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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: January, 2014
Jan 29, 2014

This week Gene and Derek take a look at six new titles. They begin with a discussion of two new works from Image Comics, the first three issues of Alex + Ada (Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn) and Deadly Class #1 (Rick Remender and Wes Craig). They go into depth on both titles, especially Craig’s art in Deadly Class and the narrative pacing in Alex + Ada, which ultimately leads to a discussion on panel sequencing and story decompression. Next, they look at issues #1-3 of Letter 44, written by Charles Soule with art by Alberto Jiménez Albuquerque (Oni Press). They discuss its unique take on science fiction within the context of recent politics. From there, they turn to recent #1 issues from three other publishers: David Lapham’s Juice Squeezers (Dark Horse Comics), Bill Willingham and Sergio Fernandez DaVilla’s Legenderry (Dynamite Entertainment), and Curse from BOOM! Studies (written by Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel, with art by Riley Rossmo, Colin Lorimer). In this episode, the Two Guys with PhDs are all over the place, moving from all-age comics to Bush-era politics to licensed characters to horror titles to science fiction to steampunk to Reagan’s Morning in America. There’s a lot packed into this show…more bang for your buck! So enjoy, won’t you?

Jan 24, 2014

It’s a new year and a new visit to Collected Comics in Plano, TX! This month Derek swings by the shop to talk with Collected’s co-owner, Brent Erwin, and his store employees Shea Hennum and Freddy Ruiz. It’s a general comics talk, with the topics varying wildly. And things get weird at times. They begin by discussing the recent renovations of the shop’s interior, and that eventually leads to a conversation on future plans and Free Comic Book Day. After that, all bets are off. Freddy talks about graphic violence and steampunk overload, Shea focuses on gay porn comics and Batman’s nads, Derek gripes about the Disney corporation and Marvel’s money-grabbing gimmicks, and Brent voices his wariness of IDW, his recipe for superhero continuity, and his love of sugary breakfast cereals. Everyone has a fun time…and now you too can enjoy the nougaty goodness of their conversation!

Jan 22, 2014

In this week’s review episode of The Comics Alternative, Derek and Gene discuss two recent releases. They begin with Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time, the Complete Series (IDW Publishing), written by Scott and David Tipton and illustrated by a host of artists. First, they place the book within context, discussing last year’s 12-issue Prisoners of Times miniseries and the 50th anniversary of the BBC’s Doctor Who television show. Then they look at the book as a whole — after a brief comment or two about their own histories as Whovians – focusing on its narrative structure, its variety of stylistics takes on the Doctor, and the way its premise springs from an easily overlooked event in the BBC series that occurred with the ninth Doctor. The Two Guys also discuss briefly the history of the franchise in comics, pointing out that one of the great features in the Prisoners of Time miniseries, and retained in the book, is the various retrospectives on the Doctor Who comics.  If you’re a fan of the television series, or just a lover of good science fiction stories, this nice hardbound edition is for you. Next, Gene and Derek turn their attention to Renaud Dillies’s Betty Blues (NBM). This graphic album just recently came out from NBM’s ComicsLit imprint, although it was originally published in French in 2003…and was the winner of the Angoulême Comics Festival Prize for First Comic Book in 2004. Since then, Dillies has written Bubbles and Gondola and Abelard, both also translated and published through NBM, but now his first book is available to English readers in the U.S. The guys remark on the beauty of Dillies’s art and the sophistication of his story. While it might appear at first glance that this is a book for young readers — with its funny animals, rounded drawings, large panels, and colorful pages — this narrative is anything but juvenile. In fact, Betty Blues is a somber and ambiguous work that delves into mature themes and resists simple resolutions.

Jan 21, 2014

On this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews, the Two Guys with PhDs talk with Isabel Greenberg, the author of The Encyclopedia of Early Earth (Little, Brown and Company). Most of the conversation centers around Isabel’s debut book — the genesis of The Encyclopedia, its dominant theme of storytelling, its structure as a series of embedded narratives, the artist’s preference for black-and-white illustration, the many myths that inform Greenberg’s storyworld, its intended audiences, the humor that permeates the book, and the kind of critical responses it has been receiving — but Andy and Derek also ask the author about her history as a reader of comics, her time as an apprentice creator, and her plans for future stories. While The Encyclopedia of Early Earth has been garnering much critical praise — including its place on Derek and Andy’s “Best of 2013″ list — Isabel Greenberg is a fairly new name on this side of the pond. So the Two Guys talk with her about her history with the UK comics scene and the ways in which her work is finding a much wider audience. It’s a fun conversation, and it ends with the promise of more great things coming from Isabel’s imagination.

Jan 15, 2014

This week on The Comics Alternative, Andy and Derek review three recent works. They begin with Darwyn Cooke’s Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground, from IDW Publishing. This is the fourth of Cooke’s comics adaptation of the Parker crime/heist novels from acclaimed writer Donald Westlake (AKA, Richard Stark). The Two Guys compare Slayground to the three other works Cooke has previously released: The Hunter (2009), The Outfit (2010), and The Score (2012). They note that while they like this graphic novel, and find Cooke’s artwork (as always) truly outstanding, they nonetheless feel that the book is a little slim, especially when compared to the earlier works. At the same time, the book also includes a reprint of the 11-page story “The 7eventh,” originally appearing in Richard Stark’s Parker: The Martini Edition (2011). What with IDW’s recent announcement that they’re going to be publishing Westlake’s original Parker novels, illustrated by Darwyn Cooke, and the promise of another Cooke adaptation of one of those novels, this is an exciting time to be reading the Parker narratives. Next, the Two Guys with PhDs discuss two new #1 issues: James Robinson and J. Bone’s The Saviors (Image Comics) and The Midas Flesh (BOOM! Studios), written by Ryan North with art by Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline. Their discussions of these two recent comic books are complementary, and at times provide illustrations of contrast. The Saviors gets going with an Invasion of the Body Snatchers and horror kind of feel — weird creatures of some sort apparently infiltrate a small Southwestern community and pose as respected locals — MidasFleshis told from the perspective of a pothead, and ends with a cliffhanger…literally! The Midas Flesh, which will be an 8-issue miniseries, juxtaposes two different stories, one a sci-fi quest taking place in an apocalyptic (?) future and the other alluding to Greek mythology set in some distant past. What makes this title especially notable is that it’s the first for the publisher’s BOOM! Box imprint, and the guys still aren’t sure how BOOM! will be defining that imprint. Both of these new #1s leave the guys, to greater or lesser degrees, anticipating future issues and looking forward to how their stories unfold.

Jan 13, 2014

On this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews, Andy and Derek speak with writer Fred Van Lente. They begin by asking him about his work on the recent Dark Horse title, Brain Boy — a revamp of the short-lived 1960s character — and how he translated the title for a contemporary audience. Van Lente also shares a bit of insight into his upcoming reboot of Magnus: Robot Fighter, part of Dynamite Entertainment’s new Gold Key line, as well as his plans for the new Action Presidents series. The Two Guys also talk with Fred about his run on Archer and Armstrong and the early humorous titles he created with Ryan Dunlavey, the comics that really put him on the map: Action Philosophers and The Comic Book History of Comics. They spend a lot of time focusing on Fred’s special sense of humor, his meticulous research, and his melding of abstract thoughts and tangible — and very entertaining — storytelling. All in all, Derek and Andy had a good time talking with the acclaimed author…and their conversation ended right when Fred needed to take his shepherd’s pie out of the oven. The Two Guys are  nothing if not timely!

Jan 8, 2014

The Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics are back for their first Previews episode of the new year. It being January, the guys begin by highlighting some of the titles that will a part of Free Comic Book Day in May. There are some great ones coming out from BOOM! Studios, Fantagraphics, Dark Horse Comics, and Drawn and Quarterly. Then they get to the nitty gritty of the episode, discussing upcoming titles such as Veil #1, Beasts of Burden: Hunters and Gatherers, and Murder Mysteries (Dark Horse); American Vampire: Second Cycle #1 and Jonah Hex: Shadows West (DC/Vertigo); Alice in Comicland and Mean Streets: A Crime Anthology (IDW Publishing); Stray Bullets #41, Stray Bullets: Killers #1, and Sovereign #1 (Image Comics); The Big Feminist But: Comics about Women (Alternative Comics); The Returning #1 and Beautiful Scars (BOOM! Studios/Archaia); Mangus: Robot Fighter #1 (Dynamite Entertainment); White Cube (Drawn and Quarterly); Henry Speaks for Himself,  Buddy Buys a Dump, and Young Romance 2: The Early Simon and Kirby Romance Comics  (Fantagraphics); All Star (NBM); The Auteur #1 (Oni Press); Aama Volume 1: The Smell of Warm Dust and The Park (SelfMadeHero); and Nemo: The Roses of Berlin (Top Shelf Productions). Also, Derek goes off on the “gimmick” of restarting series with #1s — especially at Marvel, and dismissing Brian Michael Bendis’s rationalization — Andy reiterates his need to cut back on his growing stack of comics, and The Guys once again lapse into “package” commentary.

Jan 6, 2014

On The Comics Alternative‘s first interview of 2014, Gene and Derek are joined by Brian Joines, the writer of the recent comic book series I.M.A.G.I.N.E. Agents (BOOM! Studios) and Krampus (Image Comics). They talk with Brian about how great 2013 was for him, the genesis of his new titles, his apparent fascination with the darker side of childhood, why devil-like holiday figures make good copy, his collaborations with Bachan and Dean Kotz, the hazards of self-publishing, and the sickeningly sweet and sinister connections between Steven Spielberg and sugar plum fairies. Brian points out, as well, that he’s not a defiler of childhood memories, and that kids should stay in school, not do drugs, and follow their creative imaginations.

Jan 1, 2014

Happy New Year, and welcome to another episode of The Comics Alternative! To start off 2014, Andy and Derek discuss six relatively recent digital comics: Tim Gibson’s Moth City, Chris Sheridan’s Motorcycle Samurai (Top Shelf), Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari’s The Bunker, Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey’s Action Presidents, Brian Winkeler and Robert Wilson IV’s Knuckleheads (Monkeybrain Comics), and Jeremy Holt and Chris Peterson’s Pulp.  They begin by focusing on the two titles that utilize the digital format the fullest, Moth City and Motorcycle Samurai, and how the authors use the technology to enhance their storytelling. Derek and Andy discuss the unique nature of these works and how much would be lost if these titles were offered in print form. From there they move on to The Bunker, Knuckleheads, and Action Presidents, appreciating how the creators use digital technology yet noting that these titles could easily be adapted into physical format without losing much of anything (and as we will see soon, when The Bunker is released by Oni Press). Finally, the Two Guys with PhDs look at the one-shot, Pulp, admiring not only its complex narrative structure, but also the fact that Holt and Peterson chose to market their comic as a “pay what you will” title, much like Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin have done with The Private Eye. Along the way, the guys discuss the general state of digital comics, issues of cost and distribution, the pros and cons of the technological layout, the marketing potential of the format, and how what we now call “digital comics” or “webcomics” is a hybrid form that is challenging our understanding, and our definitions, of “comics.” Much thanks to the creators who contacted Andy and Derek about their digital works, as well as to the many listeners — and you know who you are — who recommended certain titles and lobbied for the Two Guys to finally do an episode devoted to digital comics.

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