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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
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.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios