Wednesday, June 30, 2010

River Song Theories

Let me apologize up-front: this isn't comics-related. If you have no interest in Doctor Who, feel free to skip this post and come back tomorrow. But I wanted to get some thoughts down now, so I can say, "See, I called it" sometime in 2011 with the next season of the show.

So there's this question of who is River Song really. The show's made some vague allusions to her, and she's generally presented as this enigmatic future wife of the Doctor's. Writer Steven Moffat has suggested that she's quite different than viewers might expect, and she'll be appeared in the next season. So here's some thoughts I have on her history/identity...

1. Though actress Alex Kingston has compared the character to Indiana Jones, she's been depicted closer to that guy a young Indy gets a fedora from in Last Crusade. She knows about archeology, but she's not a "true" archeologist; she's essentially shown as an antiquities bounty hunter. She is always shown on a mission of some kind, and certainly isn't just gallivanting across time and space for fun. A completely "straight" reading of her would say that she is the Doctor's future wife, and she does love him, but isn't nearly as altruistic as he is and had to go her own way.

2. But it's possible that she's lying about their relationship. She may have accidentally come across the Doctor's real name in an old Gallifreyan birth certificate or something, and is using that information to her advantage. Alternatively, as a time traveler, it's possible that she does legitimately learn the Doctor's name from marrying him, but then tells her past self to put that information to earlier use.

3. She also could have come across his name if she herself is also a Time Lord. Whovians might balk at that idea since another Time Lord (like the Doctor) would recognize her as such, but she could have transformed herself to a human to escape the Time War, much as the Master did. This would also explain how she happens to know Gallifreyan. If she has some sort of deeper Machiavellian plans in mind, the Rani wouldn't be a surprising candidate.

4. Something along those same lines, I could also see River being revealed as Susan, the Doctor's long-abandoned granddaughter. She might feel a bit of resentment for being stranded on a somewhat ravaged Earth and, while she still loves him, isn't going to let him go without taking any hazing for that decision. Claims of incest can be brushed aside easily by simply noting that River was lying about being the Doctor's wife all along.

5. Jenny, the Doctor's daughter, does not strike me as a likely candidate since, by all accounts, actress Georgia Moffett was well-received by most everyone and Moffet has even expressed an interest in giving her a spin-off series.

Alright then. Just needed to get those off my chest. Normal comic-blogging to resume tomorrow.

Any Independence Day Happenin's In Chicago?

I will be up in the Chicago area for an extended Independence Day weekend. Anyone in the area know of some cool comic-related events I should grace my presence with (i.e. crash)?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Coming Soon! Actual Content!

I'm currently trying to get several posts lined up so you have some faboo content to look at here while I'm out of town this weekend. But in getting that rolling, I forgot to actually get something written up for today! So we've got dialogue from Garfield and art from La Cucaracha, My Cardboard Life, Tune: Praxis and Allies and Doonesbury.

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Leaving Mundania" Documentary

Leaving Mundania is a 47-minute documentary by Toronto-based Jiro C. Okada. According to his website...
Leaving Mundania explores the colourful lives of “cosplayers” by delving beyond the common stereotypes of anime enthusiasts who express their fandom through costuming and roleplay. This film follows several cosplayers from the Greater Toronto Area as they prepare for their annual pilgrimage to Anime North, the largest anime fan convention in Canada. Through candid footage and in-depth interviews, Leaving Mundania offers an intimate view of participatory fan culture, revealing how cosplayers stand apart from the “mundanes” of the everyday world.

There've been two screenings at the most recent Anime North, which I gather were well-received. As of two weeks ago, no other screenings have been scheduled, but I'm certainly curious enough to keep my eyes and ears peeled. It looks like a good, respectful look at North American cosplayers.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rigidly Defined Areas Of Doubt & Uncertainty

This blog is ostensibly about comics. In fact, it's right there in the title: "Kleefeld on Comics." What's perhaps less well noticed, though equally as prominent, is that the blog is also about me. This really isn't just a blog about comics; it's a blog about me talking about comics. A subtle distinction, but an important one.

As you read through my posts here, you'll find a lot of information about comics. Simple factual information about comics. Who created what, when something was published, where things happened, etc. You'll also find a lot of opinions about comics. Reviews and commentary and such. But what is ALSO here is information about me. If you read through everything carefully enough for a long enough time, you'll be able to figure out how old I am, where I went to school, how many siblings I have, what I do for a living, where I work, what kind of car I drive...

And that's one of the attractions of "social media." That, over the course of time, small snippets of information about us as individuals come out and become known. We're not just telling people what our meal plans are one 140-character message at a time. We're getting to know people. This is what has attracted people to gossip magazines for so long: we got to know "celebrities" on a more personal level than what was seen in movies or on TV. The internet has just amplified those possibilities so that anyone can share the details of their lives. Anyone can have their preferences known and absorbed, regardless of distance or the status of their "celebrity."

What's more, we're able to control that as individuals. While the rich and famous have paparazzi following them around all the time, we can choose which pieces of our lives we want to share. We can even share details about our lives and still remain largely anonymous, behind oblique screen names and avatars.

When I first started getting online in the mid-1980s, I was intrigued by this notion. My online handles bore no real reference to me and I could (potentially) pass myself off as a 40-year-old woman or a 28 year-old-man or hyper-intelligent dog. I didn't try that approach for long, however; it just felt quite tedious to me. I liked who I was and wanted to take the credit and/or blame for what I said and did. I don't recall exactly when I made the decision, but by the time I left high school, I was using my name (or some obvious derivation of it) for all of my online activities. I've continued that practice to this day. (With the one real exception being Second Life, in which you are required to select your surname from a pre-defined list. Even here, though, I created a screen name -- Feldane Klees -- which is an anagram of my real name and designed my avatar to look like how I do in real life.)

Now, here's the interesting twist. It's possible to maintain separate identities in each social media venue. You can be one person on Twitter, someone else entirely in Facebook, and someone else entirely yet again on Flickr. But, for anyone like me who's made the point of keeping only one identity across all of these different channels, it's possible, if not likely, that people are getting a disjointed picture of you.

What I've tried to do here is make things relatively stable from a cross-venue perspective. What I post here gets duplicated on Facebook and gets linked to on Twitter. My Twiiter account is then replicated over on LinkedIn. So whether you're a comic fan who hits my site, an old friend from high school who's friended me on Facebook, or a professional acquaintance who's connected through LinkedIn, you'll have access to largely the same material.

But not all of it.

An old friend of mine is reading my blog through Facebook. Last week, she caught a few stray comments on this blog that concerned her. In part because I was also posting links in Facebook only to a number of articles/videos about BP's horrendous disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Also in part because of some additional information I'd given her via email. She mistook some of my cynicism for pessimism and arrived at the conclusion that I am deeply unhappy. Though that assessment is wildly inaccurate and I had to spend a few emails to set her straight, it wasn't an absurd conclusion.

A month or two back, a co-worker popped into my cube and offered me a hearty congratulations. When I asked what for, she replied that I must have gotten married recently. Which confused me to no end, since I'm not married at all. It turns out she had seen one of my Tweets via LinkedIn, which was in fact a straight Retweet of somebody else who had mentioned their wife. Even though LinkedIn does pick up and display the "RT" notification from Twitter, my co-worker was unaware of the meaning behind it (not being on Twitter herself) and thought all of the Tweets that I post necessarily originate from me.

In both cases, people who know me personally arrived at some totally erroneous conclusions about me based on some limited information I placed online. Despite the fact that I've tried to be very consistent and clear in ALL of my online messaging, across ALL of the channels I work within. Now, obviously, that could well be just less than perfect execution on my part. However, I am quite deliberate in what I post, and am conscious of how/where it is viewed. I've also got an MBA in marketing -- not to mention a decade+ work experience in advertising and/or marketing -- so I think I'm pretty familiar with the notion of keeping a consistent brand identity and staying on message. Which is to say that keeping a single person's message accurate and consistent, with no room for misinterpretation is very difficult, even for a professional.

Now, what do you suppose happens when you're trying to keep on-point for an entire company? And what happens when you have several, if not a dozen, different people working on that same project? And what happens when you have other people who used to work for that company but no longer do also weigh in on the messages that they're trying to send out?

Which brings me to my point! ("About damn time, Sean!")

My point is that we almost NEVER have the whole story. Maybe we missed a related article that provides some precedence, maybe the copy writer was having a bad day, maybe the copy editor has a personal grudge against someone else in the company and wants to make that person look bad, maybe there's some additional information that just isn't being distributed publicly... We are looking at what corporations and the media are telling us through a limited window that, if the people at the corporation are doing their job properly, is fairly consistent and tightly controlled. (Even if that control is all about transparency!)

My point is that when DC kills off the character Ryan Choi or when Marvel puts a higher for sale price on a digital version of one of their comics relative to a printed one or when a group of publishers get together to pull down a scanlation site, we -- the general public -- do not have all of the information. There's almost no way we can. We can listen and read about the players involved have to say on the matter, but that will almost certainly be after the fact. We can't be privy to each and every passing conversation that influenced the decisions.

But that's not to say that we're not allowed commenting on things, based on what we do know! And that's not to say we can't go back and ask questions to those involved! We absolutely should all be doing those things as publishers (i.e. people who have access to the internet). We absolutely should try to make the record as accurate as possible, and the more factual information we're able to collectively compile on any given subject, the fewer errors or misreadings will be left in place.

I'm not saying that complaining about this, that or the other is inherently wrong if we don't have all the facts. But I do think it's worth pointing out from time to time that we don't have all the facts and it's entirely possible that we've totally misread the scenario. We should be open to receiving new information and adjusting our reaction/response/opinions accordingly. This doesn't always happen. (Witness the ongoing webcomic/newspaper strip dust-up in light of hard numbers becoming available.)

But until such time as we DO have more facts, the death of Ryan Choi was a bone-headed decision, as was offering a digital comic for a higher price than a print one.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Athena Grey-Eyed Goddess Review

Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess is the second book in George O'Connor's Olympians series being publishing by First Second. The previous book focused on Zeus as well as the ancient Greek creation myths.

I've had a passing interest in ancient mythologies since I was a kid. The Greek and Roman stories were certainly the most widely available at the time, and Marvel's Thor comics had some basis in the Norse legends. But I also liked reading about the ancient Egyptians myths, various Native Americans legends and even a few African tales. (I don't recall having any Asian myths available to me back then.) I'm not entirely sure where the interest came from. I know I had copies of Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears and Arrow to the Sun as a young child, and I seem to vaguely recall reading/hearing other similar stories back then, so perhaps it was an interest cultivated by my parents. Or perhaps the obvious analogies to superheroes stuck out, and it was my interest there that later prompted me to check out Bulfinch's Mythology from the local library repeatedly. In any event, O'Connor's Olypians series certainly piqued my interest when I first heard about it, and I enjoyed Zeus enough to pick up Athena.

Athena actually tells several distinct tales about the title character. It starts with her creation, which is followed by two different stories about how she came by the name Pallas. Next is the legend of Perseus and Medusa (known in contemporary culture primarily from the film Clash of the Titans) and the book ends with a short piece with Athena's encounter with Arachne. This is noticeably different than in Zeus which runs as a single, unbroken narrative. Interestingly, I find the storytelling works much in Athena precisely because of the distinction between stories.

The challenge O'Connor had in telling Athena's legends is that her most significant stories are, compared to Zeus', short and disconnected from one another. In the end notes, O'Connor even points out that there were two different and almost contradictory stories in fact that tell how she adopted the name Pallas. So to string all these pieces together, O'Connor uses the three Fates telling the reader about Athena as a framing device. The book starts and ends with them. And why I think this is important is because readers were given an omniscient narrator in Zeus. So in Athena the reader is being directly addressed and more engaged in the story than in Zeus which feels more distant from the reader.

I was actually struck in Athena by how it seemed to read much more like comic than a children's story. Zeus, to my recollection, was more a series of pictures with captions, only occasionally interspersed with some dialogue. But, as I went back to directly compare the two, I found that the amount of dialogue versus captioning was roughly equal. But since Zeus started and ended with narration, compared to Athena which started and ended with dialogue, it felt more like a children's book and less like a comic.

The book, and indeed the whole series, is clearly designed with younger readers in mind. The "For Discussion" page at the back seems geared towards self-probing questions that most adults have probably asked themselves in some capacity, and the bibliography has a more extensive "For Younger Readers" section than "For Older Readers." Despite this, however, the main book itself never feels anything less than simply a good story about an ancient goddess. It's not "dumbed down" in any way that I can tell and, in fact, the "Author's Note" and annotations in the back seem more directed towards adults.

I think O'Connor's storytelling abilities have improved from the first book to the second. Athena felt like a more comfortable read than Zeus and that does indeed bode well for the rest of the series. Zeus and Athena are in bookstores now; Hera and Hades are due out in the spring and fall respectively of next year.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Comic Darwinism

I was talking with a friend of mine from college some weeks ago. A few years after we'd graduated, she cut back on her to design work to raise her kids. Her husband made a decent enough living, so she eventually stopped designing altogether to keep up with her three boys. When I was talking with her, she noted that her boys were getting old enough now that they didn't need quite as much supervision, and she was thinking she might try getting back into design. But, at the same time, she was a bit nervous because, after all, it had been a few years; her design skills probably weren't as sharp and they've probably made some software and hardware improvements -- she'd have to learn a whole new version of QuarkXPress.

Speaking as designer, that was kind of an amusing statement because no one much uses that program any more. The company really dropped the ball back in 2002, which Adobe quickly scooped up with InDesign. Adobe's product has been the de facto standard for page layout programs for nearly a decade, and Quark is largely only kept around at agencies for legacy projects.

That's actually been something of an ongoing concern for me. I design and develop web sites for a living and, if I want to remain employable beyond the next year or two, I absolutely HAVE to keep up with the technology. The design software, browsers, smart phones, operating systems, screen sizes/resolutions... not to mention needing at least some familiarity with server configurations, back-end databases and programming languages. And on top of that, I need to keep abreast of design and usability trends. Technological, artistic and social Darwinism. It's a life-long challenge that I think I'm up to, but time will certainly tell.

That said, I also recognize that the world will continue to change around me. There's a very real possibility that the skills I use today, with regard to design and usability, will become obsolete before I retire. All the more reason I need to keep on top of technological and social changes: to stay employably relevant. If the landscape changes around me, that's no one's fault but my own if I can't find a place in it.

My thoughts today are brought about, actually, that oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico caused by BP. The still-growing oil slick has wrecked havoc on all life in the area, and there are any number of reports on dying marine life, long-term environmental impacts and people loosing their jobs. But many of those people, to a great deal of credit, are figuring out how they can continue to make a living without being able to shrimp or work on an oil rig or sell ice cream along the beach or whatever it was they used to do. They adapted to the changing conditions around them.

(Which does not BY ANY MEANS excuse or even lessen BP's responsibility for this obscene mess!)

But what about those people who don't adapt? Who, for whatever reason, can't change quickly enough?

One (but certainly not the only) reason they can't is because they don't know how to learn. They were never taught how to discover things for themselves, they were never taught how to convert specialized knowledge to generalized knowledge. The curiosity they likely had as children was never encouraged or, possibly, even discouraged.

In Future Shock, Alvin Toffler quotes psychologist Herbert Gerjouy...
The new education must teach the individual how to classify and reclassify information, how to evaluate its veracity, how to change categories when necessary, how to move from the concrete to the abstract and back, how to look at problems from a new direction -- how to teach himself. Tomorrow's illiterate will not be the man who can't read; he will be that man who has not learn how to learn.

That's something I'm very grateful to my parents for: they taught me how to learn. They really encouraged both my reading and analytical skills. I absolutely could not have written my book without that background, and I made a point of saying so in the dedication.

And why is this relevant to a blog about comics?

Look closely. Look at some of the schisms that have cropped up within comicdom the past few years. Old guard newspaper cartoonists damning those young webcomic creators, who clearly don't know what they're talking about because they've made a reasonably handsome living drawing Beetle Bailey and Mary Worth and The Lockhorns, thankyouverymuch. Local comic shop retailers saying that publishers can't release new comics simultaneously online and in print because that would undermine sales and cause everybody to lose money, despite having no actual proof of such claims.

Julie Larson has gotten a reasonable amount of attention lately because she got fed up with doing the old school syndicate route for her comic The Dinette Set only to go back to that same model after six months because she couldn't figure out a way to do what she had been doing without them. That's not proof that a self-syndication model doesn't work; that just shows that Larson couldn't adapt herself to a new environment before she opted to give up. (I don't know that I've seen a specific reason as to her timing on that. I don't know if she just got tired of trying it on her own, or she was running out of money, or what.)

I'm big on the in-group/out-group model of identity, as I'm sure any of my regular readers will know. And while I wouldn't classify learners and non-learners as groups in and of themselves, I would suggest that certain groups do tend to favor one over the other. How many webcomic creators, for example, dove into the business just because they wanted to draw a comic, but didn't really have any idea how to publish it? They didn't know jack about uploading files or RSS feeds or anything. But they got that to work somehow. Maybe they figured it out on their own, maybe they got a friend to help, maybe they paid someone to set it up for them. But they learned how to make it work. They learned to set aside the fear or ignorance or whatever it was that might be holding others back, and learned how to get their comic out to people.

That requires an ability (and willingness!) to learn. Maybe not every webcomic creator has it, but it seems to be a trait common to many of them. And that might be why webcomic creators tend to be younger -- older cartoonists were taught facts and figures by way of rote memorization; they weren't taught how to learn. And that's what the industry needs more of. Not people who hide behind "that's the way it's always been done." Yes, it will absolutely be painful to watch as those who can't adapt somehow fall by the wayside but, ironically, this "adapt or die" form of business Darwinism is how it's always been done.

I do web design for a living. Some day, that job will become completely irrelevant. And like everyone else, if I don't adapt to the changing world, I will absolutely be left behind. And if that happens, you'll find me standing next to buggy whip manufacturers and newspaper cartoonists.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Of Bad Retailer Apologists & Racists

A couple weeks ago, I posted an ersatz review of a lousy comic book shop. Earlier today, Brigid Alverson posted a description of her "ideal woman-friendly comics store".

In my earlier post, I tried to be as honest as I could about my impressions of the shop I visited, and I tried to be very clear that I didn't harbor any bad feelings about the shop or anyone working there. Just speaking as someone who's been to more than a few different comic shops over the years, talked to a number of retailers personally, and has a Masters degree in business, I tried to list out what struck me as poor decisions (or possibly a lack of decisions at all) with regard to how they run their business. "These are things in the shop that could/should be improved."

Alverson's post, by it's very nature, is decidedly more positive in tone. She notes that she'd had enough bad experiences in comic shops to not go in them at all for two decades, but she focuses the piece on what she would love to see in a comic shop. It's her "ideal" -- meaning it doesn't actually exist that she knows of, but wouldn't it be fabulous if it did?

