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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: 2014
Dec 31, 2014

It’s the end of the year, and you know what that means? No, it’s doesn’t involve a fat guy with toys, any spinning wooden things, or even annoying events involving Anderson Cooper and Kathy Gifford. It’s time for Andy and Derek’s end-of-the-year top ten favorites episode! The Two Guys with PhDs (who talk about comics) like to end every 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 2014 and then share that list with one another. They don’t necessarily rank them in any order — although both guys do hint at their top picks — 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 24, 2014

On this episode of the podcast, the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics review The Best American Comics 2014, the latest installment in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s ambitious anthology series. This follows a previous review show published earlier in the week where the guys spoke with Bill Kartalopoulos, the new editor of the series. But whereas during the interview Derek and Andy learned about the process and backstory to the Best American Comics series, in this episode they plunge into the specifics of this year’s volume and give their own takes on the comics included. They begin with a larger discussion on the concept of “best American comics,” the kind of audiences the annual collections appeal to, and the efforts of the editors in pulling together a select or representative anthology. Here, the guys return to issues they had previously highlighted in their review of The Best American Comics 2013: the predilections and experiences of guest editors, the challenges of being inclusive, as well as the viability of a “best of” anthology. This time around Andy and Derek bandy about definitions of “mainstream” and speculate on the book’s intended audience. Although both feel that this is an intelligent and eclectic collection of comics (first appearing between September 1, 2012, and August 30, 2013), Derek feels that the book might appeal more to academics and the New Yorker crowd than it does to general comic shop-visiting readers. (Returning, once again, to a topic that the guys have discussed many times previously, the unintended bifurcation of comics readership.) Furthermore, he wonders what a volume guest edited by someone enmeshed in mainstream comics – and not just superhero comics – might look like…if that is indeed a direction that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt would sanction. Andy reminds Derek how inclusive this year’s volume is, and that depending on your definition of “mainstream,” McCloud’s includes several comics you could certainly define as “popular.” But despite these dialectics, both guys agree that this is one of the strongest collections in the series’ run and that the way that McCloud has organized his presentation is compelling. In this year’s volume you have selections from the grand figures of contemporary comics (e.g., R. Crumb, the Hernandez brothers, Charles Burns, Ben Katchor, and Adrian Tomine), all-age and young-adult comics, excerpts from memoir and autobiographical comics, historical works, experimenters of narrative form, abstract and avant-garde comics, and almost as a centerpiece, a selection from what McCloud christens “the book of the year,” Chris Ware’s Building Stories. Webcomics are given their fair share of attention in this volume, and the guys understand McCloud’s decision to highlight and list URLs instead of attempting to reproduce comics from another platform (although they’re not as excited by the one webcomic that does find its way into the collection, an excerpt from Allie Brosh’s “Depression Part Two”). All in all, the guys have a great time discussing the many selections in The Best American Comics 2014, and in doing so, they get all revved up for their own “best of” exercise which they will present in next week’s podcast episode.

Dec 22, 2014

On this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews, and in anticipation of their review show later this week, Andy and Derek are pleased to talk with the new editor of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Best American Comics series, Bill Kartalopoulos. They congratulate him on the publication of the first volume under his stewardship, guest edited by Scott McCloud, and then ask him a variety of behind-the-scenes questions. For example, Bill discusses the laborious process that goes into screening and choosing which comics to pass onto the guest editor, the challenges he and McCloud faced in compiling their selections, the unexpected finds and discoveries he makes when interacting with the comics community, the logistics of incorporating comics that appear in unconventional -- including non-print -- formats, and his attempts at balancing a "best of" volume that represents the contemporary comics scene. The guys also ask him about the process behind choosing each year's guest editor, how this volume is different from those under his immediate predecessors (Jessica Abel and Matt Madden), and if he thinks this year's selections adequately do justice to the comics-publishing mainstream. The conversation is engaging, and Bill gives Derek and Andy much to think about, and a variety of talking points, as they prepare for their own discussion of The Best American Comics 2014 later in the week. And who knows...perhaps talking with the BAC series editor will be a yearly event for the Two Guys.

Dec 19, 2014

It's almost the end of the year, and Derek is back for one last 2014 visit to his local comic shop, Collected, in Plano, TX. As he usually does every month, he talks with the shop's employees and customers about the kind of comics that they're reading, what is catching their interests, and what comics news most excites them, but this month the focus is on their favorite titles of 2014. Derek asks everyone sitting around the podcast table -- Shea, Krystle, Shaun, Craig, Nick, and Matthew -- about what they consider to be the most outstanding comics of the past twelve months. And the candidates vary widely, ranging from single-issue comic books to original graphic novels, from superhero to manga, from pop-culture adaptations to literary graphic fiction, and from webcomics to those coming from Kickstarter campaigns. Some of the titles that folks highlight during the show include Tooth and Claw, Seconds, The Wrenchies, Nijigahara Holograph, Multiversity: Pax Americana, Rat Queens, Edge of Spider-Verse, Bleeding Heart, Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland, The Shadow Hero, Eye of Newt, Michael Moorcock's Elric, Vol. 1: The Ruby Throne, Through the Woods, and Squidder. They also discuss some of their biggest comics disappointments of the year, speculate on the titles they're looking forward to in 2015, and even learn that Krystle prefers drugs, candy, and weiners in her comics. As usual, you don't know what to expect from the guys at Collected, but you are guaranteed fun talk about a variety of great books. And much thanks to Freddy Ruiz, the store's manager, for pulling everyone together!

Dec 17, 2014

On this episode of The Comics Alternative, Derek and Andy review three new and exciting titles. First, they look at Richard McGuire's Here (Pantheon) a project that actually goes back to 1989. A different, black-and-white 6-page version of the comic appeared in the first issue of Raw Vol. 2,  Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly's groundbreaking comics anthology that ran from 1980 until 1991. The new book doesn't include or build directly off of that original comic, but it does use the design and concept as a springboard into the larger, more ambitious project. Everything that takes place in this story -- and the guys use the word of "story" loosely, here -- is anchored in one physical space, the corner of a room. What McGuire does is to give us a history of that particular space, revealing events that took place in that area over a span of centuries. The "movement" within the narrative is strictly temporal, reaching back into the prehistoric past (the earliest year being 3,000, 500, 000 BCE) and pushing into a speculative future (the year 22,175). McGuire accomplishes this through an arrangement of two-page spreads, inlaid or nested panels, and precise placements of images that, taken together, provide visual and even thematic coherence. Indeed, it seems as if events across time resonate and interact. This is the kind of book that is difficult to appreciate fully outside of the actual reading process, and it's one that requires diligent and repeated efforts, each of which will be richly rewarded. After their involved discussion of Here -- and the Two Guys spend the better part of this episode on McGuire's work -- Andy and Derek look at two new #1 issues. The first is Wolf Moon, written by Cullen Bunn and with art by Jeremy Haun (Vertigo). This is the first of a 6-issue miniseries based on the werewolf myth. However, Bunn gives his supernatural retelling a unique spin, creating a lycanthrope narrative where physical transformation isn't the only effects of a full moon. Haun's art is appropriately dark, ill-defined in places, and violent. There's a lot of blood in this first issue, and Wolf Moon promises to be a title that isn't for the squeamish. After that, the guys turn to the new comic from Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine de Landro, Bitch Planet (Image). Both Derek and Andy like this first issue and plan on continuing to read the series, but they nonetheless disagree as to the impact or accomplishments of this inaugural installment. Andy feels that this is a successful #1 that does everything it's supposed to do. In fact, this may be one of his favorite single issues of the year. However, Derek feels that this is a story that will read better in trade, in that the first issue seemed incomplete and required more story space for effective immersion. There needs to be more there there. What's more, he felt that Danielle Henderson's mini-essay at the end of the issue was unnecessary and potentially undermined the impact of the story itself. While Andy felt that this was a useful supplement that helped to set a critical or thematic framework -- and it does -- Derek sees the essay as an expository exercise that tells (not shows) the reader what the series is all about. Instead, he feels that DeConnick and de Landro's story should speak for itself, especially in this first issue. (Although Henderson's essay would make a nice supplement to a future collected edition.) Still, both guys agree that this is an intriguing title that both will continue reading...if  not monthly, then in trade.

Dec 15, 2014

On this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews, Derek talks with Dakota McFadzean about the release of the latest issue of Irene -- co-edited with Andy Warner and DW -- as well as his own comics output. They begin by focusing on the eclectic comics and art anthology, now in its fifth issue, the genesis of the publication, and how co-editing Irene has helped define his career after having graduated from The Center for Cartoon Studies. Derek asks Dakota about the challenges of overseeing a graphic compilation and how his own work has seen similar inclusion in such anthologies as The Hic Hoc Illustrated Journal of Humor, Lies Grown-Ups Told Me, and the prestigious Best American Comics 2012. But the heart of the conversation is devoted to Dakota's own prolific output, especially his daily online strip, The Dailies, and last year's impressive collection, Other Stories and the Horse You Rode in On (Conundrum Press). Derek asks Dakota about the fantastical and even surreal quality of his stories, his penchant for childhood narratives, and the iconic prevalence of faces and masks in many of his comics (of which Dakota isn't immediately aware). Stories such as "Standing Water," "Ghost Rabbit," and "Unkindness" -- all collected in Other Stories -- are excellent introductions to Dakota's unique style, as is the more realistic narrative Hollow in the Hollows (One Percent Press) that came out earlier this year. Indeed, the latter is one of Dakota's most developed stories, and the two discuss the demands of writing more sustained and longer-form narratives as well as the artist's plans for this kind of storytelling. Dakota also talks about his upcoming book from Conundrum, Don't Get Eaten by Anything, a collection of the strips that make up The Dailies. This s definitely an artist to keep track of, and if you're not familiar with Dakota McFadzean's work, you should definitely check out The Dailies as well as has book through Conundrum Press.

