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COMINGS AND GOINGS: Part One

Summers editoonAlan Gardner at DailyCartoonist.com reports that Dana Summers, editorial cartoonist for the Orlando Sentinel, announced on Facebook that he had just been laid off from the paper due to cutbacks. Jim Romenesko at his blog reports that several Sentinel employees, including Dana, took a buyout. Dana mentions that he’ll continue to syndicate editorial cartoons through his syndicate and focus on his two comic strips Bound and Gagged and the Middletons.

Jeff Parker, editoonist for Florida Today, posted the following comment from Summers: "Well, earlier today, my 30 years at the Sentinel ended due to cutbacks. It was a good run — longer than many more-talented cartoonists I know. When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to do was draw cartoons and get paid for it. The Sentinel afforded me the opportunity to do just that. So, after thousands of drawings, I won't be signing the Orlando Sentinel after my name. I'm still drawing for TMS — editorial cartoons and the two strips. Except I'll be doing it in cutoffs and a T-shirt. No shoes. Thanks to all who read my cartoons in the paper."

 

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

THE ART OF S. CLAY WILSON

The Art of SIn case you’ve forgotten the products of Wilson’s twisted but highly comedic imagination — the Checkered Demon, the loathesome pirates, the rapacious wimmin — a healthy dose can be found in The Art of S. Clay Wilson (172 9x12-inch pages, color and b/w; Ten Speed Press hardcover, $35). There is no text in the body of the book itself, but it is generously prefaced by persons who know (and even understand) the noxious humors of the underground’s most outrageous cartooner: R. Crumb, Mark Pascale (Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago, whose essay was written “as a defense for an acquisition” of Wilson art), John Francis Putnam (writing in The Realist), Charlie Plymell (Wilson’s first publisher), and Bob Levin (whose astuteness is legendary around Rancid Raves).

Crumb writes of his first meeting with Wilson, which took place just as his Zap Comix no.1 was being printed by Plymell. Wilson, erupting with “inspired patter,” showed him a portfolio of his drawings. Says Crumb: “It looked like folk art, like old-time tattoos, like some demented highschool hotrodder’s notebook drawings. The drawings were rough, crazy, lurid, coarse, deeply American, a taint of white-trash degeneracy. Every inch of space was packed solid with action and crazy details. The content was something like I’d never seen before, anywhere, the level of mayhem, violence, dismemberment, naked women, loose body parts, huge, obscene sex organs, a nightmare vision of hell-on-earth never so graphically illustrated before in the history of art! Wilson was the strongest, most original artist of my generation that I had yet met. ... He’d been through art school and was barely touched by it.”

Charlie Plymell supposes about Wilson’s work that “a better label than Grotesque is the Carnival.”

Bob Levin talks about Wilson’s art “of ball-bat outrage and white shark excess, chain saw intelligence and rattlesnake wit. ... He has (imaginatively) scaled the peaks and plumbed the depths and balanced on the edge, and he has emerged bearing guffaws. ... I don’t know about you, but I am even going to have trouble taking penises and vaginas so seriously again.”

Speaking for myself (nothing remarkable about that, I realize), I am eternally grateful to Wilson for his inspiring flights of linguistic excess. And his pictures? Well, we all love to be grossed out from time to time. I would not part with this 2006 retrospective of his work from 1961 to 2006 for any amount of money.

Wilson0001

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

S. CLAY WILSON UPDATE

SSmashed up and in a coma when found unconscious the night of November 1, 2008, famed iconoclastic buccaneer undergrounder S. Clay Wilson has disappeared from public view. He’s recuperating. Wilson’s live-in lover Lorraine Chamberlain writes: “I have been flirting with S. Clay Wilson for forty years, lived with him for ten, visited him in the hospital every day for a year, and brought him home to take care of ...” She continues at sclaywilsontrust.com (in italics):

S. Clay Wilson was [not coming home from a bar; he was] trying to get home from a friend’s house November 1, 2008, the night his life changed forever. We will never be certain if he fell or was attacked, since he has no memory of it. The numerous injuries on his face and head made him look like he was beat up. Two good samaritans found him unconscious between parked cars, face down in the rain, and called an ambulance. (I have tried to find them in order to express my gratitude for saving his life, but have had no success.) He’d suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury, bleeding in three hemispheres of his brain. He spent three weeks in a coma, and we had no idea how severely impaired he was for many months. Once he began to speak again we realized he hadn’t just “awakened” to resume life as it had been before.

