"...[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."
The first Online Commentary & Diversions post of the year might very well end up being the longest:
• List: Humorist and television personality John Hodgman, asked to name his 5 favorite comics in an open Q&A session on his Tumblr blog, says "Love and Rockets: I don’t like to choose between brothers, but Jaime Hernandez is one of the greatest drawers of human faces and human want on the planet."
• List:Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge: Only a Poor Old Man by Carl Barks is #39 on The A.V. Club 's list of "most anticipated entertainments of 2012": "Only a Poor Old Man will bring Scrooge McDuck, possibly Barks’ greatest creation, into the spotlight. The bespectacled miser will dive around in his money bin and burrow through it like a gopher, and his timeless adventures will get the treatment they deserve."
• List: Tucker Stone, whose Best of 2011 previously appeared at comiXology, presents a slightly modified list for Flavorwire's "10 of the Year's Most Buzzed-About Comic Releases":
"Last year’s Love and Rockets was a huge deal, but this year’s installment is arguably even better.... Comics has yet to provide Love and Rockets with anything approximating 'competition,' but it doesn’t appear that the Hernandez brothers have any reason to be concerned about that quite yet. They’re still way better at this than everybody else on the planet."
"The big thing this year was watching all the great young cartoonists of the early 2000s carving out their places in the pantheon. Huizenga’s a perfect example — he’s been regularly turning out excellent comics for years now, and yet Ganges #4 still reads like a revelation.... It’s a fascinating experience reading these comics, and they’re gorgeous to boot."
"The continuing adventures of Johnny Ryan’s most violent fantasies run amuck, [Prison Pit] is rapidly becoming the comic that I look forward to the way a fat kid looks forward to syrup-encrusted cake. There’s no getting around the hoary old cliche — 'these aren’t for everybody' — so God help you if you can’t figure out a way to enjoy these books."
• List: The prolific Sean T. Collins, after having contributed to CBR's Top 100, runs down his personal 20 Best Comics of 2011 on his Attentiondeficitdisorderly blog AND at Robot 6, withGanges #4 by Kevin Huizenga at #15...
"Huizenga wrings a second great book out of his everyman character’s insomnia. It’s quite simple how, really: He makes comics about things you’d never thought comics could be about, by doing things you never thought comics could do to show you them. Best of all, there’s still the sense that his best work is ahead of him, waiting like dawn in the distance."
"...[T]he payoff... feels like a weight has been lifted from Woodring’s strange world, while the route he takes to get there is illustrated so beautifully it’s almost superhuman. It’s the happy ending he’s spent most of his career earning."
"Religious fundamentalism... has worn a thousand faces in a millennia-long carnevale procession of war and weirdness, and David B. paints portraits of three of its masks with bloody brilliance. Focusing on long-forgotten heresies and treating the most outlandish legends about them as fact, B.’s high-contrast linework sets them all alight with their own incandescent madness."
"I picture Gilbert Hernandez approaching his drawing board these days like Lawrence of Arabia approaching a Turkish convoy: 'NO PRISONERS! NO PRISONERS!' In a year suffused with comics funneling pitch-black darkness through a combination of sex and horror, none were blacker, sexier, or more horrific than this gender-bending exploitation flick from Beto's 'Fritz-verse.'"
"...[L]et's add to the chorus praising Jaime's 'The Love Bunglers' as one of the greatest comics of all time, the point to which one of the greatest comics series of all time has been hurtling toward for thirty years.... You can count the number of cartoonists able to wed style to substance, form to function, this seamlessly on one hand with fingers to spare. A masterpiece."
"The hype and acclaim surrounding Xaime Hernandez’s conclusion to his 'Love Bunglers' saga has been overwhelming, and every ounce of it is deserved. This is simply a phenomenal achievement in comics. A moving, thoughtful story of missed opportunities, loss and eventual reconciliation that provides in many ways a fitting conclusion to all of Xaime’s 'Locas' stories. I’d be hard pressed to think of a better comic that came out this year."
"More than the new Carl Barks collection, more than the return of Pogo, the resurrected, re-appreciated comic strip I found myself falling in love the most with this year was Gottfredson’s plunky, adventure-loving mouse, a scrappier version of Disney’s iconic creation. More to the point, I was completely taken with the stunning packaging and background information Fantagraphics and the books editor put together for this series. It’s new benchmark for reprint projects."
"Three volumes into this grand guginol series and it continues to surprise and delight, this time introducing a new character and suggesting via an end sequence that Ryan has been reading a lot of Fort Thunder comics."
"Incredibly inventive, Schrauwen, like Yokoyama, seems intent on pushing the comics medium into new and interesting directions. But where Yokoyama is concerned mainly with motion and exploration, Schrauwen is concerned mainly with perception and the interior world of the mind. This is great, mind-blowing work."
• List: Also on Robot 6's roundup of best-of lists from its writers, Tim O'Shea ranks Pogo Vol. 1 at #9: "Damn if this was not worth the wait... Volume 1 of the complete syndicated daily strips of Pogo would be enough to put this book on my list. But the fact that Fantagraphics has a foreword by Jimmy Breslin; an introduction by Steve Thompson; a piece on the Pogo Sunday Funnies by Mark Evanier; and Swamp Talk (R.H. Harvey annotations on the strips) is just icing on the cake."
• List: David McKean's Celluloid gets a "See Also" shout-out on Cyriaque Lamar's list of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Comics of 2011 at io9: "A decidedly adult erotica graphic novel with no dialogue, this is the famed Sandman cover artist going at page after page of a sexy hallucination, whipped up by a magic porno movie projector. Dreamscapes with boners."
"After 'Browntown' in last year’s installment of New Stories, there was a worry that Jaime might have peaked — how on earth was he going to top that story? The achingly beautiful conclusion to 'The Love Bunglers' in this volume was the answer. Pulling together strands from Maggie’s entire 30-year history in two pages was nothing short of stunning, with his art as cooly confident as ever, making it a real emotional sucker punch. Gilbert’s work developing Fritz’s movie back-catalogue is a real mind-bender, too, weaving inter- and meta-textual strands together that lets his characters say so much, while saying so little. It is terrifying how talented these guys are."
"Forget Pogo and Carl Barks — we already knew they were classics — the real reprint revelation of 2011 was good ole' Mickey Mouse.... To read these strips is to rediscover a love for Mickey and marvel at Gottfredson's amazing grasp of storytelling and humour, as well as his flawless artwork. Naturally, with Fantagraphics overseeing the reprints, the design, packaging and presentation is gorgeous — a real worthy successor to their Peanuts series."
• Plug: "I’m a little mortified to admit that Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes is my first exposure to Carl Barks (after decades of being interested in finally seeing why he’s so revered as a comic creator), but it definitely won’t be my last. Fantagraphics’ first volume of Barks material is a great place to start; a mixture of epic quests, short stories, and gag strips that are all impressively funny and awesome." – Greg McElhatton, Robot 6
• List: On his Domino Books blog, Austin English explains why Joyce Farmer's Special Exits is his favorite comic of 2011: "Farmer's cartooning allows for her characters to act out their illness and struggles in front of the reader. Farmer's drawing of her aging father is something to behold — it's not Farmer saying 'here is what my sick father went through.' Instead we see a drawing age and wither in front of us, and speak to us with both intelligence and dementia. I’ve never seen anything in comics done with such skill — let alone see a graphic novel (often the territory of poorly conceived topical heart wrenchers) speak about tragedy with so much depth and clarity."
• List: Comics writer Vito Delsante declares Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 the Best Single Issue of 2011 on his Best of 2011 blog post: "The Hernandez Brothers, since New Stories 3, have really created the most important mythology in comics since Stan and Jack (and Steve).... Jaime Hernandez should win every single award in comics in 2012."
• List: We rank 4 entries on Renee Lott's Top 10 Comics of 2011 at her Blogwithfeet
• Review: "I've been digging the new Fantagraphics release Jason Conquers America which commemorates ten years of the venerable publisher's relationship with the Norewegian artist.... My favorite story in the collection revolves around a crow who naps in a bed in a field and wakes up obliviously in an entirely new life. (Telling any more would spoil the revelation.) In 23 short wordless panels, Jason creates a powerful and compelling commentary that proves how powerfully expressive comics can be." – Stray Riffs
• Review: "A new comic from the top humorist in comics is always welcome. This issue [of Tales Designed to Thrizzle] is the usual combination of dada and surprisingly tightly-wrapped narrative gags surrounding the sort of cultural detritus mined by Drew Friedman & Mark Newgarden.... 'Quincy, M.E.'... is one of Kupperman's best strips because he keeps adding new layers of plot to an already-ridiculous story.... I still miss the sheer density of detail in Kupperman's older work that made reading it almost exhausting, but the avalanche of ideas remains intact, as does his ability to elicit laughs." – Rob Clough, High-Low
• Review: "...Prison Pit... [is] a marriage of pro wrestling, manga, bromance and filth.... Johnny Ryan has an almost Kirbyesque level of character design, but with obviously more genitalia, and it can at times be a joy just to see what is going to come on the next page.... Johnny Ryan is a cartoonist at the top of his game right now and he may just be the closest thing the comic world has to marmite." – Taylor Pithers, The Weekly Crisis
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks with Todd DePastino, biographer of Bill Mauldin and editor of our Willie & Joe books. Spurgeon says Willie & Joe: Back Home is "one of my three favorite comics-related books from 2011, and, I think, one of the year's best." From DePastino: "When I look at these cartoons, I think of literary critic Dominic LaCapra's claim that some books are good to think about and a very few are good to think with. Mauldin's postwar cartoons are good to think with. They not only provide a window to the times, like, say, good photographs or reporting might, but they also raise fundamental questions and issues that are with us still."
• Review: "These comics are beautiful. Each single-panel comic is blown up to a full page, so that Mauldin’s artistry can truly (and easily) be admired without squinting. The sentiments expressed are astonishing and bravely progressive for the time.... I’d never thought or heard about the poor reception combat vets received after WWII. (I mistakenly thought that only happened to our soldiers after the Vietnam War.) I wish I knew what they experienced. I’ll settle for giving [Willie & Joe: Back Home] to the next WWII vet I meet and hope that it sparks a conversation." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• List:Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 lands at #4 on Comic Book Resources' Top 100 Comics of 2011, with Chris Mautner saying "The hype and acclaim surrounding Jaime Hernandez's conclusion to his 'Love Bunglers' saga has been overwhelming, and every ounce of it is deserved. This is simply a phenomenal achievement in comics. I'd be hard pressed to think of a better comic that came out this year," and Sean T. Collins saying "...[L]et's add to the chorus praising Jaime's 'The Love Bunglers' as one of the greatest comics of all time, the point to which one of the greatest comics series of all time has been hurtling toward for thirty years.... You can count the number of cartoonists able to wed style to substance, form to function, this seamlessly on one hand with fingers to spare. A masterpiece."
• List: At Popdose, Johnny Bacardi lists his favorite comics of 2011, including Love and Rockets: New Stories #4: "Jaime didn’t need the last couple of issues of L&R:NS to make his already stellar rep, but I’d think these stories will be revered and referred to for decades to come. Don’t mean to downplay Gilbert’s contributions — they’re as solid as ever — but the last couple of issues have been Jaime’s masterpieces and are absolutely essential if you’ve ever cared for Ray, Maggie, Hopey or any of these characters for the last three decades, and a hell of a good read even if you are unfamiliar with them except by reputation." (Richard Sala's The Hidden and Wilfred Santiago's 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente merit Honorable Mentions.)
• List: Ed Sizemore names his Top 10 Manga of 2011 at Manga Worth Reading, with Wandering Son by Shimura Takako at #2: "Words fail me when trying to describe the beauty and artistry of this manga. The genius of this series is that Takako doesn’t focus on how 'strange and unusual' transgender people are, but rather how ordinary."
• Review: "Being in the band is an aspiration held by many a young girl, and for a lucky few, a reality. Peter Bagge envisioned this world in zealous delight with his graphic novel Yeah!... As a long time fan of Hernandez’s Palomar and Love & Rockets, it was a real treat to see his familiar drawing style across the pages of Yeah! Hernandez has a knack for conjuring up Dan DeCarlo (of Archie fame), with his own unique zany twist.... Readers are in for a wild ride as they follow the band’s intergalactic adventures. Old school comic fans, pop music lovers, and alien aficionados will enjoy Yeah! – it’s even Comics Code approved." – Marie Penny, The Hub (ALA/YALSA)
• Review: "In the seventh issue of his own, glamorously titled Tales Designed to Thrizzle, Kupperman’s got more mockery in store.... Kupperman’s highs are surrealism and satire melting together, and those highs in this issue is a riff on Tales from the Crypt that specifically targets the terrorizing world of baths, and a McGruff the Crime Dog equally as grim. The main adventure is Jack Klugman in his Quincy shoes tumbling down the rabbit hole of allusions new and old. Humor-wise, that focused quest is more spontaneity than surrealism and satire. But that’s the only complaint." – Zack Kotzer, Newsarama
• Commentary: At Robot 6, Chris Mautner presents a reader's guide to the work of Jessica Abel as part of his "Comics College" series
• Commentary: Tom Spurgeon's interview with The Comics Journal and Robot 6 contributor Chris Mautner at The Comics Reporter is a highly recommended read, and not just because of all the love and shout-outs Mautner throws our way
"Paul Nelson, a propagandist committed to some dubious values, had a gift for imbuing disreputable, even dangerous ideas with discomforting grace. You might almost say he was the Leni Riefenstahl of rock criticism....
