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The astonishingly incompetent superhero art of Fletcher Hanks
12.11.2014
10:48 am

Topics:
Art
Heroes
Unorthodox

Tags:
comics
Fletcher Hanks
Paul Karasik


 
The other day I was trying to describe the work of Fletcher Hanks to a comics collector friend of mine, a fan of Spider-Man and the X-Men and Daredevil, and I made the following analogy: Fletcher Hanks is the Shaggs of superhero comics…. they have the same combination of fascinating (ahem) “excellence” and off-putting weirdness, the same feeling of a direction very much not taken, the same outsider status, the same fervent adoption by devotees.

Hanks drew superhero comics for a terribly short time—1939 to 1941—before dropping off the map altogether. It’s a bit of a miracle that we have so many of his comics in print, and much of that is due to the heroic labors of Paul Karasik, a former RAW employee of Art Spiegelman’s who also collaborated with David Mazzucchelli to create a graphic novel version of Paul Auster’s novel City of Glass in 1994. Hanks first became known to contemporary readers in Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries, 1900-1969 edited by Dan Nadel, a fascinating delight for comics lovers, experts, dorks from 2006. In 2007 Karasik published I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets! and in 2009 You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!, both of which are highly recommended if you like what you see here. The first volume contains a 16-page comic by Karasik about discovering Hanks’ work and meeting with his (it turns out) estranged son.

Hanks was born in 1887. We know he was married and had a son but then packed up and left around 1930. According to his son, who is named Fletcher Hanks Jr., he was an alcoholic and physically abused his wife and son. We know that he was found, frozen to death on a park bench in Manhattan in January 1976, at the age of 88. Hanks’ work had two primary characters, “Stardust the Super Wizard” and “Fantomah the Mystery Woman of the Jungle,” and a host of less interesting characters like Space Smith, Big Red McLane, and Whirlwind Carter. Hanks used pseudonyms like Hank Christy, Barclay Flagg, Bob Jordan, and Charles Netcher. As Karasik points out in the video below, part of the fascination Hanks exerts is that he is a rare early case of a true auteur, a comics artist who “wrote, penciled, inked, lettered, and, I think, colored his work.”

Stardust is a well-nigh omnipotent space traveler who has prodigious strength, can read people’s thoughts, can control objects with his mind, produce all manner of anti-gravity rays from his body, and generally do whatever he wants. On the page he seems a lot like Magneto of the X-Men but in truth he has a whole lot in common with Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen. Fantomah was similarly prodigiously powered and whenever she used her powers, her face would transform from that of a normal human woman to a blue-skinned skull-like visage with a blond locks of hair, an arresting voodoo-like image.

Stardust bears some resemblance to Superman but in fact ends up being an unwitting critique of Superman, in that a creature who has so many powers ends up being less than interesting. Stardust never faces the slightest resistance in any of his plots. A typical Stardust story features Stardust becoming aware of some nefarious scheme by some gangsters or “fifth columnists” and then zeroing in on the malefactors and stopping them and then either depositing them with the federal authorities (who have done nothing to assist Stardust) or else consigning them to some horrible fate that somehow, poetically, serves as a just comeuppance. The best-known example of that comes in “De Structo & the Headhunter,” in which he punishes the ringleader by reducing him to nothing but a head, while stating “I’ll punish you according to your crime, De Structo. ... You tried to destroy the heads of a great nation, so your own head shall be destroyed.” In another story he turns the head honcho into a rat with a human head.

Here’s Nadel on Hanks, as quoted in Tom Spurgeon’s Comics Reporter blog:
 

Fletcher Hanks I like graphically. Some people might call him a primitive, but what’s so great about him is that he took this idea of superheroes as gods literally, even before anyone articulated the idea. He made these moving statues. You have characters carved out of granite, moving around the page, and then maybe he got lucky with whomever was coloring the Fiction House stuff. There are these clunky outlines of bodies and this gorgeous flat color laid over it. Icons moving across the page. Granite statues. It’s really intriguing. Every single Fletcher Hanks comic I’ve seen is like that. They’re just these incredible visions of statues in motion. The writing is just bizarre, so intense and vicious—maybe one of the more visceral comics in there.

