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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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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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