RSS

Tag Archives: USA

Lev Gleason Publications and Pre-Code PR:

Attracting Mature Readers[1]

By Peter W. Y. Lee

Among the 1954 Comics Magazine Association of America’s Comic Code’s many regulations was a directive to company admen: “Liquor and tobacco advertising is not acceptable” (Nyberg 168). The ubiquity of alcohol in mainstream media certainly concerned social guardians in post-war America (Rotskoff). However, liquor manufacturers did not solicit to minors in the comics, but another demographic group: their parents.

The first part of my article looked at how Lev Gleason Publications responded to the public alarm over comic books. Gleason and his chief editor, Charles Biro, pushed comics as a progressive medium with educational and artistic merit. This second part explores their second strategy: courting adults. Gleason hoped that an expanded readership would bolster support and offset rising production costs. However, critics rejected comic books’ potential beyond that of disposable children’s entertainment. The Comics Code sanitised comic books and stigmatised readers beyond middle-school age.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 2020/07/17 in Guest Writers

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lev Gleason Publications and Pre-Code PR:

Countering Critics through Social Reform and Education

by Peter W. Y. Lee

The 1954 Comics Code was intended to protect children by curtailing comic book content that contributed to juvenile delinquency. However, historians have pointed to how overzealous red-baiters wielded the Code to attack the industry as a figurative whipping boy for Cold War anxiety (J. Gilbert, Nyberg, Wright, Hajdu). EC Comics stands out, noted for its “New Trend” of social criticism, horror and crime in severed jugular veins that provoked readers (Whitted). Scholars have pointed to EC’s publisher and editor William Gaines’s testimony before the Senate Subcommittee’s hearing on juvenile delinquency as a show trial of sorts, in which Gaines had hoped to counter the criticism levied against his company, but caved in shortly afterwards instead.[1] But Gaines was not the first to defend the industry, nor was EC representative of many publishers flooding the market. By looking at different titles, scholars can gain a greater appreciation of how other creators negotiated the post-war public role of comic books.

This is the first part of a two-part article that looks at publisher Leverett Gleason’s comic books. Gleason’s publishing house, alternatively known as Comic House or Lev Gleason Publications, used various means to elevate comic books in the public eye. This part examines how Gleason and his gung-ho editor, Charles Biro, predated EC’s touting the educational merits of crime suspense stories and the medium’s potential as an art form. Gleason tried to pass off his crime-centred titles as progressive and artistic literature, belying the genre’s contemporary and enduring reputation as perpetrators of violence. The second article details Gleason’s tactics to expand the scope of comic books as serious literature by appealing to grown-ups.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
1 Comment

Posted by on 2020/07/10 in Guest Writers

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Culture of New Racism in Comics

By Whitney Hunt

 

New Racism Ideology In the USA

Whiteness is an enduring construct of privilege and power that systematically shapes and maintains racial inequality, resulting in a hierarchal system of oppression toward people of color (Feagin & Elias 2013). Systematic racism requires generations of people reproducing racist institutions and the white racial framings that support them (Feagin 2013). According to Feagin (2013), the white racial frame is a broad concept encompassing racist practices, imagery and discourse throughout US society shaped by and for the primary benefit of individuals considered white by society. In all eras of American history, manifestations of racism contain the ideological underpinning that justifies racial inequality. Moreover, the societal grip of white racial framing underscores the gross reality that America’s racist foundations are regularly unacknowledged (Feagin 2014; Bonilla-Silva 2017).

Read the rest of this entry »

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 2018/09/17 in Guest Writers, Women

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Funny? Animals? The Problem of We3 by Alex Link

There can be no doubt as to the importance of the representation of the animal body in comics history. This, of course, is not to say that comics, with talking dogs that walk on two legs and the like, have traditionally aspired to realism. Rather, the anthropomorphized animal pervades comics, and typically, in the history of “funny animal” comics, “the ‘animalness’ of the characters becomes vestigial or drops away entirely.” [1] Even so, “comics and graphic novels are a virtually untapped source of insight into cultural paradigms about animals” [2] when the comics animal is considered qua animal. Recent comics such as Pride of Baghdad (2006), Duncan the Wonder Dog (2010), and others have returned to this legacy of the funny animal with a critical gaze, doing so at a time that coincides with the development of critical animal studies.

Critical animal studies takes as one of its aims the exploration of the manner in which “ ‘the human’ and ‘the animal’ . . . must be continuously reimagined and reconstituted” [3] and We3 (2004-5), by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, seems to do precisely that. Wanting “‘to do to funny animal comics what Alan Moore did to superhero comics,’” Morrison—who ended his time writing Animal Man (1990) with an explicit call for animal rights—and Quitely invite a reappraisal of the comics animal. [4] While it is true that Art Spiegelman’s Maus famously takes caricatural anthropomorphism beyond humour, it leaves intact the role of comics animals as proxy humans, and/or as metaphors for qualities based on “understandings of animal behavior that circulate . . . in . . . culture” [5]. These practices have always ultimately “celebrate[d] and naturalize[d] the superiority of the human,” [6] and elided animal alterity. Rosi Braidotti calls for the direct examination of animal alterity in narrative, by asking that we approach the animal as animal, or “neoliterally.” [7] Perhaps surprisingly, when one approaches We3 with this “neoliteral” recognition of the animal in mind, one quickly encounters the difficulty with which the animal might clearly be separated from additional cultural categories that serve as others to the always-contested definition of the “human.”

Read the rest of this entry »

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 2015/05/30 in Guest Writers

 

Tags: , , , , ,

The Whites of their Eyes: Implied Violence and Double Frames in Blazing Combat and The ‘Nam by Harriet Earle

It will come as no surprise to anyone reading this that comics has a massive arsenal of techniques for the representation of violence, of trauma, of horror, of life. Indeed, the array is so vast that this paper can only concentrate on a single technique – one that is both subtle and incredibly effective. This is a technique that allows violence to be implicit. It is sneakiness and cleverness combined. It is, to my mind, one of the best examples of the utter magic of the comics form. I am talking about the representation of the human eye. It may not seem at first that the drawing of an eye is anything more than just that – an eye. But I propose that the way an eye is drawn and its relationship to the rest of the image is in fact an acutely important representational tool and one that allows violence to be implicit, dependent on the reader’s imagination.

In this paper, I consider examples from two American war comics. The first is Doug Murray and Mike Golden’s The ‘Nam, a Marvel publication that ran from 1986 to 1993 that mimicked the typical tour of duty so the characters were rotated in and out of story arcs as they would have been in combat. The series followed the Comics Code Authority guidelines and as such does not depict certain aspects of the Vietnam War – no drug use, no swearing. That said, it does have a fairly level approach to combat and is rightly praised for not subscribing to the ‘men’s adventure’ derring-do style storytelling that is has been employed by other publications. The second example is Blazing Combat, written by Archie Goodwin, which ran from 1965 to 66 before being rather abruptly cancelled. The second issue ran a story set in Vietnam and this was something of a death knell. American PX shops (shops set up on American military bases internationally) refused to stock it because, while the comic is not necessarily anti-war, it steadfastly refuses to subscribe to any glorification of war and instead concentrates on individuals and the trauma of their experience. These are not typical war comics – neither are as brash as Commando or Battle. As Kurt Vonnegut would suggest there is no role for John Wayne here (see Slaughterhouse-Five, p.11).

Read the rest of this entry »

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 2015/05/13 in Guest Writers

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: