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Daniel Clowes // Fantagraphics
Daniel Clowes // Fantagraphics

The 4 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Daniel Clowes // Fantagraphics
Daniel Clowes // 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. PATIENCE

By Daniel Clowes
Fantagraphics

Daniel Clowes // Fantagraphics

Sure to be one of the biggest releases of 2016, Patience is Daniel Clowes’s first graphic novel in six years and, at 180 pages, his longest to date. It’s also a somewhat unexpected leap into science fiction by a writer whose best known works, such as Ghost World, tend to be grounded satires about dejected outsiders. That’s not to say it is unusual for Clowes to dabble in different genres, be it horror (Like A Velvet Glove Cast in Iron), noir (David Boring) or even superheroes (The Death-Ray), but he always does it with his lugubrious yet funny spin, drawn in his iconically retro-'60s style.

Patience follows a young man named Jack whose only joy in life is his pregnant wife Patience. One day, he comes home from his usual day of pretending to have a job to find her dead. After initially being charged with the crime and then absolved, he obsesses over who could have murdered her for the next 20 years. When he finds a man who has invented a time machine, he now has the chance to go back and prevent Patience and his unborn baby from being taken away from him.

With his single-minded focus on changing his past, older Jack is like a lug-headed, psychopathic action hero in this story, but the book is truly about its title character, Patience. She is a tragic but assertive player in her own narrative. This is going to be up there in Clowes’s oeuvre of great works, but for fans of good time travel yarns, it deserves its spot in that canon as well.

2. INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN #1

By Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
Marvel Comics

Marvel Comics // Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev

Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev's 50+ issue run on Daredevil in the early 2000s is considered one of the definitive takes on that character. Now, the creative team has reunited to do the same for Iron Man with a new series, International Iron Man, that intends to explore Tony Stark’s past and his place in the “All New All Different” Marvel.

Stark recently learned that he had been adopted as a baby, and the identity of his birth parents is unknown. In this series, he’ll be searching for clues to his past, but he’ll also be exploring this slightly altered Marvel Universe for clues to its own secret history, accompanied by a key, mysterious figure in the post-Secret Wars Marvel universe: Victor Von Doom, who appears to be a longtime friend of Tony now.

Bendis and Maleev are a formidable comics team and, despite his popularity when played on screen by Robert Downey, Jr., Iron Man is in need of a good, definitive take on the character. His original Cold War-centric origins have been recalibrated to Marvel’s rolling timeline, so we’ll be seeing some flashbacks to a grungy, college-age Tony partying in the 1990s in this first issue.

3. RETROFIT 2016 KICKSTARTER

By Box Brown, Jared Smith, and various cartoonists
Kickstarter


Kaeleigh Forsyth and Alabaster Pizzo

Kickstarter

Small press publisher Retrofit began its life with a Kickstarter in 2011 with the goal of setting up a subscription mail service for their modest line of floppy-style comics. Now, nearly 50 comics and graphic novels later, the well-regarded publisher is taking to Kickstarter again to fund their 2016 line. The money they raise is intended to aid in printing costs and also in order to give more upfront money to the artists. They have some pretty impressive-looking books planned for this year, with a selection of indie cartoonists with unique voices like James Kolchaka, Leela Corman, Alabaster Pizzo, Kaeleigh Forsyth, and Eleanor Davis. Both digital and print subscriptions are available at different reward levels.

4. THROUGH THE HABITRAILS: LIFE BEFORE AND AFTER MY CAREER IN THE CUBICLES

By Jeff Nicholson
Dover Publications

Jeff Nicholson // Dover Publications

Jeff Nicholson first began serializing his dark office cubicle comic, Through the Habitrails, in 1989 in a comics anthology magazine called Taboo, which was edited by comics veteran Stephen Bissette. By 1992, he had released 14 individual, stand-alone installments that fit together as a complete graphic novel, but the definitive edition has never been published together—until now.

Nicholson’s comic is sort of like Dilbert if it had been written by Franz Kafka. It's a depiction of a corporate office where workers toil away while hooked up to machines that drain them of their creative juices, which are then used to power the gerbils that seem to run the company. The nameless hero of the story tries many times to escape his imprisonment only to find himself trapped even further.

This collected edition features an introduction and history of the comic by Bissette as well as a brief introduction by famed comics writer Matt Fraction. Nicholson, who retired from comics in 2004, provides some of his own context with an afterword.

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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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