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The 12 Most Interesting Comics of November

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Each month, we round up the most interesting comics, graphic novels, webcomics, digital comics and comic-related Kickstarters that we think you should check out.

1. A.D.: AFTER DEATH BOOK ONE

By Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire
Image Comics


Most wouldn’t expect formal comics experimentation to come from the writers of Batman and the X-Men, but, to be fair, Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire are two of the most celebrated creators in comics and both have had a lot of success outside of their work for Marvel and DC. In this three-part prestige format series, they are collaborating to tell a story about a future in which death has been cured. Jonah Cooke, the story’s protagonist, has been alive for centuries and in this first chapter, reflects on his life and his culpability in an event that changed the world.

The format of this book is not entirely a comic; it's a combination of sequential art, prose, and illustrations. Lemire, who lately has been writing for other artists, provides the art in his discernibly loose, outsider art style while Snyder handles the considerable sections of prose with a novelist’s skill. The result is an ominous and contemplative read about memory and mortality.

2. MUHAMMAD ALI

By Sybille Titeux and Amazing Ameziane
Dark Horse Comics


Some biography subjects were born to be in comics and the brash, super-heroic figure of the boxing world known as Muhammad Ali is one of them. He famously appeared in a comic with Superman back in 1978, but in this 2015 French graphic novel, being released for the first time in English, he gets a 128-page bio-comic all his own. Ali’s life—from his youth as Cassius Clay through his storied boxing career, his conversion to Islam, and his rise as an early hero of the civil rights movement to his final battle with Parkinson’s disease—is all covered here. Titeux gives many of the biographical events some proper historical context by providing some details of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X, and the conflict in Vietnam. Ameziane’s photo-realistic artwork depicts these events with accuracy and an appropriate sense of drama equal to Ali’s legend.

3. SUPER POWERS #1

By Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani
DC Comics


Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani are responsible for some of the most popular all-ages comics and their work for DC, like Tiny Titans, is just about the best option you can find out there for early reader superhero comics. Their newest series, Super Powers, stars some of the biggest heroes in the DC Universe and begins with a story in which Batman has gone missing, leaving Superman and Wonder Woman to not only find their friend, but to also fill in for him in Gotham City while he’s gone.

4. WHO KILLED KURT COBAIN?

By Nicolas Otero
IDW Publishing


For Gen Xers, Kurt Cobain’s death by apparent suicide in 1994 was a “where were you when…” moment that is forever burned into their memories. Over 20 years later, the mystique around his death has sparked conspiracy theories and a number of books including the French novel Le Roman de Boddah by Héloïse Guay de Bellissen, which focuses on Cobain’s suicide note and its reference to his imaginary childhood friend “Boddah." French artist Nicolas Otero has adapted that book into a graphic novel that captures the feeling of the ‘90s—both the grunge aesthetic and even the page layout-driven style of the comics from that decade—while depicting a dramatized version of the real events of Cobain’s life. We see Nirvana’s sudden rises to success, Cobain's passionate relationship with Courtney Love, his struggle with heroin addiction. and his early death, all told from the point of view of Boddah.

5. ETHER #1

By Matt Kindt and David Rubin
Dark Horse Comics 


Writer Matt Kindt isn't a fan of the supernatural genre, so the protagonist of his new book is himself a skeptic who prefers science over magic. However, Boone Dias is a scientist-adventurer who is often brought from our world to a magical dimension called the Ether to solve a murder. In a world where seemingly anything can happen, the inhabitants of that world lean on Dias to find explanations for the unexplainable. Kindt is one of the smartest genre writers in comics right now and he’s paired with astounding new talent David Rubin (The Rise of Aurora West), whose richly colored art is like an hallucinatory children’s book that you’ll want to spend some time admiring.

6. BLACK PANTHER: WORLD OF WAKANDA #1

By Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, Yona Harvey, Afua Richardson, and Alitha Martinez
Marvel Comics


After his cinematic debut in Captain America: Civil War, an upcoming solo film, and a new comic series written by acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, Black Panther has now become a high-profile character in the Marvel Universe—enough to warrant a spinoff series focusing on his supporting characters. The Dora Milage is the King of Wakanda’s elite all-female guard, made famous during Christopher Priest’s iconic run on the Black Panther series in the 1990s. Two of the members, Ayo and Aneka, have been a major part of Coates's run and will now be the focus of this book. 

Neither of the big two comics publishers have been a model for hiring diverse creators—especially when it comes to African American women—but this particular book boasts an interesting creative team of women of color, led by professor and op-ed writer Roxanne Gay who readers of Bitch Planet will know from her essays in that comic. She is joined by artist Alitha E. Martinez, while a 10-page backup story co-written by Coates and poet Yona Harvey features art by Afua Richardson, who made a splash this past year drawing the politically charged Image series Genius.

