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Mike Dawson // Uncivilized Books
Mike Dawson // Uncivilized Books

The 5 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Mike Dawson // Uncivilized Books
Mike Dawson // Uncivilized Books

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. WHAT IS OBSCENITY?

By Rokudenashiko; edited by Anne Ishii and Graham Kolbeins
Koyama Press

Koyama Press

This week, a Japanese court ruled that Megumi Igarashi (a.k.a. Rokudenashiko) was guilty of distributing obscene material and fined her 400,000 yen ($3,690 US). Rokudenashiko was jailed two years ago for sharing a digital file that could be used to 3D-print a model of her own vagina. Rokudenashiko is an activist who fights the double standards she sees in her country (especially when it comes to nudity), and the 42-year-old artist has printed a number of models using her “manko” (as she refers to it), including, famously, a crowd-funded kayak.

In What is Obscenity?, a new manga published by Koyama Press, Rokudenashiko tells the story of her arrest in a funny, engaging, and eye-opening way. Interspersing photographs, legal documents, and news articles with her comedic cartooning, she re-enacts the unbelievable experience of being arrested, filmed by the local news in the back of a police car (labeled with the insulting on-screen chyron as a “so-called artist”), and dealing with male lawyers and policemen who are too ashamed to even talk about what she did. What is Obscenity? is edited and translated by Anne Ishii and Graham Kolbeins, who are known for producing the popular gay-erotic manga Massive. The book also features a cover by the legendary book designer Chip Kidd.

2. RULES FOR DATING MY DAUGHTER

By Mike Dawson
Uncivilized Books

Uncivilized Books

Mike Dawson is one of the best observational cartoonists working in comics today. Until recently, he created mostly long-form narrative graphic novels with a literary bent like Troop 142 and Angie Bongiolatti. In 2014, he switched to making shorter, non-fiction comic essays posted to Tumblr which demonstrated his keen and humorous insights as a politically conscious parent trying to navigate work/life balances. In Rules for Dating My Daughter, these online strips are collected as a paperback collection, thanks to a successful Kickstarter to fund the printing.

In one cartoon essay, he ponders the social politics of the Disney Junior TV program Sofia the First, contrasting his daughter’s favorite show with the work of Charles Dickens and an essay by George Orwell. In "Longstreet Farm”—which was shortlisted for a Slate Cartoonist Studio Prize—he uses a visit with his kids to a family-friendly farm to consider the harsh realities of how we get our food and the way we justify it to ourselves. And in the titular comic, he explores what it means to be a feminist dad today.

Dawson’s comics involve a lot of hand-wringing, but they don’t try to posit any easy answers. What they do offer is smart visuals and a self-deprecating humor that will make you commiserate and cringe equally.

3. CIGARETTE GIRL

By Masahiko Matsumoto
Top Shelf Productions

Top Shelf Productions

The late Masahiko Matsumoto was one of the pioneers of alternative manga in the 1970s. Along with his friend and colleague Yoshihiro Tatsumi (A Drifting Life, The Push Man and Other Stories), Matsumoto helped start the movement known as “geikga” which was signified by a more subtle and sophisticated kind of storytelling than what was found in most manga at the time.

In Cigarette Girl, Top Shelf Productions brings a translated collection of eleven of Matsumoto’s short comics to North American readers for the first time. Many of the stories are variations on a similar theme: Helpless men become infatuated with strong, alluring women. The cartooning style is a pleasant mixture of Japanese and Franco-Belgian style with a clear comedic exaggeration to the characters (even though the stories would be more aptly described as quiet, light-hearted drama than comedy).

4. POP GUN WAR: GIFT

By Farel Dalrymple
Image Comics

Image Comics

Pop Gun War, the self-published five-issue series that put Farel Dalrymple on the map in 2003, is about a young kid in the inner city who finds a pair of wings discarded by a tattooed hipster angel who had fallen to Earth. Full of fantastic-yet-realistic characters that bring imaginary elements into a gritty, urban setting, it was a mixture of late-‘90s art comic sensibilities with a sense of genre comic wonder that was fairly unique upon its debut. Pop Gun War won acclaim and awards from even non-comic sources, like the Society of Illustrators.

Dalrymple is now beginning to tell more stories in this world with an installment called Pop Gun War: Chain Letter, which will appear in Brandon Graham’s Island Magazine later this year. This reissue of the original series is officially renamed Pop Gun War: Gift, and it’s a mesmerizing work.

