Monday, November 30, 2015

How Do You Get More Girls to Play D&D? You Let Them.

Satine Phoenix's New Praetorians
My guest this week on Pod Sequentialism is Satine Phoenix, a comic book illustrating gamer-girl who was dubbed the "Queen of D&D" by Time Magazine. She initially found fame in the adult film industry but soon after  went mainstream via her web series I Hit It With My Axe and her weekly gaming series DnDMelt.

I've known Satine for quite a few years and seeing her transition from a fan of comics into a published professional has been very personally gratifying, but it's also a great template for other young people to follow in the quest for identity and professional success.

This is one of my favorite episodes so far because there is a wonderful uplifting message about the comics and gaming community as it currently exists. The real mindblower here was in hearing from a woman's point of view that girls have always been interested in gaming, but the boys in their lives weren't very welcoming to the idea.

This episode is broadcast without commercial interruption and it's one I think a lot of people can learn from.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Comic Book Roots of Street Art

Engraving of Kilroy on the
WWII Memorial in Washington DC.
In Episode #06 of Pod Sequentialism with Matt Kennedy, the subject is the connection between graffiti art and comic books. Once again, our producer and engineer, Mason Booker, joins Matt in the discussion which draws an historical line back to World War II in an effort to present the changing role of street art. Seen much more as vandalism for most of the twentieth century than as decorative, public art, this episode explores how the modern perception and even basic definition of "graffiti" has changed.

Was Kilroy from
One of the most recognizable examples of modern graffiti is the figure of Kilroy, a bald man with an extended nose and hands the grip the top of a ledge with the inscription, "Kilroy was here" next to it. It became a symbol for the U.S. armed forces during World War Two, as versions of the figure appeared virtually everywhere American soldiers traversed. The origin is disputed, but in the years following the war, news services ran a story about a soldier from Everett, MA who had scrawled the slogan on a bulletin board at a Florida airbase, which inspired other soldiers to do the same all over Europe during the course of their deployment against the Axis powers. Similar figures had been drawn by British and Australian soldiers in World War One, but the proliferation of Kilroy by American servicemen in the 1940s really captured the public imagination as photographs appeared in newspapers, magazines and news reels from the era.

As Matt mentions in this week's podcast, the Allies were by no means the only ones using publicly exhibited slogans. Project Werwolf (German for "werewolf") was a Nazi resistance force that operated behind enemy lines as Allied forces swept through Bavaria. Steven Soderberg's 1991 film Kafka recreates some of that graffiti, and in a very strange case of life imitating art, criminal neo-nazi groups in the Netherlands have since co-opted the name in a modern, racist campaign against migrants. There is a long association of graffiti with hate crime that predates the modern era, and just in case it wasn't evident enough in the podcast: these are NOT the good guys.

This book inspired generations
While some historians point out that mankind has been drawing on walls for millennia, the widespread act of vandalizing public spaces with aerosol acrylic paint is most widely associated with the New York City subway system of the 1970s. Railway cars in and out of Providence, RI are among the earliest photographed examples of outsider art to utilize spray cans, and quickly spread to New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and even up into Canada in Montreal and Toronto before reaching other cities like Detroit and Chicago. Railway cars (especially freight and cargo wagons) frequently swapped tracks rather than occupy a single line, reaching more destinations and making them the primary target of graffiti artists until more brazen individuals realized that passenger cars in major cities allowed them a showcase in their own neighborhoods, elevating their street cred and local fame.

That switch from political to social messaging is where comic book art had its biggest influence on the emerging art form. Comic books in the 1970s were consumed by almost all youth regardless of social or ethnic background, so spray-painted versions of Marvel superheroes were frequently included in the unsolicited murals of acrylic vandals in NYC and elsewhere. The bold lines and graphic impact of comic book art was the perfect muse, and much easier to mimic than the oil paintings in museums, and the preponderance of cartooning in modern street art is a testament to the lasting value of sequential art as an influence.

We covered a lot of ground in only 42 minutes, so here's a list of other things worth researching deeper that we merely touched upon:

Olek, the Polish Yarn Bomber.
LA based street artists, Retna, Risk, and Nathan Ota (aka Cooz).
Aaron Rose's documentary Beautiful Losers (mistakenly referred to as Beautiful Dreamers).
Tony Sliver's seminal documentary on graffiti, Style Wars.
Martha Cooper & Henry Chalfant's 1984 book Subway Art.
Norman Mailer's 1974 book Faith of Graffiti.
The Art in the Streets Exhibition at LACMA.
Art schools as diploma mills.
SCI-Arc, the Southern California Institute of Architecture.

Listen Now!

If you've read this and want to know more, please tune-in, subscribe, or download to Pod Sequentialism with Matt Kennedy.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Are Comic Books Fine Art?

Two Tony Abruzzo drawings that became Roy Lichtenstein's
In Episode#05 of Pod Sequentialism with Matt Kennedy, we look at the connection between Pop Art and Comics.

Pop Art masterpieces by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein routinely sell for tens of millions of dollars, but the artists who inspired those appropriations often died in obscurity if not poverty. In-house producer engineer Mason Booker joins Matt in a discussion about what elevates comics to fine art.

We want to draw special attention to the work of one man whose tireless crusade to get comic artists credited for the art that Roy Lichtenstein adapted and left unattributed. That man's name is David Barsalou, and he runs the website Deconstructing Roy Lichtenstein. The list we gave on air barely scratches the surface of the number of artists whose work was copied and not credited. Definitely check out Barsalou's site.

Pod Sequentialism is researched but unrehearsed, so every once in a while, something gets past us in the quick flow of conversation and makes it on air without us correcting it on air, so below are some points of clarification and elaboration:

Jack Kirby lived in Thousand Oaks, not nearby Northridge (though the bus Matt took to visit Jack back in the early 90s was ultimately destined for Northridge).

Todd McFarlane's work at the time of this recording does indeed hold the record for the highest price paid at auction for the original art to a single, published, American comic book page. It was the cover to 1990's Amazing Spider-man #328, featuring Spidey lifting the Hulk. It sold for $657,250 (not six hundred million). It was a slip of the tongue, not an incorrect belief, and we apologize. It's also worth noting that McFarlane's cover art to Spider-Man #1 (also from 1990) sold for $358,500 though it had been expected to be the big winner at that June 2012 auction.

The world record for original sequential art of any kind is held by the cover to the book Tintin in America, by Belgian cartoonist Hergé, from 1932. It sold at auction in Paris, earlier that same month for $1.6 million. Unlike the United States, comic art has never been looked down upon in Europe, and adventure comics like Tintin have enjoyed greater popularity there than superheroes. This particular artwork broke its own previous sale record of $973,000 set in 2008.

The designer who makes the winged Addidas, whose designs for Moschino resulted in a lawsuit with a graffiti artist was Jeremy Scott. The artist suing him is Rime, alleging copyright infringement, trademark violations under the Lanham Act, and unfair competition, and appropriation of name and likeness under California law. The dress worn by Katy Perry at the Met Gala is alleged to include elements of Rime's 2012 Detroit mural Vandal Eyes. Claims Rime, "Nothing is more antithetical to the outsider ‘street cred’ that is essential to graffiti artists than association with European chic, luxury and glamour – of which Moschino is the epitome.”

Maya Hayuk is the designer who has filed a $750,000 lawsuit against Starbucks for copyright penalties and unspecified cash damages, alleging that the designs on Starbucks' new mini Frappuccino cups closely resemble the colorful geometric artwork of her pieces Hands Across the Universe, The Universe, The Universe II, Sexy Gazebo, and Kites #1. In the lawsuit, Hayuk claims that Starbucks' ad agency, 72andsunny, reached out to her in October 2014 expressing interest in her work, which she turned down and Starbucks, "brazenly created artwork that is substantially similar."

If you're reading this and it doesn't make sense, you really should listen to the podcast:

Listen on iTunes

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

First Sanctioned Sale of Classic Neal Adams Art

Access auction here:
Neal Adams is without a doubt one of the most important artists in the history of sequential art. He took the illustrated realism of Frank Frazetta and carried it forward into superhero titles, as one of the most prolific artists of the post Jack Kirby era. His runs on Deadman, Batman and Green Lantern were game changers in the comics medium, and his work on X-Men and Avengers helped change the line look at the biggest publishers in the 1960s and 70s. Adams' success impacted the line look at DC and Marvel, where journeyman artists Jim Aparo, Gerry Conway, and Howard Chaykin were asked to match this style, which incited a demand for more pencilers with a grasp for technical realism, helping to pave the way for artists like John Byrne and George Perez. Adams gave early work to the artists known as the Crusty Bunkers (Pat Broderick, Bob McLeod, Bob Wiacek, Joe Rubinstien, Carl Potts, and Terry Austin) via his Continuity Graphics Associates–a full service production house and publisher. Neal quite famously gave some harsh but needed critique to a young Frank Miller, who would kick off the Modern Age in much the same way that Adams, himself, had launched the Bronze Age.

Most importantly, Neal has advocated on behalf of creators rights since the early 1970s. He led the fight to get original art returned to the artists, and led the lobbying efforts to get Siegel and Shuster financial remuneration from DC for creating Superman. In 1987, both he and Jack Kirby were returned a large portion of the art they had created at Marvel, but the pages he illustrated for DC had long ago been discarded, sold or stolen. His assertion that his unreturned artwork is stolen artwork was controversial for a long time–especially at comic book conventions where there were dealers in possession of that artwork for sale, sometimes priced for hundreds of thousands of dollars. As such he has never authenticated that work.

Now we take it for granted that the art remains the property of the artist, but for decades publishers kept and sometimes threw away the original art pages, which is why Golden Age art is so extremely rare, much of it having been recycled in paper drives for the war effort. It was a conversation with Neal Adams in my formative years (and with Jack Kirby a few years later) that helped establish for me the importance of creator's rights.

This month, a milestone of comic art sales is happening: Neal Adams is validating the sale of one of his most iconic covers:

"The Green Lantern Green Arrow #76 cover (and subsequent series of books) changed the direction of comics when it was first published. That first cover set the tone of that change and is easily recognized by everyone in our industry around the world.
Now with that same cover at this auction, I would like to announce a New and Historical game-changer for collectors, historians and fans alike. Please let me be very clear. Whatever the origin and history of this cover has been since I first drew it, I'm here now announcing that, at the completion of this auction and during the auction I, Neal Adams, its creator and artist,...100% approve of this auction, the sale and subsequent ownership of this cover.
That since the proprietor of the cover has agreed to equitably share the income of the auction with me and my family I hereby validate sale and ownership of this piece and I will, in fact, supply a Certificate of Authenticity to the highest bidder of the auction, and the ownership of this cover will never be questioned by me. This sharing of profit with the creator, of the sale of artwork produced back in those days when ownership has ever been in question, will in this case and may in all cases go far in bringing underground artwork into the light of a fair and open marketplace.
To all of you who participate in this auction, I wish you well. The highest bidder of this auction will own a cover that changed an industry.... For the Better!
Best regards and good will to everyone,

Neal Adams"
I sincerely hope that other owners of classic comic art take this example and duplicate it.

In the last few years we have seen judgments in favor of the return of paintings, sculpture and textiles to the estates of Jewish families whose collections were confiscated by the Nazis in WWII. In many cases, those artworks are in museums, but a major private collection in Austria was recently seized and is being cataloged for return as well. This would seem to set the precedent for the return of artwork kept by publishers, or stolen by office clerks at those publishing houses and therefore never returned to artists who illustrated them.

On the other hand, the only resale statute in the Unites States, which required a 5% royalty be paid to an artist for any sale of their artwork in excess of $1,000 if sold for more than the original purchase price, has expired. And it was only on the books in California.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess.

As I write this, the current auction price on the original artwork for the Green Lantern Green Arrow #76 cover is already above $250,000. but you've got until Saturday to outbid them.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sexism & Diversity in Comics
Building on the theme from last week, the topic for Pod Sequentialism #04 is Sexism and Diversity. Has the lack of diversity in comics been the cause of dwindling circulation of monthly comics? It certainly seems to be the case when compared to the sales of young adult novel, which are inherently more inclusive. Considering current ethnic demographics, Why are so many superheroes still so white–and so male?
Click here for the podcast pemalink.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

For Mature Audiences?

Usually when we post the podcast every week at one minute past midnight on Saturday Night / Sunday Morning, the feed hits iTunes within an hour of going live on the Pod Sequentialism page at This weeks show didn't. At first, I thought it was a technical glitch but after several attempts by my engineer, Mason Booker, to reach someone at iTunes we realized that the title of this week's episode (The Straight Story on Gay Superheroes) may have flagged it as content "for mature audiences."

If you've listened to my podcast you know that we handle all topics in a non-juvenile fashion, which by definition could be said to have been handled maturely, but being labeled "for mature audiences" means it's much more difficult for non-subscribers to access and download. It's the equivalent of an R-Rating, which hugely limits the audience for the show.

I'm very careful not to use profanity on air, and I select my guests with that in mind. This week, I had no guest, so it was all me and I didn't use any words that you can't hear on daytime TV or in a PG-Rated movie. In other words, mere discussion of the treatment of LGBT concerns in the comics medium was, itself, enough to flag the episode for suppression-of-sorts by iTunes as though it were a show laced with profanity or hate speech–when in fact it was quite the opposite.

It appears that iTunes views the word "Gay" as an obscenity.

I have no intention of breaking any rules that govern the category division at iTunes. I just find it ridiculous that in the same year the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled in favor of marriage equality, it is possible that something like this would be an issue. Especially at a company like Apple, which is one of the few Fortune 500 companies with an openly gay CEO. We are obviously working hard to resolve this. In the meantime, if you subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, you can view a listing for episode#003, and you can click to download it. If you are not a subscriber, the third episode doesn't even appear on the Pod Sequentialism description page in iTunes.

I'm hoping that this problem is not systemic, and that it is the result of a hastily made decision by a lower ranking employee at Apple. We'll know more soon, and if the info reveals a bigger issue at stake we'll need your help in spreading the word to Buzzfeed, Reddit, The Huffington Post, other news aggregate sites, and GLAAD.

Whether you agree with my point of view or not, I implore you to subscribe to the podcast and download episode #03 as an act against censorship. If you do support greater diversity in comics then it is imperative that you subscribe and download this episode to send the message that equality and the support of civil rights is a just and popular cause.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Straight Story on Gay Superheroes

Pod Sequentialism Episode #03:  The Straight Story on Gay Superheroes.

This special hour-long, in-depth analysis of LGBT representation in mainstream comics grew out of an old column I wrote for Forces of Geek, in which I observed that considering the populations of DC's Metropolis and Gotham, or Marvel's New York and Los Angeles, it may be easier to believe a man can fly than to believe he has no gay friends or relatives. The response I got was astoundingly negative back in 2009, and I read on air some of the hateful letters that column elicited. 

In the years since passed, the track record has gotten better, but it's still nowhere near what it should be if the representation of current culture is to be considered indicative of the times.

Click here for the latest podcast.