. Between tenderness and cruelty, of course the contribution of writer Fabien Vehlmann to the Norwegian cartoonist's particular universe could not have been more successful." – Alita News (translated from Spanish)
• Review: "Warm-hearted, deceptively heart-wrenching, challenging, charming and irresistibly addictive, Love and Rockets: New Stories is a grown up comics fan’s dream come true and remains as valid and groundbreaking as its earlier incarnations — the diamond point of the cutting edge of American graphic narrative." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview:The Comics Reporter 's Tom Spurgeon talks to backbone Mome contributor T. Edward Bak about his experience at Boomfest in St. Petersburg, Russia: "There were so many things going on. There were people interested in all of the presentations. They took place over four or five hours, in three or four different centers. A lot of artists were there. For these kinds of presentations, it was other artists attending. It was like APE: you have people that are making comics or are interested in making comics."
• Interview: At The Comics Journal, Matt Seneca enjoys a studio visit and thoughtful discussion with Gary Panter: "That’s one of the games that modern art plays: where does it go, and what does it affect by trying to go? And so, usually in fine art, you’re making a kind of pregnant or puzzling object, or some object that has presence and which calls to people, hopefully. It arrests them for a second and various things happen, whereas in a comic, I want people lying in bed reading it. I want people lying in bed and reading it, and you forget you’re reading it, and you go in the story, and you’re like, 'Whoa! What happened?' And you either remember it or you don’t."
• Review: "In Joyce Farmer’s powerful Special Exits the people are more people-like than I have encountered in comics in a long time.... It is moving without being sentimental. Real without being pedantic; a solid graphic novel that reads, well, like a novel! ...Special Exits is packed with details that can only come from observation and experience. Farmer is a close observer.... Special Exits is one of the most engrossingly human comics and, ultimately, one of the most moving... Joyce Famer has brilliantly conveyed what it is to be human. To live, to die. To ripe, to rot. And thereby hangs her tale." – Paul Karasik, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Here is Volume One of Roy Crane's Captain Easy, a wonderfully colorful and nicely designed Sunday page from 1933-35. Crane’s style is a wonderful paradox: broadly cartoony characters against nice filigrees of background illustration. The eye is lost in the pastel colors, the bold crossword puzzle layouts, the simple lines, and the breathless breezy action. The adventures never let up, and no scrape is too tight for this impossibly ingratiating and resourceful hero.... This book is more than a historically interesting sociological artifact; it’s a delight. Rating 9/10" – Michael Barrett, Popmatters
• Review: "[In Isle of 100,000 Graves] Vehlmann seamlessly takes on Jason's laconic style and deadpan irony for a genre-blending adventure with all the subversive wit one would expect from a Jason tale…. This light, entertaining take on 19th century adventure stories is sheer enjoyment. Grade: A" – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle
• Plug:Comics Alliance's Caleb Goellner recommends Thursday's Love and Rockets panel at Comic-Con: "Even if you haven't had a chance to delve into the admittedly dense (in a very good way) Love & Rockets stories by Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez, you can soak up some serious inspiration from this panel and L&R's 30 years of history. Fantagraphics co-founder and The Comics Journal EiC Gary Groth is moderating, which means the book's cultural significance should resonate beyond the fan speak usually associated with these kinds of things. If you've got a free hour, we recommend investing in this panel and checking out L&R on the floor afterward."
Ran out of time to finish yesterday's Online Commentary & Diversions so here's a two-fer:
• Review: "With skill, restraint and a deep sensitivity to the roiling emotions involved, Shimura relates the tale of fifth-grade boy Shuichi, who wants to be a girl, and his classmate Yoshino, a girl who wants to be a boy. This is the first volume of the Japanese saga [Wandering Son] to be published in English, and translator Thorn does great work parsing the complex gender honorifics of the Japanese language. We only just begin to get to know our two leads, but Shimura's approach allows us to feel their confusion, their heartache and — when a perceptive mutual friend orchestrates a plan that starts them down the road to self-acceptance — their quiet, nervous joy." – Glen Weldon, NPR - Monkey See
• Review: "Gender roles and cross-dressing are often fodder for laughs in anime and manga, but this is the most serious and thoughtful take I've seen on the subject. And I love how Shimura doesn't make things too angsty for the characters. Maybe that will come later, but for now it's more of a quiet discomfort -- the reader is finding out at the same time as the characters, and it's quite touching. ...Wandering Son is a tender take on a taboo subject. I wish it success in the American market." – Eric Henrickson, The Detroit News - Geek Watch
• Review: "Wandering Son by Shimura Takako is a heartfelt story of two people who I desperately feel for and for their families and friends.... The main thing that drew me to this book was the fact that unlike a lot of western media that plays off the fact that a transgender teenager would have to deal with their friends and peers ostracising or bullying them for being different, Wandering Son goes straight for the heart, tackling the more important idea of how the person in the story feels. Reading the first volume, I can feel their awkwardness at them coming to the decision that they are different from other people and that they need to do something about it.... I want to be alongside these characters as they discover who and how they are. I want to see them triumph in ways that many of us never get to. Most of all, I want to be there at the end even if it ends in failure." – Eeeper's Choice
• Review (Audio): Phillip of Eeper's Choice, Erica Friedman, and David Welsh (The Manga Curmudgeon) discuss Wandering Son Vol. 1 with hosts Ed Sizemore and Johanna Draper Carlson on the Manga Out Loud podcast. At Manga Worth Reading, Carlson notes "We talk about the value of translation/cultural end notes (which inspired a followup post by David) and the pacing of the series in light of Takako Shimura’s career. It’s a wonderful read that we all enjoyed and recommend."
