Sunday, November 26, 2023



Kara and I had fun seeing the new show of Seth art at the RICA Gallery here in Guelph last night. We also hung out with some other Seth fans and art buyers after the preview/launch and I was really amazed at the diverse group of people who are into his work. Many have come to him through his "non-comics" paintings and sculptures and his gallery agent Renann Isaacs should take a lot of the credit for turning these folks on to the work and hustling to develop a strong local market (although there were collectors from New York and Toronto on hand and I suspect some long-distance/overseas sales as well). I talked to people who are not comics nerds and who couldn't tell an issue of The Comics Journal from Wizard Magazine from Bubbles (in one discussion about contemporary Canadian figurative painters working in a realist style like Kent Monkman and Atilla Lukacs, the idea of studio assistants came up which led to a discussion of comic book assembly-line production techniques, ghost artists, and manga studios, and I had to bite my tongue a bit when the fellow I was talking to said something like, "Is that how Stan Lee drew his comics?"). Wisely, Renann and Seth created a show of small pictures, priced to sell. They are fun little things, very Seth-y, but as the artist admitted, not much thought went into the titles or artist statement (I'm attaching the local news article for some choice Seth quotes). Which is all to say, a good time was had by all. I think the entire show is going to sell out: most of the paintings were sold by the second night, and the show runs until December 23. I didn't take any pictures, so I'm stealing the photos from Renann's Facebook feed for those who aren't friends with her.

Seth and Renann Isaacs (photo credit: Margaret Langton)

Wednesday, August 02, 2023


Dave Sim writing in CANAR #1, 1972:

"KIRBY VIEW --This is to serve as a kind of response to Rick Seiler's Kirby 'opinionations' in this same issue.

I maintain that Kirby has little or no talent. His writing disgusts me even more than the work of early Gerry Conway. His creations seem to be of less than human quality. He is at his best designing a fight sequence, and he knows it. Thus, most of his books become little more than twenty odd pages of villains getting their heads caved in while the hero rants and raves over his cause with no emotion at all. Kirby's characters never seem to come alive. One cannot picture ever seeing an human qualities in Orion. And don't mistake human qualities for qualities found in other Kirby creations (Black Bolt, Silver Surfer, etc.) for they are equally monotonous in their steadfast gazes and intent close-mouthed convictions.

The Fourth World 'epics' failed for one reason. None of the books had anything that could rationally be called a uniting force. What they amounted to was a mish-mash of characters who exist for battle, use the Earth as a battleground and seldom say more tha two words without a) punching b) killing c) disintegrating an opponent who is equally mute. 

Now for some conclusions on this topic. Why do these characters exist? They are Kirby creations and it is a well-known fact that the only way to maintain Jack Kirby as a staff artist is to cater to his wants. One of these wants is total freedom to change, distort, or completely destroy anything in the panel art at DC. He changed Superman into something less than he should be, totally demolished anything it took DC thirty years to build Jimmy Olsen into ... and left both characters when he was through with them. This is somewhat reminiscent of ushering a spoiled child into a room of antique toys, permitting him to smash them at will and guiding him to another room. 

Now, the almighty King demands that he be granted a team of artists at his California headquarters that he might continue his Fourth World Farce. Whom would he take? Neal Adams? Jim Aparo? Joe Kubert? Certainly sacrificing these gentlemen to the pseudo science fiction slop of the Fourth World means nothing ... if the King is satiated by it. "


*Dave Sim writing as a 16-year-old fanboy for his friend John Balge's fanzine Comic Art News and Reviews. This early column proves that Sim has always had bad taste and his head up his ass. 

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Phyllis Wright, 1930-2023


by BK Munn

Sad news today as we learn that Phyllis Wright died July 9 after a stroke and a short stay in palliative care at Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ontario. Phyllis was the model for the mother in "Doug Wright's Family," the long-running Canadian comic strip drawn by her first husband Doug Wright, and was instrumental in the founding of the Doug Wright Awards for Canadian Cartooning. She was a continual and joyful presence at the annual awards ceremonies held in Toronto since 2004.

Phyllis and Doug had three boys, Bill, Jim, and Ken, who all became the models for the boys in the comic strip, which ran from 1948 to 1980. As depicted by Doug, Phyllis was a loving but exasperated suburban housewife, with a stylish pixie haircut and often clad in slacks or mod skirt ensembles. Through her association with the Wright Awards, Phyllis was a living link to the world depicted in the comic strip, generous with her support and time, and generous in sharing her family's memories and archive of artwork and photos, some of which became source material for the massive two-volume Collected Doug Wright compiled by the cartoonist Seth and writer Brad Mackay.

After Doug Wright's death in 1983, Phyllis remarried, to Derek Thomas (d. 1998), greatly expanding the size of her family.

Cremation and a private interment at Greenwood Cemetery happened earlier this month. There will be a memorial service July 31 at 11am at Port Nelson United Church.


Friday, April 28, 2023

Close Shaves in the Comics, Part 2: Storm Gets a Mohawk!

 by BK Munn

Now it can be told: the terrifying tale of talcum, tufts, and trimming that is shaving in the comics!

Let's talk about some of the most famous and important shaves in the history of comics.

2. Uncanny X-Men #173. Storm gets a mohawk!

This was the shave that shook all mutantkind! 

Never had a shave had such shocking ramifications for a character in a superhero comic, let alone a woman character! 

Storm was a groundbreaking character: one of the first prominent characters of African descent in U.S. comics, and one of the most powerful woman characters in the Marvel Universe. Storm was born Ororo Munroe, the daughter of a Kenyan princess and an African-American photographer, and raised on the streets of Harlem and Cairo, Egypt before assuming the mantle of an African weather goddess when her mutant powers manifested. When she is first introduced in comic books, in Giant Size X-Men #1, created by writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum, she is depicted as serene royalty. Her superhero costume includes a cape, and her trademark regal hairstyle is a mane of shockingly white, long, flowing hair, accessorized with a crown-like tiara. Storm quickly established herself as one of the most powerful X-Men as well as a gentle voice of reason, a leader, a teacher, and a mentor to student mutants at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, the secret headquarters of The X-Men. Her beauty, highlighted by the contrast between her black skin and white hair, set her apart from the other, decidedly less-glamorous mutants. 

But all this changed in 1983's X-Men #173, "To Have and Have Not!"

After spending a week in Japan in the company of Wolverine's crazy mutant ninja girlfriend Yukio, Ororo finds herself revelling in the down-and-dirty violence that is Yukio's specialty. After using a lightning bolt to knock out a Yakuza thug, Storm notes, "I have never used my powers to deliberately inflict pain." She concludes, "This madness of yours has infected me ---I welcome it!"

Cut to a week later, and the arrival of the rest of the X-Men for Wolverine's wedding. Storm makes one of the most dramatic reveals in X-Men history, debuting her all-leather street punk uniform, topped off by a spectacular feathery mohawk hairstyle. Her "new look" is as shocking as a lightning bolt, electrifying her colleagues, and provoking an emotional response.

“Your clothes! Your…hair! What have you done?!” gasps young Kitty Pryde, while Professor Xavier speculates privately whether the change is “indicative of a deeper, more serious metamorphosis.”

The new look does indeed prove to be indicative of big changes in Storm's character. In the issues that follow, she becomes more calculating, aggressive and self-assured, winning a knife-fight against the Morlock leader Callisto and becoming leader of the X-Men even after losing her powers. Originally intended as a joke by the series artist Paul Smith, writer Chris Claremont quickly seized on the implications of the punk look for the character's development.

The change had an effect on the readership as well, galvanizing interest and making Storm a fan favourite. Through the act of shaving most of her head, Storm became a comic book style icon, her punk look shaking up the staid world of superhero comics and making radical change one of the hallmarks of Reagan 80s Marvel, heralding the new wave of team shake-ups, costume and character redesigns, and universe-rattling crises and secret wars. Her leather uniform also created a template for more "realistic" superhero costuming, especially in film design.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Unknown Canadian Cartoonist: Joe Cushner

by BK Munn 

Unknown Canadian Cartoonists: Joe Cushner

My brother, who lives in B.C., sent me these images from an exhibit at the VISAC Gallery in Trail. The artist Joe Cushner worked for the Cominco Smelter doing safety posters and cartoons.
The Art of Health and Safety:
Joe Cushner, Cominco Staff Artist (1950s – 70s)

Saturday, February 11, 2023


Just saw the first Dick Tracy movie (1945) on TCM. The villain is Split-Face, played by the great Mike Mazurki. He's a new creation for the movie, not from the comic strip, created by the screenwriter Eric Taylor, author of many B-movie crime pictures. The Batman villain Two-Face debuted in 1942. In a shocking twist, it looks like Dick Tracy is taking a page from Batman. In another shocking twist, Bob Kane is actually credited with his creation (although Bill Finger of course wrote the first appearance in Detective Comics #66). In a twist that will surprise nobody, Kane stole the idea for Two-Face from this poster for the 1941 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring Spencer Tracy

Sunday, January 15, 2023



Is this the first comics academic in film? Sorrell Booke as Holly Levine in "Bye Bye Braverman" (1968, d. Sidney Lumet). In the film, about four writers trying to find their friend's funeral in Brooklyn, Holly announces that he will soon be teaching a course on pop culture, called "From Little Nemo to L'il Abner". This news invites incredulity from his fellow intellectuals, who proceed to quiz him on his comic strip knowledge, asking trivia questions about Little Annie Rooney, Winnie Winkle, The Gumps, Orphan Annie, and Don Winslow of the Navy. Holly passes with flying colours, only getting hung up on the name of the dunce character in The Rinkydinks gang (Denny Dimwit). The film has many other comics references, including mentions of Dick Tracy, Skeezix, Blondie, and Bringing Up Father. Holly has a pop art painting of The Phantom in his apartment, and a Sunday of Irwin Hasen's Dondi is glimpsed at one point. It's a charming comedy in the form of a Joycean odyssey, based on the book "To An Early Grave" by Wallace Markfield (aka "The James Joyce of Brighton Beach").

In real life, Sorrell Booke (1930-1994) was a multilingual polymath, known for his character roles in hundreds of films and television shows. Ironically, he is best known for playing the villainous Boss Hogg on "The Dukes of Hazzard" tv series from 1979 to 1985.

I can't think of many other comics academics in film. Although the study of comic books is mentioned in the novel White Noise, I don't think this was carried over to the recent adaptation. Are there any others?