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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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Now displaying: January, 2017
Jan 30, 2017

  Time Codes:

  • 00:00:28 - Introduction
  • 00:02:36 - Catching up for the new year
  • 00:04:19 - Sunny
  • 01:09:40 - Other works by Matsumoto
  • 01:20:29 - Wrap up
  • 01:22:06 - Contact us

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The Young Ones

This month on the manga show, Shea and Derek discuss the recently completed, Sunny, as well as other works by Taiyo Matsumoto. Late last year VIZ Media published the six and final volume of Sunny, a series that began in December 2010 in the original Japanese (published in Monthly Ikki), and has been coming out in English translation since the first volume in May 2013. This is a title that the guys have been wanting to discuss for some time, but they decided to hold out until the everything was wrapped up so that they could look at the series in its entirety.

This is a realistic, evenly paced drama about a group of orphans and outsiders residing at Star Kids Home, a foster home that serves as a refuse for children without family or whose parents do not have the means, or even the interest, in caring for them. Although this narrative functions with an ensemble cast, Shea and Derek feel that the de facto protagonist here is Haruo, an angry, troubled kid whose parents remain aloof. The series unfolds as Haruo interacts with the other children at the home, each of whom gets ample attention in the text, and the adults who try to make things manageable for them. The one central refuge in their lives, a space of safety and imagination, is a derelict Nissan Sunny 1200 that sits abandoned in the front yard of the Star Kids Home.

The guys spend most of the episode mapping out the various characters and their struggles in Sunny, but they also take the time to discuss other manga by Matsumoto, including Blue Spring (the original collected in 1993, and translated into English in 2004), Gogo Monster (2000/2009), the untranslated Takemitsuzamurai (2006-2010), and especially the Eisner Award-winning Tekkon Kinkreet, which originally ran from 1993-1994 and was collected as a one-volume English translation in 2007. As Shea points out, this is one of their favorite manga creators -- for both guys -- and they wanted to use this episode to dig deep into his art.

Build your Taiyo Matsumoto library:

 

Jan 27, 2017

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:25 - Introduction
  • 00:02:19 - Setup of interview
  • 00:03:17 - Interview with Miriam Libicki
  • 01:01:17 - Wrap up
  • 01:03:11 - Contact us

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Exposure

Andy and Derek have the pleasure of talking with Miriam Libicki whose latest book, Toward a Hot Jew, was released late last year from Fantagraphics. This is a collection of various graphic essays that Miriam has written over the years, a style of writing she describes as a comics form of gonzo journalism. The guys talk with her about these various pieces and their mix of reportage, autobiography, and expository analysis. They also discuss Miriam's autobiographical series Jobnik!, which concerns her experiences serving in the Israeli army. Most of the talk revolves around Miriam's writing, but at times the conversation becomes more academic and speculative, in many ways reflecting the tone found throughout Toward a Hot Jew.

Get Miriam's books and others discussed in this interview:

   

Jan 25, 2017

Time Codes:

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Hwæt!

For this week's episode, Andy and Derek put on their English professor hats, and with a vengeance, when taking on the latest comics version of Beowulf (Image Comics), adapted by Santiago García and David Rubín. While this is not, by far, the only comics adaptation of this classic Old English poem, the guys feel that it's one of the best they've seen. Indeed, Rubín's artwork is particularly suited to the violent action and Beowulf's heroic exploits. And the ending of this text, which takes a significant self-reflective turn, goes on to underscore the guys' appreciation of this adaptation.

Next, the Two Guys look at one of the latest releases from Retrofit Comics/Big Planet Comics, Karine Bernadou's Canopy. Neither Derek nor Andy were familiar with Bernadou's work before this book, but they find this a fascinating introduction to the French illustrator. Canopy is an almost completely wordless tale surrounding a young woman trying to make it on her own. But she does so in a surreal wilderness infused with male-centered threats.

For their final title of the week, the guys discuss an author who's not gotten enough attention on the podcast...at least from Derek's perspective. The first two issues of Richard Corben's Shadows on the Grave (Dark Horse Comics) are now out, and the guys take on this anthology-like miniseries. These brief stories have a Night Gallery feel, but with an amped up creepy factor. This is all due to the wonderfully disturbing art of Corben, who opts for a black, white, and gray tone rendering, a change from his other recent Dark Horse work.

Get your copies of the titles discussed in this episode:

 

Jan 23, 2017

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 - Introduction
  • 00:02:38 - Setup of interview
  • 00:04:00 - Interview with Joe Ollmann
  • 01:21:27 - Wrap up
  • 01:22:58 - Contact us

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Of Human Bondage

On this interview episode, Andy and Derek talk with Doug Wright Award-winner Joe Ollmann, whose new book, The Abominable Mr. Seabrook, comes out this week from Drawn and Quarterly. Joe starts off by introducing William Seabrook and his writings, since this is a historical literary figure that most listeners have probably never heard of before. In fact, the guys spend a good bit of time discussing the ups and downs of Seabrook's career and speculating on why he's not more notable than he is. With a background in yellow journalism, Seabrook became a famed adventurer and travel writer who befriended a who's who of early twentieth-century literati, including Thomas Mann, Aldous Huxley, Gertrude Stein, Sinclair Lewis, Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali, and Aleister Crowley. As Joe points out, he was famously known at the time, not only as a writer, but as a cultural progressive, a cannibal, a bondage enthusiast, and the man who popularized zombies. What fascinates Ollmann most about this colorful figure is Seabrook's upfront attitudes about himself, refusing to hide the more salacious sides of his personality. At the same time, this cavalier manner may have contributed to his notorious alcoholism, tragically revealed in his memoir, Asylum, and a condition that stifled his career and helped lead to his eventual death. The guys have a great time talking with Joe about his 10+ years in researching and writing this biography, the differences between writing this book and his previous ones (all fictions), and the dynamics of visually narrating the life of such a controversial and conflicted character.

Joe is also writing about his experiences with The Abominable Mr. Seabrook on The Paris Review!

And read Derek's previous interview with Joe Ollmann for The Comics Alternative blog.

Check out The Abominable Mr. Seabrook as well as other works by Joe Ollmann:

   

Jan 20, 2017

Touch the Weird Love

It's the beginning of a new year, and on this episode of the on-location series, Derek is back at Valhalla Games and Comics to talk with customers and employees about the comics they're looking forward to in the coming months. He's joined by a couple of the regulars, Craig and Nick, as well as employees Stephanie and Freddy. Among the titles folks are anticipating in 2017 are The Unstoppable WaspHighlander: The American DreamJustice League of America, Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern, Hatchet, more Head LopperBlack History in Its Own WordsPsychodrama Illustrated, and the new Rat Queens. But the guys at the shop don't stop there. They also discuss other comics-related media, films and television series, that are planned for this year.

Check out some of the titles discussed in this episode:

   

Jan 18, 2017

Time Codes:

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This week the Two Guys with PhDs start off by getting political. While some listeners might not like it when Andy and Derek become polemical on the podcast, the guys just had to speak out about the brouhaha surrounding Congressman John Lewis's recent comments on Trump's illegitimacy. The Two Guys stand with Representative Lewis, a man of courage, honor, and action. And it's heartening that copies of March are selling out all over the place!

But enough of the bad Trump. The guys find more serious another entity of that name, this one orchestrated by the legendary Harvey Kurtzman. Trump: The Complete Collection is the second volume in Dark Horse's Essential Kurtzman series. This beautiful hardbound edition collects the only two issues of Trump ever published, as well as the many never-before reproduced illustrations from what would have been the third issue of the magazine, had Hugh Hefner not pulled the plug. Both Andy and Derek appreciate the collection -- especially Denis Kitchen's outstanding essay and annotations! -- and while some of the humor appears dated (or even falls flat at times), this text stands out as an indispensable historical contribution.

After that Derek and Andy check out two recent #1 issues, Sean Lewis and Hayden Sherman's The Few (Image Comics) and Erin Nations's Gumballs (Top Shelf/IDW Publishing). The former is a leisurely paced and extra-long issue centered around a future where the United States is now a fractured territory due to water scarcities (at least the guys think this is the series' premise). Sherman's art stands out here. And Gumballs is a single-creator anthology that's a mix of autobiographical sketches, character portraits, and poignant cultural observations. The guys look forward to seeing what transpires in both of these series.

