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  • feedwordpress 08:01:22 on 2018/06/16 Permalink
    Tags: , Comics, , , , , ,   

    “Classics are books which, the more we think we know them through hearsay, the more original, unexpected, and innovative we find them when we actually read them”*… 

     

    Highly efficient summaries from Abridged Classics: Brief Summaries of Books You Were Supposed to Read but Probably Didn’t by John Atkinson. Not recommended for use in study…

    More samples at: “Literary classics retold as two-panel comics

    * Italo Calvino

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    As we ponder the précis, we might recall that today– and every June 16– is Bloomsday.  a commemoration and celebration of the life of Irish writer James Joyce, during which the events of his novel Ulysses (which is set on 16 June 1904) are relived: Leopold Bloom goes about Dublin, James Joyce’s immortalization of his first outing with Nora Barnacle, the woman who would eventually become his wife.

    The first Bloomsday was observed on the 50th anniversary of the events in the novel, in 1954, when John Ryan (artist, critic, publican and founder of Envoy magazine) and the novelist Brian O’Nolan organized what was to be a daylong pilgrimage along the Ulysses route. They were joined by Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, Tom Joyce (a dentist who, as Joyce’s cousin, represented the family interest), and AJ Leventhal (a lecturer in French at Trinity College, Dublin).

    The crew for the first Bloomsday excursion

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:33 on 2018/05/26 Permalink
    Tags: comic strips, Comics, , DC Universe, Elongated Man, , Justice League, Ralph Dibney, The Angriest Dog in the World,   

    “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless”*… 

     

    It was hiding in plain sight, and yet it was almost designed not to be noticed at all. For several years from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, an experimental four-panel comic strip conceived and written by David Lynch ran in a handful of alt-weeklies under the title “The Angriest Dog in the World.” If you were the type of person who might have been flipping through the Los Angeles Reader or the New York Press or Creative Loafing or the Baltimore City Paper around 1987, you surely remember the peculiarly unfunny strip with the never-changing image of a tiny, spermatozoa-esque pooch straining at his lead in which the deadpan resolution was almost always a transitional nighttime image of the same godforsaken yard.

    It is said that Lynch came up with the idea for the strip during the long gestation period for Eraserhead in the early to mid-1970s, but it was only after the prominent releases of The Elephant Man and Dune that Lynch was able to convince anyone to run the strip. James Vowell, founding editor of the L.A. Reader, was the first publisher to bite. Vowell told SPIN in 1990 that Lynch drew the template for the strip a single time and sent it on, and after that it was the task of David Hwang, the alt-weekly’s art director, to receive the dialogue for each new installment from Lynch himself or Lynch’s assistant Debbie Trutnik, and draw the new dialogue on a piece of wax paper that was then superimposed over the strip’s template…

    More of the story– and more (and larger) examples of the strip– at “David Lynch’s memorably pointless comic strip “The Angriest Dog in the World.”

    * Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg

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    As we reconsider the ridiculous, we might send malleable birthday greetings to Randolph “Ralph” Dibny; he was born on this date.  Better known as “Elongated Man,” Dibney is a superhero in the D.C. Universe, a member of three incarnations of The Justice League.  A former police detective of the Central City Police Department, he gained his powers due to exposure to dark matter from the Speed Force.

    Dibny was one of the earliest Silver Age DC heroes to reveal his secret identity to the public, and also one of the first to marry his love interest, Sue.  After teaming up with several other superheroes including Batman, Green Lantern, the Atom, Zatanna and the Justice League of America, he became a member of the team; eventually, his wife became a member as well.  The couple was notable for having a stable, happy, and relatively trouble-free marriage—an anomaly in the soap-operatic annals of super hero comic books.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:27 on 2018/04/04 Permalink
    Tags: Belfry, , Comics, , , , , , , web comics   

    “In comics, we’re all weird together”*… 

     

    Your correspondent is heading out into the middle of the Pacific for about 10 days, so (Roughly) Daily will be on hiatus.  Regular service should resume on or around April 14…

    To keep readers occupied in the meantime, via the ever-illuminating Warren Ellis, “this extremely 1998 webcomics index page.”

    * G. Willow Wilson

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    As we dig for treasure (of which, there’s plenty), we might recall that it was on this date in 1977 that CBS Records UK began distributing the eponymously-titled first album from The Clash.  (It was officially released four days later.)  Featuring such anthems as “White Riot,” “Police & Thieves,” and “London’s Burning,” it is widely regarded as one of the greatest punk recordings of all time, and ranks high on essentially every “best album” list.

    Deeming the material “not radio friendly,” CBS in the US refused to release it until 1979 (on their Epic label, but even then dropped some of the more virulent songs).  Meantime, Americans bought over 100,000 imported copies of “The Clash”, making it the best-selling import album of all time in the U.S.

    Cover of the UK release

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:29 on 2018/03/10 Permalink
    Tags: Comics, , Hamlet, Hamlet: Prince of Pigs, , , Richard O'Brien, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Sarah Boxer, ,   

    “A little more than kin, and less than kind”*… 

     

    Sarah Boxer explains:

    What, another Hamlet? There must be a zillion already: Slang HamletFirst Folio HamletCompressed HamletNo Fear Hamlet. Into this field, I toss Hamlet: Prince of Pigs, a Tragicomic. Why a comic? Because comics and plays are twin arts. Both use visual cues as much as words. Both have abrupt breaks between scenes. And their words are mostly dialogue.

    Why a pig? In the name “Hamlet,” I hear little ham, little pig. And the pig pun fits! In Shakespeare’s day, if you wanted to mock the king, you’d put on a pig mask. The “swine-snouted king” was a stock figure of fun.

    Once Hamlet’s species was set, I hewed to a one-family, one-species rule for the rest of the cast. Thus Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, the murderer, “the bloat king,” is a big fat pig. Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, is a pig with lipstick. Ophelia is a cat because cats don’t do well in water. So her father, Polonius, and her brother, Laertes, are cats, too. For minor characters, I followed a one-profession, one-species rule. Gravediggers are dogs because dogs are excellent diggers. The players are mice because their play is “The Mousetrap.” The sentries, including Horatio, are rats because, well, rats look handsome in helmets.

    You’ll see that Hamlet: Prince of Pigs has been stripped of all fat. And tragedy minus many words is comedy. A pared-down Hamlet is a funny Hamlet

    Sample her work at “Hamlet, My Prince of Pigs“; dive into the full comic here.

    * Hamlet (on Claudius); Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2

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    As we wonder what’s behind the arras, we might recall that it was on this date in 1975 that The Rocky Horror Picture Show opened on Broadway.  An import from London (where it ran from 1973 to 1980), it bewildered critics and theater-goers in New York, where it ran through only its three previews and 45 performances (despite being nominated for a Tony and for three Drama Desk awards).  Broadway cast members Tim Curry, Meat Loaf, and Richard O’Brien (who also wrote the book and composed the score for the show) went on to star in the film version, released later that same year– which became, of course, one of the most successful cult classics of all-time.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:50 on 2018/01/05 Permalink
    Tags: characters, , Comics, , gender representation, Gilbert and Sullivan, Pricess Ida, representation, , Women's Studies   

    “Be careful of Mankind; they do not deserve you”*… 

     

    The recent theatrical release of Wonder Woman briefly catapulted the question of female superhero representation into the mainstream. For some, the character is a feminist icon — even Gloria Steinem wrote about her — and many fans (though not all) felt this wasn’t just another superhero movie, but rather a pivotal moment in the portrayal of women in popular culture.

    Why all the fuss? Well, the truth is that the comics industry has had a complicated relationship with female characters. They are often hyper-sexualizedunnecessarily brutalizedstereotyped, and used as tokens. They’re also rare. Only 26.7 percent of all DC and Marvel characters are female, and only 12 percent of mainstream superhero comics have female protagonists.

    I decided to look beyond the gender ratio to see if we could learn more about how females are represented. Using characters from DC and Marvel in the ComicVine database, I analyzed naming conventions, types of superpowers, and the composition of teams to see how male and female genders are portrayed…

    Amanda Shendruk dives deeply into the canon: “Analyzing the Gender Representation of 34,476 Comic Book Characters.”

    For a(n encouraging) look beyond the borders of the DC-Marvel dupopoly, see also “Women in comics and the tricky art of equality.”

    * Hippolyta, to her daughter Diana (Wonder Woman)

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    As we turn the page, we might recall that it was on this date in 1884, at the Savoy Theatre in London, that composer Sir Arthur Sullivan and librettist W. S. Gilbert premiered the eighth of their fourteen comic operatic collaborations, Princess Ida; or, Castle Adamant, an amusing parody of Tennyson’s “Princess.”   Though still regularly performed today, Princess Ida wasn’t considered a success in its time– at least in part because an uncommonly hot summer in 1884 kept audiences away, and shortened its run.

    Hilarion, Cyril and Florian on their knees to Princess Ida, by “Bab” (W.S. Gilbert)

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:22 on 2017/07/24 Permalink
    Tags: Arthur Yorinks, , , Colleen Doran, , Comics, graphic novels, , Maurice Sendak, Presto and Zesto in Limboland,   

    “Childhood is a very, very tricky business”*… 

     

    Picture from Presto and Zesto in Limboland, ©2017 by the Maurice Sendak Foundation.

    Lynn Caponera, president of the Maurice Sendak Foundation, was going through the late artist’s files last year “to see what could be discarded,” she said. “I was asking myself, do we really need all these?” when she found a typewritten manuscript titled Presto and Zesto in Limboland, co-authored by Sendak and his frequent collaborator, Arthur Yorinks. Caponera, who managed Sendak’s household for decades, didn’t remember the two friends working on a text with that title, so she scanned the manuscript and e-mailed it to Michael di Capua, Sendak’s longtime editor and publisher.

    “I read it in disbelief,” said di Capua. “What a miracle to find this buried treasure in the archives. To think something as good as this has been lying around there gathering dust.”

    Not only is the manuscript complete, so, too, are the illustrations. Sendak created them in 1990 to accompany a London Symphony Orchestra performance of Leoš Janáček’s Rikadla, a 1927 composition that set a series of nonsense Czech nursery rhymes to music.

    Voila! So it is that Sendak, considered by many to be the most influential picture book creator of the 20th century, will have another publication in the 21st, five years after his death…

    Happy endings at: “New Maurice Sendak Picture Book Discovered.”

    * Maurice Sendak

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    As we go Where the Wild Things Are, we might send powerfully-drawn birthday greetings to Colleen Doran; she was born on this date in 1964.  A write, artist, illustrator, and cartoonist, she has illustrated hundreds of comics, graphic novels, books and magazines. She has illustrated the works of Neil Gaiman (her drawings and adaptation of his “Troll Bridge” was a New York Times bestseller), Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Joe R. Lansdale, Anne Rice, J. Michael Straczynski, Peter David, and Tori Amos; her credits include: The Sandman, Wonder WomanLegion of SuperheroesTeen TitansThe Vampire Diaries comics, Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and her space opera series, A Distant Soil… for which she has received Eisner, Harvey, and International Horror Guild Awards.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:38 on 2017/02/18 Permalink
    Tags: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Comics, , , , , , ,   

    “If I had to choose a superhero to be, I would pick Superman. He’s everything that I’m not.*… 

     

    The images that pop up in most people’s heads when they think about superheroes can be traced back to the 1938 debut of Superman and the genre evolution that followed. But it’s possible to go back even further, connecting the Hulk to the ancient epic poem of Gilgamesh, and Batman to 17th Century cross-dressing crimefighter Moll Cutpurse…

     Heroic history at: “How Ancient Legends Gave Birth to Modern Superheroes.”

    * Stephen Hawking

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    As we investigate our icons, we might recall that it was on this date in 1885 that Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published in the U.S.   Considered by many to be the Great American Novel, Huckleberry Finn has been controversial from it birth (e.g., here and here)– indeed, the controversy began before its birth:  The UK and Canadian edition came out two months earlier; the U.S. version was delayed because one of the engravers added an obscenity to one of the illustrations: on p. 283, an illustration of Aunt Sally and Silas Phelps was augmented by the addition of a penis.  Thirty thousand copies of the book had been printed before the unwanted addition was discovered.  A new plate was made to correct the illustration and repair the existing copies; still, copies with the so-called “curved fly” plate remain valuable collectors items.

    Huck, as drawn by E. W. Kemble for the original edition of the book

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:03 on 2017/02/02 Permalink
    Tags: Chris Ware, , Comics, first spike, George Herriman, , , Leland Stanford, , ,   

    “Watta woil, watta woil”*… 

     

    Readers will know of your correspondent’s special affection for Krazy Kat and his creator, George Herriman. From the remarkable Chris Ware, an invitation to consider the modern relevance of the work…

    For one of the most prolific and highly-praised cartoonists who ever lived, George Herriman, the creator of Krazy Kat (1913-1944), didn’t like talking about himself. Recoiling from photographers and brushing off personal questions with elliptical answers and even occasional fabrications, George or “Garge” or “The Greek” always preferred the focus to be on the multivalent, multifarious, and multicultural characters who populated the inner world he made every day with the scratchings of his pen. A direct throughline of thought-to-gesture in black ink on white paper, George Herriman’s drawings come alive before the reader’s eye with a vital, persuasive complexity previously unknown in the history of art. Krazy Kat lived on the page—but he—or she—had a secret. And so did George Herriman.

    Krazy Kat has been described as a parable of love, a metaphor for democracy, a “surrealistic” poem, unfolding over years and years. It is all of these, but so much more: it is a portrait of America, a self-portrait of Herriman, and, I believe, the first attempt to paint the full range  of human consciousness in the language of the comic strip. Like the America it portrays, Herriman’s identity has been poised for a revision for many decades now. Michael Tisserand’s new biography Krazy does just that, clearing the shifting sands and shadows of Herriman’s ancestry, the discovery in the early 1970s of a birth certificate which described Herriman as “colored” sending up a flag among comics researchers and aficionados. Tisserand confirms what for years was hiding in plain sight in the tangled brush of Coconino County, Arizona, where Krazy Kat is supposedly set: Herriman, of mixed African-American ancestry, spent his entire adult life passing as white. He had been born in the African-American neighborhood of racially mixed, culturally polyglot 1880s New Orleans, but within a decade Herriman’s parents moved George and his three siblings to the small but growing town of Los Angeles to escape the increasing bigotry and racial animosity of postbellum Louisiana. The Herrimans melted into California life, and it was there that George, with brief professional spates in New York, would remain for the rest of his life.

    But imagine knowing something about yourself that’s considered so damning, so dire, so disgusting, that you must, at all cost, never tell anyone. Imagine leaving behind a life to which you cannot claim allegiance or affection. Imagine suddenly gaining advantages and opportunity while you see others like you, who have not followed in the footsteps of your deception, suffering. Herriman, once he was considered white, didn’t even have a way of voicing this identity. Until he started drawing Krazy Kat

    Read the essay in its remarkable whole at “To Walk in Beauty,” then peruse Michael Tisserand’s Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White.

    * George Herriman’s Krazy Kat

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    As we learn from the Masters, we might recall that it was on this date in 1863 that Leland Stanford, industrialist (and later Governor of California and endowing founder of Stanford University) drove the ceremonial “first spike” in the transcontinental railway in Sacramento, California. (Ground had been broken there just under a month earlier.)  Stanford drove the ceremonial “golden spike,” celebrating the completion of the railway, at Promontory Summit, in the Utah Territory, on May 10, 1869.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:18 on 2017/01/31 Permalink
    Tags: Aquaman, Comics, , , , , Jonathan Morris, Mera, Superpowers, The Whsitler,   

    “As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary”*… 

     

    Quality Comics was not lightly named, with a roster of creative talent collaborating on some of the most-satisfying adventure stories inhabiting the Golden Age racks. Particularly of value was Quality’s roster of post-war second-stringers. While Blackhawk, Doll Man, Kid Eternity, Uncle Sam and Plastic Man made up the top of the company’s weird roster, later additions like The Barker and Captain Triumph were of equally great standards to their forebears.

    Even the short-lived latecomers had a peculiar charm to them, such as The Whistler, a tune-tootling tough guy whose pursed lips could sink ships…

    The story of “The Whistler,” from Jonathan Morris and his wonderful site Gone and Forgotten, where one can find left-behind heroes and villains aplenty.  For more on Jonathan and, more generally, on the topic at hand, see (and hear) the “Superpowers” episode of This American Life.  For more still, check out Jonathan’s Tumblr.

    * Ernest Hemingway

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    As we realize that it’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, we might send watery birthday greetings to Mera, Queen of Atlantis and wife of Aquaman.  While this is her birthday, she made her first appearance in September, 1963, in Aquaman, Volume 1, Number 11:

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:28 on 2016/05/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , Comics, Dave Hoover, , , ,   

    “If everybody was satisfied with himself, there would be no heroes”*… 

     

    The Justice League of America and the Avengers are the top teams in comics, super-groups composed of the most popular, most powerful and most iconic superheroes in their respective publisher’s fictional universes. Jon Morris’ League is… not that kind of league.

    Morris, a graphic designer, cartoonist and writer, has devoted himself to compiling and chronicling the weirdest superheroes from throughout comics history on his blog Gone & Forgotten, which he’s maintained since the late 1990s. Those efforts have lead to a new book, The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes From Comic Book History, which features a full 100 of the most spectacular misfires of the 20th century comics industry, from 1939’s Bozo The Iron Man to 1997’s Maggott, from shoe shill AAU Shuperstar to the compressed air-powered speedster Zippo…

    More merriment at: “Jon Morris on His ‘League of Regrettable Superheroes’.”

    * Mark Twain

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    As we search for a vacant phone booth, we might send exquisitely-drawn birthday greetings to David Harold Hoover; he was born on this date in 1955. Dave began his career as an animator, contributing to such programs as Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, The Archie Show, Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, The New Adventures of Flash Gordon, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra: Princess of Power, The Super Friends, The Smurfs, Men in Black: The Series, The Godzilla Power Hour, RoboCop: Alpha Commando, and many more. He then moved to comics (also teaching at the Art Institute of Philadelphia).  While he’s best remembered for his art work on on DC Comics’ The Wanderers and Starman and Marvel Comics’ Captain America, he also created such candidates for Morris’ catalog as these:

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