Comics Alternative, Euro Comics: Reviews of Flight of the Raven and The Reprieve

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:03:08 – Comments on the Eisner Award nominations
  • 00:08:31 – Flight of the Raven
  • 00:42:47 – The Reprieve
  • 01:06:13 – Wrap up
  • 01:07:15 – Contact us

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Hollywood?

Edward and Derek are back with the latest Euro Comics episode. This month, they focus on recent translations of the work of Jean-Pierre Gibrat, Flight of the Raven (IDW/EuroComics) and both volumes of The Reprieve (Europe Comics). Edward is very familiar with Gibrat’s work, as he was the translator of The Reprieve, and so he provides his insights within that context. Throughout their discussion of these narratives, the guys highlight what they see as the thematic links between the two, all of which springs from the books’ settings: WW II France during German occupation. Indeed, the two stories are companion pieces with the character Cécile appearing in both. The Reprieve takes place before the Normandy invasion with Julien Sarlat, escaping from mandatory German labor, hiding out in his small hometown with the help of Cécile and one of her acquaintances in the French Resistance. The action in Flight of the Raven begins around the time of the Allied landing, with Cécile’s sister, Jeanne, being jailed for unlawful weapons possession. She is a communist and active member of the Resistance, and her story is interlinked with that of François, a roguish thief who appears apolitical. As both Edward and Derek point out, Gibrat uses both tales to explore ideas concerning commitment, responsibility, and collaboration, and each of the characters his stories illustrates facets of engagé. The art in both works is lush and beautiful, and Gibrat’s pacing is aptly handled given the contextual action, and sometimes the lack thereof, embedded in each narrative.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:02:30 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:47 – Interview with Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt
  • 01:10:00 – Wrap up
  • 01:11:29 – Contact us

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Yeggs

For this interview episode, the Two Guys with PhDs talk with Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, the creators behind The Damned, from Oni Press. This is a series with some history, beginning back in 2006 with the five-issues run, “Three Days Dead,” and then the three-issue miniseries from 2008, “Prodigal Sons.” Soon after that, Cullen and Brian began The Sixth Gun, but now that that long-running series is behind them, they decided to revisit and revitalize their first creative project together. Over the course of their conversation, Cullen and Brian talk about their efforts to reprint the original comics in color — and with the help of the new series’ colorist, Bill Crabtree — the impetus behind the new on-going series, their work together on The Sixth Gun, and their process of collaboration on The Damned. Andy and Derek also ask them about some of their other projects, including Cullen’s Harrow County (with Tyler Crook) and Brian’s Poppy! and the Lost Lagoon (with Matt Kindt).

Comics Alternative for Young Readers: A Review of The Stone Heart and a Discussion of the Essay, “Required Reading: 50 of the Best Kids Comics”

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Required Reading…and Required Reading?

In this episode of The Comics Alternative‘s Young Readers series, Gwen and Paul discuss the second volume in Faith Erin Hicks’s Nameless City trilogy, The Stone Heart (First Second), as well as Paste Magazine’s “Required Reading: 50 of the Best Kids Comics” list. Paul also conducts a “mini-interview” with Gwen about the release of Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults, a volume she co-edited with Michelle Ann Abate for the University Press of Mississippi.

The show begins with a review of the second volume in Faith Erin Hicks’s Nameless City trilogy, The Stone Heart. They praise the sequel’s strong plot and attention to perils of colonization and cultural erasure, and they consider the way that a number of contemporary comics creators have handled these concepts. Central to their discussion the fact that “Asian-inspired” texts are also a current trend in comics, and they explore the cultural implications of this trend. Finally, the pair react to the news that the trilogy has been optioned for a three-season, thirty-six episode TV series.

Next, Gwen and Paul discuss “best of” lists in general, and in particular, Paste Magazine’s April 7, 2017 article, “Required Reading: 50 of the Best Kids Comics.” There were some obvious picks on the list, some that were exciting…and others that leave Gwen and Paul shaking their heads.

To finish the episode, Paul interviews Gwen about the genesis and contents of Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults: A Collect of Critical Essays, a volume that she co-edited with Dr. Michelle Ann Abate, a professor of children’s and YA literature and English at The Ohio State University. This “mini-interview” serves as a teaser for an upcoming Comics Alternative roundtable discussion that will feature Gwen, Michelle, and two of the contributors to the volume.

Comics Alternative, Episode 239: Reviews of Herman by Trade, Rise of the Dungeon Master, and Eternal Empire #1

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Huzzah!

This week Andy and Derek look at three new titles, each one visiting the fantastic in one form or another. Before they jump into the reviews, however, they discuss some of the big comics news from the past week: the announcement of the 2017 Eisner Award nominations and Free Comic Book Day. The guys don’t go into too much detail about the Eisner nominees because they plan on devoting an upcoming episode to that topic. However, they do briefly mention the curious situation surrounding the nomination of the Love Is Love collection in the Best Anthology category. They have much more to say about last Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day. Both guys share some of their experiences at their local shops and the free comics they got there. Listen to the podcast’s FCBD episode for more details.

But then the Two Guys get into the heart of this week’s show. They begin with Chris W. Kim’s Herman by Trade, coming out this week from SelfMadeHero. Although on the surface this appears to be a more realistic narrative, its fantastic elements become apparent in the transformation of the title character who has the ability to change his appearance and mimic others’ abilities at will. As both Derek and Andy point out, this is an unusual story that sticks with you long after reading.

Next, they turn to a new graphic biography that is all about fantasy, Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D (Nation Books). The art is by Koren Shadmi, but the book is written by David Kushner, based on a profile he wrote for Wired magazine in 2008. What’s most notable about this brief biography is the narrative point of view, almost entirely presented in the second person. This is fully in keeping with the spirit of role-playing games, where in this case the the narrating presence is, in essence, your “dungeon master” guiding your awareness as you enter the creators’ biographical realm.

Finally, Andy and Derek conclude with the latest collaboration from Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn. Eternal Empire #1 (Image Comics) is a fantasy set in a distant world that, as Andy points out, is reminiscent of Game of Thrones. In fact, the guys spend a good bit of time speculating on the originality of this series, wondering if the unique elements will become more apparent in the issues to come. And while Andy isn’t sure if he’ll stick around to find out, Derek is going to give Eternal Empire a chance, especially given his appreciation of the Luna brothers’ previous comics, and especially Luna and Vaughn’s previous series Alex + Ada.

Comics Alternative, Webcomics: Reviews of Isle of Elsi, Late Bloomer, and Carriers

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:28 – Introduction
  • 00:03:03 – Eisner Award nominees announced
  • 00:10:04 – Isle of Elsi
  • 00:47:30 – Late Bloomer
  • 01:09:44 – Carriers
  • 01:31:32 – Wrap up
  • 01:32:31 – Contact us

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Very Punny

Sean and Derek are back with your monthly dose of webcomics analysis. Before they jump into their reviews, however, they spending a little time discussing the recent announcement of this year’s nominees for the Eisner Awards. The guys will devote next month’s episode to the actual webcomics nominated, so they don’t go into much detail this time, but they do mention the big news that the judges have tried to distinguish “webcomics” from “digital comics”…albeit rather ineptly. Tune in next month for more in-depth discussion on this matter!

But for May, Sean and Derek already have plenty to consider. They begin with Alec Longstreth’s Isle of Elsi, an all-age fantasy with a penchant for word play. Both of the guys are bowled away by this webcomic, one of the most impressive that they’ve discussed on the show. Not only are the art and storytelling top-notch, but the design of the website is a big draw, as well. (And while you’re at it, check out the Two Guys’ 2014 interview with Longstreth.)

Next, they turn to another webcomic from Webtoons, Late Bloomer. Written and drawn by Zealforart (AKA Tiffany Woodall), this is a shōjo-inspired romance about a young woman with a flower bud growing out of her belly, a family condition that can only be overcome with her being “deflowered.” Yes, it is quite an unusual premise.

Finally, Derek and Sean wrap up with Lauren R. Weinstein’s Carriers. This completed webcomic was originally published in five parts on the Nautilus website, and it received an Ignatz Award nomination in 2015 for the “Outstanding Online Comic” category. It’s a sobering look at being a carrier of cystic fibrosis and what means for young couples wanting to start a family.

On Location: FCBD 2017 at Valhalla Games and Comic

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Free! Comic! Book! Day!

For Free Comic Book Day 2017, Derek visits his local shop, Valhalla Games and Comics in Plano, TX to talk with customers and shop employees about the various FCBD offerings this year. Joining him on this episode are Sabrina, the shop manager, as well as one of her associates, Stephanie. But also joining in on the conversation is a first-timer to the podcast, Naheem, who just happens to be from Derek’s hometown, Charlotte, NC.

Derek talks with Naheem about his favorite FCBD selections.

 

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: Jeff Lemire

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:40 – Setup of interview
  • 00:06:49 – Interview with Jeff Lemire
  • 01:33:07 – Wrap up
  • 01:34:37 – Contact us

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Rotting Husks

On this interview episode Derek and Andy are excited to have Jeff Lemire as their guest. His new graphic novel, Roughneck, has just been released by Simon & Schuster’s Gallery 13 imprint, and he has a new ongoing series through Image Comics, Royal City. The guys talk with Jeff about those works, particularly their place within Lemire’s growing body of writing, but they also ask him about his other current ongoing series, such as Descender (with Dustin Nguyen on art), Black Hammer (along with Dean Ormston), and the miniseries A.D.: After Death (written by Scott Snyder). A lot of ground is covered in this interview, including revelations on the early origins of Roughneck, the long-range plans for Royal City, the themes and characters that seem to be woven throughout Jeff’s oeuvre, the curious links between Descender and Adam Strange, and Jeff’s thoughts on “slice of life” stories and their reception within the comics-reading community.

And here’s a fun fact! Jeff Lemire was actually the focus of the Two Guys’ very first creator spotlight way back in Episode 6 of The Comics Alternative, and at the time Andy and Derek thought there was almost too much to talk about in terms of Jeff’s output. But now almost five years later, and with so many more titles under Jeff’s belt, those assumptions seem amusing in hindsight.

It’s important to note that Andy and Derek recorded their interview with Jeff the day before this year’s Eisner Award nominations were announced, where he has landed in the Best New Series and Best Writer categories (both for Black Hammer). This is why no one brings up the Eisners at any time in the conversation. But a big CONGRATULATIONS to Jeff for this well-deserved attention!

Comics Alternative, Episode 238: The May Previews Catalog

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Super Teams, Literature, and Headlights

It’s time for another look at the current Previews catalog, so this week Andy and Derek check out all of the interesting solicitations for May. First, though, they briefly discuss their plans (or lack thereof) for Free Comic Book Day this coming weekend, and then they share some listener mail. After that, they begin their deep dive into the May Previews..and it’s a good long dive this month. Among the many upcoming titles they highlight are:

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: Matt Kindt

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:35 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:57 – Interview with Matt Kindt
  • 01:33:07 – Wrap up
  • 01:34:37 – Contact us

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“What if you set a book on fire?”

Andy and Derek welcome Matt Kindt to the podcast to discuss Grass Kings, published through BOOM! Studios, his two current ongoing series from Dark Horse Comics, Dept. H and Ether, and his voluminous work for Valiant Comics. The guys have been wanting to get Matt on the show for years, so this interview is a long time in coming. And the conversation is quite substantive. Among other topics, they discuss the geneses of these recent series; Matt’s strategies for juggling multiple storylines at once; his collaborations with Tyler Jenkins (on Grass Kings), David Rubín (Ether), and Brian Hurtt (Poppy! and the Lost Lagoon); the many titles he has written for Valiant Comics; his love of genre storytelling; the unique way he “signs” certain books at cons; and his creative direction after the groundbreaking Mind MGMT. This has to be one of the most prolific creators the guys have ever had on The Comics Alternative, and they come nowhere near covering all of the topics they wanted to discuss with Matt. But this is all the more reason to have him back on the show in the not-too-distant future.

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Happiness and My Brother’s Husband

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:03:19 – Listener mail!
  • 00:09:41 – Happiness
  • 00:48:25 – My Brother’s Husband
  • 01:15:40 – Wrap up
  • 01:16:43 – Contact us

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Marginalized Figures

On the April manga episode, Shea and Derek discuss two very different series. They begin with Shuzo Oshimi’s Happiness, the fourth volume of which has just been released by Kodansha Comics. This is a vampiric narrative that takes place in the suburbs and centers on the relationships among high school students. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is Twilight-tinged fantasy. Oshimi’s characterization is sophisticated and, in places, unpredictable, and his art style captures the interiority of his key marginalized figures. Of particular interest is Yuuki, a bully who befriends the narrative’s protagonist, Okazaki, and how both characters handle their newfound vampirism once each has turned. The guys appreciate where this story is going, and Shea, in particular, is impatient in having to wait for the next few volumes.

Next, Derek and Shea check out the first volume of Gengoroh Tagame’s My Brother’s Husband. This book is notable for a couple of reasons. For one, it is the first work of manga that Pantheon Books, a leader in major trade graphic-novel publishing, has ever released. And second, this is an all-age title by a mangaka known primarily for his gay BDSM erotic manga. It’s the story of Yaichi and Kana, a single father and daughter, and their relationship with Mike, a gay Canadian who had married Yaichi’s estranged brother. After Mike’s husband dies, he honors his memory by getting to know his Japanese family. As the guys reveal, My Brother’s Husband is a tale about relationships, coming to term with personal prejudices, and the strictures various cultures place on interpersonal behaviors.

Comics Alternative, Episode 237: Reviews of Star Hawks, Vol. 1: 1977-1978, Street Angel: After School Kung Fu Special, and Godshaper #1

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Nifty Looking Ladies

On this week’s episode Andy and Derek check out the old and the new. They begin with Star Hawks, Vol. 1: 1977-1978, a new collection of Gil Kane and Ron Goulart’s classic newspaper strip. As the guys discuss, this isn’t the first time that Star Hawks has been collected, but this new release from IDW’s Library of American Comics imprint is probably one of the best. Next, they turn to Street Angel: After School Kung Fu Special (Image Comics). This is more of the Street Angel fun you’ve come to expect from Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca. Fans of action comics, especially the old 1970s style martial arts type, will appreciate this one-shot. Finally, the Two Guys wrap up with Simon Spurrier and Jonas Goonface’s Godshaper #1 (BOOM! Studios). As with other Spurrier creations, the premise of this title is rather complicated, but it’s not too top-heavy. The creators are able to pull off this inaugural issue with a satisfying coherency.

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: James Albon

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Time Codes:

  • 00:25 – Introduction
  • 02:31 – Setup of interview
  • 03:32 – Interview with James Albon
  • 57:35 – Wrap up
  • 58:31 – Contact us

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Canine Romance

On this interview episode Derek has the pleasure of talking with James Albon, whose new book Her Bark and Her Bite comes out this week from Top Shelf Productions. James is British artist whose illustrations have appeared in The GuardianThe Wall Street JournalWIRED, the New StatesmanThe Diplomat, The Financial Times, and various publications from the Folio Society. Her Bark and Her Bite is his first graphic novel, and much of the conversation is devoted to this fact and how his work as a professional illustrator informs his graphic storytelling. The book can be described as a romantic comedy, where its protagonist artist figure, Rebecca, moves to the big city and meets Victor, a gregarious and flamboyant socialite with whom she quickly becomes smitten. Complications arise when Victor receives a young dog as a gift, and the canine becomes an unwitting rival to Rebecca’s affections. What follows is a series of faux pas and inanities that pits social acceptance against personal expression. In this interview, James shares the genesis of his narrative, its links to his own life experiences, and why fiction was the perfect platform for his inaugural long-form comic.

Comics Alternative, Episode 236: Reviews of What Parsifal Saw, Love and Rockets #2, and Redneck #1

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Land of Hopey and Glory

This week the Two Guys give you a double shot of recent Fantagraphics books. They start off with a discussion of Ron Regé Jr.’s What Parsifal Saw, his followup to 2012’s The Cartoon Utopia (the paperback edition of which has also just been released by Fantagraphics). This is the first time that Andy and Derek have covered one of Regé’s books on The Comics Alternative — they’ve discussed his comics before, but only as part of an anthology — and they point out how his art requires a different way of reading. After that, they look at the latest issue of Love and Rockets. The guys never miss an opportunity to discuss what the Hernandez brothers are up to, and in this second issue of the new series they see how both Gilbert and Jaime are continuing the storylines they began in the last couple of Love and Rockets: New Stories annuals. Finally, the Two Guys wrap up with the latest title from Donny Cates, Redneck #1 (Image Comics). With wonderful art by Lisandro Estherren, this is a contemporary vampire story set in East Texas (and not far from Derek). Both feel that this is a successful first issue, but Andy points out that the structure feels similar to what Cates has been doing in God Country and The Paybacks.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Kristen Radtke

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:20 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:29 – Interview with Kristen Radtke
  • 00:59:16 – Wrap up
  • 01:01:39 – Contact us

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All Things Must Pass

Andy and Derek are pleased to have as their guest Kirsten Radtke. Her new work Imagine Wanting Only This has just been released from Pantheon Books, and it’s a deeply personal speculation on impermanence, decay, and abandonment. Using as a springboard significant events from her own life — such as the loss of a beloved uncle and a fortuitous creative discovery — Radtke explores our sense of place in a culture that privileges newness and disposability. The book has been described as a memoir, but the guys feel that it’s better framed as a meditation, a contemplative graphic essay tinged with introspection and self-analysis. Over the course of the conversation, Radtke discusses the genesis of the project, her experiences with comics journalism, and the challenges of defining the art that she creates.

Comics Alternative, Euro Comics: Reviews of Notes 1: Born to Be a Larve and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot before The Mamas & the Papas

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Life Stories

On this month’s Euro Comics episode, Edward and Derek check out to recent publications, both from publishers that they’ve yet to discuss on the series. They begin with Boulet’s Notes 1: Born to Be a Larve, just out from Soaring Penguin Press. This is the first collection of the comics Boulet created specifically for his blog, and this initial volume includes the entries published between July 2004 and July 2005. While the guys enjoy Boulet’s work, they feel that the strips may not work as well in book form as they had originally on the blog. The episodic nature of the comics could probably be better appreciated as online updates than as a bound collection.

Next, the guys turn to Pénélope Bagieu’s latest English translation California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot before The Mamas and the Papas (First Second). Derek and Andy W. had discussed Bagieu’s earlier book, Exquisite Corpse, on an episode about two years ago, and the latest work certainly follows up on that promise. In fact, Edward is bowled away by this graphic biography. As the subtitle suggests, it covers the life of Cass Elliot — born Ellen Cohen — up to the breakout of the famous 1960s quartet. The guys appreciate Bagieu’s art, but they are particularly impressed by her choices of narration and her structuring of the story.