Comics Alternative, Episode 256: Reviews of Kid Lobotomy #1 and #2, Carnival of Contagion, and Monograph

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Trying Too Hard

This week Paul and Derek review three new titles that are all quite different in content and audience. They begin with the first two issues of Peter Milligan and Tess Fowler’s Kid Lobotomy, the first series in IDW’s new Black Crown imprint. The guys start their discussion by referencing Shelly Bond and her stated intentions behind the new creator-owned line. But while they’re certainly amenable to the edgy or punk mentality that had once defined Vertigo, the guys feel that in her commentary in these first two issues, Bond is trying a little too hard to be hip and get us on board. And while both Derek and Paul are fans of Milligan’s storytelling, there’s something a little too much, something too crowded or unwieldy, about the premise of Kid Lobotomy. Nonetheless, given the creative team on this title, and its place in the new Black Crown line, the guys are going to give this series a lot of rope in hopes of being won over.

Next, the guys discuss Carnival of Contagion, a new educational comic from the University of Nebraska Press that’s all about vaccination awareness. Illustrated by Bob Hall, and written by him as well (along with John West and Judy Diamond), this is a title that’s apparently intended for classroom use. As Paul and Derek reveal, the story may be a little dry — and even didactic in places — but it effectively drives home the importance of vaccination not only for individuals, but for our communities as well.

Finally, the Two Guys turn to a behemoth of a text, Chris Ware’s Monograph (Rizolli). Both Derek and Paul are big fans of Ware’s creativity, and they’re mesmerized by the sheer beauty and ingenuity contained within this work (which is much more of an art book, and one with autobiographical impulses, than a comic). However, they’re a little put off at times by the apologetic tone of the author. Granted, Chris Ware is known for his self-deprecation, where he feels he has to apologize for his comics efforts as an artist. But such a stance can also take on a more self-aggrandizing quality, highlighting the uniqueness — and the “seriousness” or the high-brow-ness — of the project and contrasting it to more “common” or mainstream comics. This can also be seen in Art Spiegelman’s introduction and his emphasis on “comix.” But despite these minor annoyances, the guys are completely taken by this volume and strongly recommend it to not only Chris Ware fans, but to serious comics readers as a whole.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Katie Green

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Time Codes:

  • 00:24 – Introduction
  • 03:04 – Setup of interview
  • 05:16 – Interview with Katie Green
  • 56:39 – Wrap up
  • 58:06 – Contact us

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Art and Struggles

On this interview episode, Paul and Derek talk with Katie Green about her recent graphic memoir Lighter Than My Shadow, released last month from Lion Forge’s Roar imprint. The Two Guys reviewed the book a couple of weeks ago, but they were so moved by Green’s story that they wanted to have her on the podcast to talk about her work. This insightful conversation adds more context and texture to Katie’s memoir, and she shares her struggles in narrating her various traumatic experiences, her art background and its translation into memoir comics, and her desires to reach others, specifically younger readers, who may similarly suffer from eating disorders and sexual abuse.

Be sure to check out the Lighter Than My Shadow website, and especially this cool promotional video:

 

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: Julia Wertz

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:25 – Introduction
  • 00:02:39 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:29 – Interview with Julia Wertz
  • 01:10:16 – Wrap up
  • 01:12:40 – Contact us

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Screw Cronuts!

On this interview episode, Paul and Derek are pleased to have Julia Wertz on the podcast. Her new book, Tenements, Towers and Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City, came out earlier this month from Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers. As the subtitle suggests, this is a different kind of history, a guide to the Big Apple’s present as well as its past, investigating its architecture, its businesses, its facades, its entertainment venues, and the many colorful figures who have populated its boroughs. The guys talk with Julia about how different this book is from her previous works — e.g., Drinking at the MoviesThe Infinite Wait and Other StoriesFart Party — which are primarily autobiographical. For this project, the author considered herself an urban explorer, forgoing the inward gaze and focusing instead on the city that she called home between 2007 and 2016. Tenements, Towers and Trash includes a variety of stories that compose its past, and punctuating the text is a series of before-and-after illustrations of storefronts and city blocks that underscore New York’s ever-changing nature. This isn’t a nostalgic look back at what once had been, but a chronicle of a dynamic urban space in the process of becoming. And of course, the book has more than its share of Julia’s poignant, even laugh-out-loud, humor.

Comics Alternative, Episode 254: Halloween Comics 2017

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Behind You!

Once again, it’s that creepy time of the year: the Wednesday before Halloween. And as the Two Guys have done for the past several years, they’re using this occasion to highlight a variety of Halloween-specific and recent horror titles. This time around, Paul joins Derek in discussing a variety of comics, ten in all, that will appeal to a diverse community of readers. There’s something for young readers, something for more mature fans, something for classic horror aficianados, something for comedy lovers, something for mainstream superhero readers, and something for those who appreciate the truly offbeat. Specifically, on this episode Paul and Derek discuss:

Comics Alternative Interviews: Roz Chast

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:38 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:40 – Interview with Roz Chast
  • 01:12:04 – Wrap up
  • 01:13:54 – Contact us

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Rat Afterbirth

Paul and Derek are pleased to have on The Comics Alternative the great cartoonist, Roz Chast. Her new book, Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York, was recently released by Bloomsbury Publishing. The Two Guys have been longtime fans of Chast’s offbeat and hilarious New Yorker strips for years, and they spend a good bit of time talking with their guest about how she has translated that sense of humor into a long-form narrative. They also talk with Chast about her previous book, Can’t We Please Talk about Something More Pleasant?, her memoir on living with aging parents, and how her mother and father find prominent places in the latest work. Along the way, Chast discusses her process of writing — she indiscriminately explores narrative paths to see what does and doesn’t work — her unique non-comic-book community of cartoonist colleagues, and her experiences editing last year’s Best American Comics volume. And of course, she spends a lot of time talking about her experiences and love of Manhattan, complete with its mind-blowing variety of restaurants, its subway system, its out-of-the-way specialty shops, its giant waterbugs, and the annoyance of rat afterbirth. Yes, rat afterbirth.

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

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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: Back with Sophie Goldstein

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:39 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:28 – Interview with Sophie Goldstein
  • 01:16:41 – Wrap up
  • 01:18:21 – Contact us

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Sci-Fi and the Art of Psycho-Sexual Drama

On this episode of The Comics Alternative‘s interview series, Paul and Derek are pleased to talk with Sophie Goldstein. Her new book, House of Women, was recently published by Fantagraphics, and she talks with the Two Guys about her four-year process of creating her narrative. As Sophie describes it, this is a psycho-sexual sci-fi drama about a group of female missionaries who travel to a distant planet to help educate — and colonize — the local population. Complications ensue when an earlier missionary, Jael Dean, goes native and becomes the focus of rival affections. During their insightful conversation, Goldstein discusses the genesis of the project, how it springs from her love of the film Black Narcissus and how it began as a thesis while she was at the Center for Cartoon Studies. She also reveals her strategies for composing her protagonists, the evolution of the storyline, and the history of originally self-publishing her work in three parts.

Be sure to check out Sophie Goldstein’s Patreon page, as well as her previous times on the podcast:

Comics Alternative, Episode 252: Reviews of Spinning, Love and Rockets, Vol. 4 #3, and Slots #1

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On the Ice, in the Casino

On this week’s episode of The Comics Alternative, Paul joins Derek in discussing three exciting new titles. They begin with Spinning, Tillie Walden’s new book and her initial release for First Second. What makes this work stand out from her previous comics, such as The End of Summer and I Love This Part, is that it is an outright memoir. This is a coming-of-age narrative, and Walden uses her history of competitive ice skating as a scaffolding for her life story. There’s a lot in this memoir about her chosen sport, but Spinning is much more than a book about skating. In it, we see Walden’s key relationships, her search for a mother figure, and her coming out to family and friends.

Next, the guys check out the latest issue of Love and Rockets (Fantagraphics). In this issue, the third in the magazine-sized fourth volume, both Jaime and Gilbert continue the storylines they had begun in the earlier New Stories annuals. Gilbert gives us the further adventures of Fritz, her daughters, and the Fritz wannabes, while Jaime returns to his Princess Anima story and the Hoppers punk reunion. What most strikes both Derek and Paul, however, are the two short pieces early in the issue where Jaime visits the young Maggie and Hopey in 1979. The guys hope there is more on the teenage locas in future issues.

Finally, the Two Guys wrap up by discussing the first issue of a new series from Image Comics, Dan Panosian’s Slots. This is the story of Stanley Dance, a former boxer and antihero who does what he can to get by. It takes place in Las Vegas, and both Paul and Derek are struck by how Panosian’s art, as well as his storytelling style, captures the loose and freewheeling feel of the gambling capital. They’re impressed by this first issue and plan to continue with this series.

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 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, Episode 241: Reviews of Boundless and User

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Time Codes:

  • 00:01:23 – Introduction
  • 00:05:11 – Welcome new Patreon supporters!
  • 00:08:34 – Boundless
  • 00:44:55 – User
  • 01:16:41 – Wrap up
  • 01:17:43 – Contact us

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Reality Askew

This week on the review show Paul joins Derek in discussing two new recent releases. They begin with Jillian Tamaki’s Boundless, published by Drawn and Quarterly. This is a collection of nine short stories, most of which have been previously published in FrontierNobrow, and Hazlitt.net. The guys begin by discussing how Tamaki structures the contents, along with including new pieces, in order to give the collection visual and thematic coherency. Unlike her longer narratives Skim and This One Summer, both with her cousin Mariko, Tamaki tends to use the shorter storytelling forms to create pieces that are slightly askew and bend the reality that we know.

Next, Paul and Derek turn to Devin Grayson, John Bolton, and Sean Phillips’s User (Image Comics). This was originally published as a three-issue prestige-format miniseries through Vertigo Comics in 2001, but until now has never been collected in a single volume. User is the tale of a young woman finding refuge in a MUD, escaping the chaos that surrounds her real-life work and family. What makes the narrative notable is its handling of online interaction and gender identification, quite provocative at the time of its original publication. And while the guys appreciate what Grayson and company are doing, they note the slightly dated nature of this comic. As they point out, understanding the temporal context puts everything into perspective.

Comics Alternative for Young Readers: A Review of The Stone Heart and a Discussion of the Essay, “Required Reading: 50 of the Best Kids Comics”

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Required Reading…and Required Reading?

In this episode of The Comics Alternative‘s Young Readers series, Gwen and Paul discuss the second volume in Faith Erin Hicks’s Nameless City trilogy, The Stone Heart (First Second), as well as Paste Magazine’s “Required Reading: 50 of the Best Kids Comics” list. Paul also conducts a “mini-interview” with Gwen about the release of Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults, a volume she co-edited with Michelle Ann Abate for the University Press of Mississippi.

The show begins with a review of the second volume in Faith Erin Hicks’s Nameless City trilogy, The Stone Heart. They praise the sequel’s strong plot and attention to perils of colonization and cultural erasure, and they consider the way that a number of contemporary comics creators have handled these concepts. Central to their discussion the fact that “Asian-inspired” texts are also a current trend in comics, and they explore the cultural implications of this trend. Finally, the pair react to the news that the trilogy has been optioned for a three-season, thirty-six episode TV series.

Next, Gwen and Paul discuss “best of” lists in general, and in particular, Paste Magazine’s April 7, 2017 article, “Required Reading: 50 of the Best Kids Comics.” There were some obvious picks on the list, some that were exciting…and others that leave Gwen and Paul shaking their heads.

To finish the episode, Paul interviews Gwen about the genesis and contents of Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults: A Collect of Critical Essays, a volume that she co-edited with Dr. Michelle Ann Abate, a professor of children’s and YA literature and English at The Ohio State University. This “mini-interview” serves as a teaser for an upcoming Comics Alternative roundtable discussion that will feature Gwen, Michelle, and two of the contributors to the volume.

Comics Alternative, Episode 234: The April Previews Catalog

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Marathon Men

It’s time to look at the current Previews catalog from Diamond, and for this month Derek is joined by Paul, the new cohost of the monthly Young Readers series. Paul has helped out on earlier Previews shows, and as Andy has jokingly pointed out, on those occasions the episodes have tended to clock in on the longish side. And indeed, that’s what happens this week! But the lengthiness of the April Previews show is filled not only with choice solicits, but also with critical commentary, astute observations, and even a couple of soapbox rants. In their highlights from this month’s catalog, the guys discuss offerings from: