In 1988, Kitchen Sink Press broke ground in the comics world with its publication of Kings in Disguise, a six-issue comic series by Jim Vance and Dan Burr (later collected in a graphic novel with an intro by Alan Moore). Kings was one of the first modern American comics to tackle straight historical subjects, and it succeeded brilliantly. It told the Depression-era tale of Freddie Bloch, a Jewish kid from California who ends up on the road and on the bum, who becomes involved in a bloody labor uprising in Detroit.
Earlier this year, the sequel, On the Ropes was published. To call this book "long-awaited" is to commit violent understatement. Kings had attracted high praise by the likes of Art Speigelman, Will Eisner, Harvey Kutzman, and Alan Moore, and had swept the awards when it was published. It took twenty years for the sequel to emerge, and you know what? It was worth the wait.
On the Ropes picks up shortly after the end of Kings, and finds Freddie (now Fred) working in a travelling WPA circus in the midwest, assisting the show's last remaining freak, an escape artist named Gordon Corey, who puts his head in a noose and his hands in shackles and then escapes and saves himself from hanging in a count of five, performing for an audience that pays a nickel a head to watch him risk death.
Fred is haunted by all that he's been through, but he's not the only scarred one in the circus. Everyone has been brutalized by the Depression, and back in Chicago and across America, workers are taking to the picket-lines to demand a better deal, a Fred roots for them -- and assists them, in his own way. The plutocrats of the day aren't going to tolerate this, of course, and rebellion becomes espionage, and then erupts into bloody war.
As with Kings, Burr and Vance attain brilliant synthesis of word and image, and the end-product is violent, noirish, gripping, and wrenching. On the Ropes shows that art sometimes needs a long time to germinate, but that it's well worth waiting for when it does.
On the Ropes
Stories matter: the recurring narrative of radical Islamic terror in America (a statistical outlier) makes it nearly impossible to avoid equating “terrorist” with “jihadi suicide bomber” — but the real domestic terror threat is white people, the Dominionists, ethno-nationalists, white separatists, white supremacists and sovereign citizens who target (or infiltrate) cops and blow up buildings. That’s what makes Brian Wood’s first Briggs Land collection so timely: a gripping story of far-right terror that is empathic but never sympathetic.
The campaign to raise $500K for the UN High Commission on Refugees started with author/comedian Sara Benincasa daring Neil Gaiman to do a dramatic reading of the Cheesecake Factory menu; Gaiman responded that if she raised the half-mil, he’d not only read the Cheesecake Factory’s (notoriously florid) menu, he’d follow up with a reading of […]
Thanks to everyone who came out for last night’s final London event on the UK Walkaway tour, at Pages of Hackney with Olivia Sudjic; today I’m heading to Waterstones Liverpool One for an event with Dr Chris Pak, followed by a stop tomorrow at Waterstones in Birmingham and then wrapping up in the UK with […]
Boasting an IPX6 waterproof rating, the Trakk Bullet Ultra Compact Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker resists dust and heavy rainfall. It’s currently available in the Boing Boing Store.The Trakk Bullet offers the same wireless convenience as other portable speakers, but few are built as tough as this one. Its utilitarian construction is designed to be a totally low-maintenance […]
The Ticwatch 2 Active Smartwatch is a simpler take on an active wearable that raised over $2m dollars on Kickstarter and is currently offered in the Boing Boing Store.Somewhere in between the single-day battery life and platform-specificity of the Apple Watch and Android Wear devices, there exists the Ticwatch. Instead of trying to shoehorn another […]
Loot Crate is a subscription service that delivers a box of curated pop culture goods to your doorstep. To sample their geeky wares, you can order a single mystery box exclusively from the Boing Boing Store.Each month Loot Crate sends you 6-7 unique items and apparel, including collectibles, books, and t-shirts. Pulling inspiration from all […]