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Marvel Comics

Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Marvel Comics
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. Ms. Marvel #1

Written by G. Willow Wilson; art by Adrian Alphona
Marvel Comics

The new Ms. Marvel--a name created in 1968 to tap into the women’s movement of that era--debuts in her own title this week and it’s a very big deal (UPDATE: A reader pointed out to me that Ms. Marvel actually did not debut until 1977, even though her original alter ego, Carol Danvers, first appeared in 1968). Taking over from Carol Danvers (who now goes by Captain Marvel) is a sixteen-year-old Pakistani-American Muslim named Kamala Khan.

Women of color are generally under-represented in comics and characters of Muslim faith are especially few and far between. DC Comics deserves credit for introducing an Arab-American Green Lantern (Simon Baz) last year and Marvel introduced an Arab mutant named Dust in the pages of New X-men years before that, but this is the first American Muslim to be given the high-profile launch of her very own comic.

The new Ms. Marvel is the brainchild of Marvel editor Sana Amanat. She collaborated with fellow Muslim American, writer G. Willow Wilson, to use elements from their life experiences to pour into the character. Kamala Khan lives in Jersey City with her immigrant family. She is devout in her faith but refuses to wear a traditional hijab. She avoids eating pork products despite really, really wanting them. She goes to school, hangs out with friends and, like any normal teenager in the Marvel Universe, obsesses about the Avengers. Kamala is a 21st century version of a long Marvel tradition of ordinary teenagers with everyday problems suddenly gaining extraordinary powers and great responsibility. In this first issue she becomes a shape-shifter, gaining the ability to grow and shrink various parts of her body and change her appearance, which is sure to lead to some interesting meta-commentary on cultural assimilation.

A lot of people of Muslim heritage will be watching this title closely to see how true-to-life Kamala’s experiences are but also to keep an eye on how respectfully their faith and culture is handled in the context of a modern day superhero comic. 

You can read a couple of previews here.

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2. Ant Colony

By Michael DeForge
Drawn & Quarterly

If you follow indie comics, you've probably heard of Michael DeForge. Over the past few years he has risen to become one of the most interesting and respected cartoonists of his generation. From his self-published one-man anthology Lose to his various online comics and his recent short story collection Very Casual, he is a prolific creator with a lot of work to seek out. Yet, until now, he hasn't really had that one major work that you could point new readers to as your official Michael DeForge Starter Kit. With the release of Ant Colony from Drawn & Quarterly, we now have what is not only arguably DeForge's best work, but also probably his most accessible in a beautiful hardcover format.

Ant Colony was previously serialized on DeForge's website as "Ant Comic" before being picked up by D&Q. Much like his highly regarded short story "Spotting Deer" from the Very Casual collection, it reads somewhat like a nature documentary set on some weird alternate Earth. There are ants of course, but they are very stylized in their appearance. The queen is an enormous, very sexualized (yet alien) representation of a female body, lying in wait. Other creatures include dog-headed spiders, centipedes that motor around like stretch limos, and creepy earthworms that emit laughing sounds even when they are chopped into bits.

Through a series of vignettes, the book depicts life in and around the ant colony — the ritualistic fertilization of the queen, the dangers of spiders and toxic cubes of Sweet 'n Low, and eventual war with a colony of red ants. We meet a number of interesting and likable ant characters including a gay couple, a young boy who ingests ground-up earthworm and becomes sort of a prophet, a corrupt cop, and a female member of the low-caste "Infertiles."  

Chris Ware recently explored the life of a bee in an installment of his 2012 graphic novel Building Stories. It's hard not to draw parallels here as DeForge similarly depicts his colony of ants with a deadpan sense of humor even when dealing with horrifying situations. Deforge's work always tiptoes around the edge of body horror and grotesque sexuality, yet he does so here with wit and imagination and an appealing group of characters that help make this as much fun to read as it is occasionally icky to look at.  

You can download a preview and find out more at the publisher's website.

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3. Red Light Properties

By Dan Goldman
IDW Publishing

I've been a fan of Dan Goldman's Red Light Properties since he initially launched it as a webcomic many years ago. Since then he has distributed it as a digital comic through Monkeybrain Comics and this week he is releasing the first in a series of print collections through IDW Publishing.

Red Light Properties is about a Miami real estate agency run by Jude and Cecilia Tobin, who have found an unusual niche in a tough housing market. They flip previously unsellable properties that have been haunted by exorcising the ghosts, then selling the “clean” houses to new buyers. They get rid of the ghosts by helping the spirits find the closure they need to move on. The stress of their unusual line of work takes its toll on the Tobins' marriage, making RLP part family drama, part comedy and part paranormal thriller. It actually reads very much like the kind of high-quality cable TV series you might find on AMC or HBO (maybe with a little HGTV thrown in).

Goldman has an unusual process for creating this comic which involves shooting video, generating 3D backgrounds, photographing models, and digitally drawing and coloring over it all in a way that pulls it all together. A lot of other artists using similar approaches might push this too far into photo-comic territory but he makes it work by using trippy, eye-popping colors and off-kilter page layouts.

This first ever print edition from IDW features recolored, relettered artwork, some rewritten dialogue, and 20 brand-new pages. You can find out more at the publisher's website.

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4. Loki: Agent of Asgard #1

Written by Al Ewing; art by Lee Garbett
Marvel Comics

Marvel is starting off the new year by launching a bunch of new titles in what they've dubbed "All New Marvel Now." In addition to Ms. Marvel this week and a relaunched Wolverine comic, we get the first ongoing series starring a villain who has recently become more of an anti-hero and a real fan favorite thanks to the Marvel films: Loki.

The character of Loki, Thor's deceptive half-brother, has become more and more prominent over the years, starring in his own series of stories in Journey into Mystery and appearing as a regular member of the Young Avengers. In those stories he had been transformed into a precocious tween which made for an entertaining new spin on the character. Now he's been transformed once again into a young adult version of his old self. And, not by coincidence, he now looks a lot like the Tom Hiddleston version we've seen in the Avengers and Thor films.

In Loki: Agent of Asgard, written by Mighty Avengers writer Al Ewing and illustrated by Lee Garbett, Loki is working as a secret agent for a group of goddesses referred to as All-Mother, and his first mission is to break into Avengers mansion. Ewing promises an episodic nature where individual missions will be contained to one issue but will all feed into the larger story that he is telling.

You can read a preview here.

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5. Hourly Comics Day


Comic above by Dan Berry
Every year on February 1 cartoonists all over the world take part in "Hourly Comics Day" in which they draw a little auto-bio cartoon for each hour of the day that they are awake. The results are posted to blogs, LiveJournal, DeviantArt, Tumblr and Twitter under hashtag #hourlycomicsday. This is not to be confused with 24 Hour Comics Day in which cartoonists challenge themselves to complete an entire comic within a 24 hour time period.

Hourly Comics is treated as a fun exercise and the results are generally more about enjoying a peek into the process of comic creation than getting a finished masterpiece of a comic to read. That said, some cartoonists just can’t help but make really great comics to read.

There are too many Hourly Comics out there to mention but here are a couple I thought were worth checking out:

Vera Brosgol
Maris Wicks
Audra Furuichi
Graham Annable (Crossover alert! His and Vera Brosgol's comics feature the same group of people getting together to watch Sherlock on TV) 
Sarah McIntyre
Dan Berry 
Sarah Searle
Faith Erin Hicks 

Comic above by Vera Brosgol


Comic above by Audra Furuichi 

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Hulton Archive, Getty Images
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10 Fun Facts About Spice World
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In 1996, the Spice Girls took the world by storm when they released the song “Wannabe” from their debut album, Spice. Their mantra of “Girl Power” inspired a generation of young women to “Spice Up Your Life.” After Spice sold 31 million copies worldwide, the inevitable next step was the Girls starring on the big screen. So 20 years ago, on January 23, 1998, Columbia Pictures unleashed Spice World on American moviegoers.

In their film debut, the Girls—Melanie Brown (Scary Spice), Melanie Chisholm (Sporty Spice), Emma Bunton (Baby Spice), Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice), and Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice)—played comical versions of themselves. The plot revolved around them trying to perform their biggest show yet, at London's Royal Albert Hall, while a tabloid newspaper reporter spied on them. And their best friend went into labor. And Ginger Spice kissed an alien.

Director Bob Spiers recruited several British luminaries to cameo, with Roger Moore, Bob Hoskins, Elvis Costello, Jennifer Saunders, and Elton John among those who appeared in the film. The Spice Girls were so popular that Prince Charles and his sons, Princes William and Harry, attended the Spice World premiere.

The movie, budgeted at $25 million, grossed a robust $100 million worldwide, despite Roger Ebert giving it a half-star rating and writing that the Girls were “so detached they can’t even successfully lip-synch their own songs.”

Spice World was nominated for seven Razzies, and won one: Worst Actress, an honor shared by all five Girls. In a 2007 UK poll, it was voted the worst film ever made. But over the years the film has endured. Esquire suggested it was better than The Beatles’s A Hard’s Day Night, and the podcast How Did This Get Made? spent more than an hour debating the film’s ridiculous plot.

Though the best-selling girl group of all time disbanded in 2000, Spice World remains a relic of Spice Mania. On its 20th anniversary, here are 10 fun facts about the film.

1. IT TOOK ONLY A YEAR FROM THE IDEA TO THE FINISHED FILM.

Prince Charles and Prince Harry pose with Spice Girls Victoria Beckham Mel C
WALTER DHLADHLA, AFP, Getty Images

Barnaby Thompson, one of the film’s producers, started a production company with Annie Lennox’s husband at the time, Uri Fruchtmann. Lennox and the Girls shared the same manager, Simon Fuller. Over lunch, Fuller, Fruchtmann, Thompson, and Fuller’s brother Kim decided they’d make the movie. "We finished it within a year of that lunch," Thompson told The Telegraph. "That lunch was on November 1, 1996 and we delivered the film exactly a year later, November 1, 1997."

2. THE GIRLS STOPPED TRAFFIC IN FRANCE.

By May 1997, the Girls had four number-one singles in the UK, and were one of the most popular music groups in the world. To create anticipation for Spice World, the producers took the women to the Cannes Film Festival, even though the film hadn’t been shot yet. "We put out a photo call notice," publicist Dennis Davidson said. "The traffic on the Croisette came to a standstill, there was a screaming crowd, people hanging out of the windows, it was totally insane." An estimated 5000 to 10,000 people showed up to see the pop stars. The film shot around London between June and August of 1997.

3. RICHARD E. GRANT’S DAUGHTER FORCED HIM TO DO THE MOVIE.

Richard E. Grant attends 'Their Finest' after party during the 60th BFI London Film Festival at on October 13, 2016.
John Phillips, Getty Images for BFI

Richard E. Grant’s 9-year-old daughter was a fan of the Spice Girls and when he was offered the part of the Girls’ manager, Clifford, she told him he had to do it, despite his concerns about “my acting credibility.” “And she’d say, ‘No, no, you have to. You have to because I want to meet them,’” Grant told Vulture in 2014. “So I did, and she was so thrilled. I had school playground credibility for about two semesters and then of course you dip into the other side when they go, ‘No, I was never a Spice Girls fan!’ Now that generation has all come back around again going, ‘Yeah, we love the Spice Girls!’”

4. SHAKESPEARE HELPED CAST ALAN CUMMING.

Alan Cumming played a less-than-Shakespearean role in the movie as a paparazzo-like guy named Piers Cuthbertson-Smyth. Ginger Spice was the one who suggested him to the casting department. “I remember seeing Alan Cumming performing as Hamlet [at the Donmar Warehouse],” she told The Telegraph. “When it came to Spice World, however many years later, it came to casting and we were going through pictures and I was like, ‘Let’s pick him, I saw him in Hamlet.’ It was brilliant to have that caliber of actors to be in our funny movie.”

5. YOU CAN VISIT THE SPICE BUS.

The Spice Girls arrive atop a double decker bus for a screening of their new movie 'Spice World' in New York.
HENNY RAY ABRAMS, AFP, Getty Images

The 1978 British Leyland Bristol VRTSL3 double decker bus, covered with the Union Jack on the outside and a swing on the inside, made its debut in the movie. Though a bomb destroyed it at the end of the movie, in real life it was saved. However, after filming ended the bus fell into disrepair, until the Island Harbour Marina, located on the Isle of Wight, purchased the beauty and restored it to its original state. They put it on permanent display in July 2014. The only thing the bus is missing is Meat Loaf driving it.

6. WITHNAIL AND I CONVINCED ELVIS COSTELLO TO MAKE A CAMEO.

In an interview with The A.V. Club, Elvis Costello said he loved Richard E. Grant’s film Withnail and I. “You know, I thought, ‘If I go to IMDb, I’m only a couple of clicks away from Withnail!,’” he said. Costello, who plays a barman in the movie, said he found his role to be “ironic.” “I’d only quit drinking a couple of years before, so I think the idea of being a barman was sort of ironic in my mind.”

7. THE PRODUCTION MADE SURE THE GIRLS DIDN’T READ THE SCRIPT.

Kim Fuller wrote the script (with additional writing from Jamie Curtis), which was originally titled Five. He knew the Girls might not like the script, or even read it. He gathered the ladies in a hotel in London. “I went in and said, ‘Look, turn your phones off, this is serious. I’m going to read you the story,’” he said.

They liked the story, and Ginger Spice contributed script ideas, even when she was in Bali. “I was spending hours on the phone trying to get it all sorted out and make sure that it was right,” she said. “By the time that we started, it was almost perfect.”

8. BUT THEY DIDN’T STICK TO THE SCRIPT.

Fuller said he gave them daily script pages and then they rehearsed it. “You needed to catch them at the right moment, when the energy is there,” Fuller said. “They’re not going to do 20 takes of one line, you know, so you had to think quickly on your feet.” In the Spice World documentary, Mel B confessed that she and the Girls interpreted the script. “We contributed our own little sparkle on top of it,” she said. “There were some times when we’d say the lines wrong just to make us laugh,” Baby Spice added. But those improvisations caused the script supervisor to almost quit.

"The script lady went beserk and nearly resigned because we kept changing everything," Fuller told The Telegraph. "There were a lot of flowers and we consoled her for a while and everything was fine after that."

9. THE GIRLS RECORDED AN ALBUM WHILE FILMING.

Their first album was such a massive hit that they needed to record their sophomore album to keep up the momentum. In order to fit in filming the movie and recording Spiceworld (one word), they had a mobile studio on set. They ended up writing some of the album’s—and movie’s—songs during production.

“It was quite good doing the album at the same time as the film because we were always hyperactive after a day on set and that meant we could go in the mobile studio and vibe off each other,” Posh told The Telegraph. They managed to film during the day and record at night. Virgin Records released the album on November 3, 1997, and most of Spiceworld’s songs made it into the movie, which meant there was an unofficial soundtrack.

10. MEL C LOVES THE MOVIE.

Melanie Chisholm (Sporty Spice) at the premiere of 'Spice World'
Brenda Chase, Getty Images

Mel C told The Telegraph that the film was difficult for her to watch, but when her daughter and friends wanted to watch it at a birthday party, Mel changed her mind. “I sat down with them and I actually really enjoyed it,” she said. “I laughed out loud. It brought back so many memories, and I think enough time has passed for me to be able to watch myself. You know in a way, it is brilliant. It’s very tongue-in-cheek, very silly. And the thing that I really realized was there was so much of us in it. It was very, very real.”

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Here's The Full List of 2018 Oscar Nominations
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

There are only two things that can get Hollywood’s biggest stars out of bed at 5 a.m.: an early call time or Academy Award nominations. The nominees for the 90th annual Oscars were announced on Tuesday morning, and represented a great year in movies.

Guillermo del Toro’s merman-meets-woman love story The Shape of Water leads this year’s nominees with a total of 13 nominations, followed by Martin McDonagh’s divisive Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which received nine nominations.

Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig both made some Oscar history with their nominations for Best Director: Peele is the fifth black director to compete for the statuette (joining John Singleton, Lee Daniels, Steve McQueen, and Barry Jenkins—none of whom have won the award) while Gerwig is the fifth woman to be nominated for the prize (in 2010, Kathryn Bigelow became the first female Best Director winner with The Hurt Locker).

The Academy Awards will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel for a second time, and will air on March 4, 2018. Which movies will you be rooting for on Oscar night?

BEST PICTURE

Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

LEAD ACTOR

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

LEAD ACTRESS

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

DIRECTOR

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

ANIMATED FEATURE

The Boss Baby, Tom McGrath, Ramsey Ann Naito
The Breadwinner, Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo
Coco, Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson
Ferdinand, Carlos Saldanha
Loving Vincent, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman

ANIMATED SHORT

Dear Basketball, Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant
Garden Party, Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon
Lou, Dave Mullins, Dana Murray
Negative Space, Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata
Revolting Rhymes, Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Call Me by Your Name, James Ivory
The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Logan, Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin
Mudbound, Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
Get Out, Jordan Peele
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins
Darkest Hour, Bruno Delbonnel
Dunkirk, Hoyte van Hoytema
Mudbound, Rachel Morrison
The Shape of Water, Dan Laustsen

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Steve James, Mark Mitten, Julie Goldman
Faces Places, JR, Agnès Varda, Rosalie Varda
Icarus, Bryan Fogel, Dan Cogan
Last Men in Aleppo, Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed, Soren Steen Jepersen
Strong Island, Yance Ford, Joslyn Barnes

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Edith+Eddie, Laura Checkoway, Thomas Lee Wright
Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, Frank Stiefel
Heroin(e), Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Kerrin Sheldon
Knife Skills, Thomas Lennon
Traffic Stop, Kate Davis, David Heilbroner

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

DeKalb Elementary, Reed Van Dyk
The Eleven O’Clock, Derin Seale, Josh Lawson
My Nephew Emmett, Kevin Wilson, Jr.
The Silent Child, Chris Overton, Rachel Shenton
Watu Wote/All of Us, Katja Benrath, Tobias Rosen

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
The Insult (Lebanon)
Loveless (Russia)
On Body and Soul (Hungary)
The Square (Sweden)

FILM EDITING

Baby Driver, Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss
Dunkirk, Lee Smith
I, Tonya, Tatiana S. Riegel
The Shape of Water, Sidney Wolinsky
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Jon Gregory

SOUND EDITING

Baby Driver, Julian Slater
Blade Runner 2049, Mark Mangini, Theo Green
Dunkirk, Alex Gibson, Richard King
The Shape of Water, Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood

SOUND MIXING

Baby Driver, Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin
Blade Runner 2049, Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill
Dunkirk, Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo
The Shape of Water, Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Beauty and the Beast, Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer
Blade Runner 2049, Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola
Darkest Hour, Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
Dunkirk, Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis
The Shape of Water, Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau

ORIGINAL SCORE

Dunkirk, Hans Zimmer
Phantom Thread, Jonny Greenwood
The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, John Williams
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Carter Burwell

ORIGINAL SONG

"Mighty River" from Mudbound, Mary J. Blige
"Mystery of Love" from Call Me by Your Name, Sufjan Stevens
"Remember Me" from Coco, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
"Stand Up for Something" from Marshall, Diane Warren, Common
"This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

MAKEUP AND HAIR

Darkest Hour, Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick
Victoria and Abdul, Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
Wonder, Arjen Tuiten

COSTUME DESIGN

Beauty and the Beast, Jacqueline Durran
Darkest Hour, Jacqueline Durran
Phantom Thread, Mark Bridges
The Shape of Water, Luis Sequeira
Victoria and Abdul, Consolata Boyle

VISUAL EFFECTS

Blade Runner 2049, John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick
Kong: Skull Island, Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus
Star Wars: The Last Jedi,  Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould, Neal Scanlon
War for the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist

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