The 9 Most Interesting Comics of July

Becky Cloonan/DC Comics
Becky Cloonan/DC Comics

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

1. SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL VOL. 1: EARTH GIRL MADE EASY

By Cecil Castellucci, Marley Zarcone, Ande Parks, Ryan Kelly and Kelly Fitzpatrick
DC Comics Young Animal

Shade the Changing Girl
Marley Zarcone/DC Comics

 
While Gerard Way’s Doom Patrol is the headline act of DC’s new Young Animal imprint, the surprise hit has been Shade the Changing Girl, a modern, gender-swapped sequel of sorts to early DC Vertigo classic Shade the Changing Man, which itself was a re-imagining of a Steve Ditko creation from the 1970s. The Shade of this series is Loma Shade, an alien from the planet Meta who dumps her boyfriend and steals a “madness coat” that transports her to Earth and into the body of comatose teenage “mean girl” Megan Boyer. Loma is an Earth fan girl who is delighted to get to live in the culture she learned about from the radio transmissions of a 1950s TV show called Life with Honey, but 21st century Earth is not what Loma expected, and the reappearance of Megan puts a cramp in the style of a lot of people in her life that weren't expecting her back. Marley Zarcone’s psychedelic art and Cecil Castellucci’s knack for realistic teenage dialogue make this one of the freshest, most singular and interesting books of the year.

2. KAIJUMAX SEASON 3 #1

By Zander Cannon
Oni Press

Kaijumax
Zander Cannon/Oni Press

The beginning of the new “season” of Kaijumax follows on the large, scaly heels of season 2’s trade collection released last month. Zander Cannon’s smart prison satire may have started as a joke concept—Oz with goofy, rubber-suit-looking Kaiju monsters—but has turned out to be a surprisingly emotional read. Season 2 amped up the emotion when it moved off the giant-sized island prison to explore the lives of the human cops as well as the tragic post-prison lives of a parolee and an escapee. Season 3 returns to the prison, but looks as if it will retain that poignant, character-driven drama. This first issue focuses on a character who has become a fan favorite—the giant, sad goat monster known as the Creature from Devil’s Creek. Kaiju and obscure monster film aficionados will delight at the many references in this series, but anyone who appreciates a good prison drama will appreciate how well Cannon translates it to this unexpected setting. Despite the cute looking drawings, though, parents should be aware that this is not for kids.

3. THE WENDY PROJECT

By Melissa Jane Osborne and Veronica Fish
Super Genius/Papercutz  

The Wendy Project
Veronica Fish

In her first graphic novel, newcomer Melissa Jane Osborne uses art and J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan as a storytelling device to explore how children cope with loss. The Wendy of this book, a teenager from a New England suburb, is the actual star of this story, rather than Peter, who is more like a rakishly handsome Charon, ferrying souls to the otherworldly Neverland. When she crashes her car into a lake with her two brothers in the back seat, the youngest, Michael, does not survive. To deal with her feelings about this tragedy, Wendy’s therapist gives her a sketchbook, which becomes the visual motif for artist Veronica Fish’s gorgeous art. While Osborne has written a touching and contemplative work, Fish has turned it into career-making work. Her use of vibrant splashes of color amidst mostly black and white sketches represents pieces of Neverland that work their way into Wendy’s reality, making this book feel as magical as it is melancholy.

4. BY CHANCE OR PROVIDENCE

By Becky Cloonan with Lee Loughridge
Image Comics

By Chance or Providence
Becky Cloonan/Image Comics

Back in 2011, Becky Cloonan began self-publishing what would become a trilogy of mini-comics—“Wolves,” “The Mire,” and “Demeter”—that would change the trajectory of her career from being a popular comics penciler to a writer/artist powerhouse and a self-publishing pioneer. While her mini-comics had just a limited print run, she managed to have the digital editions included in the launch of Comixology’s Submit platform for self-publishers where they became some of the most popular comics in the early days of that program. Now, for the first time, those three stories are being collected and released in wide print distribution with added colors by veteran colorist Lee Loughridge. Each story is a moody, sexy yet understated piece of supernatural fantasy with eerie twists that feel straight out of a classic EC horror comic.

5. MOONSTRUCK #1

By Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle, Kate Leth
Image Comics

Moonstruck
Shae Beagle

Fans and comic book sellers alike are hungry for more books like the wildly popular summer camp adventure Lumberjanes. Well, you can’t ask for better than a new comic from one of its creators that’s full of werewolves, gorgons, centaurs and more. Writer Grace Ellis brings a lot of Lumberjane’s progressive, girl-friendly and LGBTQ-friendly vibe to this new series about a couple of baristas in a world where everyone is part human, part mythological creature. Newcomer Shae Beagle’s comedic, animation-inspired art style should appeal to the teen and young adult readers this is made to please.

6. THE AMERICAN WAY: THOSE ABOVE AND THOSE BELOW #1

By John Ridley, Georges Jeanty, Danny Miki and Nick Filardi
DC Vertigo

The American Way
Georges Jeanty/DC Comics

Writer John Ridley returns to comics after a 10-year break during which he won an Academy Award for his screenplay for 12 Years A Slave and created the critically acclaimed television series American Crime. Specifically, he’s returning to The American Way, a comic mini-series he wrote in 2007 about a government-sponsored group of actors in the 1960s hired to fool the public into thinking they are real superheroes. When the government introduced The New American, an African-American with actual superpowers, into the group, it sparked racial strife among both the team and the public. In this new sequel, The New American and his colleagues have gone in separate directions and are caught up in the tumultuous political backdrop of the 1970s. Ridley, who is once again joined by artist Georges Jeanty, deals with racial violence, domestic terrorism, and the rising drug problem in America in this new series.

7. IMMORTAL IRON FISTS #1

By Kaare Andrews, Afu Chan and Shelly Chen
Marvel Comics

Immortal Iron Fists
Afu Chan/Marvel Comics

Back in May, Marvel gave a big boost to Comixology’s Unlimited subscription service by adding a portion of their catalog where readers can have “unlimited” access to those and a selection of titles from other publishers for $5.99 a month. Now, they are partnering with the service to produce exclusive content, free with an Unlimited subscription, beginning with this six-part series. Kaare Andrews recently completed a run as writer and artist on the solo Iron Fist title in which he introduced a pre-teen girl named Pei as the latest inheritor of the Iron Fist power. Now Andrews returns to continue Pei’s story, accompanied by up-and-coming artist Afu Chan. Danny Rand has brought Pei to New York from her devastated other dimensional home of K’un Lun to train her in the ways of the Iron Fist by making her face the most daunting challenge he can imagine: the NYC public school system. Andrews and Chan show a great knack for funny, human moments amidst all the dynamic kung fu action here.

8. SOLID STATE

By Jonathan Coulton, Matt Fraction and Albert Monteys
Image Comics

Solid State
Albert Monteys/Image Comics

Singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton, known for writing folk-rock songs about internet and geek culture, recently released a concept album called Solid State. To accompany the album, he has written his first graphic novel of the same name, a sci-fi black comedy about technology, social media, privacy and the collapse of civilization. It is notable for Coulton’s choice in collaborators: Matt Fraction, the superstar writer of Sex Criminals and Satellite Sam, helps craft the story idea into a comic-ready script while Albert Monteys, the Spanish artist currently producing an astounding creator-owned comic called Universe for Brian K. Vaughan’s Panel Syndicate really makes it come alive. Hopefully, the star power of the two writers will result in some new readers discovering Monteys’ bright, colorful and fun artwork.

9. DUCK TALES #0

By Joe Caramagna, Paolo Campinoti, Gianfranco Florio, Andrea Greppi and Roberta Zanotta
IDW Publishing

Duck Tales
Paolo Campinoti/IDW Publishing

In advance of the Disney Channel’s new highly anticipated update of the popular ‘90s animated series Duck Tales comes a new comic that matches the modern, visual style of the new cartoon. This issue #0 is a preview of the new comic series which launches later this summer to coincide with the TV show and contains two stories both featuring Donald and his nephews, Huey, Duey and Louie. Even though Disney now owns Marvel Comics, IDW has been in charge of producing comics featuring characters like Mickey Mouse and Uncle Scrooge, who, along with Donald and the boys, have a long treasured history in comics thanks to the groundbreaking work of creators like Carl Barks and Don Rosa.

Avengers: Endgame Directors Say There Are More Undiscovered Easter Eggs in the Movie

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

Since the digital release of Avengers: Endgame, fans have been watching and re-watching the film, looking for details and clues they might have missed on the big screen.

To celebrate the release, Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo participated in a Reddit AMA session, CBR reports. Among the many questions the brothers answered, one stood out as the most intriguing.

When a fan asked if there were any “important” Easter eggs yet to be found in the film, the directors answered simply: “Yes.”

There is no doubt that the brothers’ confirmation has sent people back into the film with a fine-toothed comb. What could the Easter eggs be about? The future of Marvel Studios' Phase 4 films? The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to this franchise. Time for the hunt to (re)begin!

12 Fascinating Facts About Barnes & Noble

Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

No matter how affordable and convenient e-book readers have become, there’s still nothing quite like strolling through the aisles of a well-stocked bookstore and flipping through the pages of a real book. That’s excellent news for Barnes & Noble, the most recognizable brick-and-mortar bookseller that operates more than 625 stores nationwide and sells 190 million titles a year. The chain was recently acquired for $683 million by the private equity firm Elliott Advisors, which plans to reinvigorate the brand. Here are some margin notes on the company's storied history.

1. Barnes & Noble began as textbook retailer.

Charles Montgomery Barnes decided to open a bookstore in Wheaton, Illinois in 1873. A nearby college and public school created demand for textbooks, which could be easily restocked thanks to freshly-laid railroads. Barnes’ son, William, took over in 1902 before moving to New York City in 1917 and partnering with fellow bookseller Gilbert Clifford Noble. By 1932, their flagship Barnes & Noble store on Fifth Avenue was selling books of all kinds, though in a somewhat peculiar manner.

2. Barnes & Noble pioneered the use of "book-a-terias."

Long before the McDonald brothers imagined an assembly line for hamburgers, Barnes and Noble used their New York store to experiment with a revolutionary new layout. Customers in the 1940s would approach an employee who filled out a sales slip; another clerk would package the book; a third would handle the money to complete the transaction. While expedient, the cafeteria-like flow and awkward division of labor never caught on.

3. Barnes & Noble was one of the first stores to pipe in Muzak.

Muzak, the branded term for the serene instrumental sounds heard in retail outlets, was started in the 1920s by the Wired Radio Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Purporting to have scientifically-arranged scores to maximize the soothed moods of consumers, the business moved to New York in 1936. Barnes & Noble became an early adopter in 1940, installing an elaborate speaker system that offered music, sports updates, and news. The tunes were also meant to offset employee fatigue by playing faster beats at regular intervals.

4. A college dropout wound up buying Barnes & Noble out.

By the 1960s, Barnes & Noble had outlived its namesakes and began to entertain offers from buyers. Leonard Riggio was a part-time college student at New York University who worked at the campus bookstore and was frustrated to discover he wouldn’t be allowed to oversee its operation. He dropped out and opened a competing store, the Student Book Exchange, in Greenwich Village in 1965. The business grew so successful that he was able to purchase Barnes & Noble’s flagship store (which was its own location at the time) in 1971 for $1.2 million.

5. Barnes & Noble sold books to people who didn't want to read them.

Not that they couldn’t read—they just preferred not to. When Riggio opened an 80,000 square foot annex near his Fifth Avenue location in 1975, closeout books were sometimes sold by the pound. This generic approach filled a need for customers who wanted books to fill shelf space in their homes, effectively making them a decorative item. Buyers who loaded up were even granted use of grocery-style shopping carts.

6. Barnes & Noble wanted people to loiter.


Elvert Barnes, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

While newsstands didn’t take kindly to people reading without purchasing, Barnes & Noble was an early advocate of letting customers stretch out and relax a bit. Riggio found the sales annex so large that it was easy to install benches, telephone booths, and bathrooms, making it easier for people to linger. Although he received criticism from people thinking his stores would become glorified rest stops, Riggio was right: People would browse longer if you let them pee. He later added armchairs, coffee, and cooking demonstrations.

7. Barnes & Noble was online long before Amazon.

Blood was drawn early and often when Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com vied for e-commerce dominance in the late 1990s: the latter even sued the former for claiming to be “Earth’s biggest bookstore.” While Amazon got the brunt of compliments for their pioneering internet venture, they weren’t first out of the gate. In the 1980s, Barnes & Noble tested the viability of selling books via an online service called Trintex. An electronic shopping interface funded by IBM and Sears, Trintex worked on personal computers and allowed subscribers to shop online. The service later became known as Prodigy.

8. Barnes & Noble was the first bookstore to advertise on television.

In 1974, the bookstore hired ad agency Geer, DuBois to produce television spots for the New York City market, a first for the industry. Their tag line—“Of course, of course”—became a minor catchphrase in its time. Because the brand was still growing, however, Barnes & Noble wasn't able to be billed for a lot of money. When Riggio acquired the B. Dalton chain in 1987, he turned over their substantial $9 million advertising account to the agency as a way of rewarding them for their work.

9. Barnes & Noble turned down Tom Hanks.

In Nora Ephron's 1998 film You’ve Got Mail, Tom Hanks plays an executive at a major bookstore chain who falls in love with an independent proprietor (Meg Ryan) whose store he happens to be pushing out of business. Ephron wanted to use Barnes & Noble as the monolithic company but, despite the high-profile product placement, Riggio turned her down. The plot may have hit too close too home: in 1996, the mega-store’s presence smothered the smaller Shakespeare & Co. bookshop on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

10. You can read any Barnes & Noble Nook e-book for free. (Just not for long.)

While relaxing in stores with a book and cappuccino was previously an analog experience, the company’s Nook e-reader offers an interesting twist: in-store shoppers can read any book available on the format, for free, for up to one hour per day to assess their interest.

11. Barnes & Noble used to have a store inside an old movie palace.


uff-da, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

While most of Barnes & Noble's storefronts stick with the traditional green template, Rochester, Minnesota’s Chateau Theater was a pretty opulent exception: a movie theater that opened in 1927 and was converted into a bookstore in the 1980s. (The marquee stayed intact.) Barnes & Noble left the building after its lease expired in late 2014, setting the stage for the city to buy the theater back the following year.

12. Barnes & Noble once banned comic books.

Irate that DC Comics parent company Warner Bros. made a series of comic book collections available exclusively on Amazon’s Kindle device, Barnes & Noble pulled more than 100 DC titles from their inventory in 2011. Writer Neil Gaiman observed that the move basically gave Amazon the print exclusive to those titles, as well. DC titles have since returned to stores.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER