We were delighted to be joined by Jeffrey Brown, who was in town for a screening of his film Save the Date at the Seattle International Film Festival! He graciously signed copies of his best-selling new book Darth Vader and Son, and even more graciously (way more graciously), chat with lil' ol me about the new movie, his upcoming books, and, well... cats. Kinda.
• Review: "Beyond the quality of the artwork, which remains amazingly detailed and perfectly perfect in its storytelling,Dungeon Quest is really funny, the humor sometimes seeming dissonant — but pleasingly so — given the seriousness with which Daly approaches, say, drawing a rock-strewn valley or depicting a slow, tiring march through a forest (It’s almost Tolkeinesque in his commitment to describing walking!) or choreographing a thrilling action scene." – J. Caleb Mozzocco, Robot 6
• Review (Audio): The guys at Washington, D.C.'s Big Planet Comics discuss Angelman by Nicolas Mahler on this week's episode of their podcast, declaring "if you're sensitive about your love of superhero comics, this is probably not for you, but if you want awesomely cool cartooning art by Mahler and something really different, here you go. It's funny too."
• Awards: Congratulations to the great Joost Swarte, awarded the 2012 Marten Toonder Prize and its concomitant fat cash prize by the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture, as reported by Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter
• Review (Audio):Inkstuds host Robin McConnell is joined by Paul Gravett, Joe McCulloch and Tom Spurgeon for a roundtable discussion of Cruisin' with the Hound by Spain Rodriguez and other books
• Review: "Here are the early ejaculations from the primordial form of what was to become one of the great American writers. Here is Flannery O'Connor as she is formulating her unique vision of America and all that it entails.... What value does Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons have inherently? I think the answer to that question is entirely subjective. ...I personally wish to thank Fantagraphics for going out on a limb and publishing this book, if for no other reason than to put Flannery O'Connor back into the pop culture discussion for however briefly it may be." – Daniel Elkin, Comics Bulletin
• Review: "Anyone can be grotesque and horrifying. To truly get under the skin of the audience is an ability not many have. Someone who does is Thomas Ott, and he uses his ability to the highest effect in Cinema Panopticum. ...[I]f you are looking for an unsettling horror story rendered beautifully by an expert craftsman there is no doubt this should be in your collection." – Taylor Pithers, The Weekly Crisis
• Interview (Audio): Spend 3 minutes with Michael Kupperman as Tom Gambino of Pronto Comics talks to Michael from the floor of last April's MoCCA Fest on the ProntoCast podcast
• Film Studies: At Boing Boing, Jim Woodring writes about the 1931 Fleischer Bros. short that expanded his young mind: "I might have come to grips with the overwhelming mystery of life in a rational, organic manner if it weren't for a cartoon I saw on my family's old black and white TV in the mid '50s when I was three or four years old. This cartoon rang a bell so loud that I can still feel its reverberations.... Whatever [the creators'] motivation and intent, 'Bimbo's Initiation' became my prime symbolic interpreter, the foundation of my life's path and endlessly exploding bomb at the core of my creative output."
• Review: "The sad, forgotten beauty of the in-between moments of daily life: playing a board game at a kitchen table just cleared from a family dinner; listening to music having just slipped off your shoes; daydreaming while doing the dishes. What would it be like if a series of graphic novellas tried to capture these moments? What if it also featured an omnipresent, invisible rabbit that could change sizes and a dark, cloud-shaped creature ('the Big Blind') living in the basement of an apartment building that fed on the memories, dreams, and nightmares of its inhabitants? It would probably be something like the Italian comic-book creator Gabriella Giandelli’s... Interiorae." – Nicholas Rombes, Oxford American
• Preview: At The Beat, Jessica Lee presents a 5 page sneak peek of the new book by Josh Simmons, saying "Toying with the vulnerability of characters that seem timelessly recognizable, i.e. fairies in a fantastical land or a batman-esque figure scaling a wall, The Furry Trap is a graphic novel that is set to shock and appall its reader, yet Simmons is able to retain an even stronger range of visual style that makes this graphic novel’s scope extend further than being just a horrific tale."
• Plug: "...[T]he new volume of Prince Valiant, volume 5, is here and an event all its own. Fantagraphics' new hardcover printings of these wonderful Hal Foster Sunday pages offers the finest reproduction yet, far superior to their old softcover series. While I own the original Sunday pages, collected years ago, I could not resist sitting down with these new volumes and getting re-hooked on the stories AND art by one of the very true masters of comic art." – Bud Plant
• Plug: "Out of the Shadows deserves your attention. Meskin is one of my favorite artists from the 1940s and 1950s.... Mort's work here are some of the hidden gems of the Golden Age.... This book comes a long way to reveal this incredible talent who rose above the mass of Golden Age artists." – Bud Plant
• Preview/Interview: At Print Magazine, Michael Dooley presents a bunch of pages of The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s Mad-Inspired Satirical Comics and has a quick Q&A with editor John Benson: "When Isaac Asimov edited his massive Before the Golden Age anthology of 1930s science fiction... he relied entirely on his memories of reading the stories when they first appeared, and that's how he made his selections. Similarly, Jules Feiffer largely relied on his memories of the stories from his original reading when making selections for his seminal The Great Comic Book Heroes in 1965. Like the Asimov and Feiffer books, The Sincerest Form of Parody is partly an exercise in nostalgia, so in making my selections, I think it's fair to give some consideration to my reaction to the material when I first saw it."
• Review: "...Fantagraphics recently unlocked whatever crate must have been used to house Mr. Twee Deedle: Raggedy Ann's Sprightly Cousin: The Forgotten Fantasy Masterpieces of Johnny Gruelle. Over a foot long and over a foot-and-a-half tall, the hardcover features the most beautiful endpapers in recent memory. Gruelle’s artwork is full of whimsy, presented in both the richest nostalgic color and black and white. The narrative involves two children on a journey through a magical land as guided by a wood sprite, but this is truthfully an art book. It’s meant to be read sprawled out on the floor, the only surface in an average reader’s home that is likely large enough to properly balance this fine luxury. Rick Marschall provides a lengthy, informative essay that is lavishly accompanied by further illustrations." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious
• Review: "In an age of indie-comics dependent upon the banality of the everyday, a hesitant realism, Rickheit eschews reality in favor of the impossible, a state of existence that is truly fantastical. But this is not a utopia, this is a world entirely of the body, though not only the body of human beings, but the body of all living meat, of anything that breathes and shits. This is a world of pure imagination, of subconscious desires let loose with an acutely detailed drawing style. And ultimately, [Folly]’s a perfect work for those who refuse to float away from their bodies but are ready to let their heads go where-ever one can find the new." – Invisible Mike, HTMLGIANT
• Tweet of the Day: "I just read The Furry Trap by Josh Simmons; I'll be on the Internet the rest of the day looking for instructions on how to boil my eyes." – Tom Spurgeon (@comicsreporter)
• Review: "Josh Simmons' book The Furry Trap is truly disturbing in its depravity. Makes Ultra Gash Inferno look cute. An inspiring & exhilarating read! How many comics can you honestly say made you sick or upset when you read them? Furry Trap made me question the First Amendment at times." – Sammy Harkham
• Review: "By this point, the reader will know if [Dungeon Quest] is their cup of tea; anyone who enjoys alt-comics takes on fantasy and/or stoner humor will find this a sheer delight. I'd say the sheer level of craftsmanship and the way Daly shifts storytelling modes so quickly would at least interest other readers, especially those who enjoy deadpan absurdism, since that's the core of Daly's sense of humor. For the continuing fan of this series, Daly continues to raise the stakes in each volume and adds richness and depth for those who are looking for more detail. Above all else, he does for the reader what he does with his party: he keeps things moving even when his characters are navel-gazing." – Rob Clough, High-Low
• Review: "...Moto Hagio has more on her agenda than simply trotting out tired 'girly' storylines. Her protagonists struggle with loss, rejection, and insecurity in a manner sure to strike readers as honest and familiar, never reductive or patronizing.... The stories collected here [in A Drunken Dream] span 31 years of Hagio’s career and, while the later stories do seem a bit looser and more confident, the earlier stories certainly don’t suffer by comparison." – Andrew Fuerste-Henry, No Flying No Tights
• Review: "Boasting [Fantagraphics'] usual high-production values and showcasing the genesis of the indie comics icon, [Usagi Yojimbo, Book 1:] The Ronin is a meticulously curated artifact of comics history.... The book is worth buying for the art alone. Sharply reproduced on gratifyingly durable stock, the quality of the lines leap out from the page even in these early stories." – Abhimanyu Das, Slant Magazine
• Profile: At Comic Book Resources, Shaun Manning talks to Nicolas Mahler about his superhero spoof Angelman: "Mahler said he does not have an in-depth knowledge of the major events and storylines [in superhero comics] of recent years, but said he is still familiar with the culture. 'I think my point of view is very '80s, that is when I stopped reading them,' he said. 'After that, I only have very superficial information. I know more about the fanboys, actually. I enjoy the scene around superheroes more than the stories themselves. I like it when people take this very seriously, and can debate endlessly about little faults in a superhero's universe."'
• Interview: Following an introduction in his native Greek, Comicdom's Tomas Papadimitropoulos posts his untranslated (i.e. English) Q&A with Hans Rickheit: "I am compelled to draw these comics.... These stories follow a certain pattern of logic that makes sense to me. I don’t have the vocabulary to explain how it works, that is why I draw them as comic strips."
• Interview:The A.V. Club's Keith Phipps has a great Q&A with Daniel Clowes: "I can look at my early work and see what a pained struggle it was to draw what I was drawing. I was trying so hard to get this specific look that was in my head, and always falling short. I could see the frustration in the lines, and I remember my hand being tensed and redrawing things a thousand times until I finally inked it, and just having this general tense anxiety about every drawing. I think that comes through in the artwork, and gives it this certain kind of manic energy, this kind of repressed energy, so you feel like it’s sort of bursting at the seams or something."
• Interview (Audio):Daniel Clowes sits down for a chat on Bay Area NPR station KQED's Forum with host Michael Krasny
• Video: Via Meltdown Comics and Boing Boing, a charming short film by Rocío Mesa about a couple of dedicated Daniel Clowes fans
• Plug: "...[W]e recommend checking out Love and Rockets Library: The Complete Vol. 1 from Fantagraphics, which collects every issue of the landmark alt-comic series between 1982 and 1996. In Love and Rockets, Gilbert and his brother Jaime Hernandez wrote stories ranging from satire to political intrigue, and introduced such noteworthy characters as Luba, the temperamental, full-figured mayor of a Central American village, and Maggie Chascarrillo, a punk rock-loving Mexican girl who becomes a solar mechanic. ...[T]here's no better time to become a Los Bros Hernandez zombie than right now." – Phil Guie, Critical Mob
• Feature: At Print magazine, Michael Dooley spotlights the new 13th issue of Squa Tront — "...Squa Tront has set itself out to explore every facet of EC's history, through stimulating, in-depth journalism, scholarly analyses, critiques, bios, interviews, and, of course, illustrations. Under the supervision of its current editor, John Benson, it has established a high standard for fanzine professionalism, in both literary content and production values." — with a generous sampling of images and an interview with Benson: "But really, as far as Squa Tront goes, what sustains my interest most is probably my love of print media and the pleasure of creating a physical package."
• Review: "Oftentimes the first volume of an archival project gets greeted with a lot of ballyhoo while later volumes fail to get any ink, even though the later books represent the subject in question better than the earlier, more fumbling work. So let this serve as notice that the third volume of the Blake Bell-edited series [The Steve Ditko Archives] is the best one yet, showing Ditko in 1957, about to turn 30 and learning to deploy his distinctive faces and abstract shapes in the service of stories with real flow. ...[T]he nightmarish visions of stories like 'The Man Who Lost His Face' and 'The Last One' are classic Ditko, with off-kilter panel designs and anguished figures conveying a sense of sanity slipping away." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Blood of Palomar is a thrilling book... Hernández’s writing and artwork are excellent. The black-and-white pen work is perfect — there are a vividness and richness to the action, story, and scenes already that would likely be drowned in color. With 34 characters and multiple story threads, a first read can be dizzying, yet all is exquisitely kept in balance. Though certainly most characters are not given much depth, the large cast gives the sense of a real community. The main characters are complex, flawed, and fascinating.... Blood of Palomar haunted my thoughts long after I finished reading." – Michael Stock, The Capeless Crusader
• Plug: "How to best demonstrate the awesome might of Fantagraphics' new Johnny Gruelle collection, Mr. Twee Deedle?... It's more akin to flipping the pages of a wallpaper sampler than a collection of historic comics.... It dominates the largest clear surface in my house — the kitchen island — like a B-52 bomber somehow parked astride an aircraft carrier's deck. And then you open it up. ...[T]he art on the page is massive, but filled with delicate details.... Many of the strips are illustrated from eye-level of small children, and the natural world around the characters seems almost life-sized." – John Mesjak, My 3 Books
