SPX Publisher Spotlight: Fantagraphics

This is part of Panel Patter's SPX Spotlight, a series of reviews of work from creators or publishers who will be attending SPX in 2011 leading up to the show on September 10th and 11th, 2011!

As we move into the final few days before the show, it's time to start looking at the some of the great publishers who will be at the show this year.  Today, we'll look at one of those publishers, perhaps the best-known of those who will be at the show this weekend, Fantagraphics.

I really like this logo
I have been a little remiss this year.  Normally, I place at least one order in the spring to Fanatagraphics, but since I didn't do it yet, I'm planning on bringing a little extra to the show this year in order to pick up some books from them that normally I'd already have.  It is stupidly easy to spend money with Fantagraphics, because they put out so many great books every year.

Part of why there are so many good things to buy from Fantagraphics is because they do not limit themselves to one kind of independent comic--nor do they only publish independent works.  While they certainly are known for being on the cutting edge, this is also the same publisher that gives you the Peanuts reprints and old pre-code comics from such luminaries as Steve Ditko and Bill Everett, to say nothing of that insane genius, Fletcher Hanks.

Fantagraphics also is one of the best at putting together anthologies, such as Blab! or Mome that run the gamut from the avant garde world to simple autobiographical works.  They are the home of comics of all kinds from Crumb to Krazy Kat to upscale manga, and thus cater to my eclectic tastes.

I'm sure they will have a ton of comics available at SPX this year, including some good things from their back catalog.  For the purposes of this post, however, I'm just going to highlight what looks good from the 2011 catalog.  It's as good a place as any to start, and I'm sure you kind find the older gems yourself once you stop by their table.

  • 21 The Story of Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago. This is one that's close to my heart, being a former Pittsburgher.  Santiago presents a stylized history of the best Latin American player to ever step foot on a baseball diamond, highlighting both his triumphs and his struggles as a person and player.  I read this recently and it is extremely good.  A must for all baseball fans, regardless of where you live.

  • Four Color Fear. The creepy look at old horror comics is back in print, and anyone who loves the genre owes it to themselves to grab this volume and put it on their shelf.  This was Erica's Valentine's Day present to me!

  • Isle of 1,000 Graves by Jason and Fabien Velhlmann.  Do I really need to tell you that getting new Jason comics is a good idea?  There's apparently more Jason on the way later in the year, too!  Awesome!

  • Krazy Kat & Ignantz Sunday Strips 1919 to 1921.  If you're getting these as they are released, grab this one.  If you can hold out, however, there's a collection edition coming in a hardcover version that might just be suitable for hitting someone--just like a brick.  But why do that, when you want to read the comics inside instead?

  • Mark Twain's Autobiography by Michael Kupperman.  This is still listed as a pre-order, but Kupperman told me that there's a good chance it will be at SPX.  This is the story of Twain's last 100 years on earth, from his greatly exaggerated death to today.  I really, really hope he's right, because I want to read this one so badly!

  • Mome 21 and 22.  I am so sad that Mome is ending its run, because I've greatly enjoyed the series.  Pick these last two up or start at the beginning, should they have back issues.  Either way, you're almost certain to enjoy what I consider to be one of the most solid, long-running anthology series I've ever read.

  • Popeye Volume 5.  I can only collect so many things, so until Fantagraphics goes digital (hint hint), some of these classic comic series will have to wait.  But if the Sailor Man is someone you love enough to keep, this edition gives you Poopdeck Pappy, one of my favorites.

  • Setting the Standard:  Comics by Alex Toth 1952-1954.  I know there are lots of folks who are into Toth the way that I am into Ditko, so this 400+ page collection should be a thing of beauty for you.  Enjoy, but--maybe take it to the car instead of carrying it around the show all day!

  • The Comics Journal 301.  If you're into comics criticism in a big way, don't forget the massive issue of TCJ.  My friends who dig books like this have had nothing but good things to say about it.  It's got Crumb and his Genesis retcon, among many, many other things.  I have to be honest--TCJ isn't for me.  But I have to respect the idea of putting this much emphasis on comics as an art form.  This is right up there with any other literary journal you can imagine.

  • The Complete Crumb Comics Volumes 13 and 15.  Speaking of Crumb, these two volumes get a reprint and probably will be at SPX as a result.  If you've never seen one of these editions before, they are an excellent way to watch Crumb's underground comix career progress.  By the 15th volume, you are into the 1980s and oh boy, is that a clash of culture, my friend.

  • Twentieth Century 8Ball by Daniel Clowes.  This is also being reprinted, and if I didn't have this already, I'd get it.  I'm not a big fan of Clowes' current work, but I like his older material.  This is a good place to start if you liked Ghost World or Wilson and want to read more.

  • Wandering Son Volume 1 by Shimura Takako.  The start of a new series for Fantagraphics rounds things out in my list of highlights.  I recently read this manga as well and I am still processing it before I try to do my best review possible for it.  It's the story of gender identity, told in a supportive, realistic manner that is almost unheard of in manga--at least the manga we get here in the United States.  I'd say this is a must-purchase for anyone interested in themes of sexuality, gender, quality manga, and good comics.

So those are some things that look good to me from Fantagraphics.  I'm in for some hard decisions on Sunday--I bet you will be, too, when you go to the show!  Luckily, you can always order more of these books from Fantagraphics when funding allows.  (I recommend twice a year, by the way.)

Tomorrow, we move the publisher spotlight to Top Shelf!  See you then!