In a Glass Grotesquely – Selected Picture Stories

By Richard Sala (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-797-0

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Pure and Primal Comics Wonderment… 9/10

Richard Sala is a lauded and much-deserving darling of the Literary Comics movement (if such a thing exists), blending beloved pop culture artefacts and conventions – particularly cheesy comics and old horror films – with a hypnotically effective ability to tell a graphic tale.

He grew up in Chicago and Arizona before earning a Masters in Fine Arts, and after beginning a career as an illustrator rediscovered his love of comicbooks. The potentially metafictional self-published Night Drive in 1984 led to appearances in legendary 1980s anthologies Raw and Blab! and animated adaptations of the series on Liquid Television.

His work is welcomingly atmospheric, dryly ironic, wittily quirky and mordantly funny; indulgently celebrating childhood terrors, gangsters, bizarre events, monsters and manic mysteries, with girl sleuth Judy Drood and the glorious trenchant storybook investigator Peculia the most well known characters in his gratifyingly large back catalogue.

Sala’s art is a joltingly jolly – if macabre – joy to behold and has also shone on many out-industry projects such as his work with Lemony Snickett, The Residents and even – posthumously – Jack Kerouac; illustrating the author’s outrageous Doctor Sax and The Great World Snake.

In a Glass Grotesquely is his latest irresistible tract of baroque pictorial enchantment, deftly combining his recent 2014 webcomic with a triptych of visceral and saturnine delusions from the end of the last century, all exploring the bleakest corners of the modern world’s communal fantasy landscape and applying his truly skewed raconteur’s gifts to giving us a thrill, a chill and a chortle…

The majority of this spookily sublime confrontation with the cartoon dark side is taken up with the gripping saga of ultimate enemy of America ‘Super-Enigmatix’, a diabolically inspired super-villain determined to avenge himself upon America for slights both imagined and tragically real…

Delivered in punchy alternating doses of surreal full-colour splashes and moody monochrome subplots, the story details how the brilliant weird-scientist, served by an army of beautiful female zealots and hidden race of mole people, tries to destroy modern society, only opposed by disenchanted ex-cop Natalie Charms and a dedicated band of “conspiracy nuts”…

The struggle against a self-created monster hiding behind a smoke screen of urban legend is fast-paced, Byzantine, and insidiously politically charged: a mesmerising chase-caper and delight of post-modern paranoia meeting classic pulp-fiction melodrama…

Like a bleakly mordant reinvention of the Catholic Church’s Stations of the Cross, ‘It Will All Be Over Before You Know It…’ is a sequence from single panel black and white epigrams building to a tableau of modern terrors for women seeking work, after which 1998’s ‘Stranger Street’ silently details the building tension as a psycho-killer haunts the streets of an already scary town…

The cracked chronicle then concludes with a Kafkaesque shaggy bird story delivered in barrage of grey wash, as an ineffectual nobody receives – and loses – a once-in-a-lifetime honour in ‘The Prestigious Banquet To Be Held In My Honour’

In a Glass Grotesquely amusingly exposes the seamy, scary underbelly of existence with these enigmatic, clever, compelling and staggeringly engaging yarns blending nostalgic escapism with the childish frisson of children scaring themselves silly under the bedcovers at night and will therefore make an ideal gift for the big kid in your life – whether he/she’s just you, imaginary or even relatively real…

In a Glass Grotesquely © 2014 Richard Sala. This edition © 2014 Fantagraphics Books, Inc.

Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book

By Harvey Kurtzman (Ballantine/Kitchen Sink)
ISBNs: 978-0-87816-033-4 (Kitchen Sink HB),      338-K (Ballantine original PB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Hard To Find – but absolutely worth it… 10/10

Here in Britain we think we invented modern satire, and quite frankly it’s a pretty understandable notion, with The Great 1960s Wit Scare producing the likes of Peter Cook, John Bird, John Fortune, Bernard Levin, Richard Ingrams, Alan Bennett, Paul Foot, Ned Sherrin, Jonathan Miller, David Frost and institutions such as The Establishment club, That Was the Week that Was and the utterly wonderful Private Eye (long may She reign, offend, fly at Gads and survive repeated libel and defamation writs…).

Somehow our American cousins were not so copiously blessed. Their share of genuine world-changing, liberal-lefty intellectual troublemakers only really comprised Tom Lehrer and Harvey Kurtzman. Of course it a very large country with an unbelievable number of guns equally distributed amongst smart folks, idiots and lunatics alike…

Creative genius Kurtzman is probably the most important cartoonist of the last half of the 20th century – even more so than Will Feiffer, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert or Will Eisner.

His early triumphs in the fledgling field of comicbooks (Frontline Combat, Two-Fisted Tales and especially the groundbreaking, game-changing Mad) would be enough for most creators to lean back on but Kurtzman was a force in newspaper strips (See Flash Gordon Complete Daily Strips 1951-1953) and a restless innovator, commentator and social explorer who kept on looking at folk and their doings and just couldn’t stop making art to share his findings…

He invented a whole new format when he converted the highly successful colour funny book Mad into a black-&-white magazine, safely distancing the brilliant satirical publication from the fall-out caused by the 1950s comics witch-hunt which eventually killed all EC’s other titles.

He pursued comedy and social satire further with the magazines Trump, Humbug and Help!, all the while creating challenging and powerfully effective humour strips such as Little Annie Fanny (for Playboy), Nutz, Goodman Beaver, Betsy and her Buddies and many more. He died far too soon, far too young in 1993.

In 1959, having left Mad over issues of financial control and with both follow-up independent ventures Trump and  Humbug defunct, the irrepressible Kurtzman convinced Ballantine Books to publish a mass-market paperback of all-new satirical material.

The company had just lost the rights to publish Mad’s paperback reprint line and were cautiously amenable…

The intriguing oddment saw the Great Observer in top form, returning to his comic roots by spoofing and lambasting strip characters, classic cinema, contemporary television and apparently unchanging social sentiments in a quartet of hyper-charged tales. Unfortunately the project was the first of its kind in America and met with less than stellar success. No one had ever published 140 pages of new comics in one savage bite before, and even the plenitude of strip reprint books always had one eye to the kids’ market.

This stuff was strictly for adults who would happily read newspaper or magazine strips but didn’t want to be seen carrying a book of them. Duly enlightened Kurtzman returned to safer ground and launched Help! just in time for the Swinging Sixties’ satire boom…

The slim monochrome package might not have changed the nation but it certainly warped and affected a generation of budding cartoonists and writers. Quickly becoming a legend – and nearly a myth in fan circles – Jungle Book was rescued from limbo in 1987 when Denis Kitchen (that much-missed crusading champion of all things grand, esoteric, nostalgic and/or naughty in comics), released the entire lost volume as a deluxe oversized (214 x 149 x 19mm) collectors hardback edition through his Kitchen Sink Press.

It’s still one of the funniest, most marvellous examples of wit and creativity comics have ever produced, as well as Kurtzman’s longest single work and is long overdue for another go-round.

Large sized paperback editions were also released at the time, but are now just as hard to find…

Deemed one of the “Top 100 Comics of the 20th Century” by The Comics Journal, the racy, revelatory controversial – and in 1959 completely ignored – tome’s full title is Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book: Or, Up from the Apes! (and Right Back Down) – In Which Are Described in Words and Pictures Businessmen, Private Eyes, Cowboys, and Other Heroes All Exhibiting the Progress of Man from the Darkness of the Cave into the Light of Civilization by Means of Television, Wide Screen Movies, the Stone Axe, and Other Useful Arts and the Kitchen Sink edition augments its reproduction with an effusive and captivating ‘Intro’ from devoted fan Art Spiegelman plus an information-packed ‘Outro’ by editor and comics historian Dave Schriener.

The material itself is gloriously timeless and revelatory. In 1959 it gave the author an opportunity to experiment with layout, page design, narrative rhythms and especially the graphic potential of lettering, all whilst asking pertinent probing questions about the world changing around him.

‘Thelonius Violence, Like Private Eye’ is ostensibly a parody of groundbreaking TV show Peter Gunn, with the jazz-loving hipster “White Knight for Hire” scoring chicks and getting hit an awful lot as he infallibly and oh-so-coolly tracks a killer whilst protecting blackmail victim Lolita Nabokov

The tale is slick and witty and sublimely smart, whereas the next piece barely contains a lot of pent-up frustration for past sins and misdemeanours.

