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Marko Djurdjevic // Marvel Comics

The 5 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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Marko Djurdjevic // Marvel 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.

1. HELLBOY IN HELL #10

By Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart
Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse Comics

This week, Hellboy in Hell #10 marks Mike Mignola’s final Hellboy comic. Only time will tell whether it will be the last comic the character ever appears in, but Mignola has essentially announced his own semi-retirement with this issue, planning to move away from comics to focus on painting.

Issues of Hellboy in Hell have trickled out slowly over the past few years yet no one—Mignola included—really expected it to come to an end so quickly. Reading the series has been a treat for Mignola fans, and it's a great way for him to say farewell to the character he created 23 years ago.

2. TALK DIRTY TO ME

By Luke Howard
Adhouse Books

Adhouse Books

Emma and her husband move to a new city with dreams of a fresh start. While her husband starts his new job, Emma finds an ad for a sex hotline hiring new operators, tapping into some complicated feelings she has about pornography and repressed female sexuality. The shy, reserved Emma seems an unlikely candidate for the job, but could taking it mean a move towards sexual empowerment?

Talk Dirty to Me is Luke Howard’s first major graphic novel after producing a number of acclaimed mini-comics. It is being published by Adhouse Books, which is known for promoting young talent like Howard. A comic about sex can easily teeter into cliché and moral preachiness, but Howard steers clear of cheap titillation and banality with some interesting storytelling choices that make the moral argument purely an internal one for Emma.

3. CIVIL WAR II #1

By Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez and Justin Posner
Marvel Comics

Marvel Comics

Comic publishers haven’t always created great synergy with Hollywood. There was a time when a movie would be released without clear comics options for excited new readers, but Marvel seems to have covered every angle with this week’s release of the first issue of Civil War II, the sequel to their 2006 mini-series that was the inspiration for last month’s hit film Captain America: Civil War. Now that everyone has had the chance to see the movie a couple of times, they may be interested in seeing the superhero-on-superhero conflict play out in a new way, and Marvel is ready to deliver.

The conflict in both the film and the original series revolved around requiring superheroes to register with the government and divulge their secret identities. This time around, the conflict arises over the morality of prosecuting crimes before they happen. When a new Inhuman with the power to see the future arrives on the scene, the question of whether to use his powers to alter the future draws a dividing line between Iron Man and Captain Marvel. This series will run for 8 issues and, as is always the case with these kinds of series, will be so big that it crosses over into just about every other Marvel Comic being published during the length of this series.

4. BIRTH OF KITARO

By Shigeru Mizuki
Drawn & Quarterly

Drawn & Quarterly

Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly has been tirelessly working to bring the works of the late Shigeru Mizuki to Western readers. Previously, they've focused on his history-based books like the four-volume Showa: A History of Japan or last year’s translation of his biography of Hitler, but Mizuki was most famous in Japan for his all-ages horror comic GeGeGe no Kitaro. Mizuki’s Kitaro stories are creepy but comical adventures about a young boy of yōkai origin (supernatural ghost creatures of Japanese folklore) who finds himself in monster-of-the-week style adventures. One of the most popular children’s manga in Japan, it has inspired adaptations in many formats including anime, live action films, and video games.

D&Q’s all-ages graphic novels typically skew towards offbeat international offerings like this (see also their Moomin and Pippi Longstocking collections). They previously published Kitaro compilations, but Birth of Kitaro is the first in a seven-volume series that will collect all of the Kitaro stories and package them in an affordable, digest-sized format. The seven stories collected here were all originally published in the 1960s, including the title story that shows the origin of our young hero and introduces us to his father, a zombie who is reduced to a walking eyeball that still manages to be an over-protective dad.

5. BATMAN REBIRTH #1/SUPERMAN REBIRTH #1/GREEN LANTERNS REBIRTH #1/GREEN ARROW REBIRTH #1

DC Comics

DC Comics

After last week’s DC Universe Rebirth #1, DC’s new status quo begins with four #1 issues for Batman, Superman, Green Lanterns (note the plural) and Green Arrow. While the publisher is going to be relaunching most of their titles over the summer, they are not “rebooting” the continuities, meaning readers will find that these four comics mostly carry on with what has come before (but with new creative teams and a mandate to make the comics more heroic and hopeful).

Batman: Rebirth follows Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s best-selling run on the flagship Batman title by adding DC’s hottest new writer, Tom King (Sheriff of Babylon, Omega Men) as Snyder’s co-writer.

After killing off the “New 52” version of Kal-El in last week's Superman #52, Superman: Rebirth deals with the fallout and begins to move ahead with replacing him with his married, bearded pre-"New 52" counterpart.

Green Lanterns: Rebirth warns that the Earth is facing a threat dire enough that it’s necessary to hand out another ring to an Earthling to defend Sector 2817. And in Green Arrow: Rebirth, DC’s classic romance between Green Arrow and Black Canary is reintroduced for the first time since the characters were rebooted in 2011.

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Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images
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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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