• Review: "...The Arctic Marauder [is] a gorgeous, sprawling tale that — thanks to translator Kim Thompson's finely tuned ear for tone — boasts chewy Vernian narration... Call it ur-steampunk — one of the works that laid the groundwork for a genre that would, just a few years later, fill bookstore shelves with soot, goggles and gutta percha. [...] Tardi's arctic seascapes and undersea trenches are things to marvel over, as is his ability to evoke the eerie undulations of the Aurora borealis with just a few finely scratched lines. The Arctic Marauder is at once a loving homage and a smart satire; it's also, not for nothing, a rollicking adventure. Pick it up, and get rollicked." – Glen Weldon, NPR's Monkey See
• Review: "Tardi is one of France's most famous creators, and Adele Blanc-Sec, the cynical author turned adventurer, is his most famous creation. [...] I am very happy to see that Fantagraphics has decided to republish the first two stories in a beautiful hardcover book, with another book to follow next year. [...] The adventures are by turns funny, weird, and surprising. They are reminiscent of Tintin, if Tintin was a cynical Frenchwoman instead of an idealistic boy." – John Anderson, The Beguiling
• Review: "...[T]he colorful (in many senses of the word) collection The Artist Himself... is a smorgasbord of senses working overtime, the coffee table book of the year for raunch-loving pop art fans and literary hedonists alike. [...] One of Canada’s best pop cult artists, Holmes lived far too hard and died way too young. I can’t imagine a better book being put together about him, though. The Portland-based [Patrick] Rosenkranz (whose earlier underground comics compilation Rebel Visionsis a tidy and sweet sweep of the entire field) has written a beautiful biography of the 60s-born underground cartoonist..." – Chris Estey, The KEXP Blog
• Review: "You can tell by the cover [of R.I.P.: Best of 1985-2004] that it bodes pretty badly for all those involved, from have-a-go-heroes, souped up for the occasion Charles Atlas-stylee, to those covering their murderous tracks, now newly addicted to cleanliness. Indeed both virtue and godliness play their part here, though neither is rewarded. These very short stories are like ten-second episodes of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected and really challenge you to think, but they’re so concise and precise that it makes that a joy rather than a chore. [...] The medium employed... is scratchboard: that blank-slate of black upon which you work in reverse, scratching out shivers of white with a needle, sharp compass or random sterilised murder weapon. It works enormously well for stories so penumbral, yet on occasions the panels break out as blindingly as the light which fills them." – Stephen L. Holland, Page 45
• Analysis: At Robot 6, Matt Seneca takes a close look at a 2-panel sequence from Prince Valiant Vol. 3: 1941-1942: "Foster’s composition is wonderfully harmonic: two chords, beautifully struck in a rich and assured ink line, that complement each other perfectly. Though the panels use different camera angles and depict different subjects at different distances from the action, they share a remarkable symmetry."
• Feature: At Care2, Wilfred Santiago, creator of 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente, writes about Clemente the humanitarian: "Clemente was aware that being a baseball player gave him the resources to do even greater good than he could have imagined. Most importantly, we have the opportunity to know and share his life story, and for that, we all are very fortunate to come across the history of a man like Roberto Clemente."
• Review: "The art is wonderful. Tardi has this rounded style that is unique and easily identifiable, all at once his signature. The level of detail is astounding, in the background and mechanical details as rendered faux woodcuts...: be sure to drink in every inch of this black and white work. [...] At $17 for a sixty-four page oversized hardcover [The Arctic Marauder] is a great value: ...it stands as a great period work with wonderfully detailed art." – Scott VanderPloeg, Comic Book Daily
• Review: "As an art book From Shadow to Light is stunning; ...it offers a remarkable and overdue testament to [Mort] Meskin (1916-1995), one of the seminal yet overshadowed figures of the comic book’s formative era. I can’t imagine not having this book in the Platonic comics studies library. [...] Of the recent bounty of deluxe books exhibiting vintage comic art — surely this is the Golden Age for comic book historiography and appreciation? — From Shadow to Light is one of the best. It is beautiful. Its design is dynamic yet coherent... The survival of so many Meskin originals, from comic book pages through storyboards and advertising comps to paintings, even to sketches on (!) paper towels, is itself cause for celebration, and, man, Brower exhibits these objects to advantage." – Charles Hatfield, The Panelists
• Plug:Reason's Brian Doherty touts: "Reason's cartoonist genius Peter Bagge will be leaving his Seattle stronghold and blessing the people of New York with his luminous presence this week in multiple venues [MoCCA, Desert Island & Scott Eder Gallery]. ... It'll be a Baggapalooza weekend! If you live anywhere near New York, check out one or all of his appearances. If you live on Earth, buy all [his new] books [Hate Annual #9 and Yeah!]."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater begins a multipart conversation with Mome contributor Noah Van Sciver: "I have some Zap Comics, but besides the Crumb stuff, it just does nothing for me. But I like the freedom that they had in the 60s. I’m more into the 80s and 90s."