7. MAYDAY #1

By Alex DeCampi, Tony Parker, and Blond
Image Comics


This is the first issue of a proposed trilogy of mini-series that mix Cold War espionage with unexpected elements like ‘70s drug culture, Alice Cooper, and Krautrock. The series will follow a pair of CIA agents through different exploits in the 1970s. The first issue begins with the murder of a Soviet general while he is in the act of defecting to the United States. Rather than a John le Carré-style of complex spy maneuvering, it quickly veers into the unexpectedly violent and weird vibe of a Coen brothers film when the two Russian assassins hook up with a bunch of hippies and fall victim to some LSD-laced vodka.

DeCampi employs a number of neat writing tricks here, including a clever way of showing how someone trying to understand another language may miss every few words as they’re trying to keep up with a conversation. She also manages to integrate a ‘70s era soundtrack into the story, along with a recommended playlist at the end and some notes about the musical choices.

8. SUGAR & SPIKE VOL. 1

By Keith Giffen, Bilquis Evely, and Ivan Plascencia
DC Comics


Sugar Plumm and Spike Wilson are private investigators for superheroes. When someone like Alfred the butler needs someone to track down a stash of embarrassing zebra and rainbow-colored Batsuits that has been stolen or Green Lantern needs to investigate whether an alien flower on display in a museum is the same sentient being he used to wear on his lapel for a time back in the ‘80s, they turn to Sugar and Spike for help. This series, which ran in the recent Legends of Tomorrow anthology and is now collected on its own in a trade paperback edition, is representative of DC Comics's new, brighter outlook on its properties; one that embraces the silliness of the past and lets their superheroes be superheroes (Sugar and Spike themselves are meant to be grown-up versions of a couple of toddler characters that ran in a strip of the same name back in the 1950s). It’s a clever yet ridiculous concept that is played for laughs and works well, thanks to the physical comedy and character acting by artist Bilquis Evely. Amidst all the broad comedy, there are also subtle hints at a complicated but affectionate relationship between the two protagonists that leaves you wanting to know more.

9. SUNNY VOL. 6

By Taiyo Matsumoto
Viz Media


The final volume of Taiyo Matsumoto’s award-winning manga series reaches English-speaking audiences this month (it came out in Japan last year). The poignant, slice-of-life series about a group of foster children who only find solace and escape when sitting in an abandoned yellow car they’ve named “Sunny” is considered a masterwork by many. This series has been nominated for numerous awards and won the Shogakukan Manga Award this year, one of Japan’s highest honors for manga.

10. THE PLUNGE

By Emi Gennis
Kilgore Books & Comics


In 1901, Annie Edson Taylor was the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel. And she did it at the age of 63. Emi Gennis tells her story in this beautiful new black-and-white comic, released through brand-new publisher Kilgore Books & Comics. Taylor’s life story is both an uplifting example of can-do feminism and an anti-climactic tragedy, as she would eventually die poor and alone, gaining nothing from her death-defying feat. Gennis’s crisply inked cartooning style has an appropriately old-timey feel and her depiction of the horrific ride down the falls is captivating and surreal.

11. LEGEND

By Samuel Sattin and Chris Koehler
Z2 Comics


After humans have been wiped out by a biological terror attack, dogs and cats are left to rebuild the world in their absence. But there is something else out there—a mysterious creature called the Endark—that has killed Ransom, the leader of the dogs, requiring an English Pointer named Legend to step up and take his place. Chris Koehler is an accomplished editorial illustrator who has worked for publications such as The Atlantic and Variety. His style exhibits a high level of photorealism and a designer’s sense of minimal color. He manages to translate that style to his first piece of sequential comics without losing any of his technical polish. This collaboration with novelist Samuel Sattin, also a comics newbie, should please most domestic animal adventure fans of stories like The Incredible Journey or We3.

12. Off Season

By James Sturm
Slate.com


Acclaimed cartoonist and director of the Center for Cartoon Studies James Sturm (The Golem's Mighty Swing) has been creating a webcomic for Slate that began in September and will continue through the end of the year. It is about 2016, with a focus on the election and now on its aftermath. Set in New England, it follows a down-on-his-luck divorced dad who was a Bernie Sanders supporter raising a daughter who is excited about the prospect of electing the first female president. Sturm draws everyone—including real-life players like Donald Trump—as anthropomorphic dogs, trudging through the same reality we’re all currently living in real time.

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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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