It's the final manga episode of the year, and to close out 2016 Shea and Derek discuss a couple of fascinating new editions of older manga. But first they talk about their holiday activities with one another and then go on to share the listener mail they received about their November manga episode. After that, it's manga time! They begin with Junji Ito's Tomie: Complete Deluxe Edition (VIZ Media). This volume brings together all of the previous Tomie stories, initially released in three separate books. As listeners of the podcast may know, Shea and Derek are big fans of Junji Ito, but this is the first time either of the guys have read this series. They point out both the similarities and the differences between this text (especially the early stories) and later Ito works such as Uzumaki and Gyo. Shea is particularly taken by Ito's early, looser illustration style, while Derek focuses on the, at times, goofy scenarios surrounding Tomie. They're weirder than even the most unusual premises you'll find in Junji Ito.
After that, the guys turn to Tsutomu Nihei's Blame! This series has also been previously published, but now Vertical Comics is releasing it in new master editions. The second volume was just published this month, and volume 3 is due out in March. So Shea and Derek limit their discussion to the story contained within these first two book. This is an action-heavy manga, and while this kind of graphic storytelling isn't one of Derek's favorites, it's something that Shea absolutely loves. But both guys appreciate the incremental world building and especially Nihei's astounding ability in representing The City, the vast post-apocalyptic landscape in which the story takes place. The bottom line is that both guys love the storyworld and plan to continue reading this series.
This is the last regular review episode of 2016, and as the Two Guys with PhDs do annually, they use their final show of the year to share their favorite comics from the past twelve months. Both Andy and Derek have each chosen what he considers the 10 best of 2016 -- and in no particular order -- but neither has shared his list with the other until the recording of this episode. So there are some surprises along the way. There is not much overlap between the guys' lists, and only two titles are mentioned by both. Taken together, this is a wide-ranging selection that includes everything from mainstream superhero comics to small-press selections, from webcomics to manga, from comics in translation to works that are sure to become part of many readers' canon.
However, before they plunge into their lists the guys share some year-end statistics. By the end of 2016 The Comics Alternative will have produced 162 episodes (including this episode and the December manga review). Among those shows, 278 print titles will have been discussed along with 36 webcomics. Derek also crunched the numbers in terms of the most reviewed publishers. The one whose titles were discussed most frequently was Image Comics, with the guys focusing on 25 of their titles. Next is Fantagraphics and Dark Horse Comics with 21 reviewed titles each. After that it's IDW with 19, DC/Vertigo with 17, First Second with 13, and BOOM! Studios with 11. Other publishers whose titles have been reviewed at least 5 times over the past year include Kilgore Books (9), Kodansha Comics (8), Alternative Comics (7), Aftershock (7), Floating World (6), Drawn and Quarterly (5), Retrofit/Big Planet (5), and Avery Hill Publishing (5).
After that numerical rundown, the Two Guys get into their 10 favorite titles of 2016:
This month's Euro Comics episode is later than usual, due to scheduling conflicts and accessibility issues. But Edward and Derek are back just in time to wish their listeners a happy holiday season and to present their first theme-based show of the monthly series. For December the Two Guys (almost) with PhDs discuss three works in the Western genre. They begin with Alejandro Jodorowsky and Francois Boucq's Bouncer (Humanoids). This new edition collects the first seven volumes of the Jodorowsky's series, comprising three intricate and involved storylines. The guys focus a lot on Jodorowsky's spaghetti western style of storytelling and the unconventional twists therein, including physical grotesques and dominatrix executioners. They also spend time discussing some of the cultural and racial stereotypes found in the narratives, a topic to which they will return later in the episode.
Next, Edward and Derek look at two releases from a publisher that's not yet been discussed on The Comics Alternative...an unfortunate oversight, up until now. The UK publisher of Franco-Beligan albums, Cinebook, provides the guys with Jean Van Hamme and Grzegorz Rosinski's Western and the latest release in René Goscinny and Morris's Lucky Luke series, The Ballad of the Daltons and Other Stories. In the former, Rosinski's beautiful sepia-toned water colors creates a gritty postbellum world that is not unlike Boucq's efforts in Bouncer -- and both revolve around antiheroes with a missing arm. Both guys enjoyed Western, although Derek plays Monday morning quarterback in his thoughts on the book's abrupt shift in narration during the last two pages. With Lucky Luke, Edward begins by focusing on the popularity of the series, but then he mentions the need for more socio-historical context in way of an introduction. The ethnoracial representations in these stories may leave some readers uncomfortable, but they speak to both the time in which they were written and the cultural positioning of the creators.
