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Here's one for the history books. During Walt Kelly's sojourn at the Disney Studios in the 1930s, he and others on staff used to circulate among themselves sketches and caricatures, poking fun at each other. Some of these spontaneous generations were a little off-color, but Ward Kimball (one of Disney’s “nine old men”) says Kelly avoided such forays into comedic pornography: “He stuck with very innocent, basic humor” (quoted in Hermes Press’ Walt Kelly: The Life and Art of the Creator of Pogo). But Kelly did allude in print to an old shady story at least once that I know of.

The daily strip for September 26, 1952 (the middle one in the array posted near here), echoes an ancient slightly racist joke about an old raggedy black man who fell asleep under a tree in the woods.


 While he slept, a black snake crawled up under his tattered trouser leg. The snake kept on crawling up the pants leg, and when it got to a hole near the man's crotch, it emerged and raised up in front of the sleeping man's face, whereupon the man awoke. Staring sleepily at the snake weaving in front of him, he muttered: "My sakes! I knowed yo' was black, and I knowed yo' was long, but where did yo' get those baby blue eyes!"

Kelly was reputed to be squeamish about rude jokes of this kind, but it would appear that he repeated almost exactly this one’s punchline, rude or not. And he may have done such jokes more than once, but this is the only instance I know of. In this case, I suspect that what Kelly found amusing was the black man’s language, not anything else in the situation.

Hotshot CharlieAssuming that Kelly deliberately evoked memories of this old chestnut, we must also realize that he was not unique among his cartooning colleagues. Cartoonists were widely regarded by syndicate and newspaper editors as adolescent pranksters constantly finding ways to insert scatological references or sexual innuendoes into their strips, sneaking them by their editors' scrupulous eyes into the unsuspecting world of newspaper readers beyond. There, certain readers would recognize the signs and symbols and potents; and they would laugh uproariously in appreciation of the cartoonist's daring and cleverness. So I've heard. (Milton Caniff told me; his Hotshot Charlie in Terry and the Pirates was an instance of this nefarious practice although Caniff never finished the allusion by quoting the punchline.)

Al Capp became notorious for such practices in his Li’l Abner, and then Joe Palooka's Ham Fisher blew the whistle on him. You can find the whole story in the Usual Place (RCHarvey.com), in Harv’s Hindsight for January 2013, “Hubris and Chutzpah.”

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


Walt Kelly's Fables and Funnies coverWalt Kelly’s Fables and Funnies
Compiled by David W. Tosh
Introduction by John E. Petty
280 7x10.5-inch pages, color
2016 Dark Horse

This happy se;ectopm of Western/Dell work from 1942-1949 gives us better Walt Kelly than Pogo. Yes, such a thing is possible, and this book will prove it to you. Tosh has collected Kelly from many of the titles to which he contributed after leaving Disney in 1941 and before the newspaper version of Pogo started in 1948 — Fairy Tale Parade, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Santa Claus Funnies, March of Comics, Our Gang, various Four Color Comics, and, of course, Animal Comics. Except in the latter, no Pogo here; no alligators either.

Under the heading “Animal Mother Goose,” Kelly illustrated nursery rhymes using animals. One of the Our Gang stories herein is pretty grown-up violent stuff, people wielding rifles and the like. In the samples I’ve posted near here, we have only a hint of the most delightful and whimsical Kelly in this volume. He did vast quantities of superior pictorial comedy for kids (and their parents—adults were always the target audience). The pages brim with his antic visual invention: the pictures are the funnies. And it is all, surprisingly, much better drawn than the early Pogo.



Reprinting Pogo is fashionable and lucrative these days. Fantagraphics is bringing out luxurious volumes of the newspaper strip (to which I am a paid contributor) and Hermes Press is publishing all of the Dell Pogo from Animal Comics and Pogo Comics. With this Tosh collection at hand, we realize that there’s lots more of this kind of Kelly out there, a veritable trove for Kelly fans, just waiting to be collected and compiled. And in the current stampede to reprint all of Pogo, surely someone is going to take the hint Tosh supplies here and publish more of this delightful oeuvre. And maybe some truly dedicated soul will finally assemble and publish Kelly’s editorial cartoons from the New York Star. We can hope.

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


Tipping Point coverThe Tipping Point
By Various Artists
130 8x11-inch pages, color

The tipping point, by custom, is that instant in the evolution of events that leads to a new and irreversible development. “That key moment,” saith this book’s back cover, “when a clear-cut split occurs, a mutation, a personal revolt, or a large-scale revolution tips us from one world to another, from one life to an entirely new one.”

The volume offers thirteen tipping point stories by thirteen cartoonists of different nationalities: Taiyo Matsumoto, Emmanuel Lepage, Atsushi Kaneko, John Cassaday, Eddie Campbell, Naoki Ukrasawa, Bob Fingerman, Boulet, Paul Pope, Bastien Vilves, Keiichi Koike, Frederik Peeters, and Katsuya Terada. Finding the tipping point in each story is more of a parlor game than literary analysis.

Campbell’s autobiographical story, “Cul de Sac,” starts with him unpacking boxes as he moves into a new apartment. His cat has run off, and he spends time looking for the beast, wandering through and describing the new neighborhood. It concludes with his dreaming of a personage with the head of his cat. In the last picture, Campbell is seated at a table, eating his dinner. I don’t see a tipping point in that sequence. Maybe it’s when he apparently gives up looking for his cat. Or maybe it’s when he moves in.

In Paul Pope’s “Consort to the Destroyer,” a man, a vicious pirate by the look of him, and a beautiful nearly naked woman, his prisoner, chained to him, are on an open boat at sea, survivors of ship that sank destroyed by fire. The boat is stalked by a shark. The pirate tugs on the chain, demanding that the woman come to him. She does, en route grabbing a knife stuck in the plank of the pirate’s seat. She stabs him to death and jumps overboard, where the shark approaches. Repeating some of the same dialogue of the previous sequence, she stabs the shark and kills it. Then she swims to an island where there are some deserted buildings but no people. The tipping point may be when the pirate tugs on the chain.

Cassaday explores Huck Finn’s decision not to turn Jim in to the slave-hunting authorities, one of literature’s famous tipping points. The decision bonds the two for the rest of Mark Twain’s book. Lepage’s “The Awakening” records a youth’s realization that he is gay. Fingerman’s “Unbeliever” meets God, who turns out to be a hoax. In Boulet’s equally comical “I Want to Believe,” the cartoonist is scornful of people who believe what they find on the Internet—until he experiences all sorts of encounters with Internet phenomenon (a lizard person, men in black, the white woman who appears to drivers just before they have an accident) and makes $90 billion by investing in one of those “I am requesting your help” messages.

The tipping point in most of the stories is illusive. Or maybe it’s just a matter of interpretation. Or not. In his Introduction, the publisher, Fabrice Giger, recounts a tipping point in his life and then says the contributors to this book “examine their own tipping points.” But he also thinks there are fourteen contributors, not thirteen. Besides, only a couple of the stories are obviously autobiographical.

But it doesn’t matter. The stories are mostly a little spooky, puzzling fragments of imaginary longer tales. They are beautifully drawn and fun to read. What more can we ask?


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


Terminal Lance coverBy Maximilian Uriarte
288 7x10.5-inch pages
color (tints)
2016 Little Brown

The subtitle “Terminal Lance” refers to a webcomic Uriarte launched in 2010 after being in the Marines since 2006 and just before he left the Corps. “Terminal lance” is Marine slang for a Marine who finishes his enlistment without making further advances in rank than lance corporal, E-3, only two steps up the ladder from raw recruit. The phrase is tacked onto the graphic novel title probably in order to connect it to the webcomic so readers of the latter would buy the former; it’s not an otherwise justifiable connection. But the principal character in both is a Marine named Abe.

