Candorville: Thank God for Culture Clash


By Darrin Bell (Andrews McMeel)
ISBN: 978-0-7407-5442-5

Darrin Bell likes to keep busy. As well as this bright, breezy yet controversial strip, he works as an editorial cartoonist and storyboard artist even whilst crafting a second modern newspaper mainstay in the form of aspirational lifestyle comedy Rudy Park.

Bell – born January 27th 1975 – is black and Jewish and hails from Los Angeles, which probably accounts for his smooth handling of and fascination with issues of race, gender and social inequality, which form the backbone of his gently chiding, wittily observational cartoons.

After attending University of California, Berkeley and gaining a degree in Political science in 1999, Bell began freelancing for papers such as the Daily Californian, Los Angeles Times and other periodicals. In 2001 he created Rudy Park and in 2004 added a second string to his bow by re-imagining his old college paper strip Lemont Brown as a wily critique on modern times and mores.

This it does by confronting issues of bigotry, poverty, homelessness, biracialism and personal responsibility through incisive yet mellow humour all the while disguising the political sallies in the ongoing saga of a wishy-washy would-be writer, his wannabe gangsta childhood chum and traditionally go-getting (platonic) Latina best friend.

Daydreaming Lemont and short-tempered, ambitious, upwardly-mobile Susan Garcia are both blithely unaware that they are ideal romantic soulmates and many episodes follow their slow, innocent dance towards that eventual realisation…

Now nationally syndicated, Candorville has become a crucial part of the daily lives of millions of young Americans, offering commentary on existences just like theirs, mirroring their dreams and concerns whilst exploring mixed culture relationships in a land that supposedly embraces multicultural, multi-ethnic and many-gendered freedoms whilst refusing to acknowledge that not everybody is happy with that state of affairs and wants to turn back time to the good old conservative days…

Following Lemont’s Foreword ‘Why’ the strips unfold fully formed as the introverted, undiscovered wordsmith wryly observes constant evidence of casual and institutionalised ethnic prejudice in play all around him: moments of intolerance frequently exacerbated by his boyhood pal Clyde – AKA C-Dog – who fully embraces the flashy contemporary hoodlum image of black rappers – bling, shades, bad language and “kill the cops” t-shirts – whilst indulging in (extremely) petty crime…

Both Lemont and Clyde are products of broken homes, with fathers who abandoned them early and mothers who took up the slack. Lemont’s mother, however, put her boy through college and now exerts a demonic passive-aggressive hold on him that sours much of his self-indulgent, poetically angst-ridden life as the classic misunderstood, undiscovered writer…

She wants him to get a job and a girlfriend and is relentless in expressing her desires…

Lemont’s existence is made up of ghastly blind dates, hostile dads and disastrous pick-ups punctuated by a succession of crappy jobs to support his efforts to pen the Great American novel.

He is almost addicted now to the disillusionment of rejection letters and briefly-crippling bouts of self-doubt whenever Susan reads one of his stories and wears that “I don’t get-it” look…

Garcia wants him to succeed, but not as much as her, even though Susan’s rapid advancement at the Ad Agency is continually stymied by glass ceilings, an unscrupulous, penny-pinching boss and an assistant who constantly tries to sabotage and supplant her…

Clyde just wants to be rich and famous and scary, but secretly his heart’s not in it and actual violence is just beyond his nature…

Against that comfortably familiar backdrop, this first collection of strips (of six compendia thus far) allows Bell to lampoon and lambaste Consumerism, the shame of homelessness, the Bush Administration’s War on Terror, police treatment of minorities, Religion, the myth of Success, TV-manufactured paranoia, Capitalism, Sensitivity Training as a replacement for actual understanding of different ways of life, Globalism, Political Correctness and its detractors, the failures of the banking system, Fox News, exporting jobs overseas and childish aspirations as well as finding time and space to revel in the timeless traditional comedy themes of unrequited love, hypochondria, dating, parental approval and social status…

And day by day the dance goes on…

Smart, wry, sardonic and engagingly sarcastic, this conscience-tinged cartoon sitcom is a splendidly even-handed liberal riposte to the increasing Right-driven American political scene, but also offers heart-warming characters and an engaging, funny story thread for lovers of cartoon continuity.

Not all dissent is strident and not all resistance is futile…
Candorville © 2005 Darrin Bell. All rights reserved.

Growing Up in the New World Order – a Storybook for Grown-Ups


By Tom Hoover & Michael Lee (Saga Flight Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-1-53753-101-4

From its earliest inception cartooning has been used to sell: initially ideas or values but eventually actual products too. In newspapers, magazines and especially comicbooks the sheer power of narrative with its ability to create emotional affinities has been linked to the creation of unforgettable images and characters. When those stories affect the daily lives of generations of readers, the force they can apply in a commercial or social arena is almost irresistible…

It has long been a truism of the creative arts that the most effective, efficient and economical method of instruction and training has been the comic strip. Advertising mavens have, for over a century, exploited the easy impact of words wedded to evocative pictures, and public information materials frequently use sequential narrative to get hard messages over quickly and simply.

Moreover, from World War II until the birth of YouTube, carefully crafted strips have been constantly used as training materials in every aspect of adult life from school careers advice to various branches of military service – utilising the talents of comics giants as varied as Milton Caniff, Will Eisner (who spent decades producing reams of comic manuals for the US army and other government departments), Kurt Schaffenberger and Neil Adams.

These days the educational value and merit of comics is a given. Larry Gonick in particular has been using the strip medium to stuff learning and entertainment in equal amounts into the weary brains of jaded students with such tomes as The Cartoon History of the Universe, The Cartoon History of the United States and The Cartoon Guide to… series (Genetics, Sex, Computers, Non-Communication, Physics, Statistics, the Environment and more).

Japan uses a huge number of manga text books in its schools and universities and has even released government reports and business prospectuses as comic books to get around the public’s apathy towards reading large dreary screeds of public information.

So do we, and so do the Americans. I’ve even produced one or two myself, back in my freelancing years…

In this instance the medium is used with measured economy and devastating effect by writer Tom Hoover and illustrator Michael Lee to craft a fictionalised fable with a very real and dangerously recondite message carrying crucial real-world implications…

Delivered as an inviting science fiction parable, Growing Up in the New World Order details in beguilingly simple manner how artistically gifted youngster Chance discovers his ability to see the hidden and predatory embedded subliminal messages concealed in all the world’s mass-media entertainment systems.

This gift enables him to consciously perceive the constant barrage of subtle suggestions and behaviour-modifying nudges designed to mould the opinions and guide the actions of the entire population…

After all, how else could the world have gotten into such a sorry state where greed trumps survival and manufactured violence as entertainment anesthetises a population intended to keep quiet and consume?

Informed from his earliest years by the non-conformist views and opinions of his grandfather, Chance grows into the kind of gifted peon the hidden manipulators need: able to craft the images and messages neceassry to keep the consumers pacified and compliant, but all the while he is working to his own agenda and timetable, preparing for the moment when his cleverly-concealed secret counter messages and “embeds” will go live and free that mesmerised collective consciousness…

Designed as a trigger for much-needed societal debate on globalism, consumerism and covert cultural/commercial imperialism, Growing Up in the New World Order is a smart and enticing little tale with big ambitions and a book that needs to be seen by everyone – especially the older teens who are going to inherit the mess we’ve all made…
© 2016 Saga Flight Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Frankenstein: The Mad Science of Dick Briefer


By Dick Briefer & various (Dark Horse Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-61655-688-4                  eISBN: 978-1-63008-186-7

The Golden Age of American comicbooks is usually associated with the blockbusting birth and proliferation of the Superhero, but even at the headiest heights of costumed crusader craziness other fantastic fantasy fashions held their own. Some of the very best – like Jack Cole’s Plastic Man and the unlikely weird warrior under discussion here – also managed to merge genres and surmount their origins through astounding graphic craft, a healthy helping of comedic legerdemain and a deft dose of satire…

Richard Briefer was born in Washington Heights, Manhattan on January 9th 1915. He was a pre-Med student who also studied at the Art Student League in New York City and got into the fledgling comicbook business in 1936, working for the Will Eisner/ Jerry Iger shop after selling work to Wow, What a Magazine!, and others.

He adapted literary classics such as the Hunchback of Notre Dame and, as Dick Hamilton, created early super-team Target and the Targeteers for Novelty Press. Briefer wrote and drew Rex Dexter of Mars, Dynamo, Biff Bannon, Storm Curtis, Crash Parker and more for a range of publishers. For Timely he co-created The Human Top and, as Dick Flood, produced anti-Nazi strip Pinky Rankin for The Daily Worker; the newspaper of the American Communist Party.

Another criminally near-forgotten master craftsman, Dick Briefer is best remembered amongst comics cognoscenti these days for Frankenstein; a suspense strip which debuted in Prize Comics #7 in December 1940 before gradually evolving into a satirical comedy-horror masterpiece which offered thrills and chills whilst ferociously sending up post war America.

A truly unique vision, Briefer’s Frankenstein ran intermittently until 1954 when the toxic paranoiac atmosphere of the anti-communist, anti-comics witch hunt killed it.

The author moved into advertising and latterly portraiture and, despite numerous attempts to revive the strip, never published any more of his absurd and acerbic antics…

Dick Briefer died in December 1980.

Here, however, as part of the wonderful Dark Horse Archives series, you can enjoy the superbly surreal strip in all its manic glory from its horrible heyday; either as this sterling and sturdy full-colour hardback or as an eBook.

Re-presented for your delectation are the contents of Frankenstein #1-7 (spanning January 1945-May 1947) with Briefer at the peak of his powers, writing and drawing the deliciously demented delights that have made him a legend amongst comics creators if not the general public.

After gleaning a few salient facts from appreciative devotee John Arcudi in his Foreword, and relishing some ultra-rare original art from Briefer and Alex Toth, the merry madness begins with issue #1 as we reveal ‘Frankenstein’s Creation’

When a bored mad scientist reads an old book he decides to create his own version of the infamous creature. Sadly, despite scrupulously following the recipe, the malevolent modern Prometheus’ secret formula only manifests a loving, protective nature in his super-strong homunculus and the hulking Frankenstein monster soon becomes a boon to his community and embarrassment to his malignant maker.

Left to his own devices, the artificial Adam is then drawn to the quiet little everytown of Mippyville where the populace are fighting off a supernatural invasion of atrocious arcane predators. ‘Frankenstein and the Ghouls and Vampires’ sees the creature – originally mistaken for a “Bobbysox” pop singer by the town’s screaming teenagers – hilariously clean up the infernal infestation before setting up home in a ramshackle abandoned mansion.

Only one thing is missing to complete his dreams of domestic bliss but, after a brief dalliance with the local spider saleswoman results in her becoming ‘Frankenstein’s Wife’, the man-monster soon learns why a hasty marriage often leads to repentance at leisure…

Mippyville is a place that just attracts weirdness, and the first issue concludes with another mad doctor as deranged surgeon Professor Hugo von Hoogenblotzen kidnaps Frankie and attempts to graft him to an elephant in ‘Frankenstein and the Manimals’

The second issue begins with ‘Frankenstein!’ – a quick recap of past events – before our unlikely hero tracks down a mad mass-murderer who wants others to suffer for his art in ‘Frankenstein and the Statue Maker’ after which the animal-loving oaf is accidentally mistaken for a mere beast and purchased by a moody millionairess. She puts him on a leash to one-up her pals in the Exotic Pets Club but ‘Frankenstein’s Job’ soon teaches them all the true value of animal companionship…

Eventually restored to his own home, ‘Frankenstein’s Ark’ then sees the towering titan re-enact the building of the fabled lifeboat to save his animal chums but end up clashing with a hoarding hermit and his mutant allies…

Issue #3 (July/August 1946 and with scripting assistance from Bruce Elliott) introduced ‘Frankenstein’s Family’ as the big guy won gainful employment as a junk man whilst his new boss tinkered with salvaged machines from a devil doctor’s lab. This resulted in an army of molecularly-unstable juvenile duplicates of Frankie and a great deal of gross chaos…

A legion of escaped horrors attacked Mippyville in ‘Frankenstein and the Monsters’ only to find the town’s ghastly defender too much to handle whilst in ‘Frankenstein and the Mummies’ a quick jaunt to Egypt finds the monster befriending a quartet of ancient, entombed pharaohs before ‘Frankenstein and the Time Machine’ apparently sends the credulous colossus into the furious future and perilous past. This time, however, all is not as it seems…

The regular cast expanded in the fourth issue (September/October 1946) as ‘Frankenstein and Awful Annie’ finds the mellow monster aiding the local purveyor of potions and charms to the city’s supernatural community when her long-lost son wants to come home for a visit. He then makes another odd acquaintance when ‘Frankenstein Meets the (Terrible) Werewolf’ which debuts the gentlest magical man-eater on earth…

Another whirlwind romance goes awry after ‘Frankenstein Sees the Effect of the Youth Restorer’ and makes an amorously ill-advised move on a once-elderly neighbour, before his mystic mates throw the monster a birthday party in ‘Frankenstein and the Sorcerer’ and almost start a magic war that only subsides after the gentle giant accidentally lands a job as a photographic model…

Briefer was an inveterate tinkerer, always looking for innovative new ways to present his mirthful material, and Frankenstein #5 (November/December 1946) trialled a new format of interlinked yarns beginning with ‘Act 1: How I Rehabilitated Maladjusted Ghosts’ as the monster became a troubleshooter for the restless dead and unmasked a murderer.

In ‘Act 2: How I Had (and Lost) a Pet Dinosaur’ he accidentally hatches an antediluvian egg and manages to switch it with a parade-balloon doppelganger whilst ‘Act 3: How I Became a Genii in a Magic Bottle’, saw the monster mysteriously abducted by a street-corner hustler before escaping to save the town from a malicious malady in concluding ‘Act 4: How I Conquered a Terrible Plague’. The experiment was dropped for a more traditional anthological format in the sixth (March/April 1947) issue…

Here the madcap merriment opens with ‘The Last Smile’ as Frankie is mistaken for an escaped murderer and placed on death row after which he hunts down ‘The Ghostnapper’ abducting spirits and stealing their big white sheets…

The rising cost of funerals informed the riotous case of ‘One Small Bier’ as the monster tries a new career as a mortician before heading into the country to investigate accursed, self-propagating automobiles going on an uncanny ‘Joyride’

The final issue reprinted here comes from May/June 1947 #7 and opens with ‘Silas Grunch Gets His’ – co-written with Ed Goggin – as a conniving miser tortures kids by building a funfair children can’t get into… until the Big Guy steps in…

The monster plays cupid and brings two bizarre, lonely people together in ‘The Strange Love of Shirley Shmool’ and romance also informs Frankenstein’s laying of ‘The Curse of the Flying Dutchman’ when the giant goof opens a Lonely Hearts Agency and matches the immortal wanderer with the girl of his nightmares…

This leads to a clash with atom-age seductress ‘The Lorelei’ and a hideous trade of jobs and gender roles before politics rears its ugly (multiple) heads as Frankenstein is convinced to run for President of the Magician’s Guild only to endure the voodoo ‘Pins and Needles’ of a frustrated rival…

A truly unmissable treat from a singular and utterly eccentric creative force, Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein is remarkable work by a one-of-a-kind creator. If you love to be scared, love to laugh and love comics, this is a book you must see.
Frankenstein: The Mad Science of Dick Briefer. Dark Horse Books® and logos are registered trademarks of Dark Horse Comics, Inc. All rights reserved.

America Gone Wild! – Cartoons by Ted Rall


By Ted Rall (Andrews McMeel)
ISBN: 978- 0-7407-6045-7

You might have seen this quote before. Doesn’t mean it’s not still true…

True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else” – Clarence Darrow.

From its earliest inception cartooning has been used to sell: initially ideas or values but eventually actual products too. In newspapers, magazines and especially comicbooks the sheer power of narrative with its ability to create emotional affinities has been linked to the creation of unforgettable images and characters. When those stories affect the daily lives of generations of readers, the force they can apply in a commercial or social arena is almost irresistible…

For as long as we’ve had printing there have been scurrilous, impassioned gadfly artists commentating on rulers, society and all iniquities: pictorially haranguing the powerful, pompous, privileged and just plain perfidious through swingeing satire and cunning caricature. Sometimes these artists have been just plain mean…

The cartoonist has held a bizarrely precarious position of power for centuries: the deftly designed bombastic broadside or savagely surgical satirical slice instantly capable of ridiculing, exposing and always deflating the powerfully elevated and apparently untouchable with a simple shaped-charge of scandalous wit and crushingly clear, universally understandable visual metaphor.

For this method of concept transmission, literacy or lack of education is no barrier. As the Catholic Church proved millennia ago with the Stations of the Cross, stained glass windows and a pantheon of idealised saints, a picture is absolutely worth a thousand words…

More so than work, sport, religion, fighting or even sex, politics has always been the very grist that feeds a pictorial gadfly’s mill. That’s never been more true – or more dangerous – than in the United States of America in the last three decades…

Frederick Theodore Rall III is interested and engaged and knows the risks.

Born in 1963, he is a respected and despised columnist, freelance editorial cartoonist, graphic novelist and war correspondent who homes in like a laser-sight on social ills, cultural stupidity and the venality of power elites – celebrities, businesses, organisations, religions and especially political demagogues. He is always accused of being a Liberal, and always hated (and probably feared) by whoever is in Office at the time…

Although his work has been seen in numerous publications such as Rolling Stone, Time, Fortune and the New York Times, this particular collection features cartoon panels and strips taken from a range of syndicated sources as well as publications such as the Charleston City Paper, Gear, Men’s Health, The Village Voice and Mad magazine amongst others: all crafted during the last Republican incumbency: a time of madness, war, terror, torture, hypocrisy and sheer greed.

It’s an era the new American president promises to in large part restore…

This sublime Weapon of Mass Deliberation comes as square, monochrome paperback (224 x 224 mm) and variable-sized eBook (now that’s democracy for you!) fronted by an evocative Foreword from our own pen-pushing one-man protest movement Steve Bell before Rall’s Prefaceincluding a Behind the Scenes Look at my Most Controversial Cartoons – offers background, context, reasons for his artistic decisions.

This includes intimate details and a truly terrifying selection of death threats, internet abuse messages and apologies from folks who were enraged at Rall’s screed du jour. Other inclusions show that many thought they were mad at him only to discover how they’d been misled, massaged or merely lied to by the mainstream commercial news outlets.  Surely not…?

Ted Rall pulls no punches and that attitude has won him a raft of awards, the loathing of fanatics of every stripe and persuasion plus lots of apologies whenever his peculiar passion – seeing all sides of issues which are almost never binary equations – is finally accepted by a public which usually only hears about his cartoons from agenda-based media outlets such as Fox News or New York Daily News.

This collection actually lets you see what trolls, drones and professional complainers are so disgracefully quick to react to: representing some of Rall’s most potent, memorable and effective graphic broadsides and strip scalpel-slashes from the war years of the G. W. Bush Administration. These include but are far from restricted to pithy exposés of media-hungry ‘Terror Widows’, ruminations over ‘The War on Judgment’ and explanation of resource-management in ‘Here’s Where We’ll get More Troops’

Some of the compulsive commentator’s most life-endangering panels are included here too. ‘Reagan in Hell’ generated an appalling storm of poison for the artist, as did ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabinet or, Black Man’s Burden’ and ‘Appropriate Punishments for Deposed Bushists’, but the most important thing to remember throughout this collection is that the picture and words result from genuine concern from a very smart, talented and INFORMED individual who actually bothers to check facts before sounding off…

Also making this final cut are such slyly fervent strips as ‘Free Speech Maniacs’, ‘Just Get Over It!’, ‘Let’s Meet Other Heroic Government Workers’, ‘Proxy Politics’, ‘Republicans on the Rampage!’, ‘Why we Spy on Americans Instead’ and ‘Ordnance sans Frontières’; satirical assaults like ‘Special Privileges for Blacks’, ‘Society at a Glance’, ‘The Left Gets Organized’, ‘Jury Selection Made E-Z’ and ‘Understanding Editorial Cartoons’ as well as less-emotionally charged, surreal snipes and contemporary cultural critiques including ‘Enroll in School of Bodily Fluid Arts’, ‘Jihad Slacker’, ‘Sometimes Love is Not Enough’ and ‘Freedom Marches On’

Presumably just to prove he’s not always proselytising, there are also splendid selections of comics on life-style, work and relationships from Men’s Health and outrageously strange strips from Mad focusing on high school (7 Periods) and superheroes (The Adventures of Fantabulaman) to keep you laughing when you’re not shouting or crying.

This is a superb slice of “Look Back in Anger” by an immensely talented proponent of the art, dedicated to the most revered principles of cartoon dissent and journalistic calling-to-account. His recent stuff is even better. As a new era dawned in US politics he released a “manifesto to topple Trumpism”. I can’t wait to see that as a graphic novel…
© 2006 Ted Rall. All rights reserved.

Portraits of Violence – An Illustrated History of Radical Thinking


By Brad Evans, Sean Michael Wilson, Inko, Carl Thompson, Robert Brown, Chris Mackenzie, Michiru Morikawa & Yen Quach (New Internationalist)
ISBN: 978-1-78026-318-2                  eISBN: 978-1-78026-319-9

Our particular branch of the arts depends rather heavily on the loving depiction of violence in all its forms, but it’s unlikely that most of us ever give it much rational and cohesive thought. How wonderful then than somebody actually has and kindly put it all together in a series of irresistible comic essay dialectics.

At least in terms of entertainment, there seems to be an unquenchable – almost compulsive – need to see conflicts resolved through force and problems solved by the imposition of will upon dissenters. Justifications for these acts can always be found if one looks hard enough…

Violence isn’t just a perfectly choreographed punch in the jaw or a sublimely balletic spin-kick, it’s also oppression, subtracting choices, dismissing someone’s opinions, denying them education or agency and so many other things we allow our leaders or even our friends and associates to do to – and “for” – us on a daily and incremental basis. The effects, however, are cumulative, vast and lasting…

Here a number of thinkers, theoreticians, activists and educators have their works and key achievements précised and propounded via a series of short strips seeking to highlight different ways to address our species’ second most primal drive.

Adapted and scripted throughout by Dr. Brad Evans and Sean Michael Wilson, the thought-provocations begin with ‘Brad Evans: Thinking Against Violence’. Illustrated by Inko, they collaboratively restate a conversation between the political philosopher/critical theorist and a journalist as he sought to explain his thesis that the media feeds and is dependent on violence for its own survival.

Chris Mackenzie then limns a visual discourse on how observation of the trial of Adolf Eichmann led to a new theory on human nature, the power of delegated authority and impact of surrendered autonomy in ‘Hannah Arendt: The Banality of Evil’, after which ‘Frantz Fanon: The Wretched of the Earth’ (with art by Carl Thompson) describes how the psychologist re-examined the effects of colonialism on both masters and subjects.

A landmark shift in critical thinking and educational doctrine is scrutinised in the Inko-illustrated ‘Paulo Freire: The Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ before a theoretical icon is revisited and the unshakable link between liberals and State violence is revealed in ‘Michel Foucault: Society Must Be Defended’ (illustrated by Robert Brown).

A Humanist examination of the cultural biases that colour and inform the West’s view of Eastern cultures is disclosed in ‘Edward Said: Orientalism’; with Thompson’s art working to explain the knottier points of history and entrenched racism. Then Inko makes her final artistic contribution in ‘Susan Sontag: Regarding the Pain of Others’ as the theoretician deconstructs and adjudicates on the misleading truths and overwhelming potency of carefully selected, deliberately disseminated images utilised by media and governing authorities…

‘Noam Chomsky: Manufacturing Consent’ (Thompson again) explores the misnomer of a “Free Press” and reveals how a commercial media system can only act as a propaganda tool of whoever’s in charge, whilst Michiru Morikawa portrays ‘Judith Butler: Precarious Lives’; explaining how knee-jerk responses to atrocity fail through her theories on Normative Violence, Subversion and Liveable Life, after which Yen Quach depicts the arguments of Italian philosopher ‘Giorgio Agamben: Sovereign Power/Bare Life’ which posit that the job of democratic politics is to prevent the development of conditions which lead to hatred, terror and destruction, not merely to respond to and control them after they’ve occurred…

I’m not smart enough to do much more than parrot the phrases of these brilliant concerned individuals but I strongly urge you to read this collection – especially Henry A Giroux’s Foreword ‘How do we educate about Violence?’ which offers terms of reference, context and chilling insight into the state of play between Us and Them…

Supplemented by ‘Biographical Notes for the Writers and the Artists’ this is a compelling and challenging collection that needs to seen by everybody in power or comfortably submitting to it…
© Brad Evans and Sean Michael Wilson.

Chance in Hell


By Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-56097-833-6

There’s fiction, there’s Meta-fiction and then there is Gilbert Hernandez. In addition to being part of the graphic and literary revolution that was Love and Rockets (where his incredibly insightful tales of Palomar and later stories of those characters collected in Luba gained such critical acclaim) he has produced stand-alone tales such as Sloth, Grip, Birdland and Girl Crazy; all marked by his bold, instinctive, compellingly simplified artwork and a mature, sensitive adoption of the literary techniques of Magical Realism. In comicbook terms he has evolved those techniques and made them his own.

A seemingly tireless experimenter and innovator, in 2006 Beto began to acknowledge some of his cinematic and literary influences such as Roger Corman, John Cassavetes, Elmore Leonard and Jim Thompson: breaking new ground and reprocessing cultural influences that shaped many of us baby-boomers.

In Luba and other tales of Palomar we often glimpsed the troubled life of her half-sister Rosalba “Fritz” Martinez: a brilliant, troubled woman, lisping psychotherapist, sex-worker, belly-dancer and former B-movie starlet of such faux screen gems as Three Mystic Eyes, Blood is the Drug and Love From the Shadows. In her fictive biography Fritzi had begun her film career in a brutal exploitation pic called Chance in Hell

Hernandez began “adapting” those trashy movies as fully realised graphic novels.

He started with Chance in Hell – although Fritzi only had a bit part in it – and crafted a bleak, violent yet strangely contemplative tale about a girl born into the worst of lives: one which she eventually escaped from if not necessarily grew out of…

Released as a digest-sized monochrome hardback, this sordid saga opens in a place we’ve all seen if not experienced…

Barely a toddler, Empress had already endured the worst the apocalyptic slum could muster: starvation, rape and casual murder as she blithely questioned the other juvenile scavengers in search of “Daddy”…

Even after being “adopted” by one of the boy-gangs her quest continues, punctuated by hunger, violence and the constant attention of well-to-do, predatory men from the city intent on slaking their particular peccadilloes on a child nobody values…

When a misunderstanding results in an ever-escalating slaughter, her protector dies and Empress is spirited away to the city by one of those prowling vultures in suits.

Some years later, exuding the confidence of wealth and experience, Empress is constantly drawn to the Red Light district where the flashy pimps and their human wares ply a never-ending trade. She’s barely a teenager and doesn’t seem to care about the lucky life she leads. The man who ultimately took her from the wastes where the city has always left its unwanted children is decent and honest: a poetry editor. She has never had to feel the terror and pain inflicted on so many others from her station, but still she is restless and increasingly rebellious…

Empress wants to be with the dangerous under-people; the debased and violent survivors. She despises her guardian’s hopes and aspirations that she will one day “rise above”…

Even though her current existence is a comparative paradise, she is drawn to those elements which exemplify her traumatic early years and when she discovers the sordid, sexual secret of her adoptive father something primal resurfaces in her…

Abandoning everything she knows, Empress seeks out a church-run Safe Haven for Girls and grows to womanhood in vague, regimented security. Even after settling down with a good man and becoming a suburban housewife, her disconnection and discontent remain. When a face from her past resurfaces so does her primal conditioning and she seeks out the formative places of her childhood. Tragedy follows tragedy and when the notorious “babykiller” of her youth escapes justice, her mind begins to spiral…

Whatever you’re assuming happens next, you’re almost certainly wrong…

Raw and disturbing yet thoroughly engaging, this tale within a tale eschews all the traditions of dramatic plot for casual causality: stuff happens, we react, more stuff happens, people die, the world goes on…

And yet beneath it all there’s shaded but potent criticism of how we allow our society to treat individuals, and hard questions asked about what we actually mean by the terms “caring” and “humanity”…

For all its experimental veneer and political subtext, Chance in Hell still has all Hernandez’s signature elements: matter-of-fact sexuality, sharp dialogue and sly surrealism to elevate it above the vast body of such fiction. This is a tale no thinking fan of the comics medium should miss…
© 2007 Gilbert Hernandez. All rights reserved.

Flood! – A Novel in Pictures


By Eric Drooker (Dark Horse)
ISBN: 978-1-61655-729-4 (HB)                    978-1-59307-676-4(PB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Book to Truly Immerse Yourself In… 9/10

In the comics biz it’s not too often that something truly different, graphically outstanding and able to subvert or redirect the medium’s established forms comes along. Moreover,

when it does, we usually ignore it whilst whining that there’s nothing fresh or new in view.

Happily that’s not what happened with Eric Drooker’s Flood! – A Novel in Pictures when in was first released in 1992. A New York City native, Drooker is a legendary left-leaning activist, thinker and creator of street art who attended Downtown Community School in the East Village and studied sculpture at Cooper Union before becoming a designer and illustrator.

His covers for The New Yorker are unforgettable, as are his ferociously expressive, eye-catching pieces in The Wall Street Journal, Heavy Metal and World War 3 Illustrated. His drawings and paintings – especially from his graphic novels – have been used in videos for Faith No More and Rage Against the Machine whilst the animated film Howl was the culmination of his extensive collaboration with the poet Allen Ginsberg (Illuminated Poems, Howl: a Graphic Novel).

Drooker’s political stance and creative influences make his pictorial narratives such as Blood Song: a Silent Ballad both contentious and greatly favoured by a readership ranging far beyond the usually cloistered and comfortable confines of the regular comics community.

He has won an American Book Award, Inkpot and Firecracker Award and the artwork for Flood! has been inducted into the Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.

Drawing on his earliest influences and following the Depression Era-traditions of artists and printmakers such as Frans Masreel, Lynd Ward, Otto Nuckel and Giacomo (please link to White Collar Sep. 28 2016) Patri, Drooker’s first graphic novel is produced in linocuts and spot-colour: consisting of three discrete sections or chapters created between 1986 and 1992.

These symbolic, spine-tingling observations and tumultuous progressions are generally dispensed without words as lone protagonists – or perhaps alienated, excluded victims – struggle to survive and find meaning in a world that just don’t care. The Man in View restlessly moves past centres of employment which shut down when you’re not looking, trudging cold, mean, directionless streets and alleys at the bottom of canyon-like skyscrapers or riding bleak subways while the pitiless skies look down and just keep spitting more and more rain…

Following a damning indictment of the modern world and warning of the social apocalypse to come from Luc Sante in his trenchant Introduction, the journey into oblivion begins with ‘Home’ as a simple worker discovers he’s no longer wanted and slowly makes his way back to the little he still possesses, and sees the city and his life in a new way…

That peregrination takes him below the city in ‘L’: into the tunnels trains share with lost, abandoned and forgotten people reduced to their most primal elements…

‘Flood’ then takes us to a lonely garret where an artist and his cat toil to finish a treasured prospective masterpiece as the waters rise all around them. The deluge is here and everything’s about to change forever…

It’s time for one final excursion out into the drowning city…

This is a parable of immense depth and potency; made all the more effective by Drooker’s intense visualisations. We all know the sheer power of images over words, but they also impart greater liberty as the reader’s mind is free to attribute as much meaning to the narrative as their own experiences will allow. The result is sheer poetry – and possibly prophecy…

Flood! – A Novel in Pictures is into its fourth edition now (five if you count the eBook) and this latest release from Dark Horse is a deluxe (167 x 235 mm) hardback in black-&-blue-&white which also includes a revelatory conversation with the artist first seen in Comics Journal as a much longer ‘Interview with Eric Drooker’.

Conducted by Chris Lanier and supplemented with a superabundant wealth of sketches, full pages, roughs and illustrations it adds great insight to what has gone before and sets us up nicely for Drooker’s even better second work – Blood Song: a Silent Ballad

Scary, beautiful and irresistibly evocative, this is a dream vision you must see and will always remember.
Text and illustrations of Flood! – A Novel in Pictures © 1992, 2002, 2007, 2015 Eric Drooker. All rights reserved. Introduction © 2001 Luc Sante. Comics Journal interview used with permission.

Through the Habitrails: Life Before and After My Career in the Cubicles


By Jeff Nicholson (Dover Comics & Graphic Novels)
ISBN: 978-0-486-80286-2

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Epic Self-Exploration and Terrifyingly Revelatory Erudition… 9/10

To cheekily hijack a common aphorism, Comics Will Eat Itself whenever an opportunity occurs. The way creators, readers, devotees and collectors respond to the medium is infinitely fascinating to us and has formed the basis of many stellar strips and novels: not just in the arena of Graphic Autobiography but also in other picture/prose genres…

For a brief while and every so often, Jeff Nicholson was a comicbook creator. His most well known works are probably 1980s self-published satirical parody series Ultra Klutz and the award-winning Colonia. After this last concluded in 2006, Nicholson quit comics.

Somewhere in between those two radically different creations, he produced one of the scariest yet most compelling ruminations on the experiences and compulsions of making picture stories and working as an artist-for-hire ever put to paper.

From 1990 to 1997 Through the Habitrails appeared episodically in Steve Bissette’s groundbreaking horror anthology Taboo and there has never been a better examination of an (extra)ordinary guy being creative on command, turning visual tricks and drafting wonders whilst under corporate pressure and an obsessive personal need to make art…

Moreover, he crafted the experience as a mesmerising blend of autobiography and toxic, paranoid terror-tale; rendered even more isolating and crushing by adopting a fiercely bleak science fictional tone and deeply symbolic method of illustration…

After Matt Fraction qualifies the vicissitudes of the modern work experience in his ‘Foreword’ Bissette’s Introduction offers history, context and untrammelled appreciation in ‘Never on Monday: Through the 21st Century Habitrails’ and ends by explaining how Nicholson was persuaded to return to his sinister seminal work to update – if not placate – his growing legion of (perhaps unwanted) admirers…

Lettered throughout by Chad Woody, the cartoon catharsis begins with ‘Increasing the Gerbils’ as a literally faceless wage slave – drawing to order in a corporate studio which is only a small division of a massive mercantile monolith – describes his increasingly intolerable life. The office is crammed and ponderously industrious and incorporates tubes and tunnels in the walls where creepy rodents run maze-like from room to room: a Byzantine and barely explicable connection with the serried, unknowable Powers That Be…

None too slowly, the line between employee and subject beast of burden begins to blur…

Another unwholesome aspect of the job is how Management wanders the halls, arbitrarily tapping the workers and consuming their vital spirit, as grimly revealed in ‘It’s Not Your Juice’

The steps taken to remain an individual are touched on in ‘No End’ and pitifully laid out in ‘Jar Head’ as the worker describes the use and variety of intoxicants used by the not-quite-captive Creatives to maintain output before his attention shifts to describing the fate of ‘The Doomed One’: the worker who did not bend to an oppressive, self-selected yoke but instead tried to rebel. Her fate was incomprehensible and appalling but not unexpected…

Such pressure to perform can not be endured forever and our pictorial peon eventually found release in walking and wandering in his downtime. The shocking repercussions of ‘Escape #1: “El Muerte”’ were expansive but still tantalised him with a promise of better… once he returned to work…

Not all needs can be met by the benefits of being a corporate drudge. Nevertheless, it’s the most likely place to meet potential mates. When ‘Futile Love’ happens and goes horribly wrong, naturally it provokes another deviation from protocol and ‘Escape #2: “The Dry Creek Bed”’ quietly carries him far away but ultimately only back to where he started from…

The unshakable drive to resist only brings uncomfortable attention from the managers who simply demand ‘Be Creative’, but after another pointless close call the worker heads home and in a barren wasteland discovers a possible answer to all his problems: a weapon he secretes as a tiny, prospective notion of rebellion he chooses to call ‘Animal Control’

With a glint of hope and a possible ally in reserve, the thought that one of his fellows might be untrustworthy begins to dominate, but the truth about and fate of ‘The Infiltrator’ leaves nobody wiser or happier…

The hunger for space and wish for clarity push the artist into ever-greater unsanctioned ventures but ‘Escape #3: “Concow”’ again proves that no matter how far you go, what awaits is never going to be a welcome surprise…

A near-escapee who was dragged back into the fold attempts to rationalise his twice-lost liberty with the suffocating security of wage slavery and constant draining by creating an exposé. Sadly his assumptions about the value and efficacy of his ‘Dark Spiral’ can only end one way and the artist must resort to collusion with his dark side as delineated by ever-encroaching sometime ally ‘The Gerbil King’

With work and notional reality fully at war, a catastrophic climax approaches as ‘Jimmy’ enters his life and changes everything forever…

Was that all a little vague? I certainly hope so because this is something you really need to work your way through on your own. The tone fits though: don’t read this unless and until you’re psyched up and suitably apprehensive…

The material has been collected a number of times since it first appeared but this superb Dover Edition offers what we smart-arse cognoscenti never expected: a continuation of the tale and dialogue with the creator from a place and position far less dark than that animal-infested region of the 1990s.

Preceding an ‘Afterword by Jeff Nicholson’ and the now-mandatory ‘About the Author’ feature, the comics self-diagnosis concludes with ‘Epilogue 1: Beyond the Habitrails’ and ‘Epilogue 2: Ghost Town Studio’: bringing us up to date in an equally abstracted but far more upbeat manner and supposing that at the end of some tunnels – or tubes – there can be light, not darkness…

Barbed with allegory, using metaphor like a scalpel and employing all the darkly surreal glamour and oppressive verve of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil or Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich, this potent dose of exploratory surgery for the soul simultaneously dissects why comics are made and why some of us must make them whilst telling one of the scariest tales of modern times.

Although certainly an acquired taste, Through the Habitrails is a must-see, never-forget graphic novel for anybody with a vested of intellectual interest in the Ninth Art.
© 1994, 1996, 2016 by Jeff Nicholson. Foreword © 2016 Matt Fraction. Introduction © 1996 Stephen Russell Bissette. All rights reserved.

Prez volume 1: Corndog-In-Chief


By Mark Russell, Ben Caldwell, Mark Morales, Dominike “Domo” Stanton & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-5979-2

I’ve been saving this fabulously funny, viciously satirical gem for the closing moments of an actual election, and now that my interference can’t possibly affect what has become the strangest and most contentious campaign in US history and the icing on the Great Big Cake celebrating the utter devaluation of democracy, I think it’s well past time to offer the world a different vision of leadership and governance before it’s too late…

It won’t change anything in the grand scheme of things, but at least we can comfortably shout “I told you so!” from the comfort of our cynicism-lined bunkers…

The original Prez was a hippie teenager created by comic book royalty. In the early 1970s Joe Simon made one of his irregular yet always eccentrically fruitful sojourns back to DC Comics, managing to sneak a bevy of exceedingly strange concepts right past the usually-conservative powers-that-be and onto the spinner racks and newsstands of the world.

Possibly the most anarchic and subversive of these was Prez, which postulated a time -approximately twenty minutes into the future – where teenagers had the vote and elected a diligent, naively idealistic young man who was every inch the hardworking, honest patriot every American politician claimed to be…

In 2015 that concept was given a devilishly adroit makeover for the post-millennial generation and the result was this superbly outrageous cartoon assessment of the State of the Nation.

As is the nature of the most effective social commentary (Slaughterhouse Five, Make Room! Make Room!, Stranger in a Strange Land, A Clockwork Orange, Rollerball, Judge Dredd, American Flagg!); although external trappings are futuristic and science fictional, the meat of the matter is all about Right Here, Right Now…

Originally released as the first six issues of a proposed 12-issue maxi-series, Prez: Corndog-In-Chief is written by Mark Russell (God Is Disappointed in You) and illustrated by Ben Caldwell (Justice League Beyond, Star Wars: Clone Wars). For a previously agreed fee, inks were provided by Mark Morales, Sean Parsons & John Lucas. Special mentions and congratulations should go to colourist Jeremy Lawson and especially letterers Travis Lanham, Marilyn Patrizio & Sal Cipriano whose efforts in supplying screen furniture, hilarious newsbleeds and strapline commentaries added so much to the overall feeling of helter-skelter information overload.

Take Note: on no account skip or skim the texts that scuttle across the bottom of these pages – just like a proper 24-hour TV news feed. Also, don’t read them whilst eating or drinking either. Laughing out loud and ejecting matter out of your nose is undignified and embarrassing…

In Washington DC the fix is always in. It’s 2036 and the election of the next President is being quietly decided by an elite group of Senators known as “the Colonels”. Ultimate powerbroker Senator Thorn is addressing a crisis: the sitting incumbent has been scandalously “outed” and has withdrawn from the race with a week to polling day.

All alternatives for his position are pitiful and frankly embarrassing…

In Eugene, Oregon, 19-year-old Beth Ross is cleaning the grills and manages to deep-fry one of her pigtails. Naturally, her friends have the incident posted on the internet in seconds and she goes viral as “corndog girl”.

As the days count down the two main political parties swing into panic mode: sucking up to every media darling, publicity whore and news outlet in a frantic bid to get their particular privileged rich white guy elected. Thorn diligently pursues his own, welfare-cutting, businessman-rewarding, military-expanding schemes. He’s not that fussed about winning. He can do deals with anybody…

Beth meanwhile is considering going on a game show. It’s the only way to pay her father’s hospital bills. He’s dying of the new form of cat flu ravaging the nation and winning Double Dare Billionaire is the sole option left to her.

She doesn’t even make the final cut. It’s probably for the best: the winner had to shoot himself on live TV to get his cash…

Hacker Collective Anonymous meanwhile has started an internet campaign to get Corndog Girl onto the electoral ballot. Since Congress voted to allow Corporations the right to vote, all age restrictions have been abolished. Moreover, in a move to get people to participate, Congress has allowed the public to vote on Twitter…

Deeply embarrassed and paying no attention, Beth is astounded when she wins Ohio by a landslide and becomes a genuine contender…

‘The Democratic Circus’ has been a complete disaster for professional politicians. The Electoral College system has produced no clear winner and thus – due to the arcane and archaic rules of the process – moves to the House of Representatives where each State has one vote.

Thorn is finally in his element but has grievously underestimated the overwhelming personal greed of each Senator he tries to bribe. When the dirty pool, double-dealing and horse-trading reaches its peak his frustrated targets turn against him and before long the incorruptible (he knows because he and many others have already tried) Beth Ross is the Most Powerful Woman in the World.

In ‘Adventures in Cabinetry’ suddenly everybody in DC is breaking down her door, but the guy she listens too is Preston Rickard: the most despised man in politics. He suggests he be made Vice President. It’s the only way to save her life. No-one will have her assassinated if he’s next in line…

And so it goes as Beth, emboldened by idealism and the pointless death of her father, resolves to actually fix America. The first thing to do is select a cabinet of actual smart people and experts and join forces with the most brilliant inventor in the world.

Fred Wayne is also the world’s richest man: his unique algorithm made him enough cash to buy Delaware and disappear. With the advent of President Ross, however, Fred is once more interested in the world beyond his so very impassable doors…

Ross’ inauguration has everything: threats, more bribe offers, a spectacular assassination attempt and her first crisis. ‘The Beast of War’ details how increasing global tension results in a wave of bloodbaths.

America’s armies have been largely replaced by drones and robots; piloted by nerdy couch-potato slackers working from their own front rooms. Sadly, their tendency is to treat work like a gaming session, so with casualties from US drones skyrocketing, the Military-Industrial Complex are eager to move on to the next plateau.

Unfortunately for all concerned, the intelligent AI guiding robotic Sentry War Beast – as designed by Preferred Contractor Securi-Tech – is lethal, indestructible and has ideas uniquely her own.

