Steve Banks' review of the Figge's Comics, Heroes, & American Visual Culture ("A Comic Evolution," River Cities' Reader Issue 640, July 3-10, 2007) draws attention to the maligned art of cartoon illustration, as does the exhibition itself, but they are both not without their considerable flaws.

While Banks points out that early comics artists were employed by the newspapers, the majority of the illustrators featured were largely freelancers, dependent on frequent assignments from editors to keep food on the table. No comics artist ever worked harder in that regard than Jack Kirby, who "produced nearly 21,000 pages of comics art, enough to fill more than 2,600 average comic book stories," according to The Art of Jack Kirby, written by Ray Wyman Jr.

And the alterations applied to the production artwork were not so much the desire of the artists; the "serious image-makers" that Banks suggests were usually the editors directing in-house production to execute various changes they wanted. Before FedEx and the Internet, it was far too time-consuming to have artists making corrections, especially when they could be working on their next assignment.

Which leads to Banks' theory that, "at least with contemporary comic artists," the creators of comics intended them to be considered "art"; that statement would be true for a select few like Neal Adams or Jim Steranko, who sought to elevate the art form by bringing a heightened sense of realism and modern design principles to comics, but a lot of artists working up through the '70s drew comics until something better came along, usually in advertising. Mart Nodell, creator of the original Green Lantern character, achieved greater notoriety and made more money for designing the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Banks observes that comics have been "derided for being simplistic kiddie-fare, with their unsophisticated plots," but his art-history analogy falls short of the "fresco." If he had cited recent examples like Neil Gaiman's Sandman or Alan Moore's Watchmen, his argument would have sturdier legs. Anyone who believes comics are still simplistic after reading those titles alone might as well bury his or her head back in the sand.

As for the exhibition itself, it's a severe oversight that the original research neglected to give several of the ink artists credit for their work on some of the actual comics pages presented. Most comics artists were not fast enough to produce pencils and inks on monthly comic books, so production was often split up between those who were best at penciling or inking. To singularly honor penciler Rich Buckler for Superman Vs. Shazam and not recognize inker Dick Giordano (who applied the "brush and ink" stated on the label) is akin to giving sole credit to John Lennon and ignoring Paul McCartney for writing "Hey Jude." That's just one example in the exhibition; there are more.

But that's no fault of the Figge's curatorial department led by curator Michelle Robinson; they've done a masterful job of presenting this showcase of artful marvels to the community, and they have my sincere thanks for doing so. Comics, Heroes, & American Visual Culture is an exhibition that can delight a wide audience of all ages, which the Figge desperately needs. In the immortal words of Stan Lee: "Face front, True Believer!"


Bill Douglas



Protect the States from Invasion

As the leader of the Iowa Minutemen, I've seen the power of the grassroots. When Americans set their mind to do something, they know how to get the job done.

The recent demise of the Senate amnesty bill is a great example. In the face of overwhelming support for amnesty from this president, and from those who want an unending supply of cheap labor, "we the people" rose up and emphatically said, "No!" The Capitol switchboard had to shut down before it melted.

The people demanded from the politicians what we in the Minuteman movement have been demanding all along: Protect the states from invasion, as your sworn oath to the Constitution compels you to do. Roll up the red carpet for those who break the law to get into our country. Enforce the laws that are already on the books. Secure the borders.

But this was just one battle. The political war for America's future is far from over. Our borders remain porous. Thousands of invaders continue to pour into our country every day. The laws remain largely unenforced. And the Ted Kennedys and Tom Harkins of the Senate continue to thwart the will of the people and the rule of law.

That's why we're not going to let up on them. That's why we won't stop until our country is secure. To paraphrase John Paul Jones, "We have only just begun to fight!"


Craig Halverson

State Director

Iowa Minuteman Civil Defense Corps

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