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FIRST ISSUE: RETURN OF MOON KNIGHT

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.

 

MOON KNIGHT coverMoon Knight is another on-again off-again second-or-third-tier Marvel character. And he, like Black Panther, is back again for another try, written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Greg Smallwood. A movie is probably in the offing.

In his civilian guise, Marc Spector was at first a mercenary, who stumbles upon an archaeological dig where the Egyptian moon god Khonshu is unearthed. Trying unsuccessfully to avenge the murder of one of the archaeologists, Spector is left to die in the desert but is found by roaming Egyptians who carry him to their temple, where Khonshu appears to him in a vision, offering him a second chance at life if he becomes the god’s avatar on Earth. Spector returns to the U.S. and decides to fight crime and assumes a couple of alternative identities: to separate himself from his mercenary past, he takes the name Steven Grant, who is a millionaire (Spector having invested his savings accumulated while a mercenary); to keep in touch with the street and crime, he becomes a taxi-cab driver named Jake Lockley. And that’s the beginning of the troubles.

From the alternative identities, Spector understandably develops a multiple personality disorder and other symptoms of mental instability. And he’s been killed a few times. All of which comes to a head in Lemire’s debut issue: Lemire “embraces that aspect of the character,” said Sean Edgar in Playboy’s May issue.

The entire first issue is devoted to depicting Spector’s struggles in a mental hospital, where he’s brutalized by a couple of attendants, Bob and Billy, as he attempts to convince them that he isn’t mad. Two or three incidents of this sort constitute the complete episodes in this issue — and they convince us, almost, that Spector isn’t quite sane. Bob and Billy are sadistic, but we can’t tell whether that’s a fact or Spector’s delusion.

Said Lemire: “He’s the only superhero who overtly addresses schizophrenia and multiple personalities. When most superheroes were created, mental illness was seen as a weakness, a flaw, whereas now, people are much more aware that the brain, just like any part of your body, is something that can be sick and treated.”

In his mind, Spector appeals to Khonshu, but by the end of this first issue, he is no longer convinced that the Moon Knight is real or that the adventures he remembers actually happened. Since we know there is a Moon Knight who has had crime-fighting adventures, we’re on the affirmative side of the dispute in Spector’s mind. And we probably have hopes that he’ll re-establish his sanity in future issues.

With all Spector’s mental hangups, I suppose this means there’ll be no fisticuffs in the this evolution of Moon Knight. But we will be treated to the inventive artwork of Smallwood, who, in this debut issue, draws in two different styles and varies page layout dramatically. Wide page margins, for example, give the visuals an suitably antiseptic clinical feel.

I’ll be back — for the pictures alone if necessary; but Lemire’s agenda is provocative, too, and I’m interested to see where he goes with a deranged (maybe) superhero, suffering from all the mental problems you’d expect him to have.

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For more tedious detail in appreciating this Moon Knight, hi thee to the Usual Place, RCHarvey.com, and Rants & Raves Archives, Opus 351.

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

FIRST ISSUE: THE NEW BLACK PANTHER

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 BLACK PANTHER

Black Panther 1 coverFrom my point of view — necessarily the point of view of a white American male pretending he’s not racist— Marvel’s Black Panther character was from the beginning in 1966 a blatant attempt to exploit racism in this country by producing a comic book hero that would champion Africans and African-Americans, appealing thereby to liberal white readers on college campuses and, possibly, to urban black readers. It was blaxploitation in four colors.

The Black Panther first appeared in Fantastic Four No.52, July 1966, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby. He is the first black superhero in mainstream American comics, launched several years before other blaxploitation characters — the Falcon, Luke Cage, Tyroe, and Black Lightning. The name, Black Panther, predates the October 1966 founding of the Black Panther Party. Stan Lee said his inspiration for the name was a pulp adventurer who had a black panther as a helper.

Over the ensuing 50 years, the Black Panther was on and off: he didn’t get his own title until 1977; it ran a couple years, and then the character disappeared for a decade. He came back in 1988, then disappeared again in 1991 for seven years. He’s been back often but never steadily.

Still, as Michael Cavna said at Comic Riffs, the Black Panther is “arguably the most important and well-known black superhero of all time.”

So the Black Panther always seemed like a good idea. And now, in anticipation of a Black Panther movie in a year or so, Marvel is back with another Black Panther-titled six-issue series, this time written and drawn by African Americans, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze.

Black Panther lift panelsStelfreeze is a veteran comic book illustrator whose resume begins sometime in the 1980s; Coates is doing his first comic book work in the current iteration of Black Panther. And he ain’t your ordinary comic book scribe.

Coates, a writer for The Atlantic, is a “race man” known for his 2014 essay “The Case for Reparations” and his 2015 National Book Award winning Between the World and Me, a musing, as African-American journalist and comics author Darryl Holliday says in the May issue of In These Times, “on blackness in America that led Toni Morrison to compare him to James Baldwin.”

Coates rejects any suggestion that he should be doing more serious work than writing a comic book. “In my heart, I’m a comic book writer,” he said, quoted in The Week (April 29).

“When I was a kid,” Coates said, “Spider-Man was right under Malcolm X for me in terms of heroes. I would like Black Panther to be some kid’s Spider-Man.”

He continued: “This isn’t my chance to talk about Black Lives Matter. This is supposed to be fun to read. The politics are in the background. What’s in front is people punching each other.”

Coates “cautions against didacticism in fiction,” said Holliday, “and has promised that the comic will contain ‘no policy papers on the slave trade nor any overly earnest, sepia-tinged Black History Month style of storytelling.’”

Instead, Coates told Holliday, “he seeks to hone in on a simpler question: ‘Can a good man be a king, and would an advanced society tolerate a monarch?’”

The Black Panther is the king of an African nation, Wakanda, the most technologically advanced society on Earth. Black Panther is the ancestral, ceremonial title of the country’s monarch, who, in the current incarnation, is named T’Challa.

As the first issue begins, T’Challa has just returned to Wakanda, which has just suffered a series of setbacks—a flood of Biblical proportions that killed thousands (a machination of Namor, the Submariner?), a coup orchestrated by Doctor Doom, and an invasion by the villain Thanos that resulted in the death of T’Challa’s sister Shuri, who had been sitting in for her brother on the throne. Grieving over his sister’s death, T’Challa finds his people strangely restless, raging against him in their agony at their recent humiliations.

In the opening sequence, T’Challa is thrown into a rage- and hate-filled mob of his people, who leer at him with jade-green eyes, calling him the orphan king. He extracts himself from their hands, his physical prowess enhanced by the tech-assisted Black Panther costume. He vows to find out what has infested his people and to restore their allegiance. This is one of the two complete episodes in the book: it shows T’Challa to be powerful but thoughtful and dedicated to his country.

In the other complete episode, two women, while sympathetic to T’Challa and his dilemma, vow to save their country — whatever T’Challa might think or do. Says one: “No one man should have that much power.”

In the book’s closing moments, we see T’Challa brooding, sadly wondering “how long” he must be separated, divided, from his blood, his people. And from the ghost of his departed sister.

The ending is scarcely a robust cliff-hanger. We may be sympathetic to T’Challa in his grief and sad longing. But is that enough to bring us back to the second issue?

If nothing else, Stelfreeze’s art will bring me back. Most of the pages, even the brightly lit ones, are dipped in black. But the black is not shadowing. His stylized treatment of black-skinned people is stunning: instead of highlights, we have darklights.

 

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In Stelfreeze’s commanding treatment of the Black Panther costume, muscles and forms are etched by black modeling in solid shapes, not feathering.

Says Stelfreeze: “I’ve always liked the simplicity of the Black Panther costume. I’ve never liked when people give him flashy capes and other adornments. ...‘Black Panther’ suggests a sleek efficiency so I’m staying simple. I’m adding small touches to make him feel more aggressive and catlike, but just keeping it simple.”

Even simple, Stelfreeze is worth looking at.

This book may not be about Black Lives Mattering: it may be about the decay of culture akin to that of our own, when huge segments of society reject gay rights as well as black lives. I’m looking forward to seeing what remedy Coates proposes. Meanwhile, for an even more lengthy discussion of Black Panther, Coates and Stelfreeze, visit the Usual Place, RCHarvey.com, and Rants & Raves Archive, Opus 351.

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

FIRST ISSUE: THE GODDAMNED

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 Goddamned, VolBIBLICAL ACTION

In The Goddamned, r.m. Guera draws Jason Aaron’s novel conception — a comic book version of the life of a character from the Bible’s Book of Genesis. In the opening sequence, we see a naked man arise from a mudhole, and then, for the next seven mostly silent pages in this first issue’s completed episode, he decimates a mob of “cave men” who have tried to kill him by throwing him in the mudhole. Although he is occasionally wounded during this confrontation, he is instantly regenerated and kills all of the thugs and then constructs a wardrobe for himself from the shreds of their animal-skin clothing. He goes wandering off, muttering to himself about his life:

“I had a family once, but it didn’t work out.” He remembers getting angry too easily. He remembers killing his brother. And we realize the page before Aaron’s captions reveal his name that he is Cain — “son of Adam, the man who invented murder, the man who cannot die.”

The full title of this first issue, “Before the Flood: Part One, The Mark of Cain,” isn’t given until the end of the book in order to preserve the mystery of the naked killer’s identity. But just before the last revelatory page, we meet Noah, “lumberjack, trapper, shipbuilder — man of God,” who is scouring the countryside for pairs of animals.

Aaron has taken hints from the Bible story and elaborated on them. If Cain invented murder and is condemned to wander the world, what will he be doing as he wanders? More killing perhaps. And if his condemnation lasts, as is intimated in the Good Goddamned artBook, forever, then he must be impervious to disease and the kinds of disaster that would kill him. He may very well be the world’s first superhero.

In his juicy drawings (a page of which is on display at the end of our previous review of Huck), Guera pulls out all the stops, deploying every graphic device possible to portray the primitive world Cain wanders in and the brutality of its population (yes, brutal — it’s before civilization, and these are the people who are so evil that God decides to drown them all and begin again; and by the looks of things, Noah is not much better than the rest). Guera’s gritty pictures are soaked in blood and coated with the grime of living in a desert. His layouts strain and break free from a regular grid during Cain’s assault on the thugs; then pages return to a regulated normal as Cain wanders off, muttering to himself.

Delicious as the pictures are, it’s Aaron’s story — his elaboration on the hints in the Bible story — that fascinate and will bring me back.

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

FIRST ISSUE: THE LUCK OF HUCK

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 LUCK OF HUCK

HuckHuck’s eponymous hero is a big hulking strong guy who goes around doing good deeds for the sheer pleasure of it — he pulls a neighbor’s truck out of the ditch, removes a stump that another neighbor’s tractor can’t budge, takes out the trash for the whole town, buys lunch for everyone in line behind him, and he goes to North Africa and frees 200 girls taken captive by Bobo Haram. The first issue opens with a prolonged silent sequence during which we see Huck dive off a cliff into the ocean or a big lake where, underwater, he finds a woman’s necklace that she thought she’d lost in the garbage. We meet a couple women, one a new arrival to the town; and the other is telling her about Huck, saying it’s important that Huck’s abilities and function in the town stay secret. And on the last pages of the first issue, he awakens one day to find a mob of news media on his front door step. One of the people in the town, thinking she could make a mint by “going public” with Huck, has revealed the town’s secret.

The book is a series of completed episodes — each of Huck’s good deeds. Thanks in part to Rafael Alburquerque’s supple line and Dave McCaig’s modeling colors, we like Huck, a perpetually cheerful fellow. And Mark Millar’s story both introduces us to the character, his personality, and brings us to the cliffhanger that ends the issue. I’ve been coming back for the last six issues.

 

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

LOIS AND CLARK AT DC

DC Comics has just finished re-tooling their entire funnybook line in order to eliminate the innumerable parallel universes with their compounding confusions, and then here comes Superman: Lois and Clark, in which we find our title characters married, with a newborn son, living on a different Earth, Telos, where Superman flies with a full albeit neatly trimmed beard but no cape. The narrator is Lois, written by Dan Jurgens, and most of the issue is devoted to acquainting us with the Kent family’s new circumstance. Fairly tame stuff, and since the principal characters are known to us, we don’t need to apply the usual criteria for a first issue — although the cliffhanger here, the final page that introduces a new, threatening villain, is a cliche.

This title may not survive the presently evolving upheaval, but the thing to remark about in this production is the exquisite artwork of penciller Lee Weeks and inker Scott Hanna. The delicacy of line and copious detailing of the locale in nearly every panel is superb. But Weeks’ power of observation as well as his skill in execution is worth noting. In the sample pages posted here, we see Superman and Lois standing, facing each other in profile; notice that Lois’s shirt-tail is hiked up in the back, just above her butt. That is exactly how that garment behaves whenever a woman wearing it arises from a seated position. Extraordinary.

LoisClark

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

NEW LOOK FOR DAREDEVIL

Daredevil- The Devil's Apprentice, coverA comic book in which the visuals have changed violently is the new Daredevil. In Charles Soule’s story, DD is back in New York, this time as an assistant district attorney, prosecutor rather than defense. In the opening sequence of No.1 of the relaunched title, Daredevil saves the life of a star witness in a forthcoming trial involving one of the top lieutenants of the Chinatown crime boss, Tenfingers. The encounter with Tenfingers’ thugs ends with all of them prone and DD victorious — DD and his trainee, Blindspot, an Asian fighter, who, we see on the last page of this issue, may be Tenfingers’ agent.

We also learn that somehow (unspecified) Daredevil has arranged for the entire world to forget that he and Matt Murdock are the same person. Everyone has forgotten except Murdock’s partner Foggy, who resents Daredevil involving him in his plans.

But it’s Ron Garney’s drawing that enlivens this issue. His style is in sharp contrast to the liquid line of Chris Samnee. Garney flashes linear fragments, knitting them together with shadowy black modeling and minimal feathering. The impression is that the pictures are elliptical, suggestive rather than delineative. And in rendering Daredevil, Garney makes the costume black and makes it shimmer with white highlights. Spectacular.

DaredevilGarney

Throughout the book, he works with colorist Matt Milla, deploying only one color: in Daredevil action sequences, the color is red; in others, the color is brown or blue.

 

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

FUNNYBOOK MOVIES

Entertainment Weekly DrComic book superheroes are on the cover of Entertainment Weekly often enough to qualify for a special separate department inside. Early this year, the “Special Double Issue” of January 8/15, was devoted to “sneak peeks at 2016's hottest movies, TV shows, and more.” Right there on the cover — Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange.

I haven’t been particularly fond of Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes lately, but as Doctor Strange he may do very well. I should have expected that something was afoot for Strange when Marvel started yet another new title devoted to the Sorcerer Supreme. The book is clearly intended to pave the fan road to the movie, due in theaters next November. And the movie is undoubtedly going to be an over-the-top feast of special effects — an attempt, I suppose, at reproducing in motion what artists Bachalo, Townsend, and Vey have done so expertly in the comic book.

EW also took a peek at the Batman v Superman flick out in March; “X-Men: Apocalypse,” May; the new season on Netflix’s Daredevil, March; and “Deadpool,” February — more of which, anon:

            ■ “Deadpool,” the movie based upon the Marvel comic book anti-hero, arrived, and Stephen Rebello in Playboy heralded its arrival: “Are you ready for an r-rated, deeply twisted X-men spin-off in which the disfigured ex-Special Forces hero lets you know he’s aware he’s a character in a superhero movie and blurts out whatever is on his sardonically funny mind?” Co-star T.J. Miller says: “Rather than water down the comic book, they ramped it up and went for it. It’s a complex, dense film with comedy so far left of center that it makes fun of comic-book movies. At the same time, it’s a satirical superhero comic-book movie itself.”

