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
• Review: "Clemente blazed trails and provided a role model to millions who needed one. Santiago's work here manages to capture the magic and mystery of that position by putting Clemente on something of a pedestal, but it all hangs together very well. It's exciting and incredibly easy to read. Santiago's art is fantastic. [...] Santiago's 21 is a treat. Its 200 pages fly by, the visuals are great, and the dialogue dead-on. The last few pages are heartbreaking and effective." – David Brothers, Comics Alliance
• Review: "Unlovable by Esther Pearl Watson has to be the best contemporary comic strip. [...] One would think the story of some suburban high school girl in the eighties has been done before. And, yes, it has been done before time and time again. Yet, what Watson does is somehow find a strange world that has yet to be traversed, regardless of time period: it crosses the lines Ghost World drew and that Freaks & Geeks clarified, but it views it through the eyes of a more confident Anaïs from Fat Girl. The result is a brilliant and 'Ain’t Too Proud To Beg' account from a high school wannabe who thought she was — and wanted to be — it all. It’s brilliant: the comic anthology is the best piece of literature that I have read since the last time I read any sort of book in its entirety..." – Kyle Fitzpatrick, The Fox Is Black
• Interview: The subject of Richard Gehr's latest "Know Your New Yorker Cartoonists" column for The Comics Journal is Gahan Wilson: "But the outfit I fit in with instantly, was National Lampoon. That was a remarkable assemblage of brilliant sons of bitches. Its spirit was insidious. It was like being part of a pirate crew. We were like some kind of religious sect. We were out to show the bastards, by God, and we did, very effectively. I just wish something like that would happen again. But there’s no sign of it whatsoever, even though things are much worse now than they were then."
• Review: "Exuberantly expressive..., Santiago imbues his biography of famed Puerto Rican baseballer Roberto Clemente  with the furious energy of a Clemente triple. [...] Santiago evokes the world Clemente lived in, from the dusty Puerto Rican streets where he played baseball with bottle caps and tree branches to his years as a perennial All-Star. The art is scratchy and abstract when it’s dealing with home and homesickness, and then hardens into the stuff of superhero comics whenever Clemente steps to the plate." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "…The Complete Peanuts: 1979-1980… features a touching intro by Al Roker — who conducted the one of the last interviews with Schulz — along with two years’ worth of strips that find Schulz still going strong as a documentarian of life’s simple pleasures and overwhelming anxieties." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Jacques Tardi’s 1972 graphic novella The Arctic Marauder... is a fine example of the French artist’s early work, which combines turn-of-the-century adventure stories with deadpan zaniness. It’s recommended for those who like submarines disguised as icebergs, world-domination plots, detailed schematics of bizarre inventions, heroic dowagers, and sudden reversals, as well as for those who’d like to see all of the above rendered in Tardi’s typically detailed linework, which looks amazing even when obscured by ice and snow." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks at length with Dungeon Quest creator Joe Daly: "I want to develop a dedicated fan base, even if it's a small fan base, and reward their dedication with my best efforts to entertain them. More than a 'comics guy' or a 'writer' or 'artist' I want to build a reputation as an entertainer. I feel that the value of sheer entertainment is often overlooked or dismissed in today's sophisticated and occasionally pretentious comics world."
• Interview: At TCM's Classic Movie Blog Movie Morlocks, Paul Gaita talks to Drew Friedman: "I’m going from freaks back to Old Jewish Comedians for the third and final book — and again, I had to leave some comedians out. I feel bad about that, but I’m not going to do a fourth book. That’s it. I’m done with the Jews. I’m becoming an old Jew myself — I don’t need to draw them anymore." (via The Comics Reporter)
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater begins serializing a transcription of his MoCCA panel conversation with Peter Bagge: "I’m slowly turning [Buddy Bradley] into the crazy old guy who works at the dump. That’s why I gave him the Popeye look. Though I’m always on the verge of having him get rid of it. I keep thinking that I’ll have another character make fun of him for it. He doesn’t need the eyepatch, he doesn’t need to shave his head, and there’s no reason for him to be wearing a captain’s hat."
