Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Claudine and Tokyo Tarareba Girls, Vol. 1

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Back on Track!

This is the June manga episode, and unlike Shea and Derek had been doing the past couple of shows, this month’s manga episode actually comes out on the appropriate month…on time! And on the June show, the Two Guys discuss Riyoko Ikeda’s Claudine (Seven Seas Entertainment), a shōjo narrative set in historical France. The titular figure is a trans man, feeling trapped inside of his female body. Claudine’s journey takes him through several relationships, a lot of disappointments, and frustrations on not being understood. Next, Shea and Derek discuss the first volume of Akiko Higashimura’s new series, Tokyo Tarareba Girls (Kodansha Comics). While the style of this josei series is similar to Princess Jellyfish, the focus is more mature — and even more comedic — than that of her previous series. The guys discuss both the comedy and the messaging that seems to come through the story proper, and then contrast that tone with that of the “Bonus Story” that ends this first volume.

Comics Alternative, Euro Comics: Reviews of A Strange and Beautiful Sound and Inside Moebius, Part 2

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Strange and Beautiful

On this month’s Euro Comics episode, Pascal and Derek discuss two recent French-language translations. They begin with Zep’s A Strange and Beautiful Sound, the second of his books released through IDW Publishing. This is a story of a Carthusian monk who, because of a dead relative’s last will and testament, reenters the everyday world after 26 years of seclusion. The art and colors of this narrative are quite striking, and while the subject matter is significantly different from his previous A Story of Men, both Pascal and Derek find a common style between these two texts.

Next, they check out the latest work in Dark Horse’s Moebius Library, Inside Moebius, Part 2. The guys begin by contextualizing the first part of this improvisational journal, released earlier this year, and then go into detail about Part 2. This second book is much more metafiction and self-referential than Part 1, but like the first installment, it includes multiple representations of the author himself, along with encounters with his most notable creations, Arzach, Major Grubert and Malvina, Stel and Atan, and of course Lieutenant Blueberry. The text is free-flowing and surreal, but this is what makes Moebius’s self-investigation so notable. Both guys eagerly await the third and final part of Inside Moebius later this fall.

Comics Alternative, Episode 285: Another Publisher Spotlight on Koyama Press

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“It’s compelling, but I’m not sure why I’m so compelled”

The Two Guys with PhDs are back with another publisher spotlight, this one focusing on the spring releases from Koyama Press. (In fact, this is the third spotlight on Koyama, with the guys having previously discusses their seasonal releases in April 2015 and May 2017.) All of these books debuted at TCAF last month, and Paul and Derek indulge in exciting discussions of these six new releases.

They begin with Jessica Campbell’s XTC69, a wild science fiction narrative about gender relations and female empowerment. It serves as a great companion piece to her earlier Koyama book, Hot or Not: 20th-Century Male Artists. After that they discuss the largely wordless text, Soft X-Ray/Mindhunters. As with his previous work, Mighty Star and the Castle of Cancatervater, A. Degen challenges the boundaries of storytelling, and Paul and Derek have fun attempting to decipher the text. And it says something that, compared with the work of A. Degen, Michael DeForge’s latest book A Western World is understandable and more “traditional.” This is a collection of various DeForge stories, some of them previously published in his Lose series, and it would serve as a great introduction to the creator’s style.

Next, they focus on the latest installment of Ben Sears’s Double+ world, The Ideal CopyFollowing 2016’s Night Air and last year’s Volcano Trash, this book has Plus Man and Hank out of work as treasure hunters and having to take temporary jobs as caterers…and while doing so inadvertently discovering adventure. Perhaps the most abstract and narratively challenging work of the bunch, Michael Comeau’s Winter’s Cosmos, is a curious mix of media, photography and illustration. Its the offbeat story of two space travelers on a mission, each with varying degrees of seriousness and dedication. Paul and Derek wrap up their Koyama Press spotlight with a discussion of Fiona Smyth’s Somnambulance. This is the longest text of the bunch, and it’s a fascinating retrospective of Smyth’s comics from the 1980s to present day. For those unfamiliar with this creator’s comics, Somnambulance is the perfect overview.

