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Skottie Young/Image Comics
Skottie Young/Image Comics

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Skottie Young/Image Comics
Skottie Young/Image 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.

Two Brothers

By Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon
Dark Horse Comics 


Unlike the antagonistic twins in their latest graphic novel Two Brothers, Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon are brothers who seem to enjoy close collaboration. They take turns drawing story arcs in the popular super-spy comic Casanova and other works. But for their latest graphic novel, they are acting as a more typical writer/artist team, with Fábio writing and Gabriel drawing.

It is pretty clear why this story would appeal to the twins. Adapted from the highly regarded novel The Brothers by Brazilian author Milton Hatoum, they lovingly craft every detail of the story, which is set in mid-century Manaus where two rivers converge. After a violent incident as children, the brothers of this story are separated from each other and things do not improve when they are reunited years later. Yaqub, their father’s favorite, goes off and becomes an engineer while Omar, their mother’s son, stays home, lazily cavorting with prostitutes and other shady characters. Their rift hopelessly and tragically eats away at the rest of the family and the secrets they hold onto.

This is Bá and Moon’s most mature and sophisticated work to date. It drifts back and forth through time with narration that comes from an initially unseen observer. Bá’s wonderfully stylized black and white artwork, so full of stunning contrast and implied movement, pulls you into every scene. Here’s a preview.

Twilight Children

By Gilbert Hernandez, Darwyn Cooke and Dave Stewart
DC Vertigo 


The most unexpected (yet welcome) creative pairing of the year has to be Gilbert Hernandez (Love & Rockets) and Darwyn Cooke (DC: The New Frontier) for their new mini-series The Twlight Children. Hernandez and Cooke usually work alone, and they aren't often associated together except when talking about best-of-the-year lists. This collaboration is part of a new push from DC’s Vertigo imprint, and it serves as a reminder that the publisher is still a source for interesting comics for readers with discriminating tastes. Starting with last week’s The Survivor’s Club, Vertigo will be introducing a new series every week over the next three months.

In a small Latin American village, a mysterious orb washes ashore and explodes in the faces of three children, leaving them blind. A large cast of characters featuring a hard-nosed sheriff, the village drunk, and a cheating wife mix it up with outsiders like a scientist, a CIA agent, and a beautiful woman who may be an alien. Hernandez’s penchant for fun, melodramatic characters and Cooke's (and colorist Dave Stewart’s) expertise at creating a cinematic sense of wonder seem a natural fit together. Here’s a preview.

I Hate Fairyland

By Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Image Comics 


The brilliance of Skottie Young’s I Hate Fairyland is that it’s a fairy tale in which the main character is a relatable figure for parents rather than kids (despite being a little girl). This comic might provide some welcome satisfaction for parents who have ever found themselves frustrated with the inanity of saccharine children’s books.

Little Gertrude was transported to Fairyland when she was a just a girl, and for the past 30 years has been fighting to get back to home. And by fighting I mean she claws, bites, chews, kicks, and wantonly shoots holes through annoyingly cute little characters that get in her way. Gertrude may look like an eight-year-old girl, but she has the mind of a frazzled and ticked-off 40-year-old. Young is the incredibly popular artist behind Marvel’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz comics and their recent Rocket Raccoon series. He has a very kid-friendly look to his work, but it also has a lot of edge so be aware that this one is not for little kids.

Here’s a preview.

Killing and Dying

By Adrian Tomine
Drawn & Quarterly 

Adrian Tomine is one of the great indie creators who rose to prominence in the 1990s along with contemporaries like Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, and Charles Burns. His contemplative short stories about troubled 20- and 30-somethings are fully realized and perfectly drawn—every gesture he draws seems utterly familiar. As he has done his entire career, Tomine publishes his graphic novellas first through his one-man anthology comic Optic Nerve and then every few years collects a group of them as a bookstore-friendly hardcover.

Tomine’s latest is called Killing and Dying, and the stories show how much his work has grown. The opening story, “Hortisculpture,” is uncharacteristically humor-driven, and its format is based on the structure of a daily newspaper strip. It examines the risk of making art, but in a self-deprecatingly funny way that we normally don't see in Tomine's comics.

More info and preview images here.

Superman: Lois & Clark #1

By Dan Jurgens, Lee Weeks, Scott Hanna and Brad Anderson
DC Comics 


In the 2011 Flashpoint series, DC Comics brought almost 30 years of continuity to an end, rebooting their entire line in order to be more accessible for new readers. But what about the fans of the way things were? This week, two pre-Flashpoint characters come back in an unexpected way as part of this new continuity.

Lois Lane and Clark Kent were happily married for many years, but the Lois and Clark of the new continuity are just friends. This summer’s Convergence mini-series brought back some characters that had been erased in past reboots, two of which were pre-Flashpoint Superman and Lois Lane, pregnant with their first child. That series ended with them entering the current DC Universe, and now in Superman: Lois & Clark #1, we see how they're getting by in a world that is not their own. With their son, Jon, who is now a grown boy, they have decided to live in secret, using aliases, and pretending to be a normal family. But Superman has to be super, and he can’t help himself from going out and saving people every once in a while.

Longtime comics fans will appreciate the veteran creative team on this new series. Dan Jurgens is no stranger to Superman, being the writer of the classic "Death of Superman" comic from 1992. Lee Weeks has been more of a Marvel artist in the past, but his style manages to mix the boundaries of yesterday and today well, suitably fitting the anachronism for which this comic aims. 

Here’s a preview.

