Freddy the Pig coverA couple weeks ago, I made an expedition which, among other things, demonstrated why people go to bookstores, particularly second-hand bookstores. Such forays are essentially fishing trips. Fishing is different from hunting. For fishing, you have a fishing pole; for hunting, you have a rifle (or bow and arrow, I suppose).

When hunting, you know what you’re going for, and when you see your prey, you get it in the sights of your weapon and fire. But when fishing, you don’t know, quite, what will nibble the hook you drop into the water. Sometimes, you catch something good; sometimes, not so good.

Visits to second-hand bookstores are fishing trips. Sometimes, you find some treasure that you’ve always been looking for — or something you didn’t even know existed but a treasure nonetheless; sometimes, you don’t catch anything.

Well, I caught a couple things. Beginning in about the fifth grade, I was an avid reader of the Freddy the Pig books by Walter Brooks. I’d seen one of these books on a bookshelf in the classroom, and after reading it, I began looking for the rest of the series in the city library — Freddy the Detective, Freddy and Mr. Camphor, Freddy and the Bean Home News, and so on. There are 26 titles all told; I haven’t read but maybe 8 or 10 of them — all while still in the fifth grade.

Freddy and all the other animals in the books talk — among themselves, and, in Freddy’s case, with humans. Freddy often must disguise himself as a human in order to accomplish his purpose in that book, whatever it might be. So he dresses up in human clothing and walks on his hind trotters, looking like a short, chubby pink-faced person.

Some people think Brooks’ Freddy books were inspired by Orwell’s Animal Farm. Both authors have pigs on a farm, virtually running things. But Freddy first appeared in 1927; Animal Farm came out in 1945. So if anyone inspired anyone else, it was the other way around.

The Freddy books were all illustrated by Kurt Wiese, who drawings I always love. And on this bookstore trip we made, I happened upon a book I didn’t know existed: The Art of Freddy. In it, many of Wiese’s illustrations were displayed. A treasure, I’m sure you’ll agree. I did. And I bought the book as fast as I could. I’ve posted scans of a couple pages.

Freddy1 Freddy2 Freddy3

But that wasn’t the only treasure I found. I also found (and promptly bought) The Lone Ranger’s New Deputy. Published in 1951, it was illustrated by Ted Shearer, who worked most of his life in commercial art but who, towards the end, became a syndicated comic strip cartoonist with Quincy, the daily gentle adventures of a black kid in an inner city. Shearer, I should note, was also African American. The strip is one of the most beautifully drawn in the history of the medium.

The Lone Ranger illustrations don’t at all remind me of Quincy, but I’m delighted to have this specimen of Shearer’s earlier work on my self. I’ve posted scans of a couple pages from the book—plus a page of Quincy strips.

LoneRanger1 LoneRanger2 Quincy3

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Garfield and Jim Davis photoIt might seem like writing jokes about Garfield’s love of Italian food might get tedious, but the fat feline’s creator Jim Davis told Devon Maloney at wried.com that it doesn’t. “I talked to Beetle Bailey’s Mort Walker about this 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?’ said Mort, “ — it actually gets easier.’ And he’s right. It gets easier and 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.”

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Welcome to our sentimental section where I muse and marvel about antique volumes on the shelf and rare finds in old bookstores and the like. Nothing major. Skip over this if you’re busy.

For the collectors among us, here (at the bottom of this post) are some pages from an antique issue of The Cartoonist, the magazine of the National Cartoonist Society, summer 1953, when cartooners were more playful when assembled than later. The cover illustration, as you can see, is a mock They’ll Do It Everytime (TDIE) by Jimmy Hatlo. This spoof, however, is drawn by someone else — namely, Sayre Schwartz. Hatlo’s assistant, Bob Dunn, is peeking out of the file cabinet. Hatlo appears at the right corner of the upper panel and at the “wall,” drawing on it, in the lower panel. The wall is in a hangout and former speakeasy called the Palm, the walls of which cartoonists had been decorating for several years by 1953; it’s still there on Second Avenue, right across from The Palm Too on the other side of the street. “Bozzi,” is the name of one of the co-owners, last name Pio to be exact; the other’s name was John Ganzi.

There are now several Palms around the country, each decorated with cartoons, but none except the original Palm features cartoon murals drawn by famous hands. In all the other Palms, the pictures are reproduced mechanically or drawn by freelance illustrators who are not, necessarily, working cartoonists.

Next is a page of Joe Palooka by the unlikely “guest cartoonist,” Dick Cavalli; followed by Sniffy Sniff by Fred Rhoades and Wun Sent (a spoof of Penny) by Bob Montana of Archie fame. Then Eldon Dedini conducts a fashion show at the bottom of the page.

Wun Sent deserves a little more explication. The drawing of “a girl taking a hot bath in a tea cup” is a remnant of the chalk talk show that cartoonists used to put on in military hospitals to amuse wounded soldiers in WWII. A cartoonist would draw that picture only the other way up and proclaim it to be a light bulb (which is what it looks like upside-down). Then another cartooner would come along and turn the picture upside-down (or right-side up) and say it is a picture of “a WAC taking a bath in a helmet.” This is the excuse for humor that only the wounded would go for. And they did.



NCSmockCartoonist3 NCSmockCartoonist4

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Corto Maltese in Siberia
By Hugo Pratt
a new translation by Dean Mullaney and Simone Castaldi
120 9x11.5-inch pages, b/w
2017 EuroComics imprint of IDW

Corto Maltese in Siberia coverThe fifth in IDW’s current Corto Maltese reprint project, this volume is the first book-length tale, qualifying thereby as an authentic graphic novel; published in 1974, it preceded Will Eisner’s A Contract with God by four years. All the previous Corto Maltese books have been compilations of short stories, often related to each other but free-standing, too.

In this tale set in about 1919, Corto meets his old frenemy Rasputin, and the two go off in search of a train carrying vast amounts of gold that once belonged to the recently murdered Russian Tsar, Nicholas II. Along the way, Corto meets numerous fascinating scalawags.

After being hired by the Red Lanterns, Corto encounters sundry freebooters on opposing sides of a many-sided struggle for power in post-Tsarist Russia. These encounters take him to Shanghai to Manchuria and Mongolia to Siberia. Despite amusing interludes, he doggedly continues his pursuit of the gold train, but when it finally falls into his hands, it is quickly snatched away, and the train car carrying the gold falls into a river gorge. Shanghai Lil watches it go over the cliff; later, she and others of her gang return and retrieve the gold.

Corto falls into and out of the hands of various of the competing warlords, although he is never captured or imprisoned. He and they have witty repartee and then he goes on to the next episode, sometimes roughing up thugs on the way.

Pratt’s solid blacks seem crisper in these pages than in the earlier works, especially the immediately preceding volume, The Ethiopian, in which some of the drawings are copiously textured for shading. No hachuring at all in this volume: all modeling is done by black solids, perhaps the most Caniffian of Pratt’s work so far.


Pratt’s tales are imbued with an almost hypnotic attraction. Corto’s encounters with other pirates and subversives are shaded with menace. Will they start fighting? Will Corto’s conversational partner take him prisoner or otherwise threaten his well-being? And throughout it all, Corto seems relaxed, at ease, despite the unspoken threats.

Another Corto Maltese in Siberia was published by NBM in 1988. I have this volume, and the differences between it and IDW’s version are negligible. The artwork seems sharper in IDW’s (perhaps due to its being printed on slightly glossier paper), but NBM’s offers several informative pages of rambling introduction to the situation in China and Russia at the time of the tale’s action. While that helps orient us to the action, it doesn’t seem to be essential; the IDW book’s orientation is less than a page long and works as well as we need it to.

IDW’s book is a new translation from the original. That, too, seems nearly negligible, but there are nuances that IDW reveals that NBM doesn’t. NBM’s translation seems perfunctory; IDW’s catches subtleties that the other misses. Unless you’re a nut for the niceties of language, NBM will do just fine. Assuming you already have it. If you don’t, get IDW’s instead and enjoy.

