Our weekly strips from Kupperman & Weissman, plus links to other strips from around the web. Running a bit late this week; apologies if you've been hunched over your browser clicking "refresh" since last night.
• List:Castle Waiting Vols. 1 & 2 take two spots on Nancy Pearl's "10 Terrific Summer Reads" list at NPR.org: "The black-and-white drawings are precisely crafted, with small, endearing touches that render each character entirely unique. The dialogue is clever and filled with subtle grace notes of drollness and humor. The set will be especially appealing to readers of all ages who enjoy seeing and reading traditional fairy tale tropes teased and played with, all with a sense of good-humored fun."
• Review: "...Congress of the Animals finds twisted fabulist Woodring at the top of his darkly delightful game: Open the book at random and the odds are very good that your gaze will alight upon something that stings, bites, drips, oozes or squelches. Tentacled plant-beasts threaten the unwary, factories powered by crushed blackbirds produce who-knows-what, slimy amphibians enact bizarre rituals and a tribe of naked, faceless men whom the jacket copy refers to as "blind gut-worshippers" — easily the most potent nightmare fuel Woodring has ever produced — drug passersby for mysterious purposes of their own. You certainly won't want to live inside the covers of Congress of the Animals, but it's a fascinating and thrilling feat of imagination, and one hell of a place to visit." – Glen Weldon, NPR.org
• Review: "This book does something I love. It takes me inside a world I’ve never known.... Shimura’s writing does a good job of exposing the readers to the realities of being transgender. Wandering Son ignited my imagination and got me trying to relate to and understand these characters as deeply as possible.... Shimura has crafted an excellent opening volume.... The quiet pace and subject matter make this series a perfect read for the alternative comics crowd. Fans of shoujo and josei manga will enjoy it too. I’d love for everyone to at least give the first volume of Wandering Son a try. It’s a rare gem of emotional honesty and complexity that rewards those willing to take the risk and move outside their typical reading habits." – Ed Sizemore, Comics Worth Reading
• Review: "Monologues for Calculating the Density of Black Holes by Anders Nilsen... touched a special spot that I strive towards in my reading; it created atmosphere. There’s a weight to the unhinged timeline and nonsensical dialogue. It feels calculated, even as it touches on topics such as 'Godzilla vs. Richard Simmons.' The drawings are simple, yet they effortlessly convey time and feel appropriate for the content. It was a quick read, but one that I’ll be revisiting. Check it out." – Au Yeah!
• Interview:Newsarama's Michael Lorah talks to Wilfred Santiago about the creation of 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente: "A baseball sequence is all about interpretation; there are cold, unchangeable facts. If the batter hits a home run to left field in the second inning, etc., then those are unchangeable facts about that scene. So it’s about the reading of the particulars. I mean, if you are saying sad things while laughing maniacally, it’s different than if you are saying them while sobbing and in tears. Therefore, it’s all about what role that particular game sequence plays in the story as a whole. It’s not a book about baseball, even though there’s baseball in it."
• Interview (Audio):Inkstuds host Robin McConnell rang up Dave McKean (on Skype presumably) for a conversation about his latest book: "Celluloid, fresh out from Fantagraphics, is a remarkable work exploring pornography through a very particular lens. Needless to say, it is fantastic."
• Review: "...Artichoke Tales and The Squirrel Mother have established Kelso as one of the most original talents in comics. The dozen stories in Queen of the Black Black show an emerging talent, but not a fully-formed one; Kelso tries out a variety of styles here, from primitivist to expressionistic, and tries out a variety of genres too, from slice-of-life to historical fantasy. This book isn’t the best introduction to Kelso — that would be The Squirrel Mother — but it’s essential for fans..." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Now collected and translated into English, Approximate Continuum Comics is almost more valuable now than it was at the time, serving as a historical document of one of some of the most significant cartoonists in Eurocomics. The book also exemplifies Trondheim’s distinctive autobiographical style, which allows plenty of room for dream sequences, slapstick, digressions, and all the virtues that make his fiction work such a delight." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "For Isle of 100,000 Graves, Norwegian cartoonist Jason works his animal-headed characters into a rip-roaring pirate tale written by Fabien Vehlmann. The result is a little more dialogue-heavy and a little less existential than Jason’s usual books, but it’s still funny and imaginative, telling the story of a young girl who joins a band of buccaneers to look for her father and ends up meeting a hapless lad who’s enrolled in school for executioners. The action barrels straight ahead to a sweet finish, but the highlights of Isle of 100,000 Graves come in that school, where kids dispassionately learn to maim and torture in ways that perfectly suit Jason’s deadpan style." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Isle of 100,000 Graves is the first work of Jason's to be written by someone other than himself. Boy, did he choose a good one!... Visually it is much the same as Jason's other works, which in my opinion are stunning in their simplicity. The sparse composition of the panels, the 'ligne claire' art style (yeah, I just got pretentious on yo' ass) and the fantastic use of negative space all add to the understated, dead pan wit of the tale. A fun and entertaining adventure that just goes towards further proving the talent of these men." – 2 Bad Guys from an 80s Movie
• Review: "...Woodring returns with Congress of the Animals, a 100-page book focused on Frank. The style and format will be familiar to Woodring devotees — wordless and surreal, with each panel packed with thick, squiggly lines — but the story’s more clearly allegorical than usual, following the buck-toothed, easygoing Frank as he moves into a new home and learns what it means to work a soul-crushing job to maintain a standard of living. The theme is heavy, but there’s a strong slapstick comedy element too, which endures right up to the point where things take a turn from the merely weird to the mind-meltingly weird." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "If Mauldin’s World War II strips were a needed corrective to the public’s glorification of war, then his post WWII work fulfilled the same function for those who thought of post-war America as some kind of euphoric utopia.... The production values for this volume, like the hardcover edition for The WWII Years, are impeccable.... DePastino’s introduction is jammed with illustrative biographical details and is livened up with promotional materials.... Back Home is a study of an artist in transition, both in terms of his art and his life. At the same time, it’s a study of a nation in transition, where the political and cultural ground was shifting and a battle over the nature of that national discourse was being waged." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "I re-read both the Hernanadez brothers collected works about once a year and there’s not a lot between them. But somehow the subject matter and sheer storytelling verve of Locas tips the balance for me. I’m constantly in awe of how they both can chronicle the lives of huge casts of characters. The hardback collections of Locas and Palomar are absolutely essential." – Oli Barratt, Lost At E Minor
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.
• Review: "It's a smart-looking book, and the choice to go color-free really allows Gilbert Hernandez's cartooning to shine. But make no mistake: this is vintage Bagge. Sure, we're minus the delicious Buddy Bradley angst, and the goofiness is rated PG, but the increasingly ridiculous situations that the girls of Yeah!... get themselves into [are] very much in Bagge's wheelhouse.... Yeah! also has in spades something that HATE! rarely, if ever, did: cuteness. Some of the hijinx and situations that the band finds itself in are, well, adorable. Hernandez's pen is as much to credit for that as is Bagge's turn to the 'pop side.'" – Jeremy Nisen, Under the Radar
• Review: "This slim graphic novel [Toys in the Basement] is nominally for children, but the art of the Frenchman Blanquet takes a children's story to an unexpected level.... This surrealist book by writer-artist Blanquet brings to the young reader a simple message: retribution will come, and you never know from which side." – Ray Garraty, Endless Falls Up
• Interview: At Comic Book Resources, Chris Mautner talks to Dave McKean about his new erotic graphic novel Celluloid: "The depressing majority of comics seem to be about violence of one sort or another, yet how much violence does the average person have to deal with in their everyday lives?... But sex is happily part of most people's lives, and crosses the mind most days, I would say, even if it's just watching your partner get out of bed in the morning."
• Interview:Time Out Chicago's Web Behrens goes back for a second helping with Paul Hornschemeier: "'I remember — well, I don’t actually remember this, but my mom told me this story many times: I was walking with her when I was little, 3 or 4. I looked up at her and said, 'Mom, sometimes I miss you even when you’re here.' What a sad — well, it’s cute, but gosh, I was lonely even then, walking with my mom! It’s just kind of how I’m wired."
• Panel:The Daily Cross Hatch begins transcribing the MoCCA panel on political cartooning that Tim Kreider was on: "My early cartoons were surreal non-sequiturs, but I feel like I was kind of conscripted into duty as a political cartoonist. I didn’t feel like the Bush years were just the opposition in charge. It felt like a true aberration in history, like the McCarthy years. It’s something I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut about. Once it was over, I was very, very happy to quit, but I wasn’t going to quit before George did."
The Online Commentary & Diversions hamster wheel started spinning a little too fast, but I think I've got it back under control now:
• Feature: For Largehearted Boy's "Book Notes" feature, Wilfred Santiago creates a musical playlist for 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente: "Golden age animation has been a big influence on my work and the graphic novel itself is very musical. It would be interesting to see the shape that it would take as a feature film. So here is what the 21 soundtrack would sound like."
(The following links are via the Largehearted Boy link above:)
• Review: "The graphic novel  is a beautifully wrought Clemente collage, following the hitter from the impactful events of childhood through his career as a Pirate and up to his untimely death. While there were several poignant dramatic through lines, the book’s strength lies in its brilliant visuals, which far outweigh its strictly biographical content. In addition to his many other notable qualities, like his humanitarianism and his greatness as a player, Clemente was a beautiful man, with a striking physicality. Drawing on this aesthetic truth, Santiago stuns and heightens it, with an imaginative and dramatic illustrative style, with its palette of Pirates yellow, and orange and black. The oral tradition of myth-making is put into visual form here." – Ted Walker, Pitchers & Poets
• Review: "The comic book biography is alive and well in 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente... In 21, Wilfred Santiago, who was also born in Puerto Rico, uses the language of comic books to tell the story of Clemente’s life as something like the arc of the hero’s journey or as a heroic epic.... 21 captures what made Clemente unique. However, Santiago uses the medium of the comic book in a unique way to tell the story of man who represents the best of us. [Grade] A-" – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "...I love a good graphic novel biography. Well as those of you who are familiar with the great baseball player and humanitarian that Roberto Clemente was already know, it would be hard to tell his story in any media and for that story not to be powerful. ...21 ... is a handsome production... [and] an... EXCELLENT graphic novel." – Ralph Mathieu, Ich Liebe Comics!
• Plug: "21: The Story of Roberto Clementeby Wilfred Santiago, a graphic novel by an illustrator and writer from Puerto Rico, received a nice write up in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated (linked here)... If we could only have found it at the book store. Sports shelves? Graphic novels? You give it a shot." – Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Daily News
• Review: "...Mattotti is an artist who is equally concerned with complex imagery and sharp storytelling — attention to that combination leads us to what makes Mattotti so great. Claudio Piersanti wrote a very crisp script for Stigmata, and Mattotti illuminates the story deftly, probably because he has a real appreciation for well told stories.... If one’s standard for great cartooning is drawing that tells a story without a shred of vagueness, Mattotti’s work on the events described above is thrilling in its virtuosity. But this is a work of art far more potent than a simple story well-told. Mattotti’s two extremes — that of high level storytelling and drawing that suggests unique emotions — exist side by side without any fuss." – Austin English, The Comics Journal
• Review: "While the core timeline of Freeway is only a few hours of frustration spent in traffic, Alex’s mind wanders through past fiction and reality, present fact, and fantasy. Kalesniko, who himself worked at Disney as an animator, designed his main character as an anthropomorphic dog. The result is a wistful, innocent, and somewhat naive protagonist who is coming to the realization that his childhood dreams aren’t quite turning out as he planned.... It is definitely worth the challenge of meandering through the crammed vehicles to reach those poignant moments of Alex’s life, moments many of us share in our own versions of our adult selves." – Ashley Cook, Giant Fire Breathing Robot
• Review: "Less able graphic novelists might scare themselves silly with the scope of this book, but Mark Kalesniko’s attention to detail in all aspects of his craft — the backgrounds, the emotional ranges of the characters and the slow but steady-paced urbane drama — blends the components together masterfully.... [Freeway] is deeply sophisticated and literary. It deals with humanity’s big questions – love, death, life, and what we do with our time. It’s funny, touching, heart-warming, tragic and very engaging." – Andy Shaw, Grovel
• Review: "Gilbert’s sketches actually give an insight into how he feels about his characters, and as a reader, I found myself understanding the characters a bit more, just by looking at his drawings.... The work in the ‘Jaime’ section is quite beautiful and well drawn, however, it does not give further insights into the ways in which Jaime sees his characters, or what he has planned for them... To sum up, Love and Rockets Sketchbook Volume 2 is pretty awesome." – Lisa Polifroni, lisaloves2read
• Interview: At Inkstuds, a 2008 conversation with Johnny Ryan conducted and with illustations by Josh Bayer: "It’s interesting that you bring it up because people always demand that artists deliver some sort of meaning and truth, and when that truth’s hideous they throw up their arms and get upset and have hurt feelings and it’s 'you’re ruining people’s lives.' There’s conflict; you want the art to be true, but don’t want to be shown stuff that makes you feel bad, you can’t make people feel good all the time, it's not true, the object is to make people feel something. There’s no rule that it has to be something good."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch wraps up their serialization of the transcript of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Peter Bagge: "I used to worry about what my peers thought. That’s a big mistake. Never worry about what your peers think, because then you always find out that they would have done it in a heartbeat. [Laughter] If you take anything away from this conversation, it should be 'fuck Dan Clowes.'"
• Feature:The Seattle Times' Marian Liu previews our Charles Peterson: Taking Punk to the Masses exhibit at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery: "'I was wondering why this kid was bothering to take photos,' said Larry Reid, curator of the Fantagraphics show, of Peterson. Now, flipping through the photos, Reid remembers each scene as if it happened yesterday. Drawn to the energy of the music, Reid was a good decade older than many in the scene then. He shepherded the artists by promoting their shows and allowing them to play in his gallery's basement. 'I can recognize the artists by their shoes,' said Reid, looking through the photos."
• Plug: "For a reality check, I turned to a former Rolling Stone colleague and friend who always seemed to have a better line on all things cultural than anyone else around and a way of stating his position in a manner that set him apart, way apart, from other music writers — make that writers, period — of his time, and boy does he put today’s snarky music press to shame. This would be the late Paul Nelson... (Nelson’s life and work are getting their just due in September with the publication of a long-awaited, diligently researched biography by Kevin Avery, Everything Is An Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson. Full disclosure: Yours truly was among those Avery interviewed. But buy the book anyway.)" – David McGee, The Bluegrass Special
• Plug: "I’m in the process of reading an advance of Everything Is An Afterthought, Kevin Avery’s biography and selected works of the music critic Paul Nelson. Reading Nelson’s writing reminds me how of the role that he and other music critics of the time — our own John Swenson included — played in creating the myth of New York City for me." – Alex Rawls, OffBeat
• Plug: "Back in 2003, Lou Reed paid tribute to poet Edgar Allen Poe with his sprawling The Raven, which didn't exactly strike a positive chord with the many critics and fans at the time. Nevertheless, Reed will now be revisiting that album with a new illustrated book. The book, also titled The Raven, was made in collaboration with Italian illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti.... We originally called The Raven 'bizarre and thoroughly uneven.' We'll have to see if this new illustrated spin helps to make the entire album a bit more rewarding." – Alex Hudson, exclaim.ca
Tim Kreider doesn't mince words — or images — in his opinion on the British royal family in the latest ruling of Matt Taibbi's Supreme Court of Assholedom at Rolling Stone.
(Taibbi also notes: "I would be remiss if I didn’t remind readers who like Tim Kreider’s drawings to check out his new book, the appropriately-named Twilight of the Assholes , a kind of epic review of the later Bush years. My own mother picked up this book when visiting me not long ago and at first I thought I should probably take it away from her before she started worrying about what kind of friends I have these days, but before I could grab it she started laughing out loud at the cartoons. Anyway, I definitely recommend you all check it out.")
Catching up on several days' worth of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List/Plugs: In an article titled "Fantagraphics: The Greatest American Comics Publisher," GUY.com's Rob Gonsalves says "What the Criterion Collection is to DVDs, Fantagraphics is to comics. Any self-respecting collection of graphic novels, any library public or personal, needs to sport at least one Fantagraphics book," and recommends a nicely idiosyncratic top-20 list of our publications which includes some of our more obscure releases
• Review: "While there definitely were some hardships, Clemente’s life was as unique and joyful as his persona and ball playing skills were, and Wilfred Santiago’s 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente reflects this uniqueness and joy through its own unique retelling of Clemente’s life. [...] The simple joy conveyed in this book is universally appealing... Baseball is a game that is full of life and story, and every year the game blooms in the spring with the trees and flowers of the season. 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente celebrates life, and new life, as much as it does baseball." – Andy Frisk, Comic Book Bin
• Interview: Pittsburgh City Paper's David Davis, who says "In his new graphic novel 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente, the author of 2002's In My Darkest Hour uses Clemente's life to explore issues on and off the diamond. These include the thorny politics of Puerto Rico (statehood or commonwealth status?) as well as the racism Clemente faced in America as a dark-skinned Latino. The result is both a superhero cartoon and a lyrical time-machine, rendered in the regal black-gold-and-white of the Bucs' uni," has a brief Q&A with Wilfred Santiago: "I began my career working on superhero cartoons. That's the look I wanted to get -- somewhere between a cartoon and a painting. I wanted to get the camera right there with him and you're experiencing the action up close."
