CLOSE
Kyle Starks
Kyle Starks

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Kyle Starks
Kyle Starks

Every Wednesday, I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, Comixology, Kickstarter, and the web. These are not necessarily reviews (though sometimes they are) but more pointing out noteworthy new comics that you may want to seek out. 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. Over Easy

By Mimi Pond
Drawn & Quarterly

In one of my first columns here, I highlighted Mimi Pond's charming webcomic about a road trip she took with some friends to a hamster show (yes, a hamster show. Just go read it). Pond has had a long career making short comics and writing for a variety of classic TV shows (she wrote the first episode of The Simpsons as well as episodes of Pee Wee's Playhouse and Designing Women). This week, she releases her first graphic novel, a fictionalized memoir called Over Easy that she has been working on for the past 15 years.

Pond recounts her experiences as an art school dropout who took a job as a dishwasher in a quirky restaurant in Oakland, CA. She has changed the names of all the characters that appear, as well as the name of the restaurant itself. It's referred to as the Imperial Cafe, but the real restaurant (which still exists) is called Mama's Royal Cafe. She also changes her own name (here she is Margaret who, in turn, takes on the name "Madge" as way of reinventing herself within the story). This is a coming of age tale in which young, naive Madge learns to become a confident and creative woman.

Over Easy is set in a transformative era in California when the hippie subculture of the 1960s quickly becomes the punk subculture of the 1970s. Sex and drugs were still flowing freely but women, living at the start of second-wave feminism, now were becoming freer to make their own choices about what they want to do and who they want to do it with. Madge practically idolizes the waitresses in the Imperial Cafe for the no-nonsense attitude they take with their customers and for their freedom to pick and choose who they sleep with (who are sometimes their customers). Eventually, Madge works her way up to becoming a waitress herself, learning to navigate the sexual and social politics of the job.

Pond's artwork, a combination of pen and watercolor wash, gives her story an approachable, quirky look. The entire book is colored in a greenish blue hue that seems somehow "diner-ish" while also feeling like it is conveying the soft haze of a memory. Like a lot of auto-bio comics, there can be a sense of "well, you just had to be there" with some of Pond's anecdotes, but she generally has a knack for telling funny, engaging stories. She is currently working on a sequel, which will explore the next stage of her young adulthood.

Drawn & Quarterly has a PDF preview of Over Easy here.

***********************************************************

2. Sexcastle

By Kyle Starks
Kickstarter

If you love '80s style action movies (and who doesn't, really), you're going to want to back the Kickstarter for Kyle Starks' 200-page graphic novel that has a name you can’t forget: Sexcastle. It's a mashup of all the tropes you love from cheesy tough guy films, and filters them through the absurdist lens of comic book comedy.

We first meet Shane Sexcastle at his birth when the doctors inform the nurse that “this baby was born mean." Fast forward 30-odd years to Shane being released from prison. He’s a former assassin/secret service agent who is ready to start a quiet life without all the constant killing that usually surrounds him. Shane is like a cross between Kurt Russell, Patrick Swayze and David Carradine, complete with eye patch, long hair, kung-fu skills and a frank way of telling you how it’s going to be. Almost immediately he gets caught up in defending a mother and her son from a ruthless small town crime boss and has to fend off a team of assassins that resemble all your favorite '80s action stars like Sylvester Stallone, Steven Seagal, and Mr. T.

This is a laugh-out-loud comic from a real rising talent. I first noticed Starks' work on Tumblr with his hilarious series of comics, Secret Agent Toddler In A Man's Body. He draws in a simple, angular style similar to Box Brown and Bryan Lee O'Malley. Starks has a great sense of comedic timing and can really draw an action scene. He hits all the right notes here—anyone who grew up on these movies will eat this up.

There is a week to go on the Kickstarter for Sexcastle and it has already exceeded its goal. I'm not sure what Starks' future publishing plans are, so this may be the surest way to get your hands on a copy. Pledge your support here.

***********************************************************

3. Flash #30

Written by Robert Venditt and Van Jensen; art by Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund
DC Comics

One of the biggest questions since DC rebooted their line of comics in 2011 has been: "Where is Wally West?” Debuting in 1959 as Kid Flash, the teen sidekick to the “Silver Age Flash" Barry Allen, West took over the name after Allen's death in 1985's universe-altering mini-series Crisis on Infinite Earths. For an entire generation of readers, Wally West was the Flash. That is, he was until 2009 when Barry Allen was brought back from the dead. The older Barry Allen fans were ecstatic, but younger readers were a little put off. Then, when the so-called "New 52" reboot took place and Flash #1 debuted with Barry Allen as the one-and-only Flash, Wally West was seemingly not a part of the new continuity.

Now, finally, 30 issues into the new series, DC has promised we'll see a new Wally West. There has been a lot of speculation about how the character might be different in this new universe and whether or not DC actually plans to make him into another version of the Flash. The answer may lie within future timelines that will apparently play a part in this new story arc, and that will feature heavily in upcoming DC events like the new weekly series Future's End.

This issue also debuts the new creative team of co-writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen with artists Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund. Venditti and Jensen have previously worked together on the Green Lantern books. Like fellow writer Jeff Lemire, they are some of the few current DC creators who have come in from successful careers making indie comics (Venditti is best known for his series The Surrogates and Jensen for the much-loved Pinocchio Vampire Slayer). Jensen spent years as a crime reporter for a small newspaper and will be bringing that experience into the police procedural aspect of the book in which Barry Allen is a forensic scientist for the Central City police force.

You can read a preview of Flash #30 here.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Space Goat Publishing
arrow
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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images
arrow
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.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios