Laura Beck and Jonas Madden-Connor
Laura Beck and Jonas Madden-Connor

5 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Laura Beck and Jonas Madden-Connor
Laura Beck and Jonas Madden-Connor

Every Wednesday, I preview the 5 most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, Comixology, Kickstarter and the web. These aren't reviews, just brief highlights. If there's a release you're excited about, let's talk about it in the comments.

1. Can't Lose: A Friday Night Lights Fanzine   

Edited by Melissa Mendes with various creators

Trust me, you are not alone out there in your undying love for Friday Night Lights, the television show about high school football in Dillon, Texas that, despite its cancellation, continues to find new, devoted fans through Netflix. One such fan, cartoonist Melissa Mendes, decided that the high school crush feeling that FNL gave her would best be paid back with a loving fanzine collecting cartoons, collages and pinups from other devoted fans.

After posting a call for submissions through social media, Mendes received contributions from cartoonists like Dan Zettwoch, Laura Beck, Henry Eudy, Sean Ford, Derik Badman and more. Mendes' boyfriend, cartoonist Charles Forsman, created the cover. Can't Lose: A Friday Night Lights Fanzine was born.

The contributions consist mostly of comics such as Thien Pham and Mark Miyaki's story about forgotten season 2 character Santiago. There is a photo-based contribution about an FNL-themed marriage proposal. Jesse Lucas created a flyer for Landry's garage band Crucifictorius. The highlight of the book may be Laura Beck and Jonas Madden-Connor's Tim Riggins paper doll which you can see at the top of this page. It's printed on thicker paper so that it can be cut out and assembled.

Mendes is considering doing a followup issue in the future since she continues to find creative people out there that are big fans of the show. If you're one of those people, hop on over to her website and tell her you want to contribute to the next one. In the meantime, go and order a copy of Can't Lose for only $5.

2. Sex Criminals #1

Written by Matt Fraction; art by Chip Zdarsky
Image Comics

The comic that you will be most wary to pick up based on the title alone this week is Sex Criminals #1. However, the contents of the book actually may not be as prurient as it sounds. It certainly got your attention though, didn't it?

Marvel Comics mainstay and writer of books like Hawkeye and the upcoming Inhumans, Matt Fraction has lately been balancing his superhero output with more original work through creator-friendly publisher Image Comics. In this new book he's working with artist Chip Zdarsky who has a couple of cult favorite comics to his name like Prison Funnies and Monster Cops but mostly does really fun illustrations for the Canadian National Post under his real name, Steve Murray, and entertains his followers on Twitter with his absurdist wit. This is his first major release comic book series and Zdarsky fans everywhere are rejoicing.

Sex Criminals starts by introducing us to a high school girl named Suzie who is discovering her sexuality and trying to understand what is normal and what isn't. For her, whenever she has an orgasm, time literally stops around her, colors bleed into each other and she is left free to walk around in an ethereal stillness she calls The Quiet. Eventually, as an adult, Suzie meets Jon, who has the same sexual affliction, and together they run off to use their…superpower?… to rob banks.

Fraction and Zdarsky describe the book as a "sex comedy" equivalent in tone to an R-rated Judd Apatow film. At least to start, the scenes we've seen so far in previews suggest it is a sweet, coming of age story that eventually leads into morally shady sci-fi territory reminiscent of Nicholson Baker's 1994 novel The Fermata.

Read some SFW preview pages here and a hilarious interview with the creators here.

3. Sin Titulo

By Cameron Stewart
Dark Horse Comics

Cameron Stewart's award-winning webcomic Sin Titulo was very influential among webcomic creators (myself included) looking to do long form narratives in a medium that usually just rewards short form content. Started as an exercise in loosening up his drawing style in order to produce a story quickly, Stewart worked in an improvisatory manner without an exact idea of where some elements of the story would take him. It very quickly turned into a compelling mystery that had readers anticipating its weekly updates, clamoring for answers. This week, the long-awaited print edition of the webcomic hits stores courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

Sin Titulo (which means "No Title" in Spanish) is part surreal thriller, part autobiography. Stewart began writing the story after learning about the death of his grandfather and incorporates various personal memories into this story about a man who goes on a search for a mysterious woman in a photograph that he finds among his late grandfather's possessions. The improvised nature of the story gives it a dream-like atmosphere much like the work of David Lynch. 

This comic was a turning point in Stewart's career. His work on comics for DC like Batman Inc. and Catwoman have made him a popular artist over the years, but this was his first time writing and drawing his own story. Having won an Eisner Award for the webcomic, he has reached a point that many working comics creators aspire to: readers are anticipating his next personal work just as much, if not more, than his next work-for-hire comic.  

