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Marvel Comics

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics

Every Wednesday, I preview the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, Comixology, Kickstarter and the web.

1. Parker: Slayground

By Darwyn Cooke; Adapted from the novel by Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald Westlake)
IDW

What's it about?
After his latest heist goes south, professional criminal and tough guy Parker has to hide out in a closed up amusement park where he is pursued by rogue cops and local mobsters. Slayground, the fourth adaptation of the classic Richard Stark crime novels by Darwyn Cooke, is a cat-and-mouse thriller set entirely in said amusement park.

What makes it interesting?
Darwyn Cooke's love of the original Parker novels has inspired some of his best work in those first three graphic novels and he hasn't seemed to run out of steam yet. In fact, he's still planning on doing at least two more after this one. If you're a fan of crime stories, these are about as sure of a thing as you can ask for since they give you one of the great comic book storytellers of the 21st century adapting works from one of the great crime novelists of the 20th century. 

It's always interesting to see how a writer adapts a work from one medium into another. This particular entry in the original Parker series seems fairly straightforward compared to some of the other more complex, heist-oriented plots, but it's also more action-oriented and hence ripe for a more visual approach. It also may be one of the most loved by fans of the novels. The entire book takes place within the amusement park and it is all about the thrill of the chase. And how can you not be excited about seeing Cooke draw these scenes set in a shadowy, abandoned vintage amusement park?

In addition to including a map of the amusement park for you to follow the action with, this hardcover volume reprints a short story called "The 7th" that originally appeared in the Parker collection called The Martini Edition.

Read the amazing looking first few pages of Slayground here.

2. Marvel Knights: Hulk #1

Written by Joe Keatinge; art by Piotr Kowalski; colors by Nick Filardi
Marvel Comics

What's it about?
Bruce Banner wakes up on the bank of the Seine with no recollection of who he is, how he got there and what he's capable of turning into. Meanwhile, he's being pursued, and is about to find out he's not the only one out there capable of turning into the Hulk. This is the first issue of a new 4-issue mini-series published under the revived Marvel Knights imprint.

What makes it interesting?
Marvel Knights was started in the late 1990s within Marvel Comics, which was at that point struggling both creatively and financially. It quickly became the center of a creative renaissance within the company that launched the careers of creators like Brian Michael Bendis and future Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada. Marvel Knights was a line of books where new creative voices were encouraged to try different things with popular Marvel characters without being overly concerned with continuity among other Marvel titles. In 2006, the various Marvel Knights titles were folded back into the regular Marvel Universe, but now they're trying it again with three mini-series (others include Marvel Knights: Spider-man and Marvel Knights: X-men), showcasing work by relatively new indie creators. 

Joe Keatinge is a writer perhaps best known for his successful 2011 relaunch of Rob Liefeld's Glory while Piotr Kowalski has done a lot of work in the French comics market but is most recently known for his Image book Sex with writer Joe Casey. They have what sounds like an exciting plot for this series and are giving it an approach that is more sophisticated than your typical Hulk comic. Its focus on Banner on the run and its shift away from over-the-top super heroics are reminiscent of Bruce Jones' run from 2001. Keatinge has described his take on the Hulk as being "the American Nightmare" and the "anti-Captain America." Where Captain America represents the American Ideal, the Hulk is the embodiment of our nation's sins committed under the guise of national security. "Captain America is our victory of Normandy; The Hulk is our shame of Nagasaki."

Keatinge and Kowalski also have taken their inspiration from European comics and cinema as they tell a story that starts in Paris and hops all over the world in the span of 4 issues. Keatinge talks about influences from Hugo Pratt's comic Corto Maltese and Jean Luc Godard's French New Wave film Breathless which is certainly an intriguing way to come at a Hulk comic and certainly has my attention.

Check out some preview images and an interview with Joe Keatinge here.

3. Warren Publishing Archive

Archive.org

What is it?
Archive.org has a vast collection of scanned magazines from Warren Publishing such as Creepy, Blazing Combat and Vampirella. These magazines were originally published in the '60s and '70s and are available in various reprinted formats now, but these scans are free to read and are from the original publications. Most are decidedly adult in content but feature work by some of the greatest artists of that era. 

What makes it interesting?
After the advent of the Comics Code in the 1950s, James Warren found a way around its restrictions by publishing comics in magazine format, claiming that the content restrictions did not apply to magazines. This allowed his company to publish horror and sci-fi comics featuring nudity, violence, and adult themes that regular comics could not go anywhere near. These magazines were very influential and appealed to a lot of readers who wanted darker, edgier, weirder material than standard American comics could provide. Anthology-style magazines like Creepy, 1984 and The Rook would often showcase renowned artists like Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Richard Corben, Wally Wood, Johnny Craig and Bernie Wrightson. Vampirella (which featured stories about a sexy alien from a doomed planet rich with blood that comes to Earth to feed criminals and evil doers) was often drawn by amazing Spanish artists such as José Gonzalez.

Warren's magazines were a precursor to other mature-reader anthology magazines that would come to popularity in the 1980s like Heavy Metal and Epic. Some of the artists that would appear in those publications were first seen in Warren's.

A large number of these Warren magazines are now available to read for free on the Internet Archive at Archive.org. You can read them via a simple web browser interface or download PDFs or hi-res JPEGs for offline reading. Although much of this material has been reprinted in various bookshelf-friendly formats, these scans seem to be from the original magazines and even include some of the ads that appeared inside. The Internet Archive is a non-profit dedicated to preserving reading material online for the purpose of research and reference. Artists and art lovers will surely enjoy perusing these pages. Just be aware that it may not be appropriate for younger art lovers.

In addition to the comics, Warren published a number of movie magazines such as Famous Monsters of Filmland that are included in this collection as well. Plus, it also includes the mid-'70s The Spirit magazine which reprinted Will Eisner's classic strip of the same name from the 1940s. This is a treasure trove of classic material available for free.

Browse the archive for free here.

4. Doc Savage #1

Written by Chris Roberson; art by Bilquis Evely; covers by Alex Ross
Dynamite Entertainment

What's it about?
The classic pulp hero from the '40s returns in a new ongoing series.

What makes it interesting?
There have been many attempts to revive the Doc Savage brand in comics over the years and most usually fizzle out pretty quickly. The character has been a big influence on most of the superheroes that have come after him and we've seen a lot of what made him great remixed into other characters over the years, most notably in Alan Moore's Tom Strong.
In many ways, Savage suffers from the same problem that crippled the recent John Carter film from Disney. After we've seen so many homages to a classic character, it becomes hard for new audiences to not think they're seeing something cliche when the classic is revisited.

Chris Roberson is a writer who has himself worked a lot of what he loved about Doc Savage into other characters he's written. Now he has the opportunity to take the real thing and give it another attempt at a refresh. Roberson's approach will be to start the book in the 1940s (the era Doc Savage originated in) and, over the course of the first 8 issues, bring him forward into present day.

Roberson is joined by Brazilian artist Bilquis Evely who draws in a very clean, realist style that fits very well with the Dynamite aesthetic they've been fostering, especially among their various pulp-oriented books. For covers, superstar artist Alex Ross is providing the gravitas needed to make these books look and feel on par with some of the covers of the classic Doc Savage paperback novels of the past.

Read a pretty long preview here.

5. Justice League 3000 #1

Written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis; art by Howard Porter
DC Comics

What's it about?
Set in the 31st Century, a new Justice League has formed with familiar heroes like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash. But who are these heroes of the future?

What makes it interesting?
The interesting thing is probably how little we know about this book going into it. DC and writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis are keeping pretty tight-lipped on details about the course of this book and the identity of the heroes. Considering that DC recently cancelled its other 31st century book Legion of Superheroes, it's a reasonable guess that this would tie into it in some way, but the writers claim it is its own thing. They also say that the heroes are not the heroes we know and are not descendants, so we'll see where this goes.

Giffen and DeMatteis are fondly remembered for their various humorous runs on the Justice League starting back in the mid-'80s. Their usual partner on those books, Kevin Maguire, was originally slated to draw Justice League 3000 but for reasons unknown was removed from the book and replaced with Howard Porter. Porter also has a legacy with the Justice League, having been the artist on one of the most popular runs in recent memory, Grant Morrisson's JLA from the late '90s.

