• 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."
• 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
• Interview (Video):VICE's Rocco Castoro: "Johnny Ryan has been filling the back page of VICE magazine with twisted comics for the past ten years. Not to toot our own horn here, but it's fair to say that his strips are some of the funniest and grossest being published anywhere right now. We sat down with Johnny at his house in LA to discuss how he got started, his feelings towards R. Crumb, and how he used to barely give a shit about the work he submitted to us."
• Interview: At Stumptown, our pal Gavin Lees sat down for a chat with the great Stan Sakai on assignment for Bleeding Cool: "My abilities as a storyteller have matured over the years, I hope, and if you look at the early years of Usagi, you can see a huge difference in the character. His proportions have changed — at the beginning, he was maybe three-heads high, now he’s more like five-heads. So, he’s gotten sleeker and he’s not as cuddly any more. That may be because I’ve concentrated on more dramatic stories, rather than humorous, as the series went on. Most of the changes are unconscious on my part, though, just myself maturing as an artist and a storyteller."
• Review: "Austrian cartoonist Nicholas Mahler cheerfully spoofs superheroes and modern comic-book publishing with Angelman... These kinds of jokes about the venality of superhero industry have been made many times before, but Mahler’s little squiggly characters are adorable, and his gags are genuinely funny, especially as poor little Angelman gets more and more loaded down with quirks and complications. Angelman is a satire, yes, but it also revels to some extent in the goofiness of revamps, retcons, and all the other gimmicks that keep mainstream comics afloat." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "The Matthias Wivel-edited anthology Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now offers a generous sampling of recent work by new and veteran cartoonists from Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark.... Overall, it’s a fine survey of creators who are largely unknown here in the States." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Spain Rodriguez is one of the legends of the original underground comics wave, and he tells his own origin story in Cruisin’ with the Hound: The Life and Times of Fred Tooté, a collection of short stories about coming of age in Buffalo in the ’50s and ’60s. ...Cruisin’ with the Hound... gives a real flavor both of Rodriguez’s work — which was so different in its point of view than the other underground comics of the late ’60s and early ’70s — and from whence it came." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "It's over. And I am so sad. Fantagraphics's breathtaking reprints of some of the greatest comic strips of all time -- E.C. Segar's fabulously wonderful Popeye -- comes to a conclusion with this amazing sixth volume, a perfect collection of comics art that brings joy literally from cover to cover. From the latest spectacular die-cut front cover to the awesomely odd letter reprinted on the inside back cover, the final volume of the adventures of the sailor man and his friends, enemies and pets is pure joy and bliss, a deliriously charming collection... There was no world quite like the insane world that E.C. Segar created in Popeye. And that world is pure magic." – Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
• Review: "One of the most beloved comic strips of all time, Charles Schulz's Peanuts chronicled the adventures of Charlie Brown and friends for nearly five decades. Fantagraphics has been working for a few years now on a massive reissue of the entire strip, and their latest edition, The Complete Peanuts 1983-1984, collects work from the post-'classic' Peanuts era of the '60s. While it wouldn't be unfair to expect a bit of staleness at this stage, these later comics remain consistently witty and entertaining, and reflect Schulz's continued mastery of comedic timing within a four-panel layout.... Consistently subtle yet always timely, after 30 years, Schulz still had a winning formula on his hands." – Phil Guie, Critical Mob
• Interview (Audio): Podcaster Jason Barr: "Johnny Ryan guests on this addition of A.D.D. We talk about political correctness, illustration, growing up outside Boston, religion, wanting to be a priest, childhood loves, hating Doonesbury, having a funny family, not giving a shit, confrontational art, marriage & why people are afraid of Johnny Ryan among many other topics."
• Feature: "Love and Rockets has probably been my favorite comic book series for over a decade now. Though it’s been running since the early '80s, I didn’t discover it until Penny Century #1 came out in the late 90s -- I was immediately drawn to the cover art (as seen here), and the story within wasn’t at all what I expected. Of course, I immediately started reading all the collections starting from the beginning, so I could figure out who these characters were and discover their rich backstories." – Alicia Korenman, Chapelboro
• Plug: "Available now is an exceptional collection that just might have missed your attention. I have particularly enjoyed [The Sincerest Form of Parody].... This collects the 30 best stories from all the wild comics that came out to compete with EC's original Mad Comics, in 1953-55.... Plus I enjoy every project editor JohnBenson writes about. He offers fascinating insights into each of these disparate titles, interesting facts about the artists and even what they were spoofing." – Bud Plant
• Plug: On YALSA's The Hub blog, Emily Calkins includes Wandering Son by Shimura Takako on their list of graphic novels featuring LGBTQ characters
• Interview (Audio): Listen to Monday night's episode of Too Much Information on WFMU, in which "Cartoonist Bill Griffith joins Benjamen Walker for an hour long conversation about Underground comics, Newspaper strips and Mainstream culture."
• List: For The Guardian, comics creators Bryan & Mary Talbot select their top 10 graphic memoirs, with Joe Sacco's Palestine at #4: "Sacco was trained as a journalist and singlehandedly created the genre of reportage in graphic novel form. Immersing himself in a situation, his in-depth reports use the medium of comics to its full potential. Like his Safe Area Gorazde or recent Footnotes in Gaza, Palestine follows his experiences as he investigates events and interviews residents, explaining the history, politics and dynamics of the place as he goes along. The palpable sense of place and the feeling that we're in the presence of the people who relate their experiences to him (and therefore to us) is a testament to his storytelling skills, his work being far more intimate than that of a filmed documentary. Sacco is a master of this medium."
• Feature: "Compiling the book was a learning experience for Thomas... 'They (the Panthers) switched from a gun-toting paramilitary organization to a more community-based entity offering free food, clothing, and medical care,' he says. And, perhaps, this may be Listen, Whitey!’s biggest strength — and greatest contribution — to future discourse about this topic that has been so distorted and misrepresented in its presentation to the consciousness of mainstream America. Maybe now, 40 years after the histrionics and exaggeration, enough time has passed so the emergence of Black consciousness can be scrutinized with a measure of clarity." – Gregg Reese, Our Weekly
• Interview: At The Atlantic, Steven Heller has a Q&A with Daniel Clowes: "I was trying to get work as an illustrator in the '80s, but no art directors actually ever called, which is what led me to throw up my hands in despair and slink back to comics. Originally, I was hoping to find a writer to collaborate with, since I was much more interested in the drawing part of the equation, but that didn't work out. And so I began writing my own stories."
• Review: "The names here are mysterious, but the book makes a good case for many of the artists to be better known, which seems to be its intent. Tommi Musturi’s 'Samuel' stories, for example, several of which are included, are colorful, wordless, and Zen-like in their focus on the here and now. Joanna Rubin Dranger’s 'Always Prepared to Die for My Child' is another highlight, with simple drawings that manage to convey a lot. And Jenni Rope’s minimalist stories, which nearly bookend the volume, are poetic and impressive.... The number of woman cartoonists is also worth noting, partially because there’s no attention called to it. Kolor Klimax is a good first offering and may well indicate a series worth revisiting." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Review: "Between the heavy cross hatching and almost wood-carved appearance of Rickheit’s art and his fixation on the degraded physical form, Folly often looks like a Jan Svankmajer film or Tool video adapted by Geof Darrow or Jim Woodring. Rickheit’s work is visually striking... Folly is a gorgeous but uncomfortable collection best enjoyed a few pages at a time." – Garrett Martin, Paste
• Review: "Like a Velvet Glove [Cast in Iron] is an early work by a creator who will later become one of the artform's greatest creators. There are themes and moments in this book that will be revisited in Clowes's later works, and revisited in smarter and more focused ways in some of his newer and greater works. Daniel Clowes is clearly building his skillset in this book, as he works on his art style, story progression and thematic obsessions. But it's still an incredible work of art that shifted my perceptions of the world a bit as well." – Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
• Interview (Audio): Mike Dawson's final guest as host of The Comics Journal's "TCJ Talkies" podcast is Tim Kreider, about whom Dawson writes in his intro, "Tim has often insisted that he doesn’t consider himself a proper political cartoonist, but was only drafted into writing about current events by the lunacy of the times. It’s true that going back and re-reading Tim’s comics in the run-up to the Iraq war, is a vivid reminder of how hysterical things were at that time (not in a good way)."
• Analysis: Matt Seneca examines a 1937 Krazy Kat strip for his column at Robot 6: "This page expresses a single gem of an idea, duality of character. It’s an idea both simple and profound, perfectly suited to Herriman’s aesthetic, and the way it’s put forth is so straightforward that it’s easy to read the strip over time and again before realizing that what it achieves could only be done using the comics medium."
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