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.
• List:iFanboy's Jason ranks Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition at #1 on the Top Collected Editions of 2010: "Fantagraphics has treated us with a 1,160-page, two volume slipcase collection that reprints the first seven trade paperbacks worth of content, as well as 50 covers and lots of never-before-seen backmatter."
• List: "I don’t understand how Medley can write and draw so well. The story is entertaining and well-paced. The art is spacious, smooth with expressive lines. I have no idea why Medley hasn’t won every award everywhere. Volume two picks up where the first left off, telling the stories of a group of people who have retired to Castle Waiting, a refuge in a difficult, quasi-medieval world." – Carol Borden, The Cultural Gutter, "10 Comics I Liked in 2010"
• List:Paul Gravett's Best of 2010 is very, very extensive, including mentions of no fewer than 10 of our titles
• Review: "The unease which Mezzo brings to King of the Flies is ever present in the twisted shapes of his men and women, the oversized drops of an acrid drizzle, the fur like scrub which seem like the myriad hairs of a fly’s appendage, a modern day dance of death choked with the dregs of modern life; the strange underbelly of free will and capitalism — sex, drugs and alcohol; death, lust and tainted beauty; the unsettling horror of kitsch; the nauseating mingling of youth, disease and dementia." – Ng Suat Tong, The Hooded Utilitarian (The Comics Journal)
• Interview: At his Talking with Tim blog, Tim O'Shea talks to Destroy All Movies!!! editors Zack Carlson (quoted here) & Bryan Connolly: "I’m constantly shocked by people’s willingness to forgo the most valuable resources we have — like bookstores and video stores — because of the lazy convenience of the internet. Why don’t people want to leave their homes? Are they afraid they’ll get struck by lightning or bitten by a dog? It makes me nuts."
• Plug: "...Set to Sea is an astounding visual piece with a simplistic narrative that avoids the saturated complexities of other graphic works. I’ve been a long time fan of Weing’s, and highly recommend this title." – Michael Dean, Slither and Friends
• List:Robot 6's Chris Mautner names "The six most criminally ignored books of 2010," including:
"1) Captain Easy Vol. 1 by Roy Crane. ...I consider this to be one of the big publishing events of 2010. [...] The Sunday pages in this book are full of high energy, action and slapstick."
"4) High Soft Lisp by Gilbert Hernandez. [...] Those who feel that Hernandez’s work relies too much on female objectification and fetishization need to read this book to understand how self-aware he is of that fact and its real-world consequences."
• List (Audio): On the Inkstuds radio programme, host Robin McConnell discusses the Best of 2010, including Tim Hensley's Wally Gropius, with cartoonists Michael DeForge, Zack Soto and Noah Van Sciver
• List: At Robot 6, Kevin Melrose includes Drew Weing's Set to Sea on his list of The 50 Best Covers of 2010: "The limited palette and gold highlights on the waves help to lend the cover to Drew Weing’s debut graphic novel a gorgeous dream-like quality."
• Review: "In a robust, finely crafted package, Fantagraphics celebrated the 25th anniversary of the wandering rabbit ronin... by collecting the first seven volumes in two hardcover books sheathed in a sturdy, eye-catching slipcase. ...Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition is in a class all its own in terms of presentation." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious
• Commentary: A commenter at Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin predicts: "The recently announced Carl Barks collections by Fantagraphics will receive public attention on the Today Show via Al Roker and become selections in Oprah’s Book Club. The widespread exposure of clever humor and commentary by 50-year old Donald Duck comics create a nationwide movement of crazy alternative-energy initiatives and treasure hunting." (The Roker part is not completely far-fetched — Al did the Introduction for the next volume of The Complete Peanuts) (Mike also plugs Flog, which is nice of him)
• List:David Wolkin names some memorable comics he read this year:
"It hurts to read [It Was the War of the Trenches], but Jacques Tardi’s renderings are still quite beautiful as far as I’m concerned, which makes the whole thing that much more painful."
"Blazing Combat blew my mind. [...] The only thing this book has to say is that war is always terrible and people always die... Most of the stories are written by Archie Goodwin, but are duties are handled by a whole mess of the greats, including John Severin, Gene Colan, Wally Wood and Alex Toth, Goddamn Alex Toth. This book is worth buying just for the 3-4 Toth stories."
• List/Review: "Notable shoujo mention: A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio... There is fantastic imagery, and fantastic stories. [...] As a translation and publishing choice, I commend Fantagraphics. For anyone who wants to read what is considered to be a classic gem of shojo then this is it." – Anime Diet (see also their review)
• List: Melinda Beasi of Manga Bookshelf names A Drunken Dream and Other Stories one of the two Best Classic Manga of 2010: "...Moto Hagio’s collection of short manga... focus[es] particularly on issues of family, delving deep into some of the ugliest impulses of our biological tribes and the damage they can do to their least valued members..."
• List: Patrick Markfort of Articulate Nerd counts down his top 10 Favorite Comics of 2010:
"7. The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976, The Complete Peanuts 1977-1978, by Charles M. Schulz... After the fascinating early years of the strip in the 50's and its evolution and refinement into one of the all-time great strips in the 60's, it was a delight to rediscover these wonderful 70's strips, which to my mind strike a perfect balance between the ever present serious and silly sensibilities of Peanuts. Schulz's life's work is all things to all people, with a cuteness and sweetness on the surface, a razor sharp wit just underneath, and depths of poetry and sadness at its heart. The Platonic ideal of a comic strip."
"5. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, by Moto Hagio – I've been waiting years for someone to publish something by Moto Hagio, and I was not disappointed in the slightest by this book. In fact, I loved everything about it, from the drop-dead gorgeous design work by Adam Grano, to the fine selection of stories by editor Matt Thorn, to the reprint of Thorn's definitive interview with Moto Hagio... None of this would mean much if the stories weren't any good, of course. Fortunately, they're exceptional. These exquisitely drawn short narratives across a variety of genres spanning Hagio's decades-long career are terrific reads in and of themselves, and provide a fascinating glimpse into a tradition of comics-making we've still seen very little of. More like this, please."
"1. 'Browntown' and 'The Love Bunglers, Parts One and Two,' by Jaime Hernandez, from Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 - Jaime Hernandez is my favorite living cartoonist, and these short stories, which MUST be read in conjunction with each other, are my favorite thing he's ever done. What a thrill to witness first hand the publication of a certain All Time Great Comics Work from an artist whose place in the canon is secured ten times over. [...] Read my full review of Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 here."
• List: "Love and Rockets New Stories #3 – [...] Jaime has this wonderful gift to make his characters seem real and natural. It’s been almost 30 years that he’s been writing and drawing the stories of Maggie and Hopey but they feel more like old friends now than ever before." – Scott Cederlund, Wednesday's Haul, "The Best of 2010"
• List: "A giant, two volume hardcover edition with a solid slipcase, this excellent collection [Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition] features the first seven volumes of the series and a ton of extra content. Probably the most beautiful book on this list." – Aaron Colter, Fearing Americans, "The Best Comics of 2010"
• List: "Best Pop Culture Satire: [...] An award winning comic that made me laugh out loud a little too much while reading at the local cafe. [...] Full of shamans, reanimated pirate skeletons and hysterical pop culture nods, Dungeon Quest Book Oneis one of my favorite pieces of comic satire to come out in a long time." – Ian Gonzales, Unwinnable, "The Best Comic Books of 2010"
• List: At The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, the contributor identified only as Michael places Jason's Werewolves of Montpellier on his top 3 Best of the Year: "...[A]s usual Jason’s art is beautiful in its very unusual style with super thick line work and flat and bright colouring. The story is more of a drama, which again is a change from the usual comedy route and the addition of a romance sub-plot makes this book one of Jason’s most complex and best."
• Review: "Jacques Tardi's Adèle Blanc-Sec is a longtime favorite French anti-heroine... The over-the-top parody of the monster-hunting adventurer, combined with a whiff of innate French superiority to the source material, ...may appeal to the extremely casual reader of comics, or one with deep knowledge and interest, but probably not to a reader who enjoys picking up the latest zombie comic." – Mike Rhode, Washington City Paper
• Survey:The Beat's year-end/looking-forward survey of comics pros (part three) includes incisive commentary from our own Eric Reynolds
• Coming Attractions: More reporting & commentary on our Carl Barks news from MTV Geek and Ambrosia (in Portuguese)
This interview was conducted by Fantagraphics' Eric Buckler, making his Flog debut. Thanks to Eric and Stan!
Stan Sakai has crafted the adventures of his Ronin Samurai rabbit, Usagi Yojimbo, for more than 25 years. He has made Usagi one of the most recognizable "funny animals" or anthropomorphic characters in the comics universe through his unique storytelling and peerless craft. Usagi wanders through Edo period (1600s) Japan, running into the likes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird) and Groo The Wanderer (Sergio Aragones). Sakai's work has been praised by the likes of Stan Lee and been awarded three Eisners for storytelling, overall talent, and lettering. Fantagraphics released a special commemorative edition of the first seven books of Usagi's travels last month.
ERIC BUCKLER: What is it like to revisit some of those first stories?
STAN SAKAI: I re-read them and I was quite pleased at how well they read. These were stories that I had done 25 years ago, even more. They really read coherently and they still play a part in the Usagi saga that I have been telling. You can tell how much the character has matured since then, of course, but I am quite pleased at how well the stories worked.
BUCKLER: What do you think Usagi Yojimbo has contributed to the pop-culture image of the samurai?
