Category Archives: comics

Know Thy History: Diabolik

Sometime last week, I was at a spy-themed party. Most everyone decided to go the sunglasses with a shirt and tie. I decide to go as something flashier. After all, when you own a black balaclava, you got a ton of options. So I dressed in all black and had only my eyes showing.

So someone went, “Hey, are you going as a ninja?” I said, “I was trying to get a Diabolik thing going.”

I came to the realization I had no idea what I was saying. I had never, ever picked up a Diabolik comic.  I would be rather remarkable if I did, since very few were ever translated into English and hardly any of those even made it stateside.  (A search on Amazon will yield you the movie, a TV series, some comic called Satanik and an anime called “Diabolik Lovers.”)

The basic idea, though, is easy to pick up through osmosis.  If you love the series Mystery Science Theater 3000 (and I do — in fact, the origin of my online handle comes from one of the episode), you’ll remember that the very final episode riffed on the movie adaptation called Danger: Diabolik.  X-Men readers remember a character created by Grant Morrison called Fantomex, a dude who totally dressed like Diabolik only he was clad head to toe in white.  And, of course, there’s the Beastie Boys video for “Body Movin'”, a direct parody that all people who write about Diabolik are legally obligated to post.

Read the rest of this entry

Know Thy History: Garfield

EditGarfield may literally be the only character that doesn’t need a Know Thy History, because the guy never went away.  Who doesn’t know all the comics’ beats?  He hates Mondays and he loves lasagna.  When I when to Abu Dhabi some time ago, I was a little disappointed Nermal wasn’t there.  There’s plushies stuck on car windows.  Roger Ebert once pretended he was him.  And one webcomic speculated a world without him… a scenario that is fantastical for Garfield is always with us.  He will never forsake us.

And, perhaps unfairly, Garfield gets tagged with being ultimately lazy. (I mean, the strip. There’s no doubt the cat is lazy.).  It is, after all, a strip that seems to be recycling the same gags ad infinitum.  The Lasagna Cat video series reenacted Garfield strips, pointing out how utterly square the comic is by pairing the accurate delivery with a bonkers music video.  Slate posted the following answer to “Is Garfield supposed to be funny?”:

Garfield was never intended to be humorous. The joke’s always the same because it follows a bland humor formula well-known to anyone in advertising: enough to put a smile on someone’s face, but take care never to offend. And if the humor has to suffer for it, fine.


Read the rest of this entry

Know Thy History: Tintin


When The Adventures of Tintin movie opened in America on 2011, the general public consensus around these parts was, “Whaaa—-? Who—?” I mean, I’d heard of TinTin… but that’s because I took French in high school, and knowledge of the charming boy reporter is pretty much taught in Week 2. Unless you think I’m joking about the American reaction to Tintin, Box Office Mojo reports on the numbers: despite having Steven Spielberg as director, it debuted at #5 and took in $9 Million on opening weekend. Domestically, it brought in $77 million overall. By comparison, the already much forgotten Meet The Robinsons debuted with $25 Million on opening weekend with a $97 million total take.

Fortunately, Spielberg could count on another audience: pretty much the rest of the world. Almost 80% of the profit came from non-American audiences, bringing the total take to $373 million. It’s pretty respectable. Personally, I thought the movie was fine. There were cool moments here and there — like the crash landing in the desert and the crazy chase scene through the crowded streets — but most of the movie I’ve already forgotten.

Still, this bodes well for Spielberg’s plans. He’d heard about Tintin when a review compared it to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Georges Remi, a.k.a. Herge, was the creator of Tintin, and he was likewise a fan of Indiana Jones. The two had planned to meet in 1983 to do a Tintin movie together, but before the meeting date, Herge had passed away. (Herge’s widow, though, decided to give Spielberg the filming rights.) However, nothing seemed to work out. Spielberg was dissatisfied with the progress (working on the Indiana Jones sequels instead), and eventually the rights were passed from one owner to another. However, the Herge Foundation only trusted Spielberg to make a faithful adaptation. With fellow Tintin fan Peter Jackson on board, the movie finally came together. Spielberg had planned ahead for two movies, and a third may yet be on the way.

So what is it about Tintin that captured the imagination of two high-profile film directors?

Read the rest of this entry

Know Thy History: Annie


Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie is one of those comic strips whose reputation in other media has eclipsed its original incarnation. The strip began in 1924 after debuting in the New York Daily News. Following the story of a naive young vagabond and her weird-looking dog named Sandy, Annie rose in popularity until it became the most popular comic strip in 1937 according to Fortune magazine.

ANN_annie~sandy_shoulders_c [Converted]

The formula was simple: Annie got into some trouble with some malefactors, and her guardian, the famously bald-headed “Daddy” Warbucks, would swoop in to save the day. Rinse. Repeat. Still, for a very innocent strip, Little Orphan Annie made some powerful enemies thanks to Harold Gray’s brand of politics. Such as opponents of child labor. Hey, you lazy kids! Why don’t you go out and get a job like Annie, that little sweetheart?

Annie really did have a very colorful career. She fought gangsters and challenged crooked politicians. She commanded her own commando unit, which sounds crazy until you figure that Annie had a heck of a left hook. Also, in one instance, Annie blew up a Nazi sub. According to Susan Houston:

Her first mission is dramatic enough for any child on the home front longing for a real adventure. She and her friend Panda find a hidden U-boat in a nearby cove, and manage to drag a floating mine to dash against the hull and blow it up.



Little Orphan Annie ended only a few years ago in 2010. Apparently our bright-haired moppet was left stranded in captivity on the very last strip. Also, she was wearing jeans and her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, a pretty transparent attempt at trying to modernize the character.  It’s kinda like trying to put Mickey Mouse in baggy pants and a hoodie, though:  the red frock and the clown wig is so iconic that anything else is not very Annie.  (Fortunately, she was still rocking those blank, soulless eyes right to the end.)  Hilariously, “Daddy” Warbucks declares her dead. The very last panel of Annie reads, “And this is where we leave our Annie. For Now—” Seriously, that’s probably one of the most depressing ways for a strip to end. Even Brenda Starr got to retire with dignity.

Her disappearance was referred to in Dick Tracy this year, where it’s implied that “Daddy” Warbucks may enlist the great detective’s help in trying to find her.


Annie was an orphan who lived in Dickensian squalor until she’s adopted by the Warbuckses. (For those of you who are only familiar with her later incarnations, she was initially taken in by a Mrs. Warbucks as a publicity stunt.) Mr. Warbucks would take a shining on the girl, and soon he would be known as “Daddy.” Eventually, Annie would be globe trotting and going on adventures, while “Daddy” would be doing stuff like faking his death because f*** you, FDR! You and your New Deal are the death of America.

Read the rest of this entry

DC asks artists to draw Harley Quinn … and controversy

A recent contest by DC has drawn the condemnation of no less than American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness. Man, that is, like, some high-level people getting irritated! My earlier post about an angry Rich Stevens? Absolutely pales in comparison.

Robot 6 reports:

Their comments capped off a week of growing criticism about the panel, which Harley Quinn co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti clarified on Tuesday is part of a surreal dream sequence intended to have “a Mad magazine/Looney Tunes approach.”

“We believe that instead of making light of suicide, DC Comics could have used this opportunity to host a contest looking for artists to depict a hopeful message that there is help for those in crisis” the three groups said in a joint statement, published by USA Today and The Huffington Post. “This would have been a positive message to send, especially to young readers,” the statement continued. “On behalf of the tens of millions of people who have lost a loved one to suicide, this contest is extremely insensitive, and potentially dangerous. We know from research that graphic and sensational depictions of suicide can contribute to contagion.”

Which in turn caused DC Comics to release an apology.

Here’s the panel in question as drawn by webcomic creator Philip M. Jackson, who draws the furry webcomic Sequential Art (reviewed here):


EDIT: Ah, my reading comprehension is terrible today! The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness were not railing against Mr. Jackson’s panel (that was just an example of one of the entries, perhaps the tamest one) but against the contest itself, which is still ongoing.

So here was a glimpse into the script:

Harley is on top of a building, holding a large DETACHED cellphone tower in her hands as lightning is striking just about everywhere except her tower. She is looking at us like she cannot believe what she is doing. Beside herself. Not happy.

Harley is sitting in an alligator pond, on a little island with a suit of raw chicken on, rolling her eyes like once again, she cannot believe where she has found herself. We see the alligators ignoring her.

Harley is sitting in an open whale mouth, tickling the inside of the whale’s mouth with a feather. She is ecstatic and happy, like this is the most fun ever.

Harley sitting naked in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before the inevitable death. Her expression is one of “oh well, guess that’s it for me” and she has resigned herself to the moment that is going to happen.
– See more at:

Jimmy Palmiotti addressed the controversy with the following statement:

I should have also mentioned we were thinking a Mad magazine/Looney Tunes approach was what we were looking for. We thought it was obvious with the whale and chicken suit, and so on, but learned it was not. I am sorry for those who took offense, our intentions were always to make this a fun and silly book that broke the 4th wall, and head into issue 1 with a ongoing story/adventure that is a lot like the past Powergirl series we did.

I’ve actually retooled this post pretty majorly due to my blunder (which originally implied that Philip M. Jackson had won the contest) (which I think he should, by the way).

2013 Hugo Awards announced, no webcomic wins

The 2013 Hugo Awards — the Oscars for the science fiction community — were announced two days ago at LoneStarCon 3 in the lovely city of San Antonio, Texas. Among the winners were The Avengers (for “Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form” … what?!?!? This qualifies as sci-fi now? WHAT?!?!?!?!) and the Game of Thrones TV show. Something called Redshirts won the Best Novel award. Also, for the first time ever the “Best Graphic Story” award did NOT go to a webcomic.  This time around, it went to Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga.

The Best Graphic Story award was introduced in 2009, and Girl Genius its inaugural winner.  The comic went on to win the next two awards (2010, 2011). 

The Foglios then recused themselves, hoping to spread the joy to other nominees. The next year, Ursula Vernon’s Digger was up for nomination right as the saga was coming to a close. It won in 2012.

This somewhat momentous streak of webcomics being recognized in a field that’s not primarily about sequential art comes to an end, though. Saga, that comic with the demon lady breast-feeding her baby on the cover of Issue One, puts the ball back into the court of the print-media types (though with same-day-digital being such a big thing these days, even that distinction is incredibly blurry). Always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride Schlock Mercenary was on the list of nominees, but missed out on the big award again this year.

Let’s take this meaningless award and extremely phallic trophy back in 2014, webcomics!

Know Thy History: Teen Titans


It happens every single time. There’s a new interpretation of a superhero out… but it’s totally different from what we’ve seen before! We grumble, whine, and complain about how the new directors are pandering to the terrible sensibilities of kids these days, ignoring the elements that made these heroes so beloved in the first place. But you owe to to yourself to step back a little. Dig up the source material and really look at it. Read the first issue encased in that anthology series, or even that first self-titled comic, and ask yourself: isn’t this always what Bob Haney and Nick Cardy intended?

That’s right, I’m talking about Teen Titans Go! It’s positioned in the enviable task of following up the highly well regarded Young Justice series. The way fans are going after it, it’s like … well, it’s like when the original Teen Titans cartoon debuted in the shadow of the much beloved Justice League series. (Teen Titans eventually became a well loved franchise in its own right, hence this new series which follows the character design of the original but is geared at a much younger age set.)

Yet, while the first episode of Teen Titans Go! follows “the team on a trip across the globe to find legendary sandwich ingredients”, you gotta realize that the original Teen Titans? They were pretty far out, man.


Read the rest of this entry

DC2 means “choices” for you

Comics Alliance reports that DC Comics is dipping its toes in the digital world with the illusion of choice.

DC Comics announced two brand new digital comics formats Tuesday evening, one that might look somewhat familiar to readers of Marvel’s Infinite Comics, the other which puts a new spin on the classic “choose your own adventure” book.

DC2, which will feature actions such as word balloons and sound effects popping up when readers swipe their screens, will debut in writer Jeff Parker and artist Jonathan Case’s Batman ’66 series later this summer. DC2 Multiverse, which enables readers to choose different paths through a comic story, will first appear in a Batman: Arkham Origins video game tie-in comic.

DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee told Variety that the DC2 Multiverse format is meant to mirror what video gaming is about: choices.

The pop-up word balloon and sound effect format has been tried in webcomics before, though I’m hard-pressed to remember exactly who did it. (My personal opinion: it’s way too gimmicky and distracting to be any sort of legitimate artistic choice. Sure, you can make an argument that the entire piece of art is worth enjoying … but that’s what blog posts are for.)

As for the “Choose Your Own Adventure” thing… I’m pretty sure a webcomic creator has tried that before. Andrew Hussie tried to put an early MS Paint Adventures called Bard Quest… probably because all the work in doing a branching narrative doesn’t beat a solidly told story.

Besides, choice in this thing is always meaningless. I know that Comics Alliance brought up video games, but how many endings do you get in those things, anyway? And there’s always one “true” ending, which gets followed through when the sequel comes out.

Even so, “Choose Your Own Adventure” books were still kinda fun, even if they were disposable and a little unmemorable. (The only one I remember was the one where I was on trial in England. Lying meant you get get to stay. Telling the truth meant getting deported to Australia. Oh, “Choose Your Own Adventures” and your cynical view of the justice system!)

%d bloggers like this: