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With its mid-September issue, The New Yorker, notoriously hide-bound in matters of design and visual decorum, underwent a modest re-design. The Table of Contents page, the Goings On About Town section, and the opening page of Talk of the Town have all been tinkered with: nothing extreme — just new type faces — except About Town, which has been wholly re-done, incorporating more elaborate headings and pictures. The rest of the magazine, in keeping with its tradition of urbane imperturbability, remains about the same, cartoon coverage intact.

But the annual “Cartoon Issue” is late this year. Or has it been permanently delayed?

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


From Chuck Shepherd’s News of the Weird: (August 2009 : ancient history, I know, but fascinating) -- Donald Duck may be a lovable icon of comic mishap to American youngsters, but in Germany, he is wise and complicated and retains followers well past their childhoods. Using licensed Disney storylines  and art, the legendary translator Erika Fuchs created an erudite Donald, who often “quotes from German literature, speaks in grammatically complex sentences, and is prone to philosophical musings,” according to a Wall Street Journal dispatch. Though Donald and Uncle Scrooge (“Dagoberto”) speak in a lofty richness, nephews Tick, Trick and Track use the slang of the youth. In Stuttgart in 2009, academics gathered for the 32nd annual convention of the “German Organization for Non-Commercial Followers of Pure Donaldism,” with presentations on such topics as Duckburg’s solar system.

Donald Duck blueburst

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


Deadline.com reports that a federal judge ruled on September 5 that the Walt Disney Company really does own the rights to the Marvel characters created by Stan Lee. U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez granted with prejudice Disney’s motion to dismiss Stan Lee Media’s multibillion-dollar superhero copyright suit. Martinez was one pissed judge. In his 11-page order, he did little to hide his annoyance with the litigious SLMI:

“Plaintiff has tried time and again to claim ownership of those copyrights; the litigation history arising out of the 1998 Agreement stretches over more than a decade and at least six courts,” he wrote of the company’s many legal moves, which he was plainly fed up with.

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


Lynda Barry WHAT IT IS


Cartoonist Lynda Barry, famed for her Ernie Pook’s Comeek strip in alternative newspapers, has joined the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Art as an assistant professor. Her fabled strip, which started in 1979, began losing client papers after 20-25 years (chiefly because the papers were running out of money to pay for such essential trimmings), and since about 2007, Barry’s work has been available only in books and on the web. In 2012, Barry worked as an artist in resident at the Arts Institute. Starting this fall, she became a permanent addition to the Madison campus as an assistant professor of interdisciplinary creativity. And it couldn’t happen to a more deserving cartooner, who is not only talented but uproariously funny in person.











Lynda Barry art

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


2020 Olympics mascot 1Japan will host the 2020 summer Olympics, and “this world stage puts Japan in a spotlight that may ultimately harm the free expression of manga and anime in the country,” writes Betsy Gomez at CBLDF.org. Olympic host nations, eager to put their best feet forward, often resort “to whitewashing anything that might blemish their image, thus impinging on free expression.”

“Most recently,” Gomez continues, “this has been observed in the furor that erupted over Russia’s anti-LGBTQ legislation and the upcoming winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

“Dan Kanemitsu, translator and Japan culture expert, recently examined the potential impact of the summer Olympics — and the resulting domestic and international scrutiny — on creative expression in Japan. Kanemitsu noted that the winning bid to host the Olympics may boost the profile of the current ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party, 2020 Olympic Mascot 2which is currently attempting to revise legislation to include manga and anime as forms of child pornography:

“‘Now it will be harder than before to protest against specific policies of the LDP as their standing has improved considerably. Recall that the current initiative for redefining child pornography to include manga and anime is being pursued by the members of the LDP leadership, but this only the beginning. Plans to incorporate youth protection ordinances into a national law have been proposed in the past, and the appetite within members of the LDP to subject all media toward a healthy development agenda is growing…’”

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


Batwoman The New 52 coverWith the very public departure of J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman from Batwoman, DC faced not only the daunting task of finding the next set of creators for the title, but they also had to deal with an added controversy. Because the outgoing writers claimed DC refused to let Batwoman get married — and since the character is in a lesbian relationship — the reversal of the marriage storyline implied to some mainstream news outlets that her sexual orientation was at the root of the anti-marriage stance.

“DC needed a quick save,” said Vaneta Rogers at newsarama.com, “and they got it in the form of Marc Andreyko, who was announced as the new writer beginning with Batwoman No.25. Best known for his long run on DC's critically acclaimed Manhunter title, Andreyko has been recently writing under-the-radar stories for DC on short-lived titles like DC Universe Presents and Sword of Sorcery.”

Interviewed by Rogers, Andreyko, who is gay, convincingly denied that DC was plotting against lesbians: “I think part of the brouhaha was that the Internet is always looking for the dirty story, and the lack of wanting the character to get married had nothing to do with their sexuality. It has to do with — you know, the New 52 is very young, very new, and having characters get married brings an inherent sort of age to the proceedings. It was absolutely not an anti-gay thing. It was just a creative overview that marriage right now, at this point in the DC Universe, is not something they want to explore. And that's a completely viable thing.

“Any claims of homophobia against DC are completely ridiculous,” he continued. “I've been an out gay creator my entire career, and I've had nothing but support — and, if anything, pushing from DC to do more. So no, they've been one of the most consistently great places for not only LGBT characters, but for creators as well. They're ahead of the curve with the country, as far as that goes. And you know, of course, as a gay man, I would never take a job — any job — where I thought there was homophobia or anti-gay subtext at all. People who know who I am know I'm a loud-mouth. So I would be the first person to complain if that was the case, so I have nothing but praise for DC on this.

“As far as Kate's sexuality and her relationship with Maggie,” he went on, “that's going to be explored in great depth. But it will be the same way that, when Peter Parker was dating Mary Jane, their sexuality was explored. It's not going to be a ‘capital G’ gay issue book, by any means. Being didactic is not something I enjoy as a writer or as a reader. There's going to be all kinds of complications in their relationship, but that's what relationships are. The moment you add two people into a room, complications arise, whether you want them to or not.”

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


Superheroes A neverending BattleOn October 18, PBS devoted all of its Tuesday prime-time schedule to the three-part documentary series "Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle”—a cultural levitation of a genre  neglected hitherto until it started getting made into movies. Culturally serious but not very accurate or, even, complete. Because the program was only about superheroes, not comic books generally, it ignored funny animals, westerns, crime, teenage and romance comics. What, though, can we expect from a popular entertainment—even one as supposedly sophisticated and attuned as PBS?

The first hour, entitled "Truth, Justice and the American Way" (1938-58), looked at the rise of patriotism that played into the birth of superheroes. The second hour, "Great Power, Great Responsibility" (1959-77) explores the impact of atomic energy, space travel and relatable problems on superheroes. And the third hour, "A Hero Can be Anyone" (1978-2013), chronicles “the rise of darker, more sophisticated storytelling.”

The program included “insightful interviews” with such stellar comics dignitaries as Stan Lee; actors Adam West (TV’s “Batman”) and Lynda Carter (“Wonder Woman”); Geoff Johns (chief creative officer, DC Comics), Jeph Loeb (head of television for Marvel Entertainment); Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) and cartoonist/author Jules Feiffer (the long-running strip “Feiffer”), as well as appearances by the late comic book icons Joe Simon (co-creator of Captain America) and Jerry Robinson (who created the Joker).

In the first hour, the narrative proclaims Captain Marvel, who surpassed Superman in popularity, the first superhero to dispense entirely with realism. Nothing was said, though, about DC bringing the law suit that put the Big Red Cheese out of business and thereby destroyed the competition.

In perhaps the most egregious bit of historical legerdemain, the destructive role of crime comics in revamping the comic book industry is simply ignored. The Comics Code arrives seemingly unprompted, without provocation—and therefore without reason.

Various attempts are made to connect comics to contemporary culture. Luke Cage’s 1972 Hero for Hire is an installment of the blaxploitation movement that started, more-or-less, with the movie “Shaft” in 1971. The Punisher, who is conspicuously a Vietnam vet when he started in 1974, is offered as a distant relation to the “anti-hero” Dirty Harry who came along three years earlier in late 1971. But sequence—Shaft to Luke Cage, Dirty Harry to the Punisher—while obvious, is not necessarily cause-and-effect, which impression the show works to create.

The second hour of the show rehearses the rebirth of superheroes without being very specific about dates. The revival began in October 1956 with the debut of the “new” Flash (as the first in the sequence, probably the most important of the dates but not mentioned in the show; and while Stan Lee is credited for the new popularity of superheroes, DC’s Julie Schwartz, who started the parade with the Flash, is not much noted). Other dates: August 1962, Spider-Man; December 1966; January 1966, the debut of Batman on tv; June 1972, Luke Cage, the medium’s first black hero. But none of these dates are actually cited in the show.

The role of fandom in stimulating the comic book industry is entirely ignored; ditto the vital function of the direct market with its comic book shops.

Following conversations with Adam West about tv’s campy Batman, the narrative turns to Linda Carter for her views on Wonder Woman, whom she played on tv starting in November 1975—which, in the logic of the show, ipso facto ushered in tv’s Hulk in November 1977. Both were serious attempts to make superheroes seem real; neither veered off into the previous decade’s campy formula of Batman.

After that, the program virtually ignores comic books in order to extol the arrival of successful big screen incarnations of the four-color heroes beginning with Christopher Reeves’ “Superman” in late 1978. The third hour ends with a series of interviews in which various of the creative teams producing comic books proclaimed the world-changing influence of funnybook  superheroes. Just a little overwrought.

Stan Lee appeared several times, commenting on successive innovations in the medium. As far as I’m concerned, he was the star of the show. His tongue-in-cheek puffery put it all in much more appropriate context than the series’ closing with all the blather about our needing superheroes and Superman never dying and the like. Lee ended every one of his historically insightful pontifications with a wink.

The PBS documentary is examined in even more tedious detail in the Usual Place, Rants & Raves, Opus 317.

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


Don and Maggie Thompson CollectionMaggie Thompson, retired senior editor of the defunct Comics Buyer’s Guide, is selling by auction portions of the comic book collection she and her husband Don amassed together over 50 years of collecting. About 500 pieces will go on Heritage Auction’s block over the next few months. Nothing in the category of Action Comics No.1, but a number of rare items still — the first issue of The Incredible Hulk, for example, and No.83 of The Avengers, featuring the first appearance of Thor. Thompson and her co-conspirators wouldn’t be surprised, saith the Associated Press, if the sale totals $1 million or more. “It’s rare to find books from such a respected collector and in such good condition,” said J.C. Vaughn, vice prez of publishing for Gemstone. The first Heritage auction went a long way toward achieving the million dollar goal, bringing in $835,384.

The Thompsons were among the founders of modern comics fandom (with a mimeographed one-sheet newsletter called Harbringer in1960), and they collected quality comics astutely and passionately. Maggie, I hear, intends to use the proceeds to replace the collectible comics with readable ones.

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


MsMarvel’s new Ms. Marvel title, due out in February, features a teenage Muslim girl from Jersey City as the title character. The series will be written by novelist and comic scribe (Cairo, Air) G. Willow Wilson, a convert to Islam, who told the New York Times that the title will deal with conflicts between familial and religious edicts and superheroics. "I do expect some negativity, not only from people who are anti-Muslim, but people who are Muslim and might want the character portrayed in a particular light," she said. The title will be drawn by Adrian Alphona (quoted from Runaways).



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


Neverwhere coverNeil Gaiman’s bestselling urban fantasy novel Neverwhere has been restored to the curriculum at New Mexico’s Alamogordo High School, ending a temporary suspension due to a parental challenge. Various webby sources reported that the book had been banned in Alamogordo High School in New Mexico. Not quite. The book was removed from the school's "required reading list" after it was brought home by a girl whose mother objected because of the book's "sexual innuendos and harsh language.”

During a school board review of the novel to see if it should be removed even from the voluntary curriculum, it remained available to students on the shelves in the school library. And now the temporary suspension has been lifted.

Karyn M. Peterson at slj.com reported: “Gaiman originally wrote Neverwhere as a BBC TV series, which aired in 1996, and adapted it the following year into a novel. It was recently broadcast as a radio play for the BBC's Radio 4. In its original review of the book, Library Journal said, ‘Gaiman's gift for mixing the absurd with the frightful give this novel the feeling of a bedtime story with adult sophistication. Readers will find themselves as unable to escape this tale as the characters themselves. Highly recommended.’"

Gaiman has fallen foul of U.S. censors before, David Barnett wrote at theguardian.com, “with his Sandman graphic novel series regularly making the list of banned or challenged books compiled by the American Library Association (ALA), with claims of being ‘anti-family,’ featuring offensive language, or being deemed ‘unsuited to age group.’”

In his latest work, Gaiman returns to the comic book character that brought him fame. The Sandman Overture is a prequel, purporting to show how the Sandman (Dream, Morpheus) came to be captured at the start of the first Sandman book, 25 years ago. For a huge, annoyingly detailed critique of Overture, venture to the Usual Place, RCHarvey.com, Rants & Raves, Op. 319.

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

Stanley Awards In Australia

Plucked Verbatim from the ACA Website:

Whilst most gala awards nights glitter and sparkle, October 26th Saturday night’s Stanley Awards for the Australian Cartoonists Association was festooned in lavish inks as Australia’s premier cartoonists gathered to celebrate not only their craft but an incredible year in Australian politics. With so much quality fodder from politics left and right, cartoonists were almost buckling under the weight of gags.

“There’s been so much choice, we’ve actually been discarding high quality jokes in favour of better ones,” laughed Peter Broelman, a freelance editorial cartoonist and previous winner of Cartoonist of the Year. “We’ve been like kids in a candy store all year long.”

Picking up the awards were some of Australia’s best loved cartoonists including David Rowe for Best Caricaturist, Glen le Lievre for Best Single Gag Cartoonist, Gary Clark for Best Comic Strip and Mark Knight for Best Editorial/Political Cartoonist. However, Anton Emdin scooped the pool with Best Comic Book Artist, Best Illustrator and the coveted Gold Stanley for Cartoonist of the Year. It is the second Gold Stanley for Emdin, having previously won it in 2011. [Here, at your eye’s elbow, is a random sample of Emdin’s work.—RCH]


The Jim Russell Award for contribution to Australian cartooning was presented to Russ Radcliffe, commissioning editor at Scribe, for a decade of “Best Australian Political Cartoons” and a host of other political cartoon compilations.

Gary Clark was also presented with a special trophy recognising his remarkable achievement of producing 10,000 Swamp daily comic strips.

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


Fun Home Playbill



Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, Fun Home, about growing up as a nascent lesbian in a funeral home run by her closeted gay father who eventually killed himself just as his daughter was awakening to her sexuality, has debuted off Broadway as a “shattering musical,” saith The New Yorker — directed by Sam Gold, who “honors the kitschy strangeness of the Bechdel family, whose pain and joy and ambivalence come alive in Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s rich neo-Sondheim score.”

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


Turn Off The Dark Playbill



“Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” which may be the most expensive show ever mounted on Broadway, may also rack up historic losses—perhaps as much as $60 million—when it closes on January 4. Apart from the record-setting $75 million capitalization, reports Patrick Healy in the New York Times, the show had enormous weekly expense in its special effects laden production, and then this fall, as ticket sales declined sharply “because of competition from hotter musicals and a lack of star attractions in the cast,” it incurred operating losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars every week it continued. The investors attributed the loss to the show’s “unsustainable budget and the shortcomings in the music, by Bono and the Edge of U2—a score by famous artists that was supposed to be a selling point with audiences but ended up being dismissed by critics.”

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


Playboy and Hef are celebrating their 60th anniversary together with the January/February issue of the magazine, a double issue that is short the 300 pages that would make it truly twice the size of a normal issue, but 272 is close enough for government work, as we were wont to say (one of my many wonts, as Porkypine says, right there — on my wall in the Sunday page for August 25, 1968). To make up for the shortfall, Hef gives us two Playmates to gaze at. And to help celebrate the anniversary, he picked 16 cartoons from the 60-year archive of the magazine — “the wittiest and funniest,” it sez here.

Marge Simpson bunny suitThe cartoonists are Al Stine, Jack Cole, Eldon Dedini, Raymonde, Smilby, Sokol, Sneyd, Buck Brown (with two), Erickson, John Dempsey, B. Kliban, Gahan Wilson, Kiraz, and Denison (who specialized in exotic sports cars and fashionably attired women rather than the undressed sort). There’s also the usual year-end tease-and-A Playmate Review — and, wonderful, a 6-page comic strip by Joe Casey (writer) and Nathan Fox (artist).

Called “Modern Romance,” the strip stars Stan Treemont, who, having just secured a fiancee, is mysteriously transported from the 1950s to present-day New York, where he meets Madison, a lay-about tattooed slut of a broad (like all present-day bimbos) who tries to seduce him. Terrified, he runs away and, at the last minute, finds himself once again in the 1950s arms of his betrothed, Violet. And as we see them embrace with Stan extolling old-fashioned love, we also see that Violet has a tattoo on her butt.

So exactly how much does Hef miss the old days of the decade of his magazine’s launch? The cover seems a trifle misty-eyed, too: staid, even a little repressed compared to the usual Playboy cover, it’s about as sexy as vintage fifties magazines were permitted to be.  Kate Moss , all leg and look, but stark and simple sex appeal, no cute comedy or coy seduction, no naked hooter just barely out of sight.

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