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Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Marvel Comics
Marvel 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 Arab of the Future

By Riad Sattouf
Metropolitan Books 


Riad Sattouf is the son of an aggressively optimistic Syrian father and a very reserved French mother. When Riad was a boy, his father dragged his family from France to Libya to Syria in a quest to discover Arab society. In his graphic novel memoir The Arab of the Future, Sattouf tells the story of his childhood, showing his family traversing the troubled political and social landscape of the Middle East in the ‘70s and ‘80s and the way it foreshadows the landscape of today.

Sattouf was a columnist for France’s infamous Charlie Hebdo for ten years where he published cartoon anecdotes about his life. The Arab of the Future was released earlier this year in France and has been a huge best seller. It’s already being compared to biographical classics like Maus and Persepolis, and the modern relevance of the countries in which it is set is sure to make this a widely talked about book this year.

More information and an extensive preview here.

Karnak #1

By Warren Ellis, Gerardo Zaffino and Dan Brown
Marvel Comics 


If you’ve been watching ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you are probably familiar with the term “Inhumans.” Introduced as a concept in season two, Inhumans are normal humans with latent superpowers that can be activated by something called the Terrigen Mists. There’s no telling how many Inhumans are out there, waiting to be activated. The comics focus on a small group of Royal Family Inhumans like Black Bolt, Medusa, and Crystal. Among that group is Karnak, their resident philosopher/martial artist who has the ability to detect the flaw in anything (usually so he can then lethally karate chop it).

The classic Inhumans are pretty low on the mainstream recognition scale (at least until the 2019 feature film). Karnak is not even the most popular Inhuman, so he seems an unlikely choice for a high profile new series by a bestselling writer. Then again, he also seems like the kind of character Warren Ellis loves to write: cold, calculating, wickedly sarcastic, and able to see things that others can not. Since rejuvenating the creatively-dormant Moon Knight for Marvel this past year, Ellis seems to be taking on the challenge of making forgotten characters cool again—or cool for the first time.

Here’s a preview.  

Cognetic #1

By James Tynion IV and Eryk Donovan
Boom! Studios 


Cognetic, a new three-issue mini-series by James Tynion IV and Eryk Donovan, is a spiritual sequel to their other mini-series Memetic (a collected edition of which also hits stores this week—it's one you should check out because it is best-of-the-year material). Once again, they are telling the story of an unstoppable contagion that wipes out humanity, although, in the afterword, Tynion promises that we won’t be able to guess where this one is going. Whereas Memetic offset its unrelentingly bleak scenario with a dark sense of humor—it was, after all, about a sloth gif that causes the end of the world—Cognetic doubles down on apocalyptic dread.

This 40-page first issue opens with a dolphin that appears to be patient zero for a rapidly spreading mind control virus. An FBI agent has a pretty good idea what is going on, but is distracted trying to save her wife and daughter, who head to New York City against her warnings. Tynion, who now is part of DC Comics’ Bat-Family, is poised to become a big star and Donovan, with his somber, yet approachable style, proves to be a great partner for him in telling apocalyptic tales that stand out from the rest. 

Preview's here.

The Shield #1

By Adam Christopher, Chuck Wendig, Drew Johnson, Kelly Fitzpatrick
Dark Circle Comics 

The first patriotic-themed superhero was not Captain America, but the less-known Shield who made his first appearance in 1940’s Pep Comics #1, published by a company that would one day become known as Archie Comics. Shield appeared in many incarnations over the years, mostly published through Archie Comics’ superhero imprint, Red Circle Comics. Archie Comics has been working hard to modernize their image these days, and they have turned Red Circle Comics into Dark Circle Comics, an imprint that puts out darker and grittier iterations of Red Circle characters.

This new Shield happens to be a woman and has been fighting for America since the days of the American Revolution. She has died over and over for her country, only to be reborn when she's needed again. Now, in 2015, she has once again returned but with no memory of who she is. This new series is co-written by two novelists, Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig, who are fairly new to the comics world. It is drawn by Drew Johnson, who DC fans will know from his stint on Wonder Woman.

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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