On this episode, their final publisher spotlight of the year, Andy and Derek discuss the 2016 releases from Kilgore Books and Comics. They discuss nine titles, in all: four from the publisher's spring catalog, four from the fall releases, and an in-between book that conceptually lives up to its interstitial positioning. The guys begin their spotlight with a brief interview Derek conducted with Dan Stafford at this year's Small Press Expo. He introduces Kilgore to listeners, reveals its history and mission, and sets the contexts for the various 2016 releases. After that, the Two Guys with PhDs begin looking at the four titles from the spring, Alex Graham's Cosmic Be-ing #2, Amara Leipzig's The Fifth Window, Lauren Barnett's A Horse, a Crow, and a Hippo Walk into a Bar, and Box Brown's Powerman. They're intrigued by the more abstract constructions of the former, and they contrast this with the humor and sheer fun found Barnett's and Brown's comics. And given recent political events, the satiric Powerman becomes disturbingly prescient.
And on the topic of satire...Andy and Derek next check out the latest work from one of their favorites, Joe Matt. Paid for It is a send-up of Chester Brown's Paying for It. In it, Matt (writing under the name "Chesty Matt") basically takes panels from Brown's original texts, inverts their sequence, and tweaks the story so that it's the protagonist who becomes the prostitute and the women who are the johns...or janes. It's not often that we see anything new from Matt, so Paid for It is definitely an event worth noting.
The last part of the episode is devoted to Kilgore's fall releases: Emi Gennis's The Plunge: A True Story, Simon Moreton's What Happened, Tom Van Deusen's Scorched Earth, and Noah Van Sciver's Blammo #9. The first is an historical account of the first woman to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, and a reminder of the gender biases we continue to live under. Moreton's is an introspective examination of childhood experiences, while Van Deusen's is an no-holds-barred exposé of a dysfunctional individual, reminiscent of Sacha Baron Cohen and Curb Your Enthusiasm. But the guys save their most vocal praise for the latest issue of Blammo. They've discussed Van Sciver's series on the podcast before, but this latest installment is a truly outstanding issue that stands above in its predecessors.
Gwen and Derek are back with another publisher spotlight episode, this one on the UK press, Avery Hill Publishing. They begin their spotlight with a short interview with the people behind Avery Hill: Ricky Miller, Dave White, and Katriona Chapman. Derek talks with them about the origins of the press, the kind of creators that have come to define Avery Hill, their distribution and publicity outside of the UK, and their plans for fall releases and beyond.
After that conversation, Gwen and Derek get into the nitty gritty of the publisher's current offerings. They start by looking at the most recent issues of two ongoing series from Avery Hill, Reads #4 and Metroland #3. The former is an anthology periodical currently in its second volume, and the two discuss its various serialized storylines. Gwen is particularly fond of Owen D. Pomery's "The Megatherium Club," but they also discuss Reads other historically based stories -- Ricky Miller and Tim Bird's "Hitchcock and Film" as well as Bird and Luke James Halsall's "The Bullpen" (inspired by Marvel Comics in the early 1960s) -- and the colorful, offbeat comics of EdieOP. The most recent issue of Metroland continues the drama behind Ricky Miller and Julia Scheele's fictional 1980s band, Electric Dreams, and while discussing this evolving narrative, Derek and Gwen even wax nostalgic over their own musical histories growing up during that time.
Next, they discuss three new books released this spring. A City Inside is yet another work from Tillie Walden -- she's become a singular force at Avery Hill -- and this one is a measured, meditative look at self-identity with an almost poetic tone. Rachel Smith's Artificial Flowers does to the London art scene what Miller and Scheele's Metroland does with the city post-punk. Both the artist's unassuming premise and her clean, iconic art style easily draw Gwen and Derek into this fun story. And then finally, the cohosts wrap up with the latest book in Matthew Swan's Parsley Girl series. Neither Derek nor Gwen had been familiar with Swan's work previously, but Parsley Girl: Carrots proves to be a good introduction into his weird and almost psychedelic narrative world.
Overall, both Gwen and Derek find a lot of excitement behind this young press. Avery Hill may be just now getting a foothold in the US market -- thanks to its recent distribution agreement with Retrofit/Big Planet -- but as this episode demonstrates, it's definitely a publisher worth watching.
This week the Two Guys with PhDs focus a critical spotlight on the spring releases coming out from Alternative Comics and the other small presses that are part of its distribution co-operative, Floating World Comics, Hic + Hoc Productions, Study Group Comics, and Press Gang. This is a jam-packed episode and longer than usual, a discussion that covers eighteen different titles among the five indie presses. Before they jump directly into the comics, though, Derek has a brief conversation with Marc Arsenault, the publisher of Alternative Comics and one of the ringleaders of the co-operative. He asks Marc about the origins of the press, its relaunch in 2012, its distribution agreement with the other indie publishers, and what readers could anticipate coming out of Alternative Comics in the months to come. After that introductory interview, Andy W. and Derek begin discussing the individual titles some out this spring, and organizing their conversation by publisher. These books include:
Floating World Comics
Hic + Hoc Productions
Study Group Comics
As Andy and Derek mention in the show, this has been a spotlight episode they've been wanting to do for some time. The guys are truly excited to talk about the new releases coming out from Alternative Comics (and its co-op partners)...and not just this publisher's name is an inversion of the podcast title.
