— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2015
§ I somehow missed the fact that Donald Trump and the alt-right/white supremacist movement had co-opted Pepe the Frog, a stoner character from Matt Furie’s cult stoner comedy comic Boys Club. But it is true.
“That cartoon frog is more sinister than you might realize,” Elizabeth Chan, a senior strategist for the Clinton campaign, wrote on Tuesday. “In recent months, Pepe’s been almost entirely co-opted by the white supremacists.”
But Furie says his frog is simply going through an unfortunate phase. It’s “super negative right now, but it comes in waves. Maybe someday he’ll be a symbol for peace and love and brotherhood,” he said, adding that he hopes Pepe ultimately lives on as a positive symbol of youth culture.
Boys Club was first published on My Space, a primitive social media network of the 00s, and was later published by Buenaventura Press in pamphlet form. Fantagraphics put out a collection earlier this year. The characters Landwolf and Pepe have become widespread memes (although maybe a little bit more on the West Coast than on the East Coast?) and a particular panel about the primal pleasure of peeing with your pants down went 4chan and viral in many forms. Furie has mostly done fine art and illustrations and licensing since then, I think, but Pepe is definitely a symbol for the Aughts nostalgia that’s barreling down on us.
At Vulture, Abraham Riesman does the heavy lifting of talking to Furie about his work and the Trumpish movement co-opting his look as well as the character’s history:
In one, Landwolf smokes a cigarette for five panels, and then farts. In another, Andy and Pepe discuss Pepe’s new “NOBODY KNOWS I’M A LESBIAN” T-shirt. There are multiple strips that solely consist of Brett dancing on a mattress while popular songs play in his headphones. The boys chat about their feces, play video games, and occasionally smoke so much weed that they gleefully imagine their faces mutating. The longest story is about Landwolf taking an epic shit, the gang putting it in the freezer, and Pepe almost accidentally eating it (“based on a real event,” Furie says).
This then, is our culture, our ghost adventures.
§ Speaking of Vulture, writer David Marchese HAD TO go ahead and do the Alan Moore interview everyone was waiting for, the one where Moore is quizzed endlessly about what he thinks about superheroes and Moore responds in salty fashion. People have been asking Moore about that for decades, and in recent decades, he’s given pretty much the same cranky answers. Let it go.
Do you buy the idea that culture’s understanding of superheroes has changed since you first took them as your subject matter?
This is not a topic I’m eager to discuss. I will say that when I was a child, from about 7 to 12 reading Superman, comics were an incredible stimulus for my imagination. They were brilliant. They were cheap. They were readily available. I don’t think that superheroes or superhero comics of today are aimed at children anymore.
Who are they aimed at? Teenagers?
I would say it’s considerably older. I think that the average comics reader these days is probably in their 30s, their 40s, their 50s.
Is that a bad sign?
That to me looks slightly unhealthy. People have been saying since the mid-’80s that “comics have grown up.” I don’t think that’s factually true. I think what happened was that there have been a couple of comics that seemed to be reaching for a more mature readership, and that has coincided with the emotional age of the mass audience coming the other way.
§ Noah Bertlatsky chatted with Kate Beaton about King Baby, her utterly charming new children’s book:
Creating for kids isn’t quite the same as creating for adults, according to Beaton, but there are similarities. “You definitely approach adult content and kid content differently,” she said, “but in both cases it’s about knowing your audience and trusting how smart they are and how much they will pick up, so in that way it’s not different. And kids are very, very smart. They just haven’t the backlog of experience behind it yet.” Beaton says her influences as a picture book creator include contemporaries like Carson Ellis, Jon Klassen, Matt Forsythe, and Vera Brosgol. She also points to Arnold Lobel, Quentin Blake—and, of course, to Maurice Sendak. “Haven’t we all read Where the Wild Things Are a million times trying to understand the perfect equation that it is?” Beaton says. “Yet it’s reading about Sendak the man that is more inspiring to me than a lot of his work somehow. He always gave kids the credit for being smart enough to get the tough things.”
§ There is nothing I like more in the entire world than the follow up story. As in Chris Arrant asks Whatever Happened to Valiant’s 2017 BLOODSHOT Movie? It’s still a brewin’, and this guy is still going around dressed as Bloodshot. And Bloodshot will make a visually arresting film character so hop to it, China!
§ Steve Lieber writes for the Toucan:
I just completed a feat of marketing I can’t really recommend to anyone: I exhibited at three comics conventions in three weeks. I wouldn’t have done it at all, except that the first trade paperback of my series at Image, The Fix, comes out this week (September 14), and I wanted to do everything I could to promote it. So I did, and after doing three conventions in a row, there’s nothing left of me but hair, skin, and an over-enthusiastic sales pitch.
BUT SWERVE!!!! The column is NOT about how to survive comic-cons, but rather what Lieber learned from looking at portfolios of aspirants to the temple of comics:
Once amateur artists learn that stories need backgrounds and environments, they tend to rely on one-point perspective. Much like symmetry, one-point perspective, with every line bursting from the vanishing point, has its place—it forces a sense of dynamism. But as someone who just did three conventions in three weeks, I can assure you that forced dynamism can be oddly tedious. Mix things up; compose most of your panels with two-point perspective, and reserve one-point for a few special panels. You can put the most important thing in a static panel in front of the vanishing point, so all those perspective lines point right at it.
§ Steve Orlando talks about Supergirl and his influences with Ray Sonne:
Steve Orlando: Supergirl is about what strength means outside of hitting someone in the face. If you read the first issue, the fight in it does not end the way a traditional superhero fight happens. And [regarding gender], I am certainly not a woman. There’s no surprise there. But as I’ve said… I have readers on the book who are women. And beyond that, one of my best friends is very prominent in feminist theory and so one of the things when I talk to her is the way you solve problems and the way that you approach conflict. And so with Supergirl, I’ve said it before, my North Star in a way is Malala Yousafsai. [She’s] my favorite Supergirl story. Even though she doesn’t wear an S or anything like that, it’s about strength. And, you know, yes, it’s one type of strength to have that gut reaction when someone hates you to want to lash out, but I think in many ways it’s even stronger to show compassion and be able to show them understanding.
Noah Van Sciver: I go back and forth about whether or not an artist should discuss their work. Whether or not it should be left up to the audience’s interpretation. Are you ever thinking “ah, please don’t ask me about that comic, I really don’t want to talk about it” at shows or in interviews?
Tom Gauld: I go back and forth too. I can definitely see the appeal in being a Stanley Kubrick type who just makes the work and allows it to speak for itself and never does any interviews about it. But I think it’s just the way of the business that a bit of promo helps, so I don’t mind talking a a bit about the work, I hope I can give a bit of background and some related thoughts without explaining the whole thing away.
§ The Ladies Fingers presents a list of Graphic Novels by Women of Colour: A Starter Kit and it is not what you expect.
§ xkcd: Earth Temperature Timeline by Randall Munroe has been tweeted and linked to countless times, and it will make you very sad.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.