Whether you choose to call them “comics lit,” “graphic novels,” or just “thick comic books,” book-length narratives told in words and pictures confidently elbowed their way into the cultural spotlight in the first decade of this new millennium — beginning with the simultaneous 2001 release of Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth and Daniel Clowes’ David Boring, and continuing on through ground-breaking and best-selling works such as Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Robert Crumb’s Genesis, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, and Joe Sacco’s Palestine.
This renaissance in turn brought forth a chorus of critical commentary that not only addressed these recent works, but also initiated a much-needed look back at the previous century’s neglected and forgotten masterpieces.
This chorus, as presented in The Best American Comics Criticism, comprises both criticism (Douglas Wolk on Frank Miller and Will Eisner, Robert C. Harvey on Fun Home, Donald Phelps on Steve Ditko and Phoebe Gloeckner) and history (David Hajdu on the 1950s comic-book burnings, Jeet Heer on Gasoline Alley, Ben Schwartz on Little Orphan Annie, Gerard Jones on the birth of the comic-book business), as well as revelatory peer-on-peer essays by novelists (Jonathan Franzen on Peanuts, John Updike on James Thurber) and cartoonists (Chris Ware on Rodolphe Töpffer, Clowes on Mad’s Will Elder, and Seth on John Stanley).
Add in still more voices (The Daily Show’s John Hodgman on Jack Kirby, Sarah Boxer on Krazy Kat, Ken Parille with a meticulous deconstruction of Clowes’s David Boring), and a selection of revelatory interviews with comics masters (Kim Deitch, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Marjane Satrapi, Will Elder, Chester Brown) and cartoonist tête-à-têtes (Eisner/Miller, Jonatham Lethem/Clowes, Dan Nadel/Sammy Harkham), and The Best American Comics Criticism offers a riveting and comprehensive look at a medium finally come into its own—not just creatively, but in terms of the respect and prominence within American culture it has so long deserved.
The Best American Comics Criticism is edited by Ben Schwartz, a contributor to The New York Times, The Washington Post, Salon, The Atlantic On-Line, and Bookforum.
See the full Table of Contents and read Ben Schwartz's Introduction in this EXCLUSIVE 15-page PDF download (193 KB).
Now in FULL COLOR! This issue includes Jungle Princess battling rhino traders, a story of Broadway theatrics in “All About Drainage,” more of America’s favorite physicist/writer duo, Twain & Einstein, plus slightly cursed merchandise, Cockney grave robbers, and Cowboy Oscar Wilde.
Download an EXCLUSIVE 4-page PDF excerpt (4.7 MB) starring Jungle Princess!
Also available now:
Order the Thoroughly Thrizzled Pack containing Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 (collecting issues 1-4 in a deluxe hardcover) plus issues 5 and 6 all together for a discounted price of $27.49 (a savings of about 7 bucks)!
One day Millennium Boy decided to grab his hobo stick, his bandanna, and his Swiss Army knife, bid his mom goodbye, and head off on a quest for adventure. Joined by his best friend Steve (weapon: baseball bat; clothing: wife beater, cargo pants and sandals), they soon find themselves in a violent altercation with two other adventure seekers. It ends badly for their antagonists (“Whoa, check it out, dude! You actually knocked this dude’s brain right out of his cranium!”) and Millennium Boy and Steve become the proud owners of fancy weapons upgrades (a crowbar and a steel chain). So on they trek, and the next inductee to their group is the muscle-bound Lash Penis.
And then things start getting weird!
Readers of 2009’s Red Monkey Double Happiness Book will recognize Joe Daly’s delightfully unique stoner/philosopher dialogue and distinctive character designs, but the hilarious over-the-top Role Playing Game action (complete with periodic updates for each character’s status in ten criteria, including “dexterity,” “intelligence,” and “money”) propel this new story into a heretofore unachieved action-comedy realm. By the end of this book (the first chapter of a projected four-part epic), the trio has been joined by Nerdgirl the Archer, Lash Penis has nearly had his arm cut off, they’ve acquired a whole new nifty bag of tricks, and the menaces have become increasingly surreal and lethal. Where will it end?
Winner, Prix special du Jury (Jury Prize), 2010 Festival International de la Bande Desinée d'Angoulême
To celebrate the launch of the new improved Meat Cake collection we've got some free downloadable treats for Dame Darcy fans!
First up, a smashing desktop wallpaper based on the title pages from the book. Just click on the size that matches your monitor resolution and the image will open in a new window; if you're on a PC, right-click the image and select "Set As Background"; if you're on a Mac, control+click and select "Set As Desktop Background." More wallpapers...
For a limited time, receive a FREE issue of the Meat Cake comic when you order the collection! Choose from issues 14, 16 or 17 (15 is sold out) when placing your order.
COLLECTING THE BEST STORIES FROM THE FIRST DECADE OF MEAT CAKE COMICS
Dame Darcy is one of the most beguiling presences on the comics scene — musician, actress, cable TV star, fortune teller, dollmaker, and last but not least, cartoonist to the core — and has been bewitching readers for over 15 years with her neo-Victorian horror/humor/romance comic Meat Cake. Alternating between one-off (often cruelly tragic) fairy tales and ongoing romps starring her eclectic cast of characters, including Effluvia the Mermaid, the roguish roué Wax Wolf, Igpay the Pig-Latin pig, Stregapez (a women who speaks by dispensing Pez-like tablets through a bloody hole in her throat), the mischievous Siamese twins Hindrance and Perfidia, Scampi the Selfish Shellfish, the stalwart Friend the Girl, and the blonde bombshell Richard Dirt, all delineated in her inimitable luxurious scrawl, Meat Cake is like a peek into the most creative, deranged dollhouse you ever saw. Meat Cake is an expanded reprint of the out of print hardcover with more stories assembling the very best of Darcy’s work (including “Hungry Is the Heart,” the legendary collaboration with Watchmen’s Alan Moore) from the first 11 issues of the beloved comic.
Download an EXCLUSIVE 20-page PDF excerpt featuring all the highlights of issue 4 (3.5 MB), PLUS a 6-page PDF including the Table of Contents, Foreword by Margaret Cho, Introduction by Dame Darcy, and "An Interview with the Meat Cake Characters" (1.4 MB), PLUS 4 pages of "Paper Doll Fun" (1.6 MB) that you can print, color & cut out without ruining your book!
"[Darcy] has created a childlike, otherworldly realm, a land that hovers in the twilight space between the whimsical and the macabre. Ghosts and goblins, foul-tempered stepmothers, lovesick mermaids and charmed forests are all rendered in Darcy's distinctive hand, loose and flowing lines reminiscent of the work of Edward Gorey." – Los Angeles Times
"Darcy's comics are aesthetic manifestos… Darcy is a star. Mark my words. Meat Cake will prevail, as luxury takes over America. And the world beyond." — The New York Times
"I think she's exquisite, let's put it that way. I wish I knew her in high school." — Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth)
Billy Hazelnuts is back for the first time since his acclaimed 2006 Eisner Award-winning debut. Life has settled back to normal in the old house. Becky and her mom are getting used to having Billy around, as he performs various household chores, utilizing his amazing strength. Nothing could be better, aside from a jumpy relationship with the cat. Until one day Billy hears screeching in the back yard and runs out to find a very large owl attacking his housemate. “I hate that cat, but it’s OUR CAT!” yells Billy, and chases the owl off.
Billy soon discovers that the owl he has just scared off has left an egg in his nest. When the egg hatches, it’s up to Billy to reunite the baby owl with his mother, and the two head off into the deep, deep woods in search of her. The resulting adventure is a crazy potion of all-ages fun, humor, thrills and chills like only Tony Millionaire is capable of.
For over 20 years now, Jim Woodring has delighted, touched, and puzzled readers around the world with his lush, wordless tales of “Frank.”
Weathercraft is Woodring’s first full-length graphic novel set in this world — indeed, Woodring’s first graphic novel, period! — and it features the same hypnotically gorgeous linework and mystical iconography.
As it happens, Frank has only a brief supporting appearance in Weathercraft, which actually stars Manhog, Woodring’s pathetic, brutish everyman (or everyhog), who had previously made several appearances in “Frank” stories (as well as a stunning solo turn in the short story “Gentlemanhog”).
After enduring 32 pages of almost incomprehensible suffering, Manhog embarks upon a transformative journey and attains enlightenment. He wants to go to celestial realms but instead altruistically returns to the unifactor to undo a wrong he has inadvertently brought about: The transformation of the evil politician Whim into a mind-destroying plant-demon who distorts and enslaves Frank and his friends. The new and metaphysically expanded Manhog sets out for a final battle with Whim...
Weathercraft also co-stars Frank’s cast of beloved supporting characters, including Frank’s Faux Pa and the diminutive, mailbox-like Pupshaw and Pushpaw; it is both a fully independent story that is a great introduction to Woodring’s world, and a sublime addition to, and extension of, the Frank stories.
Superficially resembling 1960s teenage humor comics, Tim Hensley’s graphic novel Wally Gropius is actually an acute satire of power, celebrityhood, and modern culture that tells the story of the titular character, who bears a closer resemblance to a teenaged Richie Rich or a classmate of Archie Andrews at Riverdale High than he does the famous Bauhaus architect whose name he shares.
Wally is the human Dow Jones, the heir to a vast petrochemical conglomerate. When the elder Thaddeus Gropius confronts Wally with the boilerplate plot ultimatum that he must marry “the saddest girl in the world” or be disinherited, a yarn unravels that is part screwball comedy and part unhinged parable on the lucrativeness of changing your identity.
Hensley’s dialogue is witty, lyrical, sampled, dada, and elliptical — all in the service of a very bizarre mystery. There’s sex, violence, rock and roll, intrigue, and betrayal — all brought home in Hensley’s truly inimitable style. Created during an era when another well-off “W” was stuffing the coffers of the morbidly solvent, Wally Gropius transforms futile daydreams and nightmares into the absurdity of capital.
Originally serialized in Fantagraphics' house anthology Mome, the story is presented here in a larger format with additional, previously unseen material.
“One of my favorite ‘graphic novels’ of all time. Hilarious and utterly unique, Wally Gropius is a work of unassuming genius that rewards on ever-deepening levels with each rereading.” — Daniel Clowes
Roy Crane is one of America’s greatest cartoonists and Fantagraphics is embarking upon an ambitious reprinting of his best work, beginning with his gorgeous adventure strip — Captain Easy.
Crane created the first American adventure strip — before Hal Foster’s Tarzan and Prince Valiant, before Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, before Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon — and quickly established himself as a master of the comic strip. Begun in 1924 under the eponymous title Wash Tubbs, within four months it moved from a gag-a-day strip about a girl-crazy young grocery store clerk to an adventure strip when Wash Tubbs embarks on a treasure hunt. Captain Easy was introduced in 1929 and began starring in his own Sunday page in 1933, which begins our first volume of Captain Easy.
The first of six volumes contains the earliest Sunday pages from 1933 to 1935. In his first adventure, Captain Easy visits a lost city, battles pirates, dons a deep-sea diving suit to explore a sunken ruin in search of treasure, and everywhere he goes, he finds beautiful women — a lost princess, a pirate queen, a savage woman in need of` “taming.” A romantic adventurer from a less politically correct age, Captain Easy is a Soldier of Fortune whose bravery and daring are exceeded only by his Southern gallantry.
Crane created the template for the adventure strip, combining adventure and humor in a Bigfoot cartooning style that perfectly conveyed the tongue-in-cheek tone and light-hearted thrills that kept readers on the edge of their seats. As comics historian Brian Walker put it, “the artist’s patented visual storytelling technique blended humor, drama, heroics, and pretty girls.” Crane’s Captain Easy influenced virtually every cartoonist who followed him — from Chester Gould (Dick Tracy) to Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates) — and even Hollywood’s adventure movies starring the likes of Cary Grant or Errol Flynn adopted Crane’s tone of two-fisted, good-natured derring-do. Citing Crane’s influence on comics, the artist Gil Kane once said, “Superman was Captain Easy; Batman was Captain Easy.” According to comic strip historian Richard Marschall, Crane was “a master not only of storytelling but of the art form, developing expressive techniques and a whole dictionary of conventions and signs for future comic strip artists.”
The first volume of Captain Easy also features a selection of Crane's original color guides, a biographical and critical introduction to Crane and his work by comics scholar Jeet Heer illustrated with rare Crane art, a preface by series editor Rick Norwood, and a foreword written by Charles M. Schulz for the 1974 Luna Press Wash Tubbs collection.
When Fantagraphics launched our collection of Krazy Kat Sunday strips back in 2002, we picked up with the 10th and 11th years of the legendary strip (1925-1926) because another publisher had already collected the first nine during the 1980s and 1990s. But now, with that publisher long gone and their Krazy Kat collections fetching record prices (some over $100!) among collectors, it’s time to go back and get every one of these comic-strip masterpieces back into print — re-scanned and re-retouched from original tearsheets, using 21st century digital resources.
Fantagraphics will be collecting these first nine years of Sundays into three volumes comprising three years apiece, starting with the very first Sundays from 1916 through 1918, and incorporating all the original articles and special features from the first edition, including rare art, series editor Bill Blackbeard’s definitive historical overview “The Kat’s Kreation,” and updated and expanded “DeBaffler” endnotes explaining some of the arcana behind the strip’s jokes.
Krazy Kat, with its eternally beguiling love triangle of kat/dog/mouse, its fantastically inventive language, and its haunting, minimalist desert décor, has consistently been rated (literally) the best comic strip ever created, and Fantagraphics’ award-winning series one of the best classic comic-strip reprint series ever published. Krazy and Ignatz 1916-1918, the 11th of a projected 13 volumes collecting the entirety of the Sundays, brings us within a brick’s throw of finishing “The Komplete Kat Sundays” once and for all!
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