In 1954, the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency began an investigation of the comic book industry and its effects on juvenile delinquency. In the course of its hearings, the subcommittee called upon a number of witnesses, including EC Publisher William Gaines. At the time, EC published a number of crime and horror comics, including The Haunt of Fear, The Vault of Horror and Tales From The Crypt. The WNYC radio archives have posted nearly two hours of the investigative hearing with two key, but contrasting, witnesses: Gaines and psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham.
The audio of the hearing is lengthy, but while listening, it’s very indicative of the feeling toward comics at the time — Wertham goes so far as to say, “I think Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry. They get the children much younger. They teach them race hatred at the age of 4 before they can read.”
The hearing was also where the following now-famous exchange between U.S. Sen. Estes Kefauver and Gaines took place, as Kefauver held up a cover of Crime SuspenStories #22:
Matt Madden created the above six-panel comic for an article by Professor Paul Lopes, author of Demanding Respect: The Evolution of the American Comic Book. Lopes is an associate professor of sociology for Colgate University, which published the article in its online magazine Scene. The New York liberal arts college not only doesn’t offer a major in dentistry (a joke surely never before stated on or near the campus), it also doesn’t appear to offer any significant studies in comics or graphic novels.
That didn’t stop Colgate from inviting Lopes to comment on how comics have grown up over the decades and how our culture has responded to them. A lot of it is introductory but the sociological context gives it a different filter to view this information, even if Lopes sometimes seems annoyed at the superhero genre and the dated stereotypes that surround it. (Although even this stance isn’t completely consistent. He opens sneering that The Avengers movie was an “aesthetic black hole” but ends confessing that he cheered while watching it.) And while he sets up the simplistic, and again, frankly dated paradigm of mainstream superhero fans vs. alternative comix readers, he does admit that “like all art, comic artworks, artists, and readers fall more along a continuum between pure mainstream on one end and pure avant-garde on the other.” This is becoming increasingly true if recent chart toppers The Walking Dead and Smile are any sign of the evolving landscape.
Saturday’s programming for this year’s Comic-Con International continues the grand “big movie panels” tradition typically associated with the third day of the con. Both Warner Bros. and Marvel Studios are on the schedule for Hall H; no doubt Marvel will have more than just Iron Man 3 to talk about at that 6 p.m. slot. Warner Bros., meanwhile, will talk about Man of Steel in their panel, which will also include The Hobbit and Pacific Rim.
Comic publishers are well represented, with BOOM!, Marvel, DC Comics, Archie, Archaia, Dark Horse, Image, Top Cow, Drawn & Quarterly, Skybound, Vertigo, Top Shelf and more scheduled for various panels on Saturday. CCI also puts the spotlight on Mark Waid, Morrie Turner, Klaus Janson, Stan Goldberg, Gary Gianni, Jim Lee and many more creators, and celebrates anniversaries for Funky Winkerbean, Love & Rockets, Bob the Angry Flower, Courtney Crumrin and the Gays in Comics panel. And don’t forget about the always entertaining masquerade.
Here are some of the comics-related highlights below; visit the Comic-Con website to see the complete schedule.
Like clockwork, Comic-Con International organizers have released the programming schedule for Friday, July 13, the second full day of the San Diego convention. It sees publishers kicking things into high gear, with Marrvel’s “Cup O’ Joe” and DC Comics panels on the New 52 and Justice League and Green Lantern groups, as well as presentations from IDW Publishing, Oni Press, BOOM! Studios, UDON, and Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly.
That’s only for starters, though, as AMC’s The Walking Dead, Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The CW’s Arrow make Comic-Con appearances, and creators as diverse as Joss Whedon, Kate Beaton, Larry Hama, Scott Snyder, Lynn Johnston, Dan Piraro, James Robinson and Jeff Lemire get the spotlight. There are also tributes to legendary creators Jerry Robinson and Joe Simon, as well as Comic-Con co-founder Richard Alf.
And to keep off the day, there’s the 24th annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards.
We’ve selected some of the comics-related highlights below; visit the Comic-Con website to see the complete schedule.
“Sadly, the lesson that was gained from these books was not that comics didn’t need to be hacked-out, disposable, interchangeable stories but could be well written and relevant. Instead what happened was every superhero comic, whether it lent itself to the transformation, or not, was made grim and gritty, which meant more violence, more sex. more trying to fit the superhero world into the real world.”
– John Rozum, putting the Grim and Gritty Era into historical context.
Todd Klein has posted a fascinating set of photos of the DC Comics production department circa 1979, taken by artist José Luis Garcia-López. Klein supplements the grainy, black-and-white photos with his own memories of working for DC in the late ’70s and throws in some anecdotes about the staff as well. Klein also plays history detective, puzzling out the date of the photos from the tiniest visual clues, and he also notes the staff who are not in the photos because they were laid off during the DC “Implosion.” The photos will evoke a certain nostalgia from those of us who remember how things were done in the days of paper (rubber cement, blue pencils, and photostat machines), and they should be interesting to anyone who wonders how they made comics in the pre-computer era. Todd has posted more photos, including a vintage shot of actor Christopher Reeve visiting the offices.
A production error in a reprint of a 1972 Donald Duck story led a German publisher to recall the comic after the word “Holocaust” mistakenly appeared in place of “Congratulations.”
Spiegel Online reports the error crept into a panel in the Carl Barks story “Where’s the Smoke?” in which a Duckburg dignitary honors a team of firefighters for pinpointing an “awesome” blaze. However, instead of using the word “fire” or “inferno,” the legendary cartoonist went with the phrase “awesome holocaust!”
Fast-forward some 40 years, when, according to German publisher Egmont Ehapa, “holocaust” wasn’t thoroughly removed from the original English text, resulting in the dignitary praising “our brave and always alert fire lookouts! Holocaust!” in the latest reprint.
The publisher quickly recalled copies of Micky Maus Comics #6, which was released on May 8, and blacked out the offending word by hand (as you can see above). However, The Telegraph reports the incident prompted humorous allegations in the German press about the political leanings of Donald Duck, “and revealed the occasional perils of reusing aging cartoons in different cultures.”
Conventions | A group of 21 events companies, including New York Comic Con and BookExpo America organizer Reed Exhibitions, are opposing a plan by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to tear down the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. In a letter to the governor that was also distributed to 600 other officials, the Friends of Javits said they would not patronize the much larger venue that’s to be built in Ozone Park, Queens, primarily because of its distance from Manhattan. [Crain's New York Business, via ICv2]
Conventions | Comic-Con International is just six weeks away, and you know it’s coming when Tom Spurgeon posts his annual list of tips for enjoying the convention. It’s a wealth of information, compiled over 17 years of con-going, so go, learn. [The Comics Reporter]
Comics have long been home to a variety of races, be it alien or underground or from an alternate dimension. But in the 100-plus year history of comics, one of the toughest for creators to portray accurately is that of black characters. And now Fantagraphics is putting back in print a key work examining that strained relationship, Fredrik Stromberg‘s Eisner-nominated Black Images in the Comics: A Visual History.
Originally published in 2003 but long out of print, Black Images in the Comics surveys the depiction and characterization of blacks going back to early comics like The Katzenjammer Kids to startling portrayals in Tintin in the Congo and The Spirit, all the way to their induction in superhero comics with the likes of Black Panther and John Stewart and the empowering comic strip series The Boondocks.
In this new collection, Stromberg has added over a dozen new entries in the encyclopedic-like presentation of Africans through comics’ history. The foreword by the author of Middle Passage, Charles R. Johnson, adds much to the overall understanding of the book.
I love old photos of Jack Kirby for many reasons, not the least of which is, in his day, he was one suave-looking, pipe-smoking gentleman. But Sean Kleefeld points us to Greg Theakston’s Facebook gallery, where we’re introduced to another side of the Kirby: the dancing King, bustin’ a move with wife Roz and, at a Comic-Con party, with a belly-dancer. There’s also a nice shot of he and Roz sitting (apparently at the same gathering where they danced). You can see all shots here, and visit Theakston’s gallery for many for great photos of Kirby and others. Now I’m off to start f-yeahkirbydancing.tumblr.com.
The $412 check written in 1938 by Detective Comics to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for, among other things, the rights to Superman sold last night at auction for a whopping $160,000. The piece of paper has been described as “the most important $412 in comics history” and “possibly the most important pop-culture artifact known to exist.”
“The concept of the superhero was born with Superman,” Vincent Zurzolo, co-owner of auction website ComicConnect, told Reuters. “That $130 check essentially created a billion-dollar industry.”
Signed by Publisher Jack Liebowitz, it included $130 for the Man of Steel, with the remaining $282 serving as payment for stories contributed to Detective Comics, Adventure Comics and More Fun Comics. Liebowitz misspelled the last names of both Siegel and Shuster, leading them to endorse the check twice.
File under “Oh, Right, the ’90s”: Over the weekend Scott Dunbier, former executive editor of Wildstorm and current special projects editor of IDW Publishing, tweeted a photo from a late 1990s New Year’s Eve party of a sharp-dressed, if “a bit tipsy,” Jim Lee … riding a camel. Lee, the Wildstorm founder turned DC Comics co-publisher, added only, “Doing my Nixon.”
Comics historian Jess Nevins first came to the attention of many fans for his amazingly complete annotations of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Projects like that led to his creating The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana and The Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes. Now Nevins is hoping to complete his trilogy of heroic history with The Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes, cataloging “every hero of the Golden Age. Yes, all of them.”
To do that will require some expensive research, so Nevins has created a Kickstarter page to help fund it. “There’s really only one place to do the kind of research necessary for this project,” he explains, “and that’s Michigan State University, in East Lansing. I’m estimating that I will need to spend at least two weeks at Michigan State to get all the necessary research done, and that will be expensive. (Air fare, hotel, rental car, incidentals — they all add up, and quickly). Moreover, I will need to pay for professional web design for the accompanying web site, and that, too, is not cheap.”
If he reaches his goal of $6000 (he’s almost halfway there with a little less than a month to go as of this writing), he promises to “make the entire manuscript free online, as a professionally designed website, similar to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. You’ll be able to buy copies of the book as print-on-demand, but it will be permanently available, for free, to the world.” There are of course pledge incentives and Nevins will add additional stretch goals should the project pull in $6,000 quickly. [UPDATE: He's reached his initial goal, so keep checking the link for additions.]
Passings | Artist Sid Couchey, an illustrator who brought many a Little Lotta story to life during the halcyon days of Harvey Comics, passed away March 111. He was 92. Couchey’s long career stretched from serving as an assistant to Superman co-creator Joe Shuster to steady if uncredited work in a number of comics during the 1950s, Harvey in the 1960s and 1970s, and a whole second career as a local-interest cartoonist, drawing comics about Champy, Lake Champlain’s answer to the Loch Ness Monster. He also may have been the first artist to embed a real-life marriage proposal in a comic. [Press-Republican, via The Comics Reporter]
Creators | Heidi MacDonald talks to Brian K. Vaughan about Saga, his general absence from social media, and jumping from Marvel and DC to Image: “I think at the end of the day I really believe in creator owned books, I wanted to do a book that the artist and I could own and control outright and as much as I loved the other companies I worked for in the past, I feel that Image is one of the few companies left that I would consider having a real creator owned contract.” [The Beat]
Libraries | A middle school library in New Brunswick, Canada, has been asked to remove Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim’s Dungeon series for review after the mother of a 12-year-old student complained about the depictions of sex and violence in one of the volumes. The CTV News reporter goes for the easy gasp by showing the scenes in question to a variety of parents, all of whom agree they don’t think the book belongs in a school library, and in this case the mom has a good point: The book received good reviews but is definitely not for kids. [CTV News]
Publishing | John Jackson Miller has been looking at the fine print in old comics — the statement of ownership, which spells out in exact numbers just how many copies were printed, how many were sold, etc. One of the highlights is Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge, which sold more than 1 million copies, making it the top seller of the 1960s. “It’s meaningful, I think, that the best-seller of the 1960s should come from Barks, whose work was originally uncredited and who was known originally to fans as ‘the Good Duck Artist,’” Miller concludes. “Fandom in the 1960s was bringing attention to a lot of people who had previously been unheralded, and Barks is a great example. He changed comics — and now comics were changing.” [The Comichron]