Drew Friedman is the great caricaturist of our age. His series of portrait books, Old Jewish Comedians, More Old Jewish Comedians, and Even More Old Jewish Comedians brought him well-deserved acclaim when they came out a few years ago. His latest book of meticulous watercolor portraits is called Heroes Of The Comics, and it includes short biographies of dozens of famous and not-famous-but-important cartoonists, editors, writers and publishers from the golden age of comics. I had no idea what many of the comic book artists I've admired for decades looked like, and it was a treat to finally see the faces of Steve Ditko (Spiderman), Dave Berg and Jack Davis (Mad), and John Stanley (Little Lulu), rendered in Friedman's detailed style, replete with liver spots, wrinkles, and rumpled clothes.
Friedman even included one villain amongst the heroes: Frederic Wertham, the psychiatrist who used flawed data to write Seduction of the Innocent, the infamous 1954 anti-comics scaremongering book that led to the end of the vibrant comic book industry and the careers of many of the heroes in the pages of Friedman's book.
Heroes Of The Comics, by Drew Friedman
A few years ago my then 8-year-old daughter, Jane, started reading collections of old Nancy comic strips. I’d never paid attention to the strip and assumed it wouldn’t appeal to anyone over ten. But then I found Jane and her dad laughing out loud while reading Nancy in bed. “What’s so funny?” I asked. “Nancy logic!” they answered.
They pointed out Nancy logic to me: Nancy tries on a pair of thick-lensed glasses and shouts “Oh boy!” when she receives an ice-cream cone that’s almost as big as she is. Nancy’s aim is off to the right while shooting arrows so she paints an oblong target with the bull’s eye placed on the far right side. Nancy thinks leaving her coat on a chair brings her good luck, so when her aunt points at the chair and tells her to hang up the coat, Nancy hooks the chair on the coatrack.
Created by Ernie Bushmiller in the 1930s (and still running today by Guy Gilchrist), Nancy is about the mischief, charm, and naiveté of a young girl named Nancy, whose best friend, Sluggo, is a kind-hearted urchin from the wrong side of the tracks. Drawn in a simple, bold, and eye-catching style, Nancy is clever, hilarious, and a bit surreal. This volume offers over one-thousand strips that ran between 1946-1948, and although its title, Nancy Likes Christmas, suggests a holiday theme, only a handful of the strips revolves around Christmas. The setting is post World War II, but the gags, about the wishful and sometimes absurd logic that kids so often use, are timeless. Read the rest
The inimitable cartoonist and toy designer, Jim Woodring, is best known for his wordless comic books about Frank, a funny animal who lives in the Unifactor, an imaginary world filled with Hindu symbolism and nightmarish creatures that are beyond good and evil. Read the rest
It's 1948. Charlie Parish, a screenwriter and "part-time reprobate," wakes up with a hangover in a bathtub he doesn't recognize. As flashes of the previous night's bacchanalia go through his dulled mind, Parish wanders through the abandoned bungalow, trying to piece together the bits into a coherent timeline. But he gives up when he spots the body of starlet Valeria Sommers sprawled across the floor. She'd been the star of the movie he wrote, the one currently being shot at Victory Street Pictures. The bruise marks on her neck make it clear she was strangled. In shock, Parish realizes he can't call the police (why not?). He wipes his prints off everything he's touched in the bungalow and slips away inconspicuously.
This happens in the first few pages of The Fade Out, a new comic book series by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, the duo behind the fantastic hardboiled-crime-meets-Lovecraft comic series called Fatale. To capture the look of 1940s Los Angeles, Baker and Phillips hired a research assistant, Amy Condit, who runs the LA Police Museum and curated the recent exhibit of the Black Dahlia case. She is worth whatever they paid her - the look and mood of The Fade Out is like a trip in a time machine to a Los Angeles built by Chandler, Fante, Hammett, and Nathanael West.
In addition to the murder mystery, it looks like this series is going to explore the endemic corruption of movie studios of the era, anti-Semitism, racism, and the effects of the House Un-American Activities Committee on screenwriters. Read the rest
Wally Wood (1927–1981) is regarded as one of the world’s best comic book artists, and I agree. His science fiction stories for Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, which featured complex spaceship interiors, ruggedly handsome male astronauts, curvy female astronauts, repugnant monsters, and richly detailed alien landscapes, made him an instant and enduring hit with comic book readers in the 1950s. Read the rest
One evening several years ago my friend, the artist Coop, took me to the San Fernando Valley house of comic book art collector Glenn Bray. I was somewhat familiar with Bray, having read bits and pieces about his large collection. I knew that he was the first person to seek out and collect the work of the great Donald Duck comic book artist writer Carl Barks back in the 1960s, that he published some small books about grotesque-artist Basil Wolverton, and that he was the champion of forgotten genius Stanislav Szukalski (read my Wink review about Szukalski here). He was probably the first real comic book art collector, buying original work in an era when everyone else considered it to be worthless.
So I felt I was somewhat prepared for what was in store for me at Bray’s house. But when I stepped inside, I realized that I’d greatly underestimated the size and quality of his collection. Bray’s walls were covered with original art and paintings by the greatest comic book artists in history: Robert Crumb, Robert Williams, Jack Davis, Wally Wood, and dozens more. The second floor of his large house looked nothing like a home. It was a clean, organized library/museum dedicated to comic book art. I was stunned, not only by the amount of art Bray had amassed over the last 50 years of collecting, but by his aesthetic sensibility, which matched mine to a T. Like me, he was completely uninterested in superhero comics, concentrating mainly on old EC science fiction comics, MAD, and underground comics. Read the rest
Argue with me until you’re hopping mad. You won’t change my mind that Robert Crumb is the greatest living American artist. And this anthology of his comic book stories from Weirdo, the magazine that he founded in 1981 (only 13 years after creating Zap the title that launched the underground comic book revolution), contains some of Crumb’s finest work. Not only does Crumb plumb deeper than ever into the depths of his neurotic soul, he also lays bare the behavior of modern society with a keen eye and a bittersweet sense of humor. Most interesting to me are Crumb’s comic book versions of old books, such as Psychopathis Sexualis, and science fiction author Philip K Dick’s bizarre religious experience (which Dick described as a “vision of the apocalypse.”)
Crumb’s output seems to have slowed to a trickle in recent years, which is alarming to a fan like me. Fortunately, Crumb’s work is usually so rich and dimensional that it can stand up to repeated readings, which I have done over the years.
R. Crumb: The Weirdo Years includes not only every comic book story that he wrote and drew for Weirdo, it also includes all 28 covers he illustrated. If you already are familiar with’s Crumb’s comics, this is a convenient way to reread all of his Weirdo stories. If you don’t know Crumb, this is probably the best introduction to his work.
Can you recognize all the characters on the cover for Daniel Clowe's upcoming Complete Eightball 2-volume set?
This is a two-volume, slipcased facsimile edition of the Daniel Clowes comics anthology; it contains the original installments of Ghost World, the short that the film Art School Confidential was based on, and much more. Before he rose to fame as a filmmaker and the author of the best-selling graphic novels Ghost World, David Boring, Ice Haven, and The Death Ray, Daniel Clowes made his name from 1989 to 1997 by producing 18 issues of the beloved comic book series Eightball, which is still widely considered to be one of the greatest and most influential comic book titles of all time. Now, for the 25th anniversary of Eightball, Fantagraphics is collecting these long out-of-print issues in a slipcased set of two hardcover volumes, reproducing each issue in facsimile form exactly as they were originally published. Included are over 450 pages of vintage Clowes, including such seminal serialized graphic novels/strips/rants as “Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron,” “Ghost World,” “Pussey,” “I Hate You Deeply,” “Sexual Frustration,” “Ugly Girls,” “Why I Hate Christians,” “Message to the People of the Future,” “Paranoid,” “My Suicide,” “Chicago,” “Art School Confidential,” “On Sports,” “Zubrick and Pogeybait,” “Hippypants and Peace-Bear,” “Grip Glutz,” “The Sensual Santa,” “Feldman,” and so many more. Full color illustrations throughoutRead the rest
Superman artist Joe Shuster would have turned 100 today. Artist Drew Friedman celebrates the occasion by unveiling a new portrait of Siegel and his partner Jerry Shuster.
My new portrait of artist Joe Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel, circa 1939 in Cleveland, shortly after they signed away all the rights to their new character Superman to National/DC comics for the total sum of $130. The check they endorsed was actually for over $400, padded out with other payments due them, no doubt to make the signing more enticing.Read the rest
This is exciting - Locust Moon Press in Philadelphia is publishing a giant-sized tribute to the great Winsor McCay (Little Nemo, Gertie the Dinosaur). They already have met their initial funding goal on Kickstarter.
Locust Moon Press has spent the last two years assembling the LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM anthology, in which many of the world's finest cartoonists will pay tribute to the master and his masterpiece by creating new Little Nemo strips, following their own voices down paths lit by McCay. Taking on the same giant, broadsheet newspaper-sized canvas as McCay, artists such as Michael Allred, Paul Pope, Yuko Shimizu, J.H. Williams III, Charles Vess, David Mack, J.G. Jones, Craig Thompson, Paolo Rivera, Carla Speed McNeil, Bill Sienkiewicz, P. Craig Russell, Ronald Wimberly, Denis Kitchen, Jill Thompson, Stephen R. Bissette, Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon, Farel Dalrymple, John Cassaday, Cliff Chiang, and over a hundred more have all done some of the very best work of their illustrious careers.