CLOSE
Original image
Skottie Young/Image Comics

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Original image
Skottie Young/Image Comics

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.

Two Brothers

By Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon
Dark Horse Comics 


Unlike the antagonistic twins in their latest graphic novel Two Brothers, Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon are brothers who seem to enjoy close collaboration. They take turns drawing story arcs in the popular super-spy comic Casanova and other works. But for their latest graphic novel, they are acting as a more typical writer/artist team, with Fábio writing and Gabriel drawing.

It is pretty clear why this story would appeal to the twins. Adapted from the highly regarded novel The Brothers by Brazilian author Milton Hatoum, they lovingly craft every detail of the story, which is set in mid-century Manaus where two rivers converge. After a violent incident as children, the brothers of this story are separated from each other and things do not improve when they are reunited years later. Yaqub, their father’s favorite, goes off and becomes an engineer while Omar, their mother’s son, stays home, lazily cavorting with prostitutes and other shady characters. Their rift hopelessly and tragically eats away at the rest of the family and the secrets they hold onto.

This is Bá and Moon’s most mature and sophisticated work to date. It drifts back and forth through time with narration that comes from an initially unseen observer. Bá’s wonderfully stylized black and white artwork, so full of stunning contrast and implied movement, pulls you into every scene. Here’s a preview.

Twilight Children

By Gilbert Hernandez, Darwyn Cooke and Dave Stewart
DC Vertigo 


The most unexpected (yet welcome) creative pairing of the year has to be Gilbert Hernandez (Love & Rockets) and Darwyn Cooke (DC: The New Frontier) for their new mini-series The Twlight Children. Hernandez and Cooke usually work alone, and they aren't often associated together except when talking about best-of-the-year lists. This collaboration is part of a new push from DC’s Vertigo imprint, and it serves as a reminder that the publisher is still a source for interesting comics for readers with discriminating tastes. Starting with last week’s The Survivor’s Club, Vertigo will be introducing a new series every week over the next three months.

In a small Latin American village, a mysterious orb washes ashore and explodes in the faces of three children, leaving them blind. A large cast of characters featuring a hard-nosed sheriff, the village drunk, and a cheating wife mix it up with outsiders like a scientist, a CIA agent, and a beautiful woman who may be an alien. Hernandez’s penchant for fun, melodramatic characters and Cooke's (and colorist Dave Stewart’s) expertise at creating a cinematic sense of wonder seem a natural fit together. Here’s a preview.

I Hate Fairyland

By Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Image Comics 


The brilliance of Skottie Young’s I Hate Fairyland is that it’s a fairy tale in which the main character is a relatable figure for parents rather than kids (despite being a little girl). This comic might provide some welcome satisfaction for parents who have ever found themselves frustrated with the inanity of saccharine children’s books.

Little Gertrude was transported to Fairyland when she was a just a girl, and for the past 30 years has been fighting to get back to home. And by fighting I mean she claws, bites, chews, kicks, and wantonly shoots holes through annoyingly cute little characters that get in her way. Gertrude may look like an eight-year-old girl, but she has the mind of a frazzled and ticked-off 40-year-old. Young is the incredibly popular artist behind Marvel’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz comics and their recent Rocket Raccoon series. He has a very kid-friendly look to his work, but it also has a lot of edge so be aware that this one is not for little kids.

Here’s a preview.

Killing and Dying

By Adrian Tomine
Drawn & Quarterly 

Adrian Tomine is one of the great indie creators who rose to prominence in the 1990s along with contemporaries like Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, and Charles Burns. His contemplative short stories about troubled 20- and 30-somethings are fully realized and perfectly drawn—every gesture he draws seems utterly familiar. As he has done his entire career, Tomine publishes his graphic novellas first through his one-man anthology comic Optic Nerve and then every few years collects a group of them as a bookstore-friendly hardcover.

Tomine’s latest is called Killing and Dying, and the stories show how much his work has grown. The opening story, “Hortisculpture,” is uncharacteristically humor-driven, and its format is based on the structure of a daily newspaper strip. It examines the risk of making art, but in a self-deprecatingly funny way that we normally don't see in Tomine's comics.

More info and preview images here.

Superman: Lois & Clark #1

By Dan Jurgens, Lee Weeks, Scott Hanna and Brad Anderson
DC Comics 


In the 2011 Flashpoint series, DC Comics brought almost 30 years of continuity to an end, rebooting their entire line in order to be more accessible for new readers. But what about the fans of the way things were? This week, two pre-Flashpoint characters come back in an unexpected way as part of this new continuity.

Lois Lane and Clark Kent were happily married for many years, but the Lois and Clark of the new continuity are just friends. This summer’s Convergence mini-series brought back some characters that had been erased in past reboots, two of which were pre-Flashpoint Superman and Lois Lane, pregnant with their first child. That series ended with them entering the current DC Universe, and now in Superman: Lois & Clark #1, we see how they're getting by in a world that is not their own. With their son, Jon, who is now a grown boy, they have decided to live in secret, using aliases, and pretending to be a normal family. But Superman has to be super, and he can’t help himself from going out and saving people every once in a while.

Longtime comics fans will appreciate the veteran creative team on this new series. Dan Jurgens is no stranger to Superman, being the writer of the classic "Death of Superman" comic from 1992. Lee Weeks has been more of a Marvel artist in the past, but his style manages to mix the boundaries of yesterday and today well, suitably fitting the anachronism for which this comic aims. 

Here’s a preview.

Original image
Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images
arrow
History
How Superman Helped Foil the KKK
Original image
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.

Original image
Courtesy of Highlights for Children
arrow
Lists
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.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios