Finally, the sold-out first volme of the Ditko Archives is here in digital reading glory via comiXology, Strange Suspense. Before the Amazing Spider-Man and mysterious Dr. Strange, the legendary comic book artist Steve Ditko was conjuring all manners of horrors at his drawing table. In his first two years in the industry (1953 and1954), Ditko drew tales of macabre suspense that were not yet hobbled by the Comics Code Authority. These stories featured graphic bloodshed, dismemberment and blood-curdling acid baths as the ugly end to the lives of the dark and twisted inhabitants of Steve Ditko's imagination.
Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1features, for the first time, spectacular full-color reprints of every story from those first two years of his career. Beginning with Ditko's very first story to Ditko's short stint in the Joe Simon/Jack Kirby studio, to Ditko's eventual encampment at the Charlton Comics operation in 1954, readers will see the initial works of an artist already at a level of craftsmanship that exceeded most of his peers. The book also features editor Blake Bell's insightful introduction, providing historical background and speaking to Ditko's influence and his unique craft.
Enjoy this 238 page masterpiece on your reading tablets, anywhere, anytime.
"Fantastic... Raw and grotesque and beautifully drawn and presented." –Dave Gibbons
The Cleanest Mug in the Kitchen of Online Commentaries & Diversions:
• Review:Booklist reviews the Mysterious Traveler: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 3, by Steve Ditko and edited by Blake Bell. Gordon Flagg notes these horror stories feature "Ditko’s distinctly off-kilter drawings and boldly potent composition" and the "meticulous restoration means that the stories look far better here than they did upon their original appearances."
• Review:Booklist enjoys Mort Meskin's Out of the Shadows, edited by Steven Brower. "Meskin’s powerful compositions add a fitting dynamism to superhero tales featuring the Black Terror and Fighting Yank. His bold use of shadows and other solid black areas impart a moody atmosphere to horror and crime stories, and even the romance and sci-fi pieces included here benefit from his economic illustration style and attractive page designs," writes Gordon Flagg.
• Review:Black Gate picks up Linda Medley's Castle Waiting: Volume 2 for a good read. John O'Neill stated, "it retold the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty (sort of), as seen by an odd cast of mostly minor characters. It was well written and beautiful, feminine in perspective and mood, incredibly slow-paced, and wholly original. I loved it."
• Interview: Gary Panter spent a whole hour talking to Benjamen Walker on the Too Much Information show at WFMU about life, Dal Tokyo, the evolving medium of comics and more.
• Interview: New Statesman interviews Chris Ware on Building Stories, Jimmy Corrigan and the time inbetween books. "Kim Thompson at Fantagraphics was really willing to experiment [with format]; I remember how much he and I sweated the idea of putting out a comic book that was just 1/2" shorter than the standard format in 1993."
The freshest fried-this-morning Online Commentaries & Diversions:
• Review: Tucker Stone on The Comics Journal gives a thumbs-up to Dungeon Quest Vol. 3 by Joe Daly. "Dungeon Quest–the mumbling stoner counterpart to its methed up metal freak cousin, Prison Pit–has a whole new stack of penis-obsessed pages to play with. It’s tempting to single out one part of this volume to label as best, but that temptation dissipates upon the realization that it’s going to be impossible to pick a winner."
• Review:BookGasm raves about Jacques Tardi's New York Mon Amour. JT Lindroos says, "It shuffles in elements from Tardi’s other books, but distills those familiar ingredients into a wholly unique concoction. . . It’s a love letter to an imaginary city bursting with life, depression and death, a city you love to observe from a distance."
• Plug:Noah Van Sciver finished out the TCJ Comic Diary week with a visit by Gary Groth. Heidi MacDonald of The Beat said nice things about The Hypo: "an extremely well researched look at Abraham Lincoln’s early days as a depressed young lawyer, will be one of the buzz books of the fall."
• Plug:Bleeding Cool and Rich Johnston show off some pages from Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life by Ulli Lust, coming out this fall.
• Plug:Robot 6 and Bridget Alverson are excited for both the upcoming Wilfred Santiago books on Michael Jordan and John Brown. "If the images are any indication, Santiago is busting out from the limited palette he used for the Clemente book to full, brilliant color, applied in a bold, painterly style."
• Plug: The Covered blog continues to highlight new versions of Love and Rockets covers. This time it's L&R #50 drawn by Robert Goodin. Check out Goodin's eerie treatment of a classic.
• Plug: The Love and Rockets Northeast Tour is mentioned on BoingBoing. Thanks, Marc!
• Interview:Casey Burbach interviews editor John Benson on fanzine Squa Tront's issue #13 (forty years after issue #1 came out) and the EC collections that have been published: "I thought that the color in the latest “EC Archives” series was pretty bad, at least in the book that I saw – not appropriate for comics of that era. . . The Fantagraphics series will be produced with quality and taste, I’m sure. Hopefully, with a different distribution set-up, going into bookstores, they may also reach a new audience."
• Review (audio): The Comic Books are Burning in Hell podcast recently chatted up Johnny Gruelle's Mr. Twee-Deedle edited by Rick Marschall. Around the 38 minute mark is where they predict ". . . it'll wind up a real contender for 2012's 'thru the cracks' award for most sadly obscure release. . ." Let's avoid ANY books falling through the cracks, check out this broadsheet-sized wonder today!
• Review:The Australian checks out Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons, edited by Kelly Gerald. Owen Heitmann says, "Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons is primarily of historical interest, documenting the early development of the first postwar female writer to merit inclusion in the Library of America series. Editor Kelly Gerald has taken this archival approach to heart, reproducing apparently every extant example of O'Connor's cartooning, even doodles from later handwritten letters."
The hottest, sweatiest Online Commentaries & Diversions:
•Review: Ray Olson continues the reading journey of Joe Daly's Dungeon Quest Vol. 3 and reviews it on Booklist Online: "For at times, the yarn becomes seriously exciting, especially during the travel and fight scenes when everybody clams up. . . Because of Daly’s cartooning chops, nonpareil entertainment."
•Plug:Comics Reporter only needs 140 characters sometimes, especially when talking about Joe Daly's work. Tom Spurgeon says on Twitter, "Dungeon Quest Vol. 3 is so good at one point 1000 copies danced around my bed like in an old Warner Brothers cartoon."
•Review: Writer on the go Maria Popova reviews Significant Objects at Brain Pickings. "Part Sentimental Value, part MacGuffinism, Significant Objects reminds us of the storiness of our lived materiality — of the artifacts we imbue with meaning, with loves and losses, with hopes and desperations."
•Interview:Comic Book Resources interviews Gary Groth on The Comics Journal digital archives move to Alexander Street Press. Chris Mautner quotes Groth,"The magazine is a journalistic repository that comprises the history of comics from the year I co-founded it, 1976, to present, though the first 25 pre-Internet years are probably the most valuable; so, depending upon how valuable you think those 274 issues of The Comics Journal are, this will allow academics and students access to every one of those issues. There are literally tens of thousands of pages comprising interviews with hundreds of creators (many of whom have sadly died), reviews and criticism, investigative journalism, and debate about issues"
•Review:Booklist Online looks at Angelman. Ray Olson compares the creator Nicolas Mahler to another creator: "Mahler is, however, minimalist musical lampooner and prankster Erik Satie."
•Review:Fredrik Strömberg's Jewish Images in The Comics is reviewed on The Jewish Daily Forward. "The current comics renaissance has produced a plethora of engaging and positive Jewish images to fill the collection. . . Like most surveys, “Jewish Images” sacrifices depth for breadth, and Strömberg plays a lot of catch-up for readers who may not be familiar with Jewish laws, traditions or history. Still, this is a work of tremendous ambition, spanning countries, languages, and artistic styles," says Mordechai Shinefield.
•Plug: The first of many Love and Rockets appropriations via Covered. François Vigneault remakes Jaime Hernandez's L&R cover #31 after the jump.
•Review: Tucker Stone glibbly describes what makes Love and Rockets: New Stories #5 so damn good on The Comics Journal. "[Jaime] opts to take a step back from the heavy drums of emotional extremes, focusing on some lesser used characters as they wander through some summer business. Gilbert takes a more direct approach to the spectacle, pouring a heavy mix of the snarling violence that’s laced so much of his recent work all over the streets of Palomar, the fictional village that so many of his critics clamor for him to return to. It’s a meaty read. . . It’s the new Love and Rockets. What the fuck else did you have planned?"
•Review: Shimura Takako's Wandering Son Volumes 1 - 3 are reviewed on Pol Culture . Robert Stanley Martin says, "Shimura handles a sensitive early-adolescent subject with considerable grace. She captures the doubts--and the joys--of the two characters as they explore and come to terms with their cross-gender tendencies."
•Review:Booklist Online enjoys the latest and last Popeye Volume 6 "Me Li'l Swee'Pea" by E.C. Segar. Gordon Flagg states,"It’s a testament to the brilliance of Segar’s creation and the solid foundation he laid down in his decade drawing Popeye that the one-eyed sailor endures as a pop-culture icon to this day."
•Review: New Noise Magazine and Marco Lalubin take a peek at Mysterious Traveler: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 3 A rough French translation says,"Steve Ditko reaches one of the most memorable creative peaks of his career here, first by turning in more carefully worked-over stories and second by frequently displaying a twisted and cruel sense of humor modeled on what EC Comics had been doing in the first half of the 1950s. Especially dazzling are his attempts at graphic boldness, his compositions reaching the same level (at least for the period collected here) as Jack Kirby (albeit less chaotic) -- particularly amazing in that they paradoxically give the impression of respecting the physical constraints of the classic comic book page"
•Review:A Prince Named Valiant reviews the latest Prison Pit - wait no, not at all. They reviewed Prince Valiant Vol 5 1945-1946 as their name might suggest. Michael J. Bayly says, "With stunning art reproduced directly from pristine printer's proofs, Fantagraphics has introduced a new generation to Foster's masterpiece, while providing long-time fans with the ultimate, definitive version of the strip."
Early readers of the third volume of THE DITKO ARCHIVES, Mysterious Traveler, have already noticed two unfortunate glitches. The story "The Forbidden Room" is missing its ninth and final page (above), and "The Menace of the Maple Leaves" is also missing a page (below). Editor Blake Bell has been busy tearing his hair out ever since we learned this.
The fix, fortunately, is very simple: We'll just reprint both stories (in full, at full size), in the next volume of THE DITKO ARCHIVES, coming in the Spring, so collectors will have the full stories. For those who don't want to wait that long, we're also providing a downloadable PDF of the missing pages (7.9 MB).
You don't have to send us ass-kicking emails because our asses are already sore from self-inflicted kicking. And rest assured, we'll be very, very vigilant on future books.
The most-current Online Commentaries & Diversions:
•Interview:MTV Geek questions Noah Van Sciver about his new graphic novel, The Hypo, and why he chose to focus on the man before the president. ". . . it’s important to see who [Lincoln] became, or I should say how he became is more spectacular when you think about who he was, and where he came from, because I don’t even know if that’s possible anymore, to come from nothing and then become a president, you know?"
•Review: Drew on ComicAttack.net reviews kid-friendly The Adventures of Venus by Gilbert Hernandez. "It’s not quite Betty and Veronica, but it’s not quite Calvin and Hobbes; it’s that special place in between that catches that transition from childhood into adolescence, which doesn’t get captured on the comic book page much, and is a rare treat that Hernandez delivers here to such perfection."
•Interview (audio):ABC News Radio's Sherry Preston interviews Daniel Clowes (at the 30 minute mark) as his work is on display at the Oakland Museum of California. "I was more interested in kinda funny comics and comics about real life situations. And I thought it made no sense that there weren't comics about every subject you can imagine." You'll love the following story.
•Commentary: TURN IT OUT in clothes inspired by Daniel Clowes' Ghost World and America's two favorite juveniles on Trent.
•Plug:Follow the White Rabbit eloquently mentions Jacques Tardi's New York Mon Amour. A rough translation might say, "Altogether, a perfect Edition for the lovers of this French author that already amazed us at 'The cry of the people,' 'The war of trenches' or 'The extraordinary adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec'."
•Commentary: Chris Mautner of Robot 6 gives a nice mention to Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle #8. "A pretty solid issue overall, the best and funniest part being the opening segment, a parody of coloring books, this time involving trains that … well, it’s not fit for polite conversation, really."
