Tag Archives: comics

A Slenderman Musical Is Out Now!

A Slenderman Musical is officially out now! A weird, creepy and oddly touching song and story cycle for your ears! Listen! Buy! Keep me alive to write more bizarre and far fetched things!

A Slenderman Musical by Paul Shapera

Click the picture! Click here!
2 hours of rock musically goodness!


Posted by on October 20, 2015 in Uncategorized


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I suppose in the interest of all thing atompunk we should mention Barbarella.

Released in 1968 and starring a young Jane Fonda, Barbarella is… it’s insanely campy, and i mean insanely. It’s very sexually themed but i can’t quite tell if it thinks it’s being liberating about women’s sexuality. I think it DOES think it’s being all liberating, but i ain’t buying what it’s selling. Interestingly, it was directed by Fonda’s then husband  French film director husband Roger Vadim. 

If you’re at all famirliar with alternative comics of the time, you can’t miss that it has that flavor. Indeed, it is taken from a French comic Barbarella by Jean-Claude Forest.

barbarella comic


Barbarella comic



As you can see, basically a science fiction heroine who is almost always in some state of undress, sexual post even when just hanging around some foreign planet and often times in a sexual liaison, roams the galaxy finding various fantastical villains and exploits to be erotically charged around.

First published in the French magazine V-Magazine in 1962 it soon became a bit of a hit amongst the French and Belgium comics scene. It created a few scandals for it’s sexually charged content (although there was no actually… you know…there were no x rated shtupping scenes explicitely shown). For her creator, the character did in fact embody his idea of the the modern emancipated woman in the era of sexual liberation.

It may be unfair of my to look back on that era with so much judgement, although i do have a hard time getting around the idea that the best way to create a new, emancipated female science fiction icon is to just concentrate on great stores with a great, deeply developed character. Occasionally you can throw some eroticism in, but when all she does is run around half naked, in uber sexual poses, and constantly in and out of sexual situations, all you’ve done is create a two dimensonal, masturbatory icon. But hell, maybe this is modern thinking and back then the guy was doing the best he could.

I’m not against super erotic comics based around sexy people and sex. I’ve read some awesome ones written by both genders. They’re usually quite funny, winking their tongue in cheek self awareness at you as opposed to misguiding earnestness. Hell, some, like like Fairies series… someone remind me the name, just gets flat out CRAZY with fiaries humping every kind of animal under the sun. But honestly, it’s hysterical, and i just don’t get the same annoyance i get with Barbarella.

Oh yeah! Bondage Fairies!

Oh yeah! Bondage Fairies!

I digress. (A habit of mine.)

SOOOOO, in 1968 they cast a young Jane Fonda, who ahd already had great success in 1967’s Barefoot in the Park with Robert Redford. (Everyone has seen this right? I mean it’s like this STAPLE play/movie. If you’re involved in theater you HAVE to have seen it. I’m under the impression that everyone who ever so much as goes near a stage is required to see it. it’s pretty damn good. Classic Neil Simon play.)

A year after Barbarella she made  They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? which won her an Oscar nomination. In between she made Barbarella. Maybe she was really into it. Maybe it was because her husband was really into it. Who knows? This is all 2 years before she got involved with the opposition to the Vietnam War (1970) and 4 years before the Hanoi Jane stuff which interestingly STILL pisses of people in the armed services today.

The premise of the insane campy film is, and i quote: “In an unspecified future (the video release states it is the year 40,000), Barbarella (Jane Fonda) is assigned by the President of Earth (Claude Dauphin) to retrieve Doctor Durand Durand (Milo O’Shea) from the Tau Ceti region. Durand Durand is the inventor of the Positronic Ray, a weapon. Earth is now a peaceful planet, and weapons are unheard of. Because Tau Ceti is an unknown region of space there is the potential for the weapon to fall into the wrong hands. Donning the first of many outfits, Barbarella sets out to find the missing scientist. She crashes on the 16th planet of Tau Ceti, on an icy plain.”


The rest, is B movie history.

And a scene that is actually kind of cool:

No, i’m not gonna show the stupid Orgasmtron scene. You can YouTube it.

Anyway, there we go! Barbarella. Many like myself would LOOOOOVE to Mystery Science Theater 3000 do Barbarella, i mean it’s MADE for them, but alas it never happened, probably because they couldn’t get the rights.


Posted by on September 11, 2013 in Uncategorized


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The Fleischer Superman Cartoons

Superman Fleischer Studios

Superman has always been dieselpunk.

He may not seem like it now, but in the beginning he was probably one of the mot dieselpunk things you could think up. He was, after all, created in 1938 and became an instant smash success. Within 3 years one of the most beautiful looking series of animation shorts ever made was put out by Fleischer Studios, all of which have not only a thoroughly dieselpunk vibe (being, you know, actual sci-fi in the 1940s) but 70 years later still look unbelievably amazing.

Fleischer Studios started out as a small animation studio founded and run by brothers brothers Max and Dave Fleischer. By 1941 Fleischer Studios was second only to Walt Disney Studios in animation. They were responsible for the immensely popular Popeye cartoons as well as Betty Boop. The brothers invented the art of rotoscoping, where animators would trace drawings over actual live footage, creating incredibly lifelike animation. This technique was adopted by Disney in some of their feature length animated movies and in Russia, Stalin loved it so much he insisted all Russian animation use this method (true story).

When approached by Paramount to make a series of Superman shorts to be played before movie features, the brothers had just finished a well lauded animated Gulliver film (still around) and were anxious to begin their next feature, Mr. Bug Goes To Town. They didn’t particularly want to do Superman, so they quoted Paramount an absolutely ridiculous sum, $100,000 per short. To their shock and surprise, Paramount halved the amount to $50,000 and agreed. $50,000 was still an insane sum for an animated short, over twice what each Popeye short cost, and next they knew it, the brothers were committed.

They pulled out all the stops. The 9 cartoons they made won every award possible for animation including nomination for an Academy Award, and were enormously popular. Superman himself was a raging success, and these cartoons were made before even the Superman radio show, thus a number of Superman pop culture tropes came from these shorts.

For one thing, Superman did not fly in those days. He didn’t start out flying in the comics. You recall the line “leap tall buildings in a single bound”? Well, that’s what he did. Leap. Well, for one thing, the cartoons invented the opening: “Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!” Furthermore, as the shorts progressed, the brothers didn’t like the look of the leaping and wanted Superman to simply fly. They asked permission from Detective Comics Inc (DC before it was called DC) and they allowed the Fleischers to have Superman fly. After this Superman began flying in the comics.

It also invented the catch phrase “This is a job…. for Superman!”

The Fleischers tried to rotoscope Superman as much as possible, but being the world’s first superhero, he did things a live model couldn’t do, like fly and lift ridiculous things. “In these cases, the Fleischer lead animators, many of whom were not trained in figure drawing, animated roughly and depended upon their assistants, many of whom were inexperienced with animation but were trained in figure drawing, to keep Superman “on model” during his action sequences.”

After 9 cartoons the Fleischers were self destructing.  Work on the Mr. Bug cartoon had caused major financial trouble (it premiered in theaters 2 days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor) and the brothers descended into bitter personal troubles. By 1942 they could no longer work with each other. Paramount bought them out and ousted them. The studio was changed to Famous Studios and 8 more Superman shorts were produced. The sleek look remained, but the plots changed from science fiction themes to WW2 themes.

Even today, the first 9 shorts are considered mkasterpieces of animation and the height of the famed Fleischer Studios’ skill. I present all 9 here for you, dieselpunk masterpieces all. If you’ll excuse me, i’m going to call my 4 year old in here to watch them with me.

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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Order Of The Stick

I am working 10 hours a day on the 3rd Act of the Dieselpunk Opera. It’s been tricky posting because… well… i’m working as hard as i can already and the time it takes to bang out a blog post i could be playing the bassline to Song 4.

