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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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Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
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Deadpool Fans Have a Wild Theory About Who Cable Really Is
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Deadpool 2 is officially in theaters and ruling the box office just like its predecessor did back in 2015. But this installment is about more than just crude jokes and over-the-top action scenes; it also includes the debut of a longtime Marvel character that fans have been clamoring to see on the big screen since 2000’s X-Men hit theaters: Cable.

But the Cable in Deadpool 2 isn’t quite the one fans have gotten used to in the books—for starters, his powers and backstory are reined in considerably. While it’s easy to assume that’s by design, so that audiences can better relate to the character (which is played by Josh Brolin), some fans have speculated that the changes are because, well, this character isn’t really Cable at all; instead, Screen Rant has a theory that this version of the character is actually none other than an older Wolverine from the future.

So how can Wolverine be Cable? Well, it’s actually quite easy, considering that Wolverine was Cable in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe comics, which was a series of books in the 2000s that completely reimagined the regular Marvel Universe. In this reality, a grizzled, aged Wolverine takes on the Cable nickname and travels back in time to prevent a takeover of Earth from the villain Apocalypse.

We were already introduced to Apocalypse in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, and while he was defeated in the end, Screen Rant theorizes that he could return like he does in the Ultimate X-Men comics: by inhabiting the body of Nathaniel Essex, a.k.a. Mister Sinister. Essex was already name-dropped in Apocalypse and Deadpool 2, so it stands to reason that there might be some larger story on the horizon for him.

This would, of course, lead to more X-Men movies down the road, with Cable revealing his true nature and teaming with a crew of mutants that includes the classic X-Men cast as well as their younger selves to battle a newly formed Apocalypse. It’d also allow the character of Wolverine to live on in Brolin, leaving Hugh Jackman to enjoy a retired life without claws.

Obviously this is just one fan theory based on a comic storyline from over a decade ago. It would also have to ignore a whole host of continuity problems—including the events of Logan. But having a twist with Cable actually being Wolverine from the future (and likely from a different reality) is the type of headache-inducing madness the comics are known for.

[h/t: Screen Rant]

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King Features Syndicate
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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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