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Image Comics

5 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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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. The Sandman: Overture #1


Written by Neil Gaiman; Art by J.H. Williams III
DC Vertigo

This week brings us one of the biggest comic events of the year, as acclaimed writer and novelist Neil Gaiman returns to his signature comics work. The Sandman: Overture is a six issue prequel to the original series that will answer the question of how Morpheus could have been so easily captured when we first meet him at the start of The Sandman #1. It's a question that Gaiman says he always knew the answer to but never got around to telling until now.

If you're not already familiar with The Sandman, it was once DC Comics' best selling title and a flagship of its mature readers Vertigo imprint. It ran from 1989 until the overarching story was completed with the 75th issue in 1996. Centering around a family of beings known as The Endless who personified the forces that make up the universe as we know it, the story's protagonist was the sibling known as Dream, aka Morpheus or The Sandman. 

Twenty-five years after it began, it's still considered one of the high points of the medium. With the literary nature of its stories, The Sandman appealed to a very different audience than was typically reading comics at that time, particularly high school and college-aged women (a target that comics have not gotten much better at hitting since then). Gaiman was catapulted to stardom by its success and, though he still writes the occasional comic (like the recently announced return to another of his early works, Miracleman), he has moved primarily into a successful career as a novelist and is truly one of the most respected and well known names to come out of this industry. 

Joining Gaiman for this mini-series is artist J.H. Williams III, who most recently was writing and drawing DC's Batwoman series. Williams is a perfect choice of artist for this book. His mind-blowingly intricate and ornate page layouts help give his projects a mythical sense of scope, such as he did in the past with Alan Moore's Promethea or Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers. In addition, original series cover artist Dave McKean will provide alternate covers for the series.

It wouldn't be unreasonable to look at this as another return to the well on DC Comics' part. Last year's Before Watchmen, a prequel to another of their revered classics, Watchmen, sold well despite disapproval from a significant, vocal portion of the fanbase who found the idea to be a desecration of the original book and an insult to its creator. With Gaiman enthusiastically onboard for Sandman, though, this is a pretty controversy-free no-brainer for the publisher and it's safe to say it will be one of the best selling comics of 2013.

2. Revival Vol. 1 Deluxe Hardcover


Written by Tim Seeley; art by Mike Norton; covers by Jenny Frison
Image Comics

With Halloween coming up, there is no shortage of great horror comics out there to choose from, but this week brings a deluxe hardcover edition of one of the surprise hits of the past year, Revival. At first read of the book's description, you may think Revival is yet another zombie comic, lumbering after the unexpected success of fellow Image Comics blockbuster, The Walking Dead. There have been a LOT of zombie comics coming out since The Walking Dead and it doesn't seem like we'd need another one, but writer Tim Seeley has a different take on the dead coming back to life. When the dead come back to life in this one small town in rural Wisconsin, they are not brainless, flesh eating monsters. They are pretty much the same people they were before they died, except they are now dealing with the post-traumatic stress of experiencing their own death. And those around them are now trying to deal with the shocking phenomena of friends and loved ones coming back to life. How is this happening? Is it a religious miracle or an unexplainable nightmare?

Seeley refers to Revival as "rural noir," which perhaps gives you a hint that he's looking to tell a story that's less about horror film plot devices and more about the characters and the complicated choices they make. The cold, Midwestern setting also brings to mind the Coen Brothers' modern crime noir Fargo. Like that film, Revival also focuses on a female police officer as the heart of the story. Officer Dana Cypress has recently been assigned to the Revitalized Citizen Arbitration Division. Her hard-nosed dad is the sheriff and because of a decision that Dana makes, her college-age sister Em dies and becomes a Reviver herself.

Revival is drawn by Mike Norton, who is perhaps best known for his award-winning webcomic Battlepug. He works in a very clean, classic style that may seem too clean for a horror comic but really works in the context of showing the juxtaposition of the supernatural within a mundane setting. Possibly the underappreciated star of this book is Jenny Frison who provides stunning, ethereal covers for every issue. Her work here puts this book into a category usually populated by Vertigo books like the aforementioned Sandman or Fables, where you just know there are people out there buying this comic just for the covers every month.

With 14 issues now released and many of the early issues complete sellouts, Image Comics is giving Revival the deluxe treatment that helped propel The Walking Dead to huge bookstore success in its early years. This special hardcover will collect the first 11 issues, plus a Free Comic Book Day one shot and some behind the scenes bonus material.

