• Commentary:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon responds to The Comics Journal's Love and Rocketslove-fest yesterday with some thoughts of his own: "I agree with Nadel, Santoro, Tomine and many of the comment-makers that Jaime Hernandez's new work represents a phenomenal achievement. I'm maybe not as interested in finding its place in the pantheon right this second. There's plenty of time for that down the road. One thing that's exciting and should never be denied about a creative achievement on the level of what Hernandez seems to have given us here is what that work might say to us in the future that it doesn't say right now."
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins responds, in turn, to Tom Spurgeon's response linked above: "If you’re looking for realistic and well-rendered women characters, or for women creators operating on an equal playing field, or for a serious examination of issues of gender and sexuality in all their glory and misery, then yeah, you can kick against the pricks and hope that someday an issue of Captain Copyright or the Teen Trademarks will deliver these things. Or you can put those comics down, walk a few aisles over or click on a different website, and discover things like Jaime’s 'Browntown'/'The Love Bunglers' suite, which over the course of two issues of Love and Rockets packs in more quality fiction about love, aging, motherhood, fatherhood, marriage, divorce, adultery, sexual assault, queerness, mental illness, adolescence, friendship, and sex than the last half-dozen comics-internet contretemps-causing comics combined."
• Review: "The conventional wisdom surrounding Prince Valiant these days characterizes it as a fussily drawn, belabored relic of the past. Of course, critical judgments of a comic stop mattering once you read it. A few pages into the fourth of Fantagraphics’ beautifully reprinted new editions of Hal Foster’s masterpiece and it’s difficult indeed to remember that this isn’t the greatest comic ever.... And the mastery Foster brings to bear on his every panel may have been equaled both before and since his prime, but it’s never been surpassed." – Matt Seneca, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "I could easily write a whole post about the brilliance of Barks (and probably WILL, at some point down the road!) but for now I will just say that this December Fantagraphics is releasing the first volume of a NEW Carl Barks Library, which is going to finally, finally, FINALLY put Barks's work back into print in America, in an accessible full-color format.... So please, if you have a kid in your life, PLEASE, for ME, buy them this book! And if you have never read any Barks and you don't understand why I'm being so crazy about this, buy one for yourself. I can personally guarantee that you won't regret it!" – Alec Longstreth
Back in June Fantagraphics Publisher Gary Groth and I were trouble-shooting ideas for packaging "Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons." Most of the ideas were unfeasible or enough of a gimmick that it felt distracting from the work. (Sure an iron maiden clamshell box is funny but do we really want the case to be that cumbersome?) As we axed ideas, so to speak, I kept returning to this classic gag of a man pressed under glass and was interested in how it echoed the idea that we're capturing the legacy of Gahan Wilson within this boxed set. A little research showed that we could make a slipcase with a plexiglass back so Gary and I agreed on the direction and I called up the legendary cartoonist to pitch him on the idea of drawing a self-portrait version of his old gag.
It turns out Mr. Wilson is a hilarious, engaging man to chat with but there was no convincing him to draw the portrait. He liked the idea just fine but felt that it was somehow impure to use artwork on the case that wasn't from the work inside. As my hopes faded I heard him suggest something I hadn't dared to ask: "If you want to take a picture we could do that." So the next minute I was on the phone to Gary. Would it hurt sales to have the grim visage of a trapped 79-year-old man staring out at the book buyer? Gary didn't care, he loved the idea more than he feared how it would be received. And it certainly wouldn't be ignored. So we had our solution.
The next trick was having no budget (aka Fantagraphics Budget) and the need for a photographer willing to travel out to Gahan's studio to pull off the shoot within a few weeks time. I wasn't optimistic, but remembering the work of Seth Kushner's NYC photos of cartoonists I took a stab at conscripting not just a decent photographer but a truly talented one. Seth generously agreed to our modest arrangement and treked out to Sag Harbor with his camera and a man-sized panel of glass. In no time we had these amazing portraits that nailed the concept. (Plus we ended up with some great unpublished outtakes like this one of Gahan cradling a "baby" skeleton.)
On the production end, Playboy graciously gave us a wide berth on the design-- their only major dictate being the point size and typeface used for the art pages of the book-- so the final piece was just to pull off the tricky production Gary and I were envisioning. Our printer, Imago, worked with me at length on getting everything right and their efforts really completed the book.
In the end, each book has a different Gahan portrait on the back cover so the framed image of the artist can be changed out and displayed on your shelf of honor. The front of the slipcase is pillow embossed (ie: the image is in layered relief, which doesn't photograph well here), the back cover is silkscreened plexiglass, and the book covers are all diecut with morbid icons, with matching tipped-in interior diecut pages.
To top it off, the Special Edition set is shrink-wrapped with a box of miniature reproduction cards sent from Gahan to Hugh Hefner and a glow-in-the-dark letterpress print reminding the owner, day or night, that the end of the world is coming.
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