Category: History Lessons

Celebrating Women’s History Month – Comic Edition: Part 3 – Colorists and Letterers

Celebrating Women’s History Month – Comic Edition: Part 3 – Colorists and Letterers

As we continue our Women’s History Month tribute to Women In Comics History, we focus on two areas of comic making that are often overlooked: Colorists and Letterers. Both of these disciplines have changed radically since the women in this list began working in comics.

The technological innovations of the last couple of decades have revolutionized comics coloring and lettering. They have also opened the doors of opportunity. Both of these careers were at one point considered part of the in house production department of comic book publishers. These women who were innovators and trailblazers made great strides in their fields and showed that they are part of the creative team deserving of recognition.

Colorists:

When these women were working in the industry the process of coloring a comic involved using dyes and creating color maps on copies of comic book pages to give printers instructions on how to apply color to the pages. Today almost all comics are colored using digital software to add tones, hues, and effects. Without those tools, these women were able to generate amazing depth to comic books for decades.


Glynis Oliver (Wein)

Glynis Oliver spent most of her career working for Marvel Comics. She colored the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, New Mutants, Thor, and Uncanny X-Men among many others.  She also worked at DC Comics and contributed to titles such as Batman, Superman, and Adventure Comics. For a time she went by her married name in the comics and was credited as Glynis Wein. She was a constituent contributor to some of the most important comics for over twenty years.


Adrienne Roy

Colorist Adrienne Roy has special meaning to me as she colored my childhood. Her work on the New Teen Titans and Infinity Inc. series was glorious. She worked primarily for DC Comics during her coloring career with long runs on the afore mentioned series as well as Batman, Detective Comics, and the Outsiders titles. There was richness and depth that Adrienne brought to the comics she colored. Her life was cut short by cancer at the young age of 57.


Christie “Max” Scheele

Christie Scheele worked as a comic book colorist for over two decades. She is most well remembered for her long run coloring Daredevil for Marvel Comics. The famous Frank Miller and Ann Nocenti Daredevil stories were painted with color by Christie Scheele. Her use of tone and hues give those stories important emotional narrative. Besides over one hundred issues on Daredevlie, Christie worked mostly for Marvel on titles like Squadron Supreme, Defenders, and The Avengers.


Lynn Varley

Award winning colorist Lynn Varley created the color pallet for some of the most critically acclaimed comic books of the last half-century. She was the colorist on The Dark Night Returns, 300, Sin City, and Electra Lives Again. The color work on each of these books is a critical factor in the texture of the story and how the reader experiences the comic.


Tatjana Wood

Tatjana Wood began working in the comics in the 1950s doing uncredited work in issues published by EC Comics. By the 1970s, she was the primary colorist on covers for DC, and that role lasted into the mid 1980s. She had long runs for DC on Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Grant Morrison’s Animal Man. She brought the color to the well regarded Brian Bolland line work in Camelot 3000. She has over 1000 comic book credits to her legacy. Chances are that some of your favorite historic covers from the ’70s and ’80s were colored by this legend. Continue reading “Celebrating Women’s History Month – Comic Edition: Part 3 – Colorists and Letterers”

Celebrating Women’s History Month Comic Edition: Part 2 – Writers

Celebrating Women’s History Month Comic Edition: Part 2 – Writers

This is the second chapter in our celebration of women in comics history.  In this post we will highlight a fantastic group of writers that made lasting impacts on the industry.

This category has been one of the most difficult to fill. While some of the women listed in Part 1 of this series were cartoonists in that they both wrote and drew their stories, the list of impactful full-time writers before 1990 is short, and to be truthful, most of these women started their careers as editors.  It is disappointing to see the paucity of women writers in some of the formative years of comics creating.

I will say that the last two decades have seen a substantial rise in women writers in comics. But that rise is of course relative when you look at how bad it has been. While more women are getting work writing, recognition still has some territory to gain. There have been fifteen people in the last thirty-two years who have received Eisner Awards for Best Writer. Only two of them were women, and they were only in the last three years.

Well, let’s celebrate some amazing writing. The women listed below in alphabetical order created some amazing stories:


Toni Blum

Born Audrey Anthony Blum, Toni Blum, was one of the very few women comic writers in the golden age. She worked the Eisner-Iger Studio which produced stories for Quality Comics and National Allied Publications. She wrote scripts for golden age characters Dollman, Black Condor, The Ray, Uncle Sam, and more. She even ghost-wrote stories of The Spirit for Will Eisner. One of the remarkable aspects of Blum’s career is that she used over a dozen pseudonyms and all of them were either gender obscured or outright masculine. Even her most commonly referred to professional name is gender blind adaptation of her middle name. She was the only woman working in her office and contributed in important ways to some of the biggest comic characters of her time.


Mary Jo Duffy

As a writer for Marvel Comics in the 1980s, Mary Jo Duffy is responsible for some well-known long runs of stories. She wrote Power Man and oversaw the transition of the title to Power-Man and Iron Fist. She had a memorable run on the Marvel Star Wars series and wrote the Fallen Angels mini-series spinoff of New Mutants. In the 1990s she wrote the first fourteen issues of the first ongoing series for DC’s Catwoman. By the mid-2000s, Duffy had retired from comics writing. She began her career as an assistant editor for Marvel and often went by Jo Duffy in credits. Her work is spread across dozens of titles in the 80s and 90s and made an impact.


Barbara Kesel

Barbara Kesel has had an interesting career arc in comics. Her first freelance writing work, a Batgirl backup story, was published when she was twenty-two. She later became a full-time staff editor at DC Comics and then transitioned back to writing. She helped create Dawn Granger as the new Dove and wrote the “last Batgirl” story as DC retired Barbara Gordon from the cowl for a long time. She has also had stories published by Archia, CrossGen, Dark Horse Comics, Image, IDW, and more. She has gone by her birth name Barbara J. Randall at times earlier in her career. Kesel is known to be a staunch defender of women’s rights in comics and featured strong and fully formed women characters in her writing. She continues to write and create interesting stories to this day. Continue reading “Celebrating Women’s History Month Comic Edition: Part 2 – Writers”

Brainiac On Banjo #108: The Purple Zombie! – Women’s History Month

Brainiac On Banjo #108: The Purple Zombie! – Women’s History Month

Thanks to several decades of following Trina Robbins’ research, I’ve been a Tarpé Mills fan since… well, probably since dinosaurs started making oil.

Mills is best known as the creator/writer/artist of the costumed newspaper comic strip hero Miss Fury (1941 – 1949), which, for the record, debuted six months before Wonder Woman. But prior to that, she worked for a variety of neophyte comic book publishers, creating such features as Diana Deane / White Goddess (1936), Devil’s Dust, The Cat Man, Daredevil Barry Finn (1939), and The Purple Zombie (1940). It is this latter creation that now brings my fingers to the keyboard.

In addition to my affection for Mills’ work, I have a serious thing for stories that are insanely weird and bizarre. The Purple Zombie was so weird it makes Herbie The Fat Fury look like Mark Trail.

Here’s the short version: a pair of scientists come up with a way to create zombies, but one is an evil scientist and the other wants it to be used for the betterment of humanity. Zombies For Peace! Right on! The bad guy does not kill the good guy, although he does try. He gets killed in the process and P.Z. divines the good guy as his master. So, the good guy drafts P.Z. into joining the 1940 anti-fascist movement which, at the time, was pretty much limited to fighting Nazis and the Spanish civil war. By the way, in Spain the American antifa was called “The Abraham Lincoln Brigade.” Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #108: The Purple Zombie! – Women’s History Month”

Celebrating Women’s History Month Comic Edition: Artists and Cartoonists

Celebrating Women’s History Month Comic Edition: Artists and Cartoonists

We are well into March and this year is the thirty-fourth annual celebration of Women’s History Month. It is supposed to be a time to highlight the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. Since one of the focuses of Pop Culture Squad is to promote inclusion and diversity, we are taking this opportunity to remember the impact that women creators and professionals have had in the comics industry.

In an industry dominated, in the past and present, by men, it is critical to acknowledge the work that was done by women who brought innovation to the industry and joy to readers for generations. We are focusing on women whose careers in comics began prior to the 1990s. Many of the women working in comics today have been inspired by these women who came before them.

In the first part of this series, we will start out with recognizing the important contributions of women artists and cartoonists and the subsequent chapters will cover professionals from other disciplines in comic creating.  Many, if not all, of the women on this list faced difficulty in finding work and getting published in comics at all. However, the industry is better for their perseverance. The fantastic women creators below are listed alphabetically:


June Brigman

Artist June Brigman began her professional comics career by co-creating Power Pack with Louise Simonson for Marvel Comics. She also penciled Supergirl for DC Comics among other titles. June took over for Ramona Fradon as the artist on Brenda Starr from 1995 until its end.  She was a prolific artist in comics books before taking on the Brenda Starr responsibilities. One of the most important aspects of June Brigman’s career is her work as an educator.  She has taught art at the Kubert School and Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). There are bunches of current comic professionals who credit her with helping them develop their craft. She currently teaches at Kennesaw State University‘s School of Art and Design, and is the penciller on Ahoy Comics’ Captain Ginger.

 


Colleen Doran

Colleen Doran is a write/artist most notably recognized for her creator owned space fantasy A Distant Soil. A Distant Soil is often hailed as a significant influence for current comic storytellers. She began to get paid work at a very early age and has continued a long career that has garnered multiple awards including an Eisner Award last year for her collaboration on Snow Glass Apples with Neil Gaiman. Colleen has worked for Marvel, DC Comics, Image, Dark Horse and others. Some of her other most well know works include stints on Sandman, Shade, the Changing Man, Valor, and the graphic novel Amazing Fantastic Incredible Stan Lee.  She is a fierce defender of artist and creator rights and is actively sharing the knowledge that she has acquired as a woman in the comics industry. Continue reading “Celebrating Women’s History Month Comic Edition: Artists and Cartoonists”

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind  #111: Conspiracy? 2 Years In 2 Hours – In 2 Parts!

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #111: Conspiracy? 2 Years In 2 Hours – In 2 Parts!

In this space yesterday, “we” began “our” marathon response to the question “since you were actually on the Chicago 7 Trial staff way back in the stone age, what did you think of Aaron Sorkin’s movie The Trial of the Chicago 7?” I provided the backstory to explain what the trial was all about and how it came to happen and ended that installment with the response “I have yet to see it.” Today, I shall attempt to explain why. Let’s see how that goes…

Part 2!

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends.

Overall, I really like Aaron Sorkin’s work. His West Wing was brilliantly produced, written, and performed. Same thing with The Newsroom. His scripts for A Few Good Men and Charlie Wilson’s War were first-rate. I thought the pilot for his Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was one of the best pilots I’ve ever seen — sadly, the show itself suffered from unanticipated problems. I desperately wanted to see his version of To Kill A Mockingbird on Broadway but, sadly, I am not independently wealthy. I have a rant-in-waiting about Broadway, but this isn’t the time.

So I’m sure I will see The Trial of the Chicago 7. Well, probably, but first I’ve got to vault over a few roadblocks. I’ll start with the Mt. Denali of speed bumps.

Yippies Anita Hoffman and Nancy Kurshan, burning a judge’s robe in front of the Chicago Federal Building 1970

Noted director King Vidor could not turn Leo Tolstoy’s 1440 page novel War and Peace into a two-hour movie. Planning for the 1968 Democratic National Convention demonstrations in Chicago had started before the beginning of that year, the subsequent Chicago 7 Trial ended about 26 months later, and the appeals process that reversed the few convictions and the ridiculous contempt of court sentences ended in 1972. I’m not sure a 20 hour series could have happened, but, damn, the teevee version of the NXIVM / Keith Raniere horror show was just picked up for a second season so, maybe.

What do you cut? It almost doesn’t matter. Too much important stuff happened in the courtroom to accurately put the story across in two hours. Moreover, not all of the important stuff happened in the courtroom. The public impact was felt on the streets and in the many demonstrations that occurred all over the world (Fun Fact: I spoke at many of them). It was felt in the media which, just like the Vietnam War, shifted away from blind support of the prosecution as the Trial progressed. It was felt in the offices of the Conspiracy Trial, a block and one-half east of the courtroom, and it was felt in college campuses all over the place. How people were moved by the Trial was more important than the courtroom’s political polemics.

The Trial was not going to set any game-changing judicial precedents. The government’s dog-and-pony show was too well orchestrated to allow that to happen, the response by the defense was predictably organic, and the loony actions of Judge Julius Hoffman (such as his granting government motions before the prosecution made them) could be, and was, attributed to his obvious mental health difficulties. Government persecution of those out to change the status quo was nothing new… and, you should note, did not end with the Trial.

The Chicago Seven — et al — did not hold the trial in order to make a political point. The trial was not our decision, and the defendants did not indict themselves. In other words, they started it and we reacted on our own terms. Did we try to turn the tables and show the affair for the mockery it was?

You bet your damn ass we did.

Abbie Hoffman once said to me, and I’m paraphrasing a little bit, that he could do a hand-stand in front of the Chicago Federal Building on his way to the courtroom and the media would report it as having been performed in court in front of the judge and the jury. That reflected a significant part of our operating philosophy in challenging the government. We never played the victim; offense is the best defense.