The Two Guys with PhDs are back with another publisher spotlight, and this time the focus is on AfterShock Comics. This is a new publisher that began soliciting their titles back in the fall and then releasing their initial series in December 2015. With editorial oversight by two veterans of the mainstream, Mike Marts and Joe Pruett, AfterShock has been bringing in some major-league talent to write and illustrate their comics, which is something that Andy and Derek noted when they first caught wind of the up-and-coming publisher. They begin their spotlight by speculating on the possible direction and business plan of AfterShock, observing that some of the company executives have a lot of Hollywood and TV/film experience, and that the kind of titles they're releasing (and the creators on them) are reminiscent of what readers have historically found at Vertigo and Image. Then they jump into the titles themselves, beginning with the first three issues of Super Zero, written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti and with art by Rafael De Latorre. The guys enjoy this series, a charming and realistic (at least for now) twist on the superhero genre, although they're hoping that the storyline will soon depart its premise. After that, they look at the first four issues of Paul Jenkins and Andy Clarke's Replica. This is a futuristic and humorous sci-fi procedural taking place at a nexus of alien cultures. The guys note that after a slow start with the first issue, the series successfully settles into its groove. Yet after finding a lot of critical common ground with the first two series, Andy's and Derek's opinions diverge dramatically on several of the remaining AfterShock titles. This is most apparent with InSext, a Victorian, entomologically tinged (and erotic) thriller written by Marguerite Bennett and illustrated by Ariela Kristantina. While Andy finds this one of the most compelling of AfterShock's initial lineup, Derek feels that there are too many holes in the premise -- moth-eaten, if you will -- and that the first four issues lack narrative cohesion. They also disagree on Garth Ennis and Simon Coleby's Dreaming Eagles as well as Brian Azzarello and Juan Doe's American Monster. Derek believes these are two strong stories, although Andy feels they are just more of the same, nothing new, from Ennis and Azzarello. They do agree, however, on the promise found in the first couple of issues of Strayer, from the creative team Justin Jordan and Juan Gedeon. Finally, the guys wrap up with a discussion on AfterShock's newest title, Second Sight, written by David Hine and with art from Alberto Ponticelli. This is one of Derek's favorites from AfterShock, so far, although Andy is less enthusiastic and is waiting to be impressed. Before signing off of this publisher spotlight, the guys also anticipate the publisher's next wave of new series -- including Rough Riders (by Adam Glass and Patrick Ollie), Jackpot! (Ray Fawkes and Marco Failla), and Black-Eyed Kids (Joe Pruett and Szymon Kudranski) -- and mention some of the other creators slotted for future AfterShock releases, including Mark Waid, Cullen Bunn, John Layman, Tim Seeley, and Frank Barbiere. In sum, the guys see AfterShock Comics as a new publisher worth watching.
For their first publisher spotlight of 2016, Andy and Derek focus on the new wave of titles from Vertigo, those being launched between October and December of last year. As you might expect, this is an extra long episode of the podcast because the guys discuss twelve new series, and some of them already with three and four issues released. These include:
Both Derek and Andy enjoy almost all of these titles, but there are a few that really stand out for them -- and they spend a disproportionate time discussing -- including The Twilight Children, Unfollow, Jacked, and Sheriff of Babylon. They also use their analysis of Lucifer to segue into a brief coverage of The Sandman: Overture, Deluxe Edition. The first of that six-issues miniseries was part of the guys' earlier Vertigo spotlight back in November 2013, and a central component of that publisher's previous wave of new titles, but the collected edition was just released late last year. Although it had an unusually long incubation period, The Sandman: Overture does help Andy and Derek juxtapose Vertigo's two big release efforts, leading them into a discussion of possible new directions the publisher may be going.
One of the things that has defined 2015 for The Comics Alternative has been the number of Publisher Spotlights it's presented -- seven, up until today. This week, the Two Guys are back with their eighth and final spotlight of the year, one on the fall releases out of Locust Moon Press. They begin their critical focus with a brief interview Derek conducted with Josh O'Neill, the publisher of Locust Moon Press. In that conversation, Josh shares the background and history of Locust Moon, first as a bookstore (which will be closing its doors early next year) and then as a publisher with an impressive catalog. They also discuss the press' success with Kickstarter, including last year's campaign with Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream and the current efforts with The Lost Work of Will Eisner. After that, Andy and Derek get into the nitty gritty of the show, a discussion of Locust Moon's fall releases. They begin with Prometheus Eternal, a short collection of stories inspired by Rubens's famous painting, Prometheus Bound. This work was created in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and including work by such creators as Grant Morrison, Paul Pope, Dave McKean, Bill Sienkiewicz, Farel Dalrymple, Yuko Shimizu, and David Mack. Next, the guys turn to another collection, this one the sixth issue of Quarter Moon. The theme to this issue is "Impractical Cats," and with cat-related contributions from a variety of creators including Farel Dalrymple, Tia McClelland, Mike Sgier, Lisk Feng, Jim Comey, Gregory Benton, J.G. Jones, Dean Haspiel, Jeremy Baum, and a host of others. After that, they look at Ben Kahn and Bruno Hidalgo's Shaman, a satiric and inventive mashup of superheroes, the supernatural, and humor. Neither Andy nor Derek were aware of Shaman before this spotlight episode -- they completely missed Kahn's Kickstarter from earlier this year -- but now they're totally on board and look forward to more of this series, because it's funny as hell. Finally, the guys wrap up with a long discussion of Little Nemo's Big New Dreams, a joint effort with Françoise Mouly's TOON Graphics. This is a smaller, more affordable, and more holdable, version of the broadsheet-sized Dream Another Dream, including more than thirty strips from the Eisner Award-winning collection. And like the aforementioned Prometheus Eternal and Quarter Moon collections, this TOON book is chock-full of impressive contributors, including Art Spiegelman, Craig Thompson, Carla Speed McNeil, Mark Buckingham, Roger Langridge, Box Brown, R. Sikoryak, Jim Rugg, Yuko Shimizu, Gerhard...and the list goes on. In fact, you could even see today's show as the most creator-packed episode that the Two Guys have ever recorded.
Can it be true? Are the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics actually doing yet another publisher spotlight? Are they gluttons for punishment? Are their eyeballs going to fall out from all of the reading? Maybe so, but if their orbs do drop out of their heads, they'll do so while gazing at some of the great books coming out of Top Shelf Productions. In this episode, you'll hear Andy and Derek talking about the publisher's summer and fall releases, including:
Before they get into the titles themselves, Derek shares a brief interview he conducted with Chris Staros, the publisher of Top Shelf. They talk about the origins of Top Shelf, the authors who have helped define their line, and their recent acquisition by IDW Publishing. Then, it's on to the books! The guys begin with a discussion of Eddie Campbell's Bacchus Omnibus, Vol. 1. This is the first of two behemoth books collecting all of Campbell's Bacchus stories, complete with the titular god of wine and revelry, Joe Theseus, Hermes, the Stygian Leech, and the guys' favorite, the Eyeball Kid. After that, Derek and Andy revisit a comic that they first discussed almost two years ago, Chris Sheridan's Motorcycle Samurai. Back in January of 2014, they looked at the first two issues of the digital series, but this time they focus on the first completed narrative arc. The guys point out some of the differences between the two versions, digital and hardcopy, while at the same time highlighting many of he strengths in Sheridan's storytelling. The next book they cover, Julian Hanshaw's Tim Ginger, turns out to be one of their favorite books of the year. Both Andy and Derek point out the ambitiousness of this narrative, both thematically and visually, especially given the book's compressed format. Indeed, Andy wonders if perhaps there was too much that Hanshaw was attempting to take on. Jennifer Hayden's The Story of My Tits is where they go after that. This is an autobiographic tale of the author's bout with breast cancer. But the book is much more than a personal cancer narrative. It is also Hayden's account of her important life relationships, both with her loved ones and with her breasts as they relate to self-image. Next, the Two Guys turn to a completely different kind of book, Troy Little's adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Like the original, this is a wild ride, and Little's composition brings out the surreal and even frightening quality of Thompson's narrative. The guys note that Little does what Ralph Steadman does in his illustrations for the 1972 book, without being derivative in any way, and that this is a more approachable version that Terry Gilliam's 1998 film. Finally, the guys wrap up with a book that is not yet out but will soon be, Ray Fawkes and Vince Locke's Junction True. This is a disturbing science fiction tale that doesn't seem that unrealistic at all. In fact, its thematic focus on body enhancement and media exhibitionism is not too far from the culture in which we currently reside. One could even read Junction True metaphorically as a cautionary tale...or one of contemporary gothic horror.
For this episode, Gwen and Derek team up for another Publisher Spotlight episode, this one on First Second Books and their fall releases. The titles they discuss include Paul Pope, JT Petty, David Rubin's Battling Boy: The Fall of the House of West; Balak, Michael Sanlaville, and Bastien Vives's Last Man: The Chase;Omaha Beach on D-Day; Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes's Secret Coders; Maris Wicks's Human Body Theater; Ian Lendler and Zack Giallongo's The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review Presents Romeo and Juliet; and Chris Duffy's edited collection, Fable Comics.