• List:NPR's Glen Weldon names The Best Comics of 2011, including Pogo Vol. 1 ("Walt Kelly's hugely influential strip gets the deluxe treatment it deserves"), Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010 by Michael Kupperman ("The silliest, funniest, most bracing, and really-I-wasn't-kidding-when-I-said-silliest, book of the year"), and Wandering Son Vol. 1 by Shimura Takako ("An insightful, empathetic and deeply moving manga about a boy who wants to be a girl and a girl who wants to be a boy")
• List: Megamedia conglomerate music-video website VEVO names Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson by Kevin Avery one of 2011's Top Music Books: "Another key critic of rock’s early years, Paul Nelson had a deep skill for explaining artists’ intentions. He was also unafraid of point out their foibles. That makes for a good balance, and some of the portraits he crafted through the years... still resonate as luminous pieces of writing.... But as this combination of bio and anthology reminds us of superb work, it also sketches out his troubled life."
• Award: Thanks to the Well Watchers comics podcast for bestowing us their 2011 Golden Uatu award for Best Publisher
• Profile: At The Atlantic, Steven Heller talks to Bill Griffith about Zippy the Pinhead and his new "landmark book": "Who would have imagined in 1970 that Zippy the Pinhead would become a national icon, up there with Pogo, Charlie Brown, and Mr. Natural? 'Never in my wildest underground imaginings did I foresee Zippy as a continuing character, much less a nationally syndicated daily strip,' says Zippy’s creator, Bill Griffith (Griffy to his intimates). By 1970 he had a hit comic titled 'Young Lust,' an X-rated parody of girl's romance comics. He figured Zippy would take his place alongside other one-shot characters: 'I had no intention of giving him any further thought.' Yet 42 years later, this month marks the publication of an anthology of Zippy and other Griffith characters in Lost and Found - Comics 1969-2003."
• List: Esteemed Washington, DC bookstore Politics & Prose has posted their list of "Favorite Graphic Literature of 2011":
"It seems sort of cruel to celebrate the final issue of Mome, Fantagraphics’ premier anthology of comics. But one can hardly resist such a celebratory finale. As to be expected, Mome Volume 22 packs a wallop, throwing in a mind-bending array of cartoonists, some Mome regulars, some first-time contributors. Some favorites: Joe Kimball’s 'Secret Hand,' Tim Lane’s 'Belly Gunner,' Eleanor Davis’ 'Nita Go Home' and 'Loving Bin Laden' by James Romberger. As always, this is a refreshing and eye-opening anthology. So thank you, Mome, and goodbye."
"Jacques Tardi’s wildly inventive The Arctic Marauder follows Jerome Plumier as he tries to uncover the mystery of why ships keep sinking in the arctic. Written to parody a Victorian and Jules Verne-esque style, Tardi’s illustrations look as if they’re out of a much older book; his seascapes and townscapes are scenic and highly detailed; his creative paneling is fresh and interesting; and the abundance of machinery and wild inventions makes this book a real wonder to read. Ending on a strangely ominous, ironic, and humorous note, this is yet another masterpiece by the French master, finally brought to American audiences."
"Jim Woodring’s little anthropomorph, Frank, has been around for quite some time, and his silent, life altering, universe confusing, epic comics finally get collected into one nice book. Frank has graced the comics page for decades now, and his curiosity, foolishness, but utter innocence leaves one always wishing for more, and to have it collected into one volume is an absolute treasure. There is much to say about The Frank Book, but really, you should just pick it up and wander with Frank and his friends and enemies, into a world that is so different, and yet, so similar to our own."
"Stigmata is one of the greatest virtuoso displays of pen-and-ink work in the history of graphic novels. Illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti’s 'raging fury of intense linework' is mesmerizing on every single page, and drives the novel-length story by Claudio Piersanti set in the hellish world of bars and traveling carnivals (with a final redemptive chapter). Stigmata is a recognized classic in the comics world, and was published in Europe in 1998. It has finally been translated and published here."
"Pogo Possum and the bunch of characters that make up Walt Kelly’s colorful, smart, and witty comic finally get the sort of treatment they deserve. It has taken Fantagraphics a long, long time to find perfect copies of all these fantastic strips, and to make sure Pogo was given its due in the best possible way. So here it is: the first of twelve volumes, complete with dailies and Sunday pages (with absolutely gorgeous color). This is quite possibly one of the best things to come out this year, and one of the best books for any library."
