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Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic/Valiant Comics
Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic/Valiant Comics

The 5 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic/Valiant Comics
Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic/Valiant 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.

1. Beverly

By Nick Drnaso
Drawn & Quarterly

In Beverly, Nick Drnaso gives us stories of suburban dread, sexual longing, and the poor decisions people make when trying to deal with one another’s hangups. With a minimalist drawing style that looks like Chris Ware (if Ware directed a Cartoon Network show), Drnaso’s first major comics work shows that he is entering the scene already a very accomplished storyteller.

Beverly's interconnected vignettes are set in and around the same suburban town, and they include: a young woman dealing with sexual feelings for a childhood friend, a pre-pubescent boy whose sexual curiosity about his sister ruins a family vacation, and a teenage girl who finds the worst possible way of dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. Drnaso tells these stories at an almost languid pace and takes unexpected turns that keep you anxiously looking ahead. It’s a fresh and compelling book that I am mentally filing away for inclusion in my Best of 2016 list.

2. Faith #1

By Jody Houser, Francis Portela, Marguerite Sauvage, Andrew Dalhouse
Valiant Comics

Since relaunching in 2012, Valiant Entertainment has been building a rich and compelling universe of comics. One of their most unique characters is Faith Herbert (codename Zephyr). Faith is a rarity in superhero comics—a plus-sized female heroine. She always wants to do the right thing, as evidenced by her short stint in the shadowy government-sanctioned superhero group Unity, which ended when the questionable moral nature of the work didn’t sit right with her. She’s an upbeat, confident, and fun character who has the potential to be the company’s breakout star if given the chance, which she’s getting now with a new four-issue mini-series to call her own.

In a funny, modern touch, she looks to get herself a secret identity as a reporter and ends up writing celebrity listicles for a Buzzfeed-like website. Writer Jody Houser and artist Francis Portela bring a lot of heart and laughs, and the amazing Marguerite Sauvage steps in a couple of times to draw the book’s multiple fantasy sequences.

3. Some Other Animal’s Meat

By Emily Carroll
www.emcarroll.com

Whenever Emily Carroll posts a new webcomic, it is an event worth mentioning. In "Some Other Animal's Meat" we follow Stacy, a middle-aged woman who seems to be in a state of melancholic self-reflection. Her marriage is loveless and her greatest joy seems to come from selling a skin-care product called Alo-Glo that she herself is afraid to try. Is she allergic to it, or is it causing her to slowly lose her grip on reality?

Carroll is one of the greatest horror cartoonists who has ever worked in this medium, and with each new comic she finds a way to push her work to become both more beautiful and more horrifying.

4. The Adventures of Supergirl #1

By Sterling Gates and Bengal
DC Comics

With so many superhero characters making the jump to TV and movies, comic publishers are grappling with “synergy” problems while trying to convert viewers into readers. Oftentimes what makes it to a TV show is a distilled version of a character that doesn’t really resemble the comic book version with its years of impenetrable backstory. Case in point is Supergirl. With the new CBS television show proving to be a success, DC seemed caught off-guard by not having an ongoing Supergirl comic already on the stands. Her most recent series was cancelled last year, and DC has decided to try a new series that exists in its own separate universe, one that more closely matches the show than the existing comics.

The result is something that fans of the TV show should enjoy. It carries its lighter attitude and is written by Sterling Gates, whose work on Supergirl in the past was an influence for the current TV iteration. He’ll be joined by a rotating stable of artists including Bengal, Emma Vieceli, Jonboy Myers, and Emanuela Lupacchino. DC is releasing this through their Digital First program on Comixology, meaning it will initially only be available in digital format at 99 cents an issue and will eventually make its way to print, but only in graphic novel (not “floppy”) format. For that added touch of “synergy,” each new issue will be released bi-weekly on Mondays, the same day the show airs.

5. Mean Girls Club

By Ryan Heshka
Nobrow Press

Ryan Heshka’s short comic Mean Girls Club begins with a call to order of the "113th secret meeting of the Mean Girls Club." What follows is a stylishly drawn parade of throwback “good girl" subversiveness that would make John Waters and Betty Page proud. Drugs, lingerie, euthanasia, mayhem, and ceremonial insect venom transfusions are all on display here. (None of it is really offensive unless you happen to be from the 1950s.) Heshka has the retro-exploitation vibe down perfectly and his artwork—printed all in black and white and hot pink—is a blast.

This is the latest offering in Nobrow’s 17x23 “graphic short story project” in which they give young cartoonists the opportunity to tell short, one-off stories in a beautiful yet affordable single-issue format. Heshka is an accomplished illustrator and has even published a couple of children’s books, but this is his first comics work outside of anthology contributions.

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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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