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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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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