Anyway, today we feature an utterly kick ass online comic that i’ve been reading for years now. Seriously, i’ve been following this story for years and just adore it. It’s called Order Of The Stick.

It’s currently on episode 878. I have no idea how long it’ll go on, but it’s a never ending enjoyment. It’s technically a “stick figure comic” (but don’t let that fool you, the art is amazing) about a group of adventurers from a Dungeon & Dragons campaign. There are numerous D&D in jokes, so… if you have an even passing familiarity with the game you REALLY should be trying this comic out.

I’m gonna post a few of them here, but really, you should get over to the official site. The beauty of this comic is that it starts out cute and fun, but gets…. EPIC. Sersiously. EPIC.

I would also point out the writer and artist needed to scrounge up some cash to print the comics into books. He started a Kickstarter Campaign. He raised a million dollars because the online fan base for this thing is RABID.

Give it a try. Read 10 a day for a week and see if you don’t get obsessively hooked.

(OFFICIAL ORDER OF THE STICK SITE LINK HERE, just in case you missed it before)


order of the stick

order of the stick

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Posted by on March 5, 2013 in Uncategorized



Strange Aeons

Strange Aeons An Online Dieselpunk Comic

While i have some deep contemplative posts (or, one) i’m a bit busy at the moment. I’ve been hired to write music for a Pirate Show, an immensely fun gig, and i’m leaving for the states in 9 days (YAY!). On top of which i’ve been catching up on time with my 4 year old. So a lengthy tiem consuming post  has not been in the cards this weekend.

However i do have something awesome for y’all. It’s an online Dieselpunk comic called Strange Aeons. It’s pretty new and looks killer. Look up at that picture. That is an awesome picture. Well worth your time. I mean you’re here, right? This means you intend to shmuck around for however long this blog was likely to amuse you, so instead i offer you another place to shmuck.

This is that place: Strange Aeons


Posted by on December 9, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Top 10 Uses Of Mars In Pop Culture

Rock and roll, NASA! Hats off to you folks and this historic day. The rover is down and we’re exploring Mars! That fills me with happiness.

To celebrate we’re going to dedicate today’s post to my top 10 favorite uses of Mars in pop culture. You know, what the title to this post pretty much told you.

10. Total Recall

Yes i know there’s a new one out, no i haven’t seen it, but let’s face it, the old Schwarzenegger one was pretty damn fun. Based on the Philip K Dick story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, the reason the movie makes this list instead of the story is that in the story the protagonist never actually makes it to Mars.

9. MST3K Santa Claus Conquers The Martians

Let’s be clear. I am not suggested the 1964 film Santa Claus Conquers The Martians is good or even bland or even just bad. It is jaw droppingly terrible in every sense a movie can be horrible. Thus makes it perfect fodder for Mystery Science Theater 3000. Perhaps some of you don’t know of that show, but in the 90s there was this show where… ugm…. a guy and his robot friends watched really, really bad movies and sat heckling them the entire time. You were watching a bunch of wise asses make fun of a bad movie. And you know, it was awesome.


8.Acme Novelty Library #19 The Seeing Eye Dogs Of Mars

This is a graphic novel by Chris Ware. Ware is renowned for his moody, melancholy works and his story The Seeing Eye Dogs Of Mars fits the bill perfectly. The story functions as a tale written by his main character’s father, a mildly talented sci-fi writer who scored his one real success with a 1950s story The Seeing Eye Dogs Of Mars in which two couples are sent up to begin the colonization of Mars. Still with me? Look, it’s really good. Everything by Chris Ware is really depressing and really good.


7. John Carter Warlord Of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Ok, i know, the recent movie was a total flop. But the old pulp series by Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan for heaven’s sake, deserves its place on this list. First written in 1911 it may not be as well known today, and Lord knows the movie hasn’t helped it (to be fair the movie was okay), but the influence of John Carter Warlord of Mars cannot be understated. Star Wars? Heard of it? Lucas sites the Burroughs books as inspiration. Avatar? Heard of it? (I personally hated that stupid movie, but damn did it look amazing) Once again, these books sited as major inspiration. Dune? Superman? (Yes, you heard me) That’s right, once again, the Warlord of Mars books sited as… you get the idea. Moment of respect.


