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Amancay Nahuelpan/Black Mask Studios

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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Amancay Nahuelpan/Black Mask 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.

Nanjing: The Burning City

By Ethan Young
Dark Horse Comics 

The second Sino-Japanese war eventually bled into the greater conflict of WWII, but on its own it was one of the costliest wars in human history. The massacre of hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers and non-combatant refugees in the city of Nanjing and the mass rape of Chinese women by invading Japanese forces are still among the worst military atrocities ever committed during wartime. 

In the visually stunning and emotionally wrenching new graphic novel Nanjing: The Burning City, we follow two Chinese soldiers who are left behind in the fallen city and must fight to escape as invading Japanese forces close in. This is a powerful war comic that seems to have come out of nowhere from a relatively unknown cartoonist whose previous work was a semi-autobiographical webcomic called Tails. Ethan Young, the American son of Chinese immigrants, effectively taps into the story's emotion. His drawings are striking in their use of stark black and white, showing influences from both manga and the mid-century war comics of Harvey Kurtzman. This book is sure to make it on my best of the year list.

Dark Horse has a preview here.

Young Terrorists #1

By Matt Pizzolo and Amancay Nahuelpan
Black Mask 

The latest series from Black Mask Studios, a publisher whose mission is to bring fresh, edgy creator-owned comics to the market, comes from one of its co-publishers, Matt Pizzolo. Young Terrrorists aims to push buttons in a way that many readers will find off-putting. There is graphic sex and violence, and, as the title suggests, a glorification of terrorism as a way to change the system. Set in the near-future, this new ongoing series follows the daughter of a plutocrat who is seemingly framed for his death and locked away and tortured for years in a military detention camp. She escapes and becomes the leader of a movement that uses subliminally coded videos of pornography and underground fighting to foment civil and social unrest.

It follows the themes of Pizzolo’s previous work, including films he has directed like Threat as well as comics projects like Occupy Comics. He’s working with newcomer Amancay Nahuelpan, who brings a gritty realism to this sci-fi tinged story. Pizzolo and Nahuelpan were inspired by the early days of DC Comic’s Vertigo line that gave birth to works like Grant Morrison's The Invisibles, which is an obvious influence on this concept. The series begins with an 80-page first issue to set the stage but future monthly issues will be normal-size pamphlet comics.

Here’s a preview.

Mox Nox

By Joan Cornellà
Fantagraphics 

The strange, wordless comics of Spanish cartoonist Joan Cornellà have become a social media sensation in some circles over the past couple of years. With over two million followers on Facebook, you may have seen some of his hilarious and often horrifying strips in your feed. 

Cornellà paints each cartoon, and they are surreal and at times disturbing and shocking. A recent cartoon shows a white police officer gunning down a black marathon runner and then proceeding to win the race himself before being held up by an adoring white audience. Another shows a woman clutching her infant when she sees a sniper aiming from a window, but then she tosses her baby in the line of fire to save the stranger who was being targeted. It’s this kind of deeply weird play on the reader’s expectations that makes his comics work

Fantagraphics is releasing Mox Nox, the first collection of Cornellà’s work, and it is sure to be a popular bookstore item. See a preview here.

If You Steal

By Jason
Fantagraphics 

The latest book from enigmatic Norwegian cartoonist Jason is a collection of eleven short stories full of experimentation. One imagines painter Frida Kahlo as a hired killer, while another is just six Van Morrison song titles from Moondance illustrated as horror comic covers. There's also a chronologically disjointed crime story inspired by Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey and the paintings of Magritte. Other stories include ones about Chet Baker, vampire hunters, and a JFK conspiracy theory.

Jason is one of the most interesting artists to ever work in this medium. His ever-growing oeuvre of graphic novels like Hey Wait… and I Killed Adolf Hitler are classics, and even a collection of shorter works like this is a must-have for fans of smart comics.

The A.V. Club has a preview here.

Ice Heist

Madeline McGrane
Uncivilized Books 

One of the best ways to support young, up-and-coming cartoonists is to buy their mini-comics. Often hand-folded and stapled by the artists themselves, mini-comics have a personal touch that web and digital versions can’t match. A number of small boutique publishers have jumped in to help these artists distribute their work to a wider audience. Uncivilized Books has a number of new mini-comics for sale through their website including some that are part of the Uncivilized Lab program intended to showcase their own interns. 

Madeline McGrane’s Ice Heist is a cute little crime comic where the narrator is confronted by the ghosts of three gangsters from the 1920s who recruit her to help retrieve a suitcase full of cash. It’s a light romp with some solid black-and-white cartooning that seems inspired by the work of Hope Larson. McGrane’s website boasts a number of other accomplished-looking comics and she looks to be someone to watch in the coming years.

You can buy Ice Heist through Uncivilized Books here.

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IFC Films
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entertainment
10 Surprising Facts About The Babadook
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IFC Films

In 2014, The Babadook came out of nowhere and scared audiences across the globe. Written and directed by Aussie Jennifer Kent, and based on her short film Monster, The Babadook is about a widow named Amelia (played by Kent’s drama schoolmate Essie Davis) who has trouble controlling her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who thinks there’s a monster living in their house. Amelia reads Samuel a pop-up book, Mister Babadook, and Samuel manifests the creature into a real-life monster. The Babadook may be the villain, but the film explores the pitfalls of parenting and grief in an emotional way. 

“I never approached this as a straight horror film,” Kent told Complex. “I always was drawn to the idea of grief, and the suppression of that grief, and the question of, how would that affect a person? ... But at the core of it, it’s about the mother and child, and their relationship.”

Shot on a $2 million budget, the film grossed more than $10.3 million worldwide and gained an even wider audience via streaming networks. Instead of creating Babadook out of CGI, a team generated the images in-camera, inspired by the silent films of Georges Méliès and Lon Chaney. Here are 10 things you might not have known about The Babadook (dook, dook).

1. THE NAME “BABADOOK” WAS EASY FOR A CHILD TO INVENT.

Jennifer Kent told Complex that some people thought the creature’s name sounded “silly,” which she agreed with. “I wanted it to be like something a child could make up, like ‘jabberwocky’ or some other nonsensical name,” she explained. “I wanted to create a new myth that was just solely of this film and didn’t exist anywhere else.”

2. JENNIFER KENT WAS WORRIED PEOPLE WOULD JUDGE THE MOTHER.

Amelia isn’t the best mother in the world—but that’s the point. “I’m not a parent,” Kent told Rolling Stone, “but I’m surrounded by friends and family who are, and I see it from the outside … how parenting seems hard and never-ending.” She thought Amelia would receive “a lot of flak” for her flawed parenting, but the opposite happened. “I think it’s given a lot of women a sense of reassurance to see a real human being up there,” Kent said. “We don’t get to see characters like her that often.”

3. KENT AND ESSIE DAVIS TONED DOWN THE CONTENT FOR THE KID.

Noah Wiseman was six years old when he played Samuel. Kent and Davis made sure he wasn’t present for the more horrific scenes, like when Amelia tells Samuel she wishes he was the one who died, not her husband. “During the reverse shots, where Amelia was abusing Sam verbally, we had Essie yell at an adult stand-in on his knees,” Kent told Film Journal. “I didn’t want to destroy a childhood to make this film—that wouldn’t be fair.”

Kent explained a “kiddie version” of the plot to Wiseman. “I said, ‘Basically, Sam is trying to save his mother and it’s a film about the power of love.’”

4. THE FILM IS ALSO ABOUT “FACING OUR SHADOW SIDE.”

IFC Films

Kent told Film Journal that “The Babadook is a film about a woman waking up from a long, metaphorical sleep and finding that she has the power to protect herself and her son.” She noted that everybody has darkness to face. “Beyond genre and beyond being scary, that’s the most important thing in the film—facing our shadow side.”

