In Review: Hey Kids! Comics! #5

A dual firing and an infamous publication create complications for those that create comics.

The covers: The first of two covers is painful. The Regular cover is by Don Cameron and has someone looking through a store window at several Powerhouse toys. Unseen Irwin Glaser is holding up his check that’s for merchandise profit sharing for the character he co-created in 1938. The check is for $4.68. Oof. Great cover with incredibly sad meaning. Howard Chaykin’s Variant cover is a Hero Initiative cover with proceeds from this issue going to this worthwhile organization. The front of the book features a young, long haired artist wearing a paisley shirt looking up from a sketch to smile at two older fans, while two younger fans watch him work. It says “There For You Then” at the bottom. The back cover features the Hero Initiative logo at the top, behind the now-older artist, whose hair is almost gone, sporting the same smile at two older fans, while two younger watch. The text at the bottom reads “There For Them Now.” Very cool. Overall grades: Both A

The story: This final issue, for now, by Howard Chaykin opens in 1945 with Ray Clarke drawing something in his mother’s kitchen late at night and not wanting to show her. The next day Ray leaves Tobasco Publishing and bumping into Ted Whitman who’s drawing the same content. Neither is pleased with what they’re illustrating, but a check is a check. In Connecticut at Fine Comics Incorporated, Benita Heindel complains to the editor that they can’t print a book because the colors are off register and the lettering is a joke. She’s rebuked by the editor. “Where the f***’d you ever get the idea we’re in the comic book business for quality?” However the worst day is occurring for Irwin Glaser and Ira Gelbart who are fired by Yankee Comics, even though they created the first superhero, Powerhouse. At McSweeny’s the three leads discuss the firing of the men who “invented everything.” Though Ray is quick to add, “And Sid here invented everything else.” Just as the leads thinks things have reached rock bottom, Fredric Wertham comes out with a publication that gains notoriety. This infamous book causes immense damage to the industry with everyone’s career coming under fire. In 1965 Bob Rose and Verve Comics rule the day with artists bending over backwards to get pages finished. The incident on Page 17 I’ve heard repeated several times and I’ve read about the pain on 18 many times, causing me to think very differently of Pop Art. 2001 has three more funerals attended with what’s said painful to endure. 2015 is then visited with a court case decided and the industry on fire for some creators. The final four pages of the book were bittersweet. It’s a momentary positive moment in the careers of two creators and I was happy for them and saddened by what I knew would be coming. Chaykin delivers the dirt in this fictional history. Overall grade: A 

The art: Howard Chaykin creates tone with just an image. The city outside Ray’s mother’s house will transport readers to the forties for the street, its people, and the cars. Look at the tired face on Ray, showing he’s not happy with what he’s doing. This look of pain is mirrored by his mother in the final panel. Even after dropping off pages, Ray’s not happy, but at least Ted can find humor in him and Ray doing the same type of work by showing a smile. The setting on 3 is as good as that on the opening page. Take a gander at how confused Benita is by her boss’s words — her face clearly communicates her loss at what’s being said to her. And that editor’s face — Wow! He’s as lost as Ray is on Page 1. The sixth page has the gang at this series’ familiar watering hole with Chaykin employing long horizontal panels to show several characters, ending each with a single panel on one character to focus on an individual’s reaction. Page 8 repeats this layout to show that nothing has really changed in ten years — a slick way to visually show how things remain the same. Page 10 is a brutal page that signifies the times for creators. The collection of covers on 11 are terrific, representing the various books under fire at the time. I love Bob Rose behind the scenes on 13 and how he changes personalities when he’s not alone. I really like the differences in the characters’ work from Page 14 and 15 when they change publishers. 19 – 21 show three funerals. Each have the same layout, but what happens at each is very visually different. Page 22 ends at the San Diego Comic-Con and I swear I’ve seen that broadcast. The last page of the book made me smile for the joy it captured. The book also credits digital effects by Calvin Nye and additional material by Jed Dougherty, Ramon Torrez, Ken Bruzenak. Overall grade: A

The colors: I so appreciate colorists that can create night time settings without obscuring the art in ebony. Wil Quintana is a colorist who knows exactly how to create evening scenes. For example, look at the excellent job in the opening panel that shows a street in New York. It’s obviously night, but every element of the art can still be scene. I like the mustard yellow that is used for the background behind Ray and his mother, making the characters stand out in their panels. Characters’ skin colors are also extremely well done: check out Ray, Ted, and Anita on Pages 2 and 3. Look at how colors create lighting effects on 4 and 5 that look realistic. The interiors of McSweeny’s are classic with wood colors, plus the waft of cigarette gray smoke that circulates. I like how the colors at this location get darker in 1950’s to show the change in the era, as well as the darker tone for what’s occurring. The bright colors of a modern day comic con look perfect in the book’s penultimate tale, while that object on the final page is beautiful. Overall grade: A

The letters: Ken Bruzenak creates this issue’s text, which includes scene settings, narration, dialogue, a Yiddish-English amalgamation, signage, sounds, and television text. Every issue of this series has had outstanding scene settings, which are the year the stories are set, accompanied by equally impressive narration. They set the time and personalize the tales with a text that resembles something out of a memoir. Though only on the first page, the Yiddish-English hybrid lettering is fantastic, resembling the ancient text, yet readable for those that can’t understand it. It’s excellent. The signage throughout the book is also really neat and the few sounds that appear visually match the actions creating those noises, with bing bong making me laugh. Overall grade: A 

The final line: A dual firing and an infamous publication create complications for those that create comics. The stories are dramatic, the characters engaging, and the truth in this fiction brutal. You can’t say you know everything about comics until you read this series. Brace yourself! Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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