"I Forgot! No One May Touch Her Book!"

The Adventures of Jodelle
by Guy Peellaert
Fantagraphics | 9781606995303 | $45 | March 2013

Ensconced in the avant-garde of the extraordinary social and cultural upheavals that were drawing 1960s Europe into the building wave of postmodernism, a Belgian advertising dropout, fed up with the corporate world, conceived the first "adult comic book" virtually off the top of his head.
By creating The Adventures of Jodelle, a deluxe comics album that wore its revolutionary Pop sensibility on its sleeve, Guy Peellaert obliterated the conventions of what had up to that point been a minor, childish medium. Ironically appropriating the face and body of the teen idol Sylvie Vartan, he fashioned a new kind of heroine, a sensual, parodically beautiful spy. For his setting he chose a defiantly anachronistic Roman Empire, into which irrupted the most flamboyant symbols of a conquering America, the originator of all fantasies.

How to best demonstrate the awesome might of Fantagraphics' new Johnny Gruelle collection, Mr. Twee Deedle?

Perhaps a picture? (Click picture for full majesty.)

Perhaps another picture with another, well-known, book added for scale?

It's more akin to flipping the pages of a wallpaper sampler than a collection of historic comics. This book is 18 inches tall and 14 inches across. It dominates the largest clear surface in my house - the kitchen island - like a B-52 bomber somehow parked astride an aircraft carrier's deck.

And then you open it up. First published in early 1911 - over 100 years ago now! - the art on the page is massive, but filled with delicate details. Cross-hatching, fine lines, skinny pen to create outlines, subtle washes of color. Many of the strips are illustrated from eye-level of small children, and the natural world around the characters seems almost life-sized.

Mr. Twee Deedle: Raggedy Ann's Sprightly Cousin - The Forgotten Fantasy Masterpieces of Johnny Gruelle
By Johnny Gruelle
Edited by Rick Marschall
Introduction by Tony Millionaire
Fantagraphics / W.W. Norton | 9781606994115 | $75 | June 2012

From Fantagraphics' page about the book, some more context (you can click through to see a 12-page sample of the stunning interior pages):

The title character in the Sunday color page, Mr. Twee Deedle, is a magical wood sprite who befriends the strip’s two human children, Dickie and Dolly. Gruelle depicted a charming, fantastical child’s world, filled with light whimsy and outlandish surrealism. The artwork is among the most stunning ever to grace an American newspaper page, and Gruelle’s painterly color makes every page look like it was created on a canvas.

Gruelle’s creation was the winning entry out of 1500 submissions to succeed Little Nemo, which the New York Heraldwas losing at the time to the rival Hearst papers. With such import, the Herald added a $2000 prize, a long contract, and arguably the most care devoted to the reproduction of any color newspaper comic strip before or since.

Yet the wood sprite and his fanciful world have been strangely overlooked, partly because Gruelle created Raggedy Ann immediately after the strip’s run, eclipsing not only Mr. Twee Deedle but almost everything else the cartoonist ever did.

You'll want to follow the Fantagraphics Tumblr blog, too, for daily wonder and awe.

New Arrivals: 3 BIG books from McSweeney's, Gahan Wilson & Peter de Sève

There's not much time today for a post – I'm getting things wrapped up here today before we head up to Madison for Saturday's memorial for Mark Gates.  But here's a post featuring books that somehow combine the sense of humor and the love of great writing that Mark lived for.

Three BIG objects arrived here at my3books HQ recently and they've all blown me away in one way or another.

McSweeney's Issue 33: San Francisco Panorama
edited by Dave Eggers
McSweeney's / PGW | 9781934781487 | $16 | Dec 2009

The results of a yearlong effort by the McSweeney's crew to put together the Platonic ideal of what the  Sunday edition of a newspaper could be - it's a wild success for lovers of words and images on paper.  The front sections contain investigative journalism, current affairs, infographics, and an over the top front-of-book data page.  The sports section leaves the daily stats to the web and brings readers the kind of sporting reportage that would fit right in at Sports Illustrated.  But, as you would expect, it's the Comics, Arts, and Book sections that really shine.  Contributions from Michael Chabon, Stephen King, William T. Vollmann, Miranda July, Junot Diaz, Nicholson Baker, to name a few.

Imagine a comics page with Art Spiegelman, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel and more.  You don't have to - that's what the Panorama offers us. The Books section offers in-depth reviews and short fiction from George Saunders and Roddy Doyle, among others, and poetry - all showcased in an innovative layout.

McSweeney's has moved on as they always do - the next issue of their journal will undoubtedly appear in some other format - but this experiment shows one possible way that printed newspapers can survive and thrive and inspire.

You can see more here on the microsite that McSweeney's put together for the Panorama.

