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Dynamite Entertainment
Dynamite Entertainment

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Dynamite Entertainment
Dynamite Entertainment

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. Tomboy

By Liz Prince
Zest Books

A true story about growing up and never giving up being a tomboy

Liz Prince has been making short autobio comics for years now, which has helped prepare her for creating her first full length graphic novel. In Tomboy, Prince recounts her childhood growing up as a girl who disliked all the things that society thinks girls are supposed to love. She has always preferred wearing baseball caps, playing with Ghostbusters toys, reading comics, keeping her hair short, and never, ever wearing dresses. All her life, even now at the age of 31, she is often mistaken for a boy, but that’s the way she likes it.

These days, with parents being more conscious of gender stereotyping and even school kids becoming more accepting of gender identity issues their classmates may have, Tomboy seems almost quaint. Liz is not gay or transgender and she grew up with progressive parents who let her dress how she wanted so, despite some bullying, her story is comfortably devoid of emotionally scarring experiences. However, not being able to fit into the girl-shaped mold that she was expected to makes this a relatable comic for anyone who has ever not fit in. The triumph of her story, and of Liz herself, is that she was always strong enough to be who she was even when it might have been easier to just play a part. It’s an enjoyable and even comforting read as you find yourself rooting for Liz to find the acceptance you know a smart, funny, confident person like her will eventually find.

While this is a book that not just tomboys will enjoy, I should note that it is not one parents will want to give to younger kids. It is very much written from the perspective of Liz as an adult reflecting back on her childhood, and a lot of the issues raised, scenes depicted, and language used is only appropriate for teenagers—even though a lot of younger readers could benefit from reading the book’s lessons about self acceptance and what it means to be a girl.

Here’s a preview.

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2. Bob’s Burgers #1

By Rachel Hastings, Mike Olsen, Justin Hook, Jeff Drake, Frank Forte, Brad Rader, Bernard Derriman and Tony Gennaro
Dynamite Entertainment

The creators behind the hit TV series try their hands at a comic book

The latest in a long line of TV-to-comic adaptations, unlike most others, Bob’s Burgers is written and drawn by the writers and artists who work on the series. In addition, they’ll be creating stories that are "in canon” within the universe of the show.

Bob’s Burgers is a family sitcom about the Belchers—Bob, Linda, and their kids Louise, Tina, and Gene—who run a burger joint called, of course, Bob’s Burgers. Each issue of the comic will include multiple installments of "Louise's Unsolved Mysteries," "Tina's Erotic Friend Fiction," "A Gene Belcher Original Musical," "Letters Written by Linda," and "Bob's Burgers of the Day.”

Fellow Fox family series The Simpsons has had a long and critically acclaimed life in comics and, as something of a successor to that show’s popularity, Bob’s Burgers looks to do the same here.

Dynamite has a preview of the first issue.

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3. Jaegir

By Gordon Rennie and Simon Coleby
Rebellion/2000 AD

A strong new female character starring in a new Rogue Trooper spin-off

Next to Judge Dredd, the most popular, long-running series to come out of 2000 AD Magazine is probably Rogue Trooper. It's about a dystopian civil war between the ’Norts' and the ‘Southers' of toxin-ravaged Nu-Earth and the genetically modified soldier of the Souther infantry who goes AWOL after his platoon is massacred. Jaegir, a new one-shot which was recently serialized in 2000 AD, is the start of a new series set in the Rogue Trooper universe but looks at it from a new vantage point—that of the Nortland.

Kapitan-inspector Atalia Jaegir is a war crimes investigator assigned to stop a genetically-modified soldier from murdering his wife and children. 2000 AD is looking for Atalia Jaegir to be a strong female lead to build a new series of comics around and is putting a strong foot forward here.

Veteran artist Simon Coleby, who has worked on lots of gloomy material like Judge Dredd, The Punisher, and Rogue Trooper itself, brings a dirty, wretched realism to the otherworldliness that helps give this the feel of a futuristic detective drama. Fans of Michael Lark’s work on the Image Comics series Lazarus may want to check out Jaegir for the similarities in style.

You can read a preview here.

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4. Pop #1

By Curt Pires, Jason Copland, Pete Toms and Ryan Ferrier
Dark Horse

For the reader who just wants to see Justin Bieber get his kneecaps blown off

Comics have always been considered a “pop” medium with a quick-fix 22 pages of guilty pleasure. That’s partly why comics and pop music seem to often cross paths—from a 1970s Marvel Comic about The Beatles to The Wicked + The Divine’s rumination on gods reincarnated as pop stars. But, since the tastes between the two audiences don’t quite match up, the result usually ends up being comics critiquing or poking fun at the shallowness of pop music.

Writer Curt Pires looks to go down that route with the 4-issue mini-series Pop in which we find out that stars like Britney Spears and Mariah Carey have been grown in a lab and released to the public in order to deliver ROI to their investors. However, the planned next sensation has somehow escaped, weeks before the expected end of her gestation period, and is now alone and on the run.

While Pop doesn’t look like it's aiming for any groundbreaking conclusions about the artificial nature of pop music, it is off to an enticingly fun start, particularly when a couple of deadly “specialists” who look like they may have been created in a punk rock lab terrorize and blow off the kneecaps of the book's Justin Bieber stand-in.

Artist Jason Copland has been on the cusp of making it big for a while now ever since his webcomic Kill All Monsters first made the rounds. His thin-lined inks paired with Pete Toms’ appropriately poppy colors makes for a fine looking comic.

Here’s a preview on Dark Horse’s website

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5. Hip Hop Family Tree Vol. 2: 1981-1983

By Ed Piskor
Fantagraphics

The birth of Run-DMC, NWA, the Beastie Boys, and more

The first volume of Ed Piskor's comic book history of hip hop music was one of my favorite books of last year and it seems astounding that we already have the next edition of Hip Hop Family Tree in stores this week. This is Piskor’s magnum opus and he is diligently working his way through depicting the early days of the music and 70s-era comics he loves.

This second volume spans three years (1981-1983), a time when hip hop was becoming recognized outside of the clubs and streets of New York's outer boroughs. The early part of this book shows the making of Charlie Ahearn’s 1983 film Wild Style (Ahearn provides a lively written introduction to this volume) and by the end we’ve seen the formation of groups like Run-DMC, NWA, and the Beastie Boys.

Fantagraphics has a preview on their website. Also, Piskor continues to post new panels on BoingBoing as he goes for those who love the books and can’t wait for the next volume.

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6. B-Squad: Soldier of Misfortune Vol 1

By Eben Burgoon, Lauren Monardo, Jon Williams, Claudia Palescandolo, Sean Sutter, Junior Bruce, Michael Finn
Kickstarter

A squad of expendables that lose a team member each issue

B-Squad is a lite-comedy version of a concept we’ve seen in comics like DC’s Suicide Squad or Michael Fiffe’s Copra—a team of expendables is sent on missions where you never know who might not make it. The B-Squad consists of a group of goofy misfits like Brodee, the friendly surfer dude who is a master of the “Bro-Arts,” or MacGoogle, a guy with an iPad who gets out of fixes like MacGyver by Googling the answers. At the end of each issue, a member of the team is killed off.

After successfully funding the first issue on Kickstarter, creator Eben Burgoon has decided to fund a collection of all 4 issues at once rather than his original plan of single issues. Much the way the makeup of the team changes each issue, Burgoon has recruited a different up-and-coming artist to draw each chapter.

The Kickstarter has almost reached its goal with 14 days still to go. If you want to sample the story, you can download the first issue for free here. There’s a variety of pledge packages to choose from so check out the Kickstarter page 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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