As the Seattle Mariners embark on another season of despair and sordid revelations of players on performance enhancing drugs continue to grab headlines, cartoonist Wilfred Santiago reminds us why we love the game of baseball. 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente documents the unlikely career of the Pittsburgh Pirates legend. Clemente's inspirational rise from the barrios of Puerto Rico to the highest levels of our national pastime was heroic enough. Not content with the fame and fortune brought by his baseball abilities, Clemente became a tireless advocate for social justice and the plight of the underclass throughout Latin America.
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. Despite his success on the field, Clemente never forgot his roots, returning in the off-season to manage and play with minor league teams on the impoverished island.
For all his staggering athletic accomplishments, it was his unflinching humanitarianism that cemented Clemente into our culture's consciousness. While visiting Puerto Rico in 1972, Nicaragua experienced a devastating earthquake. Clemente immediately began a relief effort, sending planeloads of supplies to the beleaguered country. When he learned these shipments were being diverted by corrupt officials, he boarded a flight to Managua. The plane, overloaded with supplies, fell out of the sky after take off. His body was never found. Clemente remains a hero throughout the hemisphere. He has been posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among countless others. Major League Baseball honors the player that best exemplifies his commitment to public service with the Roberto Clemente Award.
Clemente's cartoon biographer Wilfred Santiago will appear at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery on Wednesday, May 4 at 6:00 PM. His sensitive portrayal of this amazing story is rendered seamlessly with cinematic verve. Santiago will discuss his graphic novel with bestselling author Rob Neyer, national baseball editor for SBNation.com, followed by an informal reception and book signing. Please join us for this momentous occasion.
Wilfred Santiago in conversation with Rob Neyer on 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente Wednesday, May 4, 6:00 - 8:00 PM Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery 1201 S. Vale Street. Seattle. Phone: 206.658.0110
An unexpected technical glitch has necessitated the splitting of today's Online Commentary & Diversions in twain, so part 2 follows immediately:
• Review: "Fantagraphics Books rolls on with their hardcover library collection The Complete Peanuts, with the latest installment spotlighting 1979 and 1980. [...] In Charlie Brown, one sees a character with life still left ahead of him, so the myriad indignities he suffers are tempered by the thought that things could only get better. Had it been an adult character, the question would have been, 'Why hasn’t this guy drank himself to death by now?' ...[T]he Complete Peanuts collection is highly recommended to anyone who is in love with not just this format, but to anyone who can appreciate the highest level of achievement." – Dw. Dunphy, Kirkus Reviews
• Review: "I always look forward to the latest collection of Peanuts strips from Fantagraphics and with the newest offering, the [Complete] Peanuts [series] moves into the 1980s. In general, Charles Schulz' strips can fit in any era. [...] There's something so simple and yet so complex about Peanuts strips. Not matter how many you read you can never tire of them. Grade A" – Tim Janson, Mania
• Review:iFanboy's Ron Richards selects 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente as their Book of the Month: "Filled with emotion and heart, this story presents what it meant to the world, to Pittsburgh, to Puerto Rico and ultimately to his family. A great baseball biography is filled not only with on field accomplishments but with off field heart and relationships and Wilfred Santiago captured that perfectly... Santiago's artwork is stunning, at times completely breathtaking... Santiago is able to paint a picture of raw emotion, both good and bad, with his illustrations that one cannot help but get lost in the tale. [...] I don't think there is a higher praise I can give to this book other than I wish I could go back in time and give the 9 year old version of me this book to delight over. [...] I can't think of a better way to start the baseball season this April than by enjoying this beautiful graphic novel achievement by Wilfred Santiago."
• Review: "In this emotionally moving biography, the Puerto Rican Wilfred Santiago magnificently chronicles the often tragic life of this icon. [...] Santiago expertly traverses Clemente's tribulations, losses, and success with ease and skill. His portrayal of the baseball games rank among the finest ever attempted in this medium. Under the masterful hands of Santiago, 21 evolves into far more than just a biography of a sports figure. It showcases a life worth emulating." – Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Interview (Audio): Author Monte Schulz appears on the MarketingOurMuse program on BlogTalkRadio to talk with host Marla Miller about marketing novels in 2011