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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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15 Things You Might Not Know About Chewbacca
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images

Even if you don't know the name Peter Mayhew, you surely know about Chewbacca—the seven-foot tall Wookiee he has played onscreen for over three decades. In honor of Mayhew’s birthday, here are 15 things you might not know about Han Solo's BFF.

1. HE WAS INSPIRED BY GEORGE LUCAS'S DOG.

The character of Chewbacca was inspired by George Lucas’s big, hairy Alaskan malamute, Indiana. According to Lucas, the dog would always sit in the passenger seat of his car like a copilot, and people would confuse the dog for an actual person. And in case you're wondering: yes, that same dog was also the inspiration behind the name of one of Lucas’s other creations, Indiana Jones.

2. HIS NAME IS OF RUSSIAN ORIGIN.

The name “Chewbacca” was derived from the Russian word Sobaka (собака), meaning “dog.” The term “Wookiee” came from voice actor Terry McGovern; when he was doing voiceover tracks for Lucas's directorial debut, THX 1138, McGovern randomly improvised the line, “I think I just ran over a Wookiee” during one of the sessions.

3. HE'S REALLY, REALLY OLD.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Chewbacca is 200 years old.

4. PETER MAYHEW'S HEIGHT HELPED HIM LAND THE ROLE.

Peter Mayhew
Getty Images

Mayhew was chosen to play everyone’s favorite Wookiee primarily because of his tremendous height: He's 7 feet 3 inches tall.

5. HIS SUIT IS MADE FROM A MIX OF ANIMAL HAIRS, AND EVENTUALLY INCLUDED A COOLING SYSTEM.

For the original trilogy (and the infamous holiday special), the Chewbacca costume was made with a combination of real yak and rabbit hair knitted into a base of mohair. A slightly altered original Chewie costume was used in 1999's The Phantom Menace for the Wookiee senator character Yarua, and a new costume used during Episode III included a specially made water-cooling system so that Mayhew could wear the suit for long periods of time and not be overheated.

6. ONE OF STANLEY KUBRICK'S CLOSEST CREATORS DESIGNED THE COSTUME.

Chewbacca's costume
Getty Images

To create the original costume for Chewbacca, Lucas hired legendary makeup supervisor Stuart Freeborn, who was recruited because of his work on the apes in the “Dawn of Man” sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Freeborn had also previously worked with Kubrick on Dr. Strangelove to effectively disguise Peter Sellers in each of his three roles in that film.) Freeborn would go on to supervise the creation of Yoda in The Empire Strike Back and Jabba the Hutt and the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi.

Lucas originally wanted Freeborn’s costume for Chewie to be a combination of a monkey, a dog, and a cat. According to Freeborn, the biggest problem during production with the costume was with Mayhew’s eyes. The actor’s body heat in the mask caused his face to detach from the costume's eyes and made them look separate from the mask.

7. FINDING CHEWBACCA'S VOICE WAS BEN BURTT'S FIRST ASSIGNMENT.

The first sound effect that director George Lucas hired now-legendary sound designer Ben Burtt for on Star Wars was Chewbacca’s voice (this was all the way back during the script stage). During the year of preliminary sound recording, Burtt principally used the vocalization of a black bear named Tarik from Happy Hollow Zoo in San Jose, California for Chewbacca. He would eventually synchronize those sounds with further walrus, lion, and badger vocalizations for the complete voice. The name of the language Chewbacca speaks came to be known in the Star Wars universe as “Shyriiwook.”

8. ROGER EBERT WAS NOT A FAN.

Roger Ebert was not a fan of the big guy. In his 1997 review of the Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back, Ebert basically called Chewbacca the worst character in the series. “This character was thrown into the first film as window dressing, was never thought through, and as a result has been saddled with one facial expression and one mournful yelp," the famed critic wrote. "Much more could have been done. How can you be a space pilot and not be able to communicate in any meaningful way? Does Han Solo really understand Chewie's monotonous noises? Do they have long chats sometimes? Never mind.”

9. HE WAS ORIGINALLY MUCH MORE SCANTILY CLAD.

In the summary for Lucas’s second draft (dated January 28, 1975, when the film was called “Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode I: The Star Wars”), Chewbacca is described as “an eight-foot tall, savage-looking creature resembling a huge gray bushbaby-monkey with fierce ‘baboon’-like fangs. His large yellow eyes dominate a fur-covered face … [and] over his matted, furry body he wears two chrome bandoliers, a flak jacket painted in a bizarre camouflage pattern, brown cloth shorts, and little else.”

10. HIS DESIGN WAS BASED ON RALPH MCQUARRIE'S CONCEPT ART.

Chewbacca’s character design was based on concept art drawn by Ralph McQuarrie. Lucas had originally given McQuarrie a photo of a lemur for inspiration, and McQuarrie proceeded to draw the character as a female—but Chewbacca was soon changed to a male. McQuarrie based his furry design on an illustration by artist John Schoenherr, which was commissioned for Game of Thrones scribe George R.R. Martin’s short story “And Seven Times Never Kill a Man.” Sharp-eyed Chewbacca fans will recognize that Schoenherr’s drawing even includes what resembles the Wookiee’s signature weapon, the Bowcaster.

11. HE WON A LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD.

Fans were angry for decades that Chewie didn’t receive a medal of valor like Luke and Han did at the end of A New Hope, so MTV gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards. The medal was given to Mayhew—decked out in full costume—by Princess Leia herself, actress Carrie Fisher. His acceptance speech, made entirely in Wookiee grunts, lasted 16 seconds. When asked why Chewbacca didn’t receive a medal at the end of the first film, Lucas explained, “Medals really don’t mean much to Wookiees. They don’t really put too much credence in them. They have different kinds of ceremonies.”

12. HE HAS A FAMILY BACK HOME.

According to the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, Chewbacca had a wife named Mallatobuck, a son named Lumpawaroo (a.k.a. “Lumpy”), and a father named Attichitcuk (aka “Itchy”). In the special, Chewie and Han visit the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk to celebrate “Life Day,” a celebration of the Wookiee home planet’s diverse ecosystem. The special featured appearances and musical numbers by Jefferson Starship, Diahann Carroll, Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and Bea Arthur, and marked the first appearance of Boba Fett. Lucas hated the special so much that he limited its availability following its original airdate on November 17, 1978.

13. MAYHEW'S BIG FEET ARE WHAT KICKSTARTED HIS CAREER.

Mayhew’s path to playing Chewbacca began with a string of lucky breaks—and his big feet. A local London reporter was doing a story on people with big feet and happened to profile Mayhew. A movie producer saw the article and cast him—in an uncredited role—as Minoton the minotaur in the film Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. One of the makeup men on Sinbad was also working on the Wookiee costume with Stuart Freeborn for Star Wars and suggested to the producers that they screen test Mayhew. The rest is Wookiee history.

14. MAYHEW KEPT HIS DAY JOB WHILE SHOOTING STAR WARS.

Peter Mayhew
Getty Images

During the shooting of Star Wars, Mayhew kept working his day job as a deputy head porter in a London hospital. Though he was let go because of his sudden varying shooting schedule at Elstree Studios, he was eventually hired back after production wrapped.

15. DARTH VADER COULD HAVE BEEN CHEWBACCA.

Darth Vader
Getty Images

David Prowse, the 6’5” actor who ended up portraying Darth Vader—in costume only—originally turned down the role of Chewbacca.  When given the choice between portraying the two characters, Prowse said, “I turned down the role of Chewbacca at once. I know that people remember villains longer than heroes. At the time I didn’t know I’d be wearing a mask, and throughout production I thought Vader’s voice would be mine.”

Additional Sources: Star Wars DVD special features
The Making of Star Wars: The definitive Story Behind the Original Film, J.W. Rinzler

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