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Sophie Campbell/IDW Publishing
Sophie Campbell/IDW Publishing

This Week's New Comics: Jem and the Holograms and More

Sophie Campbell/IDW Publishing
Sophie Campbell/IDW Publishing

Every week I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, 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. Jem and the Holograms

By Kelly Thompson, Sophie Campbell
IDW Publishing


Jem and the Holograms is just about as '80s as cartoons get, and naturally it had to find its way into comic book form (this week also sees Miami Vice Remix from IDW in conjunction with Lion Forge Comics, who are planning on putting out Knight Rider and Air Wolf comics next). Known for its big hair, keytars, and excessive use of hot pink, Jem may not seem like an easy property to set in modern times, but Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell decided to do just that. But with throwback ‘80s music and fashion such a big thing these days, that shouldn't be that hard.

One way they plan to update the comic is to build on Jem’s already good track record with diversity. In addition to making rival band The Misfits more racially diverse, Thompson and Campbell will be making at least two characters in the series—Kimber and Stormer—gay. Additionally, Campbell has redesigned the characters to give them all more realistic body-types rather than the Barbie doll figures the original characters were designed with.

Sophie Campbell, a transgender woman who is in the transitioning process, recently changed her name professionally after been previously known as Ross Campbell (known for the graphic novel series Wet Moon and Image’s recent revamp of its Glory series). Campbell’s work has been applauded over the years in small indie comic circles, but this book will be her introduction to a brand new and much wider audience. Here's some preview imagery.

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2. Fresh Romance

Edited by Janelle Asselin with various writers and artists
Kickstarter

In the 1940s and early 1950s, romance comics accounted for a large sector of the comic book market but, as with other once-popular genres like horror, crime, and science fiction, the implementation of the Comics Code in 1954 resulted in a stultifying self-censorship that made the stories bland and uninteresting. When superheroes had their “Silver Age” renaissance in the 1960s, every other genre got pushed aside until the 21st century rolled around. With crime, horror, and science fiction comics now as healthy as they were back in their heydays, could it be time for romance comics to make the same comeback?

Janelle Asselin, a former comics editor for companies like DC and current Senior Editor at ComicsAlliance.com, is a respected defender of female comics creators and female representation within comics. Her columns like “Hire This Woman” highlight up-and-coming female cartoonists and also skewer publishers for covers and content that sexualize female characters that are ostensibly meant to be read by readers of all ages. Asselin is looking to revive the romance comic with Fresh Romance, a monthly digital magazine featuring serialized comics, relationship advice columns, behind-the-scenes artwork, and even a fashion report. Each issue will contain three stories that attempt to truly focus on romance between two people (both gay and straight). Though there will be some adult content, it will not simply be erotica, nor will it be light, saccharine fluff.

Included are stories about two high school girls who try to keep their love secret by pretending to compete for the same guy (written by Kate Leth with art by Arielle Jovellanos and Amanda Scurti); a regency-era romance about a couple that is about to be married despite a lack of enthusiasm to do so (written by Sarah Vaughn with period-perfect art by Sarah Winifred Searle); and a science-fiction story about a barista whose only way to escape the world she’s trapped on is to help enough lonely souls find love (written by novelist Sarah Kuh with art by newcomer Sally Jane Thompson).

Asselin is using Kickstarter to fund the first three issues as an experiment to see if the market can support this type of a comic. She will probably have easily reached her goal by the time this article is published. Throw in your support here.

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3. The Multiversity: Ultra Comics

By Grant Morrison, Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy
DC Comics

For readers of Grant Morrison’s excellent The Multiversity series, this penultimate issue is probably the one they’re most anxious to see—potentially moreso than the final chapter (The Multiversity #2 coming in April). This issue is expected to tie together the various strings we’ve seen in the mostly stand-alone stories so far. It’s the so-called “haunted comic” that has been driving the plot behind this series, which is about chaos and disruption ripping through DC’s “multiverse."

What purportedly makes this comic “haunted” is that it takes place on Earth-Prime which, in DC multiverse folklore, is the earth that we live on. We, the readers, will play an active part in the story, even being encouraged to stop reading in order to prevent the fatal events of the story from playing out (a trick Morrison seems to have cribbed from Sesame Street’s Grover). This kind of fourth-wall-breaking is classic Morrison, who is very much a believer in “living stories” and the active participation of the reader’s imagination.

Another fact to get readers and especially Morrison fans excited is that this issue sees the reunion of Morrison and Doug Mahnke, his collaborator from Final Crisis: Superman Beyond, one of the weirdest, most mind-bending comics DC has ever published. Get a glimpse of the role you’ll be playing in this story, if you choose to play it.

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4. We Can Never Go Home

By Matthew Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon, Josh Hood and Amanda Scurti
Black Mask Studios


At some point, the idea of having super powers aged from pre-adolescents wanting anything they can imagine to teenagers wanting to escape. It probably began in the 1970s with the rise in popularity of Marvel’s beleaguered mutants in the X-men, but the teen angst subtext got pushed even further into the foreground by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan in their 2003 series Demo, which told realistic stories about angst-ridden teens with superpowers relegating the super powers to the background and eventually away altogether. The team behind We Can Never Go Home seem to be aiming to explore the same peripheral space in superhero comics that Demo was going for a decade ago but with a louder, more abrupt, punk rock take on the concept.

We Can Never Go Home begins with two teenagers—one an awkward misfit, the other a popular girl—each with horrifying superpowers that they can barely control. They don’t seem like they’re going to be donning costumes or even doing anything that might be considered “good” or “responsible” with their powers, and it’s probably unlikely a kindly benefactor will be coming along to teach them how to control them. This five-issue series comes courtesy of Black Mask Studios, a new publishing and media company started by the artist Steve Niles along with film director Matt Pizzolo and musician Brett Gurewitz that aims to give new opportunities to creator-owned comics. The creators behind this one are all up-and-comers but the artist, Josh Hood, whose style is reminiscent of Steve Dillon and Jamie McKelvie, is sure to be a breakout star here.

Black Mask has put together a pretty excellent trailer for the comic here.

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5. Part-Time Princesses

By Monica Gallagher
Oni Press

Monica Gallagher is another up-and-coming cartoonist who has a number of mini-comics and anthology appearances under her belt. She has done some interesting short auto-biographical works that are based around ideas of femininity (Boobage and When I Was a Mall Model) that we don’t often see addressed with this much comfort and sincerity in comics.

Part-Time Princesses is Gallagher's first graphic novel from a major publisher, and it has a clever, promising concept that seems to fit nicely into Gallagher’s wheelhouse. Four teenage girls whose summer job is to play fairy tale princesses in a low-rent knockoff Disneyland amusement park find their dreams of college, modeling, and acting temporarily derailed and must come crawling back to the job they all hate. But when that job is about to be taken away from them and the park is about to be closed due to fear of local gangs, they decide to fight to save it.

The story has the feel of a Hollywood teen summer comedy, complete with training montages, forbidden romance, and student archetypes being forced to come together. Unfortunately, it ends up trading most of its teen comedy tropes for comic book tropes as the girls end up primarily solving their problems by fighting off gangs rather than using their individual talents to make the park a more inviting place.

Oni has serialized this book digitally on Comixology with a collected print edition hitting comic shops this week. This is an early work from a rising talent though, and she will be someone to watch in the near future.

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DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
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The Dark Knight Is Returning to Theaters, Just Ahead of 10th Anniversary
DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Believe it or not, July 18 will mark the 10th anniversary of the release of The Dark Knight, the second entry in Christopher Nolan’s game-changing superhero movie trilogy. To mark the occasion, Showcase Cinemas—the movie theater chain behind the Cinema de Lux experience—is bringing the movie back to select theaters on the east coast for limited screenings on February 8 and February 11, /Film reports.

Many people consider The Dark Knight the best film in the Batman franchise (Tim Burton and LEGO-fied movies included). The film currently holds a 94 percent “fresh” rating with both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the highest-rated movie in the Batman universe.

Much of the film’s acclaim came from Heath Ledger’s brilliant turn as The Joker—a role that won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar (making him the only actor to win that award posthumously). Even Michael Caine, who plays Bruce Wayne’s ever-dutiful butler and BFF Alfred, admitted that he wasn’t sold on the idea of bringing The Joker back into Batman’s cinematic universe, after the character was so ably played by Jack Nicholson in Burton’s 1989 film, until he found out Ledger would be taking the role.

“You don’t try and top Jack,” was Caine’s original thought. But when Nolan informed the actor that he was casting Ledger, that changed things. “I thought: ‘Now that’s the one guy that could do it!’ My confidence came back,” Caine told Empire Magazine.

