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 do 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 a new one coming in 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 week. So here we go with Opus 309 (and a reprise of Opus 308):
Opus 309 (April 26, 2013). Our main event this time is a report on a new tv documentary on newspaper comics that’s underway, with Harv’s involvement as interviewer during a visit to cartoonists and historians in the San Francisco vicinity: we visited Comic Art Museum’s curator Andrew Farago and took copious photographs (all on display herewith) of the Charles Schulz Museum and cartoonists Tom Yeates and Morrie Turner, and Jean Schulz at her husband’s studio. We also announce the winner of the Pulitzer for editorial cartooning and some other winners in other editoon competitions and exhibit some of the best editorial cartoons on the Boston bombing and the failure of the U.S. Senate and review Sex and Sledgehammer and Daredevil: The End of Days. Here’s what’s here, in order, by department:
NOUS R US
New Yorker Mailing Label Fixed
Doonesbury in Boulder
THE AWARD SEASON
Steve Sack Gets Pulitzer
Headliner Winner, Steve Breen
Pat Bagley Bags Best of the West
True Story of Mormon Crickets
By Pat Bagley
Milton Knight on Academic Comics
DOCUMENTARY FILM ON COMICS
By Tom Tanquary and R.C. Harvey
Prospectus: Hand-drawn Life
Photo Report on San Francisco Visit
Charles Schulz Museum and Studio
Sunday Press’s Peter Maresca
Prince Valiant’s Tom Yeates
Wee Pals’ Morrie Turner
Some of the Best of the Month
Gun Control Failure
RCH Essay: Terrorism Bombs in Boston
THE FROTH ESTATE
Boston Bombing Not “Well Coordinated”
Misconduct of the Press from Felltoons.com
NEWSPAPER COMICS PAGE VIGIL
Toni and Brad Engaged
Garfield, Pearls, Funky Shower Curtain
Beetle and Zits
FUNNYBOOK FAN FARE
Daredevil: The End of Days
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
No cartoonists made it to Time’s annual list of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.” Neither did any of the Mexican drug cartel moguls; surely, they’re influential? If it’s any comfort, however, Time named R.C. Harvey Person of the Year in 2006 (along with every other Internet user who was creating content on the Web). Ahhh, fame—how fleeting.
We pause here to recognize an Advance in Civilization. For years as a subscriber, I’ve complained (often to the art director, Francoise Moulay) about the mailing labels on the covers of The New Yorker. The labels cover up a small piece of the cover art. And at least once—on a cover by Sempe—the label covered the visual punchline. And if you try to peel the label off so the artwork can be viewed without obstruction, the peeling rips off a piece of the artwork. This seems negligent to an almost criminal extent. Not only are readers deprived of a view of an entertaining drawing, but the magazine is sabotaging itself. Presumably, The New Yorker pays a bodacious penny for the art on its cover. And yet, it persists in a practice that deliberately blemishes that expensive art.
Other magazines that I get have labels on the cover, too, so The New Yorker is not the sole offender in magazine journalism. But it is the most egregious because it so clearly values its cover as a showplace for ingenious artistic endeavors.
I once recommended that the mailing label be affixed to the back cover; and to foreclose on the advertiser’s complaint, a strip across the bottom of the back cover could be left blank for attaching the label—that way, it wouldn’t (the gods forfend!) obliterate a piece of sacred salesmanship. (In effect, the back cover ad would be a few cubic inches smaller, but the magazine could still charge the same fee: it’s position, not size, that makes the back cover desirable.) No one grabbed at that remedy.
Other magazines use mailing labels the glue of which adheres the label to the cover but still permits the label to be peeled off without taking portions of the cover illustration with it. And now—at last!—The New Yorker has joined that throng.
You’d think a magazine of advanced thinking and artistic sensibility would have found a solution to its most glaring (because most visible) problem, but, no, apparently it’s taken years. Ms. Moulay once explained, when I assaulted her with my usual complaint, that the machinery that affixes mailing labels was too complicated to change. Made no sense, of course; but she’s an art critic, not a mechanic.
Now, the machinery (or whatever was the problem—I say, the glue) has been adjusted, and I can peel off the label and see cover art in all its gorgeousness.
Doonesbury in Boulder. Zonker Harris, a mellow but dedicated stoner in Garry Trudeau’s strip, apparently keeps up with the news of the day, wherein he found that weed is legal for recreational purposes in Colorado (the state in which these wholesome remarks originate). So Zonker is going West, youngsters, where he, with slacker nephew Zipper in tow, plans to become a “bajillionnaire” with a “sweet little grow outside of Boulder.” Boulder is the place that hosts a national “smoke out” (or is it a “smoke in”?) annually.
A monster smokey was conducted in Denver’s civic center on April 20, but it was disrupted by a gunman who fired his weapon and wounded a couple people. Perhaps gang related. Investigation proceeds apace.
The part I liked best about the “4/20" festivity was that at precisely 4:20pm, everyone exhaled, creating a huge maryjane cloud just in front of the state capital building.
For exhaustive comics news, consult these four other sites: Mark Evanier’s povonline.com, Alan Gardner’s DailyCartoonist.com, Tom Spurgeon’s comicsreporter.com, and Michael Cavna at voices.washingtonpost.com./comic-riffs . For delving into the history of our beloved medium, you can’t go wrong by visiting Allan Holtz’s strippersguide.blogspot.com, where Allan regularly posts rare findings from his forays into the vast reaches of newspaper microfilm files hither and yon.
THE AWARD SEASON
Steve Sack of the Star Tribune, Minneapolis, won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning this year, the official announcement citing him “for his diverse collection of cartoons, using an original style and clever ideas to drive home his unmistakable point of view.” Gobbledegook of the sort judges in these competitions usually blather. “Original style,” “clever ideas,” and “unmistakable point of view” are what we could say about any editoonist anywhere. Almost. The description of the category isn’t much better: the Pulitzer is awarded, it sez, “for a distinguished cartoon or portfolio of cartoons, characterized by originality, editorial effectiveness, quality of drawing and pictorial effect, published as a still drawing, animation or both.” In other words, animated editorial cartoons can win; and, indeed, some have. The prize is accompanied by $10,000.
Finalists were Clay Bennett of the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press for “polished, witty cartoons that effectively lampoon prominent leaders and groups in a polarized America”; and Jeff Darcy of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, for “his fresh portfolio of cartoons that feature deft caricatures and leave no one guessing where he stands on important issues.”
Well, sure. You gotta say something.
I’d add that Sack has been at the Star Tribune since 1981—that’s 32 years at the drawing board, and all in the same venue. He deserved to win the Pulitzer much earlier, I’d say, for artistic experimentation if nothing else. He was among the very first cartoonists to realize that digital reproduction permitted him greater flexibility as an artist. Early on in the ether age, he began drawing his cartoons differently—because he could. For a while, he drew with colored pencil. He eventually returned to inking with a bold line, but he still seems to be using a colored pencil for some tonal variety in his pictures, sometimes with striking effect. On the other side of the $ubscribers Wall, we’ve posted a generous sampling of Sack.
Bennett’s name came up again as placing third in the National Headliner Award, which was won this year by Steve Breen of the San Diego Union Tribune (his second time winning this one); Newsday’s Walt Handelsman took second place. The Headliner Award, the invention of the Atlantic City Press Club, is one of the oldest awards in journalism: the first were conferred in 1935. Why the Atlantic City Press Club has all this prestige is beyond me, but there it is.
BAGLEY A WINNER
(Well, here at Rancid Raves Intergalactic Headquarters, we’ve always known that)
In this year’s Best of the West competition among 13 western states in journalism (breaking news, page design, explanatory reporting, and so on), the Salt Lake Tribune’s Pat Bagley won first place in editorial cartooning with a portfolio of cartoons on such topics as the NRA’s grip on Congress (we’re posting that cartoon below in our Editoonery department), the gay-friendly Mormon Church, and the bulldozing of public lands.
“Pat Bagley hits the bulls eye with his bold strokes and rollicking sense of humor,” said Politico’s Matt Wuerker, the judge for editorial cartooning. “He brings clever insight to the pressing issues of the day that he illuminates with brilliant color and true wit.”
David Fitzsimmons of the Arizona Daily Star (another big favorite hereabouts) took second with his portfolio, which includes spoofs on global warming deniers, Fox News coverage of President Obama, and Senator Todd Akin’s controversial remarks on abortion.
“Fitzsimmons has a naturally comic voice that comes through with his brash palette and goofy visual style,” said Wuerker, the current president of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists.
Matt Bors, syndicated without a home paper, snagged third with his collection of cartoons ranging from Native Americans’ commentary on a certain statistic to the Stand Your Ground law to the proposal to arm school officials.
Said Wuerker: “Bors has an unmistakable and refined style that’s all his own. He brings a biting point view and acid wit to his visual commentary that makes him a real stand out in the field.”
Wuerker’s remarks are, themselves, award-worthy: he actually says something about what makes each cartoonist’s work unique. The winners competed against 13 other editoonists.
PAT BAGLEY AND THE TRUE STORY OF THE MORMON CRICKETS
And before we leave Pat Bagley (Mormon Emeritus, as he calls himself) to other devices, not to mention his drawing board, here’s a sample of the sort of thing he commits at his blog—:
My favorite Mormon pioneer story is the one where dinosaurs arrive just in time to eat the grasshoppers that are threatening the pioneers’ crops. The Saints are saved and, in gratitude, erect a monument to the dinosaurs. It is still there to this day, just as you enter the South Gate of Temple Square.
"Hang on one Mormon moment!" you say. You’ve heard this story since you were knee high, and in all those hundreds of tellings you’ve never heard anything so preposterous. It was Mormon crickets the dinosaurs ate, not grasshoppers. Everybody knows that!
We all hate it when cherished preconceptions are thrown down and trampled by know-it-alls with no regard for custom or sensibility. It’s annoying, like those people who point out that buffalo are actually bison.
However, given the current state of scientific understanding, my version of the crickets and gulls story above is accurate. The "Mormon Cricket" is actually a grasshopper, though I tip my hat to the poetry in a Mormon settler who first described it as "a cross between a spider and a buffalo." (I’m sure he meant bison.)
As for the dinosaur part of the story, you can probably see one right now just by looking out the window.
That sparrow on the sill is a close cousin to the velociraptors portrayed in the movie "Jurassic Park." Over the last decade it has been established that birds are a surviving strain of dinosaur. You can definitely see the kinship in the nasty disposition of the local magpies, who seem to channel something big and mean that once strode the earth unchallenged.
THERE. That proves Bagley can write as well as draw, and that his inventive antic comedic spirit lives both verbally and visually.
AND THEN, herewith—:
WORDS FROM MILTON KNIGHT
My visit had a bittersweet taste. New Hampshire was lovely, and so are its people. I was well received at the conference, people bought my books, and the hotel accommodations were fantastic; but the background of the conference, the industry of comics academia, made me sense that I could be a well-loved antique.
The old world of comics is just about dead. In the process of elevating them from ‘junk’ into ‘high art’ (a concept I am perfectly fine with), the fun has been unnecessarily drained away. ... The new ‘mainstream’ is comics that are drab textbooks, nil as entertainment, but a good quick way to chalk up college credits and keep the academic machine grinding.
Now, as a kid, I hated school with a passion. It was prison; it was hell. Today’s graphic novel industry has legitimatized itself by embracing the world of academia, giving the content the stale air of a classroom.
irony is, this is as much a commercial move as the crassest superhero comic
READ AND RELISH
From a book review in the San Francisco Chronicle of Elizabeth Scarboro’s My Foreign Cities: “This is not just a story about the challenges of loving someone with a terminal illness [her husband]; it’s about recognizing those precious moments in life that Virginia Woolf once called ‘moments of being.’ It’s about savoring the present, not allowing sadness to dominate and surrendering yourself to love, for better or worse.”
DOCUMENTARY FILM ON COMICS
Or, What I Was Up To Last Month
A COUPLE YEARS AGO, I received a phone call from Tom Tanquary, who said he’d just read my book, Children of the Yellow Kid, and thought it was a great springboard to a tv documentary on newspaper comic strips, their history and influence in American life and newspaper journalism. He said he’d been in love with newspaper comic strips all his life and wanted to do just such a film. And he has the chops to do it.
Tanquary has been working in television and documentary production for 37 years. He has won numerous awards including 4 Emmys and a Peabody and has worked on many documentaries as Associate Producer and Director of Photography and has completed one film as Executive Producer about the origins of Western Society called "Finding Our Ancient Wisdom." It is in current release and has three separate distributors. Tom’s work can be seen almost weekly on the NBC prime time show “Dateline,” for which he is a Director and Photography and Field Director for shows shot in the Western states. He has worked freelance at “Dateline” for 18 years. He is also the author of the first textbook ever written about the technical aspects of electronic news gathering. After five editions he turned future revisions over to his writing partner so he could concentrate on film making. A native of Illinois with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Illinois, he lives in Costa Mesa, California.
Tom asked me if I’d help him on the proposed film, serving on camera as the Shelby Foote of the funnies. Inflamed in a glow of ego, I was happy to sign on. Later, as the plan morphed into a somewhat different shape, he pronounced me co-producer, and my Foote shrank: in the present endeavor, which began in earnest last fall, I interview cartoonists and historians while Tom films the “conversations,” from which he will eventually extract insightful sound bites that will comprise the film. Here’s his description of the project—:
How Comic Strips Helped Define the American Culture in the 20th Century
A film by Tom Tanquary, Sandy Cummings, and R.C. Harvey
SINCE THE EARLY 1900s virtually all the newspapers in America have carried cartoons on Sundays if not every day they published. They were as widely read as the news on the front page. And you didn’t even need to know how to read to enjoy them. They truly were for everyone.
For over a hundred years comic strips have been synonymous with newspapers. The newspapers are the original news aggregate site. The entire world came together on those pages and the entire country shared the experience. The comic strips that graced those pages were more than idle distractions. They became the first solid example of what we now call American popular culture – a shared event attainable and accessible just about everywhere by anyone. This film will tell the tale of how that unfolded. In it, we want to follow not just the time lines of how comic strips progressed but explore the reasons for the growth and change. We want to show how the relationship between the audience and the cartoons developed as the newspaper industry grew and grew. And, we want to show how that bond affected the newspaper-cartoon relationship.
The story of the newspaper comic strip is the story of American culture. Our values, our hopes and fears, our dreams, and our laughter are all right there. They were the most consistent and prominent example of our shared experience for nearly 100 years. From the Yellow Kid to Charlie Brown, these hand-drawn characters have united us as a culture. And this film will tell that story through the voices of today. Historians, living legends, current cartoonists, and others will weave the story of the funny pages and how those pages enriched the lives of Americans generation after generation.
They are not just cartoons. They are us.
This is not a film about the future. The future doesn’t exist. This is a film about what brought this art form to now and why. Nowhere else in pop culture is there such a long lasting relationship between audience and artist. Many strips we see today are 30-40 years old; some, older than 50. And loyalty to a strip can mean subscriptions to a newspaper. Current events are the same no matter where you hear about them, but comic strips were unique to the newspaper. Until recently, you had to subscribe to the paper that carries them or else you missed them. The news is just news but the comics have to inspire, entertain and invite the reader to want more. And that sold papers for decades.
In this film, the artists of today talk about their influences and their relationship with the reader through their characters. Whether it’s a family strip or satire strip, a continuity strip or a gag-a-day strip, today’s artists will talk about what drives them to create and how current society is reflected in their work. With the help of comics historians, we will relate today’s strips to the history that they were built upon. A history intertwined and forever connected to newspapers. The history of the newspaper comic strip is a rich and vital part of the American experience. A story that needs to be told and one that’s also vital to understanding what tomorrow may look like.
Sandy Cummings, the other producing entity in this enterprise, is an Emmy award-winning non-fiction producer with a wealth of experience in network television. She has covered major breaking news, long-form human interest / documentary stories, in-depth investigations, medicine, law and entertainment. During her years as Senior West Coast Producer of NBC’s “Dateline,” Sandy supervised coverage of major stories such as Michael Jackson’s death, Hurricane Katrina, the Columbia Space Shuttle explosion. Sandy supervised “Dateline’s” west coast staff of 25 reporters and producers, was involved in selecting and mentoring sharp young journalists for NBC’s News Associates Program (a program to foster diversity at the network) and created an internship program in the Burbank Bureau (recruited, hired, trained student interns). Sandy has been honored with numerous awards including three Emmys, a DuPont-Columbia, an Edward R. Murrow, a Clarion, an Overseas Press Club and three Freddies (International Medical Media). She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Southern California, is a wish granter for the Make-A-Wish foundation and leads support groups for Saving Grace, an organization which serves victims of domestic violence.
TANQUARY ADMITS that he keeps slightly changing the way he describes the project, “but it always centers on the relationship between the artist and the reader. It's a unique bond within American culture. It's more special than anyone has given it credit for. I'm trying to articulate that without simply coming out and saying it.”
Last fall, Tom and I got started. With Los Angeles as our base, we visited and filmed conversations with Greg Evans (Luann), Mel Lazarus (Momma), Keith Knight (The Knight Life, K Chronicles, [th]ink), and Lalo Alcaraz (La Cucaracha). Last month, we made an expedition to San Francisco and environs, filming interviews with Andrew Farago (curator of the Cartoon Art Museum), Jeannie Schulz (widow of the Peanuts creator who now heads up the various enterprises based upon the strip), Tom Yeates (the current artist on the classic monumentally illustrative strip, Prince Valiant), Morrie Turner (creator of Wee Pals, a racially integrated comic strip about little kids whose “rainbow power” promotes harmony in diversity), and Peter Maresca (historian and publisher, whose Sunday Press Books has produced eight glorious reprint volumes of vintage newspaper comic strips, beginning with Little Nemo; the next one is entitled Society Is Nix: Gleeful Anarchy and the Dawn of the American Comic Strip, 1895-1915).
we commence a visual report on the San Francisco adventure. ... To See These
Stunning Photographs (Pictures of Cartoonists Tom Yeates and Morrie Turner,
plus Photo Reportage on the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa), and To See
Some of the Best Editoons on the Boston Bombing and the Senate Bombing on Gun
Control, plus Short Reviews of Sex, Sledgehammer and Daredevil: The End of Days— and More, Much More—You Must Hie Thee Thither to the $ubscriber/Associate Section, Where You’ll Get More of Our News Reports and Penetrating
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