Every year the Two Guys with PhDs use the final two episodes of the year as a respective, a look back at some of the best comics out there. Next week they'll release their own favorites of the past twelve months, but for this, their penultimate show of the year, Andy and Derek discuss what others consider outstanding. The 2016 volume Best American Comics, edited by cartoonist Roz Chast (and with series editor Bill Kartalopoulos), includes thirty contributions from a variety of creators and displaying a wide range of styles and storytelling strategies. These comics were originally published between September 1, 2015 and August 31, 2015, and in many cases they include titles that the guys have discussed on past episodes. (For insights into the selection process for this volume, check out the previously published interview with Bill Kartalopoulos.) As the guys point out, there are entries in this collection that should come as no surprise to comics readers -- e.g., Adrian Tomine's "Killing and Dying," Drew Friedman's "R. Crumb and Me," various Kate Beaton strips, and excerpts from Richard McGuire's Here and Chris Ware's The Last Saturday -- but some of the most notable contributions are from artists with whom the guys weren't yet familiar, or are selections that might not be on most readers' "Best of" lists. As you'll hear on this episode, Derek and Andy are excited to discover the work of Taylor-Ruth Baldwin, Sophia Zdon, Lance Ward, and Char Esmé, while at the same time they are glad to see recognition of works by Joe Ollmann, John Porcellino, Keiler Roberts, and Nina Bunjevac. But every piece in this anthology is worthy of attention, as are the various titles listed in its "Notable Comics" section at the very end. With a new year on the horizon, it's always useful to look back at those comics that have helped define where we are today. And as the guys point out, the annual Best American Comics volumes are some of the gauges out there.
Andy and Derek are pleased to have back on their podcast Bill Kartalopoulos, the general editor of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Best American Comics series. He was on the show two years ago to discuss the 2014 volume of Best American Comics, that one guest-edited by Scott McCloud and Bill's first after assuming editorship. This time around the Two Guys talk with him about the latest volume guest edited by Roz Chast. They specifically ask Bill about his experiences in working with Chast, a cartoonist who brings a very different sensibility to anthology. Most of the conversation is devoted to the process of pulling together each year's volume, and Bill goes into great detail in explaining both his and his guest editors' roles. But they also discuss the specific contributions to the 2016 edition, the decision-making behind those selections, and the many discoveries Bill and Roz made along the way.
For the December on-location episode at Valhalla Games and Comics, Derek talks with customers and shop employees about their favorite comics from the past twelve months. This is a look back at the various series, events, collections, and original graphic novels that made the biggest impressions in 2016. Joining in on the conversation are some of the usuals -- Stephanie, Matt, and Craig -- but Josh, a new fan of the shop and of the podcast, shows up to share his thoughts, as well. As might be expected, most of the titles discussed are from the Big Two universes, but there are a number of other titles that also resonated. One of the big takeaways from this conversation is the possible fatigue that is setting in when it comes to superhero events, especially as it relates to Marvel Comics. However, for some readers, a bright counterbalance can be found in IDW's "Revolution"crossover event.
Did 2016 really, really suck? Yes, especially when it comes to politics and the possibility of social progress. But regarding comics culture, the guys at Valhalla Games and Comics have a different opinion.
Gwen and Andy both are astounded that the end of the year is almost upon them, and with that in mind, they’ve picked their favorite books of 2016 for young readers. The Two People with PhDs each picked five books in the children’s category and five books in the intermediate/young adult (YA) category, but something odd happened: their lists were almost identical!
In the children’s category, Gwen and Andy both chose the following four books, many of which they have already discussed on previous episodes.
Andy diverged by picking Bert’s Way Home, by John Martz (Koyama Press), the story of an orphan named Bert who’s no regular orphan, but an orphan of time and space, stranded on Earth after a cosmic accident.
Gwen’s final pick in this category was Blip! a TOON Level 1 book by Barnaby Richards about a robot whose vocabulary consists of only one word (“Blip”) as he tries to find his way through an unfamiliar planet.
In the Intermediate/YA category, Gwen and Andy also agree on their first four titles:
The two people with PhDs also had the great pleasure of interviewing Matt Phelan on the show last month. You can listen to that interview here.
Andy’s final choice was Mighty Jack, by Ben Hatke, a title previously discussed on the show back in August.
For Gwen’s final choice, she picked Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling, by Tony Cliff (First Second), a book previously discussed by Derek and Sean in its original webcomics format. This volume picks up where the first volume, 2013's Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, left off.
At the end of the show, Gwen mentioned a new all ages wordless comic that she learned about on Dr. Debbie Reese’s excellent American Indians in Children’s Literature blog, Jonathan Nelson’s The Wool of Jonesy: Part I, published by Native Realities Press. Here is the blurb from the publisher’s website:
Written and illustrated by Diné artist Jonathan Nelson, The Wool of Jonesy #1 tells the first story of Jonesy the Sheep and his adventures out on the rez. As Jonesy heads out to explore life after high school he finds himself discovering and dreaming. The wonderfully illustrated story gives young and old alike a simple and enchanting view of reservation life through the eyes of an amazing character!
Readers can check out Debbie Reese’s review.
Gwen and Andy hope that these titles might be considered for gift for the holiday season. You really can’t go wrong with any of these titles. We can’t wait to see what great comics are in store for us in 2017. You can be sure we’ll pass all the information along to you. Happy reading!
This week the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics check out three recent titles, including the latest contributions from the Hernandez brothers. They begin with Love and Rockets #1 (Fantagraphics), the launch of the brothers' new (fourth) series that will appear quarterly and in magazine-sized format. This kind of presentation harkens back to the original run of Love and Rockets beginning in the early 1980s. Andy and Derek are quick to point out that, while the format may have changed, the storytelling picks up where the Love and Rockets: New Stories annual left off. Jaime continues his previous storylines surrounding Princess Animus, Vivian's half-sister Tonta, and, perhaps most notable, Maggie and Hopey's punk reunion. With Gilbert, it's the always evolving and convoluted Fritz saga, with even more Fritz imitators to keep track of.
And on the topic of Beto...The next book under discussion is his Garden of the Flesh (Fantagraphics). This is Gilbert's treatment of the Book of Genesis, although with less fidelity than Robert Crumb has demonstrated. As you might expect, there's a lot of explicit content, something that you might find in his Blubber series. In fact, the guys note that what we have with Garden of the Flesh is the story of Adam and Eve and the story of Noah and the flood...but with a lot of money shots.
Finally, Andy and Derek turn to Isabel Greenberg's The One Hundred Nights of Hero (Little Brown). This is her follow up to 2014's The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, and everything is set in the same storyworld. Here we find the return of god/creator BirdMan and his children Kid and Kiddo. And as with Greenberg's first book, the overriding theme in The One Hundred Nights of Hero is storytelling. This time around, however, that theme is linked directly to female empowerment and sisterhood. With more than a tip of the pen to One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, Greenberg's tale demonstrates not only how worlds are created through language, but the dynamics underlying the control of those worlds.
For their last webcomics episode of 2016, Sean and Derek discuss three titles that were completely new to both of them. They begin with Theatrics, Neil Gibson's period drama set in 1920s New York. With art by Leonardo Gonzales and Jan Wijngaaard on colors, Theatrics is the story of popular Broadway actor who must find another line of work after he's physically disfigured due to a brutal mugging. Next, they turn to Brandon Shane's The Monster Under the Bed, a Romeo and Juliet-inspired romance between human and monster. As the guys point out, the art style has an all-age or "innocent" feel to it, but Shane's penchant for occasional nudity and cheesecake illustration may not be to all readers' liking. And then Derek and Sean wrap up with Faith Erin Hicks's Demonology 101. This is a very early work from a creator who has been making quite a name for herself in print -- e.g., Friends with Boys, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, and The Nameless City -- and the guys focus not only on the story, but on the webcomic as a touchstone of Hick's artistic growth.
The Two Guys also check in with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz about their soon-to-be-launched webcomics, Poe and the Mysteriads...although Paul is unable to join in due to a winter cold. Nonetheless, Jim catches the guys up on what has been happening with the webcomic's development, including new art and the creators' various plans for their January 1st debut. Be sure to check in at the first of the new year at http://mysteriads.com. And visit their Facebook page for more details!
On this episode the Two Guys get a kick out of talking with Charles Soule and Ryan Browne. The first issue of their new series Curse Words will be released on January 18, but the guys wanted to have them on The Comics Alternative this early December so that they can encourage listeners to preorder that issue before the December 19 cutoff date. In this interview, Andy and Derek talk with the creators about their offbeat Image series and what went into creation of such an unusual narrative world. Both Ryan and Charles have been on the podcast separately before -- Ryan talking about God Hates Astronauts and Charles for his Letter 44 series -- but getting the two of them together for one interview is like combining unstable chemicals. And the conversation reveals this kind of wild volatility as the creators discuss the genesis of Curse Words, the history behind their collaborative efforts, and the wackiness planned for the series...including a van tour to promote the comic this summer. Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters will have nothing on these guys.
Be sure to keep up with all of the hullabaloo at the official Curse Words website!
The Two Guys with PhDs are back for their final Previews show of 2016. In this episode, Andy and Derek do what they usually do, going through the current catalog from not quite beginning to end, highlighting the offerings from the premiere publishers as well as from small presses. Among the solicitations they note are offerings from:
Derek and Andy are excited to have as their guest the great Drew Friedman. His new book More Heroes of the Comics comes out this week from Fantagraphics, and the guys use this opportunity to finally have him on the podcast. Both have been big fans of Drew's work since they discovered it back in the heydays of Spy magazine, and after listening to how much fun the artist was on an early episode of Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast, Andy and Derek knew they had to get Drew on their show. And now with the release of the new book, they have the opportunity!
The guys talk with Drew about this second installment in the Heroes of the Comics series and how it's both a continuation of, yet quite different from, the previous volume. Drew shares the decision-making process of inclusion, the art of portraiture, and the actual genesis of this series as a whole. This, in some ways, is similar to Friedman's earlier Old Jewish Comedian series, although there the artist set out to capture the entertainers in their later years, and with little text accompanying the portraits. In the Heroes of the Comics books, Drew pays tribute to both personage and context, as well as including brief biographical material on each artist. And in this second volume, Drew is specifically focused on very marginal figures in early comics history. Plus, their are anecdotes and laughs galore.
After listening to this interview, be sure and check out and support "Vermeer of the Borscht Belt," a Kickstarter campaign currently going on for a full-length documentary about Drew Friedman. Why should you do this? Because Chico needs the money!
On this interview episode, Gwen and Derek have the pleasure of talking with W. Maxwell Prince and John Amor. Their latest book, One Week in the Library, comes out next week from Image Comics. Most of the discussion topics surround this new work -- how the two creators met, their process of collaboration, the ideas behind the book's structure and intertextual allusions -- but Gwen and Derek also talk with their guests about their previous collaboration, Judas: The Last Days, as well as their separate efforts, including Will's current IDW series, The Electric Sublime. And, of course, a lot of talk about books and a lot of talk about libraries. What's more, you don't have to be a bibliophile to enjoy the conversation!
On this episode, their final publisher spotlight of the year, Andy and Derek discuss the 2016 releases from Kilgore Books and Comics. They discuss nine titles, in all: four from the publisher's spring catalog, four from the fall releases, and an in-between book that conceptually lives up to its interstitial positioning. The guys begin their spotlight with a brief interview Derek conducted with Dan Stafford at this year's Small Press Expo. He introduces Kilgore to listeners, reveals its history and mission, and sets the contexts for the various 2016 releases. After that, the Two Guys with PhDs begin looking at the four titles from the spring, Alex Graham's Cosmic Be-ing #2, Amara Leipzig's The Fifth Window, Lauren Barnett's A Horse, a Crow, and a Hippo Walk into a Bar, and Box Brown's Powerman. They're intrigued by the more abstract constructions of the former, and they contrast this with the humor and sheer fun found Barnett's and Brown's comics. And given recent political events, the satiric Powerman becomes disturbingly prescient.
And on the topic of satire...Andy and Derek next check out the latest work from one of their favorites, Joe Matt. Paid for It is a send-up of Chester Brown's Paying for It. In it, Matt (writing under the name "Chesty Matt") basically takes panels from Brown's original texts, inverts their sequence, and tweaks the story so that it's the protagonist who becomes the prostitute and the women who are the johns...or janes. It's not often that we see anything new from Matt, so Paid for It is definitely an event worth noting.
The last part of the episode is devoted to Kilgore's fall releases: Emi Gennis's The Plunge: A True Story, Simon Moreton's What Happened, Tom Van Deusen's Scorched Earth, and Noah Van Sciver's Blammo #9. The first is an historical account of the first woman to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, and a reminder of the gender biases we continue to live under. Moreton's is an introspective examination of childhood experiences, while Van Deusen's is an no-holds-barred exposé of a dysfunctional individual, reminiscent of Sacha Baron Cohen and Curb Your Enthusiasm. But the guys save their most vocal praise for the latest issue of Blammo. They've discussed Van Sciver's series on the podcast before, but this latest installment is a truly outstanding issue that stands above in its predecessors.
For the month of November, Shea and Derek get together to discuss to two recent manga publications, although the first text they cover is not entirely new. Jiro Taniguchi's A Distant Neighborhood: Complete Edition brings together the two-volume English editions originally published by Fanfare/Ponent Mon in 2009. (The original Japanese was published in Big Comic magazine between 1998 and 1999.) It's the story of Hiroshi Nakahara, a 48-year-old salaryman with an uninspired life, and who finds himself mysteriously transformed -- or transported? -- into his 14-year-old self. This is the same period of his life when his father abandoned his family. The guys discuss A Distant Neighborhood as a quasi-time travel narrative, but definitely not science fiction. In fact, Derek reads this text through the lens of the romance tradition, à la Horace Walpole and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Shea enjoys to story, but he feels that the premise may be a little too loaded and that Taniguchi at times relies too much on telling and not showing.
Next they turn to a very different kind of book, Kodansha Comic's Attach on Titan Anthology. This is similar to a text that the guys discussed last month, Neo Parasyte F, an anthology of new works based on and inspired by a previous manga property, in this case Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan (which began in 2009). However in contrast to the Parasyte homage, this collection is made up of work written and drawn by a variety of Western creators. Although the collection resonates differently with each -- Derek tends to like it, as a whole, better than Shea -- both of the guys can agree on some of the anthology's highlights. These include Ronald Wimberly's "Bahamut"; Asaf and Tomer Hanuka's "Memory Maze"; Rhianna Pratchett, Ben Applegate, and Jorge Corona's "Skies Above"; and Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer's "Attack on Attack on Titan." But really, every contribution to this collection is worth reading. As the guys point out, one of the beauties of this anthology is that its eclectic styles reflect the broad and diverse readership to which Isayama's series appeals.
For this year's Thanksgiving show, there are seven seats at the table, making this the most populated episode in the podcast's history. Andy K. and Derek are joined by their fellow cohosts Gwen, Andy W., Gene, Sean, and Edward to discuss what they are thankful for in the world of comics. (Shea and Paul couldn't join in on the fun, unfortunately, but they were there in spirit.) Among the various things they're thankful for are
So pull up a chair, strap on the bib, pass the gravy, and settle into the warm, cozy goodness of The Seven People with PhDs Talking about Comics. And remember: the tryptophan will kick in later.
For the November episode in the Euro Comics series, Edward and Derek take a look at two new releases of older titles. They begin with Hariton Pushwagner's Soft City (New York Review Comics). Began in 1969 and completed in 1975, the book was lost for a number of years but then rediscovered in 2002. Since then, the original art from Soft City has been exhibited in the Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art and the Sydney Biennial, both in 2008. In fact, part of the guys' coverage of the book revolves around the topic of comic art as exhibition. But most of their discussion involves the text's symmetrical construction, its poetic imagery, and its mixed futuristic tone.
After that, Edward and Derek turn to a new collected edition work from one of comics' legends. The World of Edena is the first in Dark Horse Book's new Moebius Library, and it brings together Jean Giraud's (or Moebius's) five-volume series. The guys discuss the book's origins, beginning as promotional comic for the French car manufacturer Citroën in 1983 and then ending as a full-fledged, philosophical, and very trippy series in 2001. There is a lot to explore of the book's many narrative facets, and the Two Guys spend much of their time looking at the themes of exploration and sexuality, the dream-infused nature of the story, its comedic undertones, and the clean-line style and lush colors that define its art.
Once again, Derek visits his local shop, Valhalla Games and Comics in Plano, TX, to talk with customers and employees about the various titles they're been reading. And he has a large number of people joining him for this month's on-location episode, including the owner of Valhalla, Dave Larson. Derek begins the episode by talking with Dave about the changes he's bringing to the shop and his experiences in gaming retail. But others join in on the discussion soon enough, including the shop manager, Sabrina, one of her associates, Stephanie, and several of Valhalla's regulars, Craig, Matt, and Chris. This month, the topic is open-ended, so the conversation freely flows from one subject matter to another. Along the way they cover the DC's new Young Animal series, the changes wrought by Rebirth, the current state of various Marvel titles, the growing number of superhero-based films and TV shows, the narrative worlds of Matt Kindt and Jeff Lemire, and, for at least one of the interlocutors, the discovery that Lucifer is actually a comic-book series.
