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Wednesday is New Comics Day

DC Comics
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. Optic Nerve #13

By Adrian Tomine
Drawn & Quarterly

There's typically a couple of years between each release of Optic Nerve, so a new issue is always an event—particularly for those of us who got into indie comics back in the '90s. Adrian Tomine's one-man anthology comic is much like Dan Clowe's Eightball or Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library in that the artist serializes stories that are later collected in seminal, bookstore-friendly volumes. Over the years, Clowes and Ware have moved away from the comic book format to fill the space between their major releases, but Tomine has embraced it. The previous issue of Optic Nerve saw him move from longer narratives that spanned multiple issues to shorter, complete stories that showed off a versatility in style and storytelling that we hadn't really seen from Tomine before.

He continues in that direction with this new issue. Here he presents three complete stories: a dark comedy about 12-step programs; an illustrated diary of a young Japanese mother; and an autobiographical story that continues a theme we saw in the last issue in which Tomine seems to be unable or unwilling to adapt to modernity.

Tomine is one of the greats working in the industry today. It takes him a long time to produce a single issue of Optic Nerve but it's obvious that he puts it all into every single one.

2. Batman Incorporated #13

Written by Grant Morrison; art by Chris Burnham
DC Comics


It's a lucky week for thirteenth issues. This one is the series conclusion of Batman Incorporated and the concluding chapter to Grant Morrison's seven year run across three different Batman titles (Batman, Batman and Robin, and this one). This last issue will tie up the final storyline while also bringing to a close the larger, overarching story and themes that Morrison has been telling involving Batman, Talia, Leviathan and the global army of international Batmen that Bruce Wayne has incorporated into his grand mission to fight crime. In the coming weeks and months there will no doubt be many interesting analyses written about Morrison's long run on these titles and the mark he has made on the character (if indeed a mark can be made on a character with so much history; the smallest lasting mark is a major accomplishment). Anything he does is typically layered and layered with subtext and hidden meanings and leaves much for the internet to ponder.

This is also the final issue for artist Chris Burnham who has been a consistent presence on this book. His style, reminiscent in a lot of ways of frequent Morrison collaborator Frank Quitely, has been a perfect match for this title and has helped elevate him to a fan-favorite status.

You can read a preview of the final issue over on The New York Post's Parallel Worlds blog.

3. Collider #1

Written by Simon Oliver; Art by Robbi Rodriguez; Colors by Rico Renzi; cover by Nathan Fox
DC Vertigo

The new Vertigo series Collider is set in a world where gravitational and temporal anomalies have become so common that the government has established a Federal Bureau of Physics to deal with them. Adam Hardy is an FBP agent and regular joe who finds himself having to investigate the abnormal—even for this world—problem of a vortex that has ripped open between our dimension and another. 

This is the first collaboration between writer Simon Oliver and artist Robbi Rodriguez, who separately worked on books (The Exterminators and Maintenance, respectively) about blue collar joes trying to fix out-of-this-world stuff, so there is something natural about them coming together on this book. Rodriguez's work on Collider, though, is unrecognizable if you compare it to his work on Maintenance from only three years ago. His style has evolved from a kid-friendly cartoons look with broad, clear lines to line work with a much finer fidelity and sophistication that fits with the current Vertigo look. There is a unique and palpable energy that runs through his layouts and slightly contorted forms. He is on the cusp of being a big star and anyone who has seen his recent creator-owned work on the "acid-western" comic Frankie Get Your Gun already knows this. 

Rodriguez is collaborating with colorist Rico Renzi, whose electric color palette helps make this feel like contemporary, psychedelic sci-fi. Plus, cover artist Nathan Fox's own psychedelic style fits in perfectly as well.

Read a preview of Collider #1.

4. Life Begins at Incorporation

By Matt Bors
Comixology Submit


Matt Bors is part of a dying breed. With the changing landscape of the newspaper publishing industry, the role of the editorial cartoonist has been greatly diminished, even though more and more new, creative and unique voices are finding their place on the web to publish their illustrated opinions and political critiques. Bors is one of those newer voices and, due to his sharp insights and clear, confident cartooning style, he has acheived more success than most. At age 29 he has already had a storied career: youngest cartoonist to have his work syndicated (at 23), first alt-weekly cartoonist to receive the prestigious Herblock Award for Excellence in Cartooning, and a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He's been to Afghanistan, was featured on CNN with Jake Tapper  and once had one of his cartoons used by a Congressman on the House floor to prove a point about the Affordable Care Act.

Life Begins at Incorporation is Bors' first collection containing his best strips from the past four years as well as drawings from his trip to Afghanistan and 15 written essays about various subjects. He is about as left-leaning as you get and he is unforgiving when pointing out the hypocrisy or downright idiocy of his subjects. In this book, he takes on the NRA, homophobia, misogyny, drone warfare, the Occupy movement and his own disappointment in the Obama presidency.

