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DC Comics

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

DC Comics
DC Comics

Every Wednesday, I highlight the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, Comixology, Kickstarter, and the web. These are not necessarily reviews insomuch as they are me pointing out new comics that are noteworthy for one reason or another. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about or an upcoming comic that you'd like me to consider highlighting.

1. Caliban #1

Written by Garth Ennis; art by Facundo Percio
Avatar Press

Fans of deep space horror such as Alien or Prometheus will want to check out this new series written by Garth Ennis (Preacher, Punisher Max) called Caliban. Set in a universe in which mankind has spent years exploring the galaxy without finding any evidence of other life, missions proceed uneventfully and by the book. That makes it all the more shocking for a crew on a routine exploratory mission when, out of nowhere, they suddenly crash directly into an an abandoned alien spacecraft.

Both Ennis and the publisher, Avatar Press, are known for stories with high shock value and disturbing levels of gore, so think of this as Prometheus if it were made by Quentin Tarantino. Facundo Percio, having previously worked with Alan Moore and Warren Ellis on Avatar books Fashion Beast and Anna Mercury, completes some sort of shocking writer hat trick by teaming with Ennis here.

Here's an unlettered preview of the first issue.

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2. Aquaman And The Others #1

Written by Dan Jurgens; art by Lan Medina
DC Comics

Probably the most unexpected hit of DC's "New 52" relaunch of their line of titles has been Aquaman. Geoff Johns revitalized the character by making him a bit of a bad-ass while also embracing the idea that everyone thinks he's kind of a joke. That said, it's a little surprising that DC seems to believe there is a market for two simultaneously ongoing Aquaman titles but, considering at one point last year Aquaman was outselling every single Marvel comic, maybe they're on to something.

The Others are also a New 52 success story. Apparently, before the formation of the Justice League, Aquaman had another team he used to hang out with. Each member of the team–Ya'wara, Sky, The Operative, Prisoner-of-War, and Aquaman himself–possesses an artifact from Atlantis that gives them their powers.

With their own book, written and drawn by DC regulars Dan Jurgens and Lan Medina, these new characters will be given a chance to develop a little and we'll see what kind of staying power (and selling power) they have.

Here's a preview.

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3. Study Group Comics

By Various Cartoonists
Kickstarter

Study Group Comics is perhaps the premier art-comics collaborative out there. They publish a variety of interesting webcomics from a range of talented creators such as Farel Dalrymple, Sam Alden, Malachi Ward, Sophie Franz, publisher Zack Soto, and more. They experiment with the capabilities of comic art and storytelling without being so "out there" as to turn off your average reader. The Study Group collective has been publishing magazines with work from various contributors as well as print editions of webcomic contributions. To help fund their Spring 2014 catalog they've taken to Kickstarter to allow readers to pre-order the books.

Study Group Magazine #3D will contain a special 3D section and feature work from some of the creators mentioned above as well as others like Jim Rugg and Kim Deitch. In addition, they are planning to publish print editions of Farel Dalrymple's It Will All Hurt #2–printed on newsprint with risographed covers–and Sam Alden's 96-page, wildly colored Haunter. Both works have been serialized online.

There are lots of reward levels to choose from in the Kickstarter including a very cool Study Group t-shirt designed by Michael Deforge. Check out and consider pre-ordering at the Kickstarter here.

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4. Inhuman #1

Written by Charles Soule; art by Joe Madureira; colors by Marte Gracia
Marvel Comics

Inhuman, the long-delayed mini-series event from Marvel, finally hits comic shops and digital devices today. After original writer Matt Fraction was taken off the series due to months of creative disagreement with editorial, new writer Charles Soule was brought on to start from scratch. We'll have to wonder what Fraction's rejected plans for this book were as they are probably locked away in some drawer. It's notable that one of Marvel's biggest creative stars could not find a way to come to terms with his editors and yet, unlike the PR fiascos we've seen when similar problems arise at DC, everything about this change has been amicable—at least in public. Soule—who is a rising star and is known for managing to write more comics at once for both Marvel and DC than pretty much anyone—now gets the opportunity to make a huge mark with a story that will set the course for the Marvel Universe for the immediate future.

The plot of Inhuman revolves around a family of characters called The Inhumans, first created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in their original run on The Fantastic Four. However, the focus will be on new characters who, as a result of the detonation of a bomb that releases a cloud of what is known Terrigen Mist, are suddenly turning into super-powered Inhumans. What the Terrigen Mist actually does is unlock genetic DNA that was implanted in mankind back in the prehistoric era by an alien race known as the Kree. The implications of where Marvel is going with this series could be big. Is this a shift from the mutant gene being the typical go-to origin? Are they setting the stage for a big push for the Inhumans to be a driving force in both the comics and future Marvel movies? After having greatly expanded the number of mutants in the universe at the end of the Avengers vs. X-men series, will there be any normal humans left in the Marvel Universe?

Anyway, fans of X-men comics from the 1990s will be excited to see artist Joe Mad (Joe Madureira) coming back for a stint on this book. Here's a preview.

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5. The Field #1

Written by Ed Brisson; art by Simon Roy
Image Comics

Dead Letters #1

Written by Christopher Sebela; art by Chris Visions
Boom Entertainment

Both The Field and Dead Letters are new comics that begin with their protagonist waking up with amnesia and find themselves being pursued for reasons they don't understand.

In The Field, the four-issue mini-series from Image, a man wakes up in the middle of a wheat field wearing only his underwear. Suddenly, he finds a cell phone on the ground next to him and a text message from an unknown caller who tells him only to "run." Written by Ed Brisson (from the excellent Image series Sheltered) and drawn by Simon Roy, who is perhaps best known for his work with Brandon Graham on Prophet, this crime noir story takes our underwear-clad hero on a weird ride involving meth, "dirty sex," and Christian rock.

Preview the first few pages of The Field here.

Meanwhile in Dead Letters, the new ongoing series from Boom Entertainment, a man wakes up in a hotel room in a strange city that is overrun with gang violence. Like the guy in The Field, he also has no idea who he is or how he got there. This protagonist has on more than underwear but for some reason he's wearing hospital scrubs and both his arms are bandaged. He also finds himself suddenly being pursued by people he doesn't seem to know. While also very much a noir-ish thriller, this one has a little bit of a supernatural bent to it that will reveal itself over time.

Dead Letters is written by Christopher Sebela who is on the verge of becoming a big star. His digital comic series High Crimes, a thriller set on top of and around Mount Everest, is one of Monkeybrain Comics' most acclaimed series and has led to him co-writing Marvel's Captain Marvel with Kelly Sue DeConnick. Artist Chris Visions is an illustrator with a very energetic, painterly style. The pieces on his website are well worth your time to browse (although some of it is NSFW) and you can read a preview of Dead Letters #1 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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