DC Comics
DC Comics

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

DC Comics
DC Comics

Every Wednesday, I preview the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, Comixology, Kickstarter and the web. I'm trying a slightly different format this week so let me know what you think.

1. Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years/Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years

By Various
DC Comics

What's it about?
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of Superman, DC is releasing two hardcover volumes dedicated to both Superman and Lois Lane, collecting some of their definitive stories. The Superman volume begins with Action Comics #1, of course, and moves forward from there with selections from the Golden, Silver, Bronze and Modern age of comics that Superman has managed to span.

Some of the many single issue stories collected in the Superman volume include:
- The first ever team up between Superman and Batman from Superman #76 in 1952
- Some Silver age classics illustrated by definitive Superman artists like Curt Swan and Wayne Boring
- Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' classic "For the Man Who Has Everything" from 1985
- The battle with Doomsday in the 1993 issue of Superman #75 that would lead to the Death of Superman event
- And Grant Morrison's recent "The Boy Who Stole Superman's Cape" From Action Comics #0

Meanwhile, the Lois volume includes:
- Some of Lois' first appearances in the early issues of Action Comics
- The marriage of Earth-2 Superman and Earth-2 Lois in Action Comics #48
- John Byrne's re-introduction of Lois Lane in issue 2 of 1986's Man of Steel
- Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's now classic All Star Superman, issues 2 and 3
And lots more.

Why is it interesting?
These are two of the oldest and most loved characters in superhero comics. Seventy-five years is a big deal, and it's nice to see Lois getting equal treatment. Chris Sims over at Comics Alliance gives a thorough rundown of what is included in the Superman volume and what those selections have to say about how DC sees its own hero. He notices that many of the stories here feature more of a sad sack, defeated Superman rather than a heroic, hopeful one.

Still, both of these volumes contain a number of classic stories that show how the presentation of these characters has changed from era to era, and they feature the work of the most definitive Superman creative teams. From Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's original stories of a significantly less super-powered hero fighting gangsters and political corruption in the '30s and '40s to the loopy, sci-fi stories of multiple earths, distant futures and imaginary tales by Otto Binder, Bill Finger, Curt Swan and Wayne Boring in the '50s and '60s. From the post-"Crisis" reboot by John Byrne in 1986 to Superman's death and rebirth in the 1990s and finally Grant Morrison's modern and even post-modern takes of the past few years. Of course, Lois Lane has weathered a lot of changing cultural attitudes towards female comic book characters and it might be most interesting to see how consistent she has been as an uncompromising woman (despite many, many unflattering stories where she is just crushing on Superman and falling for his silly secret identity tricks). Together, all these stories give you a pretty complete picture of Superman and Lois and their trip through 75 years of comic book history. 

2. Black Science #1

Written by Rick Remender; art by Matteo Scalera and Dean White
Image Comics

What's it about?
Grant McKay is a bit of a Randian individualist, a self-educated member of the Anarchist Order of Scientists whose hubris in tampering with the "black science" has trapped himself and his crew in a parallel dimension full of hostile environments and strange, violent creatures. Wracked by guilt for endangering his crew (which includes his own family) and inflicted with doubt that he can't actually save them, McKay must jump them through one horrific alternate reality after another to get them all home.

Why is it interesting?
Rick Remender has become one of Marvel's hottest writers after the surprise hit of his dark and twisted run on Uncanny X-Force. Now he's even writing one of their flagship titles, Uncanny Avengers. What originally put Remender on the map, though, was his penchant for making comics that take pulpy concepts straight out of the EC Comics or dime store paperback novels from the early 20th century and put a modern, gritty, yet human spin on it. 

In Black Science, Remender returns to throwback sci-fi territory similar to his 2004 series Fear Agent but with more of an emphasis on both "weird science" and real science. He has spent some time researching heavy concepts like string theory to give some weight to the story even while it leans heavily towards being a Doc Savage type of adventure full of frog and fish people and laser bull whips. Remender often does a good job of giving his tough guy heroes something for you to latch onto and care about, though, and McKay's love for his family and his fear that he has doomed them may be just that.

Matteo Scalera and colorist Dean White go absolutely crazy with the visuals. White has a unique, painterly approach to his digital colors which helps give this book the feel of a Frank Frazetta painting. In that regard, Andrew Robinson provides an amazing, Frazetta-like cover for the first issue.

You can see for yourself with this four page preview.

3. Peanuts Every Sunday: 1952-1955 Vol. 1

By Charles Schulz

What's it about?
For the past decade, Fantagraphics has been releasing beautiful, bookshelf volumes collecting all of Charles Schulz' Peanuts strips from the beginning to the end. Previously, any Sunday strips have always been reprinted in black and white, but for the first time they are appearing again in color and with great care taken to replicate Schulz' original palettes.

Why is it interesting?
This large format, hardcover book is just an enjoyable experience to look through and a great way to introduce Charlie Brown to younger kids who may not be as keen to look at black and white reprints. Fantagraphics always takes great care with their printing and the colors here are rich but not overly saturated like you might see in other lesser quality reprints.

Being that it collects strips from the first three years, it is fascinating to see how Schulz was still finding his way with some of the characters. Linus and Lucy initially appear as infants for a number of strips before catching up to Charlie Brown's age. Even Charlie's shirt goes through a few different color choices before settling on the classic yellow.

Fantagraphics has more info about the book plus some previews on their website.

4. Animals: Chickens

Written by Eric Grisson; art by Claire Connelly

What's it about?
Depicting life on a small farm, we meet a young girl named Marigold who is itching to get out and live her life. She soon befriends her mother's older, male tenant as troubles arise on the family farm. Oh, did I mention the family are all chickens and they farm and slaughter humans?

Why is it interesting?
There have been a number of great "poultry comics" recently that you might want to even label as "vegetarian comics" because of they way they might make you reconsider your stance on eating chicken. Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan and "Farmer's Dilemma" by Sam Alden come to mind. You can add Eric Grissom and Claire Connelly's "Chickens" to that list. The thing is, Grissom and Connelly mostly avoid tackling the gimmick head-on and instead focus on telling a good story about growing up and chasing your dreams, letting the grisliness of a slaughterhouse for humans lurk in the background. Grissom says this is done "to mimic our own world where we have a vague idea of how our food is made, but mostly we just eat it and go about our business."

"Chickens" is one installment in a planned 4-part series (future installments being "Pigs", "Cows" and "Humans"). Each story will be self-contained but will all revolve around the farm that we see in this story.

Grissom and Connelly are selling "Chickens" through the Gumroad service under a "name-your-own-price" model.

5. Pink

By Kyoko Okazaki
Vertical/Random House

What's it about?
Yumi is a beautiful young woman who, by day, has a regular office job, but at night works as a prostitute. One of the reasons she needs to work two jobs is so that she can afford to feed her pet crocodile.

Why is it interesting?
Vertical is publishing this 1988 manga for the first time in the U.S. as part of their translation and introduction of the work of Kyoko Okazaki to Western audiences. They previously published her 1995 manga Helter Skelter about a fashion model whose excessive use of cosmetic surgery leads to psychological derangement. Okasaki is hard to categorize as her work was intended to appeal to young girls (shōjo manga) but would often deal with controversial and mature subject matter that pushed her into becoming one of the most prominent creators of manga for mature women (josei manga).

Okazaki's work was popular in the '80s and '90s in Japan because of its keen ear towards modern dialogue and because her second career as a fashion illustrator worked its way into how she dressed her characters. It also shows in her style of drawing, although Pink, being one of her earlier works, is considerably less fashiony than her later work on Helter Skelter.

Random House has some more info about the book including where to buy it here.


Please consider helping Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai who is facing insurmountable healthcare costs for his wife. These kinds of healthcare issues are unfortunately very common for the many under-insured comic artists out there.

10 Fascinating Facts About The Scarlet Letter

These days, we tend to think about The Scarlet Letter in relation to high school students struggling with their English papers, but we didn’t always see the book that way. When Nathaniel Hawthorne published the novel on March 16, 1850, it was a juicy bestseller about an adulterous woman forced to wear a scarlet ‘A’ on her chest by a community steeped in religious hypocrisy. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the classic tome.


Hawthorne, who was born in Salem, Massachusetts, was aware of his messy Puritan heritage. His great-great-grandfather William Hathorne came to Salem in 1636. As the Massachusetts Bay delegate, he tried to rid the town of Quakers by having them whipped and dragged through the street half naked. His son, John Hathorne, was even worse. As a magistrate during the Salem witch trials of 1692, he examined more than one hundred accused witches, and found them all guilty. Hawthorne detested this legacy and distanced himself from his ancestors by adding the “W” to the spelling of his name.


Unable to support his family by publishing short stories, Hawthorne took a politically appointed post at the Salem Custom House in 1846. Three years later, he was fired because of a political shakeup. The loss of his job, as well as the death of his mother, depressed Hawthorne, but he was also furious at Salem. "I detest this town so much that I hate to go out into the streets, or to have people see me,” he said.

It was in this mood that he started The Scarlet Letter.


In 1846, Hawthorne's sister-in-law Elizabeth Peabody published the work of Hungarian linguist Charles Kraitsir. Two years later, it was discovered that Kraitsir’s wife had seduced several of his students at the University of Virginia. He left his wife and daughter in Philadelphia and fled to Peabody for help. Peabody responded by going to Philadelphia in an attempt to gain guardianship of the daughter. This didn’t go over so well with the wife. She followed Peabody back to Boston and confronted her husband. In response, Peabody and Kraitsir tried to get her committed to a lunatic asylum. The press got wind of the story and Kraitsir was skewered for looking weak and hiding behind Peabody’s skirts. Hawthorne watched as the scandal surrounding a woman’s affairs played out on the public stage, right as he was starting The Scarlet Letter.


Hawthorne must have known there was historical precedence for The Scarlet Letter. According to a 1658 law in Plymouth, people caught in adultery were whipped and forced “to weare two Capitall letters namely A D cut out in cloth and sowed on theire vpermost Garments on theire arme or backe.” If they ever took the letters off, they would be publicly whipped again. A similar law was enacted in Salem.

In the town of York (now in Maine) in 1651, near where Hawthorne’s family owned property, a woman named Mary Batchellor was whipped 40 lashes for adultery and forced to wear an ‘A’ on her clothes. She was married to Stephen Batchellor, a minister over 80 years old. Sound familiar?


In an 1871 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, editor James T. Fields wrote about being Hawthorne’s champion. Not only did he try to get Hawthorne reinstated in his Custom House post, Fields said he convinced Hawthorne to write The Scarlet Letter as a novel. One day, while trying to encourage the despondent writer ("'Who would risk publishing a book for me, the most unpopular writer in America?' 'I would,' said I"), Fields noticed Hawthorne’s bureau. He said he bet Hawthorne had already written something new and that it was in one of the drawers. Hawthorne, flabbergasted, pulled out a manuscript. “How in Heaven's name did you know this thing was there?” he said. He gave Fields the “germ” of The Scarlet Letter. Fields then persuaded Hawthorne to alter “the plan of that story” and write a full-sized book. The rest is history.

Or is it? Hawthorne’s wife Sophia said of Fields’s claims: “He has made the absurd boast that he was the sole cause of the Scarlet Letter being published!" She added that Edwin Percy Whipple was the one who encouraged Hawthorne.


Hester Prynne is a tall, dignified character who endures her outcast status with grace and strength. Although she has fallen to a low place as an adulteress with an illegitimate child, she becomes a successful seamstress and raises her daughter even though the authorities want to take the child away. As such, she’s a complex character who embodies what happens when a woman breaks societal rules. Hawthorne not only knew accomplished women such as Peabody and Margaret Fuller, he was writing The Scarlet Letter directly after the first women's rights convention in New York in 1848. He was one of the first American writers to depict “women’s rights, women’s work, women in relation to men, and social change,” according to biographer Brenda Wineapple.


As you probably know, Hawthorne hits you in the head with symbolism throughout The Scarlet Letter, starting with the characters’ names—Pearl for an unwanted child, Roger Chillingworth for a twisted, cold man, Arthur Dimmesdale for a man whose education cannot lead him to truth. From the wild woods to the rosebush by the jail to the embroidered ‘A’ itself, it’s easy to see why The Scarlet Letter is the book that launched a thousand literary essays.


In the 87,000-plus words that make up The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne used “ignominy” 16 times, “ignominious” seven times, and “ignominiously” once. He apparently had affection for the word, which means dishonor, infamy, disgrace, or shame. Either that, or he needed a thesaurus.


While the reviews were generally positive, others condemned The Scarlet Letter as smut. For example, this 1851 review by Reverend Arthur Cleveland Coxe: “Why has our author selected such a theme? … Is it, in short, because a running underside of filth has become as requisite to a romance, as death in the fifth act to a tragedy? Is the French era actually begun in our literature? … we honestly believe that "the Scarlet Letter" has already done not a little to degrade our literature, and to encourage social licentiousness.” This kind of rhetoric didn’t hurt sales. In fact, The Scarlet Letter’s initial print run of 2500 books sold out in 10 days.


The Scarlet Letter made Hawthorne a well-known writer, allowed him to purchase a home in Concord, and insured an audience for books like The House of Seven Gables. However, The Scarlet Letter didn’t make Hawthorne rich. Despite its success in the U.S. and abroad, royalties weren’t that great—overseas editions paid less than a penny per copy. Hawthorne only made $1500 from the book over the remaining 14 years of his life. He was never able to escape the money troubles that plagued him.

Warner Bros.
Pop Culture
Is the True Identity of Voldemort's Pet Snake Hidden in the New Fantastic Beasts Trailer?
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

In the Harry Potter series, many of Voldemort's horcruxes were give rich backstories, like Tom Riddle's diary, Marvolo Gaunt's ring, and of course, Harry himself. But the most personal horcrux containing a fragment of Voldemort's soul is also the biggest mystery. Voldemort carries Nagini the snake with him wherever he goes, but we still don't know how the two met or where Nagini came from. Fans may not have to wait much longer to find out: One fan theory laid out by Vanity Fair suggests that Nagini is actually a cursed witch, and her true identity will be revealed in the next Fantastic Beasts movie.

On March 13, the trailer dropped for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the second installment in the Harry Potter prequel series written by J.K. Rowling. The clips include lots of goodies for fans—including a first look at Jude Law as young Dumbledore—but one potential bombshell requires closer examination.

Pay attention at the 1:07 mark in the video below and you'll see Claudia Kim, the actress playing a new, unnamed character in the film. While we don't know much about her yet, Pottermore tells us that she is a Maledictus or “someone who suffers from a ‘blood curse’ that turns them into a beast.” This revelation led some fans to suspect the beast she transforms into is Nagini, the snake destined to be Voldemort's companion.

That isn't the only clue backing up the theory. The second piece of evidence comes in the trailer at the 1:17 mark: There, you can see an advertisement for a "wizarding circus," featuring a poster of a woman resembling Kim constricted a by massive snake.

If Kim's character does turn out to be Nagini, the theory still doesn't explain how she eventually joins forces with Voldemort and becomes his horcrux. Fans will have to wait until the film's release on November 16, 2018 for answers. Fortunately, there are plenty of other Harry Potter fan theories to study up on in the meantime.

[h/t Vanity Fair]


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