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Dark Horse Comics

Wednesday is New Comics Day

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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
Fantagraphics

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.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

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.

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Kevork Djansezian, Stringer, Getty Images
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Pop Culture
LeVar Burton Is Legally Allowed to Say His Reading Rainbow Catchphrase
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Kevork Djansezian, Stringer, Getty Images

It’s hard to imagine the original Reading Rainbow without LeVar Burton, but in August, the New York public broadcasting network WNED made it very clear who owned the rights to the program. By saying his old catchphrase from his hosting days, “but you don’t have to take my word for it” on his current podcast, WNED claimed Burton was infringing on their intellectual property. Now, Vulture reports that the case has been settled and Burton is now allowed to drop the phrase when and wherever he pleases.

The news came out in an recent interview with the actor and TV personality. “All settled, but you don’t have to take my word for it,” he told Vulture. “It’s all good. It’s all good. I can say it.”

The conflict dates back to 2014, when Burton launched a Kickstarter campaign to revive the show without WNED’s consent. Prior to that, the network and Burton’s digital reading company RRKidz had made a licensing deal where they agreed to split the profits down the middle if a new show was ever produced. Burton’s unauthorized crowdfunding undid those negotiations, and tensions between the two parties have been high ever since. The situation came to a head when Burton started using his famous catchphrase on his LeVar Burton Reads podcast, which centers around him reading short fiction in the same vein as his Reading Rainbow role. By doing this, WNED alleged he was aiming to “control and reap the benefits of Reading Rainbow's substantial goodwill.”

Though he’s no longer a collaborator with WNED, Burton can at least continue to say “but you don’t have to take my word for it” without fearing legal retribution. WNED is meanwhile "working on the next chapter of Reading Rainbow" without their original star, and Burton tells Vulture he looks “forward to seeing what they do with the brand next."

[h/t Vulture]

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literature
The Charming English Fishing Village That Inspired Dracula
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Whitby as seen from the top of the 199 Steps
chris2766/iStock

The train departed King's Cross at 10:25 a.m. on July 29, 1890. Bram Stoker settled wearily into the carriage for the six-hour journey to Whitby, the fashionable and remote seaside village in North Yorkshire. The sooty sprawl of London gave way to green grids of farmland and pasture, and then windswept moors blanketed in heather and wild roses.

Stoker needed this holiday. The 42-year-old manager of London's Lyceum Theatre had just finished an exhausting national tour with his employer, the celebrated but demanding actor Henry Irving. The unrelenting task of running the business side of Irving's many theatrical enterprises for the past decade had left Stoker with little time for himself. When the curtains fell at the end of each night's performance, he may have felt that the energy had been sucked out of him.

Now he looked forward to a three-week getaway where he would have time to think about his next novel, a supernatural tale that harnessed the sources of Victorian anxiety: immigration and technology, gender roles and religion. In ways he didn't foresee, the small fishing port of Whitby would plant the seeds for a vampire novel that would terrify the world. Stoker started out on an innocent and much-deserved vacation, but ended up creating Dracula.

A photo of Bram Stoker
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As Stoker emerged from the train station in Whitby, the sounds and smell of the sea would have restored him after the long trip. He loaded his trunk into a horse-drawn cab for the journey up the West Cliff, where new vacation apartments and hotels served the crowds of holidaymakers. He checked into a flat at 6 Royal Crescent, a half-circle of elegant Georgian-style townhomes that faced the ocean.

He often felt invigorated by the seashore: "He's finally on a holiday, away from the hustle and bustle of London, the Lyceum Theatre, and Henry Irving's dominance over him," Dacre Stoker, a novelist and the author's great-grandnephew, tells Mental Floss. "The ocean and the seaside play into Bram's life, and, I believe, in stimulating his imagination."

Stoker's wife Florence and their 10-year-old son Noel would join him the following week. Now was his chance to explore Whitby on his own.

The East Cliff with Tate Hill Pier in the foreground
iStock

"A curious blend of old and new it is," wrote a travel correspondent for the Leeds Mercury. The River Esk divided the town into two steep halves known as the West and East Cliffs. Down a tangle of paths from the brow of the West Cliff, Stoker found himself on the town's famed beach, where people gathered to watch the many vessels at sea or walked along the gentle surf. At the end of the beach was the Saloon, the nucleus of Whitby's social whirl.

"The enterprising manager engages the best musical and dramatic talent procurable, whilst on the promenade a selected band of professional musicians gives performances daily," wrote Horne's Guide to Whitby. Holidaymakers could purchase a day pass to the Saloon and enjoy afternoon tea, tennis, and endless people-watching.

