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Lady Killer 1 coverCo-written by Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich and drawn by Jones, Lady Killer is a shocking novelty: here’s a contract killer, Josie Schuller, who, when she’s not out killing someone, is a wife and mother of twin girls just beyond toddler age. And Josie’s beautiful to boot. In the first issue, she kills a nasty-tempered shrew of a woman, and we meet her handler, Peck, who flirts with her; she doesn’t return the favor. In the second issue, she becomes a “kitten” at the Kitty Cat Club (a stand-in for the old Playboy Club) where, wearing an abbreviated costume, she finds her target, a particularly obnoxious groper. She also finds out she’s getting a reputation with the hit agency’s Big Boss for being uncooperative, thanks to handler Peck’s reports. Further complicating her predicament is her mother-in-law, who no longer believes the excuses Josie offers to explain her absences from home and hearth, thinking, stead, that she’s having an affair.

Being a mother, Josie fails her next assignment — killing an 8-year-old boy who witnessed the killing of his parents. Meanwhile, the Big Boss has decided to “remove” her from the company’s roster of assassins and sends Peck off to do the job. Peck follows Josie as she drives away from the site of her failed assignment, pulling her over and pulling a gun on her. No.3 ends there.

Jones’ drawings are stunningly distinctive: crisp renderings with a flexing line and very little feathering, no shading, every detail clearly delineated. She varies perspective often, opting for extreme foreshortening and birds-eye views. And her staging and blow-by-blow rendering of Josie’s assassinations is meticulous, every movement carefully articulated. I haven’t seen anything like her work in any other comic book although she’s done other work (Helheim for Oni). Says she: “Working on Lady Killer has so far been the most satisfying project that I have been a part of. I think it helps that every panel is something I am excited to draw!”



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


MARCH Book Two coverBook Two of John Lewis’ autobiographical adventures in the civil rights movement continues his story. PreviewsWorld interviewed Lewis, his co-author Andrew Aydin and the artist, Nate Powell.

“Nate and I joke about this sometimes,” said Aydin, “but it’s really pretty accurate: If Book One is Star Wars, then Book Two is our Empire Strikes Back. The stakes are higher, the heroes are stronger, more prepared, and the danger is more lethal. Book One focused on the congressman’s childhood and coming of age, studying and rehearsing in nonviolence workshops with the Nashville Student Movement, launching a sit-in campaign that successfully forced the city to integrate lunch counters, and eventually the formation of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). Now with Book Two, we show how these young people became a truly national force, and one of the key elements of the broader Civil Rights Movement.”

Congressman Lewis chimed in: “So we talk about the Freedom Rides: a group of us, about a dozen people, black and white, young and old, set out on a Greyhound bus and a Trailways bus to ride through the heart of the deep South, to test the Supreme Court decision prohibiting segregation on buses. We were attacked several times, beaten, left lying in a pool of blood. One of the buses was set on fire. We knew that we might die. But we continued the Freedom Ride. More and more riders joined the movement. It became front-page news. Attorney General Robert Kennedy got involved, the governor of Alabama got involved, we were arrested several times, we spent weeks in Parchman State Penitentiary … but we dramatized the issue to the nation, and around the world, to see the reality of segregation in America.”

March Book Two drawingLewis continued: “Book Two also shows the March on Washington on August the 28th, 1963. I was 23 years old — I had just been elected chairman of SNCC a few months earlier, and after about a week I was invited to the White House along with representatives of several other organizations to discuss plans for the march. And it worked so beautifully. It was an unbelievable day. So many people worked so hard to organize a peaceful, orderly, nonviolent march. It really represented the best of America. Hundreds of thousands of people coming together to say ‘we want our freedom and we want it now.’ I spoke number six that day. Dr. King spoke number ten, when he said ‘I have a dream.’ And out of everyone who spoke that day, I’m the only one still around. So we tell the story.”

Said Nate Powell: “I could tell how much our collaborative method had found its stride within just a few pages of breaking down the script for Book Two. After getting to know each other on Book One, we were able to come out of the gate swinging with the second, and that gave some much-needed room to allow for all the other considerations that go into the visual process for this story. I certainly had a better sense for the kinds of daily research and reference I’d have to do, the degree of double-checking along the way, and a sense of when some issues would give us problems down the road. Overall it’s been a much more natural and efficient process.”

“To paraphrase something Dr. King once said,” Lewis finished, “there is no sound more powerful than the marching feet of a determined people. This book March is not just my story, it's the story of so many of us who stood up and spoke out, who studied the philosophy and the discipline of nonviolence, who organized and made ourselves impossible to ignore. It is my hope that a new generation can read it and be inspired to march again.”


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Now celbrating its 50th year, Art Samson's Born Loser debuted on May 10, 1965. Since Art’s death in 1991, his son Chip has been running the misadventures of Brutus Thornapple, the hapless loser of the title.

Herewith the Sunday anniversary strip, and a daily (May 6th) from the run-up week.




The anniversary is being celebrated elsewhere on this website, where you can enter a contest to win a high quality print of the strip if you’re one of the lucky contestants. You can also print out a Born Loser certificate, which has a blank spot for you to insert your name.

Born Loser Daily 1974


Here’s Chip’s account of his career as his father’s successor:

“My career as a cartoonist began in 1977. My dad, Art Sansom, created The Born Loser in 1965 and by 1977, he was looking for an assistant so he could ease up his heavy workload, especially with the gag writing. I had started a career in the business world immediately after I graduated from college four years earlier, and by this time I had become disenchanted with that career path and was looking for something more creative. Sounds like a perfect match, right? Except I never dreamed I could be a cartoonist, because I believed I was a terrible artist. I think I was intimidated by the fact that both my mother and father were fabulous artists. There was no way I could live up to the high bar they had set, so I decided at an early age not to try. This is not to say they did anything to make me feel this way: it was all in my head.

“Believe it or not, I never took an art class in college, high school or even junior high school. In retrospect, I think if I had taken art classes, I probably wouldn’t have been all that bad and certainly would have learned many things that I would find helpful to this day. On the other hand, I was an English major in college and had loved creative writing from an early age, so I was confident I could help my dad out with the writing on the strip. I started by submitting a series of gags to him, as had multiple other professional writers. They were all talented, but they didn’t know The Born Loser like I did. I grew up watching my dad create the strip in his studio in our home. I knew it so well, my gags worked better for the strip than those of the other writers.

Art and Chip Sansom“Dad offered to hire me as an apprentice and teach me the art side of things while I was writing gags for him. I accepted under the condition that I work for free on a trial basis for one year, while still working my other job. I passed the audition to the satisfaction of both of us and started my official apprenticeship one year later.

“Dad taught me every aspect of producing the comic strip exactly as he did. The artwork progressed slowly but surely. I found that even though I was unable to quickly draw the characters, my eye was trained to know what they should look like and I would keep working on my drawings until they passed my eye test. By the time Dad passed away in 1991, I was able to take over the complete production of The Born Loser by myself. I still felt I wasn’t a great artist, but I believed I could produce The Born Loser better than any other living person. I have made a conscious effort to continue the comic strip in the style Dad taught me. As a tribute to him, I still sign both of our names to every strip.”

Chip said that he was a fan of Dennis the Menace “at a very young age." Maybe that accounts for Hurricane Hattie, the juvenile terror of The Born Loser. Chip was never into comic book superheroes, but when he discovered Carl Barks, everything else took a back seat.

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


Tom and Jerry firecrackersMGM’S Tom and Jerry are 75 this year. The first of the duo’s 163 adventures on the screen arrived February 10, 1940. Entitled “Puss Gets the Boot,” the debut cartoon features Tom and Jerry but Tom is called “Jasper” and Jerry has no name. (He was called “Jinx” around the studio, but the name isn’t used in the final film.)

No one attached any special significance to the one-shot cartoon until, later that year, it was nominated for an Academy Award for in the Short Subjects, Cartoons category. Producer Fred Quimby promptly pulled creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera off other projects and put them to work making more Tom and Jerry cartoons.


Mammy-and-lillianThe Tom and Jerry cartoons have been de-racistized in later years: the only human in the series was “Mammy Two Shoes,” a heavy-set African American maid voiced by Lillian Randolph. Although her face is never shown (we see only her chubby body below the neck — and, of course, her shoes), by accent and the color of her hands and harms, she’s clearly identified as black. Because the mammy stereotype is now regarded as racist, her appearances in the televised cartoons have been edited out — or she has been re-animated as a slender white woman. Saith St. Wikipedia: “She was restored in the DVD releases of the cartoons, with an introduction by Whoopi Goldberg explaining the importance of African American representation in cartoon series, however stereotyped.”

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


Fantasia coverDisney’s much acclaimed attempt at turning animated cartoons into film artistry, Fantasia, is 75 this year. According to John Wenzel at the Denver Post, “The 1940 film, which interprets eight different pieces of classical music through lush, hand-drawn animation, arrived as flagship character Mickey Mouse was slumping in popularity.” The inspirational heart of Fantasia was, then, “The "Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” a segment in which Mickey stars: this would, it was hoped, revive the character’s standing among fans, who’d been slowly won over to Donald Duck since the quacker’s first appearance in “The Wise Little Hen” in 1934. The eight-part Fantasia grew out of Mickey’s appearance.

But the Fantasia we see today is not the Fantasia of 1940. It has been modified, tweaked, and changed here and there as it aged. Says Wenzel: “For example, early versions of the segment for Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral Symphony’ featured black centaurettes polishing the hooves of white centaurs. These scenes were removed in the late 1960s for fear of perpetuating racist stereotypes.”


Fantasia black and white horses

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In 2013, a musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home was mounted at the Public Theater in New York, with book and lyrics by Lisa Kron and music by Jeanine Tesori. This spring “Fun Home” moved to Circle in the Square Theatre, opening to rave reviews on April 19th.

Fun Home on Broadway

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Family Guy cast and logo

Animated cartoons on prime-time TV rank as the longest-running sitcoms: “Family Guy” racked up 250 episodes recently, saith Time, and “The Simpsons,” with 574 (and a two-year renewal in hand) will easily pass 600. The nearest competitor is the vintage 1950s live-action “Ozzie and Harriet” with 435 episodes; “Cheers” lasted for 11 seasons but achieved only 275 episodes.




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MAUS 2 cover“Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, Maus, has some very memorable cover art,” said Robert Siegel at npr.org: “It pictures a pair of mice — representing Jews — huddling beneath a cat-like caricature of Adolf Hitler. Behind the feline Hitler is a large swastika. That last element has become a problem for Maus this spring. For Russian observances of Victory Day, the holiday commemorating the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany, Moscow has purged itself of swastikas. In an effort to comply, Russian bookstores cleared copies of Maus from their shelves.”

Asked what he thought of this development, Spiegelman replied: “I think it's rather well-intentioned stupidity on many levels. I'm afraid that this is a harbinger of the new arbitrariness of rules in Russia. And the result will be like what happened in the obscenity rulings that closed down a lot of theater plays. It's arbitrary rulings that make playwrights and theater owners afraid to put anything on that has an obscenity in it. ... Be very careful if you're writing about anything else we decide is the red line this week. So this is a way in which I fear that Maus has been instrumentalized to ends I don't approve of.”

This isn’t the first time Maus’s swastika cover has caused trouble, Spiegelman said. When the book was offered to a German publisher — “way back when Maus was not a known entity” — the publisher cited a German law against displaying the swastika on the covers of books. But the publisher found a loophole: the government can make an exception for “works of serious scholarly import.”

Siegel wanted to know just how important the cover can be. Said he: “As we all know, you can't judge a book by its cover.” So what’s the big deal?

To which Spiegelman said: “Well, the whole point of what we're calling graphic novels is the melding of visual and verbal information — to sound professorial for a second. And part of that information starts with the first thing you see.”

He recalled that Pantheon didn’t want to give him the right to do the cover back 1986 when the first volume was published. “I was sputtering,” Spiegelman continued. “How can you do that? The cover's part of the book, of course. And then my friend up at Pantheon, Louise Fili, the superstar art director of Pantheon at the time, said shut up and don't worry about it. You'll do the cover. It goes through me. So I did. I got a separate paycheck on top of the relatively small advance. And when the second book came out, they insisted that I do the cover so I don't get any extra money,” he finished with a laugh.

But in Moscow, you didn’t see Maus covers for a while.

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


Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? A Memoir
By NCS Reuben Award winner New Yorker Cartoonist Roz Chast
228 7.5x9.5-inch pages
2014 Bloomsbury

Roz Chast's parents, she tells us, never wanted to discuss death. And so she has produced an entire book about their deaths, beginning her narrative on September 11, 2001, and continuing it through her father’s death on October 17, 2007 and her mother’s on September 30, 2009. Her parents married in 1938 and lived in a hermetic world, the population restricted to the two of them — plus Roz, when she came along fourteen years later. Chast’s mother, Elizabeth, dominated the home; her father, George, was timid and dominated. The book consists partly of short, one-page and sometimes two-page comic strips that present numerous examples of their personalities interacting in their last years until they die. Interspersed with the strips are illustrated prose passages. Chast spares us no agonies, physical or mental. Nor does she spare herself: she tells about her guilt when she moves her parents into a home and when she discusses their finances: if they spend all their money in assisted living, there won’t be anything left for Roz.

This book has caused more excitement in the publishing world than I would have expected. The New Yorker, Chast’s home base, printed 12 pages of it in the magazine for the March 10, 2014 issue. Unprecedented. No New Yorker cartoonist has received such adulation from the editors. Why this? Why now? I suppose it’s because it’s her first “graphic novel” — er, memoir. So how does she stack up as a graphic novelist? Better than many, as it turns out.

Very little of the typical Chast humor shows up in this paean to her parents’ eccentricities. Very few lists. The book can be seen as a long session of kvetching (complaining in Yiddish). A little less extreme than most examples of this cultural phenomenon, but kvetching nontheless. Perhaps because the book is atypical Roz Chast, I was able to finish it. But I’d also bought the volume with the sole intention of reviewing it; so I had to read it. I started by forcing myself; I finished thoroughly rapt.

And how does Pleasant stack up as a graphic “memoir”? Pretty good. Pretty damn good, as befitting the recent winner of the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben as Cartoonist of the Year.

As I’ve observed before, many graphic autobiographies (and biographies) consist mostly of narrative prose in captions illustrated by pictures in the accompanying panels. The pictures add nothing to the narrative. They do not “tell” the story; they merely decorate it.

But Chast’s short comic strips reveal one of the ways the cartooning arts can contribute to telling a story.

Each strip enacts a rhetorical point Chast wishes to make. The strip’s panels pace the incidents in an event, building to a concluding “punchline” panel that exemplifies the topic at hand. The distinctive capabilities of cartooning are deftly deployed—timing for impact, close-ups to enhance intensity, shifting perspective for visual variety.


Chast often abandons the comic strip method to employ single panel pictures that add emotional impact to the accompanying hand-lettered prose. The pictures, with speech balloons, supply some humor or atmospherics. They don’t illustrate the prose: they enhance it.

And Chast frequently combines the two methods on a single page, slipping back and forth from strip format to text, from sequential pictures to enhancing illustrations.

The book is thus a collection of vignettes about her parents’ personalities and lives together and about Chast’s engagement in and reaction to their final agonies. There is a kind of narrative in the book, but it’s the narrative of a chronology rather than a continuous story. The chronological collection adds up, the vignettes accumulate evidence, creating a complex portrait of the people involved in the narrative and of the heartbreak of their last days. The method is more emotionally engaging than the illustrated prose narratives of the usual “graphic biography.” And the portrait of the people is more accurate.

Threaded throughout the one- and two-page comic strips are pages of Chast’s labored spidery printing as she resorts to prose to tell her story — as if pictures are no longer adequate to the task Chast has imposed upon herself. These prose pages become more frequent as her mother is dying. But among the last pages are a dozen that just picture her mother’s face in her last days. Just her face. No words.

While an attendant went to fetch “the people that one fetches when someone at the Place dies,” Chast was left alone with her mother’s body. “I drew her,” Chast writes. “I didn’t know what else to do. I had been drawing her all summer, since the conversations had been reduced to almost nothing.”



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New Archie coverRiding the crest of a wave of fan enthusiasm about the forthcoming revamped Archie, the first issue of which is due in July, Archie Comics decided to catapult that popularity into revamps of other characters, scheduling three new titles: a new Kevin Keller-starring series from Dan Parent and J. Bone (Life With Kevin), a new Jughead-oriented series with Chip Zdarsky writing and an artist to be named later (Jughead), and a Betty and Veronica-oriented series by the creator Adam Hughes (Betty and Veronica).

Co-publisher Jon Goldwater wanted to get the new books onto the newsstands fast in order to hitch onto the success of the new Archie, written by Mark Waid and drawn in an entirely different style by Fiona Staples.

Goldwater, who has overseen other revamps and new directions in his company in the last few years, was eager to continue to get attention “for the company and our creators, to celebrate our 75th anniversary and to really jazz our audience.”

But Archie Comics had just signed a deal to supply Wal-Mart and Target with digest titles, and that project sucked up financial resources. So to fund the new titles, Goldwater launched a Kickstarter campaign.

“Normally, we could put these books out over time,” Goldwater explained to Tom Spurgeon at comicsreporter.com. “We'd just have to sprinkle them out over a few years, as opposed to fast-tracking them. The Kickstarter allows us to build on the expected success of Archie No.1 in a more meaningful way while also offering some cool rewards for our fans who choose to back the Kickstarter... The idea is to make them happen faster because we know fans want them faster.”

The plan was to raise $350,000. The rewards for donors to Kickstarter consist, it seems, mostly of copies of the new titles when they come out. Maybe a few sweeteners, too. It all seemed a grand way to celebrate Archie’s 75th anniversary.

Problem was: crowdfunding is usually launched by entrepreneurs “in need,” not major publishing houses like Archie Comics. Goldwater assured Spurgeon that the company was not in financial difficulty. He just wanted the new books out fast in order to feed and foster the kind of fan interest that the new Archie has stimulated.

Afterlife With Archie coverGoldwater said over and over again that his company was a bold, innovating company, and resorting to Kickstarter was just more evidence of the “new Archie” — the Archie Comics that had married Archie to both Betty and Veronica, then killed the redhead, introduced the first openly gay character, and launched a zombie title in Afterlife with Archie. Bold. Try anything once.

But as soon as the Kickstarter program started, Archie Comics was assaulted with questions and concerns from fans and retailers. The company has only just begun to get into comic book shops, and the shop owners wondered about how the Kickstarted titles would feed into their system. It looked as if they’d be cut out of the equation as the publisher began distributing titles directly to readership via the Kickstarter rewards system. And there were other concerns, on all hands. Finally, it was too much. Archie Comics cancelled its Kickstarter.

The decision to pull the Kickstarter, Goldwater told comicbookresources.com, came after the Internet conversation was no longer about the books themselves. Instead of talk about the new titles and writers and artists, social media brimmed with criticism of crowdfunding products by a major publishser.

"Once that happened,” Goldwater said, “we decided it was time to stop. While we don’t mind putting ourselves under the microscope or answering questions, the creators involved didn’t deserve that level of negative attention. Though we fully expected to get funded, we felt it was time to step back."

The new books will still be published, said Goldwater. “It’ll just take a beat, and we won't be able to create this movement or wave of comics over the next year and change.”

Jughead No.1, for instance, was originally scheduled for September, and has now moved back at least a month.


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An impressive summer season of superhero flicks will be complete with today's release of Fantastic Four.  The series got off to a spectacular start April 30-May 1 with the opening of Avengers: Age of Ultron, which pulled in $84.5 million, besting the $80.8 million debut of the first Avengers film in 2012, according to Disney estimates, which predict the Ultron movie will eventually beat the first Avengers’ all-time record of $207.4 million.

The summer’s supers schedule resumed on May 15 with Mad Max: Fury Road, which was  followed by Jurassic World (June 12), Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out (June 19), Terminator: Genisys (July 1), and Ant-Man (July 17).


Fantastic Four movie poster


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Alan Moore photo

W.W. Norton’s Liveright and Co. imprint has acquired the rights to Jerusalem, the massive, long-awaited prose novel by acclaimed comics writer Alan Moore, author of such bestselling graphic novel classics as From Hell and Watchmen. Calvin Reid quoted a spokesperson for Liveright who said it’s “likely” the book will be published in fall 2016, but acknowledged that the date “is not firm.” Given Moore’s reputation for verbosity and layers of complexity, my guess is that the manuscript will require massive editing — which takes time.

More than 20 years in the making, Reid said, Jerusalem is centered around Moore’s hometown of Northhampton, England, and tackles a dizzying array of subjects, including the nature of time and death. It also features a wild collection of historical figures, from Oliver Cromwell to James Joyce’s daughter to Buffalo Bill. Typical of the author of the Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels, in other words.

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For all of us who like Terry Dodson’s exquisite pictures of delectably beautiful women (as inked by his sister, Rachel), Red One enjoys a welcoming arrival at the comic book store. The plot is simple enough: a Russian female agent, Vera Yelnikov, is sent to America to eliminate a costumed do-gooder named The Carpenter, who is idolized by a Puritanical movement that threatens, er, world order, I assume. Vera is one of Dodson’s delections. In the first issue, she displays her physical prowess (and her figure) and accepts her assignment to go undercover in the U.S. In the second issue, she’s in the U.S., working as a chauffeur and helper to an old movie maker. In both issues, she takes on various baddies and handily whips them. At the end of the second issue, she finally confronts The Carpenter in physical combat. But the issue ends before the combat does.

Xavier Dorison’s story is infused with light-hearted humor, some of which involves Vera’s sex appeal (and, even, her enjoyment of canoodling). But there are other laughs, too. Even the fight sequences sparkle with wit, both verbal and pictorial.

Based entirely on the Dodsons’ reputations, the first two issues of Red One are being re-issued as a hardcover book this summer. Presumably, there’s a third issue a-borning somewhere, but I haven’t seen hide nor hair of it yet, what with all the hype about the hardcover.

The Dodsons’ pictures are beautiful and highly competent. Attention to detail is masterful. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the title, however, is how small most of the pictures are. Pages are full of panels—many of them tiny close-ups of faces or aspects of the action. Most pages have one somewhat large panel in which Vera (or “Alabama Jane” as she styles herself) is depicted. But most of the action and the narrative takes place in the small panels.

Dunno whether the page layouts are a direct result of the script by Dorison or not; I assume, though, that they are. The Dodsons are fully capable of telling the story under these circumstances, but their drawings suffer from the reduction in size. Dorison is not capitalizing on the Dodsons’ forte as much as he could with fewer panels to a page and larger pictorial content in each panel. Still, it’s fun to look at all of the tiny detail, panel after panel, and the Dodsons are such expert renderers that their pictures are always engaging.


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