Online Commentary & Diversions returns after a rare link-free day yesterday:
• Review: "I’ve read many gentle, nostalgic manga about school and growing up, and in many ways Wandering Son is not so different from the best of them... On another level, the very fact that it can be so quiet and casual and natural, and say all the things that it says, makes it a deeply impressive work. What Wandering Son says, above all, is that the kids are alright. Maybe they don’t believe it themselves right now. But they’ll make it through." – Shaenon Garrity, The Comics Journal
• Feature: One of our most frequently asked questions from fans is where to start with Jason. He has so many great books you can't really go wrong with any of them, but Robot 6's Chris Mautner offers some solid recommendations in his latest "Comics College" guide.
The fifth grade. The threshold to puberty, and the beginning of the end of childhood innocence. Shuichi Nitori and his new friend Yoshino Takatsuki have happy homes, loving families, and are well-liked by their classmates. But they share a secret that further complicates a time of life that is awkward for anyone: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. Written and drawn by one of today’s most critically acclaimed creators of manga, Shimura portrays Shuishi and Yoshino’s very private journey with affection, sensitivity, gentle humor, and unmistakable flair and grace. Volume one introduces our two protagonists and the friends and family whose lives intersect with their own. Yoshino is rudely reminded of her sex by immature boys whose budding interest in girls takes clumsily cruel forms. Shuichi’s secret is discovered by Saori, a perceptive and eccentric classmate. And it is Saori who suggests that the fifth graders put on a production of The Rose of Versailles for the farewell ceremony for the sixth graders — with boys playing the roles of women, and girls playing the roles of men.
Wandering Son is a sophisticated work of literary manga translated with rare skill and sensitivity by veteran translator and comics scholar Matt Thorn.
Download a 20-page PDF excerpt of the entire first chapter (3.3 MB).
Catching up on our Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "...Fantagraphics Books’ new Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: “Race to Death Valley” contains all you need to know to revel in the very different, deeply pleasurable work of [Floyd] Gottfredson. Working with one of the most famous — and most anodyne — cartoon characters in the world, Gottfredson turned the grinning, goody-goody Mouse into a plucky, even reckless adventurer, his smile transformed from a people-pleasing smirk into a challenge to the world.... Gottfredson drew Mickey with a nosy snout and the bright eyes of an adrenalin junkie. The mouse’s diminutive size inspired Gottfredson to have the character attempt daredevil races, leaping stunts, and develop a flurry-fisted fighting style.... This beautiful volume gives the Great Rodent his humanity." – Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly
• Review: "Fantagraphics does a very smart thing with [Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Vol. 1], packing it full of historical materials to set the story for the comic strip. Having David Gerstein edit it is, of course, the smartest thing they could have done.... Simply put, it's the most extensive collection of 'extras' I've ever seen in one of these comic strip reprint series to date.... Reproductions are as great as you could ever hope for from material that's 80 years old and originally printed in the inkiest of newspapers you could imagine.... It's a kick to see this more interesting version of Mickey running around, saying and doing politically incorrect things. It's amazing to see how much detail an artist could pack into a small series of panels like this. But, most of all, it's a whole lot of fun." – Augie De Blieck Jr., Comic Book Resources
• Review: "This is, first of all, superb material.... Way back when, [Mickey Mouse] had a continuity and some darn good stories, illustrated with dynamic and expressive art. It was everything you could have wanted a newspaper strip to be, including being quite funny at times...and even suspenseful. The book itself is perfect and by that I mean I can't think of a single way it could have been improved. The reproduction is sharp. The editorial material fills you in nicely about the history of the strip, plus there are articles that discuss its merits and significance. The volume itself is handsome and will look good on your shelf." – Mark Evanier
• Plugs: Some great press mentions for our Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Free Comic Book Day comic, including the AP's Matt Moore and Whitney Matheson of USA Today Pop Candy, who says "This is sort of what FCBD is about, isn't it? Fantagraphics presents Floyd Gottfredson's amazing old Mickey strips from 1935 that are still entertaining today. Perfect for all ages..." The Wright Opinion's Brendan Wright says "The line work is beautiful and fluid, with plenty of panels that are funny to look at without reading the words. Thorough as always with this type of project, Fantagraphics has provided both an intro by David Gerstein an an appreciation of Gottfredson by classic Disney animator and official Disney Legend Floyd Norman."
