Showing posts with label history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label history. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Library of Congress collection used for wartime comic book research

#22 from Grand Comics Database
Paul Hirsch used the papers of the Writers' War Board held in the Library of Congress, specifically Box 11 of the collection, to look at how a semi-official government body influenced the depiction of the Axis in comic books during the war. DC Comics, Fawcett Comics, and Street & Smith are specifically mentioned.

The WWB also encouraged racial reconciliation in America at the same time, with a 'Race Hatred Committee' which helped with an anti-lynching story in Captain Marvel, Jr. #22.

Here's the citation and the abstract:

"This Is Our Enemy" The Writers' War Board and Representations of Race in Comic Books,1942–1945
Author(s): Paul Hirsch
Source: Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 83, No. 3 (Aug., 2014), pp. 448-486
Published by: University of California Press

Abstract

During World War II, the U.S. government, through the Writers' War Board (WWB), co-opted comic books as an essential means of disseminating race-based propaganda to adult Americans, including members of the armed forces. Working with comic creators, the WWB crafted narratives supporting two seemingly incompatible wartime policies: racializing America's enemies as a justification for total war and simultaneously emphasizing the need for racial tolerance within American society. Initially, anti-German and anti-Japanese narratives depicted those enemies as racially defective but eminently beatable opponents. By late 1944, however, WWB members demanded increasingly vicious comic-book depictions of America's opponents, portraying them as irredeemably violent. Still, the Board embraced racial and ethnic unity at home as essential to victory, promoting the contributions of Chinese, Jewish, and African Americans.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Local comic shops in 1979

Dan Gearino has posted a list created by Murray Bishoff  of comic shops in 1979. The list is definitely not complete because it doesn't have the shop I was going to in the Bergen Mall in Paramus, NJ at the time, but it does show a lot of shops around Washington, although none in the city itself.

Here are some clips showing the local shops, only one of which still exists, I think. The Maryland list shows  Barbarian Book Shop, now Barbarian Comics, which is still roughly at the same location.  UPDATE: It's beyond our coverage area, but Randy commented that Zeno's Books is still in business too, and on their Facebook page, they say "40 years of serving Tidewater Virginia’s oldest Comic Book Store."






Friday, November 17, 2017

Book Review: Comic Shop: The Retail Mavericks Who Gave Us a New Geek Culture


reviewed by Mike Rhode

Comic Shop: The Retail Mavericks Who Gave Us a New Geek Culture

by Dan Gearino, Ohio University Press' Swallow Press, 2017. $26.95
Despite the title, Comic Shop focuses at least as much, if not more, on the growth of the Direct Market distribution network that gave rise to independent comic shops and sustains them today. Gearino is a journalist and has written an accessible popular history that relies largely on interviews, much like Slugfest, which we recently reviewed and which works well as a complement to this book.
Gearino focuses on his local comic shop, Laughing Ogre, perhaps slightly too much at times, but it's understandable that he chose a long-lasting, respected store as one of the pillars of his book. He returns to the store's history time and again, while recounting a chronological history of the transfer from comic books as a mass media product sold everywhere on newsstands to one that requires a visit to a specialty shop.

From the 1920s through the 1970s, comic books were sold in newsstands, mom and pop shops and anywhere a distributor could place a rack. Personally, for me, the 7-11 was the main site. The books were dumped on the store which was expected to rack them, and return them for credit when they didn't sell. The comics had a profit for the store in the pennies, so little attention was paid to them. At many times, the books weren't delivered or racked, but a refund was requested anyway, leading to fraudulent losses for the publishers, or misleading sales figures.

In 1973, Phil Seuling, an early creator of Comic Cons, made a deal with DC Comics to buy books for them at a larger discount but on an nonreturnable basis, and get them shipped directly from the printer. Seuling's new company was Sea Gate Distributors. It was soon joined by many competitors who split the United States up between them. As in most businesses, the early wide-open days with multiple distributors and thousands of comic book shops saw financial peaks and troughs as well as widespread consolidations and bankruptcies. Gearino also weaves through the rise of independent comic books such as Elfquest, Bone, Cerebus and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and talks about the importance of a retailer hand-selling these types of comics. Today, one distributor remains standing - Baltimore's Diamond Comics, and we're currently seeing a lot of independent books, small publishers and tactics such as variant covers that usually precede a bust in the market.

Gearino did a good job in doing interviews for his research on the book, but is lighter on using archival and printed sources. His focus on Laughing Ogre's small chain occasionally slows the book down, but I think proved to be a good choice to center the story. An odd choice was made to add in profiles of various stores at the end of the book - not quite an appendix, but not quite part of the book either. I think those could have perhaps been integrated in more seamlessly, although when he invites guest commentary in the main text, it is set off at the end of the chapter and is rather jarring. On a local note, Joel Pollack of Big Planet Comics has a two-page profile in the stores section.

This won't be the definitive study of the rise of the Direct Market and specialty comic book stores, but it's a good early step and a fine choice for the casually-interested reader. I enjoyed it and would recommend it.



Thursday, January 19, 2017

"The idea was always to go up to the Revolution": Jason Rodriguez speaks about his second Colonial Comics book



by Mike Rhode

The second book in the historical non-fiction short story anthology Colonial Comics was released this week. I met with editor Jason Rodriguez at Lost Dog Café in South Arlington and we chatted a bit about putting both books together. I hadn't gotten a copy yet, so the discussion is a bit abstract regarding the second volume, but hopefully our talk and some pictures from the book will hold your interest, dear reader. You can also check out this 2015 interview on book one from the Washington City Paper.

JR: It’s funny that the second book in the Colonial Comics series is actually thicker than the first one. They changed the paper stock, and the second actually has more pages. The covers are supposed to be continuous. [The first book] has the Massachusetts coastline, the Mayflower coming in, a bunch of Pilgrims parked on the shore, and one Native American overlooking it. The second continues with the same shoreline, but now built up to Boston and more ominously, with the British fleet coming in. When we do a mid-Atlantic version, the drawing is going to continue South (i.e. lower in the cover).

MR: Are there any more books in the New England series?

JR: No more. We’re going to cut it off at the Revolution, partly because a lot of people know about the American Revolution. They learned about it in school.

MR: There’s always more, smaller stories…

JR: Absolutely. There’s plenty we could do, but as far as Colonial Comics, the idea was always to go up to the Revolution. Otherwise, it would be Revolutionary Comics. We wanted to focus on the origins of the country.

MR: Are you planning on working your way to the South now?

JR: The third book is supposed to be mid-Atlantic history. We don’t have any plans to start it immediately. With the first book, we put it out there and started working on the second book. We got feedback on the first that we incorporated into the second, but we want get new feedback before we start thinking about the third book. I wouldn’t expect us to start working on a third book for six months or so.

MR: Fulcrum is enthusiastic about the line?

JR: Yes, although the first book didn’t sell quite as well as either of us wanted it to. When we go to a new printing of the book, we’ll make some changes. The second book is strong and addressed feedback we got from the first book, and should take off quicker. The first one sold fine; it just didn’t sell fantastically.
  
MR: I think part of the problem with the first book to a certain degree might be the amount of religion that’s a part of the early American colonies – it’s hard to get away from, it’s hard to understand, and it’s far removed from our culture.

JR: Yes, that led to a structural problem with the stories themselves, because from 1620-1750, people know the landing at Plymouth and the witch trials, and when we try to fill in the spaces, a lot of it is based on religion and is dark stuff, like wiping out populations. And for a lot of it, we have to use primary sources because it’s not covered in a book that we can turn to. Because of that we ended up getting a lot of text-heavy stories that was aimed at an adult audience, but marketed to middle-graders and young adults. With the new book, I was much better at keeping people doing things that feel  like comics with actual actions and not just captions everywhere. I think we took a lot of issues with the first book to heart and came up with something much more fantastic.

