• 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."
• List: At NPR.org, Glen Weldon recommends "Tomes With Which to Tough Out Your Turkey Coma," including Linda Medley's Castle Waiting ("a wryly funny fairy tale narrative that's both women-centered and women-powered") and Gilbert Hernandez 's Palomar ("Dense, vividly realized and both literally and figuratively magical")
• Interview: Robot 6's Chris Mautner talks to Dash Shaw about The Unclothed Man in the 34th Century A.D., BodyWorld and other topics: "There’s a meshing going on between film/animation and comics. The meshing is happening in my own interests, the subject matter of my stories, the way my stories are created, and it’s been fueled a little by what’s going on outside of me..."
A few quick hits of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Hornschemeier obviously draws a lot of inspiration from Chris Ware, especially in terms of color scheme and alternating between naturalistic and iconic styles. There's a different level of emotional impact in his comics, however, a certain distance that reminds me more of what Daniel Clowes or Art Spiegelman do in their work. ... All and Sundry is less about the work itself and more about the artist as worker." – Rob Clough
• Review: "...Zak Sally's collection of his Recidivist material and other works [Like a Dog] was positively pugillistic in nature. Of course, the battle Sally was fighting was with himself and his place in the world, both as an artist and a person. ... The extended endnotes written by Sally were one of the most bracing but inspiring pieces of writing I've ever seen by an artist on their own work. It's a statement of purpose not just as an artist, but as a human being." – Rob Clough
• Review: "I recently bought [Sergio Ponchione's] Grotesque #2-3, which contained a two-part story, 'Cryptic City.' ... It’s a noir mystery crushed into a surrealistic adventure, and the two work together excellently under Ponchione’s imagination. ... It’s hard to ignore Ponchione’s gorgeous art in Grotesque #2-3, which is certainly part of their charm. ... At this point, I’m not sure what I’m hoping for more; additional issues of Grotesque, or other works from Ponchione translated into English. (Regardless, I’m running out and buying Grotesque #1 as soon as possible.) This is a beautifully off-kilter comic. Definitely check it out." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
A piping hot dish of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "...[T]his shaggy-haired collection of 15 years’ worth of artful zines and comics [Like a Dog]... reads at times like a history of psychological warfare. [Zak] Sally... tends toward richly dark, semiautobiographical, and tightly etched tales of tension and self-recrimination. Creepy dreams and images of anatomical self-analysis are recurring themes, along with the general sense of transience that marked Sally’s life while relentlessly touring with Low... At times the book... breaks out of that shell to address topics that are usually no lighter in tone though, as with his excellent retelling of Dostoyevski’s imprisonment, they benefit from the change in perspective. The art is equally claustrophobic when not downright disturbing. Revealing and witty, even when mired in darkness." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "The Cold Heat material from Jones, Santoro, and Vermilyea is... imaginative and, particularly with Vermilyea at the drawing table, sharply delineated, as is Vermilyea's delightfully sick solo material. Josh Simmons impresses with his blackly comic strips... Tim Hensley kills it as always with the concluding chapters in his Wally Gropius saga, featuring peerlessly communicated body language perhaps the greatest anti-climax in comics history. I think this is some of the tightest material we've seen yet from Sara Edward-Corbett... Lilli Carré is alarmingly good at depicting male lust. Nate Neal's not-so-instant-karma piece in Vol. 16 is explicit and haunting. Dash Shaw is a restless talent, albeit so restless he never seems to settle down even in the middle of any given strip." – Sean T. Collins on Mome Vols. 14, 15 & 16
• Review: Lene Taylor of the I Read Comics podcast wonders if the humor in Jason's Low Moon exists in an alternate world (beware of spoilers)
• Review: Google Translate creates poetry out of this Portuguese review of Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron by Daniel Clowes at O Recíproco Inverso: "The art that is what Daniel Clowes you do best: people ugly. All the characters are people from day to day, dark circles, old-fashioned clothes, hair loss... out the freaks that appear, like the girl in the form of potato or the dog itself without holes, op. You see, the Daniel Clowes does not draw badly, he draws very well what he wants to show. That is, ugly people. I will not give star ratings do not pro book, this is very scrotum. Just know that it's cool."
• Plug: "One hell of a messed-up book. ... Pim & Francie are Columbia's pet subjects — a pair of cute kids who are always stumbling into horrific nightmare scenarios. This isn't quite a collection of stories about them: it's a collection of Columbia's rough and finished materials concerning them that keeps veering toward storyhood, then jerking the steering wheel and plunging over the nearest cliff." — Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
• Plug: Chris Mautner of Robot 6 rediscovers Zero Zero by way of our 99 Cent Comics sale (issues are selling out fast): "Re-reading this stuff, it really startles me just how good and how ignored this series was and continues to be. I mean, the level of talent in these pages is staggering. Kim Deitch's Search for Smilin' Ed! Dave Cooper's Crumple! Richard Sala's The Chuckling Whatsit! Joe Sacco's Christmas with Karadsic! Not to mention Max Andersson, Skip Williamson, Mack White, Sam Henderson, Michael Kupperman, David Mazzuchelli and so many more. This really was the best anthology of the 90s, bar none."
• Preview: The Comics Reporter spills the beans on one of our 2010 releases: Drew Weing's Set to Sea
Your Online Commentary & Diversions-style goodies for today:
• Review: "...[F]or fans of off-beat crime..., I give you Jacques Tardi’s no-shit brilliant adaptation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s West Coast Blues. ... [W]hat starts out as something straight out of a Hitchcock classic like North by Northwest soon escalates into something more savage, more profound, and utterly wonderful... It succeeds brilliantly in good old-fashioned crime thrills, for sure. The violence is brutal, the story exciting and surprising, and the characters are brilliantly rendered. But then there’s that extra little layer, those subtle themes, those strange details, the lyrical narration passages — let’s just stop and cut to the fucking chase: you should just pick this shit up and be floored. This is about as good as comics get, dear readers." – BSCreview
• Review: "The rape of the innocent. The callousness of the machine. The girth of the profiteers. The threat of the bomb. The hollowness of the victories. [Craig] Yoe has collected more than 220 of those anti-war cartoons in [The Great Anti-War Cartoons,] a book of indelible images that remind us those confrontations aren't what they used to be." – Steve Duin, The Oregonian
• Plug: "[Zak] Sally's one of those artists who can convey a sense of dread or horror out of seeming thin air, and he's really been on the periphery for far too long now. Hopefully [Like a Dog] will thrust him into the limelight." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Interview: At Marvel.com, Sean T. Collins talks to Paul Hornschemeier about his Strange Tales contribution: "I think this story is far more cerebral than the typical mainstream comics, for better or worse. But it will be brightly colored, so hopefully that will get everyone though the awful philosophical ranting I'm about to unleash. Get ready for more shots from my boredom gun." (Paul offers a couple of corrections at his blog)
• Interview: Lauren McKinley of [^]LAND talks to Fantagraphics art director Jacob Covey: "I'd say my style is heavily influenced by where I first learned how to design — making photocopied black and white flyers for rock shows. I feel like that, far more than anything else, taught me most of what I've learned about how to make type and image work."
• Analysis: More commentary on the future of The Comics Journal, this time from CBR's Augie De Blieck Jr.
Scheduled to arrive in comics shops across the country this week: Like a Dog by Zak Sally. This hardcover one-man anthology (not entirely accurate: there are two collaborative pieces in there) collects the first two issues of Sally's Eisner-nominated self-published series Recidivist along with short stories from Mome and elsewhere. Our usual battery of previews & reviews can be found here; check with your local shop to confirm availability because your time is valuable and gas is still pretty expensive.