3. Uncivilized Books Fall 2013 Subscription


Published by Tom Kaczynski
Uncivilized Books


Cartoonist Tom Kaczynski began Uncivilized Books simply as a "house" name to more easily self-publish his own comics under. Soon he began publishing mini comics made by his friends and in a few short years has turned it into one of the most exciting new publishers in the world of independent literary comics, with books by some great and important cartoonists like Gabrielle Bell and David B.

Uncivilized Books recently announced their new Fall catalog and for a limited time are offering all 5 of these soon-to-be-released books for a discounted price of $65 (US) with free shipping. The highlight of the collection is a new graphic novel from renowned French cartoonist Joann Sfar called Pascin, about the life of the Jewish modernist painter of the same name. In addition there is Sophie Yanow's War of Streets and Houses, a reflection on the military origins of urban planning that she wrote during her participation in the Montreal student strikes in 2012, and That Night, A Fern Monster by Marzena Sowa and Berenika Kołomycka which is an all-ages children's comic about a boy whose mom gets turned into a fern.

The most interesting parts of the Fall catalog however are two books in Uncivilized's new "Critical Cartoons" series that seek to give a platform to new critical voices and let them explore a particular comics subject in thoughtful, provocative, long-form essays. The first is Ed vs. Yummy Fur by Brian Evenson which takes a look at Chester Brown's highly influential one-man anthology comic from the '90s Yummy Fur (which contained the original serialization of his now classic Ed The Happy Clown) and includes a new interview with the cartoonist. The second is Carl Barks' Duck: Your Average American by Peter Schilling Jr, examining Barks' classic 20-year run writing and drawing Donald Duck comics for Disney which, to this day, are considered some of the finest comics ever produced.

When I was a kid, you used to be able to subscribe to a comic like Amazing Spider-man and get every issue that came out mailed to your house (hey, maybe they still do this, who knows). A number of small and boutique publishers like Uncivilized Books have taken a variation of this model and offer "line-wide" subscriptions to pre-order their entire catalog. It's a sure win for the publisher and helps them guarantee a print run, but it's also a great deal for readers that enjoy getting some new and interesting comics in the mail on a periodic basis. In fact, the first 50 subscribers will also get three new mini comics sent to them for free. The offer only lasts until Nov. 15th.

Read more about the books and sign up here.

4. Dogs of War


Written by Sheila Keenan; art by Nathan Fox; colors by Rico Renzi and Guy Major
Scholastic

Scholastic's newest school-friendly graphic novel from their Graphix line is Dogs of War, a collection of three stories showing how canines have been brave and loyal members of the military in battle. While each story is fiction, they are inspired by true events.

The first story is set in the trenches of Belgium during World War I and stars Boots, a medic's dog trained to sniff out survivors in the aftermath of battle. She and the Scottish medic she assists get separated from their unit and taken in by a group of Irish soldiers. The second story takes place during World War II on a US base in Greenland and features a sled dog named Loki who comes in handy with navigating arctic, whiteout conditions when investigating a downed plane. The third story tells about a Vietnam vet who fought with a dog named Sheba that was trained to patrol for booby traps in the jungle.

Sheila Keenan, a writer who has written a number of illustrated non-fiction books for kids, teams with illustrator and comic artist Nathan Fox, most recently known for his cover work for DC's FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics series. Together they have obviously put in a lot of military research for this book. Interestingly, for an all-ages audience, they do not shy away from viscerally depicting the horrors of war and its effects on both people and animals. Particularly in the third chapter about Vietnam, there are some heart-wrenching scenes involving both the war itself and the haunting after-effects it has left the soldier with.

Fox is an amazing artist whose slightly exaggerated figures and ink-heavy brushwork usually lend his work a creepy and psychedelic feeling. It's interesting to see him dial that back a little here with a cleaner, more direct approach, yet the edge that is normally apparent in his previous books like Pigeons from Hell or Fluorescent Black still peeks through, especially when he's drawing battle scenes or simply setting the stage with grungy, muddy and foreboding battlegrounds. 



Dogs of War is available on Amazon now and in many comic shops and bookstores. You can read a pretty extensive preview on Amazon here.

5. Bad Houses


Written by Sara Ryan; art by Carla Speed McNeil
Dark Horse

Bad Houses is a new graphic novel that seems to be getting some really positive early word of mouth around the web. Warren Ellis said it was the best graphic novel he's read all year. Set in a small town in Oregon, it's about two teenagers, Anne and Lewis, who meet at an estate sale. Lewis' mother runs the sales in town, selling off the used junk from homes of deceased owners or that have been foreclosed on, while Anne comes from a family of hoarders. Both are trying not to become just like their parents but over the course of the book they learn a lot about themselves and about the histories of their families and of their town.

Sara Ryan is a novelist of young adult fiction and has won awards for her book Empress of the World and its sequel The Rules for Hearts. She's also very involved in comics, being a member of Portland's Periscope Studios and having written short comics for various anthologies including Hellboy: Weird Tales. This is her first graphic novel and she's paired with artist Carla Speed McNeil, best known for her award-winning series Finder that she has been writing, drawing and self-publishing since the 1990s. McNeil has a really appealing, clean and precise cartooning style. Even when illustrating more sci-fi oriented fare like Finder, her strength is in realistic gestures and expressions, so it makes sense to see her working on a character-driven story like this. For a publisher like Dark Horse that tends to be thought of as producing mostly horror and sci-fi material, it is also nice to see them expanding their line into a more comics-lit territory.

You can read a preview or order it online here.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

The Fox #1
Mark Waid and Dean Haspiel team up for a revival of a pulp-era superhero called The Fox that is published through an imprint of Archie Comics, believe it or not. Preview the material here.

Rage of Poseidon
Anders Nilsen's latest graphic novel is about Poseidon in the 21st Century and is drawn all with silhouettes in a horizontal, accordion-style fold out book. Preview it here.

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8 of the Weirdest Gallup Polls
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Born in Jefferson, Iowa on November 18, 1901, George Gallup studied journalism and psychology, focusing on how to measure readers’ interest in newspaper and magazine content. In 1935, he founded the American Institute of Public Opinion to scientifically measure public opinions on topics such as government spending, criminal justice, and presidential candidates. Although he died in 1984, The Gallup Poll continues his legacy of trying to determine and report the will of the people in an unbiased, independent way. To celebrate his day of birth, we compiled a list of some of the weirdest, funniest Gallup polls over the years.

1. THREE IN FOUR AMERICANS BELIEVE IN THE PARANORMAL (2005)

According to this Gallup poll, 75 percent of Americans have at least one paranormal belief. Specifically, 41 percent believe in extrasensory perception (ESP), 37 percent believe in haunted houses, and 21 percent believe in witches. What about channeling spirits, you might ask? Only 9 percent of Americans believe that it’s possible to channel a spirit so that it takes temporary control of one's body. Interestingly, believing in paranormal phenomena was relatively similar across people of different genders, races, ages, and education levels.

2. ONE IN FIVE AMERICANS THINK THE SUN REVOLVES AROUND THE EARTH (1999)

In this poll, Gallup tried to determine the popularity of heliocentric versus geocentric views. While 79 percent of Americans correctly stated that the Earth revolves around the sun, 18 percent think the sun revolves around the Earth. Three percent chose to remain indifferent, saying they had no opinion either way.

3. 22 PERCENT OF AMERICANS ARE HESITANT TO SUPPORT A MORMON (2011)

Gallup first measured anti-Mormon sentiment back in 1967, and it was still an issue in 2011, a year before Mormon Mitt Romney ran for president. Approximately 22 percent of Americans said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate, even if that candidate belonged to their preferred political party. Strangely, Americans’ bias against Mormons has remained stable since the 1960s, despite decreasing bias against African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and women.

4. MISSISSIPPIANS GO TO CHURCH THE MOST; VERMONTERS THE LEAST (2010)

This 2010 poll amusingly confirms the stereotype that southerners are more religious than the rest of the country. Although 42 percent of all Americans attend church regularly (which Gallup defines as weekly or almost weekly), there are large variations based on geography. For example, 63 percent of people in Mississippi attend church regularly, followed by 58 percent in Alabama and 56 percent in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Utah. Rounding out the lowest levels of church attendance, on the other hand, were Vermont, where 23 percent of residents attend church regularly, New Hampshire, at 26 percent, and Maine at 27 percent.

5. ONE IN FOUR AMERICANS DON’T KNOW WHICH COUNTRY AMERICA GAINED INDEPENDENCE FROM (1999)

Although 76 percent of Americans knew that the United States gained independence from Great Britain as a result of the Revolutionary War, 24 percent weren’t so sure. Two percent thought the correct answer was France, 3 percent said a different country (such as Mexico, China, or Russia), and 19 percent had no opinion. Certain groups of people who consider themselves patriotic, including men, older people, and white people (according to Gallup polls), were more likely to know that America gained its independence from Great Britain.

6. ONE THIRD OF AMERICANS BELIEVE IN GHOSTS (2000)

This Halloween-themed Gallup poll asked Americans about their habits and behavior on the last day of October. Predictably, two-thirds of Americans reported that someone in their house planned to give candy to trick-or-treaters and more than three-quarters of parents with kids reported that their kids would wear a costume. More surprisingly, 31 percent of American adults claimed to believe in ghosts, an increase from 1978, when only 11 percent of American adults admitted to a belief in ghosts.

7. 5 PERCENT OF WORKING MILLENNIALS THRIVE IN ALL FIVE ELEMENTS OF WELL-BEING (2016)

This recent Gallup poll is funny in a sad way, as it sheds light on the tragicomic life of a millennial. In this poll, well-being is defined as having purpose, social support, manageable finances, a strong community, and good physical health. Sadly, only 5 percent of working millennials—defined as people born between 1980 and 1996—were thriving in these five indicators of well-being. To counter this lack of well-being, Gallup’s report recommends that managers promote work-life balance and improve their communication with millennial employees.

8. THE WORLD IS BECOMING SLIGHTLY MORE NEGATIVE (2014)

If you seem to feel more stress, sadness, anxiety, and pain than ever before, Gallup has the proof that it’s not all in your head. According to the company’s worldwide negative experience index, negative feelings such as stress, sadness, and anger have increased since 2007. Unsurprisingly, people living in war-torn, dangerous parts of the word—Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Sierra Leone—reported the highest levels of negative emotions.

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11 Times Mickey Mouse Was Banned
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Despite being one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved characters, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Mickey Mouse, who turns 89 years old today. A number of countries—and even U.S. states—have banned the cartoon rodent at one time or another for reasons both big and small.

1. In 1930, Ohio banned a cartoon called “The Shindig” because Clarabelle Cow was shown reading Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn, the premier romance novelist of the time. Check it out (1:05) and let us know if you’re scandalized:

2. With movies on 10-foot screen being a relatively new thing in Romania in 1935, the government decided to ban Mickey Mouse, concerned that children would be terrified of a monstrous rodent.

3. In 1929, a German censor banned a Mickey Mouse short called “The Barnyard Battle.” The reason? An army of cats wearing pickelhauben, the pointed helmets worn by German military in the 19th and 20th centuries: "The wearing of German military helmets by an army of cats which oppose a militia of mice is offensive to national dignity. Permission to exhibit this production in Germany is refused.”

4. The German dislike for Mickey Mouse continued into the mid-'30s, with one German newspaper wondering why such a small and dirty animal would be idolized by children across the world: "Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed ... Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal.” Mickey was originally banned from Nazi Germany, but eventually the mouse's popularity won out.

5. In 2014, Iran's Organization for Supporting Manufacturers and Consumers announced a ban on school supplies and stationery products featuring “demoralizing images,” including that of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, and characters from Toy Story.

6. In 1954, East Germany banned Mickey Mouse comics, claiming that Mickey was an “anti-Red rebel.”

7. In 1937, a Mickey Mouse adventure was so similar to real events in Yugoslavia that the comic strip was banned. State police say the comic strip depicted a “Puritan-like revolt” that was a danger to the “Boy King,” Peter II of Yugoslavia, who was just 14 at the time. A journalist who wrote about the ban was consequently escorted out of the country.

8. Though Mussolini banned many cartoons and American influences from Italy in 1938, Mickey Mouse flew under the radar. It’s been said that Mussolini’s children were such Mickey Mouse fans that they were able to convince him to keep the rodent around.

9. Mickey and his friends were banned from the 1988 Seoul Olympics in a roundabout way. As they do with many major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, Disney had contacted American favorites to win in each event to ask them to say the famous “I’m going to Disneyland!” line if they won. When American swimmer Matt Biondi won the 100-meter freestyle, he dutifully complied with the request. After a complaint from the East Germans, the tape was pulled and given to the International Olympic Committee.

10. In 1993, Mickey was banned from a place he shouldn't have been in the first place: Seattle liquor stores. As a wonderful opening sentence from the Associated Press explained, "Mickey Mouse, the Easter Bunny and teddy bears have no business selling booze, the Washington State Liquor Control Board has decided." A handful of stores had painted Mickey and other characters as part of a promotion. A Disney VP said Mickey was "a nondrinker."

11. Let's end with another strike against The Shindig (see #1) and Clarabelle’s bulging udder. Less than a year after the Shindig ban, the Motion Picture Producers and Directors of America announced that they had received a massive number of complaints about the engorged cow udders in various Mickey Mouse cartoons.

From then on, according to a 1931 article in Time magazine, “Cows in Mickey Mouse ... pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed others. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting with the cow stood still.”

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