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
A spectacular anniversary issue featuring intergenerational dialogues between the cream of the cartooning biz: Alt wiz Kevin Huizenga and reigning Maus king Art Spiegelman; indy comics publisher/cartoonist/musician Zak Sally and Love and Rockets co-creator Jaime Hernandez; Bottomless Belly Button auteur Dash Shaw and Asterios Polyp elder auteur David Mazzucchelli; inflammatory muckraker Ted Rall and editorial cartoonist Matt Bors; super-popular Zits! cartoonist Jim Borgman and newly syndicated Keith “Knight Life” Knight; Martin Luther King chronicler Ho Che Anderson and American Flagg! creator Howard Chaykin; cartoonist/Kramer's Ergot helmer Sammy Harkham and Eurocomics great/L'Association co-founder Jean-Christophe Menu; superhero neo-mythologizer Frank Quitely and Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons; award-winning Fun Home cartoonist Alison Bechdel and Slow Storm wunderkind Danica Novgorodoff; mainstream writing powerhouses Denny O'Neil and Matt Fraction; and Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai and cartoonist/educator Chris Schweizer. Plus reviews of Acme Novelty Library #19 and Asterios Polyp, the usual columns and features, and Noah Van Sciver penetrates the Fantagraphics ivory tower for a hilarious cartoon interview with TCJ honcho Gary Groth.
Now available for preview and pre-order: the momentous 300th isssue of The Comics Journal, our biggest issue ever, with an unprecedented collection of "intergenerational dialogues" between some of the best and brightest of the comics and cartooning world. It's a lineup that truly must be seen to be believed — which is why we're showing you right here, with a teaser of each and every conversation! View a photo & video slideshow preview of the book embedded below. Click here if it is not visible, and/or to view it larger in a new window (recommended so you can read them). This issue is scheduled to be in stock and ready to ship sometime later this month and in stores approximately 4 weeks after that (subject to change).
And here's an extra bonus: better late than never, a preview slideshow of the current issue of the Journal, #299 (with Bob Levin's incredible history of The Someday Funnies):
Your Online Commentary & Diversions-style goodies for today:
• Review: "...[F]or fans of off-beat crime..., I give you Jacques Tardi’s no-shit brilliant adaptation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s West Coast Blues. ... [W]hat starts out as something straight out of a Hitchcock classic like North by Northwest soon escalates into something more savage, more profound, and utterly wonderful... It succeeds brilliantly in good old-fashioned crime thrills, for sure. The violence is brutal, the story exciting and surprising, and the characters are brilliantly rendered. But then there’s that extra little layer, those subtle themes, those strange details, the lyrical narration passages — let’s just stop and cut to the fucking chase: you should just pick this shit up and be floored. This is about as good as comics get, dear readers." – BSCreview
• Review: "The rape of the innocent. The callousness of the machine. The girth of the profiteers. The threat of the bomb. The hollowness of the victories. [Craig] Yoe has collected more than 220 of those anti-war cartoons in [The Great Anti-War Cartoons,] a book of indelible images that remind us those confrontations aren't what they used to be." – Steve Duin, The Oregonian
• Plug: "[Zak] Sally's one of those artists who can convey a sense of dread or horror out of seeming thin air, and he's really been on the periphery for far too long now. Hopefully [Like a Dog] will thrust him into the limelight." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Interview: At Marvel.com, Sean T. Collins talks to Paul Hornschemeier about his Strange Tales contribution: "I think this story is far more cerebral than the typical mainstream comics, for better or worse. But it will be brightly colored, so hopefully that will get everyone though the awful philosophical ranting I'm about to unleash. Get ready for more shots from my boredom gun." (Paul offers a couple of corrections at his blog)
• Interview: Lauren McKinley of [^]LAND talks to Fantagraphics art director Jacob Covey: "I'd say my style is heavily influenced by where I first learned how to design — making photocopied black and white flyers for rock shows. I feel like that, far more than anything else, taught me most of what I've learned about how to make type and image work."
• Analysis: More commentary on the future of The Comics Journal, this time from CBR's Augie De Blieck Jr.
• Review: "Reproducing unfinished roughs, penciled-in and scribbled-out dialogue, half-inked panels, torn-up and taped-together pages, even cropping what look like finished comics so that you can't see the whole thing, Columbia and his partners in the production of this book, Paul Baresh and Adam Grano, have produced a fractured masterpiece, a glimpse of the forbidden, an objet d'art noir. ... The horror of Columbia's sickly-cute Pim & Francie vignettes--a zombie story, a serial-killer story, a witch-in-the-woods story, a haunted-forest story, a trio of chase sequences--is extraordinarily effective. ... [T]hese scary stories and disturbing images are all so gorgeously awful that they appear to have corrupted the book itself... — an inherently horrific object. Bravo." – Sean T. Collins
• Review: "...[I]n these pages [of The Troublemakers] lies a challenging, meticulously crafted story of grifters in the middle of a con. Not surprisingly, [Gilbert] Hernandez populates his story with some thoroughly grounded and intriguing figures, but what’s fascinating about the plot is how it criss-crossed over on itself so that not only do the characters remain unaware of who’s conning who but so does the reader. The plot is an intricately woven web of lies and truths, and it’s peppered, of course, with Hernandez’s trademark touch of raw sexuality. Fans of such crime comics as Criminal and 100 Bullets would be well advised to give this graphic novel a chance; they won’t be disappointed. ... [Rating] 9/10" – Don MacPherson, Eye on Comics [Ed. note: I get a big "attack site" warning at that link, so click at your own risk]
• Review: "...[W]ith their crashing planes, erupting volcanoes, boil-stricken sufferers, and monstrous whirlwinds[,] Wolverton’s literalist depictions of Revelation are powerful, shocking, and above all grotesquely beautiful. ... Though Wolverton’s approach to [the Old Testament] stories was somewhat more matter-of-fact than his apocalyptic panoramas, there is still a passion for the bizarre evident in the Bible Story illustrations. ... Wolverton’s Bible illustrations sit on the border between sacred and profane, and that unique placement is what gives them such power." – Gabriel Mckee, Religion Dispatches (hat tip: Kevin Church)
• Review: "...'The Hasty Smear of My Smile'..., which ran as a backup feature in the final issue of Peter Bagge’s Hate (#30) , is a mini-masterpiece. It’s a capsule version of [Alan] Moore’s considerable skill, the epitome of everything that makes him fascinating as a writer." – Marc Sobel, Comic Book Galaxy
• Interview: At Hypergeek, The Comics Journal editor Mike Dean answers Edward Kaye's questions about the changes to his TCJ subscription
• Opinion: Future Comics Journal blogger Noah Berlatsky of The Hooded Utilitarian offers a critical counterpoint to Jeet Heer's previous comments on the Journal