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Toni Bruno/One Peace Books
Toni Bruno/One Peace Books

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Toni Bruno/One Peace Books
Toni Bruno/One Peace Books

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. Kurt Cobain: When I Was An Alien

Written by Danilo Deninotti; art by Toni Bruno
One Peace Books

Italian writer and music journalist Danilo Deninotti was, like myself and many others, greatly affected when he first discovered the music of Nirvana. After he changed the face of rock music, the legend of frontman Kurt Cobain has only grown since his suicide in 1994. When Deninotti decided he wanted to create a graphic novel about Cobain, he chose to avoid the much-written about years of drug use and crippling celebrity and instead focus on Cobain's childhood and the early, pre-Nevermind years of the band.

Kurt Cobain: When I Was An Alien takes its name from a lyric in the song "Territorial Pissings." It also refers to Cobain's childhood belief that he was an alien and that someday his real alien parents would come back for him. We meet Cobain as a young boy in the early 1970s and watch him weather his parents' divorce while growing into a sensitive, artistic teen interested in drawing and playing guitar. At certain points throughout the book, Cobain sees himself and friends, like fellow band members Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, as aliens with oversized, almond-shaped eyes. In actuality, the details of Cobain's childhood as shown here don't seem that troubled or traumatic; it seems actually pretty normal, making the alien metaphor a little bit of a hard sell. The decision to focus just on his early years cuts out a lot of the dramatic value of the story, bypassing all the conflict and tragedy that would come later.

The artist for this book, Toni Bruno, is exceptional. This is his third graphic novel but he is not widely known, especially in the States. He has an expressive drawing style that looks similar to Brazilian cartoonist Fabio Moon (Casanova, Daytripper). This book marks Bruno and Deninotti's first partnership and it was an enormous success in Italy, selling out within 3 months. Now, a translated edition is being released in the States through One Peace Books. Bruno's drawings really bring this story to life, and Nirvana fans will appreciate all the details that he and Deninotti get right, including cameos by other indie rock musicians of the era like Buzz Osborne of the Melvins, Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, and Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth.

Kurt Cobain: When I Was An Alien will be available in comic book stores (probably through a special order) and also via Amazon.

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2. Genesis

Written by Nathan Edmondson; art by Alison Sampson; colors by Jason Wordie
Image Comics

Alison Sampson was an architect for 25 years before drawing her first comic book, Genesis, a newly released graphic novella from Image Comics. Comic book artists with a background in architecture are not unheard of—a recent example is Emma Rios, the artist of another Image comic, Pretty Deadly. You might imagine a comic by an architect to look structured with lots of clean, geometric lines, but the beauty of Genesis is that, on the surface, you get something that looks quite the opposite of that. It's full of loose, energetic drawings that look like they're melting off the page. All that careful thinking and measuring is still there, however, it's underneath the surface.

In an interview with Tim O'Shea, Sampson shares a diagram that reveals some of that measured thinking. She plots out visual cues within the design of the page that most readers would only get on a subconscious level. It makes you realize that architects, who spend a lot of time designing how human beings should move through a physical space, can also be really good at directing readers through the visual layout of a comic book.

You can see how an architect—or any artist, really—would be attracted to the concept of this book, written by Nathan Edmondson, who is known for espionage-driven material such as Who Is Jake Ellis?. In Genesis, a man named Adam discovers he has the power of creation. He initially uses this for simple and benevolent means, but he soon finds himself remaking the world and everything he loves in horrific and irreversible ways. The fact that Edmondson can go from writing popcorn-spy comics to something like this is fascinating—I hope he continues to diversify his output like this in the future.

The premise gives Sampson the architect room to build brand new environments with no limitations, but it also gives Sampson the artist freedom to create her own reality—a hallucination that deviates further from real-world physics with each page.

While the story itself probably falls short of saying anything too profound about creativity or theology, Sampson's work— along with the carefully chosen colors Jason Wordie uses to support it—make this a worthwhile book to pore over and examine. It is a stunning piece of comics work and it will be very exciting to see what Sampson does next.

