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Comixology

Wednesday is New Comics Day

Comixology
Comixology

Every Wednesday, I highlight 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. New School

By Dash Shaw
Fantagraphics

Dash Shaw is one of the new generation of exciting comic creators who exist in a nexus between comics and the New York contemporary art scene, much like Paul Pope and Molly Crabapple. Shaw's 2008 debut graphic novel, Bottomless Belly Button, made a huge impression on the comic and book publishing world with its deceptively simple drawings and whopping 700-plus page count. It had profound things to say about the way modern families interact and was just as good as any literary prose family drama you'd see in the New York Times Book Review. Since that book, he has experimented with webcomics (Bodyworld), short comic stories (collected in The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.), animation, and even music. 

New School, his first major graphic novel release since the 2010's Bodyworld, tells the story of Danny, a young boy trying to bring his older brother, Luke, home from a remote island with an amusement park called Clockworld, that recreates historical events. Set in the '90s, Danny is a fan of both the X-men and Jurassic Park, and the story, told through the distortion of his point of view, seems to fuse elements of those bits of pop culture together.

Shaw is an experimental artist and storyteller. He uses a combination of ink drawing, hand painted animation cels, Photoshop and other media to create this book. A glance at the pages here shows a bold, unusual use of color that seems part Power Mastrs, part Asterios Polyp.

2. Lazarus #1

Written by Greg Rucka, art by Michael Lark, colors by Santi Arcas
Image Comics

In Greg Rucka's dystopian vision of the future, our current economic woes have extrapolated out to the point that all the world's wealth has been divided among just a handful of powerful families. One of those families, The Carlyles, have genetically modified a women they named "Forever" into their own unkillable assassin and protector. Forever has been led to believe that she is a true daughter of the Carlyle family but she is treated more like an animal or a machine and human nature—if indeed she is truly human—causes her to question who and what she really is.

Rucka is known for writing strong female characters—Renee Montoya from Gotham Central, Carrie Stetko from Whiteout, Tara Chace from Queen & Country, and the list goes on and on—though less for writing science fiction, so this is both familiar and unfamiliar territory for him. He has re-teamed with Gotham Central artist Michael Lark, whose realistic drawing style, inked with expressive brushing, is reminiscent of some of the great realist cartoonists like Alex Raymond, Alex Toth, or David Mazzuchelli. Both Lark and Rucka typically work in a very street-level method of storytelling which will most likely make the sci-fi aspects of this story pretty palatable for those that normally shy away from that kind of stuff.  

You can read a preview of the comic at Greg Rucka's website.

3. Demeter

By Becky Cloonan
Comixology

Becky Cloonan (Demo, Conan, The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys) recently released the third and final installment in a series of mini-comic short stories she has been self-publishing the last couple of years. Following Wolves and The Mire, Demeter is another beautifully illustrated tale of medieval horror that delivers a satisfying and nearly poetic story in just about 30 some odd pages. You can tell by reading this or any of the two previous mini-comics that Cloonan's heart is in telling these types of stories.

Demeter shows us two lovers who were torn apart by the sea and brought back together by a terrible bargain. The story reads almost like a dark poem and Cloonan's black and white artwork—richly inked and matched with digital gray tones—is sexy and very creepy. I highly recommend buying the print version of the mini which you can order for $5 through her online store because the design and printing is just luscious in person. However, the real reason I've mentioned it this week is that Cloonan has just released it digitally through Comixology's Submit program for creator-owned comics where you can read it for just 99 cents.

4. Batman/Superman #1

Written by Greg Pak; art by Jae Lee
DC Comics

I imagine that the "/" in Batman/Superman is intended to give a modern, edgy and internet-y feel to an old idea: the Batman & Superman team-up comic. Historically, there has almost always been a comic with DC's two top-selling characters featured together, but usually it has been called World's Finest. That name is already being used for a comic starring their two female counterparts, Huntress and Power Girl, but it's name recognition value is limited to longtime, in-the-know comic fans. This book looks like it's aiming for a newer audience, particularly due to its use of artist Jae Lee. 

Despite his popularity and his years doing them, Lee can often seem like a daring choice for a superhero book. His style is dark and foreboding; his smoky, ethereal backgrounds can give you the sense that his stories are taking place somewhere in hell. But, he is coming off doing the best work of his career on The Dark Tower books for Marvel and Before Watchmen: Ozymandias for DC. His recent switch to developing finished art from his pencils rather than inks has given his work a new, more detailed and dimensional appearance.

Lee and writer Greg Pak have set this comic during what we longtime comic book fans like to call "Year One" where they examine the first ever meeting between the two title characters. Since DC relaunched all their comics and, to a certain extent, the continuity within them, this is uncharted territory that many fans have been anxious to see.

It was recently announced that the "/" will be a thing as a new series called Superman/Wonder Woman will begin in October.

Here's a preview of some unlettered art from Batman/Superman #1.

5. Utsubora: The Story of a Novelist

By Asumiko Nakamura
Vertical

Asumiko Nakamura has become one of the most acclaimed mangaka in Japan, but her work is little known here in the U.S. She began her career over ten years ago, creating erotic and romance manga and has become particularly known for her yaoi (also known as "Boys' Love"—homoerotic manga that is primarily aimed at younger, female readers). Utsubora is considered her masterpiece and is the first of her books to be chosen by U.S. manga publisher Vertical to be translated and released here in order to gauge the appeal of her work for potential future releases.

Utsubora: The Story of a Novelist is a noir mystery about two novelists, actually. Aki Fujino is a young author who is about to release her debut, titled Utsubora, when she is found dead from an apparent suicide. Shun Mizorogi is a once acclaimed novelist who is in a creative dry spell when he meets and becomes infatuated with Aki Fujino as well as another woman who looks just like her and seems to share her same memories.

Information and preview images of this book is sparse, but this glowing review contains a number of sample pages and they look absolutely stunning. Nakamura's thin, caricatured line work is gorgeous to look at. Her sense of page composition and willingness to let her scenes breathe quietly on their own seem to create a contemplative, mysterious atmosphere. 

This new book is a large, complete volume of the entire story that was serialized in Japan. It weighs in at 464 pages and is written for mature readers with some scenes and overall themes that may not be appropriate for younger audiences.

MEANWHILE, IN COMICS NEWS THIS PAST WEEK: 

- Kim Thompson, co-founder of Fantagraphics Books, passed away on June 19th after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 56. Thompson was one of the most influential figures in comics, being integral in bringing to the public the finest work from the most reputable cartoonists in the industry such as Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. Over at The Comics Journal, an array of cartoonists that have been affected by Thompson's life share their touching and funny stories about him.

- Archaia, the struggling publisher of such acclaimed books as A Tale of Sand and Mouse Guard, was acquired by Boom! Studios, another piece of growing evidence that Boom! is quietly building itself into a major player in the comics industry.

- Despite the success of Man of Steel at the box office, some major shakeups are occurring amidst Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment. Jeff Robinov has been forced out as Warner Bros. president and a new leadership team is moving up in his place. Robinov had been directly overseeing the DC Entertainment division which includes the comics publishing portion. And Legendary Pictures, the studio that partnered with Warner Bros. to develop all three Christopher Nolan Batman movies and the latest Superman film, has ended the partnership over a contract negotiation dispute. This has been a successful creative partnership but does it mean that Warner Bros. and DC are looking to be more like Marvel in how they control the movies made from their properties?

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Photo illustration by Mental Floss. Bronte: Hulton Archive, Getty Images. Background: iStock
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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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Denis De Marney, Getty Images
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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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