In this month's issue of Booklist you can find reviews of three of our recent releases, excerpted below:
Bill Griffith: Lost and Found – Comics 1969-2003: "Prefaced by Griffith’s long, anecdotal accounting of his work and including stories featuring other characters who’d eventually join the strip’s cast as well as 48 pages in full color..., this collection attests the perdurable wit, style, and smarts of one of the greatest of the 1960s San Francisco underground cartoonists." – Ray Olson (Starred Review)
Athos in America by Jason: "What’s amazing is how much [Jason] can squeeze from so little. Though their emotional register usually falls somewhere between disappointment and death, the stories make an eclectic bunch.... Sure, Jason’s following his muse down the wormiest of rabbit holes these days, but you wouldn’t want him any less weird." – Ian Chipman
The Big Town by Monte Schulz: "It is as impressive as it is ponderous, and the maximalist mentality of overloaded historical detail is precisely what some will love and others will leave. Readers as taken by the era as Schulz is won’t find a bigger bonanza." – Ian Chipman
"Gilbert's stories are typically excellent in this issue, as he manages a certain luridness in one story that brings sexuality to the fore, and goes the other direction in a more oblique, subtle story. Of course, the story that got everyone buzzing was the second half of Jaime's "The Love Bunglers", which is an ending for this thirty-year cycle of stories--and one where Jaime sticks the landing with authority."
"This was Bagge's first feature-length Buddy Bradley story in years, and it's a doozy. Buddy, Lisa and young Harold visit Lisa's parents in a story called 'Hell,' and Bagge truly pulls out all the stops in depicting extreme familial weirdness. His dialogue is as sharp as ever, his line is quite lively and his uncanny ability to depict the creeping weirdness of suburbia is even more disturbing than in the initial run of New Jersey stories in Hate."
"Kupperman's 'Quincy, M.E.' story in this issue is a tour-de-force of twisting narrative structures and just plain crazy silliness. Kupperman's art has become increasingly bland as his aesthetic references have changed from 1920s comic strips to 1950s comic books, forcing the reader to perform double-takes at the crazy juxtapositions he creates. If his comics aren't as visually exhausting and exciting as they once were, he still provides an avalanche of ideas and jokes for the reader to sort through."
• Review: "Norwegian cartoonist Jason has returned with more full-color stories populated by lonely, and at times sociopathic, anthropomorphic characters. Cats, dogs, and ducks steal, fight, murder, and drink themselves into oblivion. Although brimming with black humor, the tales are far from ridiculous; the disjunction between the cute creatures and their actions often serves to highlight the despair inherent in their lives. Text is light, as the images drive the narratives. In these spare, mute panels, infused with flat oranges, greens, and browns, small movements covey great meaning and emotion.... Visually exciting, at times hilarious and at times devastating, Athos in America will only add to Jason’s well-deserved reputation as a star of the graphic novel world." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "This volume [Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1] provides an illuminating look at the artist’s numerous attempts at catching Sub-Marineresque lightning in a bottle for a second time, a task that mostly eluded him. The comics studios of the golden age were product mills that threw any idea against the wall in hope it would stick, and Everett did much the same. Forgotten sci-fi and superhero creations, as well as forays into westerns, historical retellings, and crime comics, populate this loaded volume, which reads like it fell straight out of some four-color twilight zone." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Over 150 pages of reprints, a brilliant back-of-the-book by Benson running 26 pages, and an introduction by my old buddy, cartoonist/historian Jay Lynch..., this book is a welcome addition to any comics library.... [I]f nothing else, The Sincerest Form of Parody saves you a lot of time separating the wheat from the chaff. But in and of itself, it is a very worthy book – entertaining on his own, and critical from a historical point of view. You should check this one out..." – Mike Gold, ComicMix
• Review: "[Jordan] Crane’s comic, The Last Lonely Saturday, explores the trials and release of life after loss. Crane’s story beautifully follows a husband’s weekly ritual to pay respect to his wife. In no more than a few pages, Crane retells the husband and wife’s entire history. From the comic’s meticulous book design, with its quaint size and the rounded, hand-lettered type in the first pages, readers can expect the story to be heart-warming. But Crane pulls at readers’ heartstrings with surprising grace. While the story is rooted in the traditional American cliché of lovers reunited in the afterlife, the story is told deftly." – Juan Fernandez, The Tartan (via Robot 6)
• Review: "[Freeway] captures the frustration of being stuck in traffic, particularly the array of images (violent and otherwise) that traffic brings to my mind (even better than Falling Down). Like me, Alex also relieves his frustrations with a lot of swearing." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• Plug: "I ran into animator Michel Gagné at the Annie Awards last week (where he picked up an Annie for Best Video Game, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet) and asked him about his next project. Turns out Gagne had been toiling on a labor of love (literally) that has just gone on sale this week.... That book, Young Romance: the Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics, is not the usual thing we endorse here at Cartoon Brew – but as a life-long Jack Kirby fan and oddball comic book buff, this project is right up my alley.... I’ve ordered my copy and highly recommend it, sight unseen. Thanks, Michel!" – Jerry Beck, Cartoon Brew
• Plug: "Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Captain America but they literally created the romance comic genre. The pages [of Young Romance] were packed with dialogue and dramatic art as women fought for love." – Will Harris, KOMO News
• Review: "...[T]hese comics are among the best in their genre without a doubt. ...[This] period was certainly the period of Jack Kirby’s greatest commercial success, and also the period of work which posterity has most neglected. For that this book [Young Romance ] is to be cheered, though there is much else to be happy about in it. There is the excellence of Gagné’s restoration work. It’s of a kind of cleanness which in the past, in archival projects by others, has often resulted in garishness. ...[I]t appears that Fantagraphics, perhaps by accident more than planning, is the only publisher to give us any coverage of the long neglected and just about forgotten 1950s genre of romance comics." – Eddie Campbell, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "Activist/musician/writer Pat Thomas has been busy the past five years compiling music, speeches and photos from the height of the Black Power movement, spending much of that time in Oakland, California, the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. The result is Thomas’ forthcoming book, Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975(out March 5 through Fantagraphics Books), which entrenches us in one of the most politically and culturally explosive times in America..." – Mark Lore, The Days of Lore
• Interview:Casey Burchby presents a brief excerpt of an interview with Daniel Clowes conducted last Fall in which Clowes discusses how his collection of Ernie Bushmiller Nancy comic strips became the backbone of Nancy Is Happy: Complete Dailies 1943-1945: "I found it baffling that I had the best collection of Nancy strips. I bought a bunch of them off eBay in like 1998. It didn’t take any special effort. I just found some dealer that had a whole bunch of them, and I bought all of them I could get my hands on. And when it came time to do the book, they were looking all over and they couldn’t find them anywhere. And I had almost all of them."
• Feature: Jill Russell of KOMO TV's Seattle Pulp blog spotlights Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 and talks to author Pat Thomas: "The main lesson Thomas takes away from this project is that young people are a forced to be reckoned with. The average age of a Black Panther was just 22. 'How many young people do you know are leading national movements?' he asked. 'When people have been stripped of their pride or ostracized too much, they will eventually fight back.'"
• Review: "For fans of comics from the dawn of the comic book era, this book [Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1] is an indispensable gift from Blake Bell and Fantagraphics. For those who love to read great stories from the Golden Age, however, this volume isn't as great as the ones that will follow. Kudos to Fantagraphics for re-presenting these stories after all these years, but this book does prove the truism that when reading archival reprints, the first volume will often be the hardest to get through. I give this book three and a half stars for the fact that it exists, for the exhaustive research by Bell and his friends, and because some people will find this material fascinating. As for the comics themselves in this book, well, your mileage may vary." – Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
• Plug:Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby's Romance Comics leads off the L.A. Times Hero Complex Valentine's Day gift guide: "The creators of Captain America also helped create a softer comics genre: romance comics. In the late ’40s and ’50s, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby captivated girls and women with their 'Young Romance' tales of star-crossed lovers. This 208-page hardbound volume includes 21 of those stories."
