Holy smokes, there's no shortage of Online Commentary & Diversions today:
• Review: "...Prison Pit... is nothing less than a continuous, no-holds barred, violent assault on the eyes. It is literally one god damned, bloody fight scene after another... The book's genius lies in Ryan's sheer nerve and imagination in setting up these battles; he constantly ups the ante in the most bizarre and inventive ways possible. ... Ryan's love of body functions goes into full gonzo mode here. ...you've got a book where body horror extends far beyond the repulsive into the truly sublime and inspired. ... Despite the gore, or perhaps, because of it, Prison Pit is a fantastic, accomplished work." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "Page after page [of The Squirrel Machine] features one of the brothers traversing through some odd, off-kilter landscape, either out in the woods, or, more often, in their home. Between the floorboards and walls seem to exist an endless array of paths and rooms, each cluttered with an endless array of junk, machines and the occasional disturbing, inexplicable oddity. The end result resembles more of an old-style adventure video game than a comic. It's Myst, directed by David Cronenberg." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6 (same link as above)
• Review: "Perhaps what makes West Coast Blues so captivating is how well it highlights the similarities between film and comics, while simultaneously showcasing its own unique ability as a graphic novel to capture the noir aesthetic through word and image. ... Not unlike many noir films, West Coast Blues is replete with car chases, hit-men, drinking, guns, and the occasional salacious scene. All of this is set in Tardi’s straightforward drawing style which is a good fit for the almost matter-of-fact, unsentimental manner in which violence, sex, and life in general are met with during the course of the book." – Sara Cole, PopMatters
• Review: "Most comic strips today, especially those that are humor strips, often avoid topical subjects. Schulz embraced the topics of the era. They may date the strip, but it never leaves them outdated. ... Schulz was also not afraid to carry on-going storylines for several days or in some cases, even a couple of weeks. ... [The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974 ] also features all the favorite subjects like Linus’ annual wait for the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’s trip to Summer camp, and Sally’s letters to Santa Claus. This is why Peanuts is the greatest strip ever!" – Tim Janson, Newsarama
• Review: "Jason seems to delight in building firm plots, only to swiftly tug them out of sync. The resulting offbeat dynamic is punctuated with deadpan verbal, narrative and graphic punch lines, which pin the stories down at the same time that they suggest grander meanings. 'Where am I?' asks a prisoner. 'I think I'll do some gardening,' says a murdered man. 'Which way?' a son asks his father in 'You Are Here' — the heartrending emotional core of the collection [Low Moon] — as they search for his mother on a barren planet. Each line and frame could mean nothing or could mean everything in this quiet, gripping book." – Becky Ferreira, The L Magazine
• Interview: Jason speaks frankly about Low Moon with Becky Ferreira of The L Magazine (different link than above): "Low Moon, the story, wasn't long enough for a book of its own, so I had to include some other stories to fill it out. They were just ideas for shorter stories I had lying around. There wasn't meant to be any thematic unity. Death, I guess, is a repeating theme. People die a lot."
• Interview: Tommy Hill of the Columbia Daily Spectator talks to The Comics Journal assistant editor Kristy Valenti about comics criticism and The Importance of Comics: "I teach my interns that nobody cares about them and their feelings and their dog when they were 8; while their experience and perspective is valuable, it’s just a jumping off point to get at bigger things."
• Plug: "You Are There...: More beautiful Jacques Tardi, a seminal work in comics for adults in the French-language market and a first-paragraph mention work for both Tardi and writer Jean-Claude Forest." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Plug: "[You Are There] is a strange, wordy, spicy satire, seeing a man struggle to live on the walls surrounding land stolen from him; maybe it's best to see for yourself." - Joe McCulloch, Jog - The Blog (read the rest of his blurb for some interesting background info on the book)
• Reviews: "Locas ll collects a huge amount of comics featuring a more mature Maggie, finding and losing romance with people like Ray (one part Chandler victim, another part mod hobo), 'Frogmouth' (painfully sexy but achingly annoying), and reunions with Hopey and others in a strange relational ballet set in SW America. It’s a weird, flat plain of bizarre sex and twisted circumstance that would be the first collection of comics I would recommend for any adult wanting to get a handle on the aesthetics of the art form since it became culturally relevant to do so.... Meanwhile, Fantagraphics has also just put out a new issue of the Comics Journal #299, which has an incredible narrative by lawyer-outsider art-underground advocate Bob Levin... Levin is the writer of several books on the struggle of comics and the counter-culture and transgressive fringes, and because of him #299 of TCJ is THE book about comic art to buy this year.... Mome... is the current multi-artist series that has critics in the comics world and outside of it regularly amped.... The last few issues of Mome have really hit a hot-run of quality, and though some stories are more straightforward and others are expressionistic, all the art is always sweet." - Chris Estey, KEXP
• Review: "Comics journalism is mostly an oxymoron, but The Comics Journal, on the eve of its 300th issue, is a scholarly, intellectual publication.... [F]or intelligent discussion of current and past graphic storytelling and its creators (the current issue features an incredible story of an ahead-of-its-time genre-spanning anthology from the seventies that was never published), this is indeed an oasis of comics journalism." - Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Review: "...[A]wesome to behold.... When life and love, of a sort, finally do reassert themselves at [The Squirrel Machine]'s end, it's horrifying and drawn in a fashion that makes it look less like a natural thing and more like a terrible apparition, or a special effect." - Sean T. Collins
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions is a potpourri:
• Guide: Alex Carr of Amazon's Omnivoracious blog provides a fourth opinion (after ours, the A.V. Club's, and Comic Book Resources') on How to Read Love and Rockets, offering these opinions on new L&R collections: "...pick up the recent Locas II: Maggie, Hopey, & Ray and Luba collections. These round up all the stories from Volume Two's respective creators and make for a superb reading experience.... [W]hat keeps me returning to Jaime's stories [is] the affectionate realism in contrast with disparate narratives, characters, and tones. Not to mention his unmatched artwork. And it's all here in the oversized Locas II.... Gilbert's ability to weave the most implausible and bawdy moments (a busty, lisping therapist named Fritz who conceals a gun-play fetish?) into affectionate fiction is matched only by his frank, playful pencils [in Luba]."
• Review: "It’s all classic Hernandez material, but this volume’s key element that really makes the book sing louder than ever is the amount of focus placed upon Ray Dominguez.... Some of the richest material Jaime has ever produced focuses on Ray’s pursuit of Vivian, a former stripper and wannabe actress that leaves nothing but pain and suffering in her wake.... There’s so much good stuff in Locas II, though, that I could talk about it until my fingers bleed.... Locas stands alone. I highly recommend you read it and see why." - Marc Mason, Comics Waiting Room
• Interview: At The Daily Cross Hatch , part 2 of Brian Heater's Q&A with Hans Rickheit: "I guess it’s sort of a digestive process of the brain where you have the end product on paper and the end product sometimes resembles fecal matter."
• Plugs/Oddity: Jog runs down a bunch of our new books arriving in comic shops tomorrow; also, the issue of The Comics Journal with his favorite ad in it is still available if you want to see it with your own eyes
Some major comics writing out there over the holiday weekend making for an extra-beefy (and late) Online Commentary & Diversions update:
•Review/Profile: "Sure I'd read [Hal] Foster before, but I'd never found a way in. Fortunately, Fantagraphics recently released Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-38, and I was able to absorb the material in a wholly new way.... I found this first book completely engrossing. Prince Valiant opens up a world that I wanted to stay in -- a wide-eyed early 20th century approach to fantasy with a now-vanished sincerity and wholesomeness. It's an all too rare pleasure in comics." - Dan Nadel, Comics Comics
• Review: "Medieval swordplay and adventure have never been as glorious as in Foster's Sunday-only comic strip. Although much reprinted (including an earlier version from the same publisher), this edition has been reproduced from pristine printer's proofs to give the gorgeous artwork its crispest version ever.... Foster's script is literate and full of vivid characterizations, like the headstrong but cunning Val and carefree Sir Gawain. But nothing surpasses his artwork—rich with details of armor, weapons and dress, the story comes to life with a palpable sense of magic and danger. Each drawing is a flawless illustration, perfectly composed; even a battle of 20 men comes alive in a tiny panel, with every action clearly delineated. Prince Valiant is one of the best-drawn comics ever, and this new edition does ample justice to its achievement." - Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "Underneath the screaming and plagues, the giddy joy that [Basil Wolverton] seems to take in his art radiates off the page, just like it does in his secular work.... His creatures from sci-fi and horror, his fascination with grotesque bodily exaggeration, his devout Christian faith -- here it all comes together into an operatic and apocalyptic peak.... The Wolverton Bible might seem like a paradox to its religious audience and its alt-comics fans -- even if Wolverton himself never saw the contradiction." - Martyn Pedler, Bookslut
• Review: "As an historical object, sure, great. I think it should be in print. Kurtzman was a very important figure in comics, and the art and design of the pieces here are of an exceedingly high quality. I'm glad I can see more examples of Jaffee's, Elder's and Davis' work." Otherwise, Chris Allen gives up on Humbug
• Review: Joe McCulloch of Jog - The Blog has a major review of Tardi & Manchette's West Coast Blues -- I've read through it three times and it's too complex for a simple pull quote
• History/preview/profile/analysis: "The 300th issue of The Comics Journal is soon to hit the stands, and the magazine everyone in comics loves to hate rattles on, chugging and sputtering and picking up disreputable beardy guys like a Toonerville Trolley of spite.... In some Inglourious Basterds-like alternate history, the 1990s ended with the twisted faces of Kim Thompson and Gary Groth hovering, laughing maniacally, over the charred and bullet-riddled corpse of Wizard magazine." - Shaenon K. Garrity, comiXology
• Analysis: du9 presents a new translation by Derik Badman of a 2006 piece by David Turgeon on Poison River by Gilbert Hernandez: "What first strikes the reader about this work is its narrative density. It isn’t uncommon for a single page to show as many places, times, and situations as there are panels." (Via Journalista)
• Interview: Jason Thibault of Optimum Wound talks to Tim Lane as part of their "Masters of Ink" series: "You do what seems the impossible and most absurd: you learn to breathe underwater, and revel in it. Get drunk on the water in your lungs. Cultivate a functional level of positive insanity. And develop tough skin. Stick with it if only because your reasons are inexplicable."
• Interview: The Daily Cross Hatch wraps up presenting Brian Heater's chat with Jordan Crane: "I was in Portugal and I saw a really tiny kid with a really giant cat. He looked exactly like the kid in The Clouds Above. The kid was so small that the cat was the same size as him — it’s not a big cat, but next to him, he was huge. And then I just kind of went from there."
• Plug: At Super I.T.C.H., Steven Johnston takes note of Humbug ("much of it is prime satire from the creators of MAD!") and The Wolverton Bible ("particularly including some genuinely horrific scenes from the Book of Revelations").
• Analysis: For Comics Comics, Dash Shaw pens an appreciation of the work of Tim Hensley: "It’s like what he chooses to draw in the environment (and what he chooses not to draw) is determined by some graphic Feng Shui. When his comics are at their most beautiful, these environments function both as the story’s world and abstractly... With his best dialogue, a line that you first read as being surreally disconnected on a second reading is funny and on a third reading reveals a wider scope of the story."
• Review: "Yes, both of these books are like kryptonite to good taste. But there are a couple of big differences between what Johnny Ryan is doing in Comics Are for Idiots!, his latest Blecky Yuckerella strip collection, and what he's doing in Prison Pit, his ultraviolent action-comic debut... The four-panel Blecky strips often feel like a breakneck race to the punchline through some kind of bizarre obstacle course requiring the basic premise of the gag to get more ridiculous with each panel... Ryan's rep as altcomix's premier overgrown juvenile delinquent is well deserved--and don't get me wrong, you can absolutely enjoy Prison Pit on that level--but the poetic savagery he depicts here is the work of a grown-ass man." - Sean T. Collins
• Review: "[Delphine], Richard Sala's contribution to Fantagraphics's prestigious Ignatz Series, is some of his strongest and most personal work yet... He sets his pop-cultural influences aside this time to lead us down a grimmer path... As for the art -- well, what can I say? It's recognizably Sala's, and at the top of his game, but taken to the next level, in that the usual precision of his black-and-white work is here inflected with sepia washes that give an added visual dimension to the murkiness of the hero's experience... The heavy dustjackets, with such gorgeous full-color art not only front and back but on both big inside flaps, deliver a lush visual and tactile experience that no bonus gallery in a collection will be able to duplicate... By whatever route you get here, I highly recommend this." - Curt Purcell, The Groovy Age of Horror
• Review: "Even when she's not especially inspired, Dame Darcy creates superior goth comics: cheerfully mean-spirited, idiosyncratically stylish, and oozing with surreal ichor... In [Meat Cake #17], Darcy indulges her goth tropes and her feminism: men are tormented, sisterhood is affirmed, and light-hearted squick is relished by all. And, as always, Darcy's eccentric drawing is a joy, with perspective, proportion, and visual logic all flattened out to fit into geometrically obscure but oddly elegant patterns." - Noah Berlatsky, The Comics Journal (reprinted at The Hooded Utilitarian)
• Plug: "The big story here [in The Comics Journal #299] is Bob Levin's spectacular essay on Michel Choquette and his never-completed comics anthology... Sadly, the project never got off the ground, and Levin details in his typical stellar fashion why and how. It's a fascinating tale, one well worth your $12." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "This is a particularly excellent issue of TCJ, thanks to Bob Levin's magnificent 50-page... history of 'The Someday Funnies'... You really need to read it." - Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
• Interview: Seth continues discussing his design work for The Complete Peanuts in the final part of Brian Heater's interview at The Daily Cross Hatch: "Schulz’s work is right there in the book. Every line in those strips is his. But the design stuff is just design stuff. It’s a setting to put a gem in. The setting is not the gem."
• Things to see: At the Covered blog, Anthony Vukojevich does a Gilbert Hernandez Birdland cover
Scheduled to hit comics shops in the USA tomorrow: The Comics Journal #299, featuring Bob Levin's amazing investigation into the lost anthology The Someday Funnies, the Journal interview with Josh Cotter, Myron Waldman's Eve and lots more.
Visit our product page for more details and for links to free excerpts on the TCJ.com website. Your local shop can confirm availability if you give them a buzz beforehand.
• Review: "For my money, [Joe] Daly is hilarious, with an ear for great dialog, a nice feel for the way characters and convertibles glide across the landscape of the comic page, and a zest for uniquely convoluted plots [in The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book]."- Steve Duin, The Oregonian
• Review: "Previous assemblages of [Prince] Valiant being out of print, Fantagraphics, a leader in the field, has stepped forward with gloriously restored art reproduced in generous dimensions and abetted by the essays of experts. This initial volume... demonstrates just why Valiant continues to burn so brightly... Simultaneously nostalgic and eternal, Hal Foster's populist masterwork deserves this accessible enshrinement." - Paul DiFilippo, The Barnes & Noble Review
• Review: "I dont think I’ve ever read anything like Low Moon by Jason and I mean that in a good way... Low Moon has a brilliant almost tightrope deadpan mix of sad and funny... Jason is capable of stories with heart like no other; particularly stories with an aura of heartrending and heartbreak. Low Moon might be the second most melancholy book that I’ve read over the past year... Low Moon by Jason continues to push the medium forward and confound readers expectations with brilliant stories that defy categorization." - Brian Lindenmuth, BSCreview
• Interview: Sean T. Collins's series of interviews with Marvel Strange Tales MAX contributors at Marvel.com continues with Peter Bagge: "The Hulk story's about both the Hulk and Bruce Banner trying to cope with their many issues via the use of modern pharmacology, in the form of head pills, Viagra, et cetera. Needless to say, wackiness ensues."
• Interview: And another one from Sean at Marvel.com, this time with Jason: "With the Spider-Man story I pretty much followed the Stan Lee formula of him being a super hero but a screw-up as a private person."
• Interview: In the second part of his talk with Brian Heater at The Daily Cross Hatch, Seth discusses his involvement and design for The Complete Peanuts series: "The design evolves slightly for each decade, but it’s all about subtle change. For example, the end papers change each decade. The color scheme changes each decade, but it’s a very subtle shift."
• Review: "Fantagraphics' recent release Abstract Comics, while nicely designed and filled with some fantastic artwork (kudos to editor Andrei Molotiu and the Fantagraphics team), brings up an interesting argument...: at what point do you stop calling something comics and start calling it... well, something else?... I'm not sure there is an answer, but it's an interesting debate. Check out this book and come to your own conclusions." - Paul DeBenedetto, Wednesday's Child
• Review: Comic Book Bin's Leroy Douresseaux examines The Comics Journal #298, calling the Trevor Von Eeden interview "scandalous and provocative," saying R.C. Harvey's "Comicopia" column is "both thoughtful and insightful, the kind of exceptional writing that would normally earn a magazine about comic books an Eisner Award," and overall grading the issue an A-
• Plug: "I can't recommend Johnny [Ryan]'s comics highly enough. They go places no one else would dare and, like all great art, show you something you've always known but never have seen before." - Benjamin Marra