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Mike Allred/Marvel Comics

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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Mike Allred/Marvel Comics

Every Wednesday, I highlight the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, Comixology, Kickstarter, and the web. These are not necessarily reviews insomuch as they are me pointing out new comics that are noteworthy for one reason or another. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about or an upcoming comic that you'd like me to consider highlighting.

1. 2000 AD Prog 1874

Various
2000 AD

For 37 years, the influential British science fiction magazine 2000 AD has been publishing weekly Progs of serialized short comics created by some of Britain's most famous creative talent. ("Prog” is short for "Programme," and it's the result of the publication being produced by legions of droids working under the watchful eye of 2000 AD's editor, Tharg, of the planet Quazann in the Betelguese system. So there’s that.)

Since every prog is made up of about five stories running around six pages each, the magazine likes to have a clean jumping-on point every once in a while with each story starting a new chapter at the same time. With Prog 1874, available this week, we get a new Judge Dredd story written by co-creator John Wagner about a young evaluator in the Justice Department who is having doubts about the nature of what they do there. 2000 AD co-creator Pat Mills returns with the ongoing adventures of Celtic barbarian Slâine with fully painted art by Simon Davis. Dan Abnett (whom American readers will know as the guy who revitalized Guardians of the Galaxy for Marvel) returns with Sinister Dexter. Jaegir, a brand new spin-off from long running 2000 AD property Rogue Trooper, brings a new female heroine to the magazine. And finally, another new series called Outlier about a private detective hunting down an alien serial killer begins in the Prog.

2000 AD has been available in monthly print packs at comic book stores for years but, the appeal is its availability on a weekly basis, especially via various subscription options. Now with digital iOS users can subscribe via the Newsstand app and web users can buy DRM-free downloads via 2000adonline.com. Weekly digital comics are becoming all the rage and 2000 AD is well positioned to capitalize on that trend with their decades of experience publishing on that schedule.

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2. Silver Surfer #1

Written by Dan Slott; art by Mike Allred; colors by Laura Allred
Marvel Comics

The Silver Surfer, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby during their classic run on The Fantastic Four during the 1960s was very much a product of its time, what with his groovy philosophizing about the galaxy and his place within it. The Silver Surfer is popular enough to be frequently given a chance at his own series, but he usually can't carry it for very long before readers lose interest.

This time out, Dan Slott and Mike Allred have an idea that seems to be taken right from the Dr. Who playbook: pair the cold, analytical, otherworldly Surfer with a cute, down-to-earth and very human young woman. In this new series debuting this week, the Surfer meets Earth girl Dawn Greenwood and the two begin to travel the Marvel Universe together, hopefully giving readers a relatable character through which to enjoy the wonders of the cosmos.

Writer Dan Slott has been the Spider-man guy at Marvel for quite some time now and he's been doing an outstanding job finding fresh angles to take with that character. Here he's joined by husband-and-wife team Mike and Laura Allred whose retro-60s pop-art style is a perfect choice for the Silver Surfer. The Allreds have recently been working on the Fantastic Four spin-off FF where they were already playing around with Kirby creations. They always manage to perfectly capture the colorful appeal of comics from that era while giving it a contemporary spin that feels both tongue-in-cheek and lovingly genuine at the same time.

Read more about this book and look at some nice art over on Marvel.com

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3. Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery

Written by Kurtis J. Weibe; art by Roc Upchurch
Image Comics

This week sees the release of the first collected volume of Image Comics' breakout hit Rat Queens. This book came out of nowhere from two relatively unknown creators. It's a Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy book with an all-female cast of mercenaries who look and act unlike your typical medieval wenches. It's a comic full of crass humor, cursing, and graphic violence. Kurtis J. Weibe and Roc Upchurch's band of sword-wielding and trash-talking "Rat Queens" are a refreshing cast of characters.

The Queens are made up of four ass-kicking women, each with a distinct and almost incongruously modern personality. There's Violet, the hipster troll who’s cute when she shaves her beard; Betty the diminutive, happy go-lucky elf who has a penchant for drink and drugs; Dee, the atheist cleric who comes from a family that worships squids; and Hannah, the rockabilly sorceress. The way Roc Upchurch draws them makes you think you're watching a movie set in the Middle Ages but cast with actresses who look too contemporary for the roles, and that's part of the charm. The book does not take itself too seriously by any means, but it does take its female characters very seriously and does not objectify them. They’re all drawn with realistic body types and are not presented as mere eye candy. It's not surprising this comic has a growing and vocal female fan base.

Upchurch himself is yet another surprise with this book, being pretty new to the comics scene. His dynamic action scenes, spilling with blood and gore, are exactly what you want from an adventure book. A number of the fight scenes he illustrates here are astounding–but he is equally good at giving these characters relatable and recognizable personalities, which not every action-oriented artist can do.

You can preview Rat Queens and also purchase it directly from Image Comics' website here.

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4. The Only Living Boy

Written by David Gallaher; art by Steve Ellis
the-only-living-boy.com

Dave Gallaher and Steve Ellis are webcomic veterans at this point, and their first comic, High Noon, was one of the big hits out of DC's now defunct webcomic line Zuda. They've been collaborating on other comics since then such as Box 13one of the first digital-only comic to premier on Comixology. Their latest is an all-ages adventure book inspired by pulp serials, Saturday morning cartoons, Jack Kirby, and even the music of Paul Simon. It's called The Only Living Boy, and it follows the adventures of 12-year-old Erik who goes to sleep under a rock in Central Park and wakes up in a drastically changed New York that is now inhabited by dragons, monsters, and insect princesses—and he may be the last human being left alive.

Gallaher and Ellis have been working on The Only Living Boy for a while and have had both web and digital versions of it published in the past. They also successfully funded a print edition through Kickstarter in 2012. Starting today they are relaunching the webcomic and will begin posting new pages of the ongoing story every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Start reading here.

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5. The Chairs' Hiatus

By Matthew Bogart
Comixology Submit

Recently, Comixology had a sale on the top self-published books in their Submit program, giving 100 titles for only $10. When I can, I will be highlighting some comics from this bundle even though they are technically not “new" releases.

The Chairs' Hiatus is a quiet little story about an indie rock band called The Chairs that breaks up after a falling out between two of the members. We meet Mary Sozer, the band's front woman who's trying to live a quiet life, buying plungers at a hardware store without getting recognized. When her former band members Nel and Jen find her, Mary is forced to confront what she has run away from.

I originally stumbled across this comic after reading an article on Medium.com written by the book's author, Matthew Bogart, about his experience selling his comic through the Submit program. I was immediately drawn to his cartooning style and some of the interesting ways he handles the realistic, grounded subject matter of his story. His lines and character work remind me a little of Ethan Rilly (of the excellent comic Popehats). Bogart is a Portland-based cartoonist and he is currently working on a new ongoing comic called Oh, It's The End Of The World that he serializes on his website.

The Chairs' Hiatus is available on Comixology for $2.99. Bogart also has a Patreon page where you can support his comics work and receive various rewards for doing so.

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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
Original image
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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