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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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BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
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10 Amazing Facts About Stan Lee
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Comic book legend Stan Lee’s life has always been an open book. The co-creator of some of the greatest superheroes and most beloved stories of all time has become just as mythical and larger-than-life as the characters in the panels. In 2015, around the time of Marvel’s 75th anniversary, Lee had the idea to reflect on his own life, as he said, “in the one form it has never been depicted, as a comic book … or if you prefer, a graphic memoir.”

The result, published by the Touchstone imprint of Simon & Schuster in 2015, was Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir—which was written by Lee with Peter David and features artwork by cartoonist and illustrator Colleen Doran. Here are 10 things we learned about Lee, on his 95th birthday.

1. HIS WIFE IS ALSO HIS BARBER.

As a bit of a throwaway fact, Stanley Martin Lieber (Stan Lee) reveals the secret of his slicked back mane on the second page of his memoir. “My whole adult life, I’ve never been to a barber,” he writes. “Joanie always cuts my hair.”

2. HIS CONFIDENCE COMES FROM HIS MOTHER.

Amazing Fantastic IncredibleCourtesy POW! Entertainment[2].jpg

Stan Lee writes that as a child he loved to read books by Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and others, and his mother often watched him read. “I probably got my self-confidence from the fact that my mother thought everything I did was brilliant.”

3. YOUNG STAN LEE WROTE OBITUARIES.

Before writing about the fantastic lives of fictional characters, Stan Lee wrote antemortem obituaries for celebrities at an undisclosed news office in New York. He says that he eventually quit that job because it was too “depressing.”

4. CAPTAIN AMERICA WAS HIS FIRST BIG BREAK.

A week into his job at Timely Comics, Lee got the opportunity to write a two-page Captain America comic. He wrote it under the pen name Stan Lee (now his legal name) and titled it "Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge." His first full comic script would come in Captain America Issue 5, published August 1, 1941.

5. HE WROTE TRAINING FILMS FOR THE ARMY WITH DR. SEUSS.

After being transferred from the army’s Signal Corps in New Jersey, Lee worked as a playwright in the Training Film Division in Queens with eight other men, including a few who went on to be very famous: Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Saroyan, cartoonist Charles Addams (creator of The Addams Family), director Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington [1939] and It’s a Wonderful Life [1946]) and Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

6. HE DEFIED THE COMICS CODE AUTHORITY WITH AN ANTI-DRUG COMIC.

In 1971, Lee received a letter from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asking him to put an anti-drug message in one of his books. He came up with a Spider-Man story that involved his best friend Harry abusing pills because of a break-up. The CCA would not approve the story with their seal because of the mention of drugs, but Lee convinced his publisher, Martin Goodman, to run the comic anyway.

7. AN ISSUE AT THE PRINTERS TURNED THE HULK GREEN.

The character was supposed to be gray, but Lee writes that the printer had a hard time keeping the color consistent. “So as of issue #2,” Lee writes, “with no explanation, he turned green.”

8. HIS WIFE DESTROYED HIS PRIZED TYPEWRITER.


Rich Polk/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

According to Lee, during an argument, Joanie destroyed the typewriter he used to write the first issues for characters including Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four. “This happened before eBay," he writes. "Too bad. I could’ve auctioned the parts and made a mint.”

9. A FIRE DESTROYED HIS INTERVIEWS AND LECTURES.

When Lee moved his family to Los Angeles, he set up a studio in Van Nuys where he stored videotapes of his talks and interviews, along with a commissioned bust of his wife. The building was lost to a blaze that the fire department believed was arson, but no one was ever charged with the crime.

10. HIS FAVORITE MARVEL FILM CAMEO WAS BASED ON ONE FROM THE COMICS.

Beginning with the first Spider-Man film in 2002, Stan Lee has made quick cameos in Marvel films as a service to the fans. He says that his appearance in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) was inspired by the story of Reed and Sue Richards’ wedding in Fantastic Four Annual Volume 1 #3, in which he and artist/writer Jack Kirby attempt to crash the ceremony but are thwarted.

All images courtesy of Touchstone unless otherwise noted.

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Space Goat Publishing
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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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