I was originally struck that my post generated any comments at all. I have a track record of not getting much feedback, so I was pleasantly surprised that I got a pair of responses. What surprised me even more, though not so pleasantly, was that both commenters apparently thought I was being wholly unreasonable, one calling me a "condescending prick." Because I held the opinion that a particular comic shop was run poorly. A shop which, by the way, I went out of my way to NOT name because I didn't want any chance of them losing business because of me.

This afternoon, I started reading the responses to Alverson's post. She had more comments (no surprise, given her and my relative statures in the blogosphere) and they were invariably more positive (also no surprise, given how much more positive her initial tone was). But she still got one commenter calling the post "offensive" and another suggesting that she had no real right to complain because some people don't have ANY comic shops that they can get to.

My first thought was, "How can anyone reasonably argue that some people have bad experiences in comic shops, and they think that shouldn't happen?" Because, first, you have to completely discount the other person's impressions or feelings. And then, you have to deny that anyone else feels the same way. And THEN, you have deny that anyone ever COULD feel that same way.

As I worked through my disbelief at the 'rationality' that has to be in place to make these types of arguments, it then struck me. "Wow -- that is the EXACT same thought process that people use to discount racism in comics!"

Granted, racism is clearly a more significant and important concern, and I am not calling anyone racist. But the reasons people are generating to excuse the continued existence of bad comic book shops follow the same logic as the reasons people are generating to excuse the continued emphasis on the "superiority" of Caucasians in comics. Don't believe me? Here are The Double Standard's "2010's Top 10 Excuses for Racism" with the language slightly tweaked to direct it towards how comic shops sometimes operate...
10. It's just good marketing. Their target audience is male, so what do you expect?
9. Anyway, spas, hair salons, etc. do it too! They don’t let men in and that’s reverse discrimination.
8. It’s always been like this. What’s the big deal?
7. I mean, I can’t think of any women who want to go in comic shops anyway.
6. Who cares? Anyone can walk into a comic shop.
5. We’re all human. So what if they only cater towards men?
4. It’s a private business. If you don’t like it, just don’t buy it. Go somewhere else.
3. It’s a free country. Comic shops should be able to say or show what they want even if it’s insulting to women.
2. It’s sexist to point out it’s sexist.
1. Stop being so politically correct. It’s annoying.

You might note that some of those I didn't change AT ALL.

Without getting into a long, storied history of comics, I think it should be suffice to say that it's been a boys' club for many years, and it scares the hell out of some guys to think that their clubhouse might be overrun with women. As if making a comic shop "female friendly" means turning it into something men despise. As if it's a 1950 sitcom and having a woman around meant there were nylons and panties hanging all over the place. That guys need a collective "man cave" (Oh, thank you ever so much for popularizing that notion, Mr. John Gray!) to the complete exclusion of women.

Not to mention that "female friendly" is the wrong phrase to use anyway. How about "customer friendly"? For as much as women don't all fit the stereotype of shopping all the time and talking about hair and shoes, men don't fit the stereotype of slouching around all the time scratching themselves amid a pile of empty beer cans and pizza boxes. I'm not a female; I'm not a neat freak; I don't have OCD. But that comic shop I mentioned earlier was JUST PLAIN UNCOMFORTABLE. Physically uncomfortable. It was poorly laid out and cramped; titles were hard to find; and it just made for a poor experience. Even though I wasn't female and even though I didn't have any lude, crude or otherwise offensive language directed towards me.

Where was I? Oh, right: scared guys.

So what these comic shops are -- these lousy ones that make women especially feel uncomfortable -- are essentially what these scared guys will tolerate for the sake of keeping women out of their club. Their in-group. They don't want to disrupt the group dynamic within their in-group too much, so they only allow one or two people in at a time, and then under close observation. If a comic book shop suddenly became "female friendly" over, say, a weekend, then they'd theoretically have a huge influx of people who previously were not part of their in-group. They wouldn't be able to teach all of these newcomers to conform to their in-groups norms and mores. It would change their group dynamic.

And THAT is really scary.

See, this in-group that frequents comic shops? They probably had a significant say in what their in-group at their local comic shop feels like. They contributed to that shop's vibe. But if they suddenly represent a much smaller proportion of that in-group, they have less of a say in what the group likes overall. They're liable to lose control over that vibe. And people who are likely to be less secure and more afraid in general. And who wants that?

(Side note to tie things together. Racism generally stems from that same insecurity and fear.)

Now, a lot of this falls back on the shop owner. It's their store, after all, and they're the one who does a lot to set the mood of the place. The layout, the colors, the music (if any) that's playing. And a lot of these guys opened shop not because they thought it was a good business move, but because they just thought it would cool to be surrounded by comics all day. So, instead of applying some business common sense to the store -- like, say, making it comfortable for the customers -- they simply make it a reflection of themselves. The colors they like, the music they listen to, etc. Whether or not the customers like/respond to it is immaterial, as far as they're concerned.

So when I criticize a comic shop or when Brigid Alverson lists things she'd love to see comic shops do, that will likely scare people. It scares people who don't want to give up whatever control they have over their little neck of the woods. We learned in what I refer to as "The Tao of Grover" that fear leads to anger (pop culture kudos to those who get the double-reference) hence the negative responses.

Which suggests that the only way we're going to get good comic shops across the board is to drag all of these scared individuals kicking and screaming into good comic shops to show them how much better it can be. Or just leave them by the side of the curb; I'm okay with that too.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Smile Review

I got the chance to read Raina Telgemeier's Smile last night. It's basically an autobiographical graphic novel which focuses on Telgemeier's life when she was growing up and having to deal with some major dental problems. Not surprisingly, as a young girl with major orthodontistry going on in her mouth (a fair bit more than just braces), she had to deal with a lot of issues around self-confidence and social acceptance.

It should come as no surprise that high school was a difficult/awkward time for me. It should come as no surprise because, as I later learned, it was a difficult/awkward time for EVERYBODY. The people you've grown up with are maturing at different rates, and in different ways. You become more self-aware as well as more empathetic. While you've mastered the basics of how your body works (i.e. motor skills) you're suddenly thrown a curve with a new body chemistry that includes everything from acne to complex emotions you'd never conceived were possible. Everyone has trouble adjusting to their adult selves, so Smile should theoretically be accessible by pretty much everyone. The teeth problems, after all, were really just a symbol of everything else that kids experience at that age.

Let me state here and now that I liked Smile. I thought it was well-done and I quite enjoyed it. But that's the strange thing: I'm not sure WHY it resonated at all.

