August 5, 2016

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Weekend Pattering for August 5th, 2016-- Vootie!!!



** Pearls Before Swine Strip Pulled for ISIS Reference (CBLDF)-- CBLDF's Betsy Gomez covers the strip of Pearls Before Swine that was pulled from newspaper comic pages on July 27th.  Shown here is only the setup for the strip.  Click on the link for the punch line.  I think it's a fairly innocent strip and don't really see anything that controversial about it unless you believe that the U.S. government really isn't monitoring all communications references to I-S-I-S (dashes thrown in to try to throw off the NSA's search algorithms.)
As private entities, newspaper editorial staff are certainly within their rights to make decisions about the content they run in their papers. However, the removal of the strip raises concerns over self-censorship. Further, removal of a cartoon as relatively inoffensive at Pastis’s buys into the fear that terrorists like those who attacked Charlie Hebdoand other cartoonists around the world are trying to instill in the populace. The answer to such fear isn’t to remove a cartoon, but to support the free expression of those who would question the terrorists’ actions and the authorities that overreact to terrorist attacks by stepping on fundamental freedoms.


** “Star Wars Poisoned My Career” – Howard Chaykin Speaks Out (Bleeding Cool)-- I'll always link to interviews with Howard Chaykin.  I can't tell how much of his self-deprecation he actually believes and how much of it is an act.  To me, he's one of the top creators of all times but I guess I understand how much I was in the right place at the right time to grab a copy of American Flagg! to change forever what I think of comics.
I think there is a fear that if you acknowledge your influences, where you’ve come from, you diminish your own worth as an artist. It’s a false fear and can represent some kind of narcissism that is personally off-putting to me. I’ve always said that, when I go, I’ll get two weeks of good ink then they’ll be pissing on my grave. Nowadays, that’s more likely to be one week and then, ‘Howard? Howard who?’ Of course, the comic book community seems to be getting smaller and smaller every day. I’ve spent years and years trying to tell the readers that it’s the talent that’s the brand, not the product, as the companies would want you to believe. It’s a battle I think I’ve lost.


** A Reading List of International Nonfiction Comics (Longreads)-- Some great comics listed here even if I think the headline is a bit misleading.  I would have figured that this was a collection of international cartoonists but it's more of a look at books with international focuses.

Comic books bridge continents. Superman spin-offs are a hit in China; Japanese manga trickled into American culture through Frank Miller’s Ronin and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Adventures of Tintin was translated from French into more than 50 languages. Alongside the superhero franchises and funny pages, a thriving genre of nonfiction comics has created new audiences and new appreciation for everything from war reporting to memoir.


** This Cartoon Captures All You Need To Know About Trump And Clinton In 2016 (The Huffington Post)-- Want to know the difference between the recent Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention?  Joe Heller perfectly sums it up in this one cartoon. Again, click on the link to see the full cartoon.



** Here's two comics from The Nib that you need to read:



** So thanks to the latest issue of DC's Future Quest which featured Birdman story drawn by Steve Rude (which I reviewed at Newsarama),  I decided to start rereading Mike Baron and Rude's Nexus, starting at the first issue they put out from Capital Comics back when they were around and publishing comics. The comics may be 35 years old but these are really, really good comics.  Too often when I go back to reread comics that were my favorites as a kid, they're still good but in that rose-colored nostalgia way that you can see past their flaws or their datedness.  But unlike a lot of those, in 2016 Nexus is a strong comic that's one of the hidden superhero gems.

Baron and Rude's storytelling is remarkably lean and tight.  In the age of Claremont and Wolfman, Baron's writing is a more mature and deft version of their styles.  The moral quandary of Nexus, a galactic executioner who is driven by his dreams to kill the mass killers of his age, provides the basis for some great narrative exploration and then Baron adds in a huge swath of characters who come in and out of Nexus' life.  As we see Nexus through all of these character's eyes, the image of the man and of his world creates this larger-than-life tapestry that you can get lost in.

Rude is a master artist and should be hailed as such.  In the 1980s, he was doing a lot of what artists like Chris Samnee, Tonci Zonjic, and Evan Shaner are doing today.  His use of line, light, and shadow remain as revolutionary now as it was then.  But his revolution was actually a synthesis of a number of artists.  Rude has never shied away from his influences of Alex Toth, Andrew Loomis, and Jack Kirby.  And as today's artists are citing Rude as their influences, his artwork in Nexus feels as new and ahead of the curve today as it did in 1983.

In many ways, the success of Nexus was the worst thing that could have happened to it.  The first 50 issues are some of the best superhero comics ever produced but after Nexus #50, Steve Rude practically disappeared from the book as he went off to do other stuff.  Of course, their publisher (First Comics) imploding was a disaster for them and so many other creators as the ownership rights to Nexus got tangled up in a legal mess.

The 1990s weren't kind to Baron or Rude either.  When you look at the early, popular Image Comics, Nexus was antithetical to everything that those comics were about narratively and aesthetically.  The combined hits from the late 1980s and 1990s have been blows that Baron and Rude have never really recovered from.  Over the last 20 years, there has been a handful attempts at restarting Nexus, including most recently as an oversized, broadsheet comic that's currently being self-published by Rude but they still haven't quite rediscovered the creative alchemy that they once enjoyed and that their readers marvelled at.  

Dark Horse has been reprinting Nexus in their digest omnibus editions but if you can, either track down the hardcover Nexus Archives or, better yet, track down the first 55 issues plus the Next Nexus miniseries that First Comics published.