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The 31 Most Interesting Comics of 2016

It’s that time again to round up the comics I consider the best and most interesting of the year. Please feel free to agree, disagree, and recommend others in the comments below. 

31. 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank

By Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss
Black Mask Studios

In an end of the year list, I don’t usually include comics that are only a couple of issues into their run—but it only took one issue of this comic to make an impression on me and on many other readers, it seems, who took a chance on it. 4 Kids is one of two books on this list that fit the mold of “comics that will appeal to Stranger Things fans” even though it chooses to play with crime fiction instead of supernatural clichés. Rosenberg’s smart and funny dialogue reads like a Quentin Tarantino film starring a group of nerdy, D&D-playing kids who end up trying to pull off a bank heist while Boss’ quaint cartooning style and complex page layouts are evocative of a Wes Anderson film.

30. On a Sunbeam

By Tillie Walden
Onasunbeam.com


This September, 20-year-old Tillie Walden won the coveted Promising New Talent Ignatz award at the Small Press Expo for one of two graphic novels she released last year. Right after receiving the award, she began self-publishing a new webcomic called On a Sunbeam and within a few months had posted over 300 pages. It is a sci-fi comic that is split into two separate narratives, both about a girl named Mia, but showing her at different stages of 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). Walden draws beautiful architecture and is adept at conveying the melodramatic emotions of young love, two things her new comic gives her plenty of chances to do.

29. What Is Obscenity?

By Rokudenashiko; edited by Anne Ishii and Graham Kolbeins
Koyama Press

Megumi Igarashi (a.k.a. Rokudenashiko) was arrested and found guilty by a Japanese court for distributing obscene material when she shared a digital file online that could be used to make a 3-D printing of her vagina. This manga telling of her experience in jail is funny, engaging, and eye-opening.

28. The Nib

Edited by Matt Bors
Thenib.com

Obviously, 2016 will be remembered as the most insane election year ever, but thankfully The Nib returned from hiatus in time to see it out. Originally part of Medium.com, the progressive collective of editorial, non-fiction and journalism comics curated by Matt Bors found a new home and returned with a bang to cover and comment on the election. Some highlights include KC Green taking his “This is Fine” dog back from its fate as an overused meme, Ruben Bolling’s Calvin & Hobbes parody “Donald & John,” Sarah Glidden’s reporting on the Jill Stein campaign, and some very good non-election comics like Sarah Winifred Searle’s comic about body types and how they’re represented in media.

27. Tetris: The Games People Play

By Box Brown
First Second


Box Brown has developed a niche for making non-fiction graphic novels about 1980s pop culture starting with his 2014 biography of Andre the Giant and his latest is about of the most addictive video game ever made. It is a surprisingly complicated tale of corporate wrongdoing, creator rights issues and communism that shows how the idea came from a software engineer in Moscow who originally shared it as freeware. Once it got past the Iron Curtain it went viral and corporations like Nintendo began double-crossing each other to get the rights to it. Brown rewinds all the way back to the dawn of man to illustrate our natural fascination with creating art and playing games and shows how that fascination would eventually evolve into a multi-billion dollar industry.

26. Spider-Woman #5

By Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez
Marvel Comics

Superhero comics are usually not where you’d look for thoughtful and realistic portrayals of parenting, and Spider-Woman, a comic whose recent claim to fame was a questionable cover that caused a media backlash, may seem especially unexpected. Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez are way beyond that controversy, though. With the book’s recent re-launch, Jessica Drew is a pregnant superhero (who refuses to tell anyone the identity of the father) and in the fifth issue, it hit a high point: the baby has been born and Jessica is now adjusting to being a single, working mom. This issue is something really special, full of knowing laughs and heartwarmingly real moments that any new parent will recognize, and Jessica’s embrace of being a single mom by choice is especially unique and refreshing.

25. Deathstroke

By Christopher Priest, Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz and Jeromy Cox
DC Comics

Veteran writer Christopher Priest stepped away from comics over 10 years ago but never intended to be away that long. After becoming a fan favorite on books like Black Panther in the ‘90s, the African American writer began to continuously turn down offers to write black superheroes, finding that these were the only books he was being considered for. When DC began their “Rebirth” initiative this year, Priest got a call to write a new Deathstroke book which he found intriguing and accepted not only because Deathstroke is white but because he is not a hero.

Priest’s long-awaited return to comics has not disappointed. He uses a broken chronological narrative, morally shaded characters and a dry sense of humor to reintroduce this old Teen Titans villain. DC’s new “Rebirth” comics have been mostly excellent so far but Deathstroke is one of its best.

24. Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq

By Sarah Glidden
Drawn & Quarterly

In 2011, Sarah Glidden traveled to Turkey, Syria, and Iraq with a group of journalist friends to interview refugees in hopes of finding a story to tell. Glidden finds her own unique hook by choosing to document the act of creating journalism, showing us the behind-the-scenes decisions journalists make, the technical process of interviewing and the hopes and fears about how their stories will impact their subjects and the people they are hoping to inform. Comics journalism has become Glidden’s passion (this year she also published a comic about her time spent traveling with the Jill Stein presidential campaign) and at a time when journalism is becoming more important than ever, this is a fascinating look at how you report the truth.