Dec 10, 2014

This week the Two Guys with PhDs (talking about comics) are back for another review episode, and this one is jam-packed with nougaty comics goodness. They begin with Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s  deluxe edition of The Wake (DC/Vertigo). They had discussed the first couple installments of the ten-issue series on last year’s publisher spotlight on recent Vertigo titles, but now they are able to plunge into the the complete story…and they do so with relish. Both Andy and Derek love the way the narrative unfolds — it’s the kind of work they have come to expect from both Snyder and Murphy — although they do have their quibbles, e.g., unexpected/unlikely surprises in character development and occasional ambiguous transitions. But overall, the guys feel this is an outstanding story, an example of what Vertigo does best. Next, they turn to Derf Backderf’s True Stories, Vol. 1 (Alternative Comics), the first of four — or is it five? — collections of the “True Stories” pieces culled from Backderf’s comic strip, The City, between 1990 and 2014. While there are a few vignettes in this title that verge on belittlement, the collection as a whole is a discerning, satirical, and hilarious look at the state of our contemporary culture. Finally, Derek and Andy look at one of the new #1s coming out of Image Comics this month, Matt Fraction and Christian Ward’s ODY-C. This is an inverted retelling of Homer’s Odyssey, where genders are switched and the high seas become the far reaches of space. This is a dense, immersive narrative that requires multiple readings. Knowledge of The Odyssey isn’t necessary, but it wouldn’t hurt for readers to have their copies of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology (or perhaps have Wikipedia) readily at hand when turning through Fraction’s narrative. And Ward’s art is what makes this first issue truly stand out, visually stunning and almost surreal, a nice pairing with one of the guys’ favorite comics storytellers. All in all, this was a fun week of reading!

Dec 5, 2014

On this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews, the guys are happy to have on the show Max Douglas, AKA Salgood Sam, to talk about his latest book, Dream Life: A Late Coming of Age (Spilt Ink), as well as other works from his career.  They begin by asking about the origin of his pseudonym, learning that it has everything to do with the uneven expectations of the comics community. Here, Salgood Sam shares some of his experiences in the industry, his work for the Big Two, and his decision to work primarily as an independent creator and outside of the mainstream. This includes the founding of Spilt Ink, a small press dedicated to publishing comics, websites, and other forms of media. But the meat of the conversation centers on Dream Life, a project that has been several years in the making and continues to occupy the artist. This is the first book in what is projected to be a two-volume series, a diverse and cinematic narrative of intertwining stories exploring identity and relationships in an uncertain world. Derek and Andy ask Salgood Sam about the book’s origins as a webcomic, its evolution into a Kickstarter campaign, and then its ultimate release as a book earlier this year. Much of the discussion is devoted to the artist’s style, his philosophy of storytelling, and his adept handing of an ensemble cast. Along the way they discuss other projects from Salgood Sam, past and present, including Dracula: Son of the Dragon, Therefore Repent!, Sea of Red, and his independent anthology Revolver. It’s an engaging conversation, and one that has the Two Guys eagerly awaiting the final volume of Dream Life.

Dec 3, 2014

It's the beginning of the month, so the Two Guys with PhDs are back for look through the latest Previews catalog. This December, there's a lot to choose from and discuss. After a brief digression into Thanksgiving activities and the 1968 Otto Preminger film, Skidoo (thanks Andy), the guys jump into this month's solicits. They highlight an insane number of upcoming titles, including Rat God #1, Girlfiend, Mister X: Razed #1, and The Complete Pistolwhip (Dark Horse Comics); Suiciders #1 and The Filth Deluxe Edition (DC/Vertigo); Locke and Key: Master Edition Vol. 1, The Untold History of Black Comic Books, and Star Slammers (IDW Publishing); Nameless #1, Sparks Nevada #1,  Postal #1, and Trees, Vol. 1 (Image Comics); Black Hood #1 (Dark Circle/Archie Comics); The Cluster #1 and Curb Stomp #1 (BOOM! Studios); Intelligent Sentient? (Drawn and Quarterly); 566 Frames (Fanfare/Borderline); Love and Rockets: New Stories No. 7, Sweatshop, Saint Cole, and Displacement (Fantagraphics); Sculptor and Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula (First Second); Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream (Locust Moon Press); Girl in Dior (NBM); and Meanwhile #1 (Soaring Press). This is a packed issue of Previews, and while they still continue to digest their holiday meals, Derek and Andy have a great time discussing the many new titles coming out over the next months.

Dec 1, 2014

The Two Guys with PhDs are excited to begin a new monthly feature for The Comics Alternative, a show devoted specifically to webcomics. For this inaugural episode, and as they plan on doing for every episode of this new feature, Derek and Andy W. take a look at two current ongoing titles and one older and completed title. The ones they discuss today are Jason Shiga’s Demon; Christina Blanch, Chris Carr, and Chee’s The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood; and Emily Carroll’s Margot’s Room. First, however, the guys begin by defining “webcomics” and distinguishing them from other types of comics or works produced through other means. In doing so, they not only establish their mission statement for this new feature, but they also delineate the parameters of their discussions. They begin by differentiating between webcomics and digital comics, arguing that while the former is based on and consumed through a digital delivery system, not all digital comics are specific to the Web. Along with this they point out the differences between the Internet and the World Wide Web, a distinction that many may have forgotten, describing the Web as just one component of the larger ‘Net. There are many digital comics that are accessed through the Internet — such as those that are downloaded directly to apps intended specifically for portable devices — that may have nothing or little to do with the Web. Webcomics, the guys bluntly state, are those that can be read through Web browsers, imbedded in and largely composing webpages, and may or may not be accessible through other digital means. Another criteria of a webcomic, at least for Andy and Derek, is that the primary or original intention behind the comic’s creation is Web-based, not print. This would rule out many of the digital-first comics put out by the Big Two and other publishers, and it would exclude the digital versions of comic books that are already or are soon to be in print. (And, of course, it excludes the scanning and exchanging of material via torrent sites.) They also consider the potential complications of animation and economics. How many non-static images should a webcomic have before it’s not considered a “comic,” and what kind of payment system may (or may not) affect the defining of a webcomic? At the same time, the guys are aware that their definitions of a webcomic may be fluid — for example, how would you place the works available through Monkey Brain Comics, a digital-only publisher many of whose titles usually end up in (and perhaps ultimately are intended as) print? — and that their understanding of the form may change over time. But Derek and Andy are comfortable with that potential fluidity and feel that the discussion of what defines a webcomic is half of the fun. Then the plunge into a full-fledged discussion of three webcomics. Each is a different manifestation of a webcomic and delivers its narrative in specific ways. While some of the comics, such as Demon and The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood, have begun to find their way into print, they are nonetheless first and foremost a comic intended for the Web. There are some, such as Charlie Wormwood and others found on the Thrillbent website, that utilize additive images or visual layovers that appear as individual “pages” as you click through the comic, and others that rely solely on static, unchanging, and individual formatting. And while some webcomics, such as Jason Shiga’s work, are formatted to look like physical comics pages, others, such as the work by Emily Carroll, are great examples of what Scott McCloud has described as the “infinite canvas.” All in all, this is a productive maiden voyage for the guys’ new feature, and they look forward to discussing other examples of webcomics in the months to come.

Nov 26, 2014

The Two Guys with PhDs are back with their annual Thanksgiving show. But this time there are three guys involved. Derek and Andy K. are joined by Andy W. — the first time all three of them have been on the same show! — and together they all share the many things they are thankful for in comics and comics culture. The topics range broadly from the International Comic Arts Forum, to the wealth of classic comics archive editions, to new translations of European comics, to critical series from non-academic publishers, to the appearance of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity (finally!!), to the Previews catalog, to the growth of graphic novels collections in libraries, to Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe, to smaller comics publishers that get relatively little attention, to the March series and other historically minded books. In particular, though, the guys are thankful to the listeners of the podcast who chime in with opinions, join the discussion on the forum, and help support The Comics Alternative through Patreon. This show couldn’t really be done without them. So slice an extra piece of that pumpkin pie, dollop out the whipped cream, sit back, and enjoy the warm homestyle goodness of this week’s episode.

Nov 24, 2014

For this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews, Derek and Andy are pleased have on the show Mike Howlett, the editor of the newly released The Worst of Eerie Publications from IDW/Yoe Books. In fact, Mike is the expert on Eerie Publications — an “Eerie guru,” as he calls himself — and the author of not only the recent collection but also The Weird World of Eerie Publications (a history of the publisher) and the meticulously researched The Weird Indexes of Eerie Publications. They talk with Mike about his extensive research on the various titles released through Eerie Publications during the 1960s and 1970s — e.g., Weird, Horror Tales, Tales from the Tomb, Tales of Voodoo, and Terror Tales — and publisher Myron Fass’s philosophy of recycling old pre-code horror comics. What makes these comics the worst of Eerie are not only their gore and over-the-top premises, but the questionable storytelling and as well as the equally questionable process of reworking/redrawing 1950s comics for a post-1966 audience…and then reprinting those comics in the multiple publications across Eerie’s line. In fact, the guys are fascinated by the entire Eerie Publications process: photocopy pre-code horror comics, find artists who will redraw the originals, add more gore and a few contemporary updates, slap on a horrific cover with a the requisite gratuitous cleavage, and voila! Repeat as necessary. Derek and Andy also ask Mike about the special barf bag they received with their review copies of The Worst of Eerie Publications, and they feel special learning that the bags are a limited run strictly for promotional purposed. Halloween may be over, but as Mike Howlett demonstrates, the comics from Eerie Publications are a gift that keeps on giving.

Nov 21, 2014

Derek is back at his local comic shop, Collected in Plano, TX, and this month he's talking with customers and employees about comics that are obscure, don't get much appreciation, or have gone unnoticed by most readers. He asks his guests about what they think flies under most people's radar, and the answers he gets are varied and fascinating. Some respond with comics coming out from premium publishers, some with works by creators that you would think had a publicity stranglehold, and others with indie or alternative titles from young artists or unlikely outlets. In fact, the guests bring up the obscurity of several publishers and how it seems that most of their output goes unnoticed by general comics readers. Along with this, Derek and company speculate on why certain titles (or certain publishers) go unnoticed, the discrepancies in PR and marketing, the challenges of cross-media publishers, and the context of audience and what certain reading communities might consider "mainstream" or "obscure." As always, it's a lively discussion at Collected...which is an excellent place to discover new and little-known comics!