• Review: "Slavishly documenting and lavishly illustrating through band flyers and set lists and rare record sides and marvelous photography, along with first-person textual accounts, this strange, excited dialogue between misfits in America through bands, venues, zines, and lives and how it was all done punk and how punk was done. [...] Taking Punk to the Masses’ gallant bridging of universal punk history with our own in Ecotopia is a reason to celebrate. Your eyes can gnaw on decades of delicious artwork while you read and watch stories you may have heard of, but after this, will never forget." – Chris Estey, The KEXP Blog
• Review: "In Hate Annual #9, Buddy returns to Seattle to meet the dysfunctional family of his wife Lisa who he has never met despite having been with Lisa for close to 20 years. In a tension-filled 72 hours, Buddy is subjected to senile parents, criminals, and drug addicts. Each page is filled with the sardonic humor and high drama that are staples of Bagge's work. [...] Read this issue slowly because once you're done laughing your head off, you are sure to be sad that you'll have to wait another year to check in with one of the best characters of alternative comics." – Rip Ransley, Stray Riffs
• Review: "The particular fascination in this early work [The Arctic Marauder] is seeing one of the unique individual styles in cartooning at a formative stage. [...] As for the subject matter: It’s an example of parody that continues on when the thing parodied has long faded away. [...] Part of the appeal is feeling superior to an earlier age, and another part is being engaged in the traces of the earlier form embedded in the parody, which you would normally feel yourself too sophisticated to enjoy." – R. Fiore, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "At once a parody and a tribute to late 19th, early 20th century mystery/adventure Jules Verne-esque fiction, this gorgeous one-shot [The Arctic Marauder] is masterfully drawn scratchboard style, as to echo the woodcuts of the era. The result is sumptuous, and look at those elegant art-nouveau panels! [...] Fans of concentrated mysteries, steam-operated machines, dramatic adventures and over-the-top vilains should be all over this!" – 211 Bernard (Librairie Drawn & Quarterly)
• Review: "With Woodring’s skill, I never found myself confused, at least, more than you’re supposed to be. I’ve never read a statement by Woodring saying this, but I always got the impression he wanted you to work for the meaning behind his stories. Even if it’s not the case, I highly enjoy the process. In one graphic novel [Weathercraft], I got what I think may have been a love story, a treatise on spiritual enlightenment and sometimes just a whole lot of fun." – Joe Keatinge, Joe Keatinge's Comics & Stories
• Review: "Weathercraft... [is a]nother volume of nightmarishly beautiful wordless comics by the remarkable Mr. Woodring. Even for those accustomed to his work, there is page after page that makes you say, 'I’ve never seen anything like that before!' And then hide under your bed." – M. Ace, Irregular Orbit
• Interview:Book By Its Cover's Jen Rothman, who says "Ray Fenwick has created yet another masterpiece. His second book, Mascots, hit shelves in the beginning of this year and it’s quite a beauty. It’s filled with his signature style that mixes ornate hand lettering and imagery, creating amusing little narratives," has a Q&A with Ray: "I thought of the idea of mascots because they’re these outrageous, often ridiculous figures, but they’re symbolic of something else. The thing they’re there to represent isn’t ridiculous at all. I thought that was similar in a lot of ways to the work in the book."
• Interview:One Two One Two Microphone Check has a cultural Q&A with our own Kim Thompson: "There is no movie I love but would be embarrassed to talk about in a serious, intellectual conversation, because if I love it, it is worth talking about by definition. (I concede this could be taken as arrogant.) That said, I am mildly embarrassed at how much I actually love Love, Actually."
• Interview: Alex Dueben's great interview with Daniel Clowes at Comic Book Resources touches on Dan's design work for our upcoming series of Crockett Johnson's Barnaby collections: "It's probably the best written comic strip of all time. The artwork is disarmingly simple. It's the kind of thing that I would normally not be attracted to. He uses typography instead of hand lettering and very simple diagrammatic drawings, yet they are perfect, and work beautifully in a way that anything added to it would detract from it. My goal with the design of the book is to follow his very severe minimal design style and try to live up to that."
• Interview: At TCJ.com, Sean T. Collins also talks to Clowes: "I was always baffled that people who liked mainstream comics seemed to really gravitate towards [Eightball #22]. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was about that one, specifically, that made them like that so much."
• Commentary:Tim Kreider pens an essay on the state of the cartooning industry for TCJ.com: "When you’re young, it’s exciting and fun just to have your work published in the local alternative weekly, or posted online, “liked” and commented on and linked to; but eventually you turn forty and realize you’ve given away a career’s worth of labor for nothing. What’s happening in comics now is what happened in the music industry in the last decade and what’ll happen to publishing in the next. Soon Don DeLillo will be peddling T-shirts too."
• Commentary:Robot 6 polled Gilbert Hernandez for their weekly "What Are You Reading?" feature: "The new comics I always enjoy are by R. Crumb, Dan Clowes, Richard Sala and Charles Burns. I haven’t seen Burns’ and Sala’s new books yet but I did read The Bible by Crumb, which I found tedious only because of the subject matter and Wilson by Clowes. That was hard to get through because the protagonist is so supremely hateful. Well executed, though."