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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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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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How the Rise of Paperback Books Turned To Kill a Mockingbird Into a Literary Classic
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Tim Boyle/Getty Images

If you went to middle or high school in the U.S. in the last few decades, chances are you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's now-classic novel (which was adapted into a now-classic film) about racial injustice in the South. Even if you grew up far-removed from Jim Crow laws, you probably still understand its significance; in 2006, British librarians voted it the one book every adult should read before they die. And yet the novel, while considered an instant success, wasn’t always destined for its immense fame, as we learned from the Vox video series Overrated. In fact, its status in the American literary canon has a lot to do with the format in which it was printed.

To Kill a Mockingbird came out in paperback at a time when literary houses were just starting to invest in the format. After its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was reviewed favorably in The New York Times, but it wasn’t the bestselling novel that year. It was the evolution of paperbacks that helped put it into more hands.

Prior to the 1960s, paperbacks were often kind of trashy, and when literary novels were published in the format, they still featured what Vox calls “sexy covers,” like a softcover edition of The Great Gatsby that featured a shirtless Jay Gatsby on the cover. According to a 1961 article in The New York Times, back in the 1950s, paperbacks were described as “a showcase for the ‘three S’s—sex, sadism, and the smoking gun.’” But then, paperbacks came to schools.

The mass-market paperback for To Kill a Mockingbird came out in 1962. It was cheap, but had stellar credentials, which appealed to teachers. It was a popular, well-reviewed book that earned Lee the Pulitzer Prize. Suddenly, it was in virtually every school and, even half a century later, it still is.

Learn the whole story in the video below from Vox.

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