• List:Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 lands at #4 on Comic Book Resources' Top 100 Comics of 2011, with Chris Mautner saying "The hype and acclaim surrounding Jaime Hernandez's conclusion to his 'Love Bunglers' saga has been overwhelming, and every ounce of it is deserved. This is simply a phenomenal achievement in comics. I'd be hard pressed to think of a better comic that came out this year," and Sean T. Collins saying "...[L]et's add to the chorus praising Jaime's 'The Love Bunglers' as one of the greatest comics of all time, the point to which one of the greatest comics series of all time has been hurtling toward for thirty years.... You can count the number of cartoonists able to wed style to substance, form to function, this seamlessly on one hand with fingers to spare. A masterpiece."
• List: At Popdose, Johnny Bacardi lists his favorite comics of 2011, including Love and Rockets: New Stories #4: "Jaime didn’t need the last couple of issues of L&R:NS to make his already stellar rep, but I’d think these stories will be revered and referred to for decades to come. Don’t mean to downplay Gilbert’s contributions — they’re as solid as ever — but the last couple of issues have been Jaime’s masterpieces and are absolutely essential if you’ve ever cared for Ray, Maggie, Hopey or any of these characters for the last three decades, and a hell of a good read even if you are unfamiliar with them except by reputation." (Richard Sala's The Hidden and Wilfred Santiago's 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente merit Honorable Mentions.)
• List: Ed Sizemore names his Top 10 Manga of 2011 at Manga Worth Reading, with Wandering Son by Shimura Takako at #2: "Words fail me when trying to describe the beauty and artistry of this manga. The genius of this series is that Takako doesn’t focus on how 'strange and unusual' transgender people are, but rather how ordinary."
• Review: "Being in the band is an aspiration held by many a young girl, and for a lucky few, a reality. Peter Bagge envisioned this world in zealous delight with his graphic novel Yeah!... As a long time fan of Hernandez’s Palomar and Love & Rockets, it was a real treat to see his familiar drawing style across the pages of Yeah! Hernandez has a knack for conjuring up Dan DeCarlo (of Archie fame), with his own unique zany twist.... Readers are in for a wild ride as they follow the band’s intergalactic adventures. Old school comic fans, pop music lovers, and alien aficionados will enjoy Yeah! – it’s even Comics Code approved." – Marie Penny, The Hub (ALA/YALSA)
• Review: "In the seventh issue of his own, glamorously titled Tales Designed to Thrizzle, Kupperman’s got more mockery in store.... Kupperman’s highs are surrealism and satire melting together, and those highs in this issue is a riff on Tales from the Crypt that specifically targets the terrorizing world of baths, and a McGruff the Crime Dog equally as grim. The main adventure is Jack Klugman in his Quincy shoes tumbling down the rabbit hole of allusions new and old. Humor-wise, that focused quest is more spontaneity than surrealism and satire. But that’s the only complaint." – Zack Kotzer, Newsarama
• Commentary: At Robot 6, Chris Mautner presents a reader's guide to the work of Jessica Abel as part of his "Comics College" series
• Commentary: Tom Spurgeon's interview with The Comics Journal and Robot 6 contributor Chris Mautner at The Comics Reporter is a highly recommended read, and not just because of all the love and shout-outs Mautner throws our way
• Review: "Uncut, uncensored and politically incorrect – these tales are from an alternate Disney universe, where Mickey is a red-blooded, two-fisted adventurer; they are fun to read and a delight to view. Gottfredson’s comics are as classy, funny and as slick as the Disney shorts from the same period. And as usual, co-editor David Gerstein provides a plethora of 'bonus materials'... A fine package, a full meal, and a perfect follow-up to volume 1, Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Vol. 2: Trapped on Treasure Island fills a gap long-neglected in animation history. Buy it." – Jerry Beck, Cartoon Brew
• Review: "I think I’ve been waiting for this book my entire life.... At long last the complete Pogo has been compiled, lovingly, ...in the miraculous new hardcover, Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips, Vol. 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder. Buy this book.... Kelly’s drawings are just magnificent, and his sophisticated writing style was far ahead of its time. Its time has come – and Fantagraphics has gone out of its way to ensure the best possible copies of these rare strips were found, restored and preserved perfectly here for all time... A great gift for anyone – especially you." – Jerry Beck, Cartoon Brew
• Review: "Walt Kelly’s Pogo... is justifiably hailed as one of the great achievements of the postwar comic strip. In theory, it belongs to the 'funny animal' genre; in practice, it was a personal, whimsical combination of comedy and mood, dressed in linguistic wordplay and laced with sociopolitical satire.... This wonderful first volume of a projected 12-volume series contains the strip’s first two official years (plus its early pre-syndication stint in a single New York paper), with the Sundays reproduced in color, and with Kelly’s topical references annotated by scholar R.C. Harvey.... I salute this launch... [Rating] 9/10" – Michael Barrett, PopMatters
• Review: "Small wonder that Jonathan Lethem modeled Chronic City’s protagonist on [Paul] Nelson: Nelson’s bohemian eccentricities... make his biography a more gripping read than the criticism that makes up [Everything Is an Afterthought]’s second half.... In the end, Nelson’s best epitaph comes from a sprawling essay that portrays the writer as a hermeneutic gumshoe hired to suss out the meaning of Dylan’s oeuvre: 'I know we need people like you because a world filled with romantics would be a disaster, but a world without them would be worse.'" – Jonah Wolf, The College Hill Independent
• Review: At The Factual Opinion, Tucker Stone examines The Comics Journal #38 (from 1978). A highlight: "Kim Thompson gets to review the Spider-Man television special and one of the Hulk television movies. He likes the Hulk one more than the Spider-man one, but then, he doesn't like the Spider-man one at all. (It sounds really fucking weird.) He's also really ticked off about Stan Lee re-writing the comic strip Spider-man's origin to better match the television show. Fists are shaken!" (Incidentally, this seminal issue is considered one of the magazine's historic best by both Kim Thompson and the bloggers of Love & Maggie.)
• Profile: Alec Berry of West Virginia University's The Daily Athenaeum introduces its readers to Fantagraphics in an article on independent comics publishers: "These innovative works could be characterized as dramatic, journalistic or satirical. Really, what happened was Fantagraphics stepped up and presented the thoughtful analysis that could be done on comics by publishing the trade magazine The Comics Journal, and Fantagraphics published the actual work that inspired the thought."
What could be more festive than a cake decorated with the cover of The Comics Journal #301 (featuring artwork from Robert Crumb's Genesis)? This gorgeous edible monstrosity was procured by TCJ's Matt Silvie for the Thanksgiving festivities chez Groth. Photos by Jacq Cohen.
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new title. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators and web-savvy comic shops are saying about it (more to be added as they appear), check out our previews at the link, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
32-page two-color 8.5" x 11" comic book, with jacket • $7.95 Part of the Ignatz Series
"Kevin Huizenga has blessed us all with another issue of Ganges, totally unexpected and entirely wonderful. Let's not disappoint him." – Chris Butcher, The Beguiling
"...Ganges #4 seems to me to be the obvious choice for the $15 and under crowd, continuing everyman Glenn Ganges’ attempts to get some shuteye. This time he attempts to find a really dull book and the results are hugely entertaining." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"I’ve been waiting for this one awhile, and glad to see it. $7.95 might seem like a lot for a 32 page book, but Huzienga’s craft really makes it worth it. It’d also be an ideal palette cleanser in case I read some unexpectedly bad books." – Chris Arrant, Robot 6
"I think the third issue of Kevin Huizenga’s series was either at the top of my list of favorite comics of last year, or at least very near the top, so this is one of my most anticipated releases not just for this week, but probably this year." – J.K. Parkin, Robot 6
"...Ganges #4 from Fantagraphics... has crept across this land’s shops like a heart attack down the spine of an insomniac; $7.95. Spooky." – Joe McCulloch, The Comics Journal
"Every single thing that Kevin Huizenga does is a must-have for me. This is a continuation of the insomnia storyline." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"Great fun as always from Kevin, he certainly knows how to spin a yarn out of almost nothing." – Jonathan Rigby, Page 45
Congratulations to the great Stan Sakai, whose wonderful Usagi Yojimbo series reaches its milestone 200th issue (#141 of its current Dark Horse incarnation) this week!
And if you're picking up the big Someday Funnies book from Abrams ComicsArts this week, be sure to snag yourself a copy of The Comics Journal #299, which chronicles the long, strange history of this decades-in-the-making anthology.
• Review/Interview: "Leslie Stein is a pretty lady who made a comic [Eye of the Majestic Creature] in which she is a cute/gross little humanoid with eyes that are like coins and a best friend who is a guitar. Her comical alter ego is named Larry Bear and her guitar's name is Marshy. They live in a house in a field, but it's pretty clear that almost everything they experience is some joked-up fantasized autobiographical story. It's hard to know what's based on reality and what isn't, and which characters are based on real folks and which are just supposed to be Leslie's internal feelings personified.... Leslie's work communicates an urban loneliness that I relate to a lot, seeing as we live in the same place. It's cute and sad and familiar, especially if you're 30 or under." – Nick Gazin, who also talks to Leslie at Vice: "I think for the most part she represents the lighter side of my personality. I'm happy when I'm drawing and I hope that comes across through her on the page, in whatever situation she is in. She dresses a bit weirder than I do, so that's fun. I'm not really a shy person, but I feel like I'm constantly embarrassing myself. She doesn't have that self-consciousness."
• Review: "Post-apocalyptic stories tend to be grim, but The Hidden is very dark indeed.... The book feels like a modern-day gothic horror. The survivors are metaphors for humanity, with a heroic few battling an onslaught of monsters, human or otherwise. Humanity is on the brink of extinction, and still people bring out the worst in one another.... Sala’s illustration is compelling... ★★★★ [out of 5]" – Grovel
• Review: "[Kevin] Avery’s book, Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson, is an admirably unorthodox construction that starts with a bracing 180-page biography of Paul followed by a 265 page collection of Nelson’s music writing, primarily that from the seventies focusing on the artists he was particularly drawn to.... What’s impressive about Avery’s biographic half of the book is that he’s produced both an intimate personal bio and a comprehensive professional bio as well. He’s talked to virtually everyone who Nelson inspired or mentored in rock criticism starting in the latter half of the sixties and into the Rolling Stone years. These knuckleheads are a who’s who of American rock criticism, God help us." – Joe Carducci (SST Records, Rock and the Pop Narcotic), The New Vulgate
• Review: "I was looking forward to this new book [Setting the Standard] a/ because it's Alex Toth and b/ because it reprints 60 stories, Toth's entire contribution to the catalogue of a long defunct publisher whose material we rarely see reprinted.... Toth's work has long been admired for its distilled simplicity of black and white design, but these early pages fizz and bubble with life.... The book under discussion is from Fantagraphics, with the original printed pages restored in all their colours by Greg Sadowski, who put the whole package together with extensive notes..." – Eddie Campbell (via The Comics Reporter)
• Plugs: Brian Ralph's choices for his guest contribution to Robot 6's weekly "What Are You Reading?" column include Captain Easy Vol. 2 by Roy Crane ("It’s a fun combination of action and laughs. Sometimes very serious and other times very cartoony, in both story and art style. I just love the way Roy Crane draws these goons. And the colors! The palettes are unusual and beautiful.") and Setting the Standard: Comics by Alex Toth 1952-1954 ("I’ll read one of these [stories] before I go to bed. I like that in a short page count he quickly develops a rich story and twilight zoney twist. Sometimes it’s a bizarre romance or horror story with a stunning conclusion. They’re a fun read.")
