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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hot for Cold Heat -- Tucker Stone's look at Frank Santoro and Ben Jones's Cold Heat is one of the best damned articles about a comic book I have ever read. That it's about one of the best damned comics around is a bonus.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Downtime -- I stand accused of infrequent posting last week, and have to plead guilty. Likely to continue at least the first part of this week. Just spending some time with my kids on their spring break, and dealing with some minor real-life stuff. Apologies all around, and thanks for your patience.


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Post #1501 -- Hey, damn, I missed commenting on my 1500th post. Ah, well. Anyway, just wanted to link to Timothy Callahan's outstanding rundown of this past Sunday's Albany Comicon, over at CBR.


My Eisner Picks -- Tom Spurgeon posted the list of 2009 Eisner Award nominees yesterday, my picks are in bold. No choice in a category means either I haven't read any of the nominated works or have no preference in that category.

Best Short Story
* Actual Size, by Chris Ware, in Kramers Ergot 7 (Buenaventura Press)
* Chechen War, Chechen Women, by Joe Sacco, in I Live Here (Pantheon)
* Freaks, by Laura Park, in Superior Showcase #3 (AdHouse) [my review]
* Glenn Ganges in Pulverize, by Kevin Huizenga, in Ganges #2 (Fantagraphics)
* Murder He Wrote, by Ian Boothby, Nina Matsumoto, and Andrew Pepoy, in The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror #14 (Bongo)

Best Continuing Series
* All Star Superman, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC)
* Fables, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Niko Henrichon, Andrew Pepoy, and Peter Gross (Vertigo/DC)
* Naoki Urasawa's Monster, by Naoki Urasawa (Viz)
* Thor, by J. Michael Straczynski, Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales, and various (Marvel)
* Usagi Yojimbo, by Stan Sakai (Dark Horse)

Best Limited Series
* Groo: Hell on Earth, by Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier (Dark Horse)
* Hellboy: The Crooked Man, by Mike Mignola and Richard Corben (Dark Horse)
* Locke & Key, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
* Omega the Unknown, by Jonathan Lethem, Karl Rusnak, and Farel Dalrymple (Marvel)
* The Twelve, by J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston (Marvel)

Best New Series
* Air, by G. Willow Wilson and M. K. Perker (Vertigo/DC)
* Echo, by Terry Moore (Abstract Studio)
* Invincible Iron Man, by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca (Marvel)
* Madame Xanadu, by Matt Wagner, Amy Reeder Hadley, and Richard Friend (Vertigo/DC)
* Unknown Soldier, by Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli (Vertigo/DC)

Best Publication for Kids
* Amulet, Book 1: The Stonekeeper, by Kazu Kabuishi (Scholastic Graphix)
* Cowa!, by Akira Toriyama (Viz)
* Princess at Midnight, by Andi Watson (Image)
* Stinky, by Eleanor Davis (RAW Junior)
* Tiny Titans, by Art Baltazar and Franco (DC)

Best Publication for Teens/Tweens
* Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, adapted by P. Craig Russell (HarperCollins Children's Books)
* Crogan's Vengeance, by Chris Schweizer (Oni)
* The Good Neighbors, Book 1: Kin, by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh (Scholastic Graphix)
* Rapunzel's Revenge, by Shannon and Dean Hale and Nathan Hale (Bloomsbury Children's Books)
* Skim, by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood Books)

Best Humor Publication
* Arsenic Lullaby Pulp Edition No. Zero, by Douglas Paszkiewicz (Arsenic Lullaby)
* Chumble Spuzz, by Ethan Nicolle (SLG)
* Herbie Archives, by "Sean O'Shea" (Richard E. Hughes) and Ogden Whitney (Dark Horse)
* Petey and Pussy, by John Kerschbaum (Fantagraphics)
* Wondermark: Beards of Our Forefathers, by David Malki (Dark Horse)

Best Anthology
* An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories, Vol. 2, edited by Ivan Brunetti (Yale University Press)
* Best American Comics 2008, edited by Lynda Barry (Houghton Mifflin)
* Comic Book Tattoo: Narrative Art Inspired by the Lyrics and Music of Tori Amos, edited by Rantz Hoseley (Image)
* Kramers Ergot 7, edited by Sammy Harkham (Buenaventura Press)
* MySpace Dark Horse Presents, edited by Scott Allie and Sierra Hahn (Dark Horse)

Best Digital Comic
* Bodyworld, by Dash Shaw
* Finder, by Carla Speed McNeil
* The Lady's Murder, by Eliza Frye
* Speak No Evil: Melancholy of a Space Mexican, by Elan Trinidad
* Vs., by Alexis Sottile & Joe Infurnari

