Suggested for Mature Readers is a weekly blog by Tom Whiteley. Each week he re-reads and writes about a comic from the 80s or early 1990s comics that helped bring the medium into the mainstream. He updates roughly every Monday.
He’s currently re-reading Grendal, which had a big influence on me. He also recently did the entirety of Marshal Law, along with Joe McCulloch of The Comics Journal, which I think is a… well, not underated, but at least overlooked series. It looks like Cerebus is on the list as well. I’m currently rereading Sandman and hope he gets to that.
Steve Rogers doesn’t represent a genericized America but rather a very specific time and place – 1930’s New York City. We know he was born July 4, 1920 (not kidding about the 4th of July) to a working-class family of Irish Catholic immigrants who lived in New York’s Lower East Side. This biographical detail has political meaning: given the era he was born in and his class and religious/ethnic background, there is no way in hell Steve Rogers didn’t grow up as a Democrat, and a New Deal Democrat at that, complete with a picture of FDR on the wall.
Steve Rogers grew up poor in the Great Depression, the son of a single mother who insisted he stayed in school despite the trend of the time (his father died when he was a child; in some versions, his father is a brave WWI veteran, in others an alcoholic, either or both of which would be appropriate given what happened to WWI veterans in the Great Depression) and then orphaned in his late teens when his mother died of TB. And he came of age in New York City at a time when the New Deal was in full swing, Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor, the American Labor Party was a major force in city politics, labor unions were on the move, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was organizing to fight fascism in Spain in the name of the Popular Front, and a militant anti-racist movement was growing that equated segregation at home with Nazism abroad that will eventually feed into the “Double V” campaign.
Then he became a fine arts student. To be an artist in New York City in the 1930s was to be surrounded by the “Cultural Front.” We’re talking the WPA Arts and Theater Projects, Diego Rivera painting socialist murals in Rockefeller Center, Orson Welles turning Julius Caesar into an anti-fascist play and running an all-black Macbeth and “The Cradle Will Rock,” Paul Robeson was a major star, and so on. You couldn’t really be an artist and have escaped left-wing politics. And if a poor kid like Steve Rogers was going to college as a fine arts student, odds are very good that he was going to the City College of New York at a time when an 80% Jewish student body is organizing student trade unions, anti-fascist rallies, and the “New York Intellectuals” were busily debating Trotskyism vs. Stalinism vs. Norman Thomas Socialism vs. the New Deal in the dining halls and study carrels.
And this Steve Rogers, who’s been exposed to all of what New York City has to offer, becomes an explicit anti-fascist. In the fall of 1940, over a year before Pearl Harbor, he first volunteers to join the army to fight the Nazis specifically. This isn’t an apolitical patriotism forged out of a sense that the U.S has been attacked; rather, Steve Rogers had come to believe that Nazism posed an existential threat to the America he believed in. New Deal America.
“Think of a City is a new storytelling project, where a number of artists from around the world build a city, page by page.” It’s like an exquisite corpse — each artist draws a page then hands it off to the next. The project was created by Alison Sampson and Ian MacEwan.
Juan Ochoa revealed the first installment of Kook Komix today: Mister Probert in Etherland. Juan is working with Kook Science — which includes Technoccult alum Brendan Simpson — on this project.
Here’s some background on Probert, from Brendan:
Who was Mark Probert? By his own accounting, he was a drop-out and a drifter, skipping from the Merchant Marines to horse jockeying, serving a stint as hotel bellhop then as a Vaudevillian song-and-dance man, before finally settling into his role as a “Telegnostic from San Diego”. Mr. Probert is scarcely known today, but, in his time, his “sleeping psychic” mediumship was the prime link between the later days of California Spiritualism and the nascent Ufology of the post-war period, and he served as forerunner to all the Space Brother contactees who soared to prominence in the early years of the 1950s. Probert saw himself as ultimately a humble servant to outside forces, ever self-effacing, quite unlike many of those he later inspired, and alway offering all credit to the voices he believed he channelled, and to his partner and wife Irene Probert.
Ales Kot writes comics, amongst other things. His first graphic novel, Wild Children with Riley Rossmo, was published by Image Comics last year. He quickly followed this with Change with Morgan Jeske, also at Image. The collected edition was just released by Image last week.
Now he’s writing the superhero series Suicide Squad for DC and his creator owned espionage comic Zero for Image.
Damien Kempf on Tumblr came across this image from a 12th century manuscript known as the Bible of Stephen Harding. This work contains many images, including this page that details the story of King David. Just like a modern day comic book, you are supposed to go through this page from left to write and top to bottom, and read the caption for each box.
Rich Johnson just posted a letter from Steve Bissette calling on fans to post his pages from 1963, a comic written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Bissette and others in the early 90s, online for free since it’s unlikley it will ever be reprinted. He also mentioned that he’s working on a book about Moore:
FYI, This emerges from my work on my own forthcoming Alan Moore book; since I own my pencils, and articles on any of our work is fair game for any party out there, I’m running a few articles (by others) in my book, and illustrating them with my sketches and pencils, which is fair enough under the terms of our agreements, I reckon. If not, I’ll hear about it soon enough.
After a while, most serialized webcomics start to look the same. Just about every series seems to strike a similar balance of influences from anime and western animation. But not Light Years Away, which draws inspiration from European sci-fi comics by artists like Moebius and Tanino Liberatore.
LYA is set in a world where many — perhaps most — people have cybernetic implants. But there’s a growing, violent anti-implant movement called the Puritans. The first story arc, Escape from Prison Planet, tells the story of Milo, a repeat offender doing time on an off-planet penal colony, where he ends up in the middle of a prison gang war between the Puritans and the implantees. Soon, however, he finds out there’s something bigger going on.
I talked with writer Ethan Ede and artist Adam Rosenlund — the Boise, Idaho based duo behind the series — about webcomics, the future of the series and other projects they have in the hopper.
Left: Ethan Ede Right: Adam Rosenlund
Klint Finley: First, I’m curious why you guys self-published online. Did you shop it around to publishers first?
Ethan: We self-published this story because we wanted to do it our way. Having control over our product is very important to us, that’s one of the reasons there are no ads on the site, because that is content we can’t control. At the time when we started Light Years Away we were shopping several products around to publishers and we wanted to put something out in the meantime. We actually picked LYA because it is the least like the stories we normally tell.
Adam: As well as the story being built for the format. We were kind of frustrated at the pitch process when we decided on LYA. We just wanted to get some stories out there and read, and at the time, no one was buying science fiction. The market was in contraction, and publishers were reticent to take a chance on what we were selling.