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Brian Stelfreeze/Marvel Comics
Brian Stelfreeze/Marvel Comics

The 3 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Brian Stelfreeze/Marvel Comics
Brian Stelfreeze/Marvel Comics

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. BLACK PANTHER #1

By Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, and Laura Martin
Marvel Comics 


In the early 2000s, it seemed like comics were always chasing legitimacy by courting writers from the outside. Sure, some of these writers created some good comics, like Jonathan Lethem’s Omega the Unknown or Gerard Way’s Umbrella Academy, but there were just as many forgettable vanity projects and simple failures on the part of a prose writer or a filmmaker to grasp the visual language and pacing of comics. Today, as comics publishers seem to have relaxed about it, legitimacy has arrived on its own, as most people have come to appreciate the quality of today’s comics and the influence they have on our popular culture right now. This week sees one of the most significant and honored writers to enter this world from the outside, Ta-Nehisi Coates, give us his take on Black Panther, a character who is about to gain the biggest level of public awareness in his history.

Coates is the author of the National Book Award-winning Between The World And Me and is a national correspondent for The Atlantic who has won many awards for his 2014 cover story “The Case for Reparations.” He is considered one of the best writers on race, politics, and social issues in America and he’ll likely be bringing a lot of those issues into his work here. In addition to being a superhero, Black Panther is also King T’Challa, ruler of a technologically advanced but often-embattled fictional African country called Wakanda. Coates’s partner on the series, artist Brian Stelfreeze, approaches his depiction of Wakanda as a “melting pot” of different African cultures from the Zulu tribes to ancient Egypt.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Black Panther’s debut in Fantastic Four #52. It also marks his big screen debut in next month's Captain America: Civil War. Until now, T’Challa has more often than not been a guest star in other books or an occasional member of the Avengers. However, when he has had his own series, he has boasted some runs by writers like Don McGregor, Christopher Priest, and Reginald Hudlin that are still highly regarded by fans today. These are strong acts in the Black Panther library to follow, but Marvel couldn’t have picked a more interesting writer to capitalize on T’Challa’s big moment in the spotlight.

2. WONDER WOMAN: EARTH ONE VOL. 1. 

By Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette, and Nathan Fairbairn 
DC Comics 


DC’s Earth One series of graphic novels introduce retooled, modernized versions of their most iconic characters, freed from the narrative confines of continuity. Considering DC already rebooted their whole line of comics a few years ago and we’re constantly seeing updated origins for big characters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, it can be hard to see what the purpose of the Earth One books actually is. What makes them stand out, besides their straight-to-hardcover format, is that they give mostly free rein and a clean continuity slate to a set of all-star creators. The long-awaited first volume of Wonder Woman: Earth One is written by super star Grant Morrison and drawn by popular DC artist and frequent Morrison collaborator Yanick Paquette. Any time Morrison, who wrote one of the definitive takes on Superman in All-Star Superman, gives us his take on a character, expect a modern sheen with layers of history underneath.

Wonder Woman’s cinematic debut in this month's Batman v Superman seems to be the most universally liked aspect of that film, making this a great time for a bookstore-ready Wonder Woman book to hit the shelves. Interestingly, it comes out around the same time as another retelling of Wonder Woman’s origins that may stand in stark contrast to this one. The recent comic series The Legend of Wonder Woman uses a decidedly young adult fantasy approach to tell Princess Diana’s early years, whereas Morrison and Paquette lean more adult than young adult. With nods to the character’s roots in both violent Greek mythology and her early kinky bondage comics by creator William Moulton Marston, there are some scenes here that have already given certain Wonder Woman fans pause. Paquette’s style of drawing statuesque pin-up girls make the first half of this book, set on the Amazonian island of Themyscira, seem like it is aimed solely at straight male readers. There are reasons for everything Morrison does, however, as he attempts to use elements of Marston's early, sexualized comics and Wonder Woman’s roots as an early feminist icon to try to get to a contemporary and perhaps nuanced view of Diana.

3. POE DAMERON #1

By Charles Soule and Phil Noto
Marvel Comics 


When original Star Wars fans like myself were anxiously waiting for the release of sequels like Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Marvel Comics helped fill in those long, three-year gaps with their (non-canon) monthly Star Wars comic. Nowadays, Marvel is once again producing Star Wars comics, and this time they are officially in canon (until someone at Disney or Lucasfilm decides they’re not). However, the way J.J. Abrams ended Episode VII doesn’t leave a lot of story gaps to fill, with main players Rey and Finn’s plot lines being tied up in cliffhangers. It’s hard to imagine Abrams and company wanting to reveal those characters’ next moves in a comic book rather than the next film.

With that in mind, Marvel’s first Force Awakens-related comic is Poe Dameron, an ongoing series that will be set before the events of the last film and will tell the adventures of the heroic Resistance pilot and his droid pal BB-8. As they have been doing with all their Star Wars books, Marvel has chosen big-name creators for this title. Writer Charles Soule has already had his hand in some other Star Wars comics like Lando and Obi-Wan and Anakin and artist Phil Noto is also already working on a Chewbacca solo series.

If you’re more of a BB-8 than a Poe fan, the little droid has a cute backup feature in this comic drawn by Chris Eliopoulos in his Calvin & Hobbes-inspired style.

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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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