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Drew Weing

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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Drew Weing

Every Wednesday, I highlight the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, Comixology, Kickstarter and the web. These are generally more short previews rather than complete reviews. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about.

1. Moon Knight #1

Written by Warren Ellis; art by Declan Shalvey; colors by Jordie Bellaire
Marvel Comics

Moon Knight has been kicking around for a long time and has built a devoted cult following, yet the superhero hasn't managed to connect with a large audience or sell enough comics to be considered a bankable character. Every attempt to launch a new book seems to inevitably fail, but there's something about Moon Knight and his untapped potential that keeps him coming back and has A-level creators jumping in to try their hand at making him work. This time out, Warren Ellis is making his big return to writing an ongoing comic (after some time off writing novels) by taking a shot.

Ellis has written Moon Knight before, using him to great effect during his run on Secret Avengers a few years ago. His plan is to make him somewhat of a detective solving "weird crime" cases such as a sewer-dwelling serial killer. He also is looking to rectify all the various interpretations of the hero from over the years. In the past, writers have tried many different hooks to make Moon Knight more than just a Batman knockoff. His backstory includes Egyptian gods and multiple personality disorders (among other things). Ellis plans to shed the stuff that doesn't work in order to hopefully make a definitive Moon Knight that sticks.

Joining Ellis is Declan Shalvey, an artist who has been rising in prominence of late for his consistently spectacular cover designs. Here he has a chance to show his stuff on the interiors and is collaborating with his girlfriend, Jordie Bellaire, one of the most prolific colorists in comics. The striking things about the preview images from this book are the new design for Moon Knight's costume and the way Shalvey and Bellaire render him almost as negative space on the page. The absence of detail and shadows is a complete 180-degree turn from recent detail-heavy renditions we've seen from artists like David Finch.

You can read a short preview of Moon Knight #1 here.

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2. Starlight #1

Written by Mark Millar; art by Goran Parlov; colors by Ive Svorcina
Image Comics

Throughout his career, writer Mark Millar has specialized in violent and sometimes shocking takes on classic comic book tropes. His modern update of The Avengers in The Ultimates helped set the foundation for the eventual blockbuster movie adaptations of his own creations —Wanted and Kick-Ass — which brought superheroes and villains into a world more like our own. Millar has a knack for dark, cynical, movie-friendly takes on the kind of comic book material he grew up reading.

In the first issue of Millar's new mini-series Starlight, a man who is very similar to early 20th century science fiction heroes like John Carter or Flash Gordon returns home from his epic intergalactic adventures to lead a normal life for the next 40 years. He raises a family of self-involved, unappreciative kids and loses his beloved wife very suddenly to cancer.

But then the aliens come back for him. Millar describes it as "Buzz Lightyear meets Unforgiven" or "Buck Rogers meets Dark Knight Returns." It's already been optioned for a movie.

The artist on the book is Goran Parlov, who first attracted attention by stepping in on various arcs of Vertigo's now classic Y: The Last Man series. He's since worked on numerous books for Marvel including the highly acclaimed Fury MAX comic with Garth Ennis. He's an amazing choice for this book as he can combine gritty realism with retro-space adventure to achieve that juxtaposition Millar sculpts. His art here goes from looking like Moebius in the intergalactic scenes to Frank Miller or David Mazzuchelli in the earth-bound scenes.

Read a preview of Starlight #1 here.

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3. The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo

By Drew Weing
www.drewweing.com

The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo is a new webcomic by Drew Weing that looks like a fun, all-ages mystery about a precocious kid who moves into a decrepit building that seems to be inhabited by monsters. With 12 posted pages as of this writing, it's a little early to tell where the story might be going. We just got a glimpse at our first monster this week so now's a good time to jump in.

Drew Weing has been working on webcomics since pretty much the beginning of the medium. In the early 2000s he drew a popular strip called Pup for the now-defunct Serializer.net. His recent graphic novel, Set To Sea, was originally serialized as a webcomic before being published by Fantagraphics.

With Margo Maloo, Weing channels Maurice Sendak as well as some of the great French cartoonists like Joann Sfar. A new page gets added every Tuesday and Thursday on drewweing.com Some older comics, like the previously mentioned Pup, have also been added to the archives.

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4. Denver

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; art by Pier Brito
Kickstarter

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have had a long and successful writing partnership that dates back to the early 2000s with The Resistance and 21 Down. They've recently started their own company, Paperfilms Studios, with artist Amanda Connor and are now in the middle of their sixth Kickstarter campaign together.

The Kickstarter campaign is for Denver, a science fiction graphic novel in the vein of movies like Blade Runner and The Fifth Element. It's set in a future in which Denver, Colorado is the last major city in the U.S. still standing after the devastating impact from a meteor disrupts the Earth's orbit and raises the planet's ocean levels. People are dying, killing, and doing anything necessary to get into Denver and Max Flynn, a Coast Border Guard, is one of those tasked with keeping the border secure.

Palmiotti and Gray are working with Spanish artist Pier Brito who has a rich, detailed style that evokes the moody, hyper-realistic art of Heavy Metal magazine. Similar to the adult sci-fi of that magazine, the cover image here suggests there will be an abundance of sex and violence in this comic.

Another member of the creative team is a music composer, Hans Karl, who has scored soundtracks for various films and animations. He has written and recorded a soundtrack for this comic which is available in various reward packages to backers of the Kickstarter.

Denver is already completely funded on Kickstarter but it's not too late to get in on it.

Below is an exclusive page from the book, courtesy of Paperfilms:

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5. Fowl Language

By Brian Gordon
www.fowllanguagecomics.com


If you're not reading the new webcomic from Brian Gordon (of Shoebox's Chuck & Beans fame), you really should change that. Fowl Language is a laugh-out-loud strip about life, parenting, social media and anything else Gordon sees fit. The latest strip, shown above — about how to explain gay marriage to your kids — is a great example of what to expect.

Browse his archives at fowllanguagecomics.com.

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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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