            ■ A movie based upon Jules Feiffer’s Playboy cartoon, Bernard and Huey, is en route to the big screen, with an original script and new drawings by Feiffer. Production of the Kickstarter backed comedy was supposed to start in the spring.

            ■ With Disney’s roll-out of a live-action CGI-assisted version of “Alice in Wonderland” comes news that the studio is planing live-action remakes of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Dumbo,” plus spin-offs of other films — “Cruella” from “101 Dalmatians,” “Tinkerbell” from “Peter Pan” — and a sequel to “Jungle Book.” I’d like to see a live elephant with ears big enough to flap like wings. Maybe that’s the CGI-assist part.

            ■ I went to see “Captain America: Civil War” and it was terrible. It was too long. Too many fighting and grunting sequences. And except for Captain America and Iron Man, I didn’t know any of the characters. None were properly introduced. The viewer was wholly disoriented the entire time. This viewer, anyhow. To enjoy — or even follow — the movie, you had to have seen all the other Avenger movies, wherein the same actors portrayed the same iconic characters. Then you’d know who everyone was. I think Scarlett Johansson was Black Widow; she’s called Natasha once. But I’m not sure.

 

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow

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

COMICS THAT ARE MUSICALS: Cul de Sac

Cul de Sac poster

In Washington, D.C., Encore Stage & Studio presented their world premiere production of “Cul de Sac.” The play, written by Amy Thompson, is an adaptation of the popular comic strip of the same name by Richard Alice on man-hole coverThompson (her husband, no less) and includes original music composed by Matthew Heap, reports Kendall Mostafavi at dcmetrotheaterarts.com.

Amy ThompsonAlice Otterloop is the four year old star of the play, just as she is of the comic strip, and the story deals with being one’s self and the meaning of true friendship. Mostafavi notes that “Cul de Sac,” the play, does great justice to the original comic strip and its characters, proving to be a fun and silly show, with a touch of heart.

Playwright Thompson also designed and built the set and props. As in the Wimpy Kid musical, the set is built to look like a drawing, with the Otterloop’s house, a platform with a bed to represent Alice’s brother Petey’s room on the second floor, and the raised man-hole cover, which Alice is known to use frequently as her stage in the strip.

Amy Thompson has taught theater in educational settings, including the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

 

Richard Thompson drawing

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

COMICS THAT ARE MUSICALS: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Diary of a Wimpy Kid curtain“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Musical” is a hit at the Children’s Theater Company in Minneapolis, reports Dominic P. Papatola. Reviews were strong and tickets were scarce, even with a week’s worth of added performances. As the production sprinted toward closing night June 12, a question hung over the boisterous proceedings: What’s next?

Papatola joins the speculation that the show, based on Jeff Kinney’s wildly popular, illustration-dotted novels for young people, is eventually heading east, to a Broadway ever hungry for family-friendly fare. Soon, two shows aimed at that audience will be gone: “Matilda the Musical” is closing on January 1, and while “School of Rock the Musical” is a Tony-nominated hit, “Tuck Everlasting,’’ like “Wimpy Kid” an adaptation of a children’s book, turned out to be short-lived.

As directed by Rachel Rockwell, “Wimpy Kid” is faithful to the books on which it’s based: The set is dominated by a gigantic sheet of notebook paper, which forms the backdrop and spills over into the orchestra pit.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid cast

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

BILL GRIFFITH'S TEN RULES

Zippy for President(Posted by Dov Torbin.)

