Tillie Walden
Tillie Walden

The 6 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Tillie Walden
Tillie Walden

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.

This week's list—presented in no particular order—includes selections that hit stores over the last couple of weeks.

1. The Violent #1

By Ed Brisson, Adam Gorham and Michael Garland
Image Comics

In The Violent, Mason and Becky are recovering drug addicts trying to get their lives back on track after Mason has served time in prison. They have a baby and are trying hard to resist dangerous temptations. Mason seems to continually mess this balancing act up and, by the end of this first issue, he makes a terrible decision that will make any parent reading this book want to punch him in the face.

Judging by this issue, The Violent has the potential to be writer Ed Brisson's breakout book. Co-writer and artist Adam Gorham is a newcomer with a realistic, inky cartooning style reminiscent of Michael Gaydos (Alias). They've set The Violent in their hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia and plan to use the comic to address the ways the high cost of living in that city has affected the struggling working class.

2. I Love This Part

By Tillie Walden
Avery Hill Publishing

Tillie Walden is a 19-year-old cartoonist from Texas and a student at the Center for Cartoon Studies. Her debut graphic novel The End of Summer was released earlier last year from British publisher Avery Hill. Before the year had come to an end, she managed to release one more graphic novel, I Love This Part. This 68-page treasure is almost unbelievably beautiful for such a young cartoonist to have created.

Nearly every page is a full-page panel that depicts a minor moment in the relationship of two teenage girls, portrayed with the girls lounging across mountains, sitting on top of suburban houses, and draped over city skylines. It’s the perfect visual encapsulation of how teenage love can feel impossibly larger than life. Walden’s delicate but detailed artwork is much more assured than that of most student cartoonists, yet her youth shows in how perfectly attuned she is to her subject. An older cartoonist may not be able to pull off such a believable depiction of the dreamy idleness of teenage infatuation.

3. Obi-Wan & Anakin #1

By Charles Soule, Marco Checchetto, and Andres Mossa
Marvel Comics

Up until now, Marvel’s new Star Wars comics have mostly focused on the period between Episodes IV and V, but this new five-issue series is the first to jump back into the Prequel era. Set in between Episodes I and II, Obi-Wan & Anakin will explore the ill-fated bromance between the young Jedi Master and his Padawan apprentice. The series begins with Anakin around age 12 and at a time when the two Jedi are still building the working relationship that we would see more fortified in Episode II.

Marvel is quickly piling up a nice collection of Star Wars comics, each filling in those valuable gaps between movies that have always been ripe for expanded universe fiction.

4. Judge Dredd #1

By Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas and Dan McDaid
IDW Publishing

In 2012, IDW Publishing began putting out its own comics featuring no-nonsense, 21st century law enforcer Judge Dredd. They were unconnected to the 30+ years of continuity that original publisher 2000 AD has been building through their own Dredd comics. The success of the IDW comics has been mixed at best, with perhaps the most attention going to a five-issue mini-series released in 2014 called Judge Dredd: Mega City Two that was drawn by dynamic and detail-crazed artist Ulises Farinas. Now, Farinas is in charge of a relaunch of IDW's main Judge Dredd title, this time solely as the writer. He is paired with co-writer Erick Freitas and artist Dan McDaid.

The new comic begins with Dredd waking up in a field and finding that everything is different. The dystopian urban landscape he is used to has been replaced with grassy hills, mossed-over temples, and a band of roving children who have no idea about Judges and Mega City One. This is an interesting way to change things up and is potentially a good way for IDW to differentiate themselves from the 2000 AD books.

5. The Death Defying Dr. Mirage: Second Lives #1

By Jen Van Meter, Roberto De La Torre and David Baron
Valiant Entertainment

The first Dr. Mirage series from last year was notable for its somber portrayal of loss. The titular doctor, Shan Fong, was mourning the death of her husband and partner in paranormal investigations, Hwen, and journeyed into the After Life to find his missing spirit. The artwork by Roberto De La Torre was loose and expressive but with figures imbued with realism.

Now, in its sequel, Hwen has returned from the netherworld as a disembodied spirit. For the first time, we get to see the couple working together to solve supernatural mysteries. The Death Defying Dr. Mirage, like other books in the Valiant line, is grounded and cinematic in its approach to superheroes and the supernatural. Unlike many of the other Valiant books, Dr. Mirage is pretty self-contained so far and easy for new readers to read on its own.

6. Achewood

By Chris Onstad
Achewood.com

Fans of Chris Onstad’s Achewood got an unexpected gift on Christmas Eve when the webcomic suddenly returned with its first new installment in over a year. Achewood is one of the oldest and most popular webcomics of all time. It's an absurdist story with an expansive cast of anthropomorphic stuffed animals, but Onstad’s output had slowed down considerably in the last couple of years. On December 24, he released a brand new strip as well as two blog posts from two of the characters, Ray and Philippe. It remains to be seen how frequently new comics will appear from Onstad, but a second new strip already arrived on January 1.

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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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