Comics and the U.S. South

Comics and the U.S. South

Brannon Costello
Qiana J. Whitted
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 304
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tv852
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  • Book Info
    Comics and the U.S. South
    Book Description:

    Comics and the U.S. Southoffers a wide-ranging and long overdue assessment of how life and culture in the United States South is represented in serial comics, graphic novels, newspaper comic strips, and webcomics. Diverting the lens of comics studies from the skyscrapers of Superman's Metropolis or Chris Ware's Chicago to the swamps, back roads, small towns, and cities of the U.S. South, this collection critically examines the pulp genres associated with mainstream comic books alongside independent and alternative comics. Some essays seek to discover what Captain America can reveal about southern regionalism and how slave narratives can help us rereadSwamp Thing; others examine how creators such as Walt Kelly (Pogo), Howard Cruse (Stuck Rubber Baby), Kyle Baker (Nat Turner), and Josh Neufeld (A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge) draw upon the unique formal properties of the comics to question and revise familiar narratives of race, class, and sexuality; and another considers how southern writer Randall Kenan adapted elements of comics form to prose fiction. With essays from an interdisciplinary group of scholars,Comics and the U.S. Southcontributes to and also productively reorients the most significant and compelling conversations in both comics scholarship and in southern studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-019-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction (pp. vii-xvi)
    Brannon Costello and Qiana J. Whitted

    In an early installment of Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Totleben’s ambitious run on the DC Comics horror titleSaga of the Swamp Thing, a mad villain with the power to control plants—Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man—decides to cleanse the earth once and for all of the humans whose careless attitude toward the ecosystem has imperiled the planet’s safety. His master plan unfolds quickly, largely because the staging ground for his assault on humanity—Lacroix, Louisiana—is completely off the radar of DC’s high-profile defenders such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. As the Justice League, floating...

  4. I. The South in the National Imagination
    • Li’l Abner, Snuffy, and Friends The Appalachian South in the American Comic Strip (pp. 3-28)
      M. Thomas Inge

      The comic strip in the United States has largely been an urban-oriented newspaper feature in terms of setting and character, beginning with the Yellow Kid and his urchin friends inHogan’s Alleyin 1894. During the first few decades of development, only occasionally would the rural South enter the comics as coincidental or background material, as in Clare Victor Dwiggins’sTom Sawyer and Huck Finnin 1918 (which paid little allegiance to Mark Twain’s novels), or as an exotic identification for a character, like Captain Easy, who hailed from Savannah, Georgia, in Roy Crane’s rollicking adventure epicWash Tubbs, beginning...

    • Bumbazine, Blackness, and the Myth of the Redemptive South in Walt Kelly’s Pogo (pp. 29-61)
      Brian Cremins

      The swamp holds a significant place in the history of American comic strips and comic books ranging from the funny animals ofPogoto the grotesque creatures ofSwamp Thing. Always a territory for alternate realities, magic, and carnivalesque social satire, the swamp’s significance in the history of comic art may have its roots in the other-dimensional beasts of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” or in the 3-D camp ofCreature from the Black Lagoon. As a location always in the process of change or becoming, the swamp appeals to writers and artists looking to explore grand themes ranging...

    • Southern Super-Patriots and United States Nationalism Race, Region, and Nation in Captain America (pp. 62-88)
      Brannon Costello

      The concept of the superhero has been closely linked with a patriotic, even jingoistic, vision of the United States at least since Captain America socked Adolf Hitler on the cover ofCaptain America#1 in 1941. By the time the U.S. entered the war, Superman and his allies were swatting Japanese planes out of the sky and demolishing Nazi tanks. As comics historians such as Bradford Wright and William Savage have observed, superhero comics achieved a degree of cultural legitimacy during World War II by becoming an unofficial instrument of U.S. propaganda, promoting a view of America as democratic, virtuous,...

    • “The Southern Thing” Doug Marlette, Identity Consciousness, and the Commodification of the South (pp. 89-110)
      Christopher Whitby

      On Saturday July 21, 2007, the family of deceased editorial cartoonist Doug Nigel Marlette received another of many letters offering condolences on his passing and praise for the artist’s sharp wit and ability to treat the most serious of issues with insight and humor. Before offering her final regards, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton commented, “I always loved his contribution to our political dialogue, even if I wasn’t always happy being a character in his cartoons!” (qtd. in Klein). Born December 6, 1949, in Greensboro, North Carolina, Marlette produced thousands of political cartoons, the nationally syndicated stripKudzu, numerous cartoon anthologies...

  5. II. Emancipation and Civil Rights Resistance
    • Drawing the Unspeakable Kyle Baker’s Slave Narrative (pp. 113-137)
      Conseula Francis

      Even a cursory reading of Kyle Baker’sNat Turner(serialized from 2005–2007 and collected in 2008) reveals two things. First, the story is incredibly violent. Nearly every page features a gruesome act of graphic violence, or, at the very least, some consequence of violence. Second, in telling the story of Turner’s life up to and including his infamous 1831 slave insurrection, Baker seems to, as critic Marc Singer suggests, attempt to “jazz up slavery with chases and fight scenes and huge Frank Miller heroes who battle dozens of guys in silhouette” (“Kyle Baker”). For some readers these features might...

    • “Black and White and Read All over” Representing Race in Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece’s Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery (pp. 138-160)
      Tim Caron

      At the conclusion of his essay on Spike Lee’s film,Bamboozled, visual culture theorist W. J. T. Mitchell meditates on the literal meaning of the phrase “the color line,” a term which, he points out, is “something of an oxymoron” if it is taken literally. As he says,

      Color is, in traditional pictorial aesthetics and epistemology, the “secondary” characteristic—evanescent, superficial, and subjective—in relation to the “primary quality” of line, which connotes the real, tangible features of an object, and which isthe central feature of the stereotype and caricature as linear figures. Color cannot be delineated or touched,...

    • Everybody’s Graphic Protest Novel Stuck Rubber Baby and the Anxieties of Racial Difference (pp. 161-184)
      Gary Richards

      In any number of ways,Stuck Rubber Baby, Howard Cruse’s 1995 graphic novel, is a mesmerizing text that broke new ground, particularly with its unique marriage of genre and content. A gay cartoonist who, since the 1970s, has created such iconographic series asBarefootzandWendel, Cruse again deploys the graphic form inStuck Rubber Babyto explore a set of tensions surrounding the racial and sexual politics of the Deep South in the 1960s.¹ To do so, via something of an updating of Huckleberry Finn and Scout Finch, Cruse creates as narrator and central protagonist Toland Polk, an apparently...

  6. III. The Horrors of the south
    • Of Slaves and Other Swamp Things Black Southern History as Comic Book Horror (pp. 187-213)
      Qiana J. Whitted

      Of the many captivating changes that British comic book writer Alan Moore brought to his run on the DC ComicsSwamp Thingseries from 1984–1987, two are especially significant. He began by reconceptualizing the character’s physiological structure as sentient plant matter, rather than as the mutated and monstrous human being first developed by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson in 1971.¹ All that was left of biochemist Alec Holland after the bio-restorative formula explosion plunged him into the swamp slime wasconsciousness; Moore revealed that the creature was little more than living vegetation in the shape of a man, one...

    • Crooked Appalachia The Laughter of the Melungeon Witches in Mike Mignola’s Hellboy: The Crooked Man (pp. 214-241)
      Joseph Michael Sommers

      To accurately discuss the Melungeons, a group once identified by Library of Congress researchers as the largest “little race” of miscegenated¹ people in the 1960s (Pollitzer 722), or even to discuss the accuracy of Mike Mignola’s representations of them in his 2008 comic book mini-seriesHellboy: The Crooked Man, is a daunting task. The Melungeons are a people somewhat shrouded in mystery, mythology, and, until recently, a history composed more of reportage and conjecture than of rigorous anthropological or ethnographic investigation. Wayne Winkler offers the most succinct and generally agreed-upon definition of the Melungeon people as a group whose cultural...

    • Meat Fiction and Burning Western Light The South in Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher (pp. 242-266)
      Nicolas Labarre

      Published from 1995 to 2000, Preacher is a violent, provocative, and influential series. It was one of the defining titles of the Vertigo imprint, a division of DC Comics aiming at adult readers that emerged from the successes of Alan Moore’sSwamp Thingand Neil Gaiman’sSandman. Scripted by an Irishman, Garth Ennis, and drawn by an Englishman, Steve Dillon, it is a deliberately blasphemous, violent, and profane epic, a quest for an indecisive God in a southern landscape saturated with popular culture.

      With a narrative center located between Louisiana and Texas,Preacherbelongs to the field of southern fiction....

  7. IV. Revisualizing Stories, Rereading Images
    • A Visitation of Narratives Dialogue and Comics in Randall Kenan’s A Visitation of Spirits (pp. 269-292)
      Alison Mandaville

      In his book of essaysThe Fire This Time(2007), North Carolina author Randall Kenan writes, “Comic books were my original vice, and they still have more allure to me than sex or drugs. To spend too much time reading was a sign of laziness or worse. Decided evidence of bad character. Surely in my case this was true” (82). Kenan’s statement associating sex, comics, and sin are echoed in a short anthologized essay he wrote about North Carolina published in 2008. In it he again associates comics and sex by way of his relationship with two older cousins who,...

    • A Re-Vision of the Record The Demands of Reading Josh Neufeld’s A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge (pp. 293-324)
      Anthony Dyer Hoefer

      Near the end of the graphic novelA.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, the author/artist Josh Neufeld recreates an image that was seared into the public consciousness in the fall of 2005: an overhead shot that approximates the vantage point of a cable news helicopter looking down on a crowd of thousands gathered at the doors of New Orleans’s Ernest L. Morial Convention Center. This image, like so many that have come to speak for the event, overwhelms its viewer with its sheer scope: nothing in it is easily quantifiable, and so the viewer can only understand the size of...

  8. About the Contributors (pp. 325-328)
  9. Index (pp. 329-342)

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