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NOMINEES FOR NCS REUBEN AWARD

Reubens2015The National Cartoonists Society meets this weekend, May 22-24, in Washington, D.C., where the winners of the “division awards” (now termed “Silver Reubens”) will be announced.

Nominees for the Granddaddy Award, the Reuben (no metallic adjective) are: Roz Chast, whose graphic memoir about her parents’ last years, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant, has resulted in a deluge of honors and recognitions (Kirkus Prize, National Book Critics Circle rcognition); Hilary Price (Rhymes With Orange comic strip) and Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine comic strip). This is Pastis’ seventh nomination and Price’s second; for Chast, it’s the first.

With two women cartoonists up, we might encounter a historic moment when this year’s Reuben is finally conferred. Only two women (Lynn Johnston, For Better or For Worse, and Cathy Guisewite, Cathy) have collected a Reuben statuette in the Society’s nearly 70-year history.

On the other (not so nice) hand, if this were a political election in which supporters of women are pitted against supporters of men, two women candidates divide the women’s vote, assuring the election of the man. Pastis’ seventh nomination might turn out to be his luckiest.

But then, this isn’t a political election.

The winners of the Reuben and the Silver Reubens will all be announced during the annual NCS Reuben Awards dinner on May 23rd.

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

TUKI

Tuki coverJeff Smith is off on another adventure, this time into the distant, prehistoric past, where his character, an African with the eponymous name Tuki, will become the first “hominid” to leave the parched and dying continent and “save the humans.” Smith confesses to a passion for paleontology that led him to do extensive research for this title, and he sprinkles helpful explanatory footnotes along the way.

In the first issue, Tuki forages for food and meets other humanoid creatures, and Smith exercises his admirable cartooning sense of visual play by devoting several panels hither and yon to depicting Tuki encountering new (and to him wonderful, full of wonder) experiences. To which he reacts with surprise and, often, comical suspicion. (Primitive man encounters flush toilet sort of thing; although Smith constructs much more realistic humorous situations.)

The interior pages of the book are printed sideways because Tuki’s first exploits took place online at the Boneville website, where the format is horizontal.

This’ll be a fun series because Smith knows how to use the medium to have fun himself with it—and that’ll keep us entertained, too.

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

MS. MARVEL

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The new superheroine at Marvel, Ms. Marvel, the Muslim New Jersey teenager written by another female Muslim with the wafting name G. Willow Wilson and delicately rendered by Adrian Alphona — another singing name — is now up to her fourth issue. So far, she seems entirely preoccupied with figuring out what her superpowers are and how to use them. She wanders around, baffled by it all, a storytelling decision that enables Wilson to develop her character’s personality but unless you’re into teenage girl problems, you’re likely to get left behind. I am.

 

 

 

 

 

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

STARLIGHT

Starlight coverMark Millar and Goran Parlov's Starlight, compared to, say, The Wake, ends grandly with the extended page count of the sixth issue. Duke McQueen, over-the-hill hero who has returned to the planet Tantalus in its time of need, hoping to re-enact the salvation he effected once before, emerges victorious in a splendid display of relentless heroism and stubborn deering-do, triumphing over vast numbers of the nasty bad guys. Duke returns to Earth, his home planet, where his distant achievements are erstwhile unknown (or regarded as so much delusional fantasy), and this time, his Tantalus buddy makes sure Duke’s fellow earthlings know of his stupendous greatness. And so, therefore, do his kids, of whom Duke is inordinately fond, considering that they think he’s something of a blow-hard. But he isn’t. He’s a genuine hero. And now they all know it.

Starlight panels

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

THE WAKE

The Wake coverWith the tenth issue, a long time in coming, The Wake finally ended. Another disappointment. According to writer Scott Snyder, he and artist Sean Murphy, both highly talented creators, produced this limited series by constantly challenging each other to do the impossible. They have presumably satisfied each other that they achieved this goal, but along the way, they lost me.

