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Posts Tagged ‘comic books

“It’s a shame that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day is work”*…

 

faulknermail

In 1921, 24-year-old William Faulkner had dropped out of the University of Mississippi (for the second time) and was living in Greenwich Village, working in a bookstore—but he was getting restless. Eventually, his mentor, Phil Stone, an Oxford attorney, arranged for him to be appointed postmaster at the school he had only recently left. He was paid a salary of $1,700 in 1922 and $1,800 in the following years, but it’s unclear how he came by that raise, because by all accounts he was uniquely terrible at his job. “I forced Bill to take the job over his own declination and refusal,” Stone said later, according to David Minter’s biography. “He made the damndest postmaster the world has ever seen.”

Faulkner would open and close the office whenever he felt like it, he would read other people’s magazines, he would throw out any mail he thought unimportant, he would play cards with his friends or write in the back while patrons waited out front. A comic in the student publication Ole Miss in 1922 showed a picture of Faulkner and the post office, calling it the “Postgraduate Club. Hours: 11:30 to 12:30 every Wednesday. Motto: Never put the mail up on time. Aim: Develop postmasters out of fifty students every year.”…

Happily, he had other talents. The curious story in its entirety: “William Faulkner was really bad at being a postman.”

For a more successful literary postman, consider Anthony Trollope or Benjamin Franklin.

* William Faulkner

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As we ponder the post, we might send grudging birthday greetings to Harvey Pekar; he was born on this date in 1939.  Frequently called “the poet laureate of Cleveland,” he was an underground comic book writer, music critic, and media personality,  best known for his autobiographical American Splendor comic series, drawn by R. Crumb and a series of other extraordinary artists, and for the 2003 film adaptation it inspired.

Pekar source

 

Written by LW

October 8, 2018 at 1:01 am

“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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“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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“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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Written by LW

May 14, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Words and pictures are yin and yang. Married, they produce a progeny more interesting than either parent.”*…

 

Comic Republic, a Nigerian comics startup based in Lagos, is creating a universe of superheroes for Africans and black readers around the world. The cast of characters—”Africa’s Avengers” according to some fans—ranges from Guardian Prime, a 25-year old Nigerian fashion designer by day who uses his extraordinary strength to fight for a better Nigeria, to Hilda Avonomemi Moses, a woman from a remote village in Edo state who can see spirits, and Marcus Chigozie, a privileged but angry teenager who can move at supersonic speeds…

More about what’s up– and why– at “A Nigerian comics startup is creating African superheroes.”

* Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

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As we look! up in the sky!, we might recall that it was on this date in 1947 that DC Comics published Sensation Comics #63, featuring the classic Wonder Woman story “The Wall of Doom,” in which Professor Vibrate uses sound to render victims unconscious as he robs banks.

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Written by LW

January 20, 2016 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

source

 

Written by LW

September 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

Holy Huffmobile, Batman!…

From the first appearance of the Caped Crusader’s wheels…

Before the familiar bat-finned cars, the title "Batmobile" was first used on a red convertible in Detective Comics #48 in February 1941. Most of the design was based on the 1936 Cord, though the nose of the car looked more like that of a Lincoln or similar car. The bat mask did not exist yet, but the car did sport a small "bat" hood ornament. Several "Proto-Batmobiles" had appeared in comics by this point, though this was was the first to use the name. It was also the last car used before the now famous Batmobiles with the bat-masks and roof fins.

…to the most recent…

From Batman, The Return (2011, though reminiscent of "The Tumbler" from Christopher Nolan's 2005 film Batman Begins)

… there have been 110 different models of The Batmobile (so far).  One can explore them all at BatmobileHistory.com. (And check them out in infographic form at SyFy’s Blastr.)

 

As we search the night skies for the Batsignal, we might pause to celebrate the most popular Batmobile of all– Adam West’s regal ride in the hit series which premiered on ABC on this date in 1966:

Custom car builder George Barris decided to use the Ford Motor Company's abandoned Futura concept car as a basis for what would go on to become one of the most famous cars in the world. The car featured an impressive array of bat-gadgets. In addition to the "atomic turbine engine" (the car was actually powered by a blueprinted Ford V8), the car had a nose-mounted chain slicer, lasers, rockets, an on-board telephone, radar, dash monitor, on-board computer, and police beacon. If needed, the Batmobile is capable of a quick 180° "bat-turn" thanks to two rear-mounted 10' parachutes, and the it is equipped with a smoke emitter and a nail spreader to discourage pursuit.


 

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