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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: July, 2014
Jul 30, 2014

This week on The Comics Alternative, Derek and Andy W. discuss three new titles. First they look at the reissue of David Lapham’s Murder Me Dead (Image). Originally a nine-issue miniseries that was later collected as a trade in 2002, the book is now back in print with a new reissue. The guys discussed Stray Bullets‘ return back in April, and now they’re just as excited to see this release. This is Lapham’s tip of the bristol board to the classic noir films of the 1940s and 1950s. Next, they turn their attention to two new number one issues: Frank J. Barbiere and Victor Santos’s Black Market (BOOM! Studios) and Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini’s Low (Image). The first is a twist on superheroes, looking at them from the street-level and with a more jaundiced eye. In this  new miniseries, Barbiere is asking us who the real heroes actually are. Low, Rememder’s third ongoing title with Image, is a new sci-fi adventure that begins with this premise: what would happen if our sun were going supernova, and we had to live undersea to escape radiation, all the while searching the universe for another inhabitable planet? With Tocchini’s stunning art, we get a fascinating answer.

Jul 23, 2014

On this week’s The Comics Alternative, Derek and Andy W. review four new titles, all of which revisit older characters and licenses. To begin, they discuss the first collected volume of Sam Kieth and William Messner-Loebs’s remastered The Maxx Maxximized (IDW Publishing). Neither of the guys read the series when it originally came out in the early 1990s, so both are looking at this title through unexperienced eyes. This is one of Kieth’s most ambitious works in terms of both story and art, highly deserving of the wonderful recoloring treatment by Ronda Pattison. Both Andy and Derek love this first hardbound volume, and their sole “criticism” is that only the first four issues of the Maxximized series are collected, making the book thinner than expected. Next, the Two Guys with PhDs move on to another 1990s Image property, one originally created by Rob Liefeld and then mastered by Alan Moore. Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay’s Supreme: Blue Rose #1 (Image) is a substantive first issue, tapping into the Moore’s take on the hero, yet making the story seem new. You don’t have to be familiar with the 1990s Supreme in order to appreciate Ellis’s storytelling, or Lotay’s art (one of the highlights of this issue). Finally, Derek and Andy turn to two brand new titles from Titan Comics: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #1 and Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #1. Titan, a relatively new publisher on the comic-book scene, recently acquired the Doctor Who license from IDW, where it had been for the past several years. So both of the guys, especially Derek — Andy isn’t much of a Doctor Who watcher — are curious to see how they handle the title. And neither is disappointed. Titan launches the series with two new ongoing series, each based on the last two manifestations of the Doctor. While Derek found both first issues great entry points, Andy wasn’t as sure about the Tenth Doctor title (maybe partly due to the fact that he wasn’t familiar with the David Tennant character). Regardless, both enjoyed discussing Who stuff and speculating on the upcoming Twelfth Doctor…who will also be getting his own Titan title in a couple of months. There’s lots of books, and lots of talk, packed into this episode.

Jul 21, 2014

It’s another episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews, and this time Andy and Derek talk with Ryan Browne, the comedic mastermind behind God Hates Astronauts. On the show, Ryan discusses his new ongoing series from Image Comics, how it springs from the first volume of God Hates Astronauts, and the challenges and changes he’s encountered going from a self-published webcomic to an monthly series. The guys have a fun time talking about the weird characters and the almost indescribable plot that make up God Hates Astronauts…and how the weird indescribability is what makes the title such a success. They also ask Ryan about his experiences on Kickstarter, his other webcomic (as yet incomplete), Blast Furnace, and his work with Jonathan Hickman on Manhattan Projects. There’s a lot of laughing in this episode, but there’s also a lot of insight and serious discussion on the art of comedy in comics. If you haven’t already, and after listening to this show, go preorder your copy of God Hates Astronauts #1!

Jul 16, 2014

On this episode of The Comics Alternative, Derek is joined by Gene to review two new books. First, they look at Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast (Bloomsbury). This is Chast’s account of her parents’ failing health, the process of dying, and the author’s complicated relationship with both her mother and father (especially her mother). It is a moving, and at times heartrending, story about George and Elizabeth Chast, their physical decline, their growing dementia, and their eventual passing. The guys discuss Chast’s style, heavily influenced by her New Yorker work, and how it’s essential to her storytelling. Whether or not you have had similar experiences, dying parents or loved ones suffering from long bouts of illness, this book is one that will greatly affect you. From there Gene and Derek move on to the first graphic novel from Shaun Manning and Anna Wieszczyk, Interesting Drug (Archaia/BOOM! Studios). Both feel that the concept is intriguing — the development of a drug that allows you to travel back along your own timeline — but they’re unsure about the story’s ultimate execution. For Gene, the art, while highly engaging, is at times unclear when it comes to narrative particulars (who is who in a certain panel, what’s going on with the action, etc.). For Derek, there’s not enough exposition on several key plot points, and as a result, some of the character motivations are confusing. Still, Interesting Drug is worth reading for the premise and the art.

