Bulletproof black man flips the script in Harlem.
So, we watched the entirety of the new Netflix series Luke Cage. Our love of blaxploitation films made it mandatory. Of course, Luke Cage isn't blaxploitation—it's serious black-oriented drama. But anyway we queued it up. For those who don't know, the series is based on a Marvel Comics character who was a bulletproof, super strong black man who lived in Harlem. The show does away with the comic book Cage's bright yellow costume, but leaves the Harlem setting, political machinations, and dealings of crime kingpins that intertwine as normal people try to get on with their lives.
Most members of the sizable cast are black except for several supporting roles, and the occasional one-off—i.e., a technician here, an office worker there. The series is basically an exact negative of about 10,000 television shows over the years that cast blacks in supporting roles. A vocal percentage of the public is not dealing well with it. Some call the show racist. It made us think of the famous unattributed quote: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” These racially sensitive critics watched How I Met Your Mother, Arrested Development, True Detective and scores of other lily white television shows in droves, but the existence of a single show like Luke Cage is threatening.
But let's put all that aside for the moment. Is the show any good? There are some of the same failings as other action-oriented series, but on the whole it's entertaining. Just be forewarned—it's akin to The Wire more than any superhero extravaganza. The characters are deeply explored. Serious comic book action fans will be disappointed. And second, the complete immersion into an African American culture will be unfamiliarto many viewers. In the end, you simply have to have an interest in the premise and the characters to enjoy the show. For us, the immersion into a nearly 100% black Harlem is one of the show's strengths. For others, not seeing characters that remind them of themselves will be alienating. And that's absolutely acceptable in terms of deciding how to spend one's hard earned free time selecting television shows. Such people should say they aren't interested in the premise. They shouldn't make phony claims that the show is racist.
We think American broadcast media need more shows that reflect reality. Here's the reality—the U.S. is both diverse and extraordinarily segregated. 75% of white Americans have zero black friends, while around 60% of blacks have zero white friends. 100% white environments and white points of view have been shown on television for decades. Luke Cage airs a black point of view, with complex relationships, romantic entanglements, ambitions, dreams, and dealings with harsh realities. There should be room for that, particularly considering television history. On a completely different note, we really are looking forward, twenty or thirty years from now, to a scholarly examination of all these damned superhero shows and movies. There's a real pathology here.
Novedades Editores takes readers on a five city tour of street crime and murder.
Mexican pulp art has grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to the efforts of vendors and collectors. It differs from U.S. pulp in that it was produced decades later—during the 1970s and forward. The covers you see here today are prime examples of what is generally classified as Mexican pulp, made for the comic book series El libro policiaco, or "The Police Book," and published by Novedades Editores during the early 2000s. The series was so popular that, like the U.S. television show C.S.I., the books diversified into multiple cities—New Orleans, New York City, Miami, Chicago, and San Francisco. Each city's stories centered around a local police department staffed by a multi-ethnic array of cops and support personnel. And as the banner text proclaims, the interior art was indeed in color, ninety-two pages of it per issue. All the covers here were created by Jorge Aviña, an artist who began his career during the 1970s, and has had his work exhibited in London, Switzerland, Barcelona, and Paris. We'll have more from El libro policiaco a bit later.
Hookers, sports cars, yachts, serious consideration as a U.S. presidential candidate—I can buy anything now!
Here’s that unidentified Mexican artist from a few weeks ago again and he’s got a theme going with the money and the cruelty. This time the tables are turned. The person with the cash in this piece entitled Matenme por Piedad, is about meet a bad end via strangulation, whereas last time the money guy was winning. We like this one better.
What do I look like? A guy with a heart or something? Don’t let the door hit you in the culo on the way out.
This piece of Mexican pulp-style art depicting a woman being evicted by an evil landlord was made during the early 1980s, but it’s appropriate for today’s era of millions of evictions a year, which goes to show that the more shit changes the more it stays the same. The piece is entitled El pez grande... roba al chico, or “the big fish robs the small one,” a phrase that pretty much sums up the last few decades. The painting was made for a Mexican graphic novel series entitled Jungla de asfalto, or Asphalt Jungle, and it’s probably the most technically accomplished piece of Mexican cover art we’ve come across. It’s initialed, but, as you can see, in such baroque style that it’s impossible to discern the letters. What do you think? Is that “FE”? “TE”? We have no idea. Thus the piece is unidentified, at least for now. See more Mexican pulp-style art beginning here.
Aw, somebody’s made a little mess again, hasn’t he?
It’s been a while, so here’s another… erm, interesting piece of Mexican neo-pulp. This painting featuring a fanged baby only a mother could love is entitled Mi mamá me mima, which means “my mother spoils me,” and it was made during the 1980s for Mexico’s popular comic book/graphic novel market. Honestly, we like these Mexican pieces. There’s something a bit high-school art class about the execution of them, but they manage to work in the part of brain that generates bad dreams. This particular nightmare is unsigned.
Once upon a time in old Mexico.
Mexico’s old west mythology is as strong as the U.S.’s, probably owing to the fact that most of the old west actually was Mexico at one point. That love of western stories comes across strongly in these cover paintings made for Mexico’s 1970s and 1980s comic book market. Many of them were made for the series Sensacional de Vaquero, or Sensational Cowboy, published by Mexico City-based Editorial EJEA, which was founded by Everardo Flores. The scenes depicted are incredibly chaotic and violent—everybody that can be killed, seemingly, is killed, including horses and innocent bystanders. The backgrounds of some of the scenes are interesting, and are worth taking a close look at. The creators here have names such as Beton, Nique, and Jaime S., while others we cannot identify because their signatures, while stylish, are illegible. The art is perhaps not of the quality seen on pulp novels, but it’s certainly effective. Twenty total scans for your enjoyment, and you can see a few examples here, here, and here.
Think you have trouble getting laid? Try dealing with this guy’s problem.
Above are assorted covers of the Italian fumetto Pig, which first appeared in 1983 from Ediperiodici. Pig was reprinted in both French and Spanish, though the French editions ran into trouble from authorities that saw the content as promoting bestiality. You’d have to be a real prude to see it that way, because this is pretty funny stuff. An experiment gone awry has given the protagonist a pig’s head, and if he doesn’t have sex regularly he’ll transform past the point of no return. Since he has a pig’s head, the sex thing is a bit tricky, but through sheer animal charm he manages. So what’s your excuse for not scoring? We bet you have a human head, so quit your bellyaching.
As a side note, this comic brings to mind the time we worked for a production company in L.A., which at some point began scouring the country for graphic novels with cinema potential. Once word got out in the comic community we began receiving dozens of submissions a week, all of which had to be evaluated for merit. There was one guy who sent in something called Pork, and the idea was that a pig was elected to the U.S. Senate. We loved that one and gave it highest marks, but others in the company just didn't get it. Disagreement over the concept contributed to us getting fired. Which just goes to show how stupidly literal some people are.
Anyway, we have some interior scans from issue number 63 of Pig below. In those pages the hero calls himself Dick Saroyan and seemingly is a writer or journalist. However, we’ve seen online that the pig is actually named Mark, so maybe in this issue he’s involved in some sort of undercover caper. Regardless, he ends up getting laid and that's all that really matters for him, lest he transform into 100% swine. Have a look below. The art, which is by Averardo Ciriello, is pretty graphic, but that's why it's per adulti.
Why thank you. I’ll put this right into my secret account at HSBC.
It’s been a while since we shared any Mexican pulp art, so here’s a nice example—it’s entitled “Líderes aprovechado,” which means “exploited leaders,” and it depicts the buying off of a politician. How unsophisticated—don’t they know if they follow certain procedures this becomes a perfectly legal campaign donation? They need to look north for inspiration. Anyway, this painting and others we’ve shared were made for Mexico’s cheapie paperback and comic book markets during the seventies and eighties. You can see a few other examples here, here, and here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1918—Wilson Goes to Europe
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sails to Europe for the World War I peace talks in Versailles, France, becoming the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office.
1921—Arbuckle Manslaughter Trial Ends
In the U.S., a manslaughter trial against actor/director Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle ends with the jury deadlocked as to whether he had killed aspiring actress Virginia Rappe during rape and sodomy. Arbuckle was finally cleared of all wrongdoing after two more trials, but the scandal ruined his career and personal life.
1964—Mass Student Arrests in U.S.
In California, Police arrest over 800 students at the University of California, Berkeley, following their takeover and sit-in at the administration building in protest at the UC Regents' decision to forbid protests on university property.
1968—U.S. Unemployment Hits Low
Unemployment figures are released revealing that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 3.3 percent, the lowest rate for almost fifteen years. Going forward all the way to the current day, the figure never reaches this low level again.
1954—Joseph McCarthy Disciplined by Senate
In the United States, after standing idly by during years of communist witch hunts in Hollywood and beyond, the U.S. Senate votes 65 to 22 to condemn Joseph McCarthy for conduct bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute. The vote ruined McCarthy's career.
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