• 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."
• Review: "Special Exits stands out at one of 2010’s best comic books, a fitting tribute to Joyce Farmer’s parents that tackles, head on, the heartbreaking inevitable process of losing one's parents. The result is one of the most human and most affecting comics of recent memory..." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "...Usagi Yojimbo is a work of pure joy ... I’ve waited with fingers crossed for a sufficient entry point into Sakai’s ever-broadening world, and thankfully, one couldn’t ask for a more perfect red carpet than Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition. ...[F]or those waiting idly by for an excuse to dive into Usagi, this Special Edition offers up about 1,200." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Review: "Among the highlights of [Usagi Yojimbo:] The Special Edition is the ease of witnessing Sakai’s growth as a writer, artist and storyteller. While the illustration in the earliest chapters is already solid, Sakai’s linework grows visibly more assured and looser, giving the pages a liveliness not seen in many comics. Similarly, the layouts evolve to capture the quiet elegance of the Japanese countryside, the gut-turned terror of Jei (comics’ best villain) or the kinetic ballet of a samurai duel in pitch-perfect fashion. ...Fantagraphics makes Usagi look great with this collection. ...[F]or [hardcore] Usagi fans, The Special Edition is everything you could want. And anyway, with this series, everyone should be hardcore." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• List/Plugs/Coming Attractions: At Hypergeek, Edward Kaye highlights no fewer than 7 of our 2011 releases in his roundup of "Comics, Graphic Novels, and More Worth Looking Forward to in 2011"
We noticed that our new releases have been omitted from Diamond's shipping lists over the last few weeks, which means they've been arriving in comic shops with little to no notice (which means very few blurbs from the usual blog sources we quote here). We've contacted Diamond about it and we're getting it straightened out (I won't go into the gory details, and I'm not sure if it was a Diamond policy change, but there was a reasonable explanation and solution). Anyhoo, the books below are already out or arriving tomorrow — check with your local shop to confirm availability.
136-page full-color 5.25" x 7.75" hardcover • $22.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-400-9
"These bright, full-color paintings blur the lines between traditional art and comics, between lettering and language. Each piece in Mascots stands on its own, but it also functions within the context of the other paintings as well, to reveal a larger world." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books ), Largehearted Boy
"Ray Fenwick gives you more typographical mania in Mascots, his follow-up to 2008’s Hall of Best Knowledge. It’s a series of full colour paintings on found book covers. In the preview he seems to be going on and on about Cthulhu and the pronunciation of 'Cthulhu,' but more importantly, he engages in superfluous and plentiful footnotes and thus gets top marks from me." – Gosh! Comics
I'm frequently invited to conduct workshops on comix as an educational tool at regional conferences of K-12 librarians, teachers, and administrators. These educators appreciate the appeal of graphic novels but sometimes lack the familiarity to employ them effectively. Here are some of the conclusions we've reached on the judicious use of comix in school.
Comix are extremely useful as a tool to address students struggling with limited literacy or English as a second language (ESL.) In remedial situations, students are reluctant to be assigned material substantially below grade level. With many comix, the age level is ambiguous, which removes the social stigma associated with reading challenges. Additionally, the illustrations assist with word identification and drive the story in an accessible fashion. Comix are considered cool in school, and can engage students at all literacy levels.
The Usagi Yojimbo series is particularly appealing in teaching both ESL and remedial readers. It's a smart, well-paced adventure story about samurai culture in 17th century feudal Japan. These books are attractive to readers of all ages without respect to gender. For adolescents in higher grades, I often suggest Blazing Combat. This anthology contains compelling war stories throughout history, including the American Revolution, Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Viet Nam and others. The stories have historical value and many focus on the futility of armed conflict. In addition, they feature some of the most remarkable artists in comics.
