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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 Facts About Charlotte Brontë
Photo illustration by Mental Floss. Bronte: Hulton Archive, Getty Images. Background: iStock
Photo illustration by Mental Floss. Bronte: Hulton Archive, Getty Images. Background: iStock

Charlotte Brontë was born in England to an Irish father and Cornish mother on April 21, 1816. And though much of her life was marked by tragedy, she wrote novels and poems that found great success in her lifetime and are still popular nearly 200 years later. But there’s a lot more to Brontë than Jane Eyre.

1. BRONTË WAS JUST 5 YEARS OLD WHEN SHE LOST HER MOTHER.

Maria Branwell Brontë was 38 when she died in 1821 of ovarian cancer (or, it's been suggested, of a post-natal infection), leaving her husband, Patrick Brontë, and their six young children behind. In the years after Maria died, Patrick sent four of his daughters, including Charlotte, to a boarding school for the daughters of clergy members. Brontë later used her bad experiences at this school—it was a harsh, abusive environment—as inspiration for Lowood Institution in Jane Eyre. As an adult, Bronte mentioned her mother (who was also fond of writing) in a letter, saying: "I wish she had lived and that I had known her."

2. BRONTË HAD BEEN WRITING POETRY AND STORIES SINCE HER YOUTH.

Though one of her boarding school report cards described her abilities as "altogether clever for her age, but knows nothing systematically," Brontë was a voracious reader during her childhood and teen years, and she wrote stories and staged plays at home with her siblings. With her brother Branwell, especially, she wrote manuscripts, plays, and stories, drawing on literature, magazines, and the Bible for inspiration. For fun, they created magazines that contained everything a real magazine would have—from the essays, letters, and poems to the ads and notes from the editor.

3. SHE WORKED AS A TEACHER AND GOVERNESS BUT DISLIKED IT.

portrait of Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte Bronte circa 1840.
Portrait by Thompson. Photo by Rischgitz, Getty Images.

In her late teens and early twenties, Brontë worked on and off as a teacher and governess. In between writing, she taught at a schoolhouse but didn't like the long hours. She also didn't love working as a governess in a family home. Once, in a letter to a friend, she wrote, "I will only ask you to imagine the miseries of a reserved wretch like me, thrown at once into the midst of a large family … having the charge given me of a set of pampered, spoilt, and turbulent children, whom I was expected constantly to amuse as well as instruct." She quickly realized she wasn't a good fit for these caretaking jobs, but she later used her early work experiences as inspiration for passages in Jane Eyre.

4. BRONTË DEALT WITH A LOT OF LITERARY REJECTION.

When she was 20 years old, Brontë sent the English Poet Laureate Robert Southey some of her best poems. He wrote back in 1837, telling her that she obviously had a good deal of talent and a gift with words but that she should give up writing. "Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life, and it ought not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure will she have for it, even as an accomplishment and a recreation. To those duties you have not yet been called, and when you are you will be less eager for celebrity. You will not seek in imagination for excitement," Southey responded to her. The Professor, Brontë’s first novel, was rejected nine times before it was finally published after her death.

5. SHE USED THE MALE PSEUDONYM CURRER BELL.

English writers Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte.
English writers Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Bronte circa 1834, as painted by their brother.
Painting by Patrick Branwell Bronte. Photo by Rischgitz, Getty Images.

In 1846, Brontë paid to publish a book of poetry containing poems she and her sisters Emily and Anne had written. The three sisters used male pseudonyms—Charlotte was Currer Bell, Emily was Ellis Bell, and Anne was Acton Bell. (The book sold two copies.) Brontë also used the Currer Bell pseudonym when she published Jane Eyre—her publishers didn't know Bell was really a woman until 1848, a year after the book was published!

6. JANE EYRE WAS AN INSTANT SUCCESS.

The first page of the manuscript 'Jane Eyre.'
The first page of the manuscript 'Jane Eyre.'
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In 1847, British publishing firm Smith, Elder & Co published Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. From the start, the book was a success—one critic called it "the best novel of the season"—and people began to speculate about who Currer Bell was. But some reviewers were less impressed, criticizing it for being coarse in content, including one who called it "anti-Christian." Brontë was writing in the Victorian period, after all.

7. BRONTË WAS LUCKY TO AVOID TUBERCULOSIS …

Tuberculosis prematurely killed at least four of Brontë's five siblings, starting with her two oldest sisters, Maria and Elizabeth (who weren't even teenagers yet), in 1825. In 1848, Brontë’s only brother, Branwell, died of chronic bronchitis, officially, though tuberculosis has also been a rumored cause, probably aggravated by alcohol and opium. Her sister Emily came down with a severe illness during Branwell's funeral and died of tuberculosis three months later. Then, five months later in May 1849, Charlotte’s final surviving sibling, Anne, also died of tuberculosis after a lengthy battle.

8. … BUT SHE DIED AT 38 YEARS OLD—WHILE PREGNANT.

In June 1854, Brontë married a clergyman named Arthur Bell Nicholls and got pregnant almost immediately. Her pregnancy was far from smooth sailing though—she had acute bouts of nausea and vomiting, leading to her becoming severely dehydrated and malnourished. She and her unborn child died on March 31, 1855. Although we don’t know for sure what killed her, theories include hyperemesis gravidarum, based on her symptoms, or possibly typhus. Her father, Patrick Brontë, survived his wife and all six children.

9. ZEALOUS BRONTË FANS TRAVEL TO HER HOME IN ENGLAND.

Charlotte Brontë's writing desk in Haworth.
Charlotte Brontë's writing desk in Haworth.
Christopher Furlong, Getty Images

Emily and Anne Brontë wrote famous books, too—Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, respectively. The Brontë sisters's writing has inspired devoted fans from around the world to visit their home in Haworth, West Yorkshire, England. The Brontë Society’s Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth has a collection of early manuscripts and letters, and the museum invites bookworms to see where the Brontë family lived and wrote, and walk the Yorkshire moors that inspired many of the scenes each sister depicted.

10. SHE HELPED MAKE THE NAME 'SHIRLEY' MORE POPULAR FOR GIRLS.

Thanks to Brontë, the name Shirley is now considered more of a girl's name than a boy's one. In 1849, Brontë's second novel, Shirley, about an independent heiress named Shirley Keeldar, was released. Before then, the name Shirley was unusual, but was most commonly used for boys. (In the novel, the title character was named as such because her parents had wanted a boy.) But after 1849, the name Shirley reportedly started to become popular for women. Decades later in the 1930s, child star Shirley Temple's fame catapulted the name into more popular use.

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From A Game Of Thrones to War and Peace: These are America's 100 Favorite Books
Denis De Marney, Getty Images
Denis De Marney, Getty Images

Die-hard classic literature lovers might quibble over Fifty Shades of Grey being placed on the same list as Jane Eyre, but alas, the people have spoken. Both are among America’s 100 favorite novels, according to a national survey conducted by YouGov.

The list was compiled in support of The Great American Read, an upcoming PBS series about the joys of reading. Set to premiere on May 22, the eight-part series will introduce the "100 best-loved novels" and feature interviews with famous authors, comedians, actors, athletes, and more. A few of the featured guests will include George Lopez, Seth Meyers, Venus Williams, and James Patterson. Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, A Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao author Junot Díaz, all of whom have books on the list, will also make appearances.

On the day of the series premiere, PBS will launch a round of voting to determine "America’s Best-Loved Novel." Viewers across the country will have the chance to choose their favorite book from the list of 100 and place their vote online, or through Facebook or Twitter using the #GreatReadPBS hashtag. The winner will be announced this fall.

The oldest book on the list is Don Quixote, a classic Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes (1603), while the newest is Ghost (2016), a young adult book by Jason Reynolds. The list includes authors from 15 different countries, and the books span several genres. Many of the novels are staples on high school summer reading lists, including 1984, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Scroll down for the full list of America's favorite books, arranged in alphabetical order.

1984
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Game of Thrones
A Prayer for Owen Meany
A Separate Peace
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Alchemist
Alex Cross Mysteries (series)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Americanah
And Then There Were None
Anne of Green Gables
Another Country
Atlas Shrugged
Beloved
Bless Me, Ultima
The Book Thief
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
The Call of the Wild
Catch-22
The Catcher in the Rye
Charlotte's Web
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Clan of the Cave Bear
The Coldest Winter Ever
The Color Purple
The Count of Monte Cristo
Crime and Punishment
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Da Vinci Code
Don Quixote
Doña Barbara
Dune
Fifty Shades of Grey
Flowers in the Attic
Foundation
Frankenstein
Ghost
Gilead
The Giver
The Godfather
Gone Girl
Gone with the Wind
The Grapes of Wrath
Great Expectations
The Great Gatsby
Gulliver's Travels
The Handmaid's Tale
Harry Potter (series)
Hatchet
Heart of Darkness
The Help
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hunger Games
The Hunt for Red October
The Intuitionist
Invisible Man
Jane Eyre
The Joy Luck Club
Jurassic Park
Left Behind
The Little Prince
Little Women
Lonesome Dove
Looking for Alaska
The Lord of the Rings (series)
The Lovely Bones
The Martian
Memoirs of a Geisha
Mind Invaders
Moby Dick
The Notebook
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Outlander
The Outsiders
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Pilgrim's Progress
The Pillars of the Earth
Pride and Prejudice
Ready Player One
Rebecca
The Shack
Siddhartha
The Sirens of Titan
The Stand
The Sun Also Rises
Swan Song
Tales of the City
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Things Fall Apart
This Present Darkness
To Kill a Mockingbird
Twilight
War and Peace
Watchers
The Wheel of Time (series)
Where the Red Fern Grows
White Teeth
Wuthering Heights

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