• 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.'"
• Review: "Gender-bending is nothing new in manga, but it's rare to see the transgender sexual identity issues depicted in a realistic way, rather just as a plot gimmick. With her spare, elegant art and slice-of-life storytelling, Shimura resists the urge to use sensationalism, to tell her sweet and sensitive, albeit unusual, coming-of-age tale.... Just as Shimura treats her two tween characters with respect, so does Fantagraphics' hardcover edition of this story. By presenting Shimura's simple, yet elegant artwork in a larger page format and reproducing her lovely color pages on thick, creamy paper, Fantagraphics has showcased this story in a very special way. The translation is also worth noting, for finding a happy medium between conversational English and maintaining the Japanese setting of this story. Wandering Son is a refreshing example of a graphic novel that gives readers a glimpse of a life rarely seen and a story rarely told. Worth a read, and worth sharing." – Deb Aoki, About.com — Manga
• Review: "In Like a Sniper Lining Up His ShotJean-Patrick Manchette and Jacques Tardi present an unrelenting and unforgiving French noir graphic novel by two masters of the genre. As straight as a shotgun’s barrel and as tight as a bullet, the story bulldozes over people and ethics to an ending that is as merciless as the protagonists themselves. Highly recommended." – Bart Croonenborghs, Broken Frontier
• Review: "If you’re not familiar with Trondheim’s cartooning (and hoo-boy, you should be), he blends funny-animal body-types with breezily convincing cityscapes to create an imminently readable and visually gorgeous narrative. Trondheim is one of the easiest cartoonists to read, and one of the most satisfying to experience. Approximate Continuum Comics wanders far and wide among topics and settings, but the whole book also tells one long tale about a period in its creator’s life, and by the time you’re done with it you feel you’ve spent some very worthwhile time with a great storyteller. Because you have." – Alan David Doane, Trouble with Comics
• Review: "In their graphic novel Stigmata, Lorenzo Mattotti and Claudio Piersanti have created an exceptional example of a successful collaboration of art and text. Stigmata, which tells the story of a man suddenly afflicted with the eponymous phenomenon, is rendered entirely in astonishingly frenetic, swirling line work. Mattotti has hidden a world of grotesqueries under a smokescreen of pen and ink, and through his perfectly restrained, gritty parable, Piersanti shapes that world into a contemplative and captivating read." – Jeff Alford, About.com
• Review: "For a reader who knows little or nothing about religious tradition outside the caricatures created through self-promoters of the strident and extreme, by those who abuse their faith and others under the cloak of religion, or by the media this story [Stigmata] may very well intrigue, horrify, and maybe even move. It is not a doctrinaire work; it is a human one." – Grant Barber, Three Percent (University of Rochester)
• Interview: At The Comics Journal, Nicole Rudick talks to Jim Woodring: "I had the story before I knew I was going to do it as a hundred-page comic, and those Frank stories kind of write themselves. I set out to gather material for them and when I have enough of it, and it’s the right kind of stuff that fits together in such a way, it makes a whole that works. So I didn’t really set out to write Congress of the Animals as a personal story, but once I had the story in hand and I realized that it was that personal — I had that in mind all the time I was drawing it and that influenced some of the visuals, the factory, for example, and the faceless men."
• Commentary: This week's guest contributor to Robot 6's "What Are You Reading?" feature is Oil & Water artist Shannon Wheeler
• List:Castle Waiting Vols. 1 & 2 take two spots on Nancy Pearl's "10 Terrific Summer Reads" list at NPR.org: "The black-and-white drawings are precisely crafted, with small, endearing touches that render each character entirely unique. The dialogue is clever and filled with subtle grace notes of drollness and humor. The set will be especially appealing to readers of all ages who enjoy seeing and reading traditional fairy tale tropes teased and played with, all with a sense of good-humored fun."
• Review: "...Congress of the Animals finds twisted fabulist Woodring at the top of his darkly delightful game: Open the book at random and the odds are very good that your gaze will alight upon something that stings, bites, drips, oozes or squelches. Tentacled plant-beasts threaten the unwary, factories powered by crushed blackbirds produce who-knows-what, slimy amphibians enact bizarre rituals and a tribe of naked, faceless men whom the jacket copy refers to as "blind gut-worshippers" — easily the most potent nightmare fuel Woodring has ever produced — drug passersby for mysterious purposes of their own. You certainly won't want to live inside the covers of Congress of the Animals, but it's a fascinating and thrilling feat of imagination, and one hell of a place to visit." – Glen Weldon, NPR.org
• Review: "This book does something I love. It takes me inside a world I’ve never known.... Shimura’s writing does a good job of exposing the readers to the realities of being transgender. Wandering Son ignited my imagination and got me trying to relate to and understand these characters as deeply as possible.... Shimura has crafted an excellent opening volume.... The quiet pace and subject matter make this series a perfect read for the alternative comics crowd. Fans of shoujo and josei manga will enjoy it too. I’d love for everyone to at least give the first volume of Wandering Son a try. It’s a rare gem of emotional honesty and complexity that rewards those willing to take the risk and move outside their typical reading habits." – Ed Sizemore, Comics Worth Reading
• Review: "Monologues for Calculating the Density of Black Holes by Anders Nilsen... touched a special spot that I strive towards in my reading; it created atmosphere. There’s a weight to the unhinged timeline and nonsensical dialogue. It feels calculated, even as it touches on topics such as 'Godzilla vs. Richard Simmons.' The drawings are simple, yet they effortlessly convey time and feel appropriate for the content. It was a quick read, but one that I’ll be revisiting. Check it out." – Au Yeah!
• Interview:Newsarama's Michael Lorah talks to Wilfred Santiago about the creation of 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente: "A baseball sequence is all about interpretation; there are cold, unchangeable facts. If the batter hits a home run to left field in the second inning, etc., then those are unchangeable facts about that scene. So it’s about the reading of the particulars. I mean, if you are saying sad things while laughing maniacally, it’s different than if you are saying them while sobbing and in tears. Therefore, it’s all about what role that particular game sequence plays in the story as a whole. It’s not a book about baseball, even though there’s baseball in it."
• Interview (Audio):Inkstuds host Robin McConnell rang up Dave McKean (on Skype presumably) for a conversation about his latest book: "Celluloid, fresh out from Fantagraphics, is a remarkable work exploring pornography through a very particular lens. Needless to say, it is fantastic."
Wandering Son creator Shimura Takako has just begun a new series titled Awajima Hyakkei (One Hundred Views of Awajima), serialized at the web manga site Pocopoco. I can't read it but it sure looks pretty! Wandering Son translator and editor of our manga line Matt Thorn introduces the series and provides some context and outspoken commentary that you won't want to miss on his blog.
• Review: "The creator [of Wandering Son], Shimura Takako, is a well-established manga artist recognized for her LBGT focus, certainly not your usual manga fare. In the series’ debut-in-English, Shimura treats both protagonists’ journeys of self-discovery with gentle honesty; her characters are wide-eyed and adorable, uncertain and searching." – Terry Hong, BookDragon (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program)
• Review: "...I was pretty intrigued to see how Jason’s illustration would work with someone else’s writing. The short answer is that it works amazingly well.... The Isle of 100,000 Graves is an inventive and original tale, filled to the brim with absurd and hilarious dialogue, delivered with impeccable timing by Fabien Vehlmann. The story is brought to life with wonderful artwork by Jason, and eye popping colours by Hubert. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, I don’t think I’ve laughed this much at a comic in years!" – Edward Kaye, Hypergeek
• Review: "Jacques Tardi is pretty awesome, y’all. But then, you already knew that.... This sucker [The Arctic Marauder] is from 1974. Sadly, it looks more avant-garde and progressive than a lot of comics that are released today.... The entire book is an absolutely gorgeous piece of artwork." – Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "Joe Daly tells stories about slackers with an obvious love and a clear eye; he's attuned to the oddball notions and unlikely turns that their lives take, and crafts stories about quirky people that don't turn into catalogs of quirks themselves.... Dungeon Quest is a goofy, silly series, and it's not for readers who need their comics-format violence to be deadly serious and full of clenched teeth. But for those of us who have grown out of that limited conception of comics yet still want energetic adventure stories that know how silly they are, it's just the thing." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Plug: "...I’ve recently read Fantagraphics’ gorgeous new printing of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, which absolutely blew me away. I’m always impressed by people like Jacques Tardi, who can build these deep, rich worlds out of really loose, simple linework. It’s definitely not a skill I have. The book also has pterodactyls menacing early-1900′s Paris, so it’s pretty much required that I love it." – Aaron Alexovich, guest Robot 6 "What Are You Reading?" contributor
• Profile: The Chicago Tribune's Christopher Borrelli catches up with Ivan Brunetti: "At 25, he started Schizo, a comic so caustic — and offensive and frantic, but with the thick black palate of classic newspaper strips — friends routinely asked if he would be arrested. It partly detailed his life as a copy editor at a local university press, and the homicidal daydreams that came to him while on the job. He declined to say at which press. 'It wasn't to shock,' he says. 'It was an unguarded look at how I felt, and I was probably losing my mind.'" (Via Spurge.)
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch concludes presenting Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Gahan Wilson: "You have to be straight with kids. Kids see right through you if you’re not. So you do your best—you get this little sweet kid and you’re telling them a story, and you want them to enjoy it, and it helps them. You’re this big grownup and there’s this little kid, and you’ve got to be gentle with them, because you’re this hulking thing. So that’s part of it. You do what any decent person would do with a kid, which is you be nice to the bugger. Because they need it. They can use it."
Online Commentary & Diversions returns after a rare link-free day yesterday:
• Review: "I’ve read many gentle, nostalgic manga about school and growing up, and in many ways Wandering Son is not so different from the best of them... On another level, the very fact that it can be so quiet and casual and natural, and say all the things that it says, makes it a deeply impressive work. What Wandering Son says, above all, is that the kids are alright. Maybe they don’t believe it themselves right now. But they’ll make it through." – Shaenon Garrity, The Comics Journal
• Feature: One of our most frequently asked questions from fans is where to start with Jason. He has so many great books you can't really go wrong with any of them, but Robot 6's Chris Mautner offers some solid recommendations in his latest "Comics College" guide.
The fifth grade. The threshold to puberty, and the beginning of the end of childhood innocence. Shuichi Nitori and his new friend Yoshino Takatsuki have happy homes, loving families, and are well-liked by their classmates. But they share a secret that further complicates a time of life that is awkward for anyone: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. Written and drawn by one of today’s most critically acclaimed creators of manga, Shimura portrays Shuishi and Yoshino’s very private journey with affection, sensitivity, gentle humor, and unmistakable flair and grace. Volume one introduces our two protagonists and the friends and family whose lives intersect with their own. Yoshino is rudely reminded of her sex by immature boys whose budding interest in girls takes clumsily cruel forms. Shuichi’s secret is discovered by Saori, a perceptive and eccentric classmate. And it is Saori who suggests that the fifth graders put on a production of The Rose of Versailles for the farewell ceremony for the sixth graders — with boys playing the roles of women, and girls playing the roles of men.
Wandering Son is a sophisticated work of literary manga translated with rare skill and sensitivity by veteran translator and comics scholar Matt Thorn.
Download a 20-page PDF excerpt of the entire first chapter (3.3 MB).
• Review: "This book in particular reprints a run where Mickey Mouse enters Pluto in a dog race and ends up getting mixed up with a banker who wants to foreclose on a friendly old couple, snooty society types, high-stakes gamblers and the mob. The mob, people. It's really great stuff, with a ton of adventure and action balanced out with the humor I was expecting, which really holds up even here in the next century, right down to the fun Vaudeville-style wordplay. I would've devoured this thing if I was a kid, and while it's ostensibly a teaser for the bigger reprint volumes -- which, at $30 for 300 pages are looking like an even better deal than I thought -- it's awesome for all ages." – Chris Sims, Comics Alliance
• Review: "Joe Daly's comics are an unequivocal delight. The second volume of his role playing/video game send-up and tribute, Dungeon Quest, is a visual feast from beginning to end. Of course, this feast may be mere junk food, but his sheer commitment to the adventurous reality that his characters encounter makes the reader care about the most ridiculous of scenarios.... While there are a number of alt-comics fantasy series being published these days (with Trondheim & Sfar's Dungeon the best), Daly's fusion of underground comics sensibilities with the blunt directness of the video game playing experience is unique and leaves the reader wanting more." – Rob Clough, High-Low
• Interview: At Under the Radar, Jeremy Nisen talks to Eye of the Majestic Creature creator Leslie Stein: "Right now I pretty much write out the comic like a movie script and then just attack the page. As I go along I change some of the dialogue or add different sequences I've thought of to enhance the story, like if there's something I draw in a background on a whim, I might like it and incorporate it into the story. This way it's exciting as I go along, and not just laborious drawing. As for the concept, it just pops into the old bean. Magic!"
• Plug: In a pre-TCAF Q&A at the National Post, comic artist Niki Smith talks about her most-anticipated comic of the year: "Wandering Son is debuting at TCAF (from Fantagraphics) and I absolutely cannot wait to add it to my collection and push it on everyone I know. It’s a wonderful story of gender and sexuality and growing up."
• Review: At Comix Cube Kevin Czap praises Steven Weissman's "Barack Hussein Obama" (seen here on our website and in Mome Vol. 21): "It actually reminds me of Wally Gropius in terms of the structure, which is not surprising given its appearance in MOME. One can only hope that the whole thing will get collected, at which point I predict it to be one of my favorite comics ever." (Via The Comics Reporter)
• Review: We almost missed this cartoon review by Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg at Unshelved Book Club: "…The Last Musketeer… is the epitome of everything we love about Jason: stunning color palette, insane and absurd plot, humor that sneaks up on you, his signature anthropomorphized animals, and surprisingly serious themes of authority, humanity, death, love, jealousy…"
• Profile: At Examiner.com, Gillian Gaar talks to editor/EMP curator Jacob McMurray about Taking Punk to the Masses: From Nowhere to Nevermind: "The book, as its title suggests, views Nirvana’s success as the culmination of the alternative rock scene that blossomed in America during the 1980s. 'That’s the bigger context in the exhibition as well,' McMurray explains. 'It is the story of Nirvana, but it's couched within what was happening throughout the Northwest, and throughout the US, from the rise of punk rock on. It’s the idea that there needs to be a sort of infrastructure in place for a band like Nirvana to even exist; that without all of these advances that had been happening in the underground by a dozen different bands, Nirvana would have never happened.'"
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Chris Mautner talks to Gilbert Hernandez about Love from the Shadows and the other "Fritz B-Movie" books: "The Fritz series frees me of any obligation to be a do-gooder cartoonist, something most regular L&R readers probably don't want to hear. I felt straight jacketed with 'Palomar' and the like after a while, really. I have a lot more going on in my imagination than I'm expected to utilize." Further reading: at CBR's Robot 6 blog, Sean T. Collins comments on the interview
• Feature: At the Drawing Words & Writing Pictures blog, Best American Comics series co-editors Jessica Abel & Matt Madden spotlight two stories from Mome Vol. 13 as 2010 Notable Comics: Abel picks Dash Shaw's "Satellite CMYK" — "Dash Shaw just keeps popping up in our 'can’t miss' pile. [...] Beyond being a good story, the formal element of using color (and black and white) as a storytelling tool is very unusual and makes this work a standout." — and Madden picks Josh Simmons's "Jesus Christ": "The storytelling is fluid and dynamic, and Simmons’s ability to convey the enormity of the monster is bracing. Simmons deliberately mixes elements from different mythologies to defy any obvious reading. In the end, all we have before us is this escstatic Kali-Godzilla-Centaur with a halo of fire and a title to provoke us."