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.
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 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.
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?