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Posts Tagged ‘Comics

“Adults are only kids grown up”*…

 

Childhood distorts your memories in strange ways — everything seems bigger, more extensive, more dramatic. Take the seminal comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes, for example. Much of its 1985 – 1995 run lined up with my own childhood; I eagerly waited for the newspaper (yes, comics in the newspaper!) every day from about 1989 on. When I started reading, I was only a year or two older than Calvin himself, thus making the strip eminently relatable in a way that few other pieces of art have ever been for me. (And make no mistake, Calvin and Hobbes is art.)

Of course, it was an exaggerated version of being a kid — in particular the amount of destruction that Calvin heaped on his poor, unwitting parents. My memories tell me that nary a week went by without some incredible amount of damage caused to Calvin’s home. An article and chart published to the ridiculously-named PNIS (Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science, which claims to be a “part-serious, part-satirical journal publishing science-related articles”) backs up those assumptions, and even puts a dollar figure on it. According to these calculations, Calvin’s destructive tendencies cost his parents approximately $15,955.50 over the course of the strip’s 10 years…

Read more at Nathan Ingraham‘s “Calvin and Hobbes were even more destructive than you think.” (and read the full scientific paper here.)

* Walt Disney

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As we find humor in the hyperbole, we might recall that it was on this date in 1916 that Margaret Sanger, her sister, Ethel Byrne, both nurses, and an associate, Fania Mindell opened the Brownsville Clinic in Brooklyn– the first family planning and birth control clinic in the United States. (The first such clinic in the world opened in Amsterdam in 1885.)  The police quickly closed the facility; Sanger served 30 days in jail.  But she and her colleagues gamely re-opened; and in 1917, Sanger helped organize the National Birth Control League, which would later become the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Sanger (center) at the Brownsville Clinic

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Written by LW

October 16, 2014 at 1:01 am

“…theoretical considerations require that what is to-day the object of a phobia must at one time in the past have been the source of a high degree of pleasure”*…

 

In 1955, in the wake of the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency investigation into the corrupting influence of comic books (and the now largely-discredited but then damning testimony of Frederic Wertham), E.C. Comics, which had been singled out as an offender, inaugurated an “educational” series, “New Direction,” with the series Psychoanalysis.  Each issue, drawn by Jack Kamen (whose earlier work had included Tales from the Crypt), narrated the clinical experiences of three patients in analysis…

The series– realistically recounting the sessions of patients, each cured by their therapists– bewildered retailers and readers alike.  It was cancelled after four issues.  Within 5 years EC publisher William Gaines had shifted his attention completely to what was, in 1955, a nascent side project for Harvey Kurtzman:  Mad.

Read more about Psychoanalysis– see more covers, find precis of the storylines– at “Curious ‘Psychoanalysis’ comics from the 1950s.”

* Sigmund Freud, The Sexual Enlightenment of Children

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As we’re gently informed that our time is up, we might recall that it was on this date in 1936 that neuropsychiatrist Walter Freeman and his friend and colleague, the neurosurgeon, James W. Watts performed the first pre-frontal lobotomy in the U.S.  Freeman and Watts had learned of the technique from it’s “inventor,” Egas Moniz, a Portuguese surgeon who’d performed the very first lobotomy (or “leucotomy” as it’s also known) earlier that same year.  Now out of favor and largely out of practice, Freeman and Watts developed a method that was the basis for procedures– an estimated 40,000 in the U.S.– conducted until around 1960, when the practice effectively ceased.  But in headier days, lobotomies were the rage: Moniz shared the 1949 Nobel Prize for Medicine “for his discovery of the therapeutic value of leucotomy in certain psychoses.”

Site of borehole for the standard pre-frontal lobotomy/leucotomy, as developed by Freeman and Watts

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Written by LW

September 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

“I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark”*…

 

In 1978, DC Comics published an over-sized 72-page special edition entitled Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, in which the Man of Steel and The Greatest team to stave off an alien invasion.

The issue’s wraparound cover shows a host of late 1970s celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Tony Orlando, Johnny Carson, the cast of Welcome Back Kotter, and The Jackson 5–seated amongst Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, and other DC superheroes, as well as Warner and DC employees.  The original draft included Mick Jagger in the lower left corner; he was replaced by promoter Don King.  See a list of those depicted here.

[TotH to Retronaut, via almaar kleiner groeien]

* Muhammad Ali, nee Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.

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As we float like butterflies, we might recall that is was on this date in 1948 that Joe Louis, “The Brown Bomber,” successfully defended his Heavyweight Championship against Jersey Joe Walcott.  The bout between two African-American athletes was a victory over the prejudices of the time.  Louis held his title for three more years before retiring; in all, Louis successfully defended his Heavyweight title 25 times from 1937 to 1948, and was a world champion for 11 years and 10 months. Both are still records in the heavyweight division, the former in any division.  Walcott went on to defeat Ezzard Charles for the title on 1951, at age 37, becoming the oldest person to wear the Champion’s belt (until George Foreman won it at 45).

With Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson, Louis is widely regarded as one of the first African American “national heroes” in the United States, and was a focal point of anti-Nazi sentiment leading up to and during World War II.  He was instrumental in integrating the game of golf, breaking the sport’s color barrier in America by appearing under a sponsor’s exemption in a PGA event in 1952.  Walcott went on to Hollywood (he starred with Humphrey Bogart in The Harder they Fall), then into politics– he was elected sheriff of Camden County, New Jersey in 1971– the first African-American to hold the post.

Joe Louis

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Jersey Joe Walcott

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“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”*…

 

From Portland-based comic artist and illustrator Ben Dewey

The Tragedy Series.  Read it and reap.

* Karl Marx

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As we wander in search of wisdom, we might spare a thought for Pope-elect Stephen II; he died on this date in 752.  He been elected Pope three days earlier, but died of a stroke before he could be ordained.  He was quickly succeeded (also on this day in 752) by a second “Pope Stephen II” who served until his death in 757.

The Annuario Pontificio attaches to its mention of Stephen II (III) the footnote: “On the death of Zachary the Roman priest Stephen was elected; but, since he died days later and before his consecratio, which according to the canon law of the time was the true commencement of his pontificate, his name is not registered in the Liber Pontificalis nor in other lists of the popes.”

Pope-elect Stephen II

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Written by LW

March 26, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The imaginary is not formed in opposition to reality… it takes shape in the interval between books. It is the phenomena of the library.”*…

 

Engraving from the Dell’Historia Naturale (1599) showing Naples apothecary Ferrante Imperato’s cabinet of curiosities, the first pictorial representation of such a collection.

In the latter half of the 17th century the English polymath Thomas Browne wrote Musaeum Clausum, an imagined inventory of “remarkable books, antiquities, pictures and rarities of several kinds, scarce or never seen by any man now living”…

In an age of data retrieval, when just about anything ever printed can be seen online and is eternally preserved there, and when modern anxiety is fueled by too much information, we would do well to remember that the loss of books and artefacts was catastrophic until very recently in human history. The great library of the Ptolemies at Alexandria was burnt by the Romans in the first century AD, a legendary collection of ancient wisdom whose loss haunted Renaissance scholarship. European savants of the 15th and 16th centuries were, in the midst of their astonishing revival of classical writing, all too aware of what was irrecoverable and even unknown to them.

Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) was such a scholar. His vast expertise in areas as diverse as embryology, anatomy, ornithology, ancient history and literature, etymology, local archaeology, and pharmacy, and his participation in the Baconian programme to rescue learning from the misapprehensions and erasures that had accumulated since the fall of man, made him especially sensitive to such losses. Musaeum Clausum, a small tract both playful and melancholy, seems to coalesce early-modern feelings about the unavailability of precious intellectual treasure.

Musaeum Clausum (the hidden library) is a fake catalogue of a collection that contained books, pictures, and artefacts. Such collections (and their elaborate indices) were a common phenomenon from about 1500 to 1700 and afterGentlemen and the nobility collected as a matter of polite engagement with knowledge and as a way of displaying wealth and learning; savants made arrays of plants, animals, and minerals as museums or ‘thesauruses’ of the natural world to record and organise their findings; imperial and monarchical collections were princely in their glamour, rarity, and sheer expenditure: these might contain natural-historical specimens but also trinkets and souvenirs from far-flung places, curiosities of nature and art, and historically significant items. For example, taxidermically preserved basilisks shared room with a thorn from Christ’s crown and feathered headdresses and weapons belonging to native American tribes. Browne takes these traditions of assemblage and makes a catalogue of marvellous things that have disappeared…

Browne’s is one of many examples of this form, the fake catalogue. Donne wrote one; Rabelais included one in Gargantua and Pantagruel. More typically such works were outright spoofs of learned curiosity, send-ups of random assemblages that John Evelyn judged to be no more than ‘indigested chaos’. But Browne, although he recognises the absurdity of some of his own items and is obviously trying for comic effect with certain ones, is probably more interested in a philosophy of antiquities, of the past and of existing knowledge as resurrected and preserved from the ravages of time and forgetfulness…

Read the full fascinating story at always-illuminating Public Domain Review.

* Michel Foucault

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As we engage encyclopedically, we might pause to send imaginative birthday greetings to Jules Ralph Feiffer; he was born on this date in 1929.  A syndicated cartoonist, author, playwright, and screenwriter, he’s best known for his long-running Village Voice  comic strip, Feiffer, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.

Feiffer broke into the trade at age 16 as an assistant to the immortal Will Eisner, who was at the time producing the strip The Spirit.  A couple of years later, Eisner countered Feiffer’s request for a raise with the offer of a page in the comic book version of The Spirit, which Feiffer used to create Clifford, his first successful strip.  His Village Voice strip ran for 42 years, and for most that period, was carried in other newspapers around the U.S. Feiffer’s plays include Little Murders (1967), Feiffer’s People (1969), Elliot Loves (1990), The White House Murder Case, and Grown Ups.  And after Mike Nichols adapted Feiffer’s (unproduced) play Carnal Knowledge as a 1971 film, Feiffer scripted Robert Altman’s Popeye, Alain Resnais’s I Want to Go Home, and the film adaptation of Little Murders.

In addition to the Pulitzer, Feiffer was the recipient of a George Polk Award for his cartoons, an Academy Award for his animated short Munro, and the Obie and Outer Circle Critics Awards (for Little Murders and The White House Murder Case).  He was elected in 1995 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters; in 2004, he was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame; that same year he received the National Cartoonists Society’s Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award; and in 2006, he received the Creativity Foundation’s Laureate and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Writers Guild of America.

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Written by LW

January 26, 2014 at 1:01 am

Standing watch…

 

From Minneapolis’ glorious Walker Art Center, Todd Balthazor‘s musings on the life of a museum guard

Larger versions of these comics, and many more, at the Walker’s MNArtists blog.

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As we wax philosophical, we might recall that it was on this date in 2001 that the British government, making good on an election pledge, dropped all entry fees to 13 of Britain’s most popular government-sponsored museums, including the National History Museum and the Victoria and Albert.  Shortly, others– including the Tate Modern and the Imperial War Museum– followed; and over the ensuing decade, attendance rose by over 150%.

The National Gallery

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Written by LW

December 1, 2013 at 1:01 am

A Matter of Taste…

 

Clement K. Shorter, Vanity Fair (1894)

Sometime editor of the Illustrated London News and authority on the Brontës and Napoleon, Clement K. Shorter was in the middle of a flourishing career when his list of the “hundred best novels ever written” appeared in the monthly journal The Bookman. He doesn’t explain what exactly makes a book one of the “best”, only that he has deliberately limited himself to one novel per novelist. Living authors are excluded – although he cannot resist adding a rider of eight works by “writers whose reputations are too well established for their juniors to feel towards them any sentiments other than those of reverence and regard”…

Names and dates are as Shorter gives them:

1. Don Quixote – 1604 – Miguel de Cervantes

2. The Holy War – 1682 – John Bunyan

3. Gil Blas – 1715 – Alain René le Sage

4. Robinson Crusoe – 1719 – Daniel Defoe

5. Gulliver’s Travels – 1726 – Jonathan Swift

6. Roderick Random – 1748 – Tobias Smollett

7. Clarissa – 1749 – Samuel Richardson

8. Tom Jones – 1749 – Henry Fielding

9. Candide – 1756 – Françoise de Voltaire

10. Rasselas – 1759 – Samuel Johnson

11. The Castle of Otranto – 1764 – Horace Walpole

12. The Vicar of Wakefield – 1766 – Oliver Goldsmith

13. The Old English Baron – 1777 – Clara Reeve

14. Evelina – 1778 – Fanny Burney

15. Vathek – 1787 – William Beckford

And those lucky living eight:

An Egyptian Princess – 1864 – Georg Ebers

Rhoda Fleming – 1865 – George Meredith

Lorna Doone – 1869 – R. D. Blackmore

Anna Karenina – 1875 – Count Leo Tolstoi

The Return of the Native – 1878 – Thomas Hardy

Daisy Miller – 1878 – Henry James

Mark Rutherford – 1881 – W. Hale White

Le Rêve – 1889 – Emile Zola

Read the full story and see the whole list at the TLS: “Not the hundred best novels?

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As we marvel at the power of perspective, we might recall that it was on this date in 1894 that the first multi-panel comic strip ran in a newspaper: “Origin of the Species, or the Evolution of the Crocodile Explained,” by Richard F. Outcault, appeared in Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World.  Outcault went on to introduce the speech balloon in the wildly-popular The Yellow Kid, and later still, created Buster Brown.

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Written by LW

November 19, 2013 at 1:01 am

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