CLOSE
Original image
David Baldeon/IDW Publishing

The 5 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Original image
David Baldeon/IDW 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. WALKING DEAD: ALIEN

By Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin
Panelsyndicate.com

Panelsyndicate.com

Robert Kirkman and Brian K. Vaughan are perhaps the two most influential forces in creator-owned comics right now. Kirkman’s Walking Dead series may be the most successful creator-owned comic book of all time, and it was key in transforming its publisher, Image Comics, into something more than just a home for non-Marvel/DC superheroes. Vaughan meanwhile has leveraged his popularity as the writer of books like Y: The Last Man and Saga to venture into a new platform for self-publishing called Panel Syndicate, which distributes digital comics directly to readers for whatever price they’d like to pay. This past week, the two joined forces and combined their ventures for a one-shot Walking Dead comic by Vaughan and regular collaborator Marcos Martin, and it is being released exclusively on PanelSyndicate.com.

In Walking Dead: Alien, Kirkman cedes control of his zombie comic to another creative team for the first time. He also allows Vaughan and Martin to take the action outside of the usual Southern U.S. locale to Barcelona. But, this isn’t a one-off in terms of being completely disconnected from the main title. There’s an odd and surprising twist at the end that sets up an even more direct crossover somewhere down the line.

You can get Walking Dead: Alien from panelsyndicate.com for whatever price you think it might be worth to you.

2. PANTHER

By Brecht Evens
Drawn & Quarterly

Drawn & Quarterly

When you flip through it, Brecht Evens’ Panther looks like a beautifully illustrated children’s book about a girl and her imaginary panther friend. But parents beware: you probably don’t want your kids reading this one.

Things start off bleak when Christine’s cat passes away. Appearing out of the bottom drawer of her dresser to console her in her grief comes a large, smooth-talking spotted panther. Christine is immediately enthralled by this magical creature, but there clearly is something not right with him. His stories are just too fantastic and charming, and his physicality with her is inappropriate and off-putting. By the time he invites a couple of friends from his home and into her room, even the Panther seems to be losing control of the situation.

This is a dark story that explores a child’s loss of innocence in a disturbingly ambiguous way. It isn’t clear who the Panther and his friends represent, or how the girl’s father—a single dad represented as a faceless figure puttering around the kitchen—may or may not be complicit in what is happening. Evens illustrates the story with the panel-less flow of a picture book, and colorfully painted drawings erupt into full-page, cubist abstraction when events in the story get out of hand.

3. THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #7

By Ryan North, Erica Henderson and Rico Renzi
Marvel Comics

Marvel Comics

The creative team behind Marvel’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl has dared to be be different since the series started last year. Writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson took a nearly forgotten C-list character and turned her into a surprise hit by avoiding any and all seriousness, approaching the comic with the knowing wit one is more likely to find in a webcomic than a Marvel release. Now, with its seventh issue, they’re trying something really fun: a choose-your-own-adventure issue.

While North and Henderson’s sense of humor skews towards a teenage audience, Squirrel Girl has proven to be popular with all ages, and this issue, titled "Be The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl," should prove to be a hit with younger kids.

4. SPACE MULLET VOL. 1: ONE GAMBLE AT A TIME

By Daniel Warren Johnson
Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse Comics

For the last four years, Daniel Warren Johnson has been wowing fans with his intricate drawing style on his webcomic Space Mullet. This odd sci-fi trucker comedy follows a mullet-headed ex-space marine named Jonah and his Zozobian co-pilot Alphius as they get into all kinds of adventures, picking up a few misfit cohorts along the way. Beneath the fun of space goblins and Martian roller derbies, Johnson takes great care to build a story full of weighty moments and characters with dark pasts. His artwork started strong but has gotten even more detailed and confident as he has gone along, and this week, the comic will see its first printed collection from Dark Horse Comics.

5. MICRONAUTS #1

By Cullen Bunn, David Baldeon, Ficio Ossio, Max Dunbar, Jack Lawrence, David Garcia Cruz, Joana Lafuente, Thomas Deer and John-Paul Bove
IDW Publishing

IDW Publishing

If you were a kid in the 1970s, you probably remember Micronauts. This short-lived line of action figures with small, interchangeable parts came out around the time the first Star Wars film transformed the action figure market into what it is today. Micronauts spawned a classic Marvel Comics series by Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden that outlived the discontinued toy line by about six years. Micronauts have come back here and there over the years, and now they are owned by toy company Hasbro (which also owns properties like G.I. Joe and Transformers). The "Hasbroverse," as it's called, is currently populated by a group of comics all under the domain of IDW Publishing, and it will soon spawn a series of shared universe motion pictures.

Writer Cullen Bunn (The Sixth Gun, Uncanny X-men) is one of those kids from the ‘70s that loved Micronauts, and he now gets to write an ongoing series that brings back classic characters like Acroyear, Biotron, and the Time Travelers.

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