Uriarte enlisted in the Marines in 2006 at the age of 19, and during his 4-year hitch, he served two combat deployments to Iraq.

Amazon calls The White Donkey “a graphic novel of war and its aftermath,” going on to say: “A powerful, compulsively page-turning, vivid, and moving tribute to the experience of war and PTSD, The White Donkey tells the story of Abe, a young Marine recruit who experiences the ugly, pedestrian, and often meaningless side of military service in rural Iraq. He enlists in hopes of finding that missing something in his life but comes to find out that it's not quite what he expected. Abe gets more than he bargained for.

“This is a story about a Marine, written and illustrated by a Marine, and is the first graphic novel about the war in Iraq from a veteran. The White Donkey explores the experience of being a Marine, as well as the challenges that veterans face upon their return home, and its raw power will leave you in awe.”

I’m not so sure that I was left in awe after reading the book. But certain scenes and sequences haunt me still. And I can see why The White Donkey has hit so many of its readers hard (read the rave reviews at Amazon.com) and why it was a New York Times bestseller: the book is, as it says without sufficient emphasis above, “the first graphic novel about the war in Iraq from a veteran.” The author’s personal experience of a brutal war that we are all trying to forget gives the graphic novel the stamp of authenticity that attracts attention and applause. It has all the right ingredients: it’s a graphic novel, a genre of immense popularity just now; it’s about a nasty war; and the graphic artist is himself a veteran, a survivor, of the nastiness.

In short, this is a graphic novel that is true.

Towards the end of the book, Abe’s best friend, Garcia, is killed by an IED. Abe goes to pieces. That’s the short of the story. In the long of it, Uriarte makes good use of the medium’s resources.

The ending, by the time we come upon it, is predictable. In fact, the book as a whole is a predictable almost “familiar” (because we’ve heard this story before) account of one disillusioned Marine’s short life. Uriarte gives it drama by depicting the monotony of training camps and the routines of military life in Iraq, the ever-present menace that surrounds it, and the horror of sudden, absolute death in a seemingly uneventful albeit threatening environment.

And then there’s the White Donkey. When we first see it, it’s standing in the road, holding up a parade of military vehicles. In Uriarte’s mind, the White Donkey seems in its simple existence to deny or refute the power of the American miliary in all its horrifying glory.

In his book, the White Donkey appears six times.

The White Donkey in all its manifestations simply appears and then disappears. It performs no function — except as a kind of symbol, a symbol heralding perhaps the ineffectiveness and therefore the meaninglessness of life.

Once one accepts life’s meaningless, he/she can go on living.

Uriarte’s story does not leave me in a state of awe. But his literary use of a symbol does.





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


Gag On This: The Scrofulous Cartoons of Charles Rodrigues

By (of course) Charles Rodrigues
edited by Gary Groth and Bob Fingerman, who supplies a short biography of the cartoonist (pasted to the inside front and back covers in an effort, no doubt, to devote as all of the book’s actual pages to Rodrigues’ comedic masterpieces)
Introduction by Sam Gross
428 6x6-inch pages, b/w
2015 Fantagraphics hardover

Gag on This coverYou can read all 422 of Rodrigues’s cartoons in about an hour — if you don’t pause too long to try to figure out the implications of some of the pictures — but in whatever remains of your lifetime, you’ll never forget what you will see and probably laugh at in this book. The blurb on the back cover completes the fulsome description of the volume’s content:

“Charles Rodrigues was one of the fiercest, most audacious, taboo-busting cartoonists who ever lived, and Fantagraphics’ second collection of his cartoons from the National Lampoon may be the most jaw-droppingly irreverent collection of gag cartoons ever published.

“There was no subject Rodrigues wouldn’t tackle and none he couldn’t make funny. There is no example of human suffering, misery, tragedy, or absurdity that is off limits. Gag on This is not a book for the ideologically sanctimonious, the genteel souls of middle America, or the humorless. But, if you have learned to simultaneously laugh and cry at the unending folly of human existence, you will have found your solace and your penance in Charles Rodrigues’ Gag on This.”

That, still, doesn’t quite do Rodrigues justice. In his Introduction, Gross lists over 60 “scabrous” subjects Rodrigues wasn’t timid about approaching, beginning with blind people and ending with public toilets, Rodrigues cartoonorgasms and bicycle seats, including along the way cripples, spastics, bedwetting, murder, voyeurism, menstruation, enemas, bestiality, feces, sexual aids and cannibalism—to name a few.

The first collection of Rodrigues’ National Lampoon cartoons published by Fantagraphics (in 2013), Ray and Joe: The Story of a Man and His Dead Friend (another 200-odd pages of comical vomitus) is the story of a man and his dead friend. Not easy to forget. But you don’t need to have read that book to enjoy the crop of his work harvested for this volume.

This volume is made up entirely of one-panel cartoons — the oft-dubbed “gag cartoons.” And most of these will, as promised by the title, nudge you the direction of gagging. The 2013 collection, on the other hand, was made up of comic-book style comic strips. A different appreciation experience altogether but still often gag-inducing.

More, perhaps, than the work of any other cartoonist, in Rodrigues’ cartoons the pictures are vital to the comedy. Without the picture, there’s no joke. Beyond picturing the key pictorial element of some aspect of what the cartoonist finds amusing, his pictures are crammed with minute detail. And since so much of the humor in the cartoons in this volume arises from pictures without words, if some visual detail is obscurely rendered (or not very visible due to flaws in reproduction or the clarity of source material)—as happens, but rarely—you’ll be momentarily baffled until you discern what that scrap of art actually represents. I’ve included one or two such puzzlers in the array that follows (seeing a few Rodrigues specimens is the best way of reviewing this book), beginning with what the editors of National Lampoon denominated the funniest cartoon ever done. I agree (but you have to be male to fully comprehend the comedy).




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


Return with us now to 1991 and the San Diego Comic-Con (not yet “International”). I’ve been sorting out the contents of boxes in the below-stairs Book Grotto of the Harvey Manse, and I discovered a distinguished remnant of that Con, my first. In those antique days when nights are filled with revelry and life was but a song, I occupied a table in Artists Alley, which resulted in the aforementioned remnant of those halcyon times; a miniature 3" x 8" booklet of cartoons.

A guy named Roger May wandered through the Alley and invited some of us do a single-page cartoon (which would measure 3" x 4"). He said he’d collect all the cartoons at the end of the day and manufacture the booklet at a local copy shop, and then the next day, he’d circulate it through the Alley and elsewhere, selling it for $2 apiece. As far as I can remember, none us contributors shared in the rewards of this feeble financial enterprise. But we all got a copy of the booklet.



Surprisingly (or maybe not, once Roger saw what I was peddling at my table — “art prints” of cartoony lewd ladies), he gave me the centerfold. (Or maybe I asked for it as a condition of my contribution — centerfold and barenekkidwimmin somehow belonging together.)

I decorated the centerfold with the cute li’l bimbo who appears at the right end of the two bottom rows above. The Con met over July Fourth that year, so firecrackers were de rigeur. And my pin-up is “threatening” to light firecrackers that are the only things obscuring an unimpeded vista of her admirable epidermis. She, all the while, pretends not to know why all of us are urging her to light off those firecrackers. (Pant, pant.)

The drawing is otherwise littered with double entendre of every spurious sort; “going out with a bang” indeed — I should be ashamed, but I’m not, not ever.

