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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: Category: special
Mar 1, 2017
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Capturing the Spirit of The Spirit

Every year for Will Eisner Week, always the first seven days in March, the Two Guys with PhDs like to do something special and Eisner-related for the podcast. This year is no different, and for the current episode Andy and Derek have decided to discuss the many uses of The Spirit since Will Eisner's passing on January 3, 2005. And there are a lot more manifestations of The Spirit than you might think. The guys compare and contrast the various uses of this seminal crimefighter, highlighting those examples that attempt to capture the original tone of The Spirit, that deviate from the original in curious ways, and that cross over into other narrative worlds. The many titles and creators they discuss include:

  • the one-shot Batman/The Spirit, by Joef Loeb and Darwyn Cooke in 2007 (DC Comics)
  • the 32-issue run of The Spirit between 2007 and 2009, by Darwyn Cooke, Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier, and many others (DC Comics)
  • Brian Azzarello and Rags Morales's 6-issue miniseries First Wave, published between 2010 and 2011 (DC Comics)
  • the concurrent-running The Spirit: First Wave series by Mark Schultz, David Hine, and others, going for 17 issues from 2010-2011 (DC Comics)
  • Mark Waid's 4-issue miniseries Rocketeer/Spirit: Pulp Friction, illustrated by various artists and released in 2013 (IDW Publishing)
  • Will Eisner's The Spirit by Matt Wagner and Dan Schkade, running for 12 issues between 2015 and 2016 (Dynamite Entertainment)
  • the recent first issue of Francesco Francavilla's Will Eisner's The Spirit: The Corpse-Makers (Dynamite Entertainment)
  • and Joe Staton and Mike Curtis's current Dick Tracy strip and its team-up with The Spirit (Tribune Company).
There is a lot packed into this episode -- you'll hear plenty about Ebony White, Commissioner and Ellen Dolan, Silk Satin, Mister Carrion, Sand Serif, The Octopus, and, of course, P'Gell -- but, thankfully, almost no mention of the disastrous 2008 film. It's all about the comics.

Check out the various The Spirit titles discussed in this special episode:

 
Nov 7, 2016

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Just in time for the U.S. elections, Gene and Derek hold a roundtable discussion on political and propaganda comics. Joining them in the conversation are Richard Graham, author of Government Issue: Comics for the People, 1940s-2000s (Abrams ComicArts); Rafael Medoff, co-author (along with Craig Yoe) of Cartoonists against the Holocaust (Clizia Inc.); Kent Worcester, editor of Silent Agitators: Cartoon Art from the Pages of New Politics (New Politics Associates); and Fredrik Strömberg, the writer of Comic Art Propaganda: A Graphic History (St. Martin’s Griffin). The guys talk with their guests about the significance of political cartooning and what drew each of them into this particular avenue of scholarship. Most of their conversation concerns the history of the genre (at least in the United States) as well as the process behind the research. At the same time, they also focus on the current political moment and how, as several of the participants feel, most contemporary political cartoonists haven't really met the challenge. The participants also share their thoughts on the impact of digital technology on the art form. In a heated political season signified by polemics and propaganda, it's reassuring that you can turn to a Comics Alternative special episode providing you with the soothing comfort of...well, polemics and propaganda.

Learn more about this episode's guests and their scholarship:

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Richard Graham, Kent Worcester, Fredrik Strömberg, and Rafael Medoff (with Craig Yoe)
Sep 30, 2016

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In celebration of International Podcast Day 2016, Derek participates in a roundtable discussion with fellow comics podcasters, including John Siuntres of Word Balloon, Chris Marshall of Collected Comics Library, and John Mayo of Comic Books Page. The four of them talk extensively about their experiences in podcasting, the challenges of working with publishers and creators within the industry, their particular niche interests in comics podcasting, how their shows have evolved over the years, and their "wish lists" for growing as a podcast. Not only do the guys discuss the many facets of podcasting specifically about comics, they also share insights about podcasting as a social media platform.

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Find out more about International Podcast Day and how you can help promote podcasting worldwide. And be sure to share your thoughts on social media using #PodcastDay.

