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IDW Publishing
IDW Publishing

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

IDW Publishing
IDW Publishing

Every Wednesday, I preview the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, Comixology, Kickstarter and the web. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about.


1. The Illegitimates #1

Written by Taran Killam and Mark Andreyko; art by Kevin Sharpe
IDW

Jack Steele, the debonair ladies man and secret agent of OLYMPUS, has been killed by his arch enemy. To take his place, OLYMPUS has recruited five of Steele's illegitimate children - now grown into formidable (or not so formidable) super spies of their own. The five are brought together to save the world, but what happens when they find out what they all have in common?

This fun and clever concept, which takes James Bond's promiscuous (and unprotected) womanizing to the next level, is courtesy of Saturday Night Live's Taran Killam. A lifelong comic book fan, Killam pitched this idea to his comic writer friend Mark Andreyko years ago but nothing immediately came of it. Now, with Killam a regular cast member of SNL and Andreyko the new writer for DC's Batwoman, it's a good time for the two to get The Illegitimates out there.

Celebrities getting involved in comics has been a decidedly mixed bag. For every Kevin Smith or Gerard Way, we get a Rosario Dawson or Seth Green or, worst case scenario, a Shia LeBouf. Killam seems to be approaching The Illegitimates as more than a vanity project (though I'm sure someone is thinking about the movie proposal right now). It will initially be a six issue mini-series, but he's hoping it will lead to an ongoing series with Andreyko most likely doing the heavy lifting on the writing. Kevin Sharpe is the series artist who has previously worked on Dynamite's Army of Darkness comic, and whose action-oriented style is very reminiscent of Marvel's Mark Bagley. Veteran comic artist Jerry Ordway provides the covers, and this first one is a wonder to behold.

You can read a preview here.

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2. The Midas Flesh #1

Written by Ryan North; art by Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline
Boom! Studios

Much like how Taran Killam is taking James Bond to its logical conclusion in The Illegitimates, Ryan North is taking the legend of King Midas to some pretty extreme lengths himself. After being given the gift of having anything he touches turn to gold, King Midas's uncontrollable power envelops the entire earth in gold, putting him into a state of suspended animation. Over 1 million years later, a space crew including two humans and a talking dinosaur approach the gold- encrusted Earth looking for the body of Midas.

Ryan North is the writer of the popular, long-running webcomic Dinosaur Comics. He is also the writer of the successful comic book adaptation of Cartoon Network's Adventure Time series. Boom! Studios, which publishes the Adventure Time comics, told North that they'd love to publish whatever he wanted to do next so he decided to revisit a script he wrote back when he was just starting out in comics and turned it into this new 8 issue mini-series, The Midas Flesh. Boom! is publishing this through a new imprint called Boom! Box that looks to give a new publishing outlet to the various webcomic creators they have working on licensed properties.

Though primarily a sci-fi adventure, The Midas Flesh promises to have lots of humor, clever dialogue and did I mention that the dinosaur wears a spacesuit? North is joined by fellow Adventure Time comic creators, Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb who illustrate the story. 

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3. "Mother"

By Sophia Foster Dimino
SophiaFosterDimino.tumblr.com

Sophia Foster Dimino is a cartoonist and illustrator who currently works at Google as one of their Google Doodlers. This week she posted a new 5 page comic to her blog called "Mother". It was previously published in an Italian language anthology of mother-themed stories (also called Mother) that debuted at SPX this year but Dimino just re-lettered the comic in English. 

It's a beautiful little story about being a mother that spans from pregnancy to grandmotherhood, hitting on a couple of different parenting beats along the way. There is a deliberate male absence from the comic which makes it both a loving depiction of the bond between mothers and daughters while also a mystery of origin that the daughter herself ponders at one point. 


Dimino has a clean, beautiful drawing style and a great sense of design that permeates every panel of each page. Her experience at Google seems to show through in the way she playfully illustrates the word "Mother" on each page. 

Read "Mother" over on Dimino's Tumblr.

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4. Real Good Stuff #1 & 2

By Dennis P. Eichhorn and various artists
Poochie Press

The autobio has a long tradition in comics, which may be surprising considering that most cartoonists lead relatively solitary lives mostly spent making time-consuming comics. That may be why some of the most popular autobio comics are by writers who bring in separate artists to do the hard work of illustrating their lives. The most popular example of this approach was the late Harvey Pekar and his accounts of his own mundane life which he self-published in American Splendor for many years. Another pioneer to this approach, inspired by Pekar, is Dennis P. Eichhorn who published his own autobiographical vignettes in his comic Real Stuff back in the 1990s. 

What made Eichhorn stand out when he began publishing Real Stuff is that he seemed to have gotten out there and done some crazy stuff that makes for fun reading. His stories involve lots of drug use, explicit sex and encounters with lots of strange and dangerous weirdos. He has also managed to work with an interesting array of artists over the years such as Jim Woodring, Peter Bagge, Lynda Barry, Peter Kuper and more.

This year, a small boutique publisher called Poochie Press ran a successful Kickstarter  to fund the publishing of two new issues called Real Good Stuff featuring new autobiographical short stories from Eichhorn illustrated by artistic collaborators both new and old. Having exceeded its goal, they were able to package the proposed two issues into one perfect-bound volume formatted with two covers so that you flip the book over to read issue 2. You can buy the book thru Poochie Press' website for $10 plus shipping.

There are lots of crazy anecdotes told here. A long night spent trying to help a punk rocker score some drugs. Tales of sexual experimentation involving Viagra and handstands. Encounters with eccentric local characters. Each is illustrated in a different style by a different artist, and each seems to come from varying stages of Eichhorn's life but the consistency of his character holds it all together.

By the way, Eichhorn fans or maybe the Eichhorn-curious should know that Boing Boing recently began republishing his original Real Stuff comics online which you can read here.

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5. Infomaniacs

By Matthew Thurber
Picturebox

Matthew Thurber's new graphic novel Infomaniacs ran as a webcomic for a couple of years on a blog hosted by Picturebox Inc. Having completed the story it seems to have the honor of being the very last book Picturebox will publish as they begin closing their doors after more than ten years in business. Much has been written in recent weeks about publisher Dan Nadel's decision to end Picturebox's days of publishing unusual art comics. I'd recommend checking out Sean T. Collins' brief take on it because he also includes recommended books to pick up from their 50% off liquidation sale. 

Thurber and Picturebox describe Infomaniacs as "The Long Goodbye for the Tumblr Generation". A more apt comparison might be Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. It's an absurdist detective story with a large cast of unusual characters, government conspiracies and an anything-goes plot. At the heart of it is Amy Shit, who walks around wearing a helmet, helping out her grandmother and her imprisoned brother, coming up with new raps for her eco-hip-hop band and trying to catch an internet serial killer. Along the way she comes across a secret government agency led by a talking horse, the preserved brain of the only man on earth who has never seen the internet and she gets a job selling espresso on the Keystone Oil Pipeline.


I'm not sure if Thurber's book is included in that 50% Picturebox sale but you can purchase it through their website and pick up a lot of other great books while you're at it.

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Food
Hate Red M&M's? You Need a Candy Color-Sorting Machine
iStock
iStock

You don’t have to be a demanding rock star to live a life without brown M&M's or purple Skittles—all you need is some engineering know-how and a little bit of free time.

Mechanical engineering student Willem Pennings created a machine that can take small pieces of candy—like M&M's, Skittles, Reese’s Pieces, etc.—and sort them by color into individual piles. All Pennings needs to do is pour the candy into the top funnel; from there, the machine separates the candy—around two pieces per second—and dispenses all of it into smaller bowls at the bottom designated for each variety.

The color identification is performed with an RGB sensor that takes “optical measurements” of candy pieces of equal dimensions. There are limitations, though, as Pennings revealed in a Reddit Q&A: “I wouldn't be able to use this machine for peanut M&M's, since the sizes vary so much.”

The entire building process lasted from May through December 2016, and included the actual conceptualization, 3D printing (which was outsourced), and construction. The entire project was detailed on Pennings’s website and Reddit's DIY page.

With all of the motors, circuitry, and hardware that went into it, Pennings’s machine is likely too ambitious of a task for the average candy aficionado. So until a machine like this hits the open market, you're probably stuck buying bags of single-colored M&M’s in bulk online or sorting all of the candy out yourself the old fashioned way.

To see Pennings’s machine in action, check out the video below:

[h/t Refinery 29]

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Universal Pictures
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Pop Culture
The Strange Hidden Link Between Silent Hill and Kindergarten Cop
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

by Ryan Lambie

At first glance, Kindergarten Cop and Silent Hill don't seem to have much in common—aside from both being products of the 1990s. At the beginning of the decade came Kindergarten Cop, the hit comedy directed by Ivan Reitman and starring larger-than-life action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the decade’s end came Silent Hill, Konami’s best-selling survival horror game that sent shivers down PlayStation owners’ spines.

As pop culture artifacts go, they’re as different as oil and water. Yet eagle-eyed players may have noticed a strange hidden link between the video game and the goofy family comedy.

In Silent Hill, you control Harry Mason, a father hunting for his daughter Cheryl in the eerily deserted town of the title. Needless to say, the things Mason uncovers are strange and very, very gruesome. Early on in the game, Harry stumbles on a school—Midwich Elementary School, to be precise—which might spark a hint of déjà vu as soon as you approach its stone steps. The building’s double doors and distinctive archway appear to have been taken directly from Kindergarten Cop’s Astoria Elementary School.

Could it be a coincidence?

Well, further clues can be found as you venture inside. As well as encountering creepy gray children and other horrors, you’ll notice that its walls are decorated with numerous posters. Some of those posters—including a particularly distinctive one with a dog on it—also decorated the halls of the school in Kindergarten Cop.

Do a bit more hunting, and you’ll eventually find a medicine cabinet clearly modeled on one glimpsed in the movie. Most creepily of all, you’ll even encounter a yellow school bus that looks remarkably similar to the one in the film (though this one has clearly seen better days).

Silent Hill's references to the movie are subtle—certainly subtle enough for them to pass the majority of players by—but far too numerous to be a coincidence. When word of the link between game and film began to emerge in 2012, some even joked that Konami’s Silent Hill was a sequel to Kindergarten Cop. So what’s really going on?

When Silent Hill was in early development back in 1996, director Keiichiro Toyama set out to make a game that was infused with influences from some of his favorite American films and TV shows. “What I am a fan of is occult stuff and UFO stories and so on; that and I had watched a lot of David Lynch films," he told Polygon in 2013. "So it was really a matter of me taking what was on my shelves and taking the more horror-oriented aspects of what I found.”

A scene from 'Silent Hill'
Divine Tokyoska, Flickr

In an interview with IGN much further back, in 2001, a member of Silent Hill’s staff also stated, “We draw our influences from all over—fiction, movies, manga, new and old.”

So while Kindergarten Cop is perhaps the most outlandish movie reference in Silent Hill, it’s by no means the only one. Cafe5to2, another prominent location in the game, is taken straight from Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.

Elsewhere, you might spot a newspaper headline which references The Silence Of The Lambs (“Bill Skins Fifth”). Look carefully, and you'll also find nods to such films as The Shining, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and 12 Monkeys.

Similarly, the town’s streets are all named after respected sci-fi and horror novelists, with Robert Bloch, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury, and Richard Matheson among the most obvious. Oh, and Midwich, the name of the school? That’s taken from the classic 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, twice adapted for the screen as The Village Of The Damned in 1960 and 1995.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Kindergarten Cop'
Universal Pictures

The reference to Kindergarten Cop could, therefore, have been a sly joke on the part of Silent Hill’s creators—because what could be stranger than modeling something in a horror game on a family-friendly comedy? But there could be an even more innocent explanation: that Kindergarten Cop spends so long inside an ordinary American school simply gave Toyama and his team plenty of material to reference when building their game.

Whatever the reasons, the Kindergarten Cop reference ranks highly among the most strange and unexpected film connections in the history of the video game medium. Incidentally, the original movie's exteriors used a real school, John Jacob Astor Elementary in Astoria, Oregon. According to a 1991 article in People Magazine, the school's 400 fourth grade students were paid $35 per day to appear in Kindergarten Cop as extras.

It’s worth pointing out that the school is far less scary a place than the video game location it unwittingly inspired, and to the best of our knowledge, doesn't have an undercover cop named John Kimble serving as a teacher there, either.

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