Bloom County is an American comic strip by Berkeley Breathed which ran from 1980 until 1989. It examined events in politics and culture through the viewpoint of a fanciful small town in Middle America, where children often have adult personalities and vocabularies and where animals can talk.
The fictional setting of ‘Bloom County’ served as a recurring backdrop for the comic and its sequels, although the nature of the setting was frequently altered. In the comics, the county is presented as a stereotypical American midwestern small town. The small town setting was frequently contrasted with the increasing globalization taking place in the rest of the world; though Bloom County contained the likes of farmers and wilderness creatures by default, it was frequented by Hare Krishnas, feminists, and rock stars.read more »
‘The Far Side‘ is a single-panel comic created by Gary Larson and syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate, which ran from January 1, 1980, to January 1, 1995. Its surrealistic humor is often based on uncomfortable social situations, improbable events, an anthropomorphic view of the world, logical fallacies, impending bizarre disasters, (often twisted) references to proverbs, or the search for meaning in life. Larson’s frequent use of animals and nature in the comic is popularly attributed to his background in biology. The series was preceded by a similar panel called ‘Nature’s Way,’ also by Larson.
Most of Larson’s comics relied on some combination of a visual and verbal gag, rather than just one or the other. Some recurring themes in the comic include people being stranded on desert islands, aliens, heaven, hell, and the life of cavemen. Many cartoons focused on animals, especially cows, bears, dogs, flies, and ducks. Notably, virtually all characters portrayed in the comic were overweight or obese, and usually wearing glasses. In addition, unless needed for a facial or comic expression, eyes are almost never drawn and characters usually show only a brow ridge.
‘Testament‘ was an American comic book series written by media theorist Douglas Rushkoff with art and covers by Liam Sharp. It was published from February 2006 to March 2008 under DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint. The story takes place simultaneously in the near future and the biblical past to illustrate the most prominent theme: that history repeats itself. This is done by juxtaposing the two timelines, the purpose of which seems to be to illustrate that religion is a continually evolving, living story that is being written by how people, and specifically the protagonists, live their daily lives. Other themes include increasing numbers of fascist governments, human rights, technology, and information economics in the form of a global currency, manna.
In the near future grad student Jake Stern and his conscientious objector friends fight against the new RFID-based universal draft by attempting to access the collective unconscious through an experimental combination of the hallucinogenic preparation ayahuasca and shared sensory deprivation tank experiences. The near future story is mirrored through biblical narrative based on Torah, various Jewish and Christian apocrypha, and elements of other mythologies. One major departure from Judeo-Christian tradition is the separation of ‘The One True God’ into two entities who in the story are represented by the God Elijah, who represents the Abrahamic One True God, and a new entity of the author’s invention which he calls The One True God. Much of the action in the story is driven by situations and characters being manipulated by the various gods as they battle for dominion.
Zap Comix is an underground comics which was part of the youth counterculture of the late 1960s. ‘Zap’ #1 was published in San Francisco in late 1968. It featured the work of satirical cartoonist Robert Crumb. Some 3,500 copies were printed by Beat writer Charles Plymell. ‘Zap’ #1 was the first title put out by publisher Don Donahue under the ‘Apex Novelties’ imprint.
Philadelphia publisher Brian Zahn (who had published earlier works of R. Crumb in his tabloid called ‘Yarrowstalks’) had intended to publish an earlier version of the comic, but reportedly left the country with the artwork. Shortly before ‘Zap’ #3 was to be published, Crumb found photocopies of that earlier issue, drew new covers, and published it as ‘Zap’ #0. The first issue was sold on the streets of Haight-Ashbury out of a baby stroller pushed by Crumb’s wife, Dana. In years to come, the comic’s sales would be most closely linked with alternative venues such as head shops.read more »
Building Stories is a 2012 graphic novel by American cartoonist Chris Ware. The unconventional work is made up of fourteen printed works—cloth-bound books, newspapers, broadsheets and flip books—packaged in a boxed set. The work took a decade to complete, and was published by Pantheon Books. The intricate, multilayered stories pivot around an unnamed female protagonist with a missing leg. It mainly focuses on her time in a three-story brownstone apartment building in Chicago, but follows her later in her life as a mother. The parts of the work can be read in any order.
The unnamed protagonist has brown hair, and she suffered the loss of the lower half of her left leg in a childhood boating accident. She comes to inhabit the third floor of a three-story apartment building, with a couple who constantly argue on the second floor and an elderly landlady on the first. The woman sees herself as a failed artist, and the work follows her in the Chicago brownstone apartment building in her twenties. Later in life as a mother, she puts on weight and feels her creativity stifled by domesticity. She still thinks of her first boyfriend, who left her after an abortion, and feels frustrated with her husband.read more »
Marvels is a four-issue limited series comic book written by Kurt Busiek, painted by Alex Ross and edited by Marcus McLaurin, and published by Marvel Comics in 1994. Set from 1939 to 1974; the series examines the Marvel Universe, the collective setting of most of Marvel’s superhero series, from the perspective of an Everyman character: news photographer Phil Sheldon. The street-level series portrayed ordinary life in a world full of costumed supermen, with each issue featuring events well known to readers of Marvel comics as well as a variety of minute details and retelling the most famous events in the Marvel universe. Busiek and Ross returned to the ‘everyday life in a superhero universe’ theme in the Homage Comics series ‘Astro City.’
In the German edition of ‘Marvels,’ Ross and Busiek revealed that the whole concept was originally intended only as a collection of classic Marvel Comics stories, seen from the point of view of ordinary people. But as the project grew, the two creators felt that the social issues underlying the retold stories were too relevant to ignore. The first issue dealt with scientific progress while the Human Torch and Namor fight, the second issue showcased the fear of the unknown with the X-Men, and the third issue, featuring Galactus, was about powerlessness. The creators did not state the underlying theme of the final issue in the series. When the series was completed, a fifth ‘issue 0’ was printed, which included Alex Ross art and sketches and a reprinted Human Torch story from ‘Marvel Fanfare,’ featuring the Golden Age version’s thoughts during his creation.read more »
The Red Tornado is a fictional character, a superhero in the DC Comics universe, debuting during the Golden Age of Comic Books. Created by Sheldon Mayer, she first appeared in her civilian identity as Abigail Mathilda ‘Ma’ Hunkel in All-American Publications’ ‘All-American Comics’ #3 (June 1939), and became the ‘Red Tornado’ in ‘All-American Comics’ #20 (Nov. 1940). As the Red Tornado, she was one of the first superhero parodies, as well as one of the first female superheroes (possibly the very first), and, when occasionally disguised as a man, comics’ first cross-dressing heroine. (Madame Fatal, earlier that year, was the first cross-dressing hero.) Initially as simply ‘Ma Hunkel,’ the Golden Age Red Tornado originated in Sheldon Meyer’s semi-autobiographical humor feature ‘Scribbly,’ about a boy cartoonist, in ‘All-American Comics.’ The feature ran through ‘All-American Comics’ #59, in 1944, the year DC Comics absorbed All-American Publications.
In the original comics in the 1940s, Ma Hunkel is a working mother whose costume consists of longjohns and a cooking pot on her head. She adopts the identity of the Red Tornado to fight local criminals in her New York City neighborhood, inspired by her son’s admiration for the superhero Green Lantern. The character’s popularity was such that she was given a cameo in the first adventure of the ‘Justice Society of America’ (predecessor to the Justice League of America), visiting the JSA’s headquarters but being forced by a humorous mishap, her pants split, to leave without having the chance to apply for membership. However, later Justice Society stories have declared Ma to be an honorary member of the team.read more »
Not Brand Echh was a satiric comic book series published by Marvel Comics that parodied its own superhero stories as well as those of other comics publishers. Running for 13 issues from 1967 to 1969, it included among its contributors such notable writers and artists as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Gene Colan, Bill Everett, John and Marie Severin, and Roy Thomas.
With issue #9, it became a 68-page, 25¢ ‘giant,’ relative to the typical 12¢ comics of the times. Its mascot, ‘Forbush Man,’ introduced in the first issue, was a superhero wannabe with no superpowers and a costume of red long johns emblazoned with the letter ‘F’ and a cooking pot, with eye-holes, covering his never-revealed head. His secret identity was eventually revealed in issue #5 (Dec. 1967) as Irving Forbush, Marvel’s fictitious office gofer.read more »
Flaming Carrot Comics is a comic book series by cartoonist Bob Burden. The title character first appeared in ‘Visions’ #1, a magazine published by the Atlanta Fantasy Fair in 1979. ‘Flaming Carrot’ can be seen as a parody of various aspects of the superhero genre (though his origin story is much the same as that of Don Quixote). ‘The Flaming Carrot’ origin states that ‘having read 5,000 comics in a single sitting to win a bet, this poor man suffered brain damage and appeared directly thereafter as — the Flaming Carrot!’ Carrot, who lives in Palookaville, a neighborhood of Iron City, has staved off at least three alien invasions, a Communist take over, flying dead dogs, the Man in the Moon, Death itself, and a cloned horde of evil marching Hitler’s boots. Possessing no real super powers, the Carrot wins the day through sheer grit, raw determination, blinding stupidity, and bizarre luck.
Flaming Carrot was also a founding member of the blue collar superhero group the ‘Mystery Men,’ which was the premise of a 1999 movie of the same name. The Carrot wears a giant carrot mask which extends from above his head to below his crotch, a white shirt, red pants, and flippers on his feet (in case he has to swim). The mask has a continually burning flame at the top and a secret compartment containing a nuclear powered pogo stick. He also wears a crime fighting utility belt filled with Silly Putty, rubber bands, random playing cards, sneezing powder, and other similarly useless items (which nonetheless can become lethal weapons in his hands). He also relies heavily on his 9mm Radom pistol to kill his enemies without hesitation. He is able to go into a self-induced state of ‘Zen Stupidity’ in order to face danger and evil boldly and without trepidation.
Introducing Kafka, also known as Kafka for Beginners, is a 1993 illustrated biography of Franz Kafka by David Zane Mairowitz and Robert Crumb. The book includes comic adaptations of some of Kafka’s most famous works including ‘The Metamorphosis,’ ‘A Hunger Artist,’ ‘In the Penal Colony,’ and ‘The Judgment,’ as well as brief sketches of his three novels ‘The Trial,’ ‘The Castle,’ and ‘Amerika.’
The book also details Kafka’s biography in a format that is part illustrated essay, part sequential comic panels. The book was released as part of the ‘Introducing…’ series by Totem Books which also features a volume each on Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Reich. The popularity of Crumb’s renditions of Kafka’s works led to additional printings under the title ‘R. Crumb’s Kafka.’
The Adventures of Tintin: Breaking Free is an anarchist parody of the popular Tintin series of comics. An exercise in detournement (turning expressions of the capitalist system and its media culture against itself), the book was written under the pseudonym J. Daniels and published by Attack International in 1988. It has recently been re-printed by anarchist publishers Freedom Press which includes for the first time Tintin’s earlier adventures during the Wapping dispute as told in ‘The Scum,’ a 1986 pamphlet which was produced in solidarity with the printworkers.
The story features a number of characters based on those from the original series by Hergé, notably Tintin himself and Captain Haddock (referred to only as ‘the Captain’ and depicted here as being Tintin’s uncle), but not the original themes or plot. Snowy is featured on the cover – being especially visible on the first edition’s cover – but not in the narrative. The story tracks Tintin’s development from a disaffected, shoplifting youth to a revolutionary leader.read more »
Y: The Last Man is a dystopian science fiction comic book series by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra published by Vertigo (a DC subsidiary) beginning in 2002. The series is about the only man to survive the apparent simultaneous death of every male mammal (barring the same man’s pet monkey) on Earth. The premise is noticeably similar to ‘Consider Her Ways,’ a 1964 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents where the world adopts a matriarchal society after a disease kills every man on Earth.
The source of the plague that wiped out every living mammal with a Y chromosome except the protagonist is never fully explained. A number of possible explanations are provided throughout the course of the series, but a definitive answer is left for the reader to decide. Discussing the cause of the plague, Vaughan is quoted as saying: ‘I feel that there is a definitive explanation, but I like that people don’t necessarily know what it is. In interviews we always said that we would tell people exactly what caused the plague. The thing was, we never said when we were going to tell. We weren’t going to tell you when we were telling you, I should say. We might have told you in issue #3. There might have been something in the background that only a couple people caught. It might have been Dr. Mann’s father’s very detailed, scientific explanation. It might have been Alter’s off-the-wall conspiracy theory. The real answer is somewhere in those 60 issues, but I prefer to let the reader decide which one they like rather than pushing it on them.’