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Dynamite Entertainment
Dynamite Entertainment

The Six Million Dollar Man: Season Six

Dynamite Entertainment
Dynamite Entertainment

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. Stray Bullets: Killers #1

By David Lapham
Image Comics

David Lapham's Stray Bullets was an influential comic from the 1990s, an era when people weren't really doing crime comics like they are now. Heavily influenced by the Quentin Tarantino films like Pulp Fiction, Lapham told single issue stories that fit into a fractured, larger narrative, bouncing back and forth in time from the 1970s to the '90s with a large cast of characters making appearances at different stages. His stories often took ordinary people and threw them into situations with ruthless killers. The violence they witnessed would often have damaging effects on their psyches, and the comic tested innocent people to see how quickly they would turn down an irreversible, immoral path.

Lapham self-published the comic up to issue #40 and then, in an example of how tough the economics of comics can be, put the book on hiatus with one issue to go while he moved on to work-for-hire projects to pay the bills. For nearly ten years, fans have been hoping that somehow Lapham would find a way to get back to Stray Bullets. Finally, thanks to Image Comics, it has returned.

This week, Lapham releases Stray Bullets #41, which finally concludes the previous storyline and simultaneously begins a new chapter with Stray Bullets: Killers #1. Moving forward, the book will be published in more of a mini-series format rather than continuing the previous numbering. However, the new story continues the approach of single, self-contained plot lines feeding into the over-arching narrative. Set in 1978, the issue introduces a boy named Eli who follows his dad to a strip club where he befriends familiar Stray Bullets tough guy Spanish Scott. What he learns about his father leads Eli down the horrifying, transformative path we're used to seeing in Lapham's world.

On a personal note, Stray Bullets is probably in my top 5 all-time favorite comic book series so I'm very excited to see its return this week.

Read a preview of The Killers here.

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2. Deadhorse: The Ballad of the Two Headed Dog #1

Written by Eric Grissom; Art by Phil Sloan; Colors by David Halvorson
Frankenstein's Daughter

The second volume of Eric Grissom, Phil Sloan, and David Halvorson's Deadhorse begins when the last pay phone in the world begins ringing. This kind of enigmatic mystery is par for the course in a series that's had a box that can make something out of nothing (including an entire town), two-headed dog markings that show up everywhere, and a Senator who commits suicide on live TV while talking to a hand puppet. If this sounds intriguing, I'm not even doing justice to how well it has played out so far. The creative team is setting up the pieces for a great conspiracy-style mystery that it doesn't take itself too seriously. Grissom and Sloan have a great sense of comedy, which manifests itself in sight gags and playful interaction between characters.

The story follows William Pike whose father held the the key to the mysterious box that was used to create the town of Deadhorse, Alaska. As Pike searches for answers about his father, he picks up a couple of travel companions—a teenage runaway named Elise and a geeky, Zardoz fanfic writer named Edgar. When volume 1 ended, the three were trapped in a temple underneath a campground called Trapper's Keep.

This past weekend, Comixology celebrated the one-year anniversary of their Submit program for self-publishers by selling a bundle of 100 of the top Submit comics for only $10. Deadhorse is one of the best of the bunch, and the first issue of the second volume came out last week. Anyone who picked up the bundle (which contained the entirety of Deadhorse Vol. 1) will be able to jump right into the start of volume 2.

You can buy Deadhorse: The Ballad of the Two Headed Dog#1 on Comixology here.

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3. The Six Million Dollar Man: Season Six #1

Written by James Kuhoric; art by Juan Antonio Ramirez
Dynamite Entertainment

The newest trend in comic book licensing is to take a classic TV show that ended too soon and give it a new "season" in comic book form. This started in 2007 with Dark Horse Comics' Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 8 and has picked up steam in the past couple of years with new "seasons" of X-Files, Firefly, and Samurai Jack.

This week, Dynamite Entertainment brings back The Six Million Dollar Man with a "Season Six" to pick up where the classic TV show left off. This is not the first time Steve Austin has had his own comic book series though. Dynamite recently published a Bionic Man series based on a Kevin Smith pitch for a rebooted TV program. This comic will be true to the original program which starred Lee Majors in all his track-suited glory. The first issue introduces Maskatron, a character that never appeared in the show but will be familiar to anyone that owned the original Bionic Man toys.

The series is written by James Kuhoric with art by Juan Antonio Ramirez, who previously worked on Dynamite's Bionic Woman series. There's also a painted cover by nostalgia maven Alex Ross that perfectly captures Steve Austin in full bionic action mode.

You can read a short preview here.

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4. "Boy's Toys"

By Mike Dawson
mikedawwwson.tumblr.com

Stay-at-home dad and award-winning cartoonist Mike Dawson recently posted this cartoon about gender roles and children's toys that I found to be pretty much in line with my own findings as a dad. In this day and age where progressive parents actively try to avoid gender stereotyping their children, there still seems to be a natural proclivity for girls to gravitate towards princesses and boys to gravitate towards cars and trucks.

Dawson has been doing a number of little one-off comics about parenting-related topics including one about Disney's Sofia The First that he published on Slate. If you have kids of a certain age, you may relate to and appreciate Dawson's work.

You can read all of "Boy's Toys" on Mike's Tumblr here.

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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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