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 377 (and a reprise of Opus 376):
Opus 377 (completed on April 12, 2008). Another hare-raising monster posting with a report on Stan Lee’s situation (trying to separate rumor from fact), reviews of the first books from a new comic book publisher Sitcomics and of Trina Robbins’ autobiography, Nicole Hollander’s memoir, reprint tome of the classic comic strip Cap Stubbs and Tippie, and graphic novels Fog Over Tolbiac Bridge by Tardi and The New Deal, plus nominees for the NCS Reuben, and reports of “Black Panther” being co-opted by alt-right, Stormy Daniels and Spanky, more about magazine cartooning in Esquire, Playboy and The New Yorker, Playboy’s reaction to sexual harassment, and a ringing statement supporting freedom of the press.
In short, it’s another long (and probably tedious) disquisition. To help you find your way to the topics you’re most interested in, here’s a brief listing, in order, by department—:
NOUS R US
Is Stan Lee In Trouble? Preyed Upon?
Supporting Freedom of the Press
Cartoonist in Equatorial Guinea Released
Mad Going and Coming
Be Heard! Comic for Student Rights
Gaiman to Dream Again
Coates and Why He’s Writing Captain America
The Passing Show: Comic Book Glut A-borning
Trump Is a Curse by Mike Thompson, Editoonist
Awards Season: Reuben Nominees, Herblock Prize, Nast Award
New DC Imprint for High-Profile Stand-Alone Creations
Marvel’s New, Too
Alt-Right Co-Opts Black Panther
Pepe’s Creator Sues Alex Jones
Censorship by Another Name
ODDS & ADDENDA
Stan Lee Cameos
“Black Panther” Record
FUNNYBOOK FAN FARE
Reviews of Sitcomics “Binge Books”—:
Blue Baron, Z-People, Super Suckers, StartUp
Stormy Daniels and Spanky
Delonas’ Racist Editoon
An Opinion Page Editor on Editoonery
LECHERY AND THE PENILE PROMPT
Playboy and Sexual Harassment
THE FROTH ESTATE
Denver Post Dying?
Did Stantis Cheat? Or Not?
NEWSPAPER COMICS PAGE VIGIL
Taboos Vanquished and Other Events in the Funnies
GOSSIP & GARRULITIES
Arming School Teachers
RANCID RAVES GALLERY
Chris Ware’s New Yorker Casting Couch Cover
More Ernie Books
Roz Chast’s Recommended Reading List
Last Girl Standing (Trina Robbins’ Autobiography)
We Ate the Wonder Bread (Nicole Hollander Memoir)
Cap Stubbs and Tippie (Edwina’s Comic Strip)
Magazine Cartooning in Esquire, Playboy, The New Yorker
Fog Over Tolbiac Bridge (Tardi)
The New Deal
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS ENDORSERS
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
IS STAN LEE IN TROUBLE?
Not only has Stan Lee been sexually harassing his nurses. Or housekeepers. Or whatever they are. He’s also being scammed into penury. Some observers, specifically the Daily Beast reporter, Mark Ebner, sees Lee, the apparent victim of gross financial malfeasance, surrounded by a panoply of Hollywood charlatans and mountebanks, vultures, snakes, leeches, jackals and coyotes, circling around Stan to grab a piece of his fiscal flesh. When Marvel sold to Disney in 2010 for $4 billion, Lee personally pocketed a cool $10 million, but according to some observers (perhaps alarmist ones)—including “one insider with working knowledge of Lee’s current situation”— Lee’s fortune may be gone within a few weeks. “Stan and [his daughter] JC are literally being picked apart by vultures.”
We’ve already had a story about his being defrauded of $300,000, then $850,000 while in his dotage; see Opus 375.
Oddly, just the other day, I picked up a copy of the National Enquirer (because of a cover story on Trump) and ran across an item on Stan Lee’s supposed predicament. According to the Enquirer, Lee is much more in control than the Daily Beast assumes. “Stan fired his longtime manager, Max Anderson, amid allegations that he may have stolen up to $1.4 million. He also booted sexy nurse Sandra Sanchez, 28, who is accused of conspiring with Anderson to ‘influence’ Stan by giving him naked showers and ‘happy ending’ massages!”
And all those stories about Lee sexually harassing his nursing staff? Saith the Enquirer: “Lee told police that staffers have sexually assaulted him and fleeced him of millions!”
The same issue of the Enquirer reports that movie actress Terry Hatcher is “homeless and living in a van.” Hatcher has denied any such thing. Moreover, in White House news, the Trumpet administration has been, from the beginning, sabotaged by Obama supporters with the Russia-collusion scam.
We can see how much credibility the Enquirer has. Zilch.
So is Stan Lee in trouble or not?
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER has made a much more detailed report on Lee’s situation, and there are apparently elements of truth in both Enquirer and Daily Beast accounts.
Various of Lee’s inner circle have been vying for control of his life and estate (estimated to be worth somewhere between $50 and $70 million). In February, Lee drew up a document about the trust he and his late wife established for their daughter, J.C., now 67 years old. Lee and J.C. have a sometimes contentious relationship, which, for her, revolves around how much money she has to spend. Historically, she spends a lot.
The document identifies three men with “bad intentions” who have influenced J.C.—Jerry Olivarez, Keya Morgan, and J.C.’s attorney Kirk Schenck. A fourth person, not named in the document, hovers over Lee and his money—Max Anderson, Lee’s road manager who runs a pop-up Stan Lee Museum at comic cons. Both Olivarez and Anderson have criminal records—as does Morgan although his case is on appeal.
Olivarez, a publicist who had insinuated himself into the Lee circle, briefly had power of attorney over Lee after his wife Joanie’s death and committed the $300,000 and $850,000 deals. But Lee has dismissed him.
He has also dismissed Anderson, which leaves Morgan working with J.C. to control Lee and his fortune.
Saith THR: “Anderson and Olivarez contend that now that J.C. and Morgan [a dubious dealer in memorabilia, chiefly those associated with Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson] have established influence over Lee, they will pursue their respective goals: she, unfettered access to her inheritance; he, control over Lee’s intellectual property.”
In the midst of this fog are claims of elder abuse and sexual harassment.
Some observers say it’s time for Lee to have independent oversight, a conservatorship, that would prevent anyone from leeching money from him. Maybe so. Lee’s 95 and probably not competent to manage a fortune the size of his. You can find the whole THR report at www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/stan-lee-needs-a-hero-elder-abuse-claims-a-battle-aging0marvel-creator-1101229
Some fans who attended the recent Silicon Valley Comic-Con reported being shocked at how tired Lee looked, working all day signing autographs. Well, geez. He’s 95.
IMAGE CO-FOUNDER Todd McFarlane has a different story to tell, which he posted in Instagram. Aware of all the stories swirling around Lee, McFarlane wondered how his old friend (and once editor) was doing. He resolved to find out for himself. On March 29, he visited Lee at his house in the Hollywood Hills and spent an hour with him, bantering and trading “fun stories.”
Lee welcomed McFarlane and asked him to sit next to him because his hearing isn’t so good these days.
“We talked about things like his growing up in New York,” McFarlane said, “—his love of comics, his even bigger love of his late wife Joanie and how he was doing health-wise. He told me that getting old kind of sucked but said, ‘What are you going to do?’ His stories told me how obvious it was that he missed his wife and, how every day, a pair of ducks come swooping down from the sky to land in his pool and then come up to the glass windows begging for food (which his wife would oblige every time). We talked baseball, movies and he asked what it was it like for me to live next to a giant natural desert preserve in Arizona.
“How did Stan look, you may ask? Like a 95-year-old man. I think we tend to forget that fact, at times, since he’s become so iconic and seemingly timeless. He’s a man who has been around for nearly a century.
“As I got up to leave, Stan grabbed my hand and said, ‘Todd, thanks for coming by. Your visit is much better than any medicine I could take.’ So, what did I observe on my visit for that one specific hour? I saw a 95-year-old friend. And for me, at least, that was comforting.”
And thanks to McFarlane, we are reasonably assured that Stan Lee is not so feeble of mind or body that he can’t protect himself from the vultures around him—regardless of what the Daily Beast thinks.
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
March 2, 2018
“In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the government.” —Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black
HERE AT RANTS & RAVES, we support and, we hope, champion freedom of the press and endorse the following statement—:
As organizations committed to the First Amendment right of freedom of speech and the press, we are alarmed by the efforts of the President and his administration to demonize and marginalize the media and to undermine their ability to inform the public about official actions and policies.
Such efforts include the President’s refusal to answer questions posed by a reporter from CNN because the President asserts that the network promotes “fake news”; charges that the media “manipulated” images of the inauguration; false accusations that the media has covered up terrorist attacks; and repeated claims that the media is “failing” and “dishonest.” All of this recently culminated in the President calling the New York Times, CBS, CNN, ABC, and NBC “the enemy of the American People!” and in the exclusion of representatives of various media outlets from a press briefing. In these and other examples, the President and his designees have attempted to villainize and discredit the press for any reporting he dislikes. However, the job of the press is not to please the President but to inform the public, a function that is essential to democracy.
The expressions of disdain for the press and its role in democracy by federal officials send a signal to state and local officials. In the aftermath of an election season that witnessed outright intimidation of journalists in communities around the country, there is a compelling need for highly placed federal officials to acknowledge the crucial role of a free press under the Constitution and the responsibility of government officials at all levels to respect it. In one chilling example, multiple individuals who identified themselves as journalists were arrested, detained, and charged with felonies while simply doing their job: reporting on Inauguration Day protests in Washington, D.C.
Those arrests were made by local police and pursued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, both of which displayed an alarming lack of concern for fundamental constitutional rights. The fact that those charges have since been dropped suggests that the arrests were unwarranted and highlights the need for our nation’s leaders to set national policy that unequivocally supports a free and independent press and the public’s right to know.
The Constitution enshrines the press as an independent watchdog and bulwark against tyranny and official misconduct. Its function is to monitor and report on the actions of public officials so that the public can hold them accountable. The effort to delegitimize the press undermines democracy, and officials who challenge the value of an independent press or question its legitimacy betray the country’s most cherished values and undercut one of its most significant strengths.
The First Amendment protects the right to protest, dissent, and petition government for a redress of grievances, but these rights cannot be exercised without a free press that provides information to the public. Together, these rights represent the constitutionally sanctioned method for the public to oppose government policies and activities and to seek change. The wisdom of this system can be seen in parts of the world where such a right does not exist, or is not honored, and violent opposition is the only available avenue to express opposition or remedy injustice.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms all efforts by elected and appointed officials to penalize, delegitimize, or intimidate members of the press.
Organizations endorsing the above statement are listed at the end of this Opus.
CARTOONIST IN EQUATORIAL GUINEA RELEASED
March 8, 2018; from CBLDF
After being falsely imprisoned in Equatorial Guinea for five months and nineteen days, political cartoonist Ramòn Esono Ebalè was finally released on March 7, reported Patricia Mastricolo at Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF). It had been just over a week since the one-day trial of Ebalè, where the prosecutor asked for the counterfeiting and forgery charges to be dropped due to lack of evidence, cementing opinion that the charges were fabricated.
According to the Sierra Leone Times it was clear that the police officer who had made the accusations used as pretense to imprison Ebalè, had no actual knowledge of Ebalè or of the supposed crime. After offering details to the court that didn’t match the official account, the officer confessed he had simply acted on orders given to him by his superiors, after which the prosecutor had no choice but to recommend the charges be dropped.
Angela Quintal, the Africa program director at Committee to Protect Journalists, summarized the feelings of many after Ebalè’s release. “Ramon should never have spent a single day behind bars and we trust that he will not be subjected to any further reprisal.”
The positive outcome of Ebalè’s trial is largely due to vigilant news coverage that created constant pressure and accountability, without which Ebalè very easily could have stayed in prison, or been convicted of a crime that not only he didn’t commit, but never even happened.
Tutu Alicante, a friend of Ebalè’s and the director of a group that advocates human rights and transparency of rule in Equatorial Guinea, put out an apt call to action:
“Ramón’s release from prison is a testament of the power of collective work of dozens of organizations, hundreds of artists and concerned citizens. But we must not forget that dozens of government opponents who are not as fortunate fill Equatorial Guinea’s jails, and that the fight against human rights violations and impunity needs to continue.”
Without accountability and international attention, there is little hope others who dissent will fare as well as Ebalè did.
Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work in 2018 by visiting the Rewards Zone, making a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!
MAD GOING AND COMING
The last issue of Mad to be produced from New York is No.549; the next issue, No.550, was produced on the West Coast under a new editor. I bought both issues (I usually do not buy Mad) and compared them. The West Coast Mad is not remarkably different from its predecessor. Sergio Aragones is there—with marginals and a 4-page display of themed cartoons. Peter Kuper is there with his usual Spy vs. Spy. Other cartoonists and writers appear to be the Usual Gang of Idiots. Al Jaffee’s famous Fold-In is missing from the New York production, but he’s back with the West Coast issue.
In short, the “new” Mad is not noticeably different from the “old” Mad. Perhaps that’s because the “new” Mad published material from its inventory—assembled at its New York digs—which includes, of course, the stalwart artists and writers of yore.
The only thing remarkable about the “new” Mad is its cover, which proclaims “Landmark Final Issue” when it is actually the landmark first West Coast issue. It also prints an affectionate good-bye “to all our friends and readers,” and publishes caricatures of 44 of the Usual Gang. In other words, with typical mad perversity, the magazine treats its first West Coast
production as if it were its last issue. Which it isn’t.
The last New York production’s big feature is the “20 dumbest people, events and things of 2017" with the Trumpet on the cover and also inside, generously. The big feature in the inaugural West Coast issue is Tom Richmond’s visual treatment of Desmond Devlin’s parody of “This Is Us,” which he entitles “This Is Pus.”
On the Other Side of the $ubscribers Wall, we conclude with a smattering of stuff from both issues.
BE HEARD! A COMIC FOR STUDENT RIGHTS
Press Release fsrom Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
As millions of American students assert their First Amendment rights in protests across the country, advocacy groups Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and National Coalition Against Censorship have released a new comic book to help protect students' rights. Be Heard! is a free comic by cartoonist Kai Texel that outlines best practices to help kids assert their rights to speech, protest, assembly and petition, warns about risks, and provides resources to get more help. Be Heard! is available as a free download from CBLDF.org & NCAC.org who encourage readers to share it freely.
Neil Gaiman, who co-chairs CBLDF's advisory board said: “In the U.S., freedom of speech is paramount. The First Amendment states that you can't be arrested for saying things the government doesn't like. It's important that students everywhere know that they have the right to be heard. This comic will help provide them with practical tools to raise their voice.”
Gene Luen Yang, whose distinctions include recognition as a MacArthur Fellow, the fifth National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and author of graphic novels including American Born Chinese says, “A Chinese poet once described free expression as the mother of truth. In our age of fake news, speaking truth to power is more important than ever. This comic is a valuable guide that teaches students how to ensure their truth is heard.”
Kai Texel is a New Jersey based cartoonist and illustrator whose clients include Felix the Cat Productions and Dulce Channel. Her art has been published in zines and anthologies such as Our Beloved Monsters. Kai sells her work at comic and anime conventions, and enjoys costume-making on the side. View more of Kai's work athttps://www.kaitexel.com.
GAIMAN TO DREAM AGAIN
It’s been 30 years since Neil Gaiman launched The Sandman for DC Comics, observes Christian Holub at ew.com. The title — which followed Dream, the well-named personification of dreams, as he tangled with gods, monsters, and humans while exploring the nature of stories and his own self — ran for eight years, and became one of the defining books of the era. In honor of the series’ 30th anniversary this year, Holub continues, Gaiman is coming back to the Dreaming in a big way.
“EW can exclusively announce that DC Comics is launching a Sandman Universe line of four new comic series. The books will be overseen by Gaiman but written and drawn by brand new creative teams. They will pick up story threads and themes from The Sandman while also adding new characters and concepts.”
The project kicks off this August with The Sandman Universe one-shot special, which will catch readers up on what’s been happening in Dream’s realm.
COATES AND WHY HE’S WRITING CAPTAIN AMERICA
Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author of Between the World and Me, a book about being black in America, will begin writing Captain America for Marvel Comics in July. Coates, a longtime comics fan, began creating them a little more than two years ago with the revival of Black Panther, “reinvigorating the title two years before the movie based on the character became a blockbuster success,” said Jonah Engel Bromwich at nytimes.com.
“Coates, who is widely known for his reporting and commentary on race, brought his experience with nonfiction to bear as he was writing Black Panther, taking on politics and culture in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, where the series is set. He challenged the kingdom’s monarchical tradition, introduced an insurgency and questioned the Wakandan religion.”
Tackling another national icon in Captain America, Coates wrote an essay explaining “Why I’m Writing Captain America.” Excerpts follow (in italics)—:
Two years ago I began taking up the childhood dream of writing comics. To say it is more difficult than it looks is to commit oneself to criminal understatement. Writers don’t write comics so much as they draw them with words. Everything has to be shown, a fact I knew going into the work, but could not truly know until I had actually done it. For two years I’ve lived in the world of Wakanda, writing the title Black Panther. I’ll continue working in that world. This summer, I’m entering a new one—the world of Captain America. ...
