Zap Comix, born in late 1967 in the fever dreams of R. Crumb, is emphatically back in a big way, saith Dana Jennings at the New York Times. Fantagraphics is publishing The Complete Zap, a $500 hardcover boxed set of more than 1,100 pages. Said Jennings: “Not bad for a black-and-white comic book series whose first issue cost a quarter* when it finally got into print in February 1968.”
*plus a dime (see below)

ZAP 0 cover

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When I was a boy in the early 1940s, I was fascinated by the villains in Popeye: they were all dressed black frock coats and black wide-brim hats, and they had beards, full black beards — bristly, wiry beards. Now, 70-some years later, thanks to the Depraved Cutthroat Caliphate, real-life villains have beards and dress in black. They would doubtless not be amused to learn that I liken them to comic strip villains. And so, perforce, I do exactly that.

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Musa photoFrom Milana Knezevic at indexoncensorship.org: Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart went to trial October 23, facing the prospect of spending nine years behind bars, simply for doing his job — which, in this case, involved making a critical (alleging criminal conduct) caricature of Turkey’s President (and former Prime Minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan that was “insulting and slanderous.” Commenting on Erdogan’s alleged hand in covering up a high-profile corruption scandal, the cartoon depicted him as a hologram keeping a watchful eye over a robbery.

Once in court, Kart was acquitted almost immediately, due in no small part to the swift reaction from colleagues around the world who gave Kart’s situation international headlines. “In the online #erdogancaricature campaign initiated by British cartoonist Martin Rowson, his fellow artists shared their own drawings of the president. With Erdogan reimagined as everything from a balloon to a crying baby to Frankenstein’s monster, the show of solidarity soon went viral.”

“This campaign has showed me once again that I m a member of world cartoonists family. I am deeply moved and honoured by their support,” Kart told Index in an email. The rest of the Index article follows in italic):

Kart has been battling the criminal charges since February. His defiance was clear for all to see when he told the court on Thursday [perhaps October 30; it’s not clear in the Internet dispatch] that “I think that we are inside a cartoon right now,” referring to the fact that he was in the suspect’s seat while charges against people involved in the graft scandal had been dropped.

Kart kitten kartoonHe remains defiant today: “Erdogan would have either let an independent judiciary process to be cleared or repressed his opponents. He chose the second way,” Kart said. “It’s a well known fact that Erdogan is trying to repress and isolate the opponents by reshaping the laws and the judiciary and by countless prosecutions and libel suits against journalists.”

This isn’t the first time Kart has run into trouble with Erdogan. Back in 2005, he was fined 5,000 Turkish lira for drawing the then-prime minister as a cat entangled in yarn. The cartoon represented the controversy that surrounded Turkey’s highest administrative court rejecting new legislation that Erdogan had campaigned on.

“I have always believed that cartoon humour is a very unique and effective way to express our ideas and to reach people and it contributes to a better and more tolerant world,” Kart explained when questioned on where he finds the strength to keep going.

It remains unclear whether the story ends with this latest acquittal decision. While the charges against Kart were dropped earlier this year, an appeal from Erdogan saw the case reopened.

“Erdogan’s lawyers will…take the case to the upper court,” Kart said.

Kart’s experience is far from unique; free expression is a thorny issues in Erdogan’s Turkey. In the past year alone, authorities temporarily banned Twitter and YouTube and introduced controversial internet legislation. Meanwhile journalists, like the Economist’s Amberin Zaman, have been continuously targeted.

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Guardians of the Galaxy posterFrom Brooks Barnes at the New York Times: On October 28, Marvel Entertainment announced a lineup of nine new movies that will reach theaters between now and mid-2019. The coming attractions include an entire films devoted to a female character, Captain Marvel, and to an African superhero, the Black Panther.

After revealing the roster of films, that includes a two-part Avengers: Infinity War, Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, told a packed El Capitan Theater here, “As you can see, we have a hell of a lot of work to do.”

Shares of Marvel’s owner, the Walt Disney Company, promptly climbed 2 percent, closing at $89.93. Investors like long-term film-franchise building because it greatly lessens the risk of fluctuations in studio financial results.

Marvel’s announcement came two weeks after DC Entertainment, a division of Warner Bros., unveiled its own roster of nine new superhero films (with single films for Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern). Add the Marvel and DC slates to plans by other studios to keep mining the comic book genre, and Hollywood is on track to deliver 29 superhero movies in the next six years.

Can the marketplace absorb the glut? Some media analysts warn that superhero fatigue is already setting in, but Feige brushed aside concerns. “If the movies deliver in terms of quality, they will succeed,” he said.

The new Marvel movies for 2016 are Doctor Strange, which is expected to star Benedict Cumberbatch, and Captain America: Civil War, which will co-star Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and introduce Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther. Following, in 2017, will be Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther. In 2018, Marvel will release the first of the two Avengers: Infinity War movies; Captain Marvel, based around a not-yet-cast superheroine named Carol Danvers, who has cosmic powers; and Inhumans, a film that Feige said would introduce “tons” of new characters and is envisioned as “a franchise and perhaps a series of franchises.”

Feige said a version of this splashy announcement event — taking the stage were Downey, Chris Evans, who plays Captain America, and Mr. Boseman — was supposed to have happened at Comic-Con International in July. But Marvel decided to wait in part to see how audiences responded to the unknown characters in Guardians of the Galaxy, which arrived in August. It now ranks as the year’s No.1 domestic movie.

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On Sunday, October 26, the cover of USA Weekend replicated the general cover design of an EC horror comic book from the 1950s. The wonder of it is that USA Today knows millions of us will recognize this echo of a cultural artifact 57 or so years after the fact. The power of comic books, kimo sabe. Who can see me nay?

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George Martin photoGeorge R.R. Martin, author of Song of Ice and Fire upon which HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is based, claims to be the first comic book fan. And he’s almost right. The program booklet for the alleged first comic-con — in New York in 1964 — lists registered participants, and Martin is Number One.

Unhappily for Martin, the New York event that summer was not the first comic-con: the first was held in April of that year in Detroit. But Martin doubtless doesn’t know that. All of which proves — if it needs proving — that if you want the Immutable Truth As We Know It, come hither to Rancid Raves.

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Alison Bechdel photo


Alison Bechdel, author of the critically acclaimed graphic novel Fun Home, said in a HuffPost interview October 3 that Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust-centric Maus set her free to take on serious subjects in what has always been a less than serious medium — comic books.

"Comics were once sort of [for] superhero action stories," she recalled. "That was pretty much all they did, and [then] people started pushing the boundaries. Underground cartoonists in the '70s started writing about more adult topics and themes."

She specifically credited "the more artistic cartoonists of the '80s" as well as Spiegelman as having "completely changed the medium" of graphic novels. "Spiegelman's Maus changed comics forever," she said. "Comics now can be about anything — any topics that's as serious as you can come up with."

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Crusader Rabbit still“Somewhere between the rise of cable tv and the ubiquitousness of video games today, American kids fell out of love with Saturday morning animated cartoons,” reports wtop.com. Used to be cartoons dominated TV programming on weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings. “Today [on the Web], there’s programming 24 hours a day,” said Robert Thompson at the Center for Televison and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “With the announcement that the CW will swap its Saturday morning children's line-up for a mix of programming aimed at teens and their parents, there will be no more dedicated children's programming on any broadcast network on Saturdays, according to ToonZone.net.”

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            ■ James Hibberd’s “Fall TV Face-off” in October 17's Entertainment Weekly says: “Fox’s ‘Family Guy’ posted its biggest ratings in four years due to its ‘Simpsons’ crossover.”

            ■ Alerted by the latest issue of Previews, the comic book catalogue from Diamond, I know now that I can purchase a Buddy Christ plush doll. Yes, the “Spokesdiety Buddy Christ is now a super-cuddly 8-inch tall doll with finely stitched details” just awaiting your conversion — er, purchase.

            ■ Gary Groth is the 2014 Stranger Genius Award winner in Literature. The Stranger is a Seattle alternate newspaper; Groth’s Fantagraphics resides in Seattle, in what was once a two-story residence on Lake City Way NE. And I’ve written for (and been paid by) Fantagraphics for nearly 40 years. No bias here, kimo sabe.

            ■ New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast admitted to Michael Cavna at the Washinton Post’s ComicRiffs blog that it’s been “exciting” to be the first cartoonist to be a nonfiction finalist for the National Book Award.


Roz Chast cover CWTASMP


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The MoscowTimes.com reports that “thousands of comic-book, video-game and science-fiction enthusiasts swarmed Moscow's Crocus Expo center over an October weekend for Russia's first-ever Comic-Con, an international convention aimed at fantasy lovers.” Predictably, many attendees came dressed as their favorite comic book or movie characters.

Moscow Comic Con 2014

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NYCCon logoThe big news of the fall for comics fandom is that the New York Comic Con, held this year October 9-12, knocked the San Diego Comic Con International off its throne as the biggest comic-con in the country (perhaps in the world). Big news but not much of a surprise: New York is the most populous of our nation’s cities, so events staged there should be attended by the largest crowds. But it’s taken a few decades of limping listlessly for the Big Apple to finally get around to putting on a funnybook show worthy of the city’s size and influence. Even Entertainment Weekly has taken notice, running a short article about the NY Comic Con in a recent issue. Look for longer pieces in the future: the magazine’s editorial office is, conveniently, in The City.

NYCC beardNew York registered, it is reported, slightly over 151,000 geeks, nerds, and other happy personages; Sandy Eggo, limited by the size of its venue — the San Diego Convention Center and the city’s fire marshal, who cuts off attendance when it exceeds what he deems a safe number for the facility — has been registering 125-130,000 for the past decade or so. It could be bigger, we suppose — and Sandy Eggo factotums are likely to claim — if the fire marshal were a less risk averse official. Not that we’d like that either: we’re all for safety.

While New York’s roaring success ought to be gratifying to funnybook fans everywhere, it actually isn’t. Comic-cons, New York’s included, are no longer events for those who dote on comic books. Sandy Eggo long ago became what its organizers call “a popular culture festival” — movies, games, toys and other cultural detritus that may have originated in the four-color fantasies of comic books but now eddies in ever-widening circles throughout our culture, from books and magazines to television, from stuffed dolls to the big screen. And vice versa.

Hollywood, as many have observed (sometimes cynically), invaded Sandy Eggo years ago and imparted to the annual shenanigans a distinctly tinsel-town gleam. As comic book superheroes have taken command of the nation’s movie theaters, so have they influenced the once humble comic-con. Movies not comic books are the medium. Actors not cartoonists are the celebrities. And superheroes in colorful costumes are the enviable icons.

NYCC crowdAt New York, the center of gravity shifted a little. Guests from the realms of comic books exceeded those from the entertainment universe: the NYCC website lists nearly 350 comic book artists and writers vs. only about 250 actors and screen writers.

While the roster of comic book creators is long — longer, I suspect, than a similar list in San Diego — we must remember that New York is a publishing mecca for comic books, and the chances are that finding nearby comic book creators who’re willing to guest at the Comic Con isn’t difficult; by the same token, finding movie stars on the West Coast near Hollywood probably isn’t as hard as finding comic book creators out there.

Still, the New York Comic Con apparently didn’t want too many cartoonists. No New Yorker cartoonists (who almost all live near the City) were guests; and apart from Joe Staton, who now does Dick Tracy but started out in comic books, no syndicated comic strip cartoonists, many of whom live near New York, were among the guests listed at the Con’s website.

Whether these developments are good or bad only the future can tell. Based upon simple demographics alone, we may see Sandy Eggo tilt more and more into the movie and tv realm with New York emerging as the better site for comic book fans.

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At the end of this year’s October 30 airing of the Peanuts Hallowe’en special, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, viewers — including all those eager-eyed moppets whose parents thought they’d treat their Great Pumpkin stilloffspring to a nice kids program — found themselves confronted by the opening scene of Scandal, in which Olivia Pope is having a very explicit dream, reports Emily Yahr at the Washington Post — “reminiscing about sleeping with President Fitz (along with the other guy in her love triangle, Jake). It’s all set to ‘Summer Breeze,’ and there are glimpses of lots of bare skin.”

The watchdog group Parents Television Council understandably went ballistic, unleashing an angry statement directed at ABC, condemning the abrupt shift from kid-centric programming to eroticism. “After all, families are known to gather around the cartoon every year and may not have anticipated that they needed to quickly change the channel. Shame on ABC for putting a peep show next to a playground,” PTC President Tim Winter said.

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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.

Lola XOXO is a good example of a first issue that is too cryptic and therefore incomprehensible and not likely to bring anyone back for seconds. Except for the pictures: Siya Oum draws as well as writes the title, and her rendering of the toothsome heroine is the book’s biggest attraction — as you might be able to tell from the cover and an interior page posted at your eye’s elbow.



You can tell Oum likes drawing better than writing. And since comics are a visual art, that’s a plus.

When the story begins, Lola is a little girl in an airport being sent off to visit her grandmother by her parents, who, it soon develops, will be in New York when it is attacked and destroyed by terrorists. These opening pages give us a little girl cute beyond measure and a tearful parting from her father and mother; and there’s more of this than is good for us.

Then we leap 10-12 years into the future and see the erstwhile little girl now grown up and leggy in cut-offs, looking for her parents. She buys an apple at a sidewalk fruit stand, using bullets as money, is given a horse (or is it a bicycle?) by some friends, witnesses a circus act, goes for a ride on her horse, visits a bar where she’s accosted by some sex fiends and beats them up but they’re too numerous—and on the last page, a handsome dude arrives and says: “So — you’re the horse thief.”

All of Oum’s handsome men (except the last guy, who has a van dyke) look petty much the same — like her father, another impossibly handsome guy — which adds to the confusion: one of these guys appears to be a kind of guardian who adopted Lola when he learned, that day in the airport, that her parents were in the smoking ruins of New York City. But I can’t be sure. As I said, all the handsome guys look alike.

Lola apparently lives with the guardian guy and a few others of his cohorts out in the “wastelands”? And they survive by herding horses? These are too many unanswered questions for a first issue. And the circus interlude is inexplicable.

The final episode — a bar fight — shows Lola a capable scrapper. Admirable. And she’s good-looking in an almost pristine feminine way. The pictures are the best part of the book. They look as if they’ve been shot directly from pencils, no inking, which gives them a nice soft appearance. Nicely done, Oum. But your story is too mysterious.


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


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