"Presenting his characters as animals gave Kelly the ability to explore human nature without the distraction that cartoon humans would have bought along with them. His illustration style was warm, highly expressive, and detailed without looking crowded. It's hard to think of another newspaper cartoonist who equalled his talents. Kelly's daughter, Carolyn, designed and co-edited this 290-page anthology, and her love and admiration for her father is evident in the beauty of this book. The design is impeccable and the quality of the line art reproduction is superb."
• Seattle, WA: It's also your last chance to see the Short Run Art Show at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery! Curated by Kelly Froh, the exhibit features original comix art, illustration and book works by Max Clotfelter, Patrick Keck, Martine Workman, Elaine Lin, Jason T. Miles, Chris Cilla, Andrice Arp, Tim Root, Billis Helg, Marc Palm, Eroyn Franklin, Tom Van Deusen, Tim Miller, Tory Franklin, Jesse Reklaw, Sean Christensen, and Erin Tanner. (more info)
• Review: "Uncut, uncensored and politically incorrect – these tales are from an alternate Disney universe, where Mickey is a red-blooded, two-fisted adventurer; they are fun to read and a delight to view. Gottfredson’s comics are as classy, funny and as slick as the Disney shorts from the same period. And as usual, co-editor David Gerstein provides a plethora of 'bonus materials'... A fine package, a full meal, and a perfect follow-up to volume 1, Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Vol. 2: Trapped on Treasure Island fills a gap long-neglected in animation history. Buy it." – Jerry Beck, Cartoon Brew
• Review: "I think I’ve been waiting for this book my entire life.... At long last the complete Pogo has been compiled, lovingly, ...in the miraculous new hardcover, Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips, Vol. 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder. Buy this book.... Kelly’s drawings are just magnificent, and his sophisticated writing style was far ahead of its time. Its time has come – and Fantagraphics has gone out of its way to ensure the best possible copies of these rare strips were found, restored and preserved perfectly here for all time... A great gift for anyone – especially you." – Jerry Beck, Cartoon Brew
• Review: "Walt Kelly’s Pogo... is justifiably hailed as one of the great achievements of the postwar comic strip. In theory, it belongs to the 'funny animal' genre; in practice, it was a personal, whimsical combination of comedy and mood, dressed in linguistic wordplay and laced with sociopolitical satire.... This wonderful first volume of a projected 12-volume series contains the strip’s first two official years (plus its early pre-syndication stint in a single New York paper), with the Sundays reproduced in color, and with Kelly’s topical references annotated by scholar R.C. Harvey.... I salute this launch... [Rating] 9/10" – Michael Barrett, PopMatters
• Review: "Small wonder that Jonathan Lethem modeled Chronic City’s protagonist on [Paul] Nelson: Nelson’s bohemian eccentricities... make his biography a more gripping read than the criticism that makes up [Everything Is an Afterthought]’s second half.... In the end, Nelson’s best epitaph comes from a sprawling essay that portrays the writer as a hermeneutic gumshoe hired to suss out the meaning of Dylan’s oeuvre: 'I know we need people like you because a world filled with romantics would be a disaster, but a world without them would be worse.'" – Jonah Wolf, The College Hill Independent
• Review: At The Factual Opinion, Tucker Stone examines The Comics Journal #38 (from 1978). A highlight: "Kim Thompson gets to review the Spider-Man television special and one of the Hulk television movies. He likes the Hulk one more than the Spider-man one, but then, he doesn't like the Spider-man one at all. (It sounds really fucking weird.) He's also really ticked off about Stan Lee re-writing the comic strip Spider-man's origin to better match the television show. Fists are shaken!" (Incidentally, this seminal issue is considered one of the magazine's historic best by both Kim Thompson and the bloggers of Love & Maggie.)
• Profile: Alec Berry of West Virginia University's The Daily Athenaeum introduces its readers to Fantagraphics in an article on independent comics publishers: "These innovative works could be characterized as dramatic, journalistic or satirical. Really, what happened was Fantagraphics stepped up and presented the thoughtful analysis that could be done on comics by publishing the trade magazine The Comics Journal, and Fantagraphics published the actual work that inspired the thought."
Elsewhere at PW, Mark Schultz introduces the preview by way of an ode to the newspaper strip and the recent boom in reprint series: "Naturally, I’m having an increasingly difficult time trying not spend all my money on these fresh new volumes, especially the handsome new collections of classics like Popeye, Peanuts, Krazy Kat, and Little Nemo in Slumberland. This week, Fantagraphics tests my will anew with the first volume of Walt Kelly’s Pogo.... You'd be smart to remember it for the nerd's nerd on your list this year, and probably for the next ten-plus years [a full six years if all goes according to schedule – Ed.]: Fantagraphics plans to release another eleven volumes. I guess I better clear out some space next to the Garfields."
• Review: "In an historical moment when a cross-section of the population is waking up to the reality of brutal inequalities and the limited set of levers by which that might be expected to change, being reminded of past permutations of those same societal ills may prove hopeful or unbearable. It's hard to say. Either way, these are effective comics. The Road to Wigan Pier never manages the dead-on power inherent in much of Sacco's best work, but it's certainly worth any comics fan's time." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "...[I]t is thrilling to see such a vital, and nearly forgotten, work of comics coming back into print, cleaned up and reorganized and ready to surprise a new generation of former kids.... Nuts is one of the best works, and one of the few single book-length works, by one of our time's best and most idiosyncratic cartoonists -- ...it is for everyone who really remembers how terrible and lonely and infuriating it can be to be a child." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Plugs:Robot 6's ongoing "Holiday Gift-Giving Guide" survey of comics creators rolls on, with Joey Weiser suggesting "For the comic strip enthusiast: Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson – Super engaging strips that are full of life and very funny. I’m very glad that Fantagraphics is publishing these." Caanan Grall also recommends "Fantagraphics’s Floyd Gottfriedson Mickey Mouse and Carl Barks Donald Duck libraries."
• Plug:Heroes Aren't Hard to Find's Andy Mansell rounds up some gift ideas for their upcoming holiday sale this weekend, including Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons: "This is one of the best books of the past year (or so). Gahan Wilson is the true heir apparent to New Yorker comic weirdo Charles Addams. His comics are twisted, macabre, beautifully rendered and above all–laugh out loud funny. This 3 volume set belongs in every serious comic fan’s library."
I have yet to see the movie, but I'm guessing J. Edgar Hoover's obsession with Pogo didn't make the cut. Walt Kelly regularly poked fun at powerful political figures, but apparently the Pogo parody of the FBI director drove him around the bend. According to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, Hoover ordered Bureau cryptographers to decipher the secret Okefenokee code. Remind me now. Who was the cartoon character here?
A delightful example of this historically significant strip line will be on view at Fantagraphics Bookstore in "Playing Possum: The Pogo Art of Walt Kelly" opening December 10. The original works will be offered for sale at remarkably affordable prices. The "J. Edgar" strip, measuring 19.5 by 6.5 inches, is only $575. For additional information on these wonderful works, call curator Larry Reid at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery. 206.658.0110.
• Review: "Shimura Takako’s story of two adolescents—a boy who wants to be a girl and a girl who wants to be a boy—isn’t exactly fast-paced in terms of plot, but [Wandering Son] book 2 continues the excellent work of book 1 and raises the emotional stakes a bit.... There’s... a slowly unfolding pleasure to Shimura’s story. Sensitive to the plight of young teenagers and potentially transgender youth alike, she’s managed to create a compelling story without including much that, considered in isolation, is particularly dramatic, which speaks to the realism of her efforts." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Review: "This is really fantastic storytelling. Another review of this volume [Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes] compared it to Tintin, and I think that’s very apt. There’s the adventures in foreign lands, the constant peril, the occasional wacky gags thrown in to alleviate said peril, and of course good old American ingenuity that, thankfully, never verges on jingoism quite as much as Tintin sometimes did.... I picked this up thinking it’d be a good chance to see if I liked Carl Barks and what the fuss was all about. Well, now I get it – and I’m hooked. ...[T]his is well worth the purchase for any fan of classic comics." – Sean Gaffney, Manga Bookshelf
• Review: "Kelly’s genius was the ability to beautifully, vivaciously draw comedic, tragic, pompous, sympathetic characters of any shape or breed and make them inescapably human and he used that gift to blend hard-hitting observation of our crimes, foibles and peccadilloes with rampaging whimsy, poesy and sheer exuberant joie de vivre. The hairy, scaly, feathered slimy folk here are inescapably us, elevated by burlesque, slapstick, absurdism and all the glorious joys of wordplay from puns to malapropisms to raucous accent humour into a multi-layered hodge-podge of all-ages accessible delight.... Timeless and magical, Pogo is a giant of world literature, not simply comics, and this magnificent edition should be the pride of every home’s bookshelf." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "...I was extremely impressed by Santiago's artistic abilities. He manages to shift the comic page in ways you'd never think of for a biography, using all sorts of layouts, from jagged panels to Family Circus ovals to standard grid formats. His characters wiggle their way through when in motion, show their feelings on faces that are slightly oversized and full of expression, and sometimes contort themselves into shapes that aren't quite natural. It's an artistic tour de force and shows that bio comics do not have to be the stolid, one step at a time narrative that we often see. ...21 is an excellent book... Clemente is every bit the important figure in baseball history that Robinson was, and more people need to know his story. 21 is an excellent place to start, either for you or the baseball fan in your life." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
Celebrate the 5th Anniversary of Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery! “Playing Possum: The Pogo Art of Walt Kelly” opens December 10.
In 1970, Walt Kelly’s playful possum Pogo looked upon his polluted Okefenokee Swamp and uttered in despair, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” This line quickly became part of our cultural lexicon and cemented Pogo’s place in American popular culture. Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery celebrates the publication of Pogo: Through the Wild Blue Wonder with “Playing Possum: The Pogo Art of Walt Kelly.” This exhibition of original Walt Kelly strips opens Saturday, December 10 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM on the occasion of the bookstore’s 5th anniversary gala.
The long-anticipated Pogo: Through the Wild Blue Wonder, Volume 1 of the Complete Comic Strips collects early Sunday and daily Pogo comics from 1949 – 1950. Kelly introduces his huge cast of irreverent swamp dwellers and their singular dialect known as “swamp talk.” Politics soon became a central topic in the swamp. While Kelly claimed to oppose “the extreme right, the extreme left, and the extreme middle,” political figures cynically cloaking themselves in patriotic garb were clearly disdained. Kelly boldly caricatured red baiting Senator Joseph R. McCarthy as Simple J. Malarkey. An obvious parody of J. Edgar Hoover seemingly drove the FBI director to distraction. He reportedly assigned cryptographers to decipher the secret swamp talk “code.” (A strip from 1971 referencing this will be on display.) Kelly’s characters also embraced the burgeoning environmental movement and other progressive causes. “Playing Possum: The Pogo Art of Walt Kelly” includes 12 memorable dailies and 4 Sunday strips. These original works reveal the artist’s concern for composition, delicate line quality, and detailed dialogue.
The opening on Saturday, December 10 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM promises to be a festive affair. Musical entertainment will be provided by Sawsome, a female saw and banjo duet. The evening commemorates the 5th anniversary of Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery and coincides with the holiday edition of the colorful Georgetown Art Attack featuring art exhibitions, special events and wandering carolers from Choir of the Sound throughout the historic neighborhood.
PLAYING POSSUM: The Pogo Art of Walt Kelly Opening reception Saturday, December 10, 6:00 – 9:00 PM 5th Anniversary Holiday Gala with musical entertainment by SAWSOME Exhibition continues through January 4, 2012
There are many ways to describe R.C. Harvey, but, as anyone who has accidentally dropped his nearly-1,000-page opus Meanwhile... A Biography of Milton Caniff on his or her toes can attest, "man of few words" is not necessarily one of them. (I say this as someone who read each and every word in Meanwhile... with delight and fascination.) So it should have come as no surprise to us when Harv, commissioned to write a set of elucidatory notes for the first Pogo volume and given no word limit (as is our jauntily laissez-faire method here at Fantagraphics), turned in a 13,000-word monster of an essay entitled "Swamp Talk." Given available space, it was a bit too much, and Harv and contributing editor Mark Evanier had to go in with a machete and whack it down to size (less than half—and still not short by any means, as those who are enjoying the book already know).
But the fact is, Harv's original full-length "Swamp Talk" has plenty of delightfully chewy bits in the parts that were cut, so with the kind permission of Harv and Pogo co-editors Evanier and Carolyn Kelly, we're pleased to present the unexpurgated "Swamp Talk" in digital form here — perfect for perusing with the book on your lap.
And if you don't have the book yet, well... Rowrbrazzle! What are you waiting for?
Should Harv feel the need to ascend into the quintuple digits on "Swamp Talks" in future volumes, the "shortened version in print, full version on the internet" template seems like the way to go so far as we're concerned.
• Feature: At New Orleans-based website Gambit, Alex Woodward looks at Oil and Water — "As the book gets deeper south and deeper into the complexities and relationships of oil to the Gulf and its people, the stories get murky and collide, mimicking an ebb-and-flow that at first is much like oil and water, then gradually homogenizes. The Portlanders come to grips with their own misconceptions, and the characters that were once miles away from their lives become embedded into their own." — and talks to the book's creators (writer Steve Duin, artist Shannon Wheeler and editor Mike Rosen)
• Review: "...Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010... is mainly an excuse to insert Twain, Zelig-like, into every decade between 1910 and today. Of course he made a lot of money in the 1920s and lost it all in the 1930s. Of course he and Albert Einstein were repeatedly struck in the head by a hammer-wielding monkey. And of course he sleeps with Mamie Eisenhower ('this lady was one hot dish.') It's all told in Kupperman's Marx Brothers-style absurdist deadpan voice, and if you like Tales Designed to Thrizzle, then you'll love this book. It's packed with laugh-out-loud moments..." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Review: "Gahan Wilson's Nuts features kids talking the way adults really talk... The kids in Nuts are vain, covetous, not so very bright, and they stagger around, reeling, from one unpleasant surprise to the next. They get their hair cut ('Sometimes I wonder if it's just that he's a lousy barber...') they look at some gory magazines, ('We're just not ready for that shit') and they attend funerals of uncles ('My God—I never saw them acting this way before! They've all fallen apart!'). Weirdly, by giving his kids the vocabularies of adults, he really captures the neuroses of childhood. We begin life as we live it now: Dazed, angry, and bitter at our own fundamental lack of control." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Review: "Fantagraphics has a nice introduction giving a brief biography of Kelly, and describing many of the struggles he had with Pogo and syndication. There is also a fantastic notes section at the end, which points out historical trivia as well as giving the context for some of the strips.... It’s possible that the appeal of Pogo may be lost on folks who are so used to everything that it influenced, be it talking animal comedies or political satires. Doesn’t matter to me, though. This strip is funny, well-drawn, and features a huge mass of likeable characters doing entertaining things. Put it together with Fantagraphics’ excellent presentation, and you have a definite must-buy." – Sean Gaffney, Manga Bookshelf
• Review: "Greg Sadowski and Fantagraphics’ Setting the Standard is perhaps the best book on Alex Toth that has been published thus far... Sadowski takes a straightforward, comprehensive approach and so Setting the Standard can rest comfortably on the bookshelf next to Fantagraphics’ other excellent recent collections of essential comics such as Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant, Roy Crane’s Captain Easy and Buz Sawyer and Carl Barks’ Disney epics.... There are... many passages of thoughtful comics storytelling. The romance work is often brilliantly articulated and visualized... Toth’s handling of horror and suspense is intuitive, sometimes harrowing and exhibits his more radical inventions.... In Sadowski’s book, Toth’s work speaks for itself and the artist likewise. The book’s assemblage and design are very well done to make a package which is pulpy but tasteful, not cheap nor overly slick, not high/low cute or old-boy sentimental. It provides a complete and important body of work by a great cartoonist." – James Romberger (contributor to the final Mome), The Hooded Utilitarian