Well here's some wonderful news, as reported by The Comics Reporter: the great Stan Sakai has received the 2011 Cultural Ambassador Award by the Japanese American National Museum. The news release is here, and on Facebook Stan says (with typical understatement) "Senator Dan Inouye was seated at the table next to ours. He is third in line for the presidency, so secret service was around. Food was excellent." Congratulations and well deserved, Stan!
(By the way, this year's Stumptown Comics Fest is barely over but Stan has already been lined up as a special guest for 2012!)
The Easter bunny arrived early at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery. Between now and Sunday, April 24 we’re offering a free copy of Usagi Yojimbo Color Special with each purchase of a Stan Sakai title. A real treat for comix fans of any age.
There’s a misperception that Usagi Yojimbo is only for young readers. I confess I’ve fallen victim to this notion myself. Then I picked up the stunning Usagi Yojimbo Special Edition. I found myself thoroughly enthralled by Sakai’s seamless storylines and flawless artwork. For those unfamiliar with this sublime saga, Usagi Yojimbo is set in 17th century feudal Japan and follows the adventures of a Samurai warrior rabbit. MAD cartoonist Sergio Aragones describes it as “…a mixture of fairy tale, adventure, romance, sword and sorcery, and humor, and all without breaking the rules of good storytelling.” I highly recommend the new slipcase Special Edition that collects the first seven Usagi Yojimbo books and includes exquisite extras like a cover gallery and a revealing interview conducted by editor Kim Thompson.
Drop by the store before Easter Sunday and treat yourself to a comic book. We’re open every day, 11:30 to 8:00 PM. Sundays until 5:00 PM. Sweet!
• Review: "The saga of Roberto Clemente is well known to baseball fans yet it has been given new life in this stunning graphic novel [21: The Story of Roberto Clemente]... Santiago's panels have a sharp, cinematic feel and the compositions and framing give the readers a better sense of how dynamic and explosive the game is than any baseball movie. The wonder of this book is that it will appeal to kids and adults alike. Even non baseball fans will fall under its spell. The national pastime has been virtually untouched by the graphic novel genre but if Santiago's effort is any indication, the marriage of subject and form is nothing short of a grand slam. Santiago has set the bar high, though, and we'll be all the richer if anyone can approach the artistry and emotional resonance of this memorable book." – Alex Belth, Sports Illustrated
• Interview:Wilfred Santiago talks with Sketch Maven about his career and creating 21: "After the previous graphic novel, In My Darkest Hour, I wanted to do a biography. There were many reasons why Clemente was chosen. The richness, purpose-driven life, the inspirational life story are a few among many factors. The relevance of Clemente’s story to a youngster of today also came to mind. Roberto was a great and famous baseball player, and the baseball was a challenging aspect to the story. But, it was great to explore the sport in a comic book format."
• Review: "One of my favorite presents from last year’s holiday season was Fantagraphics’ Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition... The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy... rivals just about any epic fantasy (novel or film) in the last 25 years for its narrative complexity and powerful action sequences. [...] Reading these stories will help you understand why, when we talk about the success stories of independent comics publishing, Usagi Yojimbo should be one of the first titles that gets mentioned." – Ron Hogan, Beatrice
• Review: "Crane’s work is highly, emotionally charged, but in a quiet way. Illustrated in a lush, enveloping, greytone, 'Vicissitude' has a Film-Noir quality that adds an air of mystery to this story of melancholy and rotting love. It is so engaging and enthralling that its ending is jarring. 'Freeze Out,' the Simon & Jack tale, is fantastic. It’s all-ages comic book magic. Reading it made me feel like a kid again, reading stories of adventure, fantasy, and magic for the first time on my own. If there were any doubts about Crane’s prodigious talent, Uptight #3 is the spell to dispel those doubts. [Grade] A+" – Leroy Douresseaux, Comic Book Bin
• Profile: The Toronto Star's Vit Wagner on the work and career of Joe Sacco: "'The drive is there,' says Sacco. 'I have a desire to go there and see things and talk to people. It’s invigorating and exciting. But my work involves a slower process. It takes me time to report. I like to sink into the situation. But beyond that, it takes a long time to write and draw my stuff, especially the drawing. You can report that there are 200,000 people in Tahrir Square, but if you want to draw the scene it takes a lot of effort.'"
• Interview:Sequential's David Hains talks to Joe Sacco: "I find more than half of my readers are from schools, in classes where they read my work. People have been to the regions and they’ll see, oh this medium has taken this on, I’ll pick that up. It’s sort of more book people than comics people. Although some of those are the same people, and thank God."
"Described as a Spanish Dick Tracy on steroids, the titular cabbie here is involved in a hunt for his father's stolen coffin, which contains his full inheritance. Art Spiegelman wrote the introduction, so we're not talking warmed-over liver."
"Wilson drew these linked one-pagers in the National Lampoon throughout the 1970s. His hero in a hunting cap is Everykid, who braves the daily awfulness of a child's world: school irrelevancies, getting sick, strange old relatives, department store Santas, going to camp, and death, for starters. No monsters and ghoulies — just real-life quimsies. Don't you wish you could have seen Gahan Wilson comics when you were a kid?"
"What a lavish show-and-tell: a DVD of nonprint media appearances of Krazy Kat, including videos of a 1921 'jazz pantomime' ballet and rare animated cartoons, plus two booklets collecting drawings, designs, strips, and background relating to Krazy in music and dance. [...] Clearly a shining star for popular culture and film collections."
We are pleased to share the news that Joyce Farmer's graphic memoir Special Exits has been nominated for the 2010 NCS Division Award for Graphic Novels! The winner will be announced at the 65th Annual NCS Reuben Awards banquet on May 28, 2011 in Boston, MA. Congratulations Joyce!
(We're also rooting for Stan Sakai, nominated in the Comic Books division for his ongoing (formerly-Fantagraphics) Usagi Yojimbo series!)
• Review: "Though the episodic flow and gung-ho patriotism of the strips are simplistic in both content and conception, the depth they lack is greatly made up for by the vast, epic compositions that contain Crane’s spring-coiled bigfoot cartooning, the explosive you-are-there immediacy of his dogfights and shootouts, and the sensuous intensity of form and shape he brings to gorgeous women and vehicles of war alike. [...] Crane worked in broad strokes, which is what made him a great cartoonist; but in Buz Sawyer he also sometimes discovers quieter places, ones truly worthy of the sumptuousness with which he imbued every panel." – Matt Seneca, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Kalesniko is a major talent, and this book, which depicts a day stuck in traffic on a California freeway, presents considerable space for reflection, gossip, roman a clef and more. [...] Though the text of the story is rich and interesting, Kalesniko's art is amazing; manga-esque yet thoroughly Western, and richly expressive and subtle. Freeway will inevitably place high on many critic's year's-best lists." – Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Review: "Political commentary often has a short shelf life, but Kreider's collection of cartoons and essays [Twilight of the Assholes] remains potent and pungent, despite its primary focus on the excesses and detritus of the Bush administration. There are no claims of fairness, balance, sensitivity or subtlety here. Kreider's sharp pen skewers holier-than-thou hypocrites, patently phony pious proselytizers, opportunists and idiots of all stripes — gleefully and without fear." – Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Review: "With the core cast established, Segar takes more liberties with the formulas established in earlier books... and Segar continues to find new ways to play his cast off one another. How do Olive and Wimpy react when Eugene predicts Popeye will lose a prize fight for the first time ever? How does Popeye react to being a leader of men? It’s all here, all adventure and all hilarity. Fantagraphics, as you’ll know if you’ve been reading the series to date, continues to provide a gorgeous package – a towering book... with a striking die-cut cover. [...] Popeye Vol. 5: 'Wha’s a Jeep?' stands out as another winning classic comic strip collection, a reminder how great the medium has been and how dynamic it can still be." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "The value in this volume [Unexplored Worlds: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 2] is not in the stories themselves... but in tracking how Ditko’s art develops. Amid the stock characters of hapless dullards, five o’clock shadow Everymen and saturnine businessmen and the typical rocketships and ray guns of the day, Ditko gains confidence and consistency in his depictions, and an ability to pack more information into fewer images and to guide the reader’s eye across the page for maximum impact. His ability to convey otherworldly horrors flowers as well..." – Christopher Allen, Trouble with Comics
• Review: "...[W]hy is Sergio Ponchione not regarded as one of the top artists in the field today?! [Grotesque #4] is absolutely gorgeous. Lush, bizarre, and moving. The type of comics art which you dwell on a single panel for minutes at a time. The amount of detail and skill in each drawing is astounding. The tones and colors along with the expressive line and brush work create a mood of deep inspection." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks to new TCJ.com honchos Dan Nadel & Tim Hodler about taking the reins of The Comics Journal's online presence: "The initial goal was and remains the creation of a genuine on-line comics magazine (as opposed to blog, or series of blogs), with all of the long-form essays, interviews, reviews, and visual features that come with it. In other words, yes, we're attempting a counter-intuitive web site strategy, in the hopes that quality content will draw people in. We're interested in making a magazine that has a place in the larger visual culture, and can be a go-to source for people seeking insightful writing about comics."
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins, on the new TCJ.com: "Since I’m writing for the thing, I may not be in the best position to comment about it, but quite aside from my own minor role in the proceedings, the move is a welcome and long-overdue one. [...] Handing the Journal‘s website to an experienced print/web editorial team with a clear vision of comics and how to talk about them, one that moreover has been on the leading edge of comics criticism for some years now, is a major step in the right direction."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater concludes his conversation with Stan Sakai: "I own the characters, so I can do basically whatever I want with him, as far as the story goes. Most of it is adventure, I’ve done romances, I’ve done mysteries — I even did Space Usagi, where he goes through outer space. I can pretty much do anything I want with him, so I never get bored. I’m having fun with Usagi, even after so many years."
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks to Renee French: "I've been fishing around. I don't know if it's my age or what, but I'm confused. I have a bunch of obsessions that keep coming back. If I just kind of do something else, like these one-off drawings that I've been doing lately, it's not satisfying. I actually need to feel a little on-edge and crazy, I think."
• Interview:Seattlest's Hanna Brooks Olsen chatted with our own Larry Reid at Emerald City ComiCon yesterday and got "some pretty spectacular insight on what's going on" with us
• Feature:The Seattle Times' Janet I. Tu does her due diligence in her profile of Emerald City ComiCon and asks the president of Seattle's largest comics publisher about the event: "'It's mind-bending how big it is now and how influential,' said Gary Groth, who works at Seattle-based Fantagraphics Books, a graphic-novel and comic-book publisher, and edits the print edition of The Comics Journal, a magazine of news and criticism on comics and cartooning. Groth attributes the growth of such conventions to comics becoming a more integral part of pop culture. 'Or perhaps pop culture has become more comic-book-ized,' he said. 'You see it with comic-book movies or TV shows like Heroes. What used to be seen as essentially kids' entertainment has become grown-up entertainment.'"
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins comments on Alex Dueben's interview with Carol Tyler for that blog's parent site Comic Book Resources: "Having been sucked in by war fever myself several years ago, I find myself more and more moved by accounts of how even the most well-intentioned conflicts make a rubble of countless human lives, both the ones taken and the ones scarred, physically, economically, or emotionally. ...[Tyler is] doing vitally important work."
• Plug: "The Comics Journal: long known as a magazine where you can look at never before released sketches from R. Crumb next to essays about Wonder Woman’s bondage past next to in-depth interviews with superhero comics auteurs next to oral histories of underground dudes you didn’t even know you were interested in until you read about their entire lives. We could go on that tangent forever, but instead we’ll just direct you here to pre-order." – Sam Hockley-Smith, The Fader
• Plug: "In Mezzo and Pirus’ King of the Flies, characters who die in the first volume... come back to watch over the still-living – lovers, friends, mothers. Mezzo and Pirus’ undead are able to travel to Mars in the blink of an eye, and then back to the David Lynchian small-town that is the story’s main setting. Liberated from physical constraints, they are frustrated, morose, angry, holding onto grudges. ...Mezzo and Prius... have created a darkly erotic and blackly humoured book that, days after finishing, I’m still thinking about." – Shawn Conner, Guttersnipe
• Plug:Los Angeles magazine features Freeway by Mark Kalesniko in their latest roundup of books of local interest
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater continues his conversation with Stan Sakai: "Originally, I had wanted to do a series inspired by the life of a 17th century samurai named Miyamoto Musashi, but — he’s regarded as one of the great swordsmen in Japanese history, but one day I just drew a rabbit and Musashi became a rabbit. Instead of Miyamoto Musashi, my charcter was Miyamoto Usagi — 'usagi' means 'rabbit' in Japanese. The 'Miyamoto' part I kept as an homage to the original Musahi, but everything else is pretty much original."
• Profile:Variety recently talked to Dash Shaw about his artwork in the feature film Rabbit Hole — here's a scan, uploaded by Dash
• Review: "In the serialized adventures of Buz Sawyer, ace World War II Navy pilot and clean-cut ladies man, Crane expertly mixes high action in the Pacific with just the right amount of romance, creating a storytelling engine as sturdy and reliable as Sawyer’s SBD Dauntless. Crane’s gorgeous art, with cleanly drawn figures, extensive shading, and a slightly cartoonish style, took full advantage of the space provided comic strips back in the day. [...] Rating: 9.0 [out of 10]" – Garrett Martin, Paste
• Review: "Depending on who you are and your social outlook this final collection [FUC_ __U _SS __LE] is as brilliant or as appalling as the previous three so if you’re prudish, sensitive or concerned about moral standards – don’t buy this book. There’s plenty of us who will." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Sergio Ponchione’s conclusion to Grotesque returned to the mind-bending storytelling of the first issue, tying together loose story threads in a manner that treated those threads as tangible objects. [...] There are echoes of R.Crumb, Elzie Segar, Charles Burns and Kim Deitch in his work, creating a lush, bizarre world that he doesn’t quite allow the reader to get lost in. Indeed, if the past two issues (the 'Cryptic City' story) felt a bit more conventional than the more expansive first issue, the finale not only fully fleshed out the first issue’s themes, it gave the last two issues a new context." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Interview: Joe MacLeod of the Baltimore City Paper talks to their erstwhile cartoonist Tim Kreider about his new book Twilight of the Assholes: "In principle I subscribe to the Kubrick policy about discussing your own work, to wit: Do not. It can only ever limit and diminish it. I tried not to explicate my own cartoons, just use them as starting points for tangential rants, occasions to say things that the cartoon form didn’t allow for. Still, it makes me squirmy whenever artists hold forth about their own work, and I still second-guess myself about having included the essays."
• Interview: The third part of Ian Burns's chat with the creators of "The White Rhinoceros" serial from Mome at The Comics Journal shifts to artist Josh Simmons: "I was trying to capture a certain look; I was thinking very loosely (I didn’t look at a lot of these comics, but the Disney comics from the ’60s or so — very nice, smooth, rubbery, cartoony line and bright colors) but trying to draw it somewhat realistic too. Not too cartoony. For me the main influences would be those kind of comics, and fantasy epic stories like Narnia, Lord of the Rings. And Shaun [Partridge] is a huge Narnia fan. That was a large jumping-off point for him."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater continues his chat with Stan Sakai: "...I read through the old Fantagraphics stories, and I’m really happy with how it all holds together, and how it flows into the current continuity. The characters mature, but they pretty much stay in character. So, I’m really happy with that. And the types of stories that come about, I think I’ve matured as a storyteller. And Usagi has matured as a character, so I’m quite pleased."
• Review: "Ryan is in top form with his latest collection of Blecky Yuckerella strips, where every page brings a new round of vulgar, revolting, and offensive humor. Fans will welcome this installment of his no-holds-barred attack on polite sensibilities, while those who don't know his work will either embrace it or throw the book to the ground and run. Either way, Ryan's profane point of view, which entered the comics world with Angry Youth Comix in the mid-'90s, makes an impression. The Blecky Yuckerella strips here are brilliantly rude, their humor somehow sharp in spite of all the potty-mouthed fantasies. [...] Ryan's signature goofy old-school comic strip style mixed with the crudest of imagery works every time." – Publishers Weekly
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater talks to Stan Sakai: "In that Fantagraphics collection, compare Usagi in the very begin with him after 1,200 pages, he’s changed. The character design has changed, he has a little bump for a nose, as opposed to the Roman-type of nose he had at the beginning—very straight. His proportions have changed. And he’s evolving even today."
• List:X-Ray Spex's Will Pfeifer names his Pop Culture Books of the Year for 2010:
"This is the sort of book I love more than any other. It reveals a world I never knew existed — in this case, the bizarre world of elaborate, mean-spirited, downright dangerous lodge initiations — and does so with a real affection for and appreciation of the past. [Catalog No. 439:] Burlesque Paraphernalia is... the sort of book that makes you think life might've been tougher a long time ago, but it was probably a hell of a lot more interesting, too."
"All you need to know about Destroy All Movies is that it's such a complete guide to 'punks on film' (as the subtitle promises) that not only does it include Star Trek IV because of the scene with the punk on the bus, it interviews that guy. Also, the pink-and-black-and-white design theme of the book deserves some sort of award."