Comics Alternative, Euro Comics: Review of Piero and The First Man

Time Codes:

  • 00:01:23 – Introduction
  • 00:04:25 – Better late than never
  • 00:05:54 – Piero
  • 00:40:32 – The First Man
  • 01:23:26 – Wrap up
  • 01:24:39 – Contact us

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Remembrances

Pascal and Derek are back with the latest Euro Comics episode…the very late November show. They begin with Edmond Baudoin’s Piero (New York Review Comics). This is a fascinating and moving memoir — or better yet, a series of remembrances — from Baudoin and his relationship with his younger brother Pierre, or Piero. While the title and the story itself would lead one to believe that this is the story of Edmond’s younger brother, it’s actually a narrative that focuses on the author himself. Edmond, or Momon, as he’s called in the book, is at the center of this text, and he’s explored and defined within the context of his brother and their relationship, especially as it concerns art and illustration.

After that, the Two Guys turn to Jacques Ferrandez’s adaptation of Albert Camus’s The First Man (Pegasus Books). This isn’t the first time the guys have discussed Ferrandez’s adaptation. In July 2016, Derek and Gene looked at his graphic version of Camus’s The Stranger. This book is similarly moving, but in many ways denser and more pensive than the earlier adaptation. The First Man was the manuscript that Camus was working on at the time of his death, dying in a car accident. The unfinished work, and intended masterpiece, was finally published in the 1990s, but Ferrandez’s text doesn’t really feel like an uncompleted manuscript. This is quite a prose-heavy book, and philosophical in the way that Camus’s essays and fiction were thought-provoking. Derek and Pascal didn’t plan this when they chose these two books, but The First Man and Piero have a lot in common: thoughtful, pensive, and narratives scaffolded around memories and the past.

 

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Sailor Moon Eternal Edition Vols. 1 & 2 and Mob Psycho 100 Vol. 1

Time Codes:

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Manga Style?

On this episode of The Comics Alternative/s manga series — the November show, albeit a little late — Shea and Derek take a look at two series that give us a varied understanding of the medium. They begin with the first two volume’s of Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon Eternal Edition (Kodansha Comics). This is a classic shojo series from the 1990s, and as the guys discuss, it’s something that they’ve heard about for years, but it’s not a title that they actually read. Both Derek and Shea are quite surprised with the story, in that it’s quite different from what they expected…and in a good way. The guys discuss Takeuchi’s visual style, the complex layering of her story elements, and the fantastical tone of the narrative, among other aspects.

After that, the Two Guys check out One’s Mob Psycho 100, Vol. 1 (Dark Horse Manga). This is the latest translated manga from the creator of One-Punch Man, which Shea and Derek discussed on the September 2015 show. Both enjoy this new (for English speakers) series, and it stands out from One-Punch Man in that One does both the writing and the art. In fact, they spend a bit of time discussing One’s aesthetic, the art’s “flatness” and simplicity. Some may not appreciate the style, but both of the guys are taken by not only One’s storytelling abilities, but his illustrations, as well. They do mention in one long storyline the narrative seemed to drag, but other than that, it’s a title, along with the new editions of Sailor Moon, that the guys heartily recommend.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Conor Stechschulte

Time Codes:

  • 00:01:15 – Introduction
  • 00:03:15 – Setup of interview
  • 00:05:06 – Interview with Conor Stechschulte
  • 01:15:57 – Wrap up
  • 01:17:44 – Contact us

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A Good Kind of Disturbing

On this episode of The Comics Alternative‘s interview series, the Two Guys have the pleasure of talking with Conor Stechschulte. The third volume of his ongoing series, Generous Bosom (Breakdown Press), was released in the spring, and Sterg and Derek have an enlightening conversation with Conor about this narrative. While in the first two parts the story was flowing in one discernible direction, more or less, it takes a strange and disturbing turn in the third part. The guys talk with their guest about this narrative trajectory and what it may portend. And as they intuit from the latest installment of Generous Bosom, there are more surprises in store. They also talk with Conor about his other comics, The Amateurs (which was reviewed on the podcast in June 2014), his self-published work, his relationship with his UK publisher, and his inclusion in last year’s volume of Best American Comics. This interview has been a long time in coming, and the guys make the most of it.

Be sure to check out Conor’s band, Lilac, and the sounds they make!

Comics Alternative, Episode 300: The December Previews Catalog

Celebrate 300!

It’s the first of a new month, and that must mean that the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics will be looking at the latest Previews catalog. This is a rather long episode — going for almost three hours — so you get your money’s worth! But what makes this show extra special is that it’s the 300th episode of The Comics Alternative‘s weekly review show. As Derek points out, there are over twice as many episodes of the podcast that have been released since August 2012, accounting for the many interviews, specials, and the various monthly shows, but with the regularly weekly review shows, they’ve now reached a notable milestone. For December, Sterg and Derek discuss a variety of  publishers and titles solicited in Previews such as:

Webcomics: Reviews of Grass of Parnassus, Lavender Jack, and Take the A Train

Time Codes:

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Platform Variety!

On the November webcomics episode — albeit a little late — Sean and Derek look at three very different webcomics…especially different when it comes their hosting platforms. They begin with Stuart and Kathryn Immonen’s Grass of Parnassus. This is a unique science fiction narrative that is relatively new, starting in September this year, with an intriguing storyline (what there is so far) and incredible art. But what is additionally notable about this webcomic is that it’s being hosted on Instagram. This is the first time the guys have discussed an Instagram-based webcomic, and Sean and Derek spend a bit of time discussing the pros and cons of this platform.

After that they focus on Lavender Jack, a webcomic hosted on Webtoon and written and illustrated by Dan Schkade. It’s an engaging crime/intrigue webcomic that reminds the guys of both The Scarlet Pimpernel and Batman. A unique combination! It’s the story of a wealthy socialite who dons a costume to cover his identity, and then goes about exposing the hidden crimes of prominent, powerful, and corrupt citizens in the city. This is also a relatively new webcomic, starting in June, and although there are already 24 episodes (as of this recording), there are still a number of mysteries that are yet to be answered.

Finally, the Two Guys wrap up with an already completed webcomic, M. Dean and Z. Akhmetova’s Take the A Train. This is a relatively short narrative, but what makes it stand out — in addition to the incredible art — is that each half of the story is hosted on Dean’s and Akhmetova’s sites, respectively. This is the first time the guys have discussed a webcomic that was a collaborative endeavor in this manner. The webcomic is based on Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s classic song, and both creators focus on young protagonists in the middle of the 20th century who are fascinated with Ellington and his historic relationship with The Savoy in Harlem.

Comics Alternative for Young Readers: Reviews of The Brain: The Ultimate Thinking Machine and Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction

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Blinded by Science

On this episode of the Comics Alternative’s Young Readers series, Gwen and Krystal discuss two new releases: Tory Woollcott and Alex Graudins’s The Brain: The Ultimate Thinking Machine, the most recent volume in First Second Books’ Science Comicsseries, geared towards upper elementary and middle grade readers, and Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction, a YA comics memoir, published by Scholastic’s Graphix imprint.

To introduce Woollcott and Graudins’ The Brain, Gwen and Krystal talk about non-fiction, informational comics for young readers, bringing up other volumes in the Science Comics series, such as M.K. Reed and Joe Flood’s Dinosaurs, as well as Maris Wicks’ Human Body Theater, and Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes’ Secret Coders. Gwen explains that all of these texts place scientific or mathematical information within a fictional frame, and she summarizes the basic premise of The Brain, which places two sisters, Fahama and Nour, in a setting that is reminiscent of wacky 1960s and 1970s monster films or TV shows like The Munsters. Krystal praises Woollcott and Graundin’s use of a diverse cast, both in terms of the principal characters and of the individuals who appear in illustrations of the way that the brain impacts human functioning. Both Krystal and Gwen detail some of the memorable spreads in the comic and view the text as an excellent story and reference book for young readers.

Next, the two PhDs move on to a young adult graphic memoir, Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s Hey, Kiddo, which is already earning critical acclaim and award buzz (it is a National Book Award finalist). Krosoczka is well-known as the author of nearly a dozen picture books and of the Lunch Lady graphic novel series, but Hey, Kiddo is his first YA offering. Gwen recommends Krosoczka’s 2012 TED Talk “How a boy became an artist,” as well as his 2014 TED Talk on the Lunch Lady comics. Both provide insight into Krosoczka’s childhood influences and artistic choices. Krystal then gives a detailed description of the way Hey, Kiddo mirrors — and expands upon — many of the artist-focused coming of age narratives that have been popular in recent decades, including Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomedy (2006) and Özge Samanci’s Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey (2015).  Krystal also applauds Krosoczka’s use of line style and color in commenting on memory, and Gwen testifies to the author’s ability to evoke a convincing depiction of 1970s New England. Both reviewers love this text and highly recommend it for teens and adults.

The Young Readers series will be on hiatus in December, but Gwen and Krystal will be back in January with a look at some of the YA graphic novel highlights of 2018.

 

 

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: Katriona Chapman

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:14 – Setup of interview
  • 00:03:59 – Interview with Katriona Chapman
  • 01:06:41 – Wrap up
  • 01:07:15 – Contact us

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Travels and Travails

Katriona Chapman first came to our attention through her work at Avery Hill Publishing. She works in marketing there, and back in summer of 2015 she introduced Tillie Walden. Tillie’s first book, The End of Summer, had just been released, and Kat worked was instrumental in setting up an interview with the very young artist. But over the subsequent year, we’ve come to know Kat as more of an artist herself. She had done a lot of illustration work for children’s books, but it was her self-published comic, Katzine, that specifically caught our attention. In fact, we had discussed Katzine in a special episode from last year, where we looked at self-published comics. In one of the later issues of Katzine she mentions working on her first book, an autobiographical work centered on her travels in Mexico. Last month that book, Follow Me In, was released by Avery Hill. This is a fascinating travelogue about her experiences touring Mexico, it’s diverse regions, its many ruins, and its vibrant cultures. As you’ll hear in this interview, Kat doesn’t only write about her experiences touring in this new book, but she also explores her problematic relationship with her companion as well as her own efforts as an artist. As such, Follow Me In is much more than a travelogue. It’s an account of a young artist undergoing new experiences and using those to grow as a creator and to define her art.

Comics Alternative, Episode 299: Reviews of Recent Comics about The Beatles

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Number 9, Number 9, Number 9…

This is a special episode of The Comics Alternative, in that Sterg and Derek focus only on recent comics about The Beatles. Both of the guys are huge Beatles fans, and you can tell how excited they are in discussing these texts. They begin with David Foenkinos, Corbeyran, and Horne’s Lennon: The New York Years (IDW Publishing), adapted from Foenkinos prose work on John Lennon. What makes this book stand out is that it’s primarily narrated in the first person through imagined therapy sessions that Lennon undergoes. In this way, the text becomes not only an insight into John Lennon’s psyche, but also a broad historical overview of The Beatles as a musical phenomenon.

After that they jump into Bill Morrison’s recent adaptation of Yellow Submarine (Titan Comics). This is a work that is as colorful and as elaborate as the 1968 animated film, and the guys are impressed by how faithful the book is to the film’s plot. The only thing you don’t get in Morrison’s text is the various musical interludes that you have in the animated film (of course), but even then Morrison does an affective job of implying the music as sort of a silent soundtrack. But all of the surreal visuals, the song references, and the many puns are there.

Next, they look at a new book just released through NBM, The Beatles in Comics. This is a collection of short essays and comics written by Michel Mabel and Gaet’s, and with illustrations by a variety of artists. Much like Lennon, this book provides a broad overview of The Beatles, and the chapters cover such topics as their time in Hamburg, Brian Epstein, when they met the queen, their playing Shea Stadium, the Ed Sullivan Show, the genesis of “Yesterday,” their decision to stop touring, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, their time in India, Yoko Ono, the Paul Is Dead phenomenon, and the breakup of the band.

Finally, they discuss a new book that really isn’t about The Beatles, but uses the Fab Four as a significant backdrop. M. Dean’s I Am Young (Fantagraphics) is a series of stories about relationships and music, and the main storyline is the one that uses The Beatles. It’s the history of a relationship between Miriam and George, two young people who meet at a Beatles concert when the band first hit it big. M. Dean takes us through the course of this relationship, doing so with The Beatles as a nexus, with the two growing older and getting together, and growing apart, as The Beatles themselves mature and evolve.

One book that the Sterg and Derek do not discuss, but one they nonetheless highly recommend, is Carol Tyler’s Fab4 Mania (Fantagraphics). This work was released earlier this year, and the reason the guys don’t include it in their comics about The Beatles coverage is that Gene and Derek interviewed Carol back in July. As such, they spent a lot of time discussing that book, so the guys already focused on that text. Still, it’s another recent graphic novel about The Beatles, and it should stand alongside the other works that Sterg and Derek discuss in this episode.

 

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 298: Our Sixth Annual Thanksgiving Show

Gathering Together for Comics

thanksgiving2016Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and Sterg and Derek gather around the ol’ podcasting dinner table to share some of the creators, publishers, locales, and and concepts they’re thankful for this year . Among the many things they mention are

  • the plentitude of comics today
  • Inio Asano’s new series, Dead Dead Deamon’s Dededede Destruction
  • Charles Forsman
  • VIZ Media’s new Perfect Editions of Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys
  • The Nib
  • New York Review Comics
  • comics-centric cons
  • TwoMorrows Press
  • Craig Yoe
  • publishers who use Kickstarter to get their seasonal works out
  • Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, The Comics Experience, and other great local comic shops
  • the completion of Jason Lutes’s Berlin
  • review copies
  • creators who are kind and warm individuals
  • students who are researching the way people consume and interpret comics

So give thanks this year, and read some great comics!

ForbiddenWorldsThanksgiving

Comics Alternative, Episode 297: Reviews of DC Comics before Superman, My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies, and Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion #1

Time Codes:

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Heroes, Pre- and Post-

This week Sterg and Derek check out three intriguing, yet very different, titles. They begin with Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson’s DC Comics before Superman: Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson’s Pulp Comics (Hermes Press). This is a collection of comics written or inspired by the writing of Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and an overview of the pre-Superman history of the publisher. After that they look at Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies (Image Comics), the latest noir narrative in their Criminal series. And then the guys wrap up with Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion #1, Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s return to their Umbrella Academy world.

Comics Alternative, Euro Comics: Review of The Arab of the Future, Books 1-3

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 – Introduction
  • 00:03:02 – Being away in September
  • 00:05:21 – The Arab of the Future, books 1-3
  • 01:26:07 – Wrap up
  • 01:28:05 – Contact us

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Between Cultures

On this episode of the Euro Comics series, Pascal and Derek look at the first three books of Riad Sattouf’s series, The Arab of the Future. Each of these volumes is thick in content, giving the guys a lot to discuss. And while they do a bit of close reading in their discussion, much of what Pascal and Derek do is provide larger overviews, focusing on themes, narrative structures, aesthetic choices, and cultural contexts. In fact, Pascal had read each of these books originally in French — indeed, he is now in the middle of reading the fourth volume that is already available in France — so he provides some of the context that might escape American readers. Both of the guys are bowled away by this series, and they eagerly await the continuation of this graphic memoir…and other translated works by Sattouf.

Webcomics: Reviews of The Zombie Hunters, Kim Reaper, and Nothing Is Forgotten

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Zombies, Reapers, and…Some Sorta Thing

On this, the Two Guys’ annual Halloween webcomics episode, Sean and Derek discuss three horror-related titles, each of which is quite different one from the other. They begin with Jenny Romanchuk’s The Zombie Hunters, a story that has been serialized since 2006. This is a post-apocalyptic narrative that centers on a group of zombie hunters who are themselves infected by a virus that could possibly turn them into the undead, should they die a natural death. After that they look at Kim Reaper, a relatively new webcomic created by Sara Graley, and one that could arguably be described as a horror romcom. Finally, they discuss Ryan Andrews’s Nothing Is Forgotten, a somewhat short but nonetheless powerful story about a young boy who buries his father the same day he stumbles upon a lair of some ill-defined and mysterious creature.

 

Episode 296: Reviews of Scratches #2, Now #4, and Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #1

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Anthologies and a Classic Cop

On this episode Sterg and Derek check out two new anthologies, as well as a recent incarnation of Dick Tracy. They begin with Scratches #2, a comics and art anthology curated by Joost Swarte (and distributed in the Americas by Conundrum Press). They actually spend the majority of the episode discussing this collection, which includes mostly European artists. After that they eagerly jump into the latest issue of Eric Reynold’s Now. This is Fantagraphics’ exciting anthology that began last year. In this issue we see work by, among others, Walt Holcombe, Cynthia Alfonso, Roman Muradov, Tommi Parrish, Theo Ellsworth, Rebecca W. Kirby, and David Alvardo. Finally, they wrap up with Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #1, the first in a four-issue limited series. Written by Lee and Michael Allred, and with art by Rich Tommaso, this is (to some degree) an updated handling of Dick Tracy in that the legendary detective is fighting crime in the current day. But although temporal setting is contemporary, the issue still has the feel of a classic comic-strip narrative, including big-presence villains, a detective with many tricks up his sleeve, and a storyline that at times seems outrageous…but in a good way. The Two Guys really hope that this Dick Tracy has a long life well after the limited series.

Comics Alternative for Young Readers: Reviews of 3×4, The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo: The Monster Mall, and Sheets

Time Codes:

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Boo!

On this episode of the Comics Alternative’s Young Readers show, Gwen is joined by her new co-host, Dr. Krystal Howard, an assistant professor in the Liberal Studies and English departments at California State University, Northridge. Krystal has been reading, writing about, and teaching children’s and YA comics for a number of years and has a particular interest in gender and comics studies. In 2017, Krystal’s essay “Gothic Excess and the Body in Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost” appeared in Gwen’s co-edited volume (with Michelle Ann Abate), Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults, and she has another comics-related essay, “Comics Grammar in Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s Picture Book Collaborations” that is forthcoming in The Artistry of Neil Gaiman: Finding Light in the Shadows. Regular listeners to the Young Readers show will already know Krystal from her spot as a panelist last summer on a special roundtable that Gwen and Paul Lai hosted on the future of children’s and YA comics.

Before they begin discussing the books for this month’s show, Gwen and Krystal mention the wonderful contributions of Paul Lai, who has recently graduated with his doctorate from the School of Education in Language, Literacy, and Culture at the University of California, Berkeley, and who has begun a new position as Director of UC Berkeley’s prestigious BE3 program, which stands for Berkeley Educators for Equity and Excellence. Paul intends to return to the Comics Alternative family from time to time as a podcaster, and Gwen and Krystal wish him the very best in his new role.

During the main portion of the show, Gwen and Krystal discuss three new releases: Ivan Brunetti’s 3 x 4, published last month by TOON Books and geared towards early elementary readers, and two Halloween-oriented middle grade graphic novels: Drew Weing’s The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo: The Monster Mall, which is the second in the Margo Maloo series from First Second books, and Brenna Thummler’s debut, Sheets, put out by Lion Forge’s Cubhouse imprint.

Both Krystal and Gwen found Brunetti’s 3 x 4 to be a great addition to the plethora of STEM-focused comics that have been published in the last five years, including First Second’s Science Comics series and Mike Holmes and Gene Luen Yang’s Secret Coders. Krystal praises Brunetti for his inclusion of a diverse and eclectic group of young people, and Gwen notes that for the detail-oriented child, every page offers up an opportunity to discover the many ways that the number 12 can be divided into sets!

Next, the two PhDs consider Drew Weing’s follow up to his highly successful first volume of the Margo Maloos series: The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo: The Monster Mall. Gwen appreciates Weing’s decision to continue focusing on the costs of gentrification, while Krystal notes that the inclusion of teenage characters adds a new dimension to the series.

Finally, Gwen and Krystal discuss the amazing debut by Brenna Thummler, Sheets (Lion Forge), which takes place in a lake resort town and focuses on the struggles of a young woman who has become the proprietor of her family’s laundromat, all while trying to fit in at middle school. Her interactions with Wendell, the ghost of an eleven-year-old boy, end up making life a lot better for both of them. Krystal points out Thummler’s attention to figural placement and atmospherics, and Gwen suggests that while some of the plot points might seem a little far-fetched, the novel holds together well and deals with class conflict in a manner that is also present in Weing’s Margo Maloo series.

In November, Gwen and Krystal will be back with another set of books to review, as well as 2018 best-of-list recommendations for our listener’s winter holiday celebrations.

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

Time Codes:

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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.