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Khary Randolph
Khary Randolph

The 6 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Khary Randolph
Khary Randolph

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. Spider-man #1

By Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli
Marvel Comics

One of the perceived goals of Marvel’s huge Secret Wars event is to give a “soft reboot” to their publishing line, allowing for alternate universe characters to ease into the main continuity. Because Secret Wars means the death of Marvel's Ultimate Universe, it allows Miles Morales a permanent spot in the canon. Since his first appearance in 2011 as the new Ultimate Spider-man (replacing Peter Parker when he was killed by the Green Goblin), the teenager has been a popular character and the first in Marvel’s attempts to bring diversity to their headline heroes.

In the post-Secret Wars, “All New, All Different” Marvel universe, Peter Parker is still Spider-man, but, now in his 30s, he acts as the elder Spidey to Miles's more classic teenage Spidey in Spider-man. Brian Michael Bendis, who wrote every issue of Ultimate Spider-man, retains creative control in this new series along with artist Sara Pichelli, who co-created the character with him.

2. Black

By Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith III, Jamal Igle, and Khary Randolph
Kickstarter

A Kickstarter campaign launched February 1 will run for the duration of Black History Month to fund a new graphic novel that takes place in a world where only black people have superpowers. When a young man named Kareem Jenkins survives being gunned down by police, his superpowers—and the biggest secret in the world—are revealed.

Written by Kwanza Osajyefo—a former editor at DC Comics and an instrumental player in their first digital comic initiatives—and co-created by digital designer Tim Smith III, Black will be a 120-page graphic novel released in six digital installments, starting later this year assuming they reach their funding goal (which, as of this writing, looks like a sure bet).

2011 Inkpot Award-winning artist Jamal Igle (no stranger to successful Kickstarters with his creator-owned Molly Danger) and cover artist Khary Randolph (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Boondocks) will provide the visuals, making this an exciting ensemble of black comics creators who are telling a story they’d probably not be able to tell with the “Big Two” publishers.

While Marvel and DC are going to great lengths to diversify their characters, there’s been a slower growth in diversity among the creators themselves. Even in the generally much more diverse world of indie comics, it seems like black creators are not getting their books noticed. This project, however, is off to a great start on its way to reaching its goal. If you’d like to support it, please go here.

3. The Tipping Point

By Various
Humanoids

Comics tend to be divided across three international boundaries: North American comics, Japanese manga, and European bande dessinée. Even though they all influence each other, it’s rare to see a book that brings together creators from all three sectors. That’s what esteemed European publisher Humanoids is doing with The Tipping Point, an interesting anthology that enlists 13 creators from across three different continents to tell stories that "explore the key moment when a clear-cut split occurs, a mutation, a personal revolt or a large-scale revolution that tips us from one world into another, from one life to an entirely new one.” Anyone who appreciates comics from an artistic standpoint will drool over the lineup for this book, which includes Paul Pope, Eddie Campbell, Boulet, Naoki Urasawa, Taiyô Matsumoto, Bastien Vivès, John Cassady and more.

It should be noted that the diversity of this lineup falls short at including any women. Coming on top of the controversy from France’s Angoulême festival, where 30 male cartoonists—and not a single woman—were nominated for a lifetime achievement award, this is an unfortunate oversight for a book looking to celebrate the world’s greatest comic creators. Still, you can’t say this isn’t a great lineup. If you happen to be a huge fan of all of them, there is a $500 “Ultra-Deluxe Limited Slipcase” edition that contains bookplates signed by each artist.

4. Prez Vol. 1: Corndog in Chief

By Mark Russell, Ben Caldwell and Mark Morales
DC Comics

Last year, DC Comics launched a string of new titles that looked and read quite differently from the typical “DC House Style” they’ve operated with in the past decade or so. In an effort to reach younger readers, they brought in some creators from outside of their usual stable of talent and tried out a handful of books that offered a different spin. Maybe the best and by far the most unusual of these titles was Prez by Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell. Revisiting a short-lived comic from the 1970s about a teenage boy who becomes President of the United States, this new Prez is set in the near future and is about a teenage girl who winds up as a write-in candidate in the presidential election after becoming Internet famous thanks to an embarrassing video involving a corn dog and a deep fryer.

In an election year where a reality TV star is leading the polls, this story doesn’t seem as outrageous as it was intended to be, but it is downright funny, with some looney social-political commentary like the cartoon dog mascot for the “Pharmaduke” pharmaceutical corporation and Carl, the robotic “End-of-Life Bear” who gives out hugs and marijuana for terminally ill patients. Being so unlike what the typical DC Comic buyer might expect, this six-issue series didn’t exactly burn up the sales chart, but hopefully it will get a second look with a collected edition hitting bookstores this week.

5. #HourlyComicsDay

Sarah Becan

February 1 was annual Hourly Comics Day, where cartoonists all over the world draw a short comic for every hour that they are awake and then post them to social media under the #hourlycomicsday hashtag. Most cartoonists treat it like a 24-hour journal, so you get a lot of material about the struggle to make hourly comics, and the immediacy of it gives you a great peek into their process.

Peruse the Twitter hashtag to find many examples.

6. Jenlagged

Starting on January 28, mental_floss was delighted to premier a brand-new comic from indie cartoonist Jen Vaughn as it was being created on location at the Angoulême comics festival in France. Vaughn’s Jenlagged gave us a peek into her travels, her love of bande dessinée, and her encounters with other cartoonists at the event. The final installment went live today and the finished comic will be made available for free on Comixology later this month.

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Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
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entertainment
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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