Support Creator-Owned Comics

Creator-Owned Comics Rock!!

My own meagre contribution to creator-owned day.

I’m a little late getting this out, but… March 1st was declared Creator-Owned Day. It’s an opportunity to recognize, support, or contribute to the body of comics work produced independently. The idea behind Creator-Owned Day is outlined in Stephen Downey’s blog post in which he offers the call to action in the form of a challenge to create and post original, creator-owned comics work.

Sure, there’s a lot to be said for corporately-controlled comic work, that’s where most of us are first introduced to characters like Batman, Supes, Spiderman, The Avengers, et al. But where would we be without creators like Art Spiegelman, Dave Sim, Seth, Chester Brown, Don Simpson, Daniel Clowes, or the Hernandez Bros. to inspire and entertain us with their unique stories?

Independent comics with creator-owned characters and content are a platform for innovation and have done a great deal towards legitimizing comics as a serious artform. Check out some of the above artists’ work and make an effort to support creator-owned content for more than just one day of the year.

Life With Archie: bringing gay rights to mainstream comics

Life With Archie #16 cover

Archie Comics manages to avoid stereotypes while doing its part to remain culturally relevant in the 21st century.

The book has been out for a month now and I finally sat down and read Life With Archie #16 which features the marriage of Kevin Keller. For those of you who don’t follow (America’s oldest teenager) Archie, Kevin Keller is a relatively new character in the world of Riverdale, making his first appearance in Veronica #202 (Sep. 2010). That issue sold out and was cause for the first reprint in Archie Comics history. Why? Because Kevin Keller’s introduction marked the first appearance of an openly gay character in Riverdale. Now, with LWA#16 Archie Comics score another milestone with the first gay marriage in mainstream comics.

If you haven’t picked up a copy of Life With Archie you’ll be surprised to find that it’s not your grandpa’s Archie comics. For one thing, the magazine-sized book builds on the what-if story from 2009 “Archie Marries Veronica/Archie Marries Betty” which imagines the results if Archie finally ended the long-running love triangle. Building on the concept of two possible futures, LWA follows the Riverdale gang after college and explores issues more common to young adults than teens. The subject matter is more mature than the other Archie comics focusing on serious drama rather than the usual sort of slapstick or yuks.

Kevin Keller in combat

Kevin Keller's battlefield flashback looks more like a page from Frontline Combat or Our Fighting Forces than an Archie Comic.

The opening of issue 16 showing Kevin’s flashback to the Battlefield is further proof that LWA is quite a departure from the usual Archie fair. The scene is offered perhaps as a discreet nod at the issue of gays in the military by portraying Kevin’s ability to serve his country with courage and distinction as a respected officer in a frontline combat situation. As with much of the story, this is done without really calling attention to Kevin’s sexuality.

In fact, there’s very little suggestion of any sexuality at all in this book, not even a celebratory same-sex, post-nuptial kiss, this is Archie after all. The only portrayal of affection between Kevin and his beau is the holding of hands, so haters should have a difficult time suggesting there is anything outrageous, indecent or even morally corrupting about the subject matter of this story (although plenty of them still will).

Northstar and Batwoman Kiss

Marvel and DC Comics go Archie one better at portraying gay love. (top: Northstar and Kyle in Alpha Flight 6 of 8; bottom: Kate Kane and Maggie in Batwoman #3)

In fact, if you wanted depictions of homosexuality in mainstream comics to either complain about or celebrate you’d do better to look at what’s happening with the super-heroes over at Marvel and DC. Alpha Flight’s Northstar came out of the closet in the early nineties and the most recent incarnation of Batwoman, introduced during 2006′s 52 maxi-series, has sparked numerous conversations about lipstick lesbians on comic chatrooms. Both characters have been portrayed in tight clinches on their nights off. Hand-holding? Really!?! Regardless, full marks to Archie comics for finally joining the party and choosing to show the world as it is and not as some would rather it was.

Kevin Keller Married

Lt. Kevin Keller and Dr. Clay Walker-Keller vow to love, honour and cherish, but without the kiss.

