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.
Just in time for the U.S. elections, Gene and Derek hold a roundtable discussion on political and propaganda comics. Joining them in the conversation are Richard Graham, author of Government Issue: Comics for the People, 1940s-2000s (Abrams ComicArts); Rafael Medoff, co-author (along with Craig Yoe) of Cartoonists against the Holocaust (Clizia Inc.); Kent Worcester, editor of Silent Agitators: Cartoon Art from the Pages of New Politics (New Politics Associates); and Fredrik Strömberg, the writer of Comic Art Propaganda: A Graphic History (St. Martin’s Griffin). The guys talk with their guests about the significance of political cartooning and what drew each of them into this particular avenue of scholarship. Most of their conversation concerns the history of the genre (at least in the United States) as well as the process behind the research. At the same time, they also focus on the current political moment and how, as several of the participants feel, most contemporary political cartoonists haven't really met the challenge. The participants also share their thoughts on the impact of digital technology on the art form. In a heated political season signified by polemics and propaganda, it's reassuring that you can turn to a Comics Alternative special episode providing you with the soothing comfort of...well, polemics and propaganda.
Learn more about this episode's guests and their scholarship:
Where did October go?! You mean the month is over, and it's already time to look at the November Previews catalog?
And as usual the Two Guys with PhDs rise to the occasion, looking through the most interesting solicitations and making the kind of astute observations as only they can do. For example, Andy and Derek notice an unusually large number of Spanish comics making their way into this month's listings. Is this a mere coincidence? Or might this be the kind of ethnic migratory crisis spouted by the likes of Donald J. Trump? Resisting any tendency to go batshit orange, the guys stick to the matter at hand, calmly and methodically going through the November Previews catalog and highlighting upcoming titles from publishers such as
The Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics are happy to announce their revamped and vitamin-packed Patreon campaign! They now offer seven different reward levels that include such goodies as signature Comics Alternative bookmarks, graphic novel giveaways, and cool-looking Comics Alternative t-shirts. This new campaign is a step up for both current patrons and future supporters-to-be. Check out the new video below to learn more, and go to the Two Guys' Patreon page to sign up, support, and get in on the fun!