Comics Alternative, Episode 220: Our Favorite Comics of 2016

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The Results Are In

Time Codes:

  • 00:01:50 – Introduction
  • 00:03:37 – Setting up our favorites
  • 00:07:16 – Year-end statistics
  • 00:15:54 – Our favorites of 2016
  • 01:43:22 – Wrapping up our favorites, and honorable mentions
  • 01:48:55 – Contact us


This is the last regular review episode of 2016, and as the Two Guys with PhDs do annually, they use their final show of the year to share their favorite comics from the past twelve months. Both Andy and Derek have each chosen what he considers the 10 best of 2016 — and in no particular order — but neither has shared his list with the other until the recording of this episode. So there are some surprises along the way. There is not much overlap between the guys’ lists, and only two titles are mentioned by both. Taken together, this is a wide-ranging selection that includes everything from mainstream superhero comics to small-press selections, from webcomics to manga, from comics in translation to works that are sure to become part of many readers’ canon.

However, before they plunge into their lists the guys share some year-end statistics. By the end of 2016 The Comics Alternative will have produced 162 episodes (including this episode and the December manga review). Among those shows, 278 print titles will have been discussed along with 36 webcomics. Derek also crunched the numbers in terms of the most reviewed publishers. The one whose titles were discussed most frequently was Image Comics, with the guys focusing on 25 of their titles. Next is Fantagraphics and Dark Horse Comics with 21 reviewed titles each. After that it’s IDW with 19, DC/Vertigo with 17, First Second with 13, and BOOM! Studios with 11. Other publishers whose titles have been reviewed at least 5 times over the past year include Kilgore Books (9), Kodansha Comics (8), Alternative Comics (7), Aftershock (7), Floating World (6), Drawn and Quarterly (5), Retrofit/Big Planet (5), and Avery Hill Publishing (5).

After that numerical rundown, the Two Guys get into their 10 favorite titles of 2016:

Andy’s Top 10 of 2016


Derek’s Top 10 of 2016


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

For Andy

For Derek


Comics Alternative for Young Readers: The Best of 2016

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Great Minds…

Gwen and Andy both are astounded that the end of the year is almost upon them, and with that in mind, they’ve picked their favorite books of 2016 for young readers. The Two People with PhDs each picked five books in the children’s category and five books in the intermediate/young adult (YA) category, but something odd happened: their lists were almost identical!

In the children’s category, Gwen and Andy both chose the following four books, many of which they have already discussed on previous episodes.

Andy diverged by picking Bert’s Way Home, by John Martz (Koyama Press), the story of an orphan named Bert who’s no regular orphan, but an orphan of time and space, stranded on Earth after a cosmic accident.

Gwen’s final pick in this category was Blip! a TOON Level 1 book by Barnaby Richards about a robot whose vocabulary consists of only one word (“Blip”) as he tries to find his way through an unfamiliar planet.

In the Intermediate/YA category, Gwen and Andy also agree on their first four titles:

  • March: Book Three, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf), the third and final book in the March trilogy. March: Book Three is also a noteworthy book in that it recently won the prestigious National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, becoming the first graphic novel to win the award.
  • Camp Midnight, by Steven T. Seagle and Jason Adam Katzenstein (Image)
  • Paper Girls, Vol. 1, by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang (Image)
  • Snow White, by Matt Phelan (Candlewick Press)

The two people with PhDs also had the great pleasure of interviewing Matt Phelan on the show last month. You can listen to that interview here.

Andy’s final choice was Mighty Jack, by Ben Hatke, a title previously discussed on the show back in August.

For Gwen’s final choice, she picked Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling, by Tony Cliff (First Second), a book previously discussed by Derek and Sean in its original webcomics format. This volume picks up where the first volume, 2013’s Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, left off.

At the end of the show, Gwen mentioned a new all ages wordless comic that she learned about on Dr. Debbie Reese’s excellent American Indians in Children’s Literature blog, Jonathan Nelson’s The Wool of Jonesy: Part I, published by Native Realities Press. Here is the blurb from the publisher’s website:

Written and illustrated by Diné artist Jonathan Nelson, The Wool of Jonesy #1 tells the first story of Jonesy the Sheep and his adventures out on the rez. As Jonesy heads out to explore life after high school he finds himself discovering and dreaming. The wonderfully illustrated story gives young and old alike a simple and enchanting view of reservation life through the eyes of an amazing character!

