Becky Cloonan/DC Comics
Becky Cloonan/DC Comics

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.

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20 Things You Might Not Know About Garfield
iStock
iStock

Everyone’s favorite lazy, lasagna-loving cat made his debut 40 years ago, but Garfield is still just as popular today. The comic strip spawned a TV show plus a number of video games, feature films, books, and, of course, holiday specials—not to mention one very memorable car window craze. We sat down with Garfield creator Jim Davis to nail down a solid list of 20 things you might not know about the wisecracking feline.

1. JIM DAVIS ORIGINALLY INTENDED TO FOCUS THE STRIP ON JON.


Courtesy of Jim Davis

“I ran some early ideas at a local paper,” Jim Davis tells Mental Floss, “to see how I felt about it and I called the strip Jon. It was about him, but he had this wise cat who, every time, came back zinging him. He always had the great payoff. At the time, I worked for T.K. Ryan—the cartoonist for Tumbleweeds—and I showed it to him and told him how every time I got to the punch line the cat zings him. And T.K. said, 'Well, what does that tell you, Jim?'" he laughs. “The strip must be about the cat. Go with it.”

2. JON WAS A CARTOONIST IN THE VERY FIRST COMIC STRIP, BUT IT WAS NEVER REALLY MENTIONED AGAIN.

“I didn’t want to tread on the fact that Jon’s a cartoonist because my biggest fear was getting a little too inside," Davis says. "That it would be a little too easy for me to write. I didn’t want to lose the readers just for my own enjoyment, or for a handful of peers. Also, I purposely gave him a job right off the top for the reason that The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet never explained what Ozzie did for a living. Nobody ever knew because he was always in the house with Harriet and Ricky and David. Just hanging around. So I thought I would give Jon a job right off the top to avoid being asked what he does for a living in interviews.”

3. GARFIELD WAS NAMED AFTER DAVIS'S GRANDFATHER, JAMES A. GARFIELD DAVIS ...

... who was named after President James A. Garfield. That’s quite a connection. Now just imagine a fat, wisecracking, lasagna-eating cat as the President of the United States of America. (Sounds like a dead-ringer for William Howard Taft!)

4. GARFIELD IS SET IN DAVIS'S HOMETOWN OF MUNCIE, INDIANA, BUT THAT'S ALSO MOSTLY LEFT UNSAID.


Courtesy of Jim Davis

“I would like for readers in Sydney, Australia to think that Garfield lives next door,” Davis says. “Dealing with eating and sleeping, being a cat, Garfield is very universal. By virtue of being a cat, really, he’s not really male or female or any particular race or nationality, young or old. It gives me a lot more latitude for the humor for the situations.” The farm that Davis grew up on reportedly had 25 cats, several of which he based the Garfield character on.

5. DAVIS MAINTAINS COMPLETE CONTROL OVER GARFIELD'S FINAL PRODUCT, BUT HE NO LONGER DRAWS THE DAILY COMIC STRIP.

“I’m sitting here working on the writing right now,” he says. “I see gags and I work with assistants on the strip and stuff like that. We do roughs and it all filters through me so that it has one voice. We all get together occasionally in the same room and draw and work on shapes of fingers and gestures and expressions and things like that so that if any one of us draws it, you can’t tell which one did it.”

6. HE REGRETS AT LEAST ONE LICENSED GARFIELD ITEM.

According to Slate, Garfield merchandise brings in $750 million to $1 billion annually. Davis’s creation has been adapted and licensed more times than anyone could probably count, and of all of those items, there's one that Davis isn't thrilled with. “A few years ago there was a Zombie Garfield,” he says. “It was really gnarly and I thought, 'Oh, this will be fun.' So I did it and it sold okay. It was really interesting. But then I looked at it later and I go, ‘It did nothing for the character’s advancement.’ I figured I just did it because it was cool and everybody was doing it at the time. I just didn’t have a warm, fuzzy feeling after doing it. But those T-shirts go away," he laughs.

7. GARFIELD HOLDS THE GUINNESS WORLD RECORD FOR BEING THE WORLD'S MOST WIDELY SYNDICATED COMIC STRIP.

Garfield is syndicated in more than 2500 newspapers and journals. The cat also has more than 16 million fans on Facebook. That’s one seriously popular feline.

8. GARFIELD'S CHARACTER DESIGN HAS CHANGED MANY TIMES OVER THE YEARS.

There's one constant, though: The fat cat has always been—and will always be—fat. “If he lost weight, that would effectively end Garfield as we know it,” Davis says. “Garfield sends a healthy message in that he’s not perfect. He knows that and he’s cool with that. He’s happy with himself. If everybody were, there would probably be fewer disorders of all natures. He’s not perfect. In fact, he’s the imperfection in all of us underneath. I think that makes him probably easier to identify with than a slim, athletic character in the comics.”

9. DAVIS REALLY ENJOYED SCARING KIDS WITH GARFIELD'S HALLOWEEN ADVENTURE.

"It was such a challenge to try to think of something that could be scary, but fortunately we got to work with animation—we could marry scary sounds with scary music and scary images, and set the stage for a scary experience," Davis says. "Even down to the use of the actor’s voice. C. Lindsay Workman [who voices the old man that tells Garfield and Odie about the vengeful ghost pirates] was just a great character actor. I think we took our time to build to a scary scene where the ghost pirates invaded the house to look for the buried treasure. We tried to throw as many elements together as possible to create a situation where, at least for a few minutes, it could create a scary situation for the young viewers."

10. CREATING THE GHOST PIRATES IN THE HALLOWEEN TV SPECIAL WAS MUCH MORE DIFFICULT THAN YOU MIGHT THINK.

“We did it in our own art department (here at Paws, Inc.) because we wanted to make it just right,” the Garfield creator told us. “It was done with a white, chalky pencil on a rough texture so that everything would be really grainy. Back then, we animated on real film, so in order to get that glow we did what’s called a double burn. We exposed the film twice to overexpose the ghosts, and that gave it that eerie glow. We were totally in control of the process and the results turned out very well.”

11. IN 2011, A FULL-LENGTH STAGE MUSICAL CALLED GARFIELD LIVE WAS STAGED IN MUNCIE.

The musical was supposed to start touring the United States in September 2010, but was delayed until January 2011, when it premiered in Muncie. Davis wrote Garfield Live, while Michael Dansicker and Bill Meade handled the music and lyrics.

12. DAVIS LOVED THE CASTING OF BILL MURRAY AS THE VOICE OF GARFIELD IN 2004'S GARFIELD: THE MOVIE.


Muncie Magazine

“It was because of Bill Murray’s attitude [that he was cast],” Davis tells us. “It wasn’t really so much his voice. It was the fact that he embodies the attitude that Garfield has always displayed in the strip. Lorenzo [Music] obviously wasn’t a choice since he passed away years ago, and when the producers said, ‘Bill Murray would like to do the voice,’ I thought, ‘Oh, cool.’ My biggest concern about doing a CGI Garfield with live action was that people wouldn’t buy into the fact that this was our Garfield—the Garfield we’d known all these years. But I thought that as soon as they heard Bill Murray’s voice they’d get it. There will be that emotional tag going with his voice. That will establish the fact that, ‘Yes, this character has attitude.’”

13. THERE'S A GREAT LINK BETWEEN GARFIELD VOICE ACTOR LORENZO MUSIC AND BILL MURRAY.

Lorenzo Music provided the voice of Garfield in all of the cat’s TV specials from 1982 to 1991, as well as during the 1988 to 1994 run of Garfield and Friends. Music also provided the voice of Peter Venkman in The Real Ghostbusters. Murray, of course, played Venkman in the Ghostbusters films and would, in 2004, provide the voice of Garfield in Garfield: The Movie. “I didn’t know about the relationship with Ghostbusters until years later."

