CLOSE
Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics

Every Wednesday, I preview the most interesting new comics hitting 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. Miracleman #1

Written by Mick Anglo and "The Original Writer" (whose name rhymes with Halan Shmoore); art by Garry Leach and others
Marvel Comics

This release is the long-hoped-for return of one of the great lost classics of comic book history. It was one of the first revisionist, realistic takes on superheroes, written by two of the greatest writers to ever work in that genre: Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman.

In 1982, Moore revived what was then called Marvelman, a 1950s British superhero created by Mick Anglo as a blatant ripoff of Fawcett Comics' Captain Marvel in a series of short, black and white stories for British anthology magazine Warrior. Eclipse Comics picked up the series and changed the name to Miracleman to avoid a lawsuit from Marvel Comics, although this would be just the beginning of Miracleman's vast legal troubles. 

The Miracleman series was written by Moore around the same time he was writing Watchmen and  is a similar deconstruction of the genre, dealing with the more terrifying aspects of how superpowered beings might interact with human beings. Many readers consider it to be just as good and just as important as Watchmen. Moore wrote the series until issue #15 and then passed the reins to newcomer Neil Gaiman, who continued to write it into the early 1990s while also beginning work on The Sandman for DC Comics. 

Gaiman and artist Mark Buckingham were in the middle of a climactic 18-issue storyline to bring the Miracleman saga to a close when Eclipse Comics went bankrupt in 1994. Gaiman and Buckingham had actually completed what would have been their next issue, #25, but it has never seen the light of day. The legal wranglings of the following 20 years are too much to get into here, but you can read a detailed account of it here. The upshot is that Marvel Comics (with Gaiman’s help) acquired the rights to Miracleman from Todd McFarlane (like I said, it's a long story, just read this) and will now release remastered (re-colored and re-lettered) editions leading up to Gaiman and Buckingham finally getting a chance to finish their story. Moore wants nothing to do with the project and requires that his name not be associated with the reprints, hence the credit to "The Original Writer."

Many comics purists will object to the modern coloring applied here but Marvel seems to be taking great care to introduce this series in the best way possible to modern audiences while also looking to compile the most definitive collection possible. As a result, this first issue contains only about 10 pages of Moore's story while being filled out with extras and some necessary precursor stuff from the Mick Anglo years. This is an important piece of comics history whose legend has grown enormously due in part to the small number of people who have actually been able to read it. It will be interesting to see whether or not this classic can stand on its own today without the veil of mystery that has always surrounded it. And we’ll see whether new readers will be able to appreciate a comic that has previously influenced so much of what they have now taken for granted over the past 20 years.

*************** 

2. Black Dynamite #1

Written by Brian Ash; art by Ron Wimberly and Sal Buscema
IDW

The latest offering from the partnership between IDW Publishing and Cartoon Network is an adaptation of the popular Adult Swim series, Black Dynamite, which itself is adapted from the 2009 film of the same name. Black Dynamite is both a parody and a celebration of "Blaxploitation" films of the '70s. Its titular hero is an ex-CIA, Vietnam vet who uses his kung-fu skills to clean up the streets, squaring off against drug dealers, ninjas and, his arch-nemesis, Richard Nixon. 

The new mini-series is written by Brian Ash, a writer and producer of the animated program. He previously wrote a Black Dynamite graphic novel in 2011 called Slave Island. Here, he's collaborating with artist Ron Wimberly who originally designed some of the characters for the TV series.
Much like how the film emulated the look and feel of low-budget, one-take '70s blaxploitation films, the comic takes on the look of comic books of that era and even employs veteran comic book artist Sal Buscema to ink over Wimberly's pencils.

The preview for this looks really fun.

It's a big week for Ron Wimberly fans. He also happens to have some work in this week's issue of Brandon Graham's Prophet from Image Comics.

*************** 

3. D4VE

Written by Ryan Ferrier; art by Valentin Ramon
Monkeybrain Comics

A middle-aged, suburban husband dreams of his glory days while toiling away at a corporate job that is sucking the energy out of him. We've seen various mid-life crisis fantasies played out in everything from American Beauty to The Incredibles, but in the new 5 issue digital series from Monkeybrain Comics, D4VE, there's a fun new twist. The hero of this story is a robot who was once a warrior in the AI revolution that brought about the extinction of mankind. Now, he’s just a middle management cog in a corporate machine. The robots, in taking over Earth, also took on all of man's characteristics, habits, neuroses and failings. And now that the robots have become as lazy and complacent as their human predecessors, an alien threat has arrived to take control of Earth from them.

In the second issue, which came out last week via Comixology, D4VE finds himself saddled with an obnoxious teenage son named 5COTTY that his wife “ordered” for their family, unbeknownst to him. Plus, S4LLY, his wife, gets fed up and leaves him, his job gets even suckier and, oh yeah, aliens are invading. But that may actually be his best hope at salvation.

This is some pretty funny stuff and it seems to be quickly building a devoted audience. Ferrier brings some of his own personal experience (working dead end jobs and having existential crises) into the material and he and Ramon also put in plenty of clever visual and verbal gags that make this a delight to read.

You can pick up both of the issues that have been released so far for 99¢ each on Comixology.


nextArticle.image_alt|e
George C. Beresford/Getty Images
arrow
literature
12 Facts About Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
George C. Beresford/Getty Images
George C. Beresford/Getty Images

Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella about venturing into the moral depths of colonial Africa is among the most frequently analyzed literary works in college curricula.

1. ENGLISH WAS THE AUTHOR’S THIRD LANGUAGE.

It’s impressive enough that Conrad wrote a book that has stayed relevant for more than a century. This achievement seems all the more impressive when considering that he wrote it in English, his third language. Born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857, Conrad was a native Polish speaker. French was his second language. He didn’t even know any English—the language of his literary composition—until age 21.

2. HEART OF DARKNESS BEGINS AND ENDS IN THE UK.

Though it recounts Marlow's voyage through Belgian Congo in search of Kurtz and is forever linked to the African continent, Conrad’s novella begins and ends in England. At the story’s conclusion, the “tranquil waterway” that “seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness” is none other than the River Thames.

3. THE PROTAGONIST MARLOW IS CONRAD.

The well-traveled Marlow—who appears in other Conrad works, such as Lord Jim—is based on his equally well-traveled creator. In 1890, 32-year-old Conrad sailed the Congo River while serving as second-in-command on a Belgian trading company steamboat. As a career seaman, Conrad explored not only the African continent but also ventured to places ranging from Australia to India to South America.

4. LIKE KURTZ AND MARLOW, CONRAD GOT SICK ON HIS VOYAGE.

Illness claimed Kurtz, an ivory trader who has gone mysteriously insane. It nearly claimed Marlow. And these two characters almost never existed, owing to their creator’s health troubles. Conrad came down with dysentery and malaria in Belgian Congo, and afterwards had to recuperate in the German Hospital, London, before heading to Geneva, Switzerland, to undergo hydrotherapy. Though he survived, Conrad suffered from poor health for many years afterward.

5. THERE HAVE BEEN MANY ALLEGED KURTZES IN REAL LIFE.

The identity of the person on whom Conrad based the story’s antagonist has aroused many a conjecture. Among those suggested as the real Kurtz include a French agent who died on board Conrad’s steamship, a Belgian colonial officer, and Welsh explorer Henry Morton Stanley.

6. COLONIZING WAS ALL THE RAGE WHEN HEART OF DARKNESS APPEARED.

Imperialism—now viewed as misguided, oppressive, and ruthless—was much in vogue when Conrad’s novella hit shelves. The "Scramble for Africa" had seen European powers stake their claims on the majority of the continent. Britain’s Queen Victoria was even portrayed as the colonies' "great white mother." And writing in The New Review in 1897, adventurer Charles de Thierry (who tried and failed to establish his own colony in New Zealand) echoed the imperialistic exuberance of many with his declaration: “Since the wise men saw the star in the East, Christianity has found no nobler expression.”

7. CHINUA ACHEBE WAS NOT A FAN OF THE BOOK.

Even though Conrad was no champion of colonialism, Chinua Achebe—the Nigerian author of Things Fall Apart and other novels—delivered a 1975 lecture called “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” that described Conrad as a “thoroughgoing racist” and his ubiquitous short classic as “an offensive and deplorable book.” However, even Achebe credited Conrad for having “condemned the evil of imperial exploitation.” And others have recognized Heart of Darkness as an indictment of the unfairness and barbarity of the colonial system.

8. THE BOOK WASN’T SUCH A BIG DEAL—AT FIRST.

In 1902, three years after its initial serialization in a magazine, Heart of Darkness appeared in a volume with two other Conrad stories. It received the least notice of the three. In fact, not even Conrad himself considered it a major work. And during his lifetime, the story “received no special attention either from readers or from Conrad himself,” writes Gene M. Moore in the introduction to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness: A Casebook. But Heart of Darkness managed to ascend to immense prominence in the 1950s, after the planet had witnessed “the horror”—Kurtz's last words in the book—of WWII and the ramifications of influential men who so thoroughly indulged their basest instincts.

9. T.S. ELIOT BORROWED AN IMPORTANT LINE.

Though Heart of Darkness wasn’t an immediate sensation, it evidently was on the radar of some in the literary community. The famous line announcing the antagonist’s demise, “Mistah Kurtz—he dead,” serves as the epigraph to the 1925 T.S. Eliot poem “The Hollow Men.”

10. THE STORY INSPIRED APOCALYPSE NOW.

Eighty years after Conrad’s novella debuted, the Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now hit the big screen. Though heavily influenced by Heart of Darkness, the movie’s setting is not Belgian Congo, but the Vietnam War. And though the antagonist (played by Marlon Brando) is named Kurtz, this particular Kurtz is no ivory trader, but a U.S. military officer who has become mentally unhinged.

11. HEART OF DARKNESS HAS BEEN MADE INTO AN OPERA.

Tarik O'Regan’s Heart of Darkness, an opera in one act, opened in 2011. Premiering at London’s Royal Opera House, it was reportedly the first operatic adaptation of Conrad’s story and heavily inspired by Apocalypse Now.

12. THE BOOK ALSO SPARKED A VIDEO GAME.

In a development not even Conrad’s imagination could have produced, his classic inspired a video game, Spec Ops: The Line, which was released in 2012.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Dan Bell
arrow
Design
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.

[h/t Kottke.org]

All images by Dan Bell

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios