Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey Gets Turned Into “The Weirdest Sci-Fi Comic Ever Made” by Jack Kirby

Kirby 2001 covers

Sure, we all enjoyed the adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey presented on the Howard Johnson’s children’s menu from 1968 that we featured last May. But would you believe that, when you swap out the name Howard Johnson for that of Jack Kirby, you get a work of higher artistic merit? In his long career, the widely respected comic book artist, writer, and editor put in time on both the DC and Marvel sides of the fence. 1976’s 2001: A Space Odyssey comic book, a meeting of Kirby’s mind with those of Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, marked his return to Marvel after spending the early 70s at DC.

Kubrickonia, which calls the commission “a match made in bizarro world heaven,” describes the product: “The adaptation was written & penciled by Kirby with inking duties carried out by Frank Giacoia. The almost 2 times larger than the regular comic-book format suited Kirby’s outlandish pop style, but this was a great talent merely going through the motions.” The Sequart Organization’s Julian Darius calls it “surely one of the strangest sci-fi franchise comics ever published,” a stuffy marriage between Kirby’s “bombastic,” “action-oriented,” “in-your-face” art and the style of Kubrick’s film, one “all about the subtle. No one ever accused Kirby of being subtle. Indeed, his almost complete lack of subtlety is part of his charm, but it’s not a charm one could possibly imagine fitting 2001.”


At The Dissolve, Noel Murray includes an examination of Kirby’s 2001 in the site’s “Adventures in Licensing” column. Kirby’s description of Kubrick’s immortal millennia-spanning match cut, which the article quotes as an opener, tells you everything you need to know:

As the surge of elation sweeps through him, Moonwatcher shouts in victory and throws his weapon at the sky!! Higher and higher, it sails — aimed at the infinite where the countless stars wait for the coming of man… And, man comes to space!! Across the agonizing ages he follows the destiny bequeathed to him by the monolith.

2001: A Space Odyssey in comics, which comprises not just the oversized book but ten monthly issues that expanded upon the film — taking it in, shall we say, a different direction than either Kubrick or Clarke might have envisioned — has, as you can see, inspired no small amount of discussion among science fiction and comic book enthusiasts. Darius wrote a whole book called The Weirdest Sci-Fi Comic Ever MadeAt SciFiDimensons, Robert L. Bryant Jr. and Robert B. Cooke offer two more analyses of this unusual chapter in the history of American sequential art. Whatever its merits as reading material, it shows us that genius plus genius doesn’t always produce genius — but it never fails to produce something fascinating.

You can check out scans of the first issue of 2001: A Space Odyssey over on this web site.


Related Content:

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1966 Documentary Explores the Making of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (and Our High-Tech Future)

In 1968, Stanley Kubrick Makes Predictions for 2001: Humanity Will Conquer Old Age, Watch 3D TV & Learn German in 20 Minutes

Isaac Asimov Predicts in 1964 What the World Will Look Like Today — in 2014

Arthur C. Clarke Predicts the Future in 1964 … And Kind of Nails It

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

NASA Puts Online a Big Collection of Space Sounds, and They’re Free to Download and Use

When we envision the fruits of the research of the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (aka NASA), we tend to think of images. I think I exaggerate not at all when I say that the never-before-seen view of the Earth from space gave humanity a whole new perspective, no pun intended, on our very existence. But you don’t have to strain too hard to think of historically momentous NASA sounds, either: “Houston we’ve had a problem,” “One giant leap for mankind.”

If you can’t think of more than those two, why not spend some listening time with NASA’s new Soundcloud account, or alternatively perusing the NASA Sounds web site, which features a larger number of downloadable mp3s. “There are rocket sounds, the chirps of satellites and equipment, lightning on Jupiter, interstellar plasma and radio emissions,” writes Create Digital Music’s Peter Kirn. “And in one nod to humanity, and not just American humanity, there’s the Soviet satellite Sputnik (among many projects that are international in nature).” Better still, “you’re free to use all of these sounds as you wish, because NASA’s own audio isn’t copyrighted.”

We’ve included here three of NASA’s Soundcloud playlists: space shuttle mission sounds, solar system and beyond sounds, and President Kennedy sounds. When you’ve listened through all NASA themselves have uploaded, you can find more sound clips of outer-space interest in NASA’s liked sounds, a collection of the ambient sounds of space exploration that include those of a space suit’s internal pump, a Japanese experiment module, and, of course, a space toilet — a constant sonic companion on any trip to the final frontier.

Please note that you can download the Soundcloud files by following these instructions. From the NASA Sounds web page, you can download files by right clicking on them and then saving them to your hard drive.

via Create Digital Music

h/t @sheerly

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Hear the Only Recording of Raymond Carver Reading “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”

Raymond_Carver (1)This is surely worth a quick mention: Today we added to our list of Free Audio Books a recording of Raymond Carver reading his most famous story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” Taped in a Palo Alto hotel room in 1983 for a new radio series called Tell Me a Story, it’s the only known recording of Carver reading his signature story. The reading itself starts at the 6:00 mark. Start listening here.

In 2009, Stephen King called Raymond Carver “surely the most influential writer of American short stories in the second half of the 20th century.” If you’d like to get deeper into his literary world — a literary world that explores “the dim ache in the nondescript lives of aspiring students, down-and-outers, diner waitresses, salesmen, and unhappily hitched blue-collar couples,” as Josh Jones once put it — you can refer back to a previous post where we featured Richard Ford, Anne Enright, and David Means reading several other Carver stories.

Dan Colman is the founder/editor of Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

115 Books on Lena Dunham & Miranda July’s Bookshelves at Home (Plus a Bonus Short Play)


Miranda-july-reading” by Alexis Barrera / Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

Ah, the joys of dining at a new friend’s home, knowing sooner or later, one’s hostess’ bladder or some bit of last minute meal preparation will dictate that one will be left alone to rifle the titles on her bookshelf with abandon. No medicine cabinet can compete with this peek into the psyche.

Pity that some of the people whose bookshelves I’d be most curious to see are the least likely to open their homes to me. That’s why I’d like to thank The Strand bookstore for providing a virtual peek at the shelves of filmmakers-cum-authors Miranda July and Lena Dunham.  (Previous participants in the Authors Bookshelf series include just-plain-regular authors George Saunders, Edwidge Danticat and the late David Foster Wallace whose contributions were selected by biographer D.T. Max.)


Lena Dunham” by David Shankbone – Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

I wish Dunham and July had offered up some personal commentary to explain their hand-picked titles. (Surely their homes are lined with books. Surely each list is but a representative sampling, one shelf from hundreds. Hmm. Interesting. Did they run back and forth between various rooms, curating with a vengeance, or is this a case of whatever happened to be in the case closest at hand when deadline loomed?)

Which book’s a longtime favorite?

Which the literary equivalent of comfort food?

Are there things that only made the cut because the author is a friend?

Both women are celebrated storytellers. Surely, there are stories here beyond the ones contained between two covers.

But no matter. The lack of accompanying anecdotes means we now have the fun of inventing imaginary dinner parties:


ME: (standing in the living room, calling through the kitchen door, a glass of wine in hand) Whoa, Lena, I can’t believe you’ve got Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry!

LENA DUNHAM: (polite, but distracted by a pot of red sauce) I know, isn’t that one great?

ME: So great! Where’d you buy it?

LENA DUNHAM: Uh, The Strand, I think.

ME: Me too! Such a great conceit, that book. Wish I’d come up with it!

LENA DUNHAM: I know what you mean.

ME: Ooh, you’ve got Was She Pretty? 

LENA DUNHAM: Hmm? Oh, yeah, my friend Miranda gave me that.

ME: (glancing between the two books.) Wait! Leanne Sharpton. Leanne Sharpton. I didn’t realize it’s the same author.


ME: The person who wrote Was She Pretty? also wrote Important Artifacts and Personal Property-

ME & LENA DUNHAM IN UNISON: – from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry!

LENA DUNHAM: Gotta love that title.

ME: Why do you have all these kids’ books?

LENA DUNHAM: Those are from my childhood.

ME: (sliding an unnamed title off the shelf, eyes widening as I read the shockingly graphic personal inscription on the flyleaf) Oh?

LENA DUNHAM: I really relate to Eloise.

ME: (hastily sliding the volume back onto the shelf before Lena can catch me snooping) Oh yeah…ha ha.