 

Bill Griffith did a Sunday Zippy recently in which he cited ten rules for drawing comics. Here they are:

1.    Cartoon characters have souls.

2.    As Freud meant to say: "Every cartoon character you create is you."

3.    You're the auteur of your comic. You write, cast, light, film, direct, and edit. You have final cut.

4.    Each panel, strip, page, and spread is a graphic unit. Compose them that way.

5.    Comics are equal parts drawing and writing. With writing being a bit more equal.

6.    Ambiguity is okay. Ask the reader to meet you half way.

7.    Don't just look at comics for inspiration. Stare at Hopper, Rembrandt, Magritte, Dürer, Hiroshige, and        Marsh.

8.    It isn't necessary to completely write out your strip or story in advance. Let the characters speak to you        (and for themselves).

9.    While you work, take breaks to stretch your neck and upper back.

10.   Never listen to anyone else's advice on cartooning.

 

Dunno that I agree with all of No. 5, unless by "writing" Griffith means concept and plot and the like, in addition to just words on paper. -- RCH

 

Bill Griffith photo

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

MORE OF THE GREATEST

Among the many encomiums lavished on the late Muhammad Ali upon his expiring at the age of 74 having survived 19 years with Parkinson’s, none of the champion-caliber fights extolled included two of his greatest. In one, he defeated Superman; in the other, an alien monster half-again-as-tall as Ali. Both these contests occurred in 1978 in All New Collectors’ Edition Vol.7, No.C-56, a gigantic 72 10x13-page comic book, cover-dated April.

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Written by Denny O’Neil and adapted and drawn by Neal Adams, work on the book undoubtedly took place while Ali was four years into his second heavyweight championship, having regained the title after 3 ½ years (his peak years as an athlete, from age 25 to 29) during which he was barred from fighting because he Ali-Superman interiorrefused induction in the army to fight in Vietnam. As Ali put it: “I got nothing against no Viet Cong,” he said, adding a pointed racial justification: “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.” He was convicted of draft evasion and sentenced to five years in prison, but he stayed free as long as his appeals progressed through the courts, finally reaching the Supreme Court in 1971; it was then overturned. And Ali, reinstated in professional boxing, regained his title by beating George Foreman in 1974.

By the time All New Collectors’ appeared on the newsstands, ironically, Ali had lost the championship to Leon Spinks in March. So the last pages in the book, depicting Ali and Superman shaking hands and proclaiming themselves “the Greatest,” was, strictly speaking, no longer true of Ali. But he would regain his title by beating Spinks in a return match in September and could once more, in ample justification, call himself “the Greatest.” (Not that just being the champion was the only qualification for him being “the Greatest.”)

The fight between Ali and Superman was staged in order to pick a champion for Earth who would fight the champion of an alien race, the Scrubbs. The Scrubbs had heard Earth was a warlike planet and they, the Scrubbs, wanted to forestall any future hostilities by defeating Earth now. They proposed to do that by having their champion defeat Earth’s champion in a fist fight. They had their champion, the 15-foot-tall Hun’ya; all that remains is for Earth to pick its champion.

Ali reading Superman vsAli and Superman decide Ali should be the champion, but Superman must train for the fight so it’ll look authentic when he loses. He gets pretty badly beat up by Ali, and he finally falls down, completely (as Ali would say) “whupped.”

Then Ali faces Hun’ya, and the fight, after going well for Ali at first, begins to weaken him. He’s still in there slugging, but it looks as if he’ll lose. Then the Scrubb emperor, Rat’lar, intervenes and offers Ali a proposition: since he’s about to be beaten, the Scrubb fleet of space battleships is poised to descend on Earth and wipe it out, but Earth will be spared, saith Rat’lar, if Ali’s government agrees “to deed the people of Earth to us as our slaves.”

The thought of slavery fires up Ali, who in 1964 had abandoned his birth name, Cassius Clay, saying it was a “slave name”; and he resumes the fight with Hun’ya. As he does, thoroughly defeating him.