• Review: "Collected in oversize hardbacks that present the pages at their original size, these beautiful books restore one of the original adventure heroes of the strips -- the affable (albeit two-fisted) mercenary who was much more interested in excitement than money or women, which is what he was supposedly after. [Captain] Easy moved through a more innocent — and largely unexplored — world, and there's no better word for this adventure strip than 'charming.'" – Andrew A. Smith, Scripps Howard News
• Review: "...Leslie Stein is a young lady out of Brooklyn, NY who has been crafting literary/illustrative dub versions of her tastes and trials and laying them out in meticulously crafted yet still oodles-of-eye-fun anecdotes and tall tales. Fanta has collected them all into Eye of the Majestic Creature, a big-sized anthology of her work, with color covers and B&W insides and a whole lot of heart reproduced superbly for proper long-term keeping.... Stein's easy-on-the-eyes drawing style shows an affinity for the same greatly defined, goofy universe Pete Bagge's youthful wanderers once trolled though Seattle in... I found it irresistible, and will come back to its gentle humor and delightful glimpses into woozy alt-country gal delights again and again." – Chris Estey, Three Imaginary Girls
• Review: "Growing up to this era of punk rock, I feel an initial offense taken to McMurray’s collection of punk rock relics. It seems strange and kitschy to run across a book like Taking Punk to the Masseswhen you lived it. My first reaction was that we are not a novelty, punk was defined from a purpose and we are that purpose, not an exploitation. But the curious person that I am, I skimmed through it. Then I skimmed through it again. Then I read it. And then I fell in love with it." – Andrew Duncan, ZapTown
• Commentary: At Robot 6, Sean T. Collins comments on the Jim Woodring letter to Hans Rickheit we shared here yesterday: "Woodring, an intrepid chronicler of the underbrain in his own right, clearly recognized a kindred spirit in Rickheit when the younger cartoonist sent him a copy of his elaborate and powerful Fantagraphics graphic novel The Squirrel Machine."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater continues his conversation with Mome editor Eric Reynolds: "My two passions in comics are old strips like Popeyeand the great cartoonists that I came of age reading, like Clowes and Charles Burns and the Hernandez Brothers. But, as much as that’s the stuff I dearly love, it’s the new stuff we’re publishing, the new artists, the sort of unexpected things that, on a day to day basis, keep me motivated and keep my interest in publishing, from day to day."
• Review: "Though he was one of the genre’s pioneers, Roy Crane’sCaptain Easy is arguably the most idiosyncratic of all the adventure strips. But it’s this blend of loud slapstick, young-boys-styled adventure and blatant sex appeal that make Captain Easy such a winning, fun strip to read." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "From any other culture this type of story would be crammed with angst and agony: gratuitously filled with cruel moments and shame-filled subtext, but Takako Shimura’s genteel and winningly underplayed first volume in this enchanting school saga [Wandering Son]... is resplendent with refined contentment, presenting the history in an open-minded spirit of childlike inquiry and accepting optimism that turns this book into a genuine feel-good experience." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "...[Wandering Son] is absolutely fantastic and deserves every one of the awards it will doubtless win. ...[I]t’s an honest look at what Shu and Yoshino are going through. There’s no magic pool, no funny crossdressing, no easy solution to the dilemma that these two face. What I also like about the series is that its secondary characters are often just as interesting as the main pair: they’re all in fifth grade, after all, when everyone is struggling with their identities and the consequences thereof. Shu and Yoshino just get the worst of it." – Ted Anderson, The Hub (YALSA)
• Review: "Woodring’s someone whose work demands repeated reads. For longtime fans, Congress of the Animals is another puzzle piece in Woodring’s complicated world of art. For newcomers, it’s likely going to be the first enjoyable step of discovering that world and Woodring’s back catalogue." – Nick Dean, Skyscraper Magazine
• Review: "In this selection [Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune Vol. 2] Roy Crane’s irrepressible humour comes perfectly into focus and this enchanting serial abounds with breezy light-hearted banter, hilarious situations and outright farce... This superb hardback and colossal second collection is the perfect means of discovering or rediscovering Crane’s rip-snorting, pulse-pounding, exotically racy adventure trailblazer. The huge pages in this volume... provide the perfect stage to absorb and enjoy the classic tale-telling of a master raconteur. This is storytelling of impeccable quality: unforgettable, spectacular and utterly irresistible. These tales rank alongside the best of Hergé, Tezuka, Toth and Kirby and unarguably fed the imaginations of them all as he still does for today’s comics creators." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview: At New York magazine's Vulture blog, Jennifer Vineyard talks to Lou Reed about adapting Edgar Allen Poe for The Raven (among other topics): "Do you know what it’s like to try to rewrite one of the most famous poems in the history of the world? It’s a can’t-win situation. No one is ever going to say that the rewrite is better than the original. That’s not going to happen."
