• List: The Austin American-Statesman's Joe Gross names Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 the best comic of 2011: "One of the wonderful things about seeing a masterpiece in the making is the mysterious feeling, the racing of the soul that takes place when it hits you that you are, in fact, seeing a masterpiece in the making.... Symphonic, tragic, revelatory, exciting and devastating as only great art can be, 'The Love Bunglers' is one of the best comics ever made."
• List:Paste ranks Dave McKean's Celluloid at #5 on The 10 Best New Comics of 2011: "The visionary art director behind The Sandman’s covers creates a coital masterwork that elicits beauty and excitement in equal measure.... Celluloid is a treasure of technical finesse and sensual mystique that transcends its potential controversy."
• List:Paste's list of The Ten Best Reissues/Collections of 2011 includes Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 1: Race to Death Valley by Floyd Gottfredson at #9 ("Gottfredson had an animator’s knack for storytelling, and his layouts remain clear no matter how busy they get. Much of the humor is stilted by modern standards, but you’ll be too enthralled by the exciting plots and likable characters to care"), Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture – A Career Retrospective at #7 ("Fantagraphics has finally given him the grand and serious treatment he deserves, without minimizing his goofy sense of humor"), and Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes in the #1 spot ("Barks’ strips combine high adventure with humor and subtle cultural commentaries, but they remain grounded in character... Lost in the Andes is a gorgeously packaged collection of some of the finest comics ever made.")
• List: At Poopsheet Foundation, Justin Giampaoli names Kevin Huizenga's Ganges #4 one of the "Best Mini-Comics & Small Press Titles of 2011": "It’s the continuing adventures of Glenn Ganges and his latest nocturnal outing, as he navigates his sleepless existence on a seemingly endless night. With the degree of interactivity occurring between the page and the readers, there’s as much technique on display here as there is original storytelling."
• List: Leeds, UK comic shop OK Comics posts their Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2011: "9. Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot by Jaques Tardi published by @fantagraphics. A hitman's reluctance to perform one last job leads to an emotional breakdown. Legendary French comics artist Jacques Tardi on fine form."
• List:The Globe and Mail includes Pogo - The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips Volume 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder by Walt Kelly in their "2011 gift book guide": "Fans of what for many is the greatest of all comic strips have waited a long time for this, the first of a projected 12 volumes (1949-1950) from the brilliant Walt Kelly. The congenial Pogo Possum and his swampland friends... spring to life in this collection of daily and Sunday comics, filled with Kelly’s characteristic wordplay. One hopes this will introduce a new generation to this comic, satiric masterwork."
• Review: "Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips: Volume 1—Through the Wild Blue Wonder proves to be worth the wait.... Overall, the package serves Pogo well.... The biggest revelation of reading the first two years of Pogo is how polished and funny the strip was right from the start, and also how nearly every Pogo panel is a delight unto itself. Kelly didn’t necessarily build to big punchlines; he’d slip funny sight gags and memorable lines everywhere there was room. ...[T]here’s a classic Pogo moment on just about every page of this book." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Even now, Barks’ stories are clever and funny, as he leads the ducks into impossible situations and then gives them unexpected ways out. And they’re poignant in their own way, too.... What’s impressive about Fantagraphics’ Lost in the Andes is that it encourages both a fannish and an intellectual approach to the material. For those who want to skew highbrow, the book includes an appendix with scholarly analysis of each story.... And for those who just want to curl up with more than 200 pages of some of the best-written comics ever published, Lost in the Andes has all the square eggs, rubber bricks, golden Christmas trees, and races around the world that any kid or grown-up could ever want." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Fantagraphics’ initial release of its new series of Carl Barks books is titled, Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes and reprints one of the most famous, and most BELOVED, comic book stories which Carl ever wrote and drew! ...I’m impressed with the quality of the publication. In my estimation, the coloring is excellent and the format engaging…. The critical essays composed by a number of Barks scholars are also insightful and well written.... In my opinion, as a Carl Barks fan, this initial volume is well worth acquiring!" – Carl Barks Fan Club Newsletter
• Reviews: "Two... giants of American illustration get the handsome coffee-table-book treatment with Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture and The Art of Joe Kubert... The Kubert book — edited by Bill Schelly — is more text-heavy, covering Kubert’s early years as a journeyman penciler and inker on a slew of indistinct superhero and adventure comics, then exploring how Kubert developed the fine shading and gritty realism he’d become famed for starting in the late ’50s. The Davis book saves most of its biographical detail and critical analysis for the intro and appendix, filling the intervening 200 pages with full-sized examples of the half-cartoony/half-photographic approach that Davis brought to Mad magazine and countless movie posters. Both offer ample visual evidence of how two men found the 'art' in commercial art, turning work-for-hire assignments into opportunities to express their particular visions of the world." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "To (re-)discover a first-rate critic, and read about a life that went wrong in a harrowing way, you must read Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson, by Kevin Avery.... This volume is exhilarating. Avery tells with great energy Nelson’s tale, with copious details about the active period of his subject’s life, and in so doing limns a portrait of a certain kind of pop-culture/bohemian existence in the late-70s. And Avery’s generous selection of Nelson’s writings are certainly among Paul’s best..." – Ken Tucker (Entertainment Weekly), The Best American Poetry
