CLOSE
Original image
Boulet

Wednesday is New Comics Day

Original image
Boulet

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. Le Long Voyage

By Boulet

This past week was exciting for fans of webcomics that push the form in new and innovative ways. We saw two major postings that had the internet abuzz with praise. The first came from Gilles Roussel, the artist known as Boulet, one of France's first and most prominent web cartoonists who has been publishing comics at www.bouletcorp.com for nearly 10 years.

Last week, Boulet posted a new comic in which the hero of the story (himself, presumably) crawls down the toilet and descends, seemingly forever, towards the center of the earth. The comic is done with 8-bit pixel art, reminiscent of classic video games. This is a departure from Boulet's usual hand drawn style of cartooning but is wholly appropriate for telling this particular story. It's a fantastic voyage, similar to Alice's trip down the rabbit hole, but these days we associate such quests more with video games than anything else.

What's great about this comic is—as the name suggests—it is long. Tall, actually. It is made up of multiple images, stacked seamlessly on top of each other so that it can be read in one very long, continuous scroll. Scott McCloud, author of the seminal book on comics theory Understanding Comics, coined the phrase "Infinite Canvas" (actually he did it in his 2000 follow up Reinventing Comics) to denote the untapped ability of webcomics to push past the constraints of the typical comic book page. This is a good example of what he was talking about. In many ways, the entire web is now adapting to the infinite canvas idea, especially by embracing the vertical scroll. With wider bandwidth and faster devices to browse with, websites are free to fill their pages with infinite amounts of content and now webcomics are following suit. 

It's been often debated that webcomics should be more horizontally oriented and keep their content sitting above the indiscriminate and mostly imaginary "fold" of the web page. It was believed that scrolling interrupted the reading process and took the reader out of the story. Recently, we've seen a lot of webcomic sites like What Things Do and Study Group Comics display the pages of each comic stacked together on one screen. Especially when read on a tablet or smartphone, vertically scrolling through a comic feels natural and more akin to flipping through a book than clicking though web pages.

Boulet's Le Long Voyage is worth experiencing again and again on different screen sizes to appreciate how well it reads in different formats. If you don't speak French read it again in its translated version and get all the verbal jokes you missed when you were just watching the pictures scroll by.

2. Time

By Randall Munroe
xkcd.com

This week's second notable webcomic actually began its story back on March 25, when Randall Munroe posted the first panel in a new comic called Time on his popular and long running webcomic, xkcd.com. Thirty minutes after that, the panel refreshed into a slightly different panel. Thirty minutes later it changed again, and so on and so on until last week, four months later, the story came to its conclusion at 3,099 panels, taking the concept of serialized storytelling to a brand new level.

As new panels appeared, xkcd loyalists followed closely, creating Wikis and forums devoted to hypothesizing on the true nature of the story. Some sharp eyed readers even examined one scene with a night time sky full of stars to determine that, based on the positioning of the stars and the absence of one particular star, this story was taking place 11,000 years in the future. Some have even devised methods of watching the panels strung together in both click through and self-playing formats.

Time starts out unassumingly sweet and simple as we watch two tiny stick figures build sand castles, making them taller and more elaborate as they go. This goes on for a good 400 panels or so until a slight feeling of dread seeps into the scene and one of the characters remarks, "I don't understand what the sea is doing." The two figures eventually embark on a quest to learn what is out there beyond the sea, which is the only thing that they have ever known. What they find is strange, beautiful and apocalyptic—and just beyond their ability to fully understand.

Xkcd comics are deceptively simple looking, consisting mostly of stick figures and silhouetted landscapes, but conceptually and in terms of character gestures, movement and even world-building, they are some of the most complex and thought out comics out there. Time is one of the finest examples of this.

Wired and Slate recently published articles discussing what Time is really all about. There are a number of ways to view the whole thing, but I enjoyed this piece from GeekWagon. Click through each panel or watch a YouTube video of it.

3. Trillium #1

By Jeff Lemire; with colors by Jose Villarrubia
DC Vertigo

Jeff Lemire is a prolific writer and artist. While currently one of the star creative forces behind a number of DC Comic's superhero titles like Green Arrow and Animal Man, he also finds time for his own personal projects, like last year's Underwater Welder. Lemire works in a fast and loose style that probably allows him to get his ideas down on paper fairly quickly. It also makes his books instantly recognizable as his own.

This week, Lemire returns to DC's Vertigo line (where he previously published his recently completed series Sweet Tooth) with a new 8-issue mini-series called Trillium. It is a tragic sci-fi love story about an English explorer searching for the Lost Temple of the Incas in 1921 and falls in love with a botanist researching a newfound species on the edge of space in the year 3797. Their unlikely love is doomed to bring about the end of the universe.

Lemire paints the entire story himself in watercolor on paper but he is joined by colorist Jose Villarrubia who colors the 1920s section to give that part a slightly different look from the 3797 section. With the story taking place in two different time periods, the first issue is set up as two separate but interlocking stories and formatted as a "flip book" with two covers. One story reads one way; flip the book around and read the other story the other way. Not sure how this might work on digital devices.

You can read an 8 page preview of Trillium here.

4. Moth City

By Tim Gibson
Flying Whities/Comixology Submit

For the past couple of weeks, it seems like I've talked a lot about these new "Guided View" digital comics that are popping up all over the Comixology Comics app. It's a new format that a number of comics companies are experimenting with and it allows for a little more of an active experience on the comics page with panels and word balloons building on the screen as the story progresses. Another example of this is a creator-owned book available through Comixology's Submit program called Moth City. But, enough about the format, let's focus instead on the fact that is is a quality book with  a strong premise and an unusual setting that doesn't need the technological gimmick to make it interesting. 

Set on an island off the coast of China, Moth City is a thriller involving a mysterious WMD developed by an American tycoon (who dresses like a cowboy) and the murder of a scientist that sets off a series of events that may bring this island into a war between Chinese Nationalists and the Communist army. Writer and artist Tim Gibson has set up an intriguing adventure here with an exotic locale, exciting chases, some family drama and a few surprising plot twists. In fact the most recent issue ended with a very unexpected twist that turned the story a little on its head. Gibson comes from the film industry, having done concept illustration work for big Hollywood blockbusters like Tin Tin and Avatar, and he has a great sense of pacing as well as design (as you can see by the cover). 

Moth City #4 is available on Comixology this week and the previous three issues are available there too. Read more about it here on MothCity.com where you can also read the book as a free webcomic as well.

5. Robocop: Last Stand #1

Based on a screenplay by Frank Miller; written by Steven Grant; art by Korkut Öztekin; cover by Declan Shalvey
Boom! Studios

This week's entry in the seemingly ever-growing world of licensed Hollywood and toy properties adapted as comics is the first Robocop comic, published by new license-holder Boom! Studios. This 8 issue mini-series takes an unused screenplay for Robocop 3 that was written by comics legend Frank Miller and gives it to Steven Grant, a veteran comics writer who recently wrote the comic turned Hollywood action flick 2 Guns. Grant is a good choice to work with Miller material. Having written many a Punisher comic, he's no stranger to tough-as-nails heroes dishing out blood-splattered justice.

In the real world, cyborg police officer Alex Murphy is probably not the answer to the recently bankrupt city of Detroit's numerous problems, but in this near future vision of Detroit from the Robocop universe, he is their last hope. The police department has been disbanded and the the Omni-Consumer Products (OCP) mega-corporation is set to transform what's left of old Detroit into its utopian vision of the future, Delta City, forcing many of its under-privileged citizens out of their homes. 

Grant is joined by Korkut Öztekin, a Turkish artist who I believe is turning in his first major comics work here. His style seems to balance the right level of disturbing violence and broad, satirical humor that the material needs. Also, check out that striking cover by Declan Shalvey who has been designing some of the most dramatic covers for a variety of comics over this past year.

Read a preview here.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Why limit myself to just listing five comics each week? There's so much else out there.

Sidekicks #1
J. Michael Straczynski returns to his patented brutally realistic take on the superhero genre with this new 12 issue mini-series about a goofy kid sidekick whose life hits the skids when his partner and mentor is murdered. Tom Mandrake, who has drawn many a superhero comic in his career, adds some Bronze Age levity to the misery. Here's a preview.

The Bunker #1
Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari just launched this new Digital First series on Comixology about a group of friends who find an abandoned bunker in the woods. Available now on Comixology.

A Bag of Marbles
A graphic novel adaptation Joseph Joffo's autobiography about his experience fleeing from the Nazis as a young boy. Contains beautiful painted artwork by French cartoonist Vincent Bailley. More info here.

Thor by Walt Simonson Vol 1
This is an affordable softcover edition containing part of the recent omnibus collection of Simonson's classic run on Marvel's Thor during the 1980's. It has been recolored to appeal to modern eyeballs.

Satellite Sam #2
I missed talking about issue 1 when it came out last month, but Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin's crime drama set behind the scenes in a 1950's live sci-fi TV show is off to a great start. You can see a preview here

Questionable Content turned 10
Some of the great long-running webcomics are hitting the decade mark now. Jeph Jacques' popular Questionable Content strip just did it last week. Here's Jacques' understated acknowledgement of the milestone.

Original image
Central Press/Getty Images
arrow
Lists
Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
Original image
Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 118th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."

Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."

Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."

By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

Original image
istock (blank book) / Taeeun Yoo (cover art)
arrow
literature
12 Fantastic Facts About A Wrinkle in Time
Original image
istock (blank book) / Taeeun Yoo (cover art)

Madeleine L’Engle’s acclaimed science fantasy novel A Wrinkle in Time has been delighting readers since its 1962 release. Whether you’ve never had the chance to read this timeless tale or haven’t picked it up in a while, here are some facts that are sure to get you in the mood for a literary journey through the universe—not to mention its upcoming big-screen adaptation.

1. THE AUTHOR’S PERSISTENCE PAID OFF.

She’s a revered writer today, but Madeleine L’Engle’s early literary career was rocky. She nearly gave up on writing on her 40th birthday. L’Engle stuck with it, though, and on a 10-week cross-country camping trip she found herself inspired to begin writing A Wrinkle in Time.

2. EINSTEIN SPARKED L'ENGLE'S INTEREST IN QUANTUM PHYSICS AND TESSERACTS.

L’Engle was never a strong math student, but as an adult she found herself drawn to concepts of cosmology and non-linear time after picking up a book about Albert Einstein. L’Engle adamantly believed that any theory of writing is also a theory of cosmology because “one cannot discuss structure in writing without discussing structure in all life." The idea that religion, science, and magic are different aspects of a single reality and should not be thought of as conflicting is a recurring theme in her work.

3. L’ENGLE BASED THE PROTAGONIST ON HERSELF.

L’Engle often compared her young heroine, Meg Murry, to her childhood self—gangly, awkward, and a poor student. Like many young girls, both Meg and L’Engle were dissatisfied with their looks and felt their appearances were homely, unkempt, and in a constant state of disarray.

4. IT WAS REJECTED BY MORE THAN TWO DOZEN PUBLISHERS.

L’Engle weathered 26 rejections before Farrar, Straus & Giroux finally took a chance on A Wrinkle in Time. Many publishers were nervous about acquiring the novel because it was too difficult to categorize. Was it written for children or adults? Was the genre science fiction or fantasy?

5. L’ENGLE DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO CATEGORIZE THE BOOK, EITHER.

To compound publishers’ worries, L’Engle famously rejected these arbitrary categories and insisted that her writing was for anyone, regardless of age. She believed that children could often understand concepts that would baffle adults, due to their childlike ability to use their imaginations with the unknown.

6. MEG MURRY WAS ONE OF SCIENCE FICTION'S FIRST GREAT FEMALE PROTAGONISTS ...

… and that scared publishers even more. L’Engle believed that the relatively uncommon choice of a young heroine contributed to her struggles getting the book in stores since men and boys dominated science fiction.

Nevertheless, the author stood by her heroine and consistently promoted acceptance of one’s unique traits and personality. When A Wrinkle in Time won the 1963 Newbury Award, L’Engle used her acceptance speech to decry forces working for the standardization of mankind, or, as she so eloquently put it, “making muffins of us, muffins like every other muffin in the muffin tin.” L’Engle’s commitment to individualism contributed to the very future of science fiction. Without her we may never have met The Hunger Games’s Katniss Everdeen or Divergent’s Tris Prior.

7. THE MURKY GENRE HELPED MAKE THE BOOK A SUCCESS.

Once A Wrinkle in Time hit bookstores, its slippery categorization stopped being a drawback. The book was smart enough for adults without losing sight of the storytelling elements kids love. A glowing 1963 review in The Milwaukee Sentinel captured this sentiment: “A sort of space age Alice in Wonderland, Miss L’Engle’s book combines a warm story of family life with science fiction and a most convincing case for nonconformity. Adults who still enjoy Alice will find it delightful reading along with their youngsters.”

8. THE BOOK IS ACTUALLY THE FIRST OF A SERIES.

Although the other four novels are not as well known as A Wrinkle in Time, the “Time Quintet” is a favorite of science fiction fans. The series, written over a period of nearly 30 years, follows the Murry family’s continuing battle over evil forces.

9. IT IS ONE OF THE MOST FREQUENTLY BANNED BOOKS OF ALL TIME.

Oddly enough, A Wrinkle in Time has been accused of being both too religious and anti-Christian. L’Engle’s particular brand of liberal Christianity was deeply rooted in universal salvation, a view that some critics have claimed “denigrates organized Christianity and promotes an occultic world view.” There have also been objections to the use of Jesus Christ’s name alongside figures like Buddha, Shakespeare, and Gandhi. Detractors feel that grouping these names together trivializes Christ’s divine nature.

10. L’ENGLE LEARNED TO SEE THE UPSIDE OF THIS CONTROVERSY.

The author revealed how she felt about all this sniping in a 2001 interview with The New York Times. She brushed it aside, saying, “It seems people are willing to damn the book without reading it. Nonsense about witchcraft and fantasy. First I felt horror, then anger, and finally I said, 'Ah, the hell with it.' It's great publicity, really.''

11. THE SCIENCE FICTION HAS INSPIRED SCIENCE FACTS.

American astronaut Janice Voss once told L’Engle that A Wrinkle in Time inspired her career path. When Voss asked if she could bring a copy of the novel into space, L’Engle jokingly asked why she couldn’t go, too.

Inspiring astronauts wasn’t L’Engle’s only out-of-this-world achievement. In 2013 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) honored the writer’s memory by naming a crater on Mercury’s south pole “L’Engle.”

12. A STAR-STUDDED MOVIE ADAPTATION WILL HIT THEATERS IN 2018.

Although L’Engle was famously skeptical of film adaptations of the novel, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay (13th; Selma) is bringing a star-filled version of the book to the big screen next year. Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling, and Zach Galifianakis are among the film's stars. It's due in theaters on March 9, 2018.

SECTIONS

More from mental floss studios