The 12 Most Interesting Comics of November

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. A.D.: AFTER DEATH BOOK ONE

By Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire
Image Comics


Most wouldn’t expect formal comics experimentation to come from the writers of Batman and the X-Men, but, to be fair, Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire are two of the most celebrated creators in comics and both have had a lot of success outside of their work for Marvel and DC. In this three-part prestige format series, they are collaborating to tell a story about a future in which death has been cured. Jonah Cooke, the story’s protagonist, has been alive for centuries and in this first chapter, reflects on his life and his culpability in an event that changed the world.

The format of this book is not entirely a comic; it's a combination of sequential art, prose, and illustrations. Lemire, who lately has been writing for other artists, provides the art in his discernibly loose, outsider art style while Snyder handles the considerable sections of prose with a novelist’s skill. The result is an ominous and contemplative read about memory and mortality.

2. MUHAMMAD ALI

By Sybille Titeux and Amazing Ameziane
Dark Horse Comics


Some biography subjects were born to be in comics and the brash, super-heroic figure of the boxing world known as Muhammad Ali is one of them. He famously appeared in a comic with Superman back in 1978, but in this 2015 French graphic novel, being released for the first time in English, he gets a 128-page bio-comic all his own. Ali’s life—from his youth as Cassius Clay through his storied boxing career, his conversion to Islam, and his rise as an early hero of the civil rights movement to his final battle with Parkinson’s disease—is all covered here. Titeux gives many of the biographical events some proper historical context by providing some details of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X, and the conflict in Vietnam. Ameziane’s photo-realistic artwork depicts these events with accuracy and an appropriate sense of drama equal to Ali’s legend.

3. SUPER POWERS #1

By Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani
DC Comics


Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani are responsible for some of the most popular all-ages comics and their work for DC, like Tiny Titans, is just about the best option you can find out there for early reader superhero comics. Their newest series, Super Powers, stars some of the biggest heroes in the DC Universe and begins with a story in which Batman has gone missing, leaving Superman and Wonder Woman to not only find their friend, but to also fill in for him in Gotham City while he’s gone.

4. WHO KILLED KURT COBAIN?

By Nicolas Otero
IDW Publishing


For Gen Xers, Kurt Cobain’s death by apparent suicide in 1994 was a “where were you when…” moment that is forever burned into their memories. Over 20 years later, the mystique around his death has sparked conspiracy theories and a number of books including the French novel Le Roman de Boddah by Héloïse Guay de Bellissen, which focuses on Cobain’s suicide note and its reference to his imaginary childhood friend “Boddah." French artist Nicolas Otero has adapted that book into a graphic novel that captures the feeling of the ‘90s—both the grunge aesthetic and even the page layout-driven style of the comics from that decade—while depicting a dramatized version of the real events of Cobain’s life. We see Nirvana’s sudden rises to success, Cobain's passionate relationship with Courtney Love, his struggle with heroin addiction. and his early death, all told from the point of view of Boddah.

5. ETHER #1

By Matt Kindt and David Rubin
Dark Horse Comics 


Writer Matt Kindt isn't a fan of the supernatural genre, so the protagonist of his new book is himself a skeptic who prefers science over magic. However, Boone Dias is a scientist-adventurer who is often brought from our world to a magical dimension called the Ether to solve a murder. In a world where seemingly anything can happen, the inhabitants of that world lean on Dias to find explanations for the unexplainable. Kindt is one of the smartest genre writers in comics right now and he’s paired with astounding new talent David Rubin (The Rise of Aurora West), whose richly colored art is like an hallucinatory children’s book that you’ll want to spend some time admiring.

6. BLACK PANTHER: WORLD OF WAKANDA #1

By Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, Yona Harvey, Afua Richardson, and Alitha Martinez
Marvel Comics


After his cinematic debut in Captain America: Civil War, an upcoming solo film, and a new comic series written by acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, Black Panther has now become a high-profile character in the Marvel Universe—enough to warrant a spinoff series focusing on his supporting characters. The Dora Milage is the King of Wakanda’s elite all-female guard, made famous during Christopher Priest’s iconic run on the Black Panther series in the 1990s. Two of the members, Ayo and Aneka, have been a major part of Coates's run and will now be the focus of this book. 

Neither of the big two comics publishers have been a model for hiring diverse creators—especially when it comes to African American women—but this particular book boasts an interesting creative team of women of color, led by professor and op-ed writer Roxanne Gay who readers of Bitch Planet will know from her essays in that comic. She is joined by artist Alitha E. Martinez, while a 10-page backup story co-written by Coates and poet Yona Harvey features art by Afua Richardson, who made a splash this past year drawing the politically charged Image series Genius.