"Still, he matters — and not only as an exemplary case of a good mind applied to wrongheaded purposes. He was on to something legitimate when, in his 20s during the early ’60s, he took the ambitions of the rapidly maturing music of the rock generation as a challenge to produce ambitious criticism. The fiery, literate pop-music writing he developed soon crystallized — and probably helped elevate — the standards of the work he wrote about, while raising the expectations of its audience. The existence of criticism of an art is one of the things that establish it as an art, and the rock world came to think of its music as an art when serious critics started treating it like one....
"His significance as a maker of ardent and crafty (if parochial) rock writing is clear from the testimonies by critics and musicians in the biographical sections of Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson, a quirky pastiche of biography and anthology put together by a zealous Nelson admirer, Kevin Avery."
• List:Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 is ComicsAlliance's Best Comic of 2011, with Jason Michelitch saying "The final 15 pages of 'The Love Bunglers' isn't just the end of a great new issue of a Bros. Hernanadez comic book. It isn't just the sixth part of a fantastic serialized graphic novel that's run since last year. It is the culmination of nearly thirty years worth of nuance, gesture, shading, pacing and dialogue — of angst, mania, fear, friendship, anger, and love. It is the finale to an epic of human scale feeling and drama. It is heart-stopping."
• List: Matthew Price of The Oklahoman names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 the Best Graphic Novel of 2011: "The Brothers Hernandez are some of the best cartoonists in comics' history, and Jamie Hernandez has one of the high points of his career in Vol. 4 of 'New Stories.'... Gilbert's visceral tale satirizes a societal obsession with vampires by showing their messy, unforgiving side."
• List:The A.V. Club's Noel Murray names The Best Comics of 2011: Graphic Novels & Art Comics in several subcategories. In Original Graphic Novels Mark Kalesniko's Freeway comes in at #4...
"Kalesniko’s animation-influenced style makes Freeway a fluid read, as he emphasizes motion, in striking compositions that guide the eye across the page smoothly. The plot moves just as freely, as Kalesniko renders both the exterior and interior spaces of his protagonist with a mix of loving care and impassioned disgust."
"Farmer jumps between matter-of-fact details and amusing anecdotes about the grind of end-of-life care, while turning the book into a celebration of two people: her father, a cheerful man so determined not to complain that he let serious health problems slide for months; and her stepmother, a steadfast woman whose pragmatism warred with her vanity. The book depicts old age as a wild, lurching ride: from medical crises to euphoric nostalgia to an eerie calm as the end draws near."
"Anyone who’s alive in the world should be moved by this story’s depiction of life as a series of accidents, miscommunications, and embarrassments, which sometimes work out okay regardless. 'The Love Bunglers' is rich with hidden meanings, complicated ideas and superior artistry."
...and Kevin Huizenga's Ganges #4 in the #2 spot...
"The fourth issue of Kevin Huizenga’s Gangescontinues the artist’s increasingly masterful hybrid of direct storytelling and experimental abstraction... The story suits Huizenga’s style, because he can both document the familiar minutiae of daily life and the sense of unreality that takes hold whenever someone is up half the night. Huizenga works in visual motifs of endlessly branching possibilities and spiraling shapes, showing how becoming 'lost in thought' can be terrifying."
"...Lost in the Andes encourages both fannish and intellectual approaches to the material. There are scholarly analyses and bibliographies, but also more than 200 pages of some of the best-written comics ever published, full of square eggs, rubber bricks, golden Christmas trees, and races around the world."
"The early Pogos aren’t as topical as what would come later, when Kelly would become a hero to the counterculture for taking on McCarthyism and promoting ecology. Mostly, these strips establish the world of the Okefenokee Swamp and the animals who dwell there, with Pogo the possum standing as the calm center of a cast that includes the dim Albert Alligator, the not-as-bright-as-he-thinks Howland Owl and the misanthropic, hilariously humorless Porkypine."
"The cartoons in Willie & Joe: Back Home capture Mauldin at a low ebb personally, but ferociously inspired professionally. Over the objections of his editors, Mauldin drew cartoons about estranged wives, limited employment opportunities, heartless fatcats, and an America more petty, materialistic, and xenophobic than the one they’d left behind... Today they’re a blistering reminder that life after WWII wasn’t all suburban bliss and baby boom."
"The highlight of the volumes are the strips themselves which are a lot of fun and show an adventurous side to Mickey that may come as a surprise to those who only know the modern Mickey. It’s also fun watching Gottfredson develop as an artist and storyteller as the strips progress. In addition to the comics there are essays examining the stories, the creators involved (the comics were often inked and scripted by others), and the characters themselves. This series is a long overdue look at one of comics legendary creators and their work."
"...[T]his book is so great and contains all the things you would want from a career retrospective from Jack Davis. Jack Davis is one of America's great illustrators whose career started in the late 1930s and continues to this day. That's fucking insane to think about.... Like I said, this book delivers the goods in a big way. It's 13 inches tall so you can really sink your eyeballs' teeth into the images."
"This issue of Tales Designed to Thrizzle starts out with stories based around the idea that bathtubs are evil or haunted, possibly based on childhood fears of getting sucked down the drain or something. Doesn't matter, it's hilarious even if it's based in absurdity. After that there are comics with funny dialogue about Quincy and St. Peter and Reservior Dogs II that all keep referencing back to the previous comics and have a dreamy feel, but if your dreams were hilarious.... A bunch of stuff is thrown your way in this issue and when it's over you think, 'I liked that. I feel satisfied. Mmm-MM!'"
• Review: "[Wandering Son] has a very well-thought, carefully paced narrative that allows us to explore what goes on inside each character’s head and to watch them develop as people. It’s much more a quiet slice of life affair than it is an over-the-top comedy and/or drama, which might be something you’d expect from a manga featuring cross-dressing... [T]his hardcover book... represents a sophisticated side of literary manga. Translated with rare skill and sensitivity by veteran translator and comics scholar Matt Thorn, much of the story’s original flavour remains intact. Shimura Takako’s gender-bending story has a very quiet, introspective touch to it, and her artwork – with its clean lines, minimal backgrounds and sparse dialogue – beautifully reflects this." – Sean A. Noordin, The Star (Malaysia)
• Review: "Fantagraphics here in the states once again has begun to unearth [Tardi's] body of work into the North American light, the first volume of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec being another fine edition produced in the best quality possible.... Does it sound a little crazy, imaginative, and probably addicting to read? Yes, yes it is. Which is why you need to read this series." – Drew McCabe, Comic Attack
• Plug: "You can’t start the new year without the end of times. Sala’s new book [The Hidden] features his recognizable palette and quirky, gothic font in an adult tale... The post-apocalyptic tale starts with a man waking up to find that everything has gone wrong; sorta a Rip Van Screwed. Great for those who enjoy zombie movies and dystopian books like 1984 or The Hunger Games." – Jen Vaughn, CCS Schulz Library Blog
• List: The National Post's David Berry names The Best Graphic Novels of 2011, saying of his #3 choice "This does feel somewhat like cheating, since there’s only a few sequences of proper graphic work here, but why quibble about format: Mark Twain’s Autobiography 1910-2010 is, quite simply, one of the funniest things you’ll read in any genre. Kupperman has a child’s free-ranging imagination and an aging intellectual’s dry wit... This supposed telling of Mark Twain’s 20th-century life... would be an awe-inspiring work of imagination if it wasn’t so absurdly hilarious. Somewhere between John Hodgman and Graham Roumieu, Kupperman has found stark comic brilliance."
• List:Comic Book Resources continues their Top 100 comics of 2011 countdown, with Ganges #4 by Kevin Huizenga coming in at #48 and Brian Cronin calling it "mind-boggling" and "remarkable. Absolute top notch sequential work."
• List:Comic Book Resources columnist Sonia Harris lists "My Top 10 Comics (for ANY Year)" with Love and Rockets taking the #2 spot: "Read Love & Rockets, all of them, both brothers, everything you can find. Your life will be richer."
• List:Bookgasm's J.T. Lindroos, running down the Best Euro Comics as part of the Best Books of 2011, writes "Fantagraphics continued its Jacques Tardi lineup, and I was particularly delighted by the proto-steampunk The Arctic Marauder, although I think one should own every single book in the series. I was also happy to see some less well-known artists get their chance, and both Sibyl-Anne Vs. Ratticus by R. Macherot and Murder by High Tide by Maurice Tilleux were wonderful surprises in the classic Franco-Belgian 'bigfoot' style. Fantagraphics is quickly becoming the Criterion Collection of comics publishing."
• List: Richmond VA comic shop Velocity Comics counts down their top ten Best Graphic Novels 2011, with Jim Woodring's Congress of the Animals at #9: "There are few artists’ work I can endlessly stare at with as much feverish perplexitude as Jim Woodring’s. Yes, I just made that word up."
