Shigeru Mizuki/Drawn & Quarterly
Shigeru Mizuki/Drawn & Quarterly

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Shigeru Mizuki/Drawn & Quarterly
Shigeru Mizuki/Drawn & Quarterly

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.

Shigeru Mizuki’s Hitler

By Shigeru Mizuki
Drawn & Quarterly

Shigeru Mizuki’s manga biography of Hitler, translated to English for the first time and released this week by Drawn & Quarterly, is a rare, non-Western view of the Nazi leader written by a Japanese man who technically fought on the same side during the War.

Mizuki lost his drawing arm in World War II and still went on to become one of Japan’s greatest manga artists, creating the extremely popular series GeGeGe no Kitarō as well as historical manga like the multi-volume history of Japan, Showa. As in Showa, Mizuki mixes photo-realistic backgrounds with cartoony characters. At first it may seem too comedic for subject matter like this, but his exaggerated rendition of Hitler not only provides a safe distance from his evil, but also accentuates every aspect of him—from his unpredictable, irrational anger to his bufoonish demeanor as a young vagrant.

The Japanese have a complicated view of WWII, but Hitler, to them, was a figure far removed from their war in the Pacific. At the time this book was first released in 1971, his crimes and motivations were relatively unknown to the younger Japanese generation. Yet, if not for their alliance with Germany, Japan’s military involvement would not have escalated to the point of national and, for Mizuki, personal catastrophe. Mizuki says in the book's intro, “My destiny would have been different…So how could I not be interested in Hitler, and in knowing what sort of man he really was?" 

Our Expanding Universe

By Alex Robinson
Top Shelf

Back in the ’90’s, Alex Robinson self-published a black-and-white mini-comic called Box Office Poison that did for indie comics what the work of Kevin Smith and Ed Burns did for indie film at the time. Along with people like Bob Fingerman and Terry Moore, Robinson was at the forefront of a new wave of comics that told character-driven, slice-of-life stories that would soon appeal to an audience outside of the typical comic-buying crowd of that era. In its 600+ page graphic novel incarnation, Box Office Poison was a bookstore hit and is one of the most revered graphic novels of all time.

Where Box Office Poison was a funny, heartfelt look at 20-somethings discovering adulthood in Brooklyn in the 1990s, Robinson’s newest book, Our Expanding Universe, is a funny, heartfelt look at 40-somethings discovering parenthood in Brooklyn in 2015. Framed by narration that explains the birth of the universe, we get to know three longtime friends who find their personal universes forever altered by the impending arrival of two babies. The readers who found that Box Office Poison spoke to them at the perfect moment in their lives will likely feel the same about this story of nannies and ovulation cycles, even if they aren’t parents themselves. In fact, Robinson has the non-breeders well represented with Brownie, the wise-cracking single friend who is defiantly against having children. All of Robinson’s characters are believable and sympathetic despite their flaws, and he excels at showing them in conversation—something that is hard to do in a comic book. Not only does he pull it off, but this is one of the best books of the year.

Platinum End: Chapter One

By Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
Viz

The creators behind two best selling manga—Death Note and Bakumanare back with a new book that is serialized in Japan’s Jump SQ magazine and simultaneously made available digitally through sellers like Comixology. 

Platinum End begins with a young student named Mirai attempting suicide by jumping off a building, only to be caught by an angel. The angel offers him two gifts: the power of flight to escape his troubles and the power to make anyone fall in love with him. Mirai notes that these are potentially demonic gifts for an angel to bestow, but he accepts them anyway.

This first issue is 70 pages long and does a great job setting up its premise. Takeshi Obata’s detailed artwork is stunning, and fans of Death Note will want to get on board for this one. 

101 Artists To Listen To Before You Die

By Ricardo Cavolo
Nobrow 

Choosing 101 musicians that have influenced his life in some way, Ricardo Cavolo created two-page spreads for each performer. These consist of colorful portraits and handwritten anecdotes about his personal relationship to their music (Cavolo had his own Spanish translated to English and then rewrote the text for this edition). The range of artists includes Bach, Muddy Waters, Dolly Parton, Iggy Pop, Wu-Tang Clan, and Skrillex. 

It’s a unique combination of words and pictures that will make you consider all the important musicians in your own life—and maybe introduce some new ones to you.

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Marvel Entertainment
The Litigious History of DC and Marvel’s Rival Captain Marvel Characters
Carol Danvers is just one of many heroes to hold the Captain Marvel mantle for Marvel
Carol Danvers is just one of many heroes to hold the Captain Marvel mantle for Marvel
Marvel Entertainment

Behind-the-scenes struggles and legal wrangling have played just as big of a part in the history of comic books as the colorful battles on the pages themselves. And one of the most complex and long-lasting disputes in the industry has focused on Captain Marvel—or at least the two distinct versions of the character that have coexisted in a state of confusion at both Marvel and DC for decades.

Like many comic book tangles, this dispute was made possible because of the debut of Superman. Soon after his first appearance in 1938's Action Comics #1, there was a deluge of knockoffs from publishers looking for a piece of the Man of Steel pie. Though most of these were fly-by-night analogues, Fawcett Comics’s attempt at its own superhero wasn’t an inferior model—it quickly became real competition.

ENTER: THE BIG RED CHEESE

Fawcett’s Captain Marvel was created in late 1939 by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck and debuted in Whiz Comics #2. On his first cover, Captain Marvel is shown carelessly throwing a car against a brick wall, as two criminals bolt out of the windows. In Action Comics #1, Superman made his debut by hoisting a similar car over his head and driving it into the Earth, as the criminals inside fled.

The similarities were unmistakable: Here were two caped strongmen with heroic squints and circus tights leaping around cities and battling mad (and bald) scientists. But while Clark Kent got his powers from his Kryptonian physiology, Captain Marvel was, in reality, a young boy named Billy Batson who would receive his powers by shouting the magic word “SHAZAM!” If Superman was the straitlaced Boy Scout, Captain Marvel earned his moniker of "The Big Red Cheese" through sheer camp, a wink, and a nod.

Seniority mattered little to young comic book readers, and once Captain Marvel found his footing, he was outselling Superman at the newsstand and beating him to the screen by receiving his own live-action film serial in 1941. But as Captain Marvel reached larger audiences, DC was in the midst of legal action against Fawcett for copyright infringement. The claim was simple: Captain Marvel was a bit too close to Superman for DC's comfort.

DC wanted Fawcett to cease production of the serial and comics by the early 1940s, but Fawcett fought to delay a court battle for years. It wasn’t until 1948 that the case actually went to trial, with the dust finally settling in DC's favor in 1954. Legally, Fawcett would never be allowed to print another Captain Marvel book. By now, though, the superhero market was near extinction, so for Fawcett, it wasn’t even worth it to appeal again. Instead, the publisher closed shop, leaving Superman to soar the skies of Metropolis without any square-jawed competition on the newsstands.

MARVEL CLAIMS ITS NAME

The next decade would see a superhero revitalization, beginning with DC’s revamped takes on The Flash and Green Lantern in the late 1950s, and exploding just a few years later when Timely Comics changed its name to Marvel Comics and launched a roster of heavy-hitters like The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and The Hulk, all by 1962.

Marvel was a buzzword again, and in 1966, a short-lived company called M.F. Enterprises tried to capitalize with a new character named Captain Marvel—generally considered one of the worst superheroes ever put to paper.

Marvel now needed to stop inferior comics from using its name on their covers, so it obtained the trademark for the Captain Marvel name and went about protecting it by introducing yet another character named Captain Marvel. This new alien version of the hero made his debut shortly after in 1967's Marvel Super-Heroes #12.

The character was born purely for legal reasons. According to comic book veteran Roy Thomas, Stan Lee only created a Captain Marvel at publisher Martin Goodman's insistence: "All I know is the basis of the character came from a resentment over the use of the ‘Captain Marvel’ name."

Comics are nothing if not needlessly confusing at times, and by the early 1970s, Superman wasn’t quite the sales force he used to be. In need of some fresh blood, DC turned to an unlikely source for help: Fawcett. The company had reemerged in the late 1960s as the publisher of Dennis the Menace comics, but its hands were tied when the superhero business revived since it was legally forbidden from producing new Captain Marvel books. So they did the next best thing by agreeing to license the character and his supporting cast to DC in 1973.

CAPTAINS IN DISPUTE

Now the world’s two biggest publishers both had high-profile characters named Captain Marvel. But there was a catch: Since Marvel owned the rights to the name, DC couldn’t call its new Captain Marvel comic Captain Marvel. Instead, all of his comics went by the title Shazam, as did the character’s live-action TV revival in the mid-1970s. Oddly enough, the name of the character himself was still—wait for it—Captain Marvel. So DC could retain the character’s name in the stories but couldn’t slap it onto book covers or TV shows. Only Marvel could monetize the name Captain Marvel.

Right after Captain Marvel’s first DC book launched in 1973, there was an immediate hiccup. The full title of the series was the slightly antagonistic Shazam: The Original Captain Marvel. That lasted all of 14 issues before a cease and desist order from Marvel turned the series into Shazam: The World’s Mightiest Mortal. Marvel, on the other hand, found itself in the position to keep its trademark by continuously pumping out more books with Captain Marvel on the cover, which is why the company’s history is littered with reboots and new versions of the character turning up every two years or so.

By the 1990s, DC had outright purchased its Captain Marvel from Fawcett, but it could barely promote him. There are only so many times you can put Shazam on a comic cover but refer to him as Captain Marvel on the inside without confusing your readers. So in 2012, DC and writer Geoff Johns decided to end the decades of confusion and simply rename the character Shazam, because, as John said, “everybody thinks he's called Shazam already.”

In 2019, these two characters that are seemingly forever linked will have another shared milestone when they both make their big screen debuts. Marvel’s Captain Marvel will hit theaters on March 8, 2019, with Brie Larson playing the Carol Danvers version of the character. And after nearly 80 years of switching publishers, changing names, and lengthy legal battles, Zachary Levi will play the title role in Shazam! a month later on April 5.

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Evening Standard/Getty Images
8 Actors Who've Played Batman (and What Fans Had to Say About Them)
Evening Standard/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Getty Images

Batman is one of the most beloved superheroes of all time, which has made playing him a difficult task for more than one actor. (Playing characters with rabid fan bases can be a double-edged sword.) Here, take a look back at eight actors who've donned the Batsuit—and how fans and critics reacted to their performances.

1. LEWIS WILSON

Lewis Wilson as Batman
Columbia Pictures

Lewis Wilson was the youngest person to play Batman. He appeared in the 15-part 1943 Columbia serial. Critics complained about everything from his weight to his accent.

2. ROBERT LOWERY

Robert Lowery took over the role in the 1949 follow-up serial, Batman And Robin. He was a forgettable actor in this role.

3. ADAM WEST

Adam West at 'Batman'
Evening Standard/Getty Images

West played the Caped Crusader from 1966 through 1968 in the Batman television series in addition to a film spin-off. Fans were torn: Either they loved his campy portrayal or hated it.

4. MICHAEL KEATON

Michael Keaton's casting in the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film caused such controversy that 50,000 protest letters were sent to Warner Brothers’s offices.

5. VAL KILMER

Val Kilmer in 'Batman Forever' (1995)
Warner BRos.

Val Kilmer put on the suit in 1995 and received mixed reviews. Director Joel Schumacher called the actor “childish and impossible."

6. GEORGE CLOONEY

It's safe to assume Clooney regrets his decision to star in Batman & Robin. It was the worst box-office performer of the modern Batman movies and Clooney once joked that he killed the series.

7. CHRISTIAN BALE


© TM & DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Though Christian Bale is largely favored as the best actor to play the Dark Knight, he was not without criticism. NPR’s David Edelstein described his husky voice as “a voice that's deeper and hammier than ever.”

8. BEN AFFLECK

Most recently: Fans immediately took to the internet to decry the decision to cast Ben Affleck as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), recalling his previous roles in the poor-performing Gigli and Daredevil.

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