Taking care of him 24 hours a day is a daunting task, but one I am devoted to. He cannot go out on his own or he would get lost immediately, nor can he be left alone in the house. He cannot problem-solve, nor do anything for himself. Yet somehow he is aware of this loss of freedom, and some days I can tell it saddens him.

The days he spent drawing were his happiest, but after the first year at home, he stopped doing it. He did about 15 drawings the first summer he was home, but by the next Christmas he would no longer go in his studio. Yet he thinks about drawing all the time, and frequently brings piles of his art supplies onto the bed. I continue to hope this means one day he will resume drawing. ...

He is very quiet now after being a motor mouth all his life. But he is not a blank slate. ...  He is more sensitive now, and needs reassurance every day. He’s always asking if I still love him, and reaches for my hand when we’re walking or watching a movie.

I have put together a Special Needs Trust for him since he is no longer capable of earning a living. He will need 24-hour care from now on since the little details of daily life are a mystery to him now, and he is easily confused. This gifted artist worked as hard as he partied and was a playful, brilliant person. Although he is still capable of worrying about the future, he does not fully understand what has happened to alter it. He is now in need of help. This is a tragic turn of events for a proud man.

The Trust is set up so it can only be spent on him. We pool our meager resources for basic expenses. I hope people will find a way to donate what they can to give him a better quality of life and assist in his ongoing care. Donations can be made here [i.e., sclaywilsontrustfund.com] by clicking on the yellow PayPal button. Or mail to PO Box 14854 San Francisco CA 94114

Look for his Facebook page at S. Clay Wilson. Thank you! -- Lorraine Chamberlain

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

BAZOOKA JOE

Bazooka Joe comicTopps recently announced the discontinuation of its long-running Bazooka Joe comic strip, since 1954 a popular enclosure in its bubblegum packaging. The strip has a storied history (ironically the subject of an upcoming celebratory book from Abrams ComicArt, Bazooka Joe and His Gang: A 60th Anniversary Collection). For many years the gags were written by Underground comics legend Jay Lynch and drawn by former Tijuana Bible cartoonist Wesley Morse. According to The New York Times, the gum company executives have decided to rebrand, reducing the iconic character to the role of occasional spokesperson/mascot, stating, "What we're trying to do with the relaunch is to make the brand relevant again to today's kids."

And here I thought all along that bubblegum alone would do that.

 

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

BADLANDS

Steve McGarry, a Brit now living in this country and a former prez of the National Cartoonists Society and creator of Biographic and TrivQuiz on GoComics, is bringing to these shores his “western” comic strip, Badlands, which started in 1988 and ran for 12 years in Britain. The strip features the puerile antics of Marshall Mask and his “motley mob of maladjusted misfits”; the strip will appear, I gather, hereabouts on the GoComics website.

Badlands daily 2


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

THE RETURN OF BARNEY GOOGLE

Barney Google and Snuffy Smith panelBarney Google, once the nameplate character in the strip now known as Snuffy Smith, will be making one of his periodic returns to the strip soon. John Rose, the current master of the revels, brought Barney back briefly last February; at the time, it had been about 15 years since the guy with the goo-goo-googley eyes had been in the strip. Rose frequently makes appearances before civic and corporate groups, and in one of them recently, someone  asked where Barney and Spark Plug (Barney’s race horse) were. Said Rose: “I thought it would be fun to bring the characters back. I approached Brendan Burford, King Features’ comics editor, with the idea and he was all for it. So away we went!”

The entire robust history of Barney Google from Spark Plug to Snuffy is retailed in Harv’s Hindsight for December 2009 (at the Usual Place, RCHarvey.com). 

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

ZUMA VS. ZAPIRO UPDATE

In order to “avoid setting a legal precedent,” South Africa prez Jacob Zuma recently withdrew his claim for damages against cartoonist Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro. Zuma had sought R5m in damages for defamation and impairment of his personal dignity over the publication of Zapiro's Lady Justice rape cartoon in 2008. The cartoon depicted Zuma loosening his trousers while Lady Justice was held down by Julius Malema, president of the African National Congress Youth League at the time, Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, all saying: "Go for it, boss." (We posted this cartoon in Opus 263; scroll down to “Zapiro: Thorn in the Side.”)

