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Wednesday is New Comics Day

AdHouse Books
AdHouse Books

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. Supermag

By Jim Rugg
AdHouse Books

Jim Rugg is a prolific comics experimenter; he seems to always be poking around and trying new things. Whether it's putting together a zine for the hell of it, pushing the boundaries of what is possible with a ballpoint pen, or making a 32 page black and white sequel to the Rambo films, Rugg's next move is always surprising and never not interesting.

This week, the design-friendly publisher AdHouse Books puts out a magazine format collection of some of Rugg's recent experimentations: beautifully rendered drawings, hilarious humor strips, writings, explorations in typography, and comics drawn in a variety of styles. Rugg seeks to combine his love of both the magazine and comic book formats here, and the result is something akin to a one-man anthology. This will be a must-have for Rugg fans and a good introduction to his work for those who might be curious about him.

2. Astro City #1

Written by Kurt Busiek, art by Brent Anderson, covers by Alex Ross
DC Vertigo

Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson's much loved Astro City series was one of those books that brought back hope to a creatively and financially bankrupt comics industry when it debuted in the mid-90s. Busiek is an unabashed fan of the great "Silver Age" of comics in which superheroes were sincere symbols of truth and justice, wielding out-of-this-world (and bordering on silly) powers. With this book, he and Anderson sought to tell modern and sophisticated stories within this Silver Age motif. Anderson's artwork (not to mention Alex Ross' painted covers) has a realist bent to it that grounds these stories somewhere between the real and the fantastic.

Astro City has been on hiatus for a number of years and since that time has now moved under DC's Vertigo imprint where it debuts with a new #1 issue. It will tell "done-in-one" single issue stories that will introduce some new characters and re-introduce many that are familiar to fans of the book. The overall story has been moving in real time and 17 years have now passed within the book since these characters were first introduced. Now, in this first issue, we get to check back in with Ben Pullam, a non-superpowered character, and his now grown up children, and see how the passage of time has changed them.

3. Solo Deluxe

Various
DC Comics

The long-awaited hardcover collection of DC Comics' creatively-driven 12-issue anthology series, Solo, which originally ran from 2004 to 2006, is finally hitting bookstores and comics shops this week. This book represented something you don't see often enough in comics published by DC and Marvel: A-list creators at the top of their game being given free rein to do whatever they want with the company's vast library of characters. Each issue was devoted to a single artist and contained numerous short stories from each. There were some amazing contributions: Paul Pope's Eisner Award-winning Robin story "Teenage Sidekick"; Michael Allred's groovy '60s-era Teen Titans story, Teddy Kristiansen and Neil Gaiman collaborating on Deadman; Darwyn Cooke doing a Steve Ditko-inspired Question homage; and much more.

Fans of the series, or those who missed it the first time around, have been asking for years to see it back in print. This new hardcover collects it all in one nice package. Hopefully it will sell really well (as much as a book with a $50 price tag will sell these days) and inspire DC to do something like this again.

4. Abyss

By Saman Bemel-Benrud
See it on GitHub

Webcomics come in all forms and delivery methods these days. Although a blog-based system like Wordpress is probably still the preferred method for longer, narratively driven comics, more and more we're seeing other ways of doing it. Long, scrolling pages displaying each page of a strip. Tumblr comics. Flickr comics. Twitpic comics delivered via Twitter. There are even a few comics that live solely on Instagram. One thing that I've never seen before is a comic that you can follow on GitHub.

If you've never heard of GitHub that's okay. That probably just means you don't work in a field that involves coding for web or app development. It is basically a social network of its own that allows you to post progress on a source code project to share it for feedback, collaboration, testing or just to give it away for free to others who might have use for it. 

Saman Bemel-Benrud (or Trashmoon as he goes by on GitHub and other places) is a cartoonist working on a webcomic called Abyss and has decided to share his progress on GitHub. You can track not only when he adds a new page to the comic but when he makes structural or design changes to the comic's website itself. To those who don't speak in code, checking in on the comic this way is like looking at the source code for a website and trying to figure out where the navigation is. But there's something about webcomics in general that give you a peek inside the artistic process, and following along with a comic this way really makes you focus on the behind-the-scenes effort (even though there's no real artistic process information to glean here). For the rest of us, you can follow Abyss in a variety of other more reasonable places like Tumblr or Saman's website, Trashmoon.

The real reason I'm mentioning Abyss here, though, is because it's really good. Only a few pages have been posted so far, but it's a weird, hypnotic and funny tale of two people looking for a burrito and running into the changing urban landscape of the modern world. Bemel-Benrud drawings are seemingly quickly laid down on paper, but his sense of pacing and the cold emptiness of the environment his characters find themselves in are perfect for the story he is telling.

5. Kick Ass 3 #1

Written by Mark Millar, art by John Romita, Jr.
Marvel

Mark Millar and John Romita's popular Kick Ass series, which has spawned a film and an impending sequel, begins the third and final chapter of its trilogy this week. This may not be the place to begin for the uninitiated (or the squeamish for that matter; this book can be pretty violent) but fans of the books and the movie will be excited to see the characters Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl back in action again. 

The story begins with pint-size Hit-Girl in jail and Kick-Ass leading a team of superheroes to break her out. The hook to the Kick-Ass books is that it imagines what it would be like if real people took to donning superhero costumes and fighting crime in the real world, particularly kids that are roughly the same age as many of the younger comic book heroes like Spider-man who—we take for granted—can handle themselves in these situations. Millar approaches it with a dark sense of humor and a shocking use of violence that is meant to draw a stark comparison to the bloodless fighting of most superhero comics. Though, when it comes to that, a lot of comics from DC and Marvel have gotten increasingly gruesome themselves over the past few years, so maybe that comparison is not that starkly defined anymore.

MEANWHILE, IN COMICS NEWS THIS PAST WEEK:

- AOL sold the popular comics blog, Comics Alliance, that it had recently shut down to Townsquare Media, and now it is back like nothing ever happened.

- The long lost and never reprinted early Grant Morrison comic Zenith will finally see print in a collected edition from Rebellion. The Complete Zenith will arrive this December.

- DC's next big crossover event will involve villains taking over and renaming each book for the month of September. To promote it, they've released these weird and dizzying animated "3D" covers.

HeroesCon is this weekend in Charlotte, NC. It is the biggest comic book convention in the Southern US and is an extremely popular show with families, fans and creators alike. In a shameless bit of self-promotion I should mention that I will have a table there in the "Indie Island" section selling my own comic, Nathan Sorry. I'll also be moderating a panel discussion about design in comics.

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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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