• 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.
• 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.