SAKAI: I think it has made comic-book readers more aware of the true samurai culture, even though we are talking about a rabbit samurai. It is because I have tried to keep the spirit of the samurai in my stories, both in the research of the history of Japan as well as its culture. I try to convey that.
BUCKLER: How much of you is in Usagi? Do you and the rabbit share a lot of qualities?
SAKAI: He is very idealized. I would like to think that Usagi has a bit of me in him. I have worked with him for a long time, and I think I have infused more of myself into him. You can see that his personality has changed from the early days; back then he was a bit more stoic, a bit more reserved. Now he is more engaging, he just seems to be more well-rounded now. I think it has to do with both my getting familiar with the character as well as — like you said — perhaps there is part of myself included in Usagi.
BUCKLER: So you feel like you guys have aged well together? [Sakai laughs].
Which elements do you think set Usagi Yojimbo apart from other anthropomorphic characters both in comics and elsewhere?
SAKAI: Well he is unique; physically there is no other samurai character that has his ears tied. So that sets him apart, as well as, I think, putting a character in an actual historical and cultural setting. I built walls around it and the walls are made by the history and the culture of Japan. But I try to keep it as a fantasy series. I can't really tell you what sets him apart from other anthropomorphic characters. I like to think it's the quality of the artwork as well as the writing. My wife was telling me that the artwork might attract new readers, but it's the quality of the writing that keeps them coming back every month.
BUCKLER: What was the most memorable moment for you in the first seven books as far as story genesis?
SAKAI: My favorite story is the kite story and that is in Book 5, and that for me was a turning point. That was the first time I did a lot of research for my stories and that story took about a period of two or three years. I had bought a book on Japanese kite making, and thought, " Oh, it will be nice to make a story about kites one day." But it wasn't until a year or so later that I was sketching in my sketchbook, and drew Usagi being lifted by a kite and that sparked the idea; I can do a story around this drawing. I dug out that kite-making book and did a bunch more research, and the story about kites came together. It's still one of my very favorite stories. It is told from the viewpoint of three characters — a kite maker, gamblers and Usagi. I told the process of making an odako, giant kite, for a festival. The gamblers come to town, and start cheating the people. Usagi comes to see the festival, and exposes the gamblers. Then the action begins.
BUCKLER: I love it when you go through and follow the manufacturing of the kite. That is really great.
SAKAI: For me I think that was a big turning point in my approach to doing Usagi; before then it was pretty much an action/adventure series, a fantasy series. But it was with the kite story that I really did put a lot of research and time into my storytelling.
Time for lots more awkwardly-formatted year-end lists, a review from The Washington Post and much more in what might be the longest Online Commentary & Diversions ever:
• List: For the Las Vegas Weekly, J. Caleb Mozzocco counts down his top 5 comics of 2010:
#3: Temperance by Cathy Malkasian: "Blessed with a Dr. Seuss-like ability to evoke the most serious problems and bleakest emotions in personalized, original, timeless fantasy elements, Malkasian has constructed a graphic epic involving a handful of colorful, tragic characters and their interlocking lives."
#5: Werewolves of Montepellier by Jason: "A successful jewel thief disguises himself as a werewolf during heists, eventually attracting the attention of real, actual werewolves in Jason’s latest deadpan dramedy masterpiece. While that might sound like the protagonist’s most urgent problem, his doomed crush on neighbor-turned-friend Audrey is the only thing truly eating him."
• List: The bloggers at Robot 6 count down their choices for the best comics of 2010:
"7. Set to Sea: The story of a would-be poet who is shanghaied and learns about life at sea the hard way, Set to Sea is drawn in a series of single panels, each of which is a miniature masterpiece on its own. It’s a singularly economical way of telling a story, and Drew Weing makes each of his panels into a tight little world of its own." – Brigid Alverson
"4. You’ll Never Know, Book Two: Collateral Damage: [...] Tyler skillfully handles multiple strands of her story, using a variety of styles and formats for different episodes, slowly building a complete picture from several different sources." – Brigid Alverson
"16. It Was the War of the Trenches, by Jacques Tardi: French master Tardi does to the Great War what the Great War did to the bodies of millions of young soldiers: blow it wide open and root in the mess. Depicted primarily in an unyielding onslaught of widescreen panels, it’s like a slog through the trenches itself. Furious and full of contempt for war and its masters." – Sean T. Collins
"6. It Was the War of the Trenchesby Jacques Tardi: Reading Trenches, you realize just how far afield, just how dead wrong most American (and British) had it in their depiction of war. Even Kurtzman’s war comics (which I love) seem like kiddie sermonizing, an overly sweet, sanitized warning, next to Tardi’s uncompromising depiction of WWI. You want to know how brutal war can be? You want to know how war should be depicted in comics – how to look the utter savagery, inhumanity and square in the eye using only pen and ink? This is how you do it." – Chris Mautner
"15. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, by Moto Hagio: I gasped aloud repeatedly while experiencing the sheer loveliness of this book, a collection of short stories from throughout the decades by shoujo-manga pioneer Moto Hagio. Best of all, there’s a cake beneath all that icing, as Hagio’s stories are frequently sophisticated, moving, and unwilling to pull punches." – Sean T. Collins
"13. Prison Pit Book 2, by Johnny Ryan: Johnny Ryan journeys deeper than ever before into his inner ickiness and returns with an action-horror hybrid it’s almost impossible to 'enjoy' in the traditional sense of the word — and which thereby takes those two genres in stunning new directions." – Sean T. Collins
"11. Artichoke Tales, by Megan Kelso: A war comic like none you’ve ever read, Megan Kelso’s ambitious alt-fantasy is concerned not with conflict’s immediate carnage, but with its lasting effects on the societies engaged in it — economic, cultural, religious, familial, even geographical. I found it humanistic, unsparing, and fascinating." – Sean T. Collins
"10. Weathercraft, by Jim Woodring: It’s always darkest before the dawn, and the psychedelic body-horror of Jim Woodring has never been darker than it gets here. His hapless, villainous Manhog is made to suffer like you’ve seen few comics characters suffer before in any style or genre…only to emerge enlightened and overjoyed on the other side in a final act that feels like that first breath of fresh cool air after you’ve hidden your head under the covers in terror for minutes on end." – Sean T. Collins
"2. Weathercraft by Jim Woodring: [...] It’s a twisting, twisted, often bizarre, often disturbing but always gripping tale of one creature’s self-redemption and ultimate sacrifice told without words and often as enigmatically as possible. If you had any doubt that Woodring could still deliver after laying low for so long, consider them erased." – Chris Mautner
"7. Special Exits, by Joyce Farmer: ...[N]early every meticulously crosshatched panel [is] drawn as if [Farmer's] life depended on it. Maybe it did. This is a magnum opus no one expected to read, a brutally frank depiction of what it’s like for full lives you love to end, and it has the most painfully happy ending of the year. It made me cry. Don’t do what I almost did and ignore one of the year’s most moving comics." – Sean T. Collins
"3. Wally Gropius, by Tim Hensley: The first great comic of the Great Recession. Tim Hensley’s breakout graphic novel, previously serialized in the Mome anthology, seems like a send-up of silly ‘60s teen-comedy and kid-millionaire comics on the surface, but beneath lies as odd and accurate a cri de coeur about capitalism and consumerism as I’ve ever read. It also does things with body language I’ve never seen in comics, and is funny as hell to boot. There’s nothing else out there like it." – Sean T. Collins
"5. Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley: The funniest comic of the year, Gropius is both homage and raised middle finger to the kids comics of yore, chiding them for their superficiality and yet revealing in their sublime shallowness all the same. That Hensley managed to have his cake and eat it too in such a breezy fashion suggests he will be an artist to watch for in the coming years." – Chris Mautner
"2. High Soft Lisp / Love and Rockets: New Stories #3, by Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez: This year I read nearly every comic ever created by Los Bros Hernandez; what a pleasure to discover at the end of my immersion that their two most recent comics are also two of their best, and thus two of the best comics by anyone. Gilbert and Jaime both tear furiously into love and sex in these two collections; what they find inside is ugly; what they do with it is beautiful." – Sean T. Collins
"3. Love and Rockets [New Stories] 3 by Xaime and Gilbert Hernandez: Gilbert’s contributions are great as usual (his work here and in the recently collected High Soft Lisp proves he’s no second banana brother), but it is Xaime’s 'The Love Bunglers/Browntown' that makes this volume so worthy of praise. A harrowing story of abuse, familial neglect and regret masterfully told, I defy anyone not to read this tale and not be devastated by its conclusion. Not a single line goes to waste here. To say it’s the best thing Xaime’s done is a stunning comment considering his lengthy and exemplary body of work, but there’s no question he’s raised the bar once again." – Chris Mautner
• List: The great Washington, DC bookstore Politics & Prose names their 2010 Graphic Novel Favorites, including:
"The Sanctuary by Nate Neal is one of the most adventurous, exciting, complex and beautiful graphic novels. [...] Nate Neal creates a language for the clan, and tells the entire story without any recognizable words, making The Sanctuary a quiet and dark collection of gestures and expressions."
"Pirus and Mezzo’s King of the Flies is a dark romp through a strange drug filled, sex crazed world of small town Europe. [...] Pirus and Mezzo aren’t afraid to tell a story full of our darkest desires and needs, but they’re also startlingly poetic."
"Weathercraft, by Jim Woodring, is a beautiful dream and a beautiful nightmare. [...] Weathercraft is page after page of utterly original, outrageous, wordless thrills. Somehow, in a place where confusion and chaos seem to reign, Woodring creates sense. The challenge and beauty of Weathercraft is taking hold of that sense, and letting it go when the dream becomes too beautiful to pass up."
"C. Tyler continues her inquiry into the true story of her father’s WWII experience with You’ll Never Know Book Two: Collateral Damage. Tyler’s colorful panels and line work is a welcome relief to the usual comics format; and her creative shifting of perspective and story... offer just the right amount of energy and relevance to make this book (and the previous volume) one of the best of the year."
"Hinging on one supernatural occurrence after another, the misadventures of Adele Blanc-Sec are surely one of the most welcome events this year. [...] This is a classic which should not be missed."
"...Moto Hagio’s story collection, A Drunken Dream, is a welcome and celebrated relief to the mainstream, translated Japanese comics, giving the reader a meaningful and deeply felt experience. ...Hagio’s exploration of loss... and identity... is equal to the best that any literature offers."
• List: Brazilian site Ambrosia names The Best Comics Published in the U.S. in 2010 — Alternatives and Classics, including:
It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "The French Tardi is a versatile artist, a thorough storyteller of historical fact and fiction. The clean lines and light of his drawings refer to the style of another Frenchman, the revered Moebius."
The Littlest Pirate King by David B.: "Accustomed to living with sea monsters, plundering ships and murdering sailors, a group of scary undead pirates has its routine radically transformed when they are forced to care for a child. David B.... uses his beautiful and dark art to adapt a fun text by Orlan."
• List: At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson names Castle Waiting Vol. 2 by Linda Medley the Best Graphic Novel of 2010: "Exceptionally illustrated fantasy revolving around everyday life among a stunning cast of unusual characters who make their own unusual family in an abandoned castle."
• Review: "Saucy, bold, enigmatic, gently funny, reassuringly romantic; brimming with human warmth and just the right edge of hidden danger Castle Waiting [Vol. 2] is a masterpiece of subtly ironic, perfectly paced storytelling that any kid over ten can and will adore. Moreover, if you’re long in the tooth or have been around the block a time or two, this fantastic place can’t help but look like home." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• List: At The Casual Optimist, Dan Wagstaff names Jason's Werewolves of Montpellier one of his Favourite New Books of 2010: "Ostensibly the book is about a thief called Sven who disguises himself as werewolf to rob people’s apartments and incurs the wrath of the town’s actual werewolves. It is, however, as much about friendship, identity, loneliness, and, ultimately, Sven’s unrequited love for his neighbour Audrey. [...] The whole book is achingly brief, but Werewolves of Montpellier is possibly my favourite Jason book to date." (Via Robot 6)
"14. Artichoke Tales(Megan Kelso) [...] Kelso's simple lines beautifully capture the emotional turmoil of the characters and move the action along fluidly. This title caught me by surprise with how much I enjoyed it — it looks deceptively simple, but there's a lot going on in this ambitious book."
"10. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (Volume 1) (Jacques Tardi) [...] This story is full of broad characters and is really silly, but it's a really riveting, often funny book that you can't help but love to spend time with, featuring some of Tardi's best art period. Plus pterodactyls in Paris!"
"6. Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 [...] The Hernandez Brothers' third annual release of Love and Rockets is their best yet. Gilbert Hernandez has long been a favorite artist of mine and he offers some pretty dynamic stories this time around as well... Jaime develops his characters effortlessly as he produces what may be one of the best offerings of his career."
"4. Castle Waiting (Volume 2)(Linda Medley) [...] This book is overflowing with great characters, the story unfolding cinematically to Medley's beautiful cartoony art. The domestic life that readers glimpse with these volumes is an absolute pleasure to behold, and I really enjoy the time I spend with the people in this title, as they explore the castle and unlock some of its mysteries while settling in. A real treasure."
"1. The Littlest Pirate King(David B. & Pierre Mac Orlan) – My favorite comic that I read this year is David B.'s comic adaptation of the prose story by French writer Pierre Mac Orlan. ...David B. elaborately illustrates this world with amazing mastery of the craft. The coloring, the pacing and panel arrangements, and the world of these pirates pillaging ships and being general menaces all make for a fun, engaging experience. This book contains some of the most beautiful panels that I've seen in years, and confidently sits at the top of my list for best of the year."
• List: On his MadInkBeard blog, Derik Badman lists Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 as one of the Best Print Comics of 2010: "This is Jaime doing what he does best, advancing the lives of his characters, adding to their histories, introducing side characters, and generating an emotional impact." (Via Robot 6)
• List: On The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, Martin Steenton of Avoid the Future names his top 3 Best of the Year: "...Drew Weing’s Set to Sea is one of the most beautifully-rendered graphic novels you could hope to see ever, let alone from within the past twelve months. [...] From start to finish, Set to Sea feels like a true classic; the graphic novel equivalent of Treasure Island, if you will. If you’re the sort of parent that doesn’t mind exposing your children to a few gory moments, I like to imagine that this is the book you’ll give them to usher them into their lives as comic readers. Think what a cool mum/dad you’d be."
• List: At Imprint, Michael Dooley names the Best American Comics Criticism panel at Skylight Books one of "the best speaker events that involved comics and graphic design" in L.A. last year
• Review: "Four Color Fear is editor Greg Sadowski's commemoration of horror publishers other than dominant Entertaining Comics ... [T]his volume contains many... complete tales, giving the reader a sense of how hard it was to meet the genre's three main requirements: sudden fear, ample gore and twist endings, all in the space of six to 10 pages. [...] One leads off with this fraught question: 'Have you ever heard a strange voice whisper, "Come with me into the Blackest depths of evil"?' To which I would have answered in the 1950s, 'What took you so long to ask?'" – Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post (via Newsarama)
• Review: "Johnny Ryan is in my mind is one of the best modern humorists in comics today. It's not the kind of humor that's gonna get him invited to lots of prestigious awards ceremonies, but you can not deny that this shit [is] funny! Seriously for all those people who have not read a Johnny Ryan book for whatever stupid reason, pick [FUC_ __U _SS __LE] up. There's gonna be something in here that will make you laugh or puke or laugh and puke at the same time. It's an awesome awesome book. Loved it all the way through." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Review: "Taking quotes from people who met King, journeyed with him, and experienced his teachings and shortcomings firsthand, the book gives readers an honest and refreshing take on the man that became a legend. The art in King is a sight to behold... While some will undoubtedly walk away with the impression that this take on King’s life somehow lessens his impact on society, others will hopefully find that the humanistic aspect enhances the appreciation of his determination to make a change. Rating: ★★★★1/2" – Matt Peters, Pads & Panels
• Plug: "Mascots is a beautiful new book by Ray Fenwick collecting a series of color paintings on found book covers. [...] You must all surely concur that this new book establishes Ray Fenwick as the foremost satirist-illustrator-typographer-poet-designer of our time." – Matt Forsythe, Drawn
• Plugs: At The Moviefone Blog, David Brothers recommends "Comic Books for Movie Buffs"; his picks for war movie fans and samurai movie fans, respectively:
"...It Was the War of the Trenches shows how war simultaneously dehumanizes and strengthens our connection to life. The dehumanization derives from the fact that soldiers who die in this book tend to do so alone, or by surprise, and life just goes on. The strengthening point, however, is due to how the soldiers eagerly grasp what life they have left, despite their situation. It Was the War of the Trenches is heartbreaking and maybe a little funny, but more than anything, it's fulfilling."
"...Usagi Yojimbo is not only deadly serious, but a fantastic read. Sakai clearly knows the era he's writing stories about very well, and his research shows. If not for the funny talking animals, this series would be fantastically realistic. With them, though, it's a series that hits many of the same high points as classic Kurosawa, but often from a fresh angle."
• Survey:The Beat's year-end/looking-forward survey of comics pros (part one) includes a classic Peter Bagge quip ("What was the biggest story in comics in 2010?" "No one has any money") plus input from Noah Van Sciver
• Analysis: In an academic paper published in the University of Florida's interdisciplinary comics studies journal ImageTexT, Joel Simundich examines "Translation, Transparency, and Genre" in Jason's The Iron Wagon (recently reprinted in What I Did)
• Interview: On his Princess Sparkle Pony blog, Peter Huestis presents a transcription of his 1995 interview with Jim Woodring which was published in Hypno Magazine: "I never use any of my dreams in the Frank stories. I've evolved a way of writing those stories that I adhere to pretty much all the time. I go down into this ravine near my house and hide in the bushes and write in my notebook. I write the stories out in words. I'll write an opening line like, 'Frank has a heavy heart.' If I like that for an opener, I will ask why he has a heavy heart. Sometimes I get an answer and sometimes I don't."
• List/Plug/Coming Attractions:The Millions names among their Most Anticipated books of 2011 two by Alexander Theroux: this month's The Strange Case of Edward Gorey ("Part biography, part artistic analysis, and part memoir of a long friendship, with exclusive interviews conducted shortly before Gorey’s death, this book is generally accepted as the most comprehensive portrait of Gorey ever written") and July's Estonia ("The book emerges from Theroux’s time spent in the former Soviet republic while his wife was on a Fulbright Scholarship. Ever observant, Theroux uses Estonia and its people as a lens through which to look back at America"); elsewhere at The Millions, Theroux himself weighs in on his Year in Reading
• Review: "I'm pretty close to having read all of Jason's comics, and each one is so solid and reliable, I'd be perfectly fine with building a house on them — except then it might be hard to read the comics themselves. [...] I continue to be impressed with Jason's unique and distinctive style, and if anything, he's only gotten better over time. ...[I]t's nice to know that one of my favorite creators is still at the top of his game. Werewolves [of Montpellier] is less a horror story and more a character study, but that's okay by me. Fans of Jason definitely should pick this book up right away, and anyone new to his work will find themselves cursed with a need to read more of his catalog after finishing this one." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Interview (Audio): It's a typically informative and entertaining chat between Inkstuds host Robin McConnell and Renee French
• Plug/Contest: "When I saw Destroy All Movies!!!: The Complete Guide to Punks on Filmon the bookshelf in the film section of the bookstore where I work, I was smacked all-over nostalgic. One might argue that books like this — big-format subculture guidebooks — are unnecessary now that we mostly all have internet access. Maybe. I still think everyone who coveted Factsheet 5 zine guides when they were young should feel obligated to get a copy of Destroy All Movies!!! for their lonely, floppy-haired nephew in Chilton, Wisconsin." – Matthew Simmons, HTMLGIANT (click through to find out how to win a copy of the book!)
• Plug: "Last week Fantagraphics released an incredibly comprehensive Usagi Yojimbo collection to celebrate the long eared ronin’s 25th Anniversary, and The Blot can’t wait to get his hands on a copy!" – The Blot Says...
#4 - You'll Never Know, Book 2: Collateral Damage by C. Tyler: "The first volume of Tyler's planned trilogy appeared on this list last year, and she hasn't missed a step, fleshing out her father's time in World War II with fresh details about its long-term aftershocks on the home front."
#3 - It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "...French cartoonist Tardi's pitch-black World War I masterpiece, available in English for the first time. This is war as hourly apocalypse, Expressionist and agonizing."
#1 - Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 by the Hernandez Brothers: "The first two [issues] were typically excellent, but the third was jaw-dropping, largely because of 'Browntown,' a story by Jaime Hernandez. Like his brother Gilbert, Jaime has been so good for so long that it's become very easy to take his obvious genius for granted. 'Browntown' brought that skill into brutal relief, a devastating story of a secret left to fester. Expertly paced, with not a line wasted, it was one of the year's best stories in any medium, a stunner from a guy who keeps finding new peaks."
• List:Popdose's Johnny Bacardi (né David Allen Jones) names Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 one of his Best of 2010: "Featuring Jaime Hernandez's remarkable 'Browntown,' perhaps the best thing he's ever done. Which makes this absolutely essential."
• Review: "...The Littlest Pirate King is gorgeously illustrated and quite intriguing. David B. has an unusual style which tempers the creepiness of undead pirates with an almost goofy look; but then those cartoony characters grin as they run swords through people. It’s a very odd juxtaposition that matches the story well..." – Jonathan Liu, Wired – GeekDad
• Review: "...[Usagi Yojimbo] is probably one of the best comic stories ever made. The epic scope expected from historical fiction is there as are some of the most finely drawn characters in the medium. [...] While even the stories that are not particularly noteworthy are highly readable, the good stories in this collection are amazing. [...] I give this book the highest possible praises for quality." – J.A. Crestmere, Renderwrx Productions
• Review: "Destroy All Movies!!!, edited by Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly, not only gives an great anthology-like overview... but provides a strong focus on the talent and punk-brains behind the art. [...] It’s the perfect summation of a 1980s American society that didn’t know how to handle the punk uprising, and a film industry that capitalized on it." – Dave McKendry, Fangoria
• Review: "Fantagraphics has finally presented the work of one of comics' greatest mystery men in dignity with beautiful color reproduction and informative introductions. [... Unexplored Worlds] shows off Ditko's work after the Comics Code Authority came onto the scene and turned every lurid story of horror and 'the macabre' into some lame morality tale in which everyone has a nice time. Still there's some strong content in this book..." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Johnny's new book [FUC_ __U, _SS __LE] is full of the yucky yuks, barfy larfs, and gags-that-make-you-gag that have made this shock comicker the Artie Lange of drawn funnies! [...] Do you like comics where dangling nutsacks are mistaken for pinatas and rich people shove DVDs into midgets' butt cleavage which causes them to act out the movies? A comic where summoning a Garfield Satan is possible by using the Lasagnanomicon? A comic where a little girl shoots the homelees in the brain, grinds them up, and feeds them to skunks for Thanksgiving? You don't? Neither does anybody else. Eat my balls, JR." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "As with Ryan’s more recent work... the jokes [in FUC_ __U, _SS __LE] become have become more outrageous, absurd, disturbing and just plain odd. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends upon your appreciation for Prison Pit, not to mention your appreciation for Johnny Ryan’s comics in general. Me, I thought it was swell." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "Here’s another best of 2010 comics entry for you. Cathy Malkasian’s Temperance is like Franz Kafka’s The Castle meets Little House on the Prairie and goes drinking. No, it’s like rewriting Pinocchio as several Flannery O’Connor short stories, including (but not limited to) 'A Good Man Is Hard To Find' and 'Good Country People.' No, that’s not it either. [...] Anyway, it’s weird as hell. This stuff." – John Holbo, Crooked Timber
• Review: "Dosed with dry, mordant wit and just the right tone of macabre Ghost Train suspense Toys in the Basement is a simply terrific goose-bumpy thriller rendered magical by the wildly eccentric, brilliantly imaginative and creepily fluid artwork of Blanquet. This dark delight also has the perfect moral message for loot-hungry, attention-deprived youngsters – and their kids and grandchildren too." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview:The Daily War Drum talks to Stephen DeStefano about his Disney comics work and other topics: "I'm currently working on storyboards for Disney TV Animation, on a show called Kick Buttowski. I'm also drawing Spongebob Squarepants comic books, as well as drawing the second volume of my graphic novel (Volume One was published this past September) called Lucky in Love."
• List/Review:Critical Mob names Jim Woodring's Weathercraft one of the Top 10 Books of 2010. As a reminder, their review called it "the kind of Pilgrim's Progress tale that David Lynch might have conjured up if he were a cartoonist" (Lynch was a cartoonist, in fact) and "Woodring's best work yet. And for an artist of his caliber, that's saying something."
• List: At Flavorwire, Desert Island's Gabe Fowler names Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 #9 of 10 of the Year's Most Buzzed About Comic Releases: "Lots of people were blown away by this — it’s a comic that epitomizes 20 years worth of work in 50 pages. Jamie Hernandez has just been doing it so long that he’s a natural. Comics just seem to flow out of this guy."
• List: Julien from Librairie Drawn & Quarterly names A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio one of "Les 5 livres indispensables de l'année" (the 5 essential books of the year): "With coming of age stories that are sentimental, dramatic, poetic, offbeat and not mawkish..., A Drunken Dream and Other Stories showcases trailblazing manga has forged its own way since the '70s." (Translated from French.)
• Plug: "In typical Fantagraphics fashion, A Drunken Dream is presented in a gorgeous, golden-hued, and hardbound package. From the front to end papers, it is packed with stories, artwork — both black and white and in color — and an interview with the influential artist that’s just as engaging as her stories. For me, 'Iguana Girl' was the standout tale, full of emotional and psychological twists. It’s sophisticated and defies expectations." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious "Graphic Novel Friday: Holiday Gift Guide"
• Review/Profile: A feature on Joyce Farmer and Special Exits by Paul Gallagher at The Huffington Post: "Farmer's beautiful, moving and truly exceptional book deals with the very real closing down age brings, and its problems. Rarely have I read such an honest, heart-breaking, yet darkly humorous tale."
• Review: "Carol Tyler has chosen a scrapbook format for her memoir series You'll Never Know, but the editing is the reverse of the usual—instead of airbrushing over her family's troubles, she focuses on them. [...] Tyler has a good ear; her conversations, whether it's the grownups kidding around when she was a child or the grown daughters trying to figure out how to negotiate their parents' illnesses, always ring true. Her art is sketchy and expressive, changing to fit the story, often deliberately breaking borders as she transitions from one setting to another." – Brigid Alverson, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Review: "...Rip M.D. is a bit silly, but it’s offbeat and funny too. It’s got the kind of gross-out humor that kids will love... While the book has its own somewhat silly logic, it also has a tremendously engaging look and feel that’s all its own." – John Hogan, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Review: "Stark and vivid, scary and heartbreakingly sad as only a children’s tale can be, this darkly swashbuckling romp [The Littlest Pirate King] is a classy act with echoes of Pirates of the Caribbean (which it predates by nearly a century) that will charm, inspire and probably cause a tear or two to well up." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Plug: "While I’ve yet to see a copy, Fantagraphics’ Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition finally released this December, and it clocks in at 1,200 pages. The 25th Anniversary of Stan Sakai’s rabbit ronin is celebrated across two hardcovers housed in a slipcase. The set promises plenty of extras, and its delayed publication has been lamented loudly enough to make this holiday publication cause for plenty of raised glasses of eggnog." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious "Graphic Novel Friday: Holiday Gift Guide"
• Awards:ActuaBD reports on the nominees for the Prix Artémisia, including Gabriella Giandelli's Interiorae (in its French edition). "This is an award directed towards female creators from an association bearing the same name as the prize," reports The Comics Reporter.
• Interview (Audio): Host Robin McConnell chats with Nate Neal about Nate's new graphic novel The Sanctuary and other topics on the Inkstuds radio programme; in his blog post Robin says "Sanctuary has a really great language all to itself, and his work in Mome utilizes a while different skill set. Good comics."
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.