Tag Archives: squiggly lines

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night

Link to today’s strip

Epicus had a great comment yesterday, and judging by the upvotes most of you agreed. There was one thought in particular that gave me pause. He said, “A child could write it. Unfortunately though, no children were available so BatYam took a stab at it…”

When I was younger, I used to do theater. My first role, when I was 12, was the mother in James and the Giant Peach. I was eaten by a giant invisible rhinoceros at the very beginning of the show. I flung myself all over the stage screaming and dying, and I got a pretty big head by thinking I was good at it. That was, until I heard my director say, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”

As near as Grandpa Google can tell me, the actual origins of that famous turn of phrase come from a story movie director George Seaton told about going to see his friend, the actor Edmund Gwenn on his deathbed in 1959.

“All this must be terribly difficult for you, Teddy,” [Seaton] said sympathetically.

Gwenn didn’t buy that sympathy. A smile touched his lips.

“Not nearly as difficult as playing comedy,” he answered cheerfully.

They were his words of exit. His head turned on the pillow. He was dead.

As a kid that pithy little aphorism was a revelation. Melodrama is easy. It’s easy to act, and it’s easy to write. Death hangs like the sword of Damocles above us all, and in time every sword will fall. Who do you love? Your mom? Your spouse? Your goldfish? Find the fear you hold inside knowing they are mortal, and you’ve found the massive emotional button any artist worth their paycheck can push at will. Entire genres of weepy books and Hallmark Channel movies are built on the cheap, baking-soda-and-vinegar, combination of love and death.

Twelve years ago, Batiuk pushed that button. And, go back and read those strips, he was effective.
cheap and effective, like your mom
This strip is cloying. It’s maudlin. And yet, it is 110% more real than anything we’ve seen in years. A mother won’t see her daughter grow up. A father struggles to explain. A child tries to comfort a loved one they can hardly realize they’re about to lose. Death is taking a knife and cutting to ribbons the story of a happy family just as viciously as Rose stabbing a precious comic book.

We’ve gotten none of this in Bull’s death. None. We didn’t see Linda calling her children. We didn’t see the pain of Jinx thinking about how Dad wouldn’t be there to walk her down the aisle. Or Mickey realizing her own kids would never know a Grandpa Bushka. We didn’t linger on Linda’s pain as she sits through a funeral full of terrible secrets, as she comes home to an empty house, as she has to do laundry that will only remind her of her dead husband’s illness.

It should have been easy. A child could have done it. But Batiuk decided to give us a death without really showing the love that death was cutting off.

Instead Batiuk decided to end this arc (for now?) with a week of strips where Linda gets down on her knees in front of his author avatar so she can fellatiate Les Moore’s metaphorical ego-dick.

In the past, I’ve tried to cut Tom some slack. But not today. Please insult this man.

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“Why, yes! Yes you can!”

Link to today’s strip.

“It just so happens, Linda, that I have some copies of my Lisa’s Story trilogy out in the car!  Since you’re a grieving widow, I can give you a discount of twen…uh, twelve percent, and I’ll be more than pleased to autograph them!”

You know, hot coffee tends to heat up a coffee mug.  That’s why they have handles, so you don’t have to grab a hot coffee mug and burn your hand.  So what is Linda doing in panel three?  Is she trying to burn Les’ hand?  If so, she’s my new favorite character.

It’s also cool if she’s saying, “I’m going to drink both of these coffees.  I hope you got something from the drive-through.”  Even cooler would be if she’s going to throw both cups in Les’ face.  I’m going to stop now because reality will be too disappointing.

ADDENDUM:  I just now noticed…Batiuk has finally corrected the spelling on his webzone!  It no longer says “Bantom.”

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Swings and Messes

Linda, you heartless, Brillo-headed bruja. Bull’s mood swings are part and parcel of his illness. and not anything that he can control. I’m sure it’s no picnic having to deal with him, but at long last, have you left no compassion for your poor husband? Hiding the car keys was a dick move, but can be seen as being motivated by safety concerns. Suggesting that Bull’s moodiness is intentional, and doing so with that smirk, is just so fucking tone deaf.

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Ask Me Weather Eye Care

comicbookharriet
September 9, 2019 at 12:13 am
Buck is still the only person who visits Bull. Les has completely abandoned his old tennis partner, and the man who personally rehabbed his daughters traumatic knee injury. Wish I was surprised.

I know that she’s a retired teacher, but not even a tweed-jacketed, pipe-clenching Ivy League professor would drop a phrase like “keep a weather eye” into normal conversation. TB finally gets around to reminding non-readers of SoSF, and himself as well, that Buck was (somehow) diagnosed with CTE shortly after Bull was. But while Buck has yet to manifest any of the symptoms we’ve seen in Bull, he is apparently crippled by survivor’s remorse.

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Herstory of Herassment.

Link to today’s strip

Stuckfunkian commenter Scott Lovrine guessed last week that Ruby Lith may be based on Ramona Fradon, who worked on Aquaman and Metamorpho. The visual resemblance is very strong both in the past and currently. But from my research Ramona didn’t time in ‘the bullpen.’

I believe that Marie Severin and I were the only women drawing superheroes at the time [50’s]. It’s funny that she was drawing Sub-Mariner while I was drawing Aquaman. People always used to ask me if I knew her, but I didn’t meet her until years later, at a convention. I didn’t work in a bullpen like Marie did so, aside from being uncomfortable with male fantasies and the violent subject matter. I never really experienced what it was like being the only woman working in a man’s world.

Marie, who did work in an office with men, talked more about feeling slightly isolated or left out rather than harassed. The only story I could find her recounting was a male college blowing on the back of her neck.

In that case, comics have always been a rather male dominated field, and you, like Ramona [Fradon] are one of the two reigning queens. How many other women were there at Marvel at the time doing art, and did you ever have any problems with “the Bullpen” or anything like that?

MS: Not really, the guys, they say that women gossip, well networking is male gossip, and they “networked” all the time. But, just like we wouldn’t want a guy when we were sitting around talking about somebody’s shoes, or a certain eyeliner, they weren’t interested in having a woman around, and sure, I’d have lunch with them once in a while, but the conversations were always male; it was just normal. So, you’re sort of out of it. I didn’t have any real problems.

But that brings us to Lily Renee. If Batiuk wants to claim that Ruby Lith is based on any one woman, Lily Renee is the option that closest fits his ‘narrative’. And she also has a physical resemblance.

Lily Renee worked in the 40’s as a penciler and inker for Fiction House. She was Jewish, from Vienna, and had immigrated alone, at the age of 14, first to England then the United States to escape the Nazis. When her parents joined her a couple years later she took up a job in comics to help support her family. The men in the office teased her, tried to teach her dirty words in English, and drew nudes in the margins of the work she was supposed to ink. But she wasn’t the only woman working in the office. There were many women working for Fiction House at the time, and she was on good terms with most of them. She would regularly go out for lunch with Fran Hopper, and at one point, she lived with artist Ruth Atkinson for about a year.

Unlike Batiuk’s fantasy Ruby Lith though, Lily just did it for the money, and after leaving the comics industry in 1949, went to work on other things; illustrating children’s books, writing plays, and working in fashion.

So, big surprise, sometimes it was uncomfortable being a woman in a office predominated by men. Sometimes the women were ‘left out’, sometimes the women were teased. Sometimes it led to much drama that weren’t black-and-white cases of sexual harassment. The inker Violet Barclay, by her own admission, flirted with men in the office leading to acrimonious feelings and love triangles.

Barclay’s complicated relationship with benefactor Mike Sekowsky — who bestowed expensive gifts on her even after his marriage to Joanne Latta — caused friction in the Timely bullpen, which she left in 1949. As she later described the office environment,

“Mike was a very good human being. Everybody at Timely liked Mike. Nobody like me because they thought I was doing a number on him. Which was true. World War II was on and there were no men around, so I just killed time with him. Everybody, Dave Gantz especially, picked up on that. … [Mike] once tried to get me fired over my fling with [Timely artist] George Klein. Mike went to Stan Lee and said, ‘Stan, I want her fired, and if she doesn’t get fired, I’m going to quit’. Well, you couldn’t ever tell Stan Lee what to do. Stan said, ‘Well, Mike, it’s been nice knowing you’.”

Not all sexual harassers got off scott free either. Toni Blum, who worked for Quality Comics in the 40’s, was treated respectfully there except for an incident between two male artists, wherein one punched another in the face. As historian Denis Kitchen wrote, “[George] Tuska, like [Will] Eisner, had a crush on office mate Toni Blum but was too shy to make his move. The actual provocation that inflamed Tuska, Eisner privately said, was [Bob] Powell’s loud assertion that he ‘could f**k [Toni Blum] anytime’ he wanted. After decking Powell, Tuska stood over his prostrate coworker and in a voice Eisner described as Lon Chaney Jr. in Of Mice and Men said, ‘You shouldn’t ought to have said that, Bob.'”

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Your Cheatin’ Heart

Link to today’s strip

No, sorry Baby Ruthie and Tommy Batiuk. Sad, yes, but not ‘true.’ And having a character say, “Sad, but true.” to add truthiness to this dubious story of sexism in early comics is worse than disingenuous. You are willfully furthering a narrative that seems plausible without any real facts behind it because you like the message. You’re Mason Locke Weems, making up the story of George Washington and the cherry tree, and sticking it in a biography.

That last panel is really a hoot though. Batiuk’s bumbling dialogue makes it sound like Ruth’s hubby was really into polyamory, with three wives and two mistresses simultaneously. Hey, Ruthie, you know who else had two wives and two mistresses? Jacob the patriarch! Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Mindy meanwhile looks like she’s about to bolt. She’s leaning waaaay away from Ruth now, like bitterness is a disease and she’s afraid to catch it.

The ‘truthiness’ of Ruth’s statement in panel two is partially contingent on when she started working. During WWII there was an uptick on women working comic books to make up for the men who were at war. So that might have been when the editor was ‘in a pinch.’

The unrealistic statement is that Ruth would be expected to stop working when she got married. All the women I looked at didn’t stop working when they got married, some started working married, but many stopped working when they had kids. Women like Dorothy Woolfolk and Ramona Fradon returned to comics once their kids were older. Other women found different careers in illustration, like children’s books, magazines. You know, Batiuk, not every comic creator is a massively passionate fan of the genre, some just did it for the money for a while and then moved on.

Ramona Fradon did love working on comics though, and went back to it when her daughter was in school. I found a great interview with her from the 2016 issue of the Comic Book Creator Magazine. This might be a long quote, but I think it speaks volumes about what it was actually like being a married mother in comics.

CBC: So “Aquaman” was just boring?
Ramona: Well, yes. I hate to say it.
CBC: Did you hate it so much that you used raising a daughter as an excuse to quit or you really had to?
Ramona: Well, she was two then, hanging on my knee, and I’d be trying to meet deadlines. It was ridiculous. I couldn’t continue to do that.
CBC: Did you have to stay up late often? What did you do?
Ramona: I would, of course, wait ’til the deadline was looming. What did
I do? I went crazy. And the poor little thing. We used to drop pencils and
crayons—Dana [her husband], too—on the floor and she’d be down there coloring, you
know? [laughs]
CBC: That’s what mommy’s doing, right?
Ramona: She has told me she liked that! But it wasn’t fair to her. I
couldn’t keep doing it. If I had been faster it would have been one thing, but
I wasn’t.
CBC: Did you really need the money?
Ramona: No, but my mother used to say, “Don’t do what I did.” She gave
up her work. She wanted to be an artist, too. So I had it stuck in my mind
that because we got left high and dry I figured somehow I had to keep
working no matter what, even though I wasn’t making any real money. But it
was something, you know.
CBC: So did your husband have a studio in the house?
Ramona: Yes.
CBC: So you were both there during weekdays? Did you interact with
each other at all?

Ramona: Oh, sure. We weren’t in the same space—I had a little studio
and he was up in the attic studio—but, yes, we were both there and we’d
eat lunch together and we’d work around the place.
CBC: Were you friends?
Ramona: Yes, we were.
CBC: It’s probably about a year, year-and-a-half that you just worked
raising Amy, right?

Ramona: No, it was seven years! I waited ’til she was in school. I hadn’t
planned to go back, but I was getting a little restless just being a housewife.
And then one day Roy Thomas called me and asked me if I wanted to do a
story.
CBC: So the Metamorpho thing was just an anomaly?
Ramona: Yes. I just did that to help George out, to get it started.
CBC: Right. So then you went back to child-rearing. Were you just planning, “That was the last thing I will do in comics”? Was that the thought?
Ramona: I didn’t have any plan. I never do.
CBC: Just day by day?
Ramona: [Laughs] So this wave came along and I got on it when Roy
called me.

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Fact Gap.

Link to today’s strip

In hours and hours and hours of searching I couldn’t find a single instance of a woman in comics being paid less simply because she was a woman. The only time I saw it addressed directly was in a question and answer session 2007 from with Ramona Fradon, who worked for DC from the 50’s to the 80’s. She neglected to answer.

Stroud: What was the page rate at the time and did they pay you the same as your male counterparts?
RF: When I quit in 1980 to draw Brenda Starr, I think I was getting $75 a page.

But earlier in the interview she had this to say about her editors.

Stroud: Which editors did you work with? Were they easy to get along with?
RF: I worked with Murray Boltinoff, George Kashdan, Joe Orlando and Nelson Bridwell. Nelson was the only one who you might say was difficult. He was very exacting and protective of his story lines. He designed a lot of the characters and didn’t want any deviation. I preferred inventing my own characters, but these were kind of mythological archetypes and I suppose they had to be what they were.

Neither Marie Severin nor Fradon ever tried to claim sexism made their editors hostile to them. Marie Severin who worked for DC said in an interview :

Everybody was very nice to me at DC. They didn’t seem to question the fact that I was a woman doing the work. I mean it may have amused them, but they didn’t discriminate against me at all. I have no complaints at all about the way I was treated.

Some second party sources blamed gender on women being passed over for promotions or gigs, but nothing like an editor coming right out docking someone’s pay on the basis of their genitalia. There were women EDITORS, like Rae Herman and Dorothy Woolfolk, the woman who invented Kryptonite!

I also cannot find any evidence of a woman being forced by an editor to obscure her gender. Here’s a quote from an interview with Trina Robbins, a female comics writer and also historian, who wrote a book “Pretty In Ink: North American Women Cartoonists 1896-2013.” She actually researched the sexism that went on in comics.

For so much of the history of entertainment media, you’ve had women who wrote under pseudonyms or male names to get things published. Going back and digging through the history, how do you even start to try to unearth female creators when there was little attention paid to them or possibly hiding their identity under a different name?

The fact is that that’s not really true. Some women did change their names, but not the majority of them at all. It’s funny, it’s a myth that people think women had such a hard time they had to give themselves male names in order to sell their strips. Well, no. Some of them changed their names: June Tarpe Mills removed the June and called herself Tarpe Mills and said in an interview before she drew “Miss Fury” that she felt the boys who read it would not like it if these exciting and virile — she used the word virile! — heroes were drawn by a woman. But of course once she started doing “Miss Fury” there were newspaper articles about her, everybody knew who she was and they knew it was a woman, and they even knew she looked like the character she drew. There’s even one newspaper article from the New York Daily News titled “Meet The Real Miss Fury: It’s All Done With Mirrors!” It was no secret.

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