• List:FEARnet names Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1 one of the Top 9 Comic Books and Graphic Novels of '09: "Shunning the spotlight of fans and the press, the artist has chosen instead to let his books speak for themselves. They continue to speak loudly, and with a weird grace lacking in much of his contemporaries' work."
• List/Review: "Druggy noir vividly told, [The] Red Monkey [Double Happiness Book] is like watching Jim Rockford take a monster bong-hit before getting bashed in the jaw by some muscle of a rich guy in a bar bathroom. 'The Leaking Cello Case' and 'John Wesley Harding' are both contenders for short graphic fiction of the year, with pellucid plotting distorted by strange times and scary surprises. The artwork is like the more story-based finely crafted alternative comics of the 90s, and the sense of distorted place and identity as creative as fiction by Thomas Pynchon. If that seems lofty, start here and wait for Daly to one day unveil his Gravity's Rainbow." – Chris Estey, Three Imaginary Girls "Great Reads of 2009"
• Review: "Thank you, Fantagraphics, for compiling 15 years of the Love and Rockets comic series into 700 pages of punk rock, heartbreak, and self-discovery. Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories presents Jaime Hernandez's indie masterpiece in the entirety of its run between 1981 to 1996... a serious contender for the American comic canon." - Aysha Pamukcu, Plasma Pool
• Review: "OK, first, my initial impression of cartoonist Hans Rickheit’s new book The Squirrel Machine was one of amazement (a word I don’t bandy about indulgently) and bafflement. I am clear I am not grasping something — not an unpleasant feeling in this circumstance. ... As usual for Fanatagraphics, this book is well-designed and well-printed. Let me know if you figure out what it’s about, though not knowing made it no less fun for me." – Robert Birnbaum, The Morning News
• Interview: Alice Parker of Comics Alliance gets a whole lot of info out of Dash Shaw: "As for me, I like a lot of different things. I'm not a discriminating reader of comics, which is a problem, I think. I can read just about any comic, but I definitely wouldn't read any all-word book."
• Interview: And in your second Dash Shaw interview of the day, with Tim Needles of Short and Sweet NYC, some advice for aspiring artists: "The other thing is it’s probably going to be touch and go forever and you are going to have to do an absurd amount of work before you get a penny for it and even when you get that penny, it’s probably just going to be a penny. On the other hand it is really awesome to draw all the time and devote your life to it."
• List: Matthew Price of The Oklahoman gives Ganges #3 the 9th position on his 10 Best Periodical Comic Books of 2009: "Kevin Huizenga continues to be one of comics' brightest indie creators... Huizenga uses his talents to immerse the reader inside Ganges' head."
• List/reviews/analysis: On the Inkstuds radio program, a roundtable of prominent critics (Sean T. Collins, Tim Hodler, & Chris Mautner) join host Robin McConnell for a discussion of 2009's standout books, including our two "You" books, You Are There by Tardi & Forest and You'll Never Know, Book 1 by C. Tyler
• Review: "What's better than a new story by Jason? Why, several in one volume, of course! ...[T]he more of Jason's weird energy and quirky, poignant storytelling that I can consume at one time, the better. ... It's kind of a mystery how well he's able to do it, crafting easy-to-follow stories in such a minimalist style, but luckily, they're incredibly enjoyable, so one can easily get lost in them, forgetting questions of craft and technique because those aspects become all but invisible. ... [Low Moon] is another great example of the strange alchemy that Jason has mastered, drawing readers in to compelling tales of people caught up in oddly familiar situations, even when they're dealing with something that's off-kilter from reality as we know it. That's the Jason touch, and long may it continue to grace our pages." – Matthew J. Brady
• Plug: In Richard Metzger's profile of Steve Ditko for Dangerous Minds, he says "I may be a little late to the game on this one, but I recently got a copy of Blake Bell’s Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, a coffeetable book published by Fantagraphics last year and it is a wonderful and fascinating look at Ditko’s life and work. Kudos to Bell for putting together such a volume which was clearly a labor of love and unique erudition."
• List:Details magazine names Ghost World #10 on The 25 Greatest Gen X Books of All Time: "This caustically funny duo-tone tale follows the iconic cat-eyed adolescent Enid Coleslaw in her quest to find meaning, or at least cruel humor, in an age where everything's disposable."
• Review: "Strange Suspense collects dozens of Ditko stories from the 1950’s... Almost a decade before Ditko moved to Marvel, these stories bear his unmistakable style. His fine line work and flair for the abstract that would serve him so well on Doctor Strange particularly, is on full display. ... If you only know Ditko for his work at Marvel or later at DC, here is the chance to explore Early Ditko, unconstrained by editors or the Comics Code. While all of this work is marvelous, clearly Ditko is best at home in horror where he could let his imagination run wild, creating monsters and demons and the things that go bump in the night. Rediscover Ditko today!" – Tim Janson, Newsarama
• Review: "Brian Kane, author of the [Definitive Prince Valiant] Companion and surely the world’s foremost authority on the strip and its creator, Hal Foster, has once again done a herculean amount of work, and Fantagraphics has once again clothed that work in a sturdy, pretty volume. Prince Valiant hasn’t been treated this well since the ersatz King of England sang his praises. Those unfamiliar with the character – a young man who finds adventure, fame, and even love at the court of the legendary King Arthur – will find here all the background information they could ever want... But even long-time Prince Valiant fans will find plenty to fascinate them in this volume." – Khalid Ponte, Open Letters
• Review: "Delphine is a morbid interpretation of the symbology of fairy tales resounding with echoes of unrequited love and abandonment. This is perhaps Sala’s darkest and most intricate story ever – impressive in its nuance and ever shifting emotions. One can only hope that it is not ignored." – Ng Suat Tong, The Comics Journal
• Interview: From TCJ.com: "Every weekday from now until December 25, we’ll be posting a conversation between cartoonists from The Comics Journal #300, complete and online! In today’s installment, it’s a chat between L’Association publisher Jean-Christophe Menu and Kramers Ergot publisher Sammy Harkham."
• List:Politics and Prose, perhaps the most graphic novel-friendly bookstore in Washington DC, lists their Favorite Graphic Literature of the Year:
"Every few years a graphic novel comes around that is so good you have to stop reading for a while, because if you read anything else you'd only be disappointed. ... The Squirrel Machine... is a masterpiece of comic fantasy. When I finished this book, I immediately returned to the introduction and read the whole book again, and again. Read this book to see what heights serial art can achieve in narrative and in the creation of worlds that exist in one character's mind. Read it if you think you can handle it, for it abandons the typical narrative structure and accomplishes its ends as only serial art of the highest quality can. This is a fine, gut-wrenching book, written and drawn by a true master." – Thad Ellerbe
"West Coast Blues is an unflinching story, perfect for any fan of the thriller." – Adam Waterreus
"C. Tyler's You'll Never Know, Book One: A Good and Decent Man... is also an impressive and beautiful history of the era; Tyler creates a panorama of images that sweep across the page as she documents her father's childhood, her parent's engagement, and her own young life. Her pen, ink, and color transform her creative panels (at times evoking a scrapbook) into vibrant memories intertwined by her restless imagination." – Adam Waterreus
"[With Abstract Comics] it becomes a treat to take a page of art — or a simple panel — and consider how the shapes, texture, depth, and color interact with one another; to reflect on how, when one takes the time, the enjoyment one ordinarily finds in reading a purely textually-oriented, narrative-driven written story can — with the graphic form — be translated into something completely different." – Adam Waterreus
"From Wonderland with Love: Danish Comics in the Third Millennium... is fantastic! This amazing collection just blew me away. There was not one moment when reading this book — in one sitting, slouched and unblinking on my couch, coffee going cold — that I did not completely love. ... Mythic and dreamlike, meditative and fantastical, this is a superb and surprising collection." – Adam Waterreus
• Review: "...[F]rom the moment he showed up [Michael] Kupperman was a master of stomping around the living room of modern reality and shoving pieces of conceptual furniture next to one another to awesome, knees-out-from-under effect. Kupperman's work has always had that charge that the really good stuff has... Kupperman doesn't get enough credit for building a comic book vehicle in Tales Designed To Thrizzle that serves to facilitate those skills. ...I'm not certain anything under heaven or earth could make something greater than Kupperman's peerless ability to craft funny moments." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Unclothed Man delivers just the right amounts of story, whimsy, art, and heft for four two-minute entries. It offers actual nutritive cultural substance, as opposed to so much web filler one often gets. And you’ll want to go back and watch them a few more times. There’s a lot of variety behind the series’ simple elegance." – Michael Shaw (no relation), Tubefilter
• Plug: "Compiled by Portland, Oregon-based trash cinema expert Jacques Boyreau, Portable Grindhouse honors the pulp video era that inspired Quentin Tarantino." – Hugh Hart, Wired
"The blandly didactic sobriety of old educational comics and earnest advertisements... is Michael Kupperman’s default tone for the deranged, gaspingly funny work collected in Tales Designed to Thrizzle: Volume One. Kupperman has a stiff, deadpan drawing style that suggests the textures of woodcuts, clip-art and old 'Mary Worth' strips; his writing, on the other hand, jumps the rails at every opportunity."
