Hi, I'm Rafael Rodrigues (also known as Algures) and I make comics. I am also a copywriter, content writer and science writer. Most of my work are available in portuguese, but some are in english.
I'm available for freelance work, so contact me if you need: contato@rafaelalgures.com
Olá, sou Rafael Rodrigues (também conhecido como Algures) e eu faço histórias em quadrinhos. Também sou redator publicitário, de conteúdo e científico.
Estou disponível para trabalho freelancer, entre em contato se precisar: contato@rafaelalgures.com

segunda-feira, 29 de junho de 2020

From Film to Comics: Evil Dead/Army of Darkness

“Gutter of Horror” is a Brazilian column from Dinamo Studio website about horror comics.
This is a translated version of the articles.

Sometimes called “Evil Dead”, sometimes called “Army of Darkness”, both titles refers to the universe created by filmmaker Sam Raimi in the films Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness – and now including Ash vs Evil Dead tv series. The stories follow Ash Williams, a nobody that end up involved with Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, an ancient Sumerian text capable of release the forces of evil. Ash was played by actor Bruce Campbell who, since then, became strongly associated with the franchise. The series of films gained a cult following and was adapted for other media, including comics. In the comics, Ash travelled to space and time, fought classic monsters and meet several characters like Freddy Krueger, Jason, Vampirella and… Xena, the Warrior Princess? This and more, thanks mostly to Dynamite Entertainment. Let’s dive in into the many Army of Darkness Comics.

Army of Darkness (Dark Horse, 1992)

The transition to comics began in 1990s by Dark Horse, which adapted the third film of the franchise, Army of Darkness. It was adapted in a 3-issue miniseries with original script from Sam and Ivan Raimi, and ilustrated by John Bolton. The comics has the original ending was not in the final version of the movie.

Army of Darkness: Ashes 2 Ashes (Dynamite, 2004)

In the 2000s, Dynamite acquire the rights over the franchise, relaunch the Army of Darkness adaptation and made a new 4-issue miniseries continuing the adventures of the character. In Ashes 2 Ashes, the story began where the third film left off with the Wise Man arriving into Ash’s time and telling him that this is not yet the correct time, and he’s actually moments before he let the woods in the first Evil Dead film. Once again he has to face evil in the woods, finds her past self and, with the help of the Wise Man, go to the past where the events from the third movie took place in an attempt to destroy the book that started it all. The miniseries was written by Andy Hartnell, with art from Nick Bradshaw.

Army of Darkness: Shop Till You Drop Dead (Devil’s Due/Dynamite, 2005)

Published by Devil’s Due and Dynamite, this new 4-issue miniseries is the direct sequel to Ashes 2 Ashes and follows Ash, back to Egypt, believing that the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis was destroyed forever. But the evil book found a way to return and one more time is at the hands of Ash's annoying boss, so he has to join his coworkers to fight against evil. It was written by James Kuhoric and illustrated by Nick Bradshaw and Sandford Greene.

Army of Darkness – Volume 1 (Dynamite, 2005)

Finally Dynamite decided to give Ash a regular title, which follows directly where Shop Till You Drop Dead left off. This first volume has four arcs: Ash vs Reanimator, where the character meets with Herbert West, classic H.P. Lovecraft character; Old School, where Ash returns to the cabin where it all started; Ash vs Dracula, where Ash has to prevent the Vampire from using the Necronomicon; and The Death of Ash, that close this first volume and ending up with Ash arriving in the Marvel Zombies Universe.

Army of Darkness vs Marvel Zombies (Marvel Comics, Dynamite, 2007)

With the success of the series about Marvel characters becoming zombies, Marvel and Dynamite made this crossover where Ash ends up going to the Marvel Zombies universe before the infection that was brought to earth by the Sentinel and had to join the resistance against the zombies superheroes. The 5-issue miniseries is written by John Layman with art by Fabiano Neves, Fernando Blanco e Sean Phillips. The story is cannon both to Ash’s and to Marvel Zombies chronologies.

