Adam Kubert/Marvel Comics
Adam Kubert/Marvel Comics

The 10 Most Interesting Comics of June

Adam Kubert/Marvel Comics
Adam Kubert/Marvel Comics

Each month, we round up the most interesting comics, graphic novels, web and digital comics that we recommend you check out.

1. PETER PARKER SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #1


Adam Kubert/Marvel Comics

By Chip Zdarsky, Adam Kubert
Marvel Comics

This new series revives the title of the longtime second string Spider-man title which hasn’t been used with the “Peter Parker” prefix since 1998. While the flagship Amazing Spider-man comic has taken Peter Parker to some interesting new places in recent years, most recently as the CEO of his own technology company, some fans feel this globe-trotting Spidey lacks the “old Parker luck” (or lack thereof) that everyone likes to remember. This new companion series aims for a “back to the basics” appeal with stories set in NYC but still within the current continuity. Chip Zdarsky is a brilliant if slightly idiosyncratic choice of writer for one of Marvel’s most visible heroes. As one half of the team behind Image Comics’ raunchy hit series Sex Criminals, he tends toward absurd comedy and will assuredly tap into the sense of humor that Spidey needs, but he’s also shown a great knack for sincerity and sheer likability in comics like Jughead that make it seem like he’ll get Peter Parker pretty well. He’s joined by veteran artist Adam Kubert, who’s by no means a newcomer to drawing Spider-man.

2. THE ADVENTURES OF JOHN BLAKE: MYSTERY OF THE GHOST SHIP


Fred Fordham/Scholastic

By Phillip Pullman and Fred Fordham
Scholastic Graphix

Phillip Pullman, the famed author of the His Dark Materials trilogy of all ages fantasy novels, is making a big comeback this year with a highly anticipated new novel, The Book of Dust, out this October. For those that can’t wait that long, there is also his first graphic novel which is the opening of a proposed series called The Adventures of John Blake. The titular hero is an enigmatic teenage boy on a time-traveling 18th century galleon manned by a crew plucked from various points in history. They rescue a young girl in modern day Australia who has fallen overboard her parents’ yacht and they risk a run-in with the evil Dahlberg Corporation to get her home. Pullman owes much to the classic boys adventures of Treasure Island and classic Eurocomics like Tin Tin, but Fordham’s realistic, modern artwork calls to mind the sophisticated European adventure comics of today.

3. SUNBURNING


Keiler Roberts/Koyama Press

By Keiler Roberts
Koyama Press

The trick with creating good memoir comics is being willing to shed the natural inclination toward self-preservation that prevents true honesty about your own life. Keiler Roberts seems to have no problem with this. Sunburning is a collection of comic vignettes about her home life and her personal struggles with motherhood, being an artist, and dealing with mental and physical illness. Her depictions of her struggles with bipolar disorder as well as her brutally and hilariously honest exchanges with her daughter, her husband, and her parents are just about the most direct and real scenes you’ll read in comics this year. She is not afraid to show herself as being crass or even mean at times, but just as often she is refreshing, down-to-earth and funny.

4. DARK DAYS: THE FORGE #1


Andy Kubert/DC Comics

By Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Andy Kubert, Jim Lee, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Danny Miki, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair
DC Comics

Today’s DC is all about reconnecting its characters to the great multiversal tapestry of their pasts, which had been mostly rewritten in the 2011 “New 52” reboot. In some ways, this one-shot sets up the latest multi-comic summer event—leading toward August’s Dark Nights: Metal—but it is also a continuation of much of what has come before including clues planted in last year’s DC: Rebirth one-shot and Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s recent run on Batman. That means this is primarily designed for DC fans that have been paying acute attention over the years and not so much for the casual comic reader. If you’re any sort of DC fan, though, this is a gripping introduction to a big story involving Batman being ultra-secretive about some universe-shattering mystery, which is always fun. Some familiar faces who haven’t been around much in recent years like Hawkman and Mister Miracle make some enticing cameos here.

5. GARBAGE NIGHT


Jen Lee/Nobrow Press

By Jen Lee
Nobrow Press

Jen Lee is best known for her groundbreaking semi-animated webcomic Thunderpaw but has managed to translate that appeal into non-animated print. Her 2015 one-issue Vacancy, released through Nobrow’s 17x23 imprint, was set in the same post-apocalyptic world of Thunderpaw, populated by teenage, talking animals, and now Garbage Night, her first graphic novel, expands that story into a 72-page hardcover. It follows the same trio—Simon, a dog, Cliff, a raccoon, and Reynard, a deer—and this time they’re befriended by another dog named Barnaby as they scavenge for food in this world suddenly devoid of humans. Lee’s strong sense of design and color makes her a great choice for Nobrow who publish many of the industry’s best looking graphic novels.

6. UNCOMFORTABLY HAPPILY


Yeon-sik Hong/Drawn & Quarterly

By Yeon-sik Hong
Drawn & Quarterly

Anyone who has worked from home for an extensive length of time will see themselves in Hong’s depiction of his own struggle to create a better working environment so that he can meet his deadlines. This hefty, nearly 600-page memoir of the time he and his wife moved out of the noisy hubbub of Seoul to the quiet isolation of the South Korean countryside is unassuming, funny, heartwarming—and, at times, stressful. Hong and his wife, also an artist, escaped the city to find a quiet place to live and work but also find that rural life invites many distractions of its own. This is the first time this Korean “manhwa” will be released in the States and is translated by American cartoonist Hellen Jo.

7. VALERIAN: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION VOL. 1


Jean-Claude Méziéres/Cinebook

By Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Méziéres
Cinebook

Next month will see the release of Luc Besson’s new film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a sci-fi adventure that looks stylistically similar to his classic 1997 film The Fifth Element. That’s because Valerian is based on a French comic series (typically called Valerian & Laureline) that many American readers may not be aware of but that is a noted influence on many science fiction films like The Fifth Element and even Star Wars. It’s a space opera drawn in a humorous, cartoony style about two Earth teens serving in the Spatio-Temporal Service in the 28th century. Valerian is the square-jawed but occasionally clueless hero while Laureline starts out as simply the sidekick but over time grows to be the smarter, more capable member of the duo. These adventures began being serialized in 1967 in the French comics magazine Pilote and ran until 2010 with stories collected into various graphic albums over time. Cinebook will be publishing multiple volumes that will include some material that has never been translated before as well as a long joint interview with the creators and Besson.

8. SOUND OF SNOW FALLING


Maggie Umber/2D Cloud

By Maggie Umber
2D Cloud

Umber’s wordless, painted comic is part nature documentary, part hand-painted poetry, showing a family of great horned owls living in their natural habitat. We see the entire birth cycle of a nest of babies and a mother fiercely and lovingly protecting and nurturing them. Their nocturnal activity is depicted in scenes of murky and minimal color that force you to squint at times to make out the action. Umber, a co-founder of the boutique art-comic publisher 2D Cloud, blends her love of educational science and artistic expression with this quiet, beautiful and captivating little comic.

9. KNIFE'S EDGE (FOUR POINTS BOOK 2)


Rebecca Mock/First Second

By Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux/First Second

Book 2 of Larson and Mock’s high seas adventure picks up where the first volume left off, after twins Alex and Cleo were reunited with their long lost father. Now, after learning some startling truths about their parents, they’re off again to find a family treasure before their nemesis, the infamous pirate Felix Worley, beats them to it. Knife’s Edge is just as much of a rollicking page-turner as its predecessor, Compass South. Mock’s artwork is colorful and fluid and even reminiscent of the work of her co-creator Larson, an award-winning artist in her own right.

10. SHORTBOX #5


Rosemary Valero-O'Connell

By various
Comics & Cola

If you want to read comics from fresh, diverse, up and coming comic creators, you could do worse than follow writer Zainab Akhtar, who is not only one of the most thoughtful writers about comics but she also has great taste in comic art and an eye for new talent. Every three months, Akhtar curates a “box” of comics that she commissions from interesting new creators and sells a limited edition set of them on her website for only a 10-day period. You can pre-order her fifth set until June 30; it contains comics from a diverse array of cartoonists such as Freddy Carrasco, Nicole Miles, Rosemary, Valero-O’Connell, Jeremy Sorese, Areeba Siddique, and Afu Chan.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Marvel Entertainment
The Litigious History of DC and Marvel’s Rival Captain Marvel Characters
Carol Danvers is just one of many heroes to hold the Captain Marvel mantle for Marvel
Carol Danvers is just one of many heroes to hold the Captain Marvel mantle for Marvel
Marvel Entertainment

Behind-the-scenes struggles and legal wrangling have played just as big of a part in the history of comic books as the colorful battles on the pages themselves. And one of the most complex and long-lasting disputes in the industry has focused on Captain Marvel—or at least the two distinct versions of the character that have coexisted in a state of confusion at both Marvel and DC for decades.

Like many comic book tangles, this dispute was made possible because of the debut of Superman. Soon after his first appearance in 1938's Action Comics #1, there was a deluge of knockoffs from publishers looking for a piece of the Man of Steel pie. Though most of these were fly-by-night analogues, Fawcett Comics’s attempt at its own superhero wasn’t an inferior model—it quickly became real competition.

ENTER: THE BIG RED CHEESE

Fawcett’s Captain Marvel was created in late 1939 by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck and debuted in Whiz Comics #2. On his first cover, Captain Marvel is shown carelessly throwing a car against a brick wall, as two criminals bolt out of the windows. In Action Comics #1, Superman made his debut by hoisting a similar car over his head and driving it into the Earth, as the criminals inside fled.

The similarities were unmistakable: Here were two caped strongmen with heroic squints and circus tights leaping around cities and battling mad (and bald) scientists. But while Clark Kent got his powers from his Kryptonian physiology, Captain Marvel was, in reality, a young boy named Billy Batson who would receive his powers by shouting the magic word “SHAZAM!” If Superman was the straitlaced Boy Scout, Captain Marvel earned his moniker of "The Big Red Cheese" through sheer camp, a wink, and a nod.

Seniority mattered little to young comic book readers, and once Captain Marvel found his footing, he was outselling Superman at the newsstand and beating him to the screen by receiving his own live-action film serial in 1941. But as Captain Marvel reached larger audiences, DC was in the midst of legal action against Fawcett for copyright infringement. The claim was simple: Captain Marvel was a bit too close to Superman for DC's comfort.

DC wanted Fawcett to cease production of the serial and comics by the early 1940s, but Fawcett fought to delay a court battle for years. It wasn’t until 1948 that the case actually went to trial, with the dust finally settling in DC's favor in 1954. Legally, Fawcett would never be allowed to print another Captain Marvel book. By now, though, the superhero market was near extinction, so for Fawcett, it wasn’t even worth it to appeal again. Instead, the publisher closed shop, leaving Superman to soar the skies of Metropolis without any square-jawed competition on the newsstands.

MARVEL CLAIMS ITS NAME

The next decade would see a superhero revitalization, beginning with DC’s revamped takes on The Flash and Green Lantern in the late 1950s, and exploding just a few years later when Timely Comics changed its name to Marvel Comics and launched a roster of heavy-hitters like The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and The Hulk, all by 1962.

Marvel was a buzzword again, and in 1966, a short-lived company called M.F. Enterprises tried to capitalize with a new character named Captain Marvel—generally considered one of the worst superheroes ever put to paper.

Marvel now needed to stop inferior comics from using its name on their covers, so it obtained the trademark for the Captain Marvel name and went about protecting it by introducing yet another character named Captain Marvel. This new alien version of the hero made his debut shortly after in 1967's Marvel Super-Heroes #12.

The character was born purely for legal reasons. According to comic book veteran Roy Thomas, Stan Lee only created a Captain Marvel at publisher Martin Goodman's insistence: "All I know is the basis of the character came from a resentment over the use of the ‘Captain Marvel’ name."

Comics are nothing if not needlessly confusing at times, and by the early 1970s, Superman wasn’t quite the sales force he used to be. In need of some fresh blood, DC turned to an unlikely source for help: Fawcett. The company had reemerged in the late 1960s as the publisher of Dennis the Menace comics, but its hands were tied when the superhero business revived since it was legally forbidden from producing new Captain Marvel books. So they did the next best thing by agreeing to license the character and his supporting cast to DC in 1973.

CAPTAINS IN DISPUTE

Now the world’s two biggest publishers both had high-profile characters named Captain Marvel. But there was a catch: Since Marvel owned the rights to the name, DC couldn’t call its new Captain Marvel comic Captain Marvel. Instead, all of his comics went by the title Shazam, as did the character’s live-action TV revival in the mid-1970s. Oddly enough, the name of the character himself was still—wait for it—Captain Marvel. So DC could retain the character’s name in the stories but couldn’t slap it onto book covers or TV shows. Only Marvel could monetize the name Captain Marvel.

Right after Captain Marvel’s first DC book launched in 1973, there was an immediate hiccup. The full title of the series was the slightly antagonistic Shazam: The Original Captain Marvel. That lasted all of 14 issues before a cease and desist order from Marvel turned the series into Shazam: The World’s Mightiest Mortal. Marvel, on the other hand, found itself in the position to keep its trademark by continuously pumping out more books with Captain Marvel on the cover, which is why the company’s history is littered with reboots and new versions of the character turning up every two years or so.

By the 1990s, DC had outright purchased its Captain Marvel from Fawcett, but it could barely promote him. There are only so many times you can put Shazam on a comic cover but refer to him as Captain Marvel on the inside without confusing your readers. So in 2012, DC and writer Geoff Johns decided to end the decades of confusion and simply rename the character Shazam, because, as John said, “everybody thinks he's called Shazam already.”

In 2019, these two characters that are seemingly forever linked will have another shared milestone when they both make their big screen debuts. Marvel’s Captain Marvel will hit theaters on March 8, 2019, with Brie Larson playing the Carol Danvers version of the character. And after nearly 80 years of switching publishers, changing names, and lengthy legal battles, Zachary Levi will play the title role in Shazam! a month later on April 5.

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Evening Standard/Getty Images
8 Actors Who've Played Batman (and What Fans Had to Say About Them)
Evening Standard/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Getty Images

Batman is one of the most beloved superheroes of all time, which has made playing him a difficult task for more than one actor. (Playing characters with rabid fan bases can be a double-edged sword.) Here, take a look back at eight actors who've donned the Batsuit—and how fans and critics reacted to their performances.

1. LEWIS WILSON

Lewis Wilson as Batman
Columbia Pictures

Lewis Wilson was the youngest person to play Batman. He appeared in the 15-part 1943 Columbia serial. Critics complained about everything from his weight to his accent.

2. ROBERT LOWERY

Robert Lowery took over the role in the 1949 follow-up serial, Batman And Robin. He was a forgettable actor in this role.

3. ADAM WEST

Adam West at 'Batman'
Evening Standard/Getty Images

West played the Caped Crusader from 1966 through 1968 in the Batman television series in addition to a film spin-off. Fans were torn: Either they loved his campy portrayal or hated it.

4. MICHAEL KEATON

Michael Keaton's casting in the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film caused such controversy that 50,000 protest letters were sent to Warner Brothers’s offices.

5. VAL KILMER

Val Kilmer in 'Batman Forever' (1995)
Warner BRos.

Val Kilmer put on the suit in 1995 and received mixed reviews. Director Joel Schumacher called the actor “childish and impossible."

6. GEORGE CLOONEY

It's safe to assume Clooney regrets his decision to star in Batman & Robin. It was the worst box-office performer of the modern Batman movies and Clooney once joked that he killed the series.

7. CHRISTIAN BALE


© TM & DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Though Christian Bale is largely favored as the best actor to play the Dark Knight, he was not without criticism. NPR’s David Edelstein described his husky voice as “a voice that's deeper and hammier than ever.”

8. BEN AFFLECK

Most recently: Fans immediately took to the internet to decry the decision to cast Ben Affleck as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), recalling his previous roles in the poor-performing Gigli and Daredevil.

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