The energetic illustration above is by Tim McDonagh, from a September 2020 online article about evolution from New Scientist. For more wild images, visit McDonagh’s website…and we’ll include an extra here.


A May 2020 article in The Miami Herald celebrates the 100th birthday of Antonio Prohías, the Cuban immigrant who drew the pantomime Cold War satire “Spy vs. Spy” for MAD magazine from 1961 to 1987. As journalist Sarah Moreno writes: “Prohías arrived in New York in May of 1960 with just $5 in his pocket, pressured to leave Cuba after Fidel Castro accused him of being a CIA agent. ‘The sweetest revenge has been to turn Fidel’s accusation of me as a spy into a moneymaking venture,’ Prohías said in a 1983 interview with the Miami Herald. ‘One of these days I am going to have to make a sign saying, “Thank You, Fidel.”’

Prohías passed away in 1998, but Spy vs. Spy continues thanks to other cartoonists, most notably New York stencil artist Peter Kuper. The official Spy vs. Spy website is here, while a Pinterest search for Prohías brings up lots of Spy strips and MAD images.


On his blog on Calamityware, artist and designer Don Moyer talks about his “unmagical drawing methods,” the techniques he uses to give an image “the impression of volumes, to make the subject less flat.” (Interestingly, many of these techniques involve distressing or breaking up slick ink lines.) Moyer’s sample in this blog post is the stubby, grinning clown pictured here—and if you need more instruction on drawing creepy clowns, visit the New Yorker site for an interview between cartoon editor Emma Allen and artist Lars Kenseth, complete with a video tutorial where Kenseth shows us “How to Draw Fear, but Funny.”






Two articles on the National Public Radio website from December 2020 show NPR’s increased commitment to graphic journalism. The first is Connie Hanzhang Jin and Hansi Lo Wang’s analysis of the political struggles over the Census numbers in the waning days of President Trump’s term. (To update this controversy: on January 15, the Trump administration gave up on trying to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted.) The second is Malaka Gharib’s roundup of “11 Original NPR Comics That Brought Joy, Hope and Help During the Pandemic,” many of which were drawn by Gharib herself. Perhaps most useful for parents are the pandemic-related comics made specifically for children, such as Gharib and Cory Turner’s updated guide-for-kids on how to stay safe from the Coronavirus.


On January 15 and 16, the Norman Rockwell Museum held a symposium titled Freedom v. Fear: A History of Anti-Fascist Art, and luckily the Museum recorded all the events and put them up on YouTube. (Given the topic, the events are for teen and adult viewers.) The symposium’s keystone was a Zoom conversation with graphic design and illustration critic and historian Steven Heller, author of the book The Swastika and Symbols of Hate: Extremist Iconography Today (2019). Other events were a panel on freedom of speech and artistic expression (featuring publisher Ryan Standfest, illustrators Sue Coe and Christopher Sperandio, and cartoonist Robert Sikoryak) and a panel on “Resistance and Mainstream Publishing: Media, Delivery, and Propaganda,” with artists Nora Krug, Anita Kunz, and Rudy Gutierrez. The Rockwell Museum’s YouTube channel also includes many more recorded events and presentations about 20th-century American art.


Over on Medium, Joe Douglas writes about The Phantom, a hero introduced two years before the first appearance of Superman: “Debuting as a newspaper strip on February 17th, 1936, American writer Lee Falk’s The Phantom is widely considered to be the template upon which the heroes of DC and Marvel were based. A ‘proto-superhero’ of sorts, The Phantom introduced for the first time many of the stapes of the superhero genre.” Yet The Phantom isn’t particularly popular with American comics fans, and Douglas considers some reasons why, including the lack of a reprinting of the strip into book form, and the fact that the adventure locales “may have once been described as ‘exotic’: Africa, India, and Asia.” It’s true that a narrative about a White-savior superhero fighting crime in the “exotic” Third World is a poor fit with 21st century discussions about multiculturalism and diversity.

That said, I remember The Phantom as a vital part of my pop-culture life in the 1960s and ‘70s. I read the comic strip (which still runs today) and occasionally bought an issue of his comic book, published by three companies—Gold Key, King and Charlton—from 1962 to 1972. (These comics occasionally featured the art of accomplished cartoonists like Jim Aparo and Pat Boyette.) And for Christmas in 1968, my parents gave me a Captain Action doll, an “action figure” with costumes sold in separate boxes that could transform Captain Action into different superheroes, including Aquaman, Captain America, and The Phantom. Below are some samples of Phantom merch from my childhood.

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

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Playhouse Comics Club, Issue #39 (January 22, 2021)Playhouse Comics Club, Issue #41 (February 5, 2021)
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  • Michael Goldberg
    01/29/2021 at 9:15 am

    Love that Phantom RING. I have a family heirloom ring--a blue star sapphire--and when I wear it I always think to myself that if I […] Read MoreLove that Phantom RING. I have a family heirloom ring--a blue star sapphire--and when I wear it I always think to myself that if I were to knockout punch someone (yeah, right!) it would leave a distinctive mark and everyone would know who had done it! Read Less


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