Tagged: Maus

John Ostrander: Think Of The Children!


Doctor Who, the long-running BBC TV series about a humanoid alien transversing through time and space with his companions, has wound up its current season, its tenth since it’s return following a long hiatus. The current actor playing the part, Peter Capaldi, is the fourth actor (or the fifth depending how you number it) since the show returned or the twelfth or thirteenth since the show’s inception. The numbering differential is a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey thing.

The show has sparked a discussion among the fans lately because, well, that’s what fans do, especially of a cult science-fiction show such as this one. There’s great passion and great heat as usual with these things along with the absolute conviction of one side that they are right and that those on the other side are wrong. It doesn’t matter which side of a debate you’re on, the other guy is wrong. There’s a lot of passion and maybe some thought and that’s what happens with a fan disagreement.

The current issue under debate is that Doctor Who began as a children’s show back in 1963 and it should always be a children’s show. The position of some is that the current monsters are often too scary for children, the continuity has become too complex for children, the relationships are inappropriate for children.

There’s some truth to all this, and there’s a lot of bullshit as well. The current show-runner, Stephen Moffat, also writes a number of the episodes and his fingerprints are usually all over the ones he doesn’t write. I started out as a big fan of Moffat, especially in the seasons before he became the show’s producer. At his best, Moffat writes very clever episodes with great heart. At his worst, Moffat is just being clever. I’m less impressed with those episodes than he seems to be.

Are the Doctor Who monsters too scary for children? The show has always scared children. Part of its initial burst of popularity, indeed its initial survival, rested on the Daleks, a group of alien cyborgs. They’ve been described as deranged pepper shakers, bent on conquest and the death of any species inferior to themselves which they consider all other races to be. They’re catch phrase is “Exterminate!” They scared the bejabbers out of British tykes since their first appearance. I’ve read reminiscences of Brits saying they watched the show from behind the couch or through their fingers. The world can be a scary place and all children know this. Being afraid and then seeing the monsters defeated is, I think, very healthy. Many of the classic fairy tales do this. Scaring the little bastards is a good idea. It’s part of growing up.

Should Doctor Who have remained a children’s show? I’ve worked for a long time in a medium (comics) that was considered the bastard child of children’s lit. It was off in a ghetto of its own despite the fact that elsewhere in the world, the comics medium wasn’t considered to be only for children. I’ve never considered my work to be primarily for children and, in fact, have several times steered a parent away from my work. We’ve since broken out of that artistic straightjacket with works of art such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus showing what the medium is capable of being.

That said – there haven’t been enough comics for children any more. The medium has catered to the fan and the cult without paying attention to where the next generation of readers are going to come from. That’s short-sighted. Given the multiple versions of the characters that exist, the two major publishers – DC and Marvel – should publish versions of their main characters to attract the young reader. As the kids grow into adults, you could introduce them to the more grown-up editions of the characters. That’s investing in their own characters and the future of the medium.

The question for the comics – and Doctor Who – is not just what they are but what they can be.

Emily S. Whitten: Labyrinth of Lies Confronts Harsh Truths


Last week I went with my friend to a screening of Germany’s entry for the foreign-language film Oscar, Labyrinth of Lies, hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and featuring a Q & A with director and co-writer Giulio Ricciarelli. The film and Q & A were excellent.

The film focuses on the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials, which took place in Germany almost twenty years after the end of World War II and the Holocaust, from 1963-65. These trials followed the Nuremberg trials held by the Allied forces in Germany, and the resulting “first Auschwitz trial” in Poland. The first Auschwitz trial tried forty former staff of the Auschwitz concentration camps who were witnesses in the Nuremberg trials. The Frankfurt Auschwitz trials charged over twenty defendants under German criminal law for their roles as mid- and low-level officials at the Auschwitz concentration camps.

Labyrinth of Lies examines Germany during the run-up to and beginning of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials, as seen through the eyes of young public prosecutor Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling), who strives to bring the truth of what happened at the camps into the light, and secure justice against the perpetrators via the court system. It tracks his attempts to obtain support for his crusade against the backdrop of strong political and social opposition in West Germany, and in the face of ridicule and hostility from his fellow prosecutors. The film does an excellent job of evoking the atmosphere and culture of a post-war Germany with a flourishing economy and no desire to look back at harsh and horrific truths.

Radmann’s world, from his struggle to get any of his superiors to support his legal quest and any of the Holocaust survivors to trust and speak with him, through to his difficulties in facing the brutality of the Holocaust, its effects on him and his relationships personally, and the disillusionment with humanity that he must work through as a result, is a well-told and emotionally gripping story. It is also one we are drawn into as we share in his amazement and outrage at watching a Germany that is seemingly wrapped in collective amnesia regarding what its citizens chose to do less than twenty years before, and at former SS members who have, with apparently no difficulty, slipped back into civilian life exactly as they left off. (As one associate explains, “The public sector is full of Nazis. And none of them has anything to worry about.”)

The story of Simon Kirsch, a survivor of Auschwitz who at first refuses to discuss his experience at all, is also riveting and powerfully portrayed. Kirsch’s tale and his revelation of it is a pivotal point in the movie; for after Radmann and journalist Thomas Gnielka find evidence in Kirsch’s apartment that they can use to build a case against the eventual defendants, they are able to convince Kirsch as well as many other Holocaust survivors to give testimony about their experiences. However, they have great difficulty in getting to that point, since Kirsch is gripped in a maelstrom of emotions in the aftermath of his time in the camps, including tremendous anger, sadness, and guilt at surviving so many who lost their lives. Forcing him to face the awful memories he lives with seems cruel, yet Radmann and Gnielka rightly observe that these secrets must be brought into the light before anyone can begin to heal. Opening the floodgates, however, also results in Radmann and others being forced to face horrors worse than any of them realized as the parade of survivors tell their wrenching tales of the camps.

Having read a fair amount about the Holocaust over the years, I was familiar with the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials. However, what I was completely unfamiliar with, and what Ricciarelli, his co-writer Elisabeth Bartel, and the cast of Labyrinth of Lies portray so well was the culture of Germany in the late fifties and early sixties when the trials took place. While these days familiarity with at the very least the Nuremberg trials of 1945-46 leads one to think that after the war, everyone was made aware of the horrific crimes against humanity perpetrated against the Jews and others sent to the concentration camps, the film shows that in fact, at the time of the Frankfurt trials, older Germans refused to speak of the atrocities of the war, practicing silence to willful ignorance when the subject arose; and younger Germans, raised in this atmosphere of grim and institutionalized silence, were either ignorant or unsure of the full truth of what had occurred.

The film is a fascinating examination of the principle that what we choose to remember shapes the world, and highlights that the German culture of denial at that time was poisonous to attempts to move forward, and also allowed criminals such as Josef Mengele to cavalierly elude capture, sometimes for decades.

Labyrith of Lies is an exceedingly well-researched and intelligent film; and one that manages to weave the elements of a courtroom drama, fresh revelations about a much-studied period in history, the emotional and personal journey of an admirable protagonist, and the inherent complexities and contradictions of humanity that are so ruthlessly highlighted by the events of the Holocaust into a cohesive and arresting story. In showing Radmann’s struggle to confront the absolute incomprehensible atrocity of the Holocaust, and his determination that in the face of so much wrong the only remedy is to do what’s right, the film conveys a vital message, and manages to do so in a way that is fascinating and uncontrived.

Interestingly, the film also reminds me of the well-known graphic novel Maus (which ComicMix has featured before), another well-executed true story of the Holocaust, written and drawn by Art Spiegelman. The film’s Radmann and Kirsch in many ways mirror Maus’s Art and Vladek Spiegelman, with the younger protagonists struggling to comprehend and live with the true stories they are encountering, of a humanity so contradictory and an atrocity so monumental as to be unfathomable.