Next to the Saloon, the West Pier featured a long promenade parallel to the river and a three-story building containing public baths, a museum with a collection of local fossils, and a subscription library. Shops selling fish and chips, ice cream, and Whitby rock lined the winding streets. Visitors could watch all kinds of fishing vessels discharging their daily catch, and even hop aboard a boat for a night's "herringing" with local fishermen.

Whitby's East Cliff had a more mysterious atmosphere. Across the town's single bridge, tightly packed medieval cottages and jet factories leaned over the narrow cobbled streets, "rising one above another from the water side in the most irregular, drunken sort of arrangement conceivable," the Leeds Mercury reported.

Above the ancient Tate Hill Pier, a stone stairway of 199 steps (which pallbearers used when they carried coffins) led up the cliff to St. Mary's parish church and its graveyard full of weathered headstones. Towering over the whole scene—and visible from nearly any spot in town—were the ruins of Whitby Abbey, a 13th-century pile of Gothic arches that had been built upon the remains of a 7th-century monastery.

"I think [Stoker] was struck by the setting. He's thinking, 'This is perfect. I have the ships coming in, I've got the abbey, a churchyard, a graveyard'," Dacre Stoker says. "Maybe it was by chance, but I think it just became that perfect scene."

Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey
Daverhead/iStock

In Dracula, chapters six through eight kick the narrative into frightening action. By then, real estate agent Jonathan Harker has traveled to Transylvania to negotiate Dracula's purchase of a London property and become the vampire's prisoner. His fiancée Mina Murray, her friend Lucy Westenra, and Lucy's mother have traveled to Whitby for a relaxing holiday, but Mina remains troubled by the lack of letters from Jonathan. She confides her worries and records the strange scenes she witnesses in her journal.

On the afternoon of his arrival, according to a modern account compiled by historians at the Whitby Museum, Stoker climbed the 199 Steps to St. Mary's churchyard and found a bench in the southwest corner. The view made a deep impression on Stoker, and he took note of the river and harbor, the abbey's "noble ruin," the houses "piled up one over the other anyhow." In his novel, Mina arrives in late July on the same train as Stoker, mounts the 199 Steps, and echoes his thoughts:

"This is to my mind the nicest spot in Whitby, for it lies right over the town, and has a full view of the harbor ... It descends so steeply over the harbor that part of the bank has fallen away, and some of the graves have been destroyed. In one place part of the stonework of the graves stretches out over the sandy pathway far below. There are walks, with seats beside them, through the churchyard; and people go and sit there all day long looking at the beautiful view and enjoying the breeze. I shall come and sit here very often myself and work."

The churchyard gave Stoker a number of literary ideas. The following day, Stoker chatted there with three leathery old Greenland fisherman who likely spoke in a distinct Yorkshire dialect. They told Stoker a bit of mariner's lore: If a ship's crew heard bells at sea, an apparition of a lady would appear in one of the abbey's windows. "Then things is all wore out," one of the sailors warned.

Stoker ambled between the headstones that sprouted from the thick carpet of grass. Though most of the markers' names and dates had been erased by the wind, he copied almost 100 into his notes. Stoker used one of them, Swales, as the name of the fisherman with a face that is "all gnarled and twisted like the bark of an old tree," who begins talking with Mina in the churchyard. Mina asks him about the legend of the lady appearing in the abbey window, but Swales says it's all foolishness—stories of "boh-ghosts an' barguests an' bogles" that are only fit to scare children.

St. Mary's churchyard
St. Mary's churchyard, which Mina calls "the nicest spot in Whitby."
iStock

For the first few days in August, Stoker was occupied by the summer's social calendar. He likely enjoyed dinner with friends arriving from London, and went to church on Sunday morning. On the 5th, Stoker's wife and son joined him at 6 Royal Crescent. The next several days may have been spent at the Saloon, promenading on the pier, and making social calls, as it was the custom for newly arrived visitors to visit with acquaintances in town.

But Whitby's infamous weather had the ability to turn a sunny day somber in an instant. August 11 was a "grey day," Stoker noted, "horizon lost in grey mist, all vastness, clouds piled up and a 'brool' over the sea." With Florence and Noel perhaps staying indoors, Stoker set off for the East Cliff again and chatted with a Coast Guard boatman named William Petherick. "Told me of various wrecks," Stoker jotted. During one furious gale, a "ship got into harbor, never knew how, all hands were below praying."

The ship was the Dmitry, a 120-ton schooner that had left the Russian port of Narva with a ballast of silver sand. The ship encountered a fierce storm as it neared Whitby on October 24, 1885, and aimed for the harbor.

"The 'Russian' got in but became a wreck during the night," according to a copy of the Coast Guard's log, which Petherick delivered to Stoker. The crew survived. In a picture taken by local photographer Frank Meadow Sutcliffe just a few days after the storm, the Dmitry is shown beached near Tate Hill Pier with its masts lying in the sand.

'The Wreck of the Dmitry' (1885), by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe
The Wreck of the Dmitry (1885), by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe
Courtesy of the Sutcliffe Gallery

Petherick's account gave Stoker the means for his vampire's arrival in England, the moment when the mysterious East disrupts the order of the West. Mina pastes a local newspaper article describing a sudden and ferocious storm that hurled Dracula's ship, the Demeter from Varna, against Tate Hill Pier. The Coast Guard discovered the crew had vanished and the captain was dead. Just then, "an immense dog sprang up on deck and … making straight for the steep cliff … it disappeared in the darkness, which seemed intensified just beyond the focus of the searchlight," the article in Mina's journal reads. The dog was never seen again, but townsfolk did find a dead mastiff that had been attacked by another large beast.

Mina describes the funeral for the Demeter's captain, which Stoker based on scenes from an annual celebration he watched on August 15 called the Water Fete. In reality, thousands of cheerful spectators lined the quays as a local band and choir performed popular songs and a parade of gaily decorated boats sailed up the river, with banners fluttering merrily in the breeze, according to the Whitby Gazette's report. But through Mina, Stoker transformed the scene into a memorial:

"Every boat in the harbor seemed to be there, and the coffin was carried by captains all the way from Tate Hill Pier up to the churchyard. Lucy came with me, and we went early to our old seat, whilst the cortege of boats went up the river to the Viaduct and came down again. We had a lovely view, and saw the procession nearly all the way."

The final week of Stoker's holiday elicited some of the most important details in Dracula. On August 19, he bought day passes to Whitby's museum library and the subscription library. In the museum's reading room, Stoker wrote down 168 words in the Yorkshire dialect and their English meanings from F.K. Robinson's A Glossary of Words Used in the Neighborhood of Whitby, which later formed the bulk of Mr. Swales's vocabulary in his chats with Mina.

One of the words was "barguest," a term for a "terrifying apparition," which also refers specifically to a "large black dog with flaming eyes as big as saucers" in Yorkshire folklore, whose "vocation appears to have been that of a presage of death," according to an account from 1879.

"I do think Stoker meant for that connection," John Edgar Browning, visiting lecturer at the Georgia Institute of Technology and expert in horror and the gothic, tells Mental Floss. "Moreover, he probably would have meant for the people of Whitby in the novel to make the connection, since it was they who perceived Dracula's form as a large black dog."

Downstairs, Stoker checked out books on Eastern European culture and folklore, clearly with the aim of fleshing out the origins of his vampire: Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, a travelogue titled On the Track of the Crescent, and most importantly, William Wilkinson's An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldovia: with Various Observations Relating to Them.

The library building where Stoker discovered Dracula
The library building where Stoker discovered Dracula
Courtesy of Dacre Stoker

From the latter book, Stoker wrote in his notes, "P. 19. DRACULA in Wallachian language means DEVIL. Wallachians were accustomed to give it as a surname to any person who rendered himself conspicuous by courage, cruel actions, or cunning."

The Wilkinson book gave Stoker not just the geographical origin and nationality for his character, but also his all-important name, redolent of mystery and malice. "The moment Stoker happened upon the name of 'Dracula' in Whitby—a name Stoker scribbled over and over on the same page on which he crossed through [the vampire's original name] 'Count Wampyr,' as if he were savoring the word's three evil syllables—the notes picked up tremendously," Browning says.

By the time Stoker and his family returned to London around August 23, he had developed his idea from a mere outline to a fully fledged villain with a sinister name and unforgettable fictional debut.

"The modernization of the vampire myth that we see in Dracula—and that many contemporary reviewers commented upon—may not have happened, at least to the same degree, without Stoker's visit to Whitby," Browning says. "Whitby was a major catalyst, the contemporary Gothic 'glue', as it were, for what would eventually become the most famous vampire novel ever written."

Bram Stoker visited Whitby only once in his life, but the seaside village made an indelible mark on his imagination. When he finally wrote the scenes as they appear in Dracula, "He placed all of these events in real time, in real places, with real names of people he pulled off gravestones. That's what set the story apart," Dacre Stoker says. "That's why readers were scared to death—because there is that potential, just for a moment, that maybe this story is real."

Additional source: Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition, annotated and transcribed by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller

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