To find out if The Dark Knight is playing at a theater near you, visit Showcase Cinemas’s website. If it’s not, don’t despair: With the official anniversary still six months away, other theaters are bound to have the same idea.

[h/t: /Film]

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BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
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Comics
10 Amazing Facts About Stan Lee
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Comic book legend Stan Lee’s life has always been an open book. The co-creator of some of the greatest superheroes and most beloved stories of all time has become just as mythical and larger-than-life as the characters in the panels. In 2015, around the time of Marvel’s 75th anniversary, Lee had the idea to reflect on his own life, as he said, “in the one form it has never been depicted, as a comic book … or if you prefer, a graphic memoir.”

The result, published by the Touchstone imprint of Simon & Schuster in 2015, was Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir—which was written by Lee with Peter David and features artwork by cartoonist and illustrator Colleen Doran. Here are 10 things we learned about Lee, on his 95th birthday.

1. HIS WIFE IS ALSO HIS BARBER.

As a bit of a throwaway fact, Stanley Martin Lieber (Stan Lee) reveals the secret of his slicked back mane on the second page of his memoir. “My whole adult life, I’ve never been to a barber,” he writes. “Joanie always cuts my hair.”

2. HIS CONFIDENCE COMES FROM HIS MOTHER.

Amazing Fantastic IncredibleCourtesy POW! Entertainment[2].jpg

Stan Lee writes that as a child he loved to read books by Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and others, and his mother often watched him read. “I probably got my self-confidence from the fact that my mother thought everything I did was brilliant.”

3. YOUNG STAN LEE WROTE OBITUARIES.

Before writing about the fantastic lives of fictional characters, Stan Lee wrote antemortem obituaries for celebrities at an undisclosed news office in New York. He says that he eventually quit that job because it was too “depressing.”

4. CAPTAIN AMERICA WAS HIS FIRST BIG BREAK.

A week into his job at Timely Comics, Lee got the opportunity to write a two-page Captain America comic. He wrote it under the pen name Stan Lee (now his legal name) and titled it "Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge." His first full comic script would come in Captain America Issue 5, published August 1, 1941.

5. HE WROTE TRAINING FILMS FOR THE ARMY WITH DR. SEUSS.

After being transferred from the army’s Signal Corps in New Jersey, Lee worked as a playwright in the Training Film Division in Queens with eight other men, including a few who went on to be very famous: Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Saroyan, cartoonist Charles Addams (creator of The Addams Family), director Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington [1939] and It’s a Wonderful Life [1946]) and Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

6. HE DEFIED THE COMICS CODE AUTHORITY WITH AN ANTI-DRUG COMIC.

In 1971, Lee received a letter from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asking him to put an anti-drug message in one of his books. He came up with a Spider-Man story that involved his best friend Harry abusing pills because of a break-up. The CCA would not approve the story with their seal because of the mention of drugs, but Lee convinced his publisher, Martin Goodman, to run the comic anyway.

7. AN ISSUE AT THE PRINTERS TURNED THE HULK GREEN.

The character was supposed to be gray, but Lee writes that the printer had a hard time keeping the color consistent. “So as of issue #2,” Lee writes, “with no explanation, he turned green.”

8. HIS WIFE DESTROYED HIS PRIZED TYPEWRITER.


Rich Polk/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

According to Lee, during an argument, Joanie destroyed the typewriter he used to write the first issues for characters including Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four. “This happened before eBay," he writes. "Too bad. I could’ve auctioned the parts and made a mint.”

9. A FIRE DESTROYED HIS INTERVIEWS AND LECTURES.

When Lee moved his family to Los Angeles, he set up a studio in Van Nuys where he stored videotapes of his talks and interviews, along with a commissioned bust of his wife. The building was lost to a blaze that the fire department believed was arson, but no one was ever charged with the crime.

10. HIS FAVORITE MARVEL FILM CAMEO WAS BASED ON ONE FROM THE COMICS.

Beginning with the first Spider-Man film in 2002, Stan Lee has made quick cameos in Marvel films as a service to the fans. He says that his appearance in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) was inspired by the story of Reed and Sue Richards’ wedding in Fantastic Four Annual Volume 1 #3, in which he and artist/writer Jack Kirby attempt to crash the ceremony but are thwarted.

All images courtesy of Touchstone unless otherwise noted.

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