About Derek Royal

The Comics Alternative is a weekly podcast focused on the world of alternative, independent, and primarily non-superhero comics. (There’s nothing wrong with the superhero genre…we just want to do something different.) New shows become available every Wednesday…much like the comic books you get. Episodes feature 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, spotlights on various creators and their oeuvre, roundtable discussions with prominent critics and scholars in the field, and interviews with the artists and writers who make all of this possible. Along the way, Andy and Derek will talk about the various books that they are reading; the many pop cultural references that, for better or worse, inform their lives; and the unpredictable (and inexplicable) weirdness that seems to creep into each episode. In essence,The Comics Alternative podcast is brilliantly simple: Two guys with PhDs talking about comics.

Comics Alternative, Episode 259: Reviews of Bad Mask, Evolution #1, and Doctor Radar #1

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Time Codes:

  • 00:01:26 – Introduction
  • 00:03:48 – Post-Thanksgiving digestion
  • 00:05:07 – Bad Mask
  • 00:30:41 – Evolution #1
  • 00:46:48 – Doctor Radar #1
  • 01:03:06 – Wrap up
  • 01:04:36 – Contact us

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Mystery!

On this week’s episode Gwen and Derek discuss three recent releases that, while all being quite different, nonetheless share a common theme of mystery. They start off with Jon Chad’s Bad Mask (BOOM! Box), a multimedia project that explores perspective and interpretation. With its various components in multiple print formats — comic book, trading cards, newspaper tabloid, mainstream news magazine, business reports, etc. — it’s an intelligent exploration of how we define “hero.” Next, the Two PhDs Talking about Comics explore the first issue of Evolution (Image Comics). This is a different kind of comic in that it’s written by four authors…and the result is solid and far from fragmented. James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, and Joshua Williamson contribute to the story, with Joe Infurnari providing the art. Finally, Gwen and Derek look at Noël Simsolo and Bézian’s Doctor Radar #1 (Titan Comics). This is a translation that taps into the crime noir genre, expertly done and perhaps the highlight of the week.

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: Tim Lane

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:24 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:23 – Interview with Tim Lane
  • 02:13:48 – Wrap up
  • 02:15:18 – Contact us

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The Great American Mythological Drama

On this interview episode Derek talks with Tim Lane about his series Happy Hour in America, Vol. 2, the first issue of which is just being released from Fantagraphics Books. This isn’t the first time that Tim has been interviewed on The Comics Alternative. In January 2015, Derek published on the blog a text-based conversation with him that he had conducted via email. That was a insightful and substantive interview, but the current one goes even further, allowing Tim not only to comment on his current work, but to delve into a variety of other topics, such as the business side of the medium, the state of comic books as a publishing platform, and matters of comics pedagogy. But the core of the conversation concerns Tim’s latest efforts in this new volume of Happy Hour in America, his fascination with twentieth-century Americana, his previous collections — Abandoned Cars and The Lonesome Go — and the interpretive biography he currently has underway, Just Like Steve McQueen. This is an unusually long interview, running just over two hours, but it’s an engaging conversation that will introduce you to Tim’s “Great American Mythological Drama.”

And be sure to support Tim Lane on Patreon!

 

Comics Alternative Kickstarter: Swan Song: The Musical Anthology

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Going Out with a Song

For this week’s Kickstarter spotlight, Derek focuses on Swan Song: The Musical Anthology, a campaign underway from Cloudscape Comics. Discussing this project with him are Jeffrey Ellis and Oliver McTavish-Wisden, the assistant director/founder and the executive director, respectively, of the small Vancouver publisher and collective. Swan Song is an anthology including contributions from a wide variety of (mostly) British Columbia-based creators, all of which engage with music in one way or another.

Swan Song will feature a cover by Renee Nault, and creative contributions from:

This campaign will end on Saturday, December 9, so be sure to visit the Swan Song Kickstarter page and back this campaign!

UPDATE SINCE THE RECORDING: Oliver and Jeff have now included a support level for a soft-cover edition of Swan Song!

Sample Art

from “With My Hand on My Head” by Yashaswi Kesanakurthy & Annalise Jensen

from “Shaman-Hop” by Oliver McTavish-Wisden and Patrick Wong

from “Pier Music” by Sfé R. Monster

from “Tegan and Sara” by James Brandi

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 258: Our Fifth Annual Thanksgiving Show

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Pass the Pie

thanksgiving2016

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and the folks at The Comics Alternative all gather around the virtual table to share what they are thankful for in terms of comics and comics culture. Pulling up a seat this year are Gwen, Paul, Sean, Gene, Edward, and Derek. Among the many things that they’re thankful for are

What more could one ask for in a holiday podcast episode? Well…maybe some pie.

ForbiddenWorldsThanksgiving

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: Mitch Maglio

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Time Codes:

  • 00:25 – Introduction
  • 02:39 – Setup of interview
  • 03:45 – Interview with Mitch Maglio
  • 58:47 – Wrap up
  • 59:50 – Contact us

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Cheesecake and Empowerment

On this interview episode, Derek talks with Mitch Maglio about his new book, Fiction House: From Pulps to Panels, from Jungles to Space, just out from IDW/Yoe Books. Mitch is an aficionado on Fiction House (as well as on the jungle girl genre), so he’s the perfect writer/collector to discuss this historic publisher. He talks with Derek about the origins of Fiction House, its colorful founder, the publisher’s major role in the pulps, its mostly forgotten stature during the Golden Age, the many legends who worked as writers and artists on their many publications, its ironic position concerning female empowerment, and the various titles for which it was known, including Jumbo ComicsFight Comics, Wings Comics, and of course Sheena: Queen of the Jungle.

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: Ryan O’Sullivan and Plaid Klaus

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:02:44 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:48 – Interview with Ryan O’Sullivan and Plaid Klaus
  • 00:59:30 – Wrap up
  • 01:02:24 – Contact us

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Froot Loop?

Sean joins Derek to interview a creative team that the two have discussed previously, Ryan O’Sullivan and Plaid Klaus. Last year the guys reviewed Ryan and Klaus’s webcomic Turncoat (now available in softcover), but this time they talk with the creators about a new print publication, their Image Comics limited series Void Trip. The first of its five issues comes out this week, and the Two Guys talk with Ryan and Klaus about the genesis of this project, the psychedelic nature of the story, the dynamics of their collaboration, and their philosophies on self-contained and tightly woven narratives. They also talk with the creative duo about their previous work together, Turncoat, and any potential future plans to utilize the webcomics platform.

 

Comics Alternative Kickstarter: What Now, Bruno?

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An Artist’s Dilemma

On this week’s Kickstarter episode, Derek talks with Bruno Oliveira about his project What Now, Bruno? This is an autobiographical work exploring what can happen to a comics artist once he’s established himself in the industry. Bruno has broken into the field, illustrating for such publishers as IDW (Drones), Arcana (Space, MN), and, most recently, Marvel Comics (Amazing Spider-Man Annual, Gwenpool Holiday Special, and Mosaic, among other titles). But now that he’s on his way, how does he manage his work and juggle the necessities in life? What Now, Bruno? is a humorous exploration of that dilemma.

This Kickstarter will end on December 7, so be sure to visit Bruno’s page, see what it’s all about, and back his campaign!

As an extra added bonus, if you discover What Now, Bruno? through this Comics Alternative episode, then contact Bruno directly and tell him that you found out about the project through the podcast. If you do, and you back him at a level that includes a physical comic, Bruno will include an exclusive print in your order!

Sample Art

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 257: A Publisher Spotlight on Conundrum Press

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Time Codes:

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Memoirs, Nightmares, and Bananas

This week on The Comics Alternative Andy and Derek return to one of their favorite publishers, Conundrum Press, for their next publisher spotlight. They had previously released a similar episode on Conundrum two and a half years ago, and they wanted to do so again with their fall 2017 releases. The six titles under discussion vary in style and topic, although the first three books the guys review are all memoirs: Lorina Mapa’s Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos, and Me, Michael Nybrandt and Thomas Mikkelsen’s Dreams in Thin Air, and David Collier’s Morton: A Cross-Country Rail Journey. After that they turn to James Cadelli and his first graphic novel, Getting Out of Hope, and then the surreal story collection Mister Morgen by Croatian poster artist Igor Hofbauer. Finally, Andy and Derek conclude with one of their favorite of the fall releases, The Collected Neil the Horse, by Arn Saba (now Katherine Collins). This is a classic black-and-white comic from the early 1980s that definitely deserves this kind of attention.

The closing music of this episode, in fact, is created by Collins for Neil the Horse!

Comics Alternative Interviews: Mark Voger

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:28 – Setup of interview
  • 00:03:47 – Interview with Mark Voger
  • 01:05:43 – Wrap up
  • 01:07:15 – Contact us

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“We didn’t need LSD. We had Quisp and Quake.”

On this interview episode, Derek talks with Mark Voger about his latest work, Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed in Pop Culture. The book comes out this week from TwoMorrows Publishing, and during their conversation Mark discusses the roots of groovy culture that reach back to early twentieth-century modernism and jazz, and are even apparent in discoveries during nineteenth century. But most of the interview is spent talking about the flowering, so to speak, of this cultural trend from the mid-1960s into the early 1970s. Obviously Derek asks Mark about the comics of the time — Mike Sekowsky’s new Wonder Woman, Steve Ditko’s Hawk and Dove, Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Archie Comics’ Josie, and the underground comix of R. Crumb, Trina Robbins, Jay Lynch, Kim Deitch, and Denis Kitchen — but they also spend a lot of time discussing “groovy culture” in music, television, film, fashion, and art. Mark also briefly covers his previous book, Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze In America 1957-1972, and the creative transition he made from the ghoulish to the psychedelic. These were the concurrent popular movements that largely defined his young life.

Be sure to visit Mark Voger’s website to learn more about his groovy work!

Comics Alternative, Euro Comics: Reviews of Billie Holiday, Josephine Baker, and The Green Hand and Other Stories

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Time Codes:

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Post-Natal Returns

After having to readjust for a few major life changes — including a new baby for first-time parents! — Edward and Derek are back with the monthly Euro Comics series. For November they discuss two graphic biographies devoted to early twentieth-century artists as well as a collection of surreal and experimental fiction. They start with Carlos Sampayo and Jose Muñoz’s Billie Holiday (NBM Publishing), a text that fully utilizes the somber, even noir uses of black-and-white (Muñoz’s art was an inspiration for Frank Miller’s Sin City, after all). Originally published by Fantagraphics in 1993, this work provides a skeletal overview of Holiday’s life and career, both its artistic highs and its drug-filled lows.

A much more detailed graphic biography is Jose-Luis Bocquet and Catel Muller’s Josephine Baker. Published by SelfMadeHero, this is an extensive look at Baker’s life and includes encyclopedic back matter that supplements the narrative. This is a more conventional biography than the one on Billie Holiday, a chronological accounting from a more objective, detached point of view. Perhaps most notable is the fact that Edward, himself, did the translation of this text (although not the back matter). As such, he provides insightful behind-the-scenes information about the preparation of this album, its editorial handling of sensitive racial issues, and the dynamics involved in the art of translation.

Finally, Derek and Edward wrap up with very different kind of work, Nicole Claveloux’s The Green Hand and Other Stories (New York Review Comics). In addition to its longer titular story, the collection includes seven other Claveloux short comics that vary in style and narrative conventionality. All of the pieces are dreamlike, even psychedelic in nature, originally appearing in Métal Hurlant or through Les Humanoïdes Associés between 1979 and 1980. With an introduction by Daniel Clowes and an interview with “Green Hand” co-creator Edith Zha, this is collection that serves as a great introduction to the often-overlooked Claveloux.

Comics Alternative Kickstarter: LAAB Magazine #0: Dark Matter

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Crossroads of Identity and Culture

This week Derek talks with Ronald Wimberly, Josh O’Neill, and Maëlle Doliveux about their Kickstarter project LAAB Magazine #0: Dark Matter. Published by Beehive Books, this will be a tabloid-sized newspaper annual filled with comics, interviews, artwork, cultural criticism, and writings on identity as played out in popular culture. This inaugural #0 issue will include

  • An interview with musician and actor Saul Williams 
  • A conversation with graphic artist Trenton Doyle Hancock
  • James Romberger on Jean-Michel Basquiat
  • A discussion with the poster artist Alexandra Bell
  • A critical analysis of George Lucas’s THX 1138
  • Ronald Wimberly’s visual tribute to Sun Ra
  • A review of BLACK, the new comic from Black Mask Studios
  • Over a dozen pages of comics and illustration by Ronald Wimberly
  • …and much more!

 

Be sure to visit the LAAB Kickstarter page, see what Ronald is up to, and back this project by Friday, December 1. And learn more about the exciting publications coming out through Josh and Maëlle’s Beehive Books!

Sample Art

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 256: Reviews of Kid Lobotomy #1 and #2, Carnival of Contagion, and Monograph

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Time Codes:

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Trying Too Hard

This week Paul and Derek review three new titles that are all quite different in content and audience. They begin with the first two issues of Peter Milligan and Tess Fowler’s Kid Lobotomy, the first series in IDW’s new Black Crown imprint. The guys start their discussion by referencing Shelly Bond and her stated intentions behind the new creator-owned line. But while they’re certainly amenable to the edgy or punk mentality that had once defined Vertigo, the guys feel that in her commentary in these first two issues, Bond is trying a little too hard to be hip and get us on board. And while both Derek and Paul are fans of Milligan’s storytelling, there’s something a little too much, something too crowded or unwieldy, about the premise of Kid Lobotomy. Nonetheless, given the creative team on this title, and its place in the new Black Crown line, the guys are going to give this series a lot of rope in hopes of being won over.

Next, the guys discuss Carnival of Contagion, a new educational comic from the University of Nebraska Press that’s all about vaccination awareness. Illustrated by Bob Hall, and written by him as well (along with John West and Judy Diamond), this is a title that’s apparently intended for classroom use. As Paul and Derek reveal, the story may be a little dry — and even didactic in places — but it effectively drives home the importance of vaccination not only for individuals, but for our communities as well.

Finally, the Two Guys turn to a behemoth of a text, Chris Ware’s Monograph (Rizolli). Both Derek and Paul are big fans of Ware’s creativity, and they’re mesmerized by the sheer beauty and ingenuity contained within this work (which is much more of an art book, and one with autobiographical impulses, than a comic). However, they’re a little put off at times by the apologetic tone of the author. Granted, Chris Ware is known for his self-deprecation, where he feels he has to apologize for his comics efforts as an artist. But such a stance can also take on a more self-aggrandizing quality, highlighting the uniqueness — and the “seriousness” or the high-brow-ness — of the project and contrasting it to more “common” or mainstream comics. This can also be seen in Art Spiegelman’s introduction and his emphasis on “comix.” But despite these minor annoyances, the guys are completely taken by this volume and strongly recommend it to not only Chris Ware fans, but to serious comics readers as a whole.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Joseph Remnant

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:33 – Setup of interview
  • 00:03:45 – Interview with Joseph Remnant
  • 01:18:05 – Wrap up
  • 01:19:38 – Contact us

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Growth

Derek is pleased to have Joseph Remnant on the podcast. His new book, Cartoon Clouds, was released last month from Fantagraphics. This is a graphic novel in the truest sense, a work of fiction that explores the nuances of relationships, defining yourself, and growing apart from those with whom you were once close. As Joseph reveals, this is a narrative that began in serial installments on a website he once maintained with Noah Van Sciver, but it soon developed into something more complex and ambitious. Most of the interview is devoted to Cartoon Clouds, but Derek also asks his guest about his comic-book series Blindspot and his illustration work with Harvey Pekar. Along the way Joseph talks about his contribution in the upcoming second issue of Now, and he hints at some of the new work he currently has underway.

Joseph will be at CAB, Comic Arts Brooklyn, this coming weekend. If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by and tell him hello and that you heard him on The Comics Alternative!

Comics Alternative, Webcomics: Reviews of Blindsprings, Albert the Alien, and A Fire Story

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Time Codes:

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From the Ashes

On the November webcomics episode, Sean and Derek look at three very different titles. They begin with Kadi Fedoruk’s Blindsprings, a fantasy filled with magic and spirits, but one whose philosophical foundations are deeper than you may at first think. As the guys point out, the meticulous art is one of the highlights of this webcomic. After that, Sean and Derek turn to a lighthearted all-age series by Trevor Mueller and Gabo, Albert the Alien. Much like Blindsprings, this webcomic has been around since 2013, but there seems to be no foreseeable sign of story exhaustion. Finally, the guys look at a much more somber, and timely, completed webcomic, Brian Fies’s A Fire Story. This is a brief account of the author’s experiences in last month’s devastating California fires. The story is heart-wrenching, and Fies includes commentary and photographs to underscore the full extent of the tragedy.

Be sure to visit Brian Fies’s blog and click on the banners of his two books, Mom’s Cancer and Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?. Your purchase of those works will help support Fies as he and his wife attempt to rebuild their lives.

Comics Alternative Kickstarter: SCI: The Jewish Comics Anthology, Vol. 2

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For the second episode of The Comics Alternative‘s new Kickstarter series, Derek talks with Andy Stanleigh and Steven Bergson about their project, SCI: The Jewish Comics Anthology, Vol. 2. This book will be released by Alternate History Comics (of which Andy is the publisher), and it will follow Steven’s first volume of The Jewish Comics Anthology, also published by AH Comics. What will distinguish this second collection is that each of the retellings from Jewish history, legend, and myth will be set in a science-fiction setting. Contributors to this anthology will include

  • Ty Templeton (Batman, Spiderman, The Simpsons)
  • Rachel Pollack (Doom Patrol)
  • Bill Sienkiewicz (Daredevil, X-Men, Batman)
  • Neil Kleid (X-Men Unlimited, Tales From the Crypt)
  • Adam Gorham (Rocket, X-Files/TMNT, Dead Drop)
  • Weshoyot Alvitre (The Boys Who Became Hummingbirds)
  • Joe Infurnari (The Bunker, Evolution)
  • David Mack (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Fight Club)
  • Katherine Piro (The Chaste Maid)
  • Michael Netzer (Batman, Superman)
  • Clifford Meth (Comic Book Babylon, Heroes and Villains)
  • Jake Allen (Kings and Canvas)
  • Keith Grachow (Concrete Martians, Saltwater)
  • Liat Shalom (A Grave Matter)
  • Shane Kirshenblatt (Dorothy Gale: Journey to Oz, Bleeding Tree)
  • Trina Robbins (The Legend of Wonder Woman, Chicagoland)
  • and more!

To back this project, and to learn more about the many rewards levels, visit their Kickstarter site, or head on over to the Alternative History Comics website.