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Asaf Hanuka/Archaia/Boom! Studios
Asaf Hanuka/Archaia/Boom! Studios

This Week's New Comics: A comic about PTSD, Asaf Hanuka's The Realist, and Uncle Scrooge returns

Asaf Hanuka/Archaia/Boom! Studios
Asaf Hanuka/Archaia/Boom! Studios

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. PTSD: The Wound That Never Heals

By Leela Corman
Nautilus

The description of Leela Corman’s short but powerful comic essay published this past week in the online magazine Nautilus reads, “Coming back to life after losing my first child.” That phrase is like a punch to the gut, yet there's a sense of hope. Corman uses the tragedy in her life—the unthinkable passing of her 1-year-old daughter—and her long road of dealing with that trauma to explore the science behind Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. At the beginning of each month, Nautilus picks a subject and then every week publishes a new chapter containing multiple articles and fictional stories exploring that subject. April’s subject is “Dominoes,” the way one thing in life can lead to another.

Corman has previously published a comic in Tablet Magazine called “Yahrzeit” in which she compared dealing with her own tragedy to how her grandfather dealt with losing his entire family in the Holocaust. Corman’s husband Tom Hart is also a cartoonist and has been processing their daughter’s death himself through a series of webcomics called Rosalie Lightning. It is incredibly brave how both Hart and Corman are willing to publicly share this process. What Corman does with PTSD is something that victims of any trauma—from soldiers to victims of violent crime—can hopefully find helpful and inspiring.

You can read PTSD here on Nautilus.

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2. The Realist

By Asaf Hanuka
Archaia/Boom! Studios

Israeli cartoonist Asaf Haunka is best known in the States for his collaborations with his twin brother Tomer, particularly on their wildly experimental comic Bipolar. In Israel, Asaf is well known for his autobiographic strip comic The Realist, which has been published weekly in the Israeli business magazine Calcalist since 2010. Archaia (now part of Boom! Studios) has just released a hardcover collection of these strips, showcasing Hanuka’s gift of metaphor and his willingness to tap into his dark side to get at some universal truths.

The Realist mostly focuses on Hanaka’s life with his wife and son, navigating some relatable daily trials (being an over-protective parent, marital spats, smart phone addiction, having a new baby) as well as some that are very specific to life in Israel (finding an apartment in Tel Aviv, living with the fear of nuclear annihilation). What makes The Realist so great is how each and every strip is visually creative, and also Hanuka's unflinching willingness to expose his flaws and personal turmoil. When depicting arguments with his wife and the way he emotionally detaches, he shows self-realization in a visually elegant yet raw manner that most people making diary comics strive to achieve. (One beautiful illustration shows him as an astronaut while his wife breaks down in front of him.)

Here’s a preview of just some of the great pages in this book.

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3. Uncle Scrooge #1

By Jonathan Gray, Rodolfo Cimino, and Romano Scarpa
IDW Publishing

Everyone knows Disney owns Marvel now, so it may be counter-intuitive to learn that IDW is poised to launch a line of Disney comics featuring the likes of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Donald’s cantankerous, billionaire uncle Scrooge McDuck. While Marvel has recently began publishing comics that center on various park attractions like Epcot’s Figment and Adventureland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the license to the characters has recently changed hands from Boom! Studios to IDW (both are publishers that have come to specialize in developing excellent comics from licensed properties).

The first of IDW’s new Disney comics will be Uncle Scrooge, which arguably carries the biggest comics legacy. Dating back to the 1940s, legendary cartoonist Carl Barks created some of the greatest kids' comics ever during his run on Uncle Scrooge (these, as well as some also excellent work by Don Rosa, have been getting high-end archival treatment from Fantagraphics over the past few years). Although IDW’s new series will begin with a new #1 issue, the legacy numbering (#405) will be listed on the inside cover. In another mix of old and new, IDW has brought on fan-favorite Jonathan Gray to translate popular stories drawn by the late Italian Disney comics master Romano Scarpa.

Here’s a preview of the first issue.

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4. The Death Defying Doctor Mirage

By Jen Van Meter and Roberto de la Torre
Valiant Entertainment

Valiant Entertainment has been doing an amazing job building a new comic universe over the past two years by reviving their super-powered concepts from the 1990s. The success of relaunches like XO-Manowar and Harbinger show how strong those underlying concepts were.

Their latest concept to return to the page is The Death Defying Doctor Mirage. It re-imagines a short-lived series from 1993 that was ahead of its time in terms of diversity with its mixed-ethnicity husband-and-wife psychologists Hwen and Carmen Mirage, who investigate paranormal activity and the afterlife. Jen Van Meter and Roberto de la Torre have made substantial changes in their version: Hwen’s wife is now Shan, and Hwen has died, meaning he is not really the “Doctor” of the title. When we meet Shan Fong, she is a popular TV clairvoyant who helps people communicate with dead family members; however, her secret is that she is unable to make contact with her own deceased husband. When she takes on a job that involves entering the afterlife, it may be her best chance yet to make contact with him.

There is a sadness that pervades this story, mostly due to the gritty realism of de la Torre’s artwork which has a similar feel to John Paul Leon or Alex Maleev. However, the tragic realism of Shan’s longing mostly gives way to lots of supernatural antics that will be more appealing to fans of magic in the Dr. Strange-style. Still, stick around to see if Shan finds what she is looking for.

Here’s a preview from the first issue of Doctor Mirage.

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5. Convergence Week 3

By Various
DC Comics

Each week during DC Comics’ Convergence event, they are pre-empting their regularly scheduled comics with special Convergence editions featuring characters who have been erased from continuity. Week one stepped back only a couple of years to show characters that existed before 2011’s Flashpoint reboot. Last week took us to 1994’s Zero Hour, and this week brings us back to the grandaddy of all reboots: 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. Thrown in the mix are heroes from 1997’s Tangent Universe which featured DC characters that existed in a universe greatly altered from our own due to the way their own existence influenced world events. Some of the comics we’ll see this week are:

Convergence Flash starring the classic Silver Age version of Barry Allen.

Convergence Justice League of America in which the less-than-impressive Justice League Detroit faces the heroes from the Tangent Universe.

Convergence Swamp Thing featuring the pre-Alan Moore version of the character returns written by original creator Len Wein.

Convergence Superboy & the Legion which brings back one of the many versions of the Legion of Super-Heroes we’ve seen over the years.

Convergence New Teen Titans in which writer Marv Wolfman returns to DC’s most popular comic from that era.

Convergence Adventures of Superman guest-starring the headband-sporting Supergirl who famously died during Crisis.

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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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