This week on The Comics Alternative podcast, those funky PhDs, Andy and Derek, discuss three recent titles revolving around the mercenary side of crime fighting. They begin with Jules Feiffer's Cousin Joseph (Liveright Publishing), the second in a planned trilogy of noir-tinged graphic novels. It is the follow up to 2014's Kill My Mother, a text that Feiffer discussed with the Two Guys in a previous interview. The events in Cousin Joseph predate those of the earlier book, making it a sort of prequel. In fact, many of the major players in Kill My Mother make appearances in this new work. Most notable are the characters Elsie and Annie, whose husband/father Sam becomes the central figure in the current narrative. Derek and Andy note the fact that Cousin Joseph is a more tightly constructed, and even a more ambitious, work than its predecessor, especially in its engagements with the sociopolitical matters of its setting.
Next, the guys look at the first issue of a new series by Kurtis Wiebe and Mindy Lee. Bounty (Dark Horse Comics) is a futuristic adventure focusing on the exploits of two anticorporate criminal sisters who eventually become bounty hunters. Almost from the beginning, the guys compare this title to Wiebe's Rat Queens, but both Andy and Derek feel that the first issue in this new series lacks the humor and cohesion of the earlier comic. Indeed, there were parts of the story that were unclear -- some of it due to writing, and some because of the its visual perspectives -- and the exposition at the very beginning unintentionally compounded this confusion. Nonetheless, the premise shows promise, and Mindy Lee's art went a long way in carrying the narrative forward.
Finally, the Two Guys wrap up with another first issue...sort of. The Paybacks #1, written by Donny Cates and Eliot Rahal, with art by Geoff Shaw, is part of Heavy Metal's new initiative to produce monthly ongoing series, but this isn't the first time we've seen this title. Last year Dark Horse published the series' first narrative arc, four issues recently collected in a trade, and now this recent manifestation picks up where the earlier one left off. Derek and Andy set a context by discussing the Dark Horse series and then segue into the new issue. The transition between publishers is seamless, with Cates and Rahal sustaining the humor and action of their high concept. But what really gets the guys' attention is Shaw's art, with its detail of character expression and more realistic flourishes. Andy and Derek comment that if The Paybacks is the kind of story we can expect coming out from Heavy Metal Comics, then we might just have a publishing endeavor similar to AfterShock on the horizon.
On this episode of The Comics Alternative‘s “Young Readers” series, Gwen and Andy are back to take a look at two books about robots. (They didn’t plan it that way, really.) Both titles actually have more in common than just robots in that they each address issues of friendship, belonging, and how technology has changed our lives and the lives of our youth. Both books also contain strong young female protagonists whose friends aren’t always human. Gwen starts things off with a look at Veda: Assembly Required (Dark Horse), by Samuel Teer, Hyeondo Park, and Kelly Fitzpatrick. Gwen and Andy both thought the premise of a young girl raised by robots in a factory was interesting and perhaps not as dystopian as you might think. The use of icons as a communication device takes a bit of getting used to, but most readers will quickly adapt to them and will no doubt find they are an essential component of the story. For younger readers, Andy describes Ben Hatke’s new book, Little Robot (First Second), a project writer and illustrator Ben Hatke discussed briefly with the Two Guys in an interview from last year. In this new, largely wordless graphic novel, Hatke takes readers on a journey from the trailer park to a junkyard where a young girl discovers a set of tools and a new friend in the form of a little lost robot. But someone else is looking for this robot, someone whose intentions are not as friendly as our young protagonist. Gwen and Andy discuss not only Hatke’s wonderful artistic and storytelling abilities, but also the fact that he has chosen a young African American girl as his protagonist, something no one else in the comics world seems to be talking about. Hmmm…. In all, Gwen and Andy find it fascinating that both books — by different creators working in different styles — speak to some universal truths of friendship, social constructs, and finding your place in the world. And since we are just a few weeks away from Halloween, Gwen and Andy decided to hand out a few early treats (no tricks, we promise!) in the form of some spooky graphic novel suggestions for teens and younger readers.
On this episode of the interview series, Andy W. and Derek have as their guest Jessica Abel, whose latest book, Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio, was recently released by Broadway Books. In her conversation with the guys, Jessica discusses her history with narrative-based radio and how her earlier work, Radio: An Illustrated Guide (cowritten with Ira Glass), helped to open the door for her exploration of the medium. Out on the Wire is based on over three years of research and hours of interviews she conducted with the creators behind programs such as This American Life, Planet Money, Radiolab, The Moth, and Snap Judgment. The text culls the various storytelling strategies of these producers and dissects their effectiveness. This kind of expositional writing -- or "documentary comics," as Jessica calls it -- is something that the Two Guys rarely discuss, so they use this opportunity as a way into the genre. Along the way they also talk with Jessica about her podcast based on the new book, her work on Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars, her series editorship (along with her husband, Matt Madden) of the annual Best American Comics for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and her earlier books, including La Perdida, the instructional text Drawing Words and Writing Pictures (again, along with Madden), and the series Artbabe. For those interested in storytelling and the spoken word -- and not only for radio, but also as it applies to podcasting -- this interview with Jessica Abel is essential listening.
Andy and Derek are excited to have as their guest on The Comics Alternative the man behind making Nikola Tesla even cooler than he already is: Brian Clevinger. He and his collaborator, Scott Wegener, have recently joined forces with IDW Publishing to bring us more Atomic Robo. And that's definitely something to celebrate! The newest story arc, Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire, began last month, and on top of that, IDW has published the first of what promises to be multiple omnibus editions. Atomic Robo: The Everything Explodes Collection includes the first three story arcs -- The Fighting' Scientist of Tesladyne, The Dogs of War, and The Shadow from Beyond Time -- packaged in a hefty, attractive volume. Brian talks with the guys about his and Scott's decision earlier this year to self-publish Atomic Robo on their website, and then the unlikely and out-of-the-blue opportunity to partner with IDW to bring the title back into the direct market. Along the way, they discuss Brian's penchant for science and history, the evolution and discovery of Atomic Robo's reader demographics, the abundant humor found in the title (especially with Doctor Dinosaur), the creators' process of collaboration, and the use of historic personages within the Tesladyne universe. (Derek lobbies hard to get Mark Twain into this narrative world, complete with time-traveling goodness.) This was an interview long in coming, because the guys devoted most of an episode to Atomic Robo way back in the early days of the podcast, and catching Brian's attention by doing so. Andy talked with him briefly at HeroesCon 2014, but this was the first time the Two Guys have talked with Brian in a sustained and thorough manner. And they had a lot of fun doing so. Check out the interview and see why Atomic Robo is one of the most consistently well-written comics being published today. Action Science!
Welcome to October! And to celebrate the occasion, Andy and Derek do what they do at the beginning of every month: look through the current Previews catalog! And for October, the selections are plentiful and exciting. The guys find a number of upcoming titles from the premier publishers, but there are also many coming out from smaller presses, some of which the guys discuss for the very first time. Among the many upcoming releases they discuss on this month’s Previews show are titles from Dark Horse, Vertigo, Image, IDW, Fantagraphics, Alternative Comics, Creature, Dover Publications, Comicmix, Locust Moon Press, Humanoids, BOOM! Studios, and Viz Media. Also on this episode: Derek encourages everyone to support Salgood Sam’s Patreon campaign, Andy discusses his current situation moisture, the guys express and enthusiastic “Thank you!” to Box and Jared at Big Planet/Retrofit Comics, and Andy shares his deep and abiding love for steampunk comics.
Today, September 30, is International Podcast Day! To celebrate the occasion the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics get together with some of the other cohosts of the show, Gwen Tarbox, Andy Wolverton, and Gene Kannenberg, Jr., to talk about podcasts and podcasting. As such, they don’t necessarily focus on comics podcasts — although podcasts about comics comes up often during the discussion — but instead, they share their insights and experiences concerning a wide variety of podcasts. For example, everybody begins by recounting the first podcasts they ever listened to, or what brought them to the medium. They also discuss how they discern podcasts in terms of topic, content, hosting, and sound quality. And of course, each shares the various podcasts she or he currently listens to on a regular or semi-regular basis…and how and when they listen to them. They even discuss their work on The Comics Alternative and how their experiences as podcasters have affected the way they listen to (and critique) other podcasts. But overall, everyone has a great time getting together — the first time more than three cohosts appear on the same show! — and talking about a medium that has increasingly become a part of their lives. So sit back, fire up that listening device of choice, and enjoy the fun that is The Comics Alternative celebrating International Podcast Day.
For the September episode of the manga series, Shea and Derek discuss two very different titles, although both heavily invested in popular genres. They begin with Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki's The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Ominibus 1 (Dark Horse Books), a different take on both horror and detective narratives. Although the English-language releases of this title began in 2006, Dark Horse has just this month published the first of the omnibus editions, one that collects the first three volumes of the series. The guys begin by describing the premise as a cross between supernatural horror and Scooby-Doo, where you have a bunch of young investigators, each with a particular set of skills informing their unique form of "detecting." (Derek also compares Otsuka's storylines to The Rockford Files, another series featuring an unlikely investigator constantly down on his luck.) Both enjoy the title well enough, although Shea is less impressed than is Derek, feeling that the routine becomes formulaic rather quickly and that the individual characters are never fully realized, at least in the segments featured in this initial omnibus edition. Next, the Two Guys turn to the first two volumes of One-Punch Man, a satiric series by the pseudonymous One with art by Yusuke Murata (VIZ Media). This began as a webcomic by One in 2009, but then Murata helped to remake the series a few years later, and VIZ Media's recent release of volumes 1 and 2 are the first print versions in English (although originally serialized in the digital Weekly Shonen Jump magazine). Both of the guys love One and Murata's humorous spin on the superhero and shonen formulas, although Derek wonders if the premise may soon wear thin (an inverse of what the guys felt about Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service). However, it is Murata's art that solidly captures the guys' attention. As a result, both Shea and Derek are interested in seeing how this series develops, especially if it continues to bring the keen genre-deconstructing insights found in the first two volumes.
