Sam and Sally bring us a whole crew of Pittsburgh cartoonists, thoughts on Problem Solverz, and our Thursday crop of comic strips!
Sam Ombiri here: I’ve been reaaaallly sloooooooowly reading Tao Lin’s Taipei and so far so good – it’s been great. Maybe it’s because Juan Fernandez referred me to this (“the peace tape” – a Paper Rad film) but I’ve been thinking about Problem Solverz a lot, and how great it was to see it when I did. It seems to have the exact same effect now as when I first saw it, so it summons an emotion that’s already in people, I think, or I could just be making it up.
I was thinking of how I sometimes sense a sentiment in it that is similar to what excited me about watching some webtoons, and of course reading certain comics I have read, which I see as processing somethin’. I see it as proof that Problem Solverz summoned, or showcased, or manifested in the best way something that is a little inexpressible. In dreams when you try to render this thing fully it disappears, but Problem Solverz is very well expressed, and remains exceedingly potent even as time passes. There is a lot of space and then the conflict of what to utilize it for – so then are you surrendering to one purpose with which to define yourself? Maybe? Maybe not. Ben Jones did refer to Problem Solverz as a coming of age story.
Anyway, I was in middle school when it was airing – me and my one buddy were excited about it. My friend told me how he got excited at the episode with the Awesome Banditz from Pittsburgh. It was my favorite show as it was airing, so as a fanboy I also remember being frustrated with these people on YouTube who were in their late twenties or early twenties (at least that’s how I perceived them at the time). I was really annoyed. I was like, “Why are these people trying to get rid of this show that was certainly made more so for people my age?” (was it? I don’t have a clue) and then I would get lambasted by 90’s kids who couldn’t stop talking about how much better their childhood was. I’m sure it was great and the shows they loved were great, but c’mon.
(I wonder if that’s what Brian Chippendale meant in that Puke Force strip when he was thanking the YouTube commenters on Problem Solverz for being “great dialogue fuel”. No, probably not. How could it be? It just meant what it meant.) – Sam Ombiri
Check out Dan Nadel’s thoughts on Problem Solverz – publishing on The Comics Journal the day the first episode aired – HERE.
1-26-2017 – Sam Ombiri
Sally Ingraham here: The Glassblock sat down with Marcel Walker recently for a lengthy conversation about his work and Pittsburgh-based comics projects. While sifting through sketches and concept drawings they talked about his process and discussed “the long gestation of Hero Corp., how our favorite superheroes work for corporate America, and the importance of education and history in the Chutz-Pow! series“.
Marcel is a well-known figure in the Pittsburgh comics scene. He’s an educator and activist whose work often directly gives back to the community – like the Chutz-Pow! series, which was made in partnership between the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh and The ToonSeum.
As Marcel says:
“… comics can also teach you broader things. They can teach you about other segments of our society and culture. There’s a story that ran in EC Comics back in the ’50s. The story was called “Judgment Day.” It’s a science fiction story with a wonderful twist at the end. It’s a story with a social moral, [addressing segregation], that’s obvious—so obvious that the Comics Code Authority almost didn’t allow that story to be published. Fortunately, the publishers resisted that, they make a stink, and eventually the story was published. That’s an example of just doing your thing; tell that story because you know the moral is right.“
Nathaniel Broadus is another member of the Pittsburgh comics community – and he too is an activist and youth advocate. He has been writing a story called Police State (or, the comic he never wanted to write):
“To be honest, when I initially sat down to write, my story wasn’t at all about social justice in any real sense. I wanted to write about hip hop, and I wanted to write about super heroes. I crafted a story in my head about a young rapper with gobs of desire, but not much ability, who is unwillingly corralled into an intergalactic battle of the bands. As I sat down to craft the universe of my fun loving, aloof hero, Ferguson burned.“
After returning home from enlistment Nathaniel was having trouble transitioning back into civilian life. He found inspiration and new purpose within his community in Pittsburgh, and wound up on a new front-line – that of “the war to improve this world for every single person“. Writing Police State is part of that mission.
Yona Harvey (another Pittsburgher) is going to keep writing comics! Last year she wrote a story for the series World Of Wakanda,and now she will be applying her poet’s pen to a new series. She and Ta-Nehisi Coates announced a new Black Panther spin-off titled Black Panther & The Crew – coming soon. The series will revive the world of Christopher Priest’s mini-series The Crew and introduce the Black Panther to Harlem.
From the interview/announcement on Time, Ta-Nehisi Coates speaking:
“There’s this concept in comic books of street characters—characters who mostly deal with street-level stories—those are your Daredevils, your Luke Cages, things that are considered lower-tier. And then you have your more cosmic level heroes, like The X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Avengers, that sort of thing. What we have in this book is a group of characters that operate on both levels. What does it mean to protect the street and protect the world? How are those things connected? What happens when T’Challa is walking down the street without his [Black Panther] uniform and people don’t recognize him, he’s just a black person? Same with Storm.“
Yona Harvey was asked how her poetry has played into writing for comics. Her reply:
“For the first project (World of Wakanda) I kept resisting. I thought being a poet was a negative somehow. But then I had to embrace what poets do, examine tiny details and draw out a larger story. And it helps with the language and the voice of the characters. I have this little trick where I imagine the poetic voice of the character, whether it’s very terse or romantic or sensitive.“
(Shannon Wright is an alum of the Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers – the comic she made for the course can be seen HERE!)
Since Pittsburgh is so heavily on my mind today, check out Frank’s Blast Furnace Funnies over on the school store. Originally made for the Biennial at the Carnegie Museum in 2011, this is the 16-page tabloid newspaper comic that was stacked in the corner of the gallery space. The original pages hung on the wall. As Bill Boichel puts it in his review for Copacetic Comics:
“In a signature Santoro move, Blast Furnace Funnies is a work of “High” (i.e., museum quality) art executed in the lowest of the “Low” art forms (a disposable newspaper); employing ephemerality to evoke eternity, he has here worked (in a form that often ends up) in the gutter to reach for the stars.“
Suzy and Cecil – 1-26-2017 – by Sally Ingraham
Joanie and Jordie – 1-26-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio
1-26-2017 – by Juan Fernández