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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: April, 2014
Apr 30, 2014

This week on The Comics Alternative, Derek and Gene put on their happy faces to review three titles concerned with the positive and uplifting sides of life. First, they go through Loïc Dauvillier and Marc Lizano’s Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust (First Second), a new graphic novel focusing on genocide. A translation of the 2012 French album, L’enfant cachée, this is the story of a survivor telling her young granddaughter the traumas she underwent in 1940s France. Perhaps even more significantly, it’s a story about hiding: hiding from terror, hiding who you are, hiding your experiences, and hiding from your family. Among other facets of the book, the guys focus on the possible audience assumptions with this story, how it’s crafted for younger readers while at the same time having an all-age appeal. Next, they turn to Genesis (Image Comics), the new one-shot from Nathan Edmondson and Alison Sampson. Gene is uncertain about the issue, feeling that the story reaches for a deeper significance that it never really earns. Derek is a little more positive, arguing that Sampson’s intriguing (and at times, surreal) art goes a long way in carrying the weight of this quasi-parable. The story has everything to do with death and destruction…much like Hidden, and much like the next title that the Two Guys review. The latest issue of World War 3 Illustrated (distributed through Top Shelf Productions), #45, is described by editors Peter Kuper and Scott Cunningham as “the death issue.” All of the 31 contributions to this anthology have something to do with death, whether it be the passing of a family member, the “death” of an idea or identity, coming to terms with the end of life, or the presence of death in art and literature. As Derek and Gene discuss, some of the most moving, and most notable, pieces in this latest issue of World War 3 Illustrated include comics by Kuper, Rosalie Lightning and Tom Hart, Hayley Gold, Seth Tobocman, Sandy Jimenez, and Kevin C. Pyle. The tone of the comics discussed in this episode may be dark or heavy, but the stories are all fascinatingly told and well worth reading.

Apr 28, 2014

On this episode of The Comics Alternatives Interviews, Andy and Derek talk with Liana Finck, a New York-based artist whose first book, A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York, has just been released through Ecco Press. In their conversation, the Two Guys ask Liana about the idea behind her project — based on the “Bintel Brief” section BintelBriefthat appeared in Der Forverts (The Forward) under Abraham Cahan’s editorship — how she discovered Cahan’s work and what it meant to her, and the autobiographical links that are present in the book. Liana also discusses her work as a graphic artist, her newness to comics writing, and future projects she currently has underway. In terms of the latter, you can follow her latest installments of the new serial, Diary of a Shadow, as well as see sample pages from A Bintel Brief, at her website, lianafinck.com.

Apr 25, 2014

Derek is back at his local shop, Collected Comics in Plano, to discuss comics with the folks who frequent their aisles. Joining him this month are the assistant store manager, Freddy Ruiz, and loyal Collected customer and good friend of the shop, Laura Rogers. Together they cover a variety of topics and titles — from Garth Ennis’s violence to Brian K. Vaughn’s imagination, from individual buying habits to customer trends, from Star Wars to Big Trouble in Little China — and have a fun time doing so. They’re even joined by store employee Sabrina Smith, who is usually gun-shy when it comes to a podcasting microphone. She shares her experience with various disturbing comics, including the upcoming Itty Bitty Bunnies In Rainbow Pixie Candy Land. So sit back, get out your comic-book wish list, and join everyone at Collected in their audio romp through current comics-dom.

Apr 24, 2014

On this episode of The Comics Alternatives Interviews, Derek talks with Bob Fingerman, a man who knows what it’s like to work for Minimum Wage. They discuss Bob’s decision to bring back this landmark series though Image Comics, as well as the task of pulling together last year’s Maximum Minimum Wage (also from Image). In the interview, Derek asks Bob about any autobiographical links between him and his protagonist, Rob Hoffman, and he tries to corner Bob on whether or not Rob’s recently divorced spouse, Sylvia Fanucci, will make an appearance in the new series. Bob refuses to be cornered. Along the way they discuss the challenges of building a devoted readership, Bob’s fascination with the apocalypse and zombie stories, his forays into racial/gender politics, the joys (and limitations) of explicit sex and violence, the comics mainstream and “that Bob Fingerman feeling,” and the creative satisfaction one gets from making Bill O’Reilly a mutated and despicable villain of a decimated cultural landscape. (Wait…doesn’t this actually describe the real O’Reilly?) So get out your back issues of Minimum Wage, refresh your memory on Otis Goes Hollywood, search for that lost copy of Finger Filth, and enjoy this conversation with one of the most incisive cultural observers in comics today.

Apr 23, 2014

In this episode of The Comics Alternative, the third of what promises to be an unprecedented five consecutive shows for a single week, Derek and Andy W. discuss four new #1 and one-shot issues. First, they look at Christopher Sebela and Chris Visions’s Dead Letters (BOOM! Studios), focusing on the story’s clever use of narrative gaps and art-driven action. Then they turn to Shutter (Image Comics), a new series from Joe Keatinge teams up with debut artist Leila del Duca. The guys love the initial setup, but nonetheless wanted more story in this inaugural issue. From there they delve into JC De La Torre and Ray Dillon’s Star Mage from IDW Publishing, and what promises to be an intriguing new sci-fi title. Finally, Derek and Andy wrap up with a long discussion of Richard Corben’s latest adaptation, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Premature Burial (Dark Horse Comics). They point out that the issue also includes an adaption of “The Cask of Amontillado” — in fact, “Cask” takes up more of the issue than does the titular feature — and that it works in similar ways to the other recent Corben adaptations of Poe for Dark Horse, leading up to the fall publication of the collection, Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirit of the Dead (Dark Horse Books). The Two Guys had a great time discussing these new comics, and you can join in on the fun as well by lending your ear to this week’s review show.

Apr 22, 2014

The guys are back with another great guest for The Comics Alternative Interviews.  This time, Gene and Derek talk with Shannon Wheeler, the creator of Too Much Coffee Man (Dark Horse Comics) and last year’s Astounding Villain House (Dark Horse Comics), as well as the illustrator of God Is Disappointed in You (Top Shelf). The conversation gets going by jumping into the Bible and how both Shannon and Mark Russell re-present the Old and New Testaments — and with strict fidelity of content — with a humorous yet straightforward manner in God Is Disappointed in You. Sure to be loved by atheists and Judeo-Christians alike! The Two Guys with PhDs also ask Shannon about his cartooning for The New Yorker, his penchant for clowns and death, the fine art of one-panel gags, and how his New Yorker rejects find new life in the collections I Thought You Would Be Funner and I Don’t Get It (BOOM! Town). They also talk with him about his work at Dark Horse, specifically Astounding Villain House, learning that Shannon has bigger long-range plans for that series. Oh, and there’s that Portlandia thing, too. There’s a lot of laughing in this episode, probably at least as much as you’ll experience when reading Shannon’s books. So join the fun and listen to the Two Guys’ conversation with a creator whose name is synonymous with the caffeine jitters!

Apr 21, 2014

On this special episode of The Comics Alternative, Andy and Derek devote the entire show to the 2014 Eisner Award Nominations. They take a close look at almost all of the categories, weighing in on their favorites nominees, commenting on the pros and cons of the picks, and speculating on the actual process of compiling the nominees list. What the Two Guys realize is that many of the comics that they reviewed in 2013, and many of the creators they interviewed over the past year, are noticeably present on the nominee list…leading Andy to believe that there is such a thing as a “Comics Alternative bump” for exposure and recognition. Derek, on the other hand, begins his efforts in pushing for more Comics Alternative recognition in the first of what will be five different episodes of the podcast for this week, making him (in the words of Andy) “the James Brown of comics podcasting.” So Derek feels good. You knew that he would.