• List: Vancouver BC culture site The Snipe surveys local comics industry folks for their favorite comics of the year. The Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse series by Floyd Gottfredson is named Best Collected Edition or Reprint by cartoonist Steve LeCouiliard...
"Floyd Gottfredson is one of the overlooked masters of the comic strip. Like Carl Barks, his work was always signed 'Walt Disney' but his craft and storytelling brilliance shone through. Comic strips really don’t provide much more pure joy than Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse."
...and by VanCAF organizer Shannon Campbell...
"The two-volume collection of Floyd Gottfredson’s run of Mickey Mouse, hands down! These books chronicle the glory days of the old-school Mickey Mouse comics when Gottfredson did both art and story (from 1930-1934)."
...while the staff of Lucky's Comics can't pick just one:
"This has been a boon year reprint editions, but take your pick from Fantagraphics Books’ amazing editions of Pogo by Walt Kelly, Donald Duck by Carl Barks, Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson, and Prince Valiant by Hal Foster. Fantagraphics has done such an incredible job on book designs, colors, paper… all of the details that make these editions glow."
"It’s not just the subject matter that’s a winner here. Santiago has a knack for simplicity in his storytelling approach, and in a medium that’s often beset by needless complexity, that’s a rare gift."
"...[P]robably the best pure horror comic I read this year... and one that quite frankly shocked the hell out of me. Sala’s expressionist art style might not be the most obvious choice for telling blood-curdling horror stories, but its innocent cartoony quality somehow makes a perfect (and terrible) fit with the horrible, almost nihilistic story that Sala is telling."
• Review: "Swarte’s visuals are always gorgeous and distinctive, with a strong influence from Hergé but an even more rigidly mapped out structure. The more you look at them, especially the large ones, the more you see, as in a one-panel, one-pager that lays out a parodic vision of comics production as if it resulted from a Roger Corman-esque movie studio. His eye is careful and his line even more so. ...[Is That All There Is?] is a real pleasure to read and to look at, and it makes a case for Swarte as a real comics guy, not just an illustrator." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Profile: At City Journal, an essay by Stefan Kanfer with a history of Walt Kelly and Pogo: "He frequently quoted a line that he had written for Porky Pine: 'Don’t take life so serious, it ain’t nohow permanent.' No, it ain’t. But art — even comic art — can be, in the hands of a master. Every book, every comic, every panel verifies the claims of Kelly’s fervent cheering squad: after 63 ever-lovin’ blue-eyed years, Pogo is still incomparabobble." (Via The Comics Reporter)
• Plug:Seattlest's Heather Logue spotlights Tony Millionaire's upcoming appearance and art show at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery: "Aside from the fact that he has an amazing superhero name, Tony Millionaire also has the extraordinary talent to back it up. The cartoonist will be at Fantagraphics with his latest book 500 Portraits-- a collection of portraits (duh) of everything from the very famous face, to the very small bug. All meticulously crafted in his beautiful, yet grotesque way -- you're not going to want to miss Tony's take on portraiture."
• Scene:At his blog, Drew Friedman recounts his experience as keynote speaker at the International Society of Caricature Artists' annual convention last month, with lots of photos, a couple video clips and a transcription of a Q&A session
"Through war, animal make-out sessions and film writing, Kupperman takes Twain through the ringer in a hilariously catastrophic epic that the real-life 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' author would surely have appreciated. Although reading it won't score you any points on a history-class term paper, the book will certainly open your eyes to one of the funniest writers working in comics right now." – Brian Warmoth
"The excessive violence is still here, more refined, more imaginative, more disturbing. Ryan pushes himself artistically in the second half of the book, delivering a stunning sequence that still haunts me." – Chad Nevett
"I picture Gilbert Hernandez approaching his drawing board these days like Lawrence of Arabia approaching a Turkish convoy: 'NO PRISONERS! NO PRISONERS!' In a year suffused with comics funneling pitch-black darkness through a combination of sex and horror, none were blacker, sexier, or more horrific than this gender-bending exploitation flick from Beto's 'Fritz-verse.'" – Sean T. Collins
"Leslie Stein burst onto the comics scene this year when Fantagraphics published the collection of four of her self-published comics... The comic is both surreal and mundane, the story of a young woman who moves to a New York complete with humanoid animals and talking musical instruments. ...Stein [is] one of the best independent creators to emerge in recent years." – Alex Dueben
• List:Robot 6's Graeme McMillan picks his 5 favorite books of 2011, including Stigmata by Lorenzo Mattotti & Claudio Piersanti...
