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Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse Comics

Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse 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. “The Fart Party’s Over”

By Julia Wertz
Narrative.ly

Julia Wertz's The Fart Party was a hilarious autobio comic strip that became one of the most popular webcomics of the mid-2000s (it was later collected into three print editions and a forthcoming omnibus). She retired the strip in 2011 and subsequently stepped away from comics for a time, focusing instead on photography projects involving abandoned buildings

Recently, Wertz published an article on the curated blogging platform Narrative.ly that is about 50 percent comics and 50 percent written word called "The Fart Party's Over." In it she opens up about her very personal struggles with alcoholism and her reasons for moving away from making a comic that was having a negative effect on her life. The comics shown here are a combination of strips that were previously published in her most recent collection The Infinite Wait and Other Stories and some previously unseen journal drawings that are startlingly different in tone and nature from her Fart Party strips. Together they tell a harrowing but ultimately triumphant story about her downslide into alcoholism and severe depression, her entry into rehab and, ultimately, her new focus on helping herself.

Wertz begins the article with a point about how the best comedians seem to mine their material from their own depression. She herself made a career out of getting people to laugh at often troubling events in her own life. Her decision to abandon a project that was ultimately not good for her is a decision that I think a lot of creative people tend to face when trying to achieve a certain work/life balance in addition to grappling with both the reality and expectations of being a struggling and starving artist. I think there is a lot that most artists can relate to in her story, not to mention anyone who has actually dealt with overcoming addiction or depression.

Read her article on Narrative.ly here.

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2. Furious #1

Written by Bryan J.L. Glass; art by Victor Santos
Dark Horse Comics

It's a difficult task these days to find a new spin on superheroes. So much so that it's a wonder anyone even tries anymore. Dark Horse Comics, as a publisher, seems committed to giving a voice to those that have some genuinely good ideas for this genre. Between the recent Buzzkill in which an alcoholic derives superpowers from drinking and Adam Warren's ode to superhero cheesecake Empowered, there seems to be room for modern takes on super heroics outside of what Marvel and DC have been doing. Add to that the new 5-issue mini-series Furious, which explores the ideas of being a superhero with a secret identity in today's celebrity-driven culture. And it looks to turn that concept on its head.

The world's first superhero is a woman named Cadence Lark who calls herself The Beacon. However, the media has named her "Furious" after she was videotaped losing her cool on some criminals. Lark has become a superhero to work through some things in her past and, in a twist on the concept of secret identities, must hide who she really is to protect her superhero identity because the public truly despises Cadence Lark.

Furious is written by Bryan J.L. Glass, a comics veteran and the writer and co-creator of anthropomorphic fantasy comic Mice Templar. This is very much a departure for him but it's a story that he's been wanting to tell for years. He's joined by artist Victor Santos, who has previously worked with Glass on Templar and who draws in a style that is reminiscent of Marcos Martin or Javier Pullido. 

Early reviews on this book promise some juicy plot twists as we learn about what led a troubled young woman to become a superhero in what may be a doomed attempt to redeem herself.

Read a preview of Furious here.

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3. Lost at Sea (10th Anniversary Edition)

By Bryan Lee O’Malley
Oni Press

Bryan Lee O'Malley has now been around long enough and made enough of a mark on the industry that we are at the point where we will be seeing his work reprinted in commemorative editions to celebrate his career. Oh, also, his highly anticipated new book, Seconds, comes out later this year, so that could have something to do with it as well. Ten years after the release of Lost at Sea, his first graphic novel, Oni Press is putting out an anniversary hardcover edition with the requisite supplemental material added including a previously uncollected short story that had only appeared online. The original book was published in black and white but some color has apparently been added in this edition.

While working on his now-classic 5 volume Scott Pilgrim series, O'Malley became one of the most influential creators of the 21st century. His style and approach to comic storytelling can be seen emulated among many of the younger generation of webcomic creators. Lost at Sea may not be as groundbreaking as Scott Pilgrim, but it is just as accomplished. Much in the way Scott Pilgrim seemed to perfectly capture a certain way of life and attitude among 20-somethings, Lost at Sea feels like it did the same for college-aged teens.

It's a coming of age story about an introverted teenage girl named Raleigh who is on a cross-country road trip with some college classmates whom she barely knows and has trouble relating to, socially. Raleigh's problem, she feels, is that her soul was stolen by a cat. And now she keeps seeing cats popping up everywhere. 

Though maybe not as laugh-out-loud funny as Scott Pilgrim, this book is charming and quirky and almost akin to a Haruki Marukami novel with its existentialist pondering and proliferation of spiritual cats.

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4. Li'l Sonja

Written by Jim Zub; art by Joel Carroll
Dynamite Entertainment

Recently I highlighted another book in the “Li'l” series, Li’l Vampi. Just as that book did with the character of Vampirella, Li'l Sonja takes a character that is steeped in a history of exploitative cheesecake art and makes an all-ages version that can appeal to young girls. Thanks to a successful new series, also published by Dynamite Entertainment and written by popular writer Gail Simone, Red Sonja is enjoying a bit of a comeback right now, capitalizing on Dark Horse's popular new Conan series and the general marketability of violent swordplay dramas. Li’l Sonja, of course, is something a little different. Here, in this one-shot release, the cute little red-haired She-Devil fights to solve a series of thefts plaguing a small town. 

Dynamite has pulled together an array of appropriately “cute” artists to illustrate all of these “Li’l” books they’ve been doing, including Art Baltazar who provides the cover for Li’l Sonja. The interiors are done by relative newcomer Joel Carroll, whose simple, happy cartooning gives Sonja a manga/video game character look as you can see from this preview. He’s joined by writer Jim Zub who has gained a lot of popularity for his creator-owned Skullkickers series as well as the new and well-regarded launch of IDW’s Samurai Jack comic.

