• 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."
• List:Publishers Weekly announces the results of their 2011 Comics World Critics Poll, with these titles garnering 2 votes each...
"Love and Rockets: New Stories Vol. 4, Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez: Jaime Hernandez tops his 30 years of peerless storytelling with the conclusion to 'The Love Bunglers' in which two characters we’ve watched stumble through life make a final lurch — that may bring happiness or doom. Heartbreaking yet without a trace of manipulation." – Heidi MacDonald
"The Man Who Grew His Beard, Olivier Schrauwen: This graphic novel is exceptionally inventive, with each story being so very different from the one before." – Glen Downey
...and the following books receiving an Honorable Mention with one vote each:
• Review: "As [Wandering Son] volume 2 closes, the idyllic childhood Shuichi and Nitori have shared thus far, surrounded by exceptionally supportive family and friends, is showing signs of being breached by thoughtless outsiders.... In the insightful, not-to-be-skipped final essay, 'Transgendered in Japan,' translator (and manga scholar) Matt Thorn writes, 'Shuichi and Yoshino are coming of age, not in an idealized fantasy world, but in a contemporary Japan that poses unique challenges to children such as these.' Indeed, to quote a popular film, 'reality bites,' but in creator Shimura Takako's sensitive world, Shuichi and Nitori have better than a fighting chance at becoming strong, confident adults." – Terry Hong, BookDragon (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program)
• Review: "In spite of its depressive mood (you know, with it being about the end of the world and such), The Hidden exemplifies the effectiveness of Sala's application of a 'less is more' visual style to broad, complex stories.... I can't recommend Sala's books enough, and The Hidden is one of his best works to date. Be sure to pick up a copy if you're looking for something more than global plagues and cannibalistic zombies in your world-ending entertainment." – Tim Mitchell, Titans Terrors & Toys
• List/Plugs: Andy Mansell of Heroes Aren't Hard to Find names a handful of "creme de la creme," "must-have" classic comic strip collections from 2011: "Do yourself a favor – next time you are in the store take a few moments and pick up a copy of Lost in the Andes or Pogo, either Mickey Mouse collection, ...[and] flip through it. Read a few strips.... These are rich, beautiful books and they deserve to be read by everyone."
• Plug:The A.V. Club's Oliver Sava provides a guide to "What makes a good all-ages comic," saying "Animation-inspired art remains the most popular choice for an all-ages series... Carl Barks’ work with Disney’s duck characters is the pinnacle of this school: Barks’ experience as a Disney animator honed his talent for creating sprawling environments and distinct characters that are instantly charming and incredibly rich. Fantagraphics just published its first hardcover collection of Barks’ classic stories, Donald Duck: Lost In The Andes, a beautiful package collecting some of Barks’ most memorable duck tales."
"...[T]his dark, disjointed story about an assortment of misfit suburban characters plagued by bad luck and their own poor choices is a compelling, bitterly funny read... Despite its obvious influences King never feels like a pale imitation, especially in the second volume, where the ante is upped considerably, both on an aesthetic and narrative level."
"Color Engineering author Yuichi Yokoyama got all the attention this year, but to my eyes Schrauwen is just as innovative and wholly original a cartoonist as Yokoyama. The main difference between the two is that where Yokoyama is focused on expressing motion, machinery and discovery, Schrauwen prefers to explore differences in perception, especially between reality and that of the imagination.... Incredibly inventive and at times darkly funny, Beard is the work of a master cartoonist worth more attention."
• List: Carol Borden of The Cultural Gutter names The Hidden by Richard Sala as one of "10 Comics I Liked in 2011": "The world is ending in madness and blood, as a bearded man flees to the countryside. But what does he know about the end and why is it mostly nubile young women who are being killed? Another tale of mayhem, mystery and mad science from Richard Sala."
• Review: "This volume [of Wandering Son] is absolutely wonderful. It has an overall very gentle feel to it, but it’s punctuated by moments of cruelty and sadness.... It’s a rare thing to get such simple realism in a manga, and Takako handles it exquisitely.... This series can be really harsh at times, but there are some great heartwarming moments, as well. That’s what makes it great." – Kristin Bomba, ComicAttack.net
• Review: "Wandering Son Vol. 2 is a great sophomore collection from Takako; I feel like the slightly choppy nature from the early chapters in Vol. 1 is gone, and Takako’s starting to expand the cast and the plot in a way that provides more of a dramatic bite. Based on the class trip sequence in this volume, Takako’s just getting ready to make Wandering Son a lot more heavy and less idealized for the characters. If it goes anything like we see here, we’ve got a hell of a ride ahead of us. With beautifully designed hardcovers (and a pleasing weight and feel to the books too, with a good paper stock to boot), Wandering Son is the sort of series you’ll be proud to have on your bookshelf. I’m ready for the next volume now." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Review: "...I should warn you: this book is dark and bleak even for Sala, and that's dark indeed. There are still hints of his mordant humor, and his precise lines and color washes are as ghoulishly appropriate as always -- but The Hidden out-Salas any of the prior Sala books, which is an unlikely and impressive thing." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Interview: At USA Today Pop Candy , guest contributor Grace Bello chats with Tony Millionaire: "I'm still stuck with my love for fantasy. When I say 'fantasy,' I don't mean wizards and swords -- I mean anything that pops into my mind. I like stuff that doesn't have a contemporary feel to it. I mean, if I draw a telephone, it's got to be one of those old-fashioned phones that you hold with two hands. But that would be the problem with anything that's autobio; I'd have to draw modern cars and telephones, and I don't want to do that yet. If I draw an autobio comic, it's got to be about me in 1727."
• Interview: At Comic Book Resources, Alex Dueben talks to Michel Gagné about restoring Simon & Kirby's romance comics for our upcoming collection Young Romance: "Like a snowball, the project kept getting bigger and bigger. It was one of those things you have on the back burner for years and you constantly have to give it some attention. Finding the material was difficult and costly, the restoration process was long and tedious, but the book kept looking better all the time so I stayed motivated throughout. I wanted that book on my shelf!"
• Interview (Video):Mr. Media®'s Bob Andelman talks to Kevin Avery about Paul Nelson and Everything Is an Afterthought: "Paul Nelson had a fascinating life. If we worked together, it would not have been the same book; being a very private man, Paul would not have revealed everything that I found out."
• Plug: The Austin American-Statesman's Joe Gross looks ahead to some of his most-anticipated 2012 books, including Listen, Whitey!: The Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975: "Producer and writer Pat Thomas spent five years researching this tome, exploring the vinyl legacy of the Black Power movement from recordings of speeches by activists such as Huey Newton, Bobby Seale and Elaine Brown to Motown's activist imprint Black Forum to the role white figures such as Bob Dylan and John Lennon played in the movement. Probably the book on this list to which I am most looking forward."