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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. 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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Disney/Marvel
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entertainment
The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now
Disney/Marvel
Disney/Marvel

If you’re in the mood for some speculative fiction and your pile of Arthur C. Clarke books has been exhausted, you could do worse than to tune in to Netflix. The streaming service is constantly acquiring new films in the sci-fi and fantasy genres that should satisfy most fans of alternative futures. Here are five of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix right now.

1. CUBE (1997)

This low-budget independent film may have helped inspire the current "escape room" attraction fad. Six strangers wake up in a strange room that leads only to other rooms—all of them equipped with increasingly sadistic ways of murdering occupants.

2. METROPOLIS (1927)

Inspiring everything from Star Wars to Lady Gaga, Fritz Lang’s silent epic about a revolt among the oppressed people who help power an upper-class city remains just as visually impressive today as it did nearly 100 years ago.

3. TROLL HUNTER (2010)

A Norwegian fairy tale with bite, Troll Hunter follows college-aged filmmakers who convince a bear trapper to take them along on his exploits. But the trapper fails to disclose one crucial detail: He hunts towering, aggressive trolls.

4. NEXT (2007)

Nic Cage stars a a magician who can see a few minutes into the future. He's looking to profit with the skill: the FBI and others are looking to exploit it.

5. THE HOST (2006)

A slow-burn monster movie from South Korea, The Host has plenty of tense scenes coupled with a message about environmental action: The river-dwelling beast who stalks a waterfront town is the product of chemical dumping.  

6. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2 (2017)

Marvel's tale of a misfit band of space jockeys was a surprise hit in 2014. The sequel offers more Groot, more Rocket Raccoon, and the addition of Kurt Russell as a human manifestation of an entire sentient planet.

7. STARDUST (2007)

Director Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel features Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro as supporting players in the tale of a man (a pre-Daredevil Charlie Cox) in search of a fallen star to gift to his love.

8. KING KONG (2005)

Director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) set his considerable sights on a remake of the 1933 classic, with the title gorilla pestered and exploited by opportunistic humans.

9. DONNIE DARKO (2001)

What will a teenage mope do when a giant rabbit tells him the world is about to end? The answer comes in this critical and cult hit, which drew attention for its moody cinematography and an arresting performance by a then-unknown Jake Gyllenhaal.  

10. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)

Soon we'll have a movie for every single major or minor incident ever depicted in the Star Wars universe. For now, we'll have to settle for this one-off that explains how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the plans for the Death Star.

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Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain
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Weird
9 False Rumors With Real-Life Consequences
King Louis XV of France
King Louis XV of France
Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Don’t believe everything you read—or everything you hear. Unverified but plausible-sounding rumors have been the basis for violent death and destruction throughout history, whether or not the stories had anything to do with the truth.

In their book A Colorful History of Popular Delusions, Robert Bartholomew and Peter Hassall describe rumors as “stories of perceived importance that lack substantiating evidence.” They also note that the sociologist Tamotsu Shibutani describes rumors as “improvised news,” which tends to spread when the demand for information exceeds supply. Such an information deficit most often occurs during wars and other crises, which might explain why some rumors have had such dramatic results. Here’s a selection of some of the most interesting rumors with real-life results collected in Bartholomew and Hassall’s book.

1. KING LOUIS XV WAS KIDNAPPING CHILDREN.

In 1750, children began disappearing from the streets of Paris. No one seemed to know why, and worried parents began rioting in the streets. In the midst of the panic, a rumor broke out that King Louis XV had become a leper and was kidnapping children so that he could bathe in their blood (at the time, bathing in the blood of children was thought by some to be an effective leprosy cure).

The rumor did have a tiny kernel of truth: Authorities were taking children away, but not to the king’s palace. A recently enacted series of ordinances designed to clear the streets of “undesirables” had led some policemen—who were paid per arrest—to overstep their authority and take any children they found on the streets to houses of detention. Fortunately, most were eventually reunited with their parents, and rumors of the king’s gruesome bathing rituals were put to rest.

2. LONDON WAS GOING TO BE DESTROYED BY AN EARTHQUAKE.

Two small earthquakes struck London at the beginning of 1761, leading to rumors that the city was due for “the big one” on April 5, 1761. Supposedly, a psychic had predicted the catastrophe. Much of the populace grew so panicked that they fled town for the day, with those who couldn’t afford fancier lodgings camping out in the fields. One soldier was so convinced of the impending doom that he ran through the streets shouting news of London’s imminent destruction; sadly, he ended up in an insane asylum a few months later.

