What happens when you have to miss a couple of days of the comics internet is that it takes you almost the whole rest of the week to get fully caught up on Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List:Library Journal's Martha Cornog gives a nice shout-out to Carl Barks and recommends Oil and Water by Steve Duin & Shannon Wheeler as one of "30 Graphic Novels for Earth Day 2012": "Wheeler’s atmospheric, ink-washed greys capture eccentric residents from crabbers to a pelican-rescue team, and Duin’s script catches the ironic resiliency of people exploited by the very industry that feeds them.... Valuable for high schoolers and adults as a glimpse into the crisis, and for general sensitization to environmental issues."
• Review: "When I brought Pogo home from the bookstore on a Sunday afternoon, I called my daughters over, and we lay on the floor in the living room and read it together. I read it aloud, because half of the fun of Pogo is hearing the fantastic dialogue penned by Kelly, and my daughters loved it. I’m sure there were things that went over their heads — jokes that rely on experiences they haven’t had, references to past events, wordplay that’s a little too sophisticated. But the beauty of the strip is that does work on so many levels. There’s slapstick humor, cute little talking animals, and keen observations on the human condition — the last made easier to swallow perhaps because the characters aren’t people, as human as they may be." – Jonathan Liu, Wired – GeekDad
• Review: "[Jason] populates his tales with brightly clad cats and dogs and ducks, but their misbehavior is unmistakably human.... [Athos in America] is... consummately worth reading for its three gems: the lovely title story, the self-portrait 'A Cat From Heaven' and the wonderful 'Tom Waits on the Moon,' in which Jason carefully maps the crossed paths of four lonely people." – Sam Thielman, Newsday
• Review: "Despair threatens to overwhelm the creator’s usual tales of longing [in Athos in America]. In 'A Cat From Heaven,' his characteristic unrequited love story gives way to a somewhat depressing look at a self-absorbed cartoonist named Jason’s bitter relationship. Mercifully, the rest of the collection is a little more playful, from a couple noir parodies to the highlight, 'Tom Waits on the Moon,' in which four solipsistic stories converge in a tragic act." – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle
• Review: "The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s MAD-Inspired Satirical Comics is a wonderful book collecting the best stories of the beginnings of a favorite comic book genre — and I can’t emphasize this enough — it’s put together by people who know what they’re doing. Plus, it’s designed to fit on your bookshelf right next to your MAD Archives volumes. I can’t believe that you haven’t already picked this up! Are you unsane?!?" – K.C. Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
• Review: "If [Wandering Son] Vol. 1 was a masterclass in people not wanting to accept the status quo within their own minds, Vol. 2 shows the uncertainty of the waiting world. The way that Nitori and Takatsuki fumble forward with no plan is painful and endearing. They know the two of them are better together but there’s the problem of dealing with classmates, family and teachers. It’s not easy and well done to Takako for not short-circuiting the process. It’s not easy writing characters in distress but it’s wonderful to read it. If you can recognise the character’s pain and sympathise despite your differences, it proves you’re human and so is the author.... So much of what we read is a kind of literary false economy. We put in so much and get so little out of it. Wandering Son asks so little of you and you get so much out of it.... It is a wonderful, sweet, heartbreaking window into being different, young, unsure, afraid and human." – Eeeper's Choice
• Review: "[The Man Who Grew His Beard]’s a big batch of critic-friendly comic strips, comics which resemble curios excavated from some none-too-defined European past and more often than not have all the daring shallow-space visual syntax of a Garfield strip. They’re less stories than contraptions that wear their artifice and structure on their sleeve, like those medieval homunculi which transparently show their cogs and mechanisms while making their programmed movements." – Rich Baez, It's Like When a Cowboy Becomes a Butterfly
• Review: "Action! Mystery! Thrills!... beautifully resurrects all the Golden Age favorites, from superheroes to killer robots to cowboys and occult Nazis. This time capsule collection of cover art spans from 1933-45... An index in the back gives the fascinating stories behind the covers, while the full-page, color reproductions reveal them for what they are: works of art." – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle
• Review: "Primarily known for his ghoulish comic strips in Playboy and The New Yorker, Gahan Wilson showed his tender side (kind of) with Nuts. Originally a series of one-page vignettes running in National Lampoon, Nuts is presented here in its entirety as a classic warts-and-all reminiscence of childhood, from sick days to family gatherings, the joys of candy to the terrors of the dark basement." – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle
• Review: "R. Crumb hit it big in the ‘60s alternative Comix scene with his creation of Fritz the Cat (originally conceived as an adolescent). The feline protagonist remained Crumb’s avatar for lambasting American culture until a lackluster film adaptation prompted some divine retribution from his creator. The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat collects all of Fritz’s essential stories." – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle
• Awards:GalleyCat reports that Author Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, contributor to Significant Objects, has won the $1,000 Sidney Prize, which rewards "the author of the best new American story," and has a link to an excerpt from the winning story
• Opinions:Robert Crumb's got 'em! In the third installment of the "Crumb On Others" series, he lets you know exactly what he thinks of a bunch of prominent personalities, from Hitler to Ghandi (in whose homeland Crumb can be seen above) and from Kurtzman to Van Gogh
• Interview: When The Comics Journal posted the Q&A with Bill Griffith conducted by Gary Panter, I called it the must-read of the day, and it still stands as your must-read of the week: "I’ve only taken LSD twice in my life. Once on the beach in Martha’s Vineyard in 1967, which was pleasant, but not ego-shattering or anything. And once in New York after I’d started doing comics. All I remember about the second time was, I got hemorrhoids."
• Interview: Who better to talk to Matthias Wivel, editor of our Scandinavian comics anthology Kolor Klimax, than Steffen Maarup, editor of our Danish comics anthology From Wonderland with Love? A taste: "Putting together a good anthology is similar to making a good mixtape. Whatever the individual merits of a piece, it won’t do to include it if it doesn’t somehow work for the anthology as a whole. There has to be a consistent idea or tone to the book, which doesn’t mean that there can’t be dissonance — there’s some of that in Kolor Klimax, and I think for the better — but the individual parts still have to generate something greater than their sum. It’s incredibly difficult to achieve, but also a lot of fun." Read more at The Metabunker
• Review: "For almost 40 years, from Women’s Comix to the Nation, underground comics pioneer Noomin has shared painfully hilarious episodes from the life of DiDi Glitz, who’s partly her alter ego, but mostly a dreadful example of what a woman who’s not hip or self-aware can do to herself. Occasionally exploiting but usually exploited, DiDi is enthusiastically tasteless and (barely) sensitive enough to realize that there’s something missing in her life. Pursuing cheap sex as the only intimacy she can imagine, she’s usually wearing stiletto heels and fishnet stockings, with a blonde beehive wig jammed on her head. DiDi’s 'successes' turn out to be only briefly satisfying, though, and Noomin’s faux-primitive, b&w art stresses how ugly and vulgar her lovers are. Still, despite wrinkles and rejections, she never gives up, and her grandiose antics are as amusing as they are pathetic. Containing all of DiDi’s stories and a selection of Noomin’s other art, this collection [Glitz-2-Go] is valuable in itself and as an important comment on women’s issues." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "It can be a difficult task to tackle the subject of gender identity and transgenderism, but Takako Shimura handles the subject matter with sensitivity and wit [in Wandering Son Vol. 1]. We love how Shimura handles dialogue here – conversations are simple and hardly wordy, yet affecting. It’s strangely reflective of the art style itself... [which] is... characterized by a simple minimalism that still manages to capture the complex emotions of each character.... The series has been named one of the best comics of 2011 by NPR, and if the acclaim can’t convince you to give it a read, then the lovely hard-cover presentation by Fantagraphics Books surely will." – Deborah Lee, The Daily Californian
• Review: "Fantagraphics Books, saviors and protectors of so much that is illustrated and grand, have given me my holy grail. They reproduced, in its glorious entirety, the final catalog, #439, that was published by The DeMoulin Bros. in 1930. This mother lode of catalogs contains all of their fraternity props, gags and devices along with a history of the company and appendices that include the how to's, the scripts as well. The brilliant introductions including one by a Freemason examining the era, and one by the person who may well be the world's largest collectors of DeMoulin Bros. ephemera, magician David Copperfield, are a joy. Catalog No. 439: Burlesque Paraphernalia and Side Degree Specialties and Costumes is available from Fantagraphics Books, Comics and Graphic Novelsand from all fine purveyors of unusual or delicate literature everywhere. " – Robert Jaz, Forces of Geek
This month's Diamond Previews catalog came out yesterday and in it you'll find our usual 2-page spread (download the PDF) with our releases scheduled to arrive in your local comic shop in May 2012 (give or take — some release dates may have changed since the issue went to press). We're pleased to offer additional and updated information about these upcoming releases here on our website, to help shops and customers alike make more informed ordering decisions.
• List: YALSA's blog The Hub spotlights their previously-announced Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten 2012: "Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son Volume 1 rounds out the Top Ten list for 2012 with a sensitive look at two fifth grade students struggling with gender identity: Shuichi Natori is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino Takatsuki is a girl who wants to be a boy. This is a complex and sensitive subject, but Takako handles it very gently, allowing the story to unfold in a way that is not only natural but sympathetic. Takako’s artwork is spare and evocative, supporting the story but never getting in the way of its telling. This one is for teens who like contemporary stories about real world problems."
• List: At LitReactor, Kelly Thompson runs down 10 Graphic Novels for the Literary Minded, with Castle Waiting Vol. 1 by Linda Medley recommended "for fans of fantasy": "Castle Waiting, a brutally funny book with a giant heart, has a new spin on fairy tales with a feminist bent that will draw you in and keep you reading from page one.... Medley’s world is expertly crafted and completely believable, while her black and white artwork is clean and highly detailed with an emphasis on character design and acting."
• Interview: At SF Weekly, J Poet talks to Pat Thomas about Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975: "As you can see from the scope of the book, there were hundreds of recordings connected to the Black Power movement. At Fred Hampton's funeral, they blasted The Supremes' 'Someday We'll Be Together' from loudspeakers. Huey Newton loved Bob Dylan's line, 'Something's happening and you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?' The movement was inspired by music and the movement inspired many people, especially jazz musicians, to refocus their sound and energy."
• Review: "Buddy Does Seattle collects the first 15 issues of Hate, in which the protagonist has relocated to the Pacific Northwest and become the consummate slacker.... First published when Seattle was exploding in popularity due to the rise of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and various grunge bands, Hate offered a decidedly un-romanticized take on a particular time and place. ...Bagge's artwork took the public's perception of '90s youth as angry and volatile and pushed it to hysterical levels. Heavily influenced by late-'60s counterculture cartoonists like Crumb, Bagge's drawings are fluid and grimy-looking, with frequent use of exaggerated facial expressions helping to cultivate an atmosphere of chaos. As a work of cultural commentary it's brash and invigorating, and remains so years later." – Phil Guie, Critical Mob
• Interview:Nick Thorburn's tour with his band Islands brings him to Seattle next week and the Seattle Weekly's Dave Lake asks him about his connections to the city: "...I had a comic strip in the last couple issues of Mome, which is a Fantagraphics anthology, which is a Seattle-based comics publisher. I love Fantagraphics. I got a check from them recently for being in those comics and it would have made the 13-year-old me die with joy, seeing a check with my name on it from Fantagraphics. That's beyond my wildest teenage fantasy."
