This is a very special episode of The Comics Alternative, in that it’s the guys’ very first live recording. That’s right, Sterg and Derek decided to record this week’s show via Google Hangouts. Yesterday — Tuesday, December 11 — they scheduled a live-streaming broadcast, and fans of the show could watch the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics record a show in real time. As Sterg put it on Twitter, “Come for the slow motion train wreck, but stay when it is instead a great talk about some recent comics!” And everything went off just fine.
On this episode they began with a discussion of Jon Lee Anderson and José Hernández’s Che: A Revolutionary Life (Penguin Press). This is graphic adaptation of Anderson’s 1997 biography of Che Guevara, and as the guys discuss, Hernández does an outstanding job of illustrating the broader life story of the famous revolutionary. After that they look at the first two issues of David and Maria Lapham’s The Lodger. This is the latest series from IDW’s Black Crown imprint, and Derek and Sterg note that it’s classic Lapham crime noir. In fact, this storyline could easily fit into the Stray Bullets series. Then they wrap up with a look at Kieron GIllen and Stephanie Hans’s Die #1 (Image Comics). This is a D&D-inspired fantasy narrative, and the guys frame this within the context of similar stories, such as Stephen King’s It, the Netflix series Stranger Things, and the first Jumanji movie.
Derek first talked to Karl Stevens in February of last year, and during that discussion he had mentioned that he was working on a new project for Retrofit/Big Planet called The Winner, and now we have the book out, being released on May 23. The two discuss Karl’s new work, its very autobiographical quality — no masking any identities here — and it’s curious structure and fantastical interludes. But they also talk about Karls others works, as well, including the Xeric Award-winning Guilty (2004), his series of books that followed, all published by Alternative Comics — Whatever (2008), The Lodger (2010), and Failure (2013)– as well as his Penny strips that ran in the Village Voice between November 2016 and March 2017. Karl is wonderful guy to interview, as you’ll hear from the conversation.
On this interview episode, Derek talks with Karl Steven about Penny, his current weekly/semiweekly strip appearing in The Village Voice. The two discuss this ongoing comic and its genesis, but they also talk about a variety of Karl’s other works. Of particular focus are the series of strips he created for the Boston Phoenix between June 2005 and November 2012. The earliest ones are collected in Whatever (Alternative Comics), and the later comics in two follow-up compilations, The Lodger (KSA Publishing) and Failure (Alternative Comics). In this way, Derek is able to talk with Karl about his distinctive realistic style and how he has evolved from a heavily reliance on crosshatching to a more simple, even softer approach. Along with this, Karl shares is aesthetic philosophy of naturalistic detail and how it differs strongly from that of creators such as Scott McCloud, Jessica Abel, and Matt Madden.
The guys also talk about Karl’s first book, the Xeric Award-winning Guilty. This effort is what put Karl Stevens on the map in 2005, and even today it serves as a wonderful introduction to his style. They also cover the artist’s efforts in the fine arts, including his highly informative Anatomy for Artists: A New Approach to Discovering, Learning and Remembering the Body(North Light Books), coauthored with Anthony Apesos. Karl also shares some information about The Winner, his new book that will be coming out this fall from Retrofit Comics/Big Planet Comics, and future plans to collect his and Gustavo Turner’s Succe$$ comics into book form.