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Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years
Various Writers and Artists
432 7x10-inch pages
DC Comics hardcover

Batman A Celebration of 75 Years coverNow this is the way to do it. The festivities for this 75th anniversary celebrate the notable writers and artists who produced Batman for three-quarters of a century. Bill Finger, Charles Paris, Edward Hamilton, Carmine Infantino, and then the “moderns” — the flamboyant Neal Adams who reset the visual style, Alex Toth who violated the new manner spectacularly (herein, probably the only Batman story he did, a classic of restrained storytelling), Archie Goodwin, Denny O’Neil, Marshall Rogers, Michael Golden, Alan Davis, Tom Mandrake, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, Graham Nolan, Rick Burchett, J.H. Williams III, Greg Capullo.

I grew up on the fifties’ Dick Sprang, so it’s nice to see him here — Batman flashing that trademark single-tooth grin. But Jack Burnley inked by George Roussos is the best of the forties — lots of shadowy inking, the sort of art no one else produced until the seventies. The book’s jacket claims the volume “collects the Caped Crusader’s most memorable moments,” but that ain’t what’s here, kimo sabe.

Frank Miller is here, but not his Dark Knight story that changed the Batman mythos. Equally absent are the Joker and the Penguin and other classic Batman villains: this is a celebration of artistry not villainy. And the artistry is mostly of the pictorial kind not the verbal.

The volume reprints the first story from Detective Comics No.27 and the Wayne murder origin from Batman No.1; after that, it pulls up about three stories from every succeeding decade. It concludes with a silly “reimagining” of the first Batman story: using the original story’s pictures, grotesquely enlarged, Brad Meltzer supplies a “voice over” with captions that reflect Bruce Wayne’s thinking about his role as Batman as the events unfold. A nicely poetic intention, but blow-ups of Bob Kane’s lousy inaugural art pretty quickly convert Meltzer’s intention into tedium.

But the book as a whole is a better celebration than anything I’ve seen from Marvel commemorating its 75 years.

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


Bone Out From Boneville cover


From a press release: To kick off the celebration of the 10th anniversary of its Graphix imprint, Scholastic will release a special edition of Jeff Smith’s Bone Vol.1: Out From Boneville. Established in 2005, Graphix, Scholastic’s graphic novel imprint, launched with the colorized version of Smith’s Bone, effectively establishing the work as the cornerstone of the imprint. Out February 2015, the new special edition will be in full color and will include an illustrated poem by Smith plus original Bone tribute art (mini-comics and splash pages) from 16 other artists, including Kate Beaton, Jeffrey Brown, Kazu Kibuishi, Dav Pilkey, Raina Telgemeier, and Craig Thompson.

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


Comic Book Creator cover KitchenAt the Twomorrows booth, I picked up a copy of Jon B. Cooke’s Comic Book Creator, No.9, which features “the comix book life of Denis Kitchen.” Someday, I’ll review that in connection with another Kitchen tome, The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen, which has been sitting on the “review” shelf too long.

And I stopped by Curio & Company to buy a copy of their latest hoax, Spaceman Jax, a spoof of a certain type of 1950s comic book genre. Kirstie Shepherd and Cesar Asaro, who usually reside in Vienna (she’s a California native; he’s Italian), became celebrated here in Rancid Raves for manufacturing a faux comic strip, Frank and Friend, that purported to be a long-lost cartooning artifact but is actually a completely fraudulent concoction — so artfully and thoroughly achieved as to be jaw-droppingly entertaining. Ditto Spaceman Jax. (Frank, by the way, is the rag doll in the accompanying illustration.)  Frank and Friend have been published in two paperbacks and one hardcover, Finding Frank and Friend; all three and Spaceman Jax are for sale at the website curioandco.com.


Beware: everything on the website is faked historical artifact. It’s all make-believe even though you can buy the books (perhaps not the soft drink that Spaceman Jax promotes) and the comic book. But the $1.25
price that appears on the cover of the paperback is part of the hoax: it apes the look of 1950s paperback books. In this case, the actual price of the book is $11.95

And before I left the Comic-Con premises, cartoonist Phil Yeh thrust into my hands the latest issue of his magazine, Uncle Jam (No.104), which includes a 2013 interview with Alex Nino and a history of Michael Gross, among sundry other articles on lovingly offbeat topics. The magazine is free; you can find it online at Yeh’s wingedtiger.com, where you can read it without charge.

I’ve been drifting purposefully into San Diego for the Con for more than twenty years, and this may be a good time to remember that it was chiefly Shel Dorf who set the table for that Olympian feast. In his last years, he was not deliriously happy that Hollywood occupied such large acreage of the Con’s landscape. He wished the present organizers hadn’t let newspaper strip cartoonists slip out of their grasp in the eagerness to embrace movies and television. But motion picture entertainment had always been part of his interest and enthusiasm. He conceived of a convention that would feature movies and sf as well as comics. And at the first Comic-Con over four decades ago, George Lucas showed slides of a movie he planned to make about star wars.

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


I didn't shop much for funnybooks. I brought my Want List this year, but didn’t take it out. I bought only four comics — all Plastic Man of the Silver Age, all drawn by Ramona Fradon, to whom I’ve often said: “You drew the best Plastic Man since Jack Cole.” To which she usually responds: “Yes, I know.”

I also picked up a copy of (the late) Doug Wildey’s Rio: The Complete Saga, a fresh 2014 reprinting of all the Rio westerns, including “two never-before released graphic novellas.” Apart from enjoying the stories and Wildey’s artistry, I was fascinated by the final tale. Never completed, it offers many pages of final art but several pages in various stages of incompleteness. Some panels are inked; some, still just penciled. And speech balloons, likewise just penciled in. We cn see Wildey’s thought processes as he tinkers with wording and picture composition.

I bought three original Reg’lar Fellas comic strips by Gene Byrnes. I try to resist buying original art (mostly because I’m a sucker for buying more than I can possibly display on whatever walls are left unfestooned at home), but in this case, I couldn’t restrain myself. The price was good, and I’ve admired Byrnes’ ever since studying cartooning in his 1950 book, A Complete Guide to Professional Cartooning. So when I saw a heap of his strips among piles of old comic books, I went for three.

I chose strips displaying Byrnes’ typically energetic rendering of youthful life—kids forever in motion, running, jumping, swinging. I also wanted pictures of Bullseye, the dog that follows the kids around. The strips I settled on include Bullseye and the chief characters—Jimmy Dugan (whose little brother Dinky shows up in later years), Puddinhead Duffy and his kid brother Pinhead. Dunno who the bare-headed blond kid in overalls is.



The strip started under another name in 1916 or so and became Reg’lar Fellers later in the run, which lasted until January 1949. George Carlson (of Jingle Jangle Tales fame) drew the strip for a time (in the 1930s I think); my onsite expert spotter is sure all these are by Byrnes himself.

A Most Imperfect Union coverI dropped by the Uclick booth where Lalo Alcaraz was signing prints of one of his Sunday La Cucaracha strips and copies of a new graphic history book he illustrated for Ilan Stavans, A Most Imperfect Union: A Contrarian History of the United States. (As George Washington dies, he orders that all his slaves be freed upon the death of his wife Martha, but an onlooker mutters, “My stars! He sounds delirious. Better keep slavery going for a while.” As it happens the authors tell us, Martha freed her slaves eighteen months before she died.) In 2000, Alcaraz and Stavans produced another graphic history, Latino USA, revised in 2012.

Imperfect Union is essentially a verbal history, a collection of historical facts, upon which Alcaraz’s pictures often comment ironically. There is little pictorial narrative in the comic strip or comic book manner.

I neglected this year to tour the small press area although I stopped to chat with Keith Knight (and brought his latest, Knight Takes Queen, the second collection of his syndicated comic strip, Knight Life) and Stan Yan, the Denver cartoonist presently specializing in zombie caricatures.

Knight Takes Queen coverAt a booth operated for the publisher McFarland, I bought a copy of The Meaning of Superhero Comic Books by Terrence R. Wandtke, a professor of literature and media studies at Judson University in Elgin, Illinois. McFarland has an extensive list of books on comics and other aspects of popular culture, but most of the authors of the comics-related tomes, like Wandtke, are unknown to me. But his thesis sounded intriguing (if a little hackneyed): he supposedly explores the relationship between the superhero story and ancient oral folktales, revealing a connection between traditional aesthetics and postmodern theories. I suspect he, like many of the academic persuasion, is belaboring the obvious, so I bought the book just to see if my suspicions are correct. Perverse, I realize; but that’s the name of the game here at Rancid Raves.


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


Zap Comix, born in late 1967 in the fever dreams of R. Crumb, is emphatically back in a big way, saith Dana Jennings at the New York Times. Fantagraphics is publishing The Complete Zap, a $500 hardcover boxed set of more than 1,100 pages. Said Jennings: “Not bad for a black-and-white comic book series whose first issue cost a quarter* when it finally got into print in February 1968.”
*plus a dime (see below)

ZAP 0 cover

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


When I was a boy in the early 1940s, I was fascinated by the villains in Popeye: they were all dressed black frock coats and black wide-brim hats, and they had beards, full black beards — bristly, wiry beards. Now, 70-some years later, thanks to the Depraved Cutthroat Caliphate, real-life villains have beards and dress in black. They would doubtless not be amused to learn that I liken them to comic strip villains. And so, perforce, I do exactly that.

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


Musa photoFrom Milana Knezevic at indexoncensorship.org: Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart went to trial October 23, facing the prospect of spending nine years behind bars, simply for doing his job — which, in this case, involved making a critical (alleging criminal conduct) caricature of Turkey’s President (and former Prime Minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan that was “insulting and slanderous.” Commenting on Erdogan’s alleged hand in covering up a high-profile corruption scandal, the cartoon depicted him as a hologram keeping a watchful eye over a robbery.

Once in court, Kart was acquitted almost immediately, due in no small part to the swift reaction from colleagues around the world who gave Kart’s situation international headlines. “In the online #erdogancaricature campaign initiated by British cartoonist Martin Rowson, his fellow artists shared their own drawings of the president. With Erdogan reimagined as everything from a balloon to a crying baby to Frankenstein’s monster, the show of solidarity soon went viral.”

“This campaign has showed me once again that I m a member of world cartoonists family. I am deeply moved and honoured by their support,” Kart told Index in an email. The rest of the Index article follows in italic):

Kart has been battling the criminal charges since February. His defiance was clear for all to see when he told the court on Thursday [perhaps October 30; it’s not clear in the Internet dispatch] that “I think that we are inside a cartoon right now,” referring to the fact that he was in the suspect’s seat while charges against people involved in the graft scandal had been dropped.

Kart kitten kartoonHe remains defiant today: “Erdogan would have either let an independent judiciary process to be cleared or repressed his opponents. He chose the second way,” Kart said. “It’s a well known fact that Erdogan is trying to repress and isolate the opponents by reshaping the laws and the judiciary and by countless prosecutions and libel suits against journalists.”

This isn’t the first time Kart has run into trouble with Erdogan. Back in 2005, he was fined 5,000 Turkish lira for drawing the then-prime minister as a cat entangled in yarn. The cartoon represented the controversy that surrounded Turkey’s highest administrative court rejecting new legislation that Erdogan had campaigned on.

“I have always believed that cartoon humour is a very unique and effective way to express our ideas and to reach people and it contributes to a better and more tolerant world,” Kart explained when questioned on where he finds the strength to keep going.

It remains unclear whether the story ends with this latest acquittal decision. While the charges against Kart were dropped earlier this year, an appeal from Erdogan saw the case reopened.

“Erdogan’s lawyers will…take the case to the upper court,” Kart said.

Kart’s experience is far from unique; free expression is a thorny issues in Erdogan’s Turkey. In the past year alone, authorities temporarily banned Twitter and YouTube and introduced controversial internet legislation. Meanwhile journalists, like the Economist’s Amberin Zaman, have been continuously targeted.

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


Guardians of the Galaxy posterFrom Brooks Barnes at the New York Times: On October 28, Marvel Entertainment announced a lineup of nine new movies that will reach theaters between now and mid-2019. The coming attractions include an entire films devoted to a female character, Captain Marvel, and to an African superhero, the Black Panther.

After revealing the roster of films, that includes a two-part Avengers: Infinity War, Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, told a packed El Capitan Theater here, “As you can see, we have a hell of a lot of work to do.”

Shares of Marvel’s owner, the Walt Disney Company, promptly climbed 2 percent, closing at $89.93. Investors like long-term film-franchise building because it greatly lessens the risk of fluctuations in studio financial results.

Marvel’s announcement came two weeks after DC Entertainment, a division of Warner Bros., unveiled its own roster of nine new superhero films (with single films for Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern). Add the Marvel and DC slates to plans by other studios to keep mining the comic book genre, and Hollywood is on track to deliver 29 superhero movies in the next six years.

