Free fun! Celebrate the ronin rabbit and the impending release of Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition by putting some gorgeous Stan Sakai artwork (and design elements based on Jacob Covey's stellar book design) on your desktop. Just click on the size that matches your monitor resolution and the image will open in a new window; if you're on a PC, right-click the image and select "Set As Background"; if you're on a Mac, control+click and select "Set As Desktop Background." (We don't know what the procedure is for iPhones, but if you have one, you probably do, right?) For lots more wallpaper selections, find recent ones here and older ones here.
Created in 1984 as a supporting character for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo has vaulted to the very forefront of iconic modern comics characters and is a perennial favorite amongst young boys and adult fans. Usagi Yojimbo chronicles the action-packed wanderings of a masterless samurai (a “ronin”) in feudal Japan — as told with funny-animals. (If PIXAR and the late Akira Kurosawa were to collaborate on a movie, it might very well look like this.)
For the first ten years of his career, the battling bunny was published by Fantagraphics Books. In honor of his 25th anniversary, Fantagraphics is releasing a deluxe slipcase set collecting the seven first Usagi books. With over 1000 pages of story, this is the complete, definitive, early Usagi. This Special Edition will also be brimming with extra material, including a complete full-color gallery of the more than 50 Usagi covers from that period (never-before-collected); preparatory sketches, including Sakai’s original first draft of the “Samurai” story; two “non-canon” Usagi stories by Sakai co-starring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (with whom Usagi also shared screen time in the TMNT TV series); the rare behind-the-scenes "How I Draw Usagi Yojimbo" strip; Introductions by Stan Sakai and Stan Lee; and a feature-length, career-spanning interview with Sakai.
Download an EXCLUSIVE 31-page PDF excerpt (2.9 MB) containing the first 3 parts of the origin flashback story "Samurai"!
• Review: "...Moto Hagio, whose work might officially be classified as shōjo manga, ...is apparently one important, daring renegade in the manga world. This handsome collection that encompasses almost four decades (from 1971-2007) of Hagio’s short stories comes complete with a thorough, illuminating interview with Hagio conducted by the volume’s translator, Matt Thorn. [...] Hagio’s collection of 10 short manga stories [A Drunken Dream and Other Stories is] filled with unexpected twists and endings." – Terry Hong, BookDragon (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program)
• Review: "Malkasian weaves her story carefully [in Temperance], pulling the different narrative threads together in unexpected places, and while the parallels to the real world are clear, this is no simplistic fable. [...] Malkasian’s art is incredibly expressive, and her characters are filled with vitality..." – Brigid Alverson, Robot 6
• Review: "There are no great deeds in Tardi’s comic [It Was the War of the Trenches]. No Légion d’honneurs, no Croix de guerres, no Victoria or Iron Crosses. No suggestion that only the brave and courageous have the right to cry out in protest. No sense of fellowship, no pitched battles to gratify our base senses and desires, and certainly nothing of that most typical of war time sensations, boredom." – Ng Suat Tong, The Hooded Utilitarian
• Review: "In many ways, Ghita is like a female, uncensored Conan. ...Everything has its place in the script. The artwork, with excellent black ink, I do not need to explain that is excellent..." – Andreas Michaelides, Comicdom (translated from Greek)
• List: Feel the love as 50 comics pros each name their 5 favorite Fantagraphics releases (minus some ringers as determined by Tom Spurgeon) at The Comics Reporter; read some additional flattering commentary by participant Mike Sterling; Sean T. Collins comments "The result shows just how deep a bench that publisher can field. Greatest comics publisher of all time."
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning gets all the latest scoop from Stan Sakai, including details about the long-gestating Usagi Yojimbo Special Edition set (coming in December): "It'll be all the Fantagraphics stories in a two-volume slipcase hardcover edition. I'm looking forward to it. It's also going to publish all the extras that were only in the hardcover [collections], with the exception of the full-color story that was published in the book 4 hardback, because that was reprinted recently in [Dark Horse's] 'The Art of Usagi Yojimbo.' But this is the sketches and covers and things that were included with the hardcover editions. So it'll be a lot more, plus it'll be about the same price as buying them in the trade paperback."
Online Commentary & Diversions — catching up from MoCCA weekend, with more catch-up tomorrow:
• Award: Congratulations to David Sandlin for receiving a 2010-2011 fellowship from the New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. "The fellowship lasts from September to May. Each fellow gets an office in the library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, full access to the library’s research collections, and a stipend, which last year was $60,000," reports Kate Taylor of The New York Times. Not too shabby!
• Review: "Few people alive today are old enough to remember World War I, and as it recedes into the past, the 'war to end all wars' becomes more abstract. But French cartoonist Jacques Tardi's graphic novel, It Was The War of the Trenches..., brings the Great War to life in all its mud- and blood-soaked misery. Without a trace of sentimentality, Tardi's richly detailed and grimly rendered vignettes depict the horror, illness, cruel manipulations, and stupidity of this giant black spot in human history." – Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing
• Review: "Long-lost astronauts, homicidal bloggers, baseball legends and wayward skaters all find a home in John Pham’s captivating comic series Sublife. With only two issues on the street, Sublife has already established an achingly familiar universe in all of its disparate ongoing narratives. Deftly juggling the melancholy of Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve with some Cormac McCarthy-inspired apocalyptic action and plenty of skillfully subdued deadpan humor, Pham proves himself a master of multifarious emotions and artist stylings." – We Love You So
• Review: "While I enjoyed Sakai's artwork in the first volume, this second trade collection is even stronger. ... I'm so glad I'm finally sitting down and reading this series, and my only regret is that I didn't do it sooner. Usagi Yojimbo is a great addition to the canon of samurai stories, and is definitely highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of wandering ronin or just good storytelling." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Review: "Culture Corner remains a curiosity in comic book history, rarely remembered, rarely seen, but Basil Wolverton’s status as an important figure in humor cartooning is unimpeachable. Thus, anybody wanting to understand the development of the medium and the evolution of comedy cartooning should pick up Culture Corner to see how Wolverton began the road to comic book legend. Most of the strips have never been seen by today’s readers, and the sheer number of unpublished penciled sketches makes this book a true rarity and a must-have." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "I can honestly say that the further we dive into the murky depths of Newave!, the better it gets. Hot on the heels of all the anarchic fun of the first thirty mini comics, come ten more that show, in various ways, a little extra sophistication in content or execution." – Avoid the Future continues their mini-reviews of the contents of Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s; this is from part 4, and I think we may have missed linking to part 2 and part 3
• Plug: At IdeaFixa, Claudio Yuge says that reading Love and Rockets "was one of the best things I ever did in life and I recommend it for anyone who likes comics and graphic arts in general." (translated from Portuguese)
• Commentary:Comic Book Galaxy's Christopher Allen & Alan David Doane comment on this year's Eisner nominees, of which we have several; there's too much for me to quote from here
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning talks to Jim Woodring about Weathercraft: "In a lot of ways, Manhog is the most interesting character in the Unifactor. He has the most potential for change and the widest range of dramatic possibilities. Besides, it's fun to put him in awful circumstances and watch him suffer. There's something about a big fat guy screaming in terror that's just naturally funny. Oliver Hardy got a lot of mileage out of that formula."
• Interview: The Inkstuds radio programme talks with Mome contributor (and, now, kids-comics superstar) Eleanor Davis
• SayethHans Rickheit: "I like Page 15 [of Ectopiary] simply because it contains a stuffy old lady denigrating beatniks and artists; that is always a winning ingredient of any succsessful book, in my opinion."
• Review: "Dash Shaw seems set to become a name to be reckoned with in comics... [The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.] is a wonderful introduction to Shaw’s work, and should certainly find its way into the hands of those craving more." – Grovel
• Review: "I'm so glad I started reading this series and can't wait to catch up. Usagi Yojimbo is that rare breed of animal comic that works for me, blending Sakai's cartoon style with a story that would not be out of place in Lone Wolf and Cub. Fans of comics set in historical Japan should definitely check this out. You'll be glad you did. I think it would also be a good fit for manga fans looking to try a non-Japanese comic. I enjoyed this book a lot, and look forward to reading more." – Panel Patter
• Review: "Yet another reason to love Fantagraphics is their meticulous sequential collections of classic newspaper strips such as... Hank Ketcham’s Dennis the Menace. This volume collects the strips from 1961 - 1962 in a huge 654-page volume. What has always stood out about the Dennis the Menace strips is that they were single panel cartoons. It takes an incredible level of talent write a single panel cartoon and Ketcham was one of the best. ... Truly a delight that has lost none of its humor in fifty years. Grade A" – Tim Janson, The Gouverneur Times
• Review: "...Ho Che Anderson's Sand & Fury... [is] a slightly twisty tale of sex, serial killers, and the supernatural, told very stylishly in black, white, and red. Blood and shadows therefore get a lot of play across Anderson's desolate southwestern landscapes; and although his lines can be thick and blocky, his figures evoke a good bit of emotion. There's a lot of nudity, a whole lot of violence, and so the plot can be boiled down to a very simple level: revenge, good vs. evil, etc. However, Anderson's anonymous main character, and the people she befriends, are more than just nominally sympathetic. I feel like I'm not doing the book justice, because it is a very raw tale, full of death and sex, and I liked it a lot." – Tom Bondurant, Robot 6
• Plug: "King creator Ho Che Anderson has a brand new Scream Queen book, Sand & Fury. Ho's work always looks good, and I'm personally pretty happy to see this one..." – Chris Butcher, The Beguiling
• Interview: At Robot 6, Tim O'Shea talks to Ho Che Anderson about the new Special Edition of King ("That’s one thing I wish I could have done more of, slashing dialog, rewriting more of it, but at a certain point you gotta let it go. (Yes, George Lucas, I am talking about you.)") and his new graphic novel Sand & Fury ("To me, sex and horror or sex and violence seem to go naturally together. They seem to stem from the same twisted areas of our psyches. What scares us can often arouse us, sometimes despite ourselves, and vice versa.")
• Profile:CNN's Bob Greene pays tribute to Bill Mauldin on the occasion of the release of Mauldin's commemorative US postage stamp this month: "Mauldin, and his work, meant so much to the millions of Americans who fought in World War II, and to those who had waited for them to come home. He was a kid cartoonist for Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper; Mauldin's drawings of his muddy, exhausted, whisker-stubbled infantrymen Willie and Joe were the voice of truth about what it was like on the front lines." (hat tip to Walt Simonson)
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