Comics Ad Men

By Many & various, written and compiled by Steven Brower (Fantagraphics Underground Press)
ISBN: 978-1-68396-307-3 (TPB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Catalogue of Cartoon Nostalgia… 8/10

From its earliest inception, cartooning has been used to sell: initially ideas or values but inevitably actual products too. In newspapers, magazines and especially comic books 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 that they can apply in a commercial arena is almost irresistible…

Any ad exec worth their salt knows instinctively how to catch and hold public attention so as comics developed its star characters and top creators became invaluable resources and many accounts rose and fell on the force of celebrity Brand spokes-doodles rendered by the best artists around – often the very cartoonists creating strips and comic books. Ultimately, many of comics’ greatest were seduced away from the harsh deadlines of strips for the better-paid environs of the marketing moguls. That’s where this delightful collation from design wizard, Creative Director, Educator, art lover and comics afficionado Steven Brower (From Shadow to Light: The Life and Art of Mort Meskin; Golden Age Western Comics; Astounding, Mysterious, Weird and True: The Pulp Art of Comic Book Artists) comes in: a fascinating picture-packed directory of top comics creators leasing their talents to sell stuff…

It’s a guaranteed nostalgia-fest: I know of many – including star industry folk and Plain Old me – who have bought assorted Golden Age comics just because they carry CC Beck Captain Tootsie ad pages or Twinkies shills concocted and populated by Marvel and DC’s top guns…

Delivering an effusive and erudite essay and lecture on the history and development of the phenomenon – liberally accompanied by dozens of captivating illustration examples – Brower makes a compelling case for further study and successfully jingles the heartstrings of comics devotees with a delicious roster of astoundingly impressive artists clandestinely operating in the real world of commerce. Did you know that Golden Age Green Lantern originator Martin Nodell also created the Pillsbury Doughboy? You do now, and so much more can be yours to bemuse your chums…

The big draw is a carefully curated and stunning Gallery of historical examples comprising star turns and their famous creations. Here Sydney Smith co-opts The Gumps to sell “Funy Frostys”, E.C. Segar’s Popeye crew tout Mazda Lamp lightbulbs and Al Capp’s Li’l Abner recommends Cream of Wheat.

The parade of stars continues with Mel Graf (Secret Agent X-9; Captain Easy), Frank Robbins (Jonny Hazard; Batman, The Invaders), Vic Herman (Little Dot; Elsie the Cow), Clifford McBride (Napoleon and Uncle Elby), Sheldon Moldoff (Hawkman; Batman), Basil Wolverton (Spacehawk; Powerhouse Pepper; Mad), Noel Sickles (Scorchy Smith) and  Jacob Landau (Military Comics; Captain America).

Some artists’ styles were perfect for changing times and were in high demand. Otto Soglow (The Little King) and Dik Browne (Hagar the Horrible; Hi and Lois) were highly sought after with Browne being represented here by solo strips and in collaboration with Gill Fox (Torchy; Hi and Lois) and Roland Coe (The Little Scouts), VIP – AKA Virgil Partch – (Big George), Bill Williams (Henry Aldrich; Millie the Model), Hank Ketcham (Dennis the Menace – the American one), Marvin Stein (Justice Traps the Guilty; Young Love) and Paul Fung (Dumb Dora).

There were even agencies repping many illustrators, and a copious sampling of Young & Rubicam and Johnstone & Cushing alumni precede beguiling work from Stan Drake (The Heart of Juliet Jones; Blondie; Kelly Green), Lou Fine (Doll Man; The Ray; The Spirit; Black Condor), Creig Flessel (The Sandman, Detective Comics; Pep Morgan; Superboy), Jack Betts (Britannia Mews), Bob Bugg (The New Neighbors; Popular Comics), Kelly Freas (assorted covers), Alex Kotzky (Blackhawk; Apartment 3-G), George Roussos (Air Wave; Batman; Crypt of Terror; Fantastic Four) and Tom Scheuer (Flash Gordon; My Love Story).

Neal Adams (Batman; X-Men; Ben Casey) actually set up his own agency Continuity Associates, employing many contemporaries such as Dick Ayers (Human Torch, Ghost Rider; Sgt. Fury  and his Howling Commandos) and talented newcomers but there was always a demand for older veterans like Mort Meskin (Sheena; Johnny Quick; Vigilante; Mark Merlin), Joe Simon (Captain America; The Fly; Fighting American; Boy Commandos) and Wallace Wood (T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents; Daredevil; Weird Science; Mad; Witzend), all seen here in a wealth of amazing art.

Wrapping up the with a final push of superb selling points are briefs filled by Ken Penders (Sonic the Hedgehog), some Twinkies moments courtesy of John Romita Snr. (Amazing Spider-Man) and Ross Andru & Mike Esposito (Wonder Woman; The War that Time Forgot; The Metal Men; Amazing Spider-Man), a drinks campaign designed to reach modern youth featuring Daniel Clowes (Lloyd Llewellyn; Eightball; Ghost World; Patience) and an abundance of superb stuff from the mightily prolific Jack Davis (Mad; Frontline Combat; Rawhide Kid).

Available in paperback or instantly gratifying digital editions and stuffed with astounding images, fascinating lost ephemera and mouth-watering bouts of nostalgia, Comics Ad Men is an absolute visual delight no fan of pop culture, comics or narrative illustration will be able to resist.
© 2019 Steven Brower and Fantagraphics Books. All art and trademarks © & ™ & their respective copyright and trademark holders. Essay © Steven Brower. All rights reserved.

Hubert Reeves Explains BiodiversitY

Hubert Reeves, Nelly Boutinot & Daniel Casanave, coloured by Claire Champion and translated by Joseph Laredo (Europe Comics)
No ISBN: digital release only

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Lasting Lessons Lavishly Limned and Laudably Learned… 9/10

It’s sometimes easy to forget that other countries have national treasures, too: popular spokes-folk sharing their passions for the good of us all. Living folk, that is, not pilfered artefacts taken into “protective custody” by most western “explorers” whilst visiting other people’s continents: that’s just shameful and unforgivable…

Sir David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg, Professors Brian Cox, Lucy Worsley, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and many others have translated their passions into education, elucidation, mass entertainment and good works, but they are not alone and most nations have their own voices of wonder, reason and sanity. For French-speakers, one of those effulgent natural educators is Professor Hubert Reeves.

Born Quebecois in 1932, raised and educated in Montreal but now resident in Paris, the physicist and professional educator is a major name in Thermonuclear Reactions, Light Nuclei and “Positronium”; advises NASA and has – since 1965 – been Director of Research at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique.

In later life he became the go-to guy for science stuff on French TV and has contrived a series of bande dessinée detailing Earth’s rapidly dwindling and almost expired bounties. Following the translated book featured here – which started life in 2017 as Hubert Reeves explique: La bioversité – he turned his sagacious eye to Oceans and Forests, which I’ll probably get around to later, assuming we still have any next year…

Working with co-writer Nelly Boutinot (vice-president of the Humanity and Biodiversity Association) and publisher/illustrator Daniel Casanave (Shelly; Romantica; Une Aventure rocambolesque) the Man of Letters has here inserted himself into a gentle and laconic nature ramble with a group of school children exploring lush countryside which inescapably includes all our mighty works. Delivered with simple but strictly factual directness in a captivating cartoon style that enchants and seduces, the relationships and shared history of cities, suspension bridges and other technologies is deconstructed in terms of their impact on the natural world.

Clarifying and connecting the link between microorganisms and petrochemicals; weather cycles and climate change; the balance between prey and predators in healthy ecosystems; the impact of invasive species (both deliberately imported and free-roaming); the cost to us all of every extinction and the no-brainer importance and function of the oxygen cycle that keeps us all alive, Le Professeur makes his case and proves his points while exulting in the majesty and complexity of existence…

Explained with stunning clarity using powerful symbols and examples from all across the embattled globe, yet still able to end on an optimistic note, Hubert Reeves Explains Biodiversity affords a superb and satisfying life lesson that belongs in every classroom, library and boardroom. Get it for the kids, or maybe they’ll get it for you…

The Chagos Betrayal – How Britain Robbed an Island and Made Its People Disappear

By Florian Grosset (Myriad Editions)
ISBN: 978-1-912408-67-2 (TPB) eISBN 978-1-912408-93-1

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Because Knowledge is Power and Shame is a Weapon… 9/10

Words wedded to images have long been a cheap and reliable tool of the functionally powerless in addressing injustice. When used to craft potent and damning testaments of authoritarian oppression and atrocity, they stand a pretty good chance of shifting balances of power, changing the course of events and auditing history. Let’s hope it’s still the case here…

Comics and Graphic Novels carry a powerful ability to whip up empathy, deliver damaging detail, summarise complex issues and events without lessening emotional impact, and visually embed nuance that dry reports and impassioned novels cannot, at a fraction of the cost of a live action documentary. That’s exactly what graphic designer and first person witness Florian Grosset has achieved here as she details how successive British governments have displaced, lied to and fatally ignored some of their poorest, weakest and most trusting subjects, simply to curry favour with foreign allies and obtain discount weapons systems…

The uprooting and forced relocation of thousands of mostly brown-skinned, generally poor and universally uneducated British citizens by the British government in London to lease America a strategically advantageous naval base in the Indian Ocean has been a shameful ongoing affair since 1965. The plight of the displaced people of the Chagos archipelago as they perpetually petition British and International Courts and struggle to return to their ancestral homes on the island of Diego Garcia is still a slowly unfolding current affair, not a done and dusted historical footnote.

Utilising beautiful imagery, blunt facts and beguiling personal testimonies Grosset has assembled a grimly unforgettable argument, detailing how the Chagos litigants were belittled, lied to, discounted, ignored and ultimately stalled in hope that they would die out or go away.

A tragically effective tactic still in use – especially by civilised First World governments – is to rewrite the terms rules and definitions. Great Britain is a past master of this: even today glibly changing the status of any troublesome citizen from “British” to “Somebody Else’s Problem, Now”.

In the case of the former Chagos Archipelago islanders, redefining their centuries-old home as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) and its British-citizen inhabitants as “migrant workers” before summarily shipping them off against their will to imminently independent Mauritius probably seemed a “cunning wheeze”, but what it was – and remains – is damning proof of how elites regard the rest of us…

This staggeringly moving account – broken down into understated but powerfully enthralling chapters ‘You must leave and never return’, ‘Life in the slums’, ‘A troubled history’, ‘We must be very tough about this…there will be no indigenous population except seagulls..’, ‘There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.’ And ‘…any person who enters BIOT without permission may be liable to imprisonment for three years and/or a fine of £10,000…’ – summarises the current state of play and offers a chance for us all to make ourselves heard about the things done in our name but without our knowledge or consent.

Fully backed up by a ‘Sources’ section and grateful ‘Acknowledgements’ this is a superbly designed weapon of enlightenment no concerned citizen of our dying Earth should miss.
© 2021 Florian Grosset. All rights reserved.

There’s a HAIR in My Dirt! – A Worm’s Story

By Gary Larson, coloured by Nick Bell (Little, Brown and Co/HarperCollins)
ISBNs: 978-0-31664-519-5 (HB) 978-0060932749 (PB)

We may not be rocket scientists but all cartoonists tend to lurk at the sharp end of the IQ bell curve – and then there’s Gary Larson. He could be a rocket scientist if he wanted to. Happily though, his inclinations tend towards natural history, Jazz and Life Sciences.

And making people laugh in a truthful, thinking kind of way…

Larson was born in 1950 and raised in Washington State. After school and college (also Washington State where he got a degree in communications), he bummed around and got a job in a music store – which he hated. During a self-imposed sabbatical he evolved into a cartoonist by submitting to Pacific Search Magazine) in Seattle, who astonished him by accepting and paying for his six drawings. Bemused and emboldened, Larson kept on doodling and in 1979 The Seattle Times began publishing his strip Nature’s Way. When The San Francisco Chronicle picked up the gag feature, they renamed it The Far Side

From 1980 on, the Chronicle Syndicate peddled the strip with huge success. The Far Side became a global phenomenon and Larson’s bizarre, skewed and bitingly surreal strip – starring nature Smug in Tooth and Claw – almost took over the world. With 23 collections (over 45 million copies sold), two animated movies, calendars, greetings cards and assorted merchandise seemingly everywhere, the smartypants scribbler was at the top of his game when he retired the feature on January 1st 1995.

After fifteen years at the top, Larson wanted to quit while he was ahead. He still did the occasional promo piece or illustration but increasingly devoted his time to ecological causes and charities such as Conservation International. He is still passionately crusading for environmental reform – hell, even a slim simple common sense will do – and other issues affecting us all. Happily, on July 7th this year, he began releasing new material online: just go to the Far Side website and check out “New Stuff”…

Of course, even back in the 1990s, he couldn’t stop drawing or thinking or, indeed, teaching even if officially off the clock. In 1998 he crafted this stunningly smart and cool children’s book for concerned and nervous adults. It was a huge hit and is more relevant now than ever…

There’s a HAIR in My Dirt! brilliantly, mordantly tells a parable within a fable and serves up a marvellously meaningful message for us to absorb and ingest whilst simultaneously making us laugh like loons and worry like warts.

One day underground, a little worm having dinner with his folks finds something unnatural and icky in his meal and starts bemoaning the lowly status and general crappiness of his annelidic existence (look it up, I’m showing off and making a comedic point too…).

To counter this outburst of whingeing, Father Worm offers up a salutary tale to put things into their proper perspective…

Thus begins the tragic tale of Harriet, a beautiful human maiden living – she believed – at one with the whole world. Dwelling in the woods, she was enraptured with the bountiful Magic of Nature and on one particularly frolicsome day encountered cute squirrels, lovely flowers, icky bugs, happy birds, playful deer, tortoises and every kind of creature… and completely missed the point about all of them…

Masterfully mimicking an acerbic fairytale teller, Larson delivers an astoundingly astute and unforgettable ecology lesson, equally effective in educating young and old alike about Nature’s true nature – and yet still miraculous wonders – whilst maintaining a monolithic amount of outrageous comic hilarity.

This sublime illustrated yarn became a New York Times Best Seller on its release and still serves as a fabulous reminder of what really clever people can achieve even if they don’t do rocket science…

There’s a HAIR in My Dirt! is one of the smartest, funniest and most enticingly educational kid’s books ever created and should be on every school curriculum. Since it isn’t, perhaps it’s best if you picked one up for the house…?
© 1998 FarWorks, Inc. All rights reserved.

Knock Out! – The True Story of Emile Griffith

By Reinhard Kleist, translated by Michael Waaler (SelfMadeHero)
ISBN: 978-1-91059-386-8 (TPB)

Fairness and Justice are human constructs that afford many opportunities to prove that the universe works on other principles. Ritualized combat – like boxing – seeks to even out the most egregious imbalances between contestants to provide a balanced and equitable battle, but no amount of rule-making and legislation can shield participants from society, the environment they live in or the genetic heritage that shaped them.

Multi-award-winning German illustrator, designer, author, cartoonist and comics maker Reinhard Kleist (Berlinoir; Steeplechase; Das Grauen im Gemäuer) has been working in the industry since 1994: setting up a cooperative studio/atelier and beginning his professional career with graphic biography Lovecraft, and supernal dramas Minna, Das Festmahl, and Abenteuer eines Weichenstellers while still a student in Münster.

He has constantly explored and gratified his fascination with notable individuals who have overcome stacked odds and inner darkness in stellar works such as Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness; Elvis – An Illustrated Biography; Castro; An Olympic Dream: The Story of Samia Yusaf Omar and Nick Cave: Mercy on Me.

Here his powerfully moody yet joyous exuberant monochrome stylings recount the amazing life of a born fighter who triumphs in the best storybook traditions, whilst never deviating from the inescapable chains of history or escaping the sordid realms of real life…

Even if they’ve heard of him, most boxing fans don’t talk about Emile Alphonse Griffith. Born in the US Virgin Islands in 1938, Emile was black, poorly educated and endured abuse at home before moving to America. In 1956, while working in a New York hat factory, his foreman – a former boxing coach – noticed his astounding physique and encouraged the affable easy-going kid to try boxing as a way to improve his financial woes.

Although Emile preferred ping-pong, singing and making hats (later, at the height of his fame, Emile designed hats for women and made upbeat pop records), he went along with his white mentor. Turning Pro in 1958, Emile was soon a Golden Gloves winner and World Champion in the Welterweight, Junior Middleweight and Middleweight categories.

At that time in America, the sporting barriers to black boxers were mostly gone, but Emile laboured under another “handicap” – he slept with men and didn’t particularly care who knew about it.

Just like showbiz and popular entertainer Liberace, Emile’s status was an “open secret” in the 1960s Boxing community, which maintained a “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality, but that only went so far in the days before the game-changing Stonewall Riots (look it up if you have to – its important). The happy-go-lucky pugilist’s privileged status evaporated after the third of three fights with Cuban Benny Paret, whom Emile defeated to become World Champion, before losing the rematch.

