Comics Alternative, Episode 280: Reviews of The New World: Comics from Mauretania, Young Frances, and A Walk through Hell #1

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A Comfortable Fogginess

On this episode of the podcast, Paul and Derek look at three new releases that, while all compelling readings, are vastly different in style and narrative approach. They begin with Chris Reynold’s The New World: Comics from Mauretania, recently released from Gallery 13. This is a collection of Reynold’s Mauretania comics published beginning in the 1980s. This volume was designed by Seth, and he also provided a brief and insightful note at the end of the text. Neither Paul nor Derek had encountered any of the Mauretania stories before, and they’re sorry that they hadn’t read Reynolds any sooner. The narratives are dreamlike and random in their coherency, and while making any sense of their meaning and action can be an exercise in frustration, they are strangely some of the most compelling comics the guys have read this year.

Next, the Two Guys turn to a creator whom they’ve read and loved before, but not by his current name. Both Paul and Derek are big fans of the series Pope Hats, authored by Ethan Rilly, an anagram of Hartley Lin. In Young Frances (AdHouse Books), Lin is now using his real name and collects issues #2, #3, and #5 of his defining series. The text presents the story of Frances Scarland, a young legal clerk whose efficiency and competency are admired by those around her, but who nonetheless wonders if she’s just drifting through life without purpose. Her best friend, Vickie, is impulse and more scattered, yet talented enough to find a lead role acting in a hit television crime drama. This is yet another example of “verite dessinée” storytelling, a favorite of Derek’s and Paul’s.

The guys conclude this episode by looking at the first issue of Garth Ennis and Goran Sudžuka’s A Walk through Hell (AfterShock Comics). A mix of horror and crime, this first issue establishes the premise of the series but does so in a way that poses a variety of questions. In fact, both Paul and Derek feel as if this first issue ended almost too quickly — a sense that they’ve gotten with other AfterShock first issues — although there is enough in this inaugural installment to have them wanting to come back to the series. In this first issue, Special Agents Shaw and McGregor work a recent race-related killing while at the same time investigating the disappearance of two fellow officers. What they stumble onto, and we never get a sense of what that is, is apparently something so horrific that even the most hardened law enforcers are unable to live with what they saw.

Comics Alternative, Episode 279: The May Previews Catalog

“It whets my appetite, and I don’t know what the hell it’s about”

This week, Paul and Derek take an extensive look at the May Previews catalog. In fact, their look is so extensive that their discussion evolves into an extra-long episode, spanning almost three hours! (Then again, listeners of the podcast probably are used to these long Previews episodes.) The Two Guys begin by sharing listener mail, and then they make a few comments about some of the changes Diamond has made to their catalog over the past couple of months. After that, they jump into the nitty gritty of the episode, highlighting a variety of solicitations that catch their eye this month. Among the many publishers and titles that they focus on are:

Comics Alternative, Episode 278: Reviews of Terminal Lance Ultimate Omnibus, Death or Glory #1, and Black [AF]: Widows and Orphans #1

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Difference Is Good

This week Paul and Derek focus on three titles that are strikingly different in nature. They begin with Maximilian Uriarte’s Terminal Lance Ultimate Omnibus: The World’s Most Popular Military Comic Strip (Little Brown and Company). This is a hardbound volume of the entries included on Uriarte’s webcomic, and it collects strips published between January 2010 and December 2016, most of what you’ll find on the site. Terminal Lance Ultimate Omnibus also include the strips published in the Marine Corps Times. Although the guys know next to nothing about military (specifically Marine) life, they approach this text on its own terms and with a full awareness of its intended audience.

Next, they look at Rick Remender and Bengal’s Death or Glory #1 (Image Comics). Both of the guys marvel over Bengal’s art, pointing out that the visuals are what largely drive the narrative in this first issue. But both are also fans of Remender’s work, and as Paul points out, this new title bears many of his stylistic stamps. This is a title that has a lot of promise, and it’s yet another Remender series for the guys to keep up with.

Finally, Paul and Derek discuss something never before covered on The Comics Alternative: a title from Black Mask Studios. The first issue in Kwanza Osajyefo and Tim Smith 3’s Black [AF]: Widows and Orphans has recently been released, and the guys speculate on this ancillary tale in the Black storyworld. Although Paul is familiar with this universe, this is Derek’s first foray into Black. As the guys discuss, this is an action-packed first issue, although at times a bit chaotic. Some of this confusion, in fact, may be due to the visuals. Nonetheless, it’s a title worth checking out.

