Comics Alternative, Episode 172: Reviews of My Degeneration, Aliceheimer’s, Pencil Head #1, and The Cask of Amontillado

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Monsters and Diseases


It’s time for another round of insightful reviews, and this week Gwen and Derek have just what the doctored ordered. In fact, the first two books they discuss are part of Penn State University Press’ Graphic Medicine series. Peter Dunlap-Shohl’s My Degeneration: A Journey through Parkinson’s is the author’s account of living with Parkinson’s disease. It’s not exactly a memoir, although it does explore the impact that the disease has had on Dunlap-Shohl’s life over the past decade. My Degeneration is more of an instructional text, or perhaps a survival guide, on how to navigate the debilitating straits of his condition. As Gwen and Derek reveal, the book is an informative, no-nonsense look at Parkinson’s, and while it posses a hopeful and even upbeat tone, it is anything but a Pollyanna narrative. The second book from the Graphic Medicine series is Aliceheimer’s: Alzheimer’s through the Looking Glass, Dana Walrath’s account of confronting her mother’s MyDegenerationSampleAlzheimer’s disease (and which will be released in April). The author uses Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s tale as a metaphor for her mother’s condition, as well as her own grappling with the dilemma. Although technically not a comic, Aliceheimer’s could be considered a “graphic narrative” in that Walrath juxtaposes collage-style illustrations with textual accounts of her mother’s experiences. Both Graphic Medicine books are deeply personal and moving texts that can speak directly to patients, caregivers, and medical professionals. Next, Derek and Gwen take a look at the first issue of Ted McKeever’s new miniseries, Pencil Head (Image Comics). What makes this title so striking and so different from his previous works (such as Miniature Jesus and Superannuated Man) is that it’s about the comics industry and, according to the publisher, a semi-autobiographical account of the strange things that occur in the life of a creator. Indeed, McKeever’s shark, and at times surreal, black-and-white art is the perfect vehicle to reveal the weirdness underlying the profession. Finally, Gwen and Derek wrap up the show by looking at the latest adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic gothic tale, Enrica Jang and Jason Strutz’s The Cask of Amontillado (Action Lab Studios). Derek is an aficionado of Poe adaptations, and the two begin their discussion by highlighting both the adherences to and the deviations from the original narrative. Jang doesn’t really retain the short story’s complicating narrative frame — Montresor’s confessional (and ambiguous) account provided years after the event — but this one-shot does set up her and Strutz’s upcoming limited series, The House of Montresor. This will be their sequel to the classic, a look into the consequences of Montresor’s calculated murder and what it means to both his and Fortunato’s families.



Deconstructing Comics #460: Poe-faced Corben

PoeRichard Corben has repeatedly adapted the works of Edgar Allan Poe — in fact, he’s drawn some of the same stories several times! Most recently he’s done the work collected in Dark Horse’s Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirits of the Dead.

How do his different versions of such works as The Fall of the House of Usher compare to each other? How has Corben enhanced Poe’s stories? Is reading Poe adapted as a comic a substitute for straight-up reading Poe? In general, is it harder to be scary in comics compared to other media? Kumar and Dana discuss.

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Comics Alternative Podcast Episode 80: Reviews of Dead Letters #1, Shutter #1, Star Mage #1, and Edger Allan Poe’s The Premature Burial

Lots o’ New Stuff!

In this episode of The Comics Alternative, the third of what promises to be an unprecedented five consecutive shows for a single week, Derek and Andy W. discuss four new #1 and one-shot issues. First, they look at Christopher Sebela and Chris Visions’s Dead Letters (BOOM! Studios), OnesAndOneShotsfocusing on the story’s clever use of narrative gaps and art-driven action. Then they turn to Shutter (Image Comics), a new series from Joe Keatinge teams up with debut artist Leila del Duca. The guys love the initial setup, but nonetheless wanted more story in this inaugural issue. From there they delve into JC De La Torre and Ray Dillon’s Star Mage from IDW Publishing, and what promises to be an intriguing new sci-fi title. Finally, Derek and Andy wrap up with a long discussion of Richard Corben’s latest adaptation, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Premature Burial (Dark Horse Comics). They point out that the issue also includes an adaption of “The Cask of Amontillado” — in fact, “Cask” takes up more of the issue than does the titular feature — and that it works in similar ways to the other recent Corben adaptations of Poe for Dark Horse, leading up to the fall publication of the collection, Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirit of the Dead (Dark Horse Books). The Two Guys had a great time discussing these new comics, and you can join in on the fun as well by lending your ear to this week’s review show.

This episode’s incidental music is brought to you by
Wilco’s Being There

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