The struggle Art Spiegelman goes through is particularly evident at the beginning of Maus II, as he tries to determine how to approach Auschwitz in graphic novel form, and belittles himself for thinking he could distill the impact of his father’s stories into something that would fit in a mere novel. This struggle with the enormity of such a task is echoed in Labyrinth of Lies, when Radmann moves from trying to locate just a few former Auschwitz staff members to ordering every phone book in Germany because he has realized that these criminals could literally be anywhere, and is shown almost comically in the delivery of an entire truck of the books, which evoke the literal feeling of being overwhelmed with information and not knowing where to start or how to approach the problem.

Another shared thread is the struggle of the survivors to face their experiences, as shown in Simon Kirsch’s possession of a suitcase full of papers he grabbed on the way out of Auschwitz, which he has never examined. Similarly, Vladek Spiegelman, although he does retain a box of photographs of family members, is shown to have destroyed all of his deceased wife’s journals recounting her Auschwitz experience, seemingly without having read them.

Both Labyrinth of Lies and Maus are amazingly well-executed and moving tales, in turns engaging and horrifying, of the Holocaust and those attempting to deal with its aftermath. I highly recommend Labyrinth of Lies, and, if you haven’t yet read Maus, it as well.

And until next time, I hope you Servo Lectio.

Tweeks: Banning Maus is Ignoring History #ChallengedChallenge Week 8

We made it to Week 8! Yay!

For our final Challenged Challenge book, we discuss Maus by Art Spiegelman. This Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel is written about the author’s father’s experiences in a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust. Obviously, the subject matter is brutal and is aimed at those who are mature enough to handle to content. We think that by middle school, kids have already been assigned The Diary of Anne Frank and have a basic knowledge of World War 2, so this would just be an additional resource. The Holocaust is an important piece of history that we all need to learn more about and this personal account and where each group is depicted as a different animal (Jews are mice, Nazis are cats, etc) really helps you wrap your mind around things.

Even though most people find this book to be of great value, some others have been concerned that it’s not appropriate for younger readers, and then someone else wanted it off the library shelves because it was anti-ethnic. This is why we read it. So, thanks for that, Banners. But seriously, they are way misguided.

If you are afraid the subject matter is too depressing, we also give you a couple things that made it enjoyable for us along with a bunch of other reasons why this is an important work that shouldn’t be restricted.

Martha Thomases: Stupid People and Irresistible Knowledge


Banning books is stupid.

I mean, you probably already oppose book banning. It violates the First Amendment. But I’m not talking about the law or morality. I’m talking about the stupid.

All summer, ComicMix and The Tweeks will be urging kids and parents to read graphic novels that are being banned from school libraries.

Here is my experience with being a kid and reading a banned book. I was in the fifth grade, ten years old, and my mom saw a feature on The Today Show about kids who were so smart that they read books written for adults, like John Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage and To Kill a Mockingbird. Not to be outdone by any other mother in the world, she promptly went to the Youngstown, Ohio public library and took both books out for me to read.

I chose to read the novel. It was shorter, and it had a story.

At that time, we were allowed to bring our own books to school to read in free periods, if we finished our work. So I did. When my teacher, Miss Jones, saw what I was reading, she sent me home.

That event changed my life. My parents were so angry that they took me out of public school and sent me to the only non-parochial private school in town. From there, it was a short step to boarding school, an elitist liberal college, and a northeastern urban ivory tower existence.

Here’s the thing: I had no idea what Miss Jones was so upset about. The book was, in fact, a little bit advanced for me and I missed out on a lot of the main plot points, the racial themes, the attempted rape. When someone asked me what it was about, I said, “It’s about a girl who dresses up like a ham, and also there are Negroes.”

(In the early 1960s, that was the polite term.)

Banning a book makes it irresistible to a kid, especially a teenager. There were only a few things that could make me want to read something in high school:

1) The author was attractive

2) Cool people were reading it

3) Someone told me I couldn’t.

Those first two, actually, might still be part of my criteria. It certainly explains my devotion to Will Self.

Because they had been banned, I read books by Henry Miller, which I loved, and by Charles Bukowski, which I didn’t like much. I read radical books about women’s bodies and how they work. I read comics with character that not only didn’t have capes, but often didn’t have any clothes.

Parents who support book banning in school libraries say they are protecting their children from ideas with which they disagree. They think that, if their children don’t read those books, they won’t stray from their parents’ moral compass.

It doesn’t really work like that. Maybe those parents will get a few months of peace and quiet, but not much more.

My parents, civil libertarians that they were, didn’t stop me from reading what I wanted to read. I mean, they weren’t going to go out and get me hard-core porn or vivid depictions of slaughter (other than what was on the news every night), but they didn’t mind if I read things they didn’t like. We talked about it. That’s what the dinner table was for, talking about those things. That’s what we did on long car rides (besides playing “I Spy”). And while I don’t agree with everything my parents believed (nor did they necessarily agree with each other), I didn’t stray very far, and I respect those differences.

Even better, I know how to form an opinion myself.

There are some books on the list of banned graphic novels that might not be appropriate for every child to read, and parents should be responsible for protecting their children from those books. For example, I think that a five-year old would not grasp Maus, and might be upset by it.

You know what I would do if that happened? I would take the book away from him. I would tell him he could read it when he was older.

I wouldn’t stop anyone else from reading it. Nobody should.


Tweeks: ComicMix’s Challenged Comics Summer Reading Challenge

It is officially summer for us! Yay!  So, we thought this would be the perfect time to tell you about our summer reading plans.  In this week’s episode, we tell you about the CBLDF and announce our Challenged Graphic Novel Reading Challenge.  Our hope is that kids and parents (and everyone else) will read along with us.  Because you seriously can’t question that book be suitable for library shelves if you haven’t read it, right?

CMCC Picture

This summer we will be reading 8 graphic novels that have been challenged or banned in school libraries and then every week we will discuss one of the titles.  We’ll talk about why it was challenged, how to best talk about the questioned topics or themes in the book with your kids.  We’ll also tell you from a kid’s perspective how we viewed the appropriateness of the books for us, because sometimes adults forget what they could handle and understand when they were our age.

We also hope that you will support everyone’s right to choose what they want to read by doing some sleuthing in your local or school library.  Take a look at our reading list and see which of the books are available for you to check out.  You can post your findings in Social Media like Facebook and Twitter (@ComicMix and @The_Tweeks) with #InTheStacks and/or #ComicMixChallengedChallenge, hopefully generating further discussion. We also think you should check out the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s site.  We talk more about them in the episode.

So, get to reading!  Our discussion schedule is:

7/13 Bone, Vol 1: Out From Boneville by Jeff Smith
7/20 Drama by Raina Telgemeier
7/27 This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki
8/3 The Graveyard Book Vol 1 (the graphic novel) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
8/10 The Color of Earth Book 1 by Kim Dong Hwa
8/17 Sidescrollers by Matthew Loux
8/24 Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
8/31 Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman

Marc Alan Fishman: “Why Are You Here? No Math!”

That li’l headline quote came courtesy of the fine gentleman who sat across the aisle from me at my orientation survey in art school. The line got him a ton of applause from the student body. It made me sad.

So, why the anecdote today? Well, it’s ‘cause I’ve got math on the brain. Math, not meth. Meth is next week. At the Indy Pop Con last weekend, amidst a crowd that could best be described as ther, and ready to spend absolutely nothing, Unshaven Comics made strides in becoming better friends with another staple to the artist alleyways we’ve been haunting in recent past. Jim McClain and his Solution Squad comic have been making their way from Jim’s middle-school math problem solving class to the hallowed hallways and conventions since April, 2013. As Jim was so nice as to gift us with his extra badge (because the fine folks at Pop Con seemed to misplace the money we so nicely spent on the extra badge for our third member), I returned the favor by staffing his booth during his panel.

It brought me back to the genesis of Unshaven Comics. Our first jaunt into the indie scene was an “Edu-Tainment” piece entitled The March: Crossing Bridges in America. Selling it at our very first Wizard show felt like arm wrestling Superman after having the flu. Trying to sell something rooted in education to an audience hungry for mutants, gore, sex, and zombies makes for a hard sale nearly every time. And as I sat at the Solution Squad booth with passersby glancing long enough to read Math and immediately look elsewhere… it was a veritable time warp to five years ago. That is, until the pitch found my one and only sale for the hour.

A gentleman stopped by the table. With no quizzical look denoting he was lost, I was aghast. “Can I tell you about The Solution Squad?” I beamed. He nodded quickly. I pitched the book – a team action-adventure story that also happens to teach you something by issue’s end – and he plunked down his money without question. “I’m a teacher,” he said with a knowing grin. He went on to tell me that while he himself was a social studies teacher, he recognized that the book would be a great find to bring back to his school. Soon thereafter, Jim returned from his panel reenergized by his attendees, and I took myself back to the land of immortal kung-fu monkeys and zombie cyborg pirates in space.

And here I sit, days later, with math still on my mind. Jim recognizes that he more than almost anyone else in the alley, is at a critical disadvantage in distribution. Indie publishers have a hard enough time selling their wares amidst the competition. Adding in a niche audience of middle-school math students is akin to selling Wolverine to season ticket holders at the opera. But in that fact comes the inspiration and beauty of both Mr. McClain’s mission and the state of our independent scene. The fact that the Solution Squad exists is tribute to the ideology that comics can be a positive tool for education, so much so that Jim himself uses the book – which meets both Indiana state educational standards as well as the nefarious Common Core we all resent on Facebook – to start lessons in his classroom. He recognizes that from his comic he can capture the attention of the ADD-riddled post-millennial generation born into social media and smartphones. Better still, Jim recognizes he (alongside the Reading With Pictures crew) is knocking at the door to a real revolution.

Comics help break down the barriers to entry for students. Perhaps long associated with kitsch more than anything else though, it’s taken decades of amazing works hitting the shelves for the public at large to exit the caves when it comes to adoption and acceptance. But for every “I learned to read with comics!” retort I’d been privy to from the passing trolls at Wal-Mart, so too comes a “Maus and A Contract With God moved me to tears” from synagogue members when I was 13.

Gentlemen like Jim McClain recognize this fact and makes strides from the trenches to locate those educators roaming the convention floor in hopes of snagging his clientele from the bottom up. All while targeting administrative contacts with partnerships for webcomic distribution and shared lesson plans for a top-down approach. In other words, leave it to a teacher to school a guy like me in proper networking and audience building.

Beyond the semantics though, the fact that our indie scene, complete with digital distribution channels and our one-off printing models build to the greater good. Never before in our industry was it so easy for a person with a plan (and a ton of work) to transition to a person with a product. With each passing year, our economy and market will continue to divide and shrink. While great denominators like blockbuster movies and professional sports will still dominate the consumers’ GDP… niche market leaders will find viable business in wholly segmented markets. In layman’s terms: there’s an audience for literally everything being made today – it’s just a matter of finding it. In the mean time, it’s all about rolling up those sleeves, and sinking money, time, and love into being that lone math teacher next to the anime-sexpot-hack-gore print seller.

Sure Unshaven Comics may leave a convention loads lighter than Jim perhaps… but we know that at the end of the day The Samurnauts will linger as a passing love; the Solution Squad may lead the next generation to solve the great equations of life itself.

And that kiddos… is one lesson that adds up to me.

For more information on the Solution Squad, including purchase information for classrooms, simply visit www.solutionsquad.net.


John Ostrander: Realistic Fantasy

Ostrander Art 130922I’ve often maintained that the best fantasies are ones that have one foot firmly set in reality. We need something to which we can relate. We are asked to enter into a “willing suspension of disbelief,” as coined by the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. However impossible or implausible in reality an event in literature is, we accept it. Quite simply, we’re being told a story and we concede reality to get on with the story – up to a point.

