Comics Alternative, Episode 253: Reviews of Lighter Than My Shadow, Now #1, and The Family Trade #1

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Time Codes:


Hungry for Art

This week Paul and Derek take on three exciting new titles. They begin with a moving memoir from UK creator Katie Green, Lighter Than My Shadow (Roar-Lion Forge). In this work, Green reveals the eating disorders she struggled with as a young girl and into adulthood. Growing up obsessive-compulsive, Green chronicles how this condition contributed to her anorexic behavior, later evolving into problems with binging. Green also narrates her many attempts to address these problems with various doctors and therapists, the most notorious of whom ends up sexually abusing her…providing even more obstacles to her recovery. The guys are impressed by Green’s honesty and storytelling abilities — particularly taken by her art and the visual metaphors she employs throughout — although toward the end of their conversation about this title, they wonder if perhaps the memoir could have been streamlined just a little. This is a 500+ page text, after all.

Next, the Two Guys look at a brand new anthology from Fantagraphics, Now #1. Edited by Eric Reynolds, this collection of diverse and experimental comic art brings to mind Fantagraphics previous anthology, Mome (which both Derek and Paul dearly miss). In fact, the guys begin their discussion of Now by referencing the earlier anthology, with Paul feeling that the latest efforts are more experimental than Mome, while Derek see it as more similar to the previous series. The only difference is number of new and/or unfamiliar creators in Now (and, Derek argues, such was also the case several years ago with Mome). Some of the standouts in this first issue of Now are Dash Shaw’s “Scorpio,” Gabrielle Bell’s “Dear Naked Guy…,” Sammy Harkham’s “I, Marlon,” Malachi Ward and Matt Sheean’s “Widening Horizon,” and especially Noah Van Sciver’s “Wall of Shame” (for Derek, the best of the collection). But the guys are also impressed, and at times curiously confused, by the contributions from creators that are new to them, such as Sara Corbett, J.C. Menu, Antoine Cossé, and Kaela Graham. But as Paul and Derek argue, the entire issue of Now is compelling and works successfully as an anthology. They can’t wait until the second issue, due for release in January.

Finally, the Two Guys wrap up with a discussion of Justin Jordan, Nikki Ryan, and Morgan Beem’s The Family Trade #1 (Image Comics). This is another example of the kind of world-building often found at Image, and it’s the story of a neutral territory in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Float, ruled by the descendants of the ship captains that originally founded the realm — called the Clans — and the Family, descendants of the hands who had worked for the captains. This first issue opens with the protagonist, Jessa Wynn, attempting to assassinate Stagger Berghardt, a Trump-like charismatic demagogue who appeals to the base instincts of the citizens of the Float. She bungles the assassination, but her efforts put into motion a series of encounters that will propel the narrative into the next issues. Both Derek and Paul are impressed by this first issue, especially Beem’s art, and both plan on remaining on board for the rest of the series.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Dash Shaw

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Destroyed…and Reborn


Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:13 – Setup of interview
  • 00:03:30 – Interview with Dash Shaw
  • 01:02:39 – Wrap up
  • 01:03:52 – Contact us


On this interview episode, Derek talks with Dash Shaw about his latest book, Cosplayers (Fantagraphics). This “Perfect Collection,” as it is called, brings together the Cosplayers stories that were previously released in the two earlier comic-book issues from April and July 2014, as well as the story that appeared in the 2015 Free Comic Book Day release of Hip Hop Family Tree Three-in-One. (The guys reviewed Cosplayers #1 in Episode 83.) However, as Dash points out, this isn’t a mere repackaging of his earlier Cosplayers comics. The book not only includes brand new material, but it also reworks some of the visuals from the original stories. A telling example of this can be found in some of the book’s collage art, where Dash takes the covers and some of the interior pages from the earlier comics, cuts them up, and re-presents them in collage form…much like his protagonists, Annie and Verti, do with their comic books in the story “Escape from Nostalgia World.”

Image from A Cosplayers Christmas

Image from A Cosplayers Christmas

Derek talks with Dash about his curious stylistic choices for this new work, as well as his experimental use of colors in earlier books such as Doctors and New School. But they also discuss some of Dash’s other projects, such as his work in animation. His feature-length directorial debut, My Entire High School is Sinking Into the Sea, a film based on an earlier short story, will be premiering at next week’s Toronto International Film Festival. Also, Dash reveals that he may not yet be done with Cosplayers, referencing the new story appearing in the summer 2016 issue of Smoke Signal and the upcoming one-shot A Cosplayers Christmas. All in all, this is a fascinating interview, and one that underscores why Dash is one of the few artists the Two Guys have featured in a Creator Spotlight episode.


See what’s up with Dash on his Tumblr site!


Comics Alternative, Episode 202: Reviews of Smoke Signal #25, Fool’s Gold, and Briggs Land #1

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Not Too Mainstream-y


Time Codes:

  • 00:00:30 – Introduction
  • 00:02:33 – Listener mail
  • 00:11:07 – Smoke Signal #25
  • 00:33:54 – Fool’s Gold
  • 00:44:49 – Briggs Land #1
  • 01:00:28 – Wrap up
  • 01:01:26 – Contact us


On this week’s review episode, the Two Guys with PhDs discuss three recent titles, a couple of which are probably not on most listeners’ radar. They begin with one of these, the latest issue of Smoke Signal, a quarterly tabloid comics anthology published by Desert Island Comics (a shop in Brooklyn, NY) and edited by Gabe Fowler. Andy and Derek focus mainly on the summer 2016 issue, #25, although they also mention several comics in the previous spring issue. Some of the standouts in the latest include Tim Lane’s contributions — the Steve McQueen-inspired “Barnstormer” and the tabloid’s center spread, “The Assassination of Billy Lyons by that Bad Man Stagger Lee” — a new “Cosplayers” story from Dash Shaw, another in Al Columbia’s “Pim and Francie” series, Siobhan Gallagher’s experimental “Apartment to Be,” the portfolio of Jay Rummel art, and a cover by the great Will Elder, a painting that was intended for the third issue of Harvey Kurtzman’s Trump (the magazine was canceled after the second issue).

Next, the guys turn to Andy Warner’s self-published Fool’s Gold: The True Story of the Greates Lost Treasure in American History and the Man Who Had the Bad Luck to Find It. This a twenty-four-page story of the SS Central America‘s sinking off the Carolina coast in 1857 and Tommy Thompson’s efforts at salvaging its lost gold in the 1980s. As the long subtitle suggests, things do not go well for Thompson after his success, leading some to believe that the treasure is cursed. Derek tells how he was already familiar with Andy Warner’s comics, and that this is the kind of reality-based and journalistic story you’ll find in many of his other self-published comics and in the work he does in for such outlets as The Nib and KQED. Learn more about Andy Warner’s work at  his website.

Andy and Derek then wrap up with a look at the first issue of Briggs Land (Dark Horse Comics), the much-anticipated series from Brian Wood and Mack Chater and under development for AMC. In fact, the guys start off by discussing the written-with-television-in-mind phenomenon in comics and what it might mean for storytelling practices in the medium. Neither of the guys fault Wood and Chater — or Dark Horse — for the transmedia nature of Briggs Land, although they had different reactions to the title’s potential. Derek was more taken by the story, seeing it as a return to the kind of narrative Wood created in DMZ, while Andy thought the premise less original and too close to the family crime-related television series Sons of Anarchy and Justified. Still, it’s a title with great promise, whether you follow it eagerly in the monthly comics or more casually wait for the trade.