14. THE MACY'S PARADE ONCE CITED SHAMU THE WHALE AS THE PARADE'S LARGEST BALLOON, BUT DAVIS SAYS GARFIELD WAS LARGER.

“In the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, they had published that their biggest balloon ever, by volume of gas, was Shamu the Whale with over 18,000 cubic feet," Davis says. "The fact is that the Garfield balloon was filled with 18,907 cubic feet of helium. So we just confirmed that the Garfield balloon, in fact, was the largest one by volume of gas.”

15. THERE ARE ONLY THREE COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD WHERE GARFIELD IS NOT NAMED GARFIELD.

“In Sweden, Garfield is known as Gustav,” the Garfield creator says. “There are only three countries in the whole world where he’s not Garfield and they’re all in the Nordics.” The other two are Norway and Finland.

16. THE STUCK ON YOU GARFIELD PLUSH WITH SUCTION CUPS WAS THE RESULT OF A MISUNDERSTANDING.


Amazon

In the 1990s, it wasn't unusual to see a number of cars with little Garfield plushes stuck to the windows with suction cups. But that wasn't the original design—or the intended use. “I designed the first Stuck on You doll with Velcro on the paws, thinking that people would stick it on curtains,” Davis says. “It came back as a mistake with suction cups. They didn’t understand the directions. So I stuck it on a window and said, 'If it’s still there in two days, we’ll approve this.' Well, they were good suction cups and we released it like that. It never occurred to me that people would put them on cars.”

17. THE GARFIELD COMIC STRIP BOOKS HAVE BEEN HUGE HITS.

“The 11 Garfield comic strip books have all been number one on the New York Times Bestseller List,” Davis says. “At one time there were seven on the list simultaneously. At that point, they changed the way the list was done because other publishing houses were complaining that their authors couldn’t get on the list because of Garfield. Garfield at Large (1980) was number one for two solid years. Over 100 weeks.” The title of every compilation book is a reference to either food or Garfield’s weight.

18. STEVEN SPIELBERG AND STEPHEN KING ARE AMONG THE MANY CELEBRITIES WHO OWN ORIGINAL GARFIELD STRIPS.

They both contacted Davis personally for the strips; the cartoonist happily obliged.

19. DESPITE GARFIELD BEING INSANELY POPULAR FOR DECADES, DAVIS IS STILL MOSTLY ANONYMOUS.


Muncie Magazine

“Being a cartoonist, you really enjoy a lot of anonymity,” he says. “You take a half-dozen of the biggest cartoonists and walk them down any street, nobody would notice them. They only know their characters. So I just hide behind Garfield. The only time anyone knows the name or spots me is if I’m out on book tour and I’m meant to do publicity. We don’t suffer any of the kind of attention problems that I think people do on TV or in movies. It’s not a big deal. I’m sitting here in the countryside of East Central Indiana, so it’s pretty quiet.”

20. DAVIS'S FATHER'S FAVORITE COMIC STRIP WASN'T GARFIELD.

Davis's father and namesake, who passed away in 2016, liked Garfield but preferred another comic strip: Beetle Bailey. “Nobody else knew that until today,” Davis tells us.

This article originally appeared in 2014.

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8 Things You Might Not Know About The Wizard of Id
Titan Books
Titan Books

Debuting in 1964, Brant Parker and Johnny Hart’s The Wizard of Id took a page from the macabre humor of cartoonist Charles Addams. Ruling the kingdom of Id, a pint-sized tyrant uses humor to disarm a medieval cast made up of a jester, an executioner, a thief, and the titular magician, whose spells don’t usually impress. Although Hart and Parker both passed away in 2007, their black humor lives on. Take a look at some facts behind the throne, including the time Jim Henson almost brought it to television.

1. THE IDEA FOR THE STRIP CAME FROM A DECK OF PLAYING CARDS.

Johnny Hart was already a successful syndicated cartoonist (the Stone Age comedy B.C.) before he and former Disney animator Brant Parker decided to collaborate on a different project. Hart was flipping through a deck of playing cards in 1964 when he came across a peculiar illustration used for the king. Drawing on it to create his own diminutive despot, Hart wrote most of the jokes for Id while Parker illustrated it.

2. THE SYNDICATE THOUGHT THE TWO ARTISTS WERE DISGUSTING.

Although Id would eventually be syndicated to over 1000 strips across the country, Hart and Parker first had to get past the gatekeepers of cartoon distribution operating out of New York. Traveling to the city to show them samples, the two worked late into the night and called to tell executives they were ready. They didn’t know the syndicate would be coming to their hotel room, which was a mess of papers, food, and beer bottles. Caught off-guard, the men looked like transients. “We think you guys are disgusting,” one executive said, “but we love the strip. We’ll take it.”

3. THE SHORT JOKES WERE BASED ON JOHNNY HART.

In a visual juxtaposition, the king of Id’s height is inversely proportional to his power. Parker said the character’s stature was based partly on Hart, who used to fend off jokes about his own height. "The king became short because we used to kid John about being short and a lot of the short gags began to slide over into the strip," Parker said. "He just kept getting smaller, and as he shrunk, the nose got bigger and bigger."

4. A LITTLE GIRL GOT THEM TO DROP A CHARACTER.

Most of the humor in Id is centered around the morbid dynamics of Middle Ages politics, which is not normally an opportunity to offend current sensibilities. But early on, Parker and Hart created a karate teacher from Japan who was perceived by some as a stereotype. When Parker received a letter from a young Japanese-American girl who was being teased at school as a result of the character, the creators decided to drop him from the strip.

5. JIM HENSON WAS GOING TO PUT IT ON TELEVISION.

An avowed fan of comic strips and of The Wizard of Id in particular, Muppets creator Jim Henson met with Hart in 1968 to discuss a possible collaboration. Henson wanted to create an Id television show that would use puppets against an animated backdrop. Hart agreed, and in 1969, Henson was able to shoot test footage featuring himself as the voice of the Wizard. But executives at Publishers-Hall, which had taken over syndication of the strip, were having trouble enticing networks into producing a series. By the time ABC showed interest, Henson had moved on to Sesame Street and other projects. Wizard of Id got translated into animation in 1970 as part of a Chuck Jones variety series titled Curiosity Shop.

6. HART TURNED DOWN FEATURE FILM OFFERS.

Possibly disappointed in the outcome of the Henson project, Hart wasn’t very receptive to offers to adapt Id into other mediums. He reportedly shunned Steven Spielberg and Norman Lear when they called about adaptations. Producer Andrew Gaty managed to interest Hart in 1987, though his plans for a live-action feature—possibly starring Danny DeVito as the king—never came to fruition.

7. IT WAS A (STRANGE) VIDEO GAME.

In 1984, users of the ColecoVision home computer system were able to pick up a software program with an unwieldy title: The Wizard of Id’s Wiz Math. The edutainment program allowed players to brush up on math skills by solving problems faced by Spookingdorf, the tortured and jailed cast member of the strip. By solving math problems, players could navigate Spookingdorf out of his dungeon. The game was produced by Sierra, which later became known for its King’s Quest and Leisure Suit Larry franchises. A typing game, WizType, was also released.

8. BLONDIE AND BEETLE BAILEY CELEBRATED THE STRIP'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY.

When The Wizard of Id passed the half-century milestone in 2014, the entire comics page came out to celebrate. Hi and Lois featured a portrait of the Wizard in a panel, while Blondie and Family Circus made subtle references to the anniversary. (As modern-day strips, it would be difficult to regard a medieval strip with more overt acknowledgment.) In Beetle Bailey, the perennial screw-up shared a cell with the eternally suffering Spookingdorf.

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