"Bagge discusses how he came to define his libertarian political worldview at a young age, and laments his frustration at being an artist who's political views are frequently mischaracterized as 'right wing' by other artists, simply for failing to be in lock-step with the rest of the predominantly progressive-left art world. He also discusses a recent Reason assignment which took him within the walls of a women's prison, and how the experience led him to question his own preconceived notions about the drug war and involuntary incarceration for drug users. His funny, outrageous and often introspective anthology of Reason cartoon journalism, Everybody is Stupid Except Me (And Other Astute Observations) is available from Fantagraphics."
STEVEN DAVIS: You’ve been talking about doing a longer-form narrative for a while. What made you decide on the autobiographical format?
MICHAEL KUPPERMAN: It’s just what I fell into doing. I find the reasons for doing things, the “why,” is very important, and if you’re doing what you’re doing because it genuinely amuses, you’re in the strongest position possible. I just started writing a couple of chapters and I was enjoying it, and it felt like the right thing to do to go for a book.
DAVIS: How do you feel about your results?
KUPPERMAN: Well, I’m always self-critical to a painful degree, but I do find myself laughing when I look at it. I feel pretty good, I guess; the reader’s reaction is all up to whether they find me funny or not.
DAVIS: Was it refreshing to work with a different format?
KUPPERMAN: It’s interesting to notice the difference. Both are wonderful escapes — and with writing I’m able to execute some rapid changes of idiom — but one notable thing is that writing has more of a time limit. You can only write for two or three hours at a stretch before you start to lose focus, I find. Whereas drawing is an activity you can really lose yourself in for as long as you can stay awake — I’ve drawn for as long as 20 hours at a stretch.
DAVIS: Why is Mark Twain a better target for parody than his partner Albert Einstein?
KUPPERMAN: Well, there was the occasion of the anniversary of his death: That really tipped the scales. But Einstein only really works for me as a character in relation to Twain: the same way Harpo only worked in relation to Chico or Groucho. Not alone. I’d love to do more with the two of them, though.
DAVIS: There’s a full chapter in the book that is cartooned, in which Mark Twain finds himself an accidental member of the Apollo 11 mission. Why did you decide to cartoon this section?
KUPPERMAN: I just wanted to break up the text a bit, and the Moon mission seemed like a good excuse to do some cartooning. That’s one in which many of the jokes are more visual.
DAVIS: Did any ideas that you’d originally intended to be comics get transformed into prose?
KUPPERMAN: No. That’s not so easy to do… A lot of ideas only work for the medium you invented them for. I have a bunch of material from my various aborted TV pilot deals that I can’t find a way to re-use, unfortunately.
DAVIS: What is the appeal of autobiographies? How does that translate into satire?
KUPPERMAN: Autobiographies have an automatically funny component in the self-deception that we all practice, which can be inadvertently revealing. The self-justifying and obfuscation that most autobiographies contain are comedy gold. The last two I read were the autobiographies of Jerry Weintraub and Esther Williams. Both contained comedic elements, although Esther was by far the better swimmer.
DAVIS: What specific autobiographical tropes did you most focus on subverting?
KUPPERMAN: False modesty is a big one, also unwittingly revelatory anecdotes, such as when the aliens try to get Twain to have sex with Sophia Loren; and the shaping of one’s life into a narrative, and how unreliable that can be.
DAVIS: You’ve talked about simplifying the cartooning in order to better focus on the humor. How is this reflected in Twain as compared to your past works?
KUPPERMAN: I think the Twain book is a big step forward in that direction. The art is much more streamlined, and less influenced by art from the past. I concentrated on just carrying the jokes through the art.
DAVIS: There’s a momentum in Tales Designed to Thrizzle that moves the reader through the book, even though it lacks a continuous narrative. In what ways did you approach flow and progression for Twain?
KUPPERMAN: I tried to vary the tone of the chapters enough so that the reader would be carried through what is basically a series of routines… I’ve never sustained one scenario for so long, but I’m eager to move on to longer projects still.
DAVIS: How did Snake ‘N’ Bacon become your flagship strip?
KUPPERMAN: People kept asking for it. And when Avon (subsequently bought by HarperCollins) asked me to do a book, they insisted Snake ‘N’ Bacon be in the title. Then later on Scott Jacobson and Rich Blomquist from The Daily Show spearheaded the Snake ’N’ Bacon pilot for Adult Swim, same thing. They’re anti-characters, basically: extremely limited in almost every way.
Some people do really seem to like them. I’ve even seen tattoos!
DAVIS: I’m curious about your past pseudonym P. Revess. Where did this come from and where did it go?
KUPPERMAN: It was just the prefect pseudonym I came up with— mysterious, ambisexual — and I stopped using it because some dumb editor at New York Press told me I should just use one name, my own. And I was an idiot and listened to her.
DAVIS: Were your parents supportive as you pursued a career as an artist?
KUPPERMAN: Yes. I don’t know if they saw it coming but they’ve adjusted well.
DAVIS: What type of art were you interested in when you attended art school?
KUPPERMAN: Basically anything and everything (still am):What I didn’t know was how I should fit into it all...
DAVIS: How were you first exposed to surrealism and dadaism?
KUPPERMAN: Through Alice in Wonderland and books like that, but I think it’s just part of the culture now. Comedy now has a strong strain of surrealism in it.
DAVIS: What has kept you interested in surreal humor?
KUPPERMAN: It’s what I respond to. I love idioms sliding into each other and situations that melt and transform: dream logic, where meaning shifts and overturns.
DAVIS: You’ve talked about being influenced by sketch comedy shows, Monty Python and SCTV. A few years ago you had the chance to write some sketches for The Peter Serafinowicz Show. Was that a pretty easy adjustment for you?
KUPPERMAN: It wasn’t an easy situation, because I was so far away. The real writing action was taking place in London, and I was in New York. Even when an idea came from me — the whole acting-class thing, which in my version was with Michael Caine —it would be so heavily re-written that it wasn’t so much mine anymore. That’s just the way things work. I’d love to try again on a more level playing field.
DAVIS: I know you’ve talked a little about this before. But can you discuss some of your experiences writing scripts for DC — Any differences in your process? Any challenges? Any new creative avenues it allowed you to explore?
KUPPERMAN: It was frustrating — the more of those comics I did, the less rewarding it became. The very first one — a Jetsons story where Mr. Spacely becomes a baby— was probably the best. But the editing became more and more severe. The last story I did was a Scooby-Doo — they even changed the name of a character I wrote from Murderous Pete to Homeless Pete! I didn’t pursue it after that.
DAVIS: You’ve called Twitter a "petri dish of comedy.” For you, is the Internet mostly helpful or distracting?
KUPPERMAN: Helpful, but you have to limit your exposure or depression will result. I do love Twitter and the people I’ve met on there, and I try not to let it prevent me working.
DAVIS: You’re currently producing a weekly comic called Up All Night. Will any of these strips or related strips be featured in future issues of Thrizzle?
KUPPERMAN: Perhaps some of them…
DAVIS: In an interview last year you mentioned a potential project with Adult Swim after the Snake ’N’ Bacon pilot wasn’t picked up. Can you elaborate on that at all?
KUPPERMAN: Yes- they hired me to develop a horror pilot. But by the time I had characters and a scenario their attention had completely drifted away. This happened to a lot of talented and well-known comedy people last year, so I’m not alone! Dealing with Adult Swim is like trying to talk to someone peaking on an acid trip. You never know what they’ll say or do next...
DAVIS: Between TV Funhouse and the Snake ’N’ Bacon pilot, you’ve done quite a bit of work in animation. How do you feel about the current state of animation?
KUPPERMAN: I am indifferent, since I’m not involved. There really isn’t anything that’s compelling me to watch lately...
DAVIS: Many alternative cartoonists have transitioned into animation and videogames. How interested are you in pursuing jobs in different media?
KUPPERMAN: I’m only interested as long I continue to exist as an artist! So it has to be on my terms to some extent. I had that with the S&B pilot, which is why it was so amazing. I drew every inch of the animation, that’s why it looks the way it does. But I have a horror of producing crap, and unfortunately most media product ends up being just that.
DAVIS: How does your work reflect what’s going on across media, in terms of humor, today?
KUPPERMAN: I think my humor is very contiguous with the humor that’s going on now in live comedy, the better TV comedy, podcasting the smart stuff. Not comics though: I feel very alone there. Most other humor in comics is excruciating.
DAVIS: You have a serious graphic novel called Henry Spelman in the works. Can you tell us any more about that?
KUPPERMAN: Not at the moment! I’m trying to examine my options with as clear a head as possible. My bank balance is always a concern, and right now I’m just trying to stay alert. I’m hoping to get into the Spelman project soon, but it’s a matter of balancing the work against the chances of an advance in today’s publishing world, truly the worst and least hospitable ever. And I’m waiting to see how the Twain book does…
• Review: "Sala creates stories in which brightly colored, cartoony art and characters who speak in casual idiom tell of events that aren’t so much humorous or casual as provocative and scary. In [The Hidden], he combines motifs of a postapocalyptic landscape, wanderers, some vampiric businessmen, and, ultimately, Dr. Frankenstein. The stew works perfectly: readers have no chance to engage in incredulity... Characters are introduced at a steady but manageable pace, and it is only at story’s end that the opening pages become horrifyingly clear. Sala works with a full palette of beautiful, gemlike hues held in generous panels. Even the monsters have individuated faces, which only ramps up the horror." – Francisca Goldsmith, School Library Journal
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning talks to Richard Sala about The Hidden: "It's a story about consequences. It's about what happens when you set wheels in motion that maybe you can't control, that in fact spin completely out of control. What do you do? Do you take responsibility for what comes next or, or do you run away and distance yourself from what you've caused and try to pretend it doesn't matter. And it's about what happens when you finally realize that it's up to you to stop what you started. Is that vague enough?! It's not exactly a 'high concept' description, I'm afraid."
• Review: "A dark horse contender for comics creator of the year can be found in the unlikely personage of the late artist Alex Toth... Setting the Standard aims at... a conceptually sound and compelling [goal]: the publication of Toth's work between 1952 and 1954 for the long-defunct comics publisher Standard... The work is in a variety of sturdy, popular genres. The presentation of the comics themselves proves crisp and strong. The manner in which the increasingly valuable Sadowski and his publisher chose to present the supporting material is even better." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "I think the most important thing you need to know about [Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010] is that it made me laugh out loud not once, but close to a dozen times. At one point, during an exchange with a famous cartoon strip writer, I think I laughed for a solid minute. It might have been longer, except the neighbors threatened to shoot me. And if they'd done me in, I'd never have gotten a chance to review this and tell you that this is one of the best books -- if not *the* best book -- I've read all year." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Alex Dueben chats with Gahan Wilson about Nuts: "On the whole, [the comic] was mostly autobiographical. It just rolled out and it was and continues to be very satisfying to me. It helped me see kids better, too. They're just wonderful. The creativity of children is kind of frightening. They all do these drawings which are just gorgeous and profound, and they'll do poetry. They're brilliant.... I think they're very encouraging because they give you a peek at what we could be if we grew up right. I think there's hope for us all, and kids are evidence of that."
• Interview: At The Comics Journal it's a Mome dude tête-à-tête as Frank Santoro quizzes Jesse Moynihan: "I did some color guides with Photoshop for a piece called Simon Magus (MOME 22). That was helpful but not usually how I do things. Since I’m using a medium that can build layers, it’s not difficult to go back in and edit the color scheme to an extent. For the most part I trust that my eye can decide what needs to happen on the fly."
• Interview (Audio): On the latest episode of the Panel Borders podcast, Alex Fitch talks to David B. about his new book Black Paths (audio in multiple formats at the link)
• Interview (Video): At SPX, Paul Hornschemeier sat down for an on-camera chat with Joe Mochove and Rusty Rowley. "We discuss all of the important topics of the day: Earnest Borgnine, mobility scooters, terrorism, and delicious orange juice," says Paul at his blog. (What is it with the Borgnine?)
• Review: "This is hugely imaginative, exultantly silly, gag-a-minute writing that manages to comment on the popular culture of the last century while willfully wallowing in it — Python with a wry dose of Pynchon.... Were you, dear reader, to ask me if the brevity of [Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010]'s chronologically arranged but narratively stand-alone chapters made it an ideal book for bathroom reading, I would call you a coarse, disgusting pig-person, demand that you leave my office, and wipe down the chair you'd been sitting in. ... But, yes." – Glen Weldon, NPR Monkey See
• Interview:SF Weekly's Casey Burchby, who says "Drawing inspiration from Mad among other influences, Kupperman's brand of humor is punchy and ridiculous... Like the best satire, it reflects a vision of our world that is simultaneously accurate and abstracted. Kupperman's new book, Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910 - 2010, comes from the same comedic source," talks to Michael Kupperman: "Some of my comedic influences are deliberately funny, others are not. The unwittingly bad, the pompously ineffectual, the flimsily maudlin -- these are all genres I warm to. The Sunday comics page on 9/11 this year was a good example. Like it does anyone any good to see Hagar and Momma weeping."
• Review: "I literally dropped everything to read this thing.... Volume three in Ryan’s madcap ultra-violent combat comic [Prison Pit] is firmly in the vein, so to speak, of the first installment: No-holds-barred body-horror battle between monster-men who look like refugees from an alternate-universe He-Man whose house artist was Pushead instead of Earl Norem.... It is... a series fixated not just on surviving the present moment on a narrative level, but on drawing that moment out to ludicrous lengths on a visual level. Its action is defined by page after page of grotesque bodily transformations depicted beat by gruesome beat.... The introduction of the 'arch enemy' is a tantalizing link to the past for a story that draws so much of its power from living (and dying) in the now." – Sean T. Collins, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Everything Is an Afterthought presents a vision of the heyday of rock journalism, times that have long past.... The story Kevin Avery tells is of someone who believed passionately in the art that moved him... Few of the artists profiled in the selected works do much for me — late ‘70s Rod Stewart, Jackson Browne, [Warren] Zevon — but Nelson writes about each with such care and insight that I went back to listen to all of them again." – Alex Rawls, Offbeat
• Review: "Oddly enough, the title, its font and also the cover art of The Man Who Grew His Beard made me think of the 1985 book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by neurologist Oliver Sacks describing the case histories of some of his patients, which given the completely insane collection of shorts in this book, both in terms of the stories and art, may not be entirely coincidental, I suspect. If surreal, single-panel humorist David Shrigley were ever to do comics, this is exactly what they would be like, to the point that I had to do a quick google search to check Olivier Schrauwen wasn’t a nom de plume for Mr. Shrigley. He isn’t." – Jonathan Rigby, Page 45
• List:Comics Bulletin includes Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez among their "Top Ten Comics to Share with Your Boyfriend and/or Girlfriend": "Palomar is really defined by its characterization, with the town's mayor Luba and her family often acting as the center. The stories set in Palomar are a large part of why Love & Rockets became such an important work as they showed how the scope of novels could be applied to the medium."
• Profile: At Trouble with Comics, Alan David Doane details his appreciation of the work of Bernard Krigstein, noting: "A few years ago, Fantagraphics Books released B. Krigstein: Volume One by Greg Sadowski. This oversized hardcover artbook/biography is one of the finest of its kind ever released, and although Krigstein’s story is largely one of restriction and boundaries, it should be noted that B. Krigstein Vol. 1 is not a depressing book. Its author was meticulous in his creation of a lasting, vital document of the subject, a man who took life and art very seriously and suffered greatly for both. The book is, in fact, a celebration of the life and work of Bernard Krigstein, and even if you think you know who that is, I guarantee you that by the time you get to the end of the book, you’re going to know the man and his work one hell of a lot better."
• Plugs: Martha Cornog of Library Journal spotlights some of our upcoming releases in the latest "Graphic Novels Prepub Alert":
The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat by Robert Crumb: "Crumb's infamous and ever-horny Fritz has been reprinted before, but not recently and never in hardcover.... An underground classic, with touches of critical brilliance amid its college-kid-wannabe plots."
The Crumb Compendium by Carl Richter: "Mr. Natural turns 45 next year, as many years as his creator Robert Crumb has been publishing. Fantagraphics is billing this compendium as the 'definitive reference guide' to Crumb's oeuvre, covering published comics plus other artwork, merchandise, articles and interviews, characters, and photographs. Richter is a Crumb collector who served as consultant to Fantagraphics on The Complete Crumb Comics set, and Crumb himself helped out. Hey, guys, keep on truckin'!"
Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby's 1940s-'50s Romance Comics by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, ed. by Michel Gagné: "The guys who created Captain America also jump-started romance comics with several vanguard series. Top selling until the Comics Code clashed with '60s permissiveness, the genre captured feminine readers even if plots and characters tended to push patriarchal sex roles and a Stepford Wives take on coupledom."
• Interview: Brian Heater's conversation with Drew Friedman at The Daily Cross Hatch continues: "Another reason I want to quit these books is that there’s always younger comedians coming up, and I just can’t keep up. Howard Stern’s gonna be an old guy in a couple of years.... I’m not crazy about some of them, and I just don’t want to think about drawing Adam Sandler when he’s an old man, or Ben Stiller, or even Jerry Seinfeld. It just doesn’t appeal to me."
• Review: "Sala’s work is like a fusion of Hergé and Charles Addams, yielding a simple, cartoon-like style that makes his moments of gothic horror all the more disturbing. ...[The Hidden] is a beautifully pulpy and incredibly imaginative book that gives a fresh spin on a well-used set-up." – Publishers Weekly
• Review/Interview:SF Weekly's Casey Burchby, who says "Richard Sala's new full color graphic novel, The Hidden, fuses two classic horror tropes — the story of Frankenstein's monster, and the ever-popular zombie apocalypse — into a new form that is surprisingly free of cliché and enriched with a strange sensitivity, owing far more to the classic horror literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries than it does to more contemporary EC horror comics, slasher flicks, or Stephen King," talks to Sala, who says "...as I began to write the book, elements of it started to seem oddly autobiographical — on some kind of psychological level, that is — and I realized the story had become less about Frankenstein specifically and more about the act of creation and its consequences."
• Review: "This French artist's unabashedly campy tribute to Jules Verne's proto-steampunk adventure yarns [The Arctic Marauder] is all about the art — spectacularly composed black-and-white evocations of arctic landscapes and Victorian contraptions.... Tardi has drawn a tribute to a venerable genre that partakes of its wonders while poking gentle fun at its preposterous twists and turns. The result is pure fun." – Laura Miller, "The Best New Graphic Novels," Salon
• Review: "Ryan’s line work is at its best in some parts of this volume, showing the ability to continually come up with inventive weird visuals. The first half of the book is nothing but new forms of violence and strange creatures that become different strange creatures. Every page brings a new visual that you will never, ever be able to forget. The second half shows off more minimalist compositions, giving the book an interesting asymmetry. The only bad thing about Prison Pit Book 3 coming out is that it will be another year until Book 4 is released, especially with the cliffhanger that this volume ends on." – Chad Nevett, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "Johhny Ryan’s artwork on Prison Pit could be described as cartoonish, but to be honest it’s better described as looking like the insane doodling of a madman, as found etched upon the walls of his padded cell — I would not be surprised to find out that this book was ghost-written by Charles Manson!... Ryan draws gore like no one else, and his creature designs are the stuff of nightmares — one of the monsters in the latter part of the story makes Cthuhlu look like a character from a children’s story!... Prison Pit: Book 3 is a comic unlike anything you’ve ever read before — the plot is outlandish, and the artwork is violent, bloody, gory, and completely unapologetic in its brutality.... Rating: 10 out of 10" – Edward Kaye, Newsarama
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins comments on the must-read Comics Journal interview with Johnny Ryan: "I’ve spent years enjoying Ryan’s scabrously offensive humor comics like Angry Youth Comix and Blecky Yuckerella, as well as his extravagantly vicious action comic Prison Pit, and I’ve often wondered where his search-and-destroy ethos originated.... Thanks to Pearson and Ryan’s jawdroppingly candid conversation, I finally feel like I understand..., at least a little."
• (Not a) Review (Per Se): "This isn't a formal review, per se, but instead a few gut-reaction thoughts on the remarkable new issue of Love & Rockets: New Stories (#4). I've never bothered to do this before in a review, but the nature of this issue demands that I note that there are spoilers below." – Rob Clough, High-Low
• Review (Audio): The Extra Sequential podcast discusses "the whacky and funny Fantagraphics collection of Carl Barks’ much loved 1940s Donald Duck stories," Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes: "We tell you why creator Carl Barks is loved for his storytelling prowess and surprisingly funny and absurd humour in his Donald, Scrooge, etc. tales..."
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Tim O'Shea has a funny and informative Q&A with Michael Kupperman: "Actually I’ve been hearing from [Twain] a lot. I thought that one meeting would be it, but since then he keeps reappearing, asking for help dealing with today’s publishing industry. He’s written a new novel called Prairie Rumpus, which I feel is dated in its use of slang and locale. Meanwhile I’ve got a lot of interest in my novel The Fart Vampires, a lotta heat building up."
• Commentary: At About.com Manga, Deb Aoki reports on our publishing announcement regarding Moto Hagio's The Heart of Thomas (note that the "The" was initially left off our announcement by mistake), calling it a "very exciting development" and saying "Fans of A Drunken Dream and Other Stories will also be glad to hear that Matt Thorn, the translator of this critically acclaimed book will also be handling the editing/translation duties on this title as well."
• Review: "David B.'s newest, The Armed Garden and Other Stories, finds the creator turning his gifts to the world of historical legend. The subject may be different but the artist's mysterious and melancholy style saturates every panel; what's more, the three graphic novellas collected in The Armed Garden provide him with plenty of opportunities to draw the epic battle scenes he so loves.... The Armed Garden and Other Stories is the witty, finely executed work of an artist uniquely capable of capturing both the fervid ecstasy of belief and the dull, heartsick ache left behind once it cools." – Glen Weldon, NPR.org
• Review: "In Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010, Adult Swim contributor and comics creator Michael Kupperman (Snake 'n' Bacon) reworks [Hal] Holbrook's Twain as a Zelig-like immortal cruising through a century of life after his 1910 death.... Some of the tales are hilarious koans of absurdist comedy — Twain as the unknown fourth astronaut on the Apollo 11 mission is fabulous. Although it sometimes has the feel of a Saturday Night Live skit stretched into a feature film — perfect in small doses but unsustainable over a longer haul — the premise is too good to abandon." –Andy Lewis, The Hollywood Reporter (reviewing the book in tandem with Holbrook's memoir Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain)
• Review: "Kupperman is a comedic genius. Filled with deliberately odd syntax, wizards, snarky dialog, vampires, outer space adventures, car UFO chasing, and nearly every significant event of the past one hundred years Mark Twain’sAutobiography [1910-2010] is easily the funniest thing that I have read in a very, very long time. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever read anything funnier. Nearly every page had me rolling. It wasn’t just a chuckle or even a hearty guffaw, either. It was maniacal hysterical, snorting, crying, temporarily not breathing, and contorting my body into uncomfortable shapes type of laughing. It’s that goddamn funny. So funny, in fact, that I would be entirely satisfied if Kupperman went ahead and decided to write the biographies of everyone else, ever." – Zack Kruse, A Little Nonsense
• Review: "Love And Rockets: New Stories Vol. 4 contains the conclusion to the recent run of 'The Love Bunglers' stories — again with a heartbreaking digression into the past.... This is incandescent work. At this point, Jaime Hernandez draws comics better than maybe anyone's ever drawn comics. The story is beautifully paced, there are at least two stop and stare sequences in there..., the characters are warm and human and funny, one of the subplots addresses with significant insight and potency Jaime's long-time fascination with the power of memory in providing life with meaning and the ending made me choke up both as a moment with resonance across decades of comics but also for the thematic twist it provides on something we've seen in the last few appearances of Jaime's best character... I don't know that it's something you can pick up out of the blue, but my God, what a remarkable comic. I'm so grateful to have read it." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Congress of the Animals might be my least favorite Woodring book, but it’s still overall strong and compelling. I love the fact that Woodring has made a huge, fundamental change to the world of Frank, and that in doing so it still feels like an old familiar friend. I’m not sure just anyone could have pulled this off so late in the game, but with Woodring it feels like a natural extension of everything we’ve seen up until now. There’s no other comics quite like Woodring’s out there, and I’m forever thankful that we get these amazing, disturbing, wonderful creations from him. After all, a 'merely good' comic from Woodring is still better than most other comics out there." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Interview: If you read one interview with Johnny Ryan, make it Jesse Pearson's epic, revealing talk with Johnny at The Comics Journal: "When I was first doing book one of Prison Pit, I felt like even though it was about monster men and fighting and all that shit, it was revealing more about myself than any of my earlier works. I removed a lot of that aggressive humor that was working as my armor."
• Interview:Panel Bound's Matthew Manarino talks to Freeway creator Mark Kalesniko: "I like doing comics, as you saw in Freeway, I like doing some comics with detail, I like to go in and show people a world and paint it and draw it. With Freeway I can take you to downtown Los Angeles and really give you a tour.... With Freeway and even Mail Order Bride I wanted to give you something where it’s not a crude drawing but give you a layout so you really feel like you're there. There is also a joy with that kind of work were you can come back to it over and over again and always find something new." (Mark's advice for submitting work to publishers is great, by the way.)
• Feature: In "Graphic Medicine" at Comics Forum, M.K. Czerwiek (RN) spotlights Joyce Farmer's Special Exits in an article on comics dealing with hospice care issues
• Review: "As journalist Avery documents in this cohesive biography-cum-first anthology of the onetime Rolling Stone record review editor’s oeuvre [Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson], Nelson was a gifted early practitioner of new journalism and, though a child of the Sixties folk and rock counterculture, one of its most vocal critics.... Reading his inconceivably insightful profiles of Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, Warren Zevon, and Rod Stewart helps make sense of a needlessly guilt- and disappointment-laden life — here was a hyper-romantic Midwesterner by birth but a New Yorker by necessity who thought he could transcend mundane cruelties by dedicating himself to the popular arts. Seamlessly incorporating the perspectives of Nick Tosches, Robert Christgau, and Jann Wenner, Avery has crafted both a cautionary tale and a celebration of a noir-influenced writer who deserves a place alongside Lester Bangs for his ability to live, always, in the music. Devotees of folk, establishment rock ’n’ roll, and pulp fiction will rue not having discovered Nelson sooner." – Heather McCormack, Library Journal (Starred Review)
• Review: "[Richard Sala's] latest appetising shocker The Hidden returns to the seamy, scary underbelly of un-life with an enigmatic quest tale... Clever, compelling and staggeringly engaging, this fabulous full-colour hardback is a wonderfully nostalgic escape hatch back to those days when unruly children scared themselves silly under the bedcovers at night and will therefore make an ideal gift for the big kid in your life — whether he/she’s just you, imaginary or even relatively real." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This
• Review: "I had the opportunity to do a Q&A panel with Johnny Ryan at SPX last weekend. One of the more interesting parts of discussion was when Ryan said how each volume of Prison Pit had to have a different vibe or theme so that the different books didn’t feel interchangable. That’s certainly true in volume three, as we see the inclusion of a new character, who, while just as violent and vicious as CF, is completely different in attitude and demeanor. Plus, he has one of the most amazing (and utterly grotesque) resurrection scenes I’ve ever seen. There’s also a neat little bit toward the end where it seems like Ryan is heavily drawing upon the Fort Thunder crowd, particularly Mat Brinkman. All in all, it’s another excellent volume." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "This [fourth] volume [of Prince Valiant] covers the most of the WWII years, 1943-44, when the paper shortage was at its highest. As Brian Kane notes in the introduction, this meant creator Hal Foster had to format the strip so parts could be cut for papers that had been forced to shrink their page count.... Still, while no doubt hampered by this new situation, it did nothing to harm his storytelling skills, and Valiant remains a hugely enjoyable action strip, as Valiant battles a variety of ne’r do wells on a quest to find his true love, Aleta." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "I’ve talked at length before about how good the Mome anthology has been, and while I’m sad to see it come to a close, it’s nice to see it end on such a high note. Seriously, this is the best volume of Mome yet, with standout contributions by Chuck Forsman, Eleanor Davis, Laura Park, Dash Shaw, Jesse Moynihan and Sara Edward-Corbett. But really, there’s not a bad story in this entire book. It might seem weird recommending the last book of a series, but if you gotta only read one of these things, this would be the one." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Interview: Brian Heater's conversation with Drew Friedman at The Daily Cross Hatch continues: "But a couple of guys claimed that I didn’t get their names right, like Don Rickles. His PR guy contacted us and said, 'he’s really angry. His name is not Archibald, it’s Donald Rickles.' So, we said in the second book 'Don Rickles says his name is not Archibald, so that will be corrected in a future volume.' Sid Caesar was annoyed. He called Fantagraphics and started yelling at Kim Thompson, because he claimed his name is not Isaac. He was on the phone with him for half an hour. He was doing Jewish schtick and German dialect. Kim was amazed."
• Review: "Alex Toth worked in a multitude of genres while at Standard (crime, romance, and horror among them) and they are, to the last one, collected here. Also, Toth’s Standard work has been reprinted somewhere between infrequently and not at all, and to have it all collected (and collected beautifully; the digital restoration keeps the original look perfectly) in this work fills in a sizable gap in comics history. Bravo for Fantagraphics.... If you’ve ever wanted to see what the 'big deal' is with Alex Toth, I can think of absolutely no better place to start. There’s no better bang for your buck this year thanSetting the Standard." – Alonso Nunez, Giant Fire Breathing Robot
• Review: "Field mouse Sibyl-Anne... lives a quiet life in the French countryside, alongside her friends Sergeant Verboten (a porcupine), Floozemaker (a crow), and fellow mouse Boomer. When the greedy, power-hungry rat Ratticus shows up, his destructive ways turn the animal community upside down.... Macherot’s plotting is lively and unexpected... Thompson’s translation is colloquial and funny and, one can assume, smooths out some of the original’s mid-century social attitudes." – Publishers Weekly
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Alex Dueben talks to Gabrielle Bell about her comics and her experience being in Mome at the beginning and end: "Well, it was very stressful. I wasn't very fast. I was really struggling, and it was hard to do. It was a good challenge. It really helped me to learn to put out comics regularly, but I think I wanted my own space to put my comics. Now I have my blog, and it certainly doesn't bring me much money or fame [laughs], but it does feel good that it's mine. I'm doing it as almost my own personal newsletter. Mome was very helpful and a good challenge. Maybe I outgrew it?"
• Review: "Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: Race To Death Valley by Floyd Gottfredson will be warmly received by comics aficionados but should also intrigue Disney animation buffs who aren't necessarily plugged into comic strip history. Editors David Gerstein and Gary Groth have not only scoured the planet for the best surviving artwork on Gottfredson's first epic continuity, which ran in newspapers from April to September of 1930; they've provided background essays (by a raft of experts), vintage press materials and artwork to put it into the context of Walt Disney's burgeoning career, and Mickey Mouse's budding stardom.... I have a feeling that this book, crafted with such obvious care, will earn Gottfredson a new legion of admirers." – Leonard Maltin
• Review: "Popeye hawking newspapers? Donald Duck selling gasoline? You'll find them and a whole cavalcade of comic strip characters in Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising, edited by Rick Marschall and Warren Bernard. In a hundred-plus pages you are treated to a sampling of cartoon print ads from the 1890s to 1940s. There are short informative blurbs about the cartoonists (some of whom were featured in ads themselves) and the history behind the ads. A great treat for fans of comic strips, Americana, and ephemera." – The Christian Science Monitor "Top Picks"
• Review: "Not long ago a very interesting book was released which aims precisely to investigate and chronicle the parallel paths of comics and advertising from 1870 until 1940 entitled Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising. Fantagraphics Books offers a hearty volume... which is our guide with text and images to the 'commercial' roots of the comic strip and the amazing work that resulted from comics creators who worked in advertising.... Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising is a book that will surely pique the interest of those involved in the communication sector, but also all who are drawn to pop culture. An excellent edition from Fantagraphics..." – Lida Tsene, Comicdom (translated from Greek)
• Review: "Richard Sala’s The Hidden is yet another undead saga, though it’s more ambitious than most.... As the backstory deepens, Sala ties The Hidden to older literary traditions, weaving in pieces of folktales and the legend of Frankenstein. Because Sala has had a career-long fascination with B-movies, gothic illustrations, and general ghoulishness, this plot is right in his wheelhouse. But The Hidden isn’t just an entertaining riff on well-worn horror concepts. Taking his cues from Mary Shelley, Sala explores human vanity and arrogance as a way of showing how everything can go so wrong so fast." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Mome 22 concludes the run of one of alt-comics' longest-running and most essential anthologies. Like Weirdo before it, Mome bridged the gap between veteran cartoonists and the new breed... Here’s hoping that as with Zap, Raw, Arcade, and so many that have gone before, another anthology will rise to take Mome’s place. And soon." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Shimura Takako is a master at portraying subtle events in a slice of life story about adolescence that never feels didactic.... One of the things I like about Wandering Son is the way many of the events in the book are simultaneously safe and filled with dramatic tension.... Like the storyline, Shimura’s art is simple but nuanced.... As you’d expect from Fantagraphics, the production quality for Wandering Son is excellent. I hope that more manga is on the horizon from them. While I’ll happily read more cheaply produced manga, it is nice to have a variety of options. Carefully curated manga like Wandering Son is a treat." – Anna Neatrour, Manga Report
• Review: "Jason’s deadpan, anthropomorphic characters make his books must-reads for me.... I'd give [Isle of 100,000 Graves] to my daughter... and my wife... in hopes that, after laughing at the Hangman’s Academy’s students, teachers, and administrators, they’ll agree to dress up in multi-colored hoods and carry instruments of torture next Halloween." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• Review: "Chun fills his collections with the best cartoons – the ones that can still delight readers, and Covey uses his lively and inventive design sense to make these old cartoons fresh and vital. With The Pin-Up Art of Humorama, Chun and Covey will once again make you believe that the art of Humorama is still alive and kicking – although the line ceased to exist decades ago. [Grade:] A" – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "This Fantagraphics edition collects the first two French albums of Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec (Pterror Over Paris and The Eiffel Tower Demon) in a large format hardback edition, and it’s beautifully presented. First released in 1976, Jacques Tardi’s story has a timeless quality, set in an alternative, steam-punk universe, shortly before World War I.... Tardi’s art recreates the scenery beautifully, with stunning backdrops bringing the architecture and beauty of Paris to life. ...[A] compelling and enjoyable mystery story with an alternative Victorian feel." – Grovel
• Review: "Comic fanboys have read Sgt. Rock or The Howling Commandos which are realistic in many ways, but there was a time when a comic mag got down right truthful. I’m speaking of Blazing Combat #1-4 (1965-66, Warren) and recently Fantagraphics collected the run in both hardcover and softcover. Blazing Combat was an anthology comic that showed the very dark and very real side of war. A loose followup to the EC Comics War genre books, it showed US G.I.’s dying in terrible ways, commanders giving orders with little regard for consequences and the militaristic definition of collateral damage. Jim Warren let it all hang out when it came to editing Archie Goodwin’s writing... Of course Goodwin is a genius and I’m usually more of a word-man when it comes to comics, but this time it’s the art that captured my attention. It’s a who’s-who of monster talent..." – Chris Marshall, Collected Comics Library
• Review: "Fred [the Clown] is a figure of innocence, a lovelorn sad sack who keeps getting hit by custard pies — and, even harder, by life — over and over again, but keeps standing back up to go on. Langridge mostly tells his story in short wordless comics stories... in his usual style, a crisp modern interpretation of the classic '20s animation look... They're slapsticky stories of a sad clown, using the accouterments of vaudeville and early Hollywood, that nonetheless feel entirely new and fresh and funny. I don't know how Langridge does it, but he does it very very well." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Plug: "You must buy @DaveMcKean's NSFW book 'CELLULOID' at your local comics or book store. Or in a plain brown wrapper..." – Neil Gaiman
• Preview/Plug:Comicsphere re-formats and re-presents one of our previews of Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit Book 3 to their readers, with Josh West saying "This is set to be 120 pages of ‘once you see it, it can’t ever be unseen’ scenarios and, honestly, Comicsphere couldn’t be more excited! Unbelievably unpredictable, violent, satirical and likely to entertain more than anything else on the shelves through September, the Prison Pit makes Hell look like nothing more than a relaxing Sunday morning stroll through a (really hot) meadow."
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Tim Callahan has a wide-ranging conversation with Johnny Ryan about Prison Pit and other topics: "I guess I have this fascination with stories where the 'hero' is not a hero at all. He's a loser or an idiot or a scumbag, but somehow the author makes us give a shit about him or her.... I think this is a strain that also runs through my work. It's about bad people, doing bad things, but I try and trick people into caring about or liking these people."
• Preview/Plug:Comicsphere gives the same treatment as above to our excerpt of Jacques Tardi & Jean-Patrick Manchette's Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot, with Josh West saying "...Jacques Tardi returns to the world of guns, crime, betrayal and bloodshed with this stunning, grisly, and remarkably faithful interpretation of Manchette’s last completed crime thriller."
"Athos in America – Jason returns to The Last Musketeer and includes other Jasony stories like 'The Brain That Wouldn’t Virginia Woolf.'"
• Plugs:Graphic Novel Reporter includes almost everything we have coming out over the next 3 months in their "Great Graphic Novels of Fall 2011" roundup, particularly the Adult Fiction and Nonfiction categories (though we feel we should point out that Alexander Theroux's Estonia is neither fiction nor a graphic novel)
• Plug: "We’re over halfway done, and have moved into the last 20 years of the strip with the release of The Complete Peanuts: 1981 to 1982. Can you believe how fast time is flying? Kudos to Fantagraphics for maintaining the incredibly high standard of quality and presentation they established at the outset, with this entry featuring an introduction from cartoonist Lynn Johnston. More!" – Ken Plume, FRED
• Interview:Newsarama's Albert Ching talks to Michael Kupperman about his new book Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010: "One other character I frequently think of when doing Twain — writing that book, or doing him in Thrizzle — is Dave Thomas from SCTV doing Walter Cronkite. Which in some ways is very similar — this kind of roguish, semi-self-befuddled character, roaming around having adventures."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater begins a multi-part chat with Drew Friedman: "Basically when Monte Beauchamp who edits those books invited me to do a book, I thought about what I like to draw the most. I like to draw comedians and old Jews. So I put those two together and started working on them between assignments over a year. I just got pleasure in drawing them. I could put aside any annoying assignment I had and just get down to drawing those old Jewish faces. That’s what it came down to."
• Interview:Washington City Paper's Mike Rhode had a little pre-SPX Q&A with Noah Van Sciver: "I'm excited to stop by the Fantagraphics table and say hello to those guys and see what's new." Well shucks!
• Lore: "’71 was a weird year for me. I never had quite so many women coming and going, as I did that year in the apartment I shared with Gary. But I was still drinking too much and just overdoing it in general, hedonistically speaking. I was getting very little good work done (gosh, I wonder why?) and was generally pretty miserable." – Kim Deitch's epic memoir-in-music "Mad About Music: My Life in Records" at TCJ.com forges into the 1970s
• Staff picks: Our own Ambassador of Awesome (and funniest Flogger) Janice Headley is the guest contributor to this week's Robot 6 "What Are You Reading?" column