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THE UNITED STATES OF MURDER

An admirable first issue must, above all else, contain such matter as will compel a reader to buy the second issue. At the same time, while provoking curiosity through mysteriousness, a good first issue must avoid being so mysterious as to be cryptic or incomprehensible. And, thirdly, it should introduce the title’s principals, preferably in a way that makes us care about them. Fourth, a first issue should include a complete “episode”—that is, something should happen, a crisis of some kind, which is resolved by the end of the issue, without, at the same time, detracting from the cliffhanger aspect of the effort that will compel us to buy the next issue.

The new title from Brian Michael Bendis with pictures by Michael Avon Oeming, The United States of Murder, Inc., seems promising. In the first issue, we follow in the footsteps of young Valentine Gallo, who, by way of becoming a “made man,” is sent on an errand to Washington, D.C., where the briefcase he delivers to a senator explodes and kills the recipient. Before he makes his delivery, however, he meets a ravishing redhead who invites him to touch her boob, saying, at the same time, that he’ll never sleep with her. (But maybe he already has; we can’t be sure any more than he can.) She, it turns out, is sent by the mob as Valentine’s escort on his first mission.

The book contains two or three completed episodes that reveal Val’s personality — of which his encounter with the ravishing redhead is one. Another involves Val’s friend Dino, who, at Val’s insistence, accompanies him to Washington. En route on the train, Dino dispatches an annoying passenger but Val seems unmoved by the violence: it’s Dino’s disobedience that bugs him. Later, when Dino is killed, Val is again seemingly unmoved. And when he delivers the briefcase, he is likewise something of an automaton.

When he returns to the mob headquarters, they are all worked up trying to determine who rigged the briefcase to explode. Val is no help. Later, when he goes home, his mother tells him that he was born into undercover for the FBI. His father was a made man, and only the son of a made man could infiltrate the mob, and that’s what she intends him to do — and while there, to pull it all apart. End of issue.

Oeming’s art has become more drenched in shadow than ever.

 

Murder

 

His characters’ faces are typically half solid black. All very nice for mood, but it makes recognizing the characters difficult — particularly when the artist’s rendering manner is stark simplicity. The only thing that distinguishes Val from Dino is their hair: Dino’s is curly. Makes it all a little more confusing than it should be.

But the storytelling otherwise — and the story itself — is intriguing and will bring me back for more.

 

 

 

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

RED SONJA IN AN "ART EDITION"

The cover of the first issue of Legends of Red Sonja is inspired by a rendering from Frank Thorne, whose supple pen brought the dime-bikini’d “she-devil with a sword” to vivid life when Marvel issued the first series of books with her as the title character in the mid-1970s. Inside this Legends issue, Dynamite Comics touts an “art edition” (12x17 inches) of Thorne’s Red Sonja, which gives me the excuse to post a copy of Thorne’s memorable cover here.

RedSonja

Much as I admire Thorne’s work (and I do, passionately), I won’t be springing for Dynamite’s book: “art editions” are “color” reproductions in black-and-white of the artist’s original art, and while they are as close to original art as our printing technology can achieve, they aren’t actually the original art. And the two that I glommed onto are disappointments. While all the blemishes and corrections and faint pencil imagery are present — as they are in the original art — the glint and feel of ink on paper is missing. And maybe that’s the heart of it for me. It’s my own eccentricity, I admit. And multitudes do not share it. For them, more about the Dynamite offering is available at dynamite.com.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

DAREDEVIL AT 50

MARVEL’S DAREDEVIL IS 50 THIS YEAR

The blind Daredevil was the last of the first burst of superhero creation at the House of Ideas, and he doesn’t seem to rank very high on the publisher’s chart. In 2002, Marvel produced a commemorative volume, Fantastic Firsts, which reprints DD’s inaugural adventure (including the cover we post down the scroll a tad), but the back cover blurb, listing “the greatest and most popular heroes,” mentions Spider-Man, Thor, Dr. Strange, Namor, the Avengers, the X-Men and the rest but omits our red-togged neighborhood acrobat. Doesn’t mention him. Despite this undeniably evidence of official neglect, Daredevil has been twice produced by comic book geniuses: first Frank Miller injected new life into the character, and then, a couple years ago, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee took off in new and imaginative directions.

For his 50th anniversary, official Marvel, trying to make up for the heretofore seemingly institutional indifference, has produced a special issue, Daredevil No.1.50 (a numbering scheme that baffled me until I figured out it meant the “first fiftieth”).  In it, Mark Waid and Javier Rodriguez (writer and artist, the latter now termed “storyteller” by way of acknowledging his collaborative role; Waid employs the same term with Samnee) imagine Matt Murdock at the age of fifty when he’s married and has a son, who has inherited some of DD’s miraculous extra-sensory powers but is bookish (like his mother, the current mayor of San Francisco, where Matt had been mayor before her).

Matt wants his son to be more active, more athletic, but the kid isn’t interested. Matt is disappointed but still supportive. Then one of the west coast baddies, Jubula Pride, shows up and stikes 72% of the city blind. Daredevil fixes that. Then he and his son go for a walk, and as they cross the street, a careening truck almost hits Matt: it would have except for his son, who knocks him out of the way—in a scene that duplicates another such scene that occurred in Daredevil No.1, fifty years ago, when Matt saves another blind man and gets blinded himself.

Note: In the caption below, by "Right" I mean "Left."

Daredevil50

Two other tales complete the issue. The first is mostly text by Brian Michael Bendis (illustrated by Alex Maleev), whose story is told by Matt Murdock’s wife and mother of his son, Stana Morgan, who recounts her meeting with Daredevil and their falling in love (and into bed) immediately. At the end of the story, she intimates that she’s dead.

The concluding tale revisits a time when Matt tried to hide his secret identity by inventing a twin brother named Mike, a somewhat light-hearted championing of fearlessness written and drawn by Karl Kesel. Finally, three pages of letters finishes with a page of epistles from artists and writers who’ve worked on Daredevil through the years (but not, oddly, Frank Miller, whose career was made when he took over the title back in the day).

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

FIRST ISSUE: SOUTHERN BASTARDS

An admirable first issue must, above all else, contain such matter as will compel a reader to buy the second issue. At the same time, while provoking curiosity through mysteriousness, a good first issue must avoid being so mysterious as to be cryptic or incomprehensible. And, thirdly, it should introduce the title’s principals, preferably in a way that makes us care about them. Fourth, a first issue should include a complete “episode”—that is, something should happen, a crisis of some kind, which is resolved by the end of the issue, without, at the same time, detracting from the cliffhanger aspect of the effort that will compel us to buy the next issue.

Southern Bastards coverIn Southern Bastards No.1, writer Jason Aaron and artist Jason Latour manage a preview of the title and an encapsulation of the series in an unprecedentedly blasphemous one-page opener: a dog is depicted in mid-crap in front of a cluster of signs advertising the Christian virtues of Craw County — Freewill Church of God in Christ, Bible Belt Baptist Church (“Hell: One Way In, No Way Out — Welcome”). With that as a kick-off, we are not surprised to find that the community into which Earl Tubb drives HIS rental truck is a shit-hole of moral hypocrisy and brutish behavior, centered, mostly it seems, around the town’s football team, the Runnin’ Rebs.

Earl has come “home” to the town where he was born to pack up his Uncle Buhl’s belongings and sell the house now that Buhl is in a nursing home. In the 40 years since Earl left, a giant tree has grown out of his father’s grave in the front yard. Big Bert Tubb was the sheriff and an asshole of a giant of a man physically: in a series of red-tinted flashbacks, we learn that Sheriff Tubb became a local hero by wielding a big stick to beat up a bunch of southern fried thugs that came callin’ one night. Why they came, we don’t yet know.

At the local diner, Earl is accosted by Dusty Tutwiler, a local layabout, who remembers him and engages him in unwelcome reminiscent conversation. Dusty has come to the diner to find Coach Boss, to whom Dusty apparently owes money. Then one of Boss’s thugs, Esaw Goings, shows up to inflict some sort of brutal punishment on Dusty, and Earl comes to his rescue, clouting Esaw with a boiling basket of fries.

Earl goes back home, and Dusty goes to plead with Coach Boss, where Esaw finds him and beats him up savagely. Back at the Tubb house, Earl takes an axe to the tree growing out of his father’s grave — but, as we find out in No.2, can’t make a dent in it. Earlier, he asserted that the tree had grown out of his father’s legendary Big Stick, which had been buried with him.

The issue brims with tantalizing mysteries: who is Coach Boss and does he run the whole town? What heroism, exactly, did Big Bert Tubb commit — and why? His son is apparently a worthy scion of the Tubb tradition, but how will he fare if he meets Esaw again? (And he is sure to.) And who is Earl repeatedly calling on his cell phone?

At the Tubb house, Earl reveals his vaguely resentful attitude about his father — and the town he grew up in. In the issue’s complete episode, Earl’s rescue of Dusty, we have an ample display of both Earl’s physical ability and his moral superiority.

Apart from the bitterness that hangs over the story, Latour’s depiction of the events is superlative. The verbal content is terse, so most of the narrative is carried by Latour’s drawings, gnarly pictures of angry, resentful rednecks, nearly bursting with bad behavior waiting to explode. In narrative breakdown and panel composition, Latour shows himself a master of the visual storytelling medium, matching the terseness of Aaron’s tale-telling with cryptic glimpses of the action, just enough to advance the story.

Bastards

The final beating Esaw administers to Dusty alternates its panels with panels showing Early attacking the tree over his father’s grave in a crescendo of visual violence. Throughout, Latour enhances the story’s moods with color evoking appropriate feelings.

Nicely done.

In the second issue, Earl finishes packing up the house late on Friday and, deciding to stay another night, he goes to see the Runnin’ Rebs play football, a game played as roughly as everything else transpires in this title. In the middle of the game, old Dusty comes staggering across the field, more dead than alive (every bone in his body busted), again seeking Coach Boss. When he dies, Earl visits the sheriff, seeking justice, but when he learns the sheriff played football for Coach Boss, he gives up and goes back home.

Standing in the rain over his father’s grave, he curses the dead man and vows not to get involved in the ugly business of Craw County. Then lightning strikes the tree, splitting it asunder, and Earl imagines he sees his father rising out of the grave, the Big Stick of vengeance and justice still in his hand. If that’s not enough to bring me back for No.3, nothing is.

 

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

SANDMAN IN THE MIDEAST

Under the auspices of the United Nations Refugee Agency, author (of both books and comic books) Neil Gaiman traveled to Jordan back in May and visited Syrian refugee camps to see for himself the situation faced by Syrians who’ve fled the war in their native land. He writes: “I am struck by how fragile civilization is. Even if the war was over, many people couldn’t go home immediately because home isn’t there. Sometimes the house that people lived in isn’t there. Sometimes the town or district isn’t there. Things that you think of as being so permanent are fragile and permeable. And I’m as struck by the things that you think of as fragile, like people, being so tough and so resilient. These people have endured tragedies and ordeals that are almost unthinkable. And yet they are smiling. ... How incredibly fragile are the systems within which we exist. And how proud I am of being human.” You can find his reports from that trip, and more recent blog posts, here.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

BARNABY

BARNABY: VOLUME ONE 1942-1943
By Crockett Johnson
With prefatory essays by Chris Ware and Jeet Heer
Afterword and appendix by Philip Nel
320 7x10.5-inch landscape pages
b/w
hardcover
$35
Fantagraphics

Barnaby and O'Malley lift artCrockett Johnson's Barnaby, like Krazy Kat, appealed to a smaller audience than most comic strips.  Comics historian Ron Goulart says it appeared in only 52 newspapers in the U.S. But the strip's readers were an appreciative elite. Barnaby hove into public view a scant two years before the demise of the intelligentsia's first love, Krazy Kat. Beginning April 20, 1942, the strip lasted only into the early fifties, ending February 2, 1952.  By that time, both Pogo and Peanuts were on the scene. 

But Barnaby's brief decade was brilliant. Among its passionate fans was Dorothy Parker who wrote a mash note about the strip when she reviewed a Holt book of reprints in October 1943:  "I think, and I am trying to talk calmly, that Barnaby and his friends and oppressors are the most important additions to American arts and letters in Lord knows how many years." She admitted that her review was not a review: it was a valentine, she said.

Barnaby Volume One coverThis volume, the first in Fantagraphics’ planned complete reprinting of the strip, is another kind of valentine. Presenting only two strips per page, the book gives generous display to Johnson’s art of elegant simplicity. Every strip is dated, and the endpapers reproduce original art with paste-overs and white-outs clearly visible. Ware and Heer offer heartfelt appreciations of Johnson’s genius, and Nel, Johnson’s biographer, provides an appendix that explains topical references in the strip — plus an Afterword about the “invention of Barnaby,” which offers, in addition, a short biography of Johnson and a discussion of his working methods.

Johnson's title character was a bright (but not precocious) and level-headed preschooler. But it was Barnaby Baxter's co-star who stole the show — and captured the hearts as well as the minds of America's intellectuals. The real star of the strip was Mr. O'Malley, an Irish pixie purporting to be Barnaby's fairy godfather. 

O'Malley shows up on the second day of the strip. Barnaby has just gone to bed, visions of wish-fulfilling fairy godmothers dancing in his head thanks to the bedtime story his mother has just read to him. Suddenly, through his bedroom window flies a diminutive (his height is later established at two feet, eleven inches) round man with a bulbous nose and pink wings, who makes a crash landing at the foot of the boy's bed.

"Cushlamochree!" exclaims this personage (using the epithet he will make famous with regular use over the next ten years). "Broke my magic wand," he continues, staring at a bent cigar in his hand. "You wished for a godparent who could grant wishes?" he goes on. "Lucky boy!  Your wish is granted!  I'm your fairy godfather."

"Let me be the first to offer congratulations," he continues the next day. "Yes, m'boy, your troubles are over.  O'Malley is on the job."

"Gosh!" says Barnaby (as he will repeatedly for the next ten years).

Barnaby's parents fail to believe their son's report that he now has a fairy godfather.  We, however, are persuaded by the evidence that Barnaby finds after his mother and father depart — cigar ashes at the foot of his bed — as well as by the testimony of our eyesight. We’ve seen O’Malley, after all.

The episode introduces one of the leitmotifs of the strip, the chorus of adult disbelief about O'Malley's existence.  Barnaby's parents never see O'Malley and therefore never believe in him, despite repeated evidences (albeit not his actual physical appearance) that bear witness to his being.

Barnaby1

Barnaby3

Much of the humor in the strip is sophisticated irony, depending upon our recognizing things about O'Malley that Barnaby may see but never admits — namely, that the pixie is an authentic con-man, a grasping and self-centered social parasite, and a raving egomaniac.  He's a trouble-maker.

The fantasy world created by a pint-sized confidence man and an imaginative preschooler turns out to be quite real.  Or real enough — real enough for Barnaby to have the adventures with Mr. O’Malley that we see transpire before us on the funnies page. It is a world the adults around them can never comprehend:  adults are too realistic, too skeptical, to accept the world of the imagination. Thus, Barnaby is in part a kind of Peter Pan parable, testifying to the eternal appeal of the imaginary world of the young. The strip thereby affirms the power of the imagination — and its truth, the truth of faith. The power of the imagination is creative: what we believe in becomes fact — or acquires the force of fact — and thereby shapes our lives.

But Johnson did not at the first see his theme as clearly as it would eventually emerge in the strip. At first, he was feeling his way. And at the Usual Place (RCHarvey.com) in Harv’s Hindsight for May 2014, we explore how he found his way to a deeper understanding of the relationship between imagination and reality and the truth of faith.

