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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: November, 2014
Nov 26, 2014

The Two Guys with PhDs are back with their annual Thanksgiving show. But this time there are three guys involved. Derek and Andy K. are joined by Andy W. — the first time all three of them have been on the same show! — and together they all share the many things they are thankful for in comics and comics culture. The topics range broadly from the International Comic Arts Forum, to the wealth of classic comics archive editions, to new translations of European comics, to critical series from non-academic publishers, to the appearance of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity (finally!!), to the Previews catalog, to the growth of graphic novels collections in libraries, to Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe, to smaller comics publishers that get relatively little attention, to the March series and other historically minded books. In particular, though, the guys are thankful to the listeners of the podcast who chime in with opinions, join the discussion on the forum, and help support The Comics Alternative through Patreon. This show couldn’t really be done without them. So slice an extra piece of that pumpkin pie, dollop out the whipped cream, sit back, and enjoy the warm homestyle goodness of this week’s episode.

Nov 24, 2014

For this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews, Derek and Andy are pleased have on the show Mike Howlett, the editor of the newly released The Worst of Eerie Publications from IDW/Yoe Books. In fact, Mike is the expert on Eerie Publications — an “Eerie guru,” as he calls himself — and the author of not only the recent collection but also The Weird World of Eerie Publications (a history of the publisher) and the meticulously researched The Weird Indexes of Eerie Publications. They talk with Mike about his extensive research on the various titles released through Eerie Publications during the 1960s and 1970s — e.g., Weird, Horror Tales, Tales from the Tomb, Tales of Voodoo, and Terror Tales — and publisher Myron Fass’s philosophy of recycling old pre-code horror comics. What makes these comics the worst of Eerie are not only their gore and over-the-top premises, but the questionable storytelling and as well as the equally questionable process of reworking/redrawing 1950s comics for a post-1966 audience…and then reprinting those comics in the multiple publications across Eerie’s line. In fact, the guys are fascinated by the entire Eerie Publications process: photocopy pre-code horror comics, find artists who will redraw the originals, add more gore and a few contemporary updates, slap on a horrific cover with a the requisite gratuitous cleavage, and voila! Repeat as necessary. Derek and Andy also ask Mike about the special barf bag they received with their review copies of The Worst of Eerie Publications, and they feel special learning that the bags are a limited run strictly for promotional purposed. Halloween may be over, but as Mike Howlett demonstrates, the comics from Eerie Publications are a gift that keeps on giving.

Nov 21, 2014

Derek is back at his local comic shop, Collected in Plano, TX, and this month he's talking with customers and employees about comics that are obscure, don't get much appreciation, or have gone unnoticed by most readers. He asks his guests about what they think flies under most people's radar, and the answers he gets are varied and fascinating. Some respond with comics coming out from premium publishers, some with works by creators that you would think had a publicity stranglehold, and others with indie or alternative titles from young artists or unlikely outlets. In fact, the guests bring up the obscurity of several publishers and how it seems that most of their output goes unnoticed by general comics readers. Along with this, Derek and company speculate on why certain titles (or certain publishers) go unnoticed, the discrepancies in PR and marketing, the challenges of cross-media publishers, and the context of audience and what certain reading communities might consider "mainstream" or "obscure." As always, it's a lively discussion at Collected...which is an excellent place to discover new and little-known comics!

Nov 19, 2014

On this week's episode, Derek and Andy W. are back with a Publisher Spotlight, and this time the focus is on Nobrow Press and their fall 2014 releases. This relatively small, UK-based publisher may be off of many readers' radar, but they put out a lot of great books, as this week's show will attest. First, the guys discuss Jesse Moynihan's Forming II, the follow up 2011's strange, whacked-out creation narrative Forming. They are fascinated with the myth that Moynihan has created, and they especially love the artist's sense of humor. Next, Derek and Andy move on to Moonhead and the Music Machine, a new graphic novel by Andrew Rae. They highlight Rae's clean, vivid art style, and they speculate on whether or not this book was intended for a younger -- or at least all-age -- readership. Next on the guys' plate is Roman Muradov's (In a Sense) Lost and Found. This is a striking, Kafkaesque narrative with an uneven, dream-like quality. The intended murkiness of the tale may complement the dark palette that Muradov uses, as the guys find many of his images difficult to decipher. Bianca Bagnarelli's Fish is the next book they discuss, a short story -- perhaps more of an emotional vignette -- that is part of the 17x23 series, Nobrow's graphic short story project designed to introduce young artists to a wider readership. Andy and Derek then move on to Corinne Maier and Anne Simon's graphic biography, Marx, which looks at the (surprisingly bourgeois) life behind the famous philosopher/economist, and then they look at Behold! The Dinosaurs!, Dustin Harbin's beautiful concertina that challenges the guys' definition of "comics." Finally, your tireless hosts look at Jamie Coe's Art Schooled -- one of the most sophisticated narrative styles of the week, and definitely Derek's favorite -- and then another graphic biography, Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City. There are eight books discussed in all, and this show has to be extra long this week to get in everything. Come and enjoy the creamy filling that is The Comics Alternative!

Nov 12, 2014

This week on the podcast, Andy W. joins Derek to discuss four recent titles…and boy, are you in for a treat. First, they look at Renée French’s new book, Baby Bjornstrand (Koyama Press). The guys discuss its Samuel Beckett-like setting, the unusual characters that make up the cast, the fragmented temporal arrangements, and French’s stripped down narrative style. Yet while some readers have described the book as bleak and downbeat, both Derek and Andy see a more hopeful — and perhaps even life-affirming — ending in the story. Next, they move from French’s barren landscape outside of time to an all-too-real story set in Hell’s Kitchen during the 1970s. Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle’s The Kitchen #1 (Vertigo) is a solid piece of storytelling that effectively launches this 8-issue miniseries. The guys are particularly taken by the final pages of this first issue, where Masters complicates his premise while at the same time laying on exposition without being overbearing. Andy and Derek then turn their attention to two recent titles from Image Comics. James Harvey’s one-shot Masterplasty is a curious story that doesn’t seem to stand entirely on its own…which may explain why Harvey describes it as a prequel to a much longer narrative he’s working on. Perhaps the most notable thing about this comic is its unconventional size, the ultimate purpose of which has the guys scratching their heads. Finally, they look at the first issue in a new series from Keenan Marshall Keller and Tom Neely, The Humans. Unlike most reviewers of this title, Derek and Andy don’t feel that this has much of a Planet of the Apes vibe. (Also, that’s way too facile a comparison, just because you have apes riding motorcycles.) Instead, they feel that the story in this first issues stands entirely on its own, and if anything, it reminds the guys of the kind of biker movies they remembered from the 1970s. While this is yet another offbeat humor comic from Image — following in the wake of God Hates Astronauts and Punks: The Comic — it’s one with a harder edge…as the overt references to pot, Quaaludes, and fellatio will attest. There’s a lot of weird, fun stuff for this week, and we hope you will join Andy and Derek for the wild ride.

Nov 11, 2014

On this Veteran’s Day, the Two Guys salute one of the most talented, and certainly the most satirical, men to serve in the U.S. military: Jules Feiffer. They talk with him about his latest book, and his first graphic novel, Kill My Mother (Liveright), and about his decision to write within the noir/crime genre. Derek and Andy are particularly curious about the artist’s interest in classic film noir, his handling of fast and smart dialogue, and his use of a cinematic technique to tell his story. They spend a good deal of time asking Feiffer about the evolution of the narrative and the ways his characters unfolded during the creative process. Kill My Mother is set in the 1930s and early 1940s, and Feiffer reveals to the guys — and much to their surprise — that this is just the first in a planned trilogy of stories. The next book, Cousin Joseph, will be a prequel to the recent graphic novel, and then the third will take place during the McCarthy era and deal with the blacklist. Along the way they discuss Tantrum — a “novel-in-pictures,” not a “graphic novel” — the impetus behind the classic The Great Comic Book Heroes, his experiences writing for film and the theater, and his relationship with Will Eisner and his time on The Spirit. This is a great interview, and Andy and Derek are grateful for the time that Jules gave to them. Plus, they’re excited because this is the first time they’ve ever had a Pulitzer Prize winner and and Academy Award winner on the show!

Nov 5, 2014

It’s the beginning of the month, and that means it’s time once again for the Two Guys with PhDs to delve into the latest Previews catalog. For November, there are a lot of interesting solicitations, more than the guys had expected for titles being released in the aftermath of the holidays. Some of the great upcoming comics they highlight include Murder Book, Demo, and Tex: The Lonesome Rider (Dark Horse); Effigy #1, Fables: The Wolf among Us #1, and Ocean/Orbiter Deluxe Edition (DC/Vertigo); The Squidder, and Imaginary Drugs (IDW Publishing); Casanova: Acedia #1, The Dying and the Dead #1, Criminal Special Edition One-Shot, and Big Hard Sex Criminals (Image Comics); Star Wars #1 and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 (Marvel); Pirate Eye: Exiled from Exile #1 and Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1 (Action Lab Entertainment); Museum of Mistakes: The Fart Party Collection (Atomic Book Company); Fungus: The Unbearable Rot of Being (Big Planet Comics); the five new King Features titles from Dynamite Entertainment; First Year Healthy (Drawn and Quarterly); five Thunderbirds volumes from Egmont UK; Spawn of Mars and Other Stories, Foolbert Funnies: Histories and Other Fictions, and Treasury of Mini Comics Vol. 2 (Fantagraphics); Fatherland: A Family History (Liveright); March Book Two (Top Shelf Productions); and Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter (Udon Entertainment). Plus, Derek and Andy recommend a few titles in the “Books” section of the catalog, such as Bart Beaty’s Twelve-Cent Archie, Andrew Hoberek’s Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peters Comics, and Sarah Lightman’s edited collection, Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics. There’s a lot packed into this episode of solicits and recommendations, so listen carefully and take notes!

Nov 3, 2014

On this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews, Derek has a post-Halloween conversation with the creators behind BroadSword Comics, Jim Balent and Holly Golightly. They talk about their unique collaborative relationship — both personally and professionally — and their various creative endeavors over the years. More specifically, Derek asks them about their upcoming new Kickstarter campaign, “Crossover,” which will bring together the worlds of Jim’s Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose and Holly’s School Bites. In the corse of the conversation, the two artists share the story behind their strong work ethnic, Jim’s time illustrating Catwoman and its links to the character Tarot, the ins and outs of running a small press, Holly’s history with music celebrities (and 1980s pop culture), their many experiences with their dedicated fan base, the challenges of creating a webcomic, the impact of Holly’s social media savvy, and a few of the negative reactions they’ve received from social conservatives. They wrap up their talk with Holly dubbing The Comics Alternative a smart and sexy podcast…perhaps one of the best compliments that the Two Guys have ever received. Much thanks, Holly!

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