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

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

 

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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Time Codes:

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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.