The 14 Most Interesting Comics of September

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

1. Ghosts

By Raina Telgemeier
Scholastic


One of the most anxiously awaited graphic novels of 2016 is from this decade’s biggest comics phenomenon, Raina Telgemeier. With two of her previous books, Drama and Smile, still on The New York Times Best Seller list for literally hundreds of weeks now, her newest book reads like a work from an artist who is not only at the top of her game but who has enough sales clout to try something a little different.

Ghosts is about two sisters, one of whom suffers from cystic fibrosis, whose family moves them to an oceanside town in Northern California where they hope the sea air will help young Maya’s troubled breathing. The older sister, Cat, is not happy about leaving her friends behind, but also worries a lot about Maya, especially when she learns that this new town is populated by ghosts who seem particularly drawn to her sister.

While Ghosts displays Telegemeier’s skill at writing family relationships and the types of knotty emotional strings that young girls try to unwind for themselves, it also leaves behind the autobiography of Smile and 2014’s Sisters, for a fictional story that deals with indigenous heritage and Día de Muertos celebrations. It’s a book that takes risks not only in depicting another culture but in daring to explore the subject of mortality in a thoughtful and uplifting way that will give younger readers something to ponder. 

2. Angel Catbird Vol. 1

By Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas, and Tamra Bonvillain
Dark Horse Comics


Best-selling novelist Margaret Atwood’s first original graphic novel is the beginning of a three-volume all-ages series that is a throwback to the breezy, even bizarre, storytelling of early superhero comics. Its hero, Strig Feleedus, is a genetic engineer who, in the type of lab accident that is common in comics, becomes mutated into a cat/owl/human hybrid. The transformation introduces him to an underground world of cat/human hybrids who have names like Count Catula and sexy, potential love interest Cate Leone. 

You might expect a high profile graphic novel by an internationally acclaimed novelist to sport highbrow aspirations akin to Maus or Persepolis, but Angel Catbird reads more like Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original Amazing Spider-Man run. It’s light, fast-paced, and abundantly weird with wonderfully fluid and expressive artwork by Johnnie Christmas and colorist Tamra Bonvillain. That said, it is also a comic with a message about the dangers that roaming, domestic cats pose to birds (there are even footnotes throughout the comic with factoids courtesy of catsandbirds.ca). 

3. Doom Patrol #1

By Gerard Way, Nick Herrington, and Tamra Bonvillain
DC Comics/Young Animal


Back in the ‘90s, DC’s Vertigo imprint revolutionized comics through a weird and unique blend of superheroes, science fiction, and the supernatural with books like Sandman, Swamp Thing, and Doom Patrol. Spearheaded by editors such as Karen Berger and Shelly Bond, Vertigo introduced American readers to an influx of young British writers like Neil Gaiman, Peter Milligan, and Grant Morrison. These days, however, the line has divorced itself completely from its superhero roots, so when Gerard Way approached Bond with the idea of returning to those early days, it necessitated the start of a new imprint to be called Young Animal.

Way, the lead singer of the band My Chemical Romance and writer of the excellent Umbrella Academy comic for Dark Horse Comics, is very much influenced in style by Grant Morrison and is the perfect choice to kick things off with a relaunch of Doom Patrol. His cryptic, Morrisonian storytelling in this first issue – in which a burrito discarded by an EMT driver leads to the return of some familiar DP characters like Robotman  works particularly because of Herrington and Bonvillain’s pleasantly clear artwork, a departure from the loose and gritty art style you might remember from the ‘90s comics it gets its inspiration from.

4. Hilda and the Stone Forest

By Luke Pearson
Nobrow Press 


Luke Pearson’s series of Hilda books is celebrated in kid-lit art appreciation circles, but probably hasn’t yet achieved the mainstream bookstore recognition it deserves. That may change in 2018 when Netflix launches the animated Hilda show it is currently developing. In the meantime, the fifth book in the “Hildafolk” series brings a new adventure starring precocious, blue-haired Hilda who lives in Trolberg, a little town with a lot of fantastic things to explore: dimensional portals, giant trolls, sea monsters, and more. When Hilda’s mom grounds her in an effort to keep her from going off on all these crazy adventures, something goes terribly wrong and both Hilda and her mom end up lost in the dark and mysterious Stone Forest. 

Hilda is such a smart, delightful and relatable character for adventurous young girls to read about. One of the most interesting aspect of all of Pearson's books, however, is Hilda’s relationship with her single mom and a big part of Hilda and the Stone Forest is the way moms and daughters navigate that balance between friendship and maternal authority.

5. 2000 AD Prog 2000

By Various
2000 AD/Rebellion 


Comics have historically treasured the milestone issue (“Giant-Sized 100th Issue Spectacular!”) but today, with the trend in comics being to constantly reset numbering to create more frequent and accessible #1 issues, we don’t hit a lot of milestones anymore. Long-running British weekly sci-fi anthology 2000 AD hits a big one this month, though, with their 2000th “prog,” a celebratory issue with a little something for readers new and old.

This 48-page comic reintroduces some of the most popular strips of the past 30 years like Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper, and also re-explains the overarching idea of 2000 AD – it’s actually an alien dispatch edited by Tharg the Mighty, and created by “script and art droids.” The droids for this issue happen to be some of the biggest names from 2000 AD history, including Brian Bolland (making a rare return to drawing sequential pages rather than covers) and Dave Gibbons (each draw one page interludes rather than full stories). A number of new stories are kicked off in this “prog” including Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill reuniting for a new Nemesis the Warlock story. 

6. Mooncop

By Tom Gauld
Drawn & Quarterly 


"Living on the moon . . . Whatever were we thinking? . . . It seems so silly now.” That quote, spoken by a couple heading back to Earth, sums up Tom Gauld’s droll new science fiction graphic novel set in the waning days of a now out-of-fashion lunar colony. The “mooncop" of the story patrols his district pointlessly—as no crimes have ever been committed—and watches as the colonists he’s meant to protect abandon the quiet colony one by one.

Gauld is a popular illustrator whose work is most often seen in The Guardian and The New Yorker but is also known for his previous comics work like 2012’s Goliath. His minimalist, cross-hatched drawings and dry, almost melancholic wit bring to mind the work of both Edward Gorey and Chris Ware.

7. The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo

By Drew Weing
First Second/MacMillan 


Tough but diminutive Margo Maloo is a mediator who has an in with the monsters that live in Echo City. She’s there to ease grievances when disgruntled monsters lose their cool, steal toys or even eat someone. When Charles and his parents move to the city to restore a rundown tenement apartment, one of those monsters ends up in his closet, leading Charles to require Margo’s services. We soon learn these scary-looking monsters are really just scared themselves and hoping not to get displaced from their home by all these new people moving in.

Weing originally serialized Margo as a webcomic that has been well-regarded in the indie comics community, but this attractive hardcover printing will likely be a hit with the young reader audience it was made for. 

8. The Fix Vol. 1

By Nick Spencer, Steve Lieber, Ryan Hill, and Nic J. Shaw
Image Comics


While Nick Spencer has recently become somewhat infamous for his controversial run on Captain America, the comics he deserves the most notoriety for are his collaborations with artist Steve Lieber. The pair first worked together on Marvel’s Superior Foes of Spider-man, a hilarious romp featuring some low-rent costumed bad guys. Now they've teamed up for their own creation, one with a similar tone and sense of irreverence.

The Fix is a raunchy crime comedy that reads like an Elmore Leonard, Shane Black, and Chip Zdarsky collaboration. Its “heroes” are two crooked cops, Mac and Roy, who are willing to sink pretty low (robbing retirement homes, framing honest cops) in order to make some cash (and maybe sell a screenplay about their exploits along the way). The only thing keeping them from success is their psychotic, gluten-free, baby-bjorn-wearing boss Josh. And Pretzels, the police beagle, who knows something’s up. Oh, and their own sheer ineptitude. This is the funniest book of the year and its first five issues have just been collected in a trade paperback for less than $10. 

9. Our Mother

By Luke Howard
Retrofit 


Both Luke Howard and his mother began suffering from anxiety disorders at the same exact age, and he uses his new comic to process—sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly—his childhood memories of his mother’s struggles as well as his own. But Our Mother is not a sober rumination; instead, it is a funny, fast-paced romp through a variety of genres—noir, science fiction, sword and sorcery—that is not afraid to be nonsensical, ridiculous, or deeply personal. The book ends with a conversation between the author and his mom, depicted with cutout photos, and it is a wonderful and affecting coda that illuminates their relationship, adding a touching context to all the bits of story that come before it.

10. Kill Them All

By Kyle Starks
Kickstarter 


Kyle Starks came out of nowhere in 2014 with a Kickstarter for a book called Sexcastle, a hilarious send-up of ‘80s action movies, which has since been optioned by Fox and the Russo Brothers (Captain America: Civil War). Now, Starks is back with another Kickstarter and a new action movie satire. This time it’s Die Hard meets Kill Bill, as a hardened ex-cop and a ruthless female assassin must shoot and slice their way up a skyscraper filled with lethal killers. Starks has a knack for the so-dumb-they’re-smart one-liners ("You’re going to knock them dead, girl"/"That’s the plan") that both satirize and lovingly embrace the cliches of brainless shoot-em-ups. 

The Kill Them All Kickstarter has already reached its goal and is now adding some nice stretch goals for those who still want in.

11. Hadrian’s Wall

By Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, and Rod Reis
Image Comics 


The mysterious death of an astronaut sends pill-popping private investigator Simon Moore to a space station where the alleged “accident” occurred so that he can give the corporation a rubber stamp on the official cause of death. Moore is not so quick to fall in line, though, and the fact that the deceased was married to his ex-wife makes his presence there complicated.

In addition to being an outer space murder mystery, Hadrian’s Wall is also a socio-political thriller, set 100 years in the future after the U.S. and USSR nuked each other in 1985, only to then join forces, rebuild society and colonize space. Higgins, Siegel, and Reis previously dabbled in alternate history on C.O.W.L., their ‘60s-era comic about unionized superheroes. This time out, Reis slightly shifts the style of his artwork—reminiscent of Bill Sienkiewicz, Phil Noto, and movie poster pioneer Bob Peak—from the ‘60s influence he used in C.O.W.L. to an ‘80s-tinged futuristic look.

12. On a Sunbeam

By Tillie Walden
Webcomic


At this month’s Small Press Expo, Tillie Walden was a double winner at the prestigious Ignatz Awards. She took home awards for Outstanding Artist and Most Promising New Talent for her first two comics, The End of Summer and I Love This Part. Not one to rest while she’s ahead, Walden is serializing her newest comic online beginning September 28 and, being as prolific as she is, she’ll add 20-40 page chapters every Wednesday.

On a Sunbeam takes place in outer space but is full of the beautiful architecture and touching scenes of young love that might be considered the DNA of Walden’s style at this point in her career. The comic will jump between two stories, both about a girl named Mia, but showing her at two different stages in her life: one as she begins a job restoring old buildings in space and the other as a teenager in boarding school (which is also in space). As the Ignatz Awards have recognized, Walden is an exciting new voice in comics who has a long career (likely full of a LOT of comics) ahead of her.

13. Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban Decay

By Ben Katchor
Drawn & Quarterly 


Comics and nostalgia have a long history together, but Ben Katchor’s comics dabble in a form of nostalgia that is part imagined, part a grand testament to how our world is constantly changing around us. Katchor’s Julius Knipl is a “real estate photographer” who roams a slightly fictionalized New York City and documents the hidden and forgotten histories of the architecture and small businesses that reside within the buildings. Knipl waxes poetically about freshly delivered telephone books, piano movers, and rubber band salesmen. 

New York City has always been the nexus of urban progress and historic preservation, and therefore it makes the perfect setting for Katchor’s nostalgia for an imagined history whose remnants can still be seen if you know where to look. Cheap Novelties is the latest collection of “Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer” strips which have run in Raw Magazine, The Jewish Daily Forward, and other publications since the 1990s.

14. Cat Rackham

By Steve Wolfhard
Koyama Press 


On the surface, Wolfhard’s cute comic looks like it would be an all-ages funny animal strip, but in actuality it is a quiet (yet still often funny) rumination on anxiety and depression. Cat Rackham is a wide-eyed, big-headed, scruffy looking cat who suffers from bouts of existential ennui. In one comic, he can’t get to sleep because of the sound of his own beating heart. In another, he can’t seem to get out of bed (the forest ground) as we watch the seasons pass around him. Cute and wonderfully illustrated, Wolfhard manages to portray aspects of depression that will hit home with some readers more than a realistic depiction may have done.

Wolfhard, one of the artists behind the scenes on Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time, has published Cat Rackham as a webcomic for a number of years. This book from Koyama Press collects all of his strips in one edition. 

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA

Robin Williams had a larger-than-life personality. On screen and on stage, he embodied what he referred to as “hyper-comedy.” Offscreen, he was involved in humanitarian causes and raised three children—Zak, Zelda, and Cody. On July 16, HBO debuts the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, directed by Marina Zenovich. The film chronicles his rise on the L.A. and San Francisco stand-up comedy scenes during the 1970s, to his more dramatic roles in the 1980s and '90s in award-winning films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; Awakenings; The Fisher King; and Good Will Hunting. The film also focuses on August 11, 2014, the date of his untimely death. Here are 12 surprising facts about the beloved entertainer.

1. ROBIN WILLIAMS GOT HIS START AT A COMEDY WORKSHOP INSIDE A CHURCH.

A still from 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind' (2018)
HBO

After leaving Juilliard, Robin Williams found himself back in his hometown of San Francisco, but he couldn’t find work as an actor. Then he saw something for a comedy workshop in a church and decided to give it a shot. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo," he told NPR. "And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there."

2. HE FORMED A FRIENDSHIP WITH KOKO THE GORILLA.

In 2001, Williams visited Koko the gorilla, who passed away in June, at The Gorilla Foundation in Northern California. Her caregivers had shown her one of his movies, and she seemed to recognize him. Koko repeatedly signed for Williams to tickle her. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of the encounter. On the day Williams died, The Foundation shared the news with Koko and reported that she fell into sadness.

3. FOR A TIME, HE WAS A MIME IN CENTRAL PARK.

In 1974, photographer Daniel Sorine captured photos of two mimes in New York's Central Park. As it turned out, one of the mimes was Williams, who was attending Juilliard at the time. “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity,” Sorine said. In 1991, Williams revisited the craft by playing Mime Jerry in Bobcat Goldthwait’s film Shakes the Clown. In the movie, Williams hilariously leads a how-to class in mime.

4. HE TRIED TO GET LYDIA FROM MRS. DOUBTFIRE BACK IN SCHOOL.

As a teen, Lisa Jakub played Robin Williams’s daughter Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. “When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy,” Jakub wrote on her blog. “My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a ‘non-traditional’ student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.”

Sensing Jakub’s distress over the situation, Williams typed a letter and sent it to her school. “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” he wrote. “She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … she is an asset to any classroom.”

Apparently, the school framed the letter but didn’t allow Jakub to return. “But here’s what matters from that story—Robin stood up for me,” Jakub wrote. “I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.”

5. HE WASN’T PRODUCERS' FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY MORK ON MORK & MINDY.

Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most told The Hallmark Channel that a different actor was originally hired to play Mork for the February 1978 Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan,” which introduced the alien character to the world. “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad,” Anson Williams said. “So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor quit, and producer Garry Marshall came to the set and asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” They hired Williams to play Mork, and from September 1978 to May 1982, Williams co-headlined the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.

6. HE “RISKED” A ROLE IN AN OFF-BROADWAY PLAY.

Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Caulfield, Getty Images for PCA

In 1988, Williams made his professional stage debut as Estragon in the Mike Nichols-directed Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. The play was held off-Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The New York Times asked Williams if he felt the show was a career risk, and he responded with: “Risk! Of never working on the stage again! Oh, no! You’re ruined! It’s like you're ruined socially in Tustin,” a town in Orange County, California. “If there’s risk, you can’t think about it,” he said, “or you’ll never be able to do the play.”

