224-page black & white 7” x 9.5” hardcover • $19.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-605-8
Selected views of the book (hint: they're organized right-to-left), which should be on shelves in 5-7 weeks; click thumbnails for larger versions and get more info, see more previews and pre-order your copy here:
Wandering Son has garnered extensive praise (from the GLBT community, from manga fans, and from comics fans in general) for its uniquely funny, warm, and sensitive treatment of the travails of two Japanese tweens who find themselves coping with the knotty issue of gender identification as they slowly realize that maybe they aren't who they were meant to be.
In this latest volume, love is in the air. It's in the trees and on the streets. It's hanging on the walls and piled in great heaps on the floor. Or is it really love? These sixth and seventh graders don't really know. But something is definitely amiss. They can't sleep, and when they do sleep they have strange dreams. They get angry and cry for no reason. They blush and grin like idiots for no reason. And it isn't even spring. But the standard rules apply: If A is in love with B, B is certain to be in love with C, and C is likely to be in love with D, or possibly A.
And now it seems a good third of the alphabet is in love with our shy protagonist, Nitori-kun. But the flip-side of love is jealousy, and hate. The simple friendships of childhood develop into the complex, tense relationships of adolescence. Friends become strangers, or worse. But while everyone seems to have caught the bug — even characters whose names you can't remember — Volume 4 revolves solidly around the triangle of Nitori-kun, Takatsuki-san, and Chiba-san. Yet centrifugal force seems to push the three away from each other, and there is a certain grimness as they say goodbye to elementary school, and put on the (highly gendered) uniforms of junior high school…
Wandering Son fans, we know you've been jumping up and down in anticipation of the new volume of Shimura Takako's bittersweet, beautifully told saga of two gender-questioning teens and their friends & family. Well, this is either wonderful news or agonizing torture for you: we got our advance copies of Volume 4, which means it should be on shelves in June (and available from us a bit sooner)!
As the kids get older and deeper into the throes of adolescence, the more complex their lives get and the deeper the drama gets! We've posted the entire first chapter for you to read for free, and you can pre-order your copy right here.
(You can also save some money and be guaranteed to receive the next 3 volumes as soon as they're available with our post-paid, 20%-discounted 3-volume subscription!)
The newest office of Online Commentaries & Diversions:
• Review: Glen Weldon from NPR Books pontificates on the wondrous LGBT-centric graphic novels and reviewed Moto Hagio's The Heart of Thomas "…whenever the emotions roiling just under her narrative's surface threaten to overtake her characters, Hagio's otherwise exacting and detailed art goes expressively feathery at the edges, like a ghost vanishing softly into the ether."
• Review:Fantasy Book Review reviews The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio. "This is not an uplifting tale until at the end, but it is a very well drawn period manga that gives glimpses of what boys that age would have felt being in such an enclosed place. There is a sense of Oscar Wilde about the whole school, but that depends on your impression of the piece," writes Sandra Scholes.
• Review: Glen Weldon from NPR Books pontificates on the wondrous LGBT-centric graphic novels and reviewed Wandering Son Vol. 1 by Shimura Takako. "Takako presents their stories with admirable sensitivity and restraint.…"
• Review: Glen Weldon from NPR Books pontificates on the wondrous LGBT-centric graphic novels and reviewed No Straight Lines edited by Justin Hall. "From Stonewall and the AIDS crisis to the terrifying specter of domesticity, this clear-eyed, unsentimental collection demonstrates the extent to which, for LGBT people, the personal and the political have always bled together."
• Review:Comics Bulletin looks at The Cartoon Utopia by Ron Regé Jr. "With this book, Ron Regé has emerged as comics' answer to Walt Whitman.…Thankfully, Regé's overarching concept -- that a vivid and transcendent comic book experience is within our grasp, if we're willing -- is not a hard one to understand at all." says R.J. Ryan.
• Review:Grovel and Andy Shaw look at The Cavalier Mr. Thompson by Rich Tommaso. "The story is wonderfully told. It has the feel of a classic movie, something from a bygone era…complete with the usual cast of chancers, crooks and have-a-go heroes.…It’s a thoroughly enjoyable book, with a stunning backdrop and a deeply believable and interesting cast."
• Plug:Alan Wood asks R. Crumb about Bill Griffith. Crumb stated, "He's about the only guy in America who's doing a readable, interesting daily comic strip for daily newspapers. He' s the only one left, as far as I know. I don't know of any others."
• Review: Dutch magazine Knack Focus recently ran a review of George Herriman 's work. Kim Thompson read it, translated it in his synapse-heavy polyglottal mind and said this: "Here's a nice five-star review (in Dutch) of the gorgeous new French edition of KRAZY KAT, created from the Fantagraphics edition. The article is mostly a pocket summary of KRAZY, although it does point out that Herriman's unique approach to language have made the strip virtually untranslatable (forcing European readers to fall back on the English language versions)... until, at least for francophones, now."
The most intricate house sigil of Online Commentaries & Diversions:
• Review:The LA Times enjoys their reading of7 Miles a Secondby David Wojnarowicz, James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook. "Part of the power of Wojnarowicz’s work is that he dealt with such concepts accessibly; he didn’t have time to waste. It was the source of his restless imagination, his willingness to experiment with unexpected forms," writes David L. Ulin.
• Plug:NY1 (New York 1) and Don Kois talk about 7 Miles a SecondDavid Wojnarowicz, James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook. "…this graphic novel is an amazing document of the gaudy, dangerous world of clients and johns and artists and thugs downtown in the 1980s."
