The 13 Most Interesting Comics of August

Each month, we’ll round up the most interesting comics, graphic novels, webcomics, digital comics and comic-related Kickstarters that we think you should check out.

1. March: Book Three

By Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
Top Shelf

The third and final book in Rep. John Lewis’ autobiographical account of the Civil Rights Movement begins with a horrifying scene inside the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham moments before a bomb set off by white supremacists kills four young girls. It ends with the hope achieved by the march from Selma to Montgomery and the signing of the Voting Rights Act but with the solemn understanding that the struggle will outlive the Movement itself. Each volume of March has seemed to land with the added relevance of today’s racially charged current events. Book 2 was released shortly after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and Book 3 comes out amidst an even more pronounced national conversation about race and injustice. It even contains a scene from the 1964 Republican convention that is very reminiscent of this year’s GOP convention.

March is going to go down as one of the greatest books about this period in American history. Lewis, with co-writer Andrew Aydin, has managed to pack as much gut-wrenching emotion into his story as he does informative detail, and artist Nate Powell has shown exactly how to handle real-life material like this. It is a true accomplishment to create a work of such drama and visual grace that feels like it sacrifices none of the historical accuracy that is so crucial to conveying its story. This is a book that will be taught not only in history classes but in art classes as well.

2. Bera the One-Headed Troll

By Eric Orchard
First Second

Eric Orchard’s latest children’s fantasy graphic novel is an adventure about a troll named Bera who finds herself responsible for the care of a human baby that has mysteriously appeared out of nowhere. Bera, a simple pumpkin gardener, is not prone to adventure but realizes that it is up to her to keep this child safe from the dangers that lurk around and that consider this baby’s presence a threat.

Young readers will enjoy Orchard’s matter-of-fact humor and eerie-yet-cute artwork (sort of a cross between Victorian-era children’s books and Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas). Adults will marvel at it as well and may appreciate the book’s subtext, which subtly hints at issues of mental illness. Orchard actually drew part of the book from a hospital while being treated for OCD and anxiety issues. He also modeled the character of Bera’s nearly incomprehensible aunt off his own mother, who suffered from schizophrenia.

3. The Omega Men: The Complete Series

By Tom King, Barnaby Bagenda and Romulo Farjado, Jr.
DC Comics

This book almost did not come to be. Halfway through this planned 12-issue series, DC Comics canceled The Omega Men due to poor sales, only to reverse its decision in the face of fan protest. Now, the critically-acclaimed series (it was on my own Best of 2015 list) hits bookstores with a trade paperback collecting the entire story.

The Omega Men is responsible for launching the career of writer Tom King, who is now writing Batman. A former counterterrorism operations officer for the CIA, King took his real world knowledge and applied it to a story about fundamentalism and insurrection set in the far reaches of space. It has one of the most shocking opening scenes of any comic you’ll read this year, reminiscent of an Al-Qaeda-style video showing a kidnapped former Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner being beheaded. The Omega Men has also made the career of artist Barnaby Bagenda who, along with colorist Romulo Farjado, Jr., has a painterly, Eurocomics style that helps elevate the material above most cosmic superhero fare. With King, the artists make use of a nine-panel grid structure throughout the comic—a format made famous by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen—that gives this book a dramatic and unique pacing.

4. Spoiler: On the Campaign Trail with Jill Stein

By Sarah Glidden
The Nib

Politically-focused comics portal The Nib has come back strong from an extended hiatus with lots of coverage centered around the 2016 election. In their longest piece of comics journalism to date, Sarah Glidden traveled around with Green Party candidate Jill Stein to create something we don’t see much from the mainstream news media: an expose on a third party candidate.

Glidden is a cartoonist who specializes in journalistic travelogues like How To Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less and her upcoming Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria and Iraq. In Spoiler, she interviews Stein at her home in Massachusetts and watches her in action on the campaign trail on the west coast, giving one of the fullest and most nuanced accounts of Stein’s campaign as you’re likely to read anywhere.

5. The! Greatest! Of! Marlys!

By Lynda Barry
Drawn & Quarterly

Lynda Barry is one of the most influential comic creators of all time and one of the industry’s most important female cartoonists. A veteran of alt-weekly comics of the 1980s, her funny, observational comics about childhood, starring a freckle-faced little girl with the unusual name of Marlys were originally published as part of her Ernie Pook's Comeek strip. She has inspired many of today’s female YA-comic makers, particularly today’s most popular creator, Raina Telgemeier. Some young fans of Telgemeier’s comics may balk at Barry’s wordy, roughly drawn and decidedly not “cute” Marlys comics collected in this giant book from Drawn & Quarterly, but they will absolutely connect with the cutting humor and the surprising realness that Barry conveys through the eccentric Marlys.

