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Book Review: WHY COMICS? by Hillary Chute

WHY COMICS? by Hillary Chute

“Why Comics? From Underground to Everywhere,” by Hillary Chute, published by HarperCollins, is a highly informative, accessible, and delightful look at the evolution of comics, with the primary focus on American comics. As the title suggests, what used to be strictly an underground thing has now emerged virtually everywhere. Chute’s goal is to unpack that phenomenon. She goes about it with great enthusiasm and clearly makes a significant contribution to the ongoing writing about comics. This is a must-read for anyone interested in pop culture, comics, and art in general.

Zap Comix #1, 1968

Okay, so comics are everywhere. Who, for instance, are the characters gracing the cover to this book? Chute, a natural teacher, is so glad you asked. She will come right out and tell you who and then explain the interconnections. First of all, this is Maggie and Hopey, lead characters in what is understood by many to be the greatest ongoing comic of them all, “Love and Rockets,” by the Hernandez Brothers. Where did this comic come from? How does it fit in with other comics? Why is this comic significant? Ah, for that matter, you may shout out, “Why Comics?!” Chute is happy to answer all your questions and much more. Well, this comic is part of a second wave of underground comics in the ’80s. And this comic is a response to a lot of things, including a lack of diversity in mainstream comics. But, before that, there was the original wave of underground comics in the Sixties led by R. Crumb and his Zap Comix. And, as many a conversation on the comics convention floor on zines and mini-comics will attest, even today’s superhero comics genre all began as indie comics by two teenagers, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Page excerpt from Art Spiegelman’s MAUS

Chute’s search for patterns in the making of comics leads her to some of the most celebrated trailblazers, notably Art Spiegelman. Chute was the associate editor of “MetaMaus,” the definitive companion to Spiegelman’s “Maus,” and she has a great deal of insight to share. Chute guides the reader from Spiegelman, in his youth in San Francisco to his subsequent work in earnest. It was in 1972 that Justin Green, author of the first autobio comic, “Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary,” invited Spiegelman to contribute to a comics anthology. The only stipulation was that the work had to feature anthropomorphic animal characters. And so began Spiegelman’s first steps toward the work in comics most people are aware of, “Maus.” Chute then follows Spiegelman’s progress as he reaches great heights of creativity. Here below, Chute describes how Spiegelman plays with the fluidity of time:

“Spiegelman creates a physical connection between panels set in the past and panels set in the present, linking them, as in panels in which Art’s cigarette smoke is figured as the smoke coming out of an Auschwitz crematorium chimney directly below it on the page. But in others, he exploits the language of comics–the convention that each panel represents a distinct moment of time–to make two different time periods literally intertwine. We see this in the striking page in which Vladek, Art, and Françoise–herself a character in ‘Maus’–converse in the Catskills during a summer visit to Vladek’s bungalow. On their way to the supermarket in the car, Art changes the topic from his stepmother, Mala, to Auschwitz, asking his father about a prisoner revolt. The last panel of the page, in which Vladek describes its fallout, is its largest: as the family car weaves through dense rural roads, the legs of four Jewish girls hanged in Auschwitz after the revolt–witnessed firsthand by Vladek–suddenly appear dangling from the trees. The 1940s and the ’70s collapse, as Spiegelman shows, wordlessly, how the traumatic past lives on in the present.”

Page excerpt from Marjane Satrapi’s PERSEPOLIS

Much in the same way that the 1951 landmark coming-of-age novel, “The Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger, became the template for aspiring young novelists, so too did “Maus” serve as a guide for cartoonists on the rise. Observe how Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis,” first published in 2000, follows a similar format and technique as Spiegelman’s landmark work. Certainly, Satrapi’s work is wonderfully original. That said, it does follow certain style and content choices first established by leading artists such as Spiegelman. Chute is not making this particular argument but she does lay out the characteristics of what has become accepted in a work by an independent cartoonist: the work is honest, personal, and usually autobiographical; the work is all done by hand, including the borders and lettering, with a less polished finish than mainstream comics; and the work is usually done by one person. In that sense, Satrapi is following in a tradition begun by such artists as Crumb and Spiegelman.

Panel excerpt from Chris Ware’s BUILDING STORIES

Another cartoonist who looms larger in Chute’s book is Chris Ware–and for good reason. The history of American comics is essentially Winsor McCay leading the start and Chris Ware leading the current state of affairs. And it is both of these cartoonists, and so many others in between, who seem to share Ware’s tragicomic point of view of being “well-appointed and feeling lonely.” Cartoonists are something of exotic birds to begin with–whether or not the public notices. But to really make one’s mark in comics, to resonate with critics and fans alike, is quite an achievement. One achieved by such cartoonists as Chris Ware, Charles Burns, and Gary Panter–all of whom would get their big breaks by appearing in Raw magazine, a comics anthology led by Art Spiegelman.

Gary Panter cover for Raw #2.1, 1989

Chute organzies her narrative within categories such as “Why Disaster?” and “Why Sex?” Each chapter category acts as an umbrella that covers a certain facet of comics. In the chapter, “Why Punk?” Chute describes the rise of two friends deeply involved with the punk movement: Matt Groening and Gary Panter, along with other relevant artists like Raymond Pettibon. As for Groening and Panter, they held to their punk ideals while also driven to succeed–“The Simpsons” for Groening; “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” for Panter. Chute makes sure to point out that Bart Simpson–the cartoon character everyone thinks they know–is, in fact, a sly reference (right down to the jaggedy crewcut) to Panter’s underground hero, Jimbo, the antithesis of the mainstream. And, as Chute’s title declares, comics have gone from the underground to everywhere in more ways than one.

Matt Groening holds up Bart Simpson and Gary Panter’s Jimbo

“Why Comics? From Underground to Everywhere” is a 464-page hardcover published by HarperCollins. For more details, visit HarperCollins right here.

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Filed under Alt-Comics, Alternative Comics, Art Spiegelman, Book Reviews, Comics, graphic novels, Hillary Chute, Maus, mini-comics, pop culture, Underground Comics, Zines

420TV Acquires SUPER SLACKERS from David Silverman, Director-Animator of THE SIMPSONS

SUPER SLACKERS on 420TV

As cannabis steadily moves from counterculture to mainstream, the time is perfect for 420TV, the new hub for cannabis news and entertainment, set to launch in early 2018. One of the new shows on 420TV will be a first-run animated series from long-time director of “The Simpsons,” David Silverman. Created for mature audiences, “SUPER SLACKERS” is a comedy about a group of lazy friends unwittingly thrust into the life of superheroes.

Another distinctive feature of this show is that it will be voiced by a a veritable “who’s who” of social influencers whose combined following tops 35 million. “SUPER SLACKERS” features hip-hop artist/actor Jerry Purpdrank; video/music producer & infamous slap-cammer Max Jr.; martial artist, dancer & comedian Dan Nampaikid; professional soccer player-turned-actor, director & content creator, Jon Paul Piques; Smosh YouTube star Olivia Sui; stand-up comedian/writer Arantza Fahnbulleh; and traditional actor/comedian Mickey Gooch, who was recently featured in the hit movie “How to Be Single,” and the indie comedies “Clapper” and “Deported.”

420TV.com

The animated series’ six-episode first season follows a group of friends who discover they have superpowers after their weed is switched with a new strain being used in a government experiment. When a Professor Xavier-type shows up to train them, they have no interest in saving the world. They agree to move into a rent-free government compound, but all they want to do is watch TV and play video games. The Professor is convinced he can turn them into the heroes that the world needs — but can he do it before their infectious laziness spreads to the rest of the agents?

“SUPER SLACKERS” is created and directed by David Silverman (“The Simpsons”), written by Joelle Sellner (“Sonic Boom”) and animated by Mike Blum (Pipsqueak). Executive Producers are Mickey Gooch (Skit Bags Entertainment), Warren Zide (“American Pie”), digital entertainment manager/attorney Ash Venkatram and entrepreneur Ranajit Chaudhury. Usman Shaikh is Co-Executive Producer. The series was introduced to 420TV by talent manager Leanne Perice.

SUPER SLACKERS on 420TV

“‘SUPER SLACKERS’ is the first original animated series from a director in the traditional space that leverages the talents and audience of household digital stars,” said Ash Venkatram. “By choosing a racially diverse cast and throwing them into the culture of cannabis, we hope to give viewers a refreshing change from the vanilla content they normally consume on linear television.”

“420TV is thrilled to be offering the latest animated comedy created by David Silverman, a wonderfully gifted animator who has a long history of producing tremendously successful shows. His new, first-run series, which will make its global premiere on 420TV, is equal parts funny, twisted and cool. ‘SUPER SLACKERS’ is also a perfect complement to our lineup, as we look to create and secure cannabis-friendly content for both the converted and the curious,” said Alex Nahai, a partner in 420TV.

Added David Silverman: “I couldn’t imagine a more fitting home for ‘SUPER SLACKERS’ than 420TV, with its appeal to a very open-minded, socially connected audience.”

