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Business of Cartooning Ramblings & Reviews

Comic Strip Contemplation

Comic strips reigned supreme back in the 1930s. The Sunday sections were printed much larger than they are today and were a thing of beauty to behold.

Prince Valiant 1/29/1939 by Hal Foster

Adventure strips thrived during these years as there was room to tell a story. To see how much things have changed, just compare these two Sunday pages below from 1934 and 2002.

On the left – Flash Gordon 2/25/1934 by Alex Raymond.
On the right – Flash Gordon 9/1/2002 by Jim Keefe.

Jump ahead from 2002 to now and the comic strip Sunday pages have regrettably shrunken even smaller.

Here’s an example of my hometown paper the Star Tribune (my hand shown on the bottom left for scale). Unless you have a jewelers loupe you’re at a loss to see – much less read – what’s going on.

Here’s a comic page artist Terry Beatty (Ms. Tree, Rex Morgan M.D.) wrote and drew for Big Funny back in 2009 that really drives the point home.

Big Funny – Terry Beatty

Granted all is not doom and gloom – whereas comic strips in the newspaper may be on life support, we’re in a golden age as far as comic strip collections that are being published. Check out the Library of American Comics and Fantagraphics to name just a few.

I also feel like comic strips are being given a renewed life and readership online as fans of the medium now have the ability to binge weeks worth at a time. The big two comic strip sites being King Feature’s Comics Kingdom and AMU’s GoComics.

As times changes, so does the comics biz. Another example of this is that even though comic book sales have shrunk over the years, graphic novels have increased in popularity.

From an article in Publishers Weekly;
“Over the past five years, the North American graphic novel market has welcomed a wave of new readers and grown from about $805 million in sales in 2012 to more than $1 billion in 2017.”

From the Comics Beat;
“Overall, graphic novel sales in 2021 were up 65% from 2020…The growth was led by adult graphic novels, up 107%, but it’s important to note that this category includes manga which led the charge, up 17 million units.”


To sum up…

In the early 1900s onwards comic strips reigned supreme. By the 1940s comic books had taken off. In the 1960s indie comics/undergrounds entered the fray. In the 1980s self-published/alternative comics joined in at the same time graphic novels were just getting their sea legs. In the 1990s online content joined the mix. And now in the 21st century graphic novels and manga have taken flight.

And that’s not to say comic strips and comic books have been replaced and have gone away, it’s just that they aren’t the only game in town anymore.

Cartoons, comics, graphic novels – whatever you want to call it – the packaging keeps changing, but sequential art is just as popular now as it’s ever been. And as long as the stories are strong and the artwork delivers, the art form will continue to have an audience.

And that’s my two cents. See you in the funny papers…

-Jim Keefe

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Ramblings & Reviews

Intro to Anime

When I was in my 20s the groundbreaking anime film buy neurontin 100mg Akira was released here in the States. It pretty much blew any American made animation that was being produced at the time out of the water.

That said – this got me to thinking about how woefully ignorant I am in regards to anime, so I put together the following as a tutorial…

For this first part I deferred to my daughter Tessa (who was thirteen at the time this post was originally written). She loves manga and took Japanese as a language in Middle School.

Tessa_Mangacolor

Note: Tessa wouldn’t let me include a photo, so I posted a manga style drawing instead. And yes, her volleyball team was district champions.

As far as a kid-friendly intro goes, Tessa gave http://stephanepereira.com/?p=219 Shawna Howson’s intro to anime videos a thumbs up, and ads that her explanation of Shōjo in the following installment is especially dead on.

And for those who slam Shōjo,
here’s Howson’s rebuttal…

Shawna-Howson-Knows-Its-Okay-Not-To-Like-Things
Shawna-Howsons-Dont-Be-a-Jerk-About-It-Dance

An American animated series (with definite anime roots) that Tessa recommended highly is Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Avatar-group

This is NOT to be confused with the movie by M. Night Shyamalan. The strengths of the animated series are actually best made in this episode where the Nostalgia Critic compares the animated series to the movie.

The following recommendations are from MCAD alum Allison O’Brien. In addition to being a fantastic artist she was also President of the MCAD Anime Club back in the day.

Allison

From here on in, all comments in italics are from Allison.


These are the ones I can think of off the top of my head, but it seems about right.

Princess Mononoke


Ghost in the Shell


Spirited Away


Grave of the Fireflies


Perfect Blue – Personal preference.


Tokyo Godfathers


Paprika


Redline – For sheer style ALONE.

Kid-friendly picks. Spirited Away (listed above) was one.
Here’s more…

Castle in the Sky

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QSFyr1vxi4

The Cat Returns


My Neighbor Totoro


Kiki’s Delivery Service – Really just anything Ghibli are quite good.


Maybe add Summer Wars, though it might be pushing it.


The ones listed in my previous list are pretty violent/psychological in nature (ESPECIALLY avoid Perfect Blue and Grave of the Fireflies).
Princess Mononoke may also cut it, but it does have some decapitations/similar violent imagery.

Manga Recommendations:
Note: Among Westerners, “manga” refers to Japanese comics.

Most of what I gave you previously were movies, so here’s a few series that are great to get into. I mean clearly I could give more, but I figured some series to balance out the movies would be good.

Monster – Psychological drama, very intense.

key_art_naoki_urasawas_monster

Mushi-shi – Cerebral/spiritual, emotional experience.

mushishi_900x350

Hunter x Hunter – My preference is the 2011 version, but the ’99 one is still great, incredibly smart and influential.

hunter

Baccano – Colorful cast, unique storytelling.

baccano_900x350

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Known as one of the best shounen series, for good reasons.

fullmetal_alchemist_brotherhood

Mononoke – Insanely gorgeous.

mononoke

This is the default chart that tends to get sent around when people ask for recommendations.

manga

-Allison O’Brien

So there you go. This at leasts gives you a starting point if you’re new to all this. And if you’re not new to it, titles you may be unfamiliar with to look out for.

Before signing off I’d like to thank Allison for her recommendations. To see more of her work, check out her portfolio at cargocollective.com/allobrien

Also check out her progress blog at allobrien.tumblr.com
Fun stuff!

tumblrAllison
Categories
Ramblings & Reviews

Irish Comic Book Characters

A quick run down of some great comic book/graphic novel characters with Irish roots.

Michael O’Sullivan

First one off is Michael O’Sullivan from the graphic novel Road to Perdition. Written by Max Allan Collins with amazing art by Richard Piers Rayner.

Set during the prohibition era of Al Capone and Elliot Ness, Michael O’Sullivan is a ruthless but honorable enforcer of Irish mob boss John Rooney. When he’s betrayed – resulting in his wife and child being murdered – O’Sullivan sets out to protect his only surviving child and exact revenge. 

In 2002 it was adapted into a film starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. (Note: YouTube clip has major spoilers if you haven’t seen the movie yet.)

Follow up graphic novels by Max Allen Collins include On the Road to Perdition drawn by José Luis García-López and Steve Lieber, and Return to Perdition drawn by Terry Beatty.


Black Canary

From Banshee to Siryn to Silver Banshee it seems like many Irish comic book characters have superhuman vocal traits – drawn from the old Irish folklore of the Banshee.

Banshee and Siryn
Silver Banshee – First appearance in Action Comics #595

The Black Canary was the first.

Created in 1947 by the writer-artist team of Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino, the Black Canary is a master in hand-to-hand combat.

Classic Alex Toth art from Adventure Comics #418

Later stories would give her the superpower of the canary cry, an ultrasonic vibration when she screams that can disable an opponent.


Daredevil

Daredevil was created by writer/editor Stan Lee and artist Bill Everett – and later retooled by Wally Wood.

While growing up in the gritty neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen in New York City, Matt Murdock saves a pedestrian by pushing him out of the way of an oncoming truck but in doing so is struck by a radioactive substance that falls from the vehicle.

His exposure to the radioactive chemicals blinds him, but also heightens his remaining senses giving him superhuman abilities.

The Daredevil series on Disney+ draws heavily from Frank Miller’s take on the character.

