Blurbs, "Babe" and big bucks in this episode of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book features two full-length stories, 'The Leaking Cello Case' and 'John Wesley Harding.' Both stories start off in the every day then morph into oddball mysteries that never go quite where you expect them to. As odd as some of the capers and misadventures get they are always conveyed with a kind of casual, deadpan poker face that manages to make them all the more believable. ... The art is a curious mix of cartoonish realism, and the city of Cape Town is vividly portrayed... Red Monkey Double Happiness Book is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read for the mystery/crime comic fan looking for something a bit different than the harder noir stuff that seems to dominate these days." – Brian Lindenmuth, BSCreview
• Review: "...[T]he appearance this week in bookstores of Hans Rickheit’s comix masterpiece, The Squirrel Machine, is a genuine milestone in the... artistic business of reconciling one’s inside to one’s outside, so much so that I must confess that I am truly taken aback by Rickheit’s entire effort, in the best sense of the word. This carefully constructed tale... strikes me as being one of the few original works of art that I’ve seen published in North America over the last two decades, on a par with the better work of Dan Clowes or Charles Burns. ... This is not a tale for the squeamish nor is it a tale for the literal-minded; it is very much a bravura performance in the tradition of Surrealism, or Fantastic Art, or even Symbolism... In short, strongly recommended!" – Mahendra Singh
• Feature: Matthew J. Brady presents "12 Things I Learned from Supermen!" including "In these stories, disbelief must often not only be suspended, but strung up and mercilessly whipped, then drawn and quartered"
• $$$: Via The Beat, somebody sold a mint slabbed copy of Albedo #2 (1st appearance of Usagi Yojimbo) on eBay for $5100, making it possibly the most expensive Fantagraphics comic ever sold (corrections welcome); Stan Sakai comments on his LiveJournal
• Review: "It's a surprisingly rare thing to find the great comic artist who can not only draw with poetry and beauty, but write like a demon as well. In this lavish scrapbook of uncollected ads, posters, covers, ephemera and one-offs [All and Sundry], [Paul] Hornschemeier's skills are nearly as verbal as they are visual, his art encompassing many different styles, from richly layered classical surrealism to densely structured and primary color-heavy McSweeney's-style illustrations. But taken together, the work exhibits an instantly recognizable and distinctive panache. The depth of his art truly comes to life in the melancholic squibs of text and short fictions studding this collection. For all his talents, Hornschemeier is a working artist who clearly takes on all kinds of assignments, from bookstore ads and bookmarks to a quirky little piece on Anderson Cooper commissioned by CNN. Perhaps the intrusion of the journeyman keeps an exquisite volume like this so rewarding and yet grounded." – Publishers Weekly (starred review)
• Review: "What I liked [in Abstract Comics], I liked for more than just the strips themselves--I liked them for the proof they offer that comics really is still a Wild West medium in which one's bliss can be followed even beyond the boundaries of what many or even most readers would care to define as 'comics.' That an entire deluxe hardcover collection of such comics now exists is, I think, one of the great triumphs for the medium in a decade full to bursting with them." – Sean T. Collins
• Review: "Hallelujah... for Michael Kupperman! He returns with his second collection, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1, which brings under one cover the first four issues of the same-named comic. And comic it sure as hell is. I'm not entirely certain when I've read anything that made me laugh out loud as often as this volume, with the possible exception of Kupperman's debut Snake 'n' Bacon's Cartoon Caberet. Women who've given birth to multiple children and older readers are advised to secure some kind of adult diaper." – Late Reviews and Latest Obsessions
• Review: "Willie & Joe is an extraordinarily compiled and presented tribute to Bill Mauldin, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist who chronicled life in the U.S. Army from 1940 to 1945. The set is bound in army green canvas and typeset in the font of an old manual typewriter, the kind an army clerk might have used during the Second World War. The collection is a sensory delight, pleasing to touch and beautiful to see. ... There are many scholarly works written on the topic of World War II, and those books can teach us a lot about the war, but anyone who wants to feel what American soldiers felt during the Second World War should seek out Willie & Joe. ... For the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, for the man who was once America’s most celebrated enlisted man, Willie & Joe is a fitting, and wonderful, tribute." – David Mitchell, BiblioBuffet
• Review: "[Prison Pit Book 1 by Johnny Ryan is an] over-the-top, ultra-violent, gross-out, juvenile, yet fun and hilarious book... The dialogue that does exist retains his comic sense of disjunction and fights are as demented as you’d expect. This is not a jokey book, but his humor is retained in subtle ways—if you can envision subtle Johnny Ryan humor. ... This is just a balls-out, funny, sicko, good time. My only complaint with Prison Pit is how quickly the story ends, but hopefully the subtitle (Book One) is a promise and not a joke." – Lincoln Michel, The Faster Times [Ed. note: Book Two is in progress and due next year.]
• Review: "Longtime [Richard] Sala readers will recognize some familiar tropes right away [in Delphine]: strange surroundings, shady characters who seem to hold malevolent secrets. And Sala's art is familiar as well, but taken to a new level — lovely watercolors on the covers and moody washes on the gray interiors. The creamy paper that's typical of the Ignatz releases lends additional otherworldly, othertimely atmosphere to the story. And the logo itself is so good it deserved to be used for a long-running series. But it's the story that departs from Sala's work in some major ways... so resonant and unsettling that... it has to rank as one of Sala's major works." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
• Plug: "Reading [The Complete Peanuts 1971-72 and 1973-74] in one fell swoop, I've kind of come to the conclusion that this period is really the apex of Schulz's career. ...he was never as consistently hilarious or as poignant as he was in the early to mid-70s. If you're only buying two volumes of this series, it should be these two." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Profile: Dan Taylor of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat catches up with Monte Schulz on his book tour for This Side of Jordan: "'It’s weird doing this,' Schulz said by phone from Nevada City during a break between book shop dates. 'It makes me nervous, at every single stop. I just realized I’m not a very public person.'"
• Interview: At Marvel.com, Sean T. Collins' series of chats with Strange Tales contributors continues with Stan Sakai talking about the creation of Samurai Hulk: "Actually, I tried to make it as much of a parallel to the modern Hulk as possible. Such as his name-he is referred to asSashimono, which means 'banner.' It's a samurai banner. And obviously there's no gamma rays, so he's cursed into turning into the Hulk by a witch called Gama, which is Japanese for 'toad' — she kinda looks like a toad." Oh man I can't wait for that.
• History: Steve Duin at The Oregonian digs up a nugget: Gary Groth on the 50th anniversary of Superman in Amazing Heroes, 1988: "My only interest in Superman, marginal at that, stems from his continuing presence as a symbol of banality and infantilism in the history of the American comic book." And it goes on!
• Random quote of the day: "Guido Crepax: popular enough to have an entire half-shelf in the Fantagraphics library, circa mid-1990s; not popular enough to have his books stolen by the interns." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
Not sure if there will be an Online Commentary & Diversions update tomorrow or Monday, as your humble correspondent will be en route to and from San Francisco for APE. Say, we should have an APE announcement coming up any time now.
• Review: "Femke Hiemstra, a Dutch artist, was 'raised on liquorice and buttermilk,' in her words. Fittingly enough, her work is an alluring mixture of sweet and sour. ... Hiemstra... does a wonderful job of offsetting her cuteness with a measure of tears, skeletons, Venus fly-traps and demons. The palette, meanwhile, is unrepentantly pretty — can we call it girly? — and Hiemstra's paintings emit the sort of candy-charged excitement of Halloween night. Rock Candy is a jewelbox of a book, with its deep mauve die-cut cover and metallic red lettering. ... Rock Candy is... a delightful new work for those who like liquorice and buttermilk, or better yet, both." – Molly Young, More Intelligent Life
• Commentary: Chris McLaren of Homo Sum looks at a Jules Feiffer strip from Explainers that remains relevant after all these years
The first issue of Marvel's new 3 part anthology mini-series, STRANGE TALES, is in comic shops this week. It features my long-delayed "Incorrigible Hulk" story, which has been broken up into 3 parts, with one part in each issue. My original cover will also serve as the cover of ST #2 (see above).
This mini-series also features many indy comics superstars,all of whom get to interpret one or more of Marvel's well known characters in their own style. Each issue is also 48 pages long and only $3.99. Quite a deal!
• Review: "I’ve just finished the fourth Usagi Yojimbo trade and the fifth is sitting next to me... If you’re like me, throw away your preconceptions about anthropomorphic comics and get on board. As a fan of samurai fiction (to the point of having a Seven Samurai tattoo) and comics, I can’t recommend Stan Sakai’s beautifully drawn, note-perfect reinvention of the genre highly enough." - Kevin Church
• Review: "I Killed Adolf Hitler is a fun, silly and slightly creepy comic, a love story wrapped around a time travel paradox, dressed up with gun fighting. In short, it's a perfect comic book..." - Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Sometimes the single panel of a political cartoon just isn’t a big enough space for a cartoonist to work with, especially if said cartoonist is interested in providing a detailed, nuanced discussion or honest-to-God reporting on a topic. That’s the sort of political cartooning Peter Bagge has been engaging in for Reason magazine, and a decade’s worth of examples are now available in trade-paperback collection Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me... Bagge is libertarian (as is Reason), and it shows, but one need not agree with his politics to enjoy his work here, perhaps because as a political cartoonist, Bagge’s a cartoonist first and political second." - J. Caleb Mozzocco, Las Vegas Weekly
Today the floodgates of Online Commentary & Diversions have opened:
• Review: "The way he turns narratives into advertisements, ends stories with some wacko randomly barging through a window, and abruptly drops gags only to pick them up and drop them again suggests that [Michael] Kupperman takes his cues from the surreality of the small screen — especially Monty Python's Flying Circus and its animated heirs on the Cartoon Network... Tales Designed to Thrizzle [Vol. 1] is a monument not only to silliness, but to craft... [T]he surreality of Monty Python becomes the surreality of Un Chien Andalou or Kafka. Not that Kupperman needs to reference film or literature. Why should he, when he can turn TV into art?" - Noah Berlatsky, Chicago Reader
• Review: "Michael Kupperman has defeated me once again!... I am fated to be Salieri to Kupperman’s Mozart, Twain to his Einstein... I give up: as the first Tales [Designed to Thrizzle] book, bringing together issues #1-4, makes abundantly clear, Kupperman is brilliantly funny and maddeningly brilliant... Damn you, Michael Kupperman. Give us more, or leave us alone in ignorance of how much better the world would be if you ran it." - Jared Gardner, Guttergeek
• Review: "Dry and absurd as ever, Norwegian cartoonist Jason returns with an anthology [Low Moon] featuring more of the verbally-spare cartoon animals that populate his surreal and depthful extended gag strips... There’s no other cartoonist who matches Jason’s somber deadpan and this serves as a great introduction to his work." - John Mitchell, Worcester Magazine
• Review: "[Willie & Joe: The WWII Years is a] terrific two-volume collection of the legendary Bill Mauldin's 'GI Joe' cartoons from 'the last good war'... Fantagraphics gives us a comprehensive collection of the cartoons that fellow enlisted man Mauldin created during the war, both for civilians and fellow soldiers alike... [T]his compendium is both a great time capsule, and a fitting tribute to an American original." - Mark London Williams, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Review: "[Paul] Hornschemeier uses simple line art and varied color palettes for conveying emotional and narrative detail [in Mother, Come Home], capturing graphically with a sort of exquisite beauty the symbolic fantasies of Thomas and the grief-induced psychosis of his father." - Martha Cornog, Library Journal
• Review: "Fletcher Hanks was an early, forgotten great of comics: He drew from 1939-1941, and his work [in You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation!] is vivid, funny and incredibly surreal... Hanks' work evokes a childlike energy that makes it seem as if he drew as much for himself as he did for the rest of the world. That creative spirit never goes out of style." - Whitney Matheson, USA Today Pop Candy
• Interview: "You’ll Never Know delves deep into the recesses of human memory and what we choose to share with each other, laying bare the connections and experiences that define who we are—whether we choose to make them known or not." - John Hogan, introducing his Q&A with C. Tyler for Graphic Novel Reporter. Carol, on future installments: "Part of my brain can clearly see the plot unfolding, but I cannot adequately explain due to the intuitive components attached to the emotion involved... But basically, the five main characters will go through some pretty rough stuff in terms of facing and dealing with their issues on the way to finding their better selves. All I can say is stay tuned and I hope nobody is disappointed."