"Way back at the end of last year, I called this the best graphic novel of 2011, and if I’m now a little more reticent to make that claim, it has more to do with the high quality of a lot of other releases this year than anything else because this is still a masterpiece that, were I some kind of unlikely comics czar, I’d make compulsory reading for everyone interested in the medium. Just a breathtaking book."
"Another book that I raved about earlier this year, and another one that I’m still raving about as strongly months later. A tour-de-force of cartooning from a creator who just continually improves, and pushes at the medium in almost everything he does."
"It’s a disturbing book in many ways – questions about exploitation and power are very present in the text – but also a beautiful, seductive one. It’s a book that sticks with you for a long time afterwards, and for that alone, it’s one I’ve returned to many times since first reading it."
• List:Panel Patter's Rob McMonigal names his Best of 2011: Manga Edition, with Wandering Son Vol. 1 by Shimura Takako in the #5 spot: "This is one of the most serious manga series I've ever read, and I finished it unable to come to grips with the best way to review it. Dealing with two children who come to realize they are trapped in the wrong gender, it's a story of secrets, revelations, understandings, and occasional cruelty. The book handles the topic with care and respect, however, which is part of why it is so good."
• List: Another top-10 from Panel Patter's Rob McMonigal, whose Best of 2011: Indie Comics, is topped by 3 of our titles: Jason & Fabien Vehlmann's Isle of 100,000 Graves...
"Isle of 100,000 Graves has Jason's trademark deadpan humor, resolute protagonist, and ending that leaves the reader thinking."
"At first, The Hidden feels like a typical apocalyptic story, albeit one painted amazingly well by Sala. But as things progress, the tale morphs and twists into one of the best horror comics I've read, with a twist towards the end that I never saw coming. That's what makes a comic stand out, and puts it near the top of my best of list."
• Review: "I found myself turning back and re-examining the pages often, digging through the many details that the words and images delivered. The story unfolds in earth tone – sepia illustrations, not gaudy, in keeping with the artist’s respect for the story and the subject. Clemente’s early life is here and one gets a real feel for his family and friends, and not without humor.... [21: The Story of Roberto Clemente] should appeal to graphic novel fans, baseball fans, anyone who likes a great 'bigger then fiction' story, and many others." – Mark Hodgens, Skyscraper Magazine
• Review: "Fantagraphics is now giving Barks’ Duck comics a whirl, and based off this first volume alone if there’s any justice in the comics world, fame should finally (belatedly) be coming for the late, great Barks.... The reproduction on these strips are beautiful; Fantagraphics hired cartoonist Rich Tommaso to re-color the works, and Tommaso wisely uses gentle flat tones to keep with the overall feel of Barks’ crisp, classic art. I also appreciated the essays about the different stories in the back of the book.... Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes is a handsome looking book, and trust me when I say it’s just the first of many I plan on reading by Barks." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Review: "So cue the squeals, and scan the racks at your friendly neighborhood comics retailer for writer/artist Michael Kupperman’s Tales Designed to Thrizzle #7. Beyond a cover whose hilarity strangely if successfully depends on its all-day-sucker coloring — tangerine, lemon, lime — this dadaistic offering opens with a six-page excerpt from Scary Bathtub Stories, a faux-Golden Age comic, and thereafter spirals further and further into neo-psychedelic weirdness." – Bryan Hollerbach, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "I like to imagine [Michael Kupperman] sitting in some tiny hellhole of a studio apartment packed deep into the bowels of New York -- these noble creatures lose their mystique when they own homes -- doing mutant Thrizzle pages until they stop paying him or until he gets a gig in the back pages of Vice. Some feminine if not female voice of reason hovers next to his desk, thumbing through the newest set as he leans back in his chair, wondering if Fantagraphics paid him enough to afford blowing the budget on a beer, wiping entirely imaginary sweat from his brow." – Patrick Tobin, Multiversity Comics
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks to Oil and Water writer Steve Duin: "I'm too new to all of this to fully grasp how the perfect union of writer and artist is formed... and there were times when Shannon [Wheeler] and I struggled to find common ground. But a great deal of my understanding of what we were dealing with in the Gulf owes to Shannon's perceptions and his sketchbook. He was refreshingly aggressive in dealing with the BP clean-up teams disinclined to give us access. His original poster for the group -- a naked woman starring incredulously at the oil derrick in her bed, and saying 'What do you mean, it broke?' -- is brilliant."
