#1, You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler: "A mash-up of family portrait, generational analysis, autobiography and scrapbook, this book was not only the most emotionally powerful work of the year, it was the most attractively designed. The first part of what will likely be Tyler’s masterwork."
#6, Like a Dog by Zak Sally: "This was a stunningly honest account and collection of early work by one of the most underrated cartoonists working today. While the collected early issues of Recidivist ranged from interesting to astounding, it was Sally’s frank and emotional essay following the collection that really struck me as a statement of purpose — not just as an artist, but as a person."
#10, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman: "The first collection from Kupperman’s surprising hit really helped spread the word about his unique and delightfully warped genius as a gagsmith and artist."
#15, Sublife Vol. 2 by John Pham: "This one-man anthology featured Pham fully harnessing every aspect of his skills as a writer and artist. His use of color dominated and provided a sort of visual through-line for his different narratives. Pham alternately pushed the reader away and then pulled them in, depending on the story, a tension that made this his most successful work to date."
And #17, Ho! by Ivan Brunetti: "It’s fascinating to see the two directions Brunetti was headed in with regard to these gags. First, his gags became ever-more boundary pushing, but always in service to the punchline. Second, his line became more and more simplified to the point of nearly geometric simplicity: squares, circles and triangles wound up creating most of his characters by the end of the book."
• List:Paul Gravett names The Best of 2009: Classic Comic Reprints. At #6, it's The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Nell Brinkley's Cartoons 1913-1940: "Trina [Robbins] follows up her thorough biography of Brinkley with this oversized collection of Sunday 'comics,' often more like ravishing illustrated romantic yarns of big hair, clothes and emotions, but stunning to linger over and revealing in their period mood and concerns. In their time, Brinkley’s spirited, vivacious females were as iconic and inspirational in early 20th century America as the famous Gibson Girls before her. They truly deserve this gorgeous commemoration."
• List: On the annual Fun Fifty countdown at Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun!, at #15, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman: "Without hyperbole, Thrizzle is simply the funniest, most guffaw-out-loud comic book they're going to have to pry out of your cold, dead hands when you die laughing. ... Thrizzle's stuffed from front cover to impressive back page blurbs with Kupperman's splendiferous pulps-meet-woodblock-print artwork and lunatic stories, it's one of those rare humor books that actually is downright hilarious."
• Reviews: Nick Gazin of Vice (link NSFW) weighs in on a number of titles:
"I love Unlovable. Take that, book title. ... Unlovable 2 is a fun and funny read all the way through. ... Girls are gonna like this book and dudes are gonna like this book. It’ll remind you of how stupid you were and also of suburban sadness and realizing that your high school crush will probably never love you back."
"[High Soft Lisp] is incredible... The world in this book is one I wouldn’t want to live in but I can’t stop thinking about the story of Fritz."
"...[Almost Silent] is a really good book and Jason is a strong cartoonist. He does a lot with his simple-but-well-drawn characters and little to no dialogue. ... For $25 you get a nice sampler of what Jason can do. This is entirely worth owning."
• Review: "The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion is the indispensable guide to the strip and a must have for its legions of fans new and old. Fantagraphics has been re-printing these original strips in chronological order in beautiful hardcover volumes and this guide makes the perfect complement. ... No matter how long you’ve been a Prince Valiant fan…one year or seventy years, you’re certain to find this book informative and entertaining. Fantagraphics has produced another spectacular book! Grade A" – Tim Janson, The Gouverneur Times
• Review: "Similar to Charles Addams and Gahan Wilson, Jason relies on the humorous side of horror in these mostly wordless tales. ... Throughout the sublime Almost Silent, Jason examines traditional relationships and social norms via a deliciously warped lens, quite probably one constructed by Dr. Frankenstein himself." – Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica (spoiler alert!)
• Review: "I can’t think of a better single volume of what the period style of fast looked like in practice than last year’s Supermen! anthology. Yes, there’s an added winnowing by genre but that just sharpens the sense of the reductive visual and narrative requirements that were standard for the hot new gravy train that hit the business." – Rich Kreiner, "Yearlong Best of the Year," The Comics Journal
• Review: "As a whole, I like Abstract Comics a lot. I’d say that it works like a good art exhibition, or at least an exhibition unburdened by obligations to teach history, one in which multiple formal and aesthetic connections are there but not shouted out, rather left to be discovered (or not) by the strolling viewer according to his or her inclinations." – Charles Hatfield, Thought Balloonists
• Plug: "[Steven] Weissman's work is very often like a brain-damaged Charles Schulz... His newest book, Chocolate Cheeks, raises the stakes in a really dramatic way. I think this might be his last book in this series, but it goes out with a doozy of a book." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Plug: "Matt’s response to my squeeing over the announced May, 2010 publication date of Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6: 'Yes, as there were so many plots unresolved in the last issue. Who won, blimps or holes??'" – TofuPunk.com (I don't know who Matt is – ed.)
• Plug: "With new work by the likes of Johnny Ryan, Max Andersson, Sam Henderson, Stephane Blanquet, Doug Allen, Michael Kupperman, Mack White, and Jeremy Onsmith, Hotwire 3 is certain to deliver the psychic jolt it promises." – Richard Cowdry, Love the Line
• Plug: "Since Beatriz 'Penny Century' Garcia is my favorite Love & Rockets' Locas, I'm very excited to see the advance solicitation for the new soft cover Penny Century... In my opinion, the soft cover collected volumes are the best way to read Love & Rockets. They are the easiest way to follow the reading order, and with the cheap price of $18.99, you can't find a better launching point for one of the most regarded independent comics of all time. " – The Star Clipper Blog
• Analysis:Abstract Comics contributor Derik Badman posts an in-depth email discussion between himself and critic Craig Fischer about the book
• Interview:The Daily Yomiuri's Tom Baker talks Usagi Yojimbo with Stan Sakai: "I think the first few years I really tried to make him cute and cuddly like a stuffed animal, whereas the stories tended to [take] a more dramatic turn. So I think the character has changed. Most of it's unconscious on my part." (via The Comics Reporter )
Following up on last week's post about the Usagi Yojimbo plush toy from Dark Horse, our own Jacob Covey alerted me to this series of polystone statues of Usagi characters soon to be available from RokuToys. They have exclusive editions with some nifty features — the interchangeable horn on Gennosuke is a particularly nice touch. Jacob says and I agree, "It's nice to see so much Usagi product getting made lately."
Flickr user Moonage Daydreamer has a few photos from the Art of Stan Sakai exhibit (from early 2009) that I hadn't seen before. The anecdote posted with this photo is typical Sakai, one of the truly gracious men of comics.
Blurbs, "Babe" and big bucks in this episode of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book features two full-length stories, 'The Leaking Cello Case' and 'John Wesley Harding.' Both stories start off in the every day then morph into oddball mysteries that never go quite where you expect them to. As odd as some of the capers and misadventures get they are always conveyed with a kind of casual, deadpan poker face that manages to make them all the more believable. ... The art is a curious mix of cartoonish realism, and the city of Cape Town is vividly portrayed... Red Monkey Double Happiness Book is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read for the mystery/crime comic fan looking for something a bit different than the harder noir stuff that seems to dominate these days." – Brian Lindenmuth, BSCreview
• Review: "...[T]he appearance this week in bookstores of Hans Rickheit’s comix masterpiece, The Squirrel Machine, is a genuine milestone in the... artistic business of reconciling one’s inside to one’s outside, so much so that I must confess that I am truly taken aback by Rickheit’s entire effort, in the best sense of the word. This carefully constructed tale... strikes me as being one of the few original works of art that I’ve seen published in North America over the last two decades, on a par with the better work of Dan Clowes or Charles Burns. ... This is not a tale for the squeamish nor is it a tale for the literal-minded; it is very much a bravura performance in the tradition of Surrealism, or Fantastic Art, or even Symbolism... In short, strongly recommended!" – Mahendra Singh
• Feature: Matthew J. Brady presents "12 Things I Learned from Supermen!" including "In these stories, disbelief must often not only be suspended, but strung up and mercilessly whipped, then drawn and quartered"
• $$$: Via The Beat, somebody sold a mint slabbed copy of Albedo #2 (1st appearance of Usagi Yojimbo) on eBay for $5100, making it possibly the most expensive Fantagraphics comic ever sold (corrections welcome); Stan Sakai comments on his LiveJournal
• Review: "I’ve just finished the fourth Usagi Yojimbo trade and the fifth is sitting next to me... If you’re like me, throw away your preconceptions about anthropomorphic comics and get on board. As a fan of samurai fiction (to the point of having a Seven Samurai tattoo) and comics, I can’t recommend Stan Sakai’s beautifully drawn, note-perfect reinvention of the genre highly enough." - Kevin Church
• Review: "I Killed Adolf Hitler is a fun, silly and slightly creepy comic, a love story wrapped around a time travel paradox, dressed up with gun fighting. In short, it's a perfect comic book..." - Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Sometimes the single panel of a political cartoon just isn’t a big enough space for a cartoonist to work with, especially if said cartoonist is interested in providing a detailed, nuanced discussion or honest-to-God reporting on a topic. That’s the sort of political cartooning Peter Bagge has been engaging in for Reason magazine, and a decade’s worth of examples are now available in trade-paperback collection Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me... Bagge is libertarian (as is Reason), and it shows, but one need not agree with his politics to enjoy his work here, perhaps because as a political cartoonist, Bagge’s a cartoonist first and political second." - J. Caleb Mozzocco, Las Vegas Weekly
Today the floodgates of Online Commentary & Diversions have opened:
• Review: "The way he turns narratives into advertisements, ends stories with some wacko randomly barging through a window, and abruptly drops gags only to pick them up and drop them again suggests that [Michael] Kupperman takes his cues from the surreality of the small screen — especially Monty Python's Flying Circus and its animated heirs on the Cartoon Network... Tales Designed to Thrizzle [Vol. 1] is a monument not only to silliness, but to craft... [T]he surreality of Monty Python becomes the surreality of Un Chien Andalou or Kafka. Not that Kupperman needs to reference film or literature. Why should he, when he can turn TV into art?" - Noah Berlatsky, Chicago Reader
• Review: "Michael Kupperman has defeated me once again!... I am fated to be Salieri to Kupperman’s Mozart, Twain to his Einstein... I give up: as the first Tales [Designed to Thrizzle] book, bringing together issues #1-4, makes abundantly clear, Kupperman is brilliantly funny and maddeningly brilliant... Damn you, Michael Kupperman. Give us more, or leave us alone in ignorance of how much better the world would be if you ran it." - Jared Gardner, Guttergeek
• Review: "Dry and absurd as ever, Norwegian cartoonist Jason returns with an anthology [Low Moon] featuring more of the verbally-spare cartoon animals that populate his surreal and depthful extended gag strips... There’s no other cartoonist who matches Jason’s somber deadpan and this serves as a great introduction to his work." - John Mitchell, Worcester Magazine
• Review: "[Willie & Joe: The WWII Years is a] terrific two-volume collection of the legendary Bill Mauldin's 'GI Joe' cartoons from 'the last good war'... Fantagraphics gives us a comprehensive collection of the cartoons that fellow enlisted man Mauldin created during the war, both for civilians and fellow soldiers alike... [T]his compendium is both a great time capsule, and a fitting tribute to an American original." - Mark London Williams, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Review: "[Paul] Hornschemeier uses simple line art and varied color palettes for conveying emotional and narrative detail [in Mother, Come Home], capturing graphically with a sort of exquisite beauty the symbolic fantasies of Thomas and the grief-induced psychosis of his father." - Martha Cornog, Library Journal
• Review: "Fletcher Hanks was an early, forgotten great of comics: He drew from 1939-1941, and his work [in You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation!] is vivid, funny and incredibly surreal... Hanks' work evokes a childlike energy that makes it seem as if he drew as much for himself as he did for the rest of the world. That creative spirit never goes out of style." - Whitney Matheson, USA Today Pop Candy
• Interview: "You’ll Never Know delves deep into the recesses of human memory and what we choose to share with each other, laying bare the connections and experiences that define who we are—whether we choose to make them known or not." - John Hogan, introducing his Q&A with C. Tyler for Graphic Novel Reporter. Carol, on future installments: "Part of my brain can clearly see the plot unfolding, but I cannot adequately explain due to the intuitive components attached to the emotion involved... But basically, the five main characters will go through some pretty rough stuff in terms of facing and dealing with their issues on the way to finding their better selves. All I can say is stay tuned and I hope nobody is disappointed."
• Profile: The Palisadian-Post's article on Stan Sakai is worth checking out for the adorable photo of Stan, Usagi, and Sergio Aragonés alone
Updates of Online Commentary & Diversions may be oddly timed for the rest of the week as we're eyeball deep in MoCCA preparations.
• Review: "[Harvey] Kurtzman and company aimed high for a more sophisticated humor mag than the competition... Fantagraphics’ package for it is bar none — handsome, sturdy and restored with great care... I was most interested in the behind-the-scenes story of Humbug and the creative process that went into it — not to mention doomed it — and the book’s introduction and exclusive interviews more than satisfy on that count." - Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: "In a way, Humbugalmost feels like a goof-humor version of The New Yorker or something. There’s a lot of fairly serious political/social commentary, cloaked in wry rainment. It’s a blend as interesting as any cocktail, and it’s goddamn great to have this stuff easily available. Hats away!" - Byron Coley & Thurston Moore, Arthur Magazine
• Review: "...[U]nparallel parodists Kurtzman and Elder ran rampant for themselves when they published these 11 exceptional issues of comic art anarchy. This two-volume hardcover box set has been reproduced from the original art and digitally restored to make everything look even better than when it first came out in 1957. This long-overdue definitive edition of Humbug is an essential slice of satire from the masters of the genre." - Jeffrey Morgan, Detroit Metro Times
• Review: "Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me [is] a compilation of the notorious Seattle libertarian [Peter Bagge]’s politically (and sexually) charged comics for Reason magazine... It’s great. So colourful (always my favourite part of Pete’s comics) and acerbic and smart-ass, but with a heart and purpose behind the bickering and keenly observes caricatures... It’s too early to say now, but right now I’m thinking it’s perhaps my favourite stuff of his, full stop..." - Everett True
• Review: "Connective Tissue... make[s] for an engaging read... While Darla sounds like she could be a handful, she is a good and sympathetic protagonist, making her a modern-day Alice in a 21st century Wonderland." - Jason Borelli, Beyond Race Magazine
• Preview: Spotlighting comics shipping this week, The Comics Reporter says of Uptight #3: "The previous issue of this series from the great Jordan Crane was super, super strong." Likewise, Chris Mautner at Robot 6: "The latest issue in Jordan Crane’s very good series about ghosts and melancholy comes to town. I feel we should be doing all we can to ensure Crane keeps making comics, don’t you?" And Matthew Brady says: "I missed the second issue of this series, but the first one was great... Check it out if you see it on the shelves."
• Profile: My Adventure Is Your Advantage spotlights the design work of our very own Art Director Jacob Covey, calling him "the bees knees of design" and presenting previously unseen previews of the forthcoming Abstract Comics anthology
• Profile: "[Dash] Shaw's online and bound comics inhabit surreal spaces both cerebral and emotional, leaping from zombie love stories to futuristic set pieces without resorting to predictability... It's probably safe to say he has arrived." - Wired
• Interview: Publishers Weekly's Heidi MacDonald asks our own Eric Reynolds for his thoughts about Book Expo America and its value for comics publishers like us; The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon comments on the interview; meanwhile, The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater gets a few words from Eric on the show floor
In our news section, we're pleased to bring you the lowdown on our books and comics slated for release in August, 2009, as will be seen in the pages of Previews. It's a big month! The list includes:
• The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974 by Charles M. Schulz • The Complete Peanuts 1971-1974 Box Set • Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune: The Complete Sunday Newspaper Strips Vol. 1 by Roy Crane • Rock Candy by Femke Hiemstra • This Side of Jordan by Monte Schulz • Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition by Stan Sakai • Love and Rockets: New Stories #2 by the Hernandez Brothers • Like a Dog by Zak Sally
We also put up our actual Previews spread as a print-quality PDF file, just for fun. Jason Miles designed it and it'll clobber your eyeballs like a roundhouse from Capt. Easy himself. Click on through for the full dirt.
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