Comic strips

April 09, 2014 | 1:43 p.m.

Mimi Pond graphic novel ‘Over Easy’ pairs sharp humor, feminism

In 1978, twentysomething artist Mimi Pond dropped out of art school and worked in an Oakland greasy spoon, serving punk rockers, hippies and the occasional prostitute. She never forgot her time there: “I knew from the moment I stepped through the door that it was a story.” Fast-forward several years, in which Pond racked up experience writing for “The Simpsons” (she penned the debut episode), “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” and “Designing Women,” all while drawing cartoons for the Los Angeles Times and Seventeen magazine (not to mention raising two kids with her husband, the artist Wayne White). Finally, some 25 years later, she turned her attention to writing about Mama’s Royal, still a pit stop for Bay Area artists to this day. This month, the resulting fictionalized memoir, “Over Easy,” hits the shelves from Drawn & Quarterly. For lovers of tawdry tales from the ’70s, told […]
Dec. 08, 2011 | 9:49 a.m.

Jerry Robinson, key creator behind the Joker and Robin, dead at 89 [updated]

Jerry Robinson, a pioneer in the early days of Batman comics and a key force in the creation of Robin the Boy Wonder; the Joker;  Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred; and Two-Face, died Wednesday afternoon in New York City. He was 89. The illustrator with a far-ranging career — after shifting in the early 1960s into political cartooning, he would serve as president of the National Cartoonists Society and then author the exhaustive and well-regarded “The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art” — died in his sleep during a late afternoon nap, according to Michael E. Uslan, a close family friend and an executive producer on all the Batman feature films since the 1980s. Born on New Year’s Day 1922 in Trenton, N.J., Robinson was a still a teenager when he stepped into the fledgling comic book industry after a chance meeting with Bob Kane, who showed the youngster the […]
Oct. 11, 2011 | 11:26 a.m.

Donald Duck and Carl Barks: Fantagraphics goes on classics quest

There are few storytellers in comics history that are more revered than Carl Barks, a titan figure who was one of the three inaugural members in the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame — the other two were Jack Kirby and Eisner himself, who once called Barks “the Hans Christian Andersen of comics.” While Kirby filled the skies of multiple universes with superheroes, gods and aliens, Barks has a legacy that is more narrowly defined: The Oregon native was the creator of Duckburg, a place he populated with Scrooge McDuck, Gladstone Gander, the Beagle Boys and others both feathered and furry. Fantagraphics recently announced a  deal with Disney that will allow them to reprint the Barks run in a truly definitive collection. Our Geoff Boucher caught up with Fantagraphics’ Gary Groth to discuss the project’s heritage and ambition. GB: It’s hard to talk about Carl […]
Sept. 09, 2011 | 3:18 p.m.

9/11 anniversary: Comic strips remember the heroes, victims

Sept. 11 seems an unlikely topic for the newspaper funny pages, but cartoonist Brian Walker might be considered an expert in finding the positive. Walker, who writes the syndicated strip “Hi and Lois,” was one of nearly 100 cartoonists challenged with dedicating Sunday’s comics to the victims and heroes of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, in honor of the tragedy’s 10th anniversary. “We’re reductionists,” Walker said. “We take something that’s big to the point of almost being overwhelming. Like, you think about 9/11 and everything it’s meant, and everything that’s happened since then, and it’s just too much to deal with, really. How do you take that and put it into four panels or six panels?” “Blondie,” Wizard of Id” and “Doonesbury” are among 93 strips from King Features Syndicate, Creators Syndicate, Tribune Media Services, Universal Press Syndicate and Washington […]
Aug. 26, 2011 | 4:37 p.m.

Mickey Mouse, back when he still channeled Chaplin and Astaire

BOOK REVIEW “Steamboat Willie” made Mickey Mouse an overnight sensation in 1928, and less than two years later, the King Features syndicate contacted Walt Disney about adapting the character to a daily comic strip. The Mickey Mouse strip debuted on Jan. 13, 1930, in the New York Daily Mirror. For the first few weeks, it was written by Disney and drawn by his head animator, Ub Iwerks. But Disney and Iwerks were busy working on films and passed the strip to studio artist Floyd Gottfredson, who worked on it for 45 years — right up until his retirement in 1975. The hardcover “Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: Race to Death Valley” (Fantagraphics Books: $29.95; 288 pp.), edited by David Gerstein and Gary Groth and published this summer, is the first installment in a complete reprint of the strip. At the urging […]
Aug. 09, 2011 | 11:11 a.m.

‘Krazy Kat’ and ‘a love letter’ to George Herriman

Before the world met a mouse named Mickey or a feline named Felix, there was Krazy Kat and his pals Ignatz Mouse and Offissa Pupp. Abrams ComicsArts celebrates the pioneering feline and its creator with the just-published, 176-page book “Krazy Kat and the Art of George Herriman.” “It’s a love letter to George Herriman,” said editor Craig Yoe, a longtime fan whose entire living room is adorned in Herriman motif. “I considered him the No. 1 artist of all time, way ahead of No. 2, Winsor McCay [of ‘Little Nemo’ fame] and No. 3, Milt Gross.” Krazy Kat was created in 1910 as a spinoff of Herriman’s syndicated “The Dingbat Family,” when he added a small horizontal panel across the bottom of the strip introducing the cat and mouse frenemies. It became of one of the most popular strips in […]
Aug. 02, 2011 | 5:43 p.m.

Milton Caniff’s ‘Steve Canyon’ flies again

The box-office success of “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the 30th anniversary of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and the ramping interest in “Tintin” make it as good a time as any to revisit Steve Canyon, the adventure hero who flew across the pages of American newspapers for four decades. The creation of Milton Caniff — who had become a newsprint icon with “Terry and the Pirates” — Canyon also made his way into comic books on several occasions although never with a great deal of pop-culture traction. One of the aviator hero’s more intriguing runways in the foreign medium was with Dell Comics in their “Four Color” series and those colorful artifacts are repackaged now in  “Steve Canyon the Complete Series: Vol. One,” a 256-page hardcover ($49.99) that hits shelves this week. The work isn’t pure Caniff (Bill Overgard and Ray […]
May 04, 2011 | 8:04 a.m.

Warren Beatty and ‘Dick Tracy’ will open 2011 Hero Complex Film Festival

Fourteen-time Oscar nominee Warren Beatty — the very definition of the Hollywood hyphenate as world-famous leading man, an acclaimed director and an elite producer — will be the opening-night guest for the 2011 Hero Complex Film Festival to celebrate his 1990 hit “Dick Tracy” and talk about the film future of a square-jawed character who is celebrating his 80th anniversary as an iconic crime-fighter in American pop culture. Beatty directed  “Dick Tracy,” which was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three. He also starred as the title character, leading a stellar cast that included Al Pacino, Madonna, Dustin Hoffman,  Glenne Headly, Charlie Korsmo, Mandy Patinkin, Dick Van Dyke, William Forsythe, Kathy Bates, Charles Durning, James Caan, Paul Sorvino and Catherine O’Hara. The legacy of the film and Beatty’s aspirations for the property have been back in the news, which will be part of the onstage discussion following the screening […]
April 18, 2011 | 4:09 p.m.

William and Kate are royally skewed at London’s Cartoon Museum

Freelancer Sophie Grove reports from London on the city’s Cartoon Museum putting on its own royal airs ahead of the April 29 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton — an exhibition of satirical drawings about the monarchy and  nuptials through the years. The engagement gathering isn’t going well. A scrofulous groom-to-be gazes admiringly in a mirror, while his distraught, porcelain-skinned fiancée sobs into a handkerchief. At their feet, a shackled pair of dogs symbolize the ill-fated union that is to come. This is the first frame of William Hogarth’s 1743 series of scathing caricature engravings titled “Marriage à la Mode” — the story of a wedding across class lines and for all the wrong reasons. The signs are unmistakable; the wealthy middle-class father-in-law brandishes a marriage contract while the penniless, gout-ridden, aristocratic father of the groom waves his family […]
April 16, 2011 | 5:40 a.m.

‘Peanuts’ review: Good grief, new ‘Charlie Brown’ cartoon falls on its face

Charles Solomon, the animation historian and author of books such “The Art of Toy Story 3,” drops by the Hero Complex today to review a new entry in the “Peanuts” library.   The prospect of a new “Peanuts” film sounds especially welcome in these tense times. “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” et al. provided some of most beloved moments in the history of TV animation. Sadly, “Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown,” which has just been released on DVD falls down on the job, not unlike a would-be placekicker we all know and love. More than a decade after the death of Charles Schulz, his strip remains popular in reruns, and the characters are still ubiquitous. But virtually all of the key artists involved in the classic specials have died — not only Schulz, but director Bill Melendez (who also provided Snoopy’s […]
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