 
Hanks’ stories are full of un-nuanced plots and schemes with bad guys who are constantly trying to “enslave” or “destroy” something. Even adjusting for the pre-WW2 atmosphere of fear, these stories are just silly most of the time. What sets Hanks’ works apart are his remarkable compositions and use of color—Karasik is quite right in observing that these strips are so fascinating because they so CLEARLY emanate from one mind. All the compositions are defiantly 2-D, and as Karasik establishes in his second Hanks volume You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!, he frequently reused entire pages in different stories. Hanks’ comics are wildly inert, improbable, at times ugly, yet always bountifully colorful and arresting and distinctive. Hanks showed great imagination in his tropes, which frequently involve Stardust or somebody suspending a phalanx of tanks suspended in mid-air, or rocketing every human being in existence away from planet Earth simultaneously before Stardust can set it right. The vitality of Hanks’ expression isn’t on a par with Winsor McCay and George Herriman but does have something of that flavor of strange distant fever dreams from long ago…...
 

 

 

 

 
More amazing Fletcher Hanks frames and a Q&A with author Paul Karasik, after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Norma Bates: Woman slept with dead mother for five years
11.20.2014
08:22 am

Topics:
R.I.P.
Unorthodox

Tags:
death

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The emotional trauma caused by the death of a loved one can cause humans to grieve in some tragic and bizarre ways. I was once at a funeral where a distraught wife attempted to hurl herself on top of her husband’s coffin as it was lowered into the ground. This is nothing compared to the poor grief-stricken 55-year-old German woman who slept beside the mummified remains of her dead mother at their home in the suburb of Blumenau, Munich, for five years.

As The Local reports, neighbors became suspicious over the mother’s disappearance and contacted authorities. A local social worker then tried several times by telephone to arrange a visit to the daughter, but was fobbed off with various excuses. The social worker then decided to visit the apartment in person.

When the daughter wouldn’t open the door, he called the police. They and the fire service were able to get the door open and discovered the body inside in a double bed which the daughter had been sharing.

The daughter later admitted during questioning that her mother had died during March of 2009. She has been sent to a psychiatric institution.

An autopsy produced no evidence of foul play in the mother’s death.

Sleeping with the bodies of dead partners or relatives is not that uncommon. In 2013, New York police made a grim discovery when they visited the apartment of 28-year-old Chava Stirn, where they found the distraught young woman had been living with the skeletal remains of her dead mother. Stirn would sleep beside her mother’s remains she had placed on a chair. She would also lay the body on the table during meal times.
 
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The body of Marcel H.
 
In 2013, Belgian police discovered a 69-year-old woman had been sleeping with the mummified remains of her dead 79-year-old husband, Marcel H. for almost a year. The woman had been too distraught to notify the authorities over her husband’s demise after an asthma attack and had kept him in bed. The police were only notified after the woman had failed to pay her rent.

Le Van, a 55-year-old Vietnamese man, exhumed his dead wife, wrapped her in a paper effigy, and slept with the corpse for five years.
 
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Le Van and his dead wife.
 
In 2003, Xie Yuchen was found to have slept with his dead wife for eight years, after she died of a cerebral haemorrhage in 1995, while a woman in Argentina traveled to Mexico to sleep in the mausoleum of her dead husband. She told police:

“When you love someone, you do all sorts of things.”

 

 
H/T The Local.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Wild at the Wheel: 1970’s driving safety film makes you want to get funky and drive with caution
11.17.2014
06:01 am

Topics:
Pop Culture
Unorthodox

Tags:
PSA

Wild at the Wheel
 
Part cautionary tale, part psychoanalysis of the 1970’s bored suburban teen, part strait-up fusiony funk throw-down, the film below, called Wild at the Wheel, fictionally explores the sad case of decidedly handsome, deceased 1970’s teen epitome Tom Robinson. Known by his friends as “Speedy” for reasons that become obvious, Tom’s silky, loosely buttoned western shirts and even silkier flowing golden locks earn him lots of chicks, but his hubristic need to constantly put the pedal to the metal proves to be his undoing.  After months of highway showboating and increasingly sporadic road theatrics, Tom finally rolls his beautiful, vintage forest green Mustang over a California cliff while trying to change the radio station. What could have caused this tragedy?

Wild at the Wheel is narrated by a local traffic investigator who’s taken an interest in the story partly because he happened to be Tom’s tight-shorted, side-burned softball coach before the tragic accident took place. This curly-haired funk detective’s got all kinds theories about what drove Tom over the edge, as it were. Was Tom compensating because he didn’t make first baseman at softball tryouts the other day? Was it Tom’s own aggressively driving father that set a poor example about masculinity and power? Or was it because Tom got turned down for that raise by his boss at the local drug store? All valid questions, but one thing we do know for sure from watching the film is that it clearly wasn’t Tom’s lack of tail that was causing him to drive like a maniac. He’s pretty much up to his eyeballs in smiling, feather-haired ladies throughout this whole thing.   

And then there’s the soundtrack. It just seriously makes you want rock out and form a Return to Forever cover band immediately. As one astute YouTube commenter mentions, the (at times) vaguely Goblin-esque soundtrack features a dirgey funk ballad called “Confunktion,” a smooth KPM stock recording by Dave Richmond that kind of kicks ass, leaving you confused about how to feel, especially since it shows up just as the paramedics are hauling off Tom’s bloody carcass. I was also able to identify another Dave Richmond track that appears later called Phase Out, also a piece of KPM stock recording and also ass-kicking. If there’s one unintentional takeaway from the film, it’s that awesomeness was in no short supply when it came to cheap, funky library scores in the 1970’s. 

Look, as Wild at the Wheel attempt to make clear, reckless driving is no laughing matter, especially when it involves hunky teens taken from us far too soon. On the other hand, this clip is pretty goddamned hilarious. Please refrain from watching it on your phone while driving!
 

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
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‘The Final Countdown’: One-man band performs ripping version of Europe’s hair metal classic
11.10.2014
06:39 am

Topics:
Amusing
Unorthodox

Tags:
One-man Band


 
In an ambidextrous performance that can only be described as impressive, the Swedish one-man band in the clip below levels a small crowd of onlookers by treating them to a totally ripping version of Europe’s 1986 hair teaser, “The Final Countdown.” Dude multitasks his way through a wide array of instruments including a drum (which appears to be made out of a plastic container suitable for something like fry grease), a cymbal, an accordion, a tiny keyboard, a small xylophone and what sounds like a bicycle horn among others. 

This guy rules! Check it out:
 

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
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Barking mad: Man has sex with tree (NSFW)
11.05.2014
05:16 am

Topics:
Amusing
Sex
Unorthodox

Tags:
trees
dendrophile

treewoodhump11.jpg
 
Imagine a man who gets up every morning and goes out to his local park or leafy sidewalk and humps his favorite tree. Well, if this video is to be believed here is that man.

According to the uploader on Live Leak who filmed this tree hugger, the man claims having coition with a tree “gives him pleasure.”

He does that every morning when he wakes up from bed. He also says that a tree doesn’t reject anything, he has full control over it. Just he says that if it was possible he’d take it back home lol.

“Lol” our culture’s answer to everything. Well that or “YOLO” which would also fit here, one would suppose…

The man may be mentally ill, lonely, or just a garden variety dendrophile, but he certainly seems unperturbed by the possibility of splinters, a dose of woodlice, or even total strangers filming his tree-loving activities.
 

 
H/T Daily Star

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Dead Creepy: Family portraits with deceased relatives

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Whenever a relative died when I was a child, we would gather around their body, sometimes laid out on a table, a coffin or slowly cooling under the bed sheets, and say five decades of the rosary for the repose of their soul. I attended at least half a dozen funerals before I was twelve: my father’s side of the family were descended from fertile Irish-Scottish Catholics. The dead always looked more peaceful before they were wheeled off to a funeral home, where make-up was applied, cheeks rouged and lipstick smoothed around mouth. These applications usually gave the deceased the appearance of an eerie ventriloquist’s doll, waiting to yap their mouths and roll their eyes. Death was just a common part of life. But now the relationship between the living and the dying and the dead has become once removed, with the undertakers and funeral homes taking control of those once natural rituals that connected us all together.

In Victorian times, it was common for grieving families to be photographed with the deceased. It was a way of commemorating the dead loved one. With high child mortality rates, most of these portraits were of parents and children. The images are often moving, even heartbreaking, and there are some that may seem bizarre to modern tastes.
 
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More portraits of the living and the dead, after the jump….
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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The psychedelic madness of Louis Wain’s cats
10.29.2014
04:18 pm

Topics:
Animals
Art
Unorthodox

Tags:
cats
Louis Wain
Schizophrenia

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Though I do prefer dogs, I cannot but help but love Louis Wain’s cats—those beautiful playful wide-eyed felines that slowly evolve (disintegrate?) into psychedelic creatures of the electric night. These paintings have inspired considerable speculation with the oft-cited suggestion that Wain’s paintings show his gradual psychosis and descent into schizophrenia.

Louis Wain was born into a working class family in Victorian England in 1860, and died just prior to the Second World War in 1939. He was born with a cleft palate and was kept off school during a large part of his childhood. When he did eventually go to school, he spent most of his time playing truant, wandering the city, people watching. However, he must have been clever for he attended the West London School of Art and became a teacher. When his father died, Louis became the chief breadwinner and decided to make his living as an illustrator for the various top line London magazines. He had his own style and wit, and produced satirical cartoons and illustrations of cats in various human situations: playing golf, singing opera, having a tea party, singing carols, eating cake. He explained the inspiration for his work:

I take a sketch-book to a restaurant, or other public place, and draw the people in their different positions as cats, getting as near to their human characteristics as possible. This gives me doubly nature, and these studies I think my best humorous work.

Yet despite his success, Wain was always in financial difficulties—some of his own making, but most by those business people around him who exploited, used and literally stole from him.

When he was thirty, his sister was committed to an insane asylum—it was the first rumble of the fate that was to befall Wain. He continued providing for his mother and sisters, but he spent long seasons in asylums caused by his psychosis and schizophrenia.

News of his circumstances were publicized by H.G. Wells, who organized the funds to move Wain into a nicer hospital with a colony of cats, along with Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald who personally intervened on Wain’s behalf.

There has been some speculation that Wain’s schizophrenia was caused by toxoplasma gondii—a parasite found in cat’s excreta. Whatever began the illness, Wain was incarcerated in various asylums and mental hospitals for years at a time. The changes to his life were reflected in his art. His paintings of cats took on a radiance and vitality never before seen: the fur sharp and colorful, the eyes brilliant, and a wired sense of unease of disaster about to unfold.

But these paintings look normal compared to the psychedelic fractals and spirals that followed. Though these are beautiful images, startling, stunning, shocking—they suggest a mind that has broken reality down to its atomic level.

Though it is believed that Louis Wain’s paintings followed a direct line towards schizophrenia, it is actually not known in which order Wain painted his pictures. Like his finances, Wain’s mental state was erratic throughout his life, which may explain the changes back and forth between cute and cuddly and abstract and psychedelic. No matter, the are beautiful, kaleidoscopic, disturbing and utterly mesmerizing.

Beginning in the late 60s, Wain’s work came into fashion again and has become sought after by collectors. In 2009 Nick Cave, a Wain enthusiast since the late 70s, organized the first showing of Wain’s work outside of England when he exhibited his work as part of the All Tomorrow’s Parties concert series in Australia. Artist Tracy Emin and musician David Tibet are also prominent collectors of Wain’s work.

For images from Louis Wain’s children’s books check here and for more cats check here.
 
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More of Louis Wain’s fabulous cats, after the jump…
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Sacrilicious! Our Barbie of Guadalupe meets Crucified Ken


 
The only two English words on the Facebook About page for Argentine art duo Pool & Marianela are “Lowbrow art.” Their portfolio is loaded with exquisitely detourned children’s toys, mostly Barbie and Ken dolls refashioned into Catholic icons. If you just rolled your eyes, I totally get why, but take a look at this stuff—this is no mad-at-daddy art student hack job. All the details in the garments and packaging are thoroughly considered and painstakingly well executed.
 