• Plug: "Comics have long been home to a variety of races, be it alien or underground or from an alternate dimension. But in the 100-plus year history of comics, one of the toughest for creators to portray accurately is that of black characters. And now Fantagraphics is putting back in print a key work examining that strained relationship, Fredrik Strömberg‘s Eisner-nominated Black Images in the Comics: A Visual History." – Chris Arrant, Robot 6
• Review: "Certainly, the comic’s self-contained gag-a-day format, along with the clarity and force of Bushmiller’s compositions, can often make each strip seem like an instance of emphatic singularity, a totem to be worshipped in dumb awe. But Nancy Is Happy returns to this gag-a-day strip precisely its daily qualities, so often overlooked. There is, we rediscover, an aspect of the quotidian to Nancy, a rhythmic unfolding in time, an ordinariness repeated with such unrelenting frequency that we’ve opted to shunt it into the sublime. Reading Nancy in continuity, rather than in isolation, may be an unfamiliar experience, but it is one which reveals the strip’s patient and inquisitive reaction to the bric-a-brac and ins-and-outs of everyday life—an attentive curiosity whose effect is diminished by removing the comics from their daily or weekly contexts." – Sean Rogers, The Comics Journal [Disclosure: I stole the pull-quote from TCJ.com editor Dan Nadel – Ed.]
• Interview:Inkstuds podcast host says "Sammy the Mouse cartoonist/publisher/printer Zak Sally joined me for a comics talk that goes into some interesting directions. We cover his latest book, as well as variety of funny book topics."
• Hooray for Hollywood:Screen Daily reports that the in-development film adaptation of Jason's I Killed Adolf Hitler has a director attached, a cult-fave actor in casting talks, and a CGI Hitler
"This book is considered a pioneering example of shonen-ai (boys’ love), often referred to as yaoi in the United States. In a German boarding school, young Thomas Werner kills himself because of unrequited love for a schoolmate, who is in fact in love with Thomas, but secretly. Unpacking the emotional threads among the boys and their fellows leads to a sophisticated and beautifully drawn melodrama."
"Herewith a color and black-and-white sampler from a less-recognized underground of gay comics from the past four decades, including Bechdel and Cruse, Europe’s Ralf Koenig, and 2011 ALA keynote speaker Dan Savage (Savage Love; The Kid; It Gets Better). Fantagraphics promises 'smart, funny, and profound' — and uncensored."
"A serious yet sweet fifth-grade drama about several boys and girls who want to change their gender. Unlike many manga involving boy/girl reversals, this one does not play gender issues for laughs, even if gentle comedy enters the picture along with serious emotional drama."
• Review: "The seventeenth volume of this great series from Fantagraphics [The Compete Peanuts] is just as delightful as all the rest. Yes, the ink line of Charles Schulz is a little wobbly at times, but his humor is just as sharp as ever.... I’ve said it before, but if you want reading material that will make you smile and laugh it’s hard to beat this series. And I’m continuing to admire the subtle and classy cover designs by Seth. Highly recommended." – Todd Klein
• Interview: At The Art Newspaper, Sarah Douglas chats with Robert Crumb about his museum retrospective show in Paris: "The contemporary fine art world has never particularly interested me. They started to embrace me and have big fancy gallery shows and museum shows. I’m one of the few cartoonists who mainly work for print who is now finding their way into the fine art world, and it’s the choice of the fine art world; it’s not my choice. I haven’t consciously promoted myself in that world."
• Commentary: At The Comics Journal, R. Fiore uses Mark Kalesniko's graphic novel Freeway as a springboard to discuss the history of American animation: "The eponymous metaphor of Mark Kalesniko’s Freeway is almost too easy: A transportation network that once granted free and effortless mobility that’s become a morass of stagnation and frustration to symbolize an animation business that promised personal expression amid camaraderie but delivers forced mediocrity in an atmosphere of Machiavellian backbiting. Condemned to a purgatorial traffic jam, Kalesniko’s dog-headed alter ego Alex grinds his teeth to reminiscences about his thwarted career, potentially idyllic but presently in-law plagued romance, and his abortive first expedition into Los Angeles, intermixed with idealized visions of animation’s golden age and premonitions of [SPOILER REDACTED – Ed.]."
• Commentary: "I’d love to see Locas become a well-made animated television series, because I feel like Jaime Hernandez’ work deserves the widest-possible audience. But is such an idea messing with a classic that doesn’t need such 'help'?" – Graeme McMillan, Spinoff Online
Starting to catch up on Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "The frighteningly hilarious world of Rickheit’s graphic novel is a deranged cabinet of curiosities, full of biomechanical tanks, writhing organic matter, amorphous monsters birthing adorable kittens, men and women in animal masks, and countless tubes, gas masks, sex toys, and pseudo-Victorian apocalyptic landscapes. It would all be too oppressive if Rickheit’s sense of humor weren’t so addictive.... This juxtaposition of dry humor undercuts the richly drawn horror of Folly, simultaneously adding to its strangeness and making it bearable for a casual read... The result is a narrative mosaic that pairs sumptuous, horrific imagery against a strange but lighthearted sense of humor." – Publishers Weekly
• Review:Walter Wehus looks at Kolor Klimax; key quote as translated by Kolor Klimax editor Matthias Wivel: "the common aspect is quality"
• Review: "While exploring this collection, I found myself enjoying the various challenges it presented. It did dare me to eschew my 'western' values of linear, results oriented thinking and simply give way to my intuitive understanding of the art before me. I can’t honestly say I 'get' every comic contained withing this anthology [Abstract Comics]... nor can I truly say I learned something about the medium that I didn’t already know. But to see comics stripped of their representational elements does amplify certain things that are so unique about the medium and probably reveals its potential even more fully. These are comics to be experienced." – Jason Newcomb, StashMyComics
• Preview:The Beat's Jessica Lee presents a 6-page preview of Nicolas Mahler's Angelman, saying "If you’ve noticed yourself to be a comic enthusiast who has become more and more disillusioned with the corporate transformation of super-hero comics, Angelman could well be the fresh breath of illustrated air you’ve been yearning for. What could easily be one of the most comedic releases thus far this year, Fantagraphics is releasing (in hardcover no less!) a new graphic commentary of the often-times outrageous and unbelievable trends in the comic industry."
• Profile:The Wall Street Journal's Ralph Gardner Jr. on the work and career of Drew Friedman: "Mr. Friedman's genius is that, on some level, his work is never utterly absent affection, or his subjects black and white, even when they're literally drawn in black and white. It might be a stretch to say that the artist captures their underlying humanity. What he does provide is a picture window onto their troubled psyches so that they and their moral afflictions, whatever they are, must be taken seriously."
• Interview: I don't think we've previously linked to Ted Widmer's career-spanning interview with Robert Crumb from the Summer 2010 issue of The Paris Review: "I was so eccentric when I was seventeen, eighteen, I used to walk around town wearing an Abe Lincoln frock coat and a stovepipe hat that I’d found in some junk store, defying people to ridicule me or think me eccentric. I was a teenage social outcast. At the time it made me feel very depressed, and rejected by girls. Later I realized I was actually quite lucky because it freed me. I was free to develop and explore on my own all these byways of the culture that, if you’re accepted, you just don’t do. I was free to explore the things that interested me."
• Interview (Audio): The Daniel Clowes victory lap continues with an appearance Monday on NPR's Morning Edition: "Clowes never aimed to be the kind of artist museums collect. But now, the walls of the Oakland Museum of California are covered with his drawings. It's 'quite embarrassing,' he laughs. After a stint as an art student at Brooklyn's Pratt Institute in the 1970s, Clowes tried unsuccessfully to get work as an illustrator. Sitting around drawing comics on his own, he decided to send a strip to underground publisher Fantagraphics. He was expecting rejection. Instead, 'they called me up and offered me a monthly comic book, and I felt like I hadn't earned anything,' he says. 'You know, it's like all of a sudden, you're being made president after you've been like, you know, on the city council in Cleveland.'" KQED also posts a couple of outtakes from the interview
• Interview: At The Comics Journal, Nicole Rudick talks with Diane Noomin about her new collection of DiDi Glitz stories, Glitz-2-Go: "In 1974, I did a full-fledged DiDi story for Wimmen’s Comix. It was four pages and was called “She Chose Crime”, and when I was putting this book together I realized that DiDi came out almost fully developed. She hasn’t changed, she hasn’t grown or anything like that. If I look at that first story, the drawing has changed and I’d like to think that certain things have gotten better, but in that story, DiDi’s persona is it. I don’t think I’d realized that."
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