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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: May, 2016
May 31, 2016

On this interview show, Andy W. and Derek have the pleasure of talking with Jeremy Sorese. His book, Curveball, was published by Nobrow Press in late 2015, but it's up this year for a Lambda Literary Award in the "LGBT Graphic Novels" category. Those award winners will be announced in June, and the guys talk with Jeremy about the attention that Curveball has been receiving. This is his first long-form comic, and Jeremy describes it as a queer sci-fi romance. The story takes place in an indeterminate future, but the generic elements take a backseat to character relationships. At the same time, Jeremy talks with the guys about how science fiction is an appropriate platform to explore facets of identity. Derek and Andy also ask their guest about the series for which he's more popularly known, Stephen Universe, and the other work he's done for BOOM! Studios. They also discuss his interests in short narratives, the unbelievable mileage he's gotten out of his early comic, "Love Me Forever! Oh! Oh! Oh!", and what projects he's working on currently.

May 30, 2016

For the month of May, Shea and Derek discuss two books that, at first glance, seem quite different, but whose similarities become more apparent upon closer examination. They begin with Masahiko Matsumoto's Cigarette Girl (Top Shelf Productions), a collection of eleven short comics originally published between 1972 and 1974. This is one of the few books by Matsumoto available in English -- another translation, The Man Next Door, was published by Breakdown Press in 2014 -- and the guys strongly advocate for more attention on this mangaka. Shea and Derek recall their earlier discussion of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life, where the figure of Matsumoto is central to Tatsumi's autobiographical narrative. The stories in Cigarette Girl demonstrate the artist's style storytelling, which he referred to as "komaga" (or "panel pictures" in English), with its emphasis on a cinema-influenced panel breakdown and a more adult subject matter. Along with this, all of the stories end ambiguously or "obscurely," without any neat resolution or closure, underscoring the mature and real-life tone found in Matsumoto's work. About all of the pieces in this collection have something to do with , complicated, compromised, or unrequited relationships, with Matsumoto writing from both male and female perspectives. 

And it is this theme where Derek and Shea find the common ground with the other book they discuss this month, Riichi Ueshiba's Mysterious Girlfriend X, Vol. 1 (Vertical Comics). This story has everything to do with relationships, but, as the guys point out, it has perhaps the weirdest premise they've encountered on the manga series so far. The narrative's 17-year-old protagonist and focalizer, Akira Tsubaki, becomes addicted to his new love interest -- literally! -- after tasting some of her drool. He gets sick if he goes without a dose of her saliva every day or so. His drool-defined heartthrob, Mikoto Urabe, is a complete enigma, a mystery made all the more confounding by her hobby of scissor play. Urabe has an uncanny ability to cut quickly and precisely almost any material with her scissors, which she carries holster-like in her panties. In fact, it's the "panty part" of this book that receives much of the guys' attention. Shea and Derek aren't exactly sure what to make of Ueshiba's fascination with older teenage girls' bodies, or the fact that he finds certain "cute" acts so alluring. As the artist summarizes at the end of this first volume, "Don't you think a girl who drools when she falls asleep is cute? Well, this is a comic about that sort of girl." Still, the guys never suggest that Ueshiba is any sort of creepy pedophile, and, in fact, they even see the benefits of setting his particular story within a high school milieu. Be that as it may, Mysterious Girlfriend X has to be one of the most head-scratching stories Shea and Derek have encounter in some time, and, along with Cigarette Girl, provides them with much discussion fodder for this month's episode.

May 27, 2016

Derek is back at his local comic shop, Collected Comics in Plano, TX, to talk with customers and store employees about a variety of comics-related topics. Joining in the discussion are regulars Craig, Matt, and Chris, along with shop manager Sabrina and her assistant, Stephanie. As is usually the case with these on-location episodes, the core of the discussion is on mainstream comics -- this is what most of the customers read, after all -- so this is an opportunity for the podcast to cover ground that it normally doesn't. The show begins with conversation over the various comics folks have come in to pick up, and this week the standout is DC Universe Rebirth #1. Derek asks everyone if they think Rebirth will change the way they think about DC, and for the most part, the guys are cautiously optimistic about the relaunch...or the rebranding, or the renumbering. Whatever label is being used for this event. And Stephanie proves herself to be a wealth of superhero history, mapping out how DC's new universe will tap into and combine its previous incarnations. There's also discussion of upcoming boxed sets of the March trilogy and the most recent books of Hip Hop Family Tree, the first issue of Satellite Falling, Natasha Alterici's HeathenOld Man Logan, Evil Ernie, and the wrap-up of Baker Street Peculiars. Sabrina, as shop manager, has retailer previews of Snotgirl #1 and Kim & Kim #1 that she's excited about (although she can't give much away). And there's also impassioned debate on the new Captain America: Steve Rogers #1  and its controversial revelation (warning: there are spoilers). All in all, it's another rollicking romp through Comics Land with the Collected crowd, proving once again how vibrant this shop really is.

May 26, 2016

Derek talks with Marnie Galloway about the publication of her first graphic novel, In the Sounds and Seas. This beautiful hardbound text was released earlier this month from One Peace Books, but her work on this project has a long and interesting history. The first third of the narrative was a 2012 Xeric Award winner -- and in the final year that the Xeric grant was given to comics artists -- and the entire story was originally released in three self-published volumes, the final one coming out in early 2016. Marnie discusses with Derek her decision to complete her story in this manner, even after receiving a contract from One Peace for the collected edition. They also talk about the challenges of telling a compelling story through a wordless text, the question of her art as visual poetry, and the various literary references woven into her narrative. Along the way, they take the time to discuss her various other comics and why she particularly enjoys writing in the short-story form. In the Sounds and Seas debuted at this year's Toronto Comic Arts Festival, so Marnie shares her experiences at the event along with the thrills of being able to showcase her new book to such a major audience. This is an impressive work from a young creator whom we are sure to hear more from in the coming months.

Check out Marnie's website to discover more of her art!

May 25, 2016

The nominees for the 2016 Eisner Awards were announced last month, and as the Two Guys with PhDs do every year, they use an episode of The Comics Alternative to discuss and speculate. Joining them in this year's conversation is Carol Tilley, a professor of information science at the University of Illinois and, more to the point of this episode, one of the nominating judges for this year's Eisner Awards. Carol is not a stranger to the podcast, having participated in last year's roundtable discussion on libraries and comics, but this time around she's back to share her experiences and answer questions that Andy and Derek have about the Eisners. She doesn't give away any private deliberations nor does she disclose secrets, but she does help demystify the nomination process and provides insight into many of the award categories. After their conversation with Carol, Derek and Andy go on to share their own thoughts on this year's nominations, separating their personal tastes from the kind of broader, critical analysis you come to expect from the podcast. They try to discern trends, highlight special achievements, and understand the nominating choices that were made. They especially note the sheer number of nominees who have appeared on The Comics Alternative or whose works were prominently reviewed on the podcast, giving credence, once again, to what Andy and Derek self-importantly call "the Comics Alternative bump." When all is said and done, the guys are quite impressed with this year's roster of creators and their comics up for recognition.

May 24, 2016

On May 25, the final issue of Rachel Rising will be released. This has been a landmark horror/gothic series, an intelligent and multifaceted narrative exploring the parameters of history, gender, community, morality, and the nature of violence...and doing so without following the usual generic conventions and formulas. To mark this publishing event, Derek has the pleasure of talking with the series creator Terry Moore. What began in August 2011 as an undead murder mystery will now come full circle as we learn in the final issue, according to Terry, the identity of Rachel's killer and the connections that inextricably bind the two. In their conversation, Terry talks with Derek about the genesis of Rachel Rising, the functions of its various actors, the philosophies that propel the narrative, and how his organic style of storytelling has come to define the series. Terry also places the title within the context of his other work, most notably Strangers in Paradise and Echo, and discusses his evolution as a writer within the comics medium. Derek also asks him about his plans regarding other media and the possibility of bringing Rachel Rising to television. This isn't the first time that Derek has talked with Terry -- he spoke with him briefly at the Dallas Comic Con in 2013, and he conducted a longer interview with him for the blog in 2014 -- but this is the only time he has had him on the podcast for a substantive one-on-one interview.

May 23, 2016

Sean and Derek are back for another month's-worth of webcomics talk, and for May they discuss three intriguing titles. They begin with Maritza Campos and Bachan's Power Nap. This is the second time the guys have focused on Bachan's art, the first occasion being his anthropomorphic humor/crime series, Vinny, back in September of last year. He provides the art on the Campos-scripted Power Nap, a story set in a dystopic future where everyone uses pharmaceuticals to stay awake 24/7 in order to produce more for their corporations...except if someone is allergic to the drug. Drew Spencer, the story's protagonist, is just such an individual. Sean and Derek enjoy the webcomic's strange melding of reality and dreamscape, although there are occasions when the storyline becomes unnecessarily fractured. Sean believes that this is the result of the sporadic scheduling of the updates, with long stretches between some story events.

Next, the Two Guys check out Jake Wyatt's Necropolis, a webcomic that is fairly new and in its early stages. This is a fantasy where the creator is establishing quite an elaborate narrative world, complete with its own mythology. Derek and Sean are impressed with the art, especially, and they're curious about the fact that, according to the webcomic's "About" page, this story is already set to be published by Image Comics in English and Casterman in French. That's quite an achievement for a webcomic only in its second chapter and with only 32 pages of story, so far.

Finally, the guys wrap up with a webcomic that was completed in March 2013 and published in book form from Alternative Comics the following month. Elaine M. Will's Look Straight Ahead is a moving story about mental illness and the struggles of adolescence. It follows the final high school months of Jeremy Knowles, a 17-year-old who has difficulty fitting in and whose psychiatric state exacerbates his alienation. He comes to use his art as a way of dealing with his condition, and Sean and Derek are fascinated by the way Will represents psychological states through her black-and-white style and her selective use of colors. Whether you read this story online -- and the complete webcomic is still available -- or you buy the book, this is definitely a narrative worth exploring.

May 20, 2016

Over the past several years, the Two Guys with PhDs have reviewed a lot of books in translation. But what they've tended to overlook, more times than not, is the translator of the work, the individual who is responsible for taking the imagetext and re-presenting it in a linguistic context that is wholly other. This came to their attention back in February, when Andy and Derek discussed Ludovic Debeurme's Renée, and then afterwards received an email of appreciation from its translator, Edward Gauvin. In fact, the guys never mentioned Edward at any point during their discussion, which was not only an unfortunate oversight, but also says something about the invisible art of comics translation. As a response to that experience, they wanted to pay homage to translators by speaking with a couple for the podcast.

So on this interview show, Derek has the pleasure of talking with two prolific translators of comics art, Jamie Richards and Edward Gauvin. Each has had two translations recently published. For Jamie it's Manuele Fiore’s 5,000 km Per Second (from Fantagraphics, and which Gwen and Derek discussed last month) and Igort's The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks: Life and Death under Soviet Rule (Simon and Schuster), and with Edward it's Joann Sfar's Pascin  (Uncivilized Books) and Blutch's Peplum (New York Review Comics). In this interview, they talk with Derek about the process of translation, its various challenges, and the unique role that visuals bring to their work. For example, Jamie discusses the kind of preparations she had to do when translating Igort -- specifically her research into Cyrillic languages -- and Edward shares his experiences in working with various and, at times, radically diverse publishers. All in all, this interview gives listeners a glimpse into the laborious, and under-appreciated, work of bringing European comics to an English-speaking audience.

Also in this episode, Derek uses the occasion to introduce Edward as the cohost of the new series for The Comics Alternative. Beginning in June, he and Derek will take a monthly look at bandes dessinées, or European comics in translation, that will be similar in structure to the podcast's monthly manga series. This is yet another way that The Two Guys with PhDs plan to introduce their listeners to comics that are different and off the beaten mainstream path.

May 18, 2016

Gwen and Derek are back with another publisher spotlight episode, this one on the UK press, Avery Hill Publishing. They begin their spotlight with a short interview with the people behind Avery Hill: Ricky Miller, Dave White, and Katriona Chapman. Derek talks with them about the origins of the press, the kind of creators that have come to define Avery Hill, their distribution and publicity outside of the UK, and their plans for fall releases and beyond.

After that conversation, Gwen and Derek get into the nitty gritty of the publisher's current offerings. They start by looking at the most recent issues of two ongoing series from Avery Hill, Reads #4 and Metroland #3. The former is an anthology periodical currently in its second volume, and the two discuss its various serialized storylines. Gwen is particularly fond of Owen D. Pomery's "The Megatherium Club," but they also discuss Reads other historically based stories -- Ricky Miller and Tim Bird's "Hitchcock and Film" as well as Bird and Luke James Halsall's "The Bullpen" (inspired by Marvel Comics in the early 1960s) -- and the colorful, offbeat comics of EdieOP. The most recent issue of Metroland continues the drama behind Ricky Miller and Julia Scheele's fictional 1980s band, Electric Dreams, and while discussing this evolving narrative, Derek and Gwen even wax nostalgic over their own musical histories growing up during that time.

Next, they discuss three new books released this spring. A City Inside is yet another work from Tillie Walden -- she's become a singular force at Avery Hill -- and this one is a measured, meditative look at self-identity with an almost poetic tone. Rachel Smith's Artificial Flowers does to the London art scene what Miller and Scheele's Metroland does with the city post-punk. Both the artist's unassuming premise and her clean, iconic art style easily draw Gwen and Derek into this fun story. And then finally, the cohosts wrap up with the latest book in Matthew Swan's Parsley Girl series. Neither Derek nor Gwen had been familiar with Swan's work previously, but Parsley Girl: Carrots proves to be a good introduction into his weird and almost psychedelic narrative world.

Overall, both Gwen and Derek find a lot of excitement behind this young press. Avery Hill may be just now getting a foothold in the US market -- thanks to its recent distribution agreement with Retrofit/Big Planet -- but as this episode demonstrates, it's definitely a publisher worth watching.

May 17, 2016

This month’s show includes a review of two recently released graphic novels, John Patrick Green’s Hippopotamister (First Second) and Steven T. Seagle and Jason Adam Katzenstein’s Camp Midnight (Image Comics), as well as interviews Andy conducted at the first-ever Anne Arundel County (Maryland) Public Library Comic Con, held on May 14. At this event, Andy had the chance to speak to a number of young readers, as well as their parents, about their favorite comics and about their own work as budding comics creators.

At the beginning of the podcast, Andy reads an email that comics writer Samuel Teer wrote to him and Gwen regarding their October 2015 review of Veda: Assembly Required (Dark Horse), an all-ages comic that he wrote in collaboration with artist Hyeondo Park and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick. Samuel was kind enough to thank the two for their positive review of the book and mentioned that the two people with PhDs gave him some helpful suggestions for future works. (Glad to oblige, Samuel! Keep those great comics coming!)

First up in the review segment is Hippopotamister, a title that both Gwen and Andy can say three times fast and recommend three times over. This graphic novel for younger readers provides a humorous, carefully-crafted story about the way that two friends, Red Panda and Hippo, enter into the “human world” in order to find jobs, after their city zoo falls into disrepair. Red Panda, who leaves the enclosure first and returns with tales of his exciting forays into the world of work, encourages his friend to join him, but he cautions, “amongst the humans you can no longer be just a hippopotamus. You must become…HIPPOPOTAMISTER!” What follows is a tour through occupations that help Hippopotamister and Red Panda figure out their natural talents. Of course, complications arise on these friends’ paths to self-understanding and a regular paycheck, but both end up finding work that suits them well.

In addition to praising the color work of Cat Caro, Andy highlights one of the funniest splash pages in the comic that depicts Hippopotamister’s invention of a new hairstyle entitled “The Hippopompadour.” Gwen loves the whimsy of that scene and notes that, in addition to creating vibrant splash pages, Green excels at planting small details across the entire graphic novel that are clearly put there for the amusement of adult or middle grade readers. For instance, the restaurant where Red Panda and Hippopotamister try their hand at being sous chefs is called “Trattoria Della Bestia,” a name that draws a fine line between those animals that prepare the food versus those who serve as the meal. Andy and Gwen also point out the effectiveness of Green’s images in moving the narration along. As Andy puts it, a beginning reader could figure out the action of the story, even if s/he couldn’t read all of the words, yet the wordplay throughout the comic underscores the fine balance that Green achieves in his comics artistry.

Next, Gwen and Andy discuss Camp Midnight, a collaboration between longtime friends Steven T. Seagle, a TV writer/producer and comic-book author, and Jason Adam Katzenstein, a cartoonist whose work regularly appears in The New Yorker. Their colorful and sophisticated all-ages comic follows Skye Sullivan, a disgruntled tween, who boards the wrong bus and ends up at a summer camp where everyone but her new friend, Mia, sheds their daytime human exteriors in order to reveal their true monster identities. At first, Skye wants nothing more than to head back home, but she finds herself drawn to Griffin, a boy worthy of “cute guy alerts,” and she wants to figure out why Mia is also something of an outcast at Camp Midnight.

Both Gwen and Andy comment on the powerful, saturated colors employed throughout the comic, as well as the realistic depiction of all of the joys and pitfalls of living away from home with a group of kids who are all too eager to form cliques and exclude outsiders. Like Hippopotamister, Skye learns a great deal about herself and then uses that knowledge to help a good friend. Gwen and Andy highly recommend Camp Midnight to tweens and teens, alike, though adults may also enjoy the coy humor and fantastic line style that carries across the text.

May 16, 2016

For this interview episode, Derek talks with Arvind Ethan David about his current work on the IDW miniseries, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: A Spoon Too Short. He writes that title, working with Ilias Kyriazis on art, and he was the editor of last year's earlier Dirk Gently series. Arvind talks with Derek extensively about his fascination with this unorthodox detective, his association with the late Douglas Adams, and the curious road he traveled to get into comics. A Spoon Too Short isn't an outright adaptation of any of Adams's novels, although its title springs from an alternative title the writer had been considering for a book he was working on at the time of his death. And fans of Douglas Adams will recognize in the comic plenty of allusions to novelist's body of work. Arvind also shares some inside information -- at least, what he's able to disclose -- about the new Dirk Gently BBC series that will begin this fall, where he will work with Max Landis to bring the Adams character to television for the second time. The guys also discuss the upcoming Darkness Visible, an original comics series that Arvind is writing with Mike Carey and that will be coming out from IDW later this year. This is a busy time for the solicitor/producer/editor/writer, but in this interview Arvind takes the time to share his experiences and whet listeners' appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things.

May 13, 2016

On this episode of the interview series, Derek is excited to talk with Jordan Crane. The latest installment of Jordan's series, Uptight, was released by Fantagraphics earlier this year, and the two begin by discussing its contents and how issue #5 is notably different from the previous ones. First off, this is a much longer issue than usual, and Jordan explains that since it's been three and a half years since issue #4, he felt the need to include more material in this latest release. In fact, there are four stories, or segments of stories, that compose Uptight #5, one of the most significant being an update of Jordan's serialized narrative, "Keeping Two." They spend a good deal time discussing this project and the various ways in which Jordan represents consciousness through visual means. Derek also asks his guest about the somber nature of the stories "Wake Up" and "The Dark Nothing." Jordan admits that while some of his previous work has a similarly dark tone, there's something about this latest issue of Uptight that underscores this mood. But the two also talk about more upbeat storylines, such as the ongoing adventures of Simon and his cat, Jack -- given full treatment in Jordan's 2005 book, The Clouds Above -- and his other comics, such as the Keep Our Secrets and the Xeric Award-winning Col-Dee. Derek also asks Jordan about his time orchestrating the anthology NON, and how the efforts on his website What Things Do currently scratch any editorial itches he might have. All in all, this is a revealing interview and, if you are not already a long-time fan of Jordan's work, a great introduction to one of the medium's most intriguing indie creators.

May 11, 2016

The Dynamic Doctoral Duo is back for another action-packed episode promising thrills and chills! This time, Gwen and Derek begin by discussing Brecht Evens's  Panther (Drawn and Quarterly), a book that gives a first impression of innocence but then becomes darker and increasingly disturbing as the story develops. Gwen is a scholar of children's literature, and she points out that Evens follows many of the tropes found in picture books, and his style -- what you'd find in his earlier works, The Wrong Place and The Making Of -- may even lead readers to see this as one. But she argues that Panther is anything but a text for younger readers. Evens's penchant for watercolor and his borderless panel style make this a most sophisticated narrative, one with no easy answers and ending in ambiguity.

Next, Derek and Gwen transition into yet another portal narrative, Gene Ha's Mae #1 (Dark Horse Comics). In this new creator-owned series, which began last year as a Kickstarter, the titular character's older sister, Abbie, has discovered a way into another world and often absents herself from her family. But Abbie's fantastical getaway begins to insert itself into the mundane world, initiating events that are sure to carry the  homebody Mae into unexpected adventures. This is Ha's first attempt at both writing and illustrating in a longer narrative form, and it's a series that both cohosts plan on returning to in the months to come.

Finally, the two wrap up by doing something that has not yet been done on The Comics Alternative: reviewing a Walking Dead title. As much as Derek enjoys the popular comic-book series and the TV show, they've just never had the opportunity to discuss a beginning point or something standalone from Kirkman and Allard's franchise. But this time, they have: Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin's one-shot, The Walking Dead: The Alien. This is available on the creators' Panel Syndicate website, and as with the other titles you'll find there -- e.g., The Private Eye and Barrier -- this is a pay-what-you-want comic. Gwen does not have much history with The Walking Dead, and she's not a fan of zombie narratives, so she brings a unique perspective to the discussion...and likes what she reads. And as Derek points out, this is a title that will resonate with avid Walking Dead fans and at the same time can hold up outside of any larger narrative context. As if we needed any addition reason to love the creative team of Vaughan and Martin.

May 9, 2016

It’s Free Comic Book Day 2016, and to celebrate the event Derek is back at Collected Comics and Games in Plano, TX, to talk with customers and shop employees about the various offerings for this year. Some of the standout FCBD titles from those gathered around the discussion table are Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (Arcana), We Can Never Go Home/Young Terrorists (Black Mask Studios), ROM (IDW Publishing), One-Punch Man/My Hero Academia(VIZ Media), Oddly Normal (Image Comics), Civil War II (Marvel Comics), The Phantom (Hermes Press), and Serenity/Hellboy/Aliens (Dark Horse Comics). Artist and friend-of-the-show Andy Hirsch joins the conversation for a while and talks about some of his favorites, including Science Comics (First Second) and Love and Rockets (Fantagraphics). He also shares some behind-the-scenes information about his work on the miniseries The Baker Street Peculiars and his new book, Varmints, coming out this fall from First Second. And Derek also highlights some of his favorite FCBD selections from this year, including March (Top Shelf),   Mooncop/A Tom Gauld Sampler (Drawn and Quarterly), Hilda/Akissi/Fantasy Sports (Nobrow Press), and the great collections from BOOM! Studios, United Plankton Pictures (AKA, Spongebob), Z2 Comics, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. There’s a lot packed into this on-location episode, so get past the ambient noise of the crowds and jump into the fun comics talk offered here!

May 6, 2016

On this episode of the interview series -- the very first for cohost Paul Lai! -- the Two Guys with PhDs are pleased to have as their guest Mike Dawson. His latest book, Rules for Dating My Daughter: The Modern Father's Guide to Good Parenting, comes out on May 10th from Uncivilized Books, and our fearless cohosts talk with Mike about his project's journey from Tumblr, to Kickstarter, to finished book. One of the things they discuss early on is the fact that Rules for Dating My Daughter is not one of those gun-hugging "hurt my daughter, and I will hurt you" kind of books you'd expect from the cover image. In it, Mike lays bare his thoughts on the responsibilities of fatherhood (and not just for his daughter) and how those concerns relate to larger-world issues. The book is episodic in nature, comprising fifteen short strips focusing on such topics as gender roles, violence in America, religious observance, global warming, carnivorism, and cultural intolerance...and all filtered through parental concerns. Paul and Derek ask Mike about the genesis of this project and how it's significantly different from his previous books, Troop 142 and Angie Bongiolatti (both published by Secret Acres). At the same time, the tone of the new book isn't dissimilar from those works, and, in fact, one could argue that in Rules for Dating My Daughter, Mike is bringing together the themes of the earlier works -- both political and familial -- and combing them with the autobiographic approach established in his first book, Freddy and Me. And toward the end of the interview, the guys ask Mike about his work as a podcaster cohosting Ink Panthers with Alex Robinson and heading up TCJ Talkies. All in all, the guys have a great time talking with their guest about his art, his thoughts on the industry, and the current state of our culture...as only a dad could do.

May 4, 2016

Hold on to your butts! It's another substantive, jam-packed episode where the Two Guys look through the latest Previews catalog. And for May, Andy W. and Derek see a lot of good stuff, enough to make this a longer-than-average episode. (Yes, the guys are going into 2+ hours territory again, but only slightly.) Among the many solicits Andy and Derek highlight are of titles from publishers such as

In addition, Derek and Andy discuss other matters, including a correction from last week's publisher spotlight -- Melissa Mendes's Lou is actually an Alternative Comics publication, not from Hic + Hoc -- and an email of appreciation they received from Jon Allen whose book, Ohio Is for Sale, was discussed in that same episode. They also talk a little bit about this coming weekend's Free Comic Book Day, wonder over the new Image+ insert magazine (and Andy is pissed that he didn't get one with his copy of Previews), poke fun at Millarworld, and point out the truly freaky and absolutely unnecessary Big Head Walking Dead figures they saw in the catalog.

May 2, 2016

It's not often that Chester Brown comes out with a new book, but his latest, Mary Wept over the Feet of Jesus, was released last month from Drawn & Quarterly...giving the Two Guys with PhDs an occasion to celebrate. And compounding that celebratory spirit is the fact that the artist is now appearing on The Comics Alternative podcast! In this episode, Andy and Derek are pleased to have Chester as their guest, where they talk with him about his new book, the research that went into it, and the reaction he's been getting from readers and critics. Mary Wept over the Feet of Jesus is a series of adaptations of Old and New Testament texts as they relate to prostitution and religious observance. In it, Chester interprets the stories of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, Mary of Bethany, and Mary, mother of Jesus, along with other narratives that surround Book of Genesis, the Gospel of Matthew, and the Parables of the Talents and the Prodigal Son. What all of these explorations have in common, and what Chester makes clear during the interview, is how all inform a reading of scripture surrounding sex workers. The guys talk with their guest about these issues and how his previous works -- Paying for It as well as his earlier comics adapting the Gospels of both Mark and Matthew -- may have laid the groundwork for the current study. Much of the conversation is spent on Chester's almost-lifelong research into biblical scholarship, especially as it comes out in the extensive notes he includes in Mary Wept...hand-written annotations that take up almost a third of his book! But Andy and Derek also ask Chester about his earlier comics, such as Ed the Happy ClownThe Playboy, and Louis Riel, the death of serialization within small-press comics, and his single-panel method of composition. In other words, the guys cover a lot of ground during this interview. But as Derek and Andy point out toward the end of this episode, there was some interesting conversation that took place after the guys turned off their recording devices. But fret not; Derek was able to capture some of that talk once they realized how appropriate it would have been in their recorded interview. So if you listen all the way through to the very end of this episode, after the closing theme music, you'll be able to hear a few comments as an extra added bonus.

Much thanks, not only to Chester Brown, but to Sook-Yin Lee who helped to make this interview possible by providing her Skype account (and who can be heard in the background toward the end of the podcast preparing dinner).

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