6. All Star Batman #1

By Scott Snyder, John Romita Jr., Declan Shalvey, Danny Miki, Dean White and Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics

There was a lot of trepidation from fans and probably even DC Comics management when it was decided that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo would no longer be the creative team on Batman. Arguably, their run on the title was the only aspect of DC’s 2011 “New 52" relaunch that will be looked back on as being a success. Snyder is not leaving the character though and instead is using the All-Star Batman title to tell a story he felt that he couldn’t do within his run on Batman proper.

All-Star will see Snyder working with an all-star team of artists beginning with John Romita, Jr., the longtime Marvel veteran. With Dean White’s coloring giving Romita’s art a modern, edgy style, the first issue of this series hints at a more fun and stylish Batman than we’ve seen in recent years. There is also a backup story illustrated by Declan Shalvey with Jordie Bellaire on colors that blends the ‘60s pop color of the Batman TV show with the darker, post-Frank Miller grit of the modern era.

7. This is Not Fine

By KC Green
The Nib

Another big moment for The Nib this month saw cartoonist KC Green revisit a 3-year-old comic that has since become the defining meme of the 2016 election. The first two panels of 2013's “On Fire” from his popular Gunshow webcomic have been shared many times as a meme to represent blind acceptance, but it blew up, so to speak, this year as a symbol for how we’re resigning to the madness of 2016 current events. When the GOP, a frequent target of the “This is Fine” joke, used the cartoon on their official Twitter account in a half-hearted criticism of the Democratic Convention, it seemed to set off a bit of anger in both The Nib and Green, leading to Green creating a sequel for the site called “This is Not Fine,” a perfect reaction to 2016’s normalization of the abnormal.

8. Kill or Be Killed #1

By Ed Brubaker, Sean Philips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image Comics

The protagonist of Kill or Be Killed, whom we first meet as a masked gunman mowing down unidentified “people who deserve it” in a dark apartment building, fits the bill of a stereotypical "lone gunman." We see him pining for a girl who is playing with his emotions, showing weakness when confronted by bullies, and even attempting suicide by jumping off a roof. How he goes from being put upon and suicidal to becoming a violent aggressor seems like a story ripped from the headlines. But when he miraculously survives that fall, we learn it is thanks to a demon who gives him back his life in exchange for his promise to commit murder.

Brubaker, Philips, and Breitweiser return here to the supernatural genre they recently dabbled in with Fatale and while in some respects this feels like a palette cleanser coming off The Fade Out—their astounding and historically grounded tale of old Hollywood and film noir—this team is so on top of their game right now that anything they do is going to be a significant work.

9. Alena

By Kim W. Andersson
Dark Horse

Kim W. Andersson’s 2012 graphic novel Alena was recently adapted into a Swedish-made film that debuted at the Santa Barbara Film Festival this year. Its positive reception has led to Dark Horse Comics bringing the original book to the U.S. this month. Alena is a disturbing story of a teenage girl who transfers to a boarding school after the death of her girlfriend, Josephine. She is haunted both literally and figuratively by Josephine’s death as she tries to make new friends and deal with the bullying of the school’s top mean girl, but the constant visits from Josephine’s inexplicably living corpse are making that impossible for Alena.

Andersson’s story reads like a YA-style drama with some explicit elements of graphic horror and sexual situations, but its strength actually lies in its depiction of loss and bullying which at times is more realistic than you’d expect from a story that at least appears to be about a dead girl taking out her vengeance on the living.

10. Batgirl #1

By Hope Larson, Rafael Albuquerque, and Dave McCaig
DC Comics

DC Comics’ latest line-wide relaunch is aiming to fix some of the tonal mistakes they made during their last attempt to modernize their heroes, but one comic that didn’t need a lot of fixing was Batgirl. The previous creative team of Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher, and Babs Starr went against the grain of DC’s grim and gritty house style to turn Batgirl into a modern, female-positive, and fun comic. With that group moving on to other projects, DC is being smart to keep the momentum going by putting their most interesting new creative team on the job. Hope Larson is the popular writer and artist of young adult graphic novels like Chiggers and the comic adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. This year has seen her working solely as a writer on multiple books, collaborating with artists like Rebecca Mock on Compass South and Brittney Williams on Goldie Vance. On Batgirl, she is joined by Rafael Albuquerque, an artist of dynamic and moody visuals, known for his run on the Vertigo comic American Vampire.

Larson and Albuquerque begin their new Batgirl series by keeping a lot of the tone that made the last series work but start out by taking Barbara Gordon away from her supporting cast and her hipsterish Gotham City borough, Burnside, for a soul-searching backpacking trip across Japan full of romance and hand-to-hand combat.

