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Derf by Derf



Derf Backderf (The City, Trashed and My Friend Dahmer) says his work as a storyteller is built on the journalism instruction he received at Ohio State University years ago. “That’s the way I learned how to tell stories,” he told Joel Oliphint at columbusalive.com. “You go out and research it, gather the facts, and then you tell the story. It’s the one thing that stuck with me from college.”

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


The Hank Ketcham self-portrait below was done for a series that the Collier’s magazine ran about its cartoonists. (...Maybe it was Saturday Evening Post; but I think probably Collier’s.)



In his self-portrait, Ketcham’s left cheek is disfigured by a jagged six-inch scar that runs across his visage. I doubt that this aspect of his appearance shows up anywhere else — certainly not in any other self-portrait. Curiously, Ketcham doesn’t mention either the scar or its cause in his autobiography, The Merchant of Dennis.

Before the book was published, Ketcham removed the part that explained the scar. He got it in a car accident when he was 16 years old. The car, driven by a friend of Ketcham’s, blew a tire and, out of control, ran into a telephone pole. Nobody in the car was hurt — except Ketcham, whose face was slashed.

“Some kind man sped me to the County Hospital where I was quickly stitched and bandaged by a nearsighted intern. Thus the six-inch scar that I have sported ever since.”

How do I know all this? Because Ketcham sent me a sheaf of papers after I’d reviewed the autobiography. He liked the review and thought (rightly) that I’d be interested in the “out-takes,” the portions of his life story that he omitted for one reason or another. (Mostly, I suspect, because the tales weren’t funny enough to take up pages from the ration the publisher allowed him.)

Ketcham tells about the accident with the sure instinct of an accomplished comedic writer. He begins:

“Every time we [Hank and his teenage friends] went out for a drive, Grandmother Ketcham would stubbornly harp on the principle of wearing freshly laundered clothes. ‘In case you’re in an accident, you know,’ she would add. Apparently her concern was less for possible injury than the horror of being found wearing dirty undies.”

Then Ketcham relates the events of that evening in 1936 Seattle — the car crash, the wreckage, discovery of the blood streaming down his face, his visit to the hospital and the nearsighted intern.

Then he ends his story:

“Grandma Ketch would be pleased to know that, right up until the moment of collision, my BVDs were spotless.”

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


Best of Jeff MacNelly's Shoe coverTo commemorate Shoe’s 40 years in the funnies, a retrospective collection of the comic strip has been issued by Titan Comics (240 9x9-inch pages, b/w with a section of color Sundays, $29.99), The Best of Jeff MacNelly’s Shoe. The reprints are arranged in chronological-order sections, beginning with the first strip, September 13, 1977.

The book begins with a clutch of essays — a Foreword by Dave Barry (Backword by Mike Peters), a history of Shoe (by MacNelly’s widow and another by his brother), and a MacNelly biography. MacNelly, who was the Chicago Tribune’s editoonist as well as Shoe’s perpetrator, died of lymphoma on June 8, 2000, having produced the strip single-handedly for 23 of its 40 years. Appropriately, slightly over half the book reprints his Shoe; the rest belongs, first, to Chris Cassett and Gary Brookins, who took over the strip upon MacNelly’s death; and then just to Brookins. Sue MacNelly, the widow, is listed as one of the strip’s writers; Bill Linden and Doug Gamble, the others. My guess is that she approves what they write; then Brookins draws it.

This may be the place to tell a couple stories about MacNelly, who was storied himself (and several stories tall, up to six foot five). He once worked in an office (first in Washington, D.C.; then at the Chicago Trib), but in later years, he worked at home in West Virginia. He was always pressed by a looming deadline because Jeff MacNelly photothere were many other things he enjoyed doing that took him away from aiming at the deadline. He said the advent of Federal Express let him beat his deadline by a day. Once. And when it became possible to transmit his cartoons digitally, he beat his deadline again by a day. Once.

Like many cartoonists, he experimented with drawing instruments. Finally, he said, he settled on a ballpoint pen, the least likely of choices. At a cartoonists convention once, he was standing with two other editoonists, all over six feet tall. I wandered over and asked if being over six feet tall was a requirement for being an editorial cartoonist. MacNelly said that it helped.