• Review: "Brief but witty dialogue and black humor come together in a brutal satire of deception, torture and the death penalty. This comic is a good comedy that combines the sense of adventure and intrigue of Jason's comics, his 'tempo' and narrative tone, with a trio of protagonists who I came to appreciate in very few pages. Emotion, gags, surprises, and an ending that you do not expect. Isle of 100,000 Graves is an original and very enjoyable read that keeps Jason as a safe bet in the shopping cart. Between tenderness and cruelty, of course the contribution of writer Fabien Vehlmann to the Norwegian cartoonist's particular universe could not have been more successful." – Alita News (translated from Spanish)
• Review: "Warm-hearted, deceptively heart-wrenching, challenging, charming and irresistibly addictive, Love and Rockets: New Stories is a grown up comics fan’s dream come true and remains as valid and groundbreaking as its earlier incarnations — the diamond point of the cutting edge of American graphic narrative." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview:The Comics Reporter 's Tom Spurgeon talks to backbone Mome contributor T. Edward Bak about his experience at Boomfest in St. Petersburg, Russia: "There were so many things going on. There were people interested in all of the presentations. They took place over four or five hours, in three or four different centers. A lot of artists were there. For these kinds of presentations, it was other artists attending. It was like APE: you have people that are making comics or are interested in making comics."
• Interview: At The Comics Journal, Matt Seneca enjoys a studio visit and thoughtful discussion with Gary Panter: "That’s one of the games that modern art plays: where does it go, and what does it affect by trying to go? And so, usually in fine art, you’re making a kind of pregnant or puzzling object, or some object that has presence and which calls to people, hopefully. It arrests them for a second and various things happen, whereas in a comic, I want people lying in bed reading it. I want people lying in bed and reading it, and you forget you’re reading it, and you go in the story, and you’re like, 'Whoa! What happened?' And you either remember it or you don’t."
• Review: "Ganges #4 is the Godfather Part II of comics about insomnia: the rare sequel that tops the already excellent original.... Here he returns to the sleeplessness well, but this time around Glenn’s mental avatar remains relatively stationary (though Glenn himself does plenty of wandering around the Ganges family manse), allowing Huizenga to instead burrow down deep into some of the most unpleasant sensations a bored and overtired brain is able to conjure. Folks, he does this so well.... The... comic maintains [a] dizzying blend of writing and drawing power, with alarmingly familiar sensations reproduced, and stop-and-marvel visual effects created, on nearly every page." – Sean T. Collins, The Comics Journal
• Review: "When did The Comics Journal get so freakin' fat? Weighing in at one and a half pounds, this 624 page sucker features more of what you love (or hate) about comics criticism: long, detailed interviews and reviews that will take you days to read." – Chris Auman, Reglar Wiglar
• Review: "Dave McKean’s art never fails to amaze me... At one point, as she goes deeper and deeper into the film, the woman encounters a fourteen-breasted being, and they have sex. McKean mixes images of real fruit with his drawings and color to create sexual images that are as fresh as they are startling. I’ll never look at a fig, a pear, or a red tomatillo the same way again. ...I think [Celluloid] would make a good paper anniversary gift." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• Review: "In Ghost World, Daniel Clowes doesn’t romanticize the teenage experience or show teenage girls as sweet and idealistic. His portrayal is raw, cynical, and honest, often hitting the nail on the head.... It’s an excellent portrayal of alienation, especially teenage alienation. Even when Enid and Rebecca aren’t being nice, they’re still understandable. This graphic novel is very funny, but it’s also very sad, and sometimes it’s both at the same time.... Though it’s only 80 pages long, this graphic novel still manages to leave a deep impression." – Danica Davidson, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Review: "One of the greatest comic strips of all time and a peak in visual splendor and breath-taking adventure, the story of Prince Valiant's 30+ year odyssey is getting a marvelous presentation in Fantagraphics' series of books, which just reached Volume 4.... What might surprise modern readers is the relative complexity of Valiant, who grows and matures subtly over the years. The strip is violent, sexy, serious, droll and above all eye-catching.... The pleasure of how solidly and carefully [these volumes] are made is part of the pleasure of reading them. You feel like a little kid as you prop the giant volume up and literally dive into the tale that fills your vision, much as kids and adults did more than 70 years ago. It's a worthy presentation for one of the most important and entertaining works in comic strip history." – Michael Giltz, The Huffington Post
• Interview:Vice's Liz Armstrong talks with Ron Regé Jr. about his upcoming book The Cartoon Utopia: "I'm not interested in making a bunch of storyboards or writing a script. Comics are the visual representation of language. So comics are the most ancient and the most vital and most important art form that humanity has ever known. It's also the oldest. Cave paintings, having the form of an image that represents an idea, is what comics are. I wrote an essay called, 'Fuck Other Forms of Art.'"
• Interview (Audio): Speaking of Mike Dawson-hosted podcasts, John Kerschbaum sits in on the new episode of The Ink Panthers with Dawson and co-host Alex Robinson
• Culture: Jeet Heer reports on the Iowa Comics Conference at The Comics Journal, featuring the Hernandez Brothers, Joe Sacco, Gary Groth and others. On the new issue of Love and Rockets: New Stories: "Everyone, of course, has been raving about Jaime’s story in this issue, which like the magnificent 'Browntown' in L&R #3 is one of best comics ever done. I’ll freely confess that at the end of the new issue when I saw how Jaime had tied together the fates of Hopey, Maggie, and Ray I started crying like a baby. ...Gilbert’s recent comics have the protean energy and relentless will to reinvention that rivals the Crumb of Weirdo and Hup."
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins spotlights Heer's article and adds his own thoughts: "The only thing more striking than the fact that Jaime set this career-defining hurdle for himself is that he freaking cleared it.... It's worth noting that in his contribution to New Stories #4, Gilbert takes Fritz to a place of potential finality not unlike the one that his brother Jaime's leading players occupy at the end of 'The Love Bunglers.' Yeah, it’s really quite a comic."
• Analysis: At Robot 6, Matt Seneca examines page 89, by Jaime Hernandez, from Love and Rockets: New Stories #4: "It’s a wonderful meeting of form and content: a completely unified page on the subject of unification, a single unit made up of eight perfectly chosen, gorgeously cartooned panels, each one complete in itself as a composed single drawings. This is comics at the highest level, with nothing wasted and everything on the page done as well as it possibly could be."
• Plug: Kim Thompson points out that ActuaBD "referred to our Gil Jordan edition as 'très beau,' which is nice."
• Review: "Another brilliant adaptation of a Jean-Patrick Manchette crime novel by Jacques Tardi. If you liked West Coast Blues, well, you absolutely will love [Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot]. If you are a crime fan and haven’t read that work yet, you really must as for whatever reason, it is something that tends to get overlooked. Yes, Tardi’s art style is completely unique and can take a little adjusting to if you’re only used to conventional American / UK styles, but give it a go because he brings gritty crime to brutal, realistic life — and indeed equally cold, hard unpleasant death — like few others can." – Jonathan Rigby, Page 45
• Review: "There be monsters; monsters of man’s own making. [The Hidden] is Sala’s second book in colour, rich in red and orange, but it’s the first, I believe, to dispense with all hope and humour — apart from the man with the Marty Feldman eyes. He’s taken the Edward out of Gorey and the tongue from his cheek, replacing it there with shovels, hatchets and stakes!" – Stephen L. Holland, Page 45
• Review: "After a rocky start, the regularly updated, online version of The Comics Journalhas become a much more vital outlet for the serious discussion of comics, primarily thanks to the stewardship of online editors Dan Nadel and Tim Hodler. In its new format, the print Comics Journalis a fine companion to that ongoing effort. With the burden of remaining 'current' lifted by the website, the print Journalis free to explore important works with a depth and seriousness rarely found online." – Patrick Markfort, Articulate Nerd
• Plug: "I’ve only had the brick for two weeks, and I’ve barely made it through one-fourth of it, happily so. For over 30 years, The Comics Journalhas been a comics respite from hype and fluff. It keeps the rest of in check and on our toes. I’m a better comics reader because of it (and a reluctantly patient fan)." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon.com)
• Commentary: Sean T. Collins re-posts Comic Book Resources' video interview with Jaime Hernandez on that site's Robot 6 blog, adding his own commentary: "Ask anyone who’s reading the series in its book-formatted New Stories incarnation — including this autumn’s #4, which picks up where last year’s massively acclaimed 'Browntown'/'The Love Bunglers' storyline left off — and they’ll tell you: Jaime’s making some of the best work of his career, some 30 years after L&R made its debut."
• Conflict of Interest: Our own Eric Buckler spotlights Mome Vol. 22 in his weekly "Indie Comics Digest" for The Snipe