But something significant did happen in court that changed the world and validated the protest movements. The Trial went worldwide, but I think some important subtext was lost and, by now, forgotten.

I’m sure Sorkin covered how Bobby Seale was treated. He was put on trial without a lawyer. His attorney was recovering from major surgery. Julie Magoo decided to assign Kunstler and Weinglass, who represented the others, as Bobby’s lawyer. Seale rejected that and demanded he represent himself, each of which being his right. When a prosecution witness was cross-examined, Bobby would get up to do his proper lawyerly activities. He acted calmly, quietly, and for a civilian professionally. Judge Hoffman lost his shit and, within a few days, had the defendant bound to his chair with a heavy gag stuffed into his mouth.

Oh, wait. Did I mention Bobby Seale was the only Black man among the eight defendants?

We could see the reaction in the tearful faces of several of the jurors. It was a reaction of horror, silently screaming “what the hell are you doing to this guy?” Moreover, you can see the reaction in the faces of several of the U.S. Marshalls in the courtroom. At least one of them later joined us at some of the rallies held outside of the Federal Building.

That moment, the moment Judge Julius Hoffman lost his mind, was the moment the government started losing its case.

But as you can see from our current dilemmas, the government did not learn. Sociopathic megalomaniacs running and ruining the lives of common folk for the benefit of the few on top is nothing new, and the government will continue to do just that as long as they can.

Then, as now, the people’s constitutional right to protest was not recognized by the government. The only rights you have are the rights you successfully exercise, and if you do not stand up for those rights you have none at all. Remember that the next time a woman dies from a back alley abortion.

Remember that as you stand in line to vote.

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind  #110: Conspiracy? 2 Years In 2 Hours…

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #110: Conspiracy? 2 Years In 2 Hours…

Part One!

Over the past week or so, I’ve been inundated with emails, texts, Facebook messages, and the like asking for my reaction to Aaron Sorkin’s movie The Trial of the Chicago 7. It’s nice to get that attention, but I have yet to comment in public. Well, Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind allows me the opportunity to prattle to my friends without having to engage in redundant or even repetitive keyboard tapping.

For those who came in late, the Conspiracy trial (a.k.a. the Chicago 8 trial, a.k.a. the Chicago 7 trial) was a heavy-handed attempt by President Richard Nixon and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley in 1969 to intimidate, incarcerate, and obliviate the still-surging protest movement which, at that time, mostly was focused on opposition to the Vietnam War and on civil rights.

We believed the choice of the Democrat’s smoke-filled room, Hubert Humphrey, was a criminal warmonger. He was the vice-president who stood beside President Johnson and cheered him on knowing, as L.B.J. knew beyond a doubt, that the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that turned the Vietnam conflict into a full-blown war was complete and utter bullshit. My source on that is Johnson’s Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, who later copped to it in his memoir. This was confirmed by the NSA, among others. It’s a fact.

Combined, the Civil Rights and the anti-Vietnam war movements quickly led to a major reinauguration of the feminist movement, to the establishment of gay rights movement, as well as many other such programs that encouraged Americans to stand up for themselves.

It was a heady time to say the least. Those invested in the status quo do not like having their oxen gored. Yet they do not like to be revealed as the right-wing self-absorbed bigoted assholes they are. As Lenny Bruce said, “I’ve got to do business with” the common people.

So Nixon, Daley and their coconspirators hand-picked eight people they decided were leaders of the Democratic National Convention protests held in Chicago. The one where the whole world was watching the cops gas and beat lawful protestors, as well as the media, Women for Peace, Teachers for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, unaffiliated hippies and aging beatniks, and gawking bystanders alike. Not to mention Jules Feiffer and Hugh Hefner.

A special commission was appointed to investigate what happened. Their Walker Report stated “The nature of the response was unrestrained and indiscriminate police violence on many occasions, particularly at night. That violence was made all the more shocking by the fact that it was often inflicted upon persons who had broken no law, disobeyed no order, made no threat. These included peaceful demonstrators, onlookers, and large numbers of residents who were simply passing through, or happened to live in, the areas where confrontations were occurring.”

This greatly upset ÜberDemocrat Mayor Daley. During the riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr four months earlier, Daley gave his police the authority “to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand … and … to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting any stores in our city.” This, too, upset him and he was not about to just ignore the Walker Report.

In the presidential election held shortly thereafter, ÜberRepublican Nixon squeezed out a victory beating Humphrey by seven-tenths of one percentage point. With that overwhelming mandate, Nixon decided to keep Daley’s Democratic hack federal attorney Tom Foran in office and they had eight radical “conspirators” prosecuted for conspiracy. In the words of defendant Abbie Hoffman, these eight, who had never met together previously, “couldn’t even agree on where to have lunch.”

(Full disclosure: I worked with and for Abbie during the trial and for a couple years thereafter. He personally financed the first comic book I ever published, Conspiracy Capers, edited by Skip Williamson as a fundraiser for the Trial. It’s a small world, ain’t it?)

I was on the staff of the Conspiracy Trial. I was one of the first four hired, and I focused on working with what was then referred to as the underground or alternative media, which was akin to the social media of today. I had a background in this stuff as I was on work-release from the journalism program at my college, at the time of the police riot I was a precocious and obnoxious lad of 18, and I had been on the staff of the Chicago Seed for, oh, several months. I also had been on the staff of the Chicago Defense Fund, an effort by a bunch of lawyers to deal with all the legal poo that happened in the wake of said police riot.

One of the things I did for the CDF when we heard these indictments were going to come down was research the backgrounds of that district’s federal court judges. I noted that one of them, Julius J. Hoffman (who looked like Mr. Magoo’s great uncle) was so right-wing, so paranoid and so asinine that, given the immutable laws of dialectics, he would be a great boom to the protest movement — although not-such-great news for whomever got indicted. For example, Julie Magoo had found the last 27 people (give or take) who came before him for avoiding the draft guilty as charged and sentenced most of them to the full term.

Judges are supposed to be selected by lottery so, as fate would have it, Julie Magoo was selected to run the trial in his Mies Van Der Rohe sculpted courtroom. The one Abbie referred to as “the neon oven.”

I was a participant in the Democratic Convention demonstrations and, as a reward for my effort, I enjoyed a ham-fisted police truncation across my left hip; I still suffer from the consequences 52 years later. But it helped me get myself ready for the year (start to finish) I spent on the Conspiracy Trial staff.

All this is why I’ve been asked by so many decent people what I thought of the Sorkin movie. To this, I respond:

I have yet see it.

I’ll tell you why tomorrow.

History Lesson: Mary, Queen of Scots

History Lesson: Mary, Queen of Scots

This article is an attempt at context. Often, in our popular culture, we are fed a view of history that is intended for one singular purpose. Money. The producers of the historical product are attempting to reap financial rewards for producing a work that is usually historical fiction. Therefore, as the film Mary, Queen of Scots is about to go into general release, we felt we would give some context to the known events of Mary Stuart’s life.

Mary was born on 8 December 1542. That was four hundred and seventy-six years ago for those without a calculator handy. This woman existed, and she lived to age of forty-four. Mary was the only child of King James V of Scotland and his wife Mary of Guise. She was also James’ only surviving legitimate heir. On 14 December that same year, at the age of 6 days old her father and king died, making her the Queen of the Scotland.

Mary’s Heritage and the Rough Wooing

It cam wi’ a lass and it will gang wi’ a lass!

James V of Scotland

In order to truly understand the complicated circumstances of Mary’s life, we need to know her heritage. Yes, she was the Queen of Scotland as an infant, but her familial lines are drenched in power. Mary’s paternal grandmother was Margaret Tudor, the older sister of Henry VIII of England. At the time of her birth, she became forth in line to the English throne behind her grand-uncle the King, his heir, and only legitimate son Edward, his oldest daughter Mary, and Elizabeth, who was born from Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. Should all of those people die before having children, Mary would be Queen of England. This was a very powerful position for her to be in, and everyone at the time recognized it and did what they could to use it to their own advantage.

To reiterate, we are looking to give context here. When Mary was born, Henry VIII was fifty-one years old, Edward was 5 years old, Mary Tudor (AKA Mary I, AKA Bloody Mary) was twenty-six, and Elizabeth was 9. At this time, there were political tensions including battles between England and Scotland. There was a peace agreed to that was struck and sealed in the Treaty of Greenwich on 1 July 1543 which included a betrothal between the heir to England, Edward, and six-month old Mary, Queen of Scots.

Continue reading “History Lesson: Mary, Queen of Scots”

Happy Birthday America?

Happy Birthday America?

This year I noticed a lot of folks using the phrase “242 years ago” and then making some statement about the start of the American Revolution.

One Facespace pal took the opportunity to point out folks picked up guns 242 years ago and that’s why freedom is earned.

Here’s the thing: July 4th revolves around the signing of the Declaration of Independence in July, 1776. Not the start of the war. Continue reading “Happy Birthday America?”