Jul 15, 2014

On this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews Andy and Derek are excited to have Derek Van Gieson as their guest…or “DVG” to distinguish him from Derek R. The Two Guys are big fans of DVG’s minicomic series, Eel Mansions, with its wild premises, its absurd scenes, its plentifully pop-culture references, and its intertwining soap opera-like storylines. DVG describes it as “The Young and the Restless meet The X-Files,” and his series embraces both the drama and the freakishness of those television series. DVG shares the history behind Eel Mansions; his experiences writing for Fantagraphics’ now-defunct Mome; his new magazine project, Gonna to Make You My Bisquits; and his relationship with Tom Kaczynski both as publisher and fellow artist. He also talks with the Two Guys with PhDs about his work as a musician and songwriter. In fact, all of the music you hear in this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews is performed by DVG himself!

Jul 14, 2014

We’re deep into July, so that means it’s time for the monthly visit to Collected Comics and Games in Plano, TX. And this is the second month in a row that the shop’s manager, Jennifer, has coupled The Comics Alternative‘s on-location show with their monthly Collected Talks (an opportunity for customers and staff to get together and share the kind of comics they are reading). The event is a success, with there being more participants than last month. Joining Derek on the podcast this time around are Jennifer and some of her shop employees, Sabrina and (occasionally) Freddy. Also a part of the conversation is stalwart podcast respondent Shea Hennum, and loyal shop customers Laura, Craig, Nick, and David. The conversation is broad and meandering, taking a number of unexpected turns. Everyone begins by discussing each other’s summer reading habits, and along the way a variety of other topics come to the fore, including violence in comics, this summer’s upcoming movie releases, Image comics, sexual explicitness and how much is too much, profanity, the World Cup, and Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staple’s unique way of “giving birth” to certain issues of Saga. There’s a lot of conversation and a lot of fun, so be sure to listen in on what the guys had to say this month at Collected!

Jul 11, 2014

On this special episode of The Comics Alternative, the Two Guys with PhDs bring you a recording of the “Teaching Difficult Texts” panel that was held at HeroesCon a couple of weeks ago. One of the Two Guys, Andy, was a participant on this panel. Joining him in the discussion were Mike Kobre from Queens University and Dana Hayward from HarperCollins. Shawn Daughhetee served as the panel moderator. It’s an engaging panel, focusing on teaching comics and methodological approaches to using controversial texts in the classroom. The panelists touch upon such topics as racial stereotypes, the visualization of violence, and sexual explicitness. This panel recording originally appeared on The Dollar Bin podcast. A very special thanks to Adam Daughhetee and the rest of the Dollar Bin crew for making this recording at the con, and for allowing The Comics Alternative share it with its listeners.

Jul 10, 2014

On this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews Andy and Derek are pleased to have on the show Liz Plourde and Randy Michaels, the creative team behind the new self-published series, How I Made the World. Liz and Randy are winners of a 2012 Xeric Award — the last year, in fact, that the Xeric Foundation gave out grants for self-publishing comic books – and they share their experiences applying for the grant, complete with last-minute postage anxieties, and how the award helped to propel their project both financially and for marketing purposes. The Two Guys ask them about the genesis of the series, the protagonist’s links to Liz’s own life experiences, Randy’s artistic inspirations, how the two of them actually met, their marketing strategies for the title, the reasons behind their choosing to self publish, and what the two of them might have in store for future issues of the series. (They already have a lot of material for issue #2 of How I Made the World!) At one point, Derek goes off the deep end with his in-depth Freudian reading of the issue’s core story, “The Monster,” but Andy chooses to stay in more formalistic territory…while both Liz and Randy sit back, amused at their academic antics. How I Made the World is a wonderful new title that might fly under the radar of many readers, which is all the more reason to listen to this engaging interview with the creators. It should inspire you to go out and get a copy.

Jul 9, 2014

It’s that time of the month for the Two Guys with PhDs…that is, it’s time for the July Previews catalog! On this episode, Andy and Derek take their monthly gander at some of the great comics being solicited in Previews and due out in the next couple of months. All of the major publishers, and many, many of the smaller ones, are represented here, and the guys comment on how this is a particularly fat month when it comes to new and upcoming comics. They begin the show by looking at some of the titles being offered for this year’s Halloween ComicFest, and then they get into the nitty-gritty of the catalog. Some of the titles that they highlight include Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly’s The New York Four and Satoshi Kon’s Opus (Dark Horse), Peter Milligan and Leandro Fernandez’s The Names #1 and Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s The Wake hardcover (Vertigo/DC Comics), Will Eisner’s Spirit, Vol. 2: Artist’s Edition and Craig Yoe’s The Worst of Eerie Publications (IDW Publishing), Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski’s Copperhead #1 and Ryan Browne’s God Hates Astronauts #1 (Image Comics), Gary Scott Beatly and Aaron Warner’s Number One #1 (Aazurn Publishing), Roberto Aguirre Sacasa and Robert Hack’s Sabrina #1 (Archie Comics), Hubert and Marie Caillou’s Adrian and the Tree of Secrets and Julie Maroh’s Skandalon (Arsenal Pulp Press), George Perez’s Sirens #1 (BOOM! Studios), Duane Swierczynsky and Keith Burns’s Ex-Con #1 (Dynamite Entertainment), Gilbert Hernandez’s Bumperhead (Drawn and Quarterly), Dash Shaw’s Doctors and Joe Sacco’s Bumf 1: I Buggered the Kaiser (Fantagraphics), Paul Pope and J. T. Petty’s Battling Boy: The Rise of Aurora West and Farel Dalrymple’s The Wrenchies (First Second), Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving’s Annihilator #1 (Legendary Comics), Greg Rucka and Justin Greenwood’s Stumptown: The Case of the King of Clubs #1 (Oni Press), and Jorg Tittle and John Aggs’s Ricky Rouse Has a Gun (SelfMadeHero). And this is just the tip of the solicitation iceberg. You really do have to listen to the entire episode to get the full scope, and warm fuzzy feelings, of this month’s Previews.

