Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse Comics

Wednesday is New Comics Day

Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse 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. Itty Bitty Hellboy #1

By Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani
Dark Horse Comics

Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani get "all ages" comics. They've previously won awards for their popular and long-running Tiny Titans series, and a couple of years ago, they opened their own comic book shop in Skokie, Illinois called Aw Yeah Comics where they put on comic book-making parties for kids, serving juice boxes and handing out crayons and paper. Their distinctive "animation" style and kid-friendly sense of humor appeals just as much to adults as it does to kids as evidenced by their recent Kickstarter for a new line of "all-reader friendly" comics also called Aw Yeah Comics! that blew past it's $15,000 goal in just a matter of hours.

Their latest project is their much anticipated Aw Yeah Comics! treatment of Mike Mignola's Hellboy universe. Like with Tiny Titans, their approach is part Muppet Babies, part Cartoon Network, part Sunday comics, delivering child versions of popular characters in a light, gag strip format. Baltazar's cartooning takes the essence of characters like Hellboy, Liz Sherman, and Roger the Homunculus and turns them into cute, angular, candy-colored graphical adaptations of Mignola's dark, brooding, shadow-drenched creations.

Itty Bitty Hellboy is a 5 issue mini-series that, should its popularity spawn more Aw Yeah series, would add an unexpected layer to the ever-growing Mignola-verse of stories Dark Horse publishes about Hellboy and his supporting cast of characters.

Here's a great preview from issue #1 and an interesting interview with the Aw Yeah Comics! duo.

2. TEOTFW (The End of the F**king World)

By Charles Forsman

Charles Forsman is quite well known these days within indie comics circles as being a major proponent of the mini-comic (generally low print run, self-made, hand stapled DIY comics). He started his own mini-publishing house, Oily Comics, a few years back and has turned it into a successful subscription-based service where readers can get a new mini-comic in the mail from a variety of creators every month. While Oily Comics publishes works from other artists such as Michael DeForge, Warren Craghead and Melissa Mendes, it was also the vehicle for Forsman to put out a 16-part miniseries called The End of the F**king World. It quickly became the talk of the small press comics world and is now being collected in one volume by Fantagraphics.

TEOTFW (the Safe For Bookstores title) is a meditative drama about teen alienation and violence. James and Alyssa are in love and run off together on a road trip to escape their lives and their parents. James, however, is extremely troubled. He's a bit of a sociopath with violent tendencies and an inability to feel emotion or empathy for others. Soon, Alyssa can no longer deny that something isn't quite right with him. This tale of young love is reminiscent of Terrence Malick's classic film Badlands in both its content and its sparse storytelling style. In fact, Forsman's whole low budget approach to making the comic gives it a mood similar to a low budget film despite the deliberate comic strip feel of his cartooning.

I think I first became aware of Forsman's work a couple of years back when he did this EC Segar style adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark as well as a Charles Schultz version of Jaws. Even TEOTFW shows the influence of the great newspaper strip cartoonists on his work, but with Forsman's modern storytelling sensibilities adding a different context to the style. He began this story aiming to work on it in a simple style that would allow him to easily knock out pages, releasing it in 8 page installments that he sold for $1 each. The immediate attention it received from both readers and interested publishers like Fantagraphics helped turn what started as a simple mini comics project into a 176 page graphic novel and the biggest release of Forsman's career thus far.

Fantagraphics has a good sized preview of the opening pages of the book here. If you want to know more about Forsman there are two recent interviews with him you can read—One by Matt Seneca and another by Tom Spurgeon.

3. She Died in Terrebonne #1

Written by Kevin Church; art by T.J. Kirsch
Agreeable Comics via Comixology Submit

One really nice advantage of Comixology's Submit program for independent publishers is that it becomes a new platform for webcomics creators to repackage their content for new audiences that maybe weren't aware of it previously or just don't enjoy following longform stories through their web browser. A good example of this is Kevin Church and T.J. Kirsch's popular webcomic She Died In Terrebonne. They first began publishing the webcomic back in 2009 and received a good amount of praise as it ran through to its completion. People like myself, who are not as good as they should be at following serialized webcomics, jumped at the chance to pick up the first issue of this when it hit the Comixology storefront recently, to read it in the more comfortable environment of my iPad. That said, Church and Kirsch originally formatted this story to be delivered in strip-sized chunks, perfect for webcomics, but that formatting becomes mostly invisible when read together this way. 

She Died in Terrebonne is a private eye noir starring Sam Kimimura, a Japanese American detective, searching for a missing girl who turns up dead in a small Pacific Northwest town called Terrebonne. Though that is the end of the case he was hired for, he decides to stick around Terrebonne to see how this all turns out. The story draws on a number of influences, primarily 1970s crime dramas that Kirsch invokes in subtle ways (shaggy hairstyles for sure, but also simple, naturalistic lighting and settings that feel like film and TV of that era). Kirsch has a really appealing style, reminiscent in some ways of Cameron Stewart, and his work in this first issue makes this a very appealing read. 

The first issue of She Died in Terrebonne is on sale on the Comixology app for $1.99 with four more issues presumably soon to come.

4. Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever #1

Written by Tom Neely, art by Igloo Tornado
Microcosm Publishing /IWDY Comics

Tom Neely's cult hit Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever has been floating around for a few years in various forms and is actually up to its third issue in this latest iteration. However, the first issue is getting a much wider release through the comic book direct market this week. It even sports a hilarious alternate cover (shown above) by the great Jim Rugg. 

Henry & Glenn consists of one-page comics, single drawings and even diary entries depicting the fictional domestic partnership of real-life tough guy metal heads Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig. They watch TV together, paint the bathroom black, argue with each other and worry about each other. They also fret a lot about their missing dog who may or may not have been kidnapped by their overly nice but Satan-worshipping neighbors Hall & Oates. It's no wonder this book is a hit with most people who've read it (Danzig has not officially acknowledged its existence and Rollins claims to have not read it but is cool enough to sign a book from a fan when one is presented to him). It also seems to be growing in popularity over time. In fact, the book has sold extremely well over the years through distribution channels outside of the normal comic-related ones like record stores. Comic book retailers and Diamond Comic Distributors (which controls all distribution to comic book shops) are only catching on to the phenomenon now.

The book is drawn by an artist collective known as Igloo Tornado which consists of the book's writer Tom Neely. His Popeye-like drawing style actually recently landed him a job drawing the new Popeye series for IDW but even that book may not exceed the popularity Henry & Glenn is hitting.

You can find out more about the book and order a copy here.

5. American Vampire Anthology #1

By Various Writers and artists
DC Vertigo

American Vampire was writer Scott Snyder's breakout hit series about vampires living behind the scenes throughout history in the United States. It's the book that put Snyder's name on the comic book map and led to him to becoming the writer for both DC's Batman and Superman Unchained titles. Hence, being a suddenly-in-demand writer, he's had to put American Vampire on hiatus but plans a return later this year.

In the meantime, Snyder has recruited some pretty big names to contribute to this one-shot anthology comic that builds on the world of American Vampire, featuring stories set throughout different eras in American history. Jason Aaron, Becky Cloonan, Gail Simone, Greg Rucka, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Jeff Lemire and Francesco Francavilla are just some of the people involved. Regular series artist and co-creator Rafael Albuquerque draws one of the stories but also writes a story, working with artist Ivo Milazzo. 

The eight stories contained here range in settings from a "lost" Roanoke colony in the 16th century to 1967, the time period the main series is currently set in. It features some new characters as well as some familiar ones.

You can preview some of the art here and read an interview with Snyder and Albuquerque here.


Why limit myself to just listing 5 comics each week? There's so much else out there.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1
If you're following all the moves the Hollywood division of Marvel is making right now then you're well aware of the risk they're taking putting out a movie based on the little-known property Guardians of the Galaxy. As part of the recent Marvel NOW relaunch of all their titles, Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven bring a level of cinematic polish to the series about an oddball pairing of cosmic heroes (plus Iron Man!) that gets its first collection this week. More here.

Rocket Raccoon: Tales from Half World
In related news, the probable breakout star of the Guardians movie, Rocket Raccoon, gets his early adventures collected here. Featuring art by a pre-Hellboy Mike Mignola. More info here.

Helter Skelter: Fashion Unfriendly
A new English language release of a 2004 manga by Kyoko Okazaki about horrors inherent in the women's fashion industry. Okazki is considered one of the pioneers of josei (women's comics) and often told stories about controversial women's issues. Details here.

Federal Bureau of Physics #2
The new Vertigo comic Collider which I've previously highlighted here had a sudden name change and is now called Federal Bureau of Physics which is a title more directly related to the story and potentially avoids some sort of lawsuit issue for DC Comics. Details here.

10 Fascinating Facts About The Scarlet Letter

These days, we tend to think about The Scarlet Letter in relation to high school students struggling with their English papers, but we didn’t always see the book that way. When Nathaniel Hawthorne published the novel on March 16, 1850, it was a juicy bestseller about an adulterous woman forced to wear a scarlet ‘A’ on her chest by a community steeped in religious hypocrisy. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the classic tome.


Hawthorne, who was born in Salem, Massachusetts, was aware of his messy Puritan heritage. His great-great-grandfather William Hathorne came to Salem in 1636. As the Massachusetts Bay delegate, he tried to rid the town of Quakers by having them whipped and dragged through the street half naked. His son, John Hathorne, was even worse. As a magistrate during the Salem witch trials of 1692, he examined more than one hundred accused witches, and found them all guilty. Hawthorne detested this legacy and distanced himself from his ancestors by adding the “W” to the spelling of his name.


Unable to support his family by publishing short stories, Hawthorne took a politically appointed post at the Salem Custom House in 1846. Three years later, he was fired because of a political shakeup. The loss of his job, as well as the death of his mother, depressed Hawthorne, but he was also furious at Salem. "I detest this town so much that I hate to go out into the streets, or to have people see me,” he said.

It was in this mood that he started The Scarlet Letter.


In 1846, Hawthorne's sister-in-law Elizabeth Peabody published the work of Hungarian linguist Charles Kraitsir. Two years later, it was discovered that Kraitsir’s wife had seduced several of his students at the University of Virginia. He left his wife and daughter in Philadelphia and fled to Peabody for help. Peabody responded by going to Philadelphia in an attempt to gain guardianship of the daughter. This didn’t go over so well with the wife. She followed Peabody back to Boston and confronted her husband. In response, Peabody and Kraitsir tried to get her committed to a lunatic asylum. The press got wind of the story and Kraitsir was skewered for looking weak and hiding behind Peabody’s skirts. Hawthorne watched as the scandal surrounding a woman’s affairs played out on the public stage, right as he was starting The Scarlet Letter.


Hawthorne must have known there was historical precedence for The Scarlet Letter. According to a 1658 law in Plymouth, people caught in adultery were whipped and forced “to weare two Capitall letters namely A D cut out in cloth and sowed on theire vpermost Garments on theire arme or backe.” If they ever took the letters off, they would be publicly whipped again. A similar law was enacted in Salem.

In the town of York (now in Maine) in 1651, near where Hawthorne’s family owned property, a woman named Mary Batchellor was whipped 40 lashes for adultery and forced to wear an ‘A’ on her clothes. She was married to Stephen Batchellor, a minister over 80 years old. Sound familiar?


In an 1871 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, editor James T. Fields wrote about being Hawthorne’s champion. Not only did he try to get Hawthorne reinstated in his Custom House post, Fields said he convinced Hawthorne to write The Scarlet Letter as a novel. One day, while trying to encourage the despondent writer ("'Who would risk publishing a book for me, the most unpopular writer in America?' 'I would,' said I"), Fields noticed Hawthorne’s bureau. He said he bet Hawthorne had already written something new and that it was in one of the drawers. Hawthorne, flabbergasted, pulled out a manuscript. “How in Heaven's name did you know this thing was there?” he said. He gave Fields the “germ” of The Scarlet Letter. Fields then persuaded Hawthorne to alter “the plan of that story” and write a full-sized book. The rest is history.

Or is it? Hawthorne’s wife Sophia said of Fields’s claims: “He has made the absurd boast that he was the sole cause of the Scarlet Letter being published!" She added that Edwin Percy Whipple was the one who encouraged Hawthorne.


Hester Prynne is a tall, dignified character who endures her outcast status with grace and strength. Although she has fallen to a low place as an adulteress with an illegitimate child, she becomes a successful seamstress and raises her daughter even though the authorities want to take the child away. As such, she’s a complex character who embodies what happens when a woman breaks societal rules. Hawthorne not only knew accomplished women such as Peabody and Margaret Fuller, he was writing The Scarlet Letter directly after the first women's rights convention in New York in 1848. He was one of the first American writers to depict “women’s rights, women’s work, women in relation to men, and social change,” according to biographer Brenda Wineapple.


As you probably know, Hawthorne hits you in the head with symbolism throughout The Scarlet Letter, starting with the characters’ names—Pearl for an unwanted child, Roger Chillingworth for a twisted, cold man, Arthur Dimmesdale for a man whose education cannot lead him to truth. From the wild woods to the rosebush by the jail to the embroidered ‘A’ itself, it’s easy to see why The Scarlet Letter is the book that launched a thousand literary essays.


In the 87,000-plus words that make up The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne used “ignominy” 16 times, “ignominious” seven times, and “ignominiously” once. He apparently had affection for the word, which means dishonor, infamy, disgrace, or shame. Either that, or he needed a thesaurus.


While the reviews were generally positive, others condemned The Scarlet Letter as smut. For example, this 1851 review by Reverend Arthur Cleveland Coxe: “Why has our author selected such a theme? … Is it, in short, because a running underside of filth has become as requisite to a romance, as death in the fifth act to a tragedy? Is the French era actually begun in our literature? … we honestly believe that "the Scarlet Letter" has already done not a little to degrade our literature, and to encourage social licentiousness.” This kind of rhetoric didn’t hurt sales. In fact, The Scarlet Letter’s initial print run of 2500 books sold out in 10 days.


The Scarlet Letter made Hawthorne a well-known writer, allowed him to purchase a home in Concord, and insured an audience for books like The House of Seven Gables. However, The Scarlet Letter didn’t make Hawthorne rich. Despite its success in the U.S. and abroad, royalties weren’t that great—overseas editions paid less than a penny per copy. Hawthorne only made $1500 from the book over the remaining 14 years of his life. He was never able to escape the money troubles that plagued him.

Warner Bros.
Pop Culture
Is the True Identity of Voldemort's Pet Snake Hidden in the New Fantastic Beasts Trailer?
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

In the Harry Potter series, many of Voldemort's horcruxes were give rich backstories, like Tom Riddle's diary, Marvolo Gaunt's ring, and of course, Harry himself. But the most personal horcrux containing a fragment of Voldemort's soul is also the biggest mystery. Voldemort carries Nagini the snake with him wherever he goes, but we still don't know how the two met or where Nagini came from. Fans may not have to wait much longer to find out: One fan theory laid out by Vanity Fair suggests that Nagini is actually a cursed witch, and her true identity will be revealed in the next Fantastic Beasts movie.

On March 13, the trailer dropped for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the second installment in the Harry Potter prequel series written by J.K. Rowling. The clips include lots of goodies for fans—including a first look at Jude Law as young Dumbledore—but one potential bombshell requires closer examination.

Pay attention at the 1:07 mark in the video below and you'll see Claudia Kim, the actress playing a new, unnamed character in the film. While we don't know much about her yet, Pottermore tells us that she is a Maledictus or “someone who suffers from a ‘blood curse’ that turns them into a beast.” This revelation led some fans to suspect the beast she transforms into is Nagini, the snake destined to be Voldemort's companion.

That isn't the only clue backing up the theory. The second piece of evidence comes in the trailer at the 1:17 mark: There, you can see an advertisement for a "wizarding circus," featuring a poster of a woman resembling Kim constricted a by massive snake.

If Kim's character does turn out to be Nagini, the theory still doesn't explain how she eventually joins forces with Voldemort and becomes his horcrux. Fans will have to wait until the film's release on November 16, 2018 for answers. Fortunately, there are plenty of other Harry Potter fan theories to study up on in the meantime.

[h/t Vanity Fair]


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