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Mingjue Helen Chen // Boom! Studios
Mingjue Helen Chen // Boom! Studios

The 4 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Mingjue Helen Chen // Boom! Studios
Mingjue Helen Chen // Boom! Studios

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. LUMBERJANES/GOTHAM ACADEMY #1

By Chynna Clugston Flores, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell and Whitney Cogar
Boom! Studios

Boom! Studios

The most popular recent comic for tween girls (one that isn’t written by Raina Telgemeier, that is) is probably Boom! Studios’ award-winning Lumberjanes, which is about a group of girls that investigate supernatural mysteries while away at camp. Around the same time the Lumberjanes series began, DC Comics launched a comic called Gotham Academy about a group of girls at a boarding school in Gotham City who get caught up in various supernatural mysteries. DC is not known for making comics for younger female audiences, but Gotham Academy has a steady and loyal readership. It would only seem natural for these two comics to join forces, but such a joint-publisher effort is not all that common. This is the first time that Boom! (still a relatively young publisher) has worked with one of the so-called “Big Two” comics companies.

While this six-issue series will not feature creative work from either of the series regulars, it has pulled in a couple of popular, like-minded creators in Chynna Clugston Flores (best known for her award-winning series Blue Monday) and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, who has previously worked on a Lumberjanes one-shot.

2. GORGEOUS

By Cathy G. Johnson
Koyama Press

Koyama Press

In the short graphic novel, Gorgeous, two anarchist punks steal a guitar from a rock show and drive off in a reckless, drunken haze. They eventually crash into a car driven by a college sophomore named Sophie, and their meeting proves to be greatly problematic for her.

This is Cathy G. Johnson’s first graphic novel since winning the 2014 Ignatz Award for Promising New Talent. Johnson is part of a new generation of cartoonists that eschews technical polish to produce quicker, spontaneous works. These capture a sense of realism and emotion through rough-hewn pencils, and the artists aren’t afraid to show erasure marks or unfinished lines.

3. MERRY MEN #1

By Robert Rodi, Jackie Lewis and Marissa Louise
Oni Press

Oni Press

Inspired by modern academic speculation about the true nature of the tale of Robin Hood, Merry Men is a new series that depicts Robin and his crew as gay men cast out from Christian society. Robin (who goes by his real name, Robert Godwinson) is on the run from Prince John—not for robbing from him or stealing his lady, but because of a relationship he had with John’s father, King Richard. Whether or not the original tales of Robin Hood actually have such roots, this is a perfect 21st century take that works as both a slash fiction romp and an appropriate allegory for the legislative and religious battles the LGBTQ community faces today.

4. DC REBIRTH

By Various
DC Comics

DC Comics

In week two of DC’s new “Rebirth” era, the publisher continues to set up new storylines for forthcoming series by rolling out special issues:

Wonder Woman Rebirth #1
Popular writer Greg Rucka returns to this title and appears to deal with some discrepancies in Wonder Woman’s origin.

Flash Rebirth #1
The plot of DC Universe Rebirth #1 from two weeks ago primarily revolved around the return of Wally West, who was forgotten by friends and family and displaced outside of reality. Here we see Wally’s return from Barry Allen’s point of view as he investigates the mystery. This appears to be the introduction of Watchmen into regular DC continuity.

Action Comics Rebirth #957
(Some of these are reverting to their legacy numbering rather than introducing a new #1.)

Continuing the story from Superman Rebirth #1 in which Superman has died, Lex Luthor steps in to become Metropolis’ new Superman, but so does the “pre-Flashpoint” Superman. Not only that, but there seems to be yet another Clark Kent running around alive and well. Writer Dan Jurgens of “Death of Superman” fame will be in charge of this series and is echoing some of those early-1990s Superman story beats.

Detective Comics Rebirth #934
Batman and Batwoman team up to build an army of Gotham’s vigilante stragglers including Red Robin, Spoiler, Orphan, and even the villain Clayface.

Aquaman Rebirth #1
Aquaman and Mera battle Atlantean terrorists (and get a bit to eat at a seafood shack).

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King Features Syndicate
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Comics
8 Things You Might Not Know About Hi and Lois
King Features Syndicate
King Features Syndicate

A comics page staple for nearly 65 years, Mort Walker and Dik Browne’s Hi and Lois is a celebration of the mundane. Married couple Hiram “Hi” Flagston, wife Lois, and their four children balance work, school, and family dynamics, all of it with few punchlines but plenty of relatable situations. This four-panel ode to suburbia might appear simple, but it still has a rich history involving a beef with The Flintstones, broken noses, and one very important candy bar wrapper.

1. IT’S A SPINOFF OF BEETLE BAILEY.

Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker had been drawing that military-themed strip for four years when a friend of his named Lew Schwartz approached him in 1954 with a new idea: Why not create a strip about a nuclear family? Around the same time, the Korean War was ending, and Walker had sent Beetle home on furlough to visit his sister, Lois. Drawing a line between the two, Walker decided to pursue the suburbia idea using Lois as connective tissue. Hi and Lois was born: The two strips would see their respective characters visit one another over the years.

2. A CANDY BAR HELPED DEFINE THE STRIP’S LOOK.

Already working on Beetle Bailey, Walker decided to limit his work on Hi and Lois to writing. He wanted to collaborate with an artist, and so both he and his syndicate, King Features, went searching for a suitable partner. Walker soon came across ads for both Lipton’s tea and Mounds candy bars that had the same signature: Dik Browne. Coincidentally, a King Features executive named Sylvan Byck saw a strip in Boy’s Life magazine also signed by Browne. The two agreed he was a talent and invited Browne to work on the strip.

3. HI ORIGINALLY HAD A BROKEN NOSE.

As an artist, Walker had plenty of input into the style of Hi and Lois: Browne would later recall that trying to merge his own approach with Walker’s proved difficult. “When you draw a character like Hi, for instance, you immediately set the style for the whole strip,” he said. “You have already dictated what a tree will look like or how a dog will look, just by sketching that one head.” In his earliest incarnation, Hi had a broken, upturned nose to make him seem virile, puffed on a pipe, and wore a vest. Through trial and error, the two artists eventually settled on the softer lines the strip still uses today, an aesthetic some observers refer to as the “Connecticut school style” of cartooning.

4. EDITORS WERE WARY AT FIRST.

When Hi and Lois debuted on October 18, 1954, only 32 papers carried the strip. The reason, Walker later explained, had to do with concerns that he was spreading himself too thin. At the time, cartoonists rarely worked on two strips at once. Between Hi and Lois and Beetle Bailey, there was fear that the quality of one or both would suffer. Editors were also worried that having two artists on one project would dilute the self-expression of both. Walker stuck to his intentions—to make Hi and Lois a strip about the small pleasures of suburban life—and newspapers slowly came on board. By 1956, 131 papers were running the strip.

5. TRIXIE MAY HAVE SAVED THE STRIP.

With readers a little slow to respond to Hi and Lois, Walker had an idea: At the time, it was unusual for characters who don’t normally speak—like Snoopy—to express themselves with thought balloons. Walker decided to have baby Trixie think “out loud,” giving readers insight into her perspective. Shortly after Trixie began having a voice, Hi and Lois took off.

6. CHIP IS THE ONLY CHARACTER TO HAVE AGED.

Like most comic strip casts, the Hi and Lois family has found a way to stop the aging process. Baby Trixie is eternally in diapers; the parents seem to hover around 40 without any wrinkles. But oldest son Chip has been an exception. Roughly eight years old when the strip debuted, he’s currently 16, a nod to Walker's need for a character who can address teenage issues like driving, school, and dating.

7. IT LED TO HAGAR THE HORRIBLE.

Browne might be more well-known for his Hägar the Horrible, a strip about a beleaguered Viking. That strip, which debuted in 1973, was the result of Browne’s sons advising their father that Hi and Lois was really Walker’s brainchild and that Browne should consider a strip that could be a “family business.” By 1985, Hägar was in 1500 newspapers, while Hi and Lois was in 1000. Following Browne’s death in 1989, his son Chris continued the strip.

8. IT ALSO HAD A BONE TO PICK WITH THE FLINTSTONES.

The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera’s modern stone-age family, premiered in primetime in 1960, but not exactly the way the animation studio had intended. Fred and Wilma were initially named Flagstone, not Flintstone, and the series was to be titled Rally ‘Round the Flagstones. But Walker told executives he felt the name was too close to the Flagstons of Hi and Lois fame. Sensing a possible legal issue, they agreed.

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Pop Chart Lab
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entertainment
A Visual History of Captain America’s Shields
Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

Captain America has gone through plenty of wardrobe changes since his comic book debut in 1941, but it’s his iconic shield that has had the most makeovers. Over the past eight decades, fans have seen the shield change its shape, color, and even the material from which it’s crafted. For the folks at Pop Chart Lab, the shield’s storied history provided the perfect subject matter for their latest poster.

On this piece, the company teamed with Marvel to give a rundown of 50 of Cap’s shields—from the instantly recognizable to the downright obscure. Here we see his classic Golden Age shield, with its slightly different color scheme, and the different variations from Jack Kirby’s time-traveling Bicentennial Battles book. Then there are entries like the vibranium shield he received from Black Panther in Captain America #342 and an adamantium one made by Tony Stark.

Those different shields just scratch the surface of the deep cuts Pop Chart Lab provides. There are also shields from Captain Americas across Marvel’s numerous alternate universes, like the ones used by the Ultimate Universe Steve Rogers and the android Cap from Earth-725.

Each shield is illustrated to match its comic book counterpart and comes with a description specifying the series it debuted in and which Earth it exists on (the Marvel Universe has thousands of different versions of Earth, after all).

The posters will begin shipping on May 23, and you can pre-order yours now starting at $29 on the Pop Chart Lab website. You can check out a full look at the poster below.

Pop Chart Lab's Captain America shield poster
Pop Chart Lab

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