Darkman vs. Army of Darkness (Dynamite, 2006)

In a great homage to the creator of Evil Dead, this crossover finds Ash meeting Deadman, another classic 1990s film series created by Sam Raimi. In the story, Deadman’s old love accidentally releases the forces of evil with Necronomicon and Deadman has to count on Ash to help fix the problem. It was written by Roger Stern and Kurt Busiek, with art of James Fry.

Army of Darkness – Volume 2 and 3 (Dynamite, 2007)

The second regular series of Army of Darkness lasted until 2009 and sees Ash travelling to different tim periods and alternated realities. There was also a third series that lasted 13 issues.

Ash vs Freddy and Jason 1 and 2 (Dynamite, Wildstorm, 2008; 2009)

It was only a matter of time for this to happen. Ash met Freddy Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street) e Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th) in two different occasions: the first, Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash, is based on a screenplay from a sequel to Freddy vs Jason film that was never made; the second is called The Nightmare Warriors and is a straight up sequel to Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash, featurng cameos from several characters from these franchises.

 Army of Darkness and… Xena? And more than one? (Dynamite, 2008)

With the comic version of Ash well established in a universe where anything can happen, Dynamite brought this unusual crossover that happen not only one, not only two, but three times. In Army of Darkness / Xena: Why Not?, Ash travels to the world of Xena to destroy a mini-version of himself that could destroy that world. Xena/Army of Darknes: What, Again? puts Xena and Gabrielle in the 21st Century and Army of Darkness/Xena: Forever... And A Day puts Ash finding Xena in different points of her life.

Ash Williams and the universe created for the films found fertile ground in the comics, giving birth to a number of wacky stories and crazy crossovers with characters like Danger Girl, Vampirella, Hack/Slash and, more recently, Bubba Ho-Tep (from the movie in which Bruce Campbell plays Elvis Presley). He even saved president Obama!

Titles based on Evil Dead 2 (Space Goat, 2015)

Space Goat productions acquired, in 2015,the rights to the movie Evil Dead 2 (the aspects that involved who has the rights to what is complicated and it's not relevant for the moment) and decided to publish several comics based on characters from that movie. Beyond Dead By Dawn follows Annie Knowby and a copy of Ash in Hell; Cradle of the Damned is the direct follow up to Beyond Dead By Dawn; Tales of The Ex-Mortis is an anthology that shows people in different times and places who come in contact with the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis for; the Revenge of One-Shots, where Ash battles fiction and real villains (Revenge of Hitler, Revenge of Dracula, Revenge of The Martians, Revenge of Krampus, Revenge of Jack The Ripper, and Revenge of Evil Ed); Dark Ones Rising, where Ash and Annie accidentally release Cthulhu; and A Merry Deadite X-Mas, where Ash and Annie are summoned to a Deadite-infested Christmas theme park.

Army of Darkness was one of the movie franchises that had the most success in comics, spanning an enormous list of titles. If you are a fan of the film universe and still didn’t read any of the comics, I highly recommend. 
Rafael Algures is a Bachelor of Philosophy specialized in Neurosciences of Language. He is also a copywriter, content and science writer, and a comic book creator. His latest work, “Gutter of Horror: Transition” is available at Amazon – digital and paperback.

Further Reading: Army of Darkness Omnibus Volume 1, by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi and others.

segunda-feira, 22 de junho de 2020

The Comics Code Authority, a Horror from the real world (final)

“Gutter of Horror” is a Brazilian column from Dinamo Studio website about horror comics.
This is a translated version of the articles.

Back in 1948, the Comic Industry had already trying to give some kind of practical answer due to people’s concerns about the impact of comic books, creating the Association of Comics Magazine Publishers. The ACMP was formed by Hillman Periodicals' Phil Keenan, , Lev Gleason Publications' Leverett Gleason, E.C. Comics’ William Gaines, Famous Funnies’ Harold Moore and Orbit Publications’ Rae Herman among others. This first attempt to self-regulate the industry lasted until 1954, when it was replaced by the Comics Magazine Association of America, lead by the Juvenile delinquency expert Charles F. Murphy.

The CMAA became the organization behind a new “code of ethics and standards” for the American Comic Industry, which was called Comics Code Authority. This code was based on a draft that the ACMP had made earlier and it was based on the Motion Picture Production Code from 1930. The Motion Picture Production Code, also known as The Hays Code, was a series of moral guidelines applied to American films released by the big studios between 1930 and 1968 - with a similar goal to the Comics Code. With time, the code became dated, and after 1968 was replaced by the evaluation system known as MPAA from the Motion Picture Association of America, that rates hollywood movies to this day.

The Comic Code Authority banished explicit representation of violence and gore in criminal and horror comics, established that the good guys would always have to win in the end and prohibited the glamorization and humanization of bad guys and sexual innuendo. Also, there was a bunch of weird prohibitions, such as banishing the words “horror”, “terror” and weird” from comics titles and the appearance of living dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, cannibalism, werewolves and supernatural entities in general. This weird prohibitions seemed to be targeting exclusively E.C. Comics, which didn’t have much option but to cancelled their titles and try to shift the focus of its publications which ended up being unsuccessful and the company ceased publication).

Unlike E.C, DC Comics, which published mostly superheroes, would adapt better to the code. So the company made Wonder Woman more “well behaved” (which meant to change her clothes) and took Dick Grayson, the Robin, to college to get away from Batman. With stories that looked more silly, DC managed to move forward without losing its most popular characters.

There’s a 1955 episode of the show “Confidential File” that features comics. The video is a great example of the mentality regarding the topic at the time.

Spider-man and the revision of the code in the 1970s

In early 1970s, Marvel Comics tried to ask permission for the CMAA to publish a Spider-Man story which features the use of drugs. The request was denied, but it did made the members of the organization to think about revise the Code. Some drafts were made and, in 1971, the editors agreed with a new version that not just allowed to show use of drugs and narcotics, but also monsters like vampires, creatures and werewolves, as long as they were represented in the “classic tradition of [characters like] Frankenstein, Dracula and other works of literary high caliber written by Edgar Allan Poe, Saki, Conan Doyle and other respectable authors whose works are read in schools all over the world.” It was a welcome change, but the Code still had a lot of limitations and weird rules. Zombies, for example, were the kind of creature that were not allowed by the code, since it was not featured in Victorian literature.

One of the most ridiculous that turned out to be good stories from that time involved writer Marv Wolfman. In a story that he wrote for House of Secrets #83 (1970, so before the revision of the code), the narrator talks about a story told by him and “a wandering wolfman”. Since “WOLFMAN” was in caps, it appears that the word referred to a werewolf, so the CCA rejected the story. But Gerry Conway came to the rescue, explaining that Wolfman was the writer’s last name and asked if this still would be consider a violation if his name was credit in the story. The CCA agreed and the story had the credits in the first page. This took DC to finally start to credit its creators in supernatural/mystery anthologies, which was not a common practice.

Escaping the Comics Code through Comic Shops

At this time, only 4 publishers were still in the CMAA between the 1970s and 1980s – Archie, Marvel, Harvey and DC. But a big change in distribution made possible for companies to sell comics without the Comics Code seal of approval: the direct negotiation with Comic Shops.

Back in the day, comics were distributed in newsstands, so the distributors delivered comics with other magazines and they served as an arm for the Comics Code, since they agreed in deliver only comics with the seal. But in the direct distribution market that created specialized distributors, this relationship changed and, to make this market stronger, sellers and direct distributors started to accept comics without the seal. This opened the door to new editors and companies that started to experiment with new material – including stories for mature readers – to expand their audience, and independent publishers started to appear.

In 1989, a new revision

Since the Industry was exploding with independent publications that didn’t care about the Comics Code at all, the CMAA decided for a new revision. Although the big publishers didn’t had a consensus about this (Some, like Marvel and Archie wanted to keep the old code), there was a big pressure from DC Comics to a revision. DC argued that the code was an embarrassment to authors and artists and this lead the CMAA to draft a new document called Principles of the Comics Code Authority, that had general guidelines about violence, language and other areas of concern. Another document, exclusive to editors, listed specific rules for each area of content.

1989 also marks an important year for diversity in comic:s references to homosexuality banishment was eliminated to allowed non stereotypical representation of LGBTQ+ characters.

The Comics Code languishes

With the revision in the 1970s and the new configuration in distribution, the Comics Code was losing more and more of its once big relevance. Titles like Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Spider-man, Batman, Swamp Thing, among others, started to work with more complex themes and explore more and more ethical questions and grey areas, making companies bolder each time to take new heights. Some issues from titles like Swamp Thing were released without the seal of the Comics Code. This allowed to the creation of classics like The Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum, The Dark Knight Returns, Sandman, Deadman and other works that targeted a more mature and sophisticated audience.

In 2001, Marvel stopped submitting its comics to the code, creating its own system. 10 years after, DC did the same. Today there’s just a few titles that are submitted to Comics Code, mostly comics for little kids. Archie Comics was another that recently decided to abandon the code, ending an almost 60 year supremacy of the Comics Code to American Comic Industry.

Today, each publisher has its own regulation set of codes and the Industry manages to avoid critics invoking the First Amendment, which is assisted by the Comic Book Legal Defense fund, that helps protect these rights through legal representation, consulting, assistance and education.

Rafael Algures is a Bachelor of Philosophy specialized in Neurosciences of Language. He is also a copywriter, content and science writer, and a comic book creator. His latest work, “Gutter of Horror: Transition” is available at Amazon –digital and paperback.

                            The Fall ofE.C. Comics

segunda-feira, 15 de junho de 2020

The Comics Code Authority, a Horror from the real world (part 1)

“Gutter of Horror” is a Brazilian column from Dinamo Studio website about horror comics. This is a translated version of the articles.

Responsible for killing E.C. Comics, most popular publisher of horror, suspense and crime titles in the 1950s, the infamous Comics Code Authority did much more than to attack comic books that featured graphic violence: it also changed the way companies make comics and can be considered responsible for much of the “infantilization” of superhero comics that came after 1950s. But the Code wasn’t born overnight: it’s the result of the cultural climate that was questioning comics as entertainment and its impact in the development of young readers.


The controversy surround comics was already topic of debate in the 1930s. The first group to target the medium was teachers that saw comics as a bad influence to students and something that would harm their reading abilities and "literary taste". At that time, comics were still seen as “cheap literature” without any artistic expression and something for those who were “lousy readers” – some people still think that, although thankfully it’s not the majority anymore.

Politically and culturally speaking, there was another important thing about comics. Unlike children’s books, comics were chosen by the kids so, for the first time, they had the power of choice over the material that they consumed, which made parents unconfortable. Adding to this, religious groups saw in semi-nude women in the jungle and the assumed glorification of villains in comics a moral education issue. As far back as 1930s, Catholic Church was already censoring comics, including it among the kind of content that needed to be evaluated before being recommended to the congregation.

But the situation really escalates after World War II. At that time, juvenile delinquency became a popular topic of discussion in American culture, especially among mental health specialists. With the stage settled since the decade before, these professionals were easily attracted to comics and to question its impact on youngsters. Among those specialists were Dr. Fredric Wertham, a New York Psychiatrist that began a campaign to banish comics sales to children, arguing that they imitate the actions of the characters and, therefore, comics lead to violence. In 1954, his studies turned into a book that would be the “bible” of the Comics Code.

Seduction of the Innocent

In his most famous book, Seduction of the Innocent, Wertham explores his hypothesis that comics lead to juvenile delinquency. Using a (small) sample of patients with severe delinquency problems, the psychiatrist deduced that comics were responsible for the behavior of these young people, once many of his actions had parallels and similarities with situations featured in comics. The “actions” were homosexuality (at that time still considered a mental disorder) where Wertham compare young gay men that read Batman, and several kinds of crimes like theft and robbery.

The book explores alleged problems in crime and horror comics, but also in Superhero titles. For example, he claimed that Superman was non-american and fascist, that Batman and Robin promoted homosexuality and that Wonder Woman had much subtext of domination in her stories and the fact that she was super strong was, to him, an obvious sign that the heroine was a lesbian. Wertham also saw things like subliminal nudity and falic objects in apparently innocent drawings (and you thought that Disney fans invented this things of seeing sex in everything, huh?).