• Review: "What makes Wandering Son work is its slow-burn pace and calm atmosphere. It takes a delicate subject – transgender children- and explores it slowly and carefully. Much like its characters, it moves at its own pace, easing the reader into the characters’ lives.... I am really eager to read volume two of Wandering Son, though a little hesitant as well. I know that the road in front of Shu and Yoshino isn’t going to be an easy one and I don’t want to see them get hurt. But the fact that I’m talking about the characters as though they’re real people just shows how deep this manga has gotten under my skin." – Shannon Fay, Kuriousity
• Review: "Richard Sala is one of those creators that holds a fairly unique voice in comics. Many people have tried to replicate his off-beat brand of horror, but ultimately nothing out there quite like his. So with a new graphic novel called The Hidden out, the question for most people won’t be, 'Should I read it?' but 'When should I read it?'... The Hidden isn’t perfect... but what Sala does well, he does very well indeed. There’s quite a lot to love in The Hidden, with some scenes in particular that will stick with the reader for a long time." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Plug: "Have you ever wondered what happened after 'Happily Ever After'? This graphic novel [Castle Waiting] is a modern tale that incorporates fairytale characters and settings. Funny, thoughtful and not at all what you'd expect." – The Victoria Times Colonist
• Interview:Wall Street Journal subscribers can read a Q&A with Jack Davis conducted last week in NYC by Bruce Bennett here: "Every time you went in to see Bill Gaines, he would write you a check when you brought in a story. You didn't have to put in a bill or anything. I was very, very hungry and I was thinking about getting married. So I kept the road pretty hot between home and Canal Street. I would go in for that almighty check, go home and do the work, bring it in and get another check and pick up another story." [Update: A clever reader has pointed out that non-subscribers can read the article in Google's cache]
• Profile:CNN's Todd Leopold profiles the great Al Jaffee: "After a bumpy several years in which he bounced like a pinball between his parents -- moving from Savannah, Georgia, to Lithuania, to one borough and then another of New York City, back to Lithuania and back again to New York -- art was something to hold on to, a way to establish an identity. He had no idea it would lead anywhere."
• Review: "Uncut, uncensored and politically incorrect – these tales are from an alternate Disney universe, where Mickey is a red-blooded, two-fisted adventurer; they are fun to read and a delight to view. Gottfredson’s comics are as classy, funny and as slick as the Disney shorts from the same period. And as usual, co-editor David Gerstein provides a plethora of 'bonus materials'... A fine package, a full meal, and a perfect follow-up to volume 1, Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Vol. 2: Trapped on Treasure Island fills a gap long-neglected in animation history. Buy it." – Jerry Beck, Cartoon Brew
• Review: "I think I’ve been waiting for this book my entire life.... At long last the complete Pogo has been compiled, lovingly, ...in the miraculous new hardcover, Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips, Vol. 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder. Buy this book.... Kelly’s drawings are just magnificent, and his sophisticated writing style was far ahead of its time. Its time has come – and Fantagraphics has gone out of its way to ensure the best possible copies of these rare strips were found, restored and preserved perfectly here for all time... A great gift for anyone – especially you." – Jerry Beck, Cartoon Brew
• Review: "Walt Kelly’s Pogo... is justifiably hailed as one of the great achievements of the postwar comic strip. In theory, it belongs to the 'funny animal' genre; in practice, it was a personal, whimsical combination of comedy and mood, dressed in linguistic wordplay and laced with sociopolitical satire.... This wonderful first volume of a projected 12-volume series contains the strip’s first two official years (plus its early pre-syndication stint in a single New York paper), with the Sundays reproduced in color, and with Kelly’s topical references annotated by scholar R.C. Harvey.... I salute this launch... [Rating] 9/10" – Michael Barrett, PopMatters
• Review: "Small wonder that Jonathan Lethem modeled Chronic City’s protagonist on [Paul] Nelson: Nelson’s bohemian eccentricities... make his biography a more gripping read than the criticism that makes up [Everything Is an Afterthought]’s second half.... In the end, Nelson’s best epitaph comes from a sprawling essay that portrays the writer as a hermeneutic gumshoe hired to suss out the meaning of Dylan’s oeuvre: 'I know we need people like you because a world filled with romantics would be a disaster, but a world without them would be worse.'" – Jonah Wolf, The College Hill Independent
• Review: At The Factual Opinion, Tucker Stone examines The Comics Journal #38 (from 1978). A highlight: "Kim Thompson gets to review the Spider-Man television special and one of the Hulk television movies. He likes the Hulk one more than the Spider-man one, but then, he doesn't like the Spider-man one at all. (It sounds really fucking weird.) He's also really ticked off about Stan Lee re-writing the comic strip Spider-man's origin to better match the television show. Fists are shaken!" (Incidentally, this seminal issue is considered one of the magazine's historic best by both Kim Thompson and the bloggers of Love & Maggie.)
