Visit and support My Guest Post on Comparative Geeks. It shows, in part, the progression of art style by Osamu Tezuka from his earliest to later days. Also I tried to show and speak of lesser known works of his.
Possessed abilities no one else had. Saved lives in ways we may never know. When people saw his name there was a strange symbol indicating something was different about him. He could be found in comics, on TV, and on the big screen. He was the hero of his nation. He was a god.
Who was this hero in disguise–this very gifted man?
It’s May 1, 2015 and the April A to Z Blogging Challenge is completed. For those of you not knowing what that is, you blog in alphabetical order posts each day, minus Sundays for good behavior, from A to Z.
You can choose a theme or just seat of pants it. I chose comic book creators from around the world. Why? I grew up reading comics and I see them as being a part of why I read as well as I do, am as creative, and just plain goofy at times.
I learned a lot during the challenge, and not just about comic books, comix, albums, manhua, manga, or any other names they are called, oh yeah, Komiks.
I learned geography, cultural history, world history, societal influences. All of this learned while researching comic books. Each nation had commonalities that one might be surprised about. Comic books are treated differently depending on where you are in the world.
In the US they are still seen as a children’s book. They are far from that now. Very far. In other parts of the world they are seen as art work, graphic literature, which is what I like to call comic books, and they are not always about superheroes.
If I were teaching right now I would use an A to Z format to give students a way to learn those aspects I mentioned learning earlier. By researching something they are interested in, sticking to the challenge without wavering, and marking the countries, regions, provinces, or cities you visit, you learn a great deal, and through that joy of learning you remember those things as well as realizing learning can be fun.
Some will think I am stretching how much I learned about geography, cultural history, world history and societal influences but I’m not. Graphic Literature is a way people express themselves. Through fictional superheroes a person can tell a controversial societal or political issue using a down and out weakling who becomes a hero and then fights against the superficial popular hero who is really fake and a sham and scam underneath.
That’s how one gets away with telling certain stories in countries where one might be imprisoned or executed if coming out against the ruler of the nation.
Through this challenge, one I decided on at the last moment, and had no real idea of a theme until the very last moment, I’ve come to realize some priorities in life.
It’s no longer April, but I encourage any of you to do this challenge even now. But let me give some advice. If you are going to do an around the world thing, be careful. Some of those letters are tough to find people. Not many places for the letter X.
I’ll leave you with some last images of a book that was one of my favorites books, Ruse, by a company called CrossGen, which is now owned by Marvel Comics. A book about a Sherlock Holmes type character with a female Watson type. Powers in the book, yes, but one of the most beautiful pieces of artwork series ever.
It’s the final day of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and we’re in Zambia. Home of the Cartoons. Okay, so maybe not THE cartoons, but they do have their cartoonists and I’m going to share a few with you.
As you may expect from cartoonists, there is a bit of political satire. Satire is grounded in truth but with a touch of humor added to get the point across.
First up is a name I couldn’t resist, Kiss Brian Abraham.
We are concerned with Social Justice, we want to see a world in which mutual respect and justice prevails. We provide support to organisations that want to make a positive difference in society. Our objective is to increase technical capacity of organisations, providing administrative support, increasing visibility of their work and their message by providing media services and support in development of Information,Education, Communication materials.~From KBA Innovations.
He’s a cartoonist with a mission and a quest of equality.
This was after a government official, well I’ll just say it, stupidly said it was okay to beat wives because you loved them, or so that was the way it was from where he came from.
I like this one. It fits in every nation on earth.
Well, there you have it. One whole month of comics and cartoons. Here at the end of the alphabet it got a little thin with the number of people but then I didn’t want to get into the political stuff too much for this challenge. As I expand, perhaps on another site, I will include everything I find but for now, you got what you got and that’s all I got to give.
Sometimes an article doesn’t end up as it begins. I search for artists of Graphic Literature and am successful. But when I find them, sometimes I get a lesson beyond cool looking pictures and novels that I can see and interpret with very few words to get in the way of my imagination.
Take Maizin Shuja’a Al-Din of Yemen.
With the aim of entertaining and educating children, Shuja’a Al-Din publishes comics that discuss different issues including child labor, early marriage and education.
Newspaper publishers do not appreciate cartoonists in Yemen, Shuja’a Al-Din says. However, the lack of appreciation makes him “more determined to continue his work.”~yementimes.com
There is also Arwa Moukbel, a young female cartoonist. Now that’s a rarity in Yemen. She likes to speak her mind but her family keeps her in check so as not to, I guess basically get herself imprisoned or worse. Not exactly a lot of freedoms there.
Rashad Al-Sameai is probably one of the most if not the most popular right now. The former psychology studies 30 something year old creates from his heart and writes about bad habits and things that speak to the people. I’m not exactly certain what his work says so I’m not going to display it here. One somewhat popular comics site actually erased the text from a cartoonist’s work before putting it on their site, not Al-Sameai. But I would rather just not display it than alter it. If I can translate it at some point I’ll share it. But I do know he champions the rights of women and children.
Finally, Kamal Sharaf, actually spent a month in prison for, being forcibly removed from his home in 2010 after he challenged the then president Ali Abdullah Saleh. He still satires, and challenges. And even challenges the current president at times.
I think a big part of what Yemen cartoonist have a problem with is how other countries like to stick their noses in and treat the country like it belongs to them. I get that. Depending on the government at the time, you could be taking your freedom into your own pen. Imprisonment, death threats, and basic fear for family are common thoughts each day as these cartoonist deliver messages in one panel that a whole news show or book can’t explain. And you know what? You’ll remember the images.That news show? Not a chance.
I plan to expand this one a lot more as I find more cartoonist, have more time, and translate what I find.
Three days left of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and my theme of Comic Book Creators around the World has been fun, and at times frustrating. Each time I find a way to pull something out of the hat. Then we come to the letter X. Now, if you don’t know about the A to Z Challenge, the idea is during the month of April to write, in order, a post about something beginning with a letter of the alphabet. You get Sunday’s off.
I’ve used countries, and provinces. Then I come to the letter X. Do you know how many places of any kind in the world begin with the letter X?
Meet Song Yang from the Province of Xinjiang in China, born in 1981. Magic Box was his first big hit and he was only 17 at the time. He is hugely popular in China. Often called the most popular artist going these days. He’s into fashion, music, everything. How did he get to be so big? One site notes how China attempts to keep Japanese manga out as much as possible and promotes Song Yang at the same time. This gives him a major push. True or not, he’s a big gun in China.
Below are examples of his character, manhua art as well as his gallery pieces. I like the varying styles he displays, and I was fortunate he was the one I stumbled upon.
His series and illustrated pieces include Bad Girl and Wild Animals. And yes, I did share the less bad girl of the Bad Girl. Yang is like a rock star it seems.
And that is it for today. Short and to the point. Several people went through some X places, but not a lot I could find were born in those places.
Two days left. Not a lot of Y and Z places either. Wish me luck searching. And next time, suggest I just go with the letter being like included in the theme somehow.
Wales. June 13, 1934. It’s time to Gren and bare it. Why? Grenfell Jones is born, that’s why. Don’t know who Grenfell Jones is? Don’t worry, probably most of us don’t here in the west. But in Wales, if you don’t know who he is you probably have hidden under a rock somewhere. Likely that rock has a sheep on it with words on its side saying, he’s under this rock. After a person moves the rock to get to you, the sheep would likely have the words “Stop strip mining” written on it.
“Gren” is the legend of Welsh cartoonists. And no, I don’t mean comic books at the moment. This man put daily comic strips out in newspapers. As for the sheep, that was Nigel and then there was the strip Ponty an’ Pop. Although that may be his most famous strip he was also well known for his fanship of rugby. That also went into his strips and although he spoke about pretty much everything, he did so in a manner that wasn’t offensive.
He wrote about what he knew, as his friend John Philipin Jones suggested. That happened to be Rugby and life in the Welsh valleys. He created a town and that’s where Nigel and all lived.
If you were in a Gren cartoon you had made it.
I will mention a couple of comic book artists here as that is the focus of this series.
There is Anthony Williams, a 2000 AD workhorse penciler of sorts who is always there will called upon. Also he’s done work on Doctor Fate: Fate, Transformers, books with Spider-Man, Batman, and the X-Men movie adaptation.
Then there is David Roach, another 2000 AD guy. Judge Anderson, as well as Judge Dredd was some of his work before doing Batman and Demon for DC Comics and even Star Wars for Dark Horse Comics.
I have to admit, Venezuela almost didn’t happen today. When I first began looking there wasn’t much I could go with in regards to comic books and very little easily found for comic strips are cartoons of any type. Language barrier again.
I tried Vancouver, Canada, knowing they published comics there. Again, difficulty. Rather than waste any further time, I got creative with Venzuela in researching, and here we go.
Hermann Mejia is an example of what one another artist I’ve featured, Whilce Portacio said, “enter contests”. Mejia did and was one of the winners. Born in Caracas in 1973, he entered a contest and ended up in New York and meeting painter, illustrator, and one of the contest judges George Pratt who took Mejia to the DC offices and instantly work was had on Mad magazine, published by DC. You can find examples of art on the internet outside of his comic work, but looking at the samples below of comics work, you can see how wide his talent ranges.
But that was only the beginning. When you do the cover of the first Annual of Neil Gaiman’s created The Books of Magic, you’ve made it. But Mejia is still MAD.
One thing I’ve discovered by researching Venezuela is the artistic nature of the creators. Their work is not limited to one field, such as cartooning/comics/illustrating.
Jorge Blanco jumps out as perhaps an early influence on some. Yes, an comic strip artist but his actual art work has been on display not only in South America, as you would assume, but in the US and Japan.
As for why he’s here? El Naufrago (The Castaway). It was a wordless strip about a man trapped on a deserted island.
Let’s move on to Pedro León Zapata.
“In 2000 there was a confrontation with the Venezuelan leader, who publicly challenged Zapata about these cartoons, asking whether he had been bribed to publish them. Zapata answered the President with another question: “Mr. Chávez, did you accept money to refer to my cartoons, thus inducing so many people to rush out and buy the newspaper?”-samsoniaway.org Quote and art below from site.
“Serbian, we censoranythingthe newspaperssay, ifwe continue to allowreaders to think…”
This is representing Chavez party members as toads, a term for informants in Venezuela. Chavez died in 2013 with his VP becoming president and who is now under attack to resign.
Now for Rayma Suprani. Of them all, I respect this one the most. She’s the one I wish I could meet. She’s been at it for 20 years. She’s been mocked on a channel in Venezuela that refers to the cartoonists as racists and elitists. She complained to the government, as many others had before her for similar shows, but nothing was done. The Venezuelan government is against any cartoonist against it. Example, El Universal, a paper Suprani worked for for 19 years fired her after pressure for the below cartoon. The paper had been recently bought by a little known group and the anti-government leanings had softened/changed. hours after the cartoon came out, her immediate boss called and said he did not like it and she was fired. You would think the boss would have seen it before it was printed.
The cartoon shows the heartbeat of a healthy health care system. Then below it next to the late Hugo Chavez’s signature is a flat line heartbeat of the health care system he had put in place.
Death threats followed and a need for Amnesty International support. She hasn’t slowed down.
I have others to discuss, but I’ll leave it there. That’s the state of freedom of expression in Venezuela. I followed her on Twitter today. I may have to use Google Translate to understand but I do it. It’s worth it.
People complain about the United States. People hate it here and say they hate living here and they hate everything about it. Go to Venezuela and say that. We have cartoonist here that say every kind of thing against every part of government and still have their jobs and no death threats. For those who hate it here so much, be thankful you have the freedom to do so.
Graphic Literature in the United States. It’s a truly massive undertaking to put into an article. Even choosing only a handful of creators is a difficult task. That is unless you’ve done massive amounts of research and repeatedly come up with one name. A name that needed no research if you are a true comic book fan. A man that created the Marvel style and imitators galore.
I won’t waste time. I had this written with well over a thousand words. But let me condense it.
Jack “King” Kirby (1917-1994), “King” chosen not by him, worked in comics beginning in the 1930s. His first superhero work, known of was in 1940 on Blue Beetle. All work on the comic strip was done under one name, regardless of who worked on it.
Then he moved to Timely Comics, an ancestor of Marvel Comics and created one of the most popular superheroes, comic book characters in history, Captain America along side Joe Simon.
He and Simon, now a team, moved on to DC Comics and created Boy Commandos and worked on Captain Marvel the most popular hero of the decade before leaving for WWII and almost having his legs amputated due to frostbite.
Upon his return he created the Romance genre of Comic books with Simon, titles such as Young Romance and Young Love during what would be called the Atomic Age of comics, that time between the Golden Age starting with Superman and the Silver Age beginning with The Flash in Showcase #4 for DC Comics.
Kirby was there too, creating in Showcase #6 the Challengers of the Unknown.
But perhaps what others might find interesting is his work in World’s Finest and Adventure Comics with Green Arrow.
His art style was second to none. As was his story telling. He saved a company called Atlas, once known as Timely and next to be known as Marvel. During the late 50s he drew comic after comic across genres and doing these monstrous figures people could not get enough of.
Then the explosion happened. November of 1961 sees Fantastic Four #1 hit the stands and comics and Marvel Comics would never be the same. X-Men, Hulk, Silver Surfer, Iron Man, and more characters than I’ll even try to show here. All drawn by Kirby, and in many cases created by him.
Here is an inside page of Fantastic Four #1 as opposed the the cover shot many are familiar with.
The Marvel method of writing a book went like this, Stan Lee, editor and head writer would go to an artist and say something like, “I want to do the next issue with this happening.” The artist would draw what he liked to match the idea and Stan Lee would put words to it. That’s right, no script.
With Kirby it went like this, here’s the pictures and Stan Lee would have to figure out what it was. Yes, Kirby basically did what he wanted, telling the story through his art, and Stan Lee would then look at the art for the first time and come up with the story. You don’t always need words with Kirby books.
Something interesting I stumbled across. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko are given credit as the creators of Spider-Man. However in an interview by Kirby and in essays by Ditko, both state much of Spider-Man’s story, his basic DNA of character and idea was Kirby. The death of the uncle, the revenge, the web, although Kirby had it coming out of a gun, science, and more. Another sad thing is, a long time assistant spoke about how he drove Kirby and his wife to a store, and the m an asked Kirby if he wanted to go in a Toys ‘r us and Kirby became pale and almost sick and said he couldn’t go in there. Later the wife explained how Kirby couldn’t go in because of all the Captain America toys in there that Kirby should have been getting royalties for made him ill and depressed.
Of course Kirby didn’t stay at Marvel forever, he went to DC once again for various reasons.
The year was 1970 and Kirby’s move along with several other events that year in comics led to what is called the Bronze Age of Comics.
Kirby was allowed to create his own universe, his own world, The Fourth World, which included New Gods, Mister Miracle and The Forever People. Perhaps the most famous character from this world is Darkseid.
If you kind of see Thanos from Marvel Comics, maybe even at the end of the first Avengers movie in this image, it’s no mistake. Thanos was based on not Darkseid at first, but another New God, but once showing his creation to Marvel, Roy Thomas was told that if he was going to base a character on a New God, pick the good one, as in the powerful bad guy one. That’s my paraphrasing of the conversation.
As with every company he worked for, problems began and he moved on, and back to Marvel and Stan Lee. The Eternals and Celestials are perhaps his best creations from this time. But of course he moved on from Marvel.
The Modern Age of Comics is roughly seen as beginning around 1985-1987. Watchmen by Alan Moore, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, basically darker stuff, and creator recognition began. What else happened? Marvel gave back to Jack Kirby around 1,900 pages of the artwork he had done for them. Kirby had wanted to sell the artwork to be able to leave his family something upon his passing. Creator recognition, finally.
I think there is another age of comics. Modern Age might end up having it’s name changed at some point, but for now we will leave it. Perhaps I’ll call the age following it for simple reference purposes the Image Age. This would make the Image Age beginning in 1992 and it would be the age of true creator control and a new wave of storytelling by award winning novelists.
And who was there at the beginning?
Jack Kirby and Phantom Force, released through Image Comics. In his last years, right before his passing he was able to see his final work printed for a new age and the first issue sell 250,000 copies.
What other person can span through every Age of superheroes? Perhaps one man might could stand beside him for that honor, but not for these kinds of accomplishments. It’s not Stan Lee. Honestly, if you like Stan Lee, don’t research too much into comic book history. No one takes away from his way of telling a story and his salesmanship. But there are some things that just don’t make him look good at times. You have to wonder why creative giants like Simon and Kirby left Timely after creating Captain America and the nephew of the publisher at the age of 19 became the editor and art director. Who told Goodman, the publisher Simon and Kirby were working on DC projects?
I’ll leave you with couple of stories.
Will Eisner was once Kirby’s boss back in the late 1930s, maybe 1939. He tells a story, this is my paraphrasing.
Kirby was a small guy, about 5 foot and a bit of nothing. Back then there was a service for the Eisner & Iger offices who would bring in towels and soap. Well someone didn’t like the soap and wanted to change companies. The problem was the company they had was run by the mob, in New York, and they had the whole building. The office got a visit from the stereotype guy, black shirt, white tie and about six foot four. He comes in and threatens Eisner and out comes little Jack Kirby asking if the guy was giving him a problem. The big guy back down slightly until Eisner told Kirby to calm down. They kept the soap and towels.
But that’s how Kirby was. Growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, you grew up tough. Showed no fear.
One story from Kirby himself I like is one where he tells how the Thing from the Fantastic Four is him. He uses his language and his manners. The Thing is Jack Kirby.
Ben Grimm, The Thing of the FF was Jack Kirby in ways some people didn’t even know. This article here let’s you in on so much of it. I’ve read a lot of it in other places, heard Kirby talk about it in interviews, but get it here in one place.
That’s it. One man, every Age, and influencing every age since.
I’ll come back and put references in someday. Just can’t do it right now.
Five days left in the series. Hope you can last with me, and I can last. The blog may be dying from my regulars not being comic book people, but I’m still enjoying this every minute.
I thought we would go to Taiwan today. One of the great things about this project of around the world in Graphic Literature is discovering the terms used for the medium. I call it Graphic Literature and comic books at times. I use Graphic Literature to explain what comic books mean to me. They aren’t simply funny books or superhero books. With award winning authors scripting the books, there is more to them than many, most people think.
In Taiwan comics are called manhua, meaning impromptu sketches. The term began in 18th century China and later was called manga in early 19th century Japan.
One thing I’ve discovered while researching for this is that the art is not always the stereotypical art we in America think of as manga. To me, I think what makes manhua or manga or books that is, fit into those two words is the life the art takes on. You can look at a picture and see movement even in a person standing still. No, it’s not evident in every picture but that’s what I see in most.
Another thing is that unlike American comics, manhua and even manga isn’t all about superhero antics. Most are about life, about normal people put in extraordinary situations or even basically a TV show in Graphic Literature form. If it happens in life, it happens in manhua. That’s one thing about manhua and manga and even many European countries, the comic is an art form, not a children’s entertainment. The adults realize the importance of creativity and art.
Today won’t have a lot of background content of the authors and creators as there is a language barrier that I don’t have the time at the moment to work on. But I do have plans for detailed articles around the world and a site to go with them. When that time comes, it will have more to share.
But let’s look at the industry itself now. Big problem. Japan. It’s easier to bring in Japanese manga. For years Manga was pirated in with language changed and some extra art over nude areas added. Then pirating was made illegal in Taiwan and enforced. There is still the problem of creating a strong local industry when it is so easy to import. This forced the king of pirating, Tongli Comics to go legit and create original work as well as obtaining legal rights to import and distribute Japanese manga.
I’ll give a quick list of some Tongli artists/creators.
Beginning with some female creators:
Nicky Lee/Li Chung Ping
Nicky Lee is what one would call the Fashion Manhua queen I suppose. Her books tend toward that look and are done quite well. She has a huge following.
I’m putting a few more images here because, well, AWESOME. Why? American connections to some geekdom moments for me. You’ve got Buffy the Vampire Slayer cover art, Robotech, to me the best ever. Yes, I’ve got all threes series on DVD. Don’t hate me because I get my geek on. And Racer X of Speed Racer fame.
“You really have to have the desire to be a storyteller to be a comic book artist. The desire to draw cartoons or superheroes isn’t enough. In fact, the skill to draw is almost secondary. You must first want to tell stories. Once I started down that path, there was no looking back. I was hooked.”~Jo Chen
Some of the artwork and titles.
I’ll leave it at that for today. I have obviously missed out on the very important manhua in Taiwan’s history but like I said, I will be devoting more time to it.
Researching South African Graphic Literature history has been an interesting adventure. A big think I discovered is a great deal of the comics were photo comics early on. Actors would be in the positions of what Americans and Europeans would normally see as drawn panels. Text balloons would then be inserted.
There are rare examples of illustrated comics, and I’ll mention those as I discover them. Yes, I write as I discover as opposed to research then writing. You get to ride along with me as I get excited or disappointed, depending on what I find.
For instance, here is the first illustrated book I found. Mighty Man. This was Soweto’s version of Superman. Sounds like a good idea, right? The book was about a black policeman who is shot, then healed by some beings from beneath the earth and given powers. All good so far. But the point of the book was to have the blacks during apartheid basically subliminally, from an early age, given the thoughts that going against the rules of the white government was wrong, they should stay in their place, there should be no guns owned by blacks, and it just keeps going.
Back up stories were about local folklore and sports figures. Any efforts by the Americans involved in the creation were slapped down. They worked for the company and did the book. Even when not agreeing with what the books overall message was.1In truth the book was more a propaganda and advertising scheme.
I also found a great writer in Lauren Beukes.2 A writer of novels and and TV scripts. Her selection to write Fairest3 for Vertigo4, and imprint of DC Comics says a lot. Fairest is a spinoff of Fables, a highly acclaimed series. Fairest is about the women of fairy tales set in different situations and with actual lives. These aren’t fairy tales.
Beukes arc in the series, The Hidden Kingdom, deals with Rapunzel traveling to Tokyo to take care of a mystery from her past.
Next I stumbled upon a piece by Nobhongo Gxolo who speaks with a couple of South African creators.5 First there was Moray Rhoda, illustrator, designer, and writer. One piece comic fans may have heard of is Velocity, a Graphic Novel anthology with contributing creators. He shares a frustration with another up and coming creator, Loyiso Mkize, illustrator and writer of Kwezi, about a 19 year old cocky guy who suddenly has powers and how he handles it.
The frustration they have is distribution. Local publishers don’t want to invest, not seeing the potential local home grown comics have. Most books are Indie Books in South Africa with any mass published being from the US or Europe. Local creators have more interest from places like US who get what is being done and see the talent of the artists.
“The artwork is definitely international level, but the storytelling is not there”~Rhoda
The artwork gains attention across the ocean, much like many other countries, but the writing is the problem.
“There’s also the fact that as I got older I learned to appreciate the role of superheroes in young people’s minds: positive, encouraging and inspiring.”~Mkize
Comic strips, humorous and adventure were ongoing from the early 20th Century onward. I don’t mention the names here because I honestly am not certain how appropriate some might be considering the way the government segregated society so harshly.
When I begin a more comprehensive series I will include all that I find, but for now enjoy what we have here today. Talent. A lot of it, but with no local publisher support.
Today’s walk into Graphic Literature will be a simple one. A retrospective about one man and it will be short. We’re headed to Romania. No fluff, let’s get to it.
Sandu Florea (1946-).1 His career goes back to 1968 with a children’s magazine Luminiţa and a series, Păcală.
Perhaps what is truly his moment in Romanian comics’ history comes in 1973 with Galbar. This is thought to be the first science fiction comic book in Romania. Considering all the art I’ve seen while researching for this article that’s saying a lot.
He wasn’t simply a science fiction guy. Part of his large catalog in Romania is the retelling of Romanian history through Graphic Literature, winning a Eurocon, science fiction convention, award in 1980.
Problems began for him in communist Romania when in around 1984 he requested to leave for the United States where his two brothers were living. His right to publish was revoked and he had to use pen names to work. After the 1989 revolution, he returned under his own name.
Not long after we find him in New York. And soon after he was inking comics for Marvel Comics such as Conan, Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, and many others. What’s an inker? You have an artist/drawer/penciler who draws the books, then the inker goes over those lines to make them look finished and polished and so the printing can actually pick up the images. He even did work at DC on the characters Superman and Batman. Some might be surprised to hear he also worked on two books for Dark Horse Comics called Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.
When asked what has been his favorite title or character to work on Florea did not hesitate to say Batman, having worked on Batman R.I.P. and other stories. This according to an interview at the 2011 New York City Comic Con.2
Qatar is not the place to really go looking from Graphic Literature in the vein in which I am interested in at this time. I therefore headed to Quebec. I thought about provinces in China, but I thought a little closer to home would be easier. Have I ever told you how foolish my ideas can be?
Did I tell you I tried creators from Queens, New York? Not so easy either.
Canada went through some interesting things during WWII much like other parts of the world. Oddly US books were banned from being imported for economic reasons, but could be reprinted. This allowed for a Golden Age of comic books in Canada. Canada also went through the 1950s censorship issues much as the rest of the various Western Hemisphere.
I want to start today with a man named Joseph Michel Roy (1921-1996), better known as Mike Roy or Michael Roy. Researching about artists born in Quebec had been tough until the wee hours and I found this man. And did I find a creator or what?
Born in Quebec he headed south where he ended up in New York at the School of Industrial Art, also known as the High School of Art and Design. For those outside of the United States, think ages 14 or 15 up to around 18. The school produced several comic artists from this time period. During Roy’s particular time he was the first to get the break.1
In 1940, while still in school, Roy writes, pencils (draws), and inks the short story Tigerman2 in the comic book Daring Mystery Comics3.Daring Mystery Comics was produced by Timely Comics, the predecessor to Marvel Comics.4
According to a high school friend of Roy’s, another Timely Comics artist Allen Bellman, he recalls Roy working on a Sub Mariner comic will still in high school, although it is not mentioned in a list of his works. The incident sticks in Bellman’s mind because Roy was then a big shot and hero because he had actually done what they all wanted to do.5 One thing to keep in mind is, Roy went to work for Bill Everett as his assistant and that may be why we don’t see Roy’s name on work for that particular issue. Or it could be that issue has slipped through the cracks.6
Roy did a lot of Timely books, Captain America #60 being of course being of interest to me where he had the lead story. But there were later books I found insanely amazing to find he worked on. Jackie Gleason and the Honeymooners from the 1950s. The Twilight Zone from the 1960s. Buck Rogers and the 25th Century in 1980.
All of these are interesting and great but then we have a few things where Roy stands out.
Mike Roy’s Comic Strips
Roy has a tie to one of the most famous detectives in literary fiction, Mike Hammer. No, you won’t see Roy given credit for Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, but you will find his name with the comic Mike Danger in 1947, the first go round of Mike Hammer. It failed and Spillane, in three weeks, turned out I, the Jury.7
We then find Roy on The Saint comic strip which began it’s run on Septemeber 27, 1948, written by Leslie Charteris. Yes, The Saint as in Simon Templar with George Sanders in the old movies and Roger Moore in the TV series.8
Then we see him once again, in the detective genre with the Nero Wolfe comic strip from 1956 to 1958.9
Mike Roy’s Native American Interests
Mike Roy was very interested in Native American culture. His strip Akwas from the 1960s showed this. It was set historically pre Columbus. He attempted to keep the strip in print by giving her super powers toward the end but it didn’t save it.10
Screaming Eagle, a graphic novel was Roy’s final work, published in 1998 after his passing.
“SCREAMING EAGLE tells a mythical version of Native history—from the early pioneering days to the end of the Indian wars. Not coincidentally, that period coincides with the life of the story’s fictional hero.
At the onset, white trappers shoot a bald eagle, then the boy Screaming Eagle. The eagle’s and boy’s spirits merge and Screaming Eagle comes back to life. He now has the power to turn into his namesake guardian spirit.
Screaming Eagle becomes the focal point for this simplified version of events. He’s there to counsel people in war and peace. He’s the embodiment of all the great Indian leaders, from Tecumseh to Geronimo.”~Robert Schmidt.11
Mike Roy also co-founded a museum of Native American and Eskimo art.
To end I will mention a creative duo specifically for Canadian Graphic Literature. writer Mark Shainblum and artist Gabriel Morrissette. They are at least close to today but their work on specifically and obviously Canadian superheros is why I want to mention them.
The two created Northguard, an almost accidental hero in the fact he was really just doing his job and ended up being a costumed hero. The book was a serious effort during the 1980s to have home grown superhero comics with heroes having Canadian identity throughout, not just in name only. He also had a partner called Fleur de Lys from the emblem on the Quebec flag. The two appeared on Canadian postage stamps.12
There are successful Canadian comics but rare. With the amount of American comics and with a population that cannot support so many comics it’s difficult to create and maintain a publishing system. There are efforts and I may talk about them another time. But that’ all for today. Return to Top Click the link below to learn about comics in the Philippines. Did WWII help or hinder their comic book culture? How about the rule of Marcos?
Our trip today into Graphic Literature takes us to Komiks. We could venture back to days when pictures and words were put together and people now call them cartoons or comics or as I prefer, Graphic Literature, however I want to jump ahead maybe 30 or so years. My goal today is to see if we can go from the past to the present and connect the artists and writers along the way.
You may have heard of the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon or Six Degrees of Separation. The goal is to connect Kevin Bacon to any other actor in six steps or less. Let’s see what we can do with the creators today.
After the Spanish
It’s after the Spanish-American War and there is some American influences filtering in.1 On January 11, 1929, Liwayway2 magazine published a character named Francisco Harabas, better known as Kenkoy3. Created by writer Romulado Ramos and the man who would become known as the father of Filipino Komiks, Tony Velasquez (Oct. 29, 1910-1997)4.
A little about Kenkoy. For one thing, the character is such a part of the culture the word kenkoy is actually an official part of the Filipino language now meaning joker or jester. That should tell you something of the character himself. However, his life as a bachelor did not last forever, he eventually marries Rosing, a very classy and classic woman of the Philippines. The two remind me of Dagwood and Blondie in their differences of appearances and overall demeanor, created in 1930.5 With seven biological children and one adopted mute, but wily child later they were a happy, if not crowded, family.
Kenkoy is said to be the originator of Taglish6, which is English and Tagalog7 mixed as a language, you may notice it on social media if you know anyone from the Philippines.
A sad note about Kenkoy. During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in WWII, Velasquez was forced to use Kenkoy as a propaganda tool. He refused but was convinced by the then Philippine President to use it for the promotion of his health program instead of war propaganda. I suppose it served the same purpose.8
Velasquez was the mentor to someone I found very interesting. As I have of others in the southern hemisphere on the other side of the earth.
Let’s go to Mars.
Mars Ravelo (Oct. 9, 1916-Sept. 12, 1988), was an illustrator and creator of great note.9 Ravelo wore many hats through his Komix career and became known as the “Father of Filipino Komix Superheroes”. I guess you can see why I am interested.
I want to mention two characters. One with a bit of conflict about her history. Darna, originally named Varga.10,
“You know I thought of creating Varga as a counterpart of Superman. Male on the part of the Americans, female on our part. Isn’t that okay?”~Mars Ravelo11
Varga was created just before WWII broke out, around 1939.12 Some say Darna is a rip off of Wonder Woman who first appeared December, 194113 in DC Comics14. Darna’s alter ego is the mortal Narda. For one to become the other they must shout the name of the one they are not. The power to do so in the original origin came when a white stone crashing to earth from the planet Marte was swallowed by Narda to keep it hidden from her friends. With the change between characters being by the shouting of a name, inspired by Captain Marvel (1939), Revelo’s claim would seem to hold up.
Then we have Captain Barbell, May 23, 1963. I have to say this one has an interesting origin. Revelo’s openly spoofed Komik of Captain Marvel, who is now known as Shazam, due to legal issues.15With powers given to a mortal through a golden barbell while shouting the words Captain Barbell. I know it sounds a little cheesy but the powers are given to various people over the years and is quite interesting. Revelo had not intended for the character to be quite as heroic as it turned out to be, but the popularity forced his hand. And it took me about as long coming to this point of writing this part to get the rhyme of Captain Marvel and Captain Barbell. Don’t hate me because I am slow, hate me because I am beautiful. Okay, so I have a sense of humor.
Mars Revelo was a writer, editor and more, but he needed someone to be his artist.
Darna Comes Alive
Enter Nestor Redondo (May 4, 1928-Sept. 30, 1995). Oddly, or funnily, Redondo studied architecture when he was young.16 Why odd or funny? I’ve found this to be true with many Graphic Literature artists before. Many writers and editors have said it seems to be a plus in their backgrounds and detail work. But that’s perhaps for another article.
Why the love of a career in Komiks, with possibly check to prayer to check life ahead? Blame his father who would would bring him American comics. An addiction began for titles such as Flash Gordon and Captain America as well as Buck Rogers and Superman. Little did that boy or his father know what was in the future.17
Then it happened. Mars Revelo came calling and Redondo drew the first issue of Darna. You’ve seen his work above on Darna. Now here are some other pieces. Notice the work commissioned for the promotional comic version of the MGM movie Quo Vadis. The movie studio wanted Revelo to come to the US to work for them after seeing his talent, but he didn’t think he was ready.
But the Philippines could not hang on to Nestor for much longer.
The Filipino Invasion
Through the talent and popularity of fellow Filipino artist Tony DeZuniga, Nestor Redondo and several of his friends came to the notice of DC and Marvel.18 You can call this the Filipino Invasion.
Redondo worked on books for DC such as Phantom Stranger and Swamp Thing. As well as Red Sonja and Savage Sword of Conan for Marvel Comics.19
What he was most proud of or perhaps most passionate about was his work distributed by Open Doors20, a Netherlands-based organization. Being very religious he worked on beautifully illustrate stories of the Bible to be distributed to countries and areas where the Bible was restricted.
After the mass exodus of so many Filipino creators it’s difficult to make the connections from Filipino to Filipino as I have wanted to. In part this is because so many left in 1972. Why did so many leave at that time? September 21, 1972, Ferdinand Marcos, nearing the end of his term as president, declared martial law. Things got bad.
“From what I remember, the local komiks companies set up their own Comics Code (but they were a self-governing body), just so that the government won’t get involved and censor all their works. But just like the Comics Code, they did restrict stories that showed too much horror, sex, and violence. Which, could be, partly the reason why our horror komiks artists looked for greener pastures and found it in the US market.”~Budjette Tan of Trese
Much like other countries where the government takes a strangle hold on any type of media that may influence the population, the comic book industry suffers greatly. If that hold lasts for a long time, decades even, a generation of culture does not inherit a long standing tradition. That’s what happened in the Philippines. Then Komiks became mostly photocopied and stapled together by the creators themselves and sold by the creators as well, many depended on the various conventions that are held each year.21
But now the industry requires greater quality to gain an audience. They all expect Marvel and DC quality.22
Now there is an effort to revitalize and bring the industry back home. In every aspect of visual entertainment you will find Filipinos, Pinoys. That’s paraphrasing Whilce Portacio. If you are a comic book fan anywhere in the world you very likely know this man’s name.
Born in the Philippines, but with a Navy dad he bounced or bobbed around until finally settling down at the age of about two and growing up in San Diego, CA. That’s where at the age of ten, his neighbor’s wife made it possible for Whilce to come into possession of her husband’s comic book collection and Whilce became a student of Jack Kirby and Neal Adams through books he never would have had otherwise.23
How did he make it to the big time? Through the help of another? No. He attended his first San Diego comic book convention, showed his samples to Marvel Comics editor Carl Potts24 and he was next inking Alien Legion25. The best I can tell, the original series.
Then came inking Longshot. Then Punisher. In an video interview Whilce talks about how he got his shot to become a penciller, the guy who does the drawing the inker inks over. He said he would ink the Punisher then flip the sheet over. You have to understand the sheets are huge for working on and then shrunk down for printing. He would then draw his on pencil work on the back. While the editor of Punisher would be holding up the page to check out the inking, the assistant editor would see the pencils and say, “Hey, look at this.”
X-Men, Iron Man, and others. you name it he did it. Then he was one of the magnificent seven that started Image Comics and worked on books like Spawn. Not big enough, how about Batman? Oh, and if you don’t know who Image Comics is, think where The Walking Dead began.
That’s all great and good but the main reason I mention him today is his efforts to bring pride back to the art form in the Philippines. To do that he has partners who will be helping to back a studio system in the Philippines with Portacio acting as art director.26
I can imagine who the backers are. His thoughts are the Philippines could be the next Japan for many aspects of the industry from comics to animation. One advantage is the Filipinos already speak English and tell stories in English.27
Why no art by Whilce Portacio? That’s not the reason I mentioned him, although listening to him he is the man to learn from. I would love to be a student of his. But the reason I mention him here?
He’s bringing a culture back home.
One thing Whilce said way back when in an a show hosted by Stan Lee when asked about when he knew he wanted be an artist he said the first grade. And here is the best part of why. The teacher had given the class paper and crayons. As she went around the room she told each student something like that’s nice, and then would ask what are you drawing? When she got to Whilce, she said, “Oh, did you see the Saturn V rocket launch yesterday?” It clicked. She knew what he had drawn. Yes, a teacher gave him confidence with just a few words.
Oman may have some creators but I didn’t find any in my basic search. I do a decent search for a time then I move on. That being said, do you know how many countries start with the letter O? You got it, one. I decided to go with a province. Yes, I thought about searching in other languages to see if a different spelling came up for a country, but this is a fun project for me, and I do enough translating as it is.
Normally when doing a history I go in chronological order. I thought I would change it up a bit today. We’re going with two creators only. We’re going back in time. From end to the beginning. We’re going north. We’re going maple leaf country.
We’re going Canada.
To be precise—we’re going Ontario.
A lot of times when you start with the newest you end up talking the least about something in history. That has been especially true for Graphic Literature.
Today if you think that, you are wrong. Wrong in a big way. So wrong that wrong is not even enough of a word to say how wrong you and I are.
The Midas Touch
At the age of 39 Jeff Lemire is likely to tell you to be included with our later creator in an article would have been an impossibility. But maybe the reason he is, is because no one ever asked him that if it was possible.1After all, there are a lot of accomplishments out there that when asked of the people that did them, they say, no one ever told me I couldn’t.
I don’t know if Midas Touch applies here but when you start your career self-publishing your first comic, win an award, then go immediately into a company where Alan Moore, legend, is putting out a volume of his The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and when an award with a series with that company, I think Midas Touch fits.2
“I like to tell stories that make people feel something. It takes too long to make comics to just do frivolous or throwaway work. I’m trying to create real emotion on the page.”~Jeff Lemire3
Reading more and more about Lemire you discover one thing about him, creating comics is the important part of his profession. Even with the recent blow up of his world with Sony optioning a comic project from Image Comics, Descender, he hadn’t even put out the first issue of yet, he made sure during the negotiations his role, his time, and his freedom was in creating the book he wanted. He got that deal.4That’s power. That’s talent.
Lemire is not your typical superhero storyteller. In truth that’s not his go-to element. Can he do it? He’s written, Batman, the Justice League, and Superboy. Yes, he can do it, but he’s likely to take them out of that super environment.
His early work, such as the Eisner and Harvey Award nominated Essex County Trilogy5 and even the graphic novel, Underwater Welder6 set characters in Canadian settings away from urban areas and mega-powered heroes.
With Underwater Welder he did some interesting work with the art. Yes, he likes to do all of the work on a book if time permits. Above water he has sharp, distinct lines, while below he has the looser imagery. And there is a purpose.
But I am here to see where he goes for the hero stuff. Call me selfish, I’ve learned about what he does, listened to a number of interviews, one of them above, to see consistency of his character over the years and of his devotion to the story and not to the sells or the fame. Now I want to talk about bookes he has worked on that I can geek out about. And seeing as today is the one year anniversary of this site, I’m going to enjoy and share what I like.
The big moment.
The graphic novel The Nobody in 2009 brings Lemire to DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint. A retelling of the Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. Lemire does all the work on the book except for the lettering.7
Now onto something more mainstream as far as what an average comic fan might now, Jonah Hex.8 I know, you are wondering who he is. Think of the Josh Brolin movie that came out. Lamire did the art on the Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti scripted book.9 The huge part here is the Jimmy Palmiotti part, former partner of Joe Quesada who became the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics for over a decade and eventually promoted to Chief Creative Officer.10 In other words he, Lemire had a cool moment there.
His first big accomplishment, I think, can be seen as a very long run on Animal Man from Sept. 2011-Mar. 2014.11 Why do I say this? He took a character that had apparently no real direction for over two decades since it’s revival creator, Scottish born writer Grant Morrison12, left and turned it into not only a relevant to this day and age, but so much so Animal Man became part of Justice League United.
But the one piece of work at DC that I believe shows the companies biggest vote of confidence in Lemire is when they picked him to step in when Ann Nocenti<13 left Green Arrow14.
I’ve skipped a lot of material but I want to leave off with this one. Lemire is now writing probably my second favorite comic book character of all time, Hawkeye. Although I will give him credit for being given a big gig on a Marvel Comics book, I have to say I don’t much like the ideas he has for it.15Sometimes a fan boy wants his favorite characters to at least remain the star of the book. But that’s the fan boy in me. Old school collector guy.