On the occasion of our impending release of Nancy Is Happy: Complete Dailies 1943-1945 by Ernie Bushmiller, our pal and colleague Ben Schwartz has penned an excellent essay on the strip for the current issue of Bookforum. Do get a copy if you can; click the scan above for a larger, legible version and we've taken the liberty of excerpting the parts where he heaps praise on the book below:
"In this, the reading public has a rare opportunity. No, make that a rare challenge — to read Bushmiller without the benefit of recontextualization of any sort. The fact that you laugh at a Nancy gag — and you will — is all on you. There will be no downtown doyenne to comfort you in the know ledge that the gag about, oh, bathroom plungers, or cotton candy, or squirt guns, is an ironically loaded statement on anything at all. No, you'll be stuck in a room alone with Ernie Bushmiller, who will force you to confront your inner stoopid like no other American artist. Indeed, it is genuine, nonironic praise to say of Bushmiller that if you don't get a Nancy joke, you are a moron.... Now, Nancy Is Happy arrives after three decades of pro-Nancy revival and mainstream humor often as archly silly and unreal as Bushmiller's — Letterman, Conan, Pee-wee Herman, The Mighty Boosh, or the grown-up fan base of Yo Gabba Gabba! It bodes well for Bushmiller's legacy that there's finally an audience educated enough to appreciate his brand of dumb."
• Review: "And now, Fantagraphics has packaged some of the best movie parodies in this ripely-colored book [The Sincerest Form of Parody]. But these aren't Mad comics. They're the imitators which popped up on newsstands in the 1950s -- comic books like Whack, Nuts!, Crazy, Bughouse and Unsane.... Most of the comics in the pages of this book are understandably dated for today's web-weaned generation who may have never heard of I, Jury ('My Gun Is the Jury by Melvie Splane'), What's My Line? ('What's My Crime?'), or Come Back, Little Sheba ('Come Back Bathsheba'), but that doesn't drain these parodies of their punch." – David Abrams, The Quivering Pen
• Plug: "Most of the 21 stories in this great new book collection [Young Romance] haven't been compiled before, and if you're not familiar with them, you're in for thrill after melodramatic thrill. My favorite: 'Norma, Queen of the Hot Dogs.'" – Michael Galucci, Cleveland Scene
• Interview:Mark Kalesniko talks about his latest graphic novel Freeway at the FLIP animation blog; that site's Steve Moore says "Mark Kalesniko’s graphic novel Freeway is a truly brilliant, hilarious look at the hunched and goofy lifestyle in our industry's ground zero. His humor is wickedly honest, his storytelling unflinching."
• Interview: At The Believer's blog, part 3 of Ross Simonini's 2008 chat with Jim Woodring: "[Frank]’s an agent representing my interests, my perspective. The world is never a settled matter to him. He’s always trying to discover what is really going on, and when he does find out, he gets a terrible jolt. Sometimes he is driven beyond the limits of sanity. As William Burroughs said: a schizophrenic is a guy who has just discovered what is really going on. That’s a paraphrase."
• Review: "The Peanuts of 1981 was an utterly professional entertainment machine, and still the pure product of Charles Schulz's own pen and mind. But its pleasures in the '80s were like those of watching a late-season baseball game between two teams out of contention: it doesn't mean anything, and won't have any real effect on anything, but it's a quite agreeable way to spend a few hours." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Review: "While other colleagues have seen their short stories and graphic novels draw serious attention in literary circles, Griffith remains the 'Are we having fun yet?' guy to many. Perhaps the long-overdue collection Lost and Found: Comics 1969-2003 will change that. Leaning heavily on the stories Griffith drew in the early ’70s for undergrounds like Young Lust, Short Order Comix, and the revolutionary Arcade, Lost and Found shows off more facets of Griffith, putting his obsessions with Hollywood, suburbia, and a certain type of corporate cockiness into a larger context." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Diane Noomin has seen her work scattered around anthologies like Wimmen’s Comix and Twisted Sisters since she made her comics debut in 1972, but has never received the dedicated study afforded by her new book Glitz-2-Go: Collected Stories, which brings together nearly 200 pages of Noomin’s work.... From the cluttered panels to the bracing honesty, these strips are very much of a piece with the original underground comics movement, and may not be immediately accessible to people unused to that tradition. But for those who fondly remember the glory years of Dori Seda, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Joyce Farmer, and Roberta Gregory, it’s a pleasure to see Noomin get her own showcase." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Nancy possesses in spades the quality common to all great art — a singularity of vision.... The clarity and unity of purpose made it quite impossible to miss a single punch line. Nancy is simplistic, yes — but it is simplistic by design, a strip without clutter, diagrammatic in its relentless formalism. Set against today’s comic-strip landscape, where Doonesbury has the ambition and scope of the Great American Satirical Novel and even gentle family comedies like Zits and Foxtrot boast character casts expansive enough to baffle a new reader, the dumbness of Nancy starts to look like some kind of genius. The roly-poly, Brillo-mopped mischief-maker and her lowlife pal Sluggo stand eternal, as iconic as the puppets in a Punch and Judy show or the Columbines and Harlequins of commedia dell’arte." – Jack Feerick, Kirkus Reviews
• Review: "At 7.6% ABV, Nibiru is a beer that doesn’t pull any punches, but its potency is disguised by the refreshing herbal and citrus flavours on offer. Like its European cousin, Duvel, it's light enough to be easy-drinking, but the intensity of alcohol mean that it’s a beer that demands to be savoured." – Gavin Lees, Graphic Eye
• Interview (Audio): On the new episode of the Mostly Harmless Podcast, host "Dammit Damian" chats with Noah Van Sciver about "how Noah got into making comics, his family and making comics for a living," among other topics
• Scene (Video):Graphic Eye's Gavin Lees captured Jim Demonakos & Mark Long's slideshow presentation of their graphic novel (with Nate Powell) The Silence of Our Friends on video at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery this past Saturday
• Review: "If Spielberg shed the skin of Hergé’s style in an effort to get to the heart of his stories, the compelling work of Dutch cartoonist Joost Swarte performs the procedure in reverse.... Swarte, equally inspired by the underground comix that emerged from the American counterculture of the 1960s and ’70s, adapted the clear line and reanimated it with subversive content unlike the perennially chipper Boy Scoutism of Hergé’s Tintin. ...Is That All There Is?, collecting the bulk of his comics oeuvre to date (excluding a body of children’s comics), provides an overdue opportunity to linger over and consider his narrative work.... Like a Rube Goldberg machine designed according to De Stijl aesthetics—with a rhythm and blues soundtrack—Swarte’s comics communicate a historically freighted, European sense of the absurd, poised toward a globalizing, postmodern present." – Bill Kartalopoulos, The Brooklyn Rail
• Review: "The real joy of Swarte’s work... is the architectural elegance of his illustrations and his fine ability to colour them using everything from watercolour to retro duo-tones. Looking at Swarte’s mostly 20th century work [in Is That All There Is?] now, what’s also — and tangentially — interesting is the retro-futuristic look of it: the settings are near-future, but everything’s styled circa the 1940s, much in the same way Ridley Scott imagined the future in Bladerunner. For sheer design swagger you need to check Swarte out." – Miles Fielder, The List
• Review: "These stories [in Athos in America] are a little less open-and-shut than Jason usually makes. His comics are always good, but I usually don't think about them too much after reading them. This one's more of a think stimulator than previous books.... It's a beautiful book. This is definitely Jason's best book yet. Good job, Jason." – Nick Gazin, VICE
• Interview:Chicago Publishes has an interview with Mome contributor Laura Park: "I’m really happy with the stories I did for MOME. I love short stories. Novels are the format now — it’s a selling format. You can have graphic novels in a bookstore, because non-comics people might buy them. Whenever you can get a comic from the comic shop into a bookstore, it’ll make more money. But short stories are kind of magical to me. My favorite writer is Flannery O’Connor. She has novels, but her short stories are the ones that linger and itch away through you."
• Review: "Nearly every cover in this collection [Action! Mystery! Thrills! Comic Book Covers of the Golden Age 1933-45] sizzles like a good slice of breakfast bacon. Pop art and the peculiar modernist aesthetic that defined postwar American culture really started here, with the liberation of comics from the funny pages and their metamorphosis into this most dynamic and demented of mediums. As a result, every deli and newsstand in America became its own peculiar gallery exhibit, a nexus of transient mass culture. This magical and immersive communion is now a thing of the past, but flipping through the gory, scary, and often beautiful pages of this discerning and honest anthology is an intoxicating experience." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "If you think you've seen all the best early comic covers, this'll make you think again.... I have a bias here myself...I helped Greg put parts of this together, with rare and fun covers from my own collection. Here you find the really cool and offbeat stuff... And Greg writes a concise bio of every cover and cover artist, putting each in perspective. I can't wait to show this to my Golden Age collecting buddies, it's a must-have book. You have my word on it." – Bud Plant
• Review: "...[N]o publisher has done more to preserve the Great American Newspaper Strip than the Seattle-based Fantagraphics, which has undertaken an audacious program of reprints in the last decade.... The most recent addition to the Fantagraphics line is the most anticipated: Walt Kelly’s unassailable funny-animal strip about Pogo the possum and his cadre of friends and antagonists in the Okefenokee Swamp. ...[I]f the company can pull off a complete edition of Kelly’s masterpiece — especially a full series as lovely as the first volume promises — ...it will be a publishing masterpiece of its own." – Matthew Everett, MetroPulse
• Review: "Is Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 the coolest book ever published? Yes, it is. Just out from the stellar Seattle publisher Fantagraphics, Listen, Whitey! is a gorgeously designed and smartly written coffee table book... Author Pat Thomas has done major archeological work to unearth albums from the era; for people like me who love classic record designs from the 1960s and ’70s, it’s heaven.... The book is a joy to leaf through.... Black music, art, and culture has been assimilated, and it’s made America a better, stronger place. Listen, Whitey! is an archival project, not a modern one. To which I, a white guy, can only say: Right on!" – Mark Judge, The Daily Caller
• Review: "The page in [The Cabbie Vol. 1] where the cabbie brings his father’s sewage covered remains home and puts them in what’s left of the coffin and then puts the coffin on top of his mother’s recently deceased body tells you everything you need to know. Unless you’re a Prince Valiant dude, this is the best reprint of the year. Impregnable would be the best word, EXCELLENT! will have to do." – Tucker Stone, Savage Critics
• Review: "Prince Valiant Vol. 4: 1943-1944 is not only a great book, I think it could also serve well as a good jumping-on point for those curious about the strip. By this point Foster has gotten a strong grip on his characters and the format of the strip, and with a new storyline beginning so early on in this volume you don’t have to worry about being lost. And while this volume doesn’t end at a conclusion for the last storyline (running a whopping 20 months in all, as it turns out, only the first 7 months are present here), there’s so much meat here that you’ll be eager for Prince Valiant Vol. 5 so you can find out how it ends. I, for one, can’t wait." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Review: "Are you a fan of Ghost World? You might not have noticed that Seattle-based Fantagraphics has reduced the price of their Ghost World: Special Edition to a bargain-priced $25.... The Special Edition is packed with goodies sure to thrill the Ghost World geek.... It’s a great item to add to your Ghost World collection — or to get it started." – Gillian Gaar, Examiner.com