• Review: "As slim, smooth, and hard as its attractive, Adam Grano-designed album-style hardcover format, West Coast Blues is as strong a crime comic as you're likely to see this year (or until whenever the next Gipi Wish You Were Here Ignatz book comes out)... Tardi's art [is] a master class in spotted blacks and lines like garrote wire... This sucker's good." - Sean T. Collins
• Analysis: For Comics Comics, Dash Shaw pens an appreciation of the work of Tim Hensley: "It’s like what he chooses to draw in the environment (and what he chooses not to draw) is determined by some graphic Feng Shui. When his comics are at their most beautiful, these environments function both as the story’s world and abstractly... With his best dialogue, a line that you first read as being surreally disconnected on a second reading is funny and on a third reading reveals a wider scope of the story."
• Review: "Yes, both of these books are like kryptonite to good taste. But there are a couple of big differences between what Johnny Ryan is doing in Comics Are for Idiots!, his latest Blecky Yuckerella strip collection, and what he's doing in Prison Pit, his ultraviolent action-comic debut... The four-panel Blecky strips often feel like a breakneck race to the punchline through some kind of bizarre obstacle course requiring the basic premise of the gag to get more ridiculous with each panel... Ryan's rep as altcomix's premier overgrown juvenile delinquent is well deserved--and don't get me wrong, you can absolutely enjoy Prison Pit on that level--but the poetic savagery he depicts here is the work of a grown-ass man." - Sean T. Collins
• Review: "[Delphine], Richard Sala's contribution to Fantagraphics's prestigious Ignatz Series, is some of his strongest and most personal work yet... He sets his pop-cultural influences aside this time to lead us down a grimmer path... As for the art -- well, what can I say? It's recognizably Sala's, and at the top of his game, but taken to the next level, in that the usual precision of his black-and-white work is here inflected with sepia washes that give an added visual dimension to the murkiness of the hero's experience... The heavy dustjackets, with such gorgeous full-color art not only front and back but on both big inside flaps, deliver a lush visual and tactile experience that no bonus gallery in a collection will be able to duplicate... By whatever route you get here, I highly recommend this." - Curt Purcell, The Groovy Age of Horror
• Review: "Even when she's not especially inspired, Dame Darcy creates superior goth comics: cheerfully mean-spirited, idiosyncratically stylish, and oozing with surreal ichor... In [Meat Cake #17], Darcy indulges her goth tropes and her feminism: men are tormented, sisterhood is affirmed, and light-hearted squick is relished by all. And, as always, Darcy's eccentric drawing is a joy, with perspective, proportion, and visual logic all flattened out to fit into geometrically obscure but oddly elegant patterns." - Noah Berlatsky, The Comics Journal (reprinted at The Hooded Utilitarian)
• Plug: "The big story here [in The Comics Journal #299] is Bob Levin's spectacular essay on Michel Choquette and his never-completed comics anthology... Sadly, the project never got off the ground, and Levin details in his typical stellar fashion why and how. It's a fascinating tale, one well worth your $12." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "This is a particularly excellent issue of TCJ, thanks to Bob Levin's magnificent 50-page... history of 'The Someday Funnies'... You really need to read it." - Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
• Interview: Seth continues discussing his design work for The Complete Peanuts in the final part of Brian Heater's interview at The Daily Cross Hatch: "Schulz’s work is right there in the book. Every line in those strips is his. But the design stuff is just design stuff. It’s a setting to put a gem in. The setting is not the gem."
• Things to see: At the Covered blog, Anthony Vukojevich does a Gilbert Hernandez Birdland cover
I know what's up with Fantagraphics Associate Publisher Eric Reynolds since he sits right across the room from me (his nifty new job title didn't come with its own office), but for the rest of you, Publishers Weekly's Heidi MacDonald grills him about past, present and future, with first glimpses at some of his upcoming editorial projects. It's a must-read for Fanta loyalists and industry observers.
Every year when much of the staff heads down to San Diego, there are always a few poor souls who have to stay behind and (theoretically) hold down the fort, answer phones, get books out the door to printers, etc. But how much work really gets done? This year we installed hidden cameras and decided to monitor the emails of those who stuck around. It's not pretty:
If you see a sudden surge in sloppily produced books from Fanta in about three months, you'll know it was because the entire art dept (including Adam Grano, above) worked drunk during Comicon (side note: this also explains much of our output from about 1994-1999).
Anyone who thinks they spoke to Gary Groth on the office phone last week and wondered why he was slurring his words and going on and on about the ninja turtles might want to call back this week. Anyone who needs to speak to Jacob Covey soon might want to try the unemployment office.
I have no idea what's going on here but it clearly involves a level of frivolity not tolerated in the office. Jenny Catchings and Eric Buckler, start updating your resumés immediately.
Here's TCJ Editor Michael Dean looking into the security cam just before getting up to cover the lens with what appeared to be whipped cream; I don't even want to know what happened next and neither do you.
I intercepted this missive from Grano's email account with the subject header "backyard cosplay NOW".
Note to Kim: next time you leave town, lock the door to your office.
Written by Jessica Lona, Gavin L., and Brittany Kusa.
After a long hard day of drinking tea in the underground Fantagraphics comics library, tapping away at our keyboards transcribing conversations between famous cartoonists, we interns needed to unwind. How better to do this than by drinking booze and testing our knowledge of geeky things?
We (Brittany, Gavin, Jessica, and our fearless leader, Kristy) tromped downtown to a lovely little pub to attend the Geeks Who Drink trivia night. It was tough to settle on a team name, not for lack of ideas, but because there are so many juicy possible namesakes in the Eros catalog. After hemming and hawing between such titles as "Yuppies, Rednecks, and Lesbian Bitches from Mars" and "The Milk Mamas," we decided to go with "Anal Intruders from Uranus."
Our college educations paid for themselves in helping to identify cross-dressing Australians, heavy metal xylophone music, cereal mascots and Indiana Jones' favorite hiding place. Although, how we ever confused Little Miss Sunshine with Trucker Fags in Denial is still a mystery.
The Anal Intruders from Uranus wound up in 4th place. But, geekily enough, Kristy left with inspiration for a story based on the names of the 1st and 2nd place teams, Werewolf Quinceañera and Werewolf Bar Mitzvah. Tell me who the real winner is there.
Which EROS title should we name our team after next?
• Hentaipalooza • Housewives at Play • Venus with a Hot Crotch
After a very long stint as our Fantastic Intern here in the Fantagraphics Art Department, we are very pleased (and relieved) to have the poorly-photographed Alexa Koenings working on staff as Designer #3. We all know liquor sales rise as recession creeps but who'd have thought that we could add staff at a comics publisher?
Onward we push, to bring the world more comics, more graphic novels, more of the best inky inebriants. Thank you comics buyers for your support. We owe you a drink.
Trivia: Alexa's the only person I've met whose name is spelled and pronounced similar to Matt Groening. Fate?
• List: Bdzoom reports that l'Association des Critiques et journalistes de Bande Dessinée (ACBD) has placed Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw on their summer reading shortlist (there's Tardi on there too)
• Review: "Nell Brinkley was an icon for several generations of women... The art [in The Brinkley Girls] has been beautifully restored, a task that must have been pure torture given the density of Brinkley's drawings and that sophisticated color work. My hat's off to whoever did that fabulous job." - Allan Holtz, Stripper's Guide
• Review: "At one point in her comic-style memoir [You'll Never Know Book 1: A Good and Decent Man], Carol [Tyler] talks to us directly and says, 'The war was never really buried under tons of mental concrete. Rather, it was an active shaper of life, affecting moods and outcomes ... more than anyone ever knew.' Indeed. This is an important and deeply spiritual contribution to American culture." - David Crumm, Read the Spirit
• Review: "[You'll Never Know Book 1: A Good and Decent Man] is not your blood and guts portrayal of a ruthless soldier but rather an investigation into the emotional costs that war has on the combatant and the family that they sire, presenting a familiar story of the 'greatest generation' in an unfamiliar way." - Quentin Williams, two.one.five Magazine
• Review: "...Supermen! [is] a beautifully designed volume of early American comics... The edition is both aesthetically pleasing and sturdy, featuring clarified reprinting of the colour strips, covers, and scattered elements of advertisements and back matter." - Michael Leader, Den of Geek
• Review: "[West Coast Blues] is everything you would expect from a suspense thriller... Visually the comic book is also great. It's everything you would expect from Tardi... I don't believe that anybody else than him would have been able to visually translate Manchette's novel so well. It's like they worked together and that the comic book is the original material. Bottom line, this is another great comic book by Tardi. If you have never read anything by him you should. Luckily for North American readers, Fantagraphics announced that they that they were going to translate Tardi's work starting this fall." - Patrick Bérubé, Comic Book Bin
• Review: "You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!... gathers all the remaining material that the alcoholic, abusive [Fletcher] Hanks did during his brief tenure as a comic book creator in the late 1930s and early 40s... [T]here’s still plenty of weird and wonderful tales to delight and disturb... [and] there are panels here that are rather stunning in their ability to create tension and drama... The work remains strange, powerful, funny, terrifying and yes, at times beautiful..." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6 (be sure to read the comments for an important clarification from editor Paul Karasik)
• Review: "Fans of Norwegian cult comics star Jason are in for something of a treat with Low Moon... what we have here are five stories, each of which would’ve previously warranted a collection in its own right, delivered together in one delicious hamper of Jason goodness... There’s never been a better time, then, to jump aboard the Jason train... This is as essential as comics gets." - Bookmunch
• Review: "It’s hard to think of a modern cartoonist with a more recognizable drawing style than Norway’s Jason... But Jason’s storytelling is just as distinctive as his drawing style... [and] the artist’s narrative approach has grown more adventurous over the years. Jason’s latest collection, Low Moon, is evidence of this trend... The reader, meanwhile, just lapses into a giddy comics coma." - Casey Jarman, Willamette Week
• Preview: Previews posts 7 pages from Low Moon. Have we mentioned it's in stores today?
• Interview: Brian Heater of The Daily Cross Hatch concludes his 2-part chat with "the visionary" Jason. Sample quote: "I worked in a furniture factory for nine months... I really hated it. So I went to art school instead. Turned out to be not that much of a difference, of course."
• Interview: The hosts of The Comix Claptrap podcast "talk comics shop and try to get LA gossip from talented cartoonist, John Pham, of Sublife, Kramers Ergot 7 and Mome fame"
• Plug: "Low Moon: It’s the latest from Jason. Or, in other words, it’s one of this week’s absolute must-reads." - J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
• Plug: "Pick of the week: Low Moon... [B]y this point Jason has proven himself to be one of the stellar talents in Fantagraphics' roster (which is really saying something, by the way) and this collection of short stories... should likely only cement that reputation as the artist plays with such traditional genres as the Western, film noir, and alien abductions. All offered with the usual dollops of sardonic humor and heartfelt sympathy." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "Low Moon: New Jason, from Fantagraphics. All I need to know... This guy's a treasure." - Jog - The Blog
• Plug: John Jakala of Sporadic Sequential takes us to task for the smaller trim size of Luba vs. Palomar, but concedes "the smaller size is actually easier to handle when reading. OK, you win this round, Fantagraphics"
Your Online Commentary & Diversions return from a short vacation. More catch-up tomorrow.
• Review: "[C.] Tyler’s fluid, expressive linework, complemented by subtly overlaid watercolors, gives ideal visual expression to a narrative that’s at once sensitive and hard-nosed. [You'll Never Know, Book 1] is Tyler’s first book-length effort, but decades of drawing mostly autobiographical stories have honed her skills, enabling her to produce a work that ranks in quality with the graphic memoirs of Alison Bechdel (Fun Home) and Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis)." - Gordon Flagg, Booklist (Starred Review; no link)
• Review: "Norwegian-French cartoonist Jason’s new book [Low Moon] is the first premiered in hardcover in the U.S. and contains his most minimally formatted stories... If you’re into genre fiction, have a sense of humor but no time for condescension, and haven’t encountered Jason yet, wait no longer." - Ray Olson, Booklist (Starred Review; no link)
• Review: "This is the best thing I have ever been sent to review. I didn't think that this book would ever exist but now it does and it'd better than I could have imagined... The eleven issues of Humbug are faithfully reprinted in this two-volume hardcover set and it comes in a fancy and sturdy box. The magazines were funny and beautiful with art by Will Elder and Jack Davis and some other folks. If you don't buy this book then I don't want to know you... There is no excuse for not buying this right now. Sell your hair, blood, or skin to get it." - Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Luba encompasses everything a turn-of-the-21st-century graphic novel should be: paraliterary or lowbrow tropes of comics, pornography, soap opera, blended seamlessly with a highbrow literary accomplishment of pathos and familial history. It is as profane as it is dense. Almost postmodern in its self-reference... and frequently silly in its blatant cartoonishness, Luba is surreal and bizarre and arousing and gut-wrenching and hilarious." - Dusty Horn, CarnalNation
• Review: "If you grew up 'different'... you’ll find a lot that’s familiar in A Mess of Everything. [Miss] Lasko-Gross is close enough to this material to keep it particular – she avoids the sweeping gesture and the grand statement at all times – and distanced enough from it to see it as part of her past, fodder for stories rather than a raw wound. It’s a fine book from a very talented creator, and I expect we’ll see much more from Miss Lasko-Gross as the years go on." - Andrew Wheeler, ComicMix
• Review: "...[Miss Lasko-Gross] displays... subtlety and balance in her portrayal of her teen-age years... [I]n its portrayal of the importance and tenuous nature of teenage friendships, [A Mess of Everything] glows with sharp recognition." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "[Uptight #3] is very very good... The plot [of 'Vicissitude'] is a bitter little thing, steeped in infidelity, alcohol, career dissatisfaction, hints of class self-consciousness, and frustration with the path your life has taken -- like a Pulp song, almost.... Crane's Sam and Jack stories unfold like the pipes and vents upon which this tale centers: they bend and twist and wind in comically baroque ways, yet Crane's control of his visuals and the story's tone are so self-assured that it all seems completely logical, like a mind consciously built it this way and if you have a little faith, it'll work like it's supposed to." - Sean T. Collins
• Review: "Just a quick mention of what may turn out to be my favorite damn cover of 2009... check out Uptight issue #3..." - Blair Butler, G4 Fresh Ink Online (video; review starts around 1:34)
• Plug: "Jason is really one of the best cartoonists at work today, and you should check out this reading." - Paul Constant, The Stranger, recommending last Saturday's appearance by Jason at our Seattle bookstore
• Interview: Brian Heater of The Daily Cross Hatch got some face time for a Q&A with Jason at the 2009 MoCCA Festival. Sample quote: "I think it’s fun to bring different genres together and try to bring in something new, to see it from a new angle, that it’s a bit more than just a pastiche."
• Interview: "Frankly, I think it's a losing game to try to generalize about the relationship between biography and literature." - Chris Ware, interviewed by Joan Luna at 13 Milliones de Naves (translation from Google)
• Preview: ICv2 takes a peek at our upcoming collection Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons
• Preview: The Geek Curmudgeon looks forward to From Wonderland with Love: Danish Comics in the Third Millennium
• Events: Zane Austin Grant of PopMatters reports from the "Ah, Humbug!" panel with Al Jaffee and Arnold Roth at the 2009 MoCCA Festival
• Things to see: At Truthout.org, a Drew Friedman illustration from Time illustrates a Bill Maher editorial from the Los Angeles Times
• Staff news: Fantagraphics warehouse manager and noted practitioner of visual poetry Nico Vassilakis has a new book, Protracted Type, which can be purchased or downloaded here
Updates of Online Commentary & Diversions may be oddly timed for the rest of the week as we're eyeball deep in MoCCA preparations.
• Review: "[Harvey] Kurtzman and company aimed high for a more sophisticated humor mag than the competition... Fantagraphics’ package for it is bar none — handsome, sturdy and restored with great care... I was most interested in the behind-the-scenes story of Humbug and the creative process that went into it — not to mention doomed it — and the book’s introduction and exclusive interviews more than satisfy on that count." - Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: "In a way, Humbugalmost feels like a goof-humor version of The New Yorker or something. There’s a lot of fairly serious political/social commentary, cloaked in wry rainment. It’s a blend as interesting as any cocktail, and it’s goddamn great to have this stuff easily available. Hats away!" - Byron Coley & Thurston Moore, Arthur Magazine
• Review: "...[U]nparallel parodists Kurtzman and Elder ran rampant for themselves when they published these 11 exceptional issues of comic art anarchy. This two-volume hardcover box set has been reproduced from the original art and digitally restored to make everything look even better than when it first came out in 1957. This long-overdue definitive edition of Humbug is an essential slice of satire from the masters of the genre." - Jeffrey Morgan, Detroit Metro Times
• Review: "Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me [is] a compilation of the notorious Seattle libertarian [Peter Bagge]’s politically (and sexually) charged comics for Reason magazine... It’s great. So colourful (always my favourite part of Pete’s comics) and acerbic and smart-ass, but with a heart and purpose behind the bickering and keenly observes caricatures... It’s too early to say now, but right now I’m thinking it’s perhaps my favourite stuff of his, full stop..." - Everett True
• Review: "Connective Tissue... make[s] for an engaging read... While Darla sounds like she could be a handful, she is a good and sympathetic protagonist, making her a modern-day Alice in a 21st century Wonderland." - Jason Borelli, Beyond Race Magazine
• Preview: Spotlighting comics shipping this week, The Comics Reporter says of Uptight #3: "The previous issue of this series from the great Jordan Crane was super, super strong." Likewise, Chris Mautner at Robot 6: "The latest issue in Jordan Crane’s very good series about ghosts and melancholy comes to town. I feel we should be doing all we can to ensure Crane keeps making comics, don’t you?" And Matthew Brady says: "I missed the second issue of this series, but the first one was great... Check it out if you see it on the shelves."
• Profile: My Adventure Is Your Advantage spotlights the design work of our very own Art Director Jacob Covey, calling him "the bees knees of design" and presenting previously unseen previews of the forthcoming Abstract Comics anthology
• Profile: "[Dash] Shaw's online and bound comics inhabit surreal spaces both cerebral and emotional, leaping from zombie love stories to futuristic set pieces without resorting to predictability... It's probably safe to say he has arrived." - Wired
• Interview: Publishers Weekly's Heidi MacDonald asks our own Eric Reynolds for his thoughts about Book Expo America and its value for comics publishers like us; The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon comments on the interview; meanwhile, The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater gets a few words from Eric on the show floor