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Zander Cannon // Oni Press
Zander Cannon // Oni Press

The 4 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Zander Cannon // Oni Press
Zander Cannon // Oni Press

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. Kaijumax Season 1

By Zander Cannon
Oni Press

Zander Cannon // Oni Press

Kaijumax is one of the most off-the-wall concepts to get published in recent memory. It’s basically Orange is the New Black but with Kaiju, set on a Pacific Island that has been transformed into a massive Supermax-style prison. The prisoners are the type of giant monsters you see in classic Japanese monster films, and the guards wear Ultraman-style suits that allow them to grow to monster-height when they need to step in and rough up a prisoner. In this ongoing series, Zander Cannon takes every Hollywood prison trope and adds in every Japanese monster movie trope: the guard dealing drugs to prisoners (in this case, radioactive isotopes); the uncomfortable prison shower scene (in this case, the shower is a waterfall); and the prisoner who has found religion (in this case, a Mechagodzilla preaching the word of technology).

Cannon is a skilled cartoonist who draws in a colorful, cartoony style that may mislead some parents into thinking this is a kid-friendly book (it’s not). His drawings offset the sometimes heavy content and, most of all, it playfully captures the man-in-rubber-suit spirit of those old monster films. Kaijumax recently completed serialization of “Season One" and it hits stores in an affordable collected edition this week.

2. Big Kids

By Michael DeForge
Drawn & Quarterly

Michael DeForge // Drawn & Quarterly

In Michael DeForge’s latest graphic novel, Big Kids, a teenage boy wakes up after being dumped by his boyfriend and starts to see the world as a place where he and everyone around him are actually trees (or, DeForge’s psychedelic, nearly unrecognizable version of trees). As a “tree”, the young teen has heightened senses and experiences mundane activities like swimming in a public pool with a euphoric state of awareness. People who used to cause problems in his life are now inconsequential “twigs.” However, with all of this new capacity for understanding, memories of his life before he “treed” are fading quickly.

Printed in a tiny 4 inch by 6 inch hardcover with eye-popping colors set against delicate lines, the book is trippy and surreal, containing DeForge’s typical preoccupations with nature, transformation, and the beauty and horror of living within your own body. It’s a metaphor for puberty and growing up that is poignant but also not afraid to portray its young protagonist as self-involved.

3. Octopus Pie Vol. 1

By Meredith Gran
Image Comics

Meredith Gran // Image Comics

Meredith Gran’s long-running Octopus Pie is one of the most popular and influential webcomics to come out of the 2000s, an important decade in the maturation of that format in which creators like Gran, Kate Beaton, Ryan North, Danielle Corsetto and others found large audiences online by self-publishing. At that time, mainstream book publishers began scooping up quirky small press and web comics, looking for the next big hit, only to very quickly give up when sales couldn't reach the threshold they were used to. Octopus Pie was originally caught in this publishing net when Villard Books put out a collection in 2010, but decided not to collect the subsequent strips.

This time out, Gran is moving her book to Image Comics, the premier publisher of creator-owned comics. Image has been pushing out of their usual boundaries of sci-fi, horror, and crime comics with selections like this. Octopus Pie follows the (semi-fictional) Brooklyn-based adventures of sarcastic Eve and happy-go-lucky stoner Hannah who were in pre-school together and are reunited by Eve’s mom to become roommates after Eve breaks up with her boyfriend. This first volume collects the first two years of strips with stories involving hipster art scenes, crazy exes, and witty observations about being at an age when adulthood becomes reality.

4. Superman: The Coming of the Supermen #1

By Neal Adams, Tony Bedard and Alex Sinclair
DC Comics

DC Comics

When Neal Adams came along in the 1960s, his realistic drawing style—influenced more by traditional figurative illustrators like Robert McGinnis than by traditional cartoony comic book artists—was a revelation. If you grew up reading comics in the 1970s, you’re probably familiar with Adams, particularly his iconic run on comics like Batman and Green Lantern/Green Arrow.

At 74, Adams is still working and is given carte blanche by DC Comics to do the occasional project of his choice. This includes 2011’s Batman: Odyssey, a deeply odd, almost incomprehensible exploration of Batman’s history featuring flying dinosaurs and a fourth-wall breaking Bruce Wayne. It garnered its fair share of scathing, bewildered reviews.

This time, with the six-issue series Superman: The Coming of the Supermen, Adams is playing in the Superman sandbox along with some of Jack Kirby’s creations like Darkseid and Kalibak. The oddness of Odyssey may be dialed down a little with this book, but it still looks like it's going to be pretty weird (for example, Superman and Darkseid intermingle with modern Middle East affairs).

While Adams’ late-era period may threaten to alter public opinion of his work, Comixology is running a sale this week of his classic work from the ‘70s if you want to see how he changed comics forever.

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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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