Like everybody else, I had my issues in high school. But my experiences were really nothing like Telgmeier's. I didn't have a problem with realizing that my close childhood friends were assholes. (Oh, there were plenty of assholes in the school, though!) I didn't have self-esteem issues that stemmed from my braces. I never tried completely changing how I looked to catch someone's attention. I never had an especially bad breakout of acne. I never had a crush on a younger student. I really didn't care to achieve some kind of broad social acceptance. We certainly never had earthquakes! Not to mention that I have a Y chromosome that Telgmeier doesn't!

My high school experience was vastly different and represents the absolute worst four years of my life. Emotionally, I really didn't recognize anything in Smile. But that's representative of me and my experiences. I know the issues I had in school were significantly different (not necessarily worse, mind you, just different) than the vast majority of people. So I shouldn't recognize anything in Telgmeier's book. It's not really intended for me.

But I still enjoyed it. The characters are all fleshed-out and believable. The story runs smoothly and easily throughout the book, and I'm sure many people will directly relate to the various touchstones Telgmeier drops in. I'm certain, in fact, that any number of younger readers could well use Smile almost literally as a guidebook in getting through their teenage years, regardless of whether or not they wear braces. So even though I couldn't put myself into the story, it still felt very sincere and very real. And I think that really highlights the achievement of the book, that Telgmeier can make the story so approachable and enjoyable despite my not really recognizing it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mash-Ups Instead Of Content

Really, I actually started up and wrote large chunks of posts three times today, but I had trouble getting any of them to really work, so we're stuck doing an end-of-the-day mash-up. The dialogue is from today's Garfield and the art comes from Working Daze, Uncubed and The Princess which takes on a really dark tone.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Beano Cameo In Foyle's War

As I noted the other day, I've been watching Foyle's War on DVD. Today, I took some time out to watch the "Casualties of War" story and was surprised when a young boy, who had been suffering severe shock from his schoolhouse being bombed, can clearly be seen reading The Beano.
I'm always pleasantly surprised to see little nods to comics in other media, especially when it's done more casually. Despite the look on his mother's face in the above screen shot, she's not at all upset about his reading the comic. It's not even mentioned and just used as a background prop really.

The boy is seen reading it again later when the title character comes to check in on him.
... And has it read aloud to him by another character who's trying to cheer him up.
Of course, we start running into some minor complications here. The prop for this film is clearly a reproduction as it's pristine white pages and lack of tears and dogears are meant to show that the comic is new. And when it's read aloud, the lead story is poking fun at Hitler and Goering. Clearly a deliberate intention to show it's authenticity to the World War II era in which the story is set.

The problem is, though, that we know precisely when the story is set. It's specifically presented, as with each installment, at the very beginning and, in this case, pegs the story in March 1943. It might have been difficult to track down which particular issue of The Beano that was, except that they decided to show this...
It's clearly shown as The Beano #156 cover dated July 19, 1941. Two years before when this story takes place. We also can see what great shape that particular issue is in.

Now, sure, a 1941 comic could survive a few years even through a major war but it seems kind of unlikely to me to make it through that unscathed. The boy and his mother had packed up and left their home in a hurry after the boy's school was bombed. Plus, he's clearly shown reading the heck out of it. Oh, and there was a lot of paper rationing and recycling going on.

It's really a minor point to the overall story, but it just struck me as curious as to why they decided to focus that much attention on the front of the comic, when it really wasn't at all necessary. Viewers could clearly see title the boy was reading, and the general look and layout would've been enough to suggest it's historical appropriateness. Why highlight that it was two years wrong?

In any event, the cover story featured Big Eggo, a comedic somewhat anthropomorphic ostrich character. "Big Eggo" was featured as the cover story in every issue of The Beano from July 1938 until January 1948. It continued on within the book for another year or so until the strip's creator, Reg Carter, died.

The absurdly racist pickaninny character in the masthead was there from the start of the magazine's production and wasn't removed until shortly after World War II. As far as I've been able to determine, the character was never named. I suppose he was intended as a mascot of sorts, as I can't find any references to an actual comic strip featuring that character.

In any event, that's The Beano's cameo in Foyle's War. From the remaining episode descriptions I've scanned through, it doesn't appear that children play much of a role in the remaining stories, so I suspect that's the last of the old comic appearances.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Comic Video Questions

I've been looking, off and on, for some video footage I know is out there somewhere, but I can't seem to track down actual copies of. So I'd like to put the word out there to see if anybody might be able to help point me to where I might find copies of these (preferably online).

The 1954 Senate Hearings on Juvenile Delinquency
Part of the big comic book scare that spread throughout the United States back in the '50s came about, in part, because these infamous Senate hearings were televised. The U.S. public got to see Bill Gaines himself presenting his uncomfortable rebuttals to accusations against his graphic comic covers. I've seen snippets in various documentaries over the years, but my understanding is that these were originally televised pretty much in their entirety. Anyone know where I can see them?

Jackie Ormes on Kukla, Fran and Ollie
I recently discovered that Ormes made an appearance on the children's puppet show that ran between 1947 and 1957. Ormes was an active cartoonist for just about that entire time and theoretically could have appeared at any point. I suspect her appearance, though, had more to do with her Patty-Jo doll than her cartooning and that was produced from 1947 until 1949. That's pretty much all I know about the appearance though. Has anyone seen this, or know anything more about it?

Jack Kirby's Popeye cartoons
I believe all of the old Fleischer Studio Popeye cartoons have been floating around for a while, but I'm curious if anyone knows which ones specifically Kirby may have worked on. I believe he was only there for a brief period in 1939, but the studio released seven entirely new cartoons then and another in Janaury 1940, which was probably in production the previous year. (1939's Customers Wanted was made by editing two previous cartoons together, so it's unlikely that any additional animation was needed for that particular one.) Given the specific release dates, it seems likely to me that multiple cartoons were in production simultaneously, making the chances of working on all of the pieces small. But then again, Kirby was just an in-betweener and might've worked on short pieces throughout all of them.

Stan Lee's cameo in Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD
David Hasselhoff appeared as the title character in this 1998 made-for-TV movie. My understanding is that Lee was used as a SHIELD agent for a cameo; however, that particular scene was cut from the final film. I saw the movie when it first aired, and I believe it was released on DVD a couple years ago. But I'd just like to see that scene with Lee. Was that included on the DVD as an extra or anything?

Thanks for any information/assistance you might be able to provide.

Friday, June 18, 2010

And Another Thing About Digital Comics...

So I'm reading Brian Hibbs' latest "Tilting at Windmills" and, as always, he provides one of the more well-reasoned responses/thoughts from the comic retailing side of the industry. And it prompted a number of thoughts.

