Prince Valiant chronicler (and fine cartoonist in his own right) Brian Kane presented Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai with this fantastic fan-art mashup of Val and Usagi at the Baltimore Comic Con this past weekend and forwarded it along to us, and now he's given us permission to share it with you! (Click the image for a slightly larger version.)
Inspired by this artwork, we had the idea to offer free standard domestic shipping on orders that include at least one Usagi book and at least one Prince Valiant book for the rest of the week! This offer is not available for online orders, so call 1-800-657-1100 to take advantage. (Offer applies only to in-stock Usagi and Valiant books and expires at 5PM Pacific time on Friday August 26, 2011.)
Apologies for the long delay since the last roundup. I enjoy bringing you these posts but lately it's been hard to squeeze them in. I may need to figure out a new approach or something. Anyway, on with the show:
• Hey, a new comic from Jonathan Bennett! Spin commissioned a 2-page strip from Jonathan as part of their commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's Nevermind and posted it on Facebook (Via Spurge)
• Review: "Originally appearing from 1958 to 1960, these insouciant, stylish, and thrilling dramas should appeal to readers of all ages. If they don't hook a whole new batch of bande dessinée fans, France needs to take back the Statue of Liberty in a huff.... Both stories zip by with nary a dull patch. Confections lacking in gravitas, they nevertheless own the supreme virtues of lightness and panache. Tillieux's art is always easy on the eye.... If Spielberg is looking for a second franchise after Tintin, he couldn't go wrong with Gil Jordan." – Paul Di Filippo, The Barnes & Noble Review
• Review: "Thanks to well known translator Matt Thorn, this volume is a very smooth read. I don’t often comment on such things, but Thorn took great care in interpreting and presenting this book, and it pays off in a very pleasing flow of text. The art is also quite lovely, very simplistic, and flows well from panel to panel. The color pages in the beginning have a beautiful, water color look to them. Fantagraphics has put out a gorgeous hardcover book with Wandering Son." – Kristin Bomba, ComicAttack.net
• Review: "Fantagraphics’ The Pin-Up Art of Humorama collects hundreds of racy cartoons from the once-ubiquitous tasteless humor mag.... The Fantagraphics edition, edited by Alex Chun and Jacob Covey, 'remasters' these toons with a two-color treatment that really captures the graphic feel of the mouldering pulps that still grace the ends of yard-sale tables in cities across America. It must be said that none of these are very funny, but they’re often quite beautiful and nostalgic." – Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
• Review: "Every once in a while, a book comes along that is simply spectacular. This collection of [Mickey Mouse] comic strips by Floyd Gottfredson is a perfect example of how to present, analyze and reconstruct subject matter that is viewed differently today. The series editors (David Gerstein and Gary Groth) pull no punches in discussing why Mickey was carrying a gun or the use of slang that is noticeably offensive by today's standards. This is a wonderful vehicle for presenting historically accurate art. Other companies should take notice.... This is a stunning work. The historical presentation is flawless, as is the artwork." – George Taylor, Imaginerding
• Review: "[In Celluloid], McKean is attempting to subvert hardened notions of both comics and pornography. It's a book that gets the blood racing just as it raises questions that just won't go away about the nature of art, porn, and the male gaze.... By painting an erotic sequence with a surrealist's brush, McKean reveals the raw sexual current that underscores all pornography." – Peter Bebergal, Bookslut
• Review: "An unapologetically hard-core hardcover, Celluloid follows a young woman’s sexual epiphany... and feels almost like a silent, erotic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with the White Rabbit and the rabbit-hole replaced by an ancient movie camera and a doorway to…somewhere else. By itself, typically, McKean’s technical mastery (beginning with pen and ink and finishing with photography) steals the breath away; ditto his visual motifs — involving fruit, say, or eyes. A bravura performance, Celluloid (which ends, by the way, with signal wit) constitutes an astounding fusion of the Dionysiac and the Apolline, in Nietzschean terms, and less invites reading than demands rereading." – Bryan A. Hollerbach, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "In the oneiric power of his work as a writer/artist, Jim Woodring enjoys few rivals in contemporary comics... Within the first ten pages of Congress of the Animals, calamity literally descends on poor Frank in the form of a wood-boxed croquet set. In the next ten, our bucktoothed, bobtail boyo suffers both a labor dispute and a credit crisis, and thereafter, in the U.S. in 2011, it should come as no surprise that things fast go from bad to worse; just for starters, Frank has to enter the working world. Ameliorating all of his tribulations, at least from readers’ vantage, are his creator’s nonpareil pen and undulant line — a quivery visual seduction courtesy of Higgins. Moreover, by the finale, Frank’s [spoiler redacted – Ed.] — so the little guy ain’t doin’ too bad, y’know?" – Bryan A. Hollerbach, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "LikeWeathercraft, this new work [Congress of the Animals] is completely silent, showcasing Woodring's amazing talent to convey a story without a word, with seemingly little effort. It's just an eye-popping visual feast of amazing illustrations in this crazy world where Woodring can put whatever he wants on the page, to a stunning end result." – Dave Ferraro, Comics-and-More (via the SPX Tumblr)
• Review: "How wrong I was to underestimate the powerful storytelling medium of the emerging graphic novel platform, especially when masterfully rendered by an author and artist as remarkably talented as Santiago. I expected an exciting visual presentation, and was not disappointed, as Santiago’s heavy-lined, representational graphic style was, in turn whimsical, arresting, quirky, and most of all, emotional. But I wasn’t prepared for the wonderfully passionate portrayal of the human side of Clemente’s legendary journey from Puerto Rico into baseball immortality.... Captivating, revealing, and dramatic, 21 accomplished through art, creative use of informed imagination, and pure passion, far more than I thought possible from a graphic novel. I believe I now have a more complete picture of Roberto Clemente, but not of his statistics, or even his style of play, or of his place in baseball history. I have a truer sense of his heart." – Mark W. Schraf, Spitball
Gracie: Charlie Brown! He's the one who thinks, "Life is going bad... I'm an awful person... Nothing good ever happens to me..." Dad: Would you be friends with him? Gracie: I would. I love him. My love for him goes to the ceiling of a skyscraper. But nothing good ever happens to him ever. Once he won a race -- that's probably the only thing he's ever won. And the prize was 5 free haircuts... Dad: Ha! Gracie: He's only got a twist of hair in front. And he's like, "Five free hair cuts? I don't have much hair to cut! And even if I did... my dad is a barber!" Dad: Poor Charlie Brown. Gracie: Yeah, nothing good ever happens to him. He's always getting teased for his perfectly round head.
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks with Stan Sakai: "Usagi was first published 27 years ago, and that time I just concentrated on the next story. It was around maybe... I would say with book four, The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy. That was the first major storyline. It took maybe 10 issues or something, I'm not exactly sure. Maybe eight issues.... Before then, I was thinking, 'Usagi's going to be canceled any month.' [laughter] 'I can't spend too much time devoting myself to a long storyline.' But once I did that and got over that hurdle, that's when I realized that hey, this could go on for a long time."
• List:The Hooded Utilitarian begins revealing the top 10 results in their International Best Comics Poll, with Walt Kelly's Pogo coming in at #8
• Plug: "A trip to the comics shop yesterday netted me a copy of Drew Weing’s Set to Sea. It’s pure indulgence, because I have already read the story online, but Fantagraphics’ small, almost jewel-like presentation is really beautiful. Weing tells his story one panel at a time, and each panel could be framed as a work of art in itself, so having it in a book, without the clutter of the web, is a worthy investment." – Brigid Alverson, Robot 6
• Scene:Comic Book Resources' Marlan Harris gives a recap of our 35th Anniversary panel at Comic-Con — unfortunately it contains several factual errors, some of which I have endeavored to correct in the comments thread
The exhibit gets hoppin' this Saturday, July 9th, as the great Stan Sakai is in town to give a talk, a demonstration, and sign some books!
In fact, the whole day is jam-packed with fun activities, including screenings of anime films from the '20s and '30s, origami workshops, and a cooking lesson on how to make a broccoli carrot slaw, sure to satisfy any samurai!
I have been in a lot of exhibits, but this one will be the most comprehensive. It will not only display a lot of art in all phases of production, but also merchandising such as UY toys, pajamas, and statues. There will even be a section of Usagi art by other creators such as Frank Miller and even Stan Lee. A mini-documentary will be shown in the theater, with interviews with friends such as Sergio Aragones, Scott Shaw, Stan Lee, Geoff Darrow, and others.
The exhibit runs 'til October 30th, but the opening day is FREE and open to the public, so why wait!
Meet Stan Sakai this weekend at the Phoenix Comicon 2011, kicking off Thursday, May 26th and running through Sunday, May 29th. He'll be there all weekend, signing at Booth #427!
You can also catch him on Friday, May 27th at 1:30 pm, in the panel "Nuts and Bolts of Comics Creation," where he'll talk about how to take a comic book concept from idea to reality, alongside some fellow pros in the industry.
And you can hear him again on Saturday, May 28th at 1:30 pm, in the panel "Rockstar Animals in the Comic Book World," as he discusses having animals as the lead character in a comic book!
It sounds like a great weekend to get your Usagi Yojimbo box sets and books signed! (And while you're at it, be sure to wish Sakai-san a "Happy Belated Birthday"! It was this past Wednesday!)
Stan Sakai and Gahan Wilson were table neighbors at last weekend's Boston Comic Con. I'm maintaining my composed exterior but inside I can't stop jumping up and down. (Image lifted from Stan's Facebook page, with some color correction by me.)
The Easter bunny arrived early at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery. Between now and Sunday, April 24 we’re offering a free copy of Usagi Yojimbo Color Special with each purchase of a Stan Sakai title. A real treat for comix fans of any age.
There’s a misperception that Usagi Yojimbo is only for young readers. I confess I’ve fallen victim to this notion myself. Then I picked up the stunning Usagi Yojimbo Special Edition. I found myself thoroughly enthralled by Sakai’s seamless storylines and flawless artwork. For those unfamiliar with this sublime saga, Usagi Yojimbo is set in 17th century feudal Japan and follows the adventures of a Samurai warrior rabbit. MAD cartoonist Sergio Aragones describes it as “…a mixture of fairy tale, adventure, romance, sword and sorcery, and humor, and all without breaking the rules of good storytelling.” I highly recommend the new slipcase Special Edition that collects the first seven Usagi Yojimbo books and includes exquisite extras like a cover gallery and a revealing interview conducted by editor Kim Thompson.
Drop by the store before Easter Sunday and treat yourself to a comic book. We’re open every day, 11:30 to 8:00 PM. Sundays until 5:00 PM. Sweet!
• Review: "The saga of Roberto Clemente is well known to baseball fans yet it has been given new life in this stunning graphic novel [21: The Story of Roberto Clemente]... Santiago's panels have a sharp, cinematic feel and the compositions and framing give the readers a better sense of how dynamic and explosive the game is than any baseball movie. The wonder of this book is that it will appeal to kids and adults alike. Even non baseball fans will fall under its spell. The national pastime has been virtually untouched by the graphic novel genre but if Santiago's effort is any indication, the marriage of subject and form is nothing short of a grand slam. Santiago has set the bar high, though, and we'll be all the richer if anyone can approach the artistry and emotional resonance of this memorable book." – Alex Belth, Sports Illustrated
• Interview:Wilfred Santiago talks with Sketch Maven about his career and creating 21: "After the previous graphic novel, In My Darkest Hour, I wanted to do a biography. There were many reasons why Clemente was chosen. The richness, purpose-driven life, the inspirational life story are a few among many factors. The relevance of Clemente’s story to a youngster of today also came to mind. Roberto was a great and famous baseball player, and the baseball was a challenging aspect to the story. But, it was great to explore the sport in a comic book format."
• Review: "One of my favorite presents from last year’s holiday season was Fantagraphics’ Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition... The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy... rivals just about any epic fantasy (novel or film) in the last 25 years for its narrative complexity and powerful action sequences. [...] Reading these stories will help you understand why, when we talk about the success stories of independent comics publishing, Usagi Yojimbo should be one of the first titles that gets mentioned." – Ron Hogan, Beatrice
• Review: "Crane’s work is highly, emotionally charged, but in a quiet way. Illustrated in a lush, enveloping, greytone, 'Vicissitude' has a Film-Noir quality that adds an air of mystery to this story of melancholy and rotting love. It is so engaging and enthralling that its ending is jarring. 'Freeze Out,' the Simon & Jack tale, is fantastic. It’s all-ages comic book magic. Reading it made me feel like a kid again, reading stories of adventure, fantasy, and magic for the first time on my own. If there were any doubts about Crane’s prodigious talent, Uptight #3 is the spell to dispel those doubts. [Grade] A+" – Leroy Douresseaux, Comic Book Bin
• Profile: The Toronto Star's Vit Wagner on the work and career of Joe Sacco: "'The drive is there,' says Sacco. 'I have a desire to go there and see things and talk to people. It’s invigorating and exciting. But my work involves a slower process. It takes me time to report. I like to sink into the situation. But beyond that, it takes a long time to write and draw my stuff, especially the drawing. You can report that there are 200,000 people in Tahrir Square, but if you want to draw the scene it takes a lot of effort.'"
• Interview:Sequential's David Hains talks to Joe Sacco: "I find more than half of my readers are from schools, in classes where they read my work. People have been to the regions and they’ll see, oh this medium has taken this on, I’ll pick that up. It’s sort of more book people than comics people. Although some of those are the same people, and thank God."
"Described as a Spanish Dick Tracy on steroids, the titular cabbie here is involved in a hunt for his father's stolen coffin, which contains his full inheritance. Art Spiegelman wrote the introduction, so we're not talking warmed-over liver."
"Wilson drew these linked one-pagers in the National Lampoon throughout the 1970s. His hero in a hunting cap is Everykid, who braves the daily awfulness of a child's world: school irrelevancies, getting sick, strange old relatives, department store Santas, going to camp, and death, for starters. No monsters and ghoulies — just real-life quimsies. Don't you wish you could have seen Gahan Wilson comics when you were a kid?"
"What a lavish show-and-tell: a DVD of nonprint media appearances of Krazy Kat, including videos of a 1921 'jazz pantomime' ballet and rare animated cartoons, plus two booklets collecting drawings, designs, strips, and background relating to Krazy in music and dance. [...] Clearly a shining star for popular culture and film collections."
• Review: "Though the episodic flow and gung-ho patriotism of the strips are simplistic in both content and conception, the depth they lack is greatly made up for by the vast, epic compositions that contain Crane’s spring-coiled bigfoot cartooning, the explosive you-are-there immediacy of his dogfights and shootouts, and the sensuous intensity of form and shape he brings to gorgeous women and vehicles of war alike. [...] Crane worked in broad strokes, which is what made him a great cartoonist; but in Buz Sawyer he also sometimes discovers quieter places, ones truly worthy of the sumptuousness with which he imbued every panel." – Matt Seneca, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Kalesniko is a major talent, and this book, which depicts a day stuck in traffic on a California freeway, presents considerable space for reflection, gossip, roman a clef and more. [...] Though the text of the story is rich and interesting, Kalesniko's art is amazing; manga-esque yet thoroughly Western, and richly expressive and subtle. Freeway will inevitably place high on many critic's year's-best lists." – Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Review: "Political commentary often has a short shelf life, but Kreider's collection of cartoons and essays [Twilight of the Assholes] remains potent and pungent, despite its primary focus on the excesses and detritus of the Bush administration. There are no claims of fairness, balance, sensitivity or subtlety here. Kreider's sharp pen skewers holier-than-thou hypocrites, patently phony pious proselytizers, opportunists and idiots of all stripes — gleefully and without fear." – Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Review: "With the core cast established, Segar takes more liberties with the formulas established in earlier books... and Segar continues to find new ways to play his cast off one another. How do Olive and Wimpy react when Eugene predicts Popeye will lose a prize fight for the first time ever? How does Popeye react to being a leader of men? It’s all here, all adventure and all hilarity. Fantagraphics, as you’ll know if you’ve been reading the series to date, continues to provide a gorgeous package – a towering book... with a striking die-cut cover. [...] Popeye Vol. 5: 'Wha’s a Jeep?' stands out as another winning classic comic strip collection, a reminder how great the medium has been and how dynamic it can still be." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "The value in this volume [Unexplored Worlds: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 2] is not in the stories themselves... but in tracking how Ditko’s art develops. Amid the stock characters of hapless dullards, five o’clock shadow Everymen and saturnine businessmen and the typical rocketships and ray guns of the day, Ditko gains confidence and consistency in his depictions, and an ability to pack more information into fewer images and to guide the reader’s eye across the page for maximum impact. His ability to convey otherworldly horrors flowers as well..." – Christopher Allen, Trouble with Comics
• Review: "...[W]hy is Sergio Ponchione not regarded as one of the top artists in the field today?! [Grotesque #4] is absolutely gorgeous. Lush, bizarre, and moving. The type of comics art which you dwell on a single panel for minutes at a time. The amount of detail and skill in each drawing is astounding. The tones and colors along with the expressive line and brush work create a mood of deep inspection." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks to new TCJ.com honchos Dan Nadel & Tim Hodler about taking the reins of The Comics Journal's online presence: "The initial goal was and remains the creation of a genuine on-line comics magazine (as opposed to blog, or series of blogs), with all of the long-form essays, interviews, reviews, and visual features that come with it. In other words, yes, we're attempting a counter-intuitive web site strategy, in the hopes that quality content will draw people in. We're interested in making a magazine that has a place in the larger visual culture, and can be a go-to source for people seeking insightful writing about comics."
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins, on the new TCJ.com: "Since I’m writing for the thing, I may not be in the best position to comment about it, but quite aside from my own minor role in the proceedings, the move is a welcome and long-overdue one. [...] Handing the Journal‘s website to an experienced print/web editorial team with a clear vision of comics and how to talk about them, one that moreover has been on the leading edge of comics criticism for some years now, is a major step in the right direction."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater concludes his conversation with Stan Sakai: "I own the characters, so I can do basically whatever I want with him, as far as the story goes. Most of it is adventure, I’ve done romances, I’ve done mysteries — I even did Space Usagi, where he goes through outer space. I can pretty much do anything I want with him, so I never get bored. I’m having fun with Usagi, even after so many years."
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks to Renee French: "I've been fishing around. I don't know if it's my age or what, but I'm confused. I have a bunch of obsessions that keep coming back. If I just kind of do something else, like these one-off drawings that I've been doing lately, it's not satisfying. I actually need to feel a little on-edge and crazy, I think."
• Interview:Seattlest's Hanna Brooks Olsen chatted with our own Larry Reid at Emerald City ComiCon yesterday and got "some pretty spectacular insight on what's going on" with us
• Feature:The Seattle Times' Janet I. Tu does her due diligence in her profile of Emerald City ComiCon and asks the president of Seattle's largest comics publisher about the event: "'It's mind-bending how big it is now and how influential,' said Gary Groth, who works at Seattle-based Fantagraphics Books, a graphic-novel and comic-book publisher, and edits the print edition of The Comics Journal, a magazine of news and criticism on comics and cartooning. Groth attributes the growth of such conventions to comics becoming a more integral part of pop culture. 'Or perhaps pop culture has become more comic-book-ized,' he said. 'You see it with comic-book movies or TV shows like Heroes. What used to be seen as essentially kids' entertainment has become grown-up entertainment.'"
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins comments on Alex Dueben's interview with Carol Tyler for that blog's parent site Comic Book Resources: "Having been sucked in by war fever myself several years ago, I find myself more and more moved by accounts of how even the most well-intentioned conflicts make a rubble of countless human lives, both the ones taken and the ones scarred, physically, economically, or emotionally. ...[Tyler is] doing vitally important work."