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The Sun Went Out

Today's a day I've been dreading: Joe McCulloch's penultimate This Week in Comics! column. As always, it's a must-read. Enjoy it while you can. More on this later...

I was reading Robin Snyder's newsletter, The Comics!, and I came across a letter from an artist and editor of a comics magazine from years ago. He was suffering from ill health, and had gone into assisted living. He had dvds to watch, and some collections of old comics to read, but he didn't think he could travel anymore, as he'd often liked to do. What we are given when we are young, he wrote, is taken when we are old. Elsewhere in the newsletter it was written that the correspondent had died only months after the letter was sent. Eager to learn more about the man's work, I googled his name; the first hit was a Wikipedia page, which insisted he was still alive. Presumably, nobody editing Wikipedia had noticed he was dead. It was sad, these circumstances - sad a little. But what is sadder, I know, is the placing of my faith as an observer in the idea of technological platforms as an arbiter of reality, and a means, thereby, to guess at preeminence. To gauge existence, subconsciously, as a sport of scramble over obscurity; to gamify your words as appealing and unappealing. God, to trust that you will be memorialized beyond the tangibles of love known to you. This chimera of becoming visible - and trusting, thus, in the zookeepers shoveling its shit.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Nate Pieckos shares his cartooning-related health concerns on Twitter, and strikes a nerve with every active cartoonist over thirty-five.

—The most recent guest on the Process Party podcast is Juliacks.

 

See the Bells Up in the Sky

R.C. Harvey is here to commemorate Dick Locher, the longtime political cartoonist and Dick Tracy artist.

One of the nation’s great cartoonists is dead. You can deny it if you want. I tried. But it didn’t help. Richard E. Locher, 88, died of complications from Parkinson’s disease Sunday, August 6, at Edward Hospital in Naperville, the Chicago Tribune reported. He had lived in Naperville for more than 45 years.

“Dick was one of the best cartoonists in the nation,” said Tribune Editor and Publisher Bruce Dold. “He was also one of the nicest people who ever walked through the Tribune newsroom. I most admired the richness of detail in his drawings. His work was funny and incisive, and his message often carried a hard pop, but his artwork was always incredibly elegant.”

For almost thirty of his four-plus decades as a cartoonist, Dick Locher simultaneously went after corruption and criminality among politicians in his political cartoons and slightly more overt outlawry in the Dick Tracy comic strip.

Locher was one of the merest handful of newspaper cartoonists who did both editorial cartooning and comic strip cartooning: he started doing political cartoons for the Chicago Tribune in 1972; he inherited the iconic cops-and-robbers comic strip a decade later. He drew them simultaneously for 28 years, rendering the strip in a markedly different style than his editoons.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The latest guest on Inkstuds is Ben Passmore, and the latest guest on RiYL is Katie Skelly. And Sean T. Collins and Julia Gfrörer appear on the Graphic Policy podcast to discuss their anthology, Mirror Mirror II.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Caleb Orecchio talks about being inspired by Eleanor Davis.

I’m not trying to preach or sound like I have THE answers, but what I like about Davis’ recent book is the fact that it is drawn. It’s not inked with a brush with every stroke carefully crafted and feathered. It’s just drawn. Ever seen a Brian Chippendale comic? He just draws them (mostly). Crumb? Moebius? (Conflict of interest warning:) Frank Santoro? Just drawn. I like “professionally” inked comics and comics where traditional craft is essential, but there is an immediacy that is stripped at every step of the process. It’s like going acoustic, once you add a drum kit, you have to turn up the volume on everything else and the intimacy gradually is drowned out.

Susan Doll writes about the connection between Charlie Chaplin and the cartoonist Ralph Barton.

On May 19, 1931, Ralph Barton shot himself in the temple, committing suicide at age 39. He left a suicide note, which he labeled “Obit.” In the note, he singled out his third wife, Carlotta Monterey, as the only woman he had ever loved, though he had cheated on her. She had caught him in the act and divorced him. By the time of his suicide, “his angel” Carlotta had married renowned playwright Eugene O’Neill. Though Barton does not blame Carlotta, or say anything negative about her, the O’Neills were embarrassed and irritated by his comments, which were recounted endlessly in the press. I can’t help but think that Barton had intended this outcome for reasons he took to his grave. Carlotta’s associates speculated that Barton resented the actress for marrying someone more successful than he was.

 

I’m a “Twitter”

Rob Clough is here today with a review of the latest in a long line of cancer-related comics memoirs, Teva Harrison's In-Between Days.

Prior to reviewing Teva Harrison's cancer memoir, In-Between Days, I want to provide a bit of context. Both of my parents died from cancer. I have worked in a cancer center for the last 28 years, not usually directly with patients, but quite often. So I tend to hate cancer narratives that use words like "heroic" or otherwise apply exceptional qualities to those who are afflicted with the disease. Cancer does nothing to elevate the character of someone who suffers from it; in fact, what it tends to do is reveal character in a dramatic way. Interestingly, those who suffer from the worst kinds of cancer (metastatic, inoperable, etc) tend to be the most understanding, kind, and introspective patients. Those with the easiest-to-treat kinds of cancer tend to be the most melodramatic and demanding.

The three best memoirs I've read about cancer are the rawest and most honest emotionally, revealing the ways in which cancer turns the lives of the patients and their loved ones upside down. Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner, and Frank Stack's Our Cancer Year is fantastic, as it offers a quotidian, painful look at how cancer and chemotherapy can cause horrible side effects and affect mental status. Miriam Engleberg's Cancer Has Made Me a Shallower Person is hilarious in the face of her ultimately fatal disease. Sharon Lintz's cancer stories in her Pornhounds comic were also unsparing, sharply observed, and funny. Harrison's book isn't as good as any of those comics for a variety of reasons, but it's still bracing, powerful, and achingly honest.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Michael Cavna wants people to read The Onion's Stan Kelly (Ward Sutton).

A visual stroll through the Kelly collection is like a meta-history lesson in editorial cartooning before sardonic subtlety became fashionable. Kelly’s illustrations, reflecting wading-pool deep takes on the news, are larded with labels (“today’s no-good teens,” “today’s troop haters,” “benevolent America”) that skewer the worst practitioners of the art form. Kelly sees himself as a political “king of comedy,” but in truth, he is as deluded as Robert De Niro’s bad stand-up Rupert Pupkin in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy.” He would have been painfully mediocre at best in his own era; in our era, he is laughably hackneyed.

Paul Gravett reviews Guy Delisle's Hostage.

As a graphic novelist, presented with mainly a lone, often inactive protagonist and a minimum of settings and props - a series of mostly bare rooms (in one case a claustrophobic closet), a light bulb, a creaking door, a clicking latch, a mattress on the floor, a radiator to which his left hand gets handcuffed, a bucket, a window - Delisle draws each day in cycles of subtle variations, like minimalist music or a staging of a Beckett play. Christophe is his main focus, observing him from moment-to-moment immediacy to extended or indeterminate periods. The time elapsed between three wide-screen panels on one chilling wordless page could be minutes, hours or days. Delisle will also shift his viewpoint, sometimes allowing us to look out through Christophe’s eyes, other times visualising in cartoon shorthand above his head his fanciful escape strategies or his distracting ritual of alphabetic French military history.

Brian Nicholson enthuses over Daria Tessler's Cult of the Ibis.

Mostly-silent storytelling, taking place in a fantasy gothic-architecture world, that seems inspired by German expressionist film. It’s about an occultist getaway driver who, after receiving the loot from a bank robbery that falls apart, orders a build-your-own-homunculus kit and goes on the lam. I remember watching the trailer for Baby Driver and thinking “yes, that does look fun and well-made, but it also looks like every movie that has ever been made.” This is like a variation on that, if made by Jan Svankmajer.

Sam Riedel writes about representation in the work of Simon Hanselmann.

On the still-uncommon occasions that transfem characters show up in fiction (and aren’t two-dimensional stereotypes), they’re often forced to be virtuous because they represent all trans people everywhere. Who wants to be represented by a douchebag? Other marginalized communities also suffer from this tendency, an unintended consequence of “diversity casting” that maintains structural whiteness, cisnormativity, and so on. It’s what made The Good Place so novel; cis women behaving badly in a nuanced way is still itself a rarity. Trans literature is still a niche within a niche, making characters like Maria — the drug-addled, backwards-looking protagonist of Imogen Binnie’s Nevada — almost unheard-of. Since our stories are so often misunderstood, there’s an implicit demand that we be shown in the most palatable light, but that robs our stories of the all-important shades of grey.