• Profile: Alec Berry of West Virginia University's The Daily Athenaeum introduces its readers to Fantagraphics in an article on independent comics publishers: "These innovative works could be characterized as dramatic, journalistic or satirical. Really, what happened was Fantagraphics stepped up and presented the thoughtful analysis that could be done on comics by publishing the trade magazine The Comics Journal, and Fantagraphics published the actual work that inspired the thought."
• Review: "In an historical moment when a cross-section of the population is waking up to the reality of brutal inequalities and the limited set of levers by which that might be expected to change, being reminded of past permutations of those same societal ills may prove hopeful or unbearable. It's hard to say. Either way, these are effective comics. The Road to Wigan Pier never manages the dead-on power inherent in much of Sacco's best work, but it's certainly worth any comics fan's time." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "...[I]t is thrilling to see such a vital, and nearly forgotten, work of comics coming back into print, cleaned up and reorganized and ready to surprise a new generation of former kids.... Nuts is one of the best works, and one of the few single book-length works, by one of our time's best and most idiosyncratic cartoonists -- ...it is for everyone who really remembers how terrible and lonely and infuriating it can be to be a child." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Plugs:Robot 6's ongoing "Holiday Gift-Giving Guide" survey of comics creators rolls on, with Joey Weiser suggesting "For the comic strip enthusiast: Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson – Super engaging strips that are full of life and very funny. I’m very glad that Fantagraphics is publishing these." Caanan Grall also recommends "Fantagraphics’s Floyd Gottfriedson Mickey Mouse and Carl Barks Donald Duck libraries."
• Plug:Heroes Aren't Hard to Find's Andy Mansell rounds up some gift ideas for their upcoming holiday sale this weekend, including Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons: "This is one of the best books of the past year (or so). Gahan Wilson is the true heir apparent to New Yorker comic weirdo Charles Addams. His comics are twisted, macabre, beautifully rendered and above all–laugh out loud funny. This 3 volume set belongs in every serious comic fan’s library."
• Review: "The good news: it’s here, it’s real. The better news: it’s incredible. Walt Kelly’s lively, robust, and poetic world is faithfully and lovingly produced in this, the first of a proposed twelve volume series. The hardcover is printed horizontally, maintaining the integrity of the 'strip' format, with ample margins to avoid any gutter-loss. Fantagraphics knew this first volume would be scrutinized by hardcore Pogofans, and they’ve outdone expectations, dating each strip, providing historical context for the more esoteric 1940s references, and even reproducing the color Sunday strips.... Through the Wild Blue Wonder is one of our Best Comics and Graphic Novels of 2011, and there might not be a better gift this holiday for the historical and literary comics fan." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon.com)
• Review: "The usually tight-gripped Disney empire agreed to turn over their most treasured property to Fantagraphics (yes, again!). The results are eye-opening, featuring a Mickey that might be unfamiliar to most present-day fans. The stories are dense, packing plenty of dialogue into the strips — and the themes are darker than the bright-eyed, factory-sealed tales of today. Mickey is multi-dimensional in the first volume, Race to Death Valley, making rash decisions without much concern for everyone’s safety. Thankfully, Minnie is by his side to both reign him in and sometimes encourage his recklessness. The reproduction is crisp — the black inks are meticulous in their separation, and the book is augmented with over 50 pages of essays and Mickey esoterica. Volume 2, Trapped on Treasure Island, published last month, and Fantagraphics has a gift edition slipcase that contains both volumes. This dynamic look is a revelation in the life of the character who started it all for Disney." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon.com)
• Plug: At Comic Book Resources' "Black Friday Comics Shopping Guide": "Fantagraphics is all over the legacies of some of the best artists ever to work for the Walt Disney company with Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse, vol. 1 ($29.99) and Carl Barks' Donald Duck ($24.99). Disney's most famous characters need no introduction, but their modern incarnations are so far from their roots that these collections will surprise anyone seeing these strips for the first time. Any of these volumes is a guaranteed smile."
• Plug: Deb Aoki's Manga Gift Guide at About.com Manga includes Wandering Son Vols. 1 & 2 by Shimura Takako: "This critically acclaimed series is available as over-sized hardcovers, which makes them especially gift-worthy, but the story is also charming and sensitive in a way that doesn't bash the reader over the head with a preachy agenda. Volume 2 is due out soon, so get that too if you can."
• Plug: Pamela Paul of The New York Times asks "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" creator Jeff Kinney about his favorite books from childhood: "...[T]he works that stood head and shoulders above the rest were Carl Barks’s ‘Donald Duck’ and ‘Uncle Scrooge’ comics from the 1940s through the 1960s. Mr. Barks wrote tales of high adventure generously peppered with moments of high comedy.... Classics such as ‘Lost in the Andes,’ ‘Only a Poor Man’ and ‘A Christmas for Shacktown’ left a deep impression on me. Mr. Barks taught me that comics could be high art, and I consider his work to be the best storytelling I’ve experienced in any form. ...Fantagraphics has announced that it is publishing the Barks collection in beautiful hardcover books that do great honor to the cartoonist and his stories, and I can’t wait to buy them for my kids. Proof that great storytelling endures from generation to generation."
• Review: "This volume [Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes] reprints tales from December 1948 through August 1949, when Barks was in high feather as a creator of breathless adventures and light comedies for his Ducks... Great pop culture, great analysis. Scrooge is always searching for more gold, and there’s plenty here. [Rating] 10/10" – Michael Barrett, PopMatters
• Review: "The finale of the story Jaime has been telling over the past couple of annual issues [of Love and Rockets: New Stories] is a moment of bravura comics storytelling, but the buildup to it in the opening portions of this issue is pretty great as well... Ah, but as nice as these stories are, they all seem to be prelude to the dazzlingly virtuosic end of this chapter in the Locas saga... This could signal an end to the current era of Locas stories, but these characters are less figures of Jaime's imagination than real people alive in the minds of readers everywhere at this point, and even if another story featuring them never appears, we can rest assured that they will continue to live on, somewhere, sometime." – Matthew J. Brady, Warren Peace Sings the Blues
• Review (Audio): Introducing the latest episode of the Wait, What? podcast, co-host Jeff Lester says "we dollop more praise on Ganges #4 by Kevin Huizenga because honestly that sucker could probably use another five or six dollops."
• Plugs: "Fantagraphics’ collections featuring Charles Schulz’s comic strip masterpiece, Peanuts, are fantastic and if you’re a Peanuts fan, you need to be reading these. Floyd Gottfredson probably did as much to shape the personality of Mickey Mouse and his supporting cast as Carl Barks did for the Disney Ducks, yet his work has never received the same degree of attention as the work of Barks. Fantagraphics is correcting that with Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse. The first two volumes of this series are fantastic and the strips probably look better here than they did when they were originally published. It’s a joy to watch Gottfredson develop as a storyteller as Mickey and the gang evolve along with him.... There’s also plenty of background material to place the stories into historical perspective. And the collection of Walt Kelly’s Pogo that hits stores this week is gorgeous. I have some of Fantagraphics’ previous Pogo volumes and this one blows them away. I’m also getting into Popeye for the first time with their collections of Segar’s classic strip." – Roger Ash, Westfield Comics Blog
• Commentary: At Comic Book Resources, Laura Sneddon, who is documenting her experiences in the postgraduate Comic Studies program at the University of Dundee in Scotland, examines the work of Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb for the class topic "Comics and Gender"
In this month's issue of Booklist you can find praise for three of our recent releases:
The Complete Peanuts 1981-1982 by Charles M. Schulz: "These early 1980s episodes see Snoopy reunite with his brother Marbles (who’s baffled by his sibling’s WWI fantasies), Linus and Lucy plant a garden, and Peppermint Patty apply to a school for gifted children (she thinks they’re going to give her presents). But the strip’s fragile heart remains good ol’ Charlie Brown, who faces a crisis when liability issues bar him and his team from their baseball field. In a moving introduction to the volume, cartoonist Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse) writes about her close friendship with Schulz." – Gordon Flagg
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec Vol. 2 by Jacques Tardi: "The second collection of the Belle Époque exploits of Adèle Blanc-Sec sees the intrepid occult investigator confronting things walking the streets of Paris that shouldn’t be: a prehistoric ape-man revived by a mad scientist and a reanimated mummy from her own collection of artifacts. With their wryly overwrought captions, melodramatic dialogue, and convoluted plotlines, the stories work both as gentle genre parodies and full-out fantasy-detective thrillers, thanks in great part to Tardi’s lithe cartooning, which vividly evokes the period while sporting an entirely contemporary sensibility." – Gordon Flagg
Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 2: Trapped on Treasure Island by Floyd Gottfredson: "For contemporary audiences who know Mickey Mouse only as the bland corporate mascot of the Disney empire, these 1932–33 newspaper comic strips featuring the famous rodent will be a revelation. As in his contemporaneous animated cartoons, this Mickey is a feisty, wisecracking daredevil, who searches tropical lands for buried treasure (encountering stereotyped cannibals that are offensive even by the era’s insensitive standards), treks to the frozen north to recover a stolen orphanage fund, and starts a detective agency with second banana Goofy. Gottfredson’s charmingly old-fashioned drawings accentuate the gags and briskly propel the plotlines." – Gordon Flagg
• Review: "...Kevin Avery’s Everything Is an Afterthought... chronicles the dramatic life of one of music’s keenest observers, Paul Nelson, and curates his finest critiques.... I read and adored [Nelson] growing up, but reading [him] in the context of today’s critical standards gave me the literary equivalent to the bends. It goes without saying that, in the age of the Internet, the whole idea of a critic has changed." – Jim Farber, New York Daily News
• Review: "It could well be ten years since I last read these stories [in Queen of the Black Black], and I’d either forgotten or never appreciated (my money’s on the latter) how astute and insightful they could be. Like a proto-Kevin Huizenga, [Megan Kelso] repeatedly turns up little rocks of human experience and chronicles what’s going on underneath, reintroducing us to feelings, sensations, and experiences we’d forgotten we’d had but recognize as if they happened this morning." – Sean T. Collins, The Comics Journal
• Review: "This collection of early stories from Megan Kelso shows a natural flair for the form, mixed with a self-critical determination to hone her craft, that’s helped her blossom into a master storyteller.... Anyone looking for a masterful example of the short story in comics would do well to give [Queen of the Black Black] a try. Beautifully written and well illustrated, this a wonderful portfolio of work from a creator showing a deep well of promise from the start." – Grovel
• Review: "...[E]asily... one of my favorite horror comics and one of my contenders for my Best of 2011 list.... Not only is the book carefully structured, it looks stunning.... The Hidden is a story that must be experienced to fully appreciate... There is an excellent story of slow-building despair to be found in its pages, with gorgeous depictions and coloring and a horror story that shocks, surprises, and entertains. Don't let this one get hidden on your shelves! It may not be Halloween, but I still give this book my highest recommendation!" – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Review: "Volume 2 of Fantagraphics' Gottfredson Library, which takes us up through the beginning of 1934, maintains the high production standards and copious ancillaries of the first volume.... Tom Andrae's opening essay emphasizes, with good reason, how Gottfredson "spun off" many of his early narratives from the plots of animated cartoons. IMHO, however, the Mickey strip truly became "great" once Gottfredson gained the confidence to craft his own plots." – Chris Barat
• Profile:Paul Gravett surveys the work of David B. and presents a transcript of his bookstore discussion with the artist this past summer (hat tip to TCJ.com's Tim Hodler)
• Plug: Pulitzer-winning author and known Love and Rockets fan Junot Díaz names Poison River by Gilbert Hernandez (collected in Beyond Palomar) one of his top 10 favorite books in an excerpt from Unpacking My Library: Writers and their Books posted at The Financial Times
• Plug:Oil and Water receives an excellent feature in the new issue of the Audubon Society of Portland Warbler newsletter, which can be downloaded here
• Tribute: At The Comics Journal, Bill Griffith remembers meeting, and later collaborating with, the late Bil Keane: "I was surprised when Bil told me he read Zippy in his local Arizona paper and liked it. He didn’t even qualify his opinion with the usual, “Of course, I don’t always get it.” Until then, I hadn’t paid much attention to The Family Circus, but I slowly began to see that you could read more into it than what appeared on the surface. This was before internet wise guys began mashing up random Friedrich Nietzsche lines for Billy and Jeffy’s and riffing on the strip as unconscious surrealism. But The Family Circus didn’t need hipsters to substitute incongruous dialogue to make the case that it was unconscious surrealism. It was unconscious surrealism on its own."
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