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These are from last year, but Francesco Marciuliano put together some deleted scenes from “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”...

I could probably find a rant like this to run every week for an "On -isms" post, but this one's pretty short and to the point. Here are some Tweets from Mellanie Gillman from yesterday...

Gillman is the creator of As the Crow Flies. It's quite good. You should read it.
I only discovered Gordo a couple of years ago. It actually debuted on this day back in 1941, and was written and drawn exclusively by Gus Arriola until his retirement in 1985. Arriola used the strip to introduce many U.S. citizens to Mexican culture (Arriola, while born in Arizona, is of Mexican descent) and did it with such finesse that Charles Schulz once described Gordo as "probably the most beautifully drawn strip in the history of the business."

Let me share a few examples so you can judge Schulz's comment for your self...
I've seen a lot of people point to that one about a visual interpretation of jazz as a favorite and inventive use of the medium, but I find the sequence about Pepito getting a black eye absolutely brilliant! The storytelling going on there works astoundingly well, especially when you consider that A) it's wordless, B) there are two radical shifts in the visual point of view within nine panels, and C) the first half is entirely interpretive with nothing identifiably drawn until panel 6. To pulls that off takes, I think, a phenomenal amount of talent!

Arriola isn't one of those cartoonists who people only recognized after his death either. He was well known and respected, both by peers and by readers, from very early in the strip's run. In R.C. Harvey's biography of Arriola, he quotes high praise coming from, besides Schulz, Mort (Beetle Bailey) Walker, Hank (Dennis the Meance) Ketcham, Paul (Mad) Coker, and Eldon (Playboy) Dedini. Arriola won the National Cartoonists Society Humor Comic Strip Award in both 1957 and 1965, and is credited, as I said earlier, with introducing a wide swath of the U.S. to Mexican words and customs.

There have only been a handful of books collecting his strips, despite having worked on them for just shy of a half century, and none of them, I believe, have been in print for the past 25 years. It's really a shame since the work is so amazingly brilliant. In this "Golden Age of Reprints" we have going on now, it's almost shocking that no one has started collecting these strips in a handsome package yet. If they do, I'll certainly be first in line to get a copy!
Back in 1988, there was a cereal called Morning Funnies from Ralston. The hook was that they had licensed a number of characters from King Features, and the back of the box had several comic strips printed on it featuring those characters. Furthermore, you could open a back panel and reveal another two pages of comics.

Most everything you need to know about the cereal can be found in this three-minute contemporary review...

The cereal only lasted about a year, but they managed to put out ten different sets of comics. (All of the box art can be viewed here, although they don't include the interior flap.) They apparently did realize that they would need to update the comics featured pretty often, but they still missed a fundamental problem which I haven't seen written up in any of the articles I found online while researching this. The problem Ralston missed is that you can read the eight comic strips on any given box in one sitting. The entertainment value they tried to instill in the box itself would last for all of five minutes. The next day, you're still stuck with those same eight comics. And the day after that, you've still got the same eight comics. And the day after that... until you finish the entire box of cereal. Which, if you followed the recommended serving size, would be about two weeks. One week if you had a sibling.

This was 1988, you'll recall, so people were still getting newspapers. If you were so inclined to read your funnies in the morning over breakfast, you'd not only get more frequent updates via the paper, but there were a lot more of them too. Even the dullest kid on the block could have figured out this issue after the second day with the box.

So even if you liked all the strips (and let's be honest, they weren't the cream of the crop back then, even if you're limiting yourself to King's properties) and even if you liked the cereal itself (and, by all accounts, that's highly unlikely) you've still got this fundamental flaw in the very concept. To get this to work... I honestly can't think of a way to get this to work. You'd almost need to make the box out of a digital display that updated itself daily. Which is technically do-able now, twenty years later, but our disposable culture hasn't gone so far yet that we can afford to put LCD screens tied to small microprocessors with a wireless connection into a shipping container that's designed to be thrown away after a week or two. It's technically possible, but insanely impractical.

I suspect the licensing of so many characters didn't help either. The problem most of those licensed type cereals had was that so much money was spent on the licensing that they had to cut costs on the food itself. So the cereal simply didn't taste very good. Batman cereal? Crap. Mr. T cereal? Crap. Smurf cereal? Crap. G.I.Joe cereal? Crap. (Flintstones is probably about the only one to buck that trend.) I've heard complaints that Morning Funnies was WAAAAY too sweet, but I just recall being generally unimpressed.

Morning Funnies is one of those weird, little footnotes in the history of comic strip lore, seemingly remembered more by cereal enthusiasts than comic strip fans.
Fumio Obata's Just So Happens was published last year in the UK and back in March here in the US, but I only just stumbled across it in the bookstore. The story is about a young Japanese woman, Yumiko, who moved to England about a decade ago. She's got a decent life, living with her fiancé and working as a designer in London with some of her friends. But early in the story, she gets a call from her brother saying that their father just died in an accident. The story then follows Yumiko as she heads home, visiting with family, and dealing with her father's funeral.

It's a quiet story. Much of the dialogue is in Yumiko's head, and there are some extended passages that are basically just dreams. In and among the funerary traditions she sits through, she finds herself thinking back to a Noh theatre rehearsal she stumbled across several years earlier, likening the almost robot-like precision of the actors' movements to the individual elements of the funeral services. It's about removing the actors so completely that one can find comfort in the utter predictability of the actions.

The flip side of that, however, is the loss of individuality and free will. The prescribed actions set out by the script are, by design, meant to completely subsume the actor's very identity. It's this aspect that Yumiko seems to have nightmares about. And it's only while visiting her mother afterwards (her parents had divorced years earlier, and her mother did not attend the funeral) that Yumiko destroys the entire theatre in her dream.

Yumiko struggles throughout the story between her two worlds: the Japan where she was raised and has family, or the England where she created a life of her own. But the question she also has is: is this new life she created really just the dream her mother sought? She continues pondering that question on her trip back to England and, only after collecting her luggage and walking through the gate, does she really reconcile her feelings.

Obata has an incredibly light touch with his storytelling. Almost nothing is told in explicit detail, and it makes readers a very active participant in the story as they suss out the inferences. Even the resolution isn't very overt -- we don't see her greeted by her fiancé or anything obvious; Yumiko just blends into the crowd at the airport. It's a refreshing change from many commercial stories that spoon-feed their audiences. There was nothing here I had to work hard for -- all the pieces are there -- but I still had to work a bit to assemble them for myself. And I think that's a strength of the work.

The light linework and watercolored hues also speak to the subtlety of Obata's work as a whole. With the exception perhaps of one double-page spread, there's nothing visually splashy in the book and even that one spread is somewhat muted with a nearly monochromatic palette. Every aspect of the story here -- the art, the writing, the storytelling -- serves to compliment one another, and heighten the reader's interpretation of the story as a very reflective, contemplative one.

The book highlights the difficulty in navigating one's own path against familial traditions. But while it does somewhat play off the notion of race, it's not treated as an alienating factor. Rather, it's just different sets of cultural mores that cause Yumiko's agita, not really any notion of race as we generally consider it. Yumiko's life in England has little overlap with her family in Japan, so the only code-switching she really needs to concern herself with occurs gradually during the 12-hour plane ride. It's not two cultures she's struggling to reconcile, but two identities. Which means that the story can be read more broadly -- "who am I really" versus "who am I acting like to cater to my family's expectations".

I think it's that aspect that resonated most with me. I'm not Japanese, I'm not a woman, my parents are still alive and married, I haven't translocated to a country that speaks a different language than what I grew up with... But I still very much understood the struggle of identity. And while I think that's a question I've largely resolved for myself, it's hard not to appreciate the subtle beauty of how Obata handles it here.
Faith #1