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Indian comic book heroine is a rape survivor who fights violence against women and rides a tiger
12.17.2014
12:21 pm

Topics:
Art
Feminism

Tags:
India
comics
violence against women


 
Two years ago, a fatal New Delhi gang rape inspired mass protests all over in India, but the the legal reforms (which include things like the banning of acid sales) have done very little to protect women, and most of the more programmatic promises (tracking public transportation, more women cops, better lighting in urban areas, etc) have gone largely unimplemented. Feeling discouraged by the purely legalistic approach to rape, New York-based filmmaker Ram Devineni decided to fight violence against women on the cultural front—starting from childhood education.

Devineni has produced Priya’s Shakti, a graphic novel available online and in print, featuring a rape survivor protagonist who is aided by a goddess and her faithful tiger steed. The book is currently available in Hindi, English and Marathi, but will be translated into other languages to better serve India’s diverse population. The concept is a masterful utility of traditional values to further humane ends, and I’d argue something aimed at younger readers is going to have the greatest long term effect on culture at-large. 
 

 

The storyline focuses on Priya, a human woman and ardent devotee of the Goddess Parvati who has experienced a brutal rape and the social stigma and isolation resulting from it. The Goddess Parvati is horrified to learn about the sexual violence that women on Earth face on a daily basis and is determined to change this disturbing reality. Inspired by the Goddess, Priya breaks her silence. She sings a message of women’s empowerment that enraptures thousands and moves them to take action against [gender-based violence] around the world. This project highlights the threat of sexual harassment and violence that women face on a daily basis unless deeply rooted patriarchal norms are challenged.

 
The discussion of sexual assault in far-away lands often results in a lot of projection and avoidance of more home-grown violence, but I think we in the US could learn a lot from this project. The anti-rape movement here has only just begun to move beyond telling women “how to not get raped,” but I’ve yet to see a childhood sex education project that instills ideas of bodily autonomy and consent. Then again, I suppose our growing commitment to Abstinence-Only Education kind of precludes talking to kids about how to have mutually agreed upon sex.
 

 
Via NPR

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
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 | Leave a comment
The marvelous cover art of the early ‘Star Trek’ comic books


 
Poor Gold Key Comics. Despite their stewardship of tons of familiar titles, they always ranked a tier (or three) below the A-list. While Marvel and DC had all the high-octane superhero star power, Gold Key largely got by on licensing properties from other media. They did comic book tie-ins with Hanna-Barbera, Warner Brothers, and Disney cartoons, and brought TV shows like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Twilight Zone, H.R. Pufnstuf (!!!), Dark Shadows and Star Trek to the comics racks. Amusingly, some of their tie-in comics outlived by years the original TV series’ upon which they were based, but the company’s fortunes waned throughout the 1970s, and after they lost the lucrative Trek license to Marvel in 1979—just months before that franchise’s cinema revival—their days were numbered. Gold Key was done for by the mid 1980s.

But though they were never the heaviest hitters, Gold Key weren’t wanting for talent. A young Frank Miller’s first pro gig was illustrating a story in The Twilight Zone, and ‘60s-‘80s sitcom deity Garry Marshall wrote scripts for some of their titles. And they had cover painter George Wilson. It’s is beyond frustrating how difficult biographical data on Wilson is to come by. Despite being as prolific as he was accomplished, he has no Wikipedia entry, and searches for his work are complicated by the existence of a pulp novel cover illustrator by the same extremely common name. But his obscurity—and I get that he was basically a jobber, but still—does nothing to diminish his gifts, and it’s just all kindsa wrong that as yet there’s been no big, lavish, coffee-table book collecting his work. He produced incredible numbers of vivid, exciting, superbly designed, impeccably rendered, ridiculously fun cover paintings for Gold Key’s sci-fi, adventure, and horror titles, including many for Star Trek. A lot of the covers that weren’t by Wilson were thrown-together photo illustrations. We suspect you’ll agree that these are far preferable.
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Art Spiegelman: The Playboy Years
11.26.2014
03:23 pm

