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Joe Flood // First Second
Joe Flood // First Second

The 5 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Joe Flood // First Second
Joe Flood // 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. FOWL LANGUAGE: WELCOME TO PARENTING

By Brian Gordon
Andrews McNeel Publishing

Brian Gordon // Andrews McNeel Publishing

Parents of young kids who spend any considerable amount of time on social media have probably seen fellow parents share one of Brian Gordon’s Fowl Language comics to their feed. His single-panel strips about the frustrating, soul-crushing joys of parenting feature a cute family of ducks whose dad is the put-upon hero, always trying his best, but often at his wit’s end. The daddy duck is a stand-in for the author, a former illustrator for Hallmark greeting cards and creator of their popular Chuck & Beans comic. Brian Gordon went out on his own in 2013 with this webcomic that has garnered praise and has been shared all over Facebook by highly visible users like George Takei.

Gordon’s gags appeal to a pretty mainstream category of young parents on Facebook who love sharing exasperating stories about their kids for others to relate to and commiserate with.

2. SCIENCE COMICS: DINOSAURS // SCIENCE COMICS: CORAL REEFS

By MK Reed and Joe Flood/Maris Wicks
First Second

First Second

Comics can be a great educational tool for kids, especially when they’re done right. First Second Books—who know what they’re doing when it comes to educational and all-ages graphic novels—is starting a new series focused on teaching science to middle schoolers, and they’ve recruited some top-notch talent to work on them.

Maris Wicks is becoming a go-to cartoonist for science-related comics after previous books like Human Body Theater and Primates, her graphic novel (with writer Jim Ottaviano) on primatologists like Jane Goodall. In Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean, Wicks explores the biology and ecology of coral reefs with her color-infused charm. Writer MK Reed and artist Joe Flood take a similarly light and humorous look at the history of dinosaurs and the scientists who discovered them in Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers. These two books are the first entries in this new Science Comics series, with a third about volcanoes coming out later this year. They’re made for kids but should be a delight for anyone curious about these subjects.

3. WE ARE ROBIN VOL. 1

By Lee Bermejo, Jorge Corona, Khary Randolph, and Rob Haynes
DC Comics

DC Comics

If you don’t normally read Batman comics, then you may not be aware of how many Robins there are out there. As of this writing, there are at least four young men who have all worn a Robin costume at one point or another. DC Comics recently decided to double down on the Robin quantity while also balancing the lack of diversity with a new series called We Are Robin, in which the Robin moniker gets taken up by a legion of semi-organized Gotham City teens. At the center of the huge cast is Duke, a young orphan whose parents went missing during The Joker’s most recent attack on the city. While he is parentless like Robins of the past, Duke doesn’t look like your typical boy wonder, and neither do the other Robins in this book—which include young men and women of various races and ethnicities. A notable absence from the book is Batman himself, whose presumed death has left a vacuum that these kids feel the need to fill.

Writer Lee Bermejo uses a texting motif throughout to keep his large cast in communication with each other, and regular series artist Jorge Corona brings a nice exaggerated style of cartooning that helps give it a slightly different look and feel than most other DC comics. This first collected volume of We Are Robin hits stores this week.

4. GLORKIAN WARRIOR AND THE MUSTACHE OF DESTINY

By James Kochalka
First Second

James Kochalka // First Second

I wish I could have my kids write this review because Glorkian Warrior is their jam these days. James Kochalka’s unabashedly silly series has been a big hit in my household, and I previously recommended it in a list of comics to give to early readers. The third and final volume, The Mustache of Destiny, introduces the Junior-Junior Glorkian Warriors, a flying mustache, and a cup of coffee that our hero thinks can talk. Plus, we finally meet the previously mentioned but never-before-seen Glorkian Super Grandma.

Kochalka is best known for his influential diary webcomic American Elf, which he produced on a daily basis from 1998 until 2012. He tends to balance adult fare like the comic-turned-animated series SuperF*ckers with kid stuff like this series. He has a great handle on what gives kids the uncontrollable giggles, and he shows that off in these hilariously off-kilter books.

5. NICHIGOU 1

By Keiichi Arawi
Vertical

Keiichi Arawi // Vertical

Nichigou (translated as “Everyday” or “My Ordinary Life”) is a Japanese manga comedy about the day-to-day events of an ensemble of middle school students that is peppered with random moments of the surreal (like a talking cat and an android named "Nano").

Originally serialized in Japan in 2006, the popular manga was made into an equally popular anime in 2011. This first English adaption arrives in the U.S. about 5 years later than originally planned, after its first two U.S. licensors went out of business during the U.S. manga downsizing of that time period. It finally makes it to American bookstores thanks to highly regarded manga publisher Vertical, who plans to release all ten volumes of Nichigou.

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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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