• Interview: Nick Hanover of Comics Bulletin interviews Tom Kaczynski on Beta Testing the Apocalypse. Kacyznski writes, "All these stories started to feel like they were linked and eventually things like the noise stories and the themes of sound started to kind of inject themselves into the rest of the material…I'm interested in utopias, and utopian societies. And a lot of what Communism is is essentially an attempted utopia that failed. "
• Review:Art Rocker and Wee Claire look at Delphine by Richard Sala. "Delphine is arguably Richard Sala's darkest tale to date and a brilliant gateway for those new to his whimsical storytelling style…There are comparisons to Snow White dotted throughout the story but Sala's indie-goth execution tinged with a 70s horror atmosphere make for a much more interesting tale."
• Review:The Toronto Star reads and reviews our books like Heads or Tails by Lilli Carré. "Carré’s work, fittingly titled Heads or Tails, probes choice, ambivalence and fate; in her stories, there’s a flip side to everything, rendered in full and brilliant colour,"says Laura Kane.
• Review: Noah Bertlatsky on the Hooded Utilitarian looks at the art of Lilli Carré comics from Heads or Tails through the gendered lens of Bart Beaty. "If art is both hyperbolic masculine swagger and small-scale feminized detail, though, for Carré the form that mediates between the two is something that looks a lot like comics."
• Interview (partial): Dan Nadel of The Comics Journal posts part of the interview of Jacqes Tardi by Kim Thompson from TCJ 302.
• Plug: "It's astonishing to me that The Comics Journal will have outlasted Wizard, Hero Illustrated and CBG, but I'm happy for that fact," says former TCJ editor, Tom Spurgeon. TCJ 302 was co-edited by Kristy Valenti and Mike Dean.
• Review:Mort Meskin gets the full hello-how-are-ya when his collections are reviewed, edited by Steven Brower. "Out of the Shadows was such an enjoyable find that when it ended we were hungry for more of Meskin’s work." So Scoop turns to From Shadow to Light, "Meskin is so skilled in portraying body language that he doesn’t need a face to tell us know exactly what someone is thinking…a thorough and very detailed look at a man’s life, his family and the work he valued."
• Plug:Kotaku and Evan Narcisse get teary-eyed over Peanuts Every Sunday by Charles M. Schulz. "The daily black-and-white comics were great but the full-color Sunday strips gave Schulz a big, beautiful canvas to let his expert pacing and amazing linework breathe in a rainbow of color…it's really the entire mix of characters …and their mix of adult prickliness and childlike naiveté that made Charles Schulz's iconic comics strips so timeless."
• Interview:MTV Geek interviews Charles Forsman about The End of the Fucking Worldand life. Forsman answersEddie Wright's question, "I do love sparse cartooning. Like Schulz which I think comes through in mine a bit. I've heard people descibe this stuff as "Peanuts" all grown-up and violent."
• Review:Nerds of a Feather look at Ed Piskor's Hip Hop Family Tree, to be printed later this year. Philippe Duhart gives it a rare 10 out of 10, "…those familiar with the genre can attest, it's difficult to separate the music from other elements of the "culture" -- b-boying, graffiti, lingo, style. Piskor demonstrates an affectionate respect for the interrelations between these phenomenon, telling a story of a culture, rather than a musical genre."
• Review: Anime News Network reviews and givest The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio an 'A-'. Rebecca Silverman writes, "The Heart of Thomas may be the grandmother of the boys' love genre, but it would be shortsighted to simply classify it as such…Heartfelt and dreamlike, it is a window into the lives of those affected by the sudden death of one of their own."
• Review:The Toronto Star reads and reviews our books like The Cartoon Utopia by Ron Regé, Jr. The Cartoon Utopia "is visionary, but also unmistakably influenced by ’70s psychedelia… the thrilling, one-of-a-kind art will stretch your imagination and, at the very least, make you believe in the power of comics to explore the impossible," writes Laura Kane.
• Review:The Toronto Star reads and reviews our books like Came the Dawn by Wallace Wood and Corpse on the Imjin! by Harvey Kurtzman. Laura Kane writes, "In dark shadows, bold lines and intense close-ups, [Wallace Wood] perfectly illustrates the stories — which ran the gamut from B-horror to confronting social issues such as racism, anti-Semitism and sexism." As for Corpse on the Imjin!, "In these violent, blood-spattered pages, [Kurtzman] lays bare the devastation of war."
• Review/Commentary: Eddie Campbell on The Comics Journal compares and contrasts recent reviews of the EC Comics being reprinted at Fantagraphics and how critics struggle and feel the need to analyze comics at literature. Distilling the article to a mere quote is abhorrent so we tried but please read it. "If comics are any kind of art at all, it’s the art of ordinary people. With regard to Kurtzman’s war comics, don’t forget that the artists on those books were nearer to the real thing than you and I will ever be."
• Review: Elliot Bay Books reviews No Straight Lines, edited by Justin Hall. Dave Wheeler writes, "Impossible to be even close to a complete collection of the genre, No Straight Lines instead seeks to trace the parallel trajectories toward visibility for both comics and LGBTQ identities…these are the stories of real people, or they are people transfigured by folklore."
• Plug: Greg Akers of the Memphis Flyer enjoyed reading Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 by Jaime Hernandez and Gilbert Hernandez. "Jaime breaks me every time. The conclusion to "The Love Bunglers" is an all-time great. Tears in my eyes, destroyed emotionally."
• Plug: Joost Swarte sings the blues at Angouleme, thanks to Paul Karasik.
• Review:SequArt looks at Black Hole by Charles Burns. Faith Brody Patane point out "…it’s a story that’s meant to be devoured with intent to possibly make you have freaky nightmares. Black Hole is one of those stories that lingers long after you read it…This group of teens is far from Riverdale and far more desperate."
The most checked-out book of Online Commentaries & Diversions:
• Review: Prison Pit Book 4 by Johnny Ryan is getting the hits this week. Gene Ambaum of Unshelved writes,"This reminds me of nothing as much as the violent, disturbed drawings I’ve seen in some middle-school boys’ notebooks. Next year, I’m going to tell [my daughter] it’s like a mind-map for her male classmates. If she believes me, I hope we can put off conversations about her dating for a few extra years."
• Review: Mark L. Miller of Ain't It Cool News enjoysJohnny Ryan's latest Prison Pit Book 4. "This is the kind of sick shit that would warrant a trip to the school counselor if you found this crudely etched into the back of your child’s Trapper Keeper. Johnny Ryan once again taps into something primal and pure with his crude drawings of gore, sex, and violence."
• Review:The Quietus and Mat Colgate leaf through some of the best books of 2012 including Prison Pit Book 4 by Johnny Ryan. "Every second spent reading 'Prison Pit' is a joy. A violent, scatological, faecal matter, blood and pus smeared hoot.…There's something brilliantly subversive about 'Prison Pit'," chuckles Colgate.
• Review: The AV Club checks out some new releases like The Comics Journal 302, co-edited by Kristy Valenti and Mike Dean. Noel Murray states, "Business as usual for a publication that was treating the cultural significance of comics as a known fact decades before graphic novels were making the bestseller list."
• Review:The Quietus and Mat Colgate leaf through some of the January releases including 7 Miles a Second by David Wojnarowicz, James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook. Colgate states, "Wojnarowicz was fearless about his artistry and aware that the mere facts of a life are barely a percent of the whole, preferring to reveal the truth through dreams, violent fantasy and allusion. 7 Miles a Second is a shocking book, but for all the right reasons."
• Review: Forbidden Planet's Daily Planet looks at some new releases from Fantagraphics like 7 Miles a Second by David Wojnarowicz, James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook. Matthew Rosenbery states, "The stories serve as beautiful and brutal snapshots of a brilliant life lived too hard and extinguished too soon. It is not too much to say that we all owe a great cultural debt to Mr. Wojnarowicz and picking up this book and trying to understanding his life is a good first step toward understanding that debt."
• Review: Comics Bulletin looks at Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 2 by Michael Kupperman. Daniel Elkin finds it smirk-worthy: "Tales Designed to Thrizzle Volume Two has its place in the construct. It is 'silver and exact' like Sylvia Plath's Mirror and reflects the 'terrible fish' that has become our understandings of the world."
• Review: The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio gets the a full styling by Manga Bookshelf. Melinda Beasi writes "…teens and pre-teens who go to regular, modern public schools essentially live in their own society that is very much separate from the rest of the world, and it’s a society that is, frankly, terrifying…it views that kind of sacrifice as… well, ultimately pointless…Hagio makes it clear that running away is not the answer." Melinda continues on the book as a whole, "I also expected it to be very dated and I thought the story might not appeal to my tastes as a modern fan. Instead, I found it to be both beautiful and emotionally resonant to an extent I’ve rarely experienced—especially in [Boy's Love] manga. This is a book I’d wholeheartedly recommend to any comics fan, without reservation. It’s an absolute treasure."
• Review: The AV Club checks out some new releases like The Heart of Thomasby Moto Hagio. "with small cliffhangers at the end of each chapter to pull readers deeper into Hagio’s fantasyland. The intrigue deepens page by page (and this is a 500-page novel, mind), while Hagio develops her bracingly radical vision of a mini-society where homosexual attraction is so commonplace as to be the norm…" writes Noel Murray.
• Review:You'll Never Know Book Three: A Soldier's Heart by Carol Tyler gets a thorough and thoughtful review from Rob Clough on High-Low. "…this sounds a bit all over the map, that's because it is, but Tyler slowly pulls the strings of her narrative taut in some astonishing ways, especially in the third volume…It's a remarkable example of an artist being totally honest about their own feelings of grief and joy in a manner that provokes growth and fully embraces the relationship between the two."
• Review: Dylan Thomas of Minneapolis' Southwest Journal looks at Tom Kaczynski's Best Testing the Apocalypse. "Kaczynski uses science fiction as a microscope, poking at contemporary anxieties like blooming bacteria in a Petri dish. The genre provides the room he needs to examine the systems that shape our lives, whether they be architecture, urban design or capitalism."
• Review: Hillary Brown of Pasteenjoys the dark ride of Delphine by Richard Sala. "Sala’s rules; like testing gravity by dropping a penny from a building, the coin’s never going to fall up. Delphine is worth reading at least twice. Sala’s spell is strong."
• Review: SF Signal looks at Ralph Azham Volume 1: "Why Would You Lie to Someone You Love?" by Lewis Trondheim. "His humanoid animals, a staple of his work, place the story squarely into fantasy – along with the medieval-esque village and the magic – but the wry humor gives the story a modern feel" says Carrie Cuinn.
• Plug:Paste Magazine looks forward to the most anticipated books of 2013. These include Lost Cat by Jason. "The cranky Norwegian has seemed to soften a bit as he’s aged, and the description (detective searches for potential soulmate) goes along with that impression," write Hillary Brown. On Dash Shaw'sNew Schooland 3 New Stories. "In a few short years, Dash Shaw has proven himself a restless artist, committed to pushing what comics can do and what his own talents can accomplish… it’s nice to see him return with two works, no less."
• Plug: Publishers Weekly also released a list of the most anticipated books of 2013 which included Dash Shaw's New School. "The art disorients the reader and brings you right inside the troubled protagonists’ mind."
• Interview (video): Speaking of Dash, he recently spent a few days at Sundance for his Sigur Ros animated music video. A very short interview awaits you.
• Interview: Alexander Theroux is interviewed on Rain Taxi by Paul Maliszewski. Theroux, author of Estonia , The Strange Case of Edward Gorey , Laura Warholic and more states, "Revenge—I have written about this somewhere before—is the main subject of the modern novel, if it isn’t that of literature in general."
