• Review: "His wordless tale filled with an eerie landscape and creatures that are both familiar and horrifyingly alien evokes dread and mystery. Equal parts parable, fable and surreal (and perhaps at times unfathomable) vision, Weathercraft further cements Woodring's reputation as one of the true geniuses of comics." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "The pace of this tale [Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird] is relentless; once Millionaire pushes you down the hill you don’t stop for many miles, and you’ll hit many bumps along the way…it’s one of the most fun stories I’ve read in quite some time, full of humor and odd characters and vividly realized by Millionaire’s art... ...[I]f you like high-spirited and whimsical fun, I think this is as good an example of that as any you might come across." – Johnny Bacardi, Popdose
• Plugs: "The two new Fantagraphics releases are both highly recommended, envelope-pushing works of art — the wordless Weathercraftfollows Manhog through Jim Woodring's psychedelic and symbolically substancial alternate universe... while Wally Gropius is a clever, absurd, funny and offputting work that evokes 1950s teenage humor comics with a twist (make that a bunch of twists actually). ... Wally Gropius is a book you'll come back to often, in hopes of getting it more and more each time. ...Weathercraft is a haunting, beautiful and epic story..." – 211 Bernard (Librairie Drawn & Quarterly)
• Review: "This graphic memoir chronicles the author’s struggle with the aging of her father and stepmother. The subject matter isn’t pretty. Still, [Special Exits] is intriguing, well-written and thought-provoking." – Nick Smith, ICv2
• Review: "You have to be a real expert in Jason-character physiognomy to even be able to tell that the lonely expat main character in Werewolves of Montpellier is sometimes wearing a werewolf mask. After all, the guy's an anthropomorphized dog at the best of times. In the end, that ends up being the gag. You're not some uniquely unlovable monster, you're just a guy with problems, like anyone else..." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Review: "I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the Peanuts comic strip. I grew up on the old paperback collections and it was always a great day when my mom bought me a new one. Now, thanks to Fantagraphics, the entire run of Peanuts is available to fans in their beautiful, year-by-year collections of Charles Schulz’ masterful and hilarious comic strip. This collection puts us into the years of 1975 - 1976 and includes all of the daily and Sunday strips for the period. ... Thank you Fantagraphics! Grade A" – Tim Janson, Mania
• Review: "The most recent issue is probably the strongest [Hate] Annual to date, 36 pages of concentrated hilarity, including the longest Buddy Bradley story in quite some time. Just as impressive are his one-page strips about scientists from DiscoverMagazine..." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Analysis: "For the first time, this hapless figure, this half-man, half-animal is a picture of heroism and nobility, his metamorphosis achieved not through cosmic dances or tops but by cruelties inflicted on him by that creature of many masks and tricks, Whim. Earlier in Weathercraft , an infernal creature plucked from the pig-man’s gullet sanctions enlightenment. He who once resembled the demons surrounding the decapitated Ravana becomes whole and fully clothed, now cognizant of his true nature." – Ng Suat Tong, The Hooded Utilitarian
• Interview: From last Friday, Chris Mautner's revealing conversation with Tim Hensley at Robot 6: "Sometimes it's infuriating to read about a bunch of attractive saccharine pupils in the suburbs. Maybe [Archie] could add a brain damaged character. Maybe Moose, but more likely he never learned to read — have they already done that? Somewhere off-panel there's a convalescent hospital with all the rejects in it. But I wasn't attempting a Dark Knight makeover where everyone has stubble and never prevaricates."
Online Commentary & Diversions returns after a slow news day yesterday:
• Review: "Hensley’s clean art, drawn in a 1960s cartoon style (and complete with bright color pallete) is a bizarre mish-mash of the best in ‘60s teen book cartooning with the absurdity of an episode of The Monkees and the severity of indy comics. ...Hensley’s biting humor [is] either as spontaneous on the final page…or so well timed and planned that you don’t see it coming. In all honesty, I had trouble figuring Wally [Gropius] out — I expected a nostalgic pastiche with an edge, but what I got was an unpredictable and sometimes unsettling reading experience, literally not knowing what to expect from page to page. And that’s where Hensley excels, with a narrative sleight of hand, his seemingly innocent characters hiding more base and sinister motivations, using classic cartooning techniques to conceal a darker underbelly." – Christopher Irving, Graphic NYC
• Review: "...[W]hat really defines Billy Hazelnuts [and the Crazy Bird] is a genuine sense of excitement on the part of the author, as though, like the daughters he’ll eventually read the book to, Millionaire seems eager to discover what sort of adventures await his hero on the next page. ... Billy Hazelnuts is dark and weird and funny and strangely warm — it’s a book you wish you could have discovered at a much younger age. Thankfully, it’s pretty fun as an adult, too." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Plugs: "This gorgeous softcover collection of Dame Darcy's Meat Cake comic series is a thick slice of delicious Victorian romantic, horror, humor with just a hint of Southern gothic. ... So beautifully drawn and entertaining, Werewolves of Montpellier should make members of Team Jacob consider changing their name to Team Jason." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
• Interview: At The Comics Journal, Marc Librescu continues his talk with Gahan Wilson: "A lot of the reasons that [today’s] horror movies are so not entertaining or not much fun, and leave you with a very yuck taste, is that they’re brutal. And I think they’re brutal because the people who are making them are brutalized, basically, putting it right smack down there on the table. And they’re kind of a little fuggy, and that’s not good for an artist."
• Review: "The graphic novel King of the Flies: Hallorave... gives us a glimpse of internal mayhem inside a controlled environment, executed with elegance and a touch of mystery. ... King of the Flies has been compared to the work of Charles Burns for its graceful depiction of adolescent suburban horror. This is a weird tale that’s easy to get drawn into..." – Irina Ivanova, The Indypendent
• Plugs: At Largehearted Boy, Atomic Books owner Benn Ray lists his picks of the week, including Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso ("Beautiful, expansive, lyrical") and The Book of Mr. Natural by Robert Crumb ("Did reading R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis leave you now craving more? The Book of Mr. Natural is your natural (heh-heh) next step").
• Plugs: Douglas Wolk includes a goodly number of Fantagraphics releases on his Summer Comics Preview list at TIME / Techland.
• Interview: At TCJ.com's Guttergeek, Chris Reilly says "Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird is a tie for best graphic novel of the year with Jim Woodring’s Weathercraft" and proceeds to talk to Tony Millionaire: "Sometimes the story will present opportunities I hadn’t thought of (the personality of the cat for instance), and I’ll go with it if it feels right. Then I jam it all into an ending and hope it doesn’t all end up in a big pile of shit. I’m often nervous that I’m writing a crappy book. I’ve done it before and you can’t tell till it’s done and it is disappointing. So far I’m very happy with the Billy Hazelnuts books, but I’ll have to give the Crazy Bird one more read before I’m convinced of its greatness."
Hokey smokes, hope you've been saving your nickels because we've got 5, count 'em 5, brand new books slated to hit comic shops this week! Read on for more info and to see what the other new-comics-day bloggers are saying [now edited to add Tom Spurgeon].
232-page monochrome 6.75" x 8.25" hardcover • $22.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-344-6
"I absolutely loved this Megan Kelso graphic novel — a kind of anthropological/fictional-historical fantasy/love story thing involving a fractured culture of people with artichoke leaves for hair — and I'm not afraid to say so." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
"Getting back to much-awaited new projects, here’s Megan Kelso’s 232-page intergenerational fantasy, excerpted/anticipated here and there, depicting struggle and serenity among the fleshily vulnerable artichoke folk. ...Kelso’s visual style remains appealing as ever." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"Megan Kelso (The Squirrel Mother) returns with her most ambitious work to date..." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
"Fantagraphics reminds us that they’re more than just awesome, Matt Thorn-curated manga with Megan Kelso’s Artichoke Tales. ... This is Kelso’s first long-form effort, and I’m looking forward to seeing what she does with that length of narrative." – David Welsh, The Manga Curmudgeon
"I'm still digesting this, the oddest book I've read all year." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
104-page black & white 6.5" x 9" hardcover • $19.99 ISBN: 978-1-56097-917-3
"Tony Millionaire’s sequel to his excellent 2006 Billy Hazelnuts, a gorgeous evocation of sprawling, daydreamy adventure strip narratives pairing gritty-but-whimsical hardcases with not-too-sweet innocents. Here we find grumpy homunculus Billy adjusting poorly to helping out with animals on the farm, only to set off on a mission to reunite a baby owl with its mother. It looks really funny and beautiful." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"Maakies cartoonist Tony Millionaire's 'all-ages' sequel to Billy Hazelnuts, and by 'all-ages' he apparently means that it's the kind of grotesque slapstick farce that could potentially entertain small children while creeping the living heck out of their parents..." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
"What's MY PICK OF THE WEEK? The Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird hardcover by the one and only Tony Millionaire. ... In the Billy Hazelnuts all-ages series, Millionaire spins the yarn of Billy, a garbage-homunculus, and the family who loves him. In this installment, the bizarre Billy must return a baby owl to the woods. Rampant weirdness ensues." – Cyriaque Lamar, io9
"Prolific Maakies cartoonist and Sock Monkey creator Tony Millionaire’s long-awaited second Billy Hazelnuts graphic novel finally arrives." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
"The release of a new Tony Millionaire stand-alone book is an overall world good." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
128-page black & white 8.25" x 10.75" hardcover • $19.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-352-1
"Finally(!), here’s a new 128-page hardcover edition of Fantagraphics’ 1995 compilation of assorted Robert Crumb shorts starring the famous lil’ bearded guy." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"Fantagraphics is having a pretty damn huge week (and there’s a couple more swell-looking books below)." [Yep!] – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
"This is one of the better Christmas-gift books Fantagraphics ever made... A kind of Crumb-primer, or Crumb for people who might want to get at him from a more standard comics stories standpoint." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
240-page black & white/duotone 7" x 10.25" softcover • $22.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-346-0
"...includes the best of comics creator, character and all-around renaissance woman Dame Darcy’s first decade of Meat Cake comics..." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
"No, stay in your chair, this close-to-last-of-the-classic-one-artist-anthology-comic-books isn’t going bookshelf for good – it’s an expanded 240-page softcover reissue of Fantagraphics’ 2003 (200-page) hardcover collection of the best of Dame Darcy’s comical fictions and stitched-up Victoriana, with guest writer Alan Moore popping in for a later story..." – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"This collection of Dame Darcy's twisted fairy tale saga was out-of-print and gets a much deserved resurrection, replete with her collaboration with Alan Moore." – Cyriaque Lamar, io9
"Dame Darcy is the canary in the cage as alt-comics makes its way through the catacombs of modern comics publishing. As long as she has a publishing presence, something must going at least semi-okay." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
240-page two-color 8" x 10" hardcover • $22.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-323-1
"I read it a few weeks ago, and it’s easily one of the best comics works I’ve experienced so far this year. It’s an extremely ambitious story set in a fantasy world that explores the various ways in which war and fear can tear people apart while knitting communities together. It’s occasionally touching, occasionally scary, always thrilling and remarkably complex. I hope to review it in this space sometime soon, but I’d like to give it another read or two before I attempt doing so. In the mean time, allow me to at least wholeheartedly recommend it." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
"...Percy Gloom was perfectly dedicated to its metaphors of human caution as aggravated by society and religion. This new 240-page work promises a similarly-conceived world, this time as built by an amnesiac war veteran forever alert to obscure but surely dire threats. Surely!" – Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics
"Russ Manning Award winner Cathy Malkasian's new graphic novel is a sprawling, splendidly grotesque-looking fable about the kinds of lies that preserve patriarchy and perpetuate war, set in and around a city called Blessedbowl whose inhabitants believe that they're afloat on a sea of fire and at war with evil forces from outside, neither of which are true. It's worth a look for sure." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
"I'm looking forward to this one because a) I know absolutely nothing about it, and b) I went into the cartoonist's previous book Percy Gloom with every expectation I'd hate it until my legs fell off from the acidic bile collected in them from my hating of it, but ended up super-charmed by like page eight." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
Still not convinced? Check out our previews and excerpts for each book at their respective links above and judge for yourself. As always, we recommend confirming availability with your local shop before toddling on down.
• Review: "This all-ages-friendly tale opens with a comical but sincere note of existential angst, but Billy ultimately discovers his orientation in the world through his relationships with others. ... The tale itself frequently veers toward the lunatic, but if it skirts the surreal it does so precisely by taking the kinds of unfettered narrative turns that characterize the best children's literature. And like those books, Millionaire's [Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird] creates a safe space for exploration that remains grounded throughout in a humane sensibility that quietly makes itself known by showing, not telling." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "...[Temperance is a] twisted allegory... Relying heavily on pencil shadings to establish mood, Malkasian's restraint of line results in vividly drawn but still complex characters: homely Minerva is both desperate and resourceful, Pa appears both menacing and pitiful, and addled Lester retains his fundamental courage." – Publishers Weekly
• Profile: "It’s easy to toss around the word 'genius,' especially when it comes to comics. We all have our favorites and we all like to think ours are the great ones. But one look at Roy Crane's work and anyone can see that he definitely was worthy of the 'genius' tag." – Tom Mason, Comix 411
• Profile: "Among the many innovative cartoonists published by the Seattle-based Fantagraphics Books, Michael Kupperman is surely one of the most original. ... In 2005, Kupperman hit his stride with the comic book series Tales Designed to Thrizzle, of which No. 6 has just appeared, to the delight of Robert Smigel and other fans." – Benjamin Ivry, Forward