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, Episode 218: Reviews of Love and Rockets #1, Garden of the Flesh, and The One Hundred Nights of Hero

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Testicle Jones

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This week the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics check out three recent titles, including the latest contributions from the Hernandez brothers. They begin with Love and Rockets #1 (Fantagraphics), the launch of the brothers’ new (fourth) series that will appear quarterly and in magazine-sized format. This kind of presentation harkens back to the original run of Love and Rockets beginning in the early 1980s. Andy and Derek are quick to point out that, while the format may have changed, the storytelling picks up where the Love and Rockets: New Stories annual left off. Jaime continues his previous storylines surrounding Princess Animus, Vivian’s half-sister Tonta, and, perhaps most notable, Maggie and Hopey’s punk reunion. With Gilbert, it’s the always evolving and convoluted Fritz saga, with even more Fritz imitators to keep track of.

And on the topic of Beto…The next book under discussion is his Garden of the Flesh (Fantagraphics). This is Gilbert’s treatment of the Book of Genesis, although with less fidelity than Robert Crumb has demonstrated. As you might expect, there’s a lot of explicit content, something that you might find in his Blubber series. In fact, the guys note that what we have with Garden of the Flesh is the story of Adam and Eve and the story of Noah and the flood…but with a lot of money shots.

Finally, Andy and Derek turn to Isabel Greenberg’s The One Hundred Nights of Hero (Little Brown). This is her follow up to 2014’s The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, and everything is set in the same storyworld. Here we find the return of god/creator BirdMan and his children Kid and Kiddo. And as with Greenberg’s first book, the overriding theme in The One Hundred Nights of Hero is storytelling. This time around, however, that theme is linked directly to female empowerment and sisterhood. With more than a tip of the pen to One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, Greenberg’s tale demonstrates not only how worlds are created through language, but the dynamics underlying the control of those worlds.

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Comics Alternative, Episode 207: Reviews of The Lost Work of Will Eisner, Libby’s Dad, and Blubber #3

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“It is a liquidy issue”

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This week on The Comics Alternative, Andy and Derek discuss three new titles that are quite different in tone. They begin with The Lost Work of Will Eisner, a collection of Eisner’s earliest known professional comics. This began as a Kickstarter campaign last year from Locust Moon Press, and just last week the book went on sale to the general public. The collection is made up of two serial strips, the pantomime gag comic Uncle Otto and the espionage adventure Harry Karry. While they do talk about the former, it’s Harry Karry that interests the guys more. They spend a lot of time discussing some of the problems of that action-packed strip — e.g., its racist caricatures and its abrupt shift in narrative direction and art style — and how it can be read as a testing ground for what Eisner would later do in The Spirit.

Next, the Two Guys turn their attention to Eleanor Davis’s Libby’s Dad. This is one of the latest books from Retrofit Comics/Big Planet Comics, a publisher that has become a favorite of the show. This is a straightforward and deceptively simple short story about a young girls’ pool party and sleepover. The power behind this tale is Davis’s ability to focalize the action through her teenage female narrator and to do so in a detached and non-judgmental manner.

Finally, Derek and Andy discuss a much less innocent text. Gilbert Hernandez’s Blubber #3 (Fantagraphics) is, in many ways, more explicit and more potentially offensive than the previous issue, which the guys discussed back in April. And back then they thought that issue #2 was “worse” than the first. So what is it about Hernandez’s obscene free-for-all that keeps drawing the guys’ attention? Perhaps they are just on board for everything Hernandez does. Perhaps they see Beto as a happy First Amendment rebel. Perhaps they are mesmerized by Hernandez’s attempts to out-Crumb Robert Crumb. Or perhaps Andy and Derek are just two warped sickos who get their jollies talking about offensive comics for the podcast. You decide.

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Comics Alternative, Episode 183: Reviews of Love & Rockets: New Stories 8, Girl Crazy, and Blubber #2

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“At this point Gilbert is just f**cking with us”

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This week’s episode is a Hernandez-centric show. On it, the Two Guys with PhDs play a little catch-up with some of Gilbert and Jaime’s comics that have come out over the past few months. They begin with the latest installment of Love & Rockets: New Stories (Fantagraphics), and most of the tales in this volume continue what began in last year’s annual. In fact, both Andy and Derek feel that New Stories 8 can be best appreciated, and better understood, when read alongside its predecessor. Jaime’s contributions — the Princess Animus, Maggie and Hopey, and Tonta storylines — are fairly straightforward, although the guys aren’t entirely sure how Princess Animus will ultimately fit into the Love & Rockets world. (Is it similar to the Ti-Girls with Jaime playing around with the superhero genre again? Might Penny Century be involved in some way?) But things aren’t as clear-cut when it comes to Gilbert’s selections, all centered on Fritz in some way. Over the last two New Stories annuals, Gilbert has been mapping out a complex narrative concerning the B-movie star and her imitators, chock-full of unusual characters, many LoveRockets8-interiorof whom look alike…and purposefully so. The guys comment on the ways in which Gilbert is manipulating his sequential chronology and the general weirdness surrounding Fritz’s world. And given the labyrinthine nature of this current volume of Love & Rockets, Derek advocates for a much-needed Hernandez brothers wiki and challenges listeners to begin creating one. Next, they turn to the new edition of Girl Crazy (Dark Horse Books). This originally began as a three-issue miniseries published by Dark Horse in 1996 and then collected as a single volume the following year. But that book has been out of print for some time, and now the publisher is rereleasing this new hardbound edition to stand alongside other Dark Horse books by Gilbert, including Speak of the Devil, Citizen Rex (with his brother, Mario), Fatima: The Blood Spinners, Loverboys, and last year’s Grip: The Strange World of Men. Both Andy and Derek note that, with Girl Crazy, the story still holds up, and it’s yet another example of Gilbert’s no-holds-barred storytelling. At the same time, they point out that the art in Girl Crazy is noticeably different from his most recent style, with its detailed texturing and heavier inks. Finally, the guys wrap up with the second issue of Gilbert’s Blubber (Fantagraphics), a comic-book series that is a strange amalgamation of experimental storytelling and pornography. This is definitely not a title for those with tender sensibilities and who are easily offended. In fact, Derek and Andy point out that, for the most part, all the stories in this issue include a lot of sucking and f**king…and not only between humans. There are zombies, robots, and fantastical creatures involved, as well. It’s all weird, wacky, and fun, but after discussing Blubber #2 the Two Guys really feel like they need to take a shower.

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Comics Alternative Episode 141: Reviews of Grip: The Strange World of Men, Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland, and Providence #1

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Whacked Out Comics

This week, Derek and Andy W. — fresh from their trip to HeroesCon — return with a discussion of three new, fascinating, and…well, whacked out comics. But they’re all whacked out in their own, unique ways. They Gripbegin with the release of Gilbert Hernandez’s Grip: The Strange World of Men (Dark Horse Books). This is not really a new work from Hernandez, as Grip was originally published in color as a five-issue limited series from Vertigo in 2002. (The new book contains only black and white art.) But the recent Dark Horse release marks the first time that the entire story has been collected. What’s more, Hernandez provides four new pages that function as the setup of this strange narrative. And what a weird and twisted story it is, but it’s one that distinctively bares the mark of Gilbert Hernandez. The guys attempt to follow the various narrative threads, however, making sense of this story is beside the point. What matters is Hernandez’s imagination and the fun to be had slipping into his narrative world. Derek even argues that the story comes at a curious time in Hernandez’s career, several years after the end of the LittleNemoReturn1first Love and Rockets series, the beginning of the second series, and at a time when Gilbert is reaching beyond the more realistic confines of his Palomar stories. Next, the Two Guys turn to Eric Shanower and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland (IDW Publishing). Andy admits that, at first, he was a little hesitant about this book, thinking that it might be nothing more than a mere retread of Windsor McCay’s newsprint classic. But Shanower and Rodriguez — known largely for their Wizard of Oz and Locke and Key comics, respectively  — are up to much more than that. Their Little Nemo uses McCay’s as a springboard into an entirely new narrative, pulling in some elements of the earlier comic, yet at the same time bringing in new ideas to present a long-form story. Readers may recognize similarities to McCay’s pacing, his humor, and his innovation, but this project easily Providence01stands on its own. Finally, the guys look at the first issue of a new twelve-part series from Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows. Providence (Avatar Press) is another Lovecraftian tale similar to the team’s earlier Neonomicon and The Courtyard, yet this one has been described by the publisher as “the Watchmen of horror.” That’s a lot to live up to, as both Andy and Derek discuss in their coverage of this first issue. But the guys point out that if the inaugural installment is any indication, this may not be mere hype. While nothing much seems to happen in this issue, there are actually multiple stories being told, with Moore setting the stage for a larger, disturbing narrative. Much like the allusive Cthulhu, there is an unsettling presence lying just beneath the surface of what unfolds in this first issue.
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Deconstructing Comics #440: Love Bunglers

Love BunglersDid you think Love & Rockets was over?! Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez continue to release new work about once a year, and in this episode Kumar and Matt sit down and discuss some of it, with particular attention paid to Jaime’s The Love Bunglers. (Spoiler warning!)

Also: the tension between indy creators who want to do single-issue type comics, and the economic realities shoving them toward larger collections…

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Deconstructing Comics #405: Teaching comics as literature

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It’s been a long time coming, but a fair number of teachers in mainstream American education are finally recognizing that what the comics medium brings to the table can be just as meaty and challenging as the best prose novels. This week we meet Juan Mah y Busch, an Associate Professor at Loyola Marymount University. Juan teaches comics like Frank Miller’s 300 and Anders Nilsen’s Dogs and Water not in special “comics appreciation” courses, but alongside novels like Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” to make other points about cultural history.

How do fellow faculty and administrators react to comics in the classroom? Do students have any trouble with the concept? Why can comics often be better for teaching cultural history than most other media? That and more in this episode!

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Comics Alternative Podcast Episode 65: A Review of Love & Rockets: New Stories No. 6, Maria M.: Book One, and Pretty Deadly #1

“There’s more than one severed penis in this comic.”

MariaMThis week the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics review three new titles, and boy, are they geared up! They begin by looking at the Hernandez brothers’ latest issue of Love and Rockets: New Stories (Fantagraphics). Focusing first on Jaime’s contributions, they comment on how his narratives have evolved after the “Love Bunglers” storyline from issues number 3 and 4 of New Stories. They’re particularly interested in Jaime’s deeper exploration of the family of Vivian Solis, L&RNS6AKA Frogmouth, especially as it relates to Tonta and the reappearance of Angel Rivera (last seen in the “Ti-Girls Adventures”). Next, Andy and Derek delve into Gilbert’s contribution to the latest New Stories, spending a good deal of time doing close readings of the multiple narrative levels at work: the current story of Dora “Killer” Rivera’s visit to Palomar, the flashbacks to her deceased aunt and great-grandmother, and the films surrounding her great-grandmother, Maria. Here, the Two Guys bring up Gilbert’s new graphic novel, Maria M.: Book One (Fantagraphics), and how it plays off of so well the new Love and Rockets. They look at Maria M. not only as another installment of PrettyDeadlyFritz’s b-movie books — along with Chance in Hell, The Troublemakers, and Love from the Shadows — but also, and perhaps more significantly, as a point of convergence among the various generations of Luba’s family. While Andy feels that Maria M. is a kind of retelling of Poison River (one of the most significant storylines in the first volume of Love and Rockets), Derek sees it as more of a prequel or lead-up to that narrative. Finally, the guys look at the first issue of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos’s Pretty Deadly (Image Comics). They discuss the density of comic, while at the same time commenting on the decompressed nature of the series’ premise.

There is a lot packed into this episode, plenty of close and detailed readings, and you’re going to have to listen to this show multiple times in order to savor every drop of the Two Guys’ insights…for what they’re worth.

This week’s incidental music is brought to you by
Game Theory’s Lolita Nation

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Deconstructing Comics #305: Love & Rockets: Gilbert Hernandez

In episode #300, we took a look at the sometimes wacky and cartoony Love & Rockets work of Jaime Hernandez. This week, Tim and Kumar are again joined by Tom Spurgeon to look at the somewhat darker, more violent and yet rather hard-to-pin-down work of Gilbert Hernandez in his stories of (or, sometimes merely tangentially related to) the isolated Mexican village of Palomar.

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