Latest Posts

  • FRAME Comics Art Festival is a new weekend celebration of Czech and international comics in Prague, taking place in early November.
  • André Bergs recently launched Protanopia, a digital comic for iPad and iPhone. I don't have a device to test it on personally, but the previews alone look amazing. Worth checking out just for the use of the technology.
Years ago, I was collecting and collating historical information on the first 100-ish issues of the Fantastic Four. Creator interviews talking about that period, letters pages, scans of original art... whatever I could get my hands on. My idea was to write a book about the FF's creation, using as many as-close-to-first-hand sources as possible. I never got around to writing it -- I had trouble believing there was an audience for it -- but Mark Alexander eventually put together more or less the same thing.

Anyway, I've still got the binder of materials I put together, and it includes some print-outs of a Yahoo Group discussion from 2002 about the Black Panther. One question that piqued my interested was why Don McGregor's Jungle Action got abruptly canceled in late 1976, only to be replaced by Jack Kirby's Black Panther two months later? Jim Kosmicki had a fascinating history/analysis of that period, and I thought I might re-present it here...
70's Marvel appears to have been ripe with inter-personal politics. When Kirby came back, he only wanted to be left alone. He took his characters and pulled them away from the Marvel Universe. He wasn't interested in continuity. Remember that Kirby was the originator of T'Challa (there's evidence of a character named Coal Tiger in his files that shows that he had wanted to do this character for a while before it showed up in FF). When he came back to Marvel after going to DC in the early 70's, he didn't want to work on other people's characters. There was a deliberate attempt to keep these stories separate from what had been done before with the characters -- to go back to the original concepts of the characters as envisioned by Jack. He wanted Captain America back, as his claim to that character dated pre-Marvel, and the only other character he'd co-created who was considered available was the Black Panther.

Now, your question is WHY was Black Panther considered available? Remember that we are remembering Jungle Action from the benefit of hindsight. JA was popular with a certain level of reader, but was never a popular hit. The vast majority of comic buyers at this point in time were still young boys, not older fans of the medium. JA never rose above bi-monthly status, which indicates that its sales were solid enough to avoid cancellation, but not enough to raise it to monthly status. This is true of most of the more "adult" Marvel books of the 70's: Warlock, Captain Marvel, Dr. Strange, Killraven, etc.

Kirby was pure action and perfect for that target audience. There should be circulation figures in issues of JA and BP that would allow one to compare the relative popularity of the two runs. I would guess that the Kirby version probably sold a little better, but to an entirely different audience than JA. (unfortunately neither audience was big enough -- maybe if they could have been combined somehow).

As I recall, and I'm sure people on this list, including Don, can attest, Don's books, even though most were bimonthly, were often late on deadlines. Marvel was very sensitive about this issue, to the point that when Jim Shooter took over, he instituted several policies guaranteeing "fill-in" issues be ready at a moment's notice. If JA was one of those chronically late books, taking it away and giving it to Jack, who never missed a deadline, could be seen as a good business decision. Not an artistic decision, but a business decision.

In addition, comic distributors were always very cautious about offending people in the rural midwest and South. There are anecdotes galore about how publishers wouldn't even allow black characters or heroes because it would offend major distributors. In a newstand distribution model, if you don't get distributed, you don't even have a chance to sell your product. The story against the Klan could very well have been creating some of these negative reactions. Newstand distributors in the 70's were an odd bunch. Again, there are many different stories, but if they decided to kill a book, they could. They could simply refuse to put the book out, and automatically claim a return against the "unsold" copies. There's some strong anecdotal evidence that many "hot" books of the 70's like Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Kirby's Fourth World books were being sold in case lots out the back door and then those copies claimed as unsold because they were never counted as having been distributed through "normal" channels. The Klan story could very well have given these distributors a reason to stop pushing a marginal title, whether there was any actual public outcry or not.

And that is important, I think. JA was a marginal book. It's artistic impact may have been strong, and as you indicate in your email it's impact in the black community was disproportionate, but overall, the Panther was not a mainline character. He was published to a small but loyal audience. The publisher made a business decision to try a new approach to try to reach a larger, more profitable audience. I don't think that there was any conspiracy or even any racial overtones to the decision.

After all, Marvel has consistently tried to revive the Panther, so there's clearly some appeal to the character in the editorial offices. They finally concluded the Klan storyline in Marvel Premiere late in the 70's, the Panther was a long-running part of their bi-weekly Marvel Comics Presents title, there was the 4 part bookshelf series, and the revived series written by Christopher Priest.

There probably was a personality conflict that caused JA to be cancelled and given to Kirby, but it was also justifiable as a business decision. Ironically, Kirby's treatment in his second tenure at Marvel was a horror show, partially because people resented books like JA being cancelled and the Panther given to him.
A couple of weeks back, Vox Day launched a crowd-funding campaign for his brand new comic called Alt-Hero which Day describes as "A new alternative comic series intended to challenge and eventually replace the SJW-converged comics of DC and Marvel." It garnered a bit of news because Day is a right-wing petty asshole who's an active racist. He led the 2015 and 2016 "rabid puppies" campaigns to deny any people of color from the Hugo Awards, mostly out of spite for not actually winning an award himself in 2014. He later described his actions as, "I wanted to leave a big smoking hole where the Hugo Awards were. All this has ever been is a giant Fuck You—one massive gesture of contempt."