Nov 19, 2014

On this week's episode, Derek and Andy W. are back with a Publisher Spotlight, and this time the focus is on Nobrow Press and their fall 2014 releases. This relatively small, UK-based publisher may be off of many readers' radar, but they put out a lot of great books, as this week's show will attest. First, the guys discuss Jesse Moynihan's Forming II, the follow up 2011's strange, whacked-out creation narrative Forming. They are fascinated with the myth that Moynihan has created, and they especially love the artist's sense of humor. Next, Derek and Andy move on to Moonhead and the Music Machine, a new graphic novel by Andrew Rae. They highlight Rae's clean, vivid art style, and they speculate on whether or not this book was intended for a younger -- or at least all-age -- readership. Next on the guys' plate is Roman Muradov's (In a Sense) Lost and Found. This is a striking, Kafkaesque narrative with an uneven, dream-like quality. The intended murkiness of the tale may complement the dark palette that Muradov uses, as the guys find many of his images difficult to decipher. Bianca Bagnarelli's Fish is the next book they discuss, a short story -- perhaps more of an emotional vignette -- that is part of the 17x23 series, Nobrow's graphic short story project designed to introduce young artists to a wider readership. Andy and Derek then move on to Corinne Maier and Anne Simon's graphic biography, Marx, which looks at the (surprisingly bourgeois) life behind the famous philosopher/economist, and then they look at Behold! The Dinosaurs!, Dustin Harbin's beautiful concertina that challenges the guys' definition of "comics." Finally, your tireless hosts look at Jamie Coe's Art Schooled -- one of the most sophisticated narrative styles of the week, and definitely Derek's favorite -- and then another graphic biography, Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City. There are eight books discussed in all, and this show has to be extra long this week to get in everything. Come and enjoy the creamy filling that is The Comics Alternative!

Nov 12, 2014

This week on the podcast, Andy W. joins Derek to discuss four recent titles…and boy, are you in for a treat. First, they look at Renée French’s new book, Baby Bjornstrand (Koyama Press). The guys discuss its Samuel Beckett-like setting, the unusual characters that make up the cast, the fragmented temporal arrangements, and French’s stripped down narrative style. Yet while some readers have described the book as bleak and downbeat, both Derek and Andy see a more hopeful — and perhaps even life-affirming — ending in the story. Next, they move from French’s barren landscape outside of time to an all-too-real story set in Hell’s Kitchen during the 1970s. Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle’s The Kitchen #1 (Vertigo) is a solid piece of storytelling that effectively launches this 8-issue miniseries. The guys are particularly taken by the final pages of this first issue, where Masters complicates his premise while at the same time laying on exposition without being overbearing. Andy and Derek then turn their attention to two recent titles from Image Comics. James Harvey’s one-shot Masterplasty is a curious story that doesn’t seem to stand entirely on its own…which may explain why Harvey describes it as a prequel to a much longer narrative he’s working on. Perhaps the most notable thing about this comic is its unconventional size, the ultimate purpose of which has the guys scratching their heads. Finally, they look at the first issue in a new series from Keenan Marshall Keller and Tom Neely, The Humans. Unlike most reviewers of this title, Derek and Andy don’t feel that this has much of a Planet of the Apes vibe. (Also, that’s way too facile a comparison, just because you have apes riding motorcycles.) Instead, they feel that the story in this first issues stands entirely on its own, and if anything, it reminds the guys of the kind of biker movies they remembered from the 1970s. While this is yet another offbeat humor comic from Image — following in the wake of God Hates Astronauts and Punks: The Comic — it’s one with a harder edge…as the overt references to pot, Quaaludes, and fellatio will attest. There’s a lot of weird, fun stuff for this week, and we hope you will join Andy and Derek for the wild ride.

Nov 11, 2014

On this Veteran’s Day, the Two Guys salute one of the most talented, and certainly the most satirical, men to serve in the U.S. military: Jules Feiffer. They talk with him about his latest book, and his first graphic novel, Kill My Mother (Liveright), and about his decision to write within the noir/crime genre. Derek and Andy are particularly curious about the artist’s interest in classic film noir, his handling of fast and smart dialogue, and his use of a cinematic technique to tell his story. They spend a good deal of time asking Feiffer about the evolution of the narrative and the ways his characters unfolded during the creative process. Kill My Mother is set in the 1930s and early 1940s, and Feiffer reveals to the guys — and much to their surprise — that this is just the first in a planned trilogy of stories. The next book, Cousin Joseph, will be a prequel to the recent graphic novel, and then the third will take place during the McCarthy era and deal with the blacklist. Along the way they discuss Tantrum — a “novel-in-pictures,” not a “graphic novel” — the impetus behind the classic The Great Comic Book Heroes, his experiences writing for film and the theater, and his relationship with Will Eisner and his time on The Spirit. This is a great interview, and Andy and Derek are grateful for the time that Jules gave to them. Plus, they’re excited because this is the first time they’ve ever had a Pulitzer Prize winner and and Academy Award winner on the show!