You can read a preview here.

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Pop Culture
An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

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Smart Shopping
12 Smart Book Ideas for Everyone in Your Life
iStock
iStock

Books make the perfect gift: they're durable, transportable, and they promise some (hopefully) quality alone time. But what do you get the aunt who loves mystery novels if you're not familiar with the genre? Or the nephew who devours travelogues and goes backpacking around the world? Look no further—we've got them covered, plus 10 other very specific categories.

1. FOR THE VINTAGE COOKBOOK LOVER: LEAVE ME ALONE WITH THE RECIPES: THE LIFE, ART, AND COOKBOOK OF CIPE PINELES, EDITED BY SARAH RICH,‎ WENDY MACNAUGHTON, DEBBIE MILLMAN, AND MARIA POPOVA; $27

Book cover for Leave Me Alone With the Recipes
Amazon

Author Sarah Rich and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton fell in love with the work of Cipe Pineles, the first female art director at Condé Nast, after discovering her recipes at a San Francisco antiquarian book fair. Filled with vibrantly colored illustrations, Leave Me Alone With the Recipes shows the joyful spirit and homespun flair that made Pineles’s work so influential. Alongside the recipes, the book includes contributions from luminaries in the worlds of food and illustration, including artist Maira Kalman and Maria Popova of Brain Pickings renown.

Find It: Amazon

2. FOR ANYONE HAVING SURGERY THIS YEAR: THE BUTCHERING ART: JOSEPH LISTER’S QUEST TO TRANSFORM THE GRISLY WORLD OF VICTORIAN MEDICINE BY LINDSEY FITZHARRIS; $27

Cover of The Butchering Art
Amazon

Back in the bad old days of medicine, a consistently blood-soaked apron was a sign of pride. Surgeons rarely washed them—or their hands, or their operating tools. Joseph Lister, the somewhat reluctant hero of Lindsey Fitzharris's new book The Butchering Art, was the genius who convinced the medical world that germs were not only real but a major cause of mortality in their hospitals. With an eye for vivid details and the colorful characters of 19th century medicine, Fitzharris has crafted a book that will make you thank Lister for his foresight—and make you glad you weren't alive back then.

Find It: Amazon

3. FOR THE GENEALOGY OBSESSIVE: IT’S ALL RELATIVE: ADVENTURES UP AND DOWN THE WORLD’S FAMILY TREE BY A.J. JACOBS; $27

Cover of Its All Relative
Simon & Schuster

What constitutes a "family"? In his latest book, A.J. Jacobs (famed for lifestyle experiments like trying to live an entire year in accordance with the Bible) delves into the world of genetics and genealogy to try and orchestrate the world's largest family reunion. With his trademark humor and insight, he ends up exploring the interconnectedness of all of humankind.

Find It: Amazon

4. FOR THE SOCIALLY AWARE YOUNG ADULT: THE HATE U GIVE BY ANGIE THOMAS; $18

Cover of The Hate U Give
Amazon

Already caught between the conflicting worlds of the poor neighborhood where she lives and her fancy prep school, 16-year-old Starr Carter finds herself in the middle of a tragedy when her childhood best friend is shot and killed by a police officer. As his death becomes a national flashpoint, it becomes clear that she may be the only person alive who can explain what really happened that night. Angie Thomas's writing has earned praise for being gut-wrenching, searing, and deftly crafted; Publishers Weekly called the book "heartbreakingly topical."

Find It: Amazon

5. FOR FANS OF PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY THAT READS LIKE A NOVEL: THE WARS OF THE ROOSEVELTS: THE RUTHLESS RISE OF AMERICA'S GREATEST POLITICAL FAMILY BY WILLIAM J. MANN; $35

You might think you know the Roosevelts, but historian William J. Mann looks beyond the well-worn stories to expose the bitter rivalries that drove its most famous members' quest for power. Along the way, he examines the Roosevelts who were kept away from the limelight, and the secrets they hold—all told in dramatic style.

Find It: Amazon

6. FOR THE INTREPID TRAVELER: ATLAS OBSCURA: AN EXPLORER'S GUIDE TO THE WORLD'S HIDDEN WONDERS, BY JOSHIA FOER, DYLAN THURAS, AND ELLA MORTON; $35

The book cover for Atlas Obscura's book
Amazon.com

An amusement park in a salt mine? Check. A tree so big it has its own pub? Check. A giant hole that's been spouting flames for 40 years? Check. This guidebook is a compendium of the world's strangest and most wonderful places, and it's guaranteed to inspire some serious wanderlust, especially in more adventurous travelers. For the complete experience, you can also get an awesome wall calendar featuring destinations from the book designed as vintage travel posters; there's a page-a-day desk calendar and explorers' journal too.

Find it: Amazon

7. FOR YOUR FRIEND WHO LOVES WEIRD HISTORY: THE PUBLIC DOMAIN REVIEW SELECTED ESSAYS; $20

The Public Domain Review is one of the premier online destination for fans of curious history. If you know someone who enjoys stories about weird medieval medicine treaties, ancient automata, deranged 18th century scientists, and other odd subjects well off the beaten historical path, look no further than this book of essays (the site's fourth).

Find It: The Public Domain Review

8. FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE A GOOD MYSTERY: THE BIG BOOK OF ROGUES AND VILLAINS, EDITED BY OTTO PENZLER; $25

Cover of the Big Book of Rogues and Villains
Amazon

At the heart of every good mystery is a (usually dastardly) perpetrator, whether it's a Count Dracula or a Jimmy Valentine. With this anthology, Edgar Award winner Otto Penzler has combed through 150 years of literary history to find 72 stories featuring the most famous and entertaining antiheroes authors have ever been able to dream up.

Find It: Amazon

9. FOR PEOPLE WHO KNOW WHAT THE BORSCHT BELT IS: JEWISH COMEDY: A SERIOUS HISTORY BY JEREMY DAUBER; $28.95

Jews and humor go together like challah and Manischewitz (after all, as my bubbie says, if you don't laugh, you'll cry). In this "serious history," Columbia professor Jeremy Dauber considers the origins of Jewish humor in Biblical times through its life on Twitter today; how it's reflected—and even influenced—Jewish history; the production of major archetypes like the Jewish mother; and the prominence of Jewish comedians like Sarah Silverman and Larry David. You don't have to be Jewish to love it, but it may help you understand the in-jokes.

Find It: Amazon

10. FOR YOUR FRIEND WHO LOVES DARK SHORT STORIES: HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES, BY CARMEN MARIA MACHADO; $16

Book cover for Her Body and Other Parties
Amazon

A story told in the form of Law & Order episode summaries. A strange plague that makes girls go invisible, as narrated by a mall worker. A recollection of romantic encounters with the last of humanity’s survivors. In this collection, Carmen Maria Machado fuses urban legends, dystopian tropes, and heavy helpings of sexuality to create a new kind of magical realism strangely appropriate to our era. The images will haunt you long after you put the book down, if you let them.

Find It: Amazon

11. FOR THE PERSON WHO LOVES BIG-DEAL LITERARY NOVELS AND ALSO ABRAHAM LINCOLN: LINCOLN IN THE BARDO, BY GEORGE SAUNDERS; $18

A meditation on sorrow and the Civil War populated by a rag-tag group of ghosts, Lincoln in the Bardo starts with the real-life death of 11-year-old Willie Lincoln, Abraham's son. In the book, Willie has entered the Bardo—a Tibetan Buddhist term for a transitional limbo—where there's a fierce struggle underway for his soul.

Find It: Amazon

12. FOR THE GENERALIST: A BOOK-OF-THE-MONTH SUBSCRIPTION; $45 FOR THREE MONTHS

A book of the month club subscription box with gift trappings nearby
Book of the Month Club

Can’t decide what to get, but feeling generous? Give your friend who loves to read a new hardcover book of their choice every month. Literary fans who are short on time will love having someone else do the legwork to find the best new novels; plus, there’s early access to new releases. Prices vary depending on the length of the subscription, and there’s a deal right now where you can get a month free when you give a subscription as a gift.

Find It: Book of the Month

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