• Review: "[Swarte's] comic pages are playful symphonies, composed to the smallest detail. Though his style is static in nature, he is a master of panel layouts, organising the contents of each panel in such a way that movement erupts by the way he’s leading the eye across the page.... For those wanting to familiarize themselves with the comics of Joost Swarte, Is That All There Is? is a nice baptism into his specific world vision full of retro architecture and absurd happenings." – Bart Croonenborghs, Broken Frontier
• Review: "It is not very often that a comic (from any country) deals with gender identity in such a sensitive and accessible way, which is why I am so incredibly happy that Wandering Son is being translated into English.... I really do love Wandering Son. The story has a quietness to it that hides the intensity of its emotion. While gender identity is an important part of Wandering Son, it is not the only aspect of the story or or the characters. Shuichi, Takatsuki, their friends, families, classmates, and teachers all come across as real people. The connections between characters transcend gender, too. Friendships are developed and strengthened by common interests and standing up for each other.... I can't recommend Wandering Son enough and am really looking forward to the next volume." – Ash Brown, Experiments in Manga
• Review: "...[C]urrent fans of the [Zippy] strip are in for a surprise, a shock, and, ultimately, a major treat, when they pick up Griffith's new career retrospective, Lost and Found: Comics 1969-2003... The journey from these energy-packed, overstuffed, unpolished early comics to the elegant masterwork of the present is a journey greater than that of Gary Trudeau with Doonesbury or Charles Schultz with Peanuts.... His early reign as an oversexed adolescent-minded wiseacre gives way to a long golden afternoon of wry and wistful philosophizing, with frequent salient eruptions of deserved ire and malice toward all!" – Paul Di Filippo, The Barnes & Noble Review
• Interview: At Literary Kicks, Alan Bisbort talks to Bill Griffith about his career-spanning collection Lost and Found: "When I put this new collection together, Fantagraphics had been trying to get me to do this book for about ten years. When they first suggested it, they wanted some of the early, pre-Zippy work, along with the other non-Zippy work of more recent years. But I told them at first that 'that stuff has got to be hidden. Maybe when I’m dead someone can bring it out' but then over a period of time I grew to accept my arc, so to speak, whatever my arc is."
• Review: "Wandering Son... is a measured, sensible and sensitive series... Part of Wandering Son's hook is a distanced view at discomfort with one's own body. The manga is written to evoke the feeling of being ill at ease in one's own skin, such that everyone who has went through puberty can sympathize with these characters, regardless of their own relationship with sexual identity issues. I'm not so sure how particularly, generally appealing the prospect of reliving those feeling may be, but that sort of identification is a crucial part of what makes Wandering Son a superlatively fascinating manga.... Though it may or may not be an effective mirror to our own lives, it has its reader thinking about everything, both small and significant, [that] shape[s] us. As a result, Wandering Son proves to be deeply involving in an unconventional way." – Scott Green, Ain't It Cool News
• Review: "[The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat]'s beautifully drawn, even the earliest material. Fritz’s face is as expressive as all get-out, though you may be surprised at how dainty Crumb’s line is mid-period. One thing, however, remains consistent throughout and once more it’s Winston who hits the juvenile nail on its dream-addled, sex-obsessed head. 'Oh you’re such a child! Such a self-centred, egotistical child!'" – Stephen L. Holland, Page 45
• Review: "I believe that the Drunken Dream collection of stories lays the groundwork for measuring all of the wonderful components of girls’ comics. It’s a heck of a yardstick, I’ll tell you that.... It’s impossible to read through these panels and not feel your own life in them — and that’s why Hagio is such a brilliant writer. Shoujo manga is all about feelings, and Hagio is the master of feelings. The Queen of Feelings. THE EMPRESS OF FEELINGS.... I had never heard of the 24 Year Group before reading this anthology, but I feel like my life has been dramatically enriched by this collection. I want to buy three copies of it so that I can loan 2 to new people and have a back up loan copy for the eventual time when one of them gets stolen." – NOVI Magazine
• Commentary: At The Creators Project, Emerson Rosenthal talks to our own Larry Reid for an article on "the rise of DIY publishing and the revival of the printed word": "'The "Great Recession" forced us to get better with design if anything […] what you’re getting is a better looking book, more sustainable, and cheaper on the shelf. If anything, it’s a better product,' says Reid. 'At the same time, the self-bound ‘zine is definitely on the rebound.'"