Roger dutifully numbered the booklet’s pages, all 32 of them, only a few of which are reproduced here. Several notable ’tooners of the day (and some who persisted until today) are represented. Referring to the encircled numbers on each of the pages (panels), here are the cartoonists whose cartoons appear here (first and second rows, left to right: 4, Bruce Hilvitz; 23, Rich Geary; 24, Eric Talbot; 18, Chance Wolf; 9, Shel Dorf (founder of the Con); 25, Joseph Linsner.

Third row: 3, Dan Gregory; 5, Larry Welz (I was surprised to see this old undergrounder at the Denver Comic Con this past June); 16/17, Yrs Trly; then right to left across the bottom: Guy Colwell; and, back cover, Mark Martin.

Most of the cartoonists exploit the UG tradition of the comedy of shock or make terrible puns. Talbot’s anatomical gag is wonderfully hilarious. But they’re all delicious. And to think, I almost threw this treasure out when rummaging through all those boxes downstairs.

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


KRAZY coverThe long-awaited critical biography of Krazy Kat and the strip’s creator George Herriman by Michael Tisserand has finally arrived — Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White 560 pages by Harper/Collins. Amazon encapsulates the history of the strip: Appearing in the biggest newspapers of the early twentieth century — including those owned by William Randolph Hearst — Herriman’s Krazy Kat cartoons propelled him, eventually, to fame. Although fitfully popular with readers of the period, his work has been widely credited with elevating cartoons from daily amusements to anarchic art.

The Kirkus Review begins: “Set among the desert mesas of Coconino County, Krazy Kat graced the funny pages from 1913 to 1944 and featured the philosophical antics of Krazy and the brick-throwing mouse, Ignatz. Tisserand reveals the depths of their age-old rivalry, tracing influences from Cervantes and Othello to minstrel shows and the Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries bout of 1910.”

“Herriman used his work to explore the human condition,” saith Amazon, “creating a modernist fantasia that was inspired by the landscapes he discovered in his travels — from chaotic urban life to the Beckett-like desert vistas of the Southwest.”

Kirkus: “Krazy Kat always had a racial angle: Herriman was born a fair-skinned boy to African-American [or Creole] parents and grew up in the Creole community of New Orleans. His complexion allowed him to ‘pass’ as white, a controversial practice [since the dangerous days of post-Civil War Reconstruction].

“Though he penned numerous strips — Us Husbands, Baron Mooch, Family Upstairs — it wasn’t until after the arrival of Krazy Kat in 1913 that he moved toward the life of a celebrated artist, garnering praise from the Krazy Kat panellikes of e.e. cummings and President Woodrow Wilson. Herriman’s unique racial perspective allowed him to sneak some remarkably potent themes into his cartoons, many of which were likely lost on his readers at the time: Krazy, for instance, is revealed to have been born in the cellar of a haunted house, in a ‘tale which must never be told, and yet which everyone knows.’ In another gag, Ignatz flings a mug at Krazy saying it's not the black coffee he wanted. ‘Sure it is,’ Krazy tells him. ‘Look unda the milk.’”

Amazon: “Drawing on exhaustive original research into Herriman’s family history, interviews with surviving friends and family, and deep analysis of the artist’s work and surviving written records, Tisserand brings this little-understood figure to vivid life, paying homage to a visionary artist who helped shape modern culture.”

Kirkus: “Tisserand elevates this exhaustively researched and profusely illustrated book beyond the typical comics biography. Seamlessly integrating the story of Herriman’s life, he executes an impressive history of early-20th-century race relations, the rise of Hearst and the newspaper boom, and the burgeoning cross-continental society life of New York and Los Angeles.”

Writing to others on the Platinum Age list, Tisserand said: “If someone is going to spend eight years researching a life, I highly recommend George Herriman. Pretty sure it's impossible to tire of Herriman and his work, or to learn all there is to learn.”

I haven’t finished reading my copy yet, but as far as I’ve gone, the research is impressive

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


WHITE BOY coverGarrett Price’s White Boy in Skull Valley:
The Complete Sunday Comics, 1933-1936
Edited By Peter Maresca
168 10.5x16-inch gigantic landscape pages
Sunday Press hardcover

Once again, Maresca’s Sunday Press brings us a scrupulously reconstructed Sunday comic strip reprinted at the size it was originally published back in the day when newspaper publishers valued comics. White Boy, the strip’s title from October 1, 1933, when it started, until April 28, 1935, when it abruptly changed its title to Skull Valley, is unique in the history of American comic strips: it is the only “western” story told from the Native American point-of-view. The title character, who is not named, is a captive of an Indian tribe. He is well-treated and becomes friends with his captors, particularly an attractive young woman named Starlight. Some of the strips regale us with Indian folklore and legend; and every strip is scrupulously dated.

Another aspect of the strip’s uniqueness is the manner in which Price drew it. It is realistically drawn in the sense that it is not bigfoot comedy: but Price drew in a simple, outline manner, without feathering or shading or any of the other illustrative tricks. He renders clothing, for instance, without wrinkles. And then, every once in a while — when his story demands it — his pictures darken and acquire texture and shading.

Then, suddenly — overnight, without explanation — White Boy disappears and in its place appears Skull Valley, starring Bob White, a cowboy in modern times who acquires a girlfriend named Doris Hale. The White Boy storyline is abandoned in mid-episode; time shifts, and we’re in another world. Bob White’s story is of a quite different sort: the strip is now a fairly conventional adventure strip. The Indian perspective is gone. And Price adds pictorial depth to his drawings with shading and solid blacks. Even a few wrinkles in clothing.

Marsca assures us in the prefatory essay that no explanation was ever given for this unprecedented change. And then Skull Valley eventually morphs into a gag strip about a dude ranch, and it ends without a ripple on August 30, 1936.



The book’s front matter gives us a brief history of White Boy and a short biography of Price, who, although born and raised in the West (Wyoming), became an illustrator and cartoonist of note in New York, where he appeared regularly in The New Yorker as cover artist and cartoonist. His cartoons were also published in other magazines of the 1920s through the 1970s; I first saw his work in the old humor magazine Life. Maresca’s essays are accompanied by a generous sampling of Price’s other work, including paintings and covers as well as cartoons.

White Boy was a minor masterpiece, and this volume is a gem of a historical work.

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


The Fix #5 coverThe Fix is up to its fifth issue as I write this, and it’s five issues of propriety-daunting shenanigans so cynical and self-serving that the series is hilarious — in a wholly unconventional way, of course. One reviewer describes The Fix as “a comedy of errors, if ‘disastrous decision-making from top-to-bottom’ counts as an error.”

The first issue begins with two ski-mask wearing guys robbing the folks in an old folks home. How low can you sink as robbers? But their actual target in the home is a retired criminal who has a cash stash the robbers want. As they uncover the hiding place, the old guy wakes up and reveals the shotgun he keeps under his bedclothes. He lets fly, and they run off with as much of the cash as they can grab and carry.

It turns out that the two robbers, a black (or Mexican?) named Mac Brundo and a white guy named Roy (whose last name I haven’t found yet and whose narrative captions tell the story), have a day job: they’re cops.

Roy eventually gives us the benefit of a review of his early life during which he played cops and robbers like all kids, and he decides that if you want a life of crime, it’s best to be a cop. Says Roy, in another of a continuing display of cynicism: “I mean, who gets to break the rules more than the guy who makes them? [If you’re a cop] nobody tells you want to do. Hell, you tell them what to do. You get to beat up whoever you want. You can even shoot them sometimes.” And you get away with it.

Roy and Mac are robbing money to pay off their debt to another guy, Josh, a stone-cold killer and loan shark, who, by the end of the issue, has proposed that the two smuggle some stuff through LAX in order to pay him back. Their pursuit of this objective — which includes getting a dog that might be a drug-sniffing dog—takes the next two or three issues. So far.

