International Space Age Comics

The European Space Agency broke onto the scene (or at least my consciousness) in a big way this year with their Rosetta project.  If you haven’t heard about this, I’m definitely not the person to explain it, but let’s say that Rosetta pulled up alongside a moving comet after a decade, then landed the Philae probe onto that moving comet.  Exciting stuff!

This was the first I’d heard about the European Space Agency, but going through the archives of one of my new favorite webcartoonists recently, the Frenchman Boulet, I found out that he’d been invited onto a reduced gravity aircraft by the Centres Nationales d’Etudes Spatiales to experience Zero-G and make comics about it!

His comic about the experience covers the anxious build-up, the kinds of experiments being run on the craft, and of course the main attraction, the experience of weightlessness…

The further back I go into Boulet‘s archive, the more I see why he was invited on this trip, as an amateur science enthusiast with some strong opinions about space exploration, as well as some strikingly exquisite sci-fi imaginings, as below…

And of course, as far as space exploration outside the US goes, there was a more direct, and more controversial, comic response to another noteworthy space mission, this time out of India:

Political cartoon on India's Mars Mission by Heng Kim Song

India’s Budget Mission to Mars, political cartoon by Heng Kim Song in New York Times

Singaporean cartoonist Heng Kim Song made the above comic in response to the Indian Space Research Organization’s Mars Orbiter Mission, which was done on the cheap but has succeeded in orbiting Mars.  The cartoon caused a bit of a furor with the New York Times apologizing for running it, but India is definitely an unexpected entrant to the space race…  But the democratization of space exploration is an exciting prospect; the more the merrier, science wins all around!

40 Years of Funky

Today’s Saturday morning cartoon post is about a new exhibit on black cartoon characters up at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (host to the Black Comics Fest a few weeks ago).

Specifically charting the increasingly positive depictions of black characters in cartoons from the 1970s, the show is actually the first traveling exhibit of the Museum of Uncut Funk, founded by Sista ToFunky (favorite comic? Heroes for Hire) in 2009.

The show features characters like the Jackson 5ive, Harlem GlobeTrotters, and of course Fat Albert:

One noteworthy cartoon here is “Kid Power“, which I’d never heard of, but was based on Morrie Turner‘s nationally syndicated multicultural comic strip Wee Pals.  Turner died in January of this year.

If you can’t make it to New York, you can see selections from the museum’s animation collection online.

Jackie Ormes

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


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…

The History (Motion Comic) Books are Written

It’s been a week since the 2012 presidential election, and the official history has finally arrived in the form of a strange strolly motion comic from the UK’s Guardian, America: Elect!

America: Elect!By The Guardian‘s US Interactive Team, Richard Adams, and Erin McCann

Interesting to see the history of this screwball election as seen from across the pond…