The Panel Syndicate
The Panel Syndicate

10 Most Interesting Comics of 2013

The Panel Syndicate
The Panel Syndicate

Every week on Mental Floss, I highlight the most interesting new comic books, graphic novels, digital comics and webcomics. Here is a top 10 list of not necessarily the best comics that came out this year (I can't possibly keep up with everything that comes out), but the ones that were the most interesting or noteworthy in some way (at least to me). If you have some favorite comics of the year, talk about them in the comments below!

10. Freud

Nobrow Press released an English translation of this French cartoon biography of Sigmund Freud this year, and it was probably one of the best looking graphic novels of the year. Written by writer/psychologist Corinne Maier and gorgeously illustrated by French artist Anne Simon, this book takes a breezy but informative trip through the life and work of Freud and does it with a great sense of humor.


9. Hip Hop Family Tree

Ed Piskor's first volume of Hip Hop Family Tree covers the beginnings of hip hop music from the mid '70s to the early '80s and the colorful cast of characters like Grandmaster Flash, Russell Simmons, Kurtis Blow, and Afrika Bambaataa, who helped make it happen. Piskor likens these rap pioneers to larger-than-life comic book characters and draws them in a style very similar to the Marvel Comics of the 1970s, complete with narration boxes, halftone dots and a nostalgic yellow fade to the paper.


8. Young Avengers

It's not often these days that you get a superhero comic about teenage heroes from either Marvel or DC that actually have a chance of appealing to actual teenage readers. Judging by its seeming popularity on Tumblr, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's smart, funny and stylish Young Avengers seems to have actually done that. Gillen and McKelvie have a creative rapport that make them one of the great writer/artist teams in comics. Young Avengers has a unique and diverse cast of teen heroes with interesting personal relationships that are the selling point of the book.

It's worth noting that Gillen and McKelvie's run on YA is coming to an end soon and Marvel has made the unprecedented move of canceling the book with their final issue rather than putting another creative team on it simply to keep churning out monthly issues. Maybe this will signal a new approach where comics with non-marquee characters are published in limited runs and only when there is a proper story to tell and an appealing creative team to tell it.


7. Meet The Somalis

This was a webcomic that came out of nowhere, funded and distributed online by the Open Society Foundations, and it is one that has stuck with me ever since reading it. Journalist Benjamin Dix and cartoonist Lindsay Pollock interviewed Somalis immigrants in seven different European cities about their experiences assimilating into a new culture. The 14 different stories presented here are heartbreaking, uplifting, horrifying, educational and touchingly human.


6. Batman: Zero Year

The reboot of the DC Universe in 2011 has left DC and writer Scott Snyder in the seemingly unenviable position of having to say that Frank Miller's classic Batman: Year One is no longer in continuity. The 1987 series by Miller and Dave Mazzuchelli has been the definitive take on Batman's origin since it was published and has influenced just about every Batman comic that has come since, not to mention the entire stylistic approach of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy of films.

With Batman: Zero Year, Snyder and artist Greg Capullo have met the challenge head on, taking Miller's influence and coming out the other end of Nolan's films, with a  Batman origin story that feels modern without disregarding much of what came before it. In fact, much of the 11 part story we've seen so far draws from Batman's early days in Detective Comics even down to the design of Batman's first costume and the types of (pre-super) villains he faces.


5. Sex Criminals

Image Comics, as a publisher of creator-owned genre comics, has been on a roll this year, putting out too many great new books to name here. One of their most interesting and popular new releases has been Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. It is only three issues in but it has been a hoot so far and has already gotten itself banned by Apple from being sold through the Comixology iOS apps. The novel and juicy concept of the series involves two people, Jon and Suzie, who learn they can stop time whenever they have an orgasm. They decide to use this special power to rob banks. It’s actually an unexpectedly sweet story about sexual discovery with some raunchy jokes, fourth-wall-breaking commentary and even a musical number that gets comically censored to avoid further legal issues.

The banning by Apple means digital comics fans have to work a little harder to buy this comic. It can be purchased on Comixology’s web storefront but Image Comics just so happens to have recently launched a DRM-free web storefront of their own which may be exactly where they'd like people to buy this.