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Baker Street Four  VolThe Baker Street Four, Vol. 2
Written by J.B. Djian and Olivier LeGrand
drawn by David Etien
116 7.5x10-inch pages, color
2017 Insight Editions

Above all else, this graphic novel is beautifully, exquisitely, drawn. Etien’s pictures are laden with detail, all precisely rendered. His style, for backgrounds, is realistic and copious but linear, not photographic; and the figures and faces verge, slightly — pleasingly — on cartoony. And it’s not all just pretty pictures: it’s comics. The storytelling is excellent: narrative breakdown times the action for dramatic impact as well as clarity; panel composition is dramatic; and page layouts are inventive and varied—and serve the narrative. And most of the action sequences are accomplished without verbal encumbrances.

The volume’s title quickly conjures up for all Sherlockians the master detective himself. Sherlock Holmes lived at 221B Baker Street in London, and he sometimes recruited a few of the street urchins in the neighborhood to gather information that helped him solve cases. The street urchins were dubbed the Baker Street Irregulars. In this book, there are four of them: Billy Fletcher, “Black” Tom of Kliburn (he has black hair), Charlotte “Charlie,” and Watson, a cat. And all the usual suspects from Conan Doyle’s books: Holmes has a small part, Dr. Watson a slightly larger one, and walk-ons by Holmes’ housekeeper Mrs. Hudson and Watson’s wife, plus Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard. But it’s the Baker Street Irregulars’ story.

Two stories, actually. The first is a tumbling tangle of converging plots. A man named Corbett is the owner of the Merry Minstrel music hall; he owes money to Harry Sykes, a racketeer, who sends his agent, Bloody Percy, to collect. Whilst threatening Corbett, Percy makes advances towards Corbett’s comely daughter Grace, a singer in her father’s music hall. Grace has attracted the attention of Lord Neville Asprey, age 19, who has just come into his inheritance and spends his evenings worshiping at the shrine of Grace in the music hall. Holmes is asked to investigate Asprey’s “nocturnal escapades,” and he sends the Baker Street Four (BSF) on this errand. And after that, events fall into a tangle.

At the beginning of the second adventure, we learn that Holmes is dead: Moriarty came after him in Switzerland, and the two struggled and fell into Reichenbach Falls. Both, we fear, dead. (Both, however, survive; but that’s a tale for another day.) Without Holmes to employ them, the BSF break up. Black Tom of Kliburn (whose last name, we learn, is O’Rourke) goes back to Kliburn to rejoin a family of thieves; he meets and falls in love with Kitty. Charlie gets caught pinching a pizza and is sent to a workhouse. Bill Fletcher wanders the streets and eventually encounters Dr. Watson, who takes him under his wing, intending to find Tom and Charlie, too. Meanwhile, Bloody Percy breaks out of jail, vowing to settle the hash of the BSF and Watson and his wife.

The rest of the adventure gets Charlie out of the workhouse, Black Tom out of the burglary ring, and reunites the BSF, including the cat, Watson.

There are at least two other volumes in the Baker Street Four series—Vol.1 and Vol.3, which is just a-borning. Another book, A Study in Feminine Persuasion, is also available at insightcomics.com; it appears, however, to be some sort of revamping of Vol.1. Can’t say for sure, but I’ve sent for Vol.1 in order to enjoy some more the storytelling talent of David Etien. We conclude with samples of his work from the stories we’ve just rehearsed.



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Martin Landau at drawing board

The late Martin Landau (1928-2017) was born in Brooklyn and began in the world of work when he joined the New York Daily News as a cartoonist while still in high school, said the Washington Post in the actor’s obit.

“A precociously gifted artist,” he turned down a promotion at the paper at age 22 to try his hand at acting, applying for classes at the prestigious Actors Studio in Manhattan.

Of 2,000 applicants in 1955, only he and Steve McQueen were accepted. It was there that he befriended James Dean and briefly dated Marilyn Monroe.

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Dynamite Entertainment has announced the series artist for its upcoming Barbarella comic series, reports ICv2. Launching in December, Barbarella will be written by Mike Carey and drawn by Kenan Yarar (Hilal). Issue No.1 will feature eight different covers, including ones by Kenneth Rochafort, Joe Jusko, Joseph Michael Linsner, Robert Hack, and Annie Wu.

Barbarella - Eight Covers

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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. A completed episode displays decisive action or attitude, telling us that the book’s creators can manage their medium.


Jim Mahfood is back, writing and drawing Grrl Scouts No.1, “Magic Socks,” in which he competes with Kaare Kyle Andrews (Renato Jones: Freelancer) for visual daring and panache with the kinky-est cartoony graphic styling in comics. His lines are brittle, his forms angular, and page layout squirms uncomfortably throughout.

In the opening sequence, Jose is discharged from psychiatric ward into the hands of her mother but they encounter “delinquents” hovering by their car. They’re Jose’s friends, and at her bidding, they kill the mother, and they all go off in the car, hunting her cousin Daphne Sanchez, one of the trio of Grrl Scouts. Daphne and her pals Gwen and Rita, the Grrl Scouts, are “bad-ass bitches who live in Freak City and who deal weed disguised in cookie boxes” (hence, we assume, their guise as Grrl Scouts).

While Jose goes hunting, her prey, Daphne, is working in the Weird Hog nightclub, where she apparently dances and, undiscovered until just now, deals weed to the customers.

Just as management attempts to discipline her, Gwen arrives, and the two knock the thugs around a bit. A fight ensues for 5 pages of topsy-turvey panels and border-leaping pictorials, laced with colorful sound effects, ending the completed episode in the book—showing both the fistic and footstic dexterity of Daphne and Gwen as well as Mahfood’s eccentric treatment of anatomy and the medium in which he is working.

Just as Daphne and Gwen exit the premises, Jose and her thugs show up, asking after Daphne, and exterminating the club’s guards and owner. Meanwhie, Daphne and Gwen arrive at Rita’s place, and the three discuss the impending doom that Josie and her millions of Twitter followers threaten.

Daphne wants to know why Gwen came to the Weird Hog, looking for her, and Gwen explains that it’s about the magic socks Gwen’s wearing. End of issue.

What’s magic about the socks? And so what? Cliffhanger enough for the nonce.

By the time you read this, the series has ended with No.6. But you can find back issues at your local comic book shop.

The pleasure in reading — experiencing — this title is in Mahfood’s wild and distinctive style, both in rending his subject and in manipulating the comics form to his purposes, which are not, it seems, entirely narrative. The pictures — just to characterize them not to decipher them — may have been committed while on a high derived from something other than pen and ink. It’s a cartoony pictorial circus, a visual delight, just barely held together by the spastic forward movement of the narrative. You’ll come back until you’ve consumed all six issues.



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Renato Jones 2-1 coverThe second round of Renato Jones: Freelancer, created, written, drawn and OWNED (right: in caps) by Kaare Kyle Andrews, is the story of love derailed, and it’s told in Andrews’ frenetic, episodic manner. Don’t look for narrative coherence here: watch recurring characters in rapidly changing locales, pacing the tale in starts and feints.

The opening sequence reprises the final scenes of the first series, ending with Renato Jones as Freelancer swearing to destroy Douglas Bladley by taking all his money. Then, in a flashback, we see Renato as a child meeting Bliss, also as a child; and she swears she’s his “for life.” When we next see her, she’s been dating Bladley, and she complains about his being missing; ditto his money.

Bliss is the daughter of Nicola Chambers, a political rich con man, conning the disenfranchised. “Let’s make America hate again,” he says, echoing you-know-who.

Next, we’re in an airplane, piloted (it seems) by Freelancer. All color drains from the pages as the plane invades protected air space and is shot down. Freelancer, however, survives and lands intact. He goes after a armored character with “WA” on his chest. Perhaps Chambers’ retinue?

The airplane crash, it develops — by inference, none of the narrative is straightforward chronology — is seen as a terrorist attack, and Chambers is spirited away by his bodyguards, despite his demanding that they find his daughter and take her with them.

She, however, is somehow in the clutches of WA. Freelancer rescues her, and they run off together, still depicted in stark enigmatic black-and-white, forms and features only partially depicted, the shadowy parts, the rest, vanishing into a sea of white space.

When WA catches up, Renator — minus his Freelancer mask — dispatches him with Freelancer’s slogan, “Choke on this”—usually accompanied by his flashing a monstrous heavy-duty hand-held weapon.

Renato takes Bliss “home.” There, she pleads — no more masks, no more lying. She strips herself naked and approaches Rentao.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” she says, stroking his face — and color comes in again to the pages.

Two solid black pages intervene before she can kiss him. Renato muses, “It’s always been you.”

And then — perhaps they make love. Probably not (as you’ll see). Renato’s musing continues, white lettering on a black ground: “We don’t just fall into one another — we explode. Nothing matters. Nothing but you.”

Then a flashback to his youth as a student, studying his fate. Tutored by an old bearded man, Renato sees Bliss’ name on a list of miscreant rich guys.

And then we’re back. They haven’t been making love. Renato stops Bliss before they kiss. “I can’t,” he says and leaves, back to his masked life as Freelancer.

And Nicola Chambers, having survived the deadly terror attack, is sworn in as President of the United States, Bliss at his side.

What will become of Chambers, who is surely one of those the Freelancer has been bred to dispose of. And Bliss? And the supposed love between her and Renato?

That’ll being us back.

But the delight in reading this book — as in the first series of Andrews’ creation—is in encountering and sorting your way through the visual episodic manner of his storytelling. There are no completed episodes in Andrews: every episode is interrupted by another episode. Crammed with close-ups and soaked in black, the pictures barely tell the story. Only in retrospect, looking back over the trail of pictorial episodes, can we discern a storyline.

The story is now up to the fourth issue of this title, with only one more issue to go to finish “the second round.” Even if you can find only one issue of the series, it’ll be worth your time to experience Andrews’ wild manner.

Narrative breakdown and panel composition carry the story even as they interrupt it. And Andrews deploys color and pagination for added effect. If you want to know what comics can be, here’s a place to get a few clues.




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The Strange World of Your Dreams
Edited and designed by Craig Yoe
140 9x11-inch pages, color
2013 Yoe Books/IDW hardcover

Reprinting all four issues of The Strange World of Your Dreams from August 1952 through January 1953, this volume begins with an essay by Yoe, who takes us on a short tour of all the comics he can think of that have to do with dreams — beginning, of course, with Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland (1905-1914, revived 1924-1927) and his less well-known, Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend, which pictures the nightmares various personages have experienced after eating the infamous cheese pie (which, despite the misleading name, is not about rabbit meat).

As usual, Yoe decorates his essay with rare pictures — in this case, the original art of two unpublished Strange World covers, caricatures of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby by an unknown cartoonist, and the cover of the comic book Justice Traps the Guilty No.56 (November 1953) depicting a police line-up in which all the miscreants are members of the Simon-Kirby shop.




Strange World was produced by the Simon-Kirby shop, and while Kirby did the covers for all four issues, only a few of the stories are illustrated by the team. Mort Meskin did several of the stories, penciling mostly; other artists were Bill Draut, George Roussos, Al Eadeh, and Bob McCarty.

“Comics are more like dreams than any other medium,” Yoe says. And he concludes his introduction with his analysis of the covers, noting about the last unpublished cover showing a woman falling through the air that “a popular myth [about such dream motifs] is that you will die if you do not wake up before hitting the ground.” Intended for No.7 of the title, it was doubtless the last cover created before the book was dead.

Too bad. As Meskin biographer Steve Brower says, quoted by Yoe, the title “stands as one of the more ambitious and adult projects of the early years of comic books.”

Most of the dreams enacted in the book’s pages are analyzed by a “dream detective” named Richard Temple. A similar character shows up in another Simon-Kirby production, Black Magic, and a story from the second issue of that title, December 1950-January 1951, ends this collection without any explanation. But it’s classic Simon-Kirby drawing, trap-shadow and clots of black for shading, and I like it so much that I’m posting a couple pages from it right here.

INSERT StrangeWorld3 HERE

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The Annotated Cartoons By Homer C. Davenport
Researched and compiled by Gus Frederick
200 8x10.5-inch pages, b/w
2013 Liberal University Press paperback

Davenport coverHomer C. Davenport is one of the great names in American editorial cartooning, but almost nothing has been written about him — nothing, at least, approaching the scholarship that Frederick displays in this volume. Born in 1867, Davenport grew up drawing all the time near Silverton, Oregon, and eventually, after numerous false starts, he wound up cartooning in San Francisco for the Chronicle, until William Randolph Hearst finally hired Davenport for his Examiner by tripling his Chronicle salary.

Davenport was part of Hearst’s team that took over the New York Journal in 1895 and helped launch the “yellow journalism” in competition with Pulitzer’s New York World. Davenport became famous during the presidential contest of 1896, depicting candidate William McKinley’s manager, wealthy industrialist Marcus Hanna, wearing “plutocratic plaid” with a tiny dollar sign in each square, accurately pinpointing the real issues and interests of the campaign. The cartoonist’s work was fierce enough on politicians that it inspired a failed anti-cartoon bill in the New York State Assembly. In 1904, one of his cartoons of Uncle Sam with his hand on the shoulder of Teddy Roosevelt is said by many to have enabled TR’s election. Davenport also bred American-born Arabian horses and wrote a book about it.

On April 13, 1912, Davenport was sent to illustrate the sinking of the Titanic. He contracted pneumonia waiting to interview the survivors and died on May 2.

Two volumes of his cartoons were published during his lifetime — Cartoons by Davenport in 1897 and The Dollar or the Man in 1900. He wrote an autobiography, focusing on his youth in beloved Silverton, The Country Boy (1910). The only biography I know of is Home Davenport of Silverton: Life of a Great Cartoonist by Leland Huot and Alfred Powers (West Shore Press, 1973), which is a fairly relaxed and casual anecdotal account of his life, mostly chronological but not entirely. Almost half of its 400-plus pages are pictures — photos of Silverton and elsewhere and Davenport’s cartoons. The quality of reproduction is, however, poor. In Frederick’s book, the pictures are superbly reproduced, the finest lines meticulously captured.

In reprinting the 1897 volume of cartoons with extensive annotation, Frederick has performed a monumental service for all students of editorial cartooning in America. The original book printed only cartoons with no explanation. Herein, each cartoon, all from 1895-1898, gets a full page, and facing it is a page of text, explaining who the victims of Davenport’s pen are and what their significance is at the time. Frederick told me he is at work annotating the 1900 collection.

Only a few of the cartoons consist of metaphorical messages in the modern manner; most are caricatures that exaggerate and distort their victim’s features, making them all seem highly questionable persons. I’m posting only a few hereabouts, including Davenport’s 1996 portrait of his boss, H.R. himself — a friendly, even complimentary, picture that may well be the most familiar of Davenport’s works: it shows up often in histories of journalism.





Among this selection is a cartoon featuring Uncle Sam. The top-hatted, striped-trousered, goateed old gent had not been long on the scene as the nation’s emblem, and Davenport deployed the figure frequently, if we are to judge from the content of this book.

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Jerry and the Joker: Adventures and Comic Art by Jerry Robinson
By Jerry Robinson, edited by Daniel Chabon and Hannah Means-Shannon and Robinson’s son Jens Robinson, who also supplies “notes” (it sez here), a summary of his father’s achievements
151 9x12-inch pages, b/w and color
2017 Dark Horse hardcover

Jerry and the Joker coverChiefly a scrapbook of Robinson's art over a long career that included cartooning in many of the medium’s genres, this volume offers samples of his early work on Batman (several pages from original art, displaying a much more flexible line than is usually associated with Batman drawn by other artists), Atoman, and miscellaneous comic book work for westerns, crime, etc., sketches of scenes from his travels, theatrical drawings for Broadway’s Playbill magazine, magazine illustrations, and a couple samples of his political/social commentary feature, Still Life, which ran for over 30 years. But, alas, almost nothing from the period when he collaborated with Mort Meskin on Black Terror, Fighting Yank, Johnny Quick and Vigilante. But the Batman material and Robinson’s Still Life are worth the price of admission alone.

Pages of pictures are punctuated with essays by Robinson, who regales us with his adventures in Cuba and Rome (where he met Clifford Irving, the infamous author of the fraudulent biography of Howard Hughes, and also the son of Jay Irving, who drew the comic strip Pottsy about a comical cop). Two of his other essays cover his introduction to comic book illustration working for Bob Kane, and the invention of the Joker.

The latter has been disputed by various people, but writer Bill Finger, who is sometimes credited as the co-creator of the Joker, is quoted herein saying Robinson created the funnybook medium’s most despicable villain. I explored this topic several years ago and satisfied myself that Robinson’s claim was legitimate. Robinson’s six-page essay in this volume explores not just his invention of the character but villainy generally in comic books (and elsewhere).

The book concludes with a brief two-page biography of Robinson. In it, we learn that he was once president of the National Cartoonists Society and, on another occasion, prez of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists — the only cartoonist to have served in that role in the two principal national organizations for cartooners. He also founded and ran for many years Cartoonists & Writers Syndicate (CWS), affiliated with the New York Times, which syndicated the work of 350 leading cartoonists and graphic artists from 50 countries. And he was one of the prime movers in getting Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster recognition and recompense for their creation of Superman. Robinson was, in short, a giant in his chosen field.

Some of the book’s artwork appeared in Chris Crouch’s excellent 2010 biography, Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics (224 8x11-inch pages, b/w and color; Abrams Comicarts, $35), which, produced while Robinson was still alive (and using original art from Robinson’s inventory — and he hoarded great quantities of his art), is about as authoritative as is possible to be.

From Crouch’s tome, here are some of Robinson’s Still Life and a few of his True Classroom Flubs & Fluffs, a feature that illustrated mistakes in the utterances of school kids. And I’ve also included the sexily charged bodacious splash page he and Meskin did for a Black Terror story and a page from another Black Terror story.




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Foolish Questions & Other Odd Observations:
Early Comics, 1909-1919
By Rube Goldberg; edited by Peter Maresca and Paul C. Tumey
96 9.5x10-inch pages, mostly b/w but some color
2017 Sunday Press, $35

Foolish Questions coverGoldberg got his name in the dictionary by doing a long series of single-panel cartoons depicting hilarious inventions that deployed complicated mechanisms to accomplish very simple operations, his satire on the dawning modern times. But before he did inventions, he did Foolish Questions. And those made him famous.

Foolish Questions was the title of a single panel cartoon that Goldberg tacked onto an otherwise unrelated comic strip. In common with many newspaper cartoonists in the early years of the 20th Century, Goldberg drew innumerable comic strips and cartoons, most of which were short-lived features that lasted a week or less. But Foolish Questions was a maneuver that could be perpetuated indefinitely by adding it to whatever his comic strip that week was. The best way to tell you about Foolish Questions is to show you Foolish Questions, which we’ve done at the end of the paragraph after the next one.

The volume at hand includes essays by Jennifer George (on “When did you find out you were Rube Goldberg’s granddaughter?”), Tumey (on Goldberg’s career), and Carl Linich (on other Goldberg strips-within-strips features). Some of the other short-lived cartoons include Mike and Ike: The Look-Alike Boys, Telephonies, I’m the Guy (“who put the cast in overcast”), I’m Cured, Old Man Alf of the Alphabet, Boob News, I Never Thought of That, The Boob Family, and Silly Sonnets. To name a few. As always with a Sunday Press book, there’s an extra publication included with the book itself: in this case, four postcards with FQs on them. But who would ever part with them to mail them off to anyone? (A foolish question.)

The first Foolish Question panel appeared October 23, 1908. It was popular enough that the panels were collected in a book published in 1909. Goldberg started numbering the FQs, but the numbers soon became wholly frivolous and altogether nonsequential. Dunno whether the book at hand reprints all of the FQs or only a judicious selection, but there are about 300 of them here, enough to convince you that Goldberg deserved the fame they brought him. Here are some of them.




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