• Review:The Los Angeles Review of Books looks at Gary Panter's Dal Tokyo. Nicole Rudick writes "Panter’s medium is comics rather than architecture, but the effect of his work is the same: Dal Tokyo questions accepted notions of structure and meaning — taking them not as truth but as convention — and, taking Brecht’s advice, builds not 'on the good old days, but on the bad new ones.' "
• Review:The Weekly Crisis dissects the first panel of "Landscape!" a comic within Blazing Combat and how it contributed to the end of the series coinciding with the Vietnam War. Dan Hill states "At a time when an anti-war stance was tantamount to being a traitor to your country, it was also the beginning of comics beginning to tackle the uglier aspects of war, telling us exactly ‘how it is’. It showed us that comics could discuss and show issues more related to the real world than capes, tights and outlandish fantasy."
• Review:Paste Magazine looks at Linda Medley's Castle Waiting Vol. 1 (softcover). Sean Edgar writes, "Ultimately, Castle Waiting is an elegantly-written, uplifting take on European folklore supported by sterling art. As long as voices as talented and creative as Medley’s are around, stories like this will always be timeless."
• Interview: Robin McConnell of Inkstuds interviews Chris Wright for a second time, this time on his most recent graphic novel, Blacklung.
• Plug:The GLBT Roundtable's Rainbow Project lists best books for teens that encapsulate the GLBT-community issues. The Rainbow Project lists Shimura Takako's Wandering Son series as part of the Top Ten Books of 2012 as the characters "tackle problems such as gender identity, love, social acceptance, and puberty."
• Plug: The GLBT Roundtable also released a list of the best books for adults, Over the Rainbow, and the comics anthology No Straight Lines, edited by Justin Hall,was listed in the top ten.
• Interview: Tim O'Shea interviews Lilli Carré for Comic Book Resources on her process with Heads or Tails. "I went through all my stuff and arranged them not chronologically, but by how they each fed into each other… I don’t know if the dialogue I write or the way I draw is particularly well-crafted or not, but with both the art and dialogue I go with my gut and do what feels natural to me."
• Review: New York Journal of Books takes a turn around the room with The Complete Syndicated Pogo Vol 2 "Bona Fide Balderdash" by Walt Kelly. Mark Squirek writes, "Like the greatest of myths and fables, Pogo travels across time and ages. It is a world much like that of Aesop and trickster tales. It is a world capable of making a six year old smile with glee, a hipster smirk whether they want to or not, and a college professor laugh out loud… So graceful is his work with pencil and pen that you could loose yourself for hours in shear artistry of the panels he constructs."
• Plug:Westfield Blog suggests some books for you likeThe Complete Syndicated Pogo Vol 2 "Bona Fide Balderdash" by Walt Kelly."Walt Kelly’s art is a joy to look at and his dialogue and word play is just stunning. Pogo is a strip that you get more and more out of the more you read it," states Wayne Markley. And for Basil Wolverton's Spacehawk, "In the history of comics, there are very few, if any, that had such a unique style as Wolverton which, while as far away as you can get from classic illustrators like Raymond or Foster, it is every bit as good in its own unique way."
• Review: HeroesOnline looks at the latest Prince Valiant Vol. 6: 1947-1948. Andy writes "…the pace is fast, the action and intrigue are plenty and the violence is un-apologetically bloody. In addition, Foster was a stickler for historical accuracy in depicting everyday life in the 6th century."
• Review: Ryan Sands of Same Hat writes his 'belated' best of list which inludes Nancy Likes Christmas by Ernie Bushmiller and The End of the Fucking World by Charles Foresman.
• Plug: Tom Spurgeon announced the Peanuts Every Sunday book on Comics Reporter. More information tomorrow.
• Plug: Robot6 talks about Great but Forgotten anthologies. Fantagraphics' "Zero Zero ran for 27 issues, a longer run than most of the anthologies on this list received, but I don’t think it’s ever gotten its due as the truly great anthology of the ’90s." Chris Mautner continues with Blab, "I do think people have forgotten how cutting edge and exemplary an anthology Blab was, at least initially. For a while there it was running some seriously incredible work, like Al Columbia’s apocalyptic The Trumpets They Played, and the Jimmy Corrigan story that eventually became Acme Novelty #10, easily the most harrowing and darkest material Ware has produced to date." And finally Blood Orange, "Lasting a mere four issues, Blood Orange offered a mind-bending array of cutting-edge comics." WORRY NOT, we still have issues from someofthese.
Wandering Son fans rejoice — the latest volume of Shimura Takako's highly addictive manga series has been bundled off to the printer for release this Spring! This final version of the cover isn't too different from the version that's already been floating around out there — we just went with brown instead of grey for the spine and title logo — but we're excited to share it with you nonetheless. In this volume things are starting to get a little more fraught as our cast edges into adolescence and feelings start to get more complicated. Don't forget, we're still offering our Vols. 4-6 subscription — save money and automatically receive the next 3 volumes as soon as they're released!
The sweetest tea of Online Commentaries & Diversions:
• Review:The Atlantic writes on The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio. Noah Berlatsky looks at it from every angle, "The boys' love genre, then, freed Hagio and her audience to cross and recross boundaries of identity, sexuality, and gender…Bodies and character flicker in and out, a sequence of surfaces, tied together less by narrative than by the heightened emotions of melodrama—jealousy, anger, trauma, desire, friendship, and love in the heart of Thomas."
• Plug: David Brothers and Comics Alliance posts a preview of The Heart of Thomas plus a few thoughts on Moto Hagio that works outside of his comfort zone. "What there is, though, isdrama. No -- it has melodrama…the sheer level of theatrical drama in this book is enough to keep a skeptic hooked…Heart of Thomas is a trip, and a good one. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, and it was nice to enjoy something outside of my usual comfort zones."
