This week on the podcast, Gwen and Derek look at three very different recent titles. They begin with Carlos Giménez's Paracuellos. The original first two volumes of this comic, published in Spain in 1977 and 1982, have now been collected into a single-volume English translation (by Sonya Jones) and published by IDW's EuroComics imprint. The Paracuellos strips are Giménez's autobiographical look at his time in several of the Social Aid "homes" that were a part of Francisco Franco's fascist Spain. As Gwen and Derek reveal, the stories are stark and heartbreaking, and Giménez presents a difficult environment where oppression and apathy (at least in the context of the adults) shape young and vulnerable lives. They discuss not only the socio-political atmosphere of Paracuellos, but also Giménez's stylistic strategies for rendering this world. Next, the Guy and Gal with PhDs Talking about Comics look at two #1 issues just released this month: Roger Langridge and Andy Hirsch's The Baker Street Peculiars (KaBOOM! Studios) and Jimmie Robinson's Power Lines (Image Comics). The former is of particular interest to them, since Andy Hirsch is a friend of the show. This is the first of a four-issue series about a group of young outsiders who team up with whom appears to be Sherlock Holmes in 1930s London. The setup to this story is action-packed and exudes adventure, and Hirsch's art brings out both the dynamism and the fun that this narrative has to offer. Power Lines is a different take on race relations in the United States, and, in many ways, it's a very timely premise. A young African American male goes with his tagger friends into a white middle-class neighborhood, only to find himself a embroiled in some mysterious centuries-old power from which he cannot extricate himself. (Sort of like race in America?) Both Gwen and Derek like where Robinson seems to be going with the story, but they nonetheless wonder if he may be unexpectedly stepping into some ethnically tinged traps. However, the ambition is clearly there, and both cohosts are curious where Robinson's story will eventually lead.
For the March episode of The Comics Alternative's manga series, Shea and Derek discuss two recent releases, both by Inio Asano: A Girl on the Shore (Vertical Comics) and Goodnight Punpun, Vol. 1 (VIZ Media). Before they plunge into those titles, though, they provide a bit of context about Asano's style and briefly discuss his other works that have been translated into English. The guys primarily reference Solanin and Nijigahara Holograph as key Asano texts, but they also mention the two-volume series of short stories, What a Wonderful World. In many ways, Derek feels that A Girl on the Shore is a cross between Solanin's emphasis on relationships and Nijigahara Holograph's fractured or more experimental narration. The guys also spend a good amount of time talking about the sexually explicit nature of the recent book. Most of A Girl on the Shore centers on its protagonists, Kuome and Isobe, slowly exploring one another, and much of that exploration is sexual in nature. However, neither Shea nor Derek feel that the visualizations are gratuitous in any way, and that Asano even complicates his explicitness through certain intriguing artistic choices. Next, the guys turn to a completely different kind of story, and one that's a little more challenging to wrap your brain around. Goodnight Punpun originally ran for thirteen volumes in Japan, and this month VIZ Media began releasing the English translation in larger, two-in-one editions. In this first volume, we're introduced to Punpun Punyama, a weird, largely silent bird-like creature who is supposedly a young human boy as are all of the other characters in the story. (Only the Punyama family is depicted as abstracted birds...although for all we know, this is a world where abstracted birds living with humans has been normalized.) While the storyline of this first volume is fairly straightforward -- primarily a quest narrative for Punpun and his friends, and mostly involving Punpun's love interest, Aiko -- the manner of storytelling isn't. At times Asano's art is surreal or even psychedelic, and the events that occur can be downright trippy. Derek is fascinated by the hipster figure of god that keeps popping up throughout the book, and Shea likens Asano's style to something approximating magical realism. All in all, this first installment of Goodnight Punpun is a fun punch in the gut that has the guys eagerly anticipating the next volumes to be released later this year. But then again, as far as Shea and Derek are concerned, any Inio Asano is worth eagerly anticipating.
Derek is back at his local shop, Collected Comics and Games in Plano, TX, for the March on-location episode of podcast. (Unfortunately that was no February episode at Collected due to unforeseen circumstances.) While there, he talks with several shop employees and customers about a variety of comics-related matters. Folks spend a lot of time discussing some of the titles they've been reading lately. Matt Kuzio, who usually participates in these shows, was unable to be there this month, but he shared in absentia some of the comics he's been enjoying, including Emma Ríos and Kwei Lim's Mirror (Image Comics), Kate Leth and Brittney Williams'a Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! (Marvel Comics), Chris Lewis and Tony Gregori's Karma Police (Comics Experience), and Sarah Andersen's Adulthood Is a Myth: A Sarah's Scribbles Collection (Andrews McMeel Publishing). Sabrina, the shop manager, talks up some of the preview copies she's been receiving, such as the first issues of Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber's The Fix (Image Comics), Christopher Sebela and Robert Wilson IV, Heartthrob (Oni Press), and Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss's 4 Kids Walk into a Bank (Black Mask Comics). Chris, a regular customer of Collected, discusses his enthusiasm for Angela Queen of Hel (Marvel). And shop employee, Stephanie, mentions Marguerite Bennett and Ariela Kristantina's Insext, although Derek references his less-than-enthusiastic discussion of the title in the recent publisher spotlight on AfterShock Comics. There's also quite a bit of talk over recent comics in TV and film -- such as the new Lucifer series and the second season of Daredevil -- and, on a very special note, everyone there sings the praises of Andy Hirsh, a local artist (and friend of the show) who is also a Collected customer. His series, The Baker Street Peculiars (written by Roger Langridge and published by BOOM! Studios) just began this month, and his new book, Varmints, is due for release this fall from First Second. Needless to say, there's plenty to discuss, and the guys cover a lot of ground this month!
The Two Guys with PhDs are back with another publisher spotlight, and this time the focus is on AfterShock Comics. This is a new publisher that began soliciting their titles back in the fall and then releasing their initial series in December 2015. With editorial oversight by two veterans of the mainstream, Mike Marts and Joe Pruett, AfterShock has been bringing in some major-league talent to write and illustrate their comics, which is something that Andy and Derek noted when they first caught wind of the up-and-coming publisher. They begin their spotlight by speculating on the possible direction and business plan of AfterShock, observing that some of the company executives have a lot of Hollywood and TV/film experience, and that the kind of titles they're releasing (and the creators on them) are reminiscent of what readers have historically found at Vertigo and Image. Then they jump into the titles themselves, beginning with the first three issues of Super Zero, written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti and with art by Rafael De Latorre. The guys enjoy this series, a charming and realistic (at least for now) twist on the superhero genre, although they're hoping that the storyline will soon depart its premise. After that, they look at the first four issues of Paul Jenkins and Andy Clarke's Replica. This is a futuristic and humorous sci-fi procedural taking place at a nexus of alien cultures. The guys note that after a slow start with the first issue, the series successfully settles into its groove. Yet after finding a lot of critical common ground with the first two series, Andy's and Derek's opinions diverge dramatically on several of the remaining AfterShock titles. This is most apparent with InSext, a Victorian, entomologically tinged (and erotic) thriller written by Marguerite Bennett and illustrated by Ariela Kristantina. While Andy finds this one of the most compelling of AfterShock's initial lineup, Derek feels that there are too many holes in the premise -- moth-eaten, if you will -- and that the first four issues lack narrative cohesion. They also disagree on Garth Ennis and Simon Coleby's Dreaming Eagles as well as Brian Azzarello and Juan Doe's American Monster. Derek believes these are two strong stories, although Andy feels they are just more of the same, nothing new, from Ennis and Azzarello. They do agree, however, on the promise found in the first couple of issues of Strayer, from the creative team Justin Jordan and Juan Gedeon. Finally, the guys wrap up with a discussion on AfterShock's newest title, Second Sight, written by David Hine and with art from Alberto Ponticelli. This is one of Derek's favorites from AfterShock, so far, although Andy is less enthusiastic and is waiting to be impressed. Before signing off of this publisher spotlight, the guys also anticipate the publisher's next wave of new series -- including Rough Riders (by Adam Glass and Patrick Ollie), Jackpot! (Ray Fawkes and Marco Failla), and Black-Eyed Kids (Joe Pruett and Szymon Kudranski) -- and mention some of the other creators slotted for future AfterShock releases, including Mark Waid, Cullen Bunn, John Layman, Tim Seeley, and Frank Barbiere. In sum, the guys see AfterShock Comics as a new publisher worth watching.
