Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Vérité #1 and Cutie Honey: The Classic Collection

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Little T&A

Shea and Derek are back for their September manga episode. (Yeah, yeah. We know it’s the beginning of October, but the guys were a little late getting last month’s show recorded.) This time they discuss two intriguing titles, each quite different one from the other. They begin with the inaugural issue of Vérité, a new anthology series out of India featuring classic alternative manga as well as contributions from contemporary Indian artists that have a gekiga feel to them. The guys were glad to see work from Tadao Tsuge, Susumu Katsumata, and Youji Tsuneyama, but they were also taken by fresh Indian voices such as those of Anpu Varkey, Shaunak Samvatsar, Nandita Basu, and Bharath Murthy, Vérité‘s editor. After that, Shea and Derek discuss Cutie Honey: The Classic Collection, by Go Nagai. This is another one of Seven Seas Entertainment’s nice hardbound collections of classic 1970s manga, other titles including Captain Harlock and Devilman. The guys emphasize Cutie Honey as a representative kind of shonen manga for its time, but they spend most of the time discussing the, at times discomforting, sexual or erotic nature of Go Nagai’s creation. What was written for a particular audience back in the 1970s may come across as gratuitous or even offensive to more contemporary readers. But both Derek and Shea point out that, despite the erotic weirdness apparent at times, the story is engaging and worth revisiting.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Back with Howard Shapiro

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:22 – Setup of interview
  • 00:03:58 – Interview with Howard Shapiro
  • 01:06:33 – Wrap up
  • 01:07:06 – Contact us

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Nazis in the Bathroom Just below the Stairs

A common theme in Howard Shapiro’s stories is the significance of music. His first graphic novel, The Sterotypical Freaks, revolved around competing high school bands and how that competition and their dedication to the music defined each member’s life. In his latest book, Queen of Kenosha (Animal Media Group), music once again takes center narrative state. It’s the story of young singer-songwriter from Wisconsin, Nina Overstreet, who comes to New York City in the early 1960s to make it on the folk scene. What she unexpectedly finds is espionage and ideological conspiracy. Whereas in his earlier Forever Friends series of graphic novels Howard wedded music to hockey as the backdrop for his stories, here in Queen of Kenosha — the first book in what he’s calling The Thin Thinline Trilogy — he uses music within the context of geopolitical intrigue. In this conversation, Derek talks with Howard about the impetus behind his latest project, the importance of music to his storytelling, the kind of research he conducted to set the historical stage, and his plans for following up on his songwriting protagonist. Howard was on the podcast a couple of years ago when Hockey Karma was released, and it was nice to touch base with him again and discuss his subsequent work.

Comics Alternative, Episode 295: The October Previews Catalog

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Going Long

It’s the first of the month, so it’s time to look at the latest Previews catalog! What’s more, this is Sterg’s very first Previews show, and Derek honors this occasion with much fanfare. As listeners have come to expect from the monthly Previews shows, this episode goes long. In fact, it goes extra long, and in many ways this becomes a trial by fire for Sterg as a new cohost. But he rises to the occasion, providing solid and tireless recommendations of upcoming titles. For October, the Two Guys with PhDs discuss a variety of  publishers and titles such as:

 

Comics Alternative, On Location: SPX 2018, “The Practice of Diary Comics” Panel

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 – Introduction
  • 00:02:12 – Panel context, with Glynnis Fawkes
  • 00:14:02 – “The Practice of Diary Comics” panel
  • 01:09:40 – Wrap up
  • 01:10:50 – Contact us

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Sriracha

The middle of last month, September 15-16, saw the Small Press Expo held in North Bethesda, MD. At the event, Derek moderated a panel on that Sunday afternoon entitled “The Practice of Diary Comics.” Participating in the discussion were Glynnis Fawkes, Summer Pierre, Kevin Budnik, and Dustin Harbin. This episode of the podcast presents an audio recording of that event, and joining Derek in setting up the context is Glynnis Fawkes. She, Derek, and Summer Pierre were the ones who organized the panel, decided on its topic focus, and reached out to the other contributors about joining in. In setting up the panel recording, Glynnis and Derek discuss their initial plans for the session, some of the concerns they had in coming up with a focus, and how the topic evolved. Then they get to the recording of the event. The sound quality of the audio is “rough” at times — the gain on some of the microphones sounds as if it was turned up a bit too high — but that’s something that the participants had no way of controlling. Nonetheless, everything is legible, and you can certainly make out clearly what everyone says…as well as Dustin’s singing and consuming of donuts.

A big thanks to Rob Clough for working with us on this panel and for overseeing the programming at this year’s SPX!

Participants from the left: Dustin Harbin, Summer Pierre, Kevin Budnik, Glynnis Fawkes, and Derek Royal

Comics Alternative, Webcomics: Reviews of E.T. Girl, Bicycle Boy, and Broken Telephone

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A Girl, a Boy, and a Telephone

On the September webcomics show, Sean and Derek look at three intriguing titles. They begin with E.T. Girl, written and illustrated by theplanetsdreamer (and whose real name is Kimberly Kotschi). This is a relatively new webcomic, a mix of sci-fi and fantasy, and plays upon the alien abduction convention. After that they check out Jackarais’s Bicycle Boy, a work that has been going on for over 5 years. However, the narrative is well-paced and with incredible art. This is also a sci-fi story, but one set in an a post-apocalyptic future with a cyborg as its protagonist. The Two Guys wrap up the episode with the already-completed Broken Telephone, a unique series of interconnected storylines that become more solidly interwoven as the webcomic progresses. Ryan Estrada is the writer of all the storylines, but with each installment, 18 in all, he uses a different artist or artistic team to express his narrative vision.

 

Comics Alternative Special: A Roundtable Discussion on Comics and Podcasting for International Podcast Day 2018

Shop Talk

In celebration of International Podcast Day 2018, Derek invites a variety of other comics podcasters to discuss their experiences in the medium. Joining him are Gina Gagliano, from Graphic Novel TK; Greg Matiasevich, from Robots from Tomorrow; Jay Loving, from The Best of the Rest; and Gwen Tarbox, from The Comics Alternative for Young Readers.

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.

Comics Alternative, On Location: The Second September Visit to Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find

Batman’s Junk

Michael and Derek are back at their local shop, Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, to discuss recent mainstream and indie titles that have captured their attention. Mike starts the ball rolling by focusing on recent expressions of a couple of second-tier characters, Doctor Strange and Hawkman, as handled by Mark Waid and Robert Venditti, respectively. He then takes the conversation into a more “adult” direction with the first issue in Batman: Damned, part of DC’s new Black Label imprint. This title is notable for a couple of reasons. First, it’s now difficult to find, and as such, both fans and retailers are selling copies for a hefty price. But even more significant is the fact that in this first issue, readers get to see Batman naked. That’s right, Wayne’s wang. Batman’s junk. The recent titles that Derek brings up are much tamer in nature. He begins with Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins’s Black Badge (BOOM! Studio), the second issue of which will be released next week. This is a promising new limited series that has all of the secretive, undercover, and espionage-y markings of a Kindt narrative. However, Derek isn’t as excited about the new Image series, Man-Eaters, written by Chelsea Cain and art by Kate Niemczyk. While he admires the message that seems to be embedded in the story, the first issue is rather sketchy in laying any satisfying narrative groundwork. But Derek more enamored by the minicomic Common Blessings and Common Curses, written by Maritsa Patrinos and nominated this year for an Ignatz Award in the Outstanding Minicomic category. It was a wonderful find at this year’s Small Press Expo.

Remember that The Comics Alternative‘s on-location series is now part of the Queen City Podcast Network! Check out the great podcast series that give life to Charlotte!

Comics Alternative Interviews: Another Conversation with Tillie Walden

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:20 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:01 – Interview with Tillie Walden
  • 01:15:35 – Wrap up
  • 01:17:30 – Contact us

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Queer Women in Space, or Women in Space Who Are Queer?

Sterg and Derek are happy to have Tillie Walden back on the podcast. (She was originally on The Comics Alternative in June 2015, her very first podcast interview!) Her latest book, On a Sunbeam, will be released next week from First Second. This narrative actually began as a webcomic — one that was nominated for an Eisner Award last year, and one that is still available online — but now it will be available in print. The Two Guys talk with Tillie about the process of creating On a Sunbeam and its importance as a webcomic, the science fiction scaffolding around which the narrative is constructed, and how this work compares to some of her earlier books. In fact, much of the conversation is focused on the kind of fantastical stories Tillie spins out, with flying fish planes and cats large enough to ride on. The guys also ask her about last year’s Spinning, the winner of a 2018 Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work, and the creative shifts she had to make with this outright autobiography. Over the course of their conversation, Tillie shares her experiences growing as a storyteller, her large and dedicated fanbase, the almost improvisational nature of her writing, and her discomfort being pigeonholed primarily as a writer for teens or as a lesbian creator.

Comics Alternative, Episode 294: Reviews of Coyote Doggirl, Baseline Blvd., and Cemetery Beach #1

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Juicy Feeling

This week Sterg and Derek discuss three fascinating and genre-spanning titles. They begin with Lisa Hanawalt’s Coyote Doggirl (Drawn and Quarterly). As the guys point out, this is a humor-infused story that engages with the western genre. Both Derek and Sterg mention that while they appreciate Hanawalt’s off-beat sense of humor, they haven’t been big fans of her past books, in that they weren’t so much narrative comics as they were illustrated works of humor. But Coyote Doggirl is more of a “traditional” comic, with sequential panels and a discernible storyline. The premise is more or less simple, but that’s part of the charm of this text. And the humor!

Next, the Two Guys with PhDs turn to Emi Gennis’s Baseline Blvd., released earlier this year from Kilgore Books and Comics. This actually began as a webcomic back in 2015, but it was published in hardcopy as part of Kilgore’s Kickstarter campaign for their 2018 releases. Where many of Gennis’s comics have been profiles or biographies, this latest book is more autobiographical in nature. As the guys point out, there is a silent elegance about this work, and Gennis packs a lot of story — and emotion — into her brief narrative.

The guys then wrap up the episode by looking at Warren Ellis and Jason Howard’s Cemetery Beach #1 (Image Comics). Sterg observes that this seems to be a typical Ellis narrative — and “typical” in a good, demonstrative way — and both of the guys comment on Howard’s art. In fact, much of this first issue is carried by the illustrations. In all, it’s a successful first issue. This seven-issue sci-fi series has a lot of promise, and both Derek and Sterg look forward to seeing where the creators take their premise.

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: Jason Lutes

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:26 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:50 – Interview with Jason Lutes
  • 01:20:31 – Wrap up
  • 01:21:13 – Contact us

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Stones, Smoke, and Light

Jason Lutes began his Berlin series in the spring of 1996, with plans to publish his ambitious project over a 24-issue run. Over the years, he pared down the number of issues to 22, and the last of those was released in March of this year. Earlier this month, Drawn and Quarterly released a complete single-volume edition of Berlin, clocking in at over 550 pages, as well as a third volume of the series, City of Light, for those who had already gotten the previous two collections, City of Stones and City of Smoke, and didn’t want to get the completed series in just one volume.

Berlin is a massive narrative with an ensemble cast. It takes place in that volatile city during the last days of the Weimar Republic, 1928-1933, when Germany was struggling with its economy and war reparations, and a variety of political factions — in particular, the Communist Party and the National Socialist Workers Party — were vying for power. Lutes’s story primarily focuses on the lives of Kurt Severing, a world-weary journalist, and Marthe Müller, an uncertain art student moving to Berlin and longing to define herself in this newly adopted city. But there are a variety of other characters, as well, and Lutes even peppers his fictional cast with several historically based figures, including the jailed journalist Carl von Ossietzky, Joseph Goebbels, Josephine Baker, and, yes, Adolf Hitler himself. The result is an expansive narrative that not only captures the Weimar culture at the time, but also explores individual desires and unpredictable relationships in the midst of political and economic upheaval. In his interview with him, Derek talks with Jason about the origins of the series, the amount of research that went into the project, how the city of Berlin became a point of inspiration, the various challenges he faced maintaining such an ongoing series for over 20 years, and where Jason’s artistic ambitions may take him next.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Youssef Daoudi

Time Codes:

  • 00:24 – Introduction
  • 02:22 – Setup of interview
  • 04:01 – Interview with Youssef Daoudi
  • 52:10 – Wrap up
  • 52:47 – Contact us

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Hey, pop! Re-bop! Mop! Y-e-a-h!

Youssef Daoudi is a French creator whose previous albums include La Trilogie Noire, published by Casterman, and several works released by Glénat, including Mayday, Ring, and Tripoli. Unfortunately, these books aren’t yet available in English, but you can discover the art and storytelling of Daoudi through his brand new book from First Second, Monk!: Thelonious, Pannonica, and the Friendship behind a Musical Revolution. Indeed, as Youssef discusses with me in this interview you’re about to here, Monk! is his first work to be written originally in English, and later to be translated into French. This isn’t a graphic biography of the jazz legend, often called “The Mad Monk” or “The High Priest of Bop,” but a portrait of his relationship with Kathleen Annie Pannoica de Koenigswarter, a free-spirted and jazz-impassioned baroness who was a member of the Rothschild family. Daoudi meticulously lays out the contours of that relationship and how each sustained the other. In our conversation Derek talks with Youssef about the genesis of this project, his love of jazz, and what it was about mid-century bebop culture — and in particular, the lives of Monk and Pannonica — that so captured his imagination.

Comics Alternative, On Location: Talking with Creators at SPX 2018, Pt. 2

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More Good Smallness

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Last weekend Derek attended the Small Press Expo, which is held every September in North Bethesda, MD. At the event, he talked with a variety of artists who tabled there. This is the second of two on-location shows featuring these brief interviews, the first being released earlier this week. These short conversations range from around 6 minutes to 23 minutes in length, and while most were recorded on the floor of the convention, some were conducted outside on the hotel’s patio. The creators Derek talked with on this episode include Jennifer Hayden; Fernando De Peña, Rodrigo Vargas, and Coni Yovaniniz; Ellen Forney; Miss Lasko-Gross; Michael DeForge; Evan Dahm; Ben Costa and James Parks; Ivy Atoms; M.S.  Harkness; Maritsa Patrinos; and Maransa Harmon and Eric Taylor.

Comics Alternative, Episode 293: Reviews of A Contract with God: Curator’s Collection, Egg Cream #1, and Hey Kids! Comics! #1 and #2

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Welcome Sterg!

This week The Comics Alternative gets a new cohost: Stergios Botzakis! And on his maiden voyage, Sterg becomes an integral part in discussions of three unique titles. He and Derek begin with A Contract with God: Curator’s Collection (Dark Horse Books-Kitchen Sink Books). This classic of Will Eisner’s is reproduced in two beautiful volumes, one with the original pencils and another with the inks. This slipcased edition is a first for the podcast, as the Two Guys have never discussed anything like an Artist’s Edition or a Legacy Edition. As such, Sterg and Derek not only go through the specifics of Eisner’s four stories, but they spend a lot of time talking about process, Eisner’s original intentions, and the various insightful essays included in this two-volume set.

After that the Two Guys with PhDs turn to Liz Suburbia’s Egg Cream #1. The digital version of this was just made available to those who supported Czap Books’ Kickstarter campaign last year (and the print version will debut at MoCCA next spring). The core of this issue is the first installment of Suburbia’s Sacred Heart, Vol. 2 – Livin’ in the Future, a follow-up to her 2015 work, Sacred Heart. Sterg and Derek set a context by discussing the earlier book, then they explore the contours of the new work and how it expands upon the initial presentation of Suburbia’s broader narrative.

The guys wrap up with the first two issues of Howard Chaykin’s Hey Kids! Comics! (Image Comics). Both Sterg and Derek are fans of Chaykin’s work, although it’s been a long time since his comics were discussed on the show. This is a satiric look at the history of the American comic-book history, and the guys spend some time looking at Chaykin’s analogs to DC and Marvel as well as to such figures as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Matt Baker, among many others. They also focus on the ways in which Chaykin structures his story, skipping around in time and representing a broad temporal overview, and they speculate on what Chaykin may be up to in his most recent project.

Comics Alternative, On Location: Talking with Creators at SPX 2018, Pt. 1

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Small Is Good!

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This past weekend, Derek attended Small Press Expo in North Bethesda, MD. While there, he interviewed a variety of creators, some of whom he didn’t even know, about their recent releases and their upcoming projects. In this, the first of two on-location shows recorded at SPX, Derek talks with 15 different creators, with each brief interview lasting anywhere from 4 to about 17 minutes. Among the writers/artists/editors Derek talks with are Mike Freiheit, Madeline McGrane, Kelly Phillips and Claire Folkman, Karl Christian Krumpholz, Max de Radiguès, Ryan Holmberg, Scott Roberts, Nathan Gelgud, M. Dean, Emi Gennis, Alex Nall, Ash Thomas and Sara Guzman, and Ellen Lindner.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Summer Pierre

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:37 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:33 – Interview with Summer Pierre
  • 01:19:14 – Wrap up
  • 01:20:13 – Contact us

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Musical Definitions

The Two Guys were first introduced to the work of Summer Pierre during June of 2017. At the time, they were wanting to do a special episode of The Comics Alternative devoted to self-published creators, and John Porcellino recommended to Derek that they check out the work of Summer Pierre. At the time her minicomic Paper Pencil Life was at its fourth issue, and so they went to her website to get the full run of the title up to that point. They were impressed by her art and storytelling, and since then, Derek has made it a point of following Summer’s work. She had told him last year in an email that she planned to have a new graphic memoir coming out from Retrofit in 2018, and at this week’s Small Press Expo that book will officially debut. All the Sad Songs is a moving account of the role of music in Summer’s life, from the creation of mix tapes to her performances as a musician, and how that music is linked to key moments with her various relationships and her growth as an artist. In many ways this book is a work of remembrance, but it’s not soaked in the kind of nostalgia that would come across as sentimental. On the contrary, Summer takes a hard look at herself during those times in her life, bearing herself in ways that, at times, may be a bit uncomfortable. But her story is authentic and speaks from the heart. In this interview, Derek talks with Summer about the genesis of this project, her experiences writing in long-form narrative, the role that music has played in her life, and the potential pitfalls in writing about her past in such an open and honest way. This is an interview that’s been a long time in coming, but it was definitely worth the wait.