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Banned Books logo
Early last October came Banned Books Week, for which the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom produces its annual “Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books” list. Three graphic novels are on this year’s edition: Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (its offense: gambling, bad language, political viewpoint), Raina Telgemeier’s Drama (candid depiction of homosexuality, “a very chaste scene of two boys kissing”), and This One Summer by Marilko and JilllianTamaki (miscarriage, teen pregnancy, profanity) — all books “marked by both high quality and high popularity,” said Michael Cavna at ComicRiffs, “the latter certainly a function in drawing fire.”

While it is alarming to notice how frequently graphic novels that are popular with young readers are making the ALA list, this year’s roster is based upon only 311 complaints “made formally in writing.” That’s not a big number, 311, out of the millions of books being read by millions of young people. Still, it’s sad to realize how active and dedicated some would-be censors are.

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


The 2015 New York Comic Con, last October 8-11 at the Javits Center, was the biggest yet, with 169,000 tickets sold — “up from 151,000 in 2014,” reported Heidi MacDonald and Calvin Reid at publishersweekly.com. That surpasses the San Diego Comic Con by at least 30,000. The increase in ticket sales, however, “ was due to event organizer ReedPop making Thursday a full day — more tickets were sold — and selling more one-day passes instead of multiple day passes, according to ReedPop global senior v-p Lance Fensterman.”


NY Comic Con 2015

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


Diary Of A Wimpy Kid Old School coverJeff Kinney embarked on a global tour to promote the 10th book in his Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School was released November 3 in the U.S. by Abrams’s Amulet Books imprint, triggering a tour with stops in 15 cities on five continents, including New York, N.Y.; Boston, Mass.; Tokyo, Japan; Beijing, China; Sydney, Australia; Madrid, Spain; London, U.K.; Lisbon, Portugal; Frankfurt, Germany; Athens, Greece; Istanbul, Turkey; Bucharest, Romania; Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Riga, Latvia; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Said Kinney: “One of the biggest surprises of my life is that kids from all over the world seem to relate to Greg Heffley and his comic struggles. What I’ve learned is that childhood itself is a universal condition that transcends culture and language.”

Following its simultaneous 90-country-wide release in November, Old School has sold more than 1,000,000 copies in its first week, publishersweekly.com reported. There are currently 6.8 million copies of the volume in print worldwide. Each book in the series has topped sales charts, with a series total of 164 million copies in print worldwide.

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


NoNudes1The photograph that appears near here at the elbow of your eye is the very emblem of the new Playboy. In a single swell foop, it tells the whole story of Hugh Hefner’s revamped skin magazine — naked ladies, yes, but they’ll be coy about it. 

The photo trumpets for all to see the magazine’s new visual truth: nudes are going to appear but they’ll be shyly covering the dangerous parts with their hands.

In the March 2016 issue of the magazine — the one that introduces the widely touted changes in Playboy — this photo appears next to the centerfold, which is not, in another shattering departure from custom, at the magazine’s center. It’s later on. And the centerfold woman depicted is fully clothed, from chin to crotch.

The centerfold is not at the center, and nudes are not quite nude. And cartoons aren’t there at all.

That’s right: there are no cartoons in this issue inaugurating Playboy’s second coming.

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.

The current stable of Playboy cartoonists were notified of the impending change — but with a simple form letter some months ago. No ceremony. No weeping.

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. 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."

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

It is to weep. The most extravagant venue for magazine cartooning in America has expired.

We have now only The New Yorker. And it, thank goodness, is improving: its cartoons have lately been displaying a new-found vigor.

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


Welcome to the sentimental section of R&R, where I muse and marvel about antique volumes on the shelf and rare finds in old bookstores and the like.

Gremlin Gus was a character who appeared in two- and three-page adventures in Nos.33-41 of Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories. Inspired by stories of “gremlins” that infested war planes during World War II and caused malfunctions (which were probably caused, actually, by human error in maintenance), Gremlin Gus was drawn for most of this incarnation by Walt Kelly. I didn’t know that at the time: I was only five or six. But I fell in love with the little critter anyhow. And my father, a man of many talents — including drawing, painting, and woodworking of all sorts — carved a Gremlin Gus for me.

Below are some photographs of this objet d’art, which I still possess. I was so smitten with the little figurine that I carried it around all day long for a couple days. It was so constantly in my hand that my thumb melted the paint on Gus’s back, leaving a thumb-sized imprint (which is not visible in any of these specimens, but it’s there; take my word for it).




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


Run Like Crazy… coverRun Like Crazy, Run Like Hell
By Jacque Tardi
adapting The Mad and the Bad, a 1972 novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette
102 7½ x10½ -inch pages, b/w
2015 Fantagraphics

The deadly chase, which is the narrative in this book, begins innocently enough: a wealthy man, Michael Hartog, hires a nanny for his eight-year-old nephew Peter; the woman, Julie Ballanger, has just been released from a mental asylum. Julie scarcely has time to get to know her charge before they are both kidnapped by a band of thugs headed by a professional hit man named Thompson. Their assignment is to kill both Julie and Peter, making it look as if the woman killed the boy before killing herself. Thompson, it develops, has been hired by Hartog, whose wealth is actually his nephew’s; killing the boy will vastly enrich the uncle.

But Julie escapes with Peter before the thugs can kill them, and the rest of the book records the chase, becoming more violent as it goes on in an ascending spiral of brutality. Along the way, the relationship between Julie and the annoying Peter develops, and in defending the boy and engineering their repeated escapes, the woman shows herself to be every bit as tough and cold-blooded as the relentless Thompson.

In adapting Manchette’s novel, Tardi tried to retain as much of the feel of the original’s taut, methodical style as possible, and since the original is prose fiction, Tardi’s graphic novel is awash in narrative captions, often ladling in words where they are superfluous to the visual narrative however much they may evoke Manchette’s manner. In the page at hand, we learn that Julie is out of breath, that her teeth chattered and that she is thirsty—among several other things about her state of mind and body.


All of this information adds a dimension to the narrative, but it’s Manchette’s dimension, not Tardi’s—a text dimension not a pictorial one. And that’s fine: the book is, after all, an adaptation from Manchette. But the words are not essential to the action depicted on the page.

In other instances, Tardi inserts into captions the brand name of the firearm being used or of the automobile being drive. In a prose narrative, such details lend verisimilitude to the proceedings; in a graphic novel, however, they are not necessary because the pictures convey the information.

But Tardi also relies upon pictures to tell his story realistically — as in the page next to the one I’ve just remarked upon. Julie’s attack on the man is depicted without much verbiage, but once she’s dispatched him, Tardi completes the episode in a flood of words — accurately reflecting Manchette, no doubt, but extraneous to the narrative itself.

As our next visual aid shows, Tardi can conduct the story with sparing use of verbal content—the more action, the fewer words, a formula he deploys again and again to powerful narrative effect.



Why mention, though, that it’s a Beretta that Thompson is firing? Because Manchette doubtless did.

None of this quibbling is intended to diminish the book or fault Tardi’s storytelling. At key moments, he deploys the medium with panache, building effectively to dramatic action incidents by blending words and pictures. And over-all, the book is a persuasive example of a graphic novel performed by a master of the medium, sometimes deploying words to do what pictures cannot: in this case, the words convey some of the ambiance they embody in the prose original.

The book shows one of the ways that adapting a work of prose to a verbal-visual mode can reveal its verbal origins. A less accomplished artist might well err on the side of verbal excess, letting the text in captions tell the whole story and using pictures merely decoratively. Tardi switches deftly back and forth, alternating verbal narrative and visual narrative.

The final moments of the book’s chase are brutal and bloody, Tardi’s pictures triumphant in depicting otherwise nearly unspeakable acts.

