• Review: "Since its 1996 Olio Press inception with The Curse of Brambly Hedge, writer/artist Linda Medley’s sweetly Grimm magnum opus has sometimes appeared fitfully, and this week, Castle Waiting Vol. II #16 continues that trend. More specifically, as her publishers note in a one-page introduction, three years have passed since last the black-and-white Fantagraphics Books neofable graced comics shops. Still, those same publishers — Gary Groth and Kim Thompson, not exactly gentlemen known for lavishing praise profligately — also characterize the series as 'one of the greatest and most beautifully drawn fantasy comic books of all time,' and the verity of that characterization, even after so long a hiatus, earns Castle Waiting this column’s most heartfelt recommendation, as does the series’ gentle humor. Regarding its visuals, by way of example, a two-page view of Jain’s new quarters sparks astonishment for the impeccability of its draftsmanship; regarding its wit, meanwhile, a gentle chuckle should greet Rackham’s comment about the castle’s three handmaidens: 'They’ve been old biddies for so long, it’s hard to imagine that they were once young biddies…'" – Bryan A. Hollerbach, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "Record collecting was an engagement with mystery. [Pat] Thomas understands this and his book, Listen, Whitey, which documents the pieces -- both lauded and obscure -- of the recording element within the Black Power movement of the 1960s and ‘70s.... These small discs were part of the overall effort that allowed African Americans to get real information about the Black Power Movement, to let them know they weren't alone, to show them ways to be involved, to stoke ideas and energy, and to provide catharsis. Thomas mines this territory to construct a richly illustrated history of a time when revolution was damn hard, and it left reminders that it once existed." – John Seven, North Adams Transcript
• Scene: Culture blogger Philip Utley of Kellygreen reviews the Daniel Clowes retrospective exhibit — "There’s a quiet, clever intelligence to his work. He can also be harsh and sexually frank. Which, of course, totally offends me. So, when a show of his work came to the newly renovated Oakland Museum of California, I pulled out my dildo and jumped in the car." — with a bunch of close-up photos of the artwork
In this month's issue of Booklist you can find reviews of three of our recent releases, excerpted below:
Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1, edited by Blake Bell: "Dating from 1938–42, most [stories] feature superheroes designed to compete with the then-new Superman, such as Amazing-Man, who gained his powers from the Tibetan monks who raised him; the Flash Gordon-derived Skyrocket Steele; and Hydroman, who could transform himself into a waterspout. The stories and artwork are laughably crude by modern standards, although no more so than those in other comic books from the period. But even the earliest ones show traces of the sleek polish that would become Everett’s hallmark. By the later stories, his mature style is firmly in place, a sign that future volumes in the series will be of even greater interest." – Gordon Flagg
Krazy & Ignatz 1922-1924: At Last My Drim of Love Has Come True by George Herriman: "Herriman’s graphically dazzling, ineffably beguiling creation remains unequaled a century after its first appearance, and the 13 volumes amassing his three decades’ worth of fanciful Sunday funnies are mandatory purchases for any comics-art collection. This volume is filled out with Herriman rarities, including his first daily comic strips, from 1903, and the full run of Us Husbands, a far-more-conventional Sunday strip about married life that Herriman drew throughout 1926." – Gordon Flagg
The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s MAD-Inspired Saritical Comics, edited by John Benson: "MAD historian Benson presents 32 stories and nine covers from the copycats fielded by nine publishers, and at the end of the book discusses them. If you read the stories before the notes and you’re a devotee of the early MAD, you’ll have recognized the imitative qualities Benson points out, such as how MAD’s Jack Davis and Bill Elder had the drawing styles that were aped, and how Elder’s habit of adding what he called chicken fat — jokey signs, bits of business going on in the background, incongruous decoration — to every panel was swallowed whole by the knockoffs. But as Benson tells us, none of the pretenders quite 'got' MAD or, more important, its nearly sole writer, Harvey Kurtzman, whose all-important 'touch' lay in his jaundiced, derisive, smart attitude toward American commercial culture. Prime Americana." – Ray Olson
• Review: "The names here are mysterious, but the book makes a good case for many of the artists to be better known, which seems to be its intent. Tommi Musturi’s 'Samuel' stories, for example, several of which are included, are colorful, wordless, and Zen-like in their focus on the here and now. Joanna Rubin Dranger’s 'Always Prepared to Die for My Child' is another highlight, with simple drawings that manage to convey a lot. And Jenni Rope’s minimalist stories, which nearly bookend the volume, are poetic and impressive.... The number of woman cartoonists is also worth noting, partially because there’s no attention called to it. Kolor Klimax is a good first offering and may well indicate a series worth revisiting." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Review: "Between the heavy cross hatching and almost wood-carved appearance of Rickheit’s art and his fixation on the degraded physical form, Folly often looks like a Jan Svankmajer film or Tool video adapted by Geof Darrow or Jim Woodring. Rickheit’s work is visually striking... Folly is a gorgeous but uncomfortable collection best enjoyed a few pages at a time." – Garrett Martin, Paste
• Review: "Like a Velvet Glove [Cast in Iron] is an early work by a creator who will later become one of the artform's greatest creators. There are themes and moments in this book that will be revisited in Clowes's later works, and revisited in smarter and more focused ways in some of his newer and greater works. Daniel Clowes is clearly building his skillset in this book, as he works on his art style, story progression and thematic obsessions. But it's still an incredible work of art that shifted my perceptions of the world a bit as well." – Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
• Interview (Audio): Mike Dawson's final guest as host of The Comics Journal's "TCJ Talkies" podcast is Tim Kreider, about whom Dawson writes in his intro, "Tim has often insisted that he doesn’t consider himself a proper political cartoonist, but was only drafted into writing about current events by the lunacy of the times. It’s true that going back and re-reading Tim’s comics in the run-up to the Iraq war, is a vivid reminder of how hysterical things were at that time (not in a good way)."
• Analysis: Matt Seneca examines a 1937 Krazy Kat strip for his column at Robot 6: "This page expresses a single gem of an idea, duality of character. It’s an idea both simple and profound, perfectly suited to Herriman’s aesthetic, and the way it’s put forth is so straightforward that it’s easy to read the strip over time and again before realizing that what it achieves could only be done using the comics medium."
• List:Time Out New York names the "50 Funniest New Yorkers," and coming in at #16: "Cartoonist Michael Kupperman transports his readers to another world altogether. In the recurring comic Tales Designed to Thrizzle and book-length parody Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910–2010, Kupperman perverts antiquated cultural signifiers into a jungle of foreplay robots, nut bras and absurd character concoctions such as the Mannister (a man whose superpower is turning into a bannister). Even in his live appearances — during which he occasionally appears as Twain — Kupperman has the same sort of folksy okey-doke quality as his pulpy '50s source material; but make no mistake, there's an uncanny comedy brain teeming underneath his cool exterior." – Matthew Love
• Review: "...Swarte’s work does have that free-wheeling and even irreverent feel that you’ll find in the best work of Gilbert Sheldon and Robert Crumb. Chris Ware writes the introduction to this book, and he does a good job of setting up the collection. As he points out, Is That All There Is?contains most of Swarte’s work, which has me wondering what comics were left out, and why. Regardless, this is an incredible collection that spans Swarte’s career from the early 1970s to today." – Derek Parker Royal, Ph.D.
• Review: "Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the marquee team of the early days of comics, pioneered the romance genre in 1947 with this title, and, as you'd expect from the creators of Captain America, Young Romance wasn't bad. It had its fair share of melodramatic tear-jerkers, and occasional forays into misogyny (stupid women who need a man to teach them how to live), but Simon & Kirby also flirted with social issues like class distinctions and religious conflicts. And they didn't restrict themselves to small towns or big cities, like most romance stories, finding romance out West or in the Korean War. Young Romance offers 21 of the best of Simon & Kirby's romance stories, and that's probably just the right amount." – Andrew A. Smith, Scripps Howard News Service
• Analysis: At The Hooded Utilitarian, Robert Stanley Martin presents "one comics critic’s analysis and judgments of [Robert] Crumb’s career. I hope it’s of more interest than a pronouncement that his work is a single big project and one should just read all of it. Breaking his work down into distinct periods does, I think, help one to get a better handle on Crumb, no matter what one’s opinion of this or that individual effort. I certainly don’t think this essay is the last word. With Crumb, no essay ever is."
Today's (and yesterday's when it was slow) Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "The Dutch artist and designer Joost Swarte has a tremendous reputation among cartoon-art aficionados, given his tiny body of comics work. The answer to the title of his 40-year retrospective, Is That All There Is?, is: 'Pretty much, yeah.'... Plot is beside the point. Swarte is more concerned with formal purity, and with making the deep structures of cartooning visible. He pares his art to mechanical, hard-edged vectors and curves: caricature triple-distilled into symbolic visual shorthand, with every line canted just so. His geometrically precise, nearly architectural drawings are the bridge between the Tintin creator Hergé and contemporary artists like Chris Ware, who wrote this volume’s foreword." – Douglas Wolk, The New York Times
• Review: "Now we're talkin'! The first two volumes in Fantagraphics' Steve Ditko Archives (edited by Blake Bell) were rewarding collections of the offbeat auteur's early work, and among the best archival books of horror comics published in the last several years. But in volume 3, a.k.a. Mysterious Traveler, we see Ditko's lunacy reach its full maturation... The bold dynamism and moody linework that would characterize Ditko's Spider-Man and Dr. Strange work just a few years later, as well as his horror tales for Creepy and Eerie, is in evident throughout.... Volume 3 is essential for classic horror comics fans, and further cements Ditko's reputation as an artist without peer." – Joseph McCabe, FearNet
• Review: "Kevin Avery has compiled an incredibly thorough account of one of folk and rock music’s most important critics of the 20th Century: Paul Nelson. Avery reveals Paul Nelson as not just a music critic, but also a true writer who loved his subject matter possibly more than anything else. After reading, I felt that I knew more about Nelson than simply his life’s accomplishments—I knew him as the man he was: an observer who secluded himself with his books, film and music." – SLUG Magazine
• Review: "Madcap university mystery. Girl detective Judy Drood, with the hapless Kasper Keene, investigates the disappearances of girls on campus. Beautiful young women (some dressed like pirates), monstrous old men (some of them professors), photography, a puppet, and a misguided quest for eternal youth all figure in.... The dark edge in Sala’s other work is fully expressed here [in Mad Night]. The book is incredibly violent (though the dark, woodcut-like art makes it feel absurd). Here’s a body count by how victims meet their end..." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• Plug: "Published three years ago in an indie porn comic, Josh Simmons’ 'Cockbone' remains a high water mark for today’s horror comic.... The Furry Trap will collect that story, along with ten others being described by the publisher as 'hard-edged horror.' You already know if you can handle this stuff, so if you can, it’s time to start counting days. Eli is, most definitely, coming." – Tucker Stone, "Flavorpill's 10 Most Anticipated Comics Releases, April-July 2012"
• Plug: "While it’s a bit of an exaggeration to call Dal Tokyo Panter’s lost masterpiece, it certainly hasn’t been the easiest thing to come by. That’s to be the case for anything that’s serialized over the course of multiple years, multiple publications, and two different continents. Thankfully, the entire book has finally found a home at Fantagraphics, and those of us without access to early-’80s copies of the LA Reader can finally experience 'a future Mars that is terraformed by Texan and Japanese workers' as only Gary Panter — one of the most influential cartoonists alive — can provide. For some of us, this book has been a long time coming." – Tucker Stone, "Flavorpill's 10 Most Anticipated Comics Releases, April-July 2012"
• Interview (Audio): Yesterday's Pat Thomas radio guest spot to discuss and spin Listen, Whitey! on The Hear and Now on Berkeley's listener-powered KPFA can be streamed from their website for another couple of weeks
• Analysis (Video):At his blog, Paul Hornschemeier shares video of two "talks given during my recent graphic novelist's residency at Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Tammy Birk (Professor of English, Otterbein University) discusses themes in Mother, Come Home while Ryan Jordan (Department of Philosophy, The Ohio State University) examines the nature of paradoxes in general, using Zeno's paradoxes in The Three Paradoxes as a launching point."
• Analysis: At where else but The Hooded Utilitarian: "'Lightning Only Strikes Twice Once, Y'Know': Phallic Mothers, Fetishism, and Replacement in the Comics of Los Bros Hernandez," Part I (focusing on Gilbert's work) and Part II (focusing on Jaime), by Eric Berlatsky
• Review/Plug:City Weekly's Scott Renshaw previews Kevin Avery's appearance at The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City on Friday to sign Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson, saying "Avery crafts a biography of a largely self-taught thinker who immersed himself in his passions, whether that meant classic film, the detective fiction of Ross Macdonald or folk music. The author allows his subject to develop primarily through oral history, as his friends and contemporaries recall a quirky iconoclast who disappeared into obscurity and a lonely death in 2006. But the book is most compelling simply by bringing Nelson’s own distinctive writing voice to a new generation, a voice that burned with intelligence, unabashed pimping of the work he loved and a commitment to understanding what artists were trying to accomplish."
• Profile: Scott Iwasaki of The Park Record talks to Kevin Avery in advance of his signing at Dolly's Bookstore in Park City, UT on Saturday: "'Even though it started out as an anthology of Paul's work, as I started learning more about him and his life, I found there was a lot of Paul between the lines of the reviews and I knew the book I needed to do had to also be a biography,' Avery said. 'I thought it would be a great way to present his work and tell his story.'"
• Review: "...I like comics to be really crazy. Luckily there are people out there who share my deranged concept of what comics should be. One is Johnny Ryan, who understands comics at odds with artistic correctness and had already demonstrated his lack of respect towards his fellow artists in particular, and everything in general... The level of violence reaches insane levels of pure abstraction; the figures in Prison Pit cannibalize, maim, tear, break, eat and shit with such enthusiasm and rawness, it's like watching some amoebas evolving through the microscope.... A Stan Lee for the new millennium." – Alfonso Garcia, C (translated from Spanish)
• Interview: There's a seemingly-slightly-out-of-date but still fun Q&A (with acrostic Qs!) with Steven Weissman at Wall Drawing: "Nice colors help a lot. Black and white is tough, you know, I have to think more. Even when I’m drawing for fun I like to use markers, screentones and so forth."
• Review: "Gagne’s selections are first-rate. These stories are fiery fare. Lovers clash like storm-tossed waves on rocky shores. They battle misconceptions and social injustices.... Even stories created under the constraints of the Comics Code pack a wallop. In the skilled hands of Simon and Kirby, love is most definitely a battlefield. The book’s special features are also top-notch.... Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics belongs in the personal library of all Simon and Kirby fans and all serious students of comics art and history. It’s a prime example of what I mean when I say this is the true golden age of comics." – Tony Isabella
• Review: "[Nuts] is certainly a very good strip... and it was this completely left-field life event, showing a style of comics I'd never seen before.... The book looks just great, even if I would quibble with the designer's very odd choice to call this a 'graphic novel' on the front cover, and while something about it honestly lacks the genuine, timeless brilliance of Wilson's decades of Playboy comics, this is still an important and very readable collection.... Recommended." – Grant Goggans, The Hipster Dad's Bookshelf
• Interview: At Publishers Weekly, Casey Burchby talks to Kelly Gerald, editor of Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons: "I’d been researching and working on the cartoons for a while, but I can’t take any credit for getting this project off the ground. Gary Groth and Fantagraphics approached O’Connor’s agent about doing a book and worked out an agreement for an exclusive contract in late 2009, which was when I was contacted. Some years ago, I gave a presentation on the cartoons at an O’Connor conference in Milledgeville where some representatives of the O’Connor estate were present. They liked what they saw and remembered me when the Fantagraphics contract was developed. I’m very grateful to them."
• Profile: At The Comics Journal, R.C. Harvey on the life and work of Ernie Bushmiller: "Various among us have long been baffled and sometimes afflicted by the persistent presence, lurking at the fringes of cartoon afficionadom — or, sometimes, burrowed deep, prairie-dog-like, into its heart — of a sect or cultish non-organization of penumbra dimension, cult-ivated (so to speak) by a person or persons unknown.... In an effort to explain this mysterious and irrational dedication, we now paw through the alleged facts of Bushmiller’s life and work."
• Review: "Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson by Salt Lake City native Kevin Avery is a fitting testimonial to a man who pioneered rock 'n' roll criticism. Those familiar and unfamiliar with the culture of the '60s will appreciate this finely written tribute.... Overall, Everything Is an Afterthought will break your heart and inspire you to be a better person. It is a wonderful story of a man who deserves his chance in the spotlight." – Shelby Scoffield, Deseret News
• Review: "A little impenetrable in that wordless story kind of way, even when there are words. I like the stories – actually read them – but I’m more interested in studying the way each page sports a new texture or approach. The art is simply fantastic. Some stories retain a color scheme for their entirety and some switch up the limited palette within the story itself. Totally my kind of thing. I like the coloring, the line drawing, the combination of both. The graphic, printmaking quality of it and the 'classical' drawing are also attractive to me. I found myself just flipping through this collection for a long time.... High class stuff. Also, this book gets an award for best endpapers. Check it out." – Frank Santoro, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Lost and Found is the sort of retrospective project that begs summary statements. The introduction reads like a compressed memoir. The book, while extremely dense and a bit overwhelming to read, testifies to Griffith’s heroic output of underground comics, and his commitment to a lifetime of making work that is challenging, inventive, and beautifully drawn. His signature narrative discombobulation and linguistic elasticity unite all these disparate pieces into a cohesive statement of surprise and protest. It is ridiculously quotable. Also, it is very funny. Lost and Found delivers wholesale entertainment value with a socially redeeming dose of satire." – Matthew Thurber & Rebecca Bird, The Comics Journal
• Interview (Audio):Inkstuds host Robin McConnell says of his latest episode, "One of the most prolific cartoonists of the underground generation, Bill Griffith, joined me to chat about his new collection, Lost and Found. It is an interesting conversation that touches on a number of different topics, ranging from his Zippy the Pinhead work, to discussing his contemporaries like Rory Hayes."
• Interview: Paul Gravett chatted with Robert Crumb for Art Review magazine; he presents an unexpurgated version at his blog: "In the last few years, I’ve got so deeply involved investigating scandalous shit that goes on in modern business and culture. It’s very difficult to interpret in comics, I’m trying to figure it out. There’s not a lot of action or humour, it’s serious, grim shit. You could get your ass in trouble doing that, too. I remember when I did this thing in the Seventies, ‘Frosty the Snowman’, where I had him being this revolutionary who throws bombs at the Rockefeller mansion and shortly after that was published, the Internal Revenue Service came after me."
• Interview: Chris Mautner's Q&A with Zak Sally at Robot 6 is a must read: "I’m no Pollyanna, nor am I a hippie; the world is NOT cut and dried with stuff like this, nor do I view it that way — if, for instance, Fantagraphics (who I love dearly) decided to print all their stuff over here, they’d probably have to kill important books by artists who don’t sell as well to ameliorate that extra cost. Or, hell, i don’t know — maybe they’d go under. Do i want either of those things? Heck no. I want Noah van Sciver and Chris Wright’s new books to get out in the world, and to reach their audience. I want Fantagraphics to be around for … forever. BUT: let’s also not fool ourselves that this 'lowest cost' imperative isn’t fucking up our world significantly, all day every day, as an economic paradigm. It’s a real thing, and that can’t be ignored either."
• Profile: At HiLobrow, Norman Hathaway puts the spotlight on Guy Peellaert: "Years later I realized that Peellaert had also been responsible for one of my favorite pieces of power-pop comic art; Jodelle (and later Pravda), which plastered hip, mid-’60s fashion drawing into a dystopian landscape of the future, done in a completely different linear graphic design-based style."
• Profile: Dan Taylor of The Press Democrat chats with Monte Schulz: "'My dad is actually mentioned in a very subtle way in The Big Town,' Schulz said. 'The main character, Harry, is in a barber shop. It says, "Back in St. Paul, he'd gotten his hair cut in the Family Barbershop on North Snelling Avenue by a cigar-smoking German fellow, whose young son drew funny little pictures."'"
• Profile (Video): Enjoy a brief video spotlight on the great Kim Deitch presented by Seth Kushner at Trip City
• Tribute/History: From last week, at The Stranger, rememberances of our former art director, the late Dale Yarger
• Review: "The Complete Crumb Comics Volume One: The Early Years of Bitter Struggle, a 1987 book now republished in an expanded edition, gathers together the earliest surviving examples of the great cartoonist’s juvenilia taking him from age 14 or 15 to 18 years old. The high school scribbler that we meet in these pages is a very callow Crumb indeed: Crumb before he had sex, Crumb before he dropped acid, Crumb before he was adopted as a hero of the counterculture, Crumb before he honed his satirical stance on modern life, Crumb before he became the most radical, polarizing and influential cartoonist of the late 20th century. Yet in the lanky and awkward body of the teenage Crumb we can see the outlines of the substantial artist he would become.... There are very few cartoonists whose entire body of work demands to be read and Crumb belongs near the very top of that short list." – Jeet Heer, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Has Jason become more embittered and misanthropic as he’s aged, or do those tendencies just become more evident as one reads more of his work? Athos in America is up to his usual standards, full of stories that build slowly, with plenty of subtle detail in its stone-faced panels.... Mostly, we wait for things to end badly, which they almost always do, although never with much overt expression of drama.... The execution, as it always is with both Jason and Fantagraphics, is stellar." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Review: "Fantagraphics Books is doing a good job of preserving and publishing important cartoons. A good example is Willie and Joe: The WWII Years.... These cartoons about World War II provide the reader with a glimpse of what army life was like. Willie and Joe: The WWII Years is more than a book of cartoons by a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, it is a significant history book." – Glenn Perrett, Simcoe.com
• Review: "Fantagraphics Books continues to make available Charles M. Schulz's wonderful Peanuts cartoons in attractive books that make nice keepsakes. The latest volume covers the years 1983 and 1984. Lots of fun things are happening with the Peanuts gang including Snoopy's brother Spike requiring help from attacks by coyotes in the desert (they're attacking him with rubber bands), Lucy is still pursuing Schroeder, Charlie Brown is still in a "love triangle" with Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown joins Peppermint Patty's baseball team...as a mascot. This volume includes a Foreword by Leonard Maltin. As with other Peanuts books, The Complete Peanuts 1983-1984 would make a nice gift for those who enjoy Peanuts and the work of Charles M. Schulz." – Glenn Perrett, Simcoe.com
• Interview: Geoff Boucher of The Los Angeles Times has a Q&A with Daniel Clowes about looking back on his career: "One thing that really shocked me was to go through some of the fan mail I used to get in the pre-Internet days. Lots of people — like a truly surprising number of complete strangers — would write me 10- or 15-page letters, telling me all about the most mundane details of their twitterless existence. Pretty much inconceivable nowadays."
• Opinion:Newsarama's Graeme McMillan counts down "The 10 Most Glaring Eisner Nomination Omissions," placing Dave McKean at #9 ("With 2011 seeing the release of Celluloid, the erotic graphic novel that not only marked the return of the much-loved multimedia creator... to comics but also his first full-length graphic novel ever, you would've been forgiven for thinking he would've been given some kind of nomination nod...") and Jaime Herandez at #1 ("A heartbreaking story that not only showed Jaime on top form after a 20+ year career in comics -- and definitely in a class of his own as modern-day storyteller -- 'Love Bunglers' topped many year-end lists for 2011 and was the rare comic that, it seemed, was loved and appreciated by everyone that read it.")