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Lobster Johnson is another favorite of mine, so I grabbed the one-shot, A Chain Forged in Life, by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, drawn by Troy Nixey, whose drawing, while shadowed and feathered realistically, verges on the cartoony. And that suits this story, which focuses on some bumbling robbers who kidnap a sidewalk bell-ringing Santa Claus as they make their getaway. The story is told from Santa’s point-of-view, and Lobster Johnson isn’t much on view: he shows up, wreaks havoc among the robbers for a couple panels, then disappears. Then he shows up again and disappears. And again. Always briefly. The robbers are thoroughly spooked by this behavior, and by the end of the story, Lobster’s settled their hash, and Santa is drunk.


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The eponymous porotagonist of Chris Warner’s Barb Wire is a bar-owning bounty-hunting blonde beauty who operates in Steel Harbor, “scrap yard of the American dream.” Mostly, the population — and the patrons of her bistro — are tough, giant-sized muscled macho guys, intent on establishing their masculinity by bravado and fisticuffs. They meet their match in Barb Wire, who doesn’t like to be called “babe.” The first issue is about brawling, which goes on from start to within a couple pages of the finish, whereupon Barb goes to her office and contemplates the bar’s financial status.

The dialog bristles with terse tough talk like this: “Stormblud? That’s not a badas — that’s a freight train with a drinking problem.” Or, when the cops show up, “Start passing out cuffs,” says the top cop, “ — arrest anything with a face.”

Two completed episodes in the first issue capture the essence of the title. In the opening sequence, Barb captures a bail-jumper, establishing her tough talk and fighting bonafides; and then there’s the central brawl in her bar. That displays macho by the cubic yard, and Barb is not very effective in quelling the mayhem (odd, considering her earlier achievement at combat). Every page screams macho macho macho. Not my cup-of-tea.

And the artwork, penciled by Patrick Olliffe and inked by Tom Nguyen, is just as muscular and hard-bodied. Bold heavily shaded and feathered.




Very effective in this title. But their rendering of Barb does not produce a sexy heroine. She’s cute, beautiful even, but not sexy — surprising, considering that the star of of the 1996 film “Barb Wire” is Pamela Anderson, who is renowned for sex appeal. Well, boobs anyway.

A very good first issue all around, but macho brawling is not to my taste, so I won’t be back.

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


The drawings of J. Bone have always appealed to me — bold lines in a simple, cartoony manner — so when Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars came out, I picked up a copy, the second issue as it turns out, which put me part way into “The Sad, Sad song of Widow Johnson, Part Two.” Presented as if it were a TV show for kids, this chapter is missing the Widow Johnson altogether; instead, we see Sparks in pursuit of — what? Her kidnappers?

He is accompanied by some friendly Martians, blue ant-like creatures with antennae, and throughout, we are bombarded with endless choruses of witless banter like this:

“Great. A no-win situation. I hate these. You know why?”

“Because you can’t win.”

“Because you can’t win.”

Tedious stuff. But these are the concoctions of the writers, Ben Acker and Ben Blacker (Acker and Blacker? Neh), who’ve produced a comic book full of activity and action and, as I say, witless banter but not much else. It would help if we caught sight of the Widow Johnson. But, no.

The book has several two-page spreads in which the panels “read” across two pages, permitting some interesting visual effects. Several people and/or Martians turn to glass, and by the end of the book, Sparks himself has turned into a Martian.


I enjoyed seeing Bone at work again, but I don’t think I’ll spring for the next issue of this one.

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



According to a list passed out by my friend Kevin Robinette at his presentation during the Denver Comic-Con last spring, there have been 138 movies based on comics characters in the last 25 years. From Captain America, Death of the Incredible Hulk, Dick Tracy, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1990 to Antman, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Fantastic Four and others of the ilk in 2015.


Antman poster

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Time magazine, which has not been notably supportive of the emerging artistic status of cartooning, is finally coming around. Sort of. This conversion doubtless began around the corner with laddie magazines, which specialized in pages offering numerous short articles and thumbnail illustrations on a variety of subjects, no article ever continued beyond the page. And Time, not to be too far behind the trend, has launched “The Brief” and “The View,” the opening sections of the magazine that are sprinkled with short articles and graphics.

All these efforts are kowtowing to the short attention span of “today’s reader,” who, we assume, is in that highly desirable demographic ages 18-35, a demographic widely assumed to be averse to reading. So magazines, which, once upon a time, aimed exactly at readers, have re-tooled for the 21st century wherein readers are hard to find. Their pages a littered with graphics — diagrams and lists and percentages and charts and snapshots and decorative pictures.

Part of the re-tooling at Time is the invention of the “chartoon.” This portmanteau word is made up of “chart” and “cartoon.” At last, “cartoons” have made it into Time. Here are some samples, all produced by John Atkinson at Wrong Hands.


I’m not convinced that the “chart” part is an accurate description of the device. Charts usually compare things — sizes, durations, and so on. None of these examples do that. Some of them are pretty good “cartoons” though. But some could be funny without the pictures — Procrasti-nation (we don’t really need a map although it adds a little something cute to the concept) and Phonetically Defined (again, the pictures add a dimension but the comedy resides mostly in the words alone).

On the other hand, Vintage Smartphone would fail without the pictures demonstrating what, say, a “service provider” is. The humor is in applying today’s terminology to the antique appliance depicted. (But you knew that, right?)

Reality Tale, however, is just a comic strip. No chart involved. Not even a pretend chart.

Still, it’s nice that the art of cartooning has advanced enough to be a vital element in Time’s approach to the non-reading customer.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. Time, like many modern print productions—even newspapers—some time ago joined the trend to the appease an increasingly visual-oriented “reading” public. All those graphics in “The Brief” and “The View” appeal to this audience. And in the double issue at hand, an over-view of the coming months in entertainment and the arts is introduced by a full-page which is all a visual graphic—and one that uses cartoony figures.


Yup — as I said, the art of cartooning has achieved cultural status enough to appear somewhere other than on the funnies page of your family newspaper. Bravo.

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


Coco stillLalo Alcaraz, Mexican-American political cartoonist and creator of the syndicated comic strip La Cucaracha, announced on Twitter on last summer that he’s been hired to work on Pixar’s just-announced Day of the Dead feature “Coco.” Some of his Twitter followers initially assumed that Alcaraz, a respected voice on political and cultural issues related to Mexican-Americans, was joking — and for good reason, opined Amid Amidi at cartoonbrew.com. A couple years ago, Alcaraz was highly visible in attacking the Walt Disney Company.

Muerto Mouse posterIn 2013, recalled Griselda Nevarez at nbcnews.com, Disney attempted to trademark the Day of the Dead, and Alcaraz, as outraged as many in the Latino community, created a faux movie poster of a skeletal Godzilla-sized Mickey Mouse and named it Muerto Mouse. At the top of the poster he wrote: "It's coming to trademark your cultura!"

Over 10,000 posters were printed and used in protests throughout North and South America, Amidi claimed, as well as during a picket at Disneyland Park.

And that’s not all. Nevarez continues: “And before Muerto Mouse, in 1994, Alcaraz published a book of political cartoons titled Migra Mouse: Political Cartoons on Immigration. On the front cover was Mickey Mouse dressed in a Border Patrol uniform. Alcaraz created Migra Mouse to call out Disney for supporting then-Governor Pete Wilson, who championed Proposition 187 that sought to ban most public services to undocumented immigrants.” INSERT AlcarazMickey HERE; THEN DELETE THESE CAPITAL LETTERS.

But these days, Amidi reported, Alcaraz has softened his tone toward the Disney corporation. “When one Twitter user said Disney ‘just want [sic] money not to teach culture,’ Alcaraz defended the Disney company. He explained that Disney, which generated nearly $50 billion in revenue last year, had learned their lesson about cultural appropriation from his Muerto Mouse comic.”

Reaction from his followers regarding his new role with "Coco" has mostly been positive and encouraging, Nevarez reported. One person said on Twitter that Disney "heard our anger" regarding its attempt to trademark Day of the Dead and "responded correctly in hiring a great talent." Another tweeted that Alcaraz has "put in time, dedication and hard work into this" and that people "should celebrate not hate."

Lalo Alcaraz photoBut some, Nevarez went on, questioned why Alcaraz decided to work with Disney after criticizing the company in the past, referring to him as a sell-out and a "Tío Taco," which is equivalent of the derogatory slur "Uncle Tom."

Alcaraz has responded by saying he is "a Chicano artist" who wants to ensure "Coco" reflects the true meaning behind the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday. He also said he hopes to "consult on the story and the look" of the film.

"These movies are being made with or without our input," he said on Twitter, referring to films that reflect the Mexican-American culture. "I believe it's better to have input, don't you?”

Alcaraz has been offering input as a consulting producer on Seth MacFarlane’s upcoming tv series “Bordertown.”

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



McDonald’s and Coco-Cola have a new commercial on TV in which the actors speak in speech balloons. They open their mouths, and a balloon is emitted, making a mildly disgusting “bulup” noise as it balloons out. Words then show up on the balloon. ... The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran’s book of “wise sayings,” has animated many an undergraduate’s mental and moral processes, and was itself recently animated.


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Jeb Bush as AtlasStormFront, formerly Bluewater, has an ambitious publishing agenda over the next year. Specializing in comic book biographies of celebrities and politicians, the roster of the latter is full for the foreseeable future.

Publisher Darren G. Davis told Michael Cavna at the Washington Post’s ComicRiffs, “There are so many players in this election to date, we have a lot of material and subjects to choose from that will last us through November 2016.”

In 2008, the publishing house launched its Political Power line of books with comic biographies of Obama, Biden, and Hillary Clinton, as well as McCain and Palin. Now, StormFront is focusing on political dynasties, releasing its newest book, Political Power: Jeb Bush — Legacy, in August. The cover portrays the candidate straining to literally uphold the Bush name like a political Atlas.

Forthcoming from StormFront are comic biographies of such candidates as Bernie Sanders, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and a recently updated Donald Trump bio-book.

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


“She refused to be brought down.” With these words in a press release, the Cartoonist Rights Network International (CRNI) awarded its 2015 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award to Atena Farghadani, the jailed Iranian artist who last spring was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for her editorial art and community activity critical of the government.

Farghadani, 29, was jailed in Tehran in August of 2014 after publishing a cartoon in protest of proposed legislation that would restrict birth control and women’s rights in Iran. Following her release four months later, Farghadani posted a YouTube video recounting her beatings and mistreatment while in prison.


In anticipation of her trial on charges that included “spreading propaganda against the system,” Farghadani wrote a defiant open letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in which she said:

“I know … I will be in a court that screams injustice. I will be present before a judge who for years has skewed the balance of justice … What you call an ‘insult to representatives of the parliament by means of cartoons’ I consider to be an artistic expression of the … parliament which our nation does not deserve!”

As a result of that letter and her YouTube posting, Farghadani was returned to prison in January, 2015. In May, she was tried and found guilty of “insulting the Iranian supreme leader and members of parliament” chiefly by depicting them as mindless animals, following a vote curbing reproductive rights. Atena Farghadani was sentenced to 12 years, nine months in prison. (See Rants & Raves Opus 341 for details and illustrations.)


Farghadani photo and cartoon


“Atena is among the most courageous humanitarians we know of,” Robert Russell, founder of the Northern Virginia-based CRNI, told ComicRiffs. “When they tried to intimidate her with physical torture, she just punched right back — she refused to be brought down. Her imprisonment under this regime is one of the most unjust acts in Iran’s modern history.

“This year,” Russell continued, likening Farghadani to other noted heroines, “the decision about the award recipient was easy. It was a unanimous decision by the CRNI board of directors.”

The staff of Charlie Hebdo was also considered for CRNI’s honor, Russell noted, but the board weighed that Farghadani has received less world attention and fewer accolades compared with the French satirical weekly since the attack at its offices in January left a dozen people dead.

Soon after the announcement about the award came news that Farghadani has developed signs of lymphatic disease in prison as she awaits her chance to challenge a 12-year prison sentence in the appeals court.

“The illness showed up recently and we are waiting to see if they send her to a specialist or to the prison infirmary,” her lawyer, Mohammad Moghimi told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “We hope that considering her health issues, the sentence against her will be changed in appeals court.”

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


Betty Tokar Jankovich photoThe original of Betty, the girl next door to Archie Andrews in the comic books, is Betty Tokar Jankovich, once a girlfriend of cartoonist Bob Montana, who invented the Riverdale gang, according to George Gene Gustines at nytimes.com. Discovered by journalist/documentarian Gerald Peary, a passionate Archie fan who set out to find all the inspirations for the Archie characters, Ms. Jankovich at 94 remembers dating Montana. After graduating from high school, she and her sister Helen worked in a cafeteria in the same building that housed MLJ Comics. They met Montana and Harry Lucey, another Archie cartoonist, and they went out on a double date, after which, the couples switched partners, Lucey dating Helen, whom he eventually married. Betty, meanwhile, soon broke off with Montana: “I really liked him,” she said, “but I didn’t think I would be much of an asset to his career — I wasn’t educated enough for him. So we broke up and went our separate ways.” She eventually married the police chief of Perth Amboy. Montana, Betty said, “had a very nice life, and I married a very nice young man. It turned out beautifully.”

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