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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: June, 2014
Jun 27, 2014

On this special episode of The Comics Alternative, Andy shares his experiences last week at the 2014 Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC. Derek couldn’t make it this year, so Andy fills him in on what he missed and shares his thoughts on the many people he met and the many adventures he had at the event. Most notable are his interviews with various writers and illustrators in Artists Alley, and presented on this podcast. You’ll hear Andy’s conversations with Brian Clevinger, Andy Hirsch, Kyle Starks, Frank Barbiere, Gabriel Dunston, and Max Dowdle. It’s that special one-on-one interaction, a smooth, nougaty combination of intellectual curiosity and personal camaraderie, that you’ve come to expect from the Two Guys with PhDs in their never-ending quest for thoughtful comics talk.

Jun 25, 2014

On this week’s show, Derek and Gene review three new titles. They begin with an unusual story from Conor Stechschulte, The Amateurs (Fantagraphics Books). The guys aren’t entirely sure about the narrative cohesion or the connecting events in this story — and they’re okay with that — but they’re mesmerized by the absurdist, and at times violent, paths this comic takes. This novella-length work is a strange combination of slapstick comedy, slasher horror, and existential angst. Think of Laurel and Hardy meets Waiting for Godot…but with slaughtered livestock. Next the Two Guys move on to the first issue of Ted McKeever’s new miniseries, The Superannuated Man (Image Comics).  They start off by comparing this comic to some of McKeever’s earlier works, such as Eddy Current, Plastics Forks, and Metropol, but see in its detail a more meticulously crafted art that pushes more visual boundaries. In this way, the work is quite similar to last year’s Miniature Jesus, another title with a perspective-skewing feel. What’s more, the guys feel that McKeever does an outstanding job at introducing us to this strange narrative world, providing just enough exposition to grab our attention and propel the  miniseries forward, full-throttle. Finally, Gene and Derek discuss a comic that is sure to make Trekkies happy the world over, Star Trek: Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay #1 (IDW Publishing). Beginning with a few comments on the history behind “The City on the Edge of Forever” – specifically, the controversy surrounding Harlan Ellison’s famously unused original teleplay — they beam into this first issue by looking at the artwork of J. K. Woodward. While Gene isn’t sure that his painterly style is most appropriate for an action-based sci-fi comic, Derek is more won over by the visuals. But they both can agree that this Scott and David Tipton’s adaptation of Ellison’s original teleplay is not only a good story, but a fascinating study in progressive translation: it’s a comic-book adaptation of a text originally intended for an entirely different medium, yet “maladapted” by that original medium and inadvertently giving the original new life through both dramatic prose and now graphic storytelling.

Jun 20, 2014

It’s time for another on-location show at Derek’s comic shop, Collected Comics and Games in Plano, TX. For the June visit, he is joined by a variety of shop employees and customers for a comics discussion free-for-all. This month the store manager, Jennifer Wait, arranged the shop’s monthly “Collected Talks” meeting — where customers come in and talk about the kind of comics they are reading and would like to recommend to others — to take place along with The Comics Alternative‘s monthly visit. Taking part in the discussion is Jennifer, the store’s assistant manager, Freddy Ruiz, and two of Collected’s loyal customers, Craig and John. Also joining in on the talk is former Collected employee and friend of the show, Shea Hennum. Shea used to be a regular on the podcast’s on-location episodes, but since leaving Collected in January, he hasn’t been able to be a part of things. He makes up for the absence, and with a vengeance, with a barrage of insights, manifestos, and bizarre commentary. Despite the detours into weirdness, and an occasion off-topic conversation here and there, everyone has a good time sharing their recent reading lists and observations about contemporary comics.

Jun 18, 2014

On this episode of The Comics Alternative, Andy and Derek review three new and unique titles. They begin by looking at Miracleman, Book 1: A Dream of Flying, the first trade in Marvel’s current reprinting of the early series by Alan Moore…AKA, “The Original Writer.” While Andy had read its first run in the U.S. through the Eclipse line, this was Derek’s first time actually reading Miracleman. (It’s one of those titles that he knew about and always intended to read, but never got around to…especially being out of print.) The guys primarily focus on the main storyline, written by Moore with art by Alan Davis and Garry Leach, but they also discuss the supplemental material, including interviews, sketches, and installments of Mick Anglo’s Golden Age Marvelman strips. Throughout their discussion they keep coming back to a central question: Does Miracleman still hold up today? The Two Guys think so, but with some hesitations. While they definitely find the comic valuable and fascinating as a historical document, much of the book’s edginess has been tempered due to the titles original success. Many comics now have been following Alan Moore’s lead, so much so that Miracleman now doesn’t seem anything new. But for it’s time, it definitely was, setting the stage for the more sophisticated comics Moore would go on to write in the years to come. Next, Derek and Andy look at Gabriel Dunston’s Purgatory Pub, Book 1. This is a brand new self-published title, and it was a successful Kickstarter campaign.  The book is a metaphysical dialogue between Heaven and Hell, one that you might imagine being created by an underground comix artist with a theological bent. There’s an angel and there’s a devil, and the two don’t sit on anyone’s shoulder arguing their prospective cases, but instead hang out in pubs, visit each other’s neighborhoods, and go to motivational rallies held by none other than Lucifer himself. The Guys want to send out a special thanks to the book’s creator, Gabriel Dunston, who was kind enough to send them copies of his new comic. Finally, the guys discuss a very different kind of “comic,” Kellie Strøm’s Worse Things Happen at Sea (Nobrow Press). This book is part of the publisher’s Leporello series, illustrated works, according to the book’s back cover, “aimed to push the boundaries of print and illustration. Some are educational, all are beautiful.” Derek and Andy specifically focus on the “boundary pushing” aspects of Strøm’s work. Worse Things Happen at Sea is a double-sided 136 centimeter panorama, and with no clear separation between “panels.” So the guys spend a lot of time wondering if they could call this book a comic, and if so, what does that say about the flexibility and the stability of the medium? This panorama is a lush, beautifully rendered “story” — Derek argues that it’s somewhat a narrative, Andy isn’t entirely convinced — of elaborate sea creatures attacking seafaring vessels throughout nautical history. It reminds the guys of similarly medium-bending “comics” such as Joe Sacco’s The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme (which came out from W.W. Norton last year), and Helge Reumann and Xavier Robel’s, Elvis Road (2007, Buenaventura Press). So in this episode of The Comics Alternative, you get not just in-depth critiques, but also theoretical musings, as well. What a bargain!!

Jun 17, 2014

The Two Guys are back with another roundtable discussion, this one with John Mayo of The Comic Book Page podcast. For this special episode, the topic concerns readership: the various strategies publishers use to get and retain comics readers. Andy, Derek, and John speculate on the kind of marketing maneuvers that that seem to work, which ones are reader-friendly, which strategies undermine or at least don’t bode well for the industry, and which are just downright annoying.  The guys discuss everything from $1 first issues, variant covers, series renumbering, switching creative teams, crossover events, free digital issues, over-hyping storylines, and high-end special collectors’ editions. They even bring up the recent acquisition of ComiXology by Amazon.com and how changes to digital retailing might help, or perhaps even hinder, sales. All in all it’s an engaging conversation, running over an hour and forty-five minutes. Unlike many contemporary comics, you certainly get your money’s worth in this special episode of The Comics Alternative. Just the thing to start off your summer!

Jun 11, 2014

The Two Guys with PhDs (talking about comics) are back with another Publisher Spotlight episode. This time they are focusing on Dynamite Entertainment, specifically the new Gold Key comics that they have been reviving: Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, by Greg Pak and Mirko Colak; Magnus: Robot Fighter, by Fred Van Lente and Cory Smith; Solar: Man of the Atom, by Frank J. Barbiere and Joe Bennett; and Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult, by Mark Waid and Neil Edwards. They discuss the new series in the order in which they’ve been introduced, and the guys even comment on Dynamite’s strategy of staggering releases and not just publishing everything at once, much like Valiant did with their new revived titles a couple of years ago. Andy is more familiar with the original Gold Key comics, at least most of them, than Derek, so when they can they point out the similarities and differences between the recent comics and their earlier manifestations from Gold Key, Valiant, Acclaim, and Dark Horse.  The guys definitely have their preferences — e.g., they love Van Lente’s humor in Magnus, they appreciate both Van Lente and Waid’s send up of reality television, they’re curious where Barbiere is going with Solar’s daughter, and while they’re not big fantasy/Conan fans, they do like what Pak and Colak have done with Turok — and much of this comes out in their discussion. Overall, they really like what Dynamite is doing with their recent revival and look forward to seeing how it unfolds…and how things may all come together (as we are teased in the first issue of Doctor Spektor). Plus, the guys share listener mail that they’ve recently received. Keep ‘em coming!

Jun 6, 2014

On this special episode of The Comics Alternative, Andy and Derek are joined by the guys at the podcast Comics for Fun and Profit for a lively discussion on trade waiting. They discuss the pros and cons of buying single comic-book issues, the reasons why you may want to wait for a trade instead of getting the monthlies, which current titles work well serialized and which are much better presented in one longer story, and how their personal buying and reading habits affect their preferences for trade editions. This is the first time these two podcasts have experienced a “crossover event,” and given the fun everyone had, it won’t be their last.

Jun 4, 2014

It’s the beginning of the month, and that means it’s time again for Derek and Andy to take a gander at the latest Previews catalog. In June, the guys notice a whole slew of upcoming releases to anticipate, including new series and books from Dark Horse (the new Dark Horse Presents series, Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirits of the Dead, and Pop), DC/Vertigo (Multiversity and Punk Rock Jesus: Deluxe Edition), IDW (Cerebus: High Society, Digital Audio/Visual Experience), Image (The Fade Out, Imperial, and Displaced Persons), Abstract Studios (SIP Kids), BOOM!/Archaia (The Collector), Dynamite (Terminal Hero and Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers), Drawn and Quarterly (Earthling), Fantagraphics (Love and Rockets: New Stoires #7 and Wandering Son, Vol. 7), First Second (How the World Was: A California Childhood), and Liveright (Kill My Mother). Also in this episode, Andy avoids Dynamite’s Steampunk Battlestar Galactica: 1880 like the plague, Derek is called out on his strict “no li’l comics” policy, and the Two Guys learn that they are embraced by the Internet’s spanking community.

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