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Marvel

Wednesday is New Comics Day

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Marvel

Every Wednesday, I'll be highlighting the five most exciting comic releases of the week. The list may include comic books, graphic novels, digital comics, and webcomics. I'll even highlight some Kickstarter comics projects on occasion. There's more variety and availability in comics than there has ever been, and I hope to point out just some of the cool stuff that's out there. If there's a release you're excited about, let's talk about it in the comments.

1. X-Men #1

Written by Brian Wood, art by Olivier Coipel
Marvel

About 6 months after Marvel relaunched (but not quite rebooted) all of their major titles, the long-awaited first issue of Brian Wood's X-Men is here. There are no shortage of X-men comics out there, but what makes this one different is that Marvel and Wood have chosen to put together an all-female team of mutants. With another writer in charge this might have had the stink of T&A gimmickery, but Wood's track record of writing strong, progressive women makes him one of the best choices to write this comic. Plus, he's been putting out top-selling work recently for Dark Horse Comics on licensed properties like Conan and Star Wars, which makes this a good time in his career to be put in charge of one of Marvel's most high profile books.

This X-team will be led by Storm, once again sporting her tough, '80s mohawk. She'll be joined by Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Jubilee, Psylocke and Rachel Grey. Fan favorite artist Olivier Coipel will be on board for the first four issues until a new art team takes over. Wood, in interviews, has promised lots of sci-fi action, Sentinels, an orphaned baby, an apocalyptic threat, and a challenge to the double standards of how comic book heroes and heroines' sex lives are portrayed.

2. In The Kitchen With Alain Passard: Inside the World (and Mind) of a Master Chef

By Christophe Blain
Chronicle Books

You may not know it, but culinary comics are actually a thing. Comics about chefs and cooking have their own category in Japanese manga, cartoonist Lucy Knisley has done a couple of books about her love of food, and now, available for the first time in English, cartoonist Christophe Blain has written and illustrated the first graphic novel about the life and work of a master chef.

Over the course of three years, Blain shadowed celebrated French chef Alain Passard, giving us a peek into his everyday life and cooking philosophy. Passard caused a stir in 2001 when he decided to no longer serve meat and instead only vegetables grown organically from his own garden at his renowned, three star Paris restaurant, L'Arpége. Blain shows how Passard grows and picks vegetables from his garden and then prepares them in the kitchen. And yes, there are many illustrated recipes included.

3. The Wake

Written by Scott Snyder, art by Sean Gordon Murphy
DC Vertigo

The Wake is a new 10 issue limited series set in a post-apocalpytic future where a marine biologist named Lee Archer is brought to the Arctic by Homeland Security for help in dealing with a shocking underwater discovery.

Both writer Scott Snyder and artist Sean Gordon Murphy are relative newcomers that have first made their mark via DC's Vertigo imprint. Snyder, who is now the writer for DC's flagship Batman title, got his big break writing Vertigo's highly acclaimed, bestselling American Vampire series. Murphy came to most readers' attention with the Grant Morrison written mini-series Joe The Barbarian and more recently with Punk Rock Jesus, a mini-series he both wrote and drew about a rebellious clone of Jesus Christ.

These days, Vertigo seems like it has become less the home of great, long-running original epics like Preacher, Y: The Last Man and Scalped and more a safe place for short-run creative projects by DC loyalists like Snyder and Jeff Lemire, who has a new mini-series launching this year as well.

4. A Squeak from the Void

By Mimi Pond
Webcomic here

Mimi Pond has been a cartoonist and illustrator for over 30 years. She is also a screenwriter who has written for a number of television shows, most notably she wrote the first full-length episode of The Simpsons. This is her first webcomic, which she posted to her Typepad blog last week (yes, I too was surprised that there are still Typepad blogs out there). It's a quick read—it will take you all of 5 minutes—but it might stick with you a bit.

