• Profile: David Berry of Canada's National Post profiles the Toronto-bound Jason: "'I guess I’m not the most talkative person myself, so most of my characters end up the same way,' says Jason (a.k.a. John Arne Sæterøy) who, true to form, conducted our interview over email from his current home in France. 'I just think silence can be more effective than a lot of words.' The truth of that is in the book he’ll be showing off at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Athos in America. The collection of short stories is in a lot of ways a quintessential distillation of his themes and tendencies, blending together his cast of mostly melancholy (and quiet) anthropomorphized characters, dryly existential humour, sparse but careful composition and plots borrowed but tweaked from Hollywood genres such as crime, science fiction and, in the case of the titular musketeer, historical derring-do."
• Review: "...Mauldin created great art. His illustrative skill still catches our eye. His depth of thought and feeling still draw us in. We ponder Willie and Joe. We weigh their posture. We stare into their ravaged eyes. Who are these men, we ask? Where did they come from? Where will their paths lead?... Mauldin’s creations are as isolated and as awaiting-of-an-unknown-fate as Vladimir and Estragon. Their foxhole encapsulates their existence with the totality of Nagg and Nell’s garbage cans. Day-by-day, Willie and Joe confronted their readers, making no progress but enduring.... Fantagraphics has honored... the survivors and the fallen, while enriching the rest of us with this collection." – Bob Levin, First of the Month (via TCJ.com)
• Plugs: Lawrence Ferber of Next Magazine mentions a few of our titles in his MoCCA Fest report: "Batman received a subversive skewing in Josh Simmons’ gleefully un-PC The Furry Trap(another of its screwy adults-only tales involves a rape-happy elf). Trap's publisher, Fantagraphics Books, will release volume three of excellent gender-bending coming-of-age Manga series, Wandering Son, this summer, along with a queer comics compilation edited by San Francisco’s Justin Hall, No Straight Lines."
• Plug: "I loved Nancy in childhood, and I love Nancy now. The accuracy and economy of Ernie Bushmiller’s art and the genial simplemindedness of his humor make an irresistible combination. So I am happy that Fantagraphics at last has published Nancy Is Happy: Complete Dailies 1943–1945." – Michael Leddy, Orange Crate Art
• Review: "The Complete Crumb Comics Volume One: The Early Years of Bitter Struggle, a 1987 book now republished in an expanded edition, gathers together the earliest surviving examples of the great cartoonist’s juvenilia taking him from age 14 or 15 to 18 years old. The high school scribbler that we meet in these pages is a very callow Crumb indeed: Crumb before he had sex, Crumb before he dropped acid, Crumb before he was adopted as a hero of the counterculture, Crumb before he honed his satirical stance on modern life, Crumb before he became the most radical, polarizing and influential cartoonist of the late 20th century. Yet in the lanky and awkward body of the teenage Crumb we can see the outlines of the substantial artist he would become.... There are very few cartoonists whose entire body of work demands to be read and Crumb belongs near the very top of that short list." – Jeet Heer, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Has Jason become more embittered and misanthropic as he’s aged, or do those tendencies just become more evident as one reads more of his work? Athos in America is up to his usual standards, full of stories that build slowly, with plenty of subtle detail in its stone-faced panels.... Mostly, we wait for things to end badly, which they almost always do, although never with much overt expression of drama.... The execution, as it always is with both Jason and Fantagraphics, is stellar." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Review: "Fantagraphics Books is doing a good job of preserving and publishing important cartoons. A good example is Willie and Joe: The WWII Years.... These cartoons about World War II provide the reader with a glimpse of what army life was like. Willie and Joe: The WWII Years is more than a book of cartoons by a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, it is a significant history book." – Glenn Perrett, Simcoe.com
• Review: "Fantagraphics Books continues to make available Charles M. Schulz's wonderful Peanuts cartoons in attractive books that make nice keepsakes. The latest volume covers the years 1983 and 1984. Lots of fun things are happening with the Peanuts gang including Snoopy's brother Spike requiring help from attacks by coyotes in the desert (they're attacking him with rubber bands), Lucy is still pursuing Schroeder, Charlie Brown is still in a "love triangle" with Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown joins Peppermint Patty's baseball team...as a mascot. This volume includes a Foreword by Leonard Maltin. As with other Peanuts books, The Complete Peanuts 1983-1984 would make a nice gift for those who enjoy Peanuts and the work of Charles M. Schulz." – Glenn Perrett, Simcoe.com
• Interview: Geoff Boucher of The Los Angeles Times has a Q&A with Daniel Clowes about looking back on his career: "One thing that really shocked me was to go through some of the fan mail I used to get in the pre-Internet days. Lots of people — like a truly surprising number of complete strangers — would write me 10- or 15-page letters, telling me all about the most mundane details of their twitterless existence. Pretty much inconceivable nowadays."
• Opinion:Newsarama's Graeme McMillan counts down "The 10 Most Glaring Eisner Nomination Omissions," placing Dave McKean at #9 ("With 2011 seeing the release of Celluloid, the erotic graphic novel that not only marked the return of the much-loved multimedia creator... to comics but also his first full-length graphic novel ever, you would've been forgiven for thinking he would've been given some kind of nomination nod...") and Jaime Herandez at #1 ("A heartbreaking story that not only showed Jaime on top form after a 20+ year career in comics -- and definitely in a class of his own as modern-day storyteller -- 'Love Bunglers' topped many year-end lists for 2011 and was the rare comic that, it seemed, was loved and appreciated by everyone that read it.")
The first Online Commentary & Diversions post of the year might very well end up being the longest:
• List: Humorist and television personality John Hodgman, asked to name his 5 favorite comics in an open Q&A session on his Tumblr blog, says "Love and Rockets: I don’t like to choose between brothers, but Jaime Hernandez is one of the greatest drawers of human faces and human want on the planet."
• List:Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge: Only a Poor Old Man by Carl Barks is #39 on The A.V. Club 's list of "most anticipated entertainments of 2012": "Only a Poor Old Man will bring Scrooge McDuck, possibly Barks’ greatest creation, into the spotlight. The bespectacled miser will dive around in his money bin and burrow through it like a gopher, and his timeless adventures will get the treatment they deserve."
• List: Tucker Stone, whose Best of 2011 previously appeared at comiXology, presents a slightly modified list for Flavorwire's "10 of the Year's Most Buzzed-About Comic Releases":
"Last year’s Love and Rockets was a huge deal, but this year’s installment is arguably even better.... Comics has yet to provide Love and Rockets with anything approximating 'competition,' but it doesn’t appear that the Hernandez brothers have any reason to be concerned about that quite yet. They’re still way better at this than everybody else on the planet."
"The big thing this year was watching all the great young cartoonists of the early 2000s carving out their places in the pantheon. Huizenga’s a perfect example — he’s been regularly turning out excellent comics for years now, and yet Ganges #4 still reads like a revelation.... It’s a fascinating experience reading these comics, and they’re gorgeous to boot."
"The continuing adventures of Johnny Ryan’s most violent fantasies run amuck, [Prison Pit] is rapidly becoming the comic that I look forward to the way a fat kid looks forward to syrup-encrusted cake. There’s no getting around the hoary old cliche — 'these aren’t for everybody' — so God help you if you can’t figure out a way to enjoy these books."
• List: The prolific Sean T. Collins, after having contributed to CBR's Top 100, runs down his personal 20 Best Comics of 2011 on his Attentiondeficitdisorderly blog AND at Robot 6, withGanges #4 by Kevin Huizenga at #15...
"Huizenga wrings a second great book out of his everyman character’s insomnia. It’s quite simple how, really: He makes comics about things you’d never thought comics could be about, by doing things you never thought comics could do to show you them. Best of all, there’s still the sense that his best work is ahead of him, waiting like dawn in the distance."
"...[T]he payoff... feels like a weight has been lifted from Woodring’s strange world, while the route he takes to get there is illustrated so beautifully it’s almost superhuman. It’s the happy ending he’s spent most of his career earning."
"Religious fundamentalism... has worn a thousand faces in a millennia-long carnevale procession of war and weirdness, and David B. paints portraits of three of its masks with bloody brilliance. Focusing on long-forgotten heresies and treating the most outlandish legends about them as fact, B.’s high-contrast linework sets them all alight with their own incandescent madness."
"I picture Gilbert Hernandez approaching his drawing board these days like Lawrence of Arabia approaching a Turkish convoy: 'NO PRISONERS! NO PRISONERS!' In a year suffused with comics funneling pitch-black darkness through a combination of sex and horror, none were blacker, sexier, or more horrific than this gender-bending exploitation flick from Beto's 'Fritz-verse.'"
"...[L]et's add to the chorus praising Jaime's 'The Love Bunglers' as one of the greatest comics of all time, the point to which one of the greatest comics series of all time has been hurtling toward for thirty years.... You can count the number of cartoonists able to wed style to substance, form to function, this seamlessly on one hand with fingers to spare. A masterpiece."
"The hype and acclaim surrounding Xaime Hernandez’s conclusion to his 'Love Bunglers' saga has been overwhelming, and every ounce of it is deserved. This is simply a phenomenal achievement in comics. A moving, thoughtful story of missed opportunities, loss and eventual reconciliation that provides in many ways a fitting conclusion to all of Xaime’s 'Locas' stories. I’d be hard pressed to think of a better comic that came out this year."
"More than the new Carl Barks collection, more than the return of Pogo, the resurrected, re-appreciated comic strip I found myself falling in love the most with this year was Gottfredson’s plunky, adventure-loving mouse, a scrappier version of Disney’s iconic creation. More to the point, I was completely taken with the stunning packaging and background information Fantagraphics and the books editor put together for this series. It’s new benchmark for reprint projects."
"Three volumes into this grand guginol series and it continues to surprise and delight, this time introducing a new character and suggesting via an end sequence that Ryan has been reading a lot of Fort Thunder comics."
"Incredibly inventive, Schrauwen, like Yokoyama, seems intent on pushing the comics medium into new and interesting directions. But where Yokoyama is concerned mainly with motion and exploration, Schrauwen is concerned mainly with perception and the interior world of the mind. This is great, mind-blowing work."
• List: Also on Robot 6's roundup of best-of lists from its writers, Tim O'Shea ranks Pogo Vol. 1 at #9: "Damn if this was not worth the wait... Volume 1 of the complete syndicated daily strips of Pogo would be enough to put this book on my list. But the fact that Fantagraphics has a foreword by Jimmy Breslin; an introduction by Steve Thompson; a piece on the Pogo Sunday Funnies by Mark Evanier; and Swamp Talk (R.H. Harvey annotations on the strips) is just icing on the cake."
• List: David McKean's Celluloid gets a "See Also" shout-out on Cyriaque Lamar's list of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Comics of 2011 at io9: "A decidedly adult erotica graphic novel with no dialogue, this is the famed Sandman cover artist going at page after page of a sexy hallucination, whipped up by a magic porno movie projector. Dreamscapes with boners."
"After 'Browntown' in last year’s installment of New Stories, there was a worry that Jaime might have peaked — how on earth was he going to top that story? The achingly beautiful conclusion to 'The Love Bunglers' in this volume was the answer. Pulling together strands from Maggie’s entire 30-year history in two pages was nothing short of stunning, with his art as cooly confident as ever, making it a real emotional sucker punch. Gilbert’s work developing Fritz’s movie back-catalogue is a real mind-bender, too, weaving inter- and meta-textual strands together that lets his characters say so much, while saying so little. It is terrifying how talented these guys are."
"Forget Pogo and Carl Barks — we already knew they were classics — the real reprint revelation of 2011 was good ole' Mickey Mouse.... To read these strips is to rediscover a love for Mickey and marvel at Gottfredson's amazing grasp of storytelling and humour, as well as his flawless artwork. Naturally, with Fantagraphics overseeing the reprints, the design, packaging and presentation is gorgeous — a real worthy successor to their Peanuts series."
• Plug: "I’m a little mortified to admit that Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes is my first exposure to Carl Barks (after decades of being interested in finally seeing why he’s so revered as a comic creator), but it definitely won’t be my last. Fantagraphics’ first volume of Barks material is a great place to start; a mixture of epic quests, short stories, and gag strips that are all impressively funny and awesome." – Greg McElhatton, Robot 6
• List: On his Domino Books blog, Austin English explains why Joyce Farmer's Special Exits is his favorite comic of 2011: "Farmer's cartooning allows for her characters to act out their illness and struggles in front of the reader. Farmer's drawing of her aging father is something to behold — it's not Farmer saying 'here is what my sick father went through.' Instead we see a drawing age and wither in front of us, and speak to us with both intelligence and dementia. I’ve never seen anything in comics done with such skill — let alone see a graphic novel (often the territory of poorly conceived topical heart wrenchers) speak about tragedy with so much depth and clarity."
• List: Comics writer Vito Delsante declares Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 the Best Single Issue of 2011 on his Best of 2011 blog post: "The Hernandez Brothers, since New Stories 3, have really created the most important mythology in comics since Stan and Jack (and Steve).... Jaime Hernandez should win every single award in comics in 2012."
• List: We rank 4 entries on Renee Lott's Top 10 Comics of 2011 at her Blogwithfeet
• Review: "I've been digging the new Fantagraphics release Jason Conquers America which commemorates ten years of the venerable publisher's relationship with the Norewegian artist.... My favorite story in the collection revolves around a crow who naps in a bed in a field and wakes up obliviously in an entirely new life. (Telling any more would spoil the revelation.) In 23 short wordless panels, Jason creates a powerful and compelling commentary that proves how powerfully expressive comics can be." – Stray Riffs
• Review: "A new comic from the top humorist in comics is always welcome. This issue [of Tales Designed to Thrizzle] is the usual combination of dada and surprisingly tightly-wrapped narrative gags surrounding the sort of cultural detritus mined by Drew Friedman & Mark Newgarden.... 'Quincy, M.E.'... is one of Kupperman's best strips because he keeps adding new layers of plot to an already-ridiculous story.... I still miss the sheer density of detail in Kupperman's older work that made reading it almost exhausting, but the avalanche of ideas remains intact, as does his ability to elicit laughs." – Rob Clough, High-Low
• Review: "...Prison Pit... [is] a marriage of pro wrestling, manga, bromance and filth.... Johnny Ryan has an almost Kirbyesque level of character design, but with obviously more genitalia, and it can at times be a joy just to see what is going to come on the next page.... Johnny Ryan is a cartoonist at the top of his game right now and he may just be the closest thing the comic world has to marmite." – Taylor Pithers, The Weekly Crisis
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks with Todd DePastino, biographer of Bill Mauldin and editor of our Willie & Joe books. Spurgeon says Willie & Joe: Back Home is "one of my three favorite comics-related books from 2011, and, I think, one of the year's best." From DePastino: "When I look at these cartoons, I think of literary critic Dominic LaCapra's claim that some books are good to think about and a very few are good to think with. Mauldin's postwar cartoons are good to think with. They not only provide a window to the times, like, say, good photographs or reporting might, but they also raise fundamental questions and issues that are with us still."
• Review: "These comics are beautiful. Each single-panel comic is blown up to a full page, so that Mauldin’s artistry can truly (and easily) be admired without squinting. The sentiments expressed are astonishing and bravely progressive for the time.... I’d never thought or heard about the poor reception combat vets received after WWII. (I mistakenly thought that only happened to our soldiers after the Vietnam War.) I wish I knew what they experienced. I’ll settle for giving [Willie & Joe: Back Home] to the next WWII vet I meet and hope that it sparks a conversation." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• List:Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 is ComicsAlliance's Best Comic of 2011, with Jason Michelitch saying "The final 15 pages of 'The Love Bunglers' isn't just the end of a great new issue of a Bros. Hernanadez comic book. It isn't just the sixth part of a fantastic serialized graphic novel that's run since last year. It is the culmination of nearly thirty years worth of nuance, gesture, shading, pacing and dialogue — of angst, mania, fear, friendship, anger, and love. It is the finale to an epic of human scale feeling and drama. It is heart-stopping."
• List: Matthew Price of The Oklahoman names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 the Best Graphic Novel of 2011: "The Brothers Hernandez are some of the best cartoonists in comics' history, and Jamie Hernandez has one of the high points of his career in Vol. 4 of 'New Stories.'... Gilbert's visceral tale satirizes a societal obsession with vampires by showing their messy, unforgiving side."
• List:The A.V. Club's Noel Murray names The Best Comics of 2011: Graphic Novels & Art Comics in several subcategories. In Original Graphic Novels Mark Kalesniko's Freeway comes in at #4...
"Kalesniko’s animation-influenced style makes Freeway a fluid read, as he emphasizes motion, in striking compositions that guide the eye across the page smoothly. The plot moves just as freely, as Kalesniko renders both the exterior and interior spaces of his protagonist with a mix of loving care and impassioned disgust."
"Farmer jumps between matter-of-fact details and amusing anecdotes about the grind of end-of-life care, while turning the book into a celebration of two people: her father, a cheerful man so determined not to complain that he let serious health problems slide for months; and her stepmother, a steadfast woman whose pragmatism warred with her vanity. The book depicts old age as a wild, lurching ride: from medical crises to euphoric nostalgia to an eerie calm as the end draws near."
"Anyone who’s alive in the world should be moved by this story’s depiction of life as a series of accidents, miscommunications, and embarrassments, which sometimes work out okay regardless. 'The Love Bunglers' is rich with hidden meanings, complicated ideas and superior artistry."
...and Kevin Huizenga's Ganges #4 in the #2 spot...
