• List:Flashlight Worthy polls various online critics for The Best Graphic Novels of 2010:
"Moto Hagio is to shojo manga what Will Eisner is to American comics, a seminal creator whose distinctive style and sensibility profoundly changed the medium. Though Hagio has been actively publishing stories since the late 1960s, very little of her work has been translated into English. A Drunken Dream, published by Fantagraphics, is an excellent corrective — a handsomely produced, meticulously edited collection of Hagio's short stories that span her career from 1970 to 2007." – Katherine Dacey (The Manga Critic)
"Truly the most welcome English translation of the year, this collection of aching vignettes from the mud and blood of WWI [It Was the War of the Trenches] forms a unique human patchwork, fitting for a time and place where bodies and souls went to pieces. Tardi is a skilled artist, placing his soft, eminently fragile human forms against natural scenes so dense and thick (and buildings so heavy and broken) you'd swear that the entire Earthly organism has been put to bed by war's viral infection, but the true power here comes from his accumulation of carefully detailed narratives, ringing sadly as the greater accumulation of corpses remains painfully implicit." – Joe McCulloch (Comics Comics, Jog – The Blog)
"Packed to the gills, surprising, and unabashedly ambitious, MOME 19 isn't just the best volume the series has seen, it's a shot across the bow to a format that's been ceded to fans and friends-only collectives. Anthologies, said Fantagraphics. They're still at their best when there's an adult behind the wheel." – Tucker Stone (The Factual Opinion)
Werewolves of Montpellier by Jason: "One of comics' most inventive and offbeat practitioners of the art returned this year with a story that was not exactly groundbreaking for him but still wildly fun and different from most other stories out there. Jason's books are always hard to classify exactly, but this tale of a thief who dresses up as a werewolf (it helps scare people, which helps him pull off his crimes) is one of his most intriguing." – John Hogan
A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio: "Few creators in the 60-year history of Japanese manga are more important than Moto Hagio, one of the cohorts of the so-called 'Magnificent Forty-Niners' who revolutionized the shoujo genre in the 1970s. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories features a thoughtfully chosen selection of 10 short tales translated by Matt Thorn and published in lavish, oversized hardcover. The title story in particular offers a rare treat, its implacable, mythological cruelty rendered in soft-focus color." – Casey Brienza
• Review: "I finally read Special Exits last weekend. And I am here to tell you: It was tough. It was not fun. But it was truthful. It was specific. And it ... helped. In this, it was utterly unlike the book on grieving that a well-meaning relative pressed into my hands. That book's blandishments felt feathery and abstract; they had nothing to do with Pop, or with how I felt about him. Special Exits, on the other hand, is all about specificity. Farmer captures the tiniest, most mundane — and at times ugliest — details of caring for someone you love, and watching them pass from you. It's bracingly clear-eyed and unsentimental... Her pages and panels seem crowded with detail — deliberately and effectively so, to mirror the way her parents' house, and their lives, fall steadily into clutter and disrepair." – Glen Weldon, NPR
• Plug: "The latest from Fantagraphics... is Special Exits, a graphic novel from 71-year-old Joyce Farmer. Debut book it may be but she’s no newbie: Farmer was part of the whole underground comix scene in the time of R. Crumb... It’s the kind of memoir you can sit alongside Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, or anything Harvey Pekar: a story about her elderly parents’ slow decline." – The Gosh! Comics Blog
• Review: "Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition... is the perfect collection for neophytes to the series — it starts from the top, and introduces many of Sakai’s running cast, including the titular wandering samurai rabbit and a selection of his friends, enemies, and allies-of-convenience. The high-glossy, bright-white pages make Sakai’s finely detailed, heavily Japanese-inspired black-and-white art pop off the page, and the collection covers enough of his work to show how he’s evolved as an artist, from the early days when he was finding his feet to art that looks much like what he’s producing today." – The A.V. Club 2010 Holiday Gift Guide
• Plug: "Stan Sakai has been drawing his funny-animal samurai series Usagi Yojimbo for upwards of 25 years now. Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition collects the first 38 issues of Usagi's own comics and various other early stories in which he appeared, along with a ton of bonus features and an extensive interview with Sakai — 1200 pages of ronin rabbit action in all, presented as a two-volume hardcover set in a slipcase." – Douglas Wolk, TIME/Techland "Comics Geek Gift Guide 2010"
• Review: "[Jason's] comics are consistently funny and heartfelt, but tinged with a particular brand of melancholy. [...] The new collection, What I Did, takes the first three albums Fantagraphics translated and published in English. The first piece, 'Hey Wait...' is a real heartbreaker. [...] The second album, 'Sshhhh!' is a collection of wordless strips about a bird in a tweed jacket, and his tribulations as a character through life. [...] The strips delicately and comically depict the absurdities of modern existence... The last story, 'The Iron Wagon,' is an adaptation of a Norwegian mystery novel. [...] It’s great stuff, and like all of Jason’s stuff it’s deeply humanist." – Ao Meng, The Daily Texan
• Plug: "Jason's silent comics are so great. The monster ones in Almost Silent and 'Hey Wait' in What I Did especially. They are funny and sad and those are the two things a person wants." – Atomic Books "Holiday Picks"
• Review: "...[Four Color Fear] will... blow your fucking head up. [...] Trying to describe what makes many of these comics strange would take too long. Weird characters, odd behavior, no real logic, the list is endless. What makes this shit gold is the art. [...] Flipping through this it's hard not to think to yourself, 'How did I not know about this until now? Why didn't anyone tell me?' There's a gallery of glossy cover art in the center that is flat out some of the best art I've ever seen." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Overall, the experience of joining this large fellow on his life’s journey is a delight, if a fairly short one. [Set to Sea]’s a small book in length as well as size, able to be read in a single sitting, but it’s good enough that it invites multiple journeys through its pages, allowing explorers to marvel at the fluid movement of the characters, the chaos of an inter-ship battle, the choppy waves and calm harbors, the joys of a life lived and savored." – Matthew J. Brady, Warren Peace Sings the Blues
• Plug: "Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons is as mammoth and daunting a career retrospective as anyone could wish for: a gorgeous three-volume set encompassing a thousand-plus of the macabre cartoonist's drawings, as well as additional features including a handful of short stories he also wrote for Playboy. It's beautifully designed, too — the slipcase itself involves a perfectly Wilsonian gag." – Douglas Wolk, TIME/Techland "Comics Geek Gift Guide 2010"
• Profile: "Throughout the 1990s [Peter] Bagge devoted himself almost completely to a comic book called HATE, the success of which brought him other opportunities, as well as a key choice: 'If I really wanted to play it safe after achieving a modicum of success I would have devoted myself to doing the same thing for life.' Instead, Bagge chose to take on new subjects and continued to experiment. [...] Bagge taught a course at Seattle University last winter. He recommends that students interested in comics and graphic novels visit Fantagraphics Bookstore in Georgetown, as their selection is interesting and outside the mainstream." – Cambray Provo, The Spectator (via The Comics Reporter)
• Review: "Drew Weing's slender, hand-sized debut graphic novel Set to Sea is a crosshatched masterpiece. [...] Weing draws in an elaborate, crosshatched style that's half Popeye, half Maakies, and it meshes brilliantly with the subject matter and the storytelling. Set to Sea is so lovely in places that I found myself exclaiming aloud -- it's got a naive-but-self-conscious grace that is impossible to describe and that few have ever mastered. This one is highly recommended." – Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
• Review: "In the first and the second volume [of Mome] there are a lot of things to enjoy. Stories differ both in length (there are one-page strips, too) and in narrative technique. [...] In these two books there [is] a lot [that is] interesting and confusing, enjoyable and intriguing. Do not be a mome, read these first-rate collections of comics." – Ray Garraty, Endless Falls Up
• Review:Attentiondeficitdisorderly's Sean T. Collins looks at Gilbert Hernandez's half of Love and Rockets Vol. II #20 (as reprinted in the Luba hardcover) in his ongoing "Love and Rocktober" series: "At long last he returns to Venus, Petra’s daughter and one of the least damaged, most well-adjusted, most self-assured characters in the whole post-Palomar oeuvre. [...] It’s an uplifting note to end on after all this darkness."
• Plug:NPR's Glen Weldon recommends "Five Tomes to See You Through Your Turkey Coma": "In honor of the 25th anniversary of this classic all-ages 'funny animals' tale of Miyaomoto Usagi, a stoic samurai rabbit who roams 17th-century Japan, Fantagraphics has collected the first seven trades in a sumptuous 2-book, 1200-page hardcover edition [Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition]. Which, uh ... won't be out until December. Until then, you can pick up a couple volumes and get a taste of Sakai's masterful, action-packed, richly detailed storytelling, and see why it's become such a beloved series."
• Plug: "Mascots, [Ray] Fenwick's forthcoming follow-up [to Hall of Best Knowledge], is similarly a series of episodes told through inventive typography and absurd yet hilarious text. But integrating these elements with brightly colored paintings, the book depicts a more surreal, frenzied world that is strangely resonant with today's super speedy internet age." – Space 15 Twenty
See a nice juicy 10-page excerpt from Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition by Stan Sakai at Comics Alliance, whose David Brothers writes "Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition... is a release worth paying attention to. It often flies under the radar, but Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo has been one of the most consistently well-written and well-drawn comics over the past twenty-five years. Sakai has created a long-running series that doesn't need jumping on points or events to tell good stories. He simply creates classic tales, month-in, month-out."
• Review: "Most film books are dry academic treatises whose ultimate destiny is to sit unused on a college library shelf. Destroy All Movies!!! A Complete Guide to Punks on Film is the antithesis of this musty stereotype. This massive punk rock movie encyclopedia is totally alive. [...] Hardliners might not appreciate the mix of bona fide punk rock movies and pop culture detritus, but the idiosyncratic choices are part of the book's appeal. [...] Finally, it would be dumb not to discuss how great Destroy All Movies looks. Designer Jacob Covey did an excellent job here." – Rodney Perkins, Ain't It Cool News
• Review: "A series of observations on the first volume of the Luba trilogy [Luba in America]: [...] Find me another comic where... the cartoonist has struck this precise balance of creating characters who are totally plausible and also totally ridiculous, riddled with mysterious voids and yet so well-defined that you just know you can fill in the blanks if you try hard enough – and I’ll eat my hat." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
Free fun! Celebrate the ronin rabbit and the impending release of Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition by putting some gorgeous Stan Sakai artwork (and design elements based on Jacob Covey's stellar book design) on your desktop. Just click on the size that matches your monitor resolution and the image will open in a new window; if you're on a PC, right-click the image and select "Set As Background"; if you're on a Mac, control+click and select "Set As Desktop Background." (We don't know what the procedure is for iPhones, but if you have one, you probably do, right?) For lots more wallpaper selections, find recent ones here and older ones here.
Created in 1984 as a supporting character for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo has vaulted to the very forefront of iconic modern comics characters and is a perennial favorite amongst young boys and adult fans. Usagi Yojimbo chronicles the action-packed wanderings of a masterless samurai (a “ronin”) in feudal Japan — as told with funny-animals. (If PIXAR and the late Akira Kurosawa were to collaborate on a movie, it might very well look like this.)
For the first ten years of his career, the battling bunny was published by Fantagraphics Books. In honor of his 25th anniversary, Fantagraphics is releasing a deluxe slipcase set collecting the seven first Usagi books. With over 1000 pages of story, this is the complete, definitive, early Usagi. This Special Edition will also be brimming with extra material, including a complete full-color gallery of the more than 50 Usagi covers from that period (never-before-collected); preparatory sketches, including Sakai’s original first draft of the “Samurai” story; two “non-canon” Usagi stories by Sakai co-starring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (with whom Usagi also shared screen time in the TMNT TV series); the rare behind-the-scenes "How I Draw Usagi Yojimbo" strip; Introductions by Stan Sakai and Stan Lee; and a feature-length, career-spanning interview with Sakai.
Download an EXCLUSIVE 31-page PDF excerpt (2.9 MB) containing the first 3 parts of the origin flashback story "Samurai"!
• Review: "...Moto Hagio, whose work might officially be classified as shōjo manga, ...is apparently one important, daring renegade in the manga world. This handsome collection that encompasses almost four decades (from 1971-2007) of Hagio’s short stories comes complete with a thorough, illuminating interview with Hagio conducted by the volume’s translator, Matt Thorn. [...] Hagio’s collection of 10 short manga stories [A Drunken Dream and Other Stories is] filled with unexpected twists and endings." – Terry Hong, BookDragon (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program)
• Review: "Malkasian weaves her story carefully [in Temperance], pulling the different narrative threads together in unexpected places, and while the parallels to the real world are clear, this is no simplistic fable. [...] Malkasian’s art is incredibly expressive, and her characters are filled with vitality..." – Brigid Alverson, Robot 6
• Review: "There are no great deeds in Tardi’s comic [It Was the War of the Trenches]. No Légion d’honneurs, no Croix de guerres, no Victoria or Iron Crosses. No suggestion that only the brave and courageous have the right to cry out in protest. No sense of fellowship, no pitched battles to gratify our base senses and desires, and certainly nothing of that most typical of war time sensations, boredom." – Ng Suat Tong, The Hooded Utilitarian
• Review: "In many ways, Ghita is like a female, uncensored Conan. ...Everything has its place in the script. The artwork, with excellent black ink, I do not need to explain that is excellent..." – Andreas Michaelides, Comicdom (translated from Greek)
• List: Feel the love as 50 comics pros each name their 5 favorite Fantagraphics releases (minus some ringers as determined by Tom Spurgeon) at The Comics Reporter; read some additional flattering commentary by participant Mike Sterling; Sean T. Collins comments "The result shows just how deep a bench that publisher can field. Greatest comics publisher of all time."
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning gets all the latest scoop from Stan Sakai, including details about the long-gestating Usagi Yojimbo Special Edition set (coming in December): "It'll be all the Fantagraphics stories in a two-volume slipcase hardcover edition. I'm looking forward to it. It's also going to publish all the extras that were only in the hardcover [collections], with the exception of the full-color story that was published in the book 4 hardback, because that was reprinted recently in [Dark Horse's] 'The Art of Usagi Yojimbo.' But this is the sketches and covers and things that were included with the hardcover editions. So it'll be a lot more, plus it'll be about the same price as buying them in the trade paperback."
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