Thursday, April 26, 2018

Schoolhouse Rocker Bob Dorough's obituary

Bob Dorough, who set numbers and grammar to music in 'Schoolhouse Rock!,' dies at 94 [in print as Bob Dorough, 94; Composed magic numbers for kids]

Washington Post April 25 2018

April 28: Independent Book Store Day at Politics and Prose

Saturday, April 28, 2018 - 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Independent Bookstore Day 2018

Independent Bookstore Day is back, and you're all invited! Join P&P on Connecticut Avenue for a national day of indie celebration, and be part of the growing movement to shop local. Author events are taking place throughout the day, including Rebecca Kauffman and Mira T. Lee at 1 p.m., Joseph Rosenbloom in conversation with Corby Kummer at 3:30 p.m., and Jen Sincero at 6 p.m. Head down to our coffeehouse, The Den, for delicious baked treats. One day only, get five free digital audiobooks through our partners at Visit our audiobook storefront to find out more. Below, book lovers can see some of the the exclusive, collectible IBD merchandise only available from April 28. While supplies last, purchase any IBD item to get a special edition of Rainbow Rowell's Kindred Spirits free. Between us, why not say our store tagline to a bookseller, "So Many Books, So Little Time." You never know, you might even get a present…

Redlands, Vol. 1 Signed Special Edition with Exclusive Cover, $9.99

A feminist comic by female creators! A mysterious and bloodthirsty matriarchal force runs the town of Redlands, Florida, and in order to stay on top, sacrifices must be made. Inspire by the strange complexitites of real-world politics and crime, the characters of Redlands play victim and villain, attempting to understand themseves and others through murder, magic, and mayhem. This special edition will have an exclusive cover and be signed by both the author, Jordie Bellaire, and the illustrator, Venesa R. Del Rey.

Be Prepared: SignedReading Survival Print, $10

In her forthcoming graphic novel Be Prepared, Vera Brosgol tells a witty, heartfelt story of (barely) surviving Russian summer camp. In her exclusive, original print, she illustrates how reading and books can get you through a long, hot summer full of threats and turmoil (watch out for those paper cuts).

City Paper doesn't like Avengers movie

Avengers Assemble In the Dreary Infinity War

The overstuffed film is a disservice to its characters.

Apr 25, 2018

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Satire to be Served Neat and Straight Up at Artley's Cartoon Talk May 9

Co-sponsored by SPJ-DC, ASJA and our hosts, the Institute on Political Journalism. Light refreshments will be served.

About this Event

"I am a seasoned professional political cartoonist obstinately entrenched in the traditional school of single-panel, cross-hatching renderers who use symbols, hyperbole and metaphor along with a high dose of satire to issue a succinct political statement — a heavily biased, one-sided, grossly unfair, flagrantly distorted, myopic statement on current affairs."
The pen is mightier than the sword, especially in the hands of a skillful political cartoonist, such as Steve Artley. Based in Alexandria, VA, he skewers the foibles of the world with his bold and powerful strokes.
Join Artley as he gives you a glimpse behind the artist’s pen, presents a primer on creative inspiration, artistic development and technical production of an editorial cartoon. See how historical events were lampooned over the years through this most uniquely specialized lens of political commentary. You’ll see the components that make an editorial cartoon successful along with the pitfalls. Also covered are how the changes in news media has affected editorial cartooning and what the future holds for this distinctive journalistic medium.
Artley’s editorial work has appeared in nearly every major newspaper and magazine throughout the United States and Canada including The Washington Post, the New York Times, TIME Magazine, and Newsweek — with his syndicated distribution worldwide. Twice earning the “Best Editorial Cartoonist of the Year” award from the Minnesota Newspaper Association, Artley received First Place six times in the annual Virginia Press Association News Contests. He is a member of both the National Cartoonists Society and the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, where he served on the Board in 2016.
A highlight for the evening will be a drawing for an original cartoon, donated by the artist.
This program is co-sponsored by the D.C. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and our host, the Institute on Political Journalism. Light refreshments will be provided.
Wed, May 9, 2018
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM EDT

The Fund for American Studies
1706 New Hampshire Ave., NW
(Dupont Circle Metro station)
Washington, DC 20009

TCJ interviews Jared Smith of Big Planet Comics without ever actually naming him...

For the record, Jared is the... third person to buy into the chain founded by Joel Pollack in 1986, and iirc, bought into the stores in Vienna, VA and Georgetown with Greg Bennett. The Georgetown store moved to U Street, Greg went in with Joel on the Bethesda store, and doesn't own parts of the other two any more, and Jared and Peter Casazza own the College Park store. (Peter promised me an interview about his career when we saw each other last month prior to Awesome Con).

Monday, April 23, 2018

Baltimore Sun on collapse of next weekend's Fancon and replacement pop-up con

Universal FanCon abruptly postponed, a week before planned debut in Baltimore, organizers say

Talia Richman Baltimore Sun April 21 2018

After Universal FanCon abruptly postponed, community members rally to host Baltimore pop-up convention

Brittany Britto
Baltimore Sun
April 23 2018

Cavna wins award from Society of Professional Journalists

Audio Slide Show

For Art's Sake: The Newspaper My Father Gave Me
Michael Cavna and Tom Racine, The Washington Post

Sigma Delta Chi Awards - Society of Professional Journalists -

April 29: Baltimore Comic-Con Spring Fling

Baltimore Comic-Con Spring Fling

The Baltimore Comic-Con would like to thank all of our fans and attendees for making the first annual Baltimore Comic-Con Spring Fling a huge success. We had a great turnout, our vendors and guests had a great day!

What is a Spring Fling? If you were with us for our first show back in 2000, you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect. This will be a good old fashioned comic book show: rows and rows of comic book dealers from 6-8 states around the country with comics and collectibles from the ancient to the very modern…and we're bringing in a few guests as well!

Save the date for the next Baltimore Comic-Con Spring Fling!

When: Sunday April 29, 2018. 10am-5pm
Where: BWI Airport Marriott, 1743 West Nursery Road, Linthicum, MD 20190
How much: FREE!

Guests announced so far:

  • Marty Baumann, Frank Cho,Steve Conley, John Gallagher, Tom King, Mark Morales
  • Sunday, April 22, 2018

    That darn Rhymes with Orange

    'Rhymes With' supporters [in print as 'Rhymes With' fans]

    Alfredo Garzino-Demo

    Lynore Hill

    Washington Post April 21 2018, p. A13

    online at

    And Then Heavy Metal was Bought by Kevin Eastman

    By RM Rhodes

    Strange but true, it can be fairly said that Heavy Metal would not currently exist without the following:

    • The Diner’s Club card
    • Harvard Lampoon
    • Metal Hurlant
    • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    In the February 1985 issue of Heavy Metal, the ongoing review feature Dossier ran a paragraph-long blurb by Matt Howarth about an up-and-coming black and white comic called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

    (Dossier February 1985)

    Seven years later, that same Kevin Eastman bought Heavy Metal for half a million dollars. From a certain point of view, Heavy Metal helped bring attention to a phenomenon that provided the funds to purchase itself in the future. It's got a nice frisson of determinism. It's very likely that TMNT would have done just fine without the mention in Heavy Metal. But it's very unlikely that Heavy Metal would have survived without that purchase.

    Heavy Metal is, and has always been, a weird patchwork hybrid - a translated adaptation/spin-off of a magazine made by four revolutionary artists, published as a wholly owned subsidiary of a parody media empire whose brand rested on a foundation of identity theft. Later, it was bought by the creator of a satire of a mainstream comics property. The spiral of influence is dizzying.

    In my opinion, the best part of Heavy Metal’s origin story goes back to 1950, when Leonard Mogel and Matty Simmons created the Diners Club Card, the first all-purpose charge card. The Diners Club Card was followed by The Diners Club magazine in 1951 and 21st Century Communications publishing in 1967. One of their many properties was National Lampoon.

    The short simplistic version of the story goes that Mogel encountered Metal Hurlant in the mid-70s and licensed some of their work for what became Heavy Metal – but as a subsidiary property under National Lampoon. There's a more complex version that delves into a strange proto-Heavy Metal artifact, but that would make this article longer and nobody wants that. The important part of the story is that Heavy Metal is tied at the hip to National Lampoon.

    By 1982 National Lampoon was losing money. In 1989 Matty Simmons sold the whole property to Daniel Grodnik (a producer) and Tim Matheson (an actor, who is best known for playing Otter on National Lampoon's Animal House) for $760,000. Within a year, they were losing so much money they sold it on to James Jimirro.

    Jimirro was the founding president of the Disney Channel and Walt Disney Home Video, as well as his own company, J2 Communications. In both sales, the purchaser was only interested in the National Lampoon IP - Heavy Metal was just along for the ride. Jimirro separated the two properties and sold Heavy Metal to Kevin Eastman for $500,000 in 1992.

    According to an interview in The Comics Journal in 1998 discussing that period, Eastman admits that he was at a point where Tundra Publishing was going up in flames and Heavy Metal was more or less bought on a whim.

    By that point, the magazine had been owned by four different owners in four years. They had only recently undergone a significant change – the reduction from monthly to quarterly in 1986 – and they were still finding their feet. The purchase in 1989 could explain the abrupt and obviously unplanned shift from a quarterly to a bi-monthly schedule in that same year - the first issue of the year is labeled Winter, the old naming schema, and the second issue is March, the new naming schema.

    In such a turbulent business environment, it’s difficult to identify precise points “where things changed,” but I’m going to focus on the span from 1989 to 1995 as a key transitional period, separate and distinct from the short quarterly period the came before and yet heavily informed by it. The period is notable, not only due to the number of owners, but due to a common look-and-feel that crept into the publication during this time.

    Despite the fact that her father no longer owned the magazine, Julie Simmons-Lynch was retained as editor in chief in 1989 and stayed on, even after Kevin Eastman purchased the magazine. Long before that, certain items fell by the wayside; for example, her last editorial ran in September of 1989. It was the last editorial for years and, from that point forward, text features were few and far between. It had become a more purely art magazine.

    That same issue (September 1989) is where John Figurski makes his first appearance as the Art Director, a title he retained until May of 1993. The job of the production staff was, if you will, to provide a consistent look and feel to the publication; to provide a commercially viable magazine-shaped product to the newsstand for sale; to minimize the fluctuations created by behind-the-scenes machinations; to maintain the status quo. And, to those points, they were successful. Except for the initial glitch in 1989, it's very hard to tell where the change in ownership occurs just by flipping through the issues. Even the content catalog and ongoing schedule were retained from owner to owner. But the masthead tells the tale.

    (March 1991 Contents page)

    Even after Eastman took ownership, it took a while for staff changes to occur – most probably due to the turmoil at Tundra. Julie Simmons-Lynch left after the January 1993 issue and was replaced with Debra Rabas in the next issue. John Figurski was promoted to Designer in July 1993, over a year after purchase.

    One of the biggest changes were the specials. There had been special issues during the 81-86 period, but they were discontinued when the magazine went quarterly. There was a one-off fifteenth anniversary best-of issue in 1992 that may have sparked the idea for regular specials. Two additional "Special" editions a year became an annual tradition in 1993, was increased to thrice a year in 1999, and stayed on the schedule until 2012. This changed the number of issues printed per year from six to eight (or nine, after 1999). This added to the publication schedule without tying the releases to a certain time of year (at first). For the most part, only the occasional anniversary specials were a best-of compilations; the vast majority were made up of fresh material.

    A significant innovation was the feature Strip Tease, which was added to the regular publication (but not the Special Issues) as of November 1992. Edited by Mark Martin, this featured the likes of Jim Woodring, Peter Kuper, Chris Ware, Rick Geary, Kaz, and Michael Kupperman – among many others. The format for Strip Tease fluctuated somewhat throughout its run, but it bears a strong resemblance to Sideshow, a sampler feature in the back of Arcade the Comics Review (a short-lived anthology published by Bill Griffith and Art Spiegelman in the mid-70s). Where Sideshow had half-page strips, Strip Tease had mostly single-page strips. But the demographic makeup was very similar – marginally known cartoonists from a variety of underground and post-underground communities.

    Unfortunately, this feature first appeared in the same issue as Creatura, one of Serpieri's most notorious features. Jim Woodring's very cartoony Frank feature is printed very near a hyper-realistic gang rape (trigger warning), which produced a hefty degree of aesthetic whiplash.

    (Strip Tease intro September 1993)

    November 1992 is also the same month that advertising for Eastman's Tundra Publishing showed up for the first time. Over a fairly short period of time, significant portions of the magazine's advertising was turned over to Tundra and, eventually, Kitchen Sink Press when it acquired Tundra Publishing in 1993. This was, perhaps, indicative of the limited scope of the advertising that Eastman mentions in his Comics Journal Interview in 1998 (above).

    One of the major changes that occurred when Heavy Metal went quarterly in 1986 was that longer stories would be printed in full in each issue. Generally, the main feature ran 40-60 pages and were accompanied by a handful of shorter stories, usually less than a dozen pages each and occasionally much shorter. Eastman’s magazine continued this practice. The overall quality of the stories as a whole was not great, but it never really was to begin with. With lowered expectations, the good ones stand out.

    The impetus behind printing full-length stories was the idea of a one-and-done issue – no dangling plot threads that required chasing down the next issue. The first nine years of publication had ongoing serials in the French serialization idiom, where several pages of various ongoing stories would run each month. Arguably, this provided a sense of continuity that drove readership, as readers would return each month to see what happened next. The editorial team argued that they had a lot of complaints about precisely that model. Fair enough.

