Some major comics writing out there over the holiday weekend making for an extra-beefy (and late) Online Commentary & Diversions update:
•Review/Profile: "Sure I'd read [Hal] Foster before, but I'd never found a way in. Fortunately, Fantagraphics recently released Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-38, and I was able to absorb the material in a wholly new way.... I found this first book completely engrossing. Prince Valiant opens up a world that I wanted to stay in -- a wide-eyed early 20th century approach to fantasy with a now-vanished sincerity and wholesomeness. It's an all too rare pleasure in comics." - Dan Nadel, Comics Comics
• Review: "Medieval swordplay and adventure have never been as glorious as in Foster's Sunday-only comic strip. Although much reprinted (including an earlier version from the same publisher), this edition has been reproduced from pristine printer's proofs to give the gorgeous artwork its crispest version ever.... Foster's script is literate and full of vivid characterizations, like the headstrong but cunning Val and carefree Sir Gawain. But nothing surpasses his artwork—rich with details of armor, weapons and dress, the story comes to life with a palpable sense of magic and danger. Each drawing is a flawless illustration, perfectly composed; even a battle of 20 men comes alive in a tiny panel, with every action clearly delineated. Prince Valiant is one of the best-drawn comics ever, and this new edition does ample justice to its achievement." - Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "Underneath the screaming and plagues, the giddy joy that [Basil Wolverton] seems to take in his art radiates off the page, just like it does in his secular work.... His creatures from sci-fi and horror, his fascination with grotesque bodily exaggeration, his devout Christian faith -- here it all comes together into an operatic and apocalyptic peak.... The Wolverton Bible might seem like a paradox to its religious audience and its alt-comics fans -- even if Wolverton himself never saw the contradiction." - Martyn Pedler, Bookslut
• Review: "As an historical object, sure, great. I think it should be in print. Kurtzman was a very important figure in comics, and the art and design of the pieces here are of an exceedingly high quality. I'm glad I can see more examples of Jaffee's, Elder's and Davis' work." Otherwise, Chris Allen gives up on Humbug
• Review: Joe McCulloch of Jog - The Blog has a major review of Tardi & Manchette's West Coast Blues -- I've read through it three times and it's too complex for a simple pull quote
• History/preview/profile/analysis: "The 300th issue of The Comics Journal is soon to hit the stands, and the magazine everyone in comics loves to hate rattles on, chugging and sputtering and picking up disreputable beardy guys like a Toonerville Trolley of spite.... In some Inglourious Basterds-like alternate history, the 1990s ended with the twisted faces of Kim Thompson and Gary Groth hovering, laughing maniacally, over the charred and bullet-riddled corpse of Wizard magazine." - Shaenon K. Garrity, comiXology
• Analysis: du9 presents a new translation by Derik Badman of a 2006 piece by David Turgeon on Poison River by Gilbert Hernandez: "What first strikes the reader about this work is its narrative density. It isn’t uncommon for a single page to show as many places, times, and situations as there are panels." (Via Journalista)
• Interview: Jason Thibault of Optimum Wound talks to Tim Lane as part of their "Masters of Ink" series: "You do what seems the impossible and most absurd: you learn to breathe underwater, and revel in it. Get drunk on the water in your lungs. Cultivate a functional level of positive insanity. And develop tough skin. Stick with it if only because your reasons are inexplicable."
• Interview: The Daily Cross Hatch wraps up presenting Brian Heater's chat with Jordan Crane: "I was in Portugal and I saw a really tiny kid with a really giant cat. He looked exactly like the kid in The Clouds Above. The kid was so small that the cat was the same size as him — it’s not a big cat, but next to him, he was huge. And then I just kind of went from there."
• Plug: At Super I.T.C.H., Steven Johnston takes note of Humbug ("much of it is prime satire from the creators of MAD!") and The Wolverton Bible ("particularly including some genuinely horrific scenes from the Book of Revelations").
• Review: "From the opening panel until the final words, Tardi's adaptation of Manchette's crime novel [West Coast Blues] sizzles with a dazzling graphic intensity... Much like the 1950s American crime novels they emulate, Tardi and Manchette offer a impressive display of destructive violence, wanton love, and disregard for life. Showcasing Tardi's singular artistic talents, the brilliant West Coast Blues emerges as one of the best crime graphic novels ever produced." - Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Review: "[West Coast Blues] is slyly funny without being jokey; thrilling without ever seeming manipulative; cool, distant and ironic in its narrative voice; immediate in its depiction of violence. What do Tardi's illustrations add? Mostly a crowded sense of daily life, an ironic, sense-sharpening departure from the dark, shadowy atmospherics that sometimes nudge noir toward mere style." - Peter Rozovsky, Detectives Beyond Borders
• Review: "If you were a Martian trying to figure out America in the second half of the 20th century, you could do worse than to start by reading Jules Feiffer’s Village Voice cartoons [collected in Explainers]." - Sarah Boslaugh, PopMatters
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions starts with a bang:
• Review: "...[A]n astonishingly rich and convincing picture of uncertain, developing human relationships. Besides the masterful storytelling, [Locas II: Maggie, Hopey & Ray] is notable for superb black and white artwork. Panel by panel and page by page, it's a delight to watch darkness crowding into open space, while supple linework dances freely in its allotted territory. This is a landmark in comics literature." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)
• Review: "From Wonderland with Loveis anexcellent introduction to the part of the Danish comics scene that tries to push the boundaries of the medium – and in particular to the “wild bunch” that emerged at the beginning of this millennium. If you’re an open-minded reader, there’s no getting past this book, even if it – as a Dane – at times feels a bit odd to read Danish comics in English. […] If you love the place where art challenges the status quo and moves the fence posts, gaining new land in the process, you’ll feel right at home here." - Ulf Reese Næsborg, tegneseriesiden (updated with new translation from the author - thanks Ulf)
• Review: "[From Wonderland with Love] is a beautiful book, full of very different temperaments and different styles. All comics are from the 21st century and together they show both the great width and breadth of Danish comics. There are quiet, direct, hard hitting stories... And there are more poetic, allegorical, dreamy stories... And if you want new, interesting and strange, look no further." - Fredrik Strömberg, Sekventiellt (books by Strömberg)
• Interview: At Marvel.com, Sean T. Collins continues his series of Strange Tales MAX contributor interviews with Michael Kupperman: "People are going to be very interested in the changes I've made to the Marvel canon. They're probably going to have to scrap everything they've ever published and start over. The new version of SECRET WARS is going to be called OVERT WARS."
• Interview: The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater kicks off a 3-part talk with Jordan Crane: "Well, I’m trying to make [Uptight] less sporadic. I want to do it two times a year, solid. It’s been kind of a chaotic last couple of years. So now I’m focusing everything I can on it."
We received the list of our nominees for this year's Ignatz Awards. It's a good lookin' list, and we're especially proud to have staffer Jason T. Miles nominated for Outstanding Comic! As is traditional, we've put all of our nominated titles on sale -- 15% off for a limited time! Click here to browse & buy. Recipients of the brick will be announced at SPX on September 26. For all the nominees, head to the SPX website for the official announcement.
Tim Hensley, Mome (Fantagraphics), Kramer's Ergot #7 (Buenaventura)
Congratulations to everybody, including T. Edward Bak, nominated for Outstanding New Talent even before his amazing Mome story was eligible, and Dash Shaw, nominated for Outstanding Online Comic for Bodyworld.
A new week brings an avalanche of new Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Profile: For the Philadelphia Inquirer, Tirdad Derakhshani looks at the past, present, and future of Prince Valiant: "The release Tuesday of Prince Valiant, Vol. 1: 1937-1938, the first in a new series of gorgeously printed, hardcover Valiant collections from Fantagraphics Books, served as a bittersweet reminder of the century-long rise and eventual decline of a great American art form, the comic strip."
• Review: "...Al [Columbia] decided to dredge up old ghosts, unfinished pieces, trifles he had thrown away then reconsidered and offered them up to us as proof that he hasn’t forgotten us. This 240-page book [Pim and Francie: The Golden Bear Days, Fall 2009]... has certainly filled in some gaps for me as to what goes on in Columbia’s mind... There seems to be something both amazing and horrifying around every corner, in any dark space, in the thick of the forest, in the bulbous eyes of maniacal creatures and the straight realistic lines of buildings that all have a dark window somewhere... It is truly a viscous treat and I am sure this one will never wash off." - Rachael M Rollson, Panel to Panel
• Review: "Though Low Moon doesn’t have the slow-building impact of Jason’s longer works, he’s still one of comics’ best storytellers, and it’s always a treat to spend time in his world of off-brand pulp clichés and not-always-so-funny animals. [Grade] B+" - The A.V. Club
• Review: "Jason is an immensely skilled artist capable of manipulating his self-restricted vocabulary to stretch space and time. Low Moon moves in a slow burn as the two antagonists move closer to their eventual showdown. In what is probably the best story in the book You Are Here, time moves more quickly as a father and son attempt to deal with the alien abduction of the father's wife. The father builds a rocket while the son grows up and has a life of his own. Eventually they pile into the rocket, and things end badly, but perhaps a bit more emotionally than with the other stories." - Michael Buntag, NonSensical Words
• Review: "Rage of a different kind in Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me and Other Astute Observations by Peter Bagge. This collection of satirical rants from the American libertarian magazine Reason... is philosophically more about punk individualism than Ayn Rand, and artistically the heir to 1980s indie comics. Indeed, Bagge is an indie star, famous for his wonderfully elastic cartooning style and punk-inflected comedies." - Roger Sabin, The Observer
• Review: "These are good comics [in Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me and Other Astute Observations], fun to read and definitely funny, definitely searing and when he hits a target he gets it right. Also there’s something to be said for the journalist tone of the writing and the structure of the strips would translate well into a proper newspaper, were he so inclined." - Ibrow
• Review: "For fresh talent in comics, you have to go to the anthologies and there's none better at the moment than Mome... the highlight [of Vol. 15] is Dash Shaw's hallucinatory story about a tidal wave, which uses swaths of colour and elongated panels to create a sense of vertigo." - Roger Sabin, The Observer (same link as above)
• Review: "Schulz had gone from a fairly grounded sense of consensus reality to Snoopy's flights of fancy to outright weirdness... That seems to be the essence of Sparky Schulz to me: even with the pressure of the daily grind and his position as the lynchpin of what had become a vast empire, Schulz wrote to amuse himself... At his best in this volume [The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974], Schulz gave the readers some of the best stories of his career." - Rob Clough
• Review: "Ace cartoonist Jordan Crane makes a curious split comic choice. The first half [of Uptight #3 ], 'Vicissitude,' is the opening chapter of a brooding adult tale of marital dysfunction and deceit, while the second, 'Freeze Out,' is a kid’s story, the further adventures of Simon and his cat Jack, who were featured in Crane’s great graphic novel, The Clouds Above. Miraculously, the pairing works — each is superior in its own genre — but you might want to wait until 'Freeze Out' is collected on its own before showing it to your kids." - John Seven, Worcester Magazine
• Review: "Blazing Combat (Fantagraphics, 2009) collects the entire run in a beautiful, incredibly well-bound hardcover book... The stories' tone is very 1960s, ironic with a cynicism stemming from brokenhearted humanism." - Carol Borden, The Cultural Gutter
• Review: "Needless to say, I love the streak of darkness that permeates [Charles] Burns' work. I mean that both figuratively and literally, as his one-of-a-kind illustration style is at-a-glance recognizable because of his heavy use of black ink... That starkness emphasizes the cruel features on the faces of his characters - deep wrinkles, harsh teeth, beady eyes and unflattering noses, to say nothing of the occasional freak. Like the look of his characters, Burns is one of a kind, and Skin Deep is a good introduction to the man's singular vision - a good way to get your toe wet before diving in." - Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: "[A.B.] Frost looked like he was painting with the line…on a half-dozen cups of coffee. Trust me, that’s hard to do... Also, it looks like Fanta-Graphic Books might have brought Stuff and Nonsense back in print in 2003. [Yes. -Ed.] Pick up and copy and be ready to weep - this work is untouchable." - Tony DiTerlizzi
• Plug: "Carol Tyler's You'll Never Know is my favorite book of the year thus far. This memoir/biography/scrapbook is both formally challenging and emotionally devastating. Any critic serious about compiling a year-end list needs to keep this book under consideration." - Rob Clough, Robot 6 (guest contributor)
• Tweet: "Still, the most beautifully designed bk so far this yr is still IMO Fantagraphics 'The Brinkley Girls': http://bit.ly/CSYpH Swoon-worthy." - bookjones
• Review: "As slim, smooth, and hard as its attractive, Adam Grano-designed album-style hardcover format, West Coast Blues is as strong a crime comic as you're likely to see this year (or until whenever the next Gipi Wish You Were Here Ignatz book comes out)... Tardi's art [is] a master class in spotted blacks and lines like garrote wire... This sucker's good." - Sean T. Collins
Check out this awesome bag illustration that our own Tim Lane (of Abandoned Cars fame) did for our pals David & Dave at Secret Headquarters. If you're in Los Angeles, it's worth making a trip to SHQ just to pick up a free bag!
Tim Lane contributes the above two-page spread to the upcoming third volume of our Hotwire anthology. At his blog he's got closer looks, the concept sketch, and more background info. That "O" kills me.
Online Commentary & Diversions updates resume next week. Off to Comic-Con tomorrow! I'll be Twittering from the show as much as I can.
• Preview: "Now Jason publishes a collection of his short, sharp works ...called Low Moon, in which his trademark anthropomorphic animals get into all sorts of trouble — including, in the story 'Emily Says Hello,' murder, revenge and sexual domination." - New York Magazine presents an exclusive five-page excerpt from Low Moon
• Review: "All of Jason’s tales in Low Moon play like a black comedy, tragic yet humorous. Maybe it’s his protagonists blank eyed stares or the fact the characters are all cute animals being put through some troubling things that give these outwardly simple and light cartoons a heavy feel. If you’re a comic fan looking for a change of pace from the tired summer/blockbuster/epic/crossover comic events then this one’s for you." - Mishka Bloglin
• Review: "What surprised me the most [about Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938]... was... how much [Hal] Foster had brought me to care about these characters... [P]erhaps for the first time ever, we’re able to see just how detailed and elaborate Foster’s art really was... More importantly, though, was how well Foster set up his pages. His layouts draw the reader across the page from one panel to the next, often culminating in a truly impressive final panel... Prince Valiant was good all along. Who knew?" - Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Review: "I mean, holy. Effing. Shit... Was [Fletcher] Hanks insane or otherwise mentally handicapped? Dunno, but as editor Paul Karasik points out in his meaty introduction [to You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation!], this was a man mean enough to kick his 4-year-old son down a flight of stairs... You’ll love how much you hate [these works]; you’ll hate how much you love them." - Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Plug: "Boy, that Prince Valiant [Vol. 1: 1937-1938] hardcover looked great, didn’t it? The color is just stunning. The stories (what I’ve read so far, at least) are fun as well, with a nice mix of realism and fantasy. I’m looking forward to future volumes, both to see how Hal Foster’s style and Val’s character develop over the years." - Tom Bondurant, Robot 6