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Image Comics

5 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Image Comics
Image Comics

Every Wednesday, I preview the 5 most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, Comixology, Kickstarter and the web. If there's a release you're excited about, let's talk about it in the comments.

1. Pretty Deadly #1

Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick; art by Emma Rios; colors by Jordie Bellaire
Image Comics

If you only read webcomics or even just indie comics of the more literary or young adult flavors, with all the Kate Beatons, Alison Bechdels, and Faith Erin Hicks, you'd be forgiven if you didn't realize that women comic creators are pretty underrepresented in most genre-oriented comics. Of course, that's changing pretty quickly and this week we have a major release from Image Comics—a western/ horror hybrid called Pretty Deadly—that has an all-female creative team. Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire (joined by sole male collaborator, letterer Clayton Cowles) begin an epic saga here about Ginny, the natural-born daughter of Death, traveling the western landscape on a mission of vengeance. Two travelers, a blind man named Fox and a teenage girl with a magical "vulture cloak," go around telling the story of Ginny to local townsfolk but soon find themselves caught in her path themselves, and probably not for the first time.

DeConnick has become a mainstay at Marvel Comics of late. She's most often associated with Captain Marvel, a book which has grown an avid fan base for both the character and DeConnick herself. This is her second project with Rios, a Spanish artist who has also worked on various Marvel books. Pretty Deadly has the potential to be a breakout book for both creators. 

Rios constructs elaborate page designs, particularly in an early scene in which the story of Ginny is told by Fox and the girl, while pointing to pictures displayed on a large tapestry. Her style, particularly the way she draws women, is reminiscent of Milo Manera's clean, intricate drawings but with a hint of Paul Pope's earthier inking. Colorist Jordie Bellaire is seemingly coloring every book out there these days. If you notice these things, you'll notice her name in the credits of a lot of books, especially for Image. Her use of bold colors to unify the panels in a page really helps guide the reader through some of Rios' more ambitious layouts.

Supernatural westerns seem to have become a sub genre of their own in recent years, probably since the success of The Sixth Gun. By dealing with the mythology of Death, Pretty Deadly may be aiming for something grander in scope, but fans of both horror and western genres will be pleased with all the targets it hits while getting there.

Read a preview here.


2. Iron Bound


By Brendan Leach
Secret Acres

Brendan Leach's previous book, The Pterodactyl Hunters (in the Gilded City) came out in 2011 and won an Ignatz Award for Outstanding Comic the following year. Somehow, Leach is back already with a hefty, new 250-page graphic novel called Iron Bound which was released last week from independent publisher Secret Acres. 

Set in 1960s Newark, New Jersey, Iron Bound is a crime drama about two leather-jacketed greasers who work as hired muscle for a local, small time mafioso. Benny is a loose cannon. At the start of the book, on a bus from Asbury Park, we see him nearly beat to death a fellow passenger who makes the mistake of telling him to keep his voice down. Eddie is the more level-headed of the two, with ideas about going straight, but he has a lot of blood on his own hands to deal with. The narrative jumps back and forth in time to reveal two violent incidents in the recent past that will have repercussions for both young men. Leach does a fantastic job of building tension, especially in regards to Benny, who is the gun in the story that you just know will go off at any moment with no warning. What makes the book a little different from most street-level crime dramas is the setting and time period. A Jersey boy himself, Leach's stark black and white drawings seem to capture this era of leather jackets, greased-back hair, bowling alleys and skating rinks and embodies it all with a rich level of Jerseyness. It's like The Lords of Flatbush by way of the Jersey Turnpike. Like that film, it has a very '70s vibe to the pacing and feel of the story, even though it's set in the early 1960s. Leach's drawings have a loose immediacy to them that may not appeal to everyone on an aesthetic level, but their sketchbook-like quality makes it feel like he was there, hanging out on Broad Street or on the boardwalk, watching all this go down. His style and seemingly prolific ability to put out books quickly reminds me of Jeff Lemire (who provides an endorsement on the back of the book) but also of the great Italian comic artist Gipi, who is no stranger to crime stories himself.

A fun little bonus is that the book comes with a flexi-disc record with two original songs that act as a soundtrack for a climactic fight scene that breaks out in front of a band called The Newark Wanderers.

Leach has provided the first chapter that you can read on his Tumblr, or you can go over to the Secret Acres website to order the book.

3. Velvet #1


Written by Ed Brubaker; art by Steve Epting; colors by Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image Comics

The great conceit behind the new ongoing series, Velvet, from writer Ed Brubaker is "What if Miss Moneypenny was secretly a deadly spy herself?" The story opens in 1973 as we see a James Bond-like secret agent get gunned down in Paris while pondering what dark secrets he does not yet know about the mysterious Velvet Templeton. 

Looking like a cross between 007's Moneypenny and S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Valentina de la Fontaine, Velvet is the sexy secretarial assistant to the director of Britain's most secret intelligence agency, but for reasons yet unknown she seems to have forsaken a career as a spy herself for a quieter desk job. As the lead female character in an action comic, Velvet perhaps will defy expectations by being a mature woman who appears to be in her late 40s. As the series progresses and we learn more about the dark secrets of her past, Brubaker plans on turning some more expectations of women and their place in the spy genre on their heads.

Ed Brubaker is the modern master of both crime and super-spy comics. With artist Steve Epting, he transformed Captain America from a mediocre, purposeless superhero comic into a twisty thriller that reinvigorated the espionage potential of Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D. concept. The two have reunited for this long-planned project and have also brought on another Cap-universe alumni from Brubaker's Winter Soldier comic: colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser.

Epting is a cinematic realist and Breitweiser, who, I feel, has one of the more recognizable yet subtle coloring styles in mainstream comics, adds a moody level of gravitas to the book. What's most fun is that the promise of lots of flashbacks throughout the '50s and '60s allows Epting and Breitweiser to play with the fashions and styles of those eras as well as many of the familiar elements of spy fiction from film, novels, newspaper strips and comics.

Some preview pages here.



4. Samurai Jack #1


Written by Jim Zub, art by Andy Suriano
IDW Publishing

I'm not sure what to think of the fact that the nostalgia market is now dipping into material that was produced in the early double aughts, but with the '80s thoroughly exhausted and quality resources from the '90s waning, it only makes sense that we'd get to this point so quickly. This week, we see the highly anticipated first issue of Samurai Jack, a comic that will pick up where the animated series that ran on Cartoon Network from 2001 to 2004 left off. 

Fans of the animated series which focused on a stoic Samurai and his quest to make his way back from the distant future had always hoped for a rumored feature film to continue the story. Instead, as we've seen with other fan-favorite shows like X-Files and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, there can be a place in comics for launching new "seasons" in order to let those shows live on.

IDW has enlisted Jim Zub, a writer popular for his humorous Skullkickers series as well as for his industry-related blog posts about selling creator-owned comics. He's paired with Andy Suriano, an artist who was integral in designing the characters for the original show. Series creator and mastermind behind the show's unique aesthetic, Genndy Tartakovsky, even provides a variant cover for the first issue.

You can read a short preview of the first issue here.


5. Head Lopper 2

By Andrew MacLean
Kickstarter

If you're a fan of the look of Samurai Jack, I can pretty much guarantee you'll enjoy Andrew MacLean's artwork. MacLean draws in a style that blends touches of Tartokovksy's modern, Soviet Constructivism with Mike Mignola's sense of composition and simple, graphic shapes. He has a Cartoon Network kind of "cartoony" feel to his work.

In Head Lopper, Maclean gets to draw over-the-top sword fights with Scottish warriors and lots and lots of decapitations. In fact, the main character, Norgal, travels around with the talking, disembodied head of a blue witch. It's witty, unrealistically violent and made for pretty much anyone who loves stuff like Conan the Barbarian and Quentin Tarantino films. 

MacLean has taken to Kickstarter to fund the production of Head Lopper 2. In addition to the 50+ page story, this second volume will have some amazing-looking guest art from Toby Cypress, James Harren and more.

You can find out more at his Kickstarter page. It has a little over 2 weeks to go and is not funded yet so consider helping him out.


HONORABLE MENTION


Hellboy: Midnight Circus
Pre-adolescent Hellboy may be my favorite kind of Hellboy. This new graphic novel written by Mike Mignola and drawn by Duncan Fegredo tells a story from Hellboy's youth about the time when he read Pinocchio and got inspired to run away from home and join a circus. Fegredo is maybe the next best artist besides Mignola that you'd want drawing a new Hellboy book and the preview art here looks incredible.

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Build Your Own Harry Potter Characters With LEGO's New BrickHeadz Set

Harry Potter is looking pretty square these days. In a testament to the enduring appeal of the boy—and the franchise—who lived, LEGO has launched a line of Harry Potter BrickHeadz.

The gang’s all here in this latest collection, which was recently revealed during the toymaker’s Fall 2018 preview in New York City. Other highlights of that show included LEGO renderings of characters from Star Wars, Incredibles 2, and several Disney films, according to Inside The Magic.

The Harry Potter BrickHeadz collection will be released in July and includes figurines of Harry, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore, and even Hedwig. Some will be sold individually, while others come as a set.

A Ron Weasley figurine
LEGO

A Hermione figurine
LEGO

A Dumbledore figurine
LEGO

Harry Potter fans can also look forward to a four-story, 878-piece LEGO model of the Hogwarts Great Hall, which will be available for purchase August 1. Sets depicting the Whomping Willow, Hogwarts Express, and a quidditch match will hit shelves that same day.

[h/t Inside The Magic]

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Little Women
gutenberg.org
gutenberg.org

Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is one of the world's most beloved novels, and now—nearly 150 years after its original publication—it's capturing yet another generation of readers, thanks in part to Masterpiece's new small-screen adaptation. Whether it's been days or years since you've last read it, here are 10 things you might not know about Alcott's classic tale of family and friendship.

1. LOUISA MAY ALCOTT DIDN'T WANT TO WRITE LITTLE WOMEN.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Louisa May Alcott was writing both literature and pulp fiction (sample title: Pauline's Passion and Punishment) when Thomas Niles, the editor at Roberts Brothers Publishing, approached her about writing a book for girls. Alcott said she would try, but she wasn’t all that interested, later calling such books “moral pap for the young.”

When it became clear Alcott was stalling, Niles offered a publishing contract to her father, Bronson Alcott. Although Bronson was a well-known thinker who was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, his work never achieved much acclaim. When it became clear that Bronson would have an opportunity to publish a new book if Louisa started her girls' story, she caved in to the pressure.

2. LITTLE WOMEN TOOK JUST 10 WEEKS TO WRITE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott began writing the book in May 1868. She worked on it day and night, becoming so consumed with it that she sometimes forgot to eat or sleep. On July 15, she sent all 402 pages to her editor. In September, a mere four months after starting the book, Little Women was published. It became an instant best seller and turned Alcott into a rich and famous woman.

3. THE BOOK AS WE KNOW IT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN TWO PARTS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

The first half was published in 1868 as Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The Story Of Their Lives. A Girl’s Book. It ended with John Brooke proposing marriage to Meg. In 1869, Alcott published Good Wives, the second half of the book. It, too, only took a few months to write.

4. MEG, BETH, AND AMY WERE BASED ON ALCOTT'S SISTERS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Meg was based on Louisa’s sister Anna, who fell in love with her husband John Bridge Pratt while performing opposite him in a play. The description of Meg’s wedding in the novel is supposedly based on Anna’s actual wedding.

Beth was based on Lizzie, who died from scarlet fever at age 23. Like Beth, Lizzie caught the illness from a poor family her mother was helping.

Amy was based on May (Amy is an anagram of May), an artist who lived in Europe. In fact, May—who died in childbirth at age 39—was the first woman to exhibit paintings in the Paris Salon.

Jo, of course, is based on Alcott herself.

5. LIKE THE MARCH FAMILY, THE ALCOTTS KNEW POVERTY.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Bronson Alcott’s philosophical ideals made it difficult for him to find employment—for example, as a socialist, he wouldn't work for wages—so the family survived on handouts from friends and neighbors. At times during Louisa’s childhood, there was nothing to eat but bread, water, and the occasional apple.

When she got older, Alcott worked as a paid companion and governess, like Jo does in the novel, and sold “sensation” stories to help pay the bills. She also took on menial jobs, working as a seamstress, a laundress, and a servant. Even as a child, Alcott wanted to help her family escape poverty, something Little Women made possible.

6. ALCOTT REFUSED TO HAVE JO MARRY LAURIE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott, who never married herself, wanted Jo to remain unmarried, too. But while she was working on the second half of Little Women, fans were clamoring for Jo to marry the boy next door, Laurie. “Girls write to ask who the little women marry, as if that was the only aim and end of a woman’s life," Alcott wrote in her journal. "I won’t marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone.”

As a compromise—or to spite her fans—Alcott married Jo to the decidedly unromantic Professor Bhaer. Laurie ends up with Amy.

7. THERE ARE LOTS OF THEORIES ABOUT WHO LAURIE WAS BASED ON.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

People have theorized Laurie was inspired by everyone from Thoreau to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son Julian, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. In 1865, while in Europe, Alcott met a Polish musician named Ladislas Wisniewski, whom Alcott nicknamed Laddie. The flirtation between Laddie and Alcott culminated in them spending two weeks together in Paris, alone. According to biographer Harriet Reisen, Alcott later modeled Laurie after Laddie.

How far did the Alcott/Laddie affair go? It’s hard to say, as Alcott later crossed out the section of her diary referring to the romance. In the margin, she wrote, “couldn’t be.”

8. YOU CAN STILL VISIT ORCHARD HOUSE, WHERE ALCOTT WROTE LITTLE WOMEN.

Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts was the Alcott family home. In 1868, Louisa reluctantly left her Boston apartment to write Little Women there. Today, you can tour this house and see May’s drawings on the walls, as well as the small writing desk that Bronson built for Louisa to use.

9. LITTLE WOMEN HAS BEEN ADAPTED A NUMBER OF TIMES.

In addition to a 1958 TV series, multiple Broadway plays, a musical, a ballet, and an opera, Little Women has been made into more than a half-dozen movies. The most famous are the 1933 version starring Katharine Hepburn, the 1949 version starring June Allyson (with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy), and the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder. Later this year, Clare Niederpruem's modern retelling of the story is scheduled to arrive in movie theaters. It's also been adapted for the small screen a number of times, most recently for PBS's Masterpiece, by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas.

10. IN 1980, A JAPANESE ANIME VERSION OF LITTLE WOMEN WAS RELEASED.

In 1987, Japan made an anime version of Little Women that ran for 48 half-hour episodes. Watch the first two episodes above.

Additional Resources:
Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography; Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women; Louisa May Alcott's Journals; Little Women; Alcott Film; C-Span; LouisaMayAlcott.org.

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