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Brittney Williams // Boom! Box
Brittney Williams // Boom! Box

The 4 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Brittney Williams // Boom! Box
Brittney Williams // Boom! Box

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. MARY WEPT OVER THE FEET OF JESUS

By Chester Brown
Drawn & Quarterly

Chester Brown // Drawn & Quarterly

If you’re familiar with Chester Brown’s work, the inflammatory subtitle to his latest graphic novel—“Prostitution and Religious Obedience in the Bible”—makes it a sequel of sorts to his last book, Paying For It, an autobiographical account of his own experience with hiring prostitutes. It is also a follow-up to Brown’s unfinished adaptations of the Gospel of Matthew he published in the '90s as backup features in his comics Yummy Fur and Underwater.

Brown is a supporter of sex workers' rights and he is also a skeptical Christian (born and raised in a Baptist household). He looks to tie these aspects of his life together by pointing out the considerable instances of prostitution described in the Bible. It goes a step further, however, when Brown takes all the stories he’s illustrated here—which include those of Bathsheba, Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth—and points out that these were the only women included in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus. Brown uses this as a Da Vinci Code-like clue to explore a controversial theory about Mary, Jesus' mother.

This is a book that many will probably dismiss out of hand, but Brown is one of the greatest and most fearless cartoonists working in comics right now, and his quietly humorous approach to difficult material like this makes it easy to immerse oneself in. In addition to the comics, Brown closes the book with a nearly 100-page, hand-lettered afterword that references reading he had done on this subject and presents his true overall thesis: God actually rewards disobedience of His laws.

2. GOLDIE VANCE #1

By Hope Larson and Brittney Williams
Boom! Box

Brittney Williams // Boom! Box

In the new four-issue “girl detective” series Goldie Vance, the action takes place in a Florida resort during a slightly fantasized version of the 1960s. Guys are racing for pink slips and girls are lusting after astronauts, but the cast of this comic is much more diverse than you might expect given its period setting. The star of the book is a young woman who works as a valet in her father’s hotel but also helps the resident detective solve a plethora of cases involving guests. Goldie is smart and plucky and is all about solving problems, whether it's the case of a missing necklace or the love lives of her fellow employees.

Hope Larson is the author of such acclaimed graphic novels as Mercury and the adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. Larson has just been announced as the new writer of DC Comics’ Batgirl series, so Goldie Vance almost acts a bridge into further monthly detective comics for her. She typically draws her own graphic novels, but this book also marks a move towards collaborating with another artist. Brittney Williams is the artist on Marvel’s Hellcat series and draws in a delightful style reminiscent of pre-CGI Disney that pops with color and ‘60s pizzazz.

This book is the latest entry in Boom! Studios’ all-ages imprint, Boom! Box, that already boasts such hits as Lumberjanes and Giant Days.

3. HEARTTHROB #1

By Christopher Sebela, Robert Wilson IV, and Nick Filardi
Oni Press

Oni Press

Christopher Sebela and Robert Wilson IV have both had comics published by digital pioneer Monkeybrain. The two have teamed up for the first time for a new ongoing series called Heartthrob that is an unusual crime thriller/comedy/romance set in the 1970s. It follows Callie Boudreau, a young woman with a congenital heart defect who receives an experimental heart transplant and finds herself changed. She's more irritable, abrasive, and prone to stealing, all of which gets exacerbated after she gets fired from her job and dumped by her boyfriend. That’s when Callie meets a cute guy in a bar who turns out to exist only in her head—or, actually, in her heart. He is the deceased previous owner of her new heart and also a thief who is now her disembodied companion and partner in crime.

This is a love story 

angle that’s akin to something like Fight Club with Callie as the dry and acerbic protagonist, liberated from caring about everything in her life and thumbing her nose at everyone around her.

4. THE NAMELESS CITY

By Faith Erin Hicks and Jordie Bellaire
First Second

First Second

The city in The Nameless City serves as the main character in Faith Erin Hicks' new three-book series about class and power struggles in a Tibetan-inspired fantasy world. Every few decades, this strategically well-situated city is conquered and renamed by one of the various surrounding kingdoms. Those who have grown up within its walls resent each invading army.

The story follows Rat, a street urchin adept at parkour-style roof-jumping who meets Kaidu, a newcomer to the city and a member of the city’s latest conquerors, The Dao. The Dao are not only responsible for invading Rat’s home but also for the deaths of her parents, making her budding friendship with Kaidu unlikely to say the least.

Coming out of the webcomic scene in the early 2000s, Faith Erin Hicks had a breakout hit in 2012 with her graphic novel Friends with Boys, which turned her into a big player in the world of young adult genre comics. Her manga-influenced artwork is most often seen in pure black and white, but here she is teaming up with Jordie Bellaire, the prolific colorist of a variety of comic series for Marvel and Image. With the setting being such an important part of the story, she brings a richness and vibrancy to Hicks’ work that makes this book a joy to read.

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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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