 

 
Unsurprisingly, the duo has sparked controversy in heavily Catholic Latin America. The works will be exhibited in Buenos Aires, starting on October 11, in a show called “Barbie, The Plastic Religion.” The pair are clearly quite keen to agitate—they’re also known for making inflatable punching bags of Argentine public figures.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Lastly, check out their St. George slaying a My Little Pony. I actually laughed aloud a little bit.
 

 
Via Latino Rebels

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Barbie doll created with average US woman’s measurements is repulsive hag
Skinhead Darby and Mohawk Ben:’ Hilariously ‘insider’ punk Barbie doll Parody from 1982

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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‘In the Orbit of Ra’: New Sun Ra collection curated by Arkestra saxophonist Marshall Allen
09.23.2014
08:08 am

Topics:
Heroes
Music
Unorthodox

Tags:
Sun Ra
Marshall Allen


 
Sun Ra might need little introduction to many readers of this blog, I’d expect, so I’ll keep this brief: Sun Ra was once Herman Blount from Alabama except that he was always Sun Ra from the planet Saturn. He was a jazz bandleader and visionary whose career spanned the ragtime and free jazz eras, during which he dove deep into the avant garde, forming a band (“Arkestra”) that was as much a commune as a musical group. His work touched heavily on, among many other things, African/Egyptian themes, outer space, Kabbalism, and Gnosticism. Ra’s music, lifestyle, beliefs and personality were far too esoteric for anything even remotely like mainstream acceptance to find him, but he nonetheless recorded prolifically, and brought a heavy influence to bear on psychedelia and funk. Just last year, he came to somewhat wider public attention when Lady Gaga heavily quoted his “Rocket Number 9” in her single “Venus.”

Sun Ra left us in 1993, but had he lived, 2014 would have been his 100th year. His still-living stalwart saxophonist Marshall Allen continues, at the age of 90, to lead the Arkestra, and he’s recently compiled a collection for Strut Records, spanning 25 years of Sun Ra Arkestra music, remastered from the original tapes, and it’s being touted as “the first internationally released compilation to provide an introduction to the music of Sun Ra.” It’s called In the Orbit of Ra, and the CD and digital are out this week. (Those of us who prefer vinyl apparently have to wait until October. Boo.) An admirable lid has been kept on its contents—only one remastered track is available for streaming, the late ‘50s composition “Plutonian Nights:”
 

 
New mini-documentary on Sun Ra after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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MAGMA’s cheerfully insane brand of sci-fi avant garde make them prog rock’s weirdest outliers
08.19.2014
07:59 am

Topics:
Music
Unorthodox

Tags:
prog rock
MAGMA


H.R. Giger’s cover for 1978’s Attahk album

From the Dangerous Minds archives:

French progrockers MAGMA sing their lyrics in “Kobaïan,” a made-up phonetic language based on German and Slavic languages constructed by the group’s founder, Christian Vander, after he had a “vision of humanity’s spiritual and ecological future.”

MAGMA’s albums tell the multi-part sci-fi saga of humans who have been forced to leave a dying Earth behind and settle on the planet Kobaïa. MAGMA’s unusual sound is described as “zeuhl” in Kobaïan, which means “heavenly” and Vander claims his biggest musical influence is John Coltrane at his most celestial. One can also detect some Zappa, Stravinsky and “Carmina Burana.”

The mysterious MAGMA are considered somewhat tangential members of the progressive subgenre (“avant garde” might be a bit more accurate) and have little in common with the likes of Yes, Genesis or King Crimson. Certainly it can said that they hoe their own row! Often they sound like an extremely dark heavy metal band. You can’t really compare MAGMA to anyone else, they’re just that weird. Give me MAGMA over Emerson, Lake & Palmer any day!

As on YouTuber quipped:

If anything could be more twisted and insane than Magma, it’s early Magma.

They’re even weirder than Gong and that ain’t easy!
 

 
More MAGMA after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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