It’s Not Easy

Today we have two pieces for you. First, R.C. Harvey on the late Alex Raymond and a new book on the Flash Gordon artist by Ron Goulart.

Among the achievements for which Alex Raymond is noted in histories of this oft-abused artform is that he drew three nationally syndicated comic strips simultaneously. Jungle Jim and Flash Gordon, both of which began January 7, 1934, and Secret Agent X-9, which began two weeks later on January 22. Given the high quality of the illustrative evidence available, Raymond’s achievement seems all the more remarkable. To do such good work on three comic strips at the same time attests, we are tempted to say, to Raymond’s towering graphic genius.

Before surrendering to the temptation, however, we might take a moment to reflect, and in that moment, remember that Secret Agent X-9 was a daily only comic strip and Jungle Jim and Flash Gordon appeared only on Sundays. Moreover, Jungle Jim was the “topper” for Flash Gordon—a one- or two-tier strip that filled out a single page, with Flash occupying the bottom two-thirds. The two Sunday-only strips made up a single page of the funnies, just as Bringing Up Father and Snookums or Blondie and Colonel Potterby and the Duchess did. Raymond may have drawn better (more illustratively, in greater detail), but he did no more strips in an average week than George McManus did with Jiggs and Maggie or Chic Young with Blondie and Dagwood. Six daily strips and one Sunday page.

And we also have Robert Boyd's review of Gilbert Hernandez's new Biblical adaptation, Garden of Flesh.

Can the Bible be made more interesting by the addition of huge amounts of explicit sex? Gilbert Hernandez’s Garden of the Flesh suggests that the answer is no. The first thing you notice is the beautiful package and design. The size of the book (6 x 4.75 inches), the lovely leatherette cover, the attractive debossed cover type—the title is surrounded by a beautiful garland of leaves—promises great things. The designer should be singled out for praise. His name is “J. Feeli Pecker.” Kudos Mr. Pecker!

It starts off promisingly enough. In the Garden of Eden, we see the primeval Earth disturbed, and on the 4th page Adam’s erect cock pierces through crust of the Earth as he is born into the world. The tumescent Adam announces his own existence and observes that he is alone, lacking “a companion like myself.” He lays on his back and jerks off, spewing splooge onto his ribcage, whence Eve is born. Regretfully, that’s the cleverest part of the book.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. A few days ago, a writer at Hillary Clinton's official website wrote a hilarious, inaccurate "explainer" about the origins of Matt Furie's Pepe character (without ever mentioning Furie's name), who has been unfortunately appropriated by some rightwing Twitter racists.

That cartoon frog is more sinister than you might realize.

Though that particular piece has still not been corrected, Furie has since given several interviews clarifying that Pepe is not a Trump supporter, including at the Daily Dot

It's just a phase, it's not the first time Pepe has been reclaimed for evil, and no one will care about it come November. I predict that his sly, lovable, and charming status will be intact as early as next week.

and at The Guardian:

Beyond Boy’s Club, I think it’s even more familiar as a meme for youth culture and teenagers. It’s weird that people are saying he’s been “a longtime white supremacist meme”. If anything he’d be part of the Green party. He’s a frog, why would he support white supremacists? That doesn’t make any sense.

At Loser City, RJ Casey writes about the National Lampoon comics of Claire Bretécher:

Bretécher explores a unique form of late ’70s arrested development in each of her one-page stories. Her characters aren’t afraid to grow up; in fact they’re fully embracive of this stage of their lives. The step from one phase to the next though, it’s a doozy. In one story, Bretécher has three zenned-out suburbanites argue about Christmas traditions at a Buddhist meditation camp. Another sees a woman unknowingly transition from counterculture hellion to helicopter mom. Bretécher’s characters, for our sake and amusement, seesaw between being uneasy and unself-aware. The only solution to their problems is to “talk it out.”

—Interviews & Profiles. Emily Buder interviews Dash Shaw about his new animated movie.

When I started making this movie, I thought that [my experience in comic books] would be more applicable than it was. I thought, well, I can draw and tell a story, and I've created a lot of characters. I can scan it just like I would scan my comics, only now it's going to go into After Effects. I thought it would be a much smoother transition. But when I was in it, I realized that there were so many things that I had no experience with.

The movie does have a dry humor that is like my books, but in film—in some kind of bizarre, magical way—you can have people say one thing but it means something completely different based on how they say it, which is obviously something that you don't get from just reading words. Things are more powerful when the literal words that [characters] are saying aren't what's being communicated.

And for The New Yorker, Sarah Larson writes about Raina Telgemeier.

Telgemeier’s realistic, sometimes autobiographical books have helped popularize graphic novels for middle-schoolers, in a big way. Her past three books, “Smile,” from 2010, “Drama,” from 2012, and “Sisters,” from 2014, were all No. 1 Times best-sellers. She has won two Eisner awards and many other distinctions. This morning, “Ghosts” was already No. 13, out of all books, on Amazon’s best-seller list.