 

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: Sean Karemaker

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:23 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:03 – Interview with Sean Karemaker
  • 01:04:51 – Wrap up
  • 01:05:23 – Contact us

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Panoramic View

Sean Karemaker’s comics are a different kind of reading experience. He illustrates in a highly detailed textured style, and his stories flow in a dreamlike manner, free from the constrictions of sequential paneling. In fact, he creates many of his comics in a scroll-like manner, writing out his narratives across a broad horizontal field, and then later deciding how to break up his illustrations across pages. The result, as we find in his latest book Feast of Fields (Conundrum Press), is story whose unveiling reflects the process of memory, a sort of streaming of experience with a zig-zagging quality between past and present.  In this interview with Sean, Derek talks with his guest about this style of cartooning and especially the genesis of his latest book. It’s largely the story of his mother during her time in a Danish orphanage, but Sean contextualizes her narrative by placing it within his own life experiences and revealing what his mother’s past has meant to him. Derek also talks with Sean about his previous book from Conundrum, The Ghosts We Know, a collection of short pieces that are largely autobiographical in nature and provide a wonderful introduction to Karemaker’s style of comics storytelling.

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

New Format!

It’s another on-location recording at Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find in Charlotte, NC. But with this episode the podcast is doing something different. The on-location show will be going up twice monthly — schedules permitting — and joining Derek on these Heroes shows will be Michael Kobre, another guy with a PhD talking about comics. On their on-location shows, Mike and Derek will discuss very recent comics, those being released in the week or two before the recording, that have caught their attention. Mike will primarily focus on the DC and Marvel mainstream titles, while Derek will concentrate on non-mainstream, or alternative and indie, comics. And, of course, they will invite customers and employees of the shop to join in on the conversation.

On this episode, Mike discusses the work of Tom King, including the recent deluxe edition of The Sheriff of Babylon, his work on Marvel’s Vision, and his run on Batman. Derek comments on recent issues from Image Comics — specifically Farel Dalrymple’s Proxima Centauri #1Jody LeHeup and Nathan Fox’s The Weatherman #1, and Joseph Keatinge and Bret Blevins’s Stellar #1 — as well as the minicomics he recently discovered from Natalie Andrewson.

Stay tuned, because Mike and Derek will be back at Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find in a couple of weeks!

Alonzo Cunningham, Zyg Furmaniuk, and Michael Kobre

Alonzo Cunningham and Zyg Furmaniuk

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: Erin Nations

Time Codes:

  • 00:24 – Introduction
  • 02:16 – Setup of interview
  • 03:40 – Interview with Erin Nations
  • 51:50 – Wrap up
  • 52:14 – Contact us

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Illustrating the Self

In December of 2016, Top Shelf Productions published the first issue of Erin Nations’s Gumballs, the one of four issues that would be released over the course of the following year. This quarterly ran as a one-personal anthology, a collection of stories and observations, many of which were autobiographical in nature. Gumballs stood out among its peers in that it recalled the kind of comic books we used to get from other alternative creators such as Seth, Daniel Clowes, and Chris Ware. Now those creators have turned to the “graphic novel” or book form, and it’s a rarity that we get a comic book like this, making Gumballs stand out as a title of note. Now those four issues have been collected as a trade, one that has just been made available in the direct market and next week will be out for wider release.  In this interview, Derek talks with Erin Nations about the genesis of his Gumballs series, his thoughts on being an autobiographical cartoonist, how he uses comics to chronicle his transitioning, and the various tones he strikes among the many stories contained within his series.

Comics Alternative, On Location: HeroesCon 2018, the “How to Read Nancy” Panel

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:02:17 – Panel context
  • 00:04:01 – “How to Read Nancy” panel
  • 01:04:50 – Wrap up
  • 01:05:19 – Contact us

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“Draw, you varmint”

This past weekend was HeroesCon 2018, and while there Derek was a part of two different scholarly panels. One was about the relationship between print and digital comics texts, “Between Pen and Pixel,” a recording of which was released earlier this week. The second was a panel based on the book by Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden, How to Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels. Andy Mansell, who oversees the programming every year at HeroesCon, wanted to pull together a panel of scholars to discuss the significance of How to Read Nancy and its potential place in the classroom and in scholarship. In addition, he wanted the panelists to discuss other important books about comics, comics history, and formal aspects of the medium. Other panelists included the former cohost of The Comics Alternative, Andy Kunka, Craig Fischer, Jennie Law, and the new cohost for the podcast’s bi-monthly on-location episodes, Michael Kobre. The resulting panel, “How to Read Nancy and Other Indispensable Books about Comics,” is part of the ongoing series of panels that Andy Mansell organizes every year, which he calls the “Comics Canon.”

