Welcome to the webbed and wired edition of R&R, aristotle. We’ll be doing the same sort of song and dance here as we once did in print: reviewing the latest comics and cartoon-related books and ranting about trends and abuses and unfathomable foolishnesses. Each installment will stay here for about four weeks, with something new coming along just about every other week or so. If you don’t have the time to ponder every punctuation mark in this deathless prose and merely want to see what might be there that would interest you, we suggest you scroll down the page looking for the bold-face type that heralds the notables who reside herein this posting. So here we go with Opus 388 (and a reprise of Opus 387):
Opus 388 (January 9, 2019). HAPPY NEW YEAR and some of the egg that nogged you, kimo sabe!! The holidays just come thick and fast at this time of year, more rapidly than we can properly celebrate them. But we try. This time down the Rabbit Hole, f’instance, we are again doing an inordinate number of book reviews (thirty, albeit short) so you’ll have guidance about how to spend the Christmas money your doting aunt Louise gave you.
We also defend Thomas Nast against the charge of bigotry, critique Time’s Person of the Year, sample this year’s Christmas comic strips, offer a lesson in how to avoid racism, review about a dozen funnybooks, and perform one of our celebrated rambling essays, this one on Mattachine and McCarthyism.
As always, to assist you in find your way through the plethora of goodies herein, we offer the list below so you can choose what to examine and what to dodge; here’s what’s here, in order, by department—:
NOUS R US
New Comics Publisher: TKO
New Peanuts Animations Coming
Update on Ted Rall v L.A. Times
Editoonist Gets Death Threats
A Lesson in Racism
Vast Overcount Alleged (Spoof)
Spirit of Feiffer’s Christmas
FUNNYBOOK FAN FARE
U.S. vs. Murder Inc.
Mr. & Mrs. X
Catwoman Tweety and Sylvester
The Joker and Daffy
Spillane’s Mike Hammer
Antics and Absurdities of the Trumpet
Some of the Best Editoons Reviewed
Wheels Falling Off the Trumpet
Stormy Daniels’ Full Disclosure
Broken News (the very latest)
THE FROTH ESTATE
Time’s Person of the Year—Bad Choice
NEWSPAPER COMICS PAGE VIGIL
THOMAS NAST SCRUBBED FROM OPC AWARD
But He Ain’t a Bigot
Michael Dooley’s 2012 Essay Defending Nast
Gossip & Garrulities
FROM MATTACHNE TO McCARTHY
One of Those Picturesque Rambles
RANCID RAVES GALLERY
Patterson and Price
Short Reviews of—:
Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel
Slow Ball Cartoonist (John T. McCutcheon)
Walt Kelly’s Pogo: Complete Dell Comics, Volume Six
Stan Lee: A Life of Marvel (Entertainment Weekly Special)
Mort Gerberg On the Scene: 50 Years of His Cartoons
The Labyrinth (Saul Steinberg’s Memorable Sketches)
Pogo: Out of This World at Home
Volume 5 Reprinting the Syndicated Strip
TEN BEST GRAPHIC NOVELS OF 2018 from Comic Riffs
Recent Graphic Novels Recommended by Adrian Tomine
Books Recommended by Ryan North
ONWARD, THE SPREADING PUNDITRY
Woodward Says Some Good Things about Trump
The Trumpet’s All-time Record of Falsehooding
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
If Not of A Lifetime
“Goddamn it, you’ve got to be kind.”—Kurt Vonnegut
Our Motto: It takes all kinds. Live and let live.
Wear glasses if you need ’em.
But it’s hard to live by this axiom in the Age of Tea Baggers,
so we’ve added another motto:.
Seven days without comics makes one weak.
(You can’t have too many mottos.)
And our customary reminder: when you get to the $ubscriber/Associate Section (perusal of which is restricted to paid subscribers), don’t forget to activate the “Bathroom Button” by clicking on the “print friendly version” so you can print off a copy of just this installment for reading later, at your leisure while enthroned. Without further adieu, then, here we go—:
NOUS R US
Some of All the News That Gives Us Fits
ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO SUBVERT THE SYSTEM
Another new comic book publisher is attempting to break free of the current system of marketing comics. “In an industry where buying monthly serialized stories is the norm,” George Gene Gustines explains at nytimes.com, “TKO is presenting an alternative: binge releasing its mini-series comic books, simultaneously selling collected editions of its titles, and offering the first issue of each collection free. TKO is also selling directly to readers and retailers from its website, not through normal distribution channels.”
This sounds suspiciously like Sitcomics, which we discussed in Opus 377. Sitcomics, however, did not initially sell to retail stores; they sold only to individuals.
I just checked the Sitcomics website, and while there seem to be a few new titles, mostly, it’s the same line-up that was there seven months ago. And when I asked my comic book store operative about Sitcomics, he said he’d never heard of it. Most of the stores carrying Sitcomics are in California, which is where the publisher is located. Otherwise, low visibility.
The traditional mode of operation is for publishers and stores is to work through Diamond Comic Distributors, which centralizes orders and shipments. Six-issue series, like those that TKO is offering, typically arrive in weekly installments in stores (on occasion) or monthly (which is the norm), with collected editions following months later.
TKO starts with the collected edition. You can buy all six issues of a TKO title at the website. You can read the first issue without charge but you must read it at the website; print versions of the single first issue do not exist.
TKO’s comics are slightly taller and wider than usual and their six-issue bundle for $14.99 works out to about $2.50 per issue, which is less than the $3.99 price per issue of most comic book series these days.
TKO, which is also eschewing superheroes — the bread and butter of the industry — has recruited top talent for the comics. Stars like Garth Ennis and Steve Epting have collaborated on Sara, about Russian snipers battling Nazis during World War II. Sara is the only title that is presently available, the first issue ready to read online.
Other titles include: Goodnight Paradise, a murder mystery set in a poor community in California, is by Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli; The Banks by Roxane Gay and Ming Doyle, about three generations of black women pulling off a revenge heist; Sentient, by Jeff Lemire and Gabriel Hernández Walta, about a colony ship in space where an artificial-intelligence being looks after young passengers when all the adults die.
Other titles include The Fearsome Dr. Fang and The 7 Deadly Sins; creative teams not named.
TKO STUDIOS IS THE CREATION of Salvatore Simeone, chief executive and co-publisher, who comes from the tech industry, and Tze Chun, the co-publisher, who is also a film and TV writer, director and producer. They are committed to TKO full time. Chun has wanted to create comics since he was young: “It’s the way I learned to tell stories.” Rounding out the TKO team is Sebastian Girner, the editor in chief, and Cara McKenney, who is married to Chun, and who handles talent recruitment. None of whom I have ever heard of in the comics biz.
Milton Griepp, the chief executive of ICv2 quoted by Gustines, noted that there were ups and downs to forgoing the usual distribution methods. While there may be benefits from direct communication between publishers and buyers, there are higher costs.
“Both the publisher and the retailer are spending more to get the books in the store than they would if the comics moved through a distributor,” he said.
The TKO publishers want to do everything to make the effort worth it for retailers, Simeone said, adding, “We can accommodate big stores and discounts,” similar to Diamond, the sole distributor of comics in North America.
Smaller stores with limited resources can point their customers to TKO’s website and receive a sales commission. “We want everyone in the smallest town, in the smallest country, to have access to our books,” Simeone said.
Sounds all well and good. But who’s gonna know about this new magnificence? Same people that know about Sitcomics? Just thee and me? How’re they getting the word out? And if no one knows about this phenomenon, none of the TKO comic books will be ordered.
NEW PEANUTS ANIMATIONS IN THE OFFING
Apple has struck a deal with DHX Media to produce new series, specials and shorts based on the characters from the animated world created by Charles M. Schulz, a source familiar with the deal tells CNN.
Apple has yet to announce the name of its official television service, the cost of its content or details on how it will be accessed, even as it builds a trove of upcoming projects.
As part of the deal, DHX, which co-owns the world of Peanuts along with Sony Music Entertainment and the Schulz family, will create short-form STEM-related content for Apple. (Think astronaut Snoopy.)
UPDATE ON TED RALL’S SUIT AGAINST THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
By Ted Rall
More care goes into the making of a sandwich.
That’s what I was thinking last Thursday as I watched oral arguments in the California Court of Appeals in Los Angeles.
Case after case came before a three-judge panel. They concerned a variety of matters. Hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps millions, were at stake. More importantly, so were hard-built professional careers and reputations. With so much that mattered hanging in the balance, you’d hope to see these cases handled with sensitivity, decorum and thoughtfulness—and you’d be sorely disappointed.
There was a real estate deal gone wrong that I would have needed to read up on in order to understand. A physician was resisting a subpoena for his patients’ records filed by the state medical board, which suspected him of overprescribing opioids. And there was me, former editorial cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times, defending myself from an “anti-SLAPP” motion that, if successful, would end my lawsuit before it began and bankrupt me with a court order for me—the victim—to pay the Times hundreds of thousands of dollars for their legal fees.
It ought to be illegal for a police department to own a newspaper. But it’s not. In 2015 the LAPD pension fund was a major shareholder of Tribune Publishing, owner of the Times. Annoyed at my cartoons about him, then-LAPD Chief Charlie Beck asked the Times then-publisher Austin Beutner, now LA schools superintendent, to fire me as a political favor. He did. Beck also wanted my reputation destroyed so I could never work again, in order to send a message to journalists: don’t mess with the LAPD. Beutner, Beck’s political ally and a man with ambitions to become mayor or governor, complied by ordering that the paper publish two libelous articles about me portraying me as a liar.
The second one was published after I proved I had told the truth.
I sued for defamation and wrongful termination in 2016.
Since then Times attorney Kelli Sager, who also represents the National Enquirer in its smear of gay icon Richard Simmons, has waged a scorched-earth litigation campaign designed to intimidate, harass and delay my quest to clear my name. Sager filed the anti-SLAPP, a law designed to be used by individuals to defend themselves against powerful corporate entities, against me. She convinced the court to force me to pay $75,000 just to be able to continue my case for something called a “Section 1030”—a law whose intent is to discriminate against out-of-state plaintiffs. (I live in New York.) Last week, during oral arguments in open court, she compared me to a “pedophile.”
Last summer the lower court in L.A. ruled against me on the anti-SLAPP, saying that even though I showed that I was truthful and the Times was not, I must pay $330,000 (as of then) in legal fees to the Times. I appealed, which is why I was in court last Thursday.
WE KNEW IT WAS GOING TO BE TOUGH. Shortly beforehand the court issued a “tentative opinion” that indicated the Court of Appeals planned to buy Sager’s arguments lock, stock and barrel. Those arguments were lengthy and complicated but they could be summarized as: the First Amendment allows newspapers to publish anything they want, the truth doesn’t much matter and if you slap a veneer of officialdom on libel—in this case, the Times claimed it was merely reporting on what the LAPD said about me—it becomes “privileged,” i.e. inactionable.
My attorney Jeff Lewis emphasized several points.
First, he pointed out, the tentative opinion disregarded California anti-SLAPP case law that requires that I be given the benefit of the doubt, not the Times, when considering their anti-SLAPP motion. In Overstock.com, Inc. v. Gradient Analytics, Inc. (2007), for example, the court ruled that “the plaintiff’s burden of establishing a probability of prevailing is not high: We do not weigh credibility, nor do we evaluate the weight of the evidence. Instead, we accept as true all evidence favorable to the plaintiff and assess the defendant’s evidence only to determine if it defeats the plaintiff’s submission as a matter of law.” The tentative opinion was rife with references to my supposed (in)credibility and purported to evaluate the evidence presented.
The justices seemed surprised by Jeff’s argument. They asked him to cite case law examples. He did. They wrote them down.
I hope they take notice and change tack, still, anti-SLAPP motions are commonplace in California courts. How could any judge be unaware of important cases like Overstock or the standard that plaintiffs get the benefit of the doubt in anti-SLAPP?
Jeff countered the Times’ argument that they were merely passing on what the LAPD records given to them said. It matters because “fair and true” journalistic reports about government records are “privileged.” Much of the Times’ hit pieces against me concerned the Times’ own cursory sham investigation of me. One judge asked Sager whether the Times was arguing that both the LAPD and the Times’ references were privileged. Sager repeated that the LAPD ones were, repeatedly ignoring the Times question until, after being pressed, she played dumb, insulting the court’s intelligence by pretending not to understand the issue.
No one pressed her on that or on her “pedophile” remark. Whereas the judges expressed great concern for the reputation of the doctor in the previous case about overprescribing, none spoke against comparing a cartoonist to a pedophile, further slandering me.
Jeff asked why the court’s tentative ruling ignored our most important anti-SLAPP case law precedent, Wilson v. CNN. There was no clear answer. Whether it was intentional or they forgot, people have been fired from far less prestigious jobs for considerably less shoddy work.
Jeff asked the court to consider the chilling message they would send to journalists at news outlets like the Times if they ruled for the Times against me: if you criticize the LAPD, you can be destroyed even though you did nothing wrong. And you can’t sue. There is no redress. There is no justice.
We await the court’s ruling.
EDITORIAL CARTOONIST GETS DEATH THREATS
Editoonists are always bobbing around in hot water because of readers who disagree strenuously with something they’ve drawn. Last fall, Chris Britt, formerly of the Illinois State Journal-Register (now, after a budget-induced layoff, freelancing), said he feared for his life because of reader reaction. He told police that he’d received several death threats for drawing the cartoon nearby that depicts the praying 10-year-old daughter of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“The reaction is unbelievable,” Britt said in an interview. “The vitriol has been poisonous. It’s like a forest fire, and it’s out of control.”
But he doesn’t regret drawing the cartoon.
“It’s a perfectly defendable cartoon,” said Britt.
The drawing, reported Dean Olsen at the State Journal-Register, was designed to “turn the tables” on a comment made by Kavanaugh in front of the Senate Judicial Committee.
Kavanaugh told the senators that his wife, Ashley, was with their daughter a few days before when the girl suggested that the family pray for Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who testified that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s when they both were in high school in suburban Washington, D.C. Kavanaugh has denied he assaulted Ford.
“Most people are saying it’s completely inappropriate to include a child in a political discussion,” Illinois Times publisher Michelle Ownbey said of the reaction. (The paper was drawn into the situation because, through a misunderstanding, its name appeared under Britt’s signature in the cartoon posted on his website.)
By common practice, editorial cartoonists do not generally parody or lampoon the children of political figures if the children are minors
For violating this unwritten protocol Britt put the blame on Kavanaugh who used his daughter to attract sympathy. After all, Kavanaugh is the one who brought his daughter into the brouhaha.
The cartoon, Britt said, employs a common form of satire used by editorial cartoonists. “I used his story, and I flipped it,” Britt said.
Britt said Prez Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh, has stoked contempt for the media.
“I hold Trump responsible for these hate-filled comments and death threats I’m receiving,” Britt said. “For the first time in my life, I’m uneasy.”
Many of the comments contained vulgarities and threats, Ownbey said.
“One said my entire staff should be lined up and shot,” she said, adding that some comments referenced the June shooting deaths of five staff members at the Capitol Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland.
“It’s pretty horrible,” she said. “There’s a lot of hatred toward the mainstream media. ... It’s sad that people can’t have a conversation about their differences without resorting to something so hateful.”
Britt says he’s undeterred by the death threats.
“These people are not going to silence me. I’m just going to continue to speak my mind. They’re not going to shut me up.”
But Kavanaugh’s daughter probably won’t be in future cartoons.
“It would be redundant,” Britt said.
The Antics and Absurdities of the Trumpet
COLLUSION may not be illegal. “A secret agreement between two or more parties for a fraudulent, illegal or deceitful purpose” is not, in and of itself, illegal. Immoral perhaps. Despicable maybe. But not actually illegal.
But collusion with an antagonistic foreign power? Looks too much like treason, which is illegal.
And despite the bloviations from the Trumpet, it has been obvious for months that even if the Trump campaign did not actually enter into a formal bargain with the Russians to assist in electing Trump, the Trump people would have entered into that bargain if they thought it was to their advantage. When they met with the Russian lawyer who promised “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, their intention was clear: they intended to collude.
Donald Trump Jr.’s reaction to the prospect of getting dirt on Clinton was to rub his hands figuratively and gloat, “I love it.”
That they didn’t, apparently, collude was probably because the Russians weren’t able to convince them that they had any dirt.
Maybe intention isn’t enough to convict on, but in this case, it ought to be.
A LESSON IN RACISM
The 50th U.S. Tennis Open did not end the way anyone expected it to. In the middle of her final match against Naomi Osaka at Arthur Ashe Stadium, with a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title on the line, Serena Williams was standing on the court calling the chair umpire a thief.
This is not the way it was supposed to go for Williams, 36, said Ben Rotheberg at nytimes.com—“perhaps the greatest player her sport has seen, on a night that was supposed to be a celebration of her career and her comeback to the top of tennis a year after giving birth.”
Instead of winning, Williams lost after an umpire accused her of cheating and stuck her with a number of penalties, include the loss of an entire game. The outcome was so upsetting that competitor Naomi Osaka, ultimately the winner, accepted her trophy in tears.
During the match, reported Opheli Garcia Lawler at thecut.com, a frustrated Williams lashed out at the umpire, Carlos Ramos, saying she would never cheat and demanding an apology. She later called him a thief for stealing a point from her — prompting him to give her yet another code violation. She lost because of his penalties.
Was Ramos being sexist? That’s what Williams thought. Williams’ explanation appears at the end of this article. For now, we drop that narrative to take up the one involving the editoons posted on the Other Side of the $ubscribers Wall. ... To See Those Cartoons and To Read a Spoof of Harv’s Getting the Inkpot, a Defense of Thomas Nast (Wrongly Accused of Bigotry), Reviews of Funnybooks and Books, Editoons from the Last Month, a Sample of Christmas Comic Strips, and to See Some Nifty Found Art, and More, Much More —Click Here
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