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Drew Weing
Drew Weing

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Drew Weing
Drew Weing

Every Wednesday, I highlight the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, Comixology, Kickstarter and the web. These are generally more short previews rather than complete reviews. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about.

1. Moon Knight #1

Written by Warren Ellis; art by Declan Shalvey; colors by Jordie Bellaire
Marvel Comics

Moon Knight has been kicking around for a long time and has built a devoted cult following, yet the superhero hasn't managed to connect with a large audience or sell enough comics to be considered a bankable character. Every attempt to launch a new book seems to inevitably fail, but there's something about Moon Knight and his untapped potential that keeps him coming back and has A-level creators jumping in to try their hand at making him work. This time out, Warren Ellis is making his big return to writing an ongoing comic (after some time off writing novels) by taking a shot.

Ellis has written Moon Knight before, using him to great effect during his run on Secret Avengers a few years ago. His plan is to make him somewhat of a detective solving "weird crime" cases such as a sewer-dwelling serial killer. He also is looking to rectify all the various interpretations of the hero from over the years. In the past, writers have tried many different hooks to make Moon Knight more than just a Batman knockoff. His backstory includes Egyptian gods and multiple personality disorders (among other things). Ellis plans to shed the stuff that doesn't work in order to hopefully make a definitive Moon Knight that sticks.

Joining Ellis is Declan Shalvey, an artist who has been rising in prominence of late for his consistently spectacular cover designs. Here he has a chance to show his stuff on the interiors and is collaborating with his girlfriend, Jordie Bellaire, one of the most prolific colorists in comics. The striking things about the preview images from this book are the new design for Moon Knight's costume and the way Shalvey and Bellaire render him almost as negative space on the page. The absence of detail and shadows is a complete 180-degree turn from recent detail-heavy renditions we've seen from artists like David Finch.

You can read a short preview of Moon Knight #1 here.

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2. Starlight #1

Written by Mark Millar; art by Goran Parlov; colors by Ive Svorcina
Image Comics

Throughout his career, writer Mark Millar has specialized in violent and sometimes shocking takes on classic comic book tropes. His modern update of The Avengers in The Ultimates helped set the foundation for the eventual blockbuster movie adaptations of his own creations —Wanted and Kick-Ass — which brought superheroes and villains into a world more like our own. Millar has a knack for dark, cynical, movie-friendly takes on the kind of comic book material he grew up reading.

In the first issue of Millar's new mini-series Starlight, a man who is very similar to early 20th century science fiction heroes like John Carter or Flash Gordon returns home from his epic intergalactic adventures to lead a normal life for the next 40 years. He raises a family of self-involved, unappreciative kids and loses his beloved wife very suddenly to cancer.

But then the aliens come back for him. Millar describes it as "Buzz Lightyear meets Unforgiven" or "Buck Rogers meets Dark Knight Returns." It's already been optioned for a movie.

The artist on the book is Goran Parlov, who first attracted attention by stepping in on various arcs of Vertigo's now classic Y: The Last Man series. He's since worked on numerous books for Marvel including the highly acclaimed Fury MAX comic with Garth Ennis. He's an amazing choice for this book as he can combine gritty realism with retro-space adventure to achieve that juxtaposition Millar sculpts. His art here goes from looking like Moebius in the intergalactic scenes to Frank Miller or David Mazzuchelli in the earth-bound scenes.

Read a preview of Starlight #1 here.

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3. The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo

By Drew Weing
www.drewweing.com

The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo is a new webcomic by Drew Weing that looks like a fun, all-ages mystery about a precocious kid who moves into a decrepit building that seems to be inhabited by monsters. With 12 posted pages as of this writing, it's a little early to tell where the story might be going. We just got a glimpse at our first monster this week so now's a good time to jump in.

Drew Weing has been working on webcomics since pretty much the beginning of the medium. In the early 2000s he drew a popular strip called Pup for the now-defunct Serializer.net. His recent graphic novel, Set To Sea, was originally serialized as a webcomic before being published by Fantagraphics.

With Margo Maloo, Weing channels Maurice Sendak as well as some of the great French cartoonists like Joann Sfar. A new page gets added every Tuesday and Thursday on drewweing.com Some older comics, like the previously mentioned Pup, have also been added to the archives.

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4. Denver

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; art by Pier Brito
Kickstarter

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have had a long and successful writing partnership that dates back to the early 2000s with The Resistance and 21 Down. They've recently started their own company, Paperfilms Studios, with artist Amanda Connor and are now in the middle of their sixth Kickstarter campaign together.

The Kickstarter campaign is for Denver, a science fiction graphic novel in the vein of movies like Blade Runner and The Fifth Element. It's set in a future in which Denver, Colorado is the last major city in the U.S. still standing after the devastating impact from a meteor disrupts the Earth's orbit and raises the planet's ocean levels. People are dying, killing, and doing anything necessary to get into Denver and Max Flynn, a Coast Border Guard, is one of those tasked with keeping the border secure.

Palmiotti and Gray are working with Spanish artist Pier Brito who has a rich, detailed style that evokes the moody, hyper-realistic art of Heavy Metal magazine. Similar to the adult sci-fi of that magazine, the cover image here suggests there will be an abundance of sex and violence in this comic.