• Profile: At the ABC News website, the AP's Matt Moore talks to Robert Crumb during his recent visit to New York City for his Society of Illustrators exhibit opening: "'It was never intended for that purpose, so it's always odd to see it on a wall, or under glass; it was intended for printing and books. It wasn't made as a wall hanging piece,' Crumb said in an interview with The Associated Press. 'For me, the printed copy is the magic moment. When I see it in print — that was the whole purpose of it.'" (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
• Interview: At Previews, a must-read chat with Gary Groth about our classic strip reprints: "The only criterion is that it’s great cartooning. We wouldn’t waste our time devoting this much time and energy to anything less. Our mission has been to publish the best cartooning — not only in comic strips, but in every 'branch' of the cartooning art — that we can."
• Interview: At Robot 6, Chris Mautner talks to Wilfred Santiago about 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente: "I was trying not to make it … biographies to me have a static feel to them. I was trying to avoid [that] and I feel like cartooning helps you in expressing the story and what you’re trying to convey thtorugh the story. It was difficult too because I wanted it to be cartoony and realistic at the same time. I wanted it to be fun. What’s important was that it was exciting; that it could almost speak. That you could read the book in a very sort of sharp-paced way but you could also take the time and read through it at your leisure."
• Interview: Matthew Baker of Vanderbilt University's Nashville Review has an epic chat with Anders Nilsen: "Really I feel like comics is just the most useful category to drop me into. I don’t feel like I’m wedded to comics as a medium. I draw, and I usually sort of tell stories, but I do make standalone drawings and paintings, and I do make stuff that is probably closer to poetry than comics. I’ve made books before that aren’t really comics — just a series of pictures, or diagrams, or whatever."
• Review: "Stunning and evocative and rendered in a cacophony of swirling miasmic lines, this fearsome modern parable is a fierce interrogation of faith and destiny which asks uncompromising and uncomfortable questions about the price of Grace and the value of belief. [...] Emotive, shocking and utterly compelling, Stigmata is a grotesque and beautiful metaphysical rollercoaster with existential angst and blind faith gripping each other’s philosophical throats and squeezing really hard. No rational reader or mature comics fan can afford to miss this dark shining delight." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "This book beautifully captures the phantasmagoric flow of images that occurs in dreams. Mattotti's art is incredible. There are panels that are so intricate that I wonder how he had the time to draw so many of them. At 32 mostly wordless pages it's a very short book, but the imagery, like the panels of a child throwing a toy at a giant, or the panels showing a huge black bird carrying off a rabbit in a rainstorm, will stay with you long after you finish reading. If you like the intense, emotional, sometimes dreamlike artwork Mattotti did for Stigmata, you will love Chimera." – Jon Anderson, The Beguiling
[Editor/Marketeer's Note: You can get Chimera for half price when you order Stigmata!]
Spurgeon's comments on the book: "Santiago brings the same playful complexity to the story of the Puerto Rican baseball slugger and humanitarian that he's put on thrilling display in previous comics. Many of the pages are to die-for gorgeous, and Santiago routinely finds compelling visual solutions to communicating the physicality and grace of a player whose heyday was long enough ago we have more stories than film to go by. The insights into the man's personal life are perhaps even more engagingly portrayed. As biography, 21 is admirably restrained and leaves a lot to the reader's interpretation of what they're seeing on the page. It is a book bristling with intelligence that will bear re-reading in the same way that Roberto Clemente continues to invite our regard and admiration for his accomplishments on and off the field."
From Wilfred: "To an extent, that's Clemente. Clemente didn't waste much time. Everything was urgent to him. The pace of the book tried to capture that sort of non-pause, that sort of way of going forward without slowing down. He does have what you just said -- exuberance -- and that's such an important part of his life. So you approach it the same way. When you think about it, that's exactly the way he died, too. He could have slowed down."
• Plug: "A shooting star that brightened the game in the '70s, Roberto Clemente broke cultural divides and game records and grasps on just what a baseball athlete could accomplish inside a long-storied sport. Writer and cartoonist Wilfred Santiago brings a graphic novel  that details the bio of a beloved player still, decades after his abrupt death." – Mark Ruffin, Examiner.com
• Plug: "In his comics, the Swiss illustrator [Thomas Ott], 44, usually begins with a pencil drawing, then copies it with tracing paper. Then transfers the image to black paper and scrapes with the aid of a stylus. Too much work? Yes, but the technique, known as scratchboard, impresses. Check out... a small sample of the new album [R.I.P.: Best of 1985-2004] — a selection of nearly 20 years of work by the author — and dare to disagree. The images are disturbing, but beautiful." – Telio Navega, O Globo (translated from Portuguese)
• Review: "Wilfred Santiago’s reverent comic biography 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente respectfully portrays both the player and the humanitarian without ever devolving into hagiography. [...] Santiago’s pleasantly cartoonish art defuses the sort of stifling sincerity that often turns well-intentioned works like this into ponderous bores. His dynamic layouts during the excellently rendered game scenes are tremendous, amazingly capturing the tension and euphoric release of a successful at-bat. [...] Santiago makes the sport exciting for even the most die-hard anti-baseball lout, but more importantly reminds us of the man behind one of the most inspirational figures in sports." – Garrett Martin, Paste
• Review: "...Jacques Tardi is one of the world’s greatest living cartoonists... [The Arctic] Marauder's standout attraction is Tardi’s art, particularly the complex ways Tardi combines black ink, gray tones and white space to delineate the frozen Atlantic Ocean expanses that open and close the book. ...Marauder‘s story is a pleasure to read. [...] Tardi’s handling of this milieu is perfect." – Craig Fischer, The Panelists
• Review: "Here [in Krazy & Ignatz 1919-1921] you’ll find Krazy moved to tears by the plight of a caged canary denied all the joys of free-flying fowl which he demonstrates one by one… outside of his cage. You’ll see him creep around on behalf of a pig begging for pennies after Ignatz dobs him in, the sneak. You’ll witness the sublime stupidity of Pupp and Ignatz investigating a dark cave with eyes, right under (or above) Krazy’s nose. But most of all, there’s them thar bricks aflyin’. [...] Regardless of gender, it’s probably the strangest love triangle in the world." – Page 45 (via The Comics Reporter)
• Review: "Krazy and Ignatz, as it is dubbed in these lovely collected tomes from Fantagraphics, is not and never has been a strip for dull, slow or unimaginative people who simply won’t or can’t appreciate the complex multilayered verbal and pictorial whimsy, absurdist philosophy or seamless blending of sardonic slapstick with arcane joshing. It is the closest thing to pure poesy that narrative art has ever produced." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview (Audio): Your must-listen of the day: our own Kim Thompson joins Inkstuds host Robin McConnell and Dr. Bart Beaty for a discussion of all things Euro-comics
• Feature: At the Drawing Words & Writing Pictures blog, Best American Comics series co-editor Jessica Abel spotlights Nate Neal's "Delia's Love" from Mome Vol. 15 as a 2010 Notable Comic: "Clearly structured, despite somewhat-complex flashbacks, 'Delia’s Love' is a story of down-and-outness and complicated romantic and sexual history. It’s told sensitively, and with subtlety, despite the sometimes harsh subject matter. No character comes off as either entirely hero or victim, and that’s how I like it."
• Plug: "This collection [Take a Joke] will feature some of the longer humor pieces from Johnny Ryan's Angry Youth Comix and, while it is NOT family friendly, it is funny as shit. [...] REMEMBER THAT THIS IS NOT FAMILY FRIENDLY ENTERTAINMENT." – Forces of Geek
After previous mentions in this space — see previous posts for additional blogger-blurbs — and possible early appearances at some comic shops, the following titles are on the official Diamond Comics Distributors shipping list for this week. Please check with your local shop to confirm availability. (Ordering in advance is always a good idea, too.) Previews and more info about each book, as always, at the links below:
200-page two-color 6.25" x 8" hardcover • $22.99 ISBN: 978-1-56097-892-3
"Wilfred Santiago's beautiful, intricately-told biography of the Pittsburgh Pirates icon manages to come out just in time for major league baseball's opening day. I think this is a work that people can return to a few times, meaning that if it's a novelty gift for someone -- something you buy for a baseball fan in your life that may not read a lot of comics, say -- it represents an enormous amount of value for that kind of book." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"All I know about baseball is that there are some bases and a ball, but from this PDF preview it looks like one of those books that fools you into thinking you like a sport when you clearly don’t, just because it’s presented so beautifully... Wilfred Santiago’s... art is amazingly expressive. Looks like a good’un." – Gosh! Comics
"Then there’s 21, the new biography of baseball player Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago, which looks pretty fantastic..." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"Just in time for opening day, it's Wilfred Santiago's beautiful biography of baseball legend, Roberto Clemente." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
344-page black & white 8.5" x 7" hardcover • $28.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-438-2
"One thing that may be lost as we pore over this volume and the next few looking for a shift in tone or approach is that these books are deeply pleasurable and Schulz became in the golden afternoon of his career a highly confident and supremely reliable cartoonist." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"...that Complete Peanuts Vol. 15 looks pretty spiffy as well..." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"It's been a while since the book was previewed, but I remember the Sara Edward-Corbett cover-featured work being particularly strong, and I'm a fiend for what Josh Simmons is doing right now." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"… I’d have to make some tough decisions this week. Do I spend my initial $15 on the latest volume of Mome or on [other titles]...?" – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: Okay, a lot of this might have shown up in earlier weeks, but Diamond says it’s now. R.I.P.: Best of 1985-2004 collects works by Thomas Ott, reviewed by Sean T. Collins at this site here; $28.99. 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente is a new sporting biography by Wilfred Santiago; $22.99. The Complete Peanuts Vol. 15: 1979-1980 is a collection of superhero comics by Todd McFarlane, introduction by Al Roker; $28.99. And MOME Vol. 21 complies artists summarized by the link, although I’d be particular interested in new stand-alone Josh Simmons and a piece by Sergio Ponchione; $14.99."
Due to our hectic release schedule and the geographic vagaries of distribution, our comic shop arrivals are a bit of a jumble lately. Our first two titles here may have been available at some shops last week — see last week's post for additional blurbs — and are on the official shipping list for this week; the titles listed thereafter are not on the list yet but may ship to some shops this week. We apologize for any confusion and as always entreat you to contact your local shop to confirm availability. (Ordering in advance is always a good idea, too.) Previews and more info about each book, as always, at the links below:
64-page black & white 9" x 11.75" hardcover • $16.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-435-1
"One of the most interesting looking releases of the week, this is Fantagraphics’ representation of Adele Blanc-Sec creator Jacques Tardi’s 1972 Jules Verne-esque, Edwardian era 'icepunk' adventure." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
"Another gorgeous book, this time from Fantagraphics' continued and sustained exploration into Jacques Tardi's album-making career." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"I found myself enjoying Tardi’s Adventures of Adele Blanc Sec earlier this year, and Chris [Mautner]’s review has tipped me in favor of picking up this latest translation of his work." – Graeme McMillan, Robot 6
"This blog is steadily turning into one comic shop employee quietly humping the leg of Seattle-based publisher Fantagraphics but they are excelling themselves lately, and their line of Jacques Tardi translations is one of their greatest efforts to date. Le Démon Des Glaces or The Arctic Marauder is a 1972 satirical, Jules Verne-esque steampunk tale about a ship in the Arctic Ocean discovering an abandoned vessel. [...] Expect mad scientists, monsters from the deep, futuristic machinery in an 1899 futuristic way, and the most purple of purple prose." – Gosh! Comics
"This is a gorgeous, simply breath-taking example of Tardi's early work. This retro-sci-fi tale involves the mystery of a ship stuck on top of an iceberg. How'd it get there? The answer involves monsters of the deep, mysterious futuristic machines and mad scientists." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
136-page black & white 6" x 8.25" softcover • $12.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-436-8
"Joe Daly's wildly odd series of archly-told adventure comics continues. What a great initial run of books we've seen from South Africa's Daly, and this one may feature his most potent cartooning yet." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"Dungeon Quest Volume 2 by Joe Daly is out, giving you another installment of nerdy stories inspired by role-playing games..." – Gosh! Comics
200-page two-color 6.25" x 8" hardcover • $22.99 ISBN: 978-1-56097-892-3