May 25, 2016

The nominees for the 2016 Eisner Awards were announced last month, and as the Two Guys with PhDs do every year, they use an episode of The Comics Alternative to discuss and speculate. Joining them in this year's conversation is Carol Tilley, a professor of information science at the University of Illinois and, more to the point of this episode, one of the nominating judges for this year's Eisner Awards. Carol is not a stranger to the podcast, having participated in last year's roundtable discussion on libraries and comics, but this time around she's back to share her experiences and answer questions that Andy and Derek have about the Eisners. She doesn't give away any private deliberations nor does she disclose secrets, but she does help demystify the nomination process and provides insight into many of the award categories. After their conversation with Carol, Derek and Andy go on to share their own thoughts on this year's nominations, separating their personal tastes from the kind of broader, critical analysis you come to expect from the podcast. They try to discern trends, highlight special achievements, and understand the nominating choices that were made. They especially note the sheer number of nominees who have appeared on The Comics Alternative or whose works were prominently reviewed on the podcast, giving credence, once again, to what Andy and Derek self-importantly call "the Comics Alternative bump." When all is said and done, the guys are quite impressed with this year's roster of creators and their comics up for recognition.

Mar 4, 2016

For Will Eisner Week 2016, Derek talks with Eisner's authorized biographer, Bob Andelman. The second edition of his book, Will Eisner: A Spirited Life, was released last summer by TwoMorrows Publishing, expanding significantly on the 2005 edition in a deluxe, full-color volume. In the conversation, Bob discusses the genesis of the project and how he came to meet Eisner. He also shares several of his most memorable moments working with the legend, as well as some of the challenges in writing the biography. This recent deluxe edition, in particular, allowed him to expand his initial work and offer a more complete picture of the man. Derek talks with Bob about how the addition of brand new interviews, as well as archival material and legal documentation not available at the time of his first edition, rounds out the biography and makes Will Eisner more fully human and less of an abstracted icon. They also discuss the various stages of Eisner's life and the different tones he struck in his comics, such as the autobiographical reflections found in To the Heart of the Storm, the sentimentality of Invisible People, the stark naturalism underlying Dropsie Avenue, the polemical turn of The Plot, and the innovative adventure that defined The Spirit newspaper inserts. All in all, you will find in this episode a spirited conversation -- sorry for the predictable pun -- with a writer and pop cultural critic that was a long time in coming.

Oct 26, 2015

On this special episode of the podcast, Derek moderates a roundtable discussion on comics and religion. Joining him on the panel are Elizabeth Coody (teaching at the Iliff School of Theology), Jeff Brackett (Ball State University), and A. David Lewis (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences), all of whom are comics scholars focusing on representations of religious belief and faith. They begin their discussion by sharing their backgrounds in comics and how they have found the medium a useful means to approaching religious studies. In addition to describing the specifics of their scholarship, the panelists also discuss the various strategies they've employed when using comics in the classroom, along with the challenges that come when using comics to teach issues of faith. The subjects that come up during the discussion range from superheroes and myths, manifestations of the afterlife, adaptations of religious texts, biographies of religious leaders, expressions of heaven and hell, the crossroads of faith and ethnicity, and parodic (even heretical) representations of religious figures, doctrines, and practices. At times on the panel the discussants clash or come at books from different angles -- for example, Jeff and David disagree on the usefulness of Craig Thompson's Habibi and Derek pushes back on the "religiousness" of such comics as MausA Contract with God, and Persepolis -- but the talk is always lively and insightful. Among the many texts they reference are Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, Mike Carey's Lucifer, Justin Green's Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, Robert Crumb's The Book of Genesis Illustrated, Sean Murphy's Punk Rock Jesus, Mark Waid's Kingdom Come, Mark Millar's American Jesus, and Craig Thompson's Blankets. They even discuss comics as religious propaganda, such as what you'll find in the Spire comics published by Archie during the 1970s and the ever-present Chick tracts. The panelists covered a lot of ground, but there was so much more that was left unspoken...enough to warrant a future follow-up roundtable on the same topic.

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