Transformers and Nigel the Sheep? A link?

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.

Judge Anderson


Then we have

That’s it for today.

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Venezuela-Cartoonists with Freedom? Great Talent, itty bitty freedom space.

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?” Quote and art below from site.



“Serbian, we censor anything the newspapers say, if we continue to allow readers 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.

firedThe 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.


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One Legend, Seven Decades. The King of Comics.

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.

capcap2He 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.

wfga96gaacHis 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.

eternalsThe 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.

pf1What 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.

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Bonus: Get your geek on. One wrap around cover, four classics, one legend.


Manhua, the original Manga. The ladies of Taiwan-A Creative Force.

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:

Lai Ann.

lai ann


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.


nicky lee The One
Nicky and a young fan.
The One. Or at least a panel of an issue.


Jo Chen

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














Racer X
Racer X



Some of the artwork and titles.

Knight Princess
AKRU-Enchanted Tale of Formosa















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.


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Apartheid and Publishers: The bane of South African Comic Creators.

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.

mm1Mighty 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.

fairest-tb-2I 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.

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