The story takes place in some future dystopia where life as we know it has ceased to exist. Instead, whatever is left of the human (sic) sapiens battle giant undersea monsters. In attempting their goals of impossibility, Snyder and Murphy resort much too often to pages depicting monstrous machinery for which I have no sympathy whatsoever. And the human actors in the drama, whom I’m tempted at last to like, don’t show up, if memory serves (the series has taken so long that I can barely remember the early issues), until about a third of the way through. By then, we’ve lost hope that there’ll be any heroes to fight the villains.

And, in fact, the fight ends, finally, in a cop-out: Murphy’s prickly heroine speeds off in a boat, proclaiming that the meaning of life can be found in assuming the attitude that “it’s all an adventure.”

That’s a fine thematic conclusion for an adventure story, but the narrative energy of the tale has long since drained off, leaving us only mildly interested in the outcome.

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

DEADPOOL: BLAH

DeadpoolThe character Deadpool intrigued me enough that I’ve been buying copies of the comic book, stashing them against the day that I take time to read them. I somehow managed to persuade myself that Deadpool is a mock superhero character — like DC’s Lobo — and since I like the idea of fooling around with the superhero concept, I thought I’d like the books. And I’ve been telling myself that I should sit down and read several to see what the fascination is. I finally did it. And what a disappointment.

I read three or four of them. That’s all I can take at one sitting. The books have very little plot or story. They seem to be nothing more than an excuse for this reckless, feckless masked man to careen around, creating havoc and mayhem on every page. That’s it. What’s amusing about that? Once or twice, maybe—but always?

Other superheroes show up, but Deadpool soon sucks them into the wholesale chaos.

Here’s a snatch of so-called dialogue between Deadpool and a superheroine:

Dead: “If the Hulk makes a stinky as the Hulk, is it bigger?”

She: “Are you twelve?”

Dead: “Nope.”

Unadulterated nonsense passing for wit. Every page is littered with this kind of meaningless smart-ass talk.

The Hawkeye vs. Deadpool books are occasionally interesting — when Gerry Duggan parodies the Hawkeye issue in which Hawkeye, momentarily deaf, talks in sign language or the issue all of which is seen from the dog’s perspective. But the parodies are surrounded by the usual unfunny claptrap. Mad’s parodies at least had some satiric point. Not this thing. Too bad.

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

DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS

Secret History of Wonder Woman coverJill Lapore has written a book with the seductive title The Secret History of Wonder Woman. And hers isn’t the only secret in the book. William Moulton Marston, the creator of WW, had a secret life that he never revealed to the public.

Wonder Woman, Lapore asserts in a condensation of her book in The New Yorker’s September 22 issue, has a backstory that “is taken from feminist utopian fiction,” and she was inspired by Margaret Sanger, a crusading feminist and birth control advocate who opened the first birth control clinic in 1916 and who, “hidden from the world, was a member of Marston’s family.”

Marston married Elizabeth Holloway in 1915 and, while teaching at Tufts in 1925, met and fell in love with a student, Olive Byrne, daughter of Ethel Byrne who, coincidentally, was Sanger’s sister (and another feminist). Marston, Holloway and Byrne began attending an avant garde sexual “clinic” at the Boston apartment of Marston’s aunt, where they learned about “Love Units” formed by a Love Leader, a Mistress, and a Love Girl.

In 1926, Byrne, then 22, moved in with Marston and Holloway, and they lived as a threesome, “with love making for all” as Holloway put it. Four children were born of this array, two by Holloway and two by Byrne.

For Holloway, Lapore writes, the arrangement showed how women could combine marriage with careers. “Here’s how,” Lapore continues: “Marston would have two wives. Holloway could have her career. Byrne would raise the children. No one else need ever know.” The three assiduously kept their domestic arrangement a secret.

The two women were apparently not only friends but colleagues in feminist enterprises. After Marston’s death in 1947, “they lived together for the rest of their lives. In the fifties and sixties, they often stayed in Tucson, taking care of Sanger. Byrne worked as Sanger’s secretary.”