    However, if the main feature isn’t very good – and many weren’t – that’s a good third of the issue. Significantly less if the episode is only 8-12 pages. Heavy Metal has always had a “you get what you get” attitude towards providing consistent content from issue to issue, so there has never been an expectation that subsequent stories or chapters would show up in sequential issues. But it was more likely in the early years. In later years, one has to look up which issues the Waters of DeadMoon ran in if one wants to read the whole story.

    (The Waters of DeadMoon by Adamov and Cothias May 1991)

    The table of contents in the February 1985 issue lists fifteen features – some were only a half-page long, but none was over 12 pages. Six of them were multi-page ongoing serials, two were single-page recurring features, four were house features and the other three were multi-page one-and-done features.  There were a lot of chances for a reader to find something they liked.

    Ten years later, the table of contents in the March 1995 issue lists seven features – including Strip Tease, which has eight one-page strips. One of the other six is Gallery – the only house feature to survive into the present. The other five are multi-page one-and-done features. One of these is over forty pages long and the other four are between 8-12 pages. The main feature is a follow up to a main feature in an earlier issue and two of the one-and-done are in a larger series that have shown up before, irregularly.

    The “each story stands alone” rule (instituted in the first issue of 1986) was broken four issues into the experiment, in Fall of 1986, when they published The Trapped Woman, the third book in Bilal’s Nikopol Trilogy. Having read the previous two books was key to understanding the third; funny thing – they had both been serialized in earlier issues of Heavy Metal.  Everyone pretended that the one-and-done rule was a thing, but it never really was. And certainly not by 1995.

    The kinds of features that thrived in this environment were of the nature of “buy and translate everything by a single author/creative team and run them for years – especially if they are a series of short novels or short stories.” It wasn’t exactly a new policy, nor was it always successful. A lot of the material by Daniel Torres was printed this way, as was Prado, Serpieri, Drooker, and Jiminez. Jodorowsky, Manara, Crepax, and Pratt. Kuper was a regular contributor. Corben and others made guest appearances as well.

    As a result, Heavy Metal printed a great deal of serialized material. They just did it in great big lumps and on no fixed schedule. With no expectations, it's easier to maintain a sense of wonder at what's going to be in the next issue. And when the stories were good, they were often very good.

    Two features by Segura and Ortiz - Burton & Cyb (about two space opera mercenaries) and the Hombre/Attila stories (about a post-apocalyptic couple) showed up sporadically during this period. All of the Dieter Lumpen stories by Zentner and Pellejero - hands down my favorite features in Heavy Metal, ironically  – were published during this period. And the entire run of The Waters of DeadMoon by Adamov and Cothias also ran during this time.

    (Caribe: Dieter Lumpen by Ruben and Zentner July 1989)

    There was an increase in sexually oriented material during this time – Serpieri became the house artist in the same way that Moebius was the house artist when Heavy Metal was published monthly. Serpieri probably bears the most responsibility for the idea that the magazine was a T&A publication – which also became part of their identity. They were never shy about turning into the skid on that one.

    In spite of cranking up the explicit prurience of the art, there was still a significant amount of not-so-subtle self-censorship. Some portions of Serpieri’s later stories are heavily censored, but his weren’t the only stories where art was changed. There were a fair amount of minor (and not so minor) changes that had to be made so that the publication would get past censors at Canadian customs. Flipping through the magazine looking for censored bits (usually bondage and erections) is a great way to pass the time.

    One of the best parts of very early Heavy Metal - until John Workman left, really - was the fact that every issue felt like it was its own thing. An art object that was created from scratch that was more than just a wrapper for cool stuff, predicated on the understanding that the wrapper itself could be as cool as what’s inside of it. As the text features moved in, they were incorporated with varying degrees of success. Nevertheless, it was a well-produced magazine – eclectic and weird, but well-executed.

    Long before mid-1993, this was no longer the case. It is very difficult to tell one issue from another during this transitional period. As I mentioned before, this homogeny sustained a brand in turmoil, but eventually that stabilized under Eastman - which meant the requirements changed, but the approach didn't. The magazine began to look safe and, worse, boring. Not a good look for a magazine aimed at adolescent revolutionaries.

    Clearly, someone recognized the need to mix things up, which is implied by Figurski's change in title in 1993. But that really didn't work and, by early 1995, Heavy Metal was straight up asking readers what direction they wanted things to go in. At one point, the return of the letters column is announced, but never actually materializes. Additionally, production values had slipped considerably by the beginning of 1995. Many stories were printed without the magazine’s pagination and increasingly, the art and dialog in many of the features (especially the text features) were printed in the crease of the perfect binding, which made things difficult to read. In retrospect, the overall effect comes across as sloppy.

    Strip Tease last appeared in July of 1995, as Heavy Metal rethought its approach to content and production. The very next issue, September 1995, featured a Druuna story as well, an odd framing indicative of how radically diverse the content really was. In these kinds of publication decisions, it appears like the magazine was trying to be everything to everyone, and not successfully.

    Financial changes were afoot. In July of 1995 – the last issue of the Strip Tease feature – the cover price increased from $3.95 to $4.50, the first increase since Heavy Metal went quarterly in 1986. Figurski was no longer on the masthead two issues later, in November 1995, and the look and feel of the contents page was completely different for the first time in years. That the three events – the price increase, the end of Strip Tease, and Figurski leaving – almost perfectly coincide gives me confidence to mark Figurski’s tenure as a logical bracket for the transition period, if only because Figurski was there near the beginning of the changes in 1989.

    It’s interesting (but probably not that surprising) that Heavy Metal really started to go through a slump, quality-wise, at about the same point that Tundra collapsed. It’s also too bad that the slump took two years to climb out of. Some might point to this era and say that’s when Heavy Metal went off the rails a bit, and they’d probably be right. I’m not entirely sure if anyone really knows what those rails were to begin with and I’m fairly sure I don’t know when they got on any rails again. I haven’t read that far ahead.

    I will say this, however – I’ve just had occasion to flip through the entire run as I was writing this article. Heavy Metal during the 89-95 transitional period seems to have set the template for what Heavy Metal looked and felt like until mid-2012, if not longer.  It looks very much like Grant Morrison’s run has returned to the concept of the individual issue of Heavy Metal as art object for the first time in decades. I can’t say for sure if the quality of the stories has improved – I’ll know for sure when I read them four or five years from now.


    Why is this here? It's a long story. Mike Rhode first introduced himself to me when I first started vending at SPX. Over the years, we've talk to each other at Comic conventions around the DC area and never quite get around to sitting down for lunch. 

    When I moved to Arlington two years ago, I didn't realize that Mike lived within a mile of my building. Nor did I realize that he lived next door to my girlfriend's friend from college. We also discovered, by accident that we work two buildings away from each other, because we work in adjacent organizations. The world is a very small place, sometimes. 

    It really feels that way when I run into Mike at the local farmer's market. Naturally, that's when I pitch him article ideas. I'm reading the entire run of Heavy Metal in public (in blog format) because I happen to own the entire run of Heavy Metal. This means that I'm engaged in an ongoing study of the magazine. In addition, I have a diverse and idiosyncratic reading list that tends towards the weird corners of comics history. Sometimes one circumstance or another results in long articles that I don't really have anyplace to put. Mike has been gracious enough to let me publish them here.

    In summary: this is an article about comics from someone in the DC area. 

    Friday, April 20, 2018

    April 27-29 Universal Fancon cancelled

    From their Twitter feed:

    To reiterate: FanCon is postponed until further notice. It will NOT occur April 27-29. We will provide further details later today to address all concerns and questions and provide insight into how and why this happened. Inquiries can be directed to:

    April 18-22: 'Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play'

    At the Parilla Performing Arts Center at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland. Tickets are $10, $5 with student ID.

    Per the event's website: "Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play explores what it would be like to take a TV show and push it past an apocalypse, to see what happens. A group of apocalyptic survivors, when they're not protecting themselves from raiders, pass the time recalling and retelling stories. One story in particular is 'Cape Feare,' an episode from the television show The Simpsons. Through the survivors, the play also examines how the story has changed after seven years. Things get even weirder when, 75 years later, the reenactments have become more elaborate and distorted due to a variety of cultural references and callbacks from earlier scenes. Don't miss the interesting take of one of TV's classic shows."

    Tuesday, April 17, 2018

    From the Artleytoons Vault

    From the Vault of Artleytoons

    This 1986 cartoon lampoons the Reagan administration's steady decline in ethical behavior even before the more insidious details of the Iran-Contra Affair came to light. (click on images for larger view).

    See more recent work by Steve Artley at Artleytoons

    Comics Riffs on the debate over the cartooning Pulitzer Prize

    This year's cartooning Pulitzer is sharply dividing the comics community. Here's why.

    Washington Post
    Comic Riffs blog April 17 2018

    National Library of Medicine blogs on graphic medicine exhibit

    Graphic Medicine: A Personal Story

    By Jill L. Newmark

    National Library of Medicine's Circulating Now blog

    Monday, April 16, 2018

    Flugennock's Latest'n'Greatest: "Blast From Yer Past: 'A16' Remembered'"

    Anarchist cartoonist Mike Flugennock recalls the demonstrations of 16 years ago...

    Blast From Yer Past: "A16"

    Oh, that good old Spirit Of Seattle. Turtles'n'Teamsters everywhere.

    The mood and solidarity between different parts of The Movement — folks like old-skool unionists and environmentalists discovering common goals and realizing they were fighting the same fight against the same enemy — were electric and invigorating in the months following Seattle, and none quite like the personal charge I got when, just a couple of weeks afterwards, I saw the action call posted in alt.activism for the April IMF/World Bank Mobilization in Washington, DC, for April 16, 2000 — the now-legendary "A16″.

    At last, the revolution circus was coming to my town, and I was going to actually be in it, and photographing and taping it, and telling the story of that week for everybody else out there -- and the wheatpasting...

    "A16" edited highlights "Anniversary Cut" from original Hi8 masters for DC Independent Media Center:

    Comic Riffs on 2017 Pulitzer Prize for cartooning

    Cartooning Pulitzer goes to a game-changer: An electronic comic book by two creators
    by Michael Cavna
    Washington Post Comic Riffs blog April 16 2018

    Flugennock's Latest'n'Greatest: "Mission Accomplished, no.3"

    From Mike Flugennock, DC's anarchist cartoonist -

    "Mission Accomplished, no. 3"

    Just before the latest round of US bombing in Syria, I found myself appalled at a sabre-rattling op-ed in the Washington Post bearing the bloodthirsty declaration "We Need To Go Big In Syria. North Korea Is Watching". Never mind that we're bombing Syria again despite no real evidence of chemical attacks, and before the OPCW inspectors could get in to investigate -- hell, evidence is for squares these days -- the US media have totally shifted from the issue of fabricated chemical attacks to this tinhorn in North Korea who we're supposed to be scared to death of despite not being able to get his missles to work and whose nuclear arsenal isn't even 1/10 the size of the US -- the only nation in history to have actually used nuclear weapons.

    Yeah, let's make an example of this tinhorn in order to put the fear of god into this other tinhorn -- classic crass schoolyard bullying. What else could you expect from an old GW Bush flunkie?

    Friday, April 13, 2018

    NPR's Monkey See on the Simpson's Apu

    Roy Doty spot illo

    Once upon a time, newspapers weren't laid out as comprehensively as they are now, and blank spaces were filled with public service ads or spot illustrations. Here's one by Roy Doty from the National Naval Medical Center (Bethesda, MD) Journal from April 18, 1991.

    Washington gets no respect in superhero movies

    When Superheroes Battle Evil, Why Does Washington Always Lose?

    The Post reviews Sgt. Stubby

    'Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero' is a tale of canine courage and companionship [in print as True war story follows a stray who went from the streets into the trenches].

    Washington Post April 13 2018, p. Weekend 27
    online at

    Comic Riffs on the cult of Nancy

    'Nancy' has a cult following among many top comics pros. Here's why.

    Washington Post Comic Riffs blog April 12 2018

    Thursday, April 12, 2018

    Big Planet Comics is the reader's choice

    Big Planet Comics is the reader's choice for best comics this year in the City Paper.

    May 9: Steve Artley talk

    Actions and Detail Panel

    Date and Time


    The Fund for American Studies

    1706 New Hampshire Ave., NW

    (Dupont Circle Metro station)

    Washington, DC 20009

    View Map

    Event Information

    Co-sponsored by SPJ-DC, ASJA and our hosts, the Institute on Political Journalism. Light refreshments will be served.

    About this Event

    The pen is mightier than the sword, especially when it is in the hands of a skillful political cartoonist, such as Steve Artley. Based in Alexandria, VA, he skewers the foibles of the world with his bold and powerful strokes.

    Artley's editorial work has appeared in The Washington Post, the New York Times, TIME Magazine, Newsweek and NPR's "Double Take," with his cartoons syndicated throughout the United States and Canada. Artley has twice earned the "Best Editorial Cartoonist of the Year" award from the Minneapolis New Association. Three years in a row, he won First Place in the Virginia Press Association News Contest. He is also a former board member of The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. You can get a preview of his work at:

    A highlight for the evening will be a drawing for an original cartoon, donated by the artist.

    This program is co-sponsored by the D.C. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and our host, the Institute on Political Journalism.

    For any questions, contact SPJ-DC board member Kathleen Burns at

    Dirda on Edward Lear in The Post

    A plump, Victorian gentleman who was so very pleasant to know [in print as Edward Lear, picturing a world of Jumblies and Pobbles].

    Washington Post
    April 12 2018, p. C3
    online at

    Wednesday, April 11, 2018

    Comic Riffs talks to Cathy

    Andrew Looney of Looney Labs interviewed at Awesome Con

    by Mike Rhode

    Andy Looney, a co-founder of local games maker Looney Labs (along with his wife Kristen), was roaming the board games floor in a white lab coat as soon as the Con opened, handing people a special promo card from his company’s new game in exchange for a fist bump. When I mentioned that we had talked about an interview at a previous Awesome Con, he immediately offered to sit down and talk. Looney Labs sells games that he has designed, with Fluxx being its best known game. Fluxx is a card game with two basic rules – draw a card and play a card – and then a host of other cards modify those rules. The game has many versions including licensed ones of animation shows such as Batman Adventures and Cartoon Network properties.

    Mike Rhode: How long have you been in business?

    Andy Looney: Twenty years. We started in the late 90s. I invented Fluxx on July 24th, 1996. We started a company to sell it a little after I invented it. We’ve been based in College Park, MD the whole time.

    MR: When you decide to expand the Fluxx game into all the variants?

    AL: After a few years. We ran with the basic game for a while, and oddly enough the very first themed version was Stoner Fluxx. That was the very first one that suggested itself. It’s very common thing to say, “Hey, what if you took this game and made it a drinking game?” or in this case, a marijuana toking game.Since I’m not much of a drinker, this is the one we made. But also, we were really starting to get active with the legalization movement in those days, and when we first conceived it we thought of it as a fundraising thing. We were calling it NORML Fluxx.
    We even pitched it to them. I remember an awkward meeting in their offices downtown where they essentially said, “What? No, we don’t want to do that. Sorry.” So we just made a generic Stoner Fluxx. That was the first one we printed, but things really took off with the themed versions with Zombie Fluxx in 2008.

    MR: For the earlier years, you produced games that you didn’t have to license?

    AL: Yeah. That was always the watchword: “No licenses.” Then Monty Python approached us, through a company named Toy Vault, that made Monty Python things. They wanted to do Monty Python Fluxx and contacted us about doing it and I said, “Sounds great, except I want to design and sell it, and we’ll kick you back [a commission] for making it happen. It’s a great idea.” It was great. They were so easy to work with and it sold well. It continues to be one of our hottest sellers, even though the license is just this vintage, old license. People still love Monty Python and it still does real well.

    And then we thought, “This licensing thing isn’t so bad. Let’s try it with something else.” One of the things I really wanted to do was a themed version of Chrononauts, a time-travel game I invented in 2000. We made an early American version in 2004 and after Monty Python, I thought a license I would like to do would be to apply Back to the Future to the Chrononauts mechanism. We had it out for a few years, but then we had to let the license go because we couldn’t meet Universal’s guarantees because we’re not that big a company and it didn’t do that well for us. That also was an experience… whereas [licensing] Monty Python was a dream, this was much more challenging. There was a giant corporation that had a lot more pushback on various things, and there was a lot of back and forth to make them satisfied. I walked away from that one saying, “Oh my god, let’s not do any more licenses.” So for years, we didn’t do licenses. We focused on things like Cthulhu and Wizard of Oz and Pirates, but finally we started to do licenses again. We got Batman and the Cartoon Network ones then, but we’ve now lost the Cartoon Network licenses.  It’s a shame because everybody loves Rick and Morty now. We’ve still got Batman, Dr. Who, and Firefly and all of these have been hugely popular for us. This year we’re going to make Star Trek and ST: The Next Generation games.

    MR: About the art – it’s varied over the games, but you have a high-level of art for a small game company. How do you find your artists?

    AL: A lot of our games were done by one guy, Derek Ring of Boston. He’s our go-to artist. He’s done more art for Fluxx than any other artist. When we did Zombie Fluxx, we started working with a packaging and marketing design company. We wanted our packaging to look better so we hired a local company called Tim Kenney Marketing and he helped us update our branding and packaging. He was the one who connected us to Derek Ring. Afterwards, we wanted to keep working with Derek for our other games because he’d been such a great illustrator. He’s great.

    Sometimes we use a friend of a friend, such as on Stoner Fluxx, and some art is done in-house. The art for Get the MacGuffin, our brand new game, is a long-time friend named Alex Bradley.

    MR: MacGuffin is a totally new game and not based on anything you’ve done before?

    AL: A totally new game. I’m real excited about it. There’s a thing called the MacGuffin that everyone is trying to get, because it’s a win-the-game card. If you have it, you’re likely to win, but the object of the game is to have the last card. If you’re out of cards, you’re out of the game. It’s an elimination game, but it’s always fast. You only have five cards or less depending on how many players are in the game. You have to make them last as long as you can. The MacGuffin is great because you can infinitely discard it and pick it up again instead of throwing away so it lasts forever. People try to steal it from you, or try to destroy it, but ultimately what matters is that you have the last card.