At the end of World War II, Captain America is frozen in ice and awakens in our time—and this, too, distances him from his country and its ideals. He is “a man out of time,” a walking emblem of greatest-generation propaganda brought to life in this splintered postmodern time. Thus, Captain America is not so much tied to America as it is, but to an America of the imagined past. In one famous scene, flattered by a treacherous general for his “loyalty,” Rogers—grasping the American flag—retorts, “I’m loyal to nothing, General … except the dream.”
I confess to having a conflicted history with this kind of proclamation—which is precisely why I am so excited to take on Captain America. I have my share of strong opinions about the world. But one reason why I chose the practice of opinion journalism—which is to say a mix of reporting and opinion—is because understanding how those opinions fit in with the perspectives of others has always been more interesting to me than repeatedly restating my own.
Writing is about questions for me—not answers. And Captain America, the embodiment of a kind of Lincolnesque optimism, poses a direct question for me: Why would anyone believe in The Dream?
What is exciting here is not some didactic act of putting my words in Captain America’s head, but attempting to put Captain America’s words in my head. What is exciting is the possibility of exploration, of avoiding the repetition of a voice I’ve tired of.
And then there is the basic challenge of drawing with words—the fear that accompanies every effort. And the fear is part of the attraction because, if I am honest, the “opinion” part of opinion-journalism is no longer as scary it once was. Reporting—another word for discovery—will always be scary. Opining, less so. And nothing should really scare a writer more than the moment when they are no longer scared. I think it’s then that one might begin to lapse into self-caricature, endlessly repeating the same insights and the same opinions over and over. I’m not convinced I can tell a great Captain America story—which is precisely why I want so bad to try.
Coates’ Captain America No.1 drops on the Fourth of July. Excelsior, family.
THE PASSING SHOW
The market is glutted again. So many new titles keep appearing that the market cannot sustain them. How many new books disappear after two or three issues? Maybe not lots but enough to suggest that there’s more being produced than fandom can support, even as augmented by an interested move-stimulated general public.
But the art is better than ever. The old stalwarts of yore have been replaced by hordes of new artists whose work often appears in but a single title. We’ve never seen them before. How did they get so good at doing comics? Where did they do their apprenticeships?
Some of the art is not just competent but spectacular. But that’s often due more to technology than talent. An competent artist with a digital assistant can produce visual wonders.
TRUMP IS A CURSE
Speaking as a political cartoonist, the Detroit Free Press’s Mike Thompson sees President Donald Trump is more of a curse than a blessing. He explains—:
There's no shortage of news coming from the White House these days, which you'd think would be a goldmine for a guy whose job is to lampoon the folks in charge.
But like any megalomaniac, Trump has a way of making everything about him. He sucks the oxygen out of the room and out of any issue he touches. Instead of debating gun control or immigration reform, we end up debating whatever crazy thing Trump just tweeted about gun control or immigration reform, and any potential for movement or change is lost.
When all the focus and coverage is on Trump, it's harder to comment on the underlying policies, let alone address important issues that have nothing to do with him and thus generate less coverage than his dumpster fires. I have no desire to draw non-stop about Trump, yet people such as myself need to speak out against the unprecedented manner in which our president is perverting the political process and our institutions..
It's a tough balancing act that, for me, got old real fast.
Guess I'm like America — the downside to a Trump presidency far outweighs the upside.
From Will Durst on the Trumpet (or, Dopey Donald’s Deign of Error): Maybe he’ll change his mind. Maybe he won’t. Thesre is no way to tell. The man has the integrity of a drunken weasel in a chicken coop. He would rather lie than eat ice cream. And he likes ice cream. He has the same mental capacity God gave a bucket of hair.
To find out who the National Cartoonists Society has nominated for the Reuben and who’s won other awards so far and how the alt-right has co-opted “Black Panther,” plus reviews of Sitcomics “Binge Books,” Trina Robbins’ autobiography, Nicole Hollander’s memoir, reprint of the classic comic strip Cap Stubbs and Tippie (including some seldom revealed history), plus reports on magazine cartooning these days in Esquire, Playboy, and The New Yorker (the three last-remaining stalwarts of gag cartooning), how Playboy blew it on sexual harassment, Delonas’ racist cartoon, Chris Ware’s casting couch cover for The New Yorker, Roz Chast’s recommended reading list, more photos of Stormy Daniels and new pictures of Spanky, and to find out who Jane Walker is— and More, Much More— Click Here
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