The Most Interesting Comics of the Week
Every Wednesday, I highlight the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, Comixology, Kickstarter, and the web. These are not necessarily reviews insomuch as they are me pointing out new comics that are noteworthy for one reason or another. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about or an upcoming comic that you'd like me to consider highlighting.
1. All-New Ghost Rider #1
Written by Felipe Smith; art by Tradd Moore
Marvel Comics is currently launching and relaunching a slew of books each week. Some—like this week's Daredevil #1—are simply a numbering reset in order to give readers an easy place to start. Others, like the new Ms. Marvel or this week's All-New Ghost Rider, are an effort to rethink lower tier characters and make them more relevant for today's audiences. It must be said that Marvel is doing a much better job at this these days than their competitor, DC. Marvel is also doing a great job of recruiting up-and-coming talent and giving them as close to free creative license as a major corporation is apt to give.
Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore—who have shown unique voices on smaller independent comics like Smith's Peepo Choo and Moore's Luther Strode—have designed a brand new Ghost Rider. He won't be replacing previous characters like Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch, but will co-exist in the same universe.
The key difference for this new Ghost Rider? He drives a car rather than a motorcycle.
Smith and Moore have done a lot of thinking about character design (you can see some of the sketches here), moving from the old look of leather-clad motorcycle gangs and heavy metal music to the new aesthetic of souped up muscle cars and electronic music. The old flaming skull is now made of white chrome with a hot-rod style blower in the forehead that emits flames. The heavy leather jacket and chains have been replaced with a sleek jumpsuit, and underneath it all is Robbie Reyes, a young Latino-American gear head from East L.A. (He is reportedly modeled after One Direction band member Zayn Malik who will be the obvious choice for a future reboot of the Nicolas Cage movie franchise.)
Update: All New Ghost Rider #1 was delayed at the last minute and won't be in stores until next week, but it was too late to bump it from this week's list.
By Wallace Wood
Wally Wood was one of the great comic book draftsmen of the mid 20th century. He was known for his work on the early days of Mad Magazine and for his sci-fi, horror, and war stories for EC Comics and Warren Publishing. From 1970 to 1973, Wood (a WWII veteran) produced a weekly newspaper-style strip called Cannon that was published in Overseas Weekly and distributed exclusively to servicemen stationed at foreign bases. It's a macho spy comic about a super-competent tough guy named John Cannon who had been brainwashed by the Chinese and then re-brainwashed by the Americans. He is sent off on Cold War-era missions that put him in the path of the Chinese, the Soviets, and South American dictators. The plots are fast-paced and fun, but don't go more than a handful of panels before a woman ends up in some state of undress.
Cannon reads like it was written by a hormone-crazed thirteen-year-old boy, but is obviously designed to appeal to its target audience of young soldiers eager for some tough-guy action and voluptuous figures to ogle; it's James Bond with no restrictions or shame. Cannon is at times misogynist and offensive, although it doesn't quite veer into the pornographic territory that Wood explored in some of his later works.
Although he oversaw a studio of artists on this comic, his classic approach to storytelling and craft is a wonder to behold in this new hardcover collection from Fantagraphics. In addition to a foreword from one of those studio artists, Howard Chaykin, there is additional content including the full color short Cannon comic Wood self-published in 1969 with art by Steve Ditko.
Check out a preview here, but if you didn't get the idea from the writeup above, be aware that it is NSFW. Below is just about the only SFW page I could find.
3. Hellboy: The First 20 Years
By Mike Mignola
Dark Horse Comics
This week is "Hellboy Week," as Mike Mignola celebrates the 20th anniversary of his signature first comic. To commemorate, Mignola and longtime editor (and writer on other 'Mignolaverse' projects like Abe Sapien) handpicked pinups, page art and sketches to fill this new hardcover collection, Hellboy: The First 20 Years.
This serves as an inspiring milestone for supporters of creator-owned comics. Mignola built a whole world around what initially seemed like a simple idea for a character. It has spawned a multitude of comics, not to mention prose novels and two successful feature films. The new Mignola-drawn series Hellboy in Hell and primary companion book B.P.R.D. are still going strong today, which is an inspiration to creators hoping to achieve similar success with their own characters and ideas.
Hellboy: The First 20 Years starts with the very first drawing of Hellboy (unrecognizable from what we know of the character now) and brings us right up to present time, displaying full color art from various Hellboy comics.
Mental Floss will have an interview with Mike Mignola about his 20 years working on Hellboy later this week.
4. American Vampire: Second Cycle #1
Written by Scott Snyder; art by Rafael Albuquerque
Scott Snyder rose to stardom writing the American Vampire series, which began in 2010. It went on hiatus in 2013 when Snyder became one of DC's premier writers and needed some time off to catch up. Now, with the series at its halfway point, Snyder and regular artist Rafael Albuquerque are ready to resume the final 30 or so issues.
American Vampire tells the story of two immortal vampires, Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones. Sweet's tale begins in the late 1800s in the American West. He meets Pearl in the 1920s and turns her into a new breed of vampire, more powerful than their European counterparts. Second Cycle picks up with the two in the year 1965.
Although it's a continuation of the original series, Second Cycle restarts its numbering in order to provide a jumping-on point for new readers.
By Seth Kushner with various artists
Seth Kushner is a photographer who is perhaps best known to the comics world for his portraits of comic book artists and writers which became a collection called Leaping Tall Buildings. For the past six years, he has been writing his first graphic novel, a semi-autobiographical comic called Schmuck. Based on his own experiences, Schmuck follows the dating exploits of a 20-something New York photographer struggling to find out what he wants. It's for mature readers, as some of the depictions of dating life get explicit. Kushner seems to be going for a storytelling vibe that is a bit Harvey Pekar meets Bob Fingerman meets Larry David.
To publish his first book, Kushner has set up a new company called Hang Dai Editions with cartoonist partners Gregory Benton, Dean Haspiel, and Josh Neufeld. They've just started a Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of the book. Kushner's experience in putting out high-quality photography books means he's striving to make as beautiful a book as possible. He's brought in Eric Skillman—an award-winning designer who has created DVD packages for the Criterion Collection as well as his own graphic novel, Liar's Kiss—to design this book.
Kushner has also found 22 collaborators to help bring his anecdotal stories alive. The list of cartoonists includes plenty of newcomers but also some established pros like Dean Haspiel, Nick Bertozzi, and Bobby Timony. They have been serializing installments of Schmuck as a webcomic on Brooklyn-based Trip City, but the print edition will include plenty of previously unseen material. Also, the Kickstarter edition will have an exclusive Dean Haspiel cover.
6. Black Roles For White Actors
By Keith Knight
I really liked Keith Knight's recent contribution to The Nib on Medium.com, "Black Roles For White Actors," a reaction to racist online furor over the casting of black actors for the upcoming Annie and Fantastic Four movies.
The Nib, an editorial cartooning hub started and edited by Matt Bors has grown substantially and is the place to find smart and opinionated cartooning online.