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.
We’re in the middle of Will Eisner Week 2018, and over the past several years The Comics Alternative has offered special episodes to celebrate the annual event. This year is no exception. On this episode, Derek is pleased to have back on the podcast Denis Kitchen, this time discussing his relationship with the comics legend, his history with him as a publisher and businessman, and his first-hand accounts of the various career moves Will Eisner experienced beginning in the 1970s. Along the way Denis talks with Derek about his first encounters with Eisner, how Kitchen Sink Comics helped to introduce The Spirit to a whole new generation, Eisner’s evolution as a graphic novelist, and his experiences in working with Eisner as both an editor and as an agent.
On this interview episode Derek talks with Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth about his new book Sparring with Gil Kane: Debating the History and Aesthetics of Comics. It’s a collection of thirteen interviews, conversations, and panel transcripts focusing on Kane and his aesthetics. The pieces that Groth collects highlight the legendary artist’s thoughts on the potential and limitations of the medium, his relationship with other creators, and Kane’s place within the larger context of comics history. As Groth reveals, this book was long in the making, and it’s the first of several Gil Kane-related works that Fantagraphics will publish in the coming years.
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.
Every year for Will Eisner Week, always the first seven days in March, the Two Guys with PhDs like to do something special and Eisner-related for the podcast. This year is no different, and for the current episode Andy and Derek have decided to discuss the many uses of The Spirit since Will Eisner’s passing on January 3, 2005. And there are a lot more manifestations of The Spirit than you might think. The guys compare and contrast the various uses of this seminal crimefighter, highlighting those examples that attempt to capture the original tone of The Spirit, that deviate from the original in curious ways, and that cross over into other narrative worlds. The many titles and creators they discuss include:
and Joe Staton and Mike Curtis’s current Dick Tracy strip and its team-up with The Spirit (Tribune Company).
There is a lot packed into this episode — you’ll hear plenty about Ebony White, Commissioner and Ellen Dolan, Silk Satin, Mister Carrion, Sand Serif, The Octopus, and, of course, P’Gell — but, thankfully, almost no mention of the disastrous 2008 film. It’s all about the comics.
Check out the various The Spirit titles discussed in this special episode:
For Will Eisner Week 2016, Derek talks with Eisner’s authorized biographer, Bob Andelman. The second edition of his book, Will Eisner: A Spirited Life, was released last summer by TwoMorrows Publishing, expanding significantly on the 2005 edition in a deluxe, full-color volume. In the conversation, Bob discusses the genesis of the project and how he came to meet Eisner. He also shares several of his most memorable moments working with the legend, as well as some of the challenges in writing the biography. This recent deluxe edition, in particular, allowed him to expand his initial work and offer a more complete picture of the man. Derek talks with Bob about how the addition of brand new interviews, as well as archival material and legal documentation not available at the time of his first edition, rounds out the biography and makes Will Eisner more fully human and less of an abstracted icon. They also discuss the various stages of Eisner’s life and the different tones he struck in his comics, such as the autobiographical reflections found in To the Heart of the Storm, the sentimentality of Invisible People, the stark naturalism underlying Dropsie Avenue, the polemical turn of The Plot, and the innovative adventure that defined The Spirit newspaper inserts. All in all, you will find in this episode a spirited conversation — sorry for the predictable pun — with a writer and pop cultural critic that was a long time in coming.
On this week’s episode, Andy and Derek take a look at two very different titles. They begin with a long, extensive look at Will Eisner’s The Spirit: A Celebration of 75 Years (DC Comics). In fact, their discussion of the new Spirit collection takes up the vast majority of the show, lasting for almost and hour and forty-five minutes! So there’s a lot of ground that the guys cover with this book, although in many ways they only just scratch the surface. Both Derek and Andy are huge fans of Will Eisner, and The Spirit in particular, so the conversation never flags. They highlight a variety of the stories that are collected in this volume, pointing out why they are important in The Spirit‘s history. But they also mention some of the notable Spirit strips that aren’t included in the book, wondering why a few were excluded. They also speculate on why, and lament the fact that, there wasn’t a new introduction (or even a new afterword) written for this anniversary volume. The Neil Gaiman piece that is included in the book was originally written for 2005’s much shorter The Best of The Spirit. Derek, in particular, feels that this important collection would have benefited from a new introductory essay that would have provided more context, especially for those unfamiliar with Eisner’s legendary figure. Still, the 75th anniversary volume is one of the guys’ highlights of the year so far and deserves a place on every comics reader’s shelf. Next, they shift gears for a completely different kind of book, William Keops Ibañez’s minicomic Blazing Quantum. This is a collection of short stories created between 2005 and 2011, at times (apparently) autobiographical and at times historical, that lead to an unlikely and potentially fantastical ending. Most of the pieces revolve around a young high-school student named Billy and his everyday interactions, and frustrations, with family and friends. This is a promising self-published title that has both Andy and Derek anticipating the next installment. And they are sure to keep visiting Ibañez’s’s website for the latest updates on his art and when they can expect a new issue of Blazing Quantum.
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This week on the podcast, the Two Guys with PhDs take a close look at a few #1 issues and one minicomic series. However, before they get into the nitty gritty of their reviews, they share some of the listener mail and attention they’ve been receiving — including a very cool call-out from the Kyle and Drew at Comics for Fun and Profit — and then go into some news out of SDCC. In particular, they discuss this year’s Eisner Award winners, most of which the guys are familiar with and/or had expected (or hoped) to win. However, there were some surprises as well as some disappointments in this year’s Eisners, but such is the game of awards systems such as this. After highlighting a little more news out of San Diego — e.g., the announcement of new Vertigo titles, the return of Lady Killer, Fantagraphics to publish the next Kramers Ergot — Andy and Derek plunge into the titles that they’re discussing this week. First, they look at Brian K. Vaughan and Steve Skroce’s We Stand on Guard #1 (Image Comics). This is one of the most anticipated new series of the year, and the guys waste no time in underscoring not only BKV’s storytelling abilities, but Skroce’s meticulous art. Next, they look at the latest attempt to bring The Spirit back to reading audiences. With Will Eisner’s The Spirit#1 (Dynamite Entertainment), Matt Wagner and Dan Schkade capture not only the spirit — bad pun intended — of the original, but also introduce Eisner’s crime-fighting world in such a way that brand new readers can easily get on board, even without much knowledge of the original. The same can be said of Mark Waid and Fiona Staples’s Archie#1 (Archie Comics). The creators’ take on the comics icon appears both fresh and reverential, making this new series accessible, yet in a familiar way. Still, the guys wonder who exactly the audience might be — or might end up being — for these new spins on Archie Andrews and Denny Colt. Finally, Derek and Andy turn to a minicomic series from Tim Comrie, Leisure. This is an autobiographical, very personal, series with three issues so far. Comrie lays bare both his pleasures and his turmoils, and in a genuine manner that never comes across as calculated or discomforting. The guys also bring in a discussion of Comrie’s other series (along with Mike Heneghan), Five Hour Comics, and compare its style and tone to Leisure. If you’re not familiar with Tim Comrie’s work, then now is the time to check it out!
On this special episode of The Comics Alternative, Andy and Derek kick off Will Eisner Week by having as their guests on the show Denis Kitchen and Michael Schumacher. Denis is an underground comix legend as well the force behind Kitchen Sink Press, and he was a close friend, business associate, and former publisher of Eisner. Michael is an author whose biography, Will Eisner: A Dreamer’s Life in Comics, was released by Bloomsbury in 2010. The Two Guys talk with them about the comics of Will Eisner, the artist’s impact and innovations, and the person behind the legend. They discuss with Denis his recollections of his relationship with Eisner, explore the impact of the underground comix movement on the artist’s career, and hear anecdotes about Eisner’s aesthetic philosophy and business practices. Derek and Andy also talk with Michael about his experiences researching Eisner, his papers, and former associates, and they learn about his efforts in chronicling Eisner’s life. The result is an engaging conversation that not only celebrates the artist, but also honors the man who was Will Eisner.