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The Comics Alternative - Smart Discussions on Comic Books and Graphic Novels

Two guys with PhDs talking about comics! The Comics Alternative is weekly podcast focusing on the world of alternative, independent, and primarily non-superhero comics. (There's nothing wrong with superhero comics. We just want to do something different.) New podcast episodes become available every Wednesday and include reviews of graphic novels and current ongoing series, discussions of upcoming comics, examinations of collected editions, in-depth analyses of a variety of comics texts, and spotlights on various creators and publishers. The Comics Alternative also produces "special feature" programs, such as shows specifically dedicated to creator interviews, webcomics, on-location events, and special non-weekly themes and topics.
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The Comics Alternative - Smart Discussions on Comic Books and Graphic Novels
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Now displaying: December, 2013
Dec 25, 2013

The Two Guys with PhDs (who talk about comics) like to end the year by highlighting their favorite titles of the past twelve months. These could be ongoing series, limited runs or miniseries, one-shots, trades, original graphic novels, webcomics, or archival collections. So for this week’s episode, Derek and Andy each choose their favorite ten comics from 2013 and then share that list with one another. They don’t necessarily rank them in any order — although Andy does reveal the #1 title on his list — and neither knows of the other’s ten favorites before they record the podcast. As such, the Guys not only have a great time discussing the year’s best comics, but also in discovering what each other feels is truly his favorite. There are a few overlaps between Andy and Derek’s choices, but even more significantly, there are some big surprises in each one’s list!

Dec 20, 2013

For this month’s on-location show, Derek heads back to Collected Comics in Plano, TX, to talk with Shea Hennum and other shop employees about the past year in comics. The conversation begins with a look at some of the highlights from 2013, the best titles to come out of the year, movies and television programs based on comics, and some of the most memorable publishing events — or just events, in general — in comics. Shea and Derek also discuss some of the trends they saw developing over the past twelve months, including the impressive output of such major creators as Paul Pope and Gilbert Hernandez. Without turning too negative, they also mention some of the disappointments or lackluster moments from 2013, but then they counterbalance that with their hopes for new things that will be coming out in 2014. This is the perfect show to set the stage for Andy and Derek’s much-anticipated end-of-the-year episode, where they will share what they consider to be the best titles in 2013.

Dec 18, 2013

This week the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics take their annual look at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s The Best American Comics collection (including material published between September 1, 2011 and August 31, 2012), this year edited by Jeff Smith. They begin by noting that this volume is significant for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that this is the last to be overseen by series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. Andy and Derek marvel at the work the two have been doing since they began with the 2008 volume, and they wish Abel and Madden well in their future endeavors…and they look forward to seeing what the new series editor, Bill Kartalopoulos, will bring to the table. The guys highlight what they consider to be their favorite contributions to the 2013 volume, specifically commenting on the sheer number of entries that originally appeared in Dark Horse Presents. They also discuss the need for a book such as this to introduce readers to new material, the pros and cons of excerpting from longer works — Derek noted the potential pitfalls of the practice, although Andy was more accepting — how the 2013 volume differs from  previous years’ collections, the kind of trends they see in this year’s volume, the fact that Evan Dorkin has two different kinds of contributions in the book, the growing representation of webcomics in these yearly volumes, and the dominance of comics anthologies in Smith’s collection as well as the relatively little attention this year given to serialized titles. (Were there just not that many “good” serialized comics between September 2011 and August 2012?) The Two Guys also get into a larger discussion of the very idea of publishing a “best of” anthology of this type. The “best” according to whom? Might there be certain biases involved? What’s the role of editorial predilection? Who is included as part of the “best,” who is excluded, and why? They don’t attempt to second guess this year’s volume editor, Jeff Smith, but they do think it’s important to keep these questions in mind. Well…Derek does. He had a problem with the “Best” part of the title and would feel more comfortable with a different name. Andy thought that Derek was being too critical in addressing the series name. Derek said that maybe Andy should change his name, as well. But once again, the Two Guys with PhDs hearty recommendation the annual Best American Comics collection, marvel at the gargantuan task undertaken by the editor, and thoroughly enjoy the many contributions collected between the covers!

Dec 11, 2013

This week the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics review three new titles, and boy, are they geared up! They begin by looking at the Hernandez brothers’ latest issue of Love and Rockets: New Stories (Fantagraphics). Focusing first on Jaime’s contributions, they comment on how his narratives have evolved after the “Love Bunglers” storyline from issues number 3 and 4 of New Stories. They’re particularly interested in Jaime’s deeper exploration of the family of Vivian Solis, AKA Frogmouth, especially as it relates to Tonta and the reappearance of Angel Rivera (last seen in the “Ti-Girls Adventures”). Next, Andy and Derek delve into Gilbert’s contribution to the latest New Stories, spending a good deal of time doing close readings of the multiple narrative levels at work: the current story of Dora “Killer” Rivera’s visit to Palomar, the flashbacks to her deceased aunt and great-grandmother, and the films surrounding her great-grandmother, Maria. Here, the Two Guys bring up Gilbert’s new graphic novel, Maria M.: Book One (Fantagraphics), and how it plays off of so well the new Love and Rockets. They look at Maria M. not only as another installment of Fritz’s b-movie books — along with Chance in Hell, The Troublemakers, and Love from the Shadows — but also, and perhaps more significantly, as a point of convergence among the various generations of Luba’s family. While Andy feels that Maria M. is a kind of retelling of Poison River (one of the most significant storylines in the first volume of Love and Rockets), Derek sees it as more of a prequel or lead-up to that narrative. Finally, the guys look at the first issue of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos’s Pretty Deadly (Image Comics). They discuss the density of comic, while at the same time commenting on the decompressed nature of the series’ premise. There is a lot packed into this episode, plenty of close and detailed readings, and you’re going to have to listen to this show multiple times in order to savor every drop of the Two Guys’ insights…for what they’re worth.

Dec 10, 2013

On this interview episode, Andy, Gene, and Derek talk with Zak Sally, the creator behind Like a Dog,  Recidivist, and Sammy the Mouse…a narrative that Derek calls “the Waiting for Godot of comics.” His second installment in the planned four-book Sammy the Mouse series just recently came out from Uncivilized Books, and the guys discuss with Zak the genesis of that project and his strategies for plotting the story. Zak also talks about his beginnings with zines in the 1990s;  music and his time with the band, Low; his efforts with La Mano, his own publishing arm (pun intended); his work on the upcoming fourth issue of Recidivist; the artistic limitations of Tumblr; and his experiences in Duluth and Minneapolis. Along the way, the conversation (de)evolves into a discussion of Battle of the Network Stars, Telly Savalas commercials for Duluth, and how the name “Dylan” is actually pronounced in Hibbing, Minnesota.

Dec 4, 2013

It’s time again for the Two Guys with PhDs to go through the monthly Previews catalog. This time around there are a number of noteworthy solicits to mention, including Fatima: The Blood Spinners, The White Suits #1, and Someplace Strange (from Dark Horse); The Royals #1 and Daytripper: Deluxe Edition (DC/Vertigo); Red Panda: The Mask of the Red Panda (IDW Publishing); The Fuse #1, The Revenger #1, and The Mercenary Sea #1 (Image Comics); Sanctuary (Slave Labor Graphics); A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Bloomsbury); Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1 (Dynamite Entertainment); Walt before Skeezix: 1919-1920 and the new printing of The Fixer (Drawn and Quarterly); Zero Hour and Other Stories, Insect Bath #1, and Cannon (Fantagraphics); The Bunker #1 (Oni Press); The Simon and Kirby Library: Horror (Titan Books); Tippy and the Night Parade (Toon Books); The Bojeffries Saga and Alone Forever (Top Shelf); and American Comic Book Chronicles: 1965-1969 (TwoMorrows Publishing). Also in this episode: Andy discusses the merits of buying local for his family dinner, and Derek shares a rabbit-induced trauma from his childhood.  Oh…and there’s some good general comics talk.

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