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STAFF PICKS :: SEX CRIMINALS #5 :: MARCH 19, 2014

March 18, 2014 By: Craig Fischer Category: DISCUSS, Staff Picks

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craig_smlCRAIG’S PICK :: SEX CRIMINALS #5: In 1970s fandom, we used the term “groundlevels” to describe comics that combined fan genres like science fiction and fantasy with adult visuals and subject matter(s). “Groundlevel” refers to the middle position these comics occupied between the DC-Marvel “mainstream” and the excesses of Crumbian undergrounds. Dave Sim’s Cerebus was one early groundlevel comic, Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elfquest another, and nowadays, when I look at the artistic and commercial renaissance at Image Comics, I see the rebirth of the groundlevel aesthetic. Saga gives us adult science fiction–adult enough to precipitate an iPhone and iPad ban on the images of gay sex in Saga #12–while Pretty Deadly splices the Western to hallucinogenic storytelling à la Alejandro Jodorowsky’s cult movie El Topo (1970). These comics are weird and adventurous, but the genres are familiar.

Star

A big part of the adult content of the groundlevels was sex. I bought Star*Reach #1, my first groundlevel, in 1975, when I was twelve years old and too young to know what sex was. Star*Reach #1 was edited by Mike Friedrich, the man who coined the word “groundlevel” and who convinced Howard Chaykin, Walt Simonson, Steve Skeates, and other pros to contribute to his comic and exercise creative freedoms mostly not available at the Big Two. One artist who ran with the freedoms Friedrich offered was Jim Starlin. His contribution to that first issue of Star*Reach have a lot in common with his trippy work on Captain Marvel (both feature Death as an actual character in their stories), but Starlin drew his green-skinned Star*Reach girls topless, something Stan “the Man” Lee never brought to the pages of the Fantastic Four. I paid a pricey 75 cents for Star*Reach #1, took my dirty book home, read it, and immediately grew hair where there wasn’t hair before.

The Image comic that would seem to carry forward that “dirty” groundlevel tradition is writer Matt Fraction and artist Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals, a book with a highly-publicized high concept: it’s about a couple (Suzie and Jon) whose orgasms freeze time. The book gets funky quickly–the second interior page of Sex Criminals #1 is a full-page splash of our protagonists bangin’ in a public bathroom–but sex actually isn’t what this book is about. After the bathroom scene, Sex Criminals #1 shifts abruptly to a direct-address monologue by Suzie, who tells us about her troubled past (her father’s murder, her mother’s grief), her oddball adolescent school days, her early sex life, and her meet-cute with Jon. She also talks about masturbation, and her discovery of the magic properties of her orgasm, but even that deepens our sense of her as a character, as in the scene where Suzie  pauses reality so she can scream at her mother about all the emotions they repress and leave unsaid during the normal flow of time. Sex Criminals incorporates elements from many genres–pornography, crime, a cadre of “Sex Police” out of a Norman Spinrad science fiction novel–but the twin hearts of the book are its characterization and its focus on the emerging intimacy between Suzie and Jon. Sex Criminals is more a rom-com than any other genre.

(If you’re at least 18 years old, and want a more rough trade Fraction, read Satellite Sam, Fraction’s collaboration with Howard Chaykin. For me, Chaykin was there at the beginning, with his hard-R “Cody Starbuck” story in Star*Reach #1, and I’ll probably be ogling a Chaykin drawing of a woman in lingerie and garters when that anvil falls from the sky and pulverizes me. There are worse ways to live and die.)

Satellite

One element that unites Sex Criminals, Satellite Sam, and almost all of Fraction’s writing is autobiographical passion. In “Avaritia,” the last (so far) volume of Casanova, Fraction’s ambivalence about his status as a star scripter/caretaker of the Marvel Universe inspired Cass’ horrible job as the guilt-ridden destroyer of a dozen universes and continuities. (Every time Cass eliminates a timeline, Fraction repeats like a mantra a hyperbolic, Stan Lee-esque phrase–”sound of spatiotemporal holocaust”–decorated at the panel margins with Kirby Krackle.) The pseudo-autobiography in Sex Criminals is less angst-y, and played more for comedy, with Fraction confessing (in the letter pages) that Jon’s sexual history in issue #2 “is verrry close to my own,” and that a Halloween egg attack came from an incident in his own life. Even as Fraction cannibalizes various genres for the Ballad of Suzie and Jon, he anchors his stories in personal experience.

In the visuals, Zdarsky likewise balances reality and fantasy. On his tumblr site recently, Zdarsky posted pictures of his real-life models for Suzie and Jon, and the resemblance between the models and the drawings is remarkable. The realism of Zdarsky’s figure drawing extends to subtle, highly communicative changes in body language, as in this sequence of panels from issue #3 where Suzie waits for Jon to text or call:

CriminalsYet Sex Criminals isn’t a kitchen-sink drama, and Zdarsky makes his pictures bizarre and funny too. The soft, colorful, swirling Photoshop effects that represent Suzie and Jon’s orgasms (and their transition to the frozen world that Suzie calls “The Quiet”) are lovely to look at, as are Zdarsky’s bold, monochromatic, almost-abstract covers. (More info from Zdarsky’s tumblr: each of the original covers for Sex Criminals #1-4 is designed around a single color from the CMYK model, and this week’s #5 incorporates all the CMYK colors: cyan, magenta, yellow and key/black.) Maybe my favorite element of Zdarsky’s art, though, is the incidental detail (or in comics slang, “chicken fat”) he sneaks into his picture backgrounds. When a teenaged Jon stops time to sneak into a sex shop in #2, Zdarsky packs his panels with all kinds of sight gags–one of which is an unexpectedly poignant poster for an X-rated video titled “Not the Life I Anticipated,” subtitled “But Here I Am I Guess” and featuring a topless, frowning woman half-turned away from the camera, shyly covering her breasts with her arms. In Star*Reach #1, Jim Starlin put his green-skinned Servants of Death on display for a uncomplicated voyeuristic gaze, and my 12-year-old self was (and is) grateful, but these days I prefer Sex Criminal‘s ironic, witty raunch.

So: viva the new groundlevels, and viva la Sex Criminals. If you haven’t read the comic before, you should know that the first trade, collecting #1-5, is priced at $9.99 and set to drop in a month or so. I prefer the single issues, because though the trade will feature a process section (titled, ahem, “Making Sausage”) with sketches and commentary, it probably won’t include “Letter Daddies,” Sex Criminal ‘s hilarious letters column, and I need to read Fraction and Zdarsky’s “Sex Tips.” (One example: “Sex is a wonderful and natural way to discover if your partner is a lousy lay or not.” Thanks, fellas!) These days, an active comics letters page is almost quaint and old-fashioned, and maybe Sex Criminals as a whole is old-fashioned too: despite the book’s playfully crude sense of humor, Fraction and Zdarsky insist on humanizing Suzie and Jon and using their fantastic premise as a pretext to explore the thrilling, terrifying experience of falling in love and starting a relationship. Works for me, baby.

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For Kim Thompson :: 1956-2013

June 21, 2013 By: Craig Fischer Category: DISCUSS

Painting of Kim Thompson by Felix De La Concha.

1.

I didn’t grow up in a household full of books. My dad never finished college, my mom never finished high school, and neither of them were readers. Buffalo libraries were terrible. The collections were old and small, and budget cuts during the inflationary ‘70s limited my local branch to 30 open hours a week, most of them happening while I was in school. I was forced to help my brother with his paper route, and use the cash I made each week to buy books to read. My lifelong reading habits—pulp like Doc Savage and Perry Rhodan, and of course comic books—were shaped by how dirt cheap genre paperbacks and comics were. I wanted to get maximum reading for my money.

I kept buying comics, and one day on a whim I also bought a copy of The Comics Journal. (I’m sure I thought, “Hey, here’s a magazine about comics, and I like comics, so…”) My first issue was #69 (December 1981), which featured an awkward cover painting of Dr. Strange and Clea, a long interview with Marvel/DC scripter Gerry Conway, and obituaries for two artists I didn’t know, Russ Manning and Wallace Wood. Reading that issue of the Journal, however, was as bracing as a slap across the face: I remember in particular a raw review of Bruce Jones and Brent Anderson’s Ka-Zar the Savage by J.J. Pierce. This was no wallow in lowbrow pleasure: the men who edited the Journal (and they were all men, back then) thought seriously about comics, and prodded the medium to live up to some nebulous standard of aesthetic quality.

