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Annie Goetzinger/NBM Publishing

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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Annie Goetzinger/NBM Publishing

Every week I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, 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. Girl in Dior

By Annie Goetzinger
NBM Publishing

Making its U.S. debut this past weekend at the MoCCA Arts Festival in New York City, Annie Goetzinger’s Girl in Dior is sure to be one of the best looking graphic novels of the year. It's an account of the rise of fashion designer Christian Dior and his revolutionary 1947 fashion show that introduced the so-called “New Look” to the world, a colorful and voluptuous departure from the boxy, drab and way too sensible post-WW II stylings of the day.

Goetzinger tells the story through the eyes of a fictional character named Clara who goes from chronicler to model to Dior confidante in the span of the book. While it is mostly historical fiction, it is also very much a vehicle for the artist to lovingly render and showcase Dior’s clothing designs in gorgeous pencil and watercolors, reminiscent of mid-century fashion illustration. Goetzinger has had a long career in French comics, debuting her first graphic novel, Casque d’or, back in 1977. She has since worked in costume design for the theater and editorial illustration for such French newspapers as Le Monde. Last year she became the first woman to win the prestigious Grand Prix bd Boum for Girl in Dior. This book will be, for most, the first her work is seen in the U.S. 

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2. The Crogan Adventures: Catfoot’s Vengeance

By Chris Schweizer
Oni Press

Chris Schweizer’s Crogan Adventures has one of the most enticing framing devices I’ve ever seen for a multi-book series. Schweizer first sold the idea for the book by creating an illustrated family tree showing members of the Crogan family dating back to the 1700s. There is a Crogan who ran with the Rough Riders, a Crogan who sailed with pirates, a Crogan who joined the foreign legion, a secret agent Crogan and more. Just seeing the faces and the period-specific garb gives you a hint of the type of story you’d get with each one. Schweizer aims to tell all their stories, dipping his toes in a variety of genres and settings, all full of the kind of pulpy historical adventure that has appealed to young boys for generations.

There have been multiple Crogan books since 2008’s original Crogan’s Vengeance, all illustrated in Schweizer's wonderfully fluid black and white brush ink style. Now, he and his publisher Oni Press, are rebranding the books as The Crogan Adventures and re-releasing them in full color. The first book in the new series is a colorized (and also re-lettered) version of the very first book, Crogan’s Vengeance, in which “Catfoot" Crogan gets kidnapped and is forced to join a pirate crew. Since many people (kids especially) tend to disregard black and white books, this is sure to be a good way to introduce these fun stories to a wider audience – especially considering how spectacular the coloring by Joey Weiser and Michele Chidester looks in this preview

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3. Frontier #7

By Jillian Tamaki
Youth in Decline


One of the best kept secrets in comics is Youth in Decline’s Frontier series, a quarterly, pamphlet-sized anthology comic sold primarily through mail-order. Each issue gives one artist (usually a fresh, up-and-coming voice in the art and comics world) free rein to tell any kind of story they want. The most recent issues have featured rising stars like Sam Alden and Emily Carroll and a future issue will be done by Michael DeForge. These names bring Frontier out of “up-and-coming” territory and into the world of “well-established-indie-stars.” That includes the contributor to issue #7—Jillian Tamaki—the highly regarded artist behind last year’s award-winning powerhouse of an all-ages graphic novel This One Summer.

Tamaki steps away from all-ages comics here (although to be fair, This One Summer deals with some very mature teenage themes itself) with a story called “SexCoven.” Told as if it was excerpted from a documentary, “SexCoven” begins in the 1990s with the legend of an mp3 file that only teenagers can hear and leads to present day and a commune of techies who met online, outgrew the ability to hear that mp3, and dropped out of society altogether. 

Readers of This One Summer will find a rougher, less delicate style of drawing from Tamaki here, but it is no less effective. Some of her page layouts, in particular, are wonderfully complicated and interesting.

You can order a copy of Frontier #6 at the Youth in Decline’s website.

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4. Bloodshot Reborn #1

By Jeff Lemire and Mico Suayan
Valiant


The gun-toting Bloodshot is up there on the list of most ‘90s comic book characters ever. First appearing back in 1992, he is an unstoppable killing machine with nano-computers in his blood that help him regenerate from any wound. His government handlers continuously implanted false memories in order to properly motivate him on each of his missions, leaving him unsure who he is and what is real. When Valiant Comics relaunched their long-defunct line of comics in 2012, Bloodshot was front and center with a cinematic and very bloody update to his story.

Valiant’s excellent first wave of relaunches is now making way for a second wave which was ushered in by the recent mini-series The Valiant written by Jeff Lemire and starring Bloodshot (among others). The events of that series left Bloodshot with the nannies—and his special abilities—removed from his body, leaving him a regular guy. Now, in Bloodshot Reborn—also written by Lemire—we see him trying to live a quiet life as a somewhat schlubby hotel maintenance man, still very much haunted by what he used to be. However, when someone dressed like Bloodshot goes on a shooting spree, the real Bloodshot needs to find a way to bring himself back into action.

Lemire is joined by Philippine artist Mico Suayan who has done a number of covers for various Valiant books in the past. Like any good Bloodshot artist, he brings a gruesome level of detail to the violence, but also a detailed realism to Lemire's solemn, inward-looking reflection on the nature of one’s self. This is a whole new start for Bloodshot and, while the Valiant relaunch is only a couple of years old, it is full of tightly wound continuity that can make it hard to jump into, but this second wave of books is looking to create such an entry point. 

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5. Drawn Onward

By Matt Madden
Retrofit Press


More than any other medium, comics make it easy for their audience to disrupt the narrative flow on their own—skipping ahead, flipping back, letting the eye jump from panel to panel out of order. Some writers try to take advantage of this by creating books that can ostensibly be read forward and backward—Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely played with this mirror-imagery a bit in The Multiversity: Pax Americana in mimicry of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' "Fearful Symmetry” issue of Watchmen

Cartoonist and comics educator Matt Madden has attempted, as the title Drawn Onward implies, a palindrome of a comic that is meant to be read both forward and backward. As you read forward, it tells the story of a young woman who is continuously accosted by a stranger on the subway. She quickly becomes obsessed with the man himself. After a double page kiss that spans the midpoint of the book, things change and now the woman is the one obsessed and finds her own advances being shunned. By the end, the woman (who is also the narrator) encourages you to go back and read it the story back to front and see the story play out with her being the seemingly crazy subway person.

There are a few layers to what Madden is doing here which encourage you to try to decipher the story: there are implications of a double suicide; he uses two different artistic styles to differentiate scenes between the woman at her drawing board and the subway scenes which seem to be drawn roughly to imply that they are her drawings, and lots of easter eggs like “Rorschach Ave” tipping its hat to the symmetry angle. Reading backwards is a stilted experience that requires a lot of instruction to the reader and seems nearly impossible to truly make the flow of the story coherent in both directions. (Do you read the panels backwards as you would with manga? Just the pages?) In this case, it doesn’t really add to the symmetry you already experience by reading forward, but there is an intriguing puzzle to Madden’s story that will make you flip back and forth trying to work it out.

You can order a copy from Retrofit’s store. It’s also available digitally through Comixology.

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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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