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by Alison H. Mayer

MAD Magazine really hits home in its newest issue, and we've got your exclusive first look! MAD writer David Shayne and artist Tom Richmond take a stab at the popular thriller series 'Homeland' in MAD #523, comparing the admittedly melodramatic show to "weepy domestic stories...that would make a soap opera writer blush."

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batman1PICON

I don't know what is cooler about this three-day comic book event at Heritage Auctions this weekend -- the tons of awesome rare finds up for sale, or that amazing "Boom-Chicka-Wow-Wow" music playing during their promotion video. No seriously, listen:

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Celebrity and former "Star Trek" actor George Takei recently announced on his Facebook page that he will be guest-starring -- sort of -- in a new "Dick Tracy" storyline. Here's the word from George:

"Beginning last Sunday (Jan. 13), and continuing for about two months, the Dick Tracy comic strip on Sundays is featuring a storyline involving me and my husband Brad. I appear under the name "George Tawara." The story has a WWII internment connection, and we are truly honored to be a part of it." Read More...

The nearly 60-year-old mini comic included in packets of Bazooka bubble gum are ending as the brand gets a visual overhaul and new flavor. According to a profile of the gum maker at the New York Times, the eye patch-wearing mascot is going away in favor of brain teasers and codes for videos and video games.

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According to L.A. Times, Fox has officially announced that FX house and animation studio Blue Sky, the people behind the CG "Ice Age" features, is producing a feature-length animated film based on Charles Schulz's strip. And from the sounds of it, it's going to be CG.

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You might be familiar with Flash Gordon from the 1980 cult movie (humorously referenced in the recent film "Ted") or the 1970s Filmation animated series -- but the story all began back in January 1934 in the newspapers. Created by Alex Raymond, the original "Flash Gordon" had a quality of art more akin to the lush quality of book illustrations than serialized comic strips. What followed through the many years of its run would inspire several generations of comic artists including Alex Ross. Writes Ross in the introduction to Titan's new stellar collection of the earliest Raymond strips, "Flash Gordon On The Planet Mongo":

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Before  Bart, Homer, Lisa, Fry, and Bender there was "Life In Hell" -- Matt Groening's comic strip about a bitter rabbit named Binky and his illegitimate one-eared son named Bongo. Why has Groening decided to pull the plug on the long-running comic? "Thirty-two years is a long time to do it," he told USA Today. "I love the characters, I love doing it, but it was just time."

It was "Life In Hell," which appeared in a variety of alternative newspapers for over three decades, that brought Groening to the attention of producer James L. Brooks. Brooks went on to hire the cartoonist to create animated shorts for FOX's "The Tracy Ullman Show" -- those shorts becoming what we all know now as "The Simpsons." Read More...

Brenda Starr, Reporter: The Collected Daily and Sunday Strips: Volume One, from Hermes Press, is a slick and smartly-packaged reprint collection of the famous heroine's earliest adventures. Created by Dale Messick in 1940, Brenda Starr has gone on to run in newspapers for over 60 years, and even spawned a feature film starring Brooke Shields. With its last strip published at the beginning of this month, now is a great time to look back at the world's most iconic fictional female reporter (outside of, perhaps, Lois Lane).

As rendered by Messick, Starr looks like a cross between a pulp heroine and a fashion illustration -- indeed, the lush, gorgeous art is one of the biggest reasons to buy this collection. With her sparkling-bright eyes, flowing hair, and epic wardrobe, Starr captivates every scene she is in. But lest you think that is where Messick's talents end, she could also take a turn for the grotesque and dark, as in seen in what is easily the best story of this book, "The Curious Tale Of Mary Elizabeth Beastly." Reprinted in sumptuous black-and-white, the art takes on the quality of Chester Gould's Dick Tracy, complete with freakish visages and creepy masks.

