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COMIC BOOKS NO LONGER A SECURITY THREAT

TSA logoThe Transportation Security Administration has ended tests of a new requirement for passengers to remove books and other paper items (including comic books) from their carry-on luggage during security screening, reported Maren Williams at Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF). Rules demanding this sort of search may be instituted at a later date, but, said an agency spokeswoman, “at this time, [we] are no longer testing or instituting these procedures.”

In the meantime, comics fans returning from comic cons won’t have to unpack in order to get on a plane.

The TSA says that the pilot test simply ran its course, but the announcement came shortly after alarm bells started ringing among intellectual freedom and privacy advocates —particularly at the San Diego International Airport to which thousands of comics fans were flocking with their bags loaded with comic books purchased during the San Diego Comic-Con.

Turns out to have been a misreading of some obscure directive somewhere.

Separately in a public-facing blog post, the agency said that pilot tests had been conducted and subsequently ended at only two airports. Said Williams: “It then made some curious attempts at humor in dismissing privacy concerns”:

[O]ur adversaries seem to know every trick in the book when it comes to concealing dangerous items, and books have been used in the past to conceal prohibited items. We weren’t judging your books by their covers, just making sure nothing dangerous was inside.

In any case, the TSA says that as of today there is no systematic requirement for books to be scanned separately in any U.S. airport, nor does it currently have plans to implement any such procedure.

And where’s the funny part? I guess you had to be there.

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

ODDS & ADDENDA

Pooh and TiggerThe August 4th issue of Entertainment Weakly carried its post San Diego Comic-Con report: nine (9, count ’em) pages about movie stars, but nowhere in this so-called “coverage” were “cartoonist” or “comics” mentioned, except the latter in the singular form of “Comic-Con.” ... Images of Winnie the Pooh have been blocked on social media sites in China because bloggers are jokingly comparing the plump bear to China’s president. ... The Society of Illustrators clubhouse at 128 East 63rd Street in New York mounted the first ever exhibition of original Spider-Man artwork by John Romita and other significant artists including Steve Ditko, Todd McFarlane, John Buscema, Ross Andru, Gil Kane, Ron Frenz, Keith Pollard, John Romita Jr. and others. The exhibit ran from June 6th through August 26th, 2017.

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

CARTOONING AS AN ENDANGERED SPECIES?

Editorial cartooning has been in trouble for years. In May 2008, 101 editoonists worked full-time on the staffs of American daily newspapers. That number is now 50. No one has anything like an exact count of the number of editoonists when the profession was at its peak. But it was undoubtedly more than 100; maybe as many as 200, but probably about 150-175.

The erosion of this profession has been attributed to the plight of the newspaper itself. Newspapers aren’t making as much money for their stockholders as they once did — and the possibility of expanding paid circulation in the age of the free Internet is remote, foreclosing the option of increasing revenue. The remaining balance sheet choice is to reduce expenses, which means, mostly, cutting staff, and editoonists are the supposed luxury and therefore go first.

But some attribute the slow death of editooning to other causes. Timidity. Ted Rall calls it “corporate slacktivism,” an aversion to rocking the boat with satire. Editoonist Clay Jones, quoted (like Rall) by Jaime Lopez at news.co.cr, agrees: “I do feel that newspapers are afraid. To be honest, most editors don’t know a good cartoon when they see it. They love obituary cartoons. They love the most obvious. Dean Haspiel photoThe laziest cartoonists draw the same old cliches of sinking ships, candidates as Pinocchios, people going over the edge and so on. And those cartoons get a lot of reprints. Check out USA Today every Friday. Most newspapers reprint cartoons and don’t have a staff cartoonist.”

Freelance cartoonist Dean Haspiel, not an editoonist but still looking to sell cartoons for publication, gave the keynote at the Harvey Awards ceremony at the Baltimore Comicon. Speaking about the once vibrant New York City scene for freelancers, he remembered basement “night clubs” and second floor venues where people went for entertainment. No more. “Who goes anywhere anymore when everyone is glued to their smart phone and tablet?” And for the freelance cartoonist looking for publication outlets, “it’s hard to compete for an audience that can’t extricate themselves from the Internet for a couple hours to experience something live and direct with carbon dioxide. Our surveillance society has created attention-deficit-disorder zombies. The ‘scene’ got taken hostage by the screen.”

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

LYNDA CARTER DEFENDS WONDER WOMAN

Wonder WomenAfter just two months with the UN last fall, Wonder Woman lost her gig at the United Nations as a symbol of self-empowerment for girls and women. Too many observers thought she was more pin-up than feminist icon and therefore not a suitable symbol at the U.N. Alex Williams reported at nytimes.com that “a United Nations spokesman said the campaign had merely run its course, and that the end had nothing to do with the uproar” that ensued when Wonder Woman was first announced as an ambassador for women and girls and for gender equality.

But “one loyalist was not going to sit by as her cape was dragged through the mud: Lynda Carter, the actress who starred in the 1970s television show “Wonder Woman,” came to the Amazon’s defense.

Now 65, Carter took time from acting (including a role as the U.S. President on “Supergirl” and a governor in the coming film “Super Troopers 2”) and career as a singer (she just competed a four-city tour and is recording her third studio album) to discuss the complex legacy of her Amazon princess alter ego. In an edited and condensed interview with Williams, Carter recognized at the onset the disagreement about what a feminist icon should look like:

“What I find interesting is that they didn’t look at the larger picture. I agree that the issue of gender equality is much larger than any character is, and I understand that a comic book character should not be representative of something that is that important. I agree with that. What I disagree with is this [mistaken] idea about Wonder Woman. She’s an iconic defender. She’s archetypal. It’s the ultimate sexist thing to say that’s all you can see, when you think about Wonder Woman, all you can think about is a sex object.”

About Wonder Woman’s skimpy costume, Carter was a little belligerent:

“Yeah, so?” she said. “Superman had a skintight outfit that showed every little ripple, didn’t he? Doesn’t he have a great big bulge in his crotch? Hello! So why don’t they complain about that? And who says Wonder Woman is ‘white’? I’m half-Mexican. Gal Gadot is Israeli. The character is an Amazonian princess, not ‘American.’ They’re trying to put her in a box, and she’s not in a box.”

(Er, I don’t see the super bulge that Carter sees at Superman’s crotch. Could she be imagining things? Things she wishes for?)

Lynda Carter photoAbout her own stint in the star-spangled scanties: “If you think of the ’70s, that was miniskirts and bikinis. I never really thought of Wonder Woman as a super-racy character. She wasn’t out there being predatory. She was saying: ‘You have a problem with a strong woman? I am who I am, get over it.’ I never played her as mousy. I played her being for women, not against men. For fair play and fair pay.”

Why did “Wonder Woman” on TV “strike a chord with girls watching the show”?

“There was this idea that inside every woman is a secret self. It’s much less about the color of your skin, much less about your height or weight or beauty, but it’s the attitude, the strength of character, the fight for rights — the beauty within, the wisdom within.”

Carter attributes her post-Wonder Woman struggles with alcohol to her bad marriage not post-fame blues. Drinking brought solace at the time, she said, “but now it’s coming up on 20 years since I’ve been sober.”

Asked about her inspiration for the presidential role she assumed in “Supergirl,” Carter said: “It was Hillary. I’ve known Hillary Clinton for 35 years. She is the kindest, most wonderful human being. She has an infectious personality and smile and warmth and personality and true nature. She grew up in a time where you had a be a certain way to be taken seriously. Now you can be whoever you want. You don’t have to be serious. You can be feminine and powerful at the same time.”

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

MORE WATCHMEN TO WATCH?

WATCHMEN castDC Comics just can’t let well enough alone. After one mediocre attempt to expand the Watchmen universe by producing a “prequel” series about what Alan Moore’s superheroes did before the publication of the initial Watchmen, DC is apparently poised to try another approach to milking Moore’s sea-changing creation for all it’s worth. Apparently, saith Abraham Riesman at vulture.com, in this new incarnation, the Watchmen will cross-over to meet the superheroes of DC’s universe — Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman et al.

It’s a project that could go very, very wrong, Riesman said. “Notice the lack of a ‘the’ in Moore’s title as it’s the key to understanding the potential disaster the story might turn out to be.”

At first glance, Riesman goes on, we may suppose that Moore’s book is about a team of superheroes called “the Watchmen.” But that team never shows up.

“There is no group by that name,” Riesman says. “The noun, as it turns out, is referring to Juvenal’s immortal question, ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes,’ one translation of which is, ‘Who watches the watchmen?’

“It’s a clever and disarming misdirect: instead of denoting the costumed crusaders in the novel, the title is critiquing them for their narcissistic decision to act as humanity’s unaccountable guardians — and critiquing us for our dreams about letting them do so. That’s sorta the whole point of Watchmen. Three decades after it debuted, it remains the gold standard for deconstructionist superhero stories, subverting the perverted power fantasies and harmful delusions of grandeur that we indulge in when we create or consume superhero fiction.”

DC is likely to miss that point, Riesman speculates, “treating the pointedly pathetic protagonists of Watchmen as just another super-team. In fact, it seems almost inevitable.”

And it will undercut and destroy the whole idea of Moore’s Watchmen, Riesman continues: “Moore ... [made] an epic that was free of the moralism and heroism of the mainstream DC universe. In the ecosystem of conventional superhero stories, the good guys always win, the bad guys always lose, and the moral gray areas are never that gray. That kind of approach is antithetical to the themes of Watchmen, in which the good guys are fuck-ups, sadists, and/or sociopaths whose personal failings wind up making them the bad guys. What’s more, their world mostly follows the laws and logic of our own, with only one character possessing actual superpowers — a fact that makes him horrifyingly pivotal in the fate of humanity.”

So what will happen when the “earnest do-gooders” of the DC universe meet “the tragic idiots? There are only two possibilities that I can imagine,” Riesman writes. “One is an extremely metatextual satire that finds humor in the eye-rolling notion of such an encounter. But that’s about as likely as Batman adding a tutu to his costume. Much more probable is a story that crassly capitalizes on 30 years of enthusiasm for and familiarity with Watchmen’s characters by throwing them into a serious, high-octane adventure alongside the kinds of figures they were designed to mock. The idea is perverse in its misguided, more-is-more shallowness.”

Riesman says he “struggles” to imagine “what anyone could do to make a worthwhile and respectful Watchmen tie-in. We should withhold critical judgment until the pudding is made, but I’m not holding out a lot of hope.”

Riesman mentions DC’s recently launched Rebirth in which “creators were told to tweak the venerable mainstream-superhero pantheon so the characters could be their best selves.” It’s possible, I suppose, that “the” Watchmen could serve as a thematic foil, contrasting failed or flawed superheroism with successful “best selves” superheroism in the Rebirthed DC universe. Such a maneuver would give the Watchmen a serious (if not satirical) function. It would also perpetuate Moore’s theme.

That, however, is not likely to happen. DC is almost certainly simply using the fame of Moore’s Watchmen to hype sales of its titles, a sad but capitalistically sound tradition.

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

HAS CHARLIE GONE SOFT ON ISLAMIC HOOLIGANISM?

Charlie Hebdo cover 2015

One of Charlie Hebdo’s most outspoken journalists quit the satirical magazine at the end of 2016 because, she says, it has gone soft on Islamist extremism. AFP reports that “Zineb El Rhazoui accused the weekly of bowing to Islamist extremists and no longer daring to draw the Prophet Muhammad.” Said she in a damning interview with AFP: “Charlie Hebdo died on January 7” 2015, the day the gunmen attacked the magazine’s office, killing 12 people.

She said she felt Charlie Hebdo now follows the editorial line the extremists had demanded “before the attack — that Muhammad is no longer depicted.”

El Rhazoui, 35, who is followed everywhere by police bodyguards and is known as the most protected woman in France, also questioned the magazine’s “capacity to carry the torch of irreverence and absolute liberty.”

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

COMICS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS DO WELL IN 2016

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl coverLast year, reports Michael Cavna, the only area within adult fiction that increased in sales over 2015 was graphic novels. He quotes Publishers Weekly, which, citing Nielsen BookScan numbers, asserts: “The lone bright spot in fiction was comics and graphic novels, which had a 12% increase on the year.”

Fiction overall was nearly flat last year, dipping by 1 percent. There were “no breakout bestsellers” in adult fiction, PW reports, and almost “all fiction subcategories closed out the year lower than in 2015.” Yet amid this nearly across-the-board decline on the fiction side, comics were too popular to be denied.

At mid-year (last summer), Heidi MacDonald at publishersweekly.com reported that after a year of slipping sales and smaller lines in 2015, the comics industry was in a more upbeat mood at the 2016 Diamond Retailer Summit, held August 31-September2 in Baltimore by Diamond Comic Distributors, the main distributor for periodical comics and traditional comics publishers. ...

While sales have yet to fully recover from a shaky start in 2016— overall sales are down 2.2%— graphic novels are up 2.4%. Additionally, Diamond’s customer count is up 3.6%.

Periodical comics are down 2.6%, and merchandise down 1.6%. However, at a breakfast presentation, Diamond reps announced that sales had picked up over the summer, and by year's end they expect sales to stabilize.

The growth in graphic novels was remarked on by nearly every publisher. Mainstream authors Chuck Palahniuk and Margaret Atwood have had success at Dark Horse, said editor in chief Dave Marshall, at a state-of-the-industry panel. “More and more of our readers are preferring the collected [book] format.” ...

Much of this summer’s surge in sales is due to DC’s Rebirth event, a moderate revamp of its superhero comics line, which launched in April and has shipped over 12 million returnable units since then. The sales velocity of Rebirth has been even bigger than 2011’s New 52 (an earlier DC superhero revamp), with Rebirth showing a 76% rise in sales compared to New 52’s 47% rise.

DC hopes to continue the upswing with a Justice League vs Suicide Squad event — DC’s iconic superhero team battles DC’s bad-guys turned good-guys team—early in 2017, announced by co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee.

At Marvel, retail channels outside the direct market (local comic book stores) have had an impact, including Scholastic Book Fairs, where lighthearted Marvel characters such as Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl are sold. Marvel senior v-p of marketing and sales David Gabriel said Marvel is having its best year since he started at the company 14 years ago. The new Black Panther series by Ta-Nehisi Coates has also expanded the diversity of Marvel’s line, as well.

Other publishers saw a similarly rosy horizon.

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

GRAPHIC NOVELS OFF THE NYT LISTS

GHOSTS  coverStarting February 5, the esteemed New York Times dropped graphic novels from its bestseller lists—i.e., Hardcover Graphic Books, Paperback Graphic Books and Manga. Among graphic novel publishers, this maneuver is seen as a serious blow to the future of graphic novel publication.

“In recent years, we introduced a number of new lists as an experiment, many of which are being discontinued,” New York Times VP-Communications Danielle Rhoades Ha said in an email to ICv2's Milton Griepp. “The discontinued lists did not reach or resonate with many readers.”

The graphic novel bestseller charts date to 2009, with George Gene Gustines of the Times marking the significance of the launch in the Arts Beat blog with the pronouncement that “Comics have finally joined the mainstream,” a cultural milestone for the comics medium.

“We read the ‘did not reach or resonate’ comment as ‘didn’t get enough clicks,’” wrote Griepp, “but note that publishers and comic creators have used the ‘New York Times bestseller’ moniker frequently as a way to provide a widely accepted measure of a title’s popularity. So even if direct traffic was less than the Times wants for the amount of labor it took to produce the lists, they certainly spread the brand and credibility of the Times to a broader audience.

“We see this as a retreat,” Griepp continued, “— by the most important publication in the U.S. from one of the fastest-growing and most influential parts of pop culture, even though [as promised] the Times may increase other forms of [graphic novel] coverage.”

According to Ha, “The change allows us to expand our coverage of these books in ways that we think will better serve readers and attract new audiences to the genres.”

But, saith Griepp, “The lack of understanding that comics are a medium, not a genre, is not reassuring. And even if there are more reviews and other coverage, there is no way that the number of titles affected by such reviews can ever come anywhere near the number of titles to which publishers were able to append ‘New York Times bestseller’ for the past eight years.

It’s an unfortunate event for the comics business, which has been growing (particularly in the graphic novel format, which, coupled to comics sales, topped $1 billion in sales in a recent report), and one sign of the seemingly inexorable forces that are pummeling the newspaper business at the Times and elsewhere.

“Regardless of the reasons for the move,” Griepp went on, “the impact on comics will be negative, particularly on the front lines of the medium’s battle for legitimacy, such as schools and libraries. And we find it hard to believe that it will ultimately be good for the New York Times.”

The decision apparently came directly from the Times book review editor Pamela Paul, who took to Twitter to defend her decision:

“Quick note to fellow comics/graphic novel fans: the Times is not cutting back on coverage of these genres/formats but rather expanding on coverage in ways that reach more readers than the lists did. To wit: new graphic reviews by comic artists, more reviews and more news and features about the genre and its creators. We are big fans, and want to recognize growing readership. Stay tuned.”

For an industry that has spent decades working its way into the mainstream, said Michael Cavna at Comic Riffs, “the death of the graphic-books lists feels like an odd setback that runs counter to recent trends. Just this month, Publishers Weekly reported that according to Nielsen BookScan numbers, all types of adult fiction books decreased in sales in 2016 — except for graphic novels, which increased 12 percent over 2015.”

Although all the comics publishers were troubled by the decision to cut the lists, said Calvin Reid at publishersweeky.com, “some publishers criticized their accuracy and were not especially worried that their elimination would hurt the category.

“Ted Jones, CEO of IDW Publishing, one of the largest independent comics and graphic novel publishers in the country, said he was disappointed to see the list go, but: ‘We liked being able to say something was a NYT best-seller but I don't know that it ever really impacted sales.’

The issue is discussed at even greater (not to say tedious) length in the Usual Place (RCHarvey.com, Rants & Raves, Opus 363).

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

KOMINSKY-CRUMB & CRUMB SHOW

A new show displays the work Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Robert Crumb have made over the decades of their partnership. At newrepublic.com, Josphine Livingstone begins her report: ‘As a woman with a big ass, I’ve always liked Robert Crumb. Those who are familiar with Crumb’s art only in passing will know him for the big, sturdy, sexualized women he drools over in his comics. ‘Nice big legs!’ one drawing reads, next to an arrow pointing to some nice, big legs. Crumb draws himself as a paltry little nerd, sometimes clinging to the legs of an enormous woman, his eyes hidden completely behind bottle-bottom glasses. Flecks of saliva tend to fly across the paradigmatic Crumb page.”

Although he is the better known of the two, Livingstone continues, “Crumb has been married for 40 years to the equally talented comics artist Aline Kominsky-Crumb. A new exhibition at David Zwirner gallery in New York City (previously on view at the Cartoonmuseum Basel) displays the work they have made together and separately over the decades of their partnership.”

Sorry: I beg to differ. Aline Kominsky-Crumb is not anywhere near as talented a cartoonist as her husband. She has an underground cartoonist’s sensibility, but she can’t draw worth a toot, as we can plainly see in the picture at the lower right, of the cover of their Drawn Together that shows both cartoonists seated on a couch, self-portraits of each. And next to that, at the left, another Kominsky-Crumb self-portrait. Above these two is a more illuminating visual — a photograph of the happy couple.

CrumbCrumb

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

GARFIELD IS A BOY

Wikipedia’s editors have apparently be arguing about the orange cat’s sex. The controversy, saith the Associated Press, began a couple years ago after Garfield’s creator Jim Davis told a viral content site Mental Floss that as a cat, Garfield is “not really male or female.” By which he meant, I think, that as a cartoon character, Garfield, like all cartoon characters, “is not perceived as being any particular gender, race, age or ethnicity ... so the humor can be enjoyed by a broader demographic.” But that was enough to send fans off into the outer reaches.

Davis has now set the record straight, telling the Washington Post that Garfield is male and has a girlfriend named Arlene.

Garfield in repose

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

BELL WINS BERRYMAN -- AND MORE

Darrin Bell of the Washington Post News Service and Syndicate is the winner of the 2016 Clifford K. and James T. Berryman Award for Editorial Cartoons. He went to Washington to receive the award and reported on a memorable experience there, visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture.

DarrinBell

He began by admitting that he was nervous about his pending speech before thousands of journalists. He and his wife and daughter planned to visit the Lincoln Memorial before the presentation ceremony, but en route, they stopped at the Smithsonian’s African American Museum.

Darrin Bell self-portrait“I won’t describe what we witnessed in that museum,” Bell said. “I’m sure you can find descriptions elsewhere, but I think it’s something that’s so powerful, and so personal, that it shouldn’t be spoiled. There is something in there that’s going to stop you in mid-step and make you feel more than you thought you would. And that something is different for everyone. ... But I will say this: there comes a point, after you’ve literally risen through the centuries of struggle, persecution, and contributions of slaves and their descendants, where there’s a reflection room. You sit by a fountain that rains down from the high ceiling and come to terms with everything you’ve just seen. … Or you try to.

“I’m the great great great grandson of slaves whose contributions to America were ignored and lost to history. And here I was in the nation’s capital, about to accept an award for my contribution to the national conversation. One of the least important realizations I experienced in that reflection room was that compared to everything I’d just seen, standing up before thousands of people and saying a few words was nothing at all.”

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

PREZ

Prez coverMark Russell’s satirical comic book Prez, about the first woman teenage president of the U.S., was supposed to return last October with six more issues that would complete the 12-issue series. But those issues were cancelled, ICv2 reported last summer. Instead, a 12-page winding-up Prez Election Special was supposed to arrive in November.

No official reason was offered for the change, and perhaps poor sales had some influence, but Steve Bennett (Confessions of a Comic Book Guy) speculates that “given the nearly hysterical political mood of the country as we move ever closer to this year’s presidential election, you can’t discount the possibility that Time Warner just didn’t want to seem to take any sort of political stance (especially with so many people busy online comparing one of the current candidates to former President Lex Luthor).”

Prez finally showed up as a backup story in Catwoman Election Night No.1 in November, and there, it fizzled out sadly but brilliantly, the last appearance of this happy frolic of a political satire funnybook.

Herein, Russell takes on gun control (or, in this case, lack of it) and women’s reproductive rights, linking them for one of the niftiest wrap-ups you can imagine.

The opening gun segment ends with the deaths of several open-carry advocates when the police can’t tell who the rogue shooter is. So much for the advisability of arming everyone: everyone armed is everyone a target — and everyone a shooter.

Later, Prez Beth is defeated in an attempt to control gun violence by limiting access to ammunition. “The Second Amendment,” she points out, “guarantees the right to bear arms, but it doesn’t say anything about ammunition. I mean, as long as we’re interpreting it exactly as it was written...,” she concludes satirically.

But Russell gets in one final jab: birth control pills, which Beth’s Congress wants to outlaw, are finally permitted when they are shaped like bullets that can actually be fired from a gun rather than taken orally.

Too bad there won’t be more of this caliber comedy in the future. Apparently at DC Comics, George S. Kaufman’s famous saying “Satire closes on Saturday night” is as accurate ever.

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

NEW YORKER'S BLISS GOES RECLUSE

Henry Bliss photo

The former New Hampshire home of the famously reclusive author J.D. Salinger was bought recently by Harry Bliss, a New Yorker cartoonist and former board member at the Centre for Cartoon Studies. The house is adjoined by a studio apartment (reached through a tunnel from the main property that enabled Salinger to go back and forth without being seen) which Bliss thought might be a good space to have young artists come and use whilst studying at the Centre, presumably. “The idea of nurturing a graphic novelist -- I’m so into it,” Bliss said, “ — this idea that you could go somewhere and be away from everything and have that intimacy with your work.”

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

BLACK LIGHTNING ON THE TUBE

Black Lightning has found a home at the CW after a brief dalliance with Fox, which opted not to proceed with a pilot. The TV series is being produced by Greg Berlanti, who has also has a hand in Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Riverdale. The series is being written by the husband-and-wife duo of Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil. One of DC’s first African American superheroes, Black Lightning was created by Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eden. The television show would also mark the first major Black superhero for the CW’s lineup. No release date was revealed.

Black Lightning - The CW

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

BARENEKIDWIMMIN RETURN TO PLAYBOY

After a year of comparative decorum — proclaiming its issues free of total female nudity (a borderline serious misrepresentation) — Playboy has brought naked ladies back to the magazine. But it has not restored the other feature that it discontinued with the March 2016 issue. Cartoons. It’s a tragic shame. Playboy did more than any other magazine to elevate the art of single-panel magazine cartooning with its full-page color cartoons. And now the magazine has seemingly abandoned its legacy, and magazine cartoonists have only one other prestigious outlet — The New Yorker, which, alas, no longer publishes full-page single-panel cartoons.

 

NYer Cartoon Issue cover 12-15-97

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PRINCE VAL IS 80

By Brian M. Kane

Hal Foster photoBefore television, when most films were still black and white, the Sunday comics were an oasis of color in a Depression-era gray world. Highly popular comic strips drove newspaper sales in the early 20th century, so it is little wonder that their creators were regarded as celebrities. The epic Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur by Harold Rudolf “Hal” Foster premiered in the color comics section on February 13, 1937.

Prior to Prince Valiant, Foster originated the adult-protagonist adventure strip genre by adapting Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan as a black and white daily strip in 1928, which was followed by the Tarzan color Sunday feature from 1931-1937.

Yeates photoFaced with imposing financial and creative constraints as a work-for-hire artist, Foster focused his considerable skills as an illustrator toward producing his own strip. The extraordinary effort resulted in international prominence for both Prince Valiant and Foster. Today, after 80 years, “Val” remains one of the few adventure strip characters still in print, now being expertly drawn by Tom Yeates.

Fitnoot: For all of Kane’s commemorative article, plus brilliantly colored illustrations from the strip, visit kingfeatures.com/2017/02/prince-valiant-turns-80/

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

THE SPIRIT JOINED TRACY TO FIGHT CRIME

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WILL EISNER!

Dick Tracy logo panelMike Curtis (writer) and Joe Staton (artist) keep bringing into their Dick Tracy more and more walk-ons by characters from other strips. The most recent completed adventure, which has Will Eisner’s the Spirit partnering with Tracy, also saw the arrival of Daddy Warbucks and Mr. Am from Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie, and Hotshot Charlie and the Dragon Lady from Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates. There were so many guest appearances that the plot often wanders off into a weedy vacant lot next door, a typical outcome when a parade of cameo actors goes by because each requires some background explanation or a few minutes in the spotlight alone.

Curtis reached out to Denis Kitchen to arrange for The Spirit’s appearance to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Eisner’s birth; as Kitchen & Hansen Agency, Kitchen represents Will Eisner Studios, the family-owned entity that controls Eisner’s intellectual property. Acting for the estate of Al Capp, Kitchen had earlier brokered the Fearless Fosdick/Dick Tracy crossover.

With the end of the Spirit story, Staton is taking off for a few weeks to complete another project that he committed to before picking up the Tracy gig — an encore appearance of E-Man, a comic book superhero that he and Nick Cuti created years ago. In his absence, Tracy will be drawn by Shelly Pleger, who is the regular inker and letterer on the strip. Pleger’s continuity has something to do with cosplaying at comic cons, and at the beginning some other antique Tribune Syndicate characters show up — Harold Teen and his buddy Shadow from Carl Ed’s Harold Teen.

TracySpirit

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PEANUTS FOR SALE?

Peanuts Group 3-DReuters reports that the U.S. brand management company Iconix Brand Group Inc is exploring a sale of its majority stake in Peanuts Worldwide LLC, which owns the rights to cartoon strip characters Snoopy and Charlie Brown, according to people familiar with the matter.

Created by Charles Schulz and licensed in over 100 countries, the characters generate about $30 million in 12-month earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, the source added. They declined to comment on the expected deal valuation — and they cautioned that there was no certainty that any deal at all would occur. So why report this?

Because if true, it means big bucks for someone.

In 2015, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc released “The Peanuts Movie,” which was nominated for a Golden Globe award and grossed $246 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo (quoted by Reuters), a website that tracks the revenue that movies generate. Iconix logoPeanuts' largest international market is Japan, where a new Snoopy museum opened last year.

Iconix, which also owns clothing brand Joe Boxer and outdoor wear brand London Fog, purchased an 80 percent stake in Peanuts in 2010 from U.S. media company E.W. Scripps Co in a deal valued at $175 million. The remaining 20 percent is owned by Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, which is controlled by the Schulz family.

But if “sources” aren’t prepared to vouch for the veracity of their own rumors, we can safely disregard this whole blurb.           

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

UPWARD TO ENHANCED MAINSTREAM STATUS

EW Defenders coverNow it’s official: comics are a legitimate part of mainstream popular culture. Entertainment Weekly is our guide. The Defenders (Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Daredevil and Iron Fist) were on the cover of the January 20 issue; and the next week, TV’s “Supergirl” and funnybooks’ Patsy Walker: AKA Hellcat were numbers 4 and 5 of the week’s Must List—“the things we love this week.” Then a few weeks later, the movie about Marvel’s Thor was a cover feature. And so it goes. Validation.

Then the February 6 issue of Time magazine did a two-page serious review of “Riverdale,” the “dark” TV version of the Archie Universe. How dark? Archie is getting over an affair with his music teacher; and a murder is afoot. Time is a supposedly serious newsmagazine; EW is cake and cool whip. After Time coverage of Archie, we need look no further for the ultimate validation.

But it goes on. The following week, Time took up the matter of National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates’ writing comic books — specifically, Black Panther. And when Coates produced a story Black Panther & The Crew with Black Lives Matter symbolism, Coates responded to a question: “This is in the air. It’s not like I looked at a Black Lives Matter protest and said, ‘Hey, I want to write a comic book about that.’ But you’re confronted with it every EW Thor coverday. So when I sat down to think about what is this story with four black protagonists about, that rose up. The events of the day are with me.

“These issues are all over comic books,” he continued, “— and particularly throughout the history of Marvel. What weighs on me is reading X-Men as a child. They were charged. They dealt with discrimination. They dealt with being an outsider. They dealt with the things that I was feeling. The comics I’ve always read have always had a philosophical thread. The Black Panther books are not just a story about a king trying to rule. I’m trying to answer other questions, philosophical questions, social questions.”

Time accompanied the interview with sidebars about “comics we can’t wait for” — Motor Crush, Steven Universe, Batwoman (“perhaps the highest-profile queer superhero”), Extremity, and America (“queer Latina superhero America Chavez gets her own comic”), all illustrating the premise that “comic books have become ground zero for new kinds of heroes.”

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

STAN LEE'S OKAY

Stan Lee got fans all in a swivet over the past few weeks. He has cancelled appearances at a few conventions, including Big Apple Comic Con and Salt Lake Comic Con FanX, due to health issues. But, at 95, he’s bound to have some off-days. In any event, he has taken to Facebook to let fans know his health is improving: “Been feeling almost back up to snuff,” he posted. “So time to send out the battle cry: Excelsior!”

Stan Lee Excelsior! photo

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RUBEN BOLLING WINS HERBLOCK PRIZE

The Herblock Foundation's press release:

Ruben Bolling, pen name for Ken Fisher, has been named the winner of the 2017 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning for his weekly page-size comic-strip format cartoon Tom the Dancing Bug, a free-format cartoon that uses varying types of humor, artistic styles and formats. It’s an unusual strip in that in any given week, it could feature a spoof, a multi-panel sketch, political or absurdist humor, recurring characters or caricatures of real people. But during 2016, political subject matter was at its heart, as it mostly dealt with the election and the rise to power of Donald Trump.TomBug

In any year, it would be an unusual — that is, unconventional — choice for an award typically given to the time-honored editorial page single-panel commentary cartoon.

Judges for this year’s contest were Mark Fiore, editorial cartoonist in animation and winner of the 2016 Herblock Prize; Matt Wuerker, editorial cartoonist for Politico and 2010 Herblock Prize winner; and Martha Kennedy, curator of Popular and Applied Graphic Art at the Library of Congress.

Fiore said: “Ruben Bolling’s cartoons are consistently sharp, funny and incredibly original. His use of recurring characters, like Hollingsworth Hound and Lucky Ducky, add a wonderfully inventive richness to his masterful satire. Bolling’s deft skewering operates under the cover of silly cartoon fun.”

Said Wuerker: “Ruben Bolling created his own unique style of political cartoon, one that’s full of sly allusions and clever twists. Tom the Dancing Bug pushed the form into new territory with imaginative tropes, deft imagery and provocative allegory. He makes his political points with a humor and writing style that’s fresh and singularly his own.”

In his strip, Bolling repeatedly demonstrates his concern about the power of large corporations, saith St. Wikipedia, and satirizes the way government has been corrupted by money. Particularly since 9/11, Bolling's work often concerns war. Many of his strips admit no political interpretation, instead featuring absurdist humor or parodying comic strip conventions. Bolling's lampoons of celebrity culture, such as in the parodic series of comic strips labeled "Funny, Funny, Celebs," can be scathing.

It was while attending Harvard in the mid-1980s that Fisher came up with the idea for Tom the Dancing Bug and his pseudonym, Ruben Bolling (which is a melding of the names of two favorite old-time baseball players, Ruben Amaro and Frank Bolling). The strip originally ran in the Harvard Law School Record. More about Bolling and the history of the strip can be found in the usual place, RCHarvey.com.

You can see more examples of the Bug that Dances by Googling “Tom the Dancing Bug.” Happy hunting.

This year’s Finalist (runner-up) is Marty Two Bulls Sr., a freelance Oglala Dakota cartoonist who has drawn editorial cartoons for the Indian Country Today Media Network since 2001. He will receive a $5,000 after-tax cash prize. Fiore commented: “The cartoons of Marty Two Bulls, Sr. take a hard-hitting look at issues impacting native peoples. His bold style screams with powerful messages that have been overlooked by much of society. Two Bulls’ strong work exemplifies a courage and ferocity that is the lifeblood of a good political cartoon.”

TwoBulls

The Herblock Prize is awarded annually by the Herb Block Foundation for “distinguished examples of editorial cartooning that exemplify the courageous independent standard set by Herblock.” The winner receives a $15,000 after-tax cash prize and a sterling silver Tiffany trophy. Bolling will receive the Prize on March 29th in a ceremony held at the Library of Congress. Representative John Lewis, the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district, will deliver the annual Herblock Lecture at the awards ceremony.

Donald and John

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READ AND RELISH

Inscribed on a baseball cap:

"I am your leader. Which way did they go?"

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NEW CREDIT FOR WONDER WOMAN?

Secret History of Wonder Woman coverEllie Collins is mustering the feminist and otherwise caring troops to add a name or two to the credit line identifying the creator of star-spangled Amazon. Now that Jill Lepore’s Secret History of Wonder Woman has told the whole world about William Moulton Marston and his two live-in lovers, his wife Elizabeth Holloway and his one-time student Olive Byrne — all members of a “sex cult” that practiced free love and advocated the superiority of women — it’s time to admit, as Lepore apparently does, that Holloway had a role in developing a comic book superheroine. Ditto Byrne.

So Collins would like the credit line to read: Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston and Elizabeth Holloway Marston — maybe even adding on the end, “with Olive Byrne.” I assume that this proposal is timed to get the credit on the big screen when the Wonder Woman movie debuts. So where’s H.G. Peter, the guy who created WW’s look? I mean, if you wanna be inclusive in portioning out credit, let’s be all-inclusive and not overlook the most visible aspects of a visual artform.

Secret History of Wonder Woman image

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THE NIB : ONLINE WITH DECIDEDLY IRREVERENT EDITOONS

Matt Bors photoFirst Look Media has partnered with award-winning cartoonist Matt Bors on his irreverent online comics publication, The Nib. Formerly part of the online platform Medium, reported Alan Gardner at DailyCartoonist.com, The Nib re-launched last summer through First Look Media as an independent daily publication and online newsletter.

Created and edited by Pulitzer Prize finalist and Herblock Prize for Excellence in Cartooning winner Bors, The Nib (it sez here) “delivers engaging and provocative social commentary in the form of political cartoons, comics journalism, and non-fiction writing from a diverse team of contributors. As part of the First Look family of media properties, The Nib will continue its distinctive approach to storytelling with enhanced distribution platforms to bring its irreverent content to more people in more ways. The partnership is part of First Look Media’s mission to support independent voices and to help them reach and expand their audiences.”

The Nib logo

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NEW SCHOLARLY ASSOCIATION FORMING

INKS Vol 1 Number 1 coverThe Comics Studies Society, a new professional association for comics researchers and teachers to promote the critical study and teaching of comics both within and without the academy, started recruiting members last spring.

A learned society open to scholars across the disciplines and from diverse backgrounds, CSS is the first U.S.-based comics studies organization to be supported by members’ dues while advocating for professional development, teaching, and the expansion of resources for comics research. Founding memberships are now available at various levels: students, comics professionals, independent scholars, contingent faculty, tenure-line faculty, librarians, curators, and academic administrators. Dues vary: $25 for students; $30 for independent scholars or contingent faculty; $50 cartoonists/comics professionals; $100 for tenure-line faculty, administrators, librarians, or curators. Visit http://www.comicssociety.org/members

A journal will be launched in 2017. Until then, members will receive The Best of Inks Series 1 collection, featuring a selection of the best essays from the pioneering comics studies journal of the early 1990s, edited by Lucy Shelton Caswell and with an all-star cast of collaborators (including yrs trly, your faithful reporter).

The CSS is open to anyone with a serious interest in comics studies, which it defines liberally to include the study and critical analysis of comic strips; comic books, papers, and magazines; graphic novels, albums, and other graphic books; webcomics and other electronic formats; single-panel cartoons, including editorial and gag cartoons; caricature; animation; and other related forms and traditions. All types of sequential art, graphic narrative, and cartooning are relevant to the Society’s mission.

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

IRAN'S BETE NOIR IS BACK AT THE DRAWING BOARD

You’d think that Atena Farghadani, after spending 18 humiliating and brutalizing months in prison for caricaturing the Iranian Parliament, would, upon her release last summer, retire quietly to the comforts of her home. But she didn’t. Instead, she went on Facebook with a new cartoon taking aim at the state-run women’s university that expelled her after she was arrested. Maren Williams at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund filed the ensuing report:

The president of Alzahra University, where Farghadani was studying art, is Ensieh Khazali — the daughter of a hardline ayatollah who died last year. In the new caricature, Farghadani depicts Khazali as a Yoda-like gremlin with bird feet chained to a throne bearing her father’s likeness, suggesting that the university is constrained by the most repressive elements of Iran’s theocracy.

Farghadani was first arrested in August 2014 for her cartoon mocking members of Parliament as they debated a bill to ban voluntary sterilization procedures, such as vasectomies and tubal ligations, in an effort to reverse Iran’s falling birthrate. But even before her arrest, she was already well-known to the government for her fearless advocacy on behalf of political prisoners, Baha’i minorities, and the families of protesters killed after the country’s presidential election in 2009.

When at the end of 2014, Farghadani was released on bail while awaiting trial, she promptly uploaded a video to YouTube detailing abuses she suffered in prison including beatings, strip searches, and non-stop interrogations. She was rearrested in January 2015 and finally received the draconian sentence of 12 years and 9 months after a perfunctory jury-less trial in late May 2015. Last year, she was honored with the 2015 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award from CRNI.

She was finally released last spring after some charges were dismissed on appeal and the rest of her sentence was reduced to 18 months, which she had already served.

Also last year, Farghadani was additionally charged with “non-adultery illegitimate relations” for shaking the hand of her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi while he was visiting her in prison. Contact between unrelated members of the opposite sex is technically illegal in Iran, but rarely prosecuted. Moghimi was also charged, and both parties could have received sentences of up to 99 lashes if convicted.

Both were acquitted in January 2016, but in the course of the investigation Farghadani was involuntarily subjected to virginity and pregnancy tests. The specious virginity test is carried out by physically checking for the presence of a hymen, and is recognized by the World Health Organization as a form of sexual violence.

Mere minutes after her release last summer, Farghadani sent a short video to the activist Facebook page “My Stealthy Freedom,” where Iranian women post pictures of themselves without hijab. Here (in italics) is her brief but powerful message, according to the English subtitles on the video:

Some people think that art is not important, but the responsibility of an artist is to challenge authority and to be challenged. Sometimes the price for an artist is imprisonment, but do not forget that artists have responsibilities.

Farghadani’s fearless advocacy for human rights and freedom of expression is a continuing source of inspiration!

AtenaFreed

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COMICS AGAINST VIOLENCE

From the press release:

Nancy SilberkleitNancy Silberkleit, co-CEO and co-Publisher of Archie Comics, is using the power of comics to open a dialogue on gun violence. Published last spring, See Something, Say Something is an eight-page comic book that tells the story of a teen who is new at a school and is shunned and bullied by a group of students. He struggles with the turmoil and cannot find inner peace, which causes him to bring disharmony to the school. He tells another student of his plan to get even, which involves violence to others.

“I began working on this project at the beginning of this year,” said Silberkleit, whose Rise Above Social Issues Foundation has published comics on bullying and self-esteem. “After the horrific shooting in a church in South Carolina, United States last winter, I put the project on fast-track. Never could I have thought I would be suggesting that our educators present the unthinkable issue of ‘gun violence’ for classroom instruction. The story underscores the need to take action to bring about change, in this case to educate young people about dealing with anger and the need to say something if you see or hear something that could portend a problem.”

See Something, Say Something was scripted by noted U.S. educational consultant and scriptwriter Peter Gutierrez, with pencil illustrations by Loyiso Mkize from Cape Town, South Africa. The story has a five page teaching guide, free for teachers who purchase the digital comic.

Silberkleit, a former teacher, said the new book is designed to provide teachers with a platform to spark discussion among young people on the issue of keeping their educational environment safe.

“Like all of us, teens are looking for ways to explain and understand episodes of mass violence that too often capture the headlines,” she said. “The text and rich graphics of the comic create a stage for students to think creatively, internalize feelings and share them through open discussions in a classroom setting.”

Copies of See Something, Say Something are available digitally for $1.99. To order contact Nancy Silberkleit at riseabovesocialissues@gmail.com or call (+1) 914 450 9880.

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

STAN ON PARADE

“His name is the first name you think of when you think of Marvel” — an undeniable truth, no doubt. But for all his fame, Stan Lee hasn’t, until lately, been on the cover of Parade, the newspaper supplement that blankets the world on Sunday mornings.

StanParade

The cover story offers several insights into The Man, so we’re culling the best of them here—:

“Every day is a new adventure,” Lee says, and he’s never gone dry. “You can’t run out of ideas. You look at anything, you get an idea. I look at that telephone. If I look at it long enough, I’ll think of a story.”

But Lee doesn’t live in the past, and while he doesn’t mind talking about his many creations, he’s much more interested in what’s coming next.

For instance, when asked about what superpower he would most like to possess, he says “luck,” and immediately launches into talk about the show airing on British television called Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, which he says will be adapted for American TV sometime soon. ...

Last summer, Lee unveiled Nitron, a new comic-book character franchise targeted at feature films, TV and digital platforms, and launched Stan Lee’s Cosmic Crusaders, an animated online series in partnership with the Hollywood Reporter and Genius Brands International, in which a version of himself makes regular appearances.

When asked which three of his superheroes he would like to have dinner with, he takes a moment to think the question through. “I’d probably enjoy talking to Iron Man,” he says. “I’d like to talk to Doctor Strange. I like the Silver Surfer. Iron Man is sort of a classier Donald Trump, if you can imagine that sort of thing. The Silver Surfer is always philosophical; he comments about the world and man’s position in the universe, why we don’t enjoy living on this wonderful planet and why we don’t help each other.”

To Lee, his characters are real, and that’s the way he wrote them, with human foibles and frailties. He learned how from his youthful passion for reading. In his working-class upbringing in New York City, reading offered him both escape and something to reach for. Charles Dickens was a particular favorite, as were tales of adventure and derring-do.

“I wanted to be like the Scarlet Pimpernel,” he says. “I wanted to be like Tarzan.”

He remembers the personal connection he felt when he read the Jerry Todd and Poppy Ott books, precursors to the Hardy Boys series, featuring young detectives and a message from the author on each closing page.

“I loved that,” he says, and he remembered that feeling when he became a comic-book editor years later. “I wanted the readers to feel as if we’re friends. I did the Stan’s Soap Box column, just so the readers would get to know me.

“A lot of people that I meet now, older people, have said to me, ‘We love the fact that when we read the comics as a kid, they weren’t written for children only.’” ...

No wonder he can still keep those ideas coming and keep his superpowers focused on the next superproject.

Fitnoot: I’ve never heard of Nitron, and I suspect that many of Lee’s newest ideas for comic books and superheroes are so rooted in the past and the cultural milieu of the 1960s and 1970s that they’ll never be taken to the hearts of 2016 fans. —RCH, the old wet blanket his ownself

 

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WHITHER THE SIMPSONS?

David-silvermanOn a Sunday last fall, October 16, “The Simpsons celebrated its 600th episode, just 35 airings shy of the record for the most episodes of an American scripted prime-time show held by “Gunsmoke.” And this achievement prompted Michael Cavna at ComicRiffs.com to wonder: so when is the show finally going to ride off into the Springfield sunset?

“Never!” replies a laughing David Silverman, the longtime “Simpsons” producer who has been there since the very beginning, animating the interstitial shorts when the Simpsons debuted in 1987 on “The Tracey Ullman Show.”

“We don’t want it to end,” he says. ‘Keep it going!’ 600? I say: ‘1,000! Do I hear 2,000!'”

For the sake of comparison, as well as inspiration, Silverman cites the run of Looney Tunes, the classic animated comedy shorts from Warner Bros that spanned 1930 to 1969.

David Silverman drawing“It wasn’t that they were running out of ideas, per se,” says Silverman, citing Tex Avery’s Oscar-nominated “A Wild Hare” (1940) as the pinnacle of Looney Tunes animation. “They just ran out of a delivery system."

The Warner Bros. Cartoons studio closed as the ’70s dawned, marking the end of the “golden age” of animation.

“For ‘The Simpsons,’ so far, we haven’t run out of the delivery system,” notes Silverman, whose show holds the record for most seasons (27) of an American scripted prime-time show, with the renewal already announced for season 28.“I don’t know what’s going to happen to the future of home entertainment,” he continues, “but I think there’s always going to be some aspect of the big TV screen.”

“I don’t know why you’d stop it,” says Silverman of “The Simpsons,” which was co-created by Matt Groening, James L. Brooks and the late Sam Simon. “We’re having a great time.”

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

TRUMP AND TRUDEAU

In 1987, when Garry Trudeau first began ridiculing Donalt Rump, his presidential ambitions, and his soaring ego, said Michael Cavna at Comic Riffs, the real estate mogul was  flattered at Doonesbury’s attention. Later, maybe not so much, as Trudeau ridiculed him over his treatment of wives and other women, employees and other underlings — and, in general, most anyone (everyone?) he deemed beneath him.

Said Trump on one occasion in late 1988 when it was beginning, finally — after more than a year — to get to him: “There are 210 million people in this country. Why’s he have to keep putting me in his strip month after month?”

“Actually,” Trump said as Trudeau’s persecution of him continued, “I don’t read his stuff. You know, I did pretty well in school, but for the life of me, I still can’t understand what Doonesbury is all about.           

“They say Trudeau is somewhat clever,” the Trumpet continued, “but I’d venture to say that most people are like me: they don’t comprehend what Trudeau’s trying to achieve with Doonesbury either.”

“He’s always been impossible to ignore,” Trudeau told Cavna in an interview posted on last summer (July 5, when Chris Christie was still a viable possibility). “It’s like having a big, clanking cowbell installed in your head. I’ve just written four Sundays in a row about Trump, which is insane.

“I figured he’d eventually run,” Trudeau went on, "especially after he got a taste of double-digit poll numbers with his birther campaign. But I also assumed he’d quickly drop out after he’d maximized the promotional value.”

Said Cavna: “It’s easy to forget that many of the headlines surrounding Donald Trump’s current campaign were strikingly foreshadowed. But a stroll down the past three decades of Doonesbury can read like a road map to the billionaire’s 2016 candidacy.”

Then he lists the checkpoints:

A Trump run for president? Check. Doonesbury first had that covered nearly 30 years ago.

Campaign references to Trump as sexual being? Double-check. The comic strip was dishing that satire back in the last millennium.

Trump University shenanigans? You betcha. Cartoonist Trudeau was on the case more than a decade ago.

And Trudeau’s new book, Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump shows the degree to which The Donald himself has been telling us for decades what was on his long horizon. Herewith, we cull excerpts from Cavna’s interview with Trudeau.

“By 1987,” Trudeau said to Cavna, “he’d already made himself a risible figure in New York. But he was completely harmless, fodder for Spy magazine. The ads were the first ‘uh-oh’ moment and my response was a kind of reflexive, prophylactic slap-down. The grandiosity was so over-the-top that it would have been comedy malpractice to ignore it. Of course, now we know he was playing the long game. I’m sorry I missed that.”

Cavna: You call Trump an “a–hole.” Are a–holes any easier to satirize — kind of like how good actors are drawn to playing villains?

Trudeau: Absolutely. “A–hole” has a very particular meaning, one that is universally understood. The a–hole is a demeaning, abrasive bully who takes all the credit and assigns all the blame to others. In my lifetime, we’ve had several presidents who’ve disappointed us; we’ve had a crook, a warmonger, some philanderers, but we’ve never actually had a president who’s a total a–hole. This is where I fundamentally got it wrong; I assumed that the body politic would reject such a toxic personality. It’s also why I thought Chris Christie would fail to get traction. Now we face the distinct possibility of having not just one, but two a–holes on the same ticket. That’s how I much I know about politics.

Cavna: Has anything about Trump’s rise as a candidate changed your sense of much of the electorate?

Trudeau: Yes. I never imagined they could be so easily conned. Here’s what the people who love Trump don’t understand: he doesn’t love them back. I figured they’d be on to him by now. These are folks who feel anxious and left behind by the new economy. Many are struggling. Trump has a word for such people: losers. And he’s never had time for losers. He doesn’t have time to sit in their kitchens and go to their barbecues and listen to their problems. True, losers in the aggregate — say 12,000 at a time — get him to where he wants to be. But he’s always one squirt of Purell away from getting back on his plane so he can sleep in his penthouse. Never has an electorate been held in more contempt by its putative champion.

Cavna: What is your single favorite aspect about Trump for cartoon skewering?

Trudeau: Probably his use of language. An analysis by USA Today concluded that he uses a fourth-grade vocabulary in his speeches, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t inventive. Who else uses phrases like “nasty with lies” or “win with the military” or “that I can tell you”? I don’t do much to tweak his speech mannerisms — I’m more of a stenographer — but there is some art to reconfiguring it for satiric purposes...

Drawing Trump is a journey, not a destination. I’ve been trying to reverse-engineer his hair ever since it was brown, well before he set it on fire to run for president. All cartoonists draw Trump differently because we each have a different understanding of how he achieves his effects, especially now that he’s of a certain age. He’s been melting for some time now, so we’re now down to hulking, gilded bloat and it ain’t pretty. But someone has to draw it.

Cavna: Among the many political candidates you’ve covered and mocked over 46 years, where does Trump rank in that illustrious field?

Trudeau: I can’t really compare Trump to other political figures because they’re all relatively normal human beings. Trump, on the other hand, is an actual toon, and I’ve always treated him as such. He’s just another character in my strip, and the rest of the cast regard him as a peer. I didn’t have to change a thing.

Dbury 7-10-16

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YUGE! 30 YEARS OF DOONESBURY ON TRUMP


By G. B. Trudeau
112 8x9-inch pages, all in color
paperback
Andrews McMeel
2016
$9.19

YugeTrudeau has been after the Trumpet for three decades, and with the publication of this volume of reprints, we are invited to appreciate his prescience. As the Amazon blurb says: “Ever since the release of the first Trump-for-President trial balloon in 1987, Trudeau has tirelessly tracked and highlighted the unsavory career of the most unqualified candidate to ever aspire to the White House. It’s all there — the hilarious narcissism, the schoolyard bullying, the loathsome misogyny, the breathtaking ignorance; and a good portion of the Doonesbury cast has been tangled up in it. Join Duke, Honey, Earl, J.J., Mike, Mark, Roland, Boopsie, B.D., Sal, Alice, Elmont, Sid, Zonker, Sam, Bernie, Rev. Sloan, and even the Red Rascal as they cross storylines with the big, orange airhorn who’s giving the GOP such fits.”

And the Trumpster has had his shots at Trudeau, too: “Doonesbury is one of the most overrated strips out there. Mediocre at best,” saith the Trumpet. Trudeau is the “sleazeball” “third-rate talent” who draws the “overrated” comic strip that “very few people read.”

In his Preface to the book, Trudeau gets even:

By the 1980s, “Trump had already become the gold standard for big, honking hubris, and to ignore him would have been comedy malpractice. In New York City, he practically owned the 1980s, rocketing to the top as the Big Apple’s loudest and most visible asshole, knocking off big-league rivals like Ed Koch, Julian Schnable, and Steve Rubell. To those of us in the ridicule industry, the man Spy dubbed ‘a short-fingered vulgarian’ was a gift beyond imagining.”

Alluding to being a target of Trumpster vituperative, Trudeau continues: “I was one lucky tar baby, and remained so for years. ... Then came the extramarital affairs, both real and imagined, conducted under kleig lights, followed in rapid succession by the high-profile bankruptcies, his attempts to tear down a family restaurant to build a parking lot for limos, his various televised spectacles (the most storied of which featured him firing celebrities who were already out of work), his creepy sexual fantasies about his own daughter, the Truther debacle, his failed product lines, and on and on. ... You can’t make this stuff up, so why try? Some people feel that Trump is beyond satire, but we professionals know he is satire, pure and uncut, free for all to use and enjoy, and for that we are not ungrateful. For our country, though, we can only weep.”

The volume scrupulously dates each strip so you know exactly where in the continuum of Doonesbury mockery of the Trumpet each strip falls. The book, released last summer, is worth owning just for the intimate and detailed view Trudeau gives us of the Trumper’s complex hair-knit.


Dbury Sunday 2-14-16

 

 

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METLIFE SHEDS SHOOPY

MetLife Snoopy BlimpWhen MetLife adopted Snoopy as a symbol in 1985, it did so because it wanted to appear friendly and approachable, which was hard to do at a time when people thought “death benefits” and “beneficiaries” were synonymous with life insurance. Life insurance companies were seen as cold and indifferent. But Snoopy was cuddly and approachable, thanks to Charles Schulz, so the beagle provided the warm and fuzzy that helped with MetLife’s image.

These days, people no longer have a negative view of life insurance, and the company wants to brand itself in a way that opens doors internationally. Snoopy, despite his worldwide fame, apparently wouldn’t do for the new MetLife. So Snoopy is being retired from appearing in the giant insurance company’s print ads, TV commercials, marketing materials and on the sides of MetLife’s blimps at sports events.

“No more big-nosed beagle in the flight cap and goggles chasing the Red Baron on Metlife’s airship,” write Christine Hauser and Sapna Maheshwari in the New York Times. “No more television commercials featuring a smiling Snoopy navigating life’s treacherous waters to sell insurance. Cuddly Snoopy hitting a home run? Out.”

The move, saith MetLife, is part of an effort to update its corporate emblem for international competition.

New MetLife logoThe company called the decision the “most significant change” to the brand in decades. MetLife researched its decision before putting it into effect. Consumers thought the Peanuts characters were friendly and approachable, but did not associate them with traits like leadership and responsibility. Nor did the characters affect interest in buying insurance.

Besides, the company research determined that most people are “indifferent” to having Snoopy disappear from MetLife ads.

Instead, I gather from the Times article, the company’s emblem will be a giant M formed by overlapping pizza-like slices, one in blue the other in green, colors that “represent life, renewal and energy.”

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THE TRIAL OF MIKE DIANA

Soon To Be A Motion Picture Near You

Mike DianaOver twenty years after his mini-comic Boiled Angel made comix creator Mike Diana the first and only U.S. artist ever convicted of obscenity, an upcoming documentary aims to tell his story, reported Maren Williams at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. “Directed by cult filmmaker Frank Henenlotter and funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign, ‘The Trial of Mike Diana’ will explore the often subjective standards of obscenity and the intense backlash that can result from what are after all “only lines on paper.”

Diana’s work was exactly the kind that CBLDF was created to defend: “Boiled Angel featured nudity and sexuality, but also extreme violence, including mutilation, rape, and child molestation, as well as taboo subjects such as necrophilia and cannibalism,” Williams went on — although none of this is evident on the surreal cover.

Boiled

CBLDF financed Diana’s defense by local attorney Luke Lirot. “Despite Lirot’s valiant efforts and the fact that Boiled Angel did not meet the definition of obscenity as laid out in the three-pronged Miller Test, Diana was convicted and received a fine of $3,000, as well as a sentence of three years’ probation, which included stipulations that he stay away from minors and refrain from drawing.”

This diabolic sentence also directed that he would be subject to unannounced inspections by police.

The upcoming documentary will include original animation by Diana himself and will feature “interviews with several key players from the trial and the surrounding spectacle, as well as commentary on Diana’s case and his art from a slate of industry experts including Neil Gaiman, who was inspired to join CBLDF’s board of directors after witnessing this miscarriage of justice. Filming of The Trial of Mike Diana is nearly complete,” Williams concluded, “ — we’re thrilled to see this project come to fruition!

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

IT'S FRIDAY AGAIN

That Iowa farmer/cartoonist who was fired last summer for drawing an editorial cartoon critical of one of his newspaper’s advertisers? He’s back at Fort Dodge’s weekly Farm News. And he says he’s happy to be back. Rick Friday had been a fixture at the paper for over 20 years with his It’s Friday cartoon, and the national notoriety the paper attracted for firing him made the editors confront second thoughts — a remarkably unusual occurrence among editors who may regret publishing a cartoon that earns them criticism. But these guys were courageous enough to admit their mistake. They phoned the cartoonist, apologized, and asked him to return. Some negotiations ensued, and then on July 1, his cartoon returned. At the website, a message: "Farm News is delighted to announce the return of cartoonist Rick Friday. Beginning today, his witty insight will regularly return to its home on our editorial page and our website. Welcome back, Rick."

Getting fired brought fame to Friday from across the country, reported Charly Harley (from whose report I culled most of these words) — including articles in the Columbia Journalism Review and The New York Times. Friday said he received more than a thousand Facebook messages of support from around the world and has had job offers to draw for several different publications. He’ll be attending to some of them whilst still producing his weekly visual comment for the Farm News.

FridayCartoon

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AND IT'S WORSE IN TURKEY

In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been cracking down lately on opposition throughout the country in the wake of a failed coup attempt several months ago. Tens of thousands of alleged coup collaborators have been jailed or fired from their jobs.

“A failed coup is a great excuse to get rid of everyone Erdogan doesn’t like,” said editoonist/syndicate mogul Daryl Cagle in reporting the story — whether they were involved with the coup or not. “Virtually all of the media outlets that have been critical of him have been closed down. The only opposition paper left, Cumhuriyet, was raided last week with their editors, their top writers and their editorial cartoonist thrown in jail.”

The cartoons of Musa Kart have enraged Erdogan for years. Erdogan tried to put Kart in jail for nine years for the 2014 cartoon on the left below, that depicts a money-laundering scandal as a hologram of Erdogan looks the other way.

KartToon

Kart was detained by police and his home searched. Kart was acquitted of the charges, and as he left the courthouse, he said:

“How will they explain this to the world? I am being taken into custody for drawing cartoons. I’ve been trying for years to turn what we’re living through in this country into cartoons. Now I feel like I’m living in one.”

The 2005 cartoon on the right, above, shows Erdogan entangled in strings. Kart was tried and sentenced to prison, “but his penalty was reduced to a fine, and the courts later dismissed the fine,” Cagle said.

Hundreds of protesters camped overnight at the Istanbul headquarters of Cumhuriyet in support of the paper as the last symbol of freedom of the press.

Altogether, Cagle reported, “170 news media outlets have been shut down since the attempted coup and 105 journalists arrested. Authorities revoked the press accreditation of more than 700 journalists while thousands of journalists are unemployed.”

Cagle, whose syndicate distributes editoons by cartoonists from all over the world, said cartoonists everywhere are sharing drawings in support of a free press. Here, to conclude this report, is one by India’s Paresh Nath, one of Cagle’s roster.

NathToon

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BARNEY WAS BACK -- BRIEFLY

Barney Google, who was written out of his own comic strip (although not out of the title) years ago after Fred Lasswell took over Billy DeBeck’s creation and focused exclusively on life among the hillbillies, has been returning periodically to John Rose’s current continuation of Snuffy Smith. And he was back again for a week, starting December 4th.

GoogleSmith

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CHARLIE GOES ABROAD

Charlie Hebdo German EditionThe first German edition of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo arrived on newsstands December 1, nearly two years after Islamic Hooligans attacked the publication’s headquarters in Paris, killing top editors and cartoonists, ostensibly because they insulted Islam. The German edition is a response to significant German interest in Charlie Hebdo after the attack, editors told Charly Wilder at the New York Times.

“It’s an experiment,” Gérard Biard, Charlie Hebdo’s editor in chief, who added that the paper had been the subject of numerous exhibitions, awards and news coverage in Germany since the attack on January 7, 2015.

The new edition will consist mostly of translated material from the French version, but with some original content for its German readers.

The editor of the German edition, who uses the pseudonym Minka Schneider, said, “Germans feel particularly close to France and to Charlie Hebdo, and the debate about freedom of expression is very passionate here compared to other countries.”

The first German issue, with 16 pages, offers a four-page travel feature by the cartoonist Laurent Sourisseau, who uses the pen name Riss, depicting people he met across Germany and their thoughts on cultural heritage, national identity and the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees, most of them Muslims, in the last several years.

The reaction in the German news media has largely been positive, with a few exceptions.

“I don’t believe that magazine will go over well in Germany,” said Martin Sonneborn, a former editor of Titanic, a satirical magazine, “because it has such a specifically French aspect and represents a very unique type of humor.”

Charlie Hebdo’s brand of satire tends to be harsher and darker than German counterparts like Titanic and Eulenspiegel, said Wilder. The editors acknowledge the challenge of appealing to a German audience but said the timing of the new edition was opportune.