Thorn cannot see a downside but he’s about to be very surprised again…

‘Apologies in Advance’ sees Beth decommission the entire drone Sentry Program and go on a world tour, apologising in person to every country the USA has subverted, invaded, insulted or strong-armed over its brief but checkered history. That brings its own dangers and ramifications but a domestic catastrophe is looking to be even more serious. Human deaths from feline flu are rocketing but “Big Pharma” wants certain promises before it will seek a cure. Their smug bubble bursts when President Ross again comes up with novel solution and makes a truly tough decision in ‘Beware of Cat’

To Be Concluded…

Collecting Prez #1-6 – plus a short vignette of how Ross survived being shot down over the South Pacific seen in Sneak Peek: Prez #1 – this remarkable tome is peppered with delicious ironies and superb prognostications on the state of the union. Sinister undercurrents are provided by a cabal of masked billionaires in a Special Interest Group providing suitable Machiavellian menace whilst the progress of canny, sensible neophyte Ross pokes gaping holes in ideological Sacred Cows and sacrosanct ruling policies that have become the fundamentals of modern political thinking.

Most importantly Prez: Corndog-In-Chief offers a grimly hilarious and outrageously sardonic glimpse at how far it’s all gone wrong. To sweeten the pill it does come with a slush-fund filled with bonus features like a covers-& variants-gallery by Caldwell, Morales & Bret Blevins; Caldwell’s Prez Sketchbook, plus character designs, roughs, unused colour cover ideas and pencils by Dominike Stanton and Caldwell.

Funny, angry and delicious, this trenchant tale is one no fully enfranchised fan should miss.
© 2016 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Archie: Obama & Palin in Riverdale (Archie & Friends All-Stars volume 14)


By Alex Simmons, Dan Parent, Rich Koslowski, Jack Morelli & Digikore Studios (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 987-1-87979-487-0

For nearly three-quarters of a century Archie Andrews has epitomised good, safe, wholesome fun, but inside the staid and stable company which shepherds his adventures and bears his name there has always lurked an ingenious and deviously subversive element of mischief as well a keen eye for a headline.

Ever since they launched as MLJ publications in the Golden Age’s dawning, family-friendly iterations of superheroes, spooky chills, sci-fi thrills and genre yarns have always been as much a part of the publisher’s varied portfolio as the romantic comedy capers of America’s cleanest-cut teens.

As you probably know by now, Archie has been around since 1941, spending most of those seventy-five years chasing both the gloriously attainable Betty Cooper and wildly out-of-his-league debutante Veronica Lodge whilst best friend Jughead Jones alternately mocked and abetted his romantic endeavours and life-long rival Reggie Mantle sought to scuttle his every move and bring down the freckle-face…

As crafted over the decades by a legion of writers and artists who’ve skilfully logged innumerable stories of teenage antics in and around the idyllic, utopian small-town Riverdale, these timeless tales of decent, upstanding, fun-loving kids have captivated successive generations of readers and entertained millions worldwide.

To keep all that accumulated attention riveted, the company has always looked to modern trends and movements with which to expand upon their archetypal brief. In times past they have strengthened and cross-fertilised their stable of stars through a variety of comic property team-ups such as Archie Versus Predator, Archie Meets the Punisher or Archie Meets Vampirella as well as notionally real-world characters as typified by Archie Meets Glee or Archie Meets Kiss. Every kind of fashion-fad and youth-culture sensation have invariably been accommodated into and explored within the pages of the regular titles.

That willingness to dip traditional toes in unlikely waters led in 2010 to the publishers taking an extremely bold and outrageously controversial step which turned heads in all the right places and hopefully nurtured the political sensibilities of many kids who might well be voting in this year’s Presidential Elections…

Mr. Obama has long been out of the closet in regards to comics (apparently he collects Spider-Man and Conan) and after his election in 2008 got to guest-star in a load of different titles. I’ve no idea what Sarah Palin’s position on funny books is, but she too has been the star of a whole bunch… although mostly as a star-spangled bikini-clad bimbo toting swords and big guns.

She was represented in a far more even-handed and respectful manner when she and the President appeared in Archie #616-617 (December 2010 and January 2010); a tale gathered in this slim paperback collection with the similarly-themed contents of Veronica #199 (March 2010) to form a fabulous dossier of democracy and fair play for beginners, coincidentally packed with lots of laughs and a few salutary tips on electioneering.

As written by Alex Simmons, illustrated by Dan Parent & Rich Koslowski, lettered by Jack Morelli and coloured by Digikore Studios, the Machiavellian games begin with the two part ‘Campaign Pains’ as Archie and Reggie clash in a debate as part of their efforts to become Student Body President.

Their clearly different styles of presentation don’t sway many potential voters and Veronica, as Archie’s Campaign Manager, decides its time to bring out the big guns: Money, Power and Influence. Reggie’s manager is little better. Trula Twyst is a ruthless psychology student eager to push people’s buttons just to see how they react…

Having already once met Barack Obama, and after kitting out Archie in new duds, Ronnie blags her way into a Presidential event and manufactures a photo-op between the Most Powerful Man in the World and the most naïve kid in Riverdale. She then uploads it and lets the little people in Riverdale make their own assumptions…

At Mantle Campaign HQ, Trula knows a winning ploy when she sees one and decides to fight fire with fire; orchestrating a similar sneaky session for Reggie with blithely unaware Governor and potential future Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Once more a dubious association with celebrity enflames the youthful voters of Riverdale High, but when the professional politicians see how they’ve been shabbily misrepresented by school kids. they both head for the sleepy town to make their disapproval known…

As Obama and Palin arrive, so do the news crews and all too soon a shambolic media circus ensues. Terrified, Archie, Ronnie, Reggie and Trula head for the hills but eventually realise the only solution to their problem is to face it head on, take their medicine and make reparations.

…And that’s when everybody learns a few useful lessons about reasoned discussion and plain dealing…

Following amazingly clear, concise and compelling biographical features on ‘“The Chicago Kid” Barack Obama’ and ‘“The Thrilla from Wasilla” Sarah Palin’, the cartoon tomfoolery resumes by harking back POTUS’ first appearance in Archie Comics with ‘Ms. Lodge Goes to Washington’ from March 2010 and Veronica #199, by Parent, Koslowski, Morelli & Barry Grossman.

Here our junior stars enjoy a class trip to Washington DC; seeing the sights and learning some civic history. However, when a tour of the White House leads to Veronica intruding on a press conference and accidentally impressing the President, she is so moved by the moment and on the trip home she resolves to help him fix the economy…

Her plan is to hire all her friends, creating jobs whilst escaping her own chores, but as ‘No She Can’t!’ proves, adult problems are seldom simple and never end well when Archie and the gang are involved…

Including a cover and variants gallery, pin-ups and a large selection of roughs, cover sketches and parody covers, this is a splendidly witty slice of all-ages comedic fun with the added bonus of introducing the basics of political thought to youngsters in a manner both considered and effective.
© 2011 Archie Comic Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.