Dark Horse has an 8 page preview of the book here. The webcomic is also still up at to read.

4. Fantasy Basketball

By Sam Bosma

Sam Bosma released his new comic Fantasy Basketball at the Small Press Expo last week and completely sold out while he was there. The beauty of this new modern age, however, is that he will never sell out of the digital comic. He's offering a PDF edition for the suggested price of $2 through the Gumroad service.

Fantasy Basketball is a 40 page comic about two adventurers searching for a key in an ancient temple who find they must defeat the "boss" in a game of basketball in order to proceed. It's part video game, part manga, part inspirational sports flick. It's also beautifully drawn. If you're not familiar with Bosma, he's an award-winning illustrator whose work has appeared in places such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Tor and Muse Magazine. His comics work has been scant so far but he has become widely appreciated on the internet for his amazing prints and lovingly rendered fan drawings of Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice And Fire characters.

This is an accomplished piece of comics work and it is also a blast to read. The flow of the action during the basketball scenes are a delight but the dialogue is also quite funny, particularly from the skeletal English-accented referee/temple guard. You can tell that Bosma enjoyed every minute of drawing it.

Buy a copy here.

5. Judge Dredd Complete Case Files

By various writers and artists
2000 AD

For over 30 years now, Judge Dredd has been laying down the law in a dystopian future where judges perform arrests, sentencing and executions of violent criminals at the scene of the crime. It is the longest running comic in the British sci-fi magazine 2000 AD, having begun in 1977 and it continues to run to this day.

2000 AD is now selling 20 volumes of the Judge Dredd Case Files through their iOS app. Each volume sells for $9.99 and together they comprise every Dredd comic published over the past three decades. These stories are credited to some of the greatest British comics creators working in the industry such as John Wagner, Garth Ennis, Brian Bolland, Grant Morrison, Brendan McCarthy, Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons, Alan Grant and more.

Being a magazine, the 2000 AD app actually shows up in the iOS Newstand application after you install it, unlike the Comixology app or other comics-related apps. Through that free app you can purchase various other collections of some of the best sci-fi comics ever produced.

Here's a direct link to download the free app. Look for the Judge Dredd Case Files collections within. A 21st volume is on the way, too.


Empowered Special: Nine Beers with Ninjette
Adam Warren's fun, sweet and cheesecakey super heroine comic Empowered focuses on secondary character Ninjette in this new special and features guest art by Takeshi Miyazawa, a manga-influenced artist from Canada who is perhaps best known for some comics for Marvel like Runaways and Spider-man Loves Mary JanePreview it here.

Set in Greece in 1936, this graphic novel by French artist David Prudhomme is a beautiful looking story about jazz musicians living in the shadow of a dictatorship. Some preview images here.

Tropic of the Sea
The major manga release of the week from Vertical by the late Satoshi Kan, originally published in 1990, about the changes the modern world has on a fishing village that has for generations had a ritual involving an egg it receives from a mermaid. More info here.

Farrin Abbott, SLAC/Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
An Ancient Book Blasted with High-Powered X-Rays Reveals Text Erased Centuries Ago
Farrin Abbott, SLAC/Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Farrin Abbott, SLAC/Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A book of 10th-century psalms recovered from St. Catherine’s Monastery on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula is an impressive artifact in itself. But the scientists studying this text at the U.S. Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University were less interested in the surface text than in what was hidden beneath it. As Gizmodo reports, the researchers were able to identify the remains of an ancient Greek medical text on the parchment using high-powered x-rays.

Unlike the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) used by the scientists is a much simpler and more common type of particle accelerator. In the SSRL, electrons accelerate to just below the speed of light while tracing a many-sided polygon. Using magnets to manipulate the electrons' path, the researchers can produce x-ray beams powerful enough to reveal the hidden histories of ancient documents.

Scanning an ancient text.
Mike Toth, R.B. Toth Associates, Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In the case of the 10th-century psalms, the team discovered that the same pages had held an entirely different text written five centuries earlier. The writing was a transcription of the words of the prominent Greek physician Galen, who lived from 130 CE to around 210 CE. His words were recorded on the pages in the ancient Syriac language by an unknown writer a few hundred years after Galen's death.

Several centuries after those words were transcribed, the ink was scraped off by someone else to make room for the psalms. The original text is no longer visible to the naked eye, but by blasting the parchment with x-rays, the scientists can see where the older writing had once marked the page. You can see it below—it's the writing in green.

X-ray scan of ancient text.
University of Manchester, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Now that the researchers know the hidden text is there, their next step will be uncovering as many words as possible. They plan to do this by scanning the book in its entirety, a process that will take 10 hours for each of the 26 pages. Once they've been scanned and studied, the digital files will be shared online.

Particle accelerators are just one tool scientists use to decipher messages that were erased centuries ago. Recently, conservationists at the Library of Congress used multispectral imaging, a method that bounces different wavelengths of light off a page, to reveal the pigments of an old Alexander Hamilton letter someone had scrubbed out.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Lucy Quintanilla
10 Facts about John Knowles's A Separate Peace
Lucy Quintanilla
Lucy Quintanilla

John Knowles’s 1959 novel about a conflicted prep school friendship has become a coming-of-age classic.


Like his protagonists Gene and Finny, who are students at the elite Devon School during World War II, Knowles attended the exclusive Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire in the early 1940s. He then served in the military for a short time before graduating from Yale in 1949. The West Virginian Knowles later wrote that despite the culture clash (and the cold) he fell in love with the school. "The great trees, the thick clinging ivy, the expanses of playing fields, the winding black-water river, the pure air all began to sort of intoxicate me. Classroom windows were open; the aroma of flowers and shrubbery floated in," he wrote. "The summer of 1943 at Exeter was as happy a time as I ever had in my life … Yale was a distinct letdown afterward."


After graduating from Yale, Knowles worked as a drama critic at the Hartford (Conn.) Courant and as a freelance writer. One of his first published short stories, “Phineas,” appeared in Cosmopolitan in 1956 and contained the narrative seeds of A Separate Peace.


In several key scenes in A Separate Peace, Gene and Finny dare each other to jump off the overhanging limb of a huge tree into the river below. In the beginning of the novel, naturally adventurous Finny takes a flying leap off the branch. Gene, who is more reserved, follows his friend's lead, which cements their friendship. Later, Gene loses his balance while standing on the limb, and Finny catches him. Like his characters, Knowles admitted to being in a secret society with an initiation requirement that involved jumping from “the branch of a very high tree” into a river. Knowles did suffer his own fall, which injured his foot and compelled him to use crutches for some time.


His name was David Hackett, and Knowles met him during a six-week summer session at Exeter in 1943. Hackett attended Milton Academy in Massachusetts during the regular school year. There, he was a standout athlete on the hockey, football, and baseball teams. He also quickly befriended the future U.S. attorney general, Robert F. Kennedy, and later served under him in the Justice Department.


At the novel's climax, Gene and Finny decide to jump off the tree branch together. Gene shakes the branch, causing Finny to plunge and break his leg. Though readers have debated Gene's intentions since the book was published, Knowles never said whether Gene meant to cause Finny's fall. Upon the author's death in 2001, his brother-in-law Bob Maxwell said, "John used to say he would never answer that question."


The protagonist in Ernest Hemingway’s 1929 novel A Farewell to Arms, an American soldier fighting in Italy during World War I, grows disillusioned after a disastrous battle and deserts the army. “I had made a separate peace,” he declares. Hemingway also uses the line in his 1925 short story collection In Our Time, with the character Nick saying it to a dying soldier. Knowles may have chosen the title to illustrate the parallel of the collective peace after war and the personal, subjective peace between individuals. In this case, Gene reaches a state of peace after he and Finny reconcile following the accident.


Eleven publishers turned down A Separate Peace. The book first appeared in print in 1959 thanks to the London publisher Secker and Warburg, while the initial U.S. publication took place on leap year day—February 29, 1960. Though the book received mostly positive reviews, it wasn’t an immediate bestseller. But as more and more English teachers discovered A Separate Peace, they brought it into their classrooms, and the book gained a colossal momentum. Knowles’s first published novel would prove by far his most successful one, ultimately selling more than 8 million copies.


Knowles once wrote about serving as the anchor man in a swimming relay race while at Exeter, beating the school’s rival, Phillips Andover Academy. He became “an athletic mini-hero for about 15 minutes.” In A Separate Peace, Finny breaks Devon’s 100-yard freestyle swimming record—but the winning time was unofficial, as Gene, who served as timekeeper, was the sole witness.


Though there was no description of any sexual encounter in the novel, some readers have contended that the book has a gay undercurrent. A handful of critics have objected to this perceived dynamic, including parents in a central New York school district who, in 1980, denounced A Separate Peace as a “filthy, trashy sex novel” that encouraged homosexuality. For what it’s worth, Knowles said, “If there had been homoeroticism between Phineas and Gene, I would have put it in the book, I assure you. It simply wasn't there.”


Fred Segal wrote the screenplay of A Separate Peace; Knowles read through the script and made suggestions for improving it. Directed by Larry Peerce with a largely amateur cast, the movie came out in 1972 to so-so reviews. Knowles was proud of the fact that the production was able to shoot on location at Phillips Exeter Academy, the inspiration for the fictional Devon School.


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