23. The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye

By Sonny Liew
Pantheon

When this book was first released, some reviewers were fooled into thinking it was really a career retrospective of a famous Singaporean cartoonist. In fact, what makes it so astounding is that it is 320 pages of comics, sketches, life drawings, and paintings convincingly created by Sonny Liew to invent a lifetime’s worth of work. Liew (Dr. Fate, The Shadow Hero) uses the fictional life of Charlie Chan Hock Chye to tell the history and evolution of mid-to-late century comics, while mixing in the social and political history of Singapore. Liew’s commentary on political activism led the government to revoke a national grant given to him to make the book yet it has sold through multiple print runs in that country.

22. Monstress

By Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
Image Comics

Set in a steampunk 19th century Asia full of cute animal/children hybrids, talking cats, Lovecraftian monstrosities and a matriarchal society in which women have all the power and men barely factor into the story, Liu and Takeda have done an amazing amount of world-building so far in their new series. Monstress follows a young slave named Maika whose life was torn apart in a great war and she now harbors a destructive and awesome power within her body that makes her a strategic object to be sought after.

Takeda’s gothic, art-deco influenced artwork is absolutely stunning to behold and the epic fantasy that she and Liu are putting together here is complex and brutally violent.

21. Secret Wars

By Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic and Paul Renaud
Marvel Comics

The nine-issue mini-series at the heart of an epic event that effectively destroyed the Marvel Universe and upended its entire publishing line for over four months had the most massive scope of any crossover book Marvel has ever published. I’m not even talking about the dozens of tie-in series that supported the main story. Writer Jonathan Hickman spent 44 issues of Avengers and 33 issues of New Avengers concurrently to build up to this story, but it’s even bigger than that. He uses this series to satisfy plot points he planted in nearly every Marvel title he has written over the past seven years. If you’re a fan of the “Hickman-verse,” this was a great end to his long run in the Marvel Universe. For everyone else, Secret Wars works as a beautifully illustrated swan song for the Fantastic Four, who, once this book was complete, would find their own series cancelled for the first time in Marvel history.

20. Rules for Dating My Daughter

By Mike Dawson
Uncivilized Books

Dawson has a wonderfully relatable way of pondering and sometimes agonizing over subjects that progressively minded parents will empathize with: trying to be a feminist dad; the ethics of teaching your kids to eat meat; gun control and school shootings; there’s even one comparing the class values of Charles Dickens with the Disney Jr. show Sofia the First. Dawson has been successful shifting from writing longform narrative comics to putting out shorter, topical non-fiction pieces. His opinions are nuanced and well thought out, and his cartooning, even on pieces that he meant to be quick and loose are creative and expertly drawn.

19. Rosalie Lightning

By Tom Hart
St. Martin’s Press


 

In 2011, Tom Hart and Leela Corman experienced the worst horror a parent could ever face when their 1-year-old daughter Rosalie unexpectedly passed away. Being cartoonists, both utilized their disciplines as a coping mechanism to help make sense of this awful tragedy. Hart worked through his emotions in real time through his webcomic Rosalie Lightning which was collected this year into a hardcover and was in essence a heartbreaking sequel to his previous webcomic about being a new parent, Daddy Lightning. This is a gut wrenching read, one whose purpose seems so therapeutic it is almost as if it was not even made for others to read. The narrative jumps back and forth between memories of Rosalie and the days, weeks, and months after her death as Hart and his wife try to imagine how to move on with their lives. The images are drawn with so much raw emotion they look practically scratched and gouged onto the page.

18. We All Wish For Deadly Force

Leela Corman
Retrofit Comics

Like her husband, Tom Hart, Leela Corman used her cartooning expertise to explore her own grief after losing her child. In her comic “PTSD: The Wound That Never Heals” which was originally published in Nautilus and is now included in her short comics collection We All Wish For Deadly Force, she describes the pain of “coming back to life after losing my first child” and delves into the science behind Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is an incredibly brave and powerful short comic which, through its ultimate message of hope, offers inspiration to victims of trauma of all kinds. The other pieces in Corman's book tackle a range of subjects from her family history, Jewish identity and her experiences teaching bellydancing.

17. Superman: American Alien

By Max Landis with various artists
DC Comics

The best Superman comic since 2005’s All Star Superman once again retells the Man of Steel’s origin (thankfully without any Krypton scenes this time) in a way that manages to be contemporary and edgy yet with the heroic ideals that should always be at the heart of the character. Filmmaker Max Landis teamed with a different big name artist (Joelle Jones, Jae Lee, Nick Dragotta, Jock, Tommy Lee Edwards, Francis Manapul, and Jonathan Case) for each chapter of this mini-series. It begins with Clark Kent as a boy discovering his powers and leads towards Superman’s early days in Metropolis and the revelation to the world that he is an alien. This version of Clark Kent is not the corn-fed innocent we’re used to (he does well with girls and gets into some trouble with his high school friends) but this isn’t an overly cynical attempt to make the character more flawed and gritty for modern audiences. It’s a really enjoyable remix of the mythos with some surprising twists and interesting new relationships between Clark, Lois, and even the other heroes in the DC Universe.

16. Becoming Unbecoming

By Una
Arsenal Pulp Press

The author, working under the pseudonym “Una,” grew up in Northern England in the 1970s while the Yorkshire Ripper was on a murdering spree, killing 13 women, most of whom were prostitutes. The amount of time it took for the police to get serious about catching a serial killer that seemed to prey on sexually active women is a symptom of the problem Una delves into in this dark, brave, and creatively ambitious work. As a victim of both sexual violence and “slut-shaming” by peers at an impressionable and damaging young age, it has taken many years for Una to confront her own experiences and to find a way to talk about the violence and emotional trauma that men inflict on women. She originally never intended this book to be read by anyone else but it is brilliant, revealing and brave in a way that just may help other women.

15. Plutona

By Emi Lenox, Jeff Lemire and Jordie Bellaire
Image Comics

A group of kids hanging out in the woods stumble across a dead body that turns out to be Plutona, the world’s greatest superhero. What should they do? Who should they tell? Their disagreement about what to do next will drive a wedge between all of them. Lemire, one of the most prolific creators in comics, provides the script for a story written and drawn by Emi Lenox of the popular webcomic Emitown (Lemire also draws a backup feature about Plutona’s final adventure before her death). This is a haunting series whose strength is derived from Lenox’s clear and bold cartooning style and her perfectly realized characters, all of whom look and feel like real kids.

14. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

By Ryan North, Erica Henderson and Rico Renzi
Marvel Comics

Marvel’s most unique comic is also one of its most crowd pleasing. Geared towards a teen girl audience that superhero comics rarely aim for and even more rarely succeed with, it stars a female protagonist who looks nothing like comics’ usual hyper-idealized super heroines and is written and drawn with a sense of humor and irreverence that is more often found in webcomics. That’s the world where North and Henderson came from and they bring that fresh, welcome, Tumblr-friendly approach to the more mainstream Marvel. This year has featured a time travel story with Doctor Doom, a choose-your-own-adventure issue and even an original graphic novel in which Squirrel Girl’s evil doppleganger takes on every hero in the Marvel Universe.

13. Nod Away

By Joshua Cotter
Fantagraphics

In the near future of Nod Away, the internet has been replaced by a telepathically streamed “innernet”; the public becomes outraged when is revealed that the network was powered by the brain of a little girl. Dr. Melody McCabe is assigned to an international space station with the task of developing a new source while somewhere on a desolate alien landscape, a bearded and disheveled man awakens and begins a journey. Cotter’s first book since 2010’s experimental Driven by Lemons, the first in a multi-part series, fuses technical sci-fi, humor, strong character development and psychedelic explorations of the nature of consciousness in a captivating way.

12. Panther

By Brecht Evens
Drawn & Quarterly

What looks on the surface to be a whimsical and colorful children’s book about a young girl and a talking panther who visits her bedroom, reveals a dark underside that will slowly get under your skin as it goes along. Young Christine is mourning the death of her cat when she receives a visit from the charming panther but it is the reader, not Christine, who begins to pick up on his unspeakable ulterior motives. The Cat in the Hat quality that Belgian artist Brecht Evens invokes belies and unsettling chaotic chill that you won’t be able to shake once you’re done reading.

11. The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo

By Drew Weing
First Second

One of the best webcomics of the past few years is now available in a print format ideal for reading with your kids. Tough but diminutive Margo Maloo is a monster mediator in Echo City who helps ease grievances when the local monsters lose their cool with the humans that are gentrifying their neighborhood. When Charles and his parents move to the city to restore a rundown tenement apartment, one of those monsters ends up in Charles’ closet, leading him to require Margo’s services. Kids will love Weing’s wonderful, cross-hatched monsters and Margo’s no-nonsense expertise in handling them.

10. The Flintstones

By Mark Russell, Steve Pugh and Chris Chuckry
DC Comics

Yes, I’m serious. A Flintstones comic is in the top 10. When DC Comics took on the Hanna-Barbera license, no one expected much from the comics they’d produce, especially when they seemed to be aiming for a gritty, modern spin on these classic kids cartoons. However, Russell, just off his critically acclaimed reboot of Prez the Teenage President is a breakout star who, with Pugh, a superhero artist with a style you would think wouldn’t fit the material here, took everyone off guard with this smart and darkly funny socio-political satire. So far the series has tackled subjects like marriage equality, religion, PTSD, consumerism and elections in smart and surprising ways while reintroducing all the fan-favorite characters like Dino and the Great Gazoo.

9. Black Hammer

By Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston and Dave Stewart
Dark Horse Comics

What happens to superheroes after they’ve been retconned out of existence? The heroes of Black Hammer end up trapped in a quiet rural town in a parallel universe after a “Crisis”-like multiversal event and are forced to live for over a decade under a maddening and stifling guise of normalcy. Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Colonel Weird, Madame Dragonfly, and Barbalien are stand-ins for a variety of recognizable comic book character types from the Golden Age through the Modern Age. Their prickly relationships with each other as they’ve devolved from heroic super team to bitter, dysfunctional family adds some dark humor to an ominous story about being trapped.

Lemire has been producing outstanding work for both Marvel and Valiant Comics this year but his creator-owned comics are even better, and this book in particular, with Ormston and Stewarts’ creepy, understated visuals is one of his best yet.

