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IDW Publishing

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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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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5 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 2
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Netflix

Stranger Things seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of television's standout new series in 2016. Netflix's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and always exciting homage to '80s pop culture was a binge-worthy phenomenon when it debuted in July 2016. Of course, the streaming giant wasn't going to wait long to bring more Stranger Things to audiences, and a second season was announced a little over a month after its debut—and Netflix just announced that we'll be getting it a few days earlier than expected. Here are five key things we know about the show's sophomore season, which kicks off on October 27.

1. WE'LL BE GETTING EVEN MORE EPISODES.

The first season of Stranger Things consisted of eight hour-long episodes, which proved to be a solid length for the story Matt and Ross Duffer wanted to tell. While season two won't increase in length dramatically, we will be getting at least one extra hour when the show returns in 2017 with nine episodes. Not much is known about any of these episodes, but we do know the titles:

"Madmax"
"The Boy Who Came Back To Life"
"The Pumpkin Patch"
"The Palace"
"The Storm"
"The Pollywog"
"The Secret Cabin"
"The Brain"
"The Lost Brother"

There's a lot of speculation about what each title means and, as usual with Stranger Things, there's probably a reason for each one.

2. THE KIDS ARE RETURNING (INCLUDING ELEVEN).

Stranger Things fans should gear up for plenty of new developments in season two, but that doesn't mean your favorite characters aren't returning. A November 4 photo sent out by the show's Twitter account revealed most of the kids from the first season will be back in 2017, including the enigmatic Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown (the #elevenisback hashtag used by series regular Finn Wolfhard should really drive the point home):

3. THE SHOW'S 1984 SETTING WILL LEAD TO A DARKER TONE.

A year will have passed between the first and second seasons of the show, allowing the Duffer brothers to catch up with a familiar cast of characters that has matured since we last saw them. With the story taking place in 1984, the brothers are looking at the pop culture zeitgeist at the time for inspiration—most notably the darker tone of blockbusters like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

"I actually really love Temple of Doom, I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did," Matt Duffer told IGN. "Even though it was probably slammed at the time—obviously now people look back on it fondly, but it messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film—that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."

4. IT'S NOT SO MUCH A CONTINUATION AS IT IS A SEQUEL.

When you watch something like The Americans season two, it's almost impossible to catch on unless you've seen the previous episodes. Stranger Things season two will differ from the modern TV approach by being more of a sequel than a continuation of the first year. That means a more self-contained plot that doesn't leave viewers hanging at the end of nine episodes.

"There are lingering questions, but the idea with Season 2 is there's a new tension and the goal is can the characters resolve that tension by the end," Ross Duffer told IGN. "So it's going to be its own sort of complete little movie, very much in the way that Season 1 is."

Don't worry about the two seasons of Stranger Things being too similar or too different from the original, though, because when speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the influences on the show, Matt Duffer said, "I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”

5. THE PREMIERE WILL TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF HAWKINS.

Everything about the new Stranger Things episodes will be kept secret until they finally debut later this year, but we do know one thing about the premiere: It won't take place entirely in the familiar town of Hawkins, Indiana. “We will venture a little bit outside of Hawkins,” Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “I will say the opening scene [of the premiere] does not take place in Hawkins.”

So, should we take "a little bit outside" as literally as it sounds? You certainly can, but in that same interview, the brothers also said they're both eager to explore the Upside Down, the alternate dimension from the first season. Whether the season kicks off just a few miles away, or a few worlds away, you'll get your answer when Stranger Things's second season debuts next month.

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Food
The Gooey History of the Fluffernutter Sandwich

Open any pantry in New England and chances are you’ll find at least one jar of Marshmallow Fluff. Not just any old marshmallow crème, but Fluff; the one manufactured by Durkee-Mower of Lynn, Massachusetts since 1920, and the preferred brand of the northeast. With its familiar red lid and classic blue label, it's long been a favorite guilty pleasure and a kitchen staple beloved throughout the region.

This gooey, spreadable, marshmallow-infused confection is used in countless recipes and found in a variety of baked goods—from whoopie pies and Rice Krispies Treats to chocolate fudge and beyond. And in the beyond lies perhaps the most treasured concoction of all: the Fluffernutter sandwich—a classic New England treat made with white bread, peanut butter, and, you guessed it, Fluff. No jelly required. Or wanted.

There are several claims to the origin of the sandwich. The first begins with Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere—or, not Paul exactly, but his great-great-great-grandchildren Emma and Amory Curtis of Melrose, Massachusetts. Both siblings were highly intelligent and forward-thinkers, and Amory was even accepted into MIT. But when the family couldn’t afford to send him, he founded a Boston-based company in the 1890s that specialized in soda fountain equipment.

He sold the business in 1901 and used the proceeds to buy the entire east side of Crystal Street in Melrose. Soon after he built a house and, in his basement, he created a marshmallow spread known as Snowflake Marshmallow Crème (later called SMAC), which actually predated Fluff. By the early 1910s, the Curtis Marshmallow Factory was established and Snowflake became the first commercially successful shelf-stable marshmallow crème.

Although other companies were manufacturing similar products, it was Emma who set the Curtis brand apart from the rest. She had a knack for marketing and thought up many different ways to popularize their marshmallow crème, including the creation of one-of-a-kind recipes, like sandwiches that featured nuts and marshmallow crème. She shared her culinary gems in a weekly newspaper column and radio show. By 1915, Snowflake was selling nationwide.

During World War I, when Americans were urged to sacrifice meat one day a week, Emma published a recipe for a peanut butter and marshmallow crème sandwich. She named her creation the "Liberty Sandwich," as a person could still obtain his or her daily nutrients while simultaneously supporting the wartime cause. Some have pointed to Emma’s 1918 published recipe as the earliest known example of a Fluffernutter, but the earliest recipe mental_floss can find comes from three years prior. In 1915, the confectioners trade journal Candy and Ice Cream published a list of lunch offerings that candy shops could advertise beyond hot soup. One of them was the "Mallonut Sandwich," which involved peanut butter and "marshmallow whip or mallo topping," spread on lightly toasted whole wheat bread.

Another origin story comes from Somerville, Massachusetts, home to entrepreneur Archibald Query. Query began making his own version of marshmallow crème and selling it door-to-door in 1917. Due to sugar shortages during World War I, his business began to fail. Query quickly sold the rights to his recipe to candy makers H. Allen Durkee and Fred Mower in 1920. The cost? A modest $500 for what would go on to become the Marshmallow Fluff empire.

Although the business partners promoted the sandwich treat early in the company’s history, the delicious snack wasn’t officially called the Fluffernutter until the 1960s, when Durkee-Mower hired a PR firm to help them market the sandwich, which resulted in a particularly catchy jingle explaining the recipe.

So who owns the bragging rights? While some anonymous candy shop owner was likely the first to actually put the two together, Emma Curtis created the early precursors and brought the concept to a national audience, and Durkee-Mower added the now-ubiquitous crème and catchy name. And the Fluffernutter has never lost its popularity.

In 2006, the Massachusetts state legislature spent a full week deliberating over whether or not the Fluffernutter should be named the official state sandwich. On one side, some argued that marshmallow crème and peanut butter added to the epidemic of childhood obesity. The history-bound fanatics that stood against them contended that the Fluffernutter was a proud culinary legacy. One state representative even proclaimed, "I’m going to fight to the death for Fluff." True dedication, but the bill has been stalled for more than a decade despite several revivals and subsequent petitions from loyal fans.

But Fluff lovers needn’t despair. There’s a National Fluffernutter Day (October 8) for hardcore fans, and the town of Somerville, Massachusetts still celebrates its Fluff pride with an annual What the Fluff? festival.

"Everyone feels like Fluff is part of their childhood," said self-proclaimed Fluff expert and the festival's executive director, Mimi Graney, in an interview with Boston Magazine. "Whether born in the 1940s or '50s, or '60s, or later—everyone feels nostalgic for Fluff. I think New Englanders in general have a particular fondness for it."

Today, the Fluffernutter sandwich is as much of a part of New England cuisine as baked beans or blueberry pie. While some people live and die by the traditional combination, the sandwich now comes in all shapes and sizes, with the addition of salty and savory toppings as a favorite twist. Wheat bread is as popular as white, and many like to grill their sandwiches for a touch of bistro flair. But don't ask a New Englander to swap out their favorite brand of marshmallow crème. That’s just asking too Fluffing much.

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