Tony Cliff // First Second
Tony Cliff // First Second

The 3 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Tony Cliff // First Second
Tony Cliff // First Second

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. DELILAH DIRK AND THE KING'S SHILLING

By Tony Cliff
First Second

Tony Cliff // First Second

Animation and comics have obvious similarities, and it's natural for many creators to successfully bounce back and forth between the two industries. You can usually pick out a comic drawn by an animation pro based on its emphasis on stagecraft and the fluidity of the action. Tony Cliff’s background in animation is apparent when flipping through pages of his Delilah Dirk series, which has a Disney-like feel to its lighting, character design, and set pieces. This week, the sequel to Cliff’s 2013 hit Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant hits stores with the continued story of two unlikely friends chasing adventure across 19th century Europe.

In Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling, the brash, thrill-seeking Delilah and her level-headed, loyal companion Selim are humiliated by a traitorous British solider. To exact her revenge, she must go undercover as her true self, the daughter of British aristocracy, something that was unknown to her friend Selim. This is another delightfully illustrated entry in the series, full of vivid action sequences and great attention to historic detail, but the book’s true strength is in its depiction of the friendship between Delilah and Selim, who are opposites in every way. Their interactions are comical and heartwarming, and Delilah’s hot-temper is perfectly complemented and kept in check by Selim.

2. LUCKY PENNY

By Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota
Oni Press

Lucky Penny, the new graphic novel by writer Ananth Hirsh and artist Yuko Ota, first appeared on the duo’s popular anthology webcomic, Johnny Wander. It's a light romantic comedy about a 20-something named Penny who we first meet on a really bad day in which she loses both her job and her apartment. But that’s okay, she just moves into a storage unit and takes a job at a laundromat where she has to take orders from a 12-year-old kid whose parents own the place. Things start to look up, however, when she meets a cute, shy boy named Walter who works at the local community center.

The pacing of the jokes, the touches of magical realism, and Yuko Ota’s manga-like artwork may make some think of it as a Scott Pilgrim knock-off. While the inspiration is obviously there, Ota’s work is so rich, detailed, and funny that it deserves consideration on its own merit.

3. SIREN'S LAMENT

By Kaitlyn Narvaza
LINE Webtoon

Kaitlyn Narvaza // LINE Webtoon

LINE Webtoon has their finger on the pulse—not only of what young readers (particular women) want to read, but also of how webcomics should be presented and monetized. The South Korean portal has been around for 13 years, and over time it has evolved its presentation format to adapt to new technologies and reader preferences. Starting from static horizontal comic strips, they first shifted to semi-animated Flash-based comics and then to pioneering the long, vertical format seen in many of today’s webcomics, adding sound effects and animation that are triggered by scrolling. Traditionally huge with Korean audiences, they’ve recently expanded their influence to the West with English translations of some of their most popular comics, and have even snagged a license deal with LucasFilm to produce their own Star Wars comic.

An enormous financial success, LINE Webtoon pays all its creators, secures licensing deals for them, and ensures that they retain the copyrights on all their work. They also make an effort to give new talent an opportunity to find an audience with their open platform called Discover. Their first big breakout star of that program was 21-year-old San Diego State University student Kaitlyn Narvaza, whose debut comic, Where Tangents Meet, became a global hit.

Now 22 years old, Narvaza is returning as a featured cartoonist with a new comic called Siren’s Lament. This dreamy romance is about a young florist named Lyra who is saved from drowning by a merman. When she makes a deal that goes wrong for both of them, they both become part-human and part-siren. Narvaza draws in a manga-influenced style and uses the vertical scroll of the page to great effect—she even incorporates an original soundtrack that gently plays while you read along.

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Marvel Entertainment
The Litigious History of DC and Marvel’s Rival Captain Marvel Characters
Carol Danvers is just one of many heroes to hold the Captain Marvel mantle for Marvel
Carol Danvers is just one of many heroes to hold the Captain Marvel mantle for Marvel
Marvel Entertainment

Behind-the-scenes struggles and legal wrangling have played just as big of a part in the history of comic books as the colorful battles on the pages themselves. And one of the most complex and long-lasting disputes in the industry has focused on Captain Marvel—or at least the two distinct versions of the character that have coexisted in a state of confusion at both Marvel and DC for decades.

Like many comic book tangles, this dispute was made possible because of the debut of Superman. Soon after his first appearance in 1938's Action Comics #1, there was a deluge of knockoffs from publishers looking for a piece of the Man of Steel pie. Though most of these were fly-by-night analogues, Fawcett Comics’s attempt at its own superhero wasn’t an inferior model—it quickly became real competition.

ENTER: THE BIG RED CHEESE

Fawcett’s Captain Marvel was created in late 1939 by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck and debuted in Whiz Comics #2. On his first cover, Captain Marvel is shown carelessly throwing a car against a brick wall, as two criminals bolt out of the windows. In Action Comics #1, Superman made his debut by hoisting a similar car over his head and driving it into the Earth, as the criminals inside fled.

The similarities were unmistakable: Here were two caped strongmen with heroic squints and circus tights leaping around cities and battling mad (and bald) scientists. But while Clark Kent got his powers from his Kryptonian physiology, Captain Marvel was, in reality, a young boy named Billy Batson who would receive his powers by shouting the magic word “SHAZAM!” If Superman was the straitlaced Boy Scout, Captain Marvel earned his moniker of "The Big Red Cheese" through sheer camp, a wink, and a nod.

Seniority mattered little to young comic book readers, and once Captain Marvel found his footing, he was outselling Superman at the newsstand and beating him to the screen by receiving his own live-action film serial in 1941. But as Captain Marvel reached larger audiences, DC was in the midst of legal action against Fawcett for copyright infringement. The claim was simple: Captain Marvel was a bit too close to Superman for DC's comfort.

