• Review: "21: The Story of Roberto Clemente brings together comics and baseball, two of America's most popular conveyers of epic mythology. Author Wilfred Santiago also incorporates elements of classical and avant-garde jazz in his sinuously illustrated narrative of Clemente's life. It takes an imagination as rich as Mr. Santiago's to tap into various mythological languages to tell the Pittsburgh Pirate's iconic story... Instead of dwelling on sources of obvious resentment, Mr. Santiago defaults to illustrating Clemente's humanity. We're treated to close-ups of his most noble and ignoble moments. The artist refuses to treat him like a plastic saint, because a perfect Clemente would make boring reading, indeed. ...Wilfred Santiago has done as good a job as anyone ever has in reintroducing the longtime Pittsburgh Pirate to a new generation." – Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
• Review: "You’d be hard-pressed to find a more downright affable character than blithely blitzed Larrybear, the young female focus of Leslie Stein’s ongoing semiautobiographical comic [Eye of the Majestic Creature ], whose first four issues are collected here.... Stein gives us the slackerly, star-eyed alternative to a cadre of 'misanthropic, self-pitying comics about unappreciated cartoonists,' as Tom De Haven characterized it... But where the aforementioned Crumb-descended misanthropes have all more or less grown up, Stein’s Larrybear is a naïve woman on the verge of Whatever, a cute Candide floundering about in an increasingly complicated world. ...[T]his book [is] such a pleasure..." – Richard Gehr, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Lewis Trondheim is one of the world’s best cartoonists.... Approximate Continuum Comics is some of Trondheim’s earliest autobiographical work, dating mostly from 1993 and 1996. If you’re read his more recent slivers of life observations... then you already know the sublime wit and casual self-deprecation of Trondheim’s cartooning. Approximate Continuum Comics is where that [tack] begins." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Love from the Shadows is a very strange story. Surreal is such an overused word, but it is the best description I can come up with to describe the tone of the work. There is a disjointed, dream-like progression to the narrative.... As with so much of Hernandez's work, it is beautifully illustrated. The art is suffused with emotion and atmosphere and eroticism. The work Hernandez does is a critical component to his examining all of the societal, psychological, and sexual issues. …Love from the Shadows [is] an intriguing, offbeat story that is open to examination and interpretation. …Love from the Shadows is an intellectually stimulating read. And the artwork is magnificent." – Benjamin Herman, Associated Content
• Review: "The Littlest Pirate King is a wonderful phantasmagoria, as likely to entertain a ten year old as a thirty year eight year old (and I say this having had the book pulled off my lap and spirited away by my own ten year old). There is a lovely innocence to proceedings, a seemingly uncalculated desire to thrill and chill and transport... that has had me flicking back through the book a good dozen times since I’ve read it. This is the kind of book that got me reading books when I was a wee nipper, and it’s the kind of book that keeps me reading now that I’m the furthest possible thing from a wee nipper." – Bookmunch
• Review: "Blazing Combat is a book I'm quite proud to have in my collection. It's a work of art, has a message that's strong even over 40 years after the material was first created, and I'll come back to this at least once every few years." – Philip Reed, BattleGrip
• List:Library Journal's Martha Cornog gathers recommended graphic novels dealing with themes of Health & Medicine, including:
Special Exits by Joyce Farmer: "An excellent alert for those new to the path (for themselves or for relatives) and a validation for those already familiar with this normal yet seemly so abnormal life stage."
Alex by Mark Kalesniko: "This exploration of depression, futile escapism, and the healing power of art has been described as a difficult read but very funny."
Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock 'n' Roll Life by Bruce Paley & Carol Swain: "Hanging out here and crashing there, Paley narrates vignettes of debauchery and daily life in a Woodstock version of American Splendor. Partner Swain's smudgy, black-and-white drawings carry his grimy, nostalgic account."
Mother, Come Home by Paul Hornschemeier: "An exquisitely written and beautifully drawn exploration of grief."
Rip M.D. by Mitch Shauer, Mike Vosburg et al.: "A 'full-color, all-ages adventure' with an animated cartoon series in development, and a promising bet for reluctant readers."
• List:Robot 6's Chris Mautner names "Six noteworthy debut comics," saying of R. Kikuo Johnson's Night Fisher "this tale of disaffected adolescence and drug dealing in Hawaii is certainly compelling and suggests that Johnson is an artist capable of producing great work. Unfortunately, he has yet to follow up on that initial promise. But Night Fisher still marks him as an artist to watch out for."
• Profile:Time Out Chicago's Web Behrens catches up with Paul Hornschemeier: "'It is one of those names: You’re destined to either be a writer or scientist,' says local author-artist Paul, the man both blessed and saddled with the brainy surname. 'You’re not going to be a rock star with a name like Hornschemeier.'"
But that's what made the talk so interesting and informative for me. Santiago sat down with local best-selling author Rob Neyer, national baseball editor for SBNation.com, and together, they introduced me to this inspirational athlete, whose accomplishments during his short life extended way beyond the dugout.
Wilfred Santiago talks with Rob Neyer.
Thanks to Rob and Wilfred for the engaging discussion at the store, and thanks to everyone for coming out on a rare sunny Seattle evening to participate and listen! If you live outside of Seattle, or just weren't able to make it for some reason, we've got video of their talk right here! (Please excuse the background noise... Not surprisingly, Steven Jesse Bernstein was talking about this neighborhood in his poem "More Noise Please.")
[On YouTube in two parts here and here, in case the embedded videos don't show above.]
After the talk, our curator Larry Reid turned the radio dial to the Mariners game (we're doing... bad?), and fans of baseball and comic arts lined up to get their books signed by Santiago.
There's more pics to see on the Fantagraphics Flickr page. Wilfred has some more events lined up, and I highly encourage everyone, sports fan or not, to go! We'll keep you posted with future signings and events right here on the Fantagraphics FLOG.
The Online Commentary & Diversions hamster wheel started spinning a little too fast, but I think I've got it back under control now:
• Feature: For Largehearted Boy's "Book Notes" feature, Wilfred Santiago creates a musical playlist for 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente: "Golden age animation has been a big influence on my work and the graphic novel itself is very musical. It would be interesting to see the shape that it would take as a feature film. So here is what the 21 soundtrack would sound like."
(The following links are via the Largehearted Boy link above:)
• Review: "The graphic novel  is a beautifully wrought Clemente collage, following the hitter from the impactful events of childhood through his career as a Pirate and up to his untimely death. While there were several poignant dramatic through lines, the book’s strength lies in its brilliant visuals, which far outweigh its strictly biographical content. In addition to his many other notable qualities, like his humanitarianism and his greatness as a player, Clemente was a beautiful man, with a striking physicality. Drawing on this aesthetic truth, Santiago stuns and heightens it, with an imaginative and dramatic illustrative style, with its palette of Pirates yellow, and orange and black. The oral tradition of myth-making is put into visual form here." – Ted Walker, Pitchers & Poets
• Review: "The comic book biography is alive and well in 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente... In 21, Wilfred Santiago, who was also born in Puerto Rico, uses the language of comic books to tell the story of Clemente’s life as something like the arc of the hero’s journey or as a heroic epic.... 21 captures what made Clemente unique. However, Santiago uses the medium of the comic book in a unique way to tell the story of man who represents the best of us. [Grade] A-" – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "...I love a good graphic novel biography. Well as those of you who are familiar with the great baseball player and humanitarian that Roberto Clemente was already know, it would be hard to tell his story in any media and for that story not to be powerful. ...21 ... is a handsome production... [and] an... EXCELLENT graphic novel." – Ralph Mathieu, Ich Liebe Comics!
• Plug: "21: The Story of Roberto Clementeby Wilfred Santiago, a graphic novel by an illustrator and writer from Puerto Rico, received a nice write up in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated (linked here)... If we could only have found it at the book store. Sports shelves? Graphic novels? You give it a shot." – Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Daily News
• Review: "...Mattotti is an artist who is equally concerned with complex imagery and sharp storytelling — attention to that combination leads us to what makes Mattotti so great. Claudio Piersanti wrote a very crisp script for Stigmata, and Mattotti illuminates the story deftly, probably because he has a real appreciation for well told stories.... If one’s standard for great cartooning is drawing that tells a story without a shred of vagueness, Mattotti’s work on the events described above is thrilling in its virtuosity. But this is a work of art far more potent than a simple story well-told. Mattotti’s two extremes — that of high level storytelling and drawing that suggests unique emotions — exist side by side without any fuss." – Austin English, The Comics Journal
• Review: "While the core timeline of Freeway is only a few hours of frustration spent in traffic, Alex’s mind wanders through past fiction and reality, present fact, and fantasy. Kalesniko, who himself worked at Disney as an animator, designed his main character as an anthropomorphic dog. The result is a wistful, innocent, and somewhat naive protagonist who is coming to the realization that his childhood dreams aren’t quite turning out as he planned.... It is definitely worth the challenge of meandering through the crammed vehicles to reach those poignant moments of Alex’s life, moments many of us share in our own versions of our adult selves." – Ashley Cook, Giant Fire Breathing Robot
• Review: "Less able graphic novelists might scare themselves silly with the scope of this book, but Mark Kalesniko’s attention to detail in all aspects of his craft — the backgrounds, the emotional ranges of the characters and the slow but steady-paced urbane drama — blends the components together masterfully.... [Freeway] is deeply sophisticated and literary. It deals with humanity’s big questions – love, death, life, and what we do with our time. It’s funny, touching, heart-warming, tragic and very engaging." – Andy Shaw, Grovel
• Review: "Gilbert’s sketches actually give an insight into how he feels about his characters, and as a reader, I found myself understanding the characters a bit more, just by looking at his drawings.... The work in the ‘Jaime’ section is quite beautiful and well drawn, however, it does not give further insights into the ways in which Jaime sees his characters, or what he has planned for them... To sum up, Love and Rockets Sketchbook Volume 2 is pretty awesome." – Lisa Polifroni, lisaloves2read
• Interview: At Inkstuds, a 2008 conversation with Johnny Ryan conducted and with illustations by Josh Bayer: "It’s interesting that you bring it up because people always demand that artists deliver some sort of meaning and truth, and when that truth’s hideous they throw up their arms and get upset and have hurt feelings and it’s 'you’re ruining people’s lives.' There’s conflict; you want the art to be true, but don’t want to be shown stuff that makes you feel bad, you can’t make people feel good all the time, it's not true, the object is to make people feel something. There’s no rule that it has to be something good."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch wraps up their serialization of the transcript of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Peter Bagge: "I used to worry about what my peers thought. That’s a big mistake. Never worry about what your peers think, because then you always find out that they would have done it in a heartbeat. [Laughter] If you take anything away from this conversation, it should be 'fuck Dan Clowes.'"
• Feature:The Seattle Times' Marian Liu previews our Charles Peterson: Taking Punk to the Masses exhibit at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery: "'I was wondering why this kid was bothering to take photos,' said Larry Reid, curator of the Fantagraphics show, of Peterson. Now, flipping through the photos, Reid remembers each scene as if it happened yesterday. Drawn to the energy of the music, Reid was a good decade older than many in the scene then. He shepherded the artists by promoting their shows and allowing them to play in his gallery's basement. 'I can recognize the artists by their shoes,' said Reid, looking through the photos."
• Plug: "For a reality check, I turned to a former Rolling Stone colleague and friend who always seemed to have a better line on all things cultural than anyone else around and a way of stating his position in a manner that set him apart, way apart, from other music writers — make that writers, period — of his time, and boy does he put today’s snarky music press to shame. This would be the late Paul Nelson... (Nelson’s life and work are getting their just due in September with the publication of a long-awaited, diligently researched biography by Kevin Avery, Everything Is An Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson. Full disclosure: Yours truly was among those Avery interviewed. But buy the book anyway.)" – David McGee, The Bluegrass Special
• Plug: "I’m in the process of reading an advance of Everything Is An Afterthought, Kevin Avery’s biography and selected works of the music critic Paul Nelson. Reading Nelson’s writing reminds me how of the role that he and other music critics of the time — our own John Swenson included — played in creating the myth of New York City for me." – Alex Rawls, OffBeat
• Plug: "Back in 2003, Lou Reed paid tribute to poet Edgar Allen Poe with his sprawling The Raven, which didn't exactly strike a positive chord with the many critics and fans at the time. Nevertheless, Reed will now be revisiting that album with a new illustrated book. The book, also titled The Raven, was made in collaboration with Italian illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti.... We originally called The Raven 'bizarre and thoroughly uneven.' We'll have to see if this new illustrated spin helps to make the entire album a bit more rewarding." – Alex Hudson, exclaim.ca
• Review: "What Santiago has done [in 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente] is to create a sketch of Clemente’s life as he actually led it, not as the legend he became. Mundane village life in Puerto Rico, the challenges of racism and assimilation in the U.S., petty arguments, heroic deeds both on and off the field: all of these are given equal footing. Even more impressive is the way Santiago tells this story. His gorgeous illustrations... perfectly capture the period (1950s and ‘60s). And his storytelling is practically mosaic: overlapping dialogue; snippets of scenes fading in and out without introduction or conclusion; information spread all over the page. This is a book to be pored over, not read straight through." –Mark Flowers, School Library Journal
• Profile: "Chicago-based, Puerto Rico-born writer and comics artist Wilfred Santiago has managed to capture both aspects of Clemente — the legend and the human being — in his new graphic novel 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente.... 'He's like Clark Kent who turns into Superman,' Santiago says. 'There's a transformation from Roberto Clemente the family man, to Roberto Clemente the baseball superstar. As soon as he gets into the stadium, he turns into something else, right?'" – Michael Machosky, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Alex Dueben talks with Peter Bagge about all his latest releases: "I always have lots of story ideas for [Buddy and Lisa]. My main concern now is to figure out a story arc so I can make some semblance of a 'graphic novel' out of all these Annual stories."
• Review: "It may seem hard to believe today, but Gottfredson’s strip was a fluid, rubber-limbed, sassy, slangy, breathless, seamless mix of absurdity and adventure. The proof is here. Fantagraphics intends to reprint the whole shooting match, and here in [Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse] Volume One are the first two years.... The various inkers and pencillers who worked on the strip are profiled, and intelligent remarks are made on the strip’s economic and cultural issues. We could only wish the reproduction on these dailies were larger; otherwise it’s pretty much an ideal volume. Rating: 9/10" – Michael Barrett, PopMatters
• Review: "...I am a complete sucker for history and particularly graphic biographies — especially when they are as innovative and imaginative as this superbly passionate and evocative account of the life of a groundbreaking sports star, quietly philanthropic humanitarian and culture-changing champion of ethnic equality.... Rather than a dry accounting of his life, author Wilfred Santiago’s tale skips forward and back, illustrated in a studied and fiercely expressionistic melange of styles which sketch in tone and mood, and feel the life of a true frontrunner and a very human hero.... Lusciously realised in sumptuous earth-tones and powerfully redolent of the spirit of Unjust Times A-Changin’, [21: The Story of Roberto Clemente] is a fabulous book for every fan of the medium and not simply lads and sports-fans." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review (Video): The hosts of The Backroom Comics Podcast discuss Jacques Tardi's The Arctic Marauder (starts about 33:16): "It can't be denied that this is gorgeous, gorgeous comic... the artwork is incredible....[It's] incredible in its pacing, its artistry, its storytelling..." "It is an incredibly well-done book and the quality of it for the price — it's amazing, honestly.... Don't cheat yourself. Read the thing."
• Review (Audio): On The Savage Critics' Wait, What? podcast, cohost Graeme McMillan discusses Dave McKean's Celluloid (starts at 50:28): "Looking through it, I was like 'oh, this is really Dave McKean-y, but I don't really see it as porn' — until there was a part where I was like 'oh, yes it is.' There's actually a part where he manages to meld the two really, realy well, and in a way that I did not expect — from him, but also just in general. Like I was surprised to see it.... If you just like McKean, it's got some stunningly good work in there, and it's very much in keeping with a McKean-ness... so on that level, even if you have no interest in the story or the concept, just as a piece of McKean's work I think it's really worth seeing."