"Gilbert's stories are typically excellent in this issue, as he manages a certain luridness in one story that brings sexuality to the fore, and goes the other direction in a more oblique, subtle story. Of course, the story that got everyone buzzing was the second half of Jaime's "The Love Bunglers", which is an ending for this thirty-year cycle of stories--and one where Jaime sticks the landing with authority."
"This was Bagge's first feature-length Buddy Bradley story in years, and it's a doozy. Buddy, Lisa and young Harold visit Lisa's parents in a story called 'Hell,' and Bagge truly pulls out all the stops in depicting extreme familial weirdness. His dialogue is as sharp as ever, his line is quite lively and his uncanny ability to depict the creeping weirdness of suburbia is even more disturbing than in the initial run of New Jersey stories in Hate."
"Kupperman's 'Quincy, M.E.' story in this issue is a tour-de-force of twisting narrative structures and just plain crazy silliness. Kupperman's art has become increasingly bland as his aesthetic references have changed from 1920s comic strips to 1950s comic books, forcing the reader to perform double-takes at the crazy juxtapositions he creates. If his comics aren't as visually exhausting and exciting as they once were, he still provides an avalanche of ideas and jokes for the reader to sort through."
• Review: "Norwegian cartoonist Jason has returned with more full-color stories populated by lonely, and at times sociopathic, anthropomorphic characters. Cats, dogs, and ducks steal, fight, murder, and drink themselves into oblivion. Although brimming with black humor, the tales are far from ridiculous; the disjunction between the cute creatures and their actions often serves to highlight the despair inherent in their lives. Text is light, as the images drive the narratives. In these spare, mute panels, infused with flat oranges, greens, and browns, small movements covey great meaning and emotion.... Visually exciting, at times hilarious and at times devastating, Athos in America will only add to Jason’s well-deserved reputation as a star of the graphic novel world." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "This volume [Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1] provides an illuminating look at the artist’s numerous attempts at catching Sub-Marineresque lightning in a bottle for a second time, a task that mostly eluded him. The comics studios of the golden age were product mills that threw any idea against the wall in hope it would stick, and Everett did much the same. Forgotten sci-fi and superhero creations, as well as forays into westerns, historical retellings, and crime comics, populate this loaded volume, which reads like it fell straight out of some four-color twilight zone." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Over 150 pages of reprints, a brilliant back-of-the-book by Benson running 26 pages, and an introduction by my old buddy, cartoonist/historian Jay Lynch..., this book is a welcome addition to any comics library.... [I]f nothing else, The Sincerest Form of Parody saves you a lot of time separating the wheat from the chaff. But in and of itself, it is a very worthy book – entertaining on his own, and critical from a historical point of view. You should check this one out..." – Mike Gold, ComicMix
• Review: "[Jordan] Crane’s comic, The Last Lonely Saturday, explores the trials and release of life after loss. Crane’s story beautifully follows a husband’s weekly ritual to pay respect to his wife. In no more than a few pages, Crane retells the husband and wife’s entire history. From the comic’s meticulous book design, with its quaint size and the rounded, hand-lettered type in the first pages, readers can expect the story to be heart-warming. But Crane pulls at readers’ heartstrings with surprising grace. While the story is rooted in the traditional American cliché of lovers reunited in the afterlife, the story is told deftly." – Juan Fernandez, The Tartan (via Robot 6)
• Review: "[Freeway] captures the frustration of being stuck in traffic, particularly the array of images (violent and otherwise) that traffic brings to my mind (even better than Falling Down). Like me, Alex also relieves his frustrations with a lot of swearing." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• Plug: "I ran into animator Michel Gagné at the Annie Awards last week (where he picked up an Annie for Best Video Game, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet) and asked him about his next project. Turns out Gagne had been toiling on a labor of love (literally) that has just gone on sale this week.... That book, Young Romance: the Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics, is not the usual thing we endorse here at Cartoon Brew – but as a life-long Jack Kirby fan and oddball comic book buff, this project is right up my alley.... I’ve ordered my copy and highly recommend it, sight unseen. Thanks, Michel!" – Jerry Beck, Cartoon Brew
• Plug: "Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Captain America but they literally created the romance comic genre. The pages [of Young Romance] were packed with dialogue and dramatic art as women fought for love." – Will Harris, KOMO News
• List: Gustavo Guimaraes of Brazilian culture & entertainment site Ambrosia names "The best comics published in the U.S. in 2011 - Alternative and classic," including Congress of the Animals by Jim Woodring (all quotes translated from Portuguese)...