Jan 16, 2017

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 - Introduction
  • 00:03:17 - Setting up Pedrosa and Vehlmann
  • 00:08:08 - Equinoxes and other Pedrosa titles
  • 00:51:14 - Clear Blue Tomorrows and other Vehlmann titles
  • 01:26:01 - Wrap up
  • 01:29:12 - Contact us

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It's the first Euro Comics episode of the new year, and Edward and Derek use the occasion to focus on the work of two contemporary French creators, using their latest books as springboards into their larger bodies of work. They begin with Cyril Pedrosa's Equinoxes (NBM Publishing), a novelistic examination of life purpose and the uses we make of art in creating meaning. The text comprises four alternating storylines that become more enmeshed as the narrative progresses, combining comics with prose passages in establishing its contemplative tone. But Edward and Derek also bring in discussions of Pedrosa's earlier works in translation, including Three Shadows (First Second), Hearts at Sea (Dupuis/Europe Comics) and Portugal (Dupuis/Europe Comics).

Next, the Two Guys examine Clear Blue Tomorrows, written by Fabien Vehlmann with art by Ralph Meyer and Bruno Gazzotti (Cinebook). This book is basically a series of science-fiction or fantastic stories brought together by a broader narrative frame: a time traveler from a dystopian future tasked with ghost writing stories for the would-be tyrant in hopes of changing the man's occupational trajectory. It's a curious spin on the "killing Hitler" sci-fi trope, though narratively reminiscent of One Thousand and One Nights. The guys also discuss several of Vehlmann's other works, including Last Days of an Immortal (Archaia), Beautiful Darkness (Drawn and Quarterly), and the all-age series Alone (Cinebook). There's a lot packed into this episode...and so many reading ideas!

Jan 11, 2017

Time Codes:

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This week the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics discuss DC's Young Animal titles. They begin with Gerard Way and Nick Derington's Doom Patrol, the maiden voyage of the new imprint. There have been three issues released so far, and the guys really like what they've seen. Way definitely takes a cue from Grant Morrison's legendary run on the title, referencing many of Morrison's original additions to the Silver Age series -- most notably Danny the Street and Flex Mentallo -- yet at the same time making Doom Patrol uniquely his own.

After that, Andy and Derek discuss the first four issues of Shade the Changing Girl. This is Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone's revamping of the old Steve Ditko creation (and best popularized in the early 1990s by Peter Milligan and Chris Bachelor), Shade the Changing Man. Their emphasis on the lives of young high school women promises to be a curious spin on the property.

Next, the guys turn to what Andy calls his favorite of the Young Animal line, Jonathan Rivera, Gerard Way, and Michael Avon Oeming's Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye. As they point out, Cave Carson is a character from the early 1960s appearing in both Brave and the Bold and Showcase, but unlike his contemporary Rip Hunter, he never received a title of his own. Way, Rivera, and Oeming are now giving him that opportunity.

The Two Guys conclude their episode with a very different kind of Young Animal title, Jody Houser and Tommy Lee Edwards's Mother Panic. This is the only one of the four series not to be based on Silver Age properties, and it's the only one to be deeply enmeshed into the DC Universe. For that reason, Derek is less enamored with Mother Panic -- at least in terms of the first two issues so far -- feeling that it takes itself too seriously and wonders why this wasn't a regular DC title. Andy has no problem with this Gotham-drenched series.

Jan 9, 2017

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:28 - Introduction
  • 00:03:03 - Catching up after the holidays
  • 00:04:07 - Listener mail!
  • 00:08:18 - King of the Unknown
  • 00:33:42 - Cosmic Dash
  • 01:12:16 - Checking in with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz
  • 01:27:36 - Freedman
  • 01:52:51 - Wrap up
  • 01:53:45 - Contact us

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It's a new year, and the webcomics guys are back to discuss three intriguing webcomic titles. They begin with Marcus Muller's King of the Unknown, an unusual take on the King of Rock and Roll. You thought he was dead? Well, he's actually alive and kicking (and eating), but now he's working in the shadows as a paranormal investigator. This is a weird and offbeat title that both Sean and Derek can't recommend enough, but it's an ongoing webcomic that hasn't been updated since 2013. There are indications that Muller will return to the story this year, but in the meantime, introduce yourself to the 30 pages that are already available.

