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WHAT I DID AT THE COMIC CON LAST SUMMER (Part 1)

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.

Fellers1

Fellers2

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

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