Readers can check out Debbie Reese’s review.

Gwen and Andy hope that these titles might be considered for gift for the holiday season. You really can’t go wrong with any of these titles. We can’t wait to see what great comics are in store for us in 2017. You can be sure we’ll pass all the information along to you. Happy reading!



Comics Alternative Interviews: Tony Cliff

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Saturday Morning Cartoons


On this interview episode, Gwen and Derek are pleased to have as their guest Tony Cliff, the creative mind behind the Delilah Dirk series. His latest book, Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling, was released last month from First Second. In the interview, our adventurous podcast explorers ask Tony about the genesis behind Beaton-Cliffthe series, the influence of Jane Austen novels and films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Delilah Dirk’s original appearance in Kazu Kibuish’s Flight series, the challenges of writing historical fiction, and how Tony’s background in animation has translated itself into his comics. They not only discuss his most recent book, but also his earlier works, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (which Andy Wolverton reviewed for the blog back in 2013) and the short ebook, Delilah Dirk and the Seeds of Good Fortune. But the conversation goes into other directions, as well, such as when Tony brings up the topic of serialization and reading preferences. What doesn’t make the recording, unfortunately, is an interesting discussion on a label that is most apt for the Delilah Dirk titles, “all-age comics.” That was a conversation that Tony had with Gwen and Derek after they concluded the interview and turned off the recorder. Still, there’s more than enough packed into what was actually captured, enough Delilah Dirk talk to last you until the publication of Tony’s next exciting installment.

Note: The portrait of Tony that you see above was drawn on a napkin by Kate Beaton!


Be sure to visit Tony’s Delilah Dirk website to keep up-to-date on the series!


Comics Alternative, Webcomics: Reviews of Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling, Reckstar, and Weapon Brown

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Good Grief


Sean and Derek start off the new year of the webcomics series with three exciting titles. They begin with Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling, Tony Cliff’s follow up to Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant. The latter began life as a webcomic, but then was published by First Second in 2013. Cliff is doing something similar with his second Delilah Dirk book, although this time he is serializing the narrative in webcomic form only until early March, the release date of the hardcopy (again, by First Second). And although King’s Shilling may not ultimately be a complete webcomic, what is there is well worth reading and has you anticipating the release of the new book. After that, the guys turn to Reckstar, Joey Cruz and Michelle Nguyen’s mashup of sci-fi and comedy with all of the trappings of a classic buddy story. In fact, Sean likens the tale to a space-based Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis team-up, with the immature Finn Wyoming playing the Lewis role in this volatile relationship. The webcomic is just into its third chapter, but there’s much to appreciate in its upcoming developments. Finally, Sean and Derek take a long look at Jason Yungbluth’s Weapon Brown, possibly one of the most engaging and sophisticated webcomics they’ve ever discussed on the podcast. This is a parodic sendup not only of Schulz’s Peanuts, but of the entire history of American comic strips. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where a nefarious organization known as the Syndicate (read United Feature Syndicate) is attempting to subdue a rebel force and their grasp on a unique food supply known as shmoo. Weapon Brown, occasionally called “Chuck,” enters the fray as a cybernetic right-armed mercenary (with a sidekick dog named “Snoop”) who ends up helping the rebel leaders Annie (see Little Orphan Annie), Hughie X (The Boondocks), Pops (Popeye), and Hildy (Broom-Hilda), among others. The action builds to a final showdown between Weapon Brown and an unstoppable, merciless, stuffed tiger-toting creation known as a Cyber Augmented Legionnaire version 1.N (or C.A.L. V1N for short). In fact, the entire history of newspaper strips seems to be represented in Weapon Brown, and part of the joy of reading this webcomic is discovering the many references, often subtle, embedded throughout. Derek and Sean also point out the risqué nature of the story, with its (at times) explicit sex, violence, and language. But if you’re OK with a little spice in your webcomics, then Weapon Brown should become one of your reading highlights of the year.


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