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Details are sketchy -- and I mean, we've got nothing to go on but a promotional picture at this point -- but it looks like the Peanuts gang are going to have some brand-new adventures:

Boom! Studios, under their newly-branded "Kaboom" kids imprint,  has apparently acquired the license to put out comic books starring Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest. Will these be reprints or new stories? If new stories, will they retain the look and feel of the classic comic strip, or be more like the newer animated TV specials? Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

Not that long ago, the only comics that most Americans read were printed in the newspaper. There were the standard gag-a-day comics like Blondie and Peanuts, of course, and more dramatic, serialized narratives like The Phantom and Mary Worth, whose storylines would run over the course of weeks and months. As the 20th century waned, these latter strips became less common and the comics page of any given newspaper was almost exclusively given over to the likes of Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible and Marmaduke.

Comic strips were largely controlled by what are called syndicates. These basically act as middlemen between the comic strip creators and the newspapers. Not unlike how an agent negotiates between an actor and a film studio. With barely a handful of comics syndicates, that means that the newspaper funnies across the U.S. are hand-selected by a small group of men based on what they think people will want to see.

Of course, that was all before the Internet. Comic creators now don’t need to go through a syndicate. They don’t even need to deal with a newspaper. They can publish whatever comic they want online.

These are webcomics.

The term “webcomics” is perhaps not ideal. There are a lot of comics that can be found on the web. You can go to Garfield.com or HeathcliffComics.com and read those cats’ adventures on the web too, but they’re essentially just republishing material that was meant for the newspaper. Webcomics are those that were published first (and possibly only) online.

As I suggested earlier, a prime benefit of webcomics is being able to publish a comic without a syndicate filtering the work. Anyone can publish their own comic and many people do. So it should come as no surprise that, even back in 2007, there were 18,000 readily countable webcomics being published online, with some estimates of the total number ranging up over 35,000. Compare that to the 200 or so that the major syndicates deal with.

Now, admittedly, many of those comics probably aren’t very good. Sturgeon’s Law states, “90% of everything is crud” after all. But even 10% of 18,000 is still nine times more than all of the newspaper strips, so there’s bound to be something there for everybody!

See, not only are there a lot more webcomics to choose from, but they range all over the map in terms of genre and style. Some are based on gaming humor, some on fantasy adventures, some on slice-of-life moments, some on exotic space epics. There are webcomics made with simple pen and ink tools, some made with 1980s-style computer sprites, some made with cut paper, some made out of century-old clip art. The range of what’s available, especially in comparison to the 20th century, is staggering. Read More...

By Nick Nadel

If you’re even remotely familiar with the webcomics scene, chances are you’ve heard about Kate Beaton. Since launching her web site, Hark! A Vagrant in 2008, Beaton’s hilarious takes on everything from “Nancy Drew” to Aquaman have earned her a healthy following (over half a million unique visitors a month) and work in both The New Yorker and Marvel’s Strange Tales II (her “Kraven goes to the prom” story was one of the high points of the series).

So it’s no surprise that Beaton’s first hardcover collection will be released from Drawn & Quarterly this fall. Featuring material from her popular web site along with brand new strips, the new Hark! A Vagrant collection should expose Beaton to an even wider audience. (A self-published collection, “Never Learn Anything from History,” is available through Topatoco.) Beaton possesses an uncanny ability to skewer stuffy historical figures, great works of literature, and comic book self-seriousness (her surly, chain-smoking Wonder Woman is one of the most vivid depictions of the character in years) while also showcasing her subject’s basic human foibles. Now that she’s joined the home of Adrian Tomine, Daniel Clowes and other indie comix greats, it’s safe to say Beaton’s profile will only rise higher. Which is great news for fans of fat ponies and Nikola Tesla’s swarthy mustache.

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After 70 years of service, Brenda Starr follows fellow red-head Little Orphan Annie into retirement. The Chicago Tribune reports that the comic strip "Brenda Starr, Reporter" -- which at one point ran in 250 newspapers -- will end on January 2nd. "Starr's" long-time creative team, Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich and June Brigman, have decided to end their association with the adventures of the adventurous female reporter -- and rather than find replacements for them, the Tribune decided to end the strip.

"There's sadness about stopping, but no regret and no ambivalence," Schmich told the Tribune. "It came to me really clearly that I was done. … I don't think the character is dead. But the comic strip in this form is."

This leaves the question open: might Brenda Starr rise again in a medium other than newspaper strips? Could a comics publisher like Dynamite or IDW bring new life to the iconic character, turning her into a comic book "superheroine" of sorts? Read More...

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