Although Roy supplies the running captions that ostensibly explain what he and Mac are doing, the pictures often contradict the soaring rhetoric of Roy’s words.


In short, a wonderful send-up, written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Steve Lieber.

The Fix. Worth checking out.

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


What do I read for my private amusement? Last winter, I was reading Daredevil (drawn by Goran Sudzuka), Black Widow (Chris Samnee), Moon Knight (Greg Smallwood), and American Monster (Juan Doe). Brian Azzarello’s tale in American Monster is desultory to the point of near aimlessness, but Doe’s visual storytelling is inventive, sometimes to the point of startling. Likewise, Sudzuka, Smallwood and Samnee deploy the visual resources of the medium in imaginative ways—each in his own individual style, recognizably no one else’s. In the image below from Black Widow, we can see why Samnee is given co-writer credit with Mark Waid: the narrative on this page and on many pages of this issue and others is carried by Samnee’s pictures.


Comics are a visual medium, and these artists have raised “visual” to an art form.

Oh — and Kaare Kyle Andrews’ Renato Jones: One% is another exemplar of the arts of visual storytelling. The drawing is energetic, the page layouts imaginative, and the leap-frogging storyline fascinating. The second “round” of this title is now up to No.2.


And keep your eye on The Fix, written by Nick Spencer, which, through No.10, offers a uniquely perverse concept, well executed by Steve Lieber (see the next R&R), and The Black Monday Murders, by Jonathan Hickman with art by Tomm Coker, who deploy both text and pictures in unconventional ways to tell their story. And Phil Hester’s stunning artwork in Warren Ellis’ Shipwreck is worth the price of admission even if you don’t read the “story.”


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


Marvel is bringing on a new Iron Man. A woman. A black woman. They’re still working on the armored avenger’s new name, Eliana Dockterman reported at Time.com — Iron Man clearly won’t work anymore. This is another of Marvel’s many steps lately at creating racial and gender diversity in its line-up. Thor, you’ll remember, is a woman now. Then we have Jessica Jones, Miles Morales and Maria Hill. So why not Iron Man?

The new Golden Avenger, Riri Williams, is a science genius who enrolls in MIT at the age of 15 and builds her own Iron Man suit in her dorm. All I’ve seen is the picture of Riri in an afro, and I don’t think this’ll work: how will she fit her hair into the Iron “Man” helmet? And she won’t be nearly as cute when she’s covered up with the red and yellow clank suit. (Ooops: sorry: sexist remark.)

Riri Williams Iron Man


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


Jerusalem boxed setNobirdy Avair Soar Anywing to Eagle It

With the publication last winter of his extravagantly long and complex prose novel, Jerusalem, Alan Moore announced that he is planning to retire from the other medium in which he has worked for so long, the one that brought him fame — comic books. But not, it seems, right away.

The creator of such medium-altering works as Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, The Killiong Joke and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman said, at a press conference about Jerusalem, “I have about 250 pages of comics left in me,” and he may produce them in Cinema Purgatorio and Providence from Avatar, and the final book of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. That, however, would fall short of his life-long goal, “to do a large work on a large scale.”

He plans to keep working, but to focus on films and literary novels, still aiming at that large opus.

Jerusalem, a nearly 1,300-page work of words with no pictures, presumably is a milestone on his road to that goal. It took Moore ten years to complete.

“Jerusalem,” says Andrew Ervin, an author and critic writing in the Washington Post, “revels in the idea of eternalism, the theory that past, present and future exist all at once. Everything that has ever happened in Northampton is still happening. Everything that eventually will happen there is already happening now. Amid that chronological and ontological maelstrom, Moore’s characters must reckon with the occasional slippage between their town and a shadowy parallel realm known as Mansoul. From Mansoul, the deceased can watch all of the goings-on in the town.”

The book is obviously, self-consciously, Joycean (perhaps as homage and, in some places, as parody).

“Yes, yes, very much,” burbles David Franich at ew.com. “Many of Jerusalem’s chapters follow the life-in-a-day structure of [James Joyce’s famous] Ulysses, with characters thoughtfully perambulating around a few square blocks in Northampton. Then you get to the part when Joyce’s daughter Lucia has a sexual encounter with pop idol Dusty Springfield— said encounter witnessed by actor Patrick McGoohan and the balloon-monster from McGoohan’s tv show ‘The Prisoner.’ ... Did I mention that whole chapter is written in the style of Joyce’s infamously post-coherent masterpiece Finnegans goddamn Wake??? Sample line, pulled from the middle of a random sentence:

“... Lucia askplains dashy’s expictured beckett d’main how’s o’ the massylum in spacetime for tea an’ dusks her newd frond four dimections to delaytr roaches of the ninespleen severties…”

Hence the subtitle of this article, ripped from Finnegans Wake.

“The novel doesn’t have a through-line plot arc any more than do Hieronymus Bosch’s hell-scapes,” said Ervin. “But we learn a great deal about the Vernal and Warren families,” the chief characters (other than the town itself) of the book. Another Joycean kinship.

AlanMoore“That maximalist, kitchen-sink approach accounts for many of its pleasures,” Ervin concludes: “There are unexpected twists and frequent hairpin changes in mood. What makes it truly shine, however, is its insistence that our workaday world might not be quite as mundane as we think. Lurking in the corners of the ceiling, we might just find a portal to a different realm. The imagination Moore displays here and the countless joys and surprises he evokes make Jerusalem a massive literary achievement for our time — and maybe for all times simultaneously.”

Well, that may be a bit much. A bit too Joycean perhaps.

Moore himself, in an interview with the New York Times, sees the book as filling “a need for an alternative way of looking at life and death. I have a lot of very dear rationalist, atheist friends who accept that having a higher belief system is good for you — you probably live longer if you have one. You’re probably happier. So I wanted to come up with a secular theory of the afterlife. As far as I can see, and as far as Einstein could see, what I describe in the book looks like a fairly safe option in terms of its actual possibility.”


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ccording to former President Barack Obama, only the graphic novel format had the expressive palette capable of truly capturing his eight years in office.

Obama at Oval Office deskWASHINGTON—Saying the finished work would become the “definitive take” on his time in the White House, Barack Obama reportedly submitted a collection of pages from his presidential graphic novel, Barack Obama: Renegade, to publisher Image Comics on Thursday, June 8.

The 16-page packet of artwork and sample issues, which Obama confirmed he has also mailed to Fantagraphics Books, Dark Horse Comics, and DC’s Vertigo imprint, is said to serve as a proof of concept for what he envisions as a sprawling eight-volume memoir of his presidency. According to Obama, creating an authentic representation of his two terms in office has required him to use every tool of the comics medium, from dramatic splash pages in which he appears silhouetted behind the Resolute desk, to an extended dream sequence set on the eve of his 2012 reelection, which he said takes “definite cues” from the casual surrealism of graphic novelist Chris Ware in order to fully realize the emotional truth of the moment.

“I’ve poured everything into Renegade’s panels, and when it’s complete, it will depict these eight years of my life precisely as I experienced them,” said the 44th former president of the United States, who told reporters that he planned to pencil, ink, and hand-letter each page of the series himself.

That last is the first irrefutable clue that this is “fake news.”

“Generations from now,” said Obama, “I want Americans to be able to read these pages and be confident they’re getting an unalloyed picture of my presidency. Renegade will cover mature, difficult subjects, and some of it may require multiple readings to understand, but this graphic novel is the only way to accurately convey my experiences. I realize, of course, it may be a bit too much for more sensitive readers to handle.”

Fitnoot. You guessed it: this whole thing is from The Onion, the original “fake news” publication.—RCH


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