"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)
A light load of Online Commentary & Diversions today:
• Plug: "Okay, I see a lot of books and comics passing my desk every week but ye gods this stood out – pre comic code Steve Ditko. Let me just say that again: STEVE DITKO!! ...Fantagraphics’ Strange Suspense: the Steve Ditko Archives [Vol. 1] goes on sale today, collecting material from the first couple of years of the now legendary comics god’s career; fabulous sci-fi, fatal femmes, lurid horror… And its a lovely looking hardback edition, the sort you give pride of place on your shelves (which is what we normally expect from the folks at Fanta, they know how to give class comics work plenty of love and present it well)." – The Forbidden Planet Interational Blog Log
• Interview: Paul Morton of The New Gay talks with Paul Karasik about chronicling the life and work of Fletcher Hanks: "I didn’t really choose to do this story. This story chose me. And it continues to choose me. So as much as I’d like to shake it, I’m sure something’s going to happen that’s going to pull me back down to it."
• Events: Don't forget, Dame Darcy is in Seattle this weekend — info and much more in her latest blog update
• Review: "Monte Schulz has proven that his father isn’t the only Schulz with considerable storytelling talent. This Side of Jordan is a strong vision of the American Heartland at a time when America was a little less jaded, yet many in the country had already developed a malaise of directionlessness. Schulz manages to capture a moment in history, a piece of humanity in transition. It’s bleak, but funny, and smartly written. It may not have any pictures, but readers of good fiction should appreciate what Schulz has accomplished." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Hans Rickheit’s The Squirrel Machine, published by Fantagraphics Books, is a beautiful 179 page hard cover graphic novel. ... Much is left to mystery in this book. We can let Rickheit’s exquisite drawings, with their ornate detail and patterning, speak for themselves. ... This is for mature readers as well as discriminating ones. And it’s also for those who love a good coming-of-age story. ... Very romantic and strange at the same time, like any good coming-of-age tale. Primarily, this is adult, dark and disturbing work provided to you in healthy doses." – Henry Chamberlain, Newsarama
• Review: "Johnny Ryan draws the bad pictures. Unapologetically and lots of ‘em and I hope to god he never stops. He has consistently put out pure and uncensored strips, cartoons, and books that defy every politically correct bone in your body. Drawings that cock-slap America. His new book is out. It’s called Prison Pit and it kinda’ sorta’ kicks serious ass. ... The story definitely puts the GORE in phantasmagorical as characters twist and mutated into strange new forms while pounding the stuffing out of each other. ... Put plain, in Prison Pit, Ryan creates art out of the steaming piles of human waste that litter our cultural landscape. The bodies and excrement are grist for his mill. He erects mountains of shit and semen, carving the faces of sacred cows in them, and then sets them afire so even if you can’t see the work… you can smell it from miles away." – Jared Gniewek, Graphic NYC
• Review: "[Pim & Francie] isn't a collection of [Al Columbia's] work up till now..., but more a collection of what 'might have been' — it's uncompleted stories and art featuring Columbia's two naif-child characters, forever hurtling into one dangerous situation after another but never reaching any conclusion. It's probably worth noting that a good deal of the pages are torn or pasted back together, the victims, no doubt, of Columbia's perfectionism. It's the sort of thing that will frustrate some, but it does offer an elliptical, sideways path into Columbia's world, which perhaps makes the journey all that more frightening." – Chris Mautner, "Pick of the Week," Robot 6
• Interview: Tim O'Shea talks to Monte Schulz about the latter's novel This Side of Jordan: "Taken all together, no single element was the most critical because I believe everything had to work together, all forms of language, for instance: poetic, lyrical, narrative, dialogue. The way the characters speak in This Side of Jordan was especially important, given that I mix ordinary dialogue with lyrical exposition and both rural and Jazz Age slang."
• History: At Bleeding Cool, Rich Johnston offers up the groundbreaking "Gays in Comics" article by Andy Mangels from Amazing Heroes #143 (June 15, 1988) as a 2-part PDF download, with commentary
• Film: Lilli Carré's animated short Head Garden plays at the San Francisco International Animation Festival this weekend; more info at Lilli's blog
• Theory in action: At Blog Flume, Ken Parille applies an Ivan Brunetti cartooning principle to a 1970s issue of The Avengers
...and Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days by Al Columbia, which critics call "a fractured masterpiece," "stunning," and "messed up," and Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter declares "the book of the week"!
Visit the links above to check out descriptions, previews and reviews, contact your local comickery to confirm availability, and then hie thee thither!
Before the Amazing Spider-Man, before the mysterious Dr. Strange, before the black-and-white world of the Ayn Rand-inspired Mr. A, 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 and 1954), Ditko drew tales of macabre suspense that were not yet hobbled by the imminent Comics Code Authority (adopted in Oct. 1954). 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.
Following up on Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, Blake Bell’s 2008 best-selling critical retrospective of Ditko’s career, Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1 features, 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 Bell’s insightful introduction, providing historical background and speaking to Ditko's influence and his unique craft.
Download an EXCLUSIVE 15-page PDF excerpt (5.9 MB) containing two terrifying tales!