    MR: Do you want to keep expanding the Fluxx line?

    AL: I have so many other Fluxxes in my design library that I could make a Fluxx out of just about anything at this point. We’re doing more educational ones. I have a space one, not to be confused the science fiction Star Fluxx, that will be the solar system and space missions. I expect it next year or the year after. 

    MR: The educational games are successful?

    AL: Yes, we’re bringing out Anatomy Fluxx this year because Math and Chemistry proved so popular. We made those because we had a little convention of our fans a couple of years ago, and I put out every different version of Fluxx prototypes I had. At the time, I had as many unpublished prototypes as we had print games. I put them all on the table and said, “Try these out all weekend and vote for the ones you want to have published,” and Math and Chemistry were the vote leaders, so I thought “I guess we need to make these,” and they’ve proven popular enough that Anatomy was next. 

    MR: I guess you can keep on going with educational games too…

    AL: I’ve thought about dinosaurs. I definitely think a dinosaur Fluxx is one I’d do at some point, but I’m having a hard time deciding how to pair the cards off. It seems on one hand perfect – put a T Rex on a card, and ‘boom’ but on the other hand, how I match them up for the goals is the hard part.

    MR: I’ve noticed a certain fondness for puns in your goals…

    AL: I’m typically not a punster, but sometimes you can’t resist. I try to have humor in various forms throughout my games. I’m all about the comedy. With a name like Looney, you either develop a sense of humor growing up and embrace it, or you become embittered and can’t wait to change your name when you turn 18 or get married. For me, I embrace it and love comedy, so puns are one of the forms of humor I try to infuse in the games and goals are one of the best places I have for that comedy. I always say the goals are where the jokes are. Sometimes the hardest part is trimming out the goals, because I have so many great ideas, but I can’t have too many in the game. Sometime a deck has goal bloat anyway because there’s just too many jokes and I want to put them all in. 

    Star Fluxx has goal bloat because I had just invented the goal mill, and the goal mill is such a useful card. Anytime a great new card comes along, I’ll start putting it into all versions I design after that, but I don’t usually like to retro-change the cards. Now the game cards have a new design without boilerplate and with a wraparound border, but older Fluxx games like Star, Monty Python, Zombie … they still have the old design and probably never will be updated. There is a heritage there that I like to be able to see – how the patterns and designs have changed and evolved.

    MR: How many people work in Looney Labs?

    AL: Around 8. It’s only 7 at the moment due to a recent departure. We’re small compared to a lot of game companies.

    We’ve got a couple more games coming out. Mary Engelbreit, a noted illustrator, is someone we’re making three products with – one that I can’t talk about, a version of Loonacy, and Fairy Tale Fluxx that she’ll be doing all the illustrations for. We’re taking art out of her story books for Fluxx, and doing new art if necessary. 

    MR: How did you end up working with her?

    AL: We just reached out. Our new business person noted that Mary Engelbreit is very popular in markets we’re trying to reach such as more mainstream markets. We’re looking at ways of getting our products into markets where we aren’t usually seen like gift stores and greeting cards shops that already sell a lot of her products will hopefully pick these up based on her name. And that gets the foot in the door for selling Fluxx to a whole new group of people. I’m pretty excited about Space Fluxx which has black cards and NASA pictures.

    MR: Speaking of new markets, for a while Target had an exclusive type of Fluxx…?

    AL: We made a special edition of Fluxx for Target that was a little bit different, and was a little cheaper. When we working with Cartoon Network, we did a mashup for Target, and standalone Adventure Time and Regular Show versions for the hobby market. We also made Monster Fluxx that way. It was exclusive to Target for a while, but for us it’s been about trying to have a version of our product that is a little bit cheaper, a little bit different from the hobby store version, that we can sell in grocery stores, drug stores and places that have a little games area.

    MR: Is that working for you?

    AL: Yeah. It’s our secondary line. Monster Fluxx gives a sense of Zombie or Cthulhu, but in a lighter weight version with no Creepers. It’s the easy version of the game.

    MR: Finally, will we see any more Chrononauts games?

    AL: Everyone’s always asking about that. It’s hard. Timeline design is so challenging. It’s not like anything’s been happening in the news of note. [laughs] I’m always looking at the news, thinking, “Is this an event [that could change a timeline]?” Also there’s other areas of history that I think about, like a New World Chrononauts from pre-discovery America, or a future timeline imagining a bunch of big events… these are really challenging jobs. I’d like to update the basic game beyond The Gore Years expansion, but that’ll probably take a few years. I’m actively trying to work on a new game these days though.