Mental Floss

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Rich Barrett
Erica Henderson/Marvel Comics
Erica Henderson/Marvel Comics / Erica Henderson/Marvel Comics

Every week I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, and the web. 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. Howard the Duck #1

By Chip Zdarsky, Joe Quinones and Rico Renzi
Marvel Comics

During the 1970s, Howard the Duck was one of Marvel’s most popular characters. He was so popular, he received a significant number of write-in votes in the 1976 presidential election (though, likely not enough votes to appear on the national record). Dreamed up by writer Steve Gerber, this cigar-chomping, wise-cracking duck represented everything that was subversive and great about Marvel in the 1970s. Of course, unless Gerber was calling the shots, Marvel seemed to have no idea what to do with this character and, in 1986, authorized a disastrous film produced by George Lucas that is known as one of the worst movies ever made. It left Howard as an unusable piece of intellectual property for decades.

Then came 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy film. Howard’s road to redemption began with a surprise appearance in the post-credits scene that got people buzzing about him for the first time in years. Now, Marvel seems to be looking to keep with Howard’s history of subversive and edgy humor by hiring Chip Zdarsky to write an all new comic book series. Zdarsky is one half of the team behind Image Comics’ surprise hit Sex Criminals, and if you don’t already follow him on Twitter you’re missing out on the exploits of the funniest person in comics. He has half-jokingly said in interviews that he doesn’t recall Marvel ever using the words “You got the job” and expects this whole thing to get taken away from him at any moment. Not only is he really working for Marvel for the first time, but he’s also writing for another artist for the first time—Joe Quinones.

Zdarsky and Quinones will have their work cut out for them to overcome not only the hurdle of getting Howard past that dreadful movie. As I said, only Steve Gerber (who passed away in 2008) seemed to be able to make Howard work in the past, and his struggle with retaining control over Howard was the first great creator’s rights fight in comics. To this day, many fans don’t really want to see Marvel even using the character without him. It looks like it’s going to be a blast though.


2. Mowgli’s Mirror

By Olivier Schrauwen

Retrofit Press

Last year’s Arsène Schrauwen, Olivier Schrauwen’s debut about the true-life, dangerous jungle exploits of his grandfather, was one of the most acclaimed graphic novels of the year. Mowgli’s Mirror is a comic that Schrauwen actually first published in Europe, pre-Arséne, but is now being released in the States by the American boutique publisher Retrofit, which specializes in distributing artsy and interesting “floppies.” Like Arséne, it features Schrauwen’s signature use of orange and blue spot colors and, printed oversize, it is a striking and unusual book.

As the title suggests, it features Rudyard Kipling’s jungle boy except that the boy has become something of a man-child, trying desperately to find meaningful and emotional (and sometimes sexual) connections with the other animals in the jungle. Schrauwen manages to get a lot of emotion and humor here without using any words. Of course, when you’re depicting a man trying to have sex with an orangutan and getting pooped on by an elephant, what can words possibly add to the pictures?

You can buy a print or digital copy directly from Retrofit.


3. The Book of Memory Gaps

By Cecilia Ruiz
Blue Rider Press

Cecilia Ruiz’s first book, The Book of Memory Gaps, is somewhere in between a picture book and a graphic novel. It collects 14 vignettes, each consisting of one full-page illustration, one page of brief text, and a chapter page with character portrait. Each is about a person with a disorder, extraordinary ability, or a simple struggle with memory—a boy who can not remember how certain objects look; a girl who can remember smells, but not faces; a ship captain who returns home every day thinking he’s been gone for months.

The lonely, melancholy illustrations paired with the sparse, almost poetic descriptions make this read like Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies if it were written by Dr. Oliver Sacks. Ruiz is an illustrator from Mexico who received her MFA at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. This is her first book and it’s a quaint, beautifully designed little book with wonderful art, although it lacks some of the dark and unexpected humor that makes something like Gashlycrumb so memorable.

The publisher has a nicely done animated preview of the book on YouTube.


4. Chain Mail Bikini

Edited by Hazel Newlevant

While the hubbub around GamerGate might have died down a bit, the problem it drew into focus—female harassment within the gaming community—is still there. It’s an issue that has plagued the comics industry as well, so there is a natural connection—and some overlap—between female cartoonists and female gamers. When cartoonist Hazel Newlevant launched her Kickstarter to fund the printing of her comic book anthology celebrating female gamers, she reached her funding goal almost immediately.

Chain Mail Bikini boasts contributions from great young female cartoonists like Sophie Yanow, Annie Mok, Amanda Scurti, MK Reed, Sarah Searle, and Molly Ostertag. They are mostly new and maybe even unfamiliar names for a lot of comic readers, but they represent the promising future of comics and many of them are sure to be indie comics stars in the near future. The book is already completed and ready to be printed—with their Kickstarter goal already reached with 20 days to go, they should have no problem getting the book produced. Get in on it now while you can.


5. The Surface #1

By Ales Kot, Langdon Foss and Jordie Bellaire
Image Comics

In a future where everyone records and shares their every move as a way to protect their identities from theft and false accusation, a trio of hackers attempt to leave this world behind for the promise of a mythical other-reality called the "Surface." It's written by Ales Kot, who is a popular young writer and is like a blend of Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison, taking one’s penchant for near-future technology and political paranoia and the other’s affection for mind-bending narrative and mind-expanding philosophy. While he’s been writing a number of books for both DC and Marvel, Kot has been making a name for himself on his creator-owned books for Image, like the excellent political espionage thriller Zero.

The first issue of The Surface is a weird and unexpected read with the comic narrative frequently disrupted in mid-stream by text pieces that include an interview with an “elusive writer” who is plainly Kot talking about making this comic. His collaborators on this project are Langdon Foss, who previously drew the Get Jiro! comic for chef Anthony Bourdain, and prolific colorist Jordie Bellaire, whose earthy but rich colors bring a lived-in feel to some of Foss’ outlandish, Moebius-like landscapes and designs. See for yourself here.