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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

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


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.”

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


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.

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


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.

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


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

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