LENA DUNHAM: Are you the one who likes graphic novels?

ME: Me? Yes!!!

LENA DUNHAM: Yeah. My friend Miranda does too.

ME:  That’s funny - Sex and the Single Girl right next to Of Human Bondage.

LENA DUNHAM: (cursing under her breath)

ME: Need help?

LENA DUNHAM: No, it’s just this damn …arrrggh. I hate this cookbook!

ME: (brightly) Smells good!

LENA DUNHAM: … crap.

ME: So, is Adam Driver coming? Or Ray or anybody?

LENA DUNHAM: (testily)  You mean Alex Karpovsky?

ME: (flustered) Oh, ha ha, yes! Alex! … I sent him a Facebook request and he accepted.

LENA DUNHAM: (mutters under her breath)

ME: Design Sponge? Really? What’s someone in your shoes doing with a bunch of DIY decorating books?

LENA DUNHAM: (coldly) Research.


Actually, maybe it is better to admire one’s idols’ bookshelves from afar.

I’m chagrined that I don’t recognize more of their modern fiction picks. That wasn’t such a problem when I was measuring myself against the 430 books on Marilyn Monroe’s reading list.

Thank heaven for old standbys like Madame Bovary.

In all sincerity, I was glad that Dunham didn’t try to mask her love of home decor blog books.

And that July included her husband’s monograph, Our Bodies, Ourselves and a handbook to raising self-confident babies.

One’s shelves, after all, are a matter of taste. So, celebrate the similarities, take their recommendations under advisement, see below and read what you like!



A Time for Everything  – Karl Ove Knausgaard

A Very Young Dancer – Jill Krementz

Alice James: A Biography  – Jean Strouse

Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect  – Mel Y. Chen

Arthur Tress: The Dream Collector – John Minahan

Building Stories  – Chris Ware

Cruddy: An Illustrated Novel  – Lynda Barry

Diaries, 1910-1923  – Franz Kafka

Do the Windows Open?  – Julie Hecht

Dorothy Iannone: Seek The Extremes! (v.1) – Barbara Vinken, Sabine Folie

Edgewise: A Picture of Cookie Mueller  – Chloe Griffin

Embryogenesis – Richard Grossinger

Friedl Kubelka Vom Groller  – Melanie Ohnemus

American War  – Harrell Fletcher

Hannah Höch: Album (English and German Edition) – Hannah Höch

How to Build a Girl  – Caitlin Moran

Humiliation  – Wayne Koestenbaum

It’s OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids  – Heather Shumaker

King Kong Theory  – Virginie Despentes

Leaving the Atocha Station  – Ben Lerner

Lightning Rods  – Helen DeWitt

Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries  – Jon Ronson

Maidenhead  – Tamara Faith Berger

Man V. Nature: Stories  – Diane Cook

Mike Mills: Graphics Films  – Mike Mills

Napa Valley Historical Ecology Atlas: Exploring a Hidden Landscape of Transformation and Resilience  – Robin Grossinger

Need More Love  – Aline Kominsky Crumb

Our Bodies, Ourselves (Completely Revised and Updated Version)  – Boston Women’s Health Book Collective

Jim Goldberg: Rich and Poor  – Jim Goldberg

Sanja Ivekovic: Sweet Violence  – Roxana Marcoci

Sophie Calle: The Address Book  – Sophie Calle

Staring Back  – Chris Marker

Taryn Simon: A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, I-XVIII – Homi Bhabha, Geoffrey Batchen

Tete-a-Tete: The Tumultuous Lives & Loves of Simone De Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre  – Hazel Rowley

The Hour of the Star  – Clarice Lispector

The Illustrated I Ching – R.L. Wing

Two Kinds of Decay: A Memoir  – Sarah Manguso

Traffic  – Kenneth Goldsmith

Two Serious Ladies  – Jane Bowles

Was She Pretty?  – Leanne Shapton

What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng: A Novel  – Dave Eggers

Why Did I Ever  – Mary Robison

Women in Clothes  – Sheila Heti

Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do  – Studs Terkel

Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child’s Natural Abilities — From the Very Start  – Magda Gerber

Far from the Tree  – Andrew Solomon

How Should a Person Be?  – Sheila Heti



The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing  – Melissa Bank

A Little History of the World  – E. H. Gombrich

Anne of Green Gables  – L.M. Montgomery

Apartment Therapy Presents: Real Homes, Real People, Hundreds of Real Design Solutions  – Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan

Ariel: The Restored Edition  – Sylvia Plath

Bad Feminist: Essays  – Roxane Gay

Bastard Out of Carolina (20th Anniversary Edition)  – Dorothy Allison

Blue is the Warmest Color  – Julie Maroh

Brighton Rock  – Graham Greene

Cavedweller  - Dorothy Allison

Country Girl: A Memoir  – Edna O’Brien

Crazy Salad and Scribble Scribble: Some Things About Women and Notes on Media  – Nora Ephron

Design Sponge at Home  – Grace Bonney

Dinner: A Love Story: It All Begins at the Family Table  – Jenny Rosenstrach

Eleanor & Park  – Rainbow Rowell

Eloise  – Kay Thompson

Eloise In Moscow  – Kay Thompson

Eloise In Paris  – Kay Thompson

Fanny At Chez Panisse  – Alice Waters

Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories  – Philip Roth

Holidays on Ice  – David Sedaris

Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry  – Leanne Shapton

Lentil  – Robert McCloskey

Love Poems  – Nikki Giovanni

Love, an Index (McSweeney’s Poetry Series)  – Rebecca Lindenberg

Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home  - Nina Stibbe

Madame Bovary: Provincial Ways  – Gustave Flaubert

NW: A Novel  – Zadie Smith

Of Human Bondage  – W. Somerset Maugham

Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx  – Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

Rebecca  – Daphne Du Maurier

Remodelista  – Julie Carlson

Selected Stories, 1968-1994  - Alice Munro

Sex and the Single Girl  – Helen Gurley Brown

She’s Come Undone  – Wally Lamb

Somewhere Towards the End: A Memoir  – Diana Athill

Stet: An Editor’s Life  - Diana Athill

Sula  – Toni Morrison

Summer Blonde  – Adrian Tomine

Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen  – Heidi Swanson

Tenth of December  - George Saunders

Tess of the D’Urbervilles  – Thomas Hardy

The Boys of My Youth  - Jo Ann Beard

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis  – Lydia Davis

The Dud Avocado  – Elaine Dundy

The Important Book  – Margaret Wise Brown

The Journalist and the Murderer  – Janet Malcolm

The Liars’ Club: A Memoir  – Mary Karr

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.: A Novel  – Adelle Waldman

The Marriage Plot  – Jeffrey Eugenides

The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)  - Andy Warhol

The Story of Ferdinand  – Munro Leaf

The Woman in White  - Wilkie Collins

The Writing Class  – Jincy Willett

This Is My Life  - Meg Wolitzer

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from ‘Dear Sugar’  - Cheryl Strayed

Wallflower At the Orgy  – Nora Ephron

Was She Pretty?  – Leanne Shapton

We Have Always Lived In the Castle  – Shirley Jackson

What Lips My Lips Have Kissed: The Loves and Love Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay  – Daniel Mark Epstein

What She Saw…  – Lucinda Rosenfeld

What the Living Do: Poems  – Marie Howe

While I Was Gone  - Sue Miller

With or Without You: A Memoir  – Domenica Rut

Women in Clothes  – Sheila Heti

via Scribner Books

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- Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Dostoevsky Draws a Picture of Shakespeare: A New Discovery in an Old Manuscript


Dostoevsky, a doodler? Surely not! Great Russian brow furrowed over the meaning of love and hate and faith and crime, diving into squalid hells, ascending to the heights of spiritual ecstasy, taking a gasp of heavenly air, then back down to the depths again to churn out the pages and hundreds of character arcs—that’s Dostoevsky’s style. Doodles? No. And yet, even Dostoevsky, the acme of literary seriousness, made time for the odd pen and ink caricature amidst his bouts of existential angst, poverty, and ill health. We’ve shown you some of them before—indeed, some very well rendered portraits and architectural drawings in the pages of his manuscripts. Now, just above, see yet another, a recently discovered tiny portrait of Shakespeare in profile, etched in the margins of a page from one of his angstiest novels, The Possessed, available in our collection, 700 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.