Topics:
Art
Media

Tags:
comics
Playboy
Art Spiegelman


January 1982
 
Art Spiegelman is about as close as you can come to an eminence grise in the comix game. As the co-editor of Raw in the 1980s (his wife Françoise Mouly was the other co-editor), Spiegelman injected the U.S. underground comix scene with a healthy dose of intellectual experimentation, introducing such talents to the country as Chris Ware, Joost Swarte, Mark Newgarden, and Charles Burns. In 1991 Spiegelman completed his autobiographical years-long project Maus—if you haven’t read it you really should. Not for nothing did it become the first “graphic novel,” as the terminology had it and fitfully still has it, to win the Pulitzer Prize. Since that time Spiegelman spent several years as art director for the New Yorker and published several high-quality works like In the Shadow of No Towers, Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps, and Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! He has the credibility that only roots in the underground scene can give you, he’s blended high art and low art (he was also involved with the creation of Garbage Pail Kids, for instance), and he’s generally a walking encyclopedia of comix history and lore. In 2008 I saw Spiegelman give a presentation on “Comics 101” as part of the New Yorker Festival, and it was a delight.
 

 
Raw existed from 1980 through 1991, and it must have been quite a challenge for Spiegelman and Mouly to pull off the publication of such an ambitious and infamously large-format book in Soho, one that surely had a host of printing issues most magazines don’t have to worry about (having their own dedicated printing press surely helped with that). Fortunately, to help pay the bills, Spiegelman was doing freelance work for Playboy from 1978 to 1982. I’ll bet those checks with the little rabbit in the corner (??) sure came in handy. 

His first cartoon for Playboy was a wordless 12-panel item called “Shaggy Dog Story” in the January 1979 issue about a woman having sex with a dog. Maybe not content-wise, but visually at least it wouldn’t look out of place in Raw, which isn’t necessarily true of his other work for Playboy—it has a jagged look that evokes ... something earlier and continental, not art nouveau but something similar. Most of Spiegelman’s cartoons for Playboy came in the form of a running series called “Edhead,” which depicted the adventures of a poor fellow who consists of a head but no body—that ran through most of 1979, then stopped until two further strips in 1981. In the January 1982 issue Spiegelman and Lou Brooks did a large panel of “Teasers” full of sophomoric jokes. My favorite thing he did for Playboy was a one-off four- (or eight-)panel strip called “Jack ‘n’ Jane/Rod ‘n’ Randy,” which is so elegantly complex that you can practically see the germ for Chris Ware’s entire future career in it. The idea is that every frame is divided into two; in the top frame a man and a woman converse, and in the bottom frame you get a parallel dialogue between the man’s penis and the woman’s vagina. OK, so maybe it isn’t exactly Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary—it’s still pretty impressive for a few square inches of real estate in the back of a nudie magazine…..

(Click on the images for a larger version.)
 

October 1979
 

December 1978
 

February 1979
 

March 1979
 

April 1979
 
Several more “Edheads” and a rejected Playboy parody for Wacky Packages, after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘The Complete Zap Comix’ box set is the greatest thing in the history of the world, ever


 
Over the Halloween weekend I was visiting my family in Wheeling, WV (it was my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary) and I needed to buy a cheap one-hitter to help get me through it. There’s only one place to buy that sort of thing in my hometown and this would be Wheeling’s sole smut emporium, the very downmarket Market Street News.

Thirty-five years ago, in better economic times for that town, Market Street News was still a dirty book store, but back then it also sold bongs, rolling papers, fake drugs like “Lettuce Opium” or “Coke Snuff,” British rock mags, National Lampoon, biker rags like Easy Rider and Iron Horse, High Times and a small handful of underground comics. A bead curtain separated the front of the shop from the over 21 area and the place smelled heavily of incense, cigarettes and Pine-Sol. It was here, age 11, where I bought my first issue of High Times, the October 1977 issue with Johnny Rotten on the cover and the now infamous “Ted Nugent shits his pants to get out of the draft” interview. What kind of degenerate sold a little kid High Times?

Let me assure you that I was not an innocent child. By that age, I’d already read Ladies and Gentlemen, Lenny Bruce!!, I owned a copy of Naked Lunch and had already tried getting high (unsuccessfully) by eating fresh ground nutmeg and morning glory seeds, something I’d read about in that book’s infamous index section. I wanted to do drugs, I just didn’t know where to get ‘em (aside from “Lettuce Opium,” which yes, I admit that I tried.“Coke Snuff,” too!)

I couldn’t “score” real drugs, but at the age of 11, in a low level smut shop in a podunk West Virginia town, I was able to get my mitts on something equally mind-expanding (and only slightly less illicit): Zap Comix. Lewd, crude, incendiary, mind-blowing in the extreme and incredibly smart, I embraced Zap Comix wholeheartedly, even if I, a sixth grader, was considerably younger than the audience of “adult intellectuals” it was ostensibly intended for.
 

 
Although Zap founder Robert Crumb himself was already a very well-known and widely respected artist and counterculture hero by the time I discovered Zap in 1977, I can’t image that it was too much earlier than 1973 or ‘74 that something like Zap Comix would have had the kind of distribution that would have allowed it filter down to small town America. The first (#0) issue of Zap came out in 1968. Not every small town had a head shop at that time, of course, and even when they did, carrying Zap Comix—which presented some completely insane stuff, images WAY more perverse than anything that was being cooked up in Denmark or Sweden at the time—was probably not worth the heat it would bring, especially in that line of work. If they can bust you for selling bongs, why carry filthy and obscene comic books to further tempt fate?

Most people probably found out about Zap generally around the same time I did, no matter what age they were. Unless you were living in a big city or in a college town, it would have been highly unlikely to have encountered it otherwise. This is why I associate Zap with the punk era. At least that’s when a copy first made it into my young hands.

Crumb did the first two issues on his own before ultimately assembling a “Magnificent Seven” of the best underground artists around—San Francisco poster artists Rick Griffin and Victor Moscoso, Marxist biker cartoonist Spain Rodriguez, Gilbert Shelton (the creator of “The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers”), painter Robert Williams, the demented S. Clay Wilson and later, after Griffin’s death, Paul Mavrides, known for his Church of the Subgenius graphics. The Zapatistas were a sort of “supergroup”—the dharma warriors of comics. Inkslingers. Revolutionaries. The best of the best. Their only yardsticks for comparison were each other and that sort of fraternal competition raised the bar and kept their art constantly evolving and their social satire razor sharp.
 

 
Like punk (and Burroughs, Lenny Bruce, Firesign Theatre and John Waters) Zap Comix kind of helped to deprogram me at a young age during my rustbelt Christian upbringing. My deeply religious parents never looked twice at my “funnie books” but if they had they’d have been utterly appalled, finding between the covers of Zap Comix characters like S. Clay Wilson’s gay pirate “Captain Pissgums” who liked to have his crew of perverts, um, piss in his mouth or the “Checkered Demon,” a randy devil cheerfully doing the most obscene things that I’d ever seen depicted on the printed page. It was shocking then and it’s equally shocking today.

Take a look at this short piece from S. Clay Wilson titled “Head First”—IF YOU DARE.

See what I mean? Remind yourself that this strip is now nearly half a century old. The reason I linked to it is because embedding it would probably have made our advertisers very nervous about what kind of people we are! Crumb’s Zap contributions were never as out and out repulsive as Wilson’s, yet he was still utterly fearless in portraying his own infantile sexual fantasies and neuroses (and finding willing groupies to help him act them out along the way. Which he then wrote about in subsequent issues of Zap. Heavy meta…).

The goalposts have moved quite a bit over the decades as “obscenity” has been redefined by culture, AND YET that vile, hilariously fucked up strip has lost virtually none of its power to offend. This is only one of the reasons to love S. Clay Wilson—whose work ultimately sets the tone of Zap because his is the wildest, most feral and least compromising—his willingness to basically puke on his reader’s sensibilities, no matter how “far out” they think they are. The sole purpose is to be brutally offensive, no more no less. You can look for something deeper, go ahead, but I’m not sure you’re going to find it in a piece like “Come Fix” (click for pdf) in which a lesbian biker chick injects semen intravenously with an interesting result.
 

The front and back cover of Zap #14 by S. Clay Wilson
 
In the context of the late 1960s that was something both sickening and ENLIGHTENING. And it had nothing whatsoever to do with flower power or hippie. Zap Comix was cynical and dark, twisted and perverted, full of “gags, jokes, kozmic trooths.” Zap wasn’t interested in persuading you of anything, it wanted to beat its epiphanies into you.

This is another reason I see Zap Comix as being aligned with punk, because philosophically-speaking it was. Indeed in its crudeness, lewdness and desire to shake its readers out of their complacency, Zap anticipates punk (and a lot of other things!) and surely would have influenced many of punk’s prime movers who undoubtedly were exposed to it.

Anyway, when I bought my one-hitter, I got into a conversation with the guy behind the counter and I mentioned that I used to buy Zap Comix there when I was a kid. Then the very next morning in the hotel I read an article in the New York Times about how Fantagraphics were publishing the complete run of Zap, along with a sixteenth and final issue, in a deluxe slipcase box set weighing over 20 lbs, complete with sixteen high quality giclée prints of each Zap Comix cover.
 

The front and back cover of Zap #13 by Victor Moscoso
 
I immediately wrote to Fantagraphics fab director of publicity Jacq Cohen and requested a review copy of The Complete Zap Comix. It was sent Fedex two-day shipping, which seemed to me to be the longest two days of my entire fucking life. An eternity. In fact, it ended up being a day late, and by that time, I was truly salivating over the prospect of its arrival. I was not disappointed. I’m a man with a lot of toys and The Complete Zap Comix went immediately into my “prized possessions” category. If you’re reading this thinking “Yep, I need that” trust me, you do need it. However, as far as pricey Christmas presents to yourself go, you might not want to wait for Santa to lay this one under your tree because it’s probably going to sell out. Only 2500 have been printed and from what I can tell anecdotally from how many friends of mine are buying it, it won’t last long.

The irony of turning something that was once sold in dirty bookstores into a $500 collectible is delicious, but I can’t think of a more deserving title than Zap. The production quality of The Complete Zap Comix is first rate and the pages are clearer than they’ve ever been, blown up to 9.75” x 13.25” and painstakingly cleaned up digitally. Everything comes in a sturdy, gold-embossed slipcase and there’s a separate book dedicated to “The Zap Story,” an oral history/scrapbook that also reprints some Zap rarities and “jams” where each of the artists would complete a frame or two—upping the ante in the process—and then pass it on to the next guy.

In the title here, I declare that The Complete Zap Comix box set “is the greatest thing in the history of the world, ever” and I’m only semi-exaggerating. Seeing the whole of the Zap run laid out like this, it seems obvious—so very, very obvious—what a profound and truly American cultural treasure this is. This is great art of historical and cultural importance that changed people, blew their minds and inspired them. I know that it changed ME. Zap Comix deserves to be reappraised and valued for what it’s truly worth and Fantagraphics has done an amazing job with this stunning box set.

Now the Smithsonian Institute needs to step up to the plate while the remaining Zap artists are still alive and kicking against the pricks and give them their due. It could happen. It should happen. Let’s hope it does happen.

Below, one of the greatest—and most eerily prophetic—comics EVER by Gilbert Shelton, “Wonder Wart-Hog’s Believe It or LEAVE It!”...Um… he could be talking about TODAY’s America, here, couldn’t he???
 

 
More classics from Zap Comix after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘All life is a blur of Republicans and meat!’: Zippy the Pinhead… live?
10.17.2014
03:25 pm

Topics:
Pop Culture

Tags:
comics
Zippy the Pinhead


 
One of the more improbably durable comics in American popular culture is Zippy, the adventures of “Zippy the Pinhead,” Bill Griffith’s non sequitur-spouting polkadot muumuu-wearing Ding Dong and taco sauce-obsessed pinhead everyman. Because so many readers are totally baffled by it, there is a primer for “Understanding Zippy in Six Easy Lessons” on the Zippy website. Robert Crumb called Zippy “by far the very best daily comic strip that exists in America.”

Zippy was born in 1971 when Roger Brand, an underground/mainstream comics writer-editor-illustrator asked Griffith to “Maybe do some kind of love story, but with really weird people” for Real Pulp Comics #1. The name comes from P. T. Barnum’s famous sideshow performer Zip the Pinhead (who probably wasn’t an actual microcephalic) but the character’s features and clothing are patterned after Schlitzie from Tod Browning’s Freaks.

After Griffith launched Zippy in The Berkeley Barb in 1976, his character went on to a daily strip in 1986 and a Sunday funnies version debuted in 1990. The comic is distributed by King Features Syndicate.
 

 
In 1980, Griffith wrote the scripts for a handful of live-action Zippy shorts that were (I think) produced and directed for San Francisco cable access by Erik Nelson and his Videowest production company. Here are some of my favorites (all are on YouTube if you search for “Videowest” and “Zippy”). It’s worth noting that the reporter we see in a few of these pieces is a fellow named Tony Russomanno, then of KSFO Radio in San Francisco, who was the sole radio reporter to cover the mass suicides at the Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana.

Zippy is played by Jim Turner of NPR’s Duck’s Breath Mystery Theatre comedy troupe. Turner would go on to play MTV’s presidential candidate “Randee of the Redwoods” and you might also recognize him from HBO’s Arli$$ series where he played a sports agent.

The theme music is “Laughing Blues” by The Bonzo Dog Band.

“Zippy Stories—Take 1”
 
More live action Zippy after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Underground’ Pancake Art
09.08.2014
06:40 am

Topics:
Art
Food

Tags:
comics
pancake


 
Hey kids! Do you like comics? Do you like pancakes? If not, and barring some horrifying pancake-precluding health issue, what the hell is your problem? I’ve seen some pancake art making the rounds, and while some of it is very impressive, it tends to be of the “oh look, I made my son an adorable pancake kitty cat” variety. Illustrator Travis Millard however, brings a different kind of pancake art to the table (oh stop, I had to).

Some of Millard’s pancake masterpieces are reminiscent of the sort of punk comics you’d find in Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll or PORK magazine, while others, like say, the Zeppelin and Dead Kennedys logos, invoke the notebook doodles of a high school stoner in detention (believe me when I tell you I mean that as affectionate praise). Millard’s batter brilliance is actually so popular, they earned him a show at the Slow Culture gallery in Los Angeles,  opening Friday, September 5, 2014. The show will also feature his more “traditional” (though obviously artistically inferior) paper illustrations… if you care about that sort of thing.
 

 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Bring back Hothead Paisan, homicidal lesbian terrorist
06.09.2014
11:29 am

Topics:
Art
Queer

Tags:
comics
Hothead Paisan
Diane DiMassa

hotheadcover
 
In the early ‘90s a small independent underground comic by Diane DiMassa featuring a rumpled, wild-eyed, overcaffeinated “homicidal lesbian terrorist” was frequently listed among Riot Grrrl and Queercore zines of the day. The main character, Hothead Paisan, spent a lot of time pissed off at the world, nursing crushes on Madonna and Joan Jett, or looking for love, once finding it in a shaggy-haired character named Daphne whose gender was never specified. The humor was dark and sometimes vicious, but there were also glimmers of a sweet vulnerability in the characters. Giant Ass Publishing’s Stacy Sheehan would send small gifts with the comic to young riot grrrls, including pins/badges and dog tags with messages like “Dyke Warrior” and “No Guilt.”

DiMassa developed the comic while journaling during her early days of sobriety and recovery. She also illustrated writer Kathy Acker’s chapbook Pussycat Fever. In some moments, Hothead Paisan was the kind of character you wanted to read when it felt like having to deal with one more stupid person would be enough to push you to consider vigilante behavior. At other times, when the injustice and prevailing unkindness of the world became overwhelming, Hothead’s depression won out and she would retreat into herself, emerging from the darkness only to interact with her Higher Power (which was a shadeless lamp she named Donna Summer) or her blind, sensible, serene, hippie friend Roz, who would offer her herbal tea and talk her down from the ledge. Then there was the hilarious afterthought known as the Menstruation Museum, complete with Big Ass Mattresses (do you put the emphasis on “big-ass” or “ass-mattress”?).
 
lampy
 
The comic was never going to fly under the political or sociological radar for long, even before people became twitchy over the use of the word “terrorist.” For one thing, her cat, Chicken, wore a fez, which was just one thing that pissed some people off. There was a backlash from the trans community because of DiMassa’s trans-critical opinions. Then there was all the hyperbolic anger toward men and “spritz-head” women and the violent, ax-wielding, gun-toting revenge Hothead fantasized about, the sort of thing anti-feminists suspect is a not-so-secret man-hating blueprint for daily action, not catharsis in the form of a fictional comic book character. Revenge fantasies in feminist work, going so far as armed revolution in the ‘60s and ‘70s, were nothing new. Would there have been more of an outcry against the anger and violence if the genders had been reversed? You bet.
 
spritzhead
 
Citing Hothead Paisan with Valerie Solanas’ S.C.U.M. Manifesto, the Radicalesbians’ “Woman-identified Woman,” and Monique Wittig’s novel Les Guérillères, Sara Warner, author of Acts of Gaiety: LGBT Performance and the Politics of Pleasure, wrote:
 

These lesbian revenge fantasies are deadly serious satires featuring vigilante feminist heroines, graphic scenes of retaliation and retribution, cunning linguistic puns, and black humor. Lesbian comedies of terrors exploit for humorous effect the compulsory rites and rituals of heteronormativity. Their plots revolve around the frustrations and unrepressed rage of the disenfranchised and dispossessed. Episodic in nature, they depict highly theatrical spectacles, dark play, blood sports, and war games.

—snip—

Their humor stems from the protagonist’s skillful manipulation of ludicrous situations and her virtuosic display of anarchic wit.

 
There has been one performance of the musical adaptation of Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist, staged at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival in 2004, with music and lyrics by Animal Prufrock of the punk band Bitch and Animal. Animal had discovered the comic in a bookstore while she was a frustrated theater student in Chicago. She told Sara Warner, “I SAW ME. I immediately said, ‘I’m gonna make a fucking musical out of this.’”

The cast featured cult singer-songwriter and Righteous Babe Records founder Ani DiFranco, wellness activist Susan “Stop the Insanity!” Powter, Toshi Reagon from Sweet Honey in the Rock and BIGLovely, and Alyson Palmer of BETTY RULES! and The L Word. To many attendees, who had been buying the comic by mail order or at the shrinking number of feminist bookstores in the country, the Hothead musical was the highlight of Michfest. Animal intended to take the musical all the way to New York but immediately encountered roadblocks. A project about a lesbian terrorist is not easy to fund, even if the country isn’t at war against terrorism. Rumors occasionally surface of a new production with the likes of Joan Jett involved (may I suggest Brody Dalle?), but they disappointingly remain rumors.

After over twenty years Hothead isn’t as well known as one would expect, still a fringe character, unlike the sexier Tank Girl, who at least got her own movie and decent soundtrack. DiMassa and Hothead were the subject of Heather Pearl’s independent film The Village Idiot, which included songs by L7 and Joan Jett, that was screened at the Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in 1993. “Gayploitation” fimmaker Lola Rocknrolla is still looking for investors to fund her live-action Hothead film.
 
LGBT Authors Gather in Boston, 1993, with a brief chat with Diane DiMassa at 1:37:

 

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Leave a comment
‘Son-O’-God Comics’: National Lampoon’s cheerfully offensive super-hero Jesus


 
I live in Los Angeles and believe me when I tell you that I had not heard a single peep about that new Jesus movie—Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s Son of God—because, well, they don’t really market religious films here. In a city festooned with billboards for every damned offering large or small, good or bad that the industrial entertainment complex has in store for us, I think they figured that religious films aren’t for we West Coast heathens; that it’s a waste of money even bothering trying to, er, convert us, even for a big budget picture like Son of God. I can’t imagine Fox spent too much money marketing the film in NYC, either.

Nope, I only heard about this religious blockbuster after the fact, when all of the rightwing blogs like NewsMax, Breitbart and WorldNutDaily were crowing about how Jesus nearly kicked Liam Neeson’s ass in the box office boffo sweepstakes over the weekend. Go Jesus! (Is there anything, and I do mean anything, more pathetic than “rooting” for a movie, let alone pulling for the founder of Christianity to beat the crap out of a formulaic Hollywood action flick? Nothing, right?)

All this goofiness caused me to recall the cheerfully blasphemous “Son-O’-God Comics” that ran in a few 1970s issues of National Lampoon magazine.
 

 
In the Lampoon version of the New Testament’s central figure, “Benny Davis” a nerdy failure-to-launch boychick still living with his parents in Brooklyn, says the name “JESUS CHRIST!” (but not in vain) and transforms (ala Captain Marvel) into a muscular WASP super-hero version of Jesus with a six-pack, cape and halo, ready to do battle with Catholicism, Islam, the Scarlet Woman of Babylon, the Antichrist and even Bob Dylan.
 

 
The occasionally recurring strip was written by Sean Kelly (who would go on to become the founding editor of Heavy Metal magazine) and Michel Choquette, and (mostly) drawn by well-known comics artist Neal Adams, a “Silver Age” illustrator who worked on Batman for DC and a gazillion other comics.
 

 
I would be remiss in my duties writing on this topic without at least quickly mentioning how underrated National Lampoon is in terms of that magazine’s amazing and ground-breaking art-direction. If you consider that the 20th century will be looked upon as the golden era of the printed page, to my mind, the Lampoon’s Design Director, Michael Gross and Art Director David Kaestle created the most creatively free-wheeling and conversely the most detail-oriented magazine design on the planet. What they brought to America’s premiere countercultural humor magazine was an exacting eye for authenticity. If you were going to parody or satirize popular culture, it needed to actually LOOK LIKE the things you were referring to, or the joke would be lost. That was more or less a new idea at the time. In my opinion, the four years that Gross and Kaestle worked on National Lampoon is THE high point of art direction for a monthly print publication. Everyone always points to the the George Lois-era Esquire as the pinnacle of graphic design in magazines—and it’s great stuff, don’t get me wrong—but the Lampoon was even better, had more nuance and yet Gross and Kaestle’s work rarely gets the credit it deserves.
 

 
You can find out everything you always wanted to know about “Son-O’-God Comics” at Dial B for Blog.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Hello, I’m Johnny Cash’: The 1976 Christian comic book
09.11.2013
06:48 am

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
Johnny Cash
comics

Hello, I'm Johnny Cash
 
In 1976 Spire Comics, publisher of Christian-themed comic books, many of them involving Archie and his friends, came out with “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” which told the life story of Johnny Cash and the start of his musical career, the breakup of his first marriage, his battle with pills, a jail stint, and his eventual marriage to June Carter. Johnny Cash traditionally started his concerts with the phrase “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” before breaking into “Folsom Prison Blues.”

The material’s hokey, of course, but the art isn’t half-bad—just like a real comic book, y’know. Not nearly as cringeworthy as it could have been. It’s credited as being written by Johnny Cash with Billy Zeoli and Al Hartley—one wonders how involved Johnny actually was.

Here are some panels from “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” for your enjoyment. (Does anyone know if Johnny ever played Pisa? This Johnny Cash concert database suggests that he never played Italy. Anybody know?)
 
Hello, I'm Johnny Cash
 
Hello, I'm Johnny Cash
 
Hello, I'm Johnny Cash
 
Hello, I'm Johnny Cash
 
Hello, I'm Johnny Cash
 
Hello, I'm Johnny Cash
 
You can download the entire comic book in PDF format here.

Here’s a video of a Johnny Cash fan free-associating over some stills of the comic book. Be sure to catch the reference to President Obama!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘HARDTalk with Alan Moore’: excellent interview with comics legend by BBC News
04.16.2012
11:20 am

Topics:
Heroes
Media

Tags:
BBC
Alan Moore
comics
interview
news


 
HARDTalk is an in-depth interview program from BBC News, something akin to Larry King Live with a sit down, face-to-face, half hour format (perhaps there’s a better reference point here, but my knowledge of American news broadcasters is limited.) In this edition, which aired last week, host Stephen Sackur talks to Alan Moore, who may be a hero to many but is still a fringe presence in this kind of mainstream news setting.