Apr 17, 2014

This week on The Comics Alternative, Andy and Derek review three recent titles, all from IDW (they didn’t plan this…it just turned out that the comics they really wanted to discuss were all published by IDW). First, they focus on the late Doug Wildey’s collection Rio: The Complete Saga. This is a very nice paperback edition that is composed mostly of high-quality scans from Wildey’s original art — a lot like IDW’s Artist Editions, but they’re just much less expensive. The Two Guys praise Wildey’s storytelling, his mastery of the Western genre, his careful and detailed art, and his complex rendering of the title character. The only “downside” to this collection is the fact that Wildey didn’t create more Rio stories. Reading this edition leaves you not only thoroughly impressed, but also longing for more. Next, the guys look at two recent IDW serials: Judge Dredd: Mega City Two and Rogue Trooper. They point out that both titles have their genesis in the classic UK anthology, 2000 AD, and that these comics are the latest American handling of the properties. Andy helps to educate Derek on both titles, since Derek doesn’t have much experience with either. But what both of the guys emphasize is the fact that the two new series more or less stand on their own, and that readers don’t need extensive history with either Judge Dredd or Rogue Trooper comics to enjoy these comics.

Apr 10, 2014

It’s the beginning of another month, which means it’s time once again for Derek and Andy to flip through the pages of the latest Previews catalog. The Two guys find a lot of notable titles in this month’s Previews – with notable offerings from Dark Horse, IDW, Image, Drawn and Quarterly, and Fantagraphics – and they share their findings with the usual discerning and humorous mixture that have come to define the “Comics Alternative brand.” Among the moments in this week’s episode you will find: Derek’s joy at finding another Edgar Allan Poe adaptation from Richard Corben; Andy looking forward to the new DC trade release of a series he originally enjoyed back in the late 1980s, Cinder and Ashe; Derek ragging not only on the Angry Birds phenomenon, but on the fact that IDW is actually jumping on the bandwagon with their new Angry Bird Comics series; Andy’s semi-defense of Angry Bird Comics in pointing out the quality creators on the title; Derek still resists; the guys’ being pleased that Brian Winkeler and Robert Wilson IV’s digital comic, Knuckleheads, is being collected as a trade through IDW; the now-monthly wonderment at Image Comics’ output; the revelation of Andy’s love of Big Trouble in Little China; the podcast debut of Derek’s daughter, Zoe, in her explanation of the app game Doodle Jump; a celebration of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s new graphic novel, Seconds; highlights of the usual great output from Drawn and Quarterly (Everywhere Antennas and Petty Theft), Fantagraphics (Bomb Run and Other Stories, Heroes of the Comics, and the new edition of Special Exits), and First Second (Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey); the Two Guys’ curiosity over Liz Plourde and Randy Michaels’s self-published How I Made the World; curiosity over Ray Fawkes’s new original graphic novel from Oni Press, The People Inside; and a discussion of Titan Comics’ acquisition of the Doctor Who license. There’s a lot packed into this episode, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the warm, satisfying goodness that is The Comics Alternative.

Apr 3, 2014

This week on The Comics Alternative, Andy Wolverton and Derek review three more new titles. First, they look at another great book from SelfMadeHero, Frederik Peeters’s Aama, Vol. 1: The Smell of Warm Dust. This is the first of a multi-volume series from this innovative Swiss creator. The Guys discuss Peeters’s skills at world-building and his ability to get inside and flesh out his protagonist, Verloc Nim. Next they take a look at two new #1 issues: David Lapham’s Stray Bullets: Killers (Image Comics) and Jason Starr and Andrea Mutti’s The Returning (BOOM! Studios). They spend quite a bit of time discussing the return of Stray Bullets, starting with the big new Uber Alles edition — which collects the original 40 issues of Stray Bullets, plus the recent conclusion of its last story arc in issue #41 — and then moving onto the new Killer arc. They place the new title in context of the entire series and draw out similarities between it and the earlier comics. Finally, they flip through The Returning, reading it as a different twist on undead narratives. While they recognize the premise as fairly common, they hold out hope that Starr and Mutti will take their mini-series in a unique direction.

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