On this episode of the interview series, Andy and Derek are happy to have as their guest Dean Mullaney, the editor of IDW’s the Library of American Comics and the EuroComics series. His most recent book, The King of the Comics: One Hundred Years of King Features Syndicate will be coming out next month, just in time for the world-famous syndicate’s centennial. Dean talks with the Two Guys about the process of gathering strips, his experiences digging through library archives, the importance of working with collectors and enthusiasts, and the challenges of culling the most representative selections for each of his volumes. His new King Features project is no exception, and in fact, Dean describes it as one of his most ambitious, and satisfying, collections to date. Coming in at over 300 pages, the book covers the entire history of the syndicate, even touching upon the early days of William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers. Derek and Andy also talk with Dean about a couple of his other recent works, Bravo for Adventure, Alex Toth’s magnum opus that has been collected in book form for the first time, and the second release in EuroComics’ definitive English-language editions of Hugo Pratt’s landmark series, Corto Maltese: Beyond the Windy Isles. Both speak to Mullaney’s passion for classic comics as well as his expertise as an editor/curator. Along the way, the guys also discuss Dean’s award-winning Genius Alex Toth series, the edited Terry and the Pirates volumes, and his seminal work at Eclipse Comics. This is a must-listen episode for anyone interested in comics strips, comics history, and comics preservation.
And here it is, the third (and final) of the three on-location shows of interviews Derek and Andy W. conducted while at last weekend's Small Press Expo. At the event, the Two Guys spoke with a number of creators attending SPX, interviewing each for anywhere from 5 to around 20 minutes. In some cases, the guys are quite familiar with the artist's works (and may even have reviewed their comics on past episodes). At other times, Andy or Derek may not know the work of the creator, but use the interview opportunity to learn more about the artist. In this episode, you will hear conversations with Amy Godfrey & Patrick Holt, Will Dinski, R. Sikoryak, Jay Hosler, Nick Bertozzi, Jason Little, Simon Rinehardt, and Mickey Zacchilli. The exhibition hall of SPX 2015 was packed, and, as a result, the din of the crowd was at times difficult to talk over. But the Two Guys addressed the sound challenges as best they could. Sometimes they talked with the creators at their tables, and at other times -- such as the interviews with R. Sikoryak, Nick Bertozzi, and Jason Little -- they were able to find a space away from the exhibition floor where the sound was less chaotic. The first two segments of the guys' on-location interview shows from SPX went up on Thursday and on Friday. And be sure to check out Derek's much longer conversation with Bill Griffith that was released separately.
This is the second of three on-location interview shows based on Derek and Andy W.’s attendance at last weekend’s Small Press Expo. At the event, the Two Guys took the opportunity to talk with several creators exhibiting at SPX, interviewing each for anywhere from 5 to around 20 minutes. In some cases, the guys are quite familiar with the artist’s works (and may even have reviewed their comics on past episodes). At other times, Andy or Derek may not know the work of the creator, but use the interview opportunity to learn more about the artist. In this episode, you will hear conversations with Dakota McFadzean, Andy Warner, Jonathan Baylis, Amelia Onorato, Sam Spina, Keith Knight, Gregory Benton, and Dean Haspiel. The exhibition hall of SPX 2015 was packed, and, as a result, the din of the crowd was at times difficult to talk over. But the Two Guys addressed the sound challenges as best they could. Sometimes they talked with the creators at their tables, and at other times — such as the interviews with Gregory Benton and Dean Haspiel — they were able to find a space off the floor where the sound was less chaotic. The final on-location interview episode will be released on Saturday. The first was published yesterday. And be sure to check out Derek’s much longer conversation with Bill Griffith that was released separately.
Last weekend, Andy W. and Derek attended Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD. While there, they were able to interview a variety of creators about their recent releases, their larger body of work, and any future projects they may be working on. The result was an impressive collection of interviews -- 28 in all -- each of which lasted from anywhere between 5 minutes to over 20 minutes. The guys have now edited these conversations and are presenting them in a series of three on-location interview episodes conducted at SPX. In this first installment, Derek and Andy talk with Derf Backderf, Theora Kvitka, Ethan Riley, Miss Lasko-Gross, Stuart & Kathryn Immonen, Jennifer Jordan & Sophie Goldstein, Gina Wynbrandt, Julian Hanshaw, Kristen Gudsnuk, Rune Ryberg, Ben Towle, Cole Closser, and Meags Fitzgerald. The exhibition hall of SPX was packed, and, as a result, the din of the crowd was at times difficult to talk over. But the Two Guys persevered, despite the sound challenges. Sometimes they talked with the creators at their tables, and at other times -- such as the interviews with Cole Closser and Meages Fitzgerald -- they were able to find a space outside of the hall that demonstrated less auditory chaos. Two other episodes of on-location interviews will be released on Friday and Saturday. Derek's much longer conversation with Bill Griffith was released separately. But for now, enjoy the smooth, creamy, indie goodness of today's installment.
This week's episode of the podcast is special, and in a number of ways. First, Derek and Andy W. record the show "live" from a common location and not from a distance via Skype. Also, they discuss their experiences at this year's Small Press Expo, which took place September 19-20. Most importantly, though, this episode is notable for its focus on the 2015 Ignatz Awards, the first time that the Two Guys have discussed this industry recognition in any in-depth manner. In fact, almost the entire episode is devoted to the Ignatz nominees, a substantial number of texts, and as a result, this show goes longer than usual. And they break up recording the show over a two-day period: the first third after day one of SPX (and before the Ignatz winners have been announced), and the final segment after the event has ended. Andy and Derek begin by sharing some of their experiences at SPX, including the people they met, the creators they talked with, the small press publishers who attended, and the general demographics of the crowd (this was a con that definitely skewed young). Then they go into a rundown of all the 2015 Ignatz Award nominees, discussing the nine different categories and briefly highlighting the five nominees under each. There are some categories, such as "Outstanding Anthology or Collection," that the guys find a little problematic. Both Andy and Derek feel that a collection by a single artist and an anthology comprising a variety are completely different beasts and, as such, shouldn't be clumped together in this manner. There are others, including "Promising New Talent" and "Outstanding Comic," that would benefit by clearer context. (For example, what exactly defines a "new talent," and how might an "outstanding comic" be distinguished from an "outstanding graphic novel"?) In the final segments of the episode -- the last 2/3 that was recorded after that final day of SPX -- Derek and Andy go into detail about many of the titles nominated for an Ignatz. They list the winners of each category, which were made public on Saturday night of the con, and provide a few observations. The Ignatz Awards winners are chosen by popular vote, anyone who attends the event can cast a ballot, so the Two Guys with PhDs take some of the results with a sizable grain of salt. For example, they're surprised by the fact that neither Noah Van Sciver and Ethan Riley (both highly accomplished and nominated multiple times) received anything. Or that Drawn and Quarterly: 25 Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels was shut out. Or how Sophia Foster-Dimino came out as she did. Still, one of the most notable takeaways from this year's ceremony is the fact that women completely swept the awards, so this is definitely a year of significance. After a brief discussion of the winners, Andy and Derek get into a detailed analysis of may of the nominated titles, especially focusing on those works they've not yet discussed on previous episodes. These include Ed Luce's Wuvable Oaf (Fantagraphics), Jillian Tamaki's SuperMutant Magic Academy (Drawn and Quarterly) and "Sex Coven" (from Frontier #7, published by Youth in Decline), M. Dean's K.M. & R.P. & MCMLXXI (1971), Walter Scott's Wendy (Koyama Press), Gina Wyndbrandt's Big Pussy (2D Cloud), Jason Little's Borb (Uncivilized Books), John Porcellino's King Cat #75, and Georgia Webber's Dumb series. There are so many great titles to cover, and as a result, the show goes longer than the guys anticipated. But that's OK. SPX and the Ignatz Awards only come once a year, so why not take advantage of this celebrated occasion?
While at this year's Small Press Expo, Derek had the opportunity to talk with the great Bill Griffith, whose new book from Fantagraphics, Invisible Ink: My Mother's Secret Love Affair with a Famous Cartoonist, debuted at the event and will soon be available in stores everywhere. As the subtitle suggests, this is a different kind of book for Griffith, a radical departure from his syndicated Zippy strip. Not only is it a deeply personal and moving memoir, but it's his first long-form work in comics. It is a narrative of his mother's sixteen-year love affair with a prolific and recognizable cartoonist of the of the 1950s and 1960s. But even more than that, it's Bill's own story about the discover of his mother's hidden secret -- he learned about the affair in 1972, right after the death of his father -- and his ongoing attempts to undercover the details and understand the dynamics of a family life now long behind him. Indeed, Invisible Ink can be read as a detective narrative, with its autobiographic protagonist visiting aged relatives, investigating long-forgotten documents, and putting together the pieces of his parents' lives that may never render a complete picture. Perhaps most notable, Invisible Ink is a book about family and memory. Time itself stands as a central focus of the text, with Griffith juxtaposing past and present events in a very fluid and psychologically revealing manner. Dreams and fantasies become tangible. Reminiscences define current reality. In all, it is a narrative that is Faulknerian in scope. In his interview with Derek, Griffith discusses the circumstances surrounding Invisible Ink and the history of its gestation. But the conversation doesn't end with the new book. The two also discuss Bill's time in underground comix, his world-famous Zippy the Pinhead, the unlikely backstory of Zippy's syndication with King Features, and the eventual winding down of the strip's current Dingburg run (which began in 2007). Equal parts history, insights, and laughter, Derek's interview with Bill Griffith was perhaps the highlight of his time at SPX 2015. Yow!
The Comics Alternative is happy to feature a brand new monthly series, this one devoted to comics and graphic novels for young readers. The cohosts for this show are Gwen Tarbox and Andy Wolverton. Longtime listeners of the podcast will know that Andy is an old hand at cohosting duties, filling in for Andy Kunka occasionally and, up until recently, being the cohost on the monthly webcomics series. (In fact, Andy left the webcomics show so that he could pursue this new idea.) Gwen is a professor of children's and young adult narrative, especially as it applies to comics. This is her first time cohosting a podcast, and everyone at The Comics Alternative is excited about having her on the team. Now, every month Gwen and Andy will look at two recent comics written for a young audience, one for teenage or young adult readers and another title devoted to younger children. For their inaugural episode of Two PhDs Talking About Comics for Young Readers, discuss recent developments in comics for children and teenagers, and they reference Raising a Reader! How Comics and Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love To Read! This resource, written by Dr. Meryl Jaffe and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier and Matthew Holm, provides parents and educators with advice on how to share comics with children. (A shorter version of this text is available on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s website.) Gwen and Andy also talk about connecting kids with comics, beginning with an exploration of recommended comics lists put out by the Eisner Awards committee and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). For the last few years, the Eisner Awards have included categories for early readers, kids, and teens, and YALSA, a part of the American Library Association, publishes lists of recommended graphic novels for middle grade and high school readers. During the review section of the program, Andy and Gwen discuss Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCool and Emily Carroll (Candlewick Press). Both are impressed by the depiction of Masha, a young woman who comes to terms with changes in her family life and learns to stand up for herself by matching wits with Baba Yaga, a character who walks off of the pages of Slavic folklore and into Masha’s life. Gwen and Andy discuss the text’s effective use of flashbacks and embedded narratives, and praise Carroll’s use of color to evoke mood and to signal shifts between past and present. Next, they talk about the semi-autobiographical graphic novel Sunny Side Up (Graphix), written by Jennifer Holm and with art by Matthew Holm, the sister/brother team behind such popular children’s comics series as Babymouse and Squish. Noting that Sunny Side Up contains much to interest both adult and child readers, they focus on the way that the Holms capture many features of life in the 1970s while telling a story with contemporary relevance about the impact of substance abuse on a close-knit family. Although the text deals with serious subject matter, the Holms employ a gentle humor and a relatable child protagonist who, like Masha in Baba Yaga’s Assistant, learns to confront her fears and to turn a summer long visit with her grandfather into a journey of discovery. Parents will enjoy the many references to 1970s popular culture, and kids will learn about the transformative power of comics in the lives of Sunny and her friend Buzz. All in all, both Gwen and Andy bring their rich experiences -- she as an instructor and he as a librarian -- into their analyses, and this first show is just a small taste of many insights and recommendations to come. This is a must-listen podcast series for every teacher, librarian, parent, and reader of comics intended for younger audiences.
This week the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics explore four new titles, each quite different one from the other. They begin with the new graphic novel from New Zealand creator Ant Sang, The Dharma Punks (Conundrum Press). On the surface it is a story about coming to terms with death, but there's much more going on in this 415-page book. In fact, this is one of the most ambitious narratives the guys have encountered so far this year, and certainly the most philosophical. Its protagonist, Chopstick, tries to comes to grips with the suicide of a close friend and what that loss means in his own life, while at the same time participating in an anarchist act against a corporate franchise. The events in the book take place roughly over a two-day period, but one of strengths of this narrative is how Sang manipulates time in a Faulkner-like manner, making the past ever-present. This is a rich and complex text, and at times Gene and Derek feel at a loss trying to put the gist of The Dharma Punks into words for an audio podcast. Next, the guys take on a much more constrained narrative, but one that is nonetheless multifaceted in its own ways, Noah Van Sciver's My Hot Date (Kilgore Books). This is an autobiographical comic, and as the title suggests, it's about a date that the fourteen-year-old Noah has with someone he met via America Online. Van Sciver has written short memoir-inspired stories in the past, but this is the longest, and definitely the most humorously self-deprecating, that he's produced to date. This is just one of the many comics that Van Sciver has released over the past year, many of which are published through Kilgore Books...a growing presences in the Two Guys' arsenal of go-to small publishers. After that, Derek and Gene turn their attention to the first issue in Rick Remender and Sean Murphy's new series from Image Comics, Tokyo Ghost. This is a futuristic story that takes as its premise the overriding and ever-present impact of on-demand digital culture in our lives. This inaugural issue does a fine job of setting up this narrative world, but Gene wonders if the nonstop action and complex visuals may be too much at times. Lastly, the guys take a brief look at an issue of an online zine they have just discovered, Jackie Batey's FutureFantasteek! Issue #16 was released at the beginning of 2015, and while the latest installment can stand on its own, Derek and Gene suggest that the title can best be appreciated when read over the course of its run. For those with a diverse taste in comics, this episode is definitely for you!
The Two Guys are happy to have as their guests Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko. Their first collected volume of Invisible Republic has just recently been released, and the guys talk with the creators about the origins of this project, its initial incubation period, and their efforts in bringing the series to Image Comics. Invisible Republic is a science fiction narrative, taking place on a distant moon in the Gliese system in the twenty-eighth century, but it's much more of a story of political intrigue set against a backdrop of journalistic investigation. The first trade collects issues #1-5 of the series, and the next narrative arc begins later this month with issue #6. Derek and Andy W. also ask Corinna and Gabriel about their collaborative relationship, their work on Invisible Republic as well as other series (including the Planet of the Apes franchise), and how it may complement -- or perhaps even challenge -- their personal partnership. The guys also use the opportunity to talk with the two about their other creator-owned projects, such as Kinski, Heathentown, and the upcoming The Crooked Man. The topics of beekeeping, pet ownership, and even Donald Trump (unfortunately) make their ways into their conversation, making this a well-rounded talk. There is a lot packed into this interview, and the discussion that unfolds is one of the most thought-provoking you'll hear in any comics podcast.
On this episode of the interview show, Andy and Derek have as their guest Glenn Head, whose new book Chicago: A Comix Memoir was just released from Fantagraphics. They talk with Glenn extensively about the the work and how it is a marked departure from his previous comics. Chicago is Glenn's coming-of-age account of leaving Madison, NJ, in 1977 to attend the Cleveland Institute of Art, and then deciding to find himself by suddenly running off to Chicago with no friends, no money, and no plans. He quickly finds himself destitute, panhandling on the streets, and young prey for any number of nefarious forces. Between homeless shelters and McDonald's meals, Glenn tries to make his way into the comics business, along the way meeting the likes Skip Williamson, Robert Crumb, and even Muhammed Ali. His sojourn in the Windy City leads him down some dark paths, but not nearly as dark as the aftermath back home in Madison where he begins to process the events and come to terms with what those Chicago experiences meant to him. This isn't the first time that Glenn has created autobiographically tinged comics -- such pieces had appeared in some of his older comics, such as Avenue D and Guttersnipe -- but this is the first time he has done so in longer form. Indeed, this is Glenn's first sustained book-length narrative, having defined much of his career through shorter comics collected in various anthologies, such as Weirdo and Zero Zero, or by editing collections of his own, such Snake Eyes and, most recently, Hotwire Comics. The guys talk with Glenn about those projects, as well, and discuss with him the changes he's witnessed in the field between the final days of the underground comix to the legitimization of the "graphic novel" form. So this isn't just an interview with an established creator about his latest book. It's also a conversation about the current state of comics with a witness to that form's decades-long trajectory.
Mullets, Cheesecake, and Fantasyville</itunes:subtitle>
<itunes:summary>For September's webcomics episode, Sean and Derek have some fun titles lined up for you, the devoted Comics Alternative listener. They begin with an incredible futuristic sci-fi series partially informed by one of the worst hairstyles to come out of the 1970s/1980s. Daniel Warren Johnson's Space Mullet is the story of an ex-United-Earth-space-marine-turned-space-trucker and his partner, a sensitive yet wisecracking Zozobian, as they try to come to terms with their pasts as their pasts doggedly continue to creep back into their lives. The guys are absolutely taken by Johnson's highly detailed art -- Sean, in particular, loves Johnson's spaceships, although he's not entirely thrilled by the way the protagonist's mustache is drawn -- as well as the complex way in which his story is unfolding. They point out that the webcomic does not come out as consistently as the creator would like, and he apologizes often for this fact. But that's OK; given the quality of Space Mullet, the guys are more than willing to wait. After that, Derek and Sean turn their attention to Bachan's Vinny: El Perro de la Balbuena. This began as a Spanish-language webcomic several years ago, and now the artist is going back and translating this strips into English...a process that is helping him to learn the language, he says. But to read Vinny, you wouldn't know there's been any translation of any sort, as the story and the comedy are smooth and seamless. This is a strip that reminds the guys of the old Tex Avery cartoons, as well as Ren and Stimpy. Lots of physical comedy, lots of action, lots of exaggerated fun. Finally, the Two Guys wrap up with a webcomic that just recently ended, Kelci Crawford's Johnson and Sir. This one is quite different from the other titles discussed in this episode. While Space Mullet is an ongoing narrative with multiple and complex story arcs, and while Vinny is a serial with a clearly discernible through-line, Johnson and Sir is more like a daily gag strip. In fact, much of Crawford's humor is reminiscent of the kind of comics you'd find in a daily newspaper. There is, at times, some story across installments, but the real impact of the comic is its one-time comedic punch. And Crawford's sense of humor includes elven police officers, fairies, dinosaurs, and aliens all populating a fantasyland that is not too dissimilar from our own. Be sure to check out all of the webcomics highlighted this month!
On this week's review show, Derek and Andy W. look at three new titles, beginning with the new graphic novel from Ethan Young, Nanjing: The Burning City (Dark Horse). This is a riveting historically based narrative centered on Japan's actions against the Chinese Nationalist capital during the Second Sino-Japanese War. It involves a captain in the Republic of China's army trapped within Nanjing, now overrun by the Japanese, and his attempts to get himself and one of his soldiers out to safety. Young never flinches from the horrors of the war, yet at the same time he never falls prey to the temptation of demonizing the aggressor. His is a very human story, and both the invading Japanese troops and Chinese victims are shown in all of their complexities. Next, the guys discuss the first issue of Jeff Lemire and Emi Lenox's new series, Plutona (Image). This is a different kind of spin to the superhero genre, and the story begins by introducing us to a group of five suburban kids, each with his or her own personality and complications. What binds them all together is the discovery of the titular character, one of their city's crime-fighting heroes who now lies inert in the woods. What makes this first so compelling is not only Lenox's unique art, but the colors provided by Jordie Bellaire. And this more conventional narrative stands in stark contrast to the third title the guys discuss, Michael DeForge's Lose #7 (Koyama Press). This is the latest in DeForge's annual one-man anthology series, and in this issue we get three stories. The first and third are short, untitled abstract narratives, but the middle story is longer and more traditional in its construction. "Movie Star" is an unusual tale about a daughter whose father unexpectedly finds his long-lost sibling and how this discovery changes his life in unlikely ways. As Andy points out, all of the stories in this latest issue of Lose are thematically linked by a search for identity. In fact, you could look at all of the comics discussed on this episode as dealing with this very theme.
The Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics are proud to have as their guest Marisa Acocella Marchetto. Her new graphic novel, Ann Tenna, was just released by Knopf, and it’s a fantastical, sci-fi-infused story of psychological balance and self-discovery in our overly “media-cated” culture. The titular protagonist, a glamorous, super-connected entrepreneur of glitz and gossip, becomes disconnected from her higher self…literally. Her cosmic doppleganger, Superann, steps into Ann’s life via a near-fatal accident, and results are a hard-cold lesson in emotional and interpersonal priorities. Along the way, Ann visits psychedelic celestial planes, experiences out-of-this-world fashions, rubs elbows with the spirits of Coco Chanel and Heinrich Hertz, and taps into universal networks of communication that put our social media to shame. Andy and Derek talk with Marisa about the genesis of of this narrative and how it fits in with her earlier books, Just Who the Hell Is She, Anyway? and Cancer Vixen. They learn that Ann Tenna actually has long roots dating back to some of Marisa’s earliest comics efforts, but that the story evolved over time to take on deeper meaning informed by the author’s own traumatic experiences. In fact, they spend a good bit of time talking with Marisa about Cancer Vixen, how that book has helped define her career, and about her efforts as the founder and chair of the Marisa Acocella Marchetto Foundation at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Comprehensive Cancer Center. Along the way, the guys make it a point to address Marisa’s sense of humor, her work for The New Yorker, her iconographic fascination (obsession?) with eyes, her razor-sharp word play, and the cool font that she created specifically for the new book. So get those antennas up and consider this podcast episode a most necessary transmission, beaming to you with love from the other-worldly offices of Comics Alternative Central.
Another month is upon us, so that means it must be time for Andy and Derek to open up the latest Previews catalog and begin making out their wish lists. (Actually, Derek is the only one opening up the catalog. Andy finds himself without one for this month, having to rely only on text-only order form.) Most of solicits in the September catalog will be released in either November or December, just in time for the holidays, and the guys wondered if this would be another chock-full issue leading to another longish episode of the podcast. They got their answer fairly quickly. They cover a lot in this episode. However, there’s much more that the Two Guys wanted to highlight, but there’s only so much time to record the episode (plus, toward the end, the guys were getting a little tired and hungry). Also in this episode, the guys fantasize about themselves being tastemakers, discuss the challenges in teaching Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, and highlight Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s memorable run on The Demon. More notably, Andy ridicules Derek on his critique of the Lumberjanes phenomenon, and Derek punches back. Do we have the beginnings of another Beyond Watchmen fracas between the Two Guys?
On this month's manga episode, Shea and Derek discuss two distinctly different titles. They begin with Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga (DC Comics). The second in this planned three-volume series, collecting all of Kuwata's Batman work, just came out last month, and the Two Guys look at both volumes one and two. These Batmanga stories were originally serialized in Japan between 1966 and 1967, at the height of the Adam West Batman craze, and both Derek and Shea comment on how much Kuwata's stories were informed by that TV series, as well as by the "New Look" of earlier in the decade. At the same time, this manga never comes across as intentionally campy or self-conscious of itself as a pop-cultural product. In fact, one of the guys' first topics of conversation is how much Kuwata's Batman takes from its American version and how much is unique and original to the manga. Surprisingly, there are relatively few American imports into the Batmanga stories -- Jim Gordon is prominent throughout, and both Alfred Pennyworth and Vicki Vale make brief appearances -- and the villains in Kuwata's stories are either street-level thugs or unique to the manga. Indeed, Derek comments on the weirdness of many of Batman's nemeses in these stories -- at least, more weirdly off-beat than those in the American version -- including Lord Death Man, the Human Ball, Professor Gorilla, the Hangman, and, one of his favorites, Go-Go the Magician. (Clayface is the focus of a chapter in the second volume, but it's a different Clayface from the American version.) These are definitely stories of their time, and the guys point out that Kuwata's Batmanga is perhaps best read as a rich cultural artifact. To fully appreciate Batman, you should understand the property's many historical contexts and manifestations. Next, the guys look at the the first volume in Dark Horse Comics' new Oh My Goddess! Omnibus series. Neither Shea nor Derek knew exactly what to expect with Kosuke Fujishima legendary title, except for the fact that it was a widely popular manga series. Derek expected something along the line of josei, and Shea thought that the title might be defined by several of the stereotypes many readers may have regarding manga. But both were pleasantly surprised, especially Derek, who appreciated the episodic, TV-sitcom-like nature of this seinen manga. In fact, as the guys point out, you can gain about everything you need to now about the series' premise in the book's first chapter, "The Number You Have Dailed Is Incorrect." From there, the remaining 22 chapters of this first omnibus follow suit, occasionally introducing new characters and situations that build upon the foundation laid down in the first. Shea is less impressed by Fujishima's meandering storylines, but Derek enjoys the casual, even charming, manner in which we get to know Keiichi, Belldandy, and the rest of the Oh My Goddess! cast. The reader's comfort and enjoyment levels develop as the series unfolds, and, as Shea points out, taking in a chapter of Oh My Goddess! is like eating a favorite food or returning to a reliable friend. However, for some (such as Shea) this is a title that might be best experienced on a regular serialized basis, and not consumed all at once in omnibus form. Regardless, both of the guys are glad that they've discovered Fujishima's recently completed series -- the final chapter was published in April 2014 -- and they'll probably return for the next omnibus volume that comes out late this year.