MR: Did you use mostly the same contributors?

JR: No. There are some repeats. I have my people that I love working with. John Bell and David Lewis are back as assistant editors. They both also wrote a story. There’s a lot of our DC-area folks – Jason Axtell colored a story in the first book, but he illustrated a story this time. Matt Dembicki’s back. Scott White did the cover again, and this time he also did a comic story. Chris Piers, even though he’s out in Seattle now. [Being interviewed in a bar, Jason overlooked Arsia Rozegar, Mal Jones, Matt Rawson, Rafer Roberts, and Carla Speed McNeil who also contributed]. I always use Charles Fetherolf, Josh O’Neill and James Comey. I loved working with E.J. Barnes and Sara Winifred Searle  in the first volume so I invited them back. Jason Hanley has always been my letterer but for the most part I brought a lot of new people on board.

MR: How do you find people?

JR: We had a general call for submissions that several people responded to, including some great finds. That’s probably where Jackie Roche came from and she is phenomenal. She does these fantastic watercolors. Just like with the first book, I wanted to focus on under-represented narratives, unknown stories, things like that, but I still wanted to touch on some of the big stories that we know.



 I wanted to include the Boston Tea Party in some way, and Jackie came to me with a pitch about actually tracing the tea trade – starting in China, following it through India, and then into Massachusetts and tracing the tea as it went into the harbor.

A lot of the stories are ones I just found. Ashley Victoria Robinson wrote “Mercy Otis Warren” about the playwright, and one by nature I guess, because there were no plays in Boston. It was against Puritanical rules to produce plays. Warren wrote revolutionary plays, originally anonymously, but later took credit for them. Ashley wrote me saying she wanted to do a story about nurses in the Revolutionary War, which we weren’t covering, but since Ashley also had some playwriting experience, I suggested Warren. 

Some people I paired with a topic, and some people came in with great things. Kevin Cooney came through the submission process with a story about the Stamp Act obelisk which I think is one of the greatest things I learned. Matt Dembicki illustrated it. When the Stamp Act was repealed, Paul Revere designed this obelisk which was supposed to be a permanent fixture under the Liberty Tree. The problem was that it was made out of oiled paper and wood, and it was lit from the inside with candles and they put fireworks on top of it, so it burned down the first night they celebrated it. Paul Revere’s plates still survive and I actually made an origami version of it for promotion purposes so you could print it out and fold it.

MR: Do you have an editor at Fulcrum?

JR: Yes, Fulcrum assigns me a chain of editors. Rebecca McEwen edits for content and what’s allowed and what’s not in these books. It’s not just sex and violence but language. There are two stories where I had to put a disclaimer noting that “negro” and “mulatto” were common terms. We had to cut out “damns.” There was a little pushback at times from the artists, but we managed to sustain most of it. The copy editor was Alison Auch and she was great to work with. She was very responsive and helped put the book together. She worked really hard in the last month, because I was late in delivering everything. But I do all the design work including the cover and literally deliver them an entire book, so they could just publish it as-is, but they don’t. They fine-tooth-comb it, and have third party people read it, and put a lot of effort into it.

MR: A few years ago, you did an Amazon-only Kindle children’s book and you’re about to launch a Kickstarter campaign for that?

JR: “The Little Particle that Could” is a story about particle physics and general relativity for kids. The original version followed a graviton who was perfectly happy just spinning and pulling things down to earth until a photon catches her eye and she decides to chase it, off the Earth and into a black hole. We wanted to do a print edition that was a bit more special so now we have a new colorist, and Jason Hanley is re-lettering it. We’re hoping to do a hardcover with nice glossy stock, and then stretch goal to a board book because I love them. We just need to raise $5000, and then $10,000 for the board book. I think it’s achievable.