• Plug: "Taking Punk to the Masses: From Nowhere to Nevermind and Beyond... is not a graphic novel, it's more of a gallery/ cultural history book but it's published by Fantagraphics (mostly a comics publisher). Fantagraphics was every bit as important to the sub-culture scene of Seattle in the '90s as Sub Pop Records was. This book traces the history of Grunge and the punk sub-culture of Seattle from the '70s through the '90s. Did I mention it comes with a DVD loaded with interviews from underground luminaries?" – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
Drop by our bookstore on Wednesday for an extraordinary event. Wilfred Santiago will discuss his recent graphic novel biography of Roberto Clemente with sports journalist, bestselling author, and comics aficionado Rob Neyer.
21: The Story of Roberto Clemente documents the unlikely career of the Pittsburgh Pirates legend and his inspirational rise from the barrios of Puerto Rico to the highest levels of our national pastime. Over the course of his storied career, Clemente overcame the racial discrimination of the era to win awards in nearly every category, including the World Series MVP in 1971.
For all his staggering athletic accomplishments, it was his unflinching humanitarianism that cemented Clemente into our culture's consciousness. Major League Baseball honors the player that best exemplifies his commitment to public service with the Roberto Clemente Award. Santiago's sensitive portrayal of this amazing story is rendered seamlessly with cinematic verve.
• Review: "More than anything, ...21 is a book of huge ambition and formal daring. The storytelling is kaleidoscopic, leaping from Clemente’s final game in 1972 to his childhood to his 1960s heyday and back again, with time out for portraits of both the steel city and the Caribbean island that he loved so much. But for all his overt displays of (admittedly dazzling) technique, Santiago never loses track of his story. Though it’s not an ideal starting point for readers unfamiliar with Clemente’s life and significance — the treatment is far too idiosyncratic and personal for that, though newcomers will find the extensive bibliography useful — it hangs on strong narrative threads. [...] 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente is a mammoth achievement..." – Jack Feerick, Kirkus Reviews
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning talks to Jim Woodring about the Nibbus Maximus and his new graphic novel: "'The story Congress of the Animals is one I've wanted to tell for a long time. In a lot of ways it's the most personal of the Frank stories and it breaks some aspects of the Frank mold,' Woodring said. 'There's a lot going on that may not be apparent, but I operate on the theory that is, there is something there people will pick up on it even if they don't see it directly. And that if they are sufficiently interested in puzzling it out, the meaning will become apparent.'"
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch continues serializing the transcript of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Peter Bagge: "I still have ideas for [Buddy] and Lisa. I always have ideas for them. But what I also told myself is that I never want to just do the same character forever. You’re fortunate if you wind up doing something that’s popular. It’s rare for a cartoonist to land on something that’s popular enough that you could do it forever. Maybe I’m projecting, but I always felt sorry for daily strip cartoonists, who — you think up the Lockhorns, and you have to do the Lockhorns forever. They must always be on the verge of suicide."
• Commentary:Robot 6's Chris Mautner takes you to "Comics College" with a reader's guide to the work of Joe Sacco: "The novelty of Sacco’s particular niche tends to obscure some of his rather significant qualities as an artist and storyteller. He’s an endlessly inventive cartoonist, capable of creating incredible detailed vistas that give readers a definitive sense of place and time. He’s capable of moving from near-photo-like realism to a Basil Wolverton-ish exaggeration that can perfectly capture, say, a sweaty, crowded night club. In short, he’s an amazingly gifted craftsman, one of the best people making comics out there today."
• Analysis: "...Prince Valiant is so lush, so rich on a panel by panel basis that I often find a nine-grid of it is just enough for the day, something that unfolds and unfolds in your head long after you've set it aside. Foster makes a world with his artwork, layering in meticulous details that are never arbitrary or belabored, always enhancing the impact of the pictures' content." – Matt Seneca, Death to the Universe