• Review: "...Kevin Avery’s Everything Is an Afterthought... chronicles the dramatic life of one of music’s keenest observers, Paul Nelson, and curates his finest critiques.... I read and adored [Nelson] growing up, but reading [him] in the context of today’s critical standards gave me the literary equivalent to the bends. It goes without saying that, in the age of the Internet, the whole idea of a critic has changed." – Jim Farber, New York Daily News
• Review: "It could well be ten years since I last read these stories [in Queen of the Black Black], and I’d either forgotten or never appreciated (my money’s on the latter) how astute and insightful they could be. Like a proto-Kevin Huizenga, [Megan Kelso] repeatedly turns up little rocks of human experience and chronicles what’s going on underneath, reintroducing us to feelings, sensations, and experiences we’d forgotten we’d had but recognize as if they happened this morning." – Sean T. Collins, The Comics Journal
• Review: "This collection of early stories from Megan Kelso shows a natural flair for the form, mixed with a self-critical determination to hone her craft, that’s helped her blossom into a master storyteller.... Anyone looking for a masterful example of the short story in comics would do well to give [Queen of the Black Black] a try. Beautifully written and well illustrated, this a wonderful portfolio of work from a creator showing a deep well of promise from the start." – Grovel
• Review: "...[E]asily... one of my favorite horror comics and one of my contenders for my Best of 2011 list.... Not only is the book carefully structured, it looks stunning.... The Hidden is a story that must be experienced to fully appreciate... There is an excellent story of slow-building despair to be found in its pages, with gorgeous depictions and coloring and a horror story that shocks, surprises, and entertains. Don't let this one get hidden on your shelves! It may not be Halloween, but I still give this book my highest recommendation!" – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Review: "Volume 2 of Fantagraphics' Gottfredson Library, which takes us up through the beginning of 1934, maintains the high production standards and copious ancillaries of the first volume.... Tom Andrae's opening essay emphasizes, with good reason, how Gottfredson "spun off" many of his early narratives from the plots of animated cartoons. IMHO, however, the Mickey strip truly became "great" once Gottfredson gained the confidence to craft his own plots." – Chris Barat
• Profile:Paul Gravett surveys the work of David B. and presents a transcript of his bookstore discussion with the artist this past summer (hat tip to TCJ.com's Tim Hodler)
• Plug: Pulitzer-winning author and known Love and Rockets fan Junot Díaz names Poison River by Gilbert Hernandez (collected in Beyond Palomar) one of his top 10 favorite books in an excerpt from Unpacking My Library: Writers and their Books posted at The Financial Times
• Plug:Oil and Water receives an excellent feature in the new issue of the Audubon Society of Portland Warbler newsletter, which can be downloaded here
• Tribute: At The Comics Journal, Bill Griffith remembers meeting, and later collaborating with, the late Bil Keane: "I was surprised when Bil told me he read Zippy in his local Arizona paper and liked it. He didn’t even qualify his opinion with the usual, “Of course, I don’t always get it.” Until then, I hadn’t paid much attention to The Family Circus, but I slowly began to see that you could read more into it than what appeared on the surface. This was before internet wise guys began mashing up random Friedrich Nietzsche lines for Billy and Jeffy’s and riffing on the strip as unconscious surrealism. But The Family Circus didn’t need hipsters to substitute incongruous dialogue to make the case that it was unconscious surrealism. It was unconscious surrealism on its own."
• Review: "...[L]ike Herge, another exemplary creator who made comics primarily for kids and later found an audience of devoted adults, Barks’ duck stories are richer, more compelling and smarter than a cursory glance might suggest... Most reprint projects worth their salt these days require some thoughtful essays and supplemental materials and [Walt Disney's Donald Duck:] Lost in the Andes is no different.... In short, this is exactly the book that Barks fans and the curious have been waiting for. ...Barks remains an exemplary cartoonist. His work is thrilling, funny and rather knowing about human nature without ever seeming trite or obvious, and despite the occasional pop culture reference it hasn’t aged much over the decades either. How good was Carl Barks? Pretty goddamned good." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Reviews: "First and foremost, Willie & Joe are funny. Fantagraphics has put the WW II years out in paperback, but I've got the also available hardcover, a great looking slipcase in army green with two fat volumes of his captivating artwork. Never having served (or even fired a gun), it's an absorbing glimpse into the day to day life of soldiers while it was happening and the end not known. It's easy to identify with: employees in any capacity gripe about their bosses. But the more specific Mauldin is, the more biting and fascinating his work is.... Finally, it's Willie & Joe: Back Home that moved me the most.... Mauldin is always funny, but those with a rosy image of WW II will be surprised by the complex world shown here... Fantagraphics has captured Mauldin's most enduring characters in two releases that do him justice." – Michael Giltz, Huffington Post
• Commentary: On Amazon's books blog Omnivoracious, Alex Carr looks at Amazon's list of Best Comics & Graphic Novels of 2011 and comments, "Perhaps most rewarding, though, are Jaime Hernandez’s short stories in Love and Rockets: New Stories Vol. 4. The longtime creator completes a long-running narrative without grandiose preening, and the art is full of expression and effortless charm. The final pages speed toward a finish that will satisfy new readers and bring bittersweet conclusion for fans. It’s the best feeling for a Love and Rockets devotee: not wanting the decades-long love story to end but being so pleased with the way it may have (if this truly is the conclusion)."
• Interview:Comics Bulletin's Jason Sacks talks with Kevin Huizenga about the new issue of Ganges: "I don't like [the term] 'experimental,' because it gives the impression that the usual qualities of a good story are less important to me than formal trickery. I'm trying to draw something that I want to read, that I haven't seen before and that is still nicely designed and readable."
• Plug: "I have just received my review copy of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: 'Trapped on Treasure Island' and as amazing as it sounds David Gerstein and Fantagraphics have managed to do it again: they have produced at the same time the best Disney comic book of 2011 and one of the best Disney history books of the year." – Didier Ghez, Disney History
• Review: "Artists of vision toiling within the gears of a vision-suppressing machine, Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson drew and wrote great swathes of the best popular art of the twentieth century, mostly in the least auspicious venues available: comic books and comic strips credited to Walt Disney.... Fantagraphics is currently collecting the work of both artists: Barks's transcendent Donald and Scrooge McDuck comics, and Gottfredson's sprightly Mickey Mouse serials. To the publisher's credit, the books are gorgeous but designed for readability rather than coffee-table displaying. This is great art you can feel guilt-free perusing in the bathtub....
"The initial volume in the Barks series is... all pleasure, a treasury of deceptively simple gag and adventure stories that fashioned with wit, irony, and impeccable craftmanship.... The longer stories here... are suspenseful, surprising, funny, and fresh... These kids' comics are far from kids' stuff -- this is for everyone....
"Like the goofy, violent, darker-than-expected cliffhangers of the second Indiana Jones flick, Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse -- especially in in its second volume, covering 1932 and '33 -- is an exhausting achievement in can-you-top-this adventure storytelling.... This kids' stuff isn't for kids, either. But it's revealing and thrilling, both a guide to what's long been wrong with this country -- and guide to what's great in its imagination." – Alan Scherstuhl, SF Weekly
• Review: "...I’d been looking forward to the Fantagraphics [Carl Barks Library] series, and I’m happy to say it’s being done right.... I like to think that Carl Barks, an unpretentious storyteller who created for an audience of children whose intelligence, ingenuity and decency he never doubted, would approve and be gladdened by how his work, this time around, is being put back out into the world." – Tom De Haven, The Comics Journal
• Review: "...[I]n this insightful and riveting biography, Avery has brought the flat-capped, sunglassed, mustachioed, Nat Sherman-smoking, hamburger eating, and Coca-Cola guzzling wordsmith back to life; a writer as fascinating -- and frustrating -- as many of his interview subjects.... Thankfully, more than half of the books pages are given over to reprints of Nelson's own work... And while Everything Is an Afterthought will bring renewed attention to the work of Paul Nelson, it's the work of Kevin Avery that resonates most as he tries -- and succeeds as much as possible -- to unravel the enigma of Paul Nelson's mind." – Bob Ruggiero, Houston Press
• Review: "Michael Kupperman’s Tales Designed to Thrizzle #7 has many more laughs than it does pages. It’s jokes that build on jokes that lead to more jokes through left turns, fakes, surprises, and nerdy pop culture references.... One premise leads to the next, like one of the better episodes of Monty Python or Mr Show... – this book is funny enough to make you crack up on a crowded bus." – Tom Mohrman, CultureMob
• Interview: David Fernández of Zona Negativa has a career-spanning Q&A (in English and Spanish) with Jason: "You don’t do comics for the money. You do it for love of the medium, for the need to tell stories in images. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. You feel a connection to other struggling cartoonists. It’s something you have in common. There some humility in it. So there are very few cartoonist assholes. I haven’t met any."
As we were preparing for the art show, I thought it'd be fun to chat with the organizers of Short Run -- that would be, Martine Workman , Kelly Froh, Jenny Gialenes, Eroyn Franklin -- about the inaugural event:
So, how did the idea of Short Run come together?
Martine: I've been going to comics events since 2004, even though I don't really make comics. I always wanted to attend an event that welcomed all sorts of makers and small publishers of comics, writing, poetry, zines, and artist books. Last year Eroyn saw my work and contacted me out of the blue since we were both publishing our own books in Seattle. Our friendship grew out of conversations about self publishing, art, craftsmanship, and wanting to create a community for ourselves. Around this time, Profanity Hill was up and running for a bit, and it was exciting and surprising to see so much local work being made. After talking to my pal Jenny, who works in literary event promotion and moonlights as a zinester, it seemed possible to bring the self publishers of our region together by organizing a small press fest! She came up with the name -- which I love! -- and agreed to help coordinate the event. Kelly, a true blue mini-comix maker and fantastic organizer, joined us soon after and rounded out the group. We've had a lot of fun and I feel really lucky we work so well together as a team.
Jenny: The first night Martine and I spoke about Short Run, we were talking about the need for this kind of event - I had just come back from SF Zine Fest and felt like I found my mission in life. There was this sense of community there that I had only seen small glimpses of in Seattle.
What do you see as the main focus of Short Run?
Eroyn: Short Run hopes to extend Seattle's exposure to the small press world that exists within and around it. We want to expand the audience for small press work and let artists engage directly with the people who like what they do. Short Run will build on the small press community that we do have and foster communication between artists who work in different mediums and styles. As a group we don't commit to any particular medium or aesthetic -- we are not a comic-con or a craft fair or a zine festival but we encompass aspects of all of these because we think they can all be engaging.
How do you define what is "small press" to you?
Kelly: Small press, in regards to what you will see at Short Run, are hand-made, self-published, “short run” art books, comics, zines, and literary works. You’re going to see a lot of work that has been photocopied, screen-printed, side-stitched, glued, covered in gold leaf, stencil-cut, and folded in ways you can’t conceive of! Many of the artists and writers have had one or more of their books “professionally” published, or hope to some day, but Short Run’s heart is the home made.
Even though Fantagraphics won't have a table, several of our artists will be in attendance... like Megan Kelso! How did you get Megan involved?
Kelly: We are totally excited that Michael Dowers will be at Short Run! We don’t think mini-comix ever went away, but the people creating them scattered and many new comic artists were not aware of any kind of “scene”. Seattle does not have a Fallout Comix anymore, or a Confounded Books, or even a Pilot Books. Besides a few dusty spin racks, there is no physical hub for selling and sharing mini-comics. There are lone creators and drawing groups all over Seattle that meet on different nights in difference places, and mini-comics are being made.
Eroyn: The capability to self publish is more attainable than ever and people are definitely taking advantage of new technologies and affordable printing to produce great work.
Eroyn: Along with these stores and a few independent distros like Jason T. Miles’ Profanity Hill, we hope to help foster underground press in Seattle.
And, finally, what sort of future do you guys envision for Short Run? Do you hope to keep it small and local? Or will it eventually be the Seattle-version of an APE or Stumptown?
Jenny: I would like to see Short Run grow into itself organically. Big is not necessarily better - unless there is a solid community there providing the support. It's the difference between a stadium concert and going to see a local band at your favorite club - both have equal measure, they are just two very different experiences.
Kelly: It was our experiences at these larger festivals that helped us to decide what we did and didn’t want to be. We want to always be free to the public, and we want to always have low cost tables. Being local was really important to us as well, and one aim of Short Run was to draw out first-time tablers and try to reach people who had maybe shied away from other larger conventions. Looking over our exhibitor list, you will see that we have a lot of exhibitors from Portland. We can learn a lot from the comics community that they have built but Seattle has its own history of alternative cartoonists, and we need to grow from there. Short Run not only has a few of these “legends” of small press in attendance, but we have a ton of more obscure artists and writers, not only from comics, but from zines, animation, and the literary world. It’s a great showcase of artists and writers and we are really excited to share Short Run with Seattle!
• Review: "This collection of stories [The Man Who Grew His Beard] is a wonderful example of how an animator’s eye, artist’s hand, and storyteller’s vision can combine in a series of stylistic experiments that harken to a previous age of comics, but speak to the contemporary world we live in.... What’s impressive is the ease with which Schrauwen moves among various styles, affording him an extraordinarily wide range of visual tools... Sometimes looking like a throwback to vintage comics and sometimes like a clever homage to the Kama Sutra, this collection is, at all times, the work of a master storyteller." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: At Robot 6, Graeme McMillan compares and contrasts Kevin Huizenga's Ganges with the work of Eddie Campbell, concluding "Ganges #4 isn’t a quick read, and it isn’t necessarily an easy read. But it’s a great one, and it’s something that everyone should be picking up and reading. It’ll keep you awake at nights." McMillan also discusses Ganges #4 with co-host Jeff Lester on the new episode of the Wait, What? podcast
• Interview: At Publishers Weekly, James Romberger (who also happens to be a contributor to Mome) talks with Gary Groth about our series of Carl Barks collections and all things Barks: "Barks’ comics somehow flourished within the strictures he was given. His imagination allowed him to either use or ignore those boundaries to his advantage, just as, in a more interior way, [Charles] Schulz’s imagination allowed him so much play within the strictures he chose. Barks’ work could be absurdist, satirical, or farcical within an adventure setting, a travelogue, a domestic comedy while maintaining those small, innate human values that reposed within his characters."
• Profile: At Publishers Weekly, Steve Bunche, who says "Fantagraphics has done readers a great favor by releasing the first full collection of Nuts, the hilarious cult strip by famed Playboy and National Lampoon cartoonist Gahan Wilson," chats with Wilson about the strip: "...[P]eople seal off as they become adults and are no longer open to understanding. It's really sad to see happening. They get to take in less and less of what's around them and become more isolated. I mean, you go to your high school reunion and see the once-alive faces of the people you grew up with and you say, 'My god! What happened to Bob and Susan!' and whomever and it's just incredibly sad. Neil Gaiman's phrase, 'being surrounded by mad giants,' pretty succinctly sums it all up."
• Plug: "A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the comic strip Pogo. I lamented the lack of current Pogo anthologies — the old ones are practically rare books, and priced to match. Well, dog my cats, now comes a brand-new book, a compilation of the entire first year of strips, daily and Sunday, from Fantagraphics Books. Pogo: Through the Wild Blue Wonder by Walt Kelly may not be available in bookstores yet, but your friendly neighborhood bookseller would be happy to order it for you. It's a hefty volume, and will leave even the most dyspeptic Pogo fan wide-eyed with wonder and gratitude." – Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle
• Plug: Last night when John Hodgman was in town on his current book tour we presented him with a copy of Tony Millionaire's 500 Portraits, in which a drawing of him appears and about which he subsequently had this to say in part: "This makes me astonished and happy and embarrassed, for Tony Millionaire is one of our true genii. And too, look, right there on the same page is my old friend John Sellers! And Borges! And you were there, too, Cthulhu! I don’t know how those other guys crashed our party, though. In any case, you should go out and get this book. It’s absolutely beautiful, painstaking, and weird, inside and out, just like I imagine Tony is himself: the ORIGINAL deranged millionaire."
• Commentary: At Comic Book Resources, Laura Sneddon, who is documenting her experiences in the postgraduate Comic Studies program at the University of Dundee in Scotland, looks at Joe Sacco's Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde as the course turns its focus to "Documentary Comics"
• List: Thus beginneth the Best of 2011 links, as Publishers Weekly names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 by Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez one of their top 10 Best Comics of 2011: "Even in a long career of masterpieces, Jaime's story about missed opportunities for happiness is a revelation, while Gilbert continues to cement his place as the Jorodowsky of comics with a vampire tale."
• Review: "Another great issue, with the continuation and ending of 'The Love Bunglers,' from Jaime Hernandez. It's a real knockout and quite touching for those that have followed the strip and these characters since the eighties. You almost have to remind yourself that, yes, these are characters, not real people! Apparently, nobody told Jaime that the quality of one's work is supposed to go down after working on a strip that long." – Jason, at his Cats Without Dogs blog
• Commentary: "I've been thinking a lot about Jaime Hernandez's conclusion to his Locas story 'The Love Bunglers' (from L&R New Stories vol. 4) -- mainly b/c it was such an incredible piece that I cry every time I read it. I even recently threatened to force a friend to read all the Locas stuff, because it's so freaking good. But then I started wondering -- is it as awesome if you read it all at once?" – Alicia K., Wordnerdy
• Review: "Readers and admirers, myself included, often think of Gilbert as the better writer of the two brothers and Jaime as the better artist. With only a few exceptions, Gilbert has been the best writer in American comic books over a three decade period. No one has produced more beautiful art for black and white comics the way Jaime has over that same period, a period in which he has been the best comic book artist in North America. 'Browntown' is one of the stories in which Jaime shows that he can write as well as draw comic books better than most and as good as the very best.... 'Browntown' is an incredible story with a sense of realism and gravity unseen in most comic books. 'Browntown' alone makes Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 one of the best comic books of 2010." – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "Love and Rockets: New Stories #2 reminds us, as the first issue did, that comic books from the Hernandez Brothers are always a welcome thing. A year may be a long wait, but when it comes to Los Bros’ coolness and greatness, time is neutral. I can always reread this and enjoy it just as much as I did the first time." – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "...Nuts, which ran in National Lampoon throughout the ’70s, ...offered a largely autobiographical look at the way childhood actually is: a perpetually confusing state of existence, in which kids are jostled to and fro by adults who don’t seem to know what they’re doing (but want to make sure that their offspring are parked somewhere out of the way while they do it).... They’re wonderful pieces of comic art..., applying Wilson’s usual sense of the grotesque and macabre to phenomena like summer camp and sick days. And they’re not all bitter either... He mixes the sour and the sweet exceptionally well." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Plug: "I’ve written at length about this strip [Nuts] before, but it’s worth reiterating I think just how goddamn wonderful this comic is, and how great it is to have a decent collection available after lying fallow for so long. Wilson captures the anxieties and traumas of childhood as few cartoonists have before or since." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6 (for their weekly "What Are You Reading?" column which features our own Jacq Cohen this week)
• Review: "Again, stunning drawings. And quite bloody! Valiant is being tortured, people are killed left and right [in Prince Valiant Vol. 4]. There's a strange sequence in the book involving another knight, Tristram, who I don't think has been introduced earlier, that looks like a double of Valiant, but with a mustache! He is killed by a jealous king, but instead of Valiant and Gawain, who are there, seeking vengeance they just ride off. Not quite sure what was going on in Foster's mind there." – Jason, at his Cats Without Dogs blog
• Plugs: At The Beat, Torsten Adair spotlights a whole mess of our recent and upcoming releases, declaring "If you’re going to ship your book bucks to Washington, it’s better to send them to Fantagraphics than Amazon!"
• Plug: "Carl Barks was a genius when it came to turning Donald Duck and company into comic book characters, and his creation of Uncle Scrooge continues to delight and amuse countless generations. Thankfully, that trend will continue thanks to Fantagraphics’ release of Carl Barks’ Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes." – Kevin Kelly, Wizard World
• Review: "Gottfredson is in much stronger form here [in Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 2: Trapped on Treasure Island] than in the first volume, drawing upon the early Mickey cartoons for ideas — mad scientists, treasure hunts, mail pilots — but then expanding and developing them in a way those early Disney shorts were incapable of doing. Over time, Mickey’s personality becomes more refined as well; scrappier, tougher and more determined to seek justice (or an adventure) regardless of the odds. Again, part of the enjoyment for me with this series is the rich amount of historical material editors Gary Groth and David Gerstein are able to provide. From foreign material to biographies of various ancillary contributors, supplemental art, character histories and more, this series is rich with detail, both in the strip itself and in the editorial handling of the material, that puts other reprint projects to shame." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "What is good about Love and Rockets: New Stories [#1], however, is that it throws readers and fans a curve. Just what are Los Bros. going to do now? By going back to their early styles, in essence, they’ve allowed themselves a re-launch or at least a chance to throw many surprises at our expectations. Whatever they choose to do, it’ll still be the most interesting comics coming from America’s most literate, experimental, and adventurous comic book creators." – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Plug: "In these days of precious art comics and highfalutin graphic novels, it’s often forgotten that comic strips evolved for one (now quaint) reason: to sell newspapers. Cartoonists were commercial artists, not auteurs. [In Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising] you’ll find Peter Arno, the sophisticated New Yorker cartoonist, endorsing Rheingold Extra Dry Beer; Mickey Mouse and pals flogging just about everything under the sun except, maybe, mousetraps; and Krazy Kat selling Gulfsteel Nails. They are all Joe Camel’s ancestors." – Dana Jennings, The New York Times
• Interview: At Our Town Downtown, Cullen Gallagher, who says "...Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson [is] a deeply moving biography that captures not only Nelson’s tragedy, but also celebrates the ardor and artistry of his life and work," talks to the book's author/editor, Kevin Avery: "In the mid-to-late ’70s, rock music was still being discovered. There were no hard and fast rules, so in a way criticism was an act of discovery for these writers and they were just expressing what they liked. Paul was able to do that in a way that was not only personal, but also he would draw from film, books and his knowledge of folk music. You also got the feeling that he was a mysterious character. There would be hints dropped that there was an unhappy guy behind all these reviews. His writing was beautiful. This was music criticism that could be read as literature."
• Review: "A powerful eco-report, Oil and Water also manages to be a report on the gap between classes that isn’t about who has what, but rather about what 'having' means to different groups of Americans.... The large black-and-white images are realistic and create individual characteristics for the cast; its smudged texture is an excellent vehicle for the intrusion of oil on beaches, birds, livelihoods, and prospects for the future. Quick to read, but of lasting weight for readers from either side of the divide." – Francisca Goldsmith, School Library Journal
• Review: "...Nelson wrote like Fitzgerald or O’Connor, his prose full of god and anxiety... Paul Nelson knew you were that kid that needed a noir detective to crack the case for you, to demystify the rock god world while not for a second taking the romance and realness out of it. He signed on for a pittance and wrote elegantly and truthfully about an industry that was usually nothing but awkward boasts and queasy lies.... I’m not kidding when I say that you need to get on [Everything Is an Afterthought] ASAP if you do any music writing at all. It’s the Scribes Sounding Off book of the year, in a pretty great year of them..." – Chris Estey, The KEXP Blog
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Chris Mautner has a fascinating and playfully cantankerous Q&A with Kevin Huizenga about the new issue of Ganges: "I totally would rather work on a minicomic more than working on a 'real' project. Working on something where other people are involved really screws me up. It's some kind of disorder. I assume they're going to be disappointed, and I resent them for that in advance, and then I start to hate the work and half-ass the project. I'd much rather work on something that no one wants, that no one has asked for. This has not helped my career."