When Superman first appeared in 1938 he was a fantastic character but, in those early stories, he fought real-life villains and situations – slums, gangsters, crooked politicians, corrupt cops and so on. The United States, like most of the world, was still deep in the Great Depression. World War II was looming. For so many people, the reality was that the banks had failed them, the courts had failed them, the police failed them, the system had failed them. With Superman, the Little Guy had a hero who worked outside that corrupt and broken system, working for them, working to achieve justice. Superman was originally very anti-establishment and that may have been his greatest power.

Then came the War and Superman was co-opted, along with the other heroes, to fight the Axis, to bring down the Nazis. Reasons had to be given why he didn’t just fly to Berlin and take down Hitler. That was the reality of the situation and the fantasy was having a harder time fitting in.

After the War, Superman became fully co-opted by the Establishment. His biggest concern was his girl friend, Lois Lane, learning his secret identity.

Marvel came along in the 60s and introduced a psychological realism – the heroes had neuroses, psychological problems, issues that they needed to work out. Spider-Man was the poster boy for the neurotic new hero and it resonated. After all, to put on a mask and go out to fight crime, you had to be a bit crazy. Peter Parker had money troubles, work troubles, girl troubles; he was bullied in high school and it was all compounded by his choice to be Spider-Man. However, he couldn’t stop. He was driven by the death of his Uncle Ben for which he held himself partially responsible. Great fantasy, solid reality.

The reality became more of a soap opera as time went on. What was once fresh became cliché. Like Mickey Mouse (oddly enough, since The Mouse now owns Marvel), Spider-Man went from being a character to being a franchise to being a product and a corporate symbol.

Marvel’s New Universe wandered in at some point and one of its claims was a new realism. One of the boasts was that, when their heroes or villains lifted up a building, you could see broken plumbing underneath. I ask for a little more reality than that and the line eventually folded.

Milestone Comics came in and it had a solid dose of reality, setting their heroes in the African-American community and reflecting that truth. One of my favorite books was the Blood Syndicate; one of the tags for it was “They’re not a team. . . they’re a gang.” That was different and reflected a new reality. Sadly, Milestone didn’t last long enough to get old.

DC has re-launched itself with the New 52 and Marvel has Marvel Now but both, to my taste, veer still more towards fantasy and soap opera. The storylines have gotten more convoluted and event driven.

And then there’s Art Spiegelman’s Maus – the classic hat adroitly combines both fantasy and reality. By using mice as Jews in Germany during World War II, Spiegelman heightened the reality and made what might have been unbearable to look at very readable and very compelling.

After 9/11, the comics industry spoke to the tragedy. More than one person wished that Superman had been real that day. Then maybe he could have prevented the planes from crashing into the World Trade Center. None of the books that came out of that horror, to their credit, tried to do that but, at the same time, they were one shots. There was no lasting effect in the books unlike New York City and our national psyche. Failing to do that made them all a little impotent. The Punisher continued to hunt and kill gangsters; wouldn’t it have been more realistic to have him go after terrorists at home and abroad?

Take a look at the real world around you. How much of it is reflected in your comics? What drove Superman in his earliest incarnations – a hero outside the system, working for justice that the Little Man can’t get – is as or more prevalent today as it was 75 years ago. Look at the news – is any of that reflected in the comics you read? How would a hero deal with terrorists? What if a superhero was a member of al-Quaeda? How can we pit our angels against our demons in such a way as would, as Shakespeare put it, “hold a mirror up to nature”.

I enjoy comics; I enjoy reading them and I enjoy writing them. I do. They can be good entertainment. They could also be more. They could stand, I think, a little more reality.

Or maybe that’s just me.




Martha Thomases: Comics… and How Science Works

Thomases Art 130823There was a time when it was assumed that people who read comics were not very smart. They couldn’t understand a book without pictures, despite the opinion of Lewis Carroll, as expressed by Alice. This opinion began to lose ground in the 1970s, and by the 1980s, when Art Spiegelman published Maus, some people began to think that comics were for people who were too smart.

During my time at DC, I saw a parallel development among schoolteachers and librarians. When we first start displaying our wares at book shows, we initially faced skepticism. As comics stories like “The Death of Superman” made the news, and more serious work, like Sandman, got reviewed in mainstream media, these professionals began to understand how graphic story could get students and library patrons excited about reading.

For the most part, comics have played only minor roles in classrooms. The excellent For Beginners series has covered about a bazillion topics. This September, NBM gets into the act with an American edition of a Dutch book, Science: A Discovery in Comics by Margreet de Heer. It is available in paper and pixel.

I could use a book that would explain science for the not-so-smart types I described above in the first paragraph. I’m terrible at memorizing the periodic tables, and if I start to think about time and how to define it, I get dizzy. Alas, this book does not fix my head.

It does something better.

deHeer traces the history of science from the ancient Egyptians to Richard Dawkins and beyond. She covers all the sciences: biology, geology, physics, astronomy, chemistry and so on. She describes scientific inquiry from the time that science was as hunch-based as religion (when it was assumed there were four elements, and the earth was the center of the universe) until now. Not only does she cite the times when scientists proved each other right, but also the times when they proved each other wrong.

She does this with charming drawings, with two characters who walk through the millennia, and interact not just with historical science, but with the people affected by their discoveries. It deftly shows that there is more to history than a list of kings and battles.

A lot of fundamentalist types, especially creationists, like to point at the errors other scientists have found in the work of Darwin, and claim that since his original theory of evolution was flawed, that means God created the world in six days a few thousand years ago. That’s not how science works. Real scientists never take “Yes” for an answer. They always seek to disprove an old theory, or prove a new one. When science proves something is false, it is as much a vindication for the scientific method as proving something is true.

If you have a curious kid in your household, you could do worse than get her this book. Even if that kid is 60 years old.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


“Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes” wins Costa Book Awards biography of 2012

Dotter of her Father's EyesMary and Bryan Talbot’s Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes has won the Costa Book Awards biography of the year. They won the £5,000 biography prize for a book that interweaves the true and tragic story of James Joyce’s daughter Lucia with Mary’s own troubled relationship with her father, the eminent Joycean scholar James S. Atherton.

The Talbots have known of the win for several weeks. “It has been really hard keeping quiet about it,” said Mary. “We were astonished. Just being shortlisted was amazing and hearing we’d won the category was stunning. We’re delighted of course, both personally – it’s the first story I’ve had published – but also for the medium, I can’t believe a graphic novel has won.”

It is not the first graphic work to win a major literary prize – Art Spiegelman’s Maus won a Pulitzer in 1992 and Chris Ware won the Guardian first book prize in 2001 for Jimmy Corrigan: the Smartest Kid on Earth – but the Costa award is still a significant moment for the graphic medium.

“It is a good thing for graphic novels as a whole,” said Bryan Talbot whose prodigious output includes The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and Alice in Sunderland as well as strips for Judge Dredd and Batman. “Graphic novels are becoming increasingly accepted as a legitimate art form.”

The last graphic novel spike came about 25 years ago with the popularity of books such as The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen and Maus. The problem then, said Talbot, was that there were not enough books to feed this. “By the time you’d read a dozen or so of the best titles, there wasn’t enough left to keep this nascent interest going. Since then, there has been an increasing number of graphic novels published and now we have this whole canon of quality work.

“We are living in the golden age of graphic novels. There are more and better comics being drawn today than ever in the history of the medium and there’s such a range of styles of artwork, of genre and of subject matter.”

Judges called Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes “a beautifully crafted” work “which crosses the boundaries between literature and the graphic genre with extraordinary effect”.

via Costa awards 2012: graphic biography wins category prize | Books | The Guardian.

Congratulations to Mary and Bryan!

Michael Davis: Does The Comics Industry Have A Soul?

Spoken to the intro of The Adventures Of Superman

Faster than a speeding police pursuit! More powerful than a community organizer! Able to leap tall GOP bullshit in a single bound!

Look, up in the White House! It’s an African! It’s a Muslim! It’s Black-Man!

Yes, it’s Black-Man! Strange visitor not from Hawaii but Kenya if you believe Fox News, who came to Washington with promise and abilities far above those of Herman Cain.


