R. Sikoryak/Drawn & Quarterly
R. Sikoryak/Drawn & Quarterly

The 12 Most Interesting Comics Released in March

R. Sikoryak/Drawn & Quarterly
R. Sikoryak/Drawn & Quarterly

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

1. Terms and Conditions

By R. Sikoryak
Drawn & Quarterly

It’s a safe bet that nearly every iTunes user has chosen not to read Apple’s epic Terms and Conditions before clicking the “Agree” button. In one of the oddest ideas ever put into comic form, R. Sikoryak has taken the actual text from that novel-length agreement and basically used it as “Lorem ipsum” to fill in the word balloons in an exploration of the visual language of comic books. Like an impressionist comedian, he mimics the style of many of the greats of comic book history like Frank Miller, Will Eisner, Kate Beaton, Osamu Tezuka, Mike Mignola, Raina Telgemeier, Rob Liefeld, Charles Schulz, and more. In each style, he draws Steve Jobs monologuing the text as he walks through scenes that pay homage that artist’s most famous comics.

Originally published online in black and white, Sikoryak has updated the comic every time Apple rolls out a new version of their terms, adding pages to accommodate the extra length. This is its first appearance collected in print and in color.

2. California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas

By Penelope Bagieu
First Second

Penelope Bagieu is one of France’s most popular cartoonists but is still a relative unknown to U.S. audiences, this being just her second book to be published in the States. Its subject is a very American story about one of the most renowned pop singers of the 1960s and her unlikely rise to fame, defying expectations of body image and even the desires of her own bandmates.

The book tells the story of The Mamas & the Papas’ Cass Elliot, from her childhood in Baltimore to the formation of the quartet that would write the hit song “California Dreamin’.” Bagieu draws the entire book in pencil with no ink or color, which reveals the lyrical energy of her line work. Her depiction of the larger-than-life Elliot is all loose, expressive curves and wonderfully reactive facial expressions showing her to be a magnetic and exciting heroine worthy of her own story.

3. Nightlights

By Lorena Alvarez
Nobrow Press

The most drop-dead gorgeous graphic novel of the year thus far, Lorena Alvarez's Nightlights looks like a children’s book on the surface, but parents should be aware that it takes some dark turns and doesn’t exactly spell out everything that happens in the story in order for younger readers to follow.

A young girl named Sandy, who attends Catholic school and loves to draw, meets a mysterious new girl on the playground named Morfie who no one else seems to be able to see. Morfie likes Sandy’s drawings and seems to want to harness her talent to use for her own purposes. Each page is a visual feast, inspired by classic Golden Books, Disney films, and the colorful aesthetic of Alvarez’s native Colombian culture. Nobrow Press is known not just for their refined taste in choosing new cartooning talent but also for the high quality of their publication design and this is a simply gorgeous book that you’ll want to have on your shelf.

4. The Short Con

By Pete Toms and Aleks Sennwald
Study Group Comics

Originally serialized on the Study Group Comics website, The Short Con made my Most Interesting Comics of the year list in 2014. Now, Study Group has produced a print version that can be purchased online. The comic is a hilarious sendup of detective and buddy cop films starring two orphan girls: Popowski (Pops), the hot-headed, rule-breaking, lollipop-sucking maverick, and Branwell, the new girl who comes from a good upbringing and writes depressing poetry. They are partnered together by the hard-nosed nun who runs the orphanage in order to solve crimes involving vampires, mummies and, in this story, the murder of Branwell’s parents. The creators, Toms and Sennwald, make just as great a pair as Pops and Branwell with their perfect comedic timing and cutely drawn takes on all the great cop fiction tropes.

5. The Damned Vol. 1: Three Days Dead

By Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt and Bill Crabtree
Oni Press

When Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt first released their gangster and demon mashup The Damned back in 2006, comics were just beginning to branch out into non-superhero genres again and mashing up those genres was still kind of a new trend. The pair really hit gold with this formula on their next series—the supernatural western The Sixth Gun—but are now returning to their original collaboration with a new ongoing series that begins in May. To kick it off, they’re re-releasing a new colorized version of the original graphic novel and will serialize it in smaller digital installments on Comixology. Set during Prohibition, The Damned follows a tough guy named Eddie who comes back from the dead and ends up caught between warring demon mafia families. The book crackles with the flair of those classic gangster films of Old Hollywood starring the likes of Jimmy Cagney but with a little bit of Hellboy brand of creature horror thrown in.

