Nov 04 2018180 Lucy Bellwood on Sailor Tattoos

Lucy Bellwood is a cartoonist and author in Portland, Oregon. Last year her illustration of sailor tattoos went viral. We talked about nautical tattoos, their meanings, and what it means to get well-known on the Internet very quickly. We also touched on how one researches and studies history, especially in the context of tattoo myths about James Cook and a book Bellwood recommends, The Discovery of Jeanne Baret.

Letterpress versions of Bellwood’s print are available here, and regular prints are here.

Sep 23 2018175 Approved by the Comics Code Authority, Part Two

From 1954 until 2011 the Comics Code Authority exercised control over what could and couldn’t be in comic books. The first version of the code was one of the most restrictive content regimes U.S. media has ever known, banning subject matter such as sex, drugs, and supernatural elements such as werewolves and vampires. The Code was revised in 1971 and 1989, before slowly fading away after 2001 and then being wholly abandoned by 2011. The Comics Code Authority seal is now, ironically, owned by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Sep 14 2018174 Approved by the Comics Code Authority, Part One

From 1964 until 2011 comic books were nominally approved by a content regime called the Comics Code Authority. The Authority grew out of anti-comic book sentiment in the early part of the twentieth century. Anti-comics advocates like Fredric Wertham portrayed comic books as filled with crime, sex, and corrupting ideas. In 1954 a senate subcommittee headed by Tennessee senator Estes Kefauver all but put comic books on trial, with Kefauver grilling EC Comics publisher Bill Gaines about the content of then-popular horror comics. The exchange would change comic book publishing forever.

Jun 12 2017131 Polyamory, Polygraphs, and Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman’s origin story is a fascinating one. Diana of Themyscira was created in 1940 by William Moulton Marston, a psychologist who helped invent the lie detector, worked for Universal Studios, and who lived in a menage-a-trois with his wife, Elizabeth, and another woman Olive Byrne. Marston believed that women were inherently superior to men, and in Wonder Woman created a character whom he believed embodied the qualities the world most needed. That, and there was a lot of bondage. So much bondage.

Apr 14 201676 The Yellow Kid

Nowadays, comic books are mainstream. Movies about superheroes dominate the box office, and you can’t go ten feet in a major retail outlet without seeing something related to popular comics culture. This is not new. Comics and comic books have always been an integral part of American popular culture ever since the 1890s, with the introduction of the Yellow Kid, America’s first popular comics character.

The Yellow Kid (created by former Edison employee R.F. Outcault) sported a shaved head (a common deterrent for lice) and a ragged, hand-me-down nightshirt as his only garment. He eventually became a star in 1890s New York City, and his distinctive image could be found on everything from cigar boxes to cookie tins. Eventually the Kid led to a fight between newspaper magnates Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, who each tried to woo the public with their own distinct and competing versions of the popular comics character.

yellow6

Sep 03 201546 Paper Theater, Golden Bat

Before Batman, before Superman, before even the Phantom, there was the Golden Bat. “Ogon Batto” (as he’s known in Japanese) is, arguably, the world’s first costumed superhero. The skull-headed, ruff-wearing, sword-wielding hero’s backstory was one that would fit in any of the wackier comics that Marvel and DC would later publish: He was a dweller of Atlantis from 10,000 years in the future, and sent back in time to fight injustice. In particular, he battled against Nazo, the evil Emperor of the Universe.

Golden Bat wasn’t a comics character. Not exactly. He was from a form of storytelling called “kamishibai,” a words-and-pictures form of public performance popular in Japan during the first half of the 20th century. Kamishibai storytellers would set up in public spaces and tell tales of samurai, ninja, pulp heroes, cowboys, and superheroes to crowds of eager children, thrilling them with outrageous tales from the worlds of history and science fiction. The medium produced, among other characters, the Golden Bat, a superhero who proceeds Clark Kent by almost a decade.

Golden_Bat_Giant_Robot

 

Related Links:

A contemporary example of kamishibai. It is, obviously, in Japanese.

The Golden Bat’s theme song from his later anime appearances.

Manga Kamishibai by Eric P. Nash, which collects multiple kamishibai tales from the Golden Bat and others.

 

Mar 19 201522 Live at the Clinton Street Theater: How Arthurian Legend is Like Comic Books

On Sunday, March 15th I had the privilege of introducing one of my favorite movies of all time at the historic Clinton Street Theater, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The organizers of the event asked me to talk about actual Arthurian legend prior to the screening, and I compared the tales of everyone’s favorite mythical monarch with something that I enjoy a great deal: comic books.

The illustration of Camelot below is by Gustave Dore and was made to accompany Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, part of the Arthurian and romantic revival of the 1800s.

Idylls of the King 3

Related Links:

Read Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of England Here.

Read “The Tale of the Fisher King,” the first appearance of the Holy Grail in Arthurian legend here.

And, just for fun, someone made a brilliant modern-style trailer for Monty Python and the Holy Grail.