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By day, a mild-mannered cartoonist for a small school newspaper...by night, a costumed heroine fighting for truth, justice, and, like, you know, stuff like that. But will the Teen of Titanium accept a dame muscling in on his turf?
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This story is part of an arc: 1 2 3

Episode #: 301

Issue #: 25

Release Date: Apr 30, 2007
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Cover

The tagline, "Ah...something new has been added!" refers to the advertising campaign for Old Gold cigarettes during the 1940s. A popular catchphrase in a number of cartoons of the period, it's heard in "Little Brown Jug" (Famous Studios, 1948) and Warner Bros.' "The Hep Cat" (Clampett, 1942) and "Booby Trapped" (Clampett, 1944).

SweetTart's civilain identity is Kathryn Tartakoff, named for both her body model, Kathryn White--an artist Sweet once worked with at the Arkansas State University--and Brandon Tartakoff, the controversial late president of NBC.
      When in costume, Kitty's dress, hairstyle, and moves are very similar to Sailor Moon, hence the lunar background.
      SweeTTart's origin story also rather recalls Batgirl, who--after a few short-lived prototypes and false starts--was created to be the difinitive female counterpart to The Dark Knight.

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Title: "SweetTart"

Story (out of 33 pages): 33 p.

Writer: Tawana and Che Most

Penciller: Scott J. Hanna and J. M. Sweet

Letterer: Noah Jewett

Colorist: Annette T. "Jo" Shaw

Summary:

The story opens in the offices of the Sonny Tufts Jr. High Harbinger, where a power struggle is unfolding. Mack Burke, managing editor, has just encouraged reporter Johnny Tewes to try his hand at column-writing. Faculty advisor
Rhea Borstein, promises to "punish" Burke for promoting a staffer without consulting her first, which she feels is a gross act of insubordination.

One afternoon after school, Harbinger cartoonist Kathryn "Kitty" Tartakoff and Aren Loy, her best friend, watch Jon busting a suspect. Kitty becomes obsessed with the outlaw hero in yellow and begins sketching many pictures of him (in an idealized anime fashon).

The following semester Lucy Chaser, editor-in-chief, and editorial editor Lyle Turncoate call Johnny into the office for a meeting. Copy editor Tom Little, they say, has accused him of plagiarizing material in his latest column. Johnny denies it, but is fired anyway. Johnny storms out of the office in a rage. Shortly afterward the hotheaded young writer dies in a strange mishap outside his apartment house...which Kitty suspects may not be totally an accident. To avoid arousing her employers' suspicion, she dons an eccentric homemade costume and calls herself "SweetTart"--and so the story really begins....

Previous episode references

  • BABF04-a, BABF12-b--Channel 6 7/8
  • BABF04-a--Holden Yass namedrop
  • BABF07-c, BABF09--Kiss Bridge appears
  • BABF12-b--Channel 6 7/8
  • BABF21--Ocean Springs referenced
  • EABF01--Jon uses super speed

    Notes

    From the Belchblog, dated Feb 6, 2007:
          I was naive enough once to think the left and the right could work together, that liberals and conservatives could actually be friends. I had to learn a very hard, nasty lesson that cold February day a decade ago. In the newsroom I witnessed the true ugly side of human nature come out: the pettiness, the bickering, the cronyism, the incessant backstabbing, the all-pervading attitude of doing whatever it takes to get ahead. Journalism is a hideous, soul-eating profession. Its mantra is "success at any cost". They will cheat, lie, betray, and sacrifice friendships in the name of power. This is not how intelligent, supposedly educated people act. It isn't college. It isn't even high-school. It's strictly junior-high behavior. This is why for the May 2007 issue I have a junior high school newspaper as my setting. I staffed it with caricatures of the folks I once worked with, based the story on actual situations, and often used actual dialogue in the script. I did this because I want people to see for themselves just how truly hideous and childish these creatures are.

    page 1. "This is the story of a girl..." is lifted from the first line of the song "Absolutely (The Story of A Girl)" by the pop group Nine Days.

    The Harbinger is designed to resemble the Arkansas State University Herald offices, and all highlighted names in the summary link to photos of key players in the Herald Conspiracy, known around SCP headquarters as The Big Five.
          Several major characters' names were changed between drafts; most notably Johnny Tewes, who was originally called "Jimmy Doulcette" (pronounced doo-SHAY). Chapter two was originally called "The Rise and Fall of Jimmy D." (later changed to "Johnny Tested", referring to the cartoon Johnny Test). "I didn't want Johnny to look too much like me, although he was loosely based on myself as I was then," admits penciller J.M. Sweet. "When I first doodled up a sketch of him, my first thought was, with those dark glasses and upswept hair, that he looked like a California surfer type."

    The entire story takes place over the course of six months, from October 8 to the last week of March. Also, for the first time in the series, a definite year is given--a calendar in the background on page two shows it to be late 2006.

    page 1. Sonny Tufts was a fifties-era actor more noted for his boorishness, excessively foul mouth, and bouts of public drunkenness than his acting talent or film career. It was said that to simply mention his name in a nightclub act brought the house down.

    page 1. The title is an actual scan of a SweeTarts package; note the logo reads "Bite 'er", which is a customized rendering of the packaging's slogan, "Bite 'em".

    page 1. "Watercress Blossoms" is a parody of "Sassafras Roots", the strip Kat White drew for The Herald from 1996 to '97. Actual artwork from the strip appears in the first panel on page two.

    page 4. Aren's last name, never given in the story, is Loy. Sweet has said she was modeled after the copy editor's girlfriend--right down to the scar on her neck--and fellow editoral board member at the time of The Herald Conspiracy, though their two characters have no romantic or even direct connection.

    page 5. "Kitty's line in the last panel was taken from something in a phone conversation with a college girlfriend," Sweet says.

    page 10. Kitty's stylized sketch of Jon bears a striking resemblance to Tuxedo Mask, Sailor Moon's lover in both the manga and the anime.

    page 11. If you look closely, you can make out the words "CAPTION: I've Got A Steffi" on the board in the second-to-last panel. This is referring to a photo of tennis great Steffi Graff. According to Sweet, one of the sportswriters actually did put this on the office brownboard one day.

    page 12. "Live With Nate Josten"--a partial anagram of "Jonathan Sweet"--and the title of Johnny's column "MPAA Ratings System", refers to Saturday Night Live's alledged TV ratings sketch that cost Sweet his position on The Herald and has caused the decade-long dispute between the two. The MPAA ratings were created by film buff and media advocate Jack Valenti, who coincidentally passed away four days before the release of this story.

    page 13. "Rabid TV" is a spoof of Mad TV, another popular sketch comedy that airs opposite SNL on another network.

    There are a number of hidden and subliminal references to Communism in this issue's background art:

  • On the top shelf of the bookcase in Lucy's office on page 13, you can see a copy of Das Kapital, perhaps Karl Marx's most well-known treatise on Communist theory. Directly below that is George Orwell's sprawling dystopian satire of socialism, 1984, and Marx and Frederich Engels' collaborative Party bible The Communist Manifesto. Of this Sweet comments, "Why have such a thing in the ofice of a school paper? Are they there for purely academic reasons? Or are they instructional manuals for the editors? You be the judge."
  • On Borstein's bookshelf, page 17, there is a book called "Joel's Fat Sin" (an anagram for Josef Stalin).
  • The street the school is on is named "N. Line"--an anagram for [Vladimir] Lenin (page 18).
  • When Kitty folds her copy of The Harbinger over, concealing a good part of the banner (page 21), the word BINGE is clearly seen at the top. "Binge" is often used in conjunction with "purge", which is a term often used for Stalin's mass exiles and executions during his term as premier of Russia. Also, the background of the panel is stained red, a color associated with both blood and the Communist Party. In fact, many pivotal scenes in the Harbinger office contain a lot of red.
  • On Borstein's desk (page 29), there is a book titled "Able Liar" (an anagram for "a liberal") by the fictional author Tyrone Stolk--an anagram for Leon Trotsky.
  • One of the staffers on the office bulletin board (page 29) is named "Josefina Steel", a feminization of Josef Stalin ("Stalin" translates roughly to "Man of Steel".).

    page 17. The items in Johnny's room--from left to right, two "Joyboy" magazines (a parody of Playboy), two large plastic drink bottles, a piggy bank, and a plastic mug--symbolize the tokens of appreciation Sweet's followers lavished on him during his time as a columnist.

    page 17. On Borstein's bookshelf, from right to left, there is an "I Love You This Much" novelty bookend (an oddly ironic item to find in such a person's office) and a book called "See You Next Thursday" (if you say "See you", followed by the first letter of the second two words, the joke in reference to Borstein is evident).

    page 18. According to the letterhead on the envelope, Johnny lives in the Don Messick Apartments. Messick, perhaps best known as the voice of Scooby-Doo, Dr. Benton Quest, Ranger Smith, and Boo-Boo Bear, voiced most of Hanna-Barbera's output during the sixties, along with fellow proficient voice actor Daws Butler. The street address is "420", a popular number in stoner culture (a reference to Jimmy's "blonde beach-bum" look).
          The school's address is 205 North Line Road, Jigaboo Junction, (state obscured),
    ?1997
    . The street address and zip code together spell 2/05/1997, the date and year of The Herald Conspiracy. Note that the state Jigaboo Junction is left a mystery by a well-placed coffee stain, though a "-1997" zip code would place it in the vacinity of Columbus, GA (see goofs section for more on this).

    page 19. According to Sweet, "The death of Tewes was drawn from an actual incident a month after I got fired [from The Herald]. Someone threw a trash can at me from an upper-story window of [the] Twin [Towers]. It likely had nothing to do with The Herald, but it came after I'd been sending letters-to-the-editor trying to get my name back in [the paper], and it had me really rattled. It could have been meant as a harmless prank, but what kind of ugly mind thinks dropping a trash can from four stories up in front of someone to scare them is funny? It could have hurt, even killed me. I know it came from the fourth floor because I saw one open window, just big enough to get a huge trash can out of, right there. Later I learned [Scott] Mitchell lived on the fourth floor. Now I'm not saying that he did it, I'm just saying he was the kind of guy who would."

