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This and That

I’m kind of busy right now so here are just a few links and thoughts about various relevant subjects from the news:

King Features Syndicate Editor Drowns- It was a sad day in the cartooning world on April the 16th, when news of the death of King Features editor in chief Jay Kennedy began circulating. The report says he accidentally drowned while on vacation in Costa Rica on April 15th. Jay was the person who was instrumental in choosing what new submissions would be taken on by King, so hopeful cartoonists were as familiar with his name as pros in the business. I did not know Jay well but years ago he called me to submit some caricature artwork for a possible syndicated Sunday feature where a bio or blurb about a celebrity would be paired with the caricature art. That project never got off the ground, but Jay sought me out at an NCS Rueben weekend the next spring to thank me for submitting my work and to apologize that it did not work out. Many other cartoonists have similar stories of hand written notes accompanying strip rejections and encouragement to keep on trying. Jay will be missed.

Record First Printing for New “Harry Potter” Book- Reuters reports that Scholastic’s first printing of the last of the Harry Potter series of novels, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will set a record at 12 million copies. Personally I can attest our household will likely contribute four copies worth to the needy coffers of the J.K. Rowling estate… being that The Lovely Anna and the youngest three of my kids will be devouring it at the same time and a copy for each will avoid any serious bodily injuries to any. I can wait until one of them finishes before reading it myself, although as I read it I’ll have to endure the occasional kid walking by pretending to be about to blurt out the ending and then laughing hysterically. Never a dull moment around here.

Batman Remixed- Check out this hilarious modern movie trailer spin on the 1966 Batman movie:

Wha??? It doesn’t start out with “IN A WORLD…”?? Knowing how silly and campy the old Batman show and movie was, it’s a riot to see it get this treatment… and have it almost work!

Cartoon Character Sues another Cartoon Character- Carol Burnett, that 70’s TV icon, is suing 20th Century Fox, creators of the animated TV show “The Family Guy” over the appearance of her cartoon janitor character in a recent episode. Here’s another article on the story. Those familiar with “The Carol Burnett Show” will remember she had a pantomime character that was a poor janitor with a mop and pail that also appeared in animated form as a mascot of sorts in the opening credits of the show. Burnett has taken exception to the fact that said character appeared on “The Family Guy” as a gag about why a shop was so clean, complete with ear tugging… maybe part of why Burnett is so upset is said shop was a porno store.

Prevailing opinion seems to be, and I agree, that Burnett shouldn’t throw stones in her glass house. Her sitcom was largely based on parody and satire of other shows and genres, so she should hardly be upset if her own show or personas are parodied as well. Besides, if any lawsuit was ever merited over her ‘silent janitor’ character it should have been by Red Skelton suing her for ripping off his melancholy janitor bit in the first place.

More About Sergio’s 400th MAD Appearance- Mark Evanier blogs about how Sergio got started doing his “marginals”, those little gag cartoons that have graced all issues of MAD but one since #76, and a little more about MAD.

R.I.P. Captain America- The national media has been picking up the story about the death of Captain America in the Marvel series “Civil War”. Apparently Cap, who has survived countless bullets thrown at him from everyone from Nazis to super-villains is killed on the steps of a courthouse while in civilian clothes by a sniper. YAWWWWWN.

Ever since the late 70’s comic books have been wanting to be taken ‘seriously’. They want everyone to see comics as a legitimate art medium and not some formulamatic, throw-away kid’s entertainment. So what do they do? Revert to a formula. Every so often the big two comic book publishers, D.C. and Marvel, put on some elaborate cross-over extravaganza where:

  1. Some catastrophic occurrence happens
  2. Everything changes with repercussions for their whole universe
  3. Small, minor and often silly characters play larger more serious roles
  4. Some long time character dies

Marvel’s “Civil War”? Check, check, check and now… check. These “events” are usually followed in the news, due primarily to point number four above, by interviews of publishers and editor-in-chiefs who gravely expound on how comics deal with real life issues and are compelling literature. Check. To be fair I haven’t read a single issue of this series and don’t care to. These giant cross-overs bore me to tears. Besides, the entire premise of this series appears to be a “super-hero registration act”, where superheroes are vilified by a jealous public and forced to retire or be regulated. That is as tired and old a premise as there might be in comics. It’s been done to death in everything from “The Watchmen” to “Kingdom Come” to the “X-Men” comics/movies to “The Incredibles”.

Last time I checked, comics were having a rough time with the newest generation of kids. That might be because there are a dwindling few comics that ARE appropriate for kids, and therefore few are reading them at age 7 to 11, when they might get hooked on the medium. It would be a lot easier to get teenagers and young adults to read the kinds of comics that really are good literature, if they knew about the existence of comics beyond being source fodder for movies and video games. If they were used to going into comic books shops, buying and actually reading comics thanks the availability of a good selection of kid friendly books, they’d be going there still at an older age.

Comics need a broad selection of titles appealing to a broad selection of ages, but what they need the most are very well written stories and good art. They don’t need gimmicks and another “Nothing will EVER be the SAME!” mega-event.

LA Times “MAD” Review- Finally, here’s a review of MAD from the Los Angeles Times. One that refreshingly does not lament that MAD “just isn’t as good as it used to be”, but recognizes it still does what it’s always done but in a different world.

3 Responses to “This and That”

  1. carlpeterson says:

    I totally agree with the comment on today’s comics. They’re the product of comics being percieved as worth money in the 80s and 90s (and to a certain extent the ‘adult’ themes presented in Watchmen and DKR, etc.). Comic publishers aren’t selling stories anymore, they’re manufacturing a sense of significance that (purportedly) goes beyond the pages of a specific book. And as you say, they’ve lost seight of their target audience – kids. It’s sort of ironic that most adult comic fans (myself included) will snap up any piece of crap “must-have” event book, but kids couldn’t care less … At any rate, I’ve always liked comics for the art. And in my opinion, comic art today (not all of it mind you) is stellar.

  2. Tom says:

    Thanks for the comment, Carl. I couldn’t agree more…

  3. JWB1 says:

    Thanks to the Batman trailer link. Very funny.

    Wish I could go against Carol on her lawsuit, but I find the Family Guy such a poor rip-off of the vastly superior Simpsons that I have a tough time rooting for them. It’s kind of like the Tony Twist/Todd McFarlane ongoing lawsuit. I believe the South Park story, Cartoon Wars, really expressed my feelings on Guy-scattershot pop culture references. Maybe if it had been a good joke, Carol wouldn’t be so miffed.

    I’ve gotten a couple of emails from friends who know of my love of the living legend of World War II. I’m stunned by the amount of coverage this “news” has generated(was it that slow a news week?). Doesn’t anyone remember Superman dying and then getting better? At least Stephen Colbert has had a good time with it. Read a quote from a Marvel exec that someone will fill the suit. Right, Cap’s just a suit a shield. And Spidey’s just a suit and a couple of web shooters. It reminded me of Engbloom’s great CBG cartoon about Marvel’s lackluster celebration of Cap’s 50th. Well at least this attention may start up production on a decent Cap movie.

    My local library stocks quite a few graphic novels. On a whim, I checked out a recent collection of Fantastic Four stories written by Mark Waid. Can’t recall the title, but I focused on Johnny Storm becoming the herald of Galactus. I found the stories very entertaining, kid-friendly and not bogged down in continuity. Who’d thought that there were still great stories to be told about the FF after 45 years. Maybe there’s some hope for the comic biz after all.

 

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