• Interview:Bookforum's John Madeira, who says "...Alexander Theroux’s writing... is grandiloquently lyrical, dizzyingly erudite, and often acerbic," talks with Theroux about The Strange Case of Edward Gorey ("a smart, engaging, and insightful monograph asking as many questions about the quirky artist as attempts at answers") and other topics: "Edward Gorey was very ornate — Corinthian! — in his love of language, and when he was in a chatty mood his conversation, crackling with allusions, was rich and often rare, exaggerated, campy to a degree, invariably tinctured with lots of movie-love, sarcasm, irony. Mind you, it was not that the man was trying to be something, contriving, say, to appear a cavalcade of wit, merely that, rather like Dr. Samuel Johnson, he happened to have sharp, remarkable 'views' on all sorts of subjects, almost all worthy of note."
• List: Tucker Stone counts down The Best of 2011 at comiXology. and we sure like the looks of his top 5:
At #5, Jim Woodring's Congress of the Animals: "Deftly exploring the individual's relationship with labor, consequence and love, Congress of the Animals might be Woodring's least nightmarish work yet. (Although there's still a decent portion of it involving face-robbed humanoids that you shouldn't leave lying open if you have junkies visiting.)"
At #4, Prison Pit Book 3 by Johnny Ryan: "Back in 2009, when Ryan began Prison Pit, it was a revelation; a bone-crushing giant, born fully clothed.... Make no mistake: if Jack Kirby was born today, these are the kinds of comics he'd be drawing."
At #2, Ganges #4 by Kevin Huizenga: "While it has been two years since the release of Ganges #3, the only thing that could possibly have dulled would be the audience's memory of how extraordinary the series can be.... As with Yokoyama's Color Engineering, the audience becomes participatory witness, buried head to toe alongside Glenn, living and dying by his attempts to conquer. The shaggy dog ending -- weirder than the last one -- only seems cruel for the length of time it takes you to remember: being broken out of a trance is supposed to hurt."
And in the #1 spot, Love and Rockets: New Stories #4: "...Love and Rockets 4 saw Jaime Hernandez making good on the promise of decades. Resolving with as much finality as one could ask the question of 'how's this gonna end,' the final passage of this issue's Maggie story was without comparison. There was absolutely nothing else like reading those pages for the first time -- the gasp held tight in your throat, the 8 panel grids giving way only once, for a two page silent recap of the last 30 years of a life only we seem to know was well-lived."
• Review: "...[The Armed Garden] is absolutely marvelous, a gorgeous and searing series of comics from an artist who earns the description 'freakishly talented' as completely as anyone this side of his trans-Atlantic fellow in crafting dreamy/nightmarish parables of violent spirituality, Jim Woodring. These comics are just as lovely and just as frightening, and just as singularly the work of their creator and no other." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• List:Oil and Water by Steve Duin & Shannon Wheeler is #5 on Comics Bulletin's Top Ten Best Graphic Novels of 2011, with Jason Sacks saying "This book is very much about misconceptions and preconceptions, about how we all can feel inadequate when facing enormous problems and how little we often feel we can do in when facing even the small incidents in our lives -- let alone the large ones."
• Review:Booklist's starred review of Nuts by Gahan Wilson (previously reported here) is now featured online: "The scenarios include summer camp, going to horror movies, being sick and obsessing about it, making models, eating too much, not knowing the answer (or even the subject) in school, selecting comics in the local cigar store, and other normal-enough stuff that holds the potential for humiliation, failure, and maybe worse. In Nuts, that potential is always realized and, as memory colors it, so uproariously that you just about choke with laughter. For sheer hilarity, this is Wilson’s masterpiece." – Ray Olson
• Plugs:Comics Alliance's Andy Khouri runs down their Holiday Gift Guide to Deluxe Edition Comics and Art Books, including:
"You've read our effusive praise for the incredible cartooning and hilariously grim Mickey Mouse stories of Floyd Gottfredson, and this excellent two-volume set leaves you with few excuses for not reading these classic comics for yourself.... It's hard to go wrong with this as a gift for your comics fan friends (or yourself), as it's a superlative example of the form from one of its greatest masters."
"I can tell you from personal experience that even one of these books makes a fantastic present, but to give the gift of the complete Love and Rockets is to provide your friend or loved one with a reading experience richer than virtually any other."
"Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang are often associated with the holiday season (also with Halloween, and that counts), so there's no better time to give to yourself or your loved ones one or all of Fantagraphics' hardcover collections of Charles Schultz's beloved cartoon strip. Reprinted in chronological order with the highest production values, any one of these books would make an auspicious addition to any bookshelf."
• Plug: "Reading cartoons is a good way to relax and the latest volume of The Complete Peanuts covers the years 1979 and 1980.... The strips with Woodstock and Snoopy are particularly funny. This latest collection of Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts cartoons would make a nice gift." – Glenn Perrett, Simcoe.com