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Dean Trippe

5 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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Dean Trippe

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. Something Terrible

By Dean Trippe
Self-published

Superhero comics are often labelled "escapist fantasy" but sometimes the therapeutic power of reading (and making) comics can be underestimated. In this incredibly personal comic, Something Terrible, Dean Trippe reveals his own struggle growing up as a victim of sexual abuse and how the stigma and the often cited statistics of abuse victims growing up to be abusers themselves had caused him to live with an invisible gun pointed at his own head for most of his life.

Trippe is one of the biggest fans of Batman (and the inherent goodness of the character, which often gets lost today) that I've ever met. He draws in an immaculate, kid-friendly style that is very much inspired by the look of Bruce Timm's Batman animated series from the '90s. In Something Terrible he recounts just how important the character of Batman and other fictional, heroic characters have been to him over the years as he tried to deal with his own dark secret.

This is a really moving comic that, in the span of just 14 pages, is both agonizing and triumphant. I can only imagine how difficult it was for Trippe to confront these memories through the act of making this comic. I can also imagine how helpful it could be for people who have been through a similar situation to read his account, especially when Trippe dispels the myth of the abuse cycle and shows how he himself has overcome it. 

Trippe is selling Something Terrible for only 99¢ as downloadable PDF and CBZ files.

2. Fairy Tale Comics

Edited by Chris Duffy
First Second/Macmillan Books

For art fans, you can't beat the lineup on this new anthology: Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, Jillian Tamaki, Luke Pearson, Emily Carroll, Craig Thompson, David Mazzuchelli, Raina Telgemeier, Karl Kerschl, Emily Carroll, Vanessa Davis, and more. Also, that wonderfully fun cover by Eleanor Davis. A sequel of sorts to 2011's Nursery Rhyme Comics also published by First Second and edited by Chris Duffy, Fairy Tale Comics takes 17 classic fairy tales like "Hansel & Gretel" and "Little Red Riding Hood" as well as lesser known stories like "The Bremen Town Musicians" and "Give Me The Shudders" and lets the artists put their own spin on them.

Though it's hard to pick just one of these great cartoonists to highlight, it may be most noteworthy to call out the presence of David Mazzuchelli, who is contributing his first new comics work since his groundbreaking 2009 graphic novel Asterios Polyp. Mazzuchelli, who has proven in the past to be able to work in a variety of styles, channels early newspaper strips similar to Winsor McKay in his contribution, "Give Me The Shudders." 

In addition, The Abominable Charles Christopher's Karl Kershl gets to draw animals in a different style than we've seen on his award-winning webcomic. Craig Thompson, fresh off his 700 page graphic novel Habibi, tackles an 11th century Spanish tale originally called "The King and His Story-teller." And Emily Carroll applies her rich, watercolor approach to an array of medieval costumes and gowns in The Brothers Grimm's "12 Dancing Princesses".

Read more about the book here and read some in depth interviews and reviews focusing on individual contributors like Emily CarrollGilbert HernandezDavid Mazzuchelli and Craig Thompson.

3. Fantomex Max #1

Written by Andrew Hope; art by Shawn Crystal; covers by Francisco Francavilla
Marvel Comics

It's hard to believe that the character Fantomex has been around for over 10 years now. Originally created by Grant Morrison during his run on New X-men in the early 2000s, he's gained more popularity in recent years thanks to being a team member of the popular Uncanny X-Force. He's now getting his own four-issue mini-series in Marvel's mature readers MAX line, which is a big moment in the spotlight for this character. 

Fantomex is an anomaly in many ways. Not only are there not a whole lot of new characters getting their own books from DC or Marvel these days (or being created in the first place for that matter), but Fantomex's origin and character traits are just hard to explain. He was created by the Weapon Plus program (the same people who brought us Wolverine) as a result of impregnating a human woman with nano-machines, and was then raised in a synthetic micro-environment dubbed The World. He believes himself to be French and speaks with a "faux-French accent" (what that actually sounds like is up to the reader's imagination). He also believes himself to be a mutant although Weapon Plus created him to be a "super-sentinel" meant to kill mutants. His power is misdirection which means stories with Fantomex often involve events that may or may not be really happening to those who cross paths with him (including us readers). He's very Morrisonian in a lot of ways.

Derived from the Italian comic book and film character Diabolik and the early 20th century detective from French crime novels Fantômas, Fantomex is a fun, weird, stylish character with a growing cult following. This new series is a sexy, violent thriller with a '60s, secret agent vibe, as the cover by Francisco Francavilla suggests. Marvel's MAX line allows creators to go heavy on the violence, cursing and sexual situations, so expect plenty of that here.

Read an interview with artist Shawn Crystal including some preview pages.

4. In The Dark


Edited by Rachel Deering
Kickstarter

By the time this article is posted, In The Dark will have easily reached its Kickstarter goal with many days still to go. It doesn't take long to scroll through the main project page and realize that this is going to be a high quality horror anthology with a great lineup for writers and artists involved.

Rachel Deering is no stranger to horror or to Kickstarter. She writes a comic called Anathema which has three issues available through Comixology's Submit program and was originally funded through as successful Kickstarter. She was also a writer and letterer for the Womanthology project which was a huge crowd funding success a few years back. As the editor for this new anthology she has recruited an array of writers and artists that are all either new stars in the comics world (like Cullen Bunn, Paul Tobin, Tradd Moore, Tim Seely) or just on the cusp of stardom (Christopher Sebela, Andy Belanger, Christian Wildgoose, Thomas Boatwright). 

At over 250 pages, this hardcover book will contain 20 short stories with each creative team telling the type of horror story they want to tell. Deering is a vocal cheerleader for horror in comics and with the rise in popularity of that genre in comics today, this Kickstarter is hitting a good time. In addition to the comics there will be a historical piece, about the rise and decline of horror comics from the EC days to today, written by historian Mike Howlett.

Although In The Dark will easily reach its funding goal and IDW Publishing is helping out with the printing and distribution, the creators are working on this with no money up front and any money that exceeds the goal will be divvied up among them.

Read more about the In The Dark anthology and pledge your support.

5. The Witching Hour


By various
DC Vertigo

It's anthology week it seems. But wait, it's even another horror anthology. The Witching Hour is an 80 page one-shot published by DC's Vertigo line featuring 9 stories of supernatural "Vertigo-ness." The lineup for this one includes some big names like Kelly Sue Deconnick, Fables' Mark Buckingham, the highly underrated Tula Lotay and Emily Carroll (who we just mentioned in one of this week's other anthologies, Fairy Tale Comics). Perhaps most notable is a story called "Mars To Stay" illustrated by Cliff Chiang and written by Brett Lewis who we haven't seen enough in comics since his highly acclaimed mini-series The Winter Men about former decommissioned super humans in post-Cold War Russia. 

There are some preview images here and Cliff Chiang recently posted a preview page from his story with Lewis here.

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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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This Harry Potter Candle Melts to Reveal Your Hogwarts House—and Smells Amazing
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Warner Bros.

As it gets darker and colder outside, the thought of lighting a candle in your room and curling up with a good book becomes more appealing. A sorting hat candle from the Muggle Library Candles Etsy store makes the perfect companion to whatever Harry Potter book you happen to be re-reading for the hundredth time this season. According to the Cleveland news outlet WKYC, the candle slowly reveals your Hogwarts house as it burns.

From the outside, the item looks like a normal white candle. But when lit, the outer layer of plain wax melts away, allowing the colorful interior to poke through. The candles come in one of four concealed colors: red for Gryffindor, blue for Ravenclaw, yellow for Hufflepuff, and green for Slytherin. The only way to know which house you’re destined to match with is by purchasing a candle and putting it to use. According to the label, the scent evokes “excitement, fear, and nervousness.” The smell can also be described as lemon with sandalwood, vanilla, and patchouli.

Due to its viral popularity, the Fort Worth, Texas-based Etsy store has put all orders on hold while working to get its current batch of shipments out to customers. You can follow Muggle Library Candles on Instagram for updates on the sorting candle, as well as other Harry Potter-themed candles in their repertoire, like parseltongue and free elf.

[h/t WKYC]

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