 

Everywhere I Go

Today on the site: Anne Ishii reviews Hirohiko Araki’s Manga in Theory and Practice:

I was initially drawn to the Japanese edition of Hirohiko Araki’s Manga in Theory and Practice because of the two dudes looking like they were about to kiss, on the cover. They looked like sophomore versions of the Joestar family Araki is best known for creating, and I thought this was a pretty major coup of transition from homosocial straight to homosexual as far as mainstream manga was concerned.

Unfortunately for at least this reviewer, Araki doesn’t come out, nor do his characters. No cool 'ships…no secret past in yaoi. Manga in Theory and Practice is the practical vehicle for manga knowledge that its title advertises and Viz’s English edition provides a more sober cover and its raw translation is for better or worse, un-calibrated for American readers.

Hirohiko Araki was born in 1960 and has Type B blood, which I learned from Men’s Non-No (a populer Japanese men’s lifestyle magazine), which is to say Araki isn’t just a cartoonist but a sort of media personality; unusual in a camera-shy mangaverse. Yet his ability to talk about himself is a good indication of how unique he is and makes his style immune to imitators. Araki doesn’t teach you how to draw like him, but he does give us a clear picture of how he himself consumes manga and related media (anime, action films). His guide to manga comes replete with hand-drawn bullet journal-style progress charts, digital clip art, and samples of beautiful and wild storyboards from his best-known JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, which all demonstrate to the reader what they need to know about one very specific kind of mangaka: Hirohiko Araki. To a JoJo megafan…reading this book will not be unlike going to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company; just fine for someone who wants shrimp and maybe for Mikelti Williamson if he’s feeling blue, but it will be a real treat for die-hard Forrest Gump fans.

Elsewhere:

The Ignatz Award nominees have been announced. 

Here's the PR:
The nominees for the ballot were determined by a panel of five of the best of today’s comic artists, Neil Brideau, Glynnis Fawkes, Sara Lautman, Trungles and David Willis, with the votes cast for the awards by the attendees during SPX. The Ignatz Awards will be presented at the gala Ignatz Awards ceremony held on Saturday, September 16, 2017 at 9:30 P.M.

Beginning this year, there will be ten Ignatz Award categories as the Outstanding Anthology or Collection will be separated into two different awards:

  • Outstanding Anthology recognizes a book or other collection of selected writings by various writers usually in the same literary form, of the same period, or on the same subject. e.g. a book of comics by various cartoonists selected from several books by many cartoonists.
  • Outstanding Collection recognizes a book of selected writings from various sources by an author of the same theme or various themes. e.g. a book of selected short comics from various books by the same cartoonist.

Additional information about the nominees can be found at http://www.smallpressexpo.com/spx-2017-ignatz-awards-nominees.

Once again we want to thank our our friends at comiXology for sponsoring the Ignatz Awards. Information on comiXology and their self-publishing portal Submit can be found at https://submit.comixology.com.

Outstanding Artist

  • Pablo Auldadell – Paradise Lost (Pegasus Books)
  • Emil Ferris – My Favorite Thing is Monsters (Fantagrahpics)
  • Manuele Fior – The Interview (Fantagraphics)
  • Karen Katz – The Academic Hour (Secret Acres)  
  • Barbara Yelin – Irmina (Self Made Hero)

Outstanding Anthology

  • ALPHABET: The LGBTQAIU Creators from Prism Comics – edited by Jon Macy and Tara Madison Avery (Stacked Deck Press)
  • Comic Book Slumber Party’s Deep Space Canine – edited by Hanhah K. Chapman (Avery Hill)
  • ELEMENTS: Fire - An Anthology by Creators of Color – edited by Taneka Stotts (Beyond Press)
  • POWER & MAGIC: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology – edited by Joamette Gil (P&M Press)
  • Spanish Fever: Stories by the New Spanish Cartoonists – edited by Javier Olivares & Santiago Garcia (Fantagraphics)

Outstanding Collection

  • Boundless – Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • The Complete Neat Stuff – Peter Bagge (Fantagraphics)
  • Hip Hop Family Tree, Vol. 2 – Ed Piskor (Fantagraphics)
  • Johnny Wander: Our Cats Are More Famous Than Us - Ananth Hirsh, Yuko Ota (Oni Press)
  • Time Clock – Leslie Stein (Fantagraphics)

Outstanding Graphic Novel

  • Band for Life – Anya Davidson (Fantagraphics)
  • Eartha – Cathy Malkasian (Fantagraphics)
  • March: Book 3 – John Lewis, Nate Powell, Andrew Aydin (Top Shelf)
  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters – Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)
  • Tetris – Box Brown (First Second)

Outstanding Story

  • Diana’s Electric Tongue – Carolyn Nowak (self published)
  • March: Book 3 – John Lewis, Nate Powell, Andrew Aydin (Top Shelf)
  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters – Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)
  • "Small Enough" from Diary Comics – Dustin Harbin (Koyama Press)
  • "Too Hot to Be Cool" from Elements– Maddie Gonzales - (Beyond Press)

Promising New Talent

  • Kelly Bastow – Year Long Summer (self published)
  • Margot Ferrick – Yours (2D Cloud)
  • Aud Koch – “Run” from the Oath Anthology (Mary’s Monster)
  • Isabella Rotman – Long Black Veil (self-published)
  • Bianca Xunise – Say Her Name (self-published)

Outstanding Series

  • Chester 5000 – Jess Fink (self-published)
  • Crickets – Sammy Harkham (self-published)
  • Frontier – edited by Ryan Sands (Youth in Decline)
  • Maleficium – Sabin Couldron (self-published)
  • The Old Woman – Rebecca Mock (self-published)

Outstanding Comic

  • Canopy – Karine Bernadou (Retrofit/Big Planet)
  • Libby’s Dad – Eleanor Davis (Retrofit/Big Planet)
  • Public Relations #10 – Matthew Sturges, Dave Justus, Steve Rolston, Annie Wu (1First Comics)
  • Sunburning – Keiler Roberts (Koyama Press)
  • Your Black Friend – Ben Passmore (Silver Sprocket)

Outstanding Minicomic

  • The Man Who Came Down the Attic Stairs – Celine Loup
  • Our Tale of Woe – Keren Katz & Geffen Refaeli
  • Reverse Flaneur – M. Sabine Rear
  • Same Place Same Time – Ann Xu
  • Tender Hearted – Hazel Newlevant

Outstanding Online Comic

AND:

This clip of David Letterman on Howard Stern talking about Harvey Pekar has been making the rounds. 

The Atlantic has an article on colorists and letterers in comics. 

What Dan Clowes learned in college. 

 

It’s Alright, Ma

Today on the site, Greg Hunter brings us the latest episode of his excellent Comic Book Decalogue podcast, this time featuring Katie Skelly, who talks Kyoko Okazak, Dave Cooper, and Nabokov, among other things.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, still catching up:

—News. The great Mexican political cartoonist Rius died last week. Here is the New York Times obituary.

Mr. del Río, a lapsed seminarian who adopted the pen name Rius, drew thousands of editorial cartoons. He also published humor magazines and more than 100 graphic nonfiction books.

“The only revenge we have as Mexicans,” he often said, “is to laugh at the powerful.”

His books, many with provocative titles, included “Marx for Beginners,” “The Dictionary of Human Stupidity,” “The True History of Uncle Sam,” “100 Proposals to Save What Is Left of Mexico,” “Hitler for Masochists,” “The Stomach Is First” and “Would Jesus Christ Have Been Catholic?”

The longtime political cartoonist and Dick Tracy artist Dick Locher also died last week. This is his home paper's obituary.

While a Chicago Academy of Fine Arts student in 1957, Locher was tapped to do some inking for Chester Gould, the creator of the "Dick Tracy" strip. He went on to work as Gould's assistant for the next four years.

"He had regimented working requirements," Locher said of Gould in a 1981 Tribune interview. "Be in at 7:30 every morning, have everything completed by Friday, no excuses."

Locher left Gould's employ in 1961 and eventually headed an art studio in Oak Brook called Novamark. In 1973, despite having no experience as an editorial cartoonist, Locher was hired by the Tribune. He remained on staff until his retirement in 2013, producing more than 10,000 drawings on a raft of topics.


—Interviews & Profiles.
Jezebel talked to Mimi Pond, with a lot of discussion of work (there should be more of that in the comics world).

I was able to work a lot more when I cut back to part time, that made an enormous difference. When I was doing it full time it was kind of all-absorbing. It was exhausting, and it made you hate people and hate the world. Which is really bad. [Laughs] It’s a bad way to see the world. When I was able to cut back my schedule to full time, I had more time for myself and my work, and it made a tremendous difference. Having had the experience of working full time, it gave me more motivation to try to get out and pursue my dream of going to New York.

A recent guest on the Process Party podcast was Darryl Ayo.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Anders Nilsen gives graphic notes on his new project, Tongues.

Panel design and structure matter a lot to me. I did a bit of teaching from 2012 to 2015 or so and one of the things I found myself focusing on with certain students was how panels work and what happens to storytelling when they change in various ways. Some cartoonists do great things with a simple grid. My two biggest comics influences, Hergé and Chester Brown, use very simple panel structures in their comics, and they were brilliant with it. But I can’t keep from playing around with panels.

 

Hardly There

Hi there, I want to also thank Tucker Stone for his superlative work last week, including his incisive analysis of my potential likes, dislikes, and basic psychology. Today on the we have Joe McCulloch on the week in comics and some commentary on the column itself. 

Elsewhere:

Gabrielle Bell has a serial comic on the Paris Review site. 

Daniel Clowes has a spiffy new web site!

A new crowdfunder for Steve Ditko is online.

 

A Hell of a Week to Quit Logging On

Hello, everyone. I just got back from a blessedly internet-free week in the woods, and based on what I've gathered from the news, it appears that I picked a good week to stay offline. Obviously huge thanks go out to Tucker Stone for his excellent guest editorial efforts, and with any luck we'll be able to lure him into writing for the site again relatively soon...

In any case, today on TCJ, we have a new review by Rob Kirby of Glynnis Fawkes's Greek Diary.

From June 5th to July 7th 2016, artist Glynnis Fawkes was in Greece, first working as an illustrator on an archeological excavation, then vacationing with her husband John and her two children, Sylvan and Helen, on the Greek islands of Rhodes, Santorini, and Paros. In Greek Diary she gets it all down in comics form, everything from the pleasure of "nerding out" with fellow academics after a good day's work, to the deep stresses of travel plans gone awry while looking after two strong-willed children. Throughout, Fawkes captures the beauty of the Grecian landscape: the bustle of busy ports, quiet villages baking under the summer sun, and days filled with sightseeing, swimming in the ocean, and lazy pleasure-seeking—interspersed with inevitable bouts of travel fatigue and ordinary family strife. The result is a work that’s more vivid, immersive, and entertaining than any vacation slide show could ever be.


Meanwhile, elsewhere, I'm still catching up to comics news, but here are a few things to get started with:

—Gabrielle Bell continues a comics retelling of Little Red Riding Hood at The Paris Review.

—Julia Gfrörer was hospitalized after being attacked by a feral cat.

Within a few hours my wrist hurt badly and was swollen. There were red blotches around the bites and red streaks going up and down my arm. It was hard to drive home—because I couldn’t really use my left hand—so I had to steer with my forearm when shifting gears. When I got home, I splinted my wrist with cardboard and masking tape.

[UPDATE: I now see that Tucker already linked to this last Thursday. You can handle reading it again.]

—The most recent guest on Process Party is Sammy Harkham.

—Phil Nel writes about the antiracism (and the racism) that can be found in the work of Dr. Seuss.

Racism is not aberrant. It’s ordinary. It’s embedded in institutions, and in culture — such as the cartoons and books of Dr. Seuss.

—And I can't remember if we've already linked to 2dcloud's most recent crowdfunding effort.

 

California, Stay Away From Here

This is it for me, ladies and gentlemen. All the more reason to go out with a bang. First up, it's time to Break some News and talk with Secret Acres about their momentous changes.