Rant of the Blog Birthday Boy.
But the ideas of Marvel these days doesn’t hold anything sacred. It’s my blog birthday so I’m speaking my piece here. By Marvel killing the sacred cows so to speak, they are doing more harm than good. I see a lot of what they are doing as more knee jerk reactions to placate to hopefully making sales and get publicity over maintaining long time fans, readers. It’s going to bomb at some point. There has always been something comforting in being able to pick up an issue of Spider-Man and have some idea of who the character is. They killed Steve Rogers, Captain America, brought him back, then aged him, forcing him out of the Cap roll. He’s still in the game as a commander of sorts and picked his longtime partner the Falcon as the new Captain America. I’m okay with that last part. It makes sense. But Steve Rogers not being Captain America doesn’t. Quesada has some problems with his thinking. He thinks the costume is the character. He thinks Thor is the hammer, so anyone picking it up is Thor. Marvel is awesome, but sometimes it’s just screwed up.
One of Lemire’s first DC writing jobs was to write Superboy, but not a young Clark Kent. Long story there, convoluted and a pain in the butt to work out. It seems DC Comics can’t decide what version of it’s universe it wants to keep. Every few years or maybe a decade or so they decide it’s time to destroy everything fans knew and start over. Yeah, Superman and Wonder Woman are making out now. Lois Lane?
Whose our other Ontario comic book artist? Who did work on Superboy? Who did draw Superboy?
How about the man who created him and Superman? It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a legend.
A legend? Yes. A happy ending? Wait and see.
Drawing on paper bags and the back of rolls of discarded wallpaper, Joe Shuster did what it took to break into the world of comics. Canadian? Yes. But it wasn’t until his parents moved to Cleveland, Ohio that IT happened.16 The meeting. The chemistry explosion. He met Jerry Siegel.17 You can’t say one name without the other.
If you are not a comic book person, Siegel and Shuster might not spark something in your brain cavity. If you are then you instantly think of the Big S.
These two young men created what is considered the first superhero of sorts. Two young Jewish boys doing what geeky comic book wannabe professionals wanted to do.
The boys did something they would regret. They sold the rights to the character when they began to work for the future DC comics. At the end of their contract with DC, Shuster did a little more in comics, then disappeared from the business disgruntled with what should have been a beautiful career.
He ended up as a delivery man living with his mother. Although it is believed he did continue drawing comics under other names at times during the 1950s in less than respectable genres. But it was a buck, a living.
For the man who created not only the Superman characters we know, but also detective Slam Bradley, and Doctor Occult, it is a sad ending. An ending that found him blind an in a home when he passed away.
Apparently Siegel and Shuster were the first to have a vampire in a comic book.18 A lot of firsts for a duo that was messed over for so many decades.
I knew of the legal battles between Siegel and Shuster versus DC Comics over Superman, which gave them their byline back and a yearly pension and healthcare in the 1970s, but I didn’t know about Shuster’s leaving the business.
Will Lemire, with better relations and with creator rights more firmly in place end up doing more work in comics than Shuster? Yes. Will he create Superman? No. But I don’t think anyone ever goes out with the idea of creating the next Superman. Thinking about it, why don’t they?
Sometimes it surprises me where Graphic Literature is found. I mean, it shouldn’t but I can be in how creators that have worked here in the United States as well as other large markets might come from the end of the earth.
We’re headed to that End of the Earth now. New Zealand.
I had to do a little digging for this bit of information. You’ll see why in a moment. I headed to the Library of Congress. Okay, so it was their website. According to the information they’ve pulled in, a comic strip called Mr. Skygack, From Mars by Fred Schaefer and A.D. Condo for the Chicago Day Book appeared in October of 1907, a humorous strip about an alien who comes to learn about humans.1 The LoC source comes from Chronicling America. If you visit the reference below you can see the paper it appears in and zoom in. Actually a very interesting visit.2 There are those who consider this the first science fiction comic strip, humorous as it may be, simply on the basis of an alien being present, the first alien present in a comic strip3. Buck Rogers, appears as of 1/7/1929, although the character had appeared in August of 1928 in Armageddon 2419.4 According to Ron Goulart of The Encyclopedia of American Comics from 1897 to the Present (1990), Buck Rogers is considered the first serious science fiction strip.5
You’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with New Zealand. I argue that Mr. Skygack, From Mars is absurdly considered science fiction simply based on the presence of an alien in it. And then even if one does give it credit, Buck Rogers is not the first serious and true science fiction strip. That is like saying a Gone with the Wind is a Civil Rights movie because there are African Americans in it.
Really and Truly Spaced Out.
In 1924 in the Australian Sunday Times a comic strip appears. It is about a young boy named Peter, who travels through space and visits other planets like Jupiter in the strip Peter and all the roving folk.
The creator is Noel Cook who is Foxton, New Zealand born.6Legend goes he turns down an offer to write the series for a company in New York. Five years later and Buck Rogers gets all the fame.
Although Cook created other science fiction books I found some of his humorous strips worth sharing.
WIFE (to husband): You like that hat and I like this one, so I had better take both just to please you.
Sentimental Constable: And what is your favorite flower, Mary? Mary: Self-raising for scones, and plain for pastry.
After retirement Cook went on to become a successful painter with many shows in London, one being opened by the Queen Mother. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any of those images, but this image of a pulp magazine piece of his shows how talented he was in that medium. Imagine when he painted without a script or an audience to please.
After researching Noel Cook, and basically becoming a huge fan, I almost don’t have the energy to move to the next person, or look for the next, but I must. Let’s see where Noel leads me.
I wanted to jump ahead a bit, and in a way I am, with Ted Brodie-Mack (1897-?). Although born a year later than Noel Cook (1896-1981), Brodie-Mack brought a different character in 1944, Kazanda the Wild Girl and the Forbidden Kingdom.7
Brodie-Mack drew the character while Archie E. Martin, who went by the name of Peter Amos, was the writer. What makes Kazanda stand out is that for one, she’s a woman, a jungle queen of the Lost Continent. She had powers such as telepathy. There are conflicting opinions about other powers, so I’ll stop with telepathy and typical jungle queen kick butt type stuff. The second thing that makes this comic so interesting, it’s the first New Zealand created comic to be published in the United States, reprinted in Ranger Comics in 1945.8
The 1950s Freak Out.
As happened in the United States and other countries, the End of the Earth decided comics were bad for kids and society and began to ban books. It makes you wonder what literary and creative genius was lost during this time of youth being denied a visual medium to excite their minds.
New Zealand Strips for All.
In 1977 a formally trained artist working as an illustrator started a fanzine called Strips. Colin Wilson intended for Strips to show his work, but what it did in reality was begin to showcase work from all across New Zealand. The comics life of the country was reborn.9
But for Wilson, New Zealand didn’t last much longer. The talented artist, apparently extrememly talented, found his way to the UK and on the flagship UK comic book Judge Dredd10 in 2000 AD11 as well as Rouge Trooper12.
But the UK was not the stopping place for Wilson. France and the legendary book Blueberry13 was in his future. For those who read the France part of this series you will recall Blueberry and its importance in French comics.
Do you think he stopped there? No. American comic fans might recognize the next work of his, a series called Point Blank14, from Wildstorm15 comics, the studio of Jim Lee16. The series was written by a comic great Ed Brubaker17.
I like the above art Wilson did for an expose of his work in which he includes many of the characters he had worked with through the years. As of the last information I have Wilson is still working for 2000AD.
The New Talent.
As in the rest of the world, the government became a little more sane, as most governments do when the people basically tell them to stuff it.
There isn’t a lot of information out there right now about some of the talent coming out of New Zealand, especially about the women. But I want to mention them the women along with the sites you can visit.. Indira Neville18, Sarah Laing19 (awards winning author and teacher), Robyn E. Kenealy20, Li Chen21, and Rae Fenton22.
The researchers brain is toast right now. This was an entertaining adventure for me and a great learning experience. I encourage you to click the Reference #21 just above this paragraph to go to the link for a nice interview with three of the women from New Zealand that have begun an effort to put women in the public eye in a male centric opinion of that public. Good points are made I agree with wholly, and some opinions I disagree with, but a very good interview.
In Graphic Literature the political strip always seem to be a lead-in to other things in a countries history in Graphic Literature. And that’s where today’s country somewhat began with the art form. I’ll share a bit of that, plus some heroes as well. The art will of course pop up, well appear on the page. Let’s begin near the beginning. We’re headed to Mexico.
So we’ll start near the beginning.
First up is Gabriel Vargas and La Familia Burron (The Big, Dumb Family). Why am I starting with this one? I think a book running from 1948-2009 should be mentioned. The book was about a lower to middle class couple in Mexico, their teenaged kids and an adopted child.1 One site mentions a comparison to The Simpsons.2 Such a success from a man who had 11 siblings and was a draftsman for a newspaper around the age of 13.
Yolanda Vargas Dulché, an author who along with Alberto Cabreras, created her own legend and legacy with Memín Pinguín in 1943.3Memín Pinguín was noted for its use of clean language4with family values and handling of societal issues. Part of the societal issues handled and that were able to be addressed is that Memín and is his mother were Afro-Mexican characters. The characters in the book were based on children Yolanda had seen when she was young and had traveled.5 To be truthful, the manner in which the main character is drawn confuses me. A description has him with curly hair. But all images are of him with no hair, that I can see, and I at first thought the boy in the picture might have been Memín, but no, the boy in the read shirt is.
Another of Yolanda’s creations, along with her husband Guillermo de la Parra, Lágrimas, Risas y Amor (Tears, Laughter and Love), 1962 was said to have helped to raise the literacy rate in Mexico. Think melodramas aimed at women.6 The above examples are rarities. The majority of the material that was put out during the 1970s and into the 1980s was little more than illustrated porn.
Popular Books Today.
Two books mentioned as being the most widely circulated amongst Mexico’s historietas as they are called, are El Libro Vaquero (The Cowboy Book) aimed at men, dating back to 1952. and El Libro Semanal (The Weekly Book) aimed at women and set in the 19th century on the American frontier.7I’ll admit I like the idea of westerns as being a popular form of Graphic Literature as opposed to the normal superhero I am accustomed to.
The Dark Ages
It has been repeatedly mentioned in the main source I’ve used about how the industry did not go through the slump the United States did during the 1990s. I’ll take a moment for a personal comment here. If American comics had resorted to selling porn on cheap paper and and everywhere it could, most likely they could have floated through a a little better. Although American comics are not what they once were as far as being as family friendly, they aren’t porn. They are more like hard boiled detective novels.
A Family Affair.
Now let’s talk about a family with a superhero flare. Yes, I am tired of dealing with the somewhat overtly serious and direct.
I love when generations get involved in creating Graphic Literature. There are several in the United States among Marvel Comics. But we’re in Mexico.
Oscar González Guerrero is not what would be called a young man these days, born in 1926 he is now 89 years young. Perhaps the medium he works in is part of what keeps him that way. He started back in the 1950s but is still active today as part of a company with his son. Some books from his early days were Zor y los Invencibles. And then one classic, I just can’t help but laugh to look at. Hermelinda Linda.8
But let’s check out some of his son, Oscar González Loyo‘s work who formed ¡Ka-Boom! Estudio9 with his father. Two of his noted books are Karmatron and the Transformers and Las Aventuras de Parchís. He’s also worked on titles such as the New Speed Racer, The Simpsons, and even story boarded the the Latin American version of Sesame Street. Story boarding is where someone draws the images of how the show or movie is to go. That way people can see it visually before performing.He’s also a Will Eisner award winner.10
Well, that’s it for today. I have more but sometimes enough is enough for one day. You don’t want to know about the guy born in Mexico that ended up drawing Spider-Man and the X-Men anyway. Maybe another time. So what if the two guys above are the ones who made it happen for him.
I find it interesting how world events, and politics can shape the creativity of a society. I am reminded somewhat of the old Martin & Lewis movie Artists and Models1 every time I do one of these articles when there is a long history of graphic artist interpretations of literature. In the movie these types of books are seen as a detriment to society through their influence on the young. Personally, I learned how to be a great reader through the form.
Graphic interpretation of writing goes back a ways in Lithuania, and there was even satire leading up to WWII. Something we might find surprising with our thoughts colored by the Cold War and Soviet Block since then.
The Early Years.
A man named Jonas Martinaitis was one of those early satire painters and writers. He also did work for publications where he would use satire in the text of his work and often in rhyme.2 This sounds much like types of things we do here in a Haiku Challenge I host each week.
During the research for this series, I found comics in the form we know them today isn’t how they’ve always appeared. Early on, the text appeared in spaces beneath the images. In a way that makes sense in that you get to see a full piece of art. And understand, these were and can be works of art. Try to draw or paint some of what you see. Many people don’t realize that many comics are painted. But back then, those text balloons get in the way. These days the art is laid out in such a way as to account for the balloons.
Following WWII things were a bit more strict, much like what happened here in the US in the 1950s, with the publications being somewhat dictated to and any artistic images and wit were spun toward propaganda, not like here in the US in the 1950s. Fortunate or not, Martinaitis didn’t have to suffer this creative death. He passed away in 1947. Creativity Grows Cold.
Imagine if for decades I were to tell you when creating Haiku here on my site, the only place you could write Haiku and that was the only way you had to make money, that your words and images had to support something or be against something, regardless of what you believed. If you fought against me I would make sure you didn’t work anywhere else, because I had control there as well or possibly I could have you thrown into prison.
For Lithuania it was like that. Artists were subject to their work needing to meet the guidelines of Socialist realism as regulated by the government.3
It wasn’t until 1990 that Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare its independence after being occupied in WWII by the Soviets and the Nazis.4 I am trying to imagine the kind of things I would create under that atmosphere. The Yoke Loosens.
In the 1960s the loosening feel, the I am free to be me feel, that seemed to be in the air must have stretched to Lithuania in some way. Artistry and creativity in literary aspects changed slightly.
A painter named Aleksandras Vitulskis created what would be called the greatest of all Lithuanian comics work in 1968 and 1969.5 The work was compared to that of Alex Raymond6, creator of Flash Gordon7 in 1934. Considering the impact Raymond’s Flash Gordon had on US society in graphic interpretation and cinema I can only imagine what Vitulskis did for Lithuania. Here are samples of his work, not his comics work. I was unable to find any of that at this time. But will update this article when I do. A Touch of Humor and a Touch of Simplicity.
But not all Lithuanian creators were painters and detailed artists. Some went with simplicity and touching the pulse of a society. Enter Fridrikas Jonas Samukas and Miko Ridiko.Samukas focused using his wit and showing human flaws, something everyone could associate with.8 His art was simple and to the point, uncluttered so as to give a quick impression. For me, if I were looking at the painting above by Vitulskis, I might spend more time looking at each part rather than taking in the message. You need to look at your balance to achieve your goal. If you click on the image to the left you will see there are no words needed to relay the message. That message is universal in every society.
Samukas did that, and did it very well. Mikko Ridiko has been published since 1968 if that tells you how successful his method worked. It still goes on today although under other artists since his death in 2003. Artists of Today.
First there is Andrius Zaksauskas. I love the images he comes up with. Some are a bit to the point. All very well done, very painter like with one I picked today that gives me a Charlie Brown feel, not so much in the style but in the feel of the words and yes, even in perhaps the style a bit with the size of the heads of the children. But the words spoken by the character in front reminds me a bit of Charlie Brown. I translates I can.
Forcesyoudid not seek tobemorethan a personthenyouwill be lessthan a human.
That is how Google Translate does it. I get the meaning but am having difficulties expressing it here. Can you put it into words that make better sense for me? Leave a comment below. Seriously.
The next is Herta Matulionytė-Burbienė. I love this one. I so wish these were in English, but if you are a blogger or someone who Tweets or FBs things, you will get this image meaning easily. That’s the talent of this creator.
Cats Anonymous Slave Society
Prisipazjstu,that I ampowerless overmycat, andhumblyTo be completed byallhis wishes.
That’s it for today. I enjoyed researching for the article. Loving history and comics and art and writing, this series has been a lot of fun for me. I hope you enjoyed it. Tomorrow is some place beginning with M. I have no idea yet. I best get on that. Return to Top Let’s connect.
Some think of comic books as a joke and childish. You are about to learn differently. You are about to learn you are dead wrong. You haven’t read any of these yet? Read this one or you might as well not come back to visit the rest of the challenge posts.
Writing about comic book creators around the world was a dream idea of mine. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Try the letter K for a country that creates comic books. I an forced to use places recognized as being autonomous states if need be. So far, so good. Hong Kong was was an iffy point but I’ll take it. The point is to make it around the world and hit every letter in some fashion.
Today, with the letter K I ran into a situation where there is a little bit of a problem. I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway. I’ll be mentioning a terrorist organization during this.
We’re headed to Kuwait.
This is the first name I got a hit on and I’m going with it. Being there is some sensitivity here, I will tread as lightly as I can. Forgive me if I do step over any line I shouldn’t, but I believe this is something that moved me to need to share.
Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa1 is a man who saw an opportunity and took it. So where does the doctor come in? Psychology, from of all places Long Island University. And he has an MBA from Columbia. And that’s where the idea comes in. Actually it was in London in a taxi with his mother an sister.
Apparently he had promised is sister that one day he would write and she would illustrate. He had given up writing and thought the idea now was one of those of who has time type of things. By the time the taxi ride was over, a trip to Harrods2, he had the idea that would shake up comics, the Arab world, his life, and gain the attention of a group that likes to be called by an official sounding title, the Islamic State. There will be no reference link for them. The 99 Cometh.
And that’s why we are here talking. The 993 by Teshkeel Comics4, is about a social activist and scholar, Dr. Ramzi and 99 young people from 99 countries with special abilities based on the 99 attributes of the Muslim God. I avoid using his name as not to offend. The bad guy is
Rughal based on Osama bin Laden and al-Queda.
The book was first written by Naif, the origin story published 2006. But his goal was this would be Superman level quality or not at all. That’s what he told people as he asked for funding. Think of what is called a Kickstarter these days but on a global and much larger scale. The Superman Quality joins.
The book is now written and drawn by top level talent such as legendary comic book writer of X-Men fame, Fabian Nicieza5, who along with Rob Liefeld created the character Deadpool of which there has been so much buzz about the forthcoming movie. Also superstar artist John McCrea6 of Ireland joined in. He is well known for is collaborations with Garth Ennis. As well as artist June Brigman7, who helped create Marvel’s Power Pack comic, drew Supegirl, and now also instructs at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art as well as being a part time professor for the Atlanta branch of the Savannah College of Art and Design, known as SCAD by those who know. And there are more. I only mentions these writers and artists to show you the quality of this book as well as the reach of this book.
The 99 was given approval at every level of the Arabic society that it needed in order to become reality, even through rigorous religious approval. Now Naif is on trial in Kuwait, his home country for blasphemy. He’s received awards for the book from leading organizations in the Arabic world for the positive results of The 99. President Obama of the US even spoke of the book.
The 99 even had a cross over with the Justice League with Superman and others. Why did the terrorist group call for the death of Naif and those who created the book? People are uniting across cultures and religions and getting along instead of fighting.
This is not a Muslim comic book. Let’s put that out there. This book has teams of three who unite to take care of problems against evil. The teams are not always the same but are selected with purpose. The bad guys are also young people that could be members of The 99 but have instead fallen under the influence of the bad guy and all wear the same uniforms and have no personal expression.
Naif is very specific about the book not promoting a religion but the attributes that are universal and showing how Islam members are not all of one kind, much like not all of Christians are of one kind. As far as I am concerned the fatwa8, legal ruling, is a glory attempt by the lawyer who brought it forth. This trial is occurring as this article is written. Read about fatwa through the link in the references. It’s more than we here in the west know. We only see the real bad parts. Just like we only see the extremist Islamic things.
For more details, if you wish you may visit Naif’s personal site by clicking the here for the reference link which is the first one below, or click here for a reference link to an article from The Australian from April 10, 2015., number 9 below. Also you can watch the video below of Naif”s Ted Talk, or one of them, about how The 99 came to be. I will include both videos I watched, I recommend the first which is less rehearsed. he paces a lot but I believe you get to see who he is more. The video and Naif’s own site is where I got most of my information from.
To check out J for Japan and Manga’s history, click the article link or the letter below.
There was no way I could do a series about comics and not head to Japan. For some Japan is comic books in a true art form and engrained in culture unlike anywhere else in the world. Where many and most societies look at the art form as a child’s funny book, in Japan the books are graphic art presentations of literary art forms for all ages with the books being anything from childlike humor to corporate room cutthroat business. If it happens in society it can happen in comics, but kicked up to a sensational level, just as you would find in the best novels on the market.
Many of you have heard of the word Manga, but do you know what it means?
Hokusai was an artist during late 18th and early 19th century Japan with the use of would block carvings to use for printing, coined the term during one of his many name changes. He changed his name as he changed his style. In 1811 he began what would be known as the Hokusai Manga, with manga meaning “playful sketches” to describe his humorous images. The forms were created with simple lines and made for increased production. This new form brought him even more fame and a great many students.
The most famous of his Manga work would be his 36 Views of Mt. Fuji. As you look at the art below, think of how this was first cut into a wood book in order to be used to make prints.
This was not the first instance of what might be called comic books for Japan. In the mid 18th Century you would find what were called Kibyoshi or yellow books. These were satirizing of politicians and society in general. They were eventually banned and the edge taken off of the wit.
Following Hokusai the West came to Japan with Commodore Perry in 1853. With him came Western art forms and influences that found their way into Japan’s own art culture.2 By the 20th Century a new art form was beginning to take shape.
Yasuji (1876-1955, maybe), his real first name, is considered by many as one of, if not the father of modern Manga due to his influence on those who came later.3 His early career was influenced by Australia artist and cartoonist, Frank Arthur Nankivell4, who would leave Japan for the US and fame in his own right working for the first successful American humor magazine, Puck5.
Kitazawa created the satirical magazine Tokyo Puck. You can see the influence Nankivell had in the name. The artwork here, especially in the panel on the right is beautiful. I might at some point devote an article per creator some day.
Following Kitazawa we have another “father” of Manga. One that may be closer to what the West knows of as Manga.
Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989) was a cartoonist, animator and more. When you think of Tezuka, think Japan’s Walt Disney6. That literally is what people have called him, and rightfully so. All I really need to say is Astro Boy.
In 1944, at the age of 16, still in high school, Tezuka was drafted into WWII and work in a military factory where he would spend as much time as possible drawing, often on toilet paper. He witnessed first hand the results of the Osaka fire bombing. This would stay with him for the remainder of his life.7
Inspite of the military, he graduated and went on to medical school, but didn’t give up Manga. His first published work was The Diary of Ma-chan (1946). But then it happened. 1947 and we see New Treasure Island8 sell over 600,000 copies. Think about that. Just after WWII, devastated, and along comes something to give the people excitement. Tezuka introduces a cinematic story telling style of Manga that is what we know of today.
Then it really happened. 1952 and a minor character in his Ambassador Atom series was given his own series due to young fans love of him. Astro Boy9 ran from 1952-1968. It’s doubtful many people realize what the book is about. I mean as far as those in the west. Prejudice. The rights of robots, now a sentient class, and how they are treated.
Although Astro Boy may be his most famous work, one work I was very interested in was Princess Knight10 (1953-1956) and its various sequels. Why? The book is recognized as perhaps the first fully realized Manga for girls, as in theme and starring, although not the actual first one. But it was the first to really make an impact on society. Truthfully, I would love to get my hands on these stories. Even more than I would the original Astro Boy.
Eventually, Tezuka turned to animation and developed the first weekly animated show in Japan, Astro Boy. All financed by him in a studio built next to his home.
Tezuka lost his animation studio and his rights to Astro Boy. Those with the company didn’t like scraping by and thought others could do better. Years later the company closed. After it did, oddly offers came to Tezuka. And a rebirth began for him. in Blackjack11.
Now you may understand why some call Tezuka the father of, the god of Manga as well as the godfather of anime. Now to someone working these days and thus a little shorter in biography.
Hiromu Arakawa is a manga artist responsible for what has now become a classic, Fullmetal Alchemist. As the daughter of a dairy and potato farmer, Arakawa dreamt of life other than cows. But she agreed upon graduation from high school to stay and help with the farm for seven years.
Seven years later, Tokyo. She eventually became the assistant of Hiroyuki Etō of Mahōjin Guru Guru13. Her first paid solo professional work was the award winning Stray Dog in 1999. She’s had several hits, but Fullmetal Alchemist14 is the one most noted for and the last I could find she is working on is a non-fantasy manga called Silver Spoon15. Manga is usually in the vein of fantasy, at least these days I suppose, so there was so hesitant acceptance of Silver Spoon but now it’s another hit. And that is why she’s included today. That stepping out, taking a chance, and changing the expectations of what manga can be.
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