• Profile: The Palisadian-Post's article on Stan Sakai is worth checking out for the adorable photo of Stan, Usagi, and Sergio Aragonés alone
Updates of Online Commentary & Diversions may be oddly timed for the rest of the week as we're eyeball deep in MoCCA preparations.
• Review: "[Harvey] Kurtzman and company aimed high for a more sophisticated humor mag than the competition... Fantagraphics’ package for it is bar none — handsome, sturdy and restored with great care... I was most interested in the behind-the-scenes story of Humbug and the creative process that went into it — not to mention doomed it — and the book’s introduction and exclusive interviews more than satisfy on that count." - Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: "In a way, Humbugalmost feels like a goof-humor version of The New Yorker or something. There’s a lot of fairly serious political/social commentary, cloaked in wry rainment. It’s a blend as interesting as any cocktail, and it’s goddamn great to have this stuff easily available. Hats away!" - Byron Coley & Thurston Moore, Arthur Magazine
• Review: "...[U]nparallel parodists Kurtzman and Elder ran rampant for themselves when they published these 11 exceptional issues of comic art anarchy. This two-volume hardcover box set has been reproduced from the original art and digitally restored to make everything look even better than when it first came out in 1957. This long-overdue definitive edition of Humbug is an essential slice of satire from the masters of the genre." - Jeffrey Morgan, Detroit Metro Times
• Review: "Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me [is] a compilation of the notorious Seattle libertarian [Peter Bagge]’s politically (and sexually) charged comics for Reason magazine... It’s great. So colourful (always my favourite part of Pete’s comics) and acerbic and smart-ass, but with a heart and purpose behind the bickering and keenly observes caricatures... It’s too early to say now, but right now I’m thinking it’s perhaps my favourite stuff of his, full stop..." - Everett True
• Review: "Connective Tissue... make[s] for an engaging read... While Darla sounds like she could be a handful, she is a good and sympathetic protagonist, making her a modern-day Alice in a 21st century Wonderland." - Jason Borelli, Beyond Race Magazine
• Preview: Spotlighting comics shipping this week, The Comics Reporter says of Uptight #3: "The previous issue of this series from the great Jordan Crane was super, super strong." Likewise, Chris Mautner at Robot 6: "The latest issue in Jordan Crane’s very good series about ghosts and melancholy comes to town. I feel we should be doing all we can to ensure Crane keeps making comics, don’t you?" And Matthew Brady says: "I missed the second issue of this series, but the first one was great... Check it out if you see it on the shelves."
• Profile: My Adventure Is Your Advantage spotlights the design work of our very own Art Director Jacob Covey, calling him "the bees knees of design" and presenting previously unseen previews of the forthcoming Abstract Comics anthology
• Profile: "[Dash] Shaw's online and bound comics inhabit surreal spaces both cerebral and emotional, leaping from zombie love stories to futuristic set pieces without resorting to predictability... It's probably safe to say he has arrived." - Wired
• Interview: Publishers Weekly's Heidi MacDonald asks our own Eric Reynolds for his thoughts about Book Expo America and its value for comics publishers like us; The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon comments on the interview; meanwhile, The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater gets a few words from Eric on the show floor
In our news section, we're pleased to bring you the lowdown on our books and comics slated for release in August, 2009, as will be seen in the pages of Previews. It's a big month! The list includes:
• The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974 by Charles M. Schulz • The Complete Peanuts 1971-1974 Box Set • Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune: The Complete Sunday Newspaper Strips Vol. 1 by Roy Crane • Rock Candy by Femke Hiemstra • This Side of Jordan by Monte Schulz • Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition by Stan Sakai • Love and Rockets: New Stories #2 by the Hernandez Brothers • Like a Dog by Zak Sally
We also put up our actual Previews spread as a print-quality PDF file, just for fun. Jason Miles designed it and it'll clobber your eyeballs like a roundhouse from Capt. Easy himself. Click on through for the full dirt.
For your viewing pleasure, here is a video and photo slideshow preview of the brand-new edition of Usagi Yojimbo Book 7: Gen's Story, which we just got in stock last week. This is a newly redesigned edition of this all-ages classic, and the final Fantagraphics Usagi volume to be given the new design treatment, so now you can complete your collection! This book is in stock now, and is scheduled to be in stores approximately 4 weeks from now. Click here if the slideshow embedded above is not visible, and/or to view it larger in a new window (recommended).