I've done some numbering crunching of my own -- based on the decidedly limited and very rough financial data I have -- and came to a similar conclusion that any Marvel/DC comic would need to sell about twice as many copies digitally as a print version to make the same amount of profit. However, my take on that is more positive because that means the latest issue of Daredevil would only need to sell around 70,000 digital copies to earn the same profits it's earning now. Hibbs is certainly right to note (in the comments over there) that we absolutely do not yet have a model to say whether or not that's likely, but that's exactly the point of this experiment they're doing with Iron Man Annual. To get at least some sense of what those numbers might look like.

Personally, I think 100,000 downloads of a comic like that is totally realistic and possibly even quite conservative over the long term. But that's mostly just a guess on my part.

2) I want to emphasize my over the long term comment. One aspect that Hibbs did not bring up is that digital comics, by the nature of their not requiring any actual shelf space or the need to be reprinted ever, have a decidedly longer shelf life. Right now, Marvel doesn't make any money if you hunt through a slew of long boxes and buy a printed copy of Marvel Two-in-One #21. They made their money on that comic back in 1976, and they don't earn anything else on its current re-sale. But a digital version of the same issue, even 20 year from now, will be that much additional profit.

(Yes, I realize that that particular issue would have a bunch of legal rights tied to that make reprinting in any form unlikely.)

The shelf life of a new comic now in a comic shop is 30 days with most of the sales happening in the first 7. A digital comic extends that, effectively, into infinity with no extra work on the part of anyone. We're not talking initially impressive sales numbers, I'm sure, but rather we're talking about a long tail model.

Again, I'm not saying that guarantees anyone could sell 100,000 digital copies of any given comic. I'm just saying that the sales model will likely be very different, and not one that can be realistically calculated in even a few months.

Let's assume for a moment the worst case scenario for retailers: Marvel and DC do same day releases on their digital comics at the same price or lower. Further, let's assume that every single current reader switches to digital immediately. Obviously, this would have a HUGE impact on the current retailers and they would almost all close within a month. Let's even assume that they don't pick up a single additional customer via digital channels.

What we've just created is a situation in which the current distribution model is gone entirely. No brick and mortar retailers. No Diamond. And because of that, as noted in point one, Marvel and DC would effectively halve their publishing income. For the major publishers, printed comics earn more money than digital ones if we're comparing equal volumes.

Got that?

You know what that means for Marvel? That means that, in a three month period, their operating income (for our purposes here, that's effectively what they have left after paying all their employees and rent and whatever) goes from $37 million to $32 million. (Numbers here based on their earnings statement from Q3 2009.)

Think about that.

If the entire comic distribution collapsed right now, Marvel would still have monthly earnings -- not sales, mind you, earnings -- of $10 million. Ten million dollars. Every month. Without a single sale at a single comic book shop anywhere.

Now, I'm not about to suggest that Marvel is going to do that. $5 million is a fair bit more than a drop in the bucket! Nothing to sneeze at, and not money to throw away idly. But my point is that Marvel (and presumably DC, but I don't have anything close to current financials for them to check) make a good chunk of their money from things OTHER than comic books. Yes, they will absolutely take a financial hit if there was a sudden and dramatic sea change like that, but it also should be noted that comic books are NOT critical to their business. Comic books, for them, are self-funded research and development. An immediate and comprehensive switch to digital would mean that they're not as well funded and they would probably have to cut their lower-selling titles, but they will carry on without any comic shop retailers.

That situation is highly unlikely to play out. No industry collapses THAT completely THAT quickly. But the moral here is that Marvel and DC inherently have a VERY different perspective on digital comics than retailers. Whatever they're telling retailers, no matter how sincerely individuals at those companies want the direct market to continue, they do not have their livelihoods on the line and will make business decisions accordingly. Publishers are not retailers. Publishers don't need the direct market the same way retailers do. They are two VERY different animals and there is absolutely NO REASON to expect that publishers will act in retailers' best interests.

This isn't meant as a critique of Hibbs' thoughts. I don't think anything here really contradicts what he said at all. I just think that these are some aspects of this digital push that have not really been discussed, and think they should be.

Life Magazine Comics Circa 1951

So I caught mention today of an article in the May 21, 1951 of Life entitled "Through the Interstellar Looking Glass" and how it presented a fair and accurate view of science fiction fans. I knew Google had posted all of those old issues online, so I went off in search of that issue. Sure enough, I found the article quickly and easily. And a lot more.

The issue features a number of ads, to no surprise, but I was immediately struck by how many of them used comics outright or relied on comic imagery to make their point. I've cobbled together a small selection for you...

I was particularly struck by the clever "panel" layout in the Pennzoil ad, and how that story is told with the text running as a corollary to it, not as part of the actual narrative.

I'll also note that the kid sister in the Colgate had is holding a Dell comic book.

What I additionally found interesting was the last page of the issue, which featured a study in child psychology by way of a series of photographs. Taken as a series, they clearly show a young boy becoming increasingly bored and disinterested in a feature that the other children around him remain engrossed in. Not a deliberate comic, I don't think, but presenting the pictures in a deliberate sequence like this makes it one.

In fact, all the comics in the magazine distracted me from reading the original article I had looked up the issue for in the first place!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Garfield Mash-Up Day

You know the rules. I take the dialogue from one of today's comic strips (usually Garfield) and drop it into other comic strips also from today. Hilarity ensues and/or I piss off a bunch of comic creators. Today's contestants are Shoe, Cat & Girl and My Cardboard Life.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fandom = Self-Expression Within Group Participation

I'm only one chapter into A Wealth of Fable and came across this 1955 quote from Bob Bloch...
The need for self-expression, the need for an audience, is the raison d'etre for fandom's existence, with science fiction, per se, as the thin excuse for a focal point of presumably mutual interest. Fandom is not, in my opinion, a way of life. Fandom is a way of self-dramatization.

Harry Warner then goes on to paraphrase Walter Breen's writings from the early 1960s...
He equated science fiction fandom with a wide assortment of other fandoms, tracing in them a set of common traits. When a fandom develops out of a hobby, Breen theorized, an in-group feeling becomes evident and strong, a hard core of politically oriented individuals attempt to take over and run the group. A pair of contrasting attitudes corresponding to 'fijagh' and 'fiawol' appear, in-group language forms, and cultlike features may develop. There's a tendency to broaden fanac beyond the original subject matter, and it may become preferred to mundane activities. Publishing or collecting for egoboo purposes afflicts individuals, organizations like the NFFF develop with internal dissensions, hucksters move in, cons and recruitment bob up, historical periods are found in the fandom, in-group mythologies come into being, and there is concentration on past glories. Such organizations cut across mundane class structures, Breen added. He found this as true for science fiction fandom as for the Circus Fans of America, American Numismatic Association, Confederate States of America, trolley car fandom, groups devoted to various composers, Marxism, bird watching, ancient music fandom, and homosexuality enthusiasts.

Leaving aside the heavy reliance on fandom-speak and the subtexts behind "homosexuality enthusiasts", I generally agree with the sentiments here. I draw a the same conclusions (and quite a few more!) in my book, Comic Book Fanthropology.

I'm curious, though, why these types of ideas -- since they have clearly been around since the 1950s -- have gotten so little attention and/or traction within fandoms. I might go so far as to suggest that it's self-evident, but I really don't think that's the case. Especially in light of the number of times I see intelligent fandom-studying people become surprised when comic fans come into conflict with Twilight fans. When I see them become surprised when they encounter cosplayers who are more interested in the 'egoboo' associated with the other costumers than sharing a specific love of a character. When there's a clear division between newspaper cartoonists using a traditional syndicate and webcartoonists doing their own thing. This all should be perfectly expected, based on ideas that have been around, as I said, for at least half a century.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What Media Sean's Consuming These Days

OK, so you know I read comics. I've got a list running down the right side of my blog with links to all the webcomics I'm keeping up with these days. But, believe it or not, I don't read just comics. I figured I'd throw out there some of the other media I'm taking in these days to provide a little perspective on where I'm coming from.
Essays on Existentialism by Jean-Paul Sartre
I just finished this book at lunch today. It's a series of Sarte's essays on existentialist philosophy. I've never actually studied philosophy in any formal sense, so I'll admit it was a bit of a slog and a lot of his references to other philosophers went over my head. But it still proved to be a fascinating work, and provided me with, I think, a better understanding of existentialist thought.
I Spy
I've been watching the old TV show featuring Robert Culp and Bill Cosby on Hulu. I'd never seen it before and had been meaning to catch up with it for at least a year and a half. I have several reasons for watching: 1) to see Culp in his heyday, 2) to see Cosby do something other than comedy, 3) to get a better cultural sense of what progressive meant in the 1960s. I'm most of the way through season one now, and have been enjoying it largely based on the interplay between Culp and Cosby. Culp's recent passing finally prompted me to start watching.
Foyle's War
My folks lent me their set of these DVDs back around Christmas and I just started getting around to watching them a few weeks back. I'm not a big fan of mystery stories, generally, and the characters don't aren't particularly relateable for me. But the actors do a good job, and I'm actually quite intrigued by the WWII background information. Being an American, I got very little formal education about that time period (our social studies classes tended to end right around WWI) and what I have picked up on my own is very American-centric. The English perspective, while I understand is fictionalized here, provides me a better sense of what things must have been like for that country at the time. I just started the third season of this.
Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist by Nancy Goldstein
A lot of what I read that isn't comics still relates back to comics. This biography is interesting in that I know very little about newspaper cartoonists from the first half of the 20th century, and next to nothing about the concerns and issue of African Americans in that period. And, yeah, I'm never going to really know what it must have been like but it does help provide perspective. Much like Foyle's War provides some perspective on England in the early 1940s. I want to be able to sympathize here, not just empathize. I'm sure I'll be finished with this by the weekend.
Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis
I stumbled across an audio book version in Barnes & Noble about a month ago. I hadn't realized they had recorded it. I listen to NPR as I drive back and forth to work every day, but I play audio books when I'm on longer trips, so I haven't actually listened to this since Memorial Day weekend and, then, I only got so far as getting Sparky through high school! But I'll jump back into it over Independence Day weekend here in a few weeks.

Thundarr the Barbarian
Believe it or not, I'm actually watching these for research. My next column for The Jack Kirby Collector will focus on the villains in Thundarr, many of which were designed by Kirby. (The protagonists all came from Alex Toth.) It's been interesting to see the Kirby influence that I didn't pick up on as a kid. It's also striking to see how the Toth and Kirby designs interplay so well, while some of the tertiary characters seem so amazingly crude and out-of-place. I still have about half the episodes to watch yet.
A Wealth of Fable by Harry Warner, Jr.
This is a history of science fiction fandom of the 1950s, a follow-up to All Our Yesterdays which took sci-fi fandom up to that point. Not surprisingly, there's a great deal of crossover with comic book fandom, hence my interest. I've actually been looking for a copy of this book for a while now, and just found a reasonably priced copy not too long ago. Which arrived in the mail today!
Doctor Who
And, yes, the one current TV show I watch is Doctor Who. I started watching back when the Tom Baker episodes were being played on my local PBS station and, despite it scaring the crud out of me at times, I absolutely loved. David Tennant did a marvelous job, but I'm not too keen on Matt Smith. Besides Baker and Tennant, Sylvester McCoy and William Hartnell rank as some of my favorite actors to play the title character. I think I've seen just about all the episodes, except those older ones that the BBC destroyed several years ago.

Anyway, that's what I'm looking at when I'm not reading or writing about comics. Anything else that I should keep an eye out for?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Box 13 Review

I don't have an iPhone. Or an iPad. Or an iTouch, an iPod, an iPod Shuffle, an iPod Nano or even a Mac. I do have an old iTunes account, but I rarely use it. Aside from checking my email from Dad's computer when I visit the folks once or twice a year, I really haven't used an Apple product of any sort for almost four years now. Nothing against the company or their products certainly, but it just proved more expensive to buy into their proprietary software system for the amount of money I'd have to shell out. For what I would use any of their products for, there are much cheaper alternatives that, while inferior in many design aspects, are quite sufficient for my needs.

That said, I have been tempted on occasion to purchase something just so I can explore how they handle digital comics. I am, as you probably know, a big proponent of digital comics, so I would like to be as well-informed as I could be regarding them. Plus, folks started released digital comics exclusively through applications unique to the iPhone/iPad. One of those comics, in fact, I was quite interested in because it was from the same creative team who brought you High Moon.

Their new comic was called Box 13, (very) loosely based off a 1940s radio show. In the David Gallaher/Steve Ellis update, protagonist Dan Holiday has written a book exposing some of the secrets behind a mysterious MKULTRA projet. Well, as you might expect, things start going downhill for Holiday as he soon finds himself at the very center of a mystery which seems to revolve around him. This MKULTRA project seems to have angered some people who lead him around the city with a series of numbered boxes.

