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Khary Randolph

The 6 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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Khary Randolph

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. Spider-man #1

By Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli
Marvel Comics

One of the perceived goals of Marvel’s huge Secret Wars event is to give a “soft reboot” to their publishing line, allowing for alternate universe characters to ease into the main continuity. Because Secret Wars means the death of Marvel's Ultimate Universe, it allows Miles Morales a permanent spot in the canon. Since his first appearance in 2011 as the new Ultimate Spider-man (replacing Peter Parker when he was killed by the Green Goblin), the teenager has been a popular character and the first in Marvel’s attempts to bring diversity to their headline heroes.

In the post-Secret Wars, “All New, All Different” Marvel universe, Peter Parker is still Spider-man, but, now in his 30s, he acts as the elder Spidey to Miles's more classic teenage Spidey in Spider-man. Brian Michael Bendis, who wrote every issue of Ultimate Spider-man, retains creative control in this new series along with artist Sara Pichelli, who co-created the character with him.

2. Black

By Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith III, Jamal Igle, and Khary Randolph
Kickstarter

A Kickstarter campaign launched February 1 will run for the duration of Black History Month to fund a new graphic novel that takes place in a world where only black people have superpowers. When a young man named Kareem Jenkins survives being gunned down by police, his superpowers—and the biggest secret in the world—are revealed.

Written by Kwanza Osajyefo—a former editor at DC Comics and an instrumental player in their first digital comic initiatives—and co-created by digital designer Tim Smith III, Black will be a 120-page graphic novel released in six digital installments, starting later this year assuming they reach their funding goal (which, as of this writing, looks like a sure bet).

2011 Inkpot Award-winning artist Jamal Igle (no stranger to successful Kickstarters with his creator-owned Molly Danger) and cover artist Khary Randolph (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Boondocks) will provide the visuals, making this an exciting ensemble of black comics creators who are telling a story they’d probably not be able to tell with the “Big Two” publishers.

While Marvel and DC are going to great lengths to diversify their characters, there’s been a slower growth in diversity among the creators themselves. Even in the generally much more diverse world of indie comics, it seems like black creators are not getting their books noticed. This project, however, is off to a great start on its way to reaching its goal. If you’d like to support it, please go here.

3. The Tipping Point

By Various
Humanoids

Comics tend to be divided across three international boundaries: North American comics, Japanese manga, and European bande dessinée. Even though they all influence each other, it’s rare to see a book that brings together creators from all three sectors. That’s what esteemed European publisher Humanoids is doing with The Tipping Point, an interesting anthology that enlists 13 creators from across three different continents to tell stories that "explore the key moment when a clear-cut split occurs, a mutation, a personal revolt or a large-scale revolution that tips us from one world into another, from one life to an entirely new one.” Anyone who appreciates comics from an artistic standpoint will drool over the lineup for this book, which includes Paul Pope, Eddie Campbell, Boulet, Naoki Urasawa, Taiyô Matsumoto, Bastien Vivès, John Cassady and more.

It should be noted that the diversity of this lineup falls short at including any women. Coming on top of the controversy from France’s Angoulême festival, where 30 male cartoonists—and not a single woman—were nominated for a lifetime achievement award, this is an unfortunate oversight for a book looking to celebrate the world’s greatest comic creators. Still, you can’t say this isn’t a great lineup. If you happen to be a huge fan of all of them, there is a $500 “Ultra-Deluxe Limited Slipcase” edition that contains bookplates signed by each artist.

4. Prez Vol. 1: Corndog in Chief

By Mark Russell, Ben Caldwell and Mark Morales
DC Comics

Last year, DC Comics launched a string of new titles that looked and read quite differently from the typical “DC House Style” they’ve operated with in the past decade or so. In an effort to reach younger readers, they brought in some creators from outside of their usual stable of talent and tried out a handful of books that offered a different spin. Maybe the best and by far the most unusual of these titles was Prez by Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell. Revisiting a short-lived comic from the 1970s about a teenage boy who becomes President of the United States, this new Prez is set in the near future and is about a teenage girl who winds up as a write-in candidate in the presidential election after becoming Internet famous thanks to an embarrassing video involving a corn dog and a deep fryer.

In an election year where a reality TV star is leading the polls, this story doesn’t seem as outrageous as it was intended to be, but it is downright funny, with some looney social-political commentary like the cartoon dog mascot for the “Pharmaduke” pharmaceutical corporation and Carl, the robotic “End-of-Life Bear” who gives out hugs and marijuana for terminally ill patients. Being so unlike what the typical DC Comic buyer might expect, this six-issue series didn’t exactly burn up the sales chart, but hopefully it will get a second look with a collected edition hitting bookstores this week.

5. #HourlyComicsDay

Sarah Becan

February 1 was annual Hourly Comics Day, where cartoonists all over the world draw a short comic for every hour that they are awake and then post them to social media under the #hourlycomicsday hashtag. Most cartoonists treat it like a 24-hour journal, so you get a lot of material about the struggle to make hourly comics, and the immediacy of it gives you a great peek into their process.

Peruse the Twitter hashtag to find many examples.

6. Jenlagged

Starting on January 28, mental_floss was delighted to premier a brand-new comic from indie cartoonist Jen Vaughn as it was being created on location at the Angoulême comics festival in France. Vaughn’s Jenlagged gave us a peek into her travels, her love of bande dessinée, and her encounters with other cartoonists at the event. The final installment went live today and the finished comic will be made available for free on Comixology later this month.

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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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