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IT'S FRIDAY AGAIN

That Iowa farmer/cartoonist who was fired last summer for drawing an editorial cartoon critical of one of his newspaper’s advertisers? He’s back at Fort Dodge’s weekly Farm News. And he says he’s happy to be back. Rick Friday had been a fixture at the paper for over 20 years with his It’s Friday cartoon, and the national notoriety the paper attracted for firing him made the editors confront second thoughts — a remarkably unusual occurrence among editors who may regret publishing a cartoon that earns them criticism. But these guys were courageous enough to admit their mistake. They phoned the cartoonist, apologized, and asked him to return. Some negotiations ensued, and then on July 1, his cartoon returned. At the website, a message: "Farm News is delighted to announce the return of cartoonist Rick Friday. Beginning today, his witty insight will regularly return to its home on our editorial page and our website. Welcome back, Rick."

Getting fired brought fame to Friday from across the country, reported Charly Harley (from whose report I culled most of these words) — including articles in the Columbia Journalism Review and The New York Times. Friday said he received more than a thousand Facebook messages of support from around the world and has had job offers to draw for several different publications. He’ll be attending to some of them whilst still producing his weekly visual comment for the Farm News.

FridayCartoon

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AND IT'S WORSE IN TURKEY

In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been cracking down lately on opposition throughout the country in the wake of a failed coup attempt several months ago. Tens of thousands of alleged coup collaborators have been jailed or fired from their jobs.

“A failed coup is a great excuse to get rid of everyone Erdogan doesn’t like,” said editoonist/syndicate mogul Daryl Cagle in reporting the story — whether they were involved with the coup or not. “Virtually all of the media outlets that have been critical of him have been closed down. The only opposition paper left, Cumhuriyet, was raided last week with their editors, their top writers and their editorial cartoonist thrown in jail.”

The cartoons of Musa Kart have enraged Erdogan for years. Erdogan tried to put Kart in jail for nine years for the 2014 cartoon on the left below, that depicts a money-laundering scandal as a hologram of Erdogan looks the other way.

KartToon

Kart was detained by police and his home searched. Kart was acquitted of the charges, and as he left the courthouse, he said:

“How will they explain this to the world? I am being taken into custody for drawing cartoons. I’ve been trying for years to turn what we’re living through in this country into cartoons. Now I feel like I’m living in one.”

The 2005 cartoon on the right, above, shows Erdogan entangled in strings. Kart was tried and sentenced to prison, “but his penalty was reduced to a fine, and the courts later dismissed the fine,” Cagle said.

Hundreds of protesters camped overnight at the Istanbul headquarters of Cumhuriyet in support of the paper as the last symbol of freedom of the press.

Altogether, Cagle reported, “170 news media outlets have been shut down since the attempted coup and 105 journalists arrested. Authorities revoked the press accreditation of more than 700 journalists while thousands of journalists are unemployed.”

Cagle, whose syndicate distributes editoons by cartoonists from all over the world, said cartoonists everywhere are sharing drawings in support of a free press. Here, to conclude this report, is one by India’s Paresh Nath, one of Cagle’s roster.

NathToon

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ZUNAR KEEPS STANDING UP

The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar (Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque) can’t stay out of trouble. And even when he stays out of trouble he gets in trouble. When protesters disrupted an exhibition of his cartoons in late November, he was arrested. Not the protesters. Zunar was questioned by the police, detained for a day and informed that he was under investigation for producing cartoons that purportedly defamed Prime Minister Najib Razak.

It was not the first time Zunar, who already faces nine charges of sedition and is barred from leaving the country, has courted trouble with his pen. His cartoons frequently target Najib, who is accused of taking millions of dollars from a state investment fund. Najib has faced widespread calls to resign, most recently at an anticorruption demonstration this month that drew tens of thousands in Kuala Lumpur, the capital.

Zunar was interviewed by Mike Ives of the New York Times just after the incident. One of the things they talked about was the cartoon we’ve posted near here.

ZunarToon

“It’s a self-portrait,” Zunar said. “In it, you see that three laws have been used against me. First is Sedition Act, second is Penal Code, third is Printing Presses and Publications Act. I was chained with these laws — hand, neck and leg. But if you go to my shirt, you can see my philosophies there. Among them are ‘I will keep drawing until the last drop of my ink’ and ‘How can I be neutral … even my pen has a stand.’ So this drawing shows that even though there’s a law to stop me, even though there’s a regulation to stop me, even though they tried to ban my books — actually, not tried, they already banned my book — I will keep drawing. That is why, without hands, I still use my mouth or my teeth to draw. This is to show the philosophy and determination to fulfill my duty as a cartoonist in Malaysia.”

