Jackie Ormes

For my last Black History Month post, here’s a midcentury cartoonist who’s been popping up all over the place lately.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmdHOkB1SHA&w=350&h=300]

Jackie Ormes (1911-1985) was a Chicago-based cartoonist whose work appeared in African-American newspapers from the 1930s to the 1950s.  Her black female characters were like her: stylish, intelligent, and politically conscious (apparently she was investigated by the FBI during McCarthyism which is a badge of honor in my book).

Torchy Brown in “Dixie to Harlem” by Jackie Ormes, 1930s? From the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library at OSU

In 2008, Nancy Goldstein wrote a biography of Ormes, which may account for the recent flurry of attention?  Having never heard of her, in the past week or so she’s popped up on three comics news sites I regularly visit, which is great!

The images here come from a blog post from the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library at Ohio State University, which is something I should look into as an aspiring librarian…  Appropriately, they also recently announced a Guide to Multicultural Resources highlighting work by African-American, Latino, and Asian-American cartoonists in their collection, so check that out.

Torchy in Heartbeats by Jackie Ormes, 1951.  From the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library at OSU

Ormes is the namesake for the Ormes Society, a group dedicated to supporting black women in the comics business today, so Ormes also serves as a nice bridge between Black History Month and Women’s History Month in March!  Expect that Lady Creators tag to keep on growing…

William Grant Still

William Grant Still photo

So I’ve been neglecting Black History Month all month, mostly due to a busy time in school.  Now that it’s almost over though, let’s try to knock a couple out at least!

William Grant Still (1895-1978) was an African-American composer with a whole slew of firsts for black composers; for our interests, he was the first to have an opera performed by a major American company (that was NYCO, back in 1949) and the first to have one of his operas televised (albeit posthumously).

I was sniffing around for his work online and sadly there isn’t much to be found, but there is a full recording of his last opera, Highway 1, from 1962 available on Spotify…  Apparently this is his only opera that’s been recorded.

Baritone Dorian Hall performs an aria from it above.  For more information on Still, here is a great source for sheet music of much of his work and the most extensive bio I found, on AfriClassical.  One site says that his work is undergoing a revival, so let’s hope that extends to his operas soon!

Turn of the Screw in Brooklyn


I’ll be seeing this on Thursday…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXZTQ4800_o&w=350h=300]

Glad to be going back to the now itinerant New York City Opera after missing them last season.  Ever since this season was announced, I’ve been pumped for The Turn of the Screw by Benjamin Britten and I’m glad to see some positive press from the NY Times and fellow bloggers at Parterre (which has some especially good background on the opera, the inspiring story by Henry James, and the cultural contexts each were created in).

I’ve actually featured this opera a few times before, once for Halloween (it is a ghost story after all), and in a post on the British soprano Jennifer Vyvyan who was the original Governess, who you can actually see in some of the historic images featured in the above video!  The Halloween post featured a link to a full playlist of the opera on YouTube, apparently a 1980s made-for-TV version.  Good prep for seeing it in person…

34th meeting Feb. 25 at 7pm

NYCPSS returns with a pretty Bizarro Twins-appropriate session…

James Romberger's Post York spread

Copyright James Romberger

New York-based artist & cartoonist James Romberger and his son, the musician Crosby will discuss their collaboration on the book Post York, a post-apocalyptic comic by Romberger set in a submerged NYC that’s sold with a song by Crosby that expands on the story.  The meeting will include slide shows of Romberger‘s work and a performance by Crosby, so perfectly interdisciplinary for our interests.

Romberger will also be discussing 7 Miles a Second, soon to be re-released by Fantagraphics (article from Publisher’s Weekly here), a biography of artist David Wojnarowicz which he worked on with his similarly multidisciplinary, Lower-East-Side royalty wife, Marguerite Van Cook, and Wojnarowicz himself.  Sounds like another very interesting story from a very interesting family…

You can also follow Romberger through his writings for The Hooded Utilitarian, a comics and cultural criticism e-mag.

via NYCPS’ 34th meeting, Feb. 25 at 7pm.

That’s Entertainment!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ik8igCUb2i8&w=350&h=300]

Enjoy your super-boring Oscars awards tonight, I think I’ve given up on them, pretty boring.  Not that the above clip is much better?

That’s Entertainment is probably the one hit of the movie it came from, 1953’s The Band Wagon.  I actually inexplicably saw it in a film studies class, and even I, with my soft spot for tacky movie musicals, was a bit… confused by it all.  That being said, it’s apparently beloved by critics and historians, so shows you what I know.

Alt Azn Comix, Last Call

Today is your last chance for free admission to the Museum of Chinese in America in time to see these two comics-themed exhibits before they close on Sunday.  I blogged about them a bit ago, and I enjoyed them, so I recommend it.  MOCA  is free today from 11 am to 9 pm which is nice (and I think different from when I last went?), so check it out!

page from Gene Luen Yang's forthcoming Boxers and Saints

Copyright Gene Luen Yang

One of the exciting pieces included in the exhibit is a set of in-process pages from Gene Luen Yang‘s forthcoming Boxers & Saints, coming from First Second this September.  Yang scored a huge success with his 2006 comic American Born Chinese, and Boxers & Saints sounds equally ambitious.  Yang granted an exclusive interview to Wired about the book (or actually, set of two related books released in a slip cased edition), and it’s sounding very interesting.

EDIT:  Forgot the link to that exclusive interview I mentioned : P  rookie mistake…

Improbable Opera


An improbable source of short new opera is Improbable Research‘s annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony.  Improbable Research collects and conducts offbeat research that “makes people laugh and then think”, as they put it.  The Ig Nobel Prizes are held yearly at Harvard commemorating unusual and imaginative research that can foster interest in science with the blessing of actual Nobel laureates, who hand out the awards.

Since 1996, each awards ceremony has also included the premiere of a new mini-opera written by Marc Abrahams, editor and co-founder of Improbable Research.  They’re included on the Ig Nobel Prize archive page, though most only have the libretto…  However, 2009’s opera, “The Big Bank Opera” is up in full, starting with Act 1:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20B_chX9iiU&w=350&h=300]

And here are Act 2Act 3, and Act 4 to wrap it up.  Enjoy!


There’s a Straniera in my House

Short notice, but at 1:30 today (NY time) you can watch Bellini‘s 1828 La Straniera live streamed from Vienna’s Musikverein.  It’s actually a celebration of soprano Edita Gruberova‘s 45th anniversary of her first appearance on the operatic stage, so that’s cute, right?  Any excuse for free opera works for me I guess.  Be here at 1:30 for free opera.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pw9PewoM2I&w=350&h=300]

Here’s a compilation of Gruberova singing some Straniera arias to get you ready.  You can apparently find full performances of La Straniera with Gruberova on YouTube, in case you miss the live stream.