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Chip Zdarsky/Archie Comics
Chip Zdarsky/Archie Comics

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Chip Zdarsky/Archie Comics
Chip Zdarsky/Archie Comics

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.

The Story of My Tits

By Jennifer Hayden
Top Shelf


The title of Jennifer Hayden’s graphic novel memoir, The Story of My Tits, is frank and direct. A survivor of breast cancer, Hayden tells the story of her complicated relationship with her own body, from worrying about being flat-chested as a teen to opting for a double mastectomy after finding a tumor in one breast as an adult. The book, Hayden’s first, is timed to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month and is sure to be considered a major debut this year.

This is not just a book about Hayden’s own struggles with breast cancer, though, and it is not until over 200 pages in that we see her get her first mammogram. Early in this large and densely illustrated book, Hayden’s mother suffers the loss of one breast to cancer, followed years later by her mother-in-law succumbing to the disease. As with many people, cancer affects members of Hayden’s family before the specter of it threatens her own future.

This is not to say the book is weighted down with death. More than anything it is full of life and humor and some especially creative and clever cartooning. Her quirky, pen-drawn style—very similar to the work of the great Roz Chast—is full of effortless jokes and insightful commentary on both life and death.

Here’s more information from the publisher.

Paper Girls #1

By Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson
Image Comics 

Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang first worked together on a Swamp Thing short story in 2000, when both were just starting their comics careers. They now reunite as industry superstars for a new Image Comics series called Paper Girls. Set in the 1980s, this book is peppered with nostalgic flavor. We’re introduced to four 12-year-old girls who stumble across a mystery they can’t begin to understand while out delivering papers in a sleepy suburb of Cleveland. One part Stand By Me, one part War of the Worlds, this 40-page first issue sets up an intriguing premise and ends with a patented Brian K. Vaughan cliff-hanger that will leave you wanting more.

Vaughan has been quite busy recently after having taken a few years off from making comics. Now he adds Paper Girls to his current science fiction hit Saga, the recently completed award-winning mini-series The Private Eye, and the freshly started We Stand on Guard. Meanwhile, Chiang is coming off an acclaimed run on DC’s Wonder Woman.

Check out a preview here.

All New, All Different Marvel

Various titles by various creative teams
Marvel Comics 


For the past few months, Marvel comics have been pre-empted by the line-wide 2015 event called Secret Wars. The event began with the effective obliteration of the Marvel Universe, which was replaced by a patchwork planet called "Battleworld." The Secret Wars mini-series was supposed to have ended by now to make way for a re-launch of the whole Marvel line, but it has been plagued by numerous delays, leaving Marvel no choice but to bring the universe back before we actually find out how that happens.

So this week, the "All New, All Different Marvel" (the publisher's words) begins with new #1 issues for a smattering of titles such as Amazing Spider-Man, Invincible Iron Man, and Doctor Strange. Marvel is not rebooting the continuity of their universe, but what makes these new books “All New” and “All Different,” and how the ending of Secret Wars factors into them, remains to be seen.

These books feature familiar Marvel creators, in some cases shuffled onto different titles. Dan Slott is still in charge of Spider-Man, but longtime Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis is trying his hand at Iron Man for the first time. Jason Aaron, writer on some of Marvel’s biggest recent books, such as Thor and Star Wars, joins fan favorite artist Chris Bachalo, most recently of Uncanny X-men, on a new Doctor Strange book that will likely ramp up excitement for the 2016 film.

Here are previews for Doctor Strange, Amazing Spider-Man, and Invincible Iron Man.

Jughead #1

By Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson
Archie Comics


This new Jughead solo series is the latest example of how willing the people behind Archie Comics are to take surprising creative risks. It's written by one-half of the creative team behind the raunchy and subversive Sex Criminals comic, Chip Zdarsky. Zdarsky, who has been known more in the past for his social media hijinks and his illustrations for Canada's National Post than for his comics work, was already snatched up by Marvel this year to write their new Howard the Duck comic. Artist Erica Henderson has also had a big year at Marvel drawing Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and she joins Zdarsky to bring their comedic sensibilities to Archie’s best friend, Jughead Jones.

This modern Jughead still wears that little crown hat and loves burgers more than anything, but his lazy, quizzical demeanor is now portrayed as zen and enigmatic with a standoffish sense of cool. This first issue sees Jughead mobilized against his will to become political when the school replaces his beloved cafeteria lasagna with a healthier alternative. If you ever wanted to see an Archie parody of Game of Thrones, there’s a dream sequence here that will make your day.

Take a look at the preview 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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