It starts out unassumingly enough as Mimi, her teenage daughter, and a couple of cartoonist friends decide to take a drive out to see a "hamster Show" whatever that might be. In the end it invokes some reflection on our culture of snark and irony and how it can unfairly victimize those who are sincerely devoted to a subject the rest of us just don't get. Give it a read.

5. Thor God of Thunder Vol. 1: The God Butcher

Written by Jason Aaron, art by Esad Ribic and Dean White
Marvel

While Brian Wood's X-Men may just be starting this week, a lot of the Marvel NOW books have reached the 6 month period where they get collected into hardcover format. One of the best comics of that first wave of relaunches is Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic's Thor: God of Thunder. Aaron takes the novel approach of telling a story that spans three eras of Thor's very long lifetime as a creature referred to as the "God Butcher" pops up repeatedly, bringing with it the threat of extinction to gods of all kinds. In the age of vikings, we see Thor as a young, brash and hedonistic warrior. In the present we see Thor as the spacefaring Avenger and noble hero. And in the distant future, we see old, bearded, one-eyed Thor as the last living Asgardian, holding back the god-killing demons that are scratching at the walls of his kingdom.

Ribic's artwork, aided by Dean White's pastel-rich colors, is breathtaking with its epic sense of scale. This is possibly the most exciting Thor has been in comics since Walt Simonson reinvigorated and redefined the character back in the 1980s.

MEANWHILE, IN COMICS NEWS THIS PAST WEEK:

- Did you hear about the guy who found a copy of Action Comics #1 inside the wall of a house he was fixing up?

- Blue is the Warmest Color became the first film based on a graphic novel (Julie Maroh's Le Bleu set Une Couleur Chaude) to win the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

- The Reuben Awards were held on May 25 to honor outstanding cartoonists working in areas of the field such as television animation, newspaper comic strips, greeting cards, comics, webcomics and more. Brian Crane of Pickles and Rick Kirkman of Baby Blues shared the award for Cartoonist of the Year.

- Long running and much revered comics and illustration blog, Drawn!, shut down after 8 years of many great contributors showcasing art and artist discoveries from across the web. Founder John Martz explains that the time has passed for blogs of the content curation type in an age where said content is already spreading rapidly via Twitter and Tumblr. It's a sad but familiar theme in the blog world these days but I'm not convinced that blogs like that no longer have their place.

- And finally, there's a Kickstarter for a new coffee-table book about comics great Jack Kirby that is being organized by his son, Jeremy. It's already well beyond its goal but it's not too late to contribute.

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10 Terrific Facts About Stephen King
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Scott Eisen/Getty Images for Warner Bros.

As if being one of the world's most successful and prolific writers wasn't already reason enough to celebrate, Stephen King is ringing in his birthday as the toast of Hollywood. As It continues to break box office records, we're digging into the horror master's past. Here are 10 things you might not have known about Stephen King, who turns 70 years old today.

1. STEPHEN KING AND HIS WIFE, TABITHA, OWN A RADIO STATION.

Stephen and Tabitha King own Zone Radio, a company that serves to head their three radio stations in Maine. One of them, WKIT, is a classic rock station that goes by the tagline "Stephen King's Rock Station."

2. HE'S A HARDCORE RED SOX FAN.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Not only did he write a story about the Boston Red Sox—The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (who was a former Red Sox pitcher)—he also had a cameo in the Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore movie Fever Pitch, which is about a crazed Sox fan. He plays himself and throws out the first pitch at a game.

In 2004, King and Stewart O'Nan, another novelist, chronicled their reactions to the season that finally brought the World Series title back to Beantown. It's appropriately titled Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season.

3. HE WAS HIT BY A CAR, THEN BOUGHT THE CAR THAT HIT HIM.

You probably remember that King was hit by a van not far from his summer home in Maine in 1999. The incident left King with a collapsed lung, multiple fractures to his hip and leg, and a gash to the head. Afterward, King and his lawyer bought the van for $1500 with King announcing that, "Yes, we've got the van, and I'm going to take a sledgehammer and beat it!"

4. AS A KID, HIS FRIEND WAS STRUCK AND KILLED BY A TRAIN.

King's brain seems to be able to create chilling stories at such an amazing clip, yet he's seen his fair share of horror in real life. In addition to the aforementioned car accident, when King was just a kid his friend was struck and killed by a train (a plot line that made it into his story "The Body," which was adapted into Stand By Me). While it would be easy to assume that this incident informed much of King's writing, the author claims to have no memory of the event:

"According to Mom, I had gone off to play at a neighbor’s house—a house that was near a railroad line. About an hour after I left I came back (she said), as white as a ghost. I would not speak for the rest of the day; I would not tell her why I’d not waited to be picked up or phoned that I wanted to come home; I would not tell her why my chum’s mom hadn’t walked me back but had allowed me to come alone.

"It turned out that the kid I had been playing with had been run over by a freight train while playing on or crossing the tracks (years later, my mother told me they had picked up the pieces in a wicker basket). My mom never knew if I had been near him when it happened, if it had occurred before I even arrived, or if I had wandered away after it happened. Perhaps she had her own ideas on the subject. But as I’ve said, I have no memory of the incident at all; only of having been told about it some years after the fact."

5. HE WROTE A MUSICAL WITH JOHN MELLENCAMP.

Theo Wargo/Getty Images

King, John Mellencamp, and T Bone Burnett collaborated on a musical, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which made its debut in 2012. The story is based on a house that Mellencamp bought in Indiana that came complete with a ghost story. Legend has it that three siblings were messing around in the woods and one of the brothers accidentally got shot. The surviving brother and sister jumped in the car to go get help, and in their panic, swerved off the road right into a tree and were killed instantly. Of course, the three now haunt the woods by Mellencamp's house.

6. HE PLAYED IN A BAND WITH OTHER SUCCESSFUL AUTHORS.

King played rhythm guitar for a band made up of successful writers called The Rock Bottom Remainders. From 1992 to 2012, the band "toured" about once a year. In addition to King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Barbara Kingsolver, Matt Groening and Ridley Pearson were just some of its other members.

7. HE'S A NATIVE MAINER.

A photo of Stephen King's home in Bangor, Maine.
By Julia Ess - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

King writes about Maine a lot because he knows and loves The Pine Tree State: he was born there, grew up there, and still lives there (in Bangor). Castle Rock, Derry, and Jerusalem's Lot—the fictional towns he has written about in his books—are just products of King's imagination, but he can tell you exactly where in the state they would be if they were real.

8. HE HAS BATTLED DRUG AND ALCOHOL PROBLEMS.

Throughout much of the 1980s, King struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. In discussing this time, he admitted that, "There's one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing at all. I don't say that with pride or shame, only with a vague sense of sorrow and loss. I like that book. I wish I could remember enjoying the good parts as I put them down on the page."

It came to a head when his family members staged an intervention and confronted him with drug paraphernalia they had collected from his trash can. It was the eye-opener King needed; he got help and has been sober ever since.

9. THERE WAS A RUMOR THAT HE WROTE A LOST TIE-IN NOVEL.

King was an avid Lost fan and sometimes wrote about the show in his Entertainment Weekly column, "The Pop of King." The admiration was mutual. Lost's writers mentioned that King was a major influence in their work. There was a lot of speculation that he was the man behind Bad Twin, a Lost tie-in mystery, but he debunked that rumor.

10. HE IS SURROUNDED BY WRITERS.

A photo of Stephen King's son, author Joe Hill
Joe Hill
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Stephen isn't the only writer in the King family: His wife, Tabitha King, has published several novels. Joe, their oldest son, followed in his dad's footsteps and is a bestselling horror writer (he writes under the pen name Joe Hill). Youngest child Owen has written a collection of short stories and one novella and he and his dad co-wrote Sleeping Beauties, which will be released later this month (Owen also married a writer). Naomi, the only King daughter, is a minister and gay activist.

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Kyle Ely
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Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
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Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.

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