Comics Alternative, Episode 248: Reviews of Outburst, Steam Clean, and Resist! Vol. 2

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“Smell my book. Feel bad.”

On this week’s episode, the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics look at there new releases…and even smell them. They begin with Pieter Coudyzer’s Outburst (SelfMadeHero), a surreal meditation on creative expression and not fitting in. The narrative can even be called an example of magical realism (and the guys don’t apply that term indiscriminately), where the natural world not only becomes a refuge from human interaction, but also literally infiltrates and consumes the marginalized. Next they discuss a recent release from one of their favorite publishers, Retrofit Comics/Big Planet Comics. Laura Ķeniņš’s Steam Clean is a short yet poignant look at the challenges women and gender non-binary individuals face in their day-to-day lives. The story takes place at a women’s sauna party in some Scandinavian country, and its varied attendees use this gathering to explore their relationships and “sweat out” their frustrations. Finally, Andy and Derek wrap up with an in-depth look at the second volume of the freebie newspaper Resist! Edited by Françoise Mouly and Nadja Spiegelman, this latest release is similar to the first — which the guys reviewed earlier this year — and includes contributions from well-established as well as younger and first-time artists. Familiar names that the guys discuss include Roz Chast, Cathy Malkasian, Miss Lasko-Gross, Carol Lay, Kristen Radtke, Pénélope Bagieu, and Glynnis Fawkes, but they are equally impressed with artists and cartoonists new to them. These include Palmer Frankel’s “Dickface” series of paintings, Ana Christine’s “Persistence,” and a unique call-to-action from an anonymous contributor working for a Catholic hospital.

A special thanks to Red Pegasus Comics in Dallas, TX, for providing the Two Guys with their copies of Resist! Vol. 2!

Comics Alternative, Webcomics: Reviews of Gods Can’t Die, Kamikaze, and The Secret Life of Gitmo’s Women

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Slow Build

Sean and Derek are back with their monthly foray into the realm of webcomics. They begin with Z. Akhmatova’s Gods Can’t Die, a lavishly illustrated fantasy of adventure and self-discovery. This is a relatively young webcomic, beginning in April 2016, so readers can easily jump on board with its prologue and first chapter. It’s the story of Ena, born of both human and god, as she searches for her deity father and encounters other gods and creatures along the way. Next, they discuss Kamikaze, a futuristic dystopic tale created by Alan Tupper, Carrie Tupper, and Havana Nguyen. Its teenage protagonist, Markesha Nin, is a lightning-fast courier making deliveries within competing corporate interests and trying to provide for her blind father. The guys can’t help but think of CW’s The Flash when discussing this series. Finally, Sean and Derek wrap up with Sarah Mirk and Lucy Bellwood’s The Secret Life of Gitmo’s Women. This already-completed webcomic appears in the online magazine Narratively, and it presents the first-person accounts of two female naval veterans and their experiences at Guantanamo Bay. The conflict in their stories isn’t what you might expect, but instead have everything to do with the military’s (and our culture’s) patriarchal structures.

 

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 247: The July Previews Catalog

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No Keanu. No Rock.

It’s the first week of the month, so that must mean that it’s time once again for Andy and Derek to check out the latest Previews catalog. As they go through the July solicitations, they highlight a variety of upcoming titles from publishers such as:

 

 

 

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness and Golden Kamuy

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Getting Real

It’s the end of the month, so that must mean that it’s time for Shea and Derek to discuss their latest manga recommendations. They begin with Kabi Nagata’s My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness (Seven Seas Entertainment), a deeply personal autobiographical work whose title is perhaps more provocative than it is revealing. In fact, the guys spend a good bit of time talking about the underlying impulses embedded in the text and how sexual preferences take a backseat to the deeper longings that Nagata reveals. This is a manga all about self-discovery, a diary-like account of the author’s attempts to understand herself within the context of her culture and her yearning for what she calls “next level communication.” As Derek and Shea highlight, this is in some ways an example yuri manga, but at the same time such a designation doesn’t do the text justice.

Next, they look at the first volume of Satoru Noda’s Golden Kamuy (VIZ Media). This is a more realistically based narrative that takes place in the wake of the Russo-Japanese War. The protagonist, Saichi Sugimoto, gained a reputation during the war as an almost invulnerable hero, but he lives his post-war years unsuccessfully prospecting for gold in the Hokkaido region. There he befriends a young Ainu woman, Asirpa, and together they begin hunting down a legendary hidden treasure with a violent pedigree. Both Shea and Derek appreciate the story’s realism and historical context — in many ways, this is a didactic text — but they’re not yet sure of how Noda will handle the indigenous Ainu culture. That being said, they’re both definitely on board for future volumes.

 

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 246: Reviews of Greek Diary, Paper Pencil Life, and KatZine

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  • 00:00:29 – Introduction
  • 00:02:36 – Listener messages!
  • 00:08:24 – HeroesCon, podcast fans, and self-published comics
  • 00:14:58 – Greek Diary
  • 00:37:36 – Paper Pencil Life
  • 00:59:42 – KatZine
  • 01:16:04 – Wrap up
  • 01:17:17 – Contact us

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DIY

This week on The Comics Alternative, Andy and Derek do something they’ve never done before on the podcast: discuss only self-published titles. They got the idea for this special episode from one of the creators they look at, Glynnis Fawkes, when she was kind enough to send them copies of her latest book. So after hearing from her, Derek and Andy thought, “Why not devote an entire episode to creators like Glynnis?”

Appropriately enough, they begin with Fawkes’s book, Greek Diary, which won the 2017 MoCCAfest Award of Excellence. This is an account of the author’s experiences in Greece during June and early July 2016. Fawkes devoted the first part of her diary to her work as an archeological illustrator, but the majority of the text covers the time that her family joined her for vacation after her professional obligations. As the Two Guys reveal, this part of Greek Diary is an entertaining mix between a travelogue and a journal of familial “challenges.” (If you’ve ever traveled with small children, you certainly know what that means.)

Next, they discuss the first four issues of Summer Pierre’s Pencil Paper Life. This is Pierre’s ongoing collection of diary comics that she began keeping back in 2013. Each issue is a series of the creator’s occasional observations, reflections, and personal accounts that mostly follow a standard nine-panel grid. These comics explore her life as an artist, memories linked to pop-cultural signposts, her efforts in negotiating varying social terrains, and especially her joys — as well as her struggles — in being a mother.

Finally, the guys wrap up with Katriona Chapman’s KatZine. At the time of the recording there are so far seven issues that have been released, and this title stands out from Fawkes’s and Pierre’s in several ways. First, KatZine is more of a single-author anthology, with there being a variety of entries, including several regular features (including “Sergio Talk!,” “Local Business,” “Featured Plant,” and “Fears and Loves”). It’s also different in that the comic is a mix between straight-out comics and prose-heavy pieces. In other words, this is a zine in the more traditional sense. But KatZine also stands in contrast to Greek Diary and Paper Pencil Life in that it’s not entirely autobiographically based. There are a few pieces collected among the seven issues that are clearly fictional in nature. What’s more, in some of her more recent issues Chapman expresses her interests in melding life writing with fiction, an impulse that she is apparently carrying into her first graphic novel.

Please help support these independent creators by visiting their websites and buying their comics:

 

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock

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Time Codes:

  • 00:25 – Introduction
  • 02:31 – Setup of interview
  • 03:11 – Interview with Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock
  • 54:00 – Wrap up
  • 57:40- Contact us

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Sailing Takes Me Away…

On this interview episode, Gwen and Derek are pleased to have as their guest the creators behind the Four Points books, Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock. The second (and perhaps final) work in the series, Knife’s Edge, comes out this week from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and your two highly credentialed cohosts talk with the creators about the new book and follow up to last year’s Compass South. Over the course of their conversation Rebecca and Hope discuss the genesis of the project, their process for collaboration, the research that went into the two books, and the evolution of the various characters that populate their narrative. They even tease a little bit about their yet-unannounced new collaboration that’s completely separate from the Four Points series.

 

Comics Alternative for Young Readers: The Eisner Award Nominations for Early Readers, Kids, and Teens

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 – Introduction
  • 00:02:57 – Context of the 2017 Eisner Awards
  • 00:06:14 – Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)
  • 00:57:02 – Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)
  • 01:49:53 – Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)
  • 02:52:17 – Wrap up
  • 02:53:05 – Contact us

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Jam-Packed

This month, Gwen and Paul discuss the three Eisner Award categories that focus on comics for young readers. And this is a jam-packed, extra-long episode! As they work through each set of nominees, Paul and Gwen discuss the value of prizing in general and the challenges faced by the judges when they must cull such a small number of texts from a pool that is increasingly deep. Inevitably, they mention many other texts that felt were strong contenders for recognition, making this episode a great resource for any parent, child, teen, or teacher who is eager to learn about this year’s great comics.


Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)

Comics Alternative, Episode 245: Live at HeroesCon 2017

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On the Scene

HeroesCon-ComAlt

Last weekend was HeroesCon, and as they have for the past few years, Andy and Derek are on the scene in Artists Alley reporting the event from the floor. On this episode, you’ll hear the Two Guys sharing their varied experiences at the con. Among other topics they discuss the vendors they visited and the comics they were able to find, their attempts to interview creators at their tables, the two high-powered panels they moderated, the various artists they had signing their comics, the tone of this year’s crowd, Derek’s cool Space Babes shirt (design by Beto), the uncertainty of their table location, and their Saturday night dinner with Gilbert Hernandez’s family. And both Derek and Andy are most thankful for the various fans who stopped by their table to say “Hello!” and tell them that they’re avid listeners.

Much thanks to Daniel Yezbick for providing the pictures of the Two Guys in action!

 

 

Comics Alternative, On Location: Talking with Creators at HeroesCon 2017, Pt. 2

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More Heroes Talk

In the second of two on-location interview episodes recorded at this year’s HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC, Derek talks with Fabian Rangel, Jr. (author of Tarantula), Charles Forsman (Slasher), Chris Sheridan (Motorcycle Samurai), Shawn Pryor (Cash and Carrie), and Alison Sampson (Winnebago Graveyard), and Andy and Derek speak with Darren Neely (Chase Van Bolt). Fun stuff!

Stay tuned over the next week for more HeroesCon episodes!

 

 

Comics Alternative, On Location: Talking with Creators at HeroesCon 2017, Pt. 1

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Heroes Talk

In the first of two on-location interview episodes recorded at this year’s HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC, Derek talks with a variety of artists, writers, and editors. Some of these are creators with whom Derek was already familiar, some have even talked on the podcast before, and some are are new discoveries. In this show you’ll hear brief discussions with Ben Sears (author of Volcano Trash), Abby Howard (The Last Halloween), Jody Leheup and Sebastian Girner (Shirtless Bear Fighter), Andy Hirsch (Science Comics: Dogs), Matthew David Smith and Jeremy Massie (Amazing Age), Tyler Chin-Tanner (Broken Frontier), Sam Costello (Split Lip Comics), and Thom Zahler (Time and Vine).

Stay tuned over the next week for other episodes generated at this year’s HeroesCon!

Comics Alternative, Webcomics: Reviews of the 2017 Eisner Award Nominees

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 – Introduction
  • 00:02:55 – Webcomics news: The Library of Congress’ Web Comics Web Archive
  • 00:11:24 – Trying to make sense of the Eisner Awards’ “Best Web Comic” and “Best Digital Comic” categories
  • 00:30:37 – The Middle Age
  • 00:44:30 – On Beauty
  • 00:56:54 – Helm
  • 01:08:27 – On a Sunbeam
  • 01:32:41 – Wrap up
  • 01:34:14 – Contact us

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Definitionally Challenged

For the June webcomics episode, Sean and Derek take a close look at the webcomics nominees for the 2017 Eisner Awards. Before they do that, though, they have to determine exactly which titles are actually webcomics and which are not. If this sounds strange, that’s because this year the people behind the Eisner Awards have separated “Best Digital Comics” and “Best Webcomic” into two completely different categories — which is a good thing — but in doing so they have ill-defined the criteria to where there are digital comics mixed in the “Best Webcomic” category and webcomics in the “Best Digital Comic” category. In other words, there doesn’t seem to be any clear distinctions between the two…which was the problem in previous years when webcomics and digital comics were unfortunately clumped into the same category. Sean and Derek discuss in detail the problems underlying this year’s categorization, and they offer advice for next year’s judges and hope that in the future there will be a much more precise understanding of what a webcomic actually is.

After that, they begin discussing the real webcomics that are scattered between the “Best Webcomic” and “Best Digital Comic” categories. There are five in all, and in this episode they discuss Steve Conley’s The Middle Age and Christina Tran’s On Beauty (both nominated for “Best Webcomic”), as well as Jahanzeb Hasan and Mauricio Caballero’s Helm and Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam (inexplicably nominated under “Best Digital Comic”). Anne Szabla’s Bird Boy was also nominated as a webcomic, but since the guys discussed that title on a previous webcomics episode, they spend their time talking about the other nominees. And as the guys reveal, there is a reason why these four titles are nominated for an Eisner Award this year. They’re all well-written, keenly drawn, and ambitious in what each endeavors to accomplish. Both Sean and Derek wish this year’s webcomics creators, despite the appropriateness of the categories for which they’re nominated, the best of luck when the announcements are made at next month’s SDCC!

Comics Alternative, Euro Comics: Reviews of Moby Dick and The Interview

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:02:36 – Catching up
  • 00:05:04 – Moby Dick
  • 00:48:50 – The Interview
  • 01:18:18 – Wrap up
  • 01:18:58 – Contact us

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Pasteboard Masks

This month on the Euro Comics series, Edward and Derek discuss two black-and-white narratives, one an adaptation of a classic text and another an offbeat tale of aliens and relationships. They begin with Christophe Chabouté’s rendering of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (note the lack of hyphen in the title), released earlier this year from Dark Horse Books. After mentioning many of the earlier comics adaptations of the great American novel — and there are a lot — they plunge into Chabouté’s handling, highlighting some of the differences from the earlier versions. Both cohosts come from two very different perspectives in their analyses, since Derek is very familiar with the original novel and Edward has not yet read it. As such, their approaches are varied and multifaceted.

Next, they turn to the latest translation of Manuele Fior, The Interview (Fantagraphics). This is a markedly different kind of story from 5,000 km Per Second, a book that Gwen and Derek reviewed last year. As Edward points out, the draw of The Interview isn’t so much the story, but its tone or the affect generated by the text. This is a tale about relationships, and Fior’s art deftly expresses the subtitles and complications that underlie all of our interactions. You may come away from this book with a feeling of uncertainly and irresolution, but that seems to be a part of Fior’s project.

 

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 244: Reviews of Nothing Lasts Forever, What Is a Glacier?,and Revenger and the Fog

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Killer Butts

This week the Two Guys with PhDs review three recent releases, two of which are autobiographical in nature. They begin with Sina Grace’s Nothing Lasts Forever (Image Comics). This follows a couple of other autobiographical works from Grace including Not My Bag (2012) and Self-Obsessed (2015), but this latest work has a looser feel to it. Written in diary form when the author was suffering from a rare esophageal condition, the book reveals Grace’s struggles with his health, his romantic/sexual relationships, and his art. Indeed, as both Andy and Derek point out, it’s his emphasis on the latter, along with the pencil art, that makes this such an intimate text.

Next, the guys turn to What Is a Glacier?, a short autobiographical piece from Sophie Yanow (Retrofit Comics/Big Planet Comics). In this work, the author uses a trip to Iceland, and a visitation to a glacier, to explore the nature of life changes, feelings of uncertainty, and grief over loss. In terms of the latter, Yanow deftly associates the end of a relationship with our treatment of the environment, contextualizing climate change in dire, yet not completely hopeless, terms.

After that Derek and Andy look at a completely different kind of comic. Charles Forsman’s Revenger and the Fog (Bergen Street Press) is the follow-up (and prequel) to his first Revenger volume, Children of the Damned. Originally appearing as four-issue miniseries, and including a one-shot, Revenger and the Fog is a 1970s-/1980s-inspired action narrative of a vigilante, Reggie (AKA, Revenger), enacting retribution against the victimized. In this case, the victims are other members of her team, The Fog, specifically her lover Jenny (AKA, Dynarat). There’s a lot of extreme violence in this story, along with a premise that is sure to gross you out. But as the guys point out, Forsman’s over-the-top handling of his subject matter adds a touch of humor that helps to mitigate the discomfort.

Comics Alternative, Episode 243: The June Previews Catalog

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Ben Affleck and Jason Lee

The Two Guys with PhDs, AKA “Ben” and “Jason,” are back with another Previews episode. And for the month of June, there’s a lot that Andy and Derek want to highlight. Among the many upcoming titles they discuss are:

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 242: A Discussion of the 2017 Eisner Award Nominations

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The Meryl Streep of Comics

EisnerNominee-banner

Earlier this month the nominees for the 2017 Eisner Awards were announced at the Comic-Con International website, and as Andy and Derek like to do every year, they’re devoting a full episode of The Comics Alternative to a discussion of the nominations. On this week’s show, the Two Guys give their impressions of the various nominees, both as a whole and on a category-by-category basis, making observations and trying to understand any trends underlying this year’s selections. However, Derek and Andy resist the urge to play armchair quarterbacks, so they don’t second-guess the six-member panel of judges or focus on what they would have chosen if they had been on the selection committee. As diligent comics scholars, they judicial and discerning in their commentary. At the same time, they don’t shy away from pointing out a few inconsistencies and a few head-scratchers when trying to make sense of this year’s nominations.