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.
Tim Hensley and Richard Sala are among the artists donating artwork to "Kenji's Light of Hope," an online art sale beginning today with 100% of the proceeds being donated to the Igari Music Therapy Research Center, supporting their mission to provide music therapy to individuals with developmental disabilities and the elderly in the quake-stricken area of Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. The sale "is dedicated to Kenji, a young man with Down syndrome, who is a keen percussionist at Igari MTRC. Kenji's home was badly flooded during the tsunami, and he was rescued with his family after 3 days. Let's ensure that he's able to play the sound block again on all the samba and Latin tunes that he loves!" Tim has donated original Wally Gropius artwork, and Richard has donated the print "Midnight" pictured above. Two great artists, one wonderful cause!
• List: Matthew J. Brady posts his picks for the best comics of 2010 on his Warren Peace Sings the Blues blog (where there are links to his past reviews), including:
"25. Temperance... is a confounding work, and a fascinating one, with some excellently moody art. I still don't know if I really understand it, but it's a strange, unforgettable book."
"23.Set to Sea... is lovely to look at, full of beautiful seascapes and cartoony movement. It may be a small and quick read, but it doesn't seem that way in subsequent memory."
"18. Wally Gropius... is a deeply weird comic, but one that is not easily forgettable, starting with an off-kilter take on old teen comics and throwing in a sort of dada energy, social commentary that isn't always easy to decipher, some startling sex and violence, and an angry attitude toward the idly manipulative rich and their disdain for the rest of humanity. It's also really funny, and what seems like random incidents eventually cohere into an actual story, but the crazy contortions of the characters, the financial imagery and sound effects, and the bizarre dialogue and actions from the characters are what will haunt the mind for some time to come."
"10. It Was the War of the Trenches... is one of the most incredible books of the year, an ugly, grimy, angry look at the devastation of war on everything it touches, an endless cascade of horrors that are all the more effective due to their reality. This is arresting work, something everyone should read, lest we forget how easy it is to get caught up in the killing once again."
"7. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories [...] From the beautiful artistic filigrees that fill panels throughout, to the firm grasp of character and complex emotional examinations, every page of this book is an essential bit of reading for manga fans."
"3. Love and Rockets: New Stories #3... is an amazing example of how great these creators are, and the way comics can be used for maximum effectiveness to tell emotional, realistic, beautifully real stories."
• Interview: Sean O'Toole of South African culture mag Mahala talks to Joe Daly: "Whatever other influences effect my comics worldview, I always end up coming back to Tintin. It’s an impeccable foundation text in terms of characters, story telling and artwork. I also appreciate the fact that it’s written and drawn by one person, George Remi aka Hergé (although I know he had studio assistance later in the series). It’s a complete creation, in that way, there’s a deep level of cohesion between the drawing and the narrative."
• Interview: At Comicdom, Thomas Papadimitropoulos talks to Jim Woodring (interview in English follows introduction in Greek): "I write all my stories out in words, describing the action. After a lot of rejecting of alternatives I end up with something that feels meaningful to me, even if I don't know why. In fact I prefer it if I don't know why. If I can tell there is some significant meaning respiring in the depths of the proposed action, I don't worry about what that meaning might be; I draw the story up and allow the meaning to occur to me and to readers whenever the time is right." (via The Comics Reporter)
It is true: after much foofaraw and mishegas, The Comics Journal #301 went to the printer last week and is due to be available in May. (You may have come across an earlier version of the cover here on our website, but here for the first time is the final version.)
The Journal is reborn. In these 600+ pages: R. Crumb interview & critical roundtable on Genesis; Joe Sacco interview; Jim Woodring, Tim Hensley & Stephen Dixon sketchbooks; Jaffee & Kupperman in conversation; Gerald McBoing Boing; much more.
This volume is guest designed by internationally respected Criterion art director Eric Skillman.
See here for more information on the issue and stay tuned for updates and previews.
• List: For The Economist, Picturebox publisher and our sometime editorial collaborator Dan Nadel names his picks for the best comics of 2010: "Tim Hensley’s Wally Gropius was maybe my favourite graphic novel of the year, and I’m still trying to figure out just what exactly it is. Drawn and written in the graphic idioms of throwaway 1960s comic books such as Richie Rich and Archie, Wally Gropius is about an angst-ridden, dumbfounded millionaire, looking for love in a lopsided modernist space fraught with emasculation, poverty, rock jingles and other things that make grown men cry."
• Review: "And after spending the last two days plowing through this majestic slab of crucial, comically informative reviews [Destroy All Movies!!!], part of me envies [editors Zack Carlson & Bryan Connolly] in having done it first, while some other part wants to thank them for taking a bullet the rest of us don’t have to. [...] If you have any interest whatsoever in the topic you really cannot do without a copy of this book. If you’re like me, it will make you want to revisit some movies again, and search out some you’ve overlooked... In no uncertain terms, this book comes with my highest recommendations." – Jay Bodnar, Wednesday's Child
• Review: "The Littlest Pirate King is a strange and morbid comic. [...] The beautiful drawings of David B., made with thick and shaky strokes, are beautifully expressive. ...David B. did very well with this literary adaptation... [which] shows a mature and talented artist, exploring the versatility of his narrative." – Gustavo Guimaraes, Ambrosia (translated from Portuguese)
• Analysis: At Death to the Universe, Matt Seneca examines a panel of Rory Hayes's comics as exemplary of Hayes's work: "Rory Hayes is one of those artists, one whose sequences of pictures build stories out of their own bizarre alien logic, the consistency of their utter weirdness giving the reader just enough of a solid platform for understanding to take root in." (Via Spurge)
• Coming Attractions (Audio): Hosts Phil and Charlito preview some of our upcoming 2011 releases on the latest episode of the Indie Spinner Rack podcast
• List:Hypergeek's Edward Kaye names The Best Original Graphic Novels of 2010, including (deep breath):
Werewolves of Montpellier: "Part lycanthropic thriller, part romantic comedy, and part existential drama, all told with Jason’s trademark anthropomorphic characters. The visuals are minimalistic and haunting, and the sparse dialogue is wry and delivered with deadpan execution. It’s one of the best things that Jason has ever written, and he continues to outdo himself with every new story."
Love and Rockets: New Stories #3: "Los Bros Hernandez return for a third volume of New Stories. The stories in this volume are fun, bizarre, wacky, and at times profoundly moving. The brothers have been at this for 28 years now, and are still telling stories brimming with originality, and illustrated in inimitable and unparalleled fashion. A true watermark of the series thus far!"
Prison Pit Book 2: "Johnny Ryan has outdone himself on this one. It's intensely violent, horrific, grotesque, sickening, and just plain fucked up! That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it! You should buy this book and give it to all of your friends that think that comics are for kids. It will make them cry!"
Weathercraft: "I only discovered Jim Woodring this year, on a recommendation. I was so impressed by this enchanting, silent masterpiece that I went out and purchased everything else I could find with his name on it, which as it turns out is surprisingly little. It's a beautiful and spellbinding book, with otherworldy illustrations that take you to another place. It's hard to adequately describe this story, it's really beyond definition, it's better that you just experience it for yourself."
Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird: "Tony Millionaire gives readers a sequel to 2006's Billy Hazelnuts. It's an all-ages tale about a golem on a quest to reunite a baby bird with its mother. It's a charming and wacky parable of adventure, discovery, and find one's way in the world. A contemporary fairy tale that is perfect adults and children of all ages. Simply enchanting!"
The Troublemakers: "Gilbert Hernandez releases a second volume of this Love & Rockets spin-off series, featuring B-Movies starring Luba's half-sister, Fritz. This fantastic tribute to film noir is sure to please fans of the genre, while serving as a fantastic introduction to L&R. It's a hard-boiled classic, brought to life with Beto's bold and distinctive artwork. Oh, and did I mention the massive boobs?"
• Review: "It's unlikely I'm telling anyone reading this anything new by suggesting that Lorenzo Mattotti draws like Caruso sang, and that reading this latest work with screenwriter Claudio Piersanti [Stigmata] is at times an assault of exquisite visual pleasure of the kind that makes your whole face sting." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "'The Carnival' [in Mome Vol. 14] is an exquisitely wrought piece of melancholy fantasy, and a high point in the blossoming career of Lilli Carré, the most poetic of contemporary North American cartoonists. [...] Lilli Carré’s cartooning has reached the point where she makes everything feel integral; one can’t treasure any of a piece without treasuring all of it. And 'The Carnival' is a rare treasure indeed." – Robert Stanley Martin, Pol Culture
• Review: "...[I]f you’re looking for something awesome to read and start the new year off with, pick up Locas and Locas II. You can even check them out from the library but they’re nice to have around, so when you and your friends are having some funny or interesting conversation and you’re like wait, this seems familiar, and then be like, oh yeah Maggie said the same thing." – Chimatli
• Coming Attractions: At The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon has thoughtful commentary regarding our upcoming Carl Barks books
• List:Robot 6's Chris Mautner names "The six most criminally ignored books of 2010," including:
"1) Captain Easy Vol. 1 by Roy Crane. ...I consider this to be one of the big publishing events of 2010. [...] The Sunday pages in this book are full of high energy, action and slapstick."
"4) High Soft Lisp by Gilbert Hernandez. [...] Those who feel that Hernandez’s work relies too much on female objectification and fetishization need to read this book to understand how self-aware he is of that fact and its real-world consequences."
• List (Audio): On the Inkstuds radio programme, host Robin McConnell discusses the Best of 2010, including Tim Hensley's Wally Gropius, with cartoonists Michael DeForge, Zack Soto and Noah Van Sciver
• List: At Robot 6, Kevin Melrose includes Drew Weing's Set to Sea on his list of The 50 Best Covers of 2010: "The limited palette and gold highlights on the waves help to lend the cover to Drew Weing’s debut graphic novel a gorgeous dream-like quality."
• Review: "In a robust, finely crafted package, Fantagraphics celebrated the 25th anniversary of the wandering rabbit ronin... by collecting the first seven volumes in two hardcover books sheathed in a sturdy, eye-catching slipcase. ...Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition is in a class all its own in terms of presentation." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious
• Commentary: A commenter at Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin predicts: "The recently announced Carl Barks collections by Fantagraphics will receive public attention on the Today Show via Al Roker and become selections in Oprah’s Book Club. The widespread exposure of clever humor and commentary by 50-year old Donald Duck comics create a nationwide movement of crazy alternative-energy initiatives and treasure hunting." (The Roker part is not completely far-fetched — Al did the Introduction for the next volume of The Complete Peanuts) (Mike also plugs Flog, which is nice of him)
Time for lots more awkwardly-formatted year-end lists, a review from The Washington Post and much more in what might be the longest Online Commentary & Diversions ever:
• List: For the Las Vegas Weekly, J. Caleb Mozzocco counts down his top 5 comics of 2010:
#3: Temperance by Cathy Malkasian: "Blessed with a Dr. Seuss-like ability to evoke the most serious problems and bleakest emotions in personalized, original, timeless fantasy elements, Malkasian has constructed a graphic epic involving a handful of colorful, tragic characters and their interlocking lives."
#5: Werewolves of Montepellier by Jason: "A successful jewel thief disguises himself as a werewolf during heists, eventually attracting the attention of real, actual werewolves in Jason’s latest deadpan dramedy masterpiece. While that might sound like the protagonist’s most urgent problem, his doomed crush on neighbor-turned-friend Audrey is the only thing truly eating him."
• List: The bloggers at Robot 6 count down their choices for the best comics of 2010:
"7. Set to Sea: The story of a would-be poet who is shanghaied and learns about life at sea the hard way, Set to Sea is drawn in a series of single panels, each of which is a miniature masterpiece on its own. It’s a singularly economical way of telling a story, and Drew Weing makes each of his panels into a tight little world of its own." – Brigid Alverson
"4. You’ll Never Know, Book Two: Collateral Damage: [...] Tyler skillfully handles multiple strands of her story, using a variety of styles and formats for different episodes, slowly building a complete picture from several different sources." – Brigid Alverson
"16. It Was the War of the Trenches, by Jacques Tardi: French master Tardi does to the Great War what the Great War did to the bodies of millions of young soldiers: blow it wide open and root in the mess. Depicted primarily in an unyielding onslaught of widescreen panels, it’s like a slog through the trenches itself. Furious and full of contempt for war and its masters." – Sean T. Collins
"6. It Was the War of the Trenchesby Jacques Tardi: Reading Trenches, you realize just how far afield, just how dead wrong most American (and British) had it in their depiction of war. Even Kurtzman’s war comics (which I love) seem like kiddie sermonizing, an overly sweet, sanitized warning, next to Tardi’s uncompromising depiction of WWI. You want to know how brutal war can be? You want to know how war should be depicted in comics – how to look the utter savagery, inhumanity and square in the eye using only pen and ink? This is how you do it." – Chris Mautner
"15. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, by Moto Hagio: I gasped aloud repeatedly while experiencing the sheer loveliness of this book, a collection of short stories from throughout the decades by shoujo-manga pioneer Moto Hagio. Best of all, there’s a cake beneath all that icing, as Hagio’s stories are frequently sophisticated, moving, and unwilling to pull punches." – Sean T. Collins
"13. Prison Pit Book 2, by Johnny Ryan: Johnny Ryan journeys deeper than ever before into his inner ickiness and returns with an action-horror hybrid it’s almost impossible to 'enjoy' in the traditional sense of the word — and which thereby takes those two genres in stunning new directions." – Sean T. Collins
"11. Artichoke Tales, by Megan Kelso: A war comic like none you’ve ever read, Megan Kelso’s ambitious alt-fantasy is concerned not with conflict’s immediate carnage, but with its lasting effects on the societies engaged in it — economic, cultural, religious, familial, even geographical. I found it humanistic, unsparing, and fascinating." – Sean T. Collins
"10. Weathercraft, by Jim Woodring: It’s always darkest before the dawn, and the psychedelic body-horror of Jim Woodring has never been darker than it gets here. His hapless, villainous Manhog is made to suffer like you’ve seen few comics characters suffer before in any style or genre…only to emerge enlightened and overjoyed on the other side in a final act that feels like that first breath of fresh cool air after you’ve hidden your head under the covers in terror for minutes on end." – Sean T. Collins
"2. Weathercraft by Jim Woodring: [...] It’s a twisting, twisted, often bizarre, often disturbing but always gripping tale of one creature’s self-redemption and ultimate sacrifice told without words and often as enigmatically as possible. If you had any doubt that Woodring could still deliver after laying low for so long, consider them erased." – Chris Mautner
"7. Special Exits, by Joyce Farmer: ...[N]early every meticulously crosshatched panel [is] drawn as if [Farmer's] life depended on it. Maybe it did. This is a magnum opus no one expected to read, a brutally frank depiction of what it’s like for full lives you love to end, and it has the most painfully happy ending of the year. It made me cry. Don’t do what I almost did and ignore one of the year’s most moving comics." – Sean T. Collins
"3. Wally Gropius, by Tim Hensley: The first great comic of the Great Recession. Tim Hensley’s breakout graphic novel, previously serialized in the Mome anthology, seems like a send-up of silly ‘60s teen-comedy and kid-millionaire comics on the surface, but beneath lies as odd and accurate a cri de coeur about capitalism and consumerism as I’ve ever read. It also does things with body language I’ve never seen in comics, and is funny as hell to boot. There’s nothing else out there like it." – Sean T. Collins
"5. Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley: The funniest comic of the year, Gropius is both homage and raised middle finger to the kids comics of yore, chiding them for their superficiality and yet revealing in their sublime shallowness all the same. That Hensley managed to have his cake and eat it too in such a breezy fashion suggests he will be an artist to watch for in the coming years." – Chris Mautner
"2. High Soft Lisp / Love and Rockets: New Stories #3, by Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez: This year I read nearly every comic ever created by Los Bros Hernandez; what a pleasure to discover at the end of my immersion that their two most recent comics are also two of their best, and thus two of the best comics by anyone. Gilbert and Jaime both tear furiously into love and sex in these two collections; what they find inside is ugly; what they do with it is beautiful." – Sean T. Collins
"3. Love and Rockets [New Stories] 3 by Xaime and Gilbert Hernandez: Gilbert’s contributions are great as usual (his work here and in the recently collected High Soft Lisp proves he’s no second banana brother), but it is Xaime’s 'The Love Bunglers/Browntown' that makes this volume so worthy of praise. A harrowing story of abuse, familial neglect and regret masterfully told, I defy anyone not to read this tale and not be devastated by its conclusion. Not a single line goes to waste here. To say it’s the best thing Xaime’s done is a stunning comment considering his lengthy and exemplary body of work, but there’s no question he’s raised the bar once again." – Chris Mautner
• List: The great Washington, DC bookstore Politics & Prose names their 2010 Graphic Novel Favorites, including:
"The Sanctuary by Nate Neal is one of the most adventurous, exciting, complex and beautiful graphic novels. [...] Nate Neal creates a language for the clan, and tells the entire story without any recognizable words, making The Sanctuary a quiet and dark collection of gestures and expressions."
"Pirus and Mezzo’s King of the Flies is a dark romp through a strange drug filled, sex crazed world of small town Europe. [...] Pirus and Mezzo aren’t afraid to tell a story full of our darkest desires and needs, but they’re also startlingly poetic."
"Weathercraft, by Jim Woodring, is a beautiful dream and a beautiful nightmare. [...] Weathercraft is page after page of utterly original, outrageous, wordless thrills. Somehow, in a place where confusion and chaos seem to reign, Woodring creates sense. The challenge and beauty of Weathercraft is taking hold of that sense, and letting it go when the dream becomes too beautiful to pass up."
"C. Tyler continues her inquiry into the true story of her father’s WWII experience with You’ll Never Know Book Two: Collateral Damage. Tyler’s colorful panels and line work is a welcome relief to the usual comics format; and her creative shifting of perspective and story... offer just the right amount of energy and relevance to make this book (and the previous volume) one of the best of the year."
"Hinging on one supernatural occurrence after another, the misadventures of Adele Blanc-Sec are surely one of the most welcome events this year. [...] This is a classic which should not be missed."
"...Moto Hagio’s story collection, A Drunken Dream, is a welcome and celebrated relief to the mainstream, translated Japanese comics, giving the reader a meaningful and deeply felt experience. ...Hagio’s exploration of loss... and identity... is equal to the best that any literature offers."
• List: Brazilian site Ambrosia names The Best Comics Published in the U.S. in 2010 — Alternatives and Classics, including:
It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "The French Tardi is a versatile artist, a thorough storyteller of historical fact and fiction. The clean lines and light of his drawings refer to the style of another Frenchman, the revered Moebius."
The Littlest Pirate King by David B.: "Accustomed to living with sea monsters, plundering ships and murdering sailors, a group of scary undead pirates has its routine radically transformed when they are forced to care for a child. David B.... uses his beautiful and dark art to adapt a fun text by Orlan."
• List: At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson names Castle Waiting Vol. 2 by Linda Medley the Best Graphic Novel of 2010: "Exceptionally illustrated fantasy revolving around everyday life among a stunning cast of unusual characters who make their own unusual family in an abandoned castle."
• Review: "Saucy, bold, enigmatic, gently funny, reassuringly romantic; brimming with human warmth and just the right edge of hidden danger Castle Waiting [Vol. 2] is a masterpiece of subtly ironic, perfectly paced storytelling that any kid over ten can and will adore. Moreover, if you’re long in the tooth or have been around the block a time or two, this fantastic place can’t help but look like home." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• List: At The Casual Optimist, Dan Wagstaff names Jason's Werewolves of Montpellier one of his Favourite New Books of 2010: "Ostensibly the book is about a thief called Sven who disguises himself as werewolf to rob people’s apartments and incurs the wrath of the town’s actual werewolves. It is, however, as much about friendship, identity, loneliness, and, ultimately, Sven’s unrequited love for his neighbour Audrey. [...] The whole book is achingly brief, but Werewolves of Montpellier is possibly my favourite Jason book to date." (Via Robot 6)
"14. Artichoke Tales(Megan Kelso) [...] Kelso's simple lines beautifully capture the emotional turmoil of the characters and move the action along fluidly. This title caught me by surprise with how much I enjoyed it — it looks deceptively simple, but there's a lot going on in this ambitious book."
"10. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (Volume 1) (Jacques Tardi) [...] This story is full of broad characters and is really silly, but it's a really riveting, often funny book that you can't help but love to spend time with, featuring some of Tardi's best art period. Plus pterodactyls in Paris!"
"6. Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 [...] The Hernandez Brothers' third annual release of Love and Rockets is their best yet. Gilbert Hernandez has long been a favorite artist of mine and he offers some pretty dynamic stories this time around as well... Jaime develops his characters effortlessly as he produces what may be one of the best offerings of his career."
"4. Castle Waiting (Volume 2)(Linda Medley) [...] This book is overflowing with great characters, the story unfolding cinematically to Medley's beautiful cartoony art. The domestic life that readers glimpse with these volumes is an absolute pleasure to behold, and I really enjoy the time I spend with the people in this title, as they explore the castle and unlock some of its mysteries while settling in. A real treasure."