Bors has self-published this book with funding raised via a Kickstarter campaign. He sells the book on his website, but this week he is releasing a digital version through Comixology's Submit program for self-publishers.

Buy it on Comixology here.

5. The Grizzly

by Patrick Dean
Study Group Comics

Softcore

by Box Brown
Study Group Comics

Studygroupcomics.com has been the place to go to read consistently good, surprising and interesting webcomics since it launched in 2012. Run by cartoonist Zack Soto, it updates frequently with an array of artists adding periodic installments to their own individual stories. The website itself is set up in a very appealing way. Drawing inspiration from Jordan Crane's What Things Do webcomic collective, each comic displays all or most of its pages on one long scrolling page with a text link to jump to the newest update. It's very easy to browse the offerings at Study Group and see what has just been updated.

Two of the newest stories to get started in the past week or so are The Grizzly by Patrick Dean and Softcore by Box Brown.

The Grizzly is about a man named George who throws a party at his house one night and wakes up the next morning to find a grizzly bear sleeping next to his bed. Meanwhile, there's been a power outage in town that has gone on for days and the sky starts turning dark in the middle of the day. Strange things are afoot and the constantly perturbed George is walking headlong into it all.

Dean is a very funny writer - there's an amusing sequence in the beginning when George calls up his friends, one by one, to find out who might have left the bear at his house - but he is balancing absurd humor with hints at something bigger and perhaps heavier building up here. 

Softcore is probably as NSFW as it sounds since it deals with a man who hires a woman he finds on the internet to star in a soft core sex video he is filming. The woman shows up with a Russian male companion who seems to cast some sort of spell on the protagonist that seems to mess with his mind.

Box Brown is no stranger to webcomics. He began his first, the autobiographical Bellen, on Livejournal back in 2006 and won Ignatz Awards for his next major comic Everything Dies which he published both in print and on the web. Brown is currently working on a comic biography of Andre the Giant for First Second so I suspect Softcore is evidence of him stretching his cartooning muscles. He pushes his usual style into near geometric abstractions here and uses an eye-burning purple and yellow color palette that suits the strange atmosphere of sex and surrealism this story is taking place in.

Both The Grizzly and Softcore have just started so there are only a handful of "pages" for each to catch up.

Read The Grizzly here.

Read Softcore here.

Browse Studygroup's other offerings here.

MEANWHILE, IN COMICS NEWS THIS PAST WEEK: 

- From the ashes of the now defunct Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival comes the first annual Comics Arts Brooklyn festival. Of note is that the festival will feature a discussion between Art Spiegelman, David Mazzuchelli and novelist Paul Auster on their amazing and influential graphic novel City of Glass.

- Mark Waid's Thrillbent Comics announced "download-to-own" digital comics on a pay-what-you-like basis. This is another small step in the direction away from DRM for digital comics.

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Build Your Own Harry Potter Characters With LEGO's New BrickHeadz Set

Harry Potter is looking pretty square these days. In a testament to the enduring appeal of the boy—and the franchise—who lived, LEGO has launched a line of Harry Potter BrickHeadz.

The gang’s all here in this latest collection, which was recently revealed during the toymaker’s Fall 2018 preview in New York City. Other highlights of that show included LEGO renderings of characters from Star Wars, Incredibles 2, and several Disney films, according to Inside The Magic.

The Harry Potter BrickHeadz collection will be released in July and includes figurines of Harry, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore, and even Hedwig. Some will be sold individually, while others come as a set.

A Ron Weasley figurine
LEGO

A Hermione figurine
LEGO

A Dumbledore figurine
LEGO

Harry Potter fans can also look forward to a four-story, 878-piece LEGO model of the Hogwarts Great Hall, which will be available for purchase August 1. Sets depicting the Whomping Willow, Hogwarts Express, and a quidditch match will hit shelves that same day.

[h/t Inside The Magic]

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Little Women
gutenberg.org
gutenberg.org

Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is one of the world's most beloved novels, and now—nearly 150 years after its original publication—it's capturing yet another generation of readers, thanks in part to Masterpiece's new small-screen adaptation. Whether it's been days or years since you've last read it, here are 10 things you might not know about Alcott's classic tale of family and friendship.

1. LOUISA MAY ALCOTT DIDN'T WANT TO WRITE LITTLE WOMEN.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Louisa May Alcott was writing both literature and pulp fiction (sample title: Pauline's Passion and Punishment) when Thomas Niles, the editor at Roberts Brothers Publishing, approached her about writing a book for girls. Alcott said she would try, but she wasn’t all that interested, later calling such books “moral pap for the young.”

