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DC Comics

Wednesday is New Comics Day

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DC Comics

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. Batman '66 #1

Written by Jeff Parker; art by Jonathan Case
DC Comics

For nearly 50 years, comics (specifically Batman comics) have seemingly been running away from the campy, "Bam! Pow! Zing!" style of the Batman TV show from the '60s, especially now that Christopher Nolan's dark and serious take on Batman in his trilogy of films has finally replaced the image of Adam West's drawn on, arched eyebrows and Burt Ward's tighty greenies in the minds of the mainstream public.

The truth is, however, DC Comics and 20th Century Fox (who produced the original TV show) have been embroiled for years in legal issues surrounding licensing rights to the show that were finally settled last year. The likenesses of these versions of these characters can now be used by DC without fear of legal reprisal. Also, despite years of distancing themselves from it in a desire for legitimacy, most comic book fans really do love that old show and many of today's creators grew up on it.

Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case are two of those creators, and they have seemed to jump at the chance to be the first to bring this version of Batman back to comics. Their approach to this book, as Parker has said in interviews, is to tell stories as if the TV show had an unlimited budget to allow for big, expensive action scenes. Same setting, same dry humor, same villains, but Jonathan Case is free to open up the world beyond the cheap studio settings.

This comic isn't all about looking backwards though. While the first issue hits comic shops this week, it has already been released via Comixology as two separate 99¢ digital comics. They are produced in DC's version of what Marvel has been labeling "Infinite Comics." Basically, panels can appear one beat at a time, and word balloons pop on as you need to read them. In the case of this comic, the effect almost mimics the effects the show used which in turn were meant to mimic the effect of reading a comic. 

This new method is considered the future of digital comics by some, but it still allows the book to be published in print as we see this week. The question will only be, in which format is it a more satisfying read?

2. Super Graphic: A Visual Guide To the Comic Book Universe

By Tim Leong
Chronicle Books

If you think about it, infographics and comic books are related in some way, almost like distant cousins. You only have to look at a Chris Ware comic to see the missing link that binds their lineage. Like comics, infographics have become pretty big on the web over the years, and like comics, they don't often get their due as an artform in and of themselves.

Tim Leong loves both of these art forms and has taken the novel step of combining them into a new book, called Super Graphic, in which he parses the data on such things as the political leanings of various super hero characters, or the kill counts in The Walking Dead and The Punisher, and turns them into colorful and crisply designed charts and graphs. 

This is Leong's first book, but he is no stranger to design or comics. Until recently he was the Director of Digital Design for Wired and previously he had founded the well-regarded comics magazine called Comics Foundry.

The book was officially released on Tuesday and you can order a copy on Amazon here. To get a taste of Super Graphic and other things that make Tim Leong tick, check out his Tumblr and see lots of great historic examples of comics and infographics crossing over.

3. Walrus 

By Brandon Graham
PictureBox

Brandon Graham is currently the writer and creative brains behind the re-imagined sci-fi series Prophet from Image, and is equally known for his own comics, King City and Multiple Warheads. He's one of the most interesting and surprising talents working in comics right now. His style is instantly recognizable: thin lines; unexpected combinations of soft, tinted colors; graffiti-like lettering; rubbery looking people with a sexy, futuristic look; and rolling, intricate, urban landscapes often populated by strange creatures. His work is almost a punk synthesis of Moebius, James Stokoe, Hayao Miyazaki, Paul Pope and Akira Toriyama. It's dense, weird, highly imaginative, and funny (especially if you enjoy puns—Graham sure does).

Picturebox has released a new art book showing Graham's sketchbook process of generating his wild ideas. He has called it Walrus (subtitled Brandon Graham's All Bum Album as well as From Tusk 'Til Drawn, which give you a sense of his playful sense of wordplay), an oddly fitting name for what is sure to be 100-plus pages filled to excess with ideas. If you follow Graham's highly interesting Wordpress blog, he often shares both glimpses of his sketches and examples of the various things that are influencing him at the time. The blog itself is likely a glimpse at what you might expect from the book, but for a more explicit glimpse check out the PictureBox site with preview.

4. Goddamn This War!

By Jacques Tardi with contributions by Jean-Pierre Verney
Fantagraphics

Fifteen years ago, Jacques Tardi wrote and illustrated what is considered his masterpiece, It Was The War Of The Trenches, a dark and wrenching examination of the horrors of World War I. Trenches only appeared in English for the first time just a few years ago, in an exquisitely designed hardcover format through Fantagraphics.

This week, Tardi returns to the trenches with Goddamn This War!, a follow-up to the first book—though not a sequel, so it can be read on its own. Tardi is joined by historian and collector Jean-Pierre Verney who helped with the research needed to get all the visual and situational details correct. Verney also provides a text section and visual samples of dozens of photographs and documents from his personal collection.

Tardi is one of the great European cartoonists working today. His way of depicting the horrors of war is unflinching and tragic. Fantagraphics has been building an impressive library of translated hardcover volumes of his work over the years. You can preview a number of pages from this one over on their website.

5. Mercworks

By Dave Mercier
Kickstarter

Mercworks is a strip comic by cartoonist Dave Mercier that has been running as a webcomic since 2011 and has built up enough of an archive that he has taken to Kickstarter to produce his first print collection. The comic generally consists of funny moments loosely based on Mercier's own life and past relationships but with some obvious fictional embellishments. For instance, this funny gag involving a malfunctioning laptop and The Fonz from Happy Days.

Mercier's Kickstarter has just begun and has not reached its goal just yet, so there are lots of pledging options available. He's offering some nice higher-priced incentives like prints and the opportunity to get a digital or hand-drawn portrait of of yourself.

Check out his Kickstarter here or read through the archives of his webcomic over here.

MEANWHILE, IN COMICS NEWS THIS PAST WEEK: 

- The Harvey Award nominations are up. If the Eisner Awards are comics' Oscars, The Harvey Awards are perhaps their Golden Globes. Often a few odd or unexpected nominees appear on the ballot but for the most part there are some great people and books up for awards here.

- Licensed properties being turned into comics seem to be the way to make some bucks in comics these days, but I can't say I expected NBC to start making digital comics out of shows like Punky Brewster, Saved By The Bell and Miami Vice.

- Marvel and writer Matt Fraction are looking to make The Inhumans a major part of the Marvel Universe with a new series focusing on themes of alienation, warring families and inequality.

- San Diego Comic Con, the biggest event of the year for both comics and blockbuster Hollywood films made to appeal to comics fans, begins tomorrow. Most likely, a lot of news and new books will be announced throughout the weekend.

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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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