Opus 299 (September 22, 2012). Having vented my political spleen last time at the outrages committed by the Grandstanding Obstructionist Pachyderm—and because the Donkey Con in Charlotte passed Politifact with assertions that were true, mostly true, and/or at least half true (the Ken-Doll Kandidate himself, without any help from the overachieving Paul Ryan, makes mostly false, false, and “pants on fire” utterances at the rate of 42%; O’Bama, 17%)—we return to the usual with reviews of a scad of recent funnybooks including the Occupy Riverdale issue of Archie, Howie Chaykin’s latest affront to decent livingroom decorum, and most of the first issues of the Before Watchmen titles from DC Comics; see listing below. We also say fond adieu to Richard Thompson’s Cul De Sac and to Joe Kubert.
Here’s what’s here, in order, by department—:
NOUS R US
Marjane Satrapi’s Chicken with Plums, live-action flick
Cul De Sac Ends
NEWSPAPER COMICS PAGE VIGIL
Mairzy Doats in Pickles
FUNNYBOOK FAN FARE
Archie No.635 (Occupy Riverdale)
Resident Alien No.3
Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 Nos. 2-3
Black Kiss (Second Series) No.1
Before Watchmen Titles
Nite Owl Nos.1-2
Dr. Manhattan No.1
Silk Spectre Nos.1-2
The Art of Amanda Conner (hardcover)
Eulogies for Joe Kubert
Our Motto: It takes all kinds. Live and let live.
Wear glasses if you need ’em.
But it’s hard to live by this axiom in the Age of Tea Baggers,
so we’ve added another motto:.
Seven days without comics makes one weak.
(You can’t have too many mottos.)
And our customary reminder: don’t forget to activate the “Bathroom Button” by clicking on the “print friendly version” so you can print off a copy of just this installment for reading later, at your leisure while enthroned. Without further adieu, then, here we go—:
NOUS R US
A Smattering of the News that Gives Me Fits
BIG NEWS AT THE BOX OFFICE
The third Wimpy Kid movie opened Friday, August 3, with a respectable box office take of $14.7 million domestically. Not so much compared to the weekend’s big score, $103.4 million for “The Dark Knight Rises” but enough to rank at an un-wimpy third place behind “Total Recall” at second. Based upon the Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney, the celluloid version’s success caps the equally successful sales record of the books (75 million), which establishes beyond dispute the creator and his creation as a genuine popular culture phenomenon. As Michael Cavna at the Washington Post’s ComicRiffs reported, when in 2010, Kinney “got to show off his considerable gifts at writing for the big screen ... the modestly budgeted ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ debuted at No.2 at the box office, and went on to gross more than $75-million worldwide. And the next year’s follow-up, ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules,’ opened at No.1 and achieved nearly equal success ($72.4-million).
“It was in 2007,” Cavna continued, “that Kinney had a breakout year, his books finally discovered at New York Comic-Con. [Wimpy Kid] soon becoming among the most popular series on the playground. And that same year, Poptropica.com—a virtual world for children that Kinney helped develop—rocketed in popularity, and now reportedly has more than 130-million fans.”
As executive producer of the films, Kinney finds the most challenging aspect of “is the time it takes to work on the films. I have a lot going on, but when the films are shooting, it can be all-consuming. I don’t have to be on set, but I like to be. It feels strange to have a movie filming that’s based on your books when you’re not there!”
Cavna asked about Kinney’s current book production. “It’s tough,” said Kinney. “Right now I have to draw for 12 hours a day just to keep up. I’m working on the second draft of the seventh book at the moment.”
Kinney said he loves making films and tv shows and has non-Wimpy hopes to develop Poptropica.com as a tv show someday.
At Time magazine’s back page for August 13, Belinda Luscombe queried Kinney, asking if he intended Wimpy Kid as a kid’s book. Said Kinney: “I labored for eight years thinking I was writing a book for adults that was a nostalgic look back on childhood. Then my publisher informed me I’d written a children’s book. It took me a few minutes to get over the shock, but my sensibilities are G-rated anyway.”
Kinney has said he might have undiagnosed ADD: “If I were put into a college lecture hall right now and told to pay attention for 45 minutes,” he said, “it would be physically impossible for me to do. I’m one of those people who believe that ADD is a gift. It’s tough to manage, but if you can harness it, you can do great things with it.”
Straying afield somewhat, Luscombe asked Kinney, who is a Cub Scoutmaster, what he thought about the Boy Scouts’ policy of banning gay scoutmasters and members. “I think the policy has no place in scouting, which values inclusiveness. The policy needs to change, and I’d like to be a part of bringing that about.”
When he goes to parties where he’s likely to meet authors who’ve sold only 25,000 books (compared to his 75 million), what do these less successful authors say? “When I go to a comics convention,” Kinney said, “I feel like a fraud because I never broke into newspapers, and when I go to a book convention, I feel like a fraud because I don’t feel like I’m a real author, so I think I’m in this strange middle category. I don’t think other authors think of me as a peer.”
Said Luscombe: “You live in Plainville, Massachusetts. Do you think you may be taking this ‘ordinary-guy’ shtick a little too far?” To which Kinney reposited: “Oh, I actually was the guy behind the [town’s] legal name change. It used to be Fancyville.”
See? G-rated. But funny.
MORE MOVIE NEWS
Richard Corliss at Time says the “all-time top-earning movie not directed by James Cameron” was this summer’s “The Avengers” with $1.49 billion, followed by another comicbook-based film, “The Dark Knight Rises” with $941 million. Two of the other top-grossing films worldwide were also derived from four-color fantasies—“The Amazing Spider-Man,” $697 million, and “Men in Black 3,” $622 million. The last of the summer’s top five blockbusters was not a comicbook but a cartoon, “Ice Age: Continental Drift” with $815 million. The triumph of cartoonery.
A NON-SUPERHERO MOVIE INSPIRED BY A COMICBOOK
Iran-born graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi has a new movie out. It, like her previous film, is based upon one of her graphic novels—in this case, Chicken with Plums; unlike the previous film, this one is live action, not animated cartoons. In its August 31 issue, Entertainment Weekly reviewed “Plums,” giving it a B+ but including it as Number 10 on its Top Ten Things We Love This Week, saying: “Eye-popping memories of lost love haunt a brilliant, brooding musician in the melancholic yet dazzling live-action debut.” Interviewed by Scott Simon at npr.com, Satrapi agreed that the film is “an indictment of arranged marriages, as opposed to romantic love,” which leads Satrapi to pronouncements about marriage and love.
Arranged marriages produce the sort of melodrama she has in her book and movie. “The real love story,” she said, “has to finish bad.” Romeo and Juliet? “If she marries him then there is no more love story anymore. They marry and they had a lot of children. Imagine Romeo and Juliet and they have, like, 12 kids. Who would care about their story, you know? Do you think Shakespeare would write something about them?”
Satrapi also believes that a certain amount of suffering is essential to the artistic enterprise. “Sometimes it happens to me that I wake up in the morning, I look at myself in the mirror, and I think that I'm very beautiful. The sun is shining. I'm very, very happy. This day it is impossible that I go to my studio and I draw or I write something. This day I go out, I buy myself a dress, I call my friends, I have some pina colada. I never create. If we are very happy, we would be like cats. We would lick ourselves and then sleep and eat and probably we would be much happier. But we would be cats.”
She is disappointed with politics. “The cynicism that is in the politics, it is not for my soul. It makes me an extremely bitter, cynical person that I hate to see in the mirror, really. And when I make a film like that, I will say to myself, people, they will watch it and they will [think of this country, Iran,] only by beard and veil and nuclear weapon.”
But she has hope for her “Chicken with Plums,” which is available as a DVD through the Iranian black market. Says she: “In this same country, a man dies because of the love of a woman. And if they understand that, I have done my duty. I cannot do more than that. That's it.
THE END OF CUL DE SAC
Richard Thompson, the creator of Cul de Sac, is reluctantly retiring from daily comic stripping, effective in September. The last Cul de Sac will be published on Sunday, September 23. Lee Salem, speaking for Thompson’s syndicate, Universal Uclick, explained in a letter to subscribing newspapers:
“On September 9, 2007, the remarkable talent of Richard Thompson hit the newspaper pages in the comic strip Cul de Sac. The buzz began even before the strip debuted; Bill Watterson emerged from his retirement to praise the strip’s writing, artwork and imagination. In May, 2011, Richard received the Reuben, the Cartoonist of the Year award from the National Cartoonists Society, an amazing achievement in so short a time. But the last year has been a struggle for Richard. Parkinson’s Disease, first diagnosed in 2008, has so weakened him that he is unable to meet the demands of a comic strip. For a time, he worked with another artist, but the deadlines became too much of a task. So it is with personal and professional sadness that I inform you he has decided to end Cul de Sac.”
In accompanying notes and in a subsequent interview with ComicRiffs’ Michael Cavna, Thompson added some details.
“I was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease in the summer of 2008,” he said. “At first it didn’t affect my drawing, but that’s gradually changed. ... I’ve known for a year or more that I was working on borrowed time. My lettering had begun to wander off in 2009, but that could be fixed easily enough. But when Alice’s and Dill’s heads began to look under-inflated last winter, I figured I was losing control of the drawing, too. When I needed help with the inking (the hardest but most satisfying part of drawing the strip)—well, that was probably a tipping point. Parkinson’s disease is horribly selfish and demanding. A daily comic strip is too, and I can only deal with one at a time. So it was a long, gradual, sudden decision. ... Last winter I got an excellent cartoonist, Stacy Curtis, to ink my roughs, which was a great help. But now I’ve gotten too unreliable to produce a daily strip.”