4. Mind Mgmt

Matt Kindt’s Mind Mgmt is one of the most mind-bending thrillers to come along in some time. It follows a writer named Meru who is trying to investigate an incident on a flight in which every passenger on board lost their memory. In the process, Meru uncovers a secret organization called the Mind Mgmt that is made up of people capable of performing mass hallucination, hypnotic suggestion and mind erasure and they have been using these skills to orchestrate world events dating back to World War I.

This is a complex book with many layers. Kindt fills it with fake ads and secret messages hidden in the gutters of the pages that help give you a fuller picture of this shadowy group and the depths of its capabilities. It’s the kind of book that works best if you buy it in old fashioned comic book format so that you can get the full effect of these extras.


3.  March Book One

It’s not often we get a graphic novel written by a sitting U.S. Congressman. Nonetheless one who was also a hero of the Civil Rights movement. March Book One is the first volume of Rep. John Lewis’ autobiography, released by Top Shelf and illustrated by Top Shelf mainstay Nate Powell (Any Empire, Swallow Me Whole). This first of three volumes begins with Lewis’ childhood and takes us up to his participation in the lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville in 1960. Lewis chose the graphic novel format for his story as a way of following the tradition set in the 1950s by a comic called The Montgomery Story which helped spread the word of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott during the early days of the civil rights movement.


2. The Private Eye

Brian K. Vaughan has had an amazing year. His sci-fi epic Saga is on most people’s top ten lists and has made a deserved star out of his collaborator Fiona Staples. It has also led the charge in turning Image Comics into the most exciting comics publisher of the year. Meanwhile, Vaughan also launched another sci-fi comic this year, this one offset with a future-noir detective slant, called The Private Eye. It is set in a near future where “The Cloud” has crashed taking everyone’s personal data and privacy with it, leaving people forced to wear disguises on the streets in order to protect their identity.

Again, Vaughan is not the real star of this creative team. Husband and wife team Marcos Martin and Munsta Vicente are doing career making work on this book. Vicente’s colors are absolutely eye-popping, giving us a prime example of how digital coloring in the age of the iPad is becoming one of the most important aspects of a comic.

Somewhat fitting for this comic about a post-Internet, post-privacy America, the book is only available in a DRM-free, pay-what-you-want format on Vaughan and Martin’s own website, New issues arrive with virtually no advance warning. You need to either sign up for email alerts or follow @PanelSyndicate on Twitter to find out when the latest issue is available for download.


1. Something Terrible

Dean Trippe wrote and illustrated an intensely personal comic about childhood sexual abuse this year called Something Terriblethat he sells in digital formats on his own website for 99¢. It is probably the most important comic of the year, and, by his own accounts, has already reached and helped many readers who have suffered through similar incidents. Trippe delves into the events from his childhood that have plauged him into adulthood and the way superhero comics—specifically Batman comics—have helped him overcome them. It is truly a triumphant story and one that even helps dispel a myth about childhood abuse (that abuse victims often grow up to be abusers themselves) that many victims themselves may not be aware has been proven false. 

Comics can be a powerful way of reaching people and educating them and this is a powerful and well-crafted example of just such a comic.


Finally, some quick honorable mentions:

Superior Spider-man. It's not easy to do something new with one of the biggest superhero characters of all time and not have fans dismiss it out of hand. By having Doctor Octopus take over Peter Parker’s body and unexpectedly embrace the concept of being a hero, Dan Slott and team have come up with something really special here.

DemeterBecky Cloonan’s third self-published mini-comic is a haunting and tragic love story. It is stunningly beautiful, especially if you get your hands on a screen-printed edition.

Cartozia TalesThis is probably the best new all-ages comic to come out this year. Set around the a maps of a fictional world called Cartozia, a rotating collection of creative teams take turns building the world and the characters and stories that reside within it. 

Le Long Voyage. Boulet’s wonderful embrace of the vertical scroll in webcomics.

The Bunker. Probably the crown jewel thus far of Comixology's Submit program for self-publishers, this Lost-style thriller involving a group of friends who find messages written by their future selves in an underground bunker warning them not to go down a path that will ruin the world. Recently picked up by Oni Press, it is now also the big success of Submit.

The Fifth Beatle. Andrew Robinson’s art on this book will probably win him some awards when the time comes for that, but this biography of The Beatles manger, Brian Epstein, is also an interesting look at the life of a gay man in 1960s Great Britain.

What were your favorite comics of the year? Tell us in the comments below.

8 Allegedly Cursed Places

Some of the most picturesque spots in the world hide legends of a curse. Castles, islands, rivers, and more have supposedly suffered spooky misfortunes as the result of a muttered hex cast after a perceived slight—whether it's by a maligned monk or a mischievous pirate. Below are eight such (allegedly) unfortunate locations.


An 800-year-old ruined wall stands on the grounds of a large steelworks in Port Talbot, Wales. The wall is surrounded by a fence and held up by a number of brick buttresses—all because of an ancient curse. The story goes that when King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the 16th century, one of the local Cistercian monks evicted from Margam Abbey told the new owners of the site, in a bid to protect it, that if the wall fell, the entire town would fall with it (it's unclear why he would focus on that particular part of the structure). Since then, the townsfolk have tried hard to protect the wall, even as an enormous steelworks was built around it. Rumors abound that the hex-giving monk still haunts the site in a red habit, keeping an eye on his precious wall.


Alloa tower in Scotland
HARTLEPOOLMARINA2014, Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 4.0

Alloa Tower in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, has reportedly been subject to a curse for hundreds of years. In the 16th century, the Earl of Mar is said to have destroyed the local Cambuskenneth Abbey and taken the stones to build his new palace. The Abbot of Cambuskenneth was so furious he supposedly cast a multi-part curse on the Erskine family—ominously known as “The Doom of Mar." It is said that at least part of the curse has come true over the years, including that three of the children of the Mar family would “never see the light” (three of the earl’s ancestors’ offspring were reportedly born blind). The curse also supposedly predicted that the house would burn down, which occurred in 1800. Another part of the curse: The house would lay in ruins until an ash sapling grew from its roof. Sure enough, around 1820 a sapling was seen sprouting from the roof, and since then the family curse is said to have been lifted.


In the fall of 2017, archeologists reopened an almost-4500-year-old tomb complex in Giza, Egypt, that contains the remains of hundreds of workers who built the great Pyramid of Giza. The tomb also contains the remains of the supervisor of the workers, who is believed to have added curses to the cemetery to protect it from thieves. One such curse reads: "All people who enter this tomb who will make evil against this tomb and destroy it, may the crocodile be against them in water and snakes against them on land. May the hippopotamus be against them in water, the scorpion against them on land." The complex is now open to the public—who may or may not want to take their chances.


A chateau just north of the French Riviera may sound like a delightful place to be, but amid the ruins of the Chateau de Rocca-Sparviera—the Castle of the Sparrow-Hawk—lies a disturbing legend. The tale centers around a medieval French queen named Jeanne, who supposedly fled to the castle after her husband was killed. She arrived with two young sons and a monk known to enjoy his drink. One Christmas, she went into the village to hear a midnight mass, and when she returned, she found that the monk had killed her sons in a drunken rage. (In another version of the story, she was served a banquet of her own children, which she unknowingly ate.) According to legend, Jeanne then cursed the castle, saying a bird would never sing nearby. To this day, some travelers report that the ruins are surrounded by an eerie silence.


Stopped off at a small uninhabited island that, according to Thai mythology, is cursed by the god Tarutao. If anyone dared to even take one pebble off this island they would be forever cursed! 😈 I heard from a local that every year the National Park office receive many stones back via mail from people who want to lift the curse! I was never much of a stone collector anyway... ☻☹☻☹☻ #thailand #kohlanta #kohlipe #kohhingham #islandhopping #islandlife #beachlife #pebbles #beach #speedboat #travelgram #instatraveling #wanderlust #exploringtheglobe #exploretocreate #traveleverywhere #aroundtheworld #exploringtheglobe #travelawesome #wanderer #earth_escape #natgeotravel #serialtraveler #awesomesauce #picoftheday #photooftheday #potd

A post shared by Adil - 爱迪尔 - عادل (@theglaswegistani) on

The tiny uninhabited island of Koh Hingham, off the coast of Thailand, is blessed with a covering of precious black stones. The stones are not precious because they contain anything valuable in a monetary sense, but because according to Thai mythology the god Tarutao made them so. Tarutao is said to have invoked a curse upon anyone who takes a stone off the island. As a result, every year the national park office that manages the island receives packages from all over the world, sent by tourists returning the stones and attempting to rid themselves of bad luck.


The "cursed" PH stones of St. Andrews University
Nuwandalice, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The initials PH are paved into the ground outside St. Salvator’s Chapel at St. Andrews University in Scotland. They mark the spot where 24-year-old preacher and faculty member Patrick Hamilton was burned at the stake for heresy in 1528—an early trigger of the Scottish Reformation. The location is therefore supposed to be cursed, and it is said that any student who stands on the initials is doomed to fail their exams. As a result of this superstition, after graduation day many students purposefully go back to stand on the spot now that all danger of failure has passed.


Charles Island, Connecticut
Michael Shaheen, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Charles Island lies off the coast of Milford, Connecticut, and is accessible from the mainland via a sandbar when the tide is low. Today it's home to a peaceful nature reserve for local birds, but its long history supposedly includes three curses. The first is said to have been cast in 1639 by the chief of the Paugussett tribe, after the nation was driven off the land by settlers—the chief supposedly cursed any building erected on the land. The second was supposedly laid in 1699 when the pirate Captain William Kidd stopped by the island to bury his booty and protected it with a curse. Shortly afterward, Kidd was caught and executed for his crimes—taking the location of his treasure to his grave.

The third curse is said to have come all the way from Mexico. In 1525, Mexican emperor Guatimozin was tortured by Spaniards hoping to locate Aztec treasure, but he refused to give up its whereabouts. In 1721, a group of sailors from Connecticut supposedly stumbled across the Aztec loot hidden in a cave in Mexico. After an unfortunate journey home in which disaster after disaster slowly depleted the crew, the sole surviving sailor reportedly landed on Charles Island, where he buried the cursed treasure in the hope of negating its hex.


A house in Bodie, California
Jim Bahn, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Bodie, in California's Sierra Nevadas, sprang up as a result of the gold rush. The town boomed in the late 19th century, with a population nearing 10,000 people. But as the gold seams ran dry, Bodie began a slow and steady decline, hastened by a series of devastating fires. By the 1950s, the place had become a ghost town, and in 1962 it was designated a State Historic Park, with the the buildings kept in a state of “arrested decay." Bodie's sad history has encouraged rumors of a curse, and many visitors to the site who have picked up an abandoned souvenir have reportedly been dogged with bad luck. So much so, the Bodie museum displays numerous letters from tourists who have sent back pilfered booty in the hope of breaking their run of ill fortune.

But the curse didn't start with prospectors or spooked visitors. The rumor apparently originated from rangers at the park, who hoped that the story would prevent visitors from continuing to steal items. In one sense the story worked, since many people are now too scared to pocket artifacts from the site; in another, the rangers have just succeeded in increasing their workload, as they now receive letter after letter expressing regret for taking an item and reporting on the bad luck it caused—further reinforcing the idea of the Bodie curse.

Chris Jackson, Getty Images
21 Other Royal Babies Born In The Last 20 Years
Chris Jackson, Getty Images
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

by Kenny Hemphill

At 11:01 a.m. on April 23, 2018, the Royal Family got a new member when it was announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have welcomed their third child, a (yet-to-be-named) boy, who will become fifth in line to the throne. While William and Kate's three children may be the youngsters closest to the throne, they're not the only pint-sized descendants of Queen Elizabeth II to be born in the past 20 years. Here are 21 more of them.


Arthur Robert Nathaniel Chatto, who turned 19 years old February 5, is the younger son of Lady Sarah and Daniel Chatto. He is 23rd in the line of succession—and has been raising some royal eyebrows with his penchant for Instagram selfies.


The grandson of Lord Snowden and Princess Margaret, and son of the 2nd Earl and Countess of Snowdon, Charles—who was born on July 1, 1999—is the heir apparent to the Earldom of Snowdon.


Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) speaks to Serena Armstrong-Jones, Countess of Snowdon (L), David Armstrong-Jones (2L), 2nd Earl of Snowdon, and Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones (2R).

Born on May 14, 2002, Lady Margarita is sister to Charles Armstrong-Jones, and great-niece to the Queen. She's 20th in line to the throne.


Lady Louise Windsor is the eldest child and only daughter of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex. She was born on November 8, 2003 and is 11th in line for the throne.