8. Sheriff of Babylon

By Tom King and Mitch Gerads
DC Vertigo

Tom King draws on his experience as a CIA officer stationed in Iraq to tell this story of an American contractor who finds himself siding with an Iraqi policeman and a former exile turned crime lord to solve the murder of an Iraqi police cadet. Set in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam, it is rich with authenticity and gravitas thanks not only to King’s expertise, but to the realism of Mitch Gerads’ artwork. Unbelievably, this is just one of the multiple excellent books King has been responsible for this year and, as part of DC Vertigo’s new wave of titles, it is bringing a renewed significance to the imprint.

7. Spidey Zine

By Hannah Blumenreich
Self-published

In today’s Marvel Comics, Peter Parker is in his 30s and is the CEO of his own research company. He’s no longer what most people picture when they think of their ideal version of Spider-man. In Hannah Blumenreich’s fan comics though (which she posts to Tumblr and compiles some of them into a PDF zine you can download for any price you choose), Peter Parker is still in high school. He falls behind in his school work, gets beat by girls in basketball, always has time for people in need, loves his Aunt May and if you give him a chance he’ll chew your ear off about Gilmore Girls or some other TV show for hours. This is just about the most perfect Spider-man you can ask for and it’s just hard to believe that Marvel hasn’t hired Blumenreich yet.

6. Patience

By Dan Clowes
Fantagraphics

Clowes’s first new graphic novel in five years combines his penchant for disaffected outsider protagonists with nostalgia for 1950s genre comics. Jack and Patience are young, just married and about to become parents when an intruder takes the life of Jack’s wife and his unborn baby. Thirty years later, Jack has the opportunity to travel back in time and stop this from happening but does his artless tinkering with Patience’s past only make things worse? Full of causal loops, trippy time travel and unabashed misanthropy, this is about as Clowesian as Clowes gets, a fun yet disturbing read.

5. Hilda and the Stone Forest

By Luke Pearson
Nobrow Press

The Hilda series of children’s graphic novels will likely get the mainstream recognition it deserves in 2018 when it becomes an animated show on Netflix. In the meantime, the fifth book in this consistently fantastic series about a precocious young girl with a healthy curiosity and empathy for the variety of creatures that populate her small village focuses on Hilda’s relationship with her single mom as the two get lost together in the troll-infested Stone Forest. Hilda’s relationship with her mom has always been the heart of this series but in this volume we see how her mom is always trying to navigate between being a friend and being a mother, a balance that most moms can probably relate to. Pearson is skilled at capturing wonderful little character moments and employing hilarious visual gags. Hilda is one of the greatest characters out there for adventurous young girls to read.

4. Paper Girls

By Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chiang
Image Comics

Before there was Stranger Things (and really just a few months before), there was Paper Girls, a nostalgia-driven throwback to the 1980s that trades Stranger’s boys on bicycles and horror film tropes for girls on bicycles and sci-fi tropes. Set in 1988, a group of 12-year old paper delivery girls find themselves caught up in an adventure involving time travel, aliens, monsters and the end of the world. Vaughn (Saga, Y: The Last Man) is a master at game-changing plot twists and knowing pop culture references. For Chiang, a longtime DC Comics artist, this is his first creator-owned series, and his sense of drama and characterization makes this read like one of those classic Spielbergian kids’ adventure films it is giving a nod to.

3. Ghosts

By Raina Telgemeier
Scholastic

The most popular graphic novelist of the 21st century took some chances with her highly anticipated new book. Moving away from the memoir format of the now-classic Smile and Sisters that made her a staple on the NY Times Bestseller list, Telgemeier dips into supernatural fiction with a more diverse cast of characters. Ghosts is still focused on family and particularly sibling relationships but also looks to deal with a tough subject for any all-ages book to cover: death.

When Maya and Cat’s parents move them to Northern California where the sea air will hopefully be beneficial for Maya who is suffering from cystic fibrosis. In their new town, they learn about Día de los Muertos and come face to face with the actual spirits which causes Cat to have to acknowledge her sister’s own mortality. It’s a risky book and Telgemeier is at the point in her career where she’s ready to push to new levels and bring her loyal audience along for the ride.

2. Vision

By Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire
Marvel Comics

Tom King has had an astounding year. He has two books on this list and also became the writer for DC’s bestselling comic Batman. The 12-issue Vision mini-series is his best work yet and expands on a successful formula Marvel first landed on with 2012’s Hawekeye—a glimpse at what passes for a normal life when a superhero is off-duty. For the synthezoid Avenger, achieving a “normal” life for himself requires building a wife, two teenage children and a dog and establishing residence in the suburbs. When his wife, Virginia, murders a super villain who threatens the safety of their home, maintaining the sanctity of their domestic life gets harder and harder.

The brilliance of this book is how it uses so many familiar tropes (the often-absent and unaware father, the hyper-protective mother, the quietly rebellious daughter and the eager to please son) but coldly performed by the analytical Vision family. Even as they calculate their every move in an effort to fit in and play their parts, they inevitably succumb to the same pain and tragedy that any “normal” family would. This is a star-making book for Gabriel Hernandez Walta as well who, with Jordie Bellaire, brings a gorgeous and somber realism to King’s almost philosophical and heartbreaking script.

1. March: Book Three

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

Each volume of Rep. John Lewis’ graphic novel memoir about his experience as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement released over the past three years has landed with increasing cultural relevance. The third and final volume came out during a bitter election year noteworthy for Black Lives Matter protests, the rise of white nationalism, and numerous incidents of unarmed black men being shot by police. Book Three begins with a shocking scene set inside the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 just before a bomb kills four young black girls. It retells horrific incidents of nonviolent protests being met with brutal violence and builds towards the triumph of the march from Selma to Montgomery that would lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Lewis’s gripping and informative life story will be taught in history classes for years to come but it also should be noted that the way Powell depicts these events with intense drama that never sacrifices historic accuracy is so perfectly achieved that it will probably be taught in art classes as well.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers (including Amazon) and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

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25 Fascinating Facts About Breaking Bad
Ben Leuner/AMC
Ben Leuner/AMC

On January 10, 2008, Breaking Bad made its debut. Though it didn’t premiere to over-the-top ratings, over the course of five seasons, it morphed into a television phenomenon—thanks in large part to word of mouth and the increasing popularity of binge-watching. At its most basic level, it’s the story of a soft-spoken chemistry teacher who, after being diagnosed with lung cancer, risks everything he has worked for to make sure his family will be taken care of in the event of his death. But, like all great TV shows, the story is really not that simple. And it evolves over time, with each season somehow—and miraculously—managing to top the one before it.

Regularly cited as one of the greatest television series of all time (Rolling Stone ranked it number three on its list of the 100 best shows, right in between Mad Men and The Wire), here are 25 things you might not have known about Breaking Bad, in honor of its 10th anniversary.

1. LOTS OF NETWORKS PASSED ON IT, INCLUDING HBO.

In 2016, it was announced that Vince Gilligan is working on a limited series about Jim Jones for HBO. But the “It’s not TV” network wasn’t always so hot on Gilligan. In a 2011 interview, Gilligan shared that he pitched Breaking Bad to HBO, and that it was “the worst meeting I’ve ever had.”

"The trouble with Hollywood—movies and TV—is people will leave you dangling on the end of a meat hook for days or weeks or months on end,” Gilligan said. “That happened at HBO. Like the worst meeting I ever had … The woman we [were] pitching to could not have been less interested—not even in my story, but about whether I actually lived or died.”

HBO wasn’t the only network that ultimately said no to Walter White: Showtime, TNT, and FX all passed on Breaking Bad, too, for various reasons.

2. THE NETWORK REALLY WANTED MATTHEW BRODERICK TO STAR.

It’s impossible to imagine Breaking Bad with anyone other than Bryan Cranston in the lead role, but he wasn’t as well known when the series kicked off, and AMC wanted a star. They were particularly interested in casting either Matthew Broderick or John Cusack in the lead.

"We all still had the image of Bryan shaving his body in Malcolm in the Middle,” a former AMC executive told The Hollywood Reporter about their initial reluctance to cast Cranston. “We were like, 'Really? Isn't there anybody else?’” But Gilligan had worked with Cranston before, on an episode of The X-Files, and knew he had the chops to navigate the quirks of the part. The network brass watched the episode, and agreed.

"We needed somebody who could be dramatic and scary yet have an underlying humanity so when he dies, you felt sorry for him,” Gilligan said. “Bryan nailed it."

3. JESSE PINKMAN WASN’T SUPPOSED TO LIVE PAST SEASON ONE.

Aaron Paul in 'Breaking Bad'
Doug Hyun/AMC

While Breaking Bad ultimately ended up being largely about the tumultuous partnership between Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, Jesse wasn’t originally intended to be a major character. While it’s often stated that he was supposed to be killed off in episode nine, and that it was the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike that saved him, Gilligan set the record straight in 2013, saying it became clear much earlier than that that Jesse’s character—and his relationship to Walter—was integral to moving the show forward.

“The writers’ strike, in a sense, didn’t save him, because I knew by episode two—we all did, all of us, our wonderful directors and our wonderful producers,” Gilligan said. “Everybody knew just how good [Aaron Paul is], and a pleasure to work with, and it became pretty clear early on that that would be a huge, colossal mistake to kill off Jesse.”

When asked during a Reddit AMA about how he would have felt if Jesse had been killed off in season one, Paul posited that, “My career would be over. And I would be a sobbing mess watching week to week on Breaking Bad.”

4. THE WRITERS STRIKE DID CHANGE THE STORY ARC FOR SEASON ONE, WHICH TURNED OUT TO BE A GOOD THING.

The Writers Strike did end up shortening the show’s first season, which forced Gilligan to cut two episodes that would have seen Walter’s transformation into Heisenberg happen much more quickly—and violently. Gilligan was glad it worked out the way it did.

“We had plotted out all our episodes before the show ever went on the air, and we didn't know how well the show would be received,” Gilligan told Creative Screenwriting. “Not knowing how the public would take to it, you tend to want to be a little more sensational. You want to really keep the show exciting and interesting and keep 'em watching. All of that to say that those last two episodes, because of that, would have been really big episodes, and would have taken the characters into a hugely different realm than that they were already in, and it would have been a hard thing to come back from, coming into season two.”

