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Evan Shaner/Dynamite Entertainment
Evan Shaner/Dynamite Entertainment

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Evan Shaner/Dynamite Entertainment
Evan Shaner/Dynamite Entertainment

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. Flash Gordon #1

Written by Jeff Parker; art by Evan "Doc" Shaner; colors by Jordie Bellaire
Dynamite Entertainment

To celebrate the 80th anniversary of Flash Gordon, Dynamite Entertainment is launching a new series with a rebooted, modernized version of the character. The new book is written by Jeff Parker who has already introduced this Flash Gordon in the pages of the recent Kings Watch mini-series which featured The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician, heroes from the pulp era of the '30s and '40s.

This new Flash Gordon is a thrill-seeking, bungee-jumping cast-about who is an embarrassment to his father but adored by his fans (and sought after by reality TV producers). He's surrounded by the familiar supporting cast including Dale Arden, a television reporter on the science affairs beat and Dr. Zarkov, a hard-drinking Russian scientist. The first issue gives us a little glimpse of their backgrounds and their previous lives on Earth but otherwise jumps right into the action on the planet Mongo as the three are pursued by henchmen of Ming the Merciless.

Many Dynamite comics seem to have a particular "house style" with realistic and sometimes over-rendered artwork. For these, the publisher has been upping its artistic game. Evan "Doc" Shaner is a perfect choice for this comic; his style succeeds in balancing detailed realism with a more classic cartooning style that honors the look of old news strips by greats like Alex Toth, Al Williamson, and Flash Gordon creator Alex Raymond. Jordie Bellaire, the book's colorist, deserves the same plaudits for straddling that line between retro and new with the color palettes she uses throughout. Even when viewed on screen, they look like they're seeping into newsprint.

Read a preview of the first few pages of Flash Gordon #1 here.

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2. All New Ultimates #1

Written by Michel Fiffe; art by Amilcar Pinna
Marvel Comics

In the aftermath of the recent Ultimate Cataclysm mini-series, Marvel's Ultimate Universe has been greatly altered. The world has been left in shambles after a disastrous attack by the world-devouring Galactus. Major heroes died and the teams that make up this long-running alternate Marvel Universe, The Ultimates and The FF, no longer exist as they once were. The appealing aspect of the Ultimate Universe is that dead is dead and change usually seems to stick, unlike in the regular Marvel Universe. With cities like New York now pretty much disaster zones, crime is running rampant, and a new team of Ultimates is needed.

If the original Ultimates were The Avengers, then this All New Ultimates seems to draw some cues from Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's popular but recently ended Young Avengers. This new group is made up of a diverse cast of teenage heroes including: Spider-man (not Peter Parker, who is dead in this universe, but Miles Morales), Black Widow (not Natasha Romanov but a female clone of the dead Peter Parker), Cloak and Dagger, and reformed villain and former X-man Kitty Pryde. It's worth noting that there is not one white, male character on this team.

The creative team for All New Ultimates is made up of two up-and-coming talents: Amilcar Pinna, a Brazilian illustrator who's previously done the mini-comic Banana Frita and Michel Fiffe, a writer who created his own highly acclaimed superhero comic Copra (see the next item on this list), which has been lauded in the indie comics circuit.

Here's an unlettered preview of All New Ultimates #1.

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3. Copra #1

By Michel Fiffe
Self-published

The comic that put All New Ultimates writer Michel Fiffe on the map is a self-published, high octane superhero adventure called Copra. It's about a team of heroes-for-hire that go on the run after their last mission goes horribly wrong and leaves half their squad dead and an entire town obliterated. Inspired by DC Comics' classic Suicide Squad (the series was born out of a Suicide Squad fan-comic Fiffe made called Deathzone), Copra features a similar cast of expendable mercenary types working with a government handler who is very reminiscent of Squad's Amanda Waller.

Fiffe has been writing, illustrating, and coloring a new 24-page issue of Copra every month and selling them on his website. It has developed a huge fan following and has become a critical darling of comic bloggers, making plenty of best of the year lists in 2013. The first issue of Copra, with only 800 copies ever printed, is long sold out but Fiffe recently made it available to read for free as a webcomic. Unfortunately, most of the other issues are sold out as well but hopefully Fiffe will find more ways to get this book out there.

The best part about Copra is the DIY nature of its aesthetic. Fiffe's drawings seem rough at first glance but are wonderfully staged and remarkably dynamic. His action scenes are as good as any you'd see in a comic from Marvel or DC. The best part about it is his unorthodox but sparing use of color on top of cream-colored paper. It brings together the world of superheros and the aesthetics of indie comics in a really enticing way.

Read issue #1 of Copra here.

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4. Lumberjanes #1

Written by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson; art by Brooke Allen
Boom! Box

Boom! Studios recently created an imprint called "Boom! Box" to allow creators working on their licensed properties like Adventure Time to find a place to publish their own stories. The first comic in this imprint was Ryan North's The Midas Touch and this week sees the latest, Lumberjanes, from writers Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson and artist Brooke Allen. Stevenson is a popular webcomic creator known for her award-winning Nimona. Ellis worked with Boom! Editor Shannon Watters to develop this concept, which they have described in terms of mixing elements of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gravity Falls and Scooby Doo.

The series follows a group of girls at summer camp solving mysteries and saving the world from giant yetis, three eyed wolves, and other supernatural threats. Brooke Allen brings a lot of energy to this with her artwork which is very reminiscent of Faith Erin Hicks in its manga-influence.

Here’s a preview.>

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5. Batman Eternal #1

Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV; art by Jason Fabok; colors by Brad Anderson
DC Comics

DC is a big proponent of the weekly comic, having had success with it in 2006 with 52. Lately, with the easy deliverability of digital comics, more and more comic makers are experimenting with a weekly schedule despite the high investment needed from the reader as well as staggering multiple art teams to keep up the pace. This year, DC plans two big new weeklies. The New 52: Future's End, is set five years into the DC Universe's future, and this week they launch the much anticipated Batman Eternal.

Batman Eternal will be a year-long series, shepherded by regular Batman series writer Scott Snyder but written by a team of writers who will alternate story arcs for the duration of the book. This series will start off with a time jump and then work its way towards showing you how things got to that point. The plan is to explore various aspects that make up the vast world of Batman: the "Bat Family", the assortment of villains, and Batman's relationships with supporting characters like Jim Gordon.

Here's a preview of the first issue.

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6. Cosplayers

By Dash Shaw
Fantagraphics

Fantagraphics is typically known for their high-end, bookstore-friendly graphic novels and coffee table collections of classic comic strips, so it's nice to see them release an actual comic book. Cosplayers is a 32-page one-shot by Dash Shaw about two teenage girls who enjoy cosplaying and shooting guerrilla-style YouTube videos.

Shaw is known for his longer comics work like the 700+ page literary tome Bottomless Belly Button or his art comic endeavors like Bodyworld and last year's The New School, but this seems to be a more light-hearted, yet still artistically experimental, effort from him.

Fantagraphics has some preview images here.

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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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Comics
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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