"The artists assembled by Andrei Molotiu for his anthology Abstract Comics push 'cartooning' to its limits: the selections have few if any words, no characters or plot, and very few clearly identifiable representations — just abstract images in sequence. ... It’s a fascinating book to stare at, and as with other kinds of abstract art, half the fun is observing your own reactions..."
• Review: "[Gilbert] Hernandez's latest solo work The Troublemakers is the second in a series of self-contained graphic novel 'B-movies,' featuring one of his recurring characters, the cannonball-breasted Rosalba 'Fritz' Martinez. Here, Fritz plays Nala, one of a trio of hustlers trying to hook up with 200,000 smackers. Whether the money actually exists and who has it are anyone's guess in this drama-filled thriller — good for folks who like their graphic novels grim, gritty, and sleazy." – Brad Buckner, Portland Mercury
• Review: "Strange Suspense [The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1]... is an absolute treat! ...[T]his book looks amazing. ...[It's] filled with images that will remain seared into your psyche long after you’ve put it down. ... Strange Suspense is an absolute must have for any student of sequential art history... It’s an excellent collection of long lost work from a man whose importance cannot be overstated. There’s really no other grade to give it than an A." – Chad Derdowski, Mania.com
• Review: "Wolverton is helped [in The Wolverton Bible]... by his bold compositional sense, which aids in pushing some of his images beyond the doldrums of camp and into a certain monumentality, a grandeur that retains a shabby earthiness, without being lofty, hollow or pretentious. Without being, in a word, 'churchy.'" – Chris Lanier, The Comics Journal (beta)
• Review: "Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit is probably as close as comics are likely to come to exploitation cinema. Like the best exploitation dreck from Texas Chainsaw to Death Race 2000, Prison Pit is pure, bottom-dwelling schlock... And yet, again as with exploitation fare, the single-minded commitment to vileness is so perversely pure that it goes right past lowest-common-denominator entertainment and on into snooty, fancy-pants art. ... Ryan’s world is essentially Waiting for Godot, from the bleak landscape to the slapstick violence." – Noah Berlatsky, The Comics Journal (beta)
Online Commentary & Diversions, first of the week, last of the month:
• Coming Attractions: Chris Mautner of Robot 6 got his hands on our Spring/Summer 2010 catalog and runs it all down for you
• Review: "Of all the comics published in 2009, none has deserved more acclaim... than You Are There. ... Tardi's art, which combines the liveliness and simplicity of the best cartooning with a well-observed realism is perfect for this kind of surreal tale. ... His work deserves to be read and will endlessly reward readers who seek it out." – Robert Boyd
• Review: "[Like a Dog] is a gloriously rough-hewn and hands-on collection from a compulsive cartoonist and storyteller packaged with the flair and imagination that has become a trademark of the world’s leading publisher of fascinating comics. ...Sally’s dedication to innovation, exploration and imagination will astound and entrance anyone who knows capital A Art when they see it." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "[Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1] is a cracking collection in its own right but as an examination of one of the art-form’s greatest stylists it is also an invaluable insight into the very nature of comics. This is a book true fans would happily kill or die for." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Columbia's book [Pim & Francie] is positively festooned with frightening moments and tableaux... Any single upsetting image is a rosette on a much more ambitious and awesome-to-behold cake. Al Columbia has progressed to the point where he can haunt my nightmares for three days as an aside." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "...The Complete Iron Devil is a humorous adult fantasy book with great art. However, it wouldn't be nearly as good if it weren't for the excellent Devil's Angel story, which points out the craziness of 'morality police.'" – Bernard C. Cormier, [here] (CanadaEast)
• Plug: Polish blog kg looks forward to our next two CompleteCrumb reprints (perfectly broken English courtesy Google): "And you need to know that to find and collect all the works of Crumb is as hard as winning for best player of the world, being Polish football player."
• Plug: "It’s like a bomb went off in the subconscious of Max Fleischer and Columbia was around to collect the pieces years later when they fell to earth. In this time of safe substitution power fantasies, Columbia’s work is truly provocative stuff. Funny, dark, and impeccably executed." – The Synesthetic Fugue Incident
Online Commentary & Diversions observes the U.S. holiday tomorrow and returns on Friday:
• Review: "Children of the early Cold War who grew up with a pre-Spider-Man Ditko will find plenty to love in these restorations... Contemporary fans will no doubt find a lot to like in this volume, as well, both as a piece of mid-century pop-art, and as a first-hand look at the singularly warped sensibilities of one of the artists that would go on to shape the modern superhero book as we know it. Ditko clearly revels in his pre-Code world, constructing giant man-eating worms, and serial killers, and goblins. The artist draws on a broad scope of genre, demonstrating diverse artistic and storytelling talents... Strange Suspense is a treasure trove of weird excitement from one of the mavericks of mid-century comics." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Plug: "I want to marry this comic book: ...John Pham’s Sublife Vol. 2... is so lovely. I have a preview copy on my nightstand, and I just can’t keep my eyes — and hands! — off it." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
• Plug: The Brazilian edition of the first volume of The Complete Peanuts was released earlier this year; Diário do Barão says of it "Definitely, this was the best gift that I gave this year. It is even better than the Transformers Collection Megatron."
• List: Graphic Novel Reporter begins their Best of 2009 survey of educators and comics pros; so far A Mess of Everything by Miss Lasko-Gross ("Lasko-Gross’ words and pictures felt incredibly authentic") and Luba by Gilbert Hernandez have been named
• Review: "Rolling in like a slow, fuzzed-out guitar line from an Orange-brand amp, The Red Monkey Double Happiness Booklives up to the good vibes promised in its title. ... Having recently finished Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice and Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City, I couldn't help but consider The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book as a distant third-cousin to those titles. ...The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book is a weekend read, best consumed with your feet propped up, opposable digits or not." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon.com)
• Review: "Paul Hornschemeier excels at a sort of cryptic-cute comic that is better read than described. It's a blend of darkness and sharply delineated perfectionism that, whether he likes it or not, sometimes brings to mind his Chicago contemporary Chris Ware What he knows, though, is that he can go places Ware can't — Hornschemeier's style is every style. ... His diversity of styles is most apparent in All and Sundry: Uncollected Work 2004-2009... It's just a stew of stuff that, like the best sketchbooks, offers an intimate invitation to spy on the ramblings of a formidable creative." – Byron Kerman, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "For being a company that puts out the reprints of one of the safest comics of all time, Peanuts, Fantagraphics sure lives on the edge of the comics medium, particularly in the realm of anthologies. Blab! is just such an anthology, featuring a variety of visual quirks that hover closer to straight up art pieces than comics work, but still do not seem out of place with the more narrative pieces that slide between the pictorial pages. ...[T]here's probably someone for everyone in Blab!, if you take the time to look." – Panel Patter
• Review: "Richard Sala’s reinvention of Snow White is a sparkling macabre gem. The 2-color art glows in handsome sepia that is pitch perfect for this delightfully demented tale of a strange land. Sala populates Delphine with cast of horror carnival rejects that is diverse enough to both excite and confound the imagination. This issue [#3]’s creepy locales: dark tunnels, a creepy house, and a gloomy castle are the true stars of this chapter. They make this scary tale an absolute winner. ...[Grade] A" – Leroy Douresseaux, Comic Book Bin
• Reviewer: A new book review from Laura Warholic author Alexander Theroux for The Wall Street Journal, this time of an interesting-sounding collection of "literary invective" called Poison Pens
• Plug: "I grew up in the video age and I’m still in awe of the technology that first allowed me to watch thousands of movies in the privacy of my own home. Call me sentimental and nostalgic, but when I first got wind of Jacques Boyreau’s upcoming book Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box it made me giddy with excitement." – Kimberly Lindbergs, Cinebeats
I knew I was getting off too easy! Nick Gazin is trying to kill me. There are also some negative reviews of our books at the links below, but I won't say any more about those:
• Review: "Fantagraphics has come to my foreign comic book rescue and published hardcovered English translations of West Coast Blues, which was good, and [You Are There], which is great. ... Tardi has nice skinny lines and large fields of black. His architecture and cars and landscapes are amazing. Just the idea of Arthur There running up and down the walls and living in this skinny little house are neat ideas. This book talks a lot about what it’s like when you spend your life alone and how nuts a slutty crazy girl can make you. ... Summing up: If you hate everything that isn’t old timey and French and love sluts who are nuts then get this book fast." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "[Portable Grindhouse] presents the most beautiful and lurid VHS boxes ever produced. ... Someone was inevitably going to make this book and Jacques Boyreau made something special that a lot of people are going to love owning. The design is beautiful, the art is reproduced perfectly, and the paper stock feels especially good. It even comes packed in a slipcase that looks like a VHS sleeve spattered in blood. A well-designed book showing off these funny and beautiful examples of a dead medium would be enough, but the introductary essay is a revelatory piece on the importance of VHS and the role it played in cinematic history." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "[Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1] is chock-full of intense faces and monsters and colors. Strong blacks, horror comics, mean revenge, strange surgery, and stuff. It’s all horror comics from before Frederic Wertham illegalized good-time comic books. The cover is really thick and the hardcover is hard as hell." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "This series is awesome, perfect, and essential. I’ll die with my collection of [The Complete Crumb Comics] on my shelf unless there’s a fire or America slips into a Mad Max-style society. ... These should sit on your shelf next to the complete Shakespeare, your Bible, and the complete Sherlock Holmes." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "...[The Troublemakers] is a sweet little book in which a bunch of grifters try to trick each other out of money. It seems to be about love and trust and whether anybody is dependable or if they’re all trying to survive. It’s pretty great." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "[Prison Pit Book 1] is great and an essential read since so few new good comics get made. ... If you love or hate Johnny R. you gotta get this shit. It is important. Buy buy buy." – Nick Gazin, Vice (new link!)
• Review: "Every issue of Love and Rockets is a winner and I am never bored by anything the Hernandez Brothers do. The comics have been so consistently good since the first one came out in 1981 that there's almost no point in reviewing [New Stories #2] other than to say, 'Hey, it came out so go to the store and you can buy it now.'" – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "Tardi is a legend of European comics and it's wonderful to have hardbound English translations of his work. [West Coast Blues] is full of beautiful drawings of Paris, people, cars, fights, and rural life. The story deals with the human condition and what it means to be a man and civilization versus nature while the main character hides from hit men in the mountains. This book feels... like an updated Tintin..." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "Back in the Golden Age of comics there were few comic auteurs but Fletcher Hanks was one of the few. ... The stories [in You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation!] are weird and grim. The art is unprofessional and beautiful." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)
• Review: "Peanuts was an amazing comic. Charles Schulz was an amazing artist. Fantagraphics' Complete Peanuts series are great and [1973-1974] is the best one yet. The humor is unparalleled and the stories are great. ... Charles Schulz was a sad and funny guy and this book features him at his saddest and funniest. If you bought some of the earlier volumes in this series and then forgot about it, then it's time to catch up." – Nick Gazin, Vice (same link as above)