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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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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