Protected Speech

“Fuck the Draft” (1968)
by Kiyoshi Kuromiya (1943-2000)
20.25 X 29.75 in., poster
Coppola Collection
Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Arguably one of the most iconic anti-Vietnam War posters ever created, it depicts a young man burning his draft card in a symbolic act of defiance. Designed by famed activist Kiyoshi Kuromiya under the pseudonym Dirty Linen Corp, this poster was distributed via mail order.

This copy is an unrestored original poster with bright color and a clean overall appearance.

On June 7, 1971, “Fuck the Draft” was ruled as protected speech in the Supreme Court case of Cohen v. California.

Robert Paul Cohen had been convicted of walking through the Los Angeles County Courthouse, on April 26, 1968, with the words “Fuck the Draft” on the back of his jacket as an anti-Vietnam War protest. The Supreme Court on this day overturned the conviction as a violation of freedom of speech.

Justice Harlan: “This case may seem at first blush too inconsequential to find its way into our books, but the issue it presents is of no small constitutional significance…The constitutional right of free expression is powerful medicine in a society as diverse and populous as ours. It is designed and intended to remove governmental restraints from the arena of public discussion, putting the decision as to what views shall be voiced largely into the hands of each of us, in the hope that use of such freedom will ultimately produce a more capable citizenry and more perfect polity…”

The ruling in Cohen v. California set a precedent used in future cases concerning the power of states to regulate free speech in order to maintain public civility.

Opposition to the Vietnam War was an issue that galvanized a generation of students and activists. The drafting of men became a major catalyst for opposition to the Vietnam War, especially among college students for whom burning the draft card became a symbolic act of defiance.

The language Kuromiya used in the poster was designed to shock the establishment and resonates with the ways in which 1960s American youth culture sought to challenge authority. In 1968, Kuromiya distributed this poster via mail order. In the accompanying advert he described it as ‘the perfect gift for Mother’s Day’ and ‘Buy five and we’ll send a sixth one to the mother of your choice’ listing a number of options, including the White House.

For this ad, Kuromiya was arrested by the FBI and charged with using the US postal service for inciting lewd and indecent materials, but this poster had already made its rounds and secured a place in anti-draft history. Later that year, Kuromiya defied the authorities and handed out 2000 of the posters at the Democratic Convention in Chicago.

Kuromiya procured—how is unclear—a photo of a hippie burning his draft card, looking almost religiously captivated by the flame, and set his slogan in the plainest possible type. It was a hit, but his mail order sales gave feds seeking to suppress its message a strong angle of attack—using the mails to send obscene materials over state lines. The designer spent three years fighting those obscenity charges.

Jason Schafer (Dangerous Minds) told the whole story in an article (October 2017), exactly five decades later, after an investigation.

Poster boy Bill Greenshields (2017) from the Dangerous Minds interview.

Schafer writes “A crucial part of that story has gone untold until now—

He’s only ever been publicly identified as the face of “Fuck the Draft” once before, practically in passing in a 1968 issue of an underground magazine. He’s agreed to tell his story for the first time to Dangerous Minds, to mark the 50th anniversary of his immortal rebellious action—the photo was taken on October 21, 1967, at the notorious war protest at the Pentagon, the one during which Abbie Hoffman famously attempted to levitate the building.

Dangerous Minds was put in contact with Greenshields by longtime Detroit art/punk provocateur Tim Caldwell. Caldwell has known Greenshields for decades, but only just found out about his friend’s connection to the poster. It’s a story best told in Caldwell’s words:

Tim Caldwell: I was at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit for this exhibit called “Sonic Rebellion,” for the 50th anniversary of the Detroit riots in July of 1967. There are all these artifacts, like magazines, protest posters, books, and photographs, and people’s interpretations of all that in their artwork. And also there’s this idea of music as a force of expressive resistance.

And there was this poster of my friend Bill.

It was really weird, because he’d always told me he’d had a very different life before we met, and I didn’t really know what he looked like as a teenager—he’s almost 70 and I met him about 30 years ago, doing films and things like that. But so I saw this poster, in a case, and I was like “WOW, that’s him!”

He looks kind of goofy and crazed in it, because that’s just the moment they caught him, he wasn’t posing or anything. I hadn’t seen him in about five or seven years, so I called a mutual friend who’s a musician who he knew Bill from film societies going back to the ‘80s. And he confirmed that it was Bill in the poster, and I asked if he was OK with talking about it, since he’d never mentioned it. So finally I called Bill and, yeah, it’s him! And every time we talked after that he’d have more and more crazy stories about stuff he did in the protest era that I’d never heard about before, he had this whole secret life before I met him—I started to wonder how well I’d really known him for those 30 years!

Greenshields broke his decades-long silence on his experience in a phone conversation last weekend.

Dangerous Minds: So let’s start at the beginning—the protest itself. What were the circumstances, and do you know who shot the picture?

Bill Greenshield: I have no idea who took the picture or how I was selected to be on a poster. There were some people around with cameras, some of whom I thought were probably government spooks.

DM: Some of them probably were!

BG: There were friendlies too, with cameras, though. This occurred at the Pentagon on October 21, 1967, and it was part of the march on the Pentagon.

DM: This was the day that Yippies tried to levitate the Pentagon?

BG: Yeah, that occurred at the same time, you might say, around sundown. The march started at the Lincoln Memorial. People were bussed in from all over the country, and it was kind of a virgin thing, the first really big national march. If you’ve been to the Lincoln Memorial, you know there’s a giant long reflecting pool between that and the Washington Monument obelisk.

At that particular time, I was part of a group of draft resistors in the Detroit area, and one of us had made a mock-up of a sign, a really large draft card. The name on it was “Loony Bird Johnson,” because LBJ was president at the time. Another fellow and I took off our shoes and socks and walked into the reflecting pool, which was slippery as hell. So we’re slipping and sliding, trying to be really careful, taking this gigantic draft card out into the middle of it, and suddenly everyone looked a lot smaller, except Lincoln, who was still very imposing. We got out a butane lighter and tried to light it, and it took a while, because there was a breeze and it was poster board. But we got it lit and immolated the whole thing. Then slid all the way back and put our shoes on to go hear all the speeches.

Then there was a march across the Potomac to the Pentagon. I don’t know how many miles it was, but it was slow going. I don’t know how many people were there but it was a long line of them, and the first people there went to where the public entrance was, that large staircase, and they went up there and got stuck up there, surrounded by Federal Marshals, who were not very nice [laughs], with billy clubs and whatnot, and Federal troops, who were our age, and were very nice. They were armed, but you could talk with them. It was starting to get dark, and like I said, they were stuck up there. Then some of the Yippies were doing like an invocation to levitate the Pentagon…

DM: So did it go up?

BG: Well, WE levitated! [laughs] Anyway, what happened was someone threw a rope up to the next level, because the stairs were blocked, and nobody was grabbing it to climb it, and I thought “what the hell,” and I started to go up. And as I’m going up I’m thinking various things, like “I hope someone up there keeps holding the other end of this,” and “A sniper could pick me off pretty good right now.” And when I got all the way up some people saw me and helped me over the ledge. People were pretty crammed together, and about 50 of them had put their draft cards in a soldier’s helmet and burned them all, and I had just missed it. So I took mine out and lit it up individually, and it lit a lot better than the big cardboard one.

That was when someone took my picture.

And that picture somehow got to Kiyoshi Kuromiya who made the poster.

I had no knowledge of the poster until an article in May of 1968, in The Fifth Estate, an underground paper that still exists, by the way. Harvey Ovshinsky was the editor. I was a childhood friend of his, all the way through junior high school, and he recognized me on the poster right away, and even named me in the article (a copy of the article appears at the end of this transcript).

DM: The look on your face in that poster is a little demented, like you’re some kind of twisted fire-worshipper.

BG: Yeah, like there’s this GLEE of some kind! That’s probably why it was selected, but you gotta remember, I had just climbed this rope after walking from the Lincoln Monument to the Pentagon, and so I probably WAS really enjoying burning that card at the time.

DM: So after the poster came out, the Federal obscenity charges came up against Kuromiya. Did the feds try finding you, too?

BG: Yes, they did. Here’s what happened: under the U.S. Code title 18 section 1461, postal code, it was considered an obscene, indecent and crime-inciting poster. The ACLU defended Kuromiya, who was arrested on April 11, 1968. He was handcuffed at both his hands and his waist, and forced to walk seven blocks down Martin St. in Philadelphia to the Federal Building where bail was set at $500.

And if I remember my facts correctly, the case was overturned in 1971. The ACLU used a precedent: some guy had “FUCK THE DRAFT” hand written on his jacket, and was arrested and indicted for obscenity. The defense was that the statement is Constitutionally protected and cannot be used to convict because no-one could possibly believe that the defendant was suggesting sexual intercourse with the Selective Service System.

DM: [laughing] So the context of the “fuck” was non-sexual and so not obscene? Is that basically what it came down to?

BG: Yes. That was the basis of the whole argument, suggesting sexual intercourse— which of course is impossible—with the Selective Service System! It’s not something you could literally do.

DM: I’ll bet some people got high enough to try.

BG: I’m sure they did.

DM: So wait, now, you said the article in The Fifth Estateappeared in May of 1968, but the poster artist got arrested in April of 1968? Was the obscenity case the topic of the article in which they named you as the subject of the photo? That seems jurisprudentially ill-advised.

BG: Right! Like I said, as soon as they had knowledge of the poster and the arrests, May 1st was when the paper came out and April 11 was when the artist was arrested. Now I saw, in early May, the article. It had a picture of the poster, which I hadn’t seen before, and they printed it backwards so the “FUCK” wouldn’t be obscene, it would say “KCUF.” My parents, friends of mine, my employers, places I frequented, were all approached by the FBI. But where I was living, that was pretty ambiguous, or they probably would have come straight to me. So I said well, discretion is the better part of valor here, so I decided to get out of Detroit, hitchhike out west and keep moving around. A moving target was less likely to be hit. I just didn’t want to deal with these guys after what they were doing to Kuromiya.

So I wandered around Indian reservations, like the Navajo nation, Zuni Pueblo, later a Lakota reservation, then became a migrant worker with a lot of Mexicans, who were mostly Yaqui Indians who didn’t speak Spanish. I wandered all up and down the West Coast, up to Washington, down to Los Angeles, of course spent time in the Bay Area, and I finally wanted to make my way back to see what was going on, and I got news— two couples who’d visited New York had come to see me, and they told me they saw me in New York. I go: no I haven’t been to New York… you didn’t see me. But they said oh, no, you were IN New York!

They smile and tell me there was this area where they were building these huge buildings, and there’s a baffling fence around all these blocks so you can’t get into the construction site, and the poster with me on it was all the way around it for blocks and blocks. You couldn’t miss it. Those buildings were the World Trade Center Twin Towers.

There were other incidents where I came across the poster, of course. I never had a copy because I never felt I needed one, I was in it. Anonymity of the subject was kind of what the poster went for, and Kuromiya said in an interview that he thought the person in the poster was from Detroit, but that he was either in jail or dead, neither of which happened, thank God!

You can only imagine putting yourself in my place, this thing you had nothing to do with—and of course I did what I did willingly and I’d back it up today, and if someone had asked me to voluntarily be photographed burning my draft card for a poster I would have said “sure”—but nobody asked me, it was just done, so it was a surprise, and I’ve kept it under my hat for many years. It’s nothing to brag about, really, I was just committed to the cause, and it took years after that for the war to finally be over. So many people died, I had friends who went, some all gung-ho and some against it, some didn’t make it back, so I felt it was worthwhile doing what I did in opposing it.

What a Great Day for Mail

At this web site, over at the “Take On Me” tab, I have archived the story of writing and then commissioning the art for a 5-page comic story. I wrote the story… I saw drafts of the art… I’ve seen and posted scans of the final pages… and I even made a little book about it.

And yet none of that compares to a package being delivered that contains the original art pages.

Sixty cents worth of graphite, ink and watercolors on a buck-fifty in paper… capturing an idea in the minutes and hours of artistic labor by a pair of clever and talented guys.

Happy, happy, joy, joy… do the Snoopy dance.


June 2019
Faculty Resource Network (FRN)
Summer Seminar

Over 40 years ago, NYU created the FRN to promote work in faculty development. NYU has created a network with schools in the greater New York area, and beyond, which have a high fraction of students who are underserved and/or from underrepresented populations.

One of the FRN activities is the Summer Seminar program, which brings a few hundreds of faculty members from these partner institutions into Manhattan for a weeklong program of faculty-led seminars. NYU professors are not the only seminar leaders, and I have been invited to do one of these a few times, now.

For 2019, I did a week on promoting the development of self-regulated learners. Each day, I front-loaded the agenda with an hour-long presentation followed by a Q/A/discussion. Then on three of the days, the groups were prompted with some discussion points to talk about at their tables for the rest of the morning. In the early afternoon, the tables reported out from their conversations with enough time for group discussion. Then I invited two of the participants to give a 30-minute presentation on a teaching activity from their own practice that they thought was effective and potentially generally interesting.

The participants were drawn from diverse settings and specializations, from graduate medical education to preparing teachers to be instructors of English as a second language.

Monday: A Case for Self-Regulated Learning for Students and Instructors
Tuesday: A Case Against the Way Evidence-Based Practices are Defined and Implemented
Wednesday: Student-Generated Instructional Materials (afternoon: creating video explanations)
Thursday: Teaching as a Performance Art
Friday: Negotiated Consensus (afternoon: open discussion)

In earlier times, intelligence was seen as intrinsic, stable, and transferable between tasks. You could be assessed as a genius as a kid (it is intrinsic), and you would then grow up to be a genius (it is stable), and whatever you worked on you would be good at (it is transferable).

The cognitive revolution in the 1960s started to demolish these ideas, and we are currently in the cognitive-contextual era of understanding intelligence, where a fully balanced view of nature and nurture operates. Talent is more derived from a combination of character (as a person, as a learner, as a leader, as a creator) and context.

Teaching and learning resources are the same. A tool is a tool, more or less neutral, and whose effect depends on the context in which it is used as well as how it is used. Learning how to select a tool and how you use it depends on your experience and your understanding about it, your ability to implement it and match it to your needs. Teaching strategies have all the same features. Even the much-maligned straw man of higher education, the lecture, is something that can be used well or used badly.

There are no magic bullets: the poor use of a method should never be confused with the use of a poor method.

During the week, my participants thought about the way that providing a diverse set of learning resources for students, along with both guidance and with free choice, can promote the development of self-regulation… and they also saw the sub-text, that the same thing held for them as instructors.


A Page of History

“Charley-Horse Joins the Army” (ca. early 1942) by Jack A. Warren, unpublished
by Jack A. (Alonzo Vincent) Warren (1886-1955)
15 x 20 in., ink on heavy board
Coppola Collection

Jack’s father and step-father were both involved with horses and livestock, and he worked as a cow hand. He met writer and fellow cowboy, Tex O’Reilly (1876-1946), during a horse-buying trip in Wyoming.

In 1901, the 15-year old Warren began to work as an artist at the local newspaper, The Crawfordsville Daily Journal. In 1903, he moved to Des Moines, Iowa, to study at the Cummings Art School. In 1909 he left art school and moved to New York City to seek their fortune as a commercial artist, enrolling at the Art Students League with one of his buddies. Within a year, Warren was working as a commercial artist for The New York Sun.

In 1917 The Century Magazine published a series of stories by Tex O’Reilly about a folk hero, Pecos Bill, a legendary Texas cowboy, whose tall tales were recounted in American popular culture since at least the Civil War.

In 1927 Jack A. Warren and Tex O’Reilly drew and wrote a newspaper comic strip, “Pecos Bill,” for The New York Sun.

The first bi-monthly issue of Adventure Magazine in February of 1935 had a cover painting by Walter Baumhofer of “Pecos Bill Goes Hunting” by Tex O’Reilly. The story was illustrated by Jack A. Warren.

In February of 1935 Loco Luke by Jack A. Warren appeared in New Fun Comics, which was the first American comic book to include original material.

“New Fun Comics,” May 1935, featured Loco Luke on the cover

On July 4, 1935 Jack A. Warren began to draw Loco Luke for the George Matthew Adams Newspaper Syndicate, which also distributed several other strips that had also first appeared in New Fun Comics.

Loco Luke made four appearances in New Fun Comics (February-May 1935), and 2 appearances in Popular Comics (August and October, 1938), under the title “Loco Luke and his Charley Horse.”

“Popular Comics” #33 (October 1938) p. 55, feature “Loco Luke and his Charley Horse”

Loco Luke was a slapstick, zany cowboy strip.  It ran in the George Matthew Adams color Sunday section from July 5 1935 to April 4 1936, the entire (known) life of the this experiment in comics publishing.

A “Loco Luke” Sunday strip

When the Sunday section ended, one of only two features to survive was Loco Luke, which was revamped into Pecos Bill, adding Tex O’Reilly as a writer. Unfortunately, Pecos Bill came and went in a hurry.

Between 1936-39, the comic strip “Pecos Bill” by Tex O’Reilly and Jack A. Warren was published in nationwide newspapers by the George Matthew Adams Syndicate. The strip rose quickly to pre-World War II fame and earned Jack a career as a western-genre illustrator and cartoonist.

In 1938, Jack Warren no longer drew the newspaper comic strip “Pecos Bill.” He instead began to draw a different comic strip, “Pecos Pete,” which was not written by Tex O’Reilly, and which ran for 2 years. This was during a squabble over the rights to ‘Pecos Bill.’ It was the same character only he had received a lump on the noggin’, and forgot who he was.

In 1940, Jack moved on into comics. He did several series that were seen in Blue Bolt Comics, such as ‘Krisko and Jasper’ and ‘Spec Pot & Spud’. Warren’s art also appeared in a number of Lev Gleason, Spotlight and Marvel titles.

And that brings me to “Charlie-Horse joins the Army,” which was (clearly) never published. The page was drawn and inked, and the dialog put in (pencil). Warren lettered the first few panels and stopped.

A few comments: on the front, the upper left-hand corner indicates that this was meant to be a 5-page story. There is also a notation about “Maldin (sic) Bridge, N.Y.” (Warren and his wife moved to Malden Bridge in 1949). On the back, there is a note that “Richard Kraus mentions Charlie Horse” (Kraus was born in 1923 and graduated as an art major with a bachelor’s degree from City College of New York, ca. 1941, and found early work as an illustrator and editor for comic books and teen magazines. He tried to sign up for the war effort but was found ineligible for military service. He did government intelligence work in Texas during World War II). Warren was in his mid-50s at this point, so past the age for military service.

There is also a notation on the back with the name Willie Lieberson followed by Fawcett Comics, 1501 —, Paramount. Lieberson was the Editor in Chief at Fawcett Comics (located at 1501 Broadway, in the Paramount Building). Fawcett published Thrill Comics #1 (published January 1940 as an ashcan, or copyright holder) featuring Captain Thunder, which was reworked a month later into Whiz #2, featuring Captain Marvel.

One of their comics, Fawcett’s Funny Animals, went on sale in November 1942 (December 1942 cover), and ran until 1964. There would have been at least a 3-month lead time for an ongoing series, and the solicitation for this is likely to have been earlier.

So, if the notations are contemporaneous, I would guess this “Charlie Horse” comic page dates to early 1942, after Pearl Harbor (Dec 1941), given the subject matter, and before Kraus heads to Texas, and (complete speculation) that it was a pitch for the Fawcett Funny Animals book.  Charley Horse had appeared twice with Loco Luke, in the 1938 Popular Comics stories, so hearing about a funny animal book might have inspired Warren to revive the horse character. It would be the first page of the pitch, with Charley approaching the soldiers to sign up.

Why did it go unfinished? Did anyone even review it?

Who knows? The topic of the war might not have fit in with Fawcett’s plans for a light-humor book. So early in the US military effort, Warren references a few things from WW1 that would not be true during WW2: there was extremely limited use of cavalry, horses did not draw cannons the way they had 20 years earlier, so the premise might have been deemed as dated.

I have taken the scan of the page, as it exists, into Photoshop, and finished the lettering using copies of Warren’s work on the page.

The unpublished “Charley-Horse” page, lettered.

Thanks to Michael Lancaster (Dirt Road Pictures, LLC., and Calliope), who has contributed a lot of biographical information about his maternal grandfather, Jack Warren, to various internet sites, and for his kind responsiveness to my inquiries.

Tex O’Reilly (1880-1946) – Wikipedia entry
Obscurity of the Day: Loco Luke (May 6, 2013) – Stripper’s Guide
Jack A. Warren – Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists
Jack A. Warren – Lambiek Comiclopedia

Anatomy of Another Commission (Part 9 of 9)

“Take On Me” p 5 (2019)
by Carson Grubaugh (1981- ) and Gerhard (1959- )
and written by Brian P Coppola (1957- )
11 x 17, ink on board (pre-watercolor version)
Coppola Collection

Page 5

There are two books remaining on Carson’s trip through the 1977-2004 World of Cerebus: Latter Days and The Last Day. And my “shooting script” finally needed some actual dialog, again.

 BOOK REF: Latter Days

Cerebus was bound by the Three Wise Guys in and around Cerebus #270.

And for the first time in this little story, Carson IS Cerebus (bound to Cerebus, get it? I thought so…).

