Archive | General News

Welcome to Our World!

Bellabirth

Please join us in welcoming Bella Elinor Heer, the latest citizen of Canada and the world. She joined us on Wednesday, April 20th at 1:22 pm, weighing six pounds, three ounces.

The proud parents are our friends, comics historian and writer Jeet Heer and Robin Ganev. In this photo, the lovely dress Bella’s wearing is a gift from Françoise Mouly and art spiegelman.

The Hall of Fame

Included in the new Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide are pages honoring each of the 2011 inductees in The Overstreet Hall of Fame presented by Geppi’s Entertainment Museum. I’m truly humbled to be among this year’s inductees, along with Jack Davis, Martin Goodman, Marie Severin, Water Simonson, and Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson.

The official press release states, “The Overstreet Hall of Fame was conceived to single out individuals who have made great contributions to the comic book arts. This includes writers, artists, editors, publishers and others who have plied their craft in insightful and meaningful ways.”

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The Distinctive Taste of Champagne

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Our Champagne Edition releases are bubbling up all sorts of interesting results.

The first of these oversized releases—Polly and Her Pals, Volume 1—is clearly the biggest, brightest reprint showcase ever to contain the antics of the Perkins clan. Jeet Heer and the crack Library of American Comics research team dug deeper than anyone has previously dug and the result was Jeet’s lengthy biographical essay, presenting the most comprehensive look ever atPolly and the strip’s creator, cartoonist Cliff Sterrett. Jeet’s text presents readers with more information about Sterrett—his boyhood, interests, family, friendships, and background—than has ever been available before. The book’s introduction, by artistic luminary P. Craig Russell, is the cherry atop the sundae.

The combination of Sterrett’s brilliant Sunday pages, Jeet’s prose, and Craig’s insightful intro helped Polly and Her Pals earn two Eisner Award nominations this year…and our next Champagne Edition release looks to be equally special.

We’re deep into the preparation of our inaugural Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim release, runningJim as the “topper” to Flash, just as King Features designed them to appear when the syndicate launched both in January 1934. The two strips have never been reprinted together in this manner for the span of their Raymond-era run, and they also benefit from the 12″ x 16″ Champagne size and the detailed color restoration work LOAC production personnel are currently doing.

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In addition, we have once again succeeded in uncovering new, heretofore unreported information about the men behind the imagery. I’ve written seven thousand words for Flash/Jim Vol. 1, including the first-ever detailed biography of Don Moore, who provided the text that accompanied Alex Raymond’s often-breathtaking visuals.

My features don’t answer all the questions, as you’ll see when you read them. We have, however, reached out to the pulp-fan community and been fortunate to receive invaluable research assistance from historian John Locke. Together, John and I pieced together a portrait that includes a U.S. Marshall in Iowa; a boyhood trip to London; the Sells-Floto Circus; a rebellion in the quaint little town of Cooperstown, New York; the befriending of Navy SEALS; and unfortunately, a tragic suicide. If a mix like that doesn’t whet your appetite, you might want to check your pulse…

The first in our four-volume Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim series will be on sale this fall. Like Polly and Her Pals, it offers that distinctive taste of Champagne to LOAC readers.

San Diego Comicon

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It’s that time of year again so we’re off to San Diego and four days of non-stop action. Whoo-boy, hold on to your hats.

I’ll be at the IDW booth (2643) most of the time, so stop by and say hello. We’ll have advance copies of our latest artbook: CANIFF. I also have a busy schedule of panels. Join Chester Brown and me on the Little Orphan Annie panel, 5:30-6:30pm, room 8. I’ll also be on the IDW Special Projects and Imprints panel (11:00am-noon, room 24 ABC) talking about some of our upcoming books (Flash Gordon, Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was, and more!).

I’m also privileged to participate in two panels very dear and important to me.

On Friday, I will help pay tribute to the beloved Gene Colan (noon-1:00pm, room 24ABC), joining Marv Wolfman, Roy Thomas, Glen David Gold, Andrew Farago, and Mark Evanier. Gene and I first worked together way back in 1979 when he pencilled (and Tom Palmer inked) Steve Gerber’sStewart the Rat graphic novel.

On Saturday I have the pleasure to get together with Jenny Robb, Gary Groth, Trina Robbins, and Andrew Farago to commemorate our great friend, Bill Blackbeard (11:30am-12:30pm, room 24ABC).

I’ll also be at the Eisner Awards among friends, including the ever lovely Diana Schutz, and Ted Adams and the IDW gang. LOAC’s s nominated for three awards: Polly and Her Pals and Archieare pitted against each other in the Best Archival Comic Strip category, and Lorraine Turner and yours truly are nominated for Best Publication Design for Polly.

See you there, folks!

 

Utilitarian? Maybe. Hooded? No Longer!” (part three of three)

The Hooded Utilitarian website is gathering votes to name the top ten favorite comics of all time. I’ve narrowed the focus of their request for ten-best lists to this concept:

Which works would I select as the top representatives of the artform, works that resonate with seasoned readers within the medium yet can also serve “hook” a comics neophyte?

Feel free to use our archives to see the first seven selections on my list, which I’m rolling out alphabetically by creator—or, if you’re the devil-may-care type, simply dive in to see my final three choices…

8) Hadashi no Gen, by Keiji Nakazawa

Better known here in America as Barefoot Gen, this “cartoon story of Hiroshima” portrays Japanese life before, during, and after the atomic bombing of that city, which helped end the Second World War. Nakazawa lived through that event as a seven-year-old boy, and his anti-war message still rings true today, while Japan’s contemporary nuclear trouble in the wake of earthquake and tsunami destruction, remind us that though circumstances differ, history’s mistakes Are endlessly repeated by those who fail to learn from them.HU8_Nakajima

9) Maus, by Art Spiegelman

What can I say about Spiegelman’s masterwork that has not been better said before? Like Gen,Maus is an account of the harrowing nature of war (this time, the Nazi pogroms of WW II); it is also the story of the often-strained relationship between a father and his son. It’s a powerful work, one that has subsequently been taught in high school and university curricula and won numerous awards, most prestigious among them the Pulitzer Prize.

It seems impossible to fathom a “Best Comics” list of any sort that does not include Maus on it.

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10) Calvin & Hobbes, 1985 – 1995, by Bill Watterston  

Newspapers had shrunk the comic strips to postage-stamp size, and the common complaint was that there was no room left for sufficient lettering to tell a nuanced story, or to provide artwork that was much more advanced than stick figures.

Then Bill Watterson gave us Calvin and Hobbes and showed us all that the daily comic strip was still breathing, though it took an uncommon talent like his to sustain it.

The storytelling in Calvin is so deftly assured, the characters so believable and endearing, the situations so inspired, it is impossible for me to conceive of the person who does not love Calvin and Hobbes. What I’m now hoping is that enough voters will remember this outstanding strip when they make their selections …

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If you haven’t already visited The Hooded Utilitarian, you’ll find full details about their Top Ten project here.

It’ll be interesting to see the contents of the final list, won’t it? As the old saying goes: time will tell…

 

 

Remembering Lew Sayre Schwartz

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There are tears in my eyes as I begin this, a notice I would wish never to write.

Lew Sayre Schwartz has passed away at age eighty-four.

I read the headline; it took me several moments to realize the loud, sorrowful cry filling the room was my own. As I type this sentence, I am three hours away from a week-long trip abroad, and I had a long list of things to do before driving to the airport. A key item on my list was to call Lew and arrange a time when we could next get together.

We had spoken in May and I was rushing against a deadline, and Lew said he needed one of ourRip Kirby volumes, so I told him I would get that for him, then come out for a visit as soon as I got the book and delivered the piece I was writing.

I have the book and I met the deadline, but it hurts me so, so much to know I’m too late for the visit.

* * * * *

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Lew found us through the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State. He had acquired our first Terry and the Pirates releases and contacted Jenny Robb at the Cartoon Library, asking her if she had contact information for us. Jenny passed his message along to Dean and after a few exchanges of e-mails and phone calls, in the process learning that Lew resided in a town slightly more than an hour’s drive from where I live, Dean and I got together to make our first trip to Lew’s.

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He and his wife Barbara were welcoming and gracious, the perfect hosts in every way. Lew showed us the adaptation of Moby Dick he had created with Dick Giordano, and was generous in praising our efforts on Terry, and delighted to hear about our then-upcoming Scorchy Smith and The Art of Noel Sickles. He shared with us his own collection of Sickles material, accumulated through the years, and he loaned us a copy of his 1981 film tribute to Milton Caniff, Reflections of an Armchair Marco Polo, which is must-viewing for any Caniff devotee. It had Dean and me babbling excitedly to one another after we had each had the opportunity to view it. More than a year later, while writing the final essay for Terry Volume 6, the closing narration from Reflections, which Lew had written for Walter Cronkite to deliver, seemed the perfect coda. After he saw the book in early 2009, Lew never failed to tell me how much enjoyment he took in having the final word, as it were, in our series. It was my great pleasure to give it to him.

After that initial visit, I phoned Lew often and visited his and Barbara’s home close to a half-dozen times, breaking bread with them on two occasions. Whenever I walked through their door I was treated with kindness and I learned a great deal, as Lew told stories from his days at King Features and his later work in film. He passed along anecdotes from his face-to-face encounters with the Caniffs, Raymonds, and Sickleses of the comic strip firmament; he showed me the works he had collected by the likes of Roy Crane. I would bring him our latest releases, and he was always unfailing in his praise of our work. During another visit, either in fall of 2009 or springtime of 2010, Lew surprised me with a gift of his own—a copy of DC’s hardcover Batman Annualsreprints, which included stories he had drawn in his days as the first of Bob Kane’s ghost artists. A connection to Batman is another thread Lew and I shared, since I wrote a handful of Bat-stories in the late 1990s. He was always proud of the fact no less a talent than Eddie Campbell publicly praised his Batman work, and it is fitting that Eddie produced the industry’s tribute to Lew, which can be found here.

Lew Sayre Schwartz was a fine artist and writer, an award-winning filmmaker, and an enthusiastic ambassador for the comics. But first and foremost, I think of Lew Sayre Schwartz as the warm and funny and thoroughly delightful man I have been proud to call my friend.

And now I feel the tears coming again, so before my view of the screen becomes a total blur, I’ll say, “Safe passage, Lew—I know Bud and Pappy and Roy are mighty glad to see you again.”

 

Can Never Get Enough

Canifff: A Visual Biography will be on sale in about a month. To hold you over, here are a few more goodies we uncovered. The Dragon Lady color piece is an online extra that didn’t make it in the printed book. This is one of the specialty drawings that Caniff had printed one hundred or so at a time. He would then watercolor them for fans who requested drawings.

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Here’s a party we all wish we could time-travel to: a 1948 comic strip costume ball.

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Here’s a Sunday page that’s not only a classic, but shows how Caniff created the half-page format. He drew the Sundays in tabloid format, then had the panels photostatted and pasted on a horizontal board. Then, either he or one of his assistants would fill in the art to the left and right. The paste-up lines on this original artwork have darkened over the years, giving us a clearer view of the process.Terry_wide

Utilitarian? Maybe. Hooded? No Longer! (part two of three)

The Hooded Utilitarian website is gathering votes to name the top ten favorite comics of all time. I’ve narrowed the focus of their request for ten-best lists to this concept:

Which works would I select as the top representatives of the artform, works that resonate with seasoned readers within the medium yet can also serve “hook” a comics neophyte?

Feel free to plunge headlong into the middle four choices on my “alphabetical-by-creator list…”

 

4) The Dreamer, by Will Eisner

If Eisner gets his deserved spot on the H.U. list, it will likely be for his most popular creation, The Spirit, or his ground-breaking first graphic novel, A Contract with God. I yield to no one in my admiration for both, and I admit The Dreamer is a dark horse (as opposed to a Dark Horse) candidate for inclusion. Still, I view it as an underappreciated part of Eisner’s body of work, one deserving of more attention. Fiction tinged with autobiography, The Dreamer is, as Eisner said in his foreword, “an examination of hope and ambition. The events take place during a time when cartoonists found themselves on fallow ground, the dawn of the modern comic book industry during the mid-1930s.” By extension, this story is our story, and who better to tell it than Eisner?

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5) Tintin in Tibet, by Hergé

Of all the various comics-based movies, the one that genuinely interests me is the upcomingTintin motion picture. Though more popular in Europe than Stateside, Hergé and his intrepid boy reporter have a broad-based appeal that puts them on my Top list.

Of the many delightful Tintin exploits, I selected In Tibet because it features Tintin propelling himself, Snowy, and Captain Haddock to the most remote place on earth on the most noble of quests: to aid a friend in trouble. Along the way there are hardships imposed by the environment, a touch of Eastern mysticism, and even a Yeti. Like Barks, Hergé’s work has kept its appeal across the generations; may the movie point a new audience to his work!

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6) The Dark Knight Returns, by Frank Miller with Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley

Superheroes got me reading comics (The Fantastic Four still hold a special place in my heart), Dean and I used to letterhack in the pages of the same 1970s Marvel Comics, and I’ve even written some superhero comics; some of ’em, like The Gauntlet, (with artist Lee Weeks) were even published.

The Dark Knight Returns is hardly a perfect superhero comic, but it is perhaps Frank Miller’s most fully-realized work. The extensive coverage it received during its initial publication is pointed to as a key milestone in changing the media’s portrayal of the art form from “biff-pow-bam” to “comics have grown up.” Its sensibilities have touched every major Batman project to follow, in every medium—comics, animation, film.

All of that is well and good, but I’ll offer up Dark Knight Returns for another reason, one I’ve yet to see bandied about in all the discussion it has generated – endings are the toughest thing to get right, and Miller has misfired in the denouement of more than one of his stories. Yet in Dark Knight Returns, Miller gets the ending Exactly Right, both within the confines of his story and under the umbrella of the overarching, decades-spanning Batman mythos. It’s practically impossible to envision a better ending for Bruce Wayne than Miller provides here. No small achievement, that.

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7) From Hell, by Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell

Everyone has a favorite Alan Moore-penned tale, and it would have been easy to select Swamp Thing or Watchmen or V for Vendetta or any of another half-dozen works for my contributions to the H.U. balloting. I selected From Hell in part because it asks its audience to be smart in their reading, in part because it’s been so assiduously researched and developed, in part because Eddie Campbell’s work is one of comics’ special treasures. Once one has read From Hell, does one need to read any other tale of Jack the Ripper?

 

 

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If you haven’t already visited The Hooded Utilitarian, you’ll find full details about their Top Ten project here.

Next installment: my final three picks.

 

Utilitarian? Maybe. Hooded? No Longer!

Rob Martin refers to The Hooded Utilitarian as, “…a website devoted to cultural criticism with an emphasis on comics.” Right now, H.U. is in the process of gathering lists which will turn into votes which will turn into an early-August countdown of the top vote-getters in H.U.’s effort to name the top ten favorite comics of all time. The invitation to vote puts it this way (emphasis mine):

The specific question of the poll is this: What are the ten comics works you consider your favorites, the best, or the most significant? …Your list may include any newspaper strips, comic-book series, graphic novels, manga features, web comics, editorial cartoons, and single-panel magazine cartoons. These works can be from any country of origin. Please do not include an entry that has yet to be published.

Now, those are a pretty wide-open set of criteria; that is perhaps a good thing for this type of effort, which wants to be as inclusive as possible. In compiling my list, I narrowed the focus a bit, arriving at this concept:

Which works would I select as the top representatives of the artform, works that resonate with seasoned readers within the medium yet can also serve “hook” a comics neophyte?

I’ll take the rest of this message and my next two to show you my list and the thinking behind each selection. Since Rob isn’t asking for the list to be ranked, I’m rolling out my selections alphabetically by creator. May I have the envelopes, please…?

1) The single-panel magazine cartoons of Charles Addams (The New Yorker)

He’s creepy, he’s spooky, he’s positively ooky—but Chas. Addams gave us far more than The Addams Family, though of course they are, of themselves, quite a deliciously wicked creative accomplishment. His spot cartoons were sometimes bittersweet (two unicorns, stranded on a rock, the ocean waves lapping ever higher as Noah’s Ark sails away), sometimes wistful (the lonely lighthouse keeper who finds a valentine washed up on shore), yet consistently entertaining. Here’s a typically nefarious Addams cartoon…

 

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2) “Back to the Klondike,” featuring Uncle $crooge, by Carl Barks (from Four Color # 456)

Will the Thelma & Louise effect strike again? Barks told so many fine stories, it will be interesting to see if his votes become so diluted across his oeuvre that he ends up omitted from the final H.U. list. I hope that turns out to be not the case, because certainly The Duck Man has charmed generations of readers with his well-wrought, thoroughly-researched tales.

I selected “Back to the Klondike” because its Alaska gold rush setting shows Barks’s attention to historical detail and also offers real character growth, plus an ill-fated love gone wrong, hinting that $crooge is a deeper, more complex personality than we’re used to seeing within Disney stable.

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3) Terry and the Pirates, 1934 – 1946, by Milton Caniff (distributed by the Chicago Tribune New York Daily News Syndicate)

Accuse me of tooting the LOAC horn if you must, but who can dispute that Caniff’s sprawling saga meets the criteria I used to compile my list? Many a seasoned comics reader agrees thatTerry represents the pinnacle of daily adventure strips; Dean and I both know persons with no ties to the medium who’ve started reading the exploits of Terry Lee and his many cohorts, look up long enough to remark, “Saa-a-ay…his is pretty good!”, then eagerly dive back in for more. Terryis a glorious achievement, and it will be a grave disappointment—not necessarily a surprise, but a disappointment—if it fails to make the H.U. list.

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If you haven’t already visited The Hooded Utilitarian, you’ll find full details about their Top Ten project here.

Next installment: my next four picks.

 

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