• Review: "A lot of the conventions with which we are familiar from Pogo were birthed during this period, and most of the characters with which we are most familiar have already been fully realized during the initial Dell Comics run. Walt Kelly’s wit and charm is unmatched in the history of sequential storytelling, and is in evidence here fully developed. I’d get this book for Jimmy Breslin’s introduction alone. Go. Read this. You’ll charm the pants off of yourself." – Mike Gold, ComicMix
• Review: "Fan/historian Bill Schelly who, like Roy Thomas is from the first generation of organized comics fandom, knows his stuff and it shows. This isthe definitive biography of Joe Kubert, and I would say it is lavishly illustrated but the word 'lavishly' pales in comparison by even a quick flip-through of this 232-page tome. Pure and simple, this is the tribute that Joe deserves." – Mike Gold, ComicMix (same link as above)
• List: The Austin American-Statesman's Joe Gross names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 the best comic of 2011: "One of the wonderful things about seeing a masterpiece in the making is the mysterious feeling, the racing of the soul that takes place when it hits you that you are, in fact, seeing a masterpiece in the making.... Symphonic, tragic, revelatory, exciting and devastating as only great art can be, 'The Love Bunglers' is one of the best comics ever made."
• List:Paste ranks Dave McKean's Celluloid at #5 on The 10 Best New Comics of 2011: "The visionary art director behind The Sandman’s covers creates a coital masterwork that elicits beauty and excitement in equal measure.... Celluloid is a treasure of technical finesse and sensual mystique that transcends its potential controversy."
• List:Paste's list of The Ten Best Reissues/Collections of 2011 includes Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 1: Race to Death Valley by Floyd Gottfredson at #9 ("Gottfredson had an animator’s knack for storytelling, and his layouts remain clear no matter how busy they get. Much of the humor is stilted by modern standards, but you’ll be too enthralled by the exciting plots and likable characters to care"), Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture – A Career Retrospective at #7 ("Fantagraphics has finally given him the grand and serious treatment he deserves, without minimizing his goofy sense of humor"), and Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes in the #1 spot ("Barks’ strips combine high adventure with humor and subtle cultural commentaries, but they remain grounded in character... Lost in the Andes is a gorgeously packaged collection of some of the finest comics ever made.")
• List: At Poopsheet Foundation, Justin Giampaoli names Kevin Huizenga's Ganges #4 one of the "Best Mini-Comics & Small Press Titles of 2011": "It’s the continuing adventures of Glenn Ganges and his latest nocturnal outing, as he navigates his sleepless existence on a seemingly endless night. With the degree of interactivity occurring between the page and the readers, there’s as much technique on display here as there is original storytelling."
• List: Leeds, UK comic shop OK Comics posts their Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2011: "9. Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot by Jaques Tardi published by @fantagraphics. A hitman's reluctance to perform one last job leads to an emotional breakdown. Legendary French comics artist Jacques Tardi on fine form."
• List:The Globe and Mail includes Pogo - The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips Volume 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder by Walt Kelly in their "2011 gift book guide": "Fans of what for many is the greatest of all comic strips have waited a long time for this, the first of a projected 12 volumes (1949-1950) from the brilliant Walt Kelly. The congenial Pogo Possum and his swampland friends... spring to life in this collection of daily and Sunday comics, filled with Kelly’s characteristic wordplay. One hopes this will introduce a new generation to this comic, satiric masterwork."
• Review: "Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips: Volume 1—Through the Wild Blue Wonder proves to be worth the wait.... Overall, the package serves Pogo well.... The biggest revelation of reading the first two years of Pogo is how polished and funny the strip was right from the start, and also how nearly every Pogo panel is a delight unto itself. Kelly didn’t necessarily build to big punchlines; he’d slip funny sight gags and memorable lines everywhere there was room. ...[T]here’s a classic Pogo moment on just about every page of this book." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Even now, Barks’ stories are clever and funny, as he leads the ducks into impossible situations and then gives them unexpected ways out. And they’re poignant in their own way, too.... What’s impressive about Fantagraphics’ Lost in the Andes is that it encourages both a fannish and an intellectual approach to the material. For those who want to skew highbrow, the book includes an appendix with scholarly analysis of each story.... And for those who just want to curl up with more than 200 pages of some of the best-written comics ever published, Lost in the Andes has all the square eggs, rubber bricks, golden Christmas trees, and races around the world that any kid or grown-up could ever want." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Fantagraphics’ initial release of its new series of Carl Barks books is titled, Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes and reprints one of the most famous, and most BELOVED, comic book stories which Carl ever wrote and drew! ...I’m impressed with the quality of the publication. In my estimation, the coloring is excellent and the format engaging…. The critical essays composed by a number of Barks scholars are also insightful and well written.... In my opinion, as a Carl Barks fan, this initial volume is well worth acquiring!" – Carl Barks Fan Club Newsletter
• Reviews: "Two... giants of American illustration get the handsome coffee-table-book treatment with Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture and The Art of Joe Kubert... The Kubert book — edited by Bill Schelly — is more text-heavy, covering Kubert’s early years as a journeyman penciler and inker on a slew of indistinct superhero and adventure comics, then exploring how Kubert developed the fine shading and gritty realism he’d become famed for starting in the late ’50s. The Davis book saves most of its biographical detail and critical analysis for the intro and appendix, filling the intervening 200 pages with full-sized examples of the half-cartoony/half-photographic approach that Davis brought to Mad magazine and countless movie posters. Both offer ample visual evidence of how two men found the 'art' in commercial art, turning work-for-hire assignments into opportunities to express their particular visions of the world." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "To (re-)discover a first-rate critic, and read about a life that went wrong in a harrowing way, you must read Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson, by Kevin Avery.... This volume is exhilarating. Avery tells with great energy Nelson’s tale, with copious details about the active period of his subject’s life, and in so doing limns a portrait of a certain kind of pop-culture/bohemian existence in the late-70s. And Avery’s generous selection of Nelson’s writings are certainly among Paul’s best..." – Ken Tucker (Entertainment Weekly), The Best American Poetry
• Review: "What makes Wandering Son work is its slow-burn pace and calm atmosphere. It takes a delicate subject – transgender children- and explores it slowly and carefully. Much like its characters, it moves at its own pace, easing the reader into the characters’ lives.... I am really eager to read volume two of Wandering Son, though a little hesitant as well. I know that the road in front of Shu and Yoshino isn’t going to be an easy one and I don’t want to see them get hurt. But the fact that I’m talking about the characters as though they’re real people just shows how deep this manga has gotten under my skin." – Shannon Fay, Kuriousity
• Review: "Richard Sala is one of those creators that holds a fairly unique voice in comics. Many people have tried to replicate his off-beat brand of horror, but ultimately nothing out there quite like his. So with a new graphic novel called The Hidden out, the question for most people won’t be, 'Should I read it?' but 'When should I read it?'... The Hidden isn’t perfect... but what Sala does well, he does very well indeed. There’s quite a lot to love in The Hidden, with some scenes in particular that will stick with the reader for a long time." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Plug: "Have you ever wondered what happened after 'Happily Ever After'? This graphic novel [Castle Waiting] is a modern tale that incorporates fairytale characters and settings. Funny, thoughtful and not at all what you'd expect." – The Victoria Times Colonist
• Interview:Wall Street Journal subscribers can read a Q&A with Jack Davis conducted last week in NYC by Bruce Bennett here: "Every time you went in to see Bill Gaines, he would write you a check when you brought in a story. You didn't have to put in a bill or anything. I was very, very hungry and I was thinking about getting married. So I kept the road pretty hot between home and Canal Street. I would go in for that almighty check, go home and do the work, bring it in and get another check and pick up another story." [Update: A clever reader has pointed out that non-subscribers can read the article in Google's cache]
• Profile:CNN's Todd Leopold profiles the great Al Jaffee: "After a bumpy several years in which he bounced like a pinball between his parents -- moving from Savannah, Georgia, to Lithuania, to one borough and then another of New York City, back to Lithuania and back again to New York -- art was something to hold on to, a way to establish an identity. He had no idea it would lead anywhere."
Please drop by and see us this Saturday, December 10 to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the store. Holiday cheer galore with "Playing Possum: The Pogo Art of Walt Kelly," music by Sawsome (a female banjo and saw duet), Christmas carolers, and complimentary seasonal refreshments.
I can scarcely believe it's been 5 years already. This wonderful experiment in promoting comix culture has been an awesome experience for me. I've always pictured myself as a kind of crossing guard at the uncontrolled intersection of fine art and pop culture. The bookstore has seen a lot of traffic. Here's to another 5 busy years at the crossroads.
"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