This week The Comics Alternative gets a new cohost: Stergios Botzakis! And on his maiden voyage, Sterg becomes an integral part in discussions of three unique titles. He and Derek begin with A Contract with God: Curator’s Collection (Dark Horse Books-Kitchen Sink Books). This classic of Will Eisner’s is reproduced in two beautiful volumes, one with the original pencils and another with the inks. This slipcased edition is a first for the podcast, as the Two Guys have never discussed anything like an Artist’s Edition or a Legacy Edition. As such, Sterg and Derek not only go through the specifics of Eisner’s four stories, but they spend a lot of time talking about process, Eisner’s original intentions, and the various insightful essays included in this two-volume set.
After that the Two Guys with PhDs turn to Liz Suburbia’s Egg Cream #1. The digital version of this was just made available to those who supported Czap Books’ Kickstarter campaign last year (and the print version will debut at MoCCA next spring). The core of this issue is the first installment of Suburbia’s Sacred Heart, Vol. 2 – Livin’ in the Future, a follow-up to her 2015 work, Sacred Heart. Sterg and Derek set a context by discussing the earlier book, then they explore the contours of the new work and how it expands upon the initial presentation of Suburbia’s broader narrative.
The guys wrap up with the first two issues of Howard Chaykin’s Hey Kids! Comics! (Image Comics). Both Sterg and Derek are fans of Chaykin’s work, although it’s been a long time since his comics were discussed on the show. This is a satiric look at the history of the American comic-book history, and the guys spend some time looking at Chaykin’s analogs to DC and Marvel as well as to such figures as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Matt Baker, among many others. They also focus on the ways in which Chaykin structures his story, skipping around in time and representing a broad temporal overview, and they speculate on what Chaykin may be up to in his most recent project.
Andy and Derek are happy to have Denis Kitchen back on The Comics Alternative. On his previous appearance surrounded Will Eisner Week 2015, but this time, he discusses the Will Eisner centennial as well as his work on the Essential Kurtzman volumes. Earlier this year Dark Horse Books, through the Kitchen Sink Books imprint, published Will Eisner: The Centennial Celebration: 1917-2017, a dual English-French album based on recent exhibitions at Le Musée de la Bande Dessinée in Angoulême and the Society of Illustrators in New York. Denis served as one of the curators of those exhibits, as well as one of the authors of the catalogue. He talks with the guys about his experiences helping to pull everything together for the exhibitions and working with John Lind (his Kitchen Sink Books colleague) on the centennial volume. Derek and Andy also ask him about his work on the Essential Kurtzman library, also published through Dark Horse and its Kitchen Sink Books imprint. They get the lowdown on the first two works in the series, Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book and Trump: The Complete Collection, as well as what we might expect in future volumes. The Two Guys also ask Denis about future projects from him, as not only an editor, but as an artist. He’s a little close-to-the-vest with the specifics, but nonetheless suggests that important news is to come.
This week the Two Guys discuss three very different new titles. First, they look at Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book, another collaboration between Dark Horse Books and Kitchen Sink Books (an earlier such publication, The Best of Comix Book, was discussed last may). What’s more, this is the first volume in the publishers’ new Essential Kurtzman library. Andy and Derek begin by mentioning that neither of them had read Jungle Book before, although it has been on both of their radars, so they come to this volume as new contemporary readers. And that’s one of the first things the guys discuss: the datedness of the stories. Originally published in 1959, Jungle Book comprises four shorter pieces, and in about all of them Kurtzman has embedded cultural references specific to the times. This is not necessarily an obstacle to enjoying the text, but both Derek and Andy appreciated this volume more as a cultural and historical artifact than they did a cohesive work of comics art. Kurtzman’s original stories are accompanied by short supplemental material by the likes of Gilbert Shelton, Art Spiegelman, Peter Poplaski, Robert Crumb, and Denis Kitchen. Indeed, it is latter’s essay that provides the necessary context, and the guys note that Kitchen’s contribution is one of the highlights of this volume. Next they return to a creator that they discussed last summer, Conor Stechschulte, and his new book, Generous Bosom, Part One (Breakdown Press). This is a fascinating title that, while the first installment of a multipart narrative, easily stands on its own. Derek and Andy comment on the apparent raciness of comic, but they quickly point out that this is a much more sophisticated story than the title would suggest. The book has its share of sexual references (explicit at times), but it is a complex narrative that takes unexpected turns. Most impressive is Stechschulte’s method of storytelling and the ways he uses his art to establish the interlocking narrative levels. Finally, the guys discuss Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich’s Lady Killer #1, the first in a five-part miniseries. What drew them to this title is Jones’s art, which they really enjoyed when they discussed Helheim back in 2013. Now Jones has turned to scripting, on which she collaborates with Rich, and this first issue does a good job of establishing the miniseries’ premise: a 1950s/60s hitwoman masquerading as an innocuous housewife. But while the story is interesting, it is Jones’s art that really captures the guys’ interest. Although they may wait for the trade in reading the rest of the story — they have some issues with the first issue’s pacing — this is nonetheless a title worth checking out.