Williams had to restrain himself and not improvise during his performance. “You can do physical things,” he said, “but you don’t ad lib [Samuel] Beckett, just like you don’t riff Beethoven.” In 1996, Nichols and Williams once again worked together, this time in the movie The Birdcage.

7. HE USHERED IN THE ERA OF CELEBRITY VOICE ACTING.

The 1992 success of Aladdin, in which Williams voiced Genie, led to more celebrities voicing animated characters. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Since then, big names have attached themselves to animated films, from The Lion King to Toy Story to Shrek. Williams continued to do voice acting in animated films, including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2.

8. HE FORGOT TO THANK HIS MOTHER DURING HIS 1998 OSCAR SPEECH.

In March 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. In 2011, Williams appeared on The Graham Norton Show, and Norton asked him what it was like to win the award. “For a week it was like, ‘Hey congratulations! Good Will Hunting, way to go,'” Williams said. “Two weeks later: ‘Hey, Mork.’”

Then Williams mentioned how his speech accidentally left out one of the most important people in his life. “I forgot to thank my mother and she was in the audience,” he said. “Even the therapist went, ‘Get out!’ That was rough for the next few years. [Mom voice] ‘You came through here [points to his pants]! How’s the award?’”

9. HE COMFORTED STEVEN SPIELBERG DURING THE FILMING OF SCHINDLER’S LIST.

At this year’s 25th anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, held at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Steven Spielberg shared that Williams—who played Peter Pan in Spielberg’s Hook—would call him and make him laugh. “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg said. “I would laugh hysterically, because I had to release so much.”

10. HE HELPED ETHAN HAWKE GET HIS AGENT.

During a June 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke recalled how, while working on Dead Poets Society, Williams was hard on him. “I really wanted to be a serious actor,” Hawke said. “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane [Williams] got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” Hawke had assumed Williams hated him during filming.

After filming ended, Hawke went back to school, but he received a surprising phone call. It was from Williams’s agent, who—at Williams's suggestion—wanted to sign Hawke. Hawke said he still has the same agent today.

11. HE WAS ALMOST CAST IN MIDNIGHT RUN.

In February 1988, Williams told Rolling Stone how he sometimes still had to audition for roles. “I read for a movie with [Robert] De Niro, [Midnight Run], to be directed by Marty Brest,” Williams said. “I met with them three or four times, and it got real close, it was almost there, and then they went with somebody else. The character was supposed to be an accountant for the Mafia. Charles Grodin got the part. I was craving it. I thought, ‘I can be as funny,’ but they wanted someone obviously more in type. And in the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself, ‘Okay, come on, you’ve got other things.’”

In July 1988, Universal released Midnight Run. Just two years later, Williams finally worked with De Niro, on Awakenings.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND WILLIAMS USED TO TALK ON THE PHONE FOR HOURS.

Actors Robin Williams (L) and Billy Crystal pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Columbia Picture's 'RV' on April 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Starting in 1986, Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. Soon after Williams’s death, Crystal went on The View and spoke with Goldberg about his friendship with Williams. “We were like two jazz musicians,” Crystal said. “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”

“Gary” turned out to be Williams.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres on Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.

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Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
How a Hairdresser Found a Way to Fight Oil Spills With Hair Clippings
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker made global news in 1989 when it dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Alaska's coast. As experts were figuring out the best ways to handle the ecological disaster, a hairdresser from Alabama named Phil McCroy was tinkering with ideas of his own. His solution, a stocking stuffed with hair clippings, was an early version of a clean-up method that's used at real oil spill sites today, according to Vox.

Hair booms are sock-like tubes stuffed with recycled hair, fur, and wool clippings. Hair naturally soaks up oil; most of the time it's sebum, an oil secreted from our sebaceous glands, but it will attract crude oil as well. When hair booms are dragged through waters slicked with oil, they sop up all of that pollution in a way that's gentle on the environment.

The same properties that make hair a great clean-up tool at spills are also what make animals vulnerable. Marine life that depends on clean fur to stay warm can die if their coats are stained with oil that's hard to wash off. Footage of an otter covered in oil was actually what inspired Phil McCroy to come up with his hair-based invention.

Check out the full story from Vox in the video below.

[h/t Vox]

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