6. Red Mars/Green Mars/Blue Mars (the Mars Trilogy) by Kim Stanley Robinson

There are many who claim this trilogy is the best hard science fiction novels of this generation. Unlike the adolescent fantasy of John Carter, this series if extremely intelligent, serious and painstakingly well researched. It takes the idea of colonizing Mars and thinks it through as realistically as possible, from technology to politics to people. That may seem pretty dry, but it’s really not. It’s a credit to the author’s talent and skill that he creates a trilogy which is captivating and believable. I have friends who will debate over these books for HOURS if you just keep the beer flowing.


5. War of the Worlds: Spielberg

You know what? This move kicked ass. It really did. I’m not saying it’s one of my all time favorites or anything, i’m just saying at the end of the day it kicked as. I was actually so freaked out  by the damn aliens that i utterly forgot that i already knew how it was going to end. When the ending came  i was suddenly shocked back to the fact that of course i knew that but i had forgotten because i those aliens were so freackin’ bad ass they had me clutching my seat. So i’m putting this movie on this list. There’s other Mars movies, but you know what? They’re not this good. That Val Kilmer one? You know it’s not as enjoyable as this.

4. The Extraordinary League of Gentlemen Vol #2

This graphic novel series also kicks ass, especially the first 2 volumes (out of 3 currently, but i know there’s a new one due out soon) and especially vol two which deals with Mars. Actually, it deals specifically with both War of the Worlds AND John Carter Warlord of Mars. Alan Moore, meta god of comics, took every possible sci fi  character from victorian and edwardian fantastical fiction and built utterly awesome stories utilizing them. Really, this one is a must read.


3. War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells

Do i even need to bother writing an explanation for this? Published in its complete from in 1898 this is the book that started every single alien invasion story ever written. Yes. That is not an exaggeration. If this book had not been written someone would have invented alien invasions sooner or later i grant you, but HG Wells got there first and if i listed the influence of this book on pop culture we’d be here all feakin’ day how much time in a given day do you think i have to bang these posts? I’m scoring the damn show. I’m only on Annabelle’s Lament. I got work to do. Just trust me, this book is huge. Just… bow before it and let’s move along.


2. The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury

You might think i’m nuts ranking this book higher then War of the Worlds, you’d have a case, but you know what? The Martian Chronicles is deeper and greater. Bradbury’s signature work is in every single sci-fi best of all time list, and will probably be for the forseeable future because it’s really that good. Call it personal preference, but this book did a number on me when i first read it years ago and i can still recall the emotional impact.

Wells is great and all but there’s a reason this song was written about Bradbury:


1. Congratulations NASA. The number one pick on the countdown goes out to all of you.

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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Little Orphan Annie

As we saw in our last post, the pathway to the character of Little Orphan Annie was longer and more interesting than one might think. Heck, we did an entire post and didn’t even get to the actual red haired Little Orphan Annie character we all know and every little girl loves.

Well, in August 1924 cartoonist Harold Gray, who had been trying unsuccessfully to get The Chicago Tribune to pick up one of his strips finally succeeded. Owner Joseph Patterson agreed to try out this Little Orphan Annie character in the New York Daily News to a test audience. The response was positive so the Chicago Tribune picked it up and soon the strip was running all over the country.

Gray had decided on the character based on a meeting with a little “ragamuffin” while wandering about Chicago. Her common sense and spunk (note, spunk in the american sense NOT the english) made an impression on him. He wanted to write and draw a successful comic strip and kids were popular stars to have in them.

Most comic strip featured boys as main character so a girl stood out. Furthermore, by making her an orphan he had the excuse to put her in whatever various adventures and places he wanted. He took the name directly from the Riley poem Little Orphant Annie which we covered last time.

Annie was popular enough but when the depression hit she became wildly successful, one of the most popular strips in the country during the 30s and according to Fortune magazine in 1937 THE most popular comic strip, beating out Popeye, Dick Tracy and Lil Abner.

Gray’s philosophy was more about conservative values then “the sun’ll come out tomorrow”. Annie outspokenly advocated hard work, respect for elders, and yes, keeping your chin up regardless of the circumstances. It also heartily criticized FDR’s New Deal and 1930s labor unionism.

Gray was occasionally criticized for the fact that because of the enormous success of the strip he rode out the depression well cared for while all the while preaching to the huddle masses.

In 1930 the Little Orphan Annie radio show began, which was also a runaway hit. It aired for 12 years until 1942.

The show’s sponsors were indeed Ovaltine and they made a killing out of cultivating the show’s fan base by offering special premiums, including secret decoders, shake-up mugs for drinking Ovaltine and rings for members of the Little Orphan Annie secret society. Announcer Pierre Andre’s exuberant pitches for Ovaltine and the many premiums were an integral part of the show. This has of course been immortalized in one of the greatest Xmas movies ever made, A Christmas story.

There was a (very bad) cartoon and two pretty bad Annie movies in the 30s. IN 1962 there was a pretty popular Annie spoof in the then wildly popular Playboy magazine. Written and drawn by Harvy Kurtzman, the guy behind Mad Magazine and Will Elder, it featured “Annie Fanny, a tall, blonde, amply breasted, round buttocked, curly-haired young female who seems to find herself in trouble and naked in each episode.” The Mad Men guys went crazy over it.

Well now, isn’t that interesting? Ask anyone around in the Mad Men era, they know about Little Annie Fanny.

Which FINALLY, after ALL THIS, brings us to the version of Little Orphan Annie everyone actually knows, the 1977 Broadway musical and that stupid damn song “Tomorrow”. Which i’m not gonna play here, although don’t get me wrong, i find the music from the show in general to be immensely hummable and catchy.

It led to the 1982 film and actually another in 1999 which i never heard of.

So there ya go. Little Orphan Annie, a character you probably dismissed as utterly uninteresting actually has one of the most interesting histories of any long running character still around.

I leave you with a medley from the musical. Personally i’d rather beat my own genitals with a hammer rather than have to sit through an entire performance of the show, but hey, that’s me. If i was an 8 year girl i would feel very, very differently and indeed know many who did.

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Posted by on June 11, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Little Orphant Annie

I have an endless fascination with fictional characters who experience long lives and evolutions through by being expounded upon by different artists who keep the character alive and transforming through generations. As surprising as it may seem, few characters really emulate as thoroughly as Little Orphan Annie, whose history is surprisingly longer and more interesting than you might have thought.

Little Orphan Annie

When folks think of the famous Little Orphan Annie they almost always hum ‘Tomorrow’ and other songs from the famous 1977musical. A few will point out that the musical is based off the long running and at one time enormously popular daily comic strip. However, Little Orphan Annie is actually a product of the Victorian era, although she was born in the states, in Indiana.

The original incarnation of Annie was as an 1885 poem by James Whitcomb Riley entitled The Elf Child.

James Whitcomb Riley

He based the poem on a 12 year old orphan girl who lived with him and his family while he was growing up. The girl, Mary Alice Smith, known as Allie to everyone was orphaned when her father died as a soldier in the American Civil War. Riley’s father was also a soldier in the war and when his mother discovered the poor girl’s plight she insisted the girl be brought in to live with the Rileys.

Mary Alice “Allie” Smith

Allie worked alongside the family to earn her keep and in the evenings told the other children stories. It is this image the poem centers on.

The poem gained some popularity and in 1897 for its third printing Riley decided to change the title from The Elf Child to Little Orphant Allie. However the printing house miscast the type and instead of using Allie’s name cast it as Little Orphant Annie. Riley tried to get them to change it, but the poem’s popularity was taking off and the Annie name was becoming widely known, so he let it go.


Little Orphant Annie

The poem uses a midwestern accent, one used by residents of Indiana, and indeed James Whitcomb Riley was known as the Hoosier poet for his prevelant use of this accent in his poetry.

The poem begins by introducing Allie, well, Annie now, and in the following verses she tells the children various morality tales about bad children who meet their fearsome fate.

Little Orphant Annie
Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
An’ all us other children, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
Ef you
Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,–
An’ when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wuzn’t there at all!
An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press,
An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an’ roundabout:–
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you
An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’ one, an’ all her blood-an’-kin;
An’ wunst, when they was “company,” an’ ole folks wuz there,
She mocked ’em an’ shocked ’em, an’ said she didn’t care!
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,
An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed what she’s about!
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you
An’ little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!
An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,
An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched away,-You better mind yer parunts, an’ yer teachurs fond an’ dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,
An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,Er the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you
After the renaming of the poem to Little Orphant Annie the poem became nationally famous. It even became a silent film in 1918. i would LOVE to post some footage of it here, but i cannot find any actual footage online.
The next true evolution of Annie occurred in 1915 however, when writer Johnny Gruelle was presented an old rag doll by his young daughter Marcella. He drew a face on it and when she asked for a name, pulled out a book of poems by Riley and saw the poem Little Orphant Annie. He thus named the doll Raggedy Ann.

Raggedy Ann

Raggedy Ann became a sensation. First the doll was produced and then in 1918 Gruelle began writing books about the doll’s adventures. In 1920 he introduced a companion doll and book of stories to go along with him, Raggedy Andy. He went on to write over 35 books about the pair, although the exact number is contested as beginning in the 1940s it is accepted that as grulle began writing less and less Raggedy Ann and Andy books, the publishing house Saalfield would ghost write books and throw Gruelle’s name on it for authenticity.
The dolls are STILL being produced today. My sister had a Raggedy Ann and Andy doll when she was a girl and in 2012 toy giant Hasbro has signed for a new line of plush Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls.
However, a very interesting note on this, Gruelle’s daughter Marcella died at age 13 after receiving a smallpox vaccine at school without her parent’s permission.  There has been speculation that the vaccine was infected although other doctors blamed a heart defect.Gruelle and his wife blamed the vaccine. Gruelle became an outspoken proponent of the anti-vaccination movement and Raggedy Ann for years was used as an anti vaccine symbol.
We will end here for today. Thanks for stopping by, little urchins!

Posted by on June 9, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Popeye The Sailor Man

Created in 1929, this iconic character has lasted over 80 years, through many studios and permutations.

Normally i would write out a long, researched blog taking you through the history of Popeye, but the fact is:

1. I wouldn’t do nearly the fantastic job this video does. Seriously, it’s way too entertaining and informative to possibly compete with.

2. I just simply don’t have the time to write out a lengthy blog.

There’s always lots of things i’m in the mood to cover on any given day, but today is like when you get to see a film in class. Yay! Except you couldn’t click out of class if you got bored or stop the film or write the teacher back profanity laden comments AND the teacher probably actually had some shred of a clue as to what they were talking about most of the time. And instead of learning how the sun and solar system work you learn about a cartoon that eats spinach and kicks the shit out of people. So, you know, it’s kind of like that in no ways except one. There’s a film.

I’m going back to work.



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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Franco-Belgium Comics: Bandes Dessinées

At the center of european comics is the Fraco-Belgium tradition, called bandes dessiness which translates literally to “drawn strips”.

Two of the most famous of these have even made headway in the states, Tintin and Asterix. I myself am a huge Tintin fan, having grown up with them, but only because my mother was a librarian and if you combed the libraries across Pittsburgh, you could find Tintin buried in the stacks and gradually got through most of the series, picking up a couple at one library, a few more at another. I never saw Tintin anywhere outside the libraries and know very few people who were aware of its existence.

At the beginning of the 20th century comics were of course simply run in newspapers and any sort of “comic book” was merely a collection of the newspaper strip finally put all together. In the US the very first original storied “comic book,’ Hogans’ Alley, had run in the last years of the 1800s and invented the speech balloon, a concept which quickly spread across the world and factors into the development of bandes dessinees.

In the 1920s a some franco-belgium artists took comics, which were still mostly goofy, gag related collections of newspaper strips, added the speech balloon and started running with it.

In 1925 Alain Saint-Ogan began Zig et Puce, notable for not only employing speech balloons with no outside text, but creating longer, fantastical and engaging stories. It follows the many adventures of Zig and Puce two teenagers with their pet penguin Alfred. Alfred became a legend unto himself. His name became a comic award for many decades, and Charles Lindbergh flew his famous first transatlantic flight with Alfred the penguin as a mascot.

This paved the way for Tintin, the grandfather off all franco belgium comics. It should be mentioned, we use the term franco-belgium because french is the dominant language in a significant part of belgium and even some of switzerland. The readership and artists working in the tradition are therefore a mixture.

Herge for instance is from Belgium and created Tintin, who actually deserves his own post. Tomorrow let’s say. But in short, Tintin was begun in 1929 and continued until the 1970s, with the 1950s being the most productive period.  The entire adventures of Tintin are collected in 24 volumes.

During WWII the Nazis occupied France and Belgium, and all outside comics and animation were banned. What was produced was carefully censored and after the war strong communist sentiment kept this sort of thing going. Thus Franco-Belgium artists continued the development of their own style.

In the 50s the industry took off. Herge went into full Tintin production mode and other magazines were produced which jump kicked a creative golden era. Spirou et Fantasio was a major player. Though it had begun in 1938, it stopped during the war and wasn’t until after the war when Andre Franquin took over that the tales stopped being silly gags and started tackling long, complex plots with reoccurring characters.

Spirou has had a very long and prestigious career which has spanned  decades and continues to this very day. Numerous teams have written and drawn the adventures of Spirous, Fantasio and the pet squirrep Spip through many ups and down of publishing.

The magazine Pilote became a giant of the industry in the late 50s. It ran serials of several different artists and introduced not only the wildly popular, Redbeard, Moebius’ first hit Bluberry, but the world famous Asterix.

Asterix is of course the 2nd most likely comic to be known across the pond. Asterix and Obelix are two Gauls resisting roman occupation. There have been 34 books in all, several animated movies and even a couple live action movies.

Heroic-Albums is worth mentioning for the fact that they were the first magazine to insist on printing complete stories in their issues. All others printed numerous serialized installments.

The last of these i’ll name is Vaillant. Vaillant was flat out published by The French Communist Party. It began during WWII occupation, published illegally. After the war, the communists in France were quite strong and the entire comics industry felt their power. Herge of Tintin fame had to defend himself against them, as did numerous other comic artists.

Vaillant was the only western comic allowed to be distributed in the Soviet Union. Eventually, in 1965 Vaillant was renamed Pif, due to the popularity of the main character, a dog named Pif. Over time after this change, the continuing serials faded, the content slid, and by the end of the 70s it was on its last legs.

With the late 60s and 70s, just like in the west, franco-belgiuim comics started really freaking out, growing more experimental and vastly more mature. The original Heavy Metal magazine, Metal Hurlant, of the which the american version is said to be only a pale imitation was spawned to great success in 1975.

However, preceding Metal Hurlant was the visionary L’Echo Des Savanes,  pioneering daring, mature work and along with many bold new Franco-Belgian artists such as Moebius, featuring internationally known names such as Neal Adams, Robert Crumb, Wallace Wood, Dick Giordano, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Bernie Wrightson. It  took inspiration and hired artists from the American underground comix scene of the late 60s. As such it was always racier and more outrightly sexual then Metal Hurlant, which is actually really saying something.

 By the mid 80s there was unquestionably an outright overdose of sex and violence, misogyny style . However, since the 90s science fiction/fantasy stories have flourished especially in graphic novel format, boasting extraordinary art and creative storytelling. In recent years, just as Japanese manga has swept the rest of the world, their are currently many mergings of the two styles. The fact is, the bandes dessinees is directly responsible for the graphic novel as it exist today, influencing american comic publishing as well as being a giant of european graphic storytelling.

 I leave you with a cover for the greatest comic that never was:

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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Uncategorized


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