Best Reality-Based Work
* Alan's War, by Emmanuel Guibert (First Second)
* Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story, by Frederik Peeters (Houghton Mifflin)
* Fishtown, by Kevin Colden (IDW)
* A Treasury of XXth Century Murder: The Lindbergh Child, by Rick Geary (NBM)
* What It Is, by Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly)

Best Graphic Album -- New
* Alan's War, by Emmanuel Guibert (First Second)
* Paul Goes Fishing, by Michel Rabagliati (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Skim, by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood Books)
* Swallow Me Whole, by Nate Powell (Top Shelf)
* Three Shadows, by Cyril Pedrosa (First Second)

Best Graphic Album -- Reprint
* Berlin Book 2: City of Smoke, by Jason Lutes (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Hellboy Library Edition, Vols. 1-2, by Mike Mignola (Dark Horse)
* Sam & Max Surfin' the Highway Anniversary Edition HC, by Steve Purcell (Telltale Games)
* Skyscrapers of the Midwest, by Joshua W. Cotter (AdHouse)
* The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite, deluxe edition, by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba (Dark Horse)

Best Archival Collection/Project -- Strips
* The Complete Little Orphan Annie, by Harold Gray (IDW)
* Explainers, by Jules Feiffer (Fantagraphics)
* Little Nemo in Slumberland, Many More Splendid Sundays, by Winsor McCay (Sunday Press Books)
* Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles (IDW)
* Willie & Joe, by Bill Mauldin (Fantagraphics)

Best Archival Collection/Project -- Comic Books
* Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!, by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon)
* Creepy Archives, by Various (Dark Horse)
* Elektra Omnibus, by Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz (Marvel)
* Good-Bye, by Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Drawn & Quarterly) [my review]
* Herbie Archives, by "Sean O'Shea" (Richard E. Hughes) and Ogden Whitney (Dark Horse)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material
* Alan's War, by Emmanuel Guibert (First Second)
* Gus and His Gang, by Chris Blain (First Second)
* The Last Musketeer, by Jason (Fantagraphics)
* The Rabbi's Cat 2, by Joann Sfar (Pantheon)
* Tamara Drewe, by Posy Simmonds (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material -- Japan
* Cat Eyed Boy, by Kazuo Umezu (Viz)
* Dororo, by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)
* Naoki Urasawa's Monster, by Naoki Urasawa (Viz)
* The Quest for the Missing Girl, by Jiro Taniguchi (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)
* Solanin, by Inio Asano (Viz) [my review]

Best Writer
* Joe Hill, Lock & Key (IDW)
* J. Michael Straczynski, Thor, The Twelve (Marvel)
* Mariko Tamaki, Skim (Groundwood Books)
* Matt Wagner, Zorro (Dynamite); Madame Xanadu (Vertigo/DC)
* Bill Willingham, Fables, House of Mystery (Vertigo/DC)

Best Writer/Artist
* Rick Geary, A Treasury of XXth Century Murder: The Lindbergh Child (NBM); J. Edgar Hoover (Hill & Wang)
* Emmanuel Guibert, Alan's War (First Second)
* Jason Lutes, Berlin (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Cyril Pedrosa, Three Shadows (First Second)
* Nate Powell, Swallow Me Whole (Top Shelf)
* Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library (Acme)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team
* Gabriel Ba, The Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse)
* Mark Buckingham/Steve Leialoha, Fables (Vertigo/DC)
* Olivier Coipel/Mark Morales, Thor (Marvel)
* Guy Davis, BPRD (Dark Horse)
* Amy Reeder Hadley/Richard Friend, Madame Xanadu (Vertigo/DC)
* Jillian Tamaki, Skim (Groundwood Books)

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist
* Lynda Barry, What It Is (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Eddie Campbell, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard (First Second)
* Enrico Casarosa, The Venice Chronicles (Atelier Fio/AdHouse)
* Scott Morse, Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! (Red Window)
* Jill Thompson, Magic Trixie, Magic Trixie Sleeps Over (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Best Cover Artist
* Gabriel Ba, Casanova (Image); The Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse)
* Jo Chen, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serenity (Dark Horse); Runaways (Marvel)
* Amy Reeder Hadley, Madame Xanadu (Vertigo/DC)
* James Jean, Fables (Vertigo/DC); The Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse)
* Matt Wagner, Zorro (Dynamite); Grendel: Behold the Devil (Dark Horse)

Best Coloring
* Steve Hamaker, Bone: Ghost Circles, Bone: Treasure Hunters (Scholastic Graphix)
* Trish Mulvihill, Joker (DC), 100 Bullets (Vertigo/DC)
* Val Staples, Criminal, Incognito (Marvel Icon)
* Dave Stewart, Abe Sapien: The Drowning, BPRD, The Goon, Hellboy, Solomon Kane, The Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse); Body Bags (Image); Captain America: White (Marvel)
* Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #19 (Acme)

Best Lettering
* Faryl Dalrymple, Omega: The Unknown (Marvel)
* Jimmy Gownley, Amelia Rules! (Renaissance)
* Scott Morse, Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! (Red Window)
* Nate Powell, Swallow Me Whole (Top Shelf)
* Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #19 (Acme)

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism
* Comic Book Resources, produced by Jonah Weiland
* The Comics Journal, edited by Gary Groth, Michael Dean, and Kristy Valenti (Fantagraphics)
* The Comics Reporter, produced by Tom Spurgeon and Jordan Raphael
* Comics Comics, edited by Timothy Hodler and Dan Nadel (PictureBox)

Best Comics-Related Book
* Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front, by Todd DePastino (Norton)
* Brush with Passion: The Art and Life of Dave Stevens, edited by Arnie and Cathy Fenner (Underwood)
* Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden (First Second)
* Kirby: King of Comics, by Mark Evanier (Abrams) [my review]
* The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, by David Hajdu (Picador/Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Best Publication Design
* Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! designed by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon)
* Comic Book Tattoo, designed by Tom Muller, art direction by Rantz Hoseley (Image)
* Hellboy Library Editions, designed by Cary Grazzini and Mike Mignola (Dark Horse)
* What It Is, designed by Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Willie and Joe, designed by Jacob Covey (Fantagraphics)

The Eisners will be awarded during the San Diego Comicon this summer. Note that Fantagraphics Books is celebrating its nominations with a 15%-off sale on nominated works, and Top Shelf is offering a free copy of Nate Powell's excellent comic Please Release with purchase of his nominated graphic novel Swallow Me Whole.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

The Monday Briefing -- Took the family, as expected, to The Albany Comicon yesterday. It seemed more packed than ever with dealers, people looking to buy comics, people dressed in costume (including many Star Wars characters, which blew my son's mind -- I'm the Trekkie of the family, he loves all things Star Wars), and at least one guy who seemed to be taking pictures for (I assume) the local newspaper.

Despite quite a few half-price graphic novel bins, I didn't spend any money at all on comics -- the show is a lot of fun but most of the dealers are dedicated almost exclusively to superheroes and nostalgia (and superhero nostalgia). I was tempted by a leather-bound Complete Frank Miller Batman hardcover that I've always wished I owned (you know the one, purple, collected DKR, Year One and that oddball, early-career Christmas story?), but it was priced at $48.00 and that's too much for me to pay right now for a book that I own 95 percent of the contents already, twice over for Year One.

I did get to talk briefly to former FantaCo guy Rocco Nigro, always great to talk comics with, and Rocco introduced me to writer/blogger Timothy Callahan, who I had no idea lived as close to Albany as he does. It was fun to hang with those guys, however briefly. Missed Roger Green this time out, although a little bird Tweets at me that he was there later in the day. Next time for sure, Rog.

The only money I spent inside the convention was on some Star Trek action figures, a symptom of my growing excitement for the release of the movie, now, hello, one month and two days away. If anyone gets word of the new movie toys being sighted anywhere, do let me know, as I am hoping to score a set of those.

I really liked Tom Spurgeon's newest economy-minded comics-buying recommendations, 10 Avenues for Buying Comics as Used Books. I don't use the word "Avenue" in my post titles nearly enough, I don't think.

Oh, hey, check out my review of Yoshihiro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life, which I posted yesterday.

Over and out.


Sunday, April 05, 2009

A Drifting Life -- I finished Yoshihiro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life yesterday, and have been wrestling with what to say about it.

I really, really enjoyed reading it, but there's almost no extraordinary moments in it at all for me to point to. Virtually the entirety of the narrative is concerned with Tatsumi's transformation from a fan to a professional comics creator and the development of his own offshoot of Manga, a genre he dubbed Gekiga ("dramatic pictures.").

In the few moments where the book is about something else, it is either Tatsumi's sometimes tense and difficult relationship with his brother, or more fascinatingly and frustratingly, a couple of truly weird sequences in which we get a glimpse of the author's awkward sexual awakening. I would have loved to learn whether Tatsumi's timid, shame-faced encounters are culturally based or came out of his own upbringing and point of view. I suspect the former, but we never find out and once the minor thread is dropped, it is never even hinted at again.