Moore has nothing in particular to promote, so this isn’t a kiss-ass puff piece, and being a “serious” show there is no talk of magic and mysticism. Instead, Sackur picks issue with Moore’s characterisation of the comics industry as gangsters, and has pertinent questions to ask him about the subjects of his works Lost Girls and V For Vendetta. Moore responds very well to being taken this seriously, answering with an unusual frankness and striking honesty:

HARDTalk with Alan Moore (part 1)
 

 
HARDTalk with Alan Moore (part 2) is after the jump…

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Exclusive: Frank Quitely celebrates Moebius


 
Last Saturday saw the passing of the legendary French comic book artist Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius. A simply stunning artist, apart from being huge in the world of comics, Moebius’ influence extended to the spheres of science fiction, record sleeves, animation and films. He drew storyboards for both Alien and Tron, created character and set designs for Jodorowsky’s aborted Dune project (among numerous collaborations with the director), and unsuccessfully sued Luc Besson for what he claimed was The Fifth Element‘s infringement of his own work with Jodorowsky on The Incal.

If there is any illustrator working in comics today worthy of inheriting Moebius’ mantle, it’s Scottish artist Frank Quitely (All Star Superman, Batman and Robin, We3, The Authoirty.) Quitely cites Moebius as one of his favourite artists, and his influence in clear in both the crisp line work and the command of form. I asked Frank to share a few words celebrating the work of this great artist and to choose some of his favourite Moebius illustrations:
 

 
“Moebius was an inspired artist, whose life’s works have inspired others, artist and non-artists alike. He was uncommonly good at drawing, and he used this skill to share his internal world with others.”
 

 
“Everything that makes his designs, comic covers, illustrations and individual drawings and paintings beautiful, striking, well composed and effectively realized, is also employed in his strip-work. The ability to make not just a collection of wonderful images, but to make those images work together in sequence, is a whole other art-form in itself, and Moebius excelled as much in the fluidity of his storytelling as he did in the brilliance of his linework.

There’s real beauty in his work. It’s quite a rare thing for an artist to be able to translate so much of the scale and grandeur and detail of their own imaginings into simple, elegant lines that can be so easily shared with others. There’s an underlying essence that’s apparent to varying degrees in everything that he drew, supporting the assertion that what he drew was coming from his very core.”
 

 
“His sheer mastery of his art (and the craft of that art) has really enriched the lives of countless people around the world and across the years, and that same body of work that he’s left behind will continue enriching lives forever.”
 
You can see some of Frank Quitely’s own art here, and Moebius’ official site (in French) is here. The book The Art Of Moebius also come highly recommended.
 

 
Many thanks to Vincent Deighan!

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
‘The Dick Knight’: a comic response to Frank Miller’s OWS tirade

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By Richard Pace, via badhaven.com. Click here to enlarge.

Previously on DM:
Frank Miller posts idiotic, reactionary rant about Occupy Wall Street

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
I pity Whole Foods for firing Paul Maybury

image
 
Austin-based comic artist Paul Maybury writes:

This is the sign that more or less got me pushed out of Wholefoods. I apparently offended a lot of people with it. One older white lady didn’t like the angry black man yelling at her. And a Vegan didn’t like that Mr. T. pitied her because she wouldn’t eat meat.

Still, it was a blessing in disguise for Paul Maybury, who has moved on to far greener pastures than an over-priced yuppie grocery chain as an award-winning artist and writer for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Heavy Metal, Ubisoft, Metro, Image, Criterion and Mirage Studios. WTF was Whole Foods thinking firing a talent like this? This guy rocks!

image
 
See more of Paul’s awesome Whole Food signs after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Batman joins Team Motörhead
08.06.2010
10:27 am

Topics:
Amusing
Heroes
Music

Tags:
Batman
comics
Mot
Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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