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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: Category: on-location
Jan 20, 2017

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 AmericaPlanet of the Apes/Green Lantern, Hatchet, more Head Lopper, Black 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.

Dec 16, 2016

For the December on-location episode at Valhalla Games and Comics, Derek talks with customers and shop employees about their favorite comics from the past twelve months. This is a look back at the various series, events, collections, and original graphic novels that made the biggest impressions in 2016. Joining in on the conversation are some of the usuals -- Stephanie, Matt, and Craig -- but Josh, a new fan of the shop and of the podcast, shows up to share his thoughts, as well. As might be expected, most of the titles discussed are from the Big Two universes, but there are a number of other titles that also resonated. One of the big takeaways from this conversation is the possible fatigue that is setting in when it comes to superhero events, especially as it relates to Marvel Comics. However, for some readers, a bright counterbalance can be found in IDW's "Revolution"crossover event.

Did 2016 really, really suck? Yes, especially when it comes to politics and the possibility of social progress. But regarding comics culture, the guys at Valhalla Games and Comics have a different opinion.

Josh, Craig, and Stephanie discuss their favorites of 2016.
Nov 18, 2016

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.

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Oct 31, 2016

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Derek is back at his local comic shop, Valhalla Games and Comics in Plano, TX, for the October on-location episode. But it is also Halloween ComicFest 2016, adding even more flavor into mix. He is joined by customers of the shop, some of them in costume, to discuss horror comics, Halloween specials, as well as scary movies and games. They spend  much of their time discussing the many free comic-book offerings for this year's Halloween ComicFest. Derek is particularly interested in the special horror manga issues, such as VIZ Media's Tomie and Drawn and Quarterly's Shigeru Mizuki's Kitaro: Strange Fun for Everyone. But there are many other titles that the gang discusses, ranging from holiday-appropriate (e.g., Comix Tribe's Mummy's Always Right, American Mythology's The Three Stooges Halloween Hullabaloo, and the BoooOOOoooM! Box Halloween Haunt 2016) to Halloween-free, such as several offerings from DC and Marvel.

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Sep 26, 2016

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In this final episode of the on-location interviews conducted at Small Press Expo last weekend, Derek talks with Theora Kvitka, Sophie Goldstein, Melanie Gillman, Carolyn Nowak, Zack Soto, Jarod Roselló, Kevin Budnik, Andrea Tsurumi, Julia Gfrörer, and Joshua W. Cotter. Much thanks to everyone who was a part of these SPX episodes, the creators as well as the publishers, and who made all of these recordings possible!

Sep 23, 2016

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In this second in a three-episode series of on-location interviews conducted at Small Press Expo this past weekend, Derek talks with Jessica Campbell, Molly Ostertag, Pranas Naujokaitis, Luke Healy, Kel McDonald, Dakota McFadzean, C. Spike Trotman, Cheese Hasselburger, and Keiler Roberts.

Sep 22, 2016

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This past weekend, Andy W. and Derek attended Small Press Expo in North Bethesda, MD. While there, the Two Guys interviewed a variety of creators about their recent releases and their upcoming projects. In all, Derek and Andy were able to conduct 27 different interviews, each of which lasted from anywhere between 2 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 John Martz, Jay Hosler, Blue Delliquanti, Ulises Fariñas, Storm Smith, Ted Stearn, Emma Glaze, Daryl Seitchik, and Sean O'Neill.

Sep 16, 2016

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The September on-location episode marks a first for The Comics Alternative. Derek is now talking with customers and employees at Valhalla Games and Comics in Plano, TX...which is at the same exact physical location where he's been doing the on-location show for the past few years. What had once been Collected is now Valhalla! But the people and comics inside have remained the same. Talking with Derek this month are some of the shop regulars, including Krystle, Craig, and Nick. They begin by discussing the recent change in ownership -- and, unfortunately, neither Valhalla's owner, David Larson, nor Sabrina, the shop manager, were able to be there -- and everyone's excitement over the changes in store. But then they get into the core of this month's discussion, which is on crime comics. Craig comes prepared with a big stack of recent examples, including The FixThe Baker Street Peculiars, and The Black Monday Murders. And Nick chimes in with crime titles he'd recommend, as well. The conversation gets even more lively when Derek questions Craig on his definition of "superhero," which he seems to apply in a much less discriminating way than the others. They spend a good deal of time discussing examples of outright noir, such as Scalped and 100 Bullets, and genre-blending crime comics such as FataleWeird Detective, and even The Spirit. All in all, this was a successful first recording at the new Valhalla Games and Comics!

Aug 19, 2016

This month for the on-location recording at Collected Comics and Games in Plano, TX, the discussion table is rather crowded. Derek is joined by many of the regular Collected customers -- Craig, Matt, and Nick -- but joining the conversation for the first time are Tristan, Chris, and Carrie, as well as Brian, the shop's newest associate. The talk begins with Craig's recounting of his own experiences at this year's San Diego Comic-Com, but then it segues into a discussion of recent comics that folks have been reading. Some of those titles include Grant Morrison's KlausDivinity IIBlack HammerBackstagersGiant DaysVoltron Legendary DefenderFight Club 2Black PantherWonder Woman, and various Brian K. Vaughan titles.  They also discuss several comics-related Netflix shows, DC's upcoming Young Animal series, and writers in other media who have tried their hands in comics. Needless to say, this is a packed episode with a full table of participants and plenty of topics to go around.

Jul 8, 2016

Derek is back at his local shop, Collected Comics and Games in Plano, TX, to talk with customers and shop employees about the comics they're reading. And for the month of July, the topic of conversation is summer reading. Many of the shop regulars are there, and store manager Sabrina and her associate, Stephanie, join in the discussion, as well. The conversation begins with DC Comics' Rebirth titles and how the quality of those stories are resonating with the gang (most of which are Marvel die-hards). That discussion leads to talk about the seemingly endless string of Big Two events and how even publishers such as IDW are seeing the need to create crossover events of their own. Other summer reading for the Collected gang includes How to Talk to Girls at Parties, Jade Street Protection ServicesBountyThrowawaysAction Man, and Heathen (which was discussed in May's on-location episode). In addition, Sabrina also gives her take on some of the early releases she gets to read as shop manager -- e.g., Briggs Land and Black Hammer -- and Derek is appalled that at least one dedicated shop customer doesn't even know what Fables is. As is usual with the monthly on-location episodes, there's a lot of fun talk about a wide variety of comics, something to pique the interest of any Comics Alternative listener.

Jun 24, 2016

The discussants covered a lot of ground on the panel, so much so that the session lasted longer than its scheduled hour. Andy Mansell kept the conversation flowing, posing a series of questions regarding the formation, the benefits, and the liabilities of a comics canon, and there was healthy response from the audience. 

A note about the sound quality of this recording: About 10 1/2 minutes into the panel recording, there is a slight break that cuts out around 30 seconds of the session. This is because the convention's sound technicians momentarily stopped the recording device so as to hook it up to the room's sound system, which would provide cleaner recording. Also, questions and comments from both Andy Mansell and the audience might not be as clear, at times, and this is because they didn't have microphones to target their voices.

Be sure to check out the guys' other recordings from this year's HeroesCon:

Jun 22, 2016

This past weekend, Andy and Derek attended HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC, where they had a table in Artists Alley. On each of the three days of the event they recorded brief segments about their experiences at the con, the people they met, the panels they attended, and the comics they were able to find. So for this week's episode, you'll hear those recordings and get to experience the 2016 HeroesCon vicariously through the unique perspectives of the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics. Among the many things discussed are the guys' encounters with creators in Artists Alley, Andy's attempts to sell his Harley Quinn- and Suicide Squad-related comics, the unexpected physical dangers of tabling at the con, Derek's spirited find of Will Eisner reprints, the travails of trying to sell branded merchandise when you're not an artist, old racist comic books, and cosplayers who really don't give a damn what people think. But, as with last year's event, the highlight of HeroesCon 2016 was meeting dedicated fans of The Comics Alternative podcast and meeting new people who are sure to become new listeners. And during the guys' daily recordings, they talk with some of these individuals on mic. 

Much thanks to the Two Guys' dedicated and lovely assistant, Zoe Royal, for helping out at the table and for taking pictures of the guys in action on the floor of Artists Alley!

Jun 21, 2016

Stay tuned over the next week for other episodes generated at the 2016 HeroesCon!

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 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!

Apr 22, 2016

Another month, and another visit to Collected Comics and Games in Plano, TX. For the April on-location episode, the topic is open, so Derek talks with customers and employees about whatever comics-related matters come to mind. Sabrina, the shop's manager, begins by discussing the preparations she's making for Free Comic Book Day, and then she gives a rundown of the DC Retailer Roadshow event she attended last week. There, Dan Didio, Jim Lee, and various marketing folk at DC shared their plans for the new Rebirth, explaining the upcoming titles, the creators behind them, and the fact that this is definitely not a reboot. From there the folks sitting around the chat table go on to share their lack of attention to DC titles, although they do have more of an interest in the DC properties that have made their ways to television and animation. They also spend a good bit of time talking about Archie Comics and how that world has been undergoing transformations, from the more au courant trends in the new Archie and Jughead titles, to the Predator and Sharknado crossovers, to the more macabre Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. (Also, Derek is surprised that no one knows about the old Groovie Goolies cartoon.) The recent Eisner Award nominations comes up as a discussion topic, but no one in the shop seems much interested in discussing them. But, of course, since it's Wednesday, everyone talks about the new comics that have just come out and what they've come into the shop specifically to pick up. And that's a lot of comics. As becomes a running theme throughout this episode, there is just isn't enough time to read and watch everything worth reading and watching

Apr 15, 2016

On this special on-location episode, Derek poses a series of questions to Sonny Liew during his recent visit to the University of Texas at Dallas. Sonny was a guest speaker for the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication, and he talked with the audience about his new book, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, as well as his experiences within the comics industry. During the exchange, Sonny presented selections from his portfolio and fielded a variety of questions from students and other members of the audience about his art training, his work with DC and Marvel, the Singapore comics scene, and any suggestions he might have for aspiring artists and storytellers. He also discussed his work on other books, including Malinky RobotWonderlandThe Shadow Hero, and his current run as the artist on Doctor Fate.

Mar 25, 2016

Derek is back at his local shop, Collected Comics and Games in Plano, TX, for the March on-location episode of podcast. (Unfortunately that was no February episode at Collected due to unforeseen circumstances.) While there, he talks with several shop employees and customers about a variety of comics-related matters. Folks spend a lot of time discussing some of the titles they've been reading lately. Matt Kuzio, who usually participates in these shows, was unable to be there this month, but he shared in absentia some of the comics he's been enjoying, including Emma Ríos and Kwei Lim's Mirror (Image Comics), Kate Leth and Brittney Williams'a Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! (Marvel Comics), Chris Lewis and Tony Gregori's Karma Police (Comics Experience), and Sarah Andersen's Adulthood Is a Myth: A Sarah's Scribbles Collection (Andrews McMeel Publishing). Sabrina, the shop manager, talks up some of the preview copies she's been receiving, such as the first issues of Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber's The Fix (Image Comics), Christopher Sebela and Robert Wilson IV, Heartthrob (Oni Press), and Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss's 4 Kids Walk into a Bank (Black Mask Comics). Chris, a regular customer of Collected, discusses his enthusiasm for Angela Queen of Hel (Marvel). And shop employee, Stephanie, mentions Marguerite Bennett and Ariela Kristantina's Insext, although Derek references his less-than-enthusiastic discussion of the title in the recent publisher spotlight on AfterShock Comics. There's also quite a bit of talk over recent comics in TV and film -- such as the new Lucifer series and the second season of Daredevil -- and, on a very special note, everyone there sings the praises of Andy Hirsh, a local artist (and friend of the show) who is also a Collected customer. His series, The Baker Street Peculiars (written by Roger Langridge and published by BOOM! Studios) just began this month, and his new book, Varmints, is due for release this fall from First Second. Needless to say, there's plenty to discuss, and the guys cover a lot of ground this month!

Jan 21, 2016

It's been six months since he last did so, but Derek is back at his local shop, Collected Comics and Games, for another on-location episode. As usual, he talks with several of the shop customers and employees about the kinds of comics that they've been reading. And since it's the first month of the year, everyone used the opportunity to discuss the titles that stood out for them in 2015 as well as the comics that they're looking forward to in the coming months. For this recording Derek is joined by on-location episode regulars, Craig, Matt, and Chris, as well as store associate Stephanie and the shop's new manager, Sabrina. (Sabrina has been at Collected in Plano for a long time, but she's just recently become its manager.) So after getting reacquainted with the preliminaries, everyone jumps into a recap of the most notable comics from last year. It's no surprise that, for many, Marvel's Secret Wars and its many ancillary tales received the lion's share of commentary (along with the publisher's seemingly endless, and irritating, instances of renumbering and revoluming). But there were other outstanding 2015 titles for the crew, including Toil and TroubleInvader ZimPlutona, the new Archie, BKV's We Stand on Guard and Paper Girls, and the webcomic Ava's Demon. Derek then turns the discussion into a more forward-looking one, asking everyone what comics and events they are anticipating in the coming year. Many said that the new iteration of Marvel's Civil War is something that they're eagerly awaiting, but folks also mentioned Brian Wood's upcoming Black Road, Daniel Clowes's Patience, more Jem and the Holograms, Chapter House's Spirit LeavesBeauties (whose first issue came out at the tail end of last year), and the continuation of Vertigo's new line of titles. TV and movie properties, especially the second season of Netflix's Daredevil and the new Lucifer series, also get a lot of love during the discussion. Overall, the guys at the shop covered a lot of ground, and everyone is looking forward to more of these monthly on-location episodes throughout the year!

Nov 2, 2015

Over Halloween weekend, Derek was at the Wizard World Comic Con event in Austin, TX. There, he had the good fortune to talk with several creators, publishers, and a couple of fellow podcasters in attendance. In this episode you'll hear brief interviews with:

Despite the heavy rains and flooding, the Wizard World con was well attended. It being Halloween weekend, one couldn't really tell whether the cosplaying left off and All Hallows' Eve began. Major creators as well as local artists attended the event, and Derek took the opportunity to talk with those whose work reflected the independent and small-press nature of the podcast.

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