Monday, May 15, 2006
He Done Her Wrong/256 pages & $16.95 from Fantagraphics/sold at comics shops and bookstores, and at www.fantagraphics.com.
When movies were mostly silent, vaudeville was the rage, radio was just coming of age, and comic strips were golden, He Done Her Wrong. Possibly the first graphic novel and certainly one of his best works, He Done Her Wrong (HDHW) was inspired by cartoonist Milt Gross' earlier creative marriage with silent film comedian Charlie Chaplin. They had worked together on Chaplin's feature The Circus (1928).
The "he" in HDHW is a powerful but ignorant frontiersman used by a dishonest businessman who steals his true love. This equally true hero follows to New York City where a wild cast of stereotypical vaudevillian players cast by Gross as citizens turn his quest into chaos. HDHW is like watching the Marx Brothers pursuing the Keystone Cops. Don't expect originality in the story or characters. Every cliché in this boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back paper melodrama is at home here. Originality is not its purpose. Its purpose is K-RAZY!!
Dialog is beyond criticism; there is none. None is needed. Nor should you expect complexity. Complexity is beyond the ability of silent films or silent strips.
So why buy? HDHW is frantic and wildly creative in its style. Gross' barbwire art leaps off his paper stage with only a passing nod at perspective or anatomy because it's too busy running. HDHW is also funny although you won't laugh out loud. That seems somehow appropriate for a silent film on paper. And HDHW is a nostalgic trip back into a time when the world of slapstick
and broad parody were king.
Gross would produce many comic strips in his life, but none was more visually creative and entertaining than He Done Her Wrong. It is highly recommended.
All-Star Superman #2, published by D.C. Comics, 32 pages, $2.99.
I've always had a special kind of respect for the Superman character, even though it's been over ten years since I bought issues of a Superman series with any regularity. He was the first superhero, after all. However, in my opinion, it's been a long time since anyone had a fresh (or
even imaginative) take on the property. That may have changed as of the second issue of D.C. Comics' All-Star Superman.
Except where the art is concerned, this issue stands head-and-shoulders above the first issue of
the series. Writer Grant Morrison gives readers a truly imaginative tale of "Superman's Forbidden Room". We experience it largely through Lois Lane's eyes. The Man of Steel has invited her to his Fortress of Solitude for the scoop of a lifetime; the true identity of Superman. Her reaction and eventual predicament is... well, it's entertaining. I'll let you discover why.
Also entertaining are the wonders found within the Fortress. From the key to Superman's "house", that's perfectly safe just lying around, (again, you'll see why) to the Time Telescope, the baby sun-eater and more, Morrison has, for the first time in ages, made a Superman book
interesting, even fun, to read.
Of course, the amazingly detailed and expressive art of Frank Quitely doesn't hurt. Not only does Quitely have to be given credit for making the attractions of Superman's home a joy to look at, with their superb detail and intricacies, but he also gives Superman the perfect look; confident and capable, yet, at times, strangely naive, even innocent. The pure-hearted hero with the near-godlike powers. Not how the character was originally envisioned by his creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, but I have always thought it suited him.
So, as I plan to be back for the third installment, All-Star Superman is recommended for all but the youngest readers, as there is some near-nudity ala Lois Lane. Find it at your local comics shop.
OCC collection keeps growing; Suter donation arrives at museum
A major gift of more than 2,000 comics books, magazines, and strips to the Oklahoma Cartoonists Collection were delivered Friday, May 12, to the Toy and Action Figure Museum, the home of the OCC. Dr. Jon Suter recently donated this large collection featuring the work
of Oklahoma cartoonists. A former librarian at East Central University in Ada, Suter is also a writer whose work is featured in the collection. Dr. Suter is now Director of Libraries and a teacher of graduate classes in the liberal arts at Houston Baptist University; his courses include one on the history of comic books.
Born in Holdenville, Dr. Suter was among the earliest major collectors of comic books and strips in Oklahoma. His donation includes more than 500 magazines collecting comic strips and/or featuring articles on the history of the art form. The more than 1,500 comic strips that will be displayed from the Suter gift include Dick Tracy, Broom Hilda, Alley Oop, Glamor Girls, and the
editorial cartoons of Clarence Allen. Additional comic strips from Suter’s donation will be added at a later date.
The Oklahoma Cartoonists Collection already features the work of more than 50 Oklahoma cartoonists and their associates. TAFM currently showcases over 7,000 toys, 300 pieces of original comics art, a large selection of published comics by Oklahomans, and books and magazines on comic book and strip history.
“My goal is to expand our existing display for the enjoyment and education of the public,” said Michael Vance who procures and prepares materials for the Oklahoma Cartoonists Collection.
“The addition of this major gift is an important step in realizing that dream. It would literally take weeks to view the original art in the museum, and read the magazines and comic strips soon to be on display. I hope to have Suter’s donation in the museum by May.”
“We will soon be adding more than one hundred pieces of original art,” added Vance. “This will include expanding the collections of cartoonists already in the Toy and Action Figure Museum like Dave Graue (Alley Oop), E. Nelson Bridwell (Superman) and Stan Timmons (X-Men). “It will also include work from new members like editorial cartoonist Chan Lowe, Frank Bolle, who draws the comic strip “Apartment 3-G”, Clarence Allen, one of the earliest editorial cartoonists in the state, and Jaxon Renick, who worked for Marvel and DC Comics.
“There is really nothing like the Oklahoma Artists Collection, and these new additions will require return trips to the museum to see everything on display.”
The Toy and Action Figure Museum is located at 111 S. Chickasaw in Pauls Valley.