    page 19. Several of the onlookers in the crowd are modeled after fellow posters at Sweet's favorite message board. "Ron Stoppable, one of the mods, asked me if I'd ever considered drawing any fellow members," said Sweet, "and as it happened, I had a crowd scene that was just perfect coming up, so I inserted a few characters from the AJM Studios comic book. There's about half a dozen of them milling about looking at the body."
    Also, one of the lookie-loos bears a striking resemblance to Mammy Two-Shoes from the old Tom and Jerry cartoons, and, on the following page, caricatures of Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong can be seen in a newspaper photo.

    page 20. The title of chapter three refers to the film Conspiracy Theory.

    page 22. The description of the program given by the announcer is a fairly good summary of the show Pinky, Elmyra, and the Brain, which combined the stars of Pinky and the Brain (itself a spinoff of Animaniacs) with Elmyra, the "lamest, most annoying character" from Tiny Toon Adventures. "WC" is a parody of "WB" (now The CW); it also stands for "wash closet", an old name for a toilet, possibly an intentional jab at the network's latter-day programming.
          "Gigantic" is a parody of the bloated historical epic Titanic; "Love Blows" may be a parody of the Winona Ryder romantic comedy Reality Bites.

    The news item about a body thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge refers to Bobbie Gentry's song "Ode to Billie Joe" (1967), in which a troubled boy named Billie Joe McAllister committed suicide by jumping off the bridge of the same name. Many have speculated about a revelation that a girl who looks like the female narrator was observed throwing a mysterious object from the bridge. It has been suggested she killed or disposed of Billie's illegitimate or stillborn baby; however, the singer herself says in interviews even she doesn't know. There actually is a Tallahatchie River located in Choctaw County, Mississippi, where Gentry was born, and it has been declared a famous historical site.

    page 28. The plot to destroy a rival with a fake photograph of them in a compromising position was first used in "Eve Bade Adam Eat", which was the fourth story in Sweet's 2002 anthology Almasheol. Sweet admits that it was inspired by a "half-cocked" revenge scheme he had. "I put together a fake photograph of ASU's president naked in bed with a little girl, and planned to send it to [Scott] Mitchell with a note saying 'From a friend'," said Sweet. "Once he was stupid and greedy enough to try to publish it [in The Herald], the eds would have no choice but to bounce him out on his ass. However, I didn't want [Bonnie] Thrasher to trace the photo back to me. I knew she was hateful and insane, but not stupid. Even if I took every precaution, wore gloves, and posted the letter from another town, the old bat would still smell me on the envelope. So I scrapped the plan--call it cowardice, call it taking the moral high road, I don't know--and burned the photo. Mitchell's over in Texas now, at the Fart Worthless--I mean, Ft. Worth--Star-Telegram. He's a copy editor. A...copy...editor. I'd like to sit him down and ask him: Was it really worth it, Scooter? Sure, you rose up in the ranks faster than any other Herald staffer in thirty years. You made Herald editor in a year, and all you had to do was sell me out, cost me my job, turn all my friends against me, and force me to leave school. Ten years later I'm writing books and starting my own company, and what're you up to? Still editing copy. Cripes, a monkey could do your job. You're not even worth the price of the bowl of beans it would take to muster up the gas to fart on you and set you on fire."

    page 29. One of the Harbinger's artists is named "Bob Crumb", a reference to famed underground artist Robert Crumb, creator of such characters as Fritz the Cat.

    page 32. Kitty's method of contacting Jon parodies the famous Bat-Signal.

    page 33. Jon mentions a local mob boss named Franco Malpezzi. According to Sweet, he named the character after his former journalism instructor at ASU.

    page 34. G.L.OW. (short for "Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling") was pretty much what it sounds like: women in flamboyant and often very skimpy costumes pounding the piss out of one another in the ring. The series, which debuted in sydication in 1986, still enjoys a small but loyal cult following today, and even a few attempts at resurrecting the franchise have been made. It featured short interstitial material, often recurring comic bits featuring characters--e.g. Ninotchka the Russian trying to get in touch with her incompetent KGB field agent, or one of the girls reading suggestive fan mail she didn't seem to comprehend--often sandwiched between the matches. The G.L.O.W. girls were so popular they even appeared on an episode of Married With Children ("You Gotta Know When to Fold Em", part 2) in the early nineties.

    This issue is dedicated to Ken Prince, another former Herald artist and fiancee of Kathryn White, who died of a stroke on March 18, 2006. A caricature of Prince--the tall fellow with glasses looking at Kit's sketchbook--is seen in the fifth panel on page 11, and on page 30 his name appears on the office bulletin board next to Kitty's (billed as "Rick E. Penn").

    Goofs and Nitpicks

        page 18. Part of the stain covering the return address is left uncolored, creating a bit of confusion over whether that was intended to be a spot or a zero in the zip code.

        On page 22 Kitty is lying on her bed wearing socks. They've inexplicably disappeared, with no seeming chance to remove them between her getting up, moving to the bathroom door, and returning to the bed, on page 23.

    Look inside!
    Click on the thumbnail to see full-size image.
       



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