Mike Dawson // Uncivilized Books
Mike Dawson // Uncivilized Books

The 5 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Mike Dawson // Uncivilized Books
Mike Dawson // Uncivilized Books

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. WHAT IS OBSCENITY?

By Rokudenashiko; edited by Anne Ishii and Graham Kolbeins
Koyama Press

Koyama Press

This week, a Japanese court ruled that Megumi Igarashi (a.k.a. Rokudenashiko) was guilty of distributing obscene material and fined her 400,000 yen ($3,690 US). Rokudenashiko was jailed two years ago for sharing a digital file that could be used to 3D-print a model of her own vagina. Rokudenashiko is an activist who fights the double standards she sees in her country (especially when it comes to nudity), and the 42-year-old artist has printed a number of models using her “manko” (as she refers to it), including, famously, a crowd-funded kayak.

In What is Obscenity?, a new manga published by Koyama Press, Rokudenashiko tells the story of her arrest in a funny, engaging, and eye-opening way. Interspersing photographs, legal documents, and news articles with her comedic cartooning, she re-enacts the unbelievable experience of being arrested, filmed by the local news in the back of a police car (labeled with the insulting on-screen chyron as a “so-called artist”), and dealing with male lawyers and policemen who are too ashamed to even talk about what she did. What is Obscenity? is edited and translated by Anne Ishii and Graham Kolbeins, who are known for producing the popular gay-erotic manga Massive. The book also features a cover by the legendary book designer Chip Kidd.

2. RULES FOR DATING MY DAUGHTER

By Mike Dawson
Uncivilized Books

Uncivilized Books

Mike Dawson is one of the best observational cartoonists working in comics today. Until recently, he created mostly long-form narrative graphic novels with a literary bent like Troop 142 and Angie Bongiolatti. In 2014, he switched to making shorter, non-fiction comic essays posted to Tumblr which demonstrated his keen and humorous insights as a politically conscious parent trying to navigate work/life balances. In Rules for Dating My Daughter, these online strips are collected as a paperback collection, thanks to a successful Kickstarter to fund the printing.

In one cartoon essay, he ponders the social politics of the Disney Junior TV program Sofia the First, contrasting his daughter’s favorite show with the work of Charles Dickens and an essay by George Orwell. In "Longstreet Farm”—which was shortlisted for a Slate Cartoonist Studio Prize—he uses a visit with his kids to a family-friendly farm to consider the harsh realities of how we get our food and the way we justify it to ourselves. And in the titular comic, he explores what it means to be a feminist dad today.

Dawson’s comics involve a lot of hand-wringing, but they don’t try to posit any easy answers. What they do offer is smart visuals and a self-deprecating humor that will make you commiserate and cringe equally.

3. CIGARETTE GIRL

By Masahiko Matsumoto
Top Shelf Productions

Top Shelf Productions

The late Masahiko Matsumoto was one of the pioneers of alternative manga in the 1970s. Along with his friend and colleague Yoshihiro Tatsumi (A Drifting Life, The Push Man and Other Stories), Matsumoto helped start the movement known as “geikga” which was signified by a more subtle and sophisticated kind of storytelling than what was found in most manga at the time.

In Cigarette Girl, Top Shelf Productions brings a translated collection of eleven of Matsumoto’s short comics to North American readers for the first time. Many of the stories are variations on a similar theme: Helpless men become infatuated with strong, alluring women. The cartooning style is a pleasant mixture of Japanese and Franco-Belgian style with a clear comedic exaggeration to the characters (even though the stories would be more aptly described as quiet, light-hearted drama than comedy).

4. POP GUN WAR: GIFT

By Farel Dalrymple
Image Comics

Image Comics

Pop Gun War, the self-published five-issue series that put Farel Dalrymple on the map in 2003, is about a young kid in the inner city who finds a pair of wings discarded by a tattooed hipster angel who had fallen to Earth. Full of fantastic-yet-realistic characters that bring imaginary elements into a gritty, urban setting, it was a mixture of late-‘90s art comic sensibilities with a sense of genre comic wonder that was fairly unique upon its debut. Pop Gun War won acclaim and awards from even non-comic sources, like the Society of Illustrators.

Dalrymple is now beginning to tell more stories in this world with an installment called Pop Gun War: Chain Letter, which will appear in Brandon Graham’s Island Magazine later this year. This reissue of the original series is officially renamed Pop Gun War: Gift, and it’s a mesmerizing work.

5. NIGHT AIR

By Ben Sears
Koyama Press

Koyama Press

The hero in Ben Sears’s snappy, imaginative adventure Night Air is a rash, smart-alecky rogue who escapes from one bit of trouble and runs right into another. He's accompanied by a droll floating robot who is always trying to be the voice of reason, and they go chasing after the promise of treasure and end up in a haunted castle full of talking skeletons, disembodied heads, and typewriters that type by themselves.

This is Sears’s first graphic novel and it reads like a marriage between the character designs of Mike Mignola, the childhood wonder of Farel Dalrymple, and the low-key humor of Adventure Time.

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Titan Books
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8 Things You Might Not Know About The Wizard of Id
Titan Books
Titan Books

Debuting in 1964, Brant Parker and Johnny Hart’s The Wizard of Id took a page from the macabre humor of cartoonist Charles Addams. Ruling the kingdom of Id, a pint-sized tyrant uses humor to disarm a medieval cast made up of a jester, an executioner, a thief, and the titular magician, whose spells don’t usually impress. Although Hart and Parker both passed away in 2007, their black humor lives on. Take a look at some facts behind the throne, including the time Jim Henson almost brought it to television.

1. THE IDEA FOR THE STRIP CAME FROM A DECK OF PLAYING CARDS.

Johnny Hart was already a successful syndicated cartoonist (the Stone Age comedy B.C.) before he and former Disney animator Brant Parker decided to collaborate on a different project. Hart was flipping through a deck of playing cards in 1964 when he came across a peculiar illustration used for the king. Drawing on it to create his own diminutive despot, Hart wrote most of the jokes for Id while Parker illustrated it.

2. THE SYNDICATE THOUGHT THE TWO ARTISTS WERE DISGUSTING.

Although Id would eventually be syndicated to over 1000 strips across the country, Hart and Parker first had to get past the gatekeepers of cartoon distribution operating out of New York. Traveling to the city to show them samples, the two worked late into the night and called to tell executives they were ready. They didn’t know the syndicate would be coming to their hotel room, which was a mess of papers, food, and beer bottles. Caught off-guard, the men looked like transients. “We think you guys are disgusting,” one executive said, “but we love the strip. We’ll take it.”

3. THE SHORT JOKES WERE BASED ON JOHNNY HART.

In a visual juxtaposition, the king of Id’s height is inversely proportional to his power. Parker said the character’s stature was based partly on Hart, who used to fend off jokes about his own height. "The king became short because we used to kid John about being short and a lot of the short gags began to slide over into the strip," Parker said. "He just kept getting smaller, and as he shrunk, the nose got bigger and bigger."

4. A LITTLE GIRL GOT THEM TO DROP A CHARACTER.

Most of the humor in Id is centered around the morbid dynamics of Middle Ages politics, which is not normally an opportunity to offend current sensibilities. But early on, Parker and Hart created a karate teacher from Japan who was perceived by some as a stereotype. When Parker received a letter from a young Japanese-American girl who was being teased at school as a result of the character, the creators decided to drop him from the strip.

5. JIM HENSON WAS GOING TO PUT IT ON TELEVISION.

An avowed fan of comic strips and of The Wizard of Id in particular, Muppets creator Jim Henson met with Hart in 1968 to discuss a possible collaboration. Henson wanted to create an Id television show that would use puppets against an animated backdrop. Hart agreed, and in 1969, Henson was able to shoot test footage featuring himself as the voice of the Wizard. But executives at Publishers-Hall, which had taken over syndication of the strip, were having trouble enticing networks into producing a series. By the time ABC showed interest, Henson had moved on to Sesame Street and other projects. Wizard of Id got translated into animation in 1970 as part of a Chuck Jones variety series titled Curiosity Shop.

6. HART TURNED DOWN FEATURE FILM OFFERS.

Possibly disappointed in the outcome of the Henson project, Hart wasn’t very receptive to offers to adapt Id into other mediums. He reportedly shunned Steven Spielberg and Norman Lear when they called about adaptations. Producer Andrew Gaty managed to interest Hart in 1987, though his plans for a live-action feature—possibly starring Danny DeVito as the king—never came to fruition.

7. IT WAS A (STRANGE) VIDEO GAME.

In 1984, users of the ColecoVision home computer system were able to pick up a software program with an unwieldy title: The Wizard of Id’s Wiz Math. The edutainment program allowed players to brush up on math skills by solving problems faced by Spookingdorf, the tortured and jailed cast member of the strip. By solving math problems, players could navigate Spookingdorf out of his dungeon. The game was produced by Sierra, which later became known for its King’s Quest and Leisure Suit Larry franchises. A typing game, WizType, was also released.

8. BLONDIE AND BEETLE BAILEY CELEBRATED THE STRIP'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY.

When The Wizard of Id passed the half-century milestone in 2014, the entire comics page came out to celebrate. Hi and Lois featured a portrait of the Wizard in a panel, while Blondie and Family Circus made subtle references to the anniversary. (As modern-day strips, it would be difficult to regard a medieval strip with more overt acknowledgment.) In Beetle Bailey, the perennial screw-up shared a cell with the eternally suffering Spookingdorf.

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A Canadian Man Set a Guinness World Record for Most Marvel Comic Tattoos

Here’s something to Marvel at: A 36-year-old man from Alberta, Canada just set a Guinness World Record for having the highest number of Marvel comic tattoos on his body, Nerdist reports.

Rick Scolamiero, of Edmonton, boasts 31 Marvel tattoos in total and is inked from his neck down to his feet. What started out as a plan to get a sleeve (full arm tattoo) of his favorite Marvel characters quickly morphed into a full-body makeover.

"I fell in love with the artist’s work and wanted to continue to see what else we could come up with regarding tattoos,” Scolamiero told Guinness World Records. “I have been a Marvel comic lover since I was small and growing up we didn’t have much but I always had my Marvel comics and Marvel trading cards. They actually got me through some tough times so the idea of having them on my body forever just really appealed to me."

Wolverine and Spider-Man can be seen on his forearms, the Guardians of the Galaxy trail down his left calf, and LEGO versions of Daredevil and Deadpool adorn his ankles, to name but a few designs. Scolamiero didn’t want to leave any superheroes behind, so he had them inked onto his, well, behind. His left and right buttocks feature depictions of Spider-Man 2099 (a futuristic version of the original) and Vision (from The Avengers), respectively.

He even got Marvel comic artist Stan Lee’s autograph tattooed onto his wrist. In total, he attended one tattoo session per month for the past seven years and endured 350 hours under the needle. Now that’s dedication.

Check out the video below to see Scolamiero show off his tats.

[h/t Nerdist]

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