But he considered several options other than outright retiring. “Everything,” he said, “— hiring an artist, going Sunday-only, trying to do the whole thing with Photoshop, leaving blank pages on my drawing board overnight and hoping elves would show up and draw some strips. But none of the solutions I came up with satisfied me. They all seemed to suck the fun of the job. And really, if you’re going to have a job as intensive as drawing a comic strip, it’d better be fun.”
Meeting deadlines proved problematical, but that wasn’t all, Thompson explained, supplying a remarkable insight into his (and most other cartoonists’) creative process: “I’ve hated and feared deadlines all my life — true of most cartoonists, I’ve found. Yeah, I thought about passing along more of the drawing to Stacy. I thought he did a wonderful job inking my roughs. But I was having trouble separating the writing and the drawing. I found that one fed off the other more than I’d realized, that it was an organic process, to use pretentious art talk. Most of the time I’d start a strip with no clear idea where it was going, or there’d be an end without a beginning. And I’d figure it all out as I was inking it, which isn’t the best way to work and would’ve driven a conscientious editor crazy. One reason I hate and fear a deadline is that I can’t finish a damn thing without one, and everything is mutable right up till the last minute. And often beyond.”
Cavna asked him how he was feeling and what the prognosis was.
Said Thompson: “Parkinson’s is incurable, but it is treatable to a certain extent. The treatment combines medication and movement exercises designed to slow the progress of the disease. You pretty much have to run as fast as you can to stay in the same place. ... I need some work. Last winter I took time off for a month of BIG therapy at Body Kinetics Rehab and it was tremendously helpful. Basically it recalibrates your body using big, exaggerated movements and yelling and silly walks. But then I went back to work and slacked off and began to decline physically. This was when it became clear Parkinson’s didn’t mesh too well with a daily deadline. I got wobblier and had a few falls, and I’ve pushed the meds as far as they’ll go. So the next step is something called Deep Brain Stimulation, where they implant wires in your brain, adjust the current and Boom, you’re good to go. It’s a process that takes four to six months and I’m just starting out.”
In answer to another Cavna question, Thompson said he felt a parade of emotions at quitting—relief, sadness, resignation, gratitude. “Relief because I’ve not lived without a deadline of some kind hanging overhead for almost 30 years. Sadness because there was more I wanted to do with the strip that would only be possible with a daily format. Resigned joy because, I don’t know, because it sounds good. And deep gratitude because I fell into this dream job at the last possible moment and got to produce work I’ll always be proud of and made friends I’ll always respect.”
Thompson said he’d probably continuing drawing in some venue or another. “I’m not ready to quit,” he said, “but I’m sure my work will change. It may look like it was done by Cy Twombly using his sleeve.” He paused; then: “Don’t wander off yet! There’ll be a joke after the credits.”
That’s Thompson. His sense humor is indefatigable. Unconquerable. Beyond the reach of Parkinson.
The National Cartoonists Society admires Thompson’s work—his sense of humor, his quirky drawing style—so much that it named him Cartoonist of the Year last year, and conferred upon him the outward and visible sign of its esteem, the Reuben trophy.
“It took me forever to figure out the Reuben,” Thompson said later, “because it’s one of those ‘not in my wildest dreams’ things. But I finally got it: it’s like finding this fabulous object, an artifact of an ancient civilization that’s far in advance of our own, and it’s crashed in my backyard so I get to keep it.”
THOMPSON’S SOMETIME INKER Stacy Curtis wrote at his blogspot that “my cartoonist pal Richard Thompson is a lucky man.” Since it was announced that he was ending his strip, “on Facebook, Twitter, every cartooning site and blog, praise has been heaped upon him as if his eulogy is being delivered by one fan and fellow cartoonist at a time. And I say he is a lucky man because he gets to sit quietly in the back row (alive and not dead) and feel the admiration, the love and respect we all have for him.”
About his adventure inking Cul de Sac, Curtis wrote: “I never felt inking Cul de Sac for Richard worked. It was like going into a theater to see Jerry Seinfeld do stand-up and watching Steve Martin deliver his lines. And that's what it felt like. Every time I sat down at my drawing table to ink Cul de Sac, I could hear a narrator's voice say, ‘For tonight's performance, the part of Richard Thompson will be played by his understudy, Stacy Curtis.’ It was tricky to ink Cul de Sac without imitating Richard's drawing style. Make it look like Cul de Sac without trying to draw like Richard Thompson. (Yeah, my brain still hurts from trying to figure that out.)
“I felt the inking I did was adequate. There were no huge missteps, but at the same time, the strip which beautifully radiated from one source had been compromised by having someone else's hand in it. For Richard, the writing, drawing and inking of the strip was all one process for him and once it wasn't, there was a disturbance in The Force.”
Eventually, Curtis finished, “it became apparent hiring an inker doesn't cure Parkinson's disease.”
Still, Thompson gets to sit quietly in the back row (alive and not dead) and feel the admiration, the love and respect we all have for him.
MOTS & QUOTES
Mark Shields at the conclusion of the PBS coverage of the Donkey Convention said that the Democrats had successfully turned the issue around. It has been assumed for months that the election is in effect a referendum on the Obama presidency; but the after the Dem performance in Charlotte, the election may well be a referendum on the Republican alternative.
“The disease of American politics is to confuse personal history with political history, public relations campaigns with true debate. The result is politics as placebo and a fake history that is one part humbug and the other part hoodwink.”—Simon Scham, Newsweek, September 10, 2012
Go Ahead: Make My Day. Jon Stewart said he has been baffled by why the world and the President as seen by the Republicons bear so little resemblance to the world and the President that he experiences; and now, thanks to Clint Eastwood conversing with what seems to be an empty chair, Stewart says he knows how they do it: the Republicons see an Obama that only Republicons can see.
Thus, one of the Great Metaphysical Conundrums of our time is solved with a memorable metaphor for the Republicon so-called mind.
NAME-DROPPING & TALE-BEARING
WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange is back in the news as Ecuador ponders whether to continue granting him asylum at its London mission. At issue is whether he will be extradited to Sweden, where, it sez here, “he’s wanted over allegations of sexual assault.” True, but “sexual assault” is somewhat misleading. The “sex” was consensual; the “assault” part consisted of Assange’s not using a condom as his fornicating fans requested. Ignoring such requests in Sweden is apparently illegal. And there’s a good chance that the two women lodging the charges are simply being spiteful: neither, apparently, knew he was boffing the other; so each presumed she was his only soul mate.
Wind supplied 57% of Colorado’s power in April 2012. ... During his speech at the Democrat National Convention, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar reported that in the fist half of 20112, for the first time in at least a decade, the U.S imported less than 50% of the oil it used; over the last couple decades, we’ve imported as much as 60% (in 2005). ... My alma mater, the University of Colorado at Boulder, continues to rank as one of the top party schools in the nation: number three in the latest Newsweek survey (after Penn State and West Virginia, first). ... And the same institution advanced from sixth place to fourth in Princeton Review’s “Reefer Madness” list (the most potheads, I assume). ... Previews, the monthly catalog published by Diamond Comic Distributors, is now, as of August, in its 25th year of publication. ... Tom Batiuk’s Crankshaft, drawn by Chuck Ayers, is celebrating its 25th anniversary the week of August 27.
When DC Comics rebooted its universe with the New 52, it annulled the marriage of Superman/Clark Kent and Lois Lane so that the Man of Steel could have a relationship with the Woman of Wonder, aka Diana Prince. This new arrangement commenced in Justice League No. 12, on sale August 29. And this happy-ever-aftering, writer Geoff Johns told Entertainment Weekly, is “the new status quo,” and it will, presumably, lay (pardon the expression) to rest the age-old speculation about how a mortal, everyday woman like Lois could survive a sexual onslaught, however loving, from the Member of Steel. Which, in turn, will give rise to a new speculation and then, immediately, lay it to rest: coping with an aroused Superman is, probably, one of the wonders of which she is capable. Here’s the cover of the culprit Justice League issue with Supes and Wonderful canoodling all over the place. Notice Wonder Woman’s golden lasso has Superman in its loop, which means his lip massage is truthful, a genuine act of affection. They embrace inside, too, after commiserating about how alone each feels. Classic prompt for falling in love.
DROPPING THE OTHER SHOE DEPARTMENT. Peter David, intrepid columnist for the Comics Buyer’s Guide, got in the best last word on the Jesus people who were parading around outside the convention center during the San Diego Comic-Con: “At one point, I walked up to them and said: ‘I just want to say, I have to applaud your total commitment to cosplaying a religious nut. You’re really selling it. Bravo. Well done.’ They didn’t seem to appreciate my sense of humor. So few do.” We do, Peter. Bravo. Well done.
READ & RELISH
“I most certainly could not support Governor Romney, who has been pandering to the extreme wing of my party from the start of his campaign for the nomination. Napoleon said that the man who will say anything, will do anything.” —Charles Fried, Solicitor General under Ronald Reagan
“Every politician wants us to believe that he was born in a log cabin that he built himself.”—Bill Clinton, quoting Robert Strauss, long-time National Democratic Committee chair
Joel Stein, writing in Time (September 10), said the best party he went to during the GOP Con in Tampa was “thrown by the liquor lobby at the aquarium. There’s nothing more awesomely Republican,” he continued, “than eating fish in front of other fish.”
Fascinating Footnit. Much of the news retailed in the foregoing segment is culled from articles eventually indexed at rpi.edu/~bulloj/comxbib.html, the Comics Research Bibliography, maintained by Michael Rhode and John Bullough, which covers comic books, comic strips, animation, caricature, cartoons, bandes dessinees and related topics. It also provides links to numerous other sites that delve deeply into cartooning topics. Three other sites laden with cartooning news and lore are Mark Evanier’s povonline.com, Alan Gardner’s DailyCartoonist.com, and Tom Spurgeon’s comicsreporter.com. And then there’s Mike Rhode’s ComicsDC blog, comicsdc.blogspot.com and Michael Cavna at voices.washingtonpost.com./comic-riffs . For delving into the history of our beloved medium, you can’t go wrong by visiting Allan Holtz’s strippersguide.blogspot.com, where Allan regularly posts rare findings from his forays into the vast reaches of newspaper microfilm files hither and yon.
NEWSPAPER COMICS PAGE VIGIL
The Bump and Grind of Daily Stripping
Brian Crane’s daily Pickles for August 25 had me goin’. I was sure he has the lyrics wrong. When I was a kid, all of us sang “Mairzy Doats,” not “Mares eat oats.” Then I checked Wikipedia. Aha. New information. The song is, indeed, “Mairzy Doats,” but that’s not the end of the story. Written in 1943, the song made the pop charts several times, and overseas, it was a hit with American servicemen. Here’s the rest of the WikiEntry: At first glance the song's refrain, as written on the sheet music, seems meaningless:
Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wouldn't you?
However, the lyrics of the bridge provide a clue:
If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey,
Sing "Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy."
With this insight, the refrain is quite easily comprehended, and the ear will detect the hidden message of the final line: "A kid'll eat ivy too, wouldn't you?"
Learn somethin’ every day, eh? I like Pickles a lot, particularly for the words of wisdom often exuded by Earl, as in the last panel of the daily and in the Sunday strip at the bottom of our visual aid.
BADINAGE AND BAGATELLES
Some, for renown, on scraps of learning dote,
And think they grow immortal as they quote.
Quoted by Edward Gorey in a letter to Peter Neumeyer, in Floating Worlds
CIVILIZATION’S LAST OUTPOST
One of a kind beats everything. —Dennis Miller adv.
ONCE EVER FOUR YEARS, we all sit down in front of the tv for two weeks, enthralled to watch feats of strength, skill and talent performed by dozens of young people we never heard of before, many coming from countries whose names we do not recognize, competing in unheard of sports (BMX? taekwondo? ribbon dancing? hoop dancing?) according to rules the nuances of which are obscure to the point of unknown (and even unreasonable) as enforced and judged by anonymous persons whose faces we never see and names we never learn. I’m scarcely the first to make this observation; I’m actually paraphrasing something I read in (maybe) The New Yorker.
The Olympics. Or is it the Olympiad? Why do we need two words for the same event? “Olympiad” is doubtless a sports writer’s attempt to elevate what have traditionally been dubbed “games” to something more dignified and highfalutin’.
And while I’m nitpicking, Michael Phelps is not the champion athlete of all time. He’s the winingest Olympic swimmer on record. Used to be (when I was a boy) that the greatest athlete was the winner of the decathlon, in which competitors vied against one another in four track events (100 meter run, 110 meter hurdles, 400 meter event, 1500 meter event) and six field competitions (long jump, high jump, shot put, discus throw, javelin throw and pole vault). Points were awarded. You didn’t have to win them all but you had to win enough and do well enough in the rest to accumulate the most points. Athletes were tested on their speed, strength, agility, technique and stamina. Not just how fast they could swim. But we don’t hear much about the decathlon any more: not visual enough entertainment for tv, I reckon.
To conclude this grouchy jeremiad, Phelps has collected a lot of medals because, as one wag observed, swimming fast counts in so many individual, differently-named events.
But it’s nice to see Dagwood (in the accompanying strip) also being victimized by the Olympics while having his hair cut. This is one of those rare occasions when his head plumes are brutalized. Once, a couple years ago, as we see here, his barber even cut them off. Momentous. Comic strip history being made before our very eyes.
Meanwhile, we have also been roundly entertained by the other, merely national, quadrennial competition, our electoral name-calling contest, which, after the first Tuesday in November, will be over, "just like that—bam!—the end." Makes you wonder whether such short-lived sporting events are worth being so passionately preoccupied by.
JAMES EAGAN HOLMES, the only one who was armed and firing off guns during the midnight massacre during “The Dark Knight Rises,” is being evicted from his apartment because booby-trapping the place with bombs is “a substantial violation of his lease,” saith lawyers for the apartment building. I doubt he’s going to be paying much rent, either, for a while; but that, apparently, is not as much of a violation of his lease. Once the eviction goes through all the required legal steps, if Holmes hasn’t sent anyone to remove his belongings from the apartment, they’ll be put out on the curb in front of the building—a perfect place for souvenir-hunters to find them.
I’m calling Holmes “the only one who was armed and firing off guns during the midnight massacre” in order to avoid having to call him the “alleged” murderer.
P.S. His lawyers picked up his stuff. Tough luck, souvenir-hunters.
Toilets In the Sky. You can think about some stuff just too much. The other day, I was having dinner with some friends in a restaurant on the 47th floor of one of Denver’s tallest buildings. After a while, in the normal course of events, I felt the urge and excused myself to go to the restroom. I attended to business, flushed the toilet, and returned to my table.
And then, I started thinking. We’re 47 floors up in the sky. And when I flush that toilet, what happens? All that water and what-have-you goes down the pipe. Down and down. It descends relentlessly, down the pipe, gathering speed and increasing velocity as it goes. At 32 feet per second per second (or some such guaranteed rate of descent), when it reaches the bottom (whatever that is, 47 floors below), it will surely make one heck of a horrendous fetid splash.
Never thought of that before? See what I mean? Too much thinking.
So remember the next time you’re up in a skyscraper, don’t go to the restroom and deposit anything. You don’t want to have to think about the consequences.
Gun Insanity. Remember when, just after the midnight massacre during the opening minutes of “The Dark Knight Rises,” I said controlling guns in this country is so futile a wish that our only recourse is to just get accustomed to the occasional mass murder. Turns out that’s already happened.
Time reports (August 6) that the U.S. averages nearly 20 mass murders per year—since 1976—defining “mass murder” as a killing in which four or more people die. Twenty a year! How many do you remember hearing about? One? Two?
So as a culture—which includes the so-called “news” media—we’re already so inured to mass murder that we don’t notice most of the 20-or-so such slaughters we have every year.
If we can’t control guns, can we control would-be killers? That’s the other “solution” that is no solution. Turns out that the Batman Butcher, James Eagan Holmes, had been seeing a psychiatrist who was so alarmed by what she perceived in his attitudes that she warned the university’s campus police unit that had been established to deal with just such aberrations as she saw in Holmes. But that unit did nothing. Because, due to the restrictions of doctor-patient confidentiality, the psychiatrist could tell them his name.
Probably wouldn’t have mattered. Even if they’d known who he was, they’d have doubtless done nothing. In this country, people are simply allowed to be insane. It’s their constitutional right—liberty and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of how nutty the pursuit. No agency in such a culture is going to deprive anyone of their liberty on the basis of a suspicion that they might be nuts. Only an overt act would justify such a drastic step. And by the time some nut has committed a qualifying overt act, he’s probably the murderer the authorities thought he might become. Too late. Too little. Too bad.
A BICYCLE EVENT at the Olympics is called BMX, which probably stands for Bike Muckup Extreme or some such. The event requires contestants to ride their bikes at full speed down a ramp that consists of a couple sharp, banked curves and a series of steeply inclined speed bumps, large enough to sent the bikes spiraling up into the air. I’m not sure how this exercise in rampant foolhardiness got to be an Olympic “sport.” But it did.
“In Tampa, the Republican argument against the President’s re-election was pretty simple: ‘We left him a total mess, he hasn’t finished cleaning it up yet, so fire him and put us back in.’”—Bill Clinton
Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio, defined the American Dream as “not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay: each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor.”
FUNNYBOOK FAN FARE
What I’m Reading These Days
IN ARCHIE No. 635, the Occupy Movement reaches Riverdale, threatening to present our lovable redhead with a problem unique to the romantic triangle that animates his every waking hour. Veronica, who’s very rich, is in the despised One Percent and opposes what the Occupiers are doing; but Betty, whose family is the nextdoor sort, is sympathetic to the Occupiers. Surprisingly, having established a romantic complication for our hero, writer Alex Segura nearly ignores it: as Archie struggles to figure out what “this protest is all about” (how dim can he be?), free speech emerges as the issue to confront, not the flawed economic system that has produced financial inequality of stupendous dimensions. Freedom of speech is something everyone can be in favor of so it trumps the Occupy issues—handily side-stepping the economic controversy while still airing the grievances on both sides. In short, the story deftly steers down the accustomed middle-of-the-road route that Archie Comics always drives.
Segura skillfully weaves through the tale most of the familiar Riverdale threads. Romance enters the story only briefly: Veronica thinks the leader of the protest, Andy Martinez, is just too cute for words and eventually finagles a date out of him, leaving Archie to (almost grudgingly) agree to a date with Betty. It’s Andy’s mother who defuses the situation: she’s the mayor of Riverdale, and when Hiram Lodge, Veronica’s bigbucks father, shows up to demand that the police break up the protest, Mrs. Martinez soon realizes that the Occupiers have a right to speak their piece.
While this outcome leans in favor of the Occupiers, Hiram Lodge, as a representative of the reviled One Percent, is defended when his daughter reminds him that he “was young once” and built his fortune by “bucking the system.” News to me; but that snippet gives the One Percent a leg to stand on, all that’s necessary while navigating a middle course.
Kevin the Gay gets to make the summarizing speech. Asked what it is about Riverdale (i.e., America) that brings people together, he says: “Riverdale’s always been about more than the One Percent or the 99 Percent—it’s about the 100 percent. It’s a safe place where everyone is welcome.” Whereupon, Lodge apologizes for trying to shut down the protest. And then Mister Weatherbee, Riverdale High School principal, shows up to give everyone a detention for missing class.
The story’s tidily happy resolution of the controversy that headlines it is an adroitly engineered dodge because it sidelines the issue, the economic injustice that the Occupiers strive to remedy. But in avoiding the basic problem, the story also champions an American value, free speech, and by shifting the focus away from the economic issue, we get to publisher Jon Goldwater’s America: Riverdale is his America, and his America is not so much what America actually is these days as it is what Goldwater hopes it will be.
A politically and philosophically sound posture however nebulous his position on the economic issue.
Visually, the book is a typically slick production. Gisele’s pencils render the characters somewhat more stiffly than, say, Don Parent’s, and the faces seem less cartoony than the standard Archie style. But the “standard Archie style” is what the company is slowly moving away from, so I suppose us traditionalists must bite our tongues and suffer in mute askance.
Considering all the pitfalls that dot the landscape for an Archie comicbook trying to walk a thin line between the issues represented herein, this is a remarkably successful effort.
WITH No.6 OF FATALE, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips begin Book Two of their current saga. Herein present-day Nick Lash, the protagonist who was crippled in Book One, is still preoccupied by his infatuation with Josephine, the mysterious time-traveling femme fatale of the title, and tries to find evidence of her in the life of his godfather, the writer Dominic Raines. His chapter concludes with the deaths of a pair of shadowy characters who’ve been lurking around him and a mystery: why is Raines’ safety deposit box empty when it ought to contain something of his legacy for Nick? The next chapter, taking place in 1978, introduces a wannabe actor named Miles who goes looking for a fix that he hopes to obtain from his friend Suzy, whom he finds, smeared with the blood of the corpse next to her but alive, at a meeting of the Method Church, a congregation of perverts. Escaping with her, he wanders into the clutches of Josephine, who has made herself a recluse but now, with Miles’ arrival, seems ready to rejoin the world, perverse though it and she are.
MARVEL’S DAREDEVIL was one of the first comics that I picked up when I started reading funnybooks again in 1973 (the other was Iron Man), so I’ve had a soft spot in my head for the title ever since. DD’s affair with the Black Widow kept me engaged for a while; then I cheered on Frank Miller as he rescued the book from oblivion by showing how comics should be done. But no one on DD after Miller sustained my interest, so I haven’t kept up with Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson and their sundry doings lately. Someone recommended the title last spring, and I picked it up and began reading with No.9. The drawings by Pablo Rivera and Joe Rivera are stunning, particularly their mastery of shadow, drenching the pictures in black, but DD’s battle with the sewer dwarfies and the Mole Man for possession of his father’s coffin and remains didn’t much grip me. I returned, however, with No.12, and that hooked me again.
Mark Waid’s story has DD facing off with Megacrime organizations, using the Omega Drive data, but that wasn’t what got me going. What grabbed me is Chris Samnee’s art. Samnee deploys a simple bold line, unfeathered but richly enhanced with chiaroscuro. And Waid’s story—Matt becoming involved with ADA Kirsten McDuffie—sealed the deal: Waid has revived Daredevil’s human dimension. But in No.13, all that was on temporary hold while DD sojourns in Latveria, where he winds up after being abducted by Dr. Victor Von Doom’s “humble servant,” Chancellor Exchequer Beltane, who wants to find out how DD’s radar sense works. Then comes the scary part, Waid’s startlingly original notion to deprive Daredevil of all his senses, radar and the rest.
In No.14, Beltane subjects DD to a few squirts of a seemingly disabling gas; then stops. DD, happy to be alive, doesn’t realize it until he escapes, but the gas he’s inhaled is slowly destroying each of his senses—hearing, smell, touch, taste as well as radar. He first notices when he can’t smell some flowers; then he realizes that he can’t “taste” the air. The book concludes with a haunting development: DD, now senseless, imagines that he has escaped, but we see what he cannot, any longer, know without any of his senses—he’s been captured and bound by Beltane’s men.
No.15 is devoted to Beltane’s experiments on DD’s body in search of the secret of the radar sense. Daredevil, although robbed of all of the hypersenses that have made it possible for him to function, realizes that his nervous system, which had created the hypersenses as compensation for his loss of sight, is once again attempting to “compensate”—this time, by recreating all those senses. Although barely functional, DD breaks away from his keepers and flees into the rainy night.
He’s re-captured and Beltane’s about to kill him when Iron Man shows up to save him; DD had sent a message to the Avengers to rescue him while he was on the loose the last time. At Avenger HQ in No.16, Dr. Strange and Tony Stark send Antman Hank Pym into Matt’s brain to retrofit it, and by the end of this issue, DD is fully functional again. But Waid has taken us on a wild ride, and Samnee has collaborated to give it a vivid reality.
Waid’s ingenuity is admirable on its own—devising a horror story about what might happen if a man with hypersenses is deprived of all of them; and Samnee supplies a perfect visual accompaniment. Although solid black panels sometimes successfully suggest DD’s sense-deprived state, Samnee adds other imagery as Daredevil’s senses return, or flicker on and off—vaguely scorching shapes and eerie patterns. Seldom do pictures and words blend successfully for such terrifying results.
THE COVER OF the New 52's Superman No.11 sucked me in: “Secret of the Suit Revealed,” it exclaimed. The secret, apparently, is how Clark Kent dons the Superduds. Judging from the revelatory interior of this issue, he gets dressed for battle by magic. We’ve known that since childhood, of course. But now we get specifics. Clark tears off his Clark suit, down to a t-shirt emblazoned with the Superman emblem, and then “the Kryptonia biotech does its thing.” And, presto—he’s fully garbed in his blue tights. Magic, like I said. Some secret.
DARK HORSE’S Resident Alien has reached the end of its inaugural 3-issue story arc with the capture of the serial killer who has been stalking the town in which the alien is posing as a medical doctor. There’s a shoot-out with the doctor alien’s female assistant inadvertently wounding the doctor. Later, while treating him, she reveals that she knows he’s an alien—“not like us,” she says, with a gentle smile. The alien’s ability to mask his appearance works on most humans but not on all, and she is seemingly one of those it doesn’t work on. As readers, we see his alien face—pointy ears, black eye slits, green pupils; characters in the story see a normal human, but the assistant sees only a vague blur instead of a face. So she knows something’s askew.
At the point of the girl’s revelation, the narrative shifts to a flashback, reporting the alien’s arrival on this planet. And when it returns to the alien’s bedside where he lies recovering from having a bullet removed from his leg by his female assistant, he seems asleep. The next page shows that he is dreaming, admiring earth’s natural beauties and thinking, perhaps, that he feels at home there. And he’s smiling. The assistant’s doing again?
This is a different sort of superheroing comic book. Peter Hogan and his artist collaborator Steve Parkhouse have produced a thoughtful story for mature readers. Nicely done.
“THE EPIC FINALE” of Batman’s encounter with the evil Court of Owls occurs in No.11 of Batman, and it’s a disappointment. Greg Capullo’s pencils as inked by Jonathan Glapion continue to provide a pleasurable experience, but Scott Snyder’s denouement is more than a trifle wordy. This issue and the preceding one record Batman’s conclusive encounter with “Lincoln March,” the head hooter, who tries to persuade Batman that he’s his brother, born early and shipped off to Wildwood Home for Children who “suffer from mental illness or neurological disorders.” The Court of Owls found him and recruited him for their nefarious purposes.
For two successive issues, the Bat and the Owl pound each other, Batman getting the worst of it, if we are to judge from appearances (tattered uniform, bleeding face). But throughout the fight, the two engage implausibly in a discussion, or argument, about whether Lincoln March really is Bruce Wayne’s brother. The fight ends in an explosion, a hackneyed device resorted to when writers can’t think of a way to end their tales. March is presumably destroyed, but the Court of Owls, those who didn’t poison themselves, lurks on. And they may show up again.
Meanwhile, Bruce and Dick Grayson have a long tedious conversation about Bruce’s “brother”—not March but Thomas, Jr., who died the day after he was born. More verbiage.
In short, the conclusion to the Court of Owls arc is tediously verbose. Capullo tries with some success to rescue it by resorting to all sorts of visual tricks: the whole fight sequence that takes place during the augment is well done visually, but because the two principals ignore every aspect of the fight they’re engaged in, it loses impact; a camera shifts around energetically during the Wayne-Grayson exposition. But the visual slight of hand cannot mask the fact that there’s a whole lot of talking going on, which means you follow the words more than the pictures, an odd occurrence in a visual medium.
I’m not saying comics cannot exploit their verbal content as thoroughly as they plumb the pictorial possibilities. Complex circumstances require words perhaps more than they need pictures. But it seemed to me as I was reading this issue that there was too much talking. Maybe Snyder didn’t need to include all the conversational tics and tropes.
Or maybe I was just bored because I don’t care about learning of any more complications in Bruce Wayne’s already much abused biography, which we’ve been reading about, over and over, for too many years.
I PICKED UP THE FIRST TWO ISSUES of the Penguin, “Pain and Prejudice,” but reading them was an unalloyed downer. I’ve always liked the Penguin, who, in the beginning (way back then) was a comic character. His physical appearance was the stuff of comedy, not tragedy; but it worked in the Batman books because there was, then, room for an occasional smile. Alas, no more. Ever since the first Batman movie, the Penguin as been a grotesque caricature of humanity gone bad, and in this title, it’s more so.
Szymon Kudranski and his colorist John Kalisz plunge the visual proceedings into the dark, drenching the drawings in black and dark gray, obscuring more than illuminating the tale. Probably if we could see better, we’d be even more horrified and disgusted with Gregg Hurwitz’s story. The Penguin, see, was born with his beak of a proboscis, and as a freak, he endured all sorts of ridicule and derision—enough, one supposes, to turn him into a truly vicious hater of his fellow beings. But he loves his mother. And with apparently good reason: she was the only creature who gave him any comfort at all.
Depressed yet? Enough sickness and insanity for me.
Batman himself, as presently configured psychologically, is pretty depressing; ditto the Joker. In fact, the entire Batman oeuvre seems severely out of joint.
Maybe all superhero tales.
Are there any of the longjohn legions that go about their work with a modicum of joy? Oh, yes—Catwoman.
Where’s Jack Cole and his Plastic Man when we need him?
STAN LEE is not Jack Cole, but at least he can write comedy as is amply demonstrated in his Mighty 7 series, now up to No.3. Corny comedy but comedy nonetheless. The Mighty 7, as you may recall from our copious review at Opus 292, consists of two “star marshals” and the five criminals they are escorting through space when their rocket ship crashes into Earth, landing in a desert where Stan Lee is pondering his future as a comic book writer. In No.2, Stan, taken captive by the aliens, realizes almost immediately this intergalactic ensemble could provide him with a new comic book series, and so, to protect his future fortune, he offers to hide them from local gendarmes. When the alien entourage scoffs at Stan because he’s old, he quips: “I’m not old—I’m legendary.” That’ll give you an idea of the heights to which risibility rises in this series.
Protecting the space fugitives turns out not to be an easy task. The Mighty 7 attract a certain amount of attention amongst the indigenous population, and the 7 often react in extreme ways, making their dilemma worse. Stan blunders on, nothing wroth, blurting out, repeatedly, “What have I got myself into?”
Meanwhile, the title’s obligatory mad scientist, Silas Zorbo, miffed at his failures in the institutional lab last issue, sets off an explosion in his lab, radiating himself and turning, perforce, into a monster. In No.3, he goes to a mask-maker and demands he make a mask like his former face so he can continue to court Emily, the toothsome lab assistant. He christens himself Fright Mask and dashes off to frighten people. When Stan hears about the crime wave Fright Mask is wreaking, he decides to loose the Mighty 7 on the scene thereby making them all rich and famous—“unless he destroys you first,” he finishes his pep talk to the 7.
In case it isn’t obvious, the protagonist (if not the hero) of this title is Stan Lee, and he gets all the good lines. (Why not? He’s the writer.) The persona he adopts for the purpose is that of a schlep hack writer who professes a good opinion of himself with his tongue firmly in his cheek. When he’s first apprehended by the Mighty 7, Asoara, the female of the two star marshals, yanks him out of the car he’s fleeing in, to which Stan says: “Whoa—go easy: I’m an icon!” And: “Don’t drop me: I’m brittle.”
Later, Vallor, the other space copy, says: “Earthling, you are a professional liar.” And Stan reposits: “Thanks. One learns that skill in Hollywood.”
Stan’s self-deprecating comedy is the title’s saving grace. Written by Tony Blake and Paul Jackson (with, one assumes, occasional injections of levity by Stan), the story tumbles along in the Marvel fashion of yore. There are occasional lapses. Once, when Stan returns to his garage where he’s hiding the Mighty 7, he bursts into the place and yells: “What happened?”
Hard to say. The space aliens seem to be simply relaxing, or maybe tinkering with the tv. Vallor has Mercuria in a headlock although, considering her statuesqueness, he may be just groping her. But none of this looks disruptive enough to justify Stan’s yelling “What happened?”
The art, Alex Saviuk’s pencils inked by Bob Smith, is thoroughly professional—slick but stylistically bland. But when Stan orders up new costumes for the gang, the girls’ outfits leave very little of their anatomy to the imagination (because the costumes are so very little)—one of Stan’s libidinous quirks that Saviuk’s visuals adroitly dramatize.
WHICH MAY, OR NOT, EXPLAIN why we turn next to another Stan Lee creation (this time, a solo writing effort), the ravishingly concupiscent Stripperella, staring the eponymous “exotic dancer” (i.e., stripper) named Exotica Jones, who dances at the T&A Gentleman’s Club but who, secretly, works for L.U.S.T. (Legion of United Super Terminators), “fending off villains and defending the defenseless” (as the back cover blurb so eloquently puts it). As you can see hereabouts, her weapons are her 38s, which she unveils to vanquish her foes. (Sorry: the humor in this title is contagious: bad puns and worn-out innuendo—throughout, nearly ever page. It reminds me that Stan’s early life in comics included writing the pun-laden My Friend Irma for Dan DeCarlo to draw.) Modesty Blaise deployed the same weapons: she called it “the nailer”—appearing before menacing thugs in just her birthday bounties, she rendered them immobile in their unabashed admiration.
This is all for fun, kimo sabe, even if it is more than a little adolescent. The story is enriched somewhat by echoes of the Lois Lane/Superman/Clark Kent triangle: Exotica is in love with Nick, the T&A Club manager, but he has eyes only for Stripperella, not seeing, though, that the two are one and the same. Another subplot concerns the rivalry among the dancers, and one’s persistent jealousy of Exotica, who is billed as the best of the bump and grinders.
The square-spined volume at hand from DeepCut Productions reprints at least two issues of the comic book, which, apparently, sank without a ripple. The character also had a short life on late-night adult tv.
The success of the title depends entirely upon Anthony Winn’s drawings. Clearly, Stan Lee’s corny double entendre, while sometimes amusing in an obvious arrested development way, is much too tedious to hold our attention long. It’s up to Winn to save the title. And with his somewhat cartoony (albeit appealingly sexy) pictures, he almost does. Despite the sex in the dialogue and in the concept, the pictures, as you can tell from those beckoning above, are remarkably discrete. No frontal nudity. And while some breasts are bared, we see them only from the side-rear so nipples don’t show (thereby avoiding the cardinal sin of pornography, which is determined entirely by whether nipples show or not; don’t believe me? Ask any manager of a comic-con.) In every other instance, the ladies are covering their bosom with both arms. Very proper these strippers and pole dancers.
SOME NUMBER ONES
An admirable first issue must, above all else, contain such matter as will compel a reader to buy the second issue. At the same time, while provoking curiosity through mysteriousness, a good first issue must avoid being so mysterious as to be cryptic or incomprehensible. And, thirdly, it should introduce the title’s principals, preferably in a way that makes us care about them. Fourth, a first issue should include a complete “episode”—that is, something should happen, a crisis of some kind, which is resolved by the end of the issue, without, at the same time, detracting from the cliffhanger aspect of the effort that will compel us to buy the next issue.
HOWARD CHAYKIN, purveyor of prurient comics, is back with a second series of his notorious Black Kiss. The first series, about 12 issues if I recall, was the Myra Breckinridge of the funnybook world, disappointing legions of salivating peeping tom Chaykin fans because his heroine, as it turned out, wasn’t exactly what various displays of nudity had led us to expect. And it took 12 issues for this unsatisfying fact to emerge, tantalizing us with every turning page. What’ll happen this time is, therefore, anyone’s guess.
In the first issue, we meet two guys, one in 1906 and the other in 1912. The 1906 episodes, starring Abie Gelbfein, are about movies, barenekkidwimmin, and boffing, our visual aid attesting to the latter. The 1912 episodes take place on the Titanic just as it runs into that storied iceberg. Here, the protagonist is a wannabe movie star named Charlie Kenton, who, rather than flee the sinking ship, chooses to stay aboard in order to rattle the bedposts with a sexually insatiable succubus. Movies appear to be the only connecting link between these two goatish conquerors. Well, that and their goatishness.
The other commonality, however, is a display of genitalia that the mores of bygone times prevented in the first Black Kiss books. We have now progressed enough as a civilization that Chaykin can indulge his fascination with peckers, cunts, and copulation without sparing a single visual detail.
The first issue fails to meet crucial criteria for a good first issue: it lacks a completed episode (which would reveal vital aspects of a protagonist’s personality); both 1906 and 1912 reek with mysteriousness so vague that we haven’t a clue as to what is transpiring between pictures of fornication; and the characters, in common with many of Chaykin’s creations, are not likeable enough that we care what happens to them. So why buy the next issues? To see more pictures of cocks and twats and coupling couples.
So How Is This Oft-Derided Prequel Doing?
Comedian Nos.1 and 2 arrive as something of a disappointment. Brian Azzarello has elected to set the action in the Kennedy years—at least, the last of them, JFK’s assassination and Bobby’s bid for political power on his own; and Azzarello’s preoccupation with fitting the Comedian into that milieu as an intimate of the Kennedys prevents anything like a plot from surfacing. Moreover, Azzarello infects all the Kennedy family verbal exchanges with unseemly and therefore wholly unexpected gutter talk, continuing the penchant he so ably indulged in 100 Bullets; but here, it’s too jarring to be effective. The Comedian can swear like a sailor, but when Jackie Kennedy does, it is disturbing rather than realistic. Finally, Azzarello’s penchant for elliptical dialogue—speeches that allude to things otherwise not specified, say—while markedly effective in most of the settings he’s chosen to work in, in these books exacerbate the problem that no discernible plot poses.
The first issue includes a couple of complete episodes: the Comedian conversing with Jackie (suggesting, but just barely, that their relationship may be more than merely friendly), and the Comedian accompanying the FBI on a raid and, in his bloodthirsty eagerness to slaughter the bad guys, nearly getting everyone killed. The two together give us a conflicted personality, both thoughtful and brutal. And when the FBI raid is over, the Comedian hears that JFK has been assassinated, and the man of violence seems likely to shed a tear. But through it all, the Comedian is a thoroughly unsavory personality, not the sort of fellow you’d want to meet again. We’ll keep buying the books, though, out of morbid fascination.
History continues to unfold in No.2 as the Comedian goes to Vietnam just as LBJ declares war on the northern sector of the country. Here we see the Comedian as a crude, ruthless killer—useful on the battlefield but of dubious value on the streets of Hometown, USA. We might be persuaded that his preference for violence is caused by his sense of loss at the death of Kennedy, but he displays a violent tendency before JFK is killed. So we are left to conclude that the Comedian’s brutality is genetic.
J.G. Jones’ art is more than able: he deploys the resources of a visual medium with aplomb and command. And his cover for No.2 may be the most provocative comment on our stupid involvement in Vietnam I’ve seen yet: the bloodstain in the water is in the shape of the country.
OF ALAN MOORE’S original gang of Watchmen, Rorschach was the most provocative to me. A brutal, driven man—crazed even. And he lurked a lot around the edges, it seemed, menacing things, a wholly remorseless (and therefore heartless) crusader. At the end of the first issue of his Before book, we see him without his mask, and he’s pretty beat-up looking. In the opening episode, he disturbs a pervert in one of those private “booths” (little rooms) in a porn shop (an aspect of the porn industry that has probably all but disappeared as the Web replaces some of the old porn shop functions; here, though, the guy uses his privacy to shoot up) and beats the guy up, trying to find out where “the shit” (dope) is. “The sewer,” the guy gasps as Rorschach twists his arm off. So Rorschach goes down into the sewer, assaults a couple of unsavory thugs—but then, a whole gang of unsavory thugs shows up and beats the crap out of Rorschach. Later in the book’s second completed episode, he shows up at a diner for breakfast, no mask, bruised and bandaided, and he explains that he was mugged. “The muggers, they made a mistake,” he mutters to the waitress, “—I’m not dead.” A fairly gruesome prediction of a campaign of vengeance to come.
So far, Brian Azzarello’s story hasn’t explained Rorschach’s origin, which I was looking forward to (and which I thought was the rationale for these prequels), but he gives us two completed episodes and a cliffhanger ending. And then there’s the naked woman’s corpse that provides the book’s opening scene and shows up again halfway through in a dumpster; so far, unexplained. The pictures by Lee Bermejo with colors by Barbara Ciardo are too realistic for my taste—excellent, mind you, but Ciardo’s colors have turned Bermejo’s drawings into paintings so photographic that we might be looking at stills from a motion picture.
WE MEET RORSCHACH AGAIN in the Nite Owl title, and we learn more about him than we learn in his own book. In Nite Owl No.1, Hollis Mason, the Nite Owl of the 1930s’ Minutemen (and narrator in that title), takes on a sidekick, a kid named Daniel Dreiberg, who is a genius with gadgets. The kid worships Nite Owl and uses a tracking gizmo to follow the costumed do-gooder to his lair, where he learns Nite Owl is Mason; end of the first completed episode. Impressed with the kid’s technical skills, Mason takes him under his wing. Then Mason retires, conferring his Nite Owl persona on Daniel, who re-designs the costume, adding a cape and a owlish cowl. After completing a couple years of college, he goes on patrol, flying above the city in the “owl hovercraft” (which he calls Archimedes) and swooping down to fight crime. After his debut swoop, he’s joined by Rorschach, who becomes his partner; end of the second completed episode.
This new team then goes to a meeting called in 1966 by Captain Metropolis, who wants to band together all the city’s costumed crime fighters as Crimebusters—Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre, the Comedian, Silhouette, and Ozymandias, plus Nite Owl and Rorschach—believing that they’ll more effectively fight crime if they can work as a group. (Unless I’m misreading something, Metropolis was also founder of the Minutemen in 1939, offering the same rationale for banding together. So in 1966, he’s trying agan?)
The story is J. Michael Straczynski’s with pencils by Andy Kubert and inks by his father. It’s a powerful combination. They handle wordless sequences expertly, using a succession of pictures to enhance the drama inherent in certain passages. The rendering style reminds me a little of Jordi Bernet (or maybe that should be the other way around, Bernet having credited Joe Kubert as an influence)—muscular, loose linework—but anatomy not quite as laconic as Joe’s manner; the inks are undeniably Joe’s, though—distinctive modeling strokes of the pen.
The Crimebusters fade into the distance with No.2 of Nite Owl, which opens with Nite Owl and Rorschach chasing some bad guys, one of whom darts into a building. When Nite Owl chases after him, he busts into a room outfitted with chains and whips over which a naked woman presides, applying a wooden paddle to the posterior of a naked bound and gagged fat man. A den of fetishism. A few minutes later, Rorschach, following his partner, comes in, stops in his tracks, stares at the woman, and calls her a whore, to which she responds: “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
Rorschach attacks the women, and Nite Owl subdues him. Rorschach goes off, sulking. We see him in his room, remembering his mother, who, it seems, was a whore. He rejoins Nite Owl later to help the police who’ve discovered the body of a prostitute in her room, dead. Rorschach remembers the notorious case of Kitty Genovese, a woman who was attacked for half-an-hour in the lobby of her apartment building, screaming for help the whole time—and 38 of her neighbors heard it all, but no one called the police. Says Rorschach, rehearsing a portion of the same origin story that we read in Watchmen: “No one saw. No one cared. Whores die every day. No one sees. This isn’t the first.”
The night Rorschach heard about Kitty Genovese, he tells Nite Owl, was the night he put on his mask: “Never wanted to see face in mirror again,” he says, “—ashamed to be part of human race. So I’m not. Not any more. Enough talk,” he finishes. “Let’s go hit something.”
Rorschach’s revelation makes Nite Owl think of his own childhood—his father routinely beating his mother, his classmates beating him, and how he learned from his mother the way to survive: find someplace deep inside, she tells him, something you can remember as you’re being beaten, “something happy, something that makes you angry.” And as he watches the first Nite Owl, Hollis Mason, fighting crime—being beaten but always getting up to continue the fight—he identifies with the crime fighter.
Nite Owl wonders about Rorschach, who, he thinks, seems to be two personalities, fighting each other. He wonders what will happen if one of them wins—“and what if it’s the wrong one?”
Both of the partners, Nite Owl and Rorschach, have terrible childhoods; each comes from perverted family life. Are they aspects of the same person?
At the book’s end, Nite Owl returns to the lair of the fetish queen, who says: “I knew you’d be back.”
His return seems more in character for Rorschach.
But maybe not.
OZYMANDIAS is, he says, the smartest man in the world. In No.1 of the title, we meet Adrian Alexander Veidt, Ozy, as he’s reflecting on his past from the perspective of 1985. He was a brilliant kid but bullied in school; he learns dojo and cripples the lead bully. He studies constantly, learns much, acquires extensive knowledge of the mysteries of the Far East. He meets the beauteous Miranda, gets wealthy, and ignores her; she looks for fun elsewhere, finds it in drugs, and dies of an overdose; end of completed episode. Adrian vows vengeance and dresses in Oriental robes, a costume, in order to avenge her death without giving away his civilian identity thereby threatening his corporation’s “swelling fortunes.”
In No.2, Adrian goes after the drug lord, and on the way, he disarms a thug with lightning speed—taking his .45 apart with a few gestures. This act tests credulity, and I’m not convinced. Adrian may be the smartest man in the world, but he’s not superpowered. Still, he moves faster than the speed of light. A secret he acquired, no doubt, by studying the mysteries of the Far East.
After vanquishing the drug lord, Adrian convinces himself that his city needs his services, and he spends hours in “the bowels of the New York Public Library” (he frequently visits the bowels of one edifice or another, a verbal mannerism writer Len Wein overindulges), learning about a 1939 bunch of do-gooders called the Minutemen. They’ve all disappeared, he decides, except Hooded Justice. Adrian goes looking for the missing Minuteman and encounters the Comedian, the cigar-smoking menace in a mask, who promptly threatens Adrian. (Later, they’ll both be Crimebusters.)
The story is narrated by Adrian, and Wein makes him speak in what we are supposed to believe is upper-class professorial patois. Lots of fancy words and locutions. Adrian, however, sounds more like Philo Vance, the effete and snobbish 1920s private detective invention of S. S. Van Dine (who was actually Willard Huntington Wright, whom H.L. Mencken once called “probably the biggest liar in Christendom ... but nevertheless an amusing fellow”). Here’s Adrian on the cusp of some violent action: “My eyes, while appearing barely to move, instead scanned the room scrupulously, looking for anything out of the ordinary ... and swiftly finding it.”
Jae Lee’s artwork, an symphony of fine lines in page layouts deploying circular panels like stained glass windows, is as effete as Adrian’s discourse. Effete art for an effete character.
After his first triumph, Adrian gives himself the name Ozymandias, taking it from a Shelley poem, Ozymandias, and he quotes a few lines: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings, look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.”
