You’ll definitely find treats, and not tricks, on this special episode of The Comics Alternative. Derek and Gene take their annual look at the various comics being releases specifically for Halloween or published to coincide with the season. They begin with what is probably their favorite of the lot — at least Derek’s favorite — Richard Corben’s new book, Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirits of the Dead (Dark Horse). They point out that while this is an October release, the majority of the stories collected in this volume originally appeared as either single issues or in Dark Horse Presents over the past two years. This is yet another series of Poe adaptation from the great Corben, following his early work for Eerie and Creepy — and most recently collected in Creepy Presents Richard Corben — and Marvel’s Haunt of Horror: Edgar Allan Poe. (For more about Corben’s work on Poe, specifically commentary on the adaptations found in the new book, check out Derek’s recent interview with the artist.) Next the Two Guys turn to a new, fun book from Zac Gorman, Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers (Oni Press). This is based on the popular roleplaying game, Costume Quest with which neither Gene and Derek are familiar. But that doesn’t stop them from enjoying this all-age comic. Then they look at a series single issues, beginning with another game-based title, Ian Edginton and Alex Sanchez’s The Evil Within #1 (Titan Comics), and one of DC’s free releases for this year’s Halloween ComicFest, Scooby-Doo Team Up Special Edition (written by Sholly Fisch and art by Dario Brizuela). After that they discuss one of the most exciting new titles of the season, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1 (Archie Comics). The guys feel that this will surely follow the popular and critical success of last year’s Afterlife with Archie, and it has the potential of even surpassing it. Next, they look at the first issue of Ty Thomas Kuckman, Trevor Luckman, and Dave Mim’s All Hallows’ Eve (215 Ink), Donny Cates and Daniel Warren Johnson’s Ghost Fleet #1 (Dark Horse), and Alan Robert’s Killjoy: Special Halloween One-Shot (IDW Publishing). Finally, they wrap up with a survey of Zenescope’s holiday offerings: Grimm Fairy Tales 2014 Halloween Special, Zombies vs. Cheerleaders Halloween Special, and Hollywood Zombie Apocalypse #1. As the guys reveal, it’s a mixed back with Zenescope, but if you’re looking for a little cheesecake thrown in with your cheesy horror, these titles might be for you. Whatever your tastes, you’re certain to find some good comics reading this Halloween season!
Andy and Derek are back with another special Publisher Spotlight episode of the podcast, and this time they turn their gaze to SelfMadeHero. The guys have reviewed a variety of SelfMadeHero books in the past, but this week they decided to devote an entire episode to the publisher’s fall releases. They begin with Jörg Tittel and John Aggs’s Ricky Rouse Has a Gun, a satiric look at copyright and corporate ownership, especially as it relates to Chinese appropriation of Western icons. At least, that’s what the Two Guys assumed the book would be about. Although this premise is teased out in the setup, they read Ricky Rouse more like a Die Hard shoot-em-up set in an amusement park. Next, they turn to Rob Davis’s Motherless Oven, a coming-of-age narrative set in a world that is both familiar yet fantastic. The book’s protagonist, Scarper Lee, attempts to come to terms with his deathday (as opposed to his birthday), with the help of rebellious school companions. Think of The Wall and Quadrophenia with a bit of sci-fi mixed in. The guys also discuss two new graphic novel adaptations from the publisher, Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs (written and adapted by David Hine, with art by Mark Stafford) and H. P. Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (adapted and illustrated by I. N. J. Culbard). The Man Who Laughs is truly outstanding, and it’s one of the guys’ favorites of the week. Hine does a great job of distilling the main story from Hugo’s sprawling novel, and Stafford’s illustrations help bring out the grotesque, and tragic, qualities of the narrative. Culbard, known for his work in horror — and especially for his recent adaptations of Lovecraft’s fiction — is in prime form with Dream-Quest, adapting the story in ways that retain its dream-like tone. Sense and coherency in the narrative is always, and intentionally, just out of reach. Derek and Andy then discuss two other new books from SelfMadeHero, both of them second volumes or parts of earlier stories. In Aama 2: The Invisible Throng, Frederik Peeters continues the story of Verloc Nim, his brother Conrad, and their robot ape companion, Churchill, in their quest on the desert planet Ona(ji). (The first volume was reviewed on Episode 77 back in April.) And in Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations, Part Two: 1953-1984, historian Jean-Pierre Filiu and David B. pick up from their earlier graphic history, published in 2012, and cover events that take place between the Six-Day War and the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The guys pack a lot into this Publisher Spotlight episode, demonstrating the impressive variety of books coming out from one of their favorite publishers.
For this year’s Halloween ComicFest, Derek is at his local shop, Collected in Plano, TX, to talk with customers, employees, and guests about the kind of Halloween and comics-related stuff going on this year. They discuss the kind of free comics being given out this year — such as reprints of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Afterlife with Archie, Rachel Rising, and Marvel’s Secret Wars (which has nothing to do with Halloween or anything horror-related) — and the kind of costumes that everyone was wearing for the event. Derek also manages to talk with artist Jefferson Muncy and professional cosplayer Krystle Starr about the work that they do and what they’re bringing to the event. Among the highlights are strong recommendations for Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising series, a primer on the art scene in Dallas, a strange and disturbing story concerning a B-list (really, more of a C- or D-list) celebrity at last weekend’s Dallas Comic Con, and Derek’s futile attempt to find someone who actually watched the first episode of NBC’s Constantine. All in all, everyone had a good time at the event…and Derek got his share of free Halloween ComicFest comics!
This week on the podcast, Derek and Andy discuss three new titles that range from the profound to the insane. They begin with the new book from Julie Maroh, Skandalon (Arsenal Pulp Press). It’s the story of a French rock star, Tazane, with international appeal and the power to move a vast legion of fans. The book is thesis driven, with Maroh exploring the dynamics, and the costs, of modern celebrity status and its affects on both the personal and collective psyche. Neither of the guys have yet read Maroh’s first graphic novel — and the one for which she’s best known — Blue Is the Warmest Color, but after digesting Skandalon they feel that their appreciation of the work may be enhanced, or at least contextualized, by the earlier book. Next, the Two Guys with PhDs move on the new work from Jeff Parker and Sandy Jarrell, Meteor Men (Oni Press). While at first they were skeptical of the potential formulaic nature of the narrative — aliens coming to Earth and the resulting aftermath — they’re fascinated by the ways in which Parker complicates conventions to make the story unique. They’re particularly struck by the book’s teenage protagonist, Alden, the complexities of his character, and the circumstances surrounding his link to the extraterrestrials. While the guys disagree as to extents of Parker and Jarrell’s deviation from the genre — Andy feels that the governmental/military response to the aliens is nuanced, while Derek thinks that it’s more predictable and even heavy-handed — they both conclude that Meteor Men presents a different perspective on a popular formula. This is no E.T. Finally, the guys wrap up with what both feel is the highlight of the week, the first issue of Joshua Hale Fialkov and Kody Chamberlain’s Punks: The Comic (Image Comics). This has to be one of the most whacked out comics they’re read in a long time, rivaling the craziness and no-holds-barred fun of Ryan Browne’s God Hates Astronauts and Evan Dorkin’s Milk and Cheese. In this first issue of the new ongoing series, we get two short stories — the funniest being the lead off, “Firsts” — a portion of an earlier, self-published Punks comic, and a three-page fun-and-activities section, complete with a card game called Nutpuncher. Andy and Derek laugh their way through the final part of the podcast, and they eagerly look forward to following the future exploits of Dog, Skull, Fist, and Abraham Lincoln. Also, the Two Guys welcome a new Podcast Patron, Tom Mathews, who believes The Comics Alternative does for comics what Sound Opinions does for music. You can’t get much better praise than that!
It’s time for another visit to Derek’s local comics shop, Collected Comics and Games in Plano, TX, for an on-location podcast with customers and employees. This being the month of Halloween, the crew is talking about horror comics. The shop’s manager, Freddy Riuz, is BIG fan of the genre, so he helps to lead the talk on horror comics (and movies) in discerning ways. Joining in are customers Craig, Nick, Garrett, and Shea. Among the titles they discuss are Spread, Wytches, Nailbiter, Caliban, Ghosted, Through the Woods, George Romero’s Empire of the Dead, and of course, The Walking Dead. Don’t get spooked out. Just sit back and enjoy the terrifying talk from not-quite-so-undead fans.
On this week’s episode of the podcast, Andy and Derek explore the worlds of hardcore cohabitation, biographical brilliance, and wood witches. They begin with Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever, the new collection from Tom Neely and friends (Microcosm Publishing). This follows Neely’s original minicomic Henry & Glenn Forever and collects the four-issue miniseries published between 2013 and 2014. For those unfamiliar, this is a situational satire of metal rockers Henry Rollings and Glenn Danzig, working from the premise of their love for one another and placing their relationship in a variety of different sitcom-like scenarios. Tom Neely created the original, and more narratively substantive, stories of Henry and Glenn, but he has many of his artist friends — such as Mark Randolph, Ed Luce, Johnny Ryan, and Noah Van Sciver — contribute short pieces as well. Some stories are better than others, but the Two Guys conclude that the book as a whole is hilariously fun. Next, Derek and Andy turn to Masterful Marks: Cartoonists Who Changed the World, a collection of graphic biographies edited by Monte Beauchamp (Simon and Schuster). In fact, they spend a good chunk of this week’s show talking about this book…and there is a lot to discuss. It’s composed of sixteen short comics that present the lives of such luminaries as Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby, Winsor McCay, Charles Schulz, Walt Disney, Osamu Tezuka, Chas Addams, Dr. Seuss, and Hergé. These biographies are written and drawn by impressive creators in their own rights, such as Nora Krug, Arnold Roth, Frank Stack, and Denis Kitchen. The guys discuss most of these biographies, but they particularly highlight two of their favorites: Peter Kuper’s take on Harvey Kurtzman and Drew Friedman’s look at Robert Crumb. In fact, the latter is not so much a biography of the legendary artist as much as it is a story of Friedman’s experiences and relationship with Crumb. Much like Kuper’s, this is more than a straight-out biography. It’s a personal and even self-reflexive narrative. Finally, the Two Guys get all excited about the new series from Scott Snyder and Jock, Wytches (Image Comics). They point out that while this could have easily been a Vertigo title, Snyder is apparently wanting to try his indie chops over at Image with a new ongoing series. And he and Jock have started off impressively! What makes the first issue of Wytches so engaging is its elaborate setup and its emersion in the everyday. Both Andy and Derek mention how the world that Snyder sets up reminds them of their own childhoods and the kind of creepy wooded areas that fueled their own imaginations. They’re both on board with this new title, and they hope — they expect — it to be another in Image’s growing line of perennials, following the likes of The Walking Dead, Saga, and Manhattan Projects.
In the third of three podcasts shows recorded at this year’s Wizard World Austin Comic Con, here is a recording of the panel “Comics Podcasting and Blogging,” one organized by Derek and John Mayo of The Comic Book Page podcast. Joining them was Cole Houston of The Rantcor Pit: The JCU Star Wars Podcast and the Hey Kids, Comics! podcast. This discussion was devoted to the ins and outs of podcasting and blogging about comics and comic culture: how to get started, how to sustain content, how to address challenges, and how to ensure for future success. Each participant comes to comics podcasting from different perspectives — John is an old hat at this and has been podcasting since 2007, Cole juggles multiple podcasts, and (of course) The Comics Alternative looks specifically at alternative, indie, and non-superhero titles — and each shared advice, suggestions, and hard-won experience. There were a number of questions from the audience, and these were primarily about the basics of getting a podcast going and what to actually discuss on your show. They covered a lot of ground during the panel, chock-full with info. This is the kind of episode that should inspire future podcasters!
This week on The Comics Alternative, the Two Guys with PhDs (who talk about comics) start off with a veritable love-fest of Paul Pope comics. They begin by looking at two recent titles, The Rise of Aurora West (First Second) and Escapo (Z2 Comics). The first, co-written with J.T. Petty and with art by David Rubín, is a follow up to last year's Battling Boy, although it is not a sequel to that earlier narrative, but a prequel. Here we are introduced to the exploits of the daughter, and young apprentice, of the adventuresome Haggard West. We see Aurora's early development, the origins of Acropolis' monster problem, and the full extent of Haggard's crime-fighting acumen. All of this is presented in Rubín's action-soaked black-and-white illustrations that, while distinct from Pope's style, reads as a visual relative to the earlier Battling Boy. Next, Derek and Andy discuss Escapo, stories and art that were originally created between 1996 and 1998 -- early Paul Pope, reminiscent of what you'll find in One Trick Rip-Off + Deep Cuts -- but now is presented in a beautiful hardbound edition in the tradition of the French bande dessinée format. The two stories that make up the core of the book surround the adventures of Vic, a young circus performer who is a modern-day Houdini, able to escape from any trap that is laid out for him, no matter how elaborate. In this way, and much like Aurora West, Vic is an adventure hero. The book includes sketches, other bonus material, and Escapo-related pin-up work from a variety of illustrators. The art is given new life through the efforts of Shay Plummer, whose vibrant colors complement the daredevil tone of Pope's story. The guys then go in an entirely different -- and more humorously disturbing -- direction with a comic that is completely new to them. Eyesight, written by Callum MacKenzie and drawn by Alex Hood, is a self-published minicomic that displays the entire DIY effect. Andy and Derek discuss issues #1-3, and they're not sure if they should laugh out loud, stand in bewilderment, or run away in unmitigated terror. This has to be one of the creepiest comics the guys have read lately. But it's a good kind of creepy, the kind that has you coming back for more...after you've cleaned your britches. And it's definitely a work Derek and Andy think their listeners should run out and get. In fact, you can support the creators by visiting their website, http://eyesightcomix.com, and getting your copy of Eyesight.
In the second of three podcasts shows recorded at this year’s Wizard World Austin Comic Con, here is a recording of the roundtable discussion held on Saturday evening, “Why Teach Batman in College?: Comics and Academia.” Derek moderated the panel, and joining him on the roundtable were Sam Canon (from the University of Texas at Austin), Aaron Delwiche (Trinity University), Andrew Friedenthal (St. Edward’s University), and Jackson Ayers (Texas A&M University-San Antonio). They began by discussing the crossroads of academia and comics culture — and how their own love of comics has informed, and has been changed by, their work as comics scholars — and then quickly moved into such topics as the role of fandom in comics scholarship, the use of superhero comics in the classroom, comics as a literacy tool, the problems of canon formation, teaching the formal system of comics, the use of comics as cultural markers, comic genres and pedagogy, and approaching history and politics through comics. The panelists covered a broad range of topics, and the audience chimed in with questions and commentary that helped guide the discussions.
This past weekend Derek headed to the Wizard World Austin Comic Con, and there he was able to interview several creators and publishers populating the con’s Artist Alley. His guests included Brandon Seifert, the writer of Witch Doctor; Peyton Freeman and Brett Williams, the creators of the new comic The Box; Jason “Java” Croft, the publisher of Bachelor Pad Magazine; Dan Parent, renowned artist at Archie Comics; Austin and Adam Tinius, the creative force behind Bogus Books; Jamie Kinosian, author of the webcomic Gods in New York; Russ Manning Award winner Kevin Maguire; the general manager of Zenescope, Jennifer Bermel; and Jason Bienven, the creator behind the successful Kickstarter campaign, The Kingdom. These are fun and informative interviews, the kind of thing one hopes for when attending a con.
It’s the first of the month, and that means it’s time for the Two Guys with PhDs to look through the month’s Previews catalog. There are a number of things that catch their attention from the October solicits…that is, if they can actually see the catalog. Derek wasn’t able to get a copy of Previews in time for the podcast recording (his copy from DSBS was in the mail), so he had to rely on the uninformative order form found on the PREVIEWSWorld website. But Andy, who does have a copy, helps him by describing the visuals. Together they highlight upcoming releases from Dark Horse (Oink: Heaven’s Butcher) DC/Vertigo (Wolf Moon #1, North 40, and the final issue of Unwritten), IDW (Garbage Pail Kids Comic Book Puke-Tacular #1 and Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn), Image Comics (Bitch Planet #1 and Graveyard Shift #1), Marvel (Miracleman Annual #1), Alternative Comics (Labyrinthectomy/Luncheonette), BOOM!! Studios (Abigail and the Snowman #1), Dynamite (Shaft #1), Fantagraphics (Vapor, Run Like Crazy Run Like Hell, and Ofelia), First Second (The Sculptor), and Top Shelf (Strong Female Protagonist). So go grab your copy of the October Previews — unlike Derek — pour yourself a favorite beverage, and cuddle up with the Two Guys as they shepherd you through the wonderful world of comics solicits!