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HOW OPUS CAME BACK

Bloom County 2015Interviewed on NPR’s “Fresh Air” about the reincarnation of Bloom County on Facebook, cartoonist Berkeley Breathed talked about why he brought back Opus and Company: “I watched slack-jawed in horror as they threw one of the 20th century's most iconic fictional heroes, Atticus Finch, under the bus. At the time — and this was a couple of months ago — it made me think that there would have been no Bloom County without Mockingbird because I was twelve I read it, and the book's fictional Southern small town of Maycomb had settled deep into my graphic imagination and informed it forever. If you look at any of my art for the past 30 years, there's always a small-town flavor to it.

“So this summer,” Breathed went on, “just a couple months ago when Go Set A Watchman [Harper Lee’s “prequel” to To Kill a Mockingbird] was causing an uproar, I went back to my files and I pulled an old fan letter from years ago. It says (reading): ‘Dear Mr. Breathed, this is a plea from a dotty old lady and from others not dotty at all. Please don't shut down Opus. Can't you at least give him a reprieve? Opus is simply the best comic strip there is and depriving him of life is murder — a hard word to describe an obliteration of your creation. But Opus is real. He lives. Harper Lee, Monroeville, Ala.’

“When I pulled that out,” Breathed continued, “I hadn't seen it for 25 years. And I choked up, and I thought about the preposterously ironic impossibility of my literary heroine from my childhood demanding that I not kill one of her fictional heroes. The universe throws us some obvious little pitches sometimes, and we need to be awake enough not to let them slip by. So that night I found the blank four frames of Bloom County from years before in my files, and I sat down to draw the first one in 30 years. And I posted it on Facebook in sort of a what-the-hell moment, and that's exactly how much careful reason sober forethought went into the whole thing. And then it exploded after that.”

By the way (although not at all incidentally), George Gene Gustines at artsbeat.blog.nytimes.com reported that IDW has announced that a collected edition of the new online strips that Breathed has been posting on Facebook since last July will be available this summer and will join IDW’s library of Breathed’s work — the original Bloom County strips, the spin-offs Outland and Opus and Breathed’s college endeavor, Academia Waltz, some of his earliest political cartoons and more.

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

PLAYMATES PUT THEIR CLOTHES BACK ON, CARTOONS OFF

The big news last fall was the announcement that, starting with the March 2016 issue, Playboy will no longer publish photos of completely naked women. And, strange as it is to say, that actually happened. But more importantly for those of us who peruse this website, Playboy also dropped cartoons. Playboy’s lame explanation for dropping cartoons is that the magazine wanted to eliminate “jump stories”—articles that started in the front of the magazine and then were continued in the back pages. The pages of jumped text created random spaces into which cartoons could be inserted. Eliminating jumped text had the effect of emphasizing the content of the feature articles in the front of the magazine, theoretically helping Playboy change its ambiance for the younger audience it hopes to attract.

Articles that don’t jump are also shorter, another appeal to today’s younger audience which suffers from short attention span.

That’s the short of it. However canny the maneuver may be, it left Playboy’s cartoonists high and dry. Susan Karlin at fastcocreate.com talked to several of them and to the magazine’s management for a full explanation, and the rest of this entry quotes her article verbatim (with snide comments from me in italics)—:

Okay, so no more nudity. But no more cartoons? Playboy, say it isn’t so!

When longtime Playboy cartoonist Dean Yeagle posted on Facebook about the magazine no longer accepting cartoon submissions, artists and fans responded with heartbreak, nostalgia, and confusion — especially considering the publication's longtime love affair with cartoons and illustrated pin-ups, and the rise in popularity of comics, animation, and [comic] conventions.

 

CahootsPlayboy

 

"It’s strange to all of us," says Yeagle. "Hugh Hefner was always such a supporter of cartoons. All we got was this letter."

The letter, from Playboy cartoon editor Amanda Warren, states: "As I’m sure you’re aware, we’ve been undergoing a major redesign of the magazine and the updated Playboy will launch with its March 2016 issue," Yeagle read to Karlin. "It pains me to say this, while I can’t speak to the specifics of this revision just yet, I do want to let you know that we are presently not accepting new cartoon submissions."

"I think it’s a stupid move," says Pulitzer Prize and Oscar-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer, who drew for Playboy in the late 1950s to early 1960s. "If it’s simply a matter of rebranding, why not just change the type of cartoons they run? There are more and better cartoonists today writing in alternative media and graphic novels. It’s a whole new golden age for cartoonists."

"It was a surprise," adds Doug Sneyd, who has contributed nearly 500 cartoons to the magazine since 1964. "I knew they were doing something new with the magazine, but I was surprised to hear they were eliminating the cartoons, which Hef always said were such a major part of the magazine. I felt that they could continue with cartoons in keeping with their new editorial policy. The New Yorker continues to have a lot of success with its cartoons."

Turns out, it was pretty painful on Playboy’s end, too. (Oh, sure.—RCH)

"The decision to eliminate the cartoons was like cutting off a limb" says Playboy editorial director Jason Buhrmester. "But it was never a decision of 'Let’s not run cartoons anymore.' It was, in order to be more contemporary and do the things we want to do with the magazine, we need to get rid of jump copy, and it changed a lot of things: our word counts, got rid of the revenue stream of fractional ads, and the home for cartoons. So it was a big, hard decision to make."

(So Playboy is going for shorter articles and bigger ads. With no nudes and no cartoons? Dunno how that’ll work. Besides, full-page cartoons have no connection to the jump copy dilemma — despite what Buhrmester says down the scroll a bit. —RCH)

Playboy’s overhaul was an attempt to contemporize the magazine and lower its reader demographic from an average age of 40 to an 18 to 34 target. The biggest change was eliminating the jump copy (continuing an article on non-consecutive pages) and sidebars in order to de-clutter the layout and slow down the pacing of the magazine. But the rejiggering created a domino effect. Cartoons, longer articles, and smaller ads were among the collateral damage from the restructuring.

The amount of jump copy in back was squeezing the presentation of the front end feature articles. "That’s inverse the way a magazine should work," says Buhrmester. "It should be that the stories have some room to breathe. We were losing pages in the front of the book in order to generate enough jump copy to accommodate back ads and cartoons."

Often, full-page cartoons in the feature section were used as spacers to accommodate ads in the back of the magazine or enable it to end on a left-hand page.

"So aside from being part of Playboy’s heritage, they were also used as strategic pacing devices." (And what about that heritage? —RCH)

Buhrmester plans to continue with occasional graphic novelets, which graced two issues last year — an original eight-page prequel for The Hateful Eight by Quentin Tarantino and artist Zach Meyer, in December and a six-page sequential by Stray Bullets comic creator David Lapham last summer. (These excursions into the realm of graphic novels were so badly done that they reveal Buhrmester’s surpassing inability to understand the medium. Again, such clumsy endeavors are hardly a substitute for single-panel gag cartoons, a genre all its own. —RCH)

When it launched in 1953, Playboy was the rebellious upstart, questioning the era’s social mores, and its cartoons were complicit in that subversion. The magazine gave underground comic talent a mainstream outlet, struggling illustrators a career boost, and established artists a new platform. Luminaries like Gahan Wilson, Jack Cole, Shel Silverstein, *Vaughn Shoemaker (the Pulitzer winner who coined "John Q. Public"), Harvey Kurtzman (who helped create Mad), *Will Elder, *Frank Frazetta, *Russ Heath, Alan "Yossarian" Shenkar, Erich Sokol, Arnold Roth, pin-up artist Alberto Vargas, not to mention black cartoonists Robert "Buck" Brown and Elmer Simms Campbell, and female illustrators like Olivia De Berardinis.

(* I doubt that Vaugh Shoemaker was ever in the magazine regularly; maybe once, but not much more than that. And the other asterisked names were all associated with Little Annie Fanny, the sexy version of Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie. And none of the names are those of underground cartoonists, who, apart from Bobby London, were never regulars in the magazine. So much of the logic of the preceding paragraph falls to pieces. —RCH)

"He pushed boundaries and helped usher in the sexual revolution," says De Berardinis. "Hef’s always been amazing about change. I saw the new Playboy and they’re moving into what this generation is doing."

She surmises that comics, which rely on boundary pushing and political incorrectness, might need to wait until this generation better defines its style of humor. (Maybe Playboy should have kept cartoons, opting for some new kind of humor in order to define this generation’s style of humor. It would have continued the magazine’s pioneering effort. —RCH)

Suffering from rationales like the foregoing, Playboy joins the ranks of the rest of America’s great magazines — Collier’s, Saturday Evening Post, Look, and others — who gave up publishing cartoons because the layouts of the magazines’ pages couldn’t accommodate the irregular textures of black-and-white cartoons (even if they were in color). Layout editors wanted nice uniform columns of gray typography and generous white space, into which they could spot illustrative matter — but not those weirdly concocted visual oddities, cartoons. Once again, layout editors and designers have condemned cartoons to oblivion.

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

LONG-TIME IOWA FARM CARTOONIST FIRED FOR IRRITATING ADVERTISER

For 21 years, Rick Friday has been amusing farmers in Iowa with his cartoons — over 1,090 of them, reaching 24,000 Iowa households a week in 33 counties of the state. But with his cartoon published in the Farm News at the end of April, Friday ran up against that aged newspaperman’s axiom: do not offend advertisers. He ruffled feathers that didn’t like being ruffled with the cartoon that appears atop a photo of Friday in this vicinity.

 

FridayCartoon

As reported by kcci.com, a large company affiliated with one of the corporations mentioned in the cartoon was insulted and cancelled their advertisement with the paper.

Friday received an email from his editor at Farm News in Fort Dodge, Iowa, the day after the cartoon was published — a Saturday. The cartoon “caused a storm here,” the editor said — and “in the eyes of some, big agriculture cannot be criticized or poked fun at.” The editor said a seed dealer pulled their advertisements with Farm News as a result of the cartoon, and he told Friday that the publisher instructed him to end the paper’s relationship with Friday.

But Friday, a full-time farmer as well as a part-time cartoonist who described his financial compensation for his freelance Farm News cartoon as “embarrassingly low,” did not seem terribly upset. "I did my research and only submitted the facts in my cartoon,” he said on his Facebook page, adding: “Hopefully my children and my grandchildren will see that this last cartoon published by Farm News will shine light on how fragile our rights to free speech and free press really are in the country.

“When it comes to altering someone’s opinion or someone’s voice for the purpose of wealth, I have a problem with that,” Friday continued. “It’s our constitutional right to free speech and our constitutional right to free press.”

The editor of Farm News was unavailable for comment. And the publisher didn’t return phone calls made by Christine Hauser who reported the firing for the New York Times.

But Friday’s colleagues in the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists were not silent, posting a statement at the AAEC website, news.editorialcartoonists.com, condemning Farm News : “This represents a dangerous trend among newspapers where the vitally important wall separating editorial content from advertising is beginning to erode. ... The cartoon was a factual statement on the increasing economic disparity of Big Agribusiness and the small farmers of Iowa. ... For us to maintain a strong freedom of the press, editors and journalists around the country should be beholden to truth and the public good, not the corporate interests of their advertisers. The readers of Farm News deserve far better.

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

TWILIGHT WITH DARWYN COOKE

The story in the first issue of the Twilight Children comic book is almost a typical Gilbert Hernandez enterprise: it takes place in a small seaside Latin American village, some of the protagonists are children, an extra-marital affair is in progress, and much of the narrative transpires pictorially without any verbiage. But two things seem to me a-typical: first, the book is drawn by Darwyn Cooke, not Hernandez; and a spooky sf element pervades.

The late Cooke (he died May 14 of lung cancer, his passing heralded by industry-wide encomiums), who usually writes and draws his comics, got involved in the project because, according to David Betancourt at the Washington Post, he just wanted to draw, not write. When DC Vertigo’s Shelly Bond asked him what he’d like to do, Cooke, who likes to resist accepting projects, said he wanted to draw something that Hernandez would write.

Said Cooke: “I thought: that’s the end of that. Gilbert will never work with me, and now I can say, ‘Well, I would have but ...’”

But Hernandez was all up for the collaboration. And so it began.

The first issue introduces all the cast, creates several mysteries, and ends, appropriately, on a stunningly suspenseful note. By way of remembering Cooke’s singular visual storytelling genius, we rehearse the tale he and Hernandez tell in this comic book.

Anton is a burly fisherman who is having an affair with Tito, who is married to Nikolas, who helps run Tito’s woman’s wear shop. Bundo is the town drunk who lives alone in a shack on the beach. He likes to watch three kids — Milo, Grover and Jael — play on the beach, and he warns them to stay out of a cave in the rocks.

Hernandez alternates picking up one or another of three narrative strands that thread through this issue. We watch as Anton and Tito proceed in their affair, Nikolas being cheerfully oblivious and even inviting Anton to dinner some night. But one of their assignations concludes when a mysterious gigantic white ball materializes in the bedroom, connecting the affair thread to the white ball thread.

The same ball appeared earlier that day on the beach, amazing the three kids, who go running for Bundo. The ball, or others like it, has appeared before so, while it amazes the local population, it is not an unfamiliar sight.

The kids venture into the cave in the rocks on the beach and encounter the white ball there. When one youngster reaches out to touch it, a huge wind arises, blowing its way through the town. And when the kids emerge from the cave, they have blank eyeballs. They’re blind.

Bundo returns to the beach in the last pages of this issue. His beach house was wrecked in the big wind, and Bundo sees the episode as a warning. And as he contemplates the wreck of his house, we see in the distance a statuesque naked woman with billowing white hair blowing in the breeze. It is the same figure that appears on the opening page of this issue. Hernandez has rounded the first installment of his tale by echoing a mysterious imagery.

Several completed episodes occur, each offering insight into the characters. One reveals the complexity of the love triangle with Anton, Tito and Nikolas. The white ball arrives and leaves — twice — baffling everyone who encounters it. Local fishermen try to capture the ball in a net but fail.

And we are left to wonder if Nikolas will discover his wife’s infidelity (and if she will tolerate Anton much longer), if the kids’ blindness is permanent or not, if Bundo is right about the incident being a warning, what the white ball is, and who (or what) the naked white-haired lady is and what her connection to the white ball might be. If any.

Plenty of mysteries, but strong characterizations let us know the protagonists and care about them. And the completed episodes, by tying up portions of plot strands, both create and satisfy our desire to know more. Our interest sustained, we want to know the answers to the questions the story has, thus far, posed.

Cooke’s drawing is, as always, superb. His work is in many respects similar to Hernandez’s—simple, boldly linear. But Cooke’s hand is surer than Hernandez’s, and his eye for panel composition is keener, and the book is a handsomer product as a result.

Twilight1

 

Twilight2

The collaboration seems to work brilliantly. Hernandez told Betancourt that working with Cooke is “like having a creative partner who doesn’t need much verbal guidance. Because Cooke is such a brilliant visual storyteller himself, Hernandez doesn’t have to get overly descriptive in conveying what he wants for the narrative.”

Betancourt quotes Hernandez: “He basically doesn’t need me, but since I was there, and we’re working together, I put down a story that I thought would work on his strengths if I gave him just enough information and description and then put in my usual characterization that I have in all my stories.”

Cooke said he is enjoying the “openness” of Hernandez’s scripts. He said it’s “a real treat to work with a cartoonist writing the script. It’s a very different experience.”

He elaborated: “I just made sure I was honoring what Gilbert had written and wherever there was room, I tried to make sure I was adding something that might put another layer into it for the reader, or might create a juxtaposition that wasn’t expected.”

Hernandez remembered a particular moment when he forgot to include descriptions for a splash page. “He thought about reaching out to Cooke,” Betancourt reported, “but decided against it, convinced that Cooke would come up with something just as good for the story.”

Said Hernandez: “I just stopped myself and said, ‘Let’s see if he can come up with something.’ And he did.”

The collaboration offered Cooke an opportunity that he’s been hoping to create for some time, he told Betancourt. “But there was always something that kept me in the game doing the type of books I do. This is like a deliberate move on my part to embark on another path.

“Working on this project,” he continued, “is starting to unlock a few things in my mind, in terms of storytelling and maybe where I want to go. It’s helping me open doors in my head that have been more-or-less closed. When you’re working on a mainstream book, there are certain criteria, there are certain things you have to do and you have to hit. And this has been really liberating in that those rules don’t apply here.”

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

ATENA FREED!

Atena Farghadani, the 29-year-old Iranian artist whose shabby treatment by her government aroused worldwide protest when she was sentenced almost two years ago to more than 12 years in prison after drawing Iran’s parliament as animals, was freed in early May, according to her attorney.

“She’s very, very happy,” her attorney, Mohammad Moghimi, told the Washington Post’s Comic Riffs through a May 3 email interview communicated and translated by Nikahang Kowsar, a board member of Washington-based Cartoonists Rights Network International.

AtenaFreed

 

For the details of Farghadani’s crime and punishment, visit Rants & Raves, Ops. 341 and 343, at RCHarvey.com.

Farghadani’s crimes, the Iranian courts had said, included “insulting members of parliament through paintings” and “spreading propaganda against the system,” according to human-rights groups. Farghadani was arrested in the summer of 2014 after she drew “parliament as animals” to protest the government’s measures to curb birth control.

“Atena has suffered, and like many other activists and artists and journalists, should not spend time behind bars for expressing her opinions,” Kowsar, who himself was jailed by Iranian authorities in 2000 over his editorial cartoons, told Comic Riffs on May 1 in anticipation of her release.

Moghimi expected his client’s freedom after their recent legal victories. “The charges for undermining national security have been dismissed,” Kowsar said, “ — the Revolutionary Court loves to label activists with this dangerous charge — and now she’s been acquitted from that part of the sentence. Her sentence for insulting the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] was also suspended.

“This type of suspension acts like Damocles’s sword,” Kowsar continued, “and the individual who wants to stay out of trouble should avoid saying or writing anything that could be interpreted as insulting the system or the leader’s rhetoric. Atena’s drawing that criticized the members of parliament was a critique of the leader’s will.”

Moghimi says that Farghadani’s joy over her release is mixed with the sadness of knowing that her former cellmates remain at Evin Prison, with few to no public supporters because of their lower profiles. Farghadani’s case had attracted worldwide attention, including visual protests by artists based in Europe, Australia and the United States.

During her imprisonment, Farghadani reportedly was subjected to strip searches and a forced “virginity test” — the latter after Moghimi himself was imprisoned for shaking hands with his client while working on her case, an indecent act according to local religious custom. He says that his time inside a cell affirmed his belief that Iran’s correctional system needs to evolve.

Moghimi also said that Farghadani does not want to leave Iran, and that she remains convinced that artists have a duty to challenge the status quo and spark social change through their artwork. “She believes that art means paying a great price with your own life,” the attorney said, “when art is used to support human rights, world peace and humanity.”

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

JIM DAVIS ON GAG-WRITING

Here’s Jim Davis on why writing lasagna jokes never gets old:

“I talked to [Beetle Bailey’s] Mort Walker about that early on. One writer once likened gag-writing to ‘walking into a dark closet, taking some gags off a shelf and leaving without knowing how big the closet really is.’ ‘You know what?’ Mort said, ‘—it actually gets easier.’ And he’s right. It gets easier as you get to know your characters better. And the times change enough that you [always] have a ton of stuff to write about. If anything, writing [Garfield] is easier today than it was 30 years ago. The thing is to relax and have fun with it. I have fun writing stuff that people have fun reading because you really cannot fool the reader — you have to be laughing yourself.”

Garfield lasagna strip

 

For insights about how Davis writes Garfield, visit Harv’s Hindsight for June 2008 at RCHarvey.com.

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

JONAH HEX: WELCOME TO PARADISE

Welcome to Paradise coverJonah Hex: Welcome to Paradise
By John Albano and Michael Fleisher

With art by Tony DeZuniga, Doug Wildey, Noly Panaligan, George Moliterni, and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez


168 6x10-inch pages
color
2010 DC Comics
paperback
$17.99

This collection reprints the first nine Jonah Hex stories from 1971-1975 issues of All-Star Western (which morphed into Weird Western Tales) and Jonah Hex, which spun off on its own in 1977. Created by Albano and DeZuniga, who did the first three stories, the character was continued by Fleisher and DeZuniga with other artists chiming in from time to time.

Apart from the stories themselves, this volume is of interest for historical reasons: it demonstrates the development of the Hex character. Starting with the fourth appearance, Fleisher gave Hex a measure of humanity: Albano’s Hex was cold, unfeeling, misanthropic (he doesn’t even treat his dog kindly as the brute is dying). Fleisher also introduces a element of continuity as he traces Hex’s role on the Confederate side in the Civil War with a story of vengeance that continues from issue to issue and is not resolved even by the last story in this volume.

Hex is famous for the horribly scarred right side of his face, and in introducing the character in All-Star Western No.10, DeZuniga keeps the character’s face shadowed throughout—until the moment when Hex arrives unexpectedly on a scene and his face is suddenly, dramatically, illuminated as Hex strikes a match to light his cigarillo.

JonHex

I enjoy DeZuniga’s gritty style, but in the last two stories, it’s a distinct pleasure to watch the polished renditions of Garcia-Lopez; maybe too slick for this kind of western story, but fun to watch anyhow.

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

SUMMER BLONDE (STORIES)

Summer Blonde (Stories)
By Adrian Tomine
136 7x10-inch pages
b/w
2002 Drawn & Quarterly
hardcover
$24.95

Summer Blonde coverThe four stories in this book first appeared in Nos.5-8 of Tomine’s Optic Nerve, starting in 1998, and although this book was published in 2002, the latest Previews from Diamond lists this title with the following annotation:

“With a deft and romantic touch, Tomine portrays the emotional ambivalence of drifting, urban twenty-somethings in stunning black and white. His stories are appealingly naturalistic, stylishly cinematic, and emotionally rich. His fans accuse him of eavesdropping on their most intimate moments, exhibiting their insecurities with both forensic detachment and surpising compassion.”

 Here’s what Dan Raeburn says on the flap of the dust jacket: “In the first story, a washed-up writer in pursuit of new material begins dating a girl who is still in high school. In the title story, a nebbish wants only to help the woman he is stalking. Next a lonely woman makes hostile, pank phone calls in the perverse hope of connecting with someone — anyone —a t the other end of the line, followed by the class dweeb and his sexual initiation at the hands of a popular girl who recently shit in her pants at a party.”

All four stories end abruptly, without anything having been resolved or “finished.” Tomine simply abandons his characters, after having created them and making us care about them. Heartless of him, but he’s well within the tradition of short story telling that James Joyce conjured up a century ago. Tomine’s skill is in creating authentically real people; and his endings, abrupt and seemingly uncaring, prove how successful he is. Were he not so skilled, the endings would not leave us so disappointed that there is no more about the character he abandons.

SummerBlonde

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

DESMOND PUCKET MAKES MONSTER MAGIC

Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic coverDesmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic
By Mark Tatulli
240 5x8-inch pages
b/w with color;
2015 Andrews McMeel
hardcover
$13.99

Mark Tatulli does two seven-days-a-week syndicated comic strips, Heart of the City and Lio, and he says this about his career: “When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was draw comics; now, all I do is draw comics.” Or words to that effect. How he has time to produce books, too, I dunno. This one is apparently the second in the Desmond Pucket series, the first being Desmond Pucket and the Mountain Full of Monsters. And a third, Desmond Pucket and the Cloverfield Junior High Carnival of Horrors, is due (it sez here) next year.

Tatulli recently complained in considerable alarm about the plight of newspaper comic strips, whose fate is tied to newspapers, which are loudly proclaiming how much money they’re losing. Tatulli lost several client papers for one of this strips (or the other — or both), which inspired terror about his presumed fate. I doubt that he’s any worse off than any other strip cartoonists — and with two strips, he’s probably less worse off — but he may be leaping to conclusions about Tatulli photowhat he sees as the writing on the wall; so to preserve some semblance of a cartooning career, he is emulating Jeff Kinney, whose Wimpy Kid books have created a cottage industry and a full-time career for the author (not to mention Stephan Pastis, who’s up to the same tricks with his Timmy Failure series; and others, not necessarily syndicated cartoonists, with series like the Dork Diaries — mimics all).      

In the mold of the Wimpy Kid books — first person narrative text illustrated by cartoon drawings —  Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic is about a prank-playing juvenile, whose propensity for pulling pranks gets him in trouble with school officials who threaten to ground him so he can’t go on a class field trip to the Mountain Full of Monsters at Crab Shell Pier, so he reforms. Maybe.

Tatulli puts more pictures into his narrative than Kinney does, and the text is often enhanced by (even supplemented by) the pictures, which frequently add information to the narrative. And sometimes, Tatulli pretends the pictures are drawn by his pranky protagonist.

Desmond

The story seems aimed at a reader a little older than the Wimpy Kid reader. Tatulli may be hoping that as Wimpy Kid readers grow older they’ll find Desmond Pucket. Here’s joining in his hope.

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

EIGHT

I’m up to No.5 in Eight, one of those time-traveling tales, this one switching from past to present to future to “the meld,” which is “something else again.” The story by Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson isn’t quite as confusing as time travel tales usually are — I can actually tell where I am and understand the implications of the characters’ actions (a first for me with time travel tales) — but it’s Albuquerque’s art that engrosses. His forms are chiseled with sharp corners delineated with bristly feathering effects. Nicely done. Josh, the central character, has been sent on a mission to the future (or the past — I forget) in order to kill the villainous Spear and thereby change life in the present (?), and by the end of this issue — the end of Book One — Spear is dead. Now comes the confrontation between Josh and the heroine, who is resisting being his wife in some future (or past) life.

Eight number five cover

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

LOBSTER JOHNSON

Lobster Johnson is another favorite of mine, so I grabbed the one-shot, A Chain Forged in Life, by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, drawn by Troy Nixey, whose drawing, while shadowed and feathered realistically, verges on the cartoony. And that suits this story, which focuses on some bumbling robbers who kidnap a sidewalk bell-ringing Santa Claus as they make their getaway. The story is told from Santa’s point-of-view, and Lobster Johnson isn’t much on view: he shows up, wreaks havoc among the robbers for a couple panels, then disappears. Then he shows up again and disappears. And again. Always briefly. The robbers are thoroughly spooked by this behavior, and by the end of the story, Lobster’s settled their hash, and Santa is drunk.

LobsterEight

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