The dialog (by Carson) underscores another interesting point Dave makes, that goes way, way back in the Cerebus series, about how some characters are being perceived by other characters in ways that may be different than the way a member of the audience (readership) might. How the heck do we know how someone else sees or understands what anything is, or what it means, through the lens of their own personal experience and … and, oh, please, don’t get me started again on reality versus Reality versus “reality” (to borrow one of Dave’s favorite postmodernist constructs). Moving on.

Cerebus #270 p 18

BOOK REF: The Last Day

Cerebus #299 came out on the day before my birthday, in February 2004. On the last page, we fans got a real treat as a fighting-mad Cerebus goes Full Barbarian, grabs a little dagger, and sets off to eviscerate his son (“Shep-Shep”), who has been dabbling in weird science. I just had to own that last page.

And on top of that, I also wanted page 1 of #300 as I figured it would be its perfect companion, no matter what happened next. So I made the offer for it sight-unseen. Amused, Dave and Ger asked me to wait until I saw it to decide. Yeah. Whatever. Almost immediately, and before any of the rest of us ever saw page 1 of issue #300 in print, I also asked Dave and Ger if they would do a sketch for me as an homage to the famous “What Happened Between Issues 20 and 21?” story, as a bridge between these two pages/issues.

Cerebus #299 p 20
by Dave Sim (1956- ) and Gerhard (1959- )
11 x 17 in, ink on Bristol Board
Coppola Collection

Cerebus #300 p 1
by Dave Sim (1956- ) and Gerhard (1959- )
11 x 17 in, ink on Bristol Board
Coppola Collection

They must have laughed, as there ended up being not too much open space between Issues 299 and 300, as you can see. But they did make a clever bridging sequence: Cerebus raises his right arm between the last panel in 299 and the first one in 300 (and needless to say, I got much more than a sketch from those guys).

The centerpiece is also terrific because it reads from bottom to top, which I suspect Scott “Understanding Comics” McCloud would have a field day with.

And as of this writing (March 2019), we are 15 years to the month, perhaps close to the day, since #300 was published in March 2004, when I was having these conversations.

The pages were committed to be displayed that summer, so I did not actually take possession until December. You can see that the “in between” half-page was done in September.

“What Happened Between Issues 299 and 300?” (2004)
by Dave Sim (1956- ) and Gerhard (1959- )
6.5 x 17 in, ink on Bristol Board
Coppola Collection

And, the ensemble:

So we end Carson’s grand tour in Cerebus #300, which gets three panels, and then we bring him home:

Panel A: Carson reaches for the little dagger that has fallen on the floor
Panel B: Carson’s reflection in the little dagger
Panel C: Carson and the return of the BWGST in the reflection in the dagger

Last panel. Carson is back in the studio, and back to sepia (as in the final scene of Wizard of Oz).

Carson (has the white sphere in his left hand; things always invert with that dang BWGST): “Home… (softly) … and this is my room…” (this is Dorothy’s last line of dialog at the end of the Wizard of Oz)… there is also a sideways allusion here to the entire last arc of the Cerebus series and the title of Book 13 (Going Home)

Student: “Sir, are you OK? You drifted off for a moment.”

And this is a significantly more obscure reference to an all-time favorite, final movie moment of mine, to commemorate Carson’s passage (take it as you might) from one world into the other, particularly at the staging of Cerebus’s death:

“It’s time for you to leave now. Time for you to go back to where you came from. Back to the place where all the spirits came from, and where all the spirits return. This world will not longer concern you.” – Dead Man, 1995

Dead Man is a terrifically under-appreciated movie starring Johnny Depp, the fantastic Gary Farmer, and includes performances by John Hurt, Iggy Pop, Alfred Molina, Billy Bob Thornton, Gabriel Byrne, Crispin Glover, and the last US film appearance by Robert Mitchum. And also features an original Neil Young soundtrack, which he improvised much of as he watched the pre-edited (!) film during its production. A black and white “art house” type of movie, it has been described as a “psychedelic western.” Contemporary reviewers were quite critical at the time, but it now shows up on the “movies you missed” lists. I enjoy re-watching it every 5 years or so. It was released the same year as “12 Monkeys” and “Heat,” making 1995 one of only a few years with three recommendations on my all-time list of ca. 50 films.

You have to see the movie to catch what I mean by the drifting reference (Carson has drifted off… from the student’s point of view, but also from our perspective away from Cerebus’s world, too). Passage and transition. The clip from Dead Man that I am referencing is here.

Another great line from Dead Man worthy of inclusion: “The eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to learn from the crow.”

Fortunately, my twin eagles (Gerhard and Carson) recognized and ignored the more crow-like suggestions I cawed about along the way and turned them into good ideas. Un grand merci, mille mercis, mes amis.

Carson lifts the sphere from the copy of the Cerebus volume that clocked him. The End.

And to coin a phrase (really, to clip one of the few X-Men tropes, from the cover of issue 139, Nov 1980, that has been used as frequently as Wolverine’s many tag lines):

“Welcome to the World of Cerebus, Carson. Hope you survive the experience.”

Anatomy of Another Commission (Part 8)

“Take On Me” p 4 (2019)
by Carson Grubaugh (1981- ) and Gerhard (1959- )
and written by Brian P Coppola (1957- )
taken from 11 x 17 in. page, ink on board (pre-watercolor version)
Coppola Collection

 The Rest of Page 4


 Carson is inside the bar, at a table, looking outside in the direction of the Five Bar Gate playing court. Lots of stuff on the table (tankards, glasses half-filled). Perhaps you can see the ball from the game flying by, and the shadows of those who have left the bar to go watch.

Cerebus #202 p 13

 BOOK REF: Rick’s Story

The view from behind the bar, looking over towards the seat where Rick is writing his book. The book is open, being studied intently by Carson.

Cerebus #222 p 18

 BOOK REF: Going Home

 We see Carson on the deck of the boat, moored in the evening, sitting at the table, the lighted portholes showing clearly against the darkness. We know there are conversations taking place.

Cerebus #249 p 14

 BOOK REF: Form and Void

 In their tent at the Ham Earnestway campsite, Jaka has just clipped Cerebus’s hair as he checks it out in a hand-held mirror.

Carson is there, we see the scissors and mirror, and perhaps locks of Cerebus’s hair

Cerebus #253, pp 18-19

Next up: Latter Days, The Last Day, and the last installment of this story

Anatomy of Another Commission (Part 7)

Detail from: “Uh… GUYS… I’m Right Here…” (2018)

Page 4 (the first panel)

Carson was most recently in Reads, peering in through the window at the throne room where the fight takes place between Cerebus and Cirin(Cerna). That brings him to Minds, and after what I talked about in some of the first installments, there’s no way we are not scooting straight to the finale of issue #200. Recall that we have been there before, with Carson, already. And now, the rest of the story.

First, the script.


Our POV is inside the last pages of Cerebus #200, in addition to the 2018 Carson Commission, where we all live simultaneously: comic, artists, and audience. We have been here before. We see Carson in the studio area where the drawing boards for Dave and Ger are located, and where the pages from #200 are seen, and where we encounter Carson drawing a page, that has himself drawing a page of himself in the room we have seen before, but now we take the pull-back from the reaction shot that we saw in the 2018 Carson Commission– and pull back again … oh, you get it. Reality: it gives me a headache.

My commentary on the conundrum of creators and their creations continues (why it is I love those pages).

The underlying assumptions in taking the leap of faith are ultimately hypocritical as long as you make the assumption that there is “creator;” I just do not think you can escape it and I think that these compositions point right at it. You are simultaneously saying you cannot know the mind of creator, by definition, because creators live one dimension up from you, and yet your leap of faith is predicated exactly on a belief you have in the intent of creator (your faith is always in something).

When you elect to believe in “creator” (a definite article or possessive pronoun is intentionally missing, by the way, as “a” or “the” or “my” or “your” or “their” all cause the reading of this text to differ wildly), you make some assumption(s) about the morality of creator, and (the point was made, clearly and strongly at the end of issue #200) you are never really thinking it is a guy at a drawing board who mocks you as an ultra-maroon. Whatever choice you make about yourself, and your behavior, is predicated on some assumption you make about that creator’s morality (applying your rules about the way reality operates about a dimension you cannot comprehend and therefore cannot know)… Or, alternatively, there is no free will at all: you are not making choices at all because you are strictly a scripted creation at the end of creator’s pen nib, brush, and whim. Baby, you were born that way.

This dimensional conundrum was the metaphorical lesson in Flatland, a book I mentioned earlier. Abbott told the story about the perspective (assumptions) of 2D beings in the context of our 3D world. It is an allegory. In his book, we dwellers in the 3D world can understand the intrinsic impossibility of the 2D beings ever really being able to understand us dwellers in a 3D world. That said, he was, by every account, using the allegory as a lesson for us 3D beings who cannot possibly understand the hypothetical 4D ones, or the signals we ascribe to them (or whatever the next dimensional layer represents; after all, how can we know?).

A physical example is useful. To a 2D being in a 2D world, there is no possible way to understand how four points can be mutually equidistant from each other in your 2D environment (because it is a tetrahedron; you cannot actually even imagine it, you lack every referent).

So, 3D dweller…you think you can conceptualize the simplest 4D object? Great. Think about what it looks like to have FIVE points equidistant from each other and get back to me. I’ll wait, but I will not be holding my breath.

I’ll help you out. In the 2D world, you have a way to get three things equidistant, namely, an equilateral triangle. But for the life of you, you cannot figure out how a fourth point can be added so that they are all four equidistant from each other. And that’s because you need the third dimension to get a tetrahedron; you cannot solve the problem in the 2D plane. We 3D dwellers can see it just fine. Alrightly then. Now start with a tetrahedron. Four points equidistant. You are 4/5 of the way there. Now add the fifth point to be equidistant from all of them and maintain the mutual equidistance of every possible pairing.

But I digress.

And, well, as long as I am here digressing, put this fantastic book on your reading list: “I, Lucifer: Finally, the Other Side of the Story” by Glen Duncan (Grove Press, 2004). Let me tempt you (heh) with two PG-friendly passages:

“There’s a common misconception about me. It’s a slander spread by the Church, namely that if you make a deal with me, I’ll cheat you. Poppycock, of course. I never cheat. Never have to. Ask Robert Johnson. Ask Jimmy Page. Humans are so deaf and blind to the ambiguities of their own languages, they concoct their wishes in terms so permeable that I can always grant them in a way they never imagined.  I want to be as wealthy as my father. Fair enough. Nelchael crashes the markets, Dad’s bankrupt, and thanks for the soul, brother. A boneheaded example, obviously, but you’d be surprised how wide open your leave yourselves. (The punters who come off best with me are smart, dirty rotten scoundrels to start with, willing to sign over their afterlife care in exchange for the chance to become even dirtier, rottener scoundrels while still rightside of the grave.)”

“… Thing was: nobody was going to Heaven. I remember St. Peter getting his new uniform and ticket-punch. Time passed. He’d wished he’d brought a magazine. The turnstile booth grew… oppressively familiar. Whereas we were taking on extra staff downstairs. Every day a gala day.  I was down to a three-and-a-half-hour week.  Spent the rest of my time lying in a hot hammock and dabbing away tears of mirth. I sent Him a telegram. Far be it from me to tell You Your Own business and all that, but… Stony Silence. Still no sense of humour. On the other hand, it wasn’t long after that regrettably indulgent quip that I noticed the goalposts were on the move. Without so much as a nod or a wink. It was the coveters first, peeling off to Purgatory when they should have been hurtling straight down to us. Then every other one-theft-only thief.  The odd regretful adulterer. …”

OK, back to Page 4 of “Take On Me”:

So you start with the terrific take on reality and its creation from the end of Cerebus #200?

Cerebus #200 p 19

And recall that Carson peeled another layer of that back in “Uh… GUYS… I’m Right Here…”

“Uh… GUYS… I’m Right Here…” (2018)
by Carson Grubaugh (1981-)
2 x 11″ x 17″ 2-ply Strathmore 500 Bristol boards taped together, ink over blue-line print
Coppola Collection

Well, here we go again.

“Take On Me” p 4 [Panel One] (2019)
by Carson Grubaugh (1981- ) and Gerhard (1959- )
and written by Brian P Coppola (1957- )
taken from 11 x 17 in. page, ink on board (pre-watercolor version)
Coppola Collection

Next: the rest of page 4

Anatomy of Another Commission (Part 6)

“Take On Me” p 3 (2019)
by Carson Grubaugh (1981- ) and Gerhard (1959- )
and written by Brian P Coppola (1957- )
11 x 17, ink on board (pre-watercolor version)
Coppola Collection

Page 3

 When we last saw Carson, he was in Jaka’s Story, drawing the wreckage of the church consumed by the growing tower of demonic faces… one of which was also in his sketchbook. Next stop: Melmoth.

 BOOK REF: Melmoth

 Cerebus #140 (evening outside of Dino’s) POV is sitting at one of the tables on the patio, presumably Carson (but he does not show up in this panel except, perhaps, as the closed edge of the sketch book on the table), the shadows on the road signify that Oscar and Reginald have just passed (or are about to, depending on which way the lights work outside the porch).

Cerebus #140 p 4

 BOOK REF: Flight

 Cerebus #151, Carson in the library, perhaps framed by one of the Gothic windows as he looks out into the courtyard, where a bonfire of books is ablaze. As a reflection in the window, a big book flies past his head behind him.

This cover is one of my all-time favorites. The flying book is the only character, and its motion is vividly displayed against the strong and static space constructed by the library. Pure, pure Gerhard; and yet, he disliked this. In the “Cover Treasury” book, Ger writes: “I spent a lot of time working out the composition and perspective of this piece, but I could not get the color right. It was too orange, not the mahogany hue that I wanted, but there was nothing I could do to fix it. I hated it so much that when I hung the cover on its clip, I hung it face toward the wall.” Dave’s response is cute: “In those situations you take the hint and just hope it’s still on its hook, face to the wall, when you come in tomorrow. It’s HIS cover.”

I personally think the color is really representative of what highly polished wood looks like when it is lit by the glaring sunlight, and this adds considerably to what I like about it. Go figure.

Cerebus #151 Cover

 BOOK REF: Women

 Cerebus #174, outside the throne room where the Great Confrontation is going to take place in Reads, there is a moment where the robed Po is walking through the streets, there is a crowd, and Cerebus is about to fall from the sky. POV from just above the crowd, we see the shadow from the flying Cerebus cast on the ground as Carson is looking up at him, while just off to the side, the fully robed figure of Po has just walked by and has everyone else’s attention.

Cerebus #174 p 7

 BOOK REF: Reads

 Cerebus #183, POV is Carson’s, looking into a window at the bloodstained floor where the fight is in progress, although we do not see the principals. We do not see Carson, but only his reflection, with the room beyond. Hand raised to his mouth, biting his finger in anxiety. It’s possible, I suppose, we could see Cerebus’s ear flying by, as the eyes in the reflected face follow it across the room. Aside to Avengers movie fans, this issue’s title is “Endgame.”

Cerebus #183 p 9

Anatomy of Another Commission (Part 5)

“Take On Me” p 2 (2019)
by Carson Grubaugh (1981- ) and Gerhard (1959- )
and written by Brian P Coppola (1957- )
11 x 17, ink on board (pre-watercolor version)
Coppola Collection

Page 2

Did you enjoy the Intermission? Refill your popcorn bucket? Hit the loo? Just to recap: Carson Grubaugh has been transported into the world of Cerebus by the BWGST after getting clocked on the head by book bag carrying a copy of Cerebus (Book 1). In each panel, he ends up in an iconic scene from each of the 16 books, in sequence. This is the second page of the writing script that I gave to Carson and Gerhard to work from.

BOOK REF: High Society

Ger and Dave did the re-imagination of pp 19-20 from issue 29 for me (and that wickets game, and that joke about insanity being a politically expedient gambit as long as you play the long game is one I still find funny). Cerebus #29, p 19 was the first piece of original comic art I ever bought, in October 1982, after getting my first real paycheck. There was a 50% off coupon for original art from A-V, so I paid the outrageous sum of $25 for this page.

No more need to show transitions. We get it. Now, each panel is a story unto itself.

Perhaps a glowing panel edge; maybe not.

Carson is sitting on the wall surrounding the Regency, and is ducking out of the way as the wickets ball that was just hit flies where his head would have been. POV: perhaps from the outside of the wall looking back and slightly upwards. Wall with Carson ducking, ball flying at us in the foreground, Regency in the background.

Cerebus #29 p 19 (Aug 1981)
by Dave Sim (1956- )
11 x 17 in, ink & tone Bristol Board
Coppola Collection

Cerebus #29 p 19 (reimagined, 2006)
by Dave Sim (1956- ) and Gerhard (1959- )
11 x 17 in, ink & watercolor on Bristol Board
Coppola Collection

Cerebus #29 p 20 (Aug 1981)
by Dave Sim (1956- )
11 x 17 in, ink & tone Bristol Board
Coppola Collection

Cerebus #29 p 20 (reimagined, 2006)
by Dave Sim (1956- ) and Gerhard (1959- )
11 x 17 in, ink & watercolor on Bristol Board
Coppola Collection

And later, for the “World without Cerebus” series that I am commissioning from Gerhard, I wanted the aftermath of the wickets ball flying out from the Upper City as one of the scenes. Note the bouncy pockmarks on the street.

“Collateral Damage” World Without Cerebus Series (2007)
by Gerhard (1959- )
10 x 14 in, ink & watercolor on textured paper
Coppola Collection

BOOK REF: Church & State I:

Outside of the hotel (issues 65-66), bags of gold are piling up. Carson is in the foreground, back to us, perhaps sitting nestled among some bags of gold on a cart with the hotel in the background. If he is on the far right, his head is cranked left and looking up, following an object that has just hurtled past him: a baby. Cerebus #66, p 4

Cerebus #66 p 4

BOOK REF: Church & State II:

 The moody dark interior of the prison cell where Astoria was held and interrogated (issues 93-97), empty shackles on the wall. We see Carson’s dark outline in contemplation. Cerebus # 93 p 20

Cerebus #93 p 20

BOOK REF: Jaka’s Story

 Cover to Cerebus #118 (dark tower in background, destroyed church entrance, the stone plaza, the half of a horned head). We are looking at this over Carson’s shoulder, because we see for the first time that he has his sketchbook out, and he is capturing the scene we see.

Cerebus #118 (cover)

Next: Page 3

Commission Intermission: “Approved by the Comics Code Authority”

Dr. Frederick Wertham, a German psychologist, is a well-known figure in the history of comic books. His lack of appreciation of scientific evidence to advance an idea is infamous: because 95% of kids in reform schools in the late 1940s read comic books, comic books are a prime cause of juvenile delinquency. And the eventual release of his primary materials for study, in 2010, also presents a case for him manufacturing and distorting the evidence he actually had. Wertham’s positions: The horror and war genres promoted violence, drug use was rampant in the comics, the shameful representation of women and sexual innuendo promoted promiscuity, and everyone “wink-wink” knew that Batman and Robin were gay and that Wonder Woman, filled with strength and independence, was clearly a lesbian. Wertham’s 1954 book, The Seduction of the Innocent, lays out his case.  Wertham’s credentials made him a star witness at Senator Kefauver’s 1953-54 Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency.

There are documented examples of comic book burnings and for legal ordinances being passed to ban comics that contained objectionable content.

The Comics Code Authority (CCA) was created in September 1954 to allow comic publishers to self-regulate content in lieu of government regulations. Comic pages were submitted to the CCA for scrutiny, needed edits, and finally the stamp of approval on the back of the pages (an actual stamp). Comics that were approved prominently displayed the CCA “stamp” logo on their covers once the issue was in compliance, and mom and dad could rest assured that this funny book was safe and would not land little Jimmy in juvie court.

As I posted elsewhere, the margin notes on this original art page intrigued me because the changes suggested in those notes looked like CCA intervention. In this case, there are four changes that were made (by inspecting the penciled in margin notes and the white out): (1) panel 2: a “Bang!” sound effect of the gun is replaced by an exclamation point; (2) panel 3: the body is gone, completely, although its feet reappear in panel 4; (3) panel 6: too much accentuation of the left breast; (4) panel 7: too much leg (?) showing with a skirt, perhaps.

Dick Tracy #89 p 29 (July, 1955)
by Tom Hickey (1910-1984)
13 x 20 in., ink on board
Coppola Collection

Dick Tracy #89 (July 1955) is a code-approved book (see the cover).

While I was researching the background of this page, I discovered a notation that the appearance of this “Girl Friday” episode in the code-approved issue #89 (July 1955) is actually a reprint of the page, and it originally ran in issue #61 (March 1953)… pre-code. From 1953, the cover of issue #61 does not bear the code stamp, of course. I immediate hopped over to eBay and bought these copies of the two issues.

And, yes, indeed: the suggested changes were not part of the original 1953 printing, but came later for the 1955 reprint.

I am not sure how many examples of pre-code/post-code publication reprints there are; it would be a nice thesis for someone studying popular culture.

panel #2: the margin note says to change the “Bang” to an exclamation point “!”


panel #3: the margin note says to get rid of the body, which makes the panel idiotic

panel #6: no margin note, but the shadow under the left breast is eliminated

panel #7: no margin note; perhaps the tucks and folds of the dress are too suggestive?

Wow. I feel so much safer while reading that second version, don’t you?