"Hot on the heels of popular Mickey Mouse hardcover comics collections, Fantagraphics puts forth a second Disney classic, Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes. While some readers may have been surprised by Mickey’s exploits in the early days, Donald is exactly as you remember and expect him to be: perpetually frustrated with a heart of gold. What is also not surprising is the level of skill behind the cartooning of Carl Barks, whose knack for expressive figures and attention to detail makes this collection an endlessly entertaining read. So well-loved were these stories, that none other than the great Steven Spielberg paid tribute to them in the famous scene of Indiana Jones versus the boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Sure to please any fan of good-humored Golden Age comics."
"I’ve never quite liked Mickey Mouse. He was always a little too tame, too good. And while he was always the hero, he never seemed to earn it. Fantagraphics recent release of the classic 1930’s comic strips has completely changed my mind. While Mickey’s essential character hasn’t changed, he is certainly more bold, more willing to throw a punch or rush into a haunted house, or even into a brawl with Pegleg Pete and his gang. Floyd Gottfredson’s artwork bears the trademark Disney look (given that it is clear and at times inventive), but the limit on panels and the daily format of the strip forced Gottfredson to tell his stories in intriguing, and always brilliant ways. These comic strips are full of adventure and clever satire. With the usual Fantagraphics treatment, there are over 50 pages of supplemental material, so these books provide a wealth of information on the series and on Gottfredson’s life. Also available in a slipcased set!"
"For those who still think that Prince Valiant is simply an illustrated version of your boring high school history textbook, it is time to take heed. Fantagraphics continues to release these gorgeous remastered editions of one of America’s most beloved and enduring comics. This is a story steeped in family and tradition, with a dash of fantasy. Hal Foster’s professionalism shines in every painstakingly-researched and well-composed page of Prince Valiant Volumes 3and4. Each panel’s composition immediately draws you in and invites you to linger in a world of romance and adventure, in which you may spend many Sunday afternoons. Previously released editions were high-contrast, lurid affairs that seemed determined to destroy the good name of the original color artist; however, the impeccable restoration of the comic’s original colors makes it enjoyable for the modern audiences and almost a brand new experience for fans lucky enough to have read it in their youth."
• List/Review: "Finally starting to be collected, Gottfredson's masterful first year was released by Fantagraphics, publisher of all good things, in a wonderful hardbound... Aside from the subject matter, the most striking thing about this volume is Gottfredson's art. He demonstrates a supernatural knack for detail and fluidity that remains largely unchallenged in his representation of Mickey, as well as in animation/ cartooning/ sequential art.... As a longtime appreciator of Gottfredson and proponent for his legacy, Race to Death Valley was the best comic release of 2011 — a feat, considering the material is 70 years old. Take that, modern literature!" – Rafael Gaitan, Spectrum Culture "Best Books of the Year"
• Review: "The fact is that Paul Nelson was one of the handful of people who have scribbled about rock-and-roll over the years who might be described as a genuinely important writer, regardless of the (some would say) transience of much of his subject matter. In that regard, while re-reading Everything [Is an Afterthought] I was struck by how little any of it has dated; the various reviews and think pieces Avery has anthologized are as passionate, perceptive and hilarious as they seemed back in the day, and given that most of them have been out of print since forever (in fact, almost all the work collected here has never been between hardcovers) this is a major piece of cultural exhumation at the very least." – Steve Simels, PowerPop
• Review: "The gender orientations of eleven-year-olds just isn’t the stuff of stories here. In fact, it is the stuff of reality. Shimura balances a full plate in this story, all the while offering it with the kind of easy grace that makes the balance appear to be almost magical.... In Shimura’s sympathetic hands, this manga is neither gag nor message heavy: both main characters, their peers, and their family members are credible and developed with enough depth that readers can think about them beyond the bounds of the book. ...[Wandering Son Vol. 1] belongs in every high school library, as well as in public collections that are accessible to both youth and adults." – Francisca Goldsmith, School Library Journal
• Review: "But upon reflection, I wonder if these terrible people’s wholly alien way of interacting with the world isn’t just the writing equivalent of Tardi’s nimble, scribbled line and sooty blacks — a heightened reality in which things are rendered at their loosest, darkest, ugliest, and weirdest at all times. God knows both creators can rigorously focus when they want... Tardi’s backgrounds and lighting effects are a realist’s dream and his action sequences and set-pieces are choreographed tighter than a drum. The absurdist demeanors may prevent everything from gelling as well as they might have done, but overall [Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot] delivers a fastball to your face so hard that you barely have time to notice that some of the stitches need straightening." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• List: Moto Hagio's The Heart of Thomas tops Deb Aoki's list of the Most-Anticipated New Manga of 2012 at About.com Manga: "This 3-volume story from 1974 has been on many manga connoisseur's wish lists for years, so it's a real joy to see that Fantagraphics will be publishing the entire saga in English in one volume."
• List/Review:Manga Worth Reading's Johanna Draper Carlson ranks Wandering Son the #2 Best New Manga of 2011 and recommends Volume 2 in her review: "Shimura Takako’s young figures are adorable. They look unspoiled, with their future ahead of them, which puts their struggles into greater relief.... Translator Matt Thorn’s essay at the back of this volume addresses the issue of being 'Transgendered in Japan' directly, providing valuable information on cultural context, as well as warning us that the children’s lives may be very difficult in years (and stories) to come. There is no more handsome manga than Fantagraphics’ presentation of Wandering Son."
• List:Forbidden Planet International asks comics creator Martin Eden his 3 favorite comics of 2011: "My attention had been waning a bit with the Love and Rockets comics, and then 2010′s Love and Rockets [New Stories] 3 came out and it blew my mind – it was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever read. So much so, that I found myself re-reading the entire series and tracking down all the issues I’d missed. This year’s Love and Rockets[New Stories] 4... was still utterly mind-blowing, and Jaime Hernandez is producing the best work he’s ever done, in my opinion."
• Review: "One of comics revered masters gets a fresh new reprinting [Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes ] worthy of his work and accessible to kids.... This volume finds [Barks] at a creative peak, combining the bold adventuring of Tintin with the wisely cynical view of human weakness of John Stanley.... Donald is an everyman of frustration whose life is one big Chinese finger trap—the harder he fights, the harder the world fights back.... Despite the dark undertones, the comic expressions and dialogue is still laugh-out-loud funny. A wonderful project that should put Barks’s name in front of new generations of admirers." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "This exceptional first volume of the collected adventures of Pogo Possum should remind readers of the substantial legacy left behind by Kelly.... The volume is beautifully put together, including excellent insights into Kelly and his work... One only needs to get a short way into the adventures of Pogo and his pals in Okefenokee Swamp to recognize the impact Pogo has had on so many cartoonists... With Pogo Possum and [his] supporting characters..., Kelly was able to blend hilarious humor, exceptional storytelling, keen political satire, and brilliant wordplay into a strip that could be appreciated both by children and adults. The more one reads this volume, the clearer picture one has of Kelly as comics’ answer to Lewis Carroll, with Alice having changed into a possum and left Wonderland behind for a swamp." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "The Art of Joe Kubert contains extensive commentary by Bill Schelly that contextualizes Kubert's work with the development of comics as a medium. ...[I]t's an informative and briskly engaging essay. In reviewing the vast panorama of Kubert's eight-decade career, The Art of Joe Kubert allows readers previously unfamiliar with the artist to share an appreciation of his abiding interest in human nature (as opposed to just superhero theatrics) through a surprising variety of storytelling styles and subject matter. Kubert's great influence on other cartoonists came from the way he embraced the comics medium as a whole, instead of just a particular niche or character type." – Casey Burchby, SF Weekly
• Interview:The A.V. Club's Sam Adams chats with Jack Davis: "I’ve said this many a time; I’ll tell it again. When I was going to kindergarten, and that’s a very young age, my mother used to walk me to school. I would go up past a chain gang — that was the old days when the prisoners wore stripes and everything — and I saw that. I would go to kindergarten, and they’d put a piece of construction paper in front of me, and crayons, and I did, probably, a stick figure, but I put stripes on him. And from that, they thought I had talent. My mother thought I was great. And from then, I’ve always drawn. Drawn pictures. I love to draw cartoons."
• Interview:Nerve gets sex advice from a trio of cartoonists including Rick Altergott — "If you want to talk about inking brushes or pens or what kind of paper or even something as broad as 'who's your favorite cartoonist?' 'Do you know Robert Crumb?' 'Do you know the Hernandez brothers?' Once you get the answer, you can fine-tune it from there. Before you know it, you're probably going to end up in bed." — and Anders Nilsen
• Plugs: The fine folks at L.A.'s Secret Headquarters are posting their staff gift suggestions: Julie recommends Leslie Stein's Eye of the Majestic Creature ("Good for: Anyone with an overactive imagination; fans of whimsy and good times") and Malachi suggests The Cabbie Vol. 1 by Martí ("A European (and comically sordid) take on the American crime genre") and Walt Kelly's Pogo Vol. 1 ("The essential collection of Pogo – A comic that expertly integrates social satire into the daily newspaper format")
In the second volume of Shimura Takako's superb coming-of-age story, our transgendered protagonists, Shuichi and Yoshino, have entered the sixth grade. Shuichi spends a precious gift of cash from his grandmother on a special present for himself, a purchase that triggers a chain of events in which his sister Maho learns his secret, and Shuichi inadvertently steals the heart of a boy Maho in interested in.
The “woman” who showed so much interest in Yoshino (when she was wear- ing a boy’s school uniform) in Volume One reappears with “her” boyfriend, and becomes a mentor and friend to the two children. And the kids go on a class trip that is a rite of passage Shuichi would rather pass up. Shuichi is called a “faggot” by another boy, and the dramatic nature in which Saori comes to Shuichi’s defense leads the two to discover a shared fondness for Anne of Green Gables. But despite his propensity to cry (a propensity noted repeatedly by his more outgoing sister), Shuichi finds strength and courage he didn’t know he had.
A sophisticated work translated with sensitivity by veteran translator and comics scholar Matt Thorn.
• List:About.com Manga's 2011 Best New Manga, as selected by Deb Aoki, includes Shimura Takako's Wandering Son Vol. 1 as Best New Seinen/Josei: Slice of Life: "Gender-bending is not unusual in manga, but it's rare to see transgender identity issues depicted realistically, not just as a plot gimmick. With her spare, elegant art and slice-of-life storytelling, Shimura tells a sweet and sensitive coming-of-age tale that opens your eyes and your heart to these kids and their unusual, but very real desires to be the boy/girl they know they really meant to be."
• Review: "This giant gift-book portfolio of [Jack] Davis' work reflects the high standard of design and archival presentation that is Fantagraphics' specialty.... There is a brief, punchy, informative introduction by fellow illustrator and conceptual designer William Stout, as well as a longer biographical essay at the end of the book by The Comics Journal's Gary Groth. Between these two helpful pieces are nearly 200 pages of uninterrupted artwork. The reproductions are assisted by the book's large 10-by-13-inch trim size. The size is indicative of Davis' influence, and it affords readers a panoramic view of the evolution and contributions of one of this country's most recognizable and influential cartoonists." – Casey Burchby, SF Weekly
• Review: "One thing that stories in Belgian cartoonist Olivier Schrauwen’s The Man Who Grew His Beard share is that they question their own form — and they usually feature bearded men who draw — but otherwise resist association.... So many storytellers are lauded for creating worlds so believable that they cause readers to forget. Presumably, readers forget their own realities, and become absorbed in the author’s imagined product. Schrauwen creates new worlds in every story, and these worlds envelope us, but he never allows us to forget. He doesn’t let us forget that he’s an artist, and that we are readers, and that those are his pencil lines and paint strokes on the page we’re reading. And this reminder of the form and experience is exactly what makes his stories seem so real. They refuse to deny the process with which we all struggle if rarely acknowledge, and that is the process of continually framing and creating the world in which we live." – John Dermot Woods, The Faster Times
• Review: "Accompanied by cheeky illustrations, Twain's narrative traipses from Gatsbyesque Jazz Age parties to hanging out with space robots to shrinking and befriending sentient ants. The tone is authoritative yet absurd, like your father telling you that he was definitely in an acid-induced threesome with Jessica Lange in the '70s. It's a silly and ironic romp..." – Grace Bello, Bookslut
• Review: "The material has been referred to by some as 'dark,' but I disagree. It’s not cute. It’s not really intended for kids. There are big laughs in Nuts, but they come from the reality of being a kid in America, and how disillusionment came with the territory when you embarked on the road to adulthood." – Rob Bradfield, Examiner.com
• Feature: Comics Alliance's Chris Sims has a fun spotlight on a seasonal Carl Barks story in Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes: "...'The Golden Christmas Tree' might just take the fruitcake. After all, most of the other Christmas stories I've read don't involve a harvest of tears or someone turning into a woodchipper."
• Plug: "Fantagraphics have released two books in the last few years of Fletcher Hanks's fantastically strange comics. His work was around in the early twentieth century and it’s brimming with personality and energy. The books bring together some amazing stories and I can’t recommend them enough. Prepare to have your mind blown." – Jack Teagle, Lost at E Minor
• List: The Austin American-Statesman's Joe Gross names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 the best comic of 2011: "One of the wonderful things about seeing a masterpiece in the making is the mysterious feeling, the racing of the soul that takes place when it hits you that you are, in fact, seeing a masterpiece in the making.... Symphonic, tragic, revelatory, exciting and devastating as only great art can be, 'The Love Bunglers' is one of the best comics ever made."
• List:Paste ranks Dave McKean's Celluloid at #5 on The 10 Best New Comics of 2011: "The visionary art director behind The Sandman’s covers creates a coital masterwork that elicits beauty and excitement in equal measure.... Celluloid is a treasure of technical finesse and sensual mystique that transcends its potential controversy."
• List:Paste's list of The Ten Best Reissues/Collections of 2011 includes Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 1: Race to Death Valley by Floyd Gottfredson at #9 ("Gottfredson had an animator’s knack for storytelling, and his layouts remain clear no matter how busy they get. Much of the humor is stilted by modern standards, but you’ll be too enthralled by the exciting plots and likable characters to care"), Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture – A Career Retrospective at #7 ("Fantagraphics has finally given him the grand and serious treatment he deserves, without minimizing his goofy sense of humor"), and Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes in the #1 spot ("Barks’ strips combine high adventure with humor and subtle cultural commentaries, but they remain grounded in character... Lost in the Andes is a gorgeously packaged collection of some of the finest comics ever made.")
• List: At Poopsheet Foundation, Justin Giampaoli names Kevin Huizenga's Ganges #4 one of the "Best Mini-Comics & Small Press Titles of 2011": "It’s the continuing adventures of Glenn Ganges and his latest nocturnal outing, as he navigates his sleepless existence on a seemingly endless night. With the degree of interactivity occurring between the page and the readers, there’s as much technique on display here as there is original storytelling."
• List: Leeds, UK comic shop OK Comics posts their Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2011: "9. Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot by Jaques Tardi published by @fantagraphics. A hitman's reluctance to perform one last job leads to an emotional breakdown. Legendary French comics artist Jacques Tardi on fine form."
• List:The Globe and Mail includes Pogo - The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips Volume 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder by Walt Kelly in their "2011 gift book guide": "Fans of what for many is the greatest of all comic strips have waited a long time for this, the first of a projected 12 volumes (1949-1950) from the brilliant Walt Kelly. The congenial Pogo Possum and his swampland friends... spring to life in this collection of daily and Sunday comics, filled with Kelly’s characteristic wordplay. One hopes this will introduce a new generation to this comic, satiric masterwork."
• Review: "Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips: Volume 1—Through the Wild Blue Wonder proves to be worth the wait.... Overall, the package serves Pogo well.... The biggest revelation of reading the first two years of Pogo is how polished and funny the strip was right from the start, and also how nearly every Pogo panel is a delight unto itself. Kelly didn’t necessarily build to big punchlines; he’d slip funny sight gags and memorable lines everywhere there was room. ...[T]here’s a classic Pogo moment on just about every page of this book." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Even now, Barks’ stories are clever and funny, as he leads the ducks into impossible situations and then gives them unexpected ways out. And they’re poignant in their own way, too.... What’s impressive about Fantagraphics’ Lost in the Andes is that it encourages both a fannish and an intellectual approach to the material. For those who want to skew highbrow, the book includes an appendix with scholarly analysis of each story.... And for those who just want to curl up with more than 200 pages of some of the best-written comics ever published, Lost in the Andes has all the square eggs, rubber bricks, golden Christmas trees, and races around the world that any kid or grown-up could ever want." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Fantagraphics’ initial release of its new series of Carl Barks books is titled, Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes and reprints one of the most famous, and most BELOVED, comic book stories which Carl ever wrote and drew! ...I’m impressed with the quality of the publication. In my estimation, the coloring is excellent and the format engaging…. The critical essays composed by a number of Barks scholars are also insightful and well written.... In my opinion, as a Carl Barks fan, this initial volume is well worth acquiring!" – Carl Barks Fan Club Newsletter
• Reviews: "Two... giants of American illustration get the handsome coffee-table-book treatment with Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture and The Art of Joe Kubert... The Kubert book — edited by Bill Schelly — is more text-heavy, covering Kubert’s early years as a journeyman penciler and inker on a slew of indistinct superhero and adventure comics, then exploring how Kubert developed the fine shading and gritty realism he’d become famed for starting in the late ’50s. The Davis book saves most of its biographical detail and critical analysis for the intro and appendix, filling the intervening 200 pages with full-sized examples of the half-cartoony/half-photographic approach that Davis brought to Mad magazine and countless movie posters. Both offer ample visual evidence of how two men found the 'art' in commercial art, turning work-for-hire assignments into opportunities to express their particular visions of the world." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "To (re-)discover a first-rate critic, and read about a life that went wrong in a harrowing way, you must read Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson, by Kevin Avery.... This volume is exhilarating. Avery tells with great energy Nelson’s tale, with copious details about the active period of his subject’s life, and in so doing limns a portrait of a certain kind of pop-culture/bohemian existence in the late-70s. And Avery’s generous selection of Nelson’s writings are certainly among Paul’s best..." – Ken Tucker (Entertainment Weekly), The Best American Poetry
• Review: "What makes Wandering Son work is its slow-burn pace and calm atmosphere. It takes a delicate subject – transgender children- and explores it slowly and carefully. Much like its characters, it moves at its own pace, easing the reader into the characters’ lives.... I am really eager to read volume two of Wandering Son, though a little hesitant as well. I know that the road in front of Shu and Yoshino isn’t going to be an easy one and I don’t want to see them get hurt. But the fact that I’m talking about the characters as though they’re real people just shows how deep this manga has gotten under my skin." – Shannon Fay, Kuriousity
• Review: "Richard Sala is one of those creators that holds a fairly unique voice in comics. Many people have tried to replicate his off-beat brand of horror, but ultimately nothing out there quite like his. So with a new graphic novel called The Hidden out, the question for most people won’t be, 'Should I read it?' but 'When should I read it?'... The Hidden isn’t perfect... but what Sala does well, he does very well indeed. There’s quite a lot to love in The Hidden, with some scenes in particular that will stick with the reader for a long time." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Plug: "Have you ever wondered what happened after 'Happily Ever After'? This graphic novel [Castle Waiting] is a modern tale that incorporates fairytale characters and settings. Funny, thoughtful and not at all what you'd expect." – The Victoria Times Colonist
• Interview:Wall Street Journal subscribers can read a Q&A with Jack Davis conducted last week in NYC by Bruce Bennett here: "Every time you went in to see Bill Gaines, he would write you a check when you brought in a story. You didn't have to put in a bill or anything. I was very, very hungry and I was thinking about getting married. So I kept the road pretty hot between home and Canal Street. I would go in for that almighty check, go home and do the work, bring it in and get another check and pick up another story." [Update: A clever reader has pointed out that non-subscribers can read the article in Google's cache]
• Profile:CNN's Todd Leopold profiles the great Al Jaffee: "After a bumpy several years in which he bounced like a pinball between his parents -- moving from Savannah, Georgia, to Lithuania, to one borough and then another of New York City, back to Lithuania and back again to New York -- art was something to hold on to, a way to establish an identity. He had no idea it would lead anywhere."
• Review: "Shimura Takako’s story of two adolescents—a boy who wants to be a girl and a girl who wants to be a boy—isn’t exactly fast-paced in terms of plot, but [Wandering Son] book 2 continues the excellent work of book 1 and raises the emotional stakes a bit.... There’s... a slowly unfolding pleasure to Shimura’s story. Sensitive to the plight of young teenagers and potentially transgender youth alike, she’s managed to create a compelling story without including much that, considered in isolation, is particularly dramatic, which speaks to the realism of her efforts." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Review: "This is really fantastic storytelling. Another review of this volume [Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes] compared it to Tintin, and I think that’s very apt. There’s the adventures in foreign lands, the constant peril, the occasional wacky gags thrown in to alleviate said peril, and of course good old American ingenuity that, thankfully, never verges on jingoism quite as much as Tintin sometimes did.... I picked this up thinking it’d be a good chance to see if I liked Carl Barks and what the fuss was all about. Well, now I get it – and I’m hooked. ...[T]his is well worth the purchase for any fan of classic comics." – Sean Gaffney, Manga Bookshelf
• Review: "Kelly’s genius was the ability to beautifully, vivaciously draw comedic, tragic, pompous, sympathetic characters of any shape or breed and make them inescapably human and he used that gift to blend hard-hitting observation of our crimes, foibles and peccadilloes with rampaging whimsy, poesy and sheer exuberant joie de vivre. The hairy, scaly, feathered slimy folk here are inescapably us, elevated by burlesque, slapstick, absurdism and all the glorious joys of wordplay from puns to malapropisms to raucous accent humour into a multi-layered hodge-podge of all-ages accessible delight.... Timeless and magical, Pogo is a giant of world literature, not simply comics, and this magnificent edition should be the pride of every home’s bookshelf." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "...I was extremely impressed by Santiago's artistic abilities. He manages to shift the comic page in ways you'd never think of for a biography, using all sorts of layouts, from jagged panels to Family Circus ovals to standard grid formats. His characters wiggle their way through when in motion, show their feelings on faces that are slightly oversized and full of expression, and sometimes contort themselves into shapes that aren't quite natural. It's an artistic tour de force and shows that bio comics do not have to be the stolid, one step at a time narrative that we often see. ...21 is an excellent book... Clemente is every bit the important figure in baseball history that Robinson was, and more people need to know his story. 21 is an excellent place to start, either for you or the baseball fan in your life." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• List: At MTV Geek, Brigid Alverson names Wandering Son by Shimura Takako one of The Best Manga Series of 2011: "Wandering Son is a delightful, quiet manga about a girly boy and a boyish girl.... This is not your typical gender-bender manga playing a gender switch for laughs (and fanservice); it's a quiet, subtle story of a boy coming to terms with himself."
• Review: "Believe it or not, music criticism was responsible for some of 2011's finest books, with Kevin Avery's impeccably researched Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson leading the pack.... Avery has done an outstanding job assembling a collection of the writer's work, fully illustrating why he was such an influential presence in his time. But, sadly, especially in our time, it also reads as something of a cautionary tale — ...you might wonder why on earth anyone would ever choose rock criticism as a career in the first place." – Bill Holdship, Detroit Metro Times
• Review: "I have no idea if it was part of cartoonist Johnny Ryan's overall plan for Prison Pit, but this latest book in the growing-to-classic-status series strikes me as a 'step-back' installment. This is where a series that was once less certain in the market place eschews some of the instant gratification of its first couple of books for the sake of layering in additional plot elements that look like they'll pay off further down the line. It's the kind of work that makes you think that its creator is thinking of the long-term as opposed to focusing solely on the short. Prison Pit had some of that particular swagger from the very beginning; this book seems even more settled and confident.... As was the case with the first two books, Johnny Ryan makes his case for mastery at a second, very specific genre, connected to the first through the extremes of expression involved." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Interview: At Memory Is Fiction, Craig Staufenberg talks with Wilfred Santiago: "Any subject or theme can work in comics, the narrative has unique, endless breakdowns. It’s a unique prism, anything that’s seen through it is distorted in a comic book way. The author, the cartoonist, just brings to light a particular side of that prism. I try to quit comics but it keeps pulling me back."
• Interview:Network Awesome Magazine has a fun Q&A with Richard Sala about the Invisible Hands animated shorts: "They used stop-motion. The staff would blow up my drawings onto colored paper and then cut out all the figures and movable parts. The pieces were then positioned on three layers of glass – to give depth – with the camera looking down. Next, the director, Denis Morella, carefully moved the pieces around – including the mouths, to match the dialogue – for each click of the camera. I grew up loving stop-motion – everything from Ray Harryhausen to Gumby – so, I thought doing the animation that way was pretty cool."
• Feature: At New Orleans-based website Gambit, Alex Woodward looks at Oil and Water — "As the book gets deeper south and deeper into the complexities and relationships of oil to the Gulf and its people, the stories get murky and collide, mimicking an ebb-and-flow that at first is much like oil and water, then gradually homogenizes. The Portlanders come to grips with their own misconceptions, and the characters that were once miles away from their lives become embedded into their own." — and talks to the book's creators (writer Steve Duin, artist Shannon Wheeler and editor Mike Rosen)
• Review: "...Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010... is mainly an excuse to insert Twain, Zelig-like, into every decade between 1910 and today. Of course he made a lot of money in the 1920s and lost it all in the 1930s. Of course he and Albert Einstein were repeatedly struck in the head by a hammer-wielding monkey. And of course he sleeps with Mamie Eisenhower ('this lady was one hot dish.') It's all told in Kupperman's Marx Brothers-style absurdist deadpan voice, and if you like Tales Designed to Thrizzle, then you'll love this book. It's packed with laugh-out-loud moments..." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Review: "Gahan Wilson's Nuts features kids talking the way adults really talk... The kids in Nuts are vain, covetous, not so very bright, and they stagger around, reeling, from one unpleasant surprise to the next. They get their hair cut ('Sometimes I wonder if it's just that he's a lousy barber...') they look at some gory magazines, ('We're just not ready for that shit') and they attend funerals of uncles ('My God—I never saw them acting this way before! They've all fallen apart!'). Weirdly, by giving his kids the vocabularies of adults, he really captures the neuroses of childhood. We begin life as we live it now: Dazed, angry, and bitter at our own fundamental lack of control." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Review: "Fantagraphics has a nice introduction giving a brief biography of Kelly, and describing many of the struggles he had with Pogo and syndication. There is also a fantastic notes section at the end, which points out historical trivia as well as giving the context for some of the strips.... It’s possible that the appeal of Pogo may be lost on folks who are so used to everything that it influenced, be it talking animal comedies or political satires. Doesn’t matter to me, though. This strip is funny, well-drawn, and features a huge mass of likeable characters doing entertaining things. Put it together with Fantagraphics’ excellent presentation, and you have a definite must-buy." – Sean Gaffney, Manga Bookshelf
• Review: "Greg Sadowski and Fantagraphics’ Setting the Standard is perhaps the best book on Alex Toth that has been published thus far... Sadowski takes a straightforward, comprehensive approach and so Setting the Standard can rest comfortably on the bookshelf next to Fantagraphics’ other excellent recent collections of essential comics such as Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant, Roy Crane’s Captain Easy and Buz Sawyer and Carl Barks’ Disney epics.... There are... many passages of thoughtful comics storytelling. The romance work is often brilliantly articulated and visualized... Toth’s handling of horror and suspense is intuitive, sometimes harrowing and exhibits his more radical inventions.... In Sadowski’s book, Toth’s work speaks for itself and the artist likewise. The book’s assemblage and design are very well done to make a package which is pulpy but tasteful, not cheap nor overly slick, not high/low cute or old-boy sentimental. It provides a complete and important body of work by a great cartoonist." – James Romberger (contributor to the final Mome), The Hooded Utilitarian
• Review: "The good news: it’s here, it’s real. The better news: it’s incredible. Walt Kelly’s lively, robust, and poetic world is faithfully and lovingly produced in this, the first of a proposed twelve volume series. The hardcover is printed horizontally, maintaining the integrity of the 'strip' format, with ample margins to avoid any gutter-loss. Fantagraphics knew this first volume would be scrutinized by hardcore Pogofans, and they’ve outdone expectations, dating each strip, providing historical context for the more esoteric 1940s references, and even reproducing the color Sunday strips.... Through the Wild Blue Wonder is one of our Best Comics and Graphic Novels of 2011, and there might not be a better gift this holiday for the historical and literary comics fan." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon.com)
• Review: "The usually tight-gripped Disney empire agreed to turn over their most treasured property to Fantagraphics (yes, again!). The results are eye-opening, featuring a Mickey that might be unfamiliar to most present-day fans. The stories are dense, packing plenty of dialogue into the strips — and the themes are darker than the bright-eyed, factory-sealed tales of today. Mickey is multi-dimensional in the first volume, Race to Death Valley, making rash decisions without much concern for everyone’s safety. Thankfully, Minnie is by his side to both reign him in and sometimes encourage his recklessness. The reproduction is crisp — the black inks are meticulous in their separation, and the book is augmented with over 50 pages of essays and Mickey esoterica. Volume 2, Trapped on Treasure Island, published last month, and Fantagraphics has a gift edition slipcase that contains both volumes. This dynamic look is a revelation in the life of the character who started it all for Disney." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon.com)
• Plug: At Comic Book Resources' "Black Friday Comics Shopping Guide": "Fantagraphics is all over the legacies of some of the best artists ever to work for the Walt Disney company with Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse, vol. 1 ($29.99) and Carl Barks' Donald Duck ($24.99). Disney's most famous characters need no introduction, but their modern incarnations are so far from their roots that these collections will surprise anyone seeing these strips for the first time. Any of these volumes is a guaranteed smile."
• Plug: Deb Aoki's Manga Gift Guide at About.com Manga includes Wandering Son Vols. 1 & 2 by Shimura Takako: "This critically acclaimed series is available as over-sized hardcovers, which makes them especially gift-worthy, but the story is also charming and sensitive in a way that doesn't bash the reader over the head with a preachy agenda. Volume 2 is due out soon, so get that too if you can."