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The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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. Original Sin #1

Written by Jason Aaron; art by Mike Deodato; colors by Frank Martin
Marvel Comics

Someone has killed the Watcher and now every dark secret he knew about the Marvel Universe is out there.

It’s event week as both Marvel and DC are launching two major mini-series today that promise shocking revelations which will “forever” change their respective universes.

Original Sin is an eight-issue series that delves into some deep dark secrets lurking at the heart of the Marvel Universe. It begins simply enough with a murder, except it’s a pretty big murder. The Watcher, the bald demi-god who has been watching over mankind from the very beginning (or at least since his first appearance back in Fantastic Four #13 in 1963) is the victim and apparently everything that he has ever seen has been stolen with his eyes.

The original Nick Fury comes out of retirement to find the culprits and the book ties into pretty much every Marvel comic out there. In these books, expect to find some sort of payoff to the tagline of the promotional teaser: “Original Sin: Everyone Has One.”

From the moment this series was announced, some obvious comparisons have been made to DC’s Identity Crisis and Watchmen, but writer Jason Aaron, known for his crime-centric comics like Scalped and the newly released Southern Bastards, is simply following an age-old noir trope of an investigator trying to solve a murder and uncovering a conspiracy that is too big to handle. For those who enjoy a little synergy between comics and movies, the main players in this series will include future film stars like Ant Man, Dr. Strange, and Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy.

Here’s a preview.

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2. New 52: Future’s End #1

Written by Brian Azzarello, Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens and Jeff Lemire; art by Patrick Zircher
DC Comics

A new weekly series set 5 years in the future, featuring the DC Universe debut of Batman Beyond.

DC, in many ways, is going back to the kinds of things that have worked well for them in the past: a weekly event series and a brief jump into the future to set up a mystery that asks, “How did things get this bad?"

In New 52: Future’s End, we get a weekly glimpse into a bleak future where everyone is recovering from a war with an alternate Earth, only to suddenly get attacked once again by some new invading force. This book will focus primarily on Terry McGinnis, a.k.a. Batman Beyond (the future Batman from the animated series of the same name), and Grifter (originally from the Wildstorm line of comics which was folded into DC proper a few years back), among others. Oh yeah, and a member of the Justice League is going to die.

This is one of three weekly series DC is rolling out this year, using them to replace some recently cancelled monthly books in their lineup. They have assembled a number of their star writers, each familiar with various aspects of the DC Universe, to collaborate and juggle the multiple plot threads that will weave through the nearly year-long mini-series. In addition, there will be a stable of artists taking turns throughout the series.

Both Marvel’s Original Sin and DC’s Future’s End have released “zero issues” (a prequel issue numbered with a “0”) in the past couple of weeks, but zero issues are industry code for “you don’t need to read this to know what’s going on" so don't even worry about them.

You can read a preview of Future's End #1 here.

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3. Image Comics Humble Bundle

www.humblebundle.com

If you've ever been curious to try out some of Image Comics' best titles, this is the week to do it.

If you’re not already an avid reader of Image Comics books but have been curious to try some, there’s never been a better time than this week. Through the digital sale site Humble Bundle, Image is giving you the opportunity to get up to 12 of their top books for any price you feel like paying. You can pay as little as a dollar to get 4 of the books but need to pay over $10 to get the next 6 and more than $15 to get the whole set of 12. That’s still nothing, and as an added bonus, proceeds go to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit dedicated to aiding the first amendment rights of comic book creators and retailers.

The books being offered here are all outstanding, from highly acclaimed and top selling phenomena like The Walking Dead (vols. 1 and 20 are available here) and Saga (vols. 1 and 2), to newer books like Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s future sci-fi epic East of West and Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s dystopian near-future drama Lazarus. Image is currently at the top of their game, putting out some of the best genre comics on the market and they’re all "creator-owned."

There is a week to go on this offer so jump on it now.

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4. The Complete Peanuts 1950 - 1952 (Vol. 1) - Paperback Edition

By Charles Schultz
Fantagraphics

Fantagraphics begins releasing their bestselling and much loved Peanuts archives in affordable softcover volumes.

When Fantagraphics began their decade-long (and counting) project of releasing the entirety of Charles Schulz’ classic Peanuts comics in beautifully designed hardcover archives back in 2004, they sparked a whole cottage industry for publishing coffee table and library-friendly definitive collections of old newspaper comic strips. While they still have a few more hardbound volumes to release before they complete the project (volume 21, which begins collecting strips from the 1990s, also comes out this week), they’re now starting back at the beginning by releasing new lower-priced softcover editions.

Volume one collects the very first Peanuts strips from 1950 through 1952. We get to see Schultz figuring out what he wanted to do with this strip and how he wanted these characters to look and interact. Some of the kids, like Linus, Schroeder, and Lucy, start out as infants before Schultz decides to make them the same age as everybody else. There is some biographical material included as well as an introduction by Garrison Keillor.

Find out more 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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