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Guido Crepax //Fantagraphics
Guido Crepax //Fantagraphics

The 4 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Guido Crepax //Fantagraphics
Guido Crepax //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. THE COMPLETE CREPAX: DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, AND OTHER HORROR STORIES

By Guido Crepax
Fantagraphics

Guido Crepax // Fantagraphics

The late Guido Crepax was one of the most influential comics artist to work in erotic graphic literature. Crepax pulled elements of 1930s German Expressionist films, 1960s French New Wave, Art Nouveau design, BDSM, and the keen eye of figurative artists such as Egon Schiele. His kinky and surreal comics could be appreciated even more for their elaborate, psychedelic compositions and slightly exaggerated anatomy than for their eroticism. His influence is apparent in the work of contemporary cartoonists like Frank Miller, Paul Pope and Kevin O’Neill.

Most of the Italian artist’s work has been unavailable in the States, but U.S. publisher Fantagraphics has begun an ambitious endeavor to collect and translate his complete oeuvre over the course of 10 hardcover graphic novels. The first book hits stores this week, and rather than collect his work chronologically, the publisher has opted to release them by theme, with this first volume focusing on erotic horror. It begins with a number of Valentina stories from the 1960s that showcase Crepax at his best. Originally intended as a love interest for a super-powered hero named Neutron, Valentina quickly captured the attentions of both Crepax and his readers, even inspiring a 1973 Italian-French film. With a look drawn from silent film actress Louise Brooks and Jean-Luc Godard muse Anna Karina, Valentina is a strong, sexually liberated heroine.

This volume ends with two adaptations—one of Bram Stroker’s Dracula and the other of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—produced later in Crepax’s career. While they lack many of the distinguishable stylistic characteristics that make his earlier work so recognizable, they still take the original material and add a number of erotic flourishes.

2. BATMAN #50

By Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Danny Miki
DC Comics

DC Comics

Typically, comics have always loved celebrating issue number milestones (#25, #50, #100), but these days, with most series relaunching every couple of years, longevity is no longer celebrated. DC helped start the relaunch trend in 2011 when they reset all their titles back to #1, but they’ve managed to stick to that sequencing for 50 issues. To mark that milestone, they are publishing some extra-sized issues this month. Of all the #50s, none will be as worthy of being treated as a milestone as Batman #50.

Batman has been, without a doubt, DC’s best title these past few years, and that is all because it has maintained a consistent creative team since issue one: Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. They approach Batman with a post-Christopher Nolan edge and add some nice elements of comic book hyper-realism to the dark, grounded tone of the films. In their 50-issue run, they have retold Batman’s origin, physically deformed the Joker, introduced new mythologies to Gotham, and killed off both Batman and the Joker. That brings us to this issue where, of course, Batman returns from the dead. The beauty of this story is that Snyder and Capullo never tried to make us think that Bruce Wayne was actually dead; it’s been one of the best “Batman dies/someone else takes over” arcs ever.

This June, DC will be renumbering most books back to #1. However, for two of their oldest titles— Action Comics and Detective Comics—they will restore the legacy numbering in order to hit the mother of all milestones: issue #1000.

3. CANCER OWL

By Matthew Paul Mewhorter
cancerowl.com

Matthew Paul Mewhorter

Cartoonist Matthew Paul Mewhorter is a survivor of colorectal cancer (or as he calls it: “ass cancer”). When he was first diagnosed in 2014 at the age of 35, he began journaling about it using a little cartoon owl, called “Cancer Owl,” as a stand-in for himself. He created dozens of cartoons that, in a touching and effective way, poke fun at situations cancer patients can probably relate to: getting unsolicited treatment advice from strangers, trying to hold it together while talking with fellow patients, and of course dealing with the pain and suffering of chemotherapy. After Mewhorter beat his cancer, he was determined to continue the comic in hopes of using it as a form of therapy to help others.

Mewhorter posts new Cancer Owl comics every week and has just launched a Patreon campaign to raise money for supplies, advertising costs, and other projects. You can read all the Cancer Owl comics to date at CancerOwl.com and go to the Patreon page to support the campaign.

4. CARPET SWEEPER TALES

By Julie Doucet
Drawn & Quarterly

Julie Doucet // Drawn & Quarterly

Julie Doucet was one of Drawn & Quarterly’s early finds when the prestigious indie comic publisher first launched 25 years ago. Her Dirty Plotte anthology was picked up by D&Q in 1991 and made her an important name in late 20th century indie comics and a feminist icon. Doucet soon retired from making long-form comics and became a fixture in the Montreal arts community, but now she is back with a new graphic novel that is very different from her previous, hand-drawn autobiographical comics.

Carpet Sweeper Tales can best be described as an avante-garde remix of Italian fumetti (photo novels) from the 1970s. Cutting up those vintage magazines, she repurposes them into absurdist scenes of men and women speaking in stilted advertising slogans and typographical nonsense. It’s like revisiting how memes must have been made before there were ever GIFs and Tumblr.

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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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