"We started Secret Acres during a comics explosion, and I may not be the brightest light on the tree, but I never expected that to continue forever. I believe in ups and downs."

What's that? You're not full? Well, get ready then--because it's time for Katie Skelly to sit you down and provide The Journal's official take on one of the most talked about manga of  2017: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness.

"For Kabi, it’s less about experiencing the sensations of a sexual encounter with another person, and more about driving herself to have checked off certain notches in a sexual narrative (i.e., was I kissed, was I embraced, was I penetrated?). My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness itself may suffer a similar issue: in an almost desperate attempt to assemble all the blocks of Kabi’s story, the comic displaces its own need to find aesthetic purpose."

And it wouldn't be the Journal if we didn't dive into another one of the news-of-the-day tarpits headfirst. We could've done another Rich Tommaso think piece (we already linked to a few of those on Monday), but figured hey--why not just grab the horse, open his mouth, and grab handfuls of whatever the hell he keeps in there? (In this tortured analogy, Rich Tommaso is a horse.)

"I don't think it was unreasonable for me to think the numbers of initial orders would match somewhat those on She Wolf and Dark Corridor, both of which had ZERO promotion before their releases. And yes, those first two issues determine whether I can move forward with the next project, because they account for months of income.

ELSEWHERE? SURE!

Dick Sprang--who, I agree, has the best name in comics--doesn't get talked about enough, but I think that's probably for the same reason we don't talk about how amazing constellations are: he's part of the fabric, and his art tends to look as if it was rolled out onto the page like wallpaper. Look at this page. You just know that Brian Bolland looks at that red robot every couple of weeks and weeps tears of shame. "This was made by a human being", he cries.

This review of a new Mister Miracle comic comes with a pretty extreme degree of hyperbole, but that isn't particularly unusual--super-hero comics tend to garner extreme praise from a certain kind of reviewer when they color outside of the lines a bit--I should know, as i used to write the same kind of thing when Greg Rucka would put out a new issue of Checkmate. It did the trick, too--I went to a comic book store on a Wednesday for the first time since...well, it's been a while. They were actually already sold out of that issue of Mister Miracle, and the boss rolled his eyes and said "they're coming out of the woodwork for that one". As I hadn't seen him in at least four years, he had a point! In an amusing twist that I'm not going to try to read into, the 17-year-old who currently has the thankless role of alphabetizing and bagging the purchases of middle-aged comics buyers gave me his copy. I feebly protested, knowing full well that I was not being given a copy of Mister Miracle #1 because of my status as Comics Journal Guest Editor, but because I was an old, pathetic man and he could smell my flesh decaying.

It's fine. It's fine! The comic chooses to focus initially on the more real world elements of a Mister Miracle story--Scott Free at home kind of stuff, this time he's sad, but that's just a fake-out, they're still going to do all that Darkseid's-comin' thing. The art is Alex Maleev-y stuff, with a bunch of stylistic flourishes that exist to call attention to themselves (during the portion of the comic where Mister Miracle is being interviewed on a nightly talk show by Glorious Godfrey, the images are filtered to look like VHS footage), and the comic is interspersed throughout with black panels that say "Darkseid is". This reviewer found that to be "bone-chilling" and/or "harrowing." I thought that word choice was a bit extreme, but that same reviewer compares the La La Land/Moonlight screw up at the Oscars to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, so maybe he's just an enthusiastic guy! In keeping with their status as "the annoying comics website you'd like to write off that actually gets it right sometimes", this Bleeding Cool review is sober and pretty accurate, whereas this io9 recap of each page makes the same dumb assumption that was made ten times over back when Grant Morrison was "reinventing" Fourth World characters, which is to claim that "there is no better way to honor Kirby's contribution to the comics world" then to remix his characters for the umpteenth time. I'm sure that's what he would have loved. I mean, Kirby's entire career trajectory and life choices say the exact opposite, but I bet if he had lived to be 100 he would have gotten over his own personality. For what it's worth, Mister Miracle #1 isn't funny, and it isn't pretty and it isn't very exciting. But it is very serious and features someone attempting suicide while still prominently featuring super-hero costumes. It cost four dollars.