“Germany is facing problems today that France already faced a few decades ago, like immigration and the banlieues,” Schneider said, referring to the heavily immigrant neighborhoods that ring many French cities. “So maybe learning something about French society can help the Germans, and humor is a good way to do this.”

“Everybody can be a subject in Charlie Hebdo,” Biard continued. “So we feel pretty free to have a look at German society.”

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

CAPTAIN AMERICA NOT PARTICULARLY WELCOMED

Captain America statue in BrooklynWhen a one-ton, 13-foot-high bronze statue of Captain America made its first stop after crossing the country following its initial appearance at the San Diego Comic Con, it enjoyed a somewhat luke-warm reception at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

Installed at the Children’s Corner near the carousel to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Brooklyn-born Steve Rogers/Captain America character, it provoked criticism, reported Rachel Petty at the New York Post. “Green activists say the space was designated ‘commercial free’ by the city, and Marvel’s billion-dollar franchise is as commercial as it gets.”

Protesters apparently prefer “serenity” and the natural beauty of the green space to the star-spangled superhero. But, no worries: the statue will move to another location after its two-week stint in Prospect Park.

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LAST GASP'S NOT-LAST GASP

Last Gasp logoAccording to Milton Gieppe at ICv2, “Last Gasp has announced that it is closing down its distribution business, which has wholesaled comics, graphic novels, art books, and other publications for 47 years. The distribution business rose out of Last Gasp’s roots as a publisher of underground comics, which were sold through a network of bookstores, head shops, record stores, and eventually comic stores. Last Gasp used that network to sell not only its own comics, but those of competing publishers, and added to its mix books and occasionally magazines that fit the same audience.”

The company will now focus exclusively on its publishing endeavors “for which it has many new titles planned for 2017.”

Meanwhile, my guess is that we should keep a sharp eye out for a bargain-hunter’s sell-off of the publisher’s remaining inventory.

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THE ULTIMATE VALIDATION OF COMIC BOOKS

Enertainment Weekly 12-2-16Now that the movie business has established the cultural worth of comic books for everyone except the National Book Awards, Entertainment Weekly has begun to pay attention to more than just the summer extravaganza in San Diego. In the December 2nd issue (with a cover story about the next Star Wars movie), a new funnybook by “two of the most exciting comic-book creators, Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire” is fulsomely plugged. A.D., “a compelling mix of comics, art and storytelling,” is a “beautiful new series that explores a world in which death has been eliminated.” Another title in a lengthening roster of good comics—well drawn and well told in a blend of words and pictures — on mature (i.e., thoughtful) themes.

And comics even intruded in EW’s year-end “Best of 2016" issue, December 16/23. “Entertainer of the Year” is Ryan Reynolds — for his portrayal of smart-ass potty-mouth Deadpool, no less. And Benedict Cumberbatch is among the other top twelve “entertainers of the year” for his Dr. Strange as well as Sherlock Holmes.

Among the year’s best movies, “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” is listed because of the way breakout actress Gal Gadot plays Wonder Woman. And “Captain America: Civil War” is tenth in the top ten movies of 2016.

This commemorating issue even lists the Best Comic Book series of the year — Black Panther (Best New Series), Bitch Planet (Best Returning) DC Comics Rebirth series (Best Reboot), Monstress (Best Ongoing), and Goldie Vance (Best All-Ages). But there’s no “best graphic novel”category.

Entertainment Weekly Best of 2016 coverFinally, in reporting the reading recommended by various entertainment dignitaries (Emma Watson, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and Kerry Washington among others), the magazine cites Sarah Jessica Parker, who recommends Tintin in Tibet by Herge.

But I don’t want to give up on EW’s best of the year without pausing to note that the magazine recorded the “most bizarre auction item” — Truman Capote’s cremains, which, “ensconced in a wooden Japanese box, sold for $43,750.” Ewww.

Further evidence of EW’s allegiance with the comic book world, subscription renewal forms that arrived last month offered a bonus for subscribing by December 3rd — superhero t-shirts featuring (your choice) the Flash, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or Super Friends. Talk about uptown: we’re there!

Stick that in your pipe, National Book Awarders.

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JOHN LEWIS' MARCH WINS : Part Two

Part Two: Lewis Interviewed

Two days later, back in Nashville, Tennessee, which Lewis calls the first city he ever lived in, the Congressman was interviewed by Margaret Renkl on behalf of the Nashville Public Library Literary Award, which Lewis was on hand to receive the next day.

Margaret Renkl: Back in your student days, when you were being arrested repeatedly for working to integrate restaurants and movie theaters and the rest of daily life here, what would you have said if someone had told you that one day you’d be back in Nashville to accept a prestigious award for your work as an author?

John Lewis: I would have said, “You’re crazy. You’re out of your mind. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” I feel more than lucky — I feel blessed to come back here. I’m honored, I’m gratified, I’m pleased.

Asked about how he thinks the Black Lives Matter organizers feel about his generation of leaders, Lewis said: “I think the Black Lives Matters generation tends to admire and embrace what we did. I have had the opportunity to sit down and meet in Atlanta — and also in Washington — with many of the young people, and I tell them all the time, ‘Read the literature, read the papers and books and speeches from that period. You could learn something.’ And I tell them that we never became bitter. We never became hostile. We believed in the way of peace, the way of love—we believed in the philosophy and the discipline of nonviolence. I say, ‘You can learn something from the 1960s.’ And that’s what I tell them each and every time I meet with some of them.”

Does he have any advice for American children?

“Yes. I would say, ‘Children, read. Read everything. Learn as much as you can learn. Study. Be kind. Be bold. Be courageous. And just go for it.’ As I write in the book, my mother and father and grandparents and others said, ‘Don’t get in trouble. Don’t get in the way.’ I was inspired to get in trouble, and I got in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. People like Rosa Parks and Dr. King and Jim Lawson and others — and being in Nashville — helped mold and shape me, and I have not looked back since.”

Margaret Renkl: In the March trilogy, the story of your history is framed and punctuated throughout with scenes from your experiences on January 20, 2009 — the day of Barack Obama’s first inauguration — and it includes a note signed by President Obama: “Because of you, John.” What are you thinking as you watch his presidency come to an end after eight years?

John Lewis: It’s difficult to see it come to a close because I think President Barack Obama has injected something rare and meaningful into America, and it’s going to be missed. I see him from time to time; I listen to him by way of radio, TV; I read about him and each time he seems to be hopeful and optimistic. And that’s what we need more than ever before. I think he’s been good for America. He’s been good for the world community. On one occasion, when he was running for reelection, I said, ‘Mr. President, if you were running for reelection in Europe, you wouldn’t have to campaign. You’d win by a landslide.’ I’ve traveled to different parts [of Europe], and the people there love him.”

Reported by Rocco Staino at slj.com

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JOHN LEWIS' MARCH WINS : Part One

Part One: The Win

March, Book Three cover“This is unreal!” shouted Congressman John Lewis as he and his co-creators writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell accepted the 2016 National Book Award (NBA) for Young People’s Literature for March: Book Three (Top Shelf, 2016). The title is the third in a graphic memoir that chronicles the civil rights movement from the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 15, 1963, to the passing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965.

But — an award for Young People’s Literature? Why Young People?

Is it because graphic novels are glorified comic books, and comic books are for young people? Probably. But I don’t think the March trilogy was written expressly for young people. I think it was written for everyone, regardless of age.

I know: a carping criticism. Don’t look gift horseflesh in the maw. Accept your fate.

But Lewis didn’t. He didn’t accept his fate.

“There were very few books in our home,” Lewis recalled in accepting the award. He also told of going to his public library to get a library card, only to be told that libraries were “for whites.” Despite this, Lewis was still encouraged by his elders to “Read my child, read,” he said.

Aydin, digital director and policy adviser for the Congressman, as well the March trilogy’s co-author, reminded the audience that the “story of the movement must be told.” Lewis, who as a young man was directly involved with the Freedom Vote in 1963 in Mississippi, was convinced to tell his story in a graphic format by Aydin. A big fan of comic books, Aydin proclaimed at the close of his acceptance, “Prejudice against comic books must be buried once and for all.”

Hear, hear.

 

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PLAYBOY EXPLAINS

Playboy Cover 3-16As numerous of us gradually became aware, Hugh Hefner’s Playboy magazine (“Entertainment for Men”) stopped publishing photographs of absolutely barenekkidwimmin with the March 2016 issue. The reason: interested parties can find all sorts of barenekkidness on the Web, so why bother with print? Besides, Playboy has been losing money steadily in recent years. The brand makes money; but the magazine does not. Advertisers won’t buy ads in Playboy because they don’t want to be associated with nudity. Ergo, cancel the nudity and, awash in pristine purity, advertising will come flooding in. Maybe so.

Besides, Playboy wanted to go after a younger generation of readers/buyers. And the younger generation, which spends all its time on the Internet, searching for pictures of naked ladies, didn’t need Playboy for nude women. So Playboy, going after this demographic, changed its content. Appealing to a generation with short attention spans, the magazine is now loaded with short articles; no fiction anymore.

Since the change, newsstand sales of the magazine have increased; by a corresponding percentage, subscriptions have decreased. The plan may be working but it doesn’t look like a net gain yet. Still, the absence of naked ladies isn’t what got my wattles in an uproar.

What pissed me off was that Playboy has also given up publishing cartoons. Playboy was one of the last bastions of magazine cartooning (the other is The New Yorker); and now half that bastion is blasted.

Playboy Lorenz-June-69Playboy’s lame explanation for dropping cartoons is that the magazine wanted to eliminate “jump stories” — articles that started in the front of the magazine and are then continued in the back pages. The pages of jumped text created random spaces into which cartoons could be inserted. Eliminating jumped text had the effect of emphasizing the content of the feature articles in the front of the magazine, theoretically helping Playboy change its ambiance for the younger audience it hopes to attract.

That’s the short of it. However canny the maneuver may be, it left Playboy’s cartoonists high and dry. Susan Karlin at fastcocreate.com talked to several of them and to the magazine’s management for a full explanation, and the rest of this entry quotes her article verbatim (with snide comments from me in italics):

Okay, so no more nudity. But no more cartoons? Playboy, say it isn’t so!

When longtime Playboy cartoonist Dean Yeagle posted on Facebook about the magazine no longer accepting cartoon submissions, artists and fans responded with heartbreak, nostalgia, and confusion — especially considering the publication's longtime love affair with cartoons and illustrated pin-ups, and the rise in popularity of comics, animation, and [comic] conventions.

CahootsPlayboy1

 

"It’s strange to all of us," says Yeagle. "Hugh Hefner was always such a supporter of cartoons. All we got was this letter."

The letter, from Playboy cartoon editor Amanda Warren, states: "As I’m sure you’re aware, we’ve been undergoing a major redesign of the magazine and the updated Playboy will launch with its March 2016 issue," Yeagle read to Karlin. "It pains me to say this, while I can’t speak to the specifics of this revision just yet, I do want to let you know that we are presently not accepting new cartoon submissions."

Playboy’s redesign — unveiled with the March issue, which most famously eschews overt nudity — has a simplified look that targets younger readers. The cover featuring bikinied Instagram star Sara McDaniel with the lone word "heyyy ;)" across her torso, is a visual reference to Snapchat. The subtitle, “Entertainment for Men,” has disappeared altogether.

Inside, the publication sports a new Artist in Residence section that will profile a different illustrator each month, and a new permanent illustrator for The Advisor section. But gone are sprinklings of single panel and strip cartoons from multiple contributors that echoed Playboy’s edgy editorial stance, exposed artists to new followings, and inspired new generations of young illustrators.

Playboy Sneyd 2008"I think it’s a stupid move," said Pulitzer Prize and Oscar-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer, who drew for Playboy in the late 1950s to early 1960s. "If it’s simply a matter of rebranding, why not just change the type of cartoons they run? There are more and better cartoonists today writing in alternative media and graphic novels. It’s a whole new golden age for cartoonists."

"It was a surprise," added Doug Sneyd, who has contributed nearly 500 cartoons to the magazine since 1964. "I knew they were doing something new with the magazine, but I was surprised to hear they were eliminating the cartoons, which Hef always said were such a major part of the magazine. I felt that they could continue with cartoons in keeping with their new editorial policy. The New Yorker continues to have a lot of success with its cartoons."

Turns out, it was pretty painful on Playboy’s end, too. [Oh, sure. —RCH]

"The decision to eliminate the cartoons was like cutting off a limb" says Playboy editorial director Jason Buhrmester. "But it was never a decision of 'Let’s not run cartoons anymore.' It was, in order to be more contemporary and do the things we want to do with the magazine, we need to get rid of jump copy, and it changed a lot of things: our word counts, the revenue stream of fractional ads, and the home for cartoons. So it was a big, hard decision to make."

[So Playboy is going for shorter articles and bigger ads. With no nudes and no cartoons? Dunno how that’ll work. Besides, full-page cartoons have no connection to the jump copy dilemma — despite what Buhrmester says down the scroll a bit. —RCH]

Playboy Kliban Out of the WayPlayboy’s overhaul was an attempt to contemporize the magazine and lower its reader demographic from an average age of 40 to an 18 to 34 target. The biggest change was eliminating the jump copy (continuing an article on non-consecutive pages) and sidebars in order to de-clutter the layout and slow down the pacing of the magazine. But the rejiggering created a domino effect. Cartoons, longer articles, and smaller ads were among the collateral damage from the restructuring.

The amount of jump copy in back was squeezing the presentation of the front end feature articles. "That’s inverse the way a magazine should work," says Buhrmester. "It should be that the stories have some room to breathe. We were losing pages in the front of the book in order to generate enough jump copy to accommodate back ads and cartoons."

[Er, no. The jump copy wasn’t created to make spaces for ads and cartoons: it was created as a maneuver that enabled magazines to put all its headline stories as close to the front as possible. Grab a reader’s attention early on, then, once he’s engaged, continue the story later in the magazine. And the more stories you can start in the front of the magazine, the better. If you ran complete stories up front, that would take up all the space there, delaying some headline stories to run only later in the book. That cartoons filled in empty spots in the jumped copy in the back of the book was an incidental outcome, not the raison d’etre for the jumped copy. —RCH]

Buhrmester adds: "Getting rid of the jump copy eliminated the available spots for half and quarter page ads and cartoons."

Playboy Dedini full-pageOften, full-page cartoons in the feature section were used as spacers to accommodate ads in the back of the magazine or enable it to end on a left-hand page.

"So aside from being part of Playboy’s heritage, they were also used as strategic pacing devices." [And what about that heritage? —RCH]

To supplement the loss of cartoons, a new section, Artist in Residence, will feature a different cartoonist or animator each month. The March issue features animator Jay Howell, who created Fox’s Bob’s Burgers. [This maneuver will scarcely make up for the absence of cartoons. Howell is no cartoonist: he’s some sort of designer, a term that covers many otherwise incomprehensible vocations. —RCH]

Award-winning Brooklyn artist Mike Perry who created the opening animation sequence for Comedy Central’s Broad City, has been hired as the permanent illustrator for The Advisor.

Buhrmester plans to continue with occasional graphic novelets, which graced two issues last year — an original eight-page prequel for “The Hateful Eight” by Quentin Tarantino and artist Zach Meyer, in December and a six-page sequential by Stray Bullets comic creator David Lapham last summer. [These excursions into the realm of graphic novels were so badly done that they reveal Buhrmester’s complete inability to understand the medium. Again, such clumsy endeavors are hardly a substitute for single-panel gag cartoons, a genre all its own. —RCH]

"I’ve even been looking through some old issues from the '60s and '70s, which had full-page cartoons of, say, [someone’s] sketchbook and there would be a funny doodle about him going to the dentist or a Mohammed Ali fight," says Buhrmester. "We may try to accommodate stuff like that in the magazine. For now we’re open to doing that through the Artist in Residence feature."

Playboy Kliban 1965When it launched in 1953, Playboy was the rebellious upstart, questioning the era’s social mores, and its cartoons were complicit in that subversion. The magazine gave underground comic talent a mainstream outlet, struggling illustrators a career boost, and established artists a new platform. Luminaries like Gahan Wilson, Jack Cole, Shel Silverstein, *Vaughn Shoemaker (the Pulitzer winner who coined "John Q. Public"), Harvey Kurtzman (who helped create Mad), *Will Elder, *Frank Frazetta, *Russ Heath, Alan "Yossarian" Shenkar, Erich Sokol, Arnold Roth, pin-up artist Alberto Vargas, not to mention black cartoonists Robert "Buck" Brown and Elmer Simms Campbell, and female illustrators like Olivia De Berardinis.

[* I doubt that editoonist Vaugh Shoemaker was ever in the magazine regularly; maybe once, but not much more than that. And the other asterisked names were all associated with Little Annie Fanny, the sexy version of Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie. None of the names are those of underground cartoonists, who, apart from Bobby London, were never regulars in the magazine. So much of the logic of the preceding paragraph falls to pieces. —RCH]

"Hef chose cutting-edge, *bohemian artists of all genres for his magazine, many who could not be printed anywhere else because they were so controversial," says Olivia De Berardinis, who contributed roughly 150 pin-up paintings to its pages, with Hefner writing the captions, since 1999. She’s also illustrated the Playboy Mansion party invitations since 1986.

[*Another handy myth, conjured up for no reason I can see. “Cutting-edge bohemian artists”? Name one. Whatever controversy might be said to exist in Playboy’s cartoons of the early years was wholly sexual: cartoons about sex had not been published in mainstream magazines until Playboy became mainstream. —RCH]

Playboy Lynch b&w"He pushed boundaries and helped usher in the sexual revolution," says De Berardinis. "Hef’s always been amazing about change. I saw the new Playboy and they’re moving into what this generation is doing."

She surmises that comics, which rely on boundary pushing and political incorrectness, might need to wait until this generation better defines its style of humor. [Maybe Playboy should have kept cartoons, opting for some new kind of humor in order to define this generation’s style of humor. It would have continued the magazine’s pioneering effort. —RCH]

Feiffer credits his relationship-focused Playboy cartoons with codifying ideas that lead to the book and screenplay of “Carnal Knowledge,” the 1971 film starring Jack Nicholson. At 87, Feiffer has lately ventured into graphic novels.

"Hefner’s earliest dream was to be a cartoonist," says Feiffer. "When I was working for the magazine, he was my editor. I’d send him roughs, and he would go over each cartoon in detail. He was so thorough, but didn’t try to convert what I was doing into a Playboy story, but critiqued what I was trying to do. It [giving up cartoons] must be shattering to him, because he loved cartoons."

Playboy Cover 8-61Despite pre-Playboy editorial illustration success, Sneyd’s long association with the magazine cemented his brand to where, at 84, he’s still in demand at comic conventions and with publishers, such as Dark Horse, which is publishing a book of his favorite unpublished cartoons and Playboy cartoon rough rejects.

Yeagle was crafting commercial animation (remember the Honey Nut Cheerios bee?) when he started freelancing for Playboy 15 years ago.

"Playboy was always great to work for," says Yeagle. "They paid quickly and there were no hassles with them. They gave me a whole new career in an area I had no business being in. I’d been in animation, but now I do books, originals, and gallery showings on the strength of having drawn for Playboy."

"The cartoonists were like recurring characters, which is another reason why the decision was so tough," says Buhrmester. "I’m trying to build a modern version of those guys. I want to give guys like Jay Howell an opportunity to be in Playboy, because they have a reverence for our history with illustrators and comic artists. I see this redesign as a way to open the door to people to reach out to Playboy. And I hope the next Shel Silverstein does walk through my door.

[Not a chance. No cartoonist is likely to walk through the magazine’s new door: every cartoonist can tell at a glance that Playboy is no home for cartooning. Gone are the luxuriously painted cartoons of Eldon Dedini, Doug Sneyd, Dean Yeagle, Erich Sokol, Buck Brown, Jack Cole, John Dempsey, Phil Interlandi, Edmund Kiraz, Ray Raymonde and the rest of the stable of regulars that Hefner so laboriously assembled over the years. —RCH]

Suffering from rationales like the foregoing, Playboy joins the ranks of the rest of America’s great magazines — Collier’s, Saturday Evening Post, Look, and others — who gave up publishing cartoons because the layouts of the magazines’ pages couldn’t accommodate the irregular textures of black-and-white cartoons (even if they were in color). Layout editors wanted nice uniform columns of gray typography and generous white space, into which they could spot the occasional illustrative matter (that, by contrast, emphasized the generosity of the white space, a curious outcome for publications that appeal because of content not white space, the conspicious lack of content) — but not those weirdly concocted visual oddities, cartoons. Once again, layout editors and designers have condemned cartoons to oblivion.

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

SNOWDEN

By Ted Rall
224 5x7-inch pages, color
2015 Seven Stories Press
paperback
$16.95

Snowden by Ted Rall coverNot so much a biography of Edward Snowden, the nation’s most wanted whistle-blower, as it is a polemic on the subject of government spying on American citizens, this volume is a good example of bad graphic novel technique. Every page has a picture on it, accompanied by captions, but the pictures add no information to that which is rehearsed in the verbal text. Rall — journalist, cartoonist and columnist — has seized upon Snowden’s notorious escapade, revealing that the government was listening to every phone call U.S. citizens made and reading every e-mail, to second the motion: Rall is clearly a supporter of Snowden’s actions, so much so that we wonder about some of the narrative he gives us.


Rall seeks to explain Snowden’s action but can find nothing conclusive. He notes that Snowden was a Boy Scout and doubtless subscribed to an idealism about how to behave. His parents divorced when he was about 18, and Rall speculates that, unconsciously, this traumatic experience may have convinced Snowden that he could trust no one.

Snowden panel
Moreover, Snowden was a gamer: “Video games and fantasy-based card gaming are centered around ideal worlds governed by straight-forward rules. Life in these realities is simple: you have to follow the rules. If you don’t, you lose. Cheating doesn’t work. You must play fair.”

A young idealist who has learned that no one can be trusted but that one must obey the rules, Snowden, when he learned that NSA was breaking the rules, decided that NSA could not be trusted — and so he told the world what the secret agency was doing.

Armchair psychology being what it is, the refuge of unbridled speculation, we must take Rall’s analysis with a few lumps of the very best salt. When Rall gets beyond his subject’s childhood, he begins to beat the drum for Snowden’s pardon. And at this point, Rall’s opinions begin to infest his narrative, tilting it in Snowden’s favor.

Snowden, who tried to protest through official channels, finally took action on his own because he learned that official channels went nowhere. Justifying Snowden’s action, Rall writes:

“How can anyone feel safe knowing that government — any government, even a relatively benevolent government (for now) — knows everything about them? History shows that, sooner rather than later, officials and institutions that know everything about their citizens use that knowledge to control them.”

Snowden panel 2I beg your pardon? History shows that? What history? Where in history has there been a government that knows everything about its citizens?

Only in literary history — namely, in George Orwell’s novel 1984. Rall evokes Orwell’s book both at the beginning of Snowden and at the end. But however neatly that bookends Snowden’s ordeal, Orwell’s novel is fiction, not fact — not history.

Snowden’s case is morally complex, and Rall’s treatment respects the complications and the morality.

I enjoyed the book because it tells me things about Snowden that I didn’t know. And I’m glad he blew the whistle, but I felt that way before reading Rall’s treatise. And while reading it, I could not shake the impression — which grew stronger as I read on — that Rall was ignoring some facts that might interfere with his thesis and that he might be manufacturing “history” that didn’t exist in quite the way he recounts it.   

Besides, his drawing, that familiar block-head style, is uniquely repulsive to look at, and it adds nothing except its gracelessness to the narrative Rall is presenting to us.

Rall’s next graphic novel was about Bernie Sanders, the 74-year-old presidential contender, and Rall has an axe of similar hone to grind. I’ve read it and enjoyed it. And I found out things about Bernie that I didn’t know. And I have Rall’s Trump book at hand; I can’t wait to read it either — particularly since whatever liberal insight Rall injects into it is likely to agree with my own opinions.

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

FOUR FLAWED NEW YORKER CARTOONS

Ever since Elaine on “Seinfeld” confessed that there was a cartoon in the magazine that she couldn’t understand, it’s been safe to admit that The New Yorker sense of humor is sometimes obtuse to the point of nonexistent. And an issue last winter, dated January 11 — the one with Marcellus Hall’s “The Great Thaw” cover depicting Rockefeller Center’s winter ice rink as you’ll never see it, a recognition of an unusually warm winter week — has several dubious cartoons in it.

NewYorkerCover7

 

 

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Starting clockwise from the upper left, we have Will McPhail, who reminds us of founder Harold Ross’s dictum that we should always be able to tell at a glance who’s speaking. Seems to me both characters in this cartoon have their mouths open. Who’s speaking? Finally, after long examination and ditto brain-wracking, I decided that the barista is the speaker: he’s writing on the cup, after all, so what the caption says makes better sense if we attach it to him. But at first glance, one could assume that the monster is speaking, alluding to an autobiographical novel he’s just written in the third person. And that’s not funny at all.

Next around the clock is Benjamin Schwartz’s cartoon. There are no cats in the picture — unless we assume that people who wear dark glasses are “cats” in the antique usage of their being hip. Still, what’s “reservoir” have to do with it? The puzzled guy sitting on the chair seems to be some sort of city official, so the joke probably refers to something peculiarly New York. Like Hall’s cover.

Or so I thought, deploying only my own admittedly impoverished analytical abilities. But Jeff McLaughlin did much better. On my Facebook page, where I first posted this specimen, McLaughlin responded to my bafflement, explaining the “reservoir cats” cartoon by saying it was an allusion to the Quentin Tarantino movie “Reservoir Dogs,” promotional illustrations for which feature men walking along in dark suits and shades. So here we have a kindred “reservoir cats,” men still, wearing dark suits and shades but, like cats everywhere — and in contrast to dogs everywhere — can most likely be found napping (even in odd positions) rather than walking mysteriously.

You had to have seen the movie. Or the promotional posters.

Below that, Barbara Smaller’s cartoon is amusing without the picture. The picture, in fact, adds no information to the caption, which, in common with a lot of New Yorker cartoon captions, is itself, all alone, the joke. If the joke doesn’t need a picture, then it’s not a cartoon.

Finally, comes Tom Cheney. What’s the joke here? Is this is the way gangsters treat clowns that they don’t find amusing? Is that the joke? Or does it have something to do with the size of the concrete block? Ahhh — that’s it. Clowns wear big-foot shoes, so the concrete block must be larger than normal.

Getting the jokes of three of these cartoons requires more than the usual amount of work by the reader/viewer. Admittedly, the first and the last of the four are funny once I figured them out. Maybe funnier than the “normal” that can be understood at a glance. But the second and third cartoons on our round — not good cartoons.

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

A NEW BARBIE FOR THE AGES

Barbie Time coverJust as the March issue of Playboy hit the stands last year, re-defining the magazine as a no-nudes (and — sob! — no cartoons) periodical, Barbie, the other definer of the feminine form, made the cover of Time with her make-over. The Barbie folk have decided that their iconic figure is no longer good for little girls. The classic Barbie doll is still available, but so are three new “body types” that are intended to make little girls feel okay about their bodies. The classic, it has been long established, makes girls aspire to impossibly thin and busty bodies. The new body types have been artfully labeled — petite, tall, and curvy.

The words were chosen with great care — not to offend anyone nor to suggest to any little girl that whatever her body type, it is somehow wrong. But if you look at their silhouettes, you can easily tell that “curvy” is a euphemism for chubby, or plump. Thick through the hips, slightly protruding belly, and with a booty of distinction, the “curvy Barbie” is undoubtedly modeled on today’s teenager, who is veering off, continually, in the direction of obesity. So rather than curb girls’ appetites to help them achieve a healthier life style, Barbie simply enables the current trend. Sigh.Barbie's Got a New body

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

NEW LOGO FOR NBM

For the past forty years, NBM Publishing, America's first publisher of graphic novels, pioneered the translation and release of such foreign works as those by Enki Bilal and Hugo Pratt, and was the first to collect classic comic strips such as Terry and The Pirates in hardcover volumes. To celebrate its 40th anniversary last year, NBM unveiled a new logo, and branding, as NBM Graphic Novels. In addition, a new website has launched, improving on functionality and navigation. Also, the ComicsLit imprint has been dissolved, folding into the NBM brand. The adult graphic novel imprint, Eurotica, will remain independent and separate.

Nbmlogo

 

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

CHARLIE AFTER A YEAR

Hebdo Anniversary CoverFor the first anniversary of the murders at its offices on January 7, 2015, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo issued a special commemorative issue. On the cover, another of the scabrous sort of cartoon for which Charlie is famous: a crazy-eyed, bloodied god-figure with a Kalashnikov strapped to his back. The headline reads: “One year on: the assassin is still on the run.”

The message: it was, after all, the Islamic hooligans’ religious convictions (against depicting Muhammad) that caused the massacre — hence, God is, by extension, the assassin. The unmistakable insinuation doubtless caused the usual cascade of strenuous disapproval from religious enthusiasts, regardless of their persuasion. But they can scarcely deny that religious zealotry pulled the triggers.

The issue includes drawings by the murdered cartoonists and various contributions from noted personalities. The main editorial is by the magazine’s current editorial director, the cartoonist Laurent Sourisseau, Riss, who, wounded in the shoulder, survived the slaughter. He writes:

“In 2006, when Charlie published caricatures of Muhammad, nobody seriously thought that this one day would end in violence. We saw France as a secular island, where it was possible to joke around, to draw, to laugh, without worrying about dogmas. The truth is that since then, many hoped that one day someone would come put us in our place. Yes, many hoped we would get killed. KILLED. Among them, fanatics stunted by the Quran, but also many holy rollers from other religions. ... The convictions of the laity and of atheists can move more mountains that the faith of believers.”

 

 

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

ANOTHER DIVERSITY WAR: PART 3

A Woman in Comics' Ancient History

Most of the women cartoonist names cited by Laurenn McCubbin are familiar to me, but the historic passions of their advocates do not, apparently, carry them much further into the past than the Twentieth Century. Among the names sidelined in this hasty fashion is Marie Duval, pen name of Isabelle Emilie de Tessier, a teenage French woman who was largely responsible for drawing the adventures of Britain’s Ally Sloper (1867 - 1923), who was the world’s first regular comic strip hero. The character’s name suggests his function: in Victorian England slang, “to ‘slope’ meant to abscond without paying, especially the rent (‘slope down the alley’),” according to comics historian David Kunzle in his monumental History of the Comic Strip. Kunzle continues:

“Ally Sloper first trod the boards in the form he was basically to retain all his long life of 66 years: elderly and gangly, bald, disheveled, with a bulbous potato nose, and often flushed as with drink. He bore two sartorial hallmarks, which were almost characters in themselves with adventures of their own: a bizarre and battered stovepipe hat and an outrageous umbrella. The degraded symbols of bourgeois respectability, they became on the head and in the hand of Sloper symbols of disreputability.”

Possibly inspired by Charles Dickens’ Mr. Micawber (in David Copperfield, 1849), Sloper was a blowhard and a poseur; but he was much more in that line—a knave, a coward, a cheat, a thief and a con man, living by his so-called wits. He first appeared in the August 14, 1867 issue of Judy, a weekly cheap rival to Punch, appealing, as its name implies, to women. (At least two of the staff cartoonists, Kunzle says, were women; alas, he doesn’t name them.) Sloper appeared in four more issues of Judy, then disappeared after October 9. He reappeared, however, two years later on December 1, 1869, and he continued thereafter in various kindred publications until 1923.

Although some details of Ally Sloper’s conception and development have been disputed, his creation is usually credited to Charles Henry Ross, a comic novelist and former civil servant, who may (or may not) have been editor of Judy at the magazine’s debut. By the time of Sloper’s return to the magazine in 1869, Ross had assumed editorial control of Judy, and he was married to Tessier, who, according to Kunzle, took over the drawing of Sloper.

Among the competing contentions is the one that maintains Ross both wrote and drew the early Sloper, relinquishing the art chores to Tessier in 1869 but continuing to contribute storylines. The other view is that Tessier was the principal artist from the very beginning. Some misguided souls maintain that Tessier “inked” Ross, difficult to do at the time, when artists drew on woodblocks that were then turned over to engravers to prepare for printing.

But whether Tessier — or, to use her pen name, Duval— solo’d on the first five Sloper strips or not is almost beside the point: no one questions that she drew him after his 1869 return, during his most formative period from 1870 to 1872, a total of 60 distinct appearances. After that, Sloper showed up only about a dozen times a year until about 1877, when, Kunzle says, he began to fade from view.

Still presumably drawn by Duval, Sloper appeared in various annual collections or anthologies (like Ally Sloper’s Comic Kalendar) until 1884, when he was taken over by the Dalziel engraving firm (owners of Judy), which produced Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday for the next eon or so.

Duval died in 1890, but she had presumably surrendered the drawing chores on Sloper about the time Dalziel took over. Dalziel’s Sloper was drawn, starting July 1884, by W.G. Baxter, until his death June 2, 1888, after which W.F. Thomas drew the character for years thereafter.  

Without much dispute, however, Duval was the shaping genius behind Britain’s first continuing comic character, whether or not she worked with her husband on storylines; her name appeared as the byline more often than her husband’s.

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AllySloper2

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

ANOTHER DIVERSITY WAR: PART 2

Some Women for Angouleme

In the midst of last winter's brouhaha, as if conspiring to make matters worse, the executive officer of the festival, Franck Bondoux, in a remarkably tone-deaf interview, claimed that there was a very simple reason no women were included among the nominees for the Grand Prix. Discrimination was not to blame, he said. Instead, it was because of a lack of qualified women. “The Festival likes women, but cannot rewrite the history of comics,” he said, going on to cite the history of art: “If you go to the Louvre,” he said, “you will find few women artists.”

This statement inspired Laurenn McCubbin at theguardian.com to an extensive response, which we now quote from:

Miss Fury coverBondoux’s lame excuse to the contrary notwithstanding, the art world knows there are historic reasons for a lack of women in the limited period that the art at the Louvre represents. Women were barred from the academic training that was considered necessary for success. But when you look at the modern artistic landscape, it’s impossible not to see that the art world is trying to correct this oversight.

“For over 100 years, we have seen the presence of women in the American comics,” Caitlin McGurk, the associate curator of Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (which houses the largest collection of comics and comic-related history in the world), said. “For the first half of the 20th century, many female cartoonists wrote under ambiguous or masculine names, just to increase their likeliness for publication.”

Among McGurk’s many examples: June Mills, who went by a version of her middle name, “Tarpé”, when she created the great Miss Fury in 1941. Miss Fury, in fact, was the first female action hero created by a woman; and she predates Wonder Woman.

“The early days of the comic strips saw national syndication for artists like Grace Drayton, Rose O’Neill, Nell Brinkley, Ethel Hays, and more who created, published and thrived even under their given name in the first few years of the 1900s,” McGurk continued. She also cited Edwina Dumm, the first female political cartoonist in the United States, who was working long before suffrage had even been extended to women, and Lou Rogers, the art director for Margaret Sanger’s groundbreaking and controversial Birth Control Review.

Bechdel panelsWomen were also a substantial presence in the underground comics movement, she said. “How can we dismiss the liberating works of Trina Robbins, Joyce Farmer, Carol Tyler, Roberta Gregory, Diane Noomin? And so many who have followed in their footsteps — from Lynda Barry to Phoebe Gloeckner, Marjane Sartrapi and more. These women paved the way for the substantial variety of female cartoonists whom we see working in the field today—their presence is not a token anomaly.

"What frightens and disappoints me most about the lack of recognition these women have received, however, is actually the lack of education and historical familiarity present in those who are given the power to bestow such acknowledgements.” ...

Glitz-2-Go coverOff the top of my head [McCubbin continues], I can give you the names of a dozen female comics writers deserving of a lifetime achievement award right now. There are the women of the Japanese manga collective Clamp, whose work ranges from the mythic shojo (girls manga) RG Veda to the seinen manga (adult men’s manga) Chobits. Their output dwarfs all but the most prolific of creators, with their influence seen in comics and cartoons worldwide.

There’s also Alison Bechdel, whose 30 years of weekly Dykes To Watch Out For strips stand next to her two bestselling graphic novels, her MacArthur Genius award and the Broadway musical based on her work.

And closer to the festival’s home there’s French comics titan Claire Bretécher whose work skewering outdated gender stereotypes has appeared in French humor magazines, in 23 published collections and on French television. (She received a special award from FIBD in 1983, but has never been given the actual Grand Prix.)

Other areas of the comics world have managed to get past attitudes like Bondoux’s. The Eisner Awards, awarded at the San Diego Comic Con since 1988 and often referred to as “the Oscars of the comics industry,” had its first female winner in 1992, when Karen Berger won for her work as editor on Sandman.

In fact, many modern comics festivals have fallen over themselves to award female comics creators. Just in the last year, an all-female slate swept the Ignatz awards at the Small Press Expo in Maryland. If anything, the number of female award winners at festivals in the last few years has been overwhelming.

The one bright light to this whole affair is that Bondoux’s blind spot to women’s contributions to comics history may end up costing FIBD more than just their reputation.

As author Bart Beaty pointed out, the Grand Prix winner stands for more than just merit. It’s risky for any festival to ignore 50% of the population when it comes to its greatest prize.

Even a prestigious festival may have problems attracting a modern audience with such retrograde ideas. To represent the best of comics today, people whose history may have been ignored or discounted needs to be included. Hopefully Bondoux and the FIBD will see this controversy as a reason to change course and embrace the diversity of comics, past and present.”

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