Images © Peanuts Worldwide LLC
For the last few volumes of this series covering 50 years of Charles Schulz’ wonderful comic strip, I’ve been waiting for it to go off the track. Get bad. Show that Schulz had overstayed his time. We’re almost to the end, and it hasn’t happened! The lines may be a little shaky at times, but the writing and humor are still sharp and hilarious, and the drawing remains a case study in casual simplicity that is much harder than it looks.
Okay, there are a few more of Charlie Brown lying awake at night pondering his fate, and I have to say I’ve never found Snoopy’s brother Spike funny (more sad than anything), but there’s hardly a page in this book that didn’t make me laugh or at least smile. What a remarkable achievement.
Image © Gene Ha
Gene is a friend, and someone I’ve enjoyed working with many times, even a partner on one of my signed prints, so you have to expect I’m going to be biased on the subject of his new project, let’s get that out front. MAE does not need any special favors to get a positive review from me, though, I like nearly everything about it. Nearly? I’ll get to that.
As you can easily see if you look at the cover above, Gene is a very talented artist. He’s a new writer, and on that front, he does well here. Mae is a small-town college girl returning to her high school haunts to have pizza with an old friend, Dahlia, but soon finds herself involved in some kind of trouble and confusion revolving around the return of her sister Abbie, who disappeared years earlier. Even before we see Abbie, we encounter angry people who are out to do her harm, and when we finally meet Mae’s sister, she’s in jail. Abbie spins a highly unlikely tale to Mae about where she’s been — some kind of other world, a fantasy world where Abbie has been living a very different life, including becoming Queen of a tribe of talking cats. Mae is skeptical, but pretty soon some very weird characters show up that indicate Abbie was not making it all up. And they also are out to do her serious harm! It’s a wild ride, and a fun one, with terrific art and coloring (Gene assisted by Rose McClain and Art Lyon) and cool hand-lettering by Zander Cannon.
Okay, the part I didn’t like? Gene seems to be taking inspiration from Japanese Anime art, not in a major way, but he’s taken on that style’s penchant for very large eyes. I’ve never been a fan of Anime art, but at least there it’s kind of a cartoony exaggeration. Gene’s art is more realistic, and the large eyes tend, to my eyes, to simply make the characters look much younger than intended (college-age, mostly). This created a dissonance that kept pulling me out of the story, as if 12-year-olds were acting and talking like 20-year-olds. And I’m probably in the minority on this point, but there it is. In any case…
Image © Arlen Schumer and DC Comics
During my phone conversations with Ira Schnapp’s son Marty and his wife Pam, I told them about the Ira Schnapp exhibit by Arlen Schumer then running at the Type Director’s Club, and they wanted to see it. So did I, and I suggested we go together. Unfortunately, we all had busy schedules, and by the time we arranged for the trip, it turned out to be on the very last day of the show, Monday, Sept. 21st, 2015. I had spent time with Marty the day before at his apartment, where he and I had another long talk, and looked at the few photos of Ira and his family he’d found. Pam is recovering from an injured shoulder, and was unable to join us, but Marty and I planned to meet at the show at 10 AM, and would be joined there by my research partner Alex Jay, the exhibit creator Alex Schumer, and as it turned out, a few of Arlen’s friends. Continue reading
Ira Schnapp at work in the National Comics production room some time between 1954 and 1960, photo courtesy of Martin Schnapp
While Ira Schnapp was on staff at National Comics, now known as DC Comics, and probably at home as well, he produced a vast amount of lettering and design work, while remaining unknown to the comics fans he was entertaining. Ira was a modest man, and this probably suited him fine. He worked very hard and made a good living, being able to support his wife and himself while sending his children Terry and Marty to college. Whether he was paid by the page and piece, or if he was instead on a salary is not known. Continue reading
Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz, photo at left © FInn Andreen
In January of 1935, the first issue of NEW FUN: THE BIG COMIC MAGAZINE, published by Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, blazed a trail by becoming the first comic book to contain new material. Previous efforts had simply reprinted newspaper comic strips. Nicholson was a former military man and world adventurer turned pulp writer, and he had good ideas, but was not a savvy businessman. After launching two titles with mixed success, he wanted to add a third, but needed funding. He turned to pulp publisher Harry Donenfeld who agreed to lend him the money for the launch of DETECTIVE COMICS, but only under a new imprint co-owned by Donenfeld’s partner Jack Liebowitz. Continue reading