• List: Thus beginneth the Best of 2011 links, as Publishers Weekly names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 by Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez one of their top 10 Best Comics of 2011: "Even in a long career of masterpieces, Jaime's story about missed opportunities for happiness is a revelation, while Gilbert continues to cement his place as the Jorodowsky of comics with a vampire tale."
• Review: "Another great issue, with the continuation and ending of 'The Love Bunglers,' from Jaime Hernandez. It's a real knockout and quite touching for those that have followed the strip and these characters since the eighties. You almost have to remind yourself that, yes, these are characters, not real people! Apparently, nobody told Jaime that the quality of one's work is supposed to go down after working on a strip that long." – Jason, at his Cats Without Dogs blog
• Commentary: "I've been thinking a lot about Jaime Hernandez's conclusion to his Locas story 'The Love Bunglers' (from L&R New Stories vol. 4) -- mainly b/c it was such an incredible piece that I cry every time I read it. I even recently threatened to force a friend to read all the Locas stuff, because it's so freaking good. But then I started wondering -- is it as awesome if you read it all at once?" – Alicia K., Wordnerdy
• Review: "Readers and admirers, myself included, often think of Gilbert as the better writer of the two brothers and Jaime as the better artist. With only a few exceptions, Gilbert has been the best writer in American comic books over a three decade period. No one has produced more beautiful art for black and white comics the way Jaime has over that same period, a period in which he has been the best comic book artist in North America. 'Browntown' is one of the stories in which Jaime shows that he can write as well as draw comic books better than most and as good as the very best.... 'Browntown' is an incredible story with a sense of realism and gravity unseen in most comic books. 'Browntown' alone makes Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 one of the best comic books of 2010." – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "Love and Rockets: New Stories #2 reminds us, as the first issue did, that comic books from the Hernandez Brothers are always a welcome thing. A year may be a long wait, but when it comes to Los Bros’ coolness and greatness, time is neutral. I can always reread this and enjoy it just as much as I did the first time." – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "...Nuts, which ran in National Lampoon throughout the ’70s, ...offered a largely autobiographical look at the way childhood actually is: a perpetually confusing state of existence, in which kids are jostled to and fro by adults who don’t seem to know what they’re doing (but want to make sure that their offspring are parked somewhere out of the way while they do it).... They’re wonderful pieces of comic art..., applying Wilson’s usual sense of the grotesque and macabre to phenomena like summer camp and sick days. And they’re not all bitter either... He mixes the sour and the sweet exceptionally well." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Plug: "I’ve written at length about this strip [Nuts] before, but it’s worth reiterating I think just how goddamn wonderful this comic is, and how great it is to have a decent collection available after lying fallow for so long. Wilson captures the anxieties and traumas of childhood as few cartoonists have before or since." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6 (for their weekly "What Are You Reading?" column which features our own Jacq Cohen this week)
• Review: "Again, stunning drawings. And quite bloody! Valiant is being tortured, people are killed left and right [in Prince Valiant Vol. 4]. There's a strange sequence in the book involving another knight, Tristram, who I don't think has been introduced earlier, that looks like a double of Valiant, but with a mustache! He is killed by a jealous king, but instead of Valiant and Gawain, who are there, seeking vengeance they just ride off. Not quite sure what was going on in Foster's mind there." – Jason, at his Cats Without Dogs blog
• Plugs: At The Beat, Torsten Adair spotlights a whole mess of our recent and upcoming releases, declaring "If you’re going to ship your book bucks to Washington, it’s better to send them to Fantagraphics than Amazon!"