Here's a preview of Genesis.

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3. Neurocomic

Written by Dr. Hana Roš; written and illustrated by Dr. Matteo Farinella
Nobrow

An architect-turned-comic-book-artist is one thing, but consider Dr. Matteo Farinella, who pulls double-duty as a cartoonist and a neuroscientist. Farinella makes the most of his talents by illustrating various educational projects and he has collaborated with fellow neuroscientist Dr. Hana Roš to create a graphic novel, Neurocomic. Released this week from Nobrow Press with support from the Wellcome Trust, this comic brings Dr. Farinella's worlds together.

Neurocomic attempts to explain what we know of how the brain works by following a man who somehow gets transmitted directly inside of one. There he experiences—first hand—dopamine, hallucinogens, memory, and more. He also meets various researchers who pioneered studies in brain-related science who help explain various concepts to both the protagonist and the reader.

Farinella conveys information with a very light-hearted, comical approach. This book is similar to another Nobrow book I wrote about last year called Freud. While the concepts are still probably heady for a casual reader to immerse themselves in, Neurocomic is great for someone with a predisposed interest in science, especially young adult readers. A book like this can be an excellent gateway for young minds into further scientific studies.

Nobrow has some preview images and ordering information on their website here.

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Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
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Deadpool Fans Have a Wild Theory About Who Cable Really Is
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Deadpool 2 is officially in theaters and ruling the box office just like its predecessor did back in 2015. But this installment is about more than just crude jokes and over-the-top action scenes; it also includes the debut of a longtime Marvel character that fans have been clamoring to see on the big screen since 2000’s X-Men hit theaters: Cable.

But the Cable in Deadpool 2 isn’t quite the one fans have gotten used to in the books—for starters, his powers and backstory are reined in considerably. While it’s easy to assume that’s by design, so that audiences can better relate to the character (which is played by Josh Brolin), some fans have speculated that the changes are because, well, this character isn’t really Cable at all; instead, Screen Rant has a theory that this version of the character is actually none other than an older Wolverine from the future.

So how can Wolverine be Cable? Well, it’s actually quite easy, considering that Wolverine was Cable in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe comics, which was a series of books in the 2000s that completely reimagined the regular Marvel Universe. In this reality, a grizzled, aged Wolverine takes on the Cable nickname and travels back in time to prevent a takeover of Earth from the villain Apocalypse.

We were already introduced to Apocalypse in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, and while he was defeated in the end, Screen Rant theorizes that he could return like he does in the Ultimate X-Men comics: by inhabiting the body of Nathaniel Essex, a.k.a. Mister Sinister. Essex was already name-dropped in Apocalypse and Deadpool 2, so it stands to reason that there might be some larger story on the horizon for him.

This would, of course, lead to more X-Men movies down the road, with Cable revealing his true nature and teaming with a crew of mutants that includes the classic X-Men cast as well as their younger selves to battle a newly formed Apocalypse. It’d also allow the character of Wolverine to live on in Brolin, leaving Hugh Jackman to enjoy a retired life without claws.

Obviously this is just one fan theory based on a comic storyline from over a decade ago. It would also have to ignore a whole host of continuity problems—including the events of Logan. But having a twist with Cable actually being Wolverine from the future (and likely from a different reality) is the type of headache-inducing madness the comics are known for.

[h/t: Screen Rant]

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King Features Syndicate
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8 Things You Might Not Know About Hi and Lois
King Features Syndicate
King Features Syndicate

A comics page staple for nearly 65 years, Mort Walker and Dik Browne’s Hi and Lois is a celebration of the mundane. Married couple Hiram “Hi” Flagston, wife Lois, and their four children balance work, school, and family dynamics, all of it with few punchlines but plenty of relatable situations. This four-panel ode to suburbia might appear simple, but it still has a rich history involving a beef with The Flintstones, broken noses, and one very important candy bar wrapper.

1. IT’S A SPINOFF OF BEETLE BAILEY.

Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker had been drawing that military-themed strip for four years when a friend of his named Lew Schwartz approached him in 1954 with a new idea: Why not create a strip about a nuclear family? Around the same time, the Korean War was ending, and Walker had sent Beetle home on furlough to visit his sister, Lois. Drawing a line between the two, Walker decided to pursue the suburbia idea using Lois as connective tissue. Hi and Lois was born: The two strips would see their respective characters visit one another over the years.

2. A CANDY BAR HELPED DEFINE THE STRIP’S LOOK.

Already working on Beetle Bailey, Walker decided to limit his work on Hi and Lois to writing. He wanted to collaborate with an artist, and so both he and his syndicate, King Features, went searching for a suitable partner. Walker soon came across ads for both Lipton’s tea and Mounds candy bars that had the same signature: Dik Browne. Coincidentally, a King Features executive named Sylvan Byck saw a strip in Boy’s Life magazine also signed by Browne. The two agreed he was a talent and invited Browne to work on the strip.

3. HI ORIGINALLY HAD A BROKEN NOSE.

As an artist, Walker had plenty of input into the style of Hi and Lois: Browne would later recall that trying to merge his own approach with Walker’s proved difficult. “When you draw a character like Hi, for instance, you immediately set the style for the whole strip,” he said. “You have already dictated what a tree will look like or how a dog will look, just by sketching that one head.” In his earliest incarnation, Hi had a broken, upturned nose to make him seem virile, puffed on a pipe, and wore a vest. Through trial and error, the two artists eventually settled on the softer lines the strip still uses today, an aesthetic some observers refer to as the “Connecticut school style” of cartooning.

4. EDITORS WERE WARY AT FIRST.

When Hi and Lois debuted on October 18, 1954, only 32 papers carried the strip. The reason, Walker later explained, had to do with concerns that he was spreading himself too thin. At the time, cartoonists rarely worked on two strips at once. Between Hi and Lois and Beetle Bailey, there was fear that the quality of one or both would suffer. Editors were also worried that having two artists on one project would dilute the self-expression of both. Walker stuck to his intentions—to make Hi and Lois a strip about the small pleasures of suburban life—and newspapers slowly came on board. By 1956, 131 papers were running the strip.

5. TRIXIE MAY HAVE SAVED THE STRIP.

With readers a little slow to respond to Hi and Lois, Walker had an idea: At the time, it was unusual for characters who don’t normally speak—like Snoopy—to express themselves with thought balloons. Walker decided to have baby Trixie think “out loud,” giving readers insight into her perspective. Shortly after Trixie began having a voice, Hi and Lois took off.

6. CHIP IS THE ONLY CHARACTER TO HAVE AGED.

Like most comic strip casts, the Hi and Lois family has found a way to stop the aging process. Baby Trixie is eternally in diapers; the parents seem to hover around 40 without any wrinkles. But oldest son Chip has been an exception. Roughly eight years old when the strip debuted, he’s currently 16, a nod to Walker's need for a character who can address teenage issues like driving, school, and dating.

7. IT LED TO HAGAR THE HORRIBLE.

Browne might be more well-known for his Hägar the Horrible, a strip about a beleaguered Viking. That strip, which debuted in 1973, was the result of Browne’s sons advising their father that Hi and Lois was really Walker’s brainchild and that Browne should consider a strip that could be a “family business.” By 1985, Hägar was in 1500 newspapers, while Hi and Lois was in 1000. Following Browne’s death in 1989, his son Chris continued the strip.

8. IT ALSO HAD A BONE TO PICK WITH THE FLINTSTONES.

The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera’s modern stone-age family, premiered in primetime in 1960, but not exactly the way the animation studio had intended. Fred and Wilma were initially named Flagstone, not Flintstone, and the series was to be titled Rally ‘Round the Flagstones. But Walker told executives he felt the name was too close to the Flagstons of Hi and Lois fame. Sensing a possible legal issue, they agreed.

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