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Sanford Greene // Marvel Comics
Sanford Greene // Marvel Comics

The 4 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Sanford Greene // Marvel Comics
Sanford Greene // Marvel 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. Power Man and Iron Fist #1

By David Walker, Sanford Greene and Lee Loughridge
Marvel Comics

Sanford Greene // Marvel Comics

Luke Cage and Danny Rand (a.k.a. Power Man and Iron Fist) are, along with Cage’s wife Jessica Jones, the backbone of Marvel’s new Netflix-verse of original programming. The pair have a long history together dating back to the late 1970s, when their flailing individual series were combined in order to stave off cancelation.

In recent years, the two characters have operated mostly separately—Danny in his own Iron Fist book, and Luke as the leader of The Mighty Avengers. This new Power Man & Iron Fist series comes with the added visibility provided by Cage’s appearance in Jessica Jones and his own upcoming show, but it is also led by an exciting creative team who are at a pivotal breakout point in their careers.

Writer David Walker took critics and fans by surprise with his 2014 comic adaption of Shaft for Dynamite Comics, which led to a job writing DC’s new Cyborg series. Sanford Greene, like Walker, has been working in comics for a number of years, but his star has been on the rise recently, especially after a turn on the Secret Wars tie-in Runaways. Both men are black, which is worth noting because comics publishers have a history of claiming diversity among their characters while still hiring white, male creators to work the books.

2. Frontier #11

By Eleanor Davis
Youth in Decline

Elanor Davis // Youth in Decline

Youth in Decline’s anthology Frontier dedicates each issue to one indie creator to tell a single-issue story, and their latest showcases one of its biggest contributors to date. Eleanor Davis is the New York Times bestselling author of 2014’s How To Be Happy. She is an accomplished and versatile cartoonist who has created award-winning comics for children as well as thought-provoking and challenging comics for adults.

“BDSM” in Frontier #11 tells a short story about two adult film actresses and deals with some thorny issues surrounding sexual submissiveness. Victoria and Lexa meet while filming an S&M video, and their attraction is apparent even as it blossoms in front of an all-male film crew who instruct them to degrade and hurt each other. Davis’s minimalist black-and-white art packs a lot of “acting” into each spare pen drawing, and the reader knows exactly what Vic and Lexa are really feeling even when they are trying not to show it.

Frontier #11 is available only through Youth in Decline’s website. For fans of up-and-coming indie cartoonists, it’s worth subscribing to this anthology because they have some really exciting contributors coming up.

3. Tomb Raider #1

By Mariko Tamaki, Philip Sevy and Michael Atiyeh
Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse Comics

Tomb Raider continues to be a multimedia hit twenty years after the first video game turned its main character, Lara Croft, into a cultural icon. The newest game, Rise of the Tomb Raider, came out this past November, and Dark Horse has been steadily releasing tie-in comics. These have featured an impressive lineup of talented female writers, which is fitting for a character that has evolved from her original iteration as eye candy for boys into a legitimate feminist icon for girls.

Corinna Bechko, Rhianna Pratchett, and Gail Simone have all written for the comic, and this new series boasts a highly interesting and exciting choice: Mariko Tamaki, the award-winning writer of young adult graphic novels like Skim and This One Summer.

Tamaki is joined by artist Philip Sevy, a relative newcomer who brings some dynamic layouts. This issue sees Croft get caught up in search of a mushroom that can grant immortality (it may sound silly but it is played pretty straight in the comic). Tamara picks up some threads from the Rise of the Tomb Raider video game and builds on what Simone, Bechko, and Pratchet have been doing in the previous comics.

4. The Outside Circle

By Patti LaBoucane-Benson, Kelly Mellings and John Rauch
Anansi

Anansi

In The Outside Circle, Pete and his brother Joey are Canadian Aboriginals who are victims of a system that leaves them prone to the dangers of drug addiction and gang violence. When Pete is sent to jail for killing his mother’s abusive boyfriend in an act of self-defense, he sets into motion a series of events that lead both his and his brother’s life to ruin. As Joey ends up in a group home, Pete works his way towards rehabilitation through a traditional Native healing circle.

The fictional hardships Pete and Joey experience are based on years of true stories that writer Patti LaBoucane-Benson has encountered over the years working at the Native Counseling Services of Alberta. LaBoucane-Benson is Métis (Métis are indigenous Canadians of mixed First Nations and European ancestry), and this book is a result of her PhD study of a healing program for Aboriginal men. An academic study turned into a comic may not sound like exciting reading, but The Outside Circle holds together pretty well as a work of fiction thanks to the accomplished artwork of Kelly Mellings and John Rauch. The Outside Circle was released last year but may not have appeared in your local comic shop. It continues to be available on Amazon and elsewhere online.

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King Features Syndicate
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Comics
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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Pop Chart Lab
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entertainment
A Visual History of Captain America’s Shields
Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

Captain America has gone through plenty of wardrobe changes since his comic book debut in 1941, but it’s his iconic shield that has had the most makeovers. Over the past eight decades, fans have seen the shield change its shape, color, and even the material from which it’s crafted. For the folks at Pop Chart Lab, the shield’s storied history provided the perfect subject matter for their latest poster.

On this piece, the company teamed with Marvel to give a rundown of 50 of Cap’s shields—from the instantly recognizable to the downright obscure. Here we see his classic Golden Age shield, with its slightly different color scheme, and the different variations from Jack Kirby’s time-traveling Bicentennial Battles book. Then there are entries like the vibranium shield he received from Black Panther in Captain America #342 and an adamantium one made by Tony Stark.

Those different shields just scratch the surface of the deep cuts Pop Chart Lab provides. There are also shields from Captain Americas across Marvel’s numerous alternate universes, like the ones used by the Ultimate Universe Steve Rogers and the android Cap from Earth-725.

Each shield is illustrated to match its comic book counterpart and comes with a description specifying the series it debuted in and which Earth it exists on (the Marvel Universe has thousands of different versions of Earth, after all).

The posters will begin shipping on May 23, and you can pre-order yours now starting at $29 on the Pop Chart Lab website. You can check out a full look at the poster below.

Pop Chart Lab's Captain America shield poster
Pop Chart Lab

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