•Review: Greg Burgas of Comic Book Resources breaks down one beautiful page by Archie Goodwin and Alex Toth from Blazing Combat. "This story shows off [Toth's] strengths very nicely, because it’s one of the bleaker stories in the volume (none of them are happy; I mean “bleak” in that the landscape is stripped of vegetation and is dotted with destroyed building, giving this story its post-Apocalyptic tenor) and Toth does very well with that."
•Plug:The Daily Beast features an excerpt from Joe Sacco and Chris Hedges' new book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. In this article, they "detail the effects of coal mining in West Virginia, a state destroyed by mountaintop removal."
•Interview: Peering from under a swell hat, Noah Brand from The Good Men Project interviews TCJ contributer and cartoonist Tim Kreider on the art of writing. "Cartooning also seems to allow me to express a much sillier, stupider, more puerile part of my personality than writing. I get all stiff and serious and writerly when I sit down to write prose."
• Interview: On the National Post, Nathalie Atkinson interviews Gabriella Giandelli on her graphic novel, Interiorae., and the retrospective exhibit at the Italian Cultural Institute. Giandelli states, "There are some stories where it would be possible to have the soundtrack of what you listened to during the work for every page of the story. Or sometimes the song is inside my work — nobody knows but for me it’s there."
• Review:The Weekly Crisis solves the weekly dilemma for you with a "buy it" verdict for Gabriella Giandelli's Interiorae. Taylor Pithers says, "Giandelli also weaves magic on the way the other characters speak. There is a certain rhythmic beauty to the dialogue that gives the whole book a feeling of quiet, almost as if everyone is speaking in soft tones."
• Review: The Boston Phoenix gets a slap in the face from Hans Rickheit and asks for more. In the review of Folly: The Consequences of Indiscretion, S.I. Rosenbaum says, "It's as if other masters of visual bodyhorror — Cronenberg, Burns, Dan Clowes, Tarsem Singh — are weird by choice. Rickheit, it seems, just can't help it. There's a conviction to his creepiness, a compulsive nature even in his early draftsmanship."
•Commentary: BEA was last week and Publishers Weekly couldn't get enough of Associate Publisher Eric Reynolds and new book, The Hypo by Noah Van Sciver. Heidi MacDonald and Calvin Reid teamed up to cover the event: "Eric Reynolds said it was a good show for the house, noting that all the galleys for Van Sciver books were taken and there was “huge interest” in Fantagraphics titles, like the Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons."
•Review:The Comics Bulletin reviewed God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls by Jaime Hernandez. In the wake of near-universal criticism for super hero comics, Jason Sacks gives an angsty-yet-positive review: "[God and Science] is indeed very indy and quirky and idiosyncratic and personal and uncompromising as any of Jaime's comics."
•Plug: The blog for CAKE (Chicago Alternative Comics Expo) mentioned the our newest collection, No Straight Lines. "LGBTQ cartooning has been one of the most vibrant artistic and countercultural movements of the past 40 years, tackling complex issues of identity and changing social mores with intelligence, humor, and an irreverent imagination. No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics . . . is the most definitive collection to date of this material, showcasing the spectrum from lesbian underground comix, to gay newspaper strips, to bi punk zines, to trans webcomics." Debuting this weekend at Cake in Chicago, you can find editor, Justin Hall, at table 76.
•Review: A short-and-sweet review on Scripp News popped up today. Andrew A. Smith tips his hat to Mysterious Traveler: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 3. " . . .despite the stultifying constriction of the draconian Comics Code of 1954, Ditko managed a remarkable body of work in both volume and content. Even more amazing is his accelerated learning curve, which shoots straight up from first page to last."
• Feature: At Print magazine, Michael Dooley spotlights the new 13th issue of Squa Tront — "...Squa Tront has set itself out to explore every facet of EC's history, through stimulating, in-depth journalism, scholarly analyses, critiques, bios, interviews, and, of course, illustrations. Under the supervision of its current editor, John Benson, it has established a high standard for fanzine professionalism, in both literary content and production values." — with a generous sampling of images and an interview with Benson: "But really, as far as Squa Tront goes, what sustains my interest most is probably my love of print media and the pleasure of creating a physical package."
• Review: "Oftentimes the first volume of an archival project gets greeted with a lot of ballyhoo while later volumes fail to get any ink, even though the later books represent the subject in question better than the earlier, more fumbling work. So let this serve as notice that the third volume of the Blake Bell-edited series [The Steve Ditko Archives] is the best one yet, showing Ditko in 1957, about to turn 30 and learning to deploy his distinctive faces and abstract shapes in the service of stories with real flow. ...[T]he nightmarish visions of stories like 'The Man Who Lost His Face' and 'The Last One' are classic Ditko, with off-kilter panel designs and anguished figures conveying a sense of sanity slipping away." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Blood of Palomar is a thrilling book... Hernández’s writing and artwork are excellent. The black-and-white pen work is perfect — there are a vividness and richness to the action, story, and scenes already that would likely be drowned in color. With 34 characters and multiple story threads, a first read can be dizzying, yet all is exquisitely kept in balance. Though certainly most characters are not given much depth, the large cast gives the sense of a real community. The main characters are complex, flawed, and fascinating.... Blood of Palomar haunted my thoughts long after I finished reading." – Michael Stock, The Capeless Crusader
• Plug: "How to best demonstrate the awesome might of Fantagraphics' new Johnny Gruelle collection, Mr. Twee Deedle?... It's more akin to flipping the pages of a wallpaper sampler than a collection of historic comics.... It dominates the largest clear surface in my house — the kitchen island — like a B-52 bomber somehow parked astride an aircraft carrier's deck. And then you open it up. ...[T]he art on the page is massive, but filled with delicate details.... Many of the strips are illustrated from eye-level of small children, and the natural world around the characters seems almost life-sized." – John Mesjak, My 3 Books
• Plug: "Comics have long been home to a variety of races, be it alien or underground or from an alternate dimension. But in the 100-plus year history of comics, one of the toughest for creators to portray accurately is that of black characters. And now Fantagraphics is putting back in print a key work examining that strained relationship, Fredrik Strömberg‘s Eisner-nominated Black Images in the Comics: A Visual History." – Chris Arrant, Robot 6
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new titles. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators and web-savvy comic shops are saying about them (more to be added as they appear), check out our previews at the links, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
144-page full-color 7.75" x 10.25" softcover • $19.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-559-4
"...I already have the four Ignatz issues, but I won’t let that stop me from recommending Interiorae, Gabriella Giandelli’s dark and occasionally surreal look at the drab lives of various people living in an apartment complex. This new version of the atmospheric – downright moody even – book allegedly is an improvement on the color printing [in that it is full color whereas the series was sepiatone — Ed.], so newcomers may be getting the better deal here." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"If you go to comics shops looking for unique voices doing beautifully-presented work, this is the one for you today." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"This looks odd. Good, but odd. It takes place inside an apartment building in Milan, where strange things are afoot. There’s a giant talking rabbit, for instance. Oh, those wacky Europeans!" – Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
240-page full-color 7.25" x 10" hardcover • $39.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-498-6
"This $40, Blake Bell-edited volume reprints horror stories drawn by Ditko in the late '50s for Charlton Comics titles including Tales of the Mysterious Traveler and This Magazine Is Haunted." – Douglas Wolk, "Don't Ask! Just Buy It!", ComicsAlliance
"More Steve Ditko? Why, certainly! Courtesy of Mysterious Traveler, the third volume in editor Blake Bell’s ongoing collection of early Ditko work, this one largely taken from Tales from the Mysterious Traveler and This Magazine is Haunted." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"The belle of the ball... -- concentrated, early, yet by this volume prime-time Steve Ditko." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: What? Ditko? Reprints? Yeah, there’s more of those in Mysterious Traveler: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 3, another 240-page hardcover from editor Blake Bell; $39.99. And another Ignatz series finds itself collected as Gabriella Giandelli’s Interiorae is seen, for the first time in English, in its original muted full-color state; $19.99." – Joe McCulloch, The Comics Journal
Five years before his breakthrough as the co-creator of Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and other classic super-heroes for Marvel Comics in the early 1960s, Steve Ditko, inspired by the freedom he found at the laissez-faire Charlton Comics, was turning out some of the best work of his career.
Mysterious Traveler, which collects stories from (among others) Tales of the Mysterious Traveler and This Magazine Is Haunted, reprints over 210 full-color pages of Ditko in his early prime. These are stories that have never been properly reprinted until now — thrilling stories of suspense, mystery, haunted houses, and unsuspecting victims.