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King Features Syndicate
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Comics
8 Things You Might Not Know About Hi and Lois
King Features Syndicate
King Features Syndicate

A comics page staple for nearly 65 years, Mort Walker and Dik Browne’s Hi and Lois is a celebration of the mundane. Married couple Hiram “Hi” Flagston, wife Lois, and their four children balance work, school, and family dynamics, all of it with few punchlines but plenty of relatable situations. This four-panel ode to suburbia might appear simple, but it still has a rich history involving a beef with The Flintstones, broken noses, and one very important candy bar wrapper.

1. IT’S A SPINOFF OF BEETLE BAILEY.

Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker had been drawing that military-themed strip for four years when a friend of his named Lew Schwartz approached him in 1954 with a new idea: Why not create a strip about a nuclear family? Around the same time, the Korean War was ending, and Walker had sent Beetle home on furlough to visit his sister, Lois. Drawing a line between the two, Walker decided to pursue the suburbia idea using Lois as connective tissue. Hi and Lois was born: The two strips would see their respective characters visit one another over the years.

2. A CANDY BAR HELPED DEFINE THE STRIP’S LOOK.

Already working on Beetle Bailey, Walker decided to limit his work on Hi and Lois to writing. He wanted to collaborate with an artist, and so both he and his syndicate, King Features, went searching for a suitable partner. Walker soon came across ads for both Lipton’s tea and Mounds candy bars that had the same signature: Dik Browne. Coincidentally, a King Features executive named Sylvan Byck saw a strip in Boy’s Life magazine also signed by Browne. The two agreed he was a talent and invited Browne to work on the strip.

3. HI ORIGINALLY HAD A BROKEN NOSE.

As an artist, Walker had plenty of input into the style of Hi and Lois: Browne would later recall that trying to merge his own approach with Walker’s proved difficult. “When you draw a character like Hi, for instance, you immediately set the style for the whole strip,” he said. “You have already dictated what a tree will look like or how a dog will look, just by sketching that one head.” In his earliest incarnation, Hi had a broken, upturned nose to make him seem virile, puffed on a pipe, and wore a vest. Through trial and error, the two artists eventually settled on the softer lines the strip still uses today, an aesthetic some observers refer to as the “Connecticut school style” of cartooning.

4. EDITORS WERE WARY AT FIRST.

When Hi and Lois debuted on October 18, 1954, only 32 papers carried the strip. The reason, Walker later explained, had to do with concerns that he was spreading himself too thin. At the time, cartoonists rarely worked on two strips at once. Between Hi and Lois and Beetle Bailey, there was fear that the quality of one or both would suffer. Editors were also worried that having two artists on one project would dilute the self-expression of both. Walker stuck to his intentions—to make Hi and Lois a strip about the small pleasures of suburban life—and newspapers slowly came on board. By 1956, 131 papers were running the strip.

5. TRIXIE MAY HAVE SAVED THE STRIP.

With readers a little slow to respond to Hi and Lois, Walker had an idea: At the time, it was unusual for characters who don’t normally speak—like Snoopy—to express themselves with thought balloons. Walker decided to have baby Trixie think “out loud,” giving readers insight into her perspective. Shortly after Trixie began having a voice, Hi and Lois took off.

6. CHIP IS THE ONLY CHARACTER TO HAVE AGED.

Like most comic strip casts, the Hi and Lois family has found a way to stop the aging process. Baby Trixie is eternally in diapers; the parents seem to hover around 40 without any wrinkles. But oldest son Chip has been an exception. Roughly eight years old when the strip debuted, he’s currently 16, a nod to Walker's need for a character who can address teenage issues like driving, school, and dating.

7. IT LED TO HAGAR THE HORRIBLE.

Browne might be more well-known for his Hägar the Horrible, a strip about a beleaguered Viking. That strip, which debuted in 1973, was the result of Browne’s sons advising their father that Hi and Lois was really Walker’s brainchild and that Browne should consider a strip that could be a “family business.” By 1985, Hägar was in 1500 newspapers, while Hi and Lois was in 1000. Following Browne’s death in 1989, his son Chris continued the strip.

8. IT ALSO HAD A BONE TO PICK WITH THE FLINTSTONES.

The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera’s modern stone-age family, premiered in primetime in 1960, but not exactly the way the animation studio had intended. Fred and Wilma were initially named Flagstone, not Flintstone, and the series was to be titled Rally ‘Round the Flagstones. But Walker told executives he felt the name was too close to the Flagstons of Hi and Lois fame. Sensing a possible legal issue, they agreed.

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Pop Chart Lab
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entertainment
A Visual History of Captain America’s Shields
Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

Captain America has gone through plenty of wardrobe changes since his comic book debut in 1941, but it’s his iconic shield that has had the most makeovers. Over the past eight decades, fans have seen the shield change its shape, color, and even the material from which it’s crafted. For the folks at Pop Chart Lab, the shield’s storied history provided the perfect subject matter for their latest poster.

On this piece, the company teamed with Marvel to give a rundown of 50 of Cap’s shields—from the instantly recognizable to the downright obscure. Here we see his classic Golden Age shield, with its slightly different color scheme, and the different variations from Jack Kirby’s time-traveling Bicentennial Battles book. Then there are entries like the vibranium shield he received from Black Panther in Captain America #342 and an adamantium one made by Tony Stark.

Those different shields just scratch the surface of the deep cuts Pop Chart Lab provides. There are also shields from Captain Americas across Marvel’s numerous alternate universes, like the ones used by the Ultimate Universe Steve Rogers and the android Cap from Earth-725.

Each shield is illustrated to match its comic book counterpart and comes with a description specifying the series it debuted in and which Earth it exists on (the Marvel Universe has thousands of different versions of Earth, after all).

The posters will begin shipping on May 23, and you can pre-order yours now starting at $29 on the Pop Chart Lab website. You can check out a full look at the poster below.

Pop Chart Lab's Captain America shield poster
Pop Chart Lab

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