• Review: "For Isle of 100,000 Graves, the cartoonist Jason works with a writer, Fabien Vehlmann, for what is at least the first time in his strong North American publishing run. It's a fun collaboration over which to muse because it's hard to tell exactly what Vehlmann brings to the table. The writer has grasped onto Jason's use of deadpan humor and wistful character moments to an uncanny degree.... Because of this deliberate care in both building their personalities and working from them in terms of how they react to certain story moments, both leads come across as incredibly endearing. A story-ending plot twist almost gets lost in a by-that-point hilarious one-liner about the methods used in bringing it about." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Underground-influenced comics fall into certain patterns — idiosyncratic art, rambling tales of daily life, copious use of mood-altering substances — but [Leslie] Stein makes hers [Eye of the Majestic Creature] fresh with the addition of a talking guitar.... Stein’s style is very readable, with sparse linework and a lead character that resembles a more tripped-out Little Orphan Annie, with huge blank buttons for eyes. Stein’s settings and other characters show more detail, especially in the complex stippling, demonstrating her outward focus.... Her world is full, even if it’s one that’s a bit off-kilter..." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Peter Bagge continues the saga of Lisa and Buddy Bradley and their son Harold in Hate Annual #9.... Peter Bagge has always made you care for these characters no matter what crazy problems they had. He has this rare gift of getting his readers to empathize with the drawings on the page and realizing them as real people.... Bagge shows us a very human side to the characters he creates and mirrors life in a sometimes painful way.... As we live our lives, we can look at these pages and see a little bit of ourselves in the drawn panels. This is what makes this series, and all previous ones, stand the test of time and remain a great read. Rating: 8.5" – The Comic Book Critic
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch continues serializing the transcript of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Peter Bagge: "I started drawing Buddy in 1980, when he was a member of The Bradleys. He was always 10 years younger than me. He started out as an adolescent — not always exactly 10 years. That’s on purpose, because that 10 years gives me space. When you’re going through a crisis or a rough time, it’s not funny, but 10 years later, you can look at the whole situation more objectively and find the humor in it."
• Review: "[Joe Daly's] latest, award-winning, on-going project Dungeon Quest is a delightful combination of nerdy discipline and pharmaceutical excess... Happily marrying the sensibilities of post-grunge, teenaged waste-lads... with the meticulous and finicky obsessions of role-playing gamers and the raw thrill of primal myths, this captivating and wittily indulgent yarn is enchantingly rendered in solid, blocky friendly black and white and garnished with lashings of smart-ass attitude. Strength: vulgar. Intelligence: witty. Dexterity: compelling. Mana: absolutely. Status: unmissable." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch begins serializing another of Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversations, this time with Gahan Wilson: "The people who do horror stories and grim stuff are remarkably sweet people.... It was very odd. Why are horror writers like this? And it suddenly occurred to me — of course, what horror writers are writing about is the vulnerability of themselves and their readers and everybody and how fragile everything is.... They’re experts at being scared. If they weren’t experts at being scared, they wouldn’t write about being scared and scare other people."
• Interview: If you read Japanese, enjoy excerpts from a conversation between Moto Hagio and her colleague Ryoko Yamagishi from Otome Continue Vol. 6 presented at Poco Poco
• Feature:Eye of the Majestic Creature creator Leslie Stein is the guest contributor in the latest installment of "What Are You Reading?" at Robot 6. Among her picks: Yeah! by Peter Bagge & Gilbert Hernandez: "Gilbert’s illustrations are excellent and Bagge’s writing is funny, as per usual."
Anime News Network reports that Moto Hagio (shown above at Comic-Con International last year) has received the 2011 Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Award from the Japan Cartoonists Association of manga creators as part of their 40th annual Japan Cartoonist Awards. The honor is in recognition of her entire body of work, praised in the announcement as "revolutionary" and "of high quality." Congratulations!