Another member of the creative team is a music composer, Hans Karl, who has scored soundtracks for various films and animations. He has written and recorded a soundtrack for this comic which is available in various reward packages to backers of the Kickstarter.

Denver is already completely funded on Kickstarter but it's not too late to get in on it.

Below is an exclusive page from the book, courtesy of Paperfilms:

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5. Fowl Language

By Brian Gordon
www.fowllanguagecomics.com


If you're not reading the new webcomic from Brian Gordon (of Shoebox's Chuck & Beans fame), you really should change that. Fowl Language is a laugh-out-loud strip about life, parenting, social media and anything else Gordon sees fit. The latest strip, shown above — about how to explain gay marriage to your kids — is a great example of what to expect.

Browse his archives at fowllanguagecomics.com.

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Space Goat Publishing
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Comics
These Evil Dead 2 Comics Will Look Groovy on Your Bookshelf
Space Goat Publishing
Space Goat Publishing

Bruce Campbell has been quoted as saying the gallons of fake blood poured into his face during filming of the 1987 cult classic horror film Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn led to a week of red-tinged mucus leaking out of his nostrils. Fortunately, no Campbells were harmed in the making of two new comic collections from Space Goat Productions that are now being funded on Kickstarter. The Evil Dead 2 Omnibus features over 300 pages of stories set in the Necronomicon-plagued universe featured in numerous comic book miniseries; The Art of Evil Dead 2 reveals never-before-seen production art from both the comics and ancillary projects.

The campaign is the latest from Space Goat, the Bellingham, Washington-based company that’s made a cottage (or cabin) industry from products spinning out of the Sam Raimi-directed film, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. In addition to the new collections, the publisher has also issued an Evil Dead 2 coloring book; a comic where Campbell’s demon-fighting hero, Ash Williams, encounters Adolf Hitler; and a forthcoming board game where players can navigate Deadite threats while shaking their head at Ash’s questionable competency. (No matter the iteration, he seems ill-equipped to deal with the threat of his own possessed and lopped-off hand.)

According to Space Goat publisher Shon Bury, licensing the Evil Dead 2 property from rights holders StudioCanal in 2015 has been a buoy in navigating the difficult waters of comic book publishing. (Even Marvel, which rakes in billions through its film franchises, struggles to sell more than 60,000 to 70,000 copies of its most popular monthly titles.) One day into its Kickstarter launch, the Evil Dead titles had reached 50 percent of their $20,000 funding goal.

“It’s definitely our flagship on the publishing side,” Bury tells Mental Floss. “The board game is our top seller in the Evil Dead category, and the coloring book sells really well. They’re our evergreen products.”

The cover to 'The Art of Evil Dead 2' from Space Goat Publishing
Space Goat Publishing

Exploring Ash’s adventures in other media comes with a few caveats. While Space Goat is free to explore the characters and situations portrayed in Evil Dead 2, incorporating ideas from the rest of the series (including 1993’s Army of Darkness or the Starz series Ash vs. Evil Dead) is generally off-limits. And while the StudioCanal rights include a likeness of Campbell, the actor has veto power over how he’s depicted on the page. “For some reason, he doesn’t like the dimple on his chin to be drawn,” Bury says. “But he’s very insistent that the scar on his face from the movie is always there.”

Other actors featured in the film—like Richard Domeier, the future home-shopping host who portrayed “Evil Ed”—may not have granted their likeness rights, but his Deadite character design is part of the deal. “You want to inoculate the owner or licensor of the rights,” Bury says. “So we submit drawings and they might say, ‘No, too close to the actor.’”

That development process is part of what makes up The Art of Evil Dead 2, one-half of Space Goat’s current Kickstarter project that follows a successful Evil Dead 2 board game launch in 2016. The campaigns, Bury says, help target Ash fans with material that might not get enough attention if it were released directly to retailers. “Kickstarter is basically social media. It’s direct engagement, our way of saying to fans, ‘Hey, you’re really going to like this.’”

Bury expects fans to be just as enthused about Evil Dead 2: The Doppelganger Wars, a limited series due for release in 2018 that sees Ash and sidekick Annie Knowby enter the mirror dimension glimpsed at in Evil Dead 2 to discover the true origins of both the demon-summoning Necronomicon and the cult surrounding it. A meeting with H.P. Lovecraft may also be on deck, along with other narratives that would carry the license through the end of the publisher’s current agreement with StudioCanal in late 2019.

Still to be decided: whether Ash will ever encounter the werewolves of The Howling, Space Goat’s latest horror license. “Those conversations have occurred,” Bury says. “It would be a natural. But it’s also challenging because the royalties [for the licenses] double.” 

Digital versions of The Art of Evil Dead 2 and the Evil Dead Omnibus will be available to backers pledging $20 beginning in December. Softcover, hardcover, and Necronomicon slipcase editions ($30 and up) ship in May 2018. The Kickstarter runs through November 25.

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Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images
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History
How Superman Helped Foil the KKK
Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images
Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images

The Klansmen were furious.

Dozens of them had congregated in a nondescript room in Atlanta, shaking cloaked heads at the worrisome news that their sect leader had just shared: An act of gross subterfuge had transpired over the airwaves. Millions of Americans had now become privy to their policies, their rankings, their closely guarded methods of organized hatred.

All of it fodder for some comic book radio show. Their mission had been compromised, sacrificed at the altar of popular culture. Kids, one Klansman sighed. His kids were in the streets playing Superman vs. the Klan. Some of them tied red towels around their necks; others pranced around in white sheets. Their struggle for racial purity had been reduced to a recess role play.

Stetson Kennedy listened, doing his best to give off irate body language. He scowled. He nodded. He railed.

The covert activist waited patiently for the Klan to settle down. When they did, he would call radio journalists Walter Winchell and Drew Pearson, offering the results of his infiltration into the group for public consumption.

He’d also contact Robert Maxwell, producer of the Superman radio serial. Maxwell, eager to aid the humanitarian mission of the Anti-Defamation League, would promptly insert the leaked information into his show’s scripts. In between fisticuffs, his cast would mock the KKK’s infrastructure, and the group’s loathsome attitudes would be rendered impotent by the juvenilia.

The Klan roared, demanding revenge on their traitor. “Show me the rat,” their leader said, “and I’ll show you some action.”

Kennedy cheered, just as they all did.

And when he returned home, his Klan robe would be traded for a cape.

The cover to the first issue of Superman
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Kennedy, born in 1916, was an unlikely undercover operative. After a back injury kept him out of World War II, the Jacksonville, Florida native decided he wanted to combat anti-American forces on the home front. With Klan members alleged to have assaulted his family’s black maid when he was a child, the Klan—once again gathering steam in an era of segregation and racial divisiveness—was a favored target.

Having convinced a “Klavern” in Atlanta, Georgia that he shared their bigoted views, Kennedy donned the ominous attire of a Klansman, attended cross burnings, and covertly collected information about the group that he would then share with law enforcement and media. Radio journalist Drew Pearson would read the names and minutes of their meetings on air, exposing their guarded dialogues.

Revealing their closed-door sessions was a blow—one that Kennedy didn’t necessarily have to confine to nonfiction. In 1946, Maxwell, who produced the Superman radio serial broadcast around the country, embraced Kennedy’s idea to contribute to a narrative that had Superman scolding the racial divisiveness of the Klan and airing their dirty laundry to an enraptured audience.

“The law offices, state, county, FBI, House Un-American Activities Committee, they were all sympathetic with the Klan,” Kennedy said later. “The lawmen were, ideologically at least, close with the Klansmen. The court of public opinion was all that was left.”

Ostensibly aimed at children, Superman’s daily radio dramas were often broadcast to assembled nuclear families; one phone poll showed that 35 percent of its audience was composed of adults.

But regardless of whether parents listened, the activist believed the younger demographic was worth attending to. “Even back in the ’40s, they had kids in the Klan, little girls dressed up in Klan robes at the cross burnings," Kennedy said. "I have photos of an infant in a cradle with a complete Klan robe on. It seemed like a good place to do some educating.” 

In “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” a 16-part serial airing in June and July of 1946, Superman opposes an organized group of hatemongers who target one of Jimmy Olsen’s friends. Exploring their network, Clark Kent uncovers their secret meetings and policies before his alter ego socks the “Grand Scorpion” in the jaw. The idea, Kennedy wrote in his account of his work, The Klan Unmasked, was to made a mockery of their overblown vernacular.

When traveling, for example, Klansmen might identify one another by asking if they “knew Mr. Ayak,” an acronym for “Are You a Klansman?” Although Kennedy may not have actually shared their code words on air—a longstanding myth that was debunked in Rick Bowers’s 2012 book, Superman vs. the KKK—their histrionics were perfect for dramatization in the breathless structure of a radio drama. Given shape by actors and sound effects, all the clubhouse tropes of the Klan seemed exceedingly silly.

The cover to the first issue of Superman
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As Kennedy continued to serve up Klan secrets to Superman, he watched as Klan morale dipped and membership enrollment ebbed. Desperate, the Klan tried calling for a boycott of Kellogg’s, a new sponsor of the show, but racial intolerance was no match for the appetites of post-World War II homes. Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes remained breakfast table staples, and Superman’s battles with the close-minded continued. Emboldened by his success against the Klan, Superman took aim at Communism, a favorite target of the show’s anti-Red star, Bud Collyer.

Kennedy would go on to burden the Klan using proof of uncollected tax liens, and eventually convinced the state of Georgia to revoke their national corporate charter.

Kennedy died in 2011 at the age of 94. While some of his accounts of subterfuge in the Klan later came under fire for being embellished, his bravery in swimming with the sharks of the organization is undeniable. So, too, was his wisdom in utilizing American iconography to suffocate prejudice. Fictional or not, Superman may have done more to stifle the Klan’s postwar momentum than many real people who merely stood by and watched.

Portions of this article were excerpted from Superman vs. Hollywood: How Fiendish Producers, Devious Directors, and Warring Writers Grounded an American Icon by Jake Rossen with permission from Chicago Review Press. Copyright (c) 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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