5. NIGHT AIR

By Ben Sears
Koyama Press

Koyama Press

The hero in Ben Sears’s snappy, imaginative adventure Night Air is a rash, smart-alecky rogue who escapes from one bit of trouble and runs right into another. He's accompanied by a droll floating robot who is always trying to be the voice of reason, and they go chasing after the promise of treasure and end up in a haunted castle full of talking skeletons, disembodied heads, and typewriters that type by themselves.

This is Sears’s first graphic novel and it reads like a marriage between the character designs of Mike Mignola, the childhood wonder of Farel Dalrymple, and the low-key humor of Adventure Time.

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Disney/Marvel Studios
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Afternoon Map
Marvel vs. DC: This Map Shows Each State’s Favorite Comic Universe
Disney/Marvel Studios
Disney/Marvel Studios

Which comic book company is the best: Marvel or DC? This is a perennial argument on middle-school playgrounds and Reddit threads, but this map, courtesy of USDish.com, might just give us a definitive answer. The information here is broken down by state, using information provided by Google Trends to give us a clear winner of not only the most popular comic book company but also the most popular individual hero in each state (let’s show a little respect to Indiana for championing the Martian Manhunter).

According to the map, Marvel is the most popular publisher in 37 states, with DC trailing behind at eight, and five additional states coming to a 50/50 stalemate. The totals weren’t a blowout, though. In certain states like Mississippi, Iowa, and Pennsylvania, the favored company only won by a point. And just because a state searches Google for a specific publisher the most doesn’t mean an individual character from the opposing team isn’t its favorite—Hawaii is listed as favoring Marvel overall, yet they love Aquaman on his own. Same with DC-loving Maryland showing Black Panther some love (helps to have a big movie coming out). Take a look at some of the most notable state preferences below:

So how did Marvel amass so many states when there are just as many DC TV shows and movies out there? Well, according to Andrew Selepak, Ph.D., a professor in the department of telecommunication at the University of Florida, and director of the graduate program in social media, the answer lies in the depth at the House of Ideas.

“While Superman and Batman may be dominant characters,” Selepak said in a statement, “the DC Universe offers few other well-known heroes and villains and when these other characters are presented to the audience in film and on TV, they often are less than well-received.” This is opposed to Marvel, which launches new heroes on the big and small screen seemingly every year.

Does this map tell the whole story? That’s up for debate. When it comes to comics sold, DC and Marvel are always in a close battle: In January 2018, DC had six of the 10 best-selling comics of the month, placing four of the top five. Marvel, meanwhile, had three, while Image Comics had one with The Walking Dead. In terms of overall retail market share, though, Marvel eked out DC 34.3 percent to 33.8 percent.

This is a battle that's been raging since the 1960s, and for an industry that thrives on a never-ending fight between good and evil, we shouldn't expect the Marvel vs. DC debate to be settled anytime soon.

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DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
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entertainment
The Dark Knight Is Returning to Theaters, Just Ahead of 10th Anniversary
DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Believe it or not, July 18 will mark the 10th anniversary of the release of The Dark Knight, the second entry in Christopher Nolan’s game-changing superhero movie trilogy. To mark the occasion, Showcase Cinemas—the movie theater chain behind the Cinema de Lux experience—is bringing the movie back to select theaters on the east coast for limited screenings on February 8 and February 11, /Film reports.

Many people consider The Dark Knight the best film in the Batman franchise (Tim Burton and LEGO-fied movies included). The film currently holds a 94 percent “fresh” rating with both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the highest-rated movie in the Batman universe.

Much of the film’s acclaim came from Heath Ledger’s brilliant turn as The Joker—a role that won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar (making him the only actor to win that award posthumously). Even Michael Caine, who plays Bruce Wayne’s ever-dutiful butler and BFF Alfred, admitted that he wasn’t sold on the idea of bringing The Joker back into Batman’s cinematic universe, after the character was so ably played by Jack Nicholson in Burton’s 1989 film, until he found out Ledger would be taking the role.

“You don’t try and top Jack,” was Caine’s original thought. But when Nolan informed the actor that he was casting Ledger, that changed things. “I thought: ‘Now that’s the one guy that could do it!’ My confidence came back,” Caine told Empire Magazine.

To find out if The Dark Knight is playing at a theater near you, visit Showcase Cinemas’s website. If it’s not, don’t despair: With the official anniversary still six months away, other theaters are bound to have the same idea.

[h/t: /Film]

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