“We're not just doing those two episodes coming into season two,” he added. “We threw those out completely and we're starting somewhere else. We're building more slowly than we otherwise would have built. I think that's really good, because I know we've all had our favorite shows that were really interesting up to a certain point, but maybe they just go too far, and then there's no going back from it. To me, the trick is to do as little as possible with the characters, and yet keep them as interesting as possible. It's a real balancing act.”

5. THE DEA HELPED OUT, AND EVEN TAUGHT BRYAN CRANSTON AND AARON PAUL HOW TO COOK METH.

Because of the subject matter, the show’s creators thought it was only right to inform the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) what they were making—and welcome their help. “We informed them—with all due respect and consideration—that we’re doing this show, and ‘Would you like to be a part of it in a consultancy in order to make sure that we get it right?’” Cranston told High Times. “They had the choice to say, ‘We don’t want anything to do with it.’ But they saw that it might be in their best interest to make sure that we do it correctly. So DEA chemists came onboard as consultants and taught Aaron Paul and me how to make crystal meth.”

6. THE SCIENCE IS SOUND, BUT NOT PERFECT. AND THAT WAS INTENTIONAL.

Vince Gilligan and Bryan Cranston on the set of 'Breaking Bad'
Doug Hyun/AMC

Dr. Donna Nelson, a chemistry professor at the University of Oklahoma, began serving as a science advisor on the show midway through the first season, and was tasked with making sure the show got its science right—or, at least as “right” as is safe.

“I don’t think there’s any popular show that gets it 100 percent right, but that’s not the goal,” Nelson told Mental Floss in 2013. “The goal is not to be a science education show; the goal is to be a popular show. And so there’s always going to be some creative license taken, because they want to make the show interesting.”

Of course—particularly with a show about drug-making—you don’t want to give viewers a primer on how to start their own meth empires. “In the case of Walter White, his trademark is the blue meth,” Nelson said. “In reality, it wouldn’t be blue; it would be colorless. But this isn’t a science education show. It’s a fantasy. And Vince Gilligan did a fantastic job of getting most of the science right. And I am just thrilled with that. I think Vince Gilligan is a genius, and you can quote me on that!”

7. THAT ICONIC BLUE METH IS ROCK CANDY.

Whenever you see Walter and Jesse’s signature blue meth, what you’re actually seeing is blue rock candy. More specifically: blue rock candy from The Candy Lady, a boutique candy store in Albuquerque. (They have a whole line of Breaking Bad-inspired treats, which they sell under The Bad Candy Lady line.)

8. GUS FRING’S ROLE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE MUCH SMALLER.

Initially, Giancarlo Esposito wasn’t interested in taking on the role of Gus Fring, which was a much smaller part in the beginning. “I had not seen Breaking Bad, but my manager at the time told me it was his favorite show,” Esposito told TIME. “My wife said I should I try it, but it was a guest spot and I’ve done a lot of guest spots. I wanted to develop a character. But I did one episode and then I agreed to do two more with the caveat that I wanted to be part of a filmmaking family.”

When Gilligan offered him another seven episodes for season three, Esposito countered that he wanted a bigger role. “There was some negotiating and I ended up doing 12,” Esposito said. “I wanted to create a character who became intrinsic to the show. And at some point, I realized that I had slid into the Breaking Bad family. Vince told me that I changed the game and raised the bar for the show. And I’m proud of that, but I could only do that because of the depth of the writing and due to the chemistry between Bryan Cranston and myself. And their writing inspired me to think, to create someone who was polite, threatening and poignant.”

9. GIANCARLO ESPOSITO CHANNELED HIS INNER EDWARD JAMES OLMOS.

Giancarlo Esposito in 'Breaking Bad'
Ursula Coyote/AMC

In the mid-1980s, Giancarlo Esposito made a few guest appearances on Miami Vice. The experience clearly had an effect on him, as he used Edward James Olmos’s character from that series, Lieutenant Martin Castillo, as a model for Gus Fring.

“Eddie did very little and he was very convincing,” Esposito told the Toronto Sun. “I also thought he was a bit flat, but he did very, very little in playing [Castillo] and I thought it was really effective. Juxtaposed to Philip Michael [Thomas] and Don [Johnson], who were at times a bit full of themselves but were doing a little bit of acting, Eddie was just doing his job. And I wanted Gus to be in that mode."

10. GILLIGAN GOT SOME HELP FROM THE WALKING DEAD CREW FOR FRING’S FINAL EPISODE.

Fring’s final sendoff is one of the most memorable visual images from the entire series—and they were able to enlist the help of some true gore experts. “Indeed we did have great help from the prosthetic effects folks at The Walking Dead,” Gilligan told The New York Times. “And I want to give a shout-out to Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, and KNB EFX, those two gentlemen and their company, because their shop did that effect. And then that was augmented by the visual effects work of a guy named Bill Powloski and his crew, who digitally married a three-dimensional sculpture that KNB EFX created with the reality of the film scene. So you can actually see into and through Gus’s head in that final reveal. It’s a combination of great makeup and great visual effects. And it took months to do."

11. YES, AARON PAUL DOES SAY “BITCH” A LOT—BUT PROBABLY NOT AS MUCH AS YOU THINK.

While any Jesse Pinkman impression ends with a “bitch,” by one calculation, Paul uses the word a total of 54 times throughout the series. Which, considering there are 62 episodes, seems a little on the low side.

12. PAUL RELEASED A “YO, BITCH” APP.

Aaron Paul in 'Breaking Bad'
AMC

Even if that above number seems underwhelming, Pinkman’s favorite add-on became so synonymous with Paul that, in 2014, the actor released an app called Yo, Bitch.

13. WALTER’S BOSS AT THE CAR WASH IS A CHEMIST IN REAL LIFE.

Marius Stan, who played Bogdan, Walter’s boss at the car wash, wasn’t a familiar face to many of the show’s viewers. That’s because the series was his (and his eyebrows’) acting debut. In real life, rather coincidentally, he has a PhD in chemistry and, according to a Reddit AMA, is a “Senior Computational Energy Scientist at Argonne National Lab—which is one of the national laboratories under the U.S. Dept. of Energy—and a Senior Fellow at the University of Chicago, the Computation Institute."

14. WALTER WHITE’S ALTER EGO IS A NOD TO A REAL PERSON.

Walter White’s drug kingpin alter ego, Heisenberg, is a nod to Werner Heisenberg, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who developed the principle of uncertainty.

15. HEISENBERG’S SIGNATURE HAT WAS A MATTER A PRACTICALITY. 

Bryan Cranston in 'Breaking Bad'
Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Heisenberg’s porkpie hat came to identify Walter White’s dark side, but it originated from a very practical place. “Bryan kept asking me, after he shaved his head, ‘Can I have a hat?’ because his head was cold,” Kathleen Detoro, the show’s costume designer, explained. “So I would ask Vince and he kept saying no; Jesse wore the hats. Finally, Vince said, ‘I think there’s a place …’ It was Bryan asking for a hat, me asking Vince, and then Vince figuring out where in the story it makes sense: It’s when he really becomes Heisenberg.” (If you want to buy your own Heisenberg hat, it was made by Goorin.)

16. THE WHITES’ HOUSE HAS BECOME A TOURIST ATTRACTION—AND LOTS OF PIZZA HAS BEEN THROWN ON THE ROOF.

Though Walter White and his family live at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, the home that you see in exterior shots is actually located at 3828 Piermont Drive NE, a private home in Albuquerque that has become a pretty major tourist attraction. Many fans, caught up in the excitement of seeing the home where Walter White managed to hurl the world’s largest pizza onto the roof in one swift move, have attempted to recreate that scene—leaving the home’s owner with a regular mess.

In 2015, Gilligan appealed to the show’s fan base to refrain from throwing pizza onto the home’s roof. “There is nothing original, or funny, or cool about throwing a pizza on this lady’s roof,” Gilligan said. “It’s been done before—you’re not the first.”

“And if I catch you doing it, I will hunt you down,” added Jonathan Banks, in true Mike Ehrmantraut fashion.

17. CRANSTON MANAGED TO GET THAT PIZZA THROW IN ONE TAKE.

Speaking of that infamous pizza scene: It really was Cranston who threw it, and he managed to do it in one take. Gilligan called it a “one-in-a-million shot.”

18. TUCO GAVE JESSE A CONCUSSION.

A fight scene between Jesse and Tuco (Raymond Cruz) turned serious when Cruz ended up accidentally knocking Paul unconscious. “Yeah, Raymond Cruz who played Tuco gave me a concussion during the episode ‘Grilled,’ where Tuco takes Walt and Jesse to his shack in the middle of nowhere where we meet the famous Uncle Tio,” Paul said in a Reddit AMA. “Tuco takes Jesse and he throws him through the screen door outside, and if you watch it back you'll notice that my head gets caught inside the wooden screen door and it flips me around and lands me on my stomach and the door splinters into a million pieces. Raymond just thought I was acting so he continued and kicked me in the side and picked me up over his shoulder and threw me against the house, but in reality I was pretty much unconscious ... I kept pleading to him, saying ‘stop.’ The next thing I know I guess I blacked out and I woke up to a flashlight in our eyes and it was our medic. And then I hopped up acting like nothing wrong, but it appeared like I was drunk, and I kept saying, ‘Let's finish the scene’ but then my eye started swelling shut so they took me to the hospital. Just another fun day on the set of Breaking Bad!”

19. JANE’S DEATH WAS THE HARDEST SCENE FOR PAUL TO SHOOT.

When asked about the hardest scene to shoot during a Reddit AMA, Paul said that it was Jane’s death. “I honestly think the hardest scene for me to do was when Jesse woke up and found Jane lying next to him dead,” Paul said. “Looking at Jane through Jesse's eyes that day was very hard and emotional for all of us. When that day was over, I couldn't be happier that it was over because I really, truly felt I was living those tortured moments with Jesse.”

The scene was hard on Cranston, too, who reportedly spent 15 minutes crying after filming was complete.

20. MIKE’S DEATH WAS HARD FOR EVERYONE.

Jonathan Banks in 'Breaking Bad'
Frank Ockenfels/AMC

When asked about filming his final scene, Jonathan Banks shared that, “The crew on the set that day all wore black armbands all day long. There are a lot of friends on that crew. It was an emotional day to say the least on set—a lot of tears. Tough day, brother.”

21. JESSE’S TEETH STILL BOTHER GILLIGAN.

When asked about whether he had any regrets about the show or any of its storylines, Gilligan admitted to one: "One thing that sort of troubled me, looking back over the entirety of the show: Jesse's teeth were a little too perfect. There were all the beatings he took, and, of course, he was using meth, which is brutal on your teeth. He'd probably have terrible teeth in real life."

22. WARREN BUFFET RESPECTS WALTER WHITE’S BUSINESS ACUMEN.

Warren Buffet was a fan of the series, and even showed up to its fifth season premiere. On the red carpet, he expressed admiration of Walter White’s entrepreneurship, calling him "a great businessman," and saying that, "he’s my guy if I ever have to go toe-to-toe with anyone."

23. THERE ARE 62 EPISODES IN TOTAL—A NUMBER THAT HAS A SPECIAL MEANING. 

The cast of 'Breaking Bad'
Frank Ockenfels/AMC

Over the course of five seasons, Breaking Bad produced a total of 62 episodes—which is no arbitrary number. The 62nd element on the periodic table is Samarium, which is used to treat a range of cancers, including lung cancer.

24. THE FINAL DEATH TOLL IS PRETTY IMPRESSIVE.

Though you may have underestimated the number of times Jesse uttered “bitch,” you might be surprised by how many people were killed throughout the show’s entire run: 270. (BuzzFeed created a thorough breakdown of some of the most memorable ones.)

25. IN 2016, A METH COOK NAMED WALTER WHITE WAS WANTED BY THE AUTHORITIES.

In 2016, a 55-year-old man named Walter White rose to the top of Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s most wanted list for manufacturing and selling meth. Though White wasn’t a teacher, there have been other real-life stories that mirrored Walter White’s descent into the criminal underworld: In 2012, a chemistry teacher named William Duncan was arrested for selling meth; in 2011, Irina Kristy, a 74-year-old math professor, was arrested for running a meth lab.

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7 Things You Might Not Know About Audrey Hepburn
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Though she’ll always be known as the little-black-dress-wearing big-screen incarnation of Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, there’s probably a lot you don’t know about Audrey Hepburn, who passed away in Switzerland on January 20, 1993.

1. HER FIRST ROLE WAS IN AN EDUCATIONAL FILM.

Though 1948’s Dutch in Seven Lessons is classified as a “documentary” on IMDb, it’s really more of an educational travel film, in which Hepburn appears as an airline attendant. If you don’t speak Dutch, it might not make a whole lot of sense to you, but you can watch it above anyway.

2. GREGORY PECK WAS AFRAID SHE’D MAKE HIM LOOK LIKE A JERK.

Hepburn was an unknown actress when she was handed the starring role of Princess Ann opposite Gregory Peck in 1953’s Roman Holiday. As such, Peck was going to be the only star listed, with Hepburn relegated to a smaller font and an “introducing” credit. But Peck insisted, “You've got to change that because she'll be a big star and I'll look like a big jerk.” Hepburn ended up winning her first and only Oscar for the role (Peck wasn’t even nominated).

3. SHE’S AN EGOT.

In 1954, the same year she won the Oscar for Roman Holiday, Hepburn accepted a Tony Award for her title role in Ondine on Broadway. Hepburn is one of only 12 EGOTs, meaning that she has won all of the four major creative awards: an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Unfortunately, the honor came to Hepburn posthumously; her 1994 Grammy for the children’s album Audrey Hepburn’s Enchanted Tales and her 1993 Emmy for Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn were both awarded following her passing in early 1993.

4. TRUMAN CAPOTE HATED HER AS HOLLY GOLIGHTLY.

Blake Edwards’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s may be one of the most iconic films in Hollywood history, but it’s a miracle that the film ever got made at all. Particularly if you listened to Truman Capote, who wrote the novella upon which it was based, and saw only one actress in the lead: Marilyn Monroe. When asked what he thought was wrong with the film, which downplayed the more tawdry aspects of the fact that Ms. Golightly makes her living as a call girl (Hepburn had told the producers, “I can’t play a hooker”), Capote replied, “Oh, God, just everything. It was the most miscast film I’ve ever seen. It made me want to throw up.”

5. HOLLY GOLIGHTLY’S LITTLE BLACK DRESS SOLD FOR NEARLY $1 MILLION.

Audrey Hepburn in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'
Keystone Features, Getty Images

In 2006, Christie’s auctioned off the iconic Givenchy-designed little black dress that Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s for a whopping $923,187 (pre-auction numbers estimated that it would go for between $98,800 and $138,320). It was a record-setting amount at the time, until Marilyn Monroe’s white “subway dress” from The Seven Year Itch sold for $5.6 million in 2006.

6. SHE SANG “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” TO JFK IN 1963.

One year after Marilyn Monroe’s sultry birthday serenade to John F. Kennedy in 1962, Hepburn paid a musical tribute to the President at a private party in 1963, on what would be his final birthday.

7. THERE’S A RARE TULIP NAMED AFTER HER.

Photo of Audrey Hepburn
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In 1990, a rare white tulip hybrid was named after the actress and humanitarian, and dedicated to her at her family’s former estate in Holland.

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