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Dynamite Entertainment

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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Dynamite Entertainment

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. Tomboy

By Liz Prince
Zest Books

A true story about growing up and never giving up being a tomboy

Liz Prince has been making short autobio comics for years now, which has helped prepare her for creating her first full length graphic novel. In Tomboy, Prince recounts her childhood growing up as a girl who disliked all the things that society thinks girls are supposed to love. She has always preferred wearing baseball caps, playing with Ghostbusters toys, reading comics, keeping her hair short, and never, ever wearing dresses. All her life, even now at the age of 31, she is often mistaken for a boy, but that’s the way she likes it.

These days, with parents being more conscious of gender stereotyping and even school kids becoming more accepting of gender identity issues their classmates may have, Tomboy seems almost quaint. Liz is not gay or transgender and she grew up with progressive parents who let her dress how she wanted so, despite some bullying, her story is comfortably devoid of emotionally scarring experiences. However, not being able to fit into the girl-shaped mold that she was expected to makes this a relatable comic for anyone who has ever not fit in. The triumph of her story, and of Liz herself, is that she was always strong enough to be who she was even when it might have been easier to just play a part. It’s an enjoyable and even comforting read as you find yourself rooting for Liz to find the acceptance you know a smart, funny, confident person like her will eventually find.

While this is a book that not just tomboys will enjoy, I should note that it is not one parents will want to give to younger kids. It is very much written from the perspective of Liz as an adult reflecting back on her childhood, and a lot of the issues raised, scenes depicted, and language used is only appropriate for teenagers—even though a lot of younger readers could benefit from reading the book’s lessons about self acceptance and what it means to be a girl.

Here’s a preview.

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2. Bob’s Burgers #1

By Rachel Hastings, Mike Olsen, Justin Hook, Jeff Drake, Frank Forte, Brad Rader, Bernard Derriman and Tony Gennaro
Dynamite Entertainment

The creators behind the hit TV series try their hands at a comic book

The latest in a long line of TV-to-comic adaptations, unlike most others, Bob’s Burgers is written and drawn by the writers and artists who work on the series. In addition, they’ll be creating stories that are "in canon” within the universe of the show.

Bob’s Burgers is a family sitcom about the Belchers—Bob, Linda, and their kids Louise, Tina, and Gene—who run a burger joint called, of course, Bob’s Burgers. Each issue of the comic will include multiple installments of "Louise's Unsolved Mysteries," "Tina's Erotic Friend Fiction," "A Gene Belcher Original Musical," "Letters Written by Linda," and "Bob's Burgers of the Day.”

Fellow Fox family series The Simpsons has had a long and critically acclaimed life in comics and, as something of a successor to that show’s popularity, Bob’s Burgers looks to do the same here.

Dynamite has a preview of the first issue.

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3. Jaegir

By Gordon Rennie and Simon Coleby
Rebellion/2000 AD

A strong new female character starring in a new Rogue Trooper spin-off

Next to Judge Dredd, the most popular, long-running series to come out of 2000 AD Magazine is probably Rogue Trooper. It's about a dystopian civil war between the ’Norts' and the ‘Southers' of toxin-ravaged Nu-Earth and the genetically modified soldier of the Souther infantry who goes AWOL after his platoon is massacred. Jaegir, a new one-shot which was recently serialized in 2000 AD, is the start of a new series set in the Rogue Trooper universe but looks at it from a new vantage point—that of the Nortland.

Kapitan-inspector Atalia Jaegir is a war crimes investigator assigned to stop a genetically-modified soldier from murdering his wife and children. 2000 AD is looking for Atalia Jaegir to be a strong female lead to build a new series of comics around and is putting a strong foot forward here.

Veteran artist Simon Coleby, who has worked on lots of gloomy material like Judge Dredd, The Punisher, and Rogue Trooper itself, brings a dirty, wretched realism to the otherworldliness that helps give this the feel of a futuristic detective drama. Fans of Michael Lark’s work on the Image Comics series Lazarus may want to check out Jaegir for the similarities in style.

You can read a preview here.

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4. Pop #1

By Curt Pires, Jason Copland, Pete Toms and Ryan Ferrier
Dark Horse

For the reader who just wants to see Justin Bieber get his kneecaps blown off

Comics have always been considered a “pop” medium with a quick-fix 22 pages of guilty pleasure. That’s partly why comics and pop music seem to often cross paths—from a 1970s Marvel Comic about The Beatles to The Wicked + The Divine’s rumination on gods reincarnated as pop stars. But, since the tastes between the two audiences don’t quite match up, the result usually ends up being comics critiquing or poking fun at the shallowness of pop music.

Writer Curt Pires looks to go down that route with the 4-issue mini-series Pop in which we find out that stars like Britney Spears and Mariah Carey have been grown in a lab and released to the public in order to deliver ROI to their investors. However, the planned next sensation has somehow escaped, weeks before the expected end of her gestation period, and is now alone and on the run.

While Pop doesn’t look like it's aiming for any groundbreaking conclusions about the artificial nature of pop music, it is off to an enticingly fun start, particularly when a couple of deadly “specialists” who look like they may have been created in a punk rock lab terrorize and blow off the kneecaps of the book's Justin Bieber stand-in.

Artist Jason Copland has been on the cusp of making it big for a while now ever since his webcomic Kill All Monsters first made the rounds. His thin-lined inks paired with Pete Toms’ appropriately poppy colors makes for a fine looking comic.

Here’s a preview on Dark Horse’s website

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5. Hip Hop Family Tree Vol. 2: 1981-1983

By Ed Piskor
Fantagraphics

The birth of Run-DMC, NWA, the Beastie Boys, and more

The first volume of Ed Piskor's comic book history of hip hop music was one of my favorite books of last year and it seems astounding that we already have the next edition of Hip Hop Family Tree in stores this week. This is Piskor’s magnum opus and he is diligently working his way through depicting the early days of the music and 70s-era comics he loves.

This second volume spans three years (1981-1983), a time when hip hop was becoming recognized outside of the clubs and streets of New York's outer boroughs. The early part of this book shows the making of Charlie Ahearn’s 1983 film Wild Style (Ahearn provides a lively written introduction to this volume) and by the end we’ve seen the formation of groups like Run-DMC, NWA, and the Beastie Boys.

Fantagraphics has a preview on their website. Also, Piskor continues to post new panels on BoingBoing as he goes for those who love the books and can’t wait for the next volume.

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6. B-Squad: Soldier of Misfortune Vol 1

By Eben Burgoon, Lauren Monardo, Jon Williams, Claudia Palescandolo, Sean Sutter, Junior Bruce, Michael Finn
Kickstarter

A squad of expendables that lose a team member each issue

B-Squad is a lite-comedy version of a concept we’ve seen in comics like DC’s Suicide Squad or Michael Fiffe’s Copra—a team of expendables is sent on missions where you never know who might not make it. The B-Squad consists of a group of goofy misfits like Brodee, the friendly surfer dude who is a master of the “Bro-Arts,” or MacGoogle, a guy with an iPad who gets out of fixes like MacGyver by Googling the answers. At the end of each issue, a member of the team is killed off.

After successfully funding the first issue on Kickstarter, creator Eben Burgoon has decided to fund a collection of all 4 issues at once rather than his original plan of single issues. Much the way the makeup of the team changes each issue, Burgoon has recruited a different up-and-coming artist to draw each chapter.

The Kickstarter has almost reached its goal with 14 days still to go. If you want to sample the story, you can download the first issue for free here. There’s a variety of pledge packages to choose from so check out the Kickstarter page here.

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Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images
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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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