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Marvel Comics

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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Marvel Comics

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. Minimum Wage #1


By Bob Fingerman
Image Comics

The 1990s are often thought of as the time comics almost ate themselves in a fit of foiled cover gluttony and nearly choked to death as an industry. It was also the decade that birthed a movement of independently published alternative comics that has led straight to the golden age of independent comics we’re currently experiencing. Image Comics, having been founded in the early ‘90s by the likes of Todd MacFarlane and Rob Liefeld (among others), is often associated with that era with both positive and negative implications. Image is on a bit of a crusade lately to find a new home for some quality independent comics that were born in the 1990s. They recently announced a return of the much missed crime comic Stray Bullets and this week they bring back one of the most acclaimed and beloved comics of that time: Bob Fingerman’s Minimum Wage.

The original 10 issue run of Fingerman’s semi-autobiographical comic was recently republished in an oversized volume by Image, thanks to the urging of Wage fan Robert (The Walking Dead) Kirkman. Now, 15 years after retiring them, Fingerman is returning to the characters and revisiting their lives three years from where he left them. The series focuses around a Fingerman stand-in named Rob who is now recently divorced, living with his mom and trying to get back into the dating scene. Very much your typical ‘90s New York slacker, Rob is now about to enter the year 2000 at long last.

Minimum Wage is often credited with being an early example of cringe comedy (years before The Office and Louie made such uncomfortable humor mainstream). It draws from realistic and relatable scenarios that artsy, down-on-their-luck guys like Rob would find themselves in. It has a devoted fan base and has inspired many cartoonists such as Kirkman but also comedians such as Patton Oswalt, David Cross and Marc Maron.

Read a preview of issue #1 here.

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2. Black Widow #1


Written by Nathan Edmondson; art by Phil Noto
Marvel Comics

We all remember Black Widow's “red on my ledger" speech from the Avengers film. The idea of the former KGB assassin having a bloody past has become even more of an integral part of her character in the comics since that scene (I believe a recent issue of Avengers even had her say a similar line). Now, in a brand new ongoing series, Natasha Romanov will explore her past as she seeks to atone for it.

Marvel has attempted a number of Black Widow solo comics over the years with very little success, but thanks to Scarlett Johansson's portrayal she is now much more of a marquee character than she's ever been. They've enlisted one of comics' newest espionage experts, Nathan Edmondson, to write the book. Edmondson made a big splash a few years back with his acclaimed spy thriller Who is Jake Ellis? for Image Comics. Since then, he's become a bit of a go-to guy for this kind of material. It's even gotten him hired to write for a Tom Clancy video game.

Phil Noto is known mostly for his pinup and cover work. His style is very reminiscent of the classic advertising illustrators and poster artists of the 1960s and he excels at drawing beautiful women. His interior comics work in the past has typically lost a lot of the richness and sexiness of his fully painted cover work but the preview images from issue no.1 of this book look like he’s found a way to bring the magic of his covers into the sequential imagery inside.

Read a short preview here.

Marvel is starting the new year with an onslaught of new books and a lot of them are hitting at once this week. In addition to Black Widow we're also getting:
All New Invaders #1 - James Robinson and Steve Pugh bring the WWII Invaders into the modern age with Captain America, Namor, the original Human Torch and the Winter Soldier.
Avengers World #1 - Yet another Avengers book under the guidance of Jonathan Hickman (with Nick Spencer). John Cassady, recently of Uncanny Avengers, is the artist on this series which will focus on developing some of the lesser tier characters that are populating the main Avengers book.
X-Factor #1 - Peter David returns to the book that he is most popular for. This time out, X-Factor is a corporate-owned mutant team featuring Polaris, Quicksilver, Gambit and others.

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3. Li'l Vampi #1


Written by Eric Trautmann; art by Agnes Garbowska
Dynamite Entertainment

The "itty-bitty"-fication of popular comics characters in order to appeal to kid readers is going strong. The trend, that owes thanks in no small part to the Oh Yeah Comics guys and books like Itty Bitty Hellboy is growing in popularity among both kids and grownups. Dynamite Entertainment is now launching a series of one-shots of "Li'l" versions of various titles that they currently publish such as Red Sonja and Battlestar Galactica. This week, they're taking a character that is steeped in adult horror and cheesecake art and transforming her into something that every little girl would love to read.

Vampirella is a teenage paranormal investigator living in Stoker, Maine (population: boring). She's a little bit emo, she has a knack for solving mysteries and stopping werewolves and mummies, and she hates when people call her Vampi. Based on the sexy, blood-sucking alien that appeared in her own magazine put out by Warren Publishing in the 1970s and which continues to headline her own comics from Dynamite Entertainment today, Vampirella is just about the last character you’d expect to see marketed towards kids. Yet, seeing her in this context, she looks like a character straight out of Monster High.

Li'l Vampi is drawn by Agnes Garbowska who is fantastic at illustrating super-cute characters like this. She's been doing covers for some of the most popular kids' comics out there like My Little Pony and Powerpuff Girls.

You can read a preview of Li’l Vampi here.

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4. Detective Comics #27


By various
DC Comics

Whether planned or by happenstance, DC Comics' recent rebooting of their issue numbers has allowed the new Detective Comics #27 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Batman's first appearance in the original Detective Comics #27. 

To commemorate, this issue will be extra-sized at 96 pages with multiple stories including a retelling of Batman's origin by novelist and comics writer Brad Meltzer and superstar artist Bryan Hitch. The Batman writers from the other Bat-titles, Scott Snyder and Peter J. Tomasi, each have stories here as well. Snyder is joined by his The Wake collaborator Sean Gordon Murphy and Tomasi by Guillem March. Other contributors include Paul Dini, Franco Francavilla, Neal Adams and more. Plus, John Layman and Jason Fabok begin a storyline called "Gothopia" that will crossover into various other Bat-books.

This issue has courted some minor controversy due to one of its alternate covers (shown above) by Frank Miller. The cover was initially rejected by DC and has been deemed by many to be oddly raunchy for a commemorative issue. From DC’s standpoint, when you've got a Frank Miller cover you run it.

Here's a preview of the Meltzer/Hitch story.

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20 Facts About Your Favorite Coen Brothers’ Movies
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Gramercy Pictures

Ethan Coen turns 60 years old today, if you can believe it. Since bursting onto the scene in 1984 with the cult classic Blood Simple, the younger half of (arguably) the most dynamic moviemaking sibling duo in Hollywood has helped create some of the most memorable and quirky films in cinematic history, from Raising Arizona to Fargo and The Big Lebowski to No Country For Old Men. To celebrate the monumental birthday of one of the great writer-directors of our time (though he’s mostly uncredited as a director), here are some facts about your favorite Coen brothers’s movies.

1. THE COENS THINK BLOOD SIMPLE IS “PRETTY DAMN BAD.”

Fifteen years after Blood Simple’s release, the Coens reflected upon their first feature in the 2000 book My First Movie. “It’s crude, there’s no getting around it,” Ethan said. “On the other hand, it’s all confused with the actual process of making the movie and finishing the movie which, by and large, was a positive experience,” Joel said. “You never get entirely divorced from it that way. So, I don’t know. It’s a movie that I have a certain affection for. But I think it’s pretty damn bad!”

2. KEVIN COSTNER AND RICHARD JENKINS AUDITIONED FOR RAISING ARIZONA.

Kevin Costner auditioned three times to play H.I., only to see Nicolas Cage snag the role. Richard Jenkins had his first of many auditions for the Coens for Raising Arizona. He also (unsuccessfully) auditioned for Miller's Crossing (1990) and Fargo (1996) before calling it quits with the Coens. In 2001, Joel and Ethan cast Jenkins in The Man Who Wasn't There, even though he had never auditioned for it.

3. THE BROTHERS TURNED DOWN BATMAN TO MAKE MILLER’S CROSSING.

After Raising Arizona’s success established them as more than one-hit indie film wonders, the Coens had some options with regard to what project they could tackle next. Reportedly, their success meant that they were among the filmmakers being considered to make Batman for Warner Bros. Of course, the Coens ultimately decided to go the less commercial route, and Tim Burton ended up telling the story of The Dark Knight on the big screen.

4. BARTON FINK AND W.P. MAYHEW WERE LOOSELY BASED ON CLIFFORD ODETS AND WILLIAM FAULKNER.

The Coens acknowledge that Fink and Odets had similar backgrounds, but they had different personalities: Odets was extroverted, for one thing. Turturro, not his directors, read Odets’ 1940 journal. The Coens acknowledged that John Mahoney (Mayhew) looks a lot like the The Sound and the Fury author.

5. THE COENS'S WEB OF DECEPTION IN FARGO GOES EVEN FURTHER THAN THE OPENING CREDITS. 

While the tag on the beginning of the movie reads “This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987,” Fargo is, by no stretch of the imagination, a true story. During the film's press tour, the Coens admitted that while not pinpoint accurate, the story was indeed inspired by a similar crime that occurred in Minnesota, with Joel stating “In its general structure, the film is based on a real event, but the details of the story and the characters are fictional.”

However, any and all efforts to uncover anything resembling such a crime ever occurring in Minnesota come up empty, and in an introduction to the published script, Ethan pretty much admitted as much, writing that Fargo “aims to be both homey and exotic, and pretends to be true." 

6. THEY WANTED MARLON BRANDO TO PLAY JEFFREY LEBOWSKI.

According to Alex Belth, who wrote the e-book The Dudes Abide on his time spent working as an assistant to the Coens, casting the role of Jeffrey Lebowski was one of the last decisions made before filming. Names tossed around for the role included Robert Duvall (who passed because he wasn’t fond of the script), Anthony Hopkins (who passed since he had no interest in playing an American), and Gene Hackman (who was taking a break at the time). A second “wish list” included an oddball “who’s who," including Norman Mailer, George C. Scott, Jerry Falwell, Gore Vidal, Andy Griffith, William F. Buckley, and Ernest Borgnine.

The Coens’ ultimate Big Lebowski, however, was the enigmatic Marlon Brando, who by that time was reaching the end of his career (and life). Apparently, the Coens amused themselves by quoting some of their favorite Jeffrey Lebowski lines (“Strong men also cry”) in a Brando accent. The role would eventually go to the not-particularly-famous—albeit pitch-perfect—veteran character actor David Huddleston. In true Dude fashion, it all worked out in the end.

7. JOEL COEN WOOED FRANCES MCDORMAND ON THE SET OF BLOOD SIMPLE.

Coen and McDormand fell in love while making Blood Simple and got married a couple of years later, after production wrapped. McDormand told The Daily Beast about the moment when she roped him in. “I’d only brought one book to read to Austin, Texas, where we were filming, and I asked him if there was anything he’d recommend,” she said. “He brought me a box of James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler paperbacks, and I said, ‘Which one should I start with?’ And he said, ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice.’ I read it, and it was one of the sexiest f*ckin’ books I’ve ever read. A couple of nights later, I said, ‘Would you like to come over and discuss the book?’ That did it. He seduced me with literature. And then we discussed books and drank hot chocolate for several evenings. It was f*ckin’ hot. Keep it across the room for as long as you can—that’s a very important element.”

8. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? WAS ORIGINALLY INSPIRED BY THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Joel Coen revealed as much at the 15th anniversary reunion. “It started as a 'three saps on the run' kind of movie, and then at a certain point we looked at each other and said, 'You know, they're trying to get home—let's just say this is The Odyssey. We were thinking of it more as The Wizard of Oz. We wanted the tag on the movie to be: 'There's No Place Like Home.’”

9. THE ACTORS IN FARGO WENT THROUGH EXTENSIVE TRAINING TO GET THEIR ACCENTS RIGHT.

Having grown up in Minnesota, the Coens were more than familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the “Minnesota nice” accent, but much of the cast—including Frances McDormand and William H. Macy—needed coaching to get the intricacies right. Actors were even given copies of the scripts with extensive pronunciation notes. According to dialect coach Larissa Kokernot, who also appeared as one of the prostitutes Gaear and Carl rendezvous with in Brainerd, the “musicality” of the Minnesota nice accent comes from a place of “wanting people to agree with each other and get along.” This homey sensibility, contrasted with the ugly crimes committed throughout the movie, is, of course, one of the major reasons why the dark comedy is such an enduring classic.

10. NICOLAS CAGE'S HAIR REACTED TO H.I.'S STRESS LEVEL IN RAISING ARIZONA.

Ethan claimed that Cage was "crazy about his Woody Woodpecker haircut. The more difficulties his character got in, the bigger the wave in his hair got. There was a strange connection between the character and his hair."

11. A PROP FROM THE HUDSUCKER PROXY INSPIRED THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE.

A bit of set dressing from 1994’s The Hudsucker Proxy eventually led to 2001’s The Man Who Wasn’t There. In a barbershop scene, there’s a poster hanging in the background that featured a range of men’s hairstyles from the 1940s. The brothers liked the prop and kept it, and it’s what eventually served as the inspiration for The Man Who Wasn’t There.

12. GEORGE CLOONEY SIGNED ON TO O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? BEFORE EVEN READING THE SCRIPT.

The brothers visited George Clooney in Phoenix while he was making Three Kings (1999), wanting to work with him after seeing his performance in Out of Sight (1998). Moments after they put their script on Clooney’s hotel room table, the actor said “Great, I’m in.”

13. A SNAG IN THE MILLER’S CROSSING SCRIPT ULTIMATELY LED TO BARTON FINK.

Miller’s Crossing is a complicated beast, full of characters double-crossing each other and scheming for mob supremacy. In fact, it’s so complicated that at one point during the writing process the Coens had to take a break. It turned out to be a productive one: While Miller’s Crossing was on pause, the brothers wrote the screenplay for Barton Fink, the story of a writer who can’t finish a script.

14. INTOLERABLE CRUELTY IS THE FIRST COEN MOVIE THAT WASN’T THE BROTHERS’ ORIGINAL IDEA.

In 1995, the Coens rewrote a script originally penned by other screenwriters, Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, and John Romano. They didn’t decide to direct the movie, which became Intolerable Cruelty, until 2003.

15. THE LADYKILLERS WAS WRITTEN FOR BARRY SONNENFELD TO DIRECT.

The Coens effortlessly jump from crime thriller to comedy without missing a beat. So when they were commissioned to write a remake of the British black comedy The Ladykillers for director Barry Sonnenfeld, it seemed to fall in line with their cinematic sensibilities. When Sonnenfeld dropped out of the project, the Coens were hired to direct the film.

16. BURN AFTER READING MARKED THE FIRST TIME SINCE MILLER’S CROSSING THAT THE COENS DIDN’T WORK WITH THEIR USUAL CINEMATOGRAPHER, ROGER DEAKINS.

Instead, eventual Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki acted as the director of photography. The Coens would work with Deakins again on every one of their films until 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis.

17. IT TOOK SOME CONVINCING TO GET JAVIER BARDEM TO SAY “YES” TO NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Though it’s hard to imagine No Country for Old Men without Javier Bardem’s menacing—and Oscar-winning—performance as antagonist Anton Chigurh, he almost passed on the role. “It’s not something I especially like, killing people—even in movies,” Bardem said of his disdain for violence. “When the Coens called, I said, ‘Listen, I’m the wrong actor. I don’t drive, I speak bad English, and I hate violence.’ They laughed and said, ‘Maybe that’s why we called you.”’

18. PATTON OSWALT AUDITIONED FOR A SERIOUS MAN.

Patton Oswalt auditioned for the role of the obnoxious Arthur Gopnik in A Serious Man, a part that ultimately went to Richard Kind. Oswalt talked about his audition while appearing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, in which it was also revealed that Maron was being considered for the lead role of Larry Gopnik (the role that earned Michael Stuhlbarg his first, and so far only, Golden Globe nomination). 

19. THE CAT IN INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS WAS “A NIGHTMARE.”

Ulysses, the orange cat who practically stole Inside Llewyn Davis away from Oscar Isaac, was reportedly a bit of a diva. "The cat was a nightmare,” Ethan Coen said on the DVD commentary. “The trainer warned us and she was right. She said, uh, "Dogs like to please you. The cat only likes to please itself.’ A cat basically is impossible to train. We have a lot of footage of cats doing things we don't want them to do, if anyone's interested; I don't know if there's a market for that."

20. THE COEN BROTHERS PROBABLY DON’T LOVE THE BIG LEBOWSKI AS MUCH AS YOU DO. 

We’re assuming the Coen Brothers are plenty fond of The Dude: after all, he doesn’t end up facing imminent death or tragedy, which is more than most of their protagonists have going for them. But in a rare Coen Brothers interview in 2009, Joel Coen flatly stated, “That movie has more of an enduring fascination for other people than it does for us.”

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‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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