Online Commentary & Diversions — catching up from MoCCA weekend, with more catch-up tomorrow:
• Award: Congratulations to David Sandlin for receiving a 2010-2011 fellowship from the New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. "The fellowship lasts from September to May. Each fellow gets an office in the library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, full access to the library’s research collections, and a stipend, which last year was $60,000," reports Kate Taylor of The New York Times. Not too shabby!
• Review: "Few people alive today are old enough to remember World War I, and as it recedes into the past, the 'war to end all wars' becomes more abstract. But French cartoonist Jacques Tardi's graphic novel, It Was The War of the Trenches..., brings the Great War to life in all its mud- and blood-soaked misery. Without a trace of sentimentality, Tardi's richly detailed and grimly rendered vignettes depict the horror, illness, cruel manipulations, and stupidity of this giant black spot in human history." – Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing
• Review: "Long-lost astronauts, homicidal bloggers, baseball legends and wayward skaters all find a home in John Pham’s captivating comic series Sublife. With only two issues on the street, Sublife has already established an achingly familiar universe in all of its disparate ongoing narratives. Deftly juggling the melancholy of Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve with some Cormac McCarthy-inspired apocalyptic action and plenty of skillfully subdued deadpan humor, Pham proves himself a master of multifarious emotions and artist stylings." – We Love You So
• Review: "While I enjoyed Sakai's artwork in the first volume, this second trade collection is even stronger. ... I'm so glad I'm finally sitting down and reading this series, and my only regret is that I didn't do it sooner. Usagi Yojimbo is a great addition to the canon of samurai stories, and is definitely highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of wandering ronin or just good storytelling." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Review: "Culture Corner remains a curiosity in comic book history, rarely remembered, rarely seen, but Basil Wolverton’s status as an important figure in humor cartooning is unimpeachable. Thus, anybody wanting to understand the development of the medium and the evolution of comedy cartooning should pick up Culture Corner to see how Wolverton began the road to comic book legend. Most of the strips have never been seen by today’s readers, and the sheer number of unpublished penciled sketches makes this book a true rarity and a must-have." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "I can honestly say that the further we dive into the murky depths of Newave!, the better it gets. Hot on the heels of all the anarchic fun of the first thirty mini comics, come ten more that show, in various ways, a little extra sophistication in content or execution." – Avoid the Future continues their mini-reviews of the contents of Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s; this is from part 4, and I think we may have missed linking to part 2 and part 3
• Plug: At IdeaFixa, Claudio Yuge says that reading Love and Rockets "was one of the best things I ever did in life and I recommend it for anyone who likes comics and graphic arts in general." (translated from Portuguese)
• Commentary:Comic Book Galaxy's Christopher Allen & Alan David Doane comment on this year's Eisner nominees, of which we have several; there's too much for me to quote from here
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning talks to Jim Woodring about Weathercraft: "In a lot of ways, Manhog is the most interesting character in the Unifactor. He has the most potential for change and the widest range of dramatic possibilities. Besides, it's fun to put him in awful circumstances and watch him suffer. There's something about a big fat guy screaming in terror that's just naturally funny. Oliver Hardy got a lot of mileage out of that formula."
• Interview: The Inkstuds radio programme talks with Mome contributor (and, now, kids-comics superstar) Eleanor Davis
• SayethHans Rickheit: "I like Page 15 [of Ectopiary] simply because it contains a stuffy old lady denigrating beatniks and artists; that is always a winning ingredient of any succsessful book, in my opinion."
• Review: "Dash Shaw seems set to become a name to be reckoned with in comics... [The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.] is a wonderful introduction to Shaw’s work, and should certainly find its way into the hands of those craving more." – Grovel
• Review: "I'm so glad I started reading this series and can't wait to catch up. Usagi Yojimbo is that rare breed of animal comic that works for me, blending Sakai's cartoon style with a story that would not be out of place in Lone Wolf and Cub. Fans of comics set in historical Japan should definitely check this out. You'll be glad you did. I think it would also be a good fit for manga fans looking to try a non-Japanese comic. I enjoyed this book a lot, and look forward to reading more." – Panel Patter
• Review: "Yet another reason to love Fantagraphics is their meticulous sequential collections of classic newspaper strips such as... Hank Ketcham’s Dennis the Menace. This volume collects the strips from 1961 - 1962 in a huge 654-page volume. What has always stood out about the Dennis the Menace strips is that they were single panel cartoons. It takes an incredible level of talent write a single panel cartoon and Ketcham was one of the best. ... Truly a delight that has lost none of its humor in fifty years. Grade A" – Tim Janson, The Gouverneur Times
• Review: "...Ho Che Anderson's Sand & Fury... [is] a slightly twisty tale of sex, serial killers, and the supernatural, told very stylishly in black, white, and red. Blood and shadows therefore get a lot of play across Anderson's desolate southwestern landscapes; and although his lines can be thick and blocky, his figures evoke a good bit of emotion. There's a lot of nudity, a whole lot of violence, and so the plot can be boiled down to a very simple level: revenge, good vs. evil, etc. However, Anderson's anonymous main character, and the people she befriends, are more than just nominally sympathetic. I feel like I'm not doing the book justice, because it is a very raw tale, full of death and sex, and I liked it a lot." – Tom Bondurant, Robot 6
• Plug: "King creator Ho Che Anderson has a brand new Scream Queen book, Sand & Fury. Ho's work always looks good, and I'm personally pretty happy to see this one..." – Chris Butcher, The Beguiling
• Interview: At Robot 6, Tim O'Shea talks to Ho Che Anderson about the new Special Edition of King ("That’s one thing I wish I could have done more of, slashing dialog, rewriting more of it, but at a certain point you gotta let it go. (Yes, George Lucas, I am talking about you.)") and his new graphic novel Sand & Fury ("To me, sex and horror or sex and violence seem to go naturally together. They seem to stem from the same twisted areas of our psyches. What scares us can often arouse us, sometimes despite ourselves, and vice versa.")
• Profile:CNN's Bob Greene pays tribute to Bill Mauldin on the occasion of the release of Mauldin's commemorative US postage stamp this month: "Mauldin, and his work, meant so much to the millions of Americans who fought in World War II, and to those who had waited for them to come home. He was a kid cartoonist for Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper; Mauldin's drawings of his muddy, exhausted, whisker-stubbled infantrymen Willie and Joe were the voice of truth about what it was like on the front lines." (hat tip to Walt Simonson)
#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.