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New graphic novel repurposes vintage comics in the fight for social justice

    Everything old is new again. Argle Bargle Books is onto something special. Their winning formula is quite simple. They take public domain comic books and repurpose them with new pertinent dialogue. I love the old comic book feel. This is a winning formula for the Ottawa-based independent publisher. The Canuck publisher supports Canadian and international underground comic creators who exhibit something new to say in the 4-color medium. Argle Bargle Books’ new offering is called, GREENIE JOSEPHENIE. Just think of it as a rap song with loops and mixes cobbled together with new lyrics.

    GREENIE JOSEPHENIE is the story of a superheroine who fights out-of-control global oligarchs like Confederate Beverages, EE-ZEE Serve Holdings and Prison Corp.  In this world ruled by mega-conglomerates, she fights alongside the superhero of Sperandio’s last graphic novel, PINKO JOE.  The battle they wage is likely to feel familiar to many readers today.
    Sperandio punctuates Greenie with hilarious ironic asides. The biggest irony, however, lies in the making of the graphic novel:  the artist uses a 21st-century digital toolkit to replicate the look of vintage halftone comic strips slapdash printed onto newsprint: color registration askew, dots differently sized, and ink either gunked on or missing.

    “I got it in my head that I could tell a new story without using new layouts or characters,” says Sperandio.  “Rather, I borrowed and repurposed panels and layouts from disparate genres—crime, science fiction, horror and romance. Once the remix fell into place, I wrote new dialogue and re-inked all 94 pages.” 
    “It was a hellishly painstaking process, actually,” concludes the artist, “but it allowed me to honor the history of comics while reflecting on present-day perils.”
    Greenie is the second installment in a forthcoming trilogy.  Sperandio is creating his graphic novel series with support from CATS, the Comic Art and Teaching Study Workshop, a hybrid research/teaching space on the Rice campus that he founded eight years ago.  CATS houses original comic books and comic strip drawings mount exhibitions, and publishes on the subject of comics, both historically and internationally. 
    Never-Before-Used Process 

    In making GREENIE JOSEPHENIE, Sperandio intentionally references the assembly-line nature of comic production in the heyday of the ‘50s, when a writer would write dialogue, one artist would pencil, and another artist would ink.
    He set rules for himself: he tried to use complete stories and he interfered as little as possible with his found material. He adhered to a period-specific color palette of 64 colors and even rather insanely strove to reproduce the poor printing quality achieved so effortlessly back in the day. He lettered pages on a computer in a font he made himself from an original Leroy lettering template, the same kind used to letter EC Comics in the ‘50s.  Finally, he sourced paper-like feels like the newsprint of comic heydays.
    Aware that he was giving the too-little-known artists of yore no option but to collaborate with him, in Greenie the artist acknowledges his debt to such masters as Lin Streeter, Fred Guardineer, Ralph Mayo, Alex Schomburg, Louis Zansky, Leonard Starr, Jerry Siegel, Murphy Anderson, and Jim McLaughlin.

    Tony M.