First of all, I’ve finally caught up with the rest of the English speaking world and read Ellen Forney’s Marbles. And yes, it’s totally fascinating and deeply affecting, but I’m not telling you anything you hadn’t already heard in December’s Best Damn Comics of the year, so I’ll save you that here. Also, it’s worth pointing out that Quebec’s Drawn & Quarterly is just killing it lately -- like, more so than usual, to the point that I had trouble picking just one of their books this month, though you definitely be hearing their name in the next several of these -- unless I can trick Boing Boing into letting me sneak out reviews of the new Gauld and Hanawalt sooner.
Other Stuff By Peter Bagge. Fantagraphics
Yes. Yes, yes, yes. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for this one -- well before Fantagraphics ever announced the thing, and certainly Other Stuff doesn’t disappoint. In fact, the mere bringing together of Bagge’s Murry Wilson strips is worth the price of entrance alone. In fact, Peter and assorted Fantagraphics employees, if you’re reading this (as I suspect some of you are), I will be the first in line to buy a graphic novel-length biography of the Wilson family patriarch and self-appointed musical genius drawn in Bagge’s signature style. Ditto for the assorted liberty taking rock and roll tales of folks like Sinatra and Sly Stone.
And then there are the collaborations with R. Crumb, Alan Moore, Dan Clowes and the like, many of which I already own in some form or other, though my self-diagnosed obsessive compulsive disorder thanks Bagge’s publishers for collecting them all into on handy volume. It’s great to see all of this stuff together, particular those Hate b-stories that fell through the cracks of Fanta’s excellent “Buddy Does...” collections. Like we really needed another testament to Peter Bagge’s greatness.
Letting It Go By Miriam Katin. Drawn & Quarterly
I had the strange experience of running into Art Spiegelman on the streets of Cologne, Germany over the summer. Strange because we were there for very different reasons, and I’d had no idea what brought the cartoonist to the outdoor mini-mall built around a centuries old church that is Cologne. Stranger still was the experience of seeing him speak at a local museum upon his invitation, monitoring how the audience reacted to the artist’s “holocaust denial” cartoons. And while I’d certainly never dream of equating experience as a Jew born in America toward the end of the 20th century to those of Katin, an artist born in Hungary during the second World War, I’ve some small sense of appreciation for the baggage we bring to our own concepts of modern Germany.
As its name poetically implies, Letting Go is an attempt to release some of that, an act she understandably flatly refuses on hearing her sons decision to move to Berlin. Katin illustrates life after that decision in color pencil sketches, telling the tale of daily minutia, reflection and the occasional flashback, all well aware that, for better and worse, lifelong opinions rarely change overnight.
Reich #9 By Elijah Brubaker. Sparkplug
I’m sad to say that I fell off a bit with Reich. While I commend Brubaker’s commitment to the floppy (and Sparkplug’s commitment to issuing his efforts), the publication schedule hasn’t made it particularly easy to keep up. It’s worth the effort, of course. The cartoonist has taken on the life of one of the most interesting figures in psychoanalysis, holding little back in the process. This ninth issue finds the Freud protege entering the final decade of his life, at odds with peer, journalists and the government thanks to radical, metaphysical beliefs.
Brubaker has no interest in catching you up, though a quick visit to Wikipedia should do the trick, though, really, it would be silly not to just start from the beginning -- the cartoonist’s vaguely cubist style does some wonderful things with Reich’s mad science fashion sense. And while I’ve been hassling both the artist and his publisher to put out a collection for a few years now (I suspect the last 10 years of the analyst’s comics life will have to play out first), let’s embrace the dying art of the paper serial while it’s still with us.
The Frantastic Four By Sam Spina. Kilgore
I pulled this (if memory serves) of the shelf of the wonderful Needles and Pens on a recentish trip to San Francisco, not at all expecting the tale of alien encounters to climax with a break dancing competition. Needless to say, it was a pleasant surprise. The art has a sketchily cartoony, Graham Annable-esque feel to it, and the story would fit nicely in amongst that new brand of quirky Cartoon Network daytime programming that always seems to be on when I check into hotels these days. Needless to say, I hope it’s not the last we’ll be seeing of the celery monster and his ilk.
Brian Heater (@bheater ) is a senior editor at Engadget and the founder of indie comics site, The Daily Cross Hatch. His writing has appeared in Spin, The Onion, Entertainment Weekly and The New York Press. He hosts several podcasts and shares an apartment in Queens with a rabbit named Sylvia.