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Tillie Walden

The 6 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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Tillie Walden

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.

This week's list—presented in no particular order—includes selections that hit stores over the last couple of weeks.

1. The Violent #1

By Ed Brisson, Adam Gorham and Michael Garland
Image Comics

In The Violent, Mason and Becky are recovering drug addicts trying to get their lives back on track after Mason has served time in prison. They have a baby and are trying hard to resist dangerous temptations. Mason seems to continually mess this balancing act up and, by the end of this first issue, he makes a terrible decision that will make any parent reading this book want to punch him in the face.

Judging by this issue, The Violent has the potential to be writer Ed Brisson's breakout book. Co-writer and artist Adam Gorham is a newcomer with a realistic, inky cartooning style reminiscent of Michael Gaydos (Alias). They've set The Violent in their hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia and plan to use the comic to address the ways the high cost of living in that city has affected the struggling working class.

2. I Love This Part

By Tillie Walden
Avery Hill Publishing

Tillie Walden is a 19-year-old cartoonist from Texas and a student at the Center for Cartoon Studies. Her debut graphic novel The End of Summer was released earlier last year from British publisher Avery Hill. Before the year had come to an end, she managed to release one more graphic novel, I Love This Part. This 68-page treasure is almost unbelievably beautiful for such a young cartoonist to have created.

Nearly every page is a full-page panel that depicts a minor moment in the relationship of two teenage girls, portrayed with the girls lounging across mountains, sitting on top of suburban houses, and draped over city skylines. It’s the perfect visual encapsulation of how teenage love can feel impossibly larger than life. Walden’s delicate but detailed artwork is much more assured than that of most student cartoonists, yet her youth shows in how perfectly attuned she is to her subject. An older cartoonist may not be able to pull off such a believable depiction of the dreamy idleness of teenage infatuation.

3. Obi-Wan & Anakin #1

By Charles Soule, Marco Checchetto, and Andres Mossa
Marvel Comics

Up until now, Marvel’s new Star Wars comics have mostly focused on the period between Episodes IV and V, but this new five-issue series is the first to jump back into the Prequel era. Set in between Episodes I and II, Obi-Wan & Anakin will explore the ill-fated bromance between the young Jedi Master and his Padawan apprentice. The series begins with Anakin around age 12 and at a time when the two Jedi are still building the working relationship that we would see more fortified in Episode II.

Marvel is quickly piling up a nice collection of Star Wars comics, each filling in those valuable gaps between movies that have always been ripe for expanded universe fiction.

4. Judge Dredd #1

By Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas and Dan McDaid
IDW Publishing

In 2012, IDW Publishing began putting out its own comics featuring no-nonsense, 21st century law enforcer Judge Dredd. They were unconnected to the 30+ years of continuity that original publisher 2000 AD has been building through their own Dredd comics. The success of the IDW comics has been mixed at best, with perhaps the most attention going to a five-issue mini-series released in 2014 called Judge Dredd: Mega City Two that was drawn by dynamic and detail-crazed artist Ulises Farinas. Now, Farinas is in charge of a relaunch of IDW's main Judge Dredd title, this time solely as the writer. He is paired with co-writer Erick Freitas and artist Dan McDaid.

The new comic begins with Dredd waking up in a field and finding that everything is different. The dystopian urban landscape he is used to has been replaced with grassy hills, mossed-over temples, and a band of roving children who have no idea about Judges and Mega City One. This is an interesting way to change things up and is potentially a good way for IDW to differentiate themselves from the 2000 AD books.

5. The Death Defying Dr. Mirage: Second Lives #1

By Jen Van Meter, Roberto De La Torre and David Baron
Valiant Entertainment

The first Dr. Mirage series from last year was notable for its somber portrayal of loss. The titular doctor, Shan Fong, was mourning the death of her husband and partner in paranormal investigations, Hwen, and journeyed into the After Life to find his missing spirit. The artwork by Roberto De La Torre was loose and expressive but with figures imbued with realism.

Now, in its sequel, Hwen has returned from the netherworld as a disembodied spirit. For the first time, we get to see the couple working together to solve supernatural mysteries. The Death Defying Dr. Mirage, like other books in the Valiant line, is grounded and cinematic in its approach to superheroes and the supernatural. Unlike many of the other Valiant books, Dr. Mirage is pretty self-contained so far and easy for new readers to read on its own.

6. Achewood

By Chris Onstad
Achewood.com

Fans of Chris Onstad’s Achewood got an unexpected gift on Christmas Eve when the webcomic suddenly returned with its first new installment in over a year. Achewood is one of the oldest and most popular webcomics of all time. It's an absurdist story with an expansive cast of anthropomorphic stuffed animals, but Onstad’s output had slowed down considerably in the last couple of years. On December 24, he released a brand new strip as well as two blog posts from two of the characters, Ray and Philippe. It remains to be seen how frequently new comics will appear from Onstad, but a second new strip already arrived on January 1.

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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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