I must’ve been intrigued, since I picked the next issue I saw at the local comic shop (#71, March 1982), and was amazed to read a long debate (between R.C. Harvey and Gary Groth) over the merits of Frank Miller’s Daredevil, a comic I uncritically worshipped at the time. I remained intrigued enough to buy every subsequent issue of the Journal since, up to the current book-sized #302 (2013). I read countless Journal articles referencing the work of Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman and Robert Crumb, so I hunted down and read the work of these artists. I read a positive Journal review of Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor #8, so I bought that issue of Splendor, wrote to Pekar, and drove to Cleveland to meet the man in the mid-1980s. Eventually, I’d write for the print Journal myself a few times, and I currently write an intermittent column for the updated-five-times-a-week TCJ website. I’ll always be grateful to the men and women who edited the Journal and gave it its confrontational yet thoughtful vibe.

2.

When Fantagraphics, the company behind the Journal, ventured into publishing its own comics, I was skeptical: I couldn’t figure out how Fantagraphics could compete with Marvel and DC, or even Eclipse and Pacific. But as Fantagraphics released titles like Love and Rockets, Neat Stuff and Eightball, and I fell hard for these comics, I realized that their publishing strategy, such as it was, consisted solely of finding unique artists and giving them a regular outlet for their art. I’m grateful to the editors who had the good taste, the curatorial savvy, to bring cartoonists like Los Bros Hernandez, Jessica Abel, Tony Millionaire and Michael Kupperman to my attention. (Not to mention their recent reprint volumes of Krazy Kat, Peanuts, Pogo, Barnaby, etc.)

3.

I begin my “Introduction to Comics and Graphic Novels” class with Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics—not because I agree with all of McCloud, but because Comics is an accessible, productively controversial introduction to such issues as cartoon abstraction and closure between panels. I typically schedule one McCloud chapter per class meeting, and cover the book over eight periods, along with other ancillary reading. In the class on chapter 2 of Comics, for instance, where McCloud argues that readers experience greater identification with abstracted, cartoony characters, I’ll also assign some readings from film theory that challenge McCloud’s argument. (The gist: movie viewers have no trouble identifying with hyper-realistic, photographic characters, so why should comics readers?)

Every time we read and discuss a chapter of McCloud, I also have my students read the same graphic novel, over and over again, eight times. That way, they develop a deep knowledge of at least one book, and hopefully also a sense of how McCloud’s concepts (and the other critical ideas I drag into class) can be used to increase our understanding of real-life, out-there-in-the-wild comics. For me, the graphic novel that works best in juxtaposition with Understanding Comics is Jason’s Hey, Wait… (American edition, 2001). Wait is short, easy to read multiple times, and crammed full of examples of McCloudian form; you can discuss  about how Jason’s anthropomorphic characters encourage identification, and there’s a heartbreakingly poignant example of aspect-to-aspect panel transitions about halfway through the book, right after the six black panels representing Bjorn’s death. And students love to debate the ending of the book. Has Jon rewritten history to bring Bjorn back to life, while obliterating his own adulthood? Has Jon died?

It doesn’t hurt that Hey, Wait… is magnificent. I adore Hey, Wait…, my students find it both confusing and moving, and it works great in class. I’m grateful to Jason for writing and drawing Hey, Wait…, and for all his subsequent books, and I’m also grateful to the man responsible for translating Jason’s work into English and for making it available to U.S. readers, especially my students.

4.

What’s the best (anti-)war image you’ve ever seen in a comic? The ones that I can’t shake involve the face of Huet, a French soldier in Jacques Tardi’s It Was the War of the Trenches (1994; American edition 2010). We see Huet in close-up, in a No-Man’s-Land trench during World War I, staring through the fourth wall, his eyes at half-mast:

Then a flashback explains Huet’s troubles: in an earlier battle, he was ordered to fire into a phalanx of innocent bystanders, and he is haunted by the fact that he gunned down a woman and her two children. Tardi shows Huet’s escalating madness in a non-consecutive series of static panels, where the most significant changes occur in the soldier’s eyes:

Huet’s widening stare reveals his impotence, hopelessness, anger and outrage. (Did I have to open my eyes that wide to take in the horror of the Abu Ghraib torture photographs?) I’m grateful to Tardi for all his World War I comics, and I’m grateful to the man who’s made so many Tardi books (anti-war and otherwise) available from Fantagraphics.

\infty

Thank you, Kim.

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REVIEW :: SUPERMAG by JIM RUGG

April 08, 2013 By: Craig Fischer Category: DISCUSS, Feast Your Eyes, Looking Ahead, Reviews

The most important aesthetic breakthrough in comics in the 21st century is the increased attention (by both artists and critics) to the picture plane, the exploration of comics as a rapturous visual experience as well as a vehicle for narrative. The book most responsible for this shift is the anthology Kramers Ergot #4 (2003), which juxtaposed the deliberately crude, resolutely non-narrative aesthetics of Fort Thunder cartoonists like Mat Brinkman and Leif Goldberg with such story-based work as Jeffrey Brown’s autobio strips, Sammy Harkham’s Poor Sailor, and early excerpts from Frank M. Young and David Lasky’s Carter Family graphic novel. This mix of approaches made reading Kramers #4 a disorienting experience, a book that, in critic Bill Kartalopoulos’ words,

was clearly packed with a range of comics and art that included things I was comfortable with, things I was uncomfortable with, and things that I didn’t really know how to categorize. I bought it, without much equivocation. It seemed like I had to if I really wanted to know what was going on in comics.

Part of “what was going on” was a generation following Gary Panter’s example, dedicated to elaborate margins, psychedelic colors, ironic appropriations of mass cult logos and symbols, and mark-making independent of a line’s narrative function. It was suddenly OK to draw rough and be bold.

The Fort Thunder/Kramers paradigm shift has cross-pollinated comics culture in various ways. The newfound emphasis on design and decoration has snuck into some more mainstream direct-market books—I’m thinking of the Fort Thunder-meets-Heavy Metal success of Brandon Graham over at Image—even while Kramers #5 (2004) published my favorite narrative comic novella of the last decade, Kevin Huizenga’s “Jeepers Jacobs.” And then there’s Jim Rugg, an artist uncannily able to toggle between straight-forward storytelling and wild explorations of what Rugg himself, in the introduction to his new Supermag, calls “the narrative collapse.” (more…)

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STAFF PICKS :: MESSAGES IN A BOTTLE: COMIC BOOK STORIES BY B. KRIGSTEIN :: MARCH 06, 2013

March 05, 2013 By: Craig Fischer Category: DISCUSS, Staff Picks

CRAIG’S PICK :: MESSAGES IN A BOTTLE: COMIC BOOKS STORIES BY B. KRIGSTEIN: A confession: until 2002, Bernard Krigstein was one of my least favorite of the E.C. artists. I preferred Graham Ingles’ drippy corpses, Johnny Craig’s noir angularity and Jack Davis’ rubbery bigfootery over Krigstein’s minutely divided, precisely timed panel layouts. I had read essays by critics convinced of Krigstein’s genius—most notably in Squa Tront #4 (1975), featuring a classic page-by-page analysis of “Master Race” by John Benson, David Kasakove and some obscure fanboy named Art Spiegelman—but I didn’t really “get” Krigstein until I read Greg Sadowski’s spectacular B. Krigstein: Volume One (1919-1955) (Fantagraphics 2002).

Sadowski’s book is one of the best biographies of a cartoonist I’ve ever read, full of rare visuals (Krigstein was an impressive Expressionist painter), tart testimony (check out page 145, where Robert Kanigher calls Krigstein “a liar”), reprints of great stories (“Master Race,” E.C. adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s “The Flying Machine”) and sharp visual commentary. Thanks to Sadowski, I’m now crazy for Krigstein, and I’m eager to read the second part of Sadowski’s biography, which promises to cover the second half of Krigstein’s career, from 1955 to his death in 1990.

In 2004, Fantagraphics published B. Krigstein Comics, a collection of stories designed as a supplement to Sadowski’s biography. The quality of the scripts varies widely—E.C. tales like “Pipe-Dream” are the pick of the litter—but B. Krigstein Comics ably represented the oeuvre of one of comics’ early visionaries.

Available this week from Fantagraphics is Messages in a Bottle: Comic Book Stories by B. Krigstein. According to Fantagraphics’ website, Messages in a Bottle

reprints the out-of-print 2004 hardcover B. Krigstein Comics, with a number of stories re-tooled and improved in terms of reproduction, and several new stories added. Legendary EC colorist Marie Severin, in her last major assignment before her retirement, recolored 20 stories for this edition. The remainder has been taken from printed comics, digitally restored with subtlety and restraint. Original art pages, photostats from Krigstein’s personal archives, and an extensive set of historical and editorial notes by Sadowski round out this compelling volume.

Sounds lovely, especially for readers who don’t already have B. Krigstein Comics. Messages is also formatted in virtually the same dimensions as the volumes in Fantagraphics’ E.C. Comics Library set, and should fit neatly on the shelf with Corpse on the Imjin! and Came the Dawn. Find yourself a copy of Sadowski’s biography, read it alongside Messages in a Bottle, and feel comics history come alive.

And below is a portrait of Bernard Krigstein drawn by master caricaturist Drew Friedman, and purloined off Tumblr. Just because.

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STAFF PICKS :: NEMO: HEART OF ICE :: FEBRUARY 27, 2013

February 25, 2013 By: Craig Fischer Category: DISCUSS, Staff Picks

CRAIG’S PICK :: NEMO: HEART OF ICE: When the final volume of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s most recent League of Extraordinary Gentlemen story–Century: 2009–arrived in comic shops last June, it generated some heat. Sean Collins hand-wrung his way through a review on the Comics Journal website, arguing that the exhausted, dispirited tone of Moore and O’Neill’s story (which, incidentally, posits Harry Potter as the Antichrist and Mary Poppins as Yahweh) was a perfect expression of the Bearded Mage’s personal distaste for contemporary popular culture. Meanwhile, the critics at the Comic Books Are Burning in Hell podcast devoted an entire episode to Century: 2009; Matt Seneca claimed that the most significant British authors of our generation are Moore and J.K. Rowling (suck it, Martin Amis!), while Joe McCullough wondered aloud if Moore’s takedown of Rowling has less to do with jockeying for canonical position, and more to do with a persistent strain of sexism in Moore’s work.

Me? I liked Century: 2009 fine, though none of the Extraordinary Gentlemen tales has ever reached the lucid artistry of my favorite Moore pieces, such as “The Anatomy Lesson” (Steve Bissette and John Totleben!), “The Bowing Machine” (Mark Beyer!) and every single solitary panel of From Hell (Eddie Campbell!). Century: 2009 seemed to me a fine second-tier Moore comic, revved up by the taboo-busting that’s always been a hallmark of Gentlemen. After the way the Invisible Man is murdered at the end of LOEG volume 2, and after the irreverence with which James Bond is treated in LOEG: Black Dossier (not to mention Moore’s dredging-up of “The Galley-Wag” from the Empire’s racist Imaginary), did we really expect Moore and O’Neill to treat the Hogwarts-verse with respect? Why would we want them to?

The next LOEG book, a single 56-page comic titled Nemo: Heart of Ice, drops this week. The central character is Janni Dakkar, the daughter of Captain Nemo, who has inherited the super-submarine Nautilus and decides to explore the Antarctic in her vessel. The description of the book on the Top Shelf Comix website blatantly reveals Moore’s inspirations this go-round–we’ll be plunging into the frozen hell of Charles Dexter Ward/Mountains of Madness territory–though I hope Janni will also sing some Brecht/Weill show tunes like she did in the first volume of Century. (It might be tough to smuggle “Alabama Song” into a story that takes place at the South Pole.) And I bet Kevin O’Neill’s draws some mucousy, multi-orificed, calamari/Caligari Lovecraft creatures..!

 

 

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NOW READ THIS :: JUSTIN GREEN’S SHOW + TELL

October 31, 2012 By: Craig Fischer Category: DISCUSS, Now Read This!

Two of my favorite underground comics are Justin Green’s Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary (1972) and Sacred and Profane (1976), and I’ll sing hallelujah praises for both, but only as a means to celebrate Green’s lesser-known, humbler, but still uproarious Show + Tell (1973).

Justin Green, from BINKY BROWN.

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Jack Kirby’s 95th Birthday :: On Story Endings and the Rapture of Art

August 28, 2012 By: Craig Fischer Category: DISCUSS

Today is Jack Kirby’s 95th birthday. The blogosphere hums with well-deserved tributes to Kirby on this day, and I want to join in the celebration by chatting about a few issues of the Kirby and Stan Lee Fantastic Four run.

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Hail Richard Thompson and Cul de Sac!

August 17, 2012 By: Craig Fischer Category: Comics Industry, DISCUSS, NEWS, Now Read This!

Today, cartoonist Richard Thompson announced that because of his ongoing struggle with Parkinson’s Disease, he’ll be ending his newspaper comic strip Cul de Sac on September 23rd.

It’s no exaggeration to call Cul de Sac the finest comic strip of this generation. Thompson began the strip in the Washington Post in 2004, but its distribution remained regional until 2007, when Universal executive Lee Salem fell in love with the strip (and with Thompson’s work on another Post feature, Richard’s Poor Almanac) and offered Thompson national syndication.

Cul de Sac focuses on the Otterloop family: father Peter, mother Madeleine, and especially their two kids, world-class neurotic Petey and pre-school troublemaker Alice. Like many other comic strips, Cul de Sac is a domestic comedy, but Thompson’s artistry elevates it into the canon of great comics, cheek-to-jowl with Charles Schulz’s Peanuts. Thompson’s skills are many: he has an uncanny ability to milk endless gags out of Petey and Alice’s diametrically opposed personalities, and he stuffs the Cul de Sac neighborhood with a joyous cast of supporting players. If you haven’t read the strip, names like Dill, Nara, Big Shirley, Beni, Viola, Miss Bliss, Ernesto, Mr. Danders, Andre and the Uh-Oh Baby mean nothing to you, but if you’re already a fan, I bet every single one of those names made you smile.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Cul de Sac is Thompson’s art, a sublime hybrid of Schulz, Ronald Searle and Thompson’s own whimsy, expressed through jittery pen lines and bold, expressive lettering. In today’s newspapers, where comic strip are printed at the size of a postage stamp, Thompson still delivered his daily laugh and wry observation, and earned the praise of his peers: in 2011, he won the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, the highest honor given by the National Cartoonists Society.

Richard is part of the Heroes family. He’s been to several HeroesCons, participating in panels about Cul de Sac, humor in comics, and other subjects. I became friends with Richard in 2008, when Ben Towle and I asked Richard (and Roger Langridge) to be on a panel where we’d collectively interview EC comics legend and Mad editor Al Feldstein. It turned out that Feldstein didn’t need our questions–without prompting from us, Al told one amazing story after another–but afterwards, Richard thanked me for the opportunity to meet Feldstein, I bought some original Cul de Sac art, and we became pals. It’s impossible to meet Richard and not become pals with him.

Me, Richard, Roger Langridge, Al Feldstein and Ben Towle, Heroes 2008. Photo by Mike Rhode.

Richard told his readers that he had Parkinson’s Disease in 2009, and in the years since has handled his increasing difficulties–with drawing, and with mobility in general–with heroic good humor. The last time I saw him in person, at last year’s Small Press Expo, he was frail and walking with a cane, but the first thing he said to me was a blue joke. His blog posts about his struggles with Parkinson’s are a study in grace under adversity. Read, for example, his farewell to Cul de Sac.

There are a couple of ways you can honor Richard and his strip. With Richard’s blessing, the tirelessly generous Chris Sparks has established Team Cul de Sac, a fundraising initiative (and division of the Michael J. Fox Foundation) that encourages the comics community to donate money to support Parkinson’s research. You can donate directly to Team Cul de Sac here. If you buy Chris’ lavish Team Cul de Sac art book (featuring contributions from Sergio Aragones, Evan Dorkin, Cathy Guisewite, Bill Watterson and literally dozens of other cartoonists), and/or Favorites, a home-grown zine of comics criticism I assembled last year, money will again funnel into Team Cul de Sac. Order these goodies here.

Most importantly: if you haven’t already, please read one of the Cul de Sac strip collections. A good place to start is The Cul de Sac Golden Treasury: A Keepsake Garland of Classics (2010), a fat sample of the first two years of the strip. It’s beautiful, charming–and, I think, a blast of Cartoon Nirvana, one for the Ages.

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NOW READ THIS! :: NATIONAL LAMPOON

August 09, 2012 By: Craig Fischer Category: DISCUSS, Now Read This!

Craig Fischer here. I’m a long-time comics fan who occasionally writes about this hobby (obsession?) we all share. Even though I don’t work at Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, I’ve been asked to contribute a monthly column to the Heroes blog about comics that I’ve found provocative, infuriating, etc. I’ll begin with a story.

Last Saturday, I was shopping in an indoor antique mall in West Jefferson, North Carolina when I stumbled across a box of reasonably priced, lightly worn copies of National Lampoon. I searched the box for Lampoon issues from the first five years—1970 through 1975, when Harvard Lampoon alumni Henry Beard and Doug Kinney, along with fearless and talented contributors, turned Nat Lamp into the greatest America humor magazine—but no luck. People who own 1970-75 Nat Lamps hold on to them. I did, however, find and buy a later issue, from October 1976, and it’s still sharp. Each issue of Nat Lamp had a theme (such as “Paranoia,” “Isolationism and Tooth Care” and “Sin”) and October ’76’s theme is “The Funny Pages,” the name of Nat Lamp’s regular comic section, which took over most of its pages for just this month. The cover itself is a goofy parody of a Golden Age Superman comic.

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