In 1937, the year the American Medical Association finally endorsed contraception, Marston, who was mostly unemployed through the decade (and even when employed, it was never for very long at any of the universities he taught at), held a press conference, Lapore reports, at which “he predicted that women would one day rule the world.” His prediction made headlines all across the country.

In 1940, M.C. Gaines, whose DC comics published Superman, Batman and a host of other colorfully costumed superheroes, read an article by Olive Byrne in Family Circle magazine, wherein Byrne reported that, contrary to some popular criticism of the day, Marston found comic book superheroes “pure wish fulfillment” of the most beneficial sort. Gaines soon hired Marston  as a consultant, and Marston convinced him of the need for a female superhero. Enter Wonder Woman.

Marston considered women to be mentally stronger than men but insisted that they’re happiest when they’re submissive. (There’s the reason Wonder Woman always gets tied up: Marston had a thing for bondage.) His comics showed her calling for her mortal sisters to fight off their male oppressors, but in his more scholarly publications, he may have taken credit for research conducted by his wife.

“Drawn by an artist named Harry G. Peter, who, in the nineteen-tens, had drawn suffrage cartoons, Wonder Woman looked like a pinup girl,” Lapore says. “She’s Eleanor Roosevelt; she’s Betty Grable. Mostly, she’s Margaret Sanger.”

And, possibly, Olive Byrne.

Saith Lapore: “In 1974, when a Ph.D student asked Holloway about Wonder Woman’s bracelets, Holloway replied: ‘A student of Dr. Marston’s wore on each wrist heavy, broad silver bracelets, one African and the other Mexican. They attracted his attention as symbols of love binding so that he adopted them for Wonder Woman.’ The bracelets were Olive Byrne’s. Olive Byrne had at that point been living with Holloway for 48 years.”

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

RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT: DAILY CARTOONS 1929-1930

Ripley’s Believe It or Not: Daily Cartoons 1929-1930

By Robert L. Ripley
Introduction by Bruce Canwell

276 7.5x11-inch landscape pages
b/w except for reproduction of a few antique newspaper clippings that are sort of yellowed with age
IDW Library of American Comics
hardcover
$39.99

Believe It Or Not! 1929-30 coverIn a time when cartoonists were celebrities, Ripley was undoubtedly the most celebrated of the legions. He was “a shy, goofy, portly, bucktoothed stutterer who became a world traveler, a multimedia pioneer, and a rich and famous ladies’ man” (saith Neal Thompson in his A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It Or Not” Ripley). A 1936 poll determined that he was the most popular man in America. But his beginnings were humble.

He started as a sports cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle in 1909, moved to New York and the creaky old Globe and Commercial Advertiser in 1912, and began to escape the sports pages on December 19, 1918, when he drew a cartoon that displayed odd facts about sporting events and athletes entitled “Champs and Chumps.” 

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Then ten months later on October 16, he did another similar compilation and called it Believe It Or Not. By this time, Ripley was already a world traveler: he covered major sports events in Europe (including aspects of World War I). In 1929, on July 9, BION (as Ripley dubbed it) was picked up for syndication by King Features, and Ripley was soon an international figure.

For the next twenty years, he was in the news frequently as his travels in search of oddities were reported hither and yon. And he lived large. Although his “home” for many years was a tiny cramped room at the New York Athletic Club, he spent much of his time when in the city at night clubs, where he drank the nights away.

In addition to his cartoon (daily and Sunday), he had a radio show and several museums (“Odditoriums”) which were stocked with the strange artifacts he collected in globe-spanning trips, and then he did movies; when television arrived, he was soon on the small screen—albeit, only briefly, from March 1 until May 27, 1949, when he died.

Canwell’s short Introduction (enriched by the vintage visuals of newspaper clippings) suggests the dimensions of Ripley’s fame.

The book offers ample evidence of Ripley’s skill as an artist, reprinting all of his daily cartoons from his first for King Features through 1930. He began as a cartoonist, but by the time BION appeared, he was more of an out-and-out black-and-white illustrator whose high-caliber work went beyond the limitations of ordinary cartooning.

           

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