• Review: "This book in particular reprints a run where Mickey Mouse enters Pluto in a dog race and ends up getting mixed up with a banker who wants to foreclose on a friendly old couple, snooty society types, high-stakes gamblers and the mob. The mob, people. It's really great stuff, with a ton of adventure and action balanced out with the humor I was expecting, which really holds up even here in the next century, right down to the fun Vaudeville-style wordplay. I would've devoured this thing if I was a kid, and while it's ostensibly a teaser for the bigger reprint volumes -- which, at $30 for 300 pages are looking like an even better deal than I thought -- it's awesome for all ages." – Chris Sims, Comics Alliance
• Review: "Joe Daly's comics are an unequivocal delight. The second volume of his role playing/video game send-up and tribute, Dungeon Quest, is a visual feast from beginning to end. Of course, this feast may be mere junk food, but his sheer commitment to the adventurous reality that his characters encounter makes the reader care about the most ridiculous of scenarios.... While there are a number of alt-comics fantasy series being published these days (with Trondheim & Sfar's Dungeon the best), Daly's fusion of underground comics sensibilities with the blunt directness of the video game playing experience is unique and leaves the reader wanting more." – Rob Clough, High-Low
• Interview: At Under the Radar, Jeremy Nisen talks to Eye of the Majestic Creature creator Leslie Stein: "Right now I pretty much write out the comic like a movie script and then just attack the page. As I go along I change some of the dialogue or add different sequences I've thought of to enhance the story, like if there's something I draw in a background on a whim, I might like it and incorporate it into the story. This way it's exciting as I go along, and not just laborious drawing. As for the concept, it just pops into the old bean. Magic!"
• Plug: In a pre-TCAF Q&A at the National Post, comic artist Niki Smith talks about her most-anticipated comic of the year: "Wandering Son is debuting at TCAF (from Fantagraphics) and I absolutely cannot wait to add it to my collection and push it on everyone I know. It’s a wonderful story of gender and sexuality and growing up."
• Review: "Even though Peanuts's peak was sometime back in the sixties these books are still coming out and you know what? They're still good. I keep waiting for a sharp decline in quality to hit but I'm still enjoying seeing Snoopy blissfully living out his fantasies, Charlie Brown being unable to ever be happy, Lucy being a jerk, etc. [...] This book suddenly made me want to go back in time very, very hard. I want to live in Peanuts so bad. Fuck my life. Someone help get me out of this life." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Jordan Crane has a sweet skinny line and can draw like no one else. He can draw complicated scenes and it's clear that he never uses a ruler. There's something very friendly and reassuring about his drawing style. Jordan Crane is without a doubt one of the best guys in the alt comix game right now and my only criticism of him is that I wish he turned out more work. Jordan's making the comics that everyone else is trying to make but unlike them, he's succeeding at it." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Coming Attractions:Library Journal's Martha Cornog spotlights a couple of our August 2011 releases. First, Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot by Jacques Tardi & Jean-Patrick Manchette: "The fantasy grime of Manchette's noir thrillers may not equal the true-life grime of World War I, but both make pretty darn gripping reading when Tardi gets through with them. It Was the War of the Trenches made numerous 2010 best-of lists, including those of Booklist and Library Journal. Manchette and Tardi's previous collaboration on West Coast Blues didn't do badly either, being nominated for two Eisners. With Sniper, a pro killer wants to nail one last job before retiring to marry his childhood sweetheart. But of course it's no cupcake gig." Second, Cruisin' with the Hound: The Life and Times of Fred Tooté by Spain Rodgriguez: "Here we have tales of the wild 1950s in muscular black and white, some memoir and some just tales, from take-no-prisoners Zap Comix veteran Rodriguez. [...] Expect this one to be adults-only: motorcycles, raunch, and rock 'n' roll and described as the unsentimental and hilarious 'anti-Happy Days.'"