Comics Alternative for Young Readers: Reviews of The Dragon Slayer and The Lost Path, and a Discussion of the Children’s Comics-Related Book Market

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Hurling Children over Cliffs

In this episode of the Comics Alternative Young Readers Show, Gwen and Paul review two new releases, both of which have a connection to folklore and fairy tales: Jaime Hernandez’s The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America from Toon Graphics, and Amélie Fléchais and Jonathan Garnier’s The Lost Path from Lion Forge Comics’ children’s imprint, Cub House. Additionally, Paul and Gwen discuss Brian Hibb’s “Tilting at Windmills #268: Looking at BookScan 2017,” an overview of comics sales that demonstrates that the children’s and YA market continues to grow and that young people are getting comics in a variety of venues, from direct distribution at comics shops to major booksellers to Comixology.

In Part I of the show, Paul and Gwen embark on a detailed discussion of The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America, a text that includes three short tales, “The Dragon Slayer” and “Tup and the Ants,” both written and drawn by Jaime Hernandez, and “Martina Martínez and Pérez the Mouse,” a collaboration between children’s author Alma Flor Ada and Hernandez. The text begins with a short essay, “Imagination and Tradition,” by noted author F. Isabel Campoy that helps to contextualize the various fairy tales, or “cuentos” that have emerged from the diverse oral and literary traditions, which Campoy terms “a unique blend of Old World and New, spanning a continent across many geographic boundaries and cultures.” Campoy mentions specifically the Catholic, Jewish, Arab, and Moorish influences upon the Spanish, whose tales then encountered those of indigenous peoples from “the Maya, Aztec, Inca, and other Native American cultures.” At the end of the text, Campoy and Ada provide context for the three folktales, as well as a bibliography, and information on the authors. The editors at Toon Graphic have released a paperback Spanish language edition of the text, La Matadragones: Cuentos de Lationoamérica,” and Paul mentions the value of these books in dual language classrooms.

Gwen and Paul then consider the way that The Dragon Slayer fits into Jaime Hernandez’s long and storied career, and they mention both the humor inherent in the stories and the way that Hernandez’s characteristic clear line style conveys characters’ feelings and reactions. The fact that all three tales feature strong women is something that Paul highlights, noting that these tales provide a much-needed emphasis on girls and women who stand up for themselves and serve as problem solvers.

Next, the duo talks about Amélie Fléchais and Jonathan Garnier’s The Lost Path, a vibrant adventure story that includes references to classic fairy tales, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, and Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Gwen notes the text’s similarity to other contemporary comics in which young people pass through to a magical land where conflict is brewing – she mentions specifically Mairghread Scott and Robin Robinson’s recently released The City on the Other Side (First Second) as an example, while Paul praises the text’s style, from the gorgeous water color page-length spreads to the black and white sketches, which are rich in detail and artistry.

The show concludes with Paul and Gwen discussing the rise in hybrid comics, as well as implications that they have drawn from reading Brian Hibb’s latest report on comics sales.

Comics Alternative, Episode 277: Reviews of Von Spatz, Skyward #1, and Resident Alien: An Alien in New York #1

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Up in the Air

This week Paul and Derek discuss Anna Haifisch’s Von Spatz (Drawn and Quarterly), Joe Henderson and Lee Garbett’s Skyward #1 (Image Comics), and Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse’s Resident Alien: An Alien in New York #1 (Dark Horse Comics).

 

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 276: Reviews of Milk Wars, Motor Girl Omnibus, and Strangers in Paradise XXV #1 & #2

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Crossovers

Paul is back on the podcast, fresh from working on his dissertation. On this episode, he updates Derek on his dissertating progress, and then the Two Guys plunge into the show proper. They begin by looking at the five issues that make up the DC Universe/Young Animal crossover Milk Wars (DC Comics). Both Paul and Derek share their experiences reading JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1Mother Panic/Batman Special #1Shade, the Changing Girl/Wonder Woman Special #1Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye/Swamp Thing Special #1, and Doom Patrol/JLA Special #1. A significant difference between the guys’ appreciation of the Milk War crossover is linked to each of their post reading history with both the Young Animal titles and DC’s current superhero happenings.

After that, they celebrate the recent work of Terry Moore. The Two Guys discus in detail Motor Girl Omnibus, released just last month from Moore’s Abstract Studios. This is a limited series that originally came out in 2017, but both Derek and Paul wanted to revisit the title now that the entire run is available in one volume. From there, they jump into the first two issues of Moore’s latest efforts, Strangers in Paradise XXV. Both are excited to be back in the world of Katchoo and Francine, and even more compelling is the fact that Moore is crossing over his narrative worlds. There are elements of both Rachel Rising and Echo in this new SiP. And while those familiar with Moore’s previous comics will bring an enhanced appreciation to the latest series, first-time readers of Moore will nonetheless get a lot out of Strangers in Paradise XXV without feeling lost. Both Paul and Derek love the work of Terry Moore, and their discussion of these new releases demonstrate this fact.

Comics Alternative for Young Readers: Reviews of The Prince and the Dressmaker and Speak: The Graphic Novel

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Art and Perceptions

Gwen and Paul are back with another Young Readers episode. For February, they discuss two recent publications, both that explore how perceptions, for better or for worse, figure into our lives. They begin with Jen Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker (First Second), a fairy tale-like narrative focusing on romance, identity, and creativity. Next, they look at Speak: The Graphic Novel (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), a comics adaptation of Laurie Halse Anderson’s young adult novel Speak. Illustrated by Emily Carroll, it’s a story of a young high school outcast who uses art to confront the hardships that have kept her on the margins.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Karen Berger

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:03:01 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:46 – Interview with Karen Berger
  • 01:15:04 – Wrap up
  • 01:17:14 – Contact us

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Back on the Edge

Paul and Derek are excited to have Karen Berger on The Comics Alternative. The first release from her new Dark Horse Comics imprint, Berger Books, occurs next week, and the guys talk with Karen on the cusp of this event. The Two Guys ask their guest about the genesis of Berger Books as well as her efforts in launching new titles — such as Hungry Ghosts, Incognegro: Rennaisance, Mata Hari, and The Seeds — and securing impressive talent. But they also talk with Karen about her time working at DC Comics and establishing the industry-defining Vertigo brand. This is a fun and informative interview, and Karen Berger is one of the most engaging and pleasant guests the Two Guys have ever had on the podcast.

Episode 264: Our Favorite Comics of 2017

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 – Introduction
  • 00:03:14 – Contexts and caveats
  • 00:11:32 – Our favorite comics of 2017
  • 02:09:06 – Wrapping up our favorites, and honorable mentions
  • 02:13:52 – Contact us

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And the Winner Is…

Paul and Derek are back with The Comics Alternative‘s annual “Favorites” episode. This is where the Two Guys share what they consider to be the best comics of the past year. Usually this year-end show is released as the very last regular review episode of each year, but this time around the guys had to postpone the recording due to family issues. But we’re not far from the end of 2017, and Paul and Derek wanted to get the show out in as timely a manner as possible. So here you have it, the Two Guys’ 10 favorite titles of 2017:

Paul’s Top 10 of 2017

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Derek’s Top 10 of 2017

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The Honorable Mentions…These Titles Almost, but Just Didn’t Quite, Make It onto Each Guy’s List

For Paul

For Derek

Comics Alternative, Episode 262: Review of The Best American Comics 2017

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:28 – Introduction
  • 00:02:26 – Better late than never
  • 00:05:42 – The Best American Comics 2017
  • 01:30:43 – Wrap up
  • 01:32:15 – Contact us

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Provocation

On this episode of the podcast Paul and Derek discuss The Best American Comics 2017, edited by Ben Katchor along with series editor Bill Kartalopoulos. The Two Guys usually discuss Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s annual contribution to comicsdom in the penultimate episode of every year, but this time around life got in the way — and Paul, everyone’s heart goes out to you — so they had to postpone slightly the current show. But better late than never!

As Paul and Derek reveal, this has to be the most experimental volume of The Best American Comics we’ve ever seen. Editor Ben Katchor does his best to challenge our understanding and definition of “comics” and to interrogate the very concept of “best.” In fact, you could call these efforts provocative. This most recent anthology is attuned to the current political environment, and this is perhaps best demonstrated in Katchor’s multifaceted and hilarious introduction, as well as Kartalopoulos’s insightful Foreword.

The contributions themselves are perhaps the most fascinating, and definitely the most varied, of any The Best American Comics volume.  There are many names that would be recognizable to listeners of the podcast — e.g., Kim Deitch, Tim Lane, Gabrielle Bell, Ed Piskor, Joe Sacco, Josh Bayer, Michael DeForge, and Sam Alden — but what marks this annual is the sheer number of contributors that neither Derek nor Paul had previously known. Indeed, at least a good half of this collection is comprised of creators never before discussed on the podcast, and it’s exciting to discover this many new artists. To say the least, this is the most engaging, and the most challenging, volume of The Best American Comics to date.

 

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 258: Our Fifth Annual Thanksgiving Show

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Pass the Pie

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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

 

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

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Time Codes:

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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.