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Asaf Hanuka/Archaia/Boom! Studios

This Week's New Comics: A comic about PTSD, Asaf Hanuka's The Realist, and Uncle Scrooge returns

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Asaf Hanuka/Archaia/Boom! Studios

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. PTSD: The Wound That Never Heals

By Leela Corman
Nautilus

The description of Leela Corman’s short but powerful comic essay published this past week in the online magazine Nautilus reads, “Coming back to life after losing my first child.” That phrase is like a punch to the gut, yet there's a sense of hope. Corman uses the tragedy in her life—the unthinkable passing of her 1-year-old daughter—and her long road of dealing with that trauma to explore the science behind Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. At the beginning of each month, Nautilus picks a subject and then every week publishes a new chapter containing multiple articles and fictional stories exploring that subject. April’s subject is “Dominoes,” the way one thing in life can lead to another.

Corman has previously published a comic in Tablet Magazine called “Yahrzeit” in which she compared dealing with her own tragedy to how her grandfather dealt with losing his entire family in the Holocaust. Corman’s husband Tom Hart is also a cartoonist and has been processing their daughter’s death himself through a series of webcomics called Rosalie Lightning. It is incredibly brave how both Hart and Corman are willing to publicly share this process. What Corman does with PTSD is something that victims of any trauma—from soldiers to victims of violent crime—can hopefully find helpful and inspiring.

You can read PTSD here on Nautilus.

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2. The Realist

By Asaf Hanuka
Archaia/Boom! Studios

Israeli cartoonist Asaf Haunka is best known in the States for his collaborations with his twin brother Tomer, particularly on their wildly experimental comic Bipolar. In Israel, Asaf is well known for his autobiographic strip comic The Realist, which has been published weekly in the Israeli business magazine Calcalist since 2010. Archaia (now part of Boom! Studios) has just released a hardcover collection of these strips, showcasing Hanuka’s gift of metaphor and his willingness to tap into his dark side to get at some universal truths.

The Realist mostly focuses on Hanaka’s life with his wife and son, navigating some relatable daily trials (being an over-protective parent, marital spats, smart phone addiction, having a new baby) as well as some that are very specific to life in Israel (finding an apartment in Tel Aviv, living with the fear of nuclear annihilation). What makes The Realist so great is how each and every strip is visually creative, and also Hanuka's unflinching willingness to expose his flaws and personal turmoil. When depicting arguments with his wife and the way he emotionally detaches, he shows self-realization in a visually elegant yet raw manner that most people making diary comics strive to achieve. (One beautiful illustration shows him as an astronaut while his wife breaks down in front of him.)

Here’s a preview of just some of the great pages in this book.

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3. Uncle Scrooge #1

By Jonathan Gray, Rodolfo Cimino, and Romano Scarpa
IDW Publishing

Everyone knows Disney owns Marvel now, so it may be counter-intuitive to learn that IDW is poised to launch a line of Disney comics featuring the likes of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Donald’s cantankerous, billionaire uncle Scrooge McDuck. While Marvel has recently began publishing comics that center on various park attractions like Epcot’s Figment and Adventureland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the license to the characters has recently changed hands from Boom! Studios to IDW (both are publishers that have come to specialize in developing excellent comics from licensed properties).

The first of IDW’s new Disney comics will be Uncle Scrooge, which arguably carries the biggest comics legacy. Dating back to the 1940s, legendary cartoonist Carl Barks created some of the greatest kids' comics ever during his run on Uncle Scrooge (these, as well as some also excellent work by Don Rosa, have been getting high-end archival treatment from Fantagraphics over the past few years). Although IDW’s new series will begin with a new #1 issue, the legacy numbering (#405) will be listed on the inside cover. In another mix of old and new, IDW has brought on fan-favorite Jonathan Gray to translate popular stories drawn by the late Italian Disney comics master Romano Scarpa.

Here’s a preview of the first issue.

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4. The Death Defying Doctor Mirage

By Jen Van Meter and Roberto de la Torre
Valiant Entertainment

Valiant Entertainment has been doing an amazing job building a new comic universe over the past two years by reviving their super-powered concepts from the 1990s. The success of relaunches like XO-Manowar and Harbinger show how strong those underlying concepts were.

Their latest concept to return to the page is The Death Defying Doctor Mirage. It re-imagines a short-lived series from 1993 that was ahead of its time in terms of diversity with its mixed-ethnicity husband-and-wife psychologists Hwen and Carmen Mirage, who investigate paranormal activity and the afterlife. Jen Van Meter and Roberto de la Torre have made substantial changes in their version: Hwen’s wife is now Shan, and Hwen has died, meaning he is not really the “Doctor” of the title. When we meet Shan Fong, she is a popular TV clairvoyant who helps people communicate with dead family members; however, her secret is that she is unable to make contact with her own deceased husband. When she takes on a job that involves entering the afterlife, it may be her best chance yet to make contact with him.

There is a sadness that pervades this story, mostly due to the gritty realism of de la Torre’s artwork which has a similar feel to John Paul Leon or Alex Maleev. However, the tragic realism of Shan’s longing mostly gives way to lots of supernatural antics that will be more appealing to fans of magic in the Dr. Strange-style. Still, stick around to see if Shan finds what she is looking for.

Here’s a preview from the first issue of Doctor Mirage.

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5. Convergence Week 3

By Various
DC Comics

Each week during DC Comics’ Convergence event, they are pre-empting their regularly scheduled comics with special Convergence editions featuring characters who have been erased from continuity. Week one stepped back only a couple of years to show characters that existed before 2011’s Flashpoint reboot. Last week took us to 1994’s Zero Hour, and this week brings us back to the grandaddy of all reboots: 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. Thrown in the mix are heroes from 1997’s Tangent Universe which featured DC characters that existed in a universe greatly altered from our own due to the way their own existence influenced world events. Some of the comics we’ll see this week are:

Convergence Flash starring the classic Silver Age version of Barry Allen.

Convergence Justice League of America in which the less-than-impressive Justice League Detroit faces the heroes from the Tangent Universe.

Convergence Swamp Thing featuring the pre-Alan Moore version of the character returns written by original creator Len Wein.

Convergence Superboy & the Legion which brings back one of the many versions of the Legion of Super-Heroes we’ve seen over the years.

Convergence New Teen Titans in which writer Marv Wolfman returns to DC’s most popular comic from that era.

Convergence Adventures of Superman guest-starring the headband-sporting Supergirl who famously died during Crisis.

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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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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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