Comics Alternative, Episode 267: The February Previews Catalog

Super!

Gwen and Derek are back with another Previews episode. And since February is Super Bowl time, in the super spirit of that super day they present a super long show. That’s right, there were so many titles that the two wanted to highlight this month, that this episode inadvertently turned into (we think) the longest Previews show ever recorded on The Comics Alternative. History in the making, or an annoyingly long experience? You decide. Among the many comic books and graphic novels that Gwen and Derek highlight are:

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 261: Reviews of Generation Gone, Vol. 1, Assassinistas #1, and Love and Rockets IV #4

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Time Codes:

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Hackers, Assassins, and Locas

This week Gwen and Derek take a look at three recent and exciting titles. They begin with the first trade collection of Aleš Kot and André Lima Araújo’s Generation Gone (Image Comics). This initial volume establishes the premise of the intriguing series. The story focuses on three hackers who attempt to get into government systems, are discovered, and “infected” with genetic codes that give them supernatural powers. Gwen points out that, in some ways, this narrative is reminiscent of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, although as Derek mentions, Kot and Araújo’s world isn’t anything post-apocalyptic. This first volume introduces what promises to be an engaging series and whets readers’ appetites for what may follow.

Next, the Two People with PhDs Talking about Comics turn to the first of two Hernandez-infused comics covered this week. The first is Gilbert Hernandez and Tini Howard’s Assassinistas #1, part of IDW Publications’ and Shelly Bond’s Black Crown imprint. The debut issue introduces us to three former assassins, two of which — at least as far as we know — have left that life and are attempting to “go legitimate” and live a normal life. However, drama erupts when one of the team, Charlotte “Scarlet” La Costa, has her son kidnapped, bringing another team member, Octavia “Red October” Price, back into a life she thought she had left behind her. And what of the third member of this one-time trio, Rosalyn “Blood” Diamond?  Both of the cohosts enjoyed this title, although the paratextual material in the back of this issue, commentary from editor Shelly Bond, is a bit conspicuous and doesn’t add much.

Finally, Derek and Gwen wrap up by discussing the latest issue of Love and Rockets IV (Fantagraphics). This fourth issue picks up with the various storylines that both Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez have established going back to the previous Love and Rockets annuals. For Jaime, this means continuing the Princess Animus and Isle narratives, as well as giving us glimpses into both Maggie’s and Hopey’s pasts growing up in Hoppers. And then there’s Derek’s favorite part of this issue, a two-page focus on Ray that follows up on the events in The Love Bunglers. Gilbert’s contributions gives us a brief glimpse into Killer’s career choices, but there is also a Pipo storyline where this foundational character tries to come to terms with a relationship she once had in Palomar. In fact, in extended flashbacks, we’re taken back to “classic” Palomar and characters we haven’t seen for quite a while. But as Derek points out, one of the most striking things about this issue is that we see little of Fritz…and no mention at all of any Fritz imitators. A rarity in recent Love and Rockets issues!

Comics Alternative, Episode 260: The January Previews Catalog

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Panda Issue?

Happy New Year from The Comics Alternative! To help bring in 2018, Gwen and Derek are back to meticulously go through the January Previews catalog, providing recommendations and insights on a variety of upcoming titles. This month’s catalog is jam-packed with great solicits, so many, in fact, that this becomes an extra-long episode. They begin by looking at the various offerings announced for this year’s Free Comic Book Day, and then they move on to the catalog proper. Among the many comic books and graphic novels that Gwen and Derek highlight are:

Comics Alternative for Young Readers: Reviews of Good Night, Planet, The Dam Keeper, and Misfit City, as Well as a Look Back at 2017

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Time Codes:

  • 00:31 – Introduction
  • 03:51 – Greetings and apologies
  • 05:36 – Good Night, Planet
  • 13:15 – The Dam Keeper
  • 24:59 – Misfit City
  • 39:30 – A look back at 2017 in young reader comics
  • 56:56 – Wrap up
  • 57:25 – Contact us

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New and Review

It’s the end of the year, and for their December episode of the Young Readers series, Gwen and Paul discuss three exciting titles as well look back at the past year’s releases. They begin by discussing Liniers’s Good Night, Planet, part of Françoise Mouly’s TOON Books series. After that they look at Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi’s The Dam Keeper, recently released from First Second. Then they wrap up with a comic-book series, Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith,‎ Kurt Lustgarten,‎ and Naomi Franquiz’s Misfit City (BOOM! Box).

They also take a look back at 2017, where both Gwen and Paul discuss what they consider the best of comics of the year for young readers.

Comics Alternative, Episode 259: Reviews of Bad Mask, Evolution #1, and Doctor Radar #1

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Time Codes:

  • 00:01:26 – Introduction
  • 00:03:48 – Post-Thanksgiving digestion
  • 00:05:07 – Bad Mask
  • 00:30:41 – Evolution #1
  • 00:46:48 – Doctor Radar #1
  • 01:03:06 – Wrap up
  • 01:04:36 – Contact us

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Mystery!

On this week’s episode Gwen and Derek discuss three recent releases that, while all being quite different, nonetheless share a common theme of mystery. They start off with Jon Chad’s Bad Mask (BOOM! Box), a multimedia project that explores perspective and interpretation. With its various components in multiple print formats — comic book, trading cards, newspaper tabloid, mainstream news magazine, business reports, etc. — it’s an intelligent exploration of how we define “hero.” Next, the Two PhDs Talking about Comics explore the first issue of Evolution (Image Comics). This is a different kind of comic in that it’s written by four authors…and the result is solid and far from fragmented. James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, and Joshua Williamson contribute to the story, with Joe Infurnari providing the art. Finally, Gwen and Derek look at Noël Simsolo and Bézian’s Doctor Radar #1 (Titan Comics). This is a translation that taps into the crime noir genre, expertly done and perhaps the highlight of the week.

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 258: Our Fifth Annual Thanksgiving Show

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Pass the Pie

thanksgiving2016

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and the folks at The Comics Alternative all gather around the virtual table to share what they are thankful for in terms of comics and comics culture. Pulling up a seat this year are Gwen, Paul, Sean, Gene, Edward, and Derek. Among the many things that they’re thankful for are

What more could one ask for in a holiday podcast episode? Well…maybe some pie.

ForbiddenWorldsThanksgiving

 

Episode 255: The November Previews Catalog

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“You can’t beat good-looking snow”

On this month’s Previews episode, Gwen and Derek join forces to highlight the various November solicits that strike their fancy. In fact, this is Gwen’s first time doing a Previews show, but she comes across as an old hand and suggests some wonderful upcoming titles that are sure to resonate with listeners. But first, the Two Academics Talking about Comics send out a BIG thank you to two dedicated — and two very talented — listeners, Holly English and Marc Casilli. Both have recently shared copies of their own self-published comics, and Gwen and Derek give them a shout-out and discuss how impressed they are with the issues. After that they announce The Comics Alternative‘s brand new Slack channel, inviting listeners to join up and take part in the discussion community. But after these announcements, they get to the heart of this week’s Previews episode. Among the comics and graphic novels Gwen and Derek recommend are:

Be sure to visit the websites of both Holly English and Marc Casilli and discover their wonderful art and comics!
And remember, check out The Comics Alternative‘s new Slack channel!

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: Back with Andy Hirsch

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Time Codes:

  • 00:25 – Introduction
  • 02:55 – Setup of interview
  • 04:20 – Interview with Andy Hirsch
  • 57:15 – Wrap up
  • 59:51 – Contact us

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Acorn Flipper

Andy Hirsch is back on the podcast, and this time he talks with Gwen and Derek about his new book, Science Comics: Dogs: From Predator to Protector. This is the next volume in First Second’s important Science Comics series, one that uses comics to educate both younger readers and adults. In fact, Gwen and Derek spend a lot of time asking Andy his illustrative strategies for taking complex concepts and making them understandable to a broader audience. There is a lot of science packed into this book, and not all of it specifically devoted to canines. But Andy uses colorful charts and graphs, as well as particularly effective storytelling conventions, to present his dense subject matter. Guiding the reader through all of this information is Rudy, the lovable mixed-breed narrator who, in many ways, functions as a stand-in for Andy Hirsch himself. Over the course of the interview, Derek and Gwen talk with their guest not only about the new book, its genesis, and Andy’s growing association with First Second, but they also share their own love of and histories with dogs, making this episode of the interview series somewhat of a canine lovefest.

Comics Alternative for Young Readers: Reviews of A Different Pond, Swing It, Sunny, and Pashmina

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Perspectives

On this episode of the Comics Alternative Young Readers podcast, Gwen and Paul discuss three comics that run the gamut from early readers up to teens.

First on deck, they discuss Bao Phi and Thi Bui’s A Different Pond (Capstone Young Readers), a children’s hybrid picture book/comic that focuses on a bonding moment between a young boy and his father.

Then, Gwen and Paul talk about Jennifer Holm and Matt Holm’s sequel to last year’s acclaimed Sunny Side-Up, Swing It, Sunny (Graphix), which sees preteen Sunny trying to figure out why her older brother has changed so much.

Finally, the Two Academics Talking about Comics look at a middle/grade…or maybe YA text, Nidhi Chanani’s Pashmina (First Second), about a young immigrant who tries to gain a deeper understanding of her mother’s past in India.

Also, Gwen and Paul have a special segment for this month’s episode, as Paul’s daughter tells us about her thoughts after reading two of our books, Swing It, Sunny and Pashmina.

 

Comics Alternative for Young Readers: A Roundtable Discussion on Contemporary Issues in Children’s and Young Adult Comics

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 – Introduction
  • 00:03:06 – Roundtable discussion with Charles Hatfield and Krystal Howard
  • 01:25:00 – Wrap up
  • 01:27:49 – Contact us

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Talking It Out

For this Young Readers show, Paul and Gwen change things up a bit by hosting a roundtable on the state of children’s and YA comics with two amazing scholars: Dr. Charles Hatfield, professor in the department of English at California State University, Northridge, and his new college, Dr. Krystal Howard, an assistant professor who is dual appointed in English and Liberal Studies.

The conversation in this month’s episode includes a number of timely topics, including the way scholars define children’s and YA comics, the challenges and benefits of teaching children’s comics, and the exciting formal aspects of comics, as well as other categories, such as verse novels.

Charles had just returned from the San Diego Comic Con, and he shared a list of sessions that were held in conjunction with SDCC at the San Diego Public Library, as well as commentary on this year’s nominees in the three award areas devoted to young readers: Best Publication for Early Readers, Best Publication for Kids, and Best Publication for Teens.

Another rich topic for discussion among the panelists was the portrayal of children in comics written for adults. Recent releases mentioned in this regard included Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Nick Drnaso’s Beverly, and Brecht Evens’ Panther. Recommended children’s texts that seem to be breaking conventions include Eric Orchard’s Bera, the One-Headed Troll, Drew Weing’s The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo, and favorite texts to teach included Luke Pearson’s Hilda series, Barry Deutsch’s Hereville series, and Lewis/Aydin/Powell’s March series, among others.

If listeners have been looking for a good list of must-read children’s and YA comics, this roundtable delivers on that count.

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 for Young Readers: Reviews of Volcano Trash and Real Friends

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Time Codes:

  • 01:22 – Introduction
  • 03:19 – Setup of the episode
  • 04:00 – Volcano Trash
  • 23:10 – Real Friends
  • 48:57 – Wrap up
  • 50:00 – Contact us

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Friendships

For the May Young Readers show, Paul and Gwen discuss two highly anticipated graphic novels: Ben Sears’s Volcano Trash (Koyama Press) and Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham’s Real Friends (First Second). While one text is an action adventure science fiction fantasy and the other is a memoir, both books touch upon the importance that relationships play in young people’s lives.

To being the show, Paul introduces Volcano Trash, the sequel to Ben Sears’s acclaimed 2016 graphic novel Night Air, the first in a series that takes place in what Sears terms “the Double+” universe. Both texts feature the exploits of a young man called Plus Man, his faithful sidekick, the robot Hank, as they engage in capers and navigate a world in which adults very often have nefarious agendas. Paul explains that even though the majority of secondary characters in Volcano Trash are male, the series would be enjoyable for all readers. Gwen agrees and chimes in with her appreciation for Sears’s use of color and his ability to add suspense and “motion” to the comic through the use of a variety of stylistic techniques. Gwen and Paul conclude by discussing the way that Sears’s sense of humor adds a welcome levity to the hijinks. (You can also check out additional discussion of Volcano Trash on the recent Publisher Spotlight episode devoted to Koyama Press.)

Next, the pair discuss Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham’s Real Friends, a memoir of Hale’s grade school years that focuses on friendships won and lost. In addition to considering the features of Hale and Pham’s collaborative work, Gwen underscores the importance of the “Author’s Note,” which allows Hale to look back over her childhood, explain her rationale for writing a memoir, and provide young readers with advice about navigating the complicated hierarchies that develop in grade school. Paul agrees and points to the inclusion of Hale’s grade school photographs as a way to highlight the fact that the story is both real and focused on Hale’s actual experiences. Both Gwen and Paul highly recommend this text as an excellent read for any young person, regardless of whether they identify more with Shannon and are struggling to find true friendships or whether they are popular and confident but might benefit from thinking about friendships from the perspective of other kids.

Comics Alternative Special: A Roundtable Discussion on Children’s and Young Adult Comics

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Forever Young

On this special episode of The Comics Alternative, Gwen and Derek moderate a roundtable discussion on comics for children and young adults. Joining them in the conversation are Karly Marie Grice and Joe Sutliff Sanders, both contributors to the brand new book coedited by Gwen, Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults: A Collection of Essays (University Press of Mississippi). Over the course of the roundtable, both Joe and Karly present the research they conducted for the collection — the aesthetics of children’s digital comics and contesting narratives in Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints, respectively — but the core of the discussion centers on the current state of children’s and adolescent comics, the scholarship surrounding it, questions of demographics, and the pedagogical challenges facing educators when framing the medium.

Gwen’s coeditor, Michelle Ann Abate, had planned on joining the roundtable discussion, but due to technical difficulties she was unable to do so.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag

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Time Codes:

  • 00:26 – Introduction
  • 02:14 – Setup of interview
  • 04:04 – Interview with Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag
  • 57:52 – Wrap up
  • 59:37 – Contact us

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The Stars Are Indispensable

On this interview episode Gwen and Derek talk with Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag. Their new book Shattered Warrior comes out this week from First Second, and they discuss their experiences in developing the project and their process of collaboration. This is Sharon’s first graphic novel — she’s the author of over 25 prose novels — so she shares her journey of discover while working in a different medium. And while Molly is primarily known for her successful webcomic Strong Female Protagonist (co-created with Brennan Lee Mulligan), this is her first time in working on a longer, sustained narrative for print. Gwen and Derek talk with their guests about the genesis of this story, the excitement of world creation, and their thoughts on intended reading audiences.