Happy Halloween! Welcome to this week’s Playhouse Comics Club! (The image above is from Ryan Andrews’ YA graphic novel This Was Our Pact, about middle-school boys who vow to stay together as they follow paper lanterns down the river, to discover where the lanterns end up. The first chapter of Pact is available on Andrews’ website, and you should also visit Andrews’ Instagram!)

 

Flashback time: Collegeville Costumes and Ben Cooper Costumes created America’s Post-World War II Halloween. Both companies manufactured and mass-marketed those costumes with plastic masks and elastic strings that all the kids wore—and adults will remember—from the 1960s and 1970s. Here’s a history of Ben Cooper Costumes, and here’s a link to an amazing Pinterest account featuring over 300 pictures of those cheap but beloved Halloween costumes-in-a-box.

 

Add real-life science fiction to your Halloween reading with Andy Warner and Sophie Goldstein’s 500 Days to Mars, a visual essay about the difficulties of rocketing to the Red Planet, the toll such a long trip in space might take on an astronaut’s psyche, and the human curiosity that makes us explorers. Supplement Warner and Goldstein’s piece with a gander at the art of painter Chesley Bonestell, the “Father of Modern Space Art,” who composed imaginative yet realistic planetary vistas and spaceships at a time when the Cold War Space Race was just (literally) taking off. Here’s a brief biography of Bonestell, here’s an image gallery, and here’s a Pinterest account with hundreds of Bonestell’s visionary paintings.

 

 

 

 

Currently at the Museum of Wisconsin Art is the exhibit Wisconsin Funnies: Fifty Years of Comics, a display of “nearly two hundred works by twenty-five artists that illustrate the major themes, innovations, and publications that characterize the state’s past half-century of comic art.” In conjunction with the exhibit, there’s a series of short videos on YouTube, focusing on commentary by long-time Wisconsin publisher Denis Kitchen and museum curator Jim Danky. (Some of the material in the exhibit is for teens and older, but the above links should be OK to share with younger art aficionados.) Also: browse the Museum’s website for online activities for Mini Masters (infant to 5 years), displays of recent acquisitions, and more!

 

Alejandra Gámez is a cartoonist from Mexico City who specializes in stories and drawings that gently mix the cute and creepy. “October 1” shows that the love for fall and Halloween is communicable—passed along by a pumpkin bite—while “The Dress and the Ghost” is a sad tale about a lonely wraith and her borrowed clothes. Gámez’s single-panel illustrations include “Taking Care of Nature,” “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You,” and a scene from Alice in Wonderland. And adult and teenage horror fans should get a kick out of Gámez’s daily October 2016 art project, 31 portraits of “Women in Horror Movies,” featuring Ripley from Alien (1979), Ofelia from Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), and many more!

 

Richard Thompson (1957-2016) was an artist and cartoonist living in the Washington D.C. area who published in The Washington Post—his illustrations accompanied columns and articles by Gene Weingarten, Joel Achenbach, and other writers. In 2004, his comic strip Cul de Sac, about the everyday adventures of the Otterloop family, began in the Post, and was syndicated daily to other U.S. newspapers from 2007 until 2011, when Thompson’s Parkinson’s Disease made it impossible for him to work. Thompson passed away in 2016, at the age of 58.

Richard was a friend, and I wrote about my encounters with him here (scroll down for my entry).

Halloween was probably Richard’s favorite holiday. In Cul de Sac, Alice and Petey Otterloop spend a ridiculous amount of time dreaming up impractical, unusual costumes, and in his Post cartoon column Richard’s Poor Almanac, Thompson dreamt up bizarre Halloween candies and customs. Check out some of Richard’s Halloween art below, and read Cul de Sac on the Go Comics website.

Richard's Poor Almanac Comic Strip for September 22, 2011

This weekly blog post is written and compiled by Craig Fischer. To send along recommendations, ideas, and comments, contact Craig at craig_fschr@yahoo.com [.]

 

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