Monday, September 10, 2012

SPX Spotlight 2012: Fantagraphics

Welcome to another entry in my SPX Spotlight 2012!  You can find all of my SPX Spotlight posts, including those from past years, by clicking here.

My God, what can I say about Fantagraphics that hasn't already been said.  They're one of the oldest alternative comics publishers, with ties both former and current to so many big names, such as Clowes, Crumb, and Kupperman.  They import the work of Jason and lovingly restore the classic comics of Bill Everett and Steve Ditko.  More recently they've moved into high-class manga editions, such as the Wandering Son ongoing.

This is a company that's equally at home producing Charles Schultz' Peanuts as it is a porn movie cover collection.  Fantagraphics' range and depth is simply astounding, and I didn't even begin to talk about their various anthologies over the years, such as Blood Orange and MOME, the feminist fairy tale story Castle Waiting, or the raw-edged work of creators like Johnny Ryan.  This is where Krazy Kat lives again, alongside Zippy, Prince Valiant, Dennis the Menace, and other newspaper strips.

Don't forget they also have Mickey Mouse and are the publishers of The Comics Journal!  When you have been around this long, you end up being part of any number of a range of projects.  They're even getting more into webcomics, publishing works after they see serialization online, like Barack Hussein Obama.

Wait!  I forgot Love and Rockets.  Yeah, they do the Hernandez Brothers, too.  That's the thing with Fantagraphics.  There are so many parts of their literary tree that it's almost impossible to remember them all.  With nothing taken away from any other alternative comics publisher, Fantagraphics is a giant that strides across the landscape, providing quality graphic novels (and some single issue comics) that continue on in the tradition of the alt comix greats while also keeping enduring classics in print.

I've read quite a bit of Fantagraphics books over the years, and you can find my prior reviews and comments about their books here.  For this spotlight, I'll be looking at what seems interesting from their 2012 catalog.

Classic Comics

  • Action! Mystery! Thrills! is Fantagraphics' entry into the "covers of the Golden Age" market, and given their high production values and priority on comics history, it's likely to be the best one you'll find.
  • Amazing Mysteries The Bill Everett Archives Vol 1 is a good companion to their Steve Ditko archives.  I'm less familiar with Everett, but it's always great to see these pieces of history preserved.
  • Mysterious Traveler The Steve Ditko Archives Vol 3 continues Blake Bell's archiving of Ditko's pre-Spider-Man work.  So far, these have been unbelievable, and I see no reason for that to change.  Ditko may have little time for his past, but you should.

Foreign Friends

  • Jason's newest collection, Athos in America, features more of this great creator's work.  I love Jason's comics, as his deadpan sense of humor mixes with post-modern questions of life, all done up with talking animals who are deceptively complex underneath their cartoon guise.
  • New York Mon Ami is a new collection by Jacques Tardi and others, focusing on New York City.


Make the News

  • Bill Griffith:  Lost and Found Comics 1969-2003 collects little-seen items from the Zippy creator's long career.  I've lost touch with Griffith, because I thought Zippy had lost its way, but this might be worth looking up for long-time fans who missed the YOW factor as we got stuck in Dingberg.
  • Krazy & Ignatz 1922-1924 completes the set of Sunday strips of the amazingly quirky and ahead of its time newspaper strip that spawned the name of the SPX awards.
  • Nancy is Happy 1943-1945 is the first of a collection of classic strips that are sure to please long-time fans.
  • Popeye Volume 6 finishes up Fantagraphics' printing of the Segar strips.  I recently have become a fan of old the older Popeye stories, so this is definitely of interest to me.  (Thanks Roger Langridge!)
  • The Complete Peanuts keeps on trucking, and is well into the 1980s with the years 1983-84 and 1985-86 being the latest collections.

Solo Acts

  • Cinema Panopticum by Thomas Ott is an under-the-radar comic that more people should read.  A slow-burn story that gets creepier as it moves along find that you might just get what you pay for when searching for cheap entertainment.  Highly recommended (I have the hardcover.)
  • Love and Rockets New Stories #5  It's the Hernandez Brothers.  That's all you need to know.
  • Tales Designed to Thrizzle #8 finishes up the quirky comic from new Panel Patter favorite Michael Kupperman.  It's sure to be packed full of hysterical mashups and general insanity, based on pop culture and puns, both new and old.
  • The Big Town is set in the Jazz Age and is created by Charles Schultz's son, Monte.  I don't know much more than that, but the premise sounds fascinating.
  • The Furry Trap is Josh Simmons' latest, as the comics horror master returns.  I've liked his previous work I've read, and anyone into horror definitely should have a look.
  • The Hypo is the book I'm most looking forward to.  The deep thinker Noah Van Sciver taking on deep thinker Abraham Lincoln at the lowest point in his life?  SOLD.
  • Wandering Son Vol 3, the ongoing story of transgender issues, is ready in all its complex glory.  This is another must-grab book for me.


This is just a small sampling of what you'll find at the Fantagraphics table this year.  Bring your wallet--you're going to need it!

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