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Adam Kubert/Marvel Comics

The 10 Most Interesting Comics of June

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Adam Kubert/Marvel Comics

Each month, we round up the most interesting comics, graphic novels, web and digital comics that we recommend you check out.

1. PETER PARKER SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #1


Adam Kubert/Marvel Comics

By Chip Zdarsky, Adam Kubert
Marvel Comics

This new series revives the title of the longtime second string Spider-man title which hasn’t been used with the “Peter Parker” prefix since 1998. While the flagship Amazing Spider-man comic has taken Peter Parker to some interesting new places in recent years, most recently as the CEO of his own technology company, some fans feel this globe-trotting Spidey lacks the “old Parker luck” (or lack thereof) that everyone likes to remember. This new companion series aims for a “back to the basics” appeal with stories set in NYC but still within the current continuity. Chip Zdarsky is a brilliant if slightly idiosyncratic choice of writer for one of Marvel’s most visible heroes. As one half of the team behind Image Comics’ raunchy hit series Sex Criminals, he tends toward absurd comedy and will assuredly tap into the sense of humor that Spidey needs, but he’s also shown a great knack for sincerity and sheer likability in comics like Jughead that make it seem like he’ll get Peter Parker pretty well. He’s joined by veteran artist Adam Kubert, who’s by no means a newcomer to drawing Spider-man.

2. THE ADVENTURES OF JOHN BLAKE: MYSTERY OF THE GHOST SHIP


Fred Fordham/Scholastic

By Phillip Pullman and Fred Fordham
Scholastic Graphix

Phillip Pullman, the famed author of the His Dark Materials trilogy of all ages fantasy novels, is making a big comeback this year with a highly anticipated new novel, The Book of Dust, out this October. For those that can’t wait that long, there is also his first graphic novel which is the opening of a proposed series called The Adventures of John Blake. The titular hero is an enigmatic teenage boy on a time-traveling 18th century galleon manned by a crew plucked from various points in history. They rescue a young girl in modern day Australia who has fallen overboard her parents’ yacht and they risk a run-in with the evil Dahlberg Corporation to get her home. Pullman owes much to the classic boys adventures of Treasure Island and classic Eurocomics like Tin Tin, but Fordham’s realistic, modern artwork calls to mind the sophisticated European adventure comics of today.

3. SUNBURNING


Keiler Roberts/Koyama Press

By Keiler Roberts
Koyama Press

The trick with creating good memoir comics is being willing to shed the natural inclination toward self-preservation that prevents true honesty about your own life. Keiler Roberts seems to have no problem with this. Sunburning is a collection of comic vignettes about her home life and her personal struggles with motherhood, being an artist, and dealing with mental and physical illness. Her depictions of her struggles with bipolar disorder as well as her brutally and hilariously honest exchanges with her daughter, her husband, and her parents are just about the most direct and real scenes you’ll read in comics this year. She is not afraid to show herself as being crass or even mean at times, but just as often she is refreshing, down-to-earth and funny.

4. DARK DAYS: THE FORGE #1


Andy Kubert/DC Comics

By Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Andy Kubert, Jim Lee, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Danny Miki, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair
DC Comics

Today’s DC is all about reconnecting its characters to the great multiversal tapestry of their pasts, which had been mostly rewritten in the 2011 “New 52” reboot. In some ways, this one-shot sets up the latest multi-comic summer event—leading toward August’s Dark Nights: Metal—but it is also a continuation of much of what has come before including clues planted in last year’s DC: Rebirth one-shot and Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s recent run on Batman. That means this is primarily designed for DC fans that have been paying acute attention over the years and not so much for the casual comic reader. If you’re any sort of DC fan, though, this is a gripping introduction to a big story involving Batman being ultra-secretive about some universe-shattering mystery, which is always fun. Some familiar faces who haven’t been around much in recent years like Hawkman and Mister Miracle make some enticing cameos here.

5. GARBAGE NIGHT


Jen Lee/Nobrow Press

By Jen Lee
Nobrow Press

Jen Lee is best known for her groundbreaking semi-animated webcomic Thunderpaw but has managed to translate that appeal into non-animated print. Her 2015 one-issue Vacancy, released through Nobrow’s 17x23 imprint, was set in the same post-apocalyptic world of Thunderpaw, populated by teenage, talking animals, and now Garbage Night, her first graphic novel, expands that story into a 72-page hardcover. It follows the same trio—Simon, a dog, Cliff, a raccoon, and Reynard, a deer—and this time they’re befriended by another dog named Barnaby as they scavenge for food in this world suddenly devoid of humans. Lee’s strong sense of design and color makes her a great choice for Nobrow who publish many of the industry’s best looking graphic novels.

6. UNCOMFORTABLY HAPPILY


Yeon-sik Hong/Drawn & Quarterly

By Yeon-sik Hong
Drawn & Quarterly

Anyone who has worked from home for an extensive length of time will see themselves in Hong’s depiction of his own struggle to create a better working environment so that he can meet his deadlines. This hefty, nearly 600-page memoir of the time he and his wife moved out of the noisy hubbub of Seoul to the quiet isolation of the South Korean countryside is unassuming, funny, heartwarming—and, at times, stressful. Hong and his wife, also an artist, escaped the city to find a quiet place to live and work but also find that rural life invites many distractions of its own. This is the first time this Korean “manhwa” will be released in the States and is translated by American cartoonist Hellen Jo.

7. VALERIAN: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION VOL. 1


Jean-Claude Méziéres/Cinebook

By Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Méziéres
Cinebook

Next month will see the release of Luc Besson’s new film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a sci-fi adventure that looks stylistically similar to his classic 1997 film The Fifth Element. That’s because Valerian is based on a French comic series (typically called Valerian & Laureline) that many American readers may not be aware of but that is a noted influence on many science fiction films like The Fifth Element and even Star Wars. It’s a space opera drawn in a humorous, cartoony style about two Earth teens serving in the Spatio-Temporal Service in the 28th century. Valerian is the square-jawed but occasionally clueless hero while Laureline starts out as simply the sidekick but over time grows to be the smarter, more capable member of the duo. These adventures began being serialized in 1967 in the French comics magazine Pilote and ran until 2010 with stories collected into various graphic albums over time. Cinebook will be publishing multiple volumes that will include some material that has never been translated before as well as a long joint interview with the creators and Besson.

8. SOUND OF SNOW FALLING


Maggie Umber/2D Cloud

By Maggie Umber
2D Cloud

Umber’s wordless, painted comic is part nature documentary, part hand-painted poetry, showing a family of great horned owls living in their natural habitat. We see the entire birth cycle of a nest of babies and a mother fiercely and lovingly protecting and nurturing them. Their nocturnal activity is depicted in scenes of murky and minimal color that force you to squint at times to make out the action. Umber, a co-founder of the boutique art-comic publisher 2D Cloud, blends her love of educational science and artistic expression with this quiet, beautiful and captivating little comic.

9. KNIFE'S EDGE (FOUR POINTS BOOK 2)


Rebecca Mock/First Second

By Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux/First Second

Book 2 of Larson and Mock’s high seas adventure picks up where the first volume left off, after twins Alex and Cleo were reunited with their long lost father. Now, after learning some startling truths about their parents, they’re off again to find a family treasure before their nemesis, the infamous pirate Felix Worley, beats them to it. Knife’s Edge is just as much of a rollicking page-turner as its predecessor, Compass South. Mock’s artwork is colorful and fluid and even reminiscent of the work of her co-creator Larson, an award-winning artist in her own right.

10. SHORTBOX #5


Rosemary Valero-O'Connell

By various
Comics & Cola

If you want to read comics from fresh, diverse, up and coming comic creators, you could do worse than follow writer Zainab Akhtar, who is not only one of the most thoughtful writers about comics but she also has great taste in comic art and an eye for new talent. Every three months, Akhtar curates a “box” of comics that she commissions from interesting new creators and sells a limited edition set of them on her website for only a 10-day period. You can pre-order her fifth set until June 30; it contains comics from a diverse array of cartoonists such as Freddy Carrasco, Nicole Miles, Rosemary, Valero-O’Connell, Jeremy Sorese, Areeba Siddique, and Afu Chan.

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Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images
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History
How Superman Helped Foil the KKK
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Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images

The Klansmen were furious.

Dozens of them had congregated in a nondescript room in Atlanta, shaking cloaked heads at the worrisome news that their sect leader had just shared: An act of gross subterfuge had transpired over the airwaves. Millions of Americans had now become privy to their policies, their rankings, their closely guarded methods of organized hatred.

All of it fodder for some comic book radio show. Their mission had been compromised, sacrificed at the altar of popular culture. Kids, one Klansman sighed. His kids were in the streets playing Superman vs. the Klan. Some of them tied red towels around their necks; others pranced around in white sheets. Their struggle for racial purity had been reduced to a recess role play.

Stetson Kennedy listened, doing his best to give off irate body language. He scowled. He nodded. He railed.

The covert activist waited patiently for the Klan to settle down. When they did, he would call radio journalists Walter Winchell and Drew Pearson, offering the results of his infiltration into the group for public consumption.

He’d also contact Robert Maxwell, producer of the Superman radio serial. Maxwell, eager to aid the humanitarian mission of the Anti-Defamation League, would promptly insert the leaked information into his show’s scripts. In between fisticuffs, his cast would mock the KKK’s infrastructure, and the group’s loathsome attitudes would be rendered impotent by the juvenilia.

The Klan roared, demanding revenge on their traitor. “Show me the rat,” their leader said, “and I’ll show you some action.”

Kennedy cheered, just as they all did.

And when he returned home, his Klan robe would be traded for a cape.

The cover to the first issue of Superman
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Kennedy, born in 1916, was an unlikely undercover operative. After a back injury kept him out of World War II, the Jacksonville, Florida native decided he wanted to combat anti-American forces on the home front. With Klan members alleged to have assaulted his family’s black maid when he was a child, the Klan—once again gathering steam in an era of segregation and racial divisiveness—was a favored target.

Having convinced a “Klavern” in Atlanta, Georgia that he shared their bigoted views, Kennedy donned the ominous attire of a Klansman, attended cross burnings, and covertly collected information about the group that he would then share with law enforcement and media. Radio journalist Drew Pearson would read the names and minutes of their meetings on air, exposing their guarded dialogues.

Revealing their closed-door sessions was a blow—one that Kennedy didn’t necessarily have to confine to nonfiction. In 1946, Maxwell, who produced the Superman radio serial broadcast around the country, embraced Kennedy’s idea to contribute to a narrative that had Superman scolding the racial divisiveness of the Klan and airing their dirty laundry to an enraptured audience.

“The law offices, state, county, FBI, House Un-American Activities Committee, they were all sympathetic with the Klan,” Kennedy said later. “The lawmen were, ideologically at least, close with the Klansmen. The court of public opinion was all that was left.”

Ostensibly aimed at children, Superman’s daily radio dramas were often broadcast to assembled nuclear families; one phone poll showed that 35 percent of its audience was composed of adults.

But regardless of whether parents listened, the activist believed the younger demographic was worth attending to. “Even back in the ’40s, they had kids in the Klan, little girls dressed up in Klan robes at the cross burnings," Kennedy said. "I have photos of an infant in a cradle with a complete Klan robe on. It seemed like a good place to do some educating.” 

In “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” a 16-part serial airing in June and July of 1946, Superman opposes an organized group of hatemongers who target one of Jimmy Olsen’s friends. Exploring their network, Clark Kent uncovers their secret meetings and policies before his alter ego socks the “Grand Scorpion” in the jaw. The idea, Kennedy wrote in his account of his work, The Klan Unmasked, was to made a mockery of their overblown vernacular.

When traveling, for example, Klansmen might identify one another by asking if they “knew Mr. Ayak,” an acronym for “Are You a Klansman?” Although Kennedy may not have actually shared their code words on air—a longstanding myth that was debunked in Rick Bowers’s 2012 book, Superman vs. the KKK—their histrionics were perfect for dramatization in the breathless structure of a radio drama. Given shape by actors and sound effects, all the clubhouse tropes of the Klan seemed exceedingly silly.

The cover to the first issue of Superman
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As Kennedy continued to serve up Klan secrets to Superman, he watched as Klan morale dipped and membership enrollment ebbed. Desperate, the Klan tried calling for a boycott of Kellogg’s, a new sponsor of the show, but racial intolerance was no match for the appetites of post-World War II homes. Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes remained breakfast table staples, and Superman’s battles with the close-minded continued. Emboldened by his success against the Klan, Superman took aim at Communism, a favorite target of the show’s anti-Red star, Bud Collyer.

Kennedy would go on to burden the Klan using proof of uncollected tax liens, and eventually convinced the state of Georgia to revoke their national corporate charter.

Kennedy died in 2011 at the age of 94. While some of his accounts of subterfuge in the Klan later came under fire for being embellished, his bravery in swimming with the sharks of the organization is undeniable. So, too, was his wisdom in utilizing American iconography to suffocate prejudice. Fictional or not, Superman may have done more to stifle the Klan’s postwar momentum than many real people who merely stood by and watched.

Portions of this article were excerpted from Superman vs. Hollywood: How Fiendish Producers, Devious Directors, and Warring Writers Grounded an American Icon by Jake Rossen with permission from Chicago Review Press. Copyright (c) 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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Courtesy of Highlights for Children
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7 Engaging Facts About Goofus and Gallant
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Courtesy of Highlights for Children

For well over 60 years, the preadolescent readers of Highlights for Children magazine have gotten regular lessons in morality from Goofus and Gallant, a pair of kids of indeterminate age and relation who offer sharp contrasts in behavior. Gallant is prone to exhibiting perfect manners; Goofus is selfish, thoughtless, and has even been seen torturing small animals. (Honest: He has stoned birds and once subjected a frog to some disturbing cruelty.)

The two-panel strip has become so ubiquitous that warring ideologies are often described as “Goofus and Gallant” types. If you’ve ever wondered whether there’s more to Gallant than being a goody two-shoes or whether Goofus is flirting with juvenile delinquency, check out our round-up of the pair’s storied history.

1. THEY USED TO BE ELVES.

Goofus and Gallant

Goofus and Gallant were the creation of Garry Cleveland Myers, a child psychologist and popular syndicated parental advice columnist. Myers debuted the strip, then known as the The G-Twins, in Children’s Activities magazine in 1938. While the twosome were already displaying their radically different approaches to life, Myers depicted them as fanciful creatures with pointed ears and curly-toed shoes. No one is quite sure why Myers opted for the fairy tale aesthetic, although one theory is that he wanted to depict bad behavior rather than bad children.

After Myers and wife Caroline started Highlights for six- to 12-year-old readers in 1946, they were eventually able to acquire the rights to the strip. Goofus and Gallant debuted in their magazine in 1948; by 1952, they had morphed into two regular kids. Their parents lost the elf ears, too.

2. THEY MAY HAVE BEEN BASED ON REAL KIDS.

Highlights turned into a family enterprise, with the Myers’s children and grandchildren having a hand in its publication. In 1995, Kent Brown Jr., the Myers’s grandson, told the Los Angeles Times that he was the inspiration for Goofus and that his cousin, Garry Myers III, was the model for Gallant. Myers III denied the accusation. “Kent gets great glee out of claiming to be Goofus," he said. Brown later stated that all of Myers's 13 grandchildren helped inform the characters.

3. ONE ARTIST DREW THE STRIP FOR 32 YEARS.

Goofus and Gallant

Once Myers secured the rights to the two characters for Highlights, he enlisted illustrator Marion Hull Hammel to draw their adventures (and misadventures), taking them from the elfin creatures of the early days to the human boys of the 1950s and beyond. Hammel wound up drawing it for 32 years; Sidney Quinn took over when she retired and worked on it through 1995. Current artist Leslie Harrington has been on the strip since 2006. 

4. GALLANT GETS HATE MAIL.

While the recurring theme of Goofus and Gallant is to exercise the Golden Rule, not all juvenile readers are on board with Gallant’s impeccable manners. "I got a letter from an attorney who'd grown up with the feature," Rich Wallace, the magazine's then-coordinating editor, told the Los Angeles Times in 1995. “He had something he wanted to get off his chest: 'Gallant was a wussy.'" Other readers have expressed similar disdain for Gallant, observing that they identify more with Goofus.

5. GOOFUS IS NOT A SOCIOPATH.

Goofus and Gallant

In the absence of any in-panel clinical diagnosis of Goofus’s reckless behavior—including but not limited to playing with fire, being unkind to peers, and vandalizing school books—we’re left with the editorial directives of Highlights. In a 1993 interview with the Chicago Tribune, magazine publicist Tom White admitted that Goofus is a “surly, uncooperative, ill-mannered child” but that "he is not a sociopath.” Good to know!

6. THEY’VE BEEN FEATURED IN ROUGHLY A BILLION ISSUES.

Discounting the two years they were absent from Highlights from 1946 to 1948, the antics of Goofus and Gallant have appeared without fail in every subsequent issue. In 2006, the magazine celebrated its 60th anniversary by shipping its one billionth copy. The magazine went from selling 20,000 copies of its first issue to averaging 2.6 million readers a month in the 1990s.

7. ONE EDITOR’S THEORY WILL BLOW YOUR MIND.

Goofus and Gallant

When Goofus and Gallant began their broadly-drawn moral plays in the 1950s, they were depicted as identical twins. Later on, editors for Highlights indicated the two were brothers, but not twins. By 1995, they were simply two unrelated boys. But according to former coordinating editor Rich Wallace, the two might actually be part of a Fight Club-style twist. “I’ve theorized they’re two sides of the same kid,” he said.

We were so awed by this possibility that we asked Highlights editor Judy Burke if it held any water. "We show the boys with different parents in the panels and they look slightly different from each other," she says. More recently, the two have seemed to become aware of the other's existence. "In April 2016, we had them breaking through their respective art panels and pranking each other for April Fools’ Day, which they couldn’t have done if they were the same child."

That doesn't mean that readers can't have an existential crisis of their own. "Each time we run Goofus and Gallant, we include the line, 'There’s some of Goofus and Gallant in us all,'" Burke says. "When the Gallant shines through, we show our best self.  We also include a few 'Goofus and Gallant Moments' from kids, where they tell us about times when they felt like either Goofus or Gallant. These two aspects of the feature support the theory that both characters reside within the same individual, and it’s up to that person to choose how to behave."

All images courtesy of Highlights for Children and used with permission.

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