DC wanted Fawcett to cease production of the serial and comics by the early 1940s, but Fawcett fought to delay a court battle for years. It wasn’t until 1948 that the case actually went to trial, with the dust finally settling in DC's favor in 1954. Legally, Fawcett would never be allowed to print another Captain Marvel book. By now, though, the superhero market was near extinction, so for Fawcett, it wasn’t even worth it to appeal again. Instead, the publisher closed shop, leaving Superman to soar the skies of Metropolis without any square-jawed competition on the newsstands.

MARVEL CLAIMS ITS NAME

The next decade would see a superhero revitalization, beginning with DC’s revamped takes on The Flash and Green Lantern in the late 1950s, and exploding just a few years later when Timely Comics changed its name to Marvel Comics and launched a roster of heavy-hitters like The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and The Hulk, all by 1962.

Marvel was a buzzword again, and in 1966, a short-lived company called M.F. Enterprises tried to capitalize with a new character named Captain Marvel—generally considered one of the worst superheroes ever put to paper.

Marvel now needed to stop inferior comics from using its name on their covers, so it obtained the trademark for the Captain Marvel name and went about protecting it by introducing yet another character named Captain Marvel. This new alien version of the hero made his debut shortly after in 1967's Marvel Super-Heroes #12.

The character was born purely for legal reasons. According to comic book veteran Roy Thomas, Stan Lee only created a Captain Marvel at publisher Martin Goodman's insistence: "All I know is the basis of the character came from a resentment over the use of the ‘Captain Marvel’ name."

Comics are nothing if not needlessly confusing at times, and by the early 1970s, Superman wasn’t quite the sales force he used to be. In need of some fresh blood, DC turned to an unlikely source for help: Fawcett. The company had reemerged in the late 1960s as the publisher of Dennis the Menace comics, but its hands were tied when the superhero business revived since it was legally forbidden from producing new Captain Marvel books. So they did the next best thing by agreeing to license the character and his supporting cast to DC in 1973.

CAPTAINS IN DISPUTE

Now the world’s two biggest publishers both had high-profile characters named Captain Marvel. But there was a catch: Since Marvel owned the rights to the name, DC couldn’t call its new Captain Marvel comic Captain Marvel. Instead, all of his comics went by the title Shazam, as did the character’s live-action TV revival in the mid-1970s. Oddly enough, the name of the character himself was still—wait for it—Captain Marvel. So DC could retain the character’s name in the stories but couldn’t slap it onto book covers or TV shows. Only Marvel could monetize the name Captain Marvel.

Right after Captain Marvel’s first DC book launched in 1973, there was an immediate hiccup. The full title of the series was the slightly antagonistic Shazam: The Original Captain Marvel. That lasted all of 14 issues before a cease and desist order from Marvel turned the series into Shazam: The World’s Mightiest Mortal. Marvel, on the other hand, found itself in the position to keep its trademark by continuously pumping out more books with Captain Marvel on the cover, which is why the company’s history is littered with reboots and new versions of the character turning up every two years or so.

By the 1990s, DC had outright purchased its Captain Marvel from Fawcett, but it could barely promote him. There are only so many times you can put Shazam on a comic cover but refer to him as Captain Marvel on the inside without confusing your readers. So in 2012, DC and writer Geoff Johns decided to end the decades of confusion and simply rename the character Shazam, because, as John said, “everybody thinks he's called Shazam already.”

In 2019, these two characters that are seemingly forever linked will have another shared milestone when they both make their big screen debuts. Marvel’s Captain Marvel will hit theaters on March 8, 2019, with Brie Larson playing the Carol Danvers version of the character. And after nearly 80 years of switching publishers, changing names, and lengthy legal battles, Zachary Levi will play the title role in Shazam! a month later on April 5.

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Evening Standard/Getty Images
8 Actors Who've Played Batman (and What Fans Had to Say About Them)
Evening Standard/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Getty Images

Batman is one of the most beloved superheroes of all time, which has made playing him a difficult task for more than one actor. (Playing characters with rabid fan bases can be a double-edged sword.) Here, take a look back at eight actors who've donned the Batsuit—and how fans and critics reacted to their performances.

1. LEWIS WILSON

Lewis Wilson as Batman
Columbia Pictures

Lewis Wilson was the youngest person to play Batman. He appeared in the 15-part 1943 Columbia serial. Critics complained about everything from his weight to his accent.

2. ROBERT LOWERY

Robert Lowery took over the role in the 1949 follow-up serial, Batman And Robin. He was a forgettable actor in this role.

3. ADAM WEST

Adam West at 'Batman'
Evening Standard/Getty Images

West played the Caped Crusader from 1966 through 1968 in the Batman television series in addition to a film spin-off. Fans were torn: Either they loved his campy portrayal or hated it.

4. MICHAEL KEATON

Michael Keaton's casting in the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film caused such controversy that 50,000 protest letters were sent to Warner Brothers’s offices.

5. VAL KILMER

Val Kilmer in 'Batman Forever' (1995)
Warner BRos.

Val Kilmer put on the suit in 1995 and received mixed reviews. Director Joel Schumacher called the actor “childish and impossible."

6. GEORGE CLOONEY

It's safe to assume Clooney regrets his decision to star in Batman & Robin. It was the worst box-office performer of the modern Batman movies and Clooney once joked that he killed the series.

7. CHRISTIAN BALE


© TM & DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Though Christian Bale is largely favored as the best actor to play the Dark Knight, he was not without criticism. NPR’s David Edelstein described his husky voice as “a voice that's deeper and hammier than ever.”

8. BEN AFFLECK

Most recently: Fans immediately took to the internet to decry the decision to cast Ben Affleck as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), recalling his previous roles in the poor-performing Gigli and Daredevil.

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