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Skottie Young/Marvel Comics
Skottie Young/Marvel Comics

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Skottie Young/Marvel Comics
Skottie Young/Marvel Comics

Every Wednesday, I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, Kickstarter, and the web. 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. Rocket Raccoon #1

By Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Marvel Comics

This summer, Marvel Studios will release Guardians of the Galaxy, a film based on a comic that most people — even many comics fans — have never read. Inside speculation has it being a surprise hit and the standout star is probably going to be an all-CGI character (voiced by Bradley Cooper) named Rocket Raccoon. He’s a trash talking, gun-toting alien that very much resembles what we here on Earth call “raccoons.” Longtime comic fans are still trying to fathom how this oddball, under-used character may soon become as well known as Wolverine.

Marvel is ramping up its Guardians-related offerings ahead of the movie’s release, and this week sees the first issue of Rocket Raccoon, a new ongoing series featuring the Looney Tunes-style exploits of Rocket and his talking tree sidekick, Groot. Regardless of how the movie ends up performing, this book is going to find a sizable audience because of the creative talent behind it: Skottie Young. He's an artist who came on the scene in the early 2000s and has become a major star thanks to his adaptations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz series. This is his first comic for Marvel where he is both writing and drawing, so it will be a great opportunity to see Young creatively in charge of a comic.

It should be noted that Rocket co-creator Bill Mantlo has fallen on hard times and has been in hospice in recent years. Here’s some info about him and how you can help.

Here’s a short preview

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2. Carriers

By Lauren Weinstein
Nautil.us

Cartoonist Lauren Weinstein wrote and illustrated a 5 part comic called Carriers in which, during her pregnancy, she and her husband learn they are both carriers for the gene that causes cystic fibrosis. As she anxiously awaits test results from her doctor, she ponders the nature and history of this disease and the future that may be in store for her unborn child.

In a series of loosely colored, journal-like drawings, Weinstein visualizes the science behind the disease and the data surrounding the genetic demographics. She also conveys the agony that expecting parents go through while waiting for an answer that may affect their family’s future. The comic is tense, but it's also funny at times and very informative.

Weinstein creates short, memoir-based works that have been collected in anthologies such as Kramer’s Ergot and The Best American Comics as well as her own collections like Girl Stories and Inside Vineyland. Carriers was published this past week on the topic-based online science magazine Nautil.us and was also picked up on Robert Krulwich’s NPR blog.

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3. Twelve Gems

By Lane Milburn
Fantagraphics

Fantagraphics, the venerable publisher of works by cartoonists such as Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, and the Hernandez brothers, is not a company that you’d associate with low brow science fiction adventure comics. Twelve Gems, a new graphic novel by Lane Milburn, is a “space opera” about three mercenaries enlisted by a mad scientist type named Dr. Z to search for the fabled Twelve Gems of Power. There’s the sultry and deadly warrior Venus, the monstrous tough guy Furz, and the gentle canine technician Dogstar. Each has a mysterious past that is revealed in flashbacks throughout the story.

Twelve Gems is like a low-budget ‘80s sci-fi epic made by the kid in high school who was always drawing Dave Mustaine on his notebook. It’s both heavy metal and Heavy Metal in terms of where it draws its inspiration. Milburn is from the same artist collective — Closed Caption Comics — as Conor Stechschulte whose The Amateurs was also just published by Fantagraphics (I talked about it here recently). Both are cartoonists that make genre comics using the non-formalist sensibilities you’d normally see in art comics. Milburn’s drawing style is unpolished in a DIY/punk kind of way but full of enthusiasm and manic energy. This is not going to be for everyone, but it will likely appeal to readers who love cheesy one-liners, over the top violence, and tropes pulled from action films, video games, and manga from the 1980s.

Fantagraphics has a preview here.

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4. 100th Anniversary Special - Fantastic Four

By Jen Van Meter and Joanna Estrep
Marvel Comics

Marvel has decided to jump the gun and spend the month of July celebrating the imagined 100th anniversary of some of their main comics. (Is this a sign that they don't expect comic books to still be a thing in 50 years?) Most of their characters have just recently passed their 50th year in comics but each week in July, a new 100th Anniversary comic will be released as if we’re currently in the year 2061. This week starts it off with 100th Anniversary Special - Fantastic Four.

Jen Van Meter and Joanna Estrep reimagine the FF as a team of teenage "science heroes" led by the twin children of Valeria Richards and Bart Banner (presumably Bruce’s son) and joined by Victoria Harkness (the granddaughter of Doctor Doom) and a new Human Torch.

In the weeks ahead there will be 100th Anniversary comics for Spider-man, X-men, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Avengers. The Avengers comics will be written and drawn by James Stokoe (Orc Stain, Godzilla: Half Century War and Wonton Soup as seen in the next item).

Marvel and the creators involved have chosen to allow nearly the same amount of proposed time to pass within the comics as would have passed in the real world (something we know they don’t actually do within their previously published comics). We will see plenty of children and grandchildren of familiar characters as well as appearances by immortal and slow-aging heroes. For instance, Stokoe's Avengers team will consist of a magically young Dr. Strange, Beta Ray Bill (the alien space horse version of Thor), and Rogue from the X-men who has absorbed Wolverine’s regenerative healing and anti-aging powers.

In the FF, Van Meter and Estrep are also trying to approach the book as if they themselves are some future creative team that would be looking to tell a story that honored the past 100 years of that comic’s history. That angle makes these books a little different from your standard alternate future “What if?” stories.

Marvel has a lot more detail about each book here.

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5. Wonton Soup: Big Bowl Edition

By James Stokoe
Oni Press

Speaking of James Stokoe, Oni Press is releasing an omnibus edition of Wonton Soup, the comic that first brought him to everyone’s attention about ten years ago. It’s an odd, crazy comic about Johnny Boyo, the galaxy’s premier chef who gives it all up to become a space trucker in order to explore what other culinary dishes might be out there. Along the way he’s confronted by ninjas, pirates and an ex-girlfriend, Citrus Watts.

This so-called “Big Bowl Edition” collects the two previously published volumes of Wonton Soup together for the first time and includes an introduction by Stokoe’s friend and contemporary Brandon Graham. Stokoe is an exciting and unique artist who puts a bewildering amount of energy into his work. His style mixes the action and expression of Japanese manga with the design and composition of American graffiti art.

Wonton Soup may be his early work but it shows how confident and assured he was right out of the gate.

For the curious, Oni Press has a whopping 39 pages you can preview.

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Pop Culture
Cheerleaders and Chicken Suits: Funko is Releasing Several Special Edition Deadpool POPs!

Marvel’s “Merc With a Mouth” is not only getting a sequel—he’s also getting some new swag. Deadpool, the sardonic superhero/villain in red spandex, will soon be immortalized in a new line of special edition Funko POP! vinyl toys.

In keeping with the franchise's eccentric sense of humor, there will be several outlandish outfits to choose from, each one sold exclusively by a different retailer. Among the outfit options Funko lovers will find are a mermaid get-up (complete with starfish bra) at Target; a cheerleader uniform for BoxLunch; a king’s robe and crown at FYE; and a chicken suit for Amazon shoppers. There’s even one of Deadpool holding a chimichanga while wearing ninja gear for 7-Eleven.

These parody dolls seem to be keeping in character with the Deadpool films, which themselves are parodies of the superhero genre. The title character, played by Ryan Reynolds, often breaks the fourth wall in order to poke fun at both DC and Marvel. (The filmmakers also famously signed off on spending $10,000 for a quick shot of the unlikely superhero wearing a tank top with Golden Girl Bea Arthur's face on it.)

The figures will be out this summer following the release of Deadpool 2 on May 18, 2018. Funko also recently released its royal family line of POP! dolls, depicting Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, Elizabeth II, and her kin.

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Pop Culture
20 Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Locations You Can Visit in Real Life
Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

While most of Marvel Cinematic Universe is magically brought to life on sound stages, the box office-busting superhero movie franchise also makes use of real-world locations around the world to bring its stories to life. Here are 20 Marvel Cinematic Universe movie locations you can visit in real life.

1. WARRIOR FALLS // BLACK PANTHER (2018)

Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Connie Chiume, Michael B. Jordan, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong'o, and Daniel Kaluuya in 'Black Panther' (2018)
Disney/Marvel Studios

If you want to be the next king of Wakanda, you have to challenge the current king to ritual combat at Warrior Falls. While close-ups and action footage of Black Panther’s Warrior Falls were filmed on a soundstage in Atlanta, Georgia, establishing and wide shots were filmed at Iguazu Falls, a water system on the border of Argentina and Brazil in South America.

2. STARK INDUSTRIES // IRON MAN (2008)

After three months of being held captive by a terrorist group in Iron Man, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) returns to the United States and gives a press conference about his ordeal at Stark Industries HQ in Los Angeles. However, the press conference scene was filmed on location at the headquarters for Masimo, a medical technologies company based in the city of Irvine. The company’s offices have also been featured in Transformers (2007) and Dodgeball (2004).

3. CULVER UNIVERSITY // THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)

In The Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is a nuclear physicist and biochemist at Culver University in Willowdale, Virginia. For the film, the campus of the University of Toronto was used for the fictional school, while Morningside Park in Scarborough, Ontario was used for the university’s quadrangle. The park was the main filming location for General “Thunderbolt” Ross’s (William Hurt) attack on the Big Green Guy.

4. RANDY’S DONUTS // IRON MAN 2 (2010)

In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark—in full Iron Man armor—lounges inside the large, iconic donut on top of Randy’s Donuts when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) meets him to talk about the Avengers Initiative. The exterior of the real Randy’s Donuts location in Inglewood, California was used for filming, while the interior of the scene was filmed at Yum Yum Donuts in Playa del Rey, about 20 miles away.

Randy’s Donuts has also been featured in Get Shorty, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, Earth Girls Are Easy, Dope, and episodes of Arrested Development.

5. COUNTY HOSPITAL // THOR (2011) 

As soon as the Mighty Thor arrives on Earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) immediately hits the God of Thunder with her van. She rushes him to a small county hospital in Santa Fe. The production team used an office building called the Toney Anaya Building in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the hospital’s exterior.

6. PIER 13 // CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011)

After small and skinny Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is transformed into the tall and hunky Captain America, a HYDRA infiltrator steals the super soldier serum and speeds away through the mean streets of Brooklyn, New York. Instead of filming in the borough, the film crew simply used the exterior of the Titanic Hotel at Stanley Dock in Liverpool, England for the climax of the chase scene at Pier 13.

7. LOKI’S PLATFORM // THE AVENGERS (2012)

In The Avengers, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is in Germany when he delivers a rousing speech about humanity. In real life, the scene was filmed just outside of Tower City Center on Cleveland, Ohio’s Public Square. (You can actually see the city’s iconic Terminal Tower in the background.)

8. NEPTUNE’S NET // IRON MAN 3 (2013)

In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark has a panic attack when he’s signing autographs for fans at a seafood restaurant called Neptune’s Net. While there is a real Neptune’s Net in Malibu, California, the scene was actually filmed at Dania Beach Bar & Grill in Dania Beach, Florida. The production moved from California to Florida because the real Neptune’s Net is located on the Pacific Coast Highway and it would’ve been virtually impossible—not to mention expensive—to shut down the busy highway for filming.

9. OLD ROYAL NAVAL COLLEGE // THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)

In Thor: The Dark World, the climactic battle between Thor and the Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) takes place at Old Royal Naval College, located on the south bank of the river Thames in Greenwich, London. Thor even asks a confused subway rider how to get to Greenwich after he’s transported away from the fight.

Due to its popularity and cinematic look, Old Royal Naval College has also been featured in Cinderella (2015), Skyfall (2012), The King’s Speech (2010), Les Misérables (2012) and Netflix’s The Crown.

10. THE MALL // CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014)

When Captain America and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are on the run from undercover HYDRA soldiers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the superheroes hide in plain sight at a mall in Washington D.C. However, the scene was not filmed in the nation’s capital; it was shot on location at Tower City Center in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.

In fact, much like The Avengers, most of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was filmed at various locations in “The Land” (Cleveland’s nickname), including the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland State University, the Cleveland Arcade, Cleveland Museum of Art, the Western Reserve Historical Society, and Pilgrim Congregational Church. Even the city’s highways were used to film the movie’s exciting chase scenes, namely the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway over the mighty Cuyahoga River.

11. XANDAR PLAZA // GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

While Guardians of the Galaxy takes place on the cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a few real-life landmarks and buildings were used during filming. Most notably, the Liége-Guillemins Railway Station in Liège, Belgium was used for the centerpiece of Xandar Plaza, where the group of alien misfits are arrested at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy.

12. HYDRA RESEARCH BASE // AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)

At the beginning of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the titular superhero team fights their way through a forest in the fictional country of Sokovia. Their goal is to retrieve a Chitauri Scepter and the Mind Infinity Stone from inside a castle-like HYDRA research base, which was filmed at Fort Bard (or Forte di Bard) in Bard, Aosta Valley, Italy. The old fort was used as an outpost to protect the valley from Napoleon Bonaparte during the 19th century. Fort Bard is currently the location of the Museum of the Alps.

While Fort Bard was used to film the exterior, England’s Dover Castle was used to film the interior of the HYDRA research facility.

13. MILGROM HOTEL // ANT-MAN (2015)

After he is released from prison, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) moves into his former cellmate Luis’s (Michael Peña) apartment at the Milgrom Hotel in Ant-Man. However, the real filming location was the historic Riviera Hotel on Jones Street in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. It was originally built as a luxury hotel in 1907, but now serves as low-income housing.

14. THE AIRPORT BATTLE // CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)

In Captain America: Civil War, the epic showdown between Team Iron Man and Team Captain America takes place at Leipzig/Halle Airport in Schkeuditz, Germany. The airport was also the location for other movies, such as Flightplan (2005) and Unknown (2011).

15. EXETER COLLEGE // DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

When the villain Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) conjures a dark and mysterious spell from the Book of Cagliostro in Doctor Strange, he contacts Dormammu of the Dark Dimension. He recites it inside of the chapel at Exeter College in Oxford, England to seek revenge on the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton).

16. DAIRY QUEEN // GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017)

At the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Meredith Quill (Laura Haddock) and Ego (Kurt Russell) pull into a Dairy Queen in Missouri in 1980. That Dairy Queen is actually the location of BB’s Cafe, a restaurant in Stone Mountain, Georgia, about 20 miles outside of Atlanta.

17. FORESTS OF ASGARD // THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)

In Thor: Ragnarok, Heimdall (Idris Elba) leads a large group of refugees through the forests of Asgard to find sanctuary in the mountains. A majority of the superhero movie was filmed on sound stages in Australia, while Tamborine National Park and Cedar Creek Falls in South East Queensland were used for Asgardian forests and waterfalls.

18. MIDTOWN HIGH SCHOOL // SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017)

Peter Parker (Tom Holland) attends Midtown High School in Forest Hills, Queens. The production team for Spider-Man: Homecoming used Franklin K. Lane High School in Brooklyn, New York as the exterior for the fictional high school, while Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta, Georgia was used for its interior.

19. MUSEUM OF GREAT BRITAIN // BLACK PANTHER (2018)

In 2018’s Black Panther, we meet the film’s antagonist Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) while he's viewing African art and artifacts at the Museum of Great Britain, a stand-in for the British Museum in London. Instead of traveling to England, the film’s cast and crew filmed the scene at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia.

20. SHAWARMA PALACE // THE AVENGERS (2012)

At the end of The Avengers, Iron Man remarks that he’s never tried shawarma after he spotted a shawarma joint while flying around Manhattan during the Chitauri Battle. During the last post-credits scene, we find the very exhausted superhero team chowing down on the yummy Middle Eastern treat.

Director Joss Whedon filmed the scene at the then-Elat Burger (now Shalom Grill), located at 9340 West Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles. To keep the scene a secret, Whedon filmed it a day after the film’s world premiere, when the entire cast was in Los Angeles.

Fun fact: Sales of shawarma rose in Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Boston following the release of The Avengers in May 2012.

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