Zapiro and Zuma have often clashed over the numerous satirical depictions of him, said Bekezela Phakathi on bdlive.co.za, adding what Zapiro said in addressing the Cape Town Press Club after Zuma dropped his suit: Zapiro said Zuma always tried to play the victim and "he is a master at it. ... He has a number of defamation suits against a lot of people and he has not dropped them. He has not, by the way, dropped another defamation suit against me which stands at — I am told by my lawyers — at R10m ... the figures are stupid ... they could never get these kinds of amounts, and it is all about intimidation. But I think South African media people are feisty and thank goodness for that," he said.

In October, Zuma's spokesman, Mac Maharaj, said the decision to withdraw the defamation suit against Zapiro was informed by three major considerations, Phakathi quoted: "Whereas the president believes that in an open and democratic society, a fine and sensitive balance needs to be maintained between the exercise of civil rights such as freedom of speech, and the dignity and privacy of others, that balance should be struck in favor of constitutional freedoms.”

He added that Zapiro's views on Zuma "did not necessitate a comment from the Presidency.”

The feud is likely to be prolonged: Zuma was recently re-elected prez of the African National Congress, which guarantees he’ll be re-elected to the country’s presidency. And Zapiro will be waiting for him—eagerly.

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

ECUADOR, HO!

Stan Lynde, the 81-year-old creator of the Western comic strips Rick O’Shay and Latigo, is leaving Montana, where he grew up and spent most of his life, for Ecuador. He and his wife, Lynda, have divided and donated all of the memorabilia associated with their past life between their children and the Montana Historical Society and plan to pack what’s left into four suitcases, two backpacks, and a camera bag and move to Ecuador.

Starting in 1958 as a spoof of “Hollywood westerns,” Rick O’Shay eventually achieved a circulation of about 100 papers and became increasingly a realistic portrayal of life in the Old West. After a 1977 contract dispute ended Lynde’s involvement in his first-born, Lynde launched a new realistic strip, Latigo  in 1979 with Field Syndicate; it ran until 1983. He also wrote a Western comic strip Rovar Bob and other comics for Swedish publications. In the years since Latigo ceased, Lynde’s deep engagement in America’s Old West inspired him to produce eight novels staring Merlin Fanshaw about the period. They, like his comic strips, smack of the West in both incident and lingo.

The Lyndes plan to return to Montana every fall for a few months. We have a long piece about Lynde and his comic strip creations in the December Harv’s Hindsight (yup: at the Usual Place, RCHarvey.com).

LyndeHarv0001

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

WORDS TO TOON BY

"The cartoonist makes love to his reader a meager minute or two each day; for the remainder of the twenty-four hours that elfin darling who paid for the copy of the newspaper is gamboling about among the other strips in the same or similar sections. Because of the brevity of assignation, the comic artist tries to fashion a thin, taut wire of continuity upon which he hangs baubles of incident, hoping to hold the customer’s affection even while his worship cavorts below the fold with the blowzy product of a rival syndicate."

  — Milton Caniff

CaniffPortrait

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

STEVE DITKO

Steve Ditko photoSteve Ditko has long enjoyed the reputation as comics' J.D. Salinger, said Chris Arrant at robot6.comicbookresources.com, “ — rarely releasing new work and eschewing the modern notion that creators engage with fans and press. Stan Lee, he's not,” Arrant concludes with what I imagine must be a satirical sneer: Ditko, who had more to do with creating the Spider-Man character than Lee, quit Marvel ostensibly because he could no longer get along with Lee, who, Ditko realized, was claiming all the creative credit for the Marvel Universe. Since then, Ditko has maintained a stoic silence on his life and his career at Marvel.

But recently, Arrant reports, “Ditko has written several essays about Spider-Man in various independent publications. ... Earlier this year, Ditko published an essay called ‘The Knowers & The Barkers’ in his comic book #17: Seventeen, and a second just popped up in the comic fanzine The Comics Vol. 23 No.7, published by Robin Snyder, Ditko's former editor at Charlton and Archie. This second essay, ‘The Silent Sel-Deceivers,’ reportedly runs a page and a half and features Ditko addressing the creation of Spider-Man.

“In this essay,” Arrant continues, “Ditko discusses the original take on Spider-Man by Jack Kirby before Ditko was asked to come up with his own interpretation of Lee's idea for a spider-based hero. These pages, which Ditko says number five in total, have never been published or seen on the original art market. Lee, in a 2000 interview for Greg Theakston's The Steve Ditko Reader, said he rejected Kirby's work as ‘too heroic.’ On several occasions, Kirby later claimed he contributed many ideas that ended up in the character's formal debut in 1962's Amazing Fantasy no.15. Ditko talks about that in this essay, as well as Lee's own contributions to the Spider-Man concept.”

Ditko’s fugitive essays, which promise much, are often disappointing. I’ve read a smattering of these over the years in Snyder’s newsletter, and Ditko employs a high-fallutin’ vocabulary of abstract expressions and arcane buzz words that he often fails to fasten securely to the actualities he seems to be discussing — like what, exactly, was his contribution to the invention of Spider-Man. He garbles on about “art” and “creativity,” championing both and sometimes asserting, through a generous deployment of these terms, that he was the creative artist on Spider-Man. I don’t question that, but I always hope he’ll say as much in unequivocal, ordinary language, minus Ayn Randian locutions.

Details on ordering the books containing these essays, and seeing Ditko's modern cartooning work, can be found at the Ditko Comics Blog.

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

CANADA'S MASTER CARTOONIST

The Collected Doug Wright: Canada’s Master Cartoonist
Edited by Seth and Brad MacKay
240 11x14-inch pages
color as well as b/w
Drawn & Quarterly 2009
hardcover
$39.95

The gigantic dimension of this book is determined by the format of the weekly comic strip that first brought fame to Wright. Entitled Nipper, it was published always in vertical format. Its protagonist was a bald-headed but otherwise normal kid of about five, who managed, by simply being a normal kid — albeit in pantomime — to create havoc wherever he went, usually accompanied by his parents. Well over half the book — 163 of its 240 pages — reprints Nipper at the generous rate of two strips per page, each strip dated, with occasional marginal notes by the editors. That brings us to December 1962, and there is probably more Nipper: a second volume is promised, covering 1963 to 1981, wherein, I assume, Nipper will morph into Doug Wright’s Family, ruled over by Nipper and his equally bald younger brother.

Wright0001MacKay supplies a biographical essay, which is amply illustrated with sketches and incidental artwork (for the Standard’s weekly magazine, Wright did impressively detailed covers, drawing in a style that reminds me of Carl Rose) and family photographs. Oddly, Nipper was named by the Standard editors, choosing a submission in a reader contest, but Wright, like another cartoonist, Charles Schulz (who hated the name “Peanuts”), didn’t like the name he was subsequently to live the rest of his life with.

The book is designed by Canadian cartoonist Seth (Gregory Gallant), who imbues it with his distinctive clean and spacious aura, sometimes devoting a whole massive page (even a two-page spread occasionally) to displaying a single bald-headed Nipper frolicking across the expanse.

It is Seth whose fascination with Wright’s work has resulted in this rescue of the cartoonist from complete and utter obscurity. Pondering the works of Wright, Seth realized that Wright and his contemporaries “deserve credit for their role in the shaping of our modern Canadian identity. ... These artists, who worked mostly in the middle of the 20th century, had an instrumental role in taking the moldy old 19th century images of Canada and making them modern. They recast all those Mounties and trappers and habitants into contemporary (for that era) streamlined icons. It’s the kind of thing, done in plain sight, that no one thinks to notice. The Canadian pop culture images that we know so well today were largely reshaped in those times. ... You can almost chart Canada’s transformation from the rural to the urban in a flow chart from Jimmie Frise to Doug Wright.”

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

ACTION! MYSTERY! THRILLS!

Action! Mystery! Thrills! Comic Book Covers of the Golden Age, 1933-1945
Edited by Greg Sadowski
Foreword by Ty Templeton
208 8x10.5-inch pages
color
2011 Fantgraphics
paperback
$29.99

This selection of 176 funnybook covers from the medium’s most flamboyant period tells us visually more convincingly than anything else we’re likely to read what that Golden Age was like. Action, thrills, funny animals and scantily clad bathing beauties galore are on display. Even Templeton, who begins by arguing that the “golden age” is idiosyncratic — peculiar to everyone’s twelfth year — finally, after considering the work of such artists as Alex Schomburg, Jack Cole, Reed Crandall, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Charles Biro, Will Eisner, Lou Fine, Walt Kelly, Mac Raboy, Sheldon Mayer, Joe Shuster, Bill Everett, L.B. Cole, Ed Ashe and others, agrees that the age was golden after all.

ActionThrills0001Apart from the sheer pyrotechnical riot of color and composition and anatomy, the book’s footnotes by Sadowski are virtually a thumbnail history of the Golden Age. For each book cover, he supplies issue number, date, and name of artist — plus a short paragraph about the artist or the publisher. For instance: the cover on the left is by Sheldon Mayer, drawn for the first title of a publishing enterprise formed by William Cook and John Mahon after they left Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied in 1936; the title was The Comics Magazine, but the subtitle, Funny Pages, soon elbowed the less exciting denomination off the cover. At the right, is a cover the work of Jimmy Thompson, “the first notable African-American artist/writer in comic books,” says Sadowski. “His Indian tales were well researched, sensitively written, ad displayed a high level of draftsmanship.” He was best known for his 1940s Robotman for DC.

On the left, below, is a Jack Kirby cover — vibrant action, radiant sex appeal. And finally, on the right, the punchline for this review — Gus Ricca’s portrait of cover artists such as he, at the end of his rope for a cover idea.

ActionThrills0002

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

BLOOM COUNTY

Bloom County, The Complete Library: Volume One, 1980-1982
By Berkeley Breathed
288 8.5x11-inch landscape pages
b/w and Sunday color
2011 IDW
hardback
$39.99

Bloom County, Complete Library 1 coverI've resisted getting started buying this Library. How many “complete” runs of how many comic strips does one need in one lifetime? Well, after perusing a copy of this at the local library, I’ve decided I need to buy at least one more — this volume anyhow. I’d forgotten how funny Bloom County is, and it was highly pleasurable to be reminded in these pages. The volume begins with a short Introduction by Breathed, a few of his collegiate The Academia Waltz strips, in which Bloom County takes shape, and then starting with the release for December 8, 1980, the first two years of the strip, three to a page, each page meticulously dated. The big bonus, however, can be found in the marginal notations by Breathed — explaining topical references and philosophical underpinnings.

Bloom County Cast and BreatedThe undeniable Opus (the penguin, remember? — who took over the strip) shows up on January 18, 1982, just as the strip launches into its second full year. He’s the front seat of a car with Brinkley and Brinkley’s father, who opines: “Brinkley, I still can’t believe you have this ugly, smelly bird as a pet.” The advent of Opus is not otherwise heralded in the strip in any special way, and it isn’t until the run gets to January 28 that Breathed acknowledges in his marginal annotation what has happened: “Opus. Center found, the fog clearing. The strip had found its voice, its tone and its point of view. People and comic strips are alike in needing this.”

And Opus was a whole lot cuter then. Smaller beak. Much better. BloomCounty0001

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

THE SINCEREST FORM OF PARODY

The Sincerest Form of Parody
Edited by John Benson
Introduction bv Jay Lynch
192 7x10-inch pages
color
Fantagraphics
paperback
$24.99

Sincerest Form of Parody coverWithin a short year of Mad’s debut as a comic book in the fall of 1952, imitations were flooding the newsstand, proclaiming the resounding success of Harvey Kurtzman’s satirical funnybook with the usual form of sincerity in a capitalistic economy — and this, despite Mad’s not turning a profit until perhaps as late as its sixth issue, John Benson tells us in his extensive Notes at the end of the book.

Undoubtedly, it was the quality of the product that inspired imitation: readers learned of this new astonishingly funny and subversive comic book by word of mouth; comic book cartoonists, editors and publishers — one eye always on the newsstand competition — saw Mad and loved it. And wanted to do one of their own. And so they did.

In this book, Benson has collected samples from nine of the 13 imitations — Panic (EC Comics own Mad imitation), Whack, Eh!, Riot, Get Lost, Nuts, Madhouse, Flip, and Unsane (the others, Crazy, Wild, Super Funnies, Bughouse). The craziness that Mad inspired is on flagrant display here — venal businessmen, greedy merchants, unscrupulous personages so numerous as to suggest nothing wholesome existed anywhere in American life; unforgettably, ordinary women are made ugly and attractive women are portrayed as blatant sex objects, bulging out of their skin-tight attire. Greed, sex, cheating, lying — all of the American dream on exhibit. And whenever there is movement, it is exaggerated movement — Tex Avery style. Action and brick-bat comedy bursting from every panel and frenzied page.

Captain MarbleI remember picking up a few of these titles in the wake of reading the first issues of Mad; and I was disappointed because the imitators seemed to have grasped only the most apparent of the devices of Mad satire. And then they worked them mercilessly, beating them to a standstill — pale imitations, mostly. But some were successful — usually in the quality of the artwork rather than in the skill of the satire. And much of this rambunctiousness, hits and misses, is on view herein.

Benson’s Notes at the end are a too-brief history of the Mad copycat industry. The man who annotated much of Russ Cochran’s EC Comics Library supplies here a digest of the results of his research into Mad and parody — insightful, tantalizing, often surprisingly detailed.

 

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DAVID ASTOR: COMIC (AND COLUMN) CONFESSIONAL

Dave Astor book coverFormer Editor & Publisher senior editor and syndication industry reporter David Astor has produced a collection of humorous essays about his 25 years of reporting on comics and cartoonists, Comic (and Column) Confessional (238 6x9-inch pages), from Xenos Press.

I’m a friend of Astor’s, and I also enjoy his writing. Since being laid off at E&P in a cost-cutting maneuver, he’s been a blogger at the Huffington Post and an award-winning columnist with the weekly Montclair (NJ) Times. I haven’t finished reading the book, but I’ve read enough to recommend it (even if you aren’t especially interested in newspaper syndicates or comics) (but if you aren’t, what are you doing at this site?). The book is available through Amazon at $27.95, but Astor is selling autographed copies for $25 (including postage) via dastor@earthlink.net.

By the way, Amazon is wrong about publishing data: the book is not self-published and it was published in the summer of 2012, not May of 2008. Here's a review.

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

BAZOOKA JOE

Abrams ComicArts is bringing out an omnibus Bazooka Joe book next spring. Here’s what editor Charles Kochman says about it in a press release: “It will have four bonus comic strips in it. What I love about this book (and it's true of all of Abrams' books), is that the content determines the format, so we're Bazooka Joegoing to turn the book on its side and we're going to stain the sides pink so that they look like a giant piece of bubblegum. We have original art, showing the strips side by side; lots of foreign strips; classic strips; and some advertising.

 “The other thing I'm really excited about for this book is the background on Wesley Morse, who created the material. He did the poster for the Copacabana, he did the Cotton Club art, he did the Folies Bergere posters, and is also famous for doing the Tijuana Bibles. We'll include (obviously some of the tamer) Tijuana Bible stuff. It's a crossover title; kids are going to read it.

“We talk about the secret of Bazooka Joe's eye patch — there was a Hathaway shirt ad at the time [and the man modeling the shirt wore a piratical eye patch], and it was the height of fashion and it made him look debonair. So Wesley thought, ‘Let's give Bazooka Joe an eye patch.’ He's got a photograph of his son (who's contributing an intro to the book) with a baseball cap when he was a kid. We'll have those photographs in the book and show the history. Jay Lynch is writing a piece for it; Bhob Stewart, who did a piece for Blab a long time ago that was the history of the strip, has revised and expanded that and we’re going to reprint it. I'm really excited about the Bazooka Joe book.”

We did a biography of Bazooka Joe some years back, quoting Stewart a lot — in Rants & Raves, Opus 127, in the Usual Place (RCHarvey.com), in case you want an advance look at some of which the Abrams book will include. Yeh, we’re excited about it, too.

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

9 CHICKWEED LANE

One of the odder moments in this odd year of political hypocrisy occurred in Los Angeles, otherwise home to sexually saturated movie biz, where a few puritanical readers professed outrage at the September 1-7 sequence in Brooke McEldowney’s 9 Chickweed Lane as it appeared in the Los Angeles Times. In the strip, a sensitive and compassionately comedic creation often about romance and love, Amos, Edda’s paramour, has been trying to muster the nerve to propose marriage to her for weeks. Finally, he works up the gumption at the end of August and goes to the theater where she’s dancing. ChickweedMission0001Now emboldened with implacable resolve rigidly focused, Amos clambers up onto the stage at the finale of Edda’s performance, but, clumsy as always, he trips and sprawls across her as we see here in Saturday’s strip. The story continues on Monday with the couple, as one reader complained, "in the missionary position."

“Inappropriate for a comic strip that children could be reading!” proclaimed one irrate reader, who has yet to explain how the perpetually innocent children would recognize the position depicted as the “missionary position” in sexual intercourse. Another shocked reader called the strips “porn” and worried about her granddaughter seeing such filth — again without explaining how her precocious granddaughter would know filth when she saw it (having been kept innocent all these years by her diligent grandmother).

At the Times’ reader representative journal, Assistant Managing Editor Alice Short, who oversees the features sections including the Comics page, said she didn't think the strip meant to be racy: "I'm not sure how this current story line will end, but it started a couple of weeks ago," Short said. "It's pretty clear that the musician wants to propose to the ballerina. I see it as a story about love, and I don't believe anything untoward was intended."

Oh, yeah? Short is being a little disingenuous. McEldowney clearly intends that adult readers see the picture as approximating a copulating couple (and when Amos refers to something in his pocket, he’s echoing that classic Mae West line: “Is that a banana in your pocket or are you glad to see me” — or words to that effect).

John Glynn, vice president and editorial director of Universal Uclick, which distributes the strip, said the syndicate had received no other complaints. Only in proximity to Hollywood does fantasy sex offend. Gosh. Who’d’ve thought?

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

COMIC CRITIQUE

Chad Carpenter is one of the great success stories of newspaper comic strips. With the help of a dedicated friend, he’s managed to self-syndicate his Tundra to hundreds of newspapers, spreading the Alaskan wilderness far and wide. Animals. Frozen landscape. Carpenter is talented and canny. And who could ask for more? Here is a strip that could have been done differently (which we examine not to ridicule or denigrate but to exemplify the ways in which this delightful medium works). ComicCritique0001

Most of Carpenter’s Tundra strips are single panel enterprises, like this one. But here, I think he gave away the punchline too soon. Imagine, for example, if the wall-papering guy were moved to the far right in this strip. Your comprehending eye would start at the left and move slowly to the right along a cave wall decorated with prehistoric glyphs until, finally — at the last moment — surprise! You’d come upon the wall paperer. Ha! Those glyphs are not paintings on the cave wall: they’re wall papered. Ha! Boffo. Joke. Big laughs.

But in the version we have before us, the wall paperer appears so early in the left-to-right progression that the joke is over before you get to the remainder of the wall-papered wall. No surprise. Still funny, but it could have been funnier if Carpenter had positioned the wall paperer further to the right, making strategic use of the elongated shape of the panel to create the surprise that is at the core of the joke.

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MORE EDITOONS CASUALTIES

On August 17, Clay Jones announced that he’s been laid-off from his staff cartooning job at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Virginia. At Daryl Cagle’s blog, Jones recounted some of the glories of his stint at the Free Lance-Star: “I’ve enjoyed the camaraderie of the newsroom, election night pizza, breaking news, racing to the newsroom at midnight on a Sunday to cover the death of Osama bin Laden, receiving angry phone calls from readers, physical threats from a fireman, and that exasperated look on my editor’s face every time I showed him a cartoon he didn’t like.”

Jones told Cagle that he doesn’t know what he’ll do next, “although he does mention he’ll still be drawing two cartoons a week for the Free Lance-Star, and will continue drawing for syndication” with Cagle cartoons.

Said Jones: “I do know my career as a staff cartoonist, something I spent seven years fighting for before it finally happened, is over. I do have other skills and I’m going to try to figure out what those are. There’s gotta be an opportunity for a professional smart ass somewhere out there.”

To which report, Cagle later added this: “UPDATE—After his editor killed his final cartoon and asked him to draw a new one as he walked out the door, Clay has decided not to freelance two cartoons a week for the Free Lance-Star. Interestingly, the killed cartoon [which is posted here] is live on the Free Lance-Star’s web site.” Jones0001

Clay Jones, who calls himself "an unreliable conservative" and believes it is his daily goal to lampoon authority and make it look as ridiculous as possible, joined the Free Lance-Star in 1998 after having spent 7-8 years bouncing around from the Panolian in Missouri to the Daily Leader in Brookhaven to self-syndication. "My cartoons do not tell readers what they should believe. I hope they simply challenge people to think."

 

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