"I’m not much of a sports fan, but there was a lot more to Clemente than baseball, and Wilfred Santiago’s biography has a real richness to it, bringing in Clemente’s background and upbringing and wrapping it all together in deceptively simple, almost primitive looking art." – Brigid Alverson, Robot 6
344-page black & white 8.5" x 7" hardcover • $28.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-438-2
"How dark could Peanuts get during the Peanut President's administration? 'Very, very dark,' Al Roker writes the introduction to this volume. Have I mentioned how much I love the indexes to the Fantagraphics editions? It's useful to know that a Zamboni appears twice in this volume." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
192-page black & white 6.25" x 10" hardcover • $28.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-417-7
"CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: If you didn’t locate Jacques Tardi’s The Arctic Marauder or Joe Daly’s Dungeon Quest Vol. 2 last week, they’re both probably still worth looking at. Supposedly some stores are getting Wilfred Santiago’s Roberto Clemente book (21: The Story of Roberto Clemente) too, along with a best-of Thomas Ott collection (R.I.P.: Best of 1985-2004) and the ’79-’80 Peanuts book. Build a wall." – Joe McCulloch, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Whenever Fantagraphics releases a new Popeye book it's cause for manic joy, but this one is extra special because it introduces the mythical beast known as Eugene the Jeep who was possibly the namesake of the car/jockmobile. It also introduces Popeye's foul-tempered father, Poopdeck Pappy, who dislikes Popeye and punches Olive Oyl in the face. [...] This volume is pretty special." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "I like that Jordan Crane had decided not to play the victim of infidelity/villainous partner dynamic with the story of Leo and Dee. He has stripped them bare, which forces the reader to make his or her own decisions. Of course, the readers cannot do this through a passive reading experience. Being forced to engage isn’t a bad thing, because what we are engaging is a lush graphic narrative told in beautiful greytone art. Believing that Crane is equally good with character drama and kids’ comics may be difficult to accept, but the rollicking Simon & Jack will not only make you a believer, but also an acolyte of Crane. This is an all-ages tale because its sense of wonder and imagination will captivate all ages, and it is not too early to declare Uptight #4 one of the year’s best comics. [Grade:] A" – Leroy Douresseaux, Comic Book Bin
• Profile/Interview (Audio): At ESPN Desportes, Pedro Zayas talks to Wilfred Santiago (en Español) about 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente. An autotranslated clip from the text portion: "Santiago's graphic novel... helps us know more about the mythic history of Puerto Rican child star, before he started playing baseball, right up until his tragic death. It also includes a chapter on Puerto Rico and Clemente's childhood, as well as his life in America. It is an attractive book for all ages. 'When you make a biography the direct and personal life of the person you're writing about is important,' says Santiago. 'But at the same time is very important to the historical context in which that person lives ... It is important to know that when he lived is not the moment in which we live. '"
• Review: "The saga of Roberto Clemente is well known to baseball fans yet it has been given new life in this stunning graphic novel [21: The Story of Roberto Clemente]... Santiago's panels have a sharp, cinematic feel and the compositions and framing give the readers a better sense of how dynamic and explosive the game is than any baseball movie. The wonder of this book is that it will appeal to kids and adults alike. Even non baseball fans will fall under its spell. The national pastime has been virtually untouched by the graphic novel genre but if Santiago's effort is any indication, the marriage of subject and form is nothing short of a grand slam. Santiago has set the bar high, though, and we'll be all the richer if anyone can approach the artistry and emotional resonance of this memorable book." – Alex Belth, Sports Illustrated
• Interview:Wilfred Santiago talks with Sketch Maven about his career and creating 21: "After the previous graphic novel, In My Darkest Hour, I wanted to do a biography. There were many reasons why Clemente was chosen. The richness, purpose-driven life, the inspirational life story are a few among many factors. The relevance of Clemente’s story to a youngster of today also came to mind. Roberto was a great and famous baseball player, and the baseball was a challenging aspect to the story. But, it was great to explore the sport in a comic book format."
• Review: "One of my favorite presents from last year’s holiday season was Fantagraphics’ Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition... The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy... rivals just about any epic fantasy (novel or film) in the last 25 years for its narrative complexity and powerful action sequences. [...] Reading these stories will help you understand why, when we talk about the success stories of independent comics publishing, Usagi Yojimbo should be one of the first titles that gets mentioned." – Ron Hogan, Beatrice
• Review: "Crane’s work is highly, emotionally charged, but in a quiet way. Illustrated in a lush, enveloping, greytone, 'Vicissitude' has a Film-Noir quality that adds an air of mystery to this story of melancholy and rotting love. It is so engaging and enthralling that its ending is jarring. 'Freeze Out,' the Simon & Jack tale, is fantastic. It’s all-ages comic book magic. Reading it made me feel like a kid again, reading stories of adventure, fantasy, and magic for the first time on my own. If there were any doubts about Crane’s prodigious talent, Uptight #3 is the spell to dispel those doubts. [Grade] A+" – Leroy Douresseaux, Comic Book Bin
• Profile: The Toronto Star's Vit Wagner on the work and career of Joe Sacco: "'The drive is there,' says Sacco. 'I have a desire to go there and see things and talk to people. It’s invigorating and exciting. But my work involves a slower process. It takes me time to report. I like to sink into the situation. But beyond that, it takes a long time to write and draw my stuff, especially the drawing. You can report that there are 200,000 people in Tahrir Square, but if you want to draw the scene it takes a lot of effort.'"
• Interview:Sequential's David Hains talks to Joe Sacco: "I find more than half of my readers are from schools, in classes where they read my work. People have been to the regions and they’ll see, oh this medium has taken this on, I’ll pick that up. It’s sort of more book people than comics people. Although some of those are the same people, and thank God."
"Described as a Spanish Dick Tracy on steroids, the titular cabbie here is involved in a hunt for his father's stolen coffin, which contains his full inheritance. Art Spiegelman wrote the introduction, so we're not talking warmed-over liver."
"Wilson drew these linked one-pagers in the National Lampoon throughout the 1970s. His hero in a hunting cap is Everykid, who braves the daily awfulness of a child's world: school irrelevancies, getting sick, strange old relatives, department store Santas, going to camp, and death, for starters. No monsters and ghoulies — just real-life quimsies. Don't you wish you could have seen Gahan Wilson comics when you were a kid?"
"What a lavish show-and-tell: a DVD of nonprint media appearances of Krazy Kat, including videos of a 1921 'jazz pantomime' ballet and rare animated cartoons, plus two booklets collecting drawings, designs, strips, and background relating to Krazy in music and dance. [...] Clearly a shining star for popular culture and film collections."
The biographical 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente is a human drama of courage, faith and dignity, inspired by the life of baseball star Roberto Clemente.
No other baseball player dominated the 1960s like Roberto Clemente and no other Latin American player achieved his numbers. Born in 1924 in Puerto Rico, Clemente excelled in track and field and loved baseball. By the age of 17 he was playing in the PR Winter league. Spotted by the big-league scouts because of his hitting, fielding, and throwing abilities, he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1954. A fierce competitor, within two seasons he was hitting above .300 consistently. He played like a man possessed, fielding superbly, unleashing his rifle arm, and hitting in clutch situations. Despite his aesthetic brilliance, he faced prejudice throughout his career and was given his due only after his unexpected and tragic death in a 1972 plane crash.
Although baseball was his obsession, Clemente never lost sight of his dreams and his greater responsibilities outside the game. This sense of urgency is what came to define him beyond that of a grand athlete. His eventual success and accompanying celebrity gave him the opportunity to engage his conscience in public life. He died when his plane went down in the Caribbean Sea on a relief mission to earthquake-torn Nicaragua that he personally directed.
21 chronicles Clemente’s life from his early days growing up in rural Puerto Rico, the highlights of his career (including the 1960s World Series where he helped the Pirates win its first victory in 33 years, and his 3000th hit in 1972 during the last official at-bat of his life) as well as his private life and public mission off the field.
After his death, Major League Baseball declared September 18 to be “Roberto Clemente Day,” and in 1999, Pittsburgh’s Sixth Street Bridge was renamed the Roberto Clemente Bridge in honor of the greatest Latino ballplayer in history.
Wilfred Santiago captures the grit of Clemente’s rise from his impoverished Puerto Rican childhood, to the majesty of his performance on the field, to his fundamental decency as a human being in a drawing style that combines realistic attention to detail and expressive cartooning.
"Wilfred Santiago's 21 is brilliant and beautiful, challenging and lyrical ... which seems exactly right, as Roberto Clemente was all those things and more." – Rob Neyer, ESPN.com
"A kaleidoscopic look at the life of the great Clemente. Santiago's artwork is superb and the depth of his passion for the subject and incredible preparation comes through on every page." – Steven Goldman, author of Forging Genius: The Making of Casey Stengel and editor of Baseball Prospectus
"I'll admit, being a baseball player often feels like a comic book experience: the costumes, the origins, the battles for great victories and inspiration it conjures in our fellow man. This book captures the essence of one of our sport's greatest heroes, and it does so in a way that engages the imaginations as much as it reveals the heart, ink, color, style, and character; I can think of no better way to share a tale of a true legend." – Dirk Hayhurst, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher and author of The Bullpen Gospels