Despite playing it safe, and even though Kevin Keller’s gay wedding isn’t the biggest part of the issue (the ongoing soap opera of Archie and the gang gets most of the panels) this is still a significant milestone in comics. It’s important for showing a gay civil union, for daring to feature that on the cover, and because it portrays this happening in the all-too wholesome, whitebread world of Archie. If gay rights can find acceptance in such a staunchly middle-American institution, can full recognition across the land be far behind?

Web-comic Character Development

Cartoon of Zip and Monkey-mind

Playing with colour design for these two characters Zip and Monkey-mind.

For some time I’ve been playing with ideas for a comic strip involving the characters shown above. Zip Crashwell is a former race car driver who’s had a few too many concussions. As a result, he’s plagued by an over-active hallucination in the form of a monkey who’s only mission seems to be to drive Zip over the edge.

I’m working now at developing the supporting cast and hope to launch a web-comic later this year. Stay tuned.

Watch this space! I resolve…

Monkey-mind ringing in the New Year!

Looking forward to a FUN New Year of monkeying around!

…to blog more in the New Year!

…to cartoon more and post my efforts here for all to see.

…to develop the comic strip I’ve been putting off for the past several years.

…to have as much fun as is legally possible doing all of the above!

My best wishes go out to you all for a Happy and Prosperous 2012! Enjoy!

Some villainous Movember-worthy moustaches

Comic Super Villains with Moustaches

Though not as plentiful as you might think, there are still a few super-villains sporting the Movember look.

Although Movember is nearly at an end for yet another year there’s one thing you can depend on to keep giving throughout the year. Super-villains! Those never-say-die antagonists of comic and cartoon heroes everywhere have more lives than nine cats. But when I looked for villains who sport moustaches I was surprised to find that there aren’t as many as you might imagine. Could it be that the image of the mustachioed bad guy, so prominent in early silent movies, became so much of an over-worked cliché that comic creators now avoid it on principle?

This would seem to be supported by the fact that villains with whiskers are generally more comical figures than frightening ones. Starting from top left in the image above, Batroc the Leaper wears an impressively mirthful-looking moustache, speaks with a stereotypically-written French accent and has no actual super-powers. Primarily a foe of  Captain America, Batroc is a martial arts master, a mercenary and possesses the sort of old-fashioned sense of honour which has often caused him to switch sides when he feels his honour has been compromised or betrayed.

Sinestro In Green Lantern #1

A proud and unrepentant Sinestro faces the Guardians in the New 52 issue of Green Lantern #1

Sinestro is yet another villain whose allegiances have shifted over the years, although his shifts are more attributable as a product of self-interest than sense of honour. A former Green Lantern, Sinestro has been a fan favourite and worthy opponent who continually challenges Hal Jordan and other members of the Lantern Corps since the earliest issues. These days, after the events of Blackest Night and Brightest Day, Sinestro could be characterized more as an anti-hero than a full-fledged villain although that could certainly change at any moment. Like the man, his moustache is neat, trim and no laughing matter.

Someone whose moustache is also neat and trim, but enjoyably laughable is Boris Badenov. Representing the losing side in the cartoon world’s take on the cold war, Badenov and his partner Natasha were proud of their status as rotten no-goodniks. They tried to match wits on a weekly basis with the do-gooders Rocky and Bullwinkle using the sort of elaborate plans that were naturally destined to fail spectacularly.

DC villain Egg Fu

Egg Fu no longer sports a Movember-worthy Fu Manchu moustache

My final Movember villain is Egg Fu, who also has cold war origins. He had his first appearance in Wonder Woman #157 where, in keeping with the times, he exhibited every possible racist and cultural stereotype that was then in vogue. In recent years the stereotypes have been dropped and Egg Fu (now known as Chang Tzu) has been portrayed as a villainous mastermind cyborg. Sadly, this makeover has meant that he no longer sports his prehensile Fu Manchu moustache.

Attempted Mustaches Club

The Boys of Movember: (l - r) Chris Plakholm, Jeff Garton, Ed Denning, Larry Graves, Eric Davidson

Once again, let me add my shameless plug for myself and my fellow team-mates who are growing moustaches and raising money and awareness for Movember.

The Movember movement was started to promote the subject of men’s health. Prostate cancer is the second-most likely cause of death amongst men and all money raised for Movember goes towards prostate cancer research. Feel free to check out our Movember page, and offer a donation if you care to.

No amount is too small or too large. Five, ten, twenty… even a million dollars will do!

Some classic Movember-worthy comic moustaches

Hiram Lodge, J. Jonah Jameson, Mr. Dithers, Chief Quimby

Four classic characters who were hip to Movember long before the movement began.

I’m growing a moustache this month and figured there’d be no better way to celebrate Movember than to showcase some classic characters from comics and cartoons who sport their own “mo’s” regardless of the calendar.

It’s amazing, when you think about it, how many characters there are who have mustaches. For this post, I’m featuring famous bosses starting with (at top left) that lovable one-percenter, Hiram P. Lodge aka Veronica’s daddy from Archie comics.

While he hasn’t always played Archie’s boss, Mr. Lodge has had occasion to hire Archie to perform menial chores and tasks, usually with disastrous results. The employer relationship has finally been formalized in “Life with Archie, the Married Life”, which is a spin off from the Archie Marries Betty/Archie Marries Veronica storyline that portrays the grown-up soap opera version of the gang from Riverdale. Mr. Lodge isn’t such a nice guy in LWA, playing the greedy Wall Street type to the hilt.

J. Jonah Jameson and Spider-Man

J. Jonah Jameson has made the cover of Spider-Man on more than one occasion as seen here in issue # 52 of Amazing Spider-Man

Next we have another boss who’s no stranger to Wall Street, J. Jonah Jameson. As Peter Parker’s boss, Mr. Jameson served for many years as publisher of New York’s Daily Bugle newspaper using his pointed editorials to become possibly Spider-Man’s greatest irritant.

For nearly fifty years Jameson’s enmity towards Spider-man hasn’t dulled, and now as Mayor of New York, Jonah continues his dislike of everyone’s favourite wall-crawler with even more authority. Occasionally he puts aside his feelings when circumstances require him to work alongside Spider-Man such as in the recent Spider Island story arc, but you know he’s going to return to form very quickly.

His Chaplin-esque (or is it Hitler-esque?) ‘stache is certainly one of the most recognizable in the world of comics, and yet oddly enough, J. Jonah has been seen sporting a full mo in recent issues of ASM. What’s up with that?

Mr. Dithers get tyrannized by his wife Cora as Dagwood watches on.

Mr. Dithers was possibly the worst boss in the world, but his wife Cora was capable of making Dagwood (and the rest of us) feel sympathy for the old goat.

Another boss with a perfect love-hate relationship towards his most famous employee is, of course, Julius C. Dithers. As Dagwood Bumstead’s over-bearing and overly demanding boss, Mr. Dithers set the example for bad bosses everywhere. Although he did have his occasional human moments, his explosive tantrums and physical abuse were a hilarious and recurring feature in the Blondie comic strip.

The only thing which kept Mr. Dithers from being a completely unlikable monster was the fact that he was just as likely to fall victim to similarly abusive behaviour at the hands of his wife Cora. Mrs. Dithers’ tactics for keeping the old goat in line included her sharp tongue-lashings and use of various “weapons” which she would smash over his head.

Lastly, there’s Chief Quimby, the long-suffering boss of Inspector Gadget. Gadget enjoyed a long run on television with Get Smart’s Don Adams as the voice of the bumbling inspector. Inspector Gadget shared a lot of similarities to Maxwell Smart, including his relationship with a boss who was often the foil and victim to the character’s ineptitude.

Chief Quimby’s most common ploy was to disguise himself in various unlikely objects (trash cans, vases, etc.) in order to keep an eye on Gadget or to supply him with information on the sly. This usually brought on disastrous circumstances that resulted in the chief finishing most episodes quite battered and bruised.

Attempted Mustaches Club

The Boys of Movember: (l - r) Chris Plakholm, Jeff Garton, Ed Denning, Larry Graves, Eric Davidson

I’ll be serving up a sampling of villainous moustache wearers in my next post, but before I go, let me add a shameless plug for myself and my fellow team-mates who are growing moustaches and raising money and awareness for Movember.

The Movember movement was started to promote the subject of men’s health. Prostate cancer is the second-most likely cause of death amongst men and all money raised for Movember goes towards prostate cancer research. Feel free to check out our Movember page, and offer a donation if you care to.

No amount is too small or too large. Five, ten, twenty… even a million dollars will do!