• List: Gustavo Guimaraes of Brazilian culture & entertainment site Ambrosia names "The best comics published in the U.S. in 2011 - Alternative and classic," including Congress of the Animals by Jim Woodring (all quotes translated from Portuguese)...
"The world created by Woodring is unique, beautiful and scary. His stories can be incomprehensible at times, but always intriguing and charming."
"Sala's characters look like something out of old horror and mystery movies, and his plots possess a rare levity for narratives of the genre. The colorful art makes the his twisted drawings even more attractive."
"Walt Kelly was a complete artist, his drawings were graceful, his stories were simple and fun while at the same time provoking the reader with hints of metalanguage and political content. His writing was faceted with the sensibility of a great satirist."
"A masterpiece of old adventure comics continues today thanks largely to Foster's fantastic realistic art. Landscapes and epic battles are played to perfection by the author, turning the limited space of each panel into a window to a world where historical characters live with mythological beings. Careful printing in oversize hardcover as well as meticulous reproduction of the beautiful original colors make this collection from Fantagraphics a model for classic comics publishing."
"Even if you already have all of Carl Barks' comics of you will want to buy this book. It is the first time that these comics are being reissued with the original colors, digitally restored. This deluxe edition, with hard covers and high-quality paper, includes articles on all the comics collected in the volume."
• Review: "To say that it has been worth the wait is wild understatement. Pogo Through the Wild Blue Wonder is beautifully produced — no surprise to anyone familiar with the work of Fantagraphics Books in Seattle — and a joy to read. It comes as a genuine gift to anyone who loved Pogo and, it is to be hoped, as an introduction for younger readers to what many people believe was the best comic strip ever drawn in this country." – Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
• Review: "Wilson's genuine bravery, as this strip makes clear, is not that he set himself up as a rival to Charles Schulz but rather the directness with which Nuts confronts genuinely painful and baffling topics like sickness, mental illness, and death. When dealing with master artists, any ranking becomes absurd because each creator is memorable by the individual mark he or she leaves. So let’s leave Peanuts comparisons aside and say that Nuts is one of the major American comic strips and we’re lucky to have the complete run in this handsome, compact volume." – Jeet Heer, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Jacques Tardi’s interpretation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s book [Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot] is an intense and shocking thriller.... Dark, brutal and uterly compelling, classic thriller fans should lap this up. Put a few hours aside before picking it up though, because you won’t want to put it down and it’s a feast worth savouring." – Grovel
• Review: "I gave Roy Crane’s Captain Easy, Solder Of Fortune: The Complete Sunday Newspaper Strips Volume 1 1933-1935 a good thumbing many, many times before picking it up. The artwork was too simple, the stories silly. One day in my local comic shop with nothing new to read I picked it up. What I failed to comprehend as I stood in the comic shop flipping pages in this book is that Crane chose the elements of his strip carefully, especially those I dismissed it for. Simple character design, bright colours, fictional locations and action with a sense of humour. After finishing the volume I applaud his choices." – Scott VanderPloeg, Comic Book Daily
• Interview (Audio):The Comics Journal presents a recording of the Jack Davis interview conducted by Gary Groth and Drew Friedman at last month's Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival (posted here after a slight delay due to technical audio issues)
• Interview:Culture Brats has "Seven Questions in Heaven" with Esther Pearl Watson: "Even though now I have a huge collection of mini-comics, I try not to look at other comic artists as influences. They draw too nice, or have their thing down. Comic storytelling styles can be as individual as fingerprints. We spend years creating our own narrative language. Instead I look at naive drawing and self-taught artists to de-skill."
• Conflict of Interest: Our own Larry Reid names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 one of his favorite comics of 2011 in a guest column at Graphic Eye: "The conclusion of Jaime’s poignant 'Love Bunglers' story alone made this book essential reading in 2011. Almost unfathomably, Love & Rockets keeps getting better with age."
• List:Comics Bulletin names Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes the Best Archival Reprint of 2011, with Jason Sacks saying "Universally acclaimed as one of the finest reprints of Barks's works by even the most exacting Duckophiles, Lost in the Andes finally presents an English-language collection of Duck stores behind two hard covers and with the typical exacting standards for which Fantagraphics is justifiably famous. The good people at Fantagraphics outdid themselves with this reprint, which will undoubtedly be a treasure enjoyed by fans for many years."
...and they also name Dave McKean's Celluloid the Best Erotic Graphic Novel of 2011, with Daniel Elkin saying "Dave McKean is a tremendous artist. He creates work of enormous emotional impact with a deftness and subtlety that is so often missing in modern art. McKean can tell an entire novel's story in a single picture. He's that good.... Celluloid is beautiful and it is powerful and it is mysterious and engaging. It is art as defined by every iteration of the word. It is also another example of what comics can do that no other form of media can match."
• List:Forbidden Planet International's Joe Gordon names The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec Vol. 2 one of his Best of the Year: "For my money Jacques Tardi is one of Europe’s great comics creators, a true maestro... This second helping collects two of the original French albums and serves up a heady cocktail of conspiracies, secret societies, black magic practicioners, mad scientists (and boy does Tardi do a great, cackling mad scientist – he even brings in some from his brilliant The Arctic Maruader into this) and all set against a beautifully realised backdrop of Belle Epoque, pre-war Paris. Fantagraphics are translating a huge swathe of Tardi’s work and in fact I’d recommend and and everything they have so far translated and republished, but for the sake of this piece I’ll go with the wonderful Adèle."
• List: One more Best of the Year list at Forbidden Planet International, with festival organizer Clark Burscough putting Joe Daly's Dungeon Quest Book 2 at the top of his Graphic Novels list: "Childish, purile, hilarious, brilliant. I am completely in love with Joe Daly’s series at this point, and the second volume continues in the same vein as the first; namely, silly stoner-esque humour, with a love for RPGs at its heart."
• Review: "...[Young Romance] is a real treat, an inexpensive way to read a nice sampling of some Kirby comics that any Kirby fanatic has to be curious about. Michael Gagne did a great job assembling a fun cross-section of stories, and noted romance comics historian Michelle Nolan provides an insightful introduction. These might not be the first classic Kirby comics that you would choose to pick up, but they are a lot of fun to read. Rating: ★★★★★" – Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
• Review: "The art is evocative and detailed, still in a very Ub Iwerks-ian rubber-hose style... The character of Mickey [Mouse] -- and the simple fact that he has a character, and isn't just the waving silent mascot of the last couple of decades of Disney -- will be surprising to most readers, but this mouse was a tough little guy, ready for both adventures and fun at any minute, and he's deeply enjoyable to read about." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Profile:The Portland Mercury's Matt Stangel catches up with Tony Millionaire on working the illustrator's beat (as documented in 500 Portraits): "'Making a living off comics is almost impossible,' says Millionaire, musing on the illustration work that's kept him fed through the years."
• List:Publishers Weekly announces the results of their 2011 Comics World Critics Poll, with these titles garnering 2 votes each...
"Love and Rockets: New Stories Vol. 4, Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez: Jaime Hernandez tops his 30 years of peerless storytelling with the conclusion to 'The Love Bunglers' in which two characters we’ve watched stumble through life make a final lurch — that may bring happiness or doom. Heartbreaking yet without a trace of manipulation." – Heidi MacDonald
"The Man Who Grew His Beard, Olivier Schrauwen: This graphic novel is exceptionally inventive, with each story being so very different from the one before." – Glen Downey
...and the following books receiving an Honorable Mention with one vote each:
• Review: "As [Wandering Son] volume 2 closes, the idyllic childhood Shuichi and Nitori have shared thus far, surrounded by exceptionally supportive family and friends, is showing signs of being breached by thoughtless outsiders.... In the insightful, not-to-be-skipped final essay, 'Transgendered in Japan,' translator (and manga scholar) Matt Thorn writes, 'Shuichi and Yoshino are coming of age, not in an idealized fantasy world, but in a contemporary Japan that poses unique challenges to children such as these.' Indeed, to quote a popular film, 'reality bites,' but in creator Shimura Takako's sensitive world, Shuichi and Nitori have better than a fighting chance at becoming strong, confident adults." – Terry Hong, BookDragon (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program)
• Review: "In spite of its depressive mood (you know, with it being about the end of the world and such), The Hidden exemplifies the effectiveness of Sala's application of a 'less is more' visual style to broad, complex stories.... I can't recommend Sala's books enough, and The Hidden is one of his best works to date. Be sure to pick up a copy if you're looking for something more than global plagues and cannibalistic zombies in your world-ending entertainment." – Tim Mitchell, Titans Terrors & Toys
• List/Plugs: Andy Mansell of Heroes Aren't Hard to Find names a handful of "creme de la creme," "must-have" classic comic strip collections from 2011: "Do yourself a favor – next time you are in the store take a few moments and pick up a copy of Lost in the Andes or Pogo, either Mickey Mouse collection, ...[and] flip through it. Read a few strips.... These are rich, beautiful books and they deserve to be read by everyone."
• Plug:The A.V. Club's Oliver Sava provides a guide to "What makes a good all-ages comic," saying "Animation-inspired art remains the most popular choice for an all-ages series... Carl Barks’ work with Disney’s duck characters is the pinnacle of this school: Barks’ experience as a Disney animator honed his talent for creating sprawling environments and distinct characters that are instantly charming and incredibly rich. Fantagraphics just published its first hardcover collection of Barks’ classic stories, Donald Duck: Lost In The Andes, a beautiful package collecting some of Barks’ most memorable duck tales."
• Review: "...Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics isn’t just a book of some minor historical interest; it’s a genuinely entertaining and artful set of comics, and in some ways more readable than Simon and Kirby’s adventure stories.... Simon’s plots deal with jealousy, class conflict, mistaken identity, selfishness, and selflessness — the romance staples — while Kirby’s art makes these tales of passion and deceit especially dynamic, with deep shadows and a mix of the glamorous and the lumpen. ...Simon and Kirby... depict[ed] a world of darkness and heavy emotion, inhabited by clean-looking people in pretty clothes." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Though not a novel per se, The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat does tell a story of sorts, about Crumb’s evolution as an artist, from the mild-mannered greeting-card designer who drew cheeky doodles in his spare time, to the prickly satirist who’d use Fritz as a way to comment on the sick soul of the ’60s and his own at-times-unwieldy success." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Nuts wasn't action-packed or boldly satirical. Just the opposite, in fact -- it was subtle and thoughtful, with what I'm guessing was a heavy autobiographical element on the part of Mr.Wilson.... You might not have grown up when Wilson did, or when the [National Lampoon] was published, or when I first read these strips years ago, so the details have changed. But I'm willing to bet the emotions our hero felt remain almost exactly the same, no matter what generation is reading about him. And, of course, Gahan Wilson's cartooning is what makes the strips special." – Will Pfeifer, X-Ray Spex
• Review: "There are few collections of comics that you can truly describe as 'beautiful art'; however, Fantagraphics’ series of Prince Valiant trades is absolutely stunning to look at and is easy to write flattering things about, because it is so flattering for a reader’s eyes to behold Foster’s artwork crisp, clear, and huge in all its splendor. The fourth volume of Prince Valiant, which collects all the Sunday pages in full color from 1943 to 1944, is just wonderful, whether you are 4 or 94; it is a totally engrossing experience to dive into the world of the adventurous prince on these pages." – Drew McCabe, ComicAttack.net
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks with Zak Sally about his new self-published, self-printed collection of Sammy the Mouse: "I've gotten out three issues of Sammy in five years, and in that five years I've had two kids, I've been married. My life has changed extraordinarily. That's just the way art works, you know. I was doing issue #2 -- maybe #3, I can't remember -- and there was stuff going on in my life. Six months later I look at that issue and I was like, 'Oh my sweet God.' It was absolutely reflective of what had been going on at the time, and I was completely unaware of it. I just think that's part of it, and that's the way it works."
• Interview: At Nummer 9, Erik Barkman has a Q&A (in Danish) with Johan F. Krarups (editor Matthias Wivel describes it as a "commentary track") about his contribution to the Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now anthology
• Plug: Heidi MacDonald of The Beat looks forward to Jaime Hernandez's God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls: "We can’t help but think that all of the people calling for great superhero stories featuring women will find Ti-Girls a masterpiece, as well, an entire superhero universe made up of nothing but superheroines of various shapes and sizes. It’s jaunty Jaime to be sure, but even so probably one of the best superhero stories of the last decade."
• Plug: "Fantagraphics is still the gold standard for classy newspaper strip collections. I’m afraid people are getting jaded now about how the wonderful Peanuts volumes are chugging right along year after year, but it’s worth pointing out that they continue to be everything anyone could ever want from an archive edition. What’s more, Fantagraphics followed it up with these new Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse collections." – Greg Hatcher, Comic Book Resources
• Plug: Found this nice nugget in Laura Hudson's interview with Chris Onstad at ComicsAlliance: "Jim Woodring is great, and is one of those people who will honestly admit to you that, 'Yeah, my brain's a little f**ked up.' His comics are sort of a manifestation of his brain. It works for him. He's a really wonderful guy. He has this big three-story place with big, gothic abbey rope hanging in front of the front door. The rope rings a little bell to let you know that someone's at the door. One time it rings in the foyer so his wife opens the door, and there's this little cat there that came in from the road. So they let the cat in, shut the door, and we all go about our night. Then we watched Popeye for two hours. That's Jim. And he does all of his work based on hallucination. None of it's set in reality. Uncanny things that make me feel strange happen [in his comics]."
• Analysis: Jordan Hurder, Chance Press examines the collaborations between Jacques Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette: "Tardi is a fantastically celebrated cartoonist who has been at the forefront of the industry in France for 35 years. In contrast to his slow burn, Manchette shot out ten crime novels over the course of ten years, redefined and reinvigorated the French crime novel, became hugely influential, and died of cancer in the 1990s.... The compatibility between the two artists is uncanny; maybe a better critic could point out exactly why in just a few words, or maybe it’s one of those matchups that works without needing explanation." – Jordan Hurder, Chance Press
• Commentary:Gary Groth remembers Christopher Hitchens in "My Dinner with Hitch" at The Comics Journal
• History: Speaking of our dear leader, David Hine presents some scans from an issue of Gary's pre-Fantagraphics fanzine, Fantastic Fanzine (hat tip to Dan Nadel at TCJ.com)
"...[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