Posts Tagged ‘Comics’
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
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.
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…
* George Herriman’s Krazy Kat
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.
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
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:
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
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:
As we contemplate coinage, we might spare a thought for George Joseph Herriman; he died on this date in 1944. A cartoonist best remembered for Krazy Kat, which ran from 1913 until his death, he was never a commercial success; his strip survived via the admiration (and support) of his publisher, William Randolph Hearst. But Herriman was enormously influential, a primary influence on cartoonists like Will Eisner, Charles M. Schulz, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Bill Watterson, and Chris Ware… and no mean wrangler of language himself.
“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)
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.
Just land here, then keep hitting refresh to experience a steady stream of random, but somehow still inspired, silliness.
* Calvin, in The Complete Calvin and Hobbes
As we mix it up, we might send Kryptonite-free birthday greetings to Joseph “Joe” Shuster; he was born on this date in 1914. A comic book artist, he is best remembered for creating (with his high school best friend, writer Jerry Siegel), the DC Comics character Superman, who debuted in Action Comics No. 1 (June, 1938).