The third child of Lady Helen and Timothy Taylor, Eloise Olivia Katherine Taylor was born on March 2, 2003 and is 43rd in line for the throne.


Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge chats to Estella Taylor on the balcony during Trooping the Colour - Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday Parade, at The Royal Horseguards on June 14, 2014 in London, England
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Eloise's younger sister, Estella Olga Elizabeth Taylor, was born on December 21, 2004. She is the youngest of the four Taylor children and is 44th in succession.


The younger child of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, James Alexander Philip Theo Mountbatten-Windsor—or Viscount Severn—was born on December 17, 2007 and is 10th in line for the throne.


Albert Louis Philip Edward Windsor, born September 22, 2007, is notable for being the first royal baby to be baptized a Catholic since 1688. He is the son of Lord and Lady Nicholas Windsor, and grandson of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. According to the Act of Settlement, which was passed in 1701, being baptized Catholic would automatically exclude a potential royal from the line of succession. But there was some controversy surrounding this when, up until 2015, the Royal Family website included Albert.


Lord Culloden, Xan Richard Anders Windsor, is son to the Earl of Ulster and Claire Booth, and grandson of the Duke of Gloucester. He was born on March 2, 2007 and is 26th in succession.


Like his older brother Albert, Leopold Windsor—who was born on September 8, 2009—is not in line to the throne, by virtue of being baptized a Roman Catholic (though he, too, was listed on the Royal Family's website for a time).


Autumn Phillips, Isla Phillips, Peter Philips and Savannah Phillips attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on December 25, 2017 in King's Lynn, England
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Savannah Anne Kathleen Phillips, the Queen's first great-grandchild, was born on December 29, 2010 to Peter Phillips, son of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips, and Autumn Kelly. She is 14th in line for the throne.


Senna Kowhai Lewis, who was born on June 2, 2010, is the daughter of Gary and Lady Davina Lewis, elder daughter of Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester. She was a beneficiary of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which abolished the practice of giving sons precedence over daughters in the line of succession, regardless of when they are born. As a result, she is 29th in succession.


Daughter of Lady Rose and George Gilman, and granddaughter of Prince Richard, 2nd Duke of Gloucester, Lyla Beatrix Christabel Gilman was born on May 30, 2010. She is 32nd in succession.


Lady Cosima Rose Alexandra Windsor was born on May 20, 2010. She is sister to Lord Culloden, daughter of the Earl of Ulster and Claire Booth, and granddaughter to the Duke of Gloucester. She's 27th in line for the throne.


Lyla Gilman's brother, Rufus, born in October 2012, is 33rd in line for the throne.


Tāne Mahuta Lewis, Senna's brother, was named after a giant kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest of the Northland region of New Zealand. He was born on May 25, 2012 and is 30th in line for the throne, following the Succession to the Crown Act 2013.


Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Isla Phillips and Peter Phillips attend a Christmas Day church service
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Peter and Autumn Phillips's second and youngest daughter, Isla Elizabeth Phillips, was born on March 29, 2012 and is 15th in succession.


Maud Elizabeth Daphne Marina Windsor, the daughter of Lord Frederick and Lady Sophie of Windsor and granddaughter of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, was born on August 15, 2013 and is 47th in line for the throne.


Louis Arthur Nicholas Felix Windsor, who was born on May 27, 2014, is the youngest child of Lord and Lady Nicholas Windsor, and brother of Leopold and Albert. As he was baptized into the Roman Catholic church, he's not in line to the throne.


Mike Tindall, Zara Tindall and their daughter Mia Tindall pose for a photograph during day three of The Big Feastival at Alex James' Farm on August 28, 2016 in Kingham, Oxfordshire.
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

Daughter of Zara Phillips and her husband, former England rugby player Mike Tindall, Mia Grace Tindall was born on January 17, 2014 and is 17th in the line of succession.


Isabella Alexandra May, the second and youngest daughter of Lord Frederick and Lady Sophie of Windsor, was the last addition to the royal family. In July 2016, she was christened at Kensington Palace wearing the same gown worn by both Prince George and Princess Charlotte (it's a replica of the one that Queen Victoria's children wore). Looking on was celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who is one of Isabella's godparents.


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