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


Louise Brooks Detective coverLouise Brooks: Detective
By Rick Geary
80 6x9-inch pages, b/w
2015 NBM

In this book, Geary, who is established as an interpreter of history with a long-running series of true crime murder mysteries, turns to outright fiction. Louise Brooks, as a helpful one-page text biography tells us, was an actual person, a professional dancer and movie actress on the brink of stardom, whose well-known bobbed hair-do, the unofficial party-girl cut of the Roaring Twenties, inspired a comic strip heroine, Dixie Dugan — who was not, by any means, the sexual outlaw and famed nude dancer that “Brooksie” was. (The interconnected stories of Brooks, Dugan and Joe Palooka—??!!—are retailed in Opus 177 of Rants & Raves at RCHarvey.com.)

This isn’t Geary’s first work of fiction: he created Blanche, an adventurous early 20th century woman, whose exploits are deftly recorded in a 2009 collection from Dark Horse, The Adventures of Blanche (104 6x9-inch pages, b/w hardcover, $15.95), which, someday, I’ll extol hereabouts. (Until then, I say only that it is excellent, a beautiful example of Geary’s earlier artistry.)

In the work at hand, Louise Brooks, at the end of her celluloid career, returns to her hometown, Wichita, Kansas (also the town in which Geary grew up), and sets up a dance studio. Meanwhile, the town is agog over the murder of a local spinster, a classic “locked door” mystery.

Louise is finally able to solve that mystery and that of the locked door murder, together a tangle of motives and assumed personalities and false leads and mistaken conclusions—a minor masterpiece of convoluted plotting that Geary pulls off with aplomb. Absorbing as the mysteries are, my pervading fascination is with Geary’s unique fustian drawing style, as pleasing to the eye as the final solution of the mysteries is to the mind.




The real Louise Brooks dropped out of sight in the 1930s (at about the time this book ends). But she did become a writer of sorts. She worked variously in non-theatrical jobs, was kept by admiring moguls from time to time, and, at the end of her life, wrote articles about her adventures in filmland. Collected, eventually, in Lulu in Hollywood, the articles reveal an engaging writing talent, “an ambiguous lyricism coupled to candid revelations,” dripping with insightful anecdotes about the actors and writers she hobnobbed with.

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


Nemo: Heart of Ice
By Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
56 7x10-inch pages, color
2013 Top Shelf

Nemo: The Roses of Berlin
By Moore and O”Neill
56 7x10-inch pages, color
2014 Top Shelf

Two more volumes in what is becoming an increasingly tiresome series under the heading of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Moore’s playground for toying with the characters created by someone else, thereby hitchhiking on others’ creativity. In the first of the line, the characters were those who appeared in some classic late 19th century adventure books. In the latest books, however, all of those heroes are dead, and the poached characters are borrowed from early 20th century British boys’ books (Moore is a Brit) and allusions (if any) to their exploits elsewhere are lost entirely upon an American readership.

No matter: Moore has never made much use of his petty theft. It seems to me that if you’re going to import into your work a character from another enterprise, that character should contribute to your story something he and only he is capable of — much in the fashion of superhero teams where the Human Torch, say, rescues his cohorts from a flood by burning up all the water. Moore has never done anything of the kind, as far as I know, and so his appropriations are meaningless. They perhaps stimulate his creative juices but none of the rest of us are much engaged. In playing with others’ characters, Moore has wound up playing with himself — much to the bemused alarm of a mildly shocked audience. (Well, you must decipher the double entendre, kimo sabe.)

In Heart of Ice, the pirate daughter of the Nautilis’s Captain Nemo, Janni Dakkar, steals some valuables from the African Queen, Ayesha (from H. Rider Haggard’s renowned She), thereby incurring the wrath of publishing mogul Kane (from Orson Wells’ movie “Citizen Kane”). Then Dakkar decides to give up pirating and take up exploring, heading off in the Nautilis to the Antarctica, the scene of her father’s only failure in this sort of endeavor. Kane sends some henchmen (Reade and Styles, from British boys’ books) after Dakkar, and a chase across the frozen wastes ensues. Several are killed in what some more acute observer than I calls an H.P. Lovecraftian climax.

Several pages are devoted to gigantic pictures of monsters or monstrous landscapes in O’Neill’s usual angular, pointy style, which, modestly capable of portraying people and the ordinary accouterments of life, is ill-suited to depicting unfamiliar scenes or alien beings. The pages devoted to this excess are therefore wasted because they are nearly incomprehensible. They serve the narrative only as a sort of crescendo punctuation mark every so often. In color and space, they are the equivalent of an explosion on a movie screen — all sound and light, proclaiming excitement whether justified or not.


The same meaningless extravagance is indulged in Roses of Berlin, Heart’s sequel (and the second volume in a trilogy). The initiating event occurs when Dakkar learns that her daughter, Hira, and her husband, the aerial warlord Jean Robur, have been captured and are being held prisoner in Berlin. Accompanied by her aging lover (or, perhaps, husband?), Broad Arrow Jack, Dakkar dashes off to the German capital, entering through a figurative back door—only to fall into the hands of Werner Mabuse, one of the country’s fabled “Twilight Heroes,” who, after telling them that Hira is dead, helps them find Ayesha, who now reigns over some mysterious abcess in the mechanical nightmare that is the city under the 1941 deranged rule of the dictator Adenoid Hynkel. Jack attacks Ayesha and tries to kill her with his bare hands only to have his skull split by one of the robots that attend the African Queen.

Much of the motivation undergirding this proceeding is willfully obscured by Moore’s fatuous affront to his readers: whenever the Germans appear, they talk German, rendering their thoughts and plans and maneuvers unintelligible to us all. But perhaps it doesn’t matter: odious as this authorial affectation is, even if we knew what they were saying, it probably wouldn’t help us much in understanding anything beyond the lunging action of the storyline.

After rescuing Robur, Dakkar engages Ayesha in a duel with swords, which ends when Dakkar cuts off Ayesha’s head. The duel, which goes on for five pages, forfeits every shred of threat and danger by the prurient visual maneuver of having Ayesha’s costume during her exertions slip slowly down her front, finally exposing the nipples on her breasts.


Titillated (you should pardon the expression), our prurient interest holds us in thrall, a distraction that undermines whatever suspense usually attends a fight between two opponents. Sigh.

Then Hira shows up, not dead after all.

Moore has legions of fans, and they will all doubtless feast upon these books — and upon the concluding chapter in the trilogy, River of Ghosts. But I, obviously, am not one of their number, and after the vacuous action of these two books, I don’t think I’ll be cruising down any rivers, however wraithlike they may be.

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


Welcome to the sentimental section of R&R, where I muse and marvel about antique volumes on the shelf and rare finds in old bookstores and the like.


Another entry from Jim Ivey's cARToon Museum:




Milton Caniff
left Columbus, Ohio, for New York in the spring of 1932, starting at the feature department of the Associated Press on April 1. One of his jobs was drawing pictures of all the presidential candidates — about thirty, he recalled. (So times haven't changed all that much.) But he also did such celebrities as those depicted here. (The date under Adolf's picture is clearly wrong: by 1936, Caniff was deeply into Terry and the Pirates with no time for portrait-making — and no longer in the AP feature department either.) Caniff prevailed upon the AP photo lab to do blow-up photographs of his subjects faces, then he traced them onto pebbleboard. Two of the presidential candidates "were particularly hard to draw," he remembered — Hoover and Roosevelt.

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


Welcome to the sentimental section of R&R, where I muse and marvel about antique volumes on the shelf and rare finds in old bookstores and the like.


Here's a rare culling from Jim Ivey's cARToon Museum:


As the caption explains, this version of Bud Fisher's A. Mutt was drawn by Russ Westover, who took over the strip at the San Francisco Chronicle when Fisher left for greener pa$tures at Wm. R. Hearst's SF Examiner a few weeks after the strip's debut. Because Fisher had taken the precaution of proclaiming his copyright on the strip when he drew the last one for the Chronicle, he and Hearst were able to get the Chronicle and Westover to cease and desist after a few weeks of legal saber-rattling. Westover would eventually go on to fame and fortune with Tillie the Toiler. Boy! Talk about raw palpitating history!


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