The “Phantom” Predescessor

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You may not have read this comic but if you grew up in the US before 2000, I bet you’ve come across it while looking for Garfield in the newspaper. Lee Falk’s The Phantom predates Superman by 3 years and set the standards for many tropes we associate with the Man of Steel.

I would provide a full retrospect but YouTuber Midnight’s Edge has that covered.

 

Tabling Life: Union County SuperCon

Over the weekend, Union County North Carolina library System held their annual SuperCon. Run by Indian Trail Branch Manager, John Tompkins, the event has been successful with families for a couple years running now.

Tompkins (right) with a Special Guest

Tompkins (right) with a Special Guest

The group SketchCharlotte and I were invited to commission illustrations for the local kids in addition to selling some of our works.

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I met many more artists and young kids who are still figuring out what to do with their ability to draw. As it turns out, this event was the introduction not only for those with no understanding of comics but for the larger HeroesCon remains out of reach. A few children came by our table admitting their bravery to come out to the show as they shared their artwork. The one thing I could tell them was how lucky they were to have a library with such rich access to comics.

Perhaps erroneously, I assumed a small county would shy on the comic collections, similar to the ones from my childhood. However, UCPL (as much as it pains me to say) puts the more urban Mecklenburg County libraries’ collection to shame. Even the main branch downtown.

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Seriously, This is more than the quarter shelf of comics I see.

As a matter of fact, they had so many, they had to sell one or 30. Of course I helped them out.  In the end, I’ve made many more friends, both professional and student. I cant wait to go back.

A swap, a deal and a glimpse of a future career ( Artist: Tyrone Leung)

A swap, a deal and a glimpse of a future career.

While the SuperCon is not well advertised beyond the county, but if you live in the Charlotte/ Kannapolis / Lincolnton area, I say this event is worth the day drive. If interested, check out for updates on UCPL’s website: http://www.union.lib.nc.us/

Credits

The Slackmatic Mini-comic by Ryan Holgerson: https://twitter.com/slackmatic
The Fan Art by Tyrone Leung (instagram: @tyrone_leung)

Buster and Bart: A Century Apart

In 1899, comic artist RF Outcault created The Yellow Kid, a working class ethnic child who pulled cons, for the Hearst papers. Not long after that series ended, Outcault followed up with a similarly ill-behaved rich WASP named Buster Brown.

There was no concrete evidence of Outcault’s intentions with the strip. The fact that he was forced to create the series due to reader backlash to his Yellow Kid series suggests otherwise. I’m certain under the humor directed to an upper class audience, there also lies a hidden mockery of said audiences’ values and behavior.

One strip comes to mind when, as the title says, Buster decides to throw himself a surprise party and Mrs. Brown is greeted at the door by gift-bearing tykes.

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It’s natural to assume Mrs. Brown would just tell the children to go home, right? Wrong. Instead, she invites them in and quietly rushes her servants to order party refreshments as soon as possible without the guests noticing.

Let’s not be mistaken. Buster Brown has pulled some pretty bad pranks for a boy of his era: Cutting a girl’s hair. Tricking a strange man into walking in on his mother in a changing room on the beach. Faking his own death.

 

Yes, you heard the last one right.
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However, the “surprise party” prank pisses his mother off so much that by the second to last panel she threatens to send him to a reform school, her most serious threat in the whole series.

Do you know what they would do to pretty faces like yours?

Now, from the modern perspective, only two trains of thought generate from this story: “Buster’s mother is an idiot” or maybe “priorities of the rich were different back then.” A nearly century old comic strip is bound to create values dissonance for 21st century readers, and does so often. This strip in particular, however, does not seem so foreign in time. Here’s why:

 

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MARGE: “Bart, are ALL these children friends of yours?

BART: “Friends and well-wishers. Yes”

 

It would take the passage of that very century for another similar situation on a 1994 episode of The Simpsons  where the eponymous family gets a pool. Every kid in town gets wind of the news and it’s not long before the Simpson’s house is flooded with swim-suited children. One scene that has always caught my attention (and funny bone) involves Marge questioning Bart about his unusually large circle of friends, including a trio of boys who look too old to be in high school walking by as they address Marge by another name and greeting another kid in the kitchen as Bart.

Back in real life, if your mother was anything like mine, she’d never let any kid I invited over into the house unless she knew that kid’s parents personally. To see Buster’s mother frantically accommodating a spontaneous children’s party may seem silly to our modern eyes, but to be honest not much has changed. The mediums are different, the socioeconomic statuses of the families are different. There’s no argument that Buster Brown’s family would have a much different set of values than the Simpsons (the latter family has a much more equal relationship with the ethnic whites and blacks than the former, after all). It seems however, that the mothers of both mediums remind us that regardless of class and time, there will always be that one dimwitted mother who goes against common sense when it comes to her children’s affairs. Timeless.

“I look like Buster Brown……whomever that is.”

Pencils and Pixels

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This week, my comics group, SketchCharlotte, held a gallery opening for comics, comics – related art and all alternative art. If interested, it’s still running now through February 12, 2016 at the Max L. Jackson Gallery, in the Watkins Building at Queens University.  Come see original works by me and many of Charlotte’s great local artists. And bring money, for alot of our stuff is for sale!

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Date and location Information about the Gallery.

For More Information, check out the Facebook page from BigDogStudio:
https://www.facebook.com/events/171807783177261/ik

Little Orphan Cliffhanger

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While I’m sad that Little Orphan Annie no longer graces the Newspaper page, I do feel a sense of content closure for the series. After 86 years and several ghost writers and artists taking over for original creator Harold Gray, it couldn’t have lasted much longer than a Soap Opera would on television. Besides, 86 years of strips is a lot to compile into book collections. Imagined if it kept going on past a century?  If only they hadn’t ended it on an emotionally sensitive cliffhanger. 

Cartooning in Columbus (Ohio)

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courtesy of Watch Tom Draw

Last week my friend Tom of Watch Tom Draw had a chance to visit the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum during his trip to Columbus. Named for the city’s most famous newspaper cartoonist, it houses one of many cartoon archives in the US and housed right on the campus of Ohio State University. Among the original works archived includes panels by R.F. Outcault (Buster Brown) Windsor McKay (Little Nemo in Slumberland) and Will Eisner (The Spirit) among many other gems.

If you ever find yourself near the Ohio State area and looking for something to see, I wouldn’t overlook it.

Link:
http://cartoons.osu.edu/

Giving Props to Vintage Strips

I recall the day I was gifted a book of stamps commemorating classic comic strips, I became fascinated with vintage comic strips, specifically those pre-dating 1930:

Popeye, Krazy Kat, Little Orphan Annie, Toonerville Trolley, Little Nemo in Slumberland, Buster Brown, Katzenjammer Kids.

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Yep, these were the stamps.

Like spiritual descendants Peanuts and Garfield, most of these series were available at the time in printed anthologies. Others I found scattered online.  I loved seeing how much the comics reflected the values of the times then as they do now. Of course, many of these strips show their age by the second page (hey, that rhymed!), Thankfully, required notes in the back of the books explain the jokes that get lost to a modern reader.

These being American comics, I anticipated that racial/ethnic jokes would rear their awkward head, but I accepted that. I couldn’t be angry at jokes made 70 to 100 years ago. (I prefer to reserve that energy for Family Guy episodes and lazy comedians). Aside from that, there were moments in the strips that reminded you to be thankful your great grandparents survived those times.

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We all had that friend with smallpox. Right?……..Right?

Once I get passed the values dissonance, I saw what great imagination these artists used when they essentially had very little foundation to work with. They didn’t limit themselves (only the paper editors did). Once you look across time and see the human experience, you began to enjoy them. These strips are important historical pieces as they are good entertainment.

Much Ado about Hands

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I remember a kid from college who kept saying he used to draw cartoons but stopped because he “couldn’t draw hands.” In an effort to dispel that thinking, I told him what an art teacher told me: Gary Larson, creator of the beloved “far Side” strip couldn’t draw hands either. He was right. Mr. Larson’s hands were very palm-tree like, but it didn’t stop him from bringing his humor to life, and it paid off.

Edward Linley Sambourne, victorian era cartoonist for Punch Magazine had a greater challenge: he couldn’t draw human figures in specific poses. He elevated this by obtaining friends, family (and prostitutes) to pose in his studio. From this strategy, he created some of the magazine’s best cartoons.

An artist always finds a way around a perceived flaw.

My ability to draw hands has since improved (though I do have my “palm tree” moments), but I don’t think I would have gotten that far without the information from my teacher. God, I wish I remembered his name.

Unfortunately, my co-ed couldn’t see that. I remember when I completed my advice, he gave me the coldest glare I had ever seen. What had upset him? Did my story trigger an unpleasant memory? Or did I hit him where it hurt emotionally. It should take more than the simple inability to “draw hands” to stop someone from enjoying their passion. Oh well. I wish him luck with what ever life choices he’s settled for.

A Month of African-American Cartoonists

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For February, I bring you a selection of black cartoonists. No, not Aaron McGruder, but the ones who paved the way for him.

During the Jim Crow Era, African Americans created their own version of whatever was not available to them among the larger society, and cartoons were no exceptions. As did so many American publications,  Ebony, Jet and The Afro-American hired cartoonists who provided a window into the black perspective on everyday life and social or political situations during both the Jim Crow era and throughout the Civil Rights movement.

After integration opened more opportunities, the world of mainstream cartoon syndication was not immune from the obstacles of on-the-job discrimination. Many Black cartoonists began submitting to mainstream syndicates, many found that they would be rejected on the grounds that another black cartoonist was already on the payroll (Ebony, Nov 1966 ). Absurd excuses didn’t stop them, though, and the persistence to find fair work paid off. From their hard work we got great artists like:

Zelda “Jackie” Ormes of Torchy Brown, and Patty Jo and Ginger
Robb Armstrong of JumpStart
Stephen Bently of Herb & Jamal
Ray Billingsley of Curtis
Barbara Brandon of Where I’m Comin From
Morrie Turner of Wee Pals (whom, as of this post is still working the young age of 89)
Buck Brown, who illustrated for Playboy, Jet and Ebony.
Bumsic Brandon Jr., who creator of Luther

Check out the links below and learn more about these African American men and women didn’t let the barriers of prejudice or discouragement keep them from to pursuing their passion:

The work of Jackie Ormes

http://www.jackieormes.com/

Spotlight on African American Cartoonists, from 1993 issue of Ebony:

https://books.google.com/books?id=EtQDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA40&lpg=PA40&dq=Black+Cartoonist+ebony+magazine&source=bl&ots=EwW9QzzSbR&sig=rv1ylAYM3lV8o1AunJpdHDlIbDg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Wya9VKO1FsyzggTT74OwCw&ved=0CB8Q6AEwBg

Morrie Turner, who’s still working at age 89 (at the time of this article).
http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2012/12/30/at-89-first-nationally-syndicated-black-cartoonist-still-drawing-and-giving-back/

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Charlie Hebdo: What Responsibility do Cartoonists have?

My thoughts, like the Charlie Hebdo story, are still developing, I feel that I have not elaborated enough. Allow me to clarify.

Upon giving the ISIS cartoon a second look, I couldnt help but notice a few details about it that bugged me. In my opinion, there was little creativity behind making the cartoon: the ISIS leader just stands there and says something. When I think of satire, I look to symbols and uses of visual metaphors. None were used in the Charlie Hebdo cartoon in question. I began to wonder how blatantly the message was interpreted by the shooters.

I’m not saying that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists deserved to die. Let’s get that out of the way. I do, however, think this tragedy brings out an uncomfortable reality in cartooning.

Lately, alot of the cartoons in I’ve seen in some publications simply appear juvenile or intend to push buttons. No metaphors, just a direct, unsubtle delivery of the message. It’s one thing to attract retaliation from speaking an undirected opinion but it’s another when you do so after creating was the cartooning equivalent of “yo mama” jokes. If you give a stranger the finger, should you be surprised if he punches you in the face?