Darwyn Cooke // DC Comics
Darwyn Cooke // DC Comics

The 4 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Darwyn Cooke // DC Comics
Darwyn Cooke // DC 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.


By Jeff Parker, Doc Shaner, Jordie Bellaire, and Darwyn Cooke
DC Comics

DC Comics

DC Comics recently announced a deal with Hanna-Barbera productions to bring a number of their classic cartoon characters to comics, joining their already successful Scooby-Doo books. One of the first new series to launch is a big one, and it arrives with the unexpected weight of tragedy.

Darwyn Cooke inspired the book’s concept and contributed designs (like the splash image you see at the top of this page). Comic fans everywhere this week are mourning the loss of Cooke who passed away this past Saturday, May 14. His involvement with Future Quest will be among the last of his published works, adding to an influential career that includes books like DC: The New Frontier, Catwoman, and the Parker graphic novels.

Future Quest marks the return of Jonny Quest to comics for the first time in 20 years. In a move that seems inspired by the recent “shared universe” trend in cinema, this book will see Jonny team up with other Hanna-Barbera action heroes like Space Ghost, Harvey Birdman, the Herculoids, and more. Unlike DC’s plans for other upcoming books, there will be no modernizing or reimagining of these characters. This series will retain the classic look created by legendary artists like Alex Toth and the sincere adventure that Cartoon Network spoofed when they remade many of these characters in the 1990s with series like Space Ghost Coast to Coast. To capture the original feeling, DC brought in the team that specializes in rebooting classic adventure heroes: Jeff Parker, Doc Shaner, and Jordie Bellaire.


By Judd Winnick
Random House

Random House

Hilo is about a contagiously enthusiastic robot alien boy who falls to Earth and befriends DJ, an ordinary kid from a family of annoying overachievers. DJ, along with his friend Gina, try to teach Hilo how to act like a normal Earth boy, and the trio become fast friends. The first book was a colorfully illustrated fish-out-of-water tale with some great one-liners and catch phrases your kids will enjoy repeating. My own six-year-old daughter has been anxiously awaiting volume two which hits stores this week, six months after volume one ended on a cliff-hanger.

Former Real World cast member and award-winning cartoonist, Judd Winnick, was a regular writer at DC Comics for many years working on comics that leaned towards adult subject matters. In 2012, as a new parent, Winnick stepped down from the books he was writing at DC to create comics that he would actually be able to let his own kids read. Hilo is the first book he has drawn himself since his award-winning graphic novel Pedro and Me in 2000 and his first all-ages series The Adventures of Barry Ween in the late 1990s and it seems like this is what he was born to do, making you wish that he had jumped off that DC ship much sooner.


By Rob Williams, Michael Dowling, RM Guera, Quinton Winter, and Giulia Bausco
DC Vertigo

DC Vertigo

In the new DC Vertigo series Unfollow, the dying head of a social media empire randomly selects 140 people to inherit his $18 billion net worth and divide it evenly. Each recipient receives an app on their smartphones with the number “140” on it. If one of the recipients dies, the others' cut of the money increases. When the number on their apps drops almost immediately, the implication becomes clear: Their lives are in danger and no one can be trusted.

Vertigo launched a slew of new titles at the end of 2015, and Unfollow is one of the strongest. It boasts a large cast of 140 characters (get it?). The first volume focuses on just a handful, each cleverly introduced with a Twitter-like bio. There’s a young black man from post-Ferguson St. Louis, a thrill-seeking heiress trying to get back at her father, an Iranian photo-journalist, a highly eccentric Japanese novelist, and a religious zealot. The highlight of the series is the realism of Michael Dowling’s artwork and the way he makes these characters distinct and believable.


By Tiggy Upland

Tiggy Upland

When someone who is not a traditional artist has an idea they want to see come to life in the form of a comic, they usually either find someone else to draw it for them or do it themselves the best they can with crude drawings. Jen Bonardi (aka Tiggy Upland), meanwhile, got a little more creative and tells her story through carefully staged photographs of custom dolls in a miniature doll house.

The setting in her webcomic Upland is intended to be a hostel in Boston run by Tiggy herself, and it allows her to tell stories based on her real-life experiences. Each episode is primarily conversations between Tiggy and her friends and hostel guests about LGBTQ issues (Bonardi is a strong advocate and also writes an advice column ... as Tiggy).

Upland is full of sharp, witty dialogue that covers interesting topics like gender identity, in-fighting within the LGBTQ community, pronoun usage, bi dating, and David Bowie. The photographed miniatures are charming and full of personality, and, while the layout of the word balloons can be confusing at times, the strength of the natural conversations in each story make these comics delightful, funny, and informative.

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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


Robert Lowery took over the role in the 1949 follow-up serial, Batman And Robin. He was a forgettable actor in this role.


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.


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.


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."


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.


© 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.”


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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