Fantagraphics has now published Volume 2 in the Barnaby enterprise, so you can continue to witness O’Malley’s world. Oh — FOOTNIT: In his Afterword in the Fantagraphics reprint, Nel offers Johnson’s explanation that “cushlamochree” means “pulse of my heart” in the Irish vernacular.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

PRIMO RODRIGUES

RAY AND JOE: THE STORY OF A MAN AND HIS DEAD FRIEND : And Other Classic Comics
by Charles Rodrigues
186 8x10-inch pages
b/w with occasional color
hardcover
$29.99
Fantagraphics

In case you missed it, I’ve posted, a few lines down, the funniest cartoon ever done. According to the editors of the National Lampoon — and they should know: they’re probably all male, and it doubtless takes a male human (sic) sapien to properly appreciate the high operatic comedy of this picture. The cartoon is by Charles Rodrigues.

Rodriques0001
Despite its undeniable hilarity, it doesn’t appear in the book at hand. This book reprints many of Rodrigues’s more ambitious oeuvre, page-long comic strips, beginning with the title piece. In it, Ray pleads with Joe’s wife to let him take the recently departed Joe away with him instead of burying him so that the two lifelong friends can go on having “great times together.” She, astonishingly (in every neighborhood but Rodrigues’s), agrees, and for the next 20 pages or so, we watch Ray having great times with Joe. In their first great time, as you can see from the attendant specimen, Ray gets Joe embalmed so he won’t stink up the house.

RodriguesDeadFriend

That gives you a pretty good idea of what sort of comedy you will find in this perfectly wonderful tome.

Among the other Rodrigues efforts included is Deirdre Callalhan, a biography of an “incredibly ugly” child who is, shall we say, adopted by Blind Bob, who finds her in the garbage dump where her mother has deposited her. Then we have The Aesop Brothers, Siamese Twins, who, on one occasion, rip themselves apart; but when they’re sewn back together, one is upside down and the other isn’t. Their adventures (they get re-joined the right way) go on for about 60 pages, the longest of Rodrigues’s works in this volume.

Ray and Joe coverThen there’s Sam DeGroot, The Free World’s Only Private Detective in an Iron Lung Machine, 35 pages, followed by some one-page biographies of famous people (Marilyn Monroe, Abbie Hoffman, and Chester Bouvier — what’s that? You never heard of Chester Bouvier?) and some miscellany like three pages of 22 Houston Street.

In other words, the book is crammed with an array of the most tasteless cartooning in the known firmament. All of it hysterically funny, as you can tell from the mere samples posted here.

“Tasteless” is not a strong enough descriptor. “Depraved” is better — “hilariously repellent” even better.

But Rodrigues is beyond mere repulsive. His graphic art is a high art. His line is crazed, the end result, certainly, of hours of painstaking labor. He worked at night, all night, drawing and re-drawing his strips until he felt they were right. His strips appear to be made of piled up, squeegeed-in panels and speech balloons, configured however necessary to fit into a rectangular shape — abstract willy-nilly patterning that Jackson Pollock would admire and, even, envy.

And there are other delights in the book — endpapers of Rodrigues’s sketches and notes, an Introduction by Bob Fingerman (description of Rodrigues’s working method), a brief one-page appreciation by Lampoon editor Michael Gross (“I never met the man”), and an autobiographical musing (“I am of Portuguese ancestry as was John Dos Passos and Magellan”). Fingerman also supplies a short biography of Rodrigues.

I love Charlie Rodrigues cartoons. Maybe because we both deployed raggedy lines to make pictures. Maybe because I’m secretly depraved (a common condition among cartoonists who suffer too many rejection slips). Rumor has it that Fantagraphics will be publishing other compilations of Rodrigues, but there’s still time for you to be the first kid on your block to own the first in the series — this book.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

CUL DE SAC

Complete Cul de Sac cover

Richard Thompson of Cul de Sac fame told ComicBookResources.com that he annotated over 630 pages of the Compete Cul de Sac tome, out last May. “I wrote funny justifications for almost every strip,” he said. “If [that’s not enough], you will have to wait for the release of The Art of Richard Thompson due out this fall — also from Andrews McMeel. That will have sketches, roughs and all the backstage stuff you fanboys love so much — including a 26-page conversation about the art of comics between Bill Watterson and myself. (Who wins? Buy the book and find out.)”

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

AT LAST, FICTION FROM McCLOUD

SculptorCoverCartoonist/theorist Scott McCloud who made comics history with his analytical tome Understanding Comics and its numerous sequels, will return to fiction with his next opus, a graphic novel, The Sculptor, that will be published in February 2015. Interviewed by George Gene Gustines at the New York Times’ artsbeat.blog, McCloud previewed the book.

The Sculptor is about an artist in his 20s who has hit rock bottom creatively. Making things worse is his name. He’s David Smith, but not the artist (1906-1965) known for his abstract and geometrical sculptures. When McCloud’s David encounters Death (in the form of his deceased uncle), he makes a deal for a special ability dreamed up during childhood:

“It’s the power to sculpt anything with his bare hands,” McCloud wrote in an email, an ability David came up with as a 9-year-old, during Hanukkah or Christmas (he can’t remember which), when he imagined his entire family with super powers.

But with great power also comes a great deadline: his deal with the grim reaper gives him 200 days to leave his mark on the world. Despite the fantastical premise, the story is still very much ground in reality, and also a romance, McCloud said.

And the cover of the book communicates three essential things about the tome: the supernatural way David shapes the world around him, the love story that forms the book’s emotional center, and their surroundings in New York City. McCloud told USA Today: “By having David’s lover, Meg, emerge from the brick itself, we were able to combine the second and third elements into one hopefully unforgettable image.”

Whatever else the picture may be, in its treatment of Meg as part of the brickwork, it is an outstanding example of McCloud’s command of his medium. Dang: the man is good, better than ever. And he was no slouch to begin with.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

THE COMPLETE PEANUTS: 1991-1992

The Complete Peanuts 1991-1992 coverTHE COMPLETE PEANUTS: 1991-1992
By Charles M. Schulz
Introduction by Tom Tomorrow
328 pages
7 x 8.5, landscape
b/w
hardcover
2014 Fantagraphics
$29.99

This is the 21st volume in Fantagraphics’ complete reprinting project, which will culminate two years hence with the 25th compilation, having taken 12 years (at the rate of two volumes a year), a long time in the erstwhile fly-by-night comics fandom publishing realm. Few publishers have had the financial stamina to carry to completion so ambitiously long-term an enterprise. Even I, long-time Fantagraphics fan and freelance contributor, felt a twinge of doubt when I first heard of the Peanuts project: will they actually get to the last volume? Now, it seems they will. And the doubts of yesteryear seem silly.

Tom Tomorrow (aka Herblock Prize winner Dan Perkins) seems an unlikely fan of Peanuts, judging from the traced-from-photographs technique he employs in his politically satirical comic strip, This Modern World, but he has been a passionate devotee since he was a kid in the 1960s. In his introductory musings, he recounts his 1992 meeting and lunching with Schulz at the latter’s skating rink in Santa Rosa. Schulz ate lunch there every day at the same table; and to this day, Perkins tells us, “you will still find a ‘Reserved’ sign” on the table.

The book, handsomely designed by Seth, includes a short boilerplate biography of Schulz in the back (repeated in every volume in the series) and, astonishingly, an Index that enables you to find the strips about the Beagle Scouts (pp. 288, 293) and the ones mentioning Beethoven (p. 304) and Charles Dickens (p. 175). Charlie Brown, unsurprisingly, is featured in more strips than any other character; then Snoopy and, surprisingly, Sally Brown, Charlie’s little sister. Next in frequency, Linus and Lucy (about equal), then Peppermint Patty and Marcie. Snoopy’s Sopwith Camel shows up only four times in this book; its heyday was another year.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

THE MAD WORLD OF VIRGIL PARTCH

The Mad World of Virgil Partch
By Jonathan Barli
Introduction by Peter Bagge
210 pages
10x12-inch landscape
b/w and color
hardcover
Fantagraphics 2013
$49.99

The world cannot have enough of the notorious “Vipper” of True magazine celebrity, but in the years since his untimely death in 1984 in an auto accident, we’ve had an over much of too little. This book attempts, with resounding success, to make up for the erstwhile deficiency. Barli, who edited and designed this volume, supplies also the cartoonist’s biography, liberally laced with Vip’s own madcap comments and observations — plus numerous photographs of the Vipper (who loved having himself photographed at odd moments and in odd costumes and/or poses) and scores of cartoons, sketches and miscellaneous art produced as book and magazine and advertising illustration from the beginning of Vip’s career at Disney Studios to the end, in chronological order. Many of the cartoons are reproduced directly from original art and appear herein at gigantic full-page size, a visual treat.

Although Vip cartoons appeared in most general interest magazines during the heyday of that kind of publication, his home was True, whose editors were as maniac as their “Vipper” and who therefore commissioned several articles from him, which he wrote and lavishly illustrated on various topics — his army career, a cross-country trip from his home in California to New York, booze, vacation, and more. Some of them are published again in this tome.

At True, Vip gained famed as the cartoon chronicler of booze and broads, bottles and bimbos, and in the late 1940s and through the 1950s, his cartoons were published in several collections, which are represented herein.

Vip produced a lot of wordless cartoons that display a wonderfully bizarre sense of humor, but his “traditional,” captioned, cartoons are worth study as well as admiration. The pictures make sense (of the Vipper sort) only when seen as an extension or completion of the caption; the pictures are puzzles, and the captions “explain” the puzzles. In short, Vip is the absolute master of the art of blending the visual and the verbal for laughs that neither the pictures nor the words inspire alone without the other.

Vip2

Vip7

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

WEISS ON HEARST

Morris Weiss wrote and drew Mickey Finn in its final years (1970-77) and also wrote Joe Palooka in its last years (ending 1984). I interviewed him several years before he died last May (an article based upon the interview appeared in an issue of Cartoonist Profiles and in Opus 325 of Rants & Raves at the Usual Place, RCHarvey.com), and among the things he said was the following about William Randolph Hearst:

The most benevolent man ever to head a syndicate or magazines was William Randolph Hearst. There wasn't a more generous and more appreciative publisher than was William Randolph Hearst. I'll tell you a story about Hearst that was told to me by Harry Hershfield.

I was sitting in Hershfield's office on the top floor of the Channing Building on 42nd Street. He had sued the Hearst Syndicate for the rights to Abie the Agent, the character Abe Kabbibble that he had created. And the case had dragged out in the courts for about a year or two. The ruling eventually went against him because — I think the ruling was that if he was that concerned about the ownership of the character, it was William Randolph Hearst photobehoven (that was the legal term, I think) upon him to have it registered before he signed it away to the syndicate.  So he lost the case. 

And Harry Hershfield is telling me this story, and he's pointing to this antique French phone on his desk, and he said, "So now it was over, and I didn't have any money. I'm broke. I haven't had any income." 

This was before he did the radio show, "Can You Top This."  And he said, "I haven't earned a dime now in this year-and-a-half or two years, and now I'm looking at all the bills: I have to pay court costs and lawyer's fees." And he said, "I didn't know where the money was coming from." 

And then he pointed to the phone, and he said, "So this phone rang, and I picked it up, and a voice said, ‘Mr. Hershfield?’  And I said, ‘Yes.’  And he said, ‘This is Mr. Hearst's attorney, and he wants you to send him all the bills for court costs and lawyer's fees:  he wants to pay them for you.’" 

Now, that's a story about Hearst; it's never been published. And it's a story that Harry Hershfield told me when I met him, I would say, around 1934 or 1935. 

Hearst respected the talent he bought. And he made stars of his talent. He promoted them. He promoted his writers and his columnists and his artists, and the illustrators.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com