I can’t believe that Wein doesn’t see Ozymandias’ utterance for the hollow braggadocio that it is. In the rest of the poem, we see that Ozymandias’ “works” lie strewn around his decaying tomb, smashed and ruined, to wit—:
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Or maybe Wein knows exactly what he’s implying—that “the smartest man in the world,” like Shelley’s king of kings, is but a creature of the moment, doomed to extinction and utter oblivion.
IN MINUTEMEN No.2, we learn a little more about the ensemble’s history. F’instance, Larry Schexnayder, an agent “and huckster” (who eventually married Sally Jupiter and father’s her daughter), was intimately involved in the formation of the group, and its exploits were chosen with a cynical eye to the publicity they would engender. The do-gooders wanted to be well-known. But their first effort was a mistake: the Nazi weapons smuggling operation they thought they were attacking turned out to be merely a fireworks warehouse. This issue closes on the Hooded Justice mystery that has intrigued Ozymandias. Nite Owl and Ursula, the Silhouette, go looking for a missing kid in what is apparently a temporarily deserted fairground, and in one of the buildings they hear someone crying. In a parallel series of panels, we see someone being tied up and abused. Then Nite Owl and the Silhouette come upon ropes and a bloodstained wall and—horrors!—a corpse hanging from the rafters. The implication is that Hooded Justice is somehow involved.
Darwyn Cooke, writer and drawer, handles all of this with his usual aplomb, expertly staging the action and letting the pictures tell as much of the story as possible. The concluding sequence with Nite Owl and the Silhouette making their way through the gloom of the deserted building deftly entwines three storylines: Hooded Justice’s apparent assault on a bound and gagged man, the Nite Owl and the Silhouette’s progress through the building, and, as an overlaying chorus, the recitation of one of Robert Louis Stevenson’s children’s verses, “The Unseen Playmate,” accompanying pictures of a child wandering the empty fairgrounds. The effect is chilling, and it concludes with a shudder—that body dangling from the ceiling.
In No.3, the mystery of the body and Hooded Justice is discarded. The episode isn’t continued. Instead, we watch a flashback to when the Minutemen excommunicate the Comedian because he sexually assaulted Silk Spectre (as detailed in Alan Moore’s Watchmen), and from his angry response, we learn that Hooded Justice is gay. Later in the book, we find that Silhouette is also gay and has taken the rescuing of children as her special province.
ADAM HUGHES was presumably chosen to draw Dr. Manhattan because the big atomic blue nude guy falls for Silk Spectre, which will give Hughes ample opportunity to draw his speciality, a beautiful woman. He doesn’t get much chance to do it in No.1 of the title, though, because this issue is mostly about how in 1959 physicist Jon Osterman wanders into a test chamber in the intrinsic field center where an explosion accidently destroys Osterman and creates Dr. Manhattan. Moore and Dave Gibbons did this much better in the original Watchmen, it seems to me, but they weren’t preoccupied with concepts of time and quantum physics like writer J. Michael Straczynski is herein; Moore and Gibbons were concerned with drama and the human predicament. The book rehearses the organizational meeting of the Crimebusters (again) but dwells on Manhattan’s puzzling about time and how he moves through it. I’m not enough of an sf guy to appreciate the wilder nuances of time travel problems, so most of this issue does not much engage me.
THE PIECE DE RESISTANCE of the Before Watchmen crop is Silk Spectre. Written by Darwyn Cooke and deliciously rendered by Amanda Conner, this title simply sings with all the tunes and tropes of which comics artistry is capable. We meet Laurel Jane when she’s just a little girl, clutching her stuffed rabbit, but after three pages of this, acquainting us with her young perception of the heartbreak of her family life, we leap to 1966 when Laurie is a teenager, excelling at sports. Her would-be boyfriend is Greg, and her mother, Sally Jupiter, the original Silk Spectre, is training Laurie to take her place. So rigorous is the training (which includes a mock attack by Jupiter, wearing a hood and second-story black) that Laurie isn’t given time to canoodle with Greg. After an encounter with a taunting classmate named Betsy (whom Laurie decks), Laurie and Greg run off together: they’re picked up by a van load of twenty-somethings heading to San Francisco with flowers in their hair.
In No.2, Laurie and Greg have moved in with the twenty-somethings (Chappie and Gigi and Eagle) and are sharing the same room and bed—except when Laurie is prowling the night, righting wrongs and doing goods. She’s had a costume made, and she’s assuming her mother’s mantle. Life in the one-house commune is otherwise idyllic.
Laurie is trying to find a local drug lord whose ministrations have seriously damaged a friend of hers, and by the end of this issue, she and Greg are deeply into the Haight scene, imbibing atmosphere and various kinds of intoxicants and hallucinogens.
Cooke’s story is fairly straightforward, but Conner brings to it her usual comedic touches—funny facial expressions on beautiful women, sight gags, and inventive panel compositions. Sometimes she breaks the visual narrative flow with a panel that illustrates a character’s state of mind in exaggerative cartoony style. She’s a master at staging action and in timing passages to reveal emotions and drama. In short, she repeatedly plumbs the possibilities for enriching narrative with pictorial devices. If you want to know what comics can do, read Conner.
Incidentally, her book, The Art of Amada Conner (248.5x11-inch pages, color; IDW hardcover, $29.99) serves up a generous helping of Conner. Its not quite a book of pin-ups, but it’s close: although she can draw men, the “art” herein is mostly (thankfully) women of the shapeliest sort, doing what Conner can do better than most—mugging their way through the pages. I don’t think any of the art was produced expressly for the book: it’s all spot illustrations, covers, some pencil sketches, a few pages from comic books she drew. Conner and her husband, Jimmy Palmiotti, and numerous of her friends and admirers supply biographical notes and comments, accompanied by photographs.
A few pages are devoted to Conner’s very early work, some of which she did as a student at the Joe Kubert school. “Joe told me one of the smartest things I ever heard,” Conner writes; “He said ‘make it so the reader knows exactly what’s going on as if there weren’t any words or text to go along with the art.’” It’s advice she obviously took to heart.
Very few pages to show her surpassing storytelling skills; for that, we’ll soon have DC’s The Sequential Art of Amanda Conner. But in the volume at hand, we have testimony from Darwyn Cooke: “Conner’s work is bursting with contemporary appeal and virtuoso technique but for me, that is the least of it. Underpinning all the gorgeous pictures is the storytelling. When I look at Conner’s pages, it makes me wonder where, exactly, she found this ability she has. Here characters live and breathe in a way most artists must be jealous of. They act and react and inhabit their bodies and the world around them in very natural ways. Each character has their own posture, mannerisms and individuality, all of it underscoring and adding layers to the writer’s characterization. Even the little guys on the sidewalk in the background are distinctive and it is Conner’s genius that she can tell us a story about even these bit players simply by the way they’re posed.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
The table of contents outlines the book’s content: student work, early work, Vampirella, indy comics, superheroes, naughty bits, commercial art, Power Girl. In the naughty bits chapter, we get a healthy helping of the most outrageous superheroine ever created—bad-taste genius Garth Ennis’ the Pro, “an anti-glamorous, low-rent hooker whose world is irrevocably altered when she gains superpowers.” Simply—toweringly—outrageous.
Conner says she had great fun doing the Pro, partly because the character required that Conner draw a range of emotions. But also because anyone “who had illusions of me being ‘just a Barbie artist’ was permanently shut up. Another reason was that I know exactly what spandex does to a body, all the riding up and popping out, something I’ve personally experienced and witnessed countless times at conventions, so I got to put all of that into play in that story.”
Another of Conner’s favorite drawing subjects was Power Girl. “Let’s talk about her boobs,” Conner writes. “It’s funny because the boob thing is always a heated topics. People often come up to me and say, ‘We thought you were going to make her boobs smaller,’ but Power Girl is the superhero intentionally known for having big boobs, thanks in no small part to Wally Wood’s input.”
So Conner made Power Girl’s boobs big.
In addition to being one of the most accomplished artists in comics, Conner is a beautiful specimen of the curvaceous gender herself, so her response to Steve Bunche when he asked how she could draw gorgeous women is not unexpected (but it is surprisingly candid): “Every day when I get up, I see a female in the mirror. I have the anatomy and understand how it all works and looks, including how gravity works for or against it. Let’s face it, like any other woman, I’m very familiar with the geography.”
And this book is one of the best geography books around.
THE BEFORE WATCHMEN SERIES is turning out to be provocative and well-written. It’s not Alan Moore’s masterpiece yet, but it is at least a worthy prequel.
I confess, though, that I’m having a little trouble sorting out all the timelines that are thread through these books. The Minutemen was formed in 1939, and some of the action takes place then. Some of it takes place in the 1960s: that’s when Daniel Dreiberg becomes the new Nite Owl, and Sally Jupiter’s daughter Laurel Jane takes up crime-fighting. Then it’s 1985 (the year the Comedian is killed in Watchmen) when we meet Ozymandias in a nostalgic reverie, remembering his own beginnings and the 1939 Minutemen. His search for Hooded Justice apparently takes place in the 1960s. That’s when we first see the Comedian in action with the Kennedys.
And are the Minutemen the Crimebusters, as Captain Metropolis calls them? Maybe the Crimebusters morph out of the Minutemen. Dunno. But to learn the answer, I’ll keep coming back.
PERSIFLAGE AND BADINAGE
At Zax, a pizza parlor and saloon in Moab, Utah last month, I finally scratched an itch. Zax is one of those “sports bars” with tv screens on all the walls. I can understand why the sound isn’t activated on any of the tv sets: the din would be deafening. And the actual “message” indecipherable. But why not run close captions then? So you can “see” what’s being said. Usually, that’s not critical: the tv sets are showing sports events that need no verbal accompaniment. But on this evening, one of the screens displayed what was obviously a discussion between three sports experts; another featured a stand-up comedian. We could neither hear nor “see” what was being said, depriving both the televised events of any interest whatsoever.
So I put the puzzle to George, our waiter, who had retired after 30 years managing a resort in Steamboat Springs to manage Zax. (Well, I suspect he was managing it: he was too experienced and too deft to be just a waiter.)
Why, I said to George, don’t you have close captions on these tv sets so we can understand the discussion and the comedian.
“What?” he said with a grin, waving a hand at the attending pizza and sports lovers, “—you think these people can read?”
Touche, you might say. But while that may explain the absence of close captions in sports bars, it doesn’t explain the absolute dearth of close captions in airport gate areas where tv sets are usually broadcasting the news of the day.
WE’RE ALL BROTHERS, AND WE’RE ONLY PASSIN’ THROUGH
Sometimes happy, sometimes blue,
But I’m so glad I ran into you---
Tell the people that you saw me, passin’ through
Joe Kubert, September 18, 1926 - August 12, 2012
Remembering Joe Kubert at newsfromme.com, Mark Evanier wrote: “I suppose in private he had other passions but those who knew him professionally knew of two: he loved to draw and he loved to teach.”
That’s what I remember, too. His drawing and his desire to teach. When I was but a callow youth, I ran across an advertisement for a correspondence course in cartooning, and I sent for the brochure. The course would be taught by Kubert andNorman Maurer. Here’s a page from the brochure, explaining the instructional strategy. I never took the course, but I kept the brochure, which I treasure as much for Maurer’s drawings as for Kubert’s and the vivid contrast their styles make between comedic and serious illustration.
Kubert was extravagantly albeit deservedly admired throughout the cartooning profession. What follows are excerpts from what others wrote about him when they learned he’d died. I encourage you to visit the websites mentioned: all of them expandupon the snippets I’ve posted here.
From Bud Plant: Joe Kubert was one of the most inspiring artists to make a career in comic book art. He was so talented that after just a short stint at Harvey and other companies in the early 1940s, he became the artist of Hawkman, the high-profile flying hero in Flash and in All Star comics. He was immediately drawing Flash Comics covers, every other issue, as Hawkman alternated with the Flash. He jumped ship to Avon (Strange Worlds, Jesse James) in the early 1950s to do wonderful science fiction and fantasy work, but soon he was back at DC. He quickly made a name for himself in their war titles and became the primary illustrator for Sgt. Rock. His Viking Prince in Brave and the Bold was just magnificent. In 1961 Hawkman was revived in Brave and the Bold. Joe was tapped to draw the new version and he created several legendary issues. ... Joe continued to have a long, wonderful career. His DC rendition of Tarzan was one of the best ever in comics. His covers set the tone at DC for many years. Then he opened the Kubert School for comic art which has trained hundreds of would-be artists as well as (now) polished professionals. His graphic novels, such as Fax from Sarajevo (1996), were award-winning. He even did a stint drawing PS Magazine, first created by Will Eisner in the early 1950s.
Tom Spurgeon, ComicsReporter.com, August 13: Joe Kubert [was] one of the foundational artistic talents of American comic books and a key figure in comics education whose career spanned parts of nine decades. ... The comics legend portion of Kubert's life began when he broke into the nascent comic book industry at approximately 12 or 13 years of age—the accounts differ, and Kubert himself copped to some uncertainty as to exactly how his career began and when. The story also wavered between whether this apprentice-level work came at the Harry "A" Chesler comics shop or through an acquaintance named Melvin Budoff with a relation at MLJ. Through that contact, or perhaps solely due to his own initiative, Kubert was drawn into the professional circle of artists that did work for MLJ such as Mort Meskin, Harry Shorten and Charles Biro. Kubert's talent and drive made him a studio favorite and got him what low-level work was available; he would continue to work while a student at High School Of Music And Art. It was the industriousness applied in that phase of his life that would become a hallmark and helped make Kubert one of the most successful and prolific mainstream comic book artists of all-time.
The artist's first work for DC Comics came both penciling and inking a massive superhero team story featuring the Seven Soldiers Of Victory for Leading Comics, published by All-American before they were folded into DC proper. ...
Joe Kubert took on the managing editor position at St. John in the 1950s. He, his High School Of Music And Art classmate Norman Maurer and Leonard Maurer (Norman's brother) assembled the first 3-D comic books, starting with 1953's Three Dimension Comics No.1. ... Kubert's first major creation also came at St. John, the prehistoric character Tor—with Norman Maurer. That character debuted in late 1953. Tor is one of the few known characters with a publishing history tied to its creator rather than any single publishing house, and has been in comics offered from Eclipse, Epic and DC in addition to its original home. ... In terms of his creative development, Tor was the first major effort where Kubert provided art and writing.
Mark Evanier, aug 12; newsfromme.com: One of comics' most prolific and respected comic book creators, Joe Kubert, died this morning at the age of 85. This probably comes as a special jolt to those who knew him and thought of him as a healthy, vital individual. Joe drew stories of strong, rugged men and, unlike so many who do those, seemed like a strong, rugged man himself. Whether it was a war comic, a super-hero comic, a comic about a caveman or his acclaimed run on Tarzan, Joe had a way of imbuing the work with a kind of four-color testosterone. No one did male better.
Everyone loved Joe. Everyone respected Joe. He was among a handful of artists whose speed and natural ability caused others to gape and express their envy. One year at the Comic-Con in San Diego (the same mid-seventies con where I took the above photo), Joe was asked to do a drawing for a charity art auction. He stepped up to an easel with a big, yard-high piece of drawing paper on it. He picked up a box of pastel chalks. He turned to the easel—and in under a minute, there was this drawing there of Hawkman. It was an incredible, detailed drawing that might have taken another artist an hour and been a third as good. Other artists working on nearby easels stopped and blinked in amazement.
It didn't always come that easy for Joe. In later years, he worked hard and long on a number of graphic novels, including his award-winning Fax from Sarajevo. He wasn't struggling because of his advanced age. He could draw just as fast as ever, he said. But as he tackled more serious, personal subjects, it became that much more important to get the work right. He always did.
At ComicRiffs, Michael Cavna quotes Paul Levitz about Kubert: "Joe was a host of superlatives: More covers over more years than any DC artist—or maybe any comics artist; more brilliant work in more genres; more students taught who became great artists in their own right and their own styles. And through it all, exclaiming how lucky he was to be able to spend his life this way." Cavna quotes other professionals, too—Scott McCloud, Craig Yoe, Mark Evanier, Frank Cho, Mark Waid, Stan Lee.
Kubert biographer Bill Schelly at tcj.com quotes Neal Adams (from Comic-Book Profiles No.1, 1998): “It's one thing to be a comic book artist, and it's another to be a man and be a comic book artist, and Joe is that. Since I've been in the field, I've discovered that there are very few in the comic book business that you really can respect wholeheartedly. Joe is one of those.” Schelly continues on his own: “Joe Kubert will be remembered for his sinewy, passionate drawing and his consummate storytelling skills. He brought a noir element to mainstream super hero comics (with Hawkman in 1961), and influenced many artists including Neal Adams, Frank Miller, Jordi Bernet, Steve Ditko, Jacques Tardi and Billy Tucci. He will also be remembered as an educator, an innovator and a Jewish artist of consequence. Few can match the length and breadth of his contributions to the graphic story medium.
“From 1955 to 1959,” Schelly continues, “Kubert teamed up with editor-writer Robert Kanigher on the DC war comics and on Viking Prince in The Brave and the Bold. The Kanigher/Kubert Sgt. Rock of Easy Company was introduced in 1959, and became one of the most successful new Silver Age characters from DC. ... Most of his work was in the war comics through the 1960s, notably on Sgt. Rock and Enemy Ace, the German World War I flying ace.
Karen Berger at vertigocomics.com sums up the man and the talent: Joe Kubert had a special kind of life-force. Certainly, he was a gifted artist and master storyteller, but it was his integrity, passion, kindness, and strong sense of conviction that I'll remember most. He was like family.
Joe was one of our medium's true pioneers. Drawing since he was old enough to hold a piece of chalk, he started professionally illustrating at age 12 and never stopped. Over seven decades, he had drawn scores of memorable characters for many companies, but primarily for DC: most notably Hawkman, Tarzan, Enemy Ace, Batman, The Flash; he was also co-creator of Sgt. Rock, Ragman and creator of Tor. In addition, Joe was DC's Editorial Director from 1967-1976, and soon after leaving staff, he founded with his wife Muriel the cartooning school that bears his name. The Kubert School is the only full-time accredited college devoted to comics, and has graduated many of our industry's finest artists. Most special to me, were those first few graduating classes, with Steve Bissette, John Totleben, Rick Veitch and Tom Yeates, amazing creative talents and longtime friends of mine.
While Joe was expanding the Kubert School and teaching full-time, he was still drawing full-time. And in the years to come, he created his most personal works: Abraham Stone, Fax from Sarajevo, Jew Gangster, Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965, and for me his masterpiece, Yossel: April 19, 1943. Joe's family emigrated from Poland when he was a baby and Yossel is the tragic, inspiring and all-too-real story of what might have been if they had never left. Reproduced entirely from Joe's pencil art, the emotion and vitality of Joe's work has never been as effective, enduring and heart-stopping.
Kubert is survived by his five children and numerous grandchildren. His wife Muriel passed away in 2008.
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