A Drifting Life's title really does define what it is about, and I realize that telling you that it's 800 pages of passivity that is really interesting to read seems like a left-handed endorsement, but it's not intended that way at all. Tatsumi has an enormous canvas upon which to paint his life story, and he uses it well. It's broken up into discreet chapters, which makes it easier to tackle from a reader's perspective, but don't come into it expecting shocking moments or artistic revelations. There is an epic feel, but its effect is cumulative rather than something that sweeps you along through the author's personal history.

Tatsumi is one hell of a draftsman, and his depictions of life in Japan are amazing to see, and give one a tactile sense of the life he has experienced. So the fact that the book really does drift, that Tatsumi has no grand statement to make (except perhaps at the very end), is not a criticism at all, merely an observation; perhaps a suitably passive one to match the author's viewpoint for much of the story told here.

As a reader born in North America and steeped in its mostly intellectually arrested comics-creating traditions, I guess I am programmed to look for the grand point, the big theme. So I admit that I spent much of my time reading A Drifting Life in perhaps the wrong mindset. Either because of a lack of knowledge of what came after the point the story stops, or maybe even differences in cultural cues I should have picked up on, the book really does feel like it just stops rather than reaching any real kind of climax or conclusion.

There's a moment of, let's say, energy near the end, followed by a strange epilogue and a final panel and statement that were more baffling than anything else. And yet despite that, I am glad I read it and think anyone interested in Manga, Tatsumi or artcomix should read A Drifting Life and will likely find it rewarding and enriching, as I did. It's possible an interview with Tatsumi (as his other works released by Drawn and Quarterly have included) might have provided better context with which to comprehend and absorb what Tatsumi shows us (and for that I highly recommend Jog's review), but you know what? It's his life, and this is how he wanted us to learn about it. It drifts, but it is profoundly worthwhile, and you ought to read it.

Buy A Drifting Life from amazon.com.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Reminder: Albany Comicon is This Sunday -- I wrote about it here. Hope to see you there.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Best Buy That Never Was -- Up now at the deadmalls blog.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Random Notes -- I miss when Christopher Butcher used to write Previews Review, a monthly tour of the goddamned Diamond Distribution catalog. This week he posted something similar. Part One, Part Two.

When I wrote my somewhat glowing review of the new hardcover Alan Moore Swamp Thing release, I didn't realize how much DC had screwed it up (although I am not surprised at all).

The silver lining has been artist Steve Bissette looking at the project and sharing copious notes about Alan Moore's collaborative process. Part One, Part Two, Part Three. Jesus, what I wouldn't give to have a complete set of the photocopies Bissette says he has of all of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing scripts. (Thanks to Leigh Walton for turning me on to all this discussion, and also in general for being a rockin' comics-type human being. My favourite quote from him on this Swamp Thing cock-up is this, regarding DC Comics: "Is not making your creators hate you really such an impossible task?")

Noteworthy: It only took a decade, but Chris Allen has finally written about something I hate so much I am not reading his comments. No offense, Chris, I just really, really fucking hate American Idol.

I wish I could afford to go to the Toronto Comic Art Festival this (or any) year. If you go, do have fun for me, eh?

I haven't read Sean T. Collins's review of the new David Mazzucchelli graphic novel yet, but once I've read the book, I will. Two things I love are comics by David Mazzucchelli and reviews by Sean T. Collins.

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Fantagraphics Party This Saturday -- From Fantagraphics Minister of PR Eric Reynolds:
Join us at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery this Saturday evening, April 4, from 6:00 to 9:00 PM for an extraordinary event featuring two titans of alternative comics: Jaime Hernandez and Stan Sakai. We’ll be hosting a reception for an amazing exhibition of original art and book signing with Jaime and Stan, together with special guest Paul Hornschemeier.

It’s impossible to overstate the enduring influence of LOVE & ROCKETS on the comics medium, so we’ll skip the superlatives. Suffice to say that Jaime will be on hand to greet fans and sign books. Stan’s epic USAGI YOJIMBO adventure series has introduced generations of young readers to the world of comics, and his books are more popular than ever. His original drawings and paintings are inspiring. Jaime and Stan will be joined by their young colleague Paul Hornschemeier signing copies of his wonderful new graphic novel MOTHER, COME HOME.

This event serves as the official after-party for this weekend’s Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, so expect to see other comics creators and luminaries. Adult beverages will be provided for grown ups and sodas for the kids.

Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is located just minutes south of downtown Seattle at 1201 S. Vale Street (at the corner of Airport Way S.) in the colorful Georgetown arts community. Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM. Phone 206.669.9059.
To quote Liz Lemon, "I want to go to there."






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