comic strips

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 […]
April 03, 2011 | 9:46 a.m.

‘Brenda Starr, Reporter’: The final byline after 71 years on the beat

There wasn’t a lot of public stir on Jan. 2  when “Brenda Starr, Reporter” retired after 71 years on the newspaper-comics beat. In its heyday, the comic strip created by Dale Messick was a staple in 250 newspapers. Last year, it was in 65, with 36 of those international publications. “Brenda Starr” appeared two years after intrepid Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane was introduced  in Action Comics No. 1, the comic book in which Jerry Siegel and illustrator Joe Shuster gave the world the first Superman. But unlike the doings in Metropolis, in Brenda’s adventures, it was the woman who was in the spotlight.  Brenda was also created by a woman, who had worked as a greeting-card illustrator for the Chicago Tribune Syndicate. Brenda Starr’s name was based on a popular 1930s debutante, and she was modeled on Rita Hayworth, then an up-and-coming sex […]
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