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Archie Comics

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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Archie Comics

Every Wednesday, I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, Kickstarter, and the web. 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. Seconds

By Bryan Lee O’Malley; colors by Nathan Fairbairn
Random House

Bryan Lee O’Malley’s highly anticipated follow up to Scott Pilgrim

Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley is arguably the most anticipated graphic novel of the year. It's his first since completing the Scott Pilgrim series in 2010, which made him one of the most popular and influential cartoonists of the 2000s. O'Malley's bold, manga-influenced style has been much imitated in the past decade. His unique storytelling style blends magical realism with common video game tropes which he uses to tell relatable stories about young people and their daily lives.

In Seconds we meet 29-year-old Katie. She is a successful chef with her own restaurant whose life gets turned upside down. She gets a second chance in the form of a magic mushroom that has the ability to correct her mistakes. Eventually she figures, why not just keep eating mushrooms and fixing every little mistake until her life is perfect?

O’Malley has always deftly written about characters his own age. He did it for college graduates in his debut book, Lost at Sea, and then 20-somethings throughout the six-volume Scott Pilgrim series. Now in his 30s, he looks to explore the doubts felt by someone who has made it out of their 20s with both success and failures to contemplate.

Image courtesy of Random House

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2. The Shadow Hero

By Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
First Second Books

An origin story for the first Asian-American superhero

In 1944, a small publishing company called Rural Home hired Chinese-American artist Chu Hing to create their own superhero character. He came up with The Green Turtle — the first Asian American superhero. Through five issues of Blazing Comics, The Green Turtle fought the Japanese Imperial Army while exhibiting no apparent superpowers and was accompanied by a sidekick named Burma Boy and a goofy, turtle-like shadow.

In the back pages of the new graphic novel The Shadow Hero, writer Gene Luen Yang relays the history of this character and the forgotten artist who created him. According to rumors, the publishers decided against the The Green Turtle being Asian. Unwilling to give up on that, Hing always drew him with his back turned or face hidden so as never to reveal his features. The colorists were told to make his skin pink, presumably to assure readers that he was Caucasian, but they seemed to overcompensate for this and made him VERY pink.

Yang and artist Sonny Liew reimagine this lost character — now in the public domain — and attempt to explain all his aforementioned weird traits. In doing so they have created a wonderful comic about the Chinese immigrant experience told as a superhero origin story.

Hank Chu, the young man who will become The Green Turtle, is the son of a Chinese grocer whose wife becomes obsessed with American superheroes after one of them saves her life. Becoming a costumed hero seems like the ultimate form of assimilation to her and she attempts to stage “accidents” in hopes they will give her son superpowers. Hank is at first reluctant and thinks his mom is crazy, but when tragedy befalls the family, he suddenly has the motivation required for a true superhero origin.

Yang, who came on the scene with the graphic novel American Born Chinese and has continued to produce award-winning work like last year’s Boxers & Saints, is proving himself to be one of the best and most important comic creators of our time. He truly gets why these kinds of stories are inspiring and weaves a wonderful tale full of action, laughs, and heartbreak. It's probably the best superhero comic you will read this year.


Image courtesy of First Second

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3. Life With Archie #36

By Paul Kupperberg, Fernando Ruiz, Pat Kennedy, Tim Kennedy, Jack Morelli, Rosario Peña, Gary Martin, Bob Smith, and Jim Amash
Archie Comics

Yes, Archie dies in this issue. Yes, he's still alive in every other Archie comic.

In issue #36 of Life With Archie, Archie Andrews — one of the most popular comic book characters of all time — sacrifices his life to save his friend Kevin Keller from an assassin’s bullet. Keller, the first openly gay character in Archie Comics, has been elected to the US Senate, running on a gun control platform, and becomes the target of an assassin.

Killing off comic book characters for sales and publicity is a common event these days and somehow makes news each and every time. In recent years we’ve seen Spider-man, Batman, and the Human Torch “die” only to return a few months later. We’re about to go through the same thing this summer when Marvel "kills off" Wolverine. It’s not often we see this tactic used in non-superhero comics where the death can not be easily undone by plot devices like time travel, mystic ritual, or alien technology.

However, one device that Archie Comics has at their disposal is the fact that Life With Archie is a self-contained comic with a timeline that is separate from all other Archie comics. This is a series that takes place in an alternate future that shows us Archie’s life as an adult, married first to Veronica and then later to Betty. This will be the double-sized penultimate issue of the series with the final issue (#37) showing Archie's friends reflecting on his life and death.

It may seem a little odd to see an all-ages, light-hearted character like Archie killed off as a political statement, but, particularly since the introduction of Kevin Keller in 2010, Archie Comics have found some new life in their willingness to tackle topical and often controversial subject matter.

Here's a preview of the comic.

Images courtesy of Archie Comics

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4. Through The Woods

By Emily Carroll
Margaret K. McElderry Books

Believe it or not, this is the first book from critically-acclaimed cartoonist Emily Carroll

Emily Carroll is known to readers as a webcomic creator. Her beautifully drawn horror comics use the strengths of that medium with subtle animations and clever scrolling effects. Yet her true strengths as an artist and storyteller are by no means limited to a particular delivery mechanism. Her very first book, Through The Woods, proves this.

It’s hard to believe that a cartoonist as accomplished as Carroll hasn't published her own book until now. It's is even harder to believe that she has only been making comics for just the past four years. In that time she has released a number of haunting little webcomics (the most recent of which I talked about here) and various anthology contributions. Through the Woods is a collection of four brand new stories and one reprint of the 2010 webcomic His Face All Red which first brought Carroll to the comic world's attention.

You can read more about the book and see a number of preview pages on Zainab Akhtar’s excellent blog Comics & Cola.

Image courtesy of Margaret K. McElderry Books

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5. Zaya #1

By JD Morvan and Huang-Jia Wei 
Magnetic Press

A stunning sci-fi comic from a French writer and Chinese artist

Last week, Magnetic Press – a new publisher dedicated to bringing translated editions of European and Asian comics to English-language audiences – released the first issue of Zaya as a “digital-first” comic on Comixology. This release comes a month ahead of a 200-page hardcover collection of the entire three volume series that was first put out by French publisher Dargaud in 2012.

Zaya is written by French comics writer JD Morvan and illustrated by Chinese artist Huang Jia Wei. It's about a young woman who was once an assassin but quits to become a mother and an artist. When a biomechanics threat starts taking out other agents, Zaya must reluctantly return to the field.

Morvan has written a number of sci-fi comics over the years. Wei is a very young artist whose previous book was a comic he made while in art school. His work here is breathtaking in its intricacy and sense of explosive action.

You can preview and buy the first issue of Zaya here on Comixology.

Image courtesy of Magnetic Press

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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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