After that, Sean and Derek take a look at Cosmic Dash by David Davis. The premise is not dissimilar to that of another webcomics the guys discussed, Sean Wang's Runners, but this one is more lighthearted and includes a larger ensemble cast. In fact, the guys spend a lot of time talking about the ensemble nature of the webcomic and how Davis does an outstanding job of providing supplementary material in the way of detailed character descriptions, maps, timelines, design guides, and lore pages.

Then, after the guys check in with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz -- their new webcomic Poe and the Mysteriads launches this month! -- they wrap up the episode with a discussion of an already completed webcomic, Peter Quach's Freedman. This is a short story, only 23 pages, but it's an outstanding example of a tightly written and impactful narrative. As the title suggests, the tale concerns ex-slaves in the aftermath of the Civil War, with one in particular who has difficulty freeing himself from the past. The guys also discuss some of Quach's other short pieces on his website, including the hilarious I Am a Racist (and So Can You). It's a story that certainly resonates as we approach the dark days of the Trump administration.

Jan 4, 2017

Happy New Year from the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics! On this, their first regular episode of 2017, Andy and Derek take their monthly gander at the current Previews catalog. Before they do that, though, they welcome and thank a couple of new Patreon supporters to the Comics Alternative family, including Alla Rull, who becomes the latest of the guys' official Podcast Patrons. Then they jump headlong into the January Previews, highlighting a variety of upcoming titles from both large and small publishers alike. Among the interesting fare found in this month's catalog are offerings from:

Jan 2, 2017

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:25 - Introduction
  • 00:02:13 - Setup of interview
  • 00:03:20 - Interview with Craig Yoe
  • 01:25:46 - Wrap up
  • 01:28:58 - Contact us

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It's a new year, and what better way to bring it in than with another Craig Yoe interview! In what has become a Comics Alternative tradition, the Two Guys with PhDs use their very first episode of the year -- not just their first interview, but their very first podcast release -- to talk with Craig and find out what he's been up to. It's what has become known as the guys' Happy New Yoe show!

The fun begins with Andy and Derek asking Craig about his 50th anniversary celebration. As he tells the guys, this year is the golden anniversary of Craig's first contribution to comics culture, a fanzine he published as a kid. And from there, he never looked back. A big part of this celebration is a string of new releases that began late last year. In fact, most of the interview is devoted to a discussion of one of those books, Super Weird Heroes: Outrageous but Real! This is the first of a two-volume -- and maybe a third? -- collection of really strange heroes from comics' Golden Age, written and drawn by some of the medium's most obscure as well as some of its best-known creators. The guys ask Craig about the compilation of this enterprise and its place within the Yoe Books pantheon. They also do deep dives into some of the weirdest of the weird, including the superhero of the cloth The Deacon and his sidekick Mickey; the disembodied hand, The Hand; the crossdressing Madam Fatal; phallic-prone heroes such as Black Cobra, Nature Boy, and The Dart; Kangaroo Man and his Nazi-bashing marsupial pal Bingo; the inexplicable Jeep and Peep; and the nearly naked Phantasmo. Actually, there is a lot of bared flesh to go round in this book.

But the Two Guys also ask Craig about some of his other recent books, including The Return of the ZombiesJay Disbrow's Monster InvasionBehaving MadlyReefer Madness, and the next volume in his Weird Love series. It's an understatement to say that there's a lot to look forward to from Yoe Books in the coming year. Craig Yoe is still the most interviewed guest in Comics Alternative history, and you can rest assured that he'll be back a couple of more times to talk about even more releases in the coming year.

And a special Happy New Year goes out to Clizia Gussoni, Craig's partner and the engine that keeps Yoe Books running. Thank you for all of your help, Clizia!

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