Remembering without Reminders

Today is September 11 remembrance day, which is just fine. For some, the back-to-back reminders by media are just too much (the memories alone can be a lot to deal with).  I say to those people “It’s okay to take a mental break today too.”

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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

The Material Is Strong With This One.

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

 

A week has passed since I hopped in line to get a fresh seat for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which was NOT easy, thanks repeat viewers). Although I consider myself a casual fan of the firm series, it was still on my mind after New Year’s Day. Started with a sketch and developed from there.

How to Destroy A Government: The Comic

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 Included in this exporation into the deep web by YouTuber SomeOrdinaryGamers, is a CIA-sanctioned illustrated propaganda booklet for Nicaraguan citizens on how to sabatoge their country’s daily infastructure (Link). The actions rage from misdimeanor (scattering nails on a road) to major terrorist acts (building a molotov cocktail). I’m sure a nation in economic collapse due to minor inconveniences pushes it further into a dependance with wealthier nations.

Politics aside, can you imagine being the artist who had to illustrate that booklet? How do process what the a request like this from the CIA?
There must be a support group for propaganda artists somewhere.

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.

Comic Shops Killed the Convenience Store

As mentioned during my time at Heroes Con, artist Don Rosa recalled his encounter with a group of children who struggled to understand the concept of Charlie Brown purchasing a comic from a newsstand. Said scenario was not too foreign for my age group, as the closest my generation has come to that experience was buying a comic from a grocery store or the 7-Eleven. Of course, those were not my only options for most of my life, but I recently began to realize how much of these experiences would join newsstands of Mr Rosa’s anecdote in generational dissonance.

The late 1980s was the time that direct-to-sell comic book stores began to spread nationwide, giving access to independent comic publishers. At the time, I was only 8 years old and pretty much removed from current events of the world, but even back then, I knew the idea was pretty novel. Previously, I had only seen comics at the 7-eleven or the grocery store and by that point it was those places with which I associated comics. As soon as I saw an ad for the comic book store on TV, I just had to get my mother to take me there.

Geppi’s Comic Book Store was the place in my area. It had a name that caught a child’s ear, and just the mere concept was a dream come true: a store with nothing but comics. That had to be the best thing to happen to a kid since…….an all cartoon channel!

Hey, this was five years away.

I remember as I entered the store it was wall to wall of shelves with nothing but colorfully illustrated works. Of course, There were so many titles I had never seen, so I wandered around to find whatever struck familiar. Were there adults in the store rummaging through the merchandise? I don’t remember. They weren’t my focus. All II remembered was that the first thing to catch my eye were the back issues of Disney Adventures Magazine.

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Yes kids, the “Nice Judge” from American Idol was once “Totally Cool”.

I first saw advertisements for this magazine on The Disney Channel (back when it was a pay channel), but didn’t obtain access until I spotted copies sitting next to the TV Guides at the grocery rack. By that point I had only received the third issue so far in the publication (the Bronson Pinchot issue pictured above), so my disappointment in missing the first three issues unthawed.

I’m surprised it made it to the Hanna Montana Era.

To be honest, I’m surprised DA survived into the Hanna Montana Era.

Somewhere off to the side, I spotted a a comic book adaptation of a sitcom airing at the time— Married with Children, published by NOW comics. I asked my mother to buy one for me. She was bit hesitant to do so, having seen the show, but added it to the pile of more-kid friendly fare already gathered in my arms.

If there were any dirty jokes, they went over my head.

Although I would make subsequent visits to new comic shops, the grocery store and 7-Eleven still remained primary sources for titles. My interest in Disney Adventures eventually dropped by early high school, only keeping my subscription when the magazine began running Jeff Smith’s Bone series before ending it to purchase the series separately in a new store. Had I not gone in search for Bone, though, I never would have been able to reconnect with Frank Cho’s series Liberty Meadows after it syndication in The Washington Post for Image Comics. I owe a lot to the Comic book store.

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I never thought I would look back on that time the same way the generations before me look back on their visits to the newsstands. Today, every major city has at least two comic book stores. There are two within a 5 mile radius of where I live. I would go to one first before anywhere else for a comic. I don’t see a lot of true comics in the grocery store’s magazine section anymore. Most 7-Elevens I’ve been to recently don’t have an arcade cabinet let alone a comic rack.

Of course, I still attend my current local comic store, which now hosts the annual Free Comic Book Day. Whenever I wait in line for those complementary comic samples, I cant help but notice children who attend with their parents. I could imagine half of them look at their selected titles and wonder why some of the characters buying a comic from the convenience store.

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