"1. The Littlest Pirate King(David B. & Pierre Mac Orlan) – My favorite comic that I read this year is David B.'s comic adaptation of the prose story by French writer Pierre Mac Orlan. ...David B. elaborately illustrates this world with amazing mastery of the craft. The coloring, the pacing and panel arrangements, and the world of these pirates pillaging ships and being general menaces all make for a fun, engaging experience. This book contains some of the most beautiful panels that I've seen in years, and confidently sits at the top of my list for best of the year."
• List: On his MadInkBeard blog, Derik Badman lists Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 as one of the Best Print Comics of 2010: "This is Jaime doing what he does best, advancing the lives of his characters, adding to their histories, introducing side characters, and generating an emotional impact." (Via Robot 6)
• List: On The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, Martin Steenton of Avoid the Future names his top 3 Best of the Year: "...Drew Weing’s Set to Sea is one of the most beautifully-rendered graphic novels you could hope to see ever, let alone from within the past twelve months. [...] From start to finish, Set to Sea feels like a true classic; the graphic novel equivalent of Treasure Island, if you will. If you’re the sort of parent that doesn’t mind exposing your children to a few gory moments, I like to imagine that this is the book you’ll give them to usher them into their lives as comic readers. Think what a cool mum/dad you’d be."
• List: At Imprint, Michael Dooley names the Best American Comics Criticism panel at Skylight Books one of "the best speaker events that involved comics and graphic design" in L.A. last year
• Review: "Four Color Fear is editor Greg Sadowski's commemoration of horror publishers other than dominant Entertaining Comics ... [T]his volume contains many... complete tales, giving the reader a sense of how hard it was to meet the genre's three main requirements: sudden fear, ample gore and twist endings, all in the space of six to 10 pages. [...] One leads off with this fraught question: 'Have you ever heard a strange voice whisper, "Come with me into the Blackest depths of evil"?' To which I would have answered in the 1950s, 'What took you so long to ask?'" – Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post (via Newsarama)
• Review: "Johnny Ryan is in my mind is one of the best modern humorists in comics today. It's not the kind of humor that's gonna get him invited to lots of prestigious awards ceremonies, but you can not deny that this shit [is] funny! Seriously for all those people who have not read a Johnny Ryan book for whatever stupid reason, pick [FUC_ __U _SS __LE] up. There's gonna be something in here that will make you laugh or puke or laugh and puke at the same time. It's an awesome awesome book. Loved it all the way through." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Review: "Taking quotes from people who met King, journeyed with him, and experienced his teachings and shortcomings firsthand, the book gives readers an honest and refreshing take on the man that became a legend. The art in King is a sight to behold... While some will undoubtedly walk away with the impression that this take on King’s life somehow lessens his impact on society, others will hopefully find that the humanistic aspect enhances the appreciation of his determination to make a change. Rating: ★★★★1/2" – Matt Peters, Pads & Panels
• Plug: "Mascots is a beautiful new book by Ray Fenwick collecting a series of color paintings on found book covers. [...] You must all surely concur that this new book establishes Ray Fenwick as the foremost satirist-illustrator-typographer-poet-designer of our time." – Matt Forsythe, Drawn
• Plugs: At The Moviefone Blog, David Brothers recommends "Comic Books for Movie Buffs"; his picks for war movie fans and samurai movie fans, respectively:
"...It Was the War of the Trenches shows how war simultaneously dehumanizes and strengthens our connection to life. The dehumanization derives from the fact that soldiers who die in this book tend to do so alone, or by surprise, and life just goes on. The strengthening point, however, is due to how the soldiers eagerly grasp what life they have left, despite their situation. It Was the War of the Trenches is heartbreaking and maybe a little funny, but more than anything, it's fulfilling."
"...Usagi Yojimbo is not only deadly serious, but a fantastic read. Sakai clearly knows the era he's writing stories about very well, and his research shows. If not for the funny talking animals, this series would be fantastically realistic. With them, though, it's a series that hits many of the same high points as classic Kurosawa, but often from a fresh angle."
• Survey:The Beat's year-end/looking-forward survey of comics pros (part one) includes a classic Peter Bagge quip ("What was the biggest story in comics in 2010?" "No one has any money") plus input from Noah Van Sciver
• Analysis: In an academic paper published in the University of Florida's interdisciplinary comics studies journal ImageTexT, Joel Simundich examines "Translation, Transparency, and Genre" in Jason's The Iron Wagon (recently reprinted in What I Did)
• Interview: On his Princess Sparkle Pony blog, Peter Huestis presents a transcription of his 1995 interview with Jim Woodring which was published in Hypno Magazine: "I never use any of my dreams in the Frank stories. I've evolved a way of writing those stories that I adhere to pretty much all the time. I go down into this ravine near my house and hide in the bushes and write in my notebook. I write the stories out in words. I'll write an opening line like, 'Frank has a heavy heart.' If I like that for an opener, I will ask why he has a heavy heart. Sometimes I get an answer and sometimes I don't."
• List/Plug/Coming Attractions:The Millions names among their Most Anticipated books of 2011 two by Alexander Theroux: this month's The Strange Case of Edward Gorey ("Part biography, part artistic analysis, and part memoir of a long friendship, with exclusive interviews conducted shortly before Gorey’s death, this book is generally accepted as the most comprehensive portrait of Gorey ever written") and July's Estonia ("The book emerges from Theroux’s time spent in the former Soviet republic while his wife was on a Fulbright Scholarship. Ever observant, Theroux uses Estonia and its people as a lens through which to look back at America"); elsewhere at The Millions, Theroux himself weighs in on his Year in Reading
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions gets crazy with the Best-Of lists:
• List: At comiXology, Tucker Stone counts down the top 20 Best Comics of 2010:
#19: Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley: "In a more unstable world, Wally Gropius would end up shelved alongside the Harvey/Dell comics it's so visually reminiscent of, working like a diabolical physical delivery device for absurdism: Dick and Jane couldn't ask for better."
#8: Prison Pit Book 2 by Johnny Ryan: "...Ryan's nasty tech-mammal beatdown looked like baby's first cyberpunk Kamandi, and it ably maintained the promise of this comic's initial volume. This, as they should say, is what we all should be getting down with: pure comics."
#5: It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "Trenches was the angriest comic released this year, and while the specifics of its subject matter may be historical, its philosophy hasn't aged a day. War is a brutal, ugly thing, and while some may excel at depicting its horrors with excited doses of adrenaline, Tardi's tale never allows for a moment of escape. For him, political extermination destroys us all, and there's no reason why the bystander should be permitted to participate merely as casual audience."
#3: Weathercraft by Jim Woodring: "It's a comic that stays behind when it's closed, twisting in memory until you're not sure you caught what it said, a demanding experience that's unusual and unique. There's no other medium that could tell the kinds of stories that Woodring prefers; luckily, he's come back to stay."
#2: Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 by the Hernandez Bros.: "An incomparable installment in their storied career, New Stories 3 saw Gilbert attacking his oldest obsessions with more humor than ever before, while Jaimie shocked a legion of fans with the most refined (and masterful) chapter in his Locas saga to date..."
• List:NPR's Glen Weldon lists "The Most Memorable Comics and Graphic Novels of 2010," including (with links to his past reviews):
Werewolves of Montpelier by Jason: "The deadest of deadpan cartoonists returns with a meditation on relationships, burglary and lycanthropy. In France."
It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "Tardi constructs a series of vignettes around World War I, inspired by battlefield photographs. Finally available in English, the work is harrowing and ruthlessly affecting."
#36: Weathercraft by Jim Woodring: "It's a twisting, twisted, often bizarre, often disturbing but always gripping tale of one creature's self-redemption and ultimate sacrifice told without words and often as enigmatically as possible. If you had any doubt that Woodring could still deliver after laying low for so long, consider them erased." – Chris Mautner
#29: Special Exits byJoyce Farmer: "This is a magnum opus no one expected to read, a brutally frank depiction of what it's like for full lives you love to end, and it has the most painfully happy ending of the year. It made me cry. Don't do what I almost did and ignore one of the year's most moving comics." – Sean T. Collins
#28: Set to Sea by Drew Weing: "Weing strapped the heart-rending quest of a simple poet onto a book sporting the energy of a Popeye cartoon and the beastly human proportions of an R. Crumb comic. It's a book that manages to read with the lightness of a feather while simultaneously keeping its audience keenly aware of mortality and the fickle nature of fate on the high seas." – Brian Warmoth
#26: Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley: "The first great comic of the Great Recession. Tim Hensley's breakout graphic novel, previously serialized in the Mome anthology, seems like a send-up of silly '60s teen-comedy and kid-millionaire comics on the surface, but beneath lies as odd and accurate a cri de coeur about capitalism and consumerism as I've ever read. It also does things with body language I've never seen in comics, and is funny as hell to boot. There's nothing else out there like it." – Sean T. Collins
• Review: "The Littlest Pirate King is easily one of the best comics of 2010. [...] What sells it — what sells the whole tale, really — is David B’s superb art. These are overwhelmingly colorful pages, with scenes from strange angles in compressed perspective." – Joshua Malbin
• List/Review: "A brutal guts-and-all look at the short life of the average French soldier in the trenches, with gritty artwork that straddles the fence between cartooning and illustration perfectly, It Was the War of the Trenches ranks up there with All Quiet on the Western Front in the ranks of WWI literature." – ranked #3 on The Best Comics of 2010 by Brad Manfully at Memories Fade
• List:Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 tops The Institute of Idle Time's Top 5 Comics of 2010 list: "Thank god for the Hernandez brothers. Anytime I need to convert someone to the medium, I pull out a volume from the longest-running and most successful alternative comic series of all time. [...] These two cartoonists embody everything comics fans love about the medium. They are master storytellers first and foremost, and the language of comics is never more beautiful." – Mike DiGino
• List: Alicia K. of Wordnerdy includes Castle Waiting Vol. 2 by Linda Medley ("...Castle Waiting is a great look at... I don't know, the lighter side of fairy tales? It's very character based...") and Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 ("Jaime Hernandez's stories in this are his best work ever, and since he's one of my top-two all-time-favorite comics dudes, that is saying a lot") on her Best Comics of 2010 list
• Review: "The chief reason to recommend [The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec] is Tardi’s art. ...[H]is photorealistic vistas of early 20th Century Paris are lovely, especially in the pastels and autumnual hues used here, and his cartoonish characters with their bulbous noses and waxed moustaches are a treat. Best yet is the design of Adele, with her period pulled-up hair, slit eyes and only top lip visible, which makes her appear more business-like and asexual, yet somehow more alluring because of the barriers presented." – Christopher Allen, Trouble with Comics
• Review: "Created as a light-hearted and wittily arch tribute to Jack Kirby’s majestic pantheon of cosmic comic deities Young GODS and Friends... slowly builds and spreads into a mythico-graphic Waiting for Godot... On a purely artistic level this collection and extrapolation is a sheer delight; with superb art, splendid writing and all sorts of added extras, but the story-consumer in me can’t help but yearn for what might have been and how much has been lost. Beautiful wry, witty and completely enchanting — and tragically disappointing because of that." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview: In the intro to Alex Dueben's talk with Joyce Farmer about Special Exits at Comic Book Resources, he says of the book "It’s a story told without the fake, heartwarming nonsense that colors so many stories about this topic. The book is both funny and heartbreaking, sometimes on the same page, dealing with the quiet hopeful moments and the nerve-wracking agony that come from a situation that is all too common and spoken of far too little." Joyce goes in depth about the process of the book: "I had wanted to do a big project for a long time. A few months before, I had realized that maybe my parents’ story was a worthwhile project. I was on vacation and I decided to write out the various stories that I remembered. This was three years after they died, so I’d had some time for some stories to die away and other stories to stick in my mind. I had one hundred stories, approximately, and I thought well, this is a book."
• List: "For giving us context, for showing us beautiful stories, and for delving into the work of a woman that changed girls comics forever, A Drunken Dream reaches #2 on my list." – Alexander Hoffman, Manga Widget "Top 10 of 2010"
• Plug: "The Prettiest, Shiniest Thing You Can Buy For That Special Someone Who Likes Pretty, Shiny Things: [...] It makes a fantastic read and an excellent coffee table book for someone who loves manga." – Daniella Orihuela-Gruber, All About Manga
• Plug: "This collection of short stories spanning the career of shoujo pioneer Moto Hagio offers a poignant look into the author’s mind, both as a young artist and an established creator, focusing especially on themes of family and personal identity." – Melinda Beasi, Manga Bookshelf