11. The Meek

By Der-Shing Helmer

Der-Shing Helmer began working on her webcomic The Meek back in 2009 when she was still a teenager. Her lush, polished artwork looked more like stills from an animated feature than the typical lo-fi work you’d often see on the web at the time. It was one of the great examples of long form webcomic storytelling from the first half of this decade and Helmer managed to retain a loyal readership even during some lengthy hiatuses. Now, she is rewarding longtime fans and welcoming potential new readers with her first print edition of The Meek, funded via what is looking like a very successful Kickstarter. And as good as Helmer’s art has always been, she’s taking the opportunity of the new book to go back and polish up some of her earlier pages.

The Meek is an adventure that follows Angora, a green-haired young girl from the jungle who is sent by her grandfather on a mission to save the world from something called “The Center.” She has no idea how she is going to do this and hopes to figure it out along the way as her journey takes her to all corners of this fantasy world.

12. Lady Killer 2 #1

By Joelle Jones and Michelle Madsen
Dark Horse Comics

The premise of Joelle Jones’ Lady Killer series is basically: What if Betty Draper was Jason Bourne? In the sequel to the hit 2015 mini-series, prim and proper housewife Josie Schuller and her family have moved to Cocoa Beach, Florida where, in between hosting tupperware parties and avoiding her mother-in-law, she is secretly starting up her own business as a freelance assassin.

While drawn in a modern comics style and rife with gory comics violence, Jones meticulously recreates the fashion and atmosphere of its 1960s setting, taking lots of cues from the advertising and design of that Mad Men era. Jones is known primarily for her stylish artwork but after co-writing the first series with frequent collaborator Jamie S. Rich, she is the solo creator on this new series (along with colorist Michelle Madsen).

13. Fantasy Sports 2: The Bandit of Barbel Bay

By Sam Bosma
Nowbrow Press

The delightful premise of Sam Bosma’s all-ages fantasy series is that a pair of travelers, a young girl named Wiz and her musclebound sidekick Mug, end up challenged to various sporting competitions by the fantasy-world creatures they encounter. After playing basketball with Egyptian mummies in volume 1, the pair is teleported to a beach town and end up in a volleyball tournament with the town’s amphibious residents.

Fantasy Sports 1 was Bosma’s first graphic novel, but, an accomplished illustrator and art professor, he is already a master comics storyteller. Comics about sports are a rarity in the West but have always been big in Japanese manga where Bosma has found a lot of inspiration for this series. This book is sure to be a hit with kids who’ll enjoy seeing their favorite sports played to the extreme by funny-looking monsters.

Getty Images
15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
Getty Images
Getty Images

Fred Rogers—who was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania on March 20, 1928—remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. In celebration of what would have been his 90th birthday, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”


According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.


Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”


Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.


It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.


Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.


Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."


A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.


If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.


Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.


According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.


Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.


It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”


In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.


Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.


In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
The World's Last Male Northern White Rhino Has Died, But Could He Still Help Save the Species?
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images

Following age-related complications, Sudan the northern white rhinoceros was euthanized by a team of vets in Kenya at 45 years old, CNN reports. He was one of only three northern white rhinos left on Earth and the last male of his subspecies. For years, Sudan had represented the final hope for the survival of his kind, but now scientists have a back-up plan: Using Sudan's sperm, they may be able to continue his genetic line even after his death.

Northern white rhino numbers from dwindled from 2000 in 1960 to only three in recent years. Those last survivors, Sudan, his daughter Najin, and granddaughter Fatu, lived together at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Each animal had physical issues making it difficult for them to breed, and now with Sudan gone, a new generation of northern white rhinos looks even less likely.

But there is one way the story of these animals doesn't end in extinction. Before Sudan died, researchers were able to save some of his genetic material, which means it's still possible for him to father offspring. Scientists may either use the sperm to artificially inseminate one of the surviving females (even though they're related) or, due to their age and ailments, fertilize one of their eggs and implant the embryo into a female of a similar subspecies, like the southern white rhino, using in vitro fertilization.

"We must take advantage of the unique situation in which cellular technologies are utilized for conservation of critically endangered species," Jan Stejskal, an official at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic where Sudan lived until 2009, told AFP. "It may sound unbelievable, but thanks to the newly developed techniques even Sudan could still have an offspring."

Poaching has been a major contributor to the northern white rhino's decline over the past century. Rhinos are often hunted for their horns, which are believed to have medicinal properties in some Asian cultures. (Other people just view the horn as a sign of wealth and status). Procreating is the biggest issue threatening the northern white rhinoceros at the moment. If such poaching continues, other rhino species in the wild could end up in the same situation.

[h/t CNN]


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