Fantagraphics Bookstore stocks dozens of comix and graphic novels suitable to students of all ages. Many of these books concern history, race and social justice, geopolitics, philosophy and other subjects common to K-12 curricula. To arrange an individual consultation or group visit to the bookstore please call Larry Reid at 206.658.0110. Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is located at 1201 S. Vale Street, minutes south of downtown Seattle. Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM. See you all soon.
• List:iFanboy's Jason ranks Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition at #1 on the Top Collected Editions of 2010: "Fantagraphics has treated us with a 1,160-page, two volume slipcase collection that reprints the first seven trade paperbacks worth of content, as well as 50 covers and lots of never-before-seen backmatter."
• List: "I don’t understand how Medley can write and draw so well. The story is entertaining and well-paced. The art is spacious, smooth with expressive lines. I have no idea why Medley hasn’t won every award everywhere. Volume two picks up where the first left off, telling the stories of a group of people who have retired to Castle Waiting, a refuge in a difficult, quasi-medieval world." – Carol Borden, The Cultural Gutter, "10 Comics I Liked in 2010"
• List:Paul Gravett's Best of 2010 is very, very extensive, including mentions of no fewer than 10 of our titles
• Review: "The unease which Mezzo brings to King of the Flies is ever present in the twisted shapes of his men and women, the oversized drops of an acrid drizzle, the fur like scrub which seem like the myriad hairs of a fly’s appendage, a modern day dance of death choked with the dregs of modern life; the strange underbelly of free will and capitalism — sex, drugs and alcohol; death, lust and tainted beauty; the unsettling horror of kitsch; the nauseating mingling of youth, disease and dementia." – Ng Suat Tong, The Hooded Utilitarian (The Comics Journal)
• Interview: At his Talking with Tim blog, Tim O'Shea talks to Destroy All Movies!!! editors Zack Carlson (quoted here) & Bryan Connolly: "I’m constantly shocked by people’s willingness to forgo the most valuable resources we have — like bookstores and video stores — because of the lazy convenience of the internet. Why don’t people want to leave their homes? Are they afraid they’ll get struck by lightning or bitten by a dog? It makes me nuts."
• Plug: "...Set to Sea is an astounding visual piece with a simplistic narrative that avoids the saturated complexities of other graphic works. I’ve been a long time fan of Weing’s, and highly recommend this title." – Michael Dean, Slither and Friends
• List:Robot 6's Chris Mautner names "The six most criminally ignored books of 2010," including:
"1) Captain Easy Vol. 1 by Roy Crane. ...I consider this to be one of the big publishing events of 2010. [...] The Sunday pages in this book are full of high energy, action and slapstick."
"4) High Soft Lisp by Gilbert Hernandez. [...] Those who feel that Hernandez’s work relies too much on female objectification and fetishization need to read this book to understand how self-aware he is of that fact and its real-world consequences."
• List (Audio): On the Inkstuds radio programme, host Robin McConnell discusses the Best of 2010, including Tim Hensley's Wally Gropius, with cartoonists Michael DeForge, Zack Soto and Noah Van Sciver
• List: At Robot 6, Kevin Melrose includes Drew Weing's Set to Sea on his list of The 50 Best Covers of 2010: "The limited palette and gold highlights on the waves help to lend the cover to Drew Weing’s debut graphic novel a gorgeous dream-like quality."
• Review: "In a robust, finely crafted package, Fantagraphics celebrated the 25th anniversary of the wandering rabbit ronin... by collecting the first seven volumes in two hardcover books sheathed in a sturdy, eye-catching slipcase. ...Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition is in a class all its own in terms of presentation." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious
• Commentary: A commenter at Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin predicts: "The recently announced Carl Barks collections by Fantagraphics will receive public attention on the Today Show via Al Roker and become selections in Oprah’s Book Club. The widespread exposure of clever humor and commentary by 50-year old Donald Duck comics create a nationwide movement of crazy alternative-energy initiatives and treasure hunting." (The Roker part is not completely far-fetched — Al did the Introduction for the next volume of The Complete Peanuts) (Mike also plugs Flog, which is nice of him)