7. MAYDAY #1

By Alex DeCampi, Tony Parker, and Blond
Image Comics


This is the first issue of a proposed trilogy of mini-series that mix Cold War espionage with unexpected elements like ‘70s drug culture, Alice Cooper, and Krautrock. The series will follow a pair of CIA agents through different exploits in the 1970s. The first issue begins with the murder of a Soviet general while he is in the act of defecting to the United States. Rather than a John le Carré-style of complex spy maneuvering, it quickly veers into the unexpectedly violent and weird vibe of a Coen brothers film when the two Russian assassins hook up with a bunch of hippies and fall victim to some LSD-laced vodka.

DeCampi employs a number of neat writing tricks here, including a clever way of showing how someone trying to understand another language may miss every few words as they’re trying to keep up with a conversation. She also manages to integrate a ‘70s era soundtrack into the story, along with a recommended playlist at the end and some notes about the musical choices.

8. SUGAR & SPIKE VOL. 1

By Keith Giffen, Bilquis Evely, and Ivan Plascencia
DC Comics


Sugar Plumm and Spike Wilson are private investigators for superheroes. When someone like Alfred the butler needs someone to track down a stash of embarrassing zebra and rainbow-colored Batsuits that has been stolen or Green Lantern needs to investigate whether an alien flower on display in a museum is the same sentient being he used to wear on his lapel for a time back in the ‘80s, they turn to Sugar and Spike for help. This series, which ran in the recent Legends of Tomorrow anthology and is now collected on its own in a trade paperback edition, is representative of DC Comics's new, brighter outlook on its properties; one that embraces the silliness of the past and lets their superheroes be superheroes (Sugar and Spike themselves are meant to be grown-up versions of a couple of toddler characters that ran in a strip of the same name back in the 1950s). It’s a clever yet ridiculous concept that is played for laughs and works well, thanks to the physical comedy and character acting by artist Bilquis Evely. Amidst all the broad comedy, there are also subtle hints at a complicated but affectionate relationship between the two protagonists that leaves you wanting to know more.

9. SUNNY VOL. 6

By Taiyo Matsumoto
Viz Media


The final volume of Taiyo Matsumoto’s award-winning manga series reaches English-speaking audiences this month (it came out in Japan last year). The poignant, slice-of-life series about a group of foster children who only find solace and escape when sitting in an abandoned yellow car they’ve named “Sunny” is considered a masterwork by many. This series has been nominated for numerous awards and won the Shogakukan Manga Award this year, one of Japan’s highest honors for manga.

10. THE PLUNGE

By Emi Gennis
Kilgore Books & Comics


In 1901, Annie Edson Taylor was the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel. And she did it at the age of 63. Emi Gennis tells her story in this beautiful new black-and-white comic, released through brand-new publisher Kilgore Books & Comics. Taylor’s life story is both an uplifting example of can-do feminism and an anti-climactic tragedy, as she would eventually die poor and alone, gaining nothing from her death-defying feat. Gennis’s crisply inked cartooning style has an appropriately old-timey feel and her depiction of the horrific ride down the falls is captivating and surreal.

11. LEGEND

By Samuel Sattin and Chris Koehler
Z2 Comics


After humans have been wiped out by a biological terror attack, dogs and cats are left to rebuild the world in their absence. But there is something else out there—a mysterious creature called the Endark—that has killed Ransom, the leader of the dogs, requiring an English Pointer named Legend to step up and take his place. Chris Koehler is an accomplished editorial illustrator who has worked for publications such as The Atlantic and Variety. His style exhibits a high level of photorealism and a designer’s sense of minimal color. He manages to translate that style to his first piece of sequential comics without losing any of his technical polish. This collaboration with novelist Samuel Sattin, also a comics newbie, should please most domestic animal adventure fans of stories like The Incredible Journey or We3.

12. Off Season

By James Sturm
Slate.com


Acclaimed cartoonist and director of the Center for Cartoon Studies James Sturm (The Golem's Mighty Swing) has been creating a webcomic for Slate that began in September and will continue through the end of the year. It is about 2016, with a focus on the election and now on its aftermath. Set in New England, it follows a down-on-his-luck divorced dad who was a Bernie Sanders supporter raising a daughter who is excited about the prospect of electing the first female president. Sturm draws everyone—including real-life players like Donald Trump—as anthropomorphic dogs, trudging through the same reality we’re all currently living in real time.

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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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