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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
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.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios