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Posts Tagged ‘comic strips

“Having lost sight of our objectives, we redoubled our efforts”*…

 

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During the 1950s, Walt Kelly created the most popular comic strip in the United States. His strip was about an opossum named Pogo and his swamp-dwelling friends. It was also the most controversial and censored of its time. Long before Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury blurred the lines between the funny pages and the editorial pages, Kelly’s mix of satiric wordplay, slapstick, and appearances by Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Nikita Khrushchev, J. Edgar Hoover, and the John Birch Society, all in animal form, stirred up the censors.

Taking place in a mythic Okefenokee Swamp, Pogo satirized the human condition as well as McCarthyism, communism, segregation, and, eventually, the Vietnam War. The strip is probably best remembered today for Pogo’s environmentalist’s lament, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Pogo was syndicated from 1949-1975, reaching its peak readership of about 37 million readers in the mid-1950s, when it was carried by 450 newspapers. The strip’s popularity put editors and publishers opposed to Kelly’s content in a pickle…

A story of sly satire: “The Most Controversial Comic Strip.”

* Walt Kelly

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As we agree with Pogo’s friend Porky Pine “Don’t take life so serious, son, it ain’t nohow permanent,” we might recall that on this date in 1859, Norton I distributed letters to the newspapers of San Francisco proclaiming himself Emperor of North America…

At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last 9 years and 10 months past of S. F., Cal., declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these U. S.; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the 1st day of Feb. next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity.

– NORTON I, Emperor of the United States.

180px-Emperor_Joshua_A._Norton_I

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Written by LW

September 17, 2018 at 1:01 am

“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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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

The Truth, Some of the Truth, Some of the Time…

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“The problem with Internet quotations is that many are not genuine.”
– Abraham Lincoln

from Clayton Cramer, via Tomorrow Museum.

As we engage the elements of epistemology, we might recall that it was on this date in 1937 that Hal Foster debuted his long-running comic strip Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur, or more familiarly Prince Valiant.  Foster had earlier distinguished himself drawing Tarzan; when he pitched his original idea to William Randolph Hearst, the baron was so impressed that he (uncharacteristically) gave Foster full ownership of the strip.

The Arthurian saga is clearly meant to take place in the mid-Fifth century, but Foster juiced both the story and its setting with anachronistic elements: Viking longships, Muslims, alchemists and technological advances not made before the Renaissance all play roles; while many of the the fortifications, armor and armament used are from the High Middle Ages.

The strip continues to this day, now in the hands of Mark Schultz and Gary Gianni… and is available on the verisimilitudinally-challenged internet.

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B.C. (and H.)…

Readers will recall that before the exquisite Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson drew political cartoons

Before that, he drew for his college newspaper, The Kenyon Collegian

These and more, from every stage of Watterson’s wonderful career, at Rare Bill Watterson Art.

As we remember that this was why we used to subscribe to newspapers, we might send birthday smiles to another Ohioan, humorist and cartoonist James Thurber; he was born (in Columbus) on this date in 1894.

Q. No one has been able to tell us what kind of dog we have. I am enclosing a sketch of one of his two postures. He only has two. The other one is the same as this except he faces in the opposite direction. – Mrs EUGENIA BLACK

A. I think that what you have is a cast-iron lawn dog. The expressionless eye and the rigid pose are characteristic of metal lawn animals. And that certainly is a cast-iron ear. You could, however, remove all doubt by means of a simple test with a hammer and a cold chisel, or an acetylene torch. If the animal chips, or melts, my diagnosis is correct.

The Thurber Carnival (1945)

…Then he must be the Mark Twain of comic strips…

“If there is a Huckleberry Finn of comic strips, this is it”
– Lee Salem, President of Universal Press Syndicate (as quoted here)

It’s been 15 years since Bill Watterson decided to retire “the terrible tyke” and his tiger.  Now thanks to Cleveland.com, the first interview with Calvin’s creator since 1989.

There’s even a peek at some of Watterson’s pre-strip work as an editorial cartoonist.  For instance:

As we await the commemorative stamp that’s due out this summer, we might recall that it was on this date in 1957 that the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus (SSN-571), logged its 60,000th nautical mile– thus matching the endurance of the fictional Nautilus described by Jules Verne in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The imitator

The inspiration

A Fiorello LaGuardia for our times…

The decline of the daily press in the U.S. is a problem of many dimensions— among them, the question of the funny papers:  if newspapers fail, where will one get one’s comic strips?  The likely answer, one reckons, is the web…  and happily, there are several sites featured earlier in (R)D– e.g., here— stepping into the breech.

But what of history?  Where will one find the best strips of the past?  Happily, the web is responding here too.  Mr. ilovecomix (Steve Cottle) has created a wonderful archive of daily and weekly strips from throughout the history of the comics.

From the sublime…

Click to access a larger format

to the ridiculous…

click for access to a larger format

Visit ilovecomix and revel in the ink!

As we choke back our chortles, we might remark that this is the birthday (1815) of George Boole, the British mathematician and philosopher who developed what’s now known as Boolean Algebra (Boolean Logic) and was one of the fathers of symbolic logic… thus was (with an eye to each of those contributions), a central contributor to the foundation on which all of modern computing is based…  and thus, on which the web (if not the narrative logic of the comics it makes available) depends.

George Boole

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