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A new graphic novel pays homage to the unsung makers of popular comics
Pinko Joe. © Christopher Sperandio.

NEW YORK, NY.- Christopher Sperandio, an artist and educator who has long melded artmaking and labor activism, released a new kind of graphic novel, one that he has developed over the last few years at the Comic Art Teaching and Study Workshop (CATS) at Rice University.

Pinko Joe is the story of a troubled anti-hero wage-slave from another planet who battles to save earthlings from gun-toting corporate raiders and out-of-control oligarchs. Sperandio created the novel by patching together and re-inking original pages from old public domain comics.

“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 96 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 inequities.”

The casebound cover for PINKO JOE bundles floppy, newsprint-like pages into three 32-page chapters. And, what’s more, this comic for the 99% is only the first installment in a forthcoming trilogy: volume two is entitled GREENIE JOSEPHINIE and volume three, RED WHITE AND U BLEW IT ALL 2 HELL.

Pinko Joe Stars…
… Joe, an anti-authoritarian, anti-hero wage-slave from another planet. Over three chapters, the reader follows Joe as he battles gun-toting corporate raiders through a fictional third term of the Eisenhower administration. Joe crashes cars and trumps capitalists – but just as he’s winning the struggle against the nascent military-industrial complex, the Ultra-Capitalist arrives! This arch-villain future man has weapons and business models that are ten times more advanced, and eleven times more deadly!

Never-Before-Used Process
In making PINKO JOE, Christopher 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.

Sperandio 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 computer in a font he made himself from an original Leroy lettering template, the same kind used to letter EC Comics in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Aware that he was giving the too-little-known artists of yore no option but to collaborate with him, Sperandio has entitled his forthcoming trio of books the Forced Collaboration Trilogy, and in PINKO JOE acknowledges such masters as Lin Streeter, Fred Guardineer, Ralph Mayo, Alex Schomburg, Louis Zansky, Leonard Starr, Jerry Siegel, Murphy Anderson, and Jim McLaughlin.

The casebound cover for PINKO JOE bundles floppy, news print-like pages into three 32-page chapters. And, what’s more, this comic for the 99% is only the first installment in a forthcoming trilogy: volume two is entitled GREENIE JOSEPHINIE and volume three, RED WHITE AND U BLEW IT ALL 2 HELL.

Yes, There’s More History
In the ‘60s, an artist movement in France known as the Situationist International modified comics via collage techniques to criticize the French government. Called détournement, or hi-jacking, these re-workings have a parallel in today’s mainstream comics, where an artist will `borrow’ a page or a panel from another artist in an act dubbed swiping or employ another form of remix described as pastiche. (Two words, nerds: Squadron Supreme!)

Christopher Sperandio serves as a professor of drawing and painting at Rice University, where he in 2014 he established CATS, a hybrid research/teaching space that houses original comic books and comic strip drawings, mounts exhibitions, and publishes on the subject of comics, both historically and internationally.

The artist has long experimented with ways to engage non-art audiences in art and art-making.

As half of the team of Grennan & Sperandio, he made some 20 comic books, including “Modern Masters: Tales from the Pinnacle of Culture,” for PS1/Museum of Modern Art (DC Comics) and "Invisible City," for the Public Art Fund (Fantagraphics), and participated in such notable, boundary-stretching exhibitions as Culture in Action, organized by Mary Jane Jacob (1994) and Traffic, organized by Nicholas Bourriaud(1996).

PINKO JOE is Sperandio's first solo graphic novel.

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