Annie Martirosyan in The Huffington Post points out some family resemblance between the Shakespeare doodle and the famous brooding oil portrait of Dostoevsky himself, by Vasily Perov. She also notes the ring stain and sundry drips over the “hardly legible… scribbles” and “marginalia… scattered naughtily across the page” is from the author’s tea. “Feodor Mikhailovich was an avid tea drinker,” and he would consume his favorite beverage while walking “to and fro in the room and mak[ing] up his characters’ speeches out loud….” Can’t you just see it? Under the drawing (see it closer in the inset)—in one of the many examples of the author’s painstaking handwriting practice—is the name “Atkinson.”

Martirosyan sums up a somewhat complicated academic discussion between Dostoevsky experts Vladimir Zakharov and Boris Tikhomirov about the source of this name. This may be of interest to literary specialists. But perhaps it suffices to say that both scholars “have now confirmed the authenticity of the image as Dostoevsky’s drawing of Shakespeare,” and that the name and drawing may have no conceptual connection. It’s also further proof that Dostoevsky, like many of us, turned to making pictures when, says scholar Konstantin Barsht—whom Colin Marshall quoted in our previous post—“the words came slowest.” In fact, some of the author’s character descriptions, Barsht claims, “are actually the descriptions of doodled portraits he kept reworking until they were right.”

So why Shakespeare? Perhaps it’s simply that the great psychological novelist felt a kinship with the “inventor of the human.” After all, Dostoevsky has been called, in those memorable words from Count Melchoir de Vogue, “the Shakespeare of the lunatic asylum.”

via The Huffington Post

h/t OC reader Nick

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Flannery O’Connor to Lit Professor: “My Tone Is Not Meant to Be Obnoxious. I’m in a State of Shock”


When Flannery O’Connor started writing in the middle of the 20th century, short stories — or at least fashionable short stories that were published in The New Yorker –unfolded delicately revealing gossamer-like layers of experience. O’Connor’s stories, in contrast, were pungent, grotesque, often violent moral tales dealing with unabashedly Christian themes. They definitely weren’t fashionable at the time. Yet since her untimely death at age 39 in 1964, O’Connor’s reputation has only increased. Even for readers who aren’t immersed in Catholic theology, her stories — which pair outlandish, often comic characters with harrowing, existential situations — have a way of burrowing into your consciousness and staying there. For O’Connor, the gothic tales were a means to an end: “To the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.”

In 1961, an English professor wrote to O’Connor hoping to help his students understand “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” The story, perhaps the author’s most famous, is a slippery, troubling work about a family of six casually murdered by an escaped convict called the Misfit in the backwoods of Georgia. The story’s main character is clearly the Grandmother. The story is seen through her eyes, and she is the one who ultimately dooms the family. Yet the professor didn’t quite see it that way:

We have debated at length several possible interpretations, none of which fully satisfies us. In general we believe that the appearance of the Misfit is not ‘real’ in the same sense that the incidents of the first half of the story are real. Bailey, we believe, imagines the appearance of the Misfit, whose activities have been called to his attention on the night before the trip and again during the stopover at the roadside restaurant. Bailey, we further believe, identifies himself with the Misfit and so plays two roles in the imaginary last half of the story. But we cannot, after great effort, determine the point at which reality fades into illusion or reverie. Does the accident literally occur, or is it part of Bailey’s dream? Please believe me when I say we are not seeking an easy way out of our difficulty. We admire your story and have examined it with great care, but we are not convinced that we are missing something important which you intended us to grasp. We will all be very grateful if you comment on the interpretation which I have outlined above and if you will give us further comments about your intention in writing ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find.’

O’Connor was understandably baffled by this reading. Her response:

28 March 1961

The interpretation of your ninety students and three teachers is fantastic and about as far from my intentions as it could get to be. If it were a legitimate interpretation, the story would be little more than a trick and its interest would be simply for abnormal psychology. I am not interested in abnormal psychology.

There is a change of tension from the first part of the story to the second where the Misfit enters, but this is no lessening of reality. This story is, of course, not meant to be realistic in the sense that it portrays the everyday doings of people in Georgia. It is stylized and its conventions are comic even though its meaning is serious.

Bailey’s only importance is as the Grandmother’s boy and the driver of the car. It is the Grandmother who first recognized the Misfit and who is most concerned with him throughout. The story is a duel of sorts between the Grandmother and her superficial beliefs and the Misfit’s more profoundly felt involvement with Christ’s action which set the world off balance for him.

The meaning of a story should go on expanding for the reader the more he thinks about it, but meaning cannot be captured in an interpretation. If teachers are in the habit of approaching a story as if it were a research problem for which any answer is believable so long as it is not obvious, then I think students will never learn to enjoy fiction. Too much interpretation is certainly worse than too little, and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply it.

My tone is not meant to be obnoxious. I am in a state of shock.

Flannery O’Connor

You can hear O’Connor read “A Good Man is Hard to Find” below. We have more information on the 1959 reading here:

Via Letters of Note

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.

Read The Very First Comic Book: The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck (1837)

Obadiah Oldbuck

Comic books, as any enthusiast of comics books won’t hesitate to tell you, have a long and robust history, one that extends far wider and deeper than the 20th-century caped musclemen, carousing teenagers, and wisecracking animals so many associate with the medium. The scholarship on comic-book history — still a relatively young field, you understand — has more than once revised its conclusions on exactly how far back its roots go, but as of now, the earliest acknowledged comic book dates to 1837.

The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck, according to thecomicbooks.com’s page on early comic-book history, “was done by Switzerland’s Rudolphe Töpffer, who has been considered in Europe (and starting to become here in America) as the creator of the picture story. He created the comic strip in 1827,” going on to create comic books “that were extremely successful and reprinted in many different languages; several of them had English versions in America in 1846. The books remained in print in America until 1877.”

Oldbuck 2

Also known as Histoire de M. Vieux BoisLes amours de Mr. Vieux Bois, or simply Monsieur Vieuxbois, the original 1837 Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck earned Töpffer the designation of “the father of the modern comic” from no less an authority on the matter than Understanding Comics author Scott McCloud, who cites the series’ pioneering use of bordered panels and “the interdependent combination of words and pictures.” You can see for yourself at the web site of Dartmouth College’s Library.

Alas, contemporary critics — and to an extent Töpffer himself, who considered it a work targeted at children and “the lower classes” — couldn’t see the innovation in all this. They wrote off Obadiah Oldbuck‘s harrowing yet strangely lighthearted pictorial stories of failed courtship, dueling, attempted suicide, robbery, drag, elopement, ghosts, stray bullets, attack dogs, double-crossing, and the threat of execution as mere trifles by an otherwise capable artist. So the next time anyone gets on your case about reading comic books, just tell ‘em they said the same thing about Obadiah Oldbuck. Then send them this way so they can figure out what you mean. You can read The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck in its totality here.

Oldbuck 3

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How Did Everything Begin?: Animations on the Origins of the Universe Narrated by X-Files Star Gillian Anderson

Back in November, we brought you the BBC series of short animated videos, A History of Ideas. Produced in collaboration with the UK’s Open University and narrated by Harry Shearer, these fun introductions to such philosophers as Simone de Beauvoir and Edmund Burke, and such weighty philosophical topics as free will and the problem of evil, make challenging, abstract concepts accessible to non-philosophers. Now the series is back with a new chapter, “How Did Everything Begin?,” a survey of several theories of the origins of the universe, from Thomas Aquinas’ philosophical speculations, to Hindu cosmology; and from theologian William Paley’s design argument (below), and the theory of the Big Bang (above).

The two videos here present an interesting counterpoint between the origin theories of astrophysics and theology. Though current day intelligent design proponents deny it, there is still much of William Paley’s argument, at least in style, in their explanations of creation. First propounded in his 1802 work Natural Theology, the theologian’s famous watchmaker analogy—which he extended to the design of the eye, and everything else—gave Charles Darwin much to puzzle over, though David Hume had supposedly refuted Paley’s arguments 50 years earlier. The Big Bang theory—a term created by its foremost critic Fred Hoyle as a pejorative—offers an entirely naturalistic account of the universe’s origins, one that presupposes no inherent purpose or design.

As with the previous videos, these are scripted by former Open University professor and host of the Philosophy Bites podcast, Nigel Warburton. This time around the videos are narrated by Gillian Anderson, whose voice you may not immediately recognize. Rather than sounding like Dana Scully, her famous X-Files character, Anderson speaks in a British accent, which she slips into easily, having lived in the UK for much of her childhood and now again as an adult. (You may have seen Anderson in many of the English period dramas she has appeared in, or in British crime drama The Fall or Michael Winterbottom’s uproarious adaptation of Tristram Shandy.)

These fascinating speculative theories—whether scientific or mythological—are sure to appeal to fans of the X-Files, who can perhaps begin to believe again, or remain skeptical, thanks to news that Anderson may reteam with Chris Carter and David Duchovny for a reboot of the classic sci-fi series.

Watch the remaining videos in the series below:

Thomas Aquinas and the First Mover Argument

Hindu Creation Stories

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

A Dazzling Gallery of Clockwork Orange Tattoos


Alex, the protagonist of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange takes teenage rebellion to psychotic extremes, but one act he and his droogs never indulge in is getting tattooed. It doesn’t even seem to be on their radar. How different things were in 1962, when the book was published!

I have no doubt that director Stanley Kubrick (or designer Milena Canonero) could have devised some iconic ink for the 1971 film adaptation, but it would’ve been gilding the lily. Movie Alex Malcolm McDowell’s single false eyelash is so arresting as to be instantly recognizable. It deserved its star billing on the updated book cover that coincided with the film’s release.

It’s also just one of many Clockwork Orange-inspired images that decorates fans’ hides now that tattooing has hit the mainstream. What would Alex think?

The little monster’s ego would’ve have relished the notoriety, but I bet he’d have had a snicker, too, at the lengths to which eager chellovecks and devotchkas will go. It’s the kind of thing his dim droogie Dim would do—mark himself up permanent when he could’ve just as well have bought a totebag.


Whether or not you personally would consider making a salute to A Clockwork Orange a lifelong feature of your birthday suit, it’s hard not to admire the commitment of the passionate literature and film lovers who do.

In assembling the gallery below, we’ve opted to forgo the photorealistic portraits of McDowell—particularly the ones that recreate the aversion therapy scene—in favor of the graphic, the creative, the jaw dropping, the sly… and the unavoidable Hello Kitty mash up, which we’re kind of hoping washes off.

Clockwork Tattoo 4

Clockwork Tattoo 6

Clockwork Tattoo 5

Clockwork Tattoo 7

Clockwork Tattoo 8

Clockwork Tattoo 9


Clockwork Tattoo 11


Clockwork Tattoo 13

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Ayun Halliday is an author, homeschooler, and cartoonist, whose latest comic celebrates Civil War firebrand, “Crazy Bet” Van Lew. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Whitney Museum Puts Online 21,000 Works of American Art, By 3,000 Artists

soir bleu

Soir Bleu by Edward Hopper, 1914.

The trend has now become delightfully clear: the world’s best-known art institutions have got around to the important business of making their collections freely viewable online. We’ve already featured the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Rijksmuseum, and the National Gallery (as well as new, internet-based institutions such as the Google Art Project and Art.sy). Today, we bring news that the Whitney Museum of American Art has joined in as well.

the steerage

The Steerage by Alfred Stieglitz, 1907.

“Last week, the Whitney Museum massively overhauled its online database,” writes Hyperallergic’s Becca Rothfeld. “The museum of American art expanded its online collection from a paltry 700 works to around 21,000. The digital reserve now includes over 3,000 pieces by Edward Hopper, in addition to offerings from a wide swathe of art from the United States, including the likes of Mike Kelley and Martin Wong.” Rothfeld also notes that all this digitization has happened during the museum’s physical move, currently underway, to a building in the Meatpacking District with 63,000 combined square feet of indoor and outdoor gallery space.

morning sky

Morning Sky by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1916.

We non-New Yorkers have, of course, already booked our flights to experience the Whitney’s new digs. But since the building won’t actually open to the public until May, all of us, no matter where we live, will have to content ourselves for the moment with what the museum has put online so far. Fortunately, it has put a lot online: you can browse their digital collections by artist here; you’ll notice a great deal of Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, and Andy Warhol already available for your browsing pleasure.

via Hyperallergic

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.