On this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews, Derek is pleased to have as a guest Anya Ulinich, the author of the new graphic novel Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel (Penguin Books). They begin by discussing Anya’s transition from writing more traditional prose fiction — her first novel, Petropolis, was released in 2007 — to comics narrative. Along the way Anya talks about her art background, the genesis behind the new book, and the challenges of writing within two different media formats. As she points out, the character of Lena Finkle is loosely based on Anya’s own life experiences, but this is strictly a work of fiction. Yet at the same time, this is a deeply personal story, brought out most notably through the art — at times cartoony, at times more realistic — the layout, and the hand lettering. Much of Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel has the feel of a personal journal, as if we are reading illustrations and stories from Ulinich’s sketchbook. The result is an intimate reading experience where we’re able to get inside of the protagonist and understand her complexities and contradictions as best we can.
Derek and Andy are really excited this week, because on the latest episode of The Comics Alternative they get to talk about three new and incredible titles. (They're also excited because they have their first Podcast Patrons...but more on that later.) First, they look at Ray Fawkes's new graphic novel The People Inside (Oni Press). This is an innovative work that utilizes the comics medium in ways you rarely see. Fawkes gives us twelve, arguably thirteen or even more, stories of couples whose relationships flower, fade, endure, explode, and end in both touching and tragic ways. It's the way he tells the story (or stories) that makes this book unique, using paneling techniques to alternately separate and bring together individuals over the courses of their lives. The People Inside is one of the most striking books the Two Guys have discussed this year, and it makes them regretful for having missed out on Fawkes's previous book, One Soul (Oni Press). Next they look at another striking title, the first issue of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips's The Fade Out (Image). Their series Fatale may have just recently ended, but Brubaker and Phillips are back in top form with the kind of straightforward, classic noir storytelling that marked their Criminal series several years ago. This tale is set in late-1940s Hollywood, and it takes as its subject matter the gritty and unseemly side of the industry that the studios try to keep hidden, or at least tap down. Unlike Fatale, this one has no supernatural elements, just the key components of a classic noir drama. And in this first issue, at least, the creators avoid the cliches and predictability that could mare such a down-the-line genre title. Finally, Andy and Derek look at a comics anthology out of New Zealand that they just got turned on to. Faction, edited by Damon Keen and Aime Maxwell, and published by 3 Bad Monkeys, is an annual showcasing the work of various New Zealand artists, including one of the guys' favorite digital comics artists, Tim Gibson (of Moth City fame). Derek and Andy look at the first three annuals, from 2012 to this year, and discuss the work of Gibson, Keen, Li Chen, Jonathan King, Karl Willis, Ned Wenlock, and Cory Mathis, among others. This is a collection that will, unfortunately, not get much attention here in the US, and the Two Guys hope to convince others to seek out this great title and increase its profile. You can get the 2012 and 2013 annuals through ComiXology, or visit the Faction website for content and ordering information. ALSO...the Two Guys announce the first Podcast Patrons for their new Patreon campaign! Check out what they're doing, see the rewards they're offering, and become a Patreon Patron yourself!
On this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews, Derek and Andy talk with Chris Duffy about his new edited collection, Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics (First Second). This is a unique project, gathering a variety of poems surrounding the First World War — both canonical as well as more obscure — and translating them into comics form. The guys talk with Chris about the genesis of this project and his efforts to bring together an eclectic group of artists, including Eddie Campbell, George Pratt, Hunt Emerson, Simon Gane, Sarah Glidden, Stephen Bissette, Peter Kuper, Isabel Greenberg, Carol Tyler, and Kevin Huizenga. Andy, in particular, is excited about this exchange, because it brings together two of his scholarly interests: World War I literature and comics. The guys also ask Chris about his more general work in comics, his experiences in working with a variety of different artists, the resonance between poetry and comics, and his philosophies in adapting texts from other media. While the subject matter in Above the Dreamless Dead may be sobering, the conversation in this episode is lively and engaging, a great mix of history, literary analysis, and comics-related insights.
On this episode of The Comics Alternative, Andy and Derek discuss three new titles. They begin by revisiting Jeff Lemire’s Trillium, the first few issues of which they reviewed on their Vertigo Publisher Spotlight show back in November. Now, the miniseries is collected in a single volume, and the guys compare the individual issues to the new trade edition. One of the first differences they note is the page arrangements of the trade. Whereas in many issues of the original miniseries Lemire visually set the storylines of Nika and William to read in opposite directions — where you had to turn the comic book upside down to read one of the narratives – in the trade he more or less places everything on the same reading plane. While Derek is okay with some of this editorial tampering, Andy feels that the difference undermines much of the emotional pacing of the story. But both agree that this new edition lessens Lemire’s emphasis on the materiality of the book, or the comic as object that has to be handled and manipulated. And while the Two Guys feel that this isn’t one of Lemire’s strongest narratives, it’s nonetheless a solid, well-written one. Next, Derek and Andy discuss two new #1 issues from Dynamite Entertainment. Joe Casey and Nathan Fox’s Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers is a visually wild ride through the land of Jack Kirbydom, and this first issue plunges you directly into the story without much warning or much context. It’s sink or swim with this first installment, but Casey arranges the gaps and the reveals in such a way that while you may not know what’s going on, you’re intrigued enough to want to read on into the next issue. Much of the pleasure of reading this comic comes from Fox’s art, perfectly suited to retelling a Kirby property, punctuated by short contributions from Jim Rugg and Ulises Farinas. Equally compelling — if not more so — is Peter Milligan and Piotr Kowalski’s Terminal Hero. In this brand new story, Milligan presents us with a protagonist who has inoperable brain cancer, and the mysterious and unorthodox treatment he undergoes allows him to tap into powers he never knew he had…and cannot completely control. In this first issue there are double-dealing friends, heads in flames, women whose clothing disintegrates, and potentially nefarious government agents. What more could you ask for in a comic book?
On this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews, the Two Guys with PhDs talk with Derek McCulloch and Anthony Peruzzo, the team behind the new graphic novel from Image, Displaced Persons. This is McCulloch's second time on the podcast, and Andy and Derek waste no time in pointing out thematic links between the new book and many of McCulloch's other works, particularly Gone to Amerikay and Stagger Lee. The guys talk with the creators about the genesis of Displaced Persons, its unexpectedly long gestation period, and many of the challenges they faced in presenting such an involved and complex story. Without giving away any spoilers -- and that was difficult to do, given the fact that key discussion points in the narrative were also potential reveals -- the Two Guys talk with McCulloch about his strategies for mapping out the graphic novel, comprising three distinct but inextricably linked stories, and Peruzzo's use of art to differentiate narrative threads and capture the tone of particular time periods. It's an enlightening conversation where more time is spent discussing the process of creation rather than on the specifics of the story itself. This is without question one of the most ambitious comics of 2014 so far, one that Andy and Derek will surely revisit during their year-end episode.
It’s another month, so Derek is back at his local shop, Collected Comics and Games in Plano, TX. This time around, the topic is sci-fi comics, and joining Derek is new shop employee, Krystal, and several customers of Collected. They chose this month’s topic because of the new release of Guardians of the Galaxy as well as the upcoming new season of Doctor Who. A good bit of this episode is spent on the former — in fact, Derek was the only one at the table who hadn’t yet seen Guardians — and surprisingly little on the latter (not many Doctor Who fans were present). But everyone talks about their favorite current sci-fi titles as well as those that will be released in the next month or so. As usual, it’s a freewheeling conversation, punctuated by insights from the ever-unpredictable Shea Hennum and enlivened by the enthusiasm of Collected’s dedicated customers.
The Two Guys with PhDs are back for another round of reviews, and this week they enthusiastically plunge into three new titles. First, they look at Bryan Lee O’Malley’s new book, Seconds (Ballantine), his much-anticipated follow up to the Scott Pilgrim series. Andy and Derek comment on the expectations surrounding this new work, and they conclude that the book is worth the build up and the wait. This is a much more mature work than the Scott Pilgrim books, not only in terms of subject matter, but also with O’Malley’s displays of storytelling. The premise is clever — a unique twist on time-travel narratives — and there’s a self-conscious tone that adds to the humor. Despite the book’s “too neat” ending, at least to Derek’s mind, it’s a successful work that stands alongside (if not surpasses) O’Malley’s previous comics. Next, the guys get to Sergio Ponchione’s tribute to Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and Wally Wood, DKW (Fantagraphics). This one-shot is a good introduction to the personas of the legendary trio, although it comes up a little short in truly relating their styles and the impact they had on the industry. Derek and Andy wonder who the intended audience is for this comic, and they feel that this might be a useful title to make available next year for Free Comic Book Day. Finally, the Two Guys wrap things up with a discussion of Bodies #1 (Vertigo), the first in a new miniseries from Si Spencer. This is an intriguing murder mystery title that’s divided into four parts, each involving the same dead body but taking place in four different time periods. And each of the four sections is illustrated by a different artist: Dean Ormston, Phil Winslade, Meghan Hetrick, and Tula Lotay. This is just another great example of the great comics Vertigo is still producing, and the guys wish there were more coming out from their beloved DC imprint.
On this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews, Derek and Andy W. talk with Alec Longstreth about his recent book, Basewood, as well as his self-published minicomic series, Phase 7. They ask him about the genesis of his first graphic novel, his experience with serialization, the successful Kickstarter campaign, and efforts to publicize and distribute his beautiful hardbound book. Alec also talks extensively about the music he and fellow musician Andy Hentz created as a soundtrack for the comic, Songs from the Basewood. (In fact, all of the music in this episode comes from that CD.) This began as a stretch goal for the Kickstarter campaign, and it is also made available in issue #20 of Phase 7. But Alec has now made all of the music available on bandcamp.com. And in a first on The Comics Alternative, the Two Guys even play full versions of some of Alec’s songs to give listeners a taste of how he artist has perfectly melded his two passions, comics art and music.
In the second of two special Wizard World episodes, Derek participates on a discussion organized especially for the San Antonio con, “Getting Respect: Comics Goes to College.” The panel was moderated and organized by Danny Fingeroth — who oversees many of the panels at Wizard World cons across the country — and featured a variety of comics scholars. In addition to Derek and Danny, the participants included Sam Cannon from the University of Texas at Austin, Louie Dean Valencia-Garcia studying at Fordham university, and William S. Bush and Jackson Ayres, both from Texas A&M University-San Antonio. Each presenter discussed research they were working on or strategies for teaching comics they’ve used in the past, and then the floor was opened for questions from the audience.
Last weekend Derek headed to the Wizard World San Antonio Comic Con, and there he spoke with several creators about their work, their various contributions to the comics community, and their experiences at this first-time-ever event in San Antonio. Talking with Derek at the con was Neal Adams — who delivers science lessons with thoughts on his hollow earth model — Michael Golden, J. R. Knoll, Danny Fingeroth, and Jai Nitz. Golden and Nitz discussed their teaching efforts, and Fingeroth shared his experiences on editing for Marvel, writing critically about comics, and organizing panels for the various Wizard World events. This is the first of a two-part special series of shows from the San Antonio con. Tomorrow the Two Guys will post a recording of a panel that Derek was on, “Getting Respect: Comics Goes to College.” Stay tuned!
With this week’s episode, Andy and Derek celebrate their 2nd anniversary as a podcast! What a time to celebrate…and celebrate, they do, in the form of a hefty, action-packed episode of The Comics Alternative. They begin with a rundown of the 2014 Eisner Award winners, announced recently at the San Diego Comic-Con. Neither of the guys are surprised at the winners — including Saga, Hawkeye, The Wake, Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground, and creators such as Brian K. Vaughn, Jeffery Brown, and both Hernandes brothers — although each has his quibble. Next, and since this is the first week of August, the Two Guys spend the remainder of the show discussing the August Previews catalog. This is a generous issue, filled with too many great upcoming comics, more than humans should be allowed to read. Derek and Andy spend a lot of time focusing on new releases from Dark Horse, Image, Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, and Oni Press, but they mention the titles from other publishers as well. PLUS, this episode is punctuated by a variety of birthday-related music. So light those candles, put on that party hat, and listen to the Two Guys with PhDs as they celebrate their two-year anniversary!