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Today's post is a call out to the collective hive mind to see if anyone can help me track down a book/artist from my youth. I've only seen the one book by this artist, and I'm more interested to see what else he (I think?) did than just getting the book to relive any childhood nostalgia.

The book in question was a wordless children's book, probably from the mid-to-late 1970s. It didn't have a story at all; it was just a series of double-page spreads, each featuring a scene of chaos/mayhem. I recall one was a ship-to-ship pirate battle, another was a horde of army ants rolling over a mass exodus of jungle inhabitants (animals, explorers, and some unfortunately stereotyped natives), yet another was some kind of outer space scene. I think there maybe have an Eygtian-themed spread as well. In each spread, there was very much a sense of disorder overall, but it seemed to unfold in front of you as you absorbed everything that was drawn on the page. There were maybe 12-15 scenes all told. The artwork was cartoony, and it reminded me a little of Sergio Aragonés both in terms of the style of illustration as well as the level of detail/complexity. (Though it was definitely not him.) You could study each spread for ages and keep finding little jokes and gags throughout.

The book was wordless, as I said, and the artist had an Italian-sounding name to my recollection. (Though my knowledge of Europe was pretty limited as a child, so it might have been Greek or French or something.) I recall having the impression that the book was originally published in Europe, and just ported over to the U.S. since it didn't have to be translated. The cover was mostly black with a portion of one of the interior illustrations inset under the title.

For the life of me, I can't recall the name of the book or the artist, and the copy of the book I had as a kid has long-since vanished. The book in question probably would not be considered comics by many people, but there was so much going on in the single illustration that it became a sort of narrative unto itself. It was both a snapshot of a chaotic scene, but also a set of small, sometimes sequential, narratives. As I said, I'd be interested to see this artist's work and study it with more of an eye towards comics (rather than the sheer entertainment value I placed on it as a child) so I'd welcome any ideas anyone has on who this might be based on my absurdly vague description.
Last week, I visited a comic shop that I don't normally go to. It's just out of the way enough that it's a tad inconvenient for me, but I happened to be out that direction anyway. It's a decent shop, though; I've visited it more than a few times before.

This day happened to be a Wednesday, new comics day. It was the busiest I've seen this particular shop outside of Free Comic Book Day. The other customers were all regulars, judging by the casualness of the ongoing discussion. Which was impossible not to hear.

I was in the shop for maybe 20 minutes. I came in, looked through the new releases, checked my phone for a list of anything I was looking for, rifled through the back issue bins a bit, browsed the trade paperback and hardcover bookshelves, picked up some bags and boards, and headed up to the counter to check out. The conversation was going on in the background the whole time.

Well, I say "background" but it was really much more than that. The volume these people were talking -- one guy in particular -- struck me as obnoxiously loud. It was the kind of volume you would have to use if you were at a party trying to talk over the music. Except there wasn't any music. Captain America: Winter Soldier was playing on a TV near the register. It wasn't muted, but the volume was so low that I could barely hear the dialogue from the movie even when I was standing right under the TV.

The actual conversation itself wasn't especially offensive. There was one joke made about 9/11, but when no one laughed the person asked if it was still too soon these twelve years later. Which everyone else siezed upon to mock him for his lack of basic math skills, and then went on to explain that it wasn't funny in exactly the same way that jokes about the Holocaust aren't funny. But there was nothing I heard that might be construed as sexist or racist or homophobic or anything. Even so, I was still pretty uncomfortable.

There was nothing expressly said that really bothered me. (The 9/11 joke was a little off-putting and struck me as in poor taste, but it was pretty quickly corrected by others.) But the general boorishness of the customers still felt kind of oppressive. Not in a "I don't feel like I'm part of this club" kind of way, but in "Wow, this one guy's presence is so loud and overbearing that I just don't want to be here" way. He wasn't doing anything wrong per se, just going out of his way to make himself the center of attention.

So what I'm wondering is: how much responsibility does the manager/owner have here for one of the customers being disruptively loud? I mean, ultimately, it's the owner's store and he (in this case, it's a "he") is the going to set the tone for the store. But he doesn't have direct control over every single customer who might walk in. I mean, if he wants things loud, that's certainly his perogative and he could simply crank up the volume of whatever music he wants to pipe in there like you might do at an Applebee's or Chile's. At the same time, if you'd prefer things at a more typical volume, what're the pros/cons of trying to curb a regular customer who is (at least, it seemed to me) naturally and obnoxiously loud? You don't want him to alienate other cusomters, but you probably don't want to alienate him either. Particularly since some people (the other customers I observed at the shop) didn't seem to mind and, in fact, tended to match his volume themselves.

I don't know. As I said, it's not a shop I hit super-regularly and I've never had expressly bad experiences there, but I'm a little more inclined to give it a pass the next time I'm in the area.
Back in 1947, Orrin Evans published a single issue of All-Negro Comics. It was the first comic book whose creators were all African-American. With a cover price of 15¢ (a full nickel more expensive than everything else available at that time) and contents that featured Black characters, it's little wonder why it didn't sell well enough to warrant a second issue, despite promises of one in the comic itself.

All-Negro Comics
Like nearly all comics of that time, this issue had a variety of features in it. There was action/adventure, long-form comedy, single panel gags, a prose piece... The locales shown ranged from the inner city to the "African Gold Coast" to a rural American farm to an idyllic Greek-style garden. The issue had a little bit of everything.

Only the two adventures stories clearly identify the creators, John Terrell and George J. Evans, Jr. The rest of the pieces are either anonymous or signed with a single, ambiguous name. Of all the creators in the book, Terrell is clearly the one with the most talent. While the illustrations in all the stories are good, his Ace Harlem story is easily the most cohesive and has the strongest plot. It's obvious why it was chosen as the lead feature.

The book seems to be aimed squarely at African-Americans. While that might seem obvious based on the stories, there seems to be no attempt to even consider that anyone else might be interested. Evans expressly notes in the introduction that the Lion Man character, for example, is a deliberate attempt to "give American Negroes a reflection of their natural spirit of adventure and a finer appreciation of their African heritage." And I think that's why it's worth taking a look at.

The book is notable, of course, for the first to be completely created by African-Americans. But in also depicting almost exclusively Black people for an audience of exclusively Black people, it provides something of an insight into what they were wrestling with. That the only two white characters to appear are shown as violent villains trying to impose their will on African land suggests that even though Blacks felt collectively isolated in America (there are no white people shown anywhere else) there were still white men out there trying to impose their rule over Blacks in even the farthest reaches of the globe. That we see primary characters ranging from hard-boiled detectives to African tribesmen to wandering minstrels suggests that African-Americans were still wrestling with who they were now, and how they should fit in to contemporary culture. How far back to their roots should they be looking, or should they instead embrace the cities they now found themselves in? The Civil Rights Movement was still almost a decade off, and there was still seemingly a question of how Blacks should fit in and what role(s) they should play in society.

The original printing is pretty rare, but since it's fallen into public domain, Kari Therrian has an excellent reproduction available. The book itself somewhat awkwardly printed on 8½ x 11 paper, allowing a fair amount of extra space on all sides of the art (hence the black border on the cover) but the scans of the original comic are excellent and the printing is pretty good quality. You're not likely to find an original All-Negro Comics but Therrian's reprint is well-worth checking out.
Tribal Force #0
I suspect that, like many folks, I don't know much about Reed Crandall. His most prominent work was through the 1940s and '50s, and he moved over to work on the oft-overlooked Treasure Chest in 1960, where he remained for just over a decade. Although he did work on some notable characters like Blackhawk and Doll Man, not having not actually created them means his contributions often get glossed over as well. Further, when he went over to EC, he was working in the shadow of guys like Wally Wood, Jack Davis, Will Elder, Frank Frazetta, Graham Ingels and Jack Kamen. That's a tough crowd to stand out in.

Blackhawk #1
Which means that, not only do we not have a book-length biography of him to refer to, it doesn't seem as if there have been any substantial articles about him. The references I'm seeing in Alter Ego (the magazine when it comes to Golden Age creators and characters) seems to only talk about Crandall in relation to broader discussions of Quality Comics, who ran Blackhawk and Doll Man. The longest biography I can seem to find of him is his Wikipedia listing.

I'm vaguely familiar with his work, first seeing it cited in Ron Goulart's The Great Comic Book Artists back in 1986. But the era Crandall was in the industry, combined with his never really worked on anything I was especially interested in, meant that I know little more about him now than I did three decades ago. I've picked up a few reprints of his EC stuff, but that he worked on the pieces was incidental.

But, Ben Towle recently alerted me to some details of Crandall's final years. Here's the Wikipedia version...
Crandall, who had left New York City in the 1960s in order to care for his ailing mother in Wichita, Kansas, had developed alcoholism. Recovering by the time of his mother's death, he nonetheless suffered debilitated health and left art in 1974 to work as a night watchman and janitor for the Pizza Hut general headquarters in Wichita. After suffering a stroke that year, he spent his remaining life in a nursing home and died in 1982 of a heart attack.
Wow. Talk about tragic. Crandall did get some recognition of his contributions during his lifetime when he was a guest at the Multicon-70 convention in 1970, but any other accolades he received were posthumous ones.

There are biographies out there of Curt Swan, Mort Meskin, Matt Baker, Nick Cardy, and Jackie Ormes. All very, very talented individuals, but also ones whose names do not immediately strike one as commercially viable biography subjects. So how about Crandall? Who's up for writing a biography of him? He's definitely a creator we should know more about, if for no other reason than to make sure his final days aren't repeated by any other comic artist! Someone, get on this!
I met Mita Mihato at last year's CAKE. She makes comics using cut paper. Some very clever stuff. I was disappointed when I found out she wasn't going to be at this year's show, doubly so because she didn't have a website set up to sell anything. That changed earlier this month (her online store is here) and I ordered everything of hers that I didn't already have, including her newest book Hitched.

Comics by Mita Mihato
Shortly after ordering, she sent me an email that said she had dropped everything in the mail and I should be getting it soon. Sure enough, it arrived on Saturday. Included in the package was what looked like a small booklet, wrapped in a kind of brownish tissue paper with a red string tied around it. It struck me as a bit odd, because I had already identified the books that I had ordered. When I unwrapped it, though, it turned out to be a note card with a personalized message saying thanks and hoping I enjoy the books.

It's a small thing. It probably took her all of ten seconds to jot something down and maybe another ten or fifteen to wrap the tissue paper and string around it. But that deliberate attention to a personalized note stands out quite a bit. I've gotten packages from creators before than include a hand-written thank you, sometimes even a quick sketch, but the tissue paper and string suggest an additional preciousness to Mihato's note. Even though I expect it took her little time, it reinforces her work as personal and having a more "artifact" quality to it than someone who's printed up a copy of their webcomic. (I say that in a totally non-disparaging way! I've bought way more than a few printed versions of webcomics!)

It doesn't directly add anything to Mihato's bottom line, nor does it seem like just an exercise in creative expression. But what it does is reinforce Mihato's position as an artisan comics maker, and encourages anyone who tries her work to return for more at a later time.
Here's Tina's Groove from Wednesday...
Tina's Groove
Pigeons + large umbrella = dangerous place to store food.

Exactly how funny you find that is a matter of taste, of course, but I think people can understand where Rina Piccolo was coming from even if the gag isn't quite their cup of tea. However, Piccolo noted
What's interesting to note is that she specifically cites concerns from the Comics Kingdom audience. Not her Twitter followers, not the folks hitting her website, just the ones seeing the comic on Comics Kingdom. So I clicked over to see how it was displayed there and what folks were saying. There weren't a ton of comments, but no one who did comment (besides Piccolo herself) seemed to understand it.

But there's a difference in how the comic is displayed. It's notably smaller on Comics Kingdom than elsewhere. You can click to get an enlarged version of the strip, but since you can read the text and identify the figures at the smaller size, I can see why a lot of people wouldn't bother. So my guess is that, in the smaller size version, it's too difficult to "read" the kebab fixings as kebab fixings thus preventing viewers from getting the joke.

That's a challenge of newspaper strip artists. Their art can and is viewed at a wide variety of sizes and formats. The illustration has to be simple enough to read in black and white at the small size many newspapers print them at, but it also has to be adaptable to color, and not so simple that it looks stark and empty on a large desktop monitor. Not to mention all sorts of permeations in between, including smart phones, email inboxes, feed readers, and the syndicate's site itself. Although it would seem to fly in the face of common sense, webcomikers actually have MORE control over how people read their comics and at what size(s). Their work might cross any number of digital platforms and venues, but it's still all digital, whereas newspaper strips also have to contend with print versions that are subject to the layouts and placements of hundreds of individual editors. Many of which, I might add, likely operate with a nagging fear that their employer (and, by extension, their own job) will become obsolete soon.

My point is that newspaper cartoonists have a more difficult time than they used to. There were long-running complaints that the size that comics were printed at was shrinking, frequently leaving room for little more than talking heads. Which is still the case. But now they ALSO have to be rendered at a larger size that can fill up a computer screen and not get lost in a sea of banner ads, social media icons, and the like. Inevitably, you're going to wind up with some jokes that simply do not read well at one end of the spectrum or the other.