What happens when you have to miss a couple of days of the comics internet is that it takes you almost the whole rest of the week to get fully caught up on Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List:Library Journal's Martha Cornog gives a nice shout-out to Carl Barks and recommends Oil and Water by Steve Duin & Shannon Wheeler as one of "30 Graphic Novels for Earth Day 2012": "Wheeler’s atmospheric, ink-washed greys capture eccentric residents from crabbers to a pelican-rescue team, and Duin’s script catches the ironic resiliency of people exploited by the very industry that feeds them.... Valuable for high schoolers and adults as a glimpse into the crisis, and for general sensitization to environmental issues."
• Review: "When I brought Pogo home from the bookstore on a Sunday afternoon, I called my daughters over, and we lay on the floor in the living room and read it together. I read it aloud, because half of the fun of Pogo is hearing the fantastic dialogue penned by Kelly, and my daughters loved it. I’m sure there were things that went over their heads — jokes that rely on experiences they haven’t had, references to past events, wordplay that’s a little too sophisticated. But the beauty of the strip is that does work on so many levels. There’s slapstick humor, cute little talking animals, and keen observations on the human condition — the last made easier to swallow perhaps because the characters aren’t people, as human as they may be." – Jonathan Liu, Wired – GeekDad
• Review: "[Jason] populates his tales with brightly clad cats and dogs and ducks, but their misbehavior is unmistakably human.... [Athos in America] is... consummately worth reading for its three gems: the lovely title story, the self-portrait 'A Cat From Heaven' and the wonderful 'Tom Waits on the Moon,' in which Jason carefully maps the crossed paths of four lonely people." – Sam Thielman, Newsday
• Review: "Despair threatens to overwhelm the creator’s usual tales of longing [in Athos in America]. In 'A Cat From Heaven,' his characteristic unrequited love story gives way to a somewhat depressing look at a self-absorbed cartoonist named Jason’s bitter relationship. Mercifully, the rest of the collection is a little more playful, from a couple noir parodies to the highlight, 'Tom Waits on the Moon,' in which four solipsistic stories converge in a tragic act." – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle
• Review: "The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s MAD-Inspired Satirical Comics is a wonderful book collecting the best stories of the beginnings of a favorite comic book genre — and I can’t emphasize this enough — it’s put together by people who know what they’re doing. Plus, it’s designed to fit on your bookshelf right next to your MAD Archives volumes. I can’t believe that you haven’t already picked this up! Are you unsane?!?" – K.C. Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
• Review: "If [Wandering Son] Vol. 1 was a masterclass in people not wanting to accept the status quo within their own minds, Vol. 2 shows the uncertainty of the waiting world. The way that Nitori and Takatsuki fumble forward with no plan is painful and endearing. They know the two of them are better together but there’s the problem of dealing with classmates, family and teachers. It’s not easy and well done to Takako for not short-circuiting the process. It’s not easy writing characters in distress but it’s wonderful to read it. If you can recognise the character’s pain and sympathise despite your differences, it proves you’re human and so is the author.... So much of what we read is a kind of literary false economy. We put in so much and get so little out of it. Wandering Son asks so little of you and you get so much out of it.... It is a wonderful, sweet, heartbreaking window into being different, young, unsure, afraid and human." – Eeeper's Choice
• Review: "[The Man Who Grew His Beard]’s a big batch of critic-friendly comic strips, comics which resemble curios excavated from some none-too-defined European past and more often than not have all the daring shallow-space visual syntax of a Garfield strip. They’re less stories than contraptions that wear their artifice and structure on their sleeve, like those medieval homunculi which transparently show their cogs and mechanisms while making their programmed movements." – Rich Baez, It's Like When a Cowboy Becomes a Butterfly
• Review: "Action! Mystery! Thrills!... beautifully resurrects all the Golden Age favorites, from superheroes to killer robots to cowboys and occult Nazis. This time capsule collection of cover art spans from 1933-45... An index in the back gives the fascinating stories behind the covers, while the full-page, color reproductions reveal them for what they are: works of art." – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle
• Review: "Primarily known for his ghoulish comic strips in Playboy and The New Yorker, Gahan Wilson showed his tender side (kind of) with Nuts. Originally a series of one-page vignettes running in National Lampoon, Nuts is presented here in its entirety as a classic warts-and-all reminiscence of childhood, from sick days to family gatherings, the joys of candy to the terrors of the dark basement." – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle
• Review: "R. Crumb hit it big in the ‘60s alternative Comix scene with his creation of Fritz the Cat (originally conceived as an adolescent). The feline protagonist remained Crumb’s avatar for lambasting American culture until a lackluster film adaptation prompted some divine retribution from his creator. The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat collects all of Fritz’s essential stories." – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle
• Awards:GalleyCat reports that Author Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, contributor to Significant Objects, has won the $1,000 Sidney Prize, which rewards "the author of the best new American story," and has a link to an excerpt from the winning story
• Opinions:Robert Crumb's got 'em! In the third installment of the "Crumb On Others" series, he lets you know exactly what he thinks of a bunch of prominent personalities, from Hitler to Ghandi (in whose homeland Crumb can be seen above) and from Kurtzman to Van Gogh
• Interview: When The Comics Journal posted the Q&A with Bill Griffith conducted by Gary Panter, I called it the must-read of the day, and it still stands as your must-read of the week: "I’ve only taken LSD twice in my life. Once on the beach in Martha’s Vineyard in 1967, which was pleasant, but not ego-shattering or anything. And once in New York after I’d started doing comics. All I remember about the second time was, I got hemorrhoids."
• Interview: Who better to talk to Matthias Wivel, editor of our Scandinavian comics anthology Kolor Klimax, than Steffen Maarup, editor of our Danish comics anthology From Wonderland with Love? A taste: "Putting together a good anthology is similar to making a good mixtape. Whatever the individual merits of a piece, it won’t do to include it if it doesn’t somehow work for the anthology as a whole. There has to be a consistent idea or tone to the book, which doesn’t mean that there can’t be dissonance — there’s some of that in Kolor Klimax, and I think for the better — but the individual parts still have to generate something greater than their sum. It’s incredibly difficult to achieve, but also a lot of fun." Read more at The Metabunker
You might not think our two latest preview-copy arrivals have much in common (aside from striking artwork and the fact that both have covers with dwellings in the background and trees in the middle ground), but you'd be wrong. They both feature mysterious, ethereal, supernatural characters observing the actions and fates of mankind! Pretty uncanny, no?
Interiorae by Gabriella Giandelli collects her beautiful and haunting 4-issue "Ignatz" comic series with the art now presented in its original full color. We're hustling this one out to premiere at TCAF in May, where Gabriella is a special guest! It should be in stores shortly thereafter.
And here's Mysterious Traveler: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 3, the latest tome in editor Blake Bell's comprehensive series compiling Ditko's groundbreaking early work. We're not blowing smoke when we say this is some of the best work of his career. This should be hitting stores right around the same time as Interiorae.
Want to see more? We have sneak peek excerpts of both these books at their respective pages at the links above. We're trying out a new scrolling embedded preview in addition to the traditional PDF download for more instant gratification, so check it out. And of course we'll have more photos and video to come. (In fact, I owe you a lot of those previews.) Stay tuned!
• List: On the Inkstuds radio programme's "Best of 2011 with the Cartoonists" episode, Aaron Costain, Dustin Harbin and John Martz discuss their favorite comics of 2011 with host Robin McConnell, including:
• Review: "You know who’s great? Lewis Trondheim, the incredibly prolific French cartoonist. Evidence comes in... Approximate Continuum Comics, an English translation of a six-part series Trondheim published in the 1990s concerning his struggles in the comics industry, desire for success and acclaim and just general angst, anxiety and feelings of self-doubt. It sounds all terribly self-involved to the point of tedium, but Trondheim is simply too skilled a storyteller to allow his own ego to override the quality of his work. Approximate is filled with wonderful visual inventions, like an early daydream about dealing with obnoxious passangers on the subway. More to the point, Trondheim’s self-effacing sense of humor is so charming and revealing that the book never becomes too solipsistic or insufferable." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review (Audio):Extra Sequential Podcast hosts Kris Bather and Mladen Luketin examine Young Romance: "Legendary creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby effectively created the romance comics genre which was surprisingly dominant during the 1940s and 50s. We look at Fantagraphics’ entertaining new collection of some of their work."
• Review: "Paul Nelson's life narrative is too good and too tragic.... The painful thing about reading this book [Everything Is an Afterthought], beautifully written and edited by Kevin Avery, is a lot of people are going to identify with Nelson's love for culture and what it means to him/us/them.... A very sad book. But the interviews with his fellow critics and friends (most love him to bits) [are] quite moving and a tribute to those who write to expose how 'their' feelings are attached to the shine or the mirror-like image of pop culture." – Book Soup Blog
The new Diamond Previews catalog came out recently and in it you'll find our usual 2-page spread (download the PDF) with our releases scheduled to arrive in your local comic shop in January 2012 (give or take — some release dates may have changed since the issue went to press). We're pleased to offer additional and updated information about these upcoming releases here on our website, to help shops and customers alike make more informed ordering decisions.
• 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)."