The argument that kids were too stupid to understand that comics were fiction and therefore would imitated the actions of the characters in real life was not new. In the 1920s, a teacher from Tennessee went to court for teaching natural selection at school instead of creationism. The trial became famous for driving a revision of certain educational models in USA, with a major separation between church and state. At the time, the (incorrect) assumption that the evolution demonstrates that man “descended from monkeys” lead to the argument that, if this were teach to kids, they will soon started to behave like animals. This trial, known as “The scopes Trial”, can be seen in the classic movie “Inherit the wind”.

Today, more detailed studies and new evidence shows that Wertham manipulate and distorted several information that he present as results. Several methodological problems such as sample size, using anecdotal evidence and treating like empirical and using more rhetoric than actual evidence puts in check Wertham studies.

Political opportunism

Even before Seduction of the Innocent, the idea that comics lead to juvenile delinquency was already suggested in academic, political and popular circles – Wertham himself wrote articles about it back in 1947). Seen as a public security problem in the eyes of an extremely paranoid post-war America, it didn’t took long for the government to decide to play ball too. In 1953, the United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency was created to debate exhaustively the subject.

The subcommittee was a unit of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee created by motion of Senator Robert Hendrickson, a Republican from New Jersey. The first members were senators. Estes Kefauver, Thomas C. Hennings Jr. e William Langer. Hendrickson started presiding the committee, but was soon replaced by Kefauver. But Estes Kefauver was not an unknown by the public opinion. Between 1950 and 1951 he presided the special Senate subcommittee  that investigated organized crime. Among the witnesses heard was mob bosses like Frank Costello, so the subcommittee gain popularity – so much that was broadcasted on TV, with big audience. Kefauver became practically a popstar politician, since his image was strongly associated to fighting organized crime. So It was no surprise that Kefauver ended up being a choice to preside the hearings about comics that happened in 1954.

The Hearings

As usually happens when a society goes through some cultural problem considered very serious, there’s always the tendency to look for an element that could seen as the “villain” of the story, so the situation seems possible to solve with easy to understand actions, and so that the authorities don’t look completely incompetents. We see this even today with the marginalization of Muslims, reinforced culturally and by the media. Or when people blame movies or video games for mass shootings. In 1950s, the “crisis” were juvenile delinquency and the villains were comic books. Comics were an easy target, once several groups in society were demonizing it for a while.

In 1954, the United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency decided to focus his efforts at the comic books and made a series of hearings to talk about the topic. The main target were “criminal comics”, the general name for comics that featured several kinds of crimes, which included mostly crime, suspense and horror titles.

Because of that, William Gaines’ E.C. Comics (the story of EC is here, here and here) were by far the most affected; after all, most popular E.C. titles was in those genres. Gaines was crushed in the hearings and, thanks to the little to no support he receive from other publishers – which were all of the sudden favorable to public opinion on the subject – there was no other option but to submit the industry to what would be later known as Comics Code Authority.

Although the Comic Code Commission didn’t have any actual control over the publishers, most of distributors refuse to deliver comics that didn’t had the seal of the Comics Code. This was the end for E.C., but there was at least two publishers that didn’t have the seal in his covers and were still largely available for sale: Dell Publishing and Golden Key. This kind of pick and choose shows that the cultural landscape was more against some publishers than others.

Next article we will see how the Comics Code changed through the decades and what’s its place in current American Comic Industry.

Rafael Algures is a Bachelor of Philosophy specialized in Neurosciences of Language. He is also a copywriter, content and science writer, and a comic book creator. His latest work, “Gutter of Horror: Transition” is available at Amazon – digital and paperback.

segunda-feira, 8 de junho de 2020

One foot in horror: Doctor Occult

“Gutter of Horror” is a Brazilian column from Dinamo Studio website about horror comics.
This is a version of the original article.

Have you ever thought about how was life before television? Even with internet today, TV is still a big part of the modern culture. And one of the cool things TV has is serialized TV shows. But what the hell this has to do with horror comics? Well, imagine how was life before television. It was not very different, actually, just the news were slower and what we consume today on TV or internet at the time we read in print publications, books, newspapers and, if you were looking for monthly stories, you would read comics.

Between the end of the 19th century and the first half of 20th century, American Comic Industry was dominated by “pulps”, which I already wrote about my first article. But let’s do a quick recap: pulp described the kind of comic book that featured mostly adventure and fiction stories. There were all kinds of pulps, from war to science fiction, crime, western and, of course, horror. There was no intention to be profound or to have some kind of literary value (whatever that means); it was pure and easy to follow entertainment. No wonder pulps were extremely popular at the time. With due proportions, pulps represented to and American society without television and internet what TV series represent to our society today – although we can argue that this dynamic is shifting, but that’s another story.

The arrive of Superman in the pages of Action Comics #1 traditionally marks the beginning of the transition to the Pulp Era to what it would later be called Golden Age of Superheroes. During this transition, there was not much difference between them, since the superheroes was kind of pulps’ spiritual successor, and because of that, they shared much of the same elements. In this landscape, came, in 1935 – before Superman – a character that could be considered one of the “missing links” between pulp and superheroes (well, actually he is not “missing”, but you know what I mean): Doctor Occult.

First appearing in More Fun Comics #6, Dr. Occult, also known as “The Ghost detective”, was a private investigator with supernatural powers and the typical style of noir detective and crime pulps, that solve cases involving paranormal, the mystic and the supernatural. Eventually, the detective would also count with a partner, Rose Psychic. More Fun Comics (first only More Fun) was the first comic book published by the company who would later be known as DC Comics. Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (also creators of Superman), Doctor Occult actually appeared before More Fun Comics in a title by Centaur Publications, The Comics Magazine, but it was almost a completely different character. His name was Dr. Mystic and he was a sorcerer who traveled through mystic worlds and was capable of flying. Unlike the known version of the character, Dr. Mystic wore a superhero-like uniform, that was actually just a trunks and a cape. This makes Dr. Occult (or “Dr. Mystic”) maybe the first superhero with superpowers to wear a uniform, even before The Phantom (1936) and Superman (1939).

Like most stories from that time, there was no concern in showing the origins of the character, to establish him in the present and showing him investigating a different case each month was enough at the time. The format was similar to many TV shows that would come later, like Carl Kolchak, which would inspire TV shows like The X-files. But, because origin stories was not a thing at the time, not much is known about how he came to be.

And he kept going without origin until he was brought back to light decades later, in the 1980s, in All-Star Squadron. This title featured a team of superheroes and took place during World War II. In the comic, his origin was finally told using a retcon. In this story, Occult and Rose were brother and sister that, when kids, were offered as sacrifice to Satan by a mystic cult at some point during 1889. Something in that ritual goes wrong and they summon Koth, instead of Satan. Koth was a creature that didn’t feed of pure souls, but corrupted ones. So, he killed all cult members while the two brothers were rescued by a man names Zator and taken to a citadel that was a home to a powerful mystical organization called The Seven. After spending years studying the mystic arts, they moved to New York where they opened a detective agency to solve supernatural cases. All-Star Squadron took place on Earth-2 and all those stories were erased during the Crisis on Infinite Earths event – which Dr. Occult were also part of.

After DC rebooting all universe, Dr. Occult appeared in The Books of Magic, by Neil Gaiman. In this version, along with Constantine and other Mystics (the Trenchcoat Brigade), he helps Tim Hunter to enter the world of magic. Neil Gaiman also gave another take on the relationship between Occult and Rose: in this new version, they were not partners or brothers, they were the same person, two different aspects of the same being.

The character was also part of the group Sentinels of Magic, created to prevent artifacts such as the Spear of Destiny falling into the wrong hands, and he and Rose played an important role in the event Judgment Day, helping to protect Earth from a demonic invasion. In the New 52 timeline, Dr. Occult is seen in Justice League Dark #12, where is revealed that he is the keeper of the House of Secrets.

Doctor Occult may be a little forgotten by DC right now, but it was one of the oldest characters from the company, and an interesting one. I hope one day a live action adaptation of the character sees the light of day. A TV show would be cool, don't you think?
Rafael Algures is a Bachelor of Philosophy specialized in Neurosciences of Language. He is also a copywriter, content and science writer, and a comic book creator. His latest work, “Gutter of Horror: Transition”, is available at Amazon – digital and paperback.

Further reading: Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes, by Chris Knowles and Joseph Michael Linsner
                           DC ComicsYear By Year, New Edition: A Visual Chronicle, by Alan Cowsill and Alex Irvine

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