This month, both Gwen and Andy are battling colds, so it’s “Two sick people with PhDs talking about comics for young readers!” But there’s nothing unhealthy about the three comics Gwen and Andy discuss on this month’s show: Royden Lepp's Rust: The Boy Soldier (Archaia/BOOM! Studios), Sara Varon's Sweaterweather and Other Short Stories (First Second), and MK Reed and Joe Flood's non-fiction book, Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers (First Second). They begin with Rust: The Boy Soldier, and they found it to be both an exciting adventure story set after a world war and an effective reflection on power, responsibility, and humanity. Jet is a young boy with a jetpack who saves a farm from a killer robot left over from a destructive world war, but the Taylor family -- whose farm Jet saved -- isn’t sure whether Jet is a friend or a foe. The book’s sepia-toned art recalls photographs from the early twentieth century, but its story is one that transcends time. Although an action/adventure book, Rust: The Boy Soldier also reflects on the concepts of war, responsibility, power, and humanity. The book actually serves as a prelude to the entire Rust series which currently includes Rust: A Visitor in the Field, Rust: Secrets of the Cell, Rust: Death of the Rocket Boy, and a yet-to-be-published fourth and final volume. Next, Gwen and Andy discuss how Sara Varon’s simple, approachable animal characters in Sweater Weather and Other Short Stories explore friendship, diversity, food, fun and more, all with a good-natured sense of humor and sophistication. While readers may be familiar with some of Varon’s other works, including Odd Duck, Robot Dreams, and Bake Sale, this time Varon gives some background on the creative process and her development as an artist. Gwen and Andy both think this book will not only entertain young readers, but may also inspire them to create their own comics. Finally, both of the folks with PhDs are very excited to discuss Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers, by MK Reed and Joe Flood. This is another book in First Second’s Get To Know Your Universe: Science Comics series. C’mon, everyone loves dinosaurs, and so will anyone who picks up this book. Gwen and Andy agree that Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers is a great non-fiction graphic novel that entertains and instructs. It can also be enjoyed by a wide range of ages, giving younger readers a great, fun look at dinosaurs, and providing older readers with the history of dinosaur research and discovery. This is a book that is bound to be explored many times by young readers, so maybe you’ll want to get two copies?
This week on the review show, Andy and Derek focus on two notable titles, one that has been greatly publicized and the other that has come in under the radar. The former is Daniel Clowes’s Patience (Fantagraphics), the creator’s long-awaited release and his first new book since 2010’s Wilson. (Mr. Wonderful and The Death-Ray, both published in 2011, had been previously published in different formats.) In fact, the guys begin by discussing the publicity and the excitement surrounding this event. While Andy tried to keep himself ignorant of the book’s details before its release, Derek admits that his reading experience was initially affected by all the hype, and not in a positive way. However, both guys conclude that this is a strong narrative and one well worth reading. While much of Patience bears the Dan Clowes stamp, parts of it seem more outside of the creator’s usual style. For example, even though the relationship between the protagonists is reminiscent of the interactions found in Ghost World, Daniel Boring, and Ice Haven, the fact that Clowes premises everything on time travel make this book stand out in his oeuvre. And although, as Andy points out, there’s nothing really new to the time-travel subgenre presented here, Clowes does use its basic components in a compelling way. Next, the Two Guys discuss a work that was designed specifically for the classroom, Visual Storytelling: An Illustrated Reader, edited by Todd James Pierce and Ryan G. Van Cleave (Oxford University Press). This book was released late in 2015 yet hasn’t received much publicity at all. While there have been other comics-related books that are designed for pedagogical use, this is the first to bring together a wide variety of primary texts specifically as a course reader. What’s more, it’s a book that could easily be used in rhetoric/composition and other non-comics-centric classes, as well. Pierce and Van Cleave divide their collection into seven thematic topics: identity, men and women, young adulthood, trauma, history, politics, and the arts. The comics that compose each segment, some complete short pieces and others excerpts, serve as illustrative examples of their particular theme, while at the same time potentially connecting with other thematic sections, thereby giving the collection a feeling of cohesion. The guys admire the diversity of the reader’s selections, arguing that this is a much more usable book than the comics anthologies already out there. At the same time, Derek questions the editors double dipping on some contributors — Peter Kuper and Derf Backderf each have two pieces in the collection, while Gabrielle Bell has three — while Andy questions Derek’s second guessing of Pierce and Van Cleave’s decisions. But this is a debate that the guys always seem to have with anthologies. The bottom line is that Visual Storytelling is an exciting anthology perfect for the classroom, but it is also a collection that can be enjoyed outside of any pedagogical context.
On this month's webcomics show, Sean and Derek discuss three relatively fresh titles. They begin with Lho Brockhoff's The Lost Oracle, a webcomic that began in July 2015 and is just into its third chapter. This is a fantasy about a young girl, Amra, raised in an abandoned city and longing to see the world beyond. Yet, unbeknownst to Amra, some on the outside are seeking her, as well, and it's not entirely clear what this quest will have in store for the innocent protagonist. Next, the guys take a look at a completely different kind of quest, one involving a minstrel skeleton and a talking lump of goo. In Rickety Stitch & Gelatinous Goo, Ben Costa and James Parks create one of the weirdest buddy narratives you're likely to encounter. Their mixture of humor, adventure, and dark overtones make this webcomic stand out in ways that others haven't. Sean notes that the art and tone of Rickety Stitch, as well as that of The Lost Oracle, are reminiscent of Jeff Smith's epic Bone (in fact, Bone gets a lot of love on this month's episode). Costa and Parks have recently announced that their larger trilogy will begin being published next year by Knopf, and the portion of the narrative that is now available appears to be the core of that first volume. Finally, Sean and Derek wrap up with a different twist on the superhero story, a genre that the Two Guys rarely investigate. Ryan O’Sullivan and Plaid Klaus's Turncoat is a short and contained webcomic -- running between August 2015 and March 2016 -- about a mercenary group of villains who are hired to thin out the superhero population. It's protagonist, a malcontent name Duke, is short on generating reader appeal. However, as Derek points out, his saving grace is his pathetic nature, a character trait that generates at lest a modicum of sympathy. And while there's still time, you can get on board O'Sullivan and Klaus's Kickstarter campaign that is bringing out Turncoat in hardcopy format.
This week the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics discuss three very different titles. They begin with Joshua W. Cotter's Nod Away (Fantagraphics), an ambitious sci-fi narrative that explores the impact, and the costs, of technological progress. At least that's what the guys think the book might be about. As both Andy W. and Derek point out, one of the distinguishing features of this book is its ambiguous or equivocal nature. There are many moving parts to this story -- hive communication, inter-dimensional wormholes, suspended animation, unexplained quests -- and the guys aren't entirely certain how all of the pieces fit together. But that's OK. Part of the beauty of Nod Away is that it paints a narrative picture best observed from a broader context, while at the same time the fine detail of Cotter's art compels us to investigate its many intricacies. The guys also speculate as to the significance of the title, another meaningfully uncertain facet of this book. Next, they look at Austin English's Gulag Casual. This book is part of 2dcloud's current "Winter Collection" Kickstarter campaign, and the the guys introduce the publisher, and its Kickstarter, to their listeners. English's book is a collection of five different stories, each of which challenges its readers in the ways of comprehending comics. Derek points out that the stories are very dream-like in their coherency, and the guys spend much of their discussion sharing their strategies for reading this unique text. They wrap up this week's episode by looking at another title from the offbeat mind of Craig Yoe. Haunted Love #1 is the first of a three-issue series from IDW Publishing and Yoe Comics, and it's another example of what Craig does best: showcasing precode comics with a mixture of amusement and reverence. As described on the issue's cover, it's "the unholy spawn of Haunted Horror and Weird Love" -- two tastes that go great together! -- so if listeners appreciate those Yoe-inspired series, then they'll go ga-ga for the seven stories collected in this first issue. There's a lot of weirdness to go around, but a couple of Andy and Derek's favorites are "The Dead Are Never Lonely" (originally published in Baffling Mysteries #14 in 1953) and especially "Crawling Evil" (Journey into Fear #10, 1952). Some of these stories are reminiscent of the classic EC style (such as "The Ice Man Cometh"), while others are just nonsensically whacked out. But the best thing about Haunted Love #1 is that it's classic Craig Yoe. And everyone needs mo' Yoe, right?
The Two Guys are back with the second half of their marathon interview with Evan Dorkin. This installment picks up where yesterday's segment left off, in a discussion of the Beasts of Burden series. Derek asks if this Dark Horse title has become a defining work of Evan's, if he's now known as the "Beasts of Burden guy" instead of the "Milk and Cheese guy." And Evan goes on to share some information on the next comic in the series, What the Cat Dragged In, and his continued working relationship with Jill Thompson. Also in this half, the conversation gets more superhero-y, with Evan discussing his work with DC's World's Funnest and Bizarro Comics and his creation of Fight-Man for Marvel. He also expresses his unfiltered thoughts on current superhero fan culture, including the ridiculous premises surrounding Peter Parker's Aunt May -- "I almost married Doctor Octopus. That’s how fucked up my life is" -- and the unlikely reality of today's box office hits: "Shit, it’s Ant-Man. I’m paying money to see Ant-Man…Fucking Ant-Man!" Along the way the guys also talk about Bill and Ted's Excellent Comic Book, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Yo Gabba Gabba!, Milk and Cheese, and the new Stela project with Sarah Dyer (his wife), Calla Cthulhu. There is a lot packed into this part of the conversation, and, when set alongside yesterday's first half, it is the longest interview in the history of The Comics Alternative. And that's just dorkalicious!
Have you ever listened to an interview on The Comics Alternative and thought, "That was good, but I wish the Two Guys had talked longer with their guest?" If so, then this conversation will scratch that itch...and more. In this episode Gene and Derek have the pleasure of talking with Evan Dorkin, and getting much more than they bargained for. In fact, the interview lasted over two hours and forty-five minutes, so the guys decided to break up the conversation over two episodes. In this first half of the interview, Derek and Gene talk with Evan about The Eltingville Club, released last month from Dark Horse Books -- and reviewed by the guys a few weeks ago -- and how his experiences with comics culture all fed into the stories. Along with this, they discuss the pilot of Welcome to Eltingville and the twists and turns of creating the animation during the early days of Adult Swim. The guys also begin talking with Evan about his and Jill Thompson's Beasts of Burden series and how this has become one of his career-defining works. (They continue their conversation on Beasts of Burden in the second half of the interview.) And they learn, much to their excitement, that Evan would like to bring back his wild series, Dork, in some manner. As you might expect in an interview with the creator of Milk and Cheese, hilarity abounds. The guys point out that this is not only the longest interview they've ever conducted, but also one packed with the most laughs. Among other topics, you'll hear Evan talk about the absurdities of convention culture, the sheer idiocy of Seth MacFarlane's Family Guy -- "the Trump of animation" -- and his complete disregard for Batman's gadgets. Plus, he berates Derek for not remembering the role of Ecto-1 in the last Eltingville Club story. What more could you want in a podcast interview?
But there IS more to this interview. Be sure to return tomorrow for the second half!
