Image Comics
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

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.


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.

Why a Major Error in 'A Wrinkle in Time' Was Never Corrected

Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time was published in 1962, and thanks to the recent release of a big-budget Disney adaptation, the book is just as popular as ever. The book has earned its status as a modern classic, but according to the Daily Beast, there's something hiding in the text of every copy that is rarely seen in titles that have enjoyed such a long print run. The book features an error that's been reprinted millions of times, and unless you read Greek, you would likely never notice it.

The mistake falls on page 59 of the new Square Fish edition that was published to tie in with the new film. On that page you'll find a quote from Mrs Who, one of the three mystical beings that guide the protagonist Meg and her companions across the universe. Because verbalizing in her own words takes a lot of energy, Mrs Who communicates strictly by quoting great writers and thinkers from history. In this case, she's quoting the playwright Euripides in his original ancient Greek. She follows it with the English translation, "Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything," but Greek speakers will notice that the two quotes don't match up. The original line in Greek includes words that don't make sense together or don't exist at all.

How was such a glaring error able to go unnoticed in a major work for so long? The answer is that it didn't: L'Engle was made aware of it by a friend of Greek heritage in the 1990s. According to L'Engle's granddaughter, the writer could trace the typo back to the Dictionary of Foreign Phrases and Classical Quotations, the book she pulled all of Mrs Who's quotes from. While transcribing the Euripides quote by hand she must have omitted a letter by accident. The quote was further removed from the original when the typesetter chose the Greek characters from her manuscript.

Even after hearing about the mistake, L'Engle didn't make fixing it her top priority. Instead she invested her energy into tackling other copyediting issues for the 1993 reprint, like removing all the periods from Mrs Who's, Mrs Which's, and Mrs Whatsit's names. When L'Engle died in 2007, the mangled quote was still standard in new copies of A Wrinkle in Time.

To date, only one English-language edition of the book contains the corrected quotation: the 1994 audiobook narrated by L'Engle herself. But the publishers of A Wrinkle in Time at Macmillan are apparently aware of the error, so the next printing may finally be the one that gets it right.

[h/t Daily Beast]

iStock // Heinrich Hoffmann/Keystone Features/Getty Images // collage by Jen Pinkowski
When German Scientists Tried to Rename Bats and Shrews, Hitler Threatened to Send Them to War
iStock // Heinrich Hoffmann/Keystone Features/Getty Images // collage by Jen Pinkowski
iStock // Heinrich Hoffmann/Keystone Features/Getty Images // collage by Jen Pinkowski

In The Art of Naming (The MIT Press), Michael Ohl, a biologist at the Natural History Museum of Berlin, delves into the art, science, language, and history of taxonomy. There are some 1.8 million known species—and scientists estimate that 100 million more await discovery. Every one will need a name. How does the process work? 

Ohl takes us into the field with the explorers and scientists at the forefront of naming the natural world, including Father Armand David, a French priest who was the first to describe the panda to the Western world; American paleontologists Edward Dinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, who bitterly battled in the Bone Wars; and Polish biologist Benedykt Dybowski, whose unique naming system for crustaceans called gammarids (a.k.a. "scuds") resulted in tongue-twisters such as Cancelloidokytodermogammarus (Loveninsuskytodermogammarus) loveni.

In the excerpt below, Ohl tells the story of one of the little-known footnotes to World War II: When Adolf Hitler threatened the German biologists who wanted to rename bats and shrews. And, read on for the best bat nickname of all time: "bacon mouse."

—Jen Pinkowski


On March 3, 1942, a brief item with a rather peculiar headline appeared tucked away in the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper. "Fledermaus No Longer!" the bold letters proclaimed. The following short text was printed underneath:

"At its 15th General Assembly, the German Society for Mammalogy passed a resolution to change the zoologically misleading names 'Spitzmaus' [shrew] and 'Fledermaus' [bat] to 'Spitzer' and 'Fleder.' Fleder is an old form for Flatterer [one that flutters]. The Spitzmaus, as it happens, has borne a variety of names: Spitzer [one that is pointed], Spitzlein, Spitzwicht, Spitzling. Over the course of the conference, several important lectures were held in the auditorium of the Zoologisches Museum […]."

To this day, despite the problems announced by Germany's leading specialists on mammals on the pages of one of the capital's daily papers, fledermaus and spitzmaus remain the common German names for bats and shrews. Neither dictionaries nor specialized nature guides contain entries for fleder or spitzer (provided one disregards the primary definition of spitzer, which is a "small implement used for the sharpening of pencils").

Indeed, a swift response to the item in question arrived from an unexpected source. Martin Bormann, Adolf Hitler's private secretary, sent a message on March 4, 1942, to Hans Heinrich Lammers, head of the Reich Chancellery. The missive contained remarkably unambiguous instructions from Hitler:

"In yesterday's newspapers, the Führer read an item regarding the changes of name ratified by the German Society for Mammalogy on the occasion of its 15th General Assembly. The Führer subsequently instructed me to communicate to the responsible parties, in no uncertain terms, that these changes of name are to be reversed immediately. Should members of the Society for Mammalogy have nothing more essential to the war effort or smarter to do, perhaps an extended stint in the construction battalion on the Russian front could be arranged. Should such asinine renamings occur once more, the Führer will unquestionably take appropriate measures; under no circumstance should terms that have become established over the course of many years be altered in this fashion."

There's no question that the "responsible parties" understood and responded to the injunction, which could hardly have been misinterpreted. On July 1, 1942, at least, a notice was printed in the Zoologischer Anzeiger—at that time, the "organ of the German Zoological Society"—that comprised a scant five lines. The notice has no byline and can most likely be attributed to the journal's publishers:

"Regarding the discussion [in earlier issues of the Zoologischer Anzeiger] about potential changes to the names 'Fledermaus' and 'Spitzmaus,' the Editors wish to make public that terms that have become established over the course of many years are not to be altered, following an announcement by the Reich Minister of Science, Education, and National Culture, as per the Führer's directive."

It's conceivable that Lammers forwarded Hitler's instructions (which had reached him by way of Bormann) to Bernhard Rust, the Reich Minister of Science, Education, and National Culture. Rust will then likely have ordered one of the "parties responsible" for the unpopular initiative to publish the retraction in the appropriate platform. The Zoologischer Anzeiger fit the bill, considering the fact that by 1941 it had already featured two articles debating whether the name spitzmaus should be changed.

What is the problem, though, that veteran scientists have with spitzmaus and fledermaus, those innocuous terms for the shrew and the bat? And how could it come to pass that Adolf Hitler—preoccupied as he was in 1942— should personally join in the campaign for the correct classification of these small mammals?


The common thread in these two unremarkable and familiar terms is of course the second word component, maus, or "mouse."

Fledermaus and spitzmaus … are (linguistically) first and foremost mice. By referencing certain characteristics in these compound words (fleder comes from flattern, "to flap"; spitz, or "point," refers to the shrew's pointy nose or rather head shape), it becomes possible to provide a clear name—or almost clear, at least, because there are many bat and shrew species, but more on that later.

Both names, of course, imply affiliation with mice, and that's the sticking point. In zoological terms, mice are a group of rodents known at the higher level of classification as Muroidea, "muroids" or the "mouse-like." The group includes quite the mix of animal groups, with occasionally curious names like zokor, blind mole-rat, spiny tree mouse, and Chinese pygmy dormouse, not to mention our pet hamsters and those domestic but unwelcome mice and rats. Common to all muroids are sundry and complex structural features in the skull, coupled of course with the oversized, continually growing incisors typical of rodents. Beyond that, although endless evolutionary gimmickry can revolve around this mouse theme (long or short legs, different fur colors and tail lengths, and much more), and even without biological expertise, most muroids tend to be identifiable as mice, if only vaguely.

Zoologically speaking, a mere mouse-like appearance is insufficient to denote a muroid. Instead, the specific anatomical features of the skull must be in evidence.

Field, house, and deer mice are familiar to many North Americans, although they typically live hidden away, and we don't often encounter them. These animals with the "mouse" base in their name are truly mice in the zoological sense.

The same cannot exactly be said for the bat and shrew—the fledermaus and spitzmaus—despite their names. Neither of them is even a rodent or, consequently, a muroid. Then what are they?

In the classification of mammals, a whole series of groupings is traditionally distinguished, usually assigned the rank of order within the class of mammals. Depending on scientific opinion, there are 25 to 30 of these orders of mammals. Rodents comprise one of these orders, to which muroids and several other groups of mammals belong.

Bats, meanwhile, are typical representatives of the order of flying mammals. Their scientific name is Chiroptera, from the Greek words chiros (hand) and pteros (wings). Chiroptera, then, means "hand-flier," which is a fitting name for bats and their closest relatives, flying foxes.

The systematic placement of the shrew, or spitzmaus, is determined in much the same way. They, too, fail to possess the mouse characteristics in question, although they do share traits with moles and hedgehogs, as well as with the solenodon (meaning "slotted tooth"), which is a venomous critter native exclusively to the Caribbean islands. They are now situated under the wondrous designation Eulipotyphla, but only since 1999. How they are related—along with ties to an array of other mammal families, such as tenrecs, desmans, and golden moles—has not been conclusively explained.

Experts have known for a long time—since Linnaeus's Systema Naturae at the latest—that neither bats nor shrews are related to mice, to which common parlance pays no heed. The fledermaus and spitzmaus comfortably maintain their spots in the lexicon.


One of the first mammal biologists to campaign for the standardization of German mammal names was Hermann Pohle. Born in Berlin in 1892, Pohle remained faithful to the city until his death and spent a large part of his life working at the natural history museum there. His career as a mammal biologist started early, when as a university student he worked as an unpaid hireling in the museum's famed mammal collection. Through diligence, endurance, and scientific acumen, he worked his way up to head curator of mammals. He thus held one of the most influential positions, of both national and international significance, in the field of systematic mammal research.

In 1926, Pohle—along with Ludwig Heck, the former director of the Berlin Zoo, and a number of other colleagues—founded the German Society for Mammalogy, of which he was the first head. Pohle thus had his finger on the pulse of mammal research, as it were, and he followed the history of the society over the next five decades "with keen interest," as one biographer noted.

In addition to his work as a researcher and curator of the mammal collection at Berlin's Museum für Naturkunde (Museum of Natural History), Pohle's interests also lay with German mammal names. Not only did he push for standardization of names, Pohle also campaigned to have existing names assessed for scientific plausibility and changed, should they not pass (his) zoological muster.

In 1942, Pohle published a summary article addressing the question, "How many species of mammals live in Germany?" He appended a comprehensive list of all German mammals, each with its correct "technical name," as Pohle called it, as well as its corresponding German name. When it came to the various species of spitzmaus (of which the Germans have eight, incidentally, despite the long-standing impression that there is "the" one and only shrew) and the 16 species of bats that have the base word "fledermaus" in their name, Pohle consistently uses alternative terms. The eight shrew species thus became waldspitzer, zwergspitzer, alpenspitzer, wasserspitzer, mittelspitzer, feldspitzer, gartenspitzer, and hausspitzer. For the bats, the base of their compound name was changed to fleder: teichfleder, langfußfleder, wasserfleder, and so on, all the way to a term of particular elegance, wimperfleder.

Pohle's article, which predates the society's 15th General Assembly and Hitler's emotional veto by more than a year, is a particularly interesting source because he also shares his actual motivations for the suggested changes. His emphatic objective is to see "the term 'Maus' disappear, responsible as it is for laypersons' wont to lump the animals together with actual mice."

In the estimation of these laypersons, mice are something "ugly and destructive that must be fought, or ideally exterminated." Shrews and bats, harmless as they are to humans, are thus subject to the same brutal fate. Pohle hopes for a "shift in perspective" to occur, once the endangered animals are no longer referred to as mice.

What to do, then? Pohle would prefer the term spitz for spitzmaus, but it's already been assigned to a dog breed. Rüssler could also work, only it already applies to some other insectivore. That leaves spitzer, a name that emphasizes the pointy head as a distinguishing characteristic and is still available.

Pohle wants a name for bats without "maus" but happily with a nod to the animals' flying ability. Most names of this kind are already employed for birds, and "flatterer" or "flutterer" could only logically be used for a certain population of bats, namely, those bad at flying. "Flieger" or "flyer," another hot candidate, is also in use by various other animal groups.

But why, Pohle asks the reader, would one even need to say "fledermaus," when "fleder" actually makes perfect sense? Pohle mentions that the original meaning of "fleder" was different, but few people were aware of this fact anymore.

On the off chance that he was correct in this assessment, let it be noted that fledermaus can be traced back to the 10th century, to the Old High German "vledern" or "flattern" (the infinitive form of "flatterer"). The image of the bat as a "fluttering mouse" has existed since this time in many languages, including "flittermouse" in English. A number of other German terms exist for bats. In some regions of Germany, such as Rhineland-Palatinate and Southern Hesse, the Old High German "fledarmus" is said to have been used to describe nocturnal creatures, such as moths. There, bats were apparently called "speckmaus," instead of fledermaus, because while hibernating, they could be seen hanging like pieces of bacon (speck) in the smoke.

Pohle's dedication to promoting the protection of bats and shrews through a bold name change reached its temporary culmination a year later, when—at the 15th General Assembly of the German Society for Mammalogy in Berlin—a resolution was passed on a universal and binding adoption of the spitzer- and fleder-based names Pohle had suggested. The results are known: Hitler was not amused.


We can only guess at what Hitler's actual motive was in issuing such drastic threats to prevent the name alterations proposed by the German Society for Mammalogy. It could have been his outrage that in 1942—hard times because of the war—leading German intellectuals were concerned with something so unimportant and banal as the appropriateness of animal names. Perhaps this anecdote is just a further example of Hitler's hostility toward intellectuals.

It is ultimately unclear, even, to what extent Hitler was the driving force behind this directive or whether this is a case of subordinates "working towards the Führer," as historian Ian Kershaw describes it. Conceivably, after reading the Berliner Morgenpost, Hitler may have remarked negatively regarding the zoologists' plans. His circle—in this case, Bormann—may have immediately interpreted this as "the Führer's will" and sprung to action accordingly. As for Pohle and his colleagues, it can't have mattered much whether the "invitation" to the Eastern Front came directly from Hitler or was communicated in an act of premature obedience.

Whatever the case may be, Pohle's suggested name changes did not fail because of Hitler's intervention, which presumably resonated as little with the German-speaking public as the original notice. Pohle failed because he wanted to take the basic idea of a standardized naming system out of the scientific context and transfer it into the realm of vernacular. Everyday German is not formally and officially regulated, and like every other vernacular, it follows different rules than scientific speech. It is shaped by a multitude of factors and influences that have their own unpredictable dynamic, which leads to some word usages changing while others stabilize.

In kindergarten, we learn that small, furry four-legged animals with a tail are "mice." This act of naming fulfills the exact function expected of it. It "tags" specific linguistic content—a meaning—that is generally understood. The difference between muroids and insectivores, which is important to zoologists, has no application in everyday confrontations with "mouse-like" animals and makes no difference to most people. A mouse is a mouse, whether a striped field mouse or a shrew.


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