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DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
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The Dark Knight Is Returning to Theaters, Just Ahead of 10th Anniversary
DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Believe it or not, July 18 will mark the 10th anniversary of the release of The Dark Knight, the second entry in Christopher Nolan’s game-changing superhero movie trilogy. To mark the occasion, Showcase Cinemas—the movie theater chain behind the Cinema de Lux experience—is bringing the movie back to select theaters on the east coast for limited screenings on February 8 and February 11, /Film reports.

Many people consider The Dark Knight the best film in the Batman franchise (Tim Burton and LEGO-fied movies included). The film currently holds a 94 percent “fresh” rating with both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the highest-rated movie in the Batman universe.

Much of the film’s acclaim came from Heath Ledger’s brilliant turn as The Joker—a role that won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar (making him the only actor to win that award posthumously). Even Michael Caine, who plays Bruce Wayne’s ever-dutiful butler and BFF Alfred, admitted that he wasn’t sold on the idea of bringing The Joker back into Batman’s cinematic universe, after the character was so ably played by Jack Nicholson in Burton’s 1989 film, until he found out Ledger would be taking the role.

“You don’t try and top Jack,” was Caine’s original thought. But when Nolan informed the actor that he was casting Ledger, that changed things. “I thought: ‘Now that’s the one guy that could do it!’ My confidence came back,” Caine told Empire Magazine.

To find out if The Dark Knight is playing at a theater near you, visit Showcase Cinemas’s website. If it’s not, don’t despair: With the official anniversary still six months away, other theaters are bound to have the same idea.

[h/t: /Film]

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BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
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10 Amazing Facts About Stan Lee
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Comic book legend Stan Lee’s life has always been an open book. The co-creator of some of the greatest superheroes and most beloved stories of all time has become just as mythical and larger-than-life as the characters in the panels. In 2015, around the time of Marvel’s 75th anniversary, Lee had the idea to reflect on his own life, as he said, “in the one form it has never been depicted, as a comic book … or if you prefer, a graphic memoir.”

The result, published by the Touchstone imprint of Simon & Schuster in 2015, was Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir—which was written by Lee with Peter David and features artwork by cartoonist and illustrator Colleen Doran. Here are 10 things we learned about Lee, on his 95th birthday.

1. HIS WIFE IS ALSO HIS BARBER.

As a bit of a throwaway fact, Stanley Martin Lieber (Stan Lee) reveals the secret of his slicked back mane on the second page of his memoir. “My whole adult life, I’ve never been to a barber,” he writes. “Joanie always cuts my hair.”

2. HIS CONFIDENCE COMES FROM HIS MOTHER.

Amazing Fantastic IncredibleCourtesy POW! Entertainment[2].jpg

Stan Lee writes that as a child he loved to read books by Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and others, and his mother often watched him read. “I probably got my self-confidence from the fact that my mother thought everything I did was brilliant.”

3. YOUNG STAN LEE WROTE OBITUARIES.

Before writing about the fantastic lives of fictional characters, Stan Lee wrote antemortem obituaries for celebrities at an undisclosed news office in New York. He says that he eventually quit that job because it was too “depressing.”

4. CAPTAIN AMERICA WAS HIS FIRST BIG BREAK.

A week into his job at Timely Comics, Lee got the opportunity to write a two-page Captain America comic. He wrote it under the pen name Stan Lee (now his legal name) and titled it "Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge." His first full comic script would come in Captain America Issue 5, published August 1, 1941.

5. HE WROTE TRAINING FILMS FOR THE ARMY WITH DR. SEUSS.

After being transferred from the army’s Signal Corps in New Jersey, Lee worked as a playwright in the Training Film Division in Queens with eight other men, including a few who went on to be very famous: Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Saroyan, cartoonist Charles Addams (creator of The Addams Family), director Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington [1939] and It’s a Wonderful Life [1946]) and Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

6. HE DEFIED THE COMICS CODE AUTHORITY WITH AN ANTI-DRUG COMIC.

In 1971, Lee received a letter from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asking him to put an anti-drug message in one of his books. He came up with a Spider-Man story that involved his best friend Harry abusing pills because of a break-up. The CCA would not approve the story with their seal because of the mention of drugs, but Lee convinced his publisher, Martin Goodman, to run the comic anyway.

7. AN ISSUE AT THE PRINTERS TURNED THE HULK GREEN.

The character was supposed to be gray, but Lee writes that the printer had a hard time keeping the color consistent. “So as of issue #2,” Lee writes, “with no explanation, he turned green.”

8. HIS WIFE DESTROYED HIS PRIZED TYPEWRITER.


Rich Polk/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

According to Lee, during an argument, Joanie destroyed the typewriter he used to write the first issues for characters including Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four. “This happened before eBay," he writes. "Too bad. I could’ve auctioned the parts and made a mint.”

9. A FIRE DESTROYED HIS INTERVIEWS AND LECTURES.

When Lee moved his family to Los Angeles, he set up a studio in Van Nuys where he stored videotapes of his talks and interviews, along with a commissioned bust of his wife. The building was lost to a blaze that the fire department believed was arson, but no one was ever charged with the crime.

10. HIS FAVORITE MARVEL FILM CAMEO WAS BASED ON ONE FROM THE COMICS.

Beginning with the first Spider-Man film in 2002, Stan Lee has made quick cameos in Marvel films as a service to the fans. He says that his appearance in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) was inspired by the story of Reed and Sue Richards’ wedding in Fantastic Four Annual Volume 1 #3, in which he and artist/writer Jack Kirby attempt to crash the ceremony but are thwarted.

All images courtesy of Touchstone unless otherwise noted.

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