Zunar is expecting a tenth sedition charge, but even without it, he faces upward of 40 years as a maximum prison sentence if he’s convicted. How does he feel about it?

“You have to understand this is a politically motivated charge; it’s got nothing to do with the law,” he said. “In Malaysia, it’s very, very difficult for us with politically motivated charges. You just need to look at what happened to the opposition leader’s case in Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim. Even though he had strong evidence and witnesses, it was political. It will be very difficult for us to fix that. But this is a very important case for me to create awareness around the world about the state of freedom of expression and human rights in Malaysia. I’m going to face it.”

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

BARNEY WAS BACK -- BRIEFLY

Barney Google, who was written out of his own comic strip (although not out of the title) years ago after Fred Lasswell took over Billy DeBeck’s creation and focused exclusively on life among the hillbillies, has been returning periodically to John Rose’s current continuation of Snuffy Smith. And he was back again for a week, starting December 4th.

GoogleSmith

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TWO-BITS FOR TWENTY-FIVE

Image Comics will celebrate 25 years as a comic book publisher next year, and it’s giving its fans a little gift, reports George Gene Gustines at the New York Times. February issues of The Walking Dead, Invincible, and Outcast, each written by Robert Kirkman, will cost only a measly two bits, just 25 cents (25 years; 25 cents).

“The stories in these issues will be a good jumping on point for readers” Gustines said: “The Walking Dead No.163 follows the conclusion of the Whisperer War; Invincible No.133 begins ‘The End of All Things,’ a 12-part story that will conclude the superhero series; and Outcast No.25 will introduce characters to the series about demonic possession.”

The Walking Dead 163

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CHARLIE GOES ABROAD

Charlie Hebdo German EditionThe first German edition of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo arrived on newsstands December 1, nearly two years after Islamic Hooligans attacked the publication’s headquarters in Paris, killing top editors and cartoonists, ostensibly because they insulted Islam. The German edition is a response to significant German interest in Charlie Hebdo after the attack, editors told Charly Wilder at the New York Times.

“It’s an experiment,” Gérard Biard, Charlie Hebdo’s editor in chief, who added that the paper had been the subject of numerous exhibitions, awards and news coverage in Germany since the attack on January 7, 2015.

The new edition will consist mostly of translated material from the French version, but with some original content for its German readers.

The editor of the German edition, who uses the pseudonym Minka Schneider, said, “Germans feel particularly close to France and to Charlie Hebdo, and the debate about freedom of expression is very passionate here compared to other countries.”

The first German issue, with 16 pages, offers a four-page travel feature by the cartoonist Laurent Sourisseau, who uses the pen name Riss, depicting people he met across Germany and their thoughts on cultural heritage, national identity and the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees, most of them Muslims, in the last several years.

The reaction in the German news media has largely been positive, with a few exceptions.

“I don’t believe that magazine will go over well in Germany,” said Martin Sonneborn, a former editor of Titanic, a satirical magazine, “because it has such a specifically French aspect and represents a very unique type of humor.”

Charlie Hebdo’s brand of satire tends to be harsher and darker than German counterparts like Titanic and Eulenspiegel, said Wilder. The editors acknowledge the challenge of appealing to a German audience but said the timing of the new edition was opportune.

“Germany is facing problems today that France already faced a few decades ago, like immigration and the banlieues,” Schneider said, referring to the heavily immigrant neighborhoods that ring many French cities. “So maybe learning something about French society can help the Germans, and humor is a good way to do this.”

“Everybody can be a subject in Charlie Hebdo,” Biard continued. “So we feel pretty free to have a look at German society.”

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

SURPRISE: SUPERHEROIC REGGIE AT ARCHIE COMICS?

Reggie and Me #1 coverAt CBR, Jeffrey Renaud reminds us that “as a writer and editor, industry legend Tom DeFalco has told stories with heavyweight heroes ranging from the Amazing Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four to G.I. Joe and the Transformers. So when he calls Reggie Mantle a ‘sinister super-villain,’ you might want to pay attention.”

What prompts this cautionary note is that DeFalco is writing a new on-going series at Archie Comics — namely, Reggie and Me, about Archie’s presumed rival. Predictably, Archie Comics, having produced a line of titles for slightly older readers with the new Archie, Jughead, and Betty & Veronica books, now turns to the only other main character without a title of his own, the unlikable Reggie Mantle.

DeFalco started his career at Archie, so he’ll be coming “home” in some sense. Renaud asked him several impertinent questions about the new Reggie book, and DeFalco responded in kind.

About Reggie, DeFalco said: “Classic Reggie was a prankster, but he was always rather harmless. He was also one of Archie’s friends, and a member of the gang. The current Reggie is an outsider. Yes, the other guys want to be like him and the girls want to be with him, but he is no longer a member of the gang.”

Renaud: You say he’s one of your favorite characters. You admit that he’s been called a self-aggrandizing egotist, a sinister super-villain, a merciless monster and worse. So — what’s to love?

DeFalco: What’s not to love? He drives the best cars and throws the wildest parties. He is also the closest thing Riverdale has to a supervillain and everyone loves a great villain.

Renaud: Is Reggie Mantle misunderstood?

DeFalco: Absolutely! A lot of people assume he has some redeeming characteristics. [Laughs]

Renaud: Can you confirm today that the ‘me’ of Reggie and Me is in fact Reggie’s dog, Vader?

DeFalco: I could, but why spoil the surprise?

Renaud: Will you be telling done-in-one stories in Reggie and Me or will the stories be longer arcs?

Reggie and Me interiorDeFalco: I will be doing both. Every individual issue will be a done-in-one, but the stories will build upon each other to form larger arcs. I never make life easy for myself.

Renaud: What can you tell us about the first story that you have planned?

DeFalco: Reggie throws a party and things go sour for everyone… except Reg. Also, we learn the not-so-secret origin of Vader.                       

The first issue hit the stands on December 7, illustrated by Sandy Jarrell, Kelly Fitzpartrick, and Jack Morelli. In writing the story, DeFalco deploys as narrator Reggie’s dog Vader — obviously, the only living thing that could like the guy.

Alas, this revamp isn’t gonna work, kimo sabe. (But three out of four for Archie ain’t bad.) Reggie isn’t “evil” per se: he’s merely a more viciously inclined than usual case of adolescent angst. Self-centered to an extreme degree, he’s about wreaking petty revenge for every perceived slight. Not an attractive personality. Why would anyone want to follow the so-called adventures of such a repulsive character?

Only to see him get his comeuppance, which doesn’t happen in this first issue. The drawings are usually adequate but no better than that, and sometimes the “new look” of stiffness gets awkward. And the backgrounds, rendered with a straight-edge ruler, are sterile and uninhabited. Reggie’s only redeeming characteristic: he is infatuated with Midge, who is Moose Mason’s girl. Unrequited, Reggie earns a little of our sympathy. But not enough. I won’t be back.

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

ALL-FEMALE CREATIVE TEAM ON MARY WORTH

Joe Giella, veteran Silver Age comic book artist who left funnybooks to draw the syndicated Mary Worth comic strip for the past 25 years, retired the last week in July. The new artist on the strip is June Brigman, who drew the last 15 years of Brenda Starr. Brigman joins writer Karen Moy, and for the first time since 1942 (when the first artist, Dale Connor, left the strip), Mary Worth is being drawn by a woman; for the first time ever, the strip about one of the most enduring women in American culture is in the hands of a nearly all-female team. Brigman’s husband, Roy Richardson, letters, inks, colors and digitally formats the strip. “He keeps me grounded,” said Brigman, “so I don’t think [the strip’s] going to become a complete estrogen fiesta."

Brigman

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THE INHERENT CONTRADICTION IN FEMALE SUPERHEROES

Among the enthusiasts for comic book superhero movies are numbered a few heedlessly carping devotees who persist in demanding a superhero movie with a superheroine headlining the feature. Lately in the Denver Post, professor (at Colorado Mesa University) Michael Conklin discussed this oddity at some length.