In 1962, they met one final time. After Paret taunted Griffith with homosexual and racial slurs, the match was a savage and unrelenting bout that resulted in the death of Paret…

However, that’s simply the first act of this tale, which follows Griffith – who was allowed to continue boxing until 1977 – as he confounded critics and bigots, breaking down barriers and living a full and extremely varied life… as much as his troubled conscience would allow.

This is a supremely uplifting story of triumph and tragedy which shows just how meaningless such concepts are outside of fiction. It’s a happy-sad example of how life goes on in a personal and macroscopic manner until it just ends: and it successfully argues that all you can do is the best you can…

Available in paperback and digital editions and supported by a Preface from Kleist acknowledging his influences and debt to Griffith biographer Ron Ross; Jonathan W. Gray’s context-enlightening Foreword ‘The Sweet Science and Open Secrets’ and a socio-cultural appraisal of Emile and other gay black boxers by Tatjana Eggeling (European Ethnologist and expert on Homophobia in Sports) plus a superb gallery of sketches and working drawings by Kleist, this is an unqualified hit that resonates far beyond the square ring and the closeted environs of LGBTQIA+ literature. It’s a surefire winner for everyone.
© Text and illustrations 2019 CARLSEN Verlag GmbH, Hamburg, Germany. English translation © 2021 SelfMadeHero. All rights reserved.

The Killer Condom and Down to the Bone

By Ralf König: translated by Jim Steakley and Jeff Krell (Northwest Press/Ignite! Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-0-96563-238-6 (Killer Condom PB) 978-0-96563-239-3 (Down to the Bone PB)
Digital editions by Northwest Press – no ISBN

Standard Disclaimer: These comedy stories contain rude words, explicit nudity, depictions of graphic and hilarious sexual situations and normal non-Biblical lifestyles. If any of these are likely to offend, what the hell are you doing here anyway?

I’d like to think that most social problems humanity suffers from can be fixed by a little honesty and a lot of communication – especially when it comes to relationships. Being able to laugh together probably helps too. In regard to sexual politics and freedom it’s an attitude Germany adopted decades ago. As a result, the country has an admirable record of acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community and a broad penetration (yes, I’m awful! And Not Funny!) of gay comics into the general population.

Undisputed king of home-grown graphic novels is Ralf König, a multi-award-winning cartoonist, filmmaker and advocate with almost fifty titles – such as Suck My Duck; Santa Claus Junior; Prototyp; Archetyp; Antityp and Stehaufmännchen– under his belt.

He was born in August 1960 and came out in 1979, crafting an unceasing parade of incisive and hilarious strips and sagas set in and around the nation’s ever-evolving gay scene. Much to his own surprise, he discovered that his work had vaulted the divide from niche market to become a staple of popular mass market book sales. Many of his works have been rereleased as eBooks from Northwest Press.

The two volumes covered here were major sellers all over the world: blending the sordid shock-chic of 1970s American crime films and TV shows like Dirty Harry, The Warriors or Kojak and schlocky Sci Fi-horror (as in Scanners or Critters) with absurdist humour and the delicious notion of New York’s toughest Top Cop being Out, Loud and obnoxiously Proud…

First released in Britain in 1991 and wholly embracing the conceit of being an art house movie, The Killer Condom originally debuted in 1987 as Kondom des Grauens: a whole-hearted genre spoof introducing disgraced and disgraceful New York detective Luigi Macaroni, called on by his reluctant and harassed boss to solve a rash of gory emasculations plaguing the area around the notorious pay-by-the-hour Hotel Quickie.

Brash, gruff and deliberately sleazy, Macaroni is too good a cop to get rid of, despite his brazen attitude, and begins to work just like in every other case his straight colleagues won’t touch. However, as he investigates the brutal street scene he quickly realizes that no human agency is biting the dicks off an escalating stream of unfortunate sinners…

When he picks up a rent boy for a little relief, they too go to the Quickie and soon face terror beyond imagination and every man’s darkest nightmare…

Crafted at a time when HIV/AIDS was ravaging the gay community and scaring the pants off the wider world, this darkly trenchant satire adds a bizarre codicil to the still-ongoing debate about safe sex and condom use, but remains at its core an outrageously funny romp for grown-ups. In 1996, it and sequel Down to the Bone were adapted as a German comedy horror movie, latterly released in America as Killer Condom.
The Killer Condom © 1988 by Editions Kunst der Comics/Ralf König. Revised Edition © 2009, Published by Ignite! Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Down to the Bone emerged in 1990. As Bis Auf die Knochen, it heralded the triumphant return of Detective Inspector Macaroni – an even-more embittered man following his failure to maintain a loving relationship. It’s New Year’s in New York and the city is darker and nastier than ever. In the dead of winter, a fresh horror stalks the streets…

When a man hungry for negotiable affection encounters an oddly familiar “leatherman” hooker, it turns into the last trick of his life. Meanwhile, celebrity restauranteur Joe Baluga meets a similar fate, as does another hapless John triggering another campaign of atrocity in the mouldy, worm-infested Big Apple.