• Interview: At the Suicide Girls website, Alex Dueben talks to Dave McKean about his new book Celluloid: "It’s always a bit strange doing something that is exclusively about sex and putting it out for people to look at. There are people who are bound to draw some sort of parallel between you as an individual and the stuff you’re putting in the book, which is not necessarily there to be drawn, but people do. So I tried to keep my identity out of it as much as possible."
• Profile:Time Out Chicago's Jonathan Kinkley profiles local boy Wilfred Santiago: "21: The Story of Roberto Clemente is a lovingly written and superbly illustrated biography of the baseball legend.... Stylistically, he considers himself something of a chameleon, tackling each challenge with a new visual approach. 'Actors change accents to play different characters,' says the artist, 'and I have the same graphic flexibility to interpret different kinds of stories.'"
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new title. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators and web-savvy comic shops are saying about it (more to be added as they appear), check out our previews at the link, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
"The 1936-1937 Sunday installments of Roy Crane's proto-lots-of-things adventure comic strip continue." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
"...I’d also consider one of the nice collected editions of vintage comics that is coming out this week; the Fantagraphics Captain Easy collection looks tempting..." – Brigid Alverson, Robot 6
"Magnificent color adventure comics from Roy Crane, published as crisply as modern collection technique allow. I'm reading this right now." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune: The Complete Sunday Newspaper Strips Vol. 2 (1936-1937) will in all likelihood give you what the title indicates, in addition to an illustrated introduction by Paul Pope, an essay by the late Bill Blackbeard and comments by editor Rick Norwood..." – Joe McCulloch, The Comics Journal
• Review: "...[Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse] is not just a great Mickey Mouse comic, it's one of the best comics of all time.... When Gottfredson took over the Mickey Mouse newspaper strip in 1930, he created stories that still hold up eighty years later as solid well-done comics. That alone would be an incredible achievement, especially considering how few stories from the era even seem readable to a modern audience, but Gottfredson takes things to an entirely different level with comedy that's still funny and adventures that are genuinely thrilling.... As to the book itself, Fantagraphics has done their usual amazing job of design on it... The strips are crisp, there's a ton of bonus material (including biographical information, details on the process, and a bunch of additional strips), and the book even feels nice in your hands while you're reading it. They did a seriously remarkable job putting it together, which is fitting considering how good the material is.... It's a great collection, and one of the few that anyone who likes any sort of comics could — and should — pick up and enjoy." – Chris Sims, Comics Alliance (all emphasis his)
• Review: "It feels like there's been an onslaught of pirate stories in the last several years, but Jason's deadpan visual style mixed with Vehlmann's absurdly dark humor make for a special tale of skullduggery.... Hilarity and adventure ensue, but not without a tremendously affecting and emotionally complicated final scene, making [Isle of 100,000 Graves] a wild ride in the truest sense of the term." – John Seven, Worcester Magazine
• Plug: "Legendary writer Bagge (Hate) and artist Hernandez (Love and Rockets) teamed up ten years ago for this comic [Yeah!] about a spunky all-girl, all-universe rock band. Now the whole series has been collected for the punk/sci-fi girl in your life." – Dan Kois, New York
• Interview: Christopher John Farley has a brief Q&A with Paul Hornschemeier at The Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog: "I tend to write far more than I draw, I may have an image pop into my head, but those are usually just isolated points of inspiration: from there the writing takes over."
This second of four volumes reprints in full color the rare Captain Easy Sunday pages from the 1930s. Roy Crane’s Soldier of Fortune, Captain Easy, fights for gold in the frozen north, is mistaken for a bandit, protects a formula for artificial diamonds, is stranded on a desert island, visits the tiny Balkan country of Kleptomania, and faces a firing squad. Captain Easy hobnobs with millionaires and bums and beautiful girls (of course), and winds up in the middle of a full scale war. In short, it’s another rousing series of adventure and humor encapsulating the gallantry, derring-do, and rough-and-tumble innocence of a bygone era and a bygone genre, written and drawn with panache, and practically painted in a vibrant spectrum of colors that you have to see to believe.
Special features of this volume include a foreword by series editor Rick Norwood, an illustrated introduction by fellow cartoonist and Crane aficionado Paul Pope, an essay by the late Bill Blackbeard, and a gallery of rare Captain Easy comic book covers.
Long before the first superhero, Roy Crane’s courageous, indomitable, and cliff-ganging rough guy served as the template for characters that later defined comic books, and set the aesthetic standards for the newspaper strip. Crane’s mastery is why Peanuts creator Charles Schulz said of him (circa 1989): "A treasure. There is still no one around who draws any better."