Who can change the discourse of any discussion; kill Grandma with his bare hands! And who, disguised as a Socialist, mild mannered President for the 99% leads a never-ending battle for truth, justice all to prove he’s an American and deny he’s gay!

Yes! This column is about comics.

Unless I’ve missed my deadline, today is Election Day. Since I’m on the west coast and my column goes up in the afternoon east coast time the polls should be closing within a few hours.

So in a matter of hours we will either have a new President or Wednesday morning we will wake to a Donald Trump news conference where he demands Obama prove he did not kidnap and kill the Lindbergh baby.

Absolutely, I’m an Obama supporter but no, this article is not about why I hate Romney and I’m voting again for Obama. Yes, I worked hard to get that last sentence in. That said, this article is about the comics industry and who or what we are or we are not.

Remember four years ago the zillion comic books featuring Obama? There were books just about him or about his wife or kids or books where he was hanging out with everyone from Spider-Man to the Savage Dragon.

Remember that super bad ass Alex Ross painting and tee shirt?

Love him or hate him, the comic book community overwhelmingly backed Obama. I came late to the party, having been a Clinton supporter, but eventually I was taken in by the Obama enthusiasm within the industry.

It was something palpable about the industry support for Obama. As an example, the San Diego Comic Con the summer before the election was brimming with Obama fever and those Alex Ross tee shirts were everywhere.

At my annual SDCC party, Samuel L. Jackson almost jacked Art Tebbel of MDW Pop Art fame for his Alex Ross Obama shirt. Yeah, that Sam Jackson and that Art Tebbel.

It seemed everyone in comics was on the Obama love train during the last election but four years later that train has long left the station. Yes, I’m fully aware that everyone in the industry does not back Obama; people I like and respect (Batton Lash and Billy Tucci high among those people) differ greatly with Obama, which is their right.

I don’t want to give the impression that everyone in the industry was an Obama fan, they were not. To me however, it sure seemed the majority of the comic book world was firmly in Obama’s corner.

Whatever Obama Kool-Aid the country was drinking last time is gone. The wave of freshness and optimism, now, as compared to the last election, is laughable.

The comic industry portrayed Obama as a superhero now his opponents portray him as a Muslim (as if that’s evil) who is not even really a citizen. The industry that was damn near universally behind him has shut up like a Ho whose pimp just caught her stealing money. The best thing that Ho can do is just shut up because nothing she’s says can help her but it could make things worse. The comic book realm deserted Obama like Alpo would abandon Michael Vick is he were their spokesman.

That got me thinking (the non existent peep this year about anything political after the craziness of the last election got me thinking, not the Ho) what, if anything, has ever seen that kind of comic book industry support?

Was the industry just getting on the band wagon to sell some books or was the Obama movement really something that energized the business and if so, are we a bunch of pussies that withdraw that support because it was only fun while it lasted?

Look, I’d be writing this column if Hillary won instead of Obama. If she generated the kind of support industry wide that Obama did, yes this piece would be about her. Would I be writing this if a Republican won and generated the excitement that Obama did?

Yes, but come on! What Republican (with the exception of Lincoln after he was capped in the head) ever generated that type of excitement?

Consequently, I’d really like to know, regarding comics, what kind of industry are we?

What, if anything, do we stand for?

What’s our purpose except selling superheroes with an occasional Road to Perdition and Maus thrown in to give us a reason to say at parties “Comics are far more than just silly superheroes. Have you seen Road to Perdition? Well, that’s from a comic book or more appropriately, an graphic novel!”

Are we political outside of what’s cool and fresh?

Do we pride ourselves on the artistic merits of the business?

I’m not talking about big name individuals who do all of the above, as evidenced by any Alan Moore interview or the occasional rant by Frank Miller putting something or someone in the industry on blast.

I’m talking about the comic book industry as an entity as a whole, are we anything more than collection of people who draw funny books?

Does, for lack of a better term, the comic book industry have any redeeming value?

Does the industry have a soul?

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Why Mike Gold Didn’t Cold-Cock Walter Simonson