Gwen and Andy W. are very pleased to offer up another milestone for the Young Readers edition of The Comics Alternative: their first interview! And they couldn’t have asked for a better person to talk to than Matt Phelan. The Two People with PhDs talk to Matt about his new book from Candlewick, Snow White as well as Matt’s previous books, The Storm in the Barn (2009), Around the World (2011) and Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton (2013). In addition to a great discussion about Matt’s books, you’ll also hear talk on a wide range of interesting topics such as film noir, silent movies, the creative process, and teaser or two about Matt’s upcoming projects. We hope you’ll join us for a great talk with creator Matt Phelan!
In the second of their two-episode look into recent crime comics, Andy and Derek turn up some truly incriminating evidence. They begin their investigations with Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me, adapted by Devin Faraci and Vic Malhotra (IDW Publications). The guys spend much of their time comparing this adaptation to the original classic noir novel, yet at the same time they try to focus on the comic on its own terms. Next, they briefly discuss Christopher Sebela and Niko Walter's Demonic (Image Comics), a mashup of both crime and horror, and the first issue of Wolfcop (Dynamite Entertainment). The latter is Max Marks's spinoff of the 2014 movie, and despite (or because of) its over-the-topness, it doesn't capture much of the guys' attention. But Derek and Andy are much more interested in the next two #1 issues, Frank J. Barbiere and Victor Santos's Violent Love (Image Comics) and James Robinson and Tom Feister's Grand Passion (Dynamite Entertainment). These are both crime narratives with a twist of romance, stories that look to play off of the young-couple-on-a-crime-spree formula. Finally, the guys wrap up with the first volume of Goldie Vance (BOOM! Box), Hope Larson and Brittney Williams's all-age detective series, reminiscent of Nancy Drew and Sally Lockhart stories.
And if you haven't already, be sure to catch last week's episode, the first in the Two Guys' look at recent crime comics.
The incidental music in this episode is from classic crime TV shows, and you can find these theme songs in Television's Greatest Hits, Vol. 1, Television's Greatest Hits Vol. 4, Television's Greatest Hits Vol. 5, and Television's Greatest Hits, Vol. 6. Check out the fun!
On this interview episode, Derek talks with Luke Healy. His new book How to Survive in the North comes out in the U.S. this week from Nobrow Press. This isn't the first time that Luke's been on The Comics Alternative. Derek spoke with him briefly while at SPX back in September as part of the on-location series of shows. But now, Luke's back for a more sustained and focused conversation. Over the course of the interview, the two discuss the genesis of How to Survive in the North, the intersections of history and fiction, a cartoonist's responsibilities concerning research and reportage, and the distinctive qualities of both mini- and long-form narration. Derek also asks Luke about his writings for small comics anthologies, including his own efforts with Dog City.
On the November webcomics episode, Sean and Derek discuss three vastly different titles. They begin with Greg Cravens's Hubris!, a strip that's been going on since 2010 and revolves around the exploits of a small outdoors business owner. This can best be described as a gag strip, reminiscent of the kind of comics you would read in the newspaper (which makes sense, given Cravens's long history in newspaper comics). The guys point out that this is the first time that they've discussed a gag strip like this on their webcomics series, and perhaps it was a long time in coming.
Next, the Two Guys turn to a much more experimental webcomics, Stevan Živadinović's Hobo Lobo of Hamelin. As the title suggests, the story alludes to the legendary German tale of a piper hired by a small town to take care of its rat infestation. What makes Živadinović's version so striking is its complex presentation, with multi-layered visuals that provide three-dimensional depth and perspective. On top of that, the webcomic is structured as a strip to scroll through, not multiple pages to click through, and it includes both animation and sound. Unfortunately, the webcomic hasn't been updated since July 2014, but the ambition and impressiveness of Hobo Lobo of Hamelin take a little bit of the sting out of the long wait.
And after a brief check-in with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz, the guys discuss this month's already completed webcomic, Sean Wang's Runners. This richly textured science fiction narrative ran from 2009 to 2011. The series is made up of only two volumes, but the story is written in such a way that the installments could continue for much longer, should Wang decide to return to the property. As much as Sean and Derek enjoy this title, they're saddened by the fact that there is no more of Runners on the horizon. Nevertheless, what there is is definitely worth reading.
Gwen and Andy are back with something different for the Young Readers edition of The Comics Alternative: their very first publisher spotlight on First Second Books. The Two People with PhDs have looked at many First Second books in the past, but this time they’re looking at the publisher’s fall selections. (Since they covered Ben Hatke’s Mighty Jack in their August show, Gwen and Andy give it just a brief mention here, but you should definitely check it out!) They begin with Andy Hirsch’s Varmints, a wild adventure set in the Old West with sister and brother Opie and Ned, searching for the man who shot their ma. If you like Western stories filled with action, action, and more action, this is the book for you. (And don't miss the Comics Alternative interview with Andy Hirsch!)
Next, they turn to Quirk’s Quest: Into the Outlands by Robert Christie and Deborah Lang, an exploration adventure with the crew of the H.M.S. Gwaniimander under the command of Captain Quenterindy Quirk. Quirk’s voyage quickly meets with a near disaster as his crew discovers a land of deadly giants, a valley of weird creatures, and a sorceress who may or may not have the crew’s best interests in mind. Christie and Lang’s characters may look like something out of a Jim Henson production, but the world they’ve created is unique and compelling.
Eric Orchard’s Bera the One-Headed Troll is yet a different type of quest story, this one featuring the titular troll and her owl companion Winslowe as they discover an abandoned human baby on their pumpkin patch island. Everyone seems to want the child for their own nefarious purposes, but Bera is determined to keep the baby safe from mermaids, witches, and a creature called Cloote, the former head witch of the Troll King. Orchard’s wonderfully bizarre illustrations combine with masterful storytelling that’s filled with humor and depth.
Finally, the Two People with PhDs look at The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo by Drew Weing, the story of a young girl who’s a “monster mediator,” someone who patrols the streets of Echo City for trolls, ogres, and ghosts. And they’re all afraid of her! (Note: Sean and Derek discussed the online version of this series in the June webcomics episode.) Andy and Gwen both agree that Margo Maloo is a spectacular story, but it’s so much more. It’s also a book that works on multiple levels touching on the fears, prejudices, and anxieties of us all. First Second is a treasure trove of great books and Gwen and Andy hope that you’ll want to read them all!
There has been an abundance of crime comics published over the past several months -- see, for example, the Two Guys' earlier discussions of Weird Detective, Control, Kill or Be Killed, Cousin Joseph, Black Monday Murders, and Sombra -- but recently this number has been almost dizzying. In the first of a two-episode series devoted to current crime comics, Andy and Derek discuss six titles that take the genre into curious directions. They range from the historical (Rick Geary's Black Dahlia), to the formula-bending (Chris Hunt's Carver: A Paris Story and Janet Harvey and Megan Levens's Angel City), to the genre-blending (Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso's Moonshine), to the comedic (Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber's The Fix), to the truly hardboiled (Walter Hill, Matz, and Jef's Triggerman as well as Christa Faust, Gary Philips, and Andrea Cameron's Peepland). There is a lot of crime/detective/noir/procedural goodness packed into this show, and the same is in store for the next week's episode, the second in the series.
The incidental music in this episode is from classic crime TV shows, and you can find these theme songs in Television's Greatest Hits, Vol. 1, Television's Greatest Hits, Vol. 3, Television's Greatest Hits Vol. 4, and Television's Greatest Hits, Vol. 6. Check out the fun!
On this interview show, Gwen and Derek have the pleasure of talking with Howard Shapiro. The latest book in his Forever Friends Series, Hockey Karma, was just released last week from the Animal Media Group. The two talk with their guest about the series as a whole -- including the two previous graphic novels The Stereotypical Freaks (2013) and The Hockey Saint (2014) -- but specifically focus on the most recent work. Howard discusses the role that music plays in his books, which in many ways goes hand-in-hand with the premise of most of this narratives: hockey. He explains that while Hockey Karma (and The Hockey Saint) is centered on the sport, its themes transcend the ice rink. The Forever Friends Series is all about the struggles of growing up and finding your place, appropriate reading for young readers who will empathize with the books' protagonists.