CLOSE
Ben Templesmith/DC Comics
Ben Templesmith/DC Comics

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Ben Templesmith/DC Comics
Ben Templesmith/DC 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.

Universe! #1

By Albert Monteys
The Panel Syndicate

The latest pay-what-you-wish series from The Panel Syndicate.

Last year, Bryan K. Vaughan (Saga, Y: The Last Man) and Marcos Martin (Amazing Spider-man, Daredevil) launched The Panel Syndicate, a website to distribute their creator-owned digital comic The Private Eye. Using a pay-what-you-want business model, their venture has been an enormous success, bringing in a reported six-figure profit for a comic that readers could easily download for free if they wished. Now, The Panel Syndicate is expanding into a second title and bringing in a new creator.

Albert Monteys is a cartoonist who is well known in his home country of Spain but pretty much unknown everywhere else. Asked by his friend Marcos Martin to join The Panel Syndicate, he is using it to publish an ongoing anthology of science fiction stories called Universe! The first issue, released last week, is a time-traveling romp spanning billions of years and it's about an evil corporation that sends an employee back to the Big Bang in order to brand all of life—down to its very quarks—with the company logo. Those like myself who are new to Monteys work will read this wondering how we could possibly just be seeing his spectacular work for the first time.

Each issue of Universe!, published every two months, will tell a new self-contained story, although Monteys says they will be connected in some way.

There’s a short preview of the comic on The Panel Syndicate’s website. PDF and CBZ formatted files are available for whatever you’d like to pay for them.

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

Ody-C #1

By Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
Image Comics

A gender-bent Odyssey set in outer space.

Homer’s Odyssey, the epic adventure written somewhere around the end of the 8th century, has been the blueprint for every hero’s journey written since. In Ody-C, Matt Fraction and Christian Ward bring the classical Greek poem into the future and into outer space. It’s a new series published by Image Comics—home of Fraction’s surprise hit Sex Criminals—and with Christian Ward’s colorful, hallucinatory digitally painted art, it looks like a druggy, abstract rendition of Image’s best selling sci-fi hit Saga.

Fraction does a number of weird things with this comic, the least of which is setting it in space. It’s a gender-bent adaptation of what is a male revenge fantasy about returning to your love and butchering all the dudes that have been trying to get with her.

The heroine, Odyssia, is Odysseus by way of Barbarella and Wonder Woman. She’s the captain of an intergalactic army that has been at war for 10 years, and she longs to return, not to her man, but to the infant child she left behind. Another weird thing is that Fraction writes the book in six syllable dactylic hexameter, the rhythmic style of the classical poetry Homer used with The Odyssey. Oh, and it all starts with 8 pages that fold out into one panoramic scene. Christian Ward put in a lot of time with world building and character design to make this book look as outlandish and other-worldly as possible.

Here’s a preview.

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

Gotham By Midnight #1

By Ray Fawkes and Ben Templesmith
DC Comics

A Gotham City police taskforce that takes on the weird stuff Batman just can’t handle.

In the past few months, DC Comics has greatly expanded the scope of their “Bat-Family” titles which previously just consisted of multiple Batman comics and some secondary titles featuring sidekicks like Robin and Nightwing. In addition to giving Batgirl a new look and style appropriate for a millennial female audience, they launched titles like Grayson, an espionage comic featuring Dick Grayson; Gotham Academy, a supernatural comic set in a Gotham boarding school; and Arkham Manor, a book about Batman’s villains. Each book takes the world of Batman and pushes it into new genres with new storytelling opportunities.

This week brings Gotham By Midnight, a dark horror comic that, at one point in time, would have been separated from the main DC line and published within their horror-friendly Vertigo imprint.

Horror masters Ray Fawkes (Constantine) and Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night) introduce a Gotham City police task force that investigates the deeply weird goings on in Gotham that even Batman can’t deal with. The task force is led by longtime DC character Jim Corrigan (the host body for The Spectre) who leads a team of freaky specialists including Corrigan’s partner, Detective Lisa Drake, their expert on all things religious, Sister Justine, and forensics scientist Dr. Szandor Tarr. It’s kind of a B.P.R.D for the DC Universe.

Here’s a preview which gives you a good sense of Templesmith’s unique style of eerie, smokey, monotoned art, if you aren't already familiar.

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

Frontier #6

By Emily Carroll
Youth in Decline

Another creepy comic—in full color print!—from Emily Carroll.

2014 has been a good year for reading Emily Carroll comics in book form. The cartoonist, who is known for pushing the medium of webcomics with her inventive, subtly animated horror comics, released her first book via a major publisher this year, Through The Woods. Now, she quickly follows it up with a short story, Ann By The Bed, published in the 6th issue of Youth in Decline’s anthology comic Frontier.

Ann By the Bed, in typical Carroll fashion, tells an eerie story about a young woman who was mysteriously murdered long ago and has become an urban legend, the stuff of parlor games that young girls play to scare themselves silly during slumber parties. To read Carroll is to witness the beginnings of one of the great careers in comics history. She is a modern day Edward Gorey in tone and subject matter and is one of the most technically proficient young cartoonists working today. It’s hard to believe that she is only just getting started.

Frontier is a great little comic that is printed using full color digital Risograph printing, which allows self-publishers to put out low cost color books with ease. Each issue showcases an up-and-coming artist and Youth in Decline has proven themselves true tastemakers with their choices so far (previously we’ve seen exciting new cartoonists like Hellen Jo and Sam Alden). You can buy a copy of Frontier #6 or any previous issue directly from the publisher.

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