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.

Frank Cho’s “humor” Seems Very Familiar

I had to see what everyone was so angry about regarding Frank Cho’s “joke” cover for SpiderGwen/Spiderman/Harley Quinn\whatever.

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A lot of people are angry, but I can’t really say I’m offended…..or surprised. Frank Cho’s humor in these covers is pretty reminiscent of what he did in his early comic series Liberty Meadows.

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I hate being critical towards one of the artists that influenced me, but what I really enjoyed about Cho’s first official series was his stylistic combination of classic-style characters interacting with cartoony animals in the vein of “Bone”. Now that he works for Marvel, from my perspective, all of his stylistic interpretations of (mostly) female characters look like rehashings of his Liberty Meadows regulars Brandy and Jen. As I looked at the covers in question, I couldn’t help but notice how much of a resemblance Gwen bore to Jen (seen “tormenting” Dean the Pig in the above image.)

I can’t read his mind, but perhaps he was trying to inject that old “Liberty Meadows” humor in his current line of work……only for it to backfire. When I first met him at a panel at HeroesCon 2013, a discussion was held on the risks of exhibiting such humor to the uninitiated. Superhero comics seem to have no place for underground shock humor……..except Deadpool, perhaps.