• Plug: "Carl Barks was a genius when it came to turning Donald Duck and company into comic book characters, and his creation of Uncle Scrooge continues to delight and amuse countless generations. Thankfully, that trend will continue thanks to Fantagraphics’ release of Carl Barks’ Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes." – Kevin Kelly, Wizard World
3:15-4:15 PM // Preservation and Presentation: The Art and Business of Comics Publishing: Join our fearless leader Gary Groth in panel with Peggy Burns (Drawn and Quarterly) and Craig Yoe (YOE! Books). [ University Capitol Centre 2520D ]
7:30 PM // Joe Sacco: Keynote Lecture and UI Lecture Committee Featured Speaker [ Shambaugh Auditorium ]
1:30-3:30 PM // Editing Comics Criticism and Scholarship: This round table discussion features Gary Groth, along with John Lent (Editor, The International Journal of Comic Art) and Frenchy Lunning (Editor, Mechademia) [ University Capitol Centre 2520D ]
7:30 PM // Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez: Keynote Lecture and UI Lecture Committee Featured Speaker [ Shambaugh Auditorium ]
You can view the entire schedule of events at the University of Iowa website. If you read this FLOG and live in Iowa, you better be there!
• List:The Hooded Utilitarian, nearing the top of their results in their International Best Comics Poll, reveals George Herriman's Krazy Kat at #2, with a brief essay by Jeet Heer
• Review: "...The Comics Journal #301... is crammed with fantastic content. The volume's texture, heft, and text make it the readers' equivalent of a dense slab of chocolate cake.... In short, Gary Groth and his editorial team have produced a stellar contribution to comics history and scholarship. It is a feast for comics aficionados and neophytes alike. " – Casey Burchby, SF Weekly
• Plug: "I second Tom Spurgeon’s recommendation of Bill Mauldin’s Willie and Joe Back Home. I was amazed by how brutally frank the comics are, and how affecting. I actually prefer it to his WWII work — it’s even more impassioned, and the cartooning loosens enough to show off a really expressive, cutting line." – Dan Nadel, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "Alex Chun has a new volume available from Fantagraphics Books in his series which profiles the 'few dollars a drawing' gag writers who sold work to the Humorama line of digest publications during the 1950s and into the early 1970s. As I have been writing on the lesser known artists who contributed, with the scant information available...I eagerly await the book!" – Jim Linderman, Dull Tool Dim Bulb
• Analysis: At Entrecomics, Alberto Garcia examines the Steve Ditko influence/homages in some of Gilbert Hernandez's early work — even if you don't read Spanish, the images will have you going "ah-haaaa..."
• Lore:Kim Deitch's "Mad About Music: My Life in Records" column returns over at TCJ.com, with more on Elvis Presley and the early days of rock 'n' roll
• Review: "Fantagraphics, always a publisher you can count on to rescue classic comic material from oblivion, has published a gorgeous 288 page hardcover archive edition of Mickey [Mouse]'s earliest serialized comic strip adventures and he's quite a different character than we know today...a little rambunctious, a little mischievous, and a whole lot of fun. This book takes readers on a glorious ride through depression-era adventures as Mickey battles villains, becomes a fireman, visits a circus, and meets his faithful pup Pluto for the first time. Besides the many great comic strips, Fantagraphics has filled the book with a ton of supplemental material... This is an absolute must-have for any Mickey Mouse fan. Grade A" – Tim Janson, Mania
Burgas: "McKean’s art is astounding, as it always is. He moves from his very rough pencil work that he used on Cages and moves quickly into a multimedia extravaganza, with photographs interspersed with film reels (more photographs, of course, but used in a different way) and paintings and more detailed pencil work. The colors are magnificent, too... It’s an astonishing work of art, to be sure..."
Thompson: "I agree that the success of this book is in that it is beautiful from cover to cover. As a rule I tend to prefer McKean’s very rough pencil work, though I very much appreciate the layering mixed media styles he uses, and I found all of it very beautiful and successful in that way. I was impressed with the color choices and the really wonderful cubist look he achieved for some of the work, and some of the mixed media he used toward the end was some of my favorite in the book period.... After discussing it, I feel more pleased with the book as a whole because I’ve been forced to admit that I don’t recall seeing many more effective executions of erotic subject matter as a legitimate work of art in this way..."
Burgas: "What is compelling about Celluloid is that McKean tackles a difficult subject and elevates it beyond a simple porn comic. I think the very fact that Celluloid makes you wonder about sex in many of its iterations is impressive. As you can see, both Kelly and I had our issues with it, but it’s a gorgeous comic nevertheless. It’s definitely something that you don’t see every day!"
• Review: "I have the impression that Lewis Trondheim is the most important European artist of his generation. Such is the creativity and productivity and so the breadth of his work that, for me at least, wins the title deservedly. Approximate Continuum Comics... is the first part of Trondheim's autobiographical adventures.... The brilliant humour of Trondheim, his sharp-tongued reason, the way with which it shows the mix of imagination with reality. Equally impressive is the effortless way in which the most espressive artwork works serving the story." – Aristides Kotsis, Comicdom (translated from Greek)
• Review: "Bell does the best job of any attempt I've ever seen to bring together everything we know about Ditko's life and work. The result [Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko] is fascinating, frustrating and eventually presents a sad portrait of an immense talent that withdrew from the world and denied it of his work and himself of the audience, acclaim and success that was easily within his grasp." – Tom McLean, Bags and Boards
• Preview: At Flavorwire, Emily Temple shares some glimpses of the cartoons to be included in Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons, saying "Her style is distinctive — the charmingly brusque drawings are cut from linoleum and then essentially stamped when she applied ink to the ridges, and while the content is largely related to her experience as a student, you can still feel the slightly skewed, individualistic perspective that appears in O’Connor’s short stories.... Lovers of her work will doubtless find joy and meaning in her cartoons, and other people will probably like them too."
• Preview: Jamie Frevele of The Mary Sue picks up on the preview of Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons, saying "...while not as demented as some of her writing, the dark humor is still there, even in the short span of a single panel."
• Plug: "Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons is the first compilation of her graphic work in pen-and-ink and linoleum cuts. Before her writing career the young student aspired to be a cartoonist, and she developed a visually bold and eye-catching style. The results are witty and acid comments on campus life and American culture that show O'Connor developing her own acerbic point-of-view." – M. Bromberg, BellemeadeBooks
• Interview (Audio): Kevin Avery, author/editor of Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson, is a guest on the Rockcritics Podcast. Host Scott Woods says "I’ve mentioned a few times here already Kevin Avery’s wonderful book, Everything is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson. Half a personal biography of Nelson, half a compilation of select Nelson reviews and essays, it’s one of the finest books I’ve ever read about a writer — and, needless to say, about rock criticism."
• Profile: "[Basil] Wolverton was one of the pioneers who made today’s highbrow comics scene what it is; his twisted abstract portraiture, all sweatbeads and pleading eyes, floated like a buoy in a sea of banal comic art, influencing kindred spirits like Robert Williams and Big Daddy Roth. Though best known for his nightmare caricatures in the vein of Lena Hyena, his sf and horror work — jewels like the 'Brain Bats of Venus' — is equally disturbing (or invigorating). God knows what brain bat attached itself to Wolverton’s fertile grey matter, but it certainly wasn’t of this atmosphere." – Joe Alterio, HighLobrow
• List:Castle Waiting Vols. 1 & 2 take two spots on Nancy Pearl's "10 Terrific Summer Reads" list at NPR.org: "The black-and-white drawings are precisely crafted, with small, endearing touches that render each character entirely unique. The dialogue is clever and filled with subtle grace notes of drollness and humor. The set will be especially appealing to readers of all ages who enjoy seeing and reading traditional fairy tale tropes teased and played with, all with a sense of good-humored fun."
• Review: "...Congress of the Animals finds twisted fabulist Woodring at the top of his darkly delightful game: Open the book at random and the odds are very good that your gaze will alight upon something that stings, bites, drips, oozes or squelches. Tentacled plant-beasts threaten the unwary, factories powered by crushed blackbirds produce who-knows-what, slimy amphibians enact bizarre rituals and a tribe of naked, faceless men whom the jacket copy refers to as "blind gut-worshippers" — easily the most potent nightmare fuel Woodring has ever produced — drug passersby for mysterious purposes of their own. You certainly won't want to live inside the covers of Congress of the Animals, but it's a fascinating and thrilling feat of imagination, and one hell of a place to visit." – Glen Weldon, NPR.org
• Review: "This book does something I love. It takes me inside a world I’ve never known.... Shimura’s writing does a good job of exposing the readers to the realities of being transgender. Wandering Son ignited my imagination and got me trying to relate to and understand these characters as deeply as possible.... Shimura has crafted an excellent opening volume.... The quiet pace and subject matter make this series a perfect read for the alternative comics crowd. Fans of shoujo and josei manga will enjoy it too. I’d love for everyone to at least give the first volume of Wandering Son a try. It’s a rare gem of emotional honesty and complexity that rewards those willing to take the risk and move outside their typical reading habits." – Ed Sizemore, Comics Worth Reading
• Review: "Monologues for Calculating the Density of Black Holes by Anders Nilsen... touched a special spot that I strive towards in my reading; it created atmosphere. There’s a weight to the unhinged timeline and nonsensical dialogue. It feels calculated, even as it touches on topics such as 'Godzilla vs. Richard Simmons.' The drawings are simple, yet they effortlessly convey time and feel appropriate for the content. It was a quick read, but one that I’ll be revisiting. Check it out." – Au Yeah!
• Interview:Newsarama's Michael Lorah talks to Wilfred Santiago about the creation of 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente: "A baseball sequence is all about interpretation; there are cold, unchangeable facts. If the batter hits a home run to left field in the second inning, etc., then those are unchangeable facts about that scene. So it’s about the reading of the particulars. I mean, if you are saying sad things while laughing maniacally, it’s different than if you are saying them while sobbing and in tears. Therefore, it’s all about what role that particular game sequence plays in the story as a whole. It’s not a book about baseball, even though there’s baseball in it."
• Interview (Audio):Inkstuds host Robin McConnell rang up Dave McKean (on Skype presumably) for a conversation about his latest book: "Celluloid, fresh out from Fantagraphics, is a remarkable work exploring pornography through a very particular lens. Needless to say, it is fantastic."
"What makes this volume so special," says Blake, "is that meteoric improvement in Ditko’s work as he toils in obscurity for a company that treated their comic books like toilet paper for their more profitable magazine and song books. Such is the irony of one of the great living artists of the 20th century – working with stories churned out for an audience of children, Ditko produced the highest quality material in the industry with no editorial oversight at an amazing pace (all the stories within were produced in 1957 alone)."
• Review: "Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: Race To Death Valley kicks off Fantagraphics’ latest series of vintage newspaper strips... About halfway through the [first story] arc, ...Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse begins to develop the characteristics that would sustain it for decades to come: a fast pace, frequent narrow escapes, and an industrious hero who throws himself fully into every endeavor, in ways that both get him into trouble and help get him out. ...Gottfredson... took the broad idea of a good-natured mouse and sketched in his own attitudes about hard work, courage, and the importance of having reliable friends when the jams get especially sticky." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "[Gilbert] Hernandez’s latest book Love from the Shadows is a confounding hybrid, inserting Love And Rockets’ watermelon-chested, lisping Fritz into a violent dream-novel that combines the fluid reality of Luis Buñuel with the two-fisted crime sagas of Jim Thompson. ...[T]he beauty of comics as a medium is that it invites re-reading; and Hernandez’s mastery makes Love from the Shadows easy to pore back over, savoring how its meaning shifts from page to page." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "There’s fiction, there’s Meta-fiction and then there is Gilbert Hernandez.... Now he returns to his eccentric sideline to translate the wildly experimental independent/exploitation/sexploitation tale Love from the Shadows into a stunning graphic rollercoaster ride of broken families, counter-culture angst, embezzlement, greed madness, obsession, charlatanry, psychics and mysterious aliens in possibly the greatest tribute to scurrilous lowbrow movie maestro Russ Meyer ever seen." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Speaking of confounding comics, Leslie Stein’s bizarre Eye of the Majestic Creature collects the first four issues of Stein’s self-published comic.... Stein riffs on loneliness, relationships, creativity, family, and intoxication via cutely psychedelic art and short vignettes that are heavy on fancy and light on explanation. At times the book comes from so deep inside Stein’s head that it reads almost like notes for a comic, not a finished work. But then Stein pivots into a moment or image of deep emotional resonance and beauty... and the loose narrative style pays off. These four issues do get better as they go, so consider this a promising introduction to a potentially major new talent." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Peter Bagge is back... with Hate Annual #9, the latest in his yearly reports on the life of his slacker-turned-entrepreneur character Buddy Bradley. Usually Bagge fills out the Hate annuals with strips he’s drawn for other publications throughout the year, but #9 is nearly all Buddy, and it’s one of the best Bradley stories in years... The story is wonderfully digressive in the best Bagge tradition, too..." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "An overt attempt to bring back the silly rock-’n’-roll fun of Josie & The Pussycats and Jem & The Holograms, Yeah! follows the adventures of a girl-group that’s wildly popular on other planets, but can’t get any attention on Earth. ...Yeah! is... a pleasure to read, with an anything-goes storytelling style and an infectious affection for pop music, as well as for pop culture about pop music." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...[T]he comics in Approximate Continuum constitute a highly amusing portrait of that mostly under-explored time in a person's life when things become more important and more ridiculous in equal measure and we find ourselves constantly and even quietly adjusting to wholesale changes in life and attitude and orientation that we once had hopes to master. It speaks to how well-observed the book is that you could pick it up sans context of any kind and find much to enjoy. ...Approximate Continuum Comics consistently hits the pleasure points afforded by great cartooning and a wicked sense of humor, and should be fair comfort to anyone that feels they're at a point in their life when they need to give themselves a good talking-to." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Even if you’ve read the first volume [of The Steve Ditko Archives], Unexplored Worlds offers plenty more surprises.... While the 'twists' rarely match up to the initial imagination of any given piece, Ditko’s art is solid throughout. As always, Fantagraphics’ top-notch presentation makes the publisher the go-to stop for comics preservation." – Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Interview:At the official R. Crumb website, Alex Wood quizzes Crumb on various historical and pop-cultural figures, from Obama to Tommy James and the Shondells to his underground comix contemporaries to Mozart: "I love the movie Amedeus about him, but the actual music, nnnaaaah."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch continues serializing Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Gahan Wilson: "...[T]he world for a kid is often very scary. It’s a huge challenge, and it is often scary. I mean, people die, and what the hell is that all about? I explore that sort of thing in Nuts. The stuff that happens to grownups happens to kids, too — these amazing, awful things. And these often terrific things. And they have to somehow wrap themselves around it."
• Feature: The guest contributor to this week's "What Are You Reading?" column at Robot 6 is Dave McKean (who, with his erotic graphic novel Celluloid coming out, weighs in with his thoughts on the erotic work of his sometime-collaborator Alan Moore, Lost Girls)
• Review: "Last year, Fantagraphics reproduced Catalog No. 439 of the DeMoulin Brothers – the most extensive depiction of initiation contraptions and ritual outfits used by Freemasons and other fraternal orders, like the Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, and E. Clampus Vitus. Bearing the title Burlesque Paraphernalia and Side Degree Specialties and Costumes, this wacky book may shed a shred of light into the outer sanctum of these associations – unless, of course, it is actually a hoax disseminated to lead us astray. [...] Even if Enlightenment should, as always, prove ever elusive, the illustrated designs of Edmund DeMoulin and the handiwork of his brothers Ulysses and Erastus, as reproduced in Burlesque Paraphernalia, will still deliver amusing, if sadistic, anthropology. [...] Book lovers... will fall for its hundred and fifty full-page plates of machines of untold mischief. " – Jeffrey Wengrofsky, Coilhouse
• Review/Commentary: "...I end up seeing Ditko’s work arc from earliest 'dependent work' as he calls it, the charming, imaginative comics collected in Unexplored Worlds, the rockets, superintelligent monkeys, green insect aliens seeking earthling wives, paintings that lead to another world, angelic visitors and poetically just twist endings, to his later work created entirely on his own terms and for his own purpose, but less effective as his characters become 'ciphers' and his design, text-heavy." – Carol Borden, The Cultural Gutter
• Commentary:David Chelsea posts his email debate with Kim Thompson re: Joost Swarte's use of perspective. Kim: "Maybe you aren’t seeing the forest for the trees — or the ground below the trees that comprises the forest because you’re looking at it from a horizontal-oblique perspective." Zing!
• Craft: At TCJ.com, Frank Santoro applies his lessons in page proportion and layout to a Tintin page by Hergé
• Profile: At the ABC News website, the AP's Matt Moore talks to Robert Crumb during his recent visit to New York City for his Society of Illustrators exhibit opening: "'It was never intended for that purpose, so it's always odd to see it on a wall, or under glass; it was intended for printing and books. It wasn't made as a wall hanging piece,' Crumb said in an interview with The Associated Press. 'For me, the printed copy is the magic moment. When I see it in print — that was the whole purpose of it.'" (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
• Interview: At Previews, a must-read chat with Gary Groth about our classic strip reprints: "The only criterion is that it’s great cartooning. We wouldn’t waste our time devoting this much time and energy to anything less. Our mission has been to publish the best cartooning — not only in comic strips, but in every 'branch' of the cartooning art — that we can."
• Interview: At Robot 6, Chris Mautner talks to Wilfred Santiago about 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente: "I was trying not to make it … biographies to me have a static feel to them. I was trying to avoid [that] and I feel like cartooning helps you in expressing the story and what you’re trying to convey thtorugh the story. It was difficult too because I wanted it to be cartoony and realistic at the same time. I wanted it to be fun. What’s important was that it was exciting; that it could almost speak. That you could read the book in a very sort of sharp-paced way but you could also take the time and read through it at your leisure."
• Interview: Matthew Baker of Vanderbilt University's Nashville Review has an epic chat with Anders Nilsen: "Really I feel like comics is just the most useful category to drop me into. I don’t feel like I’m wedded to comics as a medium. I draw, and I usually sort of tell stories, but I do make standalone drawings and paintings, and I do make stuff that is probably closer to poetry than comics. I’ve made books before that aren’t really comics — just a series of pictures, or diagrams, or whatever."
• Review: "Stunning and evocative and rendered in a cacophony of swirling miasmic lines, this fearsome modern parable is a fierce interrogation of faith and destiny which asks uncompromising and uncomfortable questions about the price of Grace and the value of belief. [...] Emotive, shocking and utterly compelling, Stigmata is a grotesque and beautiful metaphysical rollercoaster with existential angst and blind faith gripping each other’s philosophical throats and squeezing really hard. No rational reader or mature comics fan can afford to miss this dark shining delight." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "This book beautifully captures the phantasmagoric flow of images that occurs in dreams. Mattotti's art is incredible. There are panels that are so intricate that I wonder how he had the time to draw so many of them. At 32 mostly wordless pages it's a very short book, but the imagery, like the panels of a child throwing a toy at a giant, or the panels showing a huge black bird carrying off a rabbit in a rainstorm, will stay with you long after you finish reading. If you like the intense, emotional, sometimes dreamlike artwork Mattotti did for Stigmata, you will love Chimera." – Jon Anderson, The Beguiling
[Editor/Marketeer's Note: You can get Chimera for half price when you order Stigmata!]