"The world created by Woodring is unique, beautiful and scary. His stories can be incomprehensible at times, but always intriguing and charming."
"Sala's characters look like something out of old horror and mystery movies, and his plots possess a rare levity for narratives of the genre. The colorful art makes the his twisted drawings even more attractive."
"Walt Kelly was a complete artist, his drawings were graceful, his stories were simple and fun while at the same time provoking the reader with hints of metalanguage and political content. His writing was faceted with the sensibility of a great satirist."
"A masterpiece of old adventure comics continues today thanks largely to Foster's fantastic realistic art. Landscapes and epic battles are played to perfection by the author, turning the limited space of each panel into a window to a world where historical characters live with mythological beings. Careful printing in oversize hardcover as well as meticulous reproduction of the beautiful original colors make this collection from Fantagraphics a model for classic comics publishing."
"Even if you already have all of Carl Barks' comics of you will want to buy this book. It is the first time that these comics are being reissued with the original colors, digitally restored. This deluxe edition, with hard covers and high-quality paper, includes articles on all the comics collected in the volume."
• Review: "To say that it has been worth the wait is wild understatement. Pogo Through the Wild Blue Wonder is beautifully produced — no surprise to anyone familiar with the work of Fantagraphics Books in Seattle — and a joy to read. It comes as a genuine gift to anyone who loved Pogo and, it is to be hoped, as an introduction for younger readers to what many people believe was the best comic strip ever drawn in this country." – Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
• Review: "Wilson's genuine bravery, as this strip makes clear, is not that he set himself up as a rival to Charles Schulz but rather the directness with which Nuts confronts genuinely painful and baffling topics like sickness, mental illness, and death. When dealing with master artists, any ranking becomes absurd because each creator is memorable by the individual mark he or she leaves. So let’s leave Peanuts comparisons aside and say that Nuts is one of the major American comic strips and we’re lucky to have the complete run in this handsome, compact volume." – Jeet Heer, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Jacques Tardi’s interpretation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s book [Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot] is an intense and shocking thriller.... Dark, brutal and uterly compelling, classic thriller fans should lap this up. Put a few hours aside before picking it up though, because you won’t want to put it down and it’s a feast worth savouring." – Grovel
• Review: "I gave Roy Crane’s Captain Easy, Solder Of Fortune: The Complete Sunday Newspaper Strips Volume 1 1933-1935 a good thumbing many, many times before picking it up. The artwork was too simple, the stories silly. One day in my local comic shop with nothing new to read I picked it up. What I failed to comprehend as I stood in the comic shop flipping pages in this book is that Crane chose the elements of his strip carefully, especially those I dismissed it for. Simple character design, bright colours, fictional locations and action with a sense of humour. After finishing the volume I applaud his choices." – Scott VanderPloeg, Comic Book Daily
• Interview (Audio):The Comics Journal presents a recording of the Jack Davis interview conducted by Gary Groth and Drew Friedman at last month's Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival (posted here after a slight delay due to technical audio issues)
• Interview:Culture Brats has "Seven Questions in Heaven" with Esther Pearl Watson: "Even though now I have a huge collection of mini-comics, I try not to look at other comic artists as influences. They draw too nice, or have their thing down. Comic storytelling styles can be as individual as fingerprints. We spend years creating our own narrative language. Instead I look at naive drawing and self-taught artists to de-skill."
• Conflict of Interest: Our own Larry Reid names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 one of his favorite comics of 2011 in a guest column at Graphic Eye: "The conclusion of Jaime’s poignant 'Love Bunglers' story alone made this book essential reading in 2011. Almost unfathomably, Love & Rockets keeps getting better with age."