 

 

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

PREZ

Prez 6 coverNow up to its sixth issue, Prez continues to sing to Mark Russell’s tune, starring teenager Beth Ross as POTUS. Russell’s satiric technique is to hold up to ridicule virtually anything he can think of in our tv- and-social-media-dominated society, taking a quick shot and then moving on to the next target. That’s the kind of satire Russell manufactures: he takes shots, one after the other, creating a scattergun approach to ridicule of every aspect of our greed-infested-big-business-capitalistic-profit-motivated-politically-corrupt-election system.

In the second issue, the horse-trading machinations of Congress come under fire. Since the electoral college is tied in voting for the President, the decision falls to the House of Representatives wherein each state gets just one vote. Each of the two factions starts cynically casting just enough votes for Beth to prevent the election of either of the other candidates, holding out for some benefit the other side can offer to get them to change their vote. Colorado wants a naval base even though it’s a landlocked state.

Says an Ohio representative: “And then guess what he offered me. NASA! And federal funding for my turkey museum. (Sigh) I think I’m in love.”

Blindly pursuing their usual bargaining methods, Representatives finally, inadvertently, divert enough votes to Beth to elect her.

The power brokers, led by Senator Thorn, are terrified. As Thorn says: “A President who doesn’t owe any favors? Who does not fear humiliation? It’s a risk I simply cannot accept.”

But he must.

Russell devotes a page at a time to each of his satirical targets. The scattergun method is provocative but not particularly coherent: the shots do not focus on a particular target long enough to constitute anything more than a comical jab in the ribs. The fourth issue concludes with this observation:

“The human race has never been comfortable at the top of the food chain. Now that we no longer have to worry about being eaten by tigers, we devote our intelligence to killing each other.”

To war, in other words.

If Russell’s make-believe world looks a lot like ours, that’s no accident.

In one of the more recent issues, Beth explains why she objects to being called “Madam President”: “A madam is someone who runs a whorehouse.”

“Exactly,” says one of her minions.

Throughout, the energetic artwork, penciled by Ben Caldwell and inked by Mark Morales, is purely delicious. Crisp and streamlined and laden with computer-generated imagery. A thoroughly modern comic book.

Prez page 2

Faces are sharp and edgy and very expressive. Anatomy is realistic but occasionally abstracted. And in storytelling, Caldwell breaks out all the resources — close-ups varying with mid-range shots for dramatic effects, borderless panels, panoramic progressions. In short, a visual treat. And his pictures sometimes carry the narrative role and often add satiric sidelights, sight gags with barbs.

Beth Ross, the ostensible protagonist, appears only occasionally. But in her absence, we witness a lot of fun-loving satirical dart-throwing.

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

THE GREAT COMIC BOOK WRITER

Shakespeare First FolioA previously unknown First Folio of William Shakespeare’s plays was found a month or so ago in the library at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute off the Scottish coast. The find brings the worldwide census of surviving First Folios to 234, from an estimated 750 copies published in 1623, seven years after the famed playwright’s death. Ardent readers of my Rants & Rave magazine at the Usual Place (RCHarvey.com) will doubtless remember our essay "Rest In Peace and Acclamation, Bard," in April’s installment of Harv’s Hindsight.

Incidentally, when I wrote about Shakespeare therein, asserting that playwriting was akin to comic book writing, I didn’t know that the Grand Comics Database (GCD) lists 511 stories attributed to the Bard. Something he wrote inspired each of them, I assume. “Perchance to dream,” for example, is the name of a story. Big THANQUES to Ray Bottorff, Jr., who keeps an eye on GCD.

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

THE CAT MAN AT BALL STATE

Jim Davis with Odie and Garfield

 

Garfield’s creator, Jim Davis, will be teaching at his alma mater, Ball State, starting the fall 2016 semester as an adjunct professor, reports Kara Berg at the Daily News. Davis won't start off teaching a specific class, said Arne Flaten, director of the School of Art. It will be more of a series of workshops, lectures, hands-on demonstrations, focus groups and master classes — some of which will be open to the public, some only available to drawing or animation students. Davis’s studio is in Marion, Indiana, a short commute from the Ball State campus.

 

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