Well, Look Here!

Today on the site, Ron Goulart has provided our official obituary for Leonard Starr, the creator of Mary Perkins, On Stage, who is also well-known for his continuation of Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie, his Kelly Green graphic novel series with Stan Drake, and the '80s television show ThunderCats.

It was the ambition of many comic book artists to move up to a newspaper strip and several of his contemporaries had made the transition, among them Ken Ernst, Stan Drake and Dan Barry. Finally in 1957, after several earlier strip submissions to syndicates, he sold Mary Perkins, On Stage to the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate. The title of the strip alludes to two of the most popular radio soap operas of the time—Mary Noble, Backstage Wife and Ma Perkins. Starr had long been a theater buff and the new strip would deal with “the glamorous New York theater world.”

His style had changed, moving toward what has been called photographic realism. He was influenced by what Alex Raymond had done on Rip Kirby and what Dan Barry had done on the daily Flash Gordon in the early 1950s. Starr has been called “a man with a superlative ink line.” His staging of the events in the life of Mary Perkins as she conquers Broadway, TV, and the movies and finds love is very good and he alternated light continuities with some dark and unsettling ones. The National Cartoonist Society gave him the Best Story Strip Award in 1960 for On Stage and in 1965 a Reuben as Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.

We also have Mark Connery's short interview with Marc Bell (Shrimpy and Paul) about his new book, Stroppy.

Mark Connery: Hey Marco, so Stroppy is a very beautiful book, a real treat for the eyes, and also your first graphic novel. It's also one of your easiest-to-read things. How long were you working on it? Was there a challenge in finding a groove to make the story move at the right pace?

Marc Bell: I was very slow to begin actual work on this book. I did want to make things clearer story-wise because I was sick of being talked about as the guy that makes no sense. I even read a few books about writing storyboards for films and TV to get myself going. I think it did end up clearer than my other works but it also seems it is very hard to escape this piling on in the narrative that usually happens with things I make. So, that's how it goes! I suppose it took three years but only a third of that was making the actual book, drawing it.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. If you read the two reviews of the Airboy revival I posted to last week, you know there was a fair amount of controversy regarding the title's portrayal of transgender women. Writer James Robinson has released a statement.

Tokyopop is planning to relaunch its manga publishing program. (In 2011, Sean Michael Robinson reported on Tokyopop's closing, and some of the controversy surrounding it.)

—Reviews & Commentary. Brian Cremins reviews Keiler Roberts's Miseryland.

Martin Dupuis has a long piece on Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's Killing Joke.

Mike Sterling reflects on Rerun from Peanuts.

Andy Oliver writes about William Cardini's Vortex.

—Misc. Have we already linked to Dame Darcy's new Patreon?

Box Brown is having an original art sale.


Good Hang

Today we have:

The first installment of Greg Hunter's new podcast, Comic Book Decalogue has arrived and it's a doozy of a talk with Josh Simmons.

We also have an appreciation of the late Leonard Starr from Howard Chaykin.


Good interview with the inimitable Ben Jones over here.

Jessica Abel adds her voice to the growing dialogue about making a living in comics.

Nice interview with Marc Bell over here.

Here's a review of the Harvey Kurtzman biography.

Here's a great image gallery of work by Marvel comic book artist Billy  Graham.

We are now off for the long weekend. Have a good one.


Corporate Comics Still Suck

Today, we are proud to present a new and wonderful piece by our Monsters and Critics columnist, Craig Fischer. This time, he has written a lengthy consideration of one of the last few years' most popular and acclaimed superhero comics, Matt Fraction and David Aja (and co.)'s Hawkeye. Here's how he begins:

I was part of the Mighty Marvel Boycott, and there were at least twenty of us who put morality ahead of fanboy pleasure and brought Marvel Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, to its multinational knees. (Because of us, The Avengers made $249 less at the box office.) When Marvel settled with the Kirby family in September 2014, I was finally free to watch the Avengers eat schwarma, but the bombast of the 45 minutes before that scene left a bad taste in my mouth. Guardians of the Galaxy couldn’t compete with repeat viewings of my Robert Bresson DVDs—because, of course, the only kind of stuff we discerning boycotters watched during our self-imposed exile were art films like Pickpocket and Mouchette. More recently, I enjoyed the early episodes of Nexflix’s Daredevil for its noir aesthetics and fight choreography, but its brutality keeps me from finishing the series; it’s too early to reboot the Abu Ghraib franchise, too soon for me to celebrate torturers and applaud the Chicago Police Department’s black sites. Movies like The Avengers: Age of Ultron are more innocuous; I saw Ultron a month ago, I don't remember it at all, and I'm not sure I ever need to see a Marvel movie again.

And the comics? I’ve only read a few of the comics. When social media brings me news about Marvel characters—Wolverine’s dead, Iceman’s gay, and Daredevil’s wisecracking again!—I respond as I would to rumors about a branch of the family in the Old Country: mildly interested, but I haven’t seen those folks in decades. I do feel perturbed over this year’s Marvel event, the resurrection of Secret Wars, only because my twenty-two-year-old self found the original Secret Wars the worst comic he’d ever read. (I might still agree with him, if I could bear to reread it.) If Marvel had any shame, they’d send agents to all known comic shops to buy and destroy, Mr. Arkadin-style, every copy of Secret Wars they find.

But don’t burn Hawkeye. Read and appreciated by a horde of fans before me, Hawkeye—written by Matt Fraction and often drawn by David Aja—is worth our attention.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Leonard Starr, the highly respected cartoonist probably most famous for his strip Mary Perkins, On Stage, has passed away. We will have more soon. In the meantime, here are two memorial posts by David Apatoff and Mark Evanier.

The Hollywood Reporter is all over DC's move to California, if that kind of thing interests you.

—Interviews & Profiles. The Chicago Tribune has an interview with Daniel Clowes about The Complete Eightball (registration required).

The Beat talks to Michel Fiffe.

—Reviews & Commentary. James Robinson and Greg Hinkle's unusual-sounding Airboy revival for Image is getting some strong negative reactions, for reasons aesthetic and political.

NPR appreciates the new Drawn & Quarterly tribute book.

Professional cartoon gag-writer Helene Parsons (Dennis the Menace, The Lockhorns, The New Yorker) has begun a blog on gag-writing. This inspired Michael Maslin to write a short history of gag-writing (as separated from drawing) at The New Yorker.

—Misc. The New Yorker's website is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Drawn & Quarterly by reprinting publisher highlights. So far, they've spotlighted Debbie Drescher and R. Sikoryak.

Frank Santoro is holding another Comics Workbook Composition Competition.

Jane Mai has a report from ELCAF in comics form.

Eight cartoonists on the recent Supreme Court gay marriage decision.

I can't bear to look into it any closer myself, but I really hope Grant Morrison's dark, "sexy" Santa Claus reboot comic is a joke.



Another day another dollar, right? That's what Joe McCulloch is always writing about in his weekly summaries.


Tom Spurgeon rounds up some recent discussions around money and comics, two things usually thought to be incompatible.

Here's a 2006 interview with Marc Bell over at Vice, back when Vice was still "Vice", more or less. "Trigger" alert!

A very young fan received a letter from Steve Ditko. Kinda great.

Jason T. Miles posts some inspirational images for his new comic.

Britain's National Archives hold some good old comics that also happen to have been at the root of a government investigation.


Stand By

Technical difficulties are keeping Dan offline, so this is an "emergency" blog posting. We have one or two pretty big features coming up this week, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Eric Drooker briefly comments on his recent cover for The New Yorker.

—Alex Carr at Omnivoracious has a short but solid interview with Daniel Clowes.

—Paul Gravett writes about Karrie Fransmann.

—The Oxford English Dictionary now includes the word "comix."


TGI Blogday

Today on the site, Cynthia Rose writes about two shows in London and Paris focusing on Napoleonic art, and what it means to look at caricatures of Bonaparte nearly two centuries after his death.

The upstart Napoleon quickly drew the cartoonists' interest. At first, the British were simply impressed by his exploits then, eventually, worried about the threat he posed. But his reign saw incredible work from London's sharpest pens: Thomas Rowlandson, Richard Newton, George Cruikshank and the great James Gillray.

Bonaparte and the British has their finest efforts on show. But among all of them, it is James Gillray whose work retains an undeniable power. The son of a soldier who had lost one arm to the French, Gillray became the consummate editorial satirist. Many modern cartoonists, including the Guardian's Martin Rowson, cite his famous "The Plumb-pudding in danger" (1805) as "the greatest political cartoon ever drawn."

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Annie Mok interviews D&Q publisher Peggy Burns for The Hairpin.

Dan Berry interviews Jordan Crane for Make It Then Tell Everybody.

—Reviews & Criticism. Ken Parille has written a typically idiosyncratic response to that Chris Ware New Yorker cover I talked about last week. You may or may not agree with Parille's interpretation, but it's rich and thought-provoking, both traits more important in criticism than whether or not the reader agrees with every opinion. I'd like to read some negative responses to Ware's tech covers that are this full.

Sean Rogers reviews new books from Marc Bell, Andy Burkholder, and Jason Little.

In a recently republished review from 1979, Greil Marcus discusses a Donald Duck book by Carl Barks.

—Funnies. Eleanor Davis has a story at Hazlitt.

—Misc. Medium's new The Response features a roundtable of seven cartoonists reacting to the recent horrifying massacre in Charleston.


Don’t Take Pictures

Today on the site, Robert Kirby on Blobby Boys 2.

Just in case you haven’t seen them in the pages of VICE: The Blobby Boys is a band composed of three slimy green guys who may be mutants… or possibly aliens. There’s Max on guitar, whose head is shaped like a toy top; Adrian, the drummer, distinguished from Max by his cyclopean eye and Bugs Bunny-like buck teeth; and Kristof, also on guitar, whose heart-shaped head is always framed by a red ascot. The Blobbys are a violent trio who kill rival bands without a second thought and don’t take kindly to prying detectives or worshipful fans. All three carry knives, drop acid, and have generally bad attitudes. Basically, you wouldn’t want to mess with The Blobby Boys. But Alex Schubert’s second collection of their misadventures is a lot of fun, a sort of weird synthesis of old Hanna-Barbera cartoons and Sid and Marty Krofft kids’ shows, channeled through a stoned Johnny Ryan-like sensibility. And maybe with a little of Kaz’s great Underworld comics in there, too (minus the anarchic exuberance). And yeah, as noted by others, there’s a Gary Panter-ish vibe thrumming through as well. Still, even with all those echoes, Blobby Boys 2 feels fresh and original.

I'm traveling at the moment and nothing seems to urgent on the internet, so you're on your own!


Floating Heads

Today, Rob Clough is here with a review of Marguerite Van Cook and James Romberger's The Late Child and Other Animals.

The Late Child and Other Animals is simultaneously Marguerite Van Cook's biography of her mother and her own autobiography, detailing five crucial turning points in both their lives. Written and expressively colored by Van Cook and illustrated by her husband James Romberger, these turning points are captured as a series of five poetic but emotionally restrained vignettes. That restraint was certainly a learned behavior, given that for her mother and herself showing emotion and breaking down was a sign not just of weakness, but the very difference between life and death.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Etelka Lehoczy has a good review of Daniel Clowes's Complete Eightball for NPR.

—Rachel Cooke writes about the 25th anniversary of Drawn & Quarterly for The Guardian.

—Peter Huestis shares some of the college art of Mort Walker.