But, now that the first story has run its course on the iPhone, digital publisher comiXology has teamed up with print publisher Red 5 to produce the tale in a trade paperback form. So all of you folks who couldn't read it before now have the chance.

Actually, you could have read at least some of it. ComiXology had several installments on their website available for free at one time. It brought up each chapter with an on-screen version of the iPhone so you could approximate what it was like to read the story as others were. All but the first chapter seem to have been taken down now, but you can get a sense of how the story unfolds on the small screen. Which, if you opt to look at it, will find that it does flow fairly smoothly from one panel to the next with no apparent problems with legibility. Having seen that, though, I was distinctly curious to see how that translated to a print format.

What I didn't realize on reading the early installments via a virtual iPhone was how regular the panel structure really was. Compare the first screens of the digital version...
...with the first page of the printed book...
The grid structure is fairly straightforward and obvious in retrospect. But, more cleverly, it's utilized in such a way that it's not immediately apparent. Note, for example, the half splash of the monkey's face. The iPhone version is actually cropped slightly to fit the confines of the screen, but there's no appreciable amount of detail lost. The printed version, though, expands to the edges of the page, allowing for a page layout that doesn't strictly conform to the grid structure that's in place. It's quite well-executed in that regard. True, we don't get any Neal Adams-style page layouts with unusually shaped panels cutting through the entire page, but that really isn't a detriment to the storytelling here. In fact, it probably helps given the nature of the story; the grid provides a stability for the reader to balance the mysteries and confusion inherent in the plot.

Speaking of the plot, the story has many of the hallmarks I've come to expect from the Gallaher/Ellis team. The story is a good mixture of action and adventure, and has some solid characterization. The dialogue flows very naturally, and Gallaher uses an appropriate amount of restraint in letting Ellis tell the story in pictures without feeling the need to bog it down with a bunch of unnecessary words. Like I found with High Moon, though, you do have to pay attention a bit; they use a very economical method of storytelling that puts a lot of information in nearly every panel. It's not a story you can really just zip through because you'll almost certainly miss something significant.

OK, now bear with me for something of a tangent.

I loved Star Wars as a kid. Best movie ever as far as I was concerned, and the first one I was willing -- even excited -- to see repeatedly. I had the action figures, the comics, t-shirts, bed sheets, the works. And then Empire came out, and I was just as excited. I went into the theater and was seeing even more cool things like AT-ATs and Yoda and Cloud City and Boba Fett and... HOLY COW! Vader is Luke's father!!! You guys remember all that? And then the movie stopped. Yeah, Luke gets a new hand and the droids are bright and shiny again and Lando & Chewie are off to save Han, but the movie just kind of... stopped.

I can recognize now how Empire is often considered a better film than A New Hope but ANH still works better as a film for me because, damn it, that wasn't an ending. That was just turning off the camera because they ran out of film or something. It doesn't matter that George Lucas had Return of the Jedi already in mind at the time and knew full well that the story wasn't over -- I didn't know that. I didn't know there was more to come. I felt like there SHOULD be more to come, but it just flew off on the Millenium Falcon while I was stuck trying to peek over C-3PO's shoulder!

I'm a few years older now than when I first saw Empire and I have a better understanding of storytelling and the business of storytelling. But I had something of the same reaction when I got to the end of Box 13. I haven't talked to them about this, but I'm quite confident Gallaher and Ellis have more up their sleeves for Holiday. Nonetheless I still felt a little jilted at the end. Like we didn't unravel the real mystery yet. I mean, who would go to such elaborate lengths just to...

Well, I don't want to give away the ending, obviously, but it did end up seeming like a somewhat over-complicated plot for the final payoff.

But if it's not the FINAL payoff -- which I suspect it's not -- then count me in for the next installment. Provided I don't need an iPhone to view it.

The trade paperback version of Box 13 arrives comics stores on Wednesday, June 16.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

French Comic Book From 1844/1856

Robert Beerbohm is currently selling a French comic book from 1844 called The History of Mr. Tuberculus by Lobrichon. I think it's worth noting primarily because so many comic fans think the history of comic books starts with Famous Funnies in 1933 with perhaps an occasional nod to the first appearance of the Yellow Kid in 1894. But this book dates considerably earlier, obviously, and bears most of the hallmarks commonly attributed to comics. (Perhaps the only one missing, in fact, is the word balloon which certainly isn't a requirement to be considered comics.)

Anyway, Beerbohm posted a few images from the 68-page book he's selling, which I'm reproducing below with rough translations.

The History of Mr. Tuberculus by Lobrichon

He was named a corresponding member of the Clysomanie Company. And he had a brilliant marriage.

But he falls into the water; fortunately nature has provided for everything. He contracted the bad habit of poking his nose into everything.

He started to worry about the consequences of his stupidity. He makes a resolution to change his life and adopt the latest fashion.

He gives up and goes in search of a new world. But he is stopped by the rain.

However, to be careful, he returned to change down. And pick up a handkerchief.

The young Tuberculus indulges in the pleasure of the hunt, but he feels bored to some embarrassment. The fishing seems to him most advantageous.

And it shows the path of your glory. But the young Tuberculus discovers that it is easier to descend than to ascend.

Moral: He who puts a stop to the fury of sparrows, also knows how parents entertain kids.

There is record of a Timoléon Marie Lobrichon being born in Cornod, France on April 26, 1831. He received his formal training at the Beaux-Arts Academie with François Edouard Picot (1786-1868) and his gallery debut was at the Paris Salon of 1859.

Lobrichon became one of the most sought after and celebrated painters for portraits of children. He was able to capture the character and personality of each child. This gift carried over to all his portraiture; rather than being just a portrait, Lobrichon created a story which involved the character’s personality. In 1884, he illustrated the very popular book The Song of A Child by Jean Aicard.

All of this would suggest that Lobrichon was only 13 when he created The History of Mr. Tuberculus. I've also seen an 1856 date attributed to this same book, which seems more plausible if this is indeed the same Lobrichon. I can't find record of any of Lobrichon's relatives who had any artistic talent and the artist's penchant for children's portraiture and illustrated books suggests that we're only discussing one man. And 1856 publication date for Mr. Tuberculus would've made Lobrichon 25 at the time, which seems to me more likely.

In any event, the Mr. Tuberculus comic is a wonderful treasure and I would love to see the full thing scanned and placed online for the historical record. Because I know I sure as heck can't afford to buy it myself!