Marvel Comics
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)

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

What is it? 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 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.

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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