Nov 5, 2014

It’s the beginning of the month, and that means it’s time once again for the Two Guys with PhDs to delve into the latest Previews catalog. For November, there are a lot of interesting solicitations, more than the guys had expected for titles being released in the aftermath of the holidays. Some of the great upcoming comics they highlight include Murder Book, Demo, and Tex: The Lonesome Rider (Dark Horse); Effigy #1, Fables: The Wolf among Us #1, and Ocean/Orbiter Deluxe Edition (DC/Vertigo); The Squidder, and Imaginary Drugs (IDW Publishing); Casanova: Acedia #1, The Dying and the Dead #1, Criminal Special Edition One-Shot, and Big Hard Sex Criminals (Image Comics); Star Wars #1 and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 (Marvel); Pirate Eye: Exiled from Exile #1 and Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1 (Action Lab Entertainment); Museum of Mistakes: The Fart Party Collection (Atomic Book Company); Fungus: The Unbearable Rot of Being (Big Planet Comics); the five new King Features titles from Dynamite Entertainment; First Year Healthy (Drawn and Quarterly); five Thunderbirds volumes from Egmont UK; Spawn of Mars and Other Stories, Foolbert Funnies: Histories and Other Fictions, and Treasury of Mini Comics Vol. 2 (Fantagraphics); Fatherland: A Family History (Liveright); March Book Two (Top Shelf Productions); and Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter (Udon Entertainment). Plus, Derek and Andy recommend a few titles in the “Books” section of the catalog, such as Bart Beaty’s Twelve-Cent Archie, Andrew Hoberek’s Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peters Comics, and Sarah Lightman’s edited collection, Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics. There’s a lot packed into this episode of solicits and recommendations, so listen carefully and take notes!

Nov 3, 2014

On this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews, Derek has a post-Halloween conversation with the creators behind BroadSword Comics, Jim Balent and Holly Golightly. They talk about their unique collaborative relationship — both personally and professionally — and their various creative endeavors over the years. More specifically, Derek asks them about their upcoming new Kickstarter campaign, “Crossover,” which will bring together the worlds of Jim’s Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose and Holly’s School Bites. In the corse of the conversation, the two artists share the story behind their strong work ethnic, Jim’s time illustrating Catwoman and its links to the character Tarot, the ins and outs of running a small press, Holly’s history with music celebrities (and 1980s pop culture), their many experiences with their dedicated fan base, the challenges of creating a webcomic, the impact of Holly’s social media savvy, and a few of the negative reactions they’ve received from social conservatives. They wrap up their talk with Holly dubbing The Comics Alternative a smart and sexy podcast…perhaps one of the best compliments that the Two Guys have ever received. Much thanks, Holly!

Oct 30, 2014

You’ll definitely find treats, and not tricks, on this special episode of The Comics Alternative. Derek and Gene take their annual look at the various comics being releases specifically for Halloween or published to coincide with the season. They begin with what is probably their favorite of the lot — at least Derek’s favorite — Richard Corben’s new book, Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirits of the Dead (Dark Horse). They point out that while this is an October release, the majority of the stories collected in this volume originally appeared as either single issues or in Dark Horse Presents over the past two years. This is yet another series of Poe adaptation from the great Corben, following his early work for Eerie and Creepy — and most recently collected in Creepy Presents Richard Corben — and Marvel’s Haunt of Horror: Edgar Allan Poe. (For more about Corben’s work on Poe, specifically commentary on the adaptations found in the new book, check out Derek’s recent interview with the artist.) Next the Two Guys turn to a new, fun book from Zac Gorman, Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers (Oni Press). This is based on the popular roleplaying game, Costume Quest with which neither Gene and Derek are familiar. But that doesn’t stop them from enjoying this all-age comic. Then they look at a series single issues, beginning with another game-based title, Ian Edginton and Alex Sanchez’s The Evil Within #1 (Titan Comics), and one of DC’s free releases for this year’s Halloween ComicFest, Scooby-Doo Team Up Special Edition (written by Sholly Fisch and art by Dario Brizuela). After that they discuss one of the most exciting new titles of the season, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1 (Archie Comics). The guys feel that this will surely follow the popular and critical success of last year’s Afterlife with Archie, and it has the potential of even surpassing it. Next, they look at the first issue of Ty Thomas Kuckman, Trevor Luckman, and Dave Mim’s All Hallows’ Eve (215 Ink), Donny Cates and Daniel Warren Johnson’s Ghost Fleet #1 (Dark Horse), and Alan Robert’s Killjoy: Special Halloween One-Shot (IDW Publishing). Finally, they wrap up with a survey of Zenescope’s holiday offerings: Grimm Fairy Tales 2014 Halloween Special, Zombies vs. Cheerleaders Halloween Special, and Hollywood Zombie Apocalypse #1. As the guys reveal, it’s a mixed back with Zenescope, but if you’re looking for a little cheesecake thrown in with your cheesy horror, these titles might be for you. Whatever your tastes, you’re certain to find some good comics reading this Halloween season!

Oct 29, 2014

Andy and Derek are back with another special Publisher Spotlight episode of the podcast, and this time they turn their gaze to SelfMadeHero. The guys have reviewed a variety of SelfMadeHero books in the past, but this week they decided to devote an entire episode to the publisher’s fall releases. They begin with Jörg Tittel and John Aggs’s Ricky Rouse Has a Gun, a satiric look at copyright and corporate ownership, especially as it relates to Chinese appropriation of Western icons. At least, that’s what the Two Guys assumed the book would be about. Although this premise is teased out in the setup, they read Ricky Rouse more like a Die Hard shoot-em-up set in an amusement park. Next, they turn to Rob Davis’s Motherless Oven, a coming-of-age narrative set in a world that is both familiar yet fantastic. The book’s protagonist, Scarper Lee, attempts to come to terms with his deathday (as opposed to his birthday), with the help of rebellious school companions. Think of The Wall and Quadrophenia with a bit of sci-fi mixed in. The guys also discuss two new graphic novel adaptations from the publisher, Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs (written and adapted by David Hine, with art by Mark Stafford) and H. P. Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (adapted and illustrated by I. N. J. Culbard). The Man Who Laughs is truly outstanding, and it’s one of the guys’ favorites of the week. Hine does a great job of distilling the main story from Hugo’s sprawling novel, and Stafford’s illustrations help bring out the grotesque, and tragic, qualities of the narrative. Culbard, known for his work in horror — and especially for his recent adaptations of Lovecraft’s fiction — is in prime form with Dream-Quest, adapting the story in ways that retain its dream-like tone. Sense and coherency in the narrative is always, and intentionally, just out of reach. Derek and Andy then discuss two other new books from SelfMadeHero, both of them second volumes or parts of earlier stories. In Aama 2: The Invisible Throng, Frederik Peeters continues the story of Verloc Nim, his brother Conrad, and their robot ape companion, Churchill, in their quest on the desert planet Ona(ji). (The first volume was reviewed on Episode 77 back in April.) And in Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations, Part Two: 1953-1984, historian Jean-Pierre Filiu and David B. pick up from their earlier graphic history, published in 2012, and cover events that take place between the Six-Day War and the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The guys pack a lot into this Publisher Spotlight episode, demonstrating the impressive variety of books coming out from one of their favorite publishers.

Oct 27, 2014

For this year’s Halloween ComicFest, Derek is at his local shop, Collected in Plano, TX, to talk with customers, employees, and guests about the kind of Halloween and comics-related stuff going on this year. They discuss the kind of free comics being given out this year — such as reprints of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Afterlife with Archie, Rachel Rising, and Marvel’s Secret Wars (which has nothing to do with Halloween or anything horror-related) — and the kind of costumes that everyone was wearing for the event. Derek also manages to talk with artist Jefferson Muncy and professional cosplayer Krystle Starr about the work that they do and what they’re bringing to the event. Among the highlights are strong recommendations for Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising series, a primer on the art scene in Dallas, a strange and disturbing story concerning a B-list (really, more of a C- or D-list) celebrity at last weekend’s Dallas Comic Con, and Derek’s futile attempt to find someone who actually watched the first episode of NBC’s Constantine. All in all, everyone had a good time at the event…and Derek got his share of free Halloween ComicFest comics!

Oct 22, 2014

This week on the podcast, Derek and Andy discuss three new titles that range from the profound to the insane. They begin with the new book from Julie Maroh, Skandalon (Arsenal Pulp Press). It’s the story of a French rock star, Tazane, with international appeal and the power to move a vast legion of fans. The book is thesis driven, with Maroh exploring the dynamics, and the costs, of modern celebrity status and its affects on both the personal and collective psyche. Neither of the guys have yet read Maroh’s first graphic novel — and the one for which she’s best known — Blue Is the Warmest Color, but after digesting Skandalon they feel that their appreciation of the work may be enhanced, or at least contextualized, by the earlier book. Next, the Two Guys with PhDs move on the new work from Jeff Parker and Sandy Jarrell, Meteor Men (Oni Press). While at first they were skeptical of the potential formulaic nature of the narrative — aliens coming to Earth and the resulting aftermath — they’re fascinated by the ways in which Parker complicates conventions to make the story unique. They’re particularly struck by the book’s teenage protagonist, Alden, the complexities of his character, and the circumstances surrounding his link to the extraterrestrials. While the guys disagree as to extents of Parker and Jarrell’s deviation from the genre — Andy feels that the governmental/military response to the aliens is nuanced, while Derek thinks that it’s more predictable and even heavy-handed — they both conclude that Meteor Men presents a different perspective on a popular formula. This is no E.T. Finally, the guys wrap up with what both feel is the highlight of the week, the first issue of Joshua Hale Fialkov and Kody Chamberlain’s Punks: The Comic (Image Comics). This has to be one of the most whacked out comics they’re read in a long time, rivaling the craziness and no-holds-barred fun of Ryan Browne’s God Hates Astronauts and Evan Dorkin’s Milk and Cheese. In this first issue of the new ongoing series, we get two short stories — the funniest being the lead off, “Firsts” — a portion of an earlier, self-published Punks comic, and a three-page fun-and-activities section, complete with a card game called Nutpuncher. Andy and Derek laugh their way through the final part of the podcast, and they eagerly look forward to following the future exploits of Dog, Skull, Fist, and Abraham Lincoln. Also, the Two Guys welcome a new Podcast Patron, Tom Mathews, who believes The Comics Alternative does for comics what Sound Opinions does for music. You can’t get much better praise than that!

Oct 17, 2014

It’s time for another visit to Derek’s local comics shop, Collected Comics and Games in Plano, TX, for an on-location podcast with customers and employees. This being the month of Halloween, the crew is talking about horror comics. The shop’s manager, Freddy Riuz, is BIG fan of the genre, so he helps to lead the talk on horror comics (and movies) in discerning ways. Joining in are customers Craig, Nick, Garrett, and Shea. Among the titles they discuss are Spread, Wytches, Nailbiter, Caliban, Ghosted, Through the Woods, George Romero’s Empire of the Dead, and of course, The Walking Dead. Don’t get spooked out. Just sit back and enjoy the terrifying talk from not-quite-so-undead fans.

Oct 15, 2014

On this week’s episode of the podcast, Andy and Derek explore the worlds of hardcore cohabitation, biographical brilliance, and wood witches. They begin with Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever, the new collection from Tom Neely and friends (Microcosm Publishing). This follows Neely’s original minicomic Henry & Glenn Forever and collects the four-issue miniseries published between 2013 and 2014. For those unfamiliar, this is a situational satire of metal rockers Henry Rollings and Glenn Danzig, working from the premise of their love for one another and placing their relationship in a variety of different sitcom-like scenarios. Tom Neely created the original, and more narratively substantive, stories of Henry and Glenn, but he has many of his artist friends — such as Mark Randolph, Ed Luce, Johnny Ryan, and Noah Van Sciver — contribute short pieces as well. Some stories are better than others, but the Two Guys conclude that the book as a whole is hilariously fun. Next, Derek and Andy turn to Masterful Marks: Cartoonists Who Changed the World, a collection of graphic biographies edited by Monte Beauchamp (Simon and Schuster). In fact, they spend a good chunk of this week’s show talking about this book…and there is a lot to discuss. It’s composed of sixteen short comics that present the lives of such luminaries as Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby, Winsor McCay, Charles Schulz, Walt Disney, Osamu Tezuka, Chas Addams, Dr. Seuss, and Hergé. These biographies are written and drawn by impressive creators in their own rights, such as Nora Krug, Arnold Roth, Frank Stack, and Denis Kitchen. The guys discuss most of these biographies, but they particularly highlight two of their favorites: Peter Kuper’s take on Harvey Kurtzman and Drew Friedman’s look at Robert Crumb. In fact, the latter is not so much a biography of the legendary artist as much as it is a story of Friedman’s experiences and relationship with Crumb. Much like Kuper’s, this is more than a straight-out biography. It’s a personal and even self-reflexive narrative. Finally, the Two Guys get all excited about the new series from Scott Snyder and Jock, Wytches (Image Comics). They point out that while this could have easily been a Vertigo title, Snyder is apparently wanting to try his indie chops over at Image with a new ongoing series. And he and Jock have started off impressively! What makes the first issue of Wytches so engaging is its elaborate setup and its emersion in the everyday. Both Andy and Derek mention how the world that Snyder sets up reminds them of their own childhoods and the kind of creepy wooded areas that fueled their own imaginations. They’re both on board with this new title, and they hope — they expect — it to be another in Image’s growing line of perennials, following the likes of The Walking Dead, Saga, and Manhattan Projects.

Oct 13, 2014

In the third of three podcasts shows recorded at this year’s Wizard World Austin Comic Con, here is a recording of the panel “Comics Podcasting and Blogging,” one organized by Derek and John Mayo of The Comic Book Page podcast. Joining them was Cole Houston of The Rantcor Pit: The JCU Star Wars Podcast and the Hey Kids, Comics! podcast. This discussion was devoted to the ins and outs of podcasting and blogging about comics and comic culture: how to get started, how to sustain content, how to address challenges, and how to ensure for future success. Each participant comes to comics podcasting from different perspectives — John is an old hat at this and has been podcasting since 2007, Cole juggles multiple podcasts, and (of course) The Comics Alternative looks specifically at alternative, indie, and non-superhero titles — and each shared advice, suggestions, and hard-won experience. There were a number of questions from the audience, and these were primarily about the basics of getting a podcast going and what to actually discuss on your show. They covered a lot of ground during the panel, chock-full with info. This is the kind of episode that should inspire future podcasters!

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