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Life.com has just added a gallery called “In Praise of Comic Classics” that spotlights comics, and children reading comics, in photos dating back to the 1930s. Well, not just children: There’s also a photo of a bespectacled young chimp named Kokomo Jr. — I’m not making this up — lounging with a comic in his owner’s New York City apartment. I can’t make out what the title is, but the back cover features a cartoonish ad for Chesterfield King cigarettes. (Hey, kids! Cancer Comics!) It’s a great collection, well worth checking out.
The comics page is static, yet artists have many ways to make the characters move: speed lines, superimposed images, or simply having the character lean in the direction of motion. The 19th-century Japanese artist Hokusai used another technique, placing his characters in unstable postures that often defy gravity.
Curious about how the brain detects motion, a group of researchers at Kyoto University showed images from the Hokusai Manga to test subjects while observing their brain functions using MRI. Although it’s hard to imagine reading a comic during an MRI, the researchers found that indeed, when the subjects saw Hokusai’s off-balance wrestlers and swordsmen, the parts of their brains that sense motion lit up, while his drawings of priests standing still had no such effect. Next, the researchers are planning to see if drawings of animals or even ocean waves can trigger the same response as the human figures.
I can’t tell if this is really awesome, really funny or really offensive. It might be all three.
For the past 30 or so years, Larry Gonick has been engaged in what has to easily be one of the most ambitious comics projects ever: The Cartoon History of the Universe. In four volumes (including Vol. 1 of The Cartoon History of the Modern World), Gonick has relentlessly relayed the history of planet Earth as we know it, from the big bang up to the the 1700s. That he’s done so in such a consistently entertaining and downright funny fashion, is nothing short of remarkable, especially considering the plethora of dull, insipid nonfiction comics that have come out in the past few years.
Now, with the publication of the second volume of Cartoon History of the Modern World he’s finally finished his magmum opus. I used the occasion as an opportunity to talk with Gonick over email about his new book — which runs from the French Revolution to 9/11 — and how it feels to finally be finished something that took up such a large chunk of his working life. Here’s what he had to say:
Welcome once again to What Are You Reading. Our guest this week is the esteemed critic and blogger Robert Clough. Rob is probably best known for his contributions to the seemingly now inert Sequart.com, though you can find most of his recent reviews on his blog, High-Low.
To see what Rob and the rest of us are reading, just click on the link below …
The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Alex Shebar examines the visual links between the 76-year-old Cincinnati Union Terminal and the Hall of Justice from the 1970s Super Friends cartoon and, more recently, the Justice League of America comic.
“The resemblance is undeniable, from the massive arch to the carved pillars,” Shebar writes. “They are nearly identical, right down to the colossal fountain leading to the front entrance.”
Completed in March 1933, the art deco-style train station apparently made an impact on Joseph Barbera: When Super Friends background supervisor Al Gmuer submitted a headquarters design to Barbera and ABC executives, what was returned looked a lot like Union Terminal.
“In the long run, I hated that building,” Gmuer tells Shebar. “The way it’s designed, it was not easy to draw. I had nightmares about that damn building.”