Rebecca Mock/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Rebecca Mock/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The 6 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Rebecca Mock/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Rebecca Mock/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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. COMPASS SOUTH

By Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Hope Larson has been known throughout her career as something of an auteur, both writing and drawing graphic novels like Mercury, Chiggers, and an adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time. This year has seen her become more of a collaborator, with her recent Boom! Studios mini-series Goldie Vance and an upcoming stint writing Batgirl for DC Comics. With Compass South, she begins a new graphic novel series for middle-schoolers, working with accomplished editorial illustrator Rebecca Mock, who is trying her hand at a major comics work for the first time.

This fast-paced period adventure beings in 1860s New York with orphan twins Cleopatra and Alexander getting arrested for their involvement with a notorious criminal gang. They’re set free after selling out the gang and when they learn about a wealthy family searching for their missing sons, the brother and sister plan to make their way to San Francisco to impersonate the lost boys.

Larson throws in lots of plot twists and exotic locales, but she gets the most mileage out of the engaging, antagonistic relationships she creates among the young cast of characters.

2. WEIRD DETECTIVE #1

By Fred Van Lente, Guiu Vilanova, and Josan Gonzalez
Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse Comics

The “Weird Detective” in Fred Van Lente and Guiu Vilanova’s new series is Sebastian Greene, a previously unremarkable Brooklyn cop who one day, to the surprise of his commanding officers, turns into something of a super-cop who solves unsolvable cases. Most of his fellow officers give him a pass on his alien-like mannerisms and lack of social skills, chalking it up to his being “from Canada.” A new partner is enlisted to get to the bottom of it all, and it seems that Greene is a Cthulhu investigating otherworldly horrors, trying his best to be taken for human.

Van Lente describes his comic as "H.P. Lovecraft meets Law & Order,” and it perfectly blends grand-scale cosmic horror with the world of a street-level police procedural. Originally a three-part story serialized in the anthology Dark Horse Presents, this new five-issue mini-series debuts with a regular-priced first issue that contains those original 24 pages from DHP and builds on them with an additional 22 pages.

3. HOT DOG TASTE TEST

By Lisa Hanawalt
Drawn & Quarterly

Drawn & Quarterly

Lisa Hanawalt’s off-kilter brand of humor has permeated from the indie comics scene into mainstream media thanks to her work as producer and character designer for the hit Netflix animated series Bojack Horseman. Her latest book, Hot Dog Taste Test, is a collection of foodie-related comics, some of which were previously published in places like Lucky Peach. Hanawalt’s style involves lots of illustrated lists and travelogues done with colorful watercolors and a hilarious honesty. This collection includes her thoughts on how to choose the right wine or how eggs should be dry and overcooked. There are also a few illustrated travel essays about trips to Brazil and Vegas, both centered around food.

4. FIGHT CLUB 2

By Chuck Palahniuk, Cameron Stewart and Dave Stewart
Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse Comics

When novelist Chuck Palahniuk decided to revisit his career-making 1996 classic Fight Club with a 20th anniversary sequel, he chose to do it in a medium that was brand-new to him. Working with a top-notch team—artist Cameron Stewart and color artist Dave Stewart (no relation)—he aimed to play with the medium much like director David Fincher did with his medium for the cinematic adaptation of Palahniuk’s novel.

Fight Club 2 was originally published as a 10-issue comic series and is now being collected in graphic novel format. The sequel revisits the original story’s narrator, now calling himself Sebastian, who is married to Marla with whom he lives in the suburbs with their 10-year-old son. Meanwhile, Tyler Durden has been walled off within Sebastian’s subconscious after years of therapy and prescriptions until Marla, bored with their mundane suburban life, decides to start switching out Sebastian’s pills, allowing Tyler to come out and wreak havoc.

5. ELFCAT IN LOVE

By James Kochalka
Retrofit Comics

Retrofit Comics

Retrofit Comics is a boutique publisher that started out making “floppy”-sized art-comics at a time when most people in indie comics were focused on graphic novels. Retrofit has since branched out into publishing comics of all shapes and sizes, but now, in their fifth year, they are putting out their first hardcover original graphic novel, albeit one that is still smallish in terms of length and size.

Whereas many Retrofit comics feature newer and lesser-known names, Elfcat in Love is by veteran cartoonist James Kochalka (American Elf). The Elfcat of the title is a brave but clueless adventurer accompanied by a much smarter companion who happens to be a floating tennis ball. While the two are ostensibly on a quest for a legendary ice sword, they actually spend most of their time arguing about whether or not they are in love with each other.

6. THE SIXTH GUN #50

By Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt and Bill Crabtree
Oni Press

Oni Press

A lot has happened in the six years since The Sixth Gun began its epic tale of post-Civil War gunslingers and supernatural dread. When Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt began the series, the duo was best known for their previous outing of marrying the supernatural with the mob for The Damned. Not long after the success of this series, Bunn became one of Marvel’s top writers, and he and Hurtt entertained more than one offer to turn it into a cable TV series.

Now, Bunn and Hurtt are bringing their story to a conclusion with a triple-sized 50th issue. Becky Moncrief and Drake Sinclair will enter the final showdown in the land of the dead to prevent the mystical talismanic powers of the six funs from ending of the world. This has been one of Bunn’s best comics, due in no small part to Hurtt’s dynamic artwork. They’re a great team that will hopefully be working together on something new soon.

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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.

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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.

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