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Joshua Cotter/Fantagraphics
Joshua Cotter/Fantagraphics

The 4 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Joshua Cotter/Fantagraphics
Joshua Cotter/Fantagraphics

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. Nod Away

By Josh Cotter
Fantagraphics

Josh Cotter // Fantagraphics

In the near-future of Joshua Cotter’s Nod Away, the world is outraged when it's revealed that the central hub of the “innernet” (an Internet that is streamed telepathically) turns out to be the brain of a little girl named Eva. The public demands a more humane solution, and Dr. Melody McCabe is one of the scientists assigned to the problem on an international space station that is also tasked with finding a new planet to colonize. Meanwhile, a bearded and disheveled man awakes amidst an alien landscape—how he connects to Dr. McCabe, Eva, and the space station is one of the fascinating mysteries of this new graphic novel.

Cotter’s first book—2008’s Skyscrapers of the Midwest—was a critically acclaimed portrayal of childhood as told through a pair of anthropomorphic sibling cats. His second book, Driven By Lemons, was more of an experiment in comics formalism, with collected sketches forming a stream-of-conscious narrative. Nod Away, his first book in six years, fuses some of Driven’s formalism with a more traditional science fiction narrative that explores the nature of consciousness. Cotter originally serialized the comic on the Study Group Comics website, but this print edition from Fantagraphics adds some new pages.

In the time since his first two books, Cotter’s cross-hatched style has become cleaner and more confident, but his real strength is in his characters, all of them victims of their “innernet”-focused society.

2. Batman: Harley & Ivy Deluxe Edition

By Paul Dini, Bruce Timm and various
DC Comics

DC Comics

These days, Harley Quinn is one of DC Comics’ most popular characters. Judging from the trailers, this summer’s Suicide Squad film is going to propel her back into mainstream consciousness for the first time since she was introduced on Batman: The Animated Series in the 1990s. As the Joker’s girl Friday, dressed head-to-toe in her harlequin costume, Harley was a breakout character in that show but her transition into comic books has been surprisingly slow.

Harley’s creators, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm (the brains behind Batman: The Animated Series), returned to her in 2007 for a mini-series called Harley and Ivy, where she teams up with her partner-in-crime and best friend, Poison Ivy. This new hardcover collects that series, as well as a variety of one-shots from the years that featured the Timm version of Harley, and they all are either written by Dini or drawn by Timm.

3. Was She Pretty?

By Leanne Shapton
Drawn & Quarterly

Leanne Shapton // Drawn & Quarterly

A good writer can suggest rich and interesting backstories for characters with just a sentence. A good artist can do the same thing with a single drawing. In Was She Pretty?, Leanne Shapton does this in every two-page spread by giving us a simple sketch of a person paired with a tantalizing snippet of story like this: “Colleen was Walter’s ex-girlfriend from med school. She loved to dance with men at weddings.” Sometimes, the next page will jump to the ex of that ex, following a daisy chain of former lovers. Each page lets the reader's imagination fill in the details, and it’s a brilliantly simple use of form that allows the reader to relate to the stories in just the right way.

Shapton is a successful illustrator and author who uses form to tell a story. Was She Pretty? was Shapton’s first book, originally published in 2006 by Sarah Crichton Books and now reprinted by Drawn & Quarterly.

4. Love and Rockets: New Stories 8

By the Hernandez Brothers
Fantagraphics

The 8th annual edition of Love and Rockets: New Stories contains some continuations from the previous issue, like Jaime’s retro-sci-fi Princess Animus and the latest chapter in the long-running Locas story of Maggie and Hopey. Plus, Gilbert concludes his movie-within-a-comic adaptation of Aladdin starring the buxom Fritz and Mila. The Hernandez Brothers are usually associated with their grounded character studies painted with touches of magical realism, but they just as often play with over-the-top science fiction executed with a wacky B-movie aesthetic, and this volume is full of that.

Most notable about this volume, however, is that it will be the last book in this 100-page format. The next issue will return to a slimmer, 32-page format, most likely with a new #1 issue and presumably a more frequent publishing schedule.

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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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