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Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons
by Gahan Wilson
Fantagraphics Books / Norton | 9781606992982 | $125 | Jan 2010

A monster production, a slipcased behemoth, nearly 1000 pages in three volumes, with deliciously wicked humor on every page.  The slipcase has a plexiglass cutout on one side with a photo of Gahan Wilson fighting to be freed from his box.  Introductions by Neil Gaiman and Hugh Hefner each open two of the volumes.  The third includes an interview with Wilson.

Open the box, free the three volumes, and dive in anywhere.  You will not be disappointed.

Fantagraphics has posted a photo and video slideshow on Flickr of the box set with sample images from the book for the curious.

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A Sketchy Past: The Art of Peter de Sève
by Peter de Sève
Editions Akileos / SCB Distributors | 9782355740992 | $54.95 | published in France in October 2009, and imported and reviewed here already, but officially coming to the US in March 2010

A massive monograph that provides a comprehensive survey of the American illustrator and character designer Peter de Sève.  The book contains samples of finished work and his sketches from his advertising, book covers, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker and his other magazine commissions. 

The book also shines a light on his nearly-anonymous work behind the scenes on animated movies: Robots, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, A Bug's Life, Finding Nemo, and Ratatouille.  He's probably best-known among animation fans for having designed all the characters for all three Ice Age movies.

A Sketchy Past features sketches from his recently published children's book, The Duchess of Whimsy, written by his wife, Randall de Sève (also the author of Toy Boat).

As a peek behind the curtain of an artist's process, it's worth the effort of picking it up!

 

Three books that I almost missed the boat on.

The great thing about being a publishers' sales rep is that as each season of frontlist selling ends, there's a quiet reflective period before the next season begins.  There's always email, and the customer service side of working with my bookstores but I do spend a lot of that time puttering around the office with chores and projects, going through the next season's sales kits, and catching up on my reading.  

I usually like to focus on extracurricular reading (I spend the whole season collecting books that I hope to have time to get into during this less frantic period) but sometimes, as samples of the books that I just spent three months selling are published and show up on my doorstep, I will spot one or two that I somehow missed.

Luckily enough, I've found three books recently that I spent the entire summer representing but somehow, until I saw the actual finished books and started to read them, I missed out on their magic.  So here we go.

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1)
by Patrick Ness
Candlewick Press | 9780763645762 | $9.99 | July 2009

The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2)
by Patrick Ness
Candlewick Press | 9780763644901 | $18.99 | Sept 2009

If you loved The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, and are ready for a new YA SF series that is just as compelling and thrilling; if you read Ender's Game and the sequels and hoped for another book with the same kind of emotional complexity and SF detail; if you like to be surprised and delighted when the novel you're reading takes a sudden turn and becomes So. Much. More. Awesome. because of the twist, you owe it to yourself to read The Knife of Never Letting Go.  And be prepared to dive into the sequel, The Ask And The Answer, immediately upon finishing Knife."

Without giving anything away, here's a little to get you started.  Todd Hewitt is a 12 (going on 13) year old boy in a settlement on a new planet - a settlement that has seen its share of disaster and disappointment since the settlers first arrived.  Todd is the last boy in the settlement - all the other boys have become men upon their 13th birthday and no longer have time to spend with mere boys.  A war with the native species of bipeds has left all the women dead, thanks to a strange virus unleashed by their enemies.  This same virus has caused all the thoughts of the men in the village to be heard by all around them - they call it The Noise. And the settlers are also able to hear the thoughts of the animals around them, as well. 

Todd and his dog Manchee discover a secret outside their settlement that sends them fleeing for their lives, and as his knowledge of the world they live upon expands, he discovers that much has been kept secret from him by the men in his village.

To describe anything at all about what lies ahead for Todd and Manchee in both The Knife of Never Letting Go and its sequel, The Ask and the Answer, would be to give away secrets that should be discovered by the reader alongside Todd.

Let me just say that I've found my new favorite books to handsell.

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The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book   
by Joe Daly
Fantagraphics Books (Norton) | 9781606991633 | $22.99 | Aug 2009

Where has Joe Daly been hiding?  I'm pretty sure that if someone had told me about a young comics creator who was working on a series of eco-mystery comics set in Cape Town, South Africa starring a red-headed, monkey-footed comics creator with a deadpan sense of humor, wildly ethnic neighbors (who work hard to avoid being mere ethnic stereotypes), and a heavily stoned, moochy best friend, I would have jumped at the chance to read it.

Despite the over-the-top collision of elements I listed up there, what The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book really brings us is a tasty blend of cleanly detailed art straight out of Herge, hipster stoner humor and a couple of mysteries that work just as well in Cape Town as they would in the Los Angeles of Robert Towne's Chinatown or Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer stories.

Red Monkey is his second collection from Fantagraphics, the first being a 2007 book called Scrublands.

Fantagraphics is offering an exclusive 10-page excerpt from the first mystery in Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, The Leaky Cello Case.  You can download it here.

New visual treasures from Fantagraphics, Princeton Architectural Press & Chronicle Books

OK, having got that little throat-clearing end-of-summer group hug out of the way, I'm free to talk about three of the cool books that recently arrived here at my3books HQ.  

I'd like to use the traditional phraseology "landed on my desk", but to be honest, so many books and catalogs and packages come and go here that nothing really lands on my desk.  Also, when you say "landed on my desk", that more or less implies the presence of mailroom staff or interns or something like that.  And I'm usually the only one who opens up the jiffy mailers and book cartons.  

Nevertheless, you must check out these three beautiful books.  I can't think of a single good phrase to refer to them in the aggregate but at least one of them is perfect for the traditional "gift book" section in your typical indie bookstore.  One of them is simply a graphic novel from one of my favorite artists.  And one of them is a book that I would say is a no-brainer for any customer or loved one who is hoping to become a visual artist one day.

    

Pictorial Webster's: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities
by John Carrera
Chronicle Books | 9780811867184 | $35 | Sept 2009

A visual delight, a word-lover's coffee table book, a fascinating historical document - Pictorial Webster's is all of these things.  John Carrera stumbled across an ancient and battered 1898 Webster's International Dictionary at his grandmother's house in 1995.  He was struck by the quality of the illustrated section: 80 pages of engravings in a variety of styles.

He embarked on a 10-year-long quest to find more examples, track down the original engravings and restore these beautiful images to print.  He ultimately located the original engravings at Yale University, organized their holdings, and then put together a collection that spanned the different editions across the decades.

   

Carrera published the extremely limited letterpress edition through his own fine press company, Quercus Press. The Fine Press Book Association recently featured a video by Carerra that walks viewers through the steps that were required to create his book. Chronicle Books has finally brought out the trade edition. They're also hosting a drawing - one lucky individual is going to win a copy of the Quercus Press edition. Chronicle is also hosting another drawing with IndieBound: five winners will win beautiful framed posters of Pictorial Webster's art.

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Low Moon
by Jason
Fantagraphics Books (W.W. Norton) | 9781606991558 | $24.99 | June 2009

When I started repping for W.W. Norton, one of the special treats awaiting me as a longtime fan of graphic novels was the Fantagraphics list.  I've always been a fan of their particularly lovely bookmaking and their wide-ranging participation in both the history of the field as well as the future of comics.  To be dropped in amongst their riches was like Dorothy stepping out of her ruined farmhouse into technicolor Oz.

Consider this short list: The complete Peanuts.  Daniel Clowes' Ghost WorldLove and RocketsChris Ware's Acme Novelty LibraryComplete Crumb Comics.  Bill Griffith's ZippyTony Millionaire's Maakies.  Jules Feiffer.  Krazy & Ignatz.  I could easily fill this blog with nothing but Fantagraphics books, if I wanted.

 But my most exciting discovery of all has been Jason.  The mono-named Norwegian artist has been a prolific creator and a recent star of Fantagraphics' list.  His "clear line" style is immediately appealing and understandable to readers, and gives those readers what I think of as a head start - your focus and attention can be spent in finding the emotion and the subtext that runs below the surface narrative.

Some of my favorite backlist titles by Jason include I Killed Adolf Hitler (a time-traveling assassin is sent back to 1939 to do in the Nazi dictator, though the mission does not go as planned), and Pocket Full of Rain (a collection of 25 works from Jason's first 10 years as an artist).

He was one of the contributors to the Funny Pages serials in the New York Times Magazine, creating in the title piece from my featured book, Low Moon, an Old West homage that somehow combined gunfights, thwarted romance and chess.  Fantagraphics' Web site features a short video peek at Low Moon.

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Inside the Painter's Studio
by Joe Fig
Princeton Architectural Press (Chronicle Books) | 9781568988528 | $35 | Paper | Sept 2009

Jackson Pollock 1951 (2002)This book began in 2000 when artist Joe Fig began a series of miniature sculptures of historically significant artists in their studios (see the Jackson Pollock sculpture, right).  After two years of working from memoirs and paintings and other source materials, he moved on to a related study of contemporary artists.  As he says in his preface, "my intention was to get a clearer understanding of the real, day-to-day practicalities of being an artist..."

Chuck (Chuck Close 1997) (2000)The resulting book combines all of the elements of Joe Fig's work and his behind-the-scenes research: an interview with each artist (which Fig quickly standardized as The Painter's Studio: An Artist's Questionnaire, seeming to riff on the Proust Questionnaire...), site photographs of each artist's studio space, their painting table, and works in progress, and photographs of the resulting miniature sculpture of the artist's studio by Fig.  In the end, what the curious reader holds in their hand in a guided tour through How Artists Work, told by an insider.  It's truly fascinating.

Fred Tomaselli 2003 (2003)Among the 24 artists involved in this project are Chuck Close, Ross Bleckner, Jane Hammond, Julie Mehretu and Fred Tomaselli.

 

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