6. All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1

By Josh Bayer, Herb Trimpe and Benjamin Marra

Fantagraphics, the prestige publisher of artistic and subversive independent comics, has been avoiding and even spurning the superhero genre for decades in favor of expanding the medium to tell other kinds of stories. Now, for the first time, they're dabbling in tights and capes comics, even going so far as to create their own line called All Time Comics. Led by writer Josh Bayer, the books exhibit their own “House Style” derived from the lo-fi, nostalgic aesthetic made popular by one of the line’s main contributors, Benjamin Marra, but utilizing veteran comic book artists whose work we don’t often see in today’s publications. First up is Crime Destroyer, featuring an ex-military hero who dons a ridiculous looking costume to rid the city of crime. It has a violent, grindhouse aesthetic that draws its inspiration from ‘30s “pre-code” crime comics, early ‘70s Marvel Comics, and ‘90s Rob Liefeld comics. This first issue was drawn by legendary Incredible Hulk artist Herb Trimpe, who passed away shortly after its completion, making this his final published work. Trimpe’s pencils are inked by the aforementioned Benjamin Marra who will take over the art for issue #2. Next month’s new All Time Comics series, Bullwhip, will feature Marra collaborating with another Marvel veteran, Al Milgrom.

7. Man-Thing #1

By R.L. Stine, German Peralta and Daniel Warren Johnson
Marvel Comics

R.L. Stine, writer of the horror series Goosebumps and Fear Street, is the latest writer from outside of comics to enter the world of Marvel. And they’ve found the perfect character for him to play with. Man-Thing has been kind of a one-joke rip-off of DC’s Swamp Thing that has managed a small cult following over the years while rarely managing to carry his own title. Stine, with artist German Peralta, will take a new look at the creature’s origin story while also serving up a new take on the character who can now talk and has an urge to go to Hollywood to become famous. This five-issue series will also feature a backup story drawn by hot new artist Daniel Warren Johnson.

8. Royal City #1

By Jeff Lemire
Image Comics

Jeff Lemire entered the comics industry about 10 years ago with his highly lauded Essex County trilogy of graphic novels about rural, small town folk. Since then, Lemire has gone on to become one of the most prolific writers in comics, producing work often simultaneously for Marvel, DC, Valiant, and Image. Now, with Royal City, he is moving away from his recent genre work and back to the realism of Essex. Inspired by the deliberate unfolding of overarching plots in modern television dramas, Lemire has chosen to tell this story as a monthly, ongoing comic rather than a graphic novel to allow for a bigger, more wide ranging story than he could tell with a self-contained graphic novel. This sober drama tells the story of an economically depressed town whose own story seems wrapped up in the plight of the Pikes, a family that is still reeling after all these years from the death of its youngest member. Lemire excels at this type of character drama and it will be interesting to see how he utilizes the longform, monthly format to paint in the details of a large, novelistic story.

9. Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero

By Michael DeForge
Drawn & Quarterly

Michael DeForge is one of the most idiosyncratic visual artists working in comics right now. His work is deeply strange and effortlessly funny and unlike anyone else’s out there. While some of his comics can go pretty far into body horror and weird sex (or a mix of both), his latest is one of his most mainstream and approachable works since 2014’s Ant Colony. Originally published as a weekly webcomic, Stick Angelica is about an egotistical overachiever—a former Olympian, scholar, poet, Governor, and more—who flees society after some unspecified scandal to live in the woods as a true outdoorswoman. There she becomes an outsized presence, befriending the forest’s talking animals who steal the comic with their various comedic foibles. DeForge has a fascination with nature that shows up in his work quite a bit.

10. Young Shadow

By Ben Sears

Ben Sears follows up last year’s Night Air with a new one-issue self-published comic about a similar masked young hero in a quirky all-ages adventure. The protagonist of Young Shadow is compelled to protect his neighborhood from all manner of crime, even saving a dog who he feels is being mistreated by a gang of thugs. Sears takes a wry, low-key approach to pulpy heroics, drawing comics about kid heroes that read with the flair and enthusiasm that would come if kids themselves made them up.

11. Hilo Book 3: The Great Big Room

By Judd Winick
Random House

Following many years of writing somewhat edgy superhero comics for DC, Judd Winick re-focused his creative energy on a new children’s graphic novel series about an infectiously optimistic alien robot boy named Hilo. Having crashed to Earth with little to no memory of who he really is, Hilo is befriended by two human kids, DJ and Gina, who show him the ropes of life on Earth (like how to tell knock-knock jokes) and end up on an intergalactic adventure with him. In the final book of the initial three-volume series, Gina has been sucked into an interdimensional portal and Hilo and DJ have to evade armies from Earth and other worlds to try to get her back. Winick, who began his comics career with a comic he drew himself called The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius, proves that this type of kids-oriented material is where he’s at his best, and also reminds us that he’s a pretty good cartoonist in his own right.

12. The Flintstones Vol. 1

By Mark Russell and Steve Pugh
DC Comics

One of the biggest surprises of 2016 was that a comic based on The Flintstones made a lot of people’s best of the year list (mine included). Mark Russell, who equally surprised everyone last year with a funny and prescient 21st century update on 1970s DC property Prez: The First Teen President, has proven himself to be a creator to watch with this take on the old Hanna-Barbera TV classic. While the original cartoon lampooned 1950s popular culture, Russell and veteran artist Steve Pugh have created a modern social satire with a little more bite. They tackle some surprisingly hefty subjects like religion, elections, PTSD, suicide, and gay marriage with unflinching bravery while reintroducing memorable supporting characters like Dino, Mr. Slate, and the Great Gazoo.

King Features Syndicate
11 Things You Might Not Know About Blondie
King Features Syndicate
King Features Syndicate

For close to 90 years, Chic Young’s comic strip Blondie has been a constant in newspapers around the world, reaching an estimated 280 million readers in 55 countries. Despite its title, most readers are probably more familiar with Blondie’s husband, the sandwich-consuming Dagwood. Check out some facts about the comic’s origins, its feature film franchise, and a very unfortunate incident involving a dirty word that rocked Blondie's readership to its core.


An illustration of Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead of 'Blondie' comics fame
IDW/King Features Syndicate

Before Blondie debuted in 1930, cartoonist Chic Young had attempted to create a female-driven strip without a lot of success. Titles like Beautiful Bab and Dumb Dora were some of the more unfortunate ideas, with Young preoccupied by the notion of having a vapid leading lady. For Blondie, Young initially pursued the “dumb blonde” stereotype before dialing down the chauvinism and allowing the single, mingling Blondie Boopadoop to appear at least as intelligent as the succession of boyfriends courting her in the strip. Later, Blondie would become the voice of reason [PDF] to fiance Dagwood Bumstead’s bumbling presence, inverting the gender roles of Young’s previous strips.


For the debut of Blondie, Young’s syndicate, King Features, launched an aggressive mailing campaign in an effort to entice newspaper editors to pick up the strip. Editors first received a letter “announcing” the engagement of Blondie and Dagwood, which was followed by protestations from the Bumstead family and eventually a cardboard suitcase that cautioned them not to peek inside. Naturally, everyone did. Inside was a paper doll cutout of Blondie wearing lingerie, with her “wardrobe” (more paper doll clothing) included.


He might strike you as incapable of tying his own shoes, but there was a time when Dagwood Bumstead carried real potential. Instead of his current working-stiff incarnation, Dagwood was originally heir to his billionaire father’s railroad fortune. But when he married Blondie in 1933, the Bumstead family effectively disowned him, fearing Blondie was only out for his money. The couple’s move to the middle class was Young’s way of acknowledging the fallout of the Great Depression.


With the Bumstead family highly skeptical of Dagwood’s plans to marry Blondie, the would-be groom decided to earn their blessing by going on a hunger strike that played out in real time. For 28 days, Dagwood refused to eat and grew frail until his family finally consented to the marriage. The narrative stunt drew the attention of new readers, raising Blondie’s profile on the comic pages.


A 'Blondie' comic strip with Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead in bed together
King Features Syndicate

For a good portion of the 20th century, it was seen as proper to depict married couples on television or in comics as sleeping in twin beds, eliminating any hint of carnal activities happening off-screen. (Or in this case, off-panel.) But Young thought this was juvenile and insisted that Blondie and Dagwood appear sleeping in the same double bed. Perhaps not coincidentally, the two had their first child, Alexander, in 1934.


While Blondie and Dagwood got along without incident, the same couldn’t be said for another couple featured in the strip’s early years. One of Blondie’s earlier suitors, Hiho, married girlfriend Betty and the two became supporting characters in the strip. Hiho and Betty had what could be considered a tumultuous relationship, with each threatening to punch out the other on a regular basis [PDF]. Young eventually phased the two out, replacing them with far less volatile Bumstead neighbors Herb and Tootsie Woodley.


After the atomic bomb was dropped twice to bring an end to World War II, American citizens understandably grew skittish about the ramifications of wielding such power. To ease their minds, the U.S. military partnered with Young to produce 1949’s Dagwood Splits the Atom, a “fun” booklet that sees the character shrunk down in size to help readers understand atomic power and nuclear fission. Although other comic characters like Popeye appear, it’s Dagwood who has the honors of blowing a neutron into a uranium atom in order to split it.


Although Young’s son Dean had been working on Blondie and was prepared to take over writing duties when his father passed away in 1973, newspapers weren’t so sure. According to Young, more than 600 papers canceled the strip when his father died, fearing it would suffer a drop in quality. Young persevered and eventually won over the naysayers, reclaiming space in the papers and adding several hundred more. (Currently, Young writes the strip and artist John Marshall illustrates.)


In 1938, with Blondie firmly entrenched on the comics pages, King Features and Young agreed to license the strip to Columbia Pictures for a series of live-action feature films. The movies were shot quickly and economically with stars Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake portraying Blondie and Dagwood, respectively. The studio produced 28 features between 1938 and 1950. Attempts to adapt the comic to television were less successful. A 1954 pilot was unaired, while a 1957 series lasted just one season. Another 13-episode iteration was produced in 1968-69, with Bruce Lee appearing as a karate instructor in the last episode.


With their relatively trivial subject matter, comic strips rarely have the potential to offend. A 2004 Blondie entry proved to be an exception. In the strip, a character uses the word “scumbag” to describe a baseball umpire. Readers wrote in to Dean Young to lodge complaints, with Mr. Young and his proofreaders apparently unaware that “scumbag” is a euphemism for a used prophylactic.


A 2005 'Blondie' comic strip featuring a number of other comic characters
King Features Syndicate

Before shared universes were a thing, Blondie’s 75th anniversary strip published September 4, 2005 had a cameo from virtually every notable comic strip character past and present. As Dagwood and Blondie hold up a cake—shaped like a sandwich, naturally—they’re surrounded by Ziggy, Garfield, Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, Dilbert, and dozens of others. In the weeks leading up to the strip, the comics pages were full of Blondie references and sight gags.

5 Records Black Panther Has Already Broken

Black Panther isn’t just a success—it’s a phenomenon. Based on the Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the movie has already grossed well over $1 billion at the worldwide box office, and it’s not exactly slowing down, remaining at the top spot for a fourth weekend. It’s currently the seventh-highest grossing movie of all time at the domestic box office, trailing heavy-hitters like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic Park, and Titanic.

It’s also a huge win with critics and audiences, as it currently holds the best Rotten Tomatoes score for a Marvel movie, beating out The Avengers, Spider-Man 2, and Iron Man. With all of the praise and money pouring in, we’re taking a look at five records Black Panther has already broken.


February has typically been seen as a soft month at the box office, especially where blockbusters are concerned. But in 2015, Deadpool changed all of that by taking in a record $130+ million over its Valentine’s Day weekend debut. While that was a record at the time—and even more impressive for a movie with an R rating—Black Panther left that total in the rearview, taking in around $202 million in its first weekend in theaters. That was good enough for the highest February weekend of all time, but that’s not even all of it.

The movie’s $75+ million Friday was the highest ever February debut and the biggest opening day overall for a solo superhero movie—exceeding the likes of 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises and 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. It also holds the record for the biggest February preview day ($25.2 million) for its late-night Thursday screenings before its official Friday premiere.


Chadwick Boseman in 'Black Panther' (2018)
Disney/Marvel Studios

In 2017, director F. Gary Gray’s The Fate of the Furious took in an impressive $1.2+ billion at the worldwide box office, with $226 million of that coming from the United States. For a while, that was the biggest box office win for an African-American filmmaker both domestically and internationally. But after its opening weekend, Black Panther was already at $200 million, and after the President’s Day holiday that came immediately after, it had amassed another $40.176 million—easily giving director Ryan Coogler the crown of helming the highest-grossing film for an African-American director (and cast) in the United States (even when adjusting for inflation). And before its run is over, it will certainly top Furious’s worldwide total.


Not even a galaxy far, far away could stand up to Black Panther. Star Wars: The Force Awakens used to hold the crown for the highest-grossing Monday at the box office with $40.110 million but was topped by Panther’s $40.176 million.


Added to that, Black Panther now owns the Marvel record for the highest-grossing Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, as well as the best first Marvel week overall, coming in at $292 million, compared to The Avengers’s $270 million in 2012. It also topped every other Marvel movie’s second weekend with $108 million and only trails The Force Awakens for the best second weekend in history.


Black Panther came out of the gate strong with the biggest debut for a solo superhero movie ever at $75.81 million. Then, after 27 days in theaters, it topped them all, becoming the highest-grossing solo superhero movie in U.S. history, beating out the $534.8 million held by The Dark Knight Rises. This means it topped all the other Iron Man, Captain America, and Spider-man solo movies on the character's first attempt. It still has some work to do to topple the $623,357,910 of The Avengers, but nothing is off the table at this point.

However, these numbers don’t take inflation into account. So while it trounced Spider-man’s 2002 domestic take of $403 million, you’re comparing it to ticket prices from 16 years ago. In reality, Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man would have made $637 million today—and that Avengers total would jump up to $705 million.


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