• Review: "If you’re looking for a light-hearted pick-me-up, King of the Flies Vol. 1: Hallorave is not it. If, however, you’re looking for a darkly compelling, twisted, beautifully illustrated account of the broken souls and self-absorbed nihilism, Pirus and Mezzo’s album is about as good as you’ll find in the comics field. It’s a stunning piece of fiction, beautifully crafted in its prose, pacing, artistry and crushing understanding of humanity’s ugliness." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "...[Like a Dog] manages to capture the angst and anomie of a then-confused twentysomething who also just happens to be a semi-famous musician. ... His sturm und drang is filtered through a series of self-released strips and compilation projects... sometimes, as in 'You Won’t Let Yourself Be Touched,' from his self-published Recidivist comic, they transmit the otherworldly power of a vivid dream to the reader with lyrical effect. ... 'At the Scaffold'... in particular demonstrates Sally’s knack for chopping up a story into different configurations of panels, choosing points of view, and rendering architecture, shadows, odd characters, etc." – Byron Kerman, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "Once again, Hotwire returns to attempt to fill in that edgy alt-comix niche that was so prominent in the 80s and early 90s and has seemingly been eclipsed by the more literary, rarefied indie comics of today (sort of). If for no other reason, this anthology should be lauded for giving folks like Mary Fleener and Mack White the opportunity to showcase their work... [and] the stellar work by folks like Michael Kupperman, R. Sikoryak, Onsmith, Johnny Ryan, Tim Lane and Mats!? make this well worth your time." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Comparison: "...I was of course really excited to hear that Fantagraphics was doing a series of translated Tardi books, including C’était la Guerre des Tranchées — now titled It Was the War of the Trenches. I’ve had the French Casterman edition for a while, but I got my new Fantagraphics copy last week and just for fun I thought I’d take a look at the two side by side." – Ben Towle
• Profile: Another NBC New York article on Dash Shaw & Frank Santoro, this time from Edward Carr (who also gets photo credit): "Speaking at the McNally Jackson Bookstore on Prince Street in Soho, Santoro, along with critically acclaimed artist Dash Shaw, spoke about their work and the techniques they used to keep them unique."
• List: The great John Porcellino names Zak Sally's Like a Dog as one of his favorite comics of 2009 (unsurprising, since he wrote the introduction): "It's impossible for me to be objective about this book, as Zak is one of my closest friends, but this is a really powerful, fascinating collection of comics. Very dark, and even brutal sometimes, but bracing, and highly original."
• Interview:Blogcritics' Michael Jones talks to Femke Hiemstra about her art book Rock Candy: "I do not deliberately strive for a 'childlike' feel or a 'children's book gone wrong' atmosphere in my work. But I'm aware that that's what's in me and therefore in my work, so a vibe like that will of course be a part of it. It's a funny thing, now that I think about it."
• Plug:School Library Journal's "Good Comics for Kids" column recommends some snow-day reading, including The Complete Peanuts ("The volumes from the mid-1960s onward... feature the gang that younger readers know from the numerous TV specials, newspaper strips, and products, and would be a great way to occupy an eight or ten-year-old for a few hours on a snowy day") and Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace ("his penchant for mischief has enduring appeal")
• Review: "Anderson’s King is most definitely NOT your feel-good, sanctifying version of King’s life that most readers are probably used to. ...[T]he MLK presented here is a multi-dimensional, gifted man … but still very much a man, nevertheless, filled with doubt, frustration, anger, arrogance, and even deceit. ... While Anderson starkly presents King’s less-than-saintly episodes... the final reaction is a fuller understanding of a great man, with inspiring ideals, and an unshakeable dedication to equality through nonviolent, loving means. ... MLK’s legacy undeniably lives on in Anderson’s King." – Terry Hong, Bookdragon (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program)
• Review: "Dash Shaw was praised to the skies for his hefty 2008 graphic novel Bottomless Belly Button, but the 26-year-old cartoonist’s real strength so far in his career has been his short strips, which have displayed a diversity of subject matter and style that make each piece feel like something wholly new. The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.... does reveal a future master in his formative stages, working to find a balance between his interest in subtle adult relationships—teacher/pupil, flirter/flirtee, etc.—and his yen to try out new approaches to drawing and coloring. Shaw may be the cartoonist of the rising generation most capable of delivering a long-form work with the formal daring and humanity of a David Mazzucchelli or an Art Spiegelman. Consider The Unclothed Man a document of his baby steps… B+" – The A.V. Club
• Plug: "The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976 comes out in March, meaning we'll be halfway through this amazing, historical publication. I can't say enough about these collections. It's not only remarkable in its simple, truthful capturing of the human condition, but a beautiful historical document of the second half of the 20th Century." – Rob Kozlowski
• Interview: On the Inkstuds radio programme, Jordan Crane and Sammy Harkham have a feisty conversation with host Robin McConnell about their webcomics concern, What Things Do
• Commentary:NPR 's Glen Weldon, surveying some of the connections between comics and pop music, says "Love and Rockets, by Los Bros Hernandez, wasn't just about a punk band, it was a book steeped in an anarchic punk sensibility that even today, 30 years later, still seems bracing and unapologetic."
#1, You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler: "A mash-up of family portrait, generational analysis, autobiography and scrapbook, this book was not only the most emotionally powerful work of the year, it was the most attractively designed. The first part of what will likely be Tyler’s masterwork."
#6, Like a Dog by Zak Sally: "This was a stunningly honest account and collection of early work by one of the most underrated cartoonists working today. While the collected early issues of Recidivist ranged from interesting to astounding, it was Sally’s frank and emotional essay following the collection that really struck me as a statement of purpose — not just as an artist, but as a person."
#10, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman: "The first collection from Kupperman’s surprising hit really helped spread the word about his unique and delightfully warped genius as a gagsmith and artist."
#15, Sublife Vol. 2 by John Pham: "This one-man anthology featured Pham fully harnessing every aspect of his skills as a writer and artist. His use of color dominated and provided a sort of visual through-line for his different narratives. Pham alternately pushed the reader away and then pulled them in, depending on the story, a tension that made this his most successful work to date."
And #17, Ho! by Ivan Brunetti: "It’s fascinating to see the two directions Brunetti was headed in with regard to these gags. First, his gags became ever-more boundary pushing, but always in service to the punchline. Second, his line became more and more simplified to the point of nearly geometric simplicity: squares, circles and triangles wound up creating most of his characters by the end of the book."
• List:Paul Gravett names The Best of 2009: Classic Comic Reprints. At #6, it's The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Nell Brinkley's Cartoons 1913-1940: "Trina [Robbins] follows up her thorough biography of Brinkley with this oversized collection of Sunday 'comics,' often more like ravishing illustrated romantic yarns of big hair, clothes and emotions, but stunning to linger over and revealing in their period mood and concerns. In their time, Brinkley’s spirited, vivacious females were as iconic and inspirational in early 20th century America as the famous Gibson Girls before her. They truly deserve this gorgeous commemoration."
• List: On the annual Fun Fifty countdown at Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun!, at #15, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman: "Without hyperbole, Thrizzle is simply the funniest, most guffaw-out-loud comic book they're going to have to pry out of your cold, dead hands when you die laughing. ... Thrizzle's stuffed from front cover to impressive back page blurbs with Kupperman's splendiferous pulps-meet-woodblock-print artwork and lunatic stories, it's one of those rare humor books that actually is downright hilarious."
• Reviews: Nick Gazin of Vice (link NSFW) weighs in on a number of titles:
"I love Unlovable. Take that, book title. ... Unlovable 2 is a fun and funny read all the way through. ... Girls are gonna like this book and dudes are gonna like this book. It’ll remind you of how stupid you were and also of suburban sadness and realizing that your high school crush will probably never love you back."
"[High Soft Lisp] is incredible... The world in this book is one I wouldn’t want to live in but I can’t stop thinking about the story of Fritz."
"...[Almost Silent] is a really good book and Jason is a strong cartoonist. He does a lot with his simple-but-well-drawn characters and little to no dialogue. ... For $25 you get a nice sampler of what Jason can do. This is entirely worth owning."
• Review: "The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion is the indispensable guide to the strip and a must have for its legions of fans new and old. Fantagraphics has been re-printing these original strips in chronological order in beautiful hardcover volumes and this guide makes the perfect complement. ... No matter how long you’ve been a Prince Valiant fan…one year or seventy years, you’re certain to find this book informative and entertaining. Fantagraphics has produced another spectacular book! Grade A" – Tim Janson, The Gouverneur Times
• Review: "Similar to Charles Addams and Gahan Wilson, Jason relies on the humorous side of horror in these mostly wordless tales. ... Throughout the sublime Almost Silent, Jason examines traditional relationships and social norms via a deliciously warped lens, quite probably one constructed by Dr. Frankenstein himself." – Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica (spoiler alert!)
• Review: "I can’t think of a better single volume of what the period style of fast looked like in practice than last year’s Supermen! anthology. Yes, there’s an added winnowing by genre but that just sharpens the sense of the reductive visual and narrative requirements that were standard for the hot new gravy train that hit the business." – Rich Kreiner, "Yearlong Best of the Year," The Comics Journal
• Review: "As a whole, I like Abstract Comics a lot. I’d say that it works like a good art exhibition, or at least an exhibition unburdened by obligations to teach history, one in which multiple formal and aesthetic connections are there but not shouted out, rather left to be discovered (or not) by the strolling viewer according to his or her inclinations." – Charles Hatfield, Thought Balloonists
• Plug: "[Steven] Weissman's work is very often like a brain-damaged Charles Schulz... His newest book, Chocolate Cheeks, raises the stakes in a really dramatic way. I think this might be his last book in this series, but it goes out with a doozy of a book." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Plug: "Matt’s response to my squeeing over the announced May, 2010 publication date of Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6: 'Yes, as there were so many plots unresolved in the last issue. Who won, blimps or holes??'" – TofuPunk.com (I don't know who Matt is – ed.)
• Plug: "With new work by the likes of Johnny Ryan, Max Andersson, Sam Henderson, Stephane Blanquet, Doug Allen, Michael Kupperman, Mack White, and Jeremy Onsmith, Hotwire 3 is certain to deliver the psychic jolt it promises." – Richard Cowdry, Love the Line
• Plug: "Since Beatriz 'Penny Century' Garcia is my favorite Love & Rockets' Locas, I'm very excited to see the advance solicitation for the new soft cover Penny Century... In my opinion, the soft cover collected volumes are the best way to read Love & Rockets. They are the easiest way to follow the reading order, and with the cheap price of $18.99, you can't find a better launching point for one of the most regarded independent comics of all time. " – The Star Clipper Blog
• Analysis:Abstract Comics contributor Derik Badman posts an in-depth email discussion between himself and critic Craig Fischer about the book
• Interview:The Daily Yomiuri's Tom Baker talks Usagi Yojimbo with Stan Sakai: "I think the first few years I really tried to make him cute and cuddly like a stuffed animal, whereas the stories tended to [take] a more dramatic turn. So I think the character has changed. Most of it's unconscious on my part." (via The Comics Reporter )
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions starts with a rave:
• Review: "This is a fascinating book on a lot of levels. For one, it's distinguished by Adam Grano's design work to a degree I think noteworthy: on many levels, Newave! represents better than any book I've seen the clash of comics publishing impulses now and then. ... It says something about Grano's increasingly compelling body of work with Fantagraphics that he provides the work with much of the energy that helps the reader through nearly 900 pages. It's Michael Dowers that makes that trip worthwhile. By avoiding a summary statement and roping in so many cartoonists, presenting 700 pages of their work in doing so..., Dowers lets the reader come to the material rather than shoving it into their face. His confidence is justified: a lot of these comics are fascinating-looking, and the sheer handsomeness of many of the pages, this wall of better-than-expected craft, will probably be the biggest shock to those that kind of dismissed this kind of work whenever one encountered it along the way." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "...[Like a Dog] makes for a compelling scrapbook collection — and a beautifully-bound one at that. ... There’s an inspiring breadth of themes and styles on display here, although ultimately they all point to an artist in the depths of an existential crisis." – Will Fitzpatrick, Bookmunch
• Interview:Bookmunch's Will Fitzpatrick, whose review of Zak Sally's Like a Dog is linked above, has a good long email interview with Zak: "I actually enjoy reading comics so much that it’s slightly embarrassing. The stylistic diversity you mention was, again, not that conscious on my part: it was, again, just having this thing or idea and having to find a way to come at it that made sense, to me; and strangely enough, that often meant I had to experiment with what I thought comics were or weren’t to get there. I was just searching for a way to make comics."
Oh no, I had this Online Commentary & Diversions update all set to go and then I forgot to post it... Earth to Mike!
• List: At Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun!, our favorite little stuffed bull continues the annual Fun Fifty countown. At #36, Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1: "Ditko expert Blake Bell collects several dozen of Steve's 1950s work from Charlton and other publishers, plus plenty of amazing covers, in a thick, hardy collection with glorious gory and ghoulish Ditko comics from front to back. This thing's a gold mine!"
• Review: "...T. Edward Bak's almost comically named 'Wild Man, Chapter 2 -- A Bavarian Botanist in St. Petersburg, Part One'... is the story to which I kept returning long after the publication entire [Mome Vol. 17] should have been swapped off of my end table for something less worked over. ... I hope there's more." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Next to Scott Pilgrim [Prison Pit: Book 1] felt to me like the western comic that’s got closest to properly understanding the energy of manga, rather than simply aping the surface elements. ... It’s the best art I’ve seen Ryan do in his career, more focused and while it mainly maintains a four-panel-a-page rhythm, when he breaks from that to do a splash page or change the panel rhythm, he does to great effect. If you’re going to do a splash page, it might as well be of a monster made of sperm or a barbed penis." – Brian Smith, Awesome Engine
• Coming Attractions:ICv2 previews our upcoming August release of Buz Sawyer Vol. 1: The War in the Pacific by Roy Crane
• Interview:Inkstuds host Robin McConnell says "I really enjoyed this chat with Zak Sally. If you are not already reading his work, you will want to after listening to this."
• Events: For Comics Comics, Dash Shaw reports from Angoulême: "At festivals like this you find yourself jetlagged in a taxi with José Muñoz and you’re thinking 'holy shit, what do I ask José Muñoz? What do I ask José Muñoz?!' and you end up just bugging him about random things. Try to milk those ten minutes for as much as you can."
• List:Paul Gravett names "The Best of 2009: Graphic Novels": No. 9 is Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock 'n' Roll Life by Bruce Paley & Carol Swain ("Paley combines so perfectly with his partner Carol Swain to capture Paley’s walks on the wild side as he journeys through sex, drugs and rock’n'roll, from hippy to punk. ... Hers has always been an utterly singular approach."); No. 13 is (appropriately) Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days by Al Columbia ("These distressed, distressing comics and illustrations repeat and escalate like a stuck record or never waking from a recurring nightmare."); and No. 14 is You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler ("A tender, bittersweet tribute from a daughter to a father and his military service in a beautifully crafted, tactile memoir.") (via The Comics Reporter)
• List/Review: At The HeroesOnline Blog, Dustin Harbin explains why Popeye Vol 4: Plunder Island is #5 on his Fave 5 of 2009: "These Popeye books are made with the kind of love and care and attention to detail that’s rare in comics — it’s clear that their publishers treat this material with reverence, and it makes it even more pleasurable to crack a new volume open each year."
• Review: "Though [Like a Dog] may seem like a hodgepodge of bits of [Zak] Sally’s work, there is consistency in the overall feeling. Much of his work is a collection of personal demons -- his insecurities, self-doubt, anger, pain, sadness and darkness -- that are exposed in obvious and subtle ways. ... The grit of this collection lies in the sense that one has had a sideline view of an intensely cathartic therapy session." – Janday Wilson, two.one.five Magazine
• Review: "This is warts and all stuff, a young artist learning with every six pager. ... There is some juvenile pleasure to be had in the fact that these stories [in Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1] all predate the Wertham/Comics Code era, so there's quite a bit of blood, some severed limbs, and grisly comeuppance. And although still oscillating between styles and influences here, there is substantial growth... [E]ven in its infancy, Ditko's art is increasingly potent." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
• Review: "It’s weird and it’s different and it immediately showed me that Ganges #2 is not what I thought it was. I was expecting mopey autobio, a distant cousin of Blankets with better artwork, and instead got something that was well worth the hype. ...It’s a comic about people and how they interact, held high by shockingly good art. The first ten pages show that Huizenga can do some amazing things with storytelling and the rest of the book shows his strong grasp of body language and how to make talking heads interesting." – David Brothers, 4thletter!
• Tunes:Zak Sally provides a soundtrack playlist for Like a Dog to Largehearted Boy, who says of the book "Sally is incredibly inventive, these cartoons differ in theme greatly, but all come together through his dark, foreboding illustrations. This volume is worthwhile alone for the two editions of Sally's Eisner Award nominated comic, The Recidivist, but the additional works offer a glimpse into this talented artist's evolution (as do the copious notes included in the collection)."
• List:FEARnet names Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1 one of the Top 9 Comic Books and Graphic Novels of '09: "Shunning the spotlight of fans and the press, the artist has chosen instead to let his books speak for themselves. They continue to speak loudly, and with a weird grace lacking in much of his contemporaries' work."
• List/Review: "Druggy noir vividly told, [The] Red Monkey [Double Happiness Book] is like watching Jim Rockford take a monster bong-hit before getting bashed in the jaw by some muscle of a rich guy in a bar bathroom. 'The Leaking Cello Case' and 'John Wesley Harding' are both contenders for short graphic fiction of the year, with pellucid plotting distorted by strange times and scary surprises. The artwork is like the more story-based finely crafted alternative comics of the 90s, and the sense of distorted place and identity as creative as fiction by Thomas Pynchon. If that seems lofty, start here and wait for Daly to one day unveil his Gravity's Rainbow." – Chris Estey, Three Imaginary Girls "Great Reads of 2009"
• Review: "Thank you, Fantagraphics, for compiling 15 years of the Love and Rockets comic series into 700 pages of punk rock, heartbreak, and self-discovery. Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories presents Jaime Hernandez's indie masterpiece in the entirety of its run between 1981 to 1996... a serious contender for the American comic canon." - Aysha Pamukcu, Plasma Pool
• Review: "OK, first, my initial impression of cartoonist Hans Rickheit’s new book The Squirrel Machine was one of amazement (a word I don’t bandy about indulgently) and bafflement. I am clear I am not grasping something — not an unpleasant feeling in this circumstance. ... As usual for Fanatagraphics, this book is well-designed and well-printed. Let me know if you figure out what it’s about, though not knowing made it no less fun for me." – Robert Birnbaum, The Morning News
• Interview: Alice Parker of Comics Alliance gets a whole lot of info out of Dash Shaw: "As for me, I like a lot of different things. I'm not a discriminating reader of comics, which is a problem, I think. I can read just about any comic, but I definitely wouldn't read any all-word book."
• Interview: And in your second Dash Shaw interview of the day, with Tim Needles of Short and Sweet NYC, some advice for aspiring artists: "The other thing is it’s probably going to be touch and go forever and you are going to have to do an absurd amount of work before you get a penny for it and even when you get that penny, it’s probably just going to be a penny. On the other hand it is really awesome to draw all the time and devote your life to it."
• List:Details magazine names Ghost World #10 on The 25 Greatest Gen X Books of All Time: "This caustically funny duo-tone tale follows the iconic cat-eyed adolescent Enid Coleslaw in her quest to find meaning, or at least cruel humor, in an age where everything's disposable."
• Review: "Strange Suspense collects dozens of Ditko stories from the 1950’s... Almost a decade before Ditko moved to Marvel, these stories bear his unmistakable style. His fine line work and flair for the abstract that would serve him so well on Doctor Strange particularly, is on full display. ... If you only know Ditko for his work at Marvel or later at DC, here is the chance to explore Early Ditko, unconstrained by editors or the Comics Code. While all of this work is marvelous, clearly Ditko is best at home in horror where he could let his imagination run wild, creating monsters and demons and the things that go bump in the night. Rediscover Ditko today!" – Tim Janson, Newsarama
• Review: "Brian Kane, author of the [Definitive Prince Valiant] Companion and surely the world’s foremost authority on the strip and its creator, Hal Foster, has once again done a herculean amount of work, and Fantagraphics has once again clothed that work in a sturdy, pretty volume. Prince Valiant hasn’t been treated this well since the ersatz King of England sang his praises. Those unfamiliar with the character – a young man who finds adventure, fame, and even love at the court of the legendary King Arthur – will find here all the background information they could ever want... But even long-time Prince Valiant fans will find plenty to fascinate them in this volume." – Khalid Ponte, Open Letters
• Review: "Delphine is a morbid interpretation of the symbology of fairy tales resounding with echoes of unrequited love and abandonment. This is perhaps Sala’s darkest and most intricate story ever – impressive in its nuance and ever shifting emotions. One can only hope that it is not ignored." – Ng Suat Tong, The Comics Journal
• Interview: From TCJ.com: "Every weekday from now until December 25, we’ll be posting a conversation between cartoonists from The Comics Journal #300, complete and online! In today’s installment, it’s a chat between L’Association publisher Jean-Christophe Menu and Kramers Ergot publisher Sammy Harkham."
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