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Comics Alternative Podcast Episode 83: Reviews of The Best of Comix Book, Insect Bath #1, and Cosplayers #1

A REAL Alternative Show

ComixBookIt’s Wednesday, which means it’s time for another regular episode of The Comics Alternative! This week, Andy and Derek really strut their alternative creds by focusing on three titles that keenly define “alternative.” First, they discuss the recent Dark Horse/Kitchen Sink book, The Best of Comix Book. This is a collection of comics culled from the original five-issue run of Comix Book, Marvel’s ill-fated attempt to partner with the underground comix movement of the early 1970s. The project was originally initiated by Stan “The Man” Lee and edited by underground maverick, Denis Kitchen. This recent collection features the work of such major underground comix figures as Justin Green, Trina Robbins, Kim Deitch, S. InsectBathClay Wilson, Skip Williamson, Lee Marrs, Joel Beck, Art Spiegelman, and Sharon Rudahl, and it includes a wonderful historical essay by James Vance. The Two Guys discuss the various pieces that are collected, comment on some of the artists represented here, and even speculate on why certain comics from the original run were included in this collection and why others were not.

Next, Derek and Andy turn their attention to two new single issues from Fantagraphics: Insect Bath #1 and Cosplayers #1. Edited by Jason T. Miles, Insect Bath is an anthology of comics that could be called contemporary manifestations of the “underground.” In this way, the book transitions well from Comix Book, in that it very much carries on in the tradition of the Cosplayers1underground, although with much more of a minicomics feel (and minicomics themselves are arguably the legitimate offspring of comix). The guys feel that the pieces included in this first issue of Insect Bath are hit or miss, but they are more excited about Dash Shaw’s Cosplayers. This is the first of a series — how many issues might there be? — where Shaw brings his experimental approach to a study of pop culture fandom. As Andy points out, Cosplayers feels much like a Daniel Clowes story, a far cry from what we saw last year in Shaw’s unconventional 3 New Stories and New School. There’s a lot packed into this episode, so plug in your earbuds and let’s get it on!

This episode’s incidental music is brought to us by
The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds Sessions

Episode 83 Image

Comics Alternative Podcast Episode 54: A Creator Spotlight on Dash Shaw

“You’ve Got Your Art in My Comics!” …. “You’ve Got Your Comics in My Art!”

This week on The Comics Alternative, the Two Guys with PhDs feature another “Creator Spotlight” episode, this one focused on the works of Dash Shaw. Tof Eklund joins Derek in discussing and defining a truly unique presence in comics, an artist whose work has been evolving over the past decade. They begin by looking at Shaw’s most recent works, the comic book 3 Stories and the brand new graphic novel, New School (both from DashShawBooks2Fantagraphics). Tof and Derek note the distinctive visual style of these books — with their heavy linework and their prominent reliance on color, patterns, and background images — and how they differ greatly from most of Shaw’s previous comics. Next they turn their attention to some of Shaw’s earlier works published by Fantagraphics, such as BodyWorld (Tof’s favorite Dash Shaw book), Bottomless Belly Button (Derek’s favorite), The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century AD (which includes previously published short comics, including the pieces included the quarterly anthology, Mome), as well as his lesser known works, such as The Mother’s Mouth (Alternative Comics) and the recent minicomic, New Jobs (Uncivilized Books). If you are unfamiliar with the comics of Dash Shaw, then this is your opportunity to jump right on in and discover a creator whose work stands out from the pack.

Also be sure to watch the animated short, The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century AD, that was originally aired on IFC in 2009:

Part One: Black Hole Mouth
Part Two: Class
Part Three: Classes Continue
Part Four: Final Mission

Many thanks to Tof Eklund for joining in on this week’s podcast.  You can learn more about Tof’s work and contact him at his website, Starfish Cosmology, and find out  about his roleplaying game creations at Unconventional Games. You can also find Tof on Twitter, @tofeklund.

Episode 54 Image

The Fourth Wall Comics Podcast – Episode 106

The dynamic duo of Freddie and Arthur present another action packed comics podcast.

Fast Five Style.

The FOURTH WALL FIVE for this week are:

  • [01:10] Strange Tales 2 #1
  • [08:50] Tomb of Terror #1
  • [13:19] Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #5
  • [19:35] Locke and Key: Keys to the Kingdom #2
  • [28:58] Superior #1