3. JEWS WERE POISONING WELLS.

A deep well
iStock

Reports that Jews ritually sacrificed Christian children were not uncommon during the Middle Ages, but things took a particularly terrible turn during the spread of the Black Plague. In the 14th century, thousands of Jews were killed in response to rumors that Satan was protecting them from the plague in exchange for poisoning the wells of Christians. In 1321 in Guienne, France alone, an estimated 5000 Jews were burned alive for supposedly poisoning wells. Other communities expelled the Jews, or burned entire settlements to the ground. Brandenburg, Germany, even passed a law denouncing Jews for poisoning wells—which of course they weren't.

4. BRIGANDS WERE TERRORIZING THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE.

In July 1789, amid the widespread fear and instability on the eve of the French revolution, rumors spread that the anti-revolutionary nobility had planted brigands (robbers) to terrorize the peasants and steal their stores of food. Lights from furnaces, bonfires, and even the reflection of the setting sun were sometimes taken to be signs of brigands, with panic as the predictable result. Provincial towns and villages formed militias in response to the rumors, even though, as historian Georges Lefebvre put it, “the populace scared themselves.” In one typical incident, near Troyes on July 24, 1789, a group of brigands were supposedly spotted heading into some woods; an alarm was sounded and 3000 men gave chase. The “brigands” turned out to be a herd of cattle.

5. GERMAN-AMERICANS WERE PLOTTING SNEAK ATTACKS ON CANADA.

Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police marching in a Canada Day parade
iStock

Canada entered World War I in 1914, three years before the United States did. During the gap period, rumors circulated that German-Americans sympathetic to their country of origin were planning surprise attacks on Canada. One of the worst offenders of such rumor-mongering, according to authors Bartholomew and Hassall, was British consul-general Sir Courtenay Bennett, then stationed in New York. In the early months of 1915, Bennett made “several sensational claims about a plan in which as many as 80,000 well-armed, highly trained Germans who had been drilling in Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York, were planning to invade Canada from northwestern New York state.” Bizarre as it may sound, there was so much anxiety and suspicion during the period that Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden requested a report on the story, which the Canadian police commissioner determined to be without any foundation whatsoever.

6. THE INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT WAS HUNTING HEADS FOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS.

In certain parts of Indonesia, locals reportedly believe—or once did—that large-scale construction projects require human heads to keep the structures from crumbling. In 1937, one island was home to a spate of rumors saying that a tjoelik (government-sanctioned headhunter) was looking for a head to place near a local jetty construction project. Locals reported strange noises and sights, houses pelted with stones, and attacks from tjoelik wielding nooses or cowboy lassos. Similar rumors surfaced in 1979 in Indonesian Borneo, when government agents were supposedly seeking a head for a new bridge project, and in 1981 in Southern Borneo, when the government headhunters supposedly needed heads to stabilize malfunctioning equipment in nearby oil fields. Terrified townspeople began curtailing their activities so as not to be in public any longer than necessary, although the rumors eventually died down.

7. POWERFUL APHRODISIAC GUM WENT ON SALE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

An assortment of sticks of pink bubble gum
iStock

In the mid-1990s, the Middle East was home to some alarming rumors about aphrodisiacal gum. In 1996 in Mansoura, Egypt, stories began spreading that students at the town’s university had purchased gum deliberately spiked with an aphrodisiac and were having orgies as a result. One local member of parliament said the gum had been distributed by the Israeli government as part of a plot to corrupt Egyptian youth. Mosque loudspeakers began warning people to avoid the gum, which was supposedly sold under the names “Aroma” or “Splay.” Authorities closed down some shops and made arrests, but never did find any tainted gum. Similar rumors cropped up the following year in the Gaza Strip, this time featuring a strawberry gum that turned women into prostitutes—supposedly, the better to convince them to become Shin Bet informants for the Israeli military.

8. SORCERERS WERE PLAGUING INDONESIA.

In the fall of 1998, a sorcerer scare in East Java, Indonesia, resulted in the deaths of several villagers. The country was in crisis, and while protests raged in major cities, some in the rural area of Banyuwangi began agitating for restitution for past wrongs allegedly committed by sorcerers. The head of the local district ordered authorities to move the suspected sorcerers to a safe location, a process that included a check-in at the local police station. Unfortunately, villagers took the suspects’ visits to police stations as proof of their sorcery and began killing them. Anthropologists who studied the incident said the stories of supposed sorcery—making neighbors fall sick, etc.—were based entirely on rumor and gossip.

9. OBAMA WAS INJURED BY A WHITE HOUSE EXPLOSION.

These days, rumors have advanced technology to help them travel. On April 23, 2013, a fake tweet from a hacked Associated Press account claimed that explosions at the White House had injured Barack Obama. That lone tweet caused instability on world financial markets, and the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index lost $130 billion in a short period. Fortunately, it quickly recovered. (Eagle-eyed journalists were suspicious of the tweet from the beginning, since it didn’t follow AP style of referring to the president with his title and capitalizing the word breaking.)

An earlier version of this story ran in 2015.

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