Now first off, it's absolutely laughable that he thinks he can replace Marvel and DC. Politics aside, Marvel and DC have each been making superhero comics for the better part of a century; they do superhero comics very, very well. No one in the past fifty years has come close to even touching their sales on superhero comics. They're not invulnerable, certainly, but any and every problem they have had and will have is of their own making, not because of a competitor. If someone else is able to usurp their place as premier superhero comic publisher, it will be because they got out of publishing comics.

Second, "SJW-converged comics of DC and Marvel"? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Seriously, no definition of "converged" makes sense in this context. If that's the level of writing he's bringing to Alt-Hero, Marvel and DC have nothing to be worried about. Hell, anyone making mini-comics out of their parents' basement has nothing to be worried about. If I had to guess, I suppose he's trying to say that Marvel and DC have been taken over by social justice warriors and that they have been pushing a decidedly leftist agenda. Which clearly is not the case if you actually look at any of their books. But Day is doing what he does -- whipping up conspiracies to make it look like white men are being oppressed. Because his mediocre work isn't celebrated enough.

OK, all of that is old news. I only mention it to make sure you're up to speed on who this asswipe is. (And why I'm not linking to any of it!)

So he tried starting a Kickstarter project for this Alt-Hero comic, but Kickstarter said, "No, you're a racist touting actively racist messaging. We want nothing to do with you." He then went to a new openly alt-right version called FreeStartr. (It launched literally two weeks before Day's project. I'm not investigating this myself, but I strongly suspect it was built largely for Day's benefit.) It has so far raised over $100,000 from around 1200 backers for Alt-Hero to be published.

What seems to have come to light more recently is that he's hired veteran comic book writer Chuck Dixon to work on some of these stories with him. Dixon has written a ton of comics, and worked on very high-profile characters like Batman and the Punisher. So this is clearly a "win" for Day to get A) a person who actually knows how to write, and B) a name high-profile enough that it might attract others' attention.

Dixon, if you don't recall, caused a bit of a stir himself a few years ago when he claimed that he was being blackballed at DC for his conservative politics. (He was hired in early 2017 to write a new Bane series if you'd like confirmation on how blackballed he actually was.)

I don't know Dixon personally. He was never a favorite writer of mine, but I have enjoyed what I had read of his well enough. But his decision to work on this seems unconscionable. If he were a new, struggling writer, I could maybe forgive an anything-for-a-check mentality, but he's been in the business for decades; while he's perhaps not as in-demand as he once was, I don't think he's got so few offers coming in that he would have to pick up any job tossed his way.

So what Dixon is saying in agreeing to work on this is that he's okay promoting a white nationalist message. And let's be clear, this isn't a case of just not objecting to that ideology, but by writing these stories, Dixon is himself actively promoting a message of hate and exclusion. Even if he didn't know who Day was and his history with racism, there's no way Dixon could not know that's the message being promoted here. He's writing some of the damn books -- he would have to be briefed on the concept at the very least, and the concept itself is rooted in racism. Whether Dixon himself believes all the bullshit Day is spewing is irrelevant, he's taking active steps to promote that message.

I don't think anyone should be blackballed just because their politics are different; if they can write comics that sell more copies to a broad audience, that's great. But when you start actively working to spread hate and fuel racial divisions, then you're actively working against humanity and I don't think anyone should support or condone you in any way. You should be blackballed now, Dixon. By publishers, by conventions, by readers. That's a business decision you made, and you decided your hatred was more important than working in civil society.
Here are this week's links to what I've had published recently...

Kleefeld on Comics: On Business: Release Form

FreakSugar: Fanthropology: Pythonists

The Comics Alternative: Webcomics: Reviews of Righteous, Zen and the Ephemeral, and American Barbarian

Kleefeld on Comics: On History: No More Handbooks

Kleefeld on Comics: Weekly Comics Links

FreakSugar: Webcomics Wednesday: Try to Keep Up!

Kleefeld on Comics: On -isms: Run for It Review

Patreon: MTV Geek Classic: Kleefeld on Webcomics #38: Sales Tool du Jour

Kleefeld on Comics: On Strips: Jean Schulz
You've no doubt heard of the fires sweeping through California, and how they've destroyed the homes of Brian (Mom's Cancer) Fies, Jean (widow of Charles) Schulz, and Craig (son of Charles) Schulz. Much of Charles Schulz's work, including his actual studio, had been relocated to the not-damaged Charles M. Schulz Museum years earlier. However, the Schulz family home itself is gone. And while Charles himself did not have to witness that, his widow Jean did. The two had married in 1973, not long after he purchased the property. Charles lived there until his death in 2000, and Jean's been there for the 17 years since, even though the house was put up for sale in 2011.

But think about that for a moment... Jean's lived at that house for 44 years. Well over half of her life. I mean, sure, the loss of whatever of Peanuts-related material that was certainly in the house is a tragedy, but that was their home. Her life was there. After every significant event, whether that was Charles getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame or when Craig graduated from college, it would ultimately end with them returning back to that home.

Fies lost a great deal too. All of his own art, including for the projects he was actively working on. He literally came back to the smoldering pile of ash that used to be his home in a pair of flip-flops because that was the only pair of footwear he happened to have. His first purchases were two pairs of shoes, a shirt ("Now I have three."), a rake, and a shovel. He has been pretty composed about everything thus far, having been reasonably prepared (it sounds like) for something like this. But it's obviously still a huge loss.

But Jean? Well, she's not online as much so we don't get to see her reactions as directly. (They've mostly been reported on by Fies, in fact.) And while she's still in relatively good health for her age, I'm sure that at 78 she's not as nimble as she used to be. And while I don't know Fies exact age, I'm fairly confident Jean's been living at that house for all but maybe a decade of Fies' life, so she's almost assuredly got more memories of her house than he has of his. Not to mention, she's going through this without her spouse.

I'm not saying all this to suggest Jean's situation is especially more dire than any of the other thousands of people who've lost their homes. I'm sure that whatever Peanuts residuals she still receives will no doubt ensure that she has comparatively minimal problems with regard to finding new housing and such. I'm saying this to point out to anyone whose first thought was, "I'm glad the Schulz Museum was spared," that the bigger concern is that Jean Schulz lost her home. Not her house. Her home. The personal, hand-written love letters from Charles. Their wedding photos. The birthday cards. Her favorite sweater. She can replace the physical objects of her life -- a kitchen table, a television, a comfy sofa, etc. -- but all of the objects that she held any sentimental value for are gone.

The same with Fies. The same with every other person that has lost (or will lose -- the fires are still raging!) their home. The stuff is just stuff. And the memories of good times will always be with them. But there's a reason why they call it a home and not just a house.

I'm really happy that so many people have escaped relatively unharmed so far. I'm particularly happy that people I know are safe. And while it's nice that the Schulz Museum was spared, that should absolutely be an afterthought in this whole discussion.

Brian, Jean... anyone else I know whose home has been burned, let me know if there's anything I can do to help.
While I try to jeep my eyes and ears open to everything across the world, I do have a tendency to focus on the United States. And while I've discussed here some of the racial issues that are frequently a holdover from slavery, it winds up being US-centric. However, the US is hardly the only country that has an ugly history with slavery, which brings me to Run for It by Marcelo D'Salete. It was originally published in 2014 in Brazil, but Fantagraphics just released an English translation this week.

The book contains four distinct stories with four different tales of slaves who rebelled and/or tried to escape from their captors in Brazil. Each character comes to their decision from very different directions: fear of being sold off away from their love, the death of a newborn, a collective uprising, and revenge against the rape and murder of a loved one. Needless to say, the protagonists here all have very powerful drivers, even beyond just a desire to escape captivity. This helps to get the readers more emotionally engaged and involved, as few, if any, of the book's readers have likely experienced slavery themselves. But by coupling that idea with these other emotive elements which are probably more familiar, it draws the reader in more deeply.

The art and storytelling are very good, and given the sparse use of text, this is quite necessary to convey the stories. While the stories aren't wordless, there are several sequences here in which pages go by without any text. D'Salete is able to rely on his drawings to convey the narrative and, with one very brief exception, is successful. That one exception, since I mentioned it, is a sequence in the third story during a large fight scene where one of the characters is killed, but it's a little difficult to tell specifically who it is. While it is soon made more apparent, it doesn't look to me as if D'Salete was deliberately obscuring the character's identity but rather the particular illustration isn't quite as clear as it could be. Two panels out of a 166 pages of story makes for a pretty impressive track record, though!

While the stories are all very compelling and engaging, as I said, that is what precisely what makes this a difficult read. Because none of these stories end well. And the horrors the slave owners put these people through is chilling. Made all the more so by the fact that these tales, while perhaps partially fictionalized, are based on real events. The book is clearly well-researched and D'Salete provides a partial bibliography in the back. While the illustrations aren't especially graphic and not really gory at all, they still clearly depict the atrocious acts inflicted on these slaves, and the casual disregard -- even contempt -- the slave owners show towards them.

While these stories happened in Brazil, I don't doubt the played out exactly the same in the United States. And China. And Spain. And Canada. And every other country that at one time or another included race-based slavery. It's hard not to see these stories as sadly universal ones that could be put into almost any cultural context. And that's partially why I see this as an important read. You can read or watch Roots, and you can check out your (probably heavily white-washed) history textbooks, but you don't often get stories with this emotional depth that also aren't afraid to show the real outcomes -- the ones that aren't happy endings -- many slaves faced.

Run for It is currently available in hardcover for $24.99 or digitally for $13.85.