"The fourth issue of Kevin Huizenga’s Gangescontinues the artist’s increasingly masterful hybrid of direct storytelling and experimental abstraction... The story suits Huizenga’s style, because he can both document the familiar minutiae of daily life and the sense of unreality that takes hold whenever someone is up half the night. Huizenga works in visual motifs of endlessly branching possibilities and spiraling shapes, showing how becoming 'lost in thought' can be terrifying."
"...Lost in the Andes encourages both fannish and intellectual approaches to the material. There are scholarly analyses and bibliographies, but also more than 200 pages of some of the best-written comics ever published, full of square eggs, rubber bricks, golden Christmas trees, and races around the world."
"The early Pogos aren’t as topical as what would come later, when Kelly would become a hero to the counterculture for taking on McCarthyism and promoting ecology. Mostly, these strips establish the world of the Okefenokee Swamp and the animals who dwell there, with Pogo the possum standing as the calm center of a cast that includes the dim Albert Alligator, the not-as-bright-as-he-thinks Howland Owl and the misanthropic, hilariously humorless Porkypine."
"The cartoons in Willie & Joe: Back Home capture Mauldin at a low ebb personally, but ferociously inspired professionally. Over the objections of his editors, Mauldin drew cartoons about estranged wives, limited employment opportunities, heartless fatcats, and an America more petty, materialistic, and xenophobic than the one they’d left behind... Today they’re a blistering reminder that life after WWII wasn’t all suburban bliss and baby boom."
"The highlight of the volumes are the strips themselves which are a lot of fun and show an adventurous side to Mickey that may come as a surprise to those who only know the modern Mickey. It’s also fun watching Gottfredson develop as an artist and storyteller as the strips progress. In addition to the comics there are essays examining the stories, the creators involved (the comics were often inked and scripted by others), and the characters themselves. This series is a long overdue look at one of comics legendary creators and their work."
"...[T]his book is so great and contains all the things you would want from a career retrospective from Jack Davis. Jack Davis is one of America's great illustrators whose career started in the late 1930s and continues to this day. That's fucking insane to think about.... Like I said, this book delivers the goods in a big way. It's 13 inches tall so you can really sink your eyeballs' teeth into the images."
"This issue of Tales Designed to Thrizzle starts out with stories based around the idea that bathtubs are evil or haunted, possibly based on childhood fears of getting sucked down the drain or something. Doesn't matter, it's hilarious even if it's based in absurdity. After that there are comics with funny dialogue about Quincy and St. Peter and Reservior Dogs II that all keep referencing back to the previous comics and have a dreamy feel, but if your dreams were hilarious.... A bunch of stuff is thrown your way in this issue and when it's over you think, 'I liked that. I feel satisfied. Mmm-MM!'"
• Review: "[Wandering Son] has a very well-thought, carefully paced narrative that allows us to explore what goes on inside each character’s head and to watch them develop as people. It’s much more a quiet slice of life affair than it is an over-the-top comedy and/or drama, which might be something you’d expect from a manga featuring cross-dressing... [T]his hardcover book... represents a sophisticated side of literary manga. Translated with rare skill and sensitivity by veteran translator and comics scholar Matt Thorn, much of the story’s original flavour remains intact. Shimura Takako’s gender-bending story has a very quiet, introspective touch to it, and her artwork – with its clean lines, minimal backgrounds and sparse dialogue – beautifully reflects this." – Sean A. Noordin, The Star (Malaysia)
• Review: "Fantagraphics here in the states once again has begun to unearth [Tardi's] body of work into the North American light, the first volume of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec being another fine edition produced in the best quality possible.... Does it sound a little crazy, imaginative, and probably addicting to read? Yes, yes it is. Which is why you need to read this series." – Drew McCabe, Comic Attack
• Plug: "You can’t start the new year without the end of times. Sala’s new book [The Hidden] features his recognizable palette and quirky, gothic font in an adult tale... The post-apocalyptic tale starts with a man waking up to find that everything has gone wrong; sorta a Rip Van Screwed. Great for those who enjoy zombie movies and dystopian books like 1984 or The Hunger Games." – Jen Vaughn, CCS Schulz Library Blog
• 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."
• Review: "...[L]ike Herge, another exemplary creator who made comics primarily for kids and later found an audience of devoted adults, Barks’ duck stories are richer, more compelling and smarter than a cursory glance might suggest... Most reprint projects worth their salt these days require some thoughtful essays and supplemental materials and [Walt Disney's Donald Duck:] Lost in the Andes is no different.... In short, this is exactly the book that Barks fans and the curious have been waiting for. ...Barks remains an exemplary cartoonist. His work is thrilling, funny and rather knowing about human nature without ever seeming trite or obvious, and despite the occasional pop culture reference it hasn’t aged much over the decades either. How good was Carl Barks? Pretty goddamned good." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Reviews: "First and foremost, Willie & Joe are funny. Fantagraphics has put the WW II years out in paperback, but I've got the also available hardcover, a great looking slipcase in army green with two fat volumes of his captivating artwork. Never having served (or even fired a gun), it's an absorbing glimpse into the day to day life of soldiers while it was happening and the end not known. It's easy to identify with: employees in any capacity gripe about their bosses. But the more specific Mauldin is, the more biting and fascinating his work is.... Finally, it's Willie & Joe: Back Home that moved me the most.... Mauldin is always funny, but those with a rosy image of WW II will be surprised by the complex world shown here... Fantagraphics has captured Mauldin's most enduring characters in two releases that do him justice." – Michael Giltz, Huffington Post
• Commentary: On Amazon's books blog Omnivoracious, Alex Carr looks at Amazon's list of Best Comics & Graphic Novels of 2011 and comments, "Perhaps most rewarding, though, are Jaime Hernandez’s short stories in Love and Rockets: New Stories Vol. 4. The longtime creator completes a long-running narrative without grandiose preening, and the art is full of expression and effortless charm. The final pages speed toward a finish that will satisfy new readers and bring bittersweet conclusion for fans. It’s the best feeling for a Love and Rockets devotee: not wanting the decades-long love story to end but being so pleased with the way it may have (if this truly is the conclusion)."
• Interview:Comics Bulletin's Jason Sacks talks with Kevin Huizenga about the new issue of Ganges: "I don't like [the term] 'experimental,' because it gives the impression that the usual qualities of a good story are less important to me than formal trickery. I'm trying to draw something that I want to read, that I haven't seen before and that is still nicely designed and readable."
• Plug: "I have just received my review copy of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: 'Trapped on Treasure Island' and as amazing as it sounds David Gerstein and Fantagraphics have managed to do it again: they have produced at the same time the best Disney comic book of 2011 and one of the best Disney history books of the year." – Didier Ghez, Disney History
• Review: "...Willie & Joe: Back Home... is superbly done. Like many Fantagraphics releases over the years, this book easily could be placed in a personal library or on a coffee table for public viewing. In many ways, it can be described best as a piece of art and something to be treasured by collectors, comic-strip enthusiasts and military buffs alike.... The strips are a stunning mix of blunt political messaging with dark, satirical humor." – Michael Taube, The Washington Times
• Review: "While manga isn’t usually known for its subtlety, Wandering Son is an exception. The panels have little in the way of background, and there is less exaggeration and slapstick than you will find in a typical manga. The story builds slowly, drawing you in to the quiet internal thoughts of the two children.... Takako’s Wandering Son works as an insight into how it feels to be transgendered, and also as a metaphor for growing up.... Wandering Son reminds us how hard it can be for anyone, whatever gender, to become who we want to be as a person." – Ashley Cook, Giant Fire Breathing Robot
• Review: "Technically, [The Pin-Up Art of Humorama] isn’t a graphic novel or trade collection, it’s a picture book – but an absolutely stunning one, collecting some of the best and most guiltily funny illustrations ever produced: a beguiling remembrance of a different time and the sexual mores of an entirely alien generation which nevertheless presents an enticing, intoxicating treat for art lovers and, I’m afraid to admit, many hearty laughs. This is work which is still utterly addictive and the book is an honest-to-gosh treasure beyond compare." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "...[T]he cartoons in Willie & Joe: Back Home capture Mauldin at a low ebb personally, and ferociously inspired professionally.... The material in Back Home is bitter but witty, and remarkable for its courage. Given the platform of a major syndicate, Mauldin used his moral authority — as a firsthand observer of atrocity, venality, and want — to try and make his complacent countrymen feel a little shame. Where his wartime cartoons had said, 'I am one of you' to grunts in the trenches, his post-war work said, 'What the hell happened to you?' to the people who stayed home. At the time, the public rejected Mauldin’s lectures. Today they’re a blistering reminder that life after WWII wasn’t all suburban bliss and baby boom." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Told with humor and a great depth of sensitivity, these comics offer a human lens to an epic more often expressed in grandiose terms. Over the past couple of years Fantagraphics has amazed me consistently with its archival releases of seminal cartoonists' work, and Willie and Joe: The WWII Years is yet another fine example." – David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy
• Review: "Toth brought clarity and drama to the page — the equivalent of a top Hollywood director elevating rote material through elegant framing and camera moves.... Nearly every drawing in this book is purposeful and exciting, and they flow together to tell stories so clearly that the words are often superfluous. Setting the Standard is a treasure trove..." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Jacques Tardi is certainly in Toth’s league when it comes to rendering seamy genre fare with real artistry. Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot ... is a wonderfully wicked piece of work, tracking a hitman as he tries to sever all ties with his past and retire with his childhood sweetheart. The story’s a familiar one... but Manchette’s approach is especially violent and gory, with a tough twist ending. And Tardi picks up on the sadness underlying the brutality, sketching a black-and-white world where the choice to go to the dark side is irrevocable, no matter how hard characters work to wrest control of their fates." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Belgian artist Olivier Schrauwen does a fine job of approximating the high weirdness of early-20th-century newspaper comics in The Man Who Grew His Beard, a collection of seven deeply strange short stories.... Schrauwen mixes ink and paint in ways that blur the distinctions between comics and fine art, and he brings back certain themes — instruction and erotica, primarily — that suggest how men try and fail to place parameters on the primal. But The Man Who Grew His Beard isn’t meant to be 'understood' so much as it is to be entered and experienced, in all its wildness." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Kevin Huizenga’s Ganges #4 continues the artist’s increasingly masterful hybrid of direct storytelling and experimental abstraction.... The story suits Huizenga’s style, since he can document both the familiar minutiae of daily life and the sense of unreality that takes hold whenever someone is up half the night. Huizenga works in visual motifs of endlessly branching possibilities and spiraling shapes, showing how becoming 'lost in thought' can be terrifying. In short: This is another terrific installment of a series that’s fast becoming a classic." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Mr. Twee Deedle, Raggedy Ann’s Sprightly Cousin: The Forgotten Fantasy Masterpieces of Johnny Gruelle... collects the strip that illustrator Gruelle created to fill the void left by Little Nemo when Winsor McKay departed The New York Herald. Though not as imaginative as McKay, Gruelle’s Mr. Twee Deedle was every bit as colorful and lavishly rendered, telling gentle fairy stories that explore a rich fantasy world existing in tandem with our own, like children having elaborate playtimes mere feet away from their parents’ more prosaic lives." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club (NOTE: This review was based on samples of the strip provided to the reviewer; the book itself is incomplete and still in production.)
• Review: "...Drawing Power... brings together an eclectic set of examples of comics being used to sell products. The pages are fun to look at — from Mickey Mouse pitching Post Toasties to Dr. Seuss illustrating ads for Esso Marine Products — but the topic is a little too large for a 120-page book, especially one so loosely organized. Then again, maybe that’s the point: to create a reading experience as chaotic and laced with odd beauty as cartooning itself." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "I have long admired Woodring’s brilliant, hallucinatory, and bizarre Frank comics. But his work has taken a leap forward with last year’s Weathercraft and this year’s Congress of the Animals. The Frank world is one the reader benefits by being immersed in. What might seem a bit incomprehensible in a short strip blossoms into a dark Dionysian dream in these two graphic novels.... If I keep mention them together, it is because I believe they beg to be read together. They show different but complimentary sides of Woodring’s vision. And also because these two books combine to form, I believe, one of the greatest achievements in recent comics. If you are a fan of the strange, the uncanny, the bizarre, the hallucinatory, and the fantastic, I can’t recommend them enough." – Lincoln Michel, The Faster Times
• Review: For Magnet, Marc Bianchi of the band Her Space Holiday (they're good!) pens an appreciation of Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts, adding "A good place to rediscover the Peanuts is through the retrospective that Fantagraphics started releasing in 2004. They are complete and total masterpieces, from the elegant layouts provided by famed comic-book artist Seth to the wonderful guest introductions each volume has... If you are ever in a shop that carries these books, I highly suggest thumbing through one of them. Especially the earliest works (1950-1952 or 1953-1954). You are guaranteed to find something that in one panel can tear your heart apart and, in the next, put it back together again."
• Review: "To say that Wandering Son isn't a manga for everyone is perhaps stating the obvious, but despite the potential to make light of its cross-dressing, coming of age tale it proves itself to be an impressively subtle and considered take on growing up within this opening volume. ...[G]ive it time and you'll find an impressive, character-driven series beneath its simplistic surface that will both charm and fascinate you, leaving you rooting for its characters and wanting to follow them through to (you hope) eventual happiness." – Andy Hanley, UK Anime Network
• Review: "Supermen!: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes, 1936-1941 promises to fill gaps in 'the origins and early development of superheroes and the comic book form.' Editor Greg Sadwoski has assembled an eye-catching collection of stories, magazine covers, and house ads showing unfamiliar faces from the first years of American adventures comics. ...Supermen! is most interesting for what didn’t lead anywhere.... Seeing what didn’t work or become the norm can be as illuminating as seeing what did." – J.L. Bell, Oz and Ends (via Robot 6)
• Plug: "...[D]espite his undeniable gift for crafting elegant and vibrant storytelling that transcends all genres, sadly there has never before been a comprehensive, affordably priced reprinting of Carl Barks' Disney work…until now. Fantagraphics Books recently announced that it will begin reprinting the entire catalog of the master’s Disney material, beginning with the release of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: 'Lost in the Andes' by Carl Barks in October, 2011." – Bill Baker, The Morton Report
• Interview (Audio): The hosts of Comics Alliance's "War Rocket Ajax" podcast talk to Michael Kupperman about his new book Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010, crafting his brand of humor and sundry other topics (such as bleu cheese): "It's about things taking the turn that you don't expect, the ball taking the bounce you don't expect. That for me is an example of trying to make the sentence end up in a place that's different from where it started."
• Tribute: At The Comics Journal, Kim Thompson's obituary of Francisco Solano López: "Argentina’s Francisco Solano López was a titan of South American comics, on a level with the great Alberto Breccia, the temporary honorary Argentinean (during the 1950s) Hugo Pratt, and the hugely influential writer Hector Oesterheld (who collaborated with all three)." (Excerpt courtesy TCJ's Tim Hodler)
• Review: "The initial cartoons in [Willie & Joe: Back Home] show Willie and Joe struggling to adjust to civilian life and usually failing, albeit not without letting out a sardonic quip.... Eventually Willie and Joe faded into the background, however, as Mauldin started focusing more on other problems facing returning grunts — a housing shortage, trouble finding work — and then rather savagely (and rather bluntly) went after racists and right-wing extremists.... The end result is a collection of cartoons that both read like the work of someone desperate to rage against perceived injustices as loudly as possible, but also seemingly desperate to demolish whatever status he has attained as quickly as possible... it’s a fascinating book..." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Commentary: On his blog, Eddie Campbell says "I recently bought the Fantagraphics complete Mauldin's Willie and Joe in soft cover. Bill Mauldin is one of the indisputable geniuses in the history of cartooning and I consider it an obligation to have the best available collection of his work on my shelf," and goes on to make some fascinating observations about changes in Mauldin's cartooning during the war
• Tribute/Interview:Entrecomics presents a transcription of the final talk given in Spain by Francisco Solano López in 2008 (in Spanish), saying "We could do a review of his career, but it would not do justice either to the immense capacity for work by the author or the influence that some of the works to which he contributed... had on several generations of readers in different countries."
• List:The Hooded Utilitarian, nearing the top of their results in their International Best Comics Poll, reveals George Herriman's Krazy Kat at #2, with a brief essay by Jeet Heer
• Review: "...The Comics Journal #301... is crammed with fantastic content. The volume's texture, heft, and text make it the readers' equivalent of a dense slab of chocolate cake.... In short, Gary Groth and his editorial team have produced a stellar contribution to comics history and scholarship. It is a feast for comics aficionados and neophytes alike. " – Casey Burchby, SF Weekly
• Plug: "I second Tom Spurgeon’s recommendation of Bill Mauldin’s Willie and Joe Back Home. I was amazed by how brutally frank the comics are, and how affecting. I actually prefer it to his WWII work — it’s even more impassioned, and the cartooning loosens enough to show off a really expressive, cutting line." – Dan Nadel, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "Alex Chun has a new volume available from Fantagraphics Books in his series which profiles the 'few dollars a drawing' gag writers who sold work to the Humorama line of digest publications during the 1950s and into the early 1970s. As I have been writing on the lesser known artists who contributed, with the scant information available...I eagerly await the book!" – Jim Linderman, Dull Tool Dim Bulb
• Analysis: At Entrecomics, Alberto Garcia examines the Steve Ditko influence/homages in some of Gilbert Hernandez's early work — even if you don't read Spanish, the images will have you going "ah-haaaa..."
• Lore:Kim Deitch's "Mad About Music: My Life in Records" column returns over at TCJ.com, with more on Elvis Presley and the early days of rock 'n' roll