Can the marketplace absorb the glut? Some media analysts warn that superhero fatigue is already setting in, but Feige brushed aside concerns. “If the movies deliver in terms of quality, they will succeed,” he said.

The new Marvel movies for 2016 are Doctor Strange, which is expected to star Benedict Cumberbatch, and Captain America: Civil War, which will co-star Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and introduce Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther. Following, in 2017, will be Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther. In 2018, Marvel will release the first of the two Avengers: Infinity War movies; Captain Marvel, based around a not-yet-cast superheroine named Carol Danvers, who has cosmic powers; and Inhumans, a film that Feige said would introduce “tons” of new characters and is envisioned as “a franchise and perhaps a series of franchises.”

Feige said a version of this splashy announcement event — taking the stage were Downey, Chris Evans, who plays Captain America, and Mr. Boseman — was supposed to have happened at Comic-Con International in July. But Marvel decided to wait in part to see how audiences responded to the unknown characters in Guardians of the Galaxy, which arrived in August. It now ranks as the year’s No.1 domestic movie.

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




On Sunday, October 26, the cover of USA Weekend replicated the general cover design of an EC horror comic book from the 1950s. The wonder of it is that USA Today knows millions of us will recognize this echo of a cultural artifact 57 or so years after the fact. The power of comic books, kimo sabe. Who can see me nay?

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


George Martin photoGeorge R.R. Martin, author of Song of Ice and Fire upon which HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is based, claims to be the first comic book fan. And he’s almost right. The program booklet for the alleged first comic-con — in New York in 1964 — lists registered participants, and Martin is Number One.

Unhappily for Martin, the New York event that summer was not the first comic-con: the first was held in April of that year in Detroit. But Martin doubtless doesn’t know that. All of which proves — if it needs proving — that if you want the Immutable Truth As We Know It, come hither to Rancid Raves.

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


Alison Bechdel photo


Alison Bechdel, author of the critically acclaimed graphic novel Fun Home, said in a HuffPost interview October 3 that Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust-centric Maus set her free to take on serious subjects in what has always been a less than serious medium — comic books.

"Comics were once sort of [for] superhero action stories," she recalled. "That was pretty much all they did, and [then] people started pushing the boundaries. Underground cartoonists in the '70s started writing about more adult topics and themes."

She specifically credited "the more artistic cartoonists of the '80s" as well as Spiegelman as having "completely changed the medium" of graphic novels. "Spiegelman's Maus changed comics forever," she said. "Comics now can be about anything — any topics that's as serious as you can come up with."

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


Crusader Rabbit still“Somewhere between the rise of cable tv and the ubiquitousness of video games today, American kids fell out of love with Saturday morning animated cartoons,” reports wtop.com. Used to be cartoons dominated TV programming on weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings. “Today [on the Web], there’s programming 24 hours a day,” said Robert Thompson at the Center for Televison and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “With the announcement that the CW will swap its Saturday morning children's line-up for a mix of programming aimed at teens and their parents, there will be no more dedicated children's programming on any broadcast network on Saturdays, according to ToonZone.net.”

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



            ■ James Hibberd’s “Fall TV Face-off” in October 17's Entertainment Weekly says: “Fox’s ‘Family Guy’ posted its biggest ratings in four years due to its ‘Simpsons’ crossover.”

            ■ Alerted by the latest issue of Previews, the comic book catalogue from Diamond, I know now that I can purchase a Buddy Christ plush doll. Yes, the “Spokesdiety Buddy Christ is now a super-cuddly 8-inch tall doll with finely stitched details” just awaiting your conversion — er, purchase.

            ■ Gary Groth is the 2014 Stranger Genius Award winner in Literature. The Stranger is a Seattle alternate newspaper; Groth’s Fantagraphics resides in Seattle, in what was once a two-story residence on Lake City Way NE. And I’ve written for (and been paid by) Fantagraphics for nearly 40 years. No bias here, kimo sabe.

            ■ New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast admitted to Michael Cavna at the Washinton Post’s ComicRiffs blog that it’s been “exciting” to be the first cartoonist to be a nonfiction finalist for the National Book Award.


Roz Chast cover CWTASMP


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


The MoscowTimes.com reports that “thousands of comic-book, video-game and science-fiction enthusiasts swarmed Moscow's Crocus Expo center over an October weekend for Russia's first-ever Comic-Con, an international convention aimed at fantasy lovers.” Predictably, many attendees came dressed as their favorite comic book or movie characters.

Moscow Comic Con 2014

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