Droptella

Kids love fruity candy. The Dutch love licorice. So if you are confectionary maker Van Melle and have a quite popular fruity chewy product, why not branch out and make a licoricy chewy counterpart?

The result, Droptella, didn’t live long past its initial launch in 1975. I don’t know whether that had something to do with these awful advertisments that ran in the last issues of Pep magazine before it became Eppo, but I’m pretty sure Lucky Luke creator Morris had anything to do with them. 

It’s also remarkable that these ads don’t have any trademark or copyright disclaimer, which may have something to do with the fact that Lucky Luke ran in Pep. Similar ads with, equally ghastly, renditions of Popeye and Spirou did have such a disclaimer, and they were not part of the Pep lineup.

Like I said, Droptella didn’t last long (I distinctly remember it was bad). Fruittella is still going strong, and so is Van Melle, with a whole host of different brands.

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A Tintin rocket, because why not?

It may seem odd to you, denizens of the wide world beyond our borders, but for us Belgians, it is quite normal to have a quite large model of the Destination Moon rocket in your front garden. After all, it beats another gnome with a fishing rod, or a donkey carrying two baskets of flowers… 

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Small stories, full of pain

Some stories are very small; they hardly register as anecdotes. Yet at the same time, they imply lifetimes of pain and heartache and leave the reather with a sweet sense of nostalgia, having taking part in a familiar sadness but only for the duration of the story.

In the February 8, 2021 issue of the New Yorker magazine, cartoonist Paul Rogers takes a small anecdote from Doug Ramsey’s Paul Desmond biography, Take Five and makes it into Audrey Hepburn’s Favorite Song. It features Desmond, Audrey Hepburn, Dave Brubeck, and unrequited feelings. It is a meticulously drawn little gem, with each line and every swatch of two-tone colour just right to convey a subtle message. It is simply a wonder to behold.

(Illustration by Paul Rogers, © 2021 Condé Nast)

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Kao Kuk Is Dead

Ever since It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken, it is common knowledge that Seth loves to create alternative histories. Here is the story of Canadian astronaut Kao Kuk on his ever deeper going adventures, in glorious animation.

(note : apologies, I forgot to post today and it is late and I have a headache. I’ll do some more write-up tomorrow)

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Julian Bond on Vietnam

In 1965 Horace Julian Bond was elected to the George House of Representatives but he was expelled because of his stance against the war in Vietnam. The next year the Supreme Court ruled in his favour and he served in the House and the Georgia Senate until 1986.

Together with artist T.G. Lewis, Bond published a comic book, Vietnam, in 1967, to explain his position on the war, as a black man, but also from a historical and geopolitical perspective. Even after all this years, it is a very poignant essay that hasn’t lost any of its relevance. 

It is a pity that the artwork was scanned at such a low resolution (the comic has been available for quite some time), as it is an excellent example of the type of documentary, realistic art that was prevalent at that time (see also Gerry Shamray’s work on American Splendor).

The comic can be read in its entirety on the University of Virginia Sixties Project website, together with additional materials. The blog Mars Will Send No More has a good essay on the comic itself. 

Artwork © 1991 Julian Bond and T.G. Lewis or Viet Nam Generation, Inc., all rights reserved. Used for review purposes.

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Who read comics

In case you were wondering, who reads comics? Well, I don’t know about right now, but in the 60s the young and beautiful didn’t mind getting their picture taken with their favourite bande dessinée. Case in point: Brigitte Bardot (manhandling the Lucky Luke album, la Caravane, above) and Anita Pallenberg (cradling the 1966 Bob de Moor version of Tintin‘s L’Ile Noire, below). And those are good choices…

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Guernsey loves Rupert

It doesn’t take a much to create a good comics-themed postage stamp. Guernsey celebrated the centennial of the celebrated Rupert Bear comic in 2020 by issuing  a very toned down, yellow-themed sheetlet with a stamp featuring a classic depiction of the checked-trousered bear.

Along with this sheetlet, a series of six separate stamps were issued featuring five characters from the comics, including Rupert Bear, Podgy Pig, Edward Trunk, Bill the Badger and Algy Pug, all with the same, very stylish design with a yellow background and a white border.

After the 1993 winter issue featuring several characters from the comic, this is the second major Guernsey issue celebrating Rupert, whose creator, Herbert Tourtel, they can proudly count among their own.  

The stamps are available in a myriad of editions, from First Day Covers to Sheets of 10 from the Guernsey Post website. And they look a lot better than the ones the Royal Mail put out.

Rupert®, © Entertainment Rights Distribution Limited/Express Newspapers 2007

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Truth in comics : what is your favourite color?

Sometimes, while you’re just idly reading a comic, you’re struck by a single nugget of truth that you weren’t expecting. Here’s one I came across recently...

You can say what you want about how DC is trying to milk the cash cow that is Watchmen until it’s dry, with its most recent spinoff, the ongoing Rorschach book, they seem to have stumbled on something good.

Written by Tom King (who also did Mr. Miracle) and illustrated by Jorge Fornés, the book is being presented as part of the Black Label line, and for once that means more than gratuitous violence and easy nihilism. King and Fornés tell an engaging story, with excellent pacing and an intriguing narrative that keeps you on board. So much so that you sometimes need to take a step back to realise that the art is actually pretty good on its own as well.

In issue 4 (March, 2021) the main character is continuing his investigation of the murder attempt on presidential candidate Turley where a Rorschach-like character died along with his young accomplish. He sets out to interview an associate of said accomplish, who kicks off with the above riff on favourite colors.

It’s a seemingly totally irrelevant detail, but it hits home in its truthfulness and fully establishes the veracity of an storyline that may be labeled as farfetched fan service. I’m pretty much hooked.

(Artwork by Jorge Fornés, © 2020 DC Entertainment)

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White dog

January’s almost over and at Sparehed Towers the only snow we’ve had so far barely covered the ground and was gone by noon.

I would like some snow — it would be nice to look at from my Small Office Home Office instead of the dreary wet garden. 

So, anyway, here’s some snow. It was brought to my attention by a Reddit user, but the image goes way back. So what?

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Virtual road heroes, we salute you

Last week the world got the news that Jean Graton had died. One of the more solipsistic names to come out of the golden age of Franco-Belgian comics, in style as well as in subject matter, he was one of the cartoonists that showed me how to tell a story, how to define characters and, above all, how to create a gripping atmosphere.

Graton was the creator of Michel Vaillant, easily the best racing comic around. It may be an old guy talking here, but in my opinion the first 20 books, until Rodéo sur 2 Roues were a perfect combination of soap opera drama, the odd bit of humor, family history and lots and lots of amazing cars.

I’ve only met Graton once, or I should say, my sons have. In 2007 they queued for more than 2 hours at the Turnhout festival to get an autograph from Graton and his son. They were only 11 and 8, and Graton was like a gentle giant, asking them questions (via his son, who spoke Dutch), and then instructing his assistants to “make something beautiful” of their dédicace. For some reason, he made two new fans for life.

So, to bid adieu to one of the greats of fictional racing, here’s a picture of him with that other giant, Steve McQueen, who died some 40 years ago already. Fittingly enough, McQueen is leafing through Le Fantôme des 24 heures (1970), Graton’s single best Le Mans comic. The photo was not taken at Le Mans though, but rather at the 12 Hours of Sebring, where the two met along with motoring journalist Bob Sicot. Graton would later dedicate on of his Dossiers Michel Vaillant to McQueen.

Excuse me, but now I’m gonna read me some comics. I think Suspense à Indianapolis (1966), or maybe Mach 1 pour Steve Warson (1968). Talk soon.

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