I highly recommend the acclaimed graphic novel Daredevil: Born Again by writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli.


Secret Agent X-9

I’m sneaking a comic strip character into the mix here…

Secret Agent X-9 was created by writer Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon) and drawn by artist Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon) and first ran in newspapers on January 22, 1934. In the 1960s it was written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Al Williamson and relaunched as Secret Agent Corrigan.

Though never referred to as Irish, when I wrote and drew a cross-over story between Secret Agent X-9 and Flash Gordon in the year 2000, that’s what I always had in the back of my mind.

Side note: When X-9 and Flash first come face-to-face, I had no other than legendary EC artist George Evans draw the page as Evans had written and drawn Secret Agent Corrigan from 1980-1996.


And last but not least…

Captain America

 Captain America was created by the legendary team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1941. The iconic cover of Captain America punching Hitler in the face came out a full 8 months before the United States even entered the war.

From a 2016 Buzz.ie article by Ruairi Scott Byrne:

While Captain America may be a representation of the ultimate American, it turns out that the Marvel superhero is actually just a good ole Irish lad at heart.

Chris Evans, who portrays Cap in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has revealed the character’s deep Irish roots and how his own Irish family made him a better man.

“There are a lot of similarities between us. I was raised a good Catholic Irish boy at heart, so was ‘Cap’,” the actor told the Irish Sun. “Our sensibilities and ideologies come from that. That sense of morality, very much stems from that.”

“The difference is Cap was first generation Irish. His folks actually came from Ireland, they came over at the turn of the last century. Yeah, I read all this in the notes, Marvel sends it to you, they want you knowing your research.

“So everything he knew from a young age was Irish. And that’s a big part of who he is, that moral code he lives by, you know, you could totally call him Captain Ireland,” he said.

Evans hails from Boston and revealed that ‘being a good catholic boy’ helped to teach him his manners.

“My heritage is a little more diluted, there’s Italian but we were definitely an Irish Catholic house. I’m a good Catholic Irish boy. And I like to think I’ve held onto that.

“I think my attitude is very reflective of that. I like to be direct and to the point but also polite and respectful at the same time,” he added.


All I can think of for now, so as Cartoonist Kayfabe would say…

Categories
Ramblings & Reviews

Cow-Guy VS Cosmic Cow

Francesco Marciuliano has once again brought up his hypothesis that my signature character Cow-Guy is just a pale reflection of the original Cosmic Cow (from Ted Knight’s iconic 1970s TV show, Too Close for Comfort).
See note below for the history of this feud.

First off, the markings on the cows are completely different. Secondly, Cosmic Cow has a red pencil, whereas Cow-Guy has a green mechanical pencil. It’s totally different!

Here’s hoping this finally lays to rest this ridiculous comparison.


For Cow-Guy’s mysterious true origins, check out The Origin of Cow-Guy!

  • Note: For those who take things too literally, the feud with Francesco listed above is fictional.
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Al Williamson Alex Raymod Artists - Cartoonists Flash Gordon Ramblings & Reviews

Adventure Strip Finales

With the Amazing Spider-man comic strip going to reprints for the time being, Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s run on the strip has come to an end. March 17, 2019 was the last Sunday with March 23, 2019 being the last daily.

Amazing Spider-Man – Roy Thomas, Alex Saviuk and Joe Sinnott
March 17, 2019
Amazing Spider-Man – Roy Thomas, Alex Saviuk and Joe Sinnott
March 23, 2019

The Spider-Man strip started out January 3, 1977 written by Stan Lee and drawn by John Romita. Following Stan Lee’s run on the strip Roy Thomas had written the strip uncredited for a number of years (more on that at SyFy.com). Artists that followed Romita included Fred Kida, Larry Lieber, and most recently Alex Saviuk with Joe Sinnott inks.

After the announcement of the strip’s finale, Joe Sinnott’s son Mark posted the following to his Dad’s Facebook page.

Truly the end of an era!

With adventure strips being far and few between on today’s comics page, I thought it would be of interest to look at a few notable comic strip finales.

Note: Thanks to Allen Lane who posted a number of these to the Yahoo Classic Adventure Comic Strip Group.


Buz Sawyer was created by Roy Crane and first appeared November 1, 1943. Crane worked on the strip until his death in 1977.

For more in-depth info on Buz Sawyer I defer to Ray Contreras for the following info.

Henry (Hank) Schlensker joined Crane right after the war (Schlensker had been a flyer in the war) and started working on the BUZ Sundays as soon as he joined Crane in 1946.  In 1950, looking to ease his workload on the daily strip, Crane moved Schlensker from the Sundays to the daily strip.  Around 1969, due to chronic ulcers, Roy Crane stepped back from the strip completely.  Ed Granberry, who had been assisting on the writing, took it over completely; and Schlensker worked on the art for the daily, as he had basically for many, many years; only now without Crane’s involvement.  Clark Haas and later Al Wenzel drew the Sunday after Crane switched Schlensker to the daily.  Crane would look at the finished product, but after working years on the strip (both daily and Sunday), Schlensker and Granberry knew their stuff.

Henry (Hank) Schlensker continued on Buz Sawyer after Crane’s death in 1977. After Schlensker’s retirement John Celardo took the reigns, working on Buz from 1983–1989. Upon Celardo’s sign-off, King Features discontinued the strip.

Buz Sawyer – John Celardo
October 7, 1989

Buck Rogers by writer Philip Francis Nowlan and artist Dick Calkins debuted on January 7, 1929. Writers following Nolan included Rick Yager (who also drew it), Jack Lehti, Ray Russell, Fritz Leiber and Howard Liss. Artists following Calkins included Russell Keaton, Rick Yager and George Tuska.

Howard Liss and George Tuska’s finale strip appeared June 13, 1965.

Buck Rogers – Howard Liss and George Tuska
June 13, 1965

The strip was given a second life in 1979 by writer Jim Lawrence and artist Gray Morrow, followed by writer Cary Bates and artist Jack Sparling. The finale strip appearing December 25, 1983.

Buck Rogers – Cary Bates and Jack Sparling
December 25, 1983

One of the most memorable finales for a comic strip happened before the strip in question actually even ended. I’m talking of course of Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates.

Looking to have the financial stability of ownership of his strip (something Caniff was denied at Tribune-News Syndicate with Terry), he accepted an offer from the Field Newspaper Syndicate to create a new strip that he would have ownership of. That strip would be Steve Canyon.

In Caniff’s iconic final Sunday page Terry says goodbye to Jane Allen as Caniff says goodbye to his Terry and the Pirates readers.

The story so far – Romance is in the air for Terry and Jane Allen until it’s discovered that her old flame, Snake Tumblin, is still alive and in a base hospital somewhere in Australia. Sacrificing his own happiness, Terry secures Jane a flight and escorts her to the airfield…

Terry and the Pirates – Milton Caniff
December 29, 1946

That last panel is the killer as Caniff adds a double meaning to the writing on the wall.

As pointed out by R.C. Harvey in the foreward to the Complete Terry and the Pirates Volume 6, the Sunday page was not the last strip Caniff drew. Because the Sunday pages were due well in advance of the dailies, the following daily strip – printed the day before the momentous final Sunday page – was actually the last strip drawn.

Terry and the Pirates – Milton Caniff
December 28, 1946

Caniff’s replacement on Terry and the Pirates would be George Wunder, who would go on to draw the strip for another 26 years. Here’s Wunder’s last Sunday page.

Terry and the Pirates – George Wunder
February 25, 1973

Terry and the Pirates would be revived in 1995 by Michael Uslan with art by the Brothers Hildebrandt. The following year they left the strip and were replaced by writer Jim Clark and artist Dan Spiegle. A year after that the strip was discontinued.

Terry and the Pirates – Jim Clark and Dan Spiegle
July 27, 1997

Secret Agent X-9 began on January 22, 1934. It was created by writer Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon) and drawn by artist Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon). Writers that followed Hammett in those early years included Don Moore and Leslie Charteris. The artists that followed after Raymond left the strip were Nicholas Afonsky and Austin Briggs. In the 1940s Mel Graff took over the writing and drawing chores, followed by Bob Lubbers (pseudonym “Bob Lewis”) in the 1960s.

From 1967 to 1980 the strip was written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Al Williamson and relaunched as Secret Agent Corrigan. Here’s Goodwin and Williamson’s last strip from February 2, 1980.

Secret Agent Corrigan – Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson
February 2, 1980

Following Goodwin and Williamson was veteran cartoonist George Evans. Evans would write and draw the strip until 1980. Upon Evans’s decision to retire from producing the strip, King opted to discontinue it.

Secret Agent Corrigan – George Evans
February 10, 1996

Another comic strip Alex Raymond started back in 1934 was the topper to his famous Flash Gordon strip, and that was Jungle Jim. Artists that followed Raymond on the strip were John Mayo and Paul Norris. After a 20 year run Jungle Jim wrapped up in 1954.

Jungle Jim – Paul Norris
August 8, 1954

Rip Kirby premiered March 4, 1946 and was also created by Alex Raymond. Raymond’s work on Rip Kirby would win him the Reuben Award in 1949 for “Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.”

Alex Raymond’s career was cut short in 1956, when at age 46, he was killed in a car crash. King Features sought out a replacement and found it in John Prentice. After John Prentice died in 1999 (after an amazing 43 year run on Rip Kirby) the decision was made by King Features to discontinue the strip. Frank Bolle would ghost the final week (to “ghost is when an artist fills in for another artist by mimicking his style).

Rib Kirby – Ghosted by Frank Bolle
June 26, 1999

Alex Raymond’s most renowned comic strip, Flash Gordon, first appeared January 7, 1934. It has had a number of artists and writers over the years (myself included), some of whom I highlighted on this Sunday page.

Flash Gordon – December 26, 1999.

Quick side note: Bob Fujatani (who worked with Dan Barry on Flash Gordon) gave a great interview recently to the the Connecticut Post talking about his career in comics. Here’s the link: At 97, Flash Gordon Artist Bob Fujitani Remembers Cartooning’s Golden Age


The Flash Gordon Dailies were discontinued on two occasions. The first in 1944 shows Flash, Dale and Dr. Zarkov in a ticker tape parade having returned from Mongo after successfully saving the Earth.

Flash Gordon – Austin Briggs
June 3, 1944

The dailies were revived in the 1950s with artist Dan Barry at the helm. In 1990 the dailies were taken over by Bruce Jones as writer and Ralph Reese as artist, followed by artist Gray Morrow upon Reese’s departure. A Buenos Aires studio of artists were hired in 1991 with writing alternating between Kevin Van Hook and Thomas Warkentin. The last daily would be in 1993

Flash Gordon – Thomas Warkentin and a Buenos Aires studio
July 3, 1993

Meanwhile the Flash Gordon Sunday page had been running continuously since 1934. I started my tenure writing/drawing Flash on January 21, 1996. It was a fun run, but after a failed contract renegotiation, I deciding to bow out. My last strip, and Flash Gordon’s finale, appeared March 16, 2003.

Flash Gordon – Jim Keefe
March 16, 2003

The inspiration for my sign-off was the ending of the first Flash Gordon serial starring Buster Crabbe (Flash Gordon), Jean Rogers (Dale Arden) and Frank Shannon (Dr. Zarkov).

Flash Gordon serial – 1936

Originally I had a slightly more surreal ending planned in a Sunday page I did in collaboration with Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell. It was never meant to be though as the page was rejected by the editor up at King Features – his thoughts being “It really didn’t work as a Flash Gordon page.”

Patrick did an end run though and asked the editor, that if it wasn’t going to see print as a Flash Gordon page, could it be used as a Mutts page. The go ahead was given and it eventual saw print on March 23, 2003 as a Mutts Sunday page (with the Flash Gordon title kept intact).

Mutts – Jim Keefe and Patrick McDonnell
March 23, 2003

Note: As mentioned, these are just a FEW notable adventure strip finales.

Any more you think are missing? Please enter your suggestions in the comments section below.