Do ideas of war and enemies hold a people together? Is a culture of conflict too seductive not to be irresistible? These are the questions Cathy Malkasian explores in her second graphic novel, Temperance.
Malkasian creates, as she did in the critically acclaimed Percy Gloom, a fully realized, multi-layered world, inhabited by vividly realized characters. After a brutal injury in battle, Lester has no memory of his prior life. For the next thirty years his wife does everything to keep him from remembering — and re-constructing — a society, Blessedbowl, that elevates him as a hero. Blessedbowl is a cultural convergence of lies, memories, stories, and beliefs. Its people thrive on ideas of persecution, exceptionality, and enemies, convinced that war lurks just outside their walls. They have come to depend on Lester, their greatest war hero, to lead the charge once the Final Battle begins.
What kind of enemy could topple such a people and its walls? Mere memory, it seems, as Lester gradually emerges from his amnesia. Temperance is an eyewitness’s account of recovery and awakening. The graphic novel works on two levels. It considers the concepts of violence, stories, and belief, and their place in holding a culture together, slyly echoing contemporary political issues in a nation at a stressful time currently at war with a ubiquitous enemy. Secondly, the fissures in Lester and Minerva’s marriage is echoed in the greater political upheaval around them.
Malkasian creates a densely textured social context, masterfully conveying the idiosyncratic physical domain with its spiraling structures and quasi-medieval architecture along with intimate yet plastic portraits of her characters in a rich, tonal pencil line. Temperance is a galvanizing work of empathy and violence by one of today’s most thoughtful and accomplished cartoonists.
2008 Eisner Award Winner: Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award — Cathy Malkasian
Megan Kelso has proved herself a master of the cartoon short story with Queen of the Black Black (1998) and The Squirrel Mother (2006). With Artichoke Tales, six years in the making, Kelso expands her range (and her page count) by creating a family saga spanning three generations and an entire continent.
Artichoke Tales is a coming-of-age story about a young girl named Brigitte whose family is caught between the two warring sides of a civil war, a graphic novel that takes place in a world that echoes our own, but whose people have artichoke leaves instead of hair. Influenced in equal parts by Little House on the Prairie, The Thorn Birds, Dharma Bums, and Cold Mountain, Kelso weaves a moving story about family amidst war. Kelso’s visual storytelling, uniquely combining delicate linework with rhythmic, musical page compositions, creates a dramatic tension between intimate, ruminative character studies and the unflinching depiction of the consequences of war and carnage, lending cohesion and resonance to a generational epic. This is Kelso’s first new work in four years; the widespread critical reception of her previous work makes Artichoke Tales one of the most eagerly anticipated graphic novels of 2010.
Bonus Savings: Order Megan Kelso's Artichoke Tales + The Squirrel Mother together for a discounted price of $31.99 (a savings of about 8 bucks)! Order now and we'll ship you both books when Artichoke Tales arrives in our warehouse.
One of the highlights of The Search for Smilin' Ed (aside from the story and artwork, of course) is the full-color two-way foldout illustration of the Kim Deitch Universe, with an annotated guide in the back of the book. We thought it might be nice to give people an advance opportunity to explore this amazing illustration and familiarize themselves with Deitch's mind-bogglingly rich and complex world. Click the images above to open big honking JPGs in a new browser window (they're large files, so please be patient while they download). Here's what the foldout looks like in person:
Originally created in 1997 and 1998 for the underground anthology Zero Zero, The Search for Smilin’ Ed is the latest of Kim Deitch’s graphic novels to showcase his obsessive burrowing into the nooks and crannies of vintage American popular culture.
Where Boulevard of Broken Dreams focused on the earliest days of the animation industry, Alias the Cat delved into the history of comic strips, and “Molly O’Dare” (collected in Shadowland) concerned vintage movie serials, The Search for Smilin’ Ed explores the wacky world of children’s TV shows.
Launched on his latest investigation by a remark from his brother about a shared childhood favorite (“Y’know, I heard that when Smilin’ Ed died... his body was NEVER found!”), Deitch begins to uncover some truly amazing things about the kiddie-show host and his malevolent sidekick, Froggy the Gremlin. Meanwhile, Deitch’s muse and nemesis Waldo the Cat abandons Deitch to hang out with some demon buddies, and soon both Waldo and Deitch are closing in on the mysteries of Smilin’ Ed and Froggy.
Ranging across the entire 20th century, replete with flashbacks, stories within stories, and guest appearances from other Deitch regulars, The Search for Smilin’ Ed is a narrative whirligig that shows Deitch at his wildest and woolliest. For those whose heads have started to spin at the complexity of Deitch's mythology, we've included a full-color two-way fold-out guide to "The Kim Deitch Universe," and Deitch scholar Bill Kartalopoulos offers a lengthy essay on the ins and outs of this ever-evolving, ever-expanding world where fantasy, reality, and satire combine, clash, and are sometimes downright indistinguishable.
Bonus! Deitch has also created a brand new story starring Waldo in his 21st century post-Alias the Cat state of domestic bliss, stumbling across an army of (French-) talking beavers. Of course, there’s a story behind that...
“Kim Deitch has created a private world as fully realized in its own way as Faulkner’s. He’s an American original, a spinner of yarns whose beautifully structured pages and intricate plots conjure up a haunting and haunted American past.” – Art Spiegelman
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
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
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.
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!
Publishers Weekly presents a 6-page excerpt from Jim Woodring's new graphic novel Weathercraft today! Observe as a newly-enlightened Manhog explores the Unifactor and encounters a startlingly familiar face.
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).