Debuting in early 2018, and initially available through 420TV.com and its mobile applications, 420TV is a premium 4K video-on-demand network devoted to all things cannabis. It will deliver original programming produced exclusively for the multi-platform channel, in addition to acquired long and short-form entertainment. Content categories in development include news, information, food, fashion, comedy, music and animation, as well as acquired feature films, documentaries, music and live streaming events. 420TV was developed by 420 Entertainment Group, comprised of OWNZONES Media Network, Genesis Media and Alex Nahai Enterprises. For more information, follow www.420TV.com.

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Filed under Cannabis, Comedy, Entertainment, Humor, Marijuana, pop culture, Television, The Simpsons

Celebrating 30 Years of The Simpsons

Simpsons Fun Facts!

The Simpsons celebrates 30 years on television. If you count the original one-minute shorts aired during “The Tracey Ullman Show,” The Simpsons began in 1987. The actual show began on December 17th, 1989. Frame Your TV has produced a series of visual assets to celebrate 30 years of the iconic show.

More Proof That The Simpsons Live in Portland, Oregon!

Just click onto any of these assets to enlarge them and learn a variety of fun facts about The Simpsons.

Top Ten Episodes!

The visual assets take you through some of the best episodes in the show’s history, a selection of the quotes from the show that we still use in everyday life, and includes some facts about the show that you may not be familiar with.

Great Quotes to Live By!

Did you know that Krusty the Clown was originally supposed to be revealed as Homer? The Simpsons family looked so different when the show was first broadcast and it was hard to imagine the impact they would have on popular culture and the television landscape.

More Fun Facts!

May The Simpsons enjoy another 30-year reign!

Accept the Impact of The Simpsons!

In the future, there will only be The Simpsons to entertain us!

Long Live The Simpons!

And have a wonderful Simpsons day!

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Filed under Comics, Matt Groening, The Simpsons

Review: ‘Simpsons Comics Knockout’ collected trade paperback

SIMPSONS COMICS KNOCKOUT

SIMPSONS COMICS KNOCKOUT

SIMPSONS COMICS KNOCKOUT, published by HarperCollins, is a fine collection of Simpsons comic book stories originally published by Matt Groening’s Bongo Entertainment. This is a great opportunity to get your Simpsons fix all in one full cover trade paperback that collects five Simpson Comics: #116, 117, 118, 119, and 120. What you will find is consistently pithy, witty, and outright hilarious good fun.

Page excerpt from Simpson Comics #116.

Page excerpt from Simpson Comics #116.

Each comic book collected here covers one story. The titles are as follows: “Mall or Nothing,” “Sandwiches are Forever,” “The Flunky!” “Homer Drops the Ball!” and “The ‘X’ Men.” For example, in Simpson Comics #116, originally released in the U.S. in March of 2006, you have a sly satire on consumerism: the Simpsons find themselves living inside a shopping mall. This predicament is to the delight of Homer Simpson, and to the dismay of his progressive daughter, Lisa.

Other stories feature a Simpson family globetrotting adventure; a satire on help for the lovelorn; and Homer in a boxing match with everyone’s favorite corporate villain, C. Montgomery Burns! This is great all-ages entertainment from Matt Groening’s legendary creative team.

SIMPSONS COMICS KNOCKOUT is a 128-page full color trade paperback, available as of February 21, 2017. For more details, and how to purchase, visit HarperCollins right here.

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Filed under Bongo Entertainment, Comics, Harper Collins, Humor, Matt Groening, Satire, The Simpsons

Review: LISA SIMPSON’S GUIDE TO GEEK CHIC

Lisa-Simpson-Geek-Chic-Insight-Editions

Behold, “Lisa Simpson’s Guide to Geek Chic,” a new book by Matt Groening, published by Insight Editions. And, check this out, this book is part of the Vault of Simpsonology. Yes, once you’ve enjoyed this book, you can move on to books focusing on other Simpson characters.

Ah, but first, there’s Lisa Simpson and her particular view of the world. How about a periodic table, according to Lisa Simpson? Or her idea of what should be in everyone’s emergency kit. The Complete Works of Shakespeare, perhaps?

While this will win over any young reader, I have to say that this item transcends any age demographic in a very appealing way. This is, indeed, the perfect gift for anyone.

“Lisa Simpson’s Guide to Geek Chic” is available as of May 5, 2015. For more details, visit our friends at Insight Editions right here.

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Filed under animation, Comics, Insight Editions, Matt Groening, The Simpsons