• List:FEARnet names Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1 one of the Top 9 Comic Books and Graphic Novels of '09: "Shunning the spotlight of fans and the press, the artist has chosen instead to let his books speak for themselves. They continue to speak loudly, and with a weird grace lacking in much of his contemporaries' work."
• List/Review: "Druggy noir vividly told, [The] Red Monkey [Double Happiness Book] is like watching Jim Rockford take a monster bong-hit before getting bashed in the jaw by some muscle of a rich guy in a bar bathroom. 'The Leaking Cello Case' and 'John Wesley Harding' are both contenders for short graphic fiction of the year, with pellucid plotting distorted by strange times and scary surprises. The artwork is like the more story-based finely crafted alternative comics of the 90s, and the sense of distorted place and identity as creative as fiction by Thomas Pynchon. If that seems lofty, start here and wait for Daly to one day unveil his Gravity's Rainbow." – Chris Estey, Three Imaginary Girls "Great Reads of 2009"
• Review: "Thank you, Fantagraphics, for compiling 15 years of the Love and Rockets comic series into 700 pages of punk rock, heartbreak, and self-discovery. Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories presents Jaime Hernandez's indie masterpiece in the entirety of its run between 1981 to 1996... a serious contender for the American comic canon." - Aysha Pamukcu, Plasma Pool
• Review: "OK, first, my initial impression of cartoonist Hans Rickheit’s new book The Squirrel Machine was one of amazement (a word I don’t bandy about indulgently) and bafflement. I am clear I am not grasping something — not an unpleasant feeling in this circumstance. ... As usual for Fanatagraphics, this book is well-designed and well-printed. Let me know if you figure out what it’s about, though not knowing made it no less fun for me." – Robert Birnbaum, The Morning News
• Interview: Alice Parker of Comics Alliance gets a whole lot of info out of Dash Shaw: "As for me, I like a lot of different things. I'm not a discriminating reader of comics, which is a problem, I think. I can read just about any comic, but I definitely wouldn't read any all-word book."
• Interview: And in your second Dash Shaw interview of the day, with Tim Needles of Short and Sweet NYC, some advice for aspiring artists: "The other thing is it’s probably going to be touch and go forever and you are going to have to do an absurd amount of work before you get a penny for it and even when you get that penny, it’s probably just going to be a penny. On the other hand it is really awesome to draw all the time and devote your life to it."
• List: Matthew Price of The Oklahoman gives Ganges #3 the 9th position on his 10 Best Periodical Comic Books of 2009: "Kevin Huizenga continues to be one of comics' brightest indie creators... Huizenga uses his talents to immerse the reader inside Ganges' head."
• List/reviews/analysis: On the Inkstuds radio program, a roundtable of prominent critics (Sean T. Collins, Tim Hodler, & Chris Mautner) join host Robin McConnell for a discussion of 2009's standout books, including our two "You" books, You Are There by Tardi & Forest and You'll Never Know, Book 1 by C. Tyler
• Review: "What's better than a new story by Jason? Why, several in one volume, of course! ...[T]he more of Jason's weird energy and quirky, poignant storytelling that I can consume at one time, the better. ... It's kind of a mystery how well he's able to do it, crafting easy-to-follow stories in such a minimalist style, but luckily, they're incredibly enjoyable, so one can easily get lost in them, forgetting questions of craft and technique because those aspects become all but invisible. ... [Low Moon] is another great example of the strange alchemy that Jason has mastered, drawing readers in to compelling tales of people caught up in oddly familiar situations, even when they're dealing with something that's off-kilter from reality as we know it. That's the Jason touch, and long may it continue to grace our pages." – Matthew J. Brady
• Plug: In Richard Metzger's profile of Steve Ditko for Dangerous Minds, he says "I may be a little late to the game on this one, but I recently got a copy of Blake Bell’s Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, a coffeetable book published by Fantagraphics last year and it is a wonderful and fascinating look at Ditko’s life and work. Kudos to Bell for putting together such a volume which was clearly a labor of love and unique erudition."
• List: On her Pop Candy blog, USA Today's Whitney Matheson gives The Brinkley Girls the #10 spot on her Top 10 comics/graphic novels of 2009, saying "this beautiful book introduced me to a new heroine: Nell Brinkley, an early 20th century newspaper cartoonist. Her drawings of flappers and glamour gals are sexy, strong and ahead of their time. I can't believe I hadn't seen her work before, but I'm so thrilled to know it now." Matheson also lavishes praise on Lilli Carré, who "continued making must-see work" and lands at #69 on Matheson's Top 100 People list, and whose book from Little Otsu lands at the #2 spot on the comics Top 10.
• Review: "The Wolverton Bible... is -- no pun intended -- a revelation. Though his serious work is a bit stiffer and more restrained than the Wolverton art you might be used to, it's more powerful. ... What sets [the drawings in] The Wolveton Bible apart from Crumb's Genesis... is that they come from a true believer. ...Wolverton's drawings have an intensity and sincerity that reveal something connecting him to those stories in a way Crumb just can't duplicate." – Will Pfeifer, "Books of the Year"
• Review: "...[Supermen! is] magical, memorable [and] just plain wonky... The stories range from action-packed to barely-sensible, but they all have a crazed energy you just can't fake. ... They read like the sort of stories imaginative kids would think up -- which might be why they appealed so much to kids in the first place." – Will Pfeifer, "Books of the Year"
• Review:The Hooded Utilitarian's critical roundtable on Ghost World continues with Richard Cook: "The most appealing aspect of Ghost World was the main characters, Enid and Rebecca. And much of their appeal is due to how effectively Daniel Clowes panders to a specific demographic that I belong to: geeks."
• Plug:The Beat's Heidi MacDonald, picking up on Tony Millionaire's Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Birdsneak peek, comments "In all the talk about comics for kids recently, we’re probably very bad for not mentioning Millionaire’s non-child-averse work more prominently. His work is not for the faint-hearted, but children generally prefer tales that are not faint-hearted." Right on.
• Plug: "Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box... is a fetishized art object/coffee table-style compendium of great VHS jackets, ranging from the campy to the sleazy to the so-bad-it's-good. Highly recommended as a gift idea for the B-movie lover on your holiday shopping list." – Audrey Hendrickson, The SunBreak
• Interview:Walrus Comix, who say "Not only is [The Pain — When Will It End?] the funniest comic strip ever, but, well, that’s it: it’s the funniest comic strip ever," talk to the strip's creator, Tim Kreider, who says, among many things, "I don’t know why you’d want to be a cartoonist if you didn’t enjoy drawing funny, cool things. If I had to draw an entire graphic novel of people sitting around talking I think I’d hang myself." (Via Journalista)
• Things to buy: Folks in Portland this weekend can purchase handmade arts-n-crafts from Andrice Arp and a bunch of other Portland artists at the Creative Creatures Bazaar at Cosmic Monkey Comics, reports Andrice on her blog
The under-construction tarp wasn’t even off and The Comics Journal’s new website started sending ripples through the blogosphere. It’s still growing with new features being added almost daily, but check out the site’s hard launch today, Monday Dec. 14, and experience what everybody’s talking about. See top-tier critics R. Fiore and R. C. Harvey duke it out over 9 Chickweed Lane; Anne Ishii and Roland Kelts on the industry and aesthetics of manga; blogging by Shaenon Garrity; reviews of The Wolverton Bible and Junko Mizuno’s latest; a critical dissection of Gilbert Hernandez’s erotic Birdland; and essays and columns by Jeet Heer, Kim Deitch, Donald Phelps. AND: Noah Berlatsky’s Hooded Utilitarian. Jared Gardner’s GutterGeek. News by Eric Millikin. And yes, Virginia, Kenneth Smith blogs!
“If the new TCJ means that we get R. Fiore around more often, it's going to be hard not to enjoy the new TCJ.” – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• List:Details magazine names Ghost World #10 on The 25 Greatest Gen X Books of All Time: "This caustically funny duo-tone tale follows the iconic cat-eyed adolescent Enid Coleslaw in her quest to find meaning, or at least cruel humor, in an age where everything's disposable."
• Review: "Strange Suspense collects dozens of Ditko stories from the 1950’s... Almost a decade before Ditko moved to Marvel, these stories bear his unmistakable style. His fine line work and flair for the abstract that would serve him so well on Doctor Strange particularly, is on full display. ... If you only know Ditko for his work at Marvel or later at DC, here is the chance to explore Early Ditko, unconstrained by editors or the Comics Code. While all of this work is marvelous, clearly Ditko is best at home in horror where he could let his imagination run wild, creating monsters and demons and the things that go bump in the night. Rediscover Ditko today!" – Tim Janson, Newsarama
• Review: "Brian Kane, author of the [Definitive Prince Valiant] Companion and surely the world’s foremost authority on the strip and its creator, Hal Foster, has once again done a herculean amount of work, and Fantagraphics has once again clothed that work in a sturdy, pretty volume. Prince Valiant hasn’t been treated this well since the ersatz King of England sang his praises. Those unfamiliar with the character – a young man who finds adventure, fame, and even love at the court of the legendary King Arthur – will find here all the background information they could ever want... But even long-time Prince Valiant fans will find plenty to fascinate them in this volume." – Khalid Ponte, Open Letters
• Review: "Delphine is a morbid interpretation of the symbology of fairy tales resounding with echoes of unrequited love and abandonment. This is perhaps Sala’s darkest and most intricate story ever – impressive in its nuance and ever shifting emotions. One can only hope that it is not ignored." – Ng Suat Tong, The Comics Journal
• Interview: From TCJ.com: "Every weekday from now until December 25, we’ll be posting a conversation between cartoonists from The Comics Journal #300, complete and online! In today’s installment, it’s a chat between L’Association publisher Jean-Christophe Menu and Kramers Ergot publisher Sammy Harkham."
• 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)
As Wednesday warriors are likely aware, New Comics Day is on Thursday this week due to the U.S. holiday last week. Two highly anticipated Fantagraphics publications are scheduled to hit comic shops:
Popeye Vol. 4: "Plunder Island" by E.C. Segar — we already quoted the critics calling this one "awesome" and "fantastic" and "practically seaworthy" and "the crown jewel in the Popeye crown" and "E.C. Segar's finest hour" and saying "If you only buy one volume in the series, blah blah blah"... check out our previews at the link above to sample the greatness.
The Comics Journal #300 — the last one for a while before we re-launch the bigger, badder version, and it's a doozy, with our most powerful lineup of artists in conversation ever, extra-fat, extra-good. Take a virtual browse at the link above. Sure to be a good conversation starter with your local shop proprietor when you go to pick it up, if they're worth their salt.
• Review: "[Pim & Francie]'s spine calls its contents 'artifacts and bone fragments,' as if they're what's left for a forensic scientist to identify after a brutal murderer has had his way with them; Columbia obsessively returns to images of 'bloody bloody killers.' ... Many of the pieces are just one or two drawings, as if they've been reduced to the moment when an idyllic piece of entertainment goes hideously awry. But they're also showcases for Columbia's self-frustrating mastery: his absolute command of the idiom of lush, old-fashioned cartooning, and the unshakable eeriness of his visions of horror." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "With [Pim & Francie], Al Columbia has created not only one of the more unsettling works of horror in the medium of comics, but it also happens to be one of the greatest myth-making objects... Whether Columbia planned more complete stories for any of the efforts collected here is an interesting question, but for my money he has instead come up with dozens of nightmarish scenarios that have a greater cumulative effect by skipping set-ups or endings. The ending, one suspects, is always going to be a variation of horrific death and dismemberment." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy