• Plug: "The Comics Journal: long known as a magazine where you can look at never before released sketches from R. Crumb next to essays about Wonder Woman’s bondage past next to in-depth interviews with superhero comics auteurs next to oral histories of underground dudes you didn’t even know you were interested in until you read about their entire lives. We could go on that tangent forever, but instead we’ll just direct you here to pre-order." – Sam Hockley-Smith, The Fader
• Plug: "In Mezzo and Pirus’ King of the Flies, characters who die in the first volume... come back to watch over the still-living – lovers, friends, mothers. Mezzo and Pirus’ undead are able to travel to Mars in the blink of an eye, and then back to the David Lynchian small-town that is the story’s main setting. Liberated from physical constraints, they are frustrated, morose, angry, holding onto grudges. ...Mezzo and Prius... have created a darkly erotic and blackly humoured book that, days after finishing, I’m still thinking about." – Shawn Conner, Guttersnipe
• Plug:Los Angeles magazine features Freeway by Mark Kalesniko in their latest roundup of books of local interest
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater continues his conversation with Stan Sakai: "Originally, I had wanted to do a series inspired by the life of a 17th century samurai named Miyamoto Musashi, but — he’s regarded as one of the great swordsmen in Japanese history, but one day I just drew a rabbit and Musashi became a rabbit. Instead of Miyamoto Musashi, my charcter was Miyamoto Usagi — 'usagi' means 'rabbit' in Japanese. The 'Miyamoto' part I kept as an homage to the original Musahi, but everything else is pretty much original."
• Profile:Variety recently talked to Dash Shaw about his artwork in the feature film Rabbit Hole — here's a scan, uploaded by Dash
• Review: "In the serialized adventures of Buz Sawyer, ace World War II Navy pilot and clean-cut ladies man, Crane expertly mixes high action in the Pacific with just the right amount of romance, creating a storytelling engine as sturdy and reliable as Sawyer’s SBD Dauntless. Crane’s gorgeous art, with cleanly drawn figures, extensive shading, and a slightly cartoonish style, took full advantage of the space provided comic strips back in the day. [...] Rating: 9.0 [out of 10]" – Garrett Martin, Paste
• Review: "Depending on who you are and your social outlook this final collection [FUC_ __U _SS __LE] is as brilliant or as appalling as the previous three so if you’re prudish, sensitive or concerned about moral standards – don’t buy this book. There’s plenty of us who will." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Sergio Ponchione’s conclusion to Grotesque returned to the mind-bending storytelling of the first issue, tying together loose story threads in a manner that treated those threads as tangible objects. [...] There are echoes of R.Crumb, Elzie Segar, Charles Burns and Kim Deitch in his work, creating a lush, bizarre world that he doesn’t quite allow the reader to get lost in. Indeed, if the past two issues (the 'Cryptic City' story) felt a bit more conventional than the more expansive first issue, the finale not only fully fleshed out the first issue’s themes, it gave the last two issues a new context." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Interview: Joe MacLeod of the Baltimore City Paper talks to their erstwhile cartoonist Tim Kreider about his new book Twilight of the Assholes: "In principle I subscribe to the Kubrick policy about discussing your own work, to wit: Do not. It can only ever limit and diminish it. I tried not to explicate my own cartoons, just use them as starting points for tangential rants, occasions to say things that the cartoon form didn’t allow for. Still, it makes me squirmy whenever artists hold forth about their own work, and I still second-guess myself about having included the essays."
• Interview: The third part of Ian Burns's chat with the creators of "The White Rhinoceros" serial from Mome at The Comics Journal shifts to artist Josh Simmons: "I was trying to capture a certain look; I was thinking very loosely (I didn’t look at a lot of these comics, but the Disney comics from the ’60s or so — very nice, smooth, rubbery, cartoony line and bright colors) but trying to draw it somewhat realistic too. Not too cartoony. For me the main influences would be those kind of comics, and fantasy epic stories like Narnia, Lord of the Rings. And Shaun [Partridge] is a huge Narnia fan. That was a large jumping-off point for him."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater continues his chat with Stan Sakai: "...I read through the old Fantagraphics stories, and I’m really happy with how it all holds together, and how it flows into the current continuity. The characters mature, but they pretty much stay in character. So, I’m really happy with that. And the types of stories that come about, I think I’ve matured as a storyteller. And Usagi has matured as a character, so I’m quite pleased."
• Review: "Ryan is in top form with his latest collection of Blecky Yuckerella strips, where every page brings a new round of vulgar, revolting, and offensive humor. Fans will welcome this installment of his no-holds-barred attack on polite sensibilities, while those who don't know his work will either embrace it or throw the book to the ground and run. Either way, Ryan's profane point of view, which entered the comics world with Angry Youth Comix in the mid-'90s, makes an impression. The Blecky Yuckerella strips here are brilliantly rude, their humor somehow sharp in spite of all the potty-mouthed fantasies. [...] Ryan's signature goofy old-school comic strip style mixed with the crudest of imagery works every time." – Publishers Weekly
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater talks to Stan Sakai: "In that Fantagraphics collection, compare Usagi in the very begin with him after 1,200 pages, he’s changed. The character design has changed, he has a little bump for a nose, as opposed to the Roman-type of nose he had at the beginning—very straight. His proportions have changed. And he’s evolving even today."
• List:X-Ray Spex's Will Pfeifer names his Pop Culture Books of the Year for 2010:
"This is the sort of book I love more than any other. It reveals a world I never knew existed — in this case, the bizarre world of elaborate, mean-spirited, downright dangerous lodge initiations — and does so with a real affection for and appreciation of the past. [Catalog No. 439:] Burlesque Paraphernalia is... the sort of book that makes you think life might've been tougher a long time ago, but it was probably a hell of a lot more interesting, too."
"All you need to know about Destroy All Movies is that it's such a complete guide to 'punks on film' (as the subtitle promises) that not only does it include Star Trek IV because of the scene with the punk on the bus, it interviews that guy. Also, the pink-and-black-and-white design theme of the book deserves some sort of award."
• Review: "Special Exits stands out at one of 2010’s best comic books, a fitting tribute to Joyce Farmer’s parents that tackles, head on, the heartbreaking inevitable process of losing one's parents. The result is one of the most human and most affecting comics of recent memory..." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "...Usagi Yojimbo is a work of pure joy ... I’ve waited with fingers crossed for a sufficient entry point into Sakai’s ever-broadening world, and thankfully, one couldn’t ask for a more perfect red carpet than Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition. ...[F]or those waiting idly by for an excuse to dive into Usagi, this Special Edition offers up about 1,200." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Review: "Among the highlights of [Usagi Yojimbo:] The Special Edition is the ease of witnessing Sakai’s growth as a writer, artist and storyteller. While the illustration in the earliest chapters is already solid, Sakai’s linework grows visibly more assured and looser, giving the pages a liveliness not seen in many comics. Similarly, the layouts evolve to capture the quiet elegance of the Japanese countryside, the gut-turned terror of Jei (comics’ best villain) or the kinetic ballet of a samurai duel in pitch-perfect fashion. ...Fantagraphics makes Usagi look great with this collection. ...[F]or [hardcore] Usagi fans, The Special Edition is everything you could want. And anyway, with this series, everyone should be hardcore." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• List/Plugs/Coming Attractions: At Hypergeek, Edward Kaye highlights no fewer than 7 of our 2011 releases in his roundup of "Comics, Graphic Novels, and More Worth Looking Forward to in 2011"
We noticed that our new releases have been omitted from Diamond's shipping lists over the last few weeks, which means they've been arriving in comic shops with little to no notice (which means very few blurbs from the usual blog sources we quote here). We've contacted Diamond about it and we're getting it straightened out (I won't go into the gory details, and I'm not sure if it was a Diamond policy change, but there was a reasonable explanation and solution). Anyhoo, the books below are already out or arriving tomorrow — check with your local shop to confirm availability.
136-page full-color 5.25" x 7.75" hardcover • $22.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-400-9
"These bright, full-color paintings blur the lines between traditional art and comics, between lettering and language. Each piece in Mascots stands on its own, but it also functions within the context of the other paintings as well, to reveal a larger world." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books ), Largehearted Boy
"Ray Fenwick gives you more typographical mania in Mascots, his follow-up to 2008’s Hall of Best Knowledge. It’s a series of full colour paintings on found book covers. In the preview he seems to be going on and on about Cthulhu and the pronunciation of 'Cthulhu,' but more importantly, he engages in superfluous and plentiful footnotes and thus gets top marks from me." – Gosh! Comics
I'm frequently invited to conduct workshops on comix as an educational tool at regional conferences of K-12 librarians, teachers, and administrators. These educators appreciate the appeal of graphic novels but sometimes lack the familiarity to employ them effectively. Here are some of the conclusions we've reached on the judicious use of comix in school.
Comix are extremely useful as a tool to address students struggling with limited literacy or English as a second language (ESL.) In remedial situations, students are reluctant to be assigned material substantially below grade level. With many comix, the age level is ambiguous, which removes the social stigma associated with reading challenges. Additionally, the illustrations assist with word identification and drive the story in an accessible fashion. Comix are considered cool in school, and can engage students at all literacy levels.
The Usagi Yojimbo series is particularly appealing in teaching both ESL and remedial readers. It's a smart, well-paced adventure story about samurai culture in 17th century feudal Japan. These books are attractive to readers of all ages without respect to gender. For adolescents in higher grades, I often suggest Blazing Combat. This anthology contains compelling war stories throughout history, including the American Revolution, Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Viet Nam and others. The stories have historical value and many focus on the futility of armed conflict. In addition, they feature some of the most remarkable artists in comics.
Fantagraphics Bookstore stocks dozens of comix and graphic novels suitable to students of all ages. Many of these books concern history, race and social justice, geopolitics, philosophy and other subjects common to K-12 curricula. To arrange an individual consultation or group visit to the bookstore please call Larry Reid at 206.658.0110. Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is located at 1201 S. Vale Street, minutes south of downtown Seattle. Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM. See you all soon.