For ‘Organization Man in the Grey Flannel Executive Suite’ Kurtzman accessed his experiences working for bosses (such as Marvel’s Martin Goodman) to create the salutary tale of a decent young man’s progress up the corporate ladder at Shlock Publications Inc. The quasi-autobiographical impressionable and ambitious naïf in question is Goodman Beaver (who would be resurrected for Help! and eventually, improbably evolve into Little Annie Fanny) and his transformation from sweet kid to cruel, corrupt, exploitative typical business jerk makes for truly outrageous reading.

The title comes from a trio of contemporary bestsellers on the subject of men in business: Executive Suite by Cameron Hawley (1952), The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson in 1955 and William H. Whyte’s 1956 drama The Organization Man.

‘Compulsion on the Range’ simultaneously spoofs top-rated western Gunsmoke and the era’s growing fascination with cod psychology and angst-ridden heroes as Marshal Matt Dolin’s far-reaching obsession with out-shooting infallible outlaw Johnny Ringding which takes him to the end of the Earth…

The volume wraps up with an edgily barbed tribute to Great Southern novels like Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road and God’s Little Acre and assorted works of William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams, filtered through a glorious froth of absurd melodrama, frustrated passions and steamy sex (by all accounts the Very Best Kind), all outrageously delivered via astoundingly rendered caricatures and inspired dialect and accent gags.

In ‘Decadence Degenerated’ us sees thet nothin’ evah changes in sleepy ole Rottenville. Then wun naht, when the boys is jus’ a-oglin’ purty Honey-Lou as ushul, somethin’ goes awry an’ it all leads to murdah an’ lynchin’ befoah a snoopy repohtah who claims he frum up Noath turn up thinkin’ he can fin’ the truth…

Soon violent passions is furtha aroused and nothin’ kin evah be the same agin…

Funny, evocative and still unparalleled in its depth and visual potency, Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book inspired and influenced creators and storytellers as disparate as Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Gilbert Shelton and Terry Gilliam. This is a masterpiece of our art form which no true devotee can afford to be without.

© 1959, 1986 Harvey Kurtzman. ‘Intro’ © 1986 Art Spiegelman. ‘Outro’ © 1986 Dave Schriener. Entire contents © 1986 Kitchen Sink Press. All rights reserved.

© 1990 by Byron Preiss Visual Publications Inc. Each strip © 1990 Harvey Kurtzman and the respective artist. All rights reserved.

Pogo – The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips volume 3: Evidence to the Contrary

By Walt Kelly, edited by Carolyn Kelly & Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-694-2

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Possibly the Best Comic Strip Collection in the World… 10/10

Books of this stature and calibre are worth buying and reading at every moment of every day, and rather than waste your valuable time with my purely extraneous blather, you should just hit the shops or online emporia and grab this terrific tome right now.

If you still need more though, and aren’t put off by me yet, I’m honoured to elucidate at some length…

Walter Crawford Kelly Jr. was born in 1913 and began his cartooning career whilst still in High School as artist and reporter for the Bridgeport Post. In 1935 he moved to California and joined the Disney Studio, working on animated short films and such features as Dumbo, Fantasia and Pinocchio.

His steady ascent was curtailed by the infamous animator’s strike in 1941. Refusing to take sides, Kelly quit, moving back East and into comicbooks – primarily for Dell who held the Disney funnybook license amongst others at that time.

Despite his glorious work on such popular people-based classics as the Our Gang movie spin-off, Kelly preferred and particularly excelled with anthropomorphic animal and children’s fantasy material.

For the December 1942-released Animal Comics #1 he created Albert the Alligator and Pogo Possum, wisely retaining the copyrights to the ongoing saga of two affable Bayou critters and their young African-American pal Bumbazine. Although the black kid soon disappeared, the animal actors stayed on as stars until 1948 when Kelly moved into journalism, becoming art editor and cartoonist for hard hitting, left-leaning liberal newspaper The New York Star.

On October 4th 1948, Pogo, Albert and an ever-expanding cast of gloriously addictive, ridiculously exuberant characters began their strip careers, appearing in the paper six days a week until the periodical folded in January 1949.

Although ostensibly a gently humorous kids feature, by the end of its New York Star run (reprinted in Pogo: the Complete Syndicated Comic Strips volume 1) the first glimmerings of an astoundingly barbed, boldly satirical masterpiece of velvet-pawed social commentary had begun to emerge…

When the paper folded Pogo was picked up for mass distribution by the Post-Hall Syndicate, debuting on May 16th 1949 in selected outlets across the nation. A colour Sunday page launched January 29th 1950 and both were produced simultaneously by Kelly until his death in 1973 and thereafter by his talented wife and family until the feature was at last laid to rest on July 20th 1975.

At its height the strip appeared in 500 papers in 14 countries and the book collections – which began in 1951 – eventually numbered nearly 50, collectively selling over 30 million copies… and all that before this Fantagraphics series even began…

In this third and much delayed (due to the sudden death of much missed editor and publisher Kim Thompson) volume of a proposed full dozen reprinting the entire Kelly canon of the Okefenokee Swamp critter citizenry, undoubtedly the main aspect of interest is the full-on comedic assault against possibly the greatest danger and vilest political demagogue America ever endured, but the counterattack against witch-hunter Senator Joe McCarthy is merely one of the many delights in this stunning mix of free expression and wild and woolly whimsy…

This colossal and comfortingly sturdy landscape compilation hardback (boasting three-hundred-and-fifty-six 184 x 267mm pages) includes the monochrome ‘Daily Strips’ from January 1st 1953 to December 31st 1954, and the Sundays – in their own full-colour section – from January 4th to December 26th of the same years.

Supplemental features this time comprise a Foreword from ward winning cartoonist Mike Peters (Mother Goose & Grimm), a wealth of deliriously winning unpublished illustrations and working drawings by Kelly and utterly invaluable context and historical notes in R.C. Harvey’s ‘Swamp Talk’ which also compellingly, almost forensically, details the rise and fall of rabblerousing “red-baiter” Joe McCarthy and how Kelly courageously opened America’s fight back against the unscrupulous, bullying chancer (and the movement for which he was merely a publicity-hungry figurehead) with an unbeatable combination broadside of ridicule and cool disdain…

The closing regular biographical feature ‘About Walt Kelly’ by Mark Evanier is supplemented by a comprehensive ‘Index of the Strips’ and a gloriously inspired selection of ‘Noteworthy Quotes’ to fill out the academic needs of the readers, but of course the greatest boon here is the strips and characters themselves.

Kelly was a masterful inventor of engaging and endearing personalities, all of whom carried as many flaws as virtues. The regular roll call (which some commentators reckon to be as many as 1000) included gentle, perpetually put-upon and bemused possum Pogo, boisterous, happily ignorant alligator Albert, dolorous, sensitive Porkypine, obnoxious turtle Churchy La Femme, lugubrious hound Beauregard Bugleboy, carpet-bagging Seminole Sam Fox, pompously ignorant know-it-all Howland Owl, sveltely seductive skunk Miz Mam’selle Hepzibah, long suffering matron Miz Beaver, maternal Miz Groun’chuck and her incomprehensible, bitey baby Grundoon plus all the other bugs, beasts and young’uns of the swamp, but the author’s greatest strength lay in his uniquely Vaudevillian rogues, scoundrels and outright villains.

The likes of Tammanany Tiger, officious Deacon Mushrat, sinister, sycophantic beatnik communist Catbirds Compeer and Confrere, sepulchral Sarcophagus MacAbre, sloganeering P.T. Bridgeport and a trio of brilliantly scene-stealing bats named Bewitched, Bothered and Bemildred were perfect confections to illustrate all manner of pestilential pettifogging, mean manners and venal self-serving atrocities as they intermingled and interfered with the decent folk volubly enduring the vicissitudes of such day to day travails as love, marriage, comicbooks, weather, rival strips, fishing, the problem with kids, the innocent joys of sport, cadging food, making a living and why neighbours shouldn’t eat each other…

In this volume the topics of exotically extravagant conversation include the longevity and worth of New Year’s Resolutions, the scandalous behaviour of Porkeypine’s kissing-thief Uncle Baldwin, a get-rich scheme involving dirt and opening shots at the burgeoning phenomenon of commercial television. However the gradual conversion of the Deacon’s Boy Bird Watchers society into a self-policing vigilante committee looking out for strangers and making sure all the citizens are right thinking and true looking would quickly insinuate itself into every corner of the feature…

The anti-foreigner sentiment peaks following the arrival of Deacon Mushrat’s old pal The Hon. Mole MacCarony; a blind, self-aggrandizing politico determined to root out all (undisclosed) threats, enforce conformity and stamp out the diseases obviously carried by strangers.

The xenophobic dirt-digger was based on Nevada Senator Patrick McCarran who briefly shaped paranoid public opinion on a platform of severely restricting immigration and implementing the speedy deportation of all communists and non-Americans.

Things got much darker – and therefore more effectively ludicrous – with the arrival of Mole’s malicious and ambitious associate Simple J. Malarkey whose bullying tactics soon began to terrify his fellow bigots as much as the increasingly outraged, off-balance citizens…

Eventually the villains fell out and triggered their own downfall with the mortified Deacon sheepishly denying his part in the fiasco. Peace and (in)sanity returned and with sunny days ahead weather-prognosticating frog Picayune debuted, but suffered a great loss when Albert accidentally ingested the amphibian’s pal Halpha – an amoeba who actually did all the meteorological messing about…

Voracious Albert generally swallowed a lot of things, but his biggest gaffe probably occurred after meeting Roogey Batoon, a pelican impresario who – briefly – managed Flim, Flam and Flo: a singing fish acted billed as the Lou’siana Perches

Many intriguing individuals shambled into view at this time: Ol’ Mouse and his tutorial pal Snavely (who taught worms how to be cobras and rattlers), cricket-crazed British bugs Reggie and Alf and family icons Bug Daddy and Chile, but the biggest mover and shaker to be introduced was undoubtedly a sporty Rhode Island Red chicken named Miss Sis Boombah.

The formidable biddy was a physically imposing and prodigiously capable sports enthusiast (and Albert’s old football coach), who wandered in as survey taker for “Dr. Whimsy’s report on the Sectional Habits of U.S. Mail Men” (a brilliant spoof of the societally sensational Kinsey Report on sexual behaviour in America) but her arrival also generated a succession of romantic interludes and debacles which eventually led to a bewildered Mushrat proposing marriage before leaving her in the lurch and disappearing into the deepest parts of the swamp…

Mole had already reared his unseeing head again, causing only minor mischief, but when the marriage-averse Deacon encountered the terrifying Malarkey lurking in hiding with sinister acolyte Indian Charlie (who bears a remarkable resemblance to then current US Vice-President Richard Nixon) the scene was set for another savage and often genuinely scary confrontation…

That’s also exactly what Miss Boombah had in mind as she set out with Bewitched, Bothered and Bemildred to hunt down the scoundrel who had left her in the lurch at the church…

Other story strands and insane interludes include such epic mini sagas as the hunt for an abducted puppy – lampooning TV cop series Dragnet – and a long session on the keeping and proper sharing of secrets, much ado about gossip and the art of being a busybody.

Most memorable of all though are Churchy’s sudden predilection for dressing up as pretty little blonde girl, perpetually visiting Martians and poor Pogo’s oddly domestic recipe for A Bombs…

In his time satirical supremo Kelly unleashed his bestial spokes-cast upon many other innocent, innocuous sweethearts such as J.Edgar Hoover, the John Birch Society and the Ku Klux Clan, as well as lesser lights likes Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon B. Johnson and – with eerie perspicacity – George W. Romney (U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Governor of Michigan and father of some guy named Mitt), but nothing ever compared his delicious and devilish deconstruction of “Tailgunner Joe” in the two extended sequences reprinted here…

Kelly’s unmatched genius lay in his seemingly effortless ability to lyrically, if not vivaciously, portray through anthropomorphic affectation and apparently frivolous nonsense language comedic, tragic, pompous, infinitely sympathetic characters of any shape or breed, all whilst making them undeniably human.

He used that gift to readily blend hard-hitting observation of our crimes, foibles and peccadilloes with rampaging whimsy, poesy and sheer exuberant joie de vivre. Generally though he usually toned down the satirical scalpels for the magnificently imaginative ‘Sunday Funnies’: concentrating instead on fantastic and unfailingly hilarious serial fables and comedy romps.

Some of the best he ever conceived conclude this volume, beginning with the epic saga of little faun Melonbone whose search for the Fountain of Youth inadvertently caused Sam Duck to revert to an egg. The distraught drake’s wife was not best pleased at having to hatch her own husband out at her age (she was no spring chicken)…

Churchy and Albert then fell afoul of sharp toothed tot Grundoon as the kid’s inability to converse led the alligator to accidentally swallow his turtle pal, after which the animal crackpots all got very lost for a long time in their own swampy backyard…

Howlan Owl’s latest get-rich-quick scheme – digging to China – resulted in his and Albert’s reluctant consultation of an Atlas and the shocking conclusion that the Russians had taken over Georgia.

The panicked reaction of the chumps then led to their accidentally awakening an oversleeping bear who decided to start celebrating Christmas in the middle of August. Eventually everybody caught up to him just in time for the true Yule event…

After the usual New Year’s shenanigans, 1954 really took hold as everyone’s favourite alligator tried to recount the amazing exploit of ‘King Albert and the 1001 Arabian Knights of the Round Table’ – despite each listener’s evident and express disinterest – before Howlan and Churchy became compulsively embroiled in a furious feud over pugilism.

Soon thereafter Albert was mistaken for a monster after getting his head stuck in a cauldron. Sadly, once the alligator was finally extricated from the calamitous cookpot, other unhappy folk become the infernal alembic’s’s unwilling method of locomotion…

No sooner did that catastrophe conclude than the whole sorry fiasco promptly kicked off again with a lovesick octopus now playing transient chapeau to a succession of unfortunate and duly startled swamp critters …

The hairy, scaly, feathered, slimy folk of the surreal swamp lands are, of course, inescapably us, elevated by burlesque, slapstick, absurdism and all the glorious joys of wordplay from puns to malapropisms to raucous accent humour into a multi-layered hodgepodge of all-ages delight – and we’ve never looked or behaved better…

This stuff will certainly make you laugh; it will probably provoke a sentimental tear or ten and will certainly satisfy your every entertainment requirement. Timeless and ineffably magical, Pogo is a giant not simply of comics, but of world literature and this magnificent third tome should be the pride of every home’s bookshelf, right beside the other two.

…Or, in the popular campaign parlance of the all politically astute critters – “I Go Pogo!” and so should you.

Pogo Vol. 3: Evidence to the Contrary and all POGO images, including Walt Kelly’s signature © 2014 Okefenokee Glee & Perloo Inc. All other material © 2014 the respective creator and owner. All rights reserved.


By Alyssa Milano, Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, Marcus To, Ian Herring & Deron Bennett (Archaea Black Library)
ISBN: 978-1-60886-409-6

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Because Sharing is Everything… 8/10

The world is radically altering every minute but some things never change: eternal verities like oppression and the hunger for freedom, greed and idealism, friendship and betrayal…

Following ‘A Note to the Reader’ from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, an astounding tale begins when a band of desperate dissidents narrowly avoids capture by the draconian Tunisian military. It seems the latest outbreak of popular democracy is doomed to failure until the last rebels of the “Arab Spring” improbably receive a wireless signal from the most notorious hacker collective on Earth.

The message to “.sve_Urs3lf” is accompanied by the updated facility to penetrate the oppressive government’s firewalls, enabling Sirine and her fellow fugitives to break through the dictatorship’s isolating cyber-borders and communicate with other dissidents as well as the outside world…

In San Francisco, the Robin Hoods behind the message allow themselves a glow of pride. Prodigies Nate Graft and Ed Hiccox sit back and watch as the Tunisian people rise, before getting back to their day jobs as the billionaire boy wonders who created and own YourLife: Earth’s most successful and ubiquitous decentralised social network…

Although to the public flashy Nate is cool corporate aplomb and shy Ed the diffident brain-box problem-solver, both young men share the dream of forcing through true and fair social evolution… only these days Graft seems increasingly distracted by the glamour and wealth whilst earnest Mr. Hiccox acts ever-more dissatisfied and impatient with the rate of progress…

As Nate parties at gala benefits and shows off his latest technological tricks, Ed sits alone, tapping keys and making progress on the big picture. Both are utterly unaware that their world is about to spin crazily out of control…

The first move is made by gorgeous Brynn Ori who targets Graft at a party. Her seductive soft-soap come-on soon fades though when Graft refuses to bite. That’s when she reveals her position in the CIA’s Cyber Command and makes Nate a truly tempting offer he really should not decline…

The story she tells is most convincing and soon Nate has even convinced his deeply suspicious partner to accept the offer – and the immense amount of cash Brynn is offering.

Also on the table is full amnesty for their illicit activities and the complete backing of the Government and its formidable resources in a noble mission to truly free Tunisia.

Despite a pointed confrontation between Ed and Brynn the endeavour soon gets underway and before long the military regime is on the verge of collapse thanks to a concerted cyber-attack and the rising of the people…

Unfortunately that’s when Brynn and the US government show their true colours and Nate finds himself at odds with everything he ever believed in.

Not so for his best friend, though, as Ed has already vanished. Despite a world-wide manhunt for America’s “Number One Threat”, he shows up in Tunis, joins Sirine and starts using his unique gifts the way he always dreamed of…

As the uprising gets its second wind, what follows is a tense, diamond-hard and laser sharp confrontation between the old system and the world that’s coming as two friends clash and finally prove which is best – ambition or expediency…

Fraught with action, tragedy, hope and a crazily cathartic conclusion that will delight starry-eyed young idealists and jaded old drama addicts alike, Hacktivist is a truly cooperative effort: the idea of actress, producer, philanthropist and UNICEF Ambassador Alyssa Milano given form by screen writers Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly, illustrator Marcus To, colourist Ian Herring and letterer Deron Bennett whose compelling and groundbreaking miniseries has been lovingly gathered into a superb and luxurious hardcover compilation.

This absorbing, beguiling chronicle comes stuffed with valued added extras such as ‘Hackers on Hactivist’ – an interview with inventor and actual campaigning hacker Pablos Holman – and behind-the-scenes features ‘Building YourLife’ and ‘On Site in Tunisia’ as well as the now-standard biographical info in ‘About the Creators’.

A stunning piece of fictive brilliance work, this yarn might even tempt your mum and dad to dabble about on the web…

Hacktivist is ™ & © 2014 Alyssa Milano. All Rights Reserved.


By Tim Minchin, DC Turner, Tracy King & various (Orion)
ISBN: 978-1-4091-5625-3 (tpb): 978-1-4091-5209-5 (HB): 978-1-4091-5210-1(eBk)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: a cartoon bible of common sense… 10/10

The world is a magical, wondrous place stuffed with miracles and mysteries.

However there’s not one single atom of it that depends on the eldritch, mystic or supernatural and none of it – or the greater universe around it – is wrought from the efforts of supreme beings or operated on principles of forgotten lore denied us common folk.

It’s all explainable, utterly rational and absolutely subject to revision by us every time we find out or disprove something that previously has been a puzzle. To do otherwise is nothing less than a crime against humanity.

No Gods, no ghosts, no witchcraft, no magic crystals. Got it?

It’s amazing how many people haven’t and how the latest anti-science fad or fashion can cause genuine harm to the world, deprive generally sensible folk of their money and too often make dinner parties a theatre of war…

Tim Minchin is a creative whirlwind and multi-media entertainment polymath originally from Australia who performs musical stand-up comedy, composes award-winning stage musicals like Matilda and acts in hit shows like Jesus Christ, Superstar.

He’s very smart, very funny and doesn’t believe in goblins or faith-healing.

In 2006 his 90-second diatribe ‘If You Open Your Mind Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out (Take My Wife)’ – a “refutation of the plausibility of astrology, psychics, homeopathy and an interventionist God” impressed and delighted fans. In 2008, after a close encounter with a pontificating new-agey nitwit at a party where the reasonable, rationalist Mr. Minchin politely opted not to contest a stream of bubble-headed nonsense, he took his ire and indignation and turned it into a piece of true inspiration: a beat poem, Socratic dialogue and “anthem for critical thinkers”…

It’s a very funny, edgy slice of entertaining refutation and I-wish-I’d-said-that-ism which was used as the closer for the Ready For This? Tour for more than two years.

In Britain animators/illustrators/producers Dan “DC” Turner and Tracy King saw the show and determined that at all costs they must turn that paean to logic and sense into an animation and, as described in the Introduction by Tim Minchin and the Afterword by Turner and King, after some wheeler-dealing, they did just that.

Storm became an internet sensation with three million hits on YouTube after its launch in 2011, and now the artists and Tim have completely reworked that cartoon sensation into an astoundingly compulsive and scathingly funny graphic novel which opens at an intimate soiree in North London where the narrator and his wife sit down to sup with friends and are force-fed a stream of nonsensical blather by a beautiful girl with a tattoo of a fairy.

Her name is Storm and this time the quiet man she inanely and arrogantly lectures is not going to hold his tongue…

By turns tense, barbed, hilariously evocative and furiously cathartic, this stunning visual feast delivers the barrage of scathing sense we’ve always wanted (but been too polite) to unleash on evolution-deniers, pseudo-scientists, astrological aroma-therapy advocates, vaccination-withholders, ghost-chasers and every other stripe of pontificating irrationalist in a graphic tumult of colour, line and typography that will simultaneously stun and galvanise.

This magnificent reinterpretation also includes a Foreword by Neil Gaiman, Biography pages for Minchin, Turner & King and – because it’s all about the fun – a selection of variant covers by Ricky Earl, Freya Harrison, Andy Herd, Dave “Swatpaz” Ferguson and Stuart Mason & Rachael King which might have graced the issues had this yarn been serialised as comicbooks rather than released as a complete book…

There has been and always will be a valuable and cherished place for fantasy, imagination and all the wild and woolly boggles and phantasms of a rich realm of tradition and ignorance. Indeed I believe it’s absolutely necessary for every child to be fully acquainted with all aspects of fairies and spectres and wish-fulfilling rings and lamps, but there comes a time when they must retire to a place of nostalgia and fun, regularly revisited for amusement but never, never, never used to dictate the content of school curricula, divert funds from genuine medical research or be employed as justification to persecute whole sectors of society or even one single “different” individual…

Storm is an edgy pictorial tour de force that will delight and enchant readers who love the funny and fantastic but never forget where the horizons of fantasy end and the borders of imagination begin…

Text © Tim Minchin 2014. Illustrations © Tracy King and Daniel Charles Turner 2014. All rights reserved.
Storm will be published on October 16, 2014 and available in trade paperback and eBook formats as well as in a 1000 copy Limited Edition Deluxe Hardback with extra content.

Lobey’s The Wee Boy! – Five Lobey Dosser adventures by Bud Neill

By Bud Neill, compiled by Ranald MacColl (Mainstream Publishing)
ISBN: 1-85158-405-6

Nobody’s ever accused me of being sensitive to the tone of the times, but with all thoughts directed north of the border for so long now, I’ve decided to feature this superbly unique dose of Celtic (more properly Glaswegian) cartoon magic today.

It’s the work of a tragically near-forgotten genius of pen and brush who should rightly be a household name wherever people like to laugh and ponder the absurdity of existence, no matter what flag they fly.

William Neill – forever immortalised as “Bud” – was born in 1911 in Partick just before the family moved to Troon in Ayrshire. He was a typical kid and fell in love with the brash wonder of silent movies – most especially the rambunctious westerns of William S. Hart.

His other great drive was a love of horses, and he could always be found hanging around stables, trading odd jobs for the chance of a few minutes’ riding.

After finishing school the young artistic star won a place at Glasgow School of Art. In the late 1930s Bud briefly emigrated, working in Canada and absorbing the tricks of America’s greatest newspaper cartoonists in their creative heyday.

He served as a gunner during WWII but was invalided out and became a bus driver. These experiences led to his creating a series of pocket cartoons starring the “Caurs & Clippies” of Glasgow’s tramcar system.

By 1944 Bud was drawing for the Glasgow Evening Times: sharp, wry observational pieces starring the city and its inhabitants, characterised by a devastating and instantly enchanting use of the iconic rhythms, vernacular and argot everyone shared.

In January 1949 The Evening News began running the uniquely surreal escapades of his greatest creation. Sheriff Lobey Dosser of Calton Creek was a brilliant inspiration: the adventures of a canny wee lawman in a hauntingly typical western town populated exclusively by Scots (from Glasgow’s Calton district, presumably) living an outrageously domestic, hilariously apt inner city life all whilst tricked out in cowboy hats and six-guns…

Delving deep into the venerable, anarchic and often surreal material of music hall and pantomime, Bud crafted a supremely odd, anachronistically familiar, bizarrely inviting world of solecism masquerading as local events. The series transferred to The Sunday Mail in 1956 where it became so popular that previous, complete strip adventures were collected in instant sell-out, one shilling landscape booklets (all incredibly sought after collectors’ items these days).

Neill died in 1970 but his work steadily continued to garner fans and acquire a mythical status, so by the middle of the decade Glasgow artist and sculptor Ranald MacColl began work on a biography.

That in turn led to a series of graphic collections such as this one and eventually belated recognition for Neill and his most memorable creations.

Bud was subsequently celebrated in exhibitions, galleries and, following Glasgow’s becoming European City of Culture in 1990, two separate bronze statues (Lobey, Rank Bajin and noble steed Elfie in Woodlands Road and, in Homecoming Year 2009, The G.I. Bride and her “Wean” at Partick Station), funded by public donations, Strathclyde Passenger Transport and private sponsors.

Hard to find but so worth the effort, Lobey’s The Wee Boy! gathers the contents of five of those shilling collections in a sensibly narrative chronological – not publication or even creation – order and is packed with informative extras such as MacColl’s fascinating historical and atmospheric Introduction and a hilarious Prologue by Bud himself from 1958, before the astonishing origin of the champion of Calton Creek is revealed in ‘Lobey Dosser: His Life Story’.

On a rare quiet day the grizzled sheriff recounts his early life to a jail full of impressionable young’uns…

Once upon a time in auld Glesca a mother had one bairn too many and the precocious tyke, to spare her further hardship, put his possessions in a hanky on a stick and headed off to make his way in the world.

Although only a few months old, he rejected being fostered out to his mean Auntie Mabel and joined a merchant ship under the tyrannical Captain Blackswite, unaware that the big shouty blackguard was a pirate…

After many exciting years at sea Lobey jumped ship and was befriended by cannibals and their erudite chief Hannibal which led to more exploring, meeting monsters and other strange things before encountering a race of Oxbridge-educated white savages and happily acquiring a rare two-legged horse.

El Fideldo was to become his greatest friend and inseparable companion. Together they made their way to Mexico where the wee wanderer discovered an unsuspected talent for upholding the law and keeping the peace. After cleaning out a nest of vicious banditos the restless pair headed north and soon fetched up in Laredo, Texas where a disastrous love affair with Adoda, formidable daughter of wealthy Whisk E. Glorr, led to a clash with rustlers led by scurrilous Watts Koakin

His heart broken – even though he had cleaned up the range – Dosser and Elfie kept heading west until they reached Arizona and first met future arch-nemesis Rank Bajin selling out the wagon train he was guiding to the local Sioux…

Rescuing the embattled settlers, Lobey decided to stay with the Scots expats as they built a town in the wilderness.  They called it Calton Creek…

Wild, imaginative and with every daily episode loaded with sight gags, striking slapstick, punishing puns, cartoon in-jokes and intoxicating vernacular, each Lobey Dosser tale was a non-stop carnival of graphic mirth and this terrific tome continues in fine fettle with ‘The Mail Robbery’ wherein nefarious Bajin attempts to incite an Indian uprising amongst the Pawnee of Chief Toffy Teeth and leaves the little lawman to die of thirst in the searing deserts. As the scorched sheriff struggles to survive, the naïve citizens are left to adapt to a protective occupation by flash Yankee G.I.s and airmen…

Sardonic and satirically cutting, the yarn also sports one of the best – and daftest – horseback chases in entertainment history…

Romance and mystery abound in ‘The Secret of Hickory Hollow’ as that Bajin scoundrel buys up the mortgage on Vinegar Hill’s farm and tries to kick out the old coot and his substantial niece Honey Perz. The villain has got wind of a mineral resource on the property that would make a man as wealthy as the Maharaja of Baroda, or perhaps even a regional Deputy Superintendent of the Coal Board…

When Lobey organises the cash needed to pay off the outstanding loan, Bajin reluctantly resorts to the last resort and begins romancing sweet, innocent, hulking Honey…

It all looks bleak for justice until the sheriff befriends an astoundingly good-looking and wholesome uranium prospector named Hart O’Gold who quickly tickles Honey’s fickle fancy…

However nobody – including ghostly guardian Rid Skwerr – is prepared for the soviet spies behind the entire affair to jump in take over and it needs the timely intervention of mystic imp Fairy Nuff to save their accumulated hash before the Dosser can finally expose the viper in the nest…

The local natives are always up to mischief and ‘The Indian War’ kicks off when the railroad tries to lay track through Pawnee Territory just as Chief Rubber Lugs of the Blackfeet Tribe revisits an old and outstanding grudge with Chief Toffy Teeth.

The ineffectual Captain Goodenough arrives with a division of cavalry to safeguard the white citizenry but matters soon worsen, painfully exacerbated when the folk of Calton Creek take advantage of Lobey’s absence (he’s trying to negotiate with both bunches of bellicose braves) to run Rank Bajin out of town and the hooded hoodlum starts freely peddling weapons to both sides…

…And then Bajin kills Lobey and takes over the town.

…And then…

The last yarn in this monochrome tome of tall tales is the most incredible of all as ‘The “Reform” of Rank Bajin’ sees the vile villain scooting around Calton Creek doing good deeds and selling off his astounding arsenal of wicked weapons and cunning contraband. Baffled, perplexed, confused and not sure what’s going on, Lobey asks Boot Hill haunter Rid Skwerr to spy on the no-longer reprehensible Rank and even love-struck Fairy Nuff gets in on the act.

The astounding truth finally emerges: Bajin has a boy who is growing up honest, so he is selling up and returning to the family he deserted in Borstal Bluffs, Iowa to sort the shameful lad out. Knowing the tremendous vacuum his absence will leave in Calton’s exciting landscape, however, he has a recommendation for a locum arch-enemy for his arch-enemy…

Can this possibly all be true or is the beastly Bajin executing his most sinister scheme yet?

Cunningly absurdist, socially aware, humorously harnessed insanity in the manner of Spike Milligan, Michael Bentine and the immortal Goon Show, the adventures of Lobey Dosser are a brilliant example of comic strips perfectly tailored to a specific time, place and audience which magically transcend their origins to become a masterpiece of the art form.

It’s also side-splitting, laugh-out-loud, Irn Bru spit-take hilarious and really needs to be recollected for today’s audiences.

And of course that’s what I really want: a complete reprinting of these sublimely perfect spoofs.

And once you read some so will you…
© Ranald MacColl 1992. All rights reserved.

World War 3 Illustrated 1979-2014

By various, edited by Peter Kuper & Seth Tobocman (PM Press)
ISBN: 978-1-60486-958-3

Since the 1980s and proceeding ever more unchecked into the 21st century, nations and human society have been plagued with horrors and disasters exacerbated if not actually caused by a world-wide proliferation of lying, greedy, venal, demented and just plain stupid bosses and governments.

These paragons have finally succeeded in elevating politicians of every stripe to that phylum of generally useless tools and pimples on the butt of humanity once only occupied by ambulance-chasing lawyers, lifestyle coaches and management consultants.

Since then so many apparently entitled and greedy archetypes like bankers, astrologers, wedding planners, doorstep evangelists, CEOs, celebrity gossip columnists, newspaper editors, the shamelessly privileged and all types of psychics have joined their rarefied ranks, and I’m thinking I probably need to either grow my own provably unadulterated coffee or further refine my critical parameters…

The century before ours wasn’t much better, but it did spawn a global awareness of the sheer symbolic power of art to promote debate, action and change. Politically charged, culturally aware imagery has been used over and over again by the underdogs – and, to be honest, the more savvy oppressors – in countless intellectual clashes as irresistible Weapons of Mass Deliberation…

This is a book that should make you angry and inspired. That is its point and purpose…

Created in response to Ronald Reagan’s presidency – possibly the only thing non-Americans can be thankful to the mad, bible-thumping bastard for – World War 3 Illustrated was founded in 1979 by Pratt Institute art students Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman in the wake of a rising tide of political conservatism, religious fundamentalism and unchecked capitalist autocracy

The magazine quickly became a beacon and rallying point for artistic activists: a collective collaboration galvanising and powerfully polemical, covering a vast procession of issues the political Powers-That-Be and increasingly law-immune Corporate Hegemonies would prefer were never aired or exposed.

Always championing the ever-diminishing rights of the individual over the juggernaut of rapacious commercial expansion and global monetary domination, the magazine brought – and still brings – together creative freedom-fighters who oppose the insidious wave of creeping everyday injustices through art, information and – most effectively of all – opposing views and dissenting opinions.

Now the smart, informed publishing people of PM Press have released a spectacular and sumptuous hardback retrospective of World War 3 Illustrated; re-presenting some of the graphic gadfly’s greatest moments in a stunning collection no self-aware seditionist could afford to miss at a time when individual freedoms and planetary wellbeing have never been more endangered…

One crucial word of clarification: the Third World War hasn’t been declared and has no recognised Theatre of Operations. It’s an ongoing series of perpetual localised skirmishes intended to replace individuality with homogeneity, freedom with conformity, humanity with faceless consumerism and intellect, spontaneity and self-esteem with a slavish devotion to money and oligarchic, board-sanctioned options from a menu of consumerist choices designed to keep the merchant-machine running…

Stuffed with spot-art and themed chapters fronted by double-page Chapter Icons from Kuper, Scott Cunningham, Sabrina Jones, Tobocman, Susan Willmarth, Kevin C. Pyle, Rebecca Migdal, Sandy Jimenez, Ethan Heitner, Nicole Schulman, Christopher Cardinale and Hilary Allison, this grand bible of creative resistance opens with the rousing and informative ‘Introduction: In Cahoots!’ by veteran activist, educator and reformer Bill Ayers before the parade of artistic action gets underway.

Starting World War 3 reveals the way it all began in the essay ‘Manifesto’, by Tobocman & Kuper, before the early forays are revisited in ‘Old Pals’ by Peter Bagge, whilst “Dr. Froydo Baggins” diagnoses the scatological power structure of modern society in ‘Top Feces’ by Isabella Bannerman & Robert Desmond, and Chuck Sperry’s terrifying collage ‘Bud’ is followed by Tobocman’sstate of disunion revelation in ‘The World is Being Ripped’. The chapter is closed by ‘Dove vs. Technology (back cover #8)’ by Aki Fujiyoshi.

Theocracy unbound is the subject of In God We Trust? opening with ‘Rapture’ – Kuper’s terrifying visualisation of an actual speech by Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell – after which Erik Drooker moodily relates his ‘First Encounter’ with The Lord and Mike Diana explains how ‘Jesus is Suffering for You’

Ryan Inzana describes his liberating escape from ‘One Nation Under Fear’ before ‘Pope Exposed (back cover #5)’ by David Shannon leads to the pantomimic revelation of ‘Jesus in Hell’ by James Romberger, and Isabelle Dervaux ends things on a blasphemous high note with ‘Walking on Water’.

The war on women is highlighted in Herstories, opening with Isabella Bannerman’s gripping ‘Herstories (cover #16)’ from 1992. This is followed by the evocative ‘Women’s Rights’ by Paula Hewitt Amram and the harrowing ‘Walking Down the Street’ by Sabrina Jones and a truly disturbing glimpse into the pressures on young girls to have sex in ‘K-9’s First Time’ by K-9 & Fly before Jones scores again with ‘Saudi Woman (back cover #14)’ to close the chapter.

Gentrification and the New York Elite’s attempts to forcibly relocate its poor by Fiscal Ethnic Cleansing are spotlighted in Captive City,beginning with the trenchant ‘Ave A’ by Anton Van Dalen and Tobocman’s ‘Why Are Apartments Expensive?’

Drooker then imaginatively shares some cold, harsh facts and statistics in ‘Shelter from the Storm’, whilst Steve Brodner plays Devil’s Advocate in ‘The Pound’ and Mac McGill interprets ‘Memories’ with apocalyptic panache.

Nicole Schulman then reveals why ‘You Can’t Go Home, Again?’ whilst Tobocman declares ‘War in the Neighorhood’ and Jeff Lewis wistfully bemoans how ‘I Was Raised on the Lower East Side’ to suspend the ongoing class war… until next time…

Autobiology focuses on differences of opinion such as the divisive nature of sneakers in ‘Skips’ by Sandy Jimenez, ineffectual relationships in Bannerman’s ‘No Visible Evidence’ and parenting in Scott Cunningham’s ‘Alien Metaphor’, after which Drooker relates a chilling anecdote in ‘The Fall’ and Kuper details how he was called as an expert witness in Mike Diana’s comics obscenity trial in the ‘Sunshine State’

The misrule of Law comes under excoriating scrutiny in Under Arrest, opening with ‘Police State America’ by Tobocman, detailing how a black woman in New York was gunned down by a SWAT Team for incurring rent arrears, whilst Drooker’s ‘Coup d’Etat of the Spirit’ movingly recalls a friend who got on the wrong side of a police action…

‘Yard In!’, by Mumia Abu-Jamal & Gregory Benton, wryly pinpoints one of the many cruel insanities endured by Death Row inmates before Drooker’s ‘Prison Issue (cover #24)’ leads to Kevin C. Pyle’s revelatory expose of the mean-spirited “Diesel Therapy” used to break prisoners’ spirits ‘On the Road’. Benton then returns to offer a shred of comfort in ‘#AM-8335’.

Sperry opens the chilling Biohazard section with a bleak confrontation of ‘My Mother, My Mother’ before Pyle produces the most horrifying piece in this collection with his documentary detailing of the grotesque criminal acts of the United States Public Health Service which began a near-forty year long, generational study of syphilis by deliberately withholding antibiotic treatments from the African American community of Macon County, Alabama in the shocking tale entitled ‘Pink Medicine’

Encroaching environmental catastrophe is the meat of Green House, Blue Planet, beginning with Tobocman’s captivating ‘What You Need to Know’, whilst Rebecca Migdal’s ‘The Food Chain (cover #41)’ precedes ‘Someday in the Future’ by Susan Willmarth, revealing how corporate misuse of the drug Diclofenac led to the near extinction of India’s vulture population and the almost complete destruction of the subcontinent’s food chain.

Drooker’s forbidding illustration ‘Moloch’, then leads to ‘Needle Factory’, a bleak cutting whimsy from Felipe Galindo, after which Sue Coe presents a series of ghastly images created in response to the monstrous Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2006 – ‘Murder in the Gulf’, ‘BP Burns Turtles’ and ‘Sold!’

At least Drooker is there to wrap it up with a hope-filled dream of ‘The Jungle’

We Y New York opens with the ‘9/11 Release Poster’ by Kuper & Sperry, and an autobiographical reverie in ‘9-11-01’ by Fly, before Ward Sutton briefly interjects a sardonic aside with the ‘Fear News Network’ whilst counterculture pioneer and seasoned campaigner Spain Rodriguez tellingly dissects all stripes of ‘Faith-Based Terrorism’ and Mac McGill offers up another evocative expression of architectural Armageddon in ‘IX XI MMI’

A discussion of Global Economy and the New World Empire begins with a strident lesson from Nichole Schulman in ‘Fossil Fuel’, whilst Kuper examines the concepts of war for oil in ‘Bombs Away’ and Tom Tomorrow lampoons government rhetoric and corporate Thinkspeak in ‘Are You a Real American?’ after which Chuck Sperry creates a visual icon for the new century in ‘Bush Hates Me’ and Tom Tomorrow hilariously peeks in on ‘Bush Dreams’.

The fertile soil is further ploughed by Sabrina Jones with the cruelly poetic ‘Chronicle of the New Crusade’, and Art Spiegelman doles out a strong dose of satire in his oil-mainlining Uncle Sam pastiche ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves, America!’, which is followed by Kuper’s infamous and controversial ‘Richie Bush in Hell’s Bells’ parody.

By brilliantly employing Harvey Comics’ Richie Rich character, the artist engendered the disapproval of US Customs who subsequently seized copies of this strip when it was reprinted in Slovenian magazine Stripburger

This chapter closes with ‘Talking Liberties (cover #34)’ by Mirko Ilic and a montage of various works and public events in ‘WW3 Arts in Action’.

Promised Land? examines the ongoing Israeli- Palestinian Conflict, beginning with ‘Casting Stones’ by Drooker before Kuper bares his heart and soul recounting his many trips to Israel and how the country devolved to a point and state he could no longer recognise in ‘Promised Land’, after which Sabrina Jones shares her own personal experiences of time in the Holy Land in ‘Fear and Firecrackers’.

‘Art Against the Wall’ is an photo-illustrated essay by Eric Drooker describing the construction, impact upon and creative response to Israel’s “Security Wall” by the Palestinians it imprisons and isolates; a subject then expanded upon in cartoon form in Tobocman’s biting ‘The Serpent of State’

Iniquities affecting the wider world come to the fore in Going Global, beginning with ‘The Quiet Occupation’ by Nicole Schulman, examining through specific, documented case histories, the incredible “Get Out of Jail Free” policy afforded to the American military in South Korea under SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement).

This appalling legislation has, since 1967, afforded absolute immunity to US personnel facing prosecution for crimes against the indigenous population ranging from theft and environmental damage to rape and murder…

The case of a San Salvadoran kid unfairly deported follows in Carlo Quispe’s ‘Pulgarcito de las Americas’, as does Jordan Worley’s provocative ‘Land and Liberty (cover #27)’, before a selection from Kuper’s visual diary of life in Mexico – specifically the brutal suppression of a Teacher’s strike – rounds out the chapter in ‘Oaxaca, Oaxaca’

The horrendous scandal of New Orleans’ Federal abandonment is covered in After the Flood, commencing with an emphatic if subjective impression of ‘Katrina’ by McGill, after which volunteer worker Christopher Cardinale records his thoughts and interactions with hurricane survivors in ‘Coming Together’, whilst McGill records the fate of ‘Mrs. Spencer’s Home’ and Tobocman details the resilience of the people who returned in ‘Post Katrina 2nd Line’

Attempting to end on lighter terms, Modern Times features outrageous and unbelievable exposé ‘On the Tea Party Trail’ by Kuper, then pictorialises the fine, independent folk of ‘Madison Wisconsin’ courtesy of Susan Semensky Bietila, before Tobocman & Jessica Wehrle delve in detail into the early moments of the ‘Occupy the City’ movement capped by another photo feature of ‘WW3 Arts in Action’ and Drooker’s sublime ‘May Day’ poster.

To add context to the collection Time Line then traces the history of World War 3 Illustrated through a short history of the planet since 1970, augmented by a stunning cover gallery of key issues of the magazine…

The most disheartening thing about this magnificent book is the realisation that so many of these issues – such as globalisation, one-percentism, women’s rights to equal pay and control of their own bodies, the maltreatment and exploitation of prison inmates, the disenfranchisement of African Americans and so much more – are still as being as keenly contested today as they ever were… although surely that’s only a reason to fight even harder and more creatively?

This is a book that belongs in every library and on every school bookshelf, and it most certainly needs to be in the hands of every person who dreams of a fairer, better world…

© 2014 World War 3 Illustrated, Inc. All art, photos and text © 2014, to the individual artists. All rights reserved.

The System

By Peter Kuper (PM Press)
ISBN: 978-1-60486-811-1

Artist, storyteller and activist Peter Kuper was born in Summit, New Jersey in 1958, before the family moved to Cleveland when he was six. The youngster met fellow comics fan Seth Tobocman and they progressed through the school system, catching the bug for self-publishing early. They then attended Kent State University together. Graduating, they moved to New York in 1979 and, whilst both studying at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, created the political art/comics magazine World War 3 Illustrated.

Both separately and in conjunction, in comics, illustration and through art events, Kuper and Tobocman have championed social causes, highlighted judicial and cultural inequities and spearheaded the use of narrative art as an effective means of political activism.

Many of Kuper’s most impressive works have stemmed from his far-flung travels but at heart he is truly a son of New York, with a huge amount of his work using the city as bit player or star attraction.

He created The New York Times’ first continuing strip – Eye of the Beholder – in 1993, adapted such modern literary classics as Franz Kafka’s Give it Up! (1995) and The Metamorphosis (2003) to strip form, whilst always creating his own canon of intriguing graphic novels and visual memoirs.

Amongst the many strings to his bow – and perhaps the most high-profile – has been his brilliant stewardship of Mad Magazine’s beloved Spy Vs. Spy strip which he inherited from creator Antonio Prohias in 1997.

In 1995 he undertook a bold creative challenge for DC’s Mature Reader imprint by crafting a mute yet fantastically expressive 3-part thriller and swingeing social commentary for Vertigo Verité. The System was released as a softcover graphic album in 1997 and has now been magnificently repackaged in a lavish hardback edition from PM Press.

Following a moving Preface from the author describing the genesis of the project, Senior News Editor at Publisher’s Weekly Carl Reid offers an effusive appreciation in ‘Bright Lights, Scary City’ before the drama begins…

As if telling a beguiling, interlinked portmanteau tale of many lives interweaving and intersecting – and often nastily ending – in the Big City without benefit of word-balloons, captions or sound effects was not challenge enough, Kuper pushed his own storytelling abilities to the limit by constructing his pages and panels from cut stencils, creating the narrative in a form akin to urban street art.

It is astoundingly immediate, evocative and effective…

A stripper is murdered by a maniac. An old, weary detective ruminates on his failures. A boy and girl from different neighbourhoods find love. A derelict and his dog eke out a precarious daily existence and a beat cop does his rounds, collecting payoffs from the crooked dealers and helpless shopkeepers he’s supposed to protect. Religious zealots harass gay men and an Asian cabbie gets grief from the white fares who despise him whilst depending on his services.

The streets rattle with subway trains below and elevated trains above.

Strippers keep dying, children go missing, love keeps going and the airport brings a cruel-faced man with radioactive death in his carry-on luggage…

There are so many million stories in The City and they are all connected through the unceasing urban pulse and incessant, unending forward motion of The System

Clever, compulsive and breathtakingly engrossing, this delicious exercise in dramatic interconnectivity and carefully constructed symbolism is a brilliant example of how smart and powerful comics can be.

© 2014 Peter Kuper. All rights reserved.

Cork High and Bottle Deep

By Virgil Partch, Edited by Jonathan Barli (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-664-5

Virgil Parch is possibly the greatest of those almost forgotten key men of comedy cartooning: a pervasive creative force who worked away tirelessly for years, making people laugh and slowly, steadily changing the very look and nature of the industry.

Although largely forgotten these days, Virgil Franklin Partch II (1926-2004) is probably one of the most influential and successful of all American cartoonists.

His arch, absurd, rude, sly, subtle, skewed, whacky and astoundingly unique gags, strips, stories and animated shorts were generated with machine gun rapidity from a seemingly inexhaustible well of comedy excess, which could be rendered in a variety of styles which utterly revolutionised the American publishing from the moment in 1941 that the artist switched from a Walt Disney Studio ideas-man to freelance gag-maker.

He is most well regarded for his cavalier abandonment of traditional form and anatomy. Partch is the guy who liberated gag-cartooning from the bonds of slavish attention to body detail: replacing broadly human shape and proportion with a wildly free and frenetic corporeal expressionism – perhaps even symbolism – which captivated legions of fellow artists and generations of fun-starved readers. This is the guy who made 19 fingers on one hand work…

Following 2013’s VIP – The Mad World of Virgil Partch– asuperbly comprehensive art book/biography – comes this themed collection of his most arch, dark and absurd gag panels all devoted to his favourite hobby and avocation: the heroic and determined downing of strong liquor…

This glorious pocket-sized (174 x 174mm) hardback collection gathers – in colour and black-&-white – the vast majority of his hootch-flavoured (and, perhaps, often -inspired) party favours, ranging from the antics of barflies and boozy babes to the aggravated effects of a lifetime of dedicated tippling and how to offset or escape them…

Subtitled “Amidst the stormy seas of booze, with your faithful skipper, the mad Vipper” the first section focuses on the general run of alcohol-induced visions starring blurry, cheery, dreary, maudlin and dumbfounded imbibers of every class and station as well as the long-suffering worldly-wise barkeeps who attend them; an often (literally) staggering precession of invention, surreal acceptance and inevitable regret, ranging from atrocious visual puns to bewilderingly brilliant observations.

The general carousing is followed by a steady stream of themed sections beginning with an astoundingly visually inventive succession of suggestions on The Hangover… and Some Cures, complete with a sneaky subsection of .descriptive diagnoses of particular brain seizures ranging from the ‘Thirsty-Bedouin Hangover’ to the ‘God! Is that Me? or Hallucination Case’

Assuming you survive that, the blinding switch to full painted colour will shock you sober enough for ‘VIP Views The Drink as seen by…’; a savage selection of interested parties including The Bartender, The Wife and The Guy On the Wagon

Digging deeper, the artist then invites you to observe fizzy, happy people at ‘Dr. Freud’s Cocktail Party’ displaying Introversion, Exhibitionism , Wish Fulfilment, Hallucination, Rejection and a host of other “isms”, after another large round of general gags and panels runs into ‘VIP’s Tips: How to Taper Off…’

Virgil Partch possessed an eternally refilling reservoir of comedy imagination and a unique visual perspective which made him a true catalyst of cartoon change, and Fantagraphics Books have once again struck pure gold by reviving, commemorating and celebrating this lost legend of cartooning.

Best of all, this is an astoundingly funny collection: a wealth of outrageously funny, deliciously barbed funny drawings and clever ideas as powerfully hilarious now as they ever were, and all brilliantly rendered by a master draughtsman no connoisseur of comedy can afford to miss.


© 2014 Fantagraphics Books. All rights reserved.

The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson volume 1: Pirates in the Heartland

By S. Clay Wilson, edited by Patrick Rosenkranz (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-747-5

This book is filled with dark, violent sexual imagery and outrageous situations intended to make adults laugh and think.

If the cover and the copy above hasn’t clued you in, please be warned that this book contain nudity, images of extreme violence, sexual intimacy and excess – both hetero- and homo-sexual – and language commonly used in the privacy of the bedroom, drunken street brawls and probably school playgrounds whenever supervising adults aren’t present.

If the mere thought of all that offends you, read no further and don’t buy the book. The rest of us will just have to enjoy some of the most groundbreaking cartoon experiences ever created without you.

Steve Clay Wilson was a pioneering light of America’s transformative Underground Commix movement: an uncompromising, controversial, in-your-face pioneer of the counterculture, constantly challenging attitudes and sensitivities whilst telling the kind of cartoon tales he wanted – or perhaps had – to.

Something of a contradiction to those who knew him, charming, charismatic Wilson lived life to the full and took his art seriously.

And what art! Stark, complex, shocking, incredibly detailed tableaux jumping with modern Rabelaisian content: mesmerising scenes packed with intense multi-layered busyness, crammed with outrageous, iconic characters in constant surging motion – mostly combative and hilariously violent.

The manly hedonistic exuberance of frantic fighters rejoicing in the wild freedom as exemplified by bikers, cowboys, pirates, bull dykes and devils, augmented by other violent ne’er-do-wells, grotesques, human-scaled beasts and things which could be drawn but never described…

His work seethed and abounded with excess: monsters, mutilations, booze and drug-fuelled romps populated with priapic plunderers and ravening beasts, dangerous and disturbed women and always, always unsettling scenes of society’s biggest taboos – sex and personal freedom.

All Americans already worshipped violence; Wilson just pushed the visuals for that sacrament as far as he could into surreal parody…

Everybody who knew Wilson adored him, but around him they were usually a little nervous and stepped lightly…

The modern successor to Peter Bruegel and Hieronymus Bosch moved on to other artistic arenas when the Underground movement foundered but he never toned down his visions. In 2008 he suffered massive brain damage in mysterious circumstances and has been undergoing full-time palliative care ever since.

This intimate and informative oversize (286 x 202mm) hardcover biography and graphic overview is compiled from previous writings and extensive interviews with the people he grew up with and who shared his eventful life.

Moreover each telling anecdote and reminiscence is augmented with photos, paintings, illustrated letters and private or previously unpublished artworks, and each chapter offers a wealth of strips: comprising all of his published comics work from the heady days of America’s counterculture explosion in 1968 to its virtual demise in 1976.

Our history opens with a warm, picture-packed, fact-filled Introduction by college pal and flatmate John Gary Brown before the hagiography of horrors begins with ‘Wilson’s Childhood’.

Described by Robert Crumb as “the strongest, most original artist of my generation” Steven Clay Wilson grew up in down-home Lincoln, Nebraska, thriving on a diet of EC comics (especially Piracy), post-war prosperity and Great Plains sensibilities. His early life was filled with good family, cool pets, cycling, school and drawing.

Lots of drawing (much of it impressively included in the first chapter) takes us out of High School and unto college but before that unfolds there’s a gory welter of early triumphs in the black and white comics section which includes such classics as ‘Shorts in the Bowl’ from Gothic Blimp Works #1, ‘River City Shoot-Out’from the second issue and ‘No Loot for You, Captain Namrooth’ from Gothic Blimp Works #6, all from 1969, followed by a ‘Goodtimes Front Cover’ for May 1st 1970.

The entirety – 26 images – of the mega-successful arts project which became ‘S. Clay Wilson Portfolio Comix’ leads into the strip ‘Afterwards’ from Hydrogen Bomb Funnies, 1970 and the tableaux ‘It’s a Thrill to Kill’ from Thrilling Murder Comics 1971 and ‘The 137th Dream of Lester Gass’ (Illuminations 1971).

A productive strip period begins with ‘Insect Paranoia’ from Insect Fear #1, ‘Insect Angst’ (#2, both 1970) and ‘Insomnia Angst’ (#3, 1972), followed by ‘Boogie Boogie Horror Yarn’ (Laugh in the Dark, 1971) and closes with ‘Whip Tip Tales’ and ‘Soft Core Porn Yarn’from San Francisco Comic Book issues #1 and #3 in 1970.

Wilson’s turbulent brush with art school and academia at the University of Nebraska is detailed in ‘Higher Education’ as is his understandably less than glorious military service and adoption of the drop out life style, all topped off by more manic strips and panels (he called them “Deep Scenes”) beginning with ‘The Hog Ridin’ Fools’ (Zap Comix #2, 1968 and featuring a very early appearance of Wilson’s signature character the Checkered Demon). That issue also provides ‘Just as you said Madge… He’s Shitting’and ‘Head First’, whilst from the third comes ‘Captain Pissgums and His Pervert Pirates’, ‘Gilded Moments’,‘Captain Edwards St. Miguel Tilden Bradshaw and his crew come to Grips with bloodthirsty foe pirates’, ‘Come Fix’and ‘Arnie, my bra ain’t on’.

Wilson drew at a phenomenal rate and Zap Comix #4 1969 unleashed ‘A Ball in the Bung Hole’, an untitled phantasmagorical double-spread, ‘Leather Tits’ and the debut of his occasional lewd lead ‘Star-Eyed Stella’ whilst Zap #5 1970 barely contained ‘Lester Gass the Midnight Misogynist’, ‘Ruby the Dyke Meets Weedman’and ‘Snake Snatch Tale’.

At the end of 1966 Wilson relocated to ‘Lawrence, Kansas’, a burgeoning Midwestern oasis of counterculture thought and self-expression, and a useful place to concentrate his creative energies before his inevitable move to the West Coast. This chapter is abutted by another wave of glorious filth and ferocity comprising non-biblical epic ‘The Felching Vampires Meet the Holy Virgin Mary’ (Felch Cumics 1975), adult fairy tale ‘Puducchio’ from Pork (1974) which also provided a quartet of single frame gags, after which Bent (1971) provides Deep Scene ‘Dwarf Snuffing Station #103’, ‘Pendants’, a return engagement for ‘Star-Eyed Stella’and ‘Nail Tales’.

Declaring “Art is Therapy”, Wilson always saw its creation as a collaborative process: one which demanded a response. On reaching the golden lands of ‘The Barbary Coast’ his artistic jams with the likes of Crumb – who claims the flatlander inspired him to completely release all his artistic inhibitions – and creative compadres like Spain Rodriguez, Rick Griffin, Robert Williams and Victor Moscoso made them royalty in the San Francisco heart of the revolution.

That star-studded, astounding period and how it began to fade makes up the last revelatory chapter in this initial volume and concludes with one last selection of colour and monochrome masterpieces including the eye-popping ‘Deranged doctors perform operational experiments on mutated patients under the antiseptic incandescent gaze of the Big Daddy Devil Doctor’ from Arcade #3, 1975, illustrations for William Burroughs’seminal short story‘Fun City in Badan’ (Arcade #4), ‘The Corpse Gobblin’ Ogre of Columbite Mountain’(Arcade #5), ‘Monster Bride’ (Arcade #6) and ‘Vampire Lust’(Arcade #7, 1976).

Also on show are multi-hued strip ‘Last Foe’ (Apple Pie July 1975), the cover from Zap Comix #3, the front and back covers from S. Clay Wilson Portfolio Comix, Bent and Pork,‘It’s a treat to blast away the flat foot’s feet’ from Tales of Sex and Death #1, (1971), eight-page, in-record minicomic insert ‘The Saga of Yukon Pete’ from the vinyl platter of the same name by Son of Pete and the Muffdivers, wrapping up in fine style with the infernally euphoric ‘Surfsup’ strip from Tales from the Tube #1, 1972.

Scholarly yet surprisingly engaging, this superb collation, contrived and shepherded by Patrick Rosenkranz, offers an amazingly and unforgettable close-up view of one of the most important cartoonists in American history. This is a book no serious lover of the art form or devotee of grown-up comics can afford to miss.

The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson volume one: Pirates in the Heartland © 2014 Fantagraphics Books. All comics and images by S. Clay Wilson © 2014 S. Clay Wilson. All biographical text © 2014 Patrick Rosenkranz. All other material © 2014 its respective creators and owners. All rights reserved.