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Dark Horse Comics

Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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Dark Horse Comics

Every Wednesday, I preview the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, Comixology, Kickstarter and the web. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about.

1. “The Fart Party’s Over”


By Julia Wertz
Narrative.ly

Julia Wertz's The Fart Party was a hilarious autobio comic strip that became one of the most popular webcomics of the mid-2000s (it was later collected into three print editions and a forthcoming omnibus). She retired the strip in 2011 and subsequently stepped away from comics for a time, focusing instead on photography projects involving abandoned buildings

Recently, Wertz published an article on the curated blogging platform Narrative.ly that is about 50 percent comics and 50 percent written word called "The Fart Party's Over." In it she opens up about her very personal struggles with alcoholism and her reasons for moving away from making a comic that was having a negative effect on her life. The comics shown here are a combination of strips that were previously published in her most recent collection The Infinite Wait and Other Stories and some previously unseen journal drawings that are startlingly different in tone and nature from her Fart Party strips. Together they tell a harrowing but ultimately triumphant story about her downslide into alcoholism and severe depression, her entry into rehab and, ultimately, her new focus on helping herself.

Wertz begins the article with a point about how the best comedians seem to mine their material from their own depression. She herself made a career out of getting people to laugh at often troubling events in her own life. Her decision to abandon a project that was ultimately not good for her is a decision that I think a lot of creative people tend to face when trying to achieve a certain work/life balance in addition to grappling with both the reality and expectations of being a struggling and starving artist. I think there is a lot that most artists can relate to in her story, not to mention anyone who has actually dealt with overcoming addiction or depression.

Read her article on Narrative.ly here.

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2. Furious #1


Written by Bryan J.L. Glass; art by Victor Santos
Dark Horse Comics

It's a difficult task these days to find a new spin on superheroes. So much so that it's a wonder anyone even tries anymore. Dark Horse Comics, as a publisher, seems committed to giving a voice to those that have some genuinely good ideas for this genre. Between the recent Buzzkill in which an alcoholic derives superpowers from drinking and Adam Warren's ode to superhero cheesecake Empowered, there seems to be room for modern takes on super heroics outside of what Marvel and DC have been doing. Add to that the new 5-issue mini-series Furious, which explores the ideas of being a superhero with a secret identity in today's celebrity-driven culture. And it looks to turn that concept on its head.

The world's first superhero is a woman named Cadence Lark who calls herself The Beacon. However, the media has named her "Furious" after she was videotaped losing her cool on some criminals. Lark has become a superhero to work through some things in her past and, in a twist on the concept of secret identities, must hide who she really is to protect her superhero identity because the public truly despises Cadence Lark.

Furious is written by Bryan J.L. Glass, a comics veteran and the writer and co-creator of anthropomorphic fantasy comic Mice Templar. This is very much a departure for him but it's a story that he's been wanting to tell for years. He's joined by artist Victor Santos, who has previously worked with Glass on Templar and who draws in a style that is reminiscent of Marcos Martin or Javier Pullido. 

Early reviews on this book promise some juicy plot twists as we learn about what led a troubled young woman to become a superhero in what may be a doomed attempt to redeem herself.

Read a preview of Furious here.

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3. Lost at Sea (10th Anniversary Edition)


By Bryan Lee O’Malley
Oni Press

Bryan Lee O'Malley has now been around long enough and made enough of a mark on the industry that we are at the point where we will be seeing his work reprinted in commemorative editions to celebrate his career. Oh, also, his highly anticipated new book, Seconds, comes out later this year, so that could have something to do with it as well. Ten years after the release of Lost at Sea, his first graphic novel, Oni Press is putting out an anniversary hardcover edition with the requisite supplemental material added including a previously uncollected short story that had only appeared online. The original book was published in black and white but some color has apparently been added in this edition.

While working on his now-classic 5 volume Scott Pilgrim series, O'Malley became one of the most influential creators of the 21st century. His style and approach to comic storytelling can be seen emulated among many of the younger generation of webcomic creators. Lost at Sea may not be as groundbreaking as Scott Pilgrim, but it is just as accomplished. Much in the way Scott Pilgrim seemed to perfectly capture a certain way of life and attitude among 20-somethings, Lost at Sea feels like it did the same for college-aged teens.

It's a coming of age story about an introverted teenage girl named Raleigh who is on a cross-country road trip with some college classmates whom she barely knows and has trouble relating to, socially. Raleigh's problem, she feels, is that her soul was stolen by a cat. And now she keeps seeing cats popping up everywhere. 

Though maybe not as laugh-out-loud funny as Scott Pilgrim, this book is charming and quirky and almost akin to a Haruki Marukami novel with its existentialist pondering and proliferation of spiritual cats.

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4. Li'l Sonja

Written by Jim Zub; art by Joel Carroll
Dynamite Entertainment

Recently I highlighted another book in the “Li'l” series, Li’l Vampi. Just as that book did with the character of Vampirella, Li'l Sonja takes a character that is steeped in a history of exploitative cheesecake art and makes an all-ages version that can appeal to young girls. Thanks to a successful new series, also published by Dynamite Entertainment and written by popular writer Gail Simone, Red Sonja is enjoying a bit of a comeback right now, capitalizing on Dark Horse's popular new Conan series and the general marketability of violent swordplay dramas. Li’l Sonja, of course, is something a little different. Here, in this one-shot release, the cute little red-haired She-Devil fights to solve a series of thefts plaguing a small town. 

Dynamite has pulled together an array of appropriately “cute” artists to illustrate all of these “Li’l” books they’ve been doing, including Art Baltazar who provides the cover for Li’l Sonja. The interiors are done by relative newcomer Joel Carroll, whose simple, happy cartooning gives Sonja a manga/video game character look as you can see from this preview. He’s joined by writer Jim Zub who has gained a lot of popularity for his creator-owned Skullkickers series as well as the new and well-regarded launch of IDW’s Samurai Jack comic.

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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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