This week the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics look at three recent titles, each one an example of genre mash-up. They begin with a new book that isn't really so new. Philippe Druillet's The 6 Voyages of Lone Sloane (Titan Comics) is actually a reprint of a series of stories originally published in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine Pilote between 1970 and 1971, and then later made available to English speakers through both Dark Horse Comics and NBM. Each short narrative centers on the titular character, a space wanderer/adventurer who encounters a variety of pirates, robotic threats, despotic rulers, and space gods along his multi-dimensional journeys. Druillet's style is colorful, lush, and baroque, demonstrating much of the cultural psychedelia of the time, and the artwork is nicely showcased through the bandes dessinées format in which Titan Comics chose to publish this edition. Derek and Gene discuss in some detail Druillet's non-traditional panel layout and how he utilizes the mise-en-page to both generate meaning in unique ways and demonstrate a playfulness engaging reader expectations. This is the first in a series of Lone Sl0ane narratives that Titan will reproduce, the next two featuring his adventures originally published in 1972's Delirius. After these fantasy-inspired space quests, the guys turn their attention to something more earth-bound, although not necessarily of this world. Ales Kot and Matt Taylor's Wolf (Image Comics) is a curious blend of supernatural and noir conventions featuring werewolves, vampires, ghosts, demons, Cthulu, and possibly the Antichrist. The second issue was just released, so Gene and Derek are able to discuss this new series with quite a number of pages under their belts. Ironically, though, the guys aren't entirely sure what's going on in this title, despite the almost-60-pages first issue and the regularly sized second. Kot and Taylor have laid out their narrative groundwork, for the most part, but there just isn't much that happens in these first two issues. Despite the intriguing premise and the promise of socio-cultural pertinence, this may be a title that reads better in trade...or so Gene and Derek wonder. An inaugural issue with much more action can be found in Bradford Winters, Larry Cohen, and Daniel Irizarri's Americatown #1 (BOOM! Studios/Archaia). What drew the guys to this new series is its premise, a futuristic or alternative world where U.S. citizens become illegal immigrant workers in other countries, sending back their earnings to provide for their families while they evade the surveillance and deportation. Given recent political news -- thanks largely to that paragon of civil discourse, Donald Trump -- Americatown is a timely speculation on national boundaries and economic survival. Gene especially appreciates Irizarri's art, and it is for this reason, as well, that both he and Derek are likely to return regularly to this eight-issue limited series and not wait for it to be collected.
On this episode of the interview show, Derek talks with Jeremy Baum about his latest book, Dörfler (Fantagraphics), a dream-like narrative that combines elements of fantasy, science fiction, psychedelia, pin-up art, and video-game tropes. Structured around multiple (primarily) female characters who appear to inhabit different dimensional realms, Baum’s story is both futuristic as well as surreal. His highly detailed art, composed primarily of grays and blue tones, reveals a dystopic landscape that juxtaposes urban modernity with pastoral themes, resulting in a discursive narrative where both time and space are fluid. Jeremy talks with Derek about the psychological nature of his art and how the philosophies of such writers and artists as Carl Jung, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Robert Crumb inform his aesthetics. This is born out most notably in the visual leitmotifs that not only crop up throughout Dörfler, but also largely define Jeremy other works. In fact, the two go on to discuss much of Jeremy’s previous comics, including Heathen (a collection of his earlier graphic art and shorter sequential pieces) and his first long-form narrative, Postland. Derek also asks about Jeremy’s role as an editor and self-publisher, overseeing his own releases as well as the ambitious anthology, Memory, an internationally flavored collection with over 50 contributors. If you’re not already familiar with the unique art of Jeremy Baum, then this interview should serve as an informative introduction.
The Two Guys are back with another special episode of The Comics Alternative, and, just in time for the new school year, this time they hold a roundtable discussion on teaching comics. Joining them in the discussion are Randy Duncan and Matthew J. Smith. They, along with Paul Levitz, are the coauthors of The Power of Comics: History, Form, and Culture (Bloomsbury Academic), the first real textbook devoted to comics that was just recently released in its second edition. In fact, Derek begins the conversation by asking Matt and Randy about their experiences pulling together the project, some of the challenges they faced creating a comics-centered textbook, and what kind of feedback they have received from instructors using it. But the conversation soon transitions into a larger discussion of comics in the classrooms, e.g., strategies for teaching, the hard choices when creating syllabi, negotiating student expectations, reading lists and text availability, assignment choices that reflect the medium, and course focus on specific comics topics. All four of the discussants have taught comics many times over the year, and each brings to the conversation their unique experiences and recommendations. Whether you are an educator with years of teaching graphic novels under your belt, an instructor contemplating teaching comics for the first time, a student who's always wanted to read this kind of material in the classroom, a pedagogical theorist curious about the potential of the medium, or just a reader who's interested in serious comics talk, this is an episode has something for you.