• Commentary:On his blog, our manga editor/translator Matt Thorn weighs in on the damaging legacy left behind by TokyoPop
• Analysis: "Hey, Wait... presents a varied collection of strategies which help express emptiness and lack of meaning; the metaphorical use of silences and visual minimalism are two of these, and will become frequent in the author’s repertory in the following books. Meaninglessness, though, can also be expressed by adopting an aesthetics of visual excess (since both lack and overload can be equally menacing to the production of meaning). In this specific page, this is done at a typographical level." – Greice Schneider, The Comics Grid
• Blood & Thunder: "Why do you continue to publish Maakies? Is it intended to disgust people?" – Kevin Rutkowski, in a Letter to the Editor of The Austin Chronicle
• Review: At Comix Cube Kevin Czap praises Steven Weissman's "Barack Hussein Obama" (seen here on our website and in Mome Vol. 21): "It actually reminds me of Wally Gropius in terms of the structure, which is not surprising given its appearance in MOME. One can only hope that the whole thing will get collected, at which point I predict it to be one of my favorite comics ever." (Via The Comics Reporter)
• Review: We almost missed this cartoon review by Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg at Unshelved Book Club: "…The Last Musketeer… is the epitome of everything we love about Jason: stunning color palette, insane and absurd plot, humor that sneaks up on you, his signature anthropomorphized animals, and surprisingly serious themes of authority, humanity, death, love, jealousy…"
• Profile: At Examiner.com, Gillian Gaar talks to editor/EMP curator Jacob McMurray about Taking Punk to the Masses: From Nowhere to Nevermind: "The book, as its title suggests, views Nirvana’s success as the culmination of the alternative rock scene that blossomed in America during the 1980s. 'That’s the bigger context in the exhibition as well,' McMurray explains. 'It is the story of Nirvana, but it's couched within what was happening throughout the Northwest, and throughout the US, from the rise of punk rock on. It’s the idea that there needs to be a sort of infrastructure in place for a band like Nirvana to even exist; that without all of these advances that had been happening in the underground by a dozen different bands, Nirvana would have never happened.'"
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Chris Mautner talks to Gilbert Hernandez about Love from the Shadows and the other "Fritz B-Movie" books: "The Fritz series frees me of any obligation to be a do-gooder cartoonist, something most regular L&R readers probably don't want to hear. I felt straight jacketed with 'Palomar' and the like after a while, really. I have a lot more going on in my imagination than I'm expected to utilize." Further reading: at CBR's Robot 6 blog, Sean T. Collins comments on the interview
• Feature: At the Drawing Words & Writing Pictures blog, Best American Comics series co-editors Jessica Abel & Matt Madden spotlight two stories from Mome Vol. 13 as 2010 Notable Comics: Abel picks Dash Shaw's "Satellite CMYK" — "Dash Shaw just keeps popping up in our 'can’t miss' pile. [...] Beyond being a good story, the formal element of using color (and black and white) as a storytelling tool is very unusual and makes this work a standout." — and Madden picks Josh Simmons's "Jesus Christ": "The storytelling is fluid and dynamic, and Simmons’s ability to convey the enormity of the monster is bracing. Simmons deliberately mixes elements from different mythologies to defy any obvious reading. In the end, all we have before us is this escstatic Kali-Godzilla-Centaur with a halo of fire and a title to provoke us."
• Review: "...[T]his... phenomenal one-shot [is] a baroque masterpiece... It's difficult to do justice to the artistic qualities of Tardi's stark, understated line drawings; whether he's depicting a motley crew of sailors, highly detailed industrial machinery, or an ice floe, the art is both technical and madly expressive. Precisely calibrated, perfectly laid out, and incredibly graphic, [The Arctic Marauder] is as good as adventure comics get." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "This [story] sounds fantastical and almost the staple of short science fiction stories, but Jason’s work has a dark and twisted tone, like a hideous fairytale for a soulless child born in haunted forest. [...] I Killed Adolf Hitler manages to take the subjects of hitmen, time travel, dictators, alternate timelines, patience and love without ever feeling crammed or rushed. It fuses them into a story that by the end, leaves you marveling at its beautiful symmetry and craft." – Kevin Scully, The Negative Zone