David Bruce: The Coolest People in Art — Comics


• In 1976, graphic storyteller Jim Steranko created, wrote, and drew the graphic novel Chandler: Red Tide. According to Mr. Steranko, “It’s a homage to the great noir films. It’s not comic book storytelling; it’s cinematic storytelling. I only had a few months, so I lived in my studio. I covered the windows over with cloth, so I could never tell when it was day or night. I ate at the board. I slept at the board. I played only jazz from that period, the 1940s, and that kept my creative blood up.” Mr. Steranko also created 29 comic books — this is not a huge number, but in them he used techniques that had never been used before. He says, “A number of experts have gone through those books: one said he found 150 narrative devices that had never been done in comic books before. I remember in one of the stories, there was a man and a woman talking. The woman was suddenly very cold, and her answer was an empty balloon. To give it an extra punch, I had icicles hanging from the balloon. That may seem like a small point, but it had never been done before.” The person who wrote the foreword for Mr. Steranko’s 2-volume History of Comic Bookswas the great film director Federico Fellini, creator of . Mr. Steranko sent him a telegram, and Mr. Fellini sent back the foreword. Mr. Steranko says, “Fellini as a kid had translated American comics, particularly Flash Gordon, into Italian. In return I sent him the [illustrated book] cover that had 50 characters on it. He sent me this beautiful note back that said, ‘I am hanging this above my desk in my office, because I think the magic and mystery of the characters will rub off on all of my projects.’”

• Can violence be entertaining? In real life, no. In comics, very. Diane DiMassa is the creator of the character Hothead Paisan, Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist, who stars in many comics and who gleefully uses violence to solve her problems. In one comic, Hothead and the woman she loves, Daphne, sit happily on a park bench, when a big man sits by Hothead and invades her space by spreading his legs wide open so that one of his legs touches her. Hothead does give the sinner a chance to reform as she looks down at his leg, then says to him, “Uh, pardon me ….” Unfortunately, the big man interrupts her with, “Whatcher problem?” When words won’t work, Hothead takes action. She hacks his leg off with a hatchet (for Hothead, coming up with the appropriate weapon is not a problem), hands the severed leg to the big man, and says, “This is my problem! Does this belong to you? Because if it does, I found it way over here in MY space!” (Far from regarding Hothead as promoting violence, I personally believe that the character promotes good etiquette.)

• Simpsonscreator Matt Groening met one of his heroes in May 1998, after he heard that Charles Schultz, creator of Peanuts, was eating lunch in town. Mr. Groening raced across town and went into the restaurant where Mr. Schultz was eating. He then thanked him for creating his very favorite Peanutscartoon, which showed Lucy making lots of tiny snowmen, stomping on them, and then telling Charlie Brown, “I’m torn between the desire to create and the desire to destroy.” Mr. Groening told Mr. Schultz, “Thank you for that strip. In one sentence you summed up my life.”

• Some events that might be seen as revolutionary are treated in a very matter-of-fact way. For example, in 1968, Charles Schultz, creator of Peanuts, quietly introduced a black child, Franklin, into his comic strip. Franklin attended a non-segregated school, and he went on non-segregated school trips, and this was accepted as a matter of course, without fanfare, as it should be. (And who knows? Maybe Peppermint Patty is a baby lesbian. In any case, Mr. Schultz, his characters, and his readers accepted her remarkable athletic ability, which can be seen as revolutionary — for the time — in a girl.)

• Comic-book artist Jack Kirby once attended a comic-book art festival at a public library in Los Angeles. One of the librarians asked him whether, in his opinion, comic books mirrored reality. Mr. Kirby replied, “No, comics transcend reality.” The librarian then stated, “If you were to mirror reality, then perhaps others could begin to understand it.” This is something that Mr. Kirby strongly disagreed with. He told the librarian, ‘Madam, when you mirror reality, you see it all backward. When you start transcending it, that’s when you have a real good shot at figuring out what’s going on.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved



Buy the Paperback


Buy in Other Formats, Including PDF



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: