The 1918 Influenza pandemic remembered

Ten years ago, David Lasky created a comic book about the great influenza pandemic of 1918 for the King County public health department. Now, on the occasion of the centennial of that disease that swept the world, Lasky rejoined collaborator Meredith Li-Vollmer to create a four-part update, telling how that deadly influenza spread in the area around Seattle and how local people coped with a historic public health crisis.

(illustration by David Lasky)

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Forgive me father, for I have sinned…

It’s been more than three months since my last post, and even then my output was at best sketchy. But on my daily walk today, the Holy Spirit Of Blogging came over me again, and I could not help but speak.

While walking I came across an appliance store that had what must be one of the most out-there pieces of comics merchandise I’ve ever seen. Or have you heard of other long-running comics that have actual bathroom scales with specially made, actually funny illustrations?

These scales by Salter feature Belgian cartoonist Philippe Geluck‘s celebrated character, Le Chat, the star of one of the most successful (and most Belgian) newspaper comics to come out of my country. Geluck is a master at combining an absurdly simplified art style with a keen eye for the absurd in any situation. A more than basic grasp of French is required to grasp all the wordplay and double meanings, but they are, without exception, divine.

The cartoons read as follows :

  1. I gained another kilo. Either that, or my scales are in Daylight Savings Time now.
  2. It’s a little more. Will you take it anyway?

(English editions of some of Geluck’s books were published as Le Cat by Rue Elise, but these seem to be out of print)

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North Star Fading zooms indefinitely

Comics are about storytelling with images in sequence, which is translated traditionally in rows of images that are read side by side, one after the other. North Star Fading by British cartoonist and illustrator Karrie Fransman shows that you can also tell stories by embedding your images in one another, in a never-ending zoom. More than in a linear narration, this framework enables her to focus her reader’s attention to the pressing point she’s making.

North Star Fading was created for PostitiveNegatives, a producer of content about current social and human rights issues. Since 2012 they have created animations, podcasts, illustration and also comics, and have gained recognition and awards from numerous international instances. Other comics include impressive work by Gabi Froden, Rob Davis, Asia Alfasi, and more..

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Bad news or good intentions

When I first saw this print ad by Brazilian agency Box for the government of Boias in central Brazil, I was imagining some high drama in Popeye’s life. Did Olive just tell him that she’d made up her mind and chosen for Bluto (after which he bit his pipe in two)? Or did an overdose of spinash result in acute food poisining (after which he dropped his pipe)?

No, it turned out Popeye had finally went along with the 21st Century and quit smoking. Even though it’s a laudable intention, it’s a bit lacklustre, really.

(via Adeevee, artwork by Thiago De Souza)

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Explain this, but without words

Sequential images are used for instruction purpose quite regularly across all kinds of consumer goods. The most outstanding example would be the Ikea instruction inserts which, contrary to popular lore, are extremely clear and helpful if you have even a smidge of visual insight.

In fact, their format is so well-wrought that you can use them for much more intricate activities and algorythms, such as public-key cryptography or how graph scans work. Boffins from TU Braunschweig have compiled a number of Idea (get it?) instructions as illustrations. And even if you don’t really get what they are on about, the visualisation makes a lot clear.

(Illustration by Sándor P. FeketeSebastian Morr, and Sebastian StillerCC by-nc-sa 4.0 – Thanks, Κωνσταντίνος)

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Lettering! Fonts! Starkings!

Comic geekdom doesn’t get a lot more ephemeral than when it’s focused on what’s basically meant to remain unnoticed: the way balloons and captions are lettered. This short (all too short, actually) video covers the evolution of (American) comic book lettering from the Golden Age all the way up to Richard Starkings and other Blambots. I like how it explains why comics are in all caps, and how you can recognize the hand of certain letterers. In fact, that last part could have gone on forever as far as I’m concerned.

It’s quite interesting to see how paper quality forced letterers in a certain direction. When Tintin magazine was started, its founders wanted to offer a more quality-drive, and more reliable alternative for what was basically considered exploitative fodder. They used better paper and, coincidence or not, often used the now-famous Tintin cursive or similar fonts. It rendered the comics more acceptable — you didn’t need to hide them when your stuck-up aunt came to visit. Current incarnations of classic series, like Blake Et Mortimer, still use this technique.

As the comics market grew however, and its readers matured, the typical comics all-caps lettering also snuck in on the pages of the newer titles, such as Buddy Longway or Jonathan, contributing to their edgier nature.

Certain creators or studios have always retained their own lettering though, such as the semi-medieval script that’s used in Les Schtroumpfs.


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Your privacy matters! It does! Really!

Yo, it’s the 25th! Time to get serious with your privacy, people! GDPR is here and here to stay, making money for consultants and lawyers alike and not changing all that much for ordinary folks.

I don’t know how to whip up one of those fancy-pants popups or anything, so you’ll have to read this in a simple post. Here goes.

  1. We use cookies. Yum! Two kinds : Google Analytics ones and Jetpack ones. Couldn’t tell you what they are or how they work — if you want to know, read here and here.
  2. You can email us using the form. Read the instructions, people. You have been warned.
  3. You can reply to posts. In that case, we store your reply and your name. After all, what’s the use of replying if we don’t show it?
  4. You can subscribe to updates for the site. Either thru rss (in which case we don’t know) or via email (in which case we do). In the last case, you will get an email when we actually have an update. Sounds logical, I would think.

That’s it. You won’t hear from us ever again except if you actually do subscribe. Then you get an email every time we do a post. Like this one. Obvs.

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Francavilla on the opioid scandal

It would seem that the New York Times is on a roll these days when it comes to cartoonists. Earlier today they published a rather gripping longread on how prescription opioids silently became the addictive menace they’re currently seen as, and the role of certain companies and their kickback practices played in this evolution. Nostalgia noir illustrator and cartoonist Francesco Francavilla provides the illustrations, which ring conmen, deals and feds as any other crime novel. An effect that’s even heightened with the felt tip pen font that’s used for the bylines.

This interactive piece is only the second in a series of five true crime stories that Francavilla is providing illustrations for. Top notch work!

(Illustration by Francesco Francavilla,  © 2018 The New York Times Company, yet again via Mike)

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Entertainment exploitation and Arthur Fonzarelli

Even though James Kochalka’s recent strip in the New York Times seems to recall a fond memory from his youth, spiced up with some more astute observations made in hindsight as an author, to me it reads like an example of how the entertainment industry exploits everything it produces.

Call me old or naive, but there should be more to culture than making money.

(Illustration by James Kochalka, © 2018 The New York Times Company, one more via Mike)

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Agatha Christie on marriage

In the April 20, 2018 issue of the New York Times, venerable cartoonist and illustrator Edward Sorel highlights a mysterious incident in crime writer Agatha Christie’s life. Or how archaeology is preferable over golf.

(Illustration by Edward Sorel, © 2018 The New York Times Company, via Mike)

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