A big thanks to Andy Mansell, not only for pulling together this panel, but for all of the hard he does every year in overseeing the programming at HeroesCon.

Comics Alternative, Episode 284: Reviews of The Escapist Omnibi

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Faux Histories

This week, Pascal (of the Euro Comics series) joins Derek on the weekly review show to discuss the two omnibi collections of The Escapist from Dark Horse Books. They look at both Michael Chabon’s The Escapist: Amazing Adventures (which was released this past February) as well as the latest collection, Michael Chabon’s The Escapist: Pulse-Pounding Thrills, published in wide release this week. The two guys discuss the faux history that Chabon and a variety of writers and artists have created, wedging this narrative into our recognizable comic-book history. They’re not able to discuss all of the selections in these two collections — between both volumes, there are almost 50 Escapist stories, some never before published — but they focus on many of the pieces that stand out to them. Among the Escapists stories they cover are those by such notable creators as Will Eisner, Eduardo Barreto, Jeffrey Brown, Howard Chaykin, Paul Gulacy, Jeff Parker, Marv Wolfman, Thomas Yeates, Brian K. Vaughan, Kyle Baker, Gene Colan, Matt Kindt, Kevin McCarthy, Bill Sienkiewicz, Jim Starlin, among many others.

Comics Alternative, On Location: HeroesCon 2018, the “Between Pen and Pixel” Panel

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 – Introduction
  • 00:02:27 – Aaron Kashtan provides context
  • 00:07:11 – “Between Pen and Pixel” panel
  • 01:08:58 – Wrap up
  • 01:09:55 – Contact us

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Dead Print?

This past weekend at HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC, Derek was on a panel based on a recent book by Aaron Kashtan, Between Pen and Pixel: Comics, Materiality, and the Book of the Future (Ohio State University Press). Aaron pulled together several comics scholars — in addition to Derek, his former cohost, Andy Kunka, and Craig Fischer — along with Matt Kindt, whose work Aaron sites extensively in his book. This episode is a recording of that panel, which explored what comics can tell us about the future of the printed word (as well as the digital text), the book industry, and comics as an art object.

Stay tuned over the next week for more HeroesCon episodes!

 

Comics Alternative, On Location: Talking with Creators at HeroesCon 2018

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Straight from Artists Alley

This past weekend was HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC. It was a great convention, organized by the folks at Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find. And as Derek likes to do every year, this past weekend he walked around Artists Alley talking with various creators about what they’re doing, what they’ve recently published, and what they may have in the works. The result is a series of short interviews with various creators, some of whom have been on The Comics Alternative before, others that Derek met for the very first time.  In this episode are brief conversations with, in order, Rich Tommaso, Steve Conley, Milton Lawson, Naomi Franquiz, Dave Chisholm, James F. Wright and Jackie Crofts, Scott Wegener, Natalie Andrewson, and Michael Eury.

Stay tuned over the next week for more HeroesCon episodes!

Comics Alternative, Webcomics: Reviews of Adamant, Scurry, and The Phoenix Requiem

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“It is a big-ass story”

This month Sean and Derek look at three very different webcomics. They begin with Mike Exner III, Ian Waryanto, et al.’s Adamant, a superhero narrative that spins the genre in fascinating, and parodic, ways. After that they turn to a beautifully rendered tale, Mac Smith’s Scurry. While the story is solid, the guys point out that the art is this webcomic’s biggest draw. Finally, they discuss the already-completed webcomic, Sarah Ellerton’s The Phoenix Requiem. This is a Victorian-inspired supernatural narrative of love and mystery that, as both Sean and Derek point out, is quite substantive.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Max de Radiguès

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:25 – Introduction
  • 00:02:26 – Setup of interview
  • 00:03:56 – Interview with Max de Radiguès
  • 01:01:11 – Wrap up
  • 01:01:47 – Contact us

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In the Camera Eye

Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee, was a street photographer for New York’s popular press during the 1930s and 1940s. He worked primarily in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and he developed a signature style that captured a gritty, unflinching view of urban life. What’s more, he was, famous, or rather infamous, for adjusting his tableau, in particular the position of dead bodies at crime scenes, in order to capture an image that was to his liking. Max de Radiguès, along with his co-creator Wauter Mannaert, has decided to take on this historical figure as the subject matter of his latest book, Weegee: Serial Photographer. In this interview, Derek talks with Max about his fascination over Weegee, the origins of this project, and the challenges of writing such a condensed graphic biography.  But we also cover Max’s previous work, Moose, and what we might expect from his upcoming book, Bastard, being released this fall from Fantagraphics.

Episode 283: The June Previews Catalog

Derek’s Design Gripe

Paul and Derek are back with another look at the latest Previews catalog. And for the month of June, they find a variety of fascinating title…and several of which they even resist mention on mic, in the interests of keeping the show containable and relatively short. Among the many publishers and titles that they focus on are:

Comics Alternative Interviews: Dean Haspiel

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:55 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:07 – Interview with Dean Haspiel
  • 01:09:43 – Wrap up
  • 01:11:07 – Contact us

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Welcome to New Brooklyn

Gene and Derek are happy to have Dean Haspiel on The Comics Alternative to discuss his new book from Image Comics, The Red Hook, Vol. 1: New Brooklyn. This is the first in a planned trilogy introducing readers to his universe of New Brooklyn. The Red Hook is a reluctant hero. Once a super-thief, his unlikely encounter with the legendary superhero, The Green Point, bequeathes unto him The Omni-Fist of Altruism. This transform him into a hero, where he cannot resist helping others in distress, despite his better judgment. In this role, The Red Hook becomes a major player in New Brooklyn, a borough whose heart had been broken by commerce and real estate speculation, and, as a result, secedes from New York, and America. Sound unlikely? Well, listen to Dean as he explains the premise and his plans for future New Brooklyn narratives. The guys talk with Dean, asking him a variety of questions not only about his new book, but about his other publications, as well. But then Dean turns the tables and begins interviewing Gene and Derek. It’s a wild experience with an indefatigable Haspiel.

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Dead Dead Demon’s De De De De Destruction, Vol. 1, The Troublemakers, and Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku, Vol. 1

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Fully Loaded

On the last episode in The Comics Alternative‘s monthly manga series — a show that was supposed to be the May episode, but was actually a late April show — Shea and Derek promised that they would provide an additional manga episode at the very end of May, and that that show would be the real May show. As reality unfolded, the two guys had problems in coordinating their schedules and being available at the same time. And as a result, you get this episode. But it’s an extra-long episode, one that includes discussions of not two but three recent manga releases.

They begin with the first volume in a the latest series from one of their favorites, Inio Asano. Dead Dead Demon’s De De De De Destruction (VIZ Media) is an unusual work that, in many ways, reminds the guys of Goodnight Punpun they reviewed in March 2016, a title that they especially loved. And they appreciate this new work at least as much. This new book begins as a realistic narrative of Tokyo schoolgirls and their everyday interactions at school. Soon, though, the reader discover that this is not a normal environment, but one where the city is, literally, living under the shadow of a giant mysterious spaceship that visited them three years previously.

Next they turn to a notable new release from Retrofit/Big Planet Comics, Baron Yoshimoto’s The Troublemakers. Translated and edited by Ryan Holmberg, this is a collection of six short works of gekiga that vary in narrative approach, theme, and (to a lesser degree) style. All of these pieces were originally released between 1966 and 1974, and in a variety of publications. The volume ends with a magnificent essay, providing history and context, by the book’s editor. This book marks the first translation of Yoshimoto’s into English.

The guys conclude with a completely different kind of book, Fujita’s Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku, Vol. 1 (Kodansha Comics). The title is a series of episodes — think of a sitcom — of a small group of young workers, all of whom are otaku (those with obsessive interests in very specific, especially fan-based, media and culture) and interact in everyday scenarios, at work and otherwise. The guys aren’t near as enthusiastic about this work as they are with the others reviewed in this episode. However, Derek is more open to Wotakoi than Shea. In fact, Shea even wonders if the emphases in this series may not even be counterproductive, if not harmful, to consumer health.