When it became clear Alcott was stalling, Niles offered a publishing contract to her father, Bronson Alcott. Although Bronson was a well-known thinker who was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, his work never achieved much acclaim. When it became clear that Bronson would have an opportunity to publish a new book if Louisa started her girls' story, she caved in to the pressure.

2. LITTLE WOMEN TOOK JUST 10 WEEKS TO WRITE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott began writing the book in May 1868. She worked on it day and night, becoming so consumed with it that she sometimes forgot to eat or sleep. On July 15, she sent all 402 pages to her editor. In September, a mere four months after starting the book, Little Women was published. It became an instant best seller and turned Alcott into a rich and famous woman.

3. THE BOOK AS WE KNOW IT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN TWO PARTS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

The first half was published in 1868 as Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The Story Of Their Lives. A Girl’s Book. It ended with John Brooke proposing marriage to Meg. In 1869, Alcott published Good Wives, the second half of the book. It, too, only took a few months to write.

4. MEG, BETH, AND AMY WERE BASED ON ALCOTT'S SISTERS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Meg was based on Louisa’s sister Anna, who fell in love with her husband John Bridge Pratt while performing opposite him in a play. The description of Meg’s wedding in the novel is supposedly based on Anna’s actual wedding.

Beth was based on Lizzie, who died from scarlet fever at age 23. Like Beth, Lizzie caught the illness from a poor family her mother was helping.

Amy was based on May (Amy is an anagram of May), an artist who lived in Europe. In fact, May—who died in childbirth at age 39—was the first woman to exhibit paintings in the Paris Salon.

Jo, of course, is based on Alcott herself.

5. LIKE THE MARCH FAMILY, THE ALCOTTS KNEW POVERTY.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Bronson Alcott’s philosophical ideals made it difficult for him to find employment—for example, as a socialist, he wouldn't work for wages—so the family survived on handouts from friends and neighbors. At times during Louisa’s childhood, there was nothing to eat but bread, water, and the occasional apple.

When she got older, Alcott worked as a paid companion and governess, like Jo does in the novel, and sold “sensation” stories to help pay the bills. She also took on menial jobs, working as a seamstress, a laundress, and a servant. Even as a child, Alcott wanted to help her family escape poverty, something Little Women made possible.

6. ALCOTT REFUSED TO HAVE JO MARRY LAURIE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott, who never married herself, wanted Jo to remain unmarried, too. But while she was working on the second half of Little Women, fans were clamoring for Jo to marry the boy next door, Laurie. “Girls write to ask who the little women marry, as if that was the only aim and end of a woman’s life," Alcott wrote in her journal. "I won’t marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone.”

As a compromise—or to spite her fans—Alcott married Jo to the decidedly unromantic Professor Bhaer. Laurie ends up with Amy.

7. THERE ARE LOTS OF THEORIES ABOUT WHO LAURIE WAS BASED ON.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

People have theorized Laurie was inspired by everyone from Thoreau to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son Julian, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. In 1865, while in Europe, Alcott met a Polish musician named Ladislas Wisniewski, whom Alcott nicknamed Laddie. The flirtation between Laddie and Alcott culminated in them spending two weeks together in Paris, alone. According to biographer Harriet Reisen, Alcott later modeled Laurie after Laddie.

How far did the Alcott/Laddie affair go? It’s hard to say, as Alcott later crossed out the section of her diary referring to the romance. In the margin, she wrote, “couldn’t be.”

8. YOU CAN STILL VISIT ORCHARD HOUSE, WHERE ALCOTT WROTE LITTLE WOMEN.

Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts was the Alcott family home. In 1868, Louisa reluctantly left her Boston apartment to write Little Women there. Today, you can tour this house and see May’s drawings on the walls, as well as the small writing desk that Bronson built for Louisa to use.

9. LITTLE WOMEN HAS BEEN ADAPTED A NUMBER OF TIMES.

In addition to a 1958 TV series, multiple Broadway plays, a musical, a ballet, and an opera, Little Women has been made into more than a half-dozen movies. The most famous are the 1933 version starring Katharine Hepburn, the 1949 version starring June Allyson (with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy), and the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder. Later this year, Clare Niederpruem's modern retelling of the story is scheduled to arrive in movie theaters. It's also been adapted for the small screen a number of times, most recently for PBS's Masterpiece, by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas.

10. IN 1980, A JAPANESE ANIME VERSION OF LITTLE WOMEN WAS RELEASED.

In 1987, Japan made an anime version of Little Women that ran for 48 half-hour episodes. Watch the first two episodes above.

Additional Resources:
Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography; Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women; Louisa May Alcott's Journals; Little Women; Alcott Film; C-Span; LouisaMayAlcott.org.

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