For Will Eisner Week 2016, Derek talks with Eisner's authorized biographer, Bob Andelman. The second edition of his book, Will Eisner: A Spirited Life, was released last summer by TwoMorrows Publishing, expanding significantly on the 2005 edition in a deluxe, full-color volume. In the conversation, Bob discusses the genesis of the project and how he came to meet Eisner. He also shares several of his most memorable moments working with the legend, as well as some of the challenges in writing the biography. This recent deluxe edition, in particular, allowed him to expand his initial work and offer a more complete picture of the man. Derek talks with Bob about how the addition of brand new interviews, as well as archival material and legal documentation not available at the time of his first edition, rounds out the biography and makes Will Eisner more fully human and less of an abstracted icon. They also discuss the various stages of Eisner's life and the different tones he struck in his comics, such as the autobiographical reflections found in To the Heart of the Storm, the sentimentality of Invisible People, the stark naturalism underlying Dropsie Avenue, the polemical turn of The Plot, and the innovative adventure that defined The Spirit newspaper inserts. All in all, you will find in this episode a spirited conversation -- sorry for the predictable pun -- with a writer and pop cultural critic that was a long time in coming.
On this interview episode, Gwen and Derek are pleased to have as their guest Sonny Liew, whose latest work, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, was just released from Pantheon Books. They talk with the author about his mock biography and how it engages with comic-book history, the tumultuous politics of Singapore, and his own creative influences. Sonny also discusses the genesis of the project and his strategic use of distinctive art styles reminiscent of Osama Tezuka, Walt Kelly, Harvey Kurtzman, Frank Miller, and Jack Kirby, among others. This mixture of styles and genre influences makes The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye a unique work that’s difficult to pin down. It’s different from anything else out there. Gwen and Derek also ask Sonny about his current work with Paul Levitz on Doctor Fate as well as the possibility of future Shadow Heroor Malinky Robot stories.
It’s time, once again, to take a look at the current month’s Previews catalog. This time around, Derek is joined by Paul Lai, the editor of The Comics Alternative‘s blog. Although he’s been working with the Two Guys since late last year, this is the first time that Paul has cohosted a podcast episode. And his first time out is a doozie! He and Derek take an extra-long, two-and-a-half-hour stroll through the March Previews solicits, highlighting upcoming releases from publishers such as
Along the way, the guys discuss recent comics news — such as DC’s questionable “rebirth” and Image’ new Previews catalog magazine, Image+ — and even go off on a couple of rants. Derek, in particular, rags on both Marvel corporate practices and mindless Donald Trump supporters, and with a couple of “amens” from Paul. And what the hell is Smosh…and why should the guys care? But it’s the kind of jovial, curmudgeonly goodness that has come to mark The Comics Alternative brand. Accept no substitutes!
On the February manga show, Shea and Derek look at a new title and an older title. They begin with a discussion of School Judgment 1, recently released by VIZ Media. Written by Nobuaki Enoki and with art by Takeshi Obata -- perhaps best known for his work on Death Note -- this is the first book in a series that has a unique premise. In fact, the guys comment several times on the wacky setup of School Judgment: a legal arbitration system established in Japan's elementary schools, where the students themselves try criminal cases serving as judge, prosecution, and defense. In this first installment, the protagonists Abaku Inugami (for the defense) and Pine Hanzuki (prosecution) battle over three strange cases, with the book ending by setting up a fourth. Shea and Derek discuss the weirdness and the social pertinence of the storylines, including arbitration concerning both drug use and pedophilic voyeurism. After that, they look at at Yoshihiro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life (Drawn & Quarterly). With an original English publication of 2009, this is Tatsumi's slightly veiled autobiography and a look at his growth as a manga artist. In fact, Derek points out that the book can best be read as a künstlerroman, a narrative about an artist's growth to personal and creative maturity. This is a hefty book of over 830 pages, a marked difference from the kind of short-form manga that Tatsumi is best known for. Indeed, both Shea and Derek contrast reading A Drifting Life to their experiences with his short-story collections, such as The Push Man and Other Stories, Abandon the Old in Tokyo, Good-Bye, and Fallen Worlds (also published in English by Drawn & Quarterly). While the shorter slice-of-life narratives are clear examples of gekiga, an alternative manga form advocated by Tatsumi himself, this autobiographical work is more conventional. And being a retrospective look back at his early life, Tatsumi brings into his story the real-life artists that inspired him and served as his companions and competitors, including Osamu Tezuka, Masahiko Matsumoto, Takao Saito, and Susumu Yamamori. As the guys conclude, this is an outstanding book and the perfect introduction to the world of Yoshihiro Tatsumi.