Posts Tagged ‘George Herriman’

Awkward Word Balloon Placement in Early Comics


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Wednesday, March 2, 2011


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Herriman's Major Ozone, Sept. 29, 1906

As an addendum to my McManus notebook, I’ve been collecting examples of reverse-order word ballooning, that’s to say the tendency of early cartoonists to occasionally have word balloons read from right to left rather than the reading protocol that’s easier in English (from left to right).

A few examples of what I’m talking about:

George Herriman, Major Ozone, Sept. 29, 1906:

Major Ozone: “What! And shut out that fine fresh air? Never, Captain, Never!!”

Captain: “Major,  you’d better close your door – it may storm tonight.”

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Tisserand Talks Sterrett and Herriman


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Friday, November 26, 2010


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Michael Tisserand, who is working on a biography of George Herriman, grew up in Alexandria, Minnesota. As it happens, Alexandra is also where, many decades before Tisserand arrived on the scene, Cliff Sterrett grew up. Michael was recently back home for the holidays and during his trip he was interviewed for a local radio station about his Herriman research and also about the upcoming Polly and Her Pals, which should be out shortly from IDW. You can listen to the interview here. To hear Michael talk, you have to fast forward till the 32nd minute or so of the hour long show (unless you wanted to hear about the local theater’s production of “Little Women”).

Michael mentioned to me that he wasn’t expecting to answer the questions about comic strip history that got thrown at him, so he go a few things wrong because he was caught off guard (i.e., he forgot the fact the color supplements preceeded the black and white strips). So I hope none of the nerds on this blog get too pedantic with him. But the conversation is really rich in Alexandria lore relating to Sterrett and there are good tidbits about Herriman as well. I wrote the introduction to the new Polly book and I wish I had had some of these bits of texture when I was writing my introduction (I’ll put them in the next Sterrett book). So I encourage comics history buffs to listen. As a bonus, the whole interview is conducted in a lilt and lingo strongly  reminiscent of the movie Fargo (set, of course, in a neighboring state).  Interestingly as Michael notes this is the same neck of the woods that gave us not only Sterrett but also Frank King and Charles Schulz. So give it a listen.

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A Tour of George Herriman’s New Orleans


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Wednesday, July 21, 2010


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Michael Tisserand is writing the type of book I’ve long dreamed of reading: a full-fledged, deeply researched biography of George Herriman, based on many hours spent in the archives and a thorough search for every factual nugget that can be found about the creator of Krazy Kat. Now, thanks to the New Orleans Times-Picayne, we can get a glimpse of what Michael has in store for us and also see the few remaining buildings in survive in Herriman’s city from the time of his childhood that he would be able to recognize today. If you click here, you’ll find a three minute video where Michael gives a tour of George Herriman’s New Orleans.

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Cubist Comics Notes, Part II


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Friday, April 23, 2010


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To continue our notes on comics and cubists:

1. Modernism came to America in 1913 via the Armory Show. One early response was this Mamma’s Little Angel page by Penny Ross , circa 1913 or 1914, where the lead character has “a cubist nightmare in the studio of Monsieur Paul Vincetn Cezanne Van Gogen Ganguin.” (The page can be found in the great Smithsonian book edited by Blackbeard and Williams.) This page is an early example of a common joke, later repeated by Frank King and Cliff Sterrett, where American domesticity and “normality” is turned upside down by modern art.

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Jack Kirby Was the 20th Century & other notes


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Saturday, March 6, 2010


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Foxhole #1 (1954) by Jack Kirby.

More gleanings from my notebook:

Herriman’s Missing Signature. Michael Tisserand has a question: “Does anyone know (or have any ideas why) George Herriman generally no longer signed neither his daily nor his Sunday comics in their final years? How uncommon is this? Are there any reasons having to do with comics production, or is this a purely personal decision? I also noticed that there were periods of time in Herriman’s early stint at the Los Angeles Examiner where he didn’t sign his comics. These are the only comics in those issues that are unsigned.” Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

Jack Kirby Was the 20th Century. Jack Kirby was the immigrant crowded into the tenements of New York (“Street Code”). He was the tough ghetto kid whose street-fighting days prepared him to be a warrior (the Boy Commandos). He was the patriotic fervour that won the war against Nazism (Captain America). He was the returning veteran who sought peace in the comforts of domestic life (Young Romance). He was the more than slightly demented panic about internal communist subversion (Fighting American). He was the Space Race and the promise of science (Sky Masters, Reed Richards). He was the smart housewife trapped in the feminine mystique, forced to take a subservient gender role (the Invisible Girl). He was the fear of radiation and fallout (the Incredible Hulk). He was the civil rights movement and the liberation of the Third World (the Black Panther). He was the existential loner outcast from society who sought solace by riding the waves (the Silver Surfer). He was the military industrial complex (Nick Fury). He was the hippies who rejected the Cold War consensus, and wanted to create their own counterculture (the Forever People). He was the artist who tried to escape his degrading background (Mister Miracle). He was feminism (Big Barda). He was Nixon and the religious right (Darkseid and Glorious Godfrey). He was the old soldier grown weary from a lifetime of struggle (Captain Victory). There was hardly any significant development in American 20th century history that didn’t somehow get refracted through Kirby’s whacko sensibility. Jack Kirby was the 20th century.
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Comics Enriched Their Lives! #11


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Friday, January 30, 2009


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Two more, by request:

CUT THE UNFUNNY COMICS, NOT ‘SPIDERMAN’

I can’t believe that you’re cutting “Spiderman” — the only comic strip in the Globe, except for “Doonesbury” half the time, worth reading. Do think again in making way for what sounds like one more jejune set of unfunny panels pitched at the nonexistent (or at least nonreading) X-generation.

And what ever happened to “Mac Divot” — the most helpful set of golf tips I ever read?

JOHN UPDIKE
Beverly Farms

—From a 1994 letter to the editor of the Boston Globe.

And:

The encounter, when all was said and done, had been no stranger than those in ‘Krazy Kat,’ which had given me my first idea of the American desert.

—John Updike, in “A Desert Encounter,”
from the October 20, 2008 issue of The New Yorker.

I remember really enjoying reading the Spider-Man comic strip in the early ’90s, but mostly in a kind of stupefied amazement at the lengths it took to stretch out a single plot point from Monday to Saturday (presumably so Sunday-only readers wouldn’t get lost). I wonder what Updike saw in it, assuming his letter wasn’t a put-on. I was just a stupid kid at the time, so maybe I was missing something…

[Thanks, Jeet.]

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Books Books


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Thursday, October 11, 2007


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With all the talk about how some people think comics are too influenced by literature, it may be worth remembering that there are people in the literary world who think contemporary fiction is becoming too influenced by comics. No big point here — just that these things get kind of complicated. Personally speaking, as long as the comics work as comics and the prose works as prose, I don’t care what influences whom.

Recently, I’ve read two pretty terrific comics-inflected novels that I thought might be worth pointing out to those interested in such things.

First, Junot Díaz of Drown fame just published his first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. It’s been getting tons of great press, but I’ve been surprised that it hasn’t come up for discussion more in comics circles, because it’s probably the most comics-friendly novel I’ve ever read. There are constant references to comics past, from Clowes (one character is described as looking like he walked straight out of the pages of Eightball) to Kirby (the novel’s epigraph is right from Fantastic Four 49: “Of what import are brief, nameless lives … to Galactus??” [bold case and double-punctuation in the original!]).

Díaz has been fairly vocal about his regard for Gilbert Hernandez, recently saying in a Los Angeles Times profile of Hernandez, “For those of us who are writing across or on borders, I honestly think he was, for me, more important than anyone else.” That becomes readily apparent on reading the book, as allusions to Love & Rockets recur at a steady clip. The title character’s Dominican mother is repeatedly compared to Luba, both in terms of physique and personality, and her storyline (complete with gangster boyfriend and political terrorism) is obviously an extended homage to Poison River, among other Beto tales.

But it’s not just in his references that Díaz demonstrates his influence, but in the very structure of his novel, which meanders and jumps in time and circles back to fill in backstory in almost exactly the same way that the Hernandez brothers have done for so long in their Palomor and Locas sagas. Some day, a grad student’s going to have a very easy time writing a thesis about all of this.

It’s also a great, tremendously funny (and sad) novel, and Díaz runs rings around most of his contemporaries with his prose style. Anyone who loves Love & Rockets (actually anyone period) should really read this book.

The other comics-saturated novel I read this summer, Jack Womack‘s Ambient, probably doesn’t possess quite as wide an appeal, though I liked it a lot. It’s a cartoonishly violent, satirical capitalism-run-amok dystopia, sort of like Mad Max-meets-the-corporate-boardroom; Long Island has become the location of a decades-long Vietnam-style military quagmire, and lower Manhattan is filled with a punkish underclass, many of whom have mutilated themselves in a kind of impotent social protest.

Much of the imagery and tone reminds me of Gary Panter, though Womack never refers to him directly. The cartoonists Womack admits to following are Chester Gould (one of the main bad guys has a framed Dick Tracy panel on his wall), George Herriman, and Walt Kelly (the aforementioned “ambient” underclass has developed a patois-like language nearly Elizabethan in its complexity that Womack has said was inspired by the dialogue in Krazy Kat and Pogo).

Some of the elements of this novel feel a little dated now, such as a religion that worships Elvis Presley, though they undoubtedly seemed fresher when the novel was first published twenty years ago. Still I enjoyed it, and plan on checking out the rest of the series. You can probably tell based on the description whether or not this is your cup of tea moonshine.

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