• Plug: Johanna Carlson of Comics Worth Reading is ready for the world to read The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio. "This solid hardcover contains the entire classic shojo series, and it’s a must-read for anyone interested in the development of the genre. It’s also surprisingly gripping in its own right…"
• Review: Chris Mautner interviews Jim Woodring's Problematic on Robot 6. "Problematic is both a stroll through Woodring’s unique imagination and an opportunity to see his working process" and Woodring thinks "having a pocket sketchbook on me at all times means fleeting impressions and ideas that might otherwise be lost are captured…Everything I draw is reality-based."
• Plug:BoingBoing is ready for Jim Woodring's Problematic to come out. "There are many reasons to be grateful to be alive, and owning this brand new facsimile edition of artist Jim Woodring's Moleskine sketchbooks is as good as any," says Mark Frauenfelder.
• Interview/Review:Publishers Weekly looks at 7 Miles a Second, and Grace Bello interviews artists James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook on writer David Wojnarowicz, the gay activist who wrote the comic before dying of AIDS-related complications. Romberger is quoted, "It really is so much about what David was about, channeling his anger into a statement…" "The gay experience is not only 'less invisible'—it’s on prime time TV. But the feral energy and raw hunger in 7 Miles a Second still resonate" states Bello.
• Review: Jason Sacks of Comics Bulletin presents 20 Facts and Opinions on Joe Kubert's Weird Horrors & Daring Adventures, edited by Bill Schelly. "Schelly and the always sterling Fantagraphics production team do a nice job of preserving the look and feel of these comics…the master cartoonist was equally at home doing broad humor as intense action/adventure as well as lighter, Archie-style teen humor."
• Review:Comics Alliance and Caleb Goellner continues their Best of 2012 series with Prison Pit Book 4by Johnny Ryan. "It was like looking at a baby book of bad ideas from boyhood as an adult who'd learned to function in polite society…it's bliss to kick back and watch humankind's most immature impulses play out in the safety of Ryan's Prison Pit."
• Review:The Weekly Crisis lists its Top 10 books of 2012 and Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit Book 4 lands at #2. Taylor Pithers states "he is interested in is fighting and hyper violence, which to be fair, would be more acceptable to the masses if it was drawn by Ivan Reis or another one of Geoff Johns' collaborators…Honestly, there isn't a comic that has given me more belly laughs in my entire life."
• Review: Comiks Debris posts its Best of 2012 books and Johnny Ryan'sPrison Pit Book 4 comes in as #8.Marc-Oliver Frisch writes "structurally, Prison Pit reminds me a lot of Jarmusch's The Limits of Control… The artwork looks ugly, crude and perfunctory. The characters eat, shit, fuck and, most of all, fight their way through the book…It's one mean, sick motherfucker of a comic, and I can't wait what happens next."
• Plug: Tucker Stone on The Comics Journal rates his top comics of 2012. Prison Pit Book 4by Johnny Ryan comes in at 18. "…it’s hard to explain how intense the surprise was for a follower of Angry Youth and Ryan’s humiliation comics to open that first Prison Pit…"
• Review:Delphine by Richard Sala gets reviewed on Comic Book Resources. Kelly Thompson claims, "One part comic book and one part fever dream…Rare is the opportunity that I'm so engaged I consider yelling at an inanimate object such as a book…Delphine is also a nice contrast to the unrelentingly bright and happy fairy tales that are so often seen when it comes to modern reinterpretations of those early dark tales."
• Review:The New York Journal of Books thumbs through Spacehawk by Basil Wolverton. "Basil Wolverton rises to the occasion and gives the reader a detailed and hilarious look at megalomania while throwing in some fantastic aerial fight scenes…Fantagraphics Publishing brings Wolverton’s art to the reader in as detailed and perfect a form as possible. Each wave of space, every geometric shape and all the incredibly ugly aliens look better than they ever have in their entire lives," writes Mark Squirek.
• Review: Crave Online looks at Spacehawk by Basil Wolverton. "This is the medium when there were no rules, no event series and no giant corporations standing watch over what the creators were doing. If you love the Golden Age, science fiction and adventure, nothing compares to the world Basil Wolverton put together for Spacehawk," writes Iann Robinson.
• Review: The Weekly Crisis lists its Top 10 books of 2012 and Josh Simmon's The Furry Trap ranks as #1. Taylor Pithers writes, "The Furry Trap is pure exploitation; violent, disgusting, and bound to make you feel uncomfortable but it also does what the best fiction is meant to, it stays with you long after you have put the book down…Simmons is a cartoonist of the highest caliber. This is not a book for the faint hearted, but if you can stomach it will be a true experience."
• Review:NPR and Glen Weldon write on Books of 2012 they haven't told you about. Heads or Tails by Lilli Carré "The whole collection has the feel of a dream in which remembering how to fly is as simple as forgetting that you can't."
• Review: Noel Murray and The A.V. Club write about the Top 10 Fiction books of 2012. Heads or Tails comes in at #7. "Lilli Carré’s stories are like dreamy what-ifs that take the familiar and tweak it."
• Plug: Whitney Matheson of USA Today's Popcandy mentions her favorite things including Heads or Tailsby Lilli Carré: "…a lovely volume from one of my favorite cartoonists that includes several beautifully strange short stories. I'm a longtime fan and even have a framed Carre print hanging in the baby's room."
• Interview:The Comics Journal interviews Ron Regé, Jr. on The Cartoon Utopia, evolving comics and more. Regé on his book, "People should use bibilomancy—randomly opening to a page—to access the information if they’d like. Nothing in the book tells you to treat it that way, but I think people will get the idea anyway."
• Interview (audio): Erik Davis and Expanding Mind interview Ron Regé, Jr. on the radio about The Cartoon Utopia! Adventure indeed.
• Review:Comics Bulletin and Jason Sacks investigate Blacklung. "Chris Wright seems to channel Melville or Conrad in this book as he explores the uniquely idiosyncratic world that he creates…nobody has ever created characters that look like the characters in this book, with their strange faces and lumpy, malformed bodies…This slim graphic novel is a dense read unlike anything else you've read in comics."
• Review: Noel Murray and The A.V. Club write about the Top 10 Fiction books of 2012. Athos in America is #5. "Jason’s blank-faced animal-headed characters reveal unexpectedly deep passion via deadpan tales of dislocation."
• Review: Sonia Harris of Comics Book Resources places Love and Rockets: New Stories #5 by Jaime Hernandez and Gilbert Hernandez as #5 of her Top 16 Books of 2012. Harris says,"Watching these people’s lives change on the page, along with the gradual evolution of the Hernandez brother’s art and writing is the closest thing to real life created in a comic book. Nothing on the screen could ever compare to the life and complexity these two men breathe into their characters year after year with such consistent quality and affection."
• Plug: Tucker Stone on The Comics Journal rates his top comics of 2012. Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez have cause to celebrate as Love and Rockets:New Stories #5makes it at #13. "It was great, and of course it was, because it’s them, and it was great for all the same reasons you’d expect it to be…"
• Review:NPR and Glen Weldon write on Books of 2012 they haven't told you about like Wandering Son by Takako Shimura. "Wandering Son is not the kind of manga in which a happy ending is guaranteed… You'll thus be grateful for the moments of realistic, untempered joy Shimura allows her two protagonists here, as you wait with nervous anticipations for the travails that lie ahead for them…"
• Review:Manga Bookshelf recounts its Favorite Manga Series of 2012 including Wandering Son by Takako Shimura. "This series about two transgender children in modern-day Japan has been a favorite since it debuted last year thanks to its delicate, truthful storytelling and understated artwork…Its most recent volume (three) goes a bit darker and deeper, only heightening my interest in the series" says Melinda Beasi.
• Review: Noel Murray and The A.V. Club write about the Top 5 Archival books of 2012. Harvey Kurtzman's Corpse on the Imjin! landed at #1. "Kurtzman book is especially stunning, almost like a coffee-table art-book combined with a literary collection…an anthology with a strong individual perspective that tries to tell the truth about what war is like from the point of view of the people on both sides of the battlefield."
• Review: Noel Murray and The A.V. Club write about the Top 5 Archival books of 2012. Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy Is Happy: Complete Dailies 1946-48: "bristle-headed Nancy and poor slob Sluggo inadvertently irritate the grown-ups in their lives, in scenarios that Bushmiller illustrated with absurd visual gags—so basic that anyone, anywhere, at any time, could get the joke."
• Review: Nick Gazin of VICE has a pretty fuckin' fancy (his words) edition of The Clouds Above by Jordan Crane. "Jordan Crane is a cartoonist with supreme abilities. He's great at making lines, hand text, and backgrounds and stuff…This is beautifully colored also. Did I mention Jordan Crane's great color sense? His colors are good."
• Review: Steve Donaghue enjoys Prince Valiant Vol. 1 by Hal Foster on Open Letters Monthly. "The ambition becomes most emphatic the more you scrutinize the work. Foster often said he put in between 50 and 60 hours a week on creating the strip, and it shows in these magnificent reproductions, done in a sturdy hardcover with oversized pages and entirely restored colors and shadings."
• Plug:Record Collector magazine (UK) picks Listen, Whitey! by Pat Thomas as one of the top 12 books of 2012. "A socio-polictal account of American racial struggles...an extraordinary study of the way the message of [the Black Panther] movement was recounted and defined on vinyl. "In-depth" doesn't begin to describe it."
• Plug: Tucker Stone on The Comics Journal rates his top comics of 2012. Dungeon Quest 3 by Joe Daly makes the mark at 17. "in times like these, with sandwiches like mine, you have to root for the one who brung you, and that’s dick jokes. Dungeon Quest had so many of them, and they were all wonderful."
The most symmetrical cake slice of Online Commentaries & Diversions:
• Review:Publishers Weekly occasionally lets smart and famous people recommend books. Jeopardy Master Ken Jennings "skipped the obvious Marjane Satrapi and Alison Bechdel entries in favor of this lesser-known three-volume masterpiece, about Tyler’s complicated relationship with her distant dad, a World War II vet. With her playful, fluid brush line and busy patchwork of watercolor woodgrain, Tyler’s art looks like the past feels." Carol Tyler's complete series You'll Never Know is available.
• Review:Booklist Online cooks up a review from some Pogo (The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips Vol. 2: "Bona Fide Balderdash"). Ian Chipman writes, "[Walt Kelly's] hallmarks of deft wordplay, daft swamp critters, and poisonously sharp sociopolitical satire are in full blossom here. The highlight is the 1952 election season that saw Pogo’s first and entirely reluctant presidential run and the birth of the “I Go Pogo” slogan. Mimicking “I Like Ike. . . A must for all collections of comic-strip history."
• Plug:Forces of Geek throws out some good gift recommendations for kidslike Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge "Only a Poor Old Man"by Carl Barks. "Comic books have always been an excellent gateway into reading, and when it comes to smart, imaginative and engaging, you don't have to go much further than Carl Barks. . . What better way to introduce your own Huey, Dewey or Louie to comics?"
• Review:Paste Magazines's 10 Best Collections of 2012 include two Fantagraphics titles. Hillary Brown loved Young Romance, by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby edited by Michel Gagné who "painstakingly restored them (without making them look exactly new, thus giving the book the feel of a vintage compilation that just happens to be in amazing shape). . . Simon and Kirby tried to bring as much excitement to primarily psychological and interpersonal goings-on as to punching and flying." And this might be the last year anything by Carl Barks is on the list, "We’ll just grant it permanent honorary status as the best of the best, like when John Larroquette removed himself from Emmy consideration after winning four straight for Night Court. . . [Walt Disney's Donald Duck "A Christmas for Shacktown] once again proves Barks to be one of the finest draftsmen and storytellers we’ve ever had." Well put, Garrett Martin.
• Plug:The Scotsman lists some of the Best of 2012 as told by the best scotsman. Withered Hand's singer/songwriter Dan Willson has eyes only for Ron Rege, Jr. and states, "[The] Cartoon Utopia , his magnum opus, is quite a head-trip. Thousands of very dense little drawings and words resemble a psychedelic illuminated manuscript peppered with themes of spiritual redemption and good versus evil. It’s a very unusual and beautiful work."
• Plug: From Boing Boing's list of the Best Damn Comics of 2012, compiled by Brian Heater. On Ron Rege Jr.'s The Cartoon Utopia , "The first esoteric text of the new century. The harbinger of the New Aeon. This book will be a staple of Esoteric Lore for millennia to come."
• Plug:Boing Boing makes my job easy by providing the Best Damn Comics of 2012. Compiled by Brian Heater, a lot of creative people offered up their favorite books of the year. Nick Abadzis thinks Kolor Klimax (edited by Matthias Wivel), "feels startling and vital to me and features a wide variety of styles, each as absorbing as all the others contained within these pages. I don't think I've enjoyed an anthology as much as this one in years."
• Plug: From Boing Boing's list of the Best Damn Comics of 2012, compiled by Brian Heater. Box Brown on Barack Hussein Obama, "Steven Weissman does stuff with actual analog comic materials that most dudes can't even do with photoshop." Jeffrey Brown chimes in on BHO, "Strange, funny and beautiful. Weissman reinvents his comics with the kind of book I wish I would make." Will Dinksi agrees, "Barack Hussein Obama is pretty much my favorite book of the year. . . I get a better appreciation for Weissman's craft in the printed collection where it can feel like you're actually looking at the finished artwork." Mari Naomi says,"I just love what this book is. If I didn't know better, I wouldn't even recognize this as Weissman. And I like that."
• Review:Paris Review checks out The Last Vispo, edited by Nico Vassilakis and Crag Hill. Nicole Rudick states,"it makes sense that in visual form poetry would elicit a kind of motion, an unfolding over the space of a page, and that even its sound would be voiced as a series of discoveries. Movement disrupts the continuity of a sentence, a phrase, a word. And language, unsettled, is unbound."
• Plug: From Boing Boing's list of the Best Damn Comics of 2012, compiled by Brian Heater. Box Brown continues to wax poetic on Josh Simmons' The Furry Trap, "Funny, even as it makes your hair stand on end and your skin start to crawl... Horror comics that gash their way below the surface."
• Plug: From Boing Boing's list of the Best Damn Comics of 2012, compiled by Brian Heater. Shaenon K. Garrity says that The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio "is a book I've been awaiting for over ten years, and it exceeds my expectations."
• Plug: From Boing Boing's list of the Best Damn Comics of 2012, compiled by Brian Heater. Nate Powell on Interiorae by Gabriella Giandelli, is "just what I look for in a narrative: patient, dreamy, full of seemingly endless layers of shadow, slowly revealing the sweetness inside the rotten, all within the confines of a single high-rise apartment building, surrounded by snow and static."
• Review:Slate finds themselves choosing Heads or Tails, going for broke. Dan Kois says, "Lilli Carré’s short stories are dreamy, unlikely, and unsettling. What transforms the stories from nightmares to fables is Carré’s artwork, which varies with each story. . ."
• Review:Page 45 looks at Heads or Tails by Lilli Carré. "The art reminds me a little of Lynda Barry and the flow of the pages reminded me a little of Walt Holcombe. . .I recently recommended this book to a customer who named their favourite film as Amelie (good choice!) precisely because it has that feeling of whimsy about it."
• Plug: From Boing Boing's list of the Best Damn Comics of 2012, compiled by Brian Heater. Jeremy Tinder on Heads or Tails by Lilli Carré, "A nice encapsulation of many of the ways Lilli has been pushing herself both narratively and stylistically over the last few years. If only there was a way to squeeze her animation in there too." Will Dinksi comments on Heads or Tails by Lilli Carré, "Beautiful artwork. Thoughtfully paced. "Of The Essence" is one of the best comic book short stories I've ever read."
• Plug: From Boing Boing's list of the Best Damn Comics of 2012, compiled by Brian Heater. Robert Kirby on No Straight Lines edited by Justin Hall, "Long overdue, this beautifully-produced, sharply edited retrospective may usher in a new era of respect and recognition for a long-neglected realm of the alt-comics world."
• Review:Nate's Broadcast enjoyed The Hypo by Noah Van Sciver in addition to the recent film, Lincoln, and book America Aflame. "Van Sciver’s contribution to the Lincoln mythology is perfect for those who like their heroes a little troubled and messy, but good at their core- not a bad way to interpret the American ideal."
• Plug: From Boing Boing's list of the Best Damn Comics of 2012, compiled by Brian Heater. Will Dinski continues with The Hypo. "[Noah] Van Sciver is pretty prolific, but this is his best work to date. The line art just drips with anguish." Brian Heater thinks it "puts the cartoonist's brimming angst to a different use entirely, in a book that does precisely what a good piece of historical non-fiction should: finding a fascinating way to tell a story we were convinced we already knew."
• Review: Blacklung by Chris Wright is whittled on by Tucker Stone at TCJ. It's called "the big, trippy brother to Drew Weing’s Segar influenced Set To Sea. . . . [and] Gore saturates this comic. . . Brutality for its own sake is the point of some entertaining movies, no reason it can’t be the point of some entertaining comics as well."
• Review: On Filth and Fabulations, Jeppe Mulich states that Chris Wright's "[Blacklung is] not a work of splatter punk or mindless gore, but rather an engaging, breathless, and humorous tale of the dregs of the sea, including a colorful assortment of pirates and madmen, quite clearly drawing inspiration from both Melville, Stevenson and Peckinpah."
• Review: Paste Magazine reviews Charlie Brown's Christmas Stocking by Charles M. Schulz. "Seeing this work isolated and expanded only reinforces the sheer timelessness and brilliance inherent; Schulz was a master of mood and line in equal measure. . . it’s some of the finest nostalgia porn you can put under the tree," quips Sean Edgar.
•Review:Pheonix New Times unwraps their present early and Jason P. Woodbury interviews Nat Gertler on Charlie Brown's Christmas Stocking by Charles M Schulz. "[Schulz] had done a Christmas book, Christmas is Together-Time, using red and green," Gertler says, explaining the minimal color palette. "We wanted to keep that simplicity and Christmas-sense in there." The stable of Schulz characters transcend fads and time because as Gertler points out "It's not the way kids talk, but they way they feel is the way that kids feel."
• Plug:Drawn blog tops off another the Best of 2012 list with some Ernie Bushmiller. John Martz points out, "Nancy seems to be a love-it-or-leave-it strip, and I am firmly in the Love It camp. . . Often surreal, and always impeccably drawn, there is nothing quite like it. . . these books are a virtual masterclass in cartooning."
• Review: From Boing Boing's list of the Best Damn Comics of 2012, compiled by Brian Heater. Tom Kaczynski on Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy is Happy, "The minimalism of the art, the quirky humor, the amazing consistency, it all started with these strips."
• Review: Getting ready for the hardback release of Delphine by Richard Sala, Carrie Cuinn of SF Portal reviews the tale complete with "dark duotone inking style, little dialogue, and gothic, shadowy, art. . . Overall I think that Sala’s retelling of that well-known love story is affectingly tragic. . . It is, in a word, creepy."
• Review: If MTV Geek knows about The End of the Fucking World then the secret is out: Charles Forsman is amazing! "[It] pulls you in like no other comic this year. Stunning in its simplicity and brave in its subject matter. Charles Forsman is a future force. . . [it] is like stumbling onto the ultimate secret in comic books, but based on how great TEOTFW is, it won't be much a secret longer."
• Review: Ashley over at Bibliophibien looks at Wandering Son series by Shimura Takako, "While the story is focused on transgender topics, I think that this is a wonderfully moving coming-of-age story and captures the complexities of sexual identity, friendships, and family that teens face."
• Review: Rick Klaw at SF Site enjoys the glossy glory of Action! Mystery! Thrills!, edited by Greg Sadowski. "As in his previous volumes. . . Sadowski supplies copious end notes and annotations. Though this time, the information additionally reads as an entertaining history of early comics. . . Sadowski once again delivers an essential book for anyone with an interest in comics history."
• Plug: John McMurtrie of SF Gate (San Francisco Gate) lists Listen, Whitey! by Pat Thomas as one of the Music Books to Buy of 2012.
The luckiest Powerball ticket of Online Commentaries & Diversions:
• Review:Drawn's John Martz is ready for Heads or Tails. "Lilli Carré is one of those cartoonists who has been putting out plenty of great work. . . She’s a master of short stories, so this collection is a welcome addition to my bookshelves. Rainbow Moment, a smartly-crafted story of nested memories all told in different colour palettes is the stand out work, and worth the price of admission alone."
• Review: John Martz of Drawn looks at Barack Hussein Obama. "Steven Weissman has been posting his odd comic strip, named after and starring a Bizarro-Universe version of Barack Hussein Obama . . . and it quickly became one of my favourite comics online. . . Obama’s re-election, if anything, hopefully means another four years of this strange and delightful oddity."
• Plug: On Librairie D + Q, staffer Helen lists Wandering Son Vol. 3 in her picks for 2012. "Shimura Takako treats her two young, trans* protagonists (or an approximation of "trans*", in the context of Japanese gender politics and identities) with gentleness, but does not fall into the trap of painting an overly rosy picture of their experience . . . while [they navigate] the general difficulties and anxieties of tween-hood."
• Plug: Maria Popova creates her 10 Best Design Books of 2012 and reiterates her love of Significant Objects on Brain Pickings. " 'The universe is made of stories, not atoms,' poet Muriel Rukeyser famously remarked. Hardly anyone can back this bombastic proclamation with more empirical conviction than [editors] Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn."
• Review:Geekrocker looks at Gabriella Giandelli's Interiorae. Wee Claire says, "Giandelli's pale ghostly illustrations reflect the sombre, mysterious mood Giandelli skilfully creates. This isn't a story about great feats of human strength or otherworldly adventures, this is a simple tale about real human lives.. . . Interiorae shows us that if we look hard enough, there's a little bit of magic waiting around every darkened corner."
• Plug:Chris Butcher recommends you pre-order 7 Miles a Second. "James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook do a phenomenal job at bringing [writer David Wojnarowicz's] story to life, and this is a vital and important piece of gay history that had been denied to me as a gay teen, and which has been out of print for far too long."
• Plug:Boing Boing posted their 2012 Gift Guide and included two of our books again, Is That All There Is?by Joose Swarte. "This anthology of Swarte's alternative comics from 1972 showcases his famous clean-line style that makes reading his work a pleasure." Mark Frauenfelder also includes Joe Kubert's Weird Horrors that showcases "his versatility in a variety of genres, including horror, humor, and romance."
• Review: Avid fan and writer Benjamin Herman rereads Love and Rockets, while making some great conclusions on the way. "[Duck Feet] was my first real exposure to Gilbert’s stories of Luba and the denizens of the Latin American village of Palomar, and I really enjoyed it. Gilbert’s writing was full of character, containing a distinctive voice, his artwork imbued with real atmosphere. . . Gilbert expertly crafted an almost epic tale that spans across a generation, giving us very real, flawed, dysfunctional characters." For Jaime's work "one of the key elements of Jaime’s stories is the process of growing up, of maturing, the struggle to become an adult and leave childhood behind. Maggie and Hopey both have to face the choice of pursuing long-term adult relationships or continuing teenage flings."