He began by listing several female lead comic book movies from 1984 through 2005 (“Supergirl” through “Elektra”) that were failures at the box office — and among fans. None of them compared to the financial success of what he calls “the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

Marvel, he notes, “is a fairly progressive company” in terms of representing diversity: “Their current best-selling comic book features a hero of color, the Black Panther. Another major character in comics, Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan, is a Muslim-America.” And Thor is presently a woman. And “there are so many LGBT characters in Marvel Comics that you can find top 10 lists of people’s favorites.”

But heroines won’t become a mainstay in movies unless they are profitable, Conklin continues. And he goes on to provide this devastating analysis:

Mystique vs“Ironically, a recent controversy brought on by people purporting to protect women lends support to the diminished roles for female superheroes. A billboard promoting the new X-Men movie features Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Mystique, going up against the main villain, Apocalypse. Instead of praising the advertisement for featuring a female hero, [activists] attacked [it] for portraying violence against women because the main villain is male [sort of] and Mystique is female [sort of — they’re both mutants of some kind].

“Not surprisingly, superhero movies depict violence against the hero. If movie studios are put on notice that this is unacceptable for female characters, that perpetuates the role of men as the superheroes by creating a strong incentive to instead use women in traditional, damsel-in-distress roles.”

So putting female superheroes on screen will be “an even greater uphill battle if activists groups attack studios for promoting women in traditionally male roles” — which, ipso facto, will necessitate violence against women, violence initiated, of course, by those nasty villains..

Sigh. You can’t win.

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

CAPTAIN AMERICA NOT PARTICULARLY WELCOMED

Captain America statue in BrooklynWhen a one-ton, 13-foot-high bronze statue of Captain America made its first stop after crossing the country following its initial appearance at the San Diego Comic Con, it enjoyed a somewhat luke-warm reception at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

Installed at the Children’s Corner near the carousel to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Brooklyn-born Steve Rogers/Captain America character, it provoked criticism, reported Rachel Petty at the New York Post. “Green activists say the space was designated ‘commercial free’ by the city, and Marvel’s billion-dollar franchise is as commercial as it gets.”

Protesters apparently prefer “serenity” and the natural beauty of the green space to the star-spangled superhero. But, no worries: the statue will move to another location after its two-week stint in Prospect Park.

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

LAST GASP'S NOT-LAST GASP

Last Gasp logoAccording to Milton Gieppe at ICv2, “Last Gasp has announced that it is closing down its distribution business, which has wholesaled comics, graphic novels, art books, and other publications for 47 years. The distribution business rose out of Last Gasp’s roots as a publisher of underground comics, which were sold through a network of bookstores, head shops, record stores, and eventually comic stores. Last Gasp used that network to sell not only its own comics, but those of competing publishers, and added to its mix books and occasionally magazines that fit the same audience.”

The company will now focus exclusively on its publishing endeavors “for which it has many new titles planned for 2017.”

Meanwhile, my guess is that we should keep a sharp eye out for a bargain-hunter’s sell-off of the publisher’s remaining inventory.

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

THE ULTIMATE VALIDATION OF COMIC BOOKS

Enertainment Weekly 12-2-16Now that the movie business has established the cultural worth of comic books for everyone except the National Book Awards, Entertainment Weekly has begun to pay attention to more than just the summer extravaganza in San Diego. In the December 2nd issue (with a cover story about the next Star Wars movie), a new funnybook by “two of the most exciting comic-book creators, Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire” is fulsomely plugged. A.D., “a compelling mix of comics, art and storytelling,” is a “beautiful new series that explores a world in which death has been eliminated.” Another title in a lengthening roster of good comics—well drawn and well told in a blend of words and pictures — on mature (i.e., thoughtful) themes.

And comics even intruded in EW’s year-end “Best of 2016" issue, December 16/23. “Entertainer of the Year” is Ryan Reynolds — for his portrayal of smart-ass potty-mouth Deadpool, no less. And Benedict Cumberbatch is among the other top twelve “entertainers of the year” for his Dr. Strange as well as Sherlock Holmes.

Among the year’s best movies, “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” is listed because of the way breakout actress Gal Gadot plays Wonder Woman. And “Captain America: Civil War” is tenth in the top ten movies of 2016.

This commemorating issue even lists the Best Comic Book series of the year — Black Panther (Best New Series), Bitch Planet (Best Returning) DC Comics Rebirth series (Best Reboot), Monstress (Best Ongoing), and Goldie Vance (Best All-Ages). But there’s no “best graphic novel”category.

Entertainment Weekly Best of 2016 coverFinally, in reporting the reading recommended by various entertainment dignitaries (Emma Watson, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and Kerry Washington among others), the magazine cites Sarah Jessica Parker, who recommends Tintin in Tibet by Herge.

But I don’t want to give up on EW’s best of the year without pausing to note that the magazine recorded the “most bizarre auction item” — Truman Capote’s cremains, which, “ensconced in a wooden Japanese box, sold for $43,750.” Ewww.

Further evidence of EW’s allegiance with the comic book world, subscription renewal forms that arrived last month offered a bonus for subscribing by December 3rd — superhero t-shirts featuring (your choice) the Flash, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or Super Friends. Talk about uptown: we’re there!

Stick that in your pipe, National Book Awarders.

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

ANOTHER TRY AT FEMALE EMPOWERMENT FAILS

Wonder-Woman-UN-AmbassadorWonder Woman's less than two-month reign as a United Nations honorary ambassador ended December 16. According to Sebastien Malo at news.trust.org, plans had called for use of the character in an empowerment campaign for women and girls to fight for gender equality, especially to appeal to young people. But the plan “sparked heavy criticism that the choice sent the wrong messages.”

Dozens of U.N. employees protested on the day of the appointment. And nearly 45,000 people signed an online petition asking U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to reconsider selection of the buxom character.

"Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent 'warrior' woman with a feminist message, the reality is that the character's current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit," the petition read.

Release next year of a special-edition Wonder Woman comic book on the empowerment of women and girls, announced in October, is still planned, said DC Entertainment spokesperson Courtney Simmons.

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

JOHN LEWIS' MARCH WINS : Part Two

Part Two: Lewis Interviewed

Two days later, back in Nashville, Tennessee, which Lewis calls the first city he ever lived in, the Congressman was interviewed by Margaret Renkl on behalf of the Nashville Public Library Literary Award, which Lewis was on hand to receive the next day.

Margaret Renkl: Back in your student days, when you were being arrested repeatedly for working to integrate restaurants and movie theaters and the rest of daily life here, what would you have said if someone had told you that one day you’d be back in Nashville to accept a prestigious award for your work as an author?

John Lewis: I would have said, “You’re crazy. You’re out of your mind. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” I feel more than lucky — I feel blessed to come back here. I’m honored, I’m gratified, I’m pleased.

Asked about how he thinks the Black Lives Matter organizers feel about his generation of leaders, Lewis said: “I think the Black Lives Matters generation tends to admire and embrace what we did. I have had the opportunity to sit down and meet in Atlanta — and also in Washington — with many of the young people, and I tell them all the time, ‘Read the literature, read the papers and books and speeches from that period. You could learn something.’ And I tell them that we never became bitter. We never became hostile. We believed in the way of peace, the way of love—we believed in the philosophy and the discipline of nonviolence. I say, ‘You can learn something from the 1960s.’ And that’s what I tell them each and every time I meet with some of them.”

Does he have any advice for American children?

“Yes. I would say, ‘Children, read. Read everything. Learn as much as you can learn. Study. Be kind. Be bold. Be courageous. And just go for it.’ As I write in the book, my mother and father and grandparents and others said, ‘Don’t get in trouble. Don’t get in the way.’ I was inspired to get in trouble, and I got in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. People like Rosa Parks and Dr. King and Jim Lawson and others — and being in Nashville — helped mold and shape me, and I have not looked back since.”

Margaret Renkl: In the March trilogy, the story of your history is framed and punctuated throughout with scenes from your experiences on January 20, 2009 — the day of Barack Obama’s first inauguration — and it includes a note signed by President Obama: “Because of you, John.” What are you thinking as you watch his presidency come to an end after eight years?

John Lewis: It’s difficult to see it come to a close because I think President Barack Obama has injected something rare and meaningful into America, and it’s going to be missed. I see him from time to time; I listen to him by way of radio, TV; I read about him and each time he seems to be hopeful and optimistic. And that’s what we need more than ever before. I think he’s been good for America. He’s been good for the world community. On one occasion, when he was running for reelection, I said, ‘Mr. President, if you were running for reelection in Europe, you wouldn’t have to campaign. You’d win by a landslide.’ I’ve traveled to different parts [of Europe], and the people there love him.”

Reported by Rocco Staino at slj.com

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