Jul 7, 2014

Andy and Derek are proud to have Gene Luen Yang on the podcast. With the upcoming release of his new book from First Second, The Shadow Hero (illustrated by Sonny Lieu), the Two Guys thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk with one of their contemporary creator heroes. In this engaging conversation, Gene talks with the guys about the genesis of his Green Turtle, and how the original – an obscure ethnically ambiguous crime fighter from the pages of 1940s’ Blazing Comics — inspired him to delve into the superhero genre. Demonstrating a keen sense of pacing, along with a healthy dose of humor, Yang shows himself adept in action-packed comics, something that the guys comment on throughout the interview. But as Derek and Andy both observe, The Shadow Hero nonetheless bears that unique Gene Yang stamp in wrestling with ethnoracial issues in the U.S., and doing so through the meshing of Chinese folklore and American pop culture. In this way, the book can be read as a thematic companion of such earlier books as Level Up, The Eternal Smile, Boxers and Saints, and of course American Born Chinese (all published by First Second). The Two Guys ask Gene about these earlier books, as well, discussing along the way his views on writing for a young adult audience, his 1997 Xeric Grant for Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks, and his contributions to the New York Times Magazine‘s “Funny Pages” feature (later collected as Prime Baby). All in all, it’s a super fun conversation…and on top of that, Andy and Derek can now say that they’ve had a National Book Award nominee on The Comics Alternative!

Jul 2, 2014

It’s the week of July 4th, and so on this episode of The Comics Alternative the Two Guys with PhDs pay homage to the stars and stripes…in comics! Yes, that’s right dear patriotic listener: this week Andy and Derek are focusing only on American-themed comics, new as well as not-so-new. They begin by looking at new recent books where the American project stands front and center. First, they discuss Manifest Destiny, Vol. 1: Flora and Fauna, by Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, and Owen Gieni (Image Comics). Both of the guys are bowled over by this first collection and see the series as a great example of American gothic. Next, they turn their attention to the new work by Ilan Stavans and Lalo Alcaraz, A Most Imperfect Union: A Contrarian History of the United States (Basic Books). While the guys applaud the creators’ intentions of creating an alternative or oppositional history, they’re not convinced that the book lives up to its title. In short, they’re hard pressed to find much that is contrary in this contrarian history. But then, after discussing these two new titles, they highlight several of their favorite American-centered comics from years gone by (and some others that are more recent). And what a varied list it is. Andy mentions the following:Strange Fruit, Vol. 1: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History, by Joel Christan Gill (Fulcrum Publishing); American Flagg!, by Howard Chaykin (Image Comics); Saga of the Swamp Thing, by Alan Moore and Stephen Bessetti (DC Comics); Shade the Changing Man, by Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo (Vertigo/DC Comics). And Derek briefly discusses several other American-themed titles: Lewis and Clark, by Nick Bertozzi (First Second); The Big Lie, by Rick Veitch and Gary Erskine (Image Comics); R. Crumb’s America, by Robert Crumb (Last Gasp); Uncle Sam, by Steve Darnall and Alex Ross (Vertigo/DC Comics). They could have go on and on with other, similar titles, but there’s only so much you can pack into a single week’s show. So fire up the grill, light up those fireworks, and pledge your allegiance to The Comics Alternative on its special Independence Day episode!

Jul 1, 2014

On this episode of The Comics Alternative Interview, Derek and Andy W. talk with Ben Hadke, creator of the Zita the Spacegirl series. Of course they discuss Ben's signature works -- Zita the Spacegirl, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, and The Return of Zita the Spacegirl (the latter of which was just published by First Second) -- but they also delve into some of his other work, including his upcoming picture book, Julia's House for Lost Creatures (also from First Second). Along the way they discuss the wellspring of Ben's sketchbooking, the origins of Zita, the close links between Ben's art and his family, the appeal of all-age comics, the artist's schedule and philosophy as a speaker, and the many wild and fantastical creatures that populate his books. (Ben, Andy, and Derek also give a shout out to Gina Gagliano at First Second for her unparalleled work as a publicist and for being an all around good person!) The guys have a great time talking with Ben, and in doing so they're able to tap into the excitement and passion that bring life to all of the Zita books.

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