Yesterday's and today's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Sala consistently introduces red-cheeked, innocent characters and then puts them through the meat-grinder, and in The Hidden he plays with mad science. ...Sala’s novel features plenty of 'tell,' because if it’s one thing mad scientists enjoy, it’s expository dialogue. There are gorgeous single-panel pages filled with huge dialogue balloons, and it’s to the author and illustrator’s credit that it’s always a hoot; Sala is a professional when it comes to tongue-in-cheek visuals (the friendly looking characters with spilled intestines) and storytelling.... Its ending is... abrupt..., but it leaves ample room for a welcome continuation. The lushly colored package is vintage Fantagraphics, of course." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon.com)
• Review: "Relaunching in a book-sized format, Comics Journal #301 came out from Fantagraphics this summer, and has already gone through a second printing. The magazine is dense, with over three hundred pages, containing enough essays, interviews, reviews, and art pages to easily fill 2-4 of the old issues.... Where else in comics journalism are you going to find a viewpoint of comics encompassing enough to put so many different realms of the artform under the same microscope and give it all due consideration? The drastic shift in format indicates a willingness of Fantagraphics to take risks with its flagship publication." – Greg Baldino, Bleeding Cool
• Review: "...[T]his gentle, inviting series about two transgendered elementary school students... has truly captured my attention.... Wandering Son feels at times more like a series of character sketches that all connect together than a narrative-driven book, but it’s a structure that makes me that much more intrigued... Takako’s art is beautiful here, delicate line drawings that fit well with her story.... Last but not least, props need to go to Fantagraphics for a great physical design of the book.... This isn’t quite like anything else on the market right now, and I’m thrilled to see Fantagraphics exposing it to a wider audience." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Interview: The normally Love and Rockets-focused Love & Maggie blog steps out of their usual purview to hit up Gary Groth for more information about our forthcoming series Jack Jackson's American History (starting next year with Los Tejanos/Lost Cause) — if you're at all interested in these books, definitely check this out
• Lore: "Before resuming I should say this: Drug taking, by myself and others, really peaks in this chapter. It isn’t something I’m proud of or a thing I endorse. But it is the way it all happened." So begins the ninth installment of Kim Deitch's epic memoir-in-music "Mad About Music: My Life in Records" at TCJ.com
• Review: "After far too long a hiatus the new incarnation of The Comics Journal is available and as inspired as ever. The Journal is the paramount English-language publication dedicated to the Art of graphic narrative, covering comics, cartooning and related fields domestic and global; interviewing creators, disseminating the facts and even advertising the best and most challenging product. They’ve done it competently, passionately and proudly for decades. You won’t always agree with the opinions expressed — editorial or from the many and various insiders and cognoscenti who have been featured — but you’d be an idiot to ignore or dismiss them if you care at all about the industry or the medium.... This is a superb uber-magazine for comics lovers: it won’t ever tell you where and when to buy but it will certainly make you wonder why you do or don’t." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Plug: "...I heartily recommend Dave McKean’s new 'erotic graphic novel' Celluloid. Mixing paint, photography, ink, and charcoal — and eschewing dialogue altogether — McKean creates a comic book version of one of Radley Metzger’s erotic art films, in which lustful impulses lead otherwise civilized people on a dark, surreal journey." – Noel Murray, in a thought-provoking essay on erotica in comics and beyond at The A.V. Club
• List: At his High-Low blog Rob Clough posts his belated Top 50 Books of 2010 list, with Megan Kelso's Artichoke Tales at #1, 4 of our books in the top 5, 5 in the top 10, 8 in the top 20, and 14 overall in the top 50 — it's a long but worthwhile read
• Review: "Calling Congress of the Animals recommended reading is a bit misleading. It’s definitely recommended, but it doesn’t technically involve reading. The entire book doesn’t feature a single word bubble. The only words are on the book jacket. What this is is a story told entirely through pictures — delightful pictures at that.... This was really an entertaining book. It was visually different from anything I’ve ever seen in a comic, the story was unique, and some parts were laugh out loud funny..." – Corey Pung, Panel Discussions (via Americaware)
• Review: "...Skin Deep by Charles Burns... [is a] true masterpiece in which Burns returns to choose the mechanisms and the language of grade-B horror films, crime fiction, pulp, the aesthetics of the 50's and Robert Crumb's comics to make a harsh social criticism.... Stories in which Burns continues to explore the darkest corners of the human condition while keeping us on edge vignette to vignette." – Jesús Jiménez, Radio y Televisión Española (translated from Spanish)
• Review: "...[T]he adventures of a group of twenty-something New York residents, like Friends but with ethnic variation and far more realistic apartments, and, you know, actual problems. The characters of Beg the Question are surrounded by ugliness and idiocy in one of the most complicated cities in the world, yet they are decent human beings who support each other. It’s not supposed to be autobiographical, but you can tell that Fingerman has lived through many of the situations and knows the characters well." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Commentary: "So I just finished reading Fantagraphics’ The Complete Peanuts 1981-1982, and... the vast majority of this book was new to me, having not read previous reprintings of the strips from this period (as opposed to the near-memorization of the reprint books from the late ’70s and earlier). One of the great new features of this particular reprint series, aside from, y’know, the whole completeness of the strips reprints and all, is the index in each volume." – Mike Sterling, Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin
• Plug: "Walt Kelly’s Pogo is one of the greatest comic strips I’ve ever read. It’s simply brilliant; quaint and sweet on the surface but deeper readings reveals layers of very smart political and social satire. And as you can clearly see, Walt Kelly’s artwork is magnificent.... Fantagraphics are presenting the entire strip, including the beautiful full colour Sunday strips for the very first time, in a series of 12 hardcover volumes that reprint approximately 2 years worth of material at a time. I guarantee that if you get Volume 1, you’ll be signing up for the remaining 11." – Richard Cowdry, The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new titles. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators and web-savvy comic shops are saying about them (more to be added as they appear), check out our previews at the links, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
248-page black & white 7.5" x 9.25" softcover • $18.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-449-8
"Yes, I hear people say, Jaime Hernandez, I keep hearing about how great he is and everything, but there are like a million books, how do I know which are the good ones? Here's a tip: try this paperback. It includes, I believe, the contents of Ghost of Hoppers and The Education of Hopey Glass, both of which are stone cold incredible; not sure if it includes 'La Maggie La Loca' or not [Nope – Ed.], but for 19 bucks you are not going to go too wrong. (It's true that you'll be showing up for the Maggie-and-Hopey sequence of stories rather late. You'll pick it up in no time, though.)" – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
"Splurgewise, I’m unsure whether I’ve actually read the stories in the Esperanza collection of Jaime Hernandez’ Love & Rockets stories (Fantagraphics, $18.99) – I tend to lose track of the material between the first L&R run and the new one, for some reason – but if I haven’t, then that, for sure." – Graeme McMillan, Robot 6
"Two of Jaime's most popular Love & Rockets characters find themselves, as so many of us do these days, somewhat older, slightly more settled and still wrestling with personal demons." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
"...of course any Hernandez release deserves a mention, this time out Jaime Hernandez gets the spotlight as Esperanza (Fantagraphics) reprints material after the Penny Century collection." – Dave's Comics
216-page duotone 5.75" x 7.75" softcover • $19.99 ISBN: 978-1-56097-959-3
"...[I]f it’s softcore smut you’re looking for, there’s the Pin-Up Art of Humorama, which features gag cartoons by folks like Dave Berg and Brad 'Marmaduke' Anderson about buxom secretaries being chased around their desks by portly, lustful employers and whatnot." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
128-page full-color 9.5" x 13" softcover • $28.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-399-6
"This is the kind of book that people are going to be saying 'oh cool!' about when they discover it on your bookshelf a couple of decades from now: a collection of pre-1940 ads (compiled by Rick Marschall and Warren Bernard) that incorporated cartoons, and particularly cartoons by significant cartoonists. Did you know that Noel Sickles and Milton Caniff collaborated on a series of 'Mr. Coffee-Nerves' strips advertising Postum? Or that Dr. Seuss drew ads for insecticide?" – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
"...[M]y love of all things retro is going to lead me to Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising from Fantagraphics..." – Brigid Alverson, Robot 6
"An informative historical look at the cartoonists and characters that have been used, and how they've been used, for advertising and the products they advertised." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
640-page black & white/color 6.75" x 8.5" softcover • $30.00 ISBN: 978-1-60699-291-3
"I’ve already got a copy, but let me recommend plunking down your entire $30 on the 301st issue of The Comics Journal. This brick of a … magazine? book? journal? features some great essays and interviews, most notably Tim Kreider’s lengthy analysis of Cerebus, and an extensive roundtable on R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis, including a thoughtful interview with Crumb hisself." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"After a year of publishing material on their website, The Comics Journal #301 (Fantagraphics) weighs in at an enormous 600+ pages with discussions of Robert Crumb's Book of Genesis, Jim Woodring's sketches, Al Jaffee and Michael Kupperman in dialogue and you're barely half way through." – Dave's Comics
"CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: Well, it’s been a few weeks now since it hit some East Coast stores, but Diamond is now announcing the imminent and full arrival of the very essence of the Conflict of Interest Reservoir, The Comics Journal #301, now at 640 pages and featuring chats with Robert Crumb and Joe Sacco, Al Jaffee & Michael Kupperman in conversation, perspectives on Cerebus and The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb, and multifarious species of collegiate smart-arsery AS YOU LIKE IT; $30.00. Also be on the lookout for Esperanza, another thick Love and Rockets collection taking the Jaime material up to the start of the present (vol. 3) series; $18.99. Alex Chun has his latest girlie cartooning showcase, The Pin-Up Art of Humorama, promising spicy drawings by Marmaduke creator Brad Anderson, among other suspects; $19.99. And Rick Marschall & Warren Bernard present Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising 1870s-1940s, archiving Mr. Coffee Nerves and other early comics-based adverts for generations to come; $28.99."
• Review: "...[T]he [Comics] Journal returns in a new bricklike bookshelf format (seriously, this thing has like 600 pages!), anchored by a massive Robert Crumb interview, and a whole freakin’ lot of really strong criticism. I most especially liked the Cerebus retrospective by Tim Krieder.... Great great great read!" – Brian Hibbs, The Savage Critics
• Review: "The artists that create worlds that start with the alphabet — these are the ones who have been getting in my head lately, motivating me to sort through my response to their art and settle my own ideas on alphabets. Mascots by Ray Fenwick is a great place to start. The book announces itself boldly — it is small, but its hot pink cloth cover is difficult to ignore. The title breaks across a few lines, so it is less a word than a jumble of letters — a mascot for the word 'Mascot,' so to speak. The book is appropriately titled: from the very beginning, everything announces itself as something else – forms are always changing, names are invented 'mercifully' (to use one of the narrators’ parlance) for things that are unnamable, faces that smile when the book is held in one direction are revealed as faces that frown when the book is flipped. The book conveys a sense of being stuck just outside of where everything makes sense and fits together." – Jordan Hurder, Chance Press
• Opinion: I don't think Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle knew about our upcoming series of Pogo collections when he wrote his reminiscences about the strip — "Pogo had it all: love, fear, friendship, ambivalence, pails of water, morality, plus a love of high-flown language and, not incidentally, wonderful draftsmanship" — and bemoaned the scarcity and high prices of past collections (via The Daily Cartoonist)
• List: To the surprise of few, The Hooded Utilitarian's International Best Comics Poll tops out with Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts in the #1 spot. HU editor Noah Berlatsky writes, "If you like charming, Peanuts is charming, and if you like dark, it’s dark, but it isn’t just charming, or just dark, or even just charming and dark. There are countless ways to like Peanuts, which is no doubt why it — deservedly, inevitably — tops this poll."
• Review: "The squeaky-voiced character from the animated shorts was especially bold in his daily newspaper comic strip [Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse]. Its memorable continuities were largely the responsibility of one man: Floyd Gottfredson. ...Gottfredson and his collaborators crafted two-fisted tales that remain entertaining, thrilling and funny up to 80 years on.... This inaugural issue in a planned Gottfredson library is a handsome hardback, prepared with the same care as Fantagraphics's archive of Charles Schulz's Peanuts." – Owen Heittman, The Australian
• Review: "Sibyl-Anne vs. Ratticus is a wonderful time and read!... The writing and art are grade A for this, and I cannot recommend it enough. It does have a feeling much like Peyo’s Smurfs, but I prefer Macherot’s Sibyl-Anne over it. His story telling is a bit more better put together, and action scenes are more exciting (if one has to compare to something, that is). Plus Sibyl-Anne is just cute.... Sibyl-Anne vs. Ratticus has something every comic lover can enjoy." – Drew McCabe, ComicAttack.net
• Review: "Knowing me, if I wait until I’ve finished all 624 pages of [The Comics Journal #301], I’ll never get around to reviewing it, so I figured I’d just do it in parts. After a solid Introduction by Editor-in-Chief Gary Groth, in which he extols Crumb’s virtues as a cartoonist, and explains the reason Genesis deserved TCJ’s lengthiest critical symposium ever (the reason is that Groth thinks the book deserves it), we get a long and surprisingly warm and easygoing chat between Groth and Crumb. Neither has ever come off this…normal." – Christopher Allen, Trouble with Comics
• 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
The Comics Journal has been, for almost 35 years, the standard bearer of critical inquiry, discrimination, debate, and serious discussion of comics as art, and the object of love and devotion among the comics cognescenti — and hate and scorn among the philistines, natch. We published our 300th issue in late 2009 and spent the ensuing year-plus re- conceptualizing the institution as an annual book-length “magazine” — over 600 pages long, chock full of the kinds of criticism, interviews, commentary, and history that has made it the most award-winning and critically lauded magazine in the history of comics.
This volume features a focus on R. Crumb’s most commercially successful project of his career, his comics adaptation of Genesis, including the most extensive interview he’s given on the subject as well as a long critical roundtable among six comics critics reviewing the book and debating each other over its merits; plus:
• An interview with Joe Sacco about his recent journalistic masterpiece, Footnotes in Gaza;
• A peek into the private sketchbooks of (and accompanying interviews with) Jim Woodring, Tim Hensley, and the novelist Stephen Dixon;
• A conversation between Mad Fold-Out creator Al Jaffee and Thrizzle auteur Michael Kupperman;
• A complete full-color reprinting of the 1950s "Gerald McBoing Boing" comic;
• The first significant biographical essay charting the turn-of-the-century cartoonist and illustrator John T. McCutcheon;
• A critical re-assessment of Dave Sim's Cerebus by Tim Kreider
and essays and reviews by R. Fiore, R.C. Harvey, Chris Lanier, Rob Clough, and others.
Over 600 pages long, this is a year's worth of The Comics Journal rolled into one extraordinary objet d'art. As a special treat, this volume is guest designed by internationally respected Criterion art director Eric Skillman. The Comics Journal #301 is no mere magazine but a gigantic compendium covering comics past and present that will shock and delight every truly curious comics reader.
Exclusive Savings: One issue not enough? Get on board with a money-saving 3-issue subscription, which also gets you access to the online TCJ back-issue archives at TCJ.com!
• Review: "Expectations are foiled at every turn [in Congress of the Animals] precisely because Woodring is digging deep into the rich soil of his own imagination; he's pulling these stories up from the same place that myths and legends come from, and in that way, his books have the weird weight and unmistakable freshness of myth. These are stories that haven't been told before, but they come from the place where stories are born, so they're instantly recognizable to everyone. And because they live in the prelinguistic language of cartoons, almost anyone on the planet can look at a page and immediately understand what is happening." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Plug: Further, Jim Woodring's appearance at Elliott Bay Book Company tonight is today's "The Stranger Suggests," Paul Constant saying "Every one of Woodring's comics is an epic poem, a psychedelic novel, and a deeply personal memoir. If you can't identify with his protagonist, the innocent-but-fickle Frank, there's something wrong with you."
• Review: "In Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Vol. 1, part of an ambitious, multi-volume reprint project from Fantagraphics, 21st century readers are reintroduced to this largely forgotten Mickey and his unfortunately largely forgotten cartoonist. It’s like meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time — and learning the little guy is actually a total badass. ★★★★ [out of 5]" – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Las Vegas Weekly
• Review: "Mordantly hilarious, this superbly cynical fable [Isle of 100,000 Graves] rattles along in captivating fashion: a perfect romp for older kids and a huge treat for fans looking for something a little bit different. Jason’s work always jumps directly into the reader’s brain and heart, using his beastly repertory company to gently pose eternal questions about basic human needs in a soft but relentless quest for answers. That you don’t ever notice the deep stuff because of the clever gags and safe, familiar 'funny-animal' characters should indicate just how good a cartoonist he is. His collaboration here with the sly and sardonic Vehlmann has produced a genuine classic that we’ll all be talking about for years to come." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Plug: "...[W]hile it seems like an oddball idea to put an individual spin on masterworks like Poe's, [The Raven] actually looks gorgeous, the artwork fantastic and macabre..." – Sydney Brownstone, The L Magazine
• Plug: "Lou Reed has been quite busy these days. When he's not collaborating with Metallica on a record, he's spending time putting together a graphic novel based around his 'spiritual forefather' Edgar Allen Poe, called, appropriately, The Raven. ...Reed's Poe-esque lyrics have been collected into a book and illustrated with paintings by New Yorker cartoonist Lorenzo Mattotti. And yes, the book looks just as creepy as you'd expect." – Jamie Feldmar, Gothamist
• Interview (Audio):Inkstuds host Robin McConnell's latest guest: "Wilfred Santiago’s comic biography of Roberto Clemente  is a great look at a specific time in not only baseball, but also touching on mid century american racial and political tones. Wilfred skillfully tackles a range of issues in this great collection. It was a delight to discuss this great book with him."
• Lore:Kim Deitch's "Mad About Music: My Life in Records" column continues over at TCJ.com, with the new third installment focusing on television