Most of us, impressed by his talent and the range of his artistic aspirations and accomplishments, thought he was one of a kind, irreplaceable. But his wife Susie once said, “They say there are others like him on his home planet.”

In The Best of Shoe, we can catch glimpses of his home planet. And that includes some of the earliest characters, many of whom don’t appear very often any more — Irv Seagull, Madame Zoo Doo, Mort (the aptly named operator of a mortuary), and the beloved looney Loon, mail and newspaper carrier whose aeronautic skills are scattered, to say the least; and Cosmo’s nephew Skylar, who spends afternoons practicing football with giant-sized teammates and opponents and his summers in the Marines, thinking it’s summer camp for boys.




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Happy Hooligan

Old Timey cartoonist Frederick Burr Opper on the birth of Happy Hooligan:

"It happened that they wanted a new series of comics, and I set about inventing one. I thought of a tramp. Tramps were not so very new; there had been all kinds of tramps, so I decided to make him a little different by putting a can on his head. What gave me the idea was that at that time all the saloons put their empty kegs in the streets for the breweries to pick up and refill. The tramps would hang empty tomato cans around their necks, go to these kegs and tip the remains of the beer from the empty barrel into their cans."

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


One of the most-frequently asked questions of cartoonists is: Where do you get your ideas? Whenever I’m asked (which, these days, isn’t often), I say, “Schenectady” (stealing this response from some antique wag). Dan Piraro of Bizarro fame once told a roomful of fans that he didn’t worry about getting ideas. When his Bizarro was accepted for syndication, he explained, he immediately sat down and wrote out ideas for the next 25 years.

I recently attended a lecture by a former correspondent, Disney Legendary animator, Floyd Norman, and when he was asked the question he said that he got ideas by listening to the characters he was drawing. As he drew them, they began to talk and cavort around in his imagination, and he listened to them, and eventually, sure enough, he’d get an idea for a cartoon.

Charles Schulz, when I asked him, said basically the same thing. He started doodling characters, and they started “talking” to him.

I remember having the same experiences when I was sketching character designs for my numerous unsuccessful comic strips. As I sketched, the characters took shape in my imagination and often took off running in directions they opted for themselves, without any prompting from me.







So I know that ideas occur to me when I’m drawing, too. Not just when I’m drawing: I have ideas at other times, too. But when I’m drawing, they pop up. And here’s an example:

A few weeks ago, I was asked to illustrate a promotional flyer for a project that was not only a “win-win” project but a “win-win-win” project. I chose the “wins” as the basis for the illustration, and drew three giant-lettered “wins,” stacked across the page as you see near here.


Then I thought I should do something to make it cartoony. I should give the letters some kind of personality. I gave the ‘W’ in the first “win” legs and eyes and a smiley mouth. A happy ‘W.’ Then I moved on to the second “win,” deciding, en route, that I’d embellish the ‘I’ rather than the second ‘W.’

At first, I thought I’d do the same thing as I’d already done. Then in doing it, I varied it, giving this letter squinty, happy eyes. And I reversed the legs, letting him put his left leg forward.

Next, the ‘N’ in the last “win.” Legs again reversed from the previous drawing. But how to vary the rest? Ha — open his laughing mouth and give him a wide-eyed expression. And add arms: he throws up his arms in a rapture of exuberance.

As a progression, the “wins” get happier and happier. Good thing for “win-win-win.”

The point is: each stage in the development of the drawing proceeded from the previous stage, each fostering the next variation. Ideas from drawing.

In the final, finished version, I added some shading to the letters to set them apart a little from the all-white plain background. Then to finish it off, I drew the little guy in the corner, hugging his legs and grinning — no loser he.


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


SF Cartoon Art MuseumThe Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco, which lost its lease a couple years ago, has a new home. It’s signed a 10-year lease in a historic building at 781 Beach Street overlooking San Francisco Bay, a short walk from Fisherman’s Wharf. A block or so in one direction is Ghirardelli Square; about the same distance in the other direction — at the corner of Beach and Hyde streets, where the Powell Street cable car turnaround is situated — is the BeeVee, the Buena Vista, where, according to vintage rumor, Irish coffee was invented and is still being purveyed. One of the things I never miss doing when in town is taking the cable car up Powell and Hyde to the BV, where I always have a few Irish coffees. More than I should.

The new digs boasts a state-of-the-art gallery with movable walls, a screening area, classrooms, an education center and library, storage facilities for its permanent collection of 7,000 original pieces of art, and the Museum bookstore with storefront visibility and interior access from the museum lobby as well as offices for the Museum’s staff.

Cartoon Art Museum logoFounded in 1984, the Museum is now the oldest cartoon museum in the country. Having raised $950,000 of the $1,100,000 needed for its new home, the Museum re-opened a few weeks ago; the fund-raising campaign is now open to the public. For more about how to donate, visit the Museum website, cartoonart.org. In case you’re wondering why I’m devoting all this energy and visibility to this facility and this campaign, you should know that I’m on the Advisory Board. But they don’t pay me, and my personal fortune is not at all affected by the fund-raising.

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


Jeff bezos caricatureIn Vanity Fair’s New Establishment ranking for 2017, the only comics-related name is that of Kevin Feige of Marvel Studios, who ranks 21st, ahead of Walmart’s Marc Lore (who is 34th) and Dwayne Johnson (37th) but behind Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live’s political impersonators (19th) and Jeff Bezos, who’s first in the list of 100 innovators, media-age moguls, technologists and rebellious entrepreneurs.

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


All of these, including comments, taken from Heidi MacDonald’s “Fall 2017 Announcements: Comics & Graphic Novels” in publishersweekly.com; June 23


Going Into Town coverGoing into Town: A Love Letter to New York, Roz Chast; out October 3 -- an irresistible love letter to the city Monograph, Chris Ware; October 10 -- doodles

Poppies of Iraq, Brigitte Findakly plus Lewis Trondheim;  September 5 — chronicle of her relationship with her homeland co-written and drawn by her husband

Sex Fantasy, Sophia Foster-Dimino; September 12 — a moving look at intimacy in all its delicacies and absurdities

Run for It: Stories of Slaves Who Fought for Their Freedom, Marcelo D’Salete; October 10

Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City, Julia Wertz; October 3 — sidesplitting history based upon Wertz’s columns in The New Yorker and Harper’s

Sugar Town, Hazel Newlevant; October 10 — a bisexual, polyamorous love story

Jane, Aline McKenna and Ramon K. Perez; September 19 — reimagines Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre set in present-day New York

Ditko’s Mr. A.: The 50th Anniversary Series, Book One, The Avenging World; October 24

As the Crow Flies, Melanie Gillman; October 10 — a collection of the webcomic about a queer, black teenager in an all-white Christian youth backpacking camp

Mr. Higgins Comes Home, Mike Mignola teaming with Warwick Johnson Cadwell; October 18 — sendup of classic vampire stories

Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures, Yvan Alagbe; October 24 — race and immigration in Paris by one of France’s celebrated cartoonists

The Story of Jezebel, Elijah Brubaker; already out—hilarious take on the Old Testament tale of paganism, murder and sex, with satirist wit and visual verve

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


Superman will battle Dr. Manhattan in the forthcoming (and much denigrated) Doomsday Clock, the 12-issue series that tries to capitalize on Alan Moore’s inspired creation, the Watchmen, by bringing them back again. Few think this will work as well as the original; and I agree.

Due in shops November 22 with a 40-page, $4.99 No.1.

Doomsday Clock spread

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


Sh*t My President Says:
The Illustrated Tweets of Donald J. Trump

By Shannon Wheeler
120 5x6-inch pages, b/w
Top Shelf Productions hardcover

Sh*t My President Says  coverPulitzer-winning editoonist Jack Ohman says about this tome: "Shannon Wheeler drew a book I wish I had thought of; that's the ultimate compliment I can offer in 140 characters!”

At the Washington Post’s Comic Riffs, Michael Cavna says Wheeler spent much of the last year sifting through over 30,000 “verified account’s tweets” (since 2009) before settling on about 1,000, “satiric clay to work with by identifying the president’s most repeated themes and compulsive narratives — from crowd size to ratings to identifying people he perceives as enemies. Beyond caricature and parody, Wheeler writes, ‘I want to show how he contradicts himself, and lead[s] the reader to question reality.’”

After all the research (stultifying in its monotony, no doubt), Wheeler sees the twitterpated commander-in-chief as playing with his base, “using his 140-character missives as trial balloons.” Said Wheeler: “He thinks: ‘How is my audience going to respond to this?’ Tweeting is like a thermometer for him.”

In the book’s introduction, Wheeler adds: “His implicit message isn’t about himself, it’s about his reader. He encourages his fans to be themselves — not with aspiration, but indulgence. Be sexist. Be racist. Be fearful. Be selfish. Hate and fear the world.”

Wheeler’s caricature of Trump evolved.

            “He’s a bully,” Wheeler says of his caricature. “He’s like the fifth-grader who got held back one grade and he’s now a little bit bigger than you are and he’s still a kid, but you’re a little bit scared of him.”

            Said Cavna: “Wheeler’s Trump is a rotund scamp with a mischievously fiendish spirit.” Then he quotesWheeler again:

            “I was trying to draw him ‘ugly’ and it was not working, and then I was starting to feel: ‘What is inside of him?’ It is the impish child. You think: ‘This is the [playground] kid who would be made fun of if he weren’t making fun of other people.’

            “When I started drawing him as a monster — like an ogre, a mean person — another insight I had from his tweets is that he thinks of himself as a protagonist,” Wheeler says. “Once I realized that and started drawing him that way, it clicked into focus.”

            Not all of Wheeler’s colleagues were pleased with that depiction, though. “Three political cartoonists implored me to draw him villainous,” Wheeler said. “I was like: ‘It doesn’t feel right for me to draw him in that way. It doesn’t give me any insight to [visually] vilify him in that way.’”

            But the last challenge with the book was turning it over to the publisher in June, says Cavna, “with a fresh Trump news cycle heating up.”

            “As soon as we closed the book, there was a new slew of Russia stuff — it broke my heart,” the cartoonist says. “It was so juicy and funny.”

            Herewith, a few telling tweets from our twitterpated Prez.





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Ebale photoEquatorial Guinean authorities arrested a political cartoonist and activist on September 16, 2017, according to Human Rights Watch and Equatorial Guinean Justice. He has been held in detention since then and authorities may be preparing to file criminal defamation charges against him. The Watch report follows:

The arrest of the cartoonist, Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé, is the latest episode of government retaliation against artists who have used their work to criticize the government. Human Rights Watch urges EG authorities to repeal the country’s colonial-era defamation statute, which allows for the criminal prosecution of people who criticize the president and top government officials. They should abandon any plans to charge Ebalé under that law and, if he is accused of no other crime, release him immediately and without charge.

“The Equatorial Guinea government has again demonstrated its hostility to any form of critical expression that escapes its heavy-handed censorship,” said Tutu Alicante, executive director of EG Justice, which monitors human rights violations in Equatorial Guinea.

Three state security officers detained Ebalé outside a restaurant in the capital, Malabo, at about 7 p.m. on September 16, along with two Spanish nationals who were with him. All three men were taken to the Office Against Terrorism and Dangerous Activities in the Central Police Station. The Spanish nationals were interrogated about their connection to Ebalé and freed after several hours.

Authorities continue to hold Ebalé without charge, exceeding the 72-hour period allowed under Equatoguinean law. Interrogators reportedly questioned him about his political cartoons, which often lewdly caricature President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and other government officials, and repeatedly told him that people may only participate in politics if they are associated with an official party.

Free Ebale!Ebalé has lived outside of Equatorial Guinea for several years and had returned to the country to renew his passport. He has not been taken before a judge, which Equatoguinean law requires within 24 hours. Family members were allowed to see him on September 18 and 19, though prison guards refused to allow his sisters to visit on September 17 or to confirm he was being held there.

Based on the interrogators’ apparent questions, EG Justice and Human Rights Watch are concerned that Ebalé may be charged with violating Equatorial Guinea’s criminal defamation statute. In Human Rights Watch’s view, such laws are incompatible with the right to free expression and Equatorial Guinea’s statute should be repealed.

The arts have traditionally served as a safe space for independent voices to provoke public debate on social issues in Equatorial Guinea, a country with little tolerance for political dissent. But EG Justice and Human Rights Watch have documented an increasing number of incidents over the past two years in which the government has retaliated against artists and cultural groups.

“Prosecuting a cartoonist for unflattering satirical drawings is incompatible with free speech and only highlights the power of the pen,” said Sarah Saadoun, researcher at Human Rights Watch.


For reports of other cartoonists internationally who have been threatened and/or jailed, see Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s website.

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


Stan Lee photo explosionAt the Washington Post’s Comic Riffs, Michael Cavna remembered what Stan Lee had told him last fall about Marvel characters and allegorical response to the protests and violence and racial hate he saw playing out on America’s streets.

“I always felt the X-Men, in a subtle way, often touched upon the subject of racism and inequality, and I believe that subject has come up in other titles, too,” Lee said, referring to his ’60s-born superheroes who feel like outsiders, “but we would never pound hard on the subject, which must be handled with care and intelligence.”

In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Lee tweeted the anti-bigotry message of a vintage “Stan’s Soapbox” (in italics below), which Lee called “as true today as it was in 1968,” when he penned it.

Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed supervillains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them — to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater — one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen — people he’s never known — with equal intensity — with equal venom.

Now, we’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race — to despise an entire nation — to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is every to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God — a God who calls us ALL his children.

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


image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-11-21/f7686cfb-1669-40af-bcb5-2b77e3509f26.pngThe creator of Pepe the Frog is making good on his threat to aggressively claim his intellectual property. Matt Furie’s lawyers have taken legal action against the alt-right, reports Matthew Gault at motherboard.vice.com, serving cease and desist orders to several alt-right personalities and websites including Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich, and the r/the_Donald subreddit. In addition, they have issued Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests to Reddit and Amazon, notifying them that use of Pepe by the alt-right on their platforms is copyright infringement.

Several entities that have received notices from the Furie phalanx have said they’ll fight back. But the message to the alt-right is clear—stop using Pepe the Frog or prepare for legal consequences.

To that end, one of Furie’s intellectual property lawyers, Louis Tompros, and his team have taken the first steps towards dismantling the alt-right's stranglehold on Pepe, beginning with their letter to Richard Spencer's Altright.com, noting the specific places where Spencer and his team have used Pepe in violation of Furie's copyright. Pepe is all over Spencer's site and is the mascot for his podcast, Alt-Right Politics.

"We've asked them to take them down," Tompros said. "That hasn't happened yet, but they're very much on notice. We plan to take action if they don't. If necessary, we expect to bring a lawsuit for copyright infringement," Tompros went on.

"I want to make sure that people have enough time to comply. The goal here is not to initiate lawsuits. The goal is to get the misuse of Pepe to stop. I'd rather do that through people complying with the cease and desist notices. But we're certainly ready, willing, and able to bring suits to follow up for the folks who do not comply."

Matt Furie photoFurie originally created Pepe as a non-political character for his Boy's Club comic, but Pepe later became an internet meme, and during the 2016 presidential election, the alt-right movement appropriated the frog in various grotesque and hateful memes. At the end of August, Furie's lawyers reached a settlement with Eric Hauser — the former assistant principal in Texas who appropriated Pepe's image for use in an Islamophobic children's book. Furie's lawyers forced Hauser to stop selling the book and made him donate his profits to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

In the past, the alt-right has attacked its enemies with vicious doxing and online abuse campaigns. Tompros and his team understand that's a risk, but it's one they're willing to take.

"We're doing what we think is the right thing," he said. "We understand that we're dealing with serious folks here, and we want to make clear to them that we're serious too. We're not going to stand for this."

Furie has continued to avoid speaking with the media about Pepe, but Tompros told Gault that the win against Hauser lifted his spirits.

"That's been powerful for him," the lawyer said. "He's ready and wants to keep up the fight and wants to take down anyone who's using his character. He's also received words of support from fans and others. He's taking comfort in that. We're going to keep on fighting," Tompros said. "I hope we're doing what others would do when it's there to turn to stand up for the good guys."

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