5. THE FILM SCARED THE HELL OUT OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE EXORCIST.

In an interview with Uproxx, William Friedkin—director of The Exorcist—said The Babadook was one of the best and scariest horror films he’d ever seen. He especially liked the emotional aspect of the film. “It’s not only the simplicity of the filmmaking and the excellence of the acting not only by the two leads, but it’s the way the film works slowly but inevitably on your emotions,” he said.

6. AN ART DEPARTMENT ASSISTANT SCORED THE ROLE AS THE BABADOOK.

Tim Purcell worked in the film’s art department but then got talked into playing the titular character after he acted as the creature for some camera tests. “They realized they could save some money, and have me just be the Babadook, and hence I became the Babadook,” Purcell told New York Magazine. “In terms of direction, it was ‘be still a lot,’” he said.

7. THE MOVIE BOMBED IN ITS NATIVE AUSTRALIA.

Even though Kent shot the film in Adelaide, Australians didn’t flock to the theaters; it grossed just $258,000 in its native country. “Australians have this [built-in] aversion to seeing Australian films,” Kent told The Cut. “They hardly ever get excited about their own stuff. We only tend to love things once everyone else confirms they’re good … Australian creatives have always had to go overseas to get recognition. I hope one day we can make a film or work of art and Australians can think it’s good regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.”

8. YOU CAN OWN A MISTER BABADOOK BOOK (BUT IT WILL COST YOU). 

IFC Films

In 2015, Insight Editions published 6200 pop-up books of Mister Babadook. Kent worked with the film’s illustrator, Alexander Juhasz, who created the book for the movie. He and paper engineer Simon Arizpe brought the pages to life for the published version. All copies sold out but you can find some Kent-signed ones on eBay, going for as much as $500.

9. THE BABADOOK IS A GAY ICON.

It started at the end of 2016, when a Tumblr user started a jokey thread about how he thought the Babadook was gay. “It started picking up steam within a few weeks,” Ian, the Tumblr user, told New York Magazine, “because individuals who I presume are heterosexual kind of freaked out over the assertion that a horror movie villain would identify as queer—which I think was the actual humor of the post, as opposed to just the outright statement that the Babadook is gay.” In June, the Babadook became a symbol for Gay Pride month. Images of the character appeared everywhere at this year's Gay Pride Parade in Los Angeles.

10. DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH FOR A SEQUEL.

Kent, who owns the rights to The Babadook, told IGN that, despite the original film's popularity, she's not planning on making any sequels. “The reason for that is I will never allow any sequel to be made, because it’s not that kind of film,” she said. “I don’t care how much I’m offered, it’s just not going to happen.”

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Space
NASA Is Posting Hundreds of Retro Flight Research Videos on YouTube
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Bruce Weaver / Stringer / Getty Images

If you’re interested in taking a tour through NASA history, head over to the YouTube page of the Armstrong Flight Research Center, located at Edwards Air Force Base, in southern California. According to Motherboard, the agency is in the middle of posting hundreds of rare aircraft videos dating back to the 1940s.

In an effort to open more of its archives to the public, NASA plans to upload 500 historic films to YouTube over the next few months. More than 300 videos have been published so far, and they range from footage of a D-558 Skystreak jet being assembled in 1947 to a clip of the first test flight of an inflatable-winged plane in 2001. Other highlights include the Space Shuttle Endeavour's final flight over Los Angeles and a controlled crash of a Boeing 720 jet.

The research footage was available to the public prior to the mass upload, but viewers had to go through the Dryden Aircraft Movie Collection on the research center’s website to see them. The current catalogue on YouTube is much easier to browse through, with clear playlist categories like supersonic aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. You can get a taste of what to expect from the page in the sample videos below.

[h/t Motherboard]

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