This time, it’s not dicks that are disappearing: now entire bodies are being instantly reduced to bleached skeletons and the Captain needs the department’s top Queer to stop the rot. As the third victim is the wealthy son of an infamous billionaire, and just to be safe, the embattled chief assigns painfully straight whitebread Detective Brian Plumley to assist him – affording Macaroni an irresistible opportunity to play pranks and reaffirm his reputation as a total bastard…

As they trawl the leather bars and other outposts of “the scene” they quickly establish an apparent link to the gay porn industry. But other than providing the inspector with a celebrity hook-up, the investigation stalls until a bizarre find proves that what they’re all hunting is far from human…

From there the pieces swiftly fall into place and the escalating horror leads back to an old case involving carnivorous latex prophylactics. With bodies still dropping, Macaroni and a far-more woke Plumley track down an old mad scientist and his ghastly creation and encounter a deranged fundamentalist determined to enforce Biblical mandates at all costs…

Wry, witty, coarsely hysterical, these books marry the surly, unsavoury thrills of urban cop fiction with a bawdily outrageous whimsy that sadly won’t appeal to everybody, but if you love big raucous ludicrous belly laughs with your thrills and chills, these might well become some of your favourite reads.
Down to the Bone © 1990 by Editions Kunst der Comics/Ralf König. Revised Edition © 2011, and published by Ignite! Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Women Discoverers: 20 Top Women in Science

By Marie Moinard & Christelle Pecout, translated by Montana Kane (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-270-0 (Album HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-271-7

Comics and graphic novels have an inconceivable power to deliver information in readily accessible form, and – like all the best teachers – can do so in ways that are fascinating, fun and therefore unforgettable. Here’s a fresh entrant in a wave of historical and biographical visual celebrations seeking to redress centuries of gender injustice while providing true life role models for the coming generations.

Crafted by writer, editor and journalist Marie Moinard (En chemin elle recontre, La petite vieille du Vendredi) & Christelle Pécout (Lune d’Ombre, Hypathie, Histoires et légendes normandes), Les découvreuses is a cheery hardback – or digital – compendium made comprehensible to us, via translation into English by those fine folk at NBM.

As the name suggests, Women Discoverers focuses on twenty female scientists who generally – without fanfare or even fair credit – changed the world. Some are still doing so. A combination of comics vignettes and short illustrated data epigrams preceded by an impassioned Introduction from Marie-Sophie Pawlak (President of Elles Bougent scientific society), the revelations begin an extended strip history of the achievements of the peerless Marie Curie whose discoveries in chemistry and physics practically reinvented the planet. She is followed by brief vignettes of French biologist Françoise Barre-Sinoussi (discoverer of the HIV retrovirus), Canadian physicist Donna Théo Strickland (laser amplification) and African-American Dorothy Vaughan whose mathematical and computing skills served the world at NASA.

It’s back to comics for Ada Lovelace who revolutionized mathematics by inventing computer programming, after which single page biographies describe the achievements of lengths undertaken by French mathematician Émilie du Châtelet to attend men-only institutions in the days of the Enlightenment.

Although separated by centuries, mathematicians Emmy Noether (Germany 1882-1935) and Grace Alele-Williams (born in Niger in 1932) both excelled and triumphed despite male opposition but their stories pale beside the strip-delivered hardships of actress, engineer and mobile phone pioneer Hedy Lamarr

Another Nasa stalwart, mathematician/astrophysicist Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, famously calculated Apollo 11’s life-saving orbit, while paediatrician Marthe Gautier discovered the origins of Downs’ Syndrome and Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani’s geometry discoveries were tragically cut short by illness…

The shameful treatment and fate of British researcher Rosalind Franklin also ended in a cruelly early death and belated fame, unlike French mathematician, philosopher and physicist Sophie Germain whose many (posthumous) triumphs never brought her inclusion in the numerous scientific organisations barring female membership during her lifetime.

Whereas Marie Curie’s daughter Irène Joliot-Curie won similar accolades to her mother, astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered pulsars only to have her (male) supervisor steal the credit. At least she’s still alive to see the record set straight…

In pictorial form, astronaut Mae Jemison reveals her life and medical successes on Earth, before this potent paean closes with a trio of one-page wonders: Kevlar inventor Stephanie Kwolek, Navy mathematician Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (writer of the COBOL programming language) and Chinese chemist Xie Yi whose advances in nanotechnology have made the world a very different place.

Sure, you could Google them, but this book is a far more satisfying and charming alternative and the very fact that you probably haven’t heard of most of these astounding innovators – or even a few of the more ancient ones – only proves, without doubt, that you need this book.
© 2019 Blue Lotus Prod. © 2021 NBM for the English translation.

For more information and other great reads see

Wage Slaves

By Daria Bogdańska, translated by Aleksander Linskog (Centrala)
ISBN: 978-1-912278-06-0 (TPB)

It’s rare to see an international indie comic that combines personal revelation and intimate expression with hard-hitting reportage, so massive kudos to relative newcomer Daria Bogdańska who documented her eventful life thus far with uncompromising veracity while becoming a successful social activist battling corruption, authoritarian ennui and exploitation of immigrants in real life as well as this powerful and joyous paperback tome.

Having left her abusive home in Poland at 15, Daria travels across Europe, supporting herself with a succession of “under-the-table” and “off-the-books” jobs of varying legality and daily uncertainty, until she applies for and wins a place on a college course in Sweden.

After arriving in Malmö and hooking up with old friends, she finds accommodation of a tenuous nature, but, like so many others, has to work to pay for her studies. Being a temporary resident, she has no social security number and finds herself in the crushing trap of being unable to secure steady or even legal employment…

While constantly navigating the minefield of Sweden (Hell, any nation’s) Catch 22-based social security system, she finds casual work as a waitress and dogsbody for a chain of bars and curry houses run by an immigrant turned local bigwig…

As the year progresses, she notices things are pretty hinky even by the standards of the illicit economies she’s been exposed to in the past. At one point, the hard-working, occasionally partying student realises she’s supported herself for six years all over the world and never once had legitimate employment…

A little research reveals the nature and level of exploitation her non-white co-workers are enduring in pursuit of the Swedish equivalent of a Green Card, and something snaps. Daria decides something has to be done and boldly risks everything by joining a union…

Brutally frank, charmingly earnest and carrying a potent punch of virtue triumphant, Wage Slaves is a subtly engaging peek at the life too many youngsters have to endure, and one you should refresh your own comfortably numb social conscience with.
© Daria Bogdańska & Centrala. All rights reserved.

Amazing Athletes – 50 Remarkable Athletes of History

By Till Lukat, translated by Cecil Bronswear (Centrala)
ISBN: 978-1-912278-13-8 (HB)

We’re all in need of role models and actual heroes – these days more than ever. Here’s a charming little (245x x 330 mm) hardback compendium aimed squarely at kids but delivering a mighty sardonic kick for all lovers of competition and achievement.

Comics and graphic novels have an inconceivable power to deliver information in readily accessible form, and – like all the best teachers – can do so in ways that are fascinating, fun and therefore unforgettable. Berlin-born world traveller Til Lukat splits his time between there and Bristol these days, crafting award-winning comics such as Tuff Ladies and this compilation of sporting memorabilia.

Listed here, with no patronising division into sex-based niches, is a wittily engaging primer of the greatest exponents of victory, defeat and all aspects of sporting accomplishment, delivered as a portrait, minicomic and fact-packed text block. The fun begins with an introductory spread recalling the ‘Good Old Times’ of ‘Milo of Croton’ before jumping to 19thcentury cyclist ‘Henri Desgrange’ and mountain climber ‘Alexandra David-Néel’.

Other entrants include the proud, famous, notorious and simply tragic such as ‘Francisco Lázaro’, ‘Johnny Weissmüller’or ‘Yuliya Stepanova’ as well as the generally unsung like ‘Alfonsina Strada’, ‘Helene Mayer’, ‘Jesse Owens’, ‘Fanny Blankers-Koen’, ‘Toni Stone’, ‘Barbara Buttrick’, ‘Tamara Tyshkevich’, ‘Wilma Rudolph’, ‘Katherine Switzer’, ‘Florence Griffith-Joyner’, ‘Tonya Harding’, ‘Ellen MacArthur’ and many others.

Crucial moments in sporting history are précised in spreads such as ‘Christmas on the Front’, ‘Equality: 1 Disability: 0’, ‘A Clean Game’, ‘Kicking Apartheid’ and ‘The Dark Side’ while adding intrigue if not lustre is the ‘Sibling Rivalry’ of Rudolf and Adolf Dassler (you should look them up, or better yet buy this book) to seal a superbly entertaining deal combining comics dash with athletic glory.
© Till Lukat & Cambourakis 2017. All rights reserved.

A Quick & Easy Guide to Consent

By Isabella Rotman with Luke B. Howard (Limerance Press/Oni Press-Lion Forge Publishing Group)
ISBN: 978-1-62010-794-2 (PB) eISBN: 978-1-62010-815-4

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Crucial Companion for Every Social Gathering of More Than 1 Person… 9/10

It’s going to be a seasonal holiday unlike any in living memory for most of us. In Britain, we’ve stringently locked down, been let loose to run rampant in dangerously close proximities and then locked down even harder and with more targeted complexity. For Christmas, as we’ve been not-so-good, the populace can now mix and mingle as we see fit, with no real curbing of contact. What could possibly go wrong?

All that preamble is my convoluted way of introducing what should the ideal accompaniment to the party season or any relationship…

I’ve frequently argued that comic strips are a matchless tool for education: rendering the most complex topics easily accessible and displaying a potent facility to inform, affect and alter behaviour. Here’s another superb example of the art form using its great powers for good…

The Quick & Easy Guide series has an admirable record of confronting uncomfortable issues with taste, sensitivity and breezy forthrightness: offering solutions as well as awareness or solidarity.

Here, Maine-based cartoonist Isabella Rotman (Wait What?: A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies and Growing Up; You’re So Sexy When You Aren’t Transmitting STIs) and New Orleans colourist Luke Howard collaborate on a cogent and compelling primer covering the irrefutable basics When, Where, Why and most especially What can be taken as Consent.

This is such a charged issue that the light and informative lecture is preceded by a very clear and well thought out Content Warning defining terms and the specifics of situations, with firm regard to gender, scope and even an Informational Disclaimer… that’s how hot a topic this is …

Terms are examined and situations explored during a tenuous first encounter between two healthy young adults, but as things heat up, a phantasmal guide pops in to steer the participants and give voice to their suppressed concerns, through chapters such as ‘What is Consent?’, ‘Consent is Simple’, ‘What is Sex?’ and ‘Consent Must be Freely Given!’ all emphasised through sidebars like ‘Tell Them What Turns You On!’ and an enumeration of what definitively ‘Have Nothing to do With Consent!’

The dialogue and show-&-tells are punctuated by quotes from professional Sexual Consent Educators, augmented by role plays, quizzes and a section outlining and defining the current (US only) ‘Age of Consent’ laws, before asking ‘Is Everyone Fully Informed?’ This last is primarily about all the many factors – physical and emotional – potential partners should always be apprised of, but also broadmindedly enquires ‘What About Kink?’ and even tackles the ever-present ‘Fear of Rejection’

In closing, the convivial confrontation offers a list of potential faux pas in ‘So Don’t…’, a summation ‘In Review…’ before providing a ‘Yes. No. Maybe So Checklist’ as well as a selection of ‘Safer Sex: Contraception’, ‘…STI Risk Reduction’and ‘…Activities’ suggestions.

Being wise beyond her years and probably acutely aware of how inventive humans are, the author closes with sagacious questionnaire ‘Anything Else?’ plus a fulsome Bibliography and list of Resources to contact including Sex & Relationship Education, appropriate Hotlines and inline Checklists

I hail from a fabulous far-distant era where we happily ravaged the planet without a qualm and believed emotional understanding led to universal acceptance. At the same time, it seems most of us never really stopped being the greedy cave monkey obsessively snatching whatever it wanted with no consideration of others or even consequences. We’re apparently a little more in tune with the planet now, and finally learning to share and play well with others…

This witty, no-nonsense treatise offers sage advice on becoming our best selves by dealing with our selfish natures – something that really should have been bred out of humanity